Author: Edith Shelton


There are twelve Minor Prophets, so called because their books are much shorter than the three Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel). Nine of the twelve prophesied before the Exile, or Babylonian Captivity. Three of them prophesied in Judah after the captives returned.

In looking at the nine pre-exilic prophets, we shall consider:
when did they prophesy?
to whom did they prophesy?
what was the main theme of their prophecy?
what is familiar to us, perhaps from N.T. quotations?


When: In the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jereboam, son of Joash, king of Israel (Hosea 1:1)

Jeroboam II was almost the end of Jehu's dynasty. His son reigned only six months, and thus ended the four generations promised to Jehu. Jeroboam's reign overlapped with that of Uzziah in Judah, but if Hosea continued into the reign of Hezekiah, he may have been still alive, and possibly still prophesying, at the fall of Samaria.
To whom: Hosea prophesied in the northern kingdom, also called Ephraim -- probably because that was a major tribe and the area where the capital, Samaria, was located.

Theme: Idolatry of Israel. Although there are also a few references to Judah.

Familiar passages:

6:6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (See Matt 9:13; 12:7)

7:7 For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

11:1 ...Out of Egypt I called my son (Matt 2:15)Compare 13:14 and I Cor 15:55

Hosea's marriage is a part of his message and might be called a parable. He was told to "take a wife of harlotry" which may mean he married a prostitute. He had three children whose names were given by God and had meaning: Jezreel ("I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel." 1:4); Lo-ruhamah "not pitied"; and Lo-ammi "not my people." For He said He would have no more pity on the house of Israel and they were not His people.The picture of adultery is used as a metaphor for idolatry (and not only in Hosea). It emphasizes their unfaithfulness to the God who has been faithful to them. The last chapter is a call to Israel to return to God.


When: The date of Joel is not given. Some date him as post-exilic; others as a ninth century B.C. prophet. For arguments pro and con see Talk Thru the Bible. Some put him in the reign of Joash of Judah.

To whom: Joel prophesies to Judah; he also mentions Phoenicia & Philistia,

Theme: The day of the Lord, seen as darkness and judgment, but also restoration.

Familiar passages:

2:28-32 speaks of pouring out His Spirit--quoted by Peter at Pentecost.

2:31 about sun turned to darkness, etc. see also Rev. 6:12. Verse 32 says "all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered" which is also quoted in Romans 10:13.

Joel speaks of a terrible scourge of locusts--it seems that one kind followed another until there was nothing left growing. He calls on the people to call a fast and a solemn assembly to pray to God. Beginning in 2:18 he indicates that God heard their prayers and healed the land. The invasion of locusts in seen as an army invading from the north, and perhaps as a metaphor for judgment that God will send in the form of an actual army. And he looks forward beyond the relief from the locust plague to a later time when God will pour out His Spirit on the people (quoted by Peter at Pentecost) and a time (still later?) when God shall bring judgment on the nations because of their treatment of Israel and Judah and a time when "Judah shall be inhabited forever, and Jerusalem to all generations, I will avenge their blood, and I will not clear the guilty for the LORD dwells in Zion." (3:20-21)


When: In the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. (We don't know what earthquake) Zech. 14:5 mentions an earthquake in the reign of Uzziah.

To whom: Amos was from Judah but prophesied in and concerning Israel mainly. The first chapters also refer to Damascus (Syria), Philistines, Tyre (Phoenicia), Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah as well as Israel.

Theme: Judgment from God

Familiar verses:

9:11 "In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins." In Acts 15 James quotes this and the following verse (although in a somewhat different form) to show that God had said He would save the Gentiles.

According to Walk Thru the Bible Amos' message is the holiness of God and the sinfulness of Israel. Most people speak of Amos as the prophet of social justice. It is true that he talks of the sins of Israel--the way they crush down the needy, etc. But it is also plain that the problem is that they have turned away from God. 3:14 says "...on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel..." the place of the golden calf. And in chapter 4 he mentions a number of judgments God had sent, and in each case he repeats "yet you did not return to me, says the Lord."In 7:17 Amos says that Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land. That must have been hard to believe in the time of Jeroboam.But the last five verses, after all this proclamation of judgment, are a promise of restoration. See especially 9:14-15.


When: Not given. See Talk Thru the Bible for his reasoning for a date of approximately 840 B.C. Others place it after the destruction of Jerusalem.

To whom: Edom

Theme: Judgment on Edom for their treatment of Judah

Edom (Esau) should not have rejoiced over the downfall of Judah and should not have helped loot it, etc. Rather they should have helped. This doesn't seem to fit the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., and no reference is made to either Assyria or Babylon. But the final destruction of Edom is prophesied and the future dominance of Israel and Judah.


When: Probably during the reign of Jereboam II of Israel. At least II Kings 14:25 speaks of Jereboam restoring the border of Israel "according to the word of the LORD...which he spoke by his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher." Perhaps between 770 and 750 B.C. (Samaria fell to Assyria 722 B.C.)

To whom: Jonah was sent from the northern kingdom to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.

Theme: The theme of the prophecy to Nineveh was judgment. The theme of the book on the other hand has more to do with the disobedience of Jonah.

Familiar verses must include the whole story, since this is a well-known Bible story.

Jonah was told to go to Nineveh and cry against them. Although many prophecies of the written prophets are against various Gentile nations, it is not usual for the prophet himself to go there to proclaim the prophecy--as far as we know. Jonah did not want to go, for as we see at the end of the story he was afraid Nineveh would repent and God wouldn't overthrow them. He had good reason to fear this since Assyria was a major power at that time and could be a threat to his own land. In fact, Nineveh did repent at that time, but obviously they did not turn to the God of Israel. There is no indication that that might have happened if Jonah had been more of a missionary, but one wonders. It could have changed the course of history.It is interesting to note that the sailors on the ship prayed to the LORD, and that "the people of Nineveh believed God."


When: During the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah

To whom: North and south - "...which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem."

Theme: Judgment for their sins, esp. turning from Him; and latter day glory

Familiar verses:

5:2 "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin if from of old, from ancient days." When the wise men came to Herod, and he turned to the scribes to find out where the king should be born, this is the passage they quoted to him.

4:1 "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it"

4:2 is sung "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord..."

4:3 "...and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and the spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." This passage 4:1-3 is identical to Isaiah 2:2-4.

Although he speaks against the sins of both Israel and Judah, and names specific sins such as coveting fields and seizing them (2:2), he speaks first of making Samaria a heap and destroying her idols (1:6-7). And he castigates the rulers who prey on their people instead of caring for them, also their priests. 3:11-12 refers to Jerusalem -- "Its heads give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; yet they lean upon the LORD and say, No evil shall come upon us."

This seems to be an assortment of prophecies that don't necessarily follow one another in logical sequence.

Chapter 4 starts with a passage on the "latter days" already mentioned as identical to a passage in Isaiah. But 4:10 says they will go to Babylon -- which was not even a great power at the time.

In verse 6 the Lord pleads his case with/against his people. He has brought them up from Egypt and given them leaders such as Moses; he has shown them His saving acts. And he has shown what he required of them -- 6:8 " do justice, and to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with your God." They have not done these things--especially walk with their God! Verse 16 speaks of keeping the statutes of Omri and all the works of the house of Ahab. This was true in the reign of Ahaz rather than Jotham or Hezekiah.But the last three verses of chapter 7 speak of God pardoning iniquity, not keeping his anger but delighting in steadfast love. "Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old."


When: Prior to the destruction of Nineveh in 612 B.C. Thebes (3:8-10) fell in 664 B.C., prior to this prophecy. Therefore between 664-612 B.C.

To whom: "Concerning Nineveh" but in this case the prophet apparently did not go to Nineveh to deliver the message!

Theme: Nineveh will be conquered and destroyed.

This is completely a prophecy against Nineveh, capital of Assyria, telling of its destruction. 1:8 speaks of an overflowing flood, and 3:13 says "The gates of your land are wide open to your foes; fire has devoured your bars." Talk Thru the Bible says this was literally fulfilled. "The Tigris River overflowed its banks and the flood destroyed part of Nineveh's wall. The Babylonians invaded through this breach in the wall, plundered the city and set it on fire." Chapter 2 gives a vivid description of the battle that would be.

1:11 "Did not one come out from you, who plotted evil against the LORD, and counseled villainy?" Could this refer to Sennacherib?

Nahum completes his message to Nineveh by saying, "All who hear the news of you clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?"Assyria has been a cruel nation.


When: The Chaldeans have become a power (1:6) and God is going to use them as an instrument of judgment. So probably after the fall of Nineveh, and probably after the reign of Josiah who had instituted reforms. His sons who followed him went back to the old ways of Manasseh and Amon.

To whom: Concerning Judah; the northern kingdom had already fallen in 722 B.C.

Theme: God's plans may seem strange to us, but He has His own purposes

Familiar verses:

2:4 "Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fall, but the righteous shall live by his faith."
2:20 "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him."
3:2 " wrath remember mercy."
3:17-19 " Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines... yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds' feet, he makes me tread upon my high places."
This prophecy consists of a dialog between the prophet and God. First Habakkuk questions how long he is going to look on violence and wrongs, the law is slacked and justice never goes forth. But when God tells him that He is raising up the Chaldeans as an instrument of judgment, Habakkuk protests that they are even worse. He wants to know if God is silent when the wicked swallow up the man more righteous than he.

God tells him "Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail [ultimately no doubt] but the righteous shall live by his faith." Then he proclaims woes on the arrogant man who shall not abide. I don't know if 2:20 is part of what the Lord said or is Habakkuk's conclusion to this recitation of woes.

Chapter 3 is a prayer of praise by Habakkuk ending in a real statement of faith. The indication at the end "To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments" probably indicates that the last chapter at least was intended as a psalm of praise to be sung in the temple.


When: In the days of Josiah, probably early in his reign while he is still a child.

To whom: To Judah and also to nations round about

Theme: Judgment of God against Judah and the nations; also restoration.

The first verses indicate a sweeping judgment--"I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the and beast...birds of the air and the fish of the sea...I will cut off mankind from the face of the earth" It's hard to know how literally to take this and how much of the face of the earth is referred to.

The prophecy continues against Jerusalem and Baal, against the officials and king's sons. But it continues in chapter 2 to call the humble to seek the Lord and "perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the wrath of the Lord." The indication may be that this was early in the reign of Josiah when the people were still living in the ways of Manasseh and Amon who had reigned before and Josiah had not come into his real power. It may be that Zephaniah was even instrumental in turning Josiah to the ways of the Lord.

The prophecy goes on against the Philistines, Ethiopia, Assyria. Nineveh was not yet destroyed, which happened near the end of Josiah's reign. 3:11-13 could refer to the first captivity under Nebuchadnezzar when the nobility and leaders were taken away. But from 3:14 on it seems to refer to a still future time when He says "I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes."