Minor Prophets (Hosea – Malachi)

FACTS ON HOSEA

Author

The book was written by Hosea, whose name means “salvation” or “deliverance.” The author is not mentioned outside this book which bears his name.

Date of Writing

Hosea began his ministry in the reign of Israel’s king Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) and continued into the reign of Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.).  Since the fall of Samaria is not mentioned as an accomplished fact, the prophecy was probably recorded around 725 B.C.

Historical Setting

Hosea began his prophetic ministry in Israel during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II. Internationally, Assyria was in the ascendency and moving west.  The Assyrian kings were soon nibbling away at the northern territories of Israel.  Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.

Spiritually, the kingdom of Israel was at an all-time low during Hosea’s ministry.  The priests were corrupt.  Idolatry and temple prostitution was rampant.  Amos, Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries of the prophet Hosea.

Purpose

Hosea seeks to convince the inhabitants of Israel that they need to repent and return to God so that judgment might be averted.

Theme

Israel’s apostasy and God’s unceasing love for the nation.

Theology

Hosea teaches a great lesson concerning the nature of God’s loyal-love (hesed).  This term denotes the love and loyalty operative within the covenant relationship into which Yahweh and Israel entered at Mt. Sinai.  Loyal-love was Yahweh’s delight (6:6), yet this was lacking in
Hosea’s day (4:1, 6:7).

Outline

I.  Israel’s Unfaithfulness Illustrated  1-3
II.  Prosecution Against the Unfaithful Nation  4-13
III.  The Pardoning Power of Loyal Love  14

 

FACTS ON JOEL

Author

The author of the book is Joel whose name means “Yahweh is God.”   He lived and prophesied in Judah and Jerusalem (1:9, 2:15-17,23,32, 3:1).

Date of Writing

The book does not mention any reigning king or otherwise datable event. The allusion to the neighboring nations as Judah’s foes, rather than Assyria, Babylon, or Persia, points to an early date for the book.  Internal considerations suggest that the book was written early in the reign of Joash (835-796 B. C.), in the time of Jehoiada the high priest, around 835 B.C.

Historical Setting

Sometime during the early reign of young king Joash, an unprecedented and devastating locust swarm invaded Judah.  This great catastrophe sounded the alarm for a call to repentance in view of the greater judgment to come, the “Day of the Lord.”

Purpose

The book of Joel was designed to call the nation to repentance on the basis of the calamity of the locust plague.  The prophecy also served to comfort the nation with promises of future salvation and blessings in the coming Day of the Lord.

Theme

In Joel, history, poetry and prophecy unite to focus on a common theme, “the Day of the Lord.”

Outline

I.  The Devastation of the Locust Plague  1
II.  The Coming Day of the Lord  2
III.  The Judgment on the Nations  3:1-17
IV.  The Promise of Kingdom Blessing  3:18-21

 

FACTS ON AMOS

Author

The book was written by Amos, whose name means “burden” or “burden bearer.”  He lived in Tekoa, a village five miles SE of Bethlehem.

Date of Writing

The prophecy is dated to the reigns of king Uzziah (791-739 B.C.) and king Jeroboam II (793- 753 B.C.).  The reigns of the two kings as sole regents overlap between 767 and 753.  The book is dated around 760 B.C.

Historical Setting

Amos prophesied at the height of prosperity for both the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Religiously, the period was marked by moral and spiritual corruption.  Amos denounces Israel and Judah for their sinful self-security, violence, wanton luxury, and injustice.

Purpose

Amos records prophetic judgment on the Northern Kingdom for their social injustices, moral degeneracy, and spiritual apostasy.  The prophet intends to remind God’s people of their accountability to the covenant obligations, both in letter and spirit.  External religion apart from righteous ethical conduct is unacceptable to God.

Theme

The righteous judgment of God on His apostate people.

Theology

Amos teaches that Israel’s privileged position as an elect nation (2:9-11, 3:2) did not give the people immunity from divine judgment on sin and apostasy (5:18-20).  Great privilege is accompanied by corresponding responsibility.

Outline

I.  Prophecies Against the Nations  1-2
II.  Sermons Against Israel  3-6
III.  Visions of Judgment  7:1-9:10
IV.  Promises of Restoration  9:11-15

 

FACTS ON OBADIAH

Author

The book was authored by Obadiah, whose name means: “servant of Yahweh.”

