These last six books sounded like they were arranged chronologically – Nahum speaking of Judah’s rescue from Assyria, Habakkuk and Zephaniah of the exile & restoration, and the final three speaking both encouragement and rebuke to the returned exiles. Zechariah and Malachi had an interesting blend of exhortation to the returnees blending into striking prophecies of Christ’s first and second comings. In listening, I felt these books build a sense of anticipation for the coming Messiah, which is strengthened by Malachi’s closing prophecy of Elijah’s coming as Christ’s forerunner. It makes me want to start reading the New Testament right away!
I don’t think I realized before that Hosea was writing to the apostate northern kingdom; that makes God’s anguished declarations of love for them seem more poignant to me. Joel has several passages that I have usually heard associated with end-times teaching, such as the beginning section about locusts. But reading them in context, I wasn’t so sure that they were meant as end-times teaching; they seemed more connected with current judgments on the nation. Jonah’s narrative form really stood out as a contrast to the poetic oracles of the other books, and to be honest, it was much easier to understand and relate to my life. One theme that jumped out at me as common to this whole group of books was the emphasis on social justice and how you treat others. Even the judgments pronounced against neighboring nations were because of how cruelly they treated Judah and Israel.
(This was a seminary class assignment originally dated November 29, 2006. I made minor edits before posting it in this blog. For an introduction and table of contents for this series, see New Series: Old Testament Reading Journal)