1. By the Jewish arrangement, which places together the twelve minor prophets in a single volume, the chronological order of the prophets as a whole is broken up. The three greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, stand in the true order of time. Daniel began to prophesy before Ezekiel, but continued, many years after him. The Jewish arrangement of the twelve minor prophets is in a sense chronological; that is, they put the earlier prophets at the beginning, and the later at the end of the collection. It does not appear, however, that they intended to follow the order of time with exactness. If they did, then in the judgment of many they committed errors. The particulars must be discussed as the books come up separately for consideration.
In regard to the first six, the arrangement of the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic, which is followed in our version, as follows:
MASORETIC TEXT. SEPTUAGINT VERSION.
1. Hosea. 1. Hosea.
2. Joel. 2. Amos.
3. Amos. 3. Micah.
4. Obadiah. 4. Joel.
5. Jonah. 5. Obadiah.
6. Micah. 6. Jonah.
2. This precious collection contains the earliest as well as the latest writings of the Hebrew prophets, except such as are embodied in the historical books; for Hosea, Joel, and Amos, at least, are older than Isaiah, and the three prophets of the restoration are younger than Ezekiel and Daniel. The minor prophets exhibit a great diversity of manner and style -- the rugged and sententious, the full and flowing, the oratorical, and the simple and unadorned. In them are passages attaining to the sublimity of Isaiah, to the tenderness and pathos of Jeremiah, and to the vehemence of Ezekiel. Nowhere do we find sin rebuked with more awful severity, the true meaning of the law more clearly expounded, or the future glory of Zion more confidently predicted. That some of these writings are obscure and of difficult interpretation cannot be denied. This arises partly from the character of the style, as in the case of Hosea and others; partly from the nature of the themes discussed, as in Zechariah; partly from our ignorance of the times and circumstances of the writers. Nevertheless the prayerful student will find in them a rich treasury of divine truth, which will abundantly reward the labor bestowed upon it.
3. The prophecies of Hosea were addressed immediately to the kingdom of the ten tribes, yet so that he did not overlook Judah; for he considered the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel as constituting together the covenant people of God. Of his personal history we know nothing except that he was the son of Beeri, for the transactions of the first three chapters may be best understood as symbolic acts seen only in vision. See above, Chap.22, No.17. For any thing that appears to the contrary, he was of Israelitish descent. As it is generally agreed that Isaiah began to prophesy in the last year of Uzziah's reign, or but a few years before his death, while Hosea prophesied in the reign of Jeroboam II., the great-grandson of Jehu (2 Kings 14:23), who died about twenty-six years before Uzziah, it follows that Hosea, though partly contemporary with Isaiah, was called to the prophetical work at an earlier period. If we suppose him to have commenced prophesying two years before the death of Jeroboam, and then add the twenty-six remaining years of Uzziah's reign, the sixteen of Jotham, the sixteen of Ahaz, and two of the first years of Hezekiah, we shall have a period of sixty-two years. To Israel this was a calamitous period, embracing four usurpations and murders of the reigning sovereigns, and three invasions of the Assyrians. See the history in 2 Kings 15:8-31, and 17:1-6. In the last of these Hosea, king of Israel, became tributary to Shalmaneser, king of Assyria; but he proved unfaithful to his master, and sought the alliance of So, king of Egypt.2 Kings 17:4. For this the Assyrian king besieged him in Samaria, and after a siege of three years, took him with the city, and put an end to the kingdom of Israel in the fifth year of Hezekiah, king of Judah. Hosea seems to have closed his writings when Hoshea was seeking the help of Egypt, while he had at the same time a covenant with Assyria (12:1), consequently somewhere early in Hezekiah's reign.
4. Hosea's style is very concise and sententious, and his diction impresses even the casual reader as original and peculiar. A remarkable feature of his book is the constancy with which he sets forth the relation of Israel to Jehovah under the figure of the marriage-covenant; thus making unfaithfulness to God, and especially idolatry and idolatrous alliances, to be spiritual adultery and whoredom. This fact affords a key to the interpretation of the first three chapters, where the nature of the transactions requires that we understand them not as historic events, but as prophetic symbols occurring only in vision. The remaining eleven chapters contain perhaps a summary of the prophet's discourses to the people, written by himself near the close of his ministry. The prophecies of Hosea are repeatedly referred to in the New Testament as a part of the oracles of God. Matt.2:15; 9:13; 12:7; Rom.9:25, 26; and an allusion in 1 Cor.15:55. The prophet brings his book to a close with a delightful and refreshing view of the future prosperity and peace of the true Israel, chap.14.
5. The prophecies of Joel, the son of Pethuel, give no specifications of place or time. But all the internal indications of the book point to Judea -- probably Jerusalem, with its temple, altar, priesthood, and solemn assemblies -- as the sphere of his labors, and to the date as among the earliest of those belonging to written prophecy. The coincidences between Joel and Amos cannot well be regarded as accidental. Compare Joel 3:16 with Amos 1:2; Joel 3:18 with Amos 9:13; and notice the striking similarity in the close of the two prophecies. If we may assume that one of these prophets borrowed expressions from the other, the priority will naturally be given to Joel, from whose closing address (3:16) Amos takes the opening words of his prophecies. He must then be placed as early, at least, as the reign of Uzziah, and perhaps earlier.
From the fact that Joel does not mention as among the enemies of Judah the Syrians who invaded Judah in the reign of Joash, the grandfather of Uzziah, some have placed him as early as the reign of Joash before this Syrian invasion. There is no ground for placing him after Uzziah; for his writings contain no allusion to the Assyrian power, which became so formidable soon after Uzziah's time.
6. The writings of Joel bear the full impress of culture in a prophetic school. His Hebrew is of the purest kind; his style is easy, flowing, elegant, and adorned with magnificent imagery; and for vividness and power of description he is not surpassed by any of the prophets. The immediate occasion of his prophecies is a double plague of drought and locusts, which has already invaded the land, and whose desolating progress he describes in poetic strains of matchless elegance and power. He summons the people of all classes to repentance, and promises, upon this condition, not only the restoration of the land to its former fruitfulness, but also the outpouring of God's Spirit upon all flesh, the triumph of the covenant people over all their foes, and an era of universal holiness and peace. In this respect he is a model for all the prophets that come after him. They all with one accord look forward beyond the calamities of the present time, and the heavier impending calamities which they are commissioned to foretell in the near future, to the glory of the latter days, when Zion shall be made triumphant over all her foes, and the whole earth shall be given her for her inheritance. The apostle Peter, in his address on the day of Pentecost, quotes a remarkable prophecy of Joel (2:28-32, compared with Acts 2:16-21).
The opinion of some commentators, that under the figure of locusts are represented simply hostile armies, must be regarded as forced and unnatural. More probable is the opinion of Henderson and others, that the prophet uses an actual invasion of the land by locusts as the type of a more formidable invasion of foreign foes. But there does not seem to be any valid reason for departing from the simple interpretation above given.
7. Amos prophesied |concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake| (1:1). The time of this earthquake, which is simply mentioned by Zechariah (14:5) as occurring in Uzziah's reign, cannot be determined. We only know that Amos must have prophesied somewhere during the last part of the reign of Jeroboam II., when he was contemporary with Uzziah. Amos was thus contemporary with Hosea, and was a considerable number of years earlier than Isaiah, who began to prophesy near the close of Uzziah's long reign of fifty-two years. The very specific date |two years before the earthquake| indicates that his whole mission to Israel was executed within a single year, perhaps within a few months. It seems to have been after his return to Judah, when at least two years had elapsed, that he collected his prophecies and put them into their present form.
Amos describes himself as one of |the herdmen of Tekoa,| a small town southeast of Bethlehem on the border of the wilderness of Judah.2 Chron.20:20. It belonged to Judah, whence we infer that Amos was himself a Jew, a supposition which agrees well with the advice of Amaziah: |O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there| (7:12). He speaks of himself as |no prophet, neither a prophet's son| (7:14); which means that he had not been trained up for the prophetical office in any school of the prophets, as were |the sons of the prophets.| 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3, etc. God took him from following the herd, and gave him a commission to prophesy to His people Israel, an office which he executed at Bethel, where one of the golden calves erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat was worshipped (7:10-17 compared with 1 Kings 12:29). In entire harmony with this historical notice is the character of his prophecies. His style has not the flowing fulness of Joel, but charms the reader by its freshness and simplicity. His writings abound in images taken from rural scenes and employments, some of which are very unique and striking in their character. See chaps.2:13; 3:12; 5:19; 6:12; 9:2, 3, 9. He opens his prophecies by a solemn annunciation of the approaching judgments of heaven upon the nations bordering on Israel, specifying in each case the sin which has provoked God's wrath. The storm passes, without pausing in its course, over Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah, till at last it reaches Israel. Here it rests, gathers blackness, and thunders long and loud. The reign of Jeroboam II was one of much outward prosperity.2 Kings 14:25-28. The vices which Amos rebukes are those which belong to such a period -- avarice, violence, oppression of the poor, perversion of justice, luxury, lewdness -- all these joined with the idolatrous worship established by Jeroboam the son of Nebat. For such multiplied transgressions God will cause the sun to go down at noon, and darken the earth in the clear day. Their feasts shall be turned into mourning, their songs into lamentation, and they shall go into captivity beyond Damascus. But while all the sinners among God's people thus perish by the sword, he will remember his true Israel for good. He will rear up again the fallen tabernacle of David, bring again the captivity of his people of Israel, and plant them for ever in their own land in peace and prosperity. Thus do the visions of Amos, like those of Hosea and Joel, close with a cheering view of the future glory of Zion. Amos is twice quoted in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:42, 43; 15:16, 17).
8. The short prophecy of Obadiah is directed against Edom. The Edomites were conspicuous for their hatred of the covenant people. See Ezek.25:12; 35:5-15; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11, and the parallel prophecy of Jer.49:7-22. Accordingly they stand here, in respect to both their guilt and punishment, as the representatives of Zion's enemies in all ages. In like manner the promised victory of God's people over them shadows forth the universal triumph of the kingdom of heaven which is reserved for |the last days.|
Concerning the date of Obadiah's prophecy expositors are not agreed. The whole question turns upon the interpretation of verses 11-14. That these contain an historic allusion to the exultation of the Edomites over the capture and plunder of Jerusalem cannot well be doubted. If this was the final capture of the city by the Chaldeans, then Obadiah's place will be after the beginning of the Babylonish captivity. But since no mention is made of the burning of Jerusalem, some suppose that the prophet refers to an earlier capture, as that by the Philistines and Arabians under Jehoram.2 Chron.21:16, 17. In favor of this view is urged the fact that Jeremiah, who was in the habit of using the writings of the earlier prophets, has much in common with Obadiah.
That Jeremiah borrowed the language of Obadiah is far more probable than that both prophets availed themselves of an older document, as some have conjectured. Since, however, Jerusalem was taken more than once by the Chaldeans before its final overthrow (2 Kings chap.24; Dan.1:1), Obadiah may have referred to one of these earlier captures, and yet have written before Jeremiah penned his prophecy against Edom.
9. We learn from 2 Kings 14:25 that Jonah, the son of Amittai, was of Gath-hepher, which is undoubtedly the same as Gittah-hepher, a town of the tribe of Zebulun in the northern part of Palestine (Josh.19:13); and that he predicted the successes of Jeroboam II. According to the general analogy of Scripture, prophecies like this, relating to one particular event, are not separated by any great space of time from their fulfilment. He belongs, therefore, in all probability, to the days of Jeroboam II, when Amos also flourished. There is no valid reason for assigning him, as some do, to an earlier date.
10. The story of the book of Jonah is too simple to need any analysis. His act in fleeing from God's presence, when commissioned to go to Nineveh with a threatening message, is very extraordinary; but such is the inconsistency and folly of human passion. The conduct of the mariners when overtaken by a tempest is not wonderful: it is in harmony with all that we know of ancient habits of thinking and acting. But what befell Jonah, when cast into the sea, is more than wonderful: it is miraculous. That there exist in the Mediterranean fish capable of swallowing a man entire is a well-attested fact. The original Hebrew mentions only, |a great fish.| The Alexandrine version, and after that the New Testament, use the word whale apparently in the sense of any great sea monster. But whatever the fish may have been, his preservation alive in its body for the space of three days, and his subsequent ejection upon the dry land, can be accounted for only by reference to the immediate power of God, with whom nothing is impossible. The effect of his preaching upon the Ninevites was remarkable; but much more so was his grief at its success, whereby God was moved to spare the city. The common opinion is that he feared for his reputation as a true prophet; but a deeper ground of his anger may have been that he rightly understood the design of his mission to the Ninevites to be that through repentance they might be saved from impending destruction; while he regarded them as the enemies of God's people, and unworthy of his mercy. However this may be, Jonah's mission to the Ninevites foreshadowed God's purposes of mercy towards the heathen world, and that too at a very suitable time, when the history of the covenant people, and through them of God's visible earthly kingdom, was about passing into lasting connection with that of the great monarchies of the earth.
11. The authorship of the book of Jonah is not expressly given; but may be most naturally referred to the prophet himself. The few alleged Chaldaisims found in it may be explained as belonging to the provincial dialect of the prophet; since we have but an imperfect knowledge of the variations which the living Hebrew language admitted in this respect. In Matt.12:39-41; Luke 11:29-32 the Saviour refers in explicit terms to events recorded in this book as being true history; nor can the historic character of the narrative as a whole be denied except on the ground that all records of the supernatural are unhistoric.
12. Micah is called the Morasthite, probably because he was a native of Moresheth-gath, a small town of Judea, which, according to Eusebius and Jerome, lay in a southwesterly direction from Jerusalem, not far from Eleutheropolis on the plain, near the border of the Philistine territory. With this agrees the connection in which it is named (1:13-15); for Lachish, Mareshah, and Adullam also lay in that direction. He prophesied |in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.| His prophetic activity began, therefore, soon after that of Isaiah, and he was contemporary with him, as well as with Hosea and Amos. His prophecies related to Samaria, the capital city of the kingdom of Israel, and to Jerusalem (1:1). We find accordingly denunciations against Samaria intermingled with his prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem. The people, moreover, are spoken of under the name of Jacob and Israel where, sometimes at least, as in chap.3:9, Judah must be included. It is generally thought that the book of Micah contains only a summary of his prophecies, prepared perhaps in the days of Hezekiah. But this is not certain; for the reference in Jeremiah 26:18 obviously relates only to the particular prophecy quoted there.
13. The book is commonly distributed into three sections: chaps.1 and 2; chaps.3, 4, and 5; and chaps.6 and 7. Each of these opens with a summons to hear God's message, and then proceeds with expostulations and threatenings, which are succeeded by glorious promises. The second of these sections, which is the largest and contains the most extended promises, is addressed more particularly to the rulers of the people. The style of Micah is bold, vehement, and abrupt. His sudden transitions sometimes make his writings difficult of interpretation. He abounds in striking images, taken to a great extent, like those of Amos, from pastoral and rural life. Micah has one remarkable prophecy common to him with Isaiah. Chap.4:1-3 compared with Isaiah 2:2-4. From the connection of the context the passage in Micah is generally thought to be the original. Besides this there is a general agreement between the two prophets in their representations; and especially in the manner in which they perpetually mingle stern rebukes and threatenings with glorious promises relating to the Messiah and his kingdom. The remarkable prophecy concerning the Messiah's birth (chap.5:2) is quoted with some variations in Matt.2:5, 6, and referred to in John 7:42. The Saviour's words, as recorded in Matt.10:35, 36; Mark 13:12; Luke 12:53 contain an obvious reference to Micah 7:6.
14. Nahum is called |the Elkoshite,| probably from Elkosh, a village of Galilee, which Jerome (Introduction to Nahum) mentions as pointed out to him by his guide. The tradition which assigns for the place of his birth and residence the modern Alkush, an Assyrian village on the east side of the Tigris, a few miles above the site of the ancient Nineveh, rests on no good foundation. The prophecy of Nahum is directed against Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. When the prophet wrote, this city was still in the height of its power (chap.1:12; 2:8); oppressing the nations and purposing the conquest of Judah (chap.1:9, 11; 3:1, 4). From chap.1:12, 13 it appears that the Assyrians had already afflicted Judah, and laid their yoke upon her. All these particulars point to the reign of Hezekiah as the probable date of the book.
