The Prophetic Books

Lecture 1: Prophets and Prophecy
Lecture 2: The Book of Isaiah
Lecture 3: The Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations
Lecture 4: The Book of Ezekiel
Lecture 5: The Book of Daniel
Lecture 6: Overview of “The Twelve” / Minor Prophets and the Book Hosea
Lecture 7: Books of Joel & Amos
Lecture 8: The Books Obadiah and the Book Jonah
Lecture 9:The Books of Micah and Nahum
Lecture 10:The Book Habakkuk and the Book Zephaniah
Lecture 11:Book Haggai and the Book Zachariah and the Book Malacchi
Lecture 12:Jesus Christ in Old Testament Prophecy as fulfilment of Messiah

Lecture 1

Lecture Outcomes:

After reading the lecture you should:

  • Understand the origin of prophetism in Israel
  • Understand how the prophets fit into God’s unfolding purpose
  • Understand the calling and commission of the prophets of God
  • Understand the major issues and themes of Old Testament Prophetic literature

Key Verse:

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Isaiah 1:4.

“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Nehemiah 9:32


The Prophets: Overview – 13mins

TaNaK – 13mins

The Job of a Prophet – dr R Pratt – 13mins


Quotations mainly and extensively from

  • Introduction to and overview of the Prophetic literature with specific attention to prophecy in the Ancient Near East, prophecy in Israel, Apocalypti.
  • Literature, the message of the prophets, and promise and fulfilment

“What is a prophet in the Bible?”

In a general sense, a prophet is a person who speaks God’s truth to others. The English word prophet comes from the Greek word prophetes, which can mean “one who speaks forth” or “advocate.” Prophets are also called “seers,” because of their spiritual insight or their ability to “see” the future.

In the Bible, prophets often had both a teaching and revelatory role, declaring God’s truth on contemporary issues while also revealing details about the future. Isaiah’s ministry, for example, touched on both the present and the future. He preached boldly against the corruption of his day (Isaiah 1:4) and delivered grand visions of the future of Israel (Isaiah 25:8).

Prophets had the task of faithfully speaking God’s Word to the people. They were instrumental in guiding the nation of Israel and establishing the church. God’s household is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

More than 133 named prophets are mentioned in the Bible, including 16 women. In addition, numerous others prophesied, such as the 70 elders of Israel (Numbers 11:25) and the 100 prophets rescued by Obadiah (1 Kings 18:4). The first named prophet in the Bible is Abraham. In Genesis 20:7 God spoke to Abimelech in dream, saying, “Now then, return [Abraham’s] wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you will live.” God had revealed Himself to Abraham on numerous occasions.

Jacob and Joseph, descendants of Abraham, both had dreams regarding the future that could be categorized as prophetic. Moses was called a “man of God” and was considered a great prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10). Joshua and many of the judges served as prophets, with the last judge, Samuel, hearing the voice of God as a young boy (1 Samuel 3:4). He would later anoint David, who served as both king and prophet in Israel.

The time of Elijah and Elisha was marked by a high level of prophetic activity. In fact, a school for prophets thrived during their lifetimes (see 1 Kings 20:35). Both Elijah and Elisha performed many miracles as well.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist foretold the Messiah (Matthew 3:1). Jesus Himself came as prophet, priest, king, and Messiah, fulfilling many of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.

The early church also included prophets. For example, Ananias was given a prophecy about the apostle Paul’s future (Acts 9:10–18). Acts 21:9 mentions four daughters of Philip who could prophesy. Prophecy is listed as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. In the end times, two “witnesses” will prophesy from Jerusalem (Revelation 11).

Usually, the prophets God sends are despised and their message unheeded. Isaiah described his nation as a “rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions’” (Isaiah 30:9–10). Jesus lamented that Jerusalem had killed the prophets God sent to them (Luke 13:34).

Of course, not everyone who “speaks forth” a message is actually a prophet of God. The Bible warns against false prophets who claim to speak for God but who actually deceive the people they purport to inform. King Ahab kept 400 such false prophets in his employ to tell him what he wanted to hear (2 Chronicles 18:4; cf. 2 Timothy 4:3). In the New Testament we have many warnings against false prophets. Jesus taught, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He later noted that, in the end times, “false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Revelation speaks of a false prophet who will arise in the Tribulation and deceive people around the world (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). To avoid being led astray, we must always “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).

A true prophet of God will be committed to speaking God’s truth. He or she will never contradict God’s revealed Word. A true prophet will say, with the prophet Micaiah just before his fateful confrontation with Ahab, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what my God says” (2 Chronicles 18:13).

“What was a prophet in the Old Testament?”

A prophet in the Old Testament was someone who was used by God to communicate His message to the world. Prophets were also called “seers” because they could “see,” spiritually speaking, as God gave them insight (1 Samuel 9:9). The prophets can be divided into the “writing prophets” such as Isaiah, Daniel, Amos, and Malachi; and the “non-writing prophets” such as Gad (1 Samuel 22:5), Nathan (1 Chronicles 17:1), and Elijah (1 Kings 18:36). There are also some anonymous prophets in the Old Testament, such as the unnamed prophet in Judges 6:7–10.

The prophets came from a variety of backgrounds, spoke to different audiences, possessed unique styles, and used assorted methods. Most of the Old Testament prophets’ messages concerned the people of Israel; if other nations were mentioned in the oracles, it was usually in connection to those nations’ dealings with Israel. Most prophets of God were men, but the Old Testament also mentions prophetesses such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20, ESV), Deborah (Judges 4:4, ESV), and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14, ESV). All prophets shared some characteristics that made their ministries “prophetic.”

A prophet was called by God to be a prophet. Isaiah and Ezekiel were given visions of God’s glory (Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1). God told Jeremiah that he had been picked out prior even to his birth: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, / before you were born I set you apart; / I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). A common description of the source of the message is that “the word of the Lord came” to the prophet (Jeremiah 1:2; Ezekiel 1:3; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1). Another description is that the prophet received an “oracle,” that is, a special revelation from God (Isaiah 13:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Numbers 24:16, ESV).

A prophet was required to deliver God’s message accurately. The prophet Micaiah put it well: “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell [the king] only what the Lord tells me” (1 Kings 22:14). Those who, like Jeremiah, tried to keep silent found they could not (Jeremiah 20:9). Those who, like Jonah, tried to avoid their responsibility were corrected (Jonah 1:3–4). Others, like the unnamed prophet from Judah who directly disobeyed the divine command, lost their lives (1 Kings 13:15–24).

A prophet sometimes had a unique appearance. Elijah was known for wearing “a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). Elijah’s mantle that he left for Elisha was also seen as a symbol of the prophetic office (2 Kings 2:13–14). God told Ezekiel to shave his head and beard (Ezekiel 5:1). Other prophets were set apart in other ways: Jeremiah, for example, was told he could not marry (Jeremiah 16:2); Hosea was told to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2). All prophets were recognized as those through whom God spoke (even if their message was not welcome).

A prophet often led a hard life. Isaiah was sent to a people “ever hearing, but never understanding” (Isaiah 6:9), and (according to tradition) he was eventually murdered for his efforts. Ezekiel ministered to “a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 12:2). The queen of Israel sought to take Elijah’s life (1 Kings 19:2). Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern, where he “sank down into the mud” (Jeremiah 38:6). Jesus spoke of Jerusalem as those “who kill the prophets and stone those sent” to them (Luke 13:34), and, speaking to the Jewish leaders of his day, Stephen asked this condemning question: “Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?” (Acts 7:52).

Often, a prophet in the Old Testament predicted the future. Sometimes, the prophecies concerned events that were soon to happen; for example, Joseph predicted seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine in Egypt, events that occurred within the next fourteen years (Genesis 41:25–36). Many other prophets foresaw things in the distant future; for example, many of Daniel’s and Zechariah’s prophecies concern the second coming of Christ and other end-times events (Daniel 12:1; Zechariah 12:10).

The Old Testament also mentions false prophets. These were liars who claimed to speak for God but were intent upon deceiving the people or serving their own interests. Ahab had nearly four hundred such false prophets in his employ (1 Kings 22:6, 23). Nehemiah’s work was opposed by several false prophets and one false prophetess (Nehemiah 6:14). The test of a prophet was 100 percent accuracy in what he said (Deuteronomy 18:22). If a prophet’s predictions did not come true, then he could not have been speaking for God, since God never lies (Numbers 23:19).

The role of Old Testament prophet reached its consummation in the person of John the Baptist, who was predicted in Malachi 4:5 (cf. Luke 7:26–27); and in Jesus Christ, who was the Prophet “like Moses” predicted in Deuteronomy 18:15 (cf. Acts 3:22).

“What is prophecy? What does it mean to prophesy?”

To prophesy is simply to speak prophecy. Prophecy is the noun, and prophesy is the verb. Prophecy at its most basic definition is “a message from God.” So, to prophesy is to proclaim a message from God. The one who does this is, therefore, a prophet. Although foretelling is often associated with prophecy, revealing the future is not a necessary element of prophecy; however, since only God knows the future, any authoritative word about the future must of necessity be a prophecy, that is, a message from God.

In the Old Testament, there were prophets who simply spoke their divine messages to a king or to the people (e.g., Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha). Later, there came a series of “writing prophets” whose messages are preserved in Scripture (e.g., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, and Malachi). Quite often the prophets would preface their utterances with words such as “thus saith the Lord” (KJV) or “this is what the Lord says” (NIV). The point is that God had communicated something to the prophets, and they were speaking directly for Him. “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

According to Deuteronomy 13, there are two signs of a true prophet. First, he must not direct people to follow other gods. Second, whenever the prophet says something about future events, those events must come to pass. If the prophet promotes the worship of false gods, or if his predictions fail to come to pass, then he is a false prophet.

God would often give the prophet a message about something that would happen in the short term, to give him credibility on the more long-term message. For instance, Jeremiah told the leaders of Judah that the nation would be conquered by Babylon. But another “prophet,” a charlatan named Hananiah, stood up and said the Lord had given him a different message, proving that Jeremiah was not a true prophet. Jeremiah told Hananiah that within a year he, Hananiah, would be dead, and within the year he died (Jeremiah 28). The fact that Jeremiah could so accurately predict the future should have given his other words more credibility.

In the New Testament, John the Baptist proclaims that the Kingdom of God and the Messiah are on the scene, and he identifies Jesus as that Messiah. John is often called the last of the Old Testament prophets. In the rest of the New Testament, prophets are not mentioned very much. It seems that apostles fulfilled the prophetic role, as they spoke directly and authoritatively for God, and their words are preserved today in Scripture. Ephesians 2:20 lists the apostles and prophets as being the foundation of the church, with Jesus Christ being the cornerstone. Obviously, before the canon of Scripture was complete, God may have communicated directly to people on a more regular basis. Prophecy is listed as one of the gifts of the Spirit (see Romans 12:6–8).

Of great interest today is whether or not the gift of prophecy continues or if it ceased when the foundational period of the church was complete. First Corinthians 12—14 is the longest New Testament passage relating to prophecy. The church at Corinth was misusing this gift as well as the gift of tongues. One problem they had was that, when the believers gathered, too many prophets were speaking, and they were interrupting each other to boot. Paul says that at most two or three prophets should speak, and they should do so one at a time. Others should carefully consider or evaluate what the prophet says (1 Corinthians 14:29–31). Perhaps the best understanding is that some people in Corinth thought they are getting a word directly from God, but they could have been wrong; therefore, they needed to submit their prophecies to the judgment of the church. As in the Old Testament, if a New Testament prophecy was contrary to sound doctrine, then the prophecy was to be rejected.

The instruction in 1 Corinthians 14 also suggests that a person should be cautious in speaking for God if the revelation is extra-biblical. Bearing a “message from God” does not automatically place one in a position of authority. The potential prophet should humbly submit his or her message to the leaders of the church for confirmation. Paul’s directive suggests that the gift of prophecy was already beginning to wane as an authoritative gift at the time 1 Corinthians was written.

A preacher or pastor today fulfills a prophetic role to the extent that he proclaims and explains the written Word of God. However, pastors are never called “prophets” in the New Testament. The pastor can confidently say, “Thus saith the Lord,” if he follows it up with chapter and verse. Unfortunately, some pastors assume a prophetic mantle and make pronouncements that are not from God but from their own imaginations.

“What are the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets?”

The terms Major Prophets and Minor Prophets are simply a way to divide the Old Testament prophetic books. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Minor Prophets are also sometimes called The Twelve.

The Major Prophets are described as “major” because their books are longer and the content has broad, even global implications. The Minor Prophets are described as “minor” because their books are shorter (although Hosea and Zechariah are almost as long as Daniel) and the content is more narrowly focused. That does not mean the Minor Prophets are any less inspired than the Major Prophets. It is simply a matter of God choosing to reveal more to the Major Prophets than He did to the Minor Prophets.

Both the Major and Minor Prophets are usually among the least popular books of the Bible for Christians to read. This is understandable with the often unusual prophetic language and the seemingly constant warnings and condemnations recorded in the prophecies. Still, there is much valuable content to be studied in the Major and Minor Prophets. We read of Christ’s birth in Isaiah and Micah. We learn of Christ’s atoning sacrifice in Isaiah. We read of Christ’s return in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. We learn of God’s holiness, wrath, grace, and mercy in all of the Major and Minor Prophets. For that, they are most worthy of our attention and study.

“How many prophets are in the Bible (here the focus is the Old Testament)?”

A prophet in the Bible was someone who revealed God’s messages to others. Some, like Moses, heard directly from God and passed on the words through writing or speech. Some, like Joseph and Daniel, interpreted the dreams and/or visions of others. The messages could be prophecies of the future, messages for the listener, or warnings for others. The life of a godly prophet was never an easy one (see Acts 7:52). Here is a list of prophets found in the Bible:

Prophets in the Old Testament

• Noah: Noah was a prophet in that God spoke to him about the future and he possibly preached judgment against others. Genesis 7:1–4; 8:16–17, 21–22; and 9:1–16 record times when God spoke to Noah directly. Hebrews 11:7 is sometimes interpreted to mean that God told Noah to preach against the evil people he lived near, but the words “by his faith he condemned the world” can also mean that Noah’s faith was an example of how they should have acted and proof that faith was possible.

• Abraham: God spoke to Abraham several times. Many of their conversations were filled with instruction, but God also gave Abraham glimpses of the future. In fact, in their first meeting, God started by telling Abram to leave his country and travel to a new place (Genesis 12:1) and then went straight into a blessing that doubled as a prophecy of the future (Genesis 12:2–3).

• Jacob: In Genesis 28:10–22, Jacob had his dream of the stairway to heaven and a reiteration of God’s promise to his father Abraham. In Genesis 49, Jacob gave an accurate prophecy of the future of his sons’ descendants.

• Joseph: In our first introduction to Joseph, in Genesis 37:3–11, he related two dreams he’d had—prophecies that he would one day rule over his brothers and parents. His dreams incensed his brothers so much they sold him into slavery, which eventually led him to such a high political position they had to beg him for food, thus fulfilling his dream. Before Joseph reached that position, however, he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Genesis 40) and then Pharaoh’s own dream (Genesis 41:1–40).

• Moses: Much of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are filled with God’s messages to and through Moses. They begin in Exodus 3 when God called Moses from the burning bush to return to Egypt to speak judgment against the Pharaoh and rescue the Israelites. Moses’ prophecies include both rebuke against the Israelites and predictions of the future. God spoke more to Moses than anyone else in the Bible.

• Aaron: When Moses complained that he wasn’t a good public speaker, God made his brother, Aaron, his mouthpiece. In Exodus 7:1–7, Aaron began his career as God’s prophet, rebuking and giving warnings to others.

• Miriam: In Exodus 15:20 Moses’ sister, Miriam, is identified as a prophet. We don’t know specifically what message God gave her, apart from the song she sings in verse 21. In Numbers 12, however, we find neither her nor Aaron’s judgment was always informed by God’s guidance.

• The seventy elders of Israel: Although God had provided the Israelites with manna and water, they demanded meat, as well. God promised to oblige. In preparation, Moses ordered seventy elders to the tent of meeting, and the Holy Spirit temporarily endowed them with the ability to prophesy (Numbers 11:25).

Eldad and Medad: Eldad and Medad were two of the seventy elders, but for an unknown reason they stayed in the camp and did not go to the tent of meeting. The Holy Spirit found them, anyway, and they prophesied for a short time (Numbers 11:26).

• Balaam: Balaam has the distinction of being a true prophet who was also an evil man. The king of Moab tried to bribe him to curse Israel. Balaam tried, but his fear of God, his integrity as a prophet, and his stubborn donkey overcame his greed (Numbers 22–24). The sin of Balaam is warned against in Jude 1:11.

• Elihu: Job’s less-than-supportive three friends are well known, but mid-way through their counsel, Elihu arrived. His long message (Job 32–35) condemned the other three friends, confronted Job about his lack of trust in God, and reminded them all that God is just.

• Joshua: When Moses died, Joshua took command of the Israelites’ campaign into the Promised Land. In Joshua 1:1–9, God gave him encouragement for the hard task ahead and a promise of success. He also gave Joshua a warning to obey the law God had given Moses.

• Deborah: Deborah is the only recorded female judge of Israel, and Judges 4:4 indicates she was a prophetess, as well. In Judges 4:6–7, Deborah either passed on God’s message to the military commander Barak or enforced it; in Judges 4:9, she related a prophecy of future events.

• Gideon: Gideon was one of the Bible’s least willing prophets. Throughout Judges 6–8, God led Gideon to take a small army and destroy the oppressive Midianites and Amalekites. It’s unclear if Gideon was the prophet who relayed God’s promise in Judges 6:8–10.

• Samuel: Samuel received his first message from God in 1 Samuel 3:4 when he was a small boy. He spent his life as God’s messenger; two of his most significant acts were anointing Saul (1 Samuel 9) and David (1 Samuel 1:13) to be king. Samuel’s words of God’s wisdom to Saul went mostly unheeded, and Samuel even returned from the grave to announce God’s punishment for Saul’s disobedience (1 Samuel 28:15–19).

• A procession of prophets: Shortly after Saul’s anointing as king, he met with seventy prophets and joined them (1 Samuel 10:10).

• King Saul: Samuel gave Saul specific instructions right after Samuel anointed him to be king. In the process of heeding Samuel’s directions, Saul met with a group of prophets and prophesied with them (1 Samuel 10:10).

• Gad: While being chased by Saul, David and a group of followers hid in a stronghold. Gad the prophet sent him a word from God as to what he was to do next (1 Samuel 22:5).

• Nathan: Nathan seems to have been David’s primary link to God’s words. In 2 Samuel 7:4–17, Nathan told David that Solomon would build the temple. In 2 Samuel 12:1–15, Nathan rebuked David for committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband.

• David: In the time of the kings, God tended to speak to the king through prophets, rather than directly as He had with Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, and Gideon. David must have received some kind of message from God, however, as so many of his psalms prophesy the coming of Jesus (Psalm 8; 22; 110).

• Asaph: Asaph was one of the worship leaders appointed by King David. He was a Levite and a prolific writer—many of the psalms were written either by him or by the guild he inspired. His songs were sung along with David’s at the time of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:30).

• Tabernacle musicians: First Chronicles 25:1–7 lists the musicians whom David commissioned to perform before the tabernacle and identifies them as prophets. They include Heman, the grandson of Samuel; Jeduthun; and Asaph, as well as their sons.

• Writers of the Psalms: Many of the psalms besides those directly identified as having been written by David refer to the coming Christ, including Psalms 2, 18, 89 (by Ethan the Ezrahite), 132, and many others.

• King Solomon: In 1 Kings 3, God asked Solomon in a dream if there was anything Solomon would like from Him. Solomon chose wisdom.

• Agur: Agur, the son of Jekeh, is cited as the author of Proverbs 30. Nothing else is known about him.

Ahijah: Unfortunately, Solomon didn’t always use his wisdom. He married too many women and was drawn into worshiping their gods. In 1 Kings 11:29–39, Ahijah told Jeroboam that he would take command of ten of the tribes of Israel after Solomon died. Several years later, Ahijah told Jeroboam’s wife that, because of Jeroboam’s sin against God, not only would their son die, but Jeroboam’s entire line would be cut off (1 Kings 14:1–18).

• Iddo: Iddo the prophet is mentioned several times, and at least one passage suggests he at one point had his own book, but not much is recorded in the Bible about him. Iddo predicted the rise of Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 9:29) and wrote a record of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15) and Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:27).

• Shemaiah: After the ten northern tribes followed Jeroboam, Solomon’s son Rehoboam prepared the southern tribes for battle. God sent Shemaiah to tell them to return home (1 Kings 12:22).

• Azariah: Several Azariahs are mentioned in the Bible, including a long-lived king of Judah (2 Kings 15), but only one is specifically called a prophet. He gave God’s warning to King Asa, encouraging him to rid the nation of Judah of idols (2 Chronicles 15:1–7).

• Hanani: Although King Asa trusted God, he also bribed the king of Syria to break his pact with King Baasha of Israel. Hanani told Asa that God would have destroyed Syria’s king for him if he’d followed the Lord. Asa responded by putting Hanani in stocks in prison and taking out his anger on some of his people (2 Chronicles 16:7–10).

• Jehu: The prophet Jehu lived in the time of King Baasha and was Hanani’s son. Jehu announced God’s judgment against Baasha, saying that, because of his sin, the dogs and birds would eat his family’s bodies (1 Kings 16:1–7).

• Elijah: Elijah was probably the most significant prophet who didn’t write his own book. He proclaimed God’s word in the northern kingdom of Israel at the time of the evil King Ahab. It was he who ensured a widow was always supplied with oil and flour (1 Kings 17:8–16), who had a showdown with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17–40), and who was strengthened by God’s still voice in his fatigue and depression (2 Kings 2:1–11). At the end of his life, a chariot of fire took him to heaven, and his mantle fell to Elisha as his successor (2 Kings 2:1–12).

• Unnamed Prophet: When the northern kingdom of Israel was threatened by Syria, this prophet assured King Ahab that Israel would triumph with God’s help. Ahab did triumph—twice. But he let Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, live. Another, or perhaps the same, prophet disguised himself as a wounded soldier and prophesied against Ahab for not killing Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20).

Micaiah: For some reason, the good king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, got along fairly well with the evil king of Israel, Ahab. Ahab invited Jehoshaphat to battle with him against Ramoth-Gilead, and Jehoshaphat agreed—but not before finding a prophet to ask God’s guidance. Ahab had four hundred false prophets who told them God was with them, but Jehoshaphat insisted on a prophet who actually heard from God. Ahab knew of one, but was reluctant to call him, since he never had anything good to say. Micaiah revealed that God had sent a lying spirit to the four hundred prophets in order to lure Ahab to his death. Ahab went to battle anyway and was struck and killed by a random arrow (1 Kings 22:13–28).

• Jahaziel: When threatened by the Moabites and Ammonites, King Jehoshaphat took the unusual step of fasting and calling all Judah to seek help from God. God answered through Jahaziel who prophesied that Judah would destroy its enemies and even gave counsel on how to accomplish the rout (2 Chronicles 20:1–23).

• Eliezer: The usually wise Jehoshaphat joined the evil King Ahaziah of Israel to build some ships. Eliezer confronted Jehoshaphat, saying that, because he had joined with Ahaziah, God would destroy what he had made. The ships were wrecked before they could reach their destination (2 Chronicles 20:35–37).

• Unknown prophets: Various prophets lived during the time of Elijah and Elisha, belonging to the school of prophets. Nothing is known about these prophets except some lived in Bethel (2 Kings 2:3) and some in Jericho (2 Kings 2:5), and they all annoyed Elisha by reminding him that Elijah’s departure was imminent.

• Elisha: Elisha was Elijah’s successor and the second-most important prophet without a book. He spent seven or eight years as Elijah’s apprentice before Elijah was taken to heaven. He then helped wipe out organized Baal worship (2 Kings 10:28), brought a widow’s son back to life (2 Kings 4:18–37), and cured Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5). His power and authority through God was so great that, when a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s grave, the man sprang back to life (2 Kings 13:2–21).

• Zechariah the priest: When King Joash was a baby, he was hidden from his patricidal grandmother, Athaliah, and raised by the priest Jehoiada until the priests could arrange for the queen’s death. Joash began as a very good king but like many others grew to rely on himself too much. Upon Jehoiada’s death, Joash was quickly led to idol worship. When Jehoiada’s son Zechariah confronted Joash and the people, the king ordered him to be stoned (2 Chronicles 24:20–22).

• Jonah: Jonah is best known for the book that bears his name and his great reluctance to go to Nineveh. But he also served as a prophet in Israel in the time of Jeroboam II. Although the king was as evil as any other, God did not yet want Israel to be destroyed. He sent Jonah to Jeroboam and led him to restore a border against their enemies (2 Kings 14:23–27).

• Joel: After Judah’s crops were obliterated by a swarm of locusts, Joel compared the devastation to what God would do if the people didn’t return to Him. Joel also predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:16–21).

• Amos: Amos was a Judean shepherd who was tasked with prophesying against Israel. His warnings were ignored, and Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria some time later.

• Hosea: God often asked a great deal of His prophets, and Hosea was a prime example. In order to illustrate the unfaithfulness of the northern kingdom of Israel, God had Hosea marry a prostitute who remained unfaithful after they married. To show how God longed to forgive His people, He told Hosea to take Gomer back. In addition to the message to Israel of God’s faithfulness, Hosea includes a prophecy that Gentiles would one day follow God (Hosea 2:23).

• Isaiah: Isaiah holds the record for being the prophet who is most quoted in the New Testament. He was an adviser to King Hezekiah of Judah but also had to walk barefoot and naked for three years as a portent against Egypt and Cush. His book contains prophecies of Jesus and John the Baptist, and Jesus used Isaiah 61:1–2 to begin His ministry in Nazareth. It’s possible that Isaiah was also a priest (Isaiah 6:4).

• Micah: Micah served as a prophet during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah. His message mixed condemnation of sin with the promise of the coming Messiah. His book contains the only mention of Bethlehem as the place of the Messiah’s birth.

• Oded: Although the kings of Judah were generally better than the kings of Israel, there were still some who worshiped idols and even sacrificed their children. When Ahaz did so, God brought the Syrians to punish them. The Syrians killed at least 120,000 and took 200,000 captive. The prophet Oded, on God’s orders, stopped them, telling the invaders they had gone far enough and they should set the captives free and return the spoils, which they did (2 Chronicles 28:1–15).

• Zephaniah: Zephaniah was yet another prophet who warned Judah about their impending doom. He condemned their idolatry in their actions and in their hearts. But he also relayed God’s promise that a remnant would return.

• Nahum: One hundred and fifty years after Jonah, Nineveh was out of second chances. Nahum promised that Assyria’s days were numbered and that Judah would be delivered from their threat.

• Huldah: Huldah was one of a handful of women identified as a prophetess in the Bible. When the priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law in the temple and took it to King Josiah, the king turned to Huldah to find out what they should do. She affirmed that Judah’s rejection of God meant the nation would be destroyed, but because of Josiah’s penitence it would not be in his time (2 Kings 22:8–20).

• Jeremiah: Jeremiah was one of the last prophets of the Kingdom of Judah and watched helplessly as it was picked apart by the Babylonians. Known as “the weeping prophet” because of how his words from God affected him, Jeremiah also gave the people a word of hope that they would return from captivity in 70 years. His counsel to submit to God’s judgment was ignored, and he was eventually taken to Egypt with the remnant of the royal family (2 Kings 25:26). Jeremiah also wrote the book of Lamentations, a lament for the fall of Jerusalem.

• Uriah: Jeremiah was not completely alone in his thankless job. Uriah also prophesied against the evil in Judah. He was hunted down and killed by King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:20–23).

• Habakkuk: Habakkuk covered a lot of ground in such a short book. He prophesied Assyria’s fall, the Babylonian exile, and the future victory of the Persians. His prophecies were revealed in the context of a conversation with God, wherein Habakkuk asked God questions, and God responded.

• Obadiah: Like Jonah, the prophet Obadiah had a message for a nation other than Israel or Judah. He prophesied against Edom, the descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau. Edom effectively disappeared after their removal from Petra in the fifth century BC.

• Daniel: Daniel was one of the first Jews to be taken into exile in Babylon. As part of the royal household, Daniel was trained to be an official in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar got more than he bargained for, however, when he discovered Daniel was not only intelligent, but he could also interpret dreams. Daniel served several generations of leaders including Belshazzar, who saw the writing on the wall, and Darius, who was horrified to discover he’d been tricked into sending Daniel to the lions’ den. In the visions and angelic encounters of Daniel 7–12, Daniel revealed more about the end times than any other book besides Revelation.

• Ezekiel: Ezekiel’s book of prophecy appears somewhat psychedelic, with its strange visions. Ezekiel was a priest exiled to Babylon in the second wave of deportations and relayed God’s judgment to the rebellious people. He also made several prophesies about the future, including the coming of Jesus, the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:30–35), and the millennial kingdom (Ezekiel 44). Ezekiel was one of the few prophets who eagerly spread God’s message no matter what the resistance he encountered—although that may have been because God told him if he didn’t prophesy he would be held accountable for the souls of those he didn’t warn (Ezekiel 33).

• Haggai: Haggai worked with Zechariah and Zerubbabel to get the Jews who had returned from exile back on track. Specifically, he called the people to seriously consider their priorities and get the temple rebuilt.

• Zechariah the prophet: The son of Berechiah, along with the prophet Haggai, encouraged the Jews to finish the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity. In a series of eight related visions, Zechariah received a broad-ranging message of God’s plan for the Israelites. Along the way, he spoke quite a bit about the Messiah and the fact that people from all over the world would follow Him.

• Malachi: He was the last prophet to prophecy in Israel until an angel visited Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. As such, Malachi’s message was a call to obedience and a promise of the coming Messiah. Following Malachi’s oracle were 400 years of divine silence.

“What was the school of prophets?”

The Old Testament mentions a school of prophets in 1 Samuel 19:18–24 and in 2 Kings 2 and 4:38–44 (some translations say “company of prophets” or “sons of the prophets”). Also, the prophet Amos possibly mentions a prophetic school in stating his credentials (or lack thereof) to King Amaziah: “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14).

First Samuel 19 relates an account in which King Saul sends messengers to arrest David. When these men encountered a company of prophets under Samuel’s leadership, the king’s men also prophesied. This happened three times. Saul himself then went, and he, too, prophesied, leading people to ask, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” (1 Samuel 19:24), which became a saying in those days.

The “group of prophets” in 1 Samuel 19 was clearly comprised of students of the prophet Samuel. These students were likely Levites who served in roles related to the tabernacle and ceremonial worship. The content of their “prophesies” is not specified. Their messages could have been general teachings from God’s laws in the Books of Moses, or they could have included additional revelation.

In 2 Kings 2 Elijah is traveling with Elisha, and a group of prophets from Bethel tells Elisha that Elijah would be taken from him that day (verse 3). Another group of prophets at Jericho repeats the prophecy (verse 5), and a third group of prophets near the Jordan River also delivers the same message (verse 7). This third group of 50 men may have been a subset of the group of prophets at Jericho. After Elijah was taken up into heaven, Elisha reluctantly sends 50 of these prophets to search for Elijah for three days (verses 15–18).

In 2 Kings 4:38–41 Elisha is in Gilgal during a time of famine. Elisha miraculously changes an inedible stew into a comestible dish for the group of prophets there. Chapter 4 ends with Elisha’s turning 20 loaves of bread into more than enough food for 100 people. Nothing else is mentioned about this school of prophets, though it is clear they lived together in some kind of community and were known as sons of the prophets who worshiped the Lord.

These groups of men were likely leaders among those 7,000 Israelites who had not bowed down to Baal, as God had told Elijah (1 Kings 19:18). There were at least three schools or communities of these prophets and possibly more, consisting of men who were devoted to God and served Him. They followed the teachings of Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha during the time of the prophets and were known as their “students.”

“What are the different forms of biblical literature?”

One of the most intriguing facts about the Bible is that, while it is God’s communication (Matthew 5:17; Mark 13:31; Luke 1:37; Revelation 22:18-19), human beings were part of the writing process. As Hebrews 1:1 says, “God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways.” The “various ways” include different literary genres. The Bible’s human writers used different forms of literature to communicate different messages at different times.

The Bible contains historical literature (1 and 2 Kings), dramatic literature (Job), legal documents (much of Exodus and Deuteronomy), song lyrics (The Song of Solomon and Psalms), poetry (most of Isaiah), wisdom literature (Proverbs and Ecclesiastes), apocalyptic literature (Revelation and parts of Daniel), short story (Ruth), sermons (as recorded in Acts), speeches and proclamations (like those of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel), prayers (many Psalms), parables (such as those Jesus told), fables (such as Jotham told), and epistles (Ephesians and Romans).

The different genres can overlap. Many of the psalms, for example, are also prayers. Some of the epistles contain poetry. Each type of literature has unique characteristics and should be approached with due consideration. For example, Jotham’s fable (Judges 9:7–15) cannot be interpreted the same way as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–17). Interpreting poetry, with its reliance on metaphor and other poetic devices, is different from interpreting historical narrative. Please see our article on interpreting genres.

Second Peter 1:21 says that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Using today’s terminology, the Bible’s managing editor was the Holy Spirit of God. God put the mark of His authorship on each of the 66 books of the Bible, no matter what the literary genre. God “breathed” the written words (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Because mankind has the ability to understand and appreciate various forms of literature, God used many genres to communicate His Word. The reader of the Bible will discover a common purpose that unifies the parts of the collection. He will discover motifs, foreshadowing, repeated themes, and recurring characters. Through it all, he will find that the Bible is the world’s greatest literary masterpiece—and the very Word of very God.

“How should the different genres of the Bible impact how we interpret the Bible?”

The Bible is a work of literature. Literature comes in different genres, or categories based on style, and each is read and appreciated differently from another. For example, to confuse a work of science fiction with a medical textbook would cause many problems—they must be understood differently. And both science fiction and a medical text must be understood differently from poetry. Therefore, accurate exegesis and interpretation takes into consideration the purpose and style of a given book or passage of Scripture. In addition, some verses are meant figuratively, and proper discernment of these is enhanced by an understanding of genre. An inability to identify genre can lead to serious misunderstanding of Scripture.

The main genres found in the Bible are these: law, history, wisdom, poetry, narrative, epistles, prophecy and apocalyptic literature. The summary below shows the differences between each genre and how each should be interpreted:

Law: This includes the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The purpose of law is to express God’s sovereign will concerning government, priestly duties, social responsibilities, etc. Knowledge of Hebrew manners and customs of the time, as well as a knowledge of the covenants, will complement a reading of this material.

History: Stories and epics from the Bible are included in this genre. Almost every book in the Bible contains some history, but Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Acts are predominately history. Knowledge of secular history is crucial, as it dovetails perfectly with biblical history and makes interpretation much more robust.

Wisdom: This is the genre of aphorisms that teach the meaning of life and how to live. Some of the language used in wisdom literature is metaphorical and poetic, and this should be taken into account during analysis. Included are the books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.

Poetry: These include books of rhythmic prose, parallelism, and metaphor, such as Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Psalms. We know that many of the psalms were written by David, himself a musician, or David’s worship leader, Asaph. Because poetry does not translate easily, we lose some of the musical “flow” in English. Nevertheless, we find a similar use of idiom, comparison and refrain in this genre as we find in modern music.

Narrative: This genre includes the Gospels, which are biographical narratives about Jesus, and the books of Ruth, Esther, and Jonah. A reader may find bits of other genres within the Gospels, such as parable (Luke 8:1-15) and discourse (Matthew 24). The book of Ruth is a perfect example of a well-crafted short story, amazing in its succinctness and structure.

Epistles: An epistle is a letter, usually in a formal style. There are 21 letters in the New Testament from the apostles to various churches or individuals. These letters have a style very similar to modern letters, with an opening, a greeting, a body, and a closing. The content of the Epistles involves clarification of prior teaching, rebuke, explanation, correction of false teaching and a deeper dive into the teachings of Jesus. The reader would do well to understand the cultural, historical and social situation of the original recipients in order to get the most out of an analysis of these books.

Prophecy and Apocalyptic Literature: The Prophetic writings are the Old Testament books of Isaiah through Malachi, and the New Testament book of Revelation. They include predictions of future events, warnings of coming judgment, and an overview of God’s plan for Israel. Apocalyptic literature is a specific form of prophecy, largely involving symbols and imagery and predicting disaster and destruction. We find this type of language in Daniel (the beasts of chapter 7), Ezekiel (the scroll of chapter 3), Zechariah (the golden lampstand of chapter 4), and Revelation (the four horsemen of chapter 6). The Prophetic and Apocalyptic books are the ones most often subjected to faulty eisegesis and personal interpretation based on emotion or preconceived bias. However, Amos 3:7 tells us, “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” Therefore, we know that the truth has been told, and it can be known via careful exegesis, a familiarity with the rest of the Bible, and prayerful consideration. Some things will not be made clear to us except in the fullness of time, so it is best not to assume to know everything when it comes to prophetic literature.

An understanding of the genres of Scripture is vital to the Bible student. If the wrong genre is assumed for a passage, it can easily be misunderstood or misconstrued, leading to an incomplete and fallacious understanding of what God desires to communicate. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and He wants us to “correctly [handle] the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Also, God wants us to know His plan for the world and for us as individuals. How fulfilling it is to come to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep” (Ephesians 3:18) is the love of God for us!

Lecture 2

Lecture Outcomes:

After reading through this lecture you should:

  • Understand the Book of Isaiah in its place and function within the Biblical canon and history of redemption
  • Have an overview of the content of Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-66
  • Know the major themes of Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-66
  • Have a biblical-theological framework for applying this book in the Christian  life and ministry
  • Understand the theological message of the Book of Isaiah

Key Verse:

 “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8


Overview Part 1 – 8mins

Overview Part 2 – 8mins

Isaiah was a Jewish prophet who lived during the eighth century BC. The Book of Isaiah claims to be written by him, and scholars believe he at least wrote part of it. – 4mins


This lesson wants to provide an introduction to the prophetic book of Isaiah. We want to introduce the historical background, origin, authorship, the historical context,  structure, the theological message and specific character and a New Testament perspective on Isaiah.  

Isaiah was a Hebrew prophet who was believed to have lived about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Born in Jerusalem, Israel, he was said to have found his calling as a prophet when he saw a vision in the year of King Uzziah’s death. Isaiah prophesized the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. He was believed to have written chapters 1-39 in The Book of Isaiah with the balance of the book possibly authored by several other prophets.

Author and Date

Isaiah was called to his prophetic ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” (6:1), around 740 b.c. He lived long enough to record the death of Sennacherib (37:38), in 681. However, most of the book can be dated only in very general terms because few specific dates are given.


The central theme of the book is God himself, who does all things for his own glory (48:11). Isaiah defines everything else by how it relates to God: is it rightly related to him as the center of all reality (45:22–25)? God’s people find strength only as they rest in the promises of their God (30:15). They find refreshment only as they delight themselves in his word (55:1–2). To serve his cause is their worthy devotion (ch. 62), but to rebel against him is endless death (66:24).

The prophecies of Isaiah took place during the rise of the Assyrian Empire. Assyria posed a great threat to Israel and Judah as well as the entire Near East.

“Who was Isaiah in the Bible?”

Isaiah, whose name means “Yahweh is salvation,” is best known for writing the book that bears his name in the Old Testament. His writings are especially significant for the prophecies he made about the coming Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7, 11:2-4; 53:4-7, 9, 12). Matthew quotes Isaiah when describing John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 40:3), and when Jesus moved to Galilee to start His ministry, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled (Matthew 4:13-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy when speaking in parables (Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:14-15), and the apostle Paul also makes reference to the same prophecy when he is in Rome (Acts 28:26-27). When Jesus reads from Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) in the synagogue at Nazareth, He amazes many of the Jews by claiming the prophecy is fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:16-21). It is also interesting to note that the Gospels quote more from Isaiah’s writings than from any other of the Old Testament prophets.

Little is written about Isaiah the man. We know that he was the son of Amoz and that he married and had sons of his own (Isaiah 1:1; 7:3; 8:3). Though Isaiah’s recognition as a great prophet is indicated in the books of the Kings and Chronicles, it is also probable that he was a priest, as his calling from God took place in the temple (Isaiah 6:4), an area reserved only for priests. The anointing he receives at his calling is similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:7).

Along with his contemporary, the prophet Micah, Isaiah served the southern kingdom of Judah under the reigns of four kings. At the time of Isaiah’s ministry, Judah was a sinful and unjust nation. Nevertheless, Isaiah believed that Judah was God’s chosen nation and they would be vindicated by God. With support from Micah and the godly King Hezekiah, their enemies were held at bay and a revival swept through the nation of Judah (2 Kings 19:32-36; 2 Chronicles 32:20-23). Many commentators describe Isaiah as Judah’s evangelist because he worked tirelessly to turn the people back to God.

There were many highs and lows in Isaiah’s life. His faithfulness to God was rewarded with some amazing miracles. In answer to Isaiah’s prayer, God moved the sun back ten steps as a sign to King Hezekiah that God would add a further 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (2 Kings 20:8-11; 2 Chronicles 32:24). Yet Isaiah spent three years stripped naked and barefoot, in obedience to God, as a “sign and wonder” against the Egyptians (Isaiah 20:2-4). His contemporary, Micah, did likewise (Micah 1:8), though it we are not told for how long.

It is in examining a man’s heart that we can learn what kind of a man he is, and Jesus said it is from the overflow of a man’s heart that he speaks (Matthew 12:34). It is from Isaiah’s writings that we learn of his unswerving faithfulness and his complete humility before God. He also had great respect from King Hezekiah’s court and his peers, which was evident in times of crisis. Some of the world’s greatest art works, music and poetry have come from men who walked closely with God, and we can count Isaiah among them. His grasp of the Hebrew language has been likened to that of Shakespeare’s English, as we read in Isaiah some of the most beautiful writings in the Bible. Though the book of Isaiah was written over 2,500 years ago, it is well worth reading through the entire book, because in it we see much wisdom that still applies to our Christian lives today.

It appears that Isaiah was a very private man. When we meet some of today’s renowned speakers face to face, we may be disappointed to find they appear somewhat aloof. However, as with Isaiah, we can learn that their ministry is all about pointing people to God, not to themselves. And despite his reticence, Isaiah’s prominence is in the effect his ministry had on the people. In these last days, we need to make every word we speak count for the kingdom. And from Isaiah’s lifestyle we learn that, when God accomplishes a part of His plan through us, we must ensure that all the glory goes to Him.

In addition, it appears Isaiah’s ministry was characterized by closeness with other godly men, like Micah and King Hezekiah. Going it alone can often leave us vulnerable, but when we are united by God’s Holy Spirit to other members of the body of Christ through fellowship and prayer, our ministry is more effective by virtue of the protection others provide.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll Accessed 25/01/2020 20h00

Book of Isaiah

Author: Isaiah 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Isaiah as the Prophet Isaiah.

Date of Writing: The book of Isaiah was written between 739 and 681 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Prophet Isaiah was primarily called to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah. Judah was going through times of revival and times of rebellion. Judah was threatened with destruction by Assyria and Egypt, but was spared because of God’s mercy. Isaiah proclaimed a message of repentance from sin and hopeful expectation of God’s deliverance in the future.

Key Verses:
Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 14:12-13, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”

Isaiah 53:5-6, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”

Brief Summary: The book of Isaiah reveals God’s judgment and salvation. God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3), and therefore He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Isaiah 1:2; 2:11-20; 5:30; 34:1-2; 42:25). Isaiah portrays God’s oncoming judgment as a “consuming fire” (Isaiah 1:31; 30:33).

At the same time, Isaiah understands that God is a God of mercy, grace, and compassion (Isaiah 5:25; 11:16; 14:1-2; 32:2; 40:3; 41:14-16). The nation of Israel (both Judah and Israel) is blind and deaf to God’s commands (Isaiah 6:9-10; 42:7). Judah is compared to a vineyard that should be, and will be, trampled on (Isaiah 5:1-7). Only because of His mercy and His promises to Israel, will God not allow Israel or Judah to be completely destroyed. He will bring restoration, forgiveness, and healing (43:2; 43:16-19; 52:10-12).

More than any other book in the Old Testament, Isaiah focuses on the salvation that will come through the Messiah. The Messiah will one day rule in justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7; 32:1). The reign of the Messiah will bring peace and safety to Israel (Isaiah 11:6-9). Through the Messiah, Israel will be a light to all the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 55:4-5). The Messiah’s kingdom on earth (Isaiah chapters 65-66) is the goal toward which all of the book of Isaiah points. It is during the reign of the Messiah that God’s righteousness will be fully revealed to the world.

In a seeming paradox, the book of Isaiah also presents the Messiah as one who will suffer. Isaiah chapter 53 vividly describes the Messiah suffering for sin. It is through His wounds that healing is achieved. It is through His suffering that our iniquities are taken away. This apparent contradiction is solved in the Person of Jesus Christ. In His first advent, Jesus was the suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53. In His second advent, Jesus will be the conquering and ruling King, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Foreshadowings: As stated above, chapter 53 of Isaiah describes the coming Messiah and the suffering He would endure in order to pay for our sins. In His sovereignty, God orchestrated every detail of the crucifixion to fulfill every prophecy of this chapter, as well as all other messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The imagery of chapter 53 is poignant and prophetic and contains a complete picture of the Gospel. Jesus was despised and rejected (v. 3; Luke 13:34; John 1:10-11), stricken by God (v.4; Matthew 27:46), and pierced for our transgressions (v. 5; John 19:34; 1 Peter 2:24). By His suffering, He paid the punishment we deserved and became for us the ultimate and perfect sacrifice (v. 5; Hebrews 10:10). Although He was sinless, God laid on Him our sin, and we became God’s righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: The book of Isaiah presents our Savior to us in undeniable detail. He is the only way to heaven, the only means of obtaining the grace of God, the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Knowing the price Christ paid for us, how can we neglect or reject “so great a salvation”? (Hebrews 2:3). We have only a few, short years on earth to come to Christ and embrace the salvation only He offers. There is no second chance after death, and eternity in hell is a very long time.

Do you know people who claim to be believers in Christ who are two-faced, who are hypocrites? That is perhaps the best summary of how Isaiah viewed the nation of Israel. Israel had an appearance of righteousness, but it was a facade. In the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah challenges Israel to obey God with all of their heart, not just on the outside. Isaiah’s desire was that those who heard and read his words would be convicted to turn from wickedness and turn to God for forgiveness and healing.

Recommended Resource: Isaiah, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Trent Butler.
Isaiah 1-39, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by John Oswalt.
Isaiah 40-66, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by John Oswalt

“What are the four Servant Songs in Isaiah?”

There are four “Servant Songs” of Isaiah that describe the service, suffering, and exaltation of the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah. All four songs show the Messiah to be God’s meek and gentle Servant. He is a royal figure, representing Israel in its ideal form; He is the high priest, atoning for the sins of the world. Isaiah predicts that this Servant of the Lord would deliver the world from the prison of sin. In the royal terminology of the ancient Near East, a servant was a “trusted envoy,” a “confidential representative,” or “one who is chosen.” The Servant Songs are found in Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12.

Isaiah initially identifies God’s servant as Israel (41:8; 44:1–2), who serves as God’s witness (43:10) and as a light to the Gentiles. Yet Israel could not fulfil this mission: Israel was deaf, blind (42:19), and in need of God’s forgiveness (44:21–22). Israel failed again and again. By contrast, God’s Servant, the Messiah, faithfully completes all the work He is given to do (cf. Luke 13:32; John 17:4). The Servant of the Lord is God’s faithful and true witness to humanity.

In Acts 3:13 Peter calls Jesus the “servant” of God. That verse says, in part, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Peter’s description of Jesus as a “servant” is accurate for at least four reasons:

1) Jesus always did the will of the Father (John 4:34; 6:38).
2) Jesus never sought to please Himself but always to please the Father (John 5:30).
3) Jesus finished the work that God had sent Him to do (John 17:4).
4) Jesus came to glorify the Father (John 13:31; 17:4).

Additionally, Peter’s reference to Jesus as the “servant of God” would have brought to the minds of his Jewish hearers the passages in Isaiah that describe the Messiah as the “Servant of the Lord.” Here is a brief look at the four Servant Songs in Isaiah:

Isaiah 42:1–9. This first of the four Servant Songs introduces us to the Servant of the LORD:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope” (verses 1–4).

According to this song, the Servant of the Lord is chosen by God, and God delights in Him. The Servant has the Spirit of God abiding on Him. The first three verses of this passage are specifically applied to Jesus in Matthew 12:18–20.

When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan, the Spirit of God descended upon Him, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This was a divine allusion to Isaiah 42. The clear teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ is the Servant in the Servant Song prophecies.

Isaiah 49:1–13. This second of the four Servant Songs speaks of the Messiah’s work in the world and His success. The Servant’s statement that “before I was born the Lord called me” (verse 1) uses language similar to the call of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5). The reference in Isaiah 49:2 to the mouth of the Servant of the LORD being “like a sharpened sword” is a prophetic image that crops up several times in the New Testament (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15).

In the second Servant Song, the Messiah displays God’s splendor (verse 3), restores God’s people (verse 6), and is honored in God’s eyes (verse 5). Significantly, the Messiah feels a great loss: “I have labored in vain; / I have spent my strength for nothing at all” (verse 4), yet He receives worldwide acclaim in the end:

“To him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
to the servant of rulers:
‘Kings will see you and stand up,
princes will see and bow down’” (verse 7).

The Servant of the Lord will oversee the restoration of the land and the establishing of a peaceful kingdom (verses 8–13). The Messiah will be the agent of the Lord’s comfort to His people (verse 13).

In addition to being the One to restore the land of Israel (verse 8), the Messiah is chosen to redeem the Gentiles:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (verse 6).

In this way, God’s salvation is brought to all people. Christ Jesus is “the light of the world” (Luke 2:30–32; John 8:12; 9:5) and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas bring the gospel to the Gentiles in Antioch, and they quote Isaiah 49:6. The response of the Gentiles in Antioch is pure joy: “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:48). In Christ both Jews and Gentiles are made one (Ephesians 2:11–18).

Isaiah 50:4–11. This third Servant Song contrasts Israel’s sin with the Servant’s obedience. We also see that the Messiah will be persecuted yet vindicated. The verses preceding this song (Isaiah 50:1–3) liken Israel to an immoral wife; only God has the power to ransom her back. Starting in verse 4, the Servant responds to the instruction of God. He is not rebellious (verse 5), even when His obedience to God results in suffering:

“I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting” (verse 6).

The Servant of the Lord expresses His confidence that God will help Him and that He will be found innocent (verses 7–9). In this confidence, the Messiah resolves to see His task to completion, no matter how difficult the road becomes (cf. Luke 9:51).

Some 700 years later, Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, too. Abuse and insults were heaped upon our Lord as He was thrown to the Roman soldiers. His back was beaten, His face was hit, and He was spit upon (see John 19:1–3; Matthew 27:30). The Lord Jesus was obedient unto death (Philippians 2:8), and the Father vindicated His Suffering Servant by resurrecting Him. “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, / I will not be disgraced” (Isaiah 52:7).

Isaiah 52:13—53:12. This climactic fourth Servant Song describes the suffering and triumph of the Servant of the LORD. It is also one of the most detailed passages in the Old Testament concerning the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

The song begins with a promise that the Servant will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13), but then immediately turns to a description of extreme violence:

“His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:14).

The Messiah will be “despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:3). When He is brutally punished, people will assume that He is being afflicted by God (verse 4). But the fourth Servant Song makes it clear why He endures such persecution:

“He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed” (verse 5).

It is our iniquity being placed on Him that explains His suffering (verse 6). Verse 7 predicts that the Messiah will be silent before His accusers (cf. Matthew 27:14). Verse 9 says that, although the Servant of the Lord is innocent, He will die with the wicked and be “with the rich in his death.”

Isaiah 53:10 tells us why the Servant dies:

“It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and…the Lord makes his life an offering for sin.”

This is the substitutionary atonement. His life for ours. The death of the Messiah accomplished the will of God concerning our salvation.

Immediately following the prophecy of the Servant’s death, Isaiah makes a startling prophecy of the Servant’s victory:

“[The Lord] will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied. . . .
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong” (verses 10–12).

So, in the fourth Servant Song, death is not the end for the Servant. After He suffers, He will “see the light of life.” He will “divide the spoils.” His days will be prolonged. What we have here is a prophecy of the resurrection of Christ.

The whole of Isaiah 53 is a poignant and prophetic picture of the gospel. Jesus was despised and rejected by men (Luke 13:34; John 1:10–11); He was stricken by God (Matthew 27:46) and pierced for our transgressions (John 19:34; 1 Peter 2:24). By His suffering, Jesus received the punishment we deserved and became for us the ultimate and perfect sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10). Although His Son was sinless, God laid on Him our sin, and we became God’s righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was silent in front of His accusers (Matthew 27:12, 14; 1 Peter 2:23). Jesus was crucified between two thieves yet buried in a rich man’s tomb (Matthew 27:38, 57–60). In the Suffering Servant’s humiliation and final exaltation, He reconciles humanity with God (Matthew 8:17; Acts 8:30–35; Romans 10:15–17; 15:21; 1 Peter 2:24–25).

As the Ethiopian eunuch is traveling home in his chariot, he is reading from one of the Servant Songs (Acts 8:32–33). The eunuch was unsure of whom Isaiah was speaking—was it the prophet himself, or another man? Philip the evangelist had the privilege of using Isaiah 53 to point the Ethiopian to Christ: “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Without a doubt, the four Servant Songs in Isaiah are about Jesus. Our Lord is the theme of Scripture.

Recommended Resource: Isaiah, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Trent Butler Accessed 25/01/2020

“What is the meaning of ‘here am I; send me’ in Isaiah 6:8?”

Isaiah 6 describes how the prophet Isaiah, through a vision from the Lord, begins his ministry for God. In the vision, the Lord asks, ““Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a). Isaiah’s response was to volunteer for service: “Here am I; send me” (verse 8b, KJV).

After a 52-year reign of relative peace, King Uzziah of Judah died of leprosy in 739 BC (2 Chronicles 26:16–23), the same year Isaiah began his prophetic ministry. In a vision Isaiah saw the Lord, “high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). The Lord had a message to deliver to the nation of Judah, and He expresses His desire for a messenger in verse 8. Isaiah’s exclamation “Here am I; send me” marked the very beginning of his ministry; the priest was now a prophet, and the Lord’s message for Judah eventually became the book of Isaiah.

Before Isaiah could say, “Here am I; send me,” he had a problem that had to be addressed. Isaiah 6:5 describes how Isaiah was made aware of his own unworthiness: “Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Standing in the Lord’s presence, Isaiah is made painfully aware of his sin, and he is broken about it in the same way as were Job (Job 42:6) and Peter (Luke 5:8) when they were confronted with the presence of the Lord. God was preparing Isaiah for his cleansing and commission.

After Isaiah acknowledges his sin, a seraph takes a burning piece of coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips with it, and says, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). Some details are important here: Isaiah could not remove his own guilt, the atonement is made possible by the altar—the place of sacrifice—and the purification is specifically applied to the point of Isaiah’s sin—his lips—making Isaiah acceptable as a minister of God’s words.

It is only after Isaiah is cleansed of his sin that he says, “Here am I; send me.” Prior to that point, he saw himself as an unworthy messenger; once he was forgiven, he immediately desired to serve the Lord in whatever way possible. The Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”—He wants willing volunteers in His service—and a grateful and enthusiastic Isaiah doesn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity: “Here am I; send me.” And for the rest of his life, Isaiah serves the God who had forgiven and saved him.

Recommended Resource: Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper

Lecture 3

Lecture Outcomes:

After reading through this lecture you should:

  • Understand the Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations in its place and function within the Biblical canon and history of redemption
  • Have an overview of the content of Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations
  • Know the major themes of  Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations
  • Have a biblical-theological framework for applying this book in the Christian  life and ministry
  • Understand the theological message of the Book of Jeremiah Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations

Key Verse:

4Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5

“They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you” (Jer. 1:17-19).


Why The Book of Jeremiah is so Important – 7mins

Overview: Jeremiah – 7mins

What Is Unique About the Book of Jeremiah? – 3mins

Byron Wayne

God Provides Jeremiahs Call – 22mins

Overview: Lamentations – 7mins

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The Book of Jeremiah reflects the ever-worsening situation Jeremiah encountered. At various times, he had the unenviable tasks of challenging the religious hypocrisy, economic dishonesty and oppressive practices of Judah’s leaders and those who followed them. Jeremiah was the voice of warning, the watchman who brings attention to hard truths that others would rather ignore.

Thus says the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah…I will make you a desert, an uninhabited city. I will prepare destroyers against you….And many nations will pass by this city, and all of them will say one to another, “Why has the Lord dealt in this way with that great city?” And they will answer, “Because they abandoned the covenant of the Lord their God.” (Jer. 22:6-8)

He was the pessimist, who was in reality the realist. He was dismissed and ridiculed by false prophets who insisted that God would never let the city of Jerusalem fall to an invader.

Jeremiah’s persistence in delivering his unwelcome message over four decades is remarkable. He simply would not quit what seemed like an impossible assignment. How many of us would have walked away from such a situation? But one of the striking things about Jeremiah was his tenacious faithfulness in carrying out God’s instructions in the face of unrelenting opposition and harsh criticism. While he has often been called the “weeping prophet” because he mourned the sins of his people and grieved his own lack of success in turning them back to Yahweh, Jeremiah never flinched in his confidence that God, who placed him where he was, would vindicate the truth of his message. The prophet could be faithful to his unwanted call because God had promised to be faithful to him. He served with God’s promise in his pocket: “They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you” (Jer. 1:17-19).

In 605, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem and carried off 10,000 of the most able Jews (including Ezekiel and Daniel). At that point, Jeremiah’s role was expanded to bring God’s word to the Jews in exile (chapter 29). Among the captured Jews were false prophets who assured the exiles that Babylon’s days were numbered and God would never allow Jerusalem to be captured. Jeremiah warned the exiles that they would be in Babylon for seventy years. Instead of acting on false hopes, the Jews there were to settle down in the land, build houses, plant gardens, marry off their children — and stop listening to the false prophets.

Meanwhile, the remaining inhabitants of Judah continued to refuse God’s message. In 586 the Babylonians returned, sacked Jerusalem, pulled down its walls, destroyed its temple stone by stone, and carried off the remaining able-bodied people as captives. Once more, Jeremiah’s role changed (chapters 40-45). God kept him in the destroyed city, now governed briefly by Gedaliah, to encourage the new ruler and help the people understand what had happened and how they were to go forward amid the destruction. Yet once more, despite his plea that they would hear God’s message, they put their faith in an unfortunate military alliance with Egypt that Babylon quickly defeated. Jeremiah was taken to Egypt where he died. To the end, the prophet had to endure the rulers’ stubborn refusal to heed God’s messages and the ruinous outcomes that resulted. Prophets and workplace Christians alike may discover they do not have the ability to overcome every evil. Sometimes success means doing what you know is right even when everything turns out against you.

The final chapters (46-52) deal principally with the judgment God will bring upon all nations, not merely Judah. While God used Babylon against Judah, Babylon would not escape punishment either.

We cannot read Jeremiah without a vivid awareness of the disastrous results of the persistent faithlessness of Judah’s leaders — the kings, the priests and the prophets. Their short-sightedness and willingness to believe the lies they told one another led to the complete destruction of the nation and its capital, Jerusalem. The work God gives us to do is serious business. Failing to follow God’s word in our work can inflict serious damage on ourselves and those around us. Leading the people of Israel was the job of the king, priests and prophets. The national catastrophe that soon engulfed Israel was the direct result of their poor decisions and failure to perform their duties under the Covenant.


The book of Lamentations is book of sorrowful songs or poems. The name implies that the topic is expressing grief over something (to lament). Jeremiah, also known as the “weeping prophet” writes this after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It was written soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; he was an eyewitness. He predicted this destruction (as did others), watched it take place, and now in this book he is sadly reflecting on it. Key personalities are the prophet Jeremiah and the people of Jerusalem.

Its purpose was to express despair and teach God’s people that disobedience to the Lord results in immense suffering and distress. Jeremiah pours out his emotions in compassion, and empathy for God’s nation, as he watches them inhabit a foreign land.

•    In chapter 1, Jeremiah mourns for Jerusalem and Judea as it lays in ruin by the raid and destruction of Babylon, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer!” (1:1).

•    Chapter 2, He described the anger of the Lord who brought judgment to the wicked land (as God had warned), “In fierce anger He has cut off all the strength of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy…” (2:3).

•    Chapter 3, we see Jeremiah expressing his troubled spirit and suffering in gloom. He too is afflicted, as his homeland has been pillaged. On the other hand, he reminds us in verses 19-23, that God is faithful and will restore and bring His promise to pass, “The LORD’S loving-kindness indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail” (3:22).

•    Finally, in chapter 4, we read that God has brought justice and ruled mightily. During the siege, the city of Jerusalem suffered incredibly. Starvation was so bad and widespread that the Israelites resorted to eating their own children. The nation was warned about their sin and disobedience and the penalty of the coming judgment of God, and in verse 11 we read, “The LORD has accomplished His wrath..”.

Summaries Courtesy of the Ultimate Bible Summary Collection

Author: Jeremiah chapter 1, verse 1 identifies the Prophet Jeremiah as the author of the Book of Jeremiah.

Date of Writing: The Book of Jeremiah was written between 630 and 580 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Jeremiah records the final prophecies to Judah, warning of oncoming destruction if the nation does not repent. Jeremiah calls out for the nation to turn back to God. At the same time, Jeremiah recognizes the inevitability of Judah’s destruction due to its unrepentant idolatry and immorality.

Key Verses:

Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

Jeremiah 29:10-11, “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Jeremiah 52:12-13, “On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Jeremiah is primarily a message of judgment on Judah for rampant idolatry (Jeremiah 7:30-34; 16:10-13; 22:9; 32:29; 44:2-3). After the death of King Josiah, the last righteous king, the nation of Judah had almost completely abandoned God and His commandments. Jeremiah compares Judah to a prostitute (Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1-3). God had promised that He would judge idolatry most severely (Leviticus 26:31-33; Deuteronomy 28:49-68), and Jeremiah was warning Judah that God’s judgment was at hand. God had delivered Judah from destruction on countless occasions, but His mercy was at its end. Jeremiah records King Nebuchadnezzar conquering Judah and making it subject to him (Jeremiah 24:1). After further rebellion, God brought Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian armies back to destroy and desolate Judah and Jerusalem (Jeremiah chapter 52). Even in this most severe judgment, God promises the restoration of Judah back into the land God has given them (Jeremiah 29:10).

Foreshadowing: Jeremiah 23:5-6 presents a prophecy of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The prophet describes Him as a Branch from the house of David (v. 5; Matthew 1), the King who would reign in wisdom and righteousness (v. 5, Revelation 11:15). It is Christ who will finally be recognized by Israel as her true Messiah as He provides salvation for His chosen ones (v. 6; Romans 11:26).

Practical Application: The Prophet Jeremiah had a most difficult message to deliver. Jeremiah loved Judah, but he loved God much more. As painful as it was for Jeremiah to deliver a consistent message of judgment to his own people, Jeremiah was obedient to what God told him to do and say. Jeremiah hoped and prayed for mercy from God for Judah, but also trusted that God was good, just, and righteous. We too must obey God, even when it is difficult, recognize God’s will as more important than our own desires, and trust that God, in His infinite wisdom and perfect plan, will bring about the best for His children (Romans 8:28).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Jeremiah / Lamentations by J. Andrew Dearman.
Jeremiah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by J.A. Thompson.
Jeremiah and Lamentations, New American Commentary by F.B. Huey

Author: The Book of Lamentations does not explicitly identify its author. The tradition is that the Prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. This view is highly likely considering the author was a witness of the Babylonians destroying Jerusalem. Jeremiah fits this qualification (2 Chronicles 35:25; 36:21-22).

Date of Writing: The Book of Lamentations was likely written between 586 and 575 B.C., during or soon after Jerusalem’s fall.

Purpose of Writing: As a result of Judah’s continued and unrepentant idolatry, God allowed the Babylonians to besiege, plunder, burn, and destroy the city of Jerusalem. Solomon’s Temple, which had stood for approximately 400 years, was burned to the ground. The Prophet Jeremiah, an eyewitness to these events, wrote the Book of Lamentations as a lament for what occurred to Judah and Jerusalem.

Key Verses:

Lamentations 2:17, “The LORD has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity, he has let the enemy gloat over you, he has exalted the horn of your foes.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 5:19-22, “You, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures from generation to generation. Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may return; renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Lamentations is divided into five chapters. Each chapter represents a separate poem. In the original Hebrew, the verses are acrostic, each verse starting with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Book of Lamentations, the Prophet Jeremiah understands that the Babylonians were God’s tool for bringing judgment on Jerusalem (Lamentations 1:12-15; 2:1-8; 4:11). Lamentations makes it clear that sin and rebellion were the causes of God’s wrath being poured out (1:8-9; 4:13; 5:16). Lamenting is appropriate in a time of distress, but it should quickly give way to contrition and repentance (Lamentations 3:40-42; 5:21-22).

Foreshadowing: Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet” for his deep and abiding passion for his people and their city (Lamentations 3:48-49). This same sorrow over the sins of the people and their rejection of God was expressed by Jesus as He approached Jerusalem and looked ahead to her destruction at the hands of the Romans (Luke 19:41-44). Because of the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah, God used the Roman siege to punish His people. But God takes no joy in having to punish His children and His offer of Jesus Christ as a provision for sin shows His great compassion on His people. One day, because of Christ, God will wipe away all tears (Revelation 7:17).

Practical Application: Even in terrible judgment, God is a God of hope (Lamentations 3:24-25). No matter how far we have gone from Him, we have the hope that we can return to Him and find Him compassionate and forgiving (1 John 1:9). Our God is a loving God (Lamentations 3:22), and because of His great love and compassion, He sent His Son so that we would not perish in our sins, but can live eternally with Him (John 3:16). God’s faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23) and deliverance (Lamentations 3:26) are attributes that give us great hope and comfort. He is not a disinterested, capricious god, but a God who will deliver all those who turn to Him, admit they can do nothing to earn His favor, and call upon the Lord’s mercy so that we will not be consumed (Lamentations 3:22).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Jeremiah / Lamentations by J. Andrew Dearman.
Jeremiah and Lamentations, New American Commentary by F.B. Huey

Who wrote the book?

The son of a priest from the small town of Anathoth in Judah, the prophet Jeremiah dictated prophecies from the Lord to his secretary, Baruch. Because of Jeremiah’s lineage, he would have been raised a priest, though no record of his priestly service exists. Instead, God chose this man of undeniable courage to speak to the people of Judah on the Lord’s behalf—even though they would not listen.

Jeremiah was nearly twenty years old when he began to prophesy, and he continued in that office for the rest of his adult life, some forty years or more. Because his message held little weight with the people, Jeremiah’s prophecies reveal a substantial amount of emotional depth—often sorrow over the plight of God’s people or his own troubles (Jeremiah 12:1–4; 15:10).

Where are we?

Jeremiah’s ministry began in 627 BC and ended sometime around 582 BC with his prophecy to the Jews who fled to Egypt (Jeremiah 44:1). For the majority of this time, Jeremiah based his ministry out of Jerusalem. The southern kingdom of Judah fell during Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry (586 BC), having been threatened for many years by outside powers—first Assyria and Egypt and then by their eventual conquerors, Babylon.

Jeremiah found himself addressing a nation hurtling headlong toward judgment from God. The Israelites may have feared the future as the outside powers drew near, but rather than respond with humility and repentance, the people of Judah primarily lived as islands unto themselves, disregarding both the Lord’s commandments and the increasing danger that resulted from their disobedience.

Why is Jeremiah so important?

The prophecies of Jeremiah offer us a unique insight into the mind and heart of one of God’s faithful servants. The book includes numerous personal statements of emotional engagement, painting Jeremiah not merely as a prophet brought on the scene to deliver God’s message but also as a red-blooded human being who felt compassion for his people, desired judgment for evildoers, and was concerned about his own safety as well.

Significantly, the book of Jeremiah also provides us the clearest glimpse of the new covenant God intended to make with His people once Christ came to earth. This new covenant would be the means of restoration for God’s people, as He would put His law within them, writing it on hearts of flesh rather than on tablets of stone. Rather than fostering our relationship with God through a fixed location like a temple, He promised through Jeremiah that His people would know Him directly, a knowledge that comes through the person of His Son, Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:31–34; see also Hebrews 8:6).

What’s the big idea?

Because Jeremiah prophesied in the final years of Judah before God’s people were exiled to Babylon, it makes sense that the book’s overarching theme is judgment. Indeed, the first forty-five chapters focus primarily on the judgment coming to Judah because of its disbelief and disobedience. However, an element of grace is also present in these events. The fall of Jerusalem comes nearly nine hundred years after the original covenant between God and the Israelites in the Sinai desert (Exodus 24:1–18). Such an extended period of time witnesses to God’s great patience and mercy, allowing His people the opportunity to turn from their sinful ways—a lifestyle they began not long after they struck the original covenant with God (32:1–35).

How do I apply this?

Seeing God’s patience with His people in the Old Testament reminds us that God has always been and continues to be merciful. That His chosen people routinely ignored the covenant they made with Him for the better part of a millennia without immediate death and destruction should give us hope in our own struggles with living well for God. Though we fail Him, He is patient with us, working in us to bring about the best for our lives.

But the book of Jeremiah also reminds us that an end will certainly come, a truth that should spur us to follow after God wholeheartedly. Will you follow Him?

Lecture 4

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

After reading through the lecture Ezekiel you will:

  • Understand the Book of Ezekiel in its place and function within the Biblical canon and history of redemption
  • Have an overview of the content of Ezekiel
  • Know the major themes of  Ezekiel
  • Have a biblical-theological framework for applying this book in the Christian  life and ministry
  • Understand the theological message of the Book of Ezekiel
  • Work in a responsible manner to teach and preach from the Book of Ezekiel to others the message of God seeking to live in communion with his people.

Key Verse:

1And he said to me, “Son of man,a stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.” 2And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ Ezekiel 1:1ff

Overview: Ezekiel 1-33


Overview: Ezekiel 34-48


An overview of the book of Ezekiel


The Book of Ezekiel

In response to the rebellion of Jehoiakim of Judah in 601 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian ruler, besieged Jerusalem. When Jehoiakim’s successor, Jehoiachin, surrendered in 597, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah king and deported to Babylon Jehoiachin and the royal family, along with members of the upper class, including Ezekiel the priest. Five years later, as Zedekiah planned his own revolt against Babylon, Ezekiel became the first prophet to be commissioned outside Judah or Israel (chaps. 1–3). Before Jerusalem is destroyed (587 B.C.), Ezekiel is concerned to convince his audience that they are responsible for the punishment of exile and to justify the Lord’s decision to destroy their city and Temple. Later, Ezekiel argues that the Judahites who embrace his preaching are the people whom the Lord has chosen as a new Israel, enlivened by a new heart, imbued with new breath (chaps. 36–37), and restored to a re-created land, Temple, and covenant relationship (chaps. 40–48). Ezekiel is clear on one point: the Lord punishes and restores for one reason—for the sake of his name, in order to demonstrate once and for all that he is Lord.

Ezekiel’s symbolic actions or performances foreshadow the inevitable destruction of Jerusalem (4:1–5:4; 12:1–20; 24:15–24). The closely related judgment oracles are directed against increasingly larger groups: the inhabitants of Jerusalem (5:5–17); refugees who have fled into the mountains (6:1–14); Judah’s total population, “the four corners of the land” (7:1–27). Particularly chilling is Ez 8–11, the prophet’s vision of the violent injustice and idolatrous worship that fills Jerusalem. When Ezekiel protests the Lord’s order to slaughter Jerusalem’s wicked inhabitants, the Lord refuses to relent; the Lord’s glory leaves the Temple, affirming his judgment on Jerusalem (11:22–25), whom Ezekiel portrays as a promiscuous woman, rebel from the beginning, more violent and sinful than Sodom (chap. 16). Appeals for a speedy end to the exile on the basis of a past relationship with the Lord or of Jerusalem’s privileged status are futile gestures.

Ezekiel uses stereotypic oracles against the nations (chaps. 25–32) to claim universal sovereignty for Israel’s God, to exemplify the consequences of arrogant national pride, and to set the stage for Israel’s restoration. In order to demonstrate to all the nations that “I am the Lord,” God becomes Israel’s just shepherd (34:15) under whose rule a restored people (37:1–14) enjoy prosperity in a restored land. God again acts “for the sake of my name” when the mysterious forces of Gog attack Israel (chaps. 38–39). Their defeat is prelude to Ezekiel’s vision of a new Israel whose source of life and prosperity is a well-ordered cult in a new Temple, where the divine glory again dwells (chaps. 40–48).

The Book of Ezekiel has the following divisions:

I. Call of the Prophet (1:1–3:27)

II. Before the Siege of Jerusalem (4:1–24:27)

III. Prophecies Against Foreign Nations (25:1–32:32)

IV. Hope for the Future (33:1–39:29)

V. The New Israel (40:1–48:35)

Book of Ezekiel

Author: The Prophet Ezekiel is the author of the Book (Ezekiel 1:3). He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah and Daniel.

Date of Writing: The Book of Ezekiel was likely written between 593 and 565 B.C. during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.

Purpose of Writing: Ezekiel ministered to his generation who were both exceedingly sinful and thoroughly hopeless. By means of his prophetic ministry he attempted to bring them to immediate repentance and to confidence in the distant future. He taught that: (1) God works through human messengers; (2) Even in defeat and despair God’s people need to affirm God’s sovereignty; (3) God’s Word never fails; (4) God is present and can be worshiped anywhere; (5) People must obey God if they expect to receive blessings; and (6) God’s Kingdom will come.

Key Verses:

Ezekiel 2:3-6, “He said: ’son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says.” And whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious house – they will know that a prophet has been among them.'”

Ezekiel 18:4, “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.”

Ezekiel 28:12-14, “‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.”

Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?'”

Ezekiel 48:35, “And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE.”

Brief Summary: How can you cope with a world gone astray? Ezekiel, destined to begin his life’s ministry as a priest at age thirty, was uprooted from his homeland and marched off to Babylon at age of twenty-five. For five years he languished in despair. At age thirty a majestic vision of Yahweh’s glory captivated his being in Babylon. The priest/prophet discovered God was not confined to the narrow strictures of Ezekiel’s native land. Instead, He is a universal God who commands and controls persons and nations. In Babylon, God imparted to Ezekiel His Word for the people. His call experience transformed Ezekiel. He became avidly devoted to God’s Word. He realized he had nothing personally to assist the captives in their bitter situation, but he was convinced God’s Word spoke to their condition and could give them victory in it. Ezekiel used various methods to convey God’s Word to his people. He used art in drawing a depiction of Jerusalem, symbolic actions and unusual conduct to secure attention. He cut his hair and beard to demonstrate what God would do to Jerusalem and its inhabitants.

Ezekiel’s book can be divided into four sections:
Chapters 1-24: prophecies on the ruin of Jerusalem
Chapters 25-32: prophecies of God’s judgment on nearby nations
Chapter 33: a last call for repentance to Israel
Chapters 34-48: prophecies concerning the future restoration of Israel

Foreshadowings: Ezekiel 34 is the chapter wherein God denounces the leaders of Israel as false shepherds for their poor care of His people. Instead of caring for the sheep of Israel, they cared for themselves. They ate well, were well-clothed and well-cared for by the very people they had been placed over (Ezekiel 34:1-3). By contrast, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and who protects them from the wolves who would destroy the flock (John 10:11-12). Verse 4 of chapter 34 describes people whom the shepherds failed to minister to as weak, sick, injured and lost. Jesus is the Great Physician who heals our spiritual wounds (Isaiah 53:5) by His death on the cross. He is the one who seeks and saves that which is lost (Luke 19:10).

Practical Application: The Book of Ezekiel calls us to join in a fresh and living encounter with the God of Abraham, Moses and the prophets. We must be overcomers or we will be overcome. Ezekiel challenged us to experience a life changing vision of God’s power, knowledge, eternal presence and holiness; to let God direct us; to comprehend the depth of and commitment to evil that lodges in each human heart; to recognize that God holds His servants responsible for warning wicked men of their peril; to experience a living relationship with Jesus Christ, who said that the new covenant is to be found in His blood.

Recommended Resource: Ezekiel NIV Application Commentary by Iain Duguid.
Ezekiel 1-24, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Daniel Block.
Ezekiel 25-48, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Daniel Block

“Who was Ezekiel in the Bible?”

Answer: Ezekiel, whose name means “strengthened by God,” grew up in Jerusalem, served as a priest in the temple and was among the second group of captives taken to Babylon along with King Jehoiachin. While in Babylon he became a prophet of God; he is the author of the Old Testament book that bears his name. Ezekiel’s ministry began with condemnation and judgment of the nation Judah. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Ezekiel’s prophecies speak of hope for the future. Ezekiel wanted to help the people learn from their failures. He announced impending judgment upon the nations that surrounded Judah and reestablished hope for the restoration of Israel. His vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37) pictures new life being breathed into the nation, which will occur in the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth.

Ezekiel’s first vision was of God’s throne and included the four living creatures and whirling wheels. Ezekiel also had detailed visions of a new temple (Ezekiel 40–43), a restored Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:30–35), the millennium (chapter 44), and the land in which God’s people will reside (Ezekiel 47:13–23). Israel and Judah will once again be restored to unity from the ends of the earth as God’s glory also returns and God dwells among His people. These beautiful visions of Ezekiel concern both the immediate and the long-term plans of God. Ezekiel delivered God’s messages with straightforward language that everyone could understand, whether they listened or not (Ezekiel 2:7). Ezekiel himself received a warning from God that, if he did not faithfully warn of the punishment for not following God, he would be held accountable for the blood of those who died in their sins (Ezekiel 33:8–9). He did not hesitate in his mission and steadfastly followed God’s instructions. Ezekiel had a passionate view of judgment and hope, and he reflected God’s own sorrow over the people’s sins.

The prophet experienced considerable opposition during his own lifetime, yet he doggedly expressed God’s desire that the wicked not die but turn from their wicked ways and live. His periodic speechlessness during his early years was broken when God empowered him to speak, and his tongue was loosened to speak the longest passage of sustained hope in the Bible. The burning, chopping, and scattering of his hair represented the fall of Jerusalem and the bringing back of God’s remnant (chapter 5). The hopeful words climax in the promise of everlasting possession of the land, an everlasting Davidic prince, an everlasting covenant, and an everlasting sanctuary in Israel (Ezekiel 11:16-21). He leaps ahead to a time after Israel has been restored to the mysterious invasion from the north that will be brought by Yahweh against Israel, but then will be utterly defeated. This demonstrates that no enemy nation will ever invade the Holy Land again with success, and the glory of the God of Israel returns, entering through the east gate of the temple Ezekiel envisions.

Ezekiel has shown all Christians that we are to be obedient to God’s call on our lives. God told Ezekiel to groan with a broken heart and bitter grief for the coming judgment, and through his dramatic book, Ezekiel is telling us the very same thing. This judgment is coming! It will surely take place, declares the Sovereign Lord! We, too, can warn others and share with them the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Why is Ezekiel called son of man if it is a title for Jesus?”

Answer: The term son of man is used variously in Scripture. Jesus is indeed referred to as the Son of Man in the New Testament—88 times, to be exact. The term son of man is also found in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel is called “son of man” over 90 times. Thus, both Jesus and Ezekiel can rightly be called “son of man”; but there is something unique about the way the title is applied to Christ.

In the gospels, Jesus often refers to Himself as the Son of Man (e.g., Matthew 16:27; Mark 14:21; Luke 7:34; John 3:13). Jesus’ use of this title links Him to Daniel 7:13–14, a passage describing the coming Messiah: “There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. . . . He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” The teachers of the Law during Jesus’ time on earth would have readily understood Jesus’ meaning when He applied the title Son of Man to Himself. Jesus’ use of the phrase points to His exalted state as a person of the Godhead and the fact that He will fulfil Daniel’s prophecy.

Further, only in the gospels do we find the term son of man associated with the definite article, the. Jesus always called Himself “the Son of Man,” as in the only one there is. In using the definite article, Jesus contrasts Himself with other personalities in the Bible associated with the same term. Ezekiel is never called “the son of man”; he is always just a “son of man,” as in one among many.

Son of man is a rather common term in the Bible, and it simply means “man.” It emphasizes the humanity of a person. In the case of Ezekiel, who was often referred to as “son of man” (e.g., Ezekiel 2:1; 3:1; 4:1; 5:1), God probably chose this manner of direct address to point up the contrast between the human condition of Ezekiel and the transcendent majesty of God. In the first chapter of his book, Ezekiel relates a vision he had of God’s glory—a scene full of wheels and eyes and storms and fire and strange angelic creatures. In the first verse of the next chapter, God addresses Ezekiel as “son of man.” The prophet could not help but realize his own human frailty and limitations in the face of God’s unsurpassable glory. God is God, and Ezekiel is but a “son of man.”

In Jesus’ case, the application of the title Son of Man also highlights the humanity of Christ. The difference is that He is the Son of Man; that is, He is the epitome of humanity. Jesus is the Sinless One, humanity perfected, the one to finally reconcile God and man.

Recommended Resource: Ezekiel NIV Application Commentary by Iain Duguid

“What is the meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37?”

Answer: Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1–14) came to him after God had directed him to prophesy the rebirth of Israel in chapter 36. God announced, through the prophet, that Israel will be restored to her land in blessing under the leadership of “David, My servant [who] shall be king over them” (Ezekiel 37:24), clearly a reference to the future under Jesus Christ the Messiah, descendant of David (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6–7; Luke 1:31–33). However, this promise seemed impossible in light of Israel’s present condition. She was “dead” as a nation, deprived of her land, her king, and her temple. She had been divided and dispersed for so long that unification and restoration seemed impossible. So God gave Ezekiel the vision of the dry bones as sign.

God transported Ezekiel—probably not literally, but in a vision—to a valley full of dry bones and directed him to speak to the bones. Ezekiel was to tell the bones that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life, just as in the creation of man when He breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). Ezekiel obeyed, the bones came together, flesh developed, skin covered the flesh, breath entered the bodies, and they stood up in a vast army. This vision symbolized the whole house of Israel that was then in captivity. Like unburied skeletons, the people were in a state of living death, pining away with no end to their judgment in sight. They thought their hope was gone and they were cut off forever. The surviving Israelites felt their national hopes had been dashed and the nation had died in the flames of Babylon’s attack with no hope of resurrection.

The reviving of the dry bones signified God’s plan for Israel’s future national restoration. The vision also, and most importantly, showed that Israel’s new life depended on God’s power and not the circumstances of the people. Putting “breath” by God’s Spirit into the bones showed that God would not only restore them physically but also spiritually. The Israelites residing in the Holy Land today are not the fulfillment of this prophecy. It will be fulfilled when God re-gathers believing Israelites to the land (Jeremiah 31:33; 33:14–16) and Christ returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom (Matthew 24:30–31).

Recommended Resource: Ezekiel NIV Application Commentary by Iain Duguid


Book of Ezekiel Explained

Discover Books of The Bible

Title: The book has always been named for its author, Ezekiel (1:3; 24:24), who is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture. His name means “strengthened by God”, which, indeed, he was for the prophetic ministry to which God called him (3:8-9). Ezekiel uses visions, prophecies, parables, signs and symbols to proclaim and dramatize the message of God to His exiled people.

Author – Date: If the “thirtieth year” (of 1:1), refers to Ezekiel’s age, he was 25 when taken captive and 30 when called into ministry. Thirty was the age when priests commenced their office, so it was a notable year for Ezekiel. His ministry began (in 593/592 B.C.), and extended at least 22 years until (571/570 B.C.; compare 25:17). He was a contemporary of both Jeremiah (who was about 20 years older), and Daniel (who was the same age), whom he names (in 14:14, 20; 28:3), as an already well known prophet. Like Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1), and Zechariah (compare Zech. 1:1 with Neh. 12:16), Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest (1:3). Because of his priestly background, he was particularly interested in and familiar with the temple details; so God used him to write much about them (8:1-11:25; 40:1-47:12).

Ezekiel and his wife (who is mentioned in 24:15-27), were among 10,000 Jews taken captive to Babylon (in 597 B.C.; 2 Kings 24:11-18). They lived in Tel-abib (3:15), on the bank of the Chebar River, probably southeast of Babylon. Ezekiel writes of his wife’s death in exile (Ezek. 24:18), but the book does not mention Ezekiel’s death, which rabbinical tradition suggests occurred at the hands of an Israelite prince whose idolatry he rebuked (around 560 B.C.).

The author received his call to prophesy (in 593 B.C.; 1:2), in Babylon (“the land of the Chaldeans”), during the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s captivity, which began (in 597 B.C.). Frequently, Ezekiel dates his prophecies (from 597 B.C.; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1, 17; 33:21; 40:1). He also dates the message (in 40:1 as 573/572, the 14th year after 586 B.C.), i.e., Jerusalem’s final fall. The last dated utterance of Ezekiel (was in 571/570 B.C.; 29:17).

Almost all of Ezekiel’s prophecies are in chronological order and are precisely dated (1:2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1). The commencement of his ministry is said to be “in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” (1:1-2; or 593 B.C.). The expression “in the thirtieth year” (1:1), probably refers to Ezekiel’s age when he began to prophesy, which, in this case, was the same age at which priests became qualified to serve (Num. 4:3). The latest dated prophecy in the book was given “in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month” (29:17). The twenty-seventh year should be dated to Jehoiachin’s exile (as in 1:2), which would terminate Ezekiel’s ministry (in 571 B.C., at age 52), or a total of 22 years.

Background – Setting: From the historical perspective, Israel’s united kingdom lasted more than 110 years (ca. 1043-931 B.C.), through the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon. Then the divided kingdom, Israel (north), and Judah (south), extended from (931 B.C. to 722/721 B.C.). Israel fell to Assyria (in 722/721 B.C.), leaving Judah, the surviving kingdom for 135 years, which fell to Babylon (in 605-586 B.C.).

From the more immediate setting, several features were strategic. Politically, Assyria’s vaunted military might crumbled after 626 B.C., and the capital, Nineveh, was destroyed (in 612 B.C.), by the Babylonians and Medes (compare Nahum). The neo-Babylonian empire had flexed its muscles since Nabopolassar took the throne (in 625 B.C.), and Egypt, under Pharaoh Necho II, was determined to conquer what he could. Babylon smashed Assyria (in 612-605 B.C.), and registered a decisive victory against Egypt (in 605 B.C.), at Carchemish, leaving, according to the Babylonian Chronicle, no survivors. Also in 605 B.C., Babylon, led by Nebuchadnezzar, began the conquest of Jerusalem and the deportation of captives, among them Daniel (Dan. 1:2). In (Dec. 598 B.C.), he again besieged Jerusalem (and on Mar. 16, 597 B.C.), took possession. This time, he took captive Jehoiachin and a group of 10,000, including Ezekiel (2 Kings 24:11-18). The final destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah, including the third deportation (came in 586 B.C.).

Religiously, King Josiah (ca. 640/609 B.C.), had instituted reforms in Judah (compare 2 Chron. chapter 34). Tragically, despite his effort, idolatry had so dulled the Judeans that their awakening was only “skin deep” overall. The Egyptian army killed Josiah as it crossed Palestine (in 609 B.C.), and the Jews plunged on in sin toward judgment under Jehoahaz (609 B.C.), Jehoiakim [Eliakim] (609-598 B.C.), Jehoiachin (598-597 B.C.), and Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.).

Domestically, Ezekiel and the 10,000 lived in exile in Babylonia (2 Kings 24:14), more as colonists than captives, being permitted to farm tracts of land under somewhat favorable conditions (Jeremiah chapter 29). Ezekiel even had his own house (3:24; 20:1).

Prophetically, false prophets deceived the exiles with assurances of a speedy return to Judah (13:3, 16; Jer. 29:1). From (593-585 B.C.), Ezekiel warned that their beloved Jerusalem would be destroyed and their exile prolonged, so there was no hope of immediate return. (In 585 B.C.), an escapee from Jerusalem, who had evaded the Babylonians, reached Ezekiel with the first news that the city had fallen (in 586 B.C.), about 6 months earlier (33:21). That dashed the false hopes of any immediate deliverance for the exiles, so the remainder of Ezekiel’s prophies related to Israel’s future restoration to its homeland and the final blessings of the messianic kingdom.

Historical – Theological Themes: The “glory of the Lord” is central to Ezekiel, appearing in 1:28; 3:12, 23; 10:4, 18; 11:23; 43:4-5; 44:4). The book includes graphic descriptions of the disobedience of Israel and Judah, despite God’s kindness (chapter 23, compare chapter 16). It shows God’s desire for Israel to bear fruit which He can bless, however, selfish indulgence had left Judah ready for judgment, like a torched vine (chapter 15). References are plentiful to Israel’s idolatry and its consequences, such as Pelatiah dropping dead (11:13), a symbolic illustration of overall disaster for the people.

Many picturesque scenes illustrate spiritual principles. Among these are Ezekiel eating a scroll (chapter 2); the faces on 4 angels representing aspects of creation over which God rules (1:10); a “barbershop” scene (5:1-4); graffiti on temple walls reminding readers of what God really wants in His dwelling place, namely holiness and not ugliness (8:10); and sprinkled hot coals depicting judgment (10:2, 7).

Chief among the theological themes are God’s holiness and sovereignty. These are conveyed by frequent contrast of His bright glory against the despicable backdrop of Judah’s sins (1:26-28; often in chapters 8-11; and 43:1-7). Closely related is God’s purpose of glorious triumph so that all may “know that I am the LORD”. This divine monogram, God’s signature authenticating His acts, is mentioned more than 60 times, usually with a judgment (6:7; 7:4), but occasionally after the promised restoration (34:27; 36:11, 38; 39:28).

Another feature involves God’s angels carrying out His program behind the scenes (1:5-25; 10:1-22). A further important theme is God’s holding each individual accountable for pursuing righteousness (18:3-32).

Ezekiel also stresses sinfulness in Israel (2:3-7; 8:9-10), and other nations (throughout chapters 25-32). He deals with the necessity of God’s wrath to deal with sin (7:1-8; 15:8); God’s frustration of man’s devices to escape from besieged Jerusalem (12:1-13; compare Jer. 39:4-7); and God’s grace pledged in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), being fulfilled by restoring Abraham’s people to the land of the covenant (chapters 34, 36 to 48; compare Gen. 12:7). God promises to preserve a remnant of Israelites through whom He will fulfill His restoration promises and keep His inviolate rod.

Interpretation – Purpose: The backgrounds of the books of Daniel and Ezekiel are quite similar. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (in 605 B.C.), during the reign of Jehoiakim (Dan. 1:1), At first, Jehoiakim supported Nebuchadnezzar, but (in 601 B.C.), he changed allegiance to Egypt (2 Kings 24:1). As a result, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and captured it (in March 597 B.C.). Jehoiakim had already died in disgrace and been succeeded by his son Jehoiachin. The latter, feeling that matters were quite hopeless, surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was taken captive to Babylon along with Ezekiel and a total of 10,000 of the leaders and skilled craftsmen (2 Kings. 24:8-17; Jer. 22:24-30; Ezek. 19:5-9). Thus, all of Ezekiel’s ministry, except for visionary glimpses of life in Jerusalem, took place in Babylon Since Ezekiel prophesied both before and after the destruction of Jerusalem during Nebuchadnezzar’s third campaign (586 B.C.). His early prophecies emphasize the impending disaster; his later prophecies stress Israel’s future restoration, especially their glorious new temple.

The purpose of the book is essentially threefold:

(1)   To explain that Judah must be judged for disobedience;

(2)   To encourage the remnant of Judah through prophecies of her glorious future restoration;

(3)   To emphasize the preeminence of God’s glory and character. The Glory of God may well be viewed as the theme of the book, because Ezekiel’s ministry begins with a vision of God’s glory and emphasizes it throughout the book (1:28; 3:12, 23; 8:4). Upwards of 75 times God expresses His own concerns in the book as “for my name’s sake” or that “ye shall know that I am the Lord”. All of God’s actions, either in judgment or blessing, emanate equally from His holiness and for His glory.

Lecture 5

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The Book of Daniel.

Key Verse:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever. Daniel 2:44

But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. Daniel 1:8

Overview: Daniel


Book of Daniel – a Brief Overview

A very brief overview of some principal aspects of the book of Daniel the Prophet, who lived between the 7th and 6th century BC. God chose Daniel to prophesy before the heathen Kings of Babylon and Medo-Persia.


Chapter 32: Daniel

Key Terms

  • pseudonymity: the literary device of writing under a false or assumed name; commonly recognized as a feature of apocalyptic literature
  • Babylonian empire: major power in the ANE ca. 612-539BC
  • Persian Empire: major power in the ancient Near East ca. 539–332 BC
  • Cyrus: Medo-Persian king who defeated the Babylonian Empire
  • vaticinium ex eventu: lit. “prophecy from the event,” this term refers to “prophecies” that purport to be prophetic but were in fact written after the event occurred
  • eschatology: the branch of theology concerned with end-time events (i.e., the doctrine of last things)

Key Ideas

  • Living a life of faith in an increasingly hostile world.
  • Sovereignty of God to deliver and prosper people of faith.
  • Sovereignty of God in international political affairs.

Chapter Summary

Though the events of Daniel are set during the sixth century BC, many scholars believe that the book was written during the second century BC. Those supporting this view argue that Daniel should be classified as apocalyptic literature. However, both internal and external evidence could support an earlier date.

King Nabopolassar oversaw the overthrow of the Assyrian empire; his son Nebuchadrezzar oversaw the establishment of the Babylonians as the dominant world power. The kingdom of Judah experienced constant conflict with the Babylonians, escalating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 BC. Daniel was part of the first deportation of the Jews in 605 BC. After Nebuchadrezzar’s death, the Babylonian Empire declined until it was finally taken over by Cyrus in 539 BC. Cyrus allowed many of the deported peoples, including the Jews, to return to their homes and sanctuaries.

The first six chapters of Daniel address events, while the remainder of the book contains visions. Each half of the book is ordered chronologically. Viewed differently, the book could be divided between chapters five and six, with the first section illustrating a deteriorating opinion of Jewish worship, and the latter section an increasing persecution of Jewish worship. Whichever scheme we adopt, God’s sovereign control over the spiritual and political aspects of life stands as one of Daniel’s key themes. The book demonstrates that the climax of God’s agenda for Israel is the kingdom of God, a kingdom that would never be destroyed. Human empires, in contrast, are only temporary and exercise limited dominion. The downfall of the earthly kings is their pride, while the downfall of Israel was her rebellion against God. 69

Major themes: Kingdom of God & Pride and rebellion.

Media Sources/Websites

Bibledex – Daniel: Video overview of the book of Daniel.

“The Persian Empire”: Section of devoted to the Persian Empire, with links to multiple other resources.

Theology of Daniel,

Dictionaries – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology – Daniel, Theology of

Daniel is one of the most controversial books of the Bible, yet its message is clear and unmistakable. While Bible scholars debate issues like when it was written and whether it is historically accurate, the Book of Daniel consistently calls God’s people of every generation to faithfulness.

Daniel is the only Old Testament book written completely in apocalyptic language. As such, Daniel is similar to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, which is the oldest document actually claiming the title “apocalypse” or “revelation.” In this sense, Daniel forms an important bridge between the Testaments. Daniel, like other Old Testament prophets, is concerned with the Sinai covenant ( Daniel 9:11 Daniel 9:13 Daniel 9:15 ) and with the basic social message of the other prophets (4:27). At the same time, he deals with issues of the distant future in a manner that sets the pattern for New Testament prophecies.

Daniel’s unique position in the Old Testament can also be seen in its purpose. Unlike other Old Testament prophecies, this book does not call its readers to repent and lead a new life. Daniel’s concern is consistent faithfulness among believers, continued obedience among God’s people during times of hardship.

The Book of Daniel has two discernible parts: the historical narratives of chapters 1-6 and the visions of chapters 7-12. The stories of the first half relate the events of Daniel and his ministry in the foreign courts of Babylonia and Persia. The visions of the second half are the personal accounts of Daniel dated to the later part of his life.

The narratives of chapters 1-6 have in common a single theme: Daniel and his three friends successfully bear witness to their faith before a hostile world. Though the circumstances are often unpleasant, these young men consistently stand up for righteousness against overwhelming odds. In the process they find that God is faithful. The historical section in general forms a theology of history in which God delivers those who faithfully represent him in the world and humiliates the proud who fail to acknowledge him.

Though the visions of chapters 7-12 are in general less well known than the beloved stories of the first half, they nonetheless contain individual passages that are noted for their theological importance. The vision of chapter 7 portrays God as “the Ancient of Days”; another figure is called “the Son of Man, ” a designation Jesus applied to himself ( Matt 16:27 ; 24:30 ; 26:64 ; Mark 8:38 ; 13:26, ; etc. ). The interpretation of the vision of chapter 9 includes the hotly debated “seventy sevens” or “seventy weeks of years” passage (vv. 24-27). The concluding vision contains the only explicit Old Testament reference to the resurrection ( 12:1-3 ).

There are at least four themes that dominate this book: the sovereignty of God; the self-destructive pride of humankind; the ultimate victory of God’s kingdom; and the coming of his servant, the Messiah.

The Sovereignty of God. Other Old Testament prophets knew that Yahweh, the god of Israel, was sovereign over the whole world, including the other nations. But Daniel illustrates this fact in graphic new ways. Through both the narratives and visions, Daniel demonstrates the lordship of God over the whole world, not just Jerusalem and the Israelites. This truth was meant to be a source of great comfort for exiled Israelites living in a foreign context.

This pervasive theme is apparent from the outset of chapter 1. The first verse of the book asserts that Nebuchadnezzar came to besiege Jerusalem. The reader of the book might assume the Babylonian king has come in his own awesome strength and at his own instigation. But the next verse makes it clear that Nebuchadnezzar was not acting in opposition to the will of God. In fact, whatever success [Nebuchadnezzar enjoyed was provided by God: “The Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand” (v. 2, Heb. natan, “give, ” is a key word in this chapter).

After Daniel steadfastly resisted the cultural pressure to compromise, God “gave” (natan [t”n]) him favor before Nebuchadnezzar’s chief of staff (v. 9). Later, God “gave” (natan [t”n]) the four young Jews surpassing knowledge and discernment, particularly to Daniel, a gift for understanding visions and dreams (v. 17). So this chapter emphasizes God’s sovereignty over the affairs of nations (Babylon and Israel, v. 2) as well as individuals (Daniel and this three companions, v. 17).

The sovereignty of God is played out in the rest of the book in the conflict between the proud and arrogant rules of the world and the kingdom of God. The stone cut by supernatural forces in chapter 2 demolished the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream symbolizing the human kingdoms of the earth. The God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego controlled the forces of nature with startling effect on Nebuchadnezzar (chap. 3), as he also did for Daniel in the lions’ den (chap. 6). Daniel is given the ability to interpret dreams and visions that are mysterious and impossible for the noblest and wisest of Babylon’s wisemen to discern (chaps. 2, 4, and 5). The handwriting on the wall episode demonstrates God’s sovereign control over nations and individual rulers (chap. 5).

The Book of Daniel adds a new twist to the prophetic view of the nations who might oppose God. Most of the other prophets have oracles against Israel’s enemy nations, a prophetic form that is ancient in Israelite literature (see, e.g., Isa 13-23; Jer 46-51, etc.). But Daniel views the key empires in sequential order of four, followed by a fifth, eternal kingdom. Rather than present sermons against Israel’s immediate neighbors, Daniel sees visions of future empires that oppose God worldwide and oppress his people everywhere. Both the historical narratives and the visions portray a struggle between these successive rulers of the world and God’s kingdom. The stories relate how God’s servants (Daniel and his friends) were able to overcome the strongest human forces of earth in their efforts to remain faithful to God.

The first of the visions (chap. 7) portrays three frightening beasts and a grotesque monster that threatens to exterminate God’s people. But the Ancient of Days prevails and establishes an eternal kingdom for his saints. Even in persecution and death, the sovereign Lord of the kingdom will provide resurrection ( 12:1-3 ). God’s sovereignty over the proud and arrogant rules of the world climaxes in Michael’s final victory provided for all who are written in “the book” ( 12:1 ). In the historical narratives, God was sovereign over all his enemies of the past. The visions reveal how that sovereignty will play itself out in human history.

This emphasis on God’s sovereignty leads naturally to the next two primary themes of the book: prideful and rebellious humankind is self-destructive because it fails to acknowledge the sovereign Lord of the universe; and God’s people will ultimately succeed, because with him they cannot fail.

The Pride of Humankind. A further emphasis of the Book of Daniel is the pride and arrogance of humankind and God’s total condemnation of egotism. In chapters 1-6 human pride is the subsurface issue behind the problem that introduces each chapter. In the visions of chapters 7-12, the arrogance of future world leaders is the enemy of God and his people. Ultimately, the each case, God has acted, or will act, to turn human pride and arrogance to shame and ridicule.

In the narratives of chapters 1-6, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar are perfect examples of human leaders who rebel against God’s authority. In both cases, their pride reduces them to pathetic states of helplessness and ridicule. After God has acted, they are hardly recognizable as kings of the great and mighty Babylon ( 4:33 ; 5:6 ).

The pride of the world empires is central to the ideas of chapters 7-12. The scheme of empires in chapters 7 and 8 is a succession of world leaders, which depicts the limits of imperial pride, reaching the climax at the little horn with the big mouth ( 7:8 ). But a new heavenly kingdom, led by the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, replaces these proud earthly reigns. In chapters 10-12 the supernatural forces of heaven will move to crush the ultimate anti-Christian ruler of earth, who has arrogantly raised himself above every god ( 11:36 ).

The Book of Daniel is especially pertinent for every new generation of believers because it addresses the ultimate problem of the human condition. Sin and rebellion always find root in pride and self-absorption. So salvation must involve confession, rejection of prideful self-sufficiency, and dependence on God ( Mark 8:34 ), all of which are so magnificently modeled by Daniel, his three companions, and later, by the saints of the Most High.

The Ultimate Victory of God’s Saints. Daniel also reveals much about the kingdom of God. The fundamental message of Daniel is that through every possible circumstance of life, it is possible to live a life of faith and victory with God’s help. God reigns supreme in heaven and earth, and those allied with him share in his triumph. No matter how severe the persecution, the enemies of God cannot bring an end to his community of believers. The unique apocalyptic nature of Daniel teaches that this has always been so (chaps. 1-6) and always will be (chaps. 7-12). Even in death, God’s people are victorious ( 12:1-3 ).

Prevalent in this book is the idea of four great world kingdoms followed by a fifth (chaps. 2 and 7). Conservative authorities have traditionally taken these kingdoms to refer to Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, respectively. Though the precise details are in doubt, the message is clear and irrefutable. All earthly kingdoms are temporary, even fleeting, no matter how impressive they may look at the moment. Ultimately, the eternal kingdom of the Ancient of Days will be ushered in by the Son of Man ( 7:14 ).

Although this promise is certain and sure, the rest of the book describes a delay in the arrival of God’s eternal kingdom. During the postponement, God’s faithful people will endure severe testing and persecution at the hands of proud, irreligious leaders of the world. The seventy weeks of years ( 9:24-27 ) and the promise of the resurrection ( 12:1-3 ) presuppose that the faithful saints of God will have to endure hardship for a limited time. But those who faithfully endure and await his timing will participate in his final victory.

Daniel is the primary source in the Old Testament revealing events of the future. Together with the New Testament Book of Revelation, it provides data for the various theories about the endtimes. Though Christians disagree on issues such as when Christ will return in relation to a millennial (thousand-year) reign, all are agreed that the most important question is whether the church is currently living a life worthy of his blessing and acceptance, whenever he comes again.

In other words, the details of eschatology are not as crucial as eschatological ethics: behaving Christ-like now in this world, and living in the expectation and anticipation of Christ’s return. Daniel teaches that God’s people can and should live holy, righteous lives while suffering the injustices of this life. They are encouraged to do so because, in the end, God will conclusively reward them with victory.

God’s Messiah. The role of the “Son of David” is a central theme among Israel’s prophets. Israel never forgot God’s promise to provide seed from her ideal King to rule forever on the throne in Jerusalem ( 2 Sam 7:16 ). Isaiah thought of God’s commitment to David as a pattern for the everlasting covenant God wanted with Israel ( 55:3-4 ). Jeremiah asserted that the covenant with David was as unbreakable and secure as God’s appointment of the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night (33:20-22).

The son of David figure was an “anointed one, ” since the kings of Israel were traditionally anointed with oil by a prophet. This anointed one (“Messiah” in Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek) was the principal figure for the prophets, who speak of a movement from chaos and defeat to victory and redemption for national Israel. But as an exilic prophet, Daniel was living and working after the actual loss of the monarchy. No ancient Near Eastern community could survive the absence of a king. But Israel had the capacity to preserve spiritually what she had lost materially.

