There are seventeen books of prophecy in the Old Testament. Five books are known as “Major Prophets.” The other twelve books are called “Minor Prophets” because their books are shorter. A prophet was a man chosen by God to be His spokesman to His people.
The work of a prophet was two-fold:
- To call God’s people to repentance;
- To reveal God’s future judgments and the coming of the Christ and His kingdom.
The prophets were some of the greatest men who ever lived. Many were persecuted and some were killed. They were men of God who were raised up by God to deliver His message at crucial times in history.
Jonah: The Runaway Prophet
Jonah was a prophet of God, but he was proud, patriotic, and prejudiced. He loved his nation. He was proud to be one of God’s chosen people. However, he did not understand the responsibility which went with his privileges. Jonah prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (2 Kings 14:23-25). Israel was strong and prosperous. Her well-being was threatened by the growing power of Assyria. Ninevah, Assyria’s capital, was the greatest city in the world. Israel feared and hated Assyria. Jonah shared the prejudice of his fellow Israelites.
When God commanded Jonah to go to Ninevah to warn the city of His coming judgment upon it, Jonah did not want to go. He thought he could run away from God by leaving Israel behind. He soon learned that God is the God of all the earth (Psalm 139:1-12). Jonah booked passage on a ship sailing to Tarshish (Spain). God sent a fierce storm. Jonah was thrown overboard. He was swallowed by a great fish which God had prepared. For three days, Jonah was in the belly of this sea creature. He repented of his rebellion during this time. When God commanded the sea creature to vomit Jonah upon the land, the prophet went to Ninevah.
In Ninevah, Jonah preached, “Yet forty days and Ninevah shall be overthrown.” All the people repented from the king to the poorest person. Jonah sat outside the city waiting for God to destroy it. When God did not punish Ninevah because of the repentance of its people, Jonah was angry with God. The book ends at that point. Likely it was written by Jonah himself to set forth the lesson that God loves all people. God will turn from His judgments upon nations when they turn to Him in repentance.
Micah: The Prophet of the Poor
Micah lived at the same time as Isaiah in Judah and Hosea in Israel. He was from a small village called Moresheth-Gath. It was located twenty-two miles southwest of Jerusalem. Micah’s prophetic ministry was during the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. During his lifetime, Judah’s greatest enemy was Assyria. When King Ahaz refused to join an alliance with Israel and Syria against Assyria, these two nations invaded Judah (Isaiah 7; 2 Kings 16). God delivered His people from this crisis. Later when Hezekiah was king, Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the land and besieged Jerusalem. God sent His angel. The angel killed one hundred, eighty-five thousand Assyrians in one night and the Assyrians fled (Isaiah 36, 37; 2 Kings 19:29-36).
In Micah’s day, Judah was prosperous. Her people were worldly and materialistic. Outwardly, they were very religious. Sacrifices were offered, but they were just forms to be observed. True devotion to God was lacking. Neither did the people apply the principles of their religion to everyday life (Micah 6:6-8). There were many false prophets who spoke what the people wanted to hear (Micah 2:11; Micah 3:5-8). Witchcraft and idolatry were practiced along with the worship of God. Judges and other government officials were corrupt. They took bribes and perverted justice. The poor were oppressed. Micah spoke out against these evils.
Micah also prophesied of the coming of the Savior. He foretold that the Lord would be born in Bethlehem of Judah (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-6).
Nahum: Prophet of Ninevah’s Doom
Ninevah, capital of Assyria, was a very old city (Genesis 10:8-11). Assyria became one of the strongest nations in the world in the eighth century before Christ. Ninevah then became the chief city of the world. Ninevah was very strong. Its center was surrounded by eight miles of walls. These walls were one hundred feet high and wide enough to drive three chariots side by side on top. The city itself covered an area of nearly sixty square miles. One hundred and fifty years before the time of Nahum, Jonah had prophesied against Ninevah. Because the people repented at the preaching of Jonah, the city was spared. However, they had eventually gone back to their old ways. Once again, God sent His prophet to warn them of His coming judgment.
The Assyrians were very cruel people. Their soldiers were fierce, well trained men. They tortured the people they conquered. Often they burned their enemies, or cut their heads off. Sometimes they skinned them alive. God knows what is happening on earth. He does not take away man’s free will. He will, however, punish man for his wickedness (Galatians 6:6,7). The book of Nahum makes this very clear. The Medes and Babylonians conquered Ninevah in 612 B.C. They destroyed it so completely that Alexander the Great stood on the site of its ruins three hundred years later and did not know it.
Very little is known about Nahum himself. His name means “consolation.” He came from a place called Elkosh. He prophesied during the same time as Habakkuk and Zephaniah. He may have known Jeremiah.
Habakkuk: The Prophet Who Questioned God
Habakkuk’s name means “Embrace.” It is found twice in the book which bears his name. It is not found anywhere else in the Bible. Other than his name, we know nothing about the life of this prophet.
Habakkuk prophesied between 612 B.C. and 606 B.C. We know this because he spoke of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) being God’s instrument to punish his people. Babylon did not become a world power until she conquered Ninevah in 612 B.C. Babylon invaded Judah in 606 B.C. and took many of its citizens into captivity. This was the fulfillment of Habakkuk’s prophecy. Since Habakkuk predicted the Babylonian invasion of Judah, the book likely was written after 612 B.C. when Babylon became a world power. But it likely was written before 606 B.C. when the threat began to be carried out.
The prophet looked at the people of Judah. He saw how far astray from God they had gone. He did not understand why God did not punish His people for their sins. He questioned God. God replied that he was going to punish His people. They would be punished by the Chaldeans who would conquer them. Habakkuk was confused. The people of Judah were wicked. But they were not nearly as bad as the Chaldeans. How could God use a wicked nation to punish another nation which was not as wicked?
The message of Habakkuk is very simple. God is going to use Babylon to punish His people for their sins. Then He is going to use another nation to punish Babylon. Babylon was punished in 538 B.C. when it was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians.
Many today think that God is not really interested in man. They do not believe He is at work among the nations. The Bible teaches differently! God is aware of every single thing that happens on the earth (Matthew 10:28-31). He is at work in the nations of men (Daniel 4:17).
The work of a prophet was two-fold.
Many of the prophets were persecuted; some were killed.
Jonah was prejudiced.
Jonah tried to run away from God.
Micah foretold that Bethlehem of Judah would be the place of Jesus’ birth.
The Assyrians were well known for showing mercy to their enemies.
Habakkuk questioned God.
God is not really interested in man today.
God works in the kingdoms of men.
Nahum foretold the destruction of Ninevah.
Habakkuk’s name means “ .”
There are books of prophecy in the Old Testament.
was swallowed by a great fish which God prepared.
Jonah was with God because He spared Ninevah.
was the prophet of the poor.
God’s angel killed Assyrians in one night.
foretold the birthplace of the Savior.
Nahum’s name means “ .”
Babylon was overthrown in B.C. 538 by the Medes and the .
Babylon became a world power when it conquered in B.C. 612.
A prophet was chosen by God to be a to His people.
Jonah booked passage on a ship sailing to .
When was king of Judah, Sennacherib invaded the land and besieged Jerusalem.
The were very cruel people especially to their enemies.
stood on the ruins of Ninevah and did not even know it.
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