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Bible History


The Prophets of Israel and Judah

                        By Rusty Russell


Prophets of the Assyrian Period

Jonah
Jonah (790-770 B.C.) "yonah" (dove)
Sent to warn the inhabitants of Ninevah (Capital of Assyria) of God's Judgement. Jonah fled his call because it was the Assyrians who were destroying the Jews. As he was escaping on a ship bound for Tarshish a great storm arose. The sailors concluded that this tempest came on account of Jonah so they threw him overboard. He was immediately swallowed by a great sea monster prepared by God. Jonah repented in the bowels of the creature and was released the third morning. He came to Nineveh and said:

Jonah 3:4
Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

As a result of his preaching the people changed their ways and God spared the city. Jonah was very upset at Gods mercy toward gentiles (non-Jews) and by the lesson of a plant, God taught Jonah about His love for all mankind and not just Israel.

Joel
Joel (790-770 B.C.) "yo el" (Yaweh is God)
Joel prophesied during a devastating plague of locusts that was unparalleled in history. He warned all of the inhabitants of the land of Israel of devastation which would sweep across the land in the days soon to come. He called for a season of fasting, mourning, and repentance. Joel seized upon the imagery of the locusts as a type of the greater judgement that would come on "the Day of the Lord" in the last days:


Joel 1:15, 2:11
Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty . . . The LORD gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; who can endure it?

He also gave a message of hope and prophesied of great blessings that would follow and the glories of the Messiah's kingdom.

Amos
Amos (780-740 B.C.) "amos" (burden)
Amos was born in Judah but prophesied in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II. He condemned Israel's neighboring countries for their cruelty, but mostly Israel for breaking God's laws. He prophesied at Bethel which became the center of idol worship and the residence of king Jeroboam II. He warned that the Israelites would be taken captive by the Assyrians.

Amos 3:2-3
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?

Amos' message was that God could no more dwell with His people any more than a man could maintain a normal relationship with his wife who commits adultery.

Hosea
Hosea (760-720 B.C.) "hoshea" (deliverer)
Israel's continued unfaithfulness is dramatically illustrated in brokenhearted Hosea's relationship with his unfaithful wife:

Hosea 8:14
"For Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples; Judah also has multiplied fortified cities; but I will send fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his palaces."

God's love is also illustrated in Hosea's willingness to buy back his wife after her harlotry had led her to be sold at the slave block.

Hosea 11:7-8, 14:4
My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, none at all exalt Him. "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? . . . My heart churns within Me; my sympathy is stirred. . . "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from him."

In the years leading up to the fall of Samaria, Hosea warned that the people would become slaves in Assyria because they had forgotten God. They had even turned to Assyria and Egypt for help. God would later restore them but after some measure of discipline.

Isaiah
Isaiah (745-695 B.C.) "yesha yahu" (Yaweh is salvation)
Isaiah lived in Jerusalem at the time Judah was threatened by the Assyrians. He warned Jerusalem about idolatry and foreign alliances, although he was usually scoffed at. He spoke about the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians. He also spoke of the destruction and captivity of Jerusalem by the Babylonians as well as the release of the Jews by Cyrus the Persian. Jewish tradition records that the leaders in Jerusalem sawed the prophet Isaiah in half between two planks.

Isaiah says more about the ministry of the Messiah than any other Book in the Old Testament.

Isa 53:4-6
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He also describes in great detail the blessings of the future age of peace.

Isa 11:6-10
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. . .The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious."

Micah
Micah (740-700 B.C.) "mika yahu" (who is like Yaweh)
Warned of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions and predicted the fall of both Samaria and Jerusalem, the capital cities of both the northern and southern kingdoms. It is set forth in the form of a lawsuit by God with Micah as the prosecuting attorney and the mountains and hills (places of idolatry) as the silent judges. He says, "her wounds are incurable," because the people are corrupt and also the leaders were described as "butchering the people,"

Micah 3:2-3
You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones; Who also eat the flesh of My people, Flay their skin from them, break their bones, and chop them in pieces like meat for the pot, like flesh in the caldron."

Micah also proclaims the birthplace of the Messiah and the glories of the future kingdom:

Micah 5:2,5
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting . . .and this One shall be peace."

Micah 4:1-2
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Zephaniah
Zephaniah (639-608 B.C.) "tzephani yah" (Yaweh is my treasure)
Watched Judah revert back to their evil ways under Manasseh, and Amon. He prophesied during the revival under good king Josiah's reign. Condemned the worship of Canaanite and Assyrian gods and predicted disaster for the pagan nations around such as Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Ethiopia, and Assyria. He also foretold the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem.

Zeph 1:18
Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD'S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land.


Zephaniah also prophesied of blessings in the future for both the gentiles and the Jews:

Zeph 3:17
The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will quiet you with His love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Nahum
Nahum (630-610 B.C.) "nahum" (compassionate)
Nahum's main message was the destruction of Nineveh as a judgement on the Assyrians for their cruel treatment of other nations:

Nah 1:14
The LORD has given a command concerning you: "Your name shall be perpetuated no longer. Out of the house of your gods I will cut off the carved image and the molded image. I will dig your grave, for you are vile."

He reveals much about the majesty and goodness of God:

Nah 1:7
The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.

As well as God's anger and wrath:

Nah 1:2
God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; the LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies;

Nah 3:18-19
Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered on the mountains, and no one gathers them. Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually?

Prophets of the Babylonian Period

Jeremiah
Jeremiah (626-586 B.C.) "yeremi yauw" (Yaweh will lift up) prophesied to Judah and against the surrounding nations. He emphasized the folly of idolatry as God pleaded with His people:

Jer 2:5-7 Thus says the LORD: "What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters? . . . I brought you into a bountiful country, to eat its fruit and its goodness. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination.

He continually warned that Jerusalem would be captured and the inhabitants exiled to Babylon.

Jer 5:15; 19:3 Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel," says the LORD. "It is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say. . . "Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle.

He prophesied against the pagan nations around (Jer 46-51) and also foretold that after 70 years the Jews would return from Babylon:

Jer 29:10-14 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jeremiah's words were vehemently rejected and he was heavily persecuted. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C Jeremiah was forced to live in Egypt. He prophesied much of the Messiah and His kingdom. His greatest prophecy was probably Chap. 31:

Jer 31:31-34 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant . . . No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Habakkuk
Habakkuk (606-586 B.C.) "haba kuk" (embrace)
Hababbuk asked two questions to God, #1 Why He allowed such evil to continue in Judah for so long and go unpunished and, #2 How could a holy God allow the cruel Babylonians to defeat His own people. In response to the first question God revealed to Habakkuk:

Hab 1:5-10
"Look among the nations and watch-- be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.    For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians), a bitter and hasty nation which marches through the breadth of the earth, to possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. . . they fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. "They all come for violence; their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings, and princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, for they heap up earthen mounds and seize it."

And to the second He replied that Babylon has a big appetite so He's gonna use them as an instrument of judgement but their time is gonna come:

Hab 2:12-13
"Woe to him who builds a town with bloodshed, who establishes a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the peoples labor to feed the fire, and nations weary themselves in vain?"

Habakkuk also spoke of a glorious future:

Hab 2:14
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Ezekiel
Ezekiel (592-570 B.C.) "yehetzk'el" (God will strengthen)
Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah 3 times and took captives each time. In 607 (one of the captives was Daniel), in 597 (Ezekiel was taken) and in 586, (Jerusalem was destroyed and all the people taken). Ezekiel prophesied to the captives in Babylon. The captives thought Jerusalem would be delivered by the Lord and they would be rescued. God spoke through Ezekiel using Words, Parables, Visions, and many Similitudes (doing strange things as a sign of something greater). For example:

Ezek 6:11
'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Pound your fists and stamp your feet, and say, 'Alas, for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. 'He who is far off shall die by the pestilence, he who is near shall fall by the sword, and he who remains and is besieged shall die by the famine. Thus will I spend My fury upon them.

