Major and Minor Prophets

 

It our O.T. series, we have reached what is known as the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. They are called Major and Minor Prophets based on the length of each book. With some exceptions, the 12 minor prophet books are smaller in length than the four Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

 

For a quick review I want to briefly show what we have covered so far. We have examined the first 5 book which are known as the Pentateuch.

 

Genesis Ė teaches us about the origin of the universe and records Israelís roots and early history.

Exodus Ė teaches about the enslavement and deliverance of the Israel and the history of their journey toward Canaan under the leadership of Moses.

Leviticus Ė contains over 600 laws that Israel was to live by.

Numbers Ė records the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Deuteronomy Ė contains a repetition of the laws given shortly before Israel entered Canaan.

 

Then we covered the 12 Books of History:

 

Joshua Ė is the book of the conquest of Canaan as promised by God.

Judges Ė records the 12 judges over Israel and history of Israelís continual rebellion against God when a judge died.

Ruth Ė is the story of the life of Ruth and how she became an ancestor of David and of Jesus.

1 & 2 Samuel Ė is the history of Samuel and the beginning of Israel having kings.

1 & 2 Kings Ė records the early history of the kingdom of Israel and then its division into Israel and Judah. We are introduced to Elijah and Elisha.

1 & 2 Chronicles Ė mainly covers the history of David, Solomon, and the kings of Judah up to the time of their captivity.

Ezra Ė is a record of the return of the Jews from captivity and the rebuilding of the temple.

Nehemiah Ė gives us an account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and how the Godís people recommitted themselves to keep the Law of Moses.

Esther Ėthe story of Esther and how she made it possible for the Jews to be saved from the plot of Haman.

 

Then we covered the 5 books of poetry:

 

Job Ė teaches us what Job had to endure by the testing of Satan, how he had great patience, and in the end he was found faithful and God blessed him with more that he had before.

Psalms Ė is a collection of 150 spiritual songs, prayers, poems, by different authors some of which are unnamed, and they cover a variety of topics.

Proverbs Ė is a collection of moral and religious maxims on such topics as wisdom, temperance, and justice.

Ecclesiastes Ė shows us how all life is vanity without God in the picture.

Song of Solomon Ė a love song that shows the deep love between a couple that gets married.

 

Over the next couple of years, we will be looking at these 16 Major and Minor Prophets that are contained in 17 books. The time of these writings are from 800 Ė 400 B.C.

 

The main theme of these prophetic books is the justice, sovereignty, and mercy of God.

 

The prophets were called by God to warn His people about their rebellious nature toward God. They rebuked them and told them what was going to happen to them because of their sins. These prophets also spoke of the coming of Christ and His kingdom the redemption of mankind. These were true prophets because the things they said would happen, happened: As:

 

Deuteronomy 18:20 'But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'21 "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' --22 "when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

 

These prophets were great examples to us because they show us what true courage is about, and they show us that Godís truth must continue to be preached no matter what.

 

The main message of the following prophets were given to the following people:

 

  • Amos and Hosea spoke to Israel.
  • Jonah and Nahum spoke to Nineveh.
  • Daniel spoke to Babylon.
  • Ezekiel spoke to the captives in Babylon.
  • Obadiah spoke to Edom.
  • Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi spoke to Judah.

 

The mission of these prophets was to try and save Godís people from their wickedness and idolatry by trying to restore them back to the Law of Moses. When the people failed to take heed, the prophets had to announce their destruction. However, they did get to encourage their people even during their captivity because God let them know that a remnant of their people would get to return to Jerusalem, and out of the remnant a person who is called The Branch would come from the family of David and would reign over an everlasting kingdom. Of course, we know that God was talking about Jesus and His church.

 

Next week we will begin to look at the Book of Isaiah, but for the rest of our time this evening I want to give you an overview of what these Major and Minor prophets are about:

 

The Book of Isaiah is one of the longest and most important books in the Old Testament. It covers the life of Isaiah and what he said and did as prophet of God. It is sometimes called a miniature Bible because it has 66 chapters and two major division. The first division is the first 39 chapters, just like the OT has 39 books. The first 39 chapters emphasize Godís judgment on immoral and idolatrous men. The second division is the last 27 chapters, just like there are 27 books in the NT. These last chapters teach us about the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity, and it teaches about the grace of God through the promised Messiah concluding with the final judgment. These last chapters are similar to the N.T. in that they offer a message of hope through our redeemer Jesus.

 

Isaiah began prophesying around 759 B.C. and while his main message was to Judah, he also asked Israel to repent of their idolatry as well. He continued to pronounce Godís judgment on several heathen nations as well, but one thing Isaiah is famous for is his many predictions of the coming Christ. One of the most well known prophecies of Christ comes from Isa. 53, which talks about the suffering servant.

