Books of the Old Testament Summaries: Minor Prophets

Hosea

Hosea was a prophet of God during a time when the people of God in Judah were not being faithful to the Law. God told Hosea to marry a woman who would not love him like she should. God did this to show the people of Israel that though they were His people, they did not love Him like they should. When they served idols and did not obey God’s law, they were not showing true love for Him.

Through Hosea, God told the people that He would not be their God and they would not be His people if they did not repent. He also said that He would allow an enemy to come and defeat them in battle and take them to live in another land. God wanted his people to serve Him and He would take care of them and make sure they had food, water, and places to live. But the people loved their idols and would not turn to God even when their food and water became hard to find. Can you imagine not having much food or water but still not serving God who would give plenty of food and water?

Though the people had not loved God like they should, God was willing to take them back if they would repent. To repent means to change your mind so that instead of disobeying God, you will obey God. God would forgive their sins if they would turn to Him.

Hosea begged the people to turn back to God. He told them that the Lord had brought suffering on them for sin but He would make things better if they would return. But, he said, they were not very faithful. They did not have a strong love for God. Hosea said that God wrote great things in His law but the people thought they were strange things. They did not learn the law of God like they should and so they did not understand the things God wrote to help them be good people.

Hosea also said that God would not accept the animal sacrifices they people were offering. They thought that even if they were not obeying all of the law, if they made sacrifices like the law commanded, that God would accept it. But God did not want them to just keep part of the law, He wanted them to do all that He commanded. We must make sure that we do not think that just because we do something religious, like going to worship services, that we can use bad  language, or lie, or do other things God does not want us to do. God wants us to serve Him with our hearts, because He loves us. He also wants us to keep His law because it is good for us.

Lessons from Hosea

  • God wants people who are sinning to come back to Him so He can forgive them.
  • God wants His people to keep His laws and serve Him because they love Him.
  • Sometimes people will not serve God even when they are punished   for disobeying.

Joel

During the period of the divided kingdom, God sent many prophets to His people to teach them.  God’s people were not obeying the Law of Moses and were worshipping idols and being mean to one another.  God sent His prophets to tell the people that God loved them but if they did not repent, God was going to punish them.

The prophet Joel was one of the prophets God sent to His people.  We don’t know exactly when Joel prophesied, but it was a terrible time in Israel’s history.
Imagine one of your parents coming back from the grocery store with no food.  You ask them, “Where is the milk, bread, and other food?”  Your parent sadly tells you that there was no food, in fact the food is gone from all the stores.  Think how you would feel!

The book of Joel describes a similar situation with Israel.  They did not have grocery stores like we do, but would grow their own food to eat.  According to Joel, God sent a great number of locusts, insects that eat the plants, to eat the food that was growing in the fields.  Why did God do this?

When God gave His people the law, He said that if they obeyed Him He would make sure that it rained when it was supposed to, that their animals and plants would be healthy, and they would be protected from other nations that wanted to attack them.  But, if they disobeyed God and began to worship idols, God promised that He would not let it rain on their land, He would make them run out of food, and allow other nations to fight against them.  This is what happened in Joel’s time.  Though God sent the locusts to eat their food, if they would repent, nothing worse would happen to them.

God wanted the people to really repent.  He didn’t want them to just say they were sorry, but to really feel sorry for disobeying Him.  He told them that if they did repent, He would give them the rain and food again.  According to Joel, the people apparently did repent because, in the second chapter, God promised to give them plenty of food.

Joel also prophesied about the coming of the church in Joel 2:28-32.  What he said here was fulfilled over 600 years later when the church was established in Acts 2.  If you look in Acts 2, you will see this passage quoted.

Joel’s prophecy ends with a warning that God would punish the nations that tried to hurt His people.

Joel reminds us that God will judge His people and the world.  If we are pleasing God we have nothing to fear from His judgment.

Lessons from Joel:

  • God will punish His children when they do not obey Him; like a good parent punishes a disobedient child.
  • God will forgive His people when they repent of their sins.
  • God will punish those who are mean to His people.

Amos

The prophet Amos prophesied during a time when God’s people were stronger than their enemies, and had plenty of food and money, but their hearts were sick. They did not love God like they should so even through things seemed to be going well, God was angry with them and was going to punish them.

God’s people had been worshipping idols and were mean to one another. God told them that He was tired of them coming to worship Him when they did not live like they should the rest of the time. Through Amos, He told the people that they would be punished, their money and houses would be taken away, and they would be taken from their land by another nation.

