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The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Obadiah

Hard to believe we’re 31 books into our series The Big Book––Cover to Cover. This week we look at the book of Obadiah.

We don’t know a lot about the prophet Obadiah or the exact timeframe in which this was written, but we know a lot about his message. It’s very clear.

Show Notes


Obadiah – the servant of the Lord.

עֹבַדְ יָה abad –ya means either servant of Y(HWH) or perhaps the one who worships Y(HWH).


Scholars suggest different timeframes. Prominent views include:

  • 840BC – the Edomites under the reign of King Jehoram.
  • 586 BC – the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians

Other scholars suggest the book falls during the time of Elijah and Elisha (2 Chronicles 21:12-15).

We don’t know a lot about the prophet Obadiah or the exact timeframe in which this was written, but we know a lot about his message. It’s very clear.

Obadiah prophesies from God that the punishment of Edom is going to come.


Edom and the Edomites is mentioned 99 times in the Old Testament, more than any other enemy of Israel.

Two parts of this book: The doom of Edom and the restoration of Israel.

We’re taken back to the ancient birthright feud between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-34).

Jacob, the supplanter, steals Esau’s birthright with a bowl of “red stuff.” The names Esau and Edom, and the word for “red stuff,” have a similar designation in the original language. The wordplay is what’s interesting.

Edom becomes a word related to the name Esau, Jacob becomes Israel.

The brothers feud from day one and this feud develops into the hostility between the Edomites and the Israelites.

Edom and Israel meet in Numbers 20:18-21 and Edom refuses Israel passage through their land under threat of sword, showing the resentment has not lessened over the (close to 1,000) years.

Edom’s actions toward Israel will be judged by God.

Saul fought the Edomites in 1 Samuel 14:47, and David would later defeat Edom and place garrisons to protect the borders of Israel in 2 Samuel 8:13-14.

Edom will gain and lose power and make alliances with enemies to fight Isreal. The tension remains: Ezekiel 35:14-15.

Later the Nabateans, a sect of Arabs, drove the Edomites into southern Judah. This invasion may be in the mind of Malachi: Malachi 1:4.

The few remaining Edomites were integrated/absorbed into the Nabatean Arabs, known for the famous stone-carvings in Petra which Indiana Jones made a tourist destination.

The final remnants later become known as Idumeans from the Greek name for Southern Judea, Idumea. John Hyrcanus, a Maccabean, would force them later to follow Judaism by becoming circumcised.

Why do we cover this long history?

To show that, while the Edomites’ power and reign ended, their story doesn’t yet. There’s a remnant.

King Herod the Great, who lives in Judea from 37-4BC, was an Edomite (aka, Idumean).

The feud between Jacob and Esau continues all the way into the New Testament.

The Idumeans joined the Jews in their revolt against Rome in 70AD but were essentially obliterated by the Roman General Titus, and in a sense this feud that began between twin boys in the womb and the crescendo is going to be that King Herod, who claims to be the king of the world, finds himself in conflict with King Jesus.

The storyline picks up in a fascinating way when you look at how this conflict that began with two boys in the womb becomes two people groups who will engage in conflict til the end.

Walt Baker suggests “Obadiah is in miniature a profile of many prophetic writings. Obadiah speaks of God’s impending judgment on nations who harass His people, His nation, Israel.”(1.)


  • Edom’s destruction: Obadiah 1:1-14
  • Israels Restoration: Obadiah 1:15-21

Tempting as it can be to hurry through a short book/prophecy, several themes are notable

  • God’s grace to His chosen people
  • God’s judgment to His chosen people’s enemies
  • The recurrence of the day
  • The impending day of the Lord
  • The perennial problem of pride

I. God will judge the proud.

Obadiah 1:1-4

A frequent theme in the Scriptures: Proverbs 16:5, James 4:6, Psalm 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Matthew 23:12, 1 Peter 5:5

You can have a sober view of how God made you and have a healthy view of who you are – not proud nor self-deprecating.

There is no place for pride in the Christian life.

II. God will judge Israel’s enemies.

Obadiah 1:10

While it may be a difficult truth to accept, one only need to study God’s long suffering with His chosen people and surrounding nations. He has established Himself as the one true God, the only God, and all others have opportunity to believe in Him or reject Him. Those who reject Him are, indeed, His enemies.

God is long-suffering with people, period. As I’ve said many times before: the question isn’t why is he merciful and gracious to some, the question is why is he merciful and gracious to any?

III. God’s judgment is sure.

Day is mentioned 12 times in this short book, pointing to the fact that God’s coming judgment day is sure.

Obadiah 1:15, Obadiah 1:18
Hard words, but His judgment is sure.

IV. God will bless His people.

Obadiah 1:20-21
All enemies of Israel and of the Lord will be defeated. The Lord’s kingdom will be established.

The Kingdom of God

1 Samuel 7:1-17 In no uncertain terms, David’s going to have an eternal kingdom.

God knows man’s heart. He knows man’s future.

If we jump ahead to Gabriel’s announcement, we see the tightly knit design of God’s word and His promises.

Why did God choose Mary? Because He did. Luke 1:30-33 Listen to what he says about the kingdom. The birth narrative is a king narrative and Gabriel’s point is: this is a continuation of the Davidic Covenant that God made and would fulfill.

Obadiah prophesies of the destruction of Edom and the ultimate restoration of Israel.

Obadiah prophesies of the exiles return to the territories, cities, and ultimately, Mount Zion where, “the kingdom will be the Lord’s.”

It is a literal geopolitical kingdom in which there was a ruling king, replete with authority that is exercised over a literal people and a literal land. Matthew calls it the kingdom of heaven not because it exists only in heaven, but because it will come to earth from heaven. (2.)

Be aware: whenever anyone says, “I could never believe in a God who–” they have just made God in their own image.

In our horizontal view of life we are often preoccupied with me, myself and I. Our “concern” (another way to say worry) over the stuff of life: money, relationships, politics, what we eat, what we wear, how we sleep – our distractions lay us out flat when they’re all we think about.

How often do we think about the kingdom of God?

What does it take for us to stop and to realize that the “I, me, my” stuff of life is very short lived–but the You, Your, His of His kingdom is eternal?

With all the distractions that swirl around in our heads, we just have to stop and pray:

“Lord, will you forgive me? I’m so preoccupied with my self-focused thoughts. I need to be more occupied with You and Your kingdom. Will you help me?”

If we understood that His kingdom is eternal and is going to reign and will not be stopped, we would find rest in Him. That’s why kingdom theology is helpful: we weren’t meant for this kingdom, we were meant for His kingdom.


  1. Walter L. Baker, “Obadiah,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1455
  2. Michael Vanlaningham, “Matthew” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael Rydelnikand Michael Vanlaningham, (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1458
Michael Easley

About Michael Easley

Michael is husband to one, dad to four, and host of Michael Easley inContext.

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