1902 Encyclopedia > Obadiah


OBADIAH (nH5*>, OflSewv, Af3Si.ov, Abdias) is a name pretty frequent in the Old Testament, meaning " servant" or worshipper " of Jehovah." It is synonymous with Abdi and Abdeel, and of a type common in Semitic proper names; compare the Arabic A.bdallah, Taimallat, Abd Manat, &c, the Hebrew Obed Edom, and many Phoenician forms. The name of Obadiah is prefixed to the fourth and shortest book of the minor prophets,' and as no date or other historical note is added it is not surprising that an early Hebrew tradition recorded by Jerome (Comm. in Ob.) identified the prophet with the best-known Obadiah of the historical books, the protector of the prophets in the reign of Ahab (1 Kings xviii.). His tomb was shown in Samaria with those of Elisha and John the Baptist, and the Epitaphium Paulx describes the wild performances, analogous to those of modern dervishes, that took place before these shrines.
It is now agreed on all hands that it is vain to connect Obadiah the prophet with any other Obadiah of the Old Testament, and that our only clue to the date and compo-sition of the book lies in internal evidence. The prophecy is directed against Edom. Jehovah has sent a messenger forth among the nations to stir them up to battle against the proud inhabitants of Mount Seir, to bring them down from the rocky fastnesses which they deem impregnable. Edom shall be not only plundered but utterly undone and expelled from his borders, and this he shall suffer (through his own folly) at the hand of trusted allies (vers. 1-9). The cause of this judgment is his cruelty to his brother Jacob. In the day of Jerusalem's overthrow the Edomites rejoiced over the calamity, grasped at a share of the spoil, lay in wait to cut off the fugitives (vers. 10-14). But now the day of Jehovah is near upon all nations, Esau and all the heathen shall drink full retribution for their banquet of carnage and plunder on Jehovah's holy mountain. A rescued Israel shall dwell in Mount Zion in restored holiness; the house of Jacob shall regain their old possessions; Edom shall be burned up before them as chaff before the flame ; they shall spread over all Canaan, over the mountain of Esau and the south of Judah as well as over Gilead and the Philistine and Phoenician coast. The victorious Israel-ites shall come up on Mount Zion to rule the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom shall be Jehovah's (vers. 15-21).
In vers. 10-14 the expositor finds sure foothold. The calamity of Jerusalem can only be the sack of the city by Nebuchadnezzar; the malevolence and cruelty of Edom on this occasion are characterized in similar terms by several writers of the exile, but by none with the same circumstance and vividness of detail as here (Ezek. xxv. 8, 12 sq., xxxv.; Lam. iv. 21; Psalm exxxvii.). It is impossible to doubt that these verses were written under the lively and recent impression of the events to which they refer; to regard them as predictive (Caspari, Pusey, &c.) is to misunderstand the whole character of prophetic foresight, and to ascribe them with Hitzig to the Persian or Greek period is equally unreasonable. The opening verses, of the prophecy, on the other hand, present a real difficulty. Obad. 1-6, 8 agree so closely and in part verbally with Jer. xlix. 14-16, 9, 10, 7 that the two passages can-not be independent; nor does it seem possible that Obadiah quotes from Jeremiah, for Obad. 1-8 is a well-connected whole, while the parallel verses in Jeremiah appear in different order, interspersed with other matter,

