“What makes them less important?”
This was the first question I was asked as we started discussing the Minor Prophets. In the spring of 2015, I was searching for a topic or book of the Bible to study with my group. For some reason, I felt compelled to dig into the Minor Prophets. One reason being that I knew almost nothing about them. I’ve seen verses used in other context that are pulled from Micah (6:8) and maybe something from Hosea or Joel. I once had a pastor spend a few weeks in Hosea, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard a sermon from any of the others. I had certainly never read in books, commentaries or Bible studies on them.
Ignoring these books is crazy when you think about it. There are 66 books in the Bible, and we are excluding 12; that’s almost 20% of the books (granted, by volume, it is considerably less). Honestly, I can see ignoring Deuteronomy or something like Chronicles. They are long and have lists of names, dates, laws and histories. The Prophets aren’t like that. They are a mix of short stories and sermons (not dissimilar to Christ’s parables or the Sermon on the Mount). Instead, they receive considerable less attention than the Epistles.
Imagine if you had never read or heard a sermon preached on 1, 2, or 3 John; Timothy, Titus or Jude; 1 or 2 Peter; 1 or 2 Corinthians; or Galatians or Ephesians. Think of the treasure of scripture you would be missing out on.
So, that brings us back to the question, “What makes them not as important as the other prophets”? The short answer is, nothing, they aren’t less important and should not (and never have been) viewed that way. Minor is really a bit of a misnomer.
Minus in Latin means shorter. If you put all the ‘minor’ prophets together, you get a book that, in length, falls in the middle of the four major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Danial). This is indeed what the original Hebrew Bible looked like. The books were all combined and called, in English, the Book of the Twelve. Christians later dropped this name, but instead, referred to them as the shorter and longer prophets. The Latin name then stuck, and somewhat poorly translated, became Minor in English. While it was meant as a reference on the basis of length, it has the unfortunate connotation of being ‘less important.’
This has lead, in part, to the lack of study on them in the modern American Church. Granted, the Old Testament as a whole is somewhat neglected, and the prophets even more so. However, James Boice actually says in his commentary, that he believes they are ignored due to their message, which largely has to do with social justice. More on that later, though.
As I read though them, I really enjoyed it. There are powerful sermons throughout that are just as important and relevant today as they were three thousand years ago. One problem is, they are fairly hard to read. You need some knowledge of ancient geography, history and customs. Further, the Hebrew used may rhyme or be a pun, which doesn’t show in English.
That is why I came up with a crazy idea to write up a reader’s guide. It isn’t really a commentary, because I have no training and no clue (I’m only a pretend Theologian) but I also think this could be more valuable than the typical bible studies you find. I know I was disappointed with what I looked through. So, my reader’s guide will attempt to do a few things.
There are a lot of place names and peoples mentioned that most Christians, even those very familiar with the Bible, just will not know off the top of your heads. More important there where (or when) the city is, sometimes we need to look at the city in relationship to Jerusalem. I will focus a little on the meaning of some words in the original Hebrew. On occasion, I like to write it as if it were happening now. This is mostly to give the magnitude of what the Prophets are saying, or how ballsy it is because of whom they are addressing.
The Minor Prophets were, like all prophets, pretty badass. They mocked officials, were sarcastic and funny, and most important preached the Word of God with little care as to the consequences. They are well worth the time and effort to study, and hopefully, my little readers guide will help with that.