The Minor Prophets (1)

Old Testament Survey, Lesson 16 of 18

There are twelve books known as “The Minor Prophets.” These prophets are not less important than those called “Major Prophets.” Their books are simply shorter. Some of the Minor Prophets lived in Israel; others in Judah. Some preached in the large cities; others in the rural areas. Jonah preached to Assyria. Obadiah’s message was directed toward Edom. The dates of the Minor Prophets range from the ninth century before Christ to the fifth century before Christ.
All of the Minor Prophets were servants of God who proclaimed His will to people in need of repentance. Although they were written hundreds of years ago, their writings are as up to date as today’s newspaper. They deal with people and their problems. Outward circumstances change, but people remain the same.

Hosea: The Prophet With a Broken Heart

One of the saddest stories in the Bible is that of Hosea. His book is a love story. Hosea loved his wife, Gomer, with all his heart. She, however, was unfaithful to him. She had many other lovers. Eventually, she left him and their children and went after men who gave her gifts. Time passed by. Gomer lost her beauty. Her lovers no longer wanted her. She was reduced to slavery. Hosea bought her, forgave her, and she became his wife again after a period of cleansing.

The story of Hosea illustrates God’s love for His people, Israel. God loved Israel and redeemed her from Egypt. He was faithful to her. He gave her a rich land and many blessings. Israel, however, continually forsook God and worshiped the idol gods of the pagan nations around her. God, like Hosea, never lost his love for His bride. He was ready to take her back whenever she was willing to return. However, Israel had to repent and be cleansed before God could accept her again as His bride.

Hosea’s name means “help,” “salvation,” or “deliverance.” It comes from the same Hebrew word from which “Joshua” comes. The New Testament form of Joshua is “Jesus.”

Hosea was a prophet of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. He prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. This would be from 750 B.C. to the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 721 B.C. Isaiah and Micah were also prophesying in Judah during this same period of time.

Joel: The Prophet of Pentecost

Joel was one of the earliest of the Minor Prophets. He prophesied about 830 B.C. He was a prophet of Judah. An invasion of locusts had completely stripped the land of all plant life. A drought came after the locust invasion. This was followed by fires throughout the land. Nothing was left. Both men and animals faced starvation. The temple worship had ceased because there was nothing to offer in sacrifice.

This disaster had come upon the land because God’s people were living in sin and refused to repent (Deuteronomy 28:38). God called upon the people of Judah to return from their sinful ways so that He could restore His blessings to them. The basic message of Joel is a call to repentance.

Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord” as a day of God’s judgment upon His people. Joel was also inspired by God to look nearly nine hundred years into the future to another day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32). This day was the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Joel prophesied that God would pour out His Spirit in the “last days.” He said that “whoever called upon the name of the Lord” would be saved. There would be salvation and deliverance in Jerusalem. On Pentecost day, when the apostles had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, Peter quoted Joel’s prophecy. He said it was fulfilled in the events on Pentecost (Acts 2). God’s Spirit was poured out. It was in “the last days” (the Christian Age). It was in Jerusalem. Salvation was possible when convicted believers were told to “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins...” (Acts 2:38).

Amos: The Prophet of Justice

Amos was different from many of the other prophets. He was not a “son of the prophets” (a professional prophet who had been trained in the schools of the prophets). He earned his living as a herdsman and “a dresser of sycamore trees.” He lived in a small town of Tekoa in the wilderness of Judah. Tekoa was about six miles southeast of Bethlehem.

Even though Amos lived in Judah, he was sent by God to prophesy to Israel in the north. He was very plain, bold, and uncompromising in his preaching. In Israel, the worship of Baal, along with calf worship, had been mixed with the true worship of God. God sent Amos to Bethel, one of the centers where Jeroboam I had established calf worship. Bethel was located on Israel’s southern border with Judah.

The time of Amos’ work was about 760 B.C. to 750 B.C. Jeroboam II was on the throne of Israel. The nation was at peace. It was a time of great prosperity as well. The people had forgotten God who had given them their blessings. They were lazy, wicked, and worldly. The upper classes lived in luxury. The lower classes often suffered for lack of the basic necessities of life.

The lifetime of Amos overlapped that of Hosea. Both prophesied to Israel. The two prophets may have known one another, but we have no record of it. It appears the people of Israel rejected Amos’ message. We do not know what happened to him after he delivered God’s message to the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps he went back to his life in the country as a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees.

Obadiah: The Prophet of Edom’s Doom

Obadiah’s name means “servant of Jehovah” or “worshiper of Jehovah.” There are several men in the Old Testament who bear this name. However, none of them can be identified with the prophet. We know nothing about the prophet except that he was a messenger of God who spoke against Edom. The basic message of Obadiah is that God will punish Edom because they aided the enemies of Judah when they looted Jerusalem. The people of Israel and Edom had a long history of hatred for each other. The two nations were related. Israel descended from Jacob and Edom descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother. The rivalry between Jacob and Esau began while they were still in their mother’s womb (Genesis 25:22-26). God, in His providence, had selected Jacob to be the head of the family. It was through Jacob that the chosen nation came (Hebrews 12:16,17; Romans 9:10-13).

Edom had refused to let Israel pass through her land when they were on the journey to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14-21). Later, when David became king, he conquered Edom (2 Samuel 8:13,14). In the days of King Jehoram, Edom revolted and gained her independence (2 Kings 8:20-22).

Bible scholars are divided over the date of Obadiah. Some believe it deals with the time the Edomites aided the Babylonians in destroying Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Others place Obadiah in the time of Jehoram. This was about 845 B.C. Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem and were assisted by the Edomites. This is probably the correct date. However, no matter which date we accept, the message of the book is the same.

Obadiah prophesied God would destroy Edom for its pride and unbrotherly attitude. This was fulfilled in the fourth century before Christ. The Nabataean Arabs conquered the Edomites and drove them from their land. They settled in the southern part of Judah and became known as Idumea. After they were conquered by the Romans in the first century, they disappeared from history.

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