Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.
This is – Introduction to the Minor Prophets
Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.
Introduction to the Minor Prophets:
- The Minor Prophets is a collection of twelve Old Testament books, known simply as “the Twelve” or “the Book of the Twelve” in the Hebrew Bible. Now the title “minor” refers to length, not significance. There is nothing minor about the ministry these guys had.
- Roughly in chronological order, each of these short books gives a glimpse into the spiritual landscape and history of Israel, challenging the status quo through prophets called to speak on God’s behalf. These men are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
- Now in order to make sense of how and where they fit into the picture, we must just briefly look at the history of Israel and the events that led up to their various ministries.
1. Israel’s History:
- Beginning at 1500-1400BC, God’s people were delivered from Egypt. The Exodus took place. But their transition phase lasted 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness until they got to the Promised Land, Canaan.
- They went into a period for the next 300 years where their government was in the hands of a local-based judge. This included 12 judges; Othniel, Ehud (eh-hood), Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair (yeaher), Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.
- This was later passed to Eli, a priest and a judge, but finally, it came to Samuel, a Judge and a Prophet. So enter the new era. When the nation was threatened, the people demanded a king. And I’m sure you know how the rest goes?
- Saul was chosen by the people, but David was chosen by God. So after Saul failure, the kingdom fell to David. And David’s son, Solomon, inherited the kingdom. During His reign, Solomon strengthened the nation’s unity by building the Temple.
- Things were great, however, by 930BC Solomon died. So his son Rehoboam took over. But under his reign, 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel broke away. So the kingdoms were referred to as northern kingdom adopting the name Jacob or Ephraim, and the southern kingdom referred to as Judah.
- So the down fall for the northern kingdom was, in 200 year, they had 19 kings, with the majority doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So by 722BC, the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians. The southern kingdom did fairly better, until 586BC when Babylon flattened Jerusalem.
- So after 70 years of captivity, the Persians overthrew the Babylonians. And it was in this time, Zerubbabel lead 50 000 deportees back to Jerusalem in 538BC to rebuild the temple and the city. Others followed in 458BC and 444BC.
- What do we do with all this? Well, between 800 to 400BC, the various ministries of the Minor Prophets took place. Hosea & Amos prophesied to Israel before the 722BC exile. While Micah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah prophesied to Judah before the Babylonian conquering in 586BC.
- Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi prophesied to Judah after they returned from Babylon. And finally, this leaves us with Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. We do not have a definite date for their ministries, but there is evidence that Jonah and Joel was around during the 700s. And for Obadiah to be around with Malachi, Haggai, and Zach.
2. What was their Ministry:
- The prophetic office found its origin in God’s purpose for Israel as a nation through whom all the nations could be blessed. When God gave Israel the Law, He promised them that if they would be obedient, they would become “My own possession” for the purpose of becoming a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” among all the nations.
- This purpose could not happen if they followed the beliefs and ways of the nations. Furthermore, so that the nation might fulfil God’s purposes as stated in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), He gave them specific promises and warnings.
- For in obedience there would be blessing and if disobedience, then cursing. So how did the prophets fit into the picture? They would come along and say, “Because you broke the covenant, the covenant curses have fallen upon you, or are about to fall upon you.”
- However, the prophets did not just proclaim doom and gloom. They also proclaimed a message of salvation and coming glory. But ultimately, God’s purposes would be fulfilled by the sovereign work of God in the lives of His people.
3. The Expected Pattern:
- Now when we study the prophets we find they all pretty much have the same basic ingredients:
- (1) the warning of impending judgment because of the nations’ sinfulness
- (2) a description of the sin
- (3) a description of the coming judgment
- (4) a call for repentance; and a promise of future deliverance.
- So when we outline these guys, we can use an introductory or concluding formula like “This is what the Lord says…” They begin and end a section with the same word or phrase. They also use several common literary forms, e.g.:
- 1. Judgment speech which contains two parts: (a) The Accusation; and (b) The Judgment
- 2. A Woe oracle—like a judgment speech, except that it starts with “Woe…”
- 3. Exhortation/call to repentance—consists of appeal with motivation (in the form of a promise and or threat). (Amos 5:4-6; Joel 2:12-14)
- 4. Salvation announcement—often alludes to a lamentable situation and focuses on the Lord’s saving intervention (Amos 9:11-12)
- 5. Salvation oracle—introduced by the exhortation “fear not” (Isa 41:8-16)
- 6. Salvation portrayal—a description, often idealized and in hyperbolic terms, of God’s future blessings on his people (Amos 9:13).