ad Dei GloriamMinistries

Home > Bible Book Intros > OT Major Prophets

Introduction to the OT Books of the Major Prophets

Table of Contents

General Info

There are many prophets of major importance in the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Deborah, Elijah, and Elisha, just to name a few.  See our About the OT Hebrew Prophets article for more information.  However, when speaking of the books of the “Major Prophets”, we're referring specifically to the five books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel and Ezekiel that make up the section by that name in the Protestant Canon.  They are called “major” (as opposed to the “Minor Prophets” section of the same canon) due to their longer length rather than their greater importance.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel each took up an entire scroll, while Lamentations shared a single scroll with the Twelve Minor Prophets.  Despite its short length, Lamentations was likely included in the “major” section due to its association with Jeremiah.

In the Hebrew Bible Canon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (along with the twelve minor prophets) are grouped into a section called the Nevi’im Aharonim, or the “Latter Prophets” (the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings make up the Nevi’im Rishonim section, or “Former Prophets”.  While the latter prophets also deal with portions of Israel’s history, including details surrounding their actions, visions, circumstances surrounding their received messages etc, the heavier emphasis is generally on the prophetic aspects.  The books of Daniel and Lamentations are located in the section of the Hebrew Canon known as the Ketuvim, or “Writings”.

The prophets were God’s messengers, bringing authoritative messages of judgment and of future hope and restoration.  Yet, the prophets were not merely neutral bystanders, but were personally affected by the pronouncements that they relayed from God.  In addition, their lives were often at risk when prophesying of bad news to a wicked king.  We finally note that, since God has authority over all, many messages were delivered not only to Israel and Judah, but to surrounding foreign nations as well. 

See the introductions to the individual books for Author and Date information.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Historical Background and Timeline

The four major prophets ministered during very turbulent times from the mid eighth century to mid sixth century BC.  See the Historical Background of the OT History Books and the historical backgrounds of the individual book introductions for additional information.

Isaiah prophesied in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and witnessed the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (722 BC) to Assyria.  He then oversaw the miraculous delivery of Jerusalem (in Judah) from the Assyrians during the reign of Judean King Hezekiah (728-686 BC).  Jeremiah began his ministry about 627 BC and prophesied of Judah’s impending doom due to her consistent rebellion against God and His covenants.  Jerusalem finally fell to Babylon in 586 BC, and Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations as a mourning over the city’s destruction.  Jeremiah was treated well by the Babylonians, but was forced to flee to Egypt by a group of Jewish rebels, where he is thought to have died a few years later.

There were two deportations of the Jews to Babylon prior to Jerusalem’s fall.  The prophet Daniel was deported during the first wave (605 BC), became an important official in the royal court, and prophesized and ministered to his fellow exiles in Babylon, and to several Babylonian kings.  The prophet Ezekiel was deported during the second wave (597 BC) and prophesied by a number of visions, those of coming judgment on Jerusalem prior to her fall, and visions of future restoration for the exiles.

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Themes, Purpose and Theology

In Progress

[TOC]    [Top of Page]

Interpretation Hints and Challenges

In Progress

[TOC]    [Top of Page]