An Introduction to the Writing Prophets
Kenneth J. Morgan
The Goal of This Introduction to the Prophets
We started this Web site to promote in-depth study of the Bible and theology. If you would like to increase your knowledge of the Bible, here’s a great place to start: learn something of the background, content, and message of the books of the prophets. Generally speaking, the Old Testament prophets are among the least known books of the Bible, but personally I find them the most exciting part. The so-called “minor prophets” are an especially good place to start. They are not only intensely exciting, but they are also short enough to get a good grasp of their content and message in a short time. This combination should make for high motivation!
The material here is a set of study guides written and used by me over the years when teaching a series on the prophets in adult Sunday School classes. The first three items in the table below are charts. The first one is a timeline that shows the entire history of the Old Testament and all the books of the Old Testament. The second shows how each of the books of the prophets fits into the periods of Israel’s history. Finally, the third is a table that summarizes the essential facts about each of the prophets. These charts should prove to be very helpful.
The Threefold Division of the Hebrew Canon
The Hebrew Masoretic text of the Old Testament, although containing the same books as our Protestant Old Testament, divides them differently. There are three major divisions: the Torah, the Nabi’im, and the Kethubim.
(Torah): Instruction, Law
- The Former Prophets
- 1, 2 Samuel
- 1, 2 Kings
- The Latter Prophets
- Twelve Shorter Prophets
- Poetry and Wisdom
- (Megilloth): Rolls
- Song of Solomon
- 1, 2 Chronicles
In Jewish circles the Hebrew Scriptures are generally referred to by an acronym coming from the first letters of the names of the three divisions: T (Torah), N (Nabi’im), and K (Kethubim): the Tanakh. There is nothing wrong with Christians using the name Tanakh, especially when talking with their Jewish friends. The term, “Old Testament,” is not a good name in either Jewish or Christian circles. If used at all, one of my former professors used to recommend “Older Testament.”
Apparently, this threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures goes back at least to the time of Jesus. Note how he referred to the entire Tanakh: “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). The Psalms, of course, would be the first, the largest, and the most significant book in the Kethubim (Writings).
The books Joshua, Judges, 1, 2 Samuel, and 1, 2 Kings are called “Former Prophets” because many prophets such as Nathan, Gad, Elijah, and Elisha ministered during that era. However, all of the Latter Prophets left us books and are therefore also called the Writing Prophets. It is the Writing Prophets that are studied here.
These Study Guides
This material consists of (generally) short study guides to each of the prophetic books. The format of each study guide consists of the following parts:
- Prophet’s Name
- Basic Theme
- Important Passages and Problems
These study guides were originally developed for distribution to adult Sunday School classes that I taught on the prophets over the years. Therefore, the coverage is not always as complete as it might be in a full-length book dealing with the prophets. Also, some points in these study guides were explained more fully in those Sunday School classes. For the “minor” prophets, they were accompanied by a verse-by-verse study of each book.