Obadiah is a message of coming doom upon Edom, who is condemned because of her mistreatment of her “brother, Jacob” (v. 9). Verse 15 is the theme verse of the book—“as you have done it shall be done to you”—and the repeated words possess and possession (vv. 17, 19-20) speak of Edom’s fate as a reversal of fortunes, as the “house of Jacob” repossesses its possessions and Mount Zion rules over Edom.
Jonah refused to preach in Nineveh because he did not want the city to experience the goodness and grace of God. Throughout the book God “prepares” four things to instruct His erring servant. Can you find all four (1:17; 4:6-8)? The unanswered question which closes the book is the question all of us must answer: Does God have the right to care about people and animals that mean very little to us but a great deal to Him?
Micah’s message opens against Samaria and Jerusalem, but his primary target is Jerusalem. Like Amos did to Israel, Micah excoriates Jerusalem and its leaders for its mistreatment of others. Rulers, priests, and prophets alike are corrupt (3:11). As you read Micah’s three oracles (chs. 1-2, 3-5, 6-7), note how each oracle begins with an announcement of judgment but ends with a message of hope (2:12-13; 5:3-15; 7:15-20). Zion must be undone so that it can be remade (see 3:12-4:8). Jerusalem is the unnamed city that has not harkened to Yahweh’s voice (6:9) but God’s covenant loyalty to Abraham means that forgiveness lies on the far end of punishment (7:19-20).
Nahum proclaims Nineveh’s downfall as good news for God’s people, Judah (1:15). Be sure to follow Nahum’s trail of thought as he weaves back and forth between Nineveh (1:8-12a, 14; 2:1, 3) and Judah (1:12b-13, 15; 2:2). A poetic threefold declaration of who Yahweh is (1:2-3, 7) begins the book, and the fact that that God is against Nineveh is what spells her death knell (2:13; 3:5). Not even Nineveh the Great has a chance against Him.
Habakkuk, like Jonah, exposes the thought life of one of God’s prophets by recording a conversation Habakkuk had with God shortly before God began using Babylon to punish Judah. Habakkuk opens the conversation by expressing his frustration with the rampant injustice in his country (1:2-4) but his frustration shifts to consternation (1:12-2:1) at God’s answer (1:5-11): punish Judah with Babylon? Use a greater criminal to punish a lesser? Watch as Habakkuk moves from fear to faith—after all, the just live by faith (2:4)—and rises to rejoicing in God even when there is no visible reason to rejoice (3:17-19).
Zephaniah, like Joel, speaks much of the Day of the Lord. But in Zephaniah that Day of the Lord is universally catastrophic (1:2-3, 14-18). It is not even certain that the righteous will be hidden in the day of God’s anger (2:1-3). Various nations are singled out for punishment in that Day (2:4-15) but the primary target, main culprit, and chief disappointment is Jerusalem (1:4-13; 3:1-7), which sinned against such great light. Jerusalem’s untamed rebellion means that her restoration must wait until the end of time (3:8). But the wait will be worth it—her and God’s exuberant jubilation ends the book of Zephaniah (3:14-20).
Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries who encouraged the postexilic community to rebuild the Temple. Haggai shows how the community had placed their priorities before God’s. Zechariah, on the other hand, reveals, through visions (chs. 1-6), timely words from the Lord (chs. 7-8), and oracles (chs. 9-14), that the Temple is His priority. Jerusalem and worship at its Temple is at the center of the future, not just for God’s people but for the world (6:15; 8:20-23; 14:16-21).
Malachi gives God’s answers to Israel’s questions in six “disputations” (1:2-5; 1:6-2:9; 2:10-16; 2:17-3:5; 3:6-12; 3:13-4:3). Israel’s questions reveal a deadness or formality in their worship of and thinking about God that does not bode well for the nation if it does not change its outlook. Malachi closes with a backward look (4:4)—to the law given by Moses a thousand years earlier—and a forward look (4:5)—to the coming of “Elijah the prophet” (John the Baptist), whose arrival would be the inaugural incident in a series of events that would usher in the Day of the Lord. The consequences are severe if Israel fails to remember Moses and recognize Elijah. God will strike their land with a curse (4:6). Israel did fail as the New Testament reveals, and the result is history—the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.