Sunday, April 15, 2012

Introduction to the Prophetical Books


The Bible is not written in chronological order but according to the type of book:

Books of Moses (Law or Pentateuch): Genesis - Deuteronomy 

History: Joshua - Esther
Poetry and Wisdom Literature: Job - Song of Solomon
Major Prophets: Isaiah - Daniel
Minor Prophets: Hosea - Malachi

I find it easier to understand prophecy when it is read in the context of the historical time period. So, that is why we are interspersing the prophets in the historical context of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 

I will not be doing a strict chronological approach because I do not want to jump back and forth once we start a prophetic book. So, when we get to a book like Isaiah, that covers the reign of four kings of Judah spanning six decades, we will read through all of those kings in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles before we study the entire book of Isaiah.

The prophetical books are broken up into two sections: 5 Major Prophets (Isaiah - Daniel) and 12 Minor Prophets (Hosea - Malachi). We will read them in chronological order. That way we will get breaks between the longer major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel with the shorter Minor Prophets. Here is a brief rundown of the order of the historical dates for each prophet with the Major Prophets highlighted in bold. They are all B.C.:

841-824.....Obadiah (this date is hotly debated!)





-----722 Assyrian Captivity of Northern Kingdom of Israel








605-586 Babylonian Captivity of Southern Kingdom of Judah



------538 Cyrus of Persian issues edict allowing Jews to RETURN to land




Theologically, the prophets concentrate on warnings of impending judgment, teachings about righteous living, encouragement to the faithful and oppressed, and predictions of God's future plans.
I am approaching the prophets with fear and trembling! :) The prophets are not my strong suit, but I am game for the adventure since this is my third time through them in the Bible Book Club. I hope that you are game and that breaking up the longer books of the Major Prophets with the shorter books of the Minor Prophets will make it easier! I believe God has so much to teach us through a study of these books.

I LOVE what Eugene Peterson says about the prophets:

Over a period of several hundred years the Hebrew people gave birth to an extraordinary number of prophets – men and women distinguished by the power and skill with which they presented the reality of God. They delivered God’s commands and promises and living presence to communities and nations who had been living on god-fantasies and god-lies. 
Everyone more or less believes in God. But most of us do our best to keep God on the margins of our lives or failing that, refashion God to suit our convenience. Prophets insist that God is the sovereign center [emphasis mine] not off in the wings awaiting our beck and call. And prophets insist that we deal with God as God reveals himself, not as we imagine him to be [Isn't that powerful? Ponder that for a moment].  
These men and women woke people up to the sovereign presence of God in their lives. They yelled, they wept, they rebuked, they soothed, they challenged, they comforted. They used words with power and imagination whether blunt or subtle. . .  
Prophets make it impossible to evade God or make detours around God. Prophets insist on receiving God in ever nook and cranny of life. For a prophet, God is more real than the next-door neighbor.  
(The Message Remix, p. 1194, 1197)
With fear and trembling, let us start the prophets in the next post!

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