Setting and Message of the Old Testament Prophets

An overview of the prophetic books (Major and Minor Prophets) of the Bible

Main

Jeroboam II reigns over Israel

786 BC - 746 BC

"Jeroboam’s reign Israel experienced a time of prosperity, enjoyed especially by the upper classes. Remember also that the northern kingdom of Israel fell into idol worship immediately after splitting away from Judah and Jerusalem (1 Kings 12). They created new worship centers with calf idols at Bethel, Dan, and (apparently) at Gilgal. [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 4059-4062). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Uzziah reigns over Judah

783 BC - 742 BC

Assyria destroys Samaria

722 BC

Assyria besieges Jerusalem

701 BC

Setting of Joel

Joel Written? - Years just prior to Babylonian siege supposed

631 BC - 606 BC

"The prophet Joel is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament outside the book of Joel, and thus little is known about him. Likewise, the book of Joel gives no indication of the time in which it was written. Unlike many of the other prophetic books, no Israelite or Judahite kings are mentioned that would allow scholars to date the book with precision. Based only on the content of the book, many scholars have concluded that it was written just before either the Assyrian invasion of Israel (late eighth century BC) or just before the Babylonian invasion of Judah (late seventh to early sixth century BC). The latter view seems to have the strongest support. On the other hand, some older scholars argued for an even earlier date (ninth century), while the recent trend among many scholars is to favor an early postexilic date (late sixth to early fifth century BC)."

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 3901-3907). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Message of Joel

Message of Joel

631 BC - 606 BC

“Return to Yahweh your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Joel 2: 13)

"Many of the specific descriptions of judgment that the prophets proclaim on Israel and Judah come directly from Deuteronomy 28. Much of Joel’s message is closely connected to his extensive description of a locust plague. Thus Joel appears to draw directly from the warning judgment of Deuteronomy 28: 38, 42, 'You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it… Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.' Unlike most of the other prophets, Joel skips the first point of the standard prophetic message ('You have broken the covenant'— idolatry, social injustice, religious formalism), apparently assuming the broken covenant. He does frequently call for repentance as he focuses on point two, 'Judgment,' and then moves to point three, 'Future hope and restoration.' That is, Joel skips over listing the many covenant violations and simply focuses on the resultant curse from Deuteronomy, apparently assuming that his audience is well aware of their guilt. He does, however, include a call to repent as well as a picture of future restoration and a section of judgment on the nations.

Structurally, the book of Joel breaks down into two halves, with 2: 18 functioning as the hinge. Each of the two halves also contains two units. Thus the structure is as follows:

I. The Judgment.
a. 1: 2 – 20 The coming locust invasion (perhaps a near view),

and a call to repentance.
b. 2: 1 – 17 The coming locust invasion (perhaps a far view), and
a call to repentance.

II. Yahweh’s response
a. 2: 18 – 32 Future restoration (the giving of Yahweh’s Spirit).
b. 3: 1 – 21 Judgment on the nations.

House suggests that Joel continues the central focus on 'warning' that unites the first six books (Hosea to Micah) within the Book of the Twelve.[1] Yet Joel also reminds the readers that Yahweh is slow to anger and that he will always relent if his people will only repent. In this sense Joel reflects the theology of Hosea 1 – 2 and tempers the focus on judgment coming in Amos."[2]

[1] Paul House, “The Character of God in the Book of the Twelve,” in James D. Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney, Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, SBL Symposium Series 15 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2000), 131 – 32.

[2] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 3907-3926). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Events related to Daniel

Nebuchadnezzar Defeats Pharaoh Neco of Egypt at Carchemish

606 BC - 605 BC

Daniel - Beginning of Book

605 BC - 604 BC

The beginning of the book of Daniel was concurrent to the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1).

Setting of Daniel

605 BC - 537 BC

The book of Daniel is similar in setting to Ezekiel, taking place in Babylonia and addressing the disheartened and disillusioned remnant of Israel. The book of Daniel contains several historical superscriptions, indicating that the events and prophecies in the book spanned much of the sixth century BC. Daniel 1: 1 dates the beginning of the book to the third year of Jehoiakim (605 BC). Nebuchadnezzar has defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish and has then moved south into Palestine, besieging Jerusalem, an event not mentioned in 2 Kings or in Jeremiah. Jehoiakim quickly surrenders, and Nebuchadnezzar carries away some items from the temple as well as some of the noble youth. 1 Daniel is one of the young men of the upper class who are carried off to Babylon to be trained in Babylonian administration. In this sense he is among the first group of exiles to be taken from Jerusalem to Babylonia. He continues to work for the Babylonian kings throughout the remaining years of the Babylonian empire, witnessing the nearly total destruction and exile of Judah and Jerusalem. The book of Daniel continues into the Persian era, with the last historical reference in the book tied to the third year of King Cyrus of Persia (i.e., 537 BC).

The book of Daniel is thus similar in setting to Ezekiel, taking place in Babylonia and addressing the disheartened and disillusioned remnant of Israel. [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 3336-3346). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Jehoiakim - Third year of reign

605 BC - 604 BC

Jehoiakim surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar at Jerusalem

605 BC - 604 BC

*Dates are approximate.

Daniel - Timespan

605 BC - 537 BC

Nebuchadnezzar loots items from Jewish Temple

605 BC - 604 BC

The captured sacred items later resurface in the Daniel narrative as noted below:

DANIEL 5— THE FALL OF BABYLON

"The setting for Daniel 5 is 539 BC, the year the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylon. By this time Daniel is an old man and Nebuchadnezzar is dead. Nabonidus, the current king, has left the throne to reside in Arabia, and his son and co-regent, Belshazzar, now rules Babylon. Belshazzar throws a party and uses the sacred gold and silver goblets that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, thus defiling the vessels. In addition, while drinking from the temple goblets, he and his guests praise their idols (5: 4). At that point Belshazzar suddenly sees a hand, writing on the wall. Once again, only Daniel is able to interpret the vision. Through several intricate uses of wordplay, Daniel interprets the vision to mean that Belshazzar’s kingdom will be given to the Medes and the Persians. That very night Babylon falls to the Medo-Persian alliance and Darius the Mede. This is not King Darius I (Darius the Great), a Persian king who comes to the throne later, but probably a reference to either Cyrus himself or to his general, who actually captured the city and killed Belshazzar. Darius was a common name among the Persians." [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 3470-3479). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Nebuchadnezzar carries Daniel and other noble youth into exile in Babylon

605 BC - 604 BC

Cyrus of Persia - 3rd year of reign

537 BC - 536 BC

Message of Daniel

Message of Daniel

605 BC - 537 BC

“His kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” (Dan. 6: 26b – 27a)

Daniel is part of the prophetic tradition, but his central focus does not follow the three-part message followed by the other prophetic books we have studied. Even though the latter half of Daniel is difficult to interpret with certainty, the central message of Daniel is unmistakable: God is sovereign and rules over all people and kingdoms even though it does not always look that way. Although the Babylonians (and then the Persians) seem to control the world, Daniel proclaims that Yahweh is still very much in control and is moving to bring history itself to his divinely directed culmination. Thus there is much more to history than is often apparent on the surface. In the meantime, the true and faithful followers of God can expect to suffer, but they can endure the suffering in the knowledge that God will ultimately bring history to a climax centered on the establishment of his kingdom.

Structurally, Daniel is traditionally broken down into two parts. Daniel 1 – 6 is made up of stories about the life of Daniel and his Jewish compatriots in the royal courts of Babylon. Daniel 7 – 12, on the other hand, is made up of Daniel’s prophecies about world empires. The genre of the first half (1 – 6) is narrative, and the stories are fairly easy to follow. However, the genre of the second half (7 – 12) is primarily apocalyptic (see the discussion of this genre in chapter 3), and therefore not as straightforward or easy to interpret. Yet, although the genre shifts dramatically between Daniel 6 and 7, numerous aspects unite the book and/ or suggest other possible ways of viewing the structure. If one reads the text in the original languages, one is struck by the fact that part of the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew and part in Aramaic (the official court language of the Babylonians). Linguistically, the breakdown is as follows: Daniel 1: 1 – 2: 4a Hebrew Daniel 2: 4b – 7: 28 Aramaic Daniel 8: 1 – 12: 13 Hebrew Within the Aramaic section, Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of four world empires in Daniel 2 is paralleled by Daniel’s vision of four world empires in Daniel 7, suggesting a structural connection between the two chapters. Joyce Baldwin suggests that the Aramaic section (Daniel 2 – 7) is structured in a chiastic fashion, as follows: A1 Four empires and God’s coming kingdom (ch. 2) B1 Trial by fire and God’s deliverance (ch. 3) C1 A king warned, chastised and delivered (ch. 4) C2 A king warned, defiant and deposed (ch. 5)

B2 Trial in the lions’ den and God’s deliverance (ch. 6) A2 Four empires and God’s everlasting kingdom (ch. 7) 5 Although there have been attempts to organize the entire book as a chiastic structure with the major break between Daniel 5 and 6,6 this proposal has not found wide acceptance. Rather, most scholars continue to see the major break between Daniel 6 and 7, acknowledging at the same time that there are parallel themes and numerous connections across the break. The central theme of Daniel 1 – 6 is God demonstrating that he is more powerful than the monarchs of Babylon and Persia. Daniel 7 – 12 focuses on God’s plan for the future in regard to world kingdoms and especially in regard to his kingdom. Across the entire book each chapter forms a coherent unit, with the three final chapters (10 – 12) combining to form the concluding unit. [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 3334-3388). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Events related to Ezekiel

Babylonians arrive at Jerusalem to confront Jehoiakim

598 BC - 597 BC

Jehoiakim dies (apparently assasinated)

598 BC - 597 BC

Jehoiachin assumes his father's throne

598 BC - 597 BC

Jehoiakim, King of Judah rebels against Babylon

598 BC - 597 BC

Jehoiachin quickly surrenders to Babylonians

598 BC - 597 BC

Ezekiel preaches between the 2 exiles

597 BC - 586 BC

"Part of Ezekiel’s ministry takes place between the two exiles; that is, he preaches some of his messages after the first exile of 597 BC but before the terrible destruction of Jerusalem in 587/ 586 BC. The fall of Jerusalem and the terrible destruction that followed is perhaps the central historical event in the book of Ezekiel. Remember, however, that he is in Babylon when it happens." [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 2841-2843). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Ezekiel taken into captivity in Babylon

597 BC - 596 BC

Ezekiel was a young priest at this time.

Jehoiachin taken into captivity in Babylon

597 BC - 596 BC

Jehoiachin taken into captivity with 10,000 Judahites.

Yahweh calls Ezekiel to Prophetic Ministry

593 BC - 592 BC

Ezekiel 1:2

"Ezekiel’s primary audience is the Hebrew exiles in Babylon, who are struggling to make sense of their exile and the world events that have shattered their lives." [2]

[2] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 2839-2841). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

JERUSALEM UNDER SIEGE

587 BC - 585 BC

JERUSALEM UTTERLY DESTROYED

586 BC

The city's ultimate and horrific annihilation took place during the summer, on 9 Av, 586 BC. It is significant that Jerusalem "The City of Shalom" (peace) was again laid waste on 9 Av, AD 70 by the Romans during the reign of Caesar Titus.

Message of Ezekiel

“Do you see what they are doing— the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary?” (Ezek. 8: 6)

Message of Ezekiel

598 BC - 585 BC

I. Three-Part Standard Pre-Exilic Prophetic Message [3]

  1. You (Judah) must repent!
  2. If you do not repent, you will face judgment! Judgment will also come upon the (other) nations.
  3. Yet there is still hope for a glorious future restoration for Israel/Judah and the other nations.

*During Ezekiel's prophetic ministry, Jerusalem is destroyed (the primary demonstration of God's judgment on Israel/Judah) and the prophet's message shifts from one of impending doom to one of an explanation of contemporary circumstances. [4]

II. Related Themes within the Three-Part Message.

1. The Sovereignty and Glory of Yahweh
a. The Israelites are in exile, but Yahweh is in control of all

history.
2. The phrases, "I am YHWH" and "...that you may know that I am

YHWH." are repeated throughout the book.

2. The Presence of Yahweh.

[3] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Location 2844). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[4] Ibid., (Kindle Locations 2845-2848).

Events related to Amos

Amos of Tekoa, Judah prophesies to Israel

762 BC - 761 BC

If the earthquake of 760 BC, the date of which has been approximated by come scholars, is in fact, the cataclysm mentioned by Amos, then his prophecy can be dated to 762 BC.

Major Earthquake

760 BC - 759 BC

Dates are approximate based upon archaeological evidence of a major earthquake that has been dated to this period. [1]

"Amos dates his prophecy to “two years before the earthquake,” apparently referring to a severe earthquake that everyone in his time remembered. Also, note that this reference to “two years before the earthquake” implies that Amos’s message did not stretch out over a long period of time, as did Jeremiah’s and Hosea’s, but covered a very short period, perhaps only a few months." [2]

"[He] dates his prophecy generally to the kings who ruled in the first half of the eighth century BC and specifically to “two years before the earthquake.” Geologically, Israel and Judah lie over the Jordan Rift, and therefore earthquakes are fairly common in this region. However, Amos seems to refer to a particularly severe earthquake that happened during the first half of the eighth century BC. In fact, more than two hundred years later, Zechariah refers back to this earthquake, calling it the earthquake that happened during Uzziah’s reign (Zech. 14: 5). Excavations at Hazor indicate that a sizable earthquake occurred around 760 BC. This may be the earthquake Amos refers to, but additional archaeological corroboration is probably needed before we can be certain." [3]

[1] John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 764.

[2] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 4056-4058). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[3] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 4068-4073). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Message of Amos

Message of Amos

762 BC - 761 BC

“Let justice roll on like a river…” (Amos 5: 24)

"Amos delivers the same basic message as do the rest of the standard preexilic prophets: You (Israel/ Judah) have broken the covenant; you had better repent! No repentance? Then judgment! Judgment will also come on the nations. Yet there is hope beyond the judgment for a glorious future restoration, both for Israel/ Judah and for the nations." [1]

[1] Longman III, Tremper; Hays, J. Daniel (2010-09-21). The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 4062-4065). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Events related to Jonah

Jonah's prophetic ministry

786 BC - 746 BC

Message of Jonah

“Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (Jonah 4: 11)

Events related to Obadiah

Obadiah's prophecy

586 BC - 576 BC

Obadiah contains no historical superscription and can therefore not be dated with certainty.

Message of Obadiah

Events related to Micah

Message of Micah

“And what does Yahweh require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6: 8)

Micah's Ministry

750 BC - 687 BC

Events related to Nahum

Message of Nahum

Events related to Habakkuk

Message of Habakkuk

Events related to Zephaniah

Message of Zephaniah

Events related to Zechariah

Message of Zechariah

Events related to Haggai

Message of Haggai

Events related to Malachi

Message of Malachi

Events related to Hosea

Message of Hosea

Events related to Isaiah

Message of Isaiah

Events related to Jeremiah

Message of Jeremiah

Events related to Lamentations

Message of Lamentations