Date of Writing

The date of Obadiah can be determined only by relating vv. 11-14 to a specific occasion in Israelite history.  The two  possibilities are (1) 845  B.C. during the reign of Jehoram, and (2) 586 B.C. after the destruction of Jerusalem which the Edomites applauded (Psa. 137:7, Lam. 4:21, Ezek. 25:12, 35:10).

Historical Setting

Obadiah records another chapter in the long story of enmity which existed between the descendants of Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:29-34, Num. 20:14-21, 1 Sam. 14:47, Psa. 137:7). After Edom revolted against Judah and set up their own king (2 Chron. 21:8-10), Judah was invaded by the Philistines and Arabs (2 Chron. 21:16-17).  The Edomites applauded this invasion, persecuting their Israelite kinsmen instead of protecting them.

Purpose

The book of Obadiah is designed to show God’s faithfulness to Israel and illustrate His sovereignty over the nations.  Obadiah also intends his prophecy to comfort Judah through God’s promise of future restoration.

Theme

The divine judgment and destruction of Edom and all nations which rage against Israel (Gen. 12:1-3).

Theology

Obadiah teaches an important lesson concerning divine retribution.  Verse 15 states this concisely, “As you have done, it will be done to you” (cf. Rom. 2:5-6). The book also instructs concerning the “Day of the Lord” which will be characterized both by judgment and blessing (vv. 15-21).

Outline

I.  The Prediction of Edom’s Destruction  1-9
II.  The Reason for Edom’s Destruction  10-14
III.  Judgment and Restoration in the Day of the Lord  15-21

 

FACTS ON JONAH

Author

The book was written by Jonah, whose name means “dove.”

Date of Writing

Jonah lived and ministered during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) who ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25).  His experience as a missionary to Nineveh was probably recorded in the latter part of his career, around 760 B.C.

Historical Setting

The site of Nineveh is located just east of the Tigris River in northern Mesopotamia.  According to ancient mythology, Nineveh was founded by a fish-god.  Hence, the name “Nineveh” means “fish” or “fish town.”  Although Nineveh was the largest Assyrian city in the time of Jonah, it
was not the capital city.  At the time of Jonah’s visit, the capital of Assyria was at Calah, about 25 miles SE of Nineveh. The moral corruptness of the city is attested by the prophet Nahum.

Purpose

The book is intended to demonstrate that Yahweh is a God of universal judgment and universal grace.  He judges wickedness and responds to repentance in all spheres.

Theme

God’s mercy and compassion extend even to the heathen nations on the condition of repentance.

Theology

Jonah teaches that Yahweh is a God of grace, compassion and loyal-love (Jonah 4:2). He is slow to anger, and responds to repentance by withholding judgment.

Outline

I.  Jonah’s First Commissioning  1-2
II.  Jonah’s Second Commissioning  3-4

 

FACTS ON MICAH

Author

The book was written by the prophet Micah, whose name means “Who is like Yahweh.”  Micah was a native of Moresheth, a city in the vicinity of Gath.  His writing ministry is directed to both the Northern and Southern kingdoms (1:1).

Date of Writing

Micah carried out his ministry during the reigns of Jotham (750-731 B.C.), Ahaz (743-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.).  His writing ministry can be dated between 735 and 700  B.C.

Historical Setting

Micah ministered in the days of the Assyrian menace. The moral and spiritual situation in both kingdoms was at a low point.  Religion was a matter of mere form (6:6-8) and the religious establishment was corrupt (3:11).  Idolatry (1:3,7), injustice (3:1) and avarice (3:2-3) was widespread.  Micah addressed himself to these wrongs, championing the cause of the
oppressed (3:8).  His contemporaries were Hosea, Amos and Isaiah.

Purpose

Micah was designed to encourage repentance by threats of judgment and assurances that God’s purposes for His people will finally prevail.

Theme

The approaching judgment on both kingdoms and the ultimate deliverance through the coming Messiah.

Theology

Micah teaches that true religion is not a matter of outward conformity to external ritual, but a life lived according to principles of justice, loyalty, and humility (6:6-8).

Outline

Note the key word, “hear” (1:2, 3:1, 6:1), introducing each message.

I.  Rebellion Punished  1-2
II.  Leadership Corrected  3-5
III.  Rebellion Punished  6-7

 

FACTS ON NAHUM

Author

The book was written by the prophet Nahum, whose name means comfort or consolation. Nothing is known about the prophet except that he was a native of Elkosh, a city of uncertain location.

