Kings,Amos,Hosea,Micah,Isaiah and Jonah

Survey of Old Testament Literature: Module IV

With this module we complete our survey of the “Former Prophets,” or the so-called “Deuteronomic History” (Joshua – II Kings, with the exception of Ruth). I and II Kings cover the period of history from Solomon’s accession to the throne of the United Kingdom to the division of the kingdom at the beginning of his son’s reign (Rehoboam); the demise of Israel, the northern kingdom in 723 BC; and Judah, the southern kingdom’s, captivity and exile to Babylon in 587 BC. This history is interpreted from the perspective of the prophets, as the presence and role of the following prophets makes clear: Nathan (I Kings 1:38-40), Ahijah (I Kings 11:29-39), Shemaiah (12:22-24), an unnamed prophet from Judah (13:1-34), Ahijah (14:1-8; see also 15:17-32), Jehu (l6:1), Elijah (I Kings 17 – II Kings 2), an unnamed prophet (I Kings 20:35-43), Micaiah (I Kings 22:1-28), Elisha (I Kings 19:19-21; II Kings 2 -13), Jonah (II Kings 14:25), Isaiah (II Kings 19-20), and Huldah the prophetess (II Kings 22:14-20). Again and again, events and consequences happen according to the word of the Lord. The Elijah-Elisha cycle of events (I Kings 17 – II Kings 13) is a major component of this book.

 

With this module we also begin our study of the books which record the words and activities of the prophets themselves. As we begin this dimension of our study, we shall present the prophets in chronological order, as much as that can be ascertained. In this module, we will look at the 8th century prophets Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jonah. In the fifth module we will continue with the prophets from the seventh and sixth centuries, and in the sixth module, we will combine the prophets who were involved in Judah’s return from exile with the other books associated with their time in exile and their return. To assist us in understanding the prophetic books, we will spend some time looking at the section on keys to interpreting the Scripture which deal with prophesy and apocalyptic.

 

I and II Kings

 

Title

I and II Kings were originally one book; together with I and II Samuel they narrate the whole history of the monarchy from its rise under the ministry of Samuel to its fall at the hand of the Babylonians. In a sense, the book of the Kings is a sequel to the books of Samuel. The division of the book of Kings is somewhat arbitrary, since the reign of Ahaziah of Israel overlaps the end of I Kings and the beginning of II Kings, as does the ministry of Elijah. In our approach, we shall consider I and II Kings as one work.

 

Author, Sources, and Dates

We are uncertain who the author is, but recognize that he utilized a variety of sources as the book itself mentions in various places (the annals of Solomon [I Kings 11:41],…the kings of Israel [I Kings 14:19],…  the kings of Judah [I Kings 14:29]. He may also have used records that had been kept by several of the prophets as the writer of I and II Chronicles did. It is also clear that the author was familiar with the book of Deuteronomy for the evaluation of Israel’s and Judah’s kings takes place against that backdrop.

 

Regarding the date of the book, arguments have been made, based on the “to this day” statements in the book [I Kings 8:8; 9:20-21; 12:19; and II Kings 8:22] that the book was written in two stages, with the first edition being done during Josiah’s reign [late 600’s] and the later edition completed during the exile after 561 BC, incorporating the post-Josianic material [II Kings 21:41-25:30]. If one considers that the “to this day” statements may have been in the sources the author used, then having one author write the entire book in the exile after 561 BC makes perfect sense.

 

The Theme: Kingship and Covenant

We note at the outset that the history presented in the book of the Kings is not told from a political-economic point of view, for if it had been, two of Israel’s greatest kings–Omri and Jeroboam II–would not have each been dismissed in only six verses (Omri, I Kings 16:23-28; and Jeroboam II, II Kings 14:23-29). The former conquered the Moabites, according to the Moabite Stone, and the latter’s reign was marked by Israel’s greatest economic and political success (II Kings 14:25,28). Both of them are considered failures because they did evil in the sight of the Lord and continued worship of the calves at Dan and Bethels, which Jeroboam I had erected at the beginning of the Northern Kingdom (I Kings 16:25-26; II Kings 14:24).

 

Rather, the emphasis focuses on how the kings of Israel did in terms of their faithfulness to the covenant God had made with Israel at Mount Sinai, and re-articulated by Moses in his farewell speeches in Deuteronomy. Ahab in the North (I Kings 17:1-22:39) and Manasseh in the South (II Kings 21:1-18; 23:267-27) exemplify the threat to both kingdoms due to their extreme deviation from the norms established by the covenant, including the gross idolatry they practiced.

 

In contrast, Hezekiah and Josiah are given extensive treatment for their efforts at covenant renewal. (See II Kings 18:1-20:21 and II Kings 22:1-23:29.) These are the only two kings given an unqualified positive evaluation for their loyalty to the Lord and faithfulness to the covenant. There are other kings in the South who receive partial approval: Asa (I KIngs 15:9-15), Jehoshaphat (I Kings 22:41-50), Joash (II Kings 12); Amaziah (II KIngs 14:1-6); Azariah (II Kings 15:1-7), but none of the kings in the North receive a positive evaluation for they all continue in the sin of Jeroboam I, who erected idol-calves in Bethel and Dan to maintain his people’s loyalty and prevent them from returning to Jerusalem to worship in the temple there.

 

A critical component of this covenantal history is the role of the prophets. They function as emissaries from the court of the covenant Lord, God himself. They bring messages, calling kings and their people to covenant loyalty to their God, but oftentimes their warnings fall on deaf ears. Further, they often predicted what was to happen–according to the Word of the Lord–and these predictions came true. There are no fewer than 11 instances of such prophecy and fulfillment in the book. As examples, see II Samuel 7:13 and I Kings 8:20; I Kings 11:29-39 and I Kings 12:15; I Kings 13 and II Kings 23:16-18. The role of the prophets in their proclamation of repentance, their predictions and the fulfillment of those predictions, and their interpretation of what is taking place help one realize that Israel’s and Judah’s histories are not the chance occurrences of human interaction, but the “unfolding of Israel’s historical destiny under the guidance … of Israel’s covenant Lord.” (CSSB, 465)

 

In addition to the consequences occurring in Israel and Judah’s history due to their failure to remain faithful to the covenant, the record of the history of the kings has running through it the theme of hope. In II Samuel 7, God had promised David that he would establish his dynasty forever. David is not only the standard by which later kings are evaluated (See I Kings 9:4; 11:4,6,33,38; 14:8; 15:3,5,11; II Kings 16:2; 18:3; 22:2), but the references to “the lamp” (I Kings 11:36; 15:4; II Kings 8:19) testify that God will not fail to keep his promise to David. There are also general references to the promise to David which attest to the Lord’s intent to remain faithful in spite of his people’s faithlessness. (cf. II Tim. 2:13.)

 

The Concordia Self-Study Bible, upon which the above notes heavily rely, nicely explains the purpose of the book and the hope it engenders: “Reflections on these features of I, II Kings suggests that it was written to a people in exile that the reason for their condition of humiliation was their stubborn persistence in breaking the covenant. In bringing the exile upon his people, God, after much patience, imposed the curses of the covenant, which had stood as a warning to them from the beginning… [made explicit with respect to the captivity of the Northern Kingdom in II Kings 17:7-23; 18:10-12, and with respect to the Southern Kingdom in II Kings 21.] The reformation under Josiah in the Southern Kingdom is viewed as too little, too late.” (See II Kings 23:26-27; 24:3). (p.465)

 

The destruction of both Samaria and Jerusalem and their respective kingdoms does not mean that “there is no hope for the future. The writer consistently keeps the promise to David in view as a basis on which Israel in exile may look to the future with hope rather than despair.” (465) The final four verses of the book, in which Jehoiachin is released from prison and permitted to eat at the king’s table is meant to breathe hope to the people. God can do a new thing in faithfulness to the promise he made to David. In the new future envisioned by that promise both the North and the South are encompassed by that hope–the whole covenant people is to be embraced.

 

Outline

I and II Kings can be broadly outlined by relating its contents to the major historical periods it describes and to the ministries of Elijah and Elisha. The following is adapted from the Concordia Self Study Bible, pp. 466-468.

