5 Major - Isaiah through Daniel
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations - pre-exilic
Ezekiel, Daniel - exilic prophets
12 Minor - Hosea through Malachi
First nine - pre-exile
Last three - post-exile
Prophet means "one who speaks for another." Abraham was the first person called a prophet in the Bible. Prophet is defined in Exodus 4:14-16 - Aaron was chosen to speak to the people for God, instead of Moses. God had just said to Moses, "I will be your mouth and teach you what you shall speak." Moses asked God to send someone else. This upsets God, but He decides to involve brother Aaron in this role of speaking to the people. "Is there not Aaron your brother? ... I know he can speak well; ... You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He shall speak for you to the people; and he shall be a mouth for you, ..." Moses was the paradigm for all Old Testament prophets. Deuteronomy 34:10, "There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the Land of Egypt..." Thus, the prophet in Israel was regarded as the person through whom God speaks. (Jeremiah 1:9)
In the period of the kings, however, the prophets were not rulers nor generally officials in government; they were righteous men of bold and independent spirit who challenged both kings and common people to follow the right ways of the Lord. The most characteristic feature of the prophetic message was its resounding authority: "Thus says the Lord..." Isaiah 45:11-13; Jeremiah 2:1-3. These men were instruments of the Lord to call the people to truth and righteousness. Their work is pretty much summed up in II Kings 17:13, "The Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants, the prophets.'"
Generally, the prophets prior to 850 B.C. are "non-writing" prophets - although some of them wrote parts of the Bible (Moses, Samuel), but they wrote history. They did not leave behind books of their collected oracles. Some are known as miracle prophets - Moses, Elijah and Elisha performed miracles for God. Jonah and Daniel are remembered for God having performed miracles for their benefit.
The prophets after 850 B.C. are called the "writing" prophets. Nine of them will be our focus for the rest of this semester. Six were concerned with calling the Jews back to the Law given through Moses. The other three were warning neighboring kingdoms of their responsibilities to God. Those are the ones we are studying today.
We will be studying these in an odd order. There is no good order. We don't know how they came to be in the order they are in the Bible. Since we didn't study them chronologically in with our study of I and II Kings and Chronicles, if we try to do that now - we'll end up with some very long ones together and some odd groupings. So, we'll try a different tag for each prophet.
The first three today wrote primarily to the surrounding kingdoms - grouping them together. Lessons 2 and 3 (Hosea and Amos) will be the two writers who wrote principally to Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Lessons 4 and 5 then will be lessons of two prophets each who wrote to Judah - the Southern Kingdom. Joel and Micah are grouped together because they are close chronologically and because they both give us important prophesies about the coming of the Messiah and the church. That will leave Habbakkuk and Zephaniah who wrote to Judah shortly before they were taken into exile in Babylon.
To our lesson today - Obadiah, Jonah and Nahum. If you have done your lesson, you know Obadiah spoke God's judgement against the Edomites - relatives of the Israelites. Abraham and Isaac was their lineage, but they descended through Esau instead of through Jacob. These relatives warred against Israel ever since the death of Jacob and Esau. But at no time was the bitterness of the Jews and the Edomites greater than at this time of Obadiah's writing when Edom joined forces with foreigners to besiege and capture Jerusalem in the days of Jehoram, King of Judah as in II Kings 8:20. (850 B.C.)
Jonah and Nahum spoke to Assyria and their capitol city of Ninevah. Jonah spoke between 780 and 750 B.C., before the Assyrians took the Northern Kingdom captive in 721 B.C. Over a century later, Nahum spoke shortly before the fall of the Assyrian Empire. He spoke between 650 - 612 B.C. The Assyrian Empire fell to the Babylonians and Medes in 612 B.C. Actually, many think that Nahum didn't write his message of doom to the Assyrians to lead them to repentance. Perhaps it was written as if to the Assyrians, but really served more as a message of hope for Judah, who had been plagued by the Assyrians for years. Nahum's message of Assyria's pending doom must have been uplifting to Judah.
Why did God send prophets to Edom and Syria, anyway? Because the Old Testament centers on the Hebrew nation, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking God dealt with and desired to save only the Jews until the church was established. But, salvation was available to non-Jews during the Old Testament era. Their hope was not in circumcision and the Law, but in the more ancient worship of the Patriarchal system. Remember Melchizedek was a man of God even though he was not a descendent of Abraham. God cared for all His creation. It is probably a mistake to think of the Biblical ages as three neat circles - the Patriarchal Age, the Mosaic Age, and the Christian Age. In this view, each successive system terminated and replaced what had gone before. But in reality, the giving of the Law of Moses changed nothing for people who were non-Hebrew.
He suggests the correct way to view the matter is to see the Patriarchal System extending all the way from Adam to Christ - for that's the correct view for most of the world. He says we should see the Jews then as set apart from this arrangement by the special provisions of the Laws of Moses. With that view, God would have expected the Edomites and Assyrians and all other nations to obey and sacrifice to him just as Abraham had. This would have been their hope all the way up until they learn of Christ's saving grace.
That is why Jonah does not go into Ninevah and preach conversion to Judaism - he just preaches repentance - turn back to the one true God. Romans 1 supports this view also when God gives the Gentile nations up to a lust of their hearts, to impurity, to a base mind and improper conduct, because they did not see fit to acknowledge God. Paul says, ever since creation, God's eternal power and deity has been evidenced in the things God has made for them. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles (Romans 1:19-22). Sounds like these nations in and around Canaan, yes?
Thus God did care for not only the Jews, but the Edomites, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, all of His creation. For this reason, we know He wants us to take the message of Christ to all nations. It is obvious the Laotian governing officials know nothing of Christ. They know nothing of a patriarchal worship of God. They are a plague to God's people for they know not God. Unless someone is willing to be God's spokesman, they will die without the hope of eternal life.
As we study these pre-exilic minor prophets, the message we will hear over and over is repent, turn to God, give your heart to God. As we look upon the nations of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations and their disregard for God, notice the similarities to the nations today. The message of the prophets is relevant to us in our time.
Link to Minor Prophets 6-lesson study
Link to Jeannie's other Ladies' Bible Class lectures
Link to Jeannie Cole Home Page