Let’s untangle the roles of the prophets from the roles of the kings they admonished. These are all lessons we need, for we are just like them. When God sends wisdom from counselors, pastors, elders, family, and those we trust to guide us, we must listen, evaluating and, if wise, heeding their words. Please listen. If we don’t listen, we are like the ancient Israelite kings as well as the populace.
The Old Testament kings, for the most part, did not listen. There were a few exceptions.
After King Solomon’s death in around 930 B.C., the kingdom split into a northern kingdom, which retained the name Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah, named after the tribe of Judah that dominated the new kingdom. Note that there is no separate entity labeled as Samaria. Right below the Kingdom of Judah is the Kingdom of Edom, the arch rival Esau’s descendants, the Edomites. However, Jacob, I have loved, and yet, here his dynasty is divided. Curious? Click here.Go to #BibleGateway.com. Type in the name of any Biblical person or event. You'll receive a wealth of information about details and people from the Bible that you never knew. #Bible #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
Prophets to Israel
Prophets to Israel appeared first. When we know which kings were being addressed by which prophets, it helps us to understand what was going on during the reign of that particular king.
An examination of these names in a concordance or an online word search gives us the key to their location and the records of their words. For instance, click on the name of Amos above. And then click on the other two prophets in this first example. On BibleGateway.com, all I did was enter their name in the search bar and then hit the far right red button for a search. It pulled up numerous bits of information.
The same tactic applies to the names of the kings.
The kings of Israel that followed were Zechariah (753-752 B.C.), Shallum (752 B.C.), Menahem (752-742 B.C.), Pekahiah (742-740 B.C.), Pekah (740-732 B.C.), and Hoshea (732-722 B.C.).
During those 59 years, the prophets to Israel were Amos (745 B.C.), Jonah (760 B.C.), and Hosea (755 B.C.).
The second list of Israel’s kings spanned a mere thirty-one years. The last group had the same prophets as the earlier kings: Amos, Jonah, and Hosea. But Amos and Jonah both died around 752 B.C., leaving Hosea as the lone prophet until 722 B.C., thirty years later.
Then came the fall of Samaria, and only the kings and the prophets of Judah were recorded.
“The fall of Samaria can be interpreted as an inevitable result of the expansion of the Assyrian Empire in combination with internal struggles in Israel. Evidence of deportation reveals that deportees were treated as normal citizens.”1.
Every source I consulted gave different spans of time and years of death. So, please consult the Bible Gateway source for the prophets, and the info on the kings to whom they prophesied, etc. CLICK HERE.
Prophets to Judah
Earlier kings of Judah: Uzziah (Azariah) (767-740 B.C.), Jotham (750-735 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.) all had Micah as their prophet from 740 B.C. to 670 B.C., as well as Isaiah and the prophetess, Isaiah’s wife from 740 to 715 B.C.
Isaiah’s wife was called “the prophetess,” either because she was endowed with the prophetic gift, like Deborah and Huldah, or simply because she was the “wife of the prophet,” a common way of identifying.
In an effort to abolish idolatry from his kingdom, Hezekiah, a godly king, destroyed the high places (or bamot) and the “bronze serpent” (or Nehushtan), recorded as being made by Moses, which had become objects of idolatrous worship. He centralized the worship of God at the Temple in Jerusalem.
However, when godly Hezekiah’s wicked son Manasseh (686-642 B.C.), the oldest of the sons of Hezekiah and his mother Hephzibah (2 Kings 21:1). He became king at the age of 12 and reigned for 55 years (2 Kings 21:1; 2 Chronicles 33:1). The biblical account of Manasseh is found in 2 Kings 21:1–18 and 2 Chronicles 32:33–33:20, and his wicked son Amon (642-640 B.C.) ruled after him. Nahum, Hosea, Joel, Habakkuk, and Isaiah prophesied. Manasseh and Amon did not listen. Click to see the evil acts of Manasseh and Amon.
According to rabbinic literature, Isaiah was the maternal grandfather of Manasseh of Judah. Manasseh executed Isaiah, his grandfather, by sawing him in half as also attested to in the Palestinian work, The Lives of the Prophets, which many scholars date to the first century CE. (click here for all sources)
Between the time of Manasseh and the fall of Jerusalem, about one hundred years, the prophets were hard at work trying to persuade the people to repent of all the sins of Manasseh and Amon — to take down the high places where they had worshiped false gods and had sacrificed their children. They should take the pagan altars out of the temple that had been built to worship Yahweh, and instead, the people should turn to worship the LORD. They had to give up their idolatry, but they would not.
Likewise, we, too, would give up our idolatry if we are wise. What do we honor ahead of God?We would give up our idolatry if we are wise. What do we honor ahead of God? Stop. Put God first.#Faith #HonorGod #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
The prophets sought to persuade, to admonish, and to win the arrogant, spoiled, idolatrous, hard-hearted people of Judah and Israel, who were exactly like their wicked kings. This was not a task for the weak of heart. Judah and Israel did not listen. How many of us are this hard-hearted?
Then came godly king Josiah (640-609 B.C.), son of Amon, grandson of Manasseh, who was only eight years old when he took the throne, a follower of God, one who loved Yahweh. The prophets who guided him were Zephaniah and Habakkuk, Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch. Only Josiah of all the kings listened to the prophets. He was the last faithful king in Judah’s history. Josiah brought relief and peace to the godly after Israel had been corrupted by King Manasseh and his son Amon.
Jeremiah was active as a prophet from the thirteenth year of Josiah, king of Judah (626 BC), until after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC. This period spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah.
The Kings Did Not Listen
The five kings who followed Josiah did not listen to Jeremiah nor to his scribe Baruch. Kings Jehoahaz (609 B.C.), Jehoiakim (609-597 B.C.), Jehoiachin (597 B.C.), and Zedekiah (597-586 B.C.) were the final kings. Zedekiah’s reign ended in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of most of the Jews to Babylon. (source)
“In 600 BCE Zedekiah, the king of Judah, decided for three years to stop paying taxes to Babylonia. This led to the Jewish-Babylonian War. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Judah by 597 BC. After the city of Jerusalem was captured, tens of thousands of Jewish people were exiled from Judah. Historians disagree about the exact date that the Babylonian Captivity began. Some sources say that it began as soon as King Nebuchadnezzar began to attack the city in 597 B.C., but others say it occurred in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylonian forces. Regardless of the exact date, sources show that the Jews were forcibly moved to Babylon.” (source)
King Zedekiah summoned Jeremiah from prison twice for secret interviews, and both times Jeremiah advised him to surrender to Babylonia. When Jerusalem finally fell, Jeremiah was released from prison by the Babylonians and offered safe conduct to Babylonia, but he preferred to remain with his own people.
Obadiah was also a prophet then. Ezekiel was a priest as well as a prophet.
Five years into the Babylonian conflict, “the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest“ (Ezek 1:3). For Ezekiel, his training as a priest prepared him to translate the prophetic vision that he saw.
Ezekiel was inspired to write this about the people of Judah and Israel:
“2 And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’5 And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them” (Ezekiel 2:2-5 ESV).
As Ezekiel prophesied, the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians began, bringing ruin and destruction, starvation and fire, and the driving out of the people of Israel to remove them toward Babylon. Destroying them in order to pry them out of Jerusalem, Israel trudged across the many miles, leaving in small groups or larger as they were organized, accompanied by the prophets Obadiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
Daniel the prophet was a righteous man of princely lineage who lived about 620–538 B.C. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, men of similar upbringing were with him, his friends. The young men were well-trained, strong, and intellectually sharp. They were taken to Babylon in 605 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar the Assyrian. When Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, they took the smartest and strongest young men away from their families in Jerusalem and brought them back to Babylon to serve the king.
The first king that Daniel served was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. After Nebuchadnezzar passed away, his son King Belshazzar became his successor, and Daniel served him. Then came King Darius and lastly King Cyrus, who freed all of the Jewish captives and sent Israel home. Daniel was still living when Assyria was overthrown by the Medes and the Persians.
Jerusalem fell completely to Nebuchadnezzar’s troops in 586 B.C.
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave command concerning Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, saying, 12 ‘Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.’ 13 So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and took Jeremiah from the court of the guard. They entrusted him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he lived among the people” (Jeremiah 39:11-14 ESV).
What is interesting is the fact that Nebuzaradan is the same captain of the guard who is later taxed with the role of tearing down, destroying, and burning the temple and all of the city. And yet, Nebuzaradan is also capable of handling the details of keeping a prophet like Jeremiah safe.
Doubtless, when the large groups of Jews arrived, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah would have been a great help to them as they adjusted in a pagan land.
Ezekiel, also spelled Ezechiel, Hebrew Yeḥezqel, sixth century B.C., prophet-priest of ancient Israel and the subject and in part the author of an Old Testament book that bears his name. Ezekiel’s early oracles (from c. 592) in Jerusalem were pronouncements of violence and destruction; his later statements addressed the hopes of the Israelites exiled in Babylon.
Ezekiel and Jeremiah were prophets throughout this entire experience of siege, defeat, death, and surrender. Ezekiel’s early oracles (from c. 592 B.C.) in Jerusalem were pronouncements of violence and destruction; his later statements addressed the hopes of the Israelites exiled in Babylon.
“The faith of Ezekiel in the ultimate establishment of a new covenant between God and the people of Israel had a profound influence on the postexilic reconstruction and reorganization of Judaism” (source)
Ezekiel walked all the way to Babylon with the people he taught and admonished. He instructed them during their captivity. Likely, he walked them all the way home as well.
“Ezekiel’s ministry was conducted in Jerusalem and Babylon in the first three decades of the 6th century BC. For Ezekiel and his people, these years were bitter ones because the remnant of the Israelite domain, the little state of Judah, was eliminated by the rising Babylonian empire under Nebuchadrezzar (reigned 605–562 BC). Jerusalem surrendered in 597 BC. Israelite resistance was nevertheless renewed, and in 587–586 the city was destroyed after a lengthy siege. In both debacles, and indeed again in 582, large numbers from the best elements of the surviving population were forcibly deported to Babylonia.”2.
Jeremiah, had faith that they would return to Israel. He encouraged the people with that truth.
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile“ (Jeremiah 29:4-14 ESV)."For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you" (Jeremiah 29:11-12) #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
These two major prophets proclaimed truth during the entire process of Israel’s fall into pagan worship, even while the people were putting the idols of pagan gods in the temple of the LORD. The people never listened. These men had different tasks as Israel fell increasingly away from God to pursue false gods like their neighbors the Canaanites. The people and the king refused to listen them.
Return to Jerusalem
In 538 B.C. the first group of exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. The temple was rebuilt in 516/515 B.C. Sixty years after the captivity began, though estimates of the date fluctuate, the final prophets on the way back home were Haggai (520 B.C.), Zechariah (520 B.C.), and Malachi, the last, who accompanied the last exiles who returned in 458 B.C. There was no king on the throne. Malachi was to put them all back together, aiming them toward God. This is the foundation for future blog posts.
The Twelve, The Minor Prophets, were written now. The Hebrew Bible contains the books of 12 minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
This is the arc of this period of time for Israel an the surrounding nations.
Let’s start our journey through ancient Jewish times.
- Activity of the Writing Prophets, an ESV Study Bible online resource.
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