 

The book of Jeremiah records how God made this young man into a prophet though he was reluctant at first. He lived about 100 years after Isaiah and he prophesied for about 60 years from 626 B.C. Ė 566 B.C. He is known as the weeping prophet. He foretold and witnessed the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple. He warned his people that they would be taking into captivity because of their backsliding and idolatry. Even though no one seemed to listen to him, he kept preaching Godís message anyway. He also foretold of the return of the Jews after their 70 years of bondage. He also foretold that a new covenant would be made in future:

 

Jeremiah 31:33 "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

 

The book of Lamentations is a collection of 5 poems that express grief over the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews. These poems read like an eulogy at a funeral, but they do express hope because of Godís compassion. So, the messages is that sin brings misery and punishment, but God still loves us and will show us compassion when we repent.

 

The Book of Ezekiel covers the prophecies made by Ezekiel. Ezekiel had been carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar around 597 B.C. and he started prophesying 5 years later. He preached among the exiles the same message as Jeremiah did in Jerusalem that Judah would be captured and then later return. The majority of his prophecy was made known through visions, symbols, allegories that are similar to the style found in the book of revelation. I have even heard people say that Ezekiel is the sci-fi book of the O.T.

 

The book of Daniel is about the life of Daniel and the dreams he interpreted. Daniel was part of the first group of Jews taken into captivity around 606 B.C. He was a young man that was chosen to serve the king and determined in his heart that he would abide by Godís laws so he would not eat the king delicacies. He and three companions were blessed by God and in Daniel 2, he interpreted the kingís dream which showed the rise and fall of 4 kingdom, which included Babylon, Persian Empire, Grecian Empire, and the Roman Empire. During the Roman Empire the kingdom of God would be established speaking of the church. Daniel is well-known for how Meshach, Shadrach, Abed-Nego would not bow down before the gold image and how God protected them from fiery furnace that was made 7 times hotter than usually. Of course, it includes how Daniel would not stop praying to God, which got him thrown into the lionís den, but God would not allow the lions to eat him. This book is also know for the prophecy about the 70 weeks in the Daniel 9.

 

Now letís examine the 12 Minor Prophets. The 12 minor prophets are not any less important that the 5 major prophets. As I said earlier, they are called Minor Prophets because their books are smaller.

 

The book of Hosea is about the prophet Hosea. He preached his message to Israel from about 786 B.C. to 726 B.C. while Isaiah and Micah were preaching to Judah. He pictured Israel as Godís adulterous bride and rebuked them for their idolatry. He foretold of their fall and captivity. The main thought is Godís persistent love for His people in contrast with their unfaithfulness.

 

The book of Joel is about the prophet Joel. We do not know for sure, but some think he may have been the first prophet to preach to Judah. He predicted a time of trouble, but also said that God would drive their enemies away. He also foretold the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Joel. 2:28-32, which happened on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

 

The book of Amos tells of how Amos, who was shepherd, preached about how Judah would not escape punishment for her sins, and they preached many other prophecies about other nations. His main message was to Israel about how they would be destroyed. He was preaching around the same time as Joel and Hosea around 786 B.C. Ė 726 B.C. He also promised restoration and talked about the Messianic kingdom. The main thought is about Godís righteous and holy love for His people.

 

The book of Obadiah is about the prophecies of the prophet Obadiah. It is believed that he preached around the time the Judah was overthrown around 586 B.C. Obadiah message was used to encourage the Jews because he foretold how Edom, one of their enemies, would be overthrown and cutoff forever, and he assured the Jews of Godís blessing. Of course, the prophecies came to pass as predicted because 4 years later the Babylonians captured the Edomites. The last known remnant of the Edomites was the Herods in the N.T. time. Once they died out so did the lineage of the Edomites. Obadiah also told the Jews how they would still suffer a great deal from the nations around them.

 

The book of Jonah is unique in that is not full of visions, but records a small portion of the life of Jonah who was known as the reluctant missionary. We learn from 2 Kings14:25 that Jonah preached during the time of Jeroboam II around 749 B.C. Ė 790 B.C. The story line is simple. Jonah is called to preach to Nineveh, he tries to run away via a ship. God shows him that he cannot hide from Him. He is swallowed by a fish where he stayed for 3 days and nights. Jesus used Jonahís fish story to teach others how long he will be in the grave before He would be resurrected. After the fish spits Jonah out, he preaches to Nineveh about how they will be overthrown in 40 days, but they repented and God canceled the judgment and Jonah was not happy about it. Jonah ended up showing more concern for a plant that was offering him shade than 120,000 gentiles that repented. The message: while God had a special relationship with his chosen people, He still had compassion and concern for other nations that were willing to repent.

