Day 24

The Minor Prophets

[Hosea to Malachi]

Hosea

Hosea is one of a small group of four prophets contemporary with Isaiah, although, like Jonah and Amos, his message was for the northern kingdom. He began to prophesy at the end of Jeroboam’s reign and continued for about forty years until just before the Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C. The first part of this book, chapters 1 to 3, speaks of Hosea’s marriage, which is an illustration of Israel’s relationship with God and His unfailing love for them. The rest of the book is based on this theme.

Hosea’s wife and children

[1-3] God instructs Hosea to marry a woman who will be unfaithful. He marries Gomer who is to bear three children whose names will speak of God’s message to his people: a son Jezreel, meaning ‘God scatters’, because God will avenge the slaughter of a royal family by Jehu; a daughter Lo-ruhamah, meaning ‘not pitied’, because God will no longer show love to Israel, though He will to Judah when He prevents Jerusalem from being invaded; and another son Lo-ammi, meaning ‘not my people’, for God will disown Israel. Yet there is a promise of restoration for Israel when they will be called ‘sons of the living God’. As Hosea’s wife plays the whore, so does Israel in her worship of Baal. But God’s unfailing love will bring Israel back, just as Hosea will forgive and accept Gomer back as his wife. In time, God tells Hosea to show love for his wife once more despite her adulteries, just as He loves the Israelites. Gomer has become a slave and Hosea has to buy her back. He puts her on probation, just as Israel will be before the last days when she will seek God’s blessings.

The charge against Israel and judgement to come

[4-5] Nothing more is said of Hosea’s marriage, which has served its purpose as an illustration of God’s relationship with Israel. Hosea charges Israel with her sins. The priests have a large share of the guilt and will receive their share of the judgement. Spiritual adultery leads to physical adultery by all Israel, but it is the men who are held accountable for the sins of the women. Judah is warned not to follow Israel’s example, a warning in which Ephraim is spoken of as representative of all Israel. God announces that judgement will come to Israel. Even their attempt to buy the protection of Assyria will not save them. Judah too is warned, since she is indulging in the sins that are to bring down Israel.

Repentance is short-lived; Punishment will follow

[6-10] Israel shows a change of heart as a result of God’s charges, but there is no depth to her repentance and the catalogue of charges continues. She is destined to reap the whirlwind of judgement now she has forgotten her Maker. Hosea may have been considered a fool for his prophecies, but he has been a watchman over Israel. God is now going to reject Israel because she hasn’t obeyed Him, and she will become subservient to Assyria just as she was to Egypt. She will become a wanderer among the nations. It was a time when they should have turned to God, sowing righteousness in order to reap the fruit of His unfailing love, but they planted wickedness, reaped evil, and ate the fruit of deception. The image of a calf at Bethel, which had become their only king, is now to be destroyed.

God’s faithful love

[11-14] God expresses his faithful love for Israel, a love that cannot cease despite Israel’s history. They seem to have forgotten the times of Jacob and Moses, and think that affluence somehow covers up their sin. So God cannot help but express His anger again before encouraging a prayer for repentance, and a promise of restoration.

Joel

Little is known about Joel or the time at which he prophesied, suggestions for which vary enormously. However, he did prophesy to Judah and is placed early in the chart ‘The Prophets in Historical Context’.

The plague of locusts

[1] There is a disastrous plague of locusts in the land, which Joel treats as a sign that the Day of the Lord is near, and that it will come as a destruction from the Almighty. He calls for a holy fast and for the elders to lead in a day of prayer.

The Day of the Lord announced

[2] The locusts are likened to an advancing army causing fear and anguish in every nation. God is at the head of this army and the question is asked, who can endure it? There is a call to repentance to their gracious and compassionate God. He will come to their aid and drive the ‘northern army’ far from them, restoring things to their former glory. In that day, God’s Spirit will be poured out on all people, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

The coming Day of the Lord

[3] God will judge the nations for scattering and abusing His people, Israel. Blessings will return to Israel and His kingdom will endure for ever.

Amos

Amos was from Takoa in the southern kingdom, about six miles south of Bethlehem, where he worked as a shepherd, then later as a fruit picker. He was unique amongst the writing prophets in that he was neither a trained prophet nor a priest. Although living in Judah, he was sent north to prophesy to Israel. Amos was contemporary with Hosea and prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II.

Judgement on Israel’s neighbours

[1:1-2:5] Judgement is pronounced on Damascus in Aram for acts of cruelty; on Gaza in Philistine and Tyre in Phoenicia for selling their fellow men; on Edom for persistent hostility; on Ammon for atrocities committed to extend their borders; on Moab for desecrating a corpse; and on Judah for rejecting God’s Laws.

Judgement on Israel

[2:6-16] Amos now focuses on Israel’s crimes, which are a consequence of turning away from God. They oppressed the poor, profaned religion with acts of fornication, and opposed prophets and Nazarites sent by God. For these things the day of God’s judgement will come upon them.

Oracles spoken against Israel

[3-6] Nothing is done without reason, and God does nothing without first revealing it through His prophets. Amos is sent to testify against Israel and declare God’s intent to punish her for her sins and destroy the altars of Bethel. Some of the women of Samaria (the kine of Bashan) receive particular mention because of their lifestyle at the expense of the poor. Their religion is a facade, practised whilst all the while living a sinful life. Despite all God’s attempts to get His people to return to Him, He is ignored. A lament is quickly followed by a plea to seek God and be saved. God does not want their sacrifices and rituals, but a change of heart in the way they conduct themselves, seeking good and not evil; then He will be gracious to the remnant of Israel. Without their repentance, the Day of the Lord will not be the expected blessing to them, but a day of judgement. Meanwhile, God will cause them to go into captivity. The people are reproved for their complacency, having no fear of the ‘evil day’, their prophesied ruin. Their self-sufficiency and pride will be their downfall, and they will be the first to be taken into captivity.

God’s plumb-line

[7] Amos has five visions. In the first two he beseeches God to hold back on His judgement. In a third vision, God shows Amos a plumb-line, signifying the destruction of Israel, having been judged by God’s righteous standard. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, makes a charge against Amos and advises him not to prophesy anymore against Israel but to return to his own country to prophesy there. To this, Amos vindicates his calling and prophesies the fate of Amaziah and his family, as well as that of Israel.

The basket of ripe fruit

[8] Amos has a fourth vision in which he is shown a basket of summer fruit, signifying the northern kingdom being ripe for destruction. Their oppression of the poor and their sharp practices are noted. They are not only threatened with ruin, but will suffer the famine of not hearing the word of God, affecting the young and assuring the irrecoverable ruin of idolaters.

Evil destroyed; the faithful remnant restored

[9] Amos’ fifth vision signifies the judgement of the people, a judgement from which none will escape, despite them being God’s chosen people. Yet there is a promise of the restoration of David’s temple and the return of the people of Israel to their own land, never more to depart from it.

Obadiah

Obadiah’s prophecy in this little one-chapter book is focused on Edom, descendants of Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, hostile to Israel since before the times of the Exodus. The date of his prophesying is uncertain, but he is thought to be most likely contemporary with Jeremiah, about the reign of Jehoiakim. Edom’s pride is attacked (1–4) and her destruction foretold (5–7). Her destruction will be because of her crimes against Israel, her rejoicing when Jerusalem was under attack from the Babylonians being particularly noted (8–14). As with other nations, judgement will come on the Day of the Lord, when Israel will be triumphant and occupy Edom’s territory, and the kingdom will be the Lord’s (15–21).

Jonah

Jonah was sent to warn Nineveh of her impending destruction. It is thought he prophesied to Nineveh around the latter years of Joash’s reign.

Jonah flees from God

[1] God calls on Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, because of their wickedness. Instead, Jonah tries to hide from God by taking a ship to Tarshish, in Spain. The ship runs into a storm and the superstitious sailors, fearing for their lives, cast lots and decide Jonah’s God is the cause. Jonah admits his behaviour is to blame, so is thrown overboard and swallowed up by a great fish. Jonah is in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Jonah’s prayer

[2] Jonah calls out to God in prayer from the fish’s belly, to which God responds and Jonah is thrown up onto a beach.

Nineveh responds to Jonah’s message

[3] For a second time, God calls Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh. This time Jonah obeys and sets off for the great city, so large that it takes three days to travel around it. When Jonah enters the city his message is simple: Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. Nineveh appears to respond without question, and the king orders everyone to fast and repent in sackcloth and ashes. God acknowledges their repentance and the city is saved.

Jonah’s lesson

[4] Jonah is angry that Nineveh was spared a deserved judgement and leaves the city to watch from a distance, in case their repeal is short lived. Here, God reproves Jonah. He uses the withering of a plant (originally provided to give Jonah shade) and Jonah’s attitude towards it to show him just how important the souls of Nineveh are.

Micah

Micah was from Moresheth in southern Judah. He prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.

Judgement to come for Samaria and Jerusalem

[1] Judgement against Samaria and Jerusalem will come. Samaria’s will be decisive, with the Assyrian army sweeping through Israel, stopping at the gates of Jerusalem. There will be weeping and wailing and parents will mourn for their exiled children.

Corruption and false prophets

[2] The guilty are charged with covetousness, oppression and injustice against the poor, and God is devising disaster against them, a disaster from which there will be no escape. He will bring down their pride and cause them to lament over the loss of their land. False prophets speak against Micah and prophesy better things, things people want to hear. Deliverance is promised for the remnant of Israel.

Leaders and prophets rebuked

[3] Leaders are rebuked for their oppression of the people; when they cry out to the Lord they will not be heard. Prophets are rebuked for false prophesying and will no longer have visions, suffering shame as a consequence. Leaders, priests and prophets all mistakenly believe God’s presence will protect them, no matter what.

The coming kingdom

[4] In the last days, all nations will look to Jerusalem, will know God’s ways and there will be universal peace. But first there will be an exile before a remnant can finally return.

The King out of Bethlehem

[5] Here we have the prophecy quoted in Matthew 2:6 when Herod hears of the coming Magi: But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. Current and future events merge in a prophecy of deliverance for God’s people, and vengeance on their enemies.

What God requires of His people

[6] Israel are again reproved for their sinful acts and attitudes, and are told that to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God is all that God requires of them. But they continue to fail Him and their guilt will inevitably lead to punishment.

Misery turns to triumph

[7] Micah laments over the terrible sinful state of the times in which he lives, while all the time trusting in God who will cause Israel to rise again. Sins will be pardoned and transgressions forgiven when, in His mercy, God will prove faithful to His oath to Abraham and Jacob.
30-Day Reading Plan This is a 30-day reading plan based on an average of 15 minutes per session - a total read time of 7½ hours. The actual read times vary from 12 to 20 minutes to accommodate for practical read session end points. If the reading times don’t suit you, then simply go at your own pace and note where you finished. Please select your reading day below
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