Old Testament Survey
The apostle Peter said of the Old Testament prophets: For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The prophets were men who were chosen by God. They were inspired by His Spirit. They served as Gods messengers to His people in their day. They also were allowed to foretell things which would happen in the future. Especially, they foretold the coming of Jesus Christ and the beginning of His church.
Zephaniahs name means Jehovah hides. He was the great, great grandson of Hezekiah, one of the good kings of Judah. King Josiah was on the throne of Judah when Zephaniah prophesied. He was also a great, great grandson of Hezekiah. Therefore, Zephaniah and Josiah were cousins. Nahum, Habakkuk, and Jeremiah were all living during Zephaniahs lifetime. He may have known these prophets.
King Josiah reigned from 640 B.C. to 609 B.C. Zephaniahs prophecy was delivered during this time. Israel, the northern kingdom, no longer existed. It had been taken into captivity by Assyria one hundred years before this time. Assyria and Egypt were rivals for control of the world. The little kingdom of Judah was located between them. The armies of these two superpowers often marched through Judah on the way to fight against each other. Sometimes their armies clashed in Judahs territory. Each of these mighty nations tried to force Judah into an alliance with them. The world situation was about to change. Babylon, a state which had been conquered by Assyria, was becoming stronger. It would become independent very shortly. Later, Babylon would defeat Assyria and become the leading nation. Matters were made worse by the Sythians. These were a fierce, barely civilized people from Southern Russia. They came into Assyria and moved westward. They threatened Judah also.
King Josiah led a spiritual revolution. He removed idol worship, repaired the temple of God, and brought back the true worship (2 Kings 22, 23). Zephaniah and his fellow prophets assisted Josiah. They called the people back to God. However, most of the people repented only outwardly. When Josiah was killed in battle, they went back to idol worship. As a result, they were taken into Babylonian Captivity in a few short years.
The Minor Prophets we have studied so far all lived and prophesied before the Babylonian Captivity. The last three Minor Prophets prophesied after the Babylonian Captivity. They are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Haggais name means festive or festival. He was among the first group of captives who were allowed to return at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. It is possible that Haggai was born in Judah and was among those taken captive to Babylon in 586 B.C. If this is true, then Haggai was a very old man when he prophesied to Judah.
Haggai was a man with a simple message: The temple must be rebuilt if Gods people want to receive His blessings. Haggai and Zechariah worked together to encourage the Jews to rebuild the house of God (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). An effort was made to rebuild Gods temple when the first group of captives returned. However, they faced opposition from the people of the land. They also became involved in building their own houses and earning a living. Soon, work on the temple stopped. Nothing was done for nearly sixteen years.
In the second year of King Darius (520 B.C.), Haggai was called to prophesy (Haggai 1:1). The little colony of returned Jews were suffering greatly. God had sent drought, disease, poor crops and famine to awaken the Jews to their responsibilities. They lacked faith in God to fulfill His promises. They had not put God first in their lives. Haggai delivered a series of messages from God. These messages encouraged the people to trust in God and give Him first place. When they did this, they went to work and soon had the temple rebuilt.
Zechariahs name means Whom the Lord remembers. He was a co-worker with Haggai in calling the Jews back to the work of God (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). The first part of his book is clearly dated (Zechariah 1:1). Zechariah began prophesying in 520 B.C., probably a few months after Haggai was called. The second part of Zechariah (the last six chapters) is very different from the first part. It was likely written many years later.
Not only did Zechariah encourage the Jews to complete the rebuilding of the temple, but he also prophesied of the coming of the Messiah (Christ). Except for Isaiah, Zechariah made more predictions about Christ than any other prophet. Just as Isaiah is the Messianic prophet among the Major Prophets, so Zechariah is the Messianic prophet among the Minor Prophets.
There are many Messianic prophecies in Zechariah. He foretold that Christ would come as a peaceful king (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-5). He prophesied that Christ would be betrayed by a friend (Zechariah 13:6; Matthew 26:21). He also foretold that the Christ would be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12,13; Matthew 26:14-27:10). He said that Christ is the Branch and the Seed of David (Zechariah 6:12,13; Isaiah 11:1,2; Romans 1:3,4). Zechariah prophesied that Christ would be both a king and a priest on His throne (Zechariah 6:12,13; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Timothy 6:14-16). Since Christ is our High Priest now, this means He is also our king now. If He is our king now, then it means that His kingdom has already come. God revealed to Zechariah that Christ would be crucified (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:33-37; Revelation 1:7). When this happened, a fountain would be opened for sin and cleansing (Zechariah 13:1; John 1:29; Matthew 26:28).
The name Malachi means My messenger. Malachi was Gods last inspired messenger to His people until the coming of John the Baptist four hundred years later. Nothing is known of Malachis personal life. He was a fearless spokesman for God who rebuked the people of Israel for their sins and hypocrisy.
The conditions of Gods people in the book of Malachi are the same as those in the book of Nehemiah. Chapters seven to ten of Ezra also cover the same period of time. This indicates that Malachi prophesied during the two terms that Nehemiah served as governor over the little colony of Jews who had returned from captivity. Therefore, the date of Malachis prophecy is the period from 444 B.C. to 425 B.C.
The people of God had become careless in keeping Gods Law. Priests neglected their duties (Malachi 2:1-10). People offered lame and sick animals for sacrifice (Malachi 1:7,8). They failed to give their tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10). They even questioned Gods goodness and His love for them (Malachi 2:17). Divorce was commonly practiced. Many of the Jews were putting away their original wives in order to marry pagan women (Malachi 2:14-16). They came to worship God, but they did not enjoy it. It made them weary (Malachi 1:13).
Malachi strongly condemns these sins. He had a unique way of teaching. He would make a statement. Then he would examine objections against what he had said. He would then answer his own objections. This style of teaching became the accepted style in the synagogue.
Malachi was permitted to reveal the coming of John, the Baptist, who would prepare the way for Jesus (Malachi 4:5,6).
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