Survey of the Old Testament

Ecclesiastes– What is life? Ecclesiastes = lit. “The Preacher.” It is the most deeply philosophical book in Scripture and is unique in its vocabulary and style.

Song of Solomon– Love song, Hebrew title is “Song of Songs.” It means, “The best of Songs.” Many have pressed an allegorical interpretation on this book. It has been suggested that we view the material as an allegory of God’s love for the church.

Isaiah– Judgments and comforts upon the people of God. Isaiah’s ministry extended through the reigns of four kings in Judah (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah). His work covered over 50 years (Isa. 1:1). This was a critical time in the nation’s history.

  • 1. Isaiah saw the fall of Israel and warned Judah that the same fate could befall her.
  • 2. He challenged the sin and impiety of the people.
  • 3. He rebuked the nation’s leadership for looking to political alliances for security instead of trusting in the Lord.
  • 4. He foretold captivity in Babylon, yet he prophesied of deliverance and restoration to their land.
  • 5. He looked beyond all the events of his own troubled time to the coming, suffering, and reign of the Messiah.

Jeremiah– Captivity is coming – The prophecies of Jeremiah were directed to Judah in the time prior to and immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem in 586B.C.

  • 1. Materials in Jeremiah come from events over a 40 year period.
  • 2. Jeremiah is known to Bible students as the Weeping Prophet.
    • a. He was sensitive to the weight of his nation’s terrible offenses against God.
    • b. Something of that same temperament was seen in Jesus (Mt. 16:14)
  • 3. There is a bright side to Jeremiah’s prophecies.
    • a. The light of messianic hope breaks through to encourage the faithful about God’s plan for the future.
    • b. Hope is held out in a dark and troubled time.
  • 4. The book of Jeremiah takes up about 60 years after the close of Isaiah’s ministry and covers the final 40 years of Judah’s decline.
  • 5. We know more about Jeremiah than any other O.T. prophet.
    • a. He was born to a priest’s family (1:1).
    • b. He was called to his prophetic work in his youth (Ch. 16).
    • c. He was told not to marry (16:1-2 (Like Paul – 1 Cor. 7:32-34)
    • d. Jeremiah’s work did not make him popular.
    • e. He prophesied under the reigns of 5 kings in Judah : Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (Cf. 2 Kings 22-25).
    • f. He was a contemporary of 6 other prophets: Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Ezekiel, Obadiah.

Lamentations– Sorrow over Jerusalem – Deep grief over the destruction of the temple. Although Jeremiah himself had been taken into Egypt (42:1-43:7) the book of Lamentations was most likely intended for the exiles in Babylon. The theme is “Diving Judgment.”

Ezekiel– Don’t listen to false prophets. When the people of Judah were exiled into Babylon, Ezekiel was their fellow captive and God’s prophet. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Daniel.

  • 1. In 606B.C. the first group of captives was taken into Babylon; Daniel was in this group, and he worked in the court of the rulers of Babylon (Dan. 1).
  • 2. In the second deportation of 597 B.C. Ezekiel went into Babylon, he prophesied as a captive among captives (Ezek. 1:1).
  • 3. Through both these and the third deportation of captives in 586 B.C., Jeremiah was still preaching among the people of Jerusalem.
  • 4. For over 20 years, Ezekiel was the voice of God to the exiles in Babylon.

Daniel– God is in control. The book of Daniel is written in two languages.

  • a. Dan. 2:4-7:28 is composed in Aramaic.
  • b. The remainder is in Hebrew.
  • c. This fact reflects the personal history of Daniel.
    • 1. He was a Jew of the Southern Kingdom.
    • 2. He was taken to Babylon in 606 B.C., lived the remainder of his life there, and learned the common tongue (i.e. Aramaic) of Babylon. Note: Aramaic became the tongue of the Jews during the exile and remained so after their return to Palestine; it was still there primary language at the time of Jesus.
  • d. Daniel lived and prophesied in the heyday of Babylon and witnessed its fall to the Medes and Persians. The book covers the period from 606 B.C. (Dan. 1:1) to around 536 B.C. or later (Dan. 10:1).
  • e. Several important truth are taught in this book.
    • 1. The exile is only a temporary thing.
    • 2. Babylon will be overthrown.
    • 3. The Lord expects his people to be faithful to him under trying circumstances.
    • 4. The Messiah and his eternal kingdom will come in the latter days.
    • 5. God is in control… all Nations are under his power. . . the destinies of individuals are under his control. This message served to comfort the exiles and to encourage them to look beyond their present dark hour in confident faith.

Hosea– Come home to God (Israel). Hosea has the distinction of being the only writing prophet from the Northern Kingdom. He preached to his own people for half a century or more (Hos. 1:1).

  • 1. He characteristically refers to Israel by the name of its largest tribe, Ephraim (4:17; 5:3, 5, etc.)
  • 2. His life illustrates God’s experience with Israel.

Joel – The day of the Lord. Joel was from Judah and prophesied to his own countrymen. This book has been called a “literary gem” because of its fluent and polished style. A terrible locust plague and drought gave the occasion for Joel’s prophecy. Joel is the Prophet of Pentecost.

Amos– Return to God (Israel). Amos was a native of Judah whose principal task was to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom.

1. His call to prophetic work is most interesting (Amos 7:14-15).

  • a. He had no background in the prophetic or priestly line.
  • b. God called a righteous man from a humble occupation to serve as a bold preacher of reform.
  • c. the national prosperity of Israel was at its peak in Amos’ day and had generated spiritual idleness and national decay (Amos 6:1-6).

Obadiah– Destruction of Edom (Prophecy to Edom). This is the shortest book in the O.T. Obadiah was a prophet of Judah who spoke of God’s judgment against the Edomites.

  • 1. The Edomites were descended from Esau and had always been enemies of the descendants of Jacob. (Gen. 25:19-26; Num. 20:14-21; cf. Amos 1:11-12.
  • 2. Beginning in the 9th cent B.C. Edom participated in several plundering of Jerusalem.
    • a. We cannot be certain which one is the background for Obadiah’s prophecy.
    • b. At no time was the bitterness of the Jews and Edomites greater than when Edom joined forces with foreigners to besiege and capture Jerusalem in the days of Jehoram, King of Judah from 853-841 B.C. Cf. 2 Kings 8:20.

** Obadiah prophesied divine judgment against Edom. This demonstrates that the Edomites were subject to the fundamental divine law about loving one’s neighbors. They had to be punished for its violation.

Jonah– Preach to Nineveh (Prophecy concerning Nineveh)

  • 1. Jonah was a pre-exilic prophet of the Northern Kingdom whose work was done in the days of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) 2 Kings 14:23-29.
  • 2. This is a book of events rather than a collection of oracles.
  • 3. Jonah’s preaching is recorded in only eight words (Jon. 3:4)
  • 4. His career is the only one of the minor prophets in which miracles play a major role. Jonah’s prophecy was directed to Nineveh the capital city of Assyria.

**Jonah shows the breadth of diving love as contrasted with the narrowness of human sentiment. Jonah was a preacher who hoped to fail in his task.

Micah– Fall of North

Micah was a man of Judah who served as a prophet to his people for about a third of a century – Mic. 1:1.

  • 1. He was a contemporary of Isaiah, and his book is sometimes called a miniature version of Isaiah – Cf. Mic. 4:1-3 and Isa. 2:2-4.
  • 2. Like Isaiah, he condemned the meaningless ritual of their sacrifices and ceremonies. (Mic. 6:7-8).
  • 3. Unlike Isaiah, he was of the common people rather than the Jewish aristocracy.
  • 4. The book divides into three sections, each of which begins with “Hear Ye” and ends with a promise. (Mic. 1:2; 3:1; 6:1).

** Micah emphasized that a believer’s performance must match (rather than contradict) his profession. The people of his time were performing their religious ceremonies at specified times but ignoring the fact that their religion committed them to a life of constant righteousness. The Lord’s expectation of his covenant people is expressed in Mic. 6:8b. This does not mean that a virtuous life is an acceptable substitute for right doctrine and true worship; it means that right doctrine and true worship without a virtuous life are empty. The New Testament emphasizes the same theme – Luke 6:46; James 1:22-27.

