Module 25: The Need for a Teacher - God's Activities
Module Guide: Joel - The Day of the Lord; and Jonah - Condemnation of Exclusiveness; and Obadiah - The Curse of Cowardice
This pre-read guide is taken from the public domain source "The Analysed Bible in 3 Volumes" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Joel was specially a prophet to Judah. It is impossible to speak dogmatically concerning the date of his prophesying. Internal evidence makes it plain that he was one of the earliest, or one of the latest, of the prophets. The burden of his message was the Day of the Lord. It seems to be one remarkable utterance rather than notes of a ministry covering a long period, as in the case of Hosea. A terrible locust plague which had devastated the entire country was the occasion of its deliverance. He spoke of things which were evident to those whom he addressed, then predicted an immediate judgment, and finally looked far on to the ultimate Day of the Lord. Thus the book may be divided into two parts - Things present (1-2:27); Things to come (2:28-3:21).
In the first division there are two sections. Joel interpreted the meaning of the actual locust plague, and then declared that it was a sign of yet severer judgment imminent. In dealing with the actual locust plague, he called the old men and all the inhabitants to contemplation. Singling out the drunkards, the worshippers, the husbandmen, and the vine-dressers, he reminded them of the completeness of the devastation, showing how it had affected all classes. He then proceeded to call the people to humiliation. Beginning with the priests, he included the whole nation, and at last voiced the cry of the people.
Having thus dealt with the actual visitation and its terrible devastation, and having called the people into the place of humiliation, the prophet rose to a higher level, and interpreted the visitation as indicating a deeper and more terrible judgment which threatened them. In doing this, he made use of the figure of the blowing of a trumpet.
The first blast sounded a note of alarm as it announced the approach of the Day of Jehovah. With the figure of the locusts still in mind, he described the swift, irresistible, and all-consuming character of the armies which were about to come as the scourge of God upon the people, being careful to declare that this whole movement would be under the command of Jehovah. The prophet, however, declared that God still waited. If the people would return to Him, He would spare them.
Then the second blast of the trumpet called for an assembly of the people in the attitude of repentance. The character of the assembly was to be that of a fast, and its constitution the actual gathering together of all the people, from the youngest to the oldest. Being assembled, they were to cry for mercy, the ultimate reason being that the nations should not say, "Where is their God?" To such attitude Jehovah would respond in grace. The prophet insisted that both the things of judgment and the things of mercy were in the government of God; the first, rendered necessary by the people's neglect of Him; the second, made possible by their return to Him. At this point ended the second chapter of the prophecy in the Bible of the Hebrews. The prophet, having indicated the judgment imminent, and called the people to repentance; and having, moreover, declared the merciful attitude of Jehovah toward such repentance, had come to the end of his message as it had to do with things then present.
Things to Come
He now moved on to a yet higher level, and there was granted to him a vision of the final Day of the Lord, of which the things then present were but the shadow and forecast. In this second section he dealt wholly with things to come. The great word introducing it is aftertcard. Some of the things foretold have now been fulfilled, some are still in the future.
In looking toward the distant Day of Jehovah, Joel saw an intervening period of an entirely different character. This he first described, ending his message with a declaration concerning the Day of the Lord, which was the real burden on his spirit.
Of the intervening period, he declared that its initiation would result from the outpouring of the Spirit upon all flesh. It would be characterized by prophecy, dreams, and visions. The signs of the end of this period and of the approach of the Day of the Lord, would be "wonders in the heavens and in the earth." From the terrors of the Day such as called upon the name of the Lord were to be delivered. This is a perfect description of the Pentecostal age in which we now live, with a statement of the signs which will precede its end, and a declaration of the way of deliverance from the terrors immediately to follow.
Finally, the prophet saw in the far distance the ultimate Day of Jehovah. In this He will first restore Judah and Jerusalem, and then find His scattered people Israel. Following this, His judgment of the nations is to proceed. The last vision of the prophet is that of the complete restoration of the ancient people, in which Jehovah will dwell in Zion - a city holy and full of prosperity.
PART A: THINGS PRESENT - Joel 1:1-2:27
A.1. Locust Plague and First Meaning - Joel 1:1-1:20
- Title Page - 1:1
- The Call to Contemplation - 1:2-1:12
- The Call to Humiliation - 1:13-1:20
A.2. Locust Plague and Deeper Teaching - Joel 2:1-2:27
- The Trumpet of Alarm and Answer of God - 2:1-2:14
- The Trumpet of Repentence and Answer of God - 2:15-2:27
Part B: THINGS TO COME - Joel 2:28-3:21
B.1. The Dispensation of the Spirit - Joel 2:28-2:32
- Initiation and Characteristics - 2:28-2:29
- Signs of Ending and Coming of the Day of the Lord - 2:30-2:31
- Deliverance from Terrors of the Day - 2:32
B.2. The Day of the Lord - Joel 3:1-3:21
- God's Dealings with His Ancient People - 3:1-3:8
- God's Judgement of the Nations - 3:9-3:16
- The Restoration of Israel - 3:17-3:21
Jonah was the son of Amittai. There can be no reasonable possibility of doubt as to his identity with the prophet referred to in 2 Kings 14:25. These names, Jonah and Amittai, occur nowhere else in the Old Testament. It is evident therefore that Jonah exercised his ministry about the time of the accession of Jeroboam II. This would make him an early contemporary of Hosea and Amos.
