The Messages of the Minor Prophets

The Minor Prophets called for repentance for sins against God and neighbor. Here is a summary of the messages from each of the 12 Minor Prophets.

As our article “The Minor Prophets Cry Out Against Social Sins” shows, God gave the 12 Minor Prophets powerful messages against all kinds of sin, with a call for repentance for all people.

Let’s examine an outline of the message of each of the 12 Minor Prophets.

Hosea: his message was mainly to Israel (the northern 10 tribes).

  • The people of the land committed great spiritual adultery/harlotry in departing from faithfulness to the Lord (Hosea 8:1) and in relying on others to provide for them instead of trusting their covenant God (“husband”—2:2, 5). Furthermore, they had hearts that were divided (10:2)—maintaining an outward form of religion and sacrifice to God, but ignoring His will and laws and character.

  • Hosea was also inspired to cry out against the great sin of bloodshed of the family of Jehu (1:4).
  • Their guilt was not only from breaking the first four commandments—sins against God directly—but also in their behavior toward their fellow man—lying, killing, committing adultery, bloodshed (4:2; 6:8).
  • The people’s unfaithfulness to God (spiritual adultery) weakened and corrupted their hearts, and was accompanied by widespread unfaithfulness to their mates (physical adultery). There was an epidemic of the “spirit of harlotry”—selfish and lustful unfaithfulness to those to whom faithfulness was due, according to God’s will (4:12; 5:4; 11:7).

Joel: his message was mainly to Judah.

  • Unprecedented, almost unbelievable curses came upon the people of God and on the Promised Land. God permitted it. But why?
  • Answer: they departed from God—they broke their covenant with God, and they needed to return to Him (Joel 2:13).

Amos: his message was mainly to Israel. He was a contemporary of Hosea.

  • The prophet Amos began by declaring God’s wrath against gentile, pagan societies. The focus of His condemnation was not idolatry or Sabbath-breaking, nor indeed the violation of any of the first four of the 10 Commandments. His condemnation focused on their behavior toward other human beings. God decried their callous, violent, cruel, pitiless and deceitful oppression of their fellow man.
  • These sins against their fellow man were outside the context of God’s special covenant relationship with Israel, and so they show that God definitely notes the way people treat one another—even when they have no direct understanding of the Creator God.
  • This is consistent with the understanding that all people who hate and mistreat their fellow man are guilty before God. They are responsible and accountable to the true God when they violate His laws dealing with their relationships with and responsibilities to other people (Romans 2:12-15).
  • Specifics:
    • Amos 2:6—they sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of sandals.
    • 2:7—they desired to steal the little bit that the poor had.
    • 2:7—they perverted the way of the humble.
    • 2:7—men committed shameful, defiling sins with girls.
    • 2:8—they treated the poor cruelly, taking advantage of their poverty, increasing their despair and suffering.
    • 2:12—they undermined the purity and purpose of the righteous few.
    • 3:9, 15—the rich and powerful oppressed and committed violence and robbery.
    • 4:1—their oppression of the poor and crushing of the needy were mixed with insensitivity to the suffering these caused, and were combined with relentless pleasure-seeking.
    • 5:7—they caused bitter disappointment by denying justice to those seeking it.
    • 5:9-10—they were haters of those who were good (compare to 2 Timothy 3:3).
    • 5:11—they trod on the poor, while enriching themselves.
    • 5:12—they committed “manifold transgressions” and “mighty sins”—afflicting the just, taking bribes, refusing justice to the poor.
    • 8:4-6—they swallowed up the needy, made the poor fall—in single-minded selfishness, pursuing more and more personal wealth by dishonest means.

Obadiah: his message was to Edom, another name for Esau (Jacob’s twin). If it was written at an early date (as some scholars think), he was a contemporary of Joel and Elisha. If it was written at a later date, he was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

  • The primary sin of Edom was his prideful thoughts of superiority and independence from God.
  • Though this pride was a fundamental sin against God, it expressed itself in horrible, hurtful, treacherous treatment of his fellow man.
  • He sinned not only against his fellow man, but his brother. Esau was guilty of calculated, violent, jealous, vengeful treachery against brother Jacob (Obadiah 1:10).
  • Edom gloated at the affliction of his “enemy”—Jacob, his brother (see Proverbs 24:17 on this point)—greedily taking from him when he could not protect himself or his possessions (Obadiah 1:11).
  • Edom was guilty before God of betraying Israelites who were seeking shelter and protection from their oppressors (verse 12).

