The minor prophets
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
The twelve books of the “minor prophets is the name given to the last twelve books of the Old Testament. The “twelve books” of the ‘minor prophets” are in the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible, which is divided into three sections, the Law, Prophets, and Writings. These books were all written at different times over a period of three hundred years, starting from the reign of Jeroboam II. All of these books, except for the Book of Jonah, record messages from God that were delivered to the people of Israel and Judah. The Book of Jonah was primarily biographical, and told his story, rather than hortatory. The name “minor” refers to their length, rather than their importance. The underlying theme of all of these Books is Israel’s relationship with God. There is a wide variety of views written in these books but the main questions that keep appearing throughout these prophecies are, “What does God demand of humans”, and “how do historical events signify God’s word.” The order of these books in the English Bible are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habukkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Hosea is the first book and was written during the rule of Jeroboam II. It is written to demonstrate God’s unfailing love for his people, even though they choose to follow their unfaithful Kings in their sinful ways. There were 6 other Kings after Jeroboam II that ruled, however, they were never mentioned by Hosea, probably because of their insignificance as well as their sinful practices.
Amos prophesied around the same time as Hosea, and both served their ministry in Northern Israel when Jeroboam II ruled over Israel and Uzziah ruled over Judah. Amos was not a prophet by profession, but was a herdsman and vinedresser, who the Lord commissioned to travel to Northern Israel to warn them of impending judgment (Amos 7:15). Amos’s famous prophesy was when he warned Israel of an earthquake at Hazor, which came true a couple of years later and authenticated Amos’s message. The earthquake was viewed by the people, at that time, as an omen of judgment.
Joel’s ministry is placed historically between Hosea and Amos. During Joel’s ministry, the Lord announced that he would punish the nations for the way in which they had scattered His people, divided up His land, and sold His children into slavery (Joel 3: 2-3). The Book of Joel has two major sections. In the first section, Joel urges the people to mourn over the devastating effects of the locust invasion (Joel 1: 2-20), and to repent (Joel 2: 12-17). The second section of Joel, he notes that the Lord does take pity on his people (Joel 2:18), the Lord promises to call off the locust invasion, restore the nation’s crops, and vindicates his people (Joel 2: 19-3: 21).
Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah all prophesied around the same time, around the time of the destruction of Judah. They prophesied in the same period, however, they all prophesied on different issues. Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Scriptures, consisting of only one single chapter. His ministry was directed at the Edomites, who lived south of Israel and were a constant source of conflict for the Israelites. The Edomites took pleasure over the destruction of Israel by different foreign invaders, however, Obadiah prophesied that Jehovah (God) would rebuke the Edomites and destroy them, while promising Israel deliverance and peace (Obadiah 1: 1-21). Finally, Obadiah prophesied that God, or Christ ( is the Great Warrior) will come to judge all nations and restore the land of Edom back to Israel (Revelation 19: 11-19; 20: 7-10).
Nahum’s prophecy is about the fall of Nineveh, which was eventually conquered by the Babylonian’s. Nahum calls the people of Nineveh (the Assyrians) to repent and that God is the ruler of all nations (Nahum 1: 1ff). Nahum’s ministry also involved notifying the Assyrians that God was going to punish them for their transgressions against Israel.
Habakkuk: The Book of Habakkuk consists of conversations between God and himself. Habakkuk questions God on how “His Holiness” can allow the lawlessness and violence that was overtaking Judah, “Habakkuk lament” (Habb 1: 2-4): How long must the unjust triumph? The Lord’s response (Habb 1: 5-11): Justice is on the way. Habakkuk’s message to his people is that God will not allow evil to continue (Habb 2: 1-17). God promises his people that despite evil men prospering, God will exalt his people one day (Habb 3: 1-7). The Lord’s response (Habb 2: 2-20): Justice will indeed prevail in due time. Habakkuk’s response (3: 1-19): “I have heard…I will rejoice!” Habakkuk basically questions God’s allowing evil to overtake Judah and after God responds to Habakkuk, he concludes that he can trust God to punish the people wisely and justly.
Zephaniah was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah. He prophesied during the reign of Josiah and preceded the fall of Nineveh. He prophesied in Judah, specifically in Jerusalem, during the time when the people of Judah’s moral and spiritual life had been corrupted by the evil reign of Manasseh and Amon (Zephaniah 3: 1-7). The people have been drawn away from God and idolatry and corruption was the main theme in Jerusalem (Zephaniah 1: 7). Because of this, Zephaniah’s prophecy came true when Judah was invaded and taken over by the Babylonian’s. The Book of Zephaniah is divided into three sections: retribution or judgment for sin, a call for repentance, and a promise of future redemption and blessing. Zephaniah prophesied that despite the impending exile God promised to Israel that he would judge the nation and rescue his people. He also tells of a day when God will purge creation of sin and redeem his people (Zephaniah 1: 18; 3: 8, 12-20). God’s promise of deliverance will extend past the burdens of Israel and include all those who are outcasts and lame. Paul clarifies these promises in the New Testament to show in Christ, both Jew and Gentile comprise the people of God (Eph 2: 11-3: 21). These promises, however, were not meant foe every Jew regardless of belief in Christ, but only for those Jews who trusted in Jesus (Rom 9: 1ff).
Micah’s ministry was primarily to Jerusalem and the rest of the Southern Kingdom. Micah’s ministry criticizes the leaders of Judah for their corruption as well as their insensitivity to the poor. He was a contemporary of Isaiah and their messages were very similar. He prophesied the destruction of Samaria and Northern Israel, followed by similar destruction to Judah. Micah announces the coming of the Messiah, from Bethlehem (Micah 5: 1-5), and with the coming of this future King, will come a future Kingdom (Micah 4: 1-8).
Jonah, unlike all of the other 11 books of the “minor prophets”, is the only one that is biographical. Jonah is called on by God to call on the Assyrians (specifically the people of Nineveh) to repent of their sin (Jonah 1: 2). The problem is that Jonah hated the Assyrians, who had caused his people (the people of Israel) many hardships. He felt that if his ministry was successful and the Assyrians repented, then God might forgive them and spare them from destruction. The main theme of the Book of Jonah is not about Jonah running away and hiding from God, even though this is an important lesson for everyone, it is that God’s purpose is to save people of all nations (Jonah 3: 1ff), not just the people of Israel.
Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi is the last group of the “Twelve Minor Prophets.” They all prophesied after the Babylonian exile.
Haggai was the first prophet to minister to the first people of Israel who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian’s decided to release them from captivity. He inspired the Jews who returned back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. During the first 15 years after their return to Jerusalem from Babylonia, the people had built fine houses for themselves, and only the foundations of the temple had been laid. However, after Haggai’s rebuke, construction of the temple restarted and within 4 years, the temple was finished.
Zechariah’s message was of hope and encouragement. Through Zechariah, God tells of a day when hw will bring the office of king and priest together as one, who will build the temple of the Lord (Zech 3: 8-10; 6: 11-15). This future individual is Jesus, who will make atonement for his people and rules as King on David’s throne (Acts 2: 1ff; 15: 1ff; Heb 2-9).
Malachi’s message to the people of Israel was that if the people return to God, then God will bless them greatly. God announces (through Malachi) that he will send a messenger who will pave the way for the Messiah. Malachi 4: 5-6 refers to John the Baptist as that person (Mal 3: 1; 4: 5-6).
- Chisholm, Robert B. Jr. (2002). Handbook on The Prophets, p. 335-477. Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287: Baker Academic
- Retrieved from: http://theroadtoemmaus.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/the-message-of-the-minor-prophets/ 2/1/2010
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