St. Obadiah — Do Not Delight in Your Brother’s Tragedy

“Do not gloat over the day of your brother, the day of his disaster.” (Obadiah 12)

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The prophet Obadiah delivered prophecies that became the shortest book of the Old Testament — only 21 verses! Nothing is known about the personal life of Obadiah except that he was very angry at some distant cousins — the Edomites. Many biblical historians believe that Obadiah may have delivered his prophecies during the fifth century B.C.

More than a thousand years prior to Obadiah’s prophecies, the Old Testament patriarch Jacob settled in Canaan (and later in Egypt). Meanwhile, his twin brother, Esau, raised his family in Edom, a region southeast of Judah (within present day Jordan). Although Jacob and Esau quarreled as young men, when they got older, they briefly reconnected and then parted on warm terms. 

Unfortunately, however, their descendants, the Judahites and Edomites, experienced many bitter differences and struggles over the ensuing centuries.

Obadiah didn’t leave enough clues in his words to identify the precise time frame that his complaint referred to; it might pertain to the period when the people of Judah were taken over by the Babylonians in 597 B.C., during the years of their return, or perhaps another time altogether.

When the Babylonians forced the people of Judah into exile, the Edomites offered no assistance; rather, they helped the Babylonians and later moved in and took over portions of Judah for themselves. Decades later, when the people of Judah returned, the Edomites resisted their attempts to restore their nation, putting various difficulties before them.

Obadiah dramatically lamented in his writings how these distant cousins caused so much trouble and strife for the people of Judah. The prophecies suggest that the Edomites should have offered a sort of brotherly assistance instead. Dire contempt, crushed, violence, disgrace, devour — these are only some of the words Obadiah used to convey the deep hurt felt by the people of Judah.

While Obadiah’s tone feels very vengeful and angry, his closing words offer more of a sense of optimism. Obadiah completed his oracles with an insistent credence that God would take care of the problems with the people of Edom and that the people of Judah would successfully renew their nation.

Nine Days with St. Obadiah

Nov. 19 is the day set aside for the Old Testament prophet, St. Obadiah. Those struggling with family relationships might turn to this prophet-saint for intercession. The devotional below might help you to learn more about St. Obadiah — by prayerfully reading, pondering, and journaling on each passage. See if you can grasp a better understanding of this saint, and a renewed inspiration while facing family issues. 

  • Day 1) Obadiah 1–3
  • Day 2) Genesis 33:1–4
  • Day 3) Psalm 137:7
  • Day 4) Obadiah 4–9
  • Day 5) Numbers 20:14–21    
  • Day 6) Obadiah 10–14
  • Day 7) Obadiah 15–16
  • Day 8) Genesis 32:4–7
  • Day 9) Obadiah 19–21