This book, the shortest among the twelve minor prophets, is a single twenty-one-verse oracle against Edom. Nothing is known of the author, although his prophecy against Edom, a neighbor and rival of Israel, indicates a date of composition sometime after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., when the Edomites apparently took advantage of the helpless people of Judah and Jerusalem (v. 11; Ps 137:7). The relations and rivalries between Israel and Edom are reflected in oracles against Edom (Is 34; Ez 35) and in the stories of their ancestors, the brothers Jacob and Esau (Gn 25–33).
The prophecy is a bitter cry for vengeance against Edom for its pride and its crimes. Mount Esau in Edom will be occupied and ravaged by the enemy, while Mount Zion will be restored to its former sanctity and security. The triumphant refrain of Israelite eschatology will be heard once more: “The kingdom is the Lord’s!” The opening verses of this prophecy (vv. 1–5) are very similar to part of an oracle against Edom in Jer 49 (vv. 9, 14–16), suggesting that Israel’s prophets drew upon traditional language and idioms in the composition of prophetic speech.
The book may be divided as follows:
1The vision of Obadiah.
Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom:
We have heard a message from the LORD,
and a herald has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up, so we may go to war against it!”a
2Now I make you least among the nations;
you are utterly contemptible.
3The pride of your heart has deceived you—
you who dwell in mountain crevices,
in your lofty home,*
Who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to earth?”
4Though you soar like the eagle,
and your nest is set among the stars,
From there I will bring you down—
oracle of the LORD.
5If thieves came to you, robbers by night
—how you have been destroyed!—
would they not steal merely till they had enough?
If grape pickers came to you,
would they not leave some gleanings?* b
6* How Esau has been searched out,
his treasures hunted down!
7To the border they have driven you—
all your allies;
Your partners have deceived you,
they have overpowered you;
Those who eat your bread*
will replace you with foreigners,
who have no understanding.
8On that day—oracle of the LORD—will I not
make the wise disappear from Edom,
and understanding from Mount Esau?c
9Teman,* your warriors will be terror-stricken,
so that everyone on Mount Esau will be cut down.
10Because of violence to your brother* Jacob,
disgrace will cover you,
you will be done away with forever!d
11On the day you stood by,
the day strangers carried off his possessions,
And foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you too were like one of them.* e
12* Do not gloat over the day of your brother,
the day of his disaster;
Do not exult over the people of Judah
on the day of their ruin;
Do not speak haughtily
on the day of distress!
13Do not enter the gate of my people
on the day of their calamity;
Do not gloat—especially you—over his misfortune
on the day of his calamity;
Do not lay hands upon his possessions
on the day of his calamity!
14Do not stand at the crossroads
to cut down his survivors;
Do not hand over his fugitives
on the day of distress!
15Near is the day of the LORDf
against all the nations!
As you have done, so will it be done to you,
your conduct will come back upon your own head;
16As you drank* upon my holy mountain,
so will all the nations drink continually.
Yes, they will drink and swallow,
and will become as though they had not been.
17But on Mount Zion there will be some who escape;*
the mountain will be holy,
And the house of Jacob will take possession
of those who dispossessed them.g
18The house of Jacob will be a fire,
the house of Joseph a flame,
and the house of Esau stubble.
They will set it ablaze and devour it;
none will survive of the house of Esau,
for the LORD has spoken.
19They will take possession of the Negeb,* Mount Esau, the Shephelah, and Philistia, possess the countryside of Ephraim, the countryside of Samaria, Benjamin, and Gilead.h 20The exiles of this Israelite army will possess the Canaanite land as far as Zarephath,* and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negeb. 21And deliverers* will ascend Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingship shall be the LORD’s.
*  Edom occupied the mountains southeast of Israel and the Dead Sea.
*  Something of value may escape the thief, and the grape picker always leaves something for the gleaners, but God’s devastation of Edom will be complete.
*  With the past tense in vv. 5–7, the prophet presents a future event as if it had already happened.
*  Those who eat your bread: alliances were often established by covenant meals (cf. Gn 31:44–46). When Edom is destroyed, foreigners will replace the Edomites, who were known for wisdom (cf. v. 8; Jer 49:7; Jb 2:11).
*  Teman: a synonym for Edom; perhaps the name of a region or a city, the part representing the whole. Mount Esau: whatever its geographic reference, the phrase is an effective representation of Edom’s arrogance.
*  Your brother: used with a double meaning referring to the common lineage of Israel and Edom, in which their ancestors were brothers, Jacob and Esau (Gn 25:19–26), and referring also to their political alliance, in which allies were called brothers (cf. Am 1:9, 11).
*  In 587 B.C., Edomites joined the invading Babylonian forces (v. 13) and captured escaping Judahites. The destruction of Jerusalem strengthened and expanded Edom’s hold on Judah’s southern territory.
* [12–14] The commands in vv. 12–14 are not to be understood as future prohibitions but as descriptions of crimes Edom in fact already committed on the day of Jerusalem’s fall described in v. 11.
*  As you drank: i.e., Judah has suffered the punishment of divine wrath in 587 B.C. The oracle promises a similar fate for the nations, especially Edom (v. 18). The metaphor “drinking the cup of God’s wrath” occurs often in the Bible; cf. Jb 21:20; Is 51:17–23; Jer 25:15–16; Rev 14:10.
* [17–19] The Israelites will be restored and will occupy the lands of those who oppressed them. The survivors of Judah will be rejoined by the returned exiles from northern Israel.
*  Negeb: the area south of Judah and west of Edom. Gilead: east of the Jordan River.
*  Zarephath: a town in Phoenicia, north of Tyre; cf. 1 Kgs 17:10. Sepharad: perhaps Sardis in western Asia Minor. The later rabbis thought it was Spain.
*  Deliverers: the victorious Israelites who will rule over their enemies, as the ancient judges did; cf. Jgs 3:9, 15, 31; 10:1.
a. [1:1–4] Jer 49:14–16.
b. [1:5] Jer 49:9.
c. [1:8] Is 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19.
d. [1:10] Gn 27:41–45; Ez 25:12–14.
e. [1:11] Ps 137:7.
f. [1:15] Jl 4:11–12, 14.
g. [1:17] Jer 49:2.
h. [1:19] Jer 50:19.