Minor Prophets: Haggai, Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel
Haggai: Dated Prophecies to the returned Exiles, 520 BC
Haggai 1:1-15, 6/1/02 and 6/24/02 (3/23/16)
Most of the prophets whose ministries are “dated” have only broad time ranges: “when So-and-So was king in Judah,” for example. The prophet Haggai, in contrast, gives us some exact dates, e.g., “the first day of the sixth month of the second year of the reign of King Darius.” Darius of Persia reigned from September 522 BCE to October 486 BCE, according to wikipedia
, so that would put Haggai’s first message in the year 520 BCE. Although they were still subject to King Darius, many Jews had returned to Jerusalem by this time. Joshua was the high priest, and Zerubbabel would have been the king of Judah if the Jews hadn’t been vassals of Persia. They hadn’t yet started rebuilding the Temple, and Haggai, speaking on behalf of the LORD, tells the Jewish leadership that it’s time to reset their priorities and get to work.
Haggai 2:1-9, 7/21/02 (3/24/16)
The Temple built by Solomon was a place of great splendor and glory; the Temple built by the returning exiles wasn’t. Nevertheless, says God, I, the LORD of Hosts, am here, and that’s all that matters.
Haggai 2:10-23, 9/24/02 (3/25/16)
The priests were clear on the Levitical laws about cleanness and uncleanness; the summary of the discussion they are having is that uncleanness is contagious, but cleanness is not. God says that the offerings the people have been making have been unclean because the people themselves have been unclean – sinful and stingy toward God. The offerings have been “catching” uncleanness from the people.
Now that they have gotten their priorities straight and rebuilt the Temple, things will change, says God. The people will begin to prosper, starting with Zerubbabel, their leader in the direct line of David (Matthew 1:12).
Malachi: Prophecy after the return from Exile, around 500 – 450 BC
Malachi 1:1-14 (3/28/16)
The introduction to Malachi’s prophecy differs in style from most of the prophetic books. Usually the prophet says to the people, “This is what the LORD says,” and then delivers a message. Malachi presents God’s message in the form of a dialog. God says something, the people ask what he means by that, and then God explains. The central point is the same as usual when God sends a prophet: “You guys have been doing wrong, and here’s how.” God only sends us a prophet when we’re in trouble.
Malachi 2:1-17 (3/29/16)
Malachi makes two main points in this portion of his prophecy. First he delivers the message that God is unhappy with the priests, so unhappy that he threatens to cover their faces with the excrement of the animals they offer under false pretenses. (Bible study ain’t for sissies.) Why? Because not only are they disobeying the commandments, but they are not teaching the people what they need to know: such priests are as loathsome to God as dung. God holds clergy and teachers to a higher standard than other Jews and Christians, particularly when they mislead others (which is why I continually tell you not to take my word for anything!).
Second, he castigates the Jewish men for marrying outside the faith, and even worse
, for divorcing their Jewish wives in order to do it!
Malachi 3:1-18 (3/30/16)
You’ll probably recognize vss. 1-3 from The Messiah
, which we read a couple of years ago at Christmas. It’s easy to imagine that other people are going to be purified by fire; however, look who God is talking to. Verse 1 says, “And the Lord whom you seek
will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight
, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” God is talking to us
about being purified like silver and gold. Ouch! That’s hot!
Malachi 4:1-6 (3/31/16)
The end of Malachi’s prophecy is about the end, that is, the great and terrible day of the LORD. We don’t know when that will be, so turn your heart to God now. Be ready.
Obadiah: Prophecy against Edom, date unknown
Obadiah 1:1-21 (4/1/16)
Obadiah is a little-read book, I think it’s fair to say, mostly because it’s so confusing. We don’t know when it was written. Do you remember the twins Jacob and Esau
? Sometimes they got along, but it seems like much of the time, they didn’t. Jacob gave rise to the nation of Israel, which Obadiah variously refers to as “your brother Jacob,” Jacob, Jerusalem, Judah, the Israelites, and Mount Zion. Esau gave rise to the nation of Edom, which Obadiah refers to as Esau, Edom, and Mount Esau. Sometimes the two nations got along, but much of the time they didn’t.
Apparently Obadiah is talking about a time when the two nations were really not
getting along, and Edom either caused a lot of trouble for Judah or didn’t come to Judah’s defense when it was already in trouble. Either way, Edom is now in trouble with God. Notice the reference in vs. 17 to the “remnant” of Judah that will be preserved, a recurrent theme of Messianic prophecy.
Joel: Eschatological prophecy, date unknown, probably late
Joel 1:1-20 (4/4/16)
The book of Joel emphasizes the Day of the LORD, final judgment, and the new age to come. “Eschatology” means “pertaining to the last days,” and Joel appears to be primarily an eschatological book. The first chapter describes the current situation: drought, starvation, invasion, and destruction. Not good.
Joel 2:1-17 (4/5/16)
Scholars can’t decide whether Joel was written very early, because it doesn’t mention Assyria, or very late, because it doesn’t mention Babylon. They can’t decide whether the plagues of locusts are actual locusts invading like an army or a symbol for invading armies of human soldiers. Either way, God’s people are urged to take the opportunity to repent. I especially like the prophet’s argument about why God should save his people: “Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Moses made essentially the same argument in Exodus 32:12.
Joel 2:18-32 (4/6/16)
There’s bad news and good news. The bad news is that we are pretty pitiful: we turn away from God and sin without ceasing. The good news is that if we repent and turn back to God (Joel 2:12-13), he has pity on us.
Joel 3:1-12 (4/7/16)
The basic prophetic message is:
1. You are in trouble.
3. If you don’t repent, you’ll be in even worse trouble!.
4. If you repent, God will have a glorious future in store for you.
Chapter 3 of Joel addresses #4. Take particular note of vs. 10, which is backwards from Isaiah 2:4, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Joel 3:13-21 (4/8/16)
Joel hints at a couple of Messianic themes: the restoration of paradise, in vs. 18; and the exaltation of Mount Zion, in vss. 17 and 20-21. The verse that most interests me, however, is vs. 14, “For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” The Day of the LORD usually means the end of time, when God steps into history for final judgment. But the end of my
time is likely to come considerably before that. What will God decide about me? What decisions should I be making in the meantime?
More Prophets of the Bible
|Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk|
|Haggai, Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel|
Prophets without Books:
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