The Reckoning of Edom in Obadiah

The book of Obadiah is a text that claims to record a vision of Obadiah; a vision of the downfall of Edom (the kingdom that is descended from Esau), a mountainous kingdom located just south of Moab and Israel, or Judah. The book is a single chapter lasting twenty-one verses, and is sometimes written as “Abdias”. It is the shortest book in the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible. The name Obadiah means something like “servant of YHWH.”

Obadiah expresses anger at Edom, for its failing to support Israel and fight off enemies together. It is portrayed as a betrayal of Esau (Edom) for his brother Jacob (Israel). Obadiah foretells of a coming reckoning of Edom for its betrayal of Israel, as the northern kingdom of “Samaria” was conquered and enslaved by Assyria, the greatest empire of the ancient Mesopotamian world. The tone of the book is vengeful. We imagine a bitter Obadiah prophesying the downfall of Edom for not coming to Israel’s aid when the northern kingdom of Samaria is carted off and enslaved under the empire of the Assyrians. The only hopeful message of the text is the hope that God will one day bring His wrath upon Edom for its betrayal.

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