Date of Writing

Internal evidence indicates that the earliest possible date would be the capture of Thebes or “No-amon” (3:8) by Assyria in 663 B.C.  The latest possible date would be the destruction of Nineveh, 612 B.C., which Nahum predicts.  The book was probably written while Nineveh was still in its glory around 650 B.C.

Historical Setting

Nahum prophesied during the long reign of wicked king Manasseh (697-642 B.C.).  Assyria was at its apex of power.  Judah had witnessed a succession of cruel Assyrian invaders.  Nineveh, the proud capital of Assyria, seemed invulnerable.  It was Nineveh’s attitude and aggression
that God condemned and judged.  The prophesied judgment on Nineveh was fulfilled in 612 B.C. when the city fell to the Median and Babylonian armies.

Purpose

Nahum is intended to comfort Judah by its announcement of judgment on wicked Nineveh.  The book demonstrates that the God of Israel is sovereign over the destinies of all nations.

Theme

The divine judgment and destruction of Nineveh.

Theology

Nahum teaches that persistent wickedness will be judged by divine wrath (1:2).  Although Yahweh is long-suffering (1:3) and good (1:7), there comes a point where He must execute justice in a manner consistent with His holy character.

Outline

I.  The Prediction of Nineveh’s Destruction  1
II.  The Destruction of Nineveh  2
III.  The Cause and Certainty of Nineveh’s Destruction 3

 

FACTS ON HABAKKUK

Author

The book was written by the prophet Habakkuk whose name means “embrace” or “embracer.” Habakkuk was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah and Jeremiah.  Little is known of his life or circumstances.

Date of Writing

The only clear historical reference in the book is in 1:6, probably referring to the Chaldean threat to Judah which was realized after the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C.   The book may be dated to the reign of Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.), probably around 607-606 B.C.

Historical Setting

After the death of Josiah king (609 B.C.), the spiritual conditions of the people in Judah rapidly degenerated.  Wickedness, injustice, and disregard of the law (1:3-4) came to characterize the moral attitudes and actions of the Judeans.

Although Egypt’s Pharaoh Necho challenged the ascendancy of the Babylonians, he was defeated at Carchemish in 605 B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar then advance against Palestine to secure the newly won territory of Judah.  His destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the people fulfilled the predictions of Jeremiah and Habakkuk.

Purpose

Habakkuk is intended to provide comfort and hope during one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history.  Although God would judge, He would “remember mercy” (3:2).  The book also deals with the moral dilemma of how a holy God could allow a wicked enemy nation to punish a people more righteous than itself (1:13).

Theme

The holiness of God in judging Judah.

Theology

Habakkuk sets forth the principle of faith righteousness, a theme developed in the NT (Rom. 1:17, Gal. 3:11, Heb. 10:38).

Outline

I.  Habakkuk’s Perplexity  1-2
II.  Habakkuk’s Prayer  3

 

FACTS ON ZEPHANIAH

Author

The book was written by the prophet Zephaniah, whose name means “hidden of Yahweh,” suggesting that God hides or protects.  Zephaniah was a distant relative of Josiah, under whose reign he prophesied.  His contemporaries were Nahum and Jeremiah.

Date of Writing

Zephaniah ministered in the days of Josiah king of Judah (640-609 B.C.).  The moral and religious conditions described by the prophet (1:3-12, 3:1-7) suggest that the book was written before Josiah’s reforms of 621 B.C..  The book should be dated between 640 and 621 B.C.

Historical Setting

The spiritual condition of the kingdom of Judah progressively worsened from the death of Hezekiah (728-686 B.C.) until the reform of Josiah (621 B.C.).  Josiah, the greatest of the reformers of Judah, inherited a kingdom plagued with ruinous spiritual and moral problems.  He instituted vast religious reform in Judah and Jerusalem, a movement no doubt influence by
Zephaniah and his contemporaries.  During the period in which Zephaniah ministered, Judah was free from foreign intervention, but facing a growing Babylonian threat.

Purpose

Zephaniah is intended to warn of the impending universal judgment of the Day of the Lord and to call the remnant of God’s people to repent (2:3) and be protected.

Theme

The coming Day of the Lord and judgment on Judah.

Theology

Like Joel, Zephaniah makes a major contribution regarding the Day of the Lord–a day of wrath on sin and redemption for God’s people as they are purified through chastisement.

