Old Testament

Vital Statistics

Genesis

Purposes:  To record God’s creation of the world and his desire to have a people set apart to worship him.

Author:  Moses

To Whom Written:  The people of Israel.

Date Written:  1450 – 1410 B.C.

Setting:  The region presently known as the Middle East.

Key Verses: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27).  ” ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;  I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you’ ”  (12:2,3).

Key People:  Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph.

 

Exodus

Purposes:    To record the events of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and development as a nation.

Author:  Moses

Date Written:  1450 – 1410 B.C. . approximately the same as Genesis.

Where Written:  In the desert during Israel’s wanderings, somewhere in the Sinai peninsula.

Setting:  Egypt.  God’s people, once highly favored in the land, are now slaves.  God is about to set them free.

Key Verses:  The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because if their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering….  So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt’ ” (3: 7, 10).

Key People:   Moses, Miriam, Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s daughter, Jethro, Aaron, Joshua, Bezalel.

Key Places:  Egypt, Goshen, Nile River, Midian, Red Sea, Sinai peninsula, Mount Sinai.

Special Features:  Exodus relates more miracles than any other Old Testament book and is noted for containing the Ten Commandments.

 

Leviticus

Purposes:  A handbook for the priests and Levites outlining their duties in worship, and a guidebook of holy living for the Hebrews.

Author:  Moses

Date of Events:  1445 – 1444 B.C.

Setting:  At the foot of Mount Sinai.  God is teaching the Israelites how to live as holy people.

Key Verse:  “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy”  (19:2).

Key People:  Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar.

Key Place:  Mount Sinai

Special Feature:  Holiness is mentioned more times (152) than in any other book of the Bible.

 

Numbers 

Purposes: To tell the story of how Israel prepared to enter the promised land, how they sinned and were punished, and how they prepared to try again.

Author:  Moses

To Whom  Written:  The people of Israel.

Date Written:  1450 -1410 B.C.

Setting:  The vast desert of the Sinai region, as well as lands just south and east of Canaan.

Key Verses:  “Not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefather.  No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it”  (14: 22, 23).

Key People:  Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Caleb, Eleazar, Korah, Balaam.

Key Places:  Mount Sinai, promised land (Canaan), Kadesh, Mount Hor, plains of Moab.

 

Deuteronomy

Purposes:  To remind the people of what God had done and encourage them to rededicate their lives to him.

Author:  Moses (except for the summary, which was probably written by Joshua after Moses’ death).

To Whom Written:  Israel (the new generation entering the promised land).

Date Written:  About 1407/6 B.C.

Setting:  The east side of the Jordan River, in view of Canaan.

Key Verse:  “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands”  (7: 9)

Key People:  Moses, Joshua.

Key Place:  The Arabah in Moab.

 

Joshua

Purposes:  To give the history of Israel’s conquest of the promised land.

Author:  Joshua, except for the ending which may have been written by the high priest Phinehas, an eyewitness to the events recounted there. 

Setting:  Canaan, also called the promised land, which occupied the same general geographical territory of modern-day Israel.

Key Verse:  “Go through the camp and tell the people.  ‘Get you ready supplies.  Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take  possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own’ “.  (1: 11).

Key People:  Joshua, Rahab, Achan, Phinehas, Eleazar.

Kay Places:  Jericho, Ai, Mount Ebal, Mount Gerizim, Gibeon, Gilgal, Shiloh, Shechem.

Special Feature:  Out of over million people, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who left Egypt and entered the promised land.

 

 Judges

Purposes:  To show that God’s judgment against sin is certain, and his forgiveness of sin and restoration to relationship are just as certain for those who repent.

Author:  Possibly Samuel.

Setting:  The land of Canaan, later called Israel.  God had helped the Israelites conquer Canaan, which had been inhabited by a host of wicked nations.  But they were in danger of losing this promised land because they compromised their convictions and disobeyed God.

