Bible Overview – Part 6
A special thanks to Bible.org for this Old Testament Survey. It can be found in its entirety here:
Also, content from Through the Bible Book by Book Volumes I and II by Myer Pearlman was used in this study.
The Prophets of Israel Viewed as a Whole
The first division of the Old Testament was known as the Law with the second being called the Former Prophets, but these included four books which have already been outlined—Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Though these books deal with the history of Israel, they were composed from a prophetic viewpoint and possibly even the authors themselves may have been prophets by profession.
The seventeen books considered in this section were classified in the Hebrew Bible as the Latter Prophets. The term ‘latter’ speaks primarily of their place in the canon rather than of their chronological position. These prophets are sometimes called the writing prophets because their authors wrote or recorded their utterances.
There were other oral prophets like Nathan, Ahijah, Iddo, Jehu, Elijah, Elisha, Oded, Shemaiah, Azariah, Hanani, Jahaziel, and Huldah who left no records of their utterances. Mostly because of their size, the Latter Prophets are subdivided into the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), and the twelve Minor Prophets.
Lamentations will also be dealt with here because of its place in the English Bible, though in the Hebrew Bible it is among the five rolls or megilloth, the shorter books, which were brief enough to be read publicly on anniversaries.
The authors of these books were described or referred to by a number of terms due to the nature of their ministry and calling. They were called prophets, seers, watchmen, men of God, messengers, and servants of the Lord.
According to I Samuel 9:9 the prophet was in earlier Israel commonly called a ro’eh, that is one who perceives that which does not lie I the realm of natural sight or hearing. Another early designation of similar etymology was a hozeh “one who sees supernaturally” and is “one who is in the state of announcing a message which has been given to him” (by God).51
As can be seen from Unger’s comments, a certain amount of uncertainty exists regarding the exact meaning of the word “prophet.” The word prophet is from the Hebrew ayb]n* (nabi). The deviration of this word is a matter of controversy, but the essential idea in the word is that of an authorized spokesman.
THEIR DIRECTIVE OR MESSAGE
As a mouthpiece or spokesman for God, the prophet’s primary duty was to speak forth God’s message to God’s people in the historical context of what was happening among God’s people. The broadest meaning is that of forthtelling; the narrower meaning is that of foretelling. In the process of proclaiming God’s message, the prophet would sometimes reveal that which pertained to the future, but, contrary to popular opinion, this was only a small part of the prophets message. Forthtelling involved insight into the will of God; it was exhortative, challenging men to obey. On the other hand, foretelling entailed foresight into the plan of God; it was predictive, either encouraging the righteous in view of God’s promises or warning in view of coming judgment. So the prophet was the divinely chosen spokesman who, having received God’s message, proclaimed it in oral, visual, or written form to the people. For this reason, a common formula used by the prophets was, “Thus says the Lord.”
As God’s spokesman, their message can be seen in a three-fold function they had among the people of God in the Old Testament:
- First, they functioned as preachers who expounded and interpreted the Mosaic law to the nation. It was their duty to admonish, reprove, denounce sin, threaten with the terrors of judgment, call to repentance, and bring consolation and pardon. Their activity of rebuking sin and calling for repentance consumed far more of the prophets’ time than any other feature of their work. The rebuke was driven home with predictions about the punishment that God intended to send on those failing to heed the prophet’s warning (cf. Jonah 3:4).
- Second, they functioned as predictors who announced coming judgment, deliverance, and events relating to the Messiah and His kingdom. Predicting the future was never intended merely to satisfy man’s curiosity, but was designed to demonstrate that God knows and controls the future, and to give purposeful revelation. The prediction given by a true prophet would be visibly fulfilled. The failure of the prediction to be fulfilled would indicate that the prophet had not spoken the word of Yahweh (cf. 18:20-22). In 1 Samuel 3:19 it is said of Samuel that the Lord was with him and let none of his prophetic words fail (lit., “fall to the ground”).
- Finally, they functioned as watchmen over the people of Israel ( 3:17). Ezekiel stood as a watchman on the walls of Zion ready to trumpet a warning against religious apostasy. He warned the people against political and military alliances with foreign powers, the temptation to become involved in idolatry and Canaanite cultic worship, and the danger of placing excessive confidence in religious formalism and sacrificial ritual.
Comparison of the Four Major Prophets
|Prophesied To:||Jews in Judea||Jews in Judea and captivity||Jews captive in Babylon||Jews captive in Babylon and Gentile kings|
|Concerning:||Judah and Jerusalem|
(Isa. 1:1; 2:1)
|Judah and Nations (Jer. 1:5, 9-10; 2:1-2)||The whole house of Israel|
(Ezek. 2:3-6; 3:4-10, 17)
|Israel and Gentile Nations|
(Dan. 2:36ff; 9)
|During the reigns of:||Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah (kings of Judah)||Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah|
(kings of Judah)
(king of Judah);Nebuchadnezzar
(king of Babylon)
|Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah|
(kings of Judah).Nebuchadnezzar
(king of Babylon
|Dates:||740-680 B.C.||627-585 B.C.||592-570 B.C.||605-536 B.C.|
|2 Kings 15-21;|
2 Chronicles 26-30
|2 Kings 22-25||Daniel 1-6||Daniel 1-6|
ISAIAH (The Salvation of Yahweh)
Isaiah – An old tradition relates that he was martyred at some time in the reign of Manasseh, possibly by being sawed in two inside a hollow log (d. Heb. 11:37).
DATE: 740–680 B.C.
Isaiah had a very long ministry that ranged from around 740 to 680. His ministry began near the end of the reign of Uzziah (790-739 B.C.) and continued through the reigns of Jotham (739-731 B.C.), Ahaz (731-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). From the standpoint of Gentile rulers of the time, Isaiah ministered from the time of Tiglath-pileser (745-727 B.C.) to the time of Sennacherib (705-681 B.C.) of Assyria.
He outdated Hezekiah by a few years because chapter 37, verse 38, records the death of Sennacherib in 681 B.C. Hezekiah was succeeded by his wicked son Manasseh who overthrew the worship of Yahweh and no doubt opposed the work of Isaiah.59
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
The title, Isaiah, is obviously taken from the name of the human author who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, composed it. The Hebrew name of this prophet means Yahweh is salvation, which appropriately, is an excellent summary of the theme and contents of the book.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
As just mentioned, Isaiah’s name provides the theme of the book, “salvation is of Yahweh.” This is most evident by the fact the term “salvation” occurs some twenty-six times in Isaiah but only seven time in all the other prophets combined. Because of this, Isaiah has been called “the evangelical prophet” because he says so much about the salvation and redemptive work of Messiah. In fact, more is said about the person and work of Messiah in His first and second advents than in any other Old Testament book.
In some respects, Isaiah is a miniature Bible. It has sixty-six chapters while the Bible has sixty-six books. The first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah correspond to the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament which largely anticipate the coming of Messiah. The last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah neatly parallel the twenty-seven chapters of the New Testament because they speak a great deal about Messiah and His Kingdom as the Servant of the Lord. Chapters 1-39 speak of man’s great need of salvation while chapters 40-66 reveal God’s provision of Salvation in Messiah and His kingdom.
Again in keeping with the theme and Isaiah’s name, the key word is salvation.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 53:1-7 NKJV Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (2) For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. (3) He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (4) Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. (5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (7) He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
Chapter 53: With a book so full of rich truth and Messianic anticipation, deciding of a key chapter is not easy, but surely Isaiah 53 which points to Messiah as a suffering Savior who must die for our sin, is the most remarkable and key chapters of the Old Testament.
Isaiah the prophet is the key human personage, but Yahweh by the way He is focused on as the Mighty One of Israel, as the Holy One of Israel, and as the Lord God of Hosts, is clearly the chief focus of Isaiah’s book.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN ISAIAH:
No book of the Old Testament presents a portrait of Christ that is as complete and comprehensive as does Isaiah. Isaiah portrays Messiah in His sovereignty above (6:1f), birth and humanity (7:14; 9:6; 11:1), in His ministry by the Spirit (11:2f), His divine nature (7:14; 9:6); His Davidic descent (11:1); His work of redemption as our substitute (53), His ministry as the Servant Savior (49ff), and much more.
