We now come to the Prophetical books, forming a fourth division of the Bible, and the last division of the Old Testament. These books can be further divided into the Major Prophets (Isaiah to Daniel) and the Minor Prophets (Hosea to Malachi). These books give prophecies regarding the judgment of Israel and Judah, then the restoration of Judah, followed by prophecies relating to the destruction of the Gentile nations, and finally prophecies regarding the coming of Christ.
We first take up the Major Prophets, starting with the book of Isaiah. The book of Isaiah is the beginning of the prophecies, and the most straightforward books. This book in itself is like a mini-Bible, as it has 66 chapters. The first 39 chapters are like the Old Testament books, speaking of judgment and the need to repent. Then we have the last 27 chapters, from chapter 40 until the end, which speaks of hope, and the gospel of the New Testament, bringing forth salvation to those who believe in Christ and trust Him. Therefore, it is fitting that Isaiah should be the first of the prophetical books.
The time span of the prophecy of the book of Isaiah reaches about 60 years, from about 740 BC to about 680 BC. At that time, Assyria was growing in power, and eventually captured Israel about 722 BC. Isaiah further warned Judah that Babylon would conquer Jerusalem, even though Babylon had not yet risen to power.
We will now examine Christ in the book of Isaiah. First, we have His wonderful virgin birth predicted in chapter 7:14, and is also given His name Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Then chapter 9:6-7 further speaks of His birth, His government and His wonderful Name (Luke 2:11). Further on, chapter 11 speaks of Christ as the rod of the stem of Jesse (Luke 3:32). Then in chapter 28:16 He is the stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). We then come to chapter 40, presenting Christ as the gracious Shepherd and mighty Creator (Matthew 3:1-3). Then Christ is the obedient Servant of chapter 42 (Matthew 12:15- 21; Luke 2:29-32). In chapter 50 Christ is the lowly Man whose ear was ever open ho hear and to do the Father’s will. Then, chapter 52:13-53:12 show in detail His substitutionary sacrifice, and it is a well known and loved by all true believers. This chapter is given to us throughout the Gospels in more detail. Again, in chapter 55 Christ is inviting thirsty and hungry souls to come to Him and live (John 4:13-14; 7:37-38). Finally, in chapter 61 Christ is seen as the One preaching the good tidings to the poor and healing those who need Him (Luke 4:17- 21). So, the book of Isaiah introduces the blessed gospel of God’s grace.
Following Isaiah, we then come to the book of Jeremiah. While Isaiah introduces the gospel, in Jeremiah, the prophet is faced with total rejection of the Word of God, and conspiracies to kill the prophet. Therefore, while the gospel is preached, the majority of hearers will reject the message and even in some countries persecute the faithful believers, as we have in Jeremiah. This is a book to greatly encourage continuance in facing grief and opposition, no matter how strong it may be.
The time span of the prophecy of the book of Jeremiah reaches about 47 years, from about 627 BC to about 580 BC. This prophecy mainly concerns Judah and its fall due to the deliberate disobedience of the people after king Josiah’s death (about 609 BC).
Perhaps the clearest figure of Christ in the book of Jeremiah is found in chapter 23, who is known as the righteous Branch and King. He will reign and execute judgment and justice on earth. Another type of Christ may be found in chapter 18 – the potter’s house. While the clay in the potter’s hand was marred, this could be a type of Christ taking the part of an offended potter, and dashing in pieces the unworthy vessels (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27).
We now come to The Lamentations of Jeremiah. This is an appendix to the book of Jeremiah, where we see the prophet weeping for the city of Jerusalem. While Jeremiah was rejected and hated by his own people, he was heartbroken and wept over the destruction of Jerusalem.
The time span of the book of Lamentations reaches only about less than one year, in 586 BC, after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and deported many of the Jews to Babylon.
The clearest figure of Christ in Lamentations is that of Jeremiah weeping for the city of Jerusalem. About more than 600 years later, Christ wept over the same city, knowing that the Romans would destroy it in AD 70. We have the account in Matthew 23:37- 38, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Like Christ, the prophet Jeremiah was acquainted with grief. Although rejected and hated, the prophet cared not only for the city, but also for the souls of those who were about to perish.
