The book is named after the prophet Obadiah (servant of Yehovah) and it seems to be a popular name because twelve other men are called this in the Tanak. It is the shortest book in the Tanak and is never quoted in the Brit Chadasha (renewed testament).
Nothing is known about Obadiah for sure, but he mentions Jerusalem, Judah, and Zion so it is believed he was part of the southern kingdom. The date it was written is hard to estimate, but it is believed to be associated with Edom rejoicing over the fall of Jerusalem and their captivity. The Edomites participated in this destruction (Psa 137.7; Ezek 35.5; Lam 4.21). Oddly enough, Edom “died” in trying to defend Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Edomites descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob, and their struggles with each other are well documented. The Edomites opposed Saul, but were subdued under David. They also opposed Yehoshaphat and rebelled against Yehoram. They were conquered by Judah but regained their freedom during the reign of Ahaz. They were controlled by Assyria and Babylon and eventually were defeated by the Nabateans.
Spiritually, Edom represents several things. Edom represents the flesh, and the name became a code word in rabbinic writings for Rome and Christianity, who came out of Rome.
Edom is judged by Yehovah for cursing Israel, and Judah is told that he would bring judgment upon them for their participation in the destruction of Judah. Obadiah blesses Judah and foretells the demise of the Edomites, along with the judgment coming on the nations, and the possession of Edom by Israel in the day of the Lord during the Messianic Kingdom. Prophetically, this may be alluding to right before Yom Kippur of the third year of the birth pains.
v 1…The vision (prophecy) of Obadiah; thus says the Lord God (Adonai Yehovah) concerning Edom, we (Obadiah, other prophets) have heard a report from the Lord and an envoy (ambassador) has been sent among the nations saying, “Arise and let us go against her (Edom) for battle (by the instigation of Yehovah).
v 2…Behold (take note), I will make you small (in number) among the nations; you are greatly despised.
v 3…The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock (Hebrew “Cela”-Isa 16.6; Jer 49.16-may be alluding to Petra), in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to earth?’
v 4…Though you build high like the eagle (a natural rock formation near Petra looks like an eagle), though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord (Edom will not be able to avert the fate coming upon them. Their lofty and rocky fortifications will not save them).
v 5…”If thieves come to you, if robbers by night (intent on plunder)-O how you will be ruined (a complete clearing out of Edom)!-would they not steal until they had enough (leaving some)? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave some gleanings?
v 6…O how Esau will be ransacked (totally), and his hidden treasures searched out (as a whole, in all areas, belongings, people, and parts).
v 7…All the men allied with you (in a confederacy) will send you forth to the border (to drive back the refugees to the border so they fall into the hands of their enemy; not receive the Edomites as refugees), and the men at peace with you will deceive you and overpower you (by cunning and deceit, secret treachery). They who eat your bread (received subsidies from them) will set an ambush for you (secretly wounding Edom). There is no understanding in him (Edom never suspected a thing and their usual cunning couldn’t find a way to escape from this distress).
v 8…Will I not on that day,” declares the Lord, “destroy wise men from Edom and understanding from the mountain of Esau (to give proper counsel of what to do, what methods should be taken; they were incapable)?
v 9…Then you mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman (known for valiant warriors, they were now afraid), in order that everyone may be cut off from the mountain (kingdom) of Esau by slaughter (none left).
v 10…Because (now reasons are given) of violence (whenever they had the opportunity) to your brother Jacob (starting in Gen 27.41 to Num 20.21), you shall be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever (Nebuchadnezzar started it, but John Hyrcanus, a Maccabee, finished it).
v 11…On the day you stood aloof (didn’t help their brother Jacob), on the day that strangers (Babylonians) carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem (by the soldiers who cast lots to divide up the spoils)-you too were one of them (Edom joined Babylon and entered the city with them and showed as much hatred and contempt as the Chaldeans did_.
v 12…Do not gloat (about the fall of Jerusalem) over your brother’s day, the day of his misfortune (day of judgment). And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction (by Babylon; the day of calamity and distress); yes, do not boast in the day of their distress (look with pleasure and joy over their demise, something Edom could never do).
v 13…Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their disaster (enter Jerusalem and other cities to plunder). Yes, you, do not gloat (look with pleasure) over their calamity in the day of their disaster. And do not loot their wealth in the day of their disaster (the day of their disaster is used three times to show the greatness of their sin, and it is also an eschatological allusion to the birth pains).
v 14…Do not stand at the fork of the road (crossings) to cut down their fugitives (as they fled to the wilderness), and do not imprison their survivors in the day of their distress (a term for the birth-pains).
v 15…For the day of the Lord (this expression was “coined” by Obadiah, and Joel, Isaiah, and other prophets adopted it. It basically means when Yehovah reveals his power to overthrow his enemies and defend his kingdom. Eschatologically it alludes to when the Messiah comes) draws near (Hebrew “karav” meaning “here now”) on all the nations. As you have done it, it will be done to you (the concept of “midah kneged midah” or measure for measure), Your dealings will return on your own head.
v 16…Because just as you drank on my holy mountain (in revelry over Israel’s fall), all the nations will drink continually, they will drink and swallow, and become as if they never existed (for their revelry they will drink the intoxicating cup of the wrath of God-Obadiah only mentions the most severe crime of desecrating the kedusha of the Temple Mount here, but there were other crimes).
v 17…But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape (a remnant), and it will be holy (have a kedusha). And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions (their own ancient possessions).
v 18…Then the house of Jacob will be a fire (that consumes the chaff), and the house of Jacob a flame (a parallelism); but the house of Esau will be as stubble (chaff). And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,” for the Lord has spoken.
v 19…Then those of the Negev (the south) will possess the mountain (kingdom) of Esau, and those of the Shephelah (valley) the Philistine plain (lowland); also they will possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria (north), and Benjamin will possess Gilead (the trine is so large that it will possess across the Jordan to the north-Israel will take possession of the land promised and enlarge their territory to every region).
v 20…And the exiles of the host of the sons of Israel (ten tribes who have been exiled and captive), who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath (a Phoenician city between Tyre and Sidon), and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad (meaning “end of wandering” and land west of Israel) will possess the cities of the Negev (historically those who returned with Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubabbel, etc, bur eschatologically those who return when Messiah comes).
v 21…The deliverers (judges, saviors) will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain (kingdom) of Esau (Edom, her once arrogant brother’s land), and the kingdom will be the Lord’s (Amos 9.11-12, Num 24.18-19 and can only be fulfilled in the Messianic Kingdom).