Book of the Week 31: Obadiah

Hebrew Name: Oved’Yah

Human Author: Obadiah                                                     

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 1

Basic Facts

  1. Obadiah is the thirty-first book of the Bible.
  2. In terms of literary genre, Obadiah is classified as a book of prophecy.
  3. Obadiah was a prophet to the people of Edom—the descendants of Esau.
  4. Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament and has only one chapter.
  5. The Hebrew name for the book of Obadiah is Oved’Yah which means “servant of Yah.” (Yah is a generic name for God in Hebrew.)

Story of the Book

The book of Obadiah tells of a vision which God gives to Obadiah concerning the kingdom of Edom. Edom was the tiny nation east of the Jordan river which was made up of the descendants of Esau. God warned the people of Edom through Obadiah that He was about to punish them for their sins and that their day of reckoning was near. What Edom had done to oppress Israel, other nations would in turn do the same to Edom. When God’s judgment is complete, the people of Israel would be returned to prosperity and would possess the land of Edom as a blessing from God. The text goes into some considerable detail about which portion of the Israelites would control each portion of the lands of southern Israel, Judah, and Edom. In the end, however, Israel would gain control of Edom, and the kingdom of Edom would belong to the LORD (Obadiah 1:21).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Obadiah

Jesus is foreshadowed in a very indirect way in Obadiah. There was an ancient rivalry between the people of Israel and the people of Edom. Israel was descended from Jacob (whom God renamed Israel), and Edom was descended from Esau. It was prophesied in Genesis 25:23 that “the older would serve the younger.” In other words, Esau would ultimately serve Jacob. This prediction is carried a step further in Obadiah as Obadiah prophesies that the descendants of Esau (Edom) would be left with no survivor (Obadiah 1:18) and the land of Edom would be possessed by the descendants of Jacob (Israel) (Obadiah 1:19-21). However, the kingdom of Edom would belong to the LORD (Obadiah 1:21). In God’s seemingly harsh judgment of the people of Edom in handing them over to their enemies and restoring the nation of Israel, God is merely expressing His sovereignty. Paul later reveals in Romans 9:12 that the prophecy concerning Jacob and Esau is an expression of God’s sovereign choice in choosing Jacob (Israel) over Esau. God is the one who will restore the fortunes of Israel because “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever” (Romans 9:5). In God’s sovereign choice to restore Israel and judge Edom, He is preserving the nation in order that the Christ (who is a Jew) would be born as the Savior of the world. It is through Christ that all nations would ultimately receive redemption, and a remnant of every tribe, language, and nation would be saved—including a remnant of both Israel and of Edom (Matthew 28: 18-20; Romans 9:27-28; Revelation 7: 9-12).