Chapter 3: Prophesy

Chapter 3: Prophesy


Priests bring sacrifices and people’s concerns to God; prophets bring God’s words to man. Prophesy can be divided into 3 types: general, Messianic, and end times. The first type, general, fits into what we’ve been reading, the history of the world and Israel. It deals with things that are going on at the time or things that will happen in the near future.

GENERAL PROPHECY: Even thus far in the Bible, God has revealed to people what would happen in the near future. He told Abraham he would have many descendants, and the rest of the Old Testament is the story of them. He told Joseph through dreams that he would rule the rest of his family, which he ended up doing, although their intent had been to kill him (Genesis 37:5-9). Through the prophet Nathan, He told David that calamity would come from his own household and that he’d lose his son with Bathsheba, both of which happened shortly thereafter (2 Samuel 12:11-14, 12:18, and 16:21-22).

Prophecy has been happening all along, throughout “history” (see chart on the last page of this); kings sometimes made a practice of working alongside a prophet, so they would know God’s guidance. So far in the history of God’s grand plan, the Israelites have arrived in the Promised Land, and convinced God to give them a king, like every other nation. But kings are fallible people like all people, and lead the people into sin, for which God punishes them. At the end of Solomon’s reign, God divides the kingdom into Judah in the south and Israel in the north, each with a succession of kings and prophets. Instead of being the leader and King for His nation, God is now forgotten by most of the Israelites. He chooses a few people to be His prophets to continually call His people to repentance and warn them of the consequences of their sin of turning from God. He continues to love them and woo them to Him, despite their rejection and the pain it brought Him. Most of the remaining books of the Old Testament are written by or about these prophets, and the story of Israel and Judah (told in Kings and Chronicles) unfolds their back-drop.

1. Elijah, Elisha and Micaiah during the days of the kingdoms.

After several kings, about each of whom is written, “[he] did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him,” along comes Ahab, king of Israel. Elijah (Israel) is the most well-known and well-dreaded prophet of his reign.

1a. Read 1 Kings 17-19 – Elijah/Elisha

1b. Read 1 Kings 22:13-28

During this time, the prophet Micaiah prophesies against Israel’s King Ahab when he’s trying to convince Judah’s king Jehosaphat to work with him against a common enemy. King Jehosaphat tells Ahab he will, only if Ahab consults a prophet of God. Ahab hesitates to consult Micaiah, whining, “’I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me’” (1Kings 22:8). True to form, Micaiah predicts Israel’s defeat and the king’s death, which happen in the ensuing battle.

1c. Read 2 Kings 2:1-14 – Elijah’s handoff to Elisha

Elisha’s continuing ministry: In 2 Kings 4-5, God uses him to fill many oil jars from one tiny one, to cause a barren woman to give birth, to raise her son from the dead, to feed a company of prophets he was teaching, and to heal a king of leprosy and give it to his own servant. Elisha also works with the kings of Israel.

1d. Read 2 Kings 6:8-23; 2 Kings 13:20-21

2 Kings continues, telling short stories of the reign of one king after another. Typically, the kings in Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” and the kings of Judah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father…had done”. And during this rapid succession of kings, several “minor” prophets write their books.

2. Part 1 of the “minor” prophets. Important dates:

Israel’s defeat by Assyria: 722BC

Judah’s deportations:1. 605BC – during the reign of Jehoiakim; Daniel & his friends

2. 597BC – during the reign of Jehoichin; Ezekiel deported; Zedekiah left in charge of Jerusalem

3. 586BC – Jerusalem & temple destroyed

Jonah – 793-753BC (lives during the time of Israel’s King Jeroboam II , 2 Kings 14:25). The man Jonah: a reluctant prophet who initially runs from God and ends up complaining to Him for fulfilling His promise; from Gath-Hepher, the son of Amittai; he prophesied to Israel and to Ninevah, that is, Assyria. Jonah’s times: continuing moral decline in Israel while other countries around it, such as Assyria, grow in power. Theme: Three Days (Jonah is a type of Christ, Matt 12:39-40).

2a. Read Amos 7:14-15, Amos 8:11-12

Amos - about 767-753BC (based on mention of an earthquake, but it is uncertain when the earthquake happened). The man Amos is from Tekoa in Judah and prophesied to Israel, giving the message that Israel is no better than other nations. Amos’ times: times of prosperity have yielded moral decay and social injustice. Theme: Shepherd for Social Justice.

Amos’ prophecy is proved true in 2 Kings 17 (722BC), when Israel is deported to Assyria while other people were brought in to live in their towns in the 730s and 720s BC. Thus begins the Exile of Israel. Judah continues as a nation.

