In this section, you can read the introduction to the Prophetic Literature. The Prophets is the largest section of the Hebrew Bible.
Though the historical books mention a good number of active prophets in the course of Israel’s history, the most famous of them being Elijah and Elisha of the 9th century BCE, the writing prophets made their appearance with Amos and Hosea only in the 8th century BCE.
Practically all the prophetic books have a very complicated “birth story”, as additions and revisions were frequently made, but for our purposes, we will accept the books as they are found in our Bibles.
Let us remind ourselves of the time that these books acquired the form they have now:
Around 750: Amos; Hosea; Micah; First Isaiah
630-600: Zephaniah; Jeremiah; Nahum; Habakkuk
Exilic: Ezekiel; Second Isaiah
Post-Exilic: Third Isaiah; Haggai; Joel; Zechariah; Malachi; Obadiah
In the Hebrew Bible, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve belong to the Nebi’im, while in Christian Bibles, the book of Jeremiah is followed by the Book of Lamentations (belonging to the Writings in the TeNaK) and Baruch (which is a deutero-canonical book, and therefore not found =in the TeNaK). Neither book belongs to the Major Prophets.
The very last prophetic book was the second-century BCE Book of Daniel, which the TeNaK had to place among the Writings as the Canon of Prophetic Books was already closed when the book was written. Christian Bibles, however, place this book between Ezekiel and the Minor Prophets.
In our Bibles, four books are listed as Major Prophets (not because of their quality, but purely because of their length!).
They are: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
The books found in the Scroll of the Twelve are listed as Minor Prophets (written in italics above).
Note that the one book of Isaiah was in fact written by three different prophets in three very different periods, and are now called First Isaiah (chapters 1-39), Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55) and Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66).
The twelve Minor Prophets:
Hosea, was a prophet of Israel, the northern kingdom.
Joel, named after its author, the prophet Joel, a man of Judah.
Amos, named after the prophet Amos who, though born near Bethlehem, preached in the northern city of Bethel.
Obadiah, named after the prophet Obadiah, a native of Judah but otherwise obscure.
Jonah, named after its fictional hero, himself named after a Galilean prophet briefly mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25.
Micah, named after the Judean prophet Micah.
Nahum, named after the Galilean prophet Nahum.
Habakkuk, named after the prophet Habakkuk of whom nothing is known.
Zephaniah, named after its author the prophet Zephaniah, who may well have been the great-grandson of King Hezekiah.
Haggai, named after the prophet Haggai.
Zechariah, named after the prophet Zechariah, contemporary and near neighbour of Haggai.
Malachi, a name meaning “my messenger” but about whom nothing is known.
We have included the Books of Lamentations and Baruch in this section since we are following the order in which they are found in the Bible; most Bibles put these two books after Jeremiah, even though they are NOT part of the Major Prophets.
Download the introduction to the Major Prophets
Download the introduction to the Minor Prophets