The three major later prophets

The later prophets are what we normally think of as prophets.  They stood out against authority and asked people to reform their ways to that of Yahweh, their God.  They were writing prophets, as opposed to the early prophets who did not write, but were written about.  These later prophets are normally divided into the three major prophets and the twelve Minor Prophets.  There were three famous major writing prophets whose works are very long.  Isaiah lived in the 8th century BCE, but his work was not finished until around the 6th century BCE.  On the other hand, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were 6th century BCE prophetic writers around the time of the Babylonian Exile.

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The messenger to prepare the way (Mal 3:1-3:1)

“‘See!

I am sending

My messenger

To prepare the way

Before me.

Yahweh,

Whom you seek,

Will suddenly come

To his temple.

The messenger of the covenant,

In whom you delight,

Indeed,

He is coming.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.”

The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, applied this text along with Isaiah, chapter 40, to John the Baptist.  Just as Yahweh was sending his messenger to prepare his way, so too John the Baptist would prepare the way for Jesus the Christ.  Yahweh was sending his messenger to prepare his way for his re-entrance into his Temple.  Yahweh would suddenly come, because the messenger of the delightful covenant had prepared things for him.

The bitter wrathful day of Yahweh (Zeph 1:14-1:16)

“The great day of Yahweh

Is near,

Near,

Coming fast.

The sound of

The day of Yahweh

Is bitter.

The warrior

Cries aloud there.

That day will be

A day of wrath,

A day of distress,

A day of anguish,

A day of ruin,

A day of devastation,

A day of darkness,

A day of gloom,

A day of clouds

A day of darkness,

A day of trumpet blast,

A day of battle cry,

Against the fortified cities,

Against the lofty battlements.”

The day of Yahweh was to be a day of wrath and doom, as can be found also in Amos, chapter 5 and Isaiah, chapter 2.  This great day for Yahweh was coming right away, very soon.  This bitter sound was in the air, as the warriors cried out loudly with their battle cry against the fortified cities and their secure fortresses.  This was a day of wrath, distress, anguish, ruin, devastation, darkness, gloom, clouds, and a trumpet blast, certainly not a happy day.  Thus, the natural connection to death formed the inspiration for the medieval funeral hymn, Dies Irae, Latin for the day of wrath.

Justice and sacrificial offerings (Mic 6:6-6:8)

“‘With what shall I come

Before Yahweh?

Shall I bow myself

Before God on high?

Shall I come before him

With burnt offerings?

Shall I come before him

With calves a year old?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With thousands of rams?

Will Yahweh be pleased

With ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give

My first-born

For my transgression?

Shall I give

The fruit of my body

For the sin of my soul?’

O mortal!

He has showed you

What is good!

What does Yahweh

Require of you?

But you are

To do justice,

To love kindness,

To walk humbly

With your God!”

Yahweh, via Micah, once again showed the relationship between worship and justice.  Much like the written prophets, Amos, chapter 5, Hosea, chapter 2, and Isaiah, chapters 7 and 30, the emphasis was on justice over sacrificial gifts.  Micah asked what kind of gifts he should bring to Yahweh, the high God.  Would Yahweh be happy with burnt offerings of one-year old calves?  Would 1,000 rams please him?  Would 10,000 rivers of oil be enough for Yahweh?  Should he offer up his firstborn son to save his soul?  Micah pointed out what Yahweh required.  Yahweh wanted them to do justice and love kindness.  Very simply, they were to walk humbly with their God, Yahweh.

A time of peace (Mic 4:4-4:4)

“But they shall all sit

Under their own vine.

They shall all sit

Under their own fig trees.

No one shall make them afraid.

The mouth

Of Yahweh of hosts

Has spoken.”

Micah went one step further than Isaiah.  He said that during this time of peace, all the people would sit under their vines and fig trees.  They would not be afraid.  Why were they afraid?  They had nothing to fear, because all of this came from the mouth of Yahweh, the Lord of the heavenly armies that would protect them.

The peaceful reign of Yahweh (Mic 4:3-4:3)

“He shall judge

Between many people.

He shall arbitrate

Between strong nations far away.

They shall beat their swords

Into plowshares.

They shall turn their spears

Into pruning hooks.

Nation shall not lift up

Its sword

Against another nation.

Neither shall they learn

War anymore.”

This was a vision of a time of perpetual peace that is often cited by pacifists, exactly the same as an oracle in Isaiah, chapter 2, word for word.  Yahweh would arbitrate and judge all nations.  Then there is the famous saying that they would beat their swords into plows.  They would turn their spears into pruning hooks.  No one would lift a sword against anyone else.  People would forget how to wage war since no one would learn how to do it.  This is the utopian theocratic peace that has Jerusalem rule the world through Yahweh.  It has never happened and probably will not.

The future reign of Yahweh at Zion (Mic 4:1-4:2)

“In days to come

The mountain of Yahweh’s house

Shall be established

As the highest of the mountains.

It shall be raised above the hills.

People shall stream to it.

Many nations shall come.

They shall say.

‘Come!

Let us go up

To the mountain of Yahweh!

Let us go

To the house of the God of Jacob!

He may teach us his ways.

We may walk in his paths.’

Out of Zion

Shall go forth instruction.

The word of Yahweh

Comes from Jerusalem.”

This is exactly the same as an oracle of Isaiah, chapter 2, word for word.  The Lord’s house would be on the highest mountain above the hills at Zion in Jerusalem.  All the nations of the world would come to the God of the house of Jacob, so that they could learn the ways and paths of Yahweh, the Lord God.