Book of Isaiah
Isaiah is the acknowledged writer of the book that bears his name. His name means “Jehovah is salvation” and he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Scholars believe this time period to be from 739 to 681 BCE, a period of about 58 years. Although many Bible scholars divide the book into two parts, chapters 1-39 and 40-66, with each section being written by different authors, the evidence of Christian writers does not support this idea nor does Jewish tradition. The evidence of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 supports the fact the all 66 chapters are from one author. The seeming change in style of writing can be attributed to the fact that Isaiah was writing about a different subject matter in the latter portion of his book.
Isaiah wrote during a time of great political upheaval when the ten-tribe kingdom would be uprooted from its land and taken captive by the Assyrians. The Assyrians would also threaten the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. Jehovah sent His prophet to warn the people and their kings that they were spiritually sick and if they were to remain on their land they would have to return to Him and not put their trust in the nations around them.
Chapters 1-39 deal with God’s retribution on his people because of their disobedience. There are also pronouncements of judgment against the nations such as Babylon, Philistia, Moab, Damascus and Edom. Both kingdoms would eventually be exiled from the land. Chapters’ 40-66 deal with restoration prophesies some to have a literal fulfillment in the release of the captives from Babylon and others to be fulfilled during a later time period.
Book of Jeremiah
Jeremiah was called to prophesy to the kingdom of Judah beginning in the thirteenth year of King Josiah and continued after Judah was deported to Babylon and he was taken to Egypt. Jeremiah was from a priestly family that resided in Nob, a city of refuge in Benjamin. He was a descendant of Abiathar, the priest, who Solomon sent back to his home because of his unfaithfulness in backing David’s son Adonijah to be king instead of Solomon.
When Jeremiah began to prophesy, Josiah had begun to institute reforms to counteract the idolatry that Manasseh had allowed the people to engage in. His rule was so devastating that Jehovah had decreed that the nation would never recover from its effects. Even with Josiah’s reforms, he could not turn the people’s hearts back to Jehovah. After Josiah’s death, three of his sons and one grandson, all of whom were wicked, ruled the kingdom of Judah. Jeremiah preached for forty years but the people stubbornly refused to repent. Eventually Jehovah sent the Babylonians against the nation and they destroyed the city and the temple and took most of the people into captivity.
The book of Jeremiah is not arranged in chronological order but the prophesies may have been grouped in some logical order that developed his theme of God’s judgment, first against His own people and secondly against the surrounding nations. Chapter 1 reveals the call of Jeremiah by Jehovah; chapters 2-25 contain his 13 warning messages to Judah; chapters 26-29 details the response of the people to his message; chapters 30-33 contain prophesies of restoration; chapters 34-45 outline the last days of the kingdom; and chapters 46-52 delineates Jehovah’s messages against the nations.
Book of Lamentations
This Bible book is named such because it is a series of laments that express sorrow over what has happened to Jerusalem and its temple. The writer of this Bible book is not named but traditionally it is attributed to Jeremiah. In the Greek Septuagint translation, a preface to this book attributes the writing of it to Jeremiah. In the Hebrew canon, Lamentation is not placed after the book of Jeremiah but is included with a section called “the writings” along with Job, Ruth, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes.
Scholars agree that the book was written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem.
Three of its five chapters are acrostic in style in that they have 22 verses with each verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter three has 66 verses with every third verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 5 has 22 verses but is written in normal Hebrew poetry. Some scholars have suggested that the reason for use of the acrostic structure is to show the completeness of the grief being expressed. (See the NIV Bible Commentary, Volume I, page 1263)
Book of Ezekiel
Ezekiel was a priest who was taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim. In the fifth year of their exile, Jehovah called Ezekiel to be a prophet to his contemporaries in Babylon with him. He was 30 years old at this time and would have begun his priestly duties at the temple had he been in Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s prophecies are for the most part in chronological order counting from the time of his exile. Ezekiel’s writership of the Bible book is unquestioned.
The book of Ezekiel is similar in structure to Jeremiah and Isaiah; that is, it contains a section in which oracles are pronounced against Israel, another in which oracles are pronounced against the surrounding nations and a section dealing with the restoration of the people to their land. Ezekiel’s writing style is more prose than poetic, which differs from most prophetic writings. Ezekiel’s prophecies are not generally considered apocalyptic although some of them are, but these prophecies of Ezekiel are either alluded to or directly quoted in every chapter of the book of Revelation except one.