In Daniel, the concept of the Messiah was reinterpreted toward the universal, rather than being limited to a single nation, Israel. Thus there is a Davidic substratum, or ideological undercurrent in Daniel 7:13-14. Daniel had envisioned evil incarnate in the form of the little horn, the symbol of a ruthless human dictator who stops at nothing to achieve his own selfish ambitions ( 7:8 and 8:9 , though the two horns are not identical). Now Daniel sees the Messiah as the antithesis of personified evil. Eventually the Son of Man will lead his people (“the saints of the Most High”) into triumph.

The political and military dimensions of the son of David, the king-Messiah, are broadened in Daniel. In chapter 7 the nationalistic interpretation of the Messiah is transcended. Instead of savior of national Israel, who leads his people to victory over enemy nations that are evil, the Messiah becomes victorious over evil in general.

William T. Arnold

See also Apocalyptic; Jesus Christ, Name and Titles of; Messiah; Revelation, Theology of

Bibliography. J. G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary; J. E. Goldingay, Daniel; D. W. Heaton, The Book of Daniel; A. LaCocque, Daniel in His Time; D. S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic; E. J. Young, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary; idem, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary.

“Who was Daniel in the Bible?”

We can read about the life of Daniel in his own writings in the book of Daniel and also in Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and 28:3. There are some striking similarities between the life of Daniel and that of Jacob’s son Joseph. Both of them prospered in foreign lands after interpreting dreams for their rulers, and both were elevated to high office as a result of their faithfulness to God.

After Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem, he chose noble men from Israel’s royal household who were handsome and showed an aptitude for learning, to be trained in the ways of the Babylonians. After their three years’ training, they would be put into the king’s service (Daniel 1:1-6). Daniel, whose name means “God is my judge,” and his three countrymen from Judea were chosen and given new names. Daniel became “Belteshazzar,” while Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah became “Shadrach,” “Meshach,” and “Abednego.” The Babylonians most likely gave them new names that were completely disassociated with their Hebrew roots to hasten Daniel and his friends’ assimilation into the Babylonian culture.

Daniel and his compatriots proved to be the wisest of all the trainees, and, at the end of their training, they entered the service of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s first sign of faithfulness to God was when he and his three friends rejected the rich food and wine from the king’s table, because they deemed it a defilement, and became vegetarians. As their health improved, they were permitted to continue with their chosen diet. In their education, the four men from Judah became knowledgeable in all Babylonian matters, and Daniel was given by God the ability to understand dreams and visions of all kinds (Daniel 1:17).

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar was troubled with a dream that he could not interpret. Beyond interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar commanded his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to also describe his dream. These men were willing to try to interpret the dream if Nebuchadnezzar first told them what it was, but they said that revealing the dream itself was an impossible task for humans. The king decreed that all the wise men, including Daniel and his companions, must be put to death. However, after Daniel sought God in prayer, the mystery of the king’s dream was revealed to Daniel, and he was taken to the king to interpret it. Daniel immediately attributed his ability to interpret dreams to the one true God (Daniel 2:28). The key feature of the dream was that one day there will be a kingdom set up by God that will last forever, and that God’s kingdom will destroy all previous, man-made kingdoms (Daniel 2:44-45). For his wisdom, Daniel was honored by King Nebuchadnezzar and placed in authority over all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, his three countrymen were also placed in positions of authority as administrators of Babylon.

Later, King Nebuchadnezzar had another dream, and again Daniel was able to interpret it. The king acknowledged that Daniel had the spirit of his holy God within him (Daniel 4:9). Daniel’s interpretation of the dream was correct. After experiencing a period of insanity, Nebuchadnezzar was restored to health, and he praised and honored Daniel’s God as the Most High (Daniel 4:34-37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, became the new king, and during a banquet he ordered the gold and silver goblets that had been stolen from the holy temple in Jerusalem to be brought out for use. In response to the defilement of such holy items, Belshazzar sees a hand writing on the wall. His astrologers are unable to assist him in its translation, and so Daniel is called upon to interpret the writing (Daniel 5:13-16). As a reward for interpreting the writing, Daniel is promoted by King Belshazzar to the third highest position in the Babylonian kingdom (verse 29). That night, as Daniel had prophesied, the king was slain in battle, and his kingdom was taken over by the Persian Cyrus the Great, and Darius the Mede was made king.

Under the new ruler, Daniel excelled in his duties as one of the administrators to such a degree that King Darius was contemplating making him head over all the kingdom (Daniel 6:1-3). This infuriated the other administrators so much that they looked for a way to bring Daniel down. They could find no wrongdoing on Daniel’s part, so they focused on the matter of Daniel’s religion. Using flattery, the administrators coaxed Darius into issuing a decree forbidding prayers to any god other than the king for the next thirty days. The penalty for disobedience was to be thrown into a den of lions. Daniel disobeyed the edict, of course, and continued to pray openly to the true God. As Daniel made no attempt to hide his activity, he was seen praying and arrested. With much regret the king gave the order for Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den, but not without a prayer that Daniel’s God would rescue him (Daniel 6:16). The next day, when Daniel was found alive and well, he told the king that God had sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and so he had remained unharmed. This miracle resulted in King Darius sending out a decree that all his subjects were to worship the God of Daniel. Daniel continued to prosper throughout King Darius’ reign.

Daniel is also well known for the prophetic dreams and visions God gave him, recorded in the book of Daniel. Daniel’s prophecies cover a broad range of human history, as he predicted the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman Empires and the rise of a powerful king who “will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods” (Daniel 11:36). Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy spoke of a Messiah who would be killed (Daniel 9:24–27). We saw this prophecy fulfilled with Jesus. The remainder of the prophecy—the seventieth week—will be fulfilled in the end times. Daniel had other apocalyptic visions as well, and understanding his prophecies is important to eschatology.

Daniel exercised great integrity and, in doing so, received the respect and affection of the powerful rulers he served. However, his honesty and loyalty to his masters never led him to compromise his faith in the one true God. Rather than it being an obstacle to his success, Daniel’s continual devotion to God brought him the admiration of the unbelievers in his circle. When delivering his interpretations, he was quick to give God the credit for his ability to do so (Daniel 2:28).

Daniel’s integrity as a man of God gained him favor with the secular world, yet he refused to compromise his faith in God. Even under the intimidation of kings and rulers, Daniel remained steadfast in his commitment to God. Daniel also teaches us that, no matter whom we are dealing with, no matter what their status is, we are to treat them with compassion. See how concerned he was when delivering the interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream (Daniel 4:19). As Christians, we are called to obey the rulers and authorities that God has put in place, treating them with respect and compassion; however, as we see from Daniel’s example, obeying God’s law must always take precedence over obeying men (Romans 13:1–7; Acts 5:29).

As a result of his devotion, Daniel found favor with man and with God (Daniel 9:20-23). Notice also in those verses what the angel Gabriel told Daniel about how swiftly the answer to his prayer was dispatched. This shows us how ready the Lord is to hear the prayers of His people. Daniel’s strength lay in his devotion to prayer and is a lesson for us all. It is not just in the bad times but on a daily basis that we must come to God in prayer.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

Author: The Book of Daniel identifies the Prophet Daniel as its author (Daniel 9:2; 10:2). Jesus mentions Daniel as the author as well (Matthew 24:15).

Date of Writing: The Book of Daniel was likely written between 540 and 530 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon had conquered Judah and deported many of its inhabitants to Babylon – Daniel included. Daniel served in the royal court of Nebuchadnezzar and several rulers who followed Nebuchadnezzar. The Book of Daniel records the actions, prophecies, and visions of the Prophet Daniel.

Key Verses:

Daniel 1:19-20, “The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.”

Daniel 2:31, “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.”

Daniel 3:17-18, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Daniel 4:34-35, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”

Daniel 9:25-27, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ’sevens,’ and sixty-two ’sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ’sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ’seven.’ In the middle of the ’seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

Brief Summary: Chapter 1 describes the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Along with many others, Daniel and his three friends were deported to Babylon and because of their courage and the obvious blessings of God upon them, they were “promoted” in the king’s service (Daniel 1:17-20).

Chapters 2-4 record Nebuchadnezzar having a dream that only Daniel could correctly interpret. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue represented the kingdoms that would arise in the future. Nebuchadnezzar made a great statue of himself and forced everyone to worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused and were miraculously spared by God despite being thrown into a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar is judged by God for his pride, but later restored once he recognized and admitted God’s sovereignty.

Daniel chapter 5 records Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar misusing the items taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and receiving a message from God, written into the wall, in response. Only Daniel could interpret the writing, a message of coming judgment from God. Daniel is thrown into the lions’ den for refusing to pray to the emperor, but was miraculously spared. In chapter 7, God gave Daniel a vision of four beasts. The four beasts represented the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Chapters 8-12 contain a vision involving a ram, a goat, and several horns – also referring to future kingdoms and their rulers. Daniel chapter 9 records Daniel’s “seventy weeks” prophecy. God gave Daniel the precise timeline of when the Messiah would come and be cut off. The prophecy also mentions a future ruler who will make a seven-year covenant with Israel and break it after three and a half years, followed shortly thereafter by the great judgment and consummation of all things. Daniel is visited and strengthened by an angel after this great vision, and the angel explains the vision to Daniel in great detail.

Foreshadowings: We see in the stories of the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den a foreshadowing of the salvation provided by Christ. The three men declare that God is a saving God who can provide a way of escape from the fire (Daniel 3:17). In the same way, by sending Jesus to die for our sins, God has provided an escape from the fires of hell (1 Peter 3:18). In Daniel’s case, God provided an angel to shut the lions’ mouths and saved Daniel from death. Jesus Christ is our provision from the dangers of the sin that threatens to consume us.

Daniel’s vision of the end times depicts Israel’s Messiah by whom many will be made pure and holy (Daniel 12:10). He is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) by whom our sins, though blood-red, will be washed away and we will be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18).

Practical Application: Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we should always stand for what we know is right. God is greater than any punishment that could come upon us. Whether God chooses to deliver us or not, He is always worthy of our trust. God knows what is best, and He honors those who trust and obey Him.

God has a plan, and His plan is down to the intricate detail. God knows and is in control of the future. Everything that God has predicted has come true exactly as He predicted. Therefore, we should believe and trust that the things He has predicted for the future will one day occur exactly as God has declared.

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer.

“What is the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2?”

At certain times, God has used dreams to communicate with people. One of those people was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel 2 tells how Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, in which God provided an overview of world events in the millennia yet to come.

Character Backgrounds
King Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605 to 562 B.C., greatly expanding the Babylonian Empire, conquering Jerusalem and deporting the Jews in the process. Daniel was one of those deported from Israel and granted an education in the king’s palace. When God granted Daniel the wisdom to interpret the king’s dream, it launched Daniel’s long career as a political leader, trusted adviser, and well-known prophet.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Threat
One night, Nebuchadnezzar awoke frightened by a dream. The king called for his magi to interpret the nightmare. This was standard procedure in a culture that placed a high importance on dreams and their meaning. However, he added an unprecedented requirement: “Tell me what my dream was and interpret it” (Daniel 2:5). So, not only did the royal wise men have to provide the interpretation of the dream, they had to recount the dream itself. The penalty for failure was death: every magician, enchanter, sorcerer and astrologer in the kingdom would be executed. The worried magi replied, “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men” (Daniel 2:11). When Daniel heard of this, he was determined to prove God’s power to the king (Daniel 2:18).

Daniel’s Response: The Dream
Daniel asked the king for some time to discover the dream, and then he proceeded to pray all night with three of his fellow exiles. God revealed the dream to him, and Daniel and his friends praised God (Daniel 2:19-23). The next morning, he went to the king and told him about the dream.

The dream featured a huge, glorious statue of a man. Its head was “made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay” (Daniel 2:32-33). Then a rock cut “not by human hands” (Daniel 2:34) hit the foot of the statue, and the whole image “became like chaff on a threshing floor,” while the rock “became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). This vision, by the way, gives us our modern idiom “feet of clay,” meaning “a hidden fault or weakness.”

Daniel’s Response: The Interpretation
Daniel’s interpretation, given to him by God, explains that the statue represents a series of kingdoms, each less glorious than the one before, as indicated by the decreasing value of the metals. Daniel identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold, stating that God had given Nebuchadnezzar much power (Daniel 2:37-38). The next kingdom to arise will be inferior to Babylon, as will the next. “Finally, there will come a fourth kingdom, strong as iron. . . . It will crush and break all the others” (Daniel 2:40).

Finally, the feet of mixed clay and iron “will be a divided kingdom” (Daniel 2:41). During the time of this final world empire, the “rock” will smash them all to bits, a prediction that “God . . . will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). All previous earthly kingdoms will be brought to an end.

The Dream 2,500+ Years Later
The first four kingdoms have been identified as the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. This identification has come from the workings of history matching further prophecies. Daniel already said that Babylon, specifically Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold (Daniel 2:38). Babylon fell to the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians (Daniel 5:26-31). Greece became the successor to the Medo-Persian Empire (Daniel 8:20-21; 10:20 – 11:14). The “iron” empire can only be Rome.

Opinions differ on the fifth empire. Some have tried to identify various periods in Europe’s history as the clay-and-iron feet; others claim the feet represent the divided remnants of Rome before supposedly being “conquered” by Christianity. Still others believe that the clay/iron empire is yet to come: the kingdom of the Antichrist will be a “revived Roman Empire.” The last theory seems to be the best. We know, according to Revelation 17:12-13, that the Antichrist will lead a coalition of ten nations (the statue’s ten toes?). And we know that Christ will defeat the forces of the Antichrist (Revelation 17:14). After that, Jesus will set up His kingdom—the rock smashes the image—and the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

Many scholars have contrasted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 with Daniel’s vision in chapter 7. Both passages reveal the coming world kingdoms, but the symbolism is strikingly different in each. The pagan king sees the kingdoms of this world as a towering work of art, impressive in size, value, and grandeur (albeit with feet of clay). God’s prophet sees the same kingdoms as bizarre, unnatural beasts, terrifying in aspect and behavior. It’s a difference of perspective: where man sees a stately, glittering tribute to himself, God sees a menagerie of aberrations. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory” (Galatians 5:26, KJV).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

“Who was Nebuchadnezzar?”

Nebuchadnezzar II, sometimes alternately spelled Nebuchadrezzar, was king of Babylonia from approximately 605 BC until approximately 562 BC. He is considered the greatest king of the Babylonian Empire and is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned by name around 90 times in the Bible, in both the historical and prophetic literature of the Hebrew Scriptures. Nebuchadnezzar receives the most attention in the book of Daniel, appearing as the main character, beside Daniel, in chapters 1–4.

In biblical history, Nebuchadnezzar is most famous for the conquering of Judah and the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. Judah had become a tribute state to Babylon in 605 BC but rebelled in 597 BC during the reign of Jehoiachin and then again in 588 BC during the reign of Zedekiah. Tired of the rebellions, and seeing that Judah had not learned its lesson when he invaded, conquered, and deported Judah in 597, Nebuchadnezzar and his general, Nebuzaradan, proceeded to completely destroy the temple and most of Jerusalem, deporting most of the remaining residents to Babylon. In this, Nebuchadnezzar served as God’s instrument of judgment on Judah for its idolatry, unfaithfulness, and disobedience (Jeremiah 25:9).

Secular history records Nebuchadnezzar as a brutal, powerful, and ambitious king, and the Bible, for the most part, agrees. However, the book of Daniel gives additional insight into his character. Daniel chapter 2 records God giving Nebuchadnezzar a dream about what kingdoms would arise after his own. In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar was a “head of gold” on a statue, with the descending parts of the body, comprised of silver, bronze, iron, and iron mixed with clay, representing the less powerful kingdoms that would come after him. Nebuchadnezzar demanded the astrologers and wise men to interpret his dream without him telling it to them and, when they were unable to, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all of the astrologers and wise men to be killed. Daniel spoke up and, through a miracle from God, interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The king then promoted Daniel to be one of his most influential advisers. Interestingly, when Daniel interpreted his dream, Nebuchadnezzar declared, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery” (Daniel 2:47).

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar created a gold statue of himself and required all the people to bow down to it whenever the music played. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused, and the king had them thrown into a blazing furnace. Miraculously, God protected them, and when they came out of the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way” (Daniel 3:28–29).

In Daniel chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar is given another dream by God. Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar and informed him that the dream was a warning to the king to humble himself and recognize that his power, wealth, and influence were from God, not of his own making. Nebuchadnezzar did not heed the warning of the dream, so God judged him as the dream had declared. Nebuchadnezzar was driven insane for seven years. When the king’s sanity was restored, he finally humbled himself before God. In Daniel 4:3, Nebuchadnezzar declares, “How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar continued in Daniel 4:34–37, “For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ … “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

The exclamations of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in the book of Daniel have led some to consider the possibility that Nebuchadnezzar became a believer in the one true God. History records Nebuchadnezzar being a follower of the Babylonian gods Nabu and Marduk. Is it possible that Nebuchadnezzar renounced these false gods and instead only worshipped the one true God? Yes, it is possible. If nothing else, Nebuchadnezzar became a henotheist, believing in many gods but worshipping only one God as supreme. Based on his words recorded in Daniel, it definitely seems like Nebuchadnezzar submitted himself to the one true God. Further evidence is the fact that God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as “my servant” three times in the book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). Was Nebuchadnezzar saved? Ultimately, this is not a question that can be answered dogmatically. Whatever the case, the story of Nebuchadnezzar is an example of God’s sovereignty over all men and the truth that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Proverbs 21:1).

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“What are the four beasts in Daniel chapter 7?”

In Daniel 7 the prophet records a night vision that God gave him concerning four world empires, symbolized as four beasts (Daniel 7:1–14). The four empires are the same as Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream in Daniel 2, although in that dream they are pictured as various metals in a statue. Daniel’s vision assures us that the world’s empires have a certain amount of authority for a certain length of time, but they will all pass away, and “the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18).

The vision of the four beasts troubles Daniel, and he wonders what it means until an angel explains it to him (Daniel 7:15–27). Even then, the vision and its interpretation continue to cause Daniel distress: “I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself” (verse 28).

Daniel’s vision of the four beasts begins with a windy night and a troubled sea: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea” (Daniel 7:2). As Daniel watches, “four great beasts,” each different from the others, emerge from the dark waters (verse 3).

The first of Daniel’s four beasts is “like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle” (Daniel 7:4). As Daniel watches, the wings are torn off the beast, and the creature stands erect like a man and a human mind is given to it. Later, the angel who interprets the dream tells Daniel, “The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth” (verse 17). This first beast is representative of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Its rise to human-like status reflects Nebuchadnezzar’s deliverance from a beastly existence and his insight into the true nature of God (Daniel 4:34–35).

The second beast in Daniel’s vision is “like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth” (Daniel 7:5). A voice tells the second beast to devour flesh until it is satisfied. This beast represents the Medo-Persian Empire; the raising up of one side of the creature indicates that one of the kingdom’s parts (Persia) would be dominant. The three ribs in the creature’s mouth symbolize nations that were “devoured” by the Medes and the Persians. These three conquered nations are known to be Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

The third of the four beasts is “like a leopard,” except it has four bird-like wings on its back and four heads (Daniel 7:6). This beast is given authority to rule. The third beast represents Greece, an empire known for the swiftness of its conquests. The four heads are predictive of the four-way division of the empire following Alexander the Great’s death. Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat gives further details of the second and third kingdoms (see Daniel 8).

The final beast that Daniel sees rising from the sea is the most dreadful—“terrifying and frightening and very powerful” (Daniel 7:7). This fourth beast has “bronze claws” (verse 19) and “large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left” totally annihilating its prey (verse 7). The fourth beast has ten horns. This creature represents the Roman Empire, a mighty kingdom that indeed crushed all its foes.

So, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts provided a prophetic look at future world events. Looking back from our perspective, we see these events as world history and can easily see the correlation between each beast and a world empire. However, there was more to Daniel’s vision, and some of it is yet future, even for us.

Daniel’s attention is drawn to the destructive fourth beast, and he ponders the meaning of its ten horns. Then, a smaller horn begins to grow from the midst of the ten. As the little horn emerges from the beast, three of the original horns are plucked out by the roots. Daniel sees that the little horn has “eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Daniel 7:8). The proud, boastful words of the little horn continue until the Ancient of Days sets up a day of judgment (verses 9–10). At that time, “the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (verse 11). This is in contrast to the fate of the other three beasts, who lost their authority but were not immediately destroyed (verse 12).

After the fourth beast is killed and its body burned, a “son of man” comes from heaven in the clouds. “He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence” (Daniel 7:13). This man is given “authority, glory and sovereign power” (verse 14), and all the nations of earth worship him. The kingdom he rules is everlasting and indestructible.

As the interpretation of the vision is given to Daniel, the prophet asks specifically about the fourth beast and its horns (Daniel 7:19). The angel explains: the beast’s ten horns are ten kings who will arise from that kingdom (verse 24). The little, imposing horn with the eyes and mouth of a human represents a later king; before him three of the original kings will be subdued. This evil king “will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people” (verse 25). He will seek to change times and laws, and he will exert oppressive power over God’s people for three and a half years. This world leader that Daniel saw is the Antichrist, the “ruler who will come” who sets up the abomination in Daniel 9:27.

Given the fact that the Antichrist emerges from the fourth beast leads us to surmise that, in the end times, there will be a “revival” of the Roman Empire, featuring a coalition of ten world leaders. The Antichrist will take his position of leadership at the expense of three of those leaders, and he will eventually wield global authority. A true tyrant, the Antichrist will demand worship and seek to control all aspects of life (see Revelation 13:16–17).

The little horn of Daniel 7 is the first beast of Revelation 13. Notice that the beast in Revelation also has ten horns, and John describes it as resembling “a leopard, but [it] had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion” (Revelation 13:2). In other words, the beast of Revelation contains elements of all of Daniel’s beasts. Like Daniel’s fourth beast, John’s beast speaks proudly and oppresses God’s people for three and a half years (Revelation 13:5–7).

The good news is that the reign of the Antichrist is limited: forty-two months, and no more. Then, God promises to judge the little horn. “The court will sit, and [the little horn’s] power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever” (Daniel 7:26). Or, as John saw it, “The beast was captured, and [was] thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 19:20). The Son of Man will rule forever.

It is interesting to compare Daniel’s vision of the four beasts with King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a large statue. Both visions symbolize the same kingdoms of the world. In Daniel 2, the king dreams of the earthly kingdoms as “an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance” (Daniel 2:31). However, Daniel sees the same kingdoms as hideous beasts (Daniel 7). So, we have two very different perspectives on the kingdoms mankind builds. The rulers of the world see their kingdoms as imposing, artistic monuments fashioned of valuable metals. However, God’s prophets view the same kingdoms as unnatural monsters.

Daniel’s vision of the four beasts warned Israel that there would be a procession of enemies and world rulers holding authority over them; however, they should not lose heart. In the end, God is in control, and the Messiah to come will defeat the kingdoms of this world and establish His throne forever (Daniel 2:44; 7:13–14; Revelation 11:15).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

“What should we learn from the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?”

The amazing story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young men defying the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and thrown into a fiery furnace, has captured the hearts of young children as well as adults for centuries. Recorded in the third chapter of Daniel, the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego provides believers today with strong and lasting lessons.

For their refusal to obey the king’s decree to bow down to the idol, three charges were brought against them. They paid no heed to the king and his commands, they did not serve the king’s gods, and they refused to worship the golden statue the king himself had set up. The penalty for their actions was death. Their response to the king was profound:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:15-18).

We cannot but be astonished by their faith in the one true God. At the very outset, their response in the moment of trial confirmed three things: their unswerving conviction of the God of the Bible, their confidence in the God who is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, and their faith as revealed by their reliance upon the only One who had the power to deliver them from evil. Their acknowledgment of God over the world’s most powerful king resulted in God’s supreme power being revealed to unbelievers. Their faith demonstrates that God is able to deliver us from our own problems and trials.

As believers, we know that God is able to deliver. However, we also know that He does not always do so. Romans 5 tells us that God may allow trials and difficulties in our lives to build our character, strengthen our faith, or for other reasons unknown to us. We may not always understand the purpose of our trials, but God simply asks that we trust Him—even when it is not easy. Job, who endured incredible pain, almost insurmountable agony, and suffering, was still able to say, “Though He may slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

We also know that God does not always guarantee that we will never suffer or experience death, but He does promise to be with us always. We should learn that in times of trial and persecution our attitude should reflect that of these three young men: “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:18). Without question, these are some of the most courageous words ever spoken.

Jesus Himself said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Even if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to suffer a horrible, painful death in a burning oven, they refused to abandon God and worship an idol. Such faith has been seen innumerable times throughout the centuries by believers who have suffered martyrdom for the Lord.

Nebuchadnezzar was astonished that the fire did not consume Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He was even more amazed when he saw not three, but a fourth person with them: “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25 NKJV). The point here is that, when we “walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), there may be those times of fiery persecution, but we can be assured that He is with us (Matthew 28:20). He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22; Psalms 147:6). He will ultimately deliver us. He will save us … eternally (Matthew 25:41, 46).

The chief lesson from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is that, as Christians, we will never be able to bring the world to Christ by becoming like it. As did these three men, so should we in revealing to the world a higher power, a greater purpose, and a superior morality, than the world in which we live. If we are put before the fiery furnace, we can reveal the One who can deliver us from it. Remember the powerful, yet comforting words, of the apostle Paul:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Our hope when experiencing illness, persecution, or pain lies in knowing that this life is not the end—there is life after death. That is His promise to all those who love and obey Him. Knowing that we will have eternal life with God enables us to live above the pain and suffering we endure in this life (John 14:23).

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

Question: “Why did Nebuchadnezzar change Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar?”

Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia from 605 BC to around 563 BC, and he was responsible for changing Daniel’s name to Belteshazzar. King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Judah, destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC, an event that had been prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:9). Some of the inhabitants of Judah were taken back to Babylon as captives, including a number of the children of royal and noble families, to be integrated into Babylonian society (Daniel 1:3–4). Among those taken were four boys, around the age of 14 at the time, named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

All four of these Hebrew names had meanings connected to faith in God. But upon arrival in Babylon, their names were changed: “The chief official [of Babylon] gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego” (Daniel 1:7). The boys’ names were changed as a way of encouraging them to forget the God and traditions of their homeland and become conformed to the ways and gods of Babylon. It was a forced assimilation; Nebuchadnezzar wanted Daniel and his friends to “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2), and a name change was one step toward that goal.

Each name Daniel and his friends were given carried a meaning associated with a different Babylonian deity. Abednego means “servant of Nebo,” for example. Belteshazzar, the name given to Daniel, means “Bel protects his life.” The meaning of the name Daniel is “God is my judge.” The suffix of Daniel’s name (and Mishael’s) is -el, which refers to Elohim, one of the names of the God of Israel. Azariah and Hananiah carry the suffix -iah or -yah, which is short for Yahweh, the covenant name of God (see Isaiah 26:4).

Miraculously, God kept these young men alive, even though they refused to conform to the indoctrination, diet, and religion of Babylon. Daniel and his companions asked to be fed vegetables rather than the king’s unlawful food, and they were granted their wish on the condition that their health did not suffer. God made them thrive physically beyond their peers, because of their God-honoring obedience (Daniel 1:8–16). They would not bow down to the idol of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and were sentenced to death, but God saved them from the midst of a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:23–27). In the end, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge the miracle, and he decreed that the people of Babylon honor the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (verses 28–29).

After the wonders of God were shown to him, Nebuchadnezzar himself acknowledged Daniel’s true name and honored the God of Israel, writing, “Daniel came into my presence. . . . (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him)” (Daniel 4:8). Years later, the queen of Babylon still referred to Daniel by his Hebrew name, although she knows of Nebuchadnezzar’s attempt to change it: she spoke of him as “Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar” (Daniel 5:12).

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“What is the meaning of mene mene tekel upharsin? What is the meaning of the handwriting on the wall?”

The phrase mene mene tekel upharsin appears in Daniel 5, along with its translation. Some translations spell upharsin as parsin. The phrase appeared on a wall in the palace of Belshazzar, the acting king of Babylon. He is referred to as the “son of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 5:18, 22), although he was not Nebuchadnezzar’s immediate successor (Jeremiah 52:31). The biblical account of the mysterious and frightening appearance of the phrase mene mene tekel upharsin has given rise to the modern expression “the handwriting on the wall,” meaning “a portent or warning of inevitable misfortune.”

Daniel 5 tells the story of the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar, a rich and debauched king, who gave a banquet to his court. During the drunken party, the sacred vessels from the Jewish temple, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, were used in a blasphemous manner. At the height of the festivities, a man’s hand was seen writing on the wall the mysterious words “mene mene tekel upharsin” (verse 25). The king was terrified. But no one could understand what the words meant. All attempts at interpretation by Belshazzar’s wise men failed until the prophet Daniel was called in.

Daniel was one of the captives from Judah brought to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was given wisdom from God to read and translate the words, which meant “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” Daniel told the king, “Here is what these words mean: Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26–28). Peres is the singular form of upharsin. The Bible never identifies what language the words were in.

The handwriting on the wall proved true. In fact, it proved fatal for the dissolute Belshazzar. Just as Daniel had said, the kingdom of Babylon was divided between the Medes and Persians, and it happened that very night. Belshazzar was slain, and his kingdom passed to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30–31).

The appearance of mene mene tekel upharsin on the king’s wall is a reminder that whatever we sow, that we will also reap (Galatians 6:7–8). God is the Judge; He justly weighs all matters and metes out retribution in His time (Psalm 94:2). Sometimes God speaks very clearly into our lives, convicting us of sin and warning us of pending judgment (see John 16:8). It does not pay to ignore the “handwriting on the wall.”

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

Lecture 6

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

Overview of “The Twelve” / Minor Prophets and the Book Hosea

  • Understand the Book of Hosea in its place and function within the Biblical canon and history of redemption
  • Have an overview of the content of Hosea
  • Know the major themes of  Hosea
  • Have a biblical-theological framework for applying this book in the Christian  life and ministry
  • Understand the theological message of the Book of Hosea
  • Work in a responsible manner to teach and preach from the Book of Hosea to others the message of God seeking to live in communion with his people.

Key Verse:

1“Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
2After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3

Overview: Hosea. 8mins

Central Theme: Hosea

Minor Prophets Hosea. 28mins

The Minor Prophets – Quick Summary. 18min

Book of Hosea was likely written between 755 and 725 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Hosea wrote this book to remind the Israelites—and us—that ours is a loving God whose loyalty to His covenant people is unwavering. In spite of Israel’s continual turning to false gods, God’s steadfast love is portrayed in the long-suffering husband of the unfaithful wife. Hosea’s message is also one of warning to those who would turn their backs on God’s love. Through the symbolic presentation of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, God’s love for the idolatrous nation of Israel is displayed in a rich metaphor in the themes of sin, judgment, and forgiving love.

Key Verses:

Hosea 1:2, “When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.’”

Hosea 2:23, “I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”

Hosea 6:6, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

(English Standard Version Matt12: 7 & Matt 9:13)
And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

English Standard Version
Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Hosea 14:2-4, “Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say “Our gods” to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.’ “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.’”

Brief Summary: The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: (1) Hosea 1:1-3:5 is a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and (2) Hosea 4:1-14:9 contains the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.

The first section of the book contains three distinctive poems illustrating how God’s children returned time after time to idolatry. God commands Hosea to marry Gomer, but after bearing him three children, she walks away from Hosea to her lovers. The symbolic emphasis can be seen clearly in the first chapter as Hosea compares Israel’s actions to turning from a marriage to life as a prostitute. The second section contains Hosea’s denunciation of the Israelites but followed by the promises and the mercies of God.

The Book of Hosea is a prophetic accounting of God’s relentless love for His children. Since the beginning of time God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to refrain from its wickedness.

The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their misdeeds when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart. The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.

Foreshadowings: Hosea 2:23 is the wonderful prophetic message from God to include the Gentiles [non-Jews] as His children as recorded also in Romans 9:25 and 1 Peter 2:10. Gentiles are not originally “God’s people,” but through His mercy and grace, He has provided Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him we are grafted into the tree of His people (Romans 11:11-18). This is an amazing truth about the Church, one that is called a “mystery” because before Christ, God’s people were considered to be the Jews alone. When Christ came, the Jews were temporarily blinded until the “full number of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).

Practical Application: The Book of Hosea assures us of God’s unconditional love for His people. But it is also a picture of how God is dishonored and angered by the actions of His children. How can a child who is given an abundance of love, mercy, and grace treat a Father with so much disrespect? Yet, we have done just that for centuries. As we consider how the Israelites turned their backs on God, we need to look no further than the mirror in front of us to see a reflection of those same Israelites.

Only by remembering how much God has done for each of us will we be able to avoid rejecting the One who can give us eternal life in glory instead of the hell we deserve. It is essential that we learn to respect our Creator. Hosea has shown us God’s heart of loving commitment. When we do sin, if we have a sorrowful heart filled with repentance, then God will bring us back to Himself and show His never-ending love to us (see 1 John 1:9).

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.

Chapter Summary

This book is attributed to the prophet Hosea. His prophetic message to the northern kingdom of Israel was prompted both by Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh and the threat of Assyrian aggression. Hosea probably began to prophesy soon before the death of Jeroboam II. Under Jeroboam’s leadership, the kingdom experienced a political and economic resurgence, leading to the development of a wealthy merchant class in Israel. God commissioned Amos to prophesy against the corruption and decay of Israel’s leadership some years earlier, but his message went unheeded. Yahweh then prepared a lawsuit against his people, which was delivered by Hosea. After Jeroboam’s death, Hosea’s threats become reality with the rapid decline of the northern kingdom.

The covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel was graphically depicted in Hosea’s relationship with his harlot wife, Gomer. Hosea was charged to call the rebellious people back to faithful devotion to Yahweh. Though he prophesied immediate, impending judgment, he also spoke a message of hope, that Yahweh was both willing and able to restore his adulterous people.

The first three chapters recount Hosea’s marriage relationship with Gomer and preface the following prophecies, which depict the covenant “marriage” between Israel and Yahweh. Scholars have differed on their interpretation of the marriage between Hosea and Gomer, but the authors of this text favor the view of one literal marriage. In this view, Gomer is unchaste both before and during the marriage.

At the heart of God’s controversy with Israel was the latter’s conflicted loyalty between Canaanite Baalism and Hebrew Yahwism. Orthodox Yahwism demanded exclusive worship of Yahweh alone, but the people repeatedly fell into religious syncretism with the cultic practices of their neighbors. The people were not only figuratively committing spiritual adultery against Yahweh, but also literally prostituting themselves with sexual acts associated with the fertility cult. Ironically, God’s judgment against the people targeted the areas of life which were deemed most sacred to the Baal cult: agricultural abundance; material prosperity; sexual vitality and fertility; shrines, altars, and idols; and military might.

“What are the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets?”

The terms Major Prophets and Minor Prophets are simply a way to divide the Old Testament prophetic books. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Minor Prophets are also sometimes called The Twelve.

The Major Prophets are described as “major” because their books are longer and the content has broad, even global implications. The Minor Prophets are described as “minor” because their books are shorter (although Hosea and Zechariah are almost as long as Daniel) and the content is more narrowly focused. That does not mean the Minor Prophets are any less inspired than the Major Prophets. It is simply a matter of God choosing to reveal more to the Major Prophets than He did to the Minor Prophets.

Both the Major and Minor Prophets are usually among the least popular books of the Bible for Christians to read. This is understandable with the often unusual prophetic language and the seemingly constant warnings and condemnations recorded in the prophecies. Still, there is much valuable content to be studied in the Major and Minor Prophets. We read of Christ’s birth in Isaiah and Micah. We learn of Christ’s atoning sacrifice in Isaiah. We read of Christ’s return in Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. We learn of God’s holiness, wrath, grace, and mercy in all of the Major and Minor Prophets. For that, they are most worthy of our attention and study.

Recommended Resource: A Survey of the Old Testament by Paul Benware

“Why did God tell Hosea to marry a prostitute (Hosea 1:2)?”

In Hosea 1:2 we read, “The LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom.’” Hosea obeyed, marrying a woman named Gomer, who was unfaithful to him. Why did God tell Hosea to marry a prostitute?

To begin with, it is important to realize this command could be understood two different ways. First, and more likely, this command could be one of anticipation. In other words, God may have instructed Hosea to marry a woman who would later become unfaithful to him. The other possibility is that the command was for Hosea to marry someone already known as a prostitute.

In either case, the reason for this unusual directive is specified in the latter half of the same verse: “For the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” God wanted to provide an illustration of His relationship with the people of Israel, who had been unfaithful to Him by practicing idolatry. This theme is carried through the remainder of the prophecies in chapter 1 and the discussion of Israel’s unfaithfulness in chapter 2.

In Hosea 3:1, after Gomer had left Hosea and was living in immorality, the Lord commanded Hosea to find her and buy her back. God was continuing His illustration, except now He wanted to show the greatness of His grace: “Even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods.” Hosea’s faithful love of Gomer was an illustration of God’s faithfulness to wayward Israel. Just as Gomer had been unfaithful to her husband and had to be redeemed, Israel needed God’s initiative to restore their relationship.

The prophet Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful wife, and this set up a model of Israel’s broken relationship with God. Israel had been chosen and loved by God yet had been unfaithful to Him by way of idolatry. Just as Hosea redeemed his estranged wife and sought to continue his relationship with her, God promised to redeem Israel and renew their relationship with Him. The story of Hosea and Gomer is an unforgettable picture of God’s strong, unending love for His covenant people.

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“What was the ’spirit of prostitution’ in Hosea 4:12?”

Hosea 4:12 makes a strong and graphic accusation against Israel: “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore.” Why would God say Israel had a spirit of whoredom (“spirit of prostitution,” NIV)?

This provocative label is given to idolaters. We read that the Israelites “inquire of a piece of wood.” In other words, Israelites were consulting wooden idols. They had invested financially in making these idols or in asking others to give advice from idols. These idolaters were “unfaithful” to the Lord as they paid to have a relationship with other gods. God’s people are to be faithful to Him; to chase after other gods is to commit “spiritual adultery.”

The “spirit of whoredom” could be a poetic reference to Israel’s desire to practice idolatry. However, there is a real connection between idolatry and the spirit world: “They sacrificed to demons, which are not God—gods they had not known” (Deuteronomy 32:17). There are spirits, demonic in nature, which set themselves up as “gods” in this world and demand worship. The “spirit of whoredom” could be a literal entity that led Israel astray.

Hosea 4:13 continues to delineate the problem: “They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery.” Israel’s spiritual prostitution included offering sacrifices to false gods. This was in violation of God’s Law that commanded sacrifice only to the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem. The worship of other gods often included actual prostitution, a sexual sin that the Israelites had been commanded to avoid.

Such strong words from God through the prophet Hosea were intended to condemn idolatry and call Israel to repentance. God offered forgiveness and restoration even to those who had been so wicked. Hosea himself served as an example of God’s grace: his wife Gomer was unfaithful to him, yet he restored his relationship with her (Hosea 1:2; 3:1-5). In the same way, God was willing to restore His relationship with His people who had strayed into idolatry.

Hosea 14, the final chapter of the book, reveals the Lord’s desire for His people: “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity” (Hosea 14:1). Verse 4 likewise encourages, “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” Verse 7 poetically describes a restored Israel in the future: “They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine.”

Despite wayward Israel’s following a “spirit of prostitution,” it is clear the Lord’s desire was to restore His people, calling them to repentance and a renewed relationship. This gracious offer to sinners is still extended to individuals today through Jesus Christ. He has offered forgiveness of sin and the opportunity for a relationship with God for everyone who trusts in Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“Why does God desire mercy and acknowledgement of Him instead of sacrifice (Hosea 6:6)?”

Hosea 6:6 reads, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Why does God desire love and knowledge of Him instead of burnt offerings?

The key to answering this question is found in the words of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). Love for God was the number-one priority for the people of Israel. The whole Law, including the offerings and sacrifices, was to serve as an expression of this love for the Lord.

However, over time the Israelites began to worship other gods while continuing the ritual of the sacrifices. They “obeyed the Law,” yet they did not display love toward God, and they did not truly know Him. Hosea’s message was a response to Israel’s hypocrisy. God desired their love over external practices of piety. He longed for His people to long for Him rather than simply continue a religious tradition.

Scripture often notes that sacrifices to God are incomplete and even offensive without a changed heart that loves and knows the Lord. First Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (See also Isaiah 1:11-17; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8 and Matthew 7:21-23.) The same is said of other religious rituals, such as circumcision (Romans 2:28-29).

Jesus would later use Hosea’s teaching against the hypocritical Pharisees, saying, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13; cf. 12:7). Without a loving relationship with God, all the ritual in the world couldn’t help the Pharisees.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, the Law was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). As a result, Christians have no command to obey the Jewish Old Testament ceremonial laws. However, the principle of Hosea 6:6 is still relevant. Many religious people participate in Christian rituals, yet their hearts do not love God and seek to know Him. Those who practice empty ritual should heed Hosea’s words. God cares more about our heart’s love for Him than the things that we do in His name. We must not substitute religious traditions for a relationship with God. May we never be like those whom Jesus described: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“What does it mean to sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7)?”

Hosea 8:7 makes the enigmatic statement, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” This proverb is known in modern times for its use in military speeches and as a title for a science fiction novel. What did Hosea mean?

The proverb uses an illustration gleaned from the agricultural process of sowing and reaping. A farmer would sow seed. Of course, the type of seed he planted determined the type of plant that would grow and be harvested. This is the principle of duplication. In Hosea 8:7, God says that Israel had planted wind and would harvest a whirlwind. Taking the “wind” to mean something worthless and foolish (see Job 7:7; Proverbs 11:29; and Ecclesiastes 1:14, 17), we can surmise that Israel’s foolishness in the past would result in a veritable storm of consequence. Indeed, in the previous verses, Hosea decries Israel’s idolatry (verses 4-6). Their foolish pursuit of false gods would reap a severe judgment from the Lord.

Also at work in the proverb is the principle of multiplication: a farmer may plant one kernel of corn, but he will reap much more than that—a whole ear. In the same way, Israel’s sin of idolatry would bring forth an amplified consequence that would sweep them all away.

The rest of verse 7 notes the results of this “whirlwind” of judgment: “The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.” So, the crop would yield nothing. Outsiders would steal anything that did happen to grow. Israel would have understood Hosea’s words well. A poor or stolen crop would be devastating. Here, God is warning His people that their idolatry would lead to ruin.

In addition to following idols, Israel was seeking help in other, equally sinful ways. “For they have gone up to Assyria, a wild donkey wandering alone; Ephraim has hired lovers” (Hosea 8:9). Israel had made ill-advised treaties with Assyria for protection from their enemies. Instead of trusting God, they relied on their wealth and the help of pagan nations.

The “whirlwind” came upon Israel in 722 B.C., when Assyria invaded Israel, destroyed the capital city of Samaria, and deported the Israelites. Yet Hosea 14:4 promised future grace: “I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.” A whirlwind does not last forever, and God’s judgment would not be unending. God would later renew the relationship between Him and His people.

Today, we can see the truth of Hosea’s proverb in many ways. Those who live in unrepentant sin can expect to suffer the consequences of their sin—consequences that both “fit the crime” and exhibit a stunning intensity. Also, this statement by Hosea is a clarion call to avoid idolatry. Anything that steals our trust in the Lord, lessens our devotion to Him, or controls us can be considered an idol and should be abolished from our lives.

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“Is ‘out of Egypt I called my son’ in Hosea 11:1 a Messianic prophecy?”

Hosea 11:1 states, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Is this verse a Messianic prophecy?

The context of this verse speaks of the relationship the Lord had with the nation of Israel. The Lord loved Israel (Exodus 4:22-23) and rescued the people from slavery under Pharaoh, bringing them into the Promised Land. The analogy is that of God as the father and Israel as the child.

Jewish readers would have clearly understood this important statement. God’s supernatural power served as the basis of the nation’s freedom from Egypt and escape to a new land. The parallelism in the verse is Israel/child/son and loved/called. In both clauses, “I” (God) is the One initiating the action.

Matthew 2:13-15 provides further insight: “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”

Matthew uses Hosea’s statement to show that the coming of the Messiah is an extension of the Lord’s love to His people. Matthew does not say that Hosea had Jesus in mind when Hosea 11:1 was originally written. Instead, Matthew says that the experience of Jesus matched what Hosea had written about Israel. Jesus was God’s Son, and He made a trip from Egypt to the land of Israel. Matthew was showing that Jesus completed what began with the exodus, connecting Jesus with the promise of Abraham and the leadership of Moses. The “calling” of God’s “son” (Israel) began in ages past and found its completion in the coming of Christ to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

In summary, Hosea 11:1 is not a Messianic prophecy in the same way that prophecies such as Isaiah 9:6 are. Rather, it is a pictorial prophecy; that is, there are similarities in the Old Testament passage to a New Testament truth about Christ. This Old Testament “picture” of Christ is called a “type.” Matthew 2:15 can be seen as an analogy. Matthew is providing a connection between Jesus and God’s people of promise. As a Jew writing for primarily Jewish readers, Matthew found it important to point out many of the similarities between the nation of Israel and their Messiah, the One to fulfill the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“Who was Gomer in the Bible?”

Gomer in the Bible was the unfaithful wife of Hosea the prophet. The Lord used Hosea and Gomer’s relationship as an object lesson to show how Israel had sinned against Him by following other gods and how God remains faithful even when His people don’t.

God gave Hosea an unusual command: “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea obeyed by marrying Gomer, and the couple had two sons and a daughter (verses 3–8). Some commentators believe that Gomer was a prostitute or that she had been guilty of repeated sexual sin before she married Hosea. Others believe that God’s description of Gomer as “promiscuous” is prophetic—that is, God’s command anticipated her infidelity, and only later did she become an adulteress.

We do know that, after bearing three children, Gomer left Hosea to live with another man (or, if she was originally a prostitute, to return to her former lifestyle). God then gave Hosea another, even more amazing, command: “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods” (Hosea 3:1). Hosea obeyed, buying his wife back with fifteen shekels of silver and some barley (verse 2). This loyal love, undeterred by Gomer’s unfaithfulness, God meant as a picture of His own love for His wayward, idolatrous people.

Hosea prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezkiah in Judah and the last six kings in Israel. Isaiah was a contemporary prophet, and he used some very strong language to describe Judah’s unfaithfulness. Through Isaiah, God calls Jerusalem “a whore” (Isaiah 1:21, ESV) because of her spiritual unfaithfulness. The people were interested only in pleasure (Isaiah 5:11–12) and had forgotten things like justice and righteousness in favor of violence and chaos (Isaiah 5:7). Through Isaiah, God speaks passionately about His love for Judah, calling them a vineyard that should have yielded a beautiful crop but instead yielded only “wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:1–2), nothing of value.

God says through Hosea that Israel had left Him to cherish “prostitution, wine and new wine” (Hosea 4:11), and He makes it clear that both the men and the women were committing adultery with cultic prostitutes in worship of false gods (verse 12). Gomer was a fitting symbol of Israel because of the sexual nature of the idolatry that the people were practicing. Their spiritual adultery was resulting in actual, physical adultery. Such ritual prostitution was a common method of worshiping Baal.

Hosea says that God will remove the names of the Baals from Israel’s mouth and betroth her to Him forever, in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy (Hosea 2:17, 19). God will heal them by His own power (Hosea 14:4–7). These passages foreshadow the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit dwelling in us is who keeps us from following Israel’s bad example and straying from the Lord.

The metaphors of prostitution and adultery are used repeatedly throughout Scripture to describe unfaithfulness to the Lord. Many of the prophets used sexual immorality as a picture of spiritual unfaithfulness to the Lord to whom the people belonged (Ezekiel 16:32; 23:27; Jeremiah 13:27). In the New Testament, similar language is employed in James 4:4 and Revelation 17:2.

Gomer’s infidelity was a symbol of Israel’s spiritual unfaithfulness, but Hosea’s marriage to and redemption of Gomer is an enduring symbol of God’s faithfulness and provisional redemption of His unfaithful people, then and now, through Jesus Christ. God’s words to ancient Israel should fill us with hope today: “I will betroth you to me forever; / I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, / in love and compassion. / I will betroth you in faithfulness, / and you will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19–20).

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“Who was Lo-ruhamah in the Bible?”

Lo-ruhamah was the name given to the daughter of the prophet Hosea. In Hebrew, Lo-ruhamah means “she has not received mercy” or “no pity.” The prophetic name was assigned by God to indicate that He had withdrawn His compassion and mercy from Israel because of His people’s great sins.

Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom during its final years of existence. God appointed Hosea to expose Israel’s widespread corruption and apostasy and call the Israelites to repent and return to God. In a unique form of symbolism, the Lord used Hosea’s family to illustrate the enduring covenant and redeeming love God has for the nation of Israel.

The prophets were often called to go above and beyond preaching. Hosea’s prophetic ministry launched when God gave him the puzzling assignment to find a wife among the unfaithful, immoral young women of Israel: “When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD’” (Hosea 1:2).

Hosea was a picture of the Lord, a loving husband. Hosea’s prostitute wife, Gomer, was a portrait of unfaithful Israel: “The LORD said to me [Hosea], ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes’” (Hosea 3:1).

Gomer gave birth to three children; their names were symbolic of God’s divine messages of judgment upon Israel. Hosea’s first child was Jezreel, a son, named after the Valley of Jezreel, a beautiful area in Israel where many bloody battles were fought. The name was a reminder of Israel’s bloodguilt as a nation. The beauty of the valley had been disfigured by violence and bloodshed.

Lo-ruhamah, the name of Hosea’s second child, a daughter, has a lovely ring in Hebrew. The root of the word, Ruhamah, describes God’s tender mercy and compassion. However, the negative prefix, Lo-, reverses the meaning and signals the withdrawal of God’s love, mercy, and compassion from Israel.

Hosea’s third child, another son, was called Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people.” The devastating message of judgment in his name meant that Israel would no longer be the people of God.

Hosea, like the Lord, was heartbroken by his wife’s unfaithfulness. More than anything, God longs for relationship with His people. Even when they have been grossly unfaithful, the Lord draws them back. Ultimately, God used the three names of Hosea’s children to demonstrate the renewal of His covenant with the people of Israel (Hosea 1:10 – 2:1; 2:14 – 3:5).

Like no other prophet, Hosea’s portrayal of Israel as a cheating wife reveals the heart of God—both broken and abounding in love—for His people.

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“Who was Lo-ammi in the Bible?”

Lo-ammi was the second son and third child of the prophet Hosea and his wife, Gomer. In Hebrew, Lo-ammi means “not my people.” By God’s command, the prophetic name was given to the boy to signify that the Lord was rejecting the people of Israel in their sinful state. God gives the reason for the name: “Because these people are not mine, and I am not their God” (Hosea 1:9, CEV).

During the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel, God called Hosea to minister as a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. The Lord commissioned Hosea to lay bare Israel’s widespread sins of idolatry and abandonment of God and to call his fellow countrymen to repent and return. In a perplexing analogy involving the prophet’s marriage and family, the book of Hosea portrays Israel’s broken and later restored covenant with God.

Many of God’s prophets were called to do far more than preach a message. In Hosea’s case, God commanded the prophet to find a wife among the immoral young women of Israel: “When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD’” (Hosea 1:2).

Hosea, a loving husband, represented the Lord God. His adulterous wife, Gomer, portrayed the wayward nation of Israel: “The LORD said to me [Hosea], ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes’” (Hosea 3:1).

Hosea’s three children were assigned names by the Lord to symbolize God’s divine judgments against the nation of Israel. His first child, a boy, was named Jezreel after the Valley of Jezreel. This beautiful area was the scene of many significant and violent battles in Israel’s history. The boy’s name is a reminder of Israel’s bloodguilt as a nation. Overzealous violence and bloodshed had disfigured the nation’s beauty.

Lo-ruhamah, a daughter, was Hosea’s second child. The root of her name, Ruhamah, describes God’s tender mercy and compassion. However, by adding the negative prefix Lo-, the meaning is reversed to “no mercy,” signaling the withdrawal of God’s love, mercy, and compassion from Israel.

The name of Hosea’s last child, Lo-ammi, conveys the most severe message of judgment. The Lord’s statement, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God” (Exodus 6:7), lies at the heart of God’s covenant with Israel. More than any other expression, it defines Israel’s identity (Leviticus 26:12; 2 Samuel 7:24; Jeremiah 30:22; Ezekiel 36:28). The devastating message in Lo-ammi’s name (“not my people”) was that Israel had utterly broken its covenant with the Lord, and the Lord disowned them. Because of Israel’s rebellion, the nation would be treated as any other pagan nation. Within a few years of Hosea’s prophecy, the Assyrians destroyed Israel and took most of its inhabitants captive.

