17 books of prophecy were God’s word to the people. All of these books were written within a narrow 300-year span, from 760 to 460 B.C. The primary role of the prophet was to deliver God’s message to the people. The prophets were ordinary men from many different walks of life, but they were God’s representatives.
The main periods of prophecy were (1) during the later years of the Divided Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, (2) throughout the time of exile, (3) and into the years of Israel’s return from exile. This would be during Section 2 timeline.
God warned Israel and Judah through the prophets. The people rejected God, worshipped idols, did injustice, and loved evil. God forewarned them of coming judgments if they did not repent and turn back to God.
The message of the prophets was judgment is coming, but blessings will follow for those who heed the warning to repent.
Before the exile the messages were of instruction and warning.
Before the exile there were eleven prophets: Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk.
During the exile the prophets wrote to bring hope to the captives.
The people of the northern kingdom were exiled to Assyria. Then Judah fell captive to invading forces and the people were exiled to Babylonia. Prophets to the exiled people in Babylonia were Ezekiel and Daniel.
After the exile their words were full of encouragement.
About 539 B.C. the Jews began to return to their own land where they set to work restoring the temple and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Prophets of this post-exile period were Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
By God’s revelation, the prophet also foretold future events. Looking forward, they told of the coming Messiah.
God’s desire in every situation was for His people to renounce evil and return to Him.
Both nations (Israel and Judah) failed because they refused to acknowledge the prophets.
The people chose to ignore the warnings, thereby provoking God to righteous judgment. In the case of the northern kingdom, the outcome was its invasion and destruction by the Assyrians in 722 BC. In the case of the southern kingdom, the outcome was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC.
The prophetical books of the Old Testament are those that define the prophecy for Israel.
There are 17 prophetic books.
Isaiah was a great statesman. As adviser to several kings, Isaiah guided the nation through times of political and moral crisis.
Isaiah was called by God to proclaim the news of judgment to Judah, and the surrounding nations. Isaiah spoke words of comfort to Israel even though God had already revealed the judgment to come. Judah was facing the consequences of her sin, and God used Judah’s enemies to bring down the southern kingdom,
Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the Messiah, both about His first coming and about His second coming.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give youa sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:4-7
Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim the news of judgment to Judah. It was his mission to predict doom upon his nation for its many sins. For this, the priests and the people hated him. Jeremiah endured a life of persecution as Judah’s kings and rulers rejected him and his divine message.
Time and again God had warned his people not to worship anything or anyone else but Him, but they continued to do whatever they wanted to do. Jeremiah relayed warnings of God’s judgment against sin, but with that there was also the message of hope and restoration if the nation would genuinely repent.
Jeremiah covers the transition from last days of the kingdom into exile.
He confronted the leaders and the people with their sin, prophesied both their 70-year captivity in Babylon and their eventual return from exile.
3. Lamentations (written by Jeremiah)
These 5 poems of lament were written by Jeremiah at the defeat and fall of Jerusalem. The nation of Judah had been defeated, the Temple destroyed, and captives taken away to Babylon.
Ezekiel ministered to the Jews in captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel, who had been a priest in Jerusalem, was taken to Babylon about 597 B.C. His mission was to help the Jews preserve their identity and religion.
Ezekiel prophesied about the end times. He had prophecies regarding the distant future, particularly about the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon, even up to the Heavenly City.
The book is divided into two sections: The first denounces the sins and abominations of Jerusalem and the second contains prophecies about the coming Kingdom of Heaven and of Jesus.
The first six chapters of the book of Daniel record the story of this young Hebrew and his friends, who never compromised their high standards to worship idols or conform to the heathen customs of their Babylonian captors.
Daniel’s God-given ability to interpret dreams endears him to King Nebuchadnezzar
Daniel prophesied many visions of the end times for the Jews in captivity in Babylon.
Hosea’s message is of God’s unconditional love and compassion in the face of constant unfaithfulness on the part of his loved people. Hosea was instructed by the Lord to marry a harlot as a picture of God’s unfailing love for errant people.
Hosea conveys God’s anger at the failures of his people, but also his sadness, and even weariness. Hosea’s life was a parable for his message: he married a prostitute who was unfaithful to him, but he took her back.
God sent Hosea to warn his countrymen of impending danger and plead with them to return to God. But the people would not listen.
Israel would be judged and restored.
Hosea was merciful and forgiving toward a wife who was unfaithful to him, and his family life was an analogy of the relationship between Israel and Jehovah. God would be merciful and forgiving to the faithless nation if the people would but return to Him in repentance.