Outline

I.  The Announcement of Judgment  1
II.  The Call to Repentance  2
III.  Destruction and Deliverance  3

 

FACTS ON HAGGAI

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Haggai, whose name means “festal” or “my feast.” Haggai was probably born in Babylon and returned to Judah with the first group of returning exiles under Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14) in 537 B.C.

Date of Writing

The oracles of Haggai are precisely dated in the second year of the reign of Darius (522-486 B. C.).  All four messages of the book were given within a four month period during 520 B.C.

Historical Setting

After Babylon fell to the armies of Persia in 539 B.C., Cyrus gave permission for the Jews to return to their homeland in Judah (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first group returned in 537 B.C. under the leadership of Sheshbazzar.  The foundation of the temple was laid, but the builders soon met with opposition.  Work on the temple stopped and did not begin again until the time of Haggai. Haggai and his contemporary, Zechariah, exhorted the people that if they were to enjoy God’s blessing, they must recognize their spiritual priorities.

Purpose

The purpose of Haggai is to stimulate the lethargic leaders and people of Judah to recognize their spiritual priorities and rise up and rebuild the temple.

Theme

“Rise up and rebuild the temple!”

Theology

Haggai teaches a great truth concerning God’s presence among His people.  The promise, “I am with you” (1:13, 2:4) has its ultimate fulfillment in Christ, our Immanuel (cf. Matt. 28:20).

Outline

I.  An Exhortation to Rebuild  1:1-15
II.  A Word of Encouragement  2:1-9
III.  A Promise of Blessing  2:10-19
IV.  A Messianic Prophecy  2:20-23

 

FACTS ON ZECHARIAH

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Zechariah, whose name means “Yahweh Remembers.” Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai who ministered with him in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.

Date of Writing

The text states that Zechariah commenced his prophetic ministry in the second year of Darius (522-486 B.C.) or 520 B.C. (1:1).  The book was probably completed around 500 B.C.

Historical Setting

Zechariah lived and ministered in Jerusalem during the restoration period that followed the Babylonian Exile.  He began his prophetic ministry just 2 months after Haggai’s first message (Hag. 1:1, Zech. 1:1).  Conditions in Judah were disheartening.  The temple was lying neglected and the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins.  The people were experiencing drought and adversity because of their sinful neglect.

Purpose

Zechariah was intended to challenge the exiles to turn from their sins and to the Lord for cleansing and blessing (1:3).  The book also provides encouragement by revealing future glories, the overthrow of Israel’s enemies, and the universal reign of the Messiah.

Theme

The theme of Zechariah is the restoration of God’s people through the redeeming and delivering work of Messiah.

Theology

Zechariah teaches a great deal concerning the first and second advents of the Messiah.  In addition, the book provides great insight into the prophetic events of the Day of the Lord.

Outline

I.   A Call to Repentance  1:1-6
II.  Eight Night Visions  1:7-6:15
III. The Question of Fasting  7:1-8:23
IV.  Two Oracles Concerning the Future  9:1-14:21

 

FACTS ON MALACHI

Author

The book was authored by the prophet Malachi, whose name means “My messenger.”  Malachi lived in Jerusalem late in the Restoration Period.

Date of Writing

The book is not dated, yet internal evidence indicates a post-exilic date.  Close agreement between the sins which Malachi denounced and those which Nehemiah sought to correct (priestly laxity, neglect of tithes, and intermarriage with idolatrous women) suggests that Malachi ministered in Jerusalem between the first and second governorships of Nehemiah.  A
probable date for the book is 432-431 B.C.

Historical Setting

Malachi prophesied about seventy-five years after the temple had been completed (515 B.C.). The Jews had been home from Babylon for about one hundred years.  Although cured of idolatry, they had lost their enthusiasm over God and worship.  They had succumbed to religious indifference and moral laxity.  The priesthood was corrupt and the people were
wearying God with their hypocrisy.

Purpose

Malachi was intended to restore the Jewish people to a right relationship with God by exposing the causes of their spiritual declension and setting forth the steps for renewal.

Theme

The necessity of genuine repentance to assure God’s blessing and avert His judgment.

Theology

Malachi makes a unique contribution to OT theology by promising the coming of Elijah as Messiah’s forerunner (4:5-6).

Outline

I.  God’s Love For Israel  1:1-5
II.  The Corruption of the Priests & People 1:6-2:16
III.  The Coming of Divine Judgment  2:17-4:3
IV.  The Concluding Exhortation and Promise  4:4-6

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