The Lord’s heart, like Hosea’s, was shattered by His “wife’s” unfaithfulness. Behaving as an adulterous woman, God’s people had been grossly unfaithful. But the Lord still longed to restore the broken relationship. After announcing His renunciation of them, God assured His people that He would redeem and restore them (Hosea 2:14–23). Immediately after the curse of Lo-ammi, the Lord shows mercy: “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God’” (Hosea 1:10). Using a reversal in the meanings of the children’s names, God demonstrated the retraction of His judgments and promised the renewal of His covenant with Israel (Hosea 1:10 – 2:1; 2:14 – 3:5).

Once again, through Hosea, God expressed His undying love and compassion for His people, despite their ongoing rebellion. Like no other prophetic book, Hosea vividly paints a picture of the heart of God—both broken and abounding in love—for His people.

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

“What is the meaning of Jezreel?”

Jezreel was a city in the plain, or valley, of Esdraelon. The area surrounding the city was also called the Valley of Jezreel. The word Jezreel comes from two Hebrew root words meaning “to sow” and “almighty.” Put together, the two root words mean “God will sow.”

The Valley of Jezreel is a beautiful, broad plain, stretching from west to east from Mount Carmel and the sea to the Jordan, which it reaches through two arms between the mountains of Gilboa, Little Hermon, and Tabor; and from south to north from the mountains of Ephraim to those of Galilee. Nazareth lies in the hills on the northern side of the valley. Jezreel is also called the Great Plain and the Valley of Esdraelon.

The city of Jezreel has a long and varied history and figures prominently in many Bible events, most of them violent. King Jehu ordered that the heads of King Ahab’s 70 sons be placed in heaps at the gate of Jezreel (2 Kings 10:1–11). Ahab’s queen, Jezebel, met her death by being thrown from a window of the palace of Jezreel, and it was there that her body was eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:30–35). Jezreel was the scene of the phony trial of Naboth, who owned a vineyard near Ahab’s palace and who was murdered by Jezebel for his refusal to give his land to Ahab (1 Kings 21:1–23). The Valley of Jezreel was the scene of some important battles as well: the victory of Barak over Sisera (Judges 4); a victory of Gideon over the Midianites, the Amalekites, and their allies from the east (Judges 6 – 8); the victory of the Philistines over Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31); and the Egyptians’ victory over King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29).

Jezreel is also the name of a son of the prophet Hosea, so named because God had declared that He would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu (Hosea 1:4–5).

Today, the Jezreel Valley is a green, fertile plain, covered with fields of wheat, cotton, sunflowers, and corn, as well as grazing tracts for multitudes of sheep and cattle. Because of its location in the same valley as Megiddo, Jezreel is considered to be a likely spot for the future battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16–21). In fact, the Valley of Megiddo is also called the Valley of Jezreel.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“How are people destroyed from a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)?”

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What was it that Israel did not know, and why was that lack of knowledge so dangerous?

The rest of verse 6 helps explain: “Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (KJV). It’s important to note the structure of the verse: “rejected knowledge” is parallel to “forgotten the law.” This fits the context of the opening verse of the chapter, which states that Israel failed to acknowledge the LORD as their God (Hosea 4:1). The people did not simply lack knowledge; they actively rejected it.

Another parallel offers a deeper understanding of the passage. Because Israel had “rejected” knowledge (God’s Law), God would “reject” them. Because Israel had “forgotten” God’s Law, He would “forget” their children (He would remove His future blessing from the nation). As a result of God “rejecting” and “forgetting” Israel, they would be destroyed. Hosea’s message is in line with Moses’ warning to the nation that God would remove His blessing from a disobedient people (Deuteronomy 28).

Hosea 4:1-2 emphasize that Israel’s lack of knowledge was not mere ignorance, but active sin against God: “There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.” The people were only ignorant of the Law because they actively ignored it.

Hosea’s warnings went unheeded, and Israel was conquered by Assyria during his ministry. Yet, even in judgment, God spares a remnant and restores His relationship with them. The prophecies of Hosea reflect this pattern. Israel was judged, yet the Lord would later restore His people whom He loved.

The coming of Jesus Christ illustrates God’s love to the fullest degree. Jesus died for the sins of all people, offering every person the opportunity to come to faith in Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). To those who do believe, Jesus is “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Because of Christ, there is no need for anyone ever again to be “destroyed from a lack of knowledge.”

Recommended Resource: NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

Media Sources/Websites

 _Bibledex – Hosea: Video overview of the book of Hosea.

 _“What’s the Central Theme of the Book of Hosea?” Video in which Jim Hamilton discusses the central theme of Hosea.

Lecture 7

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

Books of Joel & Amos

Key Verses:

Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..

Joel 2:28, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

Amos 2:4, “This is what the LORD says: ‘For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because they have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed.”

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

Overview: Joel

Overview: Amos

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Minor Prophets Joel

Minor Prophets Amos

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

Book of Joel

Author: The Book of Joel states that its author was the Prophet Joel (Joel 1:1).

Date of Writing: The Book of Joel was likely written between 835 and 800 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Judah, the setting for the book, is devastated by a vast horde of locusts. This invasion of locusts destroys everything—the fields of grain, the vineyards, the gardens and the trees. Joel symbolically describes the locusts as a marching human army and views all of this as divine judgment coming against the nation for her sins. The book is highlighted by two major events. One is the invasion of locusts and the other the outpouring of the Spirit. The initial fulfillment of this is quoted by Peter in Acts 2 as having taken place at Pentecost.

Key Verses:

Joel 1:4, “What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.”

Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…”

Joel 2:28, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”

Brief Summary: A terrible plague of locusts is followed by a severe famine throughout the land. Joel uses these happenings as the catalyst to send words of warning to Judah. Unless the people repent quickly and completely, enemy armies will devour the land as did the natural elements. Joel appeals to all the people and the priests of the land to fast and humble themselves as they seek God’s forgiveness. If they will respond, there will be renewed material and spiritual blessings for the nation. But the Day of the Lord is coming. At this time the dreaded locusts will seem as gnats in comparison, as all nations receive His judgment.

The overriding theme of the Book of Joel is the Day of the Lord, a day of God’s wrath and judgment. This is the Day in which God reveals His attributes of wrath, power and holiness, and it is a terrifying day to His enemies. In the first chapter, the Day of the Lord is experienced historically by the plague of locusts upon the land. Chapter 2:1-17 is a transitional chapter in which Joel uses the metaphor of the locust plague and drought to renew a call to repentance. Chapters 2:18-3:21 describes the Day of the Lord in eschatological terms and answers the call to repentance with prophecies of physical restoration (2:21-27), spiritual restoration (2:28-32), and national restoration (3:1-21).

Foreshadowings: Whenever the Old Testament speaks of judgment for sin, whether individual or national sin, the advent of Jesus Christ is foreshadowed. The prophets of the Old Testament continually warned Israel to repent, but even when they did, their repentance was limited to law-keeping and works. Their temple sacrifices were but a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice, offered once for all time, which would come at the cross (Hebrews 10:10). Joel tells us that God’s ultimate judgment, which falls on the Day of the Lord, will be “great and terrible. Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). The answer is that we, on our own, can never endure such a moment. But if we have placed our faith in Christ for atonement of our sins, we have nothing to fear from the Day of Judgment.

Practical Application: Without repentance, judgment will be harsh, thorough and certain. Our trust should not be in our possessions but in the Lord our God. God at times may use nature, sorrow or other common occurrences to draw us closer to Him. But in His mercy and grace, He has provided the definitive plan for our salvation—Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is no time to lose. God’s judgment will come swiftly, as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and we must be ready. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Only by appropriating God’s salvation can we escape His wrath on the Day of the Lord.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.
Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Leslie C. Allen

Chapter 34: Joel

Chapter Summary

One difficult issue for Joel concerns the date. Scholars have placed it from the ninth through the second centuries BC. While the overall message of the book does not depend on our knowledge of date, the historical context could shed light on Joel’s message. The authors of this text favor a postexilic date based primarily on the similarities between Joel and classical prophecy. However, many scholars prefer a preexilic date because of its canonical placement as the second book in the Book of the Twelve.

The literary background of Joel is clear because of his use of other prophets, such as Isaiah, Micah, Amos, and Ezekiel. The historical background of the book is difficult to reconstruct, given the uncertainties of Joel’s date; the authors of this text favor the period after the construction of the temple by Zerubbabel and before the destruction of Edom.

Joel is primarily concerned to address “the day of the LORD,” correlating the locust plague with the judgment that would characterize that period. He calls the people to

“Is Joel 1:4 referring to literal locusts? When was this prophecy fulfilled?”

The book of Joel mentions four types of locusts that would destroy the agriculture of Israel. Joel 1:4 says, “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten” (ESV). When were these predictions fulfilled? Were these literal locusts or a metaphorical reference to something else?

The time of the fulfillment depends, to some extent, on the date the book of Joel was originally written. Scholars debate the exact time of composition, but it was likely around 845 B.C.

In chapter 1, Joel describes the devastation caused by an invasion of locusts. The damage is so severe that the nation is brought to ruin; every strata of society is affected: drunkards (Joel 1:5-7), citizens of Jerusalem (Joel 1:8-10), farmers (Joel 1:11-12), and priests (Joel 1:13). The prophet then calls on the people of God to repent.

Some interpreters see the locusts as symbolic of an invading army, suggesting the locusts refer to another animal such as a horse (similar to Jeremiah 51:27). Other commentators view these locusts as a reference to modern-day helicopters, interpreting Joel’s prophecy as a prediction of a future war. However, such views neglect the intention of the author and the understanding of the original audience. Israelites saw locust swarms as deadly due to the locusts’ ability to wipe out an entire year’s harvest. Locust plagues had been seen before (Exodus 10:1-3; Psalm 105:34-35).

There is no doubt that Joel was warning his readers about a future day when God would judge all people. Most likely, Joel used a recent devastation of locusts as an illustration of Judgment Day. The disaster brought upon Israel’s agriculture was a small taste of a coming judgment on Israel and a later judgment upon the whole earth. Part of this prophecy was fulfilled when Israel was defeated by its enemies and taken into exile. The remaining judgments (2:28ff) will take place in the future Day of the Lord.

In summary, the prophet Joel is most likely referring to a literal locust invasion that took place shortly before his writing, around 845 B.C. The literal swarms of locusts that invaded in successive waves to destroy the crops of Israel spoke of a soon-coming invasion of enemies as well as a future day of judgment.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent

“Why did God use a locust swarm to punish Israel (Joel 1:4)?”

A locust swarm has the potential to devastate all vegetation in its path and can cause economic disaster in a region. Ancient Israel was predominantly an agricultural society. As such, threats to the nation’s crops were one of the main concerns of its citizens. At times, God used a locust swarm as a judgment to call Israel to repent of their sins (Joel 1:4).

The following verses detail the extent of this locust swarm in Joel’s time:

– Loss of grapes for making wine: “The sweet wine . . . is cut off from your mouth” (Joel 1:5).
– Destruction of figs: “It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree” (Joel 1:7).
– No grain or wine for offerings at the temple: “The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off from the house of the LORD” (Joel 1:9).
– Destruction of grain, which would result in no bread: “The fields are destroyed, the ground mourns, because the grain is destroyed” (Joel 1:10).
– Destruction of wheat and barley: “The wheat and the barley . . . has perished” (Joel 1:11).
– Loss of the fruit from trees: “Pomegranate, palm, and apple, all the trees of the field are dried up” (Joel 1:12).
– Loss of olives: “The oil languishes” (Joel 1:13).
– No food for the livestock (Joel 1:18).

As a result of the locust swarm, every major food source except meat and seafood had been destroyed for the year. The prophet Joel called the priests to repent (Joel 1:13) and urged them to call the people to fast and pray (Joel 1:14).

Insightful readers, especially the priests addressed in Joel 1:13, would have been aware that the invading locust swarm was a fulfillment of prophecy. Moses had warned Israel of the results of disobedience in Deuteronomy 28:37–38: “You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule . . . . You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it.”

While tragedies such as a locust swarm are not always a sign of God’s judgment on a community, Joel said that, in Israel’s case, the invasion of locusts was a call for God’s people to repent in fasting and sackcloth.

Still today, when tragedy strikes, it can be a reminder to turn to God. God can use tragedies and the loss of material things to cause people to seek Him.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“How does God restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25)?”

The statement of Joel 2:25—“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”—is a reference to the produce of food from the years the locusts destroyed the harvest. A closer look at the context and details of this verse offers additional insight into the goodness of God.

Israel’s crops had been destroyed by a locust invasion (Joel 1:4), and the impact lasted more than one year. This could indicate that locusts invaded in consecutive years. However, it is more likely that the damage of one invasion had a multi-year impact. When locusts destroyed a crop, they wiped out the seed saved from the previous year, the harvest of the current year, and the seed that would be used the next year. Locust devastation of grape vines and fruit trees would take years to redevelop (Joel 1:12).

Joel 2:25 complements the preceding verse, which says, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.” The restoring of the years the locust had eaten would include an abundant harvest of grain, grapes, and olives.

Joel had used the locust invasion as an illustration of God’s judgment. In His promise to “restore” the years lost to the locust, God is pledging to restore His repentant people to a place of blessing after judgment. The context describes many other positive things that would take place during this restoration:

-Green pasture for livestock: “the pastures of the wilderness are green” (Joel 2:22).
-Trees and vines that bear fruit: “the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield” (Joel 2:22).
-The spring and summer rains would come as needed for a good crop: “he has given the early rain” (Joel 2:23).

The results of this restoration would be both physical and spiritual. Physically, “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied.” Spiritually, they would “praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you” (Joel 2:26).

The conclusion of this section of Joel summarizes God’s intention for the restoration: “And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame” (Joel 2:26-27). God must deal with sin, but when His people repent, they find abundant blessing that more than compensates for what was lost in the judgment. His grace abounds.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent

“What is the valley of decision (Joel 3:14)?”

Joel 3:14 says, “Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.” Many evangelists have drawn from this passage to challenge audiences to “make a decision” for Christ. Others view this valley of decision as a time of judgment when the Lord decides the fate of the nations. Which is it? An invitation or a prophecy of doom?

The context of Joel 3 clarifies that this is a time when God judges the earth. Verse 2 says, “I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel.” The Valley of Jehoshaphat is the same as the “valley of decision.” Jehoshaphat means “Yahweh judges”; the “decision” being made in the valley is God’s, not the multitudes’. The literal, geographical location of this valley is likely the Kidron Valley on the east side of Jerusalem.

The focus of Joel 3 is on the future Day of the Lord. This time will include a gathering of the nations (verse 2), a judgment on wickedness (verse 13), and astronomical signs (verse 15). Joel’s prophecy of the valley of decision finds its counterpart in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

Immediately following the prophecy of judgment, Joel transitions to a description of the Lord’s millennial reign, a literal 1,000-year time period that follows the tribulation. During the millennium Christ rules as king from Jerusalem. Some interpreters argue the millennium is figurative, yet many passages, including Joel 3:18-21, describe this time in great detail. Further, Revelation 20:1-7 refers to “1,000 years” six times. It seems that God desires us to know that the millennial kingdom is a literal time period.

Ultimately, the “valley of decision” in Joel 3:14 is not about humans choosing whether or not to follow Christ; it is God handing down His decision of judgment at the end of the tribulation. Wickedness will be dealt with decisively, swiftly and justly. Praise the Lord for His promise to make all things right one day and to be “a refuge for his people” (Joel 3:16).

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“Will the sun really be turned to darkness and the moon to blood (Joel 2:31)?”

Joel 2:31 predicts, “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.” Will the sun literally be turned black and the moon turned to blood?

Not necessarily. As with many descriptive passages in prophecy, this prediction is stated in the language of appearance and should not be taken as a technical statement. The idea is that the sun’s light will be blocked and the moon will have a reddish appearance, like blood.

The sun turning to darkness takes place on occasion during a solar eclipse. It is possible that this natural phenomenon will be a sign of the Lord’s soon coming during the end times. Or it could be a supernatural darkness, similar to the darkness that took place during Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:45).

For a solar eclipse to take place at a particular time may not seem to be a big deal. There is a total solar eclipse visible somewhere around the globe about every 18 months. However, from any one location on Earth, total eclipses take place on average only once in several hundred years.

It is likely that Joel’s prophecy includes an eclipse visible in Israel just before the second coming of Christ. This would be evidence of God’s intricate timing. However, it is also possible that a supernatural event will occur, blocking the sun’s light from the entire planet. This would explain how the sun could look dark and the moon red at the same time—although the prophecy does not stipulate that the two events are simultaneous.

The moon appears red during a total lunar eclipse. Again, it will be the timing of this event that will reveal God’s supernatural power.

Jesus spoke of this event in Matthew 24:29–30: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Here, Jesus indicates that these phenomena will take place at the end of the tribulation period shortly before He returns to Earth. It is possible that the judgments and devastation that take place during the tribulation will be responsible for creating conditions that make the sun appear dark and the moon appear red.

Regardless of how it happens, the appearance of the sun and moon will change. Joel’s prophecy is clear: a darkened sun and reddish moon are associated with God’s judgment shortly before the return of Christ.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does it mean that God will pour out His Spirit on all people (Joel 2:28)?”

Beginning in Joel 2:28, the prophet transitions to a description of events in the distant future (from his vantage point). Verse 28 says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” What did he mean? Has this been fulfilled?

A New Testament reference to this verse provides help in understanding this statement. In Acts 2:15-17 Peter is preaching on the Day of Pentecost: “For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.’”

In this sermon, Peter connects Joel’s prophecy with the Holy Spirit’s coming and the commencement of the church. Not every detail of Joel’s prophecy is yet fulfilled, but the “pouring out of the Spirit” began on the Day of Pentecost. From that time, the Holy Spirit indwells all those who come to faith in Jesus Christ.

This event marked a notable difference in the Spirit’s role from Old Testament times. The Spirit had previously only empowered certain individuals and sometimes only for a particular period of time. On the Day of Pentecost, the 120 followers of Jesus in the Upper Room not only experienced the Holy Spirit’s power but His abiding presence (cf. John 14:16). Three thousand people believed and were baptized that day. These converts all received the Holy Spirit into their lives that same day (Acts 2:38).

One of the surprising outcomes of Joel’s prophecy was that even non-Jews were filled with the Spirit. In Acts 10:45 we read, “The believers from among the circumcised . . . were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” God was lavishing His Spirit on everyone who believed in Jesus, regardless of their culture, nationality, or ethnicity. “All people,” as Joel had said, were offered this gift.

In the future, the Holy Spirit will play an active role in end-time events, bringing to pass the other aspects of Joel’s prophecies in Joel chapters 2 and 3 (Revelation 1:4, 10; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:1, 6, 13, 22; 4:2, 5, 6; 14:13; 17:3; 21:10; 22:17). However, the initial fulfillment of this prophecy has already begun, as noted by the apostle Peter, allowing all who follow Christ today to experience the blessing of the Holy Spirit living within them and empowering them for Christian service.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

Book of Amos

Author: Amos 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Amos as the Prophet Amos.

Date of Writing: The Book of Amos was likely written between 760 and 753 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Amos is a shepherd and a fruit picker from the Judean village of Tekoa when God calls him, even though he lacks an education or a priestly background. Amos’ mission is directed to his neighbor to the north, Israel. His messages of impending doom and captivity for the nation because of her sins are largely unpopular and unheeded, however, because not since the days of Solomon have times been so good in Israel. Amos’ ministry takes place while Jeroboam II reigns over Israel, and Uzziah reigns over Judah.

Key Verses:

Amos 2:4, “This is what the LORD says: ‘For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because they have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed.”

Amos 3:7, “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.”

Amos 9:14, “I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.”

Brief Summary: Amos can see that beneath Israel’s external prosperity and power, internally the nation is corrupt to the core. The sins for which Amos chastens the people are extensive: neglect of God’s Word, idolatry, pagan worship, greed, corrupted leadership and oppression of the poor. Amos begins by pronouncing a judgment upon all the surrounding nations, then upon his own nation of Judah, and finally the harshest judgment is given to Israel. His visions from God reveal the same emphatic message: judgment is near. The book ends with God’s promise to Amos of future restoration of the remnant.

Foreshadowings: The Book of Amos ends with a glorious promise for the future. “’I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,’ says the LORD your God” (9:15). The ultimate fulfillment of God’s land promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 15:7; 17:8) will occur during Christ’s millennial reign on earth (see Joel 2:26,27). Revelation 20 describes the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, a time of peace and joy under the perfect government of the Savior Himself. At that time, believing Israel and the Gentile Christians will be combined in the Church and will live and reign with Christ.

Practical Application: Sometimes we think we are a “just-a”! We are just-a salesman, farmer or housewife. Amos would be considered a “just-a.” He wasn’t a prophet or priest or the son of either. He was just a shepherd, a small businessman in Judah. Who would listen to him? But instead of making excuses, Amos obeyed and became God’s powerful voice for change.

God has used “just-a’s” such as shepherds, carpenters, and fishermen all through the Bible. Whatever you are in this life, God can use you. Amos wasn’t much. He was a “just-a.” “Just-a” servant for God. It is good to be God’s “just-a.”

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.

Chapter 35: Amos

Key Terms

 _Minor Prophets: known as “The Twelve” in the Hebrew Bible, they are Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Joel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

 _preexilic: period before the expulsion of Israel and Judah from the land

 _covenant: the means by which God reveals himself to, initiates relationship with, and establishes his presence among humanity by entering into a mutually binding agreement with a person or peopl

 _Amos: eighth-century prophet to Israel

 _Neo-Assyrian Empire: major power in the ancient Near East ca. 911–612 BC

Chapter Summary

Amos is the third book in the book of “the Twelve,” or the Minor Prophets. Amos, the first writing prophet, was a fig farmer from Tekoa, some ten miles south of Jerusalem.

We do not know how Amos’s prophecies were recorded, but is seems most likely that he wrote down his revelations after his return from Tekoa, two years after his prophetic ministry in Bethel. Amos probably ministered to the northern kingdom just before the death of Jeroboam II. The timeframe is best ascribed to 760–750 BC. This king brought material prosperity and political stability to the people, but also social and moral decay.

In Amos’s four messages, he denounces the sin of the Gentile nations and of Israel, foretelling their future destruction. Few scholars doubt the overall unity of Amos, and there is a growing appreciation of the prophet’s literary skill. Amos utilizes may prophetic speech forms, repeated words and phrases, and standardized literary constructions. He corrects the people’s faulty conception of “the day of the LORD,” then relates his five vision experiences. The prophet concludes with the promise of messianic restoration and blessing. The major theme of Amos is the importance of social justice as the ethical imperative of a covenant relationship with Yahweh.

“What is the meaning of the symbolism in Amos, e.g., sledges with iron teeth (Amos 1:3), murdered pregnant women (Amos 1:13), burning bones (Amos 2:1), destroyed roots (Amos 2:9), and hooks (Amos 4:2)?”

The book of Amos is filled with imagery related to sin and judgment. Included are images of iron teeth (1:3), murdered pregnant women (1:13), burning bones (Amos 2:1), destroyed roots (2:9), and hooks (4:2). How are we to understand these violent themes?

First, we must understand the context of these descriptions. Amos is pronouncing judgment on Israel’s enemies, and then on Israel itself, for some specific sins. The purpose of prophesying doom was often to call sinners to repent. That’s why God sent Jonah to preach in Nineveh, telling the people God would judge their city in 40 days. The Ninevites repented, and God did not bring about judgment. The Lord had compassion for those who repented.

A brief look at each of the images in Amos more fully explains what they indicate:

– Iron teeth (1:3): “Iron teeth” were part of a threshing sledge, a farming implement drawn over grain to thresh it and cut the stalks. God pictures Syria’s cruelty toward Gilead (in northeast Israel) as a threshing sledge being run over His people. For their brutality, Syria is promised judgment.

– Murdered pregnant women (1:13): The Ammonites would be judged for performing atrocities against Israel. Second Kings 8:12 and 15:16 confirm the reality of such horrific acts during war.

– Burning bones (2:1): The Moabites would be judged for their sin of the disrespectful treatment of an Edomite king’s corpse (2 Kings 3:26-27). In a culture in which a proper burial was of utmost importance, the burning of bones communicated a severe hatred.

– Destroyed roots (2:9): This is a picture of God’s judgment on the Amorites, as the “fruit above” and the “roots beneath” were destroyed—in other words, the Amorites were completely wiped out. God reminds Israel of the Amorites’ fate in order to call His people back to righteousness and the fear of God.

– Hooks (4:2): This is part of a prophecy against Israel, warning them that the Assyrians would one day take them captive. Israel would be led away as fish were carried away on hooks. It is believed the “hooks” could be literal, since Assyrians did at times lead captives with ropes attached to rings in the jaws or lips of their enemies.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“Why does Amos keep repeating “for three sins . . . even for four” in chapters 1–2?”

The phrase “for three sins . . . even for four” is a common phrase in Amos (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). Used a total of eight times in the book, these words play a special role in the way Amos communicates sin and judgment. “Three sins” represents fullness or completeness; “four” represents an overflow or a sin that is the tipping point for God’s judgment. The word sins or transgressions in Hebrew specifically refers to “rebellions.” The first two chapters of Amos contain eight messages against the nations, including Judah and Israel, condemning them for their rebellion against the Lord.

Interestingly, “for three sins . . . even for four” is not followed by four specific sins. In fact, the typical pattern is to list one or two sins and move on. Therefore, the expression is not meant to imply a specific number of sins but to communicate that there is an excess of sins that have led to God’s judgment.

Each of Amos’s eight messages follows a similar pattern. First, there is the phrase “for three sins . . . even for four.” Second, one or two specific sins are mentioned regarding the nation being addressed. Third, a judgment is given. Amos starts with Israel’s enemies and ends with oracles against Judah and Israel.

Judah (Amos 2:4-5) is accused of three specific sins (rejecting the Law, not keeping its statutes, and lying) and is judged with fire on the nation and Jerusalem. Israel (Amos 2:6-16) is condemned with a complete list of seven sins and receives an extended discussion of its coming judgments.

While God clearly condemned the sins of the surrounding nations, Amos’ message is dominated by judgment against Israel. Yet, even in judgment, there is hope. The conclusion of his prophecy (9:11-15) speaks of a time of future blessing for Israel. The book’s final verse reads, “‘I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,’ says the LORD your God.” Though Israel would be taken from its land (as a result of attacks by Assyria and Babylon), its people would one day return to the land and live in prosperity with their Messiah.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What is a plumb line in the Bible?”

A plumb line, also called a plummet, is a cord with a non-magnetic weight attached to one end. When the cord is held in such a way that the weight can dangle freely, an exact vertical can be determined. Painters and carpenters use plumb lines to keep their work straight. It is difficult, while in the middle of a project, to determine a true horizontal or vertical line without an objective measuring tool, so a plumb line is employed. A plumb line applies the law of gravity to find right angles, to indicate the most direct route from top to bottom, and to keep things plumb. A plumb line doesn’t change or move with the whims of the carpenter. It remains true, and all work must line up with it or risk being crooked.

The term plumb line is used in Scripture in several contexts. The Lord pictures Himself as a builder in Isaiah 28: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). This is a promise of an unshakeable kingdom, with the Messiah in charge. Jesus Christ is the “precious cornerstone” (see Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6). As the Lord builds His kingdom, He will ensure it is perfect in every way: “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (Isaiah 28:17). There will be no crookedness/sin in the kingdom of Christ.

When the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, they began to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. For a time, the work languished, and God sent the prophets Zechariah and Haggai to spur the people on to finish the rebuilding. The message was encouraging: do not despair over the small beginnings; God will see to it that the temple is completed, and Zerubbabel the governor will oversee the project. “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (Zechariah 4:10, ESV).

Amos 7:7–8 says, “This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ ‘A plumb line,’ I replied. Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.’” When God said He was setting a plumb line among His people, He was declaring an end to their attempts to justify their crooked ways. The Lord was setting the standard. God does not negotiate His laws. He does not change with the whims of culture (Numbers 23:19). God’s moral law is the plumb line against which we determine right and wrong (John 17:17). Just as a carpenter’s plumb line is not subject to the opinions or the frustration of the worker, so God’s moral standards are not subject to the opinions of man. Wise people are those who line up their lives according to God’s plumb line rather than trying to move it to satisfy their own agendas.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What was the significance of the horns of the altar (Amos 3:14)?”

In speaking of judgment, God says, “The horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground” (Amos 3:14). What were these horns of the altar? Why were they important?

The “horns” were horn-like projections at the four corners of the altar of burnt offering. God’s instructions for the altar’s construction specified “horns”: “Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one piece” (Exodus 27:2).

During Amos’s day, the Israelites had apostatized and had erected altars to false gods. First Kings 12:26-30 speaks of two such pagan altars set up in Israel, one in Dan and one in Bethel. These altars had been constructed with horns at the corners, akin to the altar in Jerusalem.

When God says that the horns of the altar would fall off, He is assuring Israel that He would judge their idolatry. Indeed, God says earlier in the same verse, “On the day I punish Israel for her sins, I will destroy the altars of Bethel.”

The horns of the altar in Jerusalem had provided a refuge for fugitives. Those who caught hold of the horns of the altar were granted asylum (1 Kings 1:50-53). This use of the horns sheds additional light on God’s statement in Amos 3:14. Some scholars believe that God’s promise that the horns of the altar would fall to the ground meant that there would be no place of asylum, no place to escape the coming judgment.

Amos 3:15 indicates that the judgment would have deeply felt effects: “‘I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,’ declares the Lord.” No amount of material prosperity would be able to save the wicked. God’s judgment would destroy both the places of spiritual and material significance.

Yet the people of Israel would not be completely destroyed. Verse 12 says, “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.” A remnant would survive. In their lowly state, they would be left only “the corner of a couch,” living in a state of poverty.

God’s desire in this prophecy was twofold. First, He longed for Israel to repent and turn from following other gods. Second, since these predictions did come true, they attest to God’s supernatural ability to foretell the future.

The destruction of the horns of the altar represents the downfall of idolatry and the removal of all safe havens. When God’s people refuse to heed His Word, He brings a just and curative discipline upon them.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

Lecture 8

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The Books Obadiah and the Book Jonah

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

Obadiah verse 4, “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.”

Obadiah verse 12, “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.”

Jonah 1:3, “But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish…”

Jonah 1:17, “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”

Overview: Obadiah

Overview: Jonah

What Does Jonah Teach Us About the Character of God?

A Survey of the Old Testament Instructor’s Manual

Book of Obadiah

Author: Obadiah verse 1 identifies the author of the Book of Obadiah as the Prophet Obadiah.

Date of Writing: The Book of Obadiah was likely written between 848 and 840 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is only 21 verses long. Obadiah is a prophet of God who uses this opportunity to condemn Edom for sins against both God and Israel. The Edomites are descendants of Esau and the Israelites are descendants of his twin brother, Jacob. A quarrel between the brothers has affected their descendants for over 1,000 years. This division caused the Edomites to forbid Israel to cross their land during the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt. Edom’s sins of pride now require a strong word of judgment from the Lord.

Key Verses:

Obadiah verse 4, “Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.”

Obadiah verse 12, “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.”

Obadiah verse 15, “The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”

Brief Summary: Obadiah’s message is final and it is sure: the kingdom of Edom will be destroyed completely. Edom has been arrogant, gloating over Israel’s misfortunes, and when enemy armies attack Israel and the Israelites ask for help, the Edomites refuse and choose to fight against them, not for them. These sins of pride can be overlooked no longer. The book ends with the promise of the fulfillment and deliverance of Zion in the Last Days when the land will be restored to God’s people as He rules over them.

Foreshadowings: Verse 21 of the Book of Obadiah contains a foreshadowing of Christ and His Church. “Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (NKJV). These “saviors” (also called “deliverers” in several versions) are the apostles of Christ, ministers of the word, and especially the preachers of the Gospel in these latter days. They are called “saviors,” not because they obtain our salvation, but because they preach salvation through the Gospel of Christ and show us the way to obtain that salvation. They, and the Word preached by them, are the means by which the good news of salvation is delivered to all men. While Christ is the only Savior who alone came to purchase salvation, and is the author of it, saviors and deliverers of the Gospel will be more and more in evidence as the end of the age draws near.

Practical Application: God will overcome in our behalf if we will stay true to Him. Unlike Edom, we must be willing to help others in times of need. Pride is sin. We have nothing to be proud of except Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.
Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Leslie C. Allen

“Why did God judge Edom so harshly in the book of Obadiah?”

Obadiah clearly predicted Edom’s destruction (Obadiah 1:1, 8), and the prophecy offers a list of specific reasons for God’s impending judgment:

– Their heart of pride: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 1:3).

– Their violent acts against Israel: “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever” (Obadiah 1:10).

– Their attitude toward Jerusalem’s destruction: “Do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin” (Obadiah 1:12).

– Their plundering and looting of Jerusalem: “Do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity” (Obadiah 1:13).

– Their mistreatment of Jerusalem’s survivors: “Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives” (Obadiah 1:14).

In addition to these specific sins, Edom had been a longtime enemy of Israel, ever since the time of the Exodus (Numbers 20:14-21), when the Edomites had acted churlishly toward the refugees. Through Obadiah, God provided a list of eight “do not’s” (Obadiah 1:12-14), a list which Edom obviously ignored.

Adding to their culpability is the fact that the Edomites were related to the Israelites. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob and grandson of Abraham. This family tie should have incited compassion for Israel’s plight; instead, it made Edom’s actions even more repulsive, since they were opposing not only God’s chosen people but also their own relatives.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“When were Obadiah’s prophecies against Edom fulfilled (Obadiah 1:18-20)?”

A major factor in determining when Obadiah’s prophecies against Edom were fulfilled rests on when the book was written. The prophet mentions a recent invasion of Jerusalem (1:10-11), which helps to narrow down the date of writing. Jerusalem experienced four different invasions in Old Testament times, yet only two fit the time period under discussion in Obadiah. The early date would be about 841 B.C., when the Philistines and Arabians attacked Jerusalem during the reign of King Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:16-17). The later date would be approximately 586 B.C., following the invasion of Babylon (2 Kings 24-25).

If the earlier date is correct, Obadiah would be the earliest of the prophetic books in the Old Testament. Those who hold this position refer to 2 Kings 8:20, which mentions Edom setting up its own king: “In his days Edom revolted from the rule of Judah and set up a king of their own.” Also used to support this date are comparisons of 2 Chronicles 21:16-17 with Joel 3:3-6 and Obadiah 1:11-12; as well as similarities between Obadiah 1:1-9 and Jeremiah 49:7-22.

If the later date is correct, the prophecy of Obadiah regarding Edom’s doom is more dramatic. Babylon completed its invasion of Jerusalem under King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. In the fifth century B.C., a people called the Nabateans defeated the Edomites and forced them from the city of Petra. The interval between prediction and fulfillment would, therefore, have been very short.

Regardless of the exact date, the predictions against Edom have already been fulfilled. Edom was removed from its land in the fifth century B.C., and there are no survivors of Edom today. This fulfilled the prediction in Obadiah 1:18: “They shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau.” Some first-century leaders, such as Herod the Great, still traced their ancestry to Edom, but all mention of Edomites fades after the Jewish Wars of that era. At the end of the 4th century, Jerome referenced the land of Idumea (Edom), but the people of the region had long since disappeared.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

Book of Jonah

Author: Jonah 1:1 identifies the book as telling the story of the prophet Jonah. Although the book is written in the third person, the traditional view is that Jonah is the author of the book, and there is no persuasive reason to theorize about an unknown author.

Date of Writing: The Book of Jonah was likely written between 793 and 758 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Disobedience and revival are the key themes in this book. Jonah’s experience in the belly of the whale provides him with a unique opportunity to seek a unique deliverance, as he repents during this equally unique retreat. His initial disobedience leads not only to his personal revival, but to that of the Ninevites as well. Many classify the revival which Jonah brings to Nineveh as one of the greatest evangelistic efforts of all time.

Key Verses:

Jonah 1:3, “But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish…”

Jonah 1:17, “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”

Jonah 2:2, “In my distress I called to the LORD, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

Jonah 3:10, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”

Brief Summary: Jonah’s fear and pride cause him to run from God. He does not wish to go to Nineveh to preach repentance to the people, as God has commanded, because he feels they are his enemies, and he is convinced that God will not carry out his threat to destroy the city. Instead he boards a ship for Tarshish, which is in the opposite direction. Soon a raging storm causes the crew to cast lots and determine that Jonah is the problem. They throw him overboard, and he is swallowed by a great fish. In its belly for 3 days and 3 nights, Jonah repents of his sin to God, and the fish vomits him up on dry land (we wonder what took him so long to repent). Jonah then makes the 500-mile trip to Nineveh and leads the city in a great revival. But the prophet is displeased (actually pouts) instead of being thankful when Nineveh repents. Jonah learns his lesson, however, when God uses a wind, a gourd and a worm to teach him that He is merciful.

Foreshadowings: That Jonah is a type of Christ is clear from Jesus’ own words. In Matthew 12:40-41, Jesus declares that He will be in the grave the same amount of time Jonah was in the whale’s belly. He goes on to say that while the Ninevites repented in the face of Jonah’s preaching, the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who rejected Jesus were rejecting One who is far greater than Jonah. Just as Jonah brought the truth of God regarding repentance and salvation to the Ninevites, so too does Jesus bring the same message (Jonah 2:9; John 14:6) of salvation of and through God alone (Romans 11:36).

Practical Application: We cannot hide from God. What He wishes to accomplish through us will come to pass, despite all our objections and foot-dragging. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that He has plans for us and will see to it that we conform to those plans. How much easier it would be if we, unlike Jonah, would submit to Him without delay!

God’s love manifests itself in His accessibility to all, regardless of our reputation, nationality or race. The free offer of the Gospel is for all people in all times. Our task as Christians is to be the means by which God tells the world of the offer and to rejoice in the salvation of others. This is an experience God wants us to share with Him, not being jealous or resentful of those who come to Christ in “last-minute conversions” or who come through circumstances dissimilar to our own.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.
Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Leslie C. Allen

“Who was Jonah in the Bible?”

Proud, stubborn, disobedient, unfaithful, a grumbler, and altogether a bad-tempered, cantankerous old curmudgeon—this was Jonah, whose name means “dove”! Jonah was the son of Amittai, who came from Gath-hepher in Zebulun (called Gittah-hepher in Joshua 19:10-13). He was the earliest of the prophets and close behind Elisha in his place in the Old Testament. Jonah’s story is told in the short (just 48 verses) but powerful book of Jonah.

When God called Jonah to go and warn the violent and godless Ninevites of their impending doom, all his pride in being a Hebrew—and therefore uniquely favored by the Almighty (so he thought, no doubt along with many others of his nation)—rose up in rebellion. Pagans, to him, were the worst kind of human garbage, not even fit to pollute the good earth by living on it. They were the “untouchables,” and that God should take an interest in them was unthinkable. Therefore, not being one to put up with that which was not to his mind, he fled to Joppa and got himself a passage on a ship bound for Tarshish, which was in the opposite direction from Nineveh.

A human father would probably have shrugged Jonah off in disgust and found someone else more willing to take his message to Nineveh, but not so our Heavenly Father. If God has a purpose for someone, then, the gifts and calling of God being irrevocable, he will either fulfill His purpose, or He will simply roll over him to accomplish what He has foreordained (Isaiah 46:9-10). God rolled over Jonah with a vengeance, causing a violent storm to threaten the safety of his ship and its crew, so that their indignation at his contented snoring through their danger soon put an end to his satisfaction. This unceremonious awakening also awakened Jonah to the fact that, far from being an “artful dodger,” he was being followed by the Almighty. There was nothing for it but to confess what he had been up to and tell the sailors that only by dumping him overboard could they be saved. This they did, and the huge fish sent by God (not a whale as commonly supposed, but some sea creature common to that time) promptly swallowed him up (Jonah 1:17). This, and the immediate stilling of the storm, brought the ship’s crew to faith and salvation as a result (Jonah 1:16). The Lord is not one to miss out on His opportunities!

At this point Jonah has now found himself in a situation worse than anything he could have imagined, but like Jacob, he has by now awakened to the fact that God is with him wherever he ends up, in obedience or disobedience. The result is a beautiful prayer of faith rising up from the belly of the great fish, but still with a hint of spiritual pride: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:8-9).

In response to this prayer of contrition and faith, on his Creator’s orders, the fish then vomits up Jonah on what was probably the shores of Israel. Researchers tell us that it must in all probability have been there because it was a three-day journey on foot from that point to the great city of Nineveh, which is in line with the statement in Jonah 3:3. Ancient cave drawings from this time indicate that Ninevite fishermen lived on the shores of the Mediterranean. This fact is important in illustrating the wonderful way in which God paves the way for His servants to fulfill His commands. The principal goddess worshiped by the Ninevites at that time was Ashtoreth, but they also deferred to the god Dagon who had a man’s upper body and a fish’s tail. Jonah, so the researchers say, would have been bleached completely white from his head to his toes by the acids present in the belly of the fish, and on the sudden appearance of this ghostly figure from the waves the fishermen may have been convinced that this was Dagon’s messenger and fallen flat in worship. These men would have fed and housed Jonah until he was recovered enough from his experience and then, as he was a stranger in those parts, given him directions on how to find their city. Of course, the biblical narrative doesn’t give us these details, but it is fascinating to theorize.

In any case, the biblical text is a masterful expression of understatement: “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you’” (Jonah 3:1-2). This time, there is no arguing from Jonah, who, although he may be complying on the outside, is still stubbornly disobeying on the inside. He finally arrives at Nineveh and strides vengefully through the city announcing doom and destruction on the people in forty days because of their wickedness and their ignorance of the Lord and His ways. He then retires to a flimsy shelter he builds for himself, probably on a hill overlooking the city, and waits for the fireworks to start (Jonah 4:5). Result? Utterly and absolutely nothing! To his utter chagrin, he finds not just the people from the king down, but their animals as well, clothed in sackcloth and sprinkled with ashes as an indication of their absolute acceptance of the prophetic word sent to them by God, their deep repentance, and their fervent anxiety to get right with the Lord (Jonah 3:5-10). This does not suit our friend Jonah at all and he flies into a fury at God and lets Him have no small piece of his mind (Jonah 4:1-3). God’s answer is to cause a leafy gourd to grow up to help protect Jonah from the blazing sun, for which Jonah is somewhat sullenly grateful, and then to promptly remove it the next day! His reply to Jonah’s bitter complaints about this is that if Jonah can have so much compassion on himself for his loss of comfort in spite of being aware of what a faulty child of God he is, then how much more compassion will Almighty God have on a people who are utterly ignorant of right from wrong (Jonah 4:9-11).

So that is Jonah—a very great comfort to all who fall flat at times when it comes to obedience and who run away from what they know God wants them to do. Jonah’s story is also an object lesson to those who are possessed of a short fuse and those who are at times guilty of a superior attitude to the spiritually ignorant or immature. Like the Ninevites, many around us are in darkness, and but for the grace of God, so would we be. May we all by that grace read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Word!

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Why did Jonah try to go to Tarshish instead of Nineveh?”

The word of the Lord came to Jonah with the command to preach against the wickedness of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom (Jonah 1:1-2). However, Jonah chose to flee from the presence of the Lord instead (Jonah 1:10). In his flight, Jonah left his home of Gath-hepher, near Nazareth in Israel (2 Kings 14:25), and traveled to Joppa (Jonah 1:3), a coastal city. There he boarded a ship bound for Tarshish, a city near Gibraltar in the southern part of Spain.

The contrast between Nineveh and Tarshish was vast. Nineveh was located east of the Tigris River in modern-day Iraq. It was more than 500 miles east of Jonah’s hometown. Tarshish, in contrast, was west of Gath-hepher. In fact, Tarshish stood more than 2,500 miles from Israel in the opposite direction of Nineveh. It was the most remote destination available to Jonah. Jonah was trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the Assyrians. Whatever happened to Nineveh, Jonah would not be there to see it.

Jonah’s reason for running was that, quite simply, he did not like the Assyrians. Assyria was an idolatrous, proud, and ruthless nation bent on world conquest and had long been a threat to Israel. When God sent Jonah as a missionary to the capital, Nineveh, the prophet balked. At the end of his story, Jonah specifies his reason for resistance: “That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:2). In other words, Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed. He felt they deserved God’s judgment. Jonah didn’t want to see God’s mercy extended to his enemies, and he knew in his heart that God’s intention was to show mercy. Jonah discovered that God’s salvation is available to all who repent, not just to the people of Jonah’s choosing.

Jonah also discovered that no one can run from God. “‘Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:24). Jonah’s ill-advised attempt to escape from God was doomed to fail. He soon realized God was with him everywhere he went. Even in the stomach of the great fish, God knew where Jonah was and could hear his prayer (Jonah 2:2).

We are not to run from God but to Him. As Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“Was Jonah truly swallowed by a whale?”

The book of Jonah recounts the story of a disobedient prophet who, upon being swallowed by a whale (or a “great fish”) and vomited upon the shore, reluctantly led the reprobate city of Nineveh to repentance. The Bible’s plain teaching is that, yes, Jonah was truly swallowed by a whale (or a great fish).

The biblical account of Jonah is often criticized by skeptics because of its miraculous content. These miracles include the following events:

• A storm is summoned and dissipated by God (1:4–16).
• A massive fish swallows the prophet after he is thrown into the sea by his ship’s crew (1:17).
• Jonah survives in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights—or he dies and is resurrected, depending on how you interpret the text (1:17).
• The fish vomits Jonah upon the shore at God’s command (2:10).
• A gourd is appointed by God to grow rapidly in order to provide Jonah with shade (4:6).
• A worm is appointed by God to attack and wither the gourd (4:7).
• A scorching wind is summoned by God to discomfort Jonah (4:8).

God’s use of a whale or great fish as Jonah’s mode of transportation was sure to capture Nineveh’s attention, given the prominence of Dagon worship in that particular area of the ancient world. Dagon was a fish-god who enjoyed popularity among the pantheons of Mesopotamia and the eastern Mediterranean coast. He is mentioned several times in the Bible in relation to the Philistines (Judges 16:23–24; 1 Samuel 5:1–7; 1 Chronicles 10:8–12). Images of Dagon have been found in palaces and temples in Nineveh and throughout the region. In some cases he was represented as a man wearing a fish. In others he was part man, part fish—a merman, of sorts.

Orientalist Henry Clay Trumbull observes: “What better heralding, as a divinely sent messenger to Nineveh, could Jonah have had, than to be thrown up out of the mouth of a great fish, in the presence of witnesses, say on the coast of Phoenicia, where the fish-god was a favorite object of worship? Such an incident would have inevitably aroused the mercurial nature of Oriental observers, so that a multitude would be ready to follow the seemingly new avatar of the fish-god, proclaiming the story of his uprising from the sea, as he went on his mission to the city where the fish-god had its very centre of worship” (“Jonah in Nineveh,” Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 2, No.1, 1892, p. 56).

Some scholars have speculated that Jonah’s appearance, bleached white from the action of the fish’s digestive acids, would have been of great help to his cause. It could be that the Ninevites would have been greeted by a man whose skin, hair, and clothes were bleached ghostly white—a man accompanied by a crowd of frenetic followers, many who had witnessed him being vomited upon the shore by a great fish. Given the piscine nature of Jonah’s arrival, Nineveh’s repentance follows from a logical progression.

Apart from the Bible, there is no conclusive historical proof that Jonah was ever swallowed by a fish and lived to tell about it; however, there is some provocative corroboratory evidence. In the third century BC, a Babylonian priest/historian named Berosus wrote of a mythical creature named Oannes who, according to Berosus, emerged from the sea to give divine wisdom to men. Scholars generally identify this mysterious fish-man as an avatar of the Babylonian water-god Ea (also known as Enki). The curious thing about Berosus’ account is the name he used: Oannes.

Berosus wrote in Greek during the Hellenistic Period. Oannes is just a single letter removed from the Greek name Ioannes, which happens to be used in the Greek New Testament for Jonah. As for the I being dropped from Ioannes, Professor Trumbull writes, “In the Assyrian inscriptions the J of foreign words becomes I, or disappears altogether; hence Joannes, as the Greek representative of Jona, would appear in Assyrian either as Ioannes or as Oannes” (ibid., p. 58).

Nineveh was an Assyrian city. What this essentially means is that Berosus wrote of a fish-man named Jonah who emerged from the sea to give divine wisdom to man—a remarkable corroboration of the Hebrew account.

Berosus claimed to have relied upon official Babylonian sources for his information. Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians under King Nabopolassar in 612 BC, more than 300 years before Berosus. It is quite conceivable that record of Jonah’s success in Nineveh was preserved in the writings available to Berosus. If so, it appears that Jonah was deified and mythologized over a period of three centuries, first by the Assyrians, who no doubt associated him with their fish-god, Dagon, and then by the Babylonians, who appear to have hybridized him with their own water-god, Ea.

Jonah was not an imaginary figure invented to play the part of a disobedient prophet, swallowed by a fish. He was part of Israel’s prophetic history. Jonah appears in the chronicles of Israel as the prophet who predicted Jeroboam II’s military successes against Syria (2 Kings 14:25). He is said to be the son of Amittai (cf. Jonah 1:1) from the town of Gath-hepher in lower Galilee. Flavius Josephus reiterates these details in his Antiquities of the Jews (chapter 10, paragraph 2).

The city of Nineveh was rediscovered after more than 2,500 years of obscurity. It is now believed to have been the largest city in the world at the time of its demise (see Tertius Chandler’s Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: An Historical Census). According to Sir Austen Henry Layard, who chronicled the rediscovery of Nineveh, the circumference of Greater Nineveh was “exactly three days’ journey,” as recorded in Jonah 3:3 (A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh, New York: J. C. Derby, 1854, p. 314). Prior to its rediscovery, skeptics scoffed at the possibility that so large a city could have existed in the ancient world. In fact, some skeptics denied the existence of Nineveh altogether. Its rediscovery in the mid-1800s proved to be a remarkable vindication for the Bible, which mentions Nineveh by name eighteen times and dedicates two entire books (Jonah and Nahum) to its fate.

It is interesting to note where the lost city of Nineveh was rediscovered. It was found buried beneath a pair of tells in the vicinity of Mosul in modern-day Iraq. These mounds are known by their local names, Kuyunjik and Nabi Yunus. Nabi Yunus happens to be Arabic for “the prophet Jonah.”

As for the whale or great fish that swallowed Jonah, the Bible doesn’t specify what sort of marine animal it was. The Hebrew phrase used in the Old Testament, gadowl dag, literally means “great fish.” The Greek used in the New Testament is këtos, which simply means “sea creature.” There are at least two species of Mediterranean marine life that are able to swallow a man whole. These are the cachalot (also known as the sperm whale) and the white shark. Both creatures are known to prowl the Mediterranean and have been known to sailors since antiquity. Aristotle described both species in his fourth-century-BC Historia Animalium.

Skeptics scoff at the miracles described in the book of Jonah as if there were no mechanism by which such events could occur. That is their bias. We are inclined, however, to believe that there is One who is capable of manipulating natural phenomena in such supernatural ways. We believe that He is the Creator of the natural realm and is not, therefore, circumscribed by it. We believe God sent Jonah to Nineveh to bring about their repentance and that, in the process, Jonah was swallowed by a whale or great fish.

Jesus spoke of Jonah’s ordeal as a real historical event. He used it as a typological metaphor for His own crucifixion and resurrection: “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:40–41.

The evidence is such that any Christian should have confidence to believe that Jonah was truly swallowed by a whale, and any skeptic should think twice before dismissing the story of Jonah as a fairy tale.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Did Jonah die while he was in the belly of the fish (Jonah 2)?”

Those who accept the literal account of Jonah take one of two main views regarding what happened to Jonah during his time in the belly of the great fish (Jonah 2). One view holds that Jonah died and later returned to life. The second view holds that Jonah remained alive for three days in the belly of the great fish. Both views agree on a literal reading of the book of Jonah and affirm God’s supernatural ability to rescue His prophet. The difference is whether to see Jonah 2:10 as a description of a weak and bedraggled Jonah or as a truly resurrected Jonah.

Those who argue that Jonah died and later rose again appeal to Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2:2: “From the depths of the grave I called for help.” The use of Sheol, the Hebrew term for “the grave,” could mean that Jonah actually died. Yet the words “the depths of the grave,” seen as a poetic turn of phrase, could easily refer to an agonizing or horrifying experience.

There’s another reason that some argue for Jonah’s death and resurrection: Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). The reasoning is that, since Jesus’ death and resurrection were actual, then Jonah must have also actually died and later returned to life. However, Jesus’ comparison does not mandate perfect congruency between the two events. Jonah’s hopeless situation was illustrative of Jesus’ death; Jonah’s sudden appearance at Nineveh was illustrative of Jesus’ resurrection. The three days was an additional similarity. Jonah returned from the edge of death; Jesus, who is greater than Jonah, returned from actual death. Analogies do not require absolute agreement in every detail.

