The Minor Prophets

By the Rev. Jose Oliveira, M. Div. (translated from the Portuguese Version)

clip_image002The same has been said about the title “Major Prophets” can be said about the title “Minor Prophets”, ie, do not think that by calling these  twelve books of the Old Testament, “Minor Prophets”, they are of minor importance. Referring to them as “minor” is to identify the fact that their size is smaller compared to the “Major Prophets” as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.. The O.T. collection of Minor Prophets is of great importance for theology. Through them we have a better idea of ​​the religious state of Israel in both the pre-exilic and post-exilic, and including information about other nations, as they relate with Israel. In this article we will discuss three important aspects of these books of the Old Testament: their canonical organization, periods covered, and to whom were addressed their messages.

We begin with the canonical organization. In the Hebrew Bible, there is no division Major and Minor prophets. Unlike the Catholic and Protestant Bibles, the Hebrew Bible has only three major divisions: Torah (the Law), Nevi’im, or Prophets, and Ketuvim, ie, the Writings. The twelve Minor Prophets in there, are considered a single book within the section of the prophets, which is divided by some scholars in the Former Prophets, or the prophets that are mentioned in the books of Joshua – II Kings, and the Later Prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi (not including Lamentations and Daniel), but including the twelve minor prophets as one book.

For the period covered, the Minor Prophets can be seen from the following division: 1.Pre-Exilic: (referring to the Babylonian Exile): Hosea (1:1), Joel (no date appears in the book, and scholars classify it with both pre-and post-exilic. Here, we classify in the pre-exilic period, following the more conservative view), Amos (Amos 1:1), Obadiah (no specific evidence is given on the date this book, but scholars like Dr. Constable [1] , tend to rank it among the pre-exilic);  Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), Micah (Micah 1:1, Jeremiah 26:18), Nahum (written before the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC; and since Thebes, mentioned in 3:8 ’10, fell in 664 BC, so it must have been written between 664-612 BC) Habakkuk (Hab. 1:6), Zephaniah (1:1), 2.Post-Exilic: Haggai (Hag 1:1), Zechariah (Zechariah 1:1), Malachi (In 1:8, we find a term, Peha, governor, pointing to the Persian period, not only the word, but also the fact that in Jerusalem is a governor, besides the temple, which is already built, all of which indicates the post-exilic period.

Observing to whom these prophecies were addressed helps us  to understand a little more of the message of those prophets. There are three types of recipients for the minor prophets: 1.The Kingdom of Judah. ​​Four are minor prophets that specifically addressed their message to the kingdom of Judah and preached in this context: Joel announces the judgment of God through the Babylonian Empire, symbolized by a plague of locusts, Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and his message foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem; Habakkuk wrote about the  Babylonian’s rule over Judah:  Zephaniah also preached to the nations, but mainly because they share the destruction that Judah and Israel would suffer under the Assyrian and Babylonian empires 2.The Kingdom of Israel, Amos, although from the kingdom of Judah, he preached to the kingdom of Israel. In his book there is a great concern for social justice and he is the first to refer to the “Lord’s Day”, which foretells the judgement of Judah and Israel through gentile empires; Hosea reveals God’s message through his marriage woes, he would have been ordained by God to marry a harlot to symbolize the betrayal of the nation of Israel – whose destruction is imminent. 3. The Post-Exilic Jewish Community. Three prophets preached to those returned to the land of Israel, Haggai, although he referred to the fall of the kingdoms in power, his main message was an exhortation to the people to rebuild the temple; Zechariah is interested in raising the morale of the community, reminding them the mistakes of their Fathers and present them with a glorious future, Malachi has his message dealing with the religious laxness that the Israelites were living, shortly after they returned from the Exile. 4. The Nations. Although several minor prophets make reference to the nations around Israel, or that have dominated Israel at various times, three of them deal specifically with the nations: Jonah, though reluctant,  preached to the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, which would have been spared of a premature destruction; Nahum, mentions the eventual destruction of Nineveh (which one is debatable; if it refers to the days of Sennacherib, Assubarnípal or the Medo-Babylonians), which was postponed in the days of Jonas, but was inevitable later, according to the prophecy of Nahum; Obadiah, who according to some was an Edomite convert to Yahwism, was called to prophesy to his nation, Edom, condemning its arrogance and violence against Israel, its sister nation.

In analyzing the message of the Minor Prophets notice that there is a concern with the rise of world empires, which have become instruments of divine judgments, to Israel, Judah and other nations. There are also frequent references to neighboring nations and emerging powers with which Judah and Israel had to deal with. Finally, there are the post-exilic prophets, dealing with the Post-Exilic Community in Jerusalem, encouraging them to rebuild the nation.

The minor prophets bring an important contribution to biblical theology. From them we learn that God has no favorites, because the so-called people of God are treated as other nations, when they go astray from His ways. Through them, we also become aware that God uses the world empires to make His will prevail. And finally, we see that God cares for and encourages His children to continue in communion with him, whether as a nation or as individuals.

The study of the Minor Prophets is the subject of a specific class in one of the programs of the Illinois Theological Seminary. If you would like to know more about this amazing group of servants of God, consider studying with us, enrolling in our school by following the link below:

http://indepthseminary.webs.com

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[1] http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/obadiah.pdf

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Johnd581 on August 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

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  2. Posted by Johnc818 on August 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

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