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An Introduction to the Book of Obadiah

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I. TITLE OF THE BOOK:

A. In Hebrew the book is titled hydbu meaning servant of Yahweh. This may have been a popular name as with Ahab's steward who met Elijah (cf. 1 Ki 18)

B. In Greek the book is titled OBDIOU, a transliteration of the Hebrew name and title

II. AUTHOR: Nothing is known historically about the author from the book or from other background materials

III. DATE: Probably exilic with the fall of Jerusalem (586/85 B.C.)

A. Preexilic Date During the Reign of Jehoram (848-841 B.C.)1

1. This is a plausible option

2. It is argued that verses 10-14 of Obadiah refer to the Philistine-Arab invasion of Judah (cf. 2 Chron 21:8-20)
While it is true that an Edomite revolt did occur during this time period (cf. 2 Ki 8:20-22; 2 Chron 21:8-10), there is no mention of the Edomites invading with the Philistines and the Arabs at this time (cf. 2 Chron 21:16ff).2 This is a deduction that is made.
While it is true that the palace was looted (2 Chron 21;17), the magnitude does not seem to be equivalent to that which was described in Obadiah vv. 10-143

3. Jeremiah borrowed from Obadiah4
This argument is inconclusive since it can be argued either way depending on when one dates the book.

B. Preexilic Date During the Reign of Ahaz (743-728 B.C.)5

1. This view is also a valid possibility

2. The argument is that Obadiah is describing the defeat of Ahaz at the hands of the Edomites and Philistines as was recorded in 2 Chronicles 28:17-18
The problem with this position is that no such capture and despoliation of Jerusalem is reported to have taken place during these campaigns as is implied in Obadiah 116

C. Exilic Date Soon after the Destruction of Jerusalem (586/85 B.C.)7

1. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. may best explain the description found in Obadiah vv. 10-14

a. Standing by while strangers carried off Judah's riches

b. The disastrous nature of the fall

c. References to lots being cast over the city

2. The Babylonian context matches other exilic scriptures which describe the involvement of Edom in the fall of Jerusalem:

a. Psalm 137:7:
Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem who said, 'Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation'

b. Lamentations 4:21-22
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, Who dwells in the land of Uz; but the cup will come around to you as well, you will become drunk, and make yourself naked, the punishment of your iniquity has been completed. O daughter of Zion. He will exile you no longer. But He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will expose your sins.

c. Ezekiel 25:12-14:
Thus says the Lord God, 'Because Edom has acted against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has incurred grievous guilt, and avenged themselves upon them,' Therefore thus says the Lord God, 'I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword. An I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of the people Israel. Therefore, they will act in Edom according to My anger and according to My wrath' thus they will know My vengeance,' declares the Lord God (cf. also Ezekiel 35:5, 12-15)

3. The parallels between Jeremiah and Obadiah are probably due to the priority of Jeremiah or a common source

D. Conclusion:

Although it is very difficult to be certain about the date for this book--especially between views one and three, it seems best to this writer to identify Obadiah with view four, and the fall of Jerusalem (586/85 B.C.)

IV. HISTORICAL SETTING:8

A. Josiah brought about the final spiritual revival for Judah when he came to the throne in 622 B.C.

B. The Assyrian Empire Fell

1. The Assyrian power rose with Ashurnasirpal II (884-859 B.C.) and Shalmaneser II (859-824 B.C.)

2. Tiglath-pileser III (Pul in the Scriptures) began a group of conquerors who took Syria and Palestine including Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C. who began the deportation of Samaria), Sargon II (722-705 B.C. who completed the deportation of Samaria), Sennacherib (704-581 B.C. who attacked king of Judah, Hezekiah [Josiah's father]), and Esarhaddon (681-669 B.C. who led campaigns against Egypt)

3. Esarhaddon's son, Ashurbanipal (669-631) ruled much of the upper Egyptian city of Thebes, but his decline and that of Assyria's soon followed

4. Nineveh, the capital, was destroyed in 612 B.C.

5. Assyria's army was defeated in 609 B.C. at Haran

6. What was left of Assyria's army went to Carchemish (just west of the Euphrates River and north of Aram)

C. The Neo-Babylonian Empire Arose

1. Merodach Baladan was a Chaldean and father of Nabopolassar and grandfather of Nebuchadnezzar. Merodach Baladan sent ambassadors to Hezekiah (Isa 39; 2 Ki 20:12-19)