The next book we have is the book of Ezekiel. Now Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied in their own land, in Israel and Judah respectively. However, Ezekiel was one of those taken captive to Babylon, where he was called by God to preach in that foreign country to the Jews who were deported.
The time span of events in the book of Ezekiel reaches about 22 years, from about 592 BC to about 570 BC. Ezekiel was carried off to Babylon during the second siege of Nebuchadnezzar, where he preached in Babylon to the disbelieving exiles.
Again, we see Christ in the book of Ezekiel. We first come to chapter 1:26, “And above the expanse that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone; and upon the likeness of the throne was a likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it.” This is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. Then in chapter 9 we see a man among the six clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side, another picture of Christ, and we are reminded that only the high priest is to wear the linen (Leviticus 16:4). In chapter 21 Christ is the King who has the right to rule, and in chapter 34 He is the true Shepherd who will deliver and feed His sheep. Then in chapter 40 we read of a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze (speaking of judgment). He also had a measuring rod in his hand. This is another pre- incarnate appearance of Christ.
How encouraging it was for Ezekiel, and how encouraging it is for us too, despite facing opposition, especially in a foreign land like Ezekiel, to be strengthened in the soul to stand firmly for God and His Word.
The last of the Major Prophets is the book of Daniel. Now Daniel was taken captive to Babylon before Ezekiel, and unlike Ezekiel who was preaching outside to the Jews, Daniel was inside the king’s courts. Ezekiel was among the Jews, but Daniel earned a place of honour and respect among the Gentiles, therefore, his ministry was among the Gentiles. God wanted to give these pagan people the chance to know Him and to know that He made them kings, so He sent Daniel to them.
The time span of events occurring in the book of Daniel reaches about 70 years, lasting during the seventy-year captivity period in Babylon, from about 605 BC to about 536 BC. Thus, Daniel remained until the end of the captivity, continuing under the first year of King Cyrus (Daniel 1:21).
The book of Daniel is full of pictures of Christ. First, we read of the stone that smote the image of the statue in chapter 2:34-35, 44). This presents Christ who will crush the kingdoms of the earth and establish His righteous kingdom. Then in chapter 3, the Son of God is visible with Daniel’s friends when they were thrown in the fiery furnace, protecting His people, a pre- incarnate appearance of Christ. In chapter 7, we read of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, another picture of Christ coming to earth and executing judgment. Finally, the vision of the 69 weeks in chapter 9 points to the coming of the Messiah. This is 69 weeks of seven years per week, which adds up to 483 years. The decree of returning to Jerusalem took place in 444 BC (Nehemiah 2:1-8). So, 483 years later from this time brings us to the year AD 33 (using the 360-day prophetic calendar), the Triumphal Entry of Christ, just days before He was cut-off (crucified).
In concluding the Major Prophets, we can see why these books are in the order that they appear in. First, we have Isaiah, the revelation of the Lord Jesus coming to preach the gospel of God’s grace, bringing forth hope and salvation, which is now our responsibility. Then once the gospel is preached, we will be faced with opposition, enmity and sometimes, hatred, as we have in Jeremiah. However, in spite of all the opposition, the prophet wept for the city and the people, showing a caring heart (Lamentations), which is what we need to do as well (Matthew 6:43-44). These two prophets preached in Israel and Judah respectively. Then we have Ezekiel, one who preached to the Jews among them in Babylon, a foreign country, and was strengthened by God in spite of opposition and lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem. Finally, we have the book of Daniel, who also was in Babylon, but was among the Gentiles preaching to them. We have Ezekiel first because the gospel (the message of hope) must first go to the Jews, then the Gentiles (Acts 13:42-47; Romans 1:16).
Finally, we come to the twelve Minor Prophets to examine as to why these books are in the order, given that the chronological dates are not in order. We will also see Christ in these last twelve books.
First comes the book of Hosea. We have seen that the book of Daniel shows how the Gentiles knew God and many believed in Him and acknowledged Him. Then Hosea shows us that believers in Christ are called out of ‘Egypt,’ a figure of the world (Hosea 11:1). The name Hosea means, “to save,” so it is fitting that God’s people are saved and called out of the world.