The book can be divided into the following sections: chapters 1-3 record Ezekiel’s call to be a prophet and the vision he is given; chapters 4-24 predicts the destruction of Jerusalem because of its idolatrous practices; chapters 25-32 give Jehovah’s pronouncements against the nations that rejoice because of Jerusalem’s destruction; chapters 33-39 contain the restoration prophesies; chapters 40-48 describe a future earthly temple.
Book of Daniel
The Bible book is definitely apocalyptic because:
1) It was received in visions,
2) It makes use of symbols,
3) Its revelations are future and
4) Its writing style is prose or a matter-of- fact type of writing.
The book of Daniel was not initially considered a prophetic book in the Hebrew canon as it was placed among other books in a grouping called the “Writings.” Daniel does not refer to himself as a prophet as his message was not to be delivered to the people, but he is called one by Jesus. (Matthew 24:15) John the writer of the book of Revelation quoted extensively from the book of Daniel. There are only two chapters in Revelation that do not make some allusion to material from Daniel.
Daniel was taken as a captive to Babylon in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, eight years before Ezekiel was brought there. He was not a priest as Jeremiah and Ezekiel were but was of the royal house. He became a high official in Nebuchadnezzar’s government after interpreting a dream that the king had and later he became famous for his wisdom. (Ezekiel 28:3) Daniel’s last vision came in the third year of the reign the Persian king, Cyrus. He had lived in Babylon for seventy years or more.
This Bible book is usually divided into two sections: chapters 1-6 which give an account of the trials of Daniel and his three companions during their years as servants in the Babylonian government and chapters 7-12 that records the visions that Daniel received concerning events that were to be fulfilled in our modern times.
Book of Hosea
Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah in Judah and his ministry begin after Amos finished his preaching assignment, beginning towards the end of the reign of Jeroboam II, king of the ten-tribe kingdom, who ruled for forty-one years. He was the last prophet that Jehovah sent to Israel to get them to repent and his career lasted into the reign of Hezekiah, king of Judah.
His personal life mirrored the situation that existed between Jehovah and his covenanted people. He was told to take a wife of adultery with whom he had a son, then his wife left him and became an adulteress having two children by her lovers. Later she returned to her husband who forgave her. Jehovah was showing the nation that He would do the same for them if they repented. They did not and were taken captive by the Assyrians.
The book of Hosea is usually divided into two sections, chapters 1-3 and 4-14. Chapters 1-3 outline the adulterous course that Israel has taken, her judgment and the restoration that would result after she repented. In chapters 4-14, Israel is reminded of all of her unfaithfulness and the discipline that they can expect from Jehovah.
Book of Joel
Joel was assigned by Jehovah to prophesy in Judah but he does not give the name of the king who was ruling when he began his prophesying, so it is difficult to determine the time period when he preached. The theme of his prophecy is the “Day of Jehovah.” He describes in vivid detail the invasion of a wave of locust that devastated the land and brought starvation to the people. These locusts are called the “great army of Jehovah” and He sent them in an effort to get the nation to repent. The locust wave precedes the “Day of Jehovah” which spells destruction for the nation. If they repent, there will be salvation for them, as Jehovah will pour out his spirit upon them.
Book of Amos
Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel and his prophecies concerned both nations. His name means “carrying a load” and is appropriate for the work he had to do. His ministry was short and said to have occurred two years before the earthquake. (Zechariah 14:6) His message was directed to Israel at a time when the nation enjoyed great prosperity under the leadership of Jeroboam II. At this time the Assyrian Empire was no threat to either kingdom.
But the people were still worshipping at the altar that Jeroboam I set up in Bethel for which they were about to be punished. They were also indulging in extravagant living and were becoming more and more morally corrupt. They refused to acknowledge that Jehovah was responsible for their material prosperity and they were very oppressive to the less fortunate. Amos was to remind them that if they did not repent, their kingdom would shortly come to its end. Hope is held out for a restoration of the nation.