The Bible does not explicitly state that Jonah died in the belly of the great fish. Those who theorize that he did die rely on inference and speculation. What is the evidence that Jonah stayed alive for the three days he spent in the belly of the great fish?

First, it is clear that Jonah prayed from inside the fish: “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1). At the very least, Jonah lived long enough to offer his prayer.

Second, the language of Jonah’s prayer is poetic in nature. Terms such as Sheol and the reference to “the pit” (Jonah 2:6) do not have to be interpreted so literally as to require physical death.

Did Jonah die in the fish, or was he alive the whole time? Either interpretation is possible, but the traditional understanding, that Jonah was alive for three days in the belly of a great fish, is more likely. Jonah, who everyone thought was a “goner,” emerged from the murky depths to bring God’s message of salvation to a lost and dying people. In so doing, he became a wonderful representation of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and life-giving message.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“Why was Jonah angry that the Ninevites repented (Jonah 4:1-2)?”

It seems strange that a preacher would be angry that his listeners repented of their sin, but that is exactly Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites’ repentance. Jonah 4:2 tells us why: “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” Jonah knew from the start that God was gracious and merciful. He realized that if the people of Nineveh repented, God would spare them. The prophet was angry at their repentance because he would rather see them destroyed.

There are several possible reasons for Jonah’s desire to see Nineveh destroyed. First, Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, a ruthless and warlike people who were enemies of Israel. Nineveh’s destruction would have been seen as a victory for Israel. Second, Jonah probably wanted to see Nineveh’s downfall to satisfy his own sense of justice. After all, Nineveh deserved God’s judgment. Third, God’s withholding of judgment from Nineveh could have made Jonah’s words appear illegitimate, since he had predicted the city’s destruction.

We can learn from Jonah’s negative example that we should praise God for His goodness. First, our God is a merciful God, willing to forgive all those who repent (see 2 Peter 3:9). The Ninevites were Gentiles, yet God still extended His salvation to them. In His goodness, God warned the Assyrians before sending judgment, giving them a chance to repent.

Second, God cares for people of every nation. He is, by nature, a Savior. As Luke 15 reveals in the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son, God’s heart is for the redemption of all who will come to Him. Further, the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 emphasizes God’s call to take God’s message of “good news” to all the nations. Romans 1:16 also emphasizes the importance of sharing the gospel with both Jews and non-Jews.

Third, God is concerned for children. The mention of “more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left” (Jonah 4:11) may refer to young children. When God mentions His concern for this group, He highlights His love and concern for all the children of the world.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does Jonah 4:11 mean by people who cannot tell their right hand from their left?”

In Jonah 4:11 God speaks of “more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left.” Who are these 120,000 people?

First, it is obvious from the context that these people were residents of Nineveh. Jonah was angry at God’s compassion toward the Ninevites who repented after hearing Jonah’s preaching. Chapter 4 specifically focuses on God’s love toward those in Nineveh and His mercy in response to their repentance.

However, the precise identity of these 120,000 Ninevites is problematic. The clause “who do not know their right hand from their left” is not found in any other biblical passage or comparative Hebrew literature. The expression is interpreted to mean either young children who have yet to learn right from left or adults who do not understand right from wrong.

Those who conclude the 120,000 are young children appeal to a straightforward reading of the words used in modern translations. The idea of not knowing “right” from “left” naturally evokes thoughts of young children—usually five years old and younger—who do not understand this difference. However, if Nineveh contained 120,000 young children, the population of the city must have been at least 600,000. The problem with this is that the area within the city walls would not have contained more than 175,000 people, according to figures based on archaeological remains. (See

Those who conclude the 120,000 people comprise all of the Ninevites provide an array of convincing evidence. First, the Hebrew word translated “people” in Jonah 4:11 is the general word for “people,” not the Hebrew word for “children.” Linguistically, the evidence favors a broader interpretation that includes all the people of Nineveh.

In addition, the closest biblical parallels refer to the difference between those who know the Law of the Lord and those who do not. For example, Ecclesiastes 10:2 says, “A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.” The Bible often speaks of the wicked as those do not know God (Proverbs 28:5; Galatians 4:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:5; 1 John 4:8). On the cross Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive His murderers, “for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; see also Acts 17:23, 30 and 1 Timothy 1:13). In Hosea 4:6 we read, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

Further, a parallel is made in Jonah 4:11 between the people and the livestock of Nineveh. It is much more likely the parallel refers to all people/all livestock versus only young children and livestock.

Finally, it makes sense for the 120,000 to include all Ninevites because God showed compassion on the entire city, not just on its young children and animals.

Jonah 4:11 most likely refers to those who, spiritually speaking, cannot tell right from left. The verse shows that God takes pity on the spiritual blindness of the pagan. God’s desire is to extend His salvation to all who repent and turn to Him.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What is the sign of Jonah?”

The phrase “sign of Jonah” was used by Jesus as a typological metaphor for His future crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Jesus answered with this expression when asked by the Pharisees for miraculous proof that He was indeed the Messiah. The Pharisees remained unconvinced of Jesus’ claims about Himself, despite His having just cured a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. Shortly after the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:38–41).

To fully appreciate the answer that Jesus gave, we must go to the Old Testament book of Jonah. In its first chapter, we read that God commanded the prophet Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that He was going to destroy it for its wickedness. Jonah disobediently ran from the Lord and headed for the city of Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish where he remained for “three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:15–17). After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land (Jonah 2:10).

It is this three days that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the sign of Jonah. Jesus had already been producing miracles that were witnessed by many. Jesus had just performed a great sign in the Pharisees’ presence by healing a deaf man who was possessed of a demon. Rather than believe, they accused Jesus of doing this by the power of Satan. Jesus recognized their hardness of heart and refused to give them further proof of His identity. However, He did say that there would be one further sign forthcoming, His resurrection from the dead. This would be their final opportunity to be convinced.

Jesus’ paralleling of the Pharisees with the people of Nineveh is telling. The people of Nineveh repented of their evil ways (Jonah 3:4–10) after hearing Jonah’s call for repentance, while the Pharisees continued in their unbelief despite being eyewitnesses to the miracles of Jesus. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were culpable for their unbelief, given the conversion of the people of Nineveh, sinners who had received far less evidence than the Pharisees themselves had witnessed.

But what are we to make of the phrase “three days and three nights”? Was Jesus saying that He would be dead for three full 24-hour periods before He would rise from the dead? It does not appear so. The phrase “three days and three nights” need not refer to a literal 72-hour period. Rather, according to the Hebrew reckoning of time, the days could refer to three days in part or in whole. Jesus was probably crucified on a Friday (Mark 15:42). According to the standard reckoning, Jesus died at about 3:00 PM (Matthew 27:46) on Friday (day 1). He remained dead for all of Saturday (day 2) and rose from the dead early on Sunday morning (day 3). Attempts to place Jesus’ death on Wednesday to accommodate a literal 72-hour period are probably unnecessary once we take into account the Hebrew method of reckoning of each day as beginning at sundown. So it seems that the expression “three days and three nights” was used as a figure of speech meant to signify any part of three days.

God would often use signs (or miracles) in the Bible to authenticate His chosen messenger. The Lord provided Moses with several miraculous signs in order to prove to others that he was appointed by God (Exodus 4:5–9; 7:8–10;19-20). God sent down fire on Elijah’s altar during Elijah’s contest with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:36–39). He performed this miracle to prove that the God of Israel was the one true God. Jesus Himself would perform many miracles (or “signs”) to demonstrate His power over nature (Matthew 4:23; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 8:22–24; John 6:16–24). The “sign of Jonah” would turn out to be Jesus’ greatest miracle of all. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead would be God’s chief sign that Jesus was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah (Acts 2:23–32) and establish Christ’s claims to deity (Romans 1:3–4).

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

Lecture 9

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The Books of Micah and Nahum

Description of Content

This lesson wants to provide an introduction to the prophetic book of Micah. We want to introduce the historical background, origin, authorship, the historical context, structure, the theological message and specific character and a New Testament perspective on Micah.

This lesson wants to provide an introduction to the prophetic book of Nahum. We want to introduce the historical background, origin, authorship, the historical context, structure, the theological message and specific character and a New Testament perspective on Nahum.  

Micah 1:2, “Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple.”

Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”   Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

Nahum 1:14a. “The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: ‘You will have no descendants to bear your name.’”

Overview: Micah

Minor Prophets Micah – The Gospel Broadcasting Network is a non-profit organization that is fully-funded and supported by the churches of Christ. Find out more about us on


Overview: Nahum

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Author: The author of the Book of Micah was the Prophet Micah (Micah 1:1).

Date of Writing: The Book of Micah was likely written between 735 and 700 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The message of the Book of Micah is a complex mixture of judgment and hope. On the one hand, the prophecies announce judgment upon Israel for social evils, corrupt leadership and idolatry. This judgment was expected to culminate in the destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem. On the other hand, the book proclaims not merely the restoration of the nation, but the transformation and exaltation of Israel and Jerusalem. The messages of hope and doom are not necessarily contradictory, however, since restoration and transformation take place only after judgment.

Key Verses:

Micah 1:2, “Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple.”

Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 7:18-19, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Brief Summary: The prophet condemns the rulers, priests, and prophets of Israel who exploit and mislead the people. It is because of their deeds that Jerusalem will be destroyed. The prophet Micah proclaims the deliverance of the people who will go from Jerusalem to Babylon and concludes with an exhortation for Jerusalem to destroy the nations who have gathered against her. The ideal ruler would come from Bethlehem to defend the nation, and the prophet proclaims the triumph of the remnant of Jacob and foresees a day when Yahweh will purge the nation of idolatry and reliance on military might. The prophet sets forth a powerful and concise summary of Yahweh’s requirement for justice and loyalty and announces judgment upon those who have followed the ways of Omri and Ahab. The book closes with a prophetic liturgy comprising elements of a lament. Israel confesses its sin and is assured of deliverance through Yahweh’s mighty acts.

Foreshadowings: Micah 5:2 is a Messianic prophecy quoted when the magi were searching for the king born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6). These kings from the East were told that from the tiny village of Bethlehem would come forth the Prince of Peace, the Light of the world. Micah’s message of sin, repentance and restoration finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ who is the propitiation for our sins (Romans 3:24-25) and the only way to God (John 14:6).

Practical Application: God gives warnings so we will not have to suffer His wrath. Judgment is certain if God’s warnings are not heeded and His provision for sin in the sacrifice of His Son is rejected. For the believer in Christ, God will discipline us—not from hate—but because He loves us. He knows that sin destroys and He wants us to be whole. This wholeness which is the promise of restoration awaits those who remain obedient to Him.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler.
Joel, Obadiah, Jonah & Micah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Leslie C. Allen.
NIV Application Commentary Hosea, Amos, and Micah by Gary Smith

Book of Nahum

Author: The author of the Book of Nahum identifies himself as Nahum (in the Hebrew “Consoler” or “Comforter”) the Elkoshite (1:1). There are many theories as to where that city was though there is no conclusive evidence. One such theory is that it refers to the city later called Capernaum (which literally means “the village of Nahum”) at the Sea of Galilee.

Date of Writing: Given the limited amount of information that we know about Nahum, the best we can do is narrow the timeframe in which the Book of Nahum was written to between 663 and 612 B.C. Two events are mentioned that help us to determine these dates. First, Nahum mentions Thebes (No Amon) in Egypt falling to the Assyrians (663 B.C.) in the past tense, so it had already happened. Second, the remainder of Nahum’s prophecies came true in 612 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Nahum did not write this book as a warning or “call to repentance” for the people of Nineveh. God had already sent them the prophet Jonah 150 years earlier with His promise of what would happen if they continued in their evil ways. The people at that time had repented but now lived just as bad if not worse than they did before. The Assyrians had become absolutely brutal in their conquests (hanging the bodies of their victims on poles and putting their skin on the walls of their tents among other atrocities). Now Nahum was telling the people of Judah to not despair because God had pronounced judgment and the Assyrians would soon be getting just what they deserved.

Key Verses:

Nahum 1:7, “The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”

Nahum 1:14a. “The LORD has given a command concerning you, Nineveh: ‘You will have no descendants to bear your name.’”

Nahum 1:15a, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace!” See also Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15.

Nahum 2:13a, “’Behold I am against you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

Nahum 3:19, “Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?”

Brief Summary: Nineveh once had responded to the preaching of Jonah and turned from their evil ways to serve the Lord God. But 150 years later, Nineveh returned to idolatry, violence, and arrogance (Nahum 3:1–4). Once again God sends one of His prophets to Nineveh warning of judgment in the form of the destruction of their city and exhorting them to repentance. Sadly, the Ninevites did not heed’s Nahum’s warning, and the city was brought under the dominion of Babylon.

Foreshadowings: Paul uses shades of the imagery of Nahum 1:15 in Romans 10:15 in regard to the ministry of the Messiah and the apostles. It may also be understood of any minister of the Gospel whose business it is to “preach the Gospel of peace.” God has made peace with sinners by the blood of Christ, and has given to His people the peace that “transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The preacher’s work is also to “bring glad tidings of good things” (KJV), such as reconciliation, righteousness, pardon, life, and eternal salvation by a crucified Christ. The preaching of such a Gospel, and bringing such news, make their feet beautiful. The imagery here is of one who runs to others, eager and joyful to proclaim the Good News.

Practical Application: God is patient and slow to anger. He gives every country time to proclaim Him as their Lord. But He is not mocked. Any time a country turns away from Him to serve its own motives, He steps in with judgment. Almost 220 years ago, the United States was formed as a nation guided by principles found in the Bible. In the last 50 years that has changed, and we are turning daily in the opposite direction. As Christians it is our duty to stand up for biblical principles and scriptural truth, for Truth is our country’s only hope.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson.
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, New American Commentary by Kenneth Barker

“Why is the lack of visions and divinations considered a punishment (Micah 3:6)?”

Micah 3:6 pronounces these mysterious words as a punishment: “Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination.” Why would a lack of visions and divinations be considered a punishment?

The answer lies in identifying the audience to whom the original message was addressed. Verse 5 refers to “the prophets who lead my people astray.” These false Jewish prophets would receive punishment by receiving no visions or communications from God to relate to the people. In other words, their work would be ended, and they would be “ashamed” (verse 7).

Micah 3:5 elaborates on the extent of the prophets’ wickedness: they “cry ‘Peace’ when they have something to eat, but declare war against him who puts nothing into their mouths.” These false prophets were engaging in a type of spiritual extortion. They prophesied positive messages to those who provided them with sustenance. But, if someone refused to pay, these selfish prophets-for-hire would utter negative or even violent oracles against him. In other words, these wicked men were abusing their office, and their messages were based solely on what brought them the greatest benefit. Their messages were not from the Lord. See also verse 11.

So, God pronounces judgment. Not only would the false prophets no longer receive visions of any kind, but their message of “peace” would be proved false. The capital city would be destroyed: “Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins” (Micah 3:12).

The Law of Moses had predicted the doom of those who would claim to serve as the Lord’s prophets yet give false messages: “The prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20). Micah’s prediction reinforced the warning of the Law. Micah, a true prophet of God, spoke the truth: Judah was attacked by the Assyrians under King Sennacherib in 701 B.C. Later, in 586 B.C., Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed Jerusalem.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“In the last days, will everyone need to go to Jerusalem to worship God (Micah 4:2)?”

Micah 4:2 contains an interesting prophecy that people from around the world will come to Jerusalem to learn about God. It reads, “Many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’” Based on this verse, many have wondered if everyone will need to go to Jerusalem to worship God in the last days.

It is important to first identify when this prophecy will be fulfilled. When the Old Testament prophets speak of “the last days” (e.g., Micah 4:1), they usually refer to the tribulation period or the millennium (Deuteronomy 4:30; Ezekiel 38:16; Daniel 2:28; 10:14; Hosea 3:5). In Micah 4, the prophet shifts from the theme of judgment in the previous chapter to a theme of future blessing in Jerusalem when God Himself will rule (Micah 4:3). This would correspond with the millennial kingdom, during which the Messiah reigns from His throne in Jerusalem.

Micah 4:2 teaches that, during the millennium, people from many nations will come to “the mountain of the Lord”—a reference to Zion, or Jerusalem. People from all over the world will come to the temple (“the house of the God of Jacob”) to learn God’s Law and obey it.

The fact that people from every nation come to Jerusalem does not mean that everyone must travel to Jerusalem during the millennium. Most likely, people will be able to worship the Lord from anywhere in the world: “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

To the Jewish people who saw themselves as God’s only people, the mention of people from many nations coming to the temple is significant. God had always made Himself known to people of all backgrounds who turned to Him (such as the Ninevites who repented in Jonah 3), but He was still the “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 12:6). Micah’s prophecy highlights the fact that the millennial kingdom will consist of people of many cultures, races, and nationalities serving the King. The prediction foreshadows the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

Some say that today’s interest in Holy Land tours fulfills Micah 4:2. While a visit to Jerusalem can be an enriching and faith-building experience for believers, it does not fulfill Micah’s prophecy. It will take more than tourists and travel agents to bring in the millennium. It will take the Lord Himself coming in power and great glory (Luke 21:27) to establish His throne, comfort His people (Isaiah 51:3), and usher in worldwide peace (Micah 4:3).

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

What does the Bible mean when it refers to a “Daughter of Zion”?

Question: “What does the Bible mean when it refers to a ‘Daughter of Zion’?”

The “daughter of Zion” is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, usually in prophecy and once in poetry. “Zion” meant Jerusalem and, later, Israel as the people of God. “Daughter of Zion,” then, does not refer to a specific person. It’s a metaphor for Israel and the loving, caring, patient relationship God has with His chosen people.

As a representation of the people of Israel, the daughter of Zion is described in several different situations:

2 Kings 19:21: A people confident in the deliverance of their God. When Assyria threatened Jerusalem, King Hezekiah went to the Lord. In response, God sent Isaiah to reassure Hezekiah that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria, and God considered the threatening insult to “the virgin daughter of Zion” as a personal affront to Himself.

Isaiah 1:8: A hut, abandoned after judgment came to an evil family. Here, Isaiah compares the rebellion of Judah to a sick body in a devastated land. The daughter of Zion is left as a lone remnant—a shelter hidden in the vineyard or a hut in a cucumber field that barely escaped destruction.

Jeremiah 4:31: A woman in labor, helpless before attackers. The steadfastness of Hezekiah was rare in Judah—most kings encouraged rebellion against God instead of loyalty to God. Jeremiah warns that if the nation does not turn away from evil, God will punish them severely. And the people will be helpless against it—as helpless as a woman in labor.

Isaiah 62:11: A people awaiting salvation. After the punishment of exile, God promises restoration to Israel. He will rejoice over His chosen people again. And in verse 11, He promises the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

Micah 4:13: A bull that threshes his enemies. In verse 10, God warns that the daughter of Zion will suffer as much as a woman in labor. But in verse 13, He promises vengeance. The weak, powerless woman will become a bull with horns of iron and hoofs of bronze that will crush its enemies.

Zechariah 9:9: A land awaiting its king. This prophecy promises Israel’s enemies will be destroyed, but also speaks about a more permanent solution to the problem of sin. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Should in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Despite the consistent rebellion of the daughter of Zion against her Father, He promises to restore her and present her with a Deliverer-King in the form of Jesus.

Daughter implies that God is a loving father. He cherishes and loves His people, even while they reject Him. By using the metaphor “daughter of Zion,” God showed how He felt for the rebellious Israelites: frustrated, angry, but always with an eye to the future when the relationship would be restored, and He could once again return to them and welcome them into His arms (Zechariah 2:10).

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns.

“Is Micah 5:2 a Messianic prophecy?”

Micah 5:2 predicts, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The verse clearly speaks of a coming king in Israel, but does it predict the coming of the Messiah?

Micah 5:2 makes a couple of predictions. First, the birthplace of this future “ruler of Israel” would be Bethlehem Ephrathah. Since there were two locations known as Bethlehem at the time of Micah’s writing, the addition of Ephrathah is significant. It specifies the Bethlehem in Judah, the portion of Israel in which the capital, Jerusalem, was located. Bethlehem was considered “little,” or insignificant, among the cities of Judah, yet would serve as the birthplace of this future ruler.

Second, the coming ruler of Jewish background was one “whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.” What else could this refer to other than the Messiah? Only the Messiah fits the description of a ruler in Israel whose origin was from times past. In fact, “from ancient days” is sometimes synonymous with “eternal” (as in Habakkuk 1:12). Only the Jewish Messiah could be a ruler in Israel from eternity past.

This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the Jewish religious leaders in the first century identified Micah 5:2 as a Messianic prophecy. In Matthew 2, wise men from the East visited King Herod in Jerusalem and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod assembled all the chief priests and scribes, and “he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’” basing their answer on Micah 5:2.

Only Jesus Christ fits the Messianic claims of Micah 5:2. He was born in Bethlehem Ephrathah (Matthew 2; Luke 2:1-20). Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the ruler of Israel (John 4:25-26). He also fits the description as being “from ancient times” or eternal (John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17). No other ruler in Israel fits these requirements. Dozens of other direct prophecies in the Old Testament (some scholars cite hundreds) fit Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death.

Jesus told the Jews that the Law and the Prophets provided a clear witness that He was who He claimed to be. “These are the Scriptures that testify about me,” He said (John 5:39). Still today, those who investigate the prophecy of Micah 5:2 and other Messianic passages find compelling evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does it mean to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8)?”

One of the most popular verses among both Jews and Christians promoting social justice is Micah 6:8. It reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Many desire to know more about what this inspiring verse teaches on the issues of justice, mercy, and humility.

Micah 6 involves an imaginary conversation between the Lord and Israel. In verses 1-5 the Lord introduces His case against the disobedient people of Israel. Verses 6-7 record Israel’s response as a series of questions beginning with, “With what shall I come to the Lord?” (Micah 6:6).

Israel’s focus is on their external religious rites, and their questions show a progression from lesser to greater. First, they ask if God would be satisfied with burnt offerings of year-old calves (Micah 6:6b), offerings required in the Law of Moses. Second, they ask if they should bring “thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil” (Micah 6:7a). This is the rhetoric of hyperbole; such an offering could only be made by someone extremely wealthy or by the larger community of God’s people. Third, they ask whether they should offer their firstborn sons as a sacrifice for God. Would that be enough to cover their sin? Would God be pleased with them then?

Verse 8 follows with God’s answer, rooted in the Law of Moses: “He has told you, O man, what is good.” In other words, Israel should already have known the answer to their questions. God then says that He did not need or desire their religious rites, sacrifices, or oblations. Instead, the Lord sought Israel’s justice, mercy, and humility.

The answer to Israel’s sin problem was not more numerous or more painful sacrifices. The answer was something much deeper than any religious observance: they needed a change of heart. Without the heart, Israel’s conformity to the Law was nothing more than hypocrisy. Other prophets tried to communicate a similar message (Isaiah 1:14; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21). Unfortunately, God’s people were slow to heed the message (Matthew 12:7).

“Act justly” would have been understood by Micah’s audience as living with a sense of right and wrong. In particular, the judicial courts had a responsibility to provide equity and protect the innocent. Injustice was a problem in Israel at that time (Micah 2:1-2; 3:1-3; 6:11).

“Love mercy” contains the Hebrew word hesed, which means “loyal love” or “loving-kindness.” Along with justice, Israel was to provide mercy. Both justice and mercy are foundational to God’s character (Psalm 89:14). God expected His people to show love to their fellow man and to be loyal in their love toward Him, just as He had been loyal to them (Micah 2:8-9; 3:10-11; 6:12).

“Walk humbly” is a description of the heart’s attitude toward God. God’s people depend on Him rather than their own abilities (Micah 2:3). Instead of taking pride in what we bring to God, we humbly recognize that no amount of personal sacrifice can replace a heart committed to justice and love. Israel’s rhetorical questions had a three-part progression, and verse 8 contains a similar progression. The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly).

The message of Micah is still pertinent today. Religious rites, no matter how extravagant, can never compensate for a lack of love (1 Corinthians 13:3). External compliance to rules is not as valuable in God’s eyes as a humble heart that simply does what is right. God’s people today will continue to desire justice, mercy, and humility before the Lord.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“Why did God judge Nineveh so harshly in the book of Nahum?”

The message of Nahum concerns the impending destruction of Nineveh. The Lord’s word to the Assyrians is dire: “I am against you. . . . I will burn up your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will leave you no prey on the earth. The voices of your messengers will no longer be heard” (2:13). God was obviously angry with the Ninevites, and Nahum reveals why.

Nineveh had long been an enemy of Judah and Israel, the people of God. In 722 B.C., the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, destroying its capital, Samaria. In 701 B.C., the Assyrians nearly conquered Jerusalem, the capital of Judah.

The text of Nahum provides additional clues regarding God’s anger with the Ninevites. Nahum 3:1 says, “Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!” Nineveh was a city of violence, known for its brutal treatment of those it conquered. The Assyrians were notorious for amputating hands and feet, gouging eyes, and skinning and impaling their captives. The final verse of Nahum’s book emphasizes the violence of the Assyrians in the form of a rhetorical question: “Who has not felt your endless cruelty?” (Nahum 3:19).

Another reason for God’s anger against Nineveh was its extreme pride, implied in Nahum 3:8. The pride of Nineveh may have been due in part to its wealth and power. One account reveals, “In Sennacherib’s day the wall around Nineveh was 40 to 50 feet high. It extended for 4 kilometers along the Tigris River and for 13 kilometers around the inner city. The city wall had 15 main gates. . . . Each of the gates was guarded by stone bull statues. Both inside and outside the walls, Sennacherib created parks, a botanical garden, and a zoo. He built a water-system containing the oldest aqueduct in history at Jerwan, across the Gomel River” (Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, p. 760).

Jesus taught, “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This truth is vividly predicted and fulfilled in the case of Nineveh, whose warlike people were known for their brutal treatment of enemies. Despite the military might of Nineveh, they were no match for the God of heaven. Nineveh’s downfall was greeted as good news by Judah (Nahum 1:15) and all who had suffered under their merciless rule (Nahum 3:19).

After Nineveh’s destruction, the site was hidden for some time (see Nahum 3:11). It was not until 1842 that modern archaeologists rediscovered its location in modern-day Iraq.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“Why were infants dashed to pieces (Nahum 3:10)?”

Nahum 3:10 includes a graphic description of warfare atrocities: “She was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at the head of every street.” It’s a horrible scene of carnage.

The immediate context speaks of the defeat of the Egyptian city of Thebes by Assyria, of which Nineveh was the capital. When Thebes was defeated by Assyria in 663 B.C., the detestable acts of Nahum 3:10 took place. The Assyrians sold people into captivity and killed infants (cf. Hosea 13:16). The infants were likely killed by the Assyrians as a gratuitous act of cruelty and because the infants could not be easily exiled.

It’s important to note that God did not condone this horrific action. In fact, Nahum mentions this account as justification for God’s condemnation of Assyria. God expresses His intent to soon judge Assyria by predicting the violent destruction of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. Verses 8-13 are a warning to the Ninevites that any sense of security they felt was false; Thebes was a strong city, yet they were overthrown. Those who would hear of Nineveh’s destruction would view it as good news: “Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall” (Nahum 3:19).

Assyria had a reputation as being fierce, violent warriors. Nineveh was a city of violence (“the bloody city” in Nahum 3:1), known for its brutality toward enemies. Nahum speaks of the Assyrians’ “endless cruelty” (verse 19). One commentator observes, “The Assyrians were notorious for their cruelty that included cutting off hands, feet, ears, noses, gouging out eyes, lopping off heads, impaling bodies, and peeling the skin off living victims” (see Walter A. Maier, The Book of Nahum: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1980, p. 292).

Other places in the Old Testament also speak of the grisly deaths of infants, and each case involves a war. While such actions are unfathomable to us, the complete annihilation of all children during war was not uncommon in the ancient world. Parallels have been noted in more modern times, such as the Nazi executions of Jewish children and the genocides in Rwanda and the Sudan.

Another incident of this type took place during Jesus’ early life. In Matthew 2:16, Herod sought to destroy the young Jesus, and we read, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.”

The infants in Thebes were dashed to pieces by the armies of Assyria, yet God brought justice to those responsible. The tables were turned, and Nineveh was the recipient of similar atrocities. As God promised, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“Do we ever reach a point that we cannot be forgiven (Nahum 3:19)?”

The book of Nahum ends with a rhetorical question regarding the reason for Nineveh’s coming destruction: “Nothing can heal your wound; your injury is fatal. Everyone who hears the news about you claps his hands at your fall, for who has not felt your endless cruelty?” The statement “Nothing can heal your wound” indicates that Nineveh’s sin was unforgivable. Does this principle apply to individuals? Is there a point at which we can no longer be forgiven?

The question in this verse highlights the atrocities that Nineveh was guilty of. When God says that their “injury is fatal,” He is stressing the certainty of their demise. Nineveh will reap what they have sown (Galatians 6:7).

However, it’s important to remember that God had previously shown mercy to Nineveh when its people repented. In 760 B.C., about a century before Nahum’s prophecy, Jonah preached that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). What happened? The people turned from their sin: “And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). God spared the Nineveh of Jonah’s day, but the Nineveh of Nahum’s day rejected any opportunity they had to repent.

The Bible contains many examples of God’s compassion on those willing to trust Him and repent of their sin. Luke 15 offers three illustrations of God’s desire to redeem the lost: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In each case, the Lord rejoices over the one who comes to Him.

God offers forgiveness to all who will ask it of Him (Isaiah 1:18). First John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is those who claim to be sinless or who refuse to ask for forgiveness who miss out on God’s cleansing.

The night before Jesus died on the cross, He shared a meal with His followers. At that time, “He took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28). God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross to provide forgiveness for our sins (John 3:16).

The only point at which it is too late to be forgiven is the point of death. Hebrews 9:27 says, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” At death, believers in Christ will spend eternity with Him. Unbelievers, who have rejected God’s offer of forgiveness, will have no more opportunities to change their minds. That is why 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “Now is the day of salvation.”

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“When and how was Nineveh destroyed?”

Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was destroyed in 612 B.C. by the Medes. This was in fulfillment of the prophet Nahum’s prediction that God would completely destroy the city (Nahum 1). A number of factors combine to determine both the date and manner of Nineveh’s destruction.

During the prophet Jonah’s day, Nineveh was spared by God’s compassion in response to their repentance (Jonah 3). This happened in 760 B.C.

The book of Nahum was written after the destruction of the Egyptian city of Thebes (Nahum 3:8). That event took place in 663 B.C. when it was conquered by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. Therefore, Nineveh was still standing at that time. There is some evidence that Nahum wrote shortly after the destruction of Thebes, because Judah was still under Assyrian control during the time of his writing. This was the situation during the reign of Manasseh (697-642 B.C.) but not during the reign of Josiah (640-609 B.C.). In addition, the city of Thebes returned to power in 654 B.C., meaning that Nahum likely wrote before then. So, Nahum can be dated between 663 and 654 B.C. Therefore, Nineveh must have been destroyed after 654 B.C. but no later than 612, when the Medes are mentioned as the conquerors of the city.

An ancient account called The Fall of Nineveh Chronicle reveals an account of this time period, providing firsthand, extra-biblical documentation. The translation (with some missing text) reads as follows:

“The king of Akkad mustered his army and marched to Assyria. The king of the Medes marched towards the king of Akkad and they met one another at […]u. The king of Akkad and his army crossed the Tigris; Cyaxares had to cross the Radanu, and they marched along the bank of the Tigris. In the month Simanu [May/June], the Nth day, they encamped against Nineveh.

“From the month Simanu until the month Âbu [July/August] -for three months- they subjected the city to a heavy siege. On the Nth day of the month Âbu they inflicted a major defeat upon a great people. At that time Sin-šar-iškun, king of Assyria, died. They carried off the vast booty of the city and the temple and turned the city into a ruin heap The [lacuna] of Assyria escaped from the enemy and, to save his life, seized the feet of the king of Akkad.

“On the twentieth day of the month Ulûlu [14 September 612] Cyaxares and his army went home.” (From

Based on this account, it is clear that the siege of Nineveh came at the hands of the king of Akkad and the king of Media during the summer of 612 B.C. Three months later, the city fell. The king of Assyria died, and the city was plundered until September 14 when the invading army departed. By 605 B.C. the Assyrian Kingdom officially ended, and Babylonia was on the rise.

Despite Nineveh’s great power, the city fell just as Nahum had prophesied. It would not be until the 1800s that archaeologists would excavate portions of the ancient city. Nineveh had indeed been “hidden,” as Nahum predicted long ago (Nahum 3:11).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“When will the peace of Nahum 1:15 come?”

Nahum 1:15 predicts a future time of peace, stating, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace! . . . No more will the wicked invade [Judah].”

To discover when this time of peace will occur, we must consider the larger context of Nahum. The book of Nahum was written to communicate the pending destruction of the city of Nineveh. The prophet Nahum wrote sometime between 663 and 612 B.C. Nahum 1:1-8 introduces the oracle and highlights the majesty of God and His attributes. Verses 9-14 focus on God’s anger against Nineveh and His plans to afflict it.

Nahum 1:15 then looks back at the preceding verses and declares that the destruction of Nineveh by the Babylonians would be “good news” for Judah. Why? Nineveh was an enemy of Judah and the capital of the Assyrian Kingdom. In 722 B.C., the Assyrians had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, destroying Samaria, its capital. In 701 B.C., the Assyrians nearly conquered Jerusalem, the capital of Judah. The Assyrians were widely known for their “endless cruelty” (Nahum 3:19), leading God to condemn Nineveh to destruction.

We know from history that this destruction of Nineveh took place in 612 B.C. at the hands of the Medes. At that time, Judah was rid of one of its most dangerous enemies. The report of this news would have been considered “good” to everyone in Judah.

The last half of Nahum 1:15 says, “Celebrate your festivals, O Judah, and fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed.” Nineveh’s defeat would result in the ability of Judah to continue its annual feasts and to fulfill its vows to God in Jerusalem at the temple.

In addition, the Hebrew noun translated “peace” in Nahum 1:15 is sometimes used in reference to deliverance or freedom from enemy attack (e.g., Jeremiah 4:10; 6:14). The context of Nahum 1:15 fits this usage, connecting “peace” with the destruction of an enemy.

In the New Testament, Paul quotes part of this verse in Romans 10:15 when he writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” This does not mean that Paul believed Nahum 1:15 was a prediction of the gospel message. Instead, he used this verse to connect the preaching of the gospel with the deliverance from sin provided by God’s salvation.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

By YWAM Turner Valley

 Posted May 24, 2013

 In SBS Blog

Recently I had the opportunity to teach on Jonah and Nahum, two minor prophets with powerful messages about God’s character. When we think of Jonah, the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is “Jonah and the whale.” While Jonah’s time in the “great fish” may be the most famous part of the book of Jonah, there’s a lot more we can learn from this prophet. We can learn from his account of his attitude and actions in response to God’s call for him to go to Nineveh.

Nineveh was a major city in Assyria, the world power of both Jonah and Nahum’s day. Jonah prophesied in the mid-700s BC, a time when Assyria was not as powerful as they had been in recent years. Israel on the other hand, was in a “silver age.” Under King Jeroboam II, the nation expanded its borders and enjoyed an age of splendour that hadn’t been seen since the days of King Solomon. Jeroboam II however, was a wicked king. It was God’s mercy that allowed Israel to prosper, not the behaviour or devotion of His people. Jeroboam II led the people of Israel to commit idolatry, just as all the kings before him had, and all the kings after him would continue to do. While Judah had a handful of godly kings, Israel had one terrible king after another.

Assyria was a wicked nation that committed terrible atrocities against the people it defeated and/or controlled. Captives were led into exile with fish-hooks through their jaws. City leaders were impaled alive on poles, and some were beheaded. There are records of the Assyrians keeping track of how many they had killed by counting the heads of those they beheaded. Believing that “gods” of the cities they attacked lived in unborn children, the Assyrians would rip open pregnant women and kill their babies. This historical background really helps us to understand why Jonah was so reluctant to go to Nineveh!

Put yourself in Jonah’s shoes. Your nation has finally begun to prosper; evil Assyria seems to be experiencing a period of weakness. Surely they are getting their comeuppance, and God is blessing Israel! But…God has told you to go to Nineveh – to one of the most important cities in Assyria – and to warn them of His coming wrath against them.

It’s definitely possible that Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was afraid – afraid of what the Ninevites would do to him. Who could blame him for that? But Jonah 4 reveals the primary reason Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. After the Ninevites repented and God was merciful towards them, Jonah tells God, “I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2). Jonah then asks God to take his life from him, saying “it is better for me to die than to live” (4:3). In other words, if God is going to forgive wicked Nineveh, Jonah would rather be dead. He sees his hatred for the Assyrians as superior to God’s love for them. He sees a nation that deserves judgement, whereas God sees a people who are in spiritual darkness, and who desperately need Him.

The book of Jonah communicates a beautiful aspect of God’s character: His mercy. The fact that God would forgive the Ninevites of all the atrocities they had committed, tells us that He is willing to forgive us of every sin in our life. Jonah had a problem with this because the recipients of God’s mercy were the people his nation hated. It’s easy to thank God for His mercy when it is being showered upon us, but what about when we are reminded of His forgiveness towards anyone who turns to Him? Are we willing to thank God for His mercy, and love His character when that mercy is being afforded to a serial killer who has come to know Jesus? To someone involved in human trafficking? To a criminal who has preyed upon the most vulnerable members of society?

Fast forward a hundred years later, and we find ourselves in the time of Nahum. Nahum was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom – to Judah – but prophesied concerning Assyria. By this time, Israel (the Northern Kingdom) had been taken into exile by Assyria. In 701 BC, Sennacherib, one of Assyria’s most evil kings, had taken 46 of Judah’s cities. The people of Judah would be well-acquainted with Assyria’s wickedness. Many likely had a parent or a grandparent who had a friend or a family member who had been killed by the Assyrians. Though Nahum also prophesied concerning Nineveh, his message is different; his message is about the coming judgement on this city. The book of Nahum is filled with images of Nineveh falling by water, fire and sword (Nahum 2:6,13), and in 612 BC, that is exactly what happened, as an alliance of Babylonians and Medes destroyed the city by those means.

As we read the book of Nahum, we may feel uncomfortable. We don’t like to picture God as wrathful, as hating sin, or as bringing judgement against those who do not know Him. The important thing to remember however, is that God is always the same. The God we read of in Jonah is the same God we read of in Nahum. God has not changed – the Ninevites have. In Jonah they repent (Jonah 3:5-10). In Nahum, God is responding to centuries of unrepentant cruelty. God is both altogether merciful, and the Just Judge. He loves all people, and His heart is for the Ninevites to turn to Him (Jonah 4:11), but He is perfect in justice, and when the Ninevites do not repent, His response is judgement (Nahum 1:12-13).

What does that mean for us today? Hopefully it means that we can understand that we are living in days of mercy. The Bible tells us that when Christ returns, it will be to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). We are living in “Jonah” days – days when God longs for us to repent, and is giving us the opportunity to do so. I’ve heard it said that pain is a powerful megaphone, and sometimes God uses the pain we experience to capture our attention – to show us our need for Him, and to help us to turn to Him. These Jonah days won’t go on forever, however. The Bible tells us that the Lord will return (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and if we have not turned to Him by that time, we will not find ourselves as recipients of God’s mercy (2 Peter 3:9). Rather, we will find ourselves separated from Christ – the very epitome of destruction (Revelation 14). Hopefully this urges us on to share the Gospel with our family and friends who do not know Him.

Jonah and Nahum give us a picture of the character of God – He is both merciful and perfectly just. We do not get to pick and choose the aspects of God’s character we like the most, and create our own personal picture of who He is – that is making up our own God. To quote Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love,

A lot of people say that whatever you believe about God is fine, so long as you are sincere. But that is comparable to describing your friend in one instance as a three-hundred-pound sumo wrestler and in another as a five-foot-two, ninety-pound gymnast. No matter how sincere you are in your explanations, both descriptions of your friend simply cannot be true. The preposterous part about our doing this to God is that He already has a name, an identity. We don’t get to decide who God is. “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am’” (Exodus 3:14). We don’t change that.

We don’t get to pick and choose who God is, and while we may not be able to fully comprehend Jonah’s message of God’s mercy and Nahum’s message of God’s justice in the same thought, when we begin to pick and choose who God is “to us,” we are describing a figment of our imagination, not the God who has revealed Himself…through His Word. To quote Chan once again, “If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.”

I come away from Jonah and Nahum appreciating that God fiercely loves all people, but does not tolerate evil. Let us pray for understanding and deeper love for the character of our God, while communicating that character to those who desperately need to fall into His mercy.

Lecture 10

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The Book Habakkuk and the Book Zephaniah

Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save.”

Habakkuk 1:5, “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if I told you.”

Zephaniah 1:18, “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.”

Zephaniah 2:3, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.”

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Overview: Habakkuk

What Is the Message of the Book of Habakkuk?

Minor Prophets Habakkuk

Overview: Zephaniah

What Is the Book of Zephaniah All About?

Minor Prophets Zephaniah

Book of Habakkuk

Author: Habakkuk 1:1 identifies the Book of Habakkuk as an oracle from the Prophet Habakkuk.

Date of Writing: The Book of Habakkuk was likely written between 610 and 605 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The prophet Habakkuk decries the sins of Judah but grapples with the fact that God’s chosen people will suffer at the hands of enemies even more wicked than they. God answers Habakkuk’s questions, resulting in continuing faith in God’s wisdom, sovereignty, and salvation.

Key Verses:

Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save.”

Habakkuk 1:5, “Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if I told you.”

Habakkuk 1:12, “Oh, Lord are you not from everlasting? My God, My Holy One, we will not die.”

Habakkuk 2:2-4, “Then the Lord replied: Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation waits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and not delay. See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright – but the righteous will live by his faith.”

Habakkuk 2:20, “But the Lord is in His Holy temple; let all the earth be silent before Him.”

Habakkuk 3:2, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”

Habakkuk 3:19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights.”

Brief Summary: The Book of Habakkuk begins with Habakkuk crying out to God for an answer to why God’s chosen people are allowed to suffer in their captivity (Habakkuk 1:1-4). The Lord gives His answer to Habakkuk, essentially stating, “You wouldn’t believe it if I told you” (Habakkuk 1: 5-11). Habakkuk then follows up by saying, “Ok, you are God, but still tell me more about why this is happening” (Habakkuk 1:17-2:1). God then answers him again and gives him more information, then tells the earth to be silent before Him (Habakkuk 2:2-20). Then Habakkuk writes a prayer expressing his strong faith in God, even through these trials (Habakkuk 3:1-19).

Foreshadowings: The Apostle Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 on two different occasions (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) to reiterate the doctrine of justification by faith. The faith that is the gift of God and available through Christ is at once a faith that saves (Ephesians 2:8-9) and a faith that sustains throughout life. We attain eternal life by faith and we live the Christian life by the same faith. Unlike the “proud” in the beginning of the verse, whose soul is not right within him (NASB) and whose desires are not upright (NIV), but we who are made righteous by faith in Christ are made completely righteous because He has exchanged His perfect righteousness for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and has enabled us to live by faith.

Practical Application: The application to the reader of Habakkuk is that it is permissible to question what God is doing, although with respect and reverence. Sometimes it is not evident to us what is going on, especially if we are thrown into suffering for a period of time or if it seems our enemies are prospering while we are just barely getting by. The Book of Habakkuk affirms that God is a sovereign, omnipotent God who has all things under control. We just need to be still and know He is at work. He is who He says He is and does keep His promises. He will punish the wicked. Even when we cannot see it, He is still on the throne of the universe. We need to stay focused on this: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19). Enabling us to go on the heights is taking us to the higher places with Him where we are set apart from the world. Sometimes the way we have to go to get us there is through suffering and sorrow, but if we rest in Him and trust Him, we come out where He wants us.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson.
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, New American Commentary by Kenneth Barker

“Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans (Habakkuk 1:5-11)?”

Habakkuk 1:5-11 is a prophecy in which God relates His intention to raise up Babylon, a “ruthless” and “dreaded” nation, to achieve His purpose. This raises the question, Does God sometimes use evil to accomplish His plans?

There is an important distinction to be made between God controlling evil and God creating evil. God is not the author of sin, but He can use sinful men to attain an objective. Romans 8:28 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” “All things” includes both good and bad things. God can use struggles, heartbreaks and tragedies in ways to bring about His glory and our good. Such events, even though we don’t understand the reason for them, are part of His perfect, divine plan. If God could not control evil, He would not be God. His sovereignty demands that He be in control of everything, even “dreaded” nations such as Babylon.

At the same time, the Bible is clear that God does not sin and He performs no evil. James 1:13 teaches, “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice” (see also 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:30; and Matthew 5:48).

The problem in Habakkuk is that God was using the Babylonians (an evil people) to accomplish His will. Our wise and perfect God can and sometimes does use the sin already existing in our world to fulfill His purpose. The perfect example of this is Jesus’ crucifixion: the murder of Christ was an evil act, but through it God redeemed His elect and “disarmed the [demonic] powers and authorities” (Colossians 2:15). In Habakkuk’s day, God’s purpose was to bring judgment on Judah for their idolatry. Babylon was the instrument of His judgment (cf. Isaiah 10:5).

God’s revelation caused Habakkuk to then ask how God could use a nation wickeder than Judah to judge Judah (1:12-2:1). God’s response was a promise that He would later punish Babylon as well (2:2-20). In the end, Habakkuk could only acknowledge the Lord’s perfect wisdom; the prophet ends with a song of praise in chapter 3.

We may struggle with questions about God’s methods as Habakkuk did. How God chooses to operate is up to Him. At times, He intervenes miraculously. Other times, He works behind the scenes. And, yes, God may even allow a certain measure of freedom to evil forces in our world to bring about His design. Like Habakkuk, if we view life from God’s perspective, our response will be to worship the Lord, knowing He is in control of all things.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does it mean that the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4)?”

Habakkuk 2:4 includes the well-known statement “the righteous will live by faith.” What does this mean?

The context helps us to understand God’s intent in this passage. The whole verse reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.” “His soul” is a symbolic reference to Babylonia. This nation had become proud or “puffed up.” As a result, they were unrighteous and facing God’s judgment. In contrast, the righteous (or the “just”) would live by faith in God. By contrast, the righteous are humble in God’s eyes and will never face God’s judgment.

Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament. Paul quotes it in Romans 1:17, emphasizing the idea that righteousness by faith is for both Jews and Gentiles: “For in the gospel a righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Then, in Galatians 3:11, we read, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Here, Paul stresses that we are justified or made right before God by faith. The Law has no ability to justify anyone. As Habakkuk had recorded, people have always been saved by faith, not by works. Habakkuk 2:4 is also quoted in Hebrews 10:38.

In the third century, Rabbi Simla noted that Moses gave 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. David reduced them to eleven commands in Psalm 15; Isaiah made them six (33:14-15); Micah bound them into three (6:8); and Habakkuk condensed them all to one, namely—“The righteous shall live by faith” (from P. L. Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, #1495).

Christians are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), and we walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Only by faith in Christ are we made righteous (Romans 5:19). Paul further expounds on this truth in Galatians 2:16, saying, “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” It is Christ’s righteousness that saves us, and the only way to receive that gift is to trust in Him. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

When Habakkuk wrote, “The righteous shall live by his faith,” he was echoing a timeless truth first modeled in Abraham’s life (Genesis 15:6). The righteous man will “live” in that he will not face God’s judgment; rather, in return for his faith in God, he has been given eternal life.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does it mean that God came from Teman (Habakkuk 3:3)?”

Habakkuk 3 consists of a hymn of praise to God. Verse 3 begins a section that says, “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.” What exactly does this mean? What is the significance of God’s coming from Teman?

When Habakkuk states, “God came from Teman,” he speaks of God as appearing out of the East; that is, He is shining over His people like the rising sun. God breaks the darkness and initiates a new day. Teman was a city or region in southern Edom, to the east of Israel (Genesis 36:11, 15, 34, 42; 1 Chronicles 1:36, 45, 53; Jeremiah 49:7; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:9). Teman was also the home of one of Job’s friends (Job 22:1; 42:7, 9). Likewise, Mount Paran, a mountain opposite of Teman (Deuteronomy 33:2-4), was also east of Israel (Genesis 21:21).

The next verses in Habakkuk 3 emphasize this theme: “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise” (verses 3b-4). Here we are told explicitly that God’s coming from Teman is like the rising of the sun.

The “splendor” referred to in verse 3 is from the Hebrew word hod, associated with kingly authority (Numbers 27:20; 1 Chronicles 29:25). In this context, God’s splendor is His glory as the sovereign King, reigning over all creation and for all time.

The language in Habakkuk 3 is strikingly similar to God’s appearance at Mount Sinai. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses blesses the Israelites one final time: “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deuteronomy 33:2). Habakkuk’s use of similar phrases connects his song of praise with Moses’ blessing. Habakkuk praises God’s sovereign power and ability to provide a “second exodus” for His people—not from Egypt but from Babylon.

Habakkuk 3:3 marks a shift in Habakkuk’s hymn from request to praise. He notes God’s power in bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Because the Lord had accomplished this great work in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would deliver His people from Babylon and bring them back to their homeland once again. After the darkness of captivity, God would be the sunrise of freedom and hope.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“How can we learn to trust God like the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:17-19)?”

Despite the questions the prophet Habakkuk had concerning the evil taking place during his time, he concludes his oracle with positive words of praise. Habakkuk expresses his faith in God in a hymn: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

How can we learn to trust God in this way? A closer look at these verses reveals some concepts that help us to trust God more.

First, Habakkuk commits to praising God regardless of external circumstances. The opening of his hymn delineates a catastrophe: 1) no fruit on the fig trees, 2) no grapes growing on the vines, 3) no olives, 4) no produce of any kind, 5) a lack of sheep, and 6) a lack of cattle. After this doleful description, the prophet says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Habakkuk’s joy was not dependent on physical blessings. Even if Habakkuk suffered extreme loss, he was determined to praise God. Habakkuk remembered God’s goodness in times past and concluded God was worthy of praise. The prophet might lack olives and grapes, but he would never be without God.

Second, Habakkuk praises God specifically for salvation: “I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” God not only could save; God is salvation. Interestingly, the title “God of my salvation” is used seven times in the Old Testament. Five of these are found in the Psalms (18:26; 25:5; 27:9; 51:14; 88:1), one in Habakkuk, and the other in Micah 7:7.

Third, Habakkuk recognizes the Lord as His strength: “GOD, the Lord, is my strength.” This statement is the central focus of Habakkuk’s hymn. The theme becomes apparent when the literary structure is diagrammed as follows:

A1 “I will . . .”
A2 “I will . . .”
X “GOD, the Lord, is my strength”
B1 “he makes . . .”
B2 “he makes . . .”

After two statements of the prophet’s determination come two mentions of what God will accomplish on his behalf. In between, we find “God, the Lord, is my strength.”

The truth of God’s present strength caused Habakkuk to trust God even during the most difficult times. Like Habakkuk, we can choose to praise God even in the face of desolation. Like Habakkuk, we can praise God for the salvation He provides in Jesus Christ. And, by seeing God as our source of strength, we, like Habakkuk, can trust God’s promises.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What is the meaning of shigionoth in Habakkuk?”

The plural word shigionoth and its singular form, shiggaion, each appear in the Bible once. Habakkuk 3:1 mentions shigionoth, and the title of Psalm 7 mentions the shiggaion. Since no one really knows what the shigionoth or shiggaion is, the translators left the words untranslated, giving transliterations instead. The prophet Habakkuk introduces his closing song this way: “A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.” The ESV says, “According to Shigionoth,” instead of “On shigionoth.” The title of Psalm 7 says, “A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning Cush, a Benjamite.”

The whole book of Habakkuk is poetry, but the final chapter comprises a unique song—actually, a prayer set to music, according to Habakkuk 3:1. The shigionoth mentioned in Habakkuk 3:1 could be a reference to the content of the poem, the accompanying instrument, or to the song’s meter, its musical setting, or its tone. Most commentators think the word shigionoth carried the idea of “strong emotion,” “erratic wandering,” or “wild tumult.” Thus, the song was composed as a dithyramb (a vehement, impassioned poem).

Comparing Habakkuk 3 with Psalm 7, we find similar themes. Both songs paint a picture of dire trouble. Habakkuk 3 speaks of earthquakes, crumbling mountains, pestilence, floods, arrows, spears, and calamity; Psalm 7 describes vicious lions, trampled lives, rage, swords, flaming arrows, and violence. Both songs end with praise to the Lord for His deliverance from the surrounding trouble. And both songs mention the shiggaion or shigionoth.