 

  1. The Solomonic Era (I Kings 1:1 -12:24)
  2. Solomon’s Succession to the throne (1:1-2:12)
  3. Solomon’s Throne Consolidated (2:13-46)
  4. Solomon’s Wisdom (3:1-28)
  5. Solomon’s Reign Characterized (4:1-34)
  6. Solomon’s Building Projects (5:1 – 9:9)
  7. Solomon’s Reign Characterized (9:10-10:29)
  8. Solomon’s Folly (11:1-13)
  9. Solomon’s Throne Threatened (11:14-43)
  10. Rehoboam’s Succession to the Throne (12:1-24)
  11. Israel and Judah from Jeroboam I/Rehoboam to Ahab/Asa (I Kings 12:25 – 16:34)
  12. Jeroboam I of Israel (12:25 -14:20)
  13. Rehoboam of Judah (14:21-31)
  14. Abijah of Judah (15:1-8)
  15. Asa of Judah (15:9-24)
  16. Nadab of Israel (15:25-32)
  17. Baasha of Israel (15:33 – 16:7)
  18. Elah of Israel (16:8-14)
  19. Zimri of Israel (16:15-20)
  20. Omri of Israel (16:21-28)
  21. Ahab of Israel (16:29-34)

III. The Ministries of Elijah and Elisha and Other Prophets from Ahab/Asa to Joram/Jehoshaphat (I Kings 17:1 – II Kings 8:15)

  1. Elijah (and Other Prophets) in the Reign of Ahab (17:1-22:40)
  2. Elijah and the drought (17:1-24)
  3. Elijah on Mount Carmel (18:1-46)
  4. Elijah’s flight to Horeb (19:1-21)
  5. A prophet condemns Ahab for sparing Ben-Hadad (20:1-43)
  6. Elijah condemns Ahab for seizing Naboth’s vineyard (21:1-29)
  7. Micaiah prophesies Ahab’s death; its fulfillment (22:1-40)
  8. Jehoshaphat of Judah (22:41-50)
  9. Ahaziah of Israel; Elijah’s Last Prophecy (1 Kings 22:51-II Kings 1:18)
  10. Elijah’s Translation; Elisha’s Inauguration (II Kings 2:1-18)
  11. Elisha in the Reign of Joram (2:19-8:15)
  12. Elisha’s initial miraculous signs (2:19-25)
  13. Elisha during the campaign against Moab (3:1-27)
  14. Elisha’s ministry to needy ones in Israel (4:1-44)
  15. Elisha heals Naaman (5:1-27)
  16. Elisha’s deliverance of one of the prophets (6:1-7)
  17. Elisha’s deliverance of Joram from Aramean raiders (6:8-23)
  18. Aramean siege of Samaria lifted, as Elisha prophesied (6:24-7:20)
  19. The Shunammite’s land restored (8:1-6)
  20. Elisha prophesies Hazael’s oppression of Israel (8:7-15)
  21. Israel and Judah from Joran/Jehoram to the Exile of Israel (II Kings 8: 16-17:41)
  22. Jehoram of Judah (8:16-24)
  23. Ahaziah of Judah (8:25-29)
  24. Jeru’s Revolt and Reign (chs. 9-10)
  25. Elisha orders Jeru’s anointing (9:1-13)
  26. Jehu’s assassination of Joram and Ahaziah (9:14-29)
  27. Jehu’s execution of Jezebel (9:30-37)
  28. Jehu’s slaughter of Ahab’s family (10:1-17)
  29. Jehu’s eradication of Baal worship (10:18-36)
  30. Athaliah and Joash of Judah; Repair of the Temple (chs. 11-12)
  31. Jehoahaz of Israel (13:1-9)
  32. Jehoash of Israel; Elisha’s Last Prophecy (13:10-25)
  33. Amaziah of Judah (14:1-22)
  34. Jeroboam II of Israel (14:23-29)
  35. Azariah of Judah (15:1-7)
  36. Zechariah of Israel (15:8-12)
  37. Shallum of Israel (15:13-16)
  38. Menahem of Israel (15:17-22)
  39. Pekahiah of Israel (15:23-26)
  40. Pekah of Israel (15:27-31)
  41. Jotham of Judah (15:32-38)
  42. Ahaz of Judah (ch. 16)
  43. Hoshea of Israel (17:1-6)
  44. Exile of Israel; Resettlement of the Land (17:7-41)
  45. Judah from Hezekiah to the Babylonian Exile (II Kings 18:1-25:30)
  46. Hezekiah (18:1-20:21)
  47. Hezekiah’s good reign (18:1-8)
  48. The Assyrian threat and deliverance (18:9 – 19:37)
  49. Hezekiah’s illness and alliance with Babylon (20:1-21)
  50. Manasseh (21:1-18)
  51. Amon (21:19-26)
  52. Josiah (22:1 – 23:30)
  53. Repair of the temple; discovery of the Book of the Law (22:1-20)
  54. Renewal of the covenant; end of Josiah’s reign (23: 1-30)
  55. Jehoahaz Exiled to Egypt (23:31-35)
  56. Jehoiakim: First Babylonian Invasion (23:36-24:7)
  57.   Jehoiachin: Second Babylonian Invasion (24:8-17)
  58. Zedekiah (24:18-20)
  59. Babylonian Exile of Judah (25:1-21)
  60. Removal of the Remnant to Egypt (25:22-26)
  61. Elevation of Jehoiachin in Babylon (25:27-30)

 

Passages for your study and discussion:

 

I Kings 3:1-15 (Solomon at Gibeon)

  1. At the beginning of his reign, what does Solomon wisely ask for, when the Lord appears to him in a dream? (3:5-9) How does the Lord respond to his request? (3:10-14)
  2. How is Solomon portrayed in this text, beyond his request for wisdom? (3:1,3,6,15)
  3. Note key themes of the Book of the Kings in 3:2, 3, 6, 14.

I Kings 8:15-61 (Solomon’s Prayer at the Dedication of the Temple)

This is a lengthy prayer, which provides excellent insight into key themes of the Book of the Kings. We’ll only focus on several paragraphs of this prayer to taste the flavor of it, but I encourage you to scan the entire section.

  1. 8:15-21. Please note the “promise and fulfillment” theme in Solomon’s opening expression of praise, and the temple as the repository for the ark of the covenant–a reminder of God’s faithfulness and his call for Israel to be obedient. Israel is to be a theocracy. God is their ultimate king, and Israel is to be governed by the covenant.
  2. 8:22-26. What is the basis on which Solomon offers his prayer? Note also the conditional nature of God’s promise to David.
  3. 8:27-30. God alone is the Lord. He has no equal. Heaven cannot contain him (vv. 23,27), so what does Solomon ask for? What is hinted at in the concluding request of this paragraph: “Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive?” (Glance at vv. 33, 35, 37 to see evidence of why the request for forgiveness is so necessary.)
  4. 8:41-43. Note the universal dimension of the Israelite faith. (See also vv. 59-60.)
  5. 8:44-51. How would this part of Solomon’s prayer be a help to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon, as they heard or read this book of the history of the Kings?

I Kings 11:1-13 (Solomon’s sins)

Read this section to note Solomon’s downfall and its cause. Notice also God’s faithfulness to the         promise he made to David (vv. 11-13).

 

I Kings 18:1-46 (Elijah on Mount Carmel)

This lengthy chapter highlights the conflict between God and the fertility cult of Baal. Israel’s                troubles are not the result of Elijah’s prophecies, but Israel’s idolatry. With this dramatic                showdown on Mount Carmel, the Lord clearly reveals that he alone is the Lord.

 

II Kings 17:7-23 (Israel Led into Captivity)

This passage of Scripture spells out very clearly the reason for Israel being dragged into captivity               by the Assyrians in 722 BC. What is the reason for their captivity? (Note how in vv.  18b – 20 this        reason is expanded to include the tribe of Judah as well. Their captivity and exile to Babylon will        take place a little over a century and a quarter later.)

 

II Kings 17:24-41 (New Inhabitants for Israel)

This passage is helpful for understanding the hatred that existed between Jews and Samaritans                in the time of Jesus. It gives the historical background to what gave rise to the mixed nature of                the Samaritan religion. It was a hybrid with components from the people Assyria settled there                to repopulate the land, elements of the Israelite religion, and the remnants of the original                religion of the people who were there when Israel took over the land. Seen from the eyes of the         Jews who had been refined in the furnace of affliction through their exile to Babylon, it was seen       as deficient and less than pure and God-pleasing, a false religion.

 

Amos

 

The Prophet Amos

 

In the books we have studied thus far we have encountered any number of prophets–from Moses to Samuel to Nathan and Elijah and Elisha and many, many lesser known names. We have seen the prophets as proclaimers of God’s Word, announcing doom, calling to repentance, but also holding out hope to the people of God. With the 8th century BC, we encounter the literary prophets–messengers who certainly proclaimed God’s Word orally, but also recorded it, or had it recorded in writing for future generations to study and take to heart.

