The Date of Obadiah.

By Charles Elliott, D. D.,

London, Ontario.


The time of the prophet is a matter of dispute. The following dates have their respective advocates :

1. Hofmann, Delitzsch, Keil and Kleinert place him in the reign of Jehoram, between B. C. 889-884.

2. Caspari, Jaeger, Hengstenberg, Haevernick and others place him in the reign of Uzziah.

3. Vitringa, Carpzov, and Kueper, in the time of Ahaz.

4. Aben Ezra, Luther, Calovius, Michaelis, Schurrer, Bertheau, Holzapfel, and very many moderns place the date of the prophecy immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

5. Hitzig and Eichhorn place it soon after 312 B. C.

The two elements available in solving the problem of its date are: (1) The allusions to the assault and capture of Jerusalem, and the maltreatment of its inhabitants; and (2) the verbal coincidences with Joel, Amos, and Jeremiah.

The allusions to the capture of Jerusalem and the wicked conduct of the Edomites are found in vv. 10-14 of the book.

But Jerusalem was several times taken and plundered by its enemies, viz.: (1) by Shishak King of Egypt, in the fifth year of Rehoboam (I Kings XIV., 25, 26; 2 Chron. Xll., 2 sq.); (3) by the Philistines and Arabians in the time of Jehoram (2 Chron. XXI., 16, 17); (3) by Joash King of Israel in the reign of Amaziah (2 Kings, XIV., 13, 14; 2 Chron., XXV., 23, 24); (4) by the Chaldaeans under Nebuchadnezzar, in the time of Jehoiakim, O. R. Hertwig’s Tabellen, p. 54, (2 Kings XXIV., I sqq.; 2 Chron. XXXVI.,6,7); (5) by the Chaldaeans again, in the reign of Jehoiachin (2 Kings XXIV., 10 sqq.; 2 Chron. XXXVI., 10, (6) and finally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, in the reign of Zedekiah (2 Kings XXV., sqq.; 2 Chron. XXXVI., 17-19).

Of these different assaults and captures, the first can have no bearing upon the question before us, inasmuch as in the time of Rehoboam the Edomites were subject to the Kingdom of Judah, and could not have done what Obadiah says they did. It cannot be the conquest of Jerusalem by Jehoash, King of Israel, in the reign of Amaziah, King of Judah; for the prophet describes the enemies as sarint and nokhrim (strangers and foreigners), terms, which point to gentile nations (compare Joel III., 17; Lam. V., 2 : Deut. XVII., 15), and cannot apply to the people of the ten tribes. There remain the captures of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians, in the time of Jehoram, and by the Chaldaeans, in the reigns of Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. To which of these does the prophet allude ? The elements available, in solving the problem, as already stated, are (1) the allusions to the capture of the city; and (2) the verbal coincidences with Joel, Amos, and Jeremiah.

I. The allusions to the capture of Jerusalem (vv. 10-14), show that the Edomites took a malicious part in it; and that it was past, yet fresh in men’s memories, when the prophet wrote. The expression, “for thy violence against thy brother Jacob” (v. 10), seems to refer to what was already past; so also the resolution of the infinitive construction into the preterite in the following instances; “ In the day that thou stoodest; in the day that the strangers Carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered his gate, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, * * * * * in became a stranger, in the day of their destruction (vv. 11, 12).”

These infinitive constructions do not determine the question; for they may refer, so far as grammar is concerned, to a future act, or event, as well as to one past (Lev. XXIII., 22). Yet the whole frame and texture of verses 10-14 indicate that the event was past; and in V. 15 the prophet uses the preterite and says: “ As thou has done, it shall be done unto thee.” In these verses he employs the language of detailed description, which is more appropriate to the past than to the future.

An objection to this view is found in the words אַל־תֵּרֶא “look not,” which, in our version, are rendered, “ thou shouldst not have looked.” Nordheimer (Heb. Gram. vol. II., sec. 1,065, 1) says: “ Now as a dependent proposition of this sort can relate only to an action not yet performed, this particle (אַל) appears with no tense but the absolute future [in I Sam. XXVII., 10, it is found with the absolute past form], either in its full form, or as apocopated; and then it expresses an earnest deprecation.” This is grammatically true. But we must not forget the nature of prophetic speech, which depicts from eyesight. The scene is before the Seer, but whether in vision of the future, or in imagination of the past, there is nothing in the mere words to determine.

2. The verbal coincidences with Jeremiah, Joel, and Amos.

Bleek Holds that Obadiah follows Jeremiah, and of course Joel. Caspar! and Haevernick maintain that Jeremiah follows Obadiah, and Obadiah Joel.

Ewald holds that Jeremiah and Obadiah follow and embody a former prophecy, probably posterior to Joel.

Hofmann, Delitzsch, and Kleinert assign him to the first period of written prophecy, and are of the opinion that Jeremiah and Joel both imitate Obadiah.

On comparing Jeremiah XLIX., 7-22 with Obadiah, it does not appear that the latter made use of the former. Whatever be the relation of the two prophets, Obadiah is the original. The verses common to the two form in Obadiah one compact, consecutive progressive passage. In Jeremiah they are scattered and disjointed. We may conclude, therefore, that Obadiah preceded Jeremiah, and that his. prophecy referred to a tragedy already past, which, consequently, could not have been the Chaldaean conquest.

We have already seen that it could not have been the capture of Jerusalem by Shishak in the time of Rehoboam; nor the capture by Jehoash, King of Israel, in the reign of Amaziah, King of Judah : it remains, therefore, that it must have been the capture by the Philistines and Arabians, in the time of Jehoram. This calamity forms a historic epoch both to Joel III., 19, and to Amos I., 6, 11. The relation of Obadiah to these two prophets, so clearly perceived by those who arranged the Canon, inclines us to regard him as belonging to the same prophetic era and circle of thought. Whether he was before Joel, or after Amos, cannot be easily determined.

This conclusion seems to agree best with the inner relationship of this prophecy, which places it entirely within the circle of view of those prophecies, among which the collectors of the Canon have placed it, that is, the oldest. This will appear from an examination of the book.

(1). It does not mention the great monarchs of the world.

(2). The enemies who captured Jerusalem, were strangers and foreigners (v. 11).

(3). Besides the Edomites, the author names none except the Philistines (v. 19), and the Phoenicians (Zarephath, v. 20), both of whom appear in Joel III., 4, as enemies of the Kingdom.

(4). Aram is not mentioned, so that the horizon of Obadiah is narrower than that of Amos (Am. I., 5; IX., 7).

(5). The two kingdoms are in existence. The southern one consists of the tribes of Judah (which inhabits the Negeb and the lowland), and Benjamin (v. 19); the northern (Ephraim and Gilead) must yet be possessed, that a united kingdom may arise, one army of the children of Israel (vv. 19, 20).

(6). The captives of Jerusalem are not carried away to the east, but are sold as slaves into the west, precisely as in Joel; to the Javan, (Ionia) of Joel III., 6 corresponds the Sepharad of Obadiah (v. 20).

(7). The middlemen, who made traffic of the captives, are doubtless the same as those named in Am. I., 9 and Joel III., 6, the Phoenicians, whom Obadiah also (v. 20) expressly mentions.

(8). Of a destruction not a word is said, but only of capture and ravage.

(9). The hostile attitude of Edom is by no means a state of things first produced by the Babylonian destruction, and before unheard of. In Joel III., 19, and Amos I., 11 ff.; IX., 12, precisely as here, Edom appears as an enemy of Judah, deserving double chastisement on account of his original relation to Israel. The Israelites and Edomites were descended from brothers. It Would be incongruous to refer all these predictions just cited, which, for the most part, wear a very distinctly historical aspect, to the incidental position, which Edom occupied two centuries later in the Chaldaean catastrophe; the more incongruous, because from the time of Moses onward (Num. XX., 14 ff.), the attitude of this neighboring nation toward Israel was, according to the historical books also, hostile in a high degree (I Sam XIV., 47; 2 Sam. VIII., 14; I Kings XL, 14 ff.; 2 Kings VIII., 20, etc).

These considerations render it probable that Obadiah prophesied before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians; and that he should be placed among the earlier prophets. Hofmann, Delitzsch, Keil, and Kleinert are probably not far astray in placing him in the reign of Jehoram, B. C. 889-884.



Taken from THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT STUDENT 1892-03: Vol. 14 Iss. 3