David classifies his song as a shiggaion. Habakkuk says that his song should be sung in the manner of the shigionoth. As best we can tell, the tumultuous poetry of Habakkuk 3 and Psalm 7 was to be accompanied by music that fit the theme. “On shigionoth” probably meant “with impassioned triumph,” “with rapidity,” or “with abrupt changes of tune.”

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

“What does it mean that God makes our feet like the feet of a deer (Habakkuk 3:19)?”

Several places in Scripture refer to God making our feet “like hinds’ feet” (Habakkuk 3:19; 2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33, KJV). More modern translations speak of “the feet of a deer.” This metaphoric language describes the blessings the presence of God brings to a situation. A well-known book by this title explores the journey of a person who learns to overcome fear and suffering like a deer leaping over obstacles.

The deer, or hind, referenced here can also be called a gazelle, a graceful, swift, and sure-footed animal that can climb sheer rocky cliffs and never stumble or fall. In climbing, the deer can place her back feet exactly where her front feet were, thus needing only two sturdy footrests instead of four. She can scamper across what appears to be a vertical cliff, unafraid and undeterred by seemingly impassable terrain.

That is the picture the inspired writers draw for us when they describe their sure-footed reliance on the Lord in times of crisis. Habakkuk had cried out to God about the sinful condition of his nation, and he had some questions about the methods God was going to use to correct the situation. But, like the psalmists, Habakkuk did not stop with penning his frustration; he continued wrestling with his confusion until the Lord brought him to a place of resolution. Habakkuk 3:17–19 expresses the faith of the prophet in the face of troubled times:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”

When we run with hinds’ feet on high places, treading “on the heights,” we live above our circumstances. God gives us the grace, courage, and inner strength we need to press on to attain new heights and experience new vistas. With the swiftness of a deer, we can escape our enemies and gain freedom. All this is because “the Sovereign LORD is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:1).

Regardless of what others may do, we keep our eyes securely fastened on the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 12:2). We run with endurance the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1) and refuse to give up until God calls us home (Philippians 3:12–14). We watch with amazement as He accomplishes His work in and through us, and we give Him all the praise and glory (Romans 11:36; Philippians 4:20). We shake off the temptation to live for ourselves, and like a deer on a mountain slope, we step boldly into whatever God has called us to do.

In the midst of trying times, it is easy to become overwhelmed with discouragement. Habakkuk definitely lived in trying times, but his solution was to redirect his attention to the Lord. God is the Solid Rock that never fails (Psalm 144:1–2). With God’s promises as our strong foundation, we can walk in freedom and courage, as unafraid and undaunted as a deer leaping on high places.

Recommended Resource: Holman Old Testament Commentary: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah by Trent Butler

Book of Zephaniah

Author: Zephaniah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zephaniah as the Prophet Zephaniah. The name Zephaniah means “defended by God.”

Date of Writing: The book of Zephaniah was written during the reign of King Josiah, likely in the early part of his reign, between 635 and 625 BC.

Purpose of Writing: Zephaniah’s message of judgment and encouragement contains three major doctrines: 1) God is sovereign over all nations. 2) The wicked will be punished and the righteous will be vindicated on the day of judgment. 3) God blesses those who repent and trust in Him.

Key Verses:

Zephaniah 1:18, “Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD’s wrath. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.”

Zephaniah 2:3, “Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.”

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Brief Summary: Zephaniah pronounces the Lord’s judgment on the whole earth, on Judah, on the surrounding nations, on Jerusalem and on all nations. This is followed by proclamations of the Lord’s blessing on all nations and especially on the faithful remnant of His people in Judah.

Zephaniah had the courage to speak bluntly because he knew he was proclaiming the Word of the Lord. His book begins with “The word of the Lord” and ends with “says the Lord.” He knew that neither the many gods the people worshiped nor even the might of the Assyrian army could save them. God is gracious and compassionate, but when all His warnings are ignored, judgment is to be expected. God’s day of judgment is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. The prophets called it the “Day of the Lord.” They referred to various events such as the fall of Jerusalem as manifestations of God’s Day, each of which pointed toward the ultimate Day of the Lord.

Foreshadowings: The final blessings on Zion pronounced in 3:14-20 are largely unfulfilled, leading us to conclude that these are messianic prophecies that await the Second Coming of Christ to be completed. The Lord has taken away our punishment only through Christ who came to die for the sins of His people (Zephaniah 3:15; John 3:16). But Israel has not yet recognized her true Savior. This is yet to happen (Romans 11:25-27).

The promise of peace and safety for Israel, a time when their King is in their midst, will be fulfilled when Christ returns to judge the world and redeem it for Himself. Just as He ascended to heaven after His resurrection, so will He return and set up a new Jerusalem on earth (Revelation 21). At that time, all God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled.

Practical Application: With a few adjustments in names and situations, this prophet of 7th century B.C. could stand in our pulpits today and deliver the same message of judgment of the wicked and hope for the faithful. Zephaniah reminds us that God is offended by the moral and religious sins of His people. God’s people will not escape punishment when they sin willfully. Punishment may be painful, but its purpose may be redemptive rather than punitive. The inevitability of the punishment of wickedness gives comfort in a time when it seems that evil is unbridled and victorious. We have the freedom to disobey God but not the freedom to escape the consequences of that disobedience. Those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, but He does not forget them.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson.
Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah, New American Commentary by Kenneth Barker

“What is the day of the Lord?”

The phrase “day of the Lord” usually identifies events that take place at the end of history (Isaiah 7:18-25) and is often closely associated with the phrase “that day.” One key to understanding these phrases is to note that they always identify a span of time during which God personally intervenes in history, directly or indirectly, to accomplish some specific aspect of His plan.

Most people associate the day of the Lord with a period of time or a special day that will occur when God’s will and purpose for His world and for mankind will be fulfilled. Some scholars believe that the day of the Lord will be a longer period of time than a single day—a period of time when Christ will reign throughout the world before He cleanses heaven and earth in preparation for the eternal state of all mankind. Other scholars believe the day of the Lord will be an instantaneous event when Christ returns to earth to redeem His faithful believers and send unbelievers to eternal damnation.

The phrase “the day of the Lord” is used often in the Old Testament (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31; 3:14; Amos 5:18,20; Obadiah 15; Zephaniah 1:7,14; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi. 4:5) and several times in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10). It is also alluded to in other passages (Revelation 6:17; 16:14). It is also alluded to in other passages (Revelation 6:17; 16:14).

The Old Testament passages dealing with the day of the Lord often convey a sense of imminence, nearness, and expectation: “Wail, for the day of the Lord is near!” (Isaiah 13:6); “For the day is near, even the day of the Lord is near” (Ezekiel 30:3); “Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand” (Joel 2:1); “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14); “Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near” (Zephaniah 1:7). This is because the Old Testament passages referring to the day of the Lord often speak of both a near and a far fulfillment, as does much of Old Testament prophecy. Some Old Testament passages that refer to the day of the Lord describe historical judgments that have already been fulfilled in some sense (Isaiah 13:6-22; Ezekiel 30:2-19; Joel 1:15, 3:14; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18), while others refers to divine judgments that will take place toward the end of the age (Joel 2:30-32; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:1, 5).

The New Testament calls it a day of “wrath,” a day of “visitation,” and the “great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14) and refers to a still future fulfillment when God’s wrath is poured out on unbelieving Israel (Isaiah 22; Jeremiah 30:1-17; Joel 1-2; Amos 5; Zephaniah 1) and on the unbelieving world (Ezekiel 38–39; Zechariah 14). The Scriptures indicate that “the day of the Lord” will come quickly, like a thief in the night (Zephaniah 1:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:2), and therefore Christians must be watchful and ready for the coming of Christ at any moment.

Besides being a time of judgment, it will also be a time of salvation as God will deliver the remnant of Israel, fulfilling His promise that “all of Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), forgiving their sins and restoring His chosen people to the land He promised to Abraham (Isaiah 10:27; Jeremiah 30:19-31, 40; Micah 4; Zechariah 13). The final outcome of the day of the Lord will be that “the arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isaiah 2:17). The ultimate or final fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the day of the Lord will come at the end of history when God, with wondrous power, will punish evil and fulfill all His promises.

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware

“What does it mean to worship the starry host or the host of the heavens (Zephaniah 1:5)?”

Zephaniah’s opening verses include a strong judgment on Judah because of “those who bow down on the roofs to worship the starry host, those who bow down and swear by the LORD and who also swear by Molech” (Zephaniah 1:5).

To “worship the starry host” is a clear violation of God’s law in Deuteronomy 4:19. There we read, “When you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars – all the heavenly array – do not be enticed into bowing down to them.” The “starry host” includes the sun, moon, planets, and stars. These celestial bodies were worshiped by the pagan cultures of the day, but God had commanded His people to worship Him and not bow down to other gods (Exodus 20:3-4).

The Ten Commandments specifically says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above. . . . You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5). The violation of this command became a perennial problem in Judah. Zephaniah prophesied against it during the reign of King Josiah. Later, during Manasseh’s reign, we are told that the king “worshiped all the host of heaven and served them” (2 Kings 21:3).The prophet Jeremiah condemned the same practice: “The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah—all the houses on whose roofs offerings have been offered to all the host of heaven” (Jeremiah 19:13). God’s people were frequently tempted to worship heavenly bodies, and their rulers often led the way.

The apostle Paul speaks of those who worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). These created things include the stars, planets, and other heavenly objects. Today, many people seek wisdom from the stars instead of from God. Astrology, including the use of horoscopes, is simply another form of worshiping the “starry host” and should have no place in a Christian’s life. The heavens point to the majesty and glory of their Creator (Psalm 19:1-6); they are not to be the focus of worship.

Recommended Resource: Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson

“When did Moab and Ammon eventually worship the Lord (Zephaniah 2:11)?”

Zephaniah 2:11 proclaims that the people of Moab and Ammon would eventually worship the Lord. Immediately after predicting the destruction of Moab and Ammon, the prophet says, “The LORD will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land.” Has this already taken place? If so, when did it happen? If not, when will it take place?

The larger context of this section of Zephaniah details God’s judgment on the non-Jewish nations. The judgment spread in all four directions around Judah—the Philistines (to the west, 2:4-7), Moab and Ammon (to the east, 2:8-11), Ethiopia (to the south, 2:12), and Assyria (to the north, 2:13-15). Along with the judgments is a promise that people from all the nations would one day worship the Lord (cf. Malachi 1:11). We have not yet seen these nations worship the Lord. That aspect of Zephaniah’s prophecy has not yet been fulfilled and must therefore take place in the future.

The prophet predicts that Moab and Ammon will be destroyed “like Sodom and Gomorrah” (Zephaniah 2:9). Such total annihilation calls to mind the devastation that will take place in the tribulation period, referenced in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Judgment will come upon the earth, concluding with a battle at Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21). At that point, the Messiah (Jesus) will return and reign from His throne in Jerusalem for a 1,000-year time period known as the millennium (Revelation 20:1-6).

The prophet Zechariah says that, during this millennial kingdom, the nations of the world will worship the Lord Jesus: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16). This would include remnants of the ancient nations of Moab and Ammon.

The many references in Zephaniah to the “Day of the Lord” indicate a time yet to come when peace and justice will rule because Jesus Himself has taken up His rightful throne.

Recommended Resource: Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson

“What can ordinary people do about sinful religious leaders (Zephaniah 3:4)?”

In Zephaniah 3:4, the Lord specifically speaks against the sins of Judah’s religious leaders, stating, “Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law.” The problem is not confined to Zephaniah’s time. Still today, religious leaders sometimes sin and betray those they lead. What can ordinary people do when those in church authority are overtly sinful?

First, as Zephaniah illustrates, God knows the situation and will ultimately hold sinful religious leaders accountable for their sins. Numbers 32:23 warns the sinner that he can “be sure” that there will be a reckoning.

Second, we are called to forgive those who sin against us. Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Further, Jesus taught Peter to forgive above and beyond what is expected: the standard is not to forgive seven times, but “seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Whatever the situation, we must maintain a willingness to forgive and not hold grudges.

Third, all religious leaders must be held accountable for their actions. Paul told Timothy that, if an accusation against a church leader is confirmed (1 Timothy 5:19), then steps must be taken to deal with the sin. “Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (1 Timothy 5:20). In cases where church leaders are found guilty of sinful actions, the local church is to call out the transgressor and condemn the sin publicly. Leaders are not above the law, and accountability is important.

Fourth, sometimes personal confrontation is necessary when a religious leader sins. The apostle Paul once had to confront Peter about his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:14). In this case, Peter changed his actions, leading to a better situation for all involved. Positive change, including repentance, is the goal in such cases.

Finally, it must be noted that if a religious leader is involved in criminal activity of any kind, it is the duty and responsibility of those aware of the crime to report it. There is no justification for cover-ups or delays in reporting a crime.

Recommended Resource: Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson

“What does it mean that God will rejoice over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17)?”

Zephaniah 3:17 includes an interesting description of God singing over people: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Two important observations regarding this passage: first, singing represents God’s joy. The Hebrew phrase translated “he will rejoice over you with singing” can also be translated literally as “he rejoices over you with a shout of joy.”

Second, God’s singing parallels the singing of His people in Jerusalem. “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!” (verse 14). This unit of poetry begins with the people of Jerusalem singing praise to God and ends with God singing over His people. God rejoices with His people, and He expresses joy when His people praise Him.

The question then is, why is God so joyful? This passage of Zephaniah speaks of a future time when God has ended His judgment upon Israel. All of their enemies have been destroyed, and Israel is entering a time of safety and blessing (verses 8, 15, 19). Zephaniah is speaking of the future millennial kingdom when the Messiah (Jesus) will reign with His people in Jerusalem (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 20:1–6).

The word picture in Zephaniah 3:17 is full of emotion. God the Father is the One who holds His daughter Jerusalem and sings joyfully in her presence. Just as a loving parent cradles a child and sings out of love, so God’s song over His people is born of His great love. After a time of hardship, our loving Lord dries His people’s tears, comforts their hearts, and welcomes them to a new world.

Finally, Jesus also taught in the New Testament that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Whether or not God Himself sings in this passage is not made clear, but it is clear there is rejoicing in God’s presence when those who are lost repent and are made right with God (Ephesians 2:8–9; John 3:16).

Recommended Resource: Nahum, Habakkuk, & Zephaniah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson

“Who was Baal?”

Baal was the name of the supreme god worshiped in ancient Canaan and Phoenicia. The practice of Baal worship infiltrated Jewish religious life during the time of the Judges (Judges 3:7), became widespread in Israel during the reign of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31-33) and also affected Judah (2 Chronicles 28:1-2). The word baal means “lord”; the plural is baalim. In general, Baal was a fertility god who was believed to enable the earth to produce crops and people to produce children. Different regions worshiped Baal in different ways, and Baal proved to be a highly adaptable god. Various locales emphasized one or another of his attributes and developed special “denominations” of Baalism. Baal of Peor (Numbers 25:3) and Baal-Berith (Judges 8:33) are two examples of such localized deities.

According to Canaanite mythology, Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld. Baal’s sisters/consorts were Ashtoreth, a fertility goddess associated with the stars, and Anath, a goddess of love and war. The Canaanites worshiped Baal as the sun god and as the storm god—he is usually depicted holding a lightning bolt—who defeated enemies and produced crops. They also worshiped him as a fertility god who provided children. Baal worship was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice, usually the firstborn of the one making the sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:5). The priests of Baal appealed to their god in rites of wild abandon which included loud, ecstatic cries and self-inflicted injury (1 Kings 18:28).

Before the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, the Lord God warned against worshiping Canaan’s gods (Deuteronomy 6:14-15), but Israel turned to idolatry anyway. During the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, at the height of Baal worship in Israel, God directly confronted the paganism through His prophet Elijah. First, God showed that He, not Baal, controlled the rain by sending a drought lasting three-and-one-half years (1 Kings 17:1). Then Elijah called for a showdown on Mt. Carmel to prove once and for all who the true God was. All day long, 450 prophets of Baal called on their god to send fire from heaven—surely an easy task for a god associated with lightning bolts—but “there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29). After Baal’s prophets gave up, Elijah prayed a simple prayer, and God answered immediately with fire from heaven. The evidence was overwhelming, and the people “fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’” (verse 39).

In Matthew 12:27, Jesus calls Satan “Beelzebub,” linking the devil to Baal-Zebub, a Philistine deity (2 Kings 1:2). The Baalim of the Old Testament were nothing more than demons masquerading as gods, and all idolatry is ultimately devil-worship (1 Corinthians 10:20).Recommended Resource: The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible by Geisler & Holden

Lecture 11

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

Book Haggai and the Book Zachariah and the Book Malacchi

This lesson wants to provide an introduction to the prophetic book of Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.. We want to introduce the historical background, origin, authorship, the historical context, structure, the theological message and specific character and a New Testament perspective on Haggai, Zachariah and Malachi.

Haggai 1:5-6, “Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'”

Zechariah 1:3, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Zechariah 7:13, “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty. It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.”

Overview: Haggai

Overview: Zechariah

Overview: Malachi

David Pawson “Unlocking the Bible” – Zechariah Pt2 – on 17th Jan, 2015

David Pawson “Unlocking the Bible” – Zechariah Pt1 – on 10th Jan, 2015

Unlocking the Old Testament Part 59 – Malachi 1

Unlocking the Old Testament Part 60 – Malachi 2

Book of Haggai

Author: Haggai 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Haggai as the Prophet Haggai.

Date of Writing: The Book of Haggai was written in approximately 520 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Haggai sought to challenge the people of God concerning their priorities. He called them to reverence and glorify God by building the Temple in spite of local and official opposition. Haggai called them not to be discouraged because this Temple would not be quite as richly decorated as Solomon’s. He exhorted them to turn from the uncleanness of their ways and to trust in God’s sovereign power. The Book of Haggai is a reminder of the problems the people of God faced at this time, how the people courageously trusted in God and how God provided for their needs.

Key Verses:

Haggai 1:4, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”

Haggai 1:5-6, “Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.'”

Haggai 2:9, “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Will the people of God reconsider their priorities, take courage, and act on the basis of God’s promises? God sought to warn the people to heed His words. Not only did God warn them, but He also offered promises through His servant Haggai to motivate them to follow Him. Because the people of God reversed their priorities and failed to put God in first place in their lives, Judah was sent into Babylonian exile. In response to Daniel’s prayer and in fulfillment of God’s promises, God directed Cyrus the Persian king to allow the Jews in exile to go back to Jerusalem. A group of Jews returned to their land with great joy, put God first in their lives, worshiped Him and began to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem without the aid of the local people who lived in Israel. Their courageous faith was met with opposition from the local people as well as the Persian government for approximately 15 years.

Foreshadowings: As with most of the books of the minor prophets, Haggai ends with promises of restoration and blessing. In the last verse, Haggai 2:23, God uses a distinctly messianic title in reference to Zerubbabel, “My Servant” (Compare 2 Samuel 3:18; 1 Kings 11:34; Isaiah 42:1–9; Ezekiel 37:24,25). Through Haggai, God promises to make him like a signet ring, which was a symbol of honor, authority, and power, somewhat like a king’s scepter used to seal letters and decrees. Zerubbabel, as God’s signet ring, represents the house of David and the resumption of the messianic line interrupted by the Exile. Zerubbabel reestablished the Davidic line of kings which would culminate in the millennial reign of Christ. Zerubbabel appears in the line of Christ on both Joseph’s side (Matt. 1:12) and Mary’s side (Luke 3:27).

Practical Application: The Book of Haggai draws attention to common problems most people face even today. Haggai asks us 1) to examine our priorities to see if we are more interested in our own pleasures than doing the work of God; 2) to reject a defeatist attitude when we run into opposition or discouraging circumstances; 3) to confess our failures and seek to live pure lives before God; 4) to act courageously for God because we have the assurance that He is with us always and is in full control of our circumstances; and 5) to rest secure in God’s hands knowing that He will abundantly bless us as we faithfully serve Him.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Haggai and Malachi, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Pieter Verhoef.
Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Why were the Israelites not rebuilding the temple (Haggai 1:2)?”

After a brief introduction, Haggai begins his prophecy by declaring, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD” (Haggai 1:2). Why were the Israelites not rebuilding the temple?

During his first year as king of Persia, in 538 B.C., Cyrus issued an edict allowing the Jews to return from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple (Ezra 1:1-4). The altar was repaired, and the foundation of the temple probably began sometime in 537 B.C. Then Samaritan opposition brought construction to a halt in 536 B.C. Ezra 4:24 notes, “Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” The temple project languished for 16 years, until 520 B.C.

Therefore, originally, the Jews stopped rebuilding the temple due to opposition from the neighboring Samaritans. But other reasons crept in. At the time of Haggai’s prophecies, some Jews simply said that the timing was not right (Haggai 1:2). Yet the time was right for them to build their own homes. In fact, Haggai rebukes the people for their concern for their own houses while neglecting God’s house.

Haggai taught that God was sending His judgment because of the Jews’ neglect of the temple of the Lord. Their harvest had failed, and their finances were not blessed: “He who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6). No matter how hard the people worked, their food, drink, and finances were not adequate. Haggai said that their needs would only be met when they obeyed God and rebuilt the temple (Haggai 1:7-11).

Together with the prophet Zechariah (Ezra 5:1), Haggai prompted the restart of the temple building project (Ezra 5:2). Once God’s people were back on track, the temple was soon completed, on March 12, 515 B.C. (Ezra 6:13-15). This fulfilled Jeremiah’s prediction of a 70-year captivity (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10) that lasted from Nebuchadnezzar’s burning of the temple in the fifth month of 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:8-9) until the new temple’s reopening in the twelfth month of 515 B.C.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Is it wrong to live in nice houses (Haggai 1:4)?”

Haggai’s prophecy condemned the Jewish people for living in nice homes, asking, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4). Some have understood the prophet’s question as teaching against Christians having nice homes. Is it wrong to live in nice houses?

To answer this, we must look at the original context of Haggai’s condemnation. The Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the temple. Due to Samaritan opposition, the project was abandoned, and after 16 years God’s temple was still not rebuilt. Instead of working on the temple, the Jewish people built themselves “paneled houses”; panels were only used in the temple (1 Kings 6:9) and royal palace (2 Kings 7:3, 7).

The Jews had lost sight of the original plan. The temple was standing unfinished while the people built luxury homes for themselves. God sent Haggai to get the people back on track. At the prophet’s prompting, the people began working on the temple once again. They completed the task in 515 B.C.

The application for us today is that we must place God’s will above our own. In the case of the Jewish people, their self-focus involved neglecting God’s temple (and therefore worship in the temple) while focusing on their own homes. There is nothing wrong with living in a nice home, but there is something wrong with neglecting God’s priorities to pursue our own. First things first, and honoring God is more important than houses or any other material thing.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Does God use frustrations in life to awaken and/or punish us (Haggai 1:6, 9)?”

Haggai 1 contains two verses that clearly state that the sinful lifestyles of the Jewish people resulted in punishment or a lack of blessing from God. Verse 6 says, “You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

Verse 9 adds, “‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.’” In both verses, judgment was the result of disobeying the Lord. Is this true in our lives today?

The biblical answer is that there are some times when our struggles are the result of our sin, but not always. In fact, persecution or suffering can sometimes be the product of serving God. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy from a Roman jail, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

In addition, suffering sometimes serves as part of God’s plan for our lives. God said regarding the apostle Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). James 1:2-4 teaches us to consider it joy when we encounter trials: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The result of persevering through difficulties is spiritual maturity.

However, there are cases in which we may suffer due to our sin. God does discipline His wayward children (Hebrews 12:6). Acts 5 contains the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who died as the result of their deception, even though they were part of the church. Paul said that some of the Corinthians had been sick and a few had even died due to their sin when partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:30).

The reasons we suffer are varied. It is unwise to jump to conclusions when the reason for a particular trouble is unclear. For example, sometimes people claim that a certain natural disaster is a judgment from God on a nation or a city due to its sinfulness. However, God does not tell us why natural disasters occur when and where they do. Rather than make such judgments, the appropriate Christian responses are to empathize with those affected (Romans 12:15) and to help meet the needs (Luke 10:25-37).

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Who is the desired of all nations (Haggai 2:7)?”

In Haggai 2:7 the Lord says, “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory.” The King James Version uses the phrase “the desire of all nations.” Who or what is this object of desire?

Because of the KJV translation, many have taken this verse as a reference to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. This interpretation is given wider circulation every Christmas season in the carol “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” One line of that song states, “Come, Desire of Nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home.” The “Desire of Nations” in Charles Wesley’s hymn is clearly speaking of Jesus as Messiah.

However, the Hebrew word khemdah is a collective singular, meaning the idea expressed is plural. The better translation is “desired” or “what is desired.” Haggai 2:8 provides the parallel that identifies these desired objects: “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” The desired objects are most likely earthly treasures, not the coming Messiah.

Other translations render the Hebrew word as “the wealth” (NASB, CEB), “the precious things” (ASV), “the treasure” (NRSV), and “the treasures” (ESV, CEV). The idea is that the riches of all nations will be brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

Haggai 2:9 says, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former.” The former glory refers to that of Solomon’s temple, which was an opulent structure. Haggai predicts a temple that will be even more glorious than Solomon’s: the latter glory would be greater due to the wealth of the nations pouring in.

When will this happen? The beginning of verse 7 helps identify this future occasion. The Lord says it will happen when He “shakes all nations”; that is, after a time of judgment on the world. God has shaken nations in the past (Psalm 99:1; Isaiah 64:2; Habakkuk 3:6), and He will do so again when Jesus Christ returns to the earth (Joel 3:16; Matthew 24:30).

Hebrews 12:26 cites Haggai 2:7, followed by an explanation that, after this “shaking,” believers will receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This is a clear reference to the future millennial kingdom that Jesus will establish when He returns at the end of seven years of tribulation. Therefore, this portion of Haggai’s prediction is yet unfulfilled.

Some interpreters suggest that the text may concern both the Messiah and earthly riches. In the end, what is desired of the nations will come: a Savior, the Messiah, and tribute will be paid to Him during His millennial reign.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“What does it mean that Zerubbabel was the LORD’s signet ring (Haggai 2:23)?”

In Haggai 2:23 we read, “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.’” What did God mean when He said Zerubbabel was His signet ring?

Ancient kings used signet rings to designate authority, honor, or ownership. A signet contained an emblem unique to the king. Official documents were sealed with a dollop of soft wax impressed with the king’s signet, usually kept on a ring on his finger. Such a seal certified the document as genuine, much like a notary public’s stamp today. In 1 Kings 21:8, the evil Queen Jezebel took King Ahab’s signet ring and “wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal.” The ring’s stamp gave her letters the king’s authority. In Daniel 6:17, a signet ring was used to seal a stone covering a lions’ den: “A stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.” A royal signet ring is also featured in Genesis 41:41-43 and Esther 8:8.

It is important to understand who Zerubbabel is. He is the governor of the rebuilt Jerusalem and is himself of royal blood, being a descendant of David and the grandson of Judah’s King Jehoiachin. Years earlier, Jehoiachin had lost his throne when he was deported to Babylon; in fact, God pictured Jehoiachin as a signet ring being removed from God’s finger (Jeremiah 22:24). Now, God calls Zerubbabel the “signet ring,” but this time it won’t be removed.

In Haggai’s prophecy, God is giving Zerubbabel encouragement and hope. The governor is “chosen” for a unique and noble purpose. As God’s signet ring, Zerubbabel is given a place of honor and authority. God is reinstating the Davidic line and renewing His covenant with David. Judah still has a future as they look forward to the coming Son of David, the Messiah, who would one day “overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms” (Haggai 2:22).

Zerubbabel is also called “my servant.” This title was often a Messianic reference in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 3:18; 1 Kings 11:34; Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12; Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25). The triad of servant, son, and signet ring creates a special combination of encouragement given to few in Scripture. Zerubbabel was an important leader involved in the reconstruction of the Jewish temple. As God’s “signet ring,” Zerubbabel becomes a picture of the future Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will establish His people in the Promised Land, construct an even grander temple (Zechariah 6:12-13), and lead the righteous in never-ending worship.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

Book of Zechariah

Author: Zechariah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zechariah as the Prophet Zechariah.

Date of Writing: The Book of Zechariah was likely written in two primary segments, between 520 and 470 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: Zechariah emphasized that God has used His prophets to teach, warn and correct His people. Unfortunately, they refused to listen. Their sin brought God’s punishment. The book also bears evidence that even prophecy could be corrupted. History shows that in this period prophecy fell into disfavor among the Jews, leading to the period between the Testaments when no lasting prophetic voice spoke to God’s people.

Key Verses:

Zechariah 1:3, “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Zechariah 7:13, “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Zechariah 13:9, “This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.'”

Brief Summary: The Book of Zechariah teaches that salvation may be obtained by all. The last chapter depicts peoples from all over the world coming to worship God, who desires that all people follow Him. This is not the doctrine of universalism, i.e., that all people would be saved because it is God’s nature to save. Rather, the book teaches that God desires that all people worship Him and accepts those who do, regardless of their national or political expressions. Finally, Zechariah preached that God is sovereign over this world, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding. His visions of the future indicate that God sees all that will happen. The depictions of God’s intervention in the world teach that ultimately He will bring human events to the end He chooses. He does not eliminate the individual’s freedom to follow God or rebel, but holds people responsible for the choices they make. In the last chapter, even the forces of nature respond to God’s control.

Foreshadowings: Prophecies about Jesus Christ and the messianic era abound in Zechariah. From the promise that Messiah would come and dwell in our midst (Zechariah 2:10-12; Matthew 1:23) to the symbolism of the Branch and the Stone (Zechariah 3:8-9, 6:12-13; Isaiah 11:1; Luke 20:17-18) to the promise of His Second Coming where they who pierced Him will look upon Him and mourn (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:33-37), Christ is the theme of the Book of Zechariah. Jesus is the Savior of Israel, a fountain whose blood covers the sins of all who come to Him for salvation (Zechariah 13:1; 1 John 1:7).

Practical Application: God expects sincere worship and moral living of us today. Zechariah’s example of breaking through national prejudice reminds us to reach out into all areas of our society. We must extend God’s invitation of salvation to people of all national origins, languages, races and cultures. That salvation is only available through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, who died in our place to atone for sin. But if we reject that sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice through which we can be reconciled to God. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12). There is no time to lose; today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Who was the prophet Zechariah in the Bible?”

The prophet Zechariah is just one of over thirty men named Zechariah in the Old Testament. His name means “Yahweh has remembered,” which might also be a good summary of the prophetic work that bears his name. We know little about Zechariah personally except that he was a priest as well as a prophet and was a contemporary of Zerubbabel and the prophet Haggai.

Zechariah 1:1 introduces him as the son of Berekiah, the grandson of Iddo. However, Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 identify him as the son of Iddo. This is not a contradiction, as son can simply mean “descendant.” According to Nehemiah 12:4, Zechariah’s grandfather Iddo returned with Zerubbabel from exile in Babylon. Nehemiah 12:16 lists Zechariah as the head of the priestly family of Iddo. His ministry was among those who returned from the exile and their descendants as they resettled the land. Zechariah calls them to repentance and spiritual renewal in a time when they seemed to be despairing, spiritually apathetic, and tempted to continue some of the sins of their forefathers before the exile. The prophecies in the book of Zechariah cover about two years’ time, but it appears that Zechariah continued to have a ministry among the people until the temple was rebuilt, even though no prophecies were recorded from that time period (Ezra 5:1–2).

The Old Testament gives us no indication about how Zechariah might have died. However, in Matthew 23:34–36, Jesus mentions Zechariah in His condemnation of the Jewish leadership of His time: “I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.” This seems to be an obvious reference to the prophet Zechariah.

Some scholars assume that Jesus was referencing another Zechariah, who, 50 years prior to the prophet Zechariah, was also killed in the temple environs. This other Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, denounced the rulers for their sin, so “they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple” (2 Chronicles 24:21). Since this Zechariah is the last martyr mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (as the book we know as 2 Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew arrangement), many think that Jesus must be referring to this Zechariah (they explain Jesus’ mention of “the son of Berekiah” as a reference to a grandfather). But it is much more natural to assume that Jesus did indeed refer to Zechariah the prophet, since Jesus specifies that he is the “son of Berekiah.” The two martyrs Jesus mentions in Matthew 23, Abel and Zechariah, are the first and last martyrs, chronologically, in the Old Testament period.

Although the Old Testament does not tell us how Zechariah, son of Berekiah, died, nothing in the Old Testament record contradicts what Jesus says in Matthew 23. In fact, there is a Jewish tradition known in Jesus’ time that Zechariah, son of Berekiah, was indeed murdered in the temple. The fact that two prophets were killed in the same place is not surprising, and that they were both named Zechariah should not be surprising, either, given the commonness of the name. Would we find it surprising today if two pastors, separated by 50 years, were both named John and both died under similar circumstances?

Apparently, Zechariah the prophet continued to minister to the Jewish people, support their task of rebuilding the temple, and challenge their spiritual condition until the temple was completed. At some time after Zerubbabel’s temple was finished, Zechariah continued to ruffle feathers until some of his hearers could take it no longer and killed him in the very temple that he had urged the people to complete.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“What are the meanings of the various visions in the book of Zechariah?”

In Zechariah 1:7–6:8, the prophet Zechariah receives eight visions in one busy night:

1. The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17)
2. The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21)
3. The surveyor (2:1-13)
4. The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10)
5. The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14)
6. The flying scroll (5:1-4)
7. The woman in the basket (5:5-11)
8. The four chariots (6:1-8)

Zechariah begins his book with a strong call for Israel to repent (1:1-6). This theme of repentance is developed more fully through the subsequent eight visions. In general, these visions speak of God’s plans for Israel and especially for Jerusalem and the temple. Another major theme is the coming of the future Messiah. The prophet also had a mission of encouraging the post-exilic Jews to continue their work to rebuild the temple.

Here is a brief look at each of these divine visions:

1. The horseman among the myrtle trees (1:7-17): Zechariah sees a man and horses among the trees. The man explains that they had gone throughout the whole earth and found peace. An angel then tells the prophet that God still loved Israel and would restore Jerusalem. Verse 17 summarizes: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”

2. The four horns and four craftsmen (1:18-21): Zechariah is shown four horns and four craftsmen. The angel tells him that the horns are four kingdoms that opposed Israel (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia) and the craftsmen are coming to “throw down these horns”; i.e., God would defeat Israel’s enemies.

3. The surveyor (2:1-13): Zechariah sees a man holding a measuring line. When the prophet asks the man where he is going, the man says he is going to measure the city of Jerusalem. This vision represents God’s promise that Jerusalem will be expanded and its people will one day live in safety as the Lord judges Israel’s enemies.

4. The vision of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10): Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing in filthy clothes; he is before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan stands to the side. Satan is rebuked, and Joshua is given rich, clean clothes. God Himself explains the vision: Joshua will be blessed in his service to the Lord. The vision is also symbolic of Israel’s restoration as God’s “priestly” nation (cf. Exodus 19:6). This vision of Joshua ends with a prediction of the ultimate high priest—the coming Messiah, symbolized by a Branch and an all-seeing Stone.

5. The golden lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14): An angel shows Zechariah a golden lampstand being fed oil from two olive trees. The two olive trees are symbolic of Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest. The golden lampstand represents the temple and temple-worshiping community. God was making the point that He would once again work through His people to lay the foundation of the temple and finish the work.

6. The flying scroll (5:1-4): Zechariah sees a large scroll, written on both sides, flying over the whole land. This vision speaks of God’s judgment upon those who disobeyed His law.

7. The woman in the basket (5:5-11): The angel shows the prophet a basket that could hold an ephah (three-fifths of a bushel). On the basket is a lead cover. The angel opens the basket to reveal a woman sitting inside. The angel says, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land,” and seals the basket again with the heavy lid. Two other women appear with stork-like wings; they pick up the basket and carry it to Babylon. This strange vision pictures suppressed wickedness to be banished to Babylon where it would eventually be freed (cf. Revelation 17).

8. The four chariots (6:1-8): Zechariah sees four horses of different colors pulling four chariots. They quickly run through the entire earth, with the result that God’s Spirit has “rest.” This vision represents a judgment upon the enemies of Israel. After the judgment, God’s wrath will be appeased, and “rest” ensues. This final vision brings the series of visions full circle: the first vision had pictured these horses at the end of their mission. A similar vision of judgment, also using the imagery of horses, is found in Revelation 6:1-8.

The two middle visions, numbers 4 and 5, emphasize God’s blessing. As Israel returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple, they will find God’s favor. The work will be accomplished, “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” (4:6).

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“What does the Bible mean when it refers to the four winds?”

Wind is frequently used in the Bible as a metaphor for some spiritual truth (e.g., Psalm 78:39 and Jeremiah 22:22). This holds true when the Bible refers to the “four winds.” The phrase “four winds” is used principally to describe the whole of the earth or heaven. The “four winds” encompass all directions or the “four corners of the earth”: north, south, east, and west (Jeremiah 49:36; Matthew 24:31).

Different translations give different renderings. For example, in Zechariah 6:5, the ESV gives “the four winds of heaven,” but the NIV translates it as “the four spirits of heaven.” The discrepancy is understandable, since the Hebrew word for “wind” can also mean “spirit.” Hebrews 1:7 says God makes “his angels winds” (ESV), or “spirits” (NIV).

It should be noted, when the phrase “four winds” is mentioned in the Bible, it’s usually in reference to some remarkable, unusual, or devastating event. These events are being reported by some of the Lord’s prophets, most often in the form of a vision (Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; Zechariah 2:6).

The “four winds” in Revelation 7:1 are one example of the phrase being used in the context of judgment: “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” This use of the “four winds” is different than other references because the winds are being held back rather than being sent forth. The holding back of the four winds represents the whole theme of Revelation 7, which is a worshipful respite from the outpouring of God’s judgments. The four winds that had previously represented destruction and affliction on the earth now serve as the most moving and hope-filled promise from God for the protection of His people: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God” (verse 3), “and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (verse 17).

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware

“Who was the Joshua in Zechariah 3:1-10?”

Joshua is mentioned as the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-10, but who exactly was he?

First, a disambiguation: the Joshua mentioned in Zechariah is a different person from the Joshua whose name is used as the title of the biblical book of Joshua. That Joshua was the assistant to Moses who led Israel across the Jordan River and led their conquest of the Promised Land in 1400 B.C.

The Joshua of Zechariah 3 was a Levite and descendant of Aaron in post-exilic Jerusalem in approximately 538 B.C. Joshua’s name also appears as “Jeshua” and is listed as one of the first of those returning from Babylon in Nehemiah 7:7: “They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah. . . .”

The prophet Haggai also refers to the high priest Joshua: “In the second year of Darius the king [537 B.C.], in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Haggai 1:1).

Joshua would soon help rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:1-2). God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to communicate His command to rebuild the temple and encourage the people in their work. Joshua served as the spiritual leader and high priest who supported the effort, and Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah, also involved in the work.

As the first high priest in the rebuilt Jerusalem, Joshua played a significant historical role and was a precursor to Ezra, who came to Jerusalem during the second wave of returning exiles.

God told the prophet Zechariah to place a crown on Joshua’s head: “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak” (Zechariah 6:11). Joshua was already the high priest, and the prophet was to symbolically crown him king. The coronation was to serve as an encouragement to Joshua in his work of rebuilding the temple. Also, it was a visual prophecy of the future Messiah—who would be both high priest (Hebrews 6:20) and king (Matthew 27:11). Significantly, the name “Joshua” is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name “Jesus.” Thus, the priest-king Joshua was a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, and the similarity extended even to his name.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Why is wickedness portrayed as a woman in Zechariah 5:7-8?”

One of the prophet Zechariah’s visions is of a measuring basket with a lead cover. In Zechariah 5:7-8 he writes, “Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! [The angel] said, ‘This is wickedness,’ and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth.” Why would God use a woman to portray wickedness in this vision?

Here are a couple of things to consider: first, the Hebrew word translated “wickedness” is a feminine noun. As such, using feminine imagery throughout this section would be appropriate, from a purely grammatical standpoint. While the English language does not typically speak of non-living objects as male or female, other languages often do. For example, we would refer to “evil” as an “it”: “Evil, it is a negative thing.” In Spanish, however, evil is a masculine noun, el mal, and would be referred to as “he”: “Evil, he is a negative thing.” Likewise, in Hebrew, wickedness, is a feminine noun, referred to as “she.”

Second, the use of “woman” in verse 7 parallels the mention of “two women” in verse 9. The woman in the basket represented widespread wickedness (verse 6); after the prophet sees what’s inside, two women pick up the basket and fly away with it to Babylonia, where it finds a home (5:11).

The basket’s destination also gives us a clue as to the presence of a woman in Zechariah’s vision: Babylon is the name of the evil world system in the final days. Revelation 17 pictures this system as a woman, called “the great prostitute” (verse 1). So, the woman in Zechariah’s vision is let out of the basket in order to ride the scarlet beast in John’s vision. In other words, the wickedness that was previously kept in check will be unconfined and wreaking havoc in the last days.

In summary, the entity in the basket is a woman for grammatical reasons and also for consistency with later prophecies. Other passages symbolize worldwide sin with similar imagery; for example, Revelation pictures the spiritual adultery of the last days as a prostitute. Thus, Zechariah’s prophecy dovetails nicely with John’s apocalyptic vision of the future.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“What does the Bible mean when it refers to a ‘Daughter of Zion’?”

The “daughter of Zion” is mentioned several times in the Old Testament, usually in prophecy and once in poetry. “Zion” meant Jerusalem and, later, Israel as the people of God. “Daughter of Zion,” then, does not refer to a specific person. It’s a metaphor for Israel and the loving, caring, patient relationship God has with His chosen people.

As a representation of the people of Israel, the daughter of Zion is described in several different situations:

2 Kings 19:21: A people confident in the deliverance of their God. When Assyria threatened Jerusalem, King Hezekiah went to the Lord. In response, God sent Isaiah to reassure Hezekiah that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria, and God considered the threatening insult to “the virgin daughter of Zion” as a personal affront to Himself.

Isaiah 1:8: A hut, abandoned after judgment came to an evil family. Here, Isaiah compares the rebellion of Judah to a sick body in a devastated land. The daughter of Zion is left as a lone remnant—a shelter hidden in the vineyard or a hut in a cucumber field that barely escaped destruction.

Jeremiah 4:31: A woman in labor, helpless before attackers. The steadfastness of Hezekiah was rare in Judah—most kings encouraged rebellion against God instead of loyalty to God. Jeremiah warns that if the nation does not turn away from evil, God will punish them severely. And the people will be helpless against it—as helpless as a woman in labor.

Isaiah 62:11: A people awaiting salvation. After the punishment of exile, God promises restoration to Israel. He will rejoice over His chosen people again. And in verse 11, He promises the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

Micah 4:13: A bull that threshes his enemies. In verse 10, God warns that the daughter of Zion will suffer as much as a woman in labor. But in verse 13, He promises vengeance. The weak, powerless woman will become a bull with horns of iron and hoofs of bronze that will crush its enemies.

Zechariah 9:9: A land awaiting its king. This prophecy promises Israel’s enemies will be destroyed, but also speaks about a more permanent solution to the problem of sin. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Should in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Despite the consistent rebellion of the daughter of Zion against her Father, He promises to restore her and present her with a Deliverer-King in the form of Jesus.

Daughter implies that God is a loving father. He cherishes and loves His people, even while they reject Him. By using the metaphor “daughter of Zion,” God showed how He felt for the rebellious Israelites: frustrated, angry, but always with an eye to the future when the relationship would be restored, and He could once again return to them and welcome them into His arms (Zechariah 2:10).

“Why would a king ride a donkey instead of a warhorse (Zechariah 9:9-10)?”

Many have wondered why the king mentioned in Zechariah 9:9-10 would ride a donkey into Jerusalem rather than a warhorse. It seems an odd choice for royalty. Kings ride chargers, don’t they?

In the ancient Middle Eastern world, leaders rode horses if they rode to war, but donkeys if they came in peace. First Kings 1:33 mentions Solomon riding a donkey on the day he was recognized as the new king of Israel. Other instances of leaders riding donkeys are Judges 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; and 2 Samuel 16:2.

The mention of a donkey in Zechariah 9:9-10 fits the description of a king who would be “righteous and having salvation, gentle.” Rather than riding to conquer, this king would enter in peace.

Zechariah 9:10 highlights this peace: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Note the many details symbolic of peace:
– “Take away the chariots”: an end to the main vehicle of war.
– “Take away . . . the war-horses”: no need for horses used in war.
– “The battle bow will be broken”: no need for bows or arrows for fighting.
– “He will proclaim peace to the nations”: His message will be one of reconciliation.
– “His rule shall be from sea to sea”: the King will control extended territory with no enemies of concern.

Jesus fulfills this prophecy of Zechariah. The worldwide peace proclaimed by this humble King will be a fulfillment of the angels’ song in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (NKJV). Significantly, Jacob’s blessing on his son Judah includes a reference to a donkey and a donkey’s foal (Genesis 49:11). Jesus is from the tribe of Judah.

Zechariah 9:9 was fulfilled by the triumphal entry as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19). Verses 10 and following refer to a future time when the Messiah will reign after defeating His enemies at the second coming.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Is Zechariah 11:12-13 a Messianic prophecy?”

Zechariah 11:12-13 offers an intriguing account regarding 30 silver coins, bringing to mind the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot. The New Testament identifies this as a Messianic prophecy, which found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

The verses read, “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.”

Earlier, Zechariah had been commanded to watch a flock of sheep doomed to slaughter (Zechariah 11:4). He obeyed, using two shepherd’s staffs that he named Favor and Union (verse 7). Within a month, Zechariah fired the three shepherds working under him (verse 8). Then Zechariah abandoned the flock and broke his staff named Favor. Observers realized these actions were “the word of the LORD” (verse 11). The Lord would remove His favor from His people, allowing them to be harried by their enemies (verse 6).

In verses 12-13 Zechariah tells his employers to pay him his wages if they saw fit to do so. They pay him 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32), as an insult to Zechariah. The prophet sarcastically calls it a “handsome price.” God then commands Zechariah to give the coins to the potter in the house (or temple) of the Lord.

The corresponding passage in the New Testament is in Matthew 27. Judas is filled with remorse for betraying the Lord, and he tries to return the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests (verse 3). When the elders refuse to accept the money, Judas throws the coins into the temple and leaves and hangs himself (verses 4-5). Not wanted to put “blood money” into the treasury, the priests use it to buy a potter’s field (verses 6-7). “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me’” (verses 9-10). Zechariah 11 is, therefore, a Messianic prophecy, because it is explicitly identified as such by Matthew.

A seeming difficulty is the fact that Matthew attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah, not Zechariah. The explanation is two-fold. First, Jeremiah also bought a field at the Lord’s command (Jeremiah 32:6-9). Second, the Hebrew Bible was divided into three sections: the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. The Prophets began with Jeremiah, and it was common for people to refer to the whole section (which included Zechariah) as “the book of Jeremiah.”

Zechariah’s prophecy had a dual fulfillment: one in the prophet’s contemporary context, and one in the more distant future. The Jewish people of Zechariah’s day would be judged, as seen in the breaking of Favor, and the specific details regarding 30 pieces of silver and a potter’s field found a future fulfillment in the betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Is Zechariah 12:10 a Messianic prophecy?”

Zechariah 12:10 reads, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” This prediction, that Israel will see someone whom they “pierced,” is amazing because it is God Himself speaking—the Lord is the One who is “pierced.” This appears to fit later descriptions of Jesus Christ’s suffering. Indeed, the New Testament specifies that this prophecy is truly Messianic.

This verse indicates a future time when the Jewish people will plead for the mercy of God. This will happen when they see “the one they have pierced.” Zechariah’s verse is mentioned in John 19:36-37 when Jesus, hanging on the cross, was pierced with a spear: “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: . . . ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.’” Revelation 1:7 adds, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him”—definitely an allusion to Zechariah 12:10. Isaiah 53:5 also predicts that the Messiah would be pierced: “But he was pierced for our transgressions.”

In addition to the idea of a “pierced” God is the concept of the “only child.” Zechariah’s mention of a “firstborn son” bears an unmistakable connection to Jesus as God’s Son. The Hebrew word bekor was translated in the Septuagint as prototokos, the same term used for Jesus in Colossians 1:15: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [prototokos] of all creation.” And, of course, there is John 3:16, which includes a reference to Jesus as God’s “one and only Son.”

This Messianic prophecy has not yet been completely fulfilled. Jesus has been “pierced,” but there will still be a future time when all of Jerusalem will see Him and mourn their ill treatment of Him. At that time, they will cry out to God for mercy, and He will answer them by saving them from their enemies: “On that day the LORD will shield those who live in Jerusalem. . . . I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:8-9). These events will occur at the end of the tribulation period at Christ’s second coming.

In summary, Zechariah 12:10 predicts the piercing of the Son of God, the Messiah, fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus Christ when He died on the cross and was pierced by a spear in His side (John 19:36–37). The complete fulfillment of this verse awaits the last days when the Jewish people will plead for mercy from the One they have pierced.

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

“Is Zechariah 14:4 a prophecy about the second coming of Christ?”

Zechariah 14:4 predicts, “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the Mount moving north and half moving south.” “That day” is a reference to the Day of the Lord, and the One who stands on the mountain is the Lord Himself. So, yes, this passage predicts the second coming of Christ.

The opening of Zechariah 14 speaks of a future day when Jerusalem will be plundered by its enemies. Verse 2 prophesies that all nations will gather against Jerusalem and capture and ransack the city. Half of the citizens of Jerusalem will flee the devastation, but the other half will remain. This will be one half of the one third of the Jewish population still alive in Jerusalem after the Tribulation (13:8). Then, Zechariah says, the Lord Himself will go forth and engage these opponents in battle (14:3). Verse 4 speaks of the Messiah standing on the Mount of Olives, a hill near Jerusalem on the east. The mountain will split, creating an enormous valley. Since none of this has taken place yet, the prophecy points to a future time.

A parallel passage tells of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21). Revelation 16:18-21 predicts horrible events at the end of the Tribulation when the seventh bowl is poured out:

“Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. . . . Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.”

The earthquake in Revelation could very well speak of the event described in Zechariah when the Mount of Olives splits in two. Jesus the Messiah will cause an earthquake at His second coming that will serve as part of the destruction of God’s enemies. The outcome of this battle is never in doubt: Christ will be the victor, Israel’s enemies will be destroyed, and the beast (Antichrist) and false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21).

Recommended Resource: Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary by Mark Boda

Book of Malachi

Author: Malachi 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Malachi as the Prophet Malachi.

Date of Writing: The Book of Malachi was written between 440 and 400 B.C.

Purpose of Writing: The Book of Malachi is an oracle: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi (1:1). This was God’s warning through Malachi to tell the people to turn back to God. As the final book of the Old Testament closes, the pronouncement of God’s justice and the promise of His restoration through the coming Messiah is ringing in the ears of the Israelites. Four hundred years of silence ensues, ending with a similar message from God’s next prophet, John the Baptist, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

Key Verses:

Malachi 1:6, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty. It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.”

Malachi 3:6-7, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord Almighty.”

Brief Summary: Malachi wrote the words of the Lord to God’s chosen people who had gone astray, especially the priests who had turned from the Lord. Priests were not treating the sacrifices they were to make to God seriously. Animals with blemishes were being sacrificed even though the law demanded animals without defect (Deuteronomy 15:21). The men of Judah were dealing with the wives of their youth treacherously and wondering why God would not accept their sacrifices. Also, people were not tithing as they should have been (Leviticus 27:30, 32). But in spite of the people’s sin and turning away from God, Malachi reiterates God’s love for His people (Malachi 1:1-5) and His promises of a coming Messenger (Malachi 2:17–3:5).

Foreshadowings: Malachi 3:1-6 is a prophecy concerning John the Baptist. He was the Messenger of the Lord sent to prepare the way (Matthew 11:10) for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John preached repentance and baptized in the name of the Lord, thus preparing the way for Jesus’ first advent. But the Messenger who comes “suddenly to the Temple” is Christ Himself in His second advent when He comes in power and might (Matthew 24). At that time, He will “purify the sons of Levi” (v. 3), meaning that those who exemplified the Mosaic Law would themselves need purification from sin through the blood of the Savior. Only then will they be able to offer “an offering in righteousness” because it will be the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Practical Application: God is not pleased when we do not obey His commands. He will repay those who disregard Him. As for God hating divorce (2:16), God takes the covenant of marriage seriously and He does not want it broken. We are to stay true to the spouse of our youth for a lifetime. God sees our hearts, so He knows what our intentions are; nothing can be hidden from Him. He will return and He will be the judge. But if we return to Him, He will return to us (Malachi 3:6).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller.
Haggai and Malachi, New International Commentary on the Old Testament by Pieter Verhoef

“Who was Malachi in the Bible?”

