Structure, redaction and significance in the prophecy of Obadiah

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This article argues that Obadiah consists of three oracles, each reflecting a different time period. The first oracle reflects the pre-destruction period and comprises criticism of Edomite pride. The second oracle conveys Judah's hostility to Edom, based on its participation in the destruction of 586 BCE, whereas the third depicts a later period, marked by significant Edomite encroachment into southern Judah. This third oracle evokes the people's aspiration to reclaim their patriarchal lands. Though it is clear that the book's authorship was a three-phase process, the unity of the work is also unequivocal. The prophecy is recorded as one sequence and lacks opening and concluding formulae. Moreover, the rhetorical and theoretical application of the lex talionis principle characterizes all three oracles. In each of the oracles the prophet attributes to Edom a distinct transgression for which commensurate retribution is anticipated. This article asserts that the author revised his treatment of Edom in view of political changes that occurred. These modified political realities prompted new responses from the prophet, though they did not revoke the earlier oracles. This analysis embodies, perhaps, the advantage of diachronic analysis of the prophetic text alongside serious consideration of the synchronic view. The willingness to apply both methods facilitates, in this case, a more precise understanding of the text than that allowed by the exclusive application of just one.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-221
Number of pages13
JournalJournal for the Study of the Old Testament
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2014.


  • Composition
  • Edom
  • Lex talionis
  • Measure for measure
  • Obadiah
  • Retribution


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