The Minor Prophets (“The Twelve”) as One Book
In the Hebrew canon of Scripture, the modern thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were categorized as twenty-four books. The twelve books commonly referred to as “The Minor Prophets” were arranged in the Hebrew Bible to function as one book that unfolded in twelve parts (cf. Acts 7:42). The twelve books are small parts of a larger message—God Keeps His Promises!
The Minor Prophets are not arranged chronologically, but instead appear to be organized thematically. The order of The Twelve is preserved in two similar but different ways by the Masoretic Text (MT) and the Septuagint (LXX). Both lists begin with Hosea and end with Malachi. In Hosea, God divorces His people but promises to restore them completely to Himself. In Malachi, God is said to hate divorce and promises the redemption of His people. These two bookends highlight a theme of the Minor Prophets—the uncommon and unending love of the LORD for His people.
Although The Twelve cover a 300-year period, collectively they provide a portrait of the God Who Keeps His Promises. The LORD had promised blessings for covenantal faithfulness and consequences for violations of the covenant. The people, however, were unable to persevere in their love and faithfulness to God. As a result, they had to face serious consequences such as exile, destruction of the temple and the capital city, economic disasters, and oppression by foreign nations. Although the people continued to rebel against God and serve other deities, the LORD promised—throughout the Minor Prophets—to rescue, restore, and redeem an unfaithful people. The Twelve individually and collectively announce that God Keeps His Promises.
The Twelve in the New Testament
Only three of The Twelve are not directly quoted in the New Testament: Obadiah, Jonah, and Zephaniah. However, Jonah is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew (12:40) as an analogy to His death and resurrection. Since The Twelve were treated as one book, it is not surprising that some of them are not directly referenced by the authors of the New Testament. Furthermore, many of the prophets covered similar themes. For example, a reference to judgment (divine consequences) as a result of disobedience or rebellion is referenced throughout The Twelve and could have easily come from several different prophets. Likewise, the three prophets not quoted are relatively short. Although shorter books are not always overlooked by other authors, the limited material covered by the aforementioned prophets may be one reason for their writings not being quoted by New Testament authors.
Throughout this study, the reader will be challenged to consider how and why the New Testament authors quoted or referenced The Twelve. Understanding the way in which the Apostles and authors of the Net Testament interpreted and applied the Old Testament is valuable for Christians for several reasons. First, their method reminds us to approach biblical interpretation through the life, death, resurrection, and intercession of Jesus Christ, as well as the consummation of all things in Christ. Second, the Apostles’ did not view Scripture as two distinct parts, but instead as one story. Thus, we are to read the New Testament as the continuation of the promises made and reaffirmed through the prophets, priests, and kings of the Old Testament. Third, the New Testament author’s interpretive method challenges Christians to evaluate how they understand the Bible. It is tempting to think that one’s own method of understanding scripture is the standard that all interpreters should apply. However, examining the New Testament use of the Old Testament challenges the reader to reflect on what may be right or wrong with his or her approach to biblical interpretation.
Nine of the following studies will include a section that highlights references to the Minor Prophets in the New Testament. The reader should provide the significance of the Old Testament reference in the New Testament context.
An example of how to use this aspect of this study:
Hosea 11:1 – Matthew 2:15
Significance: In announcing the promise of future redemption, Hosea employed an image from the past—the Exodus from Egypt—to ensure that his audience understood the power and scope of the promise. Matthew understood Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise.
Throughout this study the phrases “Minor Prophets” and “The Twelve” are used interchangeably.