The time span of the prophecy of Hosea reaches about 45 years, from about 755 BC to about 710 BC. The prophecy started when Israel, the northern kingdom, was enjoying a temporary period of prosperity, but was later taken captive into Assyria in 722 BC.
In Hosea 3:5 Christ is presented as the true David, Israel’s King. Then we read in chapter 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” We have these words in Matthew 2:15, when Christ went back to Israel from Egypt. Therefore, we have a similarity between Israel and Christ – both left Israel to take refuge in Egypt, and both were called out of Egypt back into Israel. We are reminded that the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt was a prophetic type of Christ who was also called out of Egypt. Then Christ’s identification with our ‘calling out’ and His loving work of redemption is seen in Hosea’s prophetic marriage and redemption of Gomer from the slave market (Hosea 1-3). This also corresponds with God’s loving work of redeeming Israel from Egypt (the slave market) under bondage. Christ too redeems us after being once under bondage (Hebrews 2:15).
In Hosea, the children of Israel were rebels and were ‘dead in their sins,’ (Hosea 9-14). We too were once dead in our sins, but have been made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14, 21-22).
We now come to the book of Joel. After being called out from the world and redeemed by Christ (Hosea), we have a blessed future hope, waiting for the Day of the Lord (Colossians 3:4; Titus 2:13), which is the subject of Joel’s prophecy.
The time span of the prophecy of Joel reaches about one year, about 835 BC, making it one of the earliest books in the Prophets.
In Joel 2:28-29, the pouring out of God’s spirit is ‘afterwards,’ that is, in the millennial age of blessing when Christ will reign. When the apostle Peter quoted this in Acts 2:18-21, it does not infer a complete fulfilment, but a present application.
Then follows the book of Amos. The name Amos means, “to burden.” In the book of Amos, we first have judgment on the Gentile nations. This is because Joel spoke of the Day of the Lord, and how the Gentiles who persecuted the Jews would be judged. Then, the Lord would deal with His people, yet in grace delighting to restore them.
The time span of the prophecy of Amos reaches about 7 years, from about 760 BC to about 753 BC.
Again, we see Christ in the book of Amos. In chapter 3:12, Christ is the Shepherd that will deliver Israel, and in chapter 9:11 Christ is the true David spoken of. Then Christ has all authority to judge (Amos 1-9), but He will also restore His people (Amos 9:11-15).
The next book is the book of Obadiah. The name Obadiah means, “serving God,” or “servant of God.” After knowing that the Gentile nations would be judged due to their sins, and Israel dealt with and restored, this book shows an obedient servant of God preaching His Word and encouraging His people.
The time span of the prophecy of Obadiah is about one year, about 840 BC. Given that Joel prophesied about 835 BC, this makes Obadiah the earliest prophecy.
Christ is seen in Obadiah as the One coming in judgment upon evil and for the deliverance of His people. He is seen as the judge of the nations (Obadiah 15-16), and He is also the Possessor of the kingdom (Obadiah 21).
Then we come to the book of Jonah. The name Jonah means, “a dove.” However, this is in contrast to his character. Previously, we have seen Obadiah as the obedient servant of God, preaching to encourage His people. On the other hand, we see in Jonah a disobedient servant of God, who was called to preach to the Gentiles in Nineveh. Again, we have the principle that the Word of God must first go to the Jews, then the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; Romans 1:16). In Jonah’s disobedience, we see how God works with and disciplines His disobedient servant.
The time of the prophecy of Jonah is one year, about 760 BC, before Assyria rose to power. The Gentiles in Nineveh had to hear the Word of God first, before inflicting pain on the Jews.
