In Part One of this series we examined the overarching importance of the Old Testament prophets. We discovered who were considered the ‘major’ and ‘minor’ prophets, and began to examine the ‘major’ prophets more in depth.
Now, in Part Two of this series we will finish our examination of the ‘major’ prophets of the Old Testament…
‘Major’ Prophets of the Old Testament:
One classification being ‘major’ prophets: consisting of three prophets—some sources believe four—who have the largest prophetic texts and written oracles pertaining to future events, such as the destruction and recreation of Israel, and the coming of Jesus. The three ‘major’ prophets include: Isaiah—who we examined in Part One—Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Sources listing four ‘major’ prophets add Daniel to the three.
The second classification is ‘minor’ prophets—those who did not write extensive texts and oracles. These prophets include: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micha, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Finally, while the majority of Old Testament prophets fall into these two categories, there are some, such as, Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, Nathan, and occasionally, Daniel, who are not categorized as either ‘major’ or ‘minor’ prophets despite their biblical and prophetic importance. These prophets we will simply categorize as ‘Old Testament Prophets.’
One of the ‘major’ prophets, Jeremiah, sometimes known as the ‘weeping prophet,’ was, like Isaiah, a prophet of God to many of the kings of Judah—five in total. However, unlike Isaiah, he did not have a firm relationship with any particular king.
Prophets and Kings during the Time of Jeremiah
(until the captivity of Judah)
|Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, & Ezekiel||Josiah||640-608
|Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, & Ezekiel||Jehoahaz||608
|Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, & Ezekiel||Eliakim renamed Jehoiakim
(renamed by Egyptian ruler)
|Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, & Ezekiel||Jehoiachin||597
(3 months, 10 days; or 3 mo.)
|Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, & Ezekiel||Mattaniah renamed Zedekiah
(renamed by Babylonian ruler)
During his years, Jeremiah was greatly saddened by the failings of God’s people and, along with the prophets Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Ezekiel, witnessed the evil of the last four kings of Judah— culminating in the ultimate captivity of Judah at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
“Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and there has been no latter rain.
You have had a harlot’s forehead;
you refuse to be ashamed.”—Jeremiah 3:3
Only the good king, Josiah, reigned for any substantial length of time, for all the kings to follow were evil in the sight of the Lord. Because of their failure to obey God—not only the kings, but also the people—the final years of the kingdom of Judah were swift and unsure.
After Josiah fell in battle, his son, Jehoahaz, who did evil in the sight of God, reigned for only three months before Egypt took him captive. What followed was a succession of equally evil kings who did not obey God and failed to sustain their reigns… even though being placed in power or led by other kingdoms and false gods. Judah had been weakened by generations of corruption!
When you examine the failing kingdom of Judah that Jeremiah was a prophet to, along with the history of captive Israel, it is no wonder that he was considered the ‘weeping prophet.’
The people and kings of Judah repeatedly refused to listen to the warnings of God or heed the history of fallen Israel. Jeremiah saw clearer than they, the price to be paid. He knew that because of their rebellion and hard-heartedness, the terrible prophecies he saw and foretold would come true—that God’s people would be taken from the Promised Land for a season and scattered over the earth. This is why the book of Jeremiah, the book of Lamentations—which Jeremiah is believed by some to have written—and Jeremiah’s appearances in 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings, are so filled with sadness, and as near to despair as a man of God could come.
Yet, despite his sorrow, Jeremiah did not lose sight of God—following Him and speaking His Words all the days of his life.
“Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying,
‘Thus says the Lord: I remember you,
the kindness of your youth,
the love of your betrothal,
when you went after Me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.’”—Jeremiah 2:2
Ezekiel, considered a ‘major’ prophet, along with Isaiah and Jeremiah, lived during the turbulent and saddening time of Judah’s demise.
Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel worked as a prophet to kings—most of whom would not listen to the Word God gave them. Yet, like most prophets of the Word, he did not refrain from speaking for God, no matter how the words spoken would be received.
“Then He said to me: ‘Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.’”—Ezekiel 3:4
While Ezekiel knew the pleasant times of King Josiah, when God’s Word and Laws were obeyed, he also knew—even during that time—the sorrows and destruction to come. And so, it was during the last years of Judah that Ezekiel was placed by God as a watchman on the walls, not only as a speaker, but a doer of His Word.
“Now it came to pass… that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me…’”—Ezekiel 3:16-17
Ezekiel not only gave warnings to the people and kings of Judah, but performed prophetic acts as God instructed him; doing things to represent the coming destruction should God’s people not turn, and in some cases, even taking upon himself the iniquity of His people.
“Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.”—Ezekiel 4:4-6
Through all of this, Ezekiel, perhaps more than Jeremiah, saw hope in what God showed him. He had a knowing that God would restore Israel once more—even if he was not alive to see it—firmly believing in the things to come.
“…Thus says the Lord God: ‘Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries… I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’”—Ezekiel 11:16-17
During the course of this series we will continue to examine the lives of the prophets of the Word. We will see how those of the Old Testament prophesied not only of what was about to occur—or would occur without action—but, how they laid out prophecies which were to be fulfilled in Jesus’ day as well as those that are still coming to pass in this day!
Finally, we will examine New Testament prophets and how, from the book of Matthew to Revelation, what was and is to come, was revealed to us in part…