Obadiah Table of Contents

Main Table of Contents


Minor Prophets: Major Messages

The Book of Obadiah

How to Use This Study Guide

1. A slow unhurried reading of Obadiah is essential. Read each chapter before you look at the related section of the Study guide. Read the chapter again while you are using the study guide, and read it a third time when you are finished. This process will give you a powerful sense of the series of events and meanings in each chapter. It is important to feel comfortable with all the names, places, and announcements in Obadiahís prophecy. When possible, some historical information will be included in the study guide to increase reading comprehension and enhance application.

2. Our reading of the one chapter of Obadiah will begin with quotes from a work of the Writings called Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms (hereafter referred to as P&P). This work has a verse-by-verse overview of Obadiah that summarizes the internal sense. Our research will help move us from this general summary to the particulars of the internal sense.

3. Another important reference tool is Searleís General Index to Swedenborgís Scripture Quotations. This reference shows where in the Writings a verse(s) of the Word is either explained specifically or used to illustrate a doctrinal point that we can use in our study. There is also another use of this work. As we study, each researcher will be led by the Lordís Providence in myriad of ways and according to specific needs or states. Knowing how to use this book will help us look up related passages that will add to our knowledge of the three-fold Word.

4. You will soon discover that not every verse, word, name, etc. is directly quoted and explained in the Writings, but there are often other references to the same name, place, or thing in the explanation of a different verse of the Word. The hope is that reflection on these other references and their associated doctrine will help us see possible applications to our full study of Obadiah. We will need to use "derived doctrine" often. Please donít run away from this maligned term. If we use it properly, admitting openly that it is derived, we bring no harm to the internal sense.

5. Keep a notebook handy during your study times. Write out insights, questions, and any summaries you find helpful in organizing your thoughts about each chapter. The goal of this study guide is not to give a detailed summary of the internal sense but to start each researcherís quest for deeper insight.

6. At the end of each chapter in the study guide, you will find a study review. The review includes a summary of each section to help you reinforce and build on your understanding of several of the key points.

7. Begin each study unit with a devotional prayer asking the Lord to guide and direct your thoughts. Studying in this sphere has the power to inspire and open our minds with a higher spiritual priority that will keep us in the company of the Lordís angels. As the Writings teach, we must seek to love truth for truthís sake. Such an approach will free each reader from preconceived ideas that might limit his or her ability to "see" the intent and message of the Lordís Word.


Welcome to the study of the shortest book in the Word. Obadiah has one chapter and twenty-one verses. As brief as this book is, scholars raise many questions about it. They debate its author and date of composition, and they point to the striking similarity between passages in Obadiah and Jeremiah to question whether Obadiah actually witnessed the things he wrote about or saw them in a dream or vision from the Lord. As always, we need to briefly consider the interesting issues the scholars raise. Some of their observations wonderfully highlight things the Lord intended us to find in the Word that serve as a base or "containant" for the deeper spiritual things of the internal sense. On the other hand, we can set aside some of their debates because they are resolved when the spiritual sense is opened to reveal and explain the internal sense of the Word.

Letís consider a specific issue to illustrate this point. Biblical researchers note several similarities or parallelisms in Obadiah and Jeremiah. For example, the words "grape gatherers came to you" appear in both Obadiah 1:5 and Jeremiah 49:9. Who, ask the scholars, wrote that prophetic sentence first? Jeremiah wrote it first, they have determined. Here is how they came to that conclusion: Obadiah 1:10-14 seems to refer to the capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar. They believe Jeremiah 49 was composed following the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. Ergo, Jeremiah said it first.

In its introduction to the book of Obadiah, the Oxford Annotated Bible suggests another explanation for the similarities: that both prophets borrowed these passages "from a collection of sayings transmitted orally by prophetic circles."

At this point, it seems prudent to ask if these theories have any spiritual importance for us. Do we really need to determine who wrote these prophetic words first? Does a collection of "oral prophetic sayings" have anything to do with the internal sense? Isnít the repetition itself of greater spiritual significance than those who said it?

The Writings answer, as noted below, that repetition is good and intrinsically necessary for the message of the spiritual sense. Repetition is the work of the Lord and not individual prophets!