Joel proclaims a terrifying future using the imagery of locusts. Judgment will come, but blessing will follow.
God used a plague of locusts and the resulting famine as a picture to Joel of the day of the Lord’s judgment upon the nation. Joel called the people to repentance and prayer.
He said that only in returning to the Lord would the nation be restored to a place of spiritual and temporal blessing.
In God’s name, Amos cried out against injustices in Israel. He condemned Israel’s oppression of the poor and called for justice. In the market place Amos lifted his voice against slave trade, false weights and measures, cruelty to the poor.
A herdsman and farmer, he was chosen by God to prophesy against the wealthy.
Amos was warning about the armies of the Assyrians descending on Israel.
The shortest book in the Old Testament, it has one chapter.
Obadiah’s prophecy was directed against Edom, a neighboring nation of Israel that gloated over Jerusalem’s judgments. He proclaimed God’s judgment upon them because of their violent and unbrotherly treatment of God’s people.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened – Jonah 3:10
God gave Jonah a mission to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, calling the Assyrian people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel, but God’s intent was to bless them nonetheless, consistent with God’s promise that Abraham’s people would be a blessing to all nations
Jonah’s message was one of warning to Nineveh.
Jonah proclaims a coming judgment upon Nineveh’s people. But they repented and judgment was spared.
Instead of being happy about the results of God’s message, Jonah pouted and had to learn a lesson in mercy.
This book describes the complete moral decay of Israel and Judah.
God will judge but will forgive and restore. Israel and Judah will suffer for their complete moral decay.
Micah spoke out about injustices in Israel. As champion of the poor, he cried out against unscrupulous officials who oppressed farmers.
His message proclaimed God requires obedience, justice and humility.
“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” – Micah 6:8
Nahum foretells the destruction of Nineveh and the overthrow of Assyria.
One hundred fifty years after Jonah, the prophet Nahum denounced the Assyrians and their great city of Nineveh, and this time judgment was inevitable. Through His prophet, God made it clear that He must deal with sin. Nahum’s message to Nineveh may be summed up in a few words: You reap whatever you sow.
Habakkuk asked God why evil people prosper while the righteous suffer.
This book is concerned with the problem of unpunished evil in the world. It was revealed to Habakkuk that the Babylonian armies were to be God’s means of punishing the wicked in Israel and that evil would destroy itself. The book concludes with a poem of thanksgiving and great faith.
Near the end of the kingdom of Judah, Habakkuk asks God why He is not dealing with Judah’s sins. God says He will use the Babylonians. Habakkuk asks how God can use a nation that is even worse than Judah.
Habakkuk was eyewitness to the first ravages of the city. In spite of the doom and darkness, he saw God working through adversities and seeking to bring His people to repentance.
Zephaniah urged the people to repent and turn from their idols to serve God.
Judah will not repent except for a remnant, which will be restored.
The people failed to put God first by building their houses before they finished God’s temple.
Urging those who returned from exile to rebuild the Temple.
Haggai reproves the Jewish people for slackness in building the second temple; but promises a return of God’s glory when the building should be completed.
Zechariah encouraged the Jews to complete the temple.
Zechariah gives very specific predictions about the coming of Jesus the Messiah: His death to remove sin, Christ as King and Priest, His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, His hands pierced at the crucifixion, and more.
Zechariah foretold Christ’s entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey. God spoke to him through visions.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and was written after the return from captivity in Babylon.
The purpose of this book is that Malachi wrote to ensure that the hearts of the Jews was right and that they were keeping God first in their lives.
Malachi has to deal with apathy: the temple worship is being observed, but half-heartedly. Malachi emphasizes that God wants the best we have to offer, not just the least we can get away with.
The backsliding Jews were failing to bring tithes and offerings to the Lord and their worship had become formal and insincere. Malachi reminded the people that they would reap special blessings when they brought God that which was rightfully His.
Growing distant from God, moral compromise takes over.
Malachi gives a graphic picture of the closing period of Old Testament history. He shows the necessity of reforms before the coming of the Messiah.
22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. Deuteronomy 18:22
Prophets in the Bible include not only those listed above, but also Moses, Samuel who anointed both Saul and David as kings, Nathan who confronted David when he sinned with Bathsheba, and Elijah and Elisha whose lives were often endangered by the evil King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. The Old Testament prophets include women such as Moses’ sister Miriam and the judge Deborah who fought with Barak against Israel’s enemies.