THE MINOR PROPHETS
English Standard Version Bible
Douglas Stuart Word Biblical Commentary Volume 31 Hosea-Jonah
Ralph L. Smith Word Biblical Commentary Volume 32 Micah-Malachi
Samuel J. Schultz The Old Testament Speaks
January 22, 2018
Today we begin our study of the Minor Prophets. There are 12 in all in the Hebrew canon and Christians have carried them over into our Bible. They are not minor as far as their messages are concerned. A better translation of the word ‘minor’ could be ‘shorter’. They are shorter than Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. But each has a major message to his audience. The writings range from around 900 BC to 400 BC. They are not in chronological order, so it is important that we understand the times of the writings and thereby the context of the messages. Some of the minor prophets were contemporary with the major prophets and some with each other. The prophetic messages are consistent among all the prophets, major and minor, and it is important for us to understand their messages because they are completely relevant to the situation the church and we believers face in today’s world.
The story of the Bible is one of creation originally followed by the fall. Adam and Eve were placed in a garden with instructions to care for it and to guard it. The garden was a temple where Adam could have direct access to God. Adam failed in his duty to guard the garden and keep it safe. The two had to be removed from the garden and we now live with the consequences of that fall. The Bible does not end there, however. God was ready with plan two.
“God’s answer to all of this was a rescue operation, in the form of a holy people who would listen to his voice, learn to praise him correctly, and draw all the nations to right order through the splendor of their way of life. After creation, the Fall, and the consequences of the Fall as described in chapters 1 through 11, chapter 12 of Genesis introduces us to Abraham, the father of Israel, the father of faith. This new Adam figure is the progenitor of a priestly and a kingly people. He and his descendants, from Isaac and Jacob, to David and Solomon, through Isaiah and Ezekiel, would attempt, through the disciplines of Torah, Temple, prophetic speech, kingly rule, and sacred covenant, to restore a properly ordered humanity. The coming together of the priestly and kingly offices is perhaps nowhere better expressed than in the exuberant dance of King David, wearing the ephod of a priest, before the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the tablets of the Law. But the priests of Israel tended to fall into corruption and run after false gods, and the kings of Israel, time and again, betrayed their office. Even the greatest king, David, was an adulterer and murderer. Much of this dissolution is summed up in Ezekiel’s devastating vision, recounted in the tenth chapter of his prophetic book, of the Shekinah, the glory, of Yahweh leaving his Temple and moving toward the east. But the enduring hope of Israel is expressed in that same prophet’s prediction that one day the glory of the Lord would return to his Temple, and on that day water would flow forth from the side of the building for the renewal of creation.”
(Evangelizing the Nones)
Below is a brief Old Testament timeline and especially the timeline of Israel.
We will begin our study of the national and religious context of the minor prophets with the kingship of David. The Jewish nation lived from the Exodus until the time of monarch without a king. God was the king and his prophets guided the people. The people wanted a king of their own like the other nations so Samuel anointed Saul, the Benjaminite as king. Unfortunately Saul did not turn out to be the kind of king they had hoped for, so God instructed Samuel to anoint David as king in his place. Saul reigned forty years from 1050 BC to 1010BC.
2 Samuel 7:8-16 Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
David was initially king over Judah alone, the southern kingdom, but after Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines, and a civil war in which the leaders of Israel were assassinated David became king of Judah and all Israel.
2 Samuel 5:1-5 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
David began his reign in Hebron, but after 7 years he conquered the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem, and established Jerusalem as his capital city. He reigned forty years from 1010 BC to 970 BC. He found favor with the Lord and the land grew very rich. It was located on the trade routes between Africa and the Middle East. The surrounding nations honored him and Hiram, king of Tyre, built him a palace to live in. David conquered all the surrounding countries, Edom, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines, Amalek and Syria. David became a powerful king and Israel’s territory ultimately extended from the Euphrates to the Sinai desert. (This region is now known as the Levant. The last administration in our country called ISIS, ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant.) Its geography placed it on the trade routes between Africa and the middle east . Because of David’s faithfulness to God the nation became very wealthy as well. David reigned forty years from 1010 BC to 970 BC.
