Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 27: Joel, Amos, Obadiah, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
This Prophecy does not consist of many oracles, nor of many sermons, as other prophecies; but it only denounces on the Idumeans a near destruction, and then promises a restoration to the chosen people of God. But it threatens the Idumeans for the sake of administering consolation to the chosen people; for it was a grievous and hard trial for the children of Jacob, an elect people, to see the posterity of Esau, who had been rejected by God, flourishing both in wealth and power.
As then the children of Israel were miserable in comparison with their own kindred, the adoption of God might have appeared worthless; and this was in great measure the reason why the Israelites preferred the lot of other is observed by us, our sorrow is enhanced and our weariness is increased. When therefore the Israelites saw the Idumeans living at ease and beyond the reach of danger, and when they also saw them in the enjoyment of every abundance, while they themselves were exposed as a prey to their enemies, and were continually expecting new calamities, it could not have been, but that their faith must have utterly failed, or at least become much weakened. For this reason the Prophet here shows, that though the Idumeans now lived happily, yet in a short time they would be destroyed, for they were hated by God; and he shows that this would be the case, as we shall see from the contents of this Book, for the sake of the chosen people.
We now then perceive the design of the Prophet: as adversity might have weakened the Israelites, and even utterly broken them down, the Prophet here applies comfort and props up their dejected minds, for the Lord would shortly look on them and take due vengeance on their enemies.
And the reason why this prophecy is levelled against the Idumeans only is this, — that they, as we know, raged more cruelly than any others against the Israelites: for it is not said without a cause in Ps 137:7,
‘Remember the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem, who said, Make bare, make bare even to the very foundations.’
Now at what time Obadiah prophesied, it does not appear 67 except that it is probable that this prophecy was announced, when the Idumeans rose up against the Israelites and distressed them by many annoyances: for they seem to be mistaken who think that Obadiah lived before the time of Isaiah. It appears that Jeremiah (Jer 49:7-22) and this Prophet made use of the same thoughts and nearly of the same words, as we shall hereafter see. The Holy Spirit could, no doubt, have expressed the same things in different words; but he was pleased to join together these two testimonies, that they might obtain more credit. 68 I know not whether Obadiah and Jeremiah were contemporaries, and on this subject we need not bestow much labor. It is sufficient for us to know, that this prophecy was added to other prophecies, that the Israelites might feel assured, that though their kindred the Idumeans might prosper for a time, yet they could not escape the hand of God, but would shortly be constrained to give an account of their cruelty, inasmuch as they had without cause been all in a flame against the distressed and afflicted people of God.
Now our Prophet shows at the end that God would become the avenger of this cruelty, which the Idumeans had exercised; for though he chastised his own people, he did not yet forget his gratuitous covenant. Let us now come to the words.
Newcome supposes that he prophesied between the taking of Jerusalem in 587 before Christ and the destruction of Idumea, a few years later, by Nebuchadnezzar. Usher, as quoted by Newcome, places the destruction of Jerusalem in 588 b.c.; and the siege of Tyre by the Babylonians three years later, that is, in 585; and it was during this siege, which lasted thirteen years, that the Idumeans, as well as the Sidonians, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, were subdued by the Babylonian power: so that the threatenings contained in this prophecy were soon executed. — Ed.
Expositors are divided in their opinions as to the priority of the two Prophets, and consequently as to whom of the two was the copyist. As the time cannot be ascertained, our only mode of ascertaining this, are the passages themselves as given by each. It is said that Jeremiah has not presented them in so perfect a form as Obadiah, and that in the latter they appear as the naturally connected parts of his subject, and accordant in style and character with the rest of the prophecy. But the matter is of no great importance, and to discuss it can bring no benefit. — Ed.