I’m going out of order a little but it was easier to expand my project to actual prophets with shorter books. In the Jewish Bible, these 12 prophets are called the “minor” prophets, because they form short books, and all 12 are treated as one full-length book. Here it is then. NOTE: with the prophets it becomes problematic to summarise what they are talking about — do I talk about the literal imagery or what it means (where there is a convergence of opinion)? Because this project is mainly about what’s in the actual Bible, when in doubt I’m going for the literal imagery. In cases where there’s a very well-known interpretation or obvious comment to be made, I may mention it in square brackets. Still, all misunderstandings are mine alone. Another note: in the prophets there are heaps of changes of voice (the prophet speaking for YHWH vs YHWH) and person (whether YHWH is speaking about Israel or to Israel). I’ve tried to smooth some of it out but it’s impossible to do entirely. So sometimes it’ll go from (say) referring to Israel to referring to Israel as “you”. These should still be pretty self-explanatory.
Hosea (Chapters 1-14)
YHWH tells Hosea: “Marry a prostitute and bear her children, because Israel is ‘whoring’ itself out with other gods. [YHWH gets Hosea to be a living allegory to the prophecy.]” He marries Gomer and has 2 sons and a daughter. YHWH gets him to name the son Jezreel (YHWH will revenge the misdeeds at Jezreel [see Kings]), the daughter Lo-ruhamah (meaning no mercy for Israel [but Judah is ok]), the next son Lo-ammi (meaning that the Israelites are “not my people” [anymore]). YHWH says: “I will punish Israel for playing the harlot. The wife will be sorry for straying: I will lay waste to her. I’ll eventually cause Israel to put away their idols and hence will call Israel my wife and everything will be peachy.” YHWH gets Hosea to hire another prostitute but to tell her the condition of her wage is that she cannot have sex with or marry anyone afterwards — to show that Israel will be for a long time without a king because of their idolatry.
YHWH says: “I have a case against you Israel. You are engaged in perjury, murder, theft and adultery. Because of these, nature is withering. The priests are especially bad for destroying my people through corruption — I reject them. The ordinary people will be punished too. Don’t go to pilgrimages in Judah so as not to spread your corruption there. In vain did the tribe of Ephraim appeal to the king of Assyria [later: and Egypt] as their patron! Because of your iniquities this king will only be a destroyer”
“Repent: I can still make everything right again. I desire goodness over sacrifice, but I don’t even have that. The priests are like bandits. Ephraim is especially bad for appealing to foreigners. I was their redeemer but they plotted against me. Their officers will fall by the sword. I reject Israel. Though you may plant crops, strangers will devour them. You will be taken to Egypt and Assyria, where you’ll eat unclean food and will not be able to offer sacrifices. The prophets have been driven made by your conduct — conduct that’s as bad as the days of Gibeah [see Judges].”
“I used to find Israel as pleasing as grapes in the wilderness, but since the idol-worship I’ve detested them. Now, though they may bear children I’ll have them killed and send the nation into exile. Israel is like a ravaged wine. I fell in love with her when she was a child and pampered her but she’s gone astray. I’ve had a change of heart, in my tenderness I won’t destroy you fully. I looked after you in the desert [during the Exodus] and given you food, water and defence. You’ve had no help but me and now you turn your back on me. Your infants will be dashed, your pregnant women ripped open. Repent and I’ll take you back with love. Then Israel will blossom like a lily, its beauty like an olive tree’s.”
Joel (Chapters 1-4)
Listen Israel, this locust plague is really bad. Have you ever seen anything as terrible as this? All of Israel is invaded and devastated. [According to some interpretations the locusts are an allegory for Israel’s actual invaders.] Lament at how the land is ravaged, how the sacrifices to YHWH are suspended. I call on YHWH because everything is consumed and dried up.
A terrible day of YHWH is coming, a day of darkness and gloom the likes of which have never happened. A terrible army that are invincible, darken the sun and moon and cannot be stopped — with YHWH at its head. Still, even now YHWH offers Israel the opportunity for authentic repentance and then the punishment may be averted. But only if the entire people take this to heart.
This repentance will happen [or has happened, but I’ll refer to it as a prophecy for the future]. YHWH will be roused to compassion, restore Israel’s lands, resources and honour and chase away the invaders. So don’t fear! You will eat your fill and come to know YHWH yet. YHWH will make a judgement, turning the sun to darkness, the moon to blood. Those who invoke YHWH by name will survive. YHWH will gather all other nations and punish them for oppressing his people — especially you Tyre, Sidon and Philistia! All the nations should arm themselves and get to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for jugement. Then the Israelites will live in peace and prosperity with YHWH dwelling in Israel.
Amos (Chapters 1-9)
YHWH speaks to Amos in the reign of King Uzziah of Judah. “I will punish Damascus for threshing Gilead, Gaza for exiling Israelite populations, Tyre for treacherously handing over Israelites to their enemies, Edom for pursuing his brother Israel [since Israel is descended from Jacob and Edom from Jacob’s brother Esau] with the sword with no pity, Ammonites for ripping open the pregnant women of Gilead, Moab for burning the bones of the king of Edom. All of these will be destroyed in various gruesome ways. But don’t think you’re getting off lightly, Israel and Judah. Judah, you’re not following my laws and Israel, you’ve sold justice for silver, and allowed immorality. And this after I took you out of Egypt and conquered the land of Israel for you and raised prophets among you! Strength will not save you.”