 

The book of Micah is about the prophet Micah who preached around the time of Isaiah and Hosea around 740 B.C. Ė 700 B.C. He was a simple countryman that preached to Judah and Israel about Godís hatred of evil and how their sins would lead to their downfall. He also spoke of how God likes to forgive those who repent. He foretold the birthplace of Jesus in Micah 5:2. Another important verse that applied then and applies now is:

 

Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

 

The book of Nahum is about the prophet Nahum and his message to Judah. He was preaching around 630 B.C. around the same time as Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. He did not talk about the sins of the Jews or their downfall. Instead, his message was about the overthrow of Nineveh. About 150 years before this time, Jonah preached to them and they repented, but they turn back to their sins and now Nahum was prophesying their doom, which happened about 20 years after he predicted it, which shows that God does not allow sin to go unpunished.

 

The book of Habakkuk is about the prophet Habakkuk who preached to Judah around 628 B.C. to 608 B.C. He had a complaint against God. He wanted to know why their nation should be destroyed by a more wicked nation. God let him know that He had a purpose in letting the Chaldeanís rise up and take Judah. Habakkuk complains again, however he does acknowledge that his nation deserves punishment for their sins. Godís answer is that the Chaldeans will be successful for now, but will be destroyed later, and Godís people will fill the earth later. The message is that God reigns over all nations and the just shall live, but the unjust shall die. One verse from this book that is quoted 3 times in the NT is:

 

Habakkuk 2:4 Ö But the just shall live by his faith. (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).

 

The book of Zephaniah is about the prophet Zephaniah who was a descendant of King Hezekiah. He prophesied during the reign of Josiah in Judah around 630 B.C. He prophecies about the destruction of the Jewish nation and all nations. His main message is the great day of the Lord. Not only does the message describe Godís wrath on the nations, in the N.T. it is used to describe the final judgment day. His message is not all gloom and doom because at the end of the book it talks about how Godís people will be rejoicing and will not have fear because God will restore them.

 

The book of Haggai has two chapters in which the prophet Haggai delivers a message from God to the Jews after their return to Jerusalem by the order of Cyrus around 520 B.C. Haggi was born in Babylon and had returned with Zerubbabel. He preached his message during the time the temple was being rebuilt and encouraged his people to resume the work on the temple because after they laid the foundation that stopped building for 16 years. He gave 4 messages concerning this. The first and third message was that the reason they were having trouble with their land and other things they were doing for themselves was because they neglecting the house of God. The other two messages were used to let them know that God was with them and would bless them for rebuilding the temple, and they listened to his message and rebuilt the temple by 515 B.C. The message is that materialism and laziness will hinder you from serving God.

 

The book of Zechariah is about the prophet Zechariah who also came back with Zerubbabel, and he worked with Haggai. Zerubbabel had eight visions that assured the Jews of Godís love and care, and he encouraged them to overcome their complacency and to complete the temple. Haggai only prophesied for 4 months and Zechariah began prophesying 2 months after Haggai began, but he prophesied for two years. Zechariah made several prophecies about the coming Messiah:

 

His atoning death for the removal of sin (3:8-9; 13:1)

As builder of the house of God (6:12)

His universal reign as King and Priest (6:13; 9:10)

His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (9:9)

His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (11:12)

His Deity (12:8)

His pierced hands (12:10; 13:6)

A smitten shepherd (13:7)

 

The book ends with Godís promise that He would establish His rule over all the earth (14:7).

 

The last book of the O.T. is Malachi. It talks about the prophet Malachi and his message. He was the last of the O.T. prophets who prophesied about 100 years after Haggai and Zechariah around 450 B.C. Ė 425 B.C. He was connected with the reform movement of Ezra and Nehemiah. After the Jews rebuilt the temple they had engaged in many different sins. Malachi rebuked them for their heathen marriages, divorce, polluted sacrifices, corruption of the Sabbath, withholding tithes, and many other sins. He also foretold the coming of the forerunner of Christ (4:1) who was John the Baptist. The message is that if they will repent and turn to God, God will bless them.

 

By the time we make it through these Major and Minor prophets in these 17 Books, we will have a much better understanding of the history of the Jews and how God wants His people to be obedient to Him. While the law they were under does not apply to us, there is much for us to learn from them and how God dealt with them. As Paul said:

 

Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

 

Also, in reference to the people of the O.T. and things they did, Paul wrote:

 

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

 

So, let us do our best to learn from the past and make sure we do not repeat the mistakes they made in the O.T. that led to their destruction.