MANual Lessons: An Introduction to The Minor Prophets

After my recent posts covering lessons in the four Major Prophets, let’s now move to the Minor Prophets. But first let’s quickly recap those recent posts.

So far, we learned in the Introduction to The Prophets that there were “Former Prophets” and “Latter Prophets.” The Latter include four “Major” prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah (and his book of Lamentations), and Ezekiel and Daniel (which I combined into one post). The next twelve prophets are considered “Minor,” not due to their lack of importance, but because their books are shorter in length. 

In prior posts, I also suggested that we view the prophet’s constant message of repentance and call back to God and His commandments, from a completely different angle. One thing I’m learning during this year-long journey of lessons from The MANual, NIV Bible for Men, is that many of these men and women expe­ri­enced a moment that changed their lives. While each message from a prophet provides indictments about a drift away from God, they also set the stage for the New Covenant ushered in by Jesus Christ.

We’ll learn about more in the New Testament that begins after the last of the minor prophets. My hope is that the lessons from the prophets will inspire us to also return to being closer with God. 

Who Were The Minor Prophets?

Both the Hebrew Bible (called the Tanakh, the sacred books of the Jewish people) and the Christian Bible contain 12 minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. 

For Christians, the Old Testament includes 12 separate books for these Minor Prophets. However, for Jews, all the prophets are placed in one collection in the Tanakh known as the Neviʾim. (Tanakh is a word made up by combining the three initial Hebrew letters of each of the major sections of their Scripture: the Torah, the five books of Moses; the Nevi’im, the Book of Twelve Prophets; and the Kethuvim, the Psalms or Writings or Book of Instructions). The Book of Daniel (one of the four Major Prophets in the Protestant and Catholic Old Testament) is part of the section of the Writings for Jews. Jesus, who used the common Jewish method of referring to Scriptures described the three sections: “…all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). 

Short But Sweet

Despite their short lengths, the Minor Prophets pack a concentrated punch of teachings, warnings, calls to repentance, and promises of vengeance and blessing. These shorter books are no less important than the books of the major prophets. Each is easily read in a single sitting. 

According to Wikipedia, the name “Minor Prophets” goes back apparently to St. Augustine, who distinguished the 12 shorter prophetic books as prophetae minores from the four longer books of the Major Prophets. 

Credit: Charles Savelle, Center Point Bible Institute

It’s not known when these short works were collected and transferred to a single scroll. The first evidence for the Twelve as a collection is 190 B.C. in the writings of Jesus ben Sirach, a Hellenistic Jewish scribe, sage, and allegorist from Jerusalem’s Second Temple period. Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls also suggests that the modern order of the Tanakh, potentially included The Twelve established about 150 B.C. It’s believed that the first six scrolls were initially collected, and the second six added later since the two groups seem to complement each other. 

The minor prophets write mostly in poetry, using metaphor and parallelism to increase our understanding and give their words a greater impact to see what God revealed to them. Again, their prophecies are about the coming of the Messiah, Redeemer, and conquering King. 

A History Lesson on the Prophets

Knowing where all the prophets fit in history also helps us understand these messages. All the prophets (Major and Minor) cover three key periods of revelation over less than 400 years. However, they are not exactly in chronological order. 

Most of the Prophets cover the times of the kings of Isreal (the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (the 2 southern tribes) as told in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles.  The prophets were concerned with two events, covering three time periods: the Assyrian invasions (722–701 B.C.) and the Babylonian invasions (605–586 B.C.), along with the post-exilic problems of rebuilding the temple (520 B.C.) and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (444 B.C.)

Credit: Charles Savelle, Center Point Bible Institute

God Buddy Focus

Each of the Minor Prophets told of coming judgment and specific message for their own time. As you learn about the minor prophets in the next few posts, consider how each prophet is unique but also how each message applies to us today. 

This week, discuss these questions in your group: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah.

  • Why do you think the Hebrew Bible and Christian Bible group the prophets differently? 
  • Which of the Minor Prophets are you most familiar with? Which are you least familiar with? 
  • Why is it important to view all the prophets as truth-tellers and not just as fortune tellers?
  • What value is a study of the Major and Minor prophets for us today?

My next post is about the first six  minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah.


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