"The Twelve"

This is a short article that offers a synopsis of The Twelve with special attention to the theological themes most clearly shared by each of the prophets.

The collection of prophets, referred to as The Twelve, maintain a coherent set of prophecies that present several theologically consistent and contextually comparable themes. Hosea fittingly begins the series with quite the graphic illustration of Israel's harlotry with pagan conceptions of deity and unfaithfulness to Yahweh—the only true, living God. This illustration puts forth a major theme that is repeated to varying extents throughout the remaining prophets. The portrayal is clear and graphic: Israel's idolatry is covenantal adultery, their embracing of false idols is religious prostitution. The Lord illustrates this through Hosea's testimony of being married to a harlot. The consequence of their tragic transgression is felt in judgment. Together, this projects one of the most repeated themes in The Twelve, namely that Israel has rebelled against her God and is now facing, and even experiencing, His righteous wrath. "The days of punishment have come, the days of retribution have come, let Israel know this!" were the words of Yahweh to and through Hosea (9:7). Another major theme, which is closely related to the immediate discussion of judgment, is the theme of what Joel, Amos, Zephaniah, Obadiah, and Malachi refer to as "the day of the Lord." It appears to most commonly refer to a time in which Yahweh will visit the iniquity of the wicked, a time of judgment and wrath. In fact, Amos presents "the day of the Lord" with a challenge to Israel, "For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light" (5:18). Joel says, "it will come as destruction from the Almighty." (1:15). The theme of judgment is replete throughout The Twelve, and is not limited to Israel and Judah, at times it extends to the nations as well. Though the dynamic of Yahweh's "instruments of indignation" (Isa 13:5) is more extensively explained in Isaiah, the theme of culpability for wicked deeds, whether or not they are employed by the Lord to exact judgment, is evident within The Twelve. This clearly explains the presence and strength of the prophecies of judgment and retribution upon neighboring nations (Joel 3; Amos 1; Obad; Nahum 2–3; Zeph 2–3; Zech 9)—even those who merely celebrate the calamity of Israel and Judah (Obad 12; Mic 7:8). The issue is that God is perfectly righteous in all His dealings with the peoples (cf. Zeph 3:5), so that judgment upon rebellious Israel is deserved and will come through the wicked actions of the Assyrians and Babylonians by their own choice to do wickedly against Israel, which in turn is worthy of judgment. In the end, all sin is shown to be antithetical and oppositional to God, come from creaturely desires, and terminate in judgment. Proclamations of judgment were often accompanied by pleas of repentance (Hos 14; Joel 2:13; Amos 4–5; Zech 1:3–4; Mal 3:7), a theme that dominates Jonah. The repeated call of the prophets to the people to repent, to turn from their ways and turn to Yahweh, is indicative of God's patient character and covenant faithfulness. Indeed, a concluding crown of nearly every prophet, is the message that in spite of Israel's harlotry and unfaithfulness, Yahweh is faithful and promises a future restoration. According to His covenant-keeping lovingkindness, the prophets availed hope in the future reality of the Lord's re-gathering and restoration of Israel as a nation in the land. This was often accompanied with glimpses of a new/renewed kingdom, ruled by a new King, with a glorious temple and in a revived land. The theme of hope in a future for Israel, and the promise of a righteous King/Branch/Shepherd, is abundantly prevalent; even alongside repeated waves of judgment. Clearly this points to one of the major purposes of The Twelve: make certain Israel understands that the calamity that befalls her is due to her sins and is actually judgment from Yahweh, yet He is faithful and there is hope. The substance underlying these prophecies is the character of Yahweh. It could be argued that one of the purposes undergirding the prophecies of The Twelve is the manifestation and further glorification of the nature and character of God!

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