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What’s in a name? (November 2020)

Having looked at one of the Minor Prophets with Obadiah, I thought we could have a look at the other Minor Prophets. You will be familiar with the names if you know the books of the Bible, but what do we know about the people who gave their names to the books? There are some who are only mentioned by name as they say, ‘The word of the Lord came to….’ or something similar.

If we take them alphabetically, we come to Amos. We’ve mentioned him before, and he seems to have lived up to his name, which can mean ‘one with a burden’. His message was of judgement on Israel’s enemies, and also on Israel and the widespread injustice many faced. But he ends with the message that God’s Kingdom will prevail in the end.

Habakkuk also saw the burden and he embraced it. Nothing is known about him, but it is thought that he may have been a priest or Temple singer, because of the use of musical terms. He wonders why God allows the enemies to triumph, but at the end he knows that God’s Kingdom will come.

Haggai seems to be a voice for the returned people to get their priorities right and rebuild the Temple instead of concentrating on their own houses. In the end God would triumph and, once again, be worshipped in the Temple.

Next, we have Hosea, who I do feel sorry for, because he lived his prophesies, in his marriage to an unfaithful woman. He preached against the general depravity that he saw around him, yet again he looked to the future when God’s Kingdom would come.

We are a little more familiar with Joel, although nothing is known about him or his father. He starts with a time of drought and famine, seen as judgement on the people for their neglect of God. But the one thing we remember Joel for is the quote that Peter uses on the day of Pentecost, promising the coming of the Holy Spirit. Joel also promises the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Our next prophet is Jonah. Maybe we think we know all about Jonah, a dove! But he is one of the few prophets mentioned by name elsewhere in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 14 v 25, where he is recorded as prophesying about the restoration of boundary of Israel. He is also mentioned by Jesus for causing the Ninevites to repent.

Maybe Malachi, my messenger, is more familiar to you. He is quoted a number of times in the New Testament, in the Gospels and in Romans. He often talks of the failings of the people but reminds them that God is faithful and is always ready to forgive. My favourite quote comes in ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing.’ This talks of the Sun of Righteousness, risen with healing in his wings.

Micah has an interesting name, meaning ‘Who is like Yahweh’. He preaches against Samaria and Jerusalem. Captivity will come to both, but ultimately, God will send his heir, born in Bethlehem, to restore the house of the Lord.

Nahum came from Galilee, with a comforting message, in the end! His message comes after Jonah’s to Nineveh when the people returned to their evil ways. But good news is proclaimed for the house of Jacob, with the coming of the bringer of peace.

Next, we have Obadiah, servant of Yahweh, speaking against Edom, but proclaiming that the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and joined him in challenging the people to get on and finish the work on the temple. He looked forward to the day when the Lord will be King over all the earth.

Zephaniah was a grandson of King Hezekiah, but now Yahweh has hidden. He talks of the day of wrath to come but ends with the promise that the Lord is mighty, he will rejoice in his people gathered to him and being a witness to the whole earth.

For these prophets, living amidst people who faced dangers and difficulties, and proclaiming God’s judgement, it was important to them to look beyond the current problems. They wanted the people to know that ultimately God’s kingdom will be restored. We can also look forward to that day.

Margaret H