Ezekiel was married to a woman who was "the desire of his eyes". God told him that his wife was going to die on the very day the armies of Babylon laid siege against the holy city of Jerusalem and he was not to mourn, as a sign to the people. Ezekiel was commanded not to grieve her death; he was to brace himself for this tragedy even as God had prepared Himself for the death of His beloved city (24:15-22).

Ezek 6:8-14
"Yet I will leave a remnant, so that you may have some who escape the sword among the nations, when you are scattered through the countries. "Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. "And they shall know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them."

Ezekiel predicted the downfall of nations hostile to Judah and spoke of the false shepherds in Jerusalem (Ezek 34) as well as the true Shepherd Messiah and the future regathering of Israel and outpouring of the Spirit in the kingdom. Ezekiel 16 is one of the most striking chapters in the Bible revealing the everlasting love of God for His people and their continued unfaithfulness:

Ezek 16:14-15
"Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord GOD. "But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it."

Obadiah
Obadiah (586-583 B.C.) "obadi yah" (servant of Yaweh)
Obadiah prophesied judgement against Edom for attacking Judah at the time of the Babylonian invasion and for rejoicing over the misfortunes that befell Jerusalem.

Obad 1:13-15
You should not have entered the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped; nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained in the day of distress. "For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head.

The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. The Edomites were always in conflict with Israel. They thought they were impregnable in their mountain strongholds high up in the rocky gorges (Petra). Obadiah predicted their doom. Within 4 years after Jerusalem was burned, Edom was raided and desolated (582 B.C.), by the same Babylonians whom they had helped against Jerusalem.

The Herodian Dynasty in the New Testament, being Idumaen, were the last of the Edomites. After the destruction of Herod's Temple in 70 A.D., they disappeared from history.

Daniel
Daniel (606-534 B.C.) "Dani El" (My Judge is God)
Daniel was taken captive during Nebuchadnezzar's first attack on Jerusalem in 607 B.C., he became a chief minister at the royal court in Babylon. God used him mightily through dreams and interpretation of visions.

In the third year of Cyrus (conqueror of Babylon, and founder of the Persian Empire) Daniel had a series of visions through which God revealed to the minutest details the future concerning the Jews as well as the ultimate fate of each world governing empire from his own day on through to the second coming of Christ. He specifically mentions Babylon, and then Mede-Persia, and then Greece, and the fourth being the most powerful, was the Roman empire and in the last days a final Roman empire that would be crushed by the second coming of the Messiah.

Some of the famous miracles of the Bible are found in Daniel such as The Fiery Furnace, The Handwriting on the Wall, and Daniel in the Lion's Den.

Daniel was a man of incredible character and his book is considered one of the most important prophetic books of the Old Testament. Some of the topics mentioned are: the antichrist, the great tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection and the judgements. Probably the most important passages in Daniel are in chapter 9 which deal with the exact time of the death of the Messiah. After 7 + 62 (69) weeks (seven year periods) the Messiah would be "cut off" which is a clear prediction of His death.

Daniel also saw a vision of the Messiah in chapter 7 as the "Son of Man"
coming with the clouds of heaven:

Dan 7:13-14
"I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

Prophets of the Persian Period

Haggai
Haggai (520-516 B.C.) "haggay" (festal)
In 520 B.C. eighteen years after the Jews had returned from exile in Babylon, Haggai urged them to forget their own interests and finish rebuilding the temple.

The Jews, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, started to rebuild the Temple but somehow they became discouraged and quit. They were more concerned with their paneled houses than the Temple which laid desolate.

The Lord said through Haggai that they were not being blessed and the recent drought and misfortunes were directly related to their laziness in the things of God:

Hag 1:7-8
Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! "Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the LORD.