Malachi was an Old Testament prophet and the last of the writing prophets. He wrote the book of Malachi probably between 440 and 400 BC. Very little is known about Malachi the man except what can be inferred from his public messages, recorded in his book.

Malachi’s name means “my messenger,” an appropriate title for a prophet, one of God’s messengers. Malachi wrote to the remnant of Israelites who had returned after 70 years in Babylonian captivity. He ministered during the time of Nehemiah and after the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. The temple had been rebuilt, and the people of Israel were once again in the Promised Land, but they were falling into sin again.

Malachi wrote, and we can assume spoke, in a bold, direct manner. He rebukes the sins of the priests and people of Judah: the priests had been derelict in their official duties; the people had divorced their rightful wives; they had married foreign wives; they doubted God’s justice; and they were neglecting to pay their tithes, bringing various plagues upon the land. Despite Israel’s doubts to the contrary, Malachi assures them that the Lord God still loves them (Malachi 1:2–5).

The prophet Malachi brought a message of judgment upon the people because they had not learned from the consequences of their past sins. He communicates in a distinct style: in several places, he first makes an assertion, then he anticipates an objection made by those who hear him, and then he refutes the rhetorical objection. Malachi does this eight times in his book. Each time, he uses the same wording: “But you ask” or “But you say.” An example of this debating style is found in Malachi 1:6–7:
“It is you priests who show contempt for my name.
“But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’
“By offering defiled food on my altar.”

The book that Malachi wrote is distinguished as being the only prophetic book that ends not in deliverance but judgment; in fact, it ends with the word curse. Part of Malachi’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of God’s people and the way for John the Baptist, who would then prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord (Malachi 3:1; 4:5). The book of Malachi brings the Old Testament to a close with a prediction of the Messiah. Following Malachi’s ministry, 400 years passed, during which there was no divine prophet. But then the New Testament opens and a new day dawns, bringing John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the fulfillment of the prophecies of Malachi.

Recommended Resource: The Great Lives from God’s Word Series by Chuck Swindoll

“Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau (Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13)?”

Malachi 1:2-3 declares, “‘I have loved you,’” says the LORD. But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ the LORD says. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.’” Malachi 1:3 is quoted in Romans 9:10-13, “Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? If God is love (1 John 4:8), how could He hate anyone?

When studying the Bible, it is critically important to always study the context of a particular Bible verse or passage. In these instances, the prophet Malachi and the apostle Paul are using the name “Esau” to refer to the Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau. Isaac and Rebekah had two sons, Esau and Jacob. God chose Jacob (whom He later renamed “Israel”) to be the father of His chosen people, the Israelites. God rejected Esau (who was also called “Edom”) and did not choose him to be the father of His chosen people. Esau and his descendants, the Edomites, were in many ways blessed by God (Genesis 33:9; Genesis chapter 36).

So, considering the context, God loving Jacob and hating Esau has nothing to do with the human emotions of love and hate. It has everything to do with God choosing one man and his descendants and rejecting another man and his descendants. God chose Abraham out of all the men in the world. The Bible very well could say, “Abraham I loved, and every other man I hated.” God chose Abraham’s son Isaac instead of Abraham’s son Ishmael. The Bible very well could say, “Isaac I loved, and Ishmael I hated.” Romans chapter 9 makes it abundantly clear that loving Jacob and hating Esau was entirely related to which of them God chose. Hundreds of years after Jacob and Esau had died, the Israelites and Edomites became bitter enemies. The Edomites often aided Israel’s enemies in attacks on Israel. Esau’s descendants brought God’s curse upon themselves. Genesis 27:29 tells Israel, “May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

“How do we bring blemished offerings to God (Malachi 1:8)?”

In Malachi 1:8, the Lord accuses Israel of bringing Him blemished offerings: “‘When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Bringing animal sacrifices to the temple that were blind, disfigured, or sick was a direct violation of the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 22:22; Deuteronomy 15:21). The reason for this command was that such sacrifices dishonored the Lord. “Do not profane my holy name” (Leviticus 22:32). They were sacrifices in name only; a true sacrifice must cost something, and there was no pain involved in getting rid of something already slated for culling. As God points out, giving such an inferior gift to another person would be unthinkable—what made them think God would be pleased with it?

More importantly, each sacrifice was a symbol of the future sacrifice of Christ, who was “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). The cheap, marred sacrifices of Malachi’s time were travesties of Christ’s perfection.

The application for Christians today does not involve animal sacrifices, of course, nor is it even directly related to financial offerings. Rather, it is a matter of treating God as holy. This concerns all areas of life, ranging from how we speak of God, to how we obey Him and how willing we are to sacrifice material things like finances.

The larger context of Malachi 1:6-14 deals with a variety of ways in which God’s people had dishonored or cheated the Lord by their actions. Both the priests and those who presented offerings were neglecting full obedience to God, giving sacrifices that were in violation of God’s Word. Today’s churches are at risk of the same sin, in principle. Simply attending a service, singing songs, listening to sermons, and giving offerings is not what God desires. He deserves the best, and He wants us, not just our stuff.

First, He calls us to accept His Son, Jesus, by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), recognizing our sinful status in relation to His perfection (Romans 3:23).

Second, God expects our full commitment to Him. While our works do not earn salvation or a right standing with the Lord, He saves us to do the good works He has prepared for us. Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The sacrifice we offer today is our own selves. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). For a believer to knowingly continue in sin is to present to the Lord a “blemished,” unholy sacrifice. God is holy, and He expects His children to honor Him with purity and holiness (1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16). Why would we follow the sin of the ancient Israelites in treating the Lord with disrespect? God makes forgiveness available to us (1 John 1:9), so there is no reason for living a sinful life.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What does it mean to profane the covenant (Malachi 2:10)?”

In Malachi 2:10 the prophet asks, “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” The obvious reference in this verse is the covenant made between the Lord and the people of Israel at Sinai. To profane something is to defile it or treat it contemptuously. Judah had broken the Mosaic Law, thus “profaning,” or showing contempt for, the covenant.

The Jewish people had one “Father” in that their nation had been created by God (Deuteronomy 32:6). Yet they had become faithless to one another. This description likely includes incivility toward each other (in violation of Leviticus 19:18) as well as unfaithfulness in their marriage relationships—a discussion of marriage and divorce follows in the next verses. Malachi condemns intermarriage with idolaters (Malachi 2:11) as well as divorce in general (2:13-16).

Malachi 2:11 speaks of mixed marriages between Israel and its non-Jewish neighbors (the issue was not racial but spiritual—God’s people who married idolaters were also engaging in false worship). The Mosaic Law explicitly taught against this: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; also see Exodus 34:15-16). Idolatry caused by intermarriage was a common problem in Judah. Even King Solomon married those outside of Israel as part of his alliances with other nations, and his heart was turned from the Lord (1 Kings 11:1-8). Ezra and Nehemiah, contemporaries of Malachi, also recorded dealing with such marriages (Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 10:30).

A New Testament principle regarding marriage also emphasizes spiritual purity. Second Corinthians 6:14-15 teaches, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. . . . What portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” (see also 1 Corinthians 7:39).

Malachi calls Judah’s sin the profaning of their covenant with God. In breaking their marriage covenants with their spouses, God’s people showed disrespect for the Mosaic Covenant. God’s word to Malachi was the same as His word to Joshua centuries before: “Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep” (Joshua 7:11).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What does Malachi 2:16 mean when God says, ‘I hate divorce’?”

In Malachi 2:16 we read, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD God of Israel.” In our society, where the divorce rate is particularly high, this wording jars us. We have become so used to divorce that the prophet’s condemnation of it seems overly strong. Yet this is God’s Word: He hates divorce.

Though the Mosaic Law sometimes allowed for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) and Ezra once commanded the post-exilic Jews to break off their ungodly marriages to pagan wives (Ezra 10:10-11), Malachi makes it clear that God objects to divorce.

Jesus’ teaching on divorce is equally strong. The religious teachers asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3). Jesus answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6; cf. Genesis 2:24). Jesus then noted that the Law had allowed divorce only because people had a “hardness of heart” and were bent on doing what they wanted anyway. Divorce was never part of God’s original design (Matthew 19:8).

Divorce was apparently rampant among Malachi’s Jewish audience. God’s response was, “So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:16b). What the people needed was a commitment to personal holiness and a steadfast fidelity to their spouses.

God says, “I hate divorce,” not to hurt those already suffering from broken marriages but to reprimand unfaithful spouses. Verse 14 says, “The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” The men had been unfaithful to their wives—likely, they were involved in adulterous relationships and divorcing their wives in order to remarry. God’s statement is not a condemnation of those hurt by divorce; rather, it is warning to adulterers who create situations leading to divorce.

After hearing what Jesus said regarding divorce in Matthew 19, “the disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry’” (Matthew 19:10). The disciples, like so many in our contemporary society, wrestled with the idea of being faithful in marriage when so many easy ways out exist.

While the world sees divorce as a valid option for almost any reason, God’s original intent for marriage is seen in the first couple, Adam and Eve. One man and one woman in a committed, loving, lifelong relationship. Such faithfulness in a relationship is meant to reflect God’s forever love for His people (Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:31-32).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“How can we express our doubt to God without offending Him (Malachi 2:17; 3:14-15)?”

God is not bothered by our questions, but He is angered when people accuse Him of wrongdoing. Malachi 2:17 says, “You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’” The Jews of Malachi’s day were attributing injustice to God, and God says He is weary of their allegations.

First, we should stipulate that God does not actually tire or grow weary in the physical sense. Isaiah 40:28 says, “The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” God describing Himself as “weary” is an anthropomorphism communicating His displeasure with Israel’s complaints. Israel’s question, “Where is the God of justice?” was a cynical and derisive statement of unbelief.

People today often level the same accusation at God. The question is frequently asked, “If God is good, why doesn’t He end the suffering in the world? Why does He allow evil? Why doesn’t God stop war, cure cancer, and end poverty?” Such questions are valid to a degree, but the Bible reveals God blesses both good and evil people (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17). Likewise, both the good and evil suffer due to sin (Genesis 3:16–19; Ecclesiastes 2:18–22). God even allows godly people to suffer (Job 1-2; 2 Timothy 3:12). However, true and lasting justice is coming. God will punish the wicked and reward His people perfectly in the afterlife (Job 21:7–26; 24:1–17; Psalm 73:1–14; Jeremiah 12:1–4). The people of Israel had forgotten that God ultimately blesses those who trust Him. Yes, those who practice evil may enjoy apparent success, but it is short-term (Psalm 1). Malachi 3:1–6 gives four predictions showing that God’s justice would certainly be revealed in the future.

In Malachi 3:14–15, the Israelites make a second accusation: “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” Malachi lived during the post-exilic period, when many Jews had returned to Israel from Babylon. The Jews had seen the fulfillment of God’s promises to return them to the land and restore the temple worship. However, they felt that God was not blessing their religious efforts, and they claimed that God was blessing those who did evil rather than those who worshiped the Lord. They were saying, in so many words, “What’s the point of serving the Lord? Sinners do whatever they want and get away with it!”

There are two problems with this accusation. First, much of Israel’s worship of God had become hypocritical. Malachi’s prophecies were meant, in part, to correct the loveless, empty worship of the day.

Second, looking only for rewards in this life is shortsighted. Rather than acknowledge God’s ultimate justice and the eternal rewards, the Israelites sought earthly recompense for their worship. Today, this same attitude is seen in those who follow the prosperity gospel. Those who seek earthly gain in religion make the same mistake as the Jews of Malachi’s time. Scripture is filled with examples of faithful believers whose lives ended in poverty and who endured persecution. Jesus Himself did not have earthly riches. He spoke of storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20), something the Israelites of Malachi’s time had missed.

God is not bothered by our questions, but He is “wearied” when we petulantly accuse Him of injustice or when we claim that there is no benefit to worshiping the Lord. Such accusations reveal a lack of faith, and such claims take the short-term over the long-term, eternal view. We are to live by faith, and a lack of faith is wearisome to our God (Luke 9:41).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“Who is the promised messenger of Malachi 3:1?”

Malachi 3:1 begins with the promise of a future messenger important in the plan of God: “‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.” This prophecy reveals a significant detail regarding the coming of the Messiah, namely, that His arrival in the temple would be preceded by another messenger sent by God.

The Hebrew phrase for “my messenger” is the same as the meaning of Malachi’s name (Malachi 1:1). Yet Malachi is predicting a future individual. Malachi 4:5 further identifies this special messenger as “Elijah the prophet.” The New Testament shows how this prediction is fulfilled. The Gospel of Mark begins by declaring John the Baptist as this messenger (Mark 1:2-4; cf. Isaiah 40:3-5; Luke 1:17; 7:27). In Matthew 11:13-14 Jesus states, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”

In Matthew 17, Jesus was transfigured on a mountaintop and met with Moses and Elijah. Peter, James, and John saw this event and asked Jesus about it afterwards. Jesus again noted that John the Baptist was the awaited Elijah, stating, “I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. . . . Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist” (verses 12-13). In announcing the birth of John to Zechariah, the angel Gabriel had said, “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). Thus, John’s association with Elijah was based on similar power and message; Malachi had predicted a metaphorical Elijah, not the literal one.

Malachi 3:1 is of great importance in understanding the nature of the Son of God. In the verse, Yahweh God is speaking, and He says that the messenger would prepare the way “before me.” So, it is the LORD God Himself who was coming. Then, God says it is “the Lord” who will come, “the messenger of the covenant.” So, Yahweh is equated with the Lord who was to come, and as we know, the prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus. Therefore, “Yahweh” and “the Lord” are equated with Jesus. It is one of many occasions Jesus is called “God” (Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5).

John the Baptist is the only person who fits the description of the promised messenger. John fulfilled his role through his preaching the need for repentance (Matthew 3:2), his prediction of the soon-coming Messiah (Acts 19:4), and his baptisms (John 1:31). John also baptized Jesus, at which event both the Father and the Holy Spirit gave evidence that Jesus was indeed the Christ (Matthew 3:16-17). As God’s messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord, John was faithful to his calling and became one of the greatest prophets (Luke 7:28).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What is the significance of the refiner’s fire and launderer’s soap in Malachi 3:2?”

Malachi 3:2, where the phrase refiner’s fire is used, has been a popular verse in Western society for centuries due to its use in Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah. The verse reads, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.” Let’s take a look at the prophet’s similes.

Malachi says that, when the Lord returns, no one will be able to stand before Him. The Lord’s holiness and judgment will be as a refiner’s blazing fire and as a fuller’s bleaching agent. The idea of “standing” before the Lord is associated with “withstanding” or “standing up to”; sinful human flesh will not have the strength, the right, or the desire to resist the Lord in His glory (cf. Psalm 76:7; Revelation 6:17).

The two similes help clarify why no one will be able to stand in the Day of the Lord. First, Malachi 3:2 says the Messiah will be like a refiner’s fire, an allusion to the process of purifying metal. A refiner uses a fire to heat metal to a molten state; then he skims off the dross that floats to the top. The refiner’s fire is, of course, maintained at an extremely high temperature, and such a high degree of heat is the prophet’s picture of the testing people will face on Judgment Day. All judgment has been entrusted to the Son (John 5:22). Upon Christ’s return, the intense flame of God’s judgment will purify the earth, removing the dross of sin.

Second, the Messiah will be like a launderer’s soap. This type of soap was caustic and quite effective in producing bright white clothing. The HCSB translates it as “cleansing lye.” When Christ returns, He will cleanse the world of all impurity. Every stain of sin will be scrubbed away. The account of Jesus’ transfiguration contains a reference to His purity, using language similar to Malachi’s: “He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:2–3).

The goal of Jesus will be to judge wickedness and purify His people: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3). Like the refiner’s fire, He will burn away the impurities of the priests. Like launderer’s soap, He will wash away their uncleanness (Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29–30; Ezekiel 22:17–22; Zechariah 3:5). The priests in the millennial kingdom will then be able to offer sacrifices from a pure heart. The sacrifices in those days will be similar to those when the temple was first built: “The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years” (Malachi 3:4).

The refiner’s fire and launderer’s soap indicate the holiness and burning judgment of the Messiah when He returns to reign in Jerusalem at His second coming. His purifying brightness and absolute holiness will affect those who serve Him, creating a cleansed temple and purified priesthood. “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him” (Isaiah 40:10).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What does it mean to rob God (Malachi 3:8)?”

In the book of Malachi, Israel was charged with the offense of robbing God. Once again, the people of God had been faithless, breaking their covenant with the Lord. Yet God’s great love compelled Him to offer His people one last chance to repent: “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you” (Malachi 3:7–9, ESV).

The idea of robbing God seems inconceivable. At first, Israel denied the charge. So hardened and cold had the nation grown that they were blind to the fact that they had abandoned their first love for the Lord. God then specifically explained that the people of Israel were robbing Him by bringing only part of their tithes and offerings to the temple. In their tightfisted, self-centered state, they were cheating God, failing to bring Him the whole tithe and the required offerings to the temple (cf. Malachi 1:14).

The law mandated that a tithe, or a tenth, of the produce of the land be given to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30). Specific offerings were required, as well. When the people held back portions of the tithes and offerings for themselves, they were breaking the law and, in effect, robbing God. They were taking what belonged to God and using it for themselves.

Israel was robbing God by not giving Him what He was owed. So the Lord called the people to return to Him and put Him first. God promised to pour out the most abundant blessings and favor on His children if they would respond to His love with open hearts: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 3:10–12).

We are not under the Old Testament law today, and we are not required to give a tithe as Israel was; however, it’s still possible that we rob God when we don’t give Him what He is owed: our wholehearted love, trust, obedience, service, and worship. Everything we have comes from Him: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17; see also 1 Timothy 6:17). We rob God when we are stingy with our time—keeping it mostly for ourselves—and neglecting to pray, worship, and serve the needs of others.

God deserves nothing less than the absolute best of our time, attention, obedience, devotion, and resources. Our wallets are only one part of the equation. We owe the Lord our very lives: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18–19). Our willingness to express the Lord’s ownership of our lives through open-hearted, cheerful giving is the minimum we can do. God loves this kind of generous worship (2 Corinthians 9:7).

As He did for Israel, God still holds open the door for us to repent of our wayward, half-hearted devotion and to come into His presence, offering Him our entire selves. To surrender our lives to God means to love and trust Him with all our hearts through intimate, daily fellowship. We are precious in His eyes (Isaiah 43:4). He will always care for His children and never abandon us: “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous abandoned or his children begging for bread. He is always generous, always lending, and his children are a blessing” (Psalm 37:25–26, CSB).

We can give freely to God, trusting that He will pour out more provision to meet our needs than we could ever imagine: “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38, CSB). The surest safeguard against falling into the sin of robbing God is trusting in the Lord’s limitless love and abandoning ourselves in wholehearted devotion to God.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What does it mean to rebuke the devourer in Malachi 3:11?”

The phrase rebuke the devourer is found in the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament. “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts” (KJV). In this verse Malachi records a wonderful promise of God to the nation of Israel.

The Hebrew word translated “devourer” means “eater” and refers to the locust or caterpillar or any such creature that devours crops. The NIV translates Malachi 3:11 as “I will prevent pests from devouring your crops.” The “devourer” could also refer to plant diseases—really, anything that would destroy Israel’s crops: the NLT says, “Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease.” Swarms of locusts were common in the Middle East in those days and could destroy virtually all the produce of an entire country. The devastation brought by locusts could be horrific. When God said He would “rebuke the devourer,” He promised that He would protect Israel from such disasters.

Like all promises under the Mosaic Law, the promise of God to rebuke the devourer was conditional. If the Israelites would cease robbing God and give their whole tithe (Malachi 3:9–10), as required by the Law (Leviticus 27:30), then God would keep the locusts away from them and bless them with such abundance of healthy crops that theirs would be known as a “delightful land” (Malachi 3:12).

Chapter 1 of Malachi is an indictment against Israel for despising and dishonoring God by offering impure sacrifices (Malachi 1:6–14). In Chapter 2, God indicts the priests for corrupting the Law (Malachi 2:8), for dealing unfairly with the people (Malachi 2:9–11), and for divorcing their wives (Malachi 2:14–16). After rebuking them for their sin, God goes on to predict the coming of their Messiah who will purify them so that their offerings are acceptable to Him (Malachi 3:1–4).

It is in this context that God makes the promise to rebuke the devourer on behalf of the people of Israel. If they would repent and return to Him, He would pour out blessings upon them. If they would bring into the storehouse the grain offerings that are rightly His, He would open the heavens and pour out blessings upon them for their obedience. Their crops would produce so abundantly that there would scarcely be room enough to store them (Malachi 3:10).

Some have tried to equate God’s rebuking of the devourer with Christians’ rebuking of the devil. But this is a misinterpretation and takes the verse out of context. The “devourer” is not Satan; it is the locust. The church is not Israel; we are not under the Old Testament Law; we are not promised material blessings; and tithing is not required of us. Of course, we do have a spiritual enemy. Satan prowls around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), but even if Malachi 3:11 were referring to Satan, which it is not, the verse is clear that it is God who does the rebuking (cf. Zechariah 3:2 and Jude 1:9). The Bible does not give Christians the authority to rebuke the devil or to speak to him at all. We are told to resist him and he will flee from us (James 4:7).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“Does the teaching on tithing in Malachi 3:9-10 apply to us today?”

Malachi 3:9-10 is often used to teach the need for Christians to tithe to local churches today. That passage reads, “You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Does this teaching apply to Christians today?

First, the context of this passage concerns the Israelites not bringing their offerings to the temple. Because of their disobedience, God had judged them with a small harvest. The Lord challenged them to bring the “full tithe” of grain sacrifices (Leviticus 6:14-23) and see that He would bless them with an abundance of future crops. The “storehouse,” mentioned in verse 10, is a place to store grain in the temple.

Second, this passage teaches that the Jews were to give a tithe as part of the temple worship, but it does not teach that Christians are to give to churches. Malachi was written more than 400 years before the start of the first church in Jerusalem. Applying its command of temple giving to the local church takes these verses out of their original context.

Are New Testament Christians commanded to tithe or not? To be clear, a tithe is literally a “tenth,” or 10 percent. Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to the priest of Salem in Genesis 14:20. Later, the Mosaic Law included commands to give a tenth for tabernacle worship. Tithing is mentioned 18 times in the Law, as the people were to share their produce and livestock to support the Levites, the caretakers of the tabernacle. This same system of tithing would later be applied to the temple (2 Chronicles 31:5).

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day, saying, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42). These Pharisees obeyed the Law of Moses in that they tithed scrupulously, yet did not truly love God. They were challenged to do both.

The Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17). When the church began to grow beyond the Jewish people and reach Gentiles, leaders struggled with whether or not to command these new believers to follow the Mosaic Law. In the end, only a few instructions were given for the sake of peace, but tithing was not among them (Acts 15:19-21).

The principle in the New Testament is to give voluntarily to support the needs of others (Acts 2:45; Romans 15:25-27), support Christian workers (1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:18), and expand Christian outreach (Philippians 4:15-16). No specific amount is ever commanded, and no percentage is suggested. While a tithe or tenth of one’s finances may be a good standard to use for Christian giving, it is clear the early church did not focus on a specific amount but rather on meeting needs. This sometimes included giving much more than a tenth, as some believers sold homes or land to meet the needs that existed in the church (Acts 4:34-37).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What is the book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16)?”

Malachi 3:16–18 says, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. ‘They will be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him. So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.’”

The book of Malachi is a detailed account from the Lord to Israel about their disobedience. His charges against them includes offering defective sacrifices (1:8), teaching error (2:8), being unfaithful to their wives (2:13–14), and complaining that it was futile to serve the Lord (3:13–14). God pronounces strict judgments upon those guilty of such offenses (Malachi 2:2, 9). He then makes it clear that He hears and knows the intent of every heart and desires to honor those who honor Him. He knows those who refuse to murmur against Him (Numbers 14:27, 36; Deuteronomy 1:27; Psalm 106:25).

Several places in Scripture refer to God’s “book” (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 56:8; 69:28; Daniel 7:10; 12:1; Revelation 13:8; 20:15). In His infinite knowledge, God does not need a written record in order to keep track of human deeds. However, when He speaks to us, He often uses metaphor or parable to help us understand (Mark 4:33). As Malachi presented God’s words to the people, they would have understood what a book of remembrance represented. The kings of Persia kept such books, records of those who had rendered service to the king, that those servants might be rewarded. The book of Esther contains a good example of this (Esther 6:1–3).

It is also important to note that the reward was often delayed. That’s why books were needed, so that no worthy deed for the king went unrewarded. In Malachi 3:17 the Lord says, “‘On the day when I act . . . .” He is indicating that faithful service may go on for years with no apparent reward, but He is taking note. There is coming a day when He will act. One reason the Israelites had grown lax in their obedience and were becoming jealous of evildoers was that they thought the Lord did not see or care (Malachi 3:14–15; cf. Psalm 94:7; Ezekiel 8:12).

However, Scripture is clear that loyalty to God does not go unnoticed or unrewarded. Jesus spoke of this many times (Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:23; Revelation 22:12). He spoke of storing up treasure in heaven, as though making deposits into a bank account (Matthew 6:20). The implication is that what is done on earth is forever recorded in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:10). The book of remembrance is simply a concept God used to encourage His faithful ones that their love and service for Him was appreciated. It is His promise that, when His judgment comes against those who reject Him, He knows His own and will preserve them. The account of righteous Noah is a good illustration of God’s preserving those who honor Him (Genesis 6:9).

Jesus encouraged His followers to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Even as He said it, Jesus knew that their faithfulness to Him would result in earthy trouble, heartache, and even death (Matthew 24:9; Acts 9:16; 12:2). But knowing that their names were written in God’s book helped the disciples persevere to the end (Matthew 10:22; Mark 13:13). Galatians 6:9 continues the theme of future reward: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Those who continue to honor the Lord when many around them fall away can rest in the confidence that their names are written in God’s book of remembrance.

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“What is the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4:2)?”

The phrase “the sun of righteousness” appears in Malachi 4:2: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” This blessing is promised to those who fear the Lord and are ready for His return.

“Sun of righteousness” can also be translated “son of vindication.” The context concerns the Day of the Lord, the time when God vindicates His people and judges sin. This vindication will be clear to all, like the bright light of the sunrise.

The One described as the “sun of righteousness” can be no other than Jesus Christ Himself. The Lord is called “the LORD your righteousness” in Jeremiah 23:6. And the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a sunrise in several passages. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). See also 2 Samuel 23:4; Habakkuk 3:4; and Luke 1:78-79.

The fact that the sun of righteousness rises with “healing in its wings” invokes the picture of the wings of a bird stretched across the sky, offering healing to those below. A healing effect will infuse the earth during this time, removing the negative impact of past sins (Isaiah 30:26; 53:5). When Christ returns, God’s righteousness and peace will flood the earth (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14).

God’s desire has always been to provide righteousness to those who trust Him (e.g., Genesis 15:6). On some occasions, God’s people were said to be “clothed in righteousness” (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10), and here in Malachi 4:2 God’s people will see the Sun of Righteousness Himself rising over the world. It’s a picture of the future millennial reign of Jesus Christ. The darkness of the Antichrist’s reign will vanish, and the light of God will take its place. It’s a new day dawning; God’s people will revel in their freedom like gamboling calves leaping from their stalls (Isaiah 65:17-25; Hosea 14:4-7; Amos 9:13-15; Zephaniah 3:19-20).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

“Was John the Baptist really Elijah reincarnated?”

Matthew 11:7–14 declares, “Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.’” Here Jesus quotes from Malachi 3:1, where the messenger appears to be a prophetic figure who is going to appear. According to Malachi 4:5, this messenger is “the prophet Elijah,” whom Jesus identifies as John the Baptist. Does this mean that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated? Not at all.

First, Jesus’ original hearers (and Matthew’s original readers) would never have assumed Jesus’ words to refer to reincarnation. Besides, Elijah did not die; he was taken to heaven in a whirlwind as he rode in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Arguing for a reincarnation (or a resurrection) of Elijah misses that point. If anything, the prophecy of the Elijah “to come” would have been viewed as Elijah’s physical return to earth from heaven.

Second, the Bible is quite clear that John the Baptist is called “Elijah” because he came in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), not because he was Elijah in a literal sense. John the Baptist is the New Testament forerunner who points the way to the arrival of the Lord, just as Elijah filled that role in the Old Testament (and might again in the future—see Revelation 11).

Third, Elijah himself appears with Moses at Jesus’ transfiguration after John the Baptist’s death. This would not have happened if Elijah had changed his identity into that of John (Matthew 17:11–12).

Fourth, Mark 6:14–16 and 8:28 show that both the people and Herod distinguished between John the Baptist and Elijah.

Finally, proof that this John the Baptist was not Elijah reincarnated comes from John himself. In the first chapter of John the Apostle’s gospel, John the Baptist identifies himself as the messenger of Isaiah 40:3, not as the Elijah of Malachi 3:1. John the Baptist even goes so far as to specifically deny that he was Elijah (John 1:19–23).

John did for Jesus what Elijah was to have done for the coming of the Lord, but he was not Elijah reincarnated. Jesus identified John the Baptist as Elijah, while John the Baptist rejected that identification. How do we reconcile these two teachings? There is a key phrase in Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist that must not be overlooked. He says, “If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah.” In other words, John the Baptist’s identification as Elijah was not predicated upon his being the actual Elijah, but upon people’s response to his role. To those who were willing to believe in Jesus, John the Baptist functioned as Elijah, for they believed in Jesus as Lord. To the religious leaders who rejected Jesus, John the Baptist did not perform this function.

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for almost all your Questions by Elmer Towns

“Why must Elijah return before the end times (Malachi 4:5-6)?”

Malachi 4:5-6 offers an intriguing prophecy: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” To this day, Jewish Seders include an empty chair at the table in anticipation that Elijah will return to herald the Messiah in fulfillment of Malachi’s word.

According to Malachi 4:6, the reason for Elijah’s return will be to “turn the hearts” of fathers and their children to each other. In other words, the goal would be reconciliation. In the New Testament, Jesus reveals that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy: “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:13-14). This fulfillment is also mentioned in Mark 1:2-4 and Luke 1:17; 7:27.

Specifically related to Malachi 4:5-6 is Matthew 17:10-13: “His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. . . .’ Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”

The scribes were the Jewish religious teachers, mostly Pharisees and Sadducees, who provided commentary on the Jewish Scriptures. Peter, James, and John were familiar with their teachings and asked Jesus about Elijah after seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8). Jesus clearly stated that Elijah had already come, but, tragically, he was not recognized and had been killed. Jesus then predicted He would likewise die at the hands of His enemies (17:13).

A brief look at the ministry of John the Baptist reveals many notable ways that he was “Elijah.” First, God predicted John’s work as being like that of Elijah (Luke 1:17). Second, he dressed like Elijah (2 Kings 1:8 and Matthew 3:4). Third, like Elijah, John the Baptist preached in the wilderness (Matthew 3:1). Fourth, both men preached a message of repentance. Fifth, both men withstood kings and had high-profile enemies (1 Kings 18:17 and Matthew 14:3).

Some argue that John the Baptist was not the Elijah to come because John himself said that he was not Elijah. “And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not’” (John 1:21). There are two explanations for this apparent contradiction. First, because Elijah had never died (2 Kings 2:11), many first-century rabbis taught that Elijah was still alive and would reappear before the Messiah’s arrival. When John denied being Elijah, he could have been countering the idea that he was the actual Elijah who had been taken to heaven.

Second, John’s words could indicate a difference between John’s view of himself and Jesus’ view of him. John may not have seen himself as the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6. However, Jesus did. There is no contradiction, then, simply a humble prophet giving an honest opinion of himself. John rejected the honor (cf. John 3:30), yet Jesus credited John as the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy regarding the return of Elijah.

As the metaphorical Elijah, John called people to repentance and a life of obedience, preparing the people of his generation for the coming of Jesus Christ, the One who had come “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10) and to establish the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Recommended Resource: Nahum-Malachi, Holman Old Testament Commentary by Stephen Miller

Lecture 12

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

Jesus Christ in Old Testament Prophecy as fulfilment of Messiah

Dr. Rick Durst of Golden Gate Seminary introduces the divine genius behind making messianic promises and prophecies and then fulfilling them in Jesus and testifying to promise and fulfillment in the gospels. The focus is on Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22

Messianic Prophecy: Promise and Fulfillment

The Forbidden Chapter: Isaiah 53 in the Hebrew Bible

Did you know that Isaiah 53 is a FORBIDDEN CHAPTER in most synagogues? We read this powerful prophecy with Israelis on the streets. See how deeply they were moved as they came face to face with their Messiah!

John MacArthur explains Isaiah 53 to Ben Shapiro

How Does Matthew Prove That Jesus Is the Messiah?

·  Ed Jarrett | Contributing Writer

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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The gospel of Matthew, like the other three canonical gospels, tells the good news about Jesus. They are not biographies in the modern sense. They tell us very little about his early life. Rather they focus on what he did and said over the last three years of his life. The primary emphasis for all four gospels was Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, spending a significant portion of their story on that last week of his life.

But each of the gospels also has its own individual emphasis and target audience. For Matthew, his target audience seems to be Jewish. And his emphasis is on demonstrating that Jesus is the Messiah foretold in the Jewish Bible. Matthew repeatedly references Old Testament passages and identifies their fulfillment in Jesus’ life and ministry. The intent of this article is to look at Matthew’s use of the Old Testament in affirming Jesus as the Messiah.

A Note about Old Testament Messianic Prophecy

Matthew, and other New Testament writers, reference many Old Testament passages and identify them as pointing to Jesus. And they do that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But the prophets who were inspired to write these referenced passages did not always realize that they were pointing to a messiah far in the future.

One of the most obvious of these comes from Isaiah – a passage we hear numerous times each Christmas – but one we seldom examine closely. In Matthew 1:22-23 we find Isaiah 7:14 quoted: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

Without doubt this passage finds fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. But when Isaiah utters these words he had something else in mind. Isaiah 7:1-17 provides the context for this quotation. The sign given was to the godless king Ahaz. And it was a sign that would find fulfillment within just a few short years. I suspect that Isaiah had no idea that it also pointed to a messiah who would come some around 500-600 years later.

Another thing to note about these fulfilled prophecies is that we do not always know what passage Matthew is referring to. It would seem that sometimes, rather than referring to a specific passage, he is referring to a more general theme of the prophets. This happens a couple of times in Matthew 26:52-56 which refers to the method of Jesus’ capture and coming death.

And, finally, sometimes we have no idea what Matthew is referencing. In Matthew 2:23, Jesus’ family settles down in Nazareth. This fulfills what was spoken through the prophets, that he would be a Nazarene. There is no reference to anything like this in the Old Testament. That is not to call into question Matthew’s inspiration. But it does indicate that Matthew was drawing from a larger collection of writings than we have today.

Implicit Old Testament Allusions

Matthew makes about 20 specific references to Old Testament prophecy in relationship to Jesus. But he also seems to be making some implicit references as well.

In particular, Jesus is pictured as a new Moses who has come to establish God’s kingdom. Like Moses, who was rescued from the Pharaoh’s decree to kill baby boys, so Jesus was rescued from Herod’s killing of infants. Moses and Jesus both spend time in the wilderness in preparation for their primary ministry. And both of them are foundational in the establishment of God’s people; Israel for Moses and the church for Jesus. Both of them are teachers and miracle workers. Moses’ ministry ends at the Jordan River while Jesus’ begins at the Jordan. Moses leads 12 tribes, Jesus starts with 12 disciples.

The Son of David

In 1 Samuel 7:16 God promises David that “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” There are messianic overtures to this passage that were especially relevant in the Israel of Jesus’ day. They chaffed under Roman rule and looked to the time when a son of David would rise to overthrow the Romans and reestablish David’s kingdom.

In Matthew 12:22-23, Jesus heals a demon possessed man who was blind and mute. In response the crowd begins to wonder, “Could this be the Son of David?” They were not just wondering if Jesus was a descendant of David. Instead, their question pointed back to 1 Samuel 7:16. Is it possible that Jesus is the one who will reestablish the kingdom? Eight other times in Matthew this title, Son of David, is applied to Jesus. And each time it has messianic implications.

Explicit References to the Old Testament

The table below provides a list of the explicit references Matthew makes. In each one of these, Matthew expressly says that something Jesus did, or that was done to him, was to fulfill what was written.

One of these (Matt. 3:1-3) is really about John the Baptist. But by establishing him as the forerunner of the Messiah, it points to Jesus as that Messiah. And a second of them (Matt. 4:5-6) is quoted by Satan in his second temptation. Satan tempts Jesus to fulfill this in a dramatic way in order to impress the crowds, but Jesus declined.

Matthew uses the rest of these fulfilled prophecies to demonstrate to his Jewish audience that Jesus is indeed their long awaited Messiah. And in Matthew 5:17 he makes that clear, quoting Jesus as saying that he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

Why These References?

Why did Matthew chose these specific prophecies to prove that Jesus was the Messiah? There are many others that he could have used, some of which are referenced in the other gospels. I don’t believe there is any way that we can know the mind of Matthew, and why he chose these. But it is likely that he felt these would be convincing to the Jewish audience he wrote to. In the same way that John tailors his list of signs (John 20:30-31) to convince his audience that Jesus was the Christ, so it is likely that Matthew does the same.

Matthew knows his audience well. He is not just telling a bunch of stories about Jesus. Instead he has put together a well-crafted account of Jesus life and ministry. An account that is focused on proving to his Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah promised in their Scriptures. And his use of the Old Testament prophets and psalms is an integral part of his proof.

Chart of OT and NT prophecy connections

Matthew, in this gospel, is doing what Jesus did on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27), and Phillip did with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:34-35). He is proclaiming to them, from their Scriptures, who Jesus is.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/mbolina

Ed Jarrett is a long time follower of Jesus and a member of Sylvan Way Baptist Church. He has been a Bible teacher for over 40 years and regularly blogs at A Clay Jar. You can also follow him on Twitteror Facebook. Ed is married, the father of two, and grandfather of two lovely girls. He is retired and currently enjoys his gardens and backpacking.

Do Old Testament Prophecies Prove That Jesus is the Messiah?

April 7, 2012

Do Old Testament Prophecies Prove That Jesus is the Messiah?

Andy Rau

Andy is the former senior manager of content for Bible Gateway. He currently works at Calvin College.

We’ve talked a lot this week about prophecy in the Bible—specifically, about what the Old Testament tells us to look for in the promised Messiah. Here, on the eve of the resurrection, we’re at a critical moment: on the third day after his death, Jesus will either fulfill the Old Testament promises and prophecies and thus identify himself as the long-awaited Messiah, or he will fail to do so and be exposed as a fraud.

In his Investigating Faith newsletter, Lee Strobel has written about the relationship between Jesus and Old Testament prophecy. Here’s his answer to a reader’s question about identifying the Messiah through the Old Testament.

Q. I have been wondering about Old Testament prophecies. The New Testament seems to establish that Jesus is the Messiah, for example, but is this proven in the Old Testament?

A. Thanks for your question! The issue about how the Old Testament proves Jesus is the Messiah cannot be done “in and of itself” without the New Testament. Since the last Old Testament book written precedes the time of Jesus by several hundred years, it cannot “prove” what has not yet taken place.

Interestingly, however, some supernatural prophecies that are not Messianic occur entirely within the Old Testament. Perhaps the most remarkable is Isaiah, who prophesied no later than 680 BC many things that Cyrus the Great would accomplish, including decimating empires, allowing the Jewish people to return to their homeland, and a decree that the temple in Jerusalem be rebuilt (Isaiah 44:28-45:13). Isaiah prophesied this more than 80 years before the first exile of Jewish people were taken captive to Babylon (circa 597 BC). Cyrus ruled Persia and the kingdoms he subsequently conquered like Babylon from roughly 560 to 530 BC.

From our vantage point today, we can also see how the Old Testament corresponds to the New Testament through miraculous Messianic prophecy fulfillment. Distinct aspects of the ancestry, birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of the Messiah were all prophesied in the Old Testament and their historical fulfillment was recorded in the New Testament, primarily the four Gospels. The Old Testament points toward “the anointed one,” which was translated Christos in Greek, the language of the inspired New Testament Scripture and much of the Roman world. Therefore, Christ was the term used by Christians to refer to the Messiah.

Prophecy fulfillment is powerful evidence that validates the credibility and supernatural inspiration of the Old Testament, where human beings are told specific predictions by God to be fulfilled many hundreds of years in the future. While Christian apologists do not arrive at the same number of messianic prophecies, most agree they are numerous. Jewish biblical scholar Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), a convert to Christianity, wrote a classic work affirming there are 456 passages in the Old Testament that refer to the Messiah. His work The Life and Times of Jesus The Messiah is accessible for free online at CCEL. Edersheim also stated that there are 558 Messianic references in Jewish rabbinic writings. Popular apologist Josh McDowell inspired a generation of Christians to become interested in prophecy fulfillment by detailing numerous prophecies in his best-seller Evidence That Demands A Verdict (first printing 1972).

One of the better known prophecies is Micah 5:2, which says that “one whose origins are from the days of eternity” would be born in Bethlehem. In the New Testament, King Herod asked his chief priests and teachers of the law where the Messiah (or Christ) was to be born. They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” specifically quoting Micah 5:2 (see Matthew 2:1-6).

For more examples of Messianic prophecies fulfilled, see my books The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus, in which I interviewed two Jewish experts and converts to Christianity, Louis Lapides and Dr. Michael Brown. They both give specific and helpful background concerning the Old Testament predictions about the coming of the Messiah. I think you’ll find those discussions helpful. In fact, in The Case for the Real Jesus, Brown establishes that either the Old Testament points toward Jesus as the Messiah or there will never be one – in other words, Jesus fits the “fingerprint” of the prophecies in a manner that nobody else ever did or will be able to do in the future, given the necessary time frame for the appearance of the Messiah.

Keep in mind that Jesus himself claimed he was fulfilling prophecy. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said he has not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, a designation for the Old Testament Scriptures, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). After his resurrection Jesus expounded to the disciples that, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44)!”

While prophecy fulfillment is stunning, foreshadowing is a literary device that anticipates important future events. It demonstrates the beauty and drama of a sophisticated narrative. The world’s great writers use foreshadowing in their masterpieces. This is another captivating way that the Old Testament corresponds to the New Testament. Hebrews 10:1 states that the Old Testament “law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.” The fulfillment of these “types” occurs in the “good things” of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the “antitype (corresponding to something prior)” (Hebrews 10:5-14).

One example an Old Testament “type” or shadow is Abraham, who initially was commanded to sacrifice his only legitimate son Isaac until God saw Abraham’s faithfulness and intervened with a substitutionary sacrifice (Genesis 22). The fulfillment or “antitype” is demonstrated when God the Father, who so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 3:22-25).

Another “type” or foreshadowing of Christ is found in the Passover lamb (see Exodus 11-12). God was to deliver the tenth and final plague upon the land of Egypt, which was to strike the firstborn son of everyone in Egypt as well as livestock. However, God had a way of escape for the persecuted Israelites. They were to take the blood of a one-year-old lamb without defect and place it above and on both sides of the doorframe of their home. God was to bring judgment upon Egypt for their worship of false gods, but when the Lord saw the blood on the doorframe of the Israelites he would pass over and spare the lives of those inside.

We see the New Testament “antitype” in 1 Corinthians 5:7, which says that “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed” for our deliverance by his atoning blood shed for our sins.

This essay is taken from Lee Strobel’s Investigating Faith newsletter.

“Everything Must Be Fulfilled:” Prophecy and the Messiah

April 2, 2012

“Everything Must Be Fulfilled:” Prophecy and the Messiah

Andy Rau

Andy is the former senior manager of content for Bible Gateway. He currently works at Calvin College.

A depiction of the prophet Isaiah by Paul Gustave Doré (1866).

Christians often speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as having been “prophesied” in the Bible. What does this mean?

Generally speaking, it means that Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection were predicted (sometimes in broad terms, sometimes in very specific detail) by prophets in ancient Israel. The Old Testament contains many such prophecies. These predictions are important because they establish that Jesus is God’s promised Messiah—if we can see that Jesus’ life and activities match ancient predictions about the Messiah, Jesus’ claim to be the long-awaited Son of God gains credibility.

That’s why various New Testament writers, when discussing the events of Jesus’ life, occasionally point out connections to Old Testament prophecy. For example, John 12:38 explains that Jesus encountered disbelief despite his miracles “to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet.” Jesus himself was certainly aware that his life and ministry bore a very close connection to the predictions of God’s prophets:

[Jesus] said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

(Interestingly, passages like this suggest that the Messiah’s relationship with prophecy was not just to perfectly match it, but to help people understand what those predictions meant.)

A list of Old Testament passages thought to be referring to Jesus Christ would take up more time and space than a simple blog post allows (in fact, many books have been written on the subject). However, as we continue our journey through Holy Week, it seems appropriate to share one of the most famous Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. As you read through the passage below, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What general qualities does this passage ascribe to the Messiah?
  2. Can you identify any references to specific events in the life of the Messiah—particularly the events of Easter?
  3. Imagine that you are reading this passage without any knowledge of the Easter story. What conclusions might you draw? And how does your understanding of the passage change once you’ve heard the Easter story?

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message?
  To whom has the Lord’s power been revealed?
    He grew up in his presence like a young tree,
      like a root out of dry ground.
    He had no form or majesty that would make us look at him.
    He had nothing in his appearance that would make us desire him.
  He was despised and rejected by people.
    He was a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering.
    He was despised like one from whom people turn their faces,
      and we didn’t consider him to be worth anything.
  He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering
    and carried our sorrows,
      but we thought that God had wounded him,
      beat him, and punished him.
  He was wounded for our rebellious acts.
    He was crushed for our sins.
      He was punished so that we could have peace,
      and we received healing from his wounds.

  We have all strayed like sheep.
    Each one of us has turned to go his own way,
      and the Lord has laid all our sins on him.
  He was abused and punished,
    but he didn’t open his mouth.
  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
  He was like a sheep that is silent
    when its wool is cut off.
      He didn’t open his mouth.

  He was arrested, taken away, and judged.
    Who would have thought that he would be removed
    from the world?
  He was killed because of my people’s rebellion.
  He was placed in a tomb with the wicked.
    He was put there with the rich when he died,
    although he had done nothing violent
      and had never spoken a lie.

  Yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him with suffering.
  When the Lord has made his life a sacrifice for our wrongdoings,
    he will see his descendants for many days.
      The will of the Lord will succeed through him.
      He will see and be satisfied
      because of his suffering.
  My righteous servant will acquit many people
    because of what he has learned through suffering.
    He will carry their sins as a burden.

  So I will give him a share among the mighty,
    and he will divide the prize with the strong,
      because he poured out his life in death
      and he was counted with sinners.
      He carried the sins of many.
      He intercedes for those who are rebellious.
Isaiah 53 (GOD’s WORD Translation)

Fulfilled Prophecies at the Birth of Christ

by Tim Chaffey on December 24, 2012

The events associated with the birth of Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies given centuries before the events they described.

Another Reason to Rejoice this Season

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying God and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:20)

Millions of Christians around the world choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of year—some on December 24 or 25 and others around January 7—while some choose not to celebrate at all. Whenever a Christian decides to celebrate, or if he elects not to celebrate His birth, we can all rejoice in the fact that, by putting on humanity, the Son of God became one of us to deal with our sin by dying in our place before conquering death when He rose from the dead.

History in Advance

The Gospel of Matthew gives us another reason to be thankful. The events associated with the birth of Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophecies given centuries before the events they described. Matthew 1:22 introduces a common statement in his work. He wrote, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.”1 Since he used this phrasing in at least a dozen passages, Matthew knew it was important to point out to his readers that many of the events he described fulfilled specific prophecies. Let’s take a look at some of these ancient proclamations before explaining why these give us a cause to celebrate.

The first use of the fulfillment phrase mentioned above introduces one of the best-known prophecies in the Bible.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

In reference to the birth of Jesus, Matthew cited a specific prophecy from Isaiah made more than 700 years earlier.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Just as foretold, the virgin (Mary) indeed did conceive (Matthew 1:21) and bore a Son who is called Immanuel. This amazing event demonstrates God’s infinite knowledge and power. He is capable for foretelling the future with perfect precision, and He has the power to bring His prophecies to pass, even if that means a virgin would need to conceive and bear a Son.2

After Christ’s birth the magi arrived in Jerusalem. Herod gathered the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Messiah was going to be born (Matthew 2:3). They responded by citing an Old Testament prophecy pinpointing Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Christ:

“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6; cf. Micah 5:2; John 7:42)

Herod’s murderous response of slaughtering the young boys of Bethlehem led to the fulfillment of three more prophecies. First, this tragic massacre fulfilled the words of Jeremiah.

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18; cf. Jeremiah 31:15)

The original context of this prophecy had to do with mothers in Israel lamenting the deportation of their sons to Babylon. These mothers were personified as “‘Rachel,’ the mother in the days of the patriarchs whose sons Joseph and Benjamin had also been threatened with being ‘no more’ (i.e., carried away into Egypt; cf. Gen. 42:36).”3 Ramah was a town close to Jerusalem and associated with Rachel’s tomb (1 Samuel 10:2–3).

The second fulfilled prophecy resulting from Herod’s paranoiac rage took place after Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Upon their return, God’s words to Hosea were fulfilled.

“Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1” %})

This prophecy was originally made as a statement of history—God had called (and brought) Israel out of Egypt. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Matthew used these words to refer to the Messiah.

The final prophecy discussed by Matthew pertaining to events in the early years of Jesus has to do with his boyhood home. God warned Joseph in a dream not to go back to Judea, so instead he took Mary and Jesus to Nazareth in Galilee, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (Matthew 2:23). This statement has confused Christians because the Old Testament does not seem to make this specific prediction. Skeptics have jumped on this verse, claiming that it is a contradiction in Scripture. However, there are a few plausible solutions to this dilemma.

  1. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Testament Law and was like a Nazirite who vowed to separate himself to the Lord (Numbers 6:1–8). However this is an unlikely explanation since no record exists of Jesus making this vow, and if He did make one, He would have broken it when He drank wine or vinegar (Matthew 26:27–29; John 19:29). Also, even though the words Nazirite and Nazareth look and sound similar in English, they are unrelated in Hebrew.
  2. Nazareth comes from the root word netzer, which means branch, and multiple prophets spoke of the Messiah as the “Branch” (cf. Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12).
  3. Nazareth was looked upon with scorn. Even Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Several prophets revealed that the Messiah would be “despised and rejected of men” (Isaiah 53:3, cf. Psalm 22:6; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 12:10).
  4. Matthew may have recorded an oral tradition handed down from the prophets that was not written in the Old Testament, or perhaps it was a prophecy recorded in a non-extant, non-canonical work familiar to Matthew.4

Also, notice that Matthew indicated that the “prophets” (plural) had spoken about this rather than simply indicating that one particular prophet mentioned these things. Whatever the proper solution is to this dilemma, it is clear that Matthew did not introduce a contradiction in the text.

The Unique Savior

While thinking about the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth, Christians can rejoice that the Messiah has come to earth and dealt with our sin. We can praise God for fulfilling His promises. and we can have complete confidence that He will always be faithful to do what He has declared.

Despite what many believe today, the religions and religious leaders of the world are not the same. Many people in our culture promote the ridiculous claim that Jesus was just another religious leader—a good person who tried to make life better for others—but Jesus is unique in so many respects. He alone was a “good person” since He lived a sinless life. Every other religious leader has been sinful and needed a Savior. But Jesus did not need a savior; He is the Savior.

There are no prophecies foretelling details about the birth of other religious leaders. No prophecies alerted the world to the coming of Muhammad (Islam), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), David Koresh (Branch Davidians), Charles Taze Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses), Siddhartha Gautama (Buddhism), or any other founder of the world’s religions. Yet the Old Testament pinpointed numerous details about the life of the Son of God and Savior of the world.

So what do these prophecies tell us about Jesus? In just the first two chapters of Matthew, we see that God foretold the virginal conception of the Messiah, who would be born in Bethlehem, yet in some way would come out of Egypt and be called a Nazarene. We also see that bitter agony would grip the mothers in that area.

In the genealogy recorded in Matthew’s first chapter, we discover the fulfillment of several other Old Testament prophecies. Jesus was from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), Isaac (Genesis 26:4), Jacob (Genesis 28:14), Judah (Genesis 49:8–12), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and David (Isaiah 9:7). But that’s not all. A search through the rest of Scripture would reveal dozens of other details prophesied about the Messiah, including the following facts:

Many other prophecies could be listed that were perfectly fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. These were not lucky guesses made by fraudulent prognosticators; they were precise predictions made by the all-knowing God of the Bible who repeatedly demonstrated that He has perfect knowledge of all past, present, and future events. Consequently, we can be completely confident that He will always make good on His promises and that those future events He has foretold will certainly come to pass.


