Majoring on Minors

There is a section of our Bibles tucked away at the end of the Old Testament. The majority of us know very little about it. When the preacher asks us to turn to one of these books, we start singing the books of the Bible to ourselves so we can find the place. They are known collectively as the Minor Prophets. The first of these books is Hosea and from there to Malachi is probably one of the least known sections of our Bibles.

They are called minor not because they are less important than Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, but because they are much shorter. In fact, they were in one volume in the Hebrew Bible.

Now if we believe that every word of God is important and is given for our instruction, why are we less knowledgeable about these books? I don't know the full answer to that question, but if I would use myself as a yardstick, I would say that they are so Jewish in outlook that I can easily miss the personal practical application to my daily life. Secondly, I miss the historical connection, thus losing narrative content that causes me to stay with the prophesy. Of course I could and do say that about Ezekiel also. It's so much easier to stick with the dynamic biography of Abraham or David, or the fast moving narrative of Joshua and Judges.

In other words, I need some help, someone to come alongside me and help me understand the narrative and the history and then goad me with some practical applications that will cause me to continue my study as well as help me spiritually.

The very first book that I would suggest you get is "The Twelve Prophets" by R. E. Harlow. Dr. Harlow is well known for his ministry through Everyday Publications. His vision was to publish good expository books in easy-to-read English so those peoples of the world whose second language was English could read them and learn. These books with a controlled vocabulary are sold at subsidized prices through missionaries around the world with great blessing. A side benefit is that those of us whose first language is English can read these same books and learn also. I like the way this one is laid out. In italics centered in the page are the practical goads for our personal application. Glancing through the book, I notice there is one on almost every page. It is verse-by-verse exposition with plenty of references to the places and events that form the basis of the prophecy. At the end of each chapter is an index of the scripture texts referred to in the chapter.

Another solid volume to have is H. A. Ironside's "Notes on the Minor Prophets." This work started out as twelve magazine articles in Help and Food, a ministry magazine of a past era. This encouraged him to continue to write on the rest of the minor prophets and put them in book form. As in all of Ironside's works, he is practical, devotional and easy to understand.

I would also like to tell you about a couple of out-of-print volumes. The first one is "The Minor Prophets" by Charles Feinberg. Dr. Feinberg grew up in an orthodox Jewish home and studied for fourteen years in preparation for the rabbinate. He was saved and spent the rest of his life preaching and writing of Christ. Thus his works on the Old Testament reflect his vast knowledge of Jewish history and culture.

The other work is much less known and hard to come by. But if you ever see it, get it. This series of small paperbacks was printed in England and written by the late Fredk. A. Tatford. Only 7 of the 12 prophets are included, but they are well worth having.

As the concluding section of the Minor Prophets will be introduced this month in Uplook, let me encourage you to read through them with us, using one of these books as a help. I'm sure that you will find these volumes helpful for discovering practical lessons for your Christian life from the Minor Prophets.