JEREMIAH (Warnings Against Sin and Judgment)
As with Isaiah, this book clearly identifies the human author who is Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah from the priest city of Anathoth in the land of Benjamin (1:1). Jeremiah dictated his prophecies to Baruch, his secretary. Only chapter 52 was not written by the prophet. Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet” (9:1; 13:17) or the “prophet of loneliness” perhaps because he was commanded not to marry (16:2). He is also known as the reluctant prophet (1:6), but he faithfully proclaimed God’s judgments on an apostate Judah even though he experienced opposition, beatings, and imprisonment (11:18-23; 12:6; 18:18; 20:1-3; 26:1-24; 37:11-38:28).
DATE: 627-585 B.C.
Jeremiah was a contemporary of Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Daniel, and Ezekiel. His prophetic ministry began in 626 B.C. and ended sometime after 586. His ministry was immediately preceded by that of Zephaniah. Since Ezekiel began his ministry in Babylon in 593 he too was a late contemporary of this great prophet in Jerusalem. How and when Jeremiah died is unknown though Jewish tradition asserts that Jeremiah was put to death while living in Egypt (cf. Heb 11:37).
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
The meaning of his name is uncertain. Suggestions include “The LORD exalts” and “The LORD establishes,” but a more likely proposal is “The LORD throws,” either in the sense of “hurling” the prophet into a hostile world or of “throwing down” the nations in divine judgment for their sins.62
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Two themes are prominent: warnings of God’s judgment against sin are prominent throughout the book, but with that there was also the message of hope and restoration if the nation would genuinely repent.
As hinted earlier, an aura of conflict surrounded Jeremiah almost from the beginning. He lashed out against the sins of his countrymen (44:23), scoring them severely for their idolatry (16:10-13, 20; 22:9; 32:29; 44:2-3, 8, 17-19, 25)—which sometimes even involved sacrificing their children to foreign gods (7:30-34). But Jeremiah loved the people of Judah in spite of their sins, and he prayed for them (14:7, 20) even when the Lord told him not to (7:16; 11:14; 14:11).63
KEY WORDS OR IDEAS:
Judah’s last hour in view of backsliding and unfaithfulness. There are more references to Babylon in Jeremiah (164) than in all the rest of the Bible together.
Jeremiah 1:4-10 NKJV Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: (5) “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (6) Then said I: “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.” (7) But the LORD said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. (8) Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. (9) Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. (10) See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.”
Jeremiah 7:23-24 NKJV But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ (24) Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
The key person throughout is of course Jeremiah, his preaching, resistance, and persecution.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN JEREMIAH:
Many pictures of Christ are seen in Jeremiah: He is portrayed as the fountain of living waters (2:13; cf. John 4:14), the balm of Gilead (8:22), the Good Shepherd (23:4), a Righteous Branch (23:5), and the Lord our Righteousness (23:6). He is seen as the one who will bring in the New Covenant (31:31-34).
LAMENTATIONS (A River of Tears)
The author of Lamentations is unnamed in the book, but two lines of evidence favor Jeremiah as the author.
DATE: 586 or 585 B.C.
Since the book was written soon after Jerusalem’s destruction which was completed in 586, the earliest possible date for the book is 586 B.C. The graphic immediacy of Lamentations argues for a date shortly after this like 586 or 585 B.C.
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
Because of its subject matter, the book is also referred to in Jewish tradition as qinot,“Lamentations,” which is the title given to it in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The primary theme of the book is a lament or mourning over the woes that had fallen on sinful Judah and the pitiable destruction of the holy city and the temple.
In view of the theme and nature of the book, the key word is mourning or lamentations.
Lamentations 3:21-25 NKJV (21) This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. (22) Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. (23) They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (24) “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” (25) The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
Surely chapter 3 stands as a pinnacle in the midst of the other chapters of ruin and destruction for here the author expresses his faith and hope in God’s mercy who will not reject His people forever.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN LAMENTATIONS:
Lamentations includes two elements that portray the Savior: (1) It portrays Him as the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief, who was afflicted, despised, and scorned by His enemies (cf. 1:12; 3:19: 2:15-16; 3:14, 30). (2) Jeremiah’s weeping over the destruction of Jerusalem is perhaps also a picture of Christ who wept over Jerusalem (see Matt. 23:37-38).
EZEKIEL (They Shall Know That I Am Yahweh)
The author is Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, who received his call as a prophet while in exile in Babylon (1:1-3). His ministry as a prophet demonstrates a priestly focus with his concern for the temple, priesthood, sacrifices, and the shekinah glory of God. What is known of Ezekiel is derived entirely from the book of Ezekiel itself. He was married (see 24:15-18), lived in a house of his own (cf. 3:24; 8:1) and, along with his fellow exiles, had a relatively free existence.
DATE: 593-571 B.C.
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
As with Isaiah and Jeremiah, the book of Ezekiel gets its name from its author, Ezekiel, which is the Hebrew yehezkeál and means “God strengthens” or “strengthened by God.”
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Ezekiel’s focus is on condemnation (1-32) for Israel’s sin and consolation (33-48) in view of what God will do in the future. Archer summarize the theme:
While the key concept may be found in the word “restoration,” the words “shall know that I am the Lord” occurs some 63 times. Other distinctive phrases that are repeated are “the word of the Lord came” (50 times), and “glory of the Lord” (10 times).
Ezekiel 36:24-30 NKJV For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. (25) Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. (26) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (27) I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (28) Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (29) I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. (30) And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.
Chapters 36-37 speak of the blessings that will come to the mountains of Israel followed by the hope of restoration of Israel in the vision of the valley of dry bones, which outlines the clear process of restoration of Israel’s future.
Chapters 38-39 anticipate the great global conflict that will occur on the mountains of Israel but with Israel’s enemies defeated by God.
Ezekiel, son of Busi, a priest called to be prophet to Israel before and after the Babylonian captivity.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN EZEKIEL:
Christ, the Messiah, is pictured as a tender sprig that will be planted on a high and lofty mountain (17:23-24), a picture similar to that of the Branch in Isaiah (11:1), in Jeremiah (23:5; 33:15), and in Zechariah (3:8: 6:12). Ezekiel also speaks of Messiah as the King who has the right to rule (21:26-27) and who will minister as the true Shepherd (34:11-31).
DANIEL (Israel’s Ultimate Destiny)
While a youth, Daniel was taken as a captive to Babylon in 605 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar. There he became a statesman in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius. Though he did not occupy the office of a prophet, Christ identified him as a prophet (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). As one who did not occupy the prophetic office, the book of Daniel is found in “the Writings,” the third division of the Hebrew Bible rather than in “the Prophets.”
DATE: 537 B.C.
TITLE OF THE BOOK:
The book is named after its author. The Hebrew word for Daniel is Daniyyeál or Daniáel, which means either “God is Judge” or “God is my Judge.” The Greek form Daniel in the Septuagint is the basis for the Latin and English titles.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The theme of Daniel is God’s sovereign power as the one true God, who judges and destroys the rebellious world powers and will faithfully deliver His covenant people according to their steadfast faith in Him.
Though the words “king” and “kingdom” occur over and over again, the key idea is the plan of God for Israel which will end in the establishment of God’s Messiah King as ruler on the earth.
Daniel 2:20-21 NKJV Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. (21) And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.
Daniel 2:44 NKJV And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
One of the greatest prophetic chapters in the Bible is Daniel 9, the prophecy of the ‘seventy weeks’ determined for Israel (9:24-27). These verses give us the chronological frame for the nation of Israel and her Messiah from the time Daniel to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom on earth.
The key people are Daniel who was taken to Babylon as a youth, served in government and became God’s special mouthpiece to Gentile and Jewish nations; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, three more youths who were chosen for special training along with Daniel (their former and Jewish names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). Other important persons are Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon in 605 B.C., Darius who succeeded Belshazzar as king, Cyrus, the Persian monarch, and Michael, the archangel who ministered to Daniel in chapter 10.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN DANIEL:
One of the key portraits of Christ in Daniel is that of the coming Messiah who will be cut off (a reference to the cross) (9:25-26). However, Christ is also portrayed as the great stone who will crush the kingdoms of this world (2:34, 45), the son of man (7:13), and the Ancient of days (7:22). The vision in 10:5-9) is most likely a Christophany, an appearance of Christ (cf. Rev. 1:12- 16).