David was succeeded by his son Solomon, and Solomon reigned from 970 BC to
930 BC. Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life (1 Kings 4:21). This was the pinnacle of Israel’s power.
1 Kings 4:29-32 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
1 Kings 10:23-25 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.
2 Chronicles 9:3-4, 9, 10-11, 13-14 And when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more breath in her.
She said: Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”
Moreover, the servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon, who brought gold from Ophir, brought algum wood and precious stones. And the king made from the algum wood supports for the house of the LORD and for the king's house, lyres also and harps for the singers. There never was seen the like of them before in the land of Judah.
Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, besides that which the explorers and merchants brought. And all the kings of Arabia and the governors of the land brought gold and silver to Solomon.
David had made preparations for a Temple to be built in Jerusalem, and Solomon built the Temple (1 Kings 5-7). The temple was to be a representation of the Garden of Eden and the people were encouraged to return to the original state of Adam, a people who loved and worshiped God. The Temple became the center of worship for all Israel, and continued to be, except for a brief 70 year period after the Babylonian invasion, until it was destroyed by Titus of Rome in 70 AD. The Ark was placed in the holy of holies in the Temple. The Israelites considered Jerusalem to be an indestructible city because the Temple and the Ark of the Lord were there.
Solomon ruled well for the first 20 years of his reign. The nation prospered and became very wealthy. The nation remained faithful to YHWH and the Temple services ran continually.. The original form of worship and sacrifice as taught in Exodus and Leviticus was finally reinstated after a long lapse. There was peace in the land from all Israel’s enemies for all of Solomon’s reign.
Unfortunately Solomon turned from the Lord in his last 20 years. He got involved with many foreign women and soon allowed their gods to infiltrate Israel.
1 Kings 11:1-8 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
The Lord Raises Adversaries
1 Kings 11:9-13 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”
Once Solomon was weakened by his profligate ways, several foci of insurrection developed. The Bible tells us that it was God himself who raised up the adversaries (1 Kings 11:14-43). Even Jeroboam, his chief military officer, was told secretly by a prophet that when Solomon died he would become the ruler of the Northern Kingdom, and only Judah and Benjamin would remain in the hands Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.
Solomon reigned from 970 BC-930 BC and he died. His son, Rehoboam reigned in his stead. (930 BC-916 BC). Rehoboam turned out to be a foolish young man and the people of the ten Northern Kingdom tribes rejected him as their king. They proclaimed Jeroboam to be their king and they built Shechem, a city in the hill country of Ephraim, to be their capital city. Jeroboam rejected the God of Israel and built an altar in Bethel where he made two calves of gold and instituted sacrifices to the pagan gods in the land. The second golden calf was placed in Dan, the northern limit of the kingdom.
1 Kings 12:12-20 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.
For the next 200 years, 930 BC to 722 BC, the two kingdoms lived next to each other, but never reunited. They fought each other and had to fight off invasions by surrounding nations. The land of Syria was lost to them and the Sinai peninsula and Negev was lost. The northern kingdom owned most of the remaining territory and Judah became a small nation state around Jerusalem and extending southward to the Sinai desert. Judah tended to remain faithful to YHWH for the most part because the Temple was in Jerusalem. The northern kingdom paid a little lip service to YHWH, but remained mainly a pagan country with many idols and false gods. Early on a number of Israelites who wanted to remain faithful to YHWH moved into Judah and settled there.