The clearest picture of Christ in Jonah is in chapter 2, when he was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights. The Lord Jesus spoke of Himself in Matthew 12:39-41, “But he, answering, said to them, A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it save the sign of Jonas the prophet. For even as Jonas was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, thus shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. Ninevites shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, more than Jonas is here.” While Jonah was disciplined and was in the belly of the great fish, this is a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Following the book of Jonah and the way God deals with His disobedient servant, we come to the book of Micah. The name Micah means, “who is like God?” After God withheld His judgment on Nineveh in Jonah, no wonder the book of Micah follows, and people ask the question, “Who is like God?” In chapter 7:18, we have the question before us, “Who is a God like unto thee, that forgiveth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in loving-kindness.”
The time span of the prophecy of Micah reaches about 25 years, from about 735 BC to about 710 BC.
Again, Christ is found in the book of Micah. In chapter 5:2 there is the prophecy of His birth in Bethlehem, “(And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me who is to be Ruler in Israel: whose goings forth are from of old, from the days of eternity.)” This was about 700 years before Christ’s birth, and the chief priests and scribes paraphrased this verse in Matthew 2:5-6 when Herod asked them concerning Christ’s birthplace.
Then we come to the book of Nahum. The name Nahum means, “comfort.” After we had before us the question, “Who is like God,” we have comfort in Him. The Jews had comfort, knowing that God would finally judge Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. This was the city that God was about to destroy in the book of Jonah, but when the people had repented, God, in His grace, withheld the judgment. In Nahum, the Jews were still under the power of the Assyrians, but God would destroy the Gentiles, the ones who once heard God’s Word. We have the principle in Luke 12:48, “And to every one to whom much has been given, much shall be required from him; and to whom men have committed much, they will ask from him the more.”
The time that Nahum prophesied was about 100 years after Jonah preached to Nineveh, therefore about 660 BC. There was another generation who chose to continue in their sins and inflicting pain on the Jews, therefore, God would destroy Nineveh.
In Nahum 1:15 we see Christ as the One who brings the glad tidings, “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings, that publisheth peace! Celebrate thy feasts, Judah, perform thy vows: for the wicked one shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.” The apostle Paul quoted this verse in Romans 10:15. We are to learn from this book both the strength of God in His judgment on those who reject Christ, and the strength of His protection of the believer.
Following Nahum, we have the book of Habakkuk. The name Habakkuk means, “embrace,” or “cling to.” Once the believer has comfort in God’s strength and protection, he or she can cling to His promises. The wonderful proclamation in chapter 3:18, “Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation” applies to all believers in Christ.
The time of Habakkuk’s prophecy is about 607 BC, just before the Babylonian invasion of Judah. However, in chapter 3, he prays to God for deliverance.
As the word “salvation” appears three times in chapter 3:8, 13 and 18 Christ is seen as the Saviour, from which the name of Jesus is derived (Matthew 1:21). Now the word “salvation” is mentioned three times because the three Persons of the Godhead trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are all involved in the salvation of a person. Again, salvation consists of past, present and future salvation. Verse 8 refers to the past salvation, when the Lord delivered Israel from bondage. Verse 13 refers to the present salvation, from the evils of the world. Finally, verse 18 refers to the future salvation, being taken out of the world into the future glory. Christ is also seen when He comes in the future to rule the earth. We read in chapter 2:14, “For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea.”
The next book we have is the book of Zephaniah. The name Zephaniah means, “treasured of God” prophesied in the days of Josiah, the last godly king of Judah. In the book of Zephaniah, the coming of the Lord is imminent, whereas in Habakkuk, the believer can cling to the promises of God. Therefore, the believer can then wait for the coming of the Lord, as stressed out in Zephaniah.
Zephaniah prophesied in about 630 BC, and therefore would have been at the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Habakkuk.
We see Christ in Zephaniah 1:3 with Matthew 13:41, and again in chapter 1:15 with Matthew 24:29. Both of these passages about the Day of the Lord are associated with the coming of Christ. Then we have the wonderful promises of chapter 3:9-20, that Christ will gather His people and reign in victory, speaking of His appearing on earth. Read in particular chapter 3:15, “Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy; the King of Israel, Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more.”
We now come to the book of Haggai. The name Haggai means, “My feasts.” This book was written after the Jews returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. After knowledge on the Day of the Lord and the overthrow of His enemies, which we have seen in the book of Zephaniah, we have the book of Haggai, a book of celebration after the return from captivity. The Jews were encouraged to rebuild the temple, put God first, and seek to do His will.
