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Other Prophetic Voices

The Twelve “Minor” Prophets

The prophetic section of the Hebrew Bible concludes with twelve so-called “minor” prophets - minor not in importance, but because we have less information about them. They come from different times and places in the history of both Israel and Judah. There is no need here to go through them all. Many of the prophetic themes already discussed find resonance here as well.

For example, in Hosea once again we find a comparison between Israel and a faithless prostitute. But the treatment is more compassionate than Ezekiel’s. The drama plays out in Hosea’s personal life when he marries an unfaithful woman, and his forgiveness becomes symbolic of God’s forgiveness of the entire people.

Jonah is a wonderful story with a multi-layered message (the so-called “whale” being the least important part of it). It is about compassion overcoming vindictive rage. The theme of universalism emerges here too, as God directs Jonah to deliver a healing prophecy to the Assyrians, Israel’s great enemy.

Micah answers the question philosophers have been chasing for centuries: What is good? To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Habakkuk is one of the first to ask the question, Why does God let evil triumph? The answer God gives to Habakkuk is no simpler than the answer God gives to Job, but Habakkuk concludes that “the righteous will live by their faith.”

As with Amos, Zephaniah begins with prophecies of judgment and doom against the nations surrounding Israel, and then against Israel itself - but the conclusion is hopeful, with visions of the end of exile and the restoration of Jerusalem.

With Haggai we reach the end of the exile as he encourages the leaders of the people to devote themselves to rebuilding the Temple. The new Temple will outshine even Solomon’s Temple in its glory.

Zechariah, like Haggai, lived at the exile’s end, after the new Persian regime permitted the exiles to return. In a series of magnificent and often puzzling visions, he prophesies Jerusalem’s restoration and elevation to preeminince. Using apocalyptic imagery he describes how Jerusalem, after a series of fierce battles, will become a place of worship for all nations.

Finally we find Malachi profesying in Jerusalem after the first exiles have returned. He calls for a reformation of the Temple ritual and a renewal of genuine faith. He looks forward to a day of judgment, when God will purify the people and make them ready for the new spiritual life that lies ahead of them.

And so in this diverse collection of prophetic voices we see the completion of the circle: a call for spiritual reformation and revitalization after all the years of neglect, social and spiritual decay, and exile. The actual work still needs to be done.

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