Guests for this series of GOOD WORD broadcasts are Dave Thomas, Dean of the WWU School of Theology and Jon Dybdahl, a former member of the School of Theology and a former president of WWU. Moderator, host, and study guide author is Alden Thompson, also a member of the WWU School of Theology.
Introduction to the Study of the Minor Prophets
The twelve small books at the end of our English Bibles are known as the “minor” prophets simply because they are so much smaller than the “major” ones (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). Several of them contain almost no indications of historical context and thus are like parts of the book of Isaiah (e.g. 40 - 66). Some are more like the book of Jeremiah, the best model for providing historical context. Right up front (Jer. 1:1-3) the book tells us that Jeremiah ministered during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah, continuing right up to the exile. Elsewhere Jeremiah tells us that he continued his ministery after Jerusalem was taken into exile.
Also, the book of Jeremiah itself clearly marks the last chapter (Jer. 52) as being separate from the rest of the book for Jeremiah 51 closes with these words: “The words of Jeremiah end here.” The last chapter is almost a carbon copy of the last chapter of 2 Kings 25where the fall of Jerusalem is recorded. Since Jeremiah’s ministry was consistently resisted by the Jerusalem authorities, the editors of the “Jeremiah Estate” decided that the extra chapter was needed to confirm that Jeremiah, the rejected prophet, actually got it right.
Some of the minor prophets give us specific information just as Jeremiah did. Hosea, Amos, and Micah come closest to the Jeremiah model, clearly dating their ministries to the last years of the northern kingdom of Israel before the Assyrians overran the land in 722.
Similarly, Zephaniah is explicitly dated to the last days of the southern king of Judah that was destroyed by Babylon in 586. Finally, Zechariah and Haggai are dated with exactness to the 2nd year of the reign of Darius the Great who commanded that the Jerusalem temple be rebuilt in 522, a task that was finally completed in 515.
Other books, like Joel, Habakkuk, and Malachi, require us to read between the lines to discover when they were written, though the indirect markers are often quite clear.
In general, we can cluster the minor prophets around three major events in the history of God’s people: the fall of Samaria and the Northen Kingdom in 722, the fall of Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom in 586, and the completion of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in 515. Here is a chronological list of all twelve with a general indication of their time of ministry. A general historical outline of major Old Testament events follows, then a clustering of the prophets according to the major events in their ministry and the available sources for filling out the rest of the picture.
Key Old Testament Events
Biblical Material relating to the Minor Prophets: (Dates from SDABC)
Prophets to Israel, prior to the fall of Samaria and the North in 722
Jonah: (cf. 2 Kings 14:25, reign of Rehoboam II): (790?)
Kings of Judah:
King of Israel:
Jeroboam II (793-753)
1 Kings 14:21 – 20:21
Prophets to Judah in Connection with the Fall of Jerusalem in 586
Nahum: (cf. 3:8-10, after the fall of Thebes in Egypt in 663)
Kings of Judah:
History: from Josiah to the Exile: (639 – 586)
2 Kings 22:1 – 25:30
Prophets of the Exile and Restoration
Haggai: (1:1) second year of Darius (520)
Leaders and Governors:
History and theology of Exilic and Post-exilic period (586 – ca. 400)
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