“I’ve singled you out from all nations on earth which is why I’ll be extra tough on you. Would a lion roar in the forest if he has no prey? Well I’m roaring and it can only be because I’ve decided to punish you. An enemy will plunder your land, incidentally wrecking all your idols. Those who defraud the poor will be carried out in baskets. Come, keep sinning and then hypocritically present sacrifices the next day, you love that stuff! I sent drought, pestilence, destruction (as when God destroyed Sodom and Gemorah) [a rare remnant of monolatry in the text] but still you didn’t repent. 90% of your population will be destroyed if you keep going. Don’t you know how powerful I am? You’ve built nice houses from overtaxing the poor but you won’t get to live in them. Please turn away from evil to avoid tragedy. Those who look forward to the Day of YHWH, rest assured it will be nothing but terrible. I spurn your sacrifices because they’re accompanied by injustice. Take a look at the other nations — are you any better than them at this stage? Surely I will smash you to bits.”
YHWH reveals to Amos 3 punishments for Israel. Amos asks for mercy which YHWH grants each time. The high priest at Bethel, incensed that Amos is talking so negatively, complains to king Jeroboam and tells Amos to get out of Israel and prophecise in Judah. Amos says that he’s not a [professional] prophet but a simple shepherd who YHWH speaks to, furthermore YHWH will make the priest’s wife a harlot and kill his sons.
YHWH tells Amos that he’s had enough of mercy. “I will turn the festivals into mourning and send a terrible famine. No matter where the corrupt rulers of Israel/Judah may go, I will find them and bring them to justice. You might think you’re so special since you’re my own nation that I brought out of Egypt — but I also rescued the Philistines and Arameans from captivity so don’t get such a big head! Still, I won’t kill everyone but will scatter the remnant across the nations. Eventually I will mend the Davidic dynasty, restore Israel and reestablish the land — and never again will they be uprooted from there.”
Ovadiah (Chapter 1)
The nation of Edom will fall and become the most despised of nations. [According to Genesis, Edom is the nation descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother and therefore the nation of Edom is considered Israel’s older, bully brother.] It is an arrogant nation but its warriors will lose heart and nobody will survive the slaughter. The reason is because they hurt Israel by standing by when foreigners sacked its gates and siezed Jerusalem [ie. when Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple, see Kings]. Edom, how could you stand by and gaze with glee, not to mention stealing the spoils of war? A remnant of Israel will remain [despite the Babylonian exile?] and will take back Edom’s land for Israel and destroy Edom.
Jonah (Chapters 1-4)
YHWH tells Jonah to warn the Assyrian city of Nineveh that YHWH is about to judge it. Instead, Jonah runs away on a ship. YHWH sends a storm and each sailor prays to his own god. They cast lots and “learn” that Jonah is responsible. Jonah offers to be thrown overboard so they wouldn’t die for him. At first they refuse but the storm is too dangerous so they do. To save Jonah, YHWH makes a fish swallow him.
Jonah is in the belly for 3 days. He composes a poem about how even though he is cast out, he is thankful for being saved, yearns to offer sacrifices at YHWH’s temple (in Jerusalem) and will obey YHWH. The fish spits Jonah out. He preaches at Nineveh. The inhabitants take heed, begin to fast and repent and YHWH cancels their punishment.
Jonah is angry and explains this was why he fled: he knew YHWH is compassionate and therefore delivering the prophecy is in effect offering Nineveh a chance to repent. [Jonah doesn’t want to see Assyria spared because they have been or are about to attack Israel and destroy it.] In response YHWH provides Jonah a plant and just when he’s comforted by the shade, destroys it. Jonah is grieved about the plant and in defiance wants YHWH to kill him. YHWH explains that because Jonah cares for a plant he didn’t rear, how much more should YHWH care about Nineveh, a city of 120,000 children? [who were created by YHWH and who are not responsible for the “sins” of their adult parents.]
Micah (Chapters 1-7)
YHWH speaks to Micah, a prophet in the reign of king Hezekiah of Judah [see Kings]: “Listen all nations, I’m coming to judgement and the world will tremble. Judah will be judged, its idols smashed and harlot-fees burned. Start mourning: foreigners will take your lands from you. Everyone who commits fraud and injustice will get it doubly. Some say I will not do such a thing because of my patience. Though I’m friendly to the righteous, I won’t hesitate to strike at the wicked who oppress my people from within. To the rulers of Israel+Judah especially: you should know what’s right but instead you’ve flayed the skin off my people. I will be silent to your official prophets/seers. Because you dispence justice for a fee, I will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. Eventually the nations will come to Israel to learn my ways. I will judge other nations who will beat their swords into plowshares, nation shall not take up sword against nation but everyone will be left alone etc.
“I will gather those of you [Israelites] who I treated so harshly and restore the Judean monarchy. It’s understandable that you’re upset now since you will go into exile to Babylon but I will redeem you there. Though other nations have conspired against you, I will defeat them. The new ruler will come from Bethlehem. He will defend Israel and lead them back to the land and protect them against any Assyrian attacks. The remaining Israelites will be among the nations like a lion among sheep, trampling all. I will destroy all idols and disobedient nations.”
“Israel, I have a case against you. What harm have I caused you? Testify against me — I’ve rescued you from Egypt and done only good. Do I want fancy sacrifices? No, I’m more concerned with justice. Should I overlook the fraudulent weights and balances of the lawless rich? This is why I’ve been chastising you, why you do work but it comes to naught — because you’ve continued the idolatry of the house of Ahab [see Kings].”
[Samaria personified(?) says]: “Woe is me! I have become barren and the pious are vanished leaving only scoundrels, the best of them like thorns. Trust noone because a man’s household are his enemies nowadays. Enemies, I bear YHWH’s righteous anger but I will rise up again so don’t rejoice over my downfall. You will only get punished for such gloating with destruction of your own land. You will cower before YHWH. He is a god that forgives sin and cannot stay mad at Israel forever. Hence he will honour all the covenants he promised meaning Israel won’t stay down forever.”