2b. Read Hosea 6:6.

Hosea - 760-721BC (written in 721). The man Hosea: he is from Israel and prophesied to Israel about her spiritual adultery; Hosea married an unfaithful woman, Gomer, at God’s command & had child/children with her. Hosea’s times – Israel is at its worst morally and falls to Assyria in 722BC. Theme: Sharing God’s Heartache (stemming from an unfaithful wife). In Hosea 1:2-3, Hosea marries the adulterous Gomer. In Hosea 2:14-3:5, the Lord speaks of restoring Israel to Himself, and in Hosea’s life, a parallel is drawn by his going to his wife and bringing her back to live with him.

2c. Read Micah 1:1; Micah 6:8.

Micah - 740-700BC, during the reigns of Jotham, a typical Judean king who did mostly good, but ignored some things that God detested; Ahaz, the evil king; and Hezekiah, one of the most godly kings in Judah. The man Micah is from Moresheth-Gath (25 mi SW of Jerusalem) and prophesied to Samaria and Jerusalem about God’s judgment and salvation. Jeremiah cites the fact that he predicted the exile of Judah, which happens over a century later (Jeremiah 26:18-19). Micah’s times: not long after Amos and concurrent with Isaiah, his ministry covers the defeat of Israel in 722BC. Theme: Zealot for True Covenant Living.

2d. Read Isaiah 6 and 40.

Isaiah – about 740-690BC. The man Isaiah: he was from Judah, and prophesied to Judah and others; he prophesied to the royal court in Judah; the names of his kids were a sign from God. Isaiah’s times: The northern kingdom falls in 722BC; the south continues to decay morally. Isaiah worked during the reigns of Ahaz (Isaiah 7) and Hezekiah. To Ahaz, he predicts judgment for his sin. To Hezekiah, he prophesies deliverance from Assyria (2 Kings 19, Isaiah 36-37). In 2 Kings 20:1-11 (also Isaiah 38), Hezekiah gets sick and as assurance that God will heal him, Isaiah calls on God, who moves the shadows back 10 steps – He moves the sun backwards in the sky, which has confounded scientists today. The second part of Isaiah, chapters 40-66 are the more poetic and passionate. Isaiah 40 tells of God’s awesomeness.

2e. Read Nahum 1:1-8.

Nahum – between 663 and 612BC. The man: Nahum is from Elkosh, near Judah. Nahum’s times - (based on Nahum 3:8-9) he writes after Thebes fell, before Ninevah falls in 612BC, during a power struggle in the Ancient Near East. He follows a hundred years behind Jonah, and prophecies to the same people, Ninevah, which is Assyria, predicting it’s fall. Theme: Judgment against Assyria. He begins by describing the character of God: His sheer power, His vengeance and wrath against those who oppose Him, and His care for those who trust Him. The focus of the 3-chapter book is God’s inevitable judgment on Assyria.

2f. Read Zeph 3:8-20 (or 8-10, 14-20)

Zephaniah – 640-609BC, during Josiah’s reign, before Ninevah’s fall in 612BC, during the same time as Nahum but his audience is Judah which has been walking away from God under the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. The man Zephaniah: possibly a relative of Hezekiah the King, possibly a man of Jerusalem based on how much he knows about it. He is also mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 in conjunction with the rebuilding of God’s temple in Jerusalem. Zephaniah’s times: Judah’s days are numbered; the first deportation happens in 606BC; moral decay continues. Themes: Mixed religion, God’s judgment of all nations, God’s eventual redemption of all nations.

2g. Read Jer 1:4-10; Jer 20:7-18; Jer 29:11-13; Jer 33:14-17

Jeremiah – about 627-586BC, probably ended at the time of the fall of Jerusalem. The man Jeremiah: from the priests of Anathoth (2 miles NNE of Jerusalem, 2 Chron 36, Ezra 1:1, Dan 9:2); he was singled out to a prophet by God’s command and was a man of conviction & courage despite many captivities, beatings, and opposition. Jeremiah warns of judgment for Judah’s sin and encourages Judah once she is in captivity (Jeremiah 29:11-13), and promises hope and restoration in the future. Jeremiah’s times: Babylon becomes the major Ancient Near East power in 626BC with Nabopolassar as king; in Judah, there are false security, empty rituals, and false prophets promoting false hope. Theme: 40 years of very little fruit (627-586 BC).

