Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets

Yes, there is a big bunch of these guys and their names can be confusing. But come and follow along with the next 60 readings over 12 weeks, and I think we can sort out quite a bit of it for you. I will be honest with you and say that, though I have a continuous knowledge of the flow of history over the entire Old Testament era, I need to reference charts like I’m going to give you today to be reminded again where some of these prophets fit into the big picture.

A priest represents the people before God; but a prophet represents God before the people. They served as God’s voice. Prophets did foretell things about the future, but think of them just as much as those who were servants forth-telling … communicating God’s timeless truth about sin, obedience, disobedience, faithfulness, judgment, and God’s plans for the ages.

Some of the prophets unveiled a hazy picture about a Messiah to come, and upon that subject (and many others) they often did not understand all of which they spoke and wrote. They knew it was fantastic and that others after them would be the recipients of the full revelation of their words; and they longingly wished to understand what God spoke through them. Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

Sometimes in the same verse or paragraph they were writing about future events that had both near and far fulfillments. A prophet might say that a particular enemy would be destroyed (an event to happen within the next century after his writing) and that the Day of the Lord would be established with peace and prosperity (an event yet to happen after our day and age). From the perspective of that prophet, those events appeared in the same line of view … perhaps this chart would be helpful:

minorp-9Quick History and Charts of the Old Testament Prophets

We sometimes reference these books as the “major” and “minor” prophets. The four major prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel – are not more important; they are simply longer writings compared the 12 others known as the minor prophets.

Here is a quick list of dates:

  • Abraham – about 2000 BC
  • Moses – about 1500 BC
  • David – about 1000 BC
  • Solomon – 931 BC – the kingdom divides into 10 tribes in the Northern Kingdom called “Israel” and the Southern Kingdom of two tribes called “Judah.”
  • Assyrian Captivity – 721 BC – the northern 10 tribes are defeated and made subject to the Assyrian Empire
  • Babylonian Captivity – 606 BC – the southern tribes of Judah are defeated by Nebuchadnezzar and made subject to the Babylonian Empire for 70 years.
  • 500s/400s BC – Ezra and Nehemiah lead a remnant of the Jewish people back to Jerusalem and the land of promise to rebuild.

Plotting the Prophets in History

The word “exilic” (exile) in this chart refers to the Babylonian captivity. So here are the prophets as they fit into Old Testament history consecutively, showing who was to be the recipients in each case of God’s message through His voice piece …

To Edom (the descendents of Esau – “cousins” of Israel)

Obadiah

To Assyria (the evil empire with the cities of Damascus and Nineveh)

Jonah, Nahum

Pre-Exilic – To Israel (warnings to the northern 10 tribes)

Hosea, Amos

Pre-Exilic – To Judah (warnings to the southern 2 tribes)

Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah

Exilic (written during the 70 years of captivity in Babylon)

Ezekiel, Daniel

Post-Exilic (God’s Word to those who returned to Jerusalem)

Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

These lists will be posted at the top of the home page for your regular reference throughout the series (title of “The Prophets”). This may be more difficult for those of you on cell phones and devices to see and access, but know that it is there.

Tomorrow we go to the first prophet we’ll study – Obadiah. It is not our goal to do these in perfect order as this chart presents, though we will roughly follow it. And again, while our writings will hopefully inform about history and increase your Bible knowledge, the goal is to gain timeless truths from these writings about the timeless ways of living successfully in a world that seems “uncharted” … giving us a sense of life in exile.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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