In our journey through this series, we have taken an interesting look at the basic importance of the biblical prophets and identified the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of both the major and minor prophets of the Bible. In Parts One and Two, we focused on the three ‘major’ prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—before turning our attention to the ‘minor’ prophets in Parts Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven.
In this part, we will continue to examine the ‘minor’ prophets and the role they played in the Word…
‘Minor’ Prophets of the Old Testament:
As we discovered in Part One of this series, there are—according to some sources—two classifications of Old Testament prophets.
One classification being ‘major’ prophets: commonly consisting of three prophets—some sources include a fourth, Daniel—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 Messiah. These ‘major’ prophets include: Isaiah, examined in Part One, and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, examined in Part Two.
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. In this study so far, we’ve examined Hosea, Amos, and Jonah in Parts Three and Four; Joel, Obadiah, Micah and Nahum in Parts Five and Six; Habakkuk and Zephaniah in Part Seven.
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.’
Unlike most books of the Word, the book of Haggai has specific times/events mentioned and can therefore be dated to 520 B.C., a mere eighteen years after the end of Judah’s Babylonian captivity. Yet, despite having such a firm grasp on time and even location—likely Jerusalem—there is virtually nothing known of the prophet Haggai, only things assumed…
For instance, some scholars believe that given the way Haggai wrote, he must have seen the Temple before the Babylonians captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. If this assumption is true and certain aspects of style and points of reference were not merely given to him by God or handed down by those who came before, then Haggai was far from young. He would have to have been at least 70 years of age when he wrote the book of Haggai in order to remember Jerusalem and the Temple at all. In fact he could easily have been 90 or more if pre-Babylonian Jerusalem was truly his memory and not prophecy!
Yet, even if the pre-Babylonian Jerusalem and Temple were memory and not prophecy, much of the small book of Haggai still consists of prophecy regarding Jerusalem and the Temple being rebuilt, as well as God’s favor toward His people.
These prophecies may feel uninspired today since they came to pass so long ago—the Second Temple being built, Jerusalem being restored, etc.—but at the time of Haggai’s writings they were wholly future events! Rare visitations from God…
Prior to Haggai’s prophecy and after the Babylonian exile, the people of Judah did attempt to rebuild the Temple but were quickly discouraged, not beginning again—as it says in Haggai, Ezra, and others—until the second year of the reign of King Darius.
“Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”—Ezra 4:24 (emphasis added)
“In the second year of King Darius… the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet… saying, ‘Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: “This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’”’”—Haggai 1:1-2 (emphasis added)
Yet, Haggai did not simply speak that the time had come to rebuild the Temple, he prophesied that without God’s House being in order, everything to follow would be useless…
“You have sown much, and bring in little;
you eat, but do not have enough;
you drink, but you are not filled with drink;
you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
and he who earns wages,
earns wages to put into a bag with holes.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the Lord.”—Haggai 1:6-8
Indeed, without turning to God—putting Him first—the people of Judah after their long captivity would have little to sustain them… but they listened and obeyed, reaping the rewards of their obedience.
“Then Zerubbabel… the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the Lord.”—Haggai 1:12
Still, despite the book of Haggai prophesying of the rebuilding of the Temple, there is nothing specific mentioned regarding its completion—though it was completed around 515 B.C., a mere five years after the book of Haggai was written. In fact, most of chapter two speaks of God’s promised blessings despite the lack of grandeur in the Temple and the uncleanliness of the people and their offerings.
“‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace…’”—Haggai 2:9
“‘…yet you did not turn to Me,’ says the Lord… ‘…But from this day I will bless you.’”—Haggai 2:17, 19
So, while the book of Haggai does not end with any direct conclusion to the rebuilding of the Temple—only various things that were to occur upon its completion—Haggai still may have been living when it was finished. Yet, even if he did not survive the approximately five years between his text and the completion of the Temple, he still had hope… for his eyes had seen what the Lord had promised. To him, it was truth!
Zechariah, like Haggai, largely prophesied on the rebuilding of the Temple after the return from Babylonian captivity. Yet, what is more surprising is that Zechariah’s writings directly date to the same time as Haggai, 520 B.C.—though Zechariah may have taken until 518 B.C. to complete his writings.
Haggai and Zechariah therefore likely wrote their prophetic words not only at the same time, but even from the same city—reaching out to the same people!
“In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, ‘The Lord has been very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me… and I will return to you… Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying… “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.”’ But they did not hear nor heed Me…”’”—Zechariah 1:1-4
Yet, Zechariah, unlike Haggai, saw visions beyond what would affect Jerusalem, the Temple, and the people of Judah—even seeing what God was doing throughout the world. In fact, Zechariah’s visions were of a style rarely seen outside the book of Revelation, a text not in existence for hundreds of years!
For instance, Zechariah saw horses, white, red, and sorrel, sent to walk to and fro over the earth. While their purposes were different, they are highly reminiscent of the four horses that come forth when the first four seals are broken in Revelation 6—a white horse, a fiery red horse, a black horse, and a pale horse going out to the corners of the world…
“I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white. Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’
“And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are the ones whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’
“So they answered the Angel of the Lord, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly.’”—Zechariah 1:8-11
“And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.
“Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. …So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.’
“So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.”—Revelation 6:2, 4-6, 8Still, Zechariah—despite having prophetic visions beyond the rebuilding of the Temple—was largely focused on its restoration, as well as proclaiming God’s word of restoration and blessing for His people.
“Therefore thus says the Lord:
“‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy;
My house shall be built in it,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘and a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.’
“‘…My cities shall again spread out through prosperity;
the Lord will again comfort Zion,
and will again choose Jerusalem.’”—Zechariah 1:16-17
However, even in Zechariah’s focus on Jerusalem and her people, his prophetic visions were more surreal and indeed, somewhat in the tone of the book of Revelation… unlike Haggai’s which were more a statement of what was to come rather than prophetic imagery—both prophets achieving the same overarching goals via differing, but effective, means.
Yet, even with these prophecies, we know little of Zechariah himself aside from his prophetic lineage and focus on the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple…
We cannot know if Zechariah was of a similar age to Haggai—even knowing their books were written at the same time—or indeed, if he saw the completion of the Temple that would occur less than five years after his prophecy. However, we do know that Zechariah, like Haggai, almost certainly had great hope for the future of Jerusalem and God’s people. For they had seen the word of the Lord before their eyes and trusted Him to do that which He said…
“‘For I,’ says the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’”
“‘Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the Lord. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!’”
During the course of this series we will continue to examine the lives of the prophets of the Word. We will see how the prophets 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 not only came about during the days of Jesus, but are still coming to pass to 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…