Author and His Times
Obadiah delivers a doom oracle against Edom shortly after they rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 586 BC. Edom even came out to slay the fleeing Jews. Despite long term tension between Israel and Edom dating back to battles with Saul and David, and also unkindness during Moses’ exodus, Edom was literally Israel’s brother as decedents of Esau (Jacob/Israel’s twin). Edom’s delight and aid in the slaughter of Jews was the final straw in YHWH’s broken expectations of brotherhood.
Edom was know for its wisdom (Eliphaz and maybe Job came from here) and for its many cities (such as Teman and Petra) that could only be entered through a narrow gorge alongside un-climbable cliffs protecting their rear. A superior army would be spread so thin in the gorge that defeat was inconceivable.
Edom’s fate is a bit of a mystery. They disappeared sometime after 586 and before 450 BC (Nehemiah 6:1 has a different inhabitant (Geshem), and Mal 1.2 also seems to assume they are gone). Some think they were destroyed by Arabian tribes, others presume Babylon, others still believe a small remnant of Edomites died defending the Temple of Jerusalem as Rome burned it in AD 70, essentially displaying six centuries of repentance for their sins in 586 BC.
Like Nahum, Obadiah comforts Judah by announcing judgment on a foreign nation. No repentance is required of Judah. It is unlikely that Obadiah delivered the message in Edom. The lessons on Edom through Obadiah are great for people who harbor pride and bitter withholding of reconciliation.
How to Read It
Obadiah appears to be restating Jeremiah’s oracles against Edom in Jeremiah 49.14-16, 49.9-10). See also Psalm 137 for Israel’s feelings toward Edom’s treachery.