The Sacred Scrolls of the Scriptures
THE SECOND grand division of the Hebrew Scriptures, according to the
divine canon, is called The Prophets, or preferably The Spokesmen.
Of the eight scrolls the first half are called The Former Prophets and the
last four The Latter Prophets, supposedly because Zechariah hints at this
division (Zech.1:4). The eighth book, the last of the Latter Prophets, contains a
collection of all the twelve minor prophets from Hosea to Malachi.
The prophet was Gods spokesman.
He not only foretold the future, according to the popular idea, but he told the present before
Him, as it were, as Aaron spoke before Moses when he went into Pharaohs presence
(Ex.4:16; 7:1). The whole history of Israel in the land is dominated by the succession of
prophets whom Yahweh sent to them in the midst of their continual failure. This is what
distinguishes their history from that of every other nation. This is why the book of
Kings, which is so often supposed to be simple historical annals of the times, is included
among the books of the Prophets.
THE FORMER PROPHETS
Prophets consist of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. We cannot press too strongly the
fact that these belong among the prophecies. They foretell nothing, it is true, yet
the histories they contain all revolve about the man of God who was the one link which
still united them to Him. Very little will we get if we read these to increase our
knowledge of ancient history, or the annals of Hebrew nation. But if we fix our hearts on
the fact that Yahweh is here displaying Himself in their various vicissitudes, and that He
deals with them through His spokesmen, the narrative takes on life and meaning.
This is the first
title which is also the name of its author. Let us not attempt to think that this is all
which the title conveys, for it is quite possible for a name to have significance. Indeed,
in Joshuas case this is most evident. His name originally was Hoshea, meaning
Be-ing-safe. When He returned from spying the land, he showed his faith in
Yahweh by urging all the people to go up and possess it, in spite of their own weakness
and the adverse report of most of the other spies. He gloried in Yahweh, as his Saviour,
hence his name was changed from Hoshea to Joshua, more literally
Will-be-ing-salvation, and this is the lesson of the book. It is Yahweh who
saves His people from their enemies and is giving them the promised allotment in the land.
He wishes them to know, not only salvation, but their Saviour Himself.
It is instructive to note that the
first of the Latter Prophets, Isaiah, is practically the same in
meaningWill-be-ing-salvation. Its burden is the future counterpart of
Joshua, when Yahweh once more visits His people Israel and restores them to their land and
blesses them through the Saviour Whom they once despised.
The first of the Minor Prophets also
has a part of this title. Hosea means be-ing-safe.
Thus we have the great thought of
Yahwehs salvation prominently presented to us in the Prophets. The first of each
group is named with the name that is above every name, for Isaiah, and especially Joshua,
had the same name as the One Whom Joshua typified and Isaiah foretold. His name in Hebrew
would be Yahweh-Hoshea, Jehoshua, or Joshua, which, in Greek, is Jesus.
It is difficult to
get a good English word to do duty for this Hebrew title. Perhaps Rulers comes closer to
its meaning than Judges. When things went wrong, as they often did, then Yahweh raised up
someone to set them right again. Then he ruled the people in the absence of a king. Yahweh
Himself, was their King, but they failed to realize His presence and protection until He
sent some evil upon them. Then He sent deliverance by one of His rulers, and, at the same
time, restored them, in a measure, to Himself.
Hebrew Bibles recognize the division of Samuel into First and Second Samuel in their
headings, just as they add our chapters and verses in the margin, they make no division in
the text itself. In the beautiful copy of Ginsburgs Massoretic text before me as I
write, Second Samuel begins on the same line on which First Samuel
ends. They should never have been divided. Substantively, Samuel is one book. It was
probably first divided by the Greek translators because they could not get it all on one
roll of papyrus. But it was probably never divided in a Hebrew Bible until the publication
of the first edition of the Rabbinic Bible in Venice in 1516-17.
Samuel means Placed- or
Named-by-Subjector, His mother asked for him, but the Hebrew denotes
Place or Name. The whole history turns upon the
rejection of Yahweh as King and the request that He would give them a king like the other
nations. He gave them Saul in His displeasure and took him away in His wrath. And then He
gives them another king, not tall and regal in outward appearance, to please the people,
but a man after His own heart. David, the Beloved, the type of the promised Messiah, is
the answer to Samuel.
Like Samuel, this
book must not be divided into two parts. There is some question whether we should not
include the name of David in the title, for the book opens with And King
David. David, indeed, is through with his career, but all the kings which follow are
measured by their failure to come up to his standard.
The failure and declension which marks
all of the Former Prophets comes to a climax at the close of this book.
THE LATTER PROPHETS
How different are the Latter Prophets from the Former!
There defection and apostasy increase until all seems lost. The Latter Prophets reveal
Yahwehs ample provision for His erring people. They may fail but He remains true.
Indeed, their unfaithfulness is necessary to reveal His faithfulness. Fact gives place to
faith. The present appeals to the future. The failure of the nation is pressed home and
due judgment is meted out, yet all is radiant with the coming glory which Messiah alone
can bring. The old covenant, dependent on their conduct, is displaced by the new, which
depends solely on Yahwehs faithfulness.
O that we may learn the lesson which the Latter Prophets inculcate! How little would we
trust in man and his very best endeavors! How much we would make of God and His Word! The
history of the chosen people, as recorded for us in the Former Prophets is a continuous
downgrade movement. Failure, declension, division, defectionuntil the shekinah glory
withdraws, the kingdom is given to the nations and the people are led into captivity. The
Latter Prophets reverse all this. Beginning with Messiahs glorious return, the
nation is restored to its land, the sovereignty of the whole earth becomes theirs and the
glory of Yahweh hovers over their capital.
Once we see the real relation of the
Latter to the Former Prophetsthat they are concerned with the same people and the
same land and the same kingdomthen we can see how foolish and wrong it is to leave
all the evil to them and try to rob them of the good which Yahweh, their God, has in store
for them. The glowing prophecies of future bliss do not belong to the so-called
church, as our chapter headings so often inform us. When we thus misapply
them, we are robbing not only the nation He chose for His own, but ourselves as well. If
His uncovenanted promises to them fail of fulfilment then He, too, is unfaithful and the
great lesson of His grace and love, which overrides all their unworthiness, is lost to us.
Strange as it may
seem, those Scriptures which are generally misapplied have the plainest directions to
guide us. Isaiah prefaces his prophecy with definite indications as to the subject of his
vision. He says it concerns Judah and Jerusalem. This is repeated again and
It should be a cause of deep
humiliation that we need to even consider the question of to whom the Prophets were
written. But when our very Bibles are loaded with italics teaching this destructive error,
we must stop to point it out.
Opening a Bible at random, we find the
following chapter heading for Isaiah 49: Christ, being sent to the Jews, complaineth of
them. (5) He is sent to the Gentiles with gracious promises. (13) Gods
love is perpetual to His church. Turning to the text we find that the
church is Zion, which is one of the hills of Jerusalem. Thus all the headings run:
blessing for the church; curses for the Jews. The same will be seen by
glancing over the page headings: God expostulateth with His people [the Jews
of course]; The church comforted. Thus have we been taught to play fast and loose
with Gods holy word. And so confirmed has this habit become that, while most of us
have repudiated the perverse system of taking all of blessing for ourselves and leaving
all the rest to Israel, we still cling to the notion that any part of the Bible may be
applied as it suits us, quite apart from the directions He has given.
We dare not act so in our daily life.
A letter addressed to a friend may contain much of mutual interest, but it is a flagrant
breach of the law to open and read it and apply it to ourselves as though it
was never meant for another.
The law, the prophets and the
literature, in common with all Scripture, is profitable for us. But that profit becomes
loss the moment we turn it from its plain intention and apply it to ourselves.
If we apply any of it let us apply all. If the blessings of the law appeal to us let us
remember that accursed is everyone who is not remaining in all things written in the
scroll of the law to do them.
Yahweh Himself also appealed to them
on this ground when He was about to bring them into the land. And what great nation
is there which has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law that I am putting
before you today? (Deut.4:8). The psalmist is most explicit on this point
He is telling His words to Jacob,
His statutes and His ordinances to
He has not done so for any other
And His ordinances, they do not know
them at all.
they spoke of our law (Acts 24:6, John 7:51). This is why they cried
out against Peter when he went to Cornelius. This is what urged them to kill Paul when
they thought he had brought aliens into the sanctuary.
It was never Gods purpose to
confine blessing to the chosen nation, but it surely was His plan to make them its one
channel. They mistook their mission sadly, but let us remember that our Lord Himself, Who
ever kept the just balance of the truth, compared His kinsmen to children at their
Fathers board, but the other nations to puppies who eat the scraps which are cast
from the table (Matt.15:26-28).
It is only as we are continually
reminded of the dependent, subordinate, beggarly place which the nations then occupied,
that we can appreciate the vast chasm which has been bridged to bring us to our present
exalted place as the peers of the nation of His choice. Even after Paul, the chosen vessel
to bring us blessing, had been called and commissioned, he dispensed the spiritual things
of Israel (Rom.15:27), so that the nations were under obligations to repay the debt.
Before the present secret economy came into exercise the highest place accorded the
nations was the place of a guest (Eph.3:12 not strangers) at Israels table.
Our position in regard to the Hebrew
Scriptures is clear. Far from being shunned, they are full of instruction and comfort for
us today. But this will come in far greater measure as we see their true scope and
acknowledge their proper purpose.
Isaiahs vision includes many
nations and cities besides Judah and Jerusalem. There is the burden of Babylon, and of
Moab, and of Damascus, and of Egypt, etc. Yet all of these are closely connected with the
people and the land of Yahweh. It is not only their blessing he records, but the just
judgment for their treatment of Judah and Jerusalem. The only blessing which comes to the
nations in Isaiah is that which overflows to them when Judah is blessed in that day of
Yahweh. Spiritual blessing as we know today, which arises out of Israels apostasy
is absolutely foreign to Isaiah and all the Prophets. It is a secret of which they had not
the slightest hint.
Will-be-exalting, is given the
supervision . . . over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up,
and to break down, and to destroy, and to demolish, to build, and to plant
(Jer.1:10). He prophesied at the time of the carrying away of captive Jerusalem. Like
Isaiah, he, too, prophesies against the enemies of Yahwehs people.
My Steadfast[ness]-is-Subjector. He is the prophet of the captivity, hence his
name does not incorporate the covenant title Yahweh, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, but the
name, El, the Subjector of all the nations. Hence, too, Ezekiel is called son of
humanity or son of Adam as it is in the Hebrew, giving him a
relationship to all mankind. All this is a token that Israel has wandered far from their
land and their God.
The three Major Prophets, Isaiah,
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, are a series in point of time, in depth of apostasy and in scope of
restoration. Isaiah wrote before the captivity and ended his message in the reign of the
good King Hezekiah, who was a one of the finest figures of the sufferings of Messiah in
the whole range of revelation. It is fitting that this should be so, for Isaiah speaks of
salvation. His future outlook takes in the day of Yahweh, but nothing beyond.
Jeremiah was later than Isaiah and
ends his message with the captivity of Zedekiah.
Ezekiel does not begin to speak until
after the captivity. His future outlook reaches beyond the thousand years to the irruption
of Gog and Magog.