The time span of the prophecy of Haggai reaches only about five months, in the year 520 BC.
In the book of Haggai, we see Christ in the promise of chapter 2:9, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of hosts; and in this place will I give peace, saith Jehovah of hosts.” This points to the second temple when it was filled with the glory of God every time Christ came to Jerusalem when He was on earth. Then we see Christ portrayed in the person of Zerubbabel in chapter 2:23, “In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, will I take thee, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, my servant, saith Jehovah, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, saith Jehovah of hosts.” We have seen previously that Zerubbabel is in the line of Christ (Luke 3:27). He is like the signet ring, sealing both branches together.
Then follows the book of Zechariah. The name Zechariah means, “God remembers.” While the book of Haggai focuses on rebuilding the temple, Zechariah focuses on the city of Jerusalem, showing that this is the city that will be the centre of events in the last days. The temple in Haggai is a type of the church, God’s House. However, in this book, we have the city, the great centre of all the earth.
The time span of the prophecy of Zechariah reaches about 50 years, from about 520 BC to about 470 BC (after the temple and city is rebuilt).
We have before us very clear Messianic prophecies in Zechariah. Christ is presented in His two comings as King and Servant, Man and God, which we find in the Gospel accounts. His second coming will be as Judge and King (chapter 14). First, Christ is seen as the Angel of the Lord in chapter 3:1-2. Then He is seen as the righteous Branch in chapter 3:8; 6:12-13. He is seen as the Stone with seven eyes in chapter 3:9, the King-Priest in chapter 6:13, the humble King in chapter 9:9-10 and the Cornerstone in chapter 10:4. Then Christ is the Good Shepherd who is rejected for thirty pieces of silver in chapter 11:4-13 (this was fulfilled in Matthew 26:15; 27:9), the pierced One in chapter 12:10, the Cleansing Fountain in chapter 13:1, and the smitten Shepherd who is abandoned in chapter 13:7. Finally, He is the Judge and righteous King who will rule on the earth in chapter 14.
The last book we have is the book of Malachi. The name Malachi means, “My messenger.” After the temple and city were rebuilt, God sends Malachi to give the people a final message, a last pleading with God’s people to repent, ending with a curse.
The time span of the prophecy of Malachi reaches about 7 years, from about 432 BC to about 425 BC, the last of all of the prophecies.
In Malachi, we see a messenger in chapter 3:1, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and the Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to his temple, and the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts.” This verse speaks of John the Baptist who appeared on the scene about 400 years later to prepare the way for Christ. John is also spoken of as the Elijah who is to come in chapter 4:5. The Lord Jesus testified of John in Matthew 11:10-14 as the Elijah who is to come. Christ is seen in Malachi 4 as the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing n His wings. This is a picture of His appearing on earth.
In concluding, we have seen as to why these Minor Prophetical books are in the order that they appear in. First, the believer is called out of the world and saved (Hosea), therefore waiting for the Day of the Lord (Joel). Then there is insight as to what will happen in that Day, how the nations will be judged and the believing remnant restored (Amos). Following this, we have the obedient servant of God preaching to and encouraging His people of restoration after the nations have been judged (Obadiah). After preaching to the Jews, we have the account of a disobedient servant of God who is reluctant to preach to the Gentiles needing to hear the Word of God (Jonah). Once the believer knows how God deals with His disobedient servants and chooses not to destroy the city that repented, the question is asked, “Who is like God? (Micah)” Then the believer finds comfort in the strength of God (Nahum) and is able to cling to His promises (Habakkuk). Once the believer clings to the promises of God, he or she waits for the Day of the Lord (Zephaniah) and for the Lord to come and overthrow His enemies. Once this happens, there will be rejoicing, celebration and praising God after being delivered from the enemies (Haggai). Then there is the city of Jerusalem, the great centre of events in the last days (Zechariah). The book of Haggai focuses on rebuilding the temple, while Zechariah focuses on the city as the centre of attraction. Then there is a final message for repentance and preparation for Christ to enter into the world (Malachi).