 

Amos is one of the earliest of these prophets. As he attests, he was not one of the sons of the prophets, or from the circle of the priests, but was a shepherd who also took care of sycamore-fig trees. In short, he was a farmer. The Lord drafted him to prophesy to his people Israel. (7:10-17) From the town of Tekoa, about 11 miles south of Jerusalem (1:1), Amos was sent north by God to the area around Bethel and Samaria. An inner compulsion from the Lord left him no choice but to prophecy: “The lion has roared –who will not fear? The sovereign Lord has spoken–who can but prophesy?” (3:8) there he announced in unequivocal terms, judgment on Israel for her disobedience and coming exile for God’s wayward people. What he said to the people of the Northern Kingdom also applied to the South, as the references to Judah, Jerusalem, and Zion suggest. (2:4-5; 6:1)

 

The Setting in Which Amos Prophesied

 

The period in which Amos’ ministry took place was during the reigns of Jeroboam II in Israel (793-753 BC) and Uzziah (also known as Amaziah), king of Judah (791-740 BC). The borders of the Northern Kingdom were enlarged, as Israel reclaimed land that Syria had taken from them. Permitting this success was the role Assyria played. Assyria had greatly weakened the control that Syria had exerted over Israel, but now even Assyria itself was pre-occupied with internal problems of its own. This allowed Israel and Judah to flourish. “Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights. (See II Kings 14:23 – 15:7; II Chronicles 26.) It was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor. As a consequence, God would soon bring about the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom.” (723 BC). (CSSB, 1350) The period of Amos’ activity in the North was likely from 765-760 BC.

 

The Theme and Message

 

The book of Amos is carefully organized and its structure lends strength to its message. There are few indicators as to when the various oracles were originally spoken–and indeed, their content was likely spoken at various times and occasions–but these oracles are so arranged that they make several points very effectively.

 

The oracles against the nations (1:1-2:16) make clear that the Lord is the universal Lord over all. (See 9:5-6.) These oracles climax with God’s judgment against his own people, Judah and Israel. His people were in a privileged position. God had rescued them from Egypt and driven out the other nations before them. He sent prophets to proclaim his word to them. They were his elect people; they received the covenant, but unfortunately did not follow it. They knew better, but their superior knowledge did not help them. They were arrogant in their privileged position. Judgment was coming their way.

 

Israel is being confronted with her violation of the covenant promises she had made at Mount Sinai. She dare not think that mere observance of the rituals will prevent the Lord’s judgment. She is to seek the Lord, not the shrines, and live in accord with the covenant. There are to be no bribes, no injustice, no trampling of the poor by the rich, so they can live in expensive homes and enjoy the fruit of their vineyards (5:1-17). In the past God has caused difficulty to come their way: famine, drought, blight, mildew, plagues, defeat in war with loss of life, and yet they did not return to him. (4:6-11) As a consequence, God is sending judgment–they will be sent off into exile beyond Damascus. (5:27)

 

In the next section of the book (7:1 – 9:10), a series of visions also re-enforces the theme of judgment on rebellious Israel. The early visions (locusts, fire) had God relenting, but the latter visions do not display such patience. With the plumb-line, God will not pass by; the summer fruit is over-ripe, fit for destruction; and the last vision is that of God coming to the very place where one would expect to find peace–the worship center–and there wreaking his destruction. No matter where one might try to escape, there will be no relief. The Lord is almighty–the Creator and Sustainer of all–and therefore there can be no escape. (9:1-6)

 

Concluding his work, Amos, after proclaiming the severity of God’s judgment against his people, announces a Word from God that breathes hope and new life for his people. There will be a return from exile and a restoration of their own land.

 

Outline

The following outline will help you read Amos and sense its powerful call to live life in covenant faithfulness to the God and Lord of all. It reflects the insights of both the Concordia Self-Study Bible and the Concordia Self-Study Commentary. Actually reading the book will enable you to sense the vigor and power of this 8th century BC prophet of the Lord.

 

  1. Superscription (1:1-2)
  2. Oracles against the Nations, Judah, and Israel (1:3-2:16)
  3. Judgment on Aram (1:3-5), Philistia (1:6-8), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), Moab (2:1-3)
  4. Judgment on Judah (2:4-5)
  5. Judgment on Israel (2:6-16)
  6. Ruthless oppression of the poor (2:6-7a)
  7. Unbridled profanation of religion (2:7b-8)
  8. Contrasted position of the Israelites (2:9-12)
  9. The oppressive system will perish (2:13-16)

 

III.   Oracles against Israel (3:1-6:14)

  1. God’s election of Israel makes them more accountable. (3:1-2)
  2. The prophet’s oracles are the effect of God speaking (3:3-8)
  3. Let the nations witness Israel’s corruption which brings God’s judgment on her worship and her wealth. (3:9-15)
  4. Against the wealthy women of Samaria. (4:1-3)
  5. Ridicule of Israel’s empty ritual because God’s call to repentance has gone unheeded. (4:4-13)
  6. The Word of the Lord takes the form of a dirge to prophesy Israel’s destruction. (5:1-3)
  7. Israel is called to seek the Lord, not the shrines, and live in keeping with the covenant. (5:4-17)
  8. Be warned that the day of the Lord means darkness and not light! (5:18-20)
  9. Be warned against false confidence in your cultus; justice and righteousness are what God wants. (5:21-27)
  10. The leaders who have been pre-occupied with their own comfort will be the first to be dragged into exile. (6:1-14)
  11. Visions of Judgment (7:1-9:6)
  12. The Vision of Locusts (7:1-3)
  13. The Vision of Fire (7:4-6)
  14. The Vision of the Plumb Line (7:7-9)
  15. The Encounter of Amos with Amaziah (7:10-17)
  16. The Vision of Summer Fruit (8:1-3)
  17. The Israelites cannot wait for their religious duties to be finished so they can get back to their business of cheating and ripping off the poor people. (8:4-6)
  18. The day of the Lord will mean darkness and not light. (8:7-14)
  19. The Vision of God ordering the destruction of the temple. (9:1-6)
  20. An Oracle of Hope (9:7-15)

Passages for Study and Discussion

 

Amos 5:4-17: Seek the Lord

Note the insistent, repetitive call to repentance from God, which echoes throughout the section: v. 4  – “Seek me and live”; v. 6 – “Seek the Lord and live”; v. 14 – “Seek good, not evil, that you may live”; v. 15 – “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.”

  1. There are a number of reasons for this persistent call. In verses 5 and 6, we have the first of these reasons. Bethel is one place where Jeroboam had erected a golden calf for their worship. Gilgal was a shrine where the Israelites had celebrated their first Passover after entry into the Promised Land. Beersheba was a place in southern Judah that obviously had become a place of pilgrimage and idolatry. Thus behind the call to “Seek the Lord” was the call, “Abandon your idols. They can’t help you!” What is God going to do to all these places of idolatry? (See 5:5,6)
  2. Another reason for the persistent call to seek the Lord, to pursue his paths, to hate evil and do good was because of all the evil Israel had been doing. Note the social sins Israel was guilty of:
  3. 7
  4. 10
  5. 11
  6. 12
  7. How does the prophet describe God? What does God threaten to do, if there is no repentance? What might he do, if the people repent? How does this make the call to repentance urgent? (See especially vv. 8-9, also vv. 6, 11, 12, 15-17.)
  8. What can we learn today from a passage such as this?

 

Amos 7:7 -17: The Vision of the Plumb Line and Its Aftermath

 

7: 7-9 —  God showed Amos a vision of a plumb line–a carpenter’s instrument for making sure the walls are built straight and true. God is saying, in effect, that he had “built” his people according to his perfect standards. They were expected to be true to those standards (as spelled out in the covenant), but they were completely out of plumb when tested. As a consequence, God will spare them no longer. God will destroy the religious sanctuaries and the political powers, for they have not measured up.

 

What might this say to us Christians? Has not God built us according to his standards when he incorporated us into Christ via faith in his name and union with him through Holy Baptism? How have we measured up?

 

7:10-17 — Amaziah, one of the priests of the shrine at Bethel, reported Amos’ prophecy of destruction (v. 9) to King Jeroboam II and then told Amos to go home, back to Judah. His speech suggests that he thought that Amos was a professional prophet who made his living by his prophesying. He talked like the king determined what could and could not be said.

 

What does Amos say in response? Do Amaziah’s threats deter him? Where does Amos find strength and courage to carry out his mission? Who has commissioned Amos? And, so what is going to take place no matter what Amaziah has said? What can we learn for our responsibilities as spokesmen and women for God today from this incident?

Hosea

 

The Setting in which Hosea is  called to prophesy

 

  1. The political stability and economic success which both Israel and Judah enjoyed under the rule of Jeroboam II (793-753 BC) and Uzziah [Azariah] (791-740 BC) respectively came to an end. See the notes for Amos for more background information.
  2. In the northern kingdom, we have a period of approximately 25 years (753-723 BC) which is marked by political instability (six different kings, with four of them being assassinated by their successors–Zechariah [six months], Shallum [one month], Menahem [seven years], followed by his son Pekahiah, who was shortly afterwards assassinated by Pekah, who ruled for five years, when he was murdered by Hoshea ben Elah.
  3. During this time the Assyrians were asserting their dreams of empire under Tiglath-Pileser III [744-727 BC], Shalmaneser V [726-722], Sargon II [721-705], and Sennarcherib [704-681]. They invaded Syria, Phoenicia, Israel, Philistia, and Judah, exacting heavy tribute and responding forcefully when attempts were made by Pekah and Hoshea to break free from their control by seeking alliances against them [Syria, Israel, and Edom OR with Egypt].
  4. The internal decay, evident in their refusal to live in keeping with their covenantal promises; the breakdown in relationships required by the covenant; failure of leadership (religious and political) to teach and govern in dependence upon the Lord; and the pollution of pure worship by merging it with pagan rites made Israel ripe for judgment.
  5. Although Judah had a much greater degree of stability politically during this time (only three kings: Jotham [751-736], Ahaz [735-716], and Hezekiah [716-687]), and community relations and religious practice were less tainted than in Israel, many of the same concerns existed there as well, only to a lesser degree. For instance, King Ahaz made an alliance with Tiglath-Pileser III and built a replica of a pagan altar in the temple in Jerusalem (See II Kings 16:5-20). The prophet Hosea’s message was directed especially to the northern kingdom but certainly also applied to Judah too.

Author and Date

Hosea prophesied in the middle of the 8th century BC, his ministry beginning during or shortly after the ministry of Amos. Judging from the list of the kings of Judah mentioned in 1:1, during which he was active, his ministry spanned a period of at least 38 years, and covered the kings of Israel also after Jeroboam II passed from the scene in 753 BC. He came from the northern kingdom and his message was primarily directed to that kingdom. Since his ministry is dated by reference to the kings of Judah, it is likely that his book was written in the South, after the fall of Samaria in 723 BC. The many references to Judah scattered throughout the book (1:7,11; 4:15; 5:5,10,13; 6:4, 11; 10:11; 11:12; and 12:2) re-enforce this suggestion. Whether Hosea himself authored the book that preserves his prophecies is not known.

 

The Theme and Message

 

The Prophet Hosea was instructed to engage in a symbolic action–which he undoubtedly did–to convey in a powerful way the message God wanted him to deliver to his people. Hosea was to take an adulterous woman, Gomer, as his wife and have children by her to illustrate the adulterous behavior of Israel, God’s people. Instead of remaining faithful to God in covenant loyalty, Israel had prostituted herself in worship of the Baals and Asherah, thinking that such fertility rites would insure their crops and prosperity. In spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God still loved her and wanted to take her back. Representing this love of God, Hosea is called to take his wayward wife back. “This return is described with imagery recalling the Exodus from Egypt and settlement in Canaan (cf. 1:11; 2:14-23; 11:10-11; 14:4-7.) Hosea saw Israel’s past experiences with the Lord as the fundamental pattern, or type, of God’s future dealings with his people.” (CSSB, 1325)

 

The second part of the book (4:1-14:9) gives the details of Israel’s involvement in Canaanite religion. Hosea called the people to repentance, knowing that if Israel wished to avoid destruction, she needed to abandon her idols and return to the Lord. Hosea knew that Israel’s basic problem was her failure to trust in the Lord and walk in his ways. God’s relationship with Israel was one of love. This intimate covenantal relationship was illustrated in the first part by the husband-wife relationship and now in the second part is expanded by the father-child relationship. (See 11:1-4.) Disloyalty to God was spiritual adultery. (4:13-14; 5:4; 9:1) Israel had succumbed to Baal worship, had sacrificed at the pagan high places, and had consorted with the sacred prostitutes at the local shrines. The direct, powerful confrontation of Israel’s idolatry and covenantal infidelity lay in the deep love of God for his people. Listen to the agony of his heart as he expresses it in 11:8-9:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah?

How can I treat you like Zeboiim?

[Admah and Zeboiim were cities well known for their destruction.]

My heart recoils within me;

my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my fierce anger;

I will not again destroy Ephraim;

for I am God and no mortal,

the Holy One in your midst,

and I will not come in wrath.”

God wants his people back:

“But as for you, return to your God,

hold fast to love and justice,

and wait continually for your God.” (12:6)

 

Outline: Let the following detailed outline assist you in sensing the power of this message which springs from God’s unfathomable love for his people.

  1. The Prophet Hosea’s marriage is a symbolic action illustrating Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and His call to return. (1:1-3:5)
  2. The name of the children are symbolic (1:1-9)
  3. A son, Jezreel (1:4-5)–“God sows” (scatters)
  4. A daughter, Lo-ruhamah (1:6-7)–“No pity”
  5. A son, Lo-ammi (1:8-9)–“Not my people”
  6. Hope for the future (1:10-2:1)
  7. A speech from the Lord pleading with Israel to abandon her consorting with the fertility cults of the land, because he is her husband and not the Baals. (2:2-13) He will seduce her back (2:14-18), and restore the covenant bond so the names of the children can be reversed. (2:19-23)
  8. Hosea receives a second commission to take his adulterous wife back and so illustrate/enact God’s way with his wayward people (3:1-5).
  9. The Word of a Faithful God to an Unfaithful Nation. (4:1 – 14:9)
  10. The Lord indicts Israel for her unfaithfulness, practiced by both priest and people (worship of the fertility cults = whoredom, gross adultery) (4:1-19)
  11. Israel’s leaders have been faithless so that a religious return to the Lord will be fruitless. (5:1-7)
  12. God’s judgment comes on Israel (and Judah) for its incurable corruption, its external politics (running to foreign powers for its security [5:13, 7:11-13]), and its refusal to return to the Lord [7:10] with a genuine heartfelt repentance [7:14] and not mere superficial confession [6:1-3]. God wants steadfast love [6:6], honesty [6:13], and faithfulness. (5:8-7:16)
  13. God is bringing judgment on Israel because she has rejected God in its government, religious practices, and foreign policy. She has broken the covenant. (8:1-14)
  14. The doom of exile for Israel is foretold, because of her unfaithfulness (involvement in the fertility cults, [9:1-6]; the prophet is denounced for his oracles of woe [9:7-9]. Israel is continuing on the paths of her past (Gibeah [Judges 19-21], 9:9; Baal-peor [Numbers 25], 9:10) and can only expect fruitlessness, deprivation, and bereavement [10-17]. (9:1-17)
  15. Because Israel’s heart is false [10:2], she must pay the price for her guilt. That which she has invested herself in will be taken away: her altars, pillars, and golden calf–and her king and priests. Because she did not keep the covenant [10:12], she will personally experience the results of her wickedness, utter and total destruction [10:13-15]. (10:1-15)
  16. Even though the Lord’s love for his people was abundantly evident in her history, Israel turned away from it [1-4]; the result will be a reversal of her liberation [11:5-7]. Because God is God and not man, though, He cannot give His people up; He will punish but not destroy. [11:8-9] He will roar after them, so that they will come trembling home [11:10-11]. (11:1-11)
  17. Like their ancestor Jacob, Ephraim (Israel, the northern kingdom) and Judah are guilty of deception and falsehood, as they vacillate in going to Assyria and Egypt for help (military alliances). Even though God has been their God since the beginning of their history (including rescue form Egypt and deliverance through the wilderness), they have bowed down to their idols. Therefore God will come after them like a lion, a leopard, or a bear. Their kings cannot help. Their alliances will only bring death. Israel will pay for her guilt. This is another call to repentance [12:6]. (11:12 – 13:16)
  18. The prophet calls Israel to a sincere, genuine repentance expressed in words, not animal sacrifices ([14:1-3], that God may fulfill his promise of restoration and renewal [14:4-8]. The one who is wise will heed the message of this call and promise [14:9]. (14:1-9)

Questions for your consideration

  1. Hosea confronts Israel (and to a lesser extent, Judah) with two dominant sins: a) succumbing to the worship of the fertility cults [Baals and Asherah], which they thought would insure their prosperity, and b) seeking alliances with other nations, thinking that would guarantee their security. What makes these activities so odious? What might be comparable sins in our culture?
  2. How does one guard against similar sins of idolatry today? How does one recover from similar sins, if one has succumbed to them?
  3. In I Peter 2:10, the author applies two of the names of Hosea and Gomer’s children to the church: “Once you were ‘not a people’ [Lo Ammi], but now you are ‘God’s people’ [Ammi]; once you ‘had not received mercy’ [Lo-ruhamah], but now you ‘have received mercy [Ruhamah].’“ this is part of the key text for the teaching of the priesthood of all believers. How does the Old Testament background illuminate and elucidate this text–and provide powerful motivation for us to carry out our work as God’s priests in the world? In short, what is the basis for our inclusion in the people of God, and his call to be his representatives in the world?
  4. In Hosea 11:8-9, we see the expression of God’s deep love for his people Israel. He is God and not man, and so his love is divine and not merely human. How would you describe this difference? How does the New Testament help you explain this difference? What difference can God’s love make for living life in covenant faithfulness to the One who has called and claimed you as his own in Holy Baptism?

 

Micah

The Historical Setting in Which Micah carried out his prophetic mission:

  1. The superscription to the book (1:1) informs us that Micah served as a prophet during the reign of Jotham (751-736 BC), Ahaz (735-716), and Hezekiah (716-687). II Kings 15:32-38 reports that Jotham did “what was right in the sight of the Lord” (34), but failed to remove the high places which meant that all worship was not centralized at the Jerusalem temple and the syncretistic worship of Yahweh and Baal continued. During his reign, the kings of Israel and Syria tried to pressure him into an anti-Assyrian coalition (37).
  2. Three major historical events took place during this period of time (751-687 BC), which directly influenced what was happening in Israel and Judah.
  3. “In 734-732 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria led a military campaign against Aram (Syria), Philistia and parts of Israel and Judah. Ashkelon and Gaza were defeated. Judah,                   Ammon, Edom, and Moab paid tribute to the Assyrian king, but Israel did not fare as               well. According to II Kings 15:29 the northern kingdom lost most of its territory,               including all of Gilead and much of Galilee. Damascus fell in 732 and was annexed to the        Assyrian empire.
  4. “In 723 Samaria fell, and the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria.
  5. “In 701 Judah joined a revolt against Assyria and was overrun by King Sennacherib and his army though Jerusalem was spared.” (CSSB, 1377)
  6. From Micah’s prophesy, we deduce that much of it was delivered during the reign of Ahaz. During his kingship Ahaz effected an alliance with Assyria against Israel and Syria. This alliance was costly, not only in terms of the tribute that had to be paid, but also in terms of the religious practice he had to introduce. II Kings 16: 1-20 tells us that “he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord”; (2) he sacrificed his son to Molech, an idol worshipped in the Valley of Hinnom, just outside of Jerusalem (3). He created a replica of a pagan altar in the temple itself and offered sacrifices there.
  7. The next king, Hezekiah, was a stark contrast to his father Ahaz. “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” (II Kings 18:3) He removed the high places, tore down the idols, and cleansed the temple of its pagan symbols. Nevertheless, he was confronted with the challenge of Assyria’s superior strength and had to deal with the choice before him–paying tribute to Assyria and surviving as its vassal for rebelling against it and risking extinction.
  8. The content of Micah’s prophecy suggests that he was especially active during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. He saw the social injustice that prevailed in the land. He preached powerfully against the rich and powerful as they oppressed the poor; against those in positions of authority for not looking out for the needs of those being abused; against the people in general for failing to live in accord with their covenant promises.

Author and Date

 

Little is known about the Prophet Micah except what can be gleaned from the book. He was from the little village of Moresheth (1:1), most likely the Moresheth-Gath of 1:14, a small Judahite village southwest of Jerusalem. This prophecy attests to his deep sensitivity to the social ills afflicting especially the small towns and villages in rural Judah. (CSSB, 1376)

 

As noted in the historical setting, Micah served during the period from 751-687 BC. Judging from what was going in the world of that time and the content of his message, Micah’s ministry was undoubtedly most concentrated during the reign of Ahaz (735-716 BC) and before the reforms instituted by his son Hezekiah (716-687 BC).

 

 

 

Theme and Message

The prophecy of Micah reflects a pattern of alternating between oracles of doom and oracles of hope. God is a God of judgment who condemns idolatry, injustice, and empty ritualism, but God more significantly a God of deliverance and salvation. He delights in pardoning the penitent. The prophet predicts that in the future Zion will have greater glory than ever before (see 4:2-5), and that the Messiah’s coming will mean security that is universal in scope (5:2-5). The following outline will help you sense this alternating pattern and its powerful promises of hope to come.

 

  1. 1:1. Superscription.
  2. 1:2-2:11. Oracles of Doom.
  3. 1:2-7. The Lord comes in judgment against the idolatry (high places, 1:3, idols, 1:7) of both the North (Israel) and the South (Judah).
  4. 1:8-16. Micah laments the judgment that is coming on Judah’s villages.
  5. 2:1-11. The prophet pronounces woe (Alas) on the rich and powerful for oppressing the poor. Although the powerful wish to shut Micah up (2:6) and prefer someone preaching lies (2:11), he continues to advocate for the poor, women, and children.

III. 2:12-13. An Oracle of Hope. As a shepherd, the Lord will gather the survivors of his flock.

  1. 3:1-12. Oracles of Judgment against Judah’s leaders.
  2. 3:1-4. The rulers rob the oppressed of justice, acting like cannibals, hating the good and loving the evil.
  3. 3:5-8. The Lord inveighs against the mercenary prophets who preach for pay and tell people what they want to hear–they will experience darkness and not light–in contrast to Micah, who calls

sin a sin.

  1. 3:9-12. Judgment is headed to Judah because her leaders are corrupt, influenced by money, misleading the people with empty promises.

 

  1. 4:1-5:15. Oracles of Hope.
  2. 4:1-5. People will stream to Mount Zion to learn the wisdom of God’s Word and enjoy the universal peace he establishes. (This passage is also in Isaiah 2:2-4.)
  3. 4:6-8. The Lord will gather the lame and those driven away.
  4. 4:9-10. Even though Jerusalem is going to be exiled to Babylon, God will rescue them.
  5. 4:11-13. Even though the nations want Jerusalem destroyed, the Lord has other plans. He will turn the tables on her enemies, making Zion strong to exploit them–for him!
  6. 5:1-6. Judah’s king is besieged (likely the siege of Sennacherib, 701 BC), but God will bring forth from little Bethlehem his Messiah to rule for him and establish universal peace.
  7. 5:7-9. The remnant of Jacob shall be both a blessing (dew from the Lord, 5:7) and a curse (5:8-9) to their enemies.
  8. 5:10-15. The day of Judah’s restoration will mean the Lord will strip her of all the military, political, and religious devices that would seduce her from a pure trust in God–and bring a blessing to the nations.

 

 

  1. 6:1 – 7:6. Oracles of Judgment Designed to Open the Door to Repentance and Hope.
  2. 6:1-8. The Lord brings a covenant lawsuit against his people –he wants a changed people and the virtues the covenant requires: justice, kindness, and walking humbly with God.
  3. 6:9-16. The Lord cries out against the wickedness, dishonesty, and deceitfulness of his people. They will not know the prosperity they are striving for.
  4. 7:12-6. Micah laments the absence of good, upright people and the breakdown of relationships in the community and the family.

 

VII. 7:7-20. Micah expresses his confidence in the Lord who will forgive his sin and vindicate his servant. (7:7-10) The hope is for the establishment of a universal kingdom. (7:11-13) Responding in prayer, they ask God to shepherd his people and demonstrate his salvation as he had done when he led them out of Egypt. (7:14-15) God’s deliverance shall lead the nations to be ashamed of their might and fear the Lord. (7:16-17) The prophecy concludes with an expression of praise reminiscent of God’s mercy and  faithfulness at Mount Sinai. (7:18-20; see Exodus 34:6-7.)

 

Learning a Key Lesson from Micah’s Message: Do not let God’s unconditional promises for the future cancel his command to live responsibly as his people in the present moment. We take a closer look at two important passages to help us keep these two emphases connected. Micah 6:1-16 (a covenant lawsuit) and Micah 5:1-6 (the promise of the coming Shepherd-King [Messiah]).

