The cultural and historical distance between the Old Testament prophets and their modern readers makes close study difficult. While these individuals spoke from God and therefore left a message that will always be relevant, God delivered His words through the vehicle of the prophets and their own situation in life. I have tried here to use the tools of language and history to help the reader grasp the meaning of each prophetic book in its original context as far as possible.
The prophet Joel speaks of a day of unparalleled blessing and judgment. Two events occupy center stage in the book of Joel: a great plague of locusts and the Day of the Lord. Joel calls the people of Judah to repent in light of the disastrous devastation brought by locusts. The Lord’s promise to restore and bless anew His people when they repent serves as the backdrop for a sweeping message about the future Day of the Lord.
The prophet Amos speaks to people who were religious but who were not righteous. He focuses on the unjust practices of the rich and powerful against the poor and helpless in Israelite society. He strives especially to show how day-to-day living cannot be separated from true worship of the Lord. Words of judgment and condemnation dominate the prophet’s message, but Amos concludes with a vision of Israel rejoined with the people of Judah in justice and unprecedented prosperity.
Obadiah tells a story of double betrayal. The nation of Edom, which should have been an ally, betrayed Judah when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. As punishment the Lord promises that Edom will likewise fall prey to a trap by its allies. Obadiah then takes this theme of "judgment through betrayal because of betrayal" and expands it to encompass all nations when the Day of the Lord comes and "the kingdom will be the Lord's."
Thomas J. Finley (B.A., Biola University; M.Div., Talbot School of Theology; M.A., University of California at Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles) chairs the Department of Old Testament and Semitics at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He has written both technical and popular articles for various publications.