and in a much less lucid connexion. In Jeremiah the picture is vague, and Edom's unwisdom (ver. 7) stands without proof. In Obadiah the conception is quite de-finite. Edom is attacked by his own allies, and his folly appears in that he exposes himself to such treachery. Again, the probability that the passage in Jeremiah incor-porates disjointed fragments of an older oracle is greatly increased by the fact that the prophecy against Moab in the preceding chapter uses, in the same way, Isa. xv., xvi., and the prophecy of Balaam. In spite of the objections of Blau (Z. I). M. 67., xx. 173 sq.) there is no good reason to doubt that the prophecy against Edom ascribed to Jere-miah is really from his pen ; it is earlier than the fall of Jerusalem, and is one of a circle of prophecies in which Nebuchadnezzar (the lion ascending from Jordan, ver. 19) appears as the instrument of divine judgment on the nations. This being so, it seems necessary to conclude, with Ewald (Propheten, i. 489 sq.), Graf (Jeremia, p. 558 sq.), and others, that Jeremiah and our book of Obadiah alike quote from an older oracle. Ewald supposes that the treacherous allies of Edom are the Aramaeans and the time that of Ahaz (2 Kings xvi. 6); but the tone of the prophecy seems rather to refer it to a later date, when Edom had been for some time independent and powerful; and it is not improbable that in Obad. 1-8 we have the first mention of that advance of the Arabs upon the lands east of Palestine which is referred to also in Ezek. xxv. (comp. MOAB, vol. xvi. p. 535). That the book of Obadiah, short as it is, is a complex document might have been suspected, apart from Jer. xlix., from an apparent change of view between vers. 1-9 and vers. 15 sq. In the former verses Esau is destroyed by his allies, and they occupy his territory, but in the latter he perishes with the other heathen in the day of universal retribution, he disappears before the victorious advance of Israel, and the southern Judaeans occupy his land.
The eschatology of Obadiah contains little that is pecu-liar. The conceptions of the "rescued ones" (nti^s), of the sanctity of Zion, of the kingship of Jehovah, are the com-mon property of the prophets from the time of Isaiah. The restoration of the old borders of Israel and the conquest of Edom and the Philistines are ideas as old as Amos ix., Isa. xi. 14; but the older prophets more often represent this conquest as a suzerainty of Israel over its neighbours, as in the days of David, while in Obadiah, as in other later books, the intensified antithesis—religious as well as political —between Judah and the surrounding heathen finds its expression in the idea of a consuming judgment on the latter,—the great "day of Jehovah." This view is not, however, original in Obadiah; it is already expressed in Zephaniah. Between Joel and Obadiah there are points of material and verbal agreement, so close as to imply that Joel used the earlier book (Joel iii. 19,—Ob. 10, 14; Joel iii, 3, —Ob. 11 ; Joel ii. 32, iii. 17,—Ob. 17). Another charac-teristic common to Obadiah with the latest prophets is that, while he uses the words house of Jacob and house of Joseph, the northern tribes have become to him a mere name ; the restoration he thinks of is a restoration of the kingdom of Jerusalem, and even Gilead is to be occupied not by Joseph but by Benjamin.
An indication of the place where Obadiah wrote seems to lie in ver. 20, where he speaks of "the exiles in this ^PI." The word as pointed has been variously explained to mean "bulwark" or "army"; it may also be read as "sand" or "sea-coast" (Ewald), but, as the text of the verse is not sound and cannot be translated without some correction, it is unsafe to build on this obscure allu-sion. The prominence given to Edom, and the fact that Chahtea is not mentioned at all, make it probable that the book was not written in Babylonia. The same Verse speaks of exiles in Sepharad.
Sepharad is probably Sardis, the Cparda of Darius in the Behistun inscription. Many of the Jews were doubtless sold as slaves by Nebuchadnezzar. Lydia was a great slave-market, and Asia Minor was a chief seat of the Diaspora at an early date (comp. Gutschmidt, Neue Beitragc, p. 77), so that this identification does not supply ground for Hitzig's argument that Obadiah was written in the Greek period, when we read of many Jews being transplanted to . Asia Minor (Jos., Ant., xii. 3). Schrader, however (AT. 67. F., 116 . sq.; K.A. T., 446), thinks of a Shaparda mentioned by Sargon, and lying in south-west Media.

Literature.—The commentaries on the minor prophets (see HOSEA) ; Jager. Ueber das Zeitalter Obadia's, Tubingen, 1837 ; Caspari, Der Pr. Obadia, 1842 ; Delitzsch in Z. f. Luth. 'Ph., 1851. A fuller list is given by Reuss, Gesch. des. A.T. (1881), p. 449. (W. E. S.)


In ver. 12 '"have assuredly drunken " should be " shall assuredly

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