Voices for Revival – Study of Minor Prophets (Post-Exilic Period)
– Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
How did the Israelites get exiled?
To understand the post-exilic prophets better, we need to go backwards a bit. Before and during the exilic periods. There were a lots of fighting, battles and bloodshed. The Israelites were under 3 different superpowers for many (340) yrs. It was like a musical chair, a bit different from the normal one. Here, there is only 1 chair and different empires took turns to sit on the same chair. The Assyrian Empire, Babylonian Empire and Medo-Persian Empire took turns over the Holy Land and other countries. Got the picture? Remember this.
Brief History of Israelites
Here is a Brief History:
1) When King Solomon died, his kingdom was divided into Northern and Southern Kingdom. You can see the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom. Northern Kingdom is also called Israel, and Southern Kingdom called Judah.
2) About 200 yrs later (722 BC), the Northern Kingdom was completely destroyed by the new super-power Assyrians (1st musical chair) after 3 invasions. This map shows how most of the Israelites were scattered ie. the Assyrians could scatter their captives anywhere they wanted within their empire. Some of them were left behind and the super-power Assyrians brought different people from the empire to Samaria (the capital of N Kingdom); these people were called the Samaritans.
3) About 110 yrs later (from 612 BC onwards), a new superpower, the Babylonian Empire took over (2nd musical chair). Under their very powerful King Nebuchadnessar II, they captured and scattered the S Kingdom to Babylon. (Similarly, as superpower, the Babylonians could scatter their captives anywhere they wanted within their empire). The 3rd invasion in 586 BC, was the most disastrous. Jerusalem and the temple was completely destroyed. Some historians described this as the death of the nation of Israel.
During both captivities, the people suffered greatly. The N Kingdom suffered more, a total of 180 yrs; the S Kingdom people suffered 70 yrs. In all those years, they also moved around either on their own or by the kings (remember what the Assyrian King did to Samaria?). That’s why when they finally came back from exile to Jerusalem, N and S Kingdom people were represented (see Ezra 2:3,64,65) although majority was from the S Kingdom. Remember this impt point.
4) When the people suffered, God didn’t leave them to die, instead He forgave them and began to restore them. The post-exilic period was the beginning of such restoration. This is the best rescue plan (sounds familiar?). By this time, Medo-Persia became the new superpower (3rd musical chair).
The Turning Point
This was the turning-point of Israel. About 150 yrs ago, God has already prophesied that Israel would be delivered by Cyrus (Isa 44:28). True enough, in 538 BC King Cyrus (of Medes-Persian empire) made a proclamation (Ezra 1:1-3, NIV), “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you – may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord….” He allowed all the Israelites (from Northern & Southern Kingdom) to go back to Jerusalem to build God’s temple. However, only a small minority volunteered to return. Here’s a map showing their journey home. This journey took 4 months. It was very tough. Along the way, people were hostile.
The Return From Exile
You can’t find this chart anywhere, it’s original.
Those who volunteered to go back didn’t go back in one batch; they went back in 3 different batches over a period 93 yrs (point to 3 batches). Its first king was King Cyrus.
Under him in 538 BC, about 50,000 Israelites went back to Jerusalem to build the temple. Amongst them were Haggai and Zech as volunteers at this time. Zerubbabel was chosen as the Jewish leader to lead this group. In the 1st yr, people were enthusiastic, the building progress was very good. But in the 2nd year onwards, there were problems so the building of the temple was stopped for 16 yrs.
In the meantime, King Cyrus died in 530 BC and Darius became the new king later (in 522 BC). During his reign, God chose Haggai and Zech (point to them) as prophets, to help Zerubbabel, the governor, to encourage the people to complete the temple. It was finally completed in 516 BC. It was called the Zerubbabel’s Temple.
When Malachi’s ministry started around 430 BC, it was after the return of the 3rd batch . He was contemporary of Nehemiah who was often remembered for building the wall of Jerusalem and spiritual revival.
This is an important chart. It shows the time-line of all the minor prophets: the earlier 9 minor prophets (before the exile/pre-exilic) and the 3 post-exilic prophets (after exile). Although the chart puts these 3 prophets as belonging to the Southern Kingdom, what it actually means is that they lived and worked in the South where Jerusalem is. Not that they ministered to the S Kingdom people only.
At that time, when they came back from exile, they came back as one people to one place to build the Temple and city. The old division of Northern and Southern Kingdom didn’t exist anymore.
This is a very impt point to get right. Because there are many theories that only the Israelites from the S Kingdom came back from exile; that there were ‘Ten Lost Tribes’ of the N Kingdom.