Haggai, along with the prophet Zechariah, urged them on. Within 4 years it was completed. They became courageous in the work and the Lord told them to mark this day and to watch from now on because they were obeying and His blessings were gonna come:

Hag 2:18-19

'Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid-- consider it: 'Is the seed still in the barn? As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not yielded fruit. But from this day forward I will bless you.'"

Haggai also spoke of the Messiah and the future glories of the Messiah's kingdom with Jesus present on the earth and the gentiles flowing to Him:

Hag 2:6-7
"For thus says the LORD of hosts: "Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 'and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts.

Zechariah
Zechariah (520-516 B.C.) "tzechari yah" (Yaweh is my remembrance)
Zechariah, along with Haggai prophesied to the returned Jewish exiles between 520 and 518 B.C. The message begins with a reminder that the captivity had been a result of disobedience. He then has a series of visions revealing that God is in control of history and will bring a glorious blessing to the faithful remnant of His people.

Jerusalem is pictured as so prosperous that it must be enlarged to contain all the people (ch. 2). The vision of Joshua, the high priest, clothed in filthy rags (ch. 3) apparently is a vision of the future cleansing of the nation at the return of Christ. Other visions in the book point to the coming judgement of God, His ultimate victory over sin, and culminates in the coming of the Messiah.

Zech 9:9-10
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. . . He shall speak peace to the nations; his dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.'

Zechariah predicted the destruction of nations which had oppressed the Jews; and foresaw a time when people would come from every part of the world to worship in Jerusalem. He spoke more about the Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah. Including His death:

Zech 12:10
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.

Malachi
Malachi
Malachi (450-400 B.C.) "malachi" (My messenger)
A prophet who lived in the fifth century B.C. By this time the Jews had become disillusioned and apathetic. Things were not as good as they had hoped. Drought and crop failures along with opposition from various enemies had made life difficult. They were neglecting the things of God and offering imperfect sacrifices as well as failing to give their tithes. The priests were lax and did not encourage them. Mixed marriages and divorce had become common.

Mal 2:16-17
"For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one's garment with violence," says the LORD of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously."You have wearied the LORD with your words; yet you say, "In what way have we wearied Him?" In that you say, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them," or, "Where is the God of justice?"

The heart of Malachi's message was to point to the fact that as long as they neglected the things of God, they could never expect to prosper. If they would repent, then God would bles them. Then he speaks of the approaching day of the Lord which will be ushered in by Elijah, who will be a forerunner of the Messiah, and then Messiah would come. The New Testament identifies Elijah as John the Baptizer and Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 3:1-12; 11:14).

Mal 3:1
"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts.

The book of Malachi closes the Old Testament and a prophet is not revealed in the Scriptures for approximately 400 years until the beginning of the New Testament.

Notes: The Prophets

The history of the rise and fall of the Hebrew nation are found in the history books (Genesis-Esther). The prophets appeared during the days of the fall of the Hebrew nation. At the moment of the apostasy of the 10 tribes at the close of Solomon's reign and Israel's golden age the ministry of the prophets began. The prophets gave a wake up call as soon as people began to forget God.

God warned Israel and Judah over and over again through the prophets. The people forsook God, worshipped idols, did injustice, and loved evil. But God was kind enough to forewarn them of coming judgements because of sin and apostasy, and he would do marvelous miracles through the prophets that would give them hope and encouragement. The prophets even revived their faith in the coming Messiah and His glorious Kingdom. Prophets like Jeremiah warned both Israel and Judah even after it was too late and there was no chance for recovery.

Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, "and say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them till there is no place to bury. "Thus I will do to this place," says the LORD, "and to its inhabitants, because of all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the host of heaven, and poured out drink offerings to other gods."Then Jeremiah came from Tophet, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord's house and said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will bring on this city and on all her towns all the doom that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks that they might not hear My words.'"

God was also very clear about prophets who spoke falsely and worked miracles to back up their words:

Deut 13:1-3
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, "and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'-- which you have not known--' and let us serve them,' "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deut 18:20-22
'But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' "And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'--"when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.


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