The name Obadiah means “servant of Jehovah.” He is one of four prophets about whom we know absolutely nothing except that he wrote prophecy. The other three prophets are Habakkuk, Haggai, and Malachi. These four prophets are cloaked in anonymity. Obadiah is like a ghost writer in that he is there, but we do not know him. He lived up to his name, for he was a servant of Jehovah. A servant boasts of no genealogy neither exploits nor experiences. He doesn’t push himself forward. He has to demonstrate by what he does that he can even claim the place of a servant. So Obadiah is just a prophet who wrote one of the great prophecies of the Scripture. Dr. Pusey said, “God has willed that his name alone and this brief prophecy should be known to the world.” Obadiah is a little book, but it is an example of an atomic bomb in the Bible. It is a small thing, but it has a potent message.
The chief difficulty with the prophecy of Obadiah is where to fit it into the history of the nation Israel. There are some who give the date of 887 B.C., which fixes the time during the reign of Jehoram and the bloody Athaliah (see 2 Kings 8:16–26). Dr. Pusey placed it during the reign of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chron. 17:7). Although the name Obadiah does occur in this passage, it was a common name in that day and probably was not the same Obadiah who wrote this prophecy. Canon Farrar gave the date as 587 B.C., and Dr. Moorehead concurred in this, suggesting that Obadiah was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah’s. The whole question seems to hinge on verse 11: “In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.” Either this was written as prophecy before it happened or it is a historical record of what did happen. The natural interpretation, of course, is to accept it as history rather than prophecy, which places the date of Obadiah’s prophecy around 587 B.C., after the Babylonian captivity and during the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah.
The little kingdom of Edom is the subject of this brief prophecy. Verse 6 is the key verse: “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!”
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 28: Amos & Obadiah. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)