Obed Edom: Another Simple Word Study in the Old Testament

Obed Edom: Another Simple Word Study in the Old Testament

In my past two posts, I have demonstrated how we can do word studies in the New Testament. I used the word “hypsoo” and the words “logos” and “rhema” as the case studies. We can do the same thing as well for the Old Testament. And this is what I aim to do for this post – to do a post on the name “Obed Edom” in the Old Testament. 

The impetus for this word study comes from a sermon I heard some years back. A preacher in a conference I attended talked about Obed Edom being “everywhere” in the records of 1 Chronicles. He made the link that this was due to him experienced the presence of God through the ark when the Ark of Covenant was placed in his home. Originally, I took in what the preacher said. However, over the years, I began to study the name more closely. From this, I made several observations. This seems to invalidate some of the observations the preacher made. At the very least, this shows that we need to be careful with OT names. 

The Occurrences of Obed Edom in the Old Testament

Using Logos, we know that the name “Obed Edom” occurs 18 times in the Old Testament. The name first appeared in 2 Sam 6:10-12. The narrative happened when David was trying to bring the Ark of Covenant to Jerusalem. As he was unable to successfully do so, he had to place the ark in Obed Edom’s house. Here, the text identified Obed Edom as a Giddite. The narrative was repeated in 1 Chronicles 13:13-14. 

The next time this name appears in the Old Testament was in 1 Chronicles 15 and 1 Chronicle 16. The entire narrative talked about David appointing the Levites to their respective duties for the tent which housed the Ark of Covenant. Here, Obed Edom’s name appeared 7 times. It was further mentioned that Obed Edom was the son of Jeduthun, who was one of Levite musicians appointed to minister to God’s presence. 

Further mentions of Obed Edom occurred in 1 Chronicles 26:4 and 1 Chronicles 26:8. In these two passages, it mentions a list of his descendants. Another mention of the name happened in 1 Chronicles 26:15, talking about the allotment of Obed Edom’s duty. The last time this name appears is in 2 Chronicles 25:24 but by then, this was several generations after him. 

Some observations about Obed Edom 

A simple survey of the occurrences of the name in the Old Testament yields a question: whether the Obed Edom mentioned in 2 Sam 6:10-12 and 1 Chronicles 13:13-14 are the same as the one mentioned in the later passages. From here, we can make two observations first. 

Firstly, 2 Sam 6:10-12 and 1 Chronicles 13:13-14 mentioned that Obed Edom was a Giddite. The word ‘Giddite’ seems to indicate that Obed Edom is an inhabitant of Gath, a Philistine city. However, it can also be taken to mean an inhabitant of Gath-rimmon, one of the four Levitical cities for the Kohathites in Dan (Joshua 21:24). 

Secondly, based on the records from 1 Chronicles 15 onwards, we can be sure that the “Obed Edom” referred to in these passages was a Levite who, by his lineage, was completely qualified to serve in the roles given to him. 

So how do these two observations answer our question in the beginning of this section? It really depends on which view one takes with regard to the word “Giddite.” This will influence how we understand the name from the data points. 

If Obed Edom was a Philistine living in Gath

If Obed Edom was really a Philistine living in Gath, this would make the episode in 2 Sam 6:10-12 incredible. It means that David either deemed this person worthy enough to take care of the ark, or he displayed the same carelessness in dealing with the ark when he first tried to bring the ark back to Jerusalem using the cart. In either cases, this implies that Obed Edom mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15 onward is definitely not the same person. 

If Obed Edom was a Levite living in Gath-rimmon

If Obed Edom was a Levite living in Gath-rimmon, then it makes a lot of sense for David to deposit the ark at his house in the 2 Sam 6:10-12 episode. This will also mean that he is most likely the same person mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15 onwards. Nevertheless, due to the lack of data point, it may be different persons as well. 

What does all these mean? 

We began this post by listing a concern from a sermon I heard years ago. In the sermon, the preacher said that most likely due to the presence of God he experienced in 2 Sam 6:10-12, he decided to be “everywhere” and as close as possible to the presence of God after the Ark was settled in the tent. From what I recalled from the sermon, there was little mention of a critical factor. That would be Obed Edom’s qualification to even perform the role in the first place. And that ignored the mention that Obed Edom was a Levite in the 1 Chronicles 15 narrative. 

Whichever way we ascertain his identity, we can safely conclude a few things from our data. Firstly, there is no apparent evidence that Obed Edom was appointed the gatekeeper because of his experience with the Ark. Secondly, due to his lineage, he was probably appointed more because it was his duty to do so. Thirdly, even if Obed Edom in 2 Sam 6:10-12 was not a Jew, it could not have been the same person in 1 Chronicles 15.

All these point towards one direction, that we cannot see Obed Edom’s name and simply conclude that he was there due to the presence of God. The Bible did not offer us enough data points for such conclusion. And this is a lesson for us to read the Bible in its context before offering a conclusion that is patently untrue. 

Now let me know what you think? What have other preachers told you about Obed Edom? Share with me in the comments below. And also let me know if the series of word studies has been helpful. 


I graduated from the National University of Singapore where I came to know Christ during his undergraduate days after studying the historicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My personal mission is to lead adult Christ disciples to engage the world with sound and biblical reasoning. And I am married to my pretty wife Angelina.

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