2. In October 626 B.C. Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrians outside of Babylon

3. In 616 B.C. Nabopolassar expanded his kingdom, and in 612 B.C. he joined with the Medes and destroyed Nineveh

D. A Realignment of Power in 609 B.C. and later

1. Judah: When Assyria fell and Babylon arose Judah, under Josiah, removed itself from Assyria's control and existed as an autonomous state until 609 B.C. when it lost a battle with Egypt on the plain of Megiddo

2. Egypt:

a. Attempted to expand its presence into Palestine with Assyria's troubles

b. Egypt joined with Assyria to fight the Babylonians at Haran

1) Judah tried to stop Egypt's (Pharaoh Neco II) alliance but was defeated on the plain of Megiddo with the loss of their king, Josiah (cf. 2 Chron 35:20-24)

2) The Assyrians lost their battle with Babylon (even with the help of Egypt) and disappeared as a power in the world, and Egypt retreated to Carchemish as the dividing line between Egypt and Babylonian

3) Egypt ruled Judah:

a) Egypt (Necho) replaced Josiah's son, Jehoahaz, after three months with Jehoiakim (who was another son of Josiah) as a vassal king (2 Ki 23:34-35)

b) Egypt (Necho) plundered Judah's treasuries

c) Egypt (Necho) took Jehoahaz into captivity in Egypt

E. In 605 B.C. other changes of power occurred:

1. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish

2. Judah's king, Jehoiakim, changed his loyalty to the Babylonians rather than the Egyptians and became Nebuchadnezzar's vassal king (2 Ki. 24:1)

3. Nebuchadnezzar had to return to Babylon with the death of his father, Nebopolassar

4. Nebuchadnezzar solidified his rule by appointing vassal kings and taking hostages; Daniel was taken as a part of this deportation (Dan 1:1-6)

F. In 601 Egypt defeated the Babylonians

1. Judah's king, Jehoiakim, switched loyalty from Babylonia to the Egyptians (2 Ki 24:1)

2. On December of 598 Babylonia made an attack on Jerusalem leading to Jehoiakim's death and the surrender of the city by his successor, Jehoiachin, in March of 597

3. Nebuchadnezzar, replaced Jehoiachin after only three months of reign, deported him and 10,000 other leaders9 from the city, looted the city, and placed Zedekiah Judah's vassal king (cf. 2 Ki 24:12-16)

G. Zedekiah was a weak king who repeated the errors of those before him; he was convinced by Egypt to revolt with a coalition of other states (Tyre and Ammon) against Babylon (588 B.C. against the advise of Jeremiah) and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

H. The Edomites joined in Babylon's destruction of Judah (Psalm 137:7; Lam 4:21-22; Ezek 25:12-14; 35:5, 12-15).

V. PURPOSES:

A. To proclaim judgment upon Edom for rejoicing over the fall of Jerusalem

B. To proclaim through the judgment of Edom that all of the nations will be judged for their hostility to God's people10

C. To proclaim a message of hope for Judah11


1 Walter L. Baker, Obadiah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1453-54; Charles Lee Feinberg, The Minor Prophets, 125; Hobart E. Freeman, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets, 140-41; John A Martin, An Outline of Obadiah, unpublished class notes in 304 preexlic and exilic prophets, (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1983), 1.

2 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 109.

3 Ibid.

4 Compare Obadiah vv. 1-4 with Jeremiah 49:14-16; Obadiah vv. 5-6 with Jeremiah 49:9-10; Obadiah v. 8 with Jeremiah 49:7, and Obadiah v. 16 with Jeremiah 49:12.

5 Archer notes that J. H. Raven and J. D. Davis date the book at this time (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 306-307).

6 Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 307.

7 Most evangelical writers seem to hold to this view: Leslie C. Allen. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 129-30; Carl E. Armerding, Obadiah, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:337; Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 109-110; Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament, 377; Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Obadiah, unpublished class notes in seminar in the exilic Old Testament prophets [Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990], 173).

8 This was adapted from Charles H. Dyer, Jeremiah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1125-27, and Homer Heater, Jr., Notes on the Book of Jeremiah, unpublished class notes in seminar in the preexilic Old Testament prophets (Dallas Theological Seminary, Fall 1990), 101-105.

9 Perhaps Ezekiel was one of those deported during this second deportation. He would have begun his prophetic ministry five years later.

10 See Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 414-15.

11 This book may have never been read to Edom. It was written for Judah (cf. vv. 18, 21). Childs writes, In sum, the canonical shape of the oracles of Obadiah has interpreted the prophetic message as the promise of God's coming rule which will overcome the evil intent of the nations, even Edom, and restore a holy remnant to its inheritance within God's kingship (Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, 415).

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines