Remember the numbers 4, 12, and 4. There are 4 Prophetic Books called the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. They are the “Major” Prophets because they are longer. The Minor Prophets are 12 shorter books: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. These books were written over a period of about 3 ½ centuries in 4 distinct phases of the History of God’s people:
- The Eighth Century Prophets: Jonah, Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and Amos.
- The Rise of the Babylonian Empire: Jeremiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Obadiah, Joel and Habakkuk.
- The Exile: Ezekiel and Daniel
- After the Exile: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
When you read an old testament prophet, you need to have a basic understanding of how that book fits into the historical development of the Old Testament era. The best way to do this is with a study Bible or a Bible dictionary. In one of these tools, read the introduction to the Book of Habakkuk.
- When and where did Habakkuk minister?
- Note one theme of Habakkuk’s writing.
Ø Read Habakkuk 3:16-19, Habakkuk’s response to God’s revelation of His impending judgment.
- In your Bible, put brackets around the parts of these verses that are clearer because you understand the historical situation behind it.
- The passage speaks of utter devastation. How would you describe Habakkuk’s emotions and choices in the face of these circumstances?
- What is a challenge you are facing in your life right now?
- Looking at Habakkuk’s example in approaching his circumstances, how are some ways you might follow that example?
You can see how the how the Historical Context is important in understanding the text. In other places, the prophets would use drama or poetic language to communicate their message.
- Read Ezekiel 5:1-17 and Hosea 6:1-3 and notice the drama and poetry.
Understanding how the prophets communicate will help us to understand how their message fits the big picture.