My year-long journey through my NIV Bible for Men called The MANual, continues with the remaining six minor prophets that finish the Old Testament. The preceding post about The First Six Minor Prophets covered Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah of the period 700 B.C. and earlier. The other six prophets: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi came after 700 B.C. and are just as important.
As you learned in the Introduction to The Minor Prophets, the twelve each have short, separate books in the Christian Bible, whereas, the Jewish Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) contains one longer collection of prophets called the Nevi’im. As I’ve suggested in the prior posts, read these books looking for the messages about the coming kingdom in the person of Jesus Christ and seeing how the prophecies apply to us today.
Here are briefs on these other six prophets.
The Book of Nahum is the seventh book of the Twelve (Minor) Prophets. Probably written between 626–612 B.C., it speaks about the coming destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. The three chapters of this book celebrate in oracles, hymns, and laments, that Yahweh (the Hebrew name for the God of the Israelites revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus), saved the southern kingdom of Judah from potential devastation by the Assyrians, the most powerful nation on the earth at the time.
The book begins with the words “The Lord is a jealous God and avenging…is slow to anger and of great might, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty” (Nahum 1:2-3). From that beginning, the prophet predicted the overthrow of Assyria and the devastating of Nineveh.
Slow to Anger
We often have a tendency to get angry at the slightest things. Thankfully, God does not, even though we repeatedly hear His message of mercy and grace.
- What triggers your anger?
- How can you become slower to anger and more patient?
One hundred years earlier, the prophet Jonah preached in the streets of Nineveh. The people heard his message and had turned back to God. But a generation later, their evil and cruel ways had returned. They were judged for their idolatry (1:14) and pride (2:13), their murder, lies, treachery, and social injustice (3:1-19). Nahum pronounced the city would be destroyed because of their sins.
The book of Nahum reminds us that power is seductive so we risk being destroyed like the powerful Assyrians when we gain too much power.
The eighth book of the Minor Prophets may have been written by a professional prophet of the Temple, probably between 605–597 B.C. during the reign of King Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:36-24:5). Habakkuk prophesied between the fall of Nineveh and the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 588 B.C. With Assyria in disarray, Babylon now becomes the dominant world power.
Containing just three chapters, Habakkuk combines complaints and prayer to show that God was still in control despite the apparent return and triumph of evil. The whole first chapter is devoted to Habukkuk’s questions and cries out for Yahweh to help his people: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and thou wilt not hear?” (1:2).
Chapter two begins with the prophet stating he will wait for God’s answers to his complaints. God tells the prophet to write down the answer plainly so all will understand: Judgment may not come quickly but it will come.
Habakkuk finished the book with a prayer of triumph. With his questions answered, he has a better understanding of God’s power and love, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” I will be joyful in the God of my Salvation. The sovereign Lord is my strength.” (3:18-19).
As you read Habakkuk, look at how he boldly presents questions to God. Rejoice in the answer that God always remains in control.
The book of Zephaniah, the ninth book, also contains just three chapters. Composed by the prophet, Zephaniah, it’s an open attack against the corruption of worship in the southern kingdom. Written at the beginning of the reign of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.), the book attacks the religious beliefs and practices, especially the worship of Baal and other deities that carried over from the reigns of two previous kings: Manasseh and Amon.
Zephaniah predicted the coming catastrophe. In chapter 1, he spoke the truth of the “Day of the Lord” when God’s wrath will “wipe away all humanity from the face of the earth.” (1:3). The Lord’s anger is poured out– a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.” (1:14-15).
But in chapter 2, the prophet calls for repentance: “Seek the Lord, all who are humble and follow His commands…the Lord will protect you from his anger on that day of destruction.” (2:3). It also includes a description of the judgment of the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, along with the nations of Ethiopia and Assyria.
Chapter 3 provides a crescendo as Zephaniah declares God’s salvation and deliverance: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem” (3:14).
Zephaniah provides words of encouragement and hope. He points out gladness results when we faithfully follow Him and obey His commands. Our God reigns and He will rescue those who worship and obey Him.
Written about 520 B.C. by the prophet of the same name, Haggai is the tenth book of the Twelve. The book contains just two chapters containing four oracles (predictions). Haggai is the first of the post-exilic (after the exile) books; the others being Zechariah and Malachi.
The first oracle calls for Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest, to lead the rebuilding of the Temple (1:1–11). The Jews returned from Babylon in 538 B.C., but opposition and apathy stopped the rebuild. A drought and poor harvests followed because the exiles neglected their call and purpose.
The second oracle encouraged the political and religious leaders and their people in their rebuilding efforts (2:1–9). Apparently, the people were disappointed the new Temple was not as splendid as the previous one built by Solomon. But Haggai reassured them: “Be strong. My Spirit abides among you. Fear not.” (2:4) and God’s promise of a greater glory: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” said the Lord. (2:9).
The third oracle issued against the people warned they were not acting in a holy manner (2:10–19). Haggai reminded them that their activities in the Temple would not clean their sins; only repentance and obedience would do that.
The fourth proclamation established Zerubbabel as the next ruler in the line of David (2:20–23). Zerubbabel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah and thus a descendant of David. However, the promise remained unfulfilled as Zerubbabel either returned to Babylon soon after finishing his work on the Temple, or the Persians executed him fearing a Jewish uprising.
The glory of Zerubbabel’s Temple came centuries later when the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, came into the temple courts. Solomon’s temple never received a visit from the Son of God, but Zerubbabel’s did.
Haggai’s message urges us to reorder our priorities and stay focused on doing God’s will.
The 11th book of Minor Prophets dates from the same period as Haggai—about 520 B.C. Though the book of Zechariah contains 14 chapters, only the first eight are oracles of the prophet. Scholars think the remaining six books probably came later from a school of his disciples since they contain elaborations of Zechariah’s theme of the last days.
We do not know much about Zechariah’s life. He was probably one of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. The prophet ministered to a small group of Jewish exiles who came back to Judah to rebuild the Temple. After his initial call to repentance (1:1-6), Zechariah had a series of eight visions (1:7-6:15). Each contains imagery and detail of the apocalyptic end of the world.
The first vision is of four horsemen who patrol the Earth to make sure it is at rest. The second vision with four horns represents the four nations that get destroyed for conquering Israel and Judah. The third vision is of a man with a measuring line, showing Jerusalem is beyond measurement. The fourth vision shows the high priest, Joshua, in the heavenly court being prosecuted by Satan before being acquitted and returned to his position. The fifth is of a golden lampstand and an olive tree to emphasize the important positions of Joshua and Zerubbabel. The sixth and seventh visions of a flying scroll, and a woman of wickedness, symbolize the removal of Judah’s previous sins. The eighth vision of four chariots refers to the anticipated reign of Zerubbabel that gets thwarted.
Chapters 9–14 are the presumed additions with messianic overtones. The reference to a king riding on the foal to a vast kingdom of peace (9:9-10) is a reference to Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion. The book’s last chapters are God’s message to Zechariah about being the Good Shepherd of his flock being fattened for slaughter. His message of the final battle between Jerusalem and the nations occurs in chapter 12 with the eventual victory of the Messiah under God’s universal reign, the “king over all the earth.”
The last of the Twelve Minor Prophets is the book of Malachi. Written from about 500–450 B.C. whose name means “my messenger.” The 4 chapters are concerned with spiritual degradation, religious perversions, social injustices, and unfaithfulness.
Malachi paints a stunning picture of Isreal’s unfaithfulness. Priests are condemned for failing to instruct the people on their responsibilities to God’s Covenant. Idolatry is attacked, and men are confronted for deliberately forgetting their marriage vows when their wives become older. The prophet reminds us that the Lord says “Guard your heart and remain loyal to the wife of your youth” for the Lord hates divorce (2:15-16).
It’s OK to Divorce
A 2008 Barna Research study showed that divorce among Christians is the same as the national average for all marriages. Today, many spouses feel that as soon as it seems like they don’t love each other anymore, they should divorce.
What happened to the intense attraction you found for each other when you first met? What about the holy promises you made in your wedding vows before God? For the followers of Christ to say they have irreconcilable differences is to say that there are wounds that God can’t heal.
- Have you sought out a Christian counselor to help keep your marriage when you encounter difficulties?
- At a minimum, did you pray for God’s intervention in your marriage?
Malachi concludes with a promise of the coming of “the prophet Elijah” who will offer God’s forgiveness to all people through repentance and faith “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” (4:5-6)
God Buddy Focus
The prophets of the Old Testament constantly call us back to God and His commandments. They warn us of the suffering that comes on the Day of the Lord. But they also give us the hope of the coming Messiah, which we will hear more about in the New Testament.
- Discuss which of the messages of the twelve minor prophets was the most impactful for you.
- What you can do to cultivate a greater trust in God’s promises.
- Identify a God Buddy who can help you remain obedient to God’s commandments.
My next post is about the 400 years of waiting between the Old and New Testaments.