Book of Obadiah
This is the shortest book in the Bible and contains only 21 verses. No information is given concerning this prophet but his message is against the country of Edom. He prophesied that Edom would be destroyed by the nations and that there would be no survivor of Esau left. This prophecy came true when the Romans under General Titus in 70 CE destroyed Jerusalem and the Edomites or Idumean, as they were called at this time, were practically wiped out and their name disappeared from the pages of history.
Book of Jonah
Jonah served as a prophet during the days of Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Because Israel had become impoverished as a result of the Syrian’s military superiority over Israel, Jehovah had Jonah prophecy that Jeroboam II would bring them relief and would restore the boundaries of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah. (2 Kings 14:29) But his main assignment was to a foreign people. Jehovah sent Jonah on a mission to go to the city of Nineveh and warn the people there that they had forty days to repent or be destroyed. Jonah did not want to do this so he ran away. Of course he, in the end, had to do what Jehovah told him to do. The people of Nineveh did repent due to the preaching of Jonah. Jesus commented on the true repentance of the Ninevites and contrasted it with the unbelief of his generation. (Matthew 12:41)
Book of Micah
Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and his words concerned both Jerusalem and Samaria but his main focus was on Judah. He prophesied that both nations would be destroyed even naming Babylon as the nation that would take Judah into exile. (Micah 4:10) He was also used to foretell the city where the messiah would be born. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:5, 6) During Jeremiah day, in defense of his words, the elders quoted a prophecy of Micah that was uttered during the reign of Hezekiah at Jeremiah 26:18, 19. (Micah 3:12) Micah’s name means, “Who is like Jehovah?”
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea and he encountered the same conditions in Judah that Amos had denounced in Israel a few years earlier. The leaders of the people were corrupt, the rich were defrauding the poor, immorality abounded and the true prophets were not allowed to speak about them.
The book of Micah can be divided into three parts, each one beginning with the word “hear,” a key word in this book. The first section begins with Micah 1:2 through 2:13 where Jehovah’s judgments are pronounced against Samaria and Jerusalem. The second section begins with 3:1 through 5:15 where the leaders are denounced and hope is held out for a restoration under new leadership. The third section begins with 6:1 through 7:20 where Micah depicts a court scene where Jehovah brings his legal case against His people and the people admit their guilt and recognize that they must wait on Jehovah for relief.
Book of Nahum
Nahum’s prophecies are directed against the city of Nineveh but are not a message of repentance as with the prophecy of Jonah. As verse 1 suggests, they are a burden or oracle against Nineveh. Nahum referred to Nineveh as the “city of bloodshed that was full of lies and pillage.” (Nahum 3:1) Even after Jehovah spared the city during Jonah’s day, they later reverted to wickedness, brutality and pride for which she would have to pay.
His words against Nineveh were an encouragement to Judah who was suffering because of Nineveh advancing into Judean territory after she destroyed Samaria. Jehovah would come to the rescue of those who put their trust in Him. Nahum describes Jehovah as a “God who takes vengeance on His enemies.” As the name Nahum means “comforter,” his words would bring comfort to Judah.
There is no definitive way to determine when Nahum recorded his prophecy but scholars believe it was written was before the rise of the Babylonian empire possibly during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah. Nahum gives a vivid description of the fall of Nineveh that has been substantiated by historians.
Book of Habakkuk
Nothing much is known about Habakkuk as even the meaning of his name is the subject of much conjecture. There is much uncertainty about the time of his prophesying also. From reading this Bible book, it appears that he wrote during a time when lawlessness and violence were rampant in Judah. His mention of the Chaldeans in chapter 1 verses 6 and 15 could imply that Babylon was just coming into power after they defeated the Assyrians at Carchemish. Some scholars believe that Habakkuk was a Levite who was involved in temple singing because of the way chapter 3 is written.
In the first two chapters, Habakkuk questions Jehovah concerning what He was going to do about the gross wicked conditions being practiced in Judah. Jehovah tells him He is raising up the Babylonians but He also says that they too will be punished. Habakkuk still questions Jehovah’s way of handling this matter. In chapter 3, Habakkuk recognizes that Jehovah knows what He is doing and that he should simply wait for Jehovah to act.
