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  • THE BOOKS OF THE OLD COVENANT
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    V. THE TWELVE MINOR PROPHETS

    HOSEA

    This prophet is thought by some to have been the earliest of all the prophets. He was certainly contemporary with Isaiah; and exercised his office in the kingdom of Israel, about the same time that Isaiah exercised his in the kingdom of Judah. His prophecies are chiefly directed against the ten tribes, previously to their being carried into captivity. He also predicts the coming of the Messiah, and the glorious state of the Christian church. He flourished from seven hundred and eighty-five to seven hundred and twenty-five years before Christ.

    JOEL

    This prophet was contemporary with Hosea, and flourished about seven hundred and eighty-five years before the incarnation. His prophecy may be considered in the light of a very solemn sermon, warning the Jews to repent of their sins; foretelling a grievous famine which was to be occasioned by an innumerable host of locusts; promises the repentant God's mercy; and foretells in a very pointed manner that great outpouring of the divine Spirit which should take place under the gospel dispensation.

    AMOS

    This man was neither of the sacerdotal nor prophetic order: but was a herdsman, a keeper of cattle, in the territory of Tekoa; and was sent by God to call the people of Israel to repentance, and denounce the divine judgments against the workers of iniquity. He foretells the judgments of God which were to fall on the Syrians, Philistines, Tyrians, Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. He flourished about seven hundred and eighty-seven years before Christ.

    OBADIAH

    This is the shortest of all the prophets. His prophecy refers to the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, whom he threatens with utter destruction, because of their cruelty and oppression to the Jews. It is supposed that he lived about five hundred and eighty-seven years before the Christian era; and was contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

    JONAH

    Jonah was a native of Gath-Hepher, in Galilee; and was sent by God to denounce his judgments against the Ninevites: but, fearing for his personal safety, he determined on leaving is own country; and so took ship, and endeavored to escape to Tarshish. Meeting with an extraordinary storm, the sailors, concluding that there must be some person aboard against whom there was divine wrath, questioned him on the subject. He confessed his sin, was thrown overboard, and was swallowed by a fish, in whose belly he remained three days and three nights; and was a type of our Lord's death and resurrection. The fish having cast him up on dry land, he went to Nineveh, delivered the divine message; the people trembled, fasted, and repented, and were saved. He is supposed to have flourished about eight hundred and sixty-two years before our Lord.

    MICAH

    This prophet was sent to reprove both Israel and Judah for their manifold sins, which he did with great warmth and fidelity. He foretold their captivities; comforted the godly; and predicted the incarnation of our Lord, mentioned the very place of his birth, Bethlehem, described his offices as King and Priest of his people, and foretold the glory of the Christian church in the latter days. He flourished at the same time with Isaiah and Hosea, about seven hundred and fifty years before the Christian era.

    NAHUM

    Though the Ninevites had repented at the preaching of Jonah, they did not continue to bring forth the fruits of repentance. This prophet was, therefore, sent to foretell their destruction, and the ruin of the Assyrian empire, of which Nineveh was the capital. This destruction was effected by the Medes and Babylonians, about sixty years after. Nahum lived under the reign of Hezekiah, about ninety years later than Jonah, or about seven hundred and seventy-two years before the Christian era. He is the most sublime and energetic of all the minor prophets.

    HABAKKUK

    The preceding prophet foretold the destruction of the Assyrians who carried the ten tribes into captivity; and Habakkuk foretold the ruin of the Chaldeans, who completed the captivity of this unhappy people, by carrying away the two tribes that remained. He is suppose to have been contemporary with Jeremiah, and to have flourished about six hundred and twenty-six years before our Lord. The prayer in the third chapter of this prophecy is inimitably fine.

    ZEPHANIAH

    This prophet was sent to the Jews under Josiah to foretell them of their approaching captivity by the Chaldeans, on account of their idolatry, and other heinous offenses; of which he strenuously exhorts them to repent. He foretells also the destruction about to be brought on the Philistines, Moabites, Ethiopians, and Assyrians. He flourished about six hundred and thirty years before Christ.

    HAGGAI

    This prophet, with the two following, was sent to the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity. He reprehends their negligence in not building the temple, being more intent on their secular interests than on the glory of God; on account of which God sent a dearth, by which they had been grievously distressed. At his instigation, the people resumed the work, which had been sadly neglected, and the temple was soon finished: and though that temple was much inferior to that built by Solomon; yet he foretold that its glory should be greater than that of the former; which was accomplished in the Messiah's honoring it with his presence and preaching. He lived about five hundred and twenty years before Christ.

    ZECHARIAH

    This was the second prophet sent to the Jews after their return from captivity; and he encouraged the people to proceed with the building of the temple. There are many prophetic visions in this book which relate to the Jews; and several prophecies relative to our Lord; his riding into Jerusalem as a King; the thirty pieces of silver, for which Judas sold his Master; the destruction of the Jews; and the calling of the Gentiles. He flourished about five hundred and twenty years before our Lord.

    MALACHI

    This was the third and last prophet sent to the Jews after their return from the Babylonish captivity. From his prophecy, it appears that the Jews were in his time generally corrupted. They had not only neglected, but profaned the divine service; these he sharply reproves; and encourages them much who in those times of degeneracy continued faithful. He foretells the coming of Christ, and very clearly speaks of his forerunner, John the Baptist. He intimates that no other prophet would be sent to them; and that they must be careful to observe the law of Moses till the advent of the Messiah. He flourished about three hundred and ninety-seven years before the incarnation; and was the last prophet ever sent to the Jewish people. His book, therefore, properly closes up the canon of the Old Testament.

    About this time Ezra, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, had made a complete collection of all the sacred books of the Jews, in which all the major as well as the minor prophets were included; though some think that Simon the Just added Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Malachi, to Ezra's work. This is the same collection which exists to the present day; to which nothing has been added, and from which nothing has been taken away. See Ezra.

    The next extraordinary messenger with whom the Jews were favored, was JOHN THE BAPTIST, of whom this prophet (Malachi) so clearly speaks. After him came GOD MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH; who before his ascension to heaven, commissioned his disciples, who were afterward called apostles, to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, beginning first at Jerusalem," Luke xxiv, 47. This was accordingly done; and the word of the Lord had free course, ran, and was glorified.

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