Amos was a shepherd and also took care of sycamore trees. God talked to Amos and told him to tell the
people to repent of their sins. God does not call men to speak His message today like He called the prophets in the Old Testament. The prophets were specially chosen to warn the people.

Amos told the people that God was not pleased with their worship. Some had set up idols and worshiped them in God’s name. God hated this because He had already told the people how to worship Him. In His Law He told them not to worship Him with idols. They had also set up idols to pretend gods. God hated this also.

He not only wanted them to worship Him like they should, He also wanted them to treat one another right. They were not being fair with one another. Some were trying to make money by cheating their fellow Jews. Amos told them to practice justice and righteousness. Even if they worshipped correctly, if they did not treat their brethren right, God would not be pleased. We must always remember that God wants us to treat our family members, people at church, and other people fairly and to be kind to them.

God punished His people with famine, locusts, diseases, and even allowed other nations to fight against them and win, but the people would not repent. Therefore, Amos told them “Prepare to meet your God, O’ Israel!”  God was going to judge them and punish them if they would not repent. If they did repent, not only saying they were sorry but changing their lives to do what God wanted them to do, God would not punish them.

We can learn much from Amos’ prophecy. We must worship God as He commanded us to do, treat Christians fairly, and repent when we do things that are wrong.

Lessons From Amos

  • God wants us to worship Him in the way that He commanded
  • God wants us to worship with our whole heart and mind.
  • God wants us to be fair with Christians as He wanted the Jews to be fair to one another
  • We must always be  prepared to meet God

Obadiah

The prophet Obadiah was sent to talk to the people of the nation of Edom. The Edomites were related to the Israelites. Israel came from Jacob, the Edomites came from his brother, Esau.

In the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-27, 32-33), the brothers were born at the same time but looked different. Esau was the oldest and would be the leader of the family when his father died except he sold that right, called the birthright, to Jacob for a pot of stew when he was very hungry. Jacob later deceived his father into making sure that he got the blessing. Esau was angry and wanted to kill Jacob so, for a long time, Jacob lived far from Esau.

Just as the brothers struggled in their lives, the nations that followed them, the Israelites and Edomites, struggled with one another. One time when Israel was attacked by an enemy, the Edomites did not help and, in fact, took some of the treasures from Israel and some of the people as slaves.

God sent Obadiah to tell the Edomites that he was not pleased with them.   Obadiah told the Edomites that they should not have stood by when Israel was taken captive by their enemies or killed the Israelites who tried to escape from the enemies. Though they were strong, God told the Edomites that stronger nations would come and punish them. God would bring Israel back to their land but Edom would be destroyed.

We should learn an important lesson from this. When something bad happens to someone, we should not do bad things to them or help those who are being mean. Some call it “kicking someone when they are down.”  We who love God should help people up when they fall, we should help them in bad times especially when no one else will help them. There are some people at school who have to suffer bad things and, on top of that, other people make fun of them. We should try to help them, not make them feel worse. God knows and He sees what we do.

Lessons from Obadiah

  • God knows who mistreats His people and will punish them
  • We should not help people mistreat others but be friends in a time of need
  • God is watching how we treat others
  • Do not kick someone when they are down

Jonah

Jonah was a prophet of God who lived during the time of the divided kingdom, not long before Israel was defeated by Assyria. The book of Jonah opens with God commanding Jonah to go to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrians, and tell them to repent or they would be destroyed.  The Assyrians were not part of God’s people, in fact they were great enemies, but God wanted them to turn from evil.  God gave Nineveh a  final chance to  repent or be destroyed.

Instead of going to Nineveh, Jonah went the opposite direction!  He tried to flee from the presence of God, but no one can flee from Him.  He tried to run because he knew that God would forgive Nineveh if they repented and he did not want to see God’s enemies repent. While Jonah was on a ship, God caused a great storm to put the ship in danger.  Jonah told his shipmates that he was the cause of their trouble and that they should throw him into the sea.  They did not want to do it at first but, after he convinced them, they threw him overboard.  The Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and he spent three days and nights in the fish. In the belly of the fish Jonah prayed to God for deliverance.  God spoke to the fish and it spit up Jonah on land close to Nineveh.Jonah entered Nineveh on his first day of walking.  As he walked through the city he proclaimed, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  The people of the city believed God and went without food, put on sackcloth, (to show sorrow) and repented of their sins.  God had mercy on them and decided not to destroy them.

Jonah, instead of being happy that the people obeyed God, sulked.  Jonah went on a hill to see what would happen to the city.  It was hot so God prepared a plant that grew up quickly and provided shade for Jonah.  God then destroyed the plant the next day.  Again, Jonah was angry.  God rebuked Jonah for being angry that the plant died and not rejoicing in the repentance of the Assyrians.  God told Jonah the souls of the people were more important than the life of the plant.

Micah

Micah was a prophet of God when both bad and good kings ruled in Judah. Micah warned the people that God was going to come and punish them for doing wrong if they did not change their lives and start serving God.

Micah said that the city of Samaria, which was the capitol of the nation of Israel, would be destroyed because the people were wicked. Micah said that the stones that made up the streets and buildings of the city would be thrown down the hill and what once was a city would be turned into farm fields. The people of Samaria did not repent and God sent enemies to destroy the city. The city of Samaria was not rebuilt. People wanted to put farms on the good land of the hill on which Samaria was built. They could not grow food in with the stones all over the ground so they took the stones of the buildings and the streets and threw them off the side of the hill. Even today the stones lie on the sides of the hills and people farm where the old city of Samaria existed. Micah’s prophecy came true and has remained true for thousands of years.

Micah was sad about the people of Judah who always wanted to do wrong. He said they lie on their beds at night and try to think of bad things to do and when morning comes, they wake up and practice those things. They were mean to their neighbors and took houses and land from them. But God saw their evil and punished them for acting so selfish and wicked.

Micah also warned the people who would not listen to the prophets whom God sent to warn the people. The people did not want to hear that they were doing bad and that they needed to change. They would tell the prophets to quit prophesying. They would listen to someone who told them what they wanted to hear, even if it was wrong.

People today can do the same thing. Some people do not want to hear God’s word if it means they must change their lives. They will find people who will preach what they want to hear. We need to listen to God’s word and change our lives to live by it. We should never try to change God’s word to say what we want it to say.

Finally, Micah warned the people who thought that God would be with them even when they were doing wrong. Some people today will use bad language, lie, or do other bad things and think that God will still save them because they go to church every Sunday and maybe even lead singing or preach. God says that he will punish them.

Lessons from Micah

  • The prophets told of events that would take place in the future which came true
  • God would punish the people who thought up ways of doing wrong
  • We must listen to God’s word especially when we have to change our lives to obey it
  • God’s people will be punished if they do not obey His word

Nahum

Nahum was a prophet of God chosen to take his message to the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of the enemies of God’s people. It was the nation of Assyria that took the northern tribes of Israel into captivity. They were very brave but very mean. They would often cause their prisoners to suffer terrible pain before they killed them. I am sure that the people of Israel were treated badly by the people of Nineveh.

God sent Nahum to tell the people of Nineveh that God was going to punish them because they were so mean to Israel. If you read in the Old Testament, you will find that God chose Assyria to attack Israel because Israel was not obeying God but were worshipping idols. However, the people of Nineveh did not attack Israel because they thought they were helping God, but because they wanted to get their land and all of their treasures. Since they treated Israel so badly, God would punish Assyria.

The people of Nineveh were very strong but God told them not to trust in their strength for He was more powerful. They thought that they were a great nation, and at the time they were, but God said that he would destroy the nation. This would be hard to believe for the Assyrians controlled a lot of the world around them. However, since God spoke against them, they would surely fall. No matter how strong they were, they could not fight God and win.

God said the palaces would be destroyed and that wild animals would live in the city. He also said that the people would be taken prisoner by other nations just as Assyria took other nations captive. This came true just as God promised. The Babylonians destroyed the city of Nineveh and took the people away.

God promised that He would take care of His people. Though they seemed weak compared to the people of Nineveh, God would be their strength. We may be small compared to so many people who want to do what is wrong but God takes care of us, too. However, we must be faithful to God because He is angry with those who turn their backs on Him and choose to not serve Him anymore.

God had given Nineveh a chance to repent long before, when God sent Jonah to tell the people to repent. They changed for a while then turned back on God. Now they would be destroyed.

Lessons From Nahum

  • God remembers those who are mean and mistreat His children
  • When God says that He will destroy a nation, no one is strong enough to fight against Him
  • God will take care of His people as long as they are faithful to Him
  • If we sin, we must repent and serve God

Habakkuk

Habakkuk (sounds like hub-back-cook), is one of the minor prophets, which means that he did not write a lot of material. We do not know much about him but he has an important message.

