Voices for Revival – Study of Minor Prophets (Pre-Exilic Period)
– Presented on 20 Jan 08 by the Adult ‘I’ Class (Teacher: Dr Tan CE and Janice Tan)
The Minor Prophets were so named not because they were of lesser importance or that the prophets were not of the same standing as the other Prophets. The names were an indication of the length of the books. The duration of the ministry of the minor prophets spanned about 400 years (800 – 400 BC).
Can Old testament prophecies concerning the people of God be applied to the Christian church ie. spiritualisation? The sins of Israel remains the same problem for the church today. The key themes include warnings of impending judgement for persistent wilful disobedience of the Jews, teachings on righteous living, encouragement to the faithful and oppressed, and prediction of God’s future plans.
Correct interpretation of prophetic passages would be key to how we understand and apply these books into our own lives. Taking a literal interpretation would lead one to a premellenial, pre-tribulational stand on end times but an allegorical interpretation would lead to an amellenial, post-tribulational stand.
Adopting an allegorical interpretation, prophecies are not fulfilled in the literal sense but may be symbolically fulfilled. Amos 9:14 – 15: is a prophecy concerning the restoration of Israel, which occurred when Israel was restored as a nation. The one who uses allegorical interpretation believes that there is no literal restoration of the nation Israel but that the church on earth is the symbolic new Israel.
Taking the allegorical interpretation of prophetic passages ignores the primary purpose of the passage or the original purpose that the author wishes to convey to his first audience. It discounts the background, root words and gives liberty to the person to interpret passages according to his own “church” view and personal conviction instead of letting Scriptures speak for itself.
The exception being that parables must be interpreted with allegorical interpretation as that was its original purpose.
Our church believes that the literal interpretation should be the method applied to the study of prophetic passages, consistent with how we would study any other passages of the bible. It is also known as the grammatical-historical method where we seek to understand what is the primary context of any passage and what was the author’s primary aim when he spoke to the people in that setting and time. Therefore, key root words, passages must be studied to understand how it would apply to its initial audience. Literal interpretation does not mean that we would literally interpret passages which are meant to be figure of speech, symbolic and the parables. There are symbolism in the prophecies but these must also be understood in its context ie. what do the symbols mean to the people living at that time.
The strict literalist does not allow for spiritualization but we believe that spiritualization in the correct context helps us to apply lessons and understand its relevance to Christians. Literal interpretation has the advantage of setting boundaries for application and spiritualization, so that we do not interpret according to our own understanding but within the context of its original purpose and meaning.
How do we study Prophetic Passages?
Whenever we study the prophetic passages, we must bear in mind that there will be an initial or immediate fulfillment that is relevant to the hearers at that time. Examples include the destruction of the Northern and Southern Kingdom as well as the temple. However, there will also be subsequent fulfillment of the prophecies, some of which had been fulfilled at the time of the Lord’s first appearance.
Other prophecies have not yet been completely fulfilled such as the establishment of the millennial kingdom and the judgment of sinners.
We understand that spiritualization of lessons from such prophetic passages cannot be taken out of its original context or else errors can occur. Instead, having understood the grammar, history, original intention, we can then apply and spiritualize the lessons and make it relevant for believers.
Timeline at a Glance:
Throughout the study of the Minor Prophets, it is important to keep this timeline in perspective. The subsequent slides will touch briefly on each book according to a standard format. These include authorship, place of ministry, conditions of the people, kings in power, key themes and key verse/verses. We have sought to place the various prophets in the timeline which best coincides with their period of ministry. However, some like Obadiah’s exact period of ministry is unclear and hence two proposed periods have been suggested. We will present the prophets in chronological order. We also suggest studying the books in chronological order. The timeline also reflects whether the prophets are ministering predominantly in the Northern or Southern kingdom. The contemporaries of each of the prophets will also be highlighted.
Prophets in Israel and Judah: