Minor Prophets: Where Do They Fit In?
So why in the world are we spending an entire summer studying prophets from thousands of years ago? Hopefully, now that we are halfway through the summer, you aren’t asking that question anymore. If you are, this blog post won’t answer that question.
But at this point in our series on the minor prophets, you might have some questions about the historical context for these prophets. So this blog post is my attempt to answer those questions better than Wikipedia would.
Let’s go back a little bit before the prophets. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” Then Adam and Eve. A forbidden fruit. A serpent hissing the lie, “God doesn’t love you.” Then we have murder and death and destruction. The Nephilim (don’t ask me—I have no idea). A flood. A tower.
Finally, God came to Abraham and promised him that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars and that they would be a blessing to all nations. Abraham had two sons—Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac would be the father of Judaism and Ishmael would be the father of Islam. Isaac who had two sons—Esau and Jacob. Jacob would later be renamed “Israel” by God after a wrestling match with God. (Incredible story. You should check in out in Genesis 32.) Jacob/Israel had 12 sons (one of which is Joseph, of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame!) These 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. After a period of judges ruling the people of Israel, the people demanded a king like all other nations. So Israel got their first king—Saul.
After King Saul came King David (the giant slayer and a man after God’s own heart, who also slept with his friend’s wife while he was away at war, then had this man killed to cover up his sin because, you know, nobody’s perfect). Then came King Solomon who was wise but dumb. He had hundreds of wives. Solomon’s greatest claim to fame was building the temple in Jerusalem.
After Solomon, in 931 B.C., the tribes of Israel split. Ten tribes became the Northern Kingdom and two tribes (the tribes of Benjamin and Judah) became the Southern Kingdom.
OK, so here is where the minor prophets enter the story.
The Northern Kingdom immediately turned from God and began worshiping idols. They weren’t a blessing to other nations because they looked just like them. To the north, God sent the prophets Amos and Hosea. During this time, God also sent the prophet Jonah (via a ride inside the belly of a great fish) to Nineveh, the enemy of the Northern Kingdom.
Every king of the Northern Kingdom was a bad king. I mean really bad. The people never turned back to God, like the prophets were telling them to, and in 722 B.C., the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria.
Meanwhile in the Southern Kingdom, occasionally there was a good king, but they were mostly bad. Even the good kings weren’t perfect kings. (This seems to be a theme throughout the whole Bible. Maybe because it’s supposed to all be about grace? Just saying.)
God sent several prophets to the Southern Kingdom to tell the people to turn back to God so they could be a blessing to all nations. He sent Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah. He sent Obadiah to the neighboring people of Edom. (These people go back to Esau, the brother of Jacob/Israel).
In 605 B.C., The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 Israelites from the Southern Kingdom into exile in Babylon. During this time, God sent Habakkuk to the Israelites still in Jerusalem. The people still didn’t turn back to God, and in 589 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar totally destroyed Jerusalem and with it the temple built by Solomon.
In 522, under the Persian King Darius I, the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild their city and the temple. During this time, God sent the prophets Zechariah and Haggai.
Darius was followed by King Xerxes whose reign is recorded in the book of Esther. (Which we’re going to be studying in Fall of 2020! Yep, we’ve planned that far in advance!) Following Xerxes came Artaxerxes, in whose reign Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. and Nehemiah followed in 445 B.C. It was in this period that the final post-exilic prophet Malachi wrote.
And then, 400 years later…
…that ruler would come as a baby, and he would grow up to be a blessing to all nations, declaring to the whole world to return to God because he’s always been all about grace.