The Minor Prophets, Post-Captivity An Introduction
As we turn our attention to the “Post-Captivity Prophets”, their message is a pertinent one for us today. The Jews having been forcibly taken out of their land, had spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity and were now returning. This for them was to be a new era of Restoration, Rebuilding and Recovery. However despite every encouragement under the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, Malachi’s message comes with a warning at the end of Old Testament scripture; spiritual ground that had been gained after the captivity, was being lost again! We today need to heed the words of the risen Christ to the assembly in Philadelphia: "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (Rev 3: 11). Each generation is called to hold the ground of scriptural testimony handed to us from past generations of faithful believers who left what was Babylonian in character to return to the place of the 'Name'.
Introduction to the Post Captivity Prophets!
The three Post-Captivity Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi cannot be read in isolation from other parts of Holy Scripture. The Bible is a collection of 66 books, interlocking and intertwined, with one Divine Author! In our introductory notes, we need to keep in mind that there is a close link between the last three books of prophecy (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) and the last three books of history (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther). Before getting into the detail of the last three prophets, and indeed the end of Old Testament history, we need to recap on how we have arrived at this point! For some this will be revision and repetition, so I say to you, please be patient. For others who are newly come to the faith, this likely will be all new. To a new convert I say, do not despair over the complex detail! We did not all learn our times tables in one day, and we will not grasp the message of the prophets in just one reading.
How did we get to this point?
Having brought the Children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage, and into the land of Canaan; God gave them Judges to rule and guide the people. After they requested to have a king like the other nations, God gave to them their desire. The first king of Israel was Saul, and below I have a summary of the nation’s history with some of the main players.
Israel! Israel, the 12 tribes under their first three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon.
Israel & Judah! After the death of Solomon, the Kingdom was divided. The Northern Kingdom of Israel comprised ten tribes under their first king, Jeroboam. The Southern Kingdom called Judah, was made up of two tribes under their king, Rehoboam, a son of Solomon. This is where we get the expression; “Kings of Israel and Judah”. Chief players along the way! Jeroboam the Son of Nebat, the man who made Israel to sin. Their first king set the path for the nation of Israel and sadly they all followed, with not one good king on the throne. Ahab the son of Omri, did evil in the sight of the Lord. With Jezebel his wife they were responsible for the death of the godly Naboth. In contrast to the royal line of Judah from which came the Christ, the kings of Israel had no continuing line, with each dynasty being cut off. Out of nineteen kings and one queen, Judah had eight kings whose reigns could be described as good. These included, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham. Jehoram was one of the wicked kings, walking in the ways of the house of Ahab, as he had Athaliah the daughter of Ahab to wife. Athaliah, the only queen, killed all her grandchildren except Joash so that she would have the throne for herself. Joash who was just an infant, was hidden by Jehoiada the priest and his wife Jehoshabeath, eventually coming to the throne at seven years of age. Joash was one of Judah’s reformers. Israel, Captivity to Assyria! Because of their departure from God, chiefly because of idolatry, God moved in judgment against Israel and they were taken captive to Assyria under their last King, Hoshea, in 722 BC.
Judah! This then left the remaining Kingdom of Judah, two tribes, whose king was Hezekiah at the time of Israel’s captivity. Chief players along the way! Hezekiah king of Judah could be described as a reformer. Manasseh his son was marked by wickedness. The divine record of the son of godly Hezekiah, is that he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. At least one other king of Judah was not only good, but a reformer, Josiah. His reforms did not prevent the coming judgement but stayed it for a while. Zedekiah, Judah’s final king, was a rebel to the last. His actions ensured that the consequences on his own sons, and on Jerusalem, was worse than God ever intended it to be. Judah, Captivity to Babylon! A little over 100 years after Israel’s captivity to Assyria God had to move again in judgment against His people. Like Israel, Judah’s departure from God demanded justice, and the instrument this time was the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. In three different stages, 606-586 BC, they were carried away to Babylon under their last king Zedekiah. Seventy years of captivity ensued.
How did they return from Babylon?
538 BC. Cyrus king of Persia issues a decree for the Jews to return and for the Temple to be rebuilt (Ezra 1:1-4). 536 BC. The returning captives lay the foundation of the Temple (Ezra 3:8-13). 535 BC. Discouraged by their adversaries (Ezra 4:1-5) the work ceases until the second year of the Reign of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:24). 520 BC. The second year of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:24) is also the date for the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1). See also Haggai 1:1 & Zechariah 1:1. Haggai and Zechariah minister and the work recommences (Ezra 5:1). The people prosper through their ministry and the work is finished (Ezra 6:14-15).
Who were the prophets that ministered to the people after Captivity?
Pithy, Pointed, Personal… A book for the hands… Labouring for God!
Pictorial, Prophetic, Panoramic… A book for the eyes… Looking for Christ the Messiah!
Prophecy of Propriety – A book for the heart… Losing ground that has been gained!