Understanding The Bible
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
Notes on the Prophets of Israel
The prophetical books belong to the dark ages of God's chosen people. The prophets were men whom God raised up during the dark days of Israel's history. They were the evangelists of the day, the religious patriots of the hour.
2 Kings 17:13-20
13 The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets." 14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, "Do not do as they do," and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do. 16 They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 18 So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, 19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.
The office of the prophet was instituted in Samuel's time. When the kingdom was divided and Judah and Israel were established as separate monarchies, the great prophets appeared. There were four major and twelve minor prophets.
The captivities of Israel (the northern kingdom) and of Judah (the southern kingdom) are largely the theme of the Old Testament prophets. The record of Thesis found in 2 Kings 17:1-23 and 24:11-25:21. These are called the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. Some of the prophets served before the exile and some afterwards. These are call pre-exilic and post-exilic prophets.
The Pre-Exilic Prophets
The prophets during the exile (or "pre-exilic") in order of their writing were: Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.
The prophets of Israel during this period were Jonah, Amos, and Hosea
The prophets of Judah during this period were Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and Jeremiah.
The Exilic Prophets
The prophets during the exile (or captivity in Babylon) were Ezekiel and Daniel. They prophesied to all the Israelites. Jeremiah extended for a while into this period.
Those who prophesied after the exile were Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Special Messages were given to certain prophets
3 to Israel - Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel
2 to Nineveh, Assyria - Jonah, Nahum
1 to Babylon - Daniel
1 to Edom - Obadiah
9 to Judah - Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The 4 Messages of the Prophets
The prophet's chief duty was to deal with the moral and religious life of his own people during his day. The prophet was never sent while the nation was walking in obedience to God. All of the writings are rebukes because of the bad condition that existed at that very time. There was nothing general about the prophet's denunciations.
The prophet was always a Hebrew. He not only spoke of judgment that would come to pass to the people because of their sin but he was also a foreteller of future events. The events which he spoke concerned the nation of Israel in the main. Other peoples were mentioned only as they came in contact with Israel.
1. The dispersion and captivity of God's chosen people
2. The coming of the Messiah
3. The restoration of the chosen people to their own land under the coming Messiah, David's greater son
4. The reign of the Messiah over the whole earth
"That it might be fulfilled," When you read the Gospels, you find this phrase constantly. We find in examining these passages that God fulfills prophecy literally. Learn to interpret the meaning of the words of the prophets in a literal, natural way. Do not force a spiritual interpretation and read out all the real meaning. There are figurative passages, of course. But you will find that as soon as you determine the meaning of the figure that that, too will have its literal fulfillment. This makes the study of the prophets a simple one. Remember, the Church is not in the prophets at all. This is the "mystery" that God kept until He wished it to be revealed (Ephesians 3:3, 3:11-12.
The prophets speak only of the earthly ministry of Christ and say nothing of His called-out ones (ecclesia - the Church). This was announced by Jesus Himself (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 3:3-10).
Jesus had this to say about the relationship of Himself to the message of the prophets:
25 He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:25-27).
Levels of prophetic fulfillment
1. Near View - Fulfilled in Prophet's time - usually physical fulfillment. The immediate future. Fulfillment in part.
2. Far View - Fulfilled later in time - usually spiritual fulfillment. The distant future. Fulfillment in part.
3. Very Far View - Fulfilled finally - usually final physical fulfillment. The Final future. Fulfillment complete.
An Example of a Two fold fulfillment
Virgin shall conceive - passage
Immanuel - God is with us.
Generally applied to the Birth of Jesus.
Matthew 1:23 - decidedly applied to Jesus birth of the virgin Mary.
But... Isaiah did not have any indication that the prophecy was that of the birth of the Messiah. He was encompassed by two mighty forces around the city. King Ahaz was the receiver of Isaiah's prophecy. Essentially a local prophecy and fulfillment. The arrival of a son to Isaiah's wife. Verses 15-16, before the child was older the threat would be gone.
However that same prophecy had a long range fulfillment - Jesus (Matthew) PARTHENOS as a substitute for ALMA. Virgin, not just a young woman, but BOTH.
An Example of Triple fulfillment
Comfort to the prisoners of Babylon. More than comfort ... he was guaranteeing the freedom of the prisoners at the end of the 70 years and allowed to go home. He said to them that when they were allowed to return to Jerusalem their joy would be so great that their travels over mountains and valleys would be as though the mountains were made level and the valleys filled in. A voice of one calling, in the dessert prepare a highway our God, make straight his paths.
This prediction was fulfilled when King Cyrus of persia released the Jewish people and made them free.
This prophecy was again fulfilled in Jesus day. Luke 3, John the baptist, the forerunner, in captivity to Rome. John was appointed to introduce Jesus. When John denied this they thought "then Jesus must be Elijah."
Still a third time - future even to us to day Malachi chapter 4.
But Elijah himself will come back before the Second coming of Jesus Christ. God promises to send the great prophet elijah to earth again during the great tribulation. Once more a voice crying in the wilderness. The people knew that Elijah was going to return to introduce the Messiah and that's why they were asking John the Baptist if He was elijah. (John 1:21)
He will point the people of Israel to their Messiah at that future time. The third fulfillment of "the voice of one crying in the desert ... prepare ye the way of the Lord."