Habakkuk cried to God because the wicked people were treating the good people very badly. He wondered how God could allow the wicked people to do mean things for so long. God told Habakkuk that the wicked seem to be getting away with evil but that He saw all their meanness and sinful ways and he would punish them for disobeying Him. We need to remember that though it seems like nothing bad happens to wicked people, God knows their sin and will punish them when He is ready. We must keep doing what is right.

The most important lesson in the book of Habakkuk is “the just shall live by faith.”  This important thought is also taught in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles. Those who do what is right will live by their faith in God.

The wicked are full of pride and greedy for things in this world and God will punish them for both. He pronounced “woes” on those who desired other peoples money and things, people who got drunk and tried to get others drunk, and those who worshipped idols. A woe is a sorrowful cry to one who is going to be punished. If Habakkuk lived in our day, instead of woe, he might say, “I feel sorry for you” and tell them why they should worry about God’s judgment. Of course, those who are doing right do not have to worry about the “woes” for they have blessings from God.

Habakkuk reminds the readers that since God has punished His people who lived on the earth by bringing enemies against them and making them go without food, He will also judge people before His throne of judgment eternally. We must be ready for judgment by doing what is pleasing to God and not being like the wicked people.

Lessons from Habakkuk

  • God sees the wicked that some men do and will punish them
  • The just shall live by their faith in God
  • The wicked should be sorry if they do not repent
  • God’s physical judgment should remind us of spiritual judgment

Zephaniah

The prophet Zephaniah prophesied during a time when many people were trying to do what is right. While he was alive, the king of Judah, Josiah, destroyed idols all over the land and told the people to serve God. Under the two kings before Josiah, the people were worshipping idols and doing many things that made God angry. But Josiah, a young man, loved God and wanted the people to serve Him.

Zephaniah warned the people that God would destroy everything in the land of Judah if they people continued to worship idols. He said the people would become like food for their enemies. He also said that no amount of money would buy their freedom. In fact, the people would lose everything they owned to their enemies. He said that the enemies would live in their houses and eat the food from their vineyards and fields. God would do this if the people did not repent.

God’s people had a wrong attitude about God. They said that God would not do good or evil to the people (Zephaniah 1:12). They were wrong to think that God would do nothing. Some people today think that God does not care about things in the world and that He will do nothing good for us or bad against us. We must not think this way.

The people did not repent when God corrected them. They had times without a lot of water or food, enemies attacked them, and other problems which God brought on them to turn them back to Him. However, the people did not repent when they were punished. We must always do what God commands and when we do wrong, repent.

Zephaniah called the people to repent. He told them, in Zephaniah 2:1-3, to:

  1. Repent before it is too late. We must not think that we can do wrong and change sometime later. We must do what is right today.
  2. Seek the Lord in meekness. We must  realize that God is in control and should serve Him completely.
  3. Seek righteousness. We must do what is right and learn His word so we can do things that Jesus did.
  4. Seek humility. We must not be proud but realize that God deserves our worship, love, and obedience.
  5. Let us always serve God and remember that He loves us and will take care of us. He is our God!

Lessons from Zephaniah

  • God wants His people to serve Him completely
  • God would destroy Judah if they did not repent
  • God does care what His people say and do and will reward or punish us if we are doing good or doing evil
  • Seek the Lord and desire to please Him

Haggai

Haggai (pronounced like hay-gay-eye) prophesied during the time when Israel had come back from Babylonian bondage and were living in Jerusalem. They had begun building the temple of God but stopped when some of the people in the land told the king over the land—Darius, the king of Persia—that the Jews were up to no good.

The Jewish people should have told the king that they were rebuilding the temple because a previous Persian king allowed them to do it, but they remained silent for a time.

During the time when they stopped building the temple, the continued to build their houses and some lived in very fine homes. However, God’s house, the temple, was still in ruins. Haggai told the people to rebuild the temple. He rebuked them for living in such fine houses when God’s house had not been rebuilt.

Haggai told the people to consider their ways. He wanted them to think about how they were living and how they chose to disobey God. He reminded them that though they had planted much seed on their farms, they did not have large harvests, they did not have enough water, and they were poorly clothed. Haggai said that these things came upon them because they were not following God.

