Book of Obadiah

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The Book of Obadiah, often called simply, Obadiah, is an ancient Jewish writing canonized into the Minor Prophets section of the Nevi'im. Christians place it in their Old Testament. It is the second shortest book in the Tanakh at only 252 Hebrew words, which grows to around 700 when translated into English.

Authorship and Dating

The author identifies himself as Obadiah (עבדיה [`Obadyah]) in 1:1. The word translates to "slave of God," although it is traditionally translated "servant of God." Either way, this could be a title rather than a name. Jewish and Christian traditions presume this is the same man in The Book of Kings who receives the gift of prophecy as a reward for saving other prophets, but there is no contemporary evidence of this. Instead, they base the belief on the much later Talmud and various religious traditions.

For those who adhere to religious tradition, this writing must have been penned around 853-841 BCE to place Obadiah in the life time of King Ahab whom he's mentioned serving under in the Book of Kings, as well as during an invasion of Jerusalem. However, most historians agree that the writing took place around 607-586 BCE. The more recent date is preferred by historians because of the writing style parallels the Book of Jeremiah which is often dated to that time, and to coincide with another invasion of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. If the more recent date is accurate, the author cannot be the same Obadiah as from the Book of Kings, but there are also about a dozen other characters in the Tanakh named Obadiah.

Content

In the writing, the author claims to be recording a prophecy of the Hebrew god Yahweh. The prophecy is that the nations of Israel are to go to war against the land of Edom which is said to be the land founded by Esau (of Jacob and Esau fame). In the prophecy, Yahweh details his orders to the Israelites to kill everyone who lives there and take over the land as punishment, although no crime of Edom is clearly described.

Status

I have several translations of this book from various bibles, and have read the KJV and NIV translations.

Review

Good

  • Nothing.

Bad

  • No specific reason is given for why Edom should be conquered and all the people living there executed. They are described as being proud, and it is implied that they either helped an invasion force or didn't fight against an invasion force, but that's it.
  • Esau is again viewed as a villain, though I can't see anything that he did wrong in earlier books to warrant being treated as a villain. Considering how Yahweh's "chosen people" have treated him in the past, I don't blame him for being on less-than-friendly terms.
  • Yahweh appears to be blaming Edom for the captivity of the Israelites (1:19-21), but if he's an all-powerful god, why did he let Jerusalem fall to invaders? And, why doesn't he just give his chosen people the power to take it back?
  • Obadiah 1:20 mentions a place called "ספרד [Cĕpharad] Sepharad." The location of such a place, or even if it is a town, region, etc., is unknown. This word exists nowhere else in antiquity.

Ugly

  • The entire work is nothing more than cold-blooded revenge, not exactly becoming of an all-loving god. Yahweh says that Edom's warriors will be cut down in the slaughter (1:8) and that all of the descendants of Esau will be killed leaving no survivors (1:18), which I must assume includes the children, women, elderly, and disabled. No forgiveness or "turn the other cheek" to be found here!

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