The relation of the Hebrew people to foreign nations at this period was characterized by a strange contradiction. They were making political alliances with outside nations, while yet religiously they were bitterly exclusive. Both these attitudes were wrong in the measure in which they misinterpreted the Divine attitude and prostituted the Divine purpose. The book as we have it was undoubtedly written for Israel, and is a prophetic story. In narrating his own experience in the matter of his commission to Nineveh, Jonah intended to teach his people the lesson of the inclusiveness of the Divine government, and thus to rebuke the exclusiveness of their attitude toward surrounding peoples.
The book naturally falls into two parts: the First Commission (1-2); the Second Commission (3-4).
The First Commission
In this first division we have the prophet's account of Jehovah's command, his own disobedience, and the Divine interposition.
There was evidently no doubt in his mind that the command was from Jehovah. In order to understand how strange a commission it must have seemed to Jonah, it is necessary to remember the national prejudice of the Hebrew against all other peoples in the matter of religion. Believing in Jehovah as a loving God, they yet thought of Him as their God exclusively. The charge to deliver a message to a city outside the covenant, and one moreover which was the centre of a power which had been oppressive and cruel, must have been a startling one to Jonah. His attempt to escape was an act of wilful disobedience. The statement that he went out from the presence of the Lord is equivalent to a declaration that he abandoned his prophetic office and work. Circumstances seemed to favour him, as he found a ship at Joppa going to Tarshish. Outside the path of duty he recognized that he was chargeable to himself, and with a touch of fine, if mistaken independence he paid his fare.
His going out from the presence of the Lord did not, however, ensure his escape from His government. All the forces of nature are at the command of God, and are pressed into His service when need requires. The ship had started on her course, but Jehovah sent out a wind. The incidents of the storm are full of interest. In reading the account of it one cannot help feeling that Jonah when he ultimately wrote the book which tells the story of his failure had indeed learned the lesson which he intended to teach others, for the men outside the covenant are revealed in such a way as to suggest how much of good was in them. Terrified by the storm, and at their wits' end, they nevertheless made every possible effort to save the life of Jonah. The governing God however. Who had sent out the wind, presided over the casting of the lots, and at last Jonah was cast out into the deep. There he was received by the fish, prepared. In the midst of the strange and awful circumstances he poured out his soul in anguish before God. The prayer, as chronicled, consists of quotations from the book of Psalms. It is exactly the kind of cry which a man, familiar with the sacred penitential writings of his people, would utter in such circumstances. Again Jehovah interfered, and the prophet was released.
The Second Commission
Immediately he was charged to go to Nineveh. There is a fine revelation of the patient grace of God toward His servant in the declaration, "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second tlme" With a new sense of the authority of Jehovah, Jonah arose and obeyed. It was a strange and startling thing for Nineveh, this coming into it of a man who had been cast out to the deep; and it is easy to understand how the monotony of his declaration, that within forty days Nineveh should be destroyed, would fill the hearts of the people with terror. They heard, they believed, they were filled with fear, and repented from the greatest to the least. This repentance on their part was answered by the repentance of God, so that the doom was averted, and the city was spared.
All this leads to the final picture of the controversy between Jonah and Jehovah, which revealed in the most vivid light, on the part of Jonah, the attitude of the ancient people which his story was intended to correct; and on the part of Jehovah, that attitude of care for, and patience with all sinning peoples, which they so little understood. The prophet was angry because mercy had been exercised toward those outside the covenant. Of course, behind this was a strict sense of justice. He could not comprehend why a people so cruel and oppressive should be spared. It seemed a violation of justice, and in his anger he asked that his own life might be taken. The wrong of this attitude lay in the fact of Jonah's knowledge of God. He declared that he knew Him to be "a gracious God, and full of compassion, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy." The answer of Jehovah is a wonderful revelation of His patience. It consists of a question: "Doest thou well to be angry?" Without reply the prophet went out of the city, and in distress and resentment sat in a booth of his own making to watch the course of events. Again the overruling of Jehovah was manifest in the prepared gourd, the prepared worm, and the prepared sultry east wind. So great was the anger and anguish of the prophet that he fainted, and asked again that he might die. Jehovah repeated His question, but now with a new application, "Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?" He who had been angry that the city was not destroyed, was angry that the gourd was destroyed, and he answered the inquiry by affirming, "I do well to be angry, even unto death." Thus the last picture we have of Jonah is that of a man still out of harmony with the tender mercy of God, and the last vision of Jehovah is that of a God full of pity and compassion even for a city such as Nineveh, and willing to spare it as it returned to Him in penitence. Thus in the story, Jonah unveils an episode in his life which reflected upon him, as it revealed a side of the Divine nature of which the people had no appreciation. It was a revelation far in advance of the age in which Jonah exercised his ministry. As a matter of fact, the people as a whole never came to understand it, and thus in his persistent displeasure Jonah represented the nation in its ultimate failure to understand the deepest truth concerning their God.