THE MINOR PROPHETS
The twelve Minor
Prophets were written on one scroll and reckoned as one book. As their names and order
have not been disturbed in our Bibles, we need only point out, as nearly as we can, the
significance of their names and the most notable indexes to their place and purpose.
|Hosea: Israel's Relationship to God (conjugal) and
| Joel: Day of Yahweh: All the
nations gathered in Valley of
Removal to Babylon: Temple destroyed.
Obadiah: Doom of Edom.
Jonah: Nineveh escapes doom.
Micah: Yahweh's controversy with Israel
Nahum: Nineveh doomed.
Habakkuk: Doom of Babylon
Zephaniah: Yahweh's Controversy with the nations
Return from Babylon: Temple filled with glory.
| Zechariah: Day of Yahweh: All
the nations gathered around
|Malachi: Israel's Relations to God (elective) and
accompanying outline, prepared by one who has made a special study of these books, while
somewhat beyond our present purpose, will help us to see the significance of the titles.
Half of these prophecies are Political in their burden, the other half deal with the
The first and last, Hosea and Malachi,
trace Israels relationship to Yahweh under two distinct figures, the former gives
Him the place of a Husband, the latter makes Him their Father. But in both apostasy is
Amos and Haggai deal with the removal
to and restoration from Babylon and the destruction and rebuilding of the temple.
Joel and Zechariah both deal with the
day of Yahweh. Obadiah pronounces the doom of Edom; Habakkuk gives Babylons doom.
Jonah and Nahum both are occupied with Nineveh. Micah and Zephaniah detail Yahwehs
controversy with Israel and the nations respectively.
As has been said,
Hosea means Be-ing safe. This is not its only point of similarity to Isaiah,
for both prophets spoke during the days Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of
Judah. The difference between them is suggested in the added fact that Hosea prophesied
during the days of Jeroboam, King of Israel. Isaiah is concerned with Judah and
Jerusalem: Hosea with Israel and Samaria. He addresses himself especially to the
Will-Be-Subjector, is full of predictions of that great and terrible day when
the name will find its fulfilment. Yahweh, the God of Israel will show Himself as the God
of the earth when He sends forth the judgments foretold in Joel.
Amos, or the
Load, is a series of judgments culminating in the captivity of Israel, but
closing with a glorious picture of their restoration.
Servant-will-be. It is a judgment on Edom for their violence against Jacob in
their calamity, especially in the great day of Yahweh.
Jonah, a dove, is especially concerned
with Ninevah and Yahwehs dealing with it by means of his prophet.
Without definitely stating the truth,
the whole narrative is a most beautiful parable of Israels mission to the other
nations and its eventual accomplishment in spite of their backwardness and rebellion.
Infidels who scoff at Jonah in the mythical whale will find a much more
difficult phenomenon to explain if they will only consider Israel among the nations, and
their miraculous preservation as a national entity in spite of every effort to assimilate
means Smiter. He gives a record of Yahwehs pleadings with Samaria and
Jerusalem. His prophecies of the the last days are full of comfort to the
people He had chosen.
worm or comforting, gives us the doom of one of Israels
enemies, the great city of Nineveh.
Embracing, is a pastoral prophecy. The prayer with which it closes seems to
have been included in the temple liturgy.
probably means Secluded-will-be, is occupied with the day of Yahweh and its
judgment on the enemies of Jerusalem, and closes with marvelous promises of restoration.
Celebration, is a post-exile prophet, filled with encouragement and promises
to the feeble remnant who returned from the captivity. It has, therefore, special
reference to Judah and Jerusalem and the temple.
Remembrance-will-be, is, as his name suggests, a prophet of the restoration,
and is especially full of that greater restoration which will come with Messiahs
advent in glory.
Messenger, is the last of the prophets, and fitly introduces the messenger, John the
Baptist, who is to introduce the greatest of all the Prophets to the people of the
This cursory glance
at the prophets is sufficient to show that their testimony is centered in Judah and
Israel. The judgment of the other nations is based on their treatment of His people, and
the future blessing which is in store for them can come only with and through their
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