Obadiah [Ōba dī'ah]—servant or worshiper of jehovah. Among the Semitic peoples many names, such as the one before us, were common, occurring frequently in the Old Testament. Little or nothing is known about the Obadiahs of the Bible, but the name has also been found on an ancient Hebrew seal.
This Minor Prophet cannot be identified. His book, the briefest in the Old Testament, gives his name, but there the record ends. Pusey says, “The silence of Scripture as to Obadiah stands in remarkable contrast with the anxiety of man to know something about him.” His origin, age, life, country, parents and grave are all unknown. His is the voice of a stranger. He has been identified with the Levite of the same name sent by Jehoshaphat to teach in the cities of Judah (See No. 8). He has also been linked with the pious Obadiah of Ahab’s house (See No. 1). Of the prophet’s personal history not a single incident or even tradition has been preserved. The work is more important than the worker.
It would seem as if the prophet lived and labored between the taking of Jerusalem and the destruction of Idumea, since he speaks of “foreigners” entering Jerusalem and the day of Judah’s destruction and distress (Obad. 11-14). Although his book is the shortest in the Hebrew Canon, consisting of only twenty-one verses, yet it demands more of our attention, proportionately, than any other book. Looking at it from the aspect of size, it is little, but weighty. Multum in parvo.
Obadiah’s prophecy has always been a favorite one with the Jews. It is principally from Obadiah that they learned to apply the name Edom to Rome. “Edom” stands as the typical designation for all the deadliest foes of the House of Israel.
Edom was descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob, and thus the people were akin to the Children of Israel. Since the days of the Exodus there has been frequent conflict between the two races. The Edomites had shown themselves unfriendly to Moses and the Israelites, refusing them passage through their territory when marching towards Canaan, and this bitterness still continues, accounting for the present animosity of the Arab world toward the Jew.
Obadiah’s style in writing is full of individuality. It is animated and vigorous, abounding in appeals and having the preponderance of interrogation of great point and vehemence. His language is simple and pure, with utterance often highly poetic.
The lessons to be gathered from Obadiah’s description of the character and career, the downfall and doom of Edom; are clearly evident:
I. The similarity of sin and punishment.
II. God will not cast off His people forever.
III. Greed and cruelty are hateful to God.
IV. Pride goes before a fall.
V. The ultimate kingdom is the Lord’s.