It is not certain who Obadiah was or when he prophesied. He was an obscure prophet who probably lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. Nothing is known of his hometown or family, but it is not likely that he came out of the kingly or priestly line, because his father is not mentioned (1:1).
This book gives an example of how a neighbor has taken advantage of a situation and gotten away with it. Obadiah tells how God will take care of such injustices.
It is the shortest book in the Old Testament with only twenty-one verses, but it carries one of the strongest messages of judgment in the Old Testament.
There are about twelve different Obadiahs in the Old Testament, and there is nothing to say for certain that he is any one of these.
Although there is no conclusive evidence, it is thought by some that the Edomites were responsible for burning the Jerusalem temple.
There is clear evidence of hostility between Judah and Edom from the time of David, around 1000 B.C. (II Samuel 8:13-14), right through the monarchical period. This fighting and feuding all began between twin brothers Esau and Jacob (Genesis 27).
When Judah was invaded and conquered by Babylon, Edom not only cheered and gloated, but they also looted Judah in the aftermath. They even captured those who tried to escape and turned them over to the enemy.
Edom has become a symbol of all that stand in opposition to God.
The major theme of Obadiah is a declaration of Edom’s coming doom because of its arrogance and cruelty to Judah.
It appears that Obadiah was a contemporary of Elisha and was one of the earliest of the writing prophets, predating Joel by a few years.
A simple outline for Obadiah is:
Defeat of Israel: Judgment of Edom (1:1-18).
Victory of Israel: Restoration of Israel (1:19-21).