Nahum– Nineveh to be destroyed (Prophecy to Nineveh)

  • A. This book should be studied with Jonah.
  • B. Nahum has a passionate love for the truth and vehement hatred of its opposite.
  • C. Nahum revealed that Nineveh’s day of grace was past.
    • 1. About 150 years earlier, Jonah preached to Nineveh when Assyria was experiencing difficult days; his message produced repentance and salvation.
    • 2. In Nahum’s day the empire and its capital city were at the height of their glory; Nineveh’s wealth and pride left no place for penitence.
    • 3. We know nothing about the prophet himself except his name and his home town (Nah. 1:1).

Habakkuk– How God uses nations

  • 1. Habakkuk is unique among all the books of the Minor Prophets.
  • 2. Other prophets plead with the people on behalf of God; Habakkuk pleads with God on behalf of the people. (Hab. 1:2; 2:1)
  • 3. Habakkuk would have been a contemporary of Jeremiah.

**Habakkuk asks God why sin is being tolerated in Judah (1:1-4); the reply comes that the Lord is raising up Babylon to punish his people (1:5-11). This leads to the second question of how God could use people so ungodly as the Babylonians to punish Judah (1:12-2:1); the answer given is that Babylon will be punished in its turn (2:2-20). The book ends with Habakkuk’s prayer of confident faith in the Lord (3:1-19).

Zephaniah– Restoration

  • 1. Zephaniah speaks to an idolatrous Judah, whose religion and morality were at a terribly low point.
  • 2. His strong convictions and fervent zeal are evident in each line of the book.
  • 3. The theme of the book is that the Day of the Lord is at hand for Judah Jeph. 1:7-18.

**Zephaniah teaches that it would be not only a day of wrath for sinners but also one of salvation for the righteous – Zeph 2:1-3. Zephaniah gives a glimpse of the restoration of the Jews to their homeland under Zerubbabel and Ezra.

Haggai – Relates to Ezra

  • 1. Haggai has been described as a man with a single ambition.
  • 2. He preached to a poor, discouraged, and frightened people.
  • 3. He attributed their lack of success in all areas of their national life to the single fact of their neglect of the temple.
  • 4. In a bold and authoritative manner, he pleaded for the people to rebuild the temple.
  • 5. He and Zechariah are credited with getting the temple completed in 515 B.C.(Ezra 6:14-15).

** The people in Haggai’s day had been tending to their personal affairs and neglecting the temple and other spiritual responsibilities. They were challenged to see again their responsibilities.

Zechariah– Contemporary of Haggai

  • 1. Zechariah was Haggai’s contemporary and co-laborer.
  • 2. He was born and raised in Babylon and was among the group which returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel (Neh. 12:1, 4, 16)
  • 3. He was evidently younger than Haggai and continued his ministry for a year or so beyond that of the older prophet.
  • 4. Haggai rebuked and admonished; Zechariah encouraged and looked to brighter days.

Malachi– Be obedient to God

  • 1. Malachi was the last writing prophet to serve God under the Law of Moses.
  • 2. The material within the book parallels the situation described in Nehemiah 13 and is generally dated in relation to it.
    • a. The temple had already been built (Mal. 1:7, 10; 31)
    • b. The sins denounced are the ones corrected during Nehemiah’s ministry which followed a visit to Artaxerxes in 433 B.C.
  • 3. Almost a hundred years after Haggai and Zechariah, this prophet found the people had reverted to their former spiritual lethargy and indifference.
  • 4. Priests were lax and wicked, offerings were being neglected, divorce was common, and justice was being perverted.
  • 5. Malachi’s intense love for God and the people of God moved him to speak with great urgency in the streets and market places.
  • 6. He used a style of teaching and writing known as the didactic-dialectic method.
    • a. First, an affirmation is made; second, an objection is raised; third the objection is refuted (Cf. Mat. 1:2-3, 6-7; 2:10-17, 17; 3:7,8, 13-14).
    • b. This method became universal in the synagogue and Jewish schools of instruction.

**Malachi challenged the apathy and disloyalty of the people. Poverty and hard times had come. The people were questioning the love of God because of their difficulties, and the prophet placed the blame where it really belonged. It was the sin of the people–not the lack of divine love–which was at the root of their problems (CF. Isa. 59:1-2)

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