An appropriate ending to the Old Testament and preparation for the New Testament is the Book of Malachi. Its final words predict the coming of the prophet Elijah. As the Gospel accounts make clear, this is to be understood as a reference to John the Baptist’s coming.
This minor prophet gives his name to a book with fourteen chapters. However, many scholars feel it should actually be viewed as two books: chapters 1-8 and chapters 9-14. The first eight chapters consist of a series of visions which have certain similarities to Haggai while the last six chapters are oracles that are closely aligned with the Book of Malachi. Thus, the last three books of minor prophets can be considered as a whole, much as Ezra-Nehemiah and Samuel-Kings belong together.
The major point of emphasis in this book involves the coming Day of the Lord in both its aspects: salvation and judgment. The book begins with the negative aspects of the Day: “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth…I will make the wicked stumble. I will cut off humanity from the face of the earth, says the LORD.” However, a more positive mood is found in the final words: “At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the people of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.”
One of the most striking passages in this book is found in Hab. 2:1 where the prophet declares “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say to me.” We need more watchmen in the church today to see and declare what God says to us.
This prophetic book provides an interesting contrast to the Book of Jonah since both involve the city of Nineveh. Nahum is more concerned with glorying over the destruction of this city while the Book of Jonah was concerned with its possible salvation. Both of these attitudes are seen to stem from the two sides to God’s holiness. The contrast is seen most clearly by comparing the following quotations:
“You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” (Jonah 4:2b)
“A jealous and avenging God is the LORD, the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and rages against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger but great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)
The reluctant prophet is the probably the most well known of the minor prophets. It is a powerful tale of what happens when personal and nationalistic pride takes precedence over the commands of God. Re-read this book sometime and note all the correspondences in themes between the first half of the book and the second half (especially between chapters 1 and 3 and between chapters 2 and 4).
This is the shortest book in the Old Testament and one of the least known. Part of the reason is that it is very single-minded in purpose–a denunciation of the Edomites. The sin they are accused of is a serious one. Although Edom was a close neighbor of Israel, they aided the Babylonians when Israel was attacked rather than supporting her or at least remaining neutral in the conflict.
Although the Book of Amos is filled with denunciations of the people for their many sins, it is probably best known for the phrase found in Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (NRSV).” This phrase was just one of the biblical references in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech.