Outline Studies in the Minor Prophets - Introduction
J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
In His Word God has made ample provision for all our needs. Its lofty thought and noble images, its heavenly doctrines and personal applications, are meant to expand the intellect and transform the affections. Remembering that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God”, 2 Tim. 3. 16, we should read and ponder, not merely favourite sections, but all the book.
Why “Minor Prophets”?
There are no degrees in inspiration and the name minor refers only to their size, beng smaller than the previous four “Major Prophets” (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel). The Minor Prophets are among the most neglected in the O.T., yet they have a fascination, value and message for our day.
These writings, if read in chronological order and if their historical setting is observed,, take on a new beauty and speak clearly to our heart and conscience. The opening verses of each book give us some guidance as to their historical settings. Dr. Scroggie in his book Fascination of Old Testament Story offers the most helpful suggestions as to chronological order.
|Joel||2 Kings 11-12||837-800?|
|Jonah||2 Kings 13-14||840-784|
|Amos||2 Kings 14. 23 to 15. 7||810-705|
|Hosea||2 Kings 15. 8-20; Isa. 18. 1||810-725|
|Micah||2 Kings 15. 8-20; Isa. 7. 8; Jer. 26. 17-19; 2 Chron. 27-32||756-698|
|Nahum||Jonah; Isa. 10; Zeph. 2. 13-15||663-606|
|Zephaniah||2 Kings 22 to 23. 34; 2 Chron. 24 to 36. 4||630-610|
|Habakkuk||2 Kings 23. 31 to 24; 2 Chron. 36. 1-10||608-598|
|Obadiah||2 Kings 25; 2 Chron. 36. 11-21||586-585|
It will be found on close examination that the tone and contents of each prophet are determined by his historical position and we can better understand the general drift and message with this background.
The Minor Prophets may also be viewed in relation to the captivity thus:
In the North: Jonah., Amos,, Hosea, Micah.
In the South: Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah Habakkuk (with Isaiah and Jeremiah).
- Captivity. Obadiah (with Daniel and Ezekiel).
- Post-Exilic. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
Devote at least two hours each day to the reading of the books of Hosea, Amos and Zechariah and a shorter period to the other books if you want to capture something of the spirit, longings and zeal that marked these men of God in the delivery of their inspired messages.
Cameos of the Prophets
Hosea, the Pleading Prophet, 11. 1, 3, 8; 14. 3. The theme is twofold: the unwavering love of Jehovah and the callous indifference of Israel to that love. Here we find the pitying, solicitous care of the parent, and love that endures in spite of all indifference and opposition, cf. 1 Cor. 13. 7-8. God’s loving kindness towards a backsliding nation will end in restoration and blessing, Hos. 14. 1-8.
Joel, the Plain Prophet, His style and language are in description graphic, in arrangement lucid, in imagery original and varied. He describes the “Day of the Lord” with vivid metaphor. In an especial manner he is the O.T. prophet of the Holy Spirit and of His dispensation. The theme of his book is extended by Amos and Isaiah, referred to by Peter and unfolded by John in Revelation. Here barrenness is turned to bounty, and judgment to jubilation.
Amos, the Pastoral Prophet, 7. 14. This humble man God used to accomplish His purposes and speak His message. His style is full of energy, elegance and yet simplicity. The sights and scenes of his native hills and wild wastes provide him with rich vivid imagery, e.g., threshing instruments, 1. 3; cedar and oaks, 2. 9: the roaring lion, 3. 4; the snared bird, 3. 5; two legs and a piece of an ear, 3. 12; hooks and fish hooks, 4. 2; showers, 4. 7; mildew and blight, 4. 9; mourning husbandmen, 5. 16.
Obadiah, the Privileged Prophet lived up to his name as “the servant” or the “worshipper of Jehovah”. He was either a contemporary of Elisha or Jeremiah and possibly wrote his prophecy after the plundering of Jerusalem and before the fall of Idumea; cf. Ezek. 35; Jer. 49. 7-22 and Lam. 4. 21. This is the shortest book in the O.T. and a brilliant prophetic cameo. His language is simple, his words few and his meaning manifest. The book gives the character, career, doom and downfall of Edom.
Jonah, the Pursued Prophet, gives us the, history of God’s gracious dealings with a saint and a nation. Here is love that will not let us go in spite of our wilfulness; cf. Titus. 3 4-5; Luke 22. 31-32 and John 21. 15-19. The reference to this servant in 2 Kings 14. 25 shows beyond dispute that he was an historical character. Our Lord’s mention of his work (Matt. 12. 39-41; Luke 11. 30-32) makes it clear that the story is true. Jonah is the only prophet sent to a heathen people. The book is a simple narrative, with the exception of chapter two.
Micah, the Practical Prophet from the village, 1. 10-15; 6. 8. Through the medium of his message we may judge of his personal qualities, and of his power as a preacher. He is not to be confused with Micaiah the son of Imlah, who prophesied in the days of Ahab, 1 Kings 22. 8, 13. It is a peculiarity of his style that he indulges in dramatic interruptions and answers; e.g., 2. 5, 12; 3. 1; 6. 6-8; 7. 18. His wonderful description of Jehovah’s character in chapter 7. 18-20 is one of the most exquisite things to’ be found in the O.T.
Nahum, the Poetic Prophet has but one theme, the destruction of Nineveh. The book is an historic illustration of the text, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”, Rom. 12. 19; Ps. 94. 1; 99. 8. Judgment is announced in chapter 1, described in chapter 2, and reviewed in chapter 3. He describes the righteous character of God’s moral government of the world.
Habakkuk, the Perplexed Prophet was a lyric poet of high order (see especially chapter 3). He encourages all who truly believe to trust in God, 2. 4. The prophecy’s excellence lies in its spiritual value, “the just shall live by his faith”, 2. 4; cf. Rom. 1. 17; Gal. 3. 11; Heb. 10. 38. Though puzzled by the mystery of suffering and God’s strange silence and apparent inaction, he clings to God with a faith that eventually triumphs.
Zephaniah, the Promising Prophet. His name means “one whom Jehovah hides” or “treasured”, 2. 3; Ps. 27. 5. He deals with the “Day of the Lord” and his message revolves around two days, one the “day of wrath”, the other “the day of salvation”. He insists that darkness always follows sin, and departure from God always brings a withdrawal of God’s power. When the heart returns to God in repentance, however, all is restored.
Haggai, the Preaching Prophet, 1. 13. His words of exhortation to those who were neglectful of their responsibility, putting their own things first, allowing the material to shut out the spiritual, need to be heeded by us today. Like his contemporaries, we need to be courageous and industrious.
Zechariah, the Portraying Prophet, was a younger contemporary of Haggai, 2. 4. He was one of the greatest of ancient inspired seers and his chapters are full of the most striking visions recorded in the O.T. The latter chapters of the book are distinctly messianic and apocalyptic, and lift our vision far beyond even the near future to the distant horizon for “Jehovah blesses”.
Malachi, the Patient Prophet of exhortation. His message is directed to the people of Israel and Judah, both branches' being viewed as one in the economy of God. He is clear and forceful in his statements, his lecture-like method of questions and answers has a message for us (see “Ye say”, 1. 2, 6, 7; .2. 14, 17; 3. 7, 8, 13).
To be followed by “Hosea”.