 

Background: In his A History of Israel, Old Testament scholar John Bright explains what was happening in 8th century Judah that made it ripe for judgment: “The state in Judah was theologically based, not in the ancient Mosaic covenant at all [Exodus 19:1 – 24:11], but in Yahweh’s eternal covenant with David [II Samuel 7:8-16]. This rather different notion of covenant had in the national mind largely superseded that of  the primitive covenant … . Judah’s existence, in short, did not rest in obedient response to the gracious acts of Yahweh in the past, but in his unconditional promises for the future.” (p. 272) As we have seen in Amos and Hosea, the thrust of the prophetic message is that the obligations of the Mosaic [Sinaitic] covenant dare not be laid aside if one wants to enjoy its blessings. The two covenants are not mutually exclusive but should be seen as complementary. A look at Micah 6:1-16 and Micah 5:1-6 will make this clear.

  1. Micah 6:1-16. — A “covenant lawsuit” in which Yahweh is the plaintiff, with the prophet his advocate, and the people the defendants.

6:1-2. Judah is summoned to plead her case before the court with its witnesses.

6:3-5. Yahweh is the one who has been offended and brings the charge against his people. (Note the echo of the historical prologue of a covenant.)

6:6-7. The offending party raises the question of what sacrifice God wants of them.

6:8.    The response of the court says the only “sacrifice” needed is a life characterized by virtues called for by the covenant: justice, loyalty, and humility.

6:9-16. The divine verdict is that as a result of Israel’s failure to keep the covenant, they will experience the curses that accompanied the covenant ceremony.

 

  1. Micah 5:1-6. — The Messianic promise here offers hope to wayward Israel.

5:1. Israel’s ruler is besieged, hardly a position of power. Help will not come from this king.

5:2. God will raise up from little Bethlehem a ruler for himself whose origin is ancient, long before even David was anointed, from eternity.

5:3a. The judgment of God must run its course before the promised ruler appears: God shall give up, surrender to judgment, his people until the time of the Messiah’s birth.

5:3b-4 This Shepherd-King, God’s anointed ruler, will reunite his people and bring universal peace and security.

5:5-6. Under the blessing of his reign his people will be strong and victorious.

 

(Please note that this passage [Micah 5:2] is quoted by Matthew as being fulfilled with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:6].)

 

  1. A question for us to consider: In our baptisms we are united with Jesus Christ and made the beneficiaries of his saving work. This holy union calls us to “live in newness of life” but also promises the resurrection from the dead for us. (See Romans 6:3-5.) How can we keep these two emphases rightly connected: a genuine commitment to holy living because of God’s past deliverance and a robust hope for the future based on God’s promise of the resurrection? In other words, how do we avoid the trap the people of Judah fell into when they clung to the unconditional promise to David for the kingship but forgot the responsibility of living in covenant faithfulness? How can we avoid what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” which means forgiveness without repentance, or making baptism something magical? What can we do to keep the keep the two covenants connected in our lives?

 

Isaiah

 

The Setting in Which Isaiah Prophesied

 

The superscription which begins the book of Isaiah places his ministry during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). His ministry thus took place in the southern kingdom, Judah, as this list of kings suggests. According to Isaiah’s call (6:1-13), the prophet received his call in the year that King Uzziah died, or 740 BC. Hezekiah reigned until 686 BC. Thus, Isaiah’s ministry occurred during the period of Assyria’s ascendency to power under Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 BC), Shalmaneser (726-722), Sargon II (721-705), and Sennacherib (704-681). Assyria’s influence was definitely felt in Israel and Judah. In 734-732 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III moved against Aram (Syria), Philistia, and parts of Israel and Judah. Israel lost much of its territory; Judah escaped with paying tribute. In 723 BC after an ill-advised revolt, Samaria, Israel’s capital was destroyed and its citizens were dragged off into captivity. In 701 BC Judah joined a revolt against Assyria and was overrun by King Sennacherib and his army, though Jerusalem itself was spared.

 

Important background for understanding the second section of the book, Isaiah 7 – 12, dealing with the “Immanuel promise” (7:14) and other Messianic promises (especially 9:1-7; 11:1-9) is the Syro-Ephraimitic War of 735-734 BC. King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel were threatening King Ahaz of Judah to force him to join their alliance against Assyria. Isaiah, meanwhile, was trying to keep Ahaz from seeking an alliance with Assyria against the two kings immediately north of Judah who were threatening him. Ahaz should trust in the Lord rather than depend on military alliances.

 

Another important background piece is Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah in 701 BC. Isaiah 36-39, which reflects in many ways the material in II Kings 18:13-20:19, records this event. The author of II Kings may have used Isaiah 36-39 as one of his sources, or both may have drawn on a common source. 36:1-37:38 describes the fulfillment of many predictions about Assyria’s collapse, while 38:1-39:8 points toward the Babylonian context of 40:1-66:24.

 

The invasion of Judah by the armies of King Sennacherib is the occasion for Isaiah to predict that God would force the Assyrians to withdraw from the city (37:6-7). Nevertheless, eventually Judah’s sin would bring her into captivity at the hands of Babylon. Although this will not take place for more than a century, the destruction of the city and her inhabitants being dragged off into exile is inevitable.

 

Fortunately, God in his grace and compassion, and in faithfulness to his covenant promises, will raise a king in Persia who will release the captives from Babylon and authorize their return home.

 

The second half of the book of Isaiah addresses the exiles in Babylon and the promises God gave to them of their return (40:1-55:13), as well as promises and instructions to guide and encourage them after their return, when they faced the strenuous challenges of living in their homeland again (56:1-66:24).

 

Authorship of the Book and the Question of Its Integrity

 

As noted above, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz (not the Prophet Amos) was active in the last third of the 8th century and the first portion of the 7th century. He was a contemporary of Amos, Hosea, and Micah. According to an unsubstantiated Jewish tradition (The Ascension of Isaiah) he met a martyr’s death by being sawn in two during the reign of Manasseh. He was married and had at least two sons: Shear-jashub (7:3), and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3). He probably spent most of his life in Jerusalem and had access to the court, enjoying his greatest influence during the reign of Hezekiah. He is credited with writing a history of King Uzziah’s reign. (II Chronicles 26:22)

 

During the last two centuries of our time, the question has arisen whether Isaiah is the author of the entire book, or whether disciples of his, perhaps of an Isaianic prophetic school, authored the second half of the work, for it presupposes a Persian setting rather than an Assyrian one. The exiles are in Babylon, about to be released to return home. This view is based on the assumption that the prophet Isaiah could not have predicted the future, and especially could not have named the Persian king Cyrus more than two centuries before he  began to rule (see Isaiah 44:28; 45:1).

The traditional view holds that God did at times reveal the future to his prophets. The explanation then given for the late 8th century-early 7th century Prophet Isaiah giving predictions and promises that relate to the 6th century return from exile is that God had transported him to see these messages as visions from afar. Indeed, this is the way that his earlier oracles are introduced: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw ….” (1:1) “This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” (2:1) “An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw.” (13:1)

 

Moreover, the great Isaiah scroll found at Qumran does not suggest a dual or triple authorship. In addition common themes unite the two parts of the book (such as God being called the Holy One of Israel–occurring 12 times in chapters 1-39, and 14 times in chapters 40-66, while it is used for God only six times in the rest of the Old Testament); and the structure of the book itself argues for its unity. Chapters 36-39 serve as a historical interlude concluding the first half of the book (1:1-35:10) and introduce chapters 40-66. The New Testament witnesses to passages from various parts of the prophecy as coming from the Prophet Isaiah. (See CSSB, 1016f.)

 

In addition, the New Testament frequently quotes the book of Isaiah, and Jesus, the Gospel writers, and Paul, whether quoting from the first or last parts of the book, always consider the book the work of the 8th-7th century prophet Isaiah.

 

More important than authorship, however, is for us to learn and study the whole book for its ultimate author is the Lord who stands behind its entire contents. It has come down to us as one undivided document, and therefore we do well to study it in the form in which it has come to us. It is all his powerful Word which is eager to produce its fruit in its season. It is a Word that will not return to the Lord “empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) May our study of that Word bestow its blessing to us in full measure.

 

Themes and Theology

 

The book of Isaiah is a gem without rival in the Old Testament. Because of its rich vocabulary, its memorable images, its diverse literary features, but most of all, its powerful condemnation of sin and its comforting message of hope, restoration, and renewal, this book is often called “The Fifth Gospel,” or the Prophet Isaiah is called “the Fifth Evangelist.” Its promises of salvation point to the future and find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. It is a book one overlooks to his own detriment. Let the following summary of the book’s themes and theology from the Concordia Self-Study Bible (slightly abridged) introduce you to the treasure of faith that this book is.

