There are at least 10 important people named Obadiah in Scripture:
- An Israelite who was chief in the household of King Ahab (I Kings 18:3). Amid great spiritual degeneracy he maintained his fidelity to God, and interposed to protect The Lord's prophets, a hundred of whom he hid at great personal risk in a cave (4, 13). Ahab seems to have held Obadiah in great honor, although he had no sympathy with his piety (5-7). The last notice of him is bringing back tidings to Ahab that Elijah, whom he had so long sought for, was at hand (9-16). "Go," said Elijah to him, when he met him on the way, "go tell thy lord, Elijah is here."
- A chief of the tribe of Issachar (I Chronicles 7:3).
- A descendant of Saul (I Chronicles 8:38).
- A Levite, after the Captivity (I Chronicles 9:14-16).
- A Gadite who joined David at Ziklag (I Chronicles 12:1-9).
- A prince of Zebulun in the time of David (I Chronicles 27:16-19).
- One of the princes sent by Jehoshaphat to instruct the people in the law (II Chronicles 17:7-9).
- A Levite who superintended the repairs of the temple under Josiah (II Chronicles 34:12).
- One who accompanied Ezra on the return from Babylon (Ezra 8:1-9).
- A prophet, fourth of the minor prophets in the Hebrew canon, and fifth in the LXX. He was probably contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Of his personal history nothing is known.
Our Obadiah is the last of the ten above, and he prophesies that “God will judge the unrighteous.” The book of Obadiah indicts the Edomites. It is the shortest book in the Old Testament, but it packs a punch!
The Edomites descended from the Bible character Edom (Hebrew for “red.”) Edom, whose birth name was Esau, was the older twin brother of Jacob. Their father was Isaac and their grandfather Abraham.
READ Genesis 25:19-34. (See map of Edom – Appendix 8)
The abhorrence of Esau towards Jacob for tricking him into giving up his share of the inheritance was passed on to their descendants. Edomites and Israelites were such constant enemies that the Edomites refused the Israelites to pass through Edom (Numbers 20:21; Judges 11:17). The Edomites tried to conquer the country of Israel during the time of Jehoshaphat (872-848 B.C.) but didn’t succeed. The Edomites were further mentioned as a nation defeated and invaded by Saul and later by David. They allied with Nebuchadnezzar in invading Jerusalem. Their brutality towards the people of Jerusalem and their cruel actions in destroying the First Temple gained criticism from the prophets up to the later eras. They fought with the Jews many times and became one of the nations conquered by the Maccabees at its peak. Under the leadership of the Maccabees, they were obliged to embrace the Jewish cultures.
Their men were circumcised, and they were forced to follow Jewish laws, until the time came when they openly mixed themselves with the Jews and followed their practices including paganism. The legendary Herod, who ordered the construction of the Second Temple, was an Edomite.
John Gill, in his opening statements on the commentary on Obadiah, says “the subject is Edom, whose destruction is foretold, and is to be considered as a type of the enemies of Christ and His kingdom.” We see the typology in Paul’s use of Jacob and Esau in God’s judgment and deliverance in Romans 9:6-33.
- We are to give a report among the nations - (v. 1) - By the Spirit of God, as a spirit of prophecy; (we) Obadiah and Jeremiah, and other prophets, as Isaiah and Amos, who have had orders to prophesy against Edom (see Jeremiah 49:14); so too the angels, or Gospel ministers, will have a report or message concerning the fall of antichrist (see Revelation 14:6).
- The unrighteous are not without witness - “an ambassador is sent among the nations” (v. 1). Therefore, as the Apostle Paul says, “They are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
- The unrighteous are not as powerful as they believe - “I have made you small” (v. 2). The reduction to insignificance is as sure as if it were already accomplished; therefore the past tense is used (see Jeremiah 49:15-17).
- The pride in the unrighteous is their ruin - (vs. 3-5) - “the arrogance in you has deceived you” (v.3). “Who shall bring me down to the ground?” (v. 4) is the question they most often ask.
- The unrighteous will be exposed and judged - (vs 6-9) - “his hidden things searched out” (v. 6). When you think of God’s judgment on the unrighteous, think of Petra, the fortress of Edom. The treasures hidden within will be brought out and exposed to the light of God’s judgment.
- The unrighteous are condemned for their treatment of Jacob and his descendants (vs. 10-14). Of course, through Jacob came the 12 Tribes of Israel, and through them came “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Jesus), who is King of Zion, the seed of Abraham, the Son of God, and the Son of Man, the Alpha and Omega, Creator of All Things, the Everlasting God, Emmanuel – God with us.
- The “day of the Lord” (judgment) is near to “all the nations” - (vs. 15-21). Obadiah foretells the final day of the wicked. Concerning that event, he said: “For the day of Jehovah is near upon all the nations” (v. 15). This is an event that every unrighteous person must take seriously. As Edwards declared in his exposition of “Your foot shall slip in due time” (Deuteronomy 32:25) in a message entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, the wicked will be taken in surprise to stand before God’s judgment throne. This judgment is proportional, personal, and prophetical – “As you have done, it will be done to you” (v. 15). It is the second death.
The only answer to this judgment is Mount Zion: “For upon Mount Zion will be your deliverance” (v. 17). This is a shadow, type, and figure of our spiritual deliverance from the law, sin, Satan, the world, death, hell, and wrath to come, by Christ; who is the Deliverer that should both come to Zion and out of Zion, and who has wrought the above deliverance for Zion, His church and people; and where it is preached and proclaimed, and where those who are delivered come and dwell and the unrighteous are gone (v. 18). The grace of God is in Zion (Romans 9:33), but the judgment of God is seen in Edom (Malachi 4:3).