Bible Old Testament: The Minor Prophets
Summary by Michael McGoodwin, prepared 1989

Acknowledgement: These books have been summarized using The New International Version Study Bible (NIV translation 1973--84, published Zondervan 1985).  Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of its commentary--thus the notes reflect the devoutly evangelical flavor and point of view of that commentary.  Other sources are explicitly cited below.


Hosea

He wrote c. 750 for around 38 years. He came from the northern kingdom (Israel), the only writing prophet to do so, but probably wrote in Judah after the fall of the northern capital, Samaria. Assyria destroyed Israel during Hoshea's reign in 722. 

Hosea receives the word of God, who tells him to take an adulterous wife, Gomer; she will conceive unfaithful children: sons Jezreel and Lo-Ammi, and daughter Lo-Ruhamah. Israel has been unfaithful like his wife and children and is to be punished like an adulteress. God tells him to buy Gomer back from slavery which he does. God foretells the punishment of Israel, after which they will seek "David their king." The priests have sinned and misled the people and the men have consorted with harlots and sacrificed with shrine-prostitutes. "Their deed do not permit them to return to God.5:4" Hosea calls for repentance. God will punish Israel: " `They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calf-idols. Therefore they will be like the morning dew that disappears, like chaff swirling from a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window 13:3.... ' " In the midst of God's diatribe against Israel, he apparently promises redemption from death: " `I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?13:14 I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily.14:5' "

Joel

The author Joel is mentioned only in this book and Acts. It may have been written in the ninth century B.C. but possibly as late the postexilic period. He sees a locust plague and drought in Judah as a harbinger of a day of judgment and punishment to come and calls for repentance. Restoration and blessing will come only after judgment and repentance, even for Israel. 

"... A nation [The locusts] has invaded my land, powerful and without number.... The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered.... Surely the joy of mankind is withered away 1:12" Joel calls for repentance "for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction form the Almighty 1:15.... A large and mighty army comes such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a fire blazes 2:3.... Nations are in anguish.... Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate 2:13.... "

"The Lord will reply... `I will drive the northern army [locusts] from you.... I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten...my great army that I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat.... Never again will my people be shamed.2:27' " The Lord promises to gather all nations and punish them for their deeds against Israel: sell their children into slavery, Egypt and Edom will be desolate, etc. "Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her.3:17"

Amos

Amos calls himself a shepherd and raiser of fig-trees from Judah who was sent to prophesy God's judgment on the northern kingdom, Israel. He wrote in the reign of Uzziah (792 - 740) in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel and was a contemporary of Hosea and Jonah. He emphasizes social justice as the true expression of piety and prophesies a great destruction to come. 

He prophesies against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, and Judah. In Israel, "they trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.2:7" The Lord through Amos prophesies " `An enemy will overrun the land.... I will destroy the altars of Bethel [Jeroboam's false shrine].... I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house.... You will be taken away with [Assyrian] hooks.... Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.4:12' " 

God calls for repentance, modest living, and social justice: " `Seek me and live.... You trample on the poor and force them to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them.5:11 You deprive the poor of justice in the courts.... Seek good, not evil, that you may live 5:14 Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-falling stream 5:24.... ' " God decries those who make a practice of skimping on the measure of goods for sale to the poor, " `cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat 8:6...' ".

Amos warns that the coming day of judgement will not just be against other nations: "Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord.... That day will be darkness, not light.5:18 I will send you into exile.... Woe to you who are complacent in Zion 6:1.... I abhor the pride of Jacob "

But God also promises restoration to come: " `In that day I will restore David's fallen tent.... I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities.... I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted.9:15' "

Obadiah

Like Jeremiah (possibly his contemporary), he prophesies against Edom and predicts the restoration of the house of Jacob. 

" `I [The Lord] will make you [Edom=Esau] small among the nations.... The day of the Lord is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you.... But on Mount Zion will be deliverance.... The house of David will be a fire...and consume [Edom]. There will be no survivors.... And the kingdom will be the Lord's"

Jonah

The author is not named but the book may have originated perhaps in the eighth century B.C. Others feel it is postexilic or at least written after the destruction of Nineveh in 612, in part because of the theme of preaching to the Gentiles. Jonah ministered in 800 - 750 during King Jeroboam II's reign in Israel and was a contemporary of Amos. It describes a single mission in highly compressed form and depicts the larger scope of God's purpose for Israel. 

Jonah is called by the Lord to go to and preach against the wicked enemy city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria [representing the Gentiles]. But instead Jonah flees west for Tarshish [?Spain] by ship. The ship is threatened in a storm and the sailors throw him overboard. He is swallowed by a great fish where he stays for three days and nights. He offers to God a prayer of thanksgiving for his deliverance and acknowledges that "Salvation comes from the Lord." The Lord commands the fish to vomit him onto dry land. He goes to Nineveh where, as a result of his preaching, the people and their king repent and turn from their evil ways. Jonah is angry with God for having compassion for Israel's enemy but God answers that he must also be concerned about that great city. 

Micah

He prophesied sometime between 750 and 686 during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and of Hezekiah and was a contemporary of Isaiah. He was from a village in Judah and was concerned about the social conditions prior to the religious reforms of Hezekiah. He predicts the downfall of Samaria and the eventual desolation of Judea. He alternates between oracles of doom and of hope. His theme is the judgment and deliverance of God. 

