The Minor Prophets Part 1

The Minor Prophets include the following:

• Hosea, whose name means “salvation,” and whose book was written mostly to the Northern Kingdom of Israel for the purpose to encouraging them to repent or face certain destruction. This eventually happened when the Assyrians invaded and took away most of the inhabitants of Israel as slaves.
• Joel, whose name means “Yahweh is God.” His book of prophecy is all about the coming of the “Day of the Lord,” with all its judgements and destruction.
• Amos means “carried by God,” and his book is a collection of messages directed at the Northern Kingdom, which had become wealthy and arrogant and sinful.
• Obadiah, or “servant of God,” preached to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, to reassure them that Edom’s vicious attack against them would be avenged by God.
• Jonah’s name means, “peace” or “dove,” and teaches us that nobody can outrun God, not even His prophet.
• Micah means “who is like God?” and deals with the gap between rich and poor and how one group teaches another.
• Nahum, whose name means, “comfort,” wrote to bring peace, relief, comfort, and joy to the oppressed.
• Habakkuk, meaning “embrace,” was a man consumed with a burning desire to proclaim the joy of the Lord.
• Zephaniah means “hidden by God.” His book begins with the declaration that judgment is coming quickly and that some of Israel and other nations will be saved when the Lord returns.
• Haggai is an odd sort of prophet. His name means “festive,” a paradoxical name for a prophet. But then Haggai was an optimistic kind of guy who wrote about his hope that God’s people would repent and rebuild the Temple, at which time God’s presence would return.
• Zechariah, whose name means “remembered by God,” wrote all about the Second Coming, reminding the people that God had by no means forgotten them.
• Malachi, the last Minor Prophet, means “my messenger.” His book, the last in the Old Testament, serves as a kind of final warning – a last word – to Israel that the great Day of the Lord is coming.

These are the 12 minor prophets, yet they aren’t minor in any way. Their messages resonate with meaning for us today as surely as they did thousands of years ago. We’d do well to pay attention to the Word of the Lord through His “minor” prophets.

Hosea and his wayward wife

First among the minors is Hosea. Of this book, George Adam Smith, Scottish theologian and academic, wrote:

There is no truth uttered by later prophets about the divine grace which we do not find in germ in him…He is the first prophet of grace, Israel’s first evangelist.

God had a habit of using the experiences of His people to reveal Himself progressively in the Old Testament. Bit by bit, piece by piece, God showed Himself to His people until the coming of Jesus Christ, the fullest and final expression of Himself. Hosea is good example of this; through Hosea’s experiences with his wife, we catch a glimpse into the love God has for sinful man.

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.  (Hosea 1:2 NIV84)

This paragraph is fraught with difficulties, not the least of which is what God told Hosea to do. Would God have commanded His prophet, a holy man, to do something that was forbidden for priests to do and frowned upon for Israel in general? Should this incident be taken literally or figuratively? Augustine refused to believe God would ask a holy man to do this, so he viewed Hosea’s experiences as allegorical.

The old axiom, “the literal sense makes the most sense,” holds as much for Hosea as for the rest of the Bible. What we are reading here should be understood as an historical account written long after the fact. Hosea’s wife and children and their circumstances were real but symbolic warnings for a wayward people. Hosea was fully aware of the kind of woman God wanted him to marry – she would become a prostitute. Her name was Gomer, an unlikely name in our time, but meant, “to end,” “to come to an end,” or “to complete.” Hebrew names are always significant in the Bible. Keil thought that Gomer would be brought to “completion” or “made perfect” through her prostitution. It’s not that becoming a prostitute did her good, but that her horrible experience would parallel Israel’s own unfaithfulness to God.
The prophet would have two children, the bitter fruits of his adulterous wife. Verse two doesn’t necessarily mean that these children weren’t Hosea’s, but rather they shared the taint of unfaithful Gomer’s character. Therefore, God wanted Israel to understand that the coming judgment would fall not only on the nation as a whole, but also on each individual within the nation for each individual shared the sin of the entire nation.

Jezreel: God’s judgment is imminent.

Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel. ” (Hosea 1:4, 5 | TNIV)

The event at Jezreel took place back in 2 Kings 9:21 – 37, long before the child Jezreel was born. It was in Jezreel that the house of Ahab was massacred by Jehu, who claimed to have done the deed for God. In reality, Jehu’s motives were completely political. God promised to make things right in His time:

The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” (2 Kings 10:30 | TNIV)

Because Jehu acted with such cruelty, judgment would fall on his descendants. It was a heinous sin whose bill was coming due. Hosea lived long enough to witness the fulfillment of this prophecy when Israel’s military (Israel’s bow) was decimated by Shalmaneser in the plains of Jezreel.

But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated—as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children. (Hosea 10:13, 14 | TNIV)

The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. (2 Kings 17:5, 6 | TNIV)

It took a long time, but the chickens came home to roost. Israel was scattered throughout the world.

So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left… (2 Kings 17:18 | TNIV)

Lo-Ruhamah: God’s mercy withheld.

Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God. ” (Hosea 1:6, 7 | TNIV)

This unfortunate child’s name may suggest she was illegitmate – born without a father’s love. Symbolically, Lo-Ruhamah was named so to show that the Lord would not continue to show love or compassion towards a nation, Israel, that steadfastly rebelled against Him. God’s mercy had come to an end. He would step in and save no longer. Once Israel was taken captive, she would never come back. The so-called Northern Kingdom would never be restored, as the Southern Kingdom was. Israel would learn the hard way that at long last, God’s patience had run out and the Covenant had dissolved. He would no longer be her God – she would be forever an adulterous and idolatrous nation.

But, God would continue work with Judah. However, notice the odd wording of verse 7:

Yet I will show love to the house of Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but by the Lord their God.

The prounoun “I” is replaced with “the Lord their God.” Even though Judah was not free from the curse of exile and punishment, it would be saved from final apostasy through God’s favor.

Lo-Ammi: God’s love removed.

After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. Then the Lord said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God. (Hosea 1:8, 9 | TNIV)

With this third child, God’s judgment would be complete. Jezreel had promised the scattering of the people. Lo-Ruhamah meant the end of God’s love and mercy. Finally, with Lo-Ammi, God would be forever finished with Israel – the Covenant would end. The people who were once referred to as “my people” by God, would no longer be His people.

Hope for the future

It’s pretty depressing so far. But when we read about God’s judgment and punishment, there is always hope. The hope is found in these verses:

Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.”

“Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’ (Hosea 1:10, 11; 2:1 | TNIV)

There are centuries upon multiplied centuries of history in between verses 9 and 10. Even though God’s message to His people through Hosea is negative and depressing, God does allow a glimmer of hope to be seen. In all, there are six specific blessings mentioned in verses 9 and 10 –

• The nation will increase in number, “…like sand on the seashore, which cannot be counted…”
• A great spiritual revival, “…they will be called the children of the living God.”
• A re-gathering of the nation, “the people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together…”
• Messianic leadership, “…they will appoint one leader…”
• Victory of all enemies, “…will come up out of the land…”
• A full restoration of the Covenant, “say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’”

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