Jonah: his message was to Nineveh, a major city of Assyria (a gentile people). He was a contemporary of Hosea and Amos.

  • God saw the wickedness of Nineveh. They were a pagan people unrelated to God’s covenant people, but He noticed their behavior and sins and judged them nonetheless (Jonah 1:2).
  • The sin of the people of Nineveh was their cruel violence toward any who opposed them, causing great human suffering and terror (3:8).

Micah: his message was mainly to Israel, but also somewhat to Judah. He was a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea and Amos.

  • The most fundamental sin of the descendants of Jacob was, again, idolatry and unfaithfulness to God and His covenant (Micah 1:5-7).
  • But, again, we see that this rebellion against God produced the ungodly fruit of sins against fellow man—plotting how to take advantage of other people, coveting others’ possessions, violently stealing and defrauding others, not being content with a little, but taking all that others have, leaving them destitute, all in order to enrich the greedy self (2:1-2, 8).
  • Much of this condemnation for sinning against their fellow man fell on the powerful and elite—the leaders of the people—who, despite what they may have wished their public image to be, were in fact haters of good and lovers of evil. They not only practiced evil, but loved to do so. Their sin included greed for personal enrichment, perverting and denying justice for the most vulnerable, along with violence and bloodshed (3:1-2, 9-10).
  • God’s summary of the spiritual rehabilitation of His covenant people centered on justice and mercy (between other people and toward other people), as well as walking humbly with God (6:8).
  • God’s summary of the guilt of His people included lying and deceitful dealing with other people so as to enrich themselves at the expense of others—combined with violence against them (6:11).
  • Another summary of what was wrong with the people: God was greatly displeased with their unfaithfulness. He said they didn’t keep their promises or confidences; they plotted to do evil and violence to other people; they took bribes instead of promoting impartial justice (7:2, 5).

Nahum: his message (like that of Jonah) was to Nineveh, and it was also to Judah.

  • Whatever the people of Nineveh had done, God was extremely angry with them because of it and would no longer be patient with them, but would judge and punish them severely for their sins (Nahum 1:1-3).
  • This awful guilt of Nineveh was its cruelty to others. It was as vicious to its victims as hungry lions, ripping apart their prey, sometimes while still alive. Nineveh had no doubt returned to its cruelty, after having temporarily repented at the preaching of Jonah around 80 years earlier (2:12-13).
  • Nineveh was known in the ancient world for its splendor and wealth, but in God’s judgment it was, in its essence, a city of blood—the blood of never-ending victims of its rapacious cruelty and addiction to conquest by war, the source of much of its splendor. Nineveh’s cruelties extended even to the infants of its victims (3:1, 10).

Habakkuk: his message was to Judah. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

  • The prophet complained to God about the awful state of the society of his day and wondered when God would do something about it. The specific offenses mentioned were violence, plundering, strife, contention, a breakdown of law and order and the justice system because the wicked surrounded and abused the righteous. They rejoiced as they did so—taking pleasure in their abuse of their fellow man (Habakkuk 1:2-3, 13).
  • God replied that He would indeed take action—action nearly unbelievable in its scope and intensity—to punish this wickedness. Perhaps it would not be as soon as Habakkuk would have thought or wished, but it surely would happen—at God’s exact “appointed time.” The few who trusted and obeyed God in the midst of all this moral corruption would have to endure, not by a schedule or time limit on God, but by faith in God’s goodness, sovereignty and wisdom (1:5-6; 2:3-4).
  • This dialogue with God satisfied Habakkuk and settled his mind (3:18).

Zephaniah: his message was to Judah. He was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Huldah the prophetess.

