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BOOKS OF THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES

MINOR PROPHETS

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Abbreviations Used: "CT" refers to the beliefs of most conservative Jewish and Christian theologians; "LT" refers to interpretations by most religious liberals.

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There are 12 minor prophets whose writings survive in the Hebrew Scriptures:
bulletHosea: Hosea's prophecy was delivered to the Northern Kingdom, which he refers to variously as Ephraim, Samaria and Israel. He ministered at a time when the moral, spiritual and political standards of the Kingdom were at a low ebb. The religion of both the leaders and people was a syncretistic faith, combining the worship of Yahweh with elements of the Pagan religion of Baalism. Hosea married Gomer who may have been a temple prostitute - a priestess from a Baal fertility shrine . She had three children, named Jezreel (meaning "judgment"), Lo-ruhamah (meaning "lack of pity"), and Lo-ammi (meaning "not my people"). Two of the children may have not been fathered by Hosea. She then left him, reverted to her earlier sinfulness and ended up being sold as a slave. Hosea bought his wife and restored her as his wife. His family experience formed the basis of his ministry; it was an example in miniature of the judgment and eventual restoration of the people of the Northern Kingdom. Within a decade of Hosea's ministry, the Assyrians attacked. Hosea's prophecy came true: the capital city was overrun in 722 BCE. The original Hebrew text was not well preserved. The copies available to translators are obscure in many places. This has caused English translations of this book to vary greatly from each other.
bulletCT The book was written circa 750 BCE by Hosea.
bulletLT The book was written in the 8th century BCE, probably circa 735 BCE by Hosea or one of his disciples.
bulletJoel: Joel was one of the earliest prophets to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. His ministry can be dated to the middle of the 9th century BCE. His book starts by reminding the people of recent agricultural disasters: a plague of locusts and a drought. He interpreted these as God's punishment to an unrepentant Kingdom. He predicts future devastation, unless the people repent, pray and confess to God. He also predicts an eventual restoration of the people at a time called "the day of the Lord" when they return to the faith. The nations of the world will be gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat where they will be judged by God.
bulletCT The book was written by Joel circa 830 BCE. The invasion will be by a foreign army. The references to restoration refer to a time in our future when Christ returns to earth.
bulletLT The book was written by an unknown author, probably circa 375 BCE. A few verses may have been added by a different writer. The judgment was to come in the form of locust invasions.
bulletAmos: Amos was a sheepherder and farmer from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He went to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in order to prophesy in their capital Bethel and throughout the surrounding area. At the time, the people were heavily involved in Pagan worship. He announces God's judgment on 6 of the nations which surrounded Israel. He then describes a dreadful future punishment of the Northern Kingdom in which only about 10% of the people will survive. He then describes five visions that he has experienced. They show an imminent locust plague, a devastating fire, a plumbline which symbolizes how far the people have deviated from God's standards, a basket of fruit which symbolizes the short time left before the judgment, and a vision of Jehovah striking the top of the false temple in Bethel and destroying it. Finally, in common with many other prophets, he prophesizes an eventual restoration of Israel, and of rule by a King who is of the line of David.
bulletCT The book was written by Amos circa 760 BCE.
bulletLT The book of Amos is probably the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures to be completed in essentially its present form. It was almost entirely written by Amos or by one of his disciples during the 8th century BCE. The positive, final verses (starting part way through Amos 9:8 and continuing to the end of the book) were probably added by an unknown writer during or after the Babylonian exile which started in 586 BCE.
bulletObadiah: This book is the shortest in the Hebrew Scriptures; it consists of only a single chapter. Obadiah was the earliest prophet whose story has been preserved. He describes an attack on the city of Jerusalem in which the Edomites played some role. His ministry was directed to the Edomites who lived to the south of Israel and are traditionally believed to be the descendants of Esau. He prophesied that Jehovah would bring a terrible judgment on them because of their pride and their involvement in the attack on Israel. The book finishes with a prophecy that God will eventually judge all the nations and restore the land of Edom to Israel.
bulletCT The book was written by Obadiah about the time of a siege of Jerusalem, ca 845 BCE. The judgment by God of all the nations will occur in our future during the Tribulation.
bulletLT The book was written by an unknown writer during or after the Babylonian exile which started in 586 BCE.
