Book of Abdias

[Sant Abdia la Profeta]
Also spelled Obadiah.

Hebrew: servant of Jehovah

The Book of Abdias is limited to a single chapter of twenty-one verses. It is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Its literary unity has been contested; yet the arguments in its favor are more solid.

Abdias is the prophet of the God of Armies coming for judgment upon Edom. God calls to arms (verse 1). Edom shall be humbled and despoiled (2-7), no wisdom can save her (8-10), because she has rejoiced in the distress of Israel (11-14), God will punish all nations (15-16); while Israel shall be saved, Edom shall perish (17-18). The land of Israel will be widened (19-20), and on Sion shall be established the kingdom of God (21).

Its canonicity is based on the following considerations:

  • though never cited in the New Testament, it was ever embodied in the lists of Prophets
  • it is quoted by Jeremias, in chapter 49
  • it is comprised in the commendation of Ecclesiasticus, 49:12
  • it was ever recognized by the Church

It is in the Breviary on Friday the fourth week in November, but not in the Missal.

The name of Abdias alone is known to us. The time when he lived is put by some as the first century A.D., while others regard him as the most ancient of minor prophets. Conservative opinion wavers between the ninth and fifth centuries B.C. The decision hinges on the interpretation of verses 10-14, prophesying a destruction of Jerusalem. If this passage refers to its destruction by the Chaldeans in 587 B.C., the book was written in post-Exilic times. However, a closer study seems to favor the view that these and other verses refer to an earlier event, such, for instance, as is narrated in 2 Paralipomenon, 21, 16, where is described the pillage of Jerusalem under Joram, king of Juda (849-842 B.C.). Furthermore, the woes invoked upon Edom may well suit the historic situation which confronted King Amasias (797-789) on the eve of his war with Edom. Then Abdias may well be identified with the man of God who assured the king of his victory.