  • God declared that He would judge Judah for idolatry, for thus having turned away from Him (Zephaniah 1:4-6).
  • But His condemnation and judgment were also upon those who, empowered by their service to leaders in the nation, used their power to practice either deceit or violence to rob other people (1:9).
  • The powerful were under God’s condemnation because of their voracious and violent covetousness—leaving nothing for others and taking all for themselves (3:3).
  • The result of God’s chastening would be a reformed people who would renounce their previous sins of lying and being deceitful (3:13).

Haggai: his message was to Judah. He was a contemporary of Zechariah, Joshua and Zerubbabel.

  • The prophet’s primary message to the people was that they should resume the work of building the temple—God’s house—putting Him before their personal pleasures and activities (Haggai 1:2).
  • The people’s indifference toward God and His work defiled all that they did (2:11-14), which not only deprived them of God’s blessings, but also negatively impacted the way they treated one another.

Zechariah: his message was to Judah, but also somewhat to the other nations. He was a contemporary of Haggai.

  • Through His prophet, God declared that He was “exceedingly angry” with the gentile nations. The cause stated was not their idolatry, but their cruelty to His people, having exceeded their mandate to punish His people a little. They exceeded that mandate in duration and intensity with evil intent (Zechariah 1:15). A similar point was made in Isaiah 47:6.
  • By way of contrast, God would now deal with His chastised people with compassion, something the gentiles had shown far too little of when they were in a position of dominance over Israel and Judah (1:16).
  • Through it all—good times and bad—blessings and chastisement—the unchanging God would say that His chosen covenant people were the beloved and precious “apple of His eye.” Those who oppress and hurt them, beyond the bounds of what God authorized, would answer to God for their cruelty, jealousy, pride and vindictiveness (2:8).
  • Ultimately, Satan would be behind all the unreasonable, vicious and excessive hatred toward God’s covenant people. He opposed God’s working at every turn (3:2).
  • A special curse was pronounced on all thieves and liars—perjurers—those who swear falsely by God’s name (5:3-4).
  • Through the prophet, God declared that a key reason for His chastisement—through national calamity and exile—of His people was their refusal to obey His commands to show true justice, mercy and compassion. They also failed to care for the weakest and most vulnerable in the society—widows, orphans, the aliens and the poor (7:9-12).
  • When His people would be restored from their chastisement and exile, God would point them to what He expects of them—telling the truth to each other, promoting true justice and peace among themselves, and not plotting evil against one another (8:16).

Malachi: his message was to Judah. He was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah.

  • Malachi wrote that God’s judgment was on Judah for its annoyed and disrespectful indifference toward Him—especially among its religious leaders. They displayed this in their begrudging religious practices. This sort of half-hearted religious devotion toward God was worse than none at all (Malachi 1:6-7, 10, 13).
  • One of the fruits of the spiritual corruption of the religious leaders of Judah was their unjust and unequal interpretation and application of the law. They showed preference to the rich and powerful in disputes with the poor and weak (2:9).
  • One of the main reasons for God’s great displeasure with the men of Judah was their treachery—divorcing their wives and marrying other pagan women. This was a violation of their covenant obligation to be a separate people unto God. But once their unique relationship with God became a weariness and an unimportant thing to them, they became more inclined to allow false religious practices into their homes and lives. This unfaithfulness and treachery toward their first wives was an abomination to God (2:11-14).
  • The judgment of God was against all manner of social sins—adultery, perjury, exploitation of the weak. These sins followed from the primary sin of turning away from the fear of the one true God (3:5).
  • The relationships between parents and children were broken, indicating apparent gross violations of the Fifth Commandment—another social sin. Without a miraculous healing of this situation, God’s judgment would be very severe (4:5-6).

All of the messages of the 12 Minor Prophets can be summarized as a call to repent of all kinds of sin, and instead to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

May we heed their messages, repent and learn to do what God requires: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly” with our God (Micah 6:8).

About the Author

Tom Kirkpatrick

Tom Kirkpatrick holds a PhD in accounting from the University of North Texas, and is a retired CPA. He has taught accounting and business courses at the university graduate level, and has served in the financial management of Church of God organizations. He most recently pastored two congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, before his retirement in 2020.

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