Author: The name Obadiah means “servant of the Lord” and was a common name in the Old Testament. Nothing is known about Obadiah’s family nor where he lived. Unlike Malachi, Obadiah is believed to be the actual name of the prophet however and not just a generic title given to an anonymous servant of the Lord.
Recipients: Obadiah is written to the Edomites, the distant relatives of the Israelites who had given Israel trouble throughout their history. The people of Edom were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (Israel). While this prophecy against a foreign nation may seem strange to be recorded as scripture (Jonah was at least against Assyrians who destroyed the northern kingdom and had a strong connection to Israel) the message of Obadiah is valuable for the Israelites as well. The message contains reassurance that the judgment of enemy nations would come.
Date: Since nothing is known about Obadiah the man, the dating of the book is based upon verses 11-14. Some believe that these verses reference an attack by the Philistines against Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoram (884-853 BC). This early dating would make Obadiah a contemporary of the prophet Elisha.
More likely however, the attack on Jerusalem is a reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the city in 586 BC. In this case, Obadiah is a contemporary of Jeremiah. Our timeline uses this later date as this seems more notable an attack on Jerusalem and more likely.
Message: Obadiah warns the Edomites that they have been smug and arrogant as they watched Jerusalem fall to enemy invaders. Not only did they not assist their “brother Jacob”, they have participated in violence against the nation.
While Edom will fall, Israel will prevail because God is with His people. In the Day of the Lord, the people of Israel will prosper and even occupy the land of the fallen people of Edom. God will bless Israel while Edom will be destroyed.
Trivial fact: Obadiah is the shortest book of the Old Testament. It contains only one chapter, consisting of only 21 verses. In all of the Bible only 2 John (13 verses) and 3 John (14 verses) are shorter.