" `... I will make Samaria a heap of rubble...since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes'.... For her wound is incurable; it has come to Judah.1:9 Shave your heads in mourning for the children in whom you delight...for they will go from you into exile.1:16

Social ills: "Woe to those who plan iniquity.... They covet fields and seize them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.2:2 Listen, you leaders of Jacob.... Should you not know justice, you who hate good and love evil?...3:1 Hear this you leaders of the house of Jacob...who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness. Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money.3:11 "

Deliverance and the Messiah: " `I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel...like sheep in a pen.... One who breaks open the way will go up before them.... Their king will pass through before them, the Lord at their head.2:13' In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains4:1.... They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks 4:3.... But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel 5:2.... He will stand and shepherd his flock.... And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.5:5"

Nahum

The unknown author prophesies sometime between the fall of Thebes in 663 and of Nineveh in 612, probably in the reign of Josiah and therefore a contemporary of Zephaniah and the young Jeremiah. Assyria has already destroyed the northern kingdom. It is addressed to Nineveh, prophesying its fall.

"[The Lord] will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into darkness.1:8 The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel 2:2.... Woe to the city of blood.... Bodies without number...all because of the wanton lust of a harlot...who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft.3:4 Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal.... for who has not felt your endless cruelty.3:19"

Habakkuk

He was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He predicts the coming Babylonian invasion, probably writing toward the end of Josiah's reign (609) or the beginning of Jehoiakim's. Habakkuk struggles to comprehend the ways of God and why He seems to do nothing about the rampant wickedness, strife and oppression in Judah. 

Habakkuk calls to the Lord "How long, O Lord, must I call for help but you do not listen?... Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?...1:3 Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?...1:13" 

God responds " `I am raising up the Babylonians...who sweep across the whole earth 1:6.... See, he [the Babylonians king] is puffed up; his desires are not upright--but the righteous will live by his faith.... Because you [Babylonia] have plundered many nations, the people who are left will plunder you.2:8 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.2:13 But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.2:20' "

Habakkuk gives praise to the Lord.

Zephaniah

He is a descendant of Hezekiah prophesying in Josiah's reign and therefore a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum, and possibly Habbakuk. He prophesies the approaching judgment when God will punish the nations including Judah. 

" `I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth.... The wicked will have only heaps of rubble 1:3.... I will stretch out my hand against Judah.... The great day of the Lord is near 1:14.... But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong.3:12 He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.3:17" He also prophesies against Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Cush, and Assyria. 

Haggai

He prophesies in 520 during the reign of Darius and, like Zechariah, encourages the returned exiles to rebuild the temple. His book shows the consequences of obedience and disobedience. 

The Lord chastises the people for living in panelled houses while the temple remains unbuilt and Zerubbabel responds and begins work on the temple. The Lord will fill the temple with glory. He cautions the people not to fail again in building the temple and blesses them. 

Zechariah

He was born in Babylonia and returned with Zerubbabel to Jerusalem in 538. He was a contemporary of Haggai. Like Haggai, he rebukes the people for delaying in the rebuilding of the temple. He gives apocalyptic visions that give encouragement to the people.

In a vision, Zechariah describes God's plan to have the temple rebuilt. Four horns (oppressing nations) will be defeated by four craftsmen [?]. A man with a measuring line measures Jerusalem [for the temple]. The Lord is coming to be with Judah. Joshua [the high priest, representing sinful Israel] is dressed in new clothes "symbolic of things to come: `I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.... and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.3:9" A gold lampstand symbolizes the light and abundance of oil from God and the two olive trees symbolize Joshua and Zerubbabel, who will work to rebuild the temple. A flying scroll banishes thieves and those who bear false witness. Wickedness is personified as a woman in a basket, who is sent to Babylonia. Four chariots, each with different colored horses, go throughout the earth [as spirits of divine judgment like the four horsemen.] Joshua receives a crown. He will be a priest on the throne, the two roles united [as they will be with the Messiah]. 

The Lord calls for true social justice, mercy, and compassion rather than just insincere fasting. He promises to bless Jerusalem and make it prosper. He makes oracles against Hadrach, Hamath, Tyre, Gaza, etc. 

The Messianic Kingdom: "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!... See you king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.... He will proclaim peace to the nations.... His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.9:10" The people of the northern and southern kingdoms will be reunited. 

Chapter 11 may prophesy the destruction of Syro-Palestine that will follow the rejection of the Messianic Good Shepherd. " `And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced [the Messiah?], and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child.12:9 Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered 13:7.... ' A day of the Lord is coming when...[Jerusalem] will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped.... On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.... The Lord will be king over the whole earth.... Jerusalem will be raised up.... Never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure.... Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy.14:21"

Malachi

Malachi means "messenger" and may not have been a proper name. Like Nehemiah, the author condemns the sins of Israel which arose while Nehemiah had returned to serve the Persian king. The people of the restored community had begun to lose hope. The author wrote c. 430 and may be the last OT prophet. 

God assures Israel of his love. But the priests have shown contempt for him, offering blind animals in sacrifice etc. The people have intermarried with foreigners and committed other sins. 

The Lord says " `See, I will send my messenger who will prepare the way before me [John the Baptist?]. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple.... But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap.... He will purify the Levites 3:3.... But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked 4:3.... I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers 4:6.... "