God uses two nations to punish the chosen people and to send them into captivity. Judah watches as Israel (the sinning sister) is taken into captivity to Assyria in 722 BC. In 586 BC Judah (and Jerusalem) follows her sister by being taken into captivity to Babylon. Whether obedience or disobedience God will continue to accomplish His Word through the Jews!
The prophets were God’s instruments to attempt to bring Israel and the rest of the nations to repentance. Isaiah spoke to them concerning Yahweh’s Salvation. Jeremiah communicated sin’s condemnation, and wept over Jerusalem’s fall in Lamentations – weeping prophet. Ezekiel and Daniel spoke specifically to the captives in Babylon. Ezekiel explained how the Exiles were ruined and restored. Daniel spoke of future things and the deliverance that God would bring. He also looked sweepingly to the events of the end times found in Revelation. Hosea married a harlot to put in Israel’s face that God’s love was present even in the midst of Israel’s apostasy. Joel encouraged the people to blow the trumpet and to warn of the coming day of the Lord! Amos was a farmer who revealed the roaring punishment of God against Israel’s sin. Obadiah explained that Edom would be cut off because of the way she had treated her brother, Israel. Edom was comprised of the descendents of Esau (remember Jacob and Esau!?).
Jonah’s message was reserved for the capital of Babylon: Nineveh. He was compassion’s voice to this nation (even though he didn’t like it one bit!) Micah spoke of God’s unchanging love toward Israel, and Nahum returns to the subject of Nineveh’s doom 100 years after the preaching of Jonah. Habakkuk is concerned with the just rejoicing before God even in these difficult times of judgment, and Zephaniah warns of Israel’s last chance to repent before captivity.
After about 70 years of captivity it was time to return to Israel. God used Cyrus the King of Persia to effect this return, and the book of Ezra calls the captive Jews to return/reform their hearts and rebuild their temple. The book of Nehemiah gives the account of the rebuilding of the broken down walls of Jerusalem and encourages the people to renew/rebuild the walls of the spiritual community of Israel. Three prophets are appointed to stimulate this work: Haggai encourages obedient building and asks that the Jews rebuild the Temple and the city walls as a higher priority than building their own houses and personal kingdoms. Zechariah focuses the people on the majestic Lord of Hosts and promotes worship as the basis for spiritual success. Malachi records sin’s dialogue as God addresses the excuses of His people for not doing their spiritual jobs upon returning to the land. This leads into 400 silent years that will not be broken until the “voice of the one crying in the wilderness.” John the Baptist proclaims and prepares the way for THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! This ushers in “the fullness of times” spoken by the prophets.