About 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth in a humble manner. The Savior of the world and God of all creation put on humanity to die for our sins and conquer death, giving the hope of salvation to all who turn from their sin and believe on Him. One day, He will return in judgment, and He will not appear as a seemingly helpless baby, but as the risen, glorified, sovereign Lord and Judge.

What will it be like for you when He returns? Will you be safe and secure because you have been saved by His amazing grace? Or will you tremble in fear before the holy and righteous God as you are condemned for rejecting His gracious offer of salvation (Revelation 20:11–15, cf. Philippians 2:9–11)?

If you are currently an unbeliever, I urge you to turn from your sin and cry out to Jesus to save you from the eternal torment we all deserve for our rebellion against the infinitely holy Creator. I pray that you find the same joy shared by the shepherds who visited Jesus on the night He was born.

Bible Study Tools

There are many ways to verify the reliability of Scripture from both internal evidences of transmission and agreement, to external confirmation through archeology and science. But perhaps the most persuasive argument can be found in the area of prophecy. If a book accurately and repeatedly predicts the future, it can safely be said that something special is going on, perhaps even something supernatural. And there are so many prophecies in the Scriptures that it should be easy to take a look and decide if the Bible is supernatural.

There are so many fulfilled prophecies! In fact, there are so many fulfilled prophecies in the Bible that it is hard to know where to begin! A simple search on the internet will provide you with literally hundreds of sites listing a multitude of fulfilled prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments. It’s difficult to know where to begin here in our limited discussion of the issue, so we’ll focus narrowly on some of the biggest and best known of prophecies!

Here are the most known Old Testament Bible prophecies: 

The Prophecies of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre and Edom

Let’s take a look at a few Bible prophecies that were fulfilled about 2500 years ago when the ancient kingdoms and cities of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre and Edom were destroyed. The Bible makes the assertion that these entities were destroyed because they had sought to destroy the Holy Land of Israel and the people of Israel (the Jews).

Babylon Will Rule Over Judah for 70 Years

You can read the first such prophecy in Jeremiah 25:11-12. This prophecy was written sometime from 626 to about 586 BC and was not fulfilled until about 609 BC to 539 BC (approximately 50 years later, depending on your calculation)

“…This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever” (Jeremiah 25:11-12).

In this passage of Scripture, Jeremiah said that the Jews would suffer 70 years of Babylonian domination, and that after this was over, Babylon would be punished. Both parts of this prophecy were fulfilled! In 609 BC, Babylon captured the last Assyrian king and took over the holdings of the Assyrian empire, which included the land of Israel. Babylon then began to flex its muscles by taking many Jews as captives to Babylon and by destroying Jerusalem and the Temple. This domination of the Jews ended in 539 BC, when Cyrus, a leader of Persians and Medes, conquered Babylon, bringing an end to the empire. The prophecy also had another fulfillment: the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple in 586 BC, but the Jews rebuilt it and consecrated it 70 years later, in 516 BC. Restoring the Temple showed, in a very important way, that the effects of Babylonian domination had indeed come to an end.

Babylon’s Gates Will Open for Cyrus

If you read Isaiah 45:1 (written perhaps between 701 and 681 BC), you will find a prophecy that was ultimately fulfilled hundreds of years later in 539 BC.

“This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut…” (Isaiah 45:1).

In this passage, the prophet said God would open the gates of Babylon for Cyrus and his attacking army. Despite Babylon’s remarkable defenses, which included moats, and walls that were more than 70-feet thick and 300-feet high (with 250 watchtowers) Cyrus was able to enter the city and conquer it. Cyrus and his troops accomplished it by diverting the flow of the Euphrates River into a large lake basin. Cyrus then was able to march his army across the riverbed and into the city.

Babylon’s Kingdom Will Be Permanently Overthrown

In Isaiah 13:19 (written between 701 and 681 BC) there exists yet another prophecy that was not fulfilled until 539 BC.

“Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19).

Here, Isaiah tells us that Babylon would be overthrown, permanently. History confirms the fact that following Cyrus’ destruction of Babylon in 539 BC, it never again rose to power as an empire. You’ve got to remember, however, that before the time of Cyrus, Babylon had been defeated by the Assyrian Empire as well, But Babylon was able to recover and later conquer the Assyrian Empire. In light of this reality, I’m sure many people doubted Isaiah when he proclaimed this prophecy. In spite of this, and just as Isaiah predicted, the Babylonian empire was defeated, and never recovered from Cyrus’ conquest.

Babylon Will Be Reduced to Swampland

In Isaiah 14:23 (written between 701 and 681 BC), the prophet makes yet another prediction that does not come true until 539 BC.

“‘I will turn her into a place for owls and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 14:23).

The prophet makes the bold claim that Babylon, which had been a world power at two different times in history, would be brought to a humble and final end. But not only that, Isaiah claims that Babylon would be reduced to swampland! Well, after Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, the kingdom never again rose to power, that is certain. And history tells us that the buildings of Babylon fell into a gradual state of ruin during the next several centuries. Interestingly, when archaeologists excavated Babylon during the 1800s, they discovered that some parts of the city could not be dug up because they were under a water table that had risen over the years!

The Jews Will Survive Babylonian Rule and Return Home

In Jeremiah 32:36-37, (written from about 626 and 586 BC), yet another prophet makes a bold prediction that was ultimately fulfilled in 536 BC.

“You are saying about this city, ‘By the sword, famine and plague it will be handed over to the king of Babylon’; but this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety” (Jeremiah 32:36-37).

In this passage, Jeremiah said that the Jews would survive their captivity in Babylon and return home, and both parts of this prophecy were ultimately fulfilled. Many Jews had been taken as captives to Babylon beginning around 605 BC. But, in 538 BC, they were released from captivity and many eventually returned to their homeland.

The Ninevites Will Be Drunk in Their Final Hours

In Nahum 1:10 (written around 614 BC) the prophet predicts the condition of the Ninevites at the time of their demise.

“They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble (Nahum 1:10).

In this passage, and once again in Nahum 3:11, the prophet said that during the final hours of the attack on Nineveh, the Ninevites would be drunk. Well, guess what, there is evidence that this prophecy was actually fulfilled! According to the ancient historian Diodorus Siculus: “The Assyrian king gave much wine to his soldiers. Deserters told this to the enemy, who attacked that night.” Siculus compiled his historical works about 600 years after the fall of Nineveh, and in doing so, confirmed the Biblical account.

Nineveh Will Be Destroyed By Fire

Once again, in Nahum 3:15 (written around 614 BC) the prophet makes a prediction which ultimately did come true.

“There the fire will devour you; the sword will cut you down and, like grasshoppers, consume you…” (Nahum 3:15).

The prophet said that Nineveh would be damaged by fire. Archaeologists unearthed the site during the 1800s and found a layer of ash covering the ruins. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “…Nineveh suffered a defeat from which it never recovered. Extensive traces of ash, representing the sack of the city by Babylonians, Scythians, and Medes in 612 BC, have been found in many parts of the Acropolis. After 612 BC the city ceased to be important…”

Tyre Will Be Attacked By Many Nations

In Ezekiel 26:3 (written between 587-586 BC) the prophet predicts the attacks on Tyre that occurred in 573 BC, 332 BC, and 1291 AD.

“Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves” (Ezekiel 26:3).

The prophet said that Tyre, the Phoenician Empire’s most powerful city, would be attacked by many nations, because of its treatment of Israel. At about the time that Ezekiel delivered this prophecy, Babylon had begun a 13 year attack on Tyre’s mainland. Later, in about 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre and brought an end to the Phoenician Empire. Then, after that, Tyre later fell again under the rule of the Romans, the Crusaders and the Moslems, who destroyed the city yet again, in 1291.

Tyre’s Stones, Timber and Soil Will Be Cast Into the Sea

In a remarkable prediction, the prophet writes in Ezekiel 26:12 (written between 587-586 BC) that the stone, timber and soil of Tyre will be thrown into the sea. This was fulfilled in 333-332 BC.

“They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea” (Ezekiel 26:12).

The prophet said that Tyre’s stones, timber and soil would be thrown into the sea. That’s probably a fitting description of how Alexander the Great built a land bridge from the mainland to the island of Tyre when he attacked in 333-332 BC. It is believed that he took the rubble from Tyre’s mainland ruins and tossed it – stones, timber and soil – into the sea, to build the land bridge (which is still there).

In Ezekiel 25:14 (written between 593-571 BC), the prophet predicts that the Jews will eventually have revenge against the Edomites. This was not fulfilled, however for over 400 years (until approximately 100 BC)

“I will take vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they will deal with Edom in accordance with my anger and my wrath; they will know my vengeance’, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 25:14).

Ezekiel said that the Jews would one day take vengeance on Edom, a nation that had often warred with the Jews. When Ezekiel delivered this prophecy, he and many other Jews were living as captives in Babylon. They didn’t have control of their own country, let alone anyone else’s. But, about 400 years later, Jews regained independence for Jerusalem and the surrounding area during the “Hasmonaean Period.” During this time, the Jewish priest-king John Hyrcanus I defeated the Edomites. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition: “Edomite history was marked by continuous hostility and warfare with Jews… At the end of the second century B.C., they were subdued by Hasmonaean priest-king John Hyrcanus I…”

Edom Will Be Toppled and Humbled

In Jeremiah 49:16 (written sometime from 626 to about 586 BC) the prophet predicts that Edom will be toppled. This was fulfilled in approximately 100 BC:

“‘The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks, who occupy the heights of the hill. Though you build your nest as high as the eagle’s, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 49:16).

Jeremiah said that Edom, a long-time enemy of Israel, would be destroyed. Edom’s capital city, Petra, was carved out of a mountain side and had great natural defenses. Nonetheless, it was destroyed and the kingdom of Edom no longer exists. Today, Petra is part of Jordan. The city was conquered by the Romans in the year 106 AD but flourished again shortly after that. But a rival city, Palmyra, eventually took most of the trade away and Petra began to decline. Moslems conquered Petra in the 7th Century and Crusaders conquered it in the 12th Century. Petra gradually fell into ruin.

The Greatest Old Testament Prophecy of All

There are literally hundreds of other fulfilled prophecies that we could describe here, but clearly one stand head and shoulders above the rest, and we really need to take a minute to describe it. While the Jews were certainly comforted by prophecies that predicted that their enemies would eventually be destroyed, there was a far more comforting prophecy that had been described in the Old Testament. It was a prophecy that predicted the coming of a Messiah, a savior who would deliver the Jews. While there we dozens of messianic prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures, one of these was incredibly specific in its claims. As we examine this prophecy, we can confirm the supernatural and divine inspiration of the Bible.

The Coming of the Messiah

In 538 B.C. Daniel wrote the following bold prediction:

“So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks of years and sixty-two weeks of years” (Daniel 9:25).

In this prophecy, Daniel is claiming that there will be 69 weeks of years between the issuing of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the appearance of the Messiah. Now keep in mind that this bold prediction came 538 years before Christ was born.

Now let’s investigate a little history, OK? In 464 BC, Artaxerxes, a Persian king, ascended to the throne. His twentieth year as king would be 464 BC. Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, was deeply concerned with the reports about the ruined condition of Jerusalem which came about as the result of their being defeated (Nehemiah 1:1-4) and as a result, he petitioned the king:

“Send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it. So it pleased the king to send me” (Nehemiah 2:5-6).

Scripture then provides us with the exact date of this decree to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem. According to the Scriptures the decree is issued “in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king” (Nehemiah 2:1). The Jewish calendar month was Nisan, and since no day is given, it is reasonable to assume that the date would be understood as the first, the Jewish New Year’s Day. And, in the Julian calendar we presently use, the corresponding date would be March 5, 444 B.C. This was the day on which the decree was issued to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

Now let’s remember this date, March 5, 444 B.C. and take a look at the appearance of the Messiah. You may recall that the Gospels tell us that Jesus, on numerous occasions, had forbidden his followers to make him known as “the Messiah”. He would frequently do miracles and tell the disciples not to tell anyone who had done the miracles because his “hour has not yet come” (John 2:4, 7:6). However, on March 30, 33 A.D., when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey, he rebuked the Pharisees’ protest and encouraged the whole multitude of his disciples as they shouted, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord”. And Jesus said, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:38-40). This was the day on which Jesus was publicly declared the Messiah.

Now let’s compare the date of the decree (March 5, 444 BC) with the date of Jesus’ declaration (March 30, 33 AD). Now before we begin, we need to clarify the fact that the Jewish prophetic year was composed of twelve 30 day months. In other words, the ancient evidence indicates that the Jewish prophetic year had 360 days, not 365 days. Since Daniel states 69 weeks of seven years each, and each year has 360 days, the equation is as follows: 69 x 7 x 360 = 173,880 days. In nothing more than a simple mathematical demonstration, the number of days in the period from March 5, 444 B.C. (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes) to March 30, 33 A.D. (the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey) can be determined at this point.

The time span from 444 B.C. to 33 A.D. is 476 years (remember that 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. is only one year). And if we multiply 476 years x 365.2421879 days per year (corrected for leap years), we get the result of 173,855 days. Now let’s add back the difference between March 5 and March 30 (25 days). What is our total? You guessed it, 173,880 days, exactly as Daniel predicted it.

So What Does Fulfilled Prophecy Prove?

The ancient Jews were careful to use Prophecy as a measuring stick. If someone claimed to be a prophet, yet his predictions did not come true, he was abandoned and his writings did not make it into the canon of scripture. Moses was careful to set this high bar for prophets:

When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that [is] the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, [but] the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).

Moses knew that fulfilled prophecy was an evidence! It was an evidence that God was truly at work in the heart of the prophet, giving him insight to something that only God knew about. The exact fulfillment of all the prophecies that we’ve talked about from the Old Testament is more than enough to demonstrate the accuracy and divine inspiration of the Bible and the truth of Christianity. Remember, only God can “declare the end from the beginning” and forecast to the very day “things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10).

I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will” (Isaiah 46:10).

The Bible tells us that long before the world began, God had a plan to bring redemption through Christ to all those who would choose to believe and follow after Him (1 Peter 1:19-20). God knew we would need a Savior. He knew we would need to be set free. And He made a way, by sending His One and Only Son, so that we could receive forgiveness and find new life and hope through Him (John 3:16).

And throughout the Scriptures, weaved through verse after verse in the Old Testament, are prophecies that speak of the Christ who was to come. Bible scholars have concluded from much research that hundreds of years before Jesus was even born, more than 300 prophecies were recorded to tell of His coming, His life and journey to the cross, and of His Powerful Resurrection.

Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the Word. He is the Light. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through Him. Jesus has fulfilled every single prophetic word.

Here are 10 prophecies of Christ’s journey to the cross and the resurrection.

1. Christ’s Triumphant Ride into Jerusalem

Prophecy “Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt.” (Zechariah 9:9)

Fulfillment by Christ“The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A huge crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet Him. They shouted, ‘Praise God! Bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel! Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said: ‘Don’t be afraid, people of Israel. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.’” (John 12:12-15)

“Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. He was in the center of the procession, and the crowds all around Him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the One who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!’ The entire city of Jerusalem was stirred as He entered. ‘Who is this?’ they asked. And the crowds replied, ‘It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 28:8-11)

 2. Rejection of Christ by His Own People

Prophecy “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Fulfillment by Christ “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:10-11)

“But despite all the miraculous signs He had done, most of the people did not believe in Him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted: ‘Lord, who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal His saving power?’” (John 12:37-38)

Prophecy “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

Fulfillment by Christ “But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” (Mark 15:5)

4. The Soldiers Divided His Garments and Cast Lots for His Clothes

Prophecy “I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” (Psalm 22:17-18)

Fulfillment by Christ “When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” (John 19:23)

5. Not One of His Bones Would be Broken

Prophecy “They must not leave any of the lamb until the next morning, and they must not break any of its bones. They must follow all the normal regulations concerning the Passover.” (Numbers 9:12)

Fulfillment by Christ“The Jewish leaders didn’t want the victims hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath at that, because it was the Passover), so they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that He was dead already, so they didn’t break His legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out. This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account; it is presented so that you also can believe. These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of His bones will be broken,’ and ‘They will look on Him whom they pierced.’” (John 19:31-37)

 6. They Would Pierce His Hands and Feet

Prophecy “My life is poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within Me. My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of My mouth. You have laid Me in the dust and left Me for dead. My enemies surround Me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on Me. They have pierced My hands and feet.” (Psalm 22:14-16)

Fulfillment by Christ“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)

“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)

7. Jesus Will Die as a Sacrifice for Our Sins

Prophecy “But He was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on Him the guilt and sins of us all. From prison and trial they led Him away to His death. But who among the people realized that He was dying for their sins – that He was suffering their punishment? I will give Him the honors of One who is mighty and great, because He exposed Himself to death. He was counted among those who were sinners. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.” (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 12)

Fulfillment by Christ“He personally carried away our sins in His own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by His wounds.” (1 Peter 2:24)

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me – that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

8. Jesus was Buried in a Rich Man’s Tomb

Prophecy “He had done no wrong, and He never deceived anyone. But He was buried like a criminal; He was put in a rich man’s grave.” (Isaiah 53:9)

Fulfillment by Christ “As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who was one of Jesus’ followers, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left.” (Matthew 27:57-60)

9. Jesus Would Not Stay Buried but Rose from the Dead

Prophecy “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” (Psalm 16:10)

Fulfillment by Christ “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6)

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:8-11)

10. Christ Would be Seated at the Right Hand of God

Prophecy “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in honor at My right hand until I humble Your enemies, making them a footstool under Your feet.’” (Psalm 110:1)

Fulfillment by Christ “But our High Priest offered Himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand. There He waits until His enemies are humbled as a footstool under His feet.” (Hebrews 10:12-13)

“This prophecy was speaking of Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, and we all are witnesses of this. Now He sits on the throne of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as He had promised, gave Him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in honor at My right hand until I humble Your enemies, making them a footstool under Your feet.”’ So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah!” (Acts 2:32-36)

Preaching From Lengthy Books Of The Old Testament

Author Thomas, Derek

Category Articles

Date April 6, 2006

© Copyright 2020 Banner of Truth.

Preachers are meant to grow in the manner of their preaching-develop the use of certain oratorical skills, hone exegetical proficiency, better discern the human heart. But some things are difficult to learn. How is it possible to preach week after week, several times a week, and still not have learned how to do it properly?

First, something of a confession! Thirty five years ago I preached what was my first sermon. The text was not from the Old Testament (it was Romans 5:1) and neither was it a lengthy one (just one verse). It signaled (unconsciously then, to be sure) what would be a haunting trend in preaching, particularly for those of us who cut our teeth on what we (wrongly) perceived the shape of reformed preaching to be: patterned after the style of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ expository sermons on Ephesians and Romans, volumes then emerging annually like clockwork just before Christmas. Lloyd-Jones’ pattern, taking short texts, often merely one or two verses from New Testament passages, carefully analyzing each word, savoring every last nugget of truth, every delectable morsel of sweetness so as to maximize profit and display homiletical prowess, seemed to be what preaching-reformed preaching-was about. And many have tried to mimic it, and some with not so good results.

What I didn’t realize then was that these sermons were not typical of Lloyd-Jones’ preaching (the Romans series, for example, was preached on Friday evenings to an enthusiastic audience). And even those sermons which were preached on Sundays were preached to a congregation that was in all likelihood very different from our own. And there is also a fairly obvious matter which can easily be overlooked: our skills in preaching are probably very different! All of these factors affect the choices we make in preaching methodologies.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that we should abandon consecutive expository preaching. Not at all! But there is more than one way, and certainly more than one “speed” by which we do it. The issue of defining what a preaching text should be-the block of material that constitutes a “text” (focused for us by the versification of Scripture in late Middle Ages)-is not without its problems. It is all too easy to take something out of context and engage in tangential preaching when the choice of text is too small.

My question here focuses on one aspect of exegetical preaching: preaching from lengthy books of the Old Testament. In this case, short texts would imply series of considerable length-too long for the patience of most congregations not to mention the skill of most preachers. What I offer are a series of observations based on a combination of principles I hold dear, practices I have observed, and failures I have most certainly made.

For our present purposes, I have assumed the need for consecutive expository sermons (preaching through entire books of the Bible), rather than textual (though these too should be expository) or topical sermons. I am not denying the place for these alternatives on certain occasions, but I am assuming that the overall emphasis of preaching involves preaching through books of the Bible. Many preachers of reformed persuasion, past and present, have not adopted this method (e.g. Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones on Sunday evenings), but I have here assumed that consecutive expository preaching is the issue rather than an occasional practice.

1. Preach the whole Bible

It might seem obvious, but experience shows otherwise: preachers rarely set out to preach the whole Bible. Two contemporary British preachers come to mind. First, Geoff Thomas. As I write this he is celebrating his fortieth year in the same pastorate in Aberystwyth, Wales, and claims to have preached on most of the books of the Bible. His aim, as I understand it, is to preach through the whole Bible in his lifetime. He seems on course to accomplish his goal. Second, Stuart Olyott. His is a unique style of preaching- simple, direct, structured analyses of large passages of Scripture with an aim to preach through the entire Bible in ten years. Two very different preachers both attempting in different ways to preach the entire Bible.

Preaching through the Bible is not at all a simple formula to follow. In America, for example, pastorates rarely last longer than four or five years in the initial years of a “preaching career” and perhaps twice that in later stages. We may lament this trend (and we do), but it is a fact and it greatly influences what material from the Bible gets preached. Who, for example, knowing their pastorate is only going to last four or five years, would engage in a series of sermons covering a few verses at a time, on books such Exodus, Jeremiah, Job or Isaiah? Even if each sermon text covers half a chapter, the total number of sermons is still going to be around a hundred. And even if we assume no gaps due to vacation or special or seasonal services, the series is going to last over two years. When there is no evening service or any serious attempt to preach at a mid-week meeting, most pastorates of short duration would then merely cover a couple of Bible books! Given this scenario, choosing to spend half of my ministry in Jeremiah or Exodus would be a brave choice indeed. In certain circumstances it makes more sense to preach through Luke rather than Leviticus, John rather than Jeremiah. Biblical illiteracy is then almost inevitable. In cases of this sort, impossible compromises have to be made and preaching lengthy books seems an impossible choice.

2. Preach the Old Testament

It might seem obvious but it needs to be said: we must preach the Old Testament. Two-thirds of the Bible is Old Testament. True, to spend more time in the shadow than in the light says something about our theology perhaps, as does the reverse! But the New Testament is meaningless without the Old Testament. Large tracts of it become incomprehensible without the material of the first 39 books. Concepts like substitution and satisfaction, and words like propitiation, atonement, reconciliation, peace, and Savior are at best ambiguous and at worst objectionable without the input of Old Testament teaching. The church is “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16) and believers are “children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:29). We are a “chosen People, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God”-all of which allude to massive concepts explained in the pages of the Old Testament (1 Pet. 2:9). Israel’s history, despite the cautions of the redemptive-historical school of preaching, is meant to provide us with valuable lessons for today (1 Cor. 10:1-13). Theological confusion among Christians today often stems from ignorance of the foundations upon which the New Testament is laid.

But how should we preach on those big books of the Old Testament?

Take Jeremiah, for example. Phil Ryken’s magnificent sermons on Jeremiah and Lamentations, now published by Crossway as Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope [2001] is over 830 pages in length. It is without doubt a model of expository preaching. But not every congregation committed to biblical preaching could sustain this without serious consequences. To undertake something like this requires both self-knowledge of one’s own gifts as well as the ability of the congregation to sustain such a series. In certain contexts, it might be wiser to preach a series of sermons covering much larger tracts of material, covering (say) the biographical details of Jeremiah’s life. This is, after all, one of the main benefits of the Old Testament-that it contains such a wealth of historical and biographical material. Given that it covers some 1,500 years of history, in contrast to the few decades of the New Testament, the Old Testament has more time to give to biography. It explores characters in a way that the New Testament rarely does. Preaching the major historical moments in Jeremiah’s life (for example) is still a reasonable way of approaching an otherwise massively intimidating project.

3. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

One of my most acute memories as a young preacher was beginning a series of sermons on Jeremiah and discovering, around chapter thirteen or so, that I wasn’t at all clear how to pursue the next fifty and more chapters! I abandoned the series, with suitable apologies! Many books of the Old Testament can be considered lengthy. Jeremiah certainly! But so are Ezekiel and Isaiah. And so are the five books of the Pentateuch. And the historical books, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. For that matter, so is the Book of Psalms (though few preachers have preached through the entire Psalter, consecutively). Even assuming that we take a whole chapter for each sermon, most of these books would take well over a year to accomplish.

Joseph Caryl (a Congregationalist present at the Westminster Assembly) preached over 250 sermons on Job! He began in 1643 and ended, almost 24 years later, in 1666! In the final sermon he apologizes, saying: “I have not attained so clear an understanding of some passages.” Despite the value of the sermons (currently in print in ten volumes), this is not an example to follow!

It is possible to make two equally treacherous errors here-of the congregation and of oneself as a preacher. It is necessary to discern what a congregation is likely to accept. Congregations unfamiliar with either the Old Testament, or with consecutive expository preaching (at a slow pace), might need more imaginative preaching. Mark Dever, of Capital Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C., for example, more than anyone else I know, has the ability to preach through large portions of Scripture in one sermon. Not every preacher has this skill.

But there is an additional problem that arises in the Old Testament. Some books, the historical books for example, are sufficiently varied to enable the sermons to sound very different from week to week. Large tracts of the major prophets, for example, are not like that. Isaiah 13 begins a series of “woes” on the surrounding nations that last for the next 20 and more chapters! It is necessary to preach this material, of course. It is an imbalance in the doctrine of God that is the cause of many of the church’s ills. Preaching the Old Testament, particularly the prophets, will re-shape out thinking on certain issues. Where we are prone to be tolerant, the Old Testament is steely. As Derek Kidner puts it: “Like John the Baptist all skin and bone and leather at Herod’s silken court, it may jar on us but it speaks out like a prophet, not a courtier.” [1] But preaching slowly through these chapters is to guarantee the suggestion from the deacons that it is time to move on-to another pastorate! One way to avoid the sense of repetition is to decide on emphasizing different features in different sermons even though the exegetical material is similar. Not everything in a text needs the same emphasis every time we preach it.

4. Decide carefully which book to preach

Many preachers are tempted to preach on a book of the Bible because a great “preacher’s” commentary has just been published on that book! It is amazing just how much the great evangelical publishers influence the material preached over the subsequent years following the release of one of these commentaries. But not every congregation needs the message of that book as urgently as others. Jesus teaches us (Rev. 2 & 3) that different congregations have different problems and different needs. Much of the material in the major prophets deal with issues such as social justice, relativism, and formalism-material that may be more needed in some congregations than others. Sadly, the relativism Jeremiah saw in ancient Israel predominates in western world. That’s why his words are so relevant. Better than anyone else, Jeremiah exemplifies through his courage, passion, even his sufferings, how believers can live for God in a society that has turned against Him.

While the book of Jeremiah shared the last, desperate days of the Jerusalem its author loved, Lamentations expresses the cries of his heart. Yet they reveal more than the prophet’s grief, they are an attempt to reflect on the meaning of human suffering. Lamentations gives voice to the deepest agonies, with the hope that some comfort may come from crying out to God for mercy. Together the two books illustrate the eternal principle that man reaps what he sows.

To read Exodus, to take another lengthy Old Testament book, is to encounter God. The book is about the mercy, justice, holiness, and glory of almighty God, who rules history by his sovereign power, saves the people of his covenant, and delivers his people from bondage. Few books can relate what true worship is really about better than Exodus-not expediency or utilitarianism but the engagement of heart and mind in accord with a regulative principle established by God himself. A series in Exodus will address, among other issues, the place of law, and the heart of worship-both highly charged issues in the modern church.

Depending on one’s point of view, the Song of Solomon will address the issue of sex in a way that the church desperately needs today. It forms the perfect backdrop to one of the great social problems of our time. A pity, therefore, that an allegorical interpretation seems to have prevailed within reformed circles robbing the church of much needed material to address a continuing Corinthian problem at large in the church today.

5. Don’t be a slave to one method

Not all the contents of a book need to be preached in the order they are given. This is a point that is not always appreciated and even more difficult to convince doughty reformed preachers!

During a time of immense trial in a Belfast congregation (when civil unrest was at one of its worst periods) I decided that the comforting passages of Isaiah were what the congregation needed. But to get to Isaiah 40-66 I would first have to preach through the judgment oracles on the early chapters (some twenty chapters of them!). To begin in the first chapter of Isaiah would have meant months in the condemnation of the law when what I felt the congregation need was the assurance of the gospel. The dangers are obvious: Marcionite tendencies to create a “working canon” within the canon will remove all that is unpleasant and offensive and leave only those passages which invigorate and vivify and “speak to me.” But these dangers need not prevent us from creative approaches to preaching material that has largely become unfamiliar to us. I don’t deny that opposition exists to expository preaching that needs rigorous rebuttal, but I equally believe that the way to do this needs to be carefully thought through. In congregations where significant opposition to lengthy series exists there seems to me to be every justification for preaching 20 sermons on Ezekiel (January through May, say) rather than 80 (January through May of the following year!).

Some options for covering large sections of the Old Testament might be:

* Biographically (e.g. Jeremiah, Elijah, David, Samuel, Joseph)

* Disproportionately: spending more time on some sections (Isaiah 1-12, 36-39, 40-66) than on other sections (Isaiah 13-35). This approach is fraught with potential allegations of seeming to avoid the negative and darker sections. The way to avoid it would be to preach faithfully and clearly the retributive righteousness of God in such a way that no doubt is cast as one’s commitment to these truths.

* Quickly: it is possible to cover large sections of the prophets easier than it would be possible to cover the same material in, say, Kings and Chronicles. I preached around 100 sermons on Chronicles over twenty years ago but would now find it difficult to justify that amount of time on one book at the expense of others. Geoff Thomas has preached through Job in around a dozen sermons and Revelation in five! John Piper seems to have covered Isaiah in around 25 sermons.

* Intermittently: Breaking up the book into various sections allowing for other sermons to be interjected, perhaps from the New Testament to echo the themes, though it might also be preferable to have a decisive break. (e.g. Isaiah might be broken up this way:

o 1-12 Glimpses of Jesus in Prophecy

o 13-23 God’s assessment of a world without Christ

o 24-35 End-Times-from an Old Testament Standpoint

o 36-39 Hezekiah-a story of promise and failure

o 40-66 The Comfort of God in the Gospel)

These titles are merely suggestive of ways to break up into segments what otherwise might appear as relentless and disjointed. Providing something by way of contrast between these sections for a month might also be necessary in certain circumstances.

I have preached through Job three times. The first time I took over thirty sermons, the second in eleven sermons and three (summer) months. The second was more enjoyable than the first, partly because (as every preacher will immediately acknowledge) it is only after you finish preaching through a book once that you begin to feel you understand it! And partly because Job’s plea of innocence is easier to sustain over the short term! Even Calvin wavered here on this latter point. Taking 14 months to preach 159 sermons on Job (mid-week and therefore several sermons per week), Calvin begins to suggest (Ophelia-like) around chapter 23 that no-one can be that righteous, thereby undermining the very premise of the book as given in the opening prologue. A case can be made for preaching a series of six sermons on Job (which I’ve also done) but this requires an ease of conscience with skimming over large sections with the merest whiff of a comment.

Whichever way it is done, the need to preach the whole Bible remains paramount, particularly in an increasingly biblically illiterate church. As we have seen, however, the issue raises fundamental questions about the nature of ministry and the time allocated to preaching. Reformation in the one area can only be done in company with the other. It is to be feared that as preaching gets squeezed and congregations’ diets mimic the faddish South-beach or low-fat, preaching the larger sections of the Old Testament will remain only a dream.

[1] Derek Kidner, Preaching the Old Testament (Edinburgh: Rutherford House Booklets, 1983), 2

Reprinted by permission from the author the article having appeared in ref21 and Preaching and Preachers March 2006 [South Africa].

Understanding the Prophets — The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology

from Keith Mathison Mar 19, 2012 Category: Articles

What is a Prophet?

The interpretation of the prophetic books is not a simple matter, and in order to understand these books, they must be approached with care and caution.i They cannot be approached as if they were little more than collections of arcane predictions. As we shall discover, they are much more than this, but before proceeding to an examination of the individual prophetic books, we must answer some preliminary questions. First, what is a prophet? In the Old Testament, the word used most frequently to refer to a prophet is nabi’. The general meaning of the word is “spokesman.” In the Old Testament, a prophet “was a spokesman for God with the distinct call to be the ambassador of God.”ii In fact, it was the call of God that gave the true prophet his legitimacy.iii Other titles used to describe prophets are ro’eh, meaning “seer;” hozeh, also meaning “seer;” and ‘ish-ha’elohim, meaning “man of God.” Pieter Verhoef explains, “These titles together define the prophet as a man who has been called to communicate the revealed word of God, a man who has an intimate relationship with God as his servant and messenger, and as one whose task it is to keep watch over God’s people.”iv

According to Scripture, the prophetic office originated with Moses in the events at Mount Sinai (Deut. 18:15–16; cf. Hos. 12:13). The office of the prophet, then, is directly associated with the Sinai covenant.v After the exodus from Egypt, Moses had led the people of Israel to the mountain. Upon their arrival, Moses ascended the mountain, and it was revealed to him that God would descend in a thick cloud in order that the people might hear and believe that which he would speak to Moses (Exod. 19:9). On the morning of the third day God descended on the mountain in smoke and fire (vv. 16–20). There he gave the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1–17). In fear, the people then said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (v. 19). The people asked Moses to be a mediator of God’s word. All of the prophets who followed Moses shared this

The Context of the Prophets

A second important issue that must be raised is the broad historical context of the prophetic books. The ministries of all of the writing prophets can be dated from the eighth to the fifth centuries B.C.vii The books of 2 Kings, Ezra, and Nehemiah, therefore, provide the redemptive-historical context for these prophets. It will be recalled that these historical books recount the events leading to the exile, the exile itself, and the early stages of restoration after the exile. As Robertson explains, “…the writings of Israel’s prophets eventually must be seen as centering primarily around two events of immeasurable significance: Israel’s exile and restoration.”viii The redemptive-historical context of the writing prophets, then, is “the death and resurrection of Israel” (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14).ix

The Language of the Prophets

In addition to understanding the historical context of the prophetic books, it is also necessary to understand the nature of the language they used. Although other genres are found in the prophetic books, including biographical and autobiographical narrative, the most common form of prophetic speech found in these books is the oracle.x The term “oracle,” as John Sawyer observes, “is applied to all manner of prophetic utterances from lengthy ‘oracles concerning foreign nations’ (e.g. Isa. 13:1; 14:28; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 23:1) and whole books (e.g. Nahum, Habakkuk, Malachi) to shorter prophecies addressed to specific situations (e.g. Ezek. 12:10).”xi The prophetic oracles may be distinguished according to their content as either oracles of judgment or oracles of salvation.xii

The prophetic oracles tend to employ poetic language rather than prose.xiii This is significant because Hebrew poetry is a highly stylized form of literature. It is characterized largely by its extensive use of figurative language and striking imagery. Hebrew poetry uses numerous metaphors and other figures of speech. When it is understood that the biblical prophets make extensive use of poetic language, it becomes evident that those parts of the prophetic books that are poetic in nature are not to be interpreted in the same manner that prose is interpreted.

The Prophetic Message

A final topic that must be examined before proceeding to the individual books of the prophets concerns the nature of the prophetic message. Undergirding the message of all the prophets is their understanding of the law and the covenant. The blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant found in texts such as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are the foundation for the prophets’ messages of judgment and restoration.xiv As Douglas Stuart explains, “Nearly all of the content of the classical (writing) prophets’ oracles revolve around the announcement of the near-time fulfillment of covenantal curses and the end-time fulfillment of covenantal restoration blessings.”xv O. Palmer Robertson observes how the connection between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants explains some of the apparent paradoxes in the prophetic message.

The binding together of these two covenants explains how the prophets of Israel could anticipate both disaster and blessing for Israel. Disaster must come because of violation of covenant law. But blessing can be promised as the final end because of the sovereign commitment on the part of God to bless his people despite their deserving nothing.xvi

The Davidic covenant also provides a foundation for the message of the prophets. God’s promise in this covenant to preserve a descendant of David on the throne and to defend Jerusalem “provides the strongest basis for hope in a future messianic king beyond the judgment of exile…”xvii

Oracles of Judgment

The basic message of the prophets included both oracles of judgment and oracles of salvation. In the oracles of judgment, the prophets condemned Israel for violating the covenant law and declared the imposition of the covenant curses.xviii Many of the oracles of judgment take the form of a prophetic lawsuit at the end of which God pronounces his sentence on Israel (cf. Jer. 2:5–9; Hos. 2:4–25; 4:1–3; Mic. 6:1–8).xix Exile was the ultimate judgment because it was, in effect, a death sentence for Israel.xx A significant part of the prophetic message of judgment was the proclamation of the coming “Day of Yahweh” or “Day of the Lord.” In the prophets, the Day of Yahweh is a complex idea that encompasses both judgment and salvation. This concept is best examined in the context of its usage in the individual prophetic books of Scripture in which it is found.

There is some controversy regarding the purpose of the oracles of judgment. Were they intended to produce repentance and avoid judgment, or were they intended to be understood as predictions of unavoidable judgment? Using the terminology of speech-act theory, Walter Houston asks whether these oracles are “calls for repentance (which would fall into the category of directive acts), or announcements of coming doom (which would presumably be assertive)?”xxi O. Palmer Robertson rightly concludes that these oracles were intended to lead to repentance and to avert the prophesied judgment (cf. Jer. 26:2–3).xxii As he explains, the prophetic word “does not primarily involve prediction regarding future events.”xxiii

Oracles of Salvation

In addition to oracles of judgment, the basic message of the prophets also includes oracles of salvation. These oracles proclaim the coming of a new era following judgment. Like the oracles of judgment, the oracles of salvation are also rooted in the covenants (cf. Lev. 26:40–45; Deut. 4:30–31; 30:1–10). John Bright observes the significance of these messages of restoration.

Virtually all of the pre-exilic prophets, albeit by no means in identical ways, looked beyond the judgment they were compelled to announce to a farther future when God would come once again to his people in mercy, restore their fortunes, and establish his rule over them in righteousness and peace. This promise of future salvation is one of the most distinctive features in the message of the prophets, and it is this perhaps more than anything else that serves to bind the Old Testament unbreakably with the New in a single canon of Scripture.xxiv

The pre-exilic prophets looked forward to the restoration of Israel following the exile. As we shall discover, however, the post-exilic prophets view the return from exile as only the beginning of the eschatological restoration.

The Kingdom of God

One of the most significant elements found in the prophetic message of salvation is the establishment of God’s kingdom through a descendant of David, a Messiah.xxv The roots of the messianic idea are found in several texts in the Pentateuch (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; 49:10; Num. 24:17; Deut. 17:14–20).xxvi The primary foundation of this concept, however, rests in the covenant God made with David (2 Sam. 7). According to the prophets, the coming Messiah will establish God’s kingdom, transforming creation and bringing blessing to all the nations, thereby fulfilling the purpose of God’s covenant with Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:3; Ps. 72:17).xxvii


The transformation of creation associated with the coming of the Kingdom of God ties together God’s creational purposes and his redemptive purposes. According to the prophets, “there is no redemption unless it affects the whole of creation.”xxviii The prophets recognize that there is something radically wrong in the present creation, but unlike the followers of many pagan religions, they do not assert that the physical world is itself inherently evil. The present corruption of God’s creation is due to sin. The prophets, therefore, affirm that all of creation will be transformed and what is wrong will be set right in the eschatological victory over evil.xxix

i For a helpful introduction to the subject, see Willem VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990); O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2004).
ii Van Gemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 42 (emphasis in original); cf. also John F. A. Sawyer, Prophecy and the Biblical Prophets, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 1.
iii For a complete discussion of the divine call and commissioning of the prophet, see Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 67–90.
iv NIDOTTE, 4:1068; cf. also Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 2004, 23; Edward J. Young, My Servants the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952), 13.
v Cf. William Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 136–37.
vi Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 2004, 25. Moses was unique in being the mediator of God’s covenant. All of the prophets were mediators of God’s word.
vii Hans Walter Wolff, “Prophecy from the Eighth Through the Fifth Century” in Interpreting the Prophets, ed. James Luther Mays and Paul J. Achtemeier (Philidelphia: Fortress, 1987), 15.
viii Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 2004, 195; cf. 453–98.
ix Donald E. Gowan, Theology of the Prophetic Books (Louisville: Westminster, 1998), 9.
x C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophetic Books, rev. (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 29.
xi Sawyer, Prophecy and Biblical Prophets, 28.
xii VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 78.
xiii Bullock, Introduction, 1986, 31; Dan McCartney and Charles Clayton, Let the Reader Understand (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1994), 217.
xiv Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 122. As Dumbrell (Covenant and Creation, 138) explains, the covenant office of prophet was needed “because of Israel’s potential infidelity.”
xv Douglas Stuart, Hosea–Jonah, WBC 31 (Nashville: Nelson, 1987), xxxii.
xvi Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 2004, 178.
xvii Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 180–81.
xviii VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 78–9.
xix For a helpful explanation of the prophetic lawsuit, see VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 400–407.
xx Gerhard von Rad, The Message of the Prophets, trans. D. M. G. Stalker (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 12.
xxi Walter Houston, “What Did the Prophets Think They Were Doing? Speech Acts and Prophetic Discourse in the Old Testament” in The Place Is Too Small For Us: The Israelite Prophets in Recent Scholarship, ed. Robert P. Gordon (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 145.
xxii Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 94.
xxiii Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, 26; cf. pp. 407–51.
xxiv John Bright, Covenant and Promise (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), 15; cf. also VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 89.
xxv VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word.
xxvi Daniel Block, “My Servant David: Ancient Israel’s Vision of the Messiah” in Israel’s Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic: 2003), 37.
xxvii VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 233.
xxviii VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, 86.
xxix Donald E. Gowan, Eschatology in the Old Testament, 2d ed. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000), 2.

Adapted from From Age to Age by Keith Mathison. ISBN 978-0-87552-745-1
Used with permission of P&R Publishing Co. P O Box 817, Phillipsburg N.J. 08865

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“How can I identify messianic prophecies in the Old Testament?”

By some counts, there are over 300 messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. That’s why in the New Testament we often find statements like this: “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled” (John 19:36). Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are fairly straightforward; others are more indirect. Here are some pointers on identifying prophecies of the Messiah:

Study the Word. This should go without saying, but, in understanding the Bible, there’s no substitute for actually reading the Bible and prayerfully seeking wisdom from on high (James 1:5). Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are clearly identified as such by the prophets who wrote them. The word Messiah means “Anointed One” or “Chosen One,” and those titles are found in several prophecies. Daniel 9:25–26 is an important prophecy about the Messiah’s death. Psalm 2:2 also refers to the Lord’s Anointed.

Of course, context is always important when we interpret Scripture. Not every mention of an “anointed one” in the Old Testament is a reference to the promised Messiah. King Cyrus of Persia is called God’s anointed one in Isaiah 45:1, and so is King Saul in 1 Samuel 24:10; both those kings were chosen by God for special work, which is the underlying meaning of being “anointed.”

David’s references to God’s anointed one in Psalm 132 are an example of how the title can have a dual meaning. David prays, “For the sake of your servant David, do not reject your anointed one” (Psalm 132:10). Here, David makes reference to himself twice, calling himself God’s “servant” and God’s “anointed one”—David had been literally anointed by the prophet Samuel to be king (1 Samuel 16:13). But the word David uses is the Hebrew word for “Messiah,” and Psalm 132:10 can easily be applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. What makes this passage even more fascinating is that, immediately following the mention of David as the anointed one, Psalm 132 starts talking about the Messiah: one of David’s descendants will rule from the throne (Psalm 132:11), and David’s dynasty will be unending (verse 12). Then, a twist: the Lord Himself will rule from Zion forever (verses 13–14); as King, the Lord will bring abundance, salvation, and joy (verses 15–16); this King who comes from David will have divine strength, and all His enemies will be defeated (verses 17–18). Verse 17 contains another mention of God’s “anointed one.” Put all this together with the fact that the Messiah was commonly referred to as “the Son of David” (see Matthew 22:42), and Psalm 132 is clearly a messianic prophecy. David, God’s anointed one, was promised that an even greater Anointed One would sit on the throne of Zion forever.

Learn the various titles of the Messiah. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament use different names for the Messiah. For example, Isaiah 42:1 speaks of the Messiah as the “Servant” of the Lord. The prophecy of Numbers 24:17 calls the Messiah the “Star” that comes from Judah. In Isaiah 11:1, the Messiah is a “Branch” that bears much fruit. Often, the Messiah is presented in the Old Testament as a king who will rule in righteousness (see Isaiah 9:6–7; 32:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 9:9).

Compare Scripture with Scripture. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament are identified by New Testament writers. Matthew is especially helpful in linking Old Testament prophecies to their fulfillment in the life of Christ. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 (cp. Matthew 1:18–23). Jesus’ flight to Egypt turns out to be the fulfillment of an indirect prophecy in Hosea 11:1 (cp. Matthew 2:15). Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem is linked to Zechariah 9:9 (cp. Matthew 21:1–5). Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies, including Psalm 34:20 and Zechariah 12:10 (cp. John 19:31–37).

At times Jesus quoted a messianic prophecy and applied it to Himself. In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read a messianic passage from Isaiah 61 and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Just before His arrest, Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7, stating that prophecy is about to be fulfilled (Matthew 26:31). He also quotes Isaiah 53:12 (in Luke 22:37), and when we study the whole of Isaiah 53, we discover that much of that chapter corresponds directly to Jesus’ passion. When Jesus quotes an Old Testament passage and says that He is the fulfillment of it, we know for sure that passage was messianic.

Sometimes Jesus’ allusion to a passage clues us in that we’re dealing with a messianic prophecy. For example, on the cross Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). As it turns out, those are the exact words of Psalm 22:1. When we turn to Psalm 22, we find many details of the crucifixion: the mocking Jesus endured (Psalm 22:7; cp. Matthew 27:38–44), Jesus’ thirst (Psalm 22:14; cp. John 19:28), the piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; cp. John 20:20), and the casting of lots for His garment (Psalm 22:18; cp. Luke 23:34). Jesus’ agonized cry serves as a signpost pointing us to a treasure trove of messianic prophecies in the Psalms.

Look for themes, similar circumstances, and matching details. Some messianic prophecies in the Old Testament take the form of types. The Old Testament sacrifices are definite types of the Messiah who would shed His blood for our sin. The temple’s lampstand, altar of incense, and table of showbread are also clear types of Christ’s light, intercession, and provision.

Joseph’s dreams of his family bowing down to him in Genesis 37 came true, even though Joseph’s brothers hated him. The rejection and eventual exaltation of Joseph can be seen as foreshadowing the rejection of Christ and His exaltation to the right hand of God. In the same way, Boaz’s actions in the book of Ruth can be viewed as an indirect prophecy of the work of Christ on our behalf. The life of Joshua, so full of faith and victory, can also be seen as a precursor to Christ—especially when we consider that Joshua and Jesus are both forms of the same Hebrew name, Yeshua. Viewing the stories of Joseph, Boaz, and Joshua as messianic “prophecies” requires a certain amount of inference, but it is not a misuse of Scripture to acknowledge parallels exist. Jesus Himself used elements of the story of Jonah as a prophecy of His resurrection (Luke 11:29–30).

Messianic prophecies deal with some aspect of the Messiah’s nature, ministry, or associations. For example, Genesis 3:15 predicts a serpent-crushing Savior who will be the “seed of the woman.” This prophecy suggests the virgin birth as well as Christ’s victory over Satan. Jeremiah 31:15 predicts Herod’s massacre of the children in Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16–18). And Isaiah 35:5–6 prophesies that the Messiah would heal the blind, lame, and mute (cp. Luke 7:22).

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told two of His disciples, “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The whole Old Testament—Law, Prophets, and Writings—contains messianic prophecies. And all of those prophecies “must” be fulfilled. The study of prophecies and their fulfillment is really the study of God’s faithfulness. In particular, the messianic prophecies reveal God’s faithfulness in saving His people. Such a study is infinitely rewarding.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

“Is Isaiah 53 ‘The Suffering Servant’ a prophecy about Jesus?”

Perhaps the greatest of all Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures / the Old Testament) concerning the advent of the Jewish Messiah is found in the 53rd chapter of the prophet Isaiah. This section of the Prophets, also known as the “Suffering Servant,” has been long understood by the historical Rabbis of Judaism to speak of the Redeemer who will one day come to Zion. Here is a sampling of what Judaism has traditionally believed about the identity of the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53:

The Babylonian Talmud says: “The Messiah, what is his name? The Rabbis say, The Leper Scholar, as it is said, ‘surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him a leper, smitten of God and afflicted…'” (Sanhedrin 98b).

Midrash Ruth Rabbah says: “Another explanation (of Ruth 2:14): He is speaking of king Messiah; ‘Come hither,’ draw near to the throne; ‘and eat of the bread,’ that is, the bread of the kingdom; ‘and dip thy morsel in the vinegar,’ this refers to his chastisements, as it is said, `But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.'”

The Targum Jonathan says: “Behold my servant Messiah shall prosper; he shall be high and increase and be exceedingly strong.”

The Zohar says: “’He was wounded for our transgressions,’ etc….There is in the Garden of Eden a palace called the Palace of the Sons of Sickness; this palace the Messiah then enters, and summons every sickness, every pain, and every chastisement of Israel; they all come and rest upon him. And were it not that he had thus lightened them off Israel and taken them upon himself, there had been no man able to bear Israel’s chastisements for the transgression of the law: and this is that which is written, `Surely our sicknesses he hath carried.'”

The great (Rambam) Rabbi Moses Maimonides says: “What is the manner of Messiah’s advent….there shall rise up one of whom none have known before, and signs and wonders which they shall see performed by him will be the proofs of his true origin; for the Almighty, where he declares to us his mind upon this matter, says, `Behold a man whose name is the Branch, and he shall branch forth out of his place’ (Zechariah 6:12). And Isaiah speaks similarly of the time when he shall appear, without father or mother or family being known, He came up as a sucker before him, and as a root out of dry earth, etc….in the words of Isaiah, when describing the manner in which kings will harken to him, At him kings will shut their mouth; for that which had not been told them have they seen, and that which they had not heard they have perceived.”

Unfortunately, modern Rabbis of Judaism believe that the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers perhaps to Israel, or to Isaiah himself, or even Moses or another of the Jewish prophets. But Isaiah is clear – he speaks of the Messiah, as many ancient rabbis concluded.

The second verse of Isaiah 53 confirms this clarity. The figure grows up as “a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground.” The shoot springing up is beyond reasonable doubt a reference to the Messiah, and, in fact, it is a common Messianic reference in Isaiah and elsewhere. The Davidic dynasty was to be cut down in judgment like a felled tree, but it was promised to Israel that a new sprout would shoot up from the stump. King Messiah was to be that sprout.

Beyond doubt, the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53 refers to Messiah. He is the one highly exalted before whom kings shut their mouths. Messiah is the shoot who sprung up from the fallen Davidic dynasty. He became the King of Kings. He provided the ultimate atonement.

Isaiah 53 must be understood as referring to the coming Davidic King, the Messiah. King Messiah was prophesied to suffer and die to pay for our sins and then rise again. He would serve as a priest to the nations of the world and apply the blood of atonement to cleanse those who believe. There is One alone to whom this can refer, Jesus Christ!

Those who confess him are his children, his promised offspring, and the spoils of his victory. According to the testimony of the Jewish Apostles, Jesus died for our sins, rose again, ascended to the right hand of God, and he now serves as our great High Priest who cleanses us of sin (Hebrew 2:17; 8:1). Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is the one Isaiah foresaw.

Rabbi Moshe Kohen Ibn Crispin said, “This rabbi described those who interpret Isaiah 53 as referring to Israel as those “having forsaken the knowledge of our Teachers, and inclined after the `stubbornness of their own hearts,’ and of their own opinion, I am pleased to interpret it, in accordance with the teaching of our Rabbis, of the King Messiah. This prophecy was delivered by Isaiah at the divine command for the purpose of making known to us something about the nature of the future Messiah, who is to come and deliver Israel, and his life from the day when he arrives at discretion until his advent as a redeemer, in order that if anyone should arise claiming to be himself the Messiah, we may reflect, and look to see whether we can observe in him any resemblance to the traits described here; if there is any such resemblance, then we may believe that he is the Messiah our righteousness; but if not, we cannot do so.”

Recommended Resource: The Quest Study Bible

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