 

“Isaiah is a book that unveils the full dimensions of God’s judgment and salvation. God is ‘the Holy One of Israel” … who must punish his rebellious people (1:2) but will afterward redeem them (41:14, 16). Israel is a nation blind and deaf (6:9-10; 42:7), a vineyard that will be trampled (5:1-7), a people devoid of justice or righteousness (5:7; 10:1-2). The awful judgment that will be unleashed upon Israel and all nations is called ‘the day of the Lord.’ Although Israel has a foretaste of that day (5:30; 42:25), the nations bear its full power (see 2:11, 17, 20…). It is a day associated in the New Testament with Christ’s second coming and the accompanying judgment (see 24:1, 21; 34:1,2…). Throughout the book, God’s judgment is referred to as ‘fire’ (see 1:31; 30-33…). He is the ‘Sovereign Lord’…, far above all nations and rulers (40:15-24).

 

“Yet God will have compassion on his people (14:1, 2) and will rescue them from both political and spiritual oppression. Their restoration will be like a new exodus (43:2, 16-19; 52:10-12) as God redeems them (see 35:9; 41:14…) and saves them (43:3; 49:8…). Israel’s mighty Creator (40:21-22; 48:13) will make streams spring up in the desert (32:2) as he graciously leads them home. The theme of a highway for the return of exiles is a prominent one (see 11:16; 40:3 …) in both major parts of the book. The Lord raises a banner to summon the nations to bring Israel home (see 5:26…).

 

“Peace and safety mark this new Messianic age (11:6-9). A king descended from David will reign in righteousness (9:7; 32:1), and all nations will stream to the holy mountain of Jerusalem (see 2:2-4…). God’s people will no longer be oppressed by wicked rulers (11:14; 45:14), and Jerusalem will truly be the ‘City of the Lord.’ (60:14).

 

“The Lord calls the Messianic King ‘my servant’ in chs. 42-53, a term also applied to Israel as a nation (see 41:8-9; 42:1…). It is through the suffering of the servant that salvation in its fullest sense is achieved. Cyrus was God’s appointed instrument to deliver Israel from Babylon (41:2; 45:1), but Christ delivered mankind from the prison of sin (52:13-53:12). He became a ‘light for the Gentiles’ (42:6), so that nations that faced judgment (chs. 13-23) could find salvation (55:4-5). These Gentiles also became ‘servants of the Lord’ (see 54:7 …).

 

“The Lord’s kingdom is the goal toward which the book of Isaiah steadily moves. Then everything will result in the praise and glory of the Holy One of Israel for what he has accomplished.” (CSSB, 1017/18)

 

The Outline from the Concordia Self-Study Bible can assist you in reading Isaiah (pp. 1018-1019)

Part 1: The Book of Judgment and Promise (chs. 1-39)

  1. Messages of Rebuke and Promise (1:1-6:13)
  2. Introduction: Charges against Judah for Breaking the Covenant (1:1-31)
  3. The Glory of Judah and Jerusalem in the Last Days (2:1-4:6)
  4. The Nation’s Judgment and Exile (5:1-30)
  5. Isaiah’s Unique Commission (6:1-13)
  6. Prophecies of Immanuel and His Messianic Kingdom (7:1-12:6)

III.          Judgment against the Nations (13:1-23:18)

  1. Against Assyria and Its Ruler (13:1 – 14:27)
  2. Against Philistia (14:28-32)
  3. Against Moab (15:1-16:14)
  4. Against Aram and Israel (17:1-14)
  5. Against Cush (18:1-7)
  6. Against Egypt and Cush (19:1-20:25)
  7. Against Babylon (21:1-10)
  8. Against Dumah (Edom) (21:11-12)
  9. Against Arabia (21:13-17)
  10. Against the Valley of Vision (Jerusalem) (22:1-25)
  11. Against Tyre (23:1-18)
  12. Promise of the Day of the Lord, the Consummation of History (24:1-27:13)
  13. Universal Judgments for Universal Sin (24:1-23)
  14. Deliverance and Blessing (25:1-12)
  15. Praise for the Lord’s Sovereign Care (26:1-21)
  16. Israel’s Remnant Restored (27:1-13)
  17. Six Woes: Five on the Unfaithful in Israel and One on Assyria (28:1-33:24)
  18. Woe to Ephraim (Samaria) — and to Judah (28:1-29)
  19. Woe to David’s City, Jerusalem (29:1-14)
  20. Woe to Those Who Rely on Foreign Alliances (29:15-24)
  21. Woe to the Obstinate Nation (30:1-33)
  22. Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt (31:1-32:20)
  23. Woe to Assyria–but Blessing for God’s People (33:1-24)
  24. More Prophecies of Judgment and Promise (34:1-35:10)
  25. The Destruction of the Nations on the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance (34:1-17)
  26. The Future Blessings of Restored Zion (35:10)

VII. Historical Transition from the Assyrian Threat to the Babylonian Exile (36:1-39:22)

  1. Jerusalem Preserved from the Assyrian Threat (chs. 36:1-37:38)
  2. The siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (36:1-22)
  3. The Lord’s deliverance of Jerusalem (37:1-38)
  4. The Lord’s Extension of Hezekiah’s Life (38:1-22)
  5. The Babylonian Exile Predicted (39:1-8)

Part 2: The Book of Comfort (40:1-66:24)

VIII. The Deliverance of Israel: Anticipation of the Deliverance from the Bondage of Sin (40:1-48:22)

  1. The Coming of the Victorious God (40:1-26)
  2. Unfailing Strength for the Weary Exiles (40:27-31)
  3. The Lord of History (41:1-42:9)
  4. Praise and Exhortation (42:10-25)
  5. The Re-gathering and Renewal of Israel: Prophetic of the Israel of the New Covenant (43:1-44:5)
  6. The Only God (44:6-45:25)
  7. The Lord’s Superiority over Babylon’s Gods (46:1-13)
  8. The Fall of Babylon (47:1-15)
  9. The Lord’s Exhortations to His People (48:1-22)
  10. The Servant’s Ministry: Atonement for Sin (49:1-57:21)
  11. The Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13)
  12. The Repopulation of Zion (49:14-26)
  13. Israel’s Sin and the Servant’s Obedience (50:1-11)
  14. The Redeemed Comforted Because of Their Glorious Prospect (51:1-52:12)
  15. The Sufferings of the Lord’s Righteous Servant to Atone for the Sins of the World (52:13-53:12)
  16. The Future Glory of the Servant’s Offspring (54:1-17)
  17. The Call to Salvation and Covenant Blessings (55:1-56:8)
  18. The Condemnation of the Wicked (567:9-57:21)
  19. Everlasting Deliverance and Everlasting Judgment (58:1-66:24)
  20. False and True Worship (58:1-14)
  21. Zion’s Confession and Redemption (59:1-21)
  22. Zion’s Peace and Prosperity: Promise of Deliverance from Sin (60:1-22)
  23. The Lord’s Favor (61:1-11)
  24. Zion’s Restoration and Glory: Guarantee of Bliss for Forgiven Sinners (62:6-63:6)
  25. Prayer for Divine Deliverance (63:7-64:12)
  26. The Lord’s Answer: Mercy and Judgment (65:1-25)
  27. Judgment for Unrepentant Sinners and Everlasting Glory for Forgiven Sinners (66:1-24)

Passages for You to Read, Study, and Discuss

Isaiah 5:1-7 The Song of the Vineyard

  1. What is the vineyard a picture of? What has God done for his vineyard?
  2. When he looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad grapes? What do you think this image illustrates?
  3. What consequences will come to the vineyard because it has produced only bad grapes in spite of what the farmer has done for his vineyard?
  4. What message does this “song of the vineyard” convey to you?

Isaiah 6:1-13: “The Call of Isaiah”

  1. What is the vision which Isaiah sees?
  2. What does the vision lead him to feel?
  3. What is the key reason for him to volunteer, “Here am I. Send me, send me.” when the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
  4. What assignment does Isaiah receive from the Lord of hosts? (see vv. 9-13) What do you make of this assignment? What caution and what encouragement might this give you for your ministry?

Isaiah 9:1-7: “A Promise of the Messiah”

  1. The Assyrian armies made their approach from the North, conquering the land of Israel around the Sea of Galilee. What is the good news being announced here? What is the promise? What will happen in that region?
  2. Note the imagery of the promise: light instead of darkness and gloom; the enlargement of the nation rather than its reduction; joy as at the time of the harvest; victory as at the time of Gideon’s defeat of Midian during the time of the judges.
  3. What will characterize the Messiah’s reign? How might his names be a source of hope and encouragement to the people of Judah as they are threatened by the Assyrians?
  4. This passage is often read at Christmas services. In what way does the birth of Jesus Christ match the promises in this passage?
  5. Also worth noting is the fact that Isaiah 9:1,2 is quoted at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 4:12-17, after Jesus has resisted the devil’s temptations and before he calls his first disciples. What does Matthew’s use of this passage communicate about the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah 9: 1-7? How does Jesus’ life and ministry demonstrate that he indeed is the great light of Isaiah 9?

