By Vexen Crabtree 2018
The 8th part of the Hebrew holy text the Nevi'im is called the Trei Asar, and from it the Christians extracted the 12 books of the Old Testament that are together known as the Minor Prophets. They are not chronological and they are collected together as 'minor' prophets simply because they are shorter chapters than the 'major' prophets1. Also, there may well be 12 of them because ancient scribes, especially religious ones, would create collections of twelve wherever possible, as it was traditional to do so2. Here is a brief introduction to each of those 12 books.
“Written around the 8th century BCE, Hosea wrote this book to defend his choice to marry Gomer, who was perpetually somewhat short of morals. To give it religious depth, some now say that it is also about God (patient) puts up with the immorality of us humans, but, this explanation of why this is considered a holy book seems dubious.”
“A dramatic book about locusts sent as an army from God (Joel 2:25 and resulting famine, and a promise that God rewards successful and upstanding people with national success. However in the modern world countries with the most stable food supplies are also the least Christian, making Joel's warning that believers must trust God in order to prevent famines somewhat contradictory to reality. It is difficult to tell if Joel is talking of real or metaphorical events, and because of this and the book's shortness, it is very difficult to date its authorship although some academics say it was written in the 4th century BCE3. It doesn't refer to identifiable historical events, people nor places, and, there were many locust swarms throughout the region. There is some uncertainty about the original text, and some versions of the Bible have Joel as 3 chapters long, others 44. The predictability and ubiquitousness of the book's central message (wail and cry when fate is unkind - trust God, and things will get better) means this is a rather pointless book, and it is rarely discussed by scholars or believers.”
“Although edited by many authors into many versions, some of this text does appear to come from Amos himself. Amos promises yet again that God will punish the gentile (non-Jewish) nations, but, that God will continue to punish the Hebrews too, if they don't repent. God promises to restore god-fearing nations to success and glory. This message is repeated through five different visions from God that Amos says he had, each giving the same message that Amos himself was giving.”
“The shortest book in the Old Testament. It contains yet-another prophecy that Zion will rise to glory once again, and, the rest is a condemnation of Edom and a prophecy of its doom. Although given that all cultures and nations of that time eventually fell, all you have to do is wait long enough and all such predictions of doom come true!”
“God threatens to punish the city of Nineveh because the people are sinful, but they repent. Jonah was too scared to go though although God asked him to, so God threw him overboard from his boat, and made him get eaten by a large fish. Jonah prays for forgiveness, and God has the fish regurgitate Jonah onto a beach. The teachings are, of course, that God punishes those who are disobedient and rewards those who are obedient, and being scared is no excuse for not doing what you're told..”
“This book is a combination of an older book that may well have been written by Micah, plus large edits by a later anonymous editor/author, who was either consciously adding his own thoughts to the holy book, or, later editors came to add his remarks to Micah's. The book is yet another prophecy that corrupt rulers will be punished by god, that the Hebrews would rise to glory again, and, all nations will eventually live in peace (Micah 4:3-4).”
“Like in the book of Jonah, Nahum contains continued prophecies that the city of Nineveh is doomed, and that God is so great he can overthrow the wicked, and, Nineveh will be looted, and, that the people of Nineveh are wicked. How many more prophecies there were before Nineveh fell we do not know, but, all nations eventually fall so the prophets just have to wait for prophetic success and hope it occurs in their own lifetimes to enjoy the acclaim!”
“After a long series of prophets promise again and again that god is going to punish their neighbours for the unbelief, God again promises to deliver "justice" but rather than do it itself, God says that the brutal and idolatrous Chaldeans will be the instrument of justice. It is a case of "my enemy's enemy is my friend" although the author of this book says God will still reward those of the Chaldeans who are righteous. It is hard to see what morals or teachings there are in these wars between the Hebrews and their neighbours other than that it pays to be on the winning side whether or not the winners are Jehovah-fearers!”
“This text starts with prophecies and daydreaming about the doom and destruction not of the Hebrew's enemies, but, of Judah and Jerusalem. After this, it continues with prophecies about the doom of some of their neighbours. Then has some more about the judgment of Jerusalem. As is common, God is said to promise to reward the faithful.”
“An anonymous and unknown author writing in 520BCE5 demands that his unpaid workers carry on building the Temple else he will call for a drought from God (Haggai 1:11). He says that the people are not working hard enough for the priests5. God, says Haggai, says the temple will be completed5! In a strangely primitive part of the text (Haggai 2:6-8), God says that it shakes the ground and claims ownership of silver and gold.
This (very short) Bible book text mentions that Haggai is a prophet, but it is clear that (if he existed at all) he said nothing of value, and he remains invisible to history and is not quoted historically by anyone at all. Just one other text in the Bible refers to Haggai, merely mentioning that he was a prophet (Ezra 5:1 and 6:14). There are several possible types of people who had a vested interest in getting the workers to continue, and accordingly it is difficult to trust in the anonymous author.”
“The first 8 chapters of the book of Zechariah may well have been written by the prophet of that name in the 6th century BCE, but, it was later edited and entire chapters added. The book sees the idea of sin as an independent source, represented by Satan (3:1-2). The author describes visions being sent to him by God wherein Jerusalem and Zion are restored to glory, in order to encourage the people to keep rebuilding the destroyed Temple.”
“The author says that God loves Israel, but, the people are too sinful. The priests are not working well enough either. One day soon, God is finally going to judge everyone. The people, in particular, are not giving enough of their income to the priests (says God).”
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The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.
(1997) Bible Facts. Originally published 1990. Current version published by Grange Books, London. A hardback book.