STUDY FIVE: THE PROPHETS - PART 2

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2017

A. JOEL

[? 750/740 in the southern kingdom: Judah]

Very little is known about Joel. From the content of the prophecy we can conclude that he prophesied in the southern kingdom before that kingdom degenerated totally. He is thought by some to be a contemporary of Amos.

Joel’s Message:
Joel’s bold and passionate prophetic message mixes the immediate, the short term and the long term. As with other prophets he spoke of the coming of Christ without knowing it. Because of this mixture it is sometimes difficult to accurately understand this prophecy, and differing interpretations are taught.

Summary of Joel:
[1] The locust invasion [1:1-12]. Joel describes successive plagues of locusts devastating the land to the extent that there is nothing left for temple offerings.

[2] The call to repentance [1:13-2:17]. Joel understands the locust plagues to be a timely warning of a greater judgment of God that will come by means of relentless invading armies. He urges repentance and fasting to avert this expected dark and destructive ‘day of the Lord’.

[3] The Lord’s response [2:18-32]. Conditional on their genuine repentance, Joel gives the Lord’s gracious response in terms of short term physical blessings and long-term spiritual blessings. Here the desired immediate blessedness of Israel merges into the blessedness of the Christian in Christ, where the ‘day of the Lord’ changes from a day of judgment into a day of salvation.

[4] The destruction of God’s enemies [3:1-21]. Here again is a merging of short and long term fulfilment. The destruction of the nations that persecuted Israel/Judah has already happened in the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire; the final eschatological destruction of all that is opposed to God is still to come.

Reflection: Study the calls to repentance [1:13-14; 2:12-17]. What do they teach about the nature of true repentance?

 

 

 

 

B. MICAH

[sometime between 739 and 722BC; in the southern kingdom: Judah]

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, prophesying in the southern kingdom, before the fall of the north.

Summary of Micah:
[1] Judgment will fall on Jerusalem and Samaria [1:1-16]. [Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom.]

[2] Condemnation of various groups of people [2:1-3:12]

Reflection: What sins were each of these groups condemned for?
People with power [2:1-5]

 

False prophets [2:6-11; 3:5-7,11]

 

National leaders [3:1-4, 9-11]

 

Priests [3:11]

 

[3] Prophecies of hope [4:1-5:15]:
Micah’s prophecies of hope have Messianic application focused on four significant components:

People from the nations coming to know the Lord
Peace
The significance of Jerusalem
The coming of Jesus Christ

[4] Messages of condemnation [6:1-7:6]:
The whole of creation is called on to hear the Lord’s accusation against his people. Their redemption from slavery in Egypt, and other aspects of their history are recalled to highlight the wrongness of their defection. In contrast to their ritualistic practice of their religion, true godliness is summed up succinctly in 6:8: ‘He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ Such godliness is absent in the land as 6:9 to 7:6 reveals.

The people challenged [6:1-8]
Dishonesty, violence, deceit, idolatry condemned [6:9-16]
Corruption exposed [7:1-6]

[5] Confession of faith [7:7-20]
In these verses Micah expresses his personal faith, hope and praise. As he does so he speaks on behalf of the faithful remnant of God’s people who, acknowledging the justice of God’s judgment on them as a nation, still look to God with godly confidence and praise.

 

C. ZEPHANIAH

[642 – 639BC in the southern kingdom, Judah]

Zephaniah, a descendent of King Hezekiah, prophesied early in the reign of the young and godly King Josiah of Judah, probably before the discovery of the book of the law (in his eighteenth year as king) which lead to a reformation and renewal in the nation. The central focus of Zephaniah’s message is the Day of the Lord. This Day of the Lord encompasses the whole earth, as well as having specific relevance to Judah and Jerusalem. Note that Zephaniah’s prophecy has both short-term (already happened) fulfilment, and long-term (still to come) fulfilment.

Summary of Zephaniah:
[1] The Day of Judgment is coming [1:1-2:3]
[2] God’s judgment on the nations [2:4-15]
[3] Judgment and blessing on Jerusalem [3:1-20]

Research: From Zephaniah identify:
The sins that incur God’s wrath

 

 

 

Things that will happen on the Day of the Lord

 

 

 

Hope or expectation of blessedness

 

 

 

 

 

As you do this exercise, think about the dual aspect of fulfilment, and those things yet to come.

 

D. JEREMIAH

[639 – 587BC in Judah, the southern kingdom]

Jeremiah is sometimes called ‘the weeping prophet’. Unlike Isaiah who spontaneously volunteered to be the one the Lord sent not even knowing what the commission would involve [Isaiah 6:8], Jeremiah, given a clear direction from the Lord, spontaneously rejected that call and command, doing his best to get out of it [Jeremiah 1:4-19]. But his shy, sensitive personality, which from his perspective made him utterly unsuited and unwilling for the task, was precisely the reason God chose him to proclaim his devastating message of inescapable judgment.

Jeremiah’s passion for God and God’s word overcomes his fear and his timidity, and he cannot keep quiet even though he dearly wants to. His heart weeps with the heart of God. His deep compassion cries with the grief of God over the sin of his wayward people. The judgment he must pronounce cuts him to the very depths of his being as he feels both their pain and God’s. In a way prophetic of the sin-bearing suffering of Christ, Jeremiah shares in the suffering of both God and his people.

D.1 Historical, political and religious setting:

After the deaths of Isaiah and King Hezekiah Israel (Judah), was ruled by Manasseh who embraced extreme idolatry and led the nation into idolatry. 2Kings 21 blames him for Judah’s ultimate destruction and exile. Jeremiah’s ministry started during the reign of Josiah (a good king) and continued past the first deportation of exiles to Babylon [597BC] until after the fall of Jerusalem [587BC]. [Check the Historical time chart and the lesson on the historical books.]