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12: “The Suffering Servant”

This passage is the fourth of the so-called “Servant Songs” in the second half of Isaiah. Please read over this text with the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ in mind. Christians through the centuries have understood this passage to be fulfilled by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. Recall how Philip in responding to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40, drew on this passage which the eunuch was reading (Isaiah 53) to tell the story of Jesus. He is the Servant the song describes. Meditate especially on 53:3-6, paying particular attention to the pronouns which are used in these verses: he, him, his, we, our, us. What impression does attention to the pronouns make on you? What message does it proclaim to you? How might you use Christ’s suffering and sacrifice to tell others of what he has done for you and what he means to you?

 

Many passages from Isaiah are used in the New Testament. Since we do not have sufficient time in our class sessions to study each of them, I simply list a number of key texts for you, which I encourage you to read for your personal reflection and devotions.

 

Isaiah 11:1-9 — The Promised Messiah will be a descendant of David, whose reign will bring peace.

Isaiah 25:6-9 — Death is defeated–a theme which Paul echoes in I Corinthians 15.

Isaiah 35:1-10 — The Messiah age will cause the desert to blossom and bring the blessing of health to disabled and handicapped people, a promise Jesus referenced in responding to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:4-5).

Isaiah 40:1-11 — God promises the return of his people from exile, a passage which is quoted in the New Testament in reference to John the Baptist’s preaching and baptizing (Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 3:4,5).

Isaiah 40:27-31 — A wonderful promise that God will strengthen the weak, renew those who hope in him.

Isaiah 42:1-7 — The first of the Servant Songs, which is echoed at Jesus’ baptism. Note how the Servant carries out his ministry with humility and sensitivity for the weak and broken.

Isaiah 43:1-7 — A precious promise that God has redeemed his people and will be with them.

Isaiah 44:9-20 — This passage satirizes the worship of idols and shows how foolish it is to trust in them.

Isaiah 51:1-3 — God calls his people to see their lowly beginnings and how God had multiplied his people since the days of Abraham; he promises a return to Eden like bliss.

Isaiah 54:1-10 — This passage tells the future glory of Zion, based on God’s covenantal love for his people.

Isaiah 55:1-13 — A warm invitation from God to come to his banquet; he wants to forgive and restore the sinner; his ways of mercy transcend our human way of thinking; joy and peace result!

Isaiah 60:1-7 — This text is traditionally used for Epiphany, usually dubbed, “The Gentiles’ Christmas.”

Isaiah 61: 1-3 — Jesus quotes this text in the synagogue in Nazareth and indicates that he is its fulfillment. (Luke 4:18-21)

 

Jonah

Background

 

From II Kings 14:25, we learn that Jonah, the son of Amittai, had prophesied that the boundaries of the Northern Kingdom would be restored to their original extent at the time the kingdom was established. Elisha had made an earlier, similar prediction. These prophecies were fulfilled during the reign of Jeroboam II. He capitalized on Assyria’s conquest of Syria, which weakened Syria’s hold on Israel, as well as Assyria’s own internal problems. These external circumstances enabled Jeroboam II to strengthen his kingdom, to develop the economy and to engage in commerce and trade. As noted in the introduction to the Prophet Amos, prosperity and affluence flourished so that it rivaled the time of Solomon. International trade and travel was part of the culture of that time.

 

Unfortunately, the favored status of Israel was not seen as the opportunity to fulfill her responsibility as the people of God through whom all the earth was to be blessed (Gen. 12:3), nor for her to function as God’s kingdom of priests who were to mediate God’s grace to all the world, as God had called her to do at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:5-6). Rather she “felt jealously complacent” about her privileged status. She looked forward to the day of the Lord (Amos 5:18-20), when “God’s darkness would engulf the other nations, leaving Israel to bask in his light.” (CSSB, 1370)

 

It was to this situation that God sent Amos and Hosea to confront Israel with her waywardness, that God would “spare them no longer” (Amos 7:8; 8:2), but send them off into exile in Assyria (Hosea 9:3; 10:6; 11:5). At the same time Jonah was sent to Nineveh to call it to repentance, warning it of the divine judgment about to fall on it.

 

Date and Authorship

 

Some scholars posit that Jonah was written in post-exilic times, reflecting a more universalistic approach to Israel’s religion, but given the identity of the prophet Jonah in the book by that name and the prophet of II Kings 14:25, it seems preferable to date the event/activity described in the book as taking place in the early half of the 8th century. Although traditionally the book’s authorship has been assigned to the prophet himself, nowhere does the book make that claim. Seeing the similarity of some of the book’s emphasis to that of the Elijah-Elisha prophetic circle, others have suggested that the book may have been written by someone of that school.

 

Regarding the date of composition, we know that Nineveh was conquered by the Babylonians in 612 BC. In view of that reality, it would seem to make the most sense for the book to have been written before the fall of Samaria, as it makes its pleas for Israel to reach out to Assyria with the mercy God had shown to Israel. Connecting this emphasis with the work of Elijah and Elisha, we remember how these prophets both befriended and aided non-Israelite widows, and Elisha healed the Syrian general Naaman of his leprosy. Additionally, Amos (about 765-760 BC) sets God’s redemptive work in the context of his dealings with the nations (1:3-2:16). Thus a date in the middle to the third quarter of the 8th century seems quite likely.

 

The Book’s Message and Purpose

 

Comparing the book of Jonah with the other classical prophets of the 8th century, one quickly senses that this book has a different character. Rather than being a collection of oracles that the prophet has delivered, it is a historical narrative of the prophet’s mission to Nineveh. It is similar to accounts of the ministries of Elijah and Elisha and some of the narrative sections of the great prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The narrative itself becomes the message.

 

The narrative is highly compact. In this recounting of Jonah’s mission to Nineveh we see vividness and character delineation. The author uses structural symmetry effectively. As the outline illustrates, “the story is developed in two parallel cycles that call attention to a series of comparisons and contrasts. The story’s climax is Jonah’s grand prayer of confession, “Salvation comes from the Lord”–the middle confession of three that come from his lips (1:9; 2:9; 4:3). The last sentence emphasizes that the Lord’s word is final and decisive while Jonah is left sitting in the hot, open country outside Nineveh. The following two paragraphs from the Concordia Self-Study Bible nicely summarize the point of this little book for Israel, which should also be taken to heart by all of us.

 

“The author uses the art of representative roles in a straightforward manner. In this story of God’s loving concern for all people, Nineveh, the great menace to Israel, is representative of the Gentiles. Correspondingly, stubbornly reluctant Jonah represents Israel’s jealousy of her favored relationship with God and her unwillingness to share the Lord’s compassion with the nations.

 

“The book depicts the larger scope of God’s purpose for Israel: that she might rediscover the truth of his concern for  the whole creation and that she might better understand her own role in carrying out that purpose.” (CSSB, 1371)

 

The Outline from the Concordia Self-Study Bible to guide your reading:

  1. Jonah Flees His Mission (1:1-2:9)
  2. Jonah’s Commission and Flight (1:1-3)
  3. The Endangered Sailors’ Cry to Their Gods (1:4-6)
  4. Jonah’s Disobedience Exposed (1:7-10)
  5. Jonah’s Punishment and Deliverance (1:11-2:1; 2:10)
  6. His Prayer of Thanksgiving (2:2-9)
  7. Jonah Reluctantly Fulfills His Mission (3:1-4:11)
  8. Jonah’s Renewed Commission and Obedience (3:1-4)
  9. The Endangered Ninevites Repentant Appeal to the Lord (3:5-9)
  10. The Ninevites’ Repentance Acknowledged (3:10-4:4)
  11. Jonah’s Deliverance and Rebuke (4:5-11)

 

A Question for Your Reflection and Discussion:

 

In Jonah 4:2, the prophet confesses that God “is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” (This is a theme that reverberates throughout the Old Testament, from the time of Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:6, 7) to the prophets (Micah 7:18-20) and to the Psalms (103:2-5, 8-14). God himself expresses it to Jonah in 4:10-11. Why do you think Jonah did not grasp this reality which underlay his mission?

 

When God’s mercy is still the underlying basis for his mission to the nations, what keeps us from acting on it? What makes us reluctant to reach out to those who don’t know the gracious character of the Lord of all? What can help us overcome our reluctance?

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