15. The first chapter opens with a description of God's awful majesty and power, which nothing created can withstand. These attributes shall be directed to the utter and perpetual overthrow of Nineveh and the salvation of God's afflicted people. The second chapter begins a sublime description of the process of this destruction by the invasion of foreign armies. The third continues the account of the desolation of Nineveh by her foes. For her innumerable sins she shall be brought to shame before the nations of the earth, and made like populous No, that is, No-amon, the celebrated metropolis of upper Egypt, also called Thebes, whose children were dashed in pieces and her great men laid in chains. The present condition of Nineveh, a mass of uninhabitable ruins, is a solemn comment upon the closing words of the prophecy; |There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous: all that hear the report of thee shall clap their hands over thee: for upon whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?|
16. Respecting Habakkuk's personal history we have no information. The apocryphal notices of him are unworthy of credence. From the fifth and sixth verses of the first chapter it is evident that he prophesied not long before that series of invasions by the Chaldeans which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the people; that is, somewhere between 640 and 610 years before Christ, so that he was contemporary with Jeremiah and Zephaniah. The theme of his prophecy is, first, the overthrow of Judea by the Chaldeans, and then the overthrow in turn of the Chaldean monarchy, each power in turn for its sins. In the first chapter he predicts in a dramatic form -- that of expostulation with God on the part of the prophet, and God's answer -- the approaching desolation of the land by the Chaldean armies, whose resistless power he describes in bold and striking imagery. In the second chapter the prophet appears standing on his watch to see what answer Jehovah will give to the expostulation with which the preceding chapter closes. He receives a comforting message, but one that will try the faith of God's people by its delay. Verse 3. It is an announcement of the overthrow of the Chaldean oppressor, carried out in a series of bold and vivid descriptions in which woe upon woe is pronounced against him for his rapine, covetousness, iniquitous oppression, and idolatry. The third chapter is a lyric ode in which the prophet, in view of both the judgments that God is about to execute on his countrymen through the Chaldeans (chap.1), and the promised deliverance from them at a future period (chap.2), supplicates and celebrates the future interposition of Jehovah for the redemption of his people in language borrowed from their past history. Thus this sublime song is both a prayer for the renewal of God's wondrous works in the days of old and a prophecy of such a renewal. The apostle Paul quotes the words of Habakkuk: |The just shall live by his faith| (2:4), and applies them to all believers (Rom.1:17).
The language of chap.1:5 implies that the desolation of the land by the Chaldeans would be a surprising event, which could not have been the case after the victory of Nebuchadnezzar over the Egyptians and his capture of Jerusalem in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, B.C.606. It was also to be in the day of that generation -- |in your days.| Consequently we cannot date the prophecy earlier than B.C.640, probably not before B.C.630.
The dedication of Habakkuk's ode (3:19) |to the chief musician| -- the Hebrew word is the same that so often occurs in the titles of the Psalms -- implies that this ode was to be used in the solemn worship of God. The added words, |on my stringed instruments,| are most naturally understood of those under his charge as a leader in the service of song in the sanctuary. Hence we infer with probability that Habakkuk was a Levite.
17. Zephaniah prophesied in the reign of Josiah (1:1), apparently while his work of reformation was in progress and not yet completed (1:4-6, 8, 9); that is, somewhere between his twelfth and his eighteenth year (2 Chron.34:3-13).
In the first chapter he predicts the utter desolation of Judah, and with it the destruction of all the patrons of idolatry and the rich and presumptuous sinners in Jerusalem. In the second chapter he exhorts the covenant people to repentance in view of the judgments that are coming upon them (verses 1-3), threatens the surrounding nations -- Philistia, Moab, and Ammon -- with desolation (verses 4-11), and denounces the judgments of God upon the Ethiopians and Assyrians (verses 12-15). In the third chapter, after a severe rebuke of Jerusalem for her incorrigible rebellion against God (verses 1-7), he foretells in glowing language the future purification and enlargement of Zion, and the destruction of all her enemies (verses 8-20). The style of Zephaniah is clear and flowing, having a general resemblance to that of Jeremiah. He has frequent allusions to the earlier prophets. Chap.1:7 compared with Isa.34:6; chap.2:13-15 compared with Isa.13:21, 22; 34:13-15; chap.1:14, 15 with Joel 2:1, 2; chap.1:13 with Amos 5:11, etc.
The genealogy of Zephaniah is given through Cushi, Gedaliah, and Amariah to Hezekiah; for in the original Hebrew the words Hizkiah and Hezekiah are the same. As it is not usual that the descent of prophets should be given with such particularity, it has been assumed, with some probability, that this Hezekiah was the king of that name; though in this case we should have expected the addition |king of Judah.| The |chemarim,| verse 4, are the idol-priests; that is, priests devoted to idol worship. In 2 Kings 33:5, where the writer is speaking of the reformation under Josiah, the word is translated |idolatrous priests;| in Hosea 10:5 simply |priests,| which is its meaning in the Syriac language. Some have maintained that the invasion of Judah to which Zephaniah refers was that of the Scythians described by Herodotus, 1.105; but this is very improbable. From the fact that |the king's children| are included in the threatened visitation -- in the Hebrew, |I will visit upon the princes and the king's children| (1:8) -- some have inferred that they must have been already grown and addicted to idolatrous practices; consequently that Zephaniah wrote later than the eighteenth year of Josiah. But, as Keil and others have remarked, the mention of the king's children may have been added simply to indicate the universality of the approaching visitation; not to say that the prophetic vision of Zephaniah may have anticipated the sin and punishment of these king's children -- Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim.
