Overview of the Minor Prophets: How Well Do You Know the Jewish Bible?
|Minor Prophets*||dates of ministry 1||Number of chapters||Theme||Points of Interest||New Testament Connection|
|Hosea||760-722 B.C.||14||God’s love for Israel in the midst of Israel’s unfaithfulness||Hosea commanded to marry an unfaithful woman; series of startling metaphors for God including a lion, a leopard, a bear, a moth, a pine tree and even rot! 2||Hosea 2:23b, quoted in Romans 9:25-26: “I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.'” (See also Hosea 11:1, quoted in Matthew 2:15.)|
|Joel||810-750 B.C.||3||The “Day of the Lord”—both for judgment and for hope||Locust plague: Image of the locust has entered popular culture as a metaphor for destruction.||Joel 2:28-32a, quoted in Acts 2:17-21: “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved...”|
|Amos||760 B.C.||9||Social injustices are seen as sins against God. Empty “religion” does not reflect a true spiritual and ethical relationship with God.||Famous verse: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:24) The Talmud says (Makkot 24a) that Moses gave Israel 613 commandments; that David reduced them to ten, Isaiah to two, and Amos to one: “This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: ‘Seek me and live'” (Amos 5:4).||Amos 9:11-12, quoted in Acts 15:16-17: “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the Lord, who will do these things.|
|Obadiah||587 B.C. ?||1||Israel and Edom
Arrogance and pride lead to downfall.
|Recalls the story of Isaac and Esau, from whom Edom was descended.||Herod the Great, who sought to destroy Jesus in Matthew 2, was a descendant of Edom. His actions seem to reflect the ancient enmity of Edom to Israel.|
|Jonah||760 B.C.||4||Repentance and God’s mercy—and our own attitudes to others who are recipients of that mercy||The miraculous “fish story,” the equally miraculous repentance of Nineveh, and the final verse with an unexpected ending pointing out that God cares about animals as well as people.||Jonah’s return from the fish likened to resurrection; referred to by Jesus in Matthew 12:39-41; 16:4; Luke 11:29-32|
|Micah||740-687 B.C.||7||God’s judgment on sin||Prophecy of Messiah’s birthplace in Bethlehem
Famous verses 4:3, “He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
|Micah 5:2 [Hebrew v. 1], quoted in Matthew 2:6: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”|
|Nahum||630-612 B.C.||3||God’s punishment of Assyria and its capital, Nineveh||A “flip side” to Jonah; some years after Jonah, Nahum prophesies the downfall of Assyria and its capital, Nineveh.||Though not quoted, the contrast between Nineveh at the time of Jonah and at the time of Nahum brings to mind 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”|
|Habakkuk||600 B.C.||3||We can trust God, even though as finite beings we cannot always see the reasons God allows evil.||We saw that the Talmud says that Amos reduced the 613 commandments to one. An alternative tradition suggests that it was Habakkuk who reduced them to one: “the righteous will live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4b).||Habakkuk 2:4b, quoted in Romans 1:16 and Galatians 3:11: “but the righteous will live by his faith.”|
|Zephaniah||640-610 B.C.||3||Judgment and hope both for Israel and the nations as the prophet predicts the Day of the Lord and the salvation of a “remnant”||Like Nahum, this book offers a flip side to the story of Jonah and Nineveh.||Not quoted, but we are reminded that the New Testament picks up the remnant theme in several passages, such as Romans 11:5: “So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.”|
|Haggai||520 B.C. ?||2||Encouragement to rebuild the Temple||Well known verses, 1:2-4: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built.'” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?””||Haggai 2:6-7, 21, quoted in Hebrews 12:26: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.”|
|Zechariah||520 B.C. ?||14||Building up the community that had returned from exile and the future redemption of the nations of the world—all to take place under godly leadership||Contains series of unique “night visions” in chapters 1–6
Famous prophecies of Messiah quoted in the NT: 9:9 (Messiah comes on a donkey), 11:12-13 (30 pieces of silver), 13:7 (stricken shepherd), 12:10 (pierced one on whom the nation will look).
|Zechariah 9:9, quoted in Matthew 21:5, John 12:15: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
See also Zechariah 12:10, quoted in John 19:37, alluded to in Revelation 1:7, as well as Zechariah 13:17, quoted in Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27
|Malachi||450 B.C. ?||4||Covenant relationships||Famous verse, 3:10—”‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,'” says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.'” Often used to support church tithing, but we must be careful of reading such verses into the New Testament without NT support.||Malachi 3:1, quoted in Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2, Luke 7:27 (and sometimes combined with Isaiah 40:3): “‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.”
Malachi 4:5-6, alluded to in Matthew 11:14, 17:11-12; Mark 6:15, Luke 1:17
Spiritual Implications and Application
Common threads throughout the group suggest that God’s people benefit from repetition. Here are a few reflections on what the minor prophets have to say to us today:
God doesn’t tolerate sin. God judges the “foreign nations” (those not in relationship with Him), but He also chastises His own people when they believe and behave as those who are not in relationship with Him.
This is relevant to believers today as we ask ourselves whether we are agents for positive change in our culture, or whether we are being influenced negatively by a culture that does not know God. We might find the answer discouraging at times when we don’t measure up. But there is a gracious balance as we see over and over as… [see below]
Being in relationship with God means being in a relationship of love. Hosea demonstrates this most dramatically. God shows His love in His grace and mercy, as well as in His persistence in wanting to relate to us in spite of our shortcomings and sins. God also takes the action needed to forgive and restore His people to Himself, as seen in Hosea 2:14-23. And, as God is forgiving, so should we be.
Relationship with God is also a relationship of trust, even in difficult circumstances. We cannot always see why God allows evil in this world (see especially Habakkuk), yet God gives us reasons to trust Him.
Being in relationship with God requires our response. God desires faithfulness and obedience. Faithfulness means, in part, we don’t put our trust in substitutes for God (idolatry) and it also means obeying Him.
Obedience to God includes social justice (seen especially in Amos). It also includes proclaiming God’s Word to all (seen especially in Jonah). We may not all be equally active in these areas, but we all have opportunities with people we know, and we can also work on a larger scale through our churches and other organizations whose mission lies in these areas.
1 Date of prophets’ ministries taken from New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 628.
2 Ibid., pp. 764-65.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.