For near is the day of the Lord for all the nations!
As you have done, so shall be done to you. . .
—Obadiah 15

Obadiah, which means “slave of Yahweh” in Hebrew, is the shortest book in the Old Testament— only 21 verses— and is the fourth of the twelve books of the Minor Prophets. It is the prophet Obadiah (about whom we know almost zero) denouncing the nation of Edom for its violent invasion of southern Judah (see Houses of Esau and Jacob) at the time the Babylonians were capturing Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Obadiah was likely written after the Israelites got back from their unwelcome vacation in Babylon (see exile to Babylon). As only prophets can, Obadiah gets incensed at the Edomites’ treachery. The book ends with Obadiah’s prophecy that Israel will conquer and rule Edom, and that Judah and Israel will be reunited. This would restore the power and prestige Israel had achieved under the “Golden Age” of King David and King Solomon (see Kings).

What messages does this book have for us now?
The animosities between the ancient Israelites and their neighbors may seem far removed from our experience, yet they speak to the many ethnic wars, conflicts, and divisions of our own time: Israel and Palestine, Serbia and the former Yugoslav republics, China and Tibet, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. In the impassioned language of Obadiah, we find a deep trust in God’s justice amidst the wrongs committed by nations, and in God’s love for those who suffer oppression.