18. Haggai is the first of the three prophets after the captivity, who are commonly called Prophets of the Restoration. His four short messages to the people were all delivered in the space of three months, and they all had reference to the rebuilding of the temple. By the slanderous representations of the Jews' enemies this work had been interrupted, as we learn from the fourth chapter of Ezra. Meanwhile the Jews, having yielded to the spirit of unbelief, had lost their zeal for God's cause and grown cold and indifferent. For this the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were sent to reprove them, while at the same time they encouraged them to resume the work, a mission which they successfully accomplished. Ezra 5:1, 2.
19. The first message is dated |in the second year of Darius the king| -- Darius Hystaspes, who ascended the throne of Persia B.C.521 -- |in the sixth month, in the first day of the month.| Chap.1:1. In this message the prophet sharply reproves the people for their indifference to the cause of God's house and their selfish devotion to their own private interests, which have brought upon them the divine rebuke. Chap.1:2-11. The effect of his words in exciting both rulers and people to renew the work upon the temple is added. Chap.1:12-15. The second message |in the one and twentieth day| of the same month is throughout of an encouraging character. The elders who had seen the first house in its glory, were despondent in view of the comparative meanness of the new edifice. Jehovah promises them that |the Desire of all nations| shall come, that he will fill this house with glory, so that |the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former| (2:1-9). This promise was fulfilled in a material way in the second temple as renewed by Herod the Great. But the real reference is to its spiritual glory. It was honored by the presence of the Son of God, who is the brightness of the Father's glory. In the third message, |in the four and twentieth day of the ninth month,| the prophet in a sort of parable, rebukes the people for their heartless formality, which, like the touch of a dead body, defiles all their offerings and services, yet promises them God's blessing upon their repentance. Chap.2:10-19. The last message, which was delivered on the same day, is wholly occupied with the future. Amid commotions and overturnings God will destroy the power of the heathen nations, and make Zerubbabel as a signet.
The reference is to a seal-ring, and the promise is that God will preserve Zerubbabel from all the assaults of the wicked. Zerubbabel was one of the Messiah's ancestors (Matt.1:12; Luke 3:27), and since the prophecy reached far beyond his day, the promise made to him extends to all faithful rulers whom God sets over his church but can have its perfect fulfilment only in the Messiah himself, of whom Zerubbabel was a type.
20. Zechariah, the second and greatest prophet of the Restoration, calls himself the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo (1:1). But in Ezra the name of the father is omitted, perhaps as being less known, and he is called simply the son of Iddo (chaps.5:1; 6:14), the word son being used in the general sense of descendant. There is no reason to doubt the identity of this Iddo with the priest of that name who went up from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Neh.12:4); so that Zechariah, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, was of priestly descent. He began to prophesy two months after Haggai (chap.1:1 compared with Hag.1:1), and the two prophets were contemporary, at least for a short time.
21. The book of Zechariah may be naturally divided, according to its contents, into three parts. The first six chapters constitute the first of these parts. After a short introductory message (1:1-6) there follows a very remarkable series of visions relating to the reestablishment of the Jews in their own land, and the future dispensations of God towards them; the whole being closed by a symbolic prophecy of Christ as both priest and king upon the throne of David. To the second part belong the prophecies contained in the seventh and eighth chapters. The occasion of the first of these was a question proposed to the prophet concerning the observance of a certain fast. He first rebukes the people for their formality, and then proceeds to encourage them in the way of duty, adding glorious promises respecting the future prosperity of Judah and Jerusalem. The remaining six chapters, constituting the third part, appear to have been written at a later time. They all relate to the future destinies of the covenant people, and, through them, of the visible kingdom of God on earth. But the first three of these chapters are mainly occupied with the nearer future, yet with glimpses at the final consummation in the latter days. They are generally understood to predict the conquests of Alexander the Great (9:1-8), the conflict of the Jews with their enemies in the Maccabean age (9:13-16), the advent of Christ (9:9), the corrupt and rapacious character of the Jewish rulers at that era, their rejection of Christ, and the consequent rejection of the nation by God (chap.11). They also contain a prediction of the final reunion and restoration of |the house of Judah| and |the house of Joseph| (ch.10). The remaining three chapters are occupied with the great and decisive conflict of the last days, which is to usher in the era of millennial glory.
22. The prophecies of Zechariah, containing as they do a portraiture of the destiny of God's people to the end of time, and comprehending so many mighty events which yet await their fulfilment, present to the interpreter many difficulties, some of which have hitherto been found insoluble, and will probably remain unsolved till the mystery of God contained in them shall have been fulfilled. One thing, however, they clearly reveal to us: that the future triumph of God's kingdom is certain, and that all the great movements in the history of the nations, however unpropitious they may seem at the time, are parts of the mighty plan of divine providence which shall end in making the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
In Matt.27:9, 10, there is a quotation for substance of the words of Zechariah 11:13, but they are ascribed to |Jeremiah the prophet.| Of this discrepancy various explanations have been proposed. Some have suspected an early error in the manuscript of Matthew's gospel; but of this there is no satisfactory proof. Others have thought that the part of our present book of Zechariah which contains the prophecy in question actually belongs to Jeremiah; but upon this hypothesis it remains a mystery how it should have been attached to the writings of Zechariah.
Upon the ground of diversity of style and other alleged internal marks, it has been maintained by some biblical scholars that the whole of the last part of Zechariah belongs to an earlier age; but the validity of this conclusion is denied by others. To give even a summary of the opposing arguments would exceed the limits of the present work. The internal proofs being very nearly balanced against each other, the fact that these chapters have always been connected with the writings of Zechariah ought to be allowed a decisive influence in favor of their genuineness.
23. In Hebrew Malachi signifies my messenger, being the very word employed in chap.3:1. Hence some have supposed that this is not the prophet's name, but a description of his office. Such a supposition, however, is contrary to scriptural usage, which in every other case prefixes to each of the prophetical books the author's proper name. Malachi has not given the date of his prophecies, but it can be determined with a good degree of certainty from their contents. The people had been reinstated in the land, the temple rebuilt, and its regular services reestablished. Yet they were in a depressed condition, dispirited, and disposed to complain of the severity of God's dealings towards them. Their ardently cherished expectation of seeing the Theocracy restored to its former glory was not realized. Instead of driving their enemies before them sword in hand, as in the days of Joshua, or reigning triumphantly over them in peace, as in the days of Solomon, they found themselves a handful of weak colonists under the dominion of foreigners, and returning to the land of their fathers solely by their permission. All this was extremely humiliating to their worldly pride, and a bitter disappointment of their worldly hopes. Hence they had fallen into a desponding and complaining state of mind. While rendering to God a service that was not cheerful but grudging, complaining of its wearisomeness, withholding the tithes required by the law of Moses, and offering in sacrifice the lame and the blind, they yet complained that he did not notice and requite these heartless services, and talked as if he favored the proud and wicked. |Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and walked mournfully before him? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered| (3:14, 15). To these sins they had added that of putting away their Hebrew wives, that they might marry foreign women (2:10-16). All these circumstances point to the administration of Nehemiah, probably the latter part of it; for after his visit to Babylon in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (Neh.13:6), he found upon his return, and has described in the last chapter of his book precisely the same state of affairs. Malachi is thus the last of all the prophets.
24. He opens his prophecies by reminding the people of God's great and distinguishing love towards them and their fathers, which they were so slow to acknowledge. He then reproves them sharply for the sins above referred to, and forewarns them that the Lord, of whose delay they complain, will suddenly come to his temple to sit in judgment there -- an advent which they will not be able to endure; for it will consume the wicked root and branch, while it brings salvation to the righteous (3:1-5; 4:1-3). In view of the fact that the revelations of the Old Testament are now closing, he admonishes the people to remember the law of Moses, and closes with a promise of the mission of |Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord| (4:5, 6). This promise, with that contained in chap.3:1, is repeatedly referred to in the New Testament, and applied to the coming of John the Baptist as our Lord's forerunner. The opening words of the prophecy, chap.1:2, are quoted by the apostle Paul (Rom.9:13).