Key Verse:  “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit”  (17: 6).

Key People:  Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, Jephthah, Samson, Delilah.

Special Feature:  Records Israel’s first civil war.

 

Ruth

Purposes:  To show how three people remained strong in character and true to God even when the society around them was collapsing.

Author:  Unknown.  Some think it was Samuel, but internal evidence suggests that it was written after Samuel’s death.

Date Written:  Sometime after the period of the judges (1375-1050 B..C.)

Setting:  A dark time in Israel’s history when people lived to please themselves, not God (Judges 17: 6).

Key Verse:  “But Ruth replied.  ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God’ “.

Key People:  Ruth, Naomi, Boaz.

Key Places:  Moab, Bethlehem.

 

 1 Samuel

Purposes:  To record the life of Samuel.  Israel’s last judge, the reign and decline of Saul, the first king; and the choice and preparation of David, Israel’s greatest king.

Author:  Possibly Samuel, but also includes writings from the prophets Nathan and Gad ( 1 Chronicles 29: 29).

Setting:  The book begins in the days of the judges and describes Israel’s transition from a theocracy (led by God) to a monarchy (led by a king).

Kay Verses:  “And the Lord told him:  ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as they king…  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do’ ”  (8: 7, 9).

Key People:  Eli, Hannah, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, David.

 

2 Samuel

Purposes:   1/  To record the history of David’s reign;  2/  To demonstrate effective leadership under God;  3/  To reveal that one person can make a difference;  4/ To show the personal qualities that please God;  5/  To depict David as an ideal leader of an imperfect kingdom, and to foreshadow Christ, who will be the ideal leader of a new and perfect kingdom (Chapter 7).

Author:  Unknown.  Some have suggested that Nathan’s son Zabud may have been the author (1 kings 4:5).  The book also includes the writings of Nathan and Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29).

Date Written:  930 B.C.;  written soon after David’s reign, 1050-970 B.C.

Setting:  The land of Israel under David’s rule.

Key Verse:  “And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel”  (5: 12).

Key People:  David, Joab, Bathsheba, Nathan, Absalom.

Special Features:  This book was named after the prophet who anointed David and guided him in living for God. 

 

1 Kings

Purpose:  To contrast the lives of those who live for God and those who refuse to do so through the history of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Author:  Unknown.  Possibly, Jeremiah or a group of prophets.

Setting:  The once great nation of Israel turned into a land divided, not only physically, but also spiritually.

Key Verse:  “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said.  ‘You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel’ ” (9:4,5).

Key People:  David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Elijah, Ahab, Jezebel.

Special Feature:  The books of 1 and 2 kings were originally one book.

 

2 Kings

Purpose:  To demonstrate the fate that awaits all who refuse to make God their true leader.

Author:  Unknown.  Possibly Jeremiah or a group of prophets.

Setting:  The once-united nation of Israel has been divided into two kingdoms.  Israel and Judah, for over a century.

Key Verses:  “The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers.  “Turn from your evil ways.  Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God”  (17:13,14).

Key People:  Elijah, Elisha, Shunammite woman, Naaman, Jezebel, Jehu, Joash, Hezekiah, Sennacherib, Isaiah, Manasseh, Josiah, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar.

Special Features:  The 17 prophetic books at the end of the Old Testament give great insights into the time period of 2 Kings.

 

1 Chronicles

Purpose:  To unify God’s people, to trace the Davidic line, and to teach that genuine worship ought to be the center of individual and national life.

Author:  Ezra, according to Jewish tradition.

To Whom Written:  All Israel.

Date Written:  Approximately 430 B.C. , recording events that occurred from about 1000-960 B.C.

Setting:  First Chronicles parallels 2 Samuel and serves as a commentary on it.  Written after the exile from a priestly point of view, I Chronicles emphasizes the religious history of Judah and Israel.

Key Verse:  “And David know that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel”.

Key People:  David, Solomon.

