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Obadiah through Haggai


Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, and the most difficult to pin down as to its date of writing. It focuses on Jerusalem and impending judgment on Edom, and is not referenced at all by the New Testament.

Jonah, a minor prophet mentioned in 2 Kings 14, is one of the more generally-known names in the Bible. But it isn’t as much about prophecy as it is about Jonah himself, and the lesson we can learn from this incident concerning the thriving Assyrian city of Nineveh. He was the only prophet sent to a heathen nation with a message of hope if they turned from their sins.

Micah was another of the prophets to the southern kingdom of Judah, with emphasis on their violation of the covenant to which they had sworn. It comes in three separate messages and fits the familiar pattern of sin, warning, judgment, and mercy.

Nahum, like Jonah, was sent to Nineveh to pronounce judgment. But unlike Jonah, his message was of disaster without hope of mercy, because like Israel they had turned away from God.

Habakkuk, who lived before Israel’s exile to Babylon, also wondered as Jonah had done why God wasn’t yet dealing with wicked people, in this case those of Judah.

Zephaniah brought God’s messages of judgment against Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. The people had obeyed King Josiah’s reforms, but their hearts remained the same, so they quickly reverted to their idolatrous ways.

Haggai was a prophet who brought a much more positive and pleasant message regarding the future Millennial Kingdom to the remnant returning from Babylonian captivity.


This is a vision from God and written poetically as many prophecies are. It describes God’s vengeance on nations because of the way they mistreated his people, even though, as we know the people deserved it. God points out that even robbers only take what they want, and harvesters leave some produce behind, but Edom had made sure that not a scrap was left of the people of Judah. They gloated over its demise and turned a blind eye to what others were doing to them as well. Because of this, God will not leave a scrap of their people, the descendants of Esau.


The book starts right off with a blunt, negative statement about Jonah’s character. Instead of obeying God’s command to inform the Ninevites of their impending doom, he runs the other way. So once he boards a ship to Tarshish, God sends a violent storm, and the sailors eventually figure out that it’s Jonah’s fault they were all about to die. So he confesses to what it says he had told them earlier anyway, and he finally offers to sacrifice himself so they won’t die. They throw him into the sea, which immediately calms down, so they take the hint and worship Jonah’s God.

Verse 17 is where the huge fish swallows him, which critics love to scoff at. But there are documented cases where others have survived similar circumstances, as noted in Constable’s Notes, so this isn’t any reason to reject the narrative here. He was there for three days and three nights, which Jesus cited in Mat. 12:39-41 as how long he’d be in the heart of the earth. That passage makes it clear that Jonah’s account was not fiction, since the people of Nineveh will arise at the final judgment to condemn the generation that demanded Jesus’ crucifixion.

We see in ch. 2 that while Jonah is still in the fish he prays to God and thanks him for saving him from drowning. I’m sure it wasn’t a picninc in there, but he was grateful to be alive at all. Now some teach that he actually died and was resurrected because of verse 6, yet verse 7 negates that claim. Then at last he’s spat out on dry land at God’s command.

Jonah is finally ready to obey God in ch. 3, and he announces that God has given the people of Nineveh forty days to repent— which, unlike Israel, they did. But as we see in ch. 4, this seriously ticked off Jonah because he was hoping for the demise of these enemies of Israel, which is why he ran away in the first place. And that’s the lesson for us; we often hope to see wicked people get what’s coming to them, when we should be praying for them to repent and be saved, or we’re really saying that Jesus didn’t die for them. We need to leave the judgments and wrath to God.

So Jonah basically says I told you so, and actually whines that he wants to die— because God is merciful! What follows is a rather comical account of aggravation for Jonah, because of this attitude of hoping to have a front-row seat to the show when God’s wrath came down at last. But it was really a lesson for Israel and a foreshadowing of their fickle character as a nation. This little book ends abruptly with God reminding Jonah that compassion and mercy is what God longs to show to everyone, and judgment is his last resort.


Micah begins with a poetic description of the day God returns to earth to deal once more with Israel’s rebellion. But then in verse 12 it includes other nations in the judgment, who had a hand in enticing them to commit idolatry.

In ch. 2 the focus returns to wayward Israel, who has been robbing the poor and oppressing the vulnerable. The modern world economy is actually designed to have that effect, since it’s dependent upon ever-increasing debt. But the wicked still have the gall to be outraged that God would ever come back and sweep the world clean, because they see nothing wrong with what they do, and they’re deluded enough to believe they’re the only ones qualified to run the place. But again, as we see in verse 12, God will restore a remnant of his people, the few who actually heed warnings and acknowledge God’s authority over them.

In the meantime, as we see in ch. 3, the arrogant leaders of Israel are warned not to think they’re above suffering consequences for their corruption and their reversal of good and evil. Notice in verse 8 that Micah takes courage from God in spite of the message he’s required to confront them with, as opposed to Jonah’s attitude.

Ch. 4 turns to hope for the future Millennial Kingdom, and verse 3 is that famous statement about turning swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. The Millennium will be free of war, pestilence, disease, and crime.

In ch. 5 it’s back to the need to repent before disaster strikes, but immediately we see a very familiar passage quoted in Mat. 2:6, when the wise men from the east visited Herod to inquire about the sign of the one prophesied here in Micah. It’s a clear Messianic prophecy, since it describes this One as having existed in the distant past, yet was still to come in the distant future. Rabbis over the years have claimed that since Jesus didn’t fulfill this prophecy in the past, then he was not the Messiah. Yet they conviently ignore or twist passages such as Isaiah 53 which speak also of the Messiah’s mistreatment and death. The nation of Israel, as stated in verse 3, was to experience harship until this ’birth’ took place, but as we see in hindsight, the restoration of Israel has been put on hold because they rejected him.

By the way, the Assyrian in verse 5 doesn’t mean the Antichrist will be of Syrian descent, as some prophecy teachers assert. By that point in the Millennium as the context indicates, there will be no Antichrist. Verse 10 goes on to say that in that day God will do away with the need for armies and weapons, but that requires that he first of all purge all the wicked people from Israel.

Ch. 6 begins a legal grievance God has against them, for how they’ve mistreated him in spite of how he’s blessed them. It’s in that context we see the familiar passage in verse 8 showing what God always wanted from them: justice, faithfulness, and loyalty. But he can’t ignore their rebellion or their victims forever.

Ch. 7 is a lament over all this, and in verse 6 we see what Jesus quoted in Mat. 10:35-36, only in that context he used it to show that truth is a divisive force between those who accept it and those who reject it, even in the closest of relationships. Then verse 8 points out the necessity of enduring punishment, but that when it achieves its purpose, those who repent will be vindicated and restored.


Nahum begins with the vengeance of God against the wicked, and his protection of those who trust in him. There is no hope for the people of Nineveh this time, and that’s pretty much the essence of the book.


God explains here that he’s raising up Babylon to execute punishment. But then Habakkuk asks how a more wicked nation can be used to punish Israel. God’s response begins in ch. 2, where he explains that they too would eventually be repaid for what they’ve done. In the mean time, he was to trust that God knows what he’s doing, which he expected to be told at the end of this verse. Then in ch. 3 he describes God as beyond approach and thus worthy of our trust.


This book can be summed up as for Israel to sit still and wait for God to act. He will purge and purify his people so they can enter into his presence once again, this time with changed hearts rather than only changed habits. But again, God will also punish the wicked nations who give his people their well-deserved punishments. Then in 3:8 is a reminder to patiently wait for God to act.


Haggai first addresses the governor of Judah and the high priest, as a rebuke to the idea that it wasn’t really time to rebuild Jerusalem after all. Things weren’t going well, due to their shift of priorities from the Temple to their own houses, and we can all relate to the end of verse 6 about earning wages that are kept in bags with holes in them. The people’s response begins in verse 12, after which God blesses them.

However, in ch. 2 God takes issue with the quality of materials they’re using for the Temple, by asking if they think it comes close to the splendor of the original temple built by Solomon. Yet God will bless them anyway as long as their hearts are right. Even so, another more glorious temple would come someday, that being during the Millennium.

Verse 10 turns to a matter of ritual purity that the people were ignoring, which had resulted in sparse harvests. But now that they were improving, God would improve their harvests. The book ends with a section starting in verse 20 about Zerubbabel, who would be raised up as a type and shadow of the future Messiah.

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