The book of Obadiah is largely an announcement of judgment upon Edom for its part in helping Babylon in the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC (Obad 10-14; cf. Ps 137:7; Ezek 35:5,12,15).
Edom, being descended from Esau, was a brother nation to Israel-Judah, and therefore should have helped Jerusalem in its final hour (cf. Gen 25:23-26; 32:28; 36:1,8-9). Instead the Edomites took the opportunity to plunder the helpless city (Obad 11,13). They even captured the fleeing Jerusalemites and sold them to the Babylonian conquerors (Obad 14; for map and other details see EDOM).
Contents of the book
Edom prided itself in the strength of its mountain defences and the cleverness of its political dealings. Neither, however, would save it from the divine judgment that would fall upon it because of its active cooperation in the destruction of Jerusalem (Obad 1-16). But whereas God would destroy Edom totally, he would bring Judah out of captivity and back to its land, where it would rebuild its national life. It would even spread its power into former Edomite territory (Obad 17-21).
The Bible mentions at least twelve people named Obadiah. The most important is the prophet who wrote about the Edomites (see OBADIAH, BOOK OF). Of the remainder, the best known is the manager of Ahab’s royal household. When all around him were worshipping Baal, this man remained faithful to God. He protected God’s prophets from Jezebel’s violence, and on one occasion carried a message from Elijah to Ahab (1 Kings 18:1-16).