Jeremiah 2:9-13 and 5:31 give a picture of the moral condition of the day. Jeremiah had to take the word of God to an obstinate, idolatrous people. Religious conditions were corrupt, and Jeremiah’s job was a difficult one.

Judah was continually trying to make alliances with the nations, and Jeremiah was consistent in admonishing the people to get right with God and trust Him for protection from the nations.

D.2 Prophecies of judgment concerning Judah 1-35; 52

Against idolatry, and the accompanying wickedness: 2:1-4:4; 5:1-31; 7:9-30; 10:1-16; 19:1-5; 23:13-14.

Warnings of the immanent judgment/destruction/captivity: 1:13-16; 4:5-31; 6; 7:30-8:17; 9:3-26; 10:17-11:17; 13:1-15:14; 16:1-17:6; 19:6-15; 21:1-14; 22:6-30; 25:1-12; 29:15-19; 34; 35:12-17.

Calls to repentance: 4:1-4, 14; 6:16; 7:1-8; 17:19-27; 18:1-12; 22:1-5; 26:12-13.

Against false prophets: 5:12-14, 30-31; 6:13-15; 8:8-12;14:13-16; 23:9-40; 27:14-18; 28:1-17; 29:20-23.

The fall of Jerusalem: 39:1-10; 52.

[Concerning the remnant left in Judah who went down to Egypt: 40:1-44:30]

Reflection: In reference to the points above:
How does Jeremiah describe the idolatry and sinfulness that evoked God’s anger?

 

 

Read the calls to repentance. What do these passages teach us about the grace of God?

 

 

Read the warnings of judgment. Identify the main focus of these messages.

 

 

Read the passages against the false prophets. Identify the reasons for God’s anger with these men.

 

 

D.3 Jeremiah’s personal conflicts [scattered references]:

Personal difficulties with his commission: 1:1-10, 17-19; 20:7-18;

Distress over the impending fate of his people: 4:19-21; 8:18-9:2; 14:7-9, 19-22; 23:9-20;

Questions about God’s justice: 12:1-17;

Persecution because of his mission and message: 11:18-23; 15:10,15-18; 17:13-18; 18:18-23; 20:1-6; 26:1-24; 36:1-32; 37:1-38:28

Read the passages quietly and think about them for a couple of minutes. Comment on how Jeremiah as an extremely sensitive person coped with these aspects of his calling. What lessons can you learn from this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

D.4 Prophecies concerning the nations - 46-51 [also 25:15-38; 27:1-11]
Much of Jeremiah’s ministry concerned the international situation. The major trade route connecting the nations – Syria [Aram], Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, etc – passed through Israel/Judah, making control of the land critical for any nation seeking world dominance.

Egypt 46
Philistia 47
Moab 48
Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Hazor, Elam 49
Babylon 50-51 [also 25:12-14]

D.5 Prophecies of hope [scattered references]

Hope of the restoration of Israel: 16:14-15; 24:1-7; 29:1-14; 30:1-31:30; 31:35-40; 32:1-33:26;
Hope of the coming Messiah: 23:1-8; 33:15-18;
Hope of the New Covenant and salvation: 31:31-34

Reflection: Identify the teaching about Jesus Christ and his salvation contained in the second and third points above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E. NAHUM

[against Nineveh, probably between 621 and 612BC]

Nahum prophesied against Nineveh in the same era that Jeremiah, Zephaniah and Habakkuk were prophesying in Judah, over 100 years after Jonah, and after Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom. Nineveh was destroyed by a coalition of Medes, Babylonians and Scythians in 612BC. Nahum’s message predicts this destruction as the judgment of God against this violent and heartless nation, which had cruelly destroyed one nation after another [3:19b].

Nahum’s Message:

[1] The Lord’s anger and vengeance [Ch 1]
After a general statement about the sovereign justice of God in the form of an acrostic poem, Nahum announces God’s impending judgment on Nineveh, and the accompanying respite for Judah.

[2] Nineveh attacked and destroyed [Ch 2]

[3] The wickedness and doom of Nineveh [Ch 3]
In these two chapters Nahum gives very vivid pictures of the destruction that is about to fall upon the city.

Reflection: What do the verses teach you about God and about Nineveh’s sin?

About God
1:2


1:3a


1:4-5


1:6


1:7


1:9


About Nineveh’s Sin
1:11

1:14

3:1

3:4a

3:4b

3:19b


F. HABAKKUK

[not long before 605BC, in the southern kingdom, Judah]

The book of Habakkuk records a discourse between Habakkuk and God, in which Habakkuk asks God two questions and God answers each in turn. The third chapter is Habakkuk’s prayer of faith, responding to God’s answer to his second question.

Summary of Habakkuk:
[1] The first question: God, how long before you do something about the sin of your people?
God’s answer: I am going to send the Babylonians against my people. [1:1-11]

[2] The second question: God, how can you, who are holy, use the wicked Babylonians?

[3] God’s answer: Their wickedness will be punished; true faith has confidence in me, and will be vindicated, but all the things the Babylonians trust in will prove to be their undoing. [1:12-2:20]

[4] Habakkuk’s prayer of faith: [3:1-19]

Reflection: What does this book teach us about …

True faith …
2:4b:

3:2:

3:16b:

3:17-18:

3:19:

Things people shouldn’t trust in:
2:6:

2:9:

2:12:

2:15-17:

2:18-19:

The character of God …
1:5:

1:12-13:

2:20:

3:2-4:

3:19: