The book of Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament with only 21 verses. For this reason, it is often overlooked and discounted as insignificant. Yet, the very fact that God has chosen to inspire the prophet to write, to preserve it for us, and include it our Bible should speak volumes about our need for it. God doesn’t give us a book that is not beneficial for us; without something to learn (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Obadiah’s name literally means “Servant of Jehovah” and helps us understand his position as a prophet. The prophets always considered themselves as special servants of God, servants who spoke as God moved them to speak. What is most interesting is that this prophecy is about Edom, but Edom most likely has never heard it. It was written and given to Judah to ensure that they understood that God wasn’t going to let Edom’s behavior toward them stand. They will be punished and punished dearly.
We don’t know much about the man Obadiah. The Scriptures mention at least a dozen men named Obadiah and we can’t be sure which is which. The Jewish Talmud (history and commentary) has a tradition that says that he is the prophet who hide the prophets from Jezebel. Of course, we can’t be sure about this, but it does sound great and would have placed him in the right time frame.
Obadiah was probably the earliest of the Minor Prophets and written around 586 B.C. Verses 3-4 tell us that Edom is free, still living high on the mountain, and they still think they are invincible. Verse 7 tells us that the book was written sometime after Jerusalem had been invaded and sacked. It even sounds like Edom participated in the looting and capturing of Jewish prisoners. The problem with this is that Edom and Israel were related and the two are traced back to Jacob and Esau. Most likely, the book refers to a conflict with the Arabians and Philistines mentioned in 2 Chronicles 21.
The history of Edom and Israel is a long and tumultuous one. From the moment the two boys came from the womb they were fighting and jockeying for position and prominence. Yet, God expected Edom to stand with Israel despite their past. The lesson that most resonates with me is that God expects brothers and sisters to get along and not do damage to each other. Throughout the Scriptures, God challenges us to love each other, to support each other, and help. He never encourages us to watch our brother fall, to laugh when bad things happen, or to take a stand against them.
Another important lesson learned from Obadiah is that God is sovereign and over all nations. Edom, while not in a specific (not mentioned in scripture) covenant with God, is still accountable to God for their actions, especially when it affects His chosen people. No one in this entire world or throughout history isn’t accountable to the One True God. This should give us comfort when friend or foe attacks us because God is on our side. Just remember that He has promised to be with us, never leave us or forsake us; and at the end of the day says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay…” (Rom. 12:19).
Obadiah reminds us that pride goes before destruction (Prov. 16:18), that God expects us to love each other (John 13:34-35) despite our differences, and to avoid rejoicing when others fall even if they are your enemy. Most importantly, Obadiah teaches us that we will all answer to God, that He is God of all, and ultimately victory belongs to the Lord.