bulletJonah: Jonah was a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. His ministry was to the Assyrians, and in particular to the residents of their main city, Nineveh. This assignment initially caused him some concerns, because of his hated of the Assyrians. Jonah felt that if his ministry was successful, and the foreigners repented, then God might be merciful and spare them from destruction. Instead of going to Assyria, Jonah went by ship in the opposite direction. A severe storm developed; the sailors determined that Jonah was responsible and threw him overboard. He was swallowed by a large fish and spent three days in its belly. He begged forgiveness from God and was saved. Jonah then traveled to Nineveh where his worst fears materialized: the Assyrians listened to his prophecy, they repented, and were saved from destruction. This is an important book in the Hebrew Scriptures, in spite of it short length. Its general message is to emphasize God's concern for all people.
bulletCT The book was written about 780 BCE by the prophet Jonah
bulletLT Since an emphasis on tolerance for other countries did not arise in Israel until after the Babylonian exile, the book was probably written after 520 BCE. This is confirmed by an analysis of the language used. The author is unknown.
bulletMichah: He was raised in a town located south west of Jerusalem. His ministry was primarily to Jerusalem and the rest of the Southern Kingdom. He severely criticized the leaders of Judah for their insensitivity to the needs of the poor and for their corruption. He was a contemporary of Isaiah; their messages were similar. He prophesied near-term destruction to the city of Samaria and the rest of the Northern Kingdom. This would be followed by a similar catastrophe in Judah.
bulletCT The book was written by the prophet Michah about 735 BCE.
bulletLT Chapters 1 to 3 were written by Michah circa 725 to 720 BCE. Chapters 4 & 5 were probably written by an unknown author during or after the Babylonian exile in the last days of the 6th century BCE. Chapters 6 & 7 were written by an unknown author after Michah's contribution.
bulletNahum: Although Jonah had successfully taught the revelation of God to the Assyrians, and in spite of their sincere repentance, that country had subsequently back-slid into their former ways. In addition they had invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE. Nahum's ministry involved revealing to the Assyrians that God was about to punish them for their two transgressions.
bulletCT Judging by events described in the book, it was written by Nahum about 650 BCE.
bulletLT The book was written by Nahum and one or two of his disciples about the time of the destruction of Nineveh by the Babylonians in 612 BCE.
bulletHabakkuk: The book consists of a number of conversations between God and Habakkuk. The prophet asks how God in his holiness can tolerate the lawlessness and violence that was then rampant in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He had cried out for a judgment from God but none had come. When God indicated that punishment was coming, Habakkuk expresses concern that it may be too severe; he pleads for mercy. He concluded that he can trust God to punish the people wisely and justly.
bulletCT The book was written by Habakkuk about 609 BCE.
bulletLT The book was written by Habakkuk and one of his disciples about the beginning of the 6th century BCE. Two later editors brought the book into its current form.
bulletZephaniah: He was a contemporary of Habakkuk and Jeremiah. The Southern Kingdom of Judah had recently been ruled by a very corrupt and wicked king, Manasseh. The people had drawn away from God and engaged in idolatry. Although there was a spiritual revival during the reign of the next king, Josiah, it was insufficient to prevent God's judgment against the Kingdom. His prophesy was fulfilled with the subsequent Babylonian invasion in 605 BCE. The final section of the book looks into the future at a time of restoration.
bulletCT Zephaniah wrote this book circa 635 BCE.
bulletLT The book was written by a disciple (or school of disciples) of Zephaniah about the beginning of the 6th century BCE.
bulletHaggai: He is the first prophet to minister to the first remnant of the people of Israel to return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. His main message was to inspire the people to give priority to the construction of the temple. He viewed the importance of religious ritual above even justice and righteousness. 15 years had passed since their return and only the temple foundations had been laid. Meanwhile, the people had built fine houses for themselves. Within weeks of Haggai's rebuke, construction was restarted. God responded by saying that he would be with the people and bless them. 4 years later, the temple was finished.
bulletCT & LT The book was written by Haggai in 520 BCE.
bulletZechariah: He was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. His message to the people was one of encouragement and hope. God planned many wonderful blessings on Israel. He describes 8 positive visions that he received.
bulletCT & LT The book was written by Zechariah in the time span 520 to 518.
bulletMalachi: Although the temple had been rebuilt at Jerusalem for many decades, it was being misused: some of the priests were corrupt, offerings and tithes were not being made properly and there was some intermarriage with people of other nations. His message is that if the people return to God then God will bless them greatly. God announces that he will send a messenger who will pave the way for the Messiah.
bulletCT Malachi was probably a contemporary of Nehemiah and prophesied circa 430 BCE. Malachi 4:5 & 6 refers to John the Baptist who will prepare the way for the Messiah.
bulletLT Malachi wrote most of this book circa 450 BCE. Malachi 4:4 was added by an unknown editor at a later time to allow God to tie this book to the Pentateuch. Malachi 4:5 & 6 was added by a second editor to have God announce that he will send the prophet Elijah to "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of their children to their fathers..." (NIV)

Copyright 1997, 1999, 2000, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2000-JUN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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