Book of Zephaniah
Zephaniah prophesied during the early years of the reign of Josiah, king of Judah, who may have been a relative of his if the Hezekiah mentioned in verse 1, is the former king. Scholars believe that his preaching may have influenced Josiah to begin his reforms in the twelfth year of his reign. Zephaniah’s name likely means “Jehovah has concealed” or “Jehovah has treasured up.” His message was directed to the people of Judah warning them of the impending judgment about to come upon them. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah, Nahum and possibly Habakkuk.
The theme of his preaching was the impending day of Jehovah that would bring punishment to Judah for her disobedience as well as judgment on the surrounding nations. Even though Josiah effected major religious reforms, the people were not deeply affected by these reforms so as to make the necessary changes that would indicate true repentance. Therefore Jehovah would make a diligent search throughout Jerusalem so that none would go unpunished. He would also remember his covenanted people and would restore a remnant at a future time.
Book of Haggai
Haggai was one of the first prophets Jehovah used after the return of the exiles from Babylon. His name means “festive or festival.” Nothing is known about his background. He prophesied during the second year of the Persian King, Darius I and the purpose of his prophetic message was to rouse the returnees to build the temple of Jehovah. They had laid the foundation but had left off completing the temple because of the persecution of the people around them. His prophesying along with the prophet Zechariah had the desired effect and the people began the work.
His prophecy contains four messages; the first one recorded in chapter 1 in which the people are asked to reason on the validity of taking care of their houses while neglecting Jehovah’s house. The second message is recorded in chapter 2:1-9 assures the people that the house that they are now building for Jehovah will not lack in glory as they believe it will because Jehovah Himself will bring glory to it. The third message recorded in chapter 2:10-19 is addressed to the priest in which the uncleanness of the people is emphasized because of their neglecting Jehovah’s worship. The fourth message is recorded in chapter 2:20-23 and is directed to Zerubbabel in which Jehovah assures him of His favor upon him.
Book of Zachariah
Zechariah prophesied alongside Haggai in encouraging the people to rebuild the temple. He was a priest as well as a prophet and he began his ministry two months after the start of Haggai’s ministry. Both were used to encourage the people to complete the rebuilding of the temple. However, Zechariah’s ministry continued after the temple was completed and dedicated. Some scholars believe that he may have prophesied into the reign of the Persian ruler, Artaxerxes I. His name means “Jehovah Remembers.”
In the first six chapters of the book of Zechariah a series of eight visions are given that had a typical fulfillment during the temple reconstruction period but they are also apocalyptic and thus have a future fulfillment. In chapters 7-14, a future Israel is described that would have to be disciplined and a remnant restored. The blessings that they would enjoy include Jehovah bringing people from the nations who will come and worship Him. (9:23) Their chosen king would be rejected by them and worthless shepherds would be appointed to rule over them. (11:12-16) After they have been severely disciplined, they would return to Jehovah. (13:9)
Book of Malachi
Malachi’s name means “My Messenger” and he was the last prophet Jehovah sent to Israel before John the Baptist began his ministry. Malachi may have been a contemporary of Nehemiah but it is uncertain if he prophesied during the time that Nehemiah was away from Jerusalem or while he was serving as governor for a second time. Since the conditions that Malachi saw in existence were almost the same as what Nehemiah encountered when he returned a second time, it is probable that he prophesied during the interval that Nehemiah was in Persia. (Nehemiah 13:7-31) Malachi showed himself to be zealous for Jehovah’s name by using it forty-eight times in his writings.
The nation was not prospering as they believed that they should have been because they believed that Jehovah did not love them anymore so Jehovah sent Malachi to tell them to assure them of His love and to tell them what they were doing that was wrong. Jehovah promised that he would send the prophet Elijah to them and he would get them back to true worship, which many believe to have been John the Baptist. He would also send his messenger who would purify them so that they would offer sacrifices that were pleasing to Him.
In chapter one, Malachi condemned the priest for profaning Jehovah’s table by offering defective sacrifices and causing the people to stumble because of not teaching them correctly. In chapter two, the people were condemned because of divorcing their Israelite mates and entering into marriages with foreigners. In chapter three, the people are told that by withholding the tithes, they have robbed God and they have also accused God of favoring the wicked over the righteous. In chapter four, those who fear Jehovah are assured that they will remain on the earth but the wicked will be trampled underfoot.