Question: "What is the core message of the Minor Prophets?"

Answer: The Minor Prophets, sometimes referred to as “the Book of the Twelve,” make up the final section of the Old Testament. They consist of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The “minor” designation pertains solely to their shorter length in comparison to the five “Major Prophets” but doesn’t imply that they have less theological importance. Moreover, to fully understand the Minor Prophets, it’s important to grasp the core message they convey to readers.

While all seventeen prophetic books in the Old Testament share common features, such as writing style, many scholars believe that the Minor Prophets are uniquely united. Evidence for this includes the facts that (1) they are grouped together, despite having various historical contexts, suggesting theological cohesion; (2) they are referred to in non-biblical texts as a single collection, such as Sirach 49:10, which calls them “the Twelve Prophets”; (3) they number twelve, which symbolizes completeness in the Hebrew tradition; and (4) they contain numerous internal connections. For example, the books of Joel and Amos include the phrase the Lord roars from Zion (Joel 3:16; Amos 1:2, ESV).

This unity is further reflected in the core message of the Minor Prophets. Their central point is that Jews and Gentiles alike need to repent of sin and live for God, who is loving and just, so that on the day of the Lord they will receive the blessings that come through His promised Messiah, rather than face His judgment (e.g., Joel 2:28–32; Habakkuk 2:4). The basis of the prophets’ critique is the law that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai—the Mosaic Covenant identifies sinful and holy behavior (Exodus 19—24). Importantly, according to the law, a person’s behavior reveals the condition of his heart toward God (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 6:5).

Three themes in the Minor Prophets work together to shape their core message. Central to each one is Hosea because it’s first in the traditional arrangement of the twelve books. Bible scholars disagree on which theme is dominant, yet most recognize that each one is important.

The first theme highlights Israel’s failure to keep the law. It communicates that people need to urgently repent for disobeying God’s commands to avoid His judgment and secure His blessing. Hosea 14:9 is central to this theme: “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

Another theme focuses on the day of the Lord, which ten out of the twelve Minor Prophets mention (e.g., Joel 1:15; 2:11; Amos 5:20). The day of the Lord is a future time when God will decisively intervene in world affairs, judging the unrighteous (e.g., Malachi 4:5) and blessing the righteous (e.g., Obadiah 1:15–18). The New Testament teaches that Pentecost foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment of the day of the Lord (Acts 2:17–21), which will culminate with the second coming of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Peter 3:10).

The third theme of the Minor Prophets emphasizes the love of God. This is evident in the narrative arc of the Minor Prophets. It begins with a story that illustrates God’s love (Hosea 1—3) and concludes with a declaration of the same theme in Malachi 1:2. That verse reads, “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us? Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob.’”

Finally, to fully comprehend the core message of the Minor Prophets, it’s important to understand that the New Testament identifies Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. While the minor prophets looked forward with anticipation to the Messiah’s arrival, Christians look back on it. As the New Testament affirms, the minor prophets testify to Jesus’ birth (e.g., Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1), public ministry (e.g., Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5), death (e.g., Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34–27), and resurrection (e.g., Jonah 2:10; Matthew 12:39–41). Jesus also taught that the Old Testament prophets testified about Him (Luke 18:31; 24:44–47).

The minor prophets lived under the Mosaic Covenant, which Jesus fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). In contrast, Christians today live under the New Covenant, a unilateral agreement that Jesus established by His death and resurrection (Jeremiah 31:31–40; Luke 22:20). Yet the books of the Minor Prophets remind Christians about the importance of Holy Spirit-empowered obedience. This obedience is no longer directed toward the law in its details but to its essence through loving God and others (Matthew 22:37–40) and to the mission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of every tribe, language, people, and nation (Matthew 28:18–20; Revelation 5:9).