Key Places:  Hebron, Jerusalem, the temple.

2 Chronicles

Purpose:  To unify the nation around true worship of God by showing his standard for judging kings.  The righteous kings of Judah and the religious revivals under their rule are highlighted, and the sins of the evil kings are exposed.

Author:  Ezra, according to Jewish tradition.

To Whom Written:  All Israel.

Date Written:  Approximately 430 B.C.  recording events from the beginning of Solomon’s reign (970 B.C.) to the beginning of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.)

Setting:  Second Chronicles parallels 1 and 2 Kings and serves as their commentary.  Originally 1 and 2 Chronicles were one book.  It was written after the exile from a priestly perspective, highlighting the importance of the temple and the religious revivals in Judah.  The northern kingdom, Israel, is virtually ignored in this history.

Key Verse:  “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (7:14).

Key People:  Solomon, the queen of Sheba, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Joash, Uzziah (Azariah), Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah.

Key Places:  Jerusalem, the temple.

Special Features:  Incudes a detailed record of the temple’s construction.

 

Ezra

Purpose:  To show God’s faithfulness and the way he kept his promise to restore his people to their land.

Author:  Not stated, but probably Ezra.

Date Written:  Around 450 B.C., recording events from about 538-450 B.C. (omitting 516-458 B.C.); possibly begun earlier in Babylon and finished in Jerusalem.

Setting:  Ezra follows 2 Chronicles as a history of the Jewish people, recording their return to the land after the captivity.

Key Verses:  “So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel.  For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel”  (6:21,22).

Key People:  Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Haggai, Zechariah, Darius, Artaxerxes I, Ezra.

Key Places:  Babylon,  Jerusalem.

Special Features:  Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible, and, with Esther, they comprise the post-captivity historical books.  The post-captivity prophetic books are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.  Haggai and Zechariah should be studied with Ezra because they prophesied during the period of the reconstruction.

 

Nehemiah

Purpose:  Nehemiah is the last of the Old Testament historical books.  It records the history of the third return to Jerusalem after captivity, telling how the walls were rebuilt and the people were renewed in their faith. 

Author:  Much of the book is written in the first person, suggesting Nehemiah as the author.  Nehemiah probably wrote the book with Ezra serving as editor.

Date Written:  Approximately 445-432 B.C.

Setting:  Zerubbabel led the first return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C.  In 458, Ezra led the second return.  Finally, in 445, Nehemiah returned with the third group of exiles to rebuild the city walls.

Key Verses:  “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.  When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (6:15,16).

Key People:  Nehemiah, Ezra, Sanballat.

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

Special Features:  The book shows the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah and Daniel concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.

Esther

Purpose:  To demonstrate God’s sovereignty and his loving care for his people.

Author:  Unknown.  Possibly Mordecai  (9:29).  some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similarity of the writing style.

Date Written:  Approximately 470 B.C. (Esther became queen in 479)

Setting:  Although Esther follows Nehemiah in the Bible, its events are about 30 years prior to those recorded in Nehemiah.  The story is set in the Persian empire, and most of the action takes place in the king’s palace in Susa, the Persian capital.

Key Verses:  “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14).

Key People:  Esther, Mordecai, King Xerxes I, Haman.

Key Place: The King’s palace in Susa, Persia.

Special Features:  Esther is one of only two books named for woman (Ruth is the other).  The book is unusual in that in the original version no name, title, or pronoun for God appears in it.  This caused some church fathers to question its inclusion in the canon.  But God’s presence is clear throughout the  book.

 

Job

Purpose:  To demonstrate God’s sovereignty and the meaning of true faith.  It addresses the question.  “Why do the righteous suffer?”

Author:  Unknown, possibly Job.  Some have suggested Moses, Solomon, or Elihu.

Date Written:  Unknown.  Records events that probably occurred during the time of the patriarchs,  approximately 2000-1800 B.C.

Setting:  The land of Uz, probably located northeast of Palestine, near desert land between Damascus and the Euphrates River.

Key Verses:  “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shun evil.  And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason’ ”  (2:3).

Key People:  Job, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, Elihu the Buzite.

Special Features:  Job is the first of the poetic books in the Hebrew Bible.  Some believe this was the first book of the Bible to be written.  The book gives us insights into the work of Satan.  Ezekiel 14:14,20 and James 5:11 mention Job as a historical character.

 

Psalms

Purpose:  To provide poetry for the expression of praise, worship, and confession to God.

Authors:  73 psalms; Asaph wrote 12; the son of Korah wrote nine; Solomon wrote two, Heman (with the son of Korah).  Ethan and Moses each wrote one; and 51 psalms are anonymous.  The New Testament ascribes two of the anonymous psalms (Psalms 2 and 95) to Davis (see Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7).

Date Written:  Between the time of Moses (around 1440 B.C.)  and the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.).

Setting:  For the most part, the psalms were not intended to be narrations of historical events.  However, they often parallel events in history, such as David’s flight from Saul and his sin with Bathsheba.

Key Verse:  “Let everything that has breath praise the lord.  Praise the Lord” (150:6).

Key Person: David.

Key Place:  God’s holy temple.

Proverbs

Purpose:  To teach people how to attain wisdom and discipline and a prudent life, and how to do what is right and just and fair (see 1:2,3) – in short, to apply divine wisdom in daily life and to provide moral instruction.

Author:  Solomon wrote most of this book, with Agur and Lemuel contributing some of the later sections.

Date Written:  Solomon wrote and compiled most of these proverbs early in his reign.

Setting:  This is a book of wise sayings, a textbook for teaching people how to live godly lives through the repetition of wise thoughts.

Key Verse:  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (1:7).

Special Features:  The book uses varied literary forms:  poems, brief parables, pointed questions, and couplets.  Other literary devices include antithesis, comparison, and personification.

 

Ecclesiastes

Purpose:  To spare future generations the bitterness of learning through their own experience that life id meaningless apart from God.

Author:  Solomon.

To Whom written:  Solomon’s subjects in particular, and all people in general.

Date Written:  Probably around 935 B.C. late in Solomon’s life.

Setting:  Solomon was looking back on his life, much of which was lived apart from God.

Key Verse:  “Now all has been heard here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13).

 

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)

Purpose:  To tell of the love between a bridegroom (King Solomon) and his bride, to affirm the sanctity of marriage, and to picture God’s love for his people.

Author:  Solomon.

Date Written:  Probably early in Solomon’s reign.

Setting:  Israel – the Shulammite woman’s garden and the king’s palace.

Key Verse:  “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine; he browses among the lilies” (6:3).

Key People:  King Solomon, the Shulammite woman, and friends.

Isaiah

Purpose:  To call the nation of Judah back to God and tell of God’s salvation through the Messiah.

Author:  The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.

Date Written:  The events of chapters 1 – 39 occurred during Isaiah’s ministry, so they were probably written about 700 B.C.  Chapters 40 – 66, however, may have been written near the end of his life, about 681 B.C.

Setting:  Isaiah is speaking and writing mainly in Jerusalem.

Key Verse: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5).

Key People:  Isaiah, his two sons Shear-Jashub and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.

Special Features:  The book of Isaiah contains both prose and poetry and uses personification (attributing personal qualities to divine beings or inanimate objects).  Also, many of the prophecies in Isaiah contain predictions that foretell a soon-to-occur event and a distant future event at the same time.

 

Jeremiah

Purpose:  To urge God’s people to turn from their sins and back to God.

Author:  Jeremiah.

To Whom Written:  Judah (the southern kingdom) and its capital city, Jerusalem.

Date Written:  During Jeremiah’s ministry, approximately 627-586B.C.

Setting:  Jeremiah ministered under Judah’s last five kings – Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.  The nation was sliding quickly toward destruction and was eventually conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. (see 2 Kings 21 – 25).  The prophet Zephaniah preceded Jeremiah, and Habakkuk was Jeremiah’s contemporary.

Key Verse:  “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you.  Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord the Lord Almighty” (2:19).

Key People:  Judah’s kings (listed above).  Baruch, Ebed-Melech, king Nebuchadnezzar, the Recabites.

Key Places:  Anathoth, Jerusalem, Ramah, Egypt.

Special Features:  This book is a combination of history, poetry, and biography.  Jere often used symbolism to communicate his message.

 

Lamentations

Purpose:  To teach people that to disobey God is to invite disaster, and to show that God suffers when his people suffer.

Author:  Jeremiah.

Date Written:  Soon after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

Setting:  Jerusalem had been destroyed by Babylon and her people killed, tortured, or taken captive.

Key Verse:  “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the street of the city” (2:11).

Kay People:  Jeremiah, the people of Jerusalem.

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

Special Features:  Three strands of Hebrew thought meet in Lamentations – prophecy, ritual, and wisdom.  Lamentations is written in the rhythm and style of ancient Jewish funeral songs or chants.  It contains five poems corresponding to the five chapters.

 

Ezekiel

Purpose:  To announce Gods judgment on Israel and other nations and to foretell the eventual salvation of God’s people.

Author:  Ezekiel – the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest.

To Whom Written:  The Jews in captivity in Babylonia, and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Approximately 571 B.C.

Setting:  Ezekiel was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah.  while Jeremiah ministered to the people still in Judah, Ezekiel prophesied to those already exiled in Babylonia after the defeat of Jehoiachin.  He was taken there in 597 B.C.

Key Verses:  “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:24-26).

Key People:  Ezekiel, Israel’s leaders, Ezekiel’s wife, Nebuchadnezzar, “the prince”.

Key Places:  Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt.

 

Daniel

Purpose:  To give a historical account of the faithful Jews who lived in captivity and to show how God is in control of heaven and earth, direction the forces of nature, the destiny of nations, and the care of the people.

Author:  Daniel.

To Whom Written:  The other captives in Babylon and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Approximately 535 B.C. recording events that occurred from about 605-535 B.C.

setting:  Daniel had been taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C.  There he served in the government for about 60 years during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.

Key Verse:  “H e [God] reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:22).

Key People:  Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Belshazzar, Darius.

Key Place:  Nebuchadnezzar’s palace, the fiery furnace, Belshazzar’s banquet, the den of lions.

Special Features:  Daniel’s apocalyptic visions (chapters 8 – 12) give a glimpse of God’s plan for the ages, including a direct prediction of the Messiah.

 

Hosea

Purpose:  To illustrate God’s love for his sinful people.

Author:  Hosea son of Beeri ( “Hosea” means “salvation”).

To Whom Written:  Israel (the northern kingdom) and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Approximately 715 B.C. , recording events from about 753-715 B.C.

Setting:  Hosea began his ministry during the end of the prosperous but morally declining reign of Jeroboam II of Israel (the upper classes were doing well, but they were oppressing the poor).  He prophesied u ntil shortly after the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.

Key Verse:  “The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress.  Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes'” (3:1).

Key People:  Hosea, Gomer, their children.

Key Places:  The northern kingdom (Israel), Samaria, Ephraim.

Special Features:  Hosea employs many images from daily life – God is depicted as husband, father, lion, leopard, bear, dew, rain, moth, and others, Israel is pictured as wife, sick person, vine, grapes, early fruit, olive tree, woman in childbirth, oven, morning mist, chaff, and smoke, to name a few.

 

Joel

Purpose:  To warn Judah of God’s impending judgment because of their sins, and to urge them to turn back to God.

Author:  Joel son of Pethuel.

To Whom Written:  The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Probably during the time Joel may have prophesied , from about 835 to 796 B.C.

Setting:  The people of Judah had become prosperous and complacent.  Taking God for granted, they had turned to self-centeredness, idolatry, and sin.  Joel warned them that this kind of life-style would inevitably bring down God’s judgment.

Key Verses:  “Even now, ‘declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and relents from sending calamity” (2:12,13).

Key People:  Joel, the people of Judah.

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

 

Amos

Purpose:  To pronounce God’s judgment upon Israel, the northern kingdom, for their complacency, idolatry, and oppression of the poor

Author:  Amos.

To Whom Written:  Israel, the northern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Probably during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah (about 760-750 B.C.)

Setting:  The wealthy people of Israel were enjoying peace and prosperity.  They were quite complacent and were oppressing the poor, even selling them into slavery.  Soon, however, Israel would be conquered by Assyria, and the rich would themselves become slaves.

Key Verse:  “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (5:24).

Key People:  Amos, Amaziah, Jeroboam II.

Key Places:  Bethel, Samaria.

Special Features:  Amos uses striking metaphors from his shepherding and farming experience-a loaded cart (2:13), a roaring lion (3:8), a muTo Whom Written:tilated sheep (3:12), pampered cows (4:1), and a basket of fruit (8:1,2).

 

Obadiah

Purpose:  To show that God judges those who have harmed his people.

Author:  Obadiah.  Very little is known about this man, whose name means “servant (or worshiper) of the Lord”.

To Whom Written:  The Edomites, the Jews in Judah, and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Possibly during the reign of Jehoram in Judah, 853-841 B.C. , or possibly during Jeremiah’s ministry, 627-586 B.C.

Setting: Historically:  Edom had constantly harassed the Jews.  Prior to the time this book was written, they had participated in attacks against Judah.  Given the dates above, this prophecy came after the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdom and before the conquering of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586B.C.

Key Verse:  “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15).

Key People:  The Edomites.

Key Places:  Edom, Jerusalem.

Special Features:  The book of Obadiah uses vigorous poetic language and is written in the form of a dirge of doom.

 

Jonah

Purpose:  To show the extent of God’s grace-the message of salvation is for all people.

Author:  Jonah son of Amittai.

To Whom Written:  Israel and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Approximately 785-760 B.C.

Setting:  Jonah preceded Amos and ministered under Jeroboam II, Israel’s most powerful king (793-753 B.C.; see 2 kings 14:23-25).  Assyria was Israel’s great enemy, and Israel was conquered by them in 722 B.C. Nineveh’s repentance must have been short-lived, for it was destroyed in 612 B.C.

Key Verse:  “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well.  Should I not be concerned about that great city?” (4:11).

Key People:  Jonah, the ship’s captain and crew.

Key Places:  Joppa, Nineveh.

Special Features:  This book is different from the other books because it tells the story of the prophet and does not center on his prophecies.  In fact, only one verse summarizes his message to the people of Nineveh (3:4).  Jonah is a historical narrative.  It is also mentioned by Jesus as a picture of his death and resurrection (Matthew 12:38-42).

Micah

Purpose:  To warn God’s people that judgment is coming and to offer pardon to all who repent.

Author:  Micah, a native of Moresheth, near Gath, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem.

To Whom Written:  The people of Israel (the northern kingdom) and of Judah (the southern kingdom).

Date Written:  Possibly during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (742-687 B.C.).

Setting:  The political situation is described in 2 kings 15-20 and 2 Chronicles 26-30.  Micah was a contemporary of Israel and Hosea.

Key verse:  “He has showed you.  O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (6:8).

Key People:  The people of Samaria and Jerusalem.

Key Places:  Samaria, Jerusalem, Bethlehem.

Special Features:  This is a beautiful example of classical Hebrew poetry.  There are three parts, each beginning with “Hear” or “Listen” (1:2; 3:1; 6:1) and closing with a promise.

 

Nahum

Purpose:  To pronounce God’s judgment on Assyria and to  comfort Judah with this truth.

Author:  Nahum.

To Whom written:  The people of Nineveh and Judah.

Date Written:  Sometime during Nahum’s prophetic ministry (probably between 663 and 612 B.C.).

Setting:  This particular prophecy took place after the fall of Thebes in 663 B.C. (see 3:8-10).

Key Verses:  “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in him, but with and overwhelming flood he will make an end of Nineveh; he will pursue his foes into darkness.  Whatever they plot against the Lord he will bring to an end; trouble will not come a second time” (1:7-9).

Key Place:  Nineveh.

 

Habakkuk

Purpose:  To show that God is still in control of the world despite the apparent triumph of evil.

Author:  Habakkuk.

To Whom Written:  Judah (the southern kingdom),  and God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Between 612 and 588 B.C.

Setting:  Babylon was becoming the dominant world power and Judah would soon feel Babylon’s destructive force.

Key Verse:  “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy” (3:2).

Key People:  Habakkuk, the Babylonians.

Key Place:  Judah.

 

Zephaniah

Purpose:  To shake the people of Judah out of their complacency and urge them to return to God.

Author:  Zephaniah.

To Whom Written:  Judah and all nations.

Date Written:  Probably near the end of Zephaniah’s ministry (640-621 B.C.), when king Josiah’s great reforms began.

Setting:  King Josiah of Judah was attempting to reverse the evil trends set by the two previous kings of Judah – Manasseh and Amon.  Josiah was able to extend his influence because there wasn’t a strong superpower dominating the world at the time (Assyria was declining rapidly).  Zephaniah’s prophecy may have been the motivating factor in Josiah’s reform.  Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Key Verse:  “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger” (2:3).

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

 

Haggai

Purpose:  To call the people to complete the rebuilding of the temple.

Author:  Haggai.

To Whom Written:  The people living in Jerusalem and those who had returned from exile.

Date Written:  520 B.C.

Setting:  The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed in 586 B.C. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple in 538 B.C.  They began the work but were unable to complete it.  Through the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was completed (520-515 B.C.

Key Verse”  Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled house, while this house remains a ruin?”  (1:4).

Key People:  Haggai, Zerubbabel, Joshua.

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

Special Features:  Haggai was the first of the post-exilic prophets.  The other two were Zechariah and Malachi.  The literary style of this book is simple and direct.

 

Zechariah

Purpose:  To give hope to God’s people by revealing God’s future deliverance through the Messiah.

Author:  Zechariah.

To Whom Written :  The Jews in Jerusalem who had returned from their captivity in Babylon and to God’s people everywhere.

Date Written:  Chapters 1-8 were written about 520-518 B.C.  Chapters 9-14 were written around 480 B.C.

Setting:  The exiles had returned from Babylon to rebuild the temple, but the work had been thwarted and stalled.  Haggai and Zechariah confronted the people with their task and encouraged them to complete it.

Key Verses:  “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout.  Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey….  He will proclaim peace to the nations.  His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (9:9,10).

Key People:  Zerubbabel, Joshua.

Key Place:  Jerusalem.

Special Features:  This book is the most apocalyptic and Messianic of all the minor prophets.

 

Malachi

Purpose:  To confront the people with their sins and to restore their relationship with God.

Author:  Malachi.

To Whom Written:  The Jews in Jerusalem and God’s people everywhere.

Date written:  About 430 B.C.

Setting:  Malachi, Haggai, and Zechariah were post-exilic prophets to Judah ( the southern kingdom).  Haggai and Zechariah rebuked the people for their failure to rebuild the temple.  Malachi confronted them with their neglect of the temple and their false and profane worship.

Key Verse:  “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace….  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (4:1,2).

Kay People:  Malachi, the priests.

Key Places:  Jerusalem, the temple.

Special Features:  Malachi’s literary style employs a dramatic use of questions asked by God and his people (for example, see 3:7,8).