The Former Prophets

The former prophets are the same as the so-called Christian Old Testament historical works.  These works tell us of the establishment of the Israelites and the troubles that they faced.  However, they introduced a number of prophets that received oracles from God, including Elias, Elijah, Samuel, and Nathan.  The former prophets include the works of Joshua, from the 8th-7th century BCE and Judges, from the 7th-6th century BCE.  They also include the works of Samuel or 1 Samuel and. 2 Samuel, as well as Kings, or 1 Kings and 2 Kings. all coming from the 7th-6th century BCE.  These writings indicate what happened to the Israelites as they struggled in the new promised land.  They gradually went from a few judges to a full-blown kingdom, with many prophets with their divine oracles along the way.

The Old and the New Testament

The two major parts of the Christian Bible are the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Does this give a false impression that we have two different Bibles?  The New Testament books make references to the Old Testament works.  There was no New Testament canon until the second century, since consensus on its contents did not occur until the late fourth century.  The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible canon has an even more complicated history.  Often, people are surprised to learn that two-thirds of what we call the Christian Bible actually existed before the time of Christ, since it describes the words and actions of God’s interaction with his promised chosen people, the Israelites, the Hebrews, or the Jews.

Harsh words (Mal 3:13-3:13)

“‘You have spoken

Harsh words

Against me.’

Says Yahweh.

Yet you say.

‘How have we spoken

Against you?’”

Yahweh, via Malachi, told the Israelites that they had spoken harsh words against him.  However, the Israelites responded that they were not aware that they had spoken such things against Yahweh

The need to return to Yahweh (Mal 3:7-3:7)

“‘Ever since the days of your ancestors,

You have turned aside

From my statutes.

You have not kept them.

Return to me!

Then I will return to you.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.

But you say.

‘How shall we return?’”

Yahweh, via Malachi, told the Israelites that they were like their ancestors, since they had not kept his statutes.  They needed to return to Yahweh.  However, they responded that they did not know how to return to Yahweh.

Yahweh loves Israel (Mal 1:2-1:2)

“Says Yahweh.

‘I have loved you.

But you say.

‘How have you loved us?

Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’

Says Yahweh.

‘Yet I have loved Jacob.’”

Yahweh said that he loved Israel.  However, the Israelites questioned Yahweh, by asking how he had loved them.  Suddenly the name of the twin brother of Jacob, Esau, comes up.  Yahweh responded that he had loved Jacob rather than Esau.

The plague on Egypt (Zech 14:18-14:19)

“If the family of Egypt

Does not go up,

If they do not

Present themselves,

Then upon them

Shall come

The plague

That Yahweh inflicts

On the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.

This shall be the punishment

Of Egypt.

This shall be the punishment

Of all the nations

That do not go up

To keep the festival of booths.”

Egypt would suffer a plague, if they did not present themselves for the festival of booths or tents.  However, this same punishment would be inflicted on other countries that did not show up of this festival of booths.  Suddenly, this festival has become an important universal religious festival for all countries, not just the Israelites.

Yahweh on the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:3-14:4)

“Then Yahweh will go forth.

He will fight

Against those nations,

As when he fights

On a day of battle.

On that day,

His feet shall stand

On the Mount of Olives,

Which lies before Jerusalem

On the east.

The Mount of Olives

Shall be split

In two,

From east to west

By a very wide valley.

Thus,

One half of the Mount

Shall withdraw northward.

The other half

Shall withdraw southward.”

After starting the war, Yahweh was going to defend the Israelites, by fighting against the other countries.  Yahweh was going to stand on the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem.  He would split this mountain in two, so that half the mountain would be on the north and the other half on the south with a valley in between these two half mountains.

The great return (Zech 10:8-10:11)

“I will signal for them.

I will gather them in.

I have redeemed them.

They shall be

As numerous

As they were before.

Though I scattered them

Among the nations,

Yet in far countries

They shall remember me.

They shall rear their children.

They shall return.

I will bring them home

From the land of Egypt.

I will gather them

From Assyria.

I will bring them

To the land of Gilead.

I will bring them

To Lebanon,

Until there is no room for them.

They shall pass through

The sea of distress.

The waves of the sea

Shall be struck down.

The depths of the Nile

Shall dry up.

The pride of Assyria

Shall be laid low.

The scepter of Egypt

Shall depart.”

Yahweh was going to give a signal for the Israelites to gather, since he had redeemed them from their captivity.  They would be as numerous as they were before.  Even though they were scattered among many distant countries, they raised their children there before they returned.  Yahweh was going to bring them home from Egypt and Assyria.  He was going to put them in Gilead, the east side of the Jordan River, or in Lebanon, on the seacoast, until there was no more room for them there.  They would have no problems, since Yahweh was going to lead them through distressed seas, mild waves, and the deep dry Nile River.  The pride of Assyria would be brought down, while the control of the Egyptian rule or scepter would leave.

Yahweh’s people (Zech 9:16-9:17)

“On that day,

Yahweh their God

Will save them.

They are the flock

Of his people.

Like the jewels

Of a crown,

They shall shine

On his land.

What great goodness is his!

What great beauty is his!

Grain shall make

The young men flourish.

New wine shall make

The maidens flourish.”

There was no doubt that Yahweh, their God, would save the Israelites.  They were his flock.  They would shine like jewels on a crown in his land.  There was no limit to the goodness and beauty of God.  Grain and new wine would help the young men and the young maidens to flourish.