Repetition in the Word is not there because one prophet borrowed from another. So that we can better answer future criticisms that the Word is repetitious, letís consider these teachings:

  • Arcana Coelestia (AC) 435, 707, 734, and 1015 teach us that the Lord uses repetition to signify certain states people pass through.
  • AC 734 states emphatically that there is no such thing as repetition in the Word.
  • AC 1259 helps us to understand that if repetitions accidentally occurred in the Word, if phrases were creatively lifted from other sources, and if prophets plagiarized lines, it would cause the Word to lose its holiness.
  • "It is common in the Word, especially the prophetic, for one thing to be expressed in two ways; and he who does not know the mystery in this, cannot [but] think it a mere repetition for the sake of emphasis." (AC 4691)
  • AC 5888 states that repetition occurs to indicate the state of the will and understanding. See this concept explained also in AC 6343[3], AC 7945, and in The Doctrine of Sacred Scriptures 81, 84, and 86.
  • AC 9565 states that if something is repeated three times, each single thing has a plenary conjunction in the internal sense.
  • Divine Providence (DP) 193 gives reasons why repetitions occur in the Word.

The Author

We have no direct information about Obadiahís life and the dates of his birth and death. We know that his name means "a servant of the Lord." Among the Jewish people, Obadiah was a popular choice for a name, so it is not surprising to find numerous Obadiahís mentioned in important Old Testament events. There are some scholars willing to go out on a limb to identify one of the Obadiahís mentioned in the Word as the author of this prophetic book. For those who would venture into such a pursuit, there are at least nine Obadiahís in the Old Testament to consider.

  • In I Kings18, there is a steward in King Ahabís household named Obadiah. This Obadiah was a friend to many prophets. He saved more than a hundred of them, hiding them from Jezebel, feeding and giving them water. For his devotion to the Lordís prophets and his kindness to them, he was made a prophet. (I Kings 18 tells of a time when Obadiah met and talked with the prophet Elijah.)
  • In I Chronicles 7:3, an Obadiah who is a son of Izrahiah (four other sons are named) is called a chief man: "All five of them were chief men."
  • In I Chronicles 8:38, Azel had six sons, one of whom was named Obadiah. The lineage of this family can be traced to Saul, the first king of Israel.
  • I Chronicles 9:16 mentions an Obadiah whose lineage is traced to Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites. Is this the Elkanah who was the father of Samuel?
  • In I Chronicles 12:9, there is an Obadiah from the Gadites who joined forces with David in Ziklag.
  • In I Chronicles 27:19, there is a prince of Zebulun named Obadiah.
  • II Chronicles 17:7 mentions a prince named Obadiah being sent by Jehoshaphat to instruct the people in the laws of the Lord.
  • In II Chronicles 34:12, a Levite named Obadiah was appointed by King Josiah to be an overseer to repair the temple.
  • In Ezra 8:9, a man named Obadiah accompanied Ezra on the return of the exiles from Babylon.

Whenever the Word withholds background information on one of the Lordís "chosen," I canít help but think it is the Lordís way of keeping us focused on the message of the Word and not the individual. Therefore, tying Obadiahís lineage to one of the nine Old Testament references seems superfluous. Whatís your point of view on this quest to find a historical connection?

An Overview of the Literal Sense of Obadiah

Obadiahís prophecy expresses the Lordís displeasure with the Edomites. What sin or evil had they committed that would cause their downfall? Their heritage goes back to Esau, so Jacob was their uncle. In other words, they were blood relatives to the children of Israel.

  • The Edomites stood by when Jerusalem was invaded.
  • The Edomites rejoiced over the captivity of the sons of Judah.
  • They actively participated in the looting of Jerusalem.
  • The Edomites set up roadblocks to prevent the people of Jerusalem from escaping the attack of the Philistines.
  • They were callously indifferent, "un-brotherly," and lacking in charity to the neighbor.

Note how the Word uses correspondences to identify Edomís transgressions:

  • They had a cruelty of feet (verse 11): "you stood on the other side."
  • They had a cruelty of heart (verse 12): "Örejoiced overÖthe day of their destruction."
  • They had a cruelty of tongue (verse 12): "Önor should you have spoken proudly."
  • They had a cruelty of eyes (verse 13): "Öshould not have gazed on their affliction."
  • They had a cruelty of hands (verse 13): "Önor laid hands on (Judahís) substance."

Letís take one last look at the outline of the literal sense of Obadiah. We can identify four major sections of Obadiah:

  1. In Obadiah 1:1-9, Edom is about to be driven out of its land by a confederacy of nations selected by the Lord.
  2. Obadiah 1:10-14 describes the kind of punishment Edom will receive for its participation in the capture of Jerusalem.
  3. Obadiah 1:15-16 announces a day of judgment upon all nations. "As you have done, it shall be done to you."
  4. Obadiah 1:17-21 tells that in that day Judah and Israel shall escape and shall regain the lands that the Edomites and other enemies took from them.

With this introduction and overview, letís enter this wonderful and helpful study of Obadiah as it announces and celebrates the birth of the New Church.

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