Rebuilding the Kingdoms: From Exile to Return (Journey the Word 8)

For almost 20 years, the Babylonian Empire invaded Judah, destroyed homes, killed people, caused famine, and took survivors to distant lands to hold them as prisoners of war. We saw prophets arise during this era, such as Daniel and Ezekiel. Leaders such as Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help the exiles rebuild the community.

Daniel

Daniel 1-12

Daniel was taken captive as a teenager by the Babylonian army at about 605 BC. He was then deported from Jerusalem to the capital of Babylon. Daniel was dedicated to living to God’s Standards, not the world, which caused many problems. His first test was whether he would eat foods that violated God’s Law. Most of the religions of that era were pagan and Daniel wanted no part of them. This means they ate strange foods, none of which Daniel wanted.

Zealous in lieu of God’s Law, Daniel protested the foods. But, his important time came when he interpreted a dream by Nebuchadnezzar about the statue. Later in his years, Daniel would be in prayer often to God, and when caught, Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den, only to be miraculously saved by God.

The book of Daniel recorded a story also of Daniel’s friends being saved from the furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Obedience to God trumped Earthly kings… Hallelujah! Soon, we would witness many prophecies related to the end times that Daniel had given.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 1-48

A priest named Ezekiel lived among exiles in Nippur, which was a Jewish settlement near the Kebar River around Babylon. Ezekiel was taken captive from Judah to Babylonia (the Akkadian state) around 8 eight years after Daniel was taken. Even though Ezekiel’s book is much larger than Daniel’s, we know more about Daniel than we do Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was called by God to be a prophet… “Watchman.” A watchman is in a high tower vigilantly monitoring the area of responsibility. The book of Ezekiel consists of many judgment prophecies and laments, because there were visions of Israel’s future restoration – a dream many Jews and others have had. The first 32 chapters of his book show the prophet giving God’s Warning to Judah and other nations of a suffering coming.

Judah’s suffering would be because of their idolatrous ways, sexual sins, exploitation of vulnerable people, and alliances with pagan nations. The remainder of the book occurs after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Empire, which was around 586 BC. Ezekiel, instead of giving stern warnings, offers messages of hope and restoration. Death is never the final judgment for God’s People. Ezekiel had a final vision in 571 BC, about fifteen years after the fall of Jerusalem. There was hope to see the end of the exile, and Ezekiel would not live to see that end.

The Kingdoms in Daniel

The StatueThe Four BeastsThe Kingdoms
Head of fine gold: Babylon was the most powerfully wealthy kingdom.Lion with Wings of an Eagle: These images were popular in Babylonian architecture and currency.Babylonian Empire: 605-539 BC (King Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar)
Chest and Arms of Silver: Media and Persia were the second great power, and they defeated Babylon.Bear with Ribs in its Mouth: This seems to illustrate Persian dominance over Media.Medo-Persian Empire: 539-332 BC (King Cyrus to Darius III). Persia is symbolized as a ram.
Belly and Thighs of Bronze: bronze is less than gold so it is inferior.Leopard with Four Wings and Four Heads: The speed of Alexander’s conquest of Persia. The heads could indicate a division of Alexander’s empire in four distinct provinces after his death.Greece: 332-63 BC (Alexander the Great and the four divisions). Greece is symbolized by a goat.
Legs of Iron; Feet of Iron and Clay: Divided kingdom was as strong as iron. Most scholars think it was the Roman Empire.Beast with Ten Horns: The horns are ten kings that would arise from this kingdom. Then little horn would speak against God’s People and persecute them. During this king’s reign, God would set up an everlasting kingdom.Divided Kingdom: The Roman Empire in 63 BC through the time of Jesus.
Rock Cut from a Mountain: A rock unmade from human hands that would strike the statue and shatter it. The rock became a mountain that filled the entire Earth. This symbolized Jesus initiating the Kingdom of God.The Son of Man: Daniel’s vision noted “One like a son of man coming from the clouds of Heaven”. He had all glory that people worshiped him.Everlasting Kingdom: Jesus was referred to as the Son of Man, and John had a vision of Jesus Christ ruling in the Heaven.

Ezra and Nehemiah

Ezra 1-10; Nehemiah 1-13

The Book of Ezra opens with the fulfilling of Jeremiah’s prophecy – After seventy years of exile, the Jews would return to their home. The Babylonian Empire fell to Persia in 539 BC. God worked on the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and even rebuild the Temple.

Under Zerubbabel’s leadership and Joshua the High Priest, a new foundation was laid to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Haggai and Zechariah called upon the people to resolve and rebuild the Temple. The rebuilding resumed in 516 BC, which was seventy years after its destruction. God was now truly with His People.

Six decades forward, Ezra is introduced as one devoted to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord. He liked to teach the decrees and laws of the Lord, and even led a large group of exiles on a four month nine-hundred mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra instituted spiritual and social reforms to ensure that this new community in Jerusalem would obey God’s Law and avoid the sins that originally led to the exile.

Meanwhile, in Susa, the Persian capital, Nehemiah was a servant of Artaxerxes. Being a cup-bearer meant he held an influential position as a confidant to the King. He persuaded the king to let him go to Jerusalem to lead the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah and the people overcame opposition in trying to rebuild the Temple and city walls. New life was brought to Jerusalem and it was amazing.

Esther

The Book of Esther, written around 460-400 BC by an anonymous author, covers a period after the exile during the reign of King Xerxes. The Book talks much about a person named Esther who was chosen to become queen, about a plan that was crafted to destroy the Jews (and how it occurred), and about the triumphant Jews.

In the beginning of the book, an exhibition of riches was displayed before the officials and citizens, which lasted for many months. The current queen, Queen Vashti, was asked by the king to display her beauty before drunken men at this banquet, but she refused. This was defiance of the king’s authority, so therefore, she was removed from power. Soon, many young and beautiful women in the land were brought together in the palace, so that the king might choose one of them to be a queen. Among those women was a Jew, whom was also an orphan, named Esther. However, she didn’t make it known she was a Jew. After all the preparations, the women were brought before the king, and then he chose Esther and crowned her.

Now, a man named Haman, the king’s chief minister, had begun to demand people to worship him. Mordecai (cousin of Esther), refused to do this, because he was a Jew and worshiping Haman was against his religion. Haman wanted revenge because of this, and therefore decided to kill all of the Jews. Haman then gained the king’s permission to do so after he spoke that killing the Jews would greatly increase the royal treasury. The king trusted him that he gave Haman his ring, so that Haman could sign legal documents and put things into order. However, Haman had to wait for eleven months before proceeding (to kill them). Haman decreed he would do it, which disturbed many of the people. Mordecai knew that Esther was a Jew and only she could help, so he asked Esther to have the king cancel the decree. God wanted His People alive, and so the urgency was great for Esther to do this, even though she’d be risking her life. However, she agreed to approach the king thusly, and attempt to get the problem resolved.