PART A: THE FIRST COMMISSION - Jonah 1:1-2:10
A.1. The Prophet's Commission and Disobedience - Jonah 1:1-1:3
A.2. Jehovah's Interposition - Jonah 1:4-1:2:10
- The Tempest - 1:4-1:14
- Jonah Cast Out - 1:15-1:17
- The Experiences of the Deep - 2:1-2:9
- The Deliverance - 2:10
Part B: THE SECOND COMMISSION - Jonah 3:1-4:11
B.1. The Prophet's Commission and Obedience - Jonah 3:1-3:10
- The Commission - 3:1-3:2
- The Obedience - 3:3-3:4
- The Result - 3:5-3:10
B.2. The Prophet and Jehovah - Jonah 4:1-4:11
- Jonah displeased - 4:1-4:3
- Jehovah - 4:4-4:8a
- Jonah distressed - 4:8b
- Jehovah - 4:9-4:11
There is no personal history of Obadiah, and it is impossible accurately to fix the date of his prophecy. The only ground on which it may be done is that of the capture of Jerusalem, to which reference is so clearly made. Certain passages in Jeremiah, apparently quoted from this book, make it probable that the capture referred to is that by Nebuchadnezzar. The corrected tense in verses 12-14 in the Revised Version, "Look not," instead of "Thou shouldest not have looked," would seem to indicate that the prophecy was uttered before the fall of Jerusalem, and not after it. The nation at this time was a hive of political disturbance. The people were divided into factions and parties. Fierce passions characterized these parties, and evil counsels prevailed. The whole nation was rushing headlong toward a great catastrophe. Obadiah had a vision of the attitude of Edom toward the chosen people in their calamity, and his message was delivered concerning them. It was not spoken to Edom, but to Israel, and was intended as a word of comfort for those who, loyal to Jehovah, were yet suffering with the whole nation. Its message falls into two parts: The Judgment of Edom (verses 2-16); the Restoration of Israel (verses 17-21).
The Judgment of Edom
The prophecy opens with a peculiarly dignified and authoritative introduction, which sets forth the method of communication, the value of the message, its subject, and a confirmatory coincidence.
The doom of Edom was announced in an address of Jehovah which asserted His act, declared the proud attitude of Edom, and announced the superior power of God. This was followed by the commentary of the prophet, consisting of his exclamations of astonishment, and his address to Edom, which declared that the events and men in which Edom had trusted were working Jehovah's will. This commentary was followed by a second address of Jehovah, foretelling the destruction of the wise men and the dismay of the mighty.
The reason for the doom was then stated. First broadly, Edom had done violence to his brother Jacob. In the day of Jacob's struggle Edom stood aloof, and subsequently joined the enemies. Then, in the form of a warning, the prophet indicated the attitude of Edom: in the day of disaster, "Look not"; in the day of destruction, "Rejoice not"; in the day of distress, "Speak not proudly"; in the day of calamity, "Enter not into the gate, ... look not on affliction, ... lay not hands on substance"; in the day of distress "Cut not off ... deliver not up."
While these words were spoken as a warning, they declared exactly what Edom would do, and the final word of judgment announced the doom impending.
Restoration of Israel
While the prophet saw the coming judgment, and uttered his curse upon the cowardice of the people who rejoiced in the calamity, he yet saw the day of restoration, and spoke of it for the comfort of the afflicted people. He first declared that there should be a delivered remnant in Mount Zion which should be holy. He then foretold the fact that the people would be victorious, a conquering people, possessing their own land. The final word of the prophecy is the final word of all prophecy, "The kingdom shall be Jehovah's."
PART A: THE JUDGMENT OF EDOM - Obadiah 1:1-1:16
- Explanatory Introduction - 1:1
A.1. The Doom Declared - Obad. 1:2-1:9
A.2. The Reason Assigned - Obad. 1:10-1:16
PART B: THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL - Obadiah 1:17-1:21
B.1. The Delivered Remnant - Obad. 1:17
B.2. The Victorious People - Obad. 1:18
B.3. The Conquering People - Obad. 1:19
B.4. The Returning Captives - Obad. 1:20
B.5. The Final Issue - Obad. 1:21
Note: To the best of our knowledge we are of the understanding that the above material, being published in 1907 and freely available elsewhere on the internet in various formats, is in the public domain.