2h. Read Ezek 1:1-3:3; Ezek 33:1-9; Ezek 36:21-27, Ezek 37:1-14; Ezek 43:6-10

Ezekiel – 597-574BC. The person: Ezekiel would have been a priest if he’d not been exiled; but in exile, he’s a prophet, who ministers to Jews in Babylon & Jerusalem; he’s married (his wife dies but God doesn’t let him mourn her); he could almost be called crazy for the odd things he does, which are symbolic acts: for example, drawing the siege of Jerusalem on a clay tablet, symbolizing the years of Israel’s and Judah’s sin by lying on his right side, then left side for an equal number of years as each nation was sinful, while eating bread baked over fire from human excrement (Ezekiel 4). Ezekiel’s times: he’s part of the second deportation; Babylon is strong, and Jerusalem is in its last days. Theme: “Son of man” – about 92 times in the book. God makes it clear (probably to Habakkuk’s relief) the He will not tolerate His name (and reputation) being tarnished by the sin and defeat of the Israelites forever, but the He will restore them for the sake of His own name (Ezekiel 36:21-23). Chapter 37 contains a prophecy for the future restoration in a political and/or spiritual sense, illustrated through a valley of bones that are brought back to life.

3. Part 2 of the “minor” prophets.

3a. Read Lam 3:19-27

Lamentation – shortly after the fall of Judah in 586BC. Author: Tradition ascribes it to Jeremiah. Theme: The darkest hour in OT history. Structure: acrostic; it is a collection of alphabetic poems which are laments and comforts.

3b. Read Hab 1:1-5; Hab 1:13; Hab 2:20-3:19

Habakkuk – 605-586BC, during the same time as Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. The man: Habakkuk is not mentioned elsewhere in Bible, though he is in the apocryphal story of “Bel and the Dragon”. Habakkuk writes questions directed at God (Hab 1:2-3, Hab 1:12-2:1) and God’s answers to them. The questions he asks are still asked today: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help?... Why do you tolerate wrong? Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” Habakkuk’s times: he prophesies during Judah’s last days; social oppression abounds. Theme: Trust God no matter what (he struggled to believe God’s plan is best).

The partial fall of Judah in described in 2 Kings 23:34-24:7 – Jehoiakim (609-597BC) is paying tribute to Egypt, but Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon takes over most of his land and deports some of the people (the first deportation. 605BC, Daniel and friends deported). The story continues in 2 Kings 24:8-25:10. The year Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin takes over as king, he surrenders to Nebuchadnezzar, who carries him and his army into captivity (the second deportation, 597BC, Ezekiel deported), then appoints Zedekiah (597-586BC) king in Jerusalem. Zedekiah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, so Nebuchadnezzar conquers and carries in to exile the rest of Judah (third deportation, 586BC). He also loots the temple and burns every important building in Jerusalem. 2 Kings 24:19: It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end, he thrust them from his presence. This fulfills the prophecies of Nahum, Micah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah and others

3c. Read Obadiah 1-4, and 15.

Obadiah – most likely after 586 BC based on language like “casting lots” for Jerusalem. Little is known about Obadiah. Obadiah’s times: Edom, the kingdom descended from Jacob’s (Israel’s) twin brother and which warred against Israel for generations, had “praised” Jerusalem’s fall and helped Babylonians capture fleeing Judahites (politically, Edom was like a little mouse joining the big cat, Babylon). Theme: Edom’s gonna get it.

3d. Read Daniel 1, 3, 5-6, 10:1-11:6

Daniel – 605-535BC, though there is a weak argument that it was written in the second century BC; 70 years of ministry with the last vision in 536BC, though the book may not be continuous. The man Daniel: member of Judah’s royal court; probably a teenager at the time of deportation with his three friends, all of whose names were changed; a man of integrity & wisdom. Daniel interprets many dreams of kings, has many of his own dreams the require angels to interpret them for him, rises to power in Babylon, interprets the handwriting on the wall, and survives a den of hungry lions. His three friends survive a furnace so hot it kills the men that throw them into it. He lived during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. Daniel’s times: first deportation of Judah ~605BC, during Johoiakim’s reign; God’s people are both in Babylon & Judah. Theme: Stories & Visions of God & His people.

3e. Read Joel 2:28-32

Joel – somewhere between 800 and 400BC, possibly around 500BC. Joel is the son of Pethuel but we don’t know who Pethuel is; he is possibly Judean (familiar with Judah) and possibly not a priest or elder because he calls those to repentance (not a strong argument), but his name means “the Lord is God”. Joel’s times: he is likely post-exilic, based on a reference to the exile (3:2-3) and the fact that he makes no mention of king or opposition from pagan cults. Theme: A Locust Plague & the Day of the Lord.

