Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Nahum 1-3; Zephaniah 1-3; Habakkuk 1-3; Joel 1-3
At Least Know This
The Minor Prophets (called “minor” because they are shorter in length) spoke boldly to a people who were behaving badly.
Author and Date
Nahum prophesied around 612, just as the Assyrian empire was falling.
Zephaniah prophesied around 640 BC, after the reign of King Manasseh, the worst king of Judah.
Habakkuk prophesied around 600 BC, just as the Assyrian empire was falling.
Little is known about the date of Joel. He doesn’t mention a king who is reigning (how we date the other prophets). It may be that Joel prophesied about 500 BC, after the Babylonian exile.
Probably, their students collected the best of their prophecies, and this is what appears in the scriptures.
Nahum addresses the Assyrian empire (its capital was Nineveh). Nahum prophesied that the Assyrian empire would fall. His point is that lasting kingdoms cannot be built on force. The Assyrian empire fell in 612 BC.
Zephaniahprophesied after the terrible reign of King Manasseh, who had opened the doors for all kinds of idolatry in Judah. King Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, took over in in 640 BC. Josiah was the best king ever in Judah, and he would eventually start a huge religious reform in Judah. It is possible Zephaniah prophesied right before King Josiah’s religious reforms began.
Habakkukprophesied as the terrible Assyrian Empire was falling, and the Babylonian empire was rising. Habakkuk asked God, “Why do you destroy the Assyrians only to give rise to the Babylonians?” He asked God why there is no justice.
Joelmay have prophesied after the Babylonian Exile, when the people have returned to the land. They are trying to eke out a living, and the people are spiritually disillusioned. Worse, a huge locust swarm has covered the land, making their life even more difficult. Joel tells them that just as the locust swarm will go away, so the invading armies will go away.
Chapter 1:2-3. Nahum’s message was that lasting kingdoms cannot be built on force. The fall of the Assyrians (its capital was Nineveh) was God protecting his people.
Chapter 3:8-20. Zephaniah speaks God’s strong words of renewal and transformation.
Habakkuk takes the form of a conversation between God and Habakkuk. In chapter 1:2-4, Habakkuk asks “Why is there no justice?” God’s answer begins in 1:5, where he says, “Stand firm and trust me.” In 1:12-17, Habakkuk asks “Why do your people suffer?” God replies, beginning in 2:2, saying, “My plan is working. You don’t see it now, but you will.” Chapter 3 is Habakkuk’s prayer to trust God in adversity.
Chapter 2:28-3:21. Joel prophesies about the Messianic time, when he will pour his Spirit on all people; when all nations will be invited into the fold; and the land will be fruitful.
The prophets spoke to a particular people at a particular time who were undergoing specific challenges. But in Scripture, there are always principles that are timeless. Throughout these four books, we see themes that God will always protect his people (although not always how we want to be protected!); God cares for his people; and God will always renew his people and transform them.
The next meeting will be Thursday, May 9, 6:30-8:45. Please let me know if you will be there.