Who were the 12 Minor Prophets—sometimes called “the Twelve”—and what were they prophesying about? Is anything they wrote still relevant for us today?
The Holy Bible is unlike any other book ever written, as it claims that its writers were directly inspired by God. It is a book that people can read and study for an entire lifetime and continue to learn from and be inspired by.
But how much do we really know about its contents? Do we just read certain parts of the Bible and neglect other parts—like the Minor Prophets—because we are unfamiliar with them or because they seem out of date?
The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Paul was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures that Timothy had known from childhood (verse 15), which comprised the 39 books that we find today in the Old Testament of our English Bibles. These 39 books were all placed in three major divisions: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings.
Of these three divisions, it is likely that the Prophets section is the least read and least understood. Bible readers are far more familiar with the books of the Law (like Genesis and Exodus) and the books in the Writings (like Psalms and Proverbs) than they are with some of the Prophets (like Obadiah and Habakkuk).
Who were these prophets who wrote so many books in the Old Testament? Who were they writing to, and what were they writing about? Is anything they wrote relevant for us today, and if so, how much?
What can we learn in the form of doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness from these ancient prophets?
Why are they called Minor Prophets?
Biblical scholars have divided the Prophets section of the Old Testament into several subdivisions. Two of these are the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. This arbitrary classification doesn’t mean that some prophets are lesser than others or not as important for us to study as others. Rather, it has to do primarily with the length of the books.
Major Prophets compared with 12 Minor Prophets Chart
Consider the following chart:
Book Number of Chapters
Book Number of Chapters
The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are longer and are most likely better known and read more frequently than Obadiah, Nahum and the other 10 books comprising the Minor Prophets.
In fact, the 12 Minor Prophets might be referred to as comprising the “white pages” of our Bibles, meaning that they are probably not as well worn from use as the pages of the Psalms or the Gospels.
Jesus Christ used all the prophets
Yet Jesus Christ Himself used all the prophets to explain the things about Himself. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27, emphasis added throughout).
Jesus also said, “‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’ And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45).
If these weren’t very important books for us to read and understand, why would God cause 12 different writers to record certain prophecies and teachings in their books? And why would Jesus Christ say that He explained all the things about Himself by using all the prophets?
God spoke through the prophets
The apostle Peter also pointed to the consistent message of all of the prophets.
All of God’s prophets, including the 12 Minor Prophets, were used to predict Jesus Christ’s first coming to be our Savior, as well as His second coming as King of Kings to refresh and restore all things.“But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:18-21).
All of God’s prophets, including the 12 Minor Prophets, were used to predict Jesus Christ’s first coming to be our Savior (for example, Hosea 11:1; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9; Malachi 3:1), as well as His second coming as King of Kings to refresh and restore all things (for example, Zephaniah 3:15-17; Zechariah 14:9).
The prophets issued a call for repentance (for example, Joel 2:12-13) and proclaimed the coming Kingdom of God when the Messiah would rule all the earth from Jerusalem (for example, Micah 4:1-4; Zechariah 14:16).
What we can learn from the Minor Prophets
Here is what the reader will discover as he or she looks more deeply into the pages of the Minor Prophets:
- Each wrote under inspiration of God.
- The messages of the 12 Minor Prophets are applicable for all people in all ages.
- Christian principles abound in all the prophets’ writings.
- Events in history are there for our instruction today.
- The Minor Prophets give us a greater awareness of God’s presence in history.
- They provide inspiring examples of people of faith during very difficult times.
- They give an understanding of cause and effect in human events.
- They provide deeper insight into God’s judgments and mercy.
- They teach the lesson of duality in Bible history.
These 12 Minor Prophets have much to tell us in the 21st century, even though they wrote more than 2,400 years ago about ancient empires, like Assyria and Babylonia. The apostle Paul wrote the following in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
Paul was specifically referring to the example of the ancient Israelites and their travels in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. These events took place nearly 3,500 years ago, yet Paul says we (today) are to learn from their examples. So the principle is here clearly established that events in the Bible that took place thousands of years ago were preserved for us to read and learn from today.
Every book in the Bible was preserved under direct inspiration from God and contains information that every person in every age and time can profit from. These prophets who spoke to ancient peoples in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries B.C. were also speaking to us today. They may not have understood the wider implications of their messages, but God did and He has preserved these ancient voices for us to listen to today.
A study of the Minor Prophets will prove to be well worth the time for all who seek to understand God and His purpose for humanity more fully.
For a quick link to all the books of the Bible, including the Minor Prophets, see “Books of the Bible” in our Learning Center.