3f. Read Haggai 1:1-9

Haggai – autumn 520BC. Haggai is a post-exilic man w/zeal for God’s house, possibly an elderly man (2:3). According to Haggai 1:1, he writes during the time that Daniel was living in Babylon as it fell to Persia and Darius. His book is filled with repeated promises that the Lord is with them and will grant peace and blessing. Haggai’s times – temple work had begun (Ezra 3), but has stopped now for 15 years; the people have become spiritually apathetic. He encourages them to continue building, which eventually they do, 15 years later. Theme: dealing with spiritual apathy.

3g. Read Zech 1:1-3; Zech 9:9, Zech 11:10

Zechariah – 520BC. Zechariah is called a man of visions, both near & distant future. He is a Levite (Neh 12:16). Zechariah’s times – contemporary of Haggai; (and Confucius) the temple needs rebuilding. His message, along with the standard call to repentance, is one of hope and is expressed through a series of visions. His book is also filled with Messianic prophecies (first coming 3:8, 9:9, 16; 11:11-13; 12:10; 13:1, 6; second coming 6:12; 14:1-21). Theme: 8 night visions.

3h. Read Mal 3:10, Mal 4:1-2

Malachi – probably around 470-460BC, slightly before Ezra. Malachi can be a personal name meaning “my messenger” or it may refer to an anonymous message; little is known about the man Malachi. Malachi’s times – there was a governor in Judah (7:8) and it was a time of spiritual decline. Similar to Habakkuk, he writes a series of questions from the people to God, and His answer. They ask questions such as, “’How have we defiled you?’” (Malachi 1:6), “’How have we wearied Him?’” (Malachi 2:17), “’How have we robbed You?’” (Malachi 3:8), and “’What have we said against You?’” (Malachi 3:13). Theme: Giving God Your Best.

Concluding thoughts from the prophets, things that were common to all the prophets:

The prophets acted as God’s messengers

They possessed a strong sense of calling

They were forth-tellers about what God was doing and calling people to do now

They were foretellers of the future, both near and far

They focused people on God’s work – past, present, future

4. After Malachi comes more than 400 years of silence, then the final prophet, John the Baptist (Matt 11:11-14, Luke 7:24-28).In Jesus, many words of the OT prophets are fulfilled. (Read the ones that are blank in the center column; fill it in.)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
(53:9) / “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God and afflicted. 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… 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.” / Gospels
(Matt 26:62, Matt 27:57-60)
Malachi 3:1
Isaiah 40:3 / Matt 3:1-3
Mark 1:2-8
Luke 7:24-27
Isaiah 56:7 / …for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. / Matt 21:12-13
Genesis 12:3, 18:18 / Seed if Abraham. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through [Abraham].” / Matt 1:2
Acts 3:25-26
Psalm 132:11
Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15 / Seed of David. “I will raise up from David’s line a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.” / Matt 1:6
Luke 1:32-33
Romans 1:3
Acts 2:29-30
Isaiah 7:14 / Matt 1:18-25
Psalm 2:7 / “’You are my Son…’” / John 1:34, 1:49
Micah 5:2 / Matt 2:1-6
Hosea 11:1 / “Out of Egypt I called my son.” / Matt 2:13-23
Jeremiah 31:15 / “Rachel is weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted.” / Matt 2:16-18
Isaiah 9:1 / “but in the future he will honor Galilee” / Matt 2:22-23
Isaiah 9:1, 2, 7 / Matt 4:13-17
Isaiah 35:5-6 / Miracles of blind getting sight, lame walking, mute speaking / Matt 8:14-17
John 9:1-7
among many others
Psalm 8:2 / “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.” / Matt 21:15-16
Zechariah 9:9 / Matt 21:4-7
Psalm 41:9 / “Even my close friend…has lifted up his heel against me.” (that is, “betrayed me”) / Matt 26:21-25
Zechariah 11:12-13 / Matt 26:14-16
Matt 27:3-7
Zechariah 13:7 / “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” / Matt 26:31
Isaiah 53:7 / Silent before accusers / Matt 26:57-63
Matt 27:12-14
Luke 23:8-9
John 19:7-9
Psalm 22:14-18 / “…cast lots for my clothing.” / Mark 15:24
Psalm 16:10 / Luke 24:50-51
Acts 1:9-11
Isaiah 55:3 / “I will make an everlasting covenant with you…” / Matt 26:28
Hebrews 13:20
Psalm 118:22-23 / Acts 4:10-12
Matt 21:42-46

5. End times prophecy. Some of these are clearly still future, some may have happened already.(This list is not comprehensive.)