Obadiah was a prophet against Edom. Obadiah’s tiny prophecy (his is the shortest book in the Bible) takes just moments to read. But for the nation of Edom—to whom it was directed —his words had a reverberating impact.
Aside from the meaning of his name, “servant of the Lord,” nothing is known about Obadiah—neither his family, nor his home, nor his background is revealed in scripture. Obadiah’s prophecy concerned the Edomites, longtime enemies of Israel. Centuries earlier, the Edomites had denied the Hebrews passage on their way to the Promised Land. King David eventually subjugated Edom, but the latter managed to wrest itself free from Jewish control.
The tension between Israel and Edom can be traced all the way back to their ancestors, Jacob and Esau. The two brothers were estranged when Jacob stole Esau’s birthright. The Bible later reveals that God had chosen Jacob over Esau as heir to the Abrahamic covenant.
At the time of Obadiah’s writing, Israel’s and Edom’s fortunes had been reversed. The people of Judah faced destruction, while the Edomites looked on and celebrated Judah’s misfortune. Scholars have long debated whether Obadiah wrote about Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC or some prior calamity—though the description in Obadiah 1:10–12 seems to indicate the former.
In any case, Obadiah admonished these distant cousins of the Israelites not to gloat over Judah’s hardships, warning that the same fate awaited Edom. Obadiah envisioned a brighter future for the exiles of Israel, while Edom would be erased from history.
The last words of Obadiah introduce what is perhaps the book’s most important lesson: “The kingdom will be the LORD’S,” the prophet declared (Obadiah 1:21). At the end of all things, it is God—and no human power—that rules over the nations and the territories they possess.