Introduction to Ovadiah
Ovadiah was a convert who was a student of Eliyahu Hanavi. He prophesied during the era of Yehoshafat king of Yehuda, and Achav king of Yisrael (only 60 years after the division of the kingdom, and 300 years before the destruction of the first Beis Hamikdash). Ovadiah was a contemporary of Elisha, Yona, and Michayahu. He lived in the kingdom of Yisrael under the reign of king Achav and his wife Izevel. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 39b) reports that even though converts tend not to be prophets, Ovadiah merited prophecy as a result of his mesirus nefesh in putting his life in danger for the sake of Klal Yisrael; he hid (and provided for) one hundred prophets in a cave to save them from king Achav (who was on a killing spree against the prophets). Ovadiah was very wealthy and was in charge of Achav’s household. Ovadiah’s prophecies are about Edom, his own nation, before he converted.
One could ask why Ovadiah’s prophecy about Edom was recorded in Tanach; surely Edom did not hear this prophecy?! One can put forward three answers. First, the very knowledge that Hashem punishes nations increases our faith in His justice. Second, this verifies and strengthens our belief in prophecy. Third, the Ran in his Drashos notes that a punishment for the other nations serves as a warning (hasra’ah) to Bnei Yisrael to wake up and repent, before they suffer the same fate.
According to some customs the Haftara for Vayishlach is from Ovadiah
The nations will hear a call from Hashem to attack Edom (Radak), and Hashem will make Edom insignificant among the nations, due to their haughtiness in believing that no one could rebuke them. Edom would be abandoned by their allies and completely destroyed, indicating Hashem’s involvement. Hashem will wipe out the scholars, soldiers, and the laymen from Edom. This will be due to Edom oppressing their “brother”, Bnei Yisrael; the Radak (1:10) debates whether this refers to the exile of the first or the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash. Furthermore, it is a punishment for not assisting Bnei Yisrael during Nevuchadnetzar’s conquest of Yerushalayim, and for even capturing Jews fleeing from the enemy at junctions (Radak). Just as Bnei Yisrael drank from the ‘goblet of torment’, the nations would also partake and be repaid for their actions against Bnei Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael will inherit their land in addition all the surrounding countries, and together with Moshiach will go to Har Tzion and make Edom accountable for their wrongdoing.