The people listened to Haggai and they came together to finish the house of the Lord. When Solomon built the first temple, it was a beautiful building, very large, with great riches inside and out. Of course, Israel was much poorer now and the temple would not look as beautiful as the temple Solomon built. But God promised them that He would be pleased with it and He would fill it with His glory. The important thing was not how beautiful it was, but that God was there with them.

God promised to cleanse the people when they repented and to protect them from their enemies. Though they had been punished for their wickedness God would welcome them back when they turned to Him. God would watch over them.

Lessons from Haggai

  • We must not let any-thing keep us from keeping God’s will
  • Just as Israel should have built the temple instead of focusing on their houses, we must put the work of the Lord in the church above all things.
  • God will forgive those who repent of wickedness

Zechariah

The book of Zechariah is a book of visions and prophecies that God sent to Zechariah when God’s people were captive in the land of the Persians. The Persian empire defeated the Babylonian empire which destroyed Jerusalem and took the Jewish people captive.

Though God’s people were able to return to Judea, God warned them, through His prophets, not to return to the wickedness that caused God to punish them with the Babylonian army. God told His people that He loved them very much but they had to love Him and only serve Him; not to serve idols.

Zechariah is a wonderful book for Christians for God told Zechariah about Jesus who would come to the earth more than 500 years after Zechariah’s prophecy.

Zechariah saw that Jesus, whom he called Branch, would take away sin in one day. Jesus did this when He died on the cross. He also saw that Jesus would be a priest who would sit on the throne.

This second lesson about Jesus might have confused the Jews. Under the Old Law, the priests could only come from the tribe of Levi, and the kings from the family of David who was of the tribe of Judah. Jesus would be from the tribe of Judah but could not be a priest under the Old Law.

This prophecy pointed to the new law, the gospel, in which Jesus could be a priest and king at the same time and the Old Law would be put away. We do not obey the Ten Commandments or any part of the Old Testament today. However, We can learn much from studying the Old Testament.

Zechariah also prophesied about Jesus coming into Jerusalem on a small donkey which Jesus fulfilled, Matthew 21:1-7. He prophesied that Jesus would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. He also saw how Jesus would be the ruler in His new kingdom, which we know as the church.

Throughout the book, God warns the people to put away their idols, to do good instead of wickedness, to take care of the weak among them, and to have love for others. These lessons we should learn and practice today for the gospel teaches us to do this as well.

Zechariah can sometimes be hard to understand but it is not impossible to know what his message is. As you learn more and more about the Bible, this book, and all books of the Bible are easier to understand.

 Lessons from Zechariah

  • God can punish His people when they are wicked and forgive them when they repent
  • God’s plan for salvation through Jesus was revealed by many prophets hundreds of years before Jesus came to the earth
  • We must live holy lives before God and obey His commands

Malachi

The book of Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament.

Malachi carried a sad message from God to the people. They said they loved God but they did not obey Him. God told the people that children on earth show their fathers respect but they had not shown Him, their heavenly Father, respect.

The people did not bring the best animals to sacrifice to God like the law commanded them to do. The people should have brought the best because they were bringing the animals in worship to God. Instead, the people brought animals that were sick or ready to die. God said that He would not accept their offering. We must remember to offer our best when we come to worship God.

The people also whined that worshipping God was a weariness, or tiring. How sad and angry it must make God feel when our parents say, “It is time to go to worship,” and we whine, “Do we have to?” It is a wonderful thing to sing praises to God and learn about Him from His word. Even though the people came to worship, since they did not want to be there, God did not accept their worship.

The people did many other things that Malachi told them to change. They were not faithful to God, they called evil things good, and said that God accepts evil things. Even today people, sometimes religious people, will say that something pleases God when God, in His word, said not to do it. Some say it is sometimes ok to lie when God says not to lie. Some say that it is ok to not go to church when God said that we should not miss worship as some people do (Hebrews 10:25).

Malachi ends his message with hope. He tells of a preacher like Elijah the prophet who would turn the hearts of people back to God. He was talking about John the Baptist who, 400 years later, prepared the hearts of the people to worship Jesus. Jesus is our last hope for if we do not follow Him, we cannot please God.

I hope you liked the study of the prophets. Many young people do not know about the prophets and that is sad. Keep learning and growing!

Lessons from Malachi

  • We must respect God
  • We must give our best in worship to God
  • We must not whine when we go to worship
  • Do not call evil things good
  • God would send John the Baptist to prepare people to obey Jesus
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