The Kingdom Divided
The Northern Kingdom never had a king that worshiped Jehovah. Jeroboam was Davids commander-in-chief, but when he was selected to be king of the Northern Kingdom he repudiated YHWH and immediately set up golden calves for his people to worship. Better known northern kings were Omri, Ahab, Jehu, Jehoahaz and Jeroboam II, Pekah and Hosea. Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him. He held that record until his son, Ahab, began to reign, and he beat his father’s record of evil doing. Jehu killed Ahab and Jezebel and all their sons and daughters and all the household of Omri, and became king of Israel. There was a fairly rapid succession of kings after Jehu leading up to the fall of the Northern Kingdom to an Assyrian invasion on 722BC that destroyed the Northern Kingdom. The ten tribes of Israel were taken to Assyria as slaves and scattered throughout the middle east and even into India. They are the ten lost tribes. He repopulated the land with peoples from many lands (2 kings 17:24-34). These people became known as Samaritans in New Testament times.
As the division was happening in Israel, Assyria was growing into a world power. In 733-732 BC Tiglath-Pilezer III invaded and conquered Syria. He sent raiding parties into Israel and collected tribute from her. Finally in 722 BC he invaded and conquered the Northern Kingdom.
In 701 BC Sennacherib, his successor, invaded Judah. Hezekiah was king and Isaiah was the prophet at that time. Both were faithful to YHWH, and they prayed for deliverance. The Lord answered by sending an angel into the Assyrian camp that killed 185,000 of the troops. Sennacherib departs and went home and lived at Nineveh (2 Kings 19:35-36). You can see on the map that Judah never became a part of the Assyrian empire that reached from the Persian Gulf to Egypt.
By 615 BC the Assyrian kingdom was in decline and was conquered by the resurgent kingdom of Babylonia when Nebuchadnezzar II defeated Pharaoh Neco, who had come up from Egypt to assist the Assyrians, in the battle at Carchemish in 605 BC. Nebuchadnezzar was now to become the most powerful ruler in the world. He immediately turned his eyes on Egypt and in going there assaulted Judah.
Judah, for the most part, remained faithful to YHWH. The Temple worship in Jerusalem continued the whole time. Some of the good kings in Judah, ones that drove out the pagan gods and restored true worship of YHWH, were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, Josiah, etc. Several were evil and the temple fell into disrepair. But none were as evil as Manasseh, who reigned for 52 years. Judah was never able to recover from his evil reign, even with the reforms of Josiah. Judah was doomed to fall to the Babylonian invasion in 586 BC.
Josiah became king of Judah after Manasseh. He brought about a total revival in the land. The Torah was rediscovered in the neglected Temple and was read to all the people. True worship and the Passover was started again. Unfortunately Josiah died in battle with Pharaoh Neco when he tried to stop Egypt from going to the rescue of the Assyrians.
2 Kings 23:24-27 Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.
Still the LORD did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him. And the LORD said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”
In 586 BC Jerusalem fell to the Babylonia invasion and the people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon for the next 70 years. Jeremiah was the prophet in Israel when it fell and Ezekiel was the prophet in Babylon to the exiles. Daniel was in the Babylonian court while all this was happening.
The Babylonian kingdom fell to the Persians in 539 BC. Cyrus was the king of Persia. The LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make this proclamation.
Ezra 1:2-4 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
Many of the exiles returned. Jerusalem was restored, the walls were rebuilt, the Temple was reconstructed and it remained intact until the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Bible covers the history of Israel until about 400 BC. The Minor Prophets also will cover the period until 400 BC. There will be a four hundred year period without canonical literature until the coming of the promised Messiah at round 4 BC.
All of this—and I am but touching on highlights—is the necessary background for understanding the role and times of the minor prophets. It is important to see how interactive God has been through this historical period. He spoke to the kings of both kingdoms directly and through his prophets. He blessed the nations when they were faithful in worship and obedience, and brought disaster when his ways were rejected. As we study the minor prophet we should realize that God is as interested in us as he was in Israel in Biblical times. He is still looking for everyone who will seek after him, worship him, love him and follow his teachings. With the coming of Jesus he has defined a new kingdom, and we are invited to join him in it.
Next week we will begin the study of Hosea