After a few days had passed, Esther invited the king and Haman to a couple of dinners, in hope to get favor from one or both of them. Haman was positive about the queen, likely flattered that he may have gotten the queen’s approval for killing the Jews. Haman then asked for a royal favor, in hopes to get Mordecai killed right away. However, when Haman made the request to the king, the king was hesitant because Mordecai had saved his life at an earlier time. The king wanted to reward Mordecai, as we see in chapter six. However, Haman didn’t know about the reward, it seems, so Haman was astonished that the honor would go to Mordecai (not execution). Haman was humiliated and felt betrayed by the royal family. Later that night, another dinner was between the king, queen, and Haman, where Esther brought the case before the king that Haman had been plotting to kill the Jews (admitting she was also Jewish) and killing her, and therefore the king was angry because of it. Haman began weeping with anguish before the king, which was interpreted by the king as rape or other form of tactic by Haman to hurt the queen. Therefore, the king wanted Haman immediately executed.

Next, we see Mordecai promoted to chief minister. However, the king’s decree (from Haman’s proposal to kill the Jews) was still intact, but the king gave Mordecai and the queen power to counteract it with a new decree. Therefore, they acted promptly, and gave the Jews permission to do anything they could to defend themselves against attacks on the day (of war against them). When the day came for the Jews to be attacked, only a few of the enemies actually attacked them. However, the Jews fought hard, it seems, and were even given an extra day to defend themselves and get revenge on the enemies. After the Jews won (and survived by the grace of God), a feast was thrown in celebration (which was done every year after that, as well). The book concluded quickly by talking about the reign of Mordecai, and how he helped the Jewish people under his leadership. Mordecai continued rule for many years.

Timeline of events between the exile and return

  • 605 BC – Daniel is taken captive to Babylon (Daniel 1).

  • Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue (Daniel 2). The powerful rock that destroys the statue represents the establishment of God’s Eternal Kingdom. The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would rule over this Kingdom forever (Daniel 2:34-35; Luke 1:31-32).

  • God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).

  • 597 BC – Ezekiel is taken captive into exile.

  • 593 BC – Ezekiel is called by God to be a prophet/watchman (Ezekiel 1-3).

  • Ezekiel prophesies God’s judgment upon Judah (Ezekiel 4-24).

  • Ezekiel prophesied God’s Judgment on the nations (Ezekiel 25-32).

  • 586 BC – Fall of Judah: Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed the Temple (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36).

  • 585 BC – Ezekiel received news that Jerusalem had fallen (Ezekiel 33).

  • Ezekiel prophesies God’s restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 34-39).

  • Ezekiel has a vision of a glorious future Temple (Ezekiel 40-48).

  • 571 BC – Ezekiel recorded his last prophecy (Ezekiel 29:17-21).

  • Nebuchadnezzar ends up insane, but soon sanity would return and he worships God (Daniel 4).

  • Daniel has a vision of four beasts, especially “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7). Jesus answered affirmatively in being the Messiah, referring to Daniel’s prophecy of being the “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:7; 1:13).

  • Daniel has a vision of a ram and goat (Daniel 8).

  • 539 BC – Daniel interprets the writing on the wall as King Belshazzar’s downfall (Daniel 5).

  • Daniel’s vision of an “abomination” and “seventy sevens” (Daniel 9). Jesus spoke that the abomination of desolation would be a sign of the end times (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15).

  • 538 BC – King Cyrus of Persia allowed exiled Jews to return to Judah (Ezra 1).

  • First Return: Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua led the exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 2).

  • God protected Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6).

  • 535 BC – Daniel recorded the last prophecy of a vision of a man (Daniel 10-12).

  • The Temple foundation was laid, but not as glorious as the first Temple (Ezra 3). Temple construction stalled (Ezra 4).

  • Haggai and Zechariah convince people to continue rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Zechariah prophesied in his book many things about Jesus Christ that were fulfilled by Him.

  • 516 BC – Temple reconstruction is completed (Ezra 6).

  • Queen Esther saves her people from being annihilated (Esther 1-8).

  • Purim (Feast of Lots) is established (Esther 9-10).

  • 457 BC – Second Return: Ezra led the exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 7-8).

  • Ezra institutes social and spiritual reforms (Ezra 9-10).

  • Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem’s walls were torn down (Nehemiah 1).

  • 444 BC – Third Return: Nehemiah led the exiles to Jerusalem this time (Nehemiah 2).

  • Under the governance of Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt (Nehemiah 3-7).

  • Ezra read the Law and the people confessed their sins (Nehemiah 8-12).

  • Nehemiah went to Persia for a short time and then returned to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13).

  • Malachi called for a spiritual renewal in Judah. Malachi prophesied that a special prophet would prepare the way for the Messiah, which was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1; 4:5; Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:26-28).

  • Joel prophesied about the coming Day of the Lord. When the Holy Spirit would come in power upon the disciples, Peter identified this as Joel’s prophecy on pouring out His Spirit upon all people (Joel 2:29; Acts 2:16-21).

An apocalyptic novel of Zechariah

Darius the Great found plenty of trouble when he came to claim the throne of Persia at the death of Cambyses. There were around 19 battles fought before Darius could take his place as leader and head. There was a serious depression, crop failure, and apparent ruin facing the Jewish people, who responded to the call of Haggai to build the Temple. The bluntness of Haggai had its effect, and Zechariah came to the rescue to supplement the needed help. These two Prophets did a significant work in keeping the interest high and the hands busy. Much of the Historical Background is similar to Haggai’s.

Zechariah gives us a marvelous picture of the First Advent of Christ in his humiliation, suffering and death – all fulfilled in the experiences of our Savior, including His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the perfidious betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, the purchase of the potter’s field with the blood money, the piercing and the wounds in the hands and the fountain opened. He also gives us another marvelous picture, which was of the Second Advent of Christ when He shall come in great glory to set up His Kingdom on the earth. His vision into the glories of the future kingdom is excelled only by that which was granted to St. John, the beloved six hundred years later on the Isle of Patmos and recorded in the Book of Revelation, which so strangely reminds us of the Prophecy of Zechariah.

The opening appeal of Zechariah was that a strong and intense Spiritual call to repentance in the Old Testament calls to repent and obey. The visions came to an impatient people who were tired and worn, skeptical as to the blessings and promises, for they were slow in coming. God grants such words of assurance through the book.

Synopsis

Chapter 1: We see a strong and intense spiritual call to repentance and obedience. Visions came to an impatient people who were weary. God grants words of assurance in many different visions (chapters 1-6). The vision we see of The Horsemen is similar to Revelation 6:1-11. These four horsemen are doing patrol through the earth to assure peace and quiet because of God’s presence. Next, is the vision of The Four Horns and The Four Smiths – to which, hostile powers scattered Israel, but these four world powers were being used by God to save Israel.

Chapter 2: We see the vision explained The Man with the Measuring Line, to which, this vision declares that God will re-people, protect and dwell in the city of Jerusalem. God will be a wall about them, and His glory will dwell amidst them. People long for freedom and pray for God’s mercy. He loves His People and He knows the issue of their enemies. God further encourages them to go forth, and that He will be with them.

Chapter 3: This vision shows Joshua Accused by the Adversary, to which he appears with soiled garments. He is a representative of the people and he is forgiven, cleansed, anointed, clothed in rich apparel, and becomes the sign of the Messiah. This is the way that we must appear as a priest before the Lord, for yet He cleanses us, anoints us, and uses us for His service when we are submitting to His Will.

Chapter 4: This vision of The Golden Chandelier and the Two Olive Trees was an encouragement concerning Zerubbabel as truly God’s anointed prince, endowed with power from God to do the work. God’s two anointed leaders Joshua and Zerubbabel, are the instruments (a foreshadow of the Two Witnesses in Revelation).

Chapter 5: This is a vision of The Flying Roll, to which, Israel will enjoy the blessings of God’s promises as they cleanse and purify themselves. The other vision was The Woman in the Ephah, to which, the woman seen sitting in a seven gallon measure is being transported to the Land of Shinar. When the Tempe is built, sin must be carried away.

Chapter 6: The vision of The Four Chariots. Powerful horses, dashing in different directions, represent the four winds of heaven under the control of God as He carries out His promises. Then, there is Jesus and Zechariah at the Coronation scene, to which, we see the definite prediction of the coming Messianic reign of peace and glory.

Chapter 7: People are starting to have questions about different fasts. The Jews instituted four fasts to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. The Temple was beginning to take shape, and with it rebuilt, should the fasts continue…? Zechariah tells them that those fasts did not have an value in God’s sight anyway. However, people were stubborn and pitied themselves to keep the fasts. Because His People ignored God’s instruction to them through the Prophets, God ignored their prayers in return when the enemy had attacked. Because of this overall, they were taken into captivity.

Chapter 8: Zechariah outlines the blessings that will come to Jerusalem when God dwells there. God’s love for Jerusalem was the reason for such punishment. In the new community of God’s People, there will be no place for fear or violence. Above that, they will enjoy true fellowship with God. People are urged not to waste time mourning over the calamities of the past.

Chapter 9: We start seeing the info about the triumph of the Messiah, for Israel has always looked forward to a messianic day of glory and power. The people longed for the day when all enemies would be destroyed, and righteousness would be established in the land under the rule of the Messiah. Zechariah’s prophecies have been fulfilled in part, and some await – to which, they are not descriptions of historical events that were necessarily written in advance, but they are a revelation of God’s purposes given to instruct, warn, encourage, guide, and inform His People. Of course, we have to note that the fulfillment of prophecies can span many eras/generations – not always immediately. Once God’s judgment is out of the way, the nation would settle down to a life of security, joy, and prosperity.

Chapter 10: We see there are many problems of leadership, to which, the Temple had long been finished and life in Jerusalem was not as it was previously. People were also using idolatrous ways in using objects such as magic charms – however, Zechariah tells them to stop such practices and to trust in God alone. God is angry with Israel’s leaders, those who have no concern for the people that they rule. God plans to replace them with strong and dependable leaders. God’s strength would overthrow the nations’ leaders, and the Jews that were still scattered would also return to their homeland. Those that oppress, God would punish, which would be like a raging fire sweeping through the forests.

Chapter 11: After announcing God’s judgment on Israel’s bad leaders, Zechariah demonstrates that judgment in two short plays. In these plays, he acts as a shepherd, representing the leaders of God’s People. The first play God told Zechariah to act the part of the good shepherd, to which, Zechariah was to look after the people that were oppressed and exploited by bad shepherds. In the second play, Zechariah played the part of a bad shepherd, which was the sort of shepherd that Israel wanted. This cruel and selfish type of leadership was what the people deserved, and this would be God’s means of punishing them.

Chapter 12: Victory shall come, but with mourning. God used Gentile nations to punish His People, but if His desire were to fight for Israel, no enemy attack would be successful. God, though, would strengthen His People and people would give glory to God for Jerusalem’s victory. God’s People may have had a great victory, but it was costly – as many had died, and the mourning was through the land, however, God’s forgiveness was available to all who are genuinely sorry for their disobedience and treachery.

Chapter 13: He talks about false prophets and what the true shepherds are. If a false prophet escapes, for example, he might try to preserve his life by throwing away his prophet’s cloak and disguising himself as a farmer. Zechariah also talks about leadership – the leader of God’s choice would be one who is close to God and would truly care for God’s People. He talks about the true shepherd, which is no doubt, God’s Chosen One, Jesus Christ the Messiah. Some were saved from judgment, and these men would become God’s true people, even though they suffered persecution at the hands of the rebellious.

Chapter 14: God gives His People satisfaction and Israel is compensated for all that was previously lost to plundering armies. Enemies are destroyed in a terrifying judgment. No longer would there be a difference, though, between sacred and non-sacred articles. Everything is holy and fit for the service of God. True holiness will at last be established in the world.

Key passages:

  • 2:13, “Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.”
  • 3:1-2, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
  • 4:6, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” God gives a message of encouragement that He would be with them, by equipping them with His Presence! Using our own strength is pointless, for His Strength shall be equipped unto us!
  • 11:13, “And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” This tells us that giving should be in more abundance, not just a little bit, because after all, it all belongs to God anyway.
  • 13:9, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
  • 14:9, “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” This one explains itself, that the Lord shall be King over all the earth – which is a prophecy of the coming Messiah! It’ll be great for people to only worship One God!
  • 14:20, “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD’S house shall be like the bowls before the altar.” When people are converted before the Lord, they are ever transformed by His grace and holiness, and therefore, this should be symbolic of divine worship before the altar of the Lord.

Beautiful imagery

  • The Branch: 6:12, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.”
  • The Wounded Hands: 13:6, “And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
  • The Shepherd: 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.”

Malachi thought of Christ as the Sun of Righteousness and Messenger of the Covenant

Malachi pictures Christ as, “The Sun of Righteousness” and “The Messenger of the Covenant.” A messenger would be sent from the Lord that shall prepare the way for the Lord to come, as we see in Malachi 3:1, to which, He shall suddenly come to His Temple. He was pictured as coming once the messenger comes before Him to present the way before Him!

We see Ezra come from Babylon and bringing new recruits, but little info is given of the people. Not much is known between the dedication of the Temple to the coming of Nehemiah. During these years, the Persians fought with the Greeks for supremacy of the world – to which, the Greek made their memorable stand at Thermopylae and the mighty Persian fleet was destroyed at Salamis. We saw the beginning of the golden age of Greek culture, when Socrates was born, the Roman Republic founded, and Europe was ready to succeed Asia as an arbiter in world affairs.

In Jerusalem, the situation was grim, and then Nehemiah became a valued member of the court of Artaxerxes and was sent to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem. The walls were completed in the midst of such opposition, and Nehemiah welded the people into a strong bonded group. Crops were poor nonetheless, parasites ruining plants, and fruit was disappointing. The priests were corrupt and immoral, and a spirit of skepticism encompassed the entire population. People complained about God, complaining about their predicament, refusing to pay tithes & offerings, and were guilty of social injustice; mixing themselves with the heathens of the land. Divorce became common and God’s Covenant had been forgotten. Worship was degenerated into empty and formalism. God called, then, the Prophet Malachi – His fearless servant.

Synopsis

In this first chapter, we see that Malachi is complaining at Israel’s unkindness, and this was his burden/call from the Lord. People pride themselves that they’re God’s People, but yet, they displease Him through their own pleasures. Malachi learns through experience that when such described people are rebuked, they’re usually offended. Malachi just quotes their complaints, and instructs them that they should not blame God, but rather, blame themselves. The main complaint that people post is that God doesn’t love them. If He does, they argue, and want proof through comfort and prosperity – instead of hardship or poverty. Malachi would show them the reasons of their troubles, but he wants to first let them know that they have clear proof of His Love.

One of the examples was the God chose Jacob, instead of Esau, though there as nothing in Jacob that made him more loving than Esau. Jacob’s descendants, Israel, have been punished, however, they are now back in their homeland. Esau’s descendants, however, who were known as Edom, have suffered a judgment from which their nation will not ever recover. The destruction throughout Edom’s homeland will be a reminder to the people of future generations that Edom has incurable wickedness. Israel should honor Him as their father and reverence Him as master, but rather, they just insult them. It would be better for them to close the Temple and have no sacrifices at all than to worship Him with foul things.

In the second chapter, the priests are to blame, as we see, for the poor spiritual condition of Israel. If they don’t quickly reform their ways, God will punish them; reducing income from the people’s offerings, and bring disgrace upon them. He then speaks about what priests have done wrong, what they have done right, what they haven’t done, and what they should be doing for God – to bring more glory to Him, especially in their everyday affairs (for the Temple). Many have failed to uphold God’s standards, and therefore, punishment could be looming for them. People are having divorces and mixed marriages; breaking marriage covenants and the covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai. God designed the covenant to promote family and unity to all people. His idea of the family was to bring people closer, not break people up. Anyway, he changes gears to talk about when the Jews would see surrounding nations prosper while they suffered hardship, they would complain to God that it wasn’t just. Other nations didn’t keep His Law, and yet, Israel was His People – so why couldn’t they be most blessed? That was their questioning.

As the third chapter opens, it recaps slightly on the second chapter and continues on with the questioning of why God doesn’t bless His People most. God would intervene then, in human affairs, and bless His People as they wish, however, He would have to first cleanse them of all uncleanness, rebellion, and social injustice. Those who resist the cleansing and continue in sin would be punished. If people want to be out of the hardship they are under, they should be asking for mercy, not justice. Because of all of the hardship, they have poor crops – and they blame God for sending all of such disasters. In their selfishness, they didn’t bring their offerings to Him, and therefore, they must change their ways and be honest unto Him! After that, God would bless them with good rains and good crops. The result of their generosity would bring great, prosperous things for the people. However, many people just continued in their murmurings and complaints against God, to which, they complain that it’s useless trying to please Him, because hardships will still come. Nevertheless, they continue to encourage each other to be faithful to Him, believing that He would never forsake them.

The fourth chapter comes, and this is a short one, which we see that God would take action in destroying the wicked in the day of judgment. Malachi pictures the way things will compare to in this day – a farm scene. However, in view of their coming salvation, the righteous should remain faithful to God’s Law and look expecting the coming of the Messiah’s forerunner, which was symbolized as “Elijah.” If the people would respond to the preaching of this “Elijah” that was coming, they would be united in one spirit with their believing forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, if they had refused to repent, they would meet divine judgment. We know the symbolic Elijah to be was John the Baptist.

Malachi’s exhortations

  • Come back to God… 3:7, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?” This is very similar to the exhortation that Zechariah makes in his book (1:3), to which, the Lord tells them to return to Him and He would return to them – He would accept them, establish them, bless them, transform them, and help them overall. Forget such evil that drove you away from Him and repent, and then come back to Him!
  • Quit Robbing God… 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” People have failed to bring their tithes and offerings, and Malachi speaks that they are robbing God and then instructs them to bring their tithes and offerings to the storehouse – and in doing so, He would pour out a huge blessing; innumerable for their sake.

Scriptures of tremendous value

  • 1:2, “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob.”
  • 1:5, “And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.”
  • 1:6, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?”
  • 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.”
  • 2:5, “My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.”
  • 2:16, “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.”
  • 3:1, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”
  • 3:7, “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?”
  • 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
  • 4:2, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.”
  • 4:3, “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.”
  • 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Lessons of value from Malachi

  • God loves a pure, clean, and happy home.
  • The low ideals of God’s Priests affect the people in the pew.
  • Beware of robbing God.
  • Impatience leads to false accusations of God.
  • One who lives in willful sin cannot hope to please God by costly sacrifices.
  • Insincerity in worship is an insult to God!

Haggai the prophet of Temple building

Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem, the Temple was completely destroyed. After about fifty years in Babylon, the Jews were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and ancient Temple. Cyrus not only granted such privilege, but also supplied a good amount of money to guarantee the work.

Then, under Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, the people returned to their old home and began carrying out orders from Cyrus, to which, they were eager to remove the debris. Their enthusiasm soon subsided, because of the hostility of the Samaritans and by the hard labor that such construction had demanded. Cyrus, the great conqueror, was followed by his son Cambyses, who had taken his own life and brought the land into a critical situation. Persia, Media, and others had broken away from the Empire, but gradually Darius the Great gained control and order grew out of chaos. Haggai stood beside Zechariah in the important task of bringing God’s Word to the governor, priest, and the people.

Haggai was a Jewish Patriotic layman who responded enthusiastically to the call of God. He was likely older, and lived in Babylon before coming to Jerusalem with the returning exiles. He is associated with Zechariah as the author of certain Psalms. They were coworkers and contemporaries of the period. Zechariah prophesied for three years, however, Haggai only prophesied for three months and twenty-four days. Haggai sets us a great example as he effaced himself by giving no details about his own life and service (he just exalted the Lord), he never presented his own opinions, nor proclaimed, “thus saith the Lord.” He didn’t criticize, commend, or cheer. He lastly demonstrated by word and work, not only preached but practiced the Word found in 5:1-2.

His idea of God set him ablaze with burning zeal. The people were so compelled as to follow his orders, and he was able to, in some unseen way, put godly courage into the hearts of his relatives. He was so influenced by Ezekiel. He was not a man of spacious ideas, such as that of Amos, Isaiah, or Jeremiah – but his greatness lies in the fact that he saw the next duty at hand and inspired his people to undertake the building. He does not occupy any conspicuous place among the prophets, but fills it as a man called and led of God, albeit. He was a traditionalist rather than an original thinker, and the influence of the priestly caste was evident in his homilies. He did not have the stern searching note of Jeremiah, however, he used the everyday language/jargon of a jaded people, to which, he didn’t apologize for their dejection, but instead challenged them. He writes his book in a blunt and obscure manner, but it was a sure, humble, curious, and perceptive book nonetheless.

Haggai’s Oracles

  • First Oracle, 1:2-11: This is a word of rebuke and a call to action. The failure was because of fear and selfishness. The ones who were holding back were men who lived in luxury. They showed no concern for spiritual matters. In order for God to start blessing them, they must begin work – bringing timber and stones to build the Temple.
  • Second Oracle, 2:1-9: A call to courage in the hour of disappointment. There are always pessimists in a crown that must be overcome, and even though this Temple may not be as beautiful as the one the Israelites once had, it is still God’s dwelling place so He could glorify Himself among the nations!
  • Third Oracle, 2:10-19: An appeal to conscience and a call to patience is made as Haggai begins to hear complaints. The promised blessings were slow in coming and had been working for three months. Haggai made it clear that the land had been defiled and profaned, because of their neglect. Evil manifests a powerful infection and it would take a while for all of the promised to come. They would be required to continue their labor and rebuild – staying faithful, for God would bring victory!
  • Fourth Oracle, 2:20-23: This contains the message of hope to Zerubbabel who was to bask in the assurance that he was the chosen object of divine care and that he would be protected in the great overthrow that was to destroy the surrounding nations. Haggai was to be the representative of Yahweh among the peoples of the earth.

The response of the people to the message of Haggai was that they were obedient to him in return, but more than that: obedient unto God. They took quick action and re-began work on the Temple!

Lessons to learn from Haggai

  • Face difficult duties courageously and immediately.
  • God-given messages will result in action.
  • Serious and lasting are the effects of evil.
  • Human effort is useless when separated from spiritual emphasis.
  • Outward splendor does not necessarily attribute to true glory.
  • Preachers are challenged to throw themselves enthusiastically into the great program of God.

A protestant type prophet called Zephaniah

Zephaniah lives in a time of decay and rapidly changing world, to which, the savage horde of Scythians poured onto the plains of South Russia and instilled fear into the hearts of the Palestinian people. They were cruel, bloodthirsty, fearless, and ruthless people who drove on toward Egypt. Such merciless behavior only created more panic in the hearts of men, and the great Assyrian power that had absolute rule was not losing its grip. Nineveh was yet destroyed, and Babylon was really the mistress of the nations. The union of the Medes, Scythians, and the Babylonians caused a mighty upheaval in the land.

Then, we see Josiah come to the throne in Jerusalem following the deaths of Manasseh and Amon. They had converted the nation to heathenism, and now the task of Josiah was to clean the Temple and turn the people back to God. A book was found, which was part of the Pentateuch, and it gave directions that made a big impression on the King and people. Zephaniah and Jeremiah had played a big part in the reformation; encouraging Josiah in his ambition and that helped stir the people up to carry out the King’s orders.

He presents the “terror and tenderness” of divine love, as we see in 1:2, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD.” Also, 3:17, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” Zephaniah pictures Christ as, “The Lord in the Midst,” as we see in 1:8 for example, “And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.” He also pictures Christ as, “The King of Israel,” as we see in Zephaniah 3:15, “The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.”

Zephaniah, unlike other prophets, was not a spokesperson for the poor, but rather, he was an aristocrat who didn’t have a voice for the everyday peasant. His name means, “The hidden Jehovah.” He was a silver-tongued orator and graphically foretold the doom of Nineveh. This came shortly after the beginning of his ministry. With a scathing eloquence, he denounced much idolatry, which was swept away at the reform of Josiah. Many Biblical scholars believe that it was Zephaniah who was the principal agent of God behind the scenes of the reform, bringing back Godly concepts to the nation. He had a grim, albeit sober nature that gained him the term, “puritan” or “protestant.” He was obsessed with the conception of the doom that was coming upon the wickedness. He blistered with his words princes, prophets, and other people for their unrestrained wickedness and lack of true, sincere worship of God. He was not a poet, but was sensitive to the faintest whisper of God – therewith imagination and emotion played a great part in his preaching.

He said that He would utterly consume all things from off the land, which includes man and beast, fowls of the heaven, fish, and the obstacles with the wicked. He also said He would cut off man from the land and stretch his hand toward Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He said He will additionally cut off the remnant of Baal from this place and the name of the Chemarims with the priests, those that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops, those that worship and that swear by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham. Those that are turned back from the Lord and those who have not sought the Lord or enquired for Him shall also be cut off.

God’s people may have been previously sorrowful for the punishments upon them, now they will have joy, as they dwell together with God, their King – especially without fear or judgment. However, they are not to be lazy or discourage, but rather, alert and full of confidence. Defeat shall be replaced by victory, and God will take away their shame – to which, in His Love, He shall give them new life. Exiles will be gathered from the lands of their oppression and be established again in their own land. Therefore, under God’s rule, they will share with him in receiving praise from the whole earth!

Oh where is your faith – Habakkuk examined

Habakkuk had witnessed the reformation under the leadership of Josiah, who was the last good King of Judah. Egypt and Babylon, though, were fighting for supremacy. As Habakkuk witnessed the mighty upheavals and tragic consequences of such struggles, he was greatly confused.

The time of this book’s writing was around the time, most likely, of the fall of Nineveh and before the actual victory of Babylon. Tyranny and strife continued to abound with lawlessness. There was strife and contention, and even oppression for righteous people. Some people lived with open sin, some worshipped idols, while others oppressed the poor and defenseless. It was a day of sin, strife, and imminent invasion, as greater disasters were coming for God’s People in Jerusalem.

Habakkuk along with Paul delighted in proclaiming “the just shall live by faith.” Paul is the one that quotes Habakkuk at least twice or thrice – to which, we see this compared: Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; and Hebrews 10:37. Paul quoted from the Prophet to the unbelieving Jews at Antioch, as we see in Acts 13:41.

This book is arranged in the form of a dramatic dialogue between the Prophet and Yahweh. Following this is a series of “woes” against the cruel Chaldeans and a beautiful poem expressing confidence (or faith) in the God of his Salvation. Two-thirds (most) of this unique book is a conversation between God and the Prophet. As he resolves his confusion, God’s peace fills him up and he pours out his whole being in a stirring hymn of praise, prayer, and confidence. He has a passionate protest as he speaks with God – probably one that comes from a heart of desire for what’s best for His People.

The first answer from God to Habakkuk is found in 1:5-11. God replies here that he is preparing the Babylonians to punish Judah. The Judeans don’t know, because they would probably not believe Him anyway. They would fail to believe a wicked nation would be used to punish them. Following that, we see a description of the Babylonians that shows their ruthlessness – who do as they wish with no regard to law, justice, or anything else.

An important decision is noted in 2:1. Habakkuk watches and waits for an answer from God. This is an exercise in patience, I believe, as he has to be patient with God.

God’s replies again in 2:2-4. The answer is that the greed, pride, and violence of the Babylonians will be the means of their downfall, to which, some time may pass before the judgment comes upon them, but it will definitely come. We see, though, that the just shall live by faith.

Habakkuk speaks concerning the moral problem and boldly challenges God to defend His actions in 1:13. He doesn’t see why such a wicked nation is used to punish a nation more righteous than it. Habakkuk may be blaming God or challenging Him that He has the same moral standards as the Babylonians.

Habakkuk’s consecration compares to that of “Job” and is seen in 3:16-19. The prophet here shudders as he thinks of such a judgment that has been conjured up. He hopes that he can trust in the justice and mercy of God, so he decides that fields and flock may be destroyed – however, he will stay faithful unto God. He has decided to rest in the knowledge and wisdom of God – who is of infinite power and knows what’s He’s doing! Trusting in God then would mean the answer to questions, doubts, among other complaints that he had before.

Habakkuk was very passionate about his preaching and had very fervent prayers. Judah showed no sign of improvement, and all around him, the Prophet sees violence, lawlessness, injustice, and other evils. He knows God is holy and just, so he asks God how long will He allow this wickedness to go unpunished. He couldn’t believe the iniquity of the land, and hoped God would do something!

If God is holy, as Habakkuk determines, then how can he use Babylon to punish Judah, when the Babylonians are far more wicked than the Judeans? He believes that God is unnecessarily siding with Babylon, and beholding evil – rather than deal with the Babylonians as well for their sin is equal to or greater than the Judeans (among others).

Habakkuk’s prayer was in 3:1-19. Habakkuk describes the appearance of God in His work of judging the nations and saving His People. He then recalls the mighty works that God’s done for His People, and prays that God will act on their behalf again. However, he knows that when God’s anger is troubled over sinners, Israel’s enemies aren’t the only ones who will suffer – for God’s People are also sinners, and therefore, the Prophet prays for God’s mercy in dealings with them. He pictures God’s judgment in so many vivid ways, and then he shudders of the judgment of the people. His hopes and trusts in the justice and mercy of God. Fields and flocks might be destroyed, but Habakkuk promises to remain faithful to God. He rests in God’s knowledge and wisdom, to which, the trust is the answer to his questions, doubts, and other complains that he had.

It reveals that Habakkuk must trust in God that He knows what He is doing, and that he will joy in his own Salvation. He trusts in the God of infinite wisdom and knowledge, and His Will is perfect. Deep trust is given for God, and therefore, he feels that trusting in God is the answer to the questions, doubts, and complaints.

Nahum calls Christ “The Stronghold”

Nineveh, which was founded by Nimrod, was famous for centuries. They’d responded to the Prophet Jonah’s message about 200 years before. Sin abounded again, however, and therefore, the commandments of God were forgotten. Nineveh had walls up to 100 feet high, 7 ½ miles around, and wide enough for three chariots to drive abreast on the wall. The city presented a formidable front to any invader. It had boasted 1200 defense towers and a moat outside the walls up to 140 feet wide and 60 feet deep.

Anyway, in Jerusalem, Manasseh reigned; then his son Amon ruled, and finally, youthful Josiah began his eventful reign. The reformation under Josiah’s leadership caused a great change in the life of the nation. When the Book of the Law was found and read to the people, they had set out to clean up the land, and then set up the worship that was described in the book.

It was written to the Ninevites (who Jonah had a mission to 200 years prior to this). It seems they were back to their old sins again, so God sent another to take care of them. Christ is seen in this book as “The Stronghold.” Man is pictured as an “Apostate.” Nahum 2:2, “For the LORD hath turned away the excellency of Jacob, as the excellency of Israel: for the emptiers have emptied them out, and marred their vine branches.” Verse five, “He shall recount his worthies: they shall stumble in their walk; they shall make haste to the wall thereof, and the defence shall be prepared.”

The destruction of Nineveh was the theme of the book along with vengeance is God’s! Nineveh had repented in Jonah’s day, but apostasizing had set in against the compassionate God. The period of this Book is about 610-620 BC, which was about 200 years after Jonah’s prophecy warning Nineveh, and a little less than a hundred years when the Temple was restored by King Hezekiah. The other prophets near this era was very limited – it was only Nahum and Zephaniah until about 590 BC when Jeremiah came… Soon, there would be numerous prophets due to the state of the fallen world, especially with the trouble caused by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon – it was literally an “end of the world scenario” at that time.

On every page, we see a vivid picture of Nineveh’s doom, as the judgment of the Lord loomed near, and it is sure and final for vengeance is the Lord’s. Its style was great beauty, especially in poetic imagery, dramatic descriptions, and vivid imagination. Nahum describes the swift and relentless sweep of the enemy with great vividness and color. The teaching value of the book includes that it teaches most convincingly that we reap what we sow, whether as a man or as a nation. It is similar in style to Paul’s warning to the Galatians (6:7-8), for Paul said, “Be not deceived” – which compares to Nahum 1:2-3. There is a limit to God’s patience with sin and unrepentance. God is in control throughout the world. The arrogance that indulges in senseless destruction of life and property angers God. We see seven attributes of God, which include, longsuffering, justice, omnipotence, holiness, goodness, omniscience, and His vengeance.

The portions of utter significance

  • 1:2, “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” This displays attributes of God; what He’s feeling as this book opens, so that people are well aware of what is going on from the start. This is a sharp exposition to begin with, and shows that God is not happy.
  • 1:3, “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Having this verse follow the previous verse shows simply that God doesn’t usually get angry, and it seems His anger is fueled at the troublesome ways of the wicked.
  • 1:6, “Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.” This again describes vividly the imagery of His anger. The countering verse follows:
  • 1:7, “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” This speaks that the Lord is good overall, and a stronghold in the day of trouble. It speaks for itself and is a good verse. It also said that the Lord knows who trusts in Him, and therefore, it can be said that the Lord does love His People, but just not some of the things they do.
  • 1:15, “Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! O Judah, keep thy solemn feasts, perform thy vows: for the wicked shall no more pass through thee; he is utterly cut off.” God shall be victorious, and soon a messenger will bring them good news of the overthrow of Assyria – therefore, they can worship God in thanksgiving, sincerity, and joy!
  • 2:3, “The shield of his mighty men is made red, the valiant men are in scarlet: the chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of his preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken.” This is very vivid imagery of the uniformed soldiers with their chariots as the enemies approach the city walls – things begin heating up, and this shows something big is coming.
  • 2:10: “She is empty, and void, and waste: and the heart melteth, and the knees smite together, and much pain is in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness.” This shows simply the aftermath of this destruction, as the Assyrians were quite cruel and ruthless in their treatment of the nations that they attacked. People just look with horror at the destroyed city.
  • 3:18-19, “Thy shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria: thy nobles shall dwell in the dust: thy people is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them. There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the bruit of thee shall clap the hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?” We see that Assyria’s leaders will be killed, which leaves those people without a leader and an easy prey for attackers. Therefore, Assyria will fall for the last time, and those who suffered from their cruelty will rejoice headstrong!

People have been plenty warned of God’s Vengeance. This is not the only time when He had to escalate measures to bring His People back into alignment. Here are the other instances (not exhaustive list):

  • Nahum 1:2, “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”
  • Psalm 94:1, “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.”
  • Exodus 20:5, “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
  • Deuteronomy 4:24, “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”
  • Deuteronomy 7:10, “And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.”
  • Zechariah 1:14, “So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”
  • Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
  • Hebrews 10:30, “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.”
  • Deuteronomy 32:35, “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”

This may seem like a grim book, but that’s the way it was at this state. It’s important to evaluate the cause and effect of pre-salvation. This book sure revealed the state of the world before it was about to go through an extraordinary judgment.

Micah the sympathetic prophet

Micah was a worthy champion of the poor who had courage and power to deliver an effective message. Knowing his people so intimately Micah was able to present in vivid colors the challenge to justice. Micah had great sympathy with the oppressed people. Micah’s spirit burned with righteous indignation as he saw the random injustice practiced upon his friends. Christ is pictured as “The Bethlehemite” in Micah 5:2, and as “The Prince of Peace” in Micah 5:5.

We see they are in the last half of the eighth century, and it finds its place in the golden age of the Old Testament Prophecy – right around 745 BC – to which, Tiglath-Pileser III began his reconquest of the West. Assyria’s armies had casted shadows upon the places of Syria and Israel. The King of Syria, Rezin, and the King of Israel, Pekah, began to depend on the King of Egypt to help them – however, the small kingdoms of the west were under sway from Assyria.

Then, in 705 BC, there was a powerful, young Sennacherib who came to rule in Assyria. Moment-by-moment, Sennacherib’s armies moved into the west – and left none but Jerusalem remaining. Hezekiah and Isaiah, who depended on Yahweh, kept the people from surrender. After that, a deliverance came when 185,000 soldiers were suddenly smitten from what appeared to be Yahweh rescuing His Chosen People. Sennacherib fled back to his own land, and left Hezekiah and his people praising God, their great savior. There was much calamity in this time, and God was determined that His Purposes would work out great, so He led His followers continually.

The country preacher, Micah, had known of the tragic situation in Judah and Israel for the priests there were moral and corrupt. Prophets were hirelings, and nobles took an odd pleasure in defrauding the poor. The nation overall was ready for a collapse. The princes, priest, prophets, and the people were all responsible for the downfall. Callous greed and cruelty mark the ungodly conduct of the hour.

The people didn’t want any of the preaching, except the weak, insipid variety that would allow them to go on in their way without embarrassment. They were involved in soothsaying, witchcraft, superstition, and idolatry. Sadly, they lacked honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. The sins involved were oppression of the poor, unscrupulous use of power, lack of integrity, reckless scorn of religion, false prophecy and false prophets, and greedy corruption in the church and state.

  • Micah was a native of a small village near the Philistine border, which was called Morsheth-Gath – which was about 20 miles from Jerusalem and about 17 miles from Tekoa.
  • Micah was a country man who was disgusted about the residents of the cities. However, he learned to love his capital city with a sincere devotion.
  • He was naturally suspicious.
  • He was keenly aware of world events and their significance, even though he was a peasant farmer.
  • His contemporaries were Amos and Hosea in the north and Isaiah in the south.
  • He had ethical integrity, courage, and the unflinching truthfulness in speaking the whole counsel of God unto the city folk.
  • He had a personality like Amos and Elijah. He loved his land, capital city, and the poor. He had a passion for righteousness, which drove him forth with a good word for those lacking ethical standards.
  • He was somewhat unsophisticated and rustic, but always a seeker of justice and mercy for his peasant friends – the ones that suffered so bitterly.
  • He was a truly tender-hearted Prophet of the people, especially a champion of the poor. His name means, “Who is like Yahweh?”

The issue was Jehovah’s past and present controversy with Israel. God entered into a controversy with the whole nation. He speaks about their sin as well as impending judgment. Yahweh’s controversy with Judah, Israel, and all the nations of his chosen, was their iniquities.

His view of God:

  • He is a judge, according to 1:3, 6; 3:12.
  • He is a God of ethical righteousness, according to 6:8; 2:1-2; 3:2-3, 10-11; 7:2.
  • He is a God who loves peace, according to 4:3; 5:5.
  • He is a God of hope and promise, according to 7:7, 18-20.
  • He is a God that gathers the remnant unto Himself, according to 2:12.

Oh if people of our day would view God similarly! 🙂

Micah’s prophecies of Jesus Christ

  • Second Advent of Messiah (2:12-13)
  • Millennial Restoration (chapter 4; Isaiah 2:1)
  • First Advent of Messiah and his redemptive work necessary first as a guarantee for eternal restoration (5:1-3).
  • Israel to be delivered from the antichrist by the Messiah at the Second Advent (5:4-6).
  • Israel to be restored at the return of the Messiah (5:7-15)
  • New Testament: Matthew 2:5-6 speaking of Micah and Christ speaks of Micah when commissioning His Twelve Disciples (compare Micah 7:6 with Matthew 10:35-36).

Jonah the prophet swallowed by a fish

It seems people could have issues with the fact that apparently he was swallowed by a fish as it reads in the OT, but in the NT (Matthew 12:40), it reads a whale. People wonder if there was a mistranslation, and how this could be so. The purpose of the book is to illustrate that God delayed the destruction of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire for almost a century – so we see the powerful mercy of our God. His Salvation is not only for the Jew, Jonah’s nation, but also for all humanity and even the enemy. If the wicked shall repent and turn to God, God would be merciful to them.

Sources verifying Jonah’s calling and work

  • 2 Kings 14:25-27 – This refers to the fact that the Lord spoke through Jonah the Prophet.
  • Matthew 12:38-42 – This refers to the fact that there was a sign of the Prophet Jonah, for Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days – and therefore, the Son of man would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth. The old Jonah had been declared before, but the new Jonah is now here.
  • Matthew 16:4 – This is a reference to Christ comparing Himself to Jonah. Jonah was in many ways an important sign and type of Christ. This generation was seeking a sign and couldn’t find it, so the Lord points the Pharisees to the sign of the Prophet Jonah – which, comparing to Jonah, there are many different ways that Jesus had compared to him:
    • Jonah was thrown overboard by his shipmates – Christ was delivered to His death by the Jews.
    • Jonah was willingly thrown overboard – Christ laid down His Life, and Man couldn’t take it.
    • Jonah was thrown into the sea to save the others on the ship – Christ in His death had saved people.
    • Jonah, after three days in the belly of the whale, was cast up onto dry land – Christ rose again on the Third Day!
  • Luke 11:29-32 – Here, Christ promised one more sign be given, as the sign of Jonah – to which, He warns them not to avoid the sign. People had repented at the preaching of Jonah – and the same shall be done here, so God’s People can be saved. Christ is telling them that the same sign is apparent here, is that Man has sinned, and atonement is necessary (He plans on atoning).

Jonah’s background

Tradition says: Jonah was the son of the widow of Zarephath and therefore was the lad whom Elijah had raised from the dead; they are one and the same. Jonah was a native of Gath-hepher, near Nazareth, this would make him most likely a Galilean. His mission was to the city of Nineveh – which he would deliver a message to the Ninevites.

Jonah’s Prophetic Office is confirmed and vouched for by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 12:38-42. He was unlike Jesus in Commitment: Jonah, overlooking repentant Nineveh, pouted; Jesus, overlooking unrepentant Jerusalem, wept. Jonah has been called “The Elder Prodigal son” of the Old Testament. The people of Nineveh believed God, as we see in 3:5, and proclaimed a fast and wore sackcloth. They lastly repented at the word that came through Jonah. God saw their works, as we see in 3:10, and that they repented – so God repented of the evil (which means He withdrew what He was going to do).

Lessons of value for all people

  • Self-will always brings destruction, for it is futile to resist the will of God.
  • Do not rush to meet the storms of life without God.
  • God loves and seeks Salvation for all people, Jew and Gentile.
  • You cannot escape from God.
  • Your sin always affects others.
  • A right Spirit quick to obey, and one full of thanksgiving, pleases God.

The message of Obadiah was destruction coming for their immoral ways

The Message of Obadiah is directed against the people of Edom who looked on while Jerusalem was being destroyed and it seemed that they took some kind of fiendish delight in the misfortune. It has been called an “indignant oration.” His name means, “Servant” or “The Worshipper of Jehovah.”

What was the issue between Esau and Jacob?

Esau and Jacob were in a ridiculous family feud, where earlier Jacob robbed Esau of his birthright. This feud, though, is between brothers. Esau’s descendants are settled in Edom, South of the Dead Sea. The Edomites could do shrewd trades, make raids on neighboring people, and retreat to their secure stronghold for safety. They had other places of security as well. Esau, the father of the Edomites, and Jacob, the father of the Israelites, were brothers, but became feuding families from the beginning, more fuel to the feud was added by this incident.

Now, the Edomites refused to allow the Israelites (their blood brother) to pass through this territory at the time of the Exodus. In the battle for the conquest of Palestine, they fought against Israel. David subdued the land, and Solomon continued to hold it in subjection, but in the days of Ahaz, the Edomites rebelled and continued to make trouble for Judah. The Edomites were proud, bitter, and self-contained – however, they thought they didn’t need God. Obadiah prophesied and warned against Edom’s vindictive hatred – to which, it seems that Edom rejoiced over the calamities of Israel more than once. When Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem they not only rejoiced over Israel’s downfall, but cruelty took part in the plunder and massacre.

Israel must learn how to treat the Edomites

“Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.” –Psalm 137:7… This verse says to the Lord to remember the children of Edom (the enemies) in the day of Jerusalem, because of the attackers of the Babylonians who attempted to overthrow His People, and take captive the Israelites.

The burden of Obadiah’s Message was that he sees the doom and destruction of the fierce Idumeans or Edomites. Obadiah reminds Edom that God commanded the Israelites to treat the Edomites charitably – which is what message is conveyed in Deuteronomy 23:7. In biting words Obadiah denounces the pride of sinners and remarks that they deserve the punishment that God, was about to heap upon them.

What caused the sharp message of doom was that Obadiah saw the inhuman spirit of the Edomites toward Judah. In addition, the kinsmen displayed an unbrotherly spirit and delighted in the destruction of their own blood family. The Edomites helped catch fleeing Israelites, treated them cruelly, sold them as slaves, and shared in the loot obtained after the capture. This would be a strong message against enmity, hatred, envy, and unbrotherly conduct. It streamed with the idea of malicious gazing on human calamity.

What people can learn from Obadiah

  • Our defenses are useless toward the power of God.
  • Ridicule will not go unnoticed by God.
  • What you do to others will be returned to you.
  • Godly eternal justice will prevail.
  • A profane person cannot find favor with a God he does not love.
  • The victory belongs to God.
  • Hate silences compassion, but love captures God’s attention.
  • God will make those victorious whom trust in Him. Submitting our own desires to God will lead to great success, but if we turn away, we may fail.