Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadia, Yonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Chagai, Zechariah, and Malachi

The Twelve Prophets (Trei-Assar)

Why were twelve prophets lumped into this one book labeled: "The Twelve?"
Do these prophets have more in common with each other than with Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel?

Our rabbis tell us that the reason a single book was formed out of these twelve prophets was to ensure their survival in the Jewish national library.

Remember, 2500 years ago, at the time that our rabbis were deciding which books to include in the Tanach (Bible), there was no printing press, no photo copier and certainly no CD ROM drive.

In other words, if a book was to be spread around and read, it had to be copied by hand (a huge job, when you consider that they didn't have the types of paper and the pens that make our lives so easy today). It would also have to be stored safely. Now logic tells us that it's easier and safer to store one large scroll than twelve small ones. So, since each of these twelve prophets is relatively small, they were all "published" together.

The first of the twelve, Hosea, was actually an older contemporary of Isaiah, and if it would have been left as a book by itself, it would have come before Isaiah. The careers of the final three prophets of the book (Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi) reach into the period of the second Temple. What these prophets have in common, is that they each transmitted the word of G-d as it was given to them and they each have something to say to our generation.

What follows are very short descriptions about each of the Twelve Smaller Prophets:

Hoshea

Hoshea gave his prophecy to the Jews of Israel in the declining years of the first Temple period. His message was a warning to the Jews that their slipping morality would bring destruction and exile. Through the eyes of the prophet we see a vision of the coming destruction and exile, the rebuilding of the Temple 70 years later, and its eventual destruction at the hands of the Romans. We are also shown (by way of what might have been a dream involving Hoshea's wife) that even in exile, G-d is still with His people.

Joel

The vision of Joel (Yoel) contains good news and bad news: He hints to the four kingdoms under whose cruel rule the Jews would live: Babylonia, Persia, Greece and Rome. The future path of our nation would be difficult indeed - assuming that they didn't correct their observance of G-d's commandments. Joel is also famous for his description of the eventual ingathering of the exiles at the time of the final redemption.

Amos

Amos directs a good deal of his eternal prophecy to the Ten Tribes (who would soon be lost from our people as a result of their actions). Aside from the all-important warnings to both those of the northern kingdom and of the south in Jerusalem, Amos points out that Jews have been given an important mission in this world. The Jews were also given great strengths to fulfill their mission. If they don't do their job, their punishment will be far greater than for others: "The bigger they are the harder they fall."

Obadiah

Obadiah is noteworthy (aside from being the man who hid and supported 100 prophets in the terrible days of King Ahab), for a prophecy that isn't directed specifically at the Jews at all, but at the neighboring nation of Edom. They too, according to Obadiah, are destined to be brought to justice for their actions. Our rabbis often associate the Roman Empire and its intellectual heirs with Edom.

Jonah

Jonah (Yonah) is probably the most famous of the twelve prophets because his book is read in Synagogue on the afternoon of Yom Kippur. Jonah was ordered by G-d to go to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (located in today's northern Iraq, near the Turkish border) and convince the non-Jews there to return from their evil ways. Jonah was afraid that the people of Nineveh would listen to his rebuke and improve themselves, thus casting the Jews (who weren't listening to their prophets) in a bad light. He therefore tried to avoid the mission, even at the cost of his life.

Escaping in the opposite direction on board a commercial boat, Jonah ran into a fierce storm and allowed himself to be thrown overboard to save the crewmen. Once overboard, he was swallowed by a fish (and then a second, after the first spat him out). Eventually, after doing Teshuva (repentance) he found himself safely on dry land.

Realizing that there is no escaping the will of G-d, Jonah traveled to Nineveh and spoke to its people. They did indeed change their ways.

Micah

Micah also warns the Jews (of both the northern and southern kingdoms) of what continued disregard for the commandments would bring. But much of the book is devoted to the wonders of the third Temple - to be built at the time of the redemption. Perhaps what has kept our interest in this book so strong over the centuries is the clear prediction that at no time in our long, long exile would G-d ever push us away completely... we will never be totally wiped out.

Nahum

In Nahum we find an "undoing" of the prophecy of Jonah: The same city that was brought to teshuva by the words of rebuke from Jonah will soon be destroyed: Why? For having become, under the leadership of their king Sancheriv, the empire that swallowed and disrupted most of the known world, including the ten northern tribes of Israel.

As we've seen in the words of so many other prophets, a question arises frequently: if the ten northern tribes earned the fate they received by Sancheriv, why should Sancheriv be punished for doing G-d's will?

Habakkuk

Habakkuk, like Nahum, was sent to speak about the end of an enemy of the Jews, this time Nebuchadnezar, the Babylonian king.

Here too, we are told about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple after just 70 years... this would not be a final redemption.

Zephaniah

Notable in the prophecy of Zephaniah is the description of the length and depth of the coming exile, and of the redemption that will follow bringing universal faith in the one true G-d.

Chagai, Zechariah, and Malachi

The final three books of The Twelve are Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi. These were the prophets who lived at the very end of the age of prophecy (after their deaths, there have been no prophets. There have been some people with divine inspiration, but no one was on the level of a prophet). All three spoke to the Jews during and immediately after the building of the second Temple, and foresaw the events of the second commonwealth.

For instance, Chagai urged the people to put greater effort into the construction of the city, settlements, and Temple, despite the hardships involved. Zechariah discussed specific sins that were present in his generation and described the story of Chanukah (which would only occur 200 years hence).

This terribly brief overview of the words of "The Twelve" cannot hope to carry the flavor and power of the actual books. The intention here is only to give over an idea of the contents and purpose of each work, but there's no substitute for diving in head first and studying the material - and if at all possible, in the original Hebrew.


Rabbi Boruch Clinton teaches at the Ottawa Torah Institute yeshiva high school and Machon Sarah high school for girls (both in Ottawa, Canada). You may reach him with comments and questions at bclinton@torah.org.

You can now read some of Rabbi Clinton's essays on Torah life at http://www.ncf.ca/~es625/essays

You can also buy his collection of essays on the Book of Shmuel (Samuel) in printed form at www.lulu.com/marbitzmedia

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Boruch Clinton and Project Genesis, Inc.

 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON KEDOSHIM AND PESACH:

View Complete List

Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

There's One in Every Generation
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Sweet Revenge
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

ArtScroll

Love of Money, or Money of Love?
Rabbi Gavriel Prero - 5761

Who Knows One?
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

We Were Slaves...
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

> The Heart of the Matter
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Basic Recognition
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Tattooing: Under your skin
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Jumping To Conclusions
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Taking It Personally
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5764

Reading, Reviewing, Reciting
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

To Be Chosen Again
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Too Familiar
Shlomo Katz - 5766

The Importance of Order
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Ordering Priorities
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information
 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON KEDOSHIM AND PESACH:

View Complete List

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

Make Your Parents and Teachers Proud
Shlomo Katz - 5763

Sea the Miracle
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5764

ArtScroll

A Good Place to Begin
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Kadesh
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Encouraging His Children to Climb
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Yosef’s Bones And Splitting Of The Sea: A Lesson In Unity
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

"HaKol B'Seder!"
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5762

> The Evil Son
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5756

For I am Holy
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

A Physical Song
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Critical Difference
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

The Great Shabat
- 5773

Of Demons and Goats
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Rachtza Through Shulchan Orech
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information