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15. Prophets to the southern Kingdom - Judah - Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Jeremiah, Obadiah,

Joel and Habakkuk. My notes for teaching the Old Testament, by Mama Brenda.

Leader’s notes: Lesson 15.

This course is an overview of the Bible. So we have to cover a lot of ground each lesson. We see how the Old Testament fits together, rather than studying the detail of one writer. Today we are glimpsing eight Old Testament prophets. How I wish we could look in more detail, but that is not for this course.

When teaching this I wrote the eight names of the prophets in today’s lesson on a large piece of card and put it up. I said “you probably don’t think we can make it through eight prophets today. Well we’ll see”. After the first two I said “Two done, six to go” and smiled. We got there!

Habakkuk needs the most involvement so make sure you have time on your side when you get to the bottom of page 55 !!

Teach the first four paragraphs (on page 53 opposite).

Let half the class find the Isaiah references one at a time, while the other half find the Micah references.

Work through the bottom paragraph (opposite) altogether noting

  • the similarities in the Isaiah/Micah pairs.

  • Isaiah’s dramatic call. We are all called to live for God as the expression of our Christian faith. Some have very dramatic calls. Many do not.

  • and the picture of God’s people. God said he looked for justice and righteousness.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Despite the messages from God through Jonah, Amos and Hosea, God’s people did not listen and in 733 B.C. parts of Israel were captured by the Assyrians. Then in 721 the rest of Israel was captured and its people exiled. Hosea probably went to Judah at that time.

Isaiah and Micah lived in Judah about this time as well. Isaiah was the grandson of King Joash, was brought up at the king’s court and spoke with various kings throughout his life. Micah lived about twenty miles south of Jerusalem, on the Philistine border. He spoke to the common people, but they were both concerned about moral attitudes and empty religious observances in the life of God’s people.

The book of Isaiah has been called a mini-Bible because it has 66 chapters as the Bible has 66 books. There is a break between chapters 39 and 40, as there are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Chapter 1 talks about sin as does Genesis 3. Isaiah chapters 34-35 talk about the coming of the King of Righteousness and the redemption of Israel, as do the prophets at the end of the Old Testament. Chapter 40 talks about the voice crying in the wilderness and three of the four Gospels talk about John the Baptist in their early chapters, before leading into the person and work of Christ. Isaiah ends with a vision of the new heavens and new earth, as does the book of Revelation.

Some writers have believed that the book of Isaiah was the work of two men, not one. But it is not a problem for us. It is more than likely that chapters 1-39 were written early in Isaiah’s ministry and chapters 40-66 were written later when there were different circumstances and needs. Those who have studied these things much more than I have, say that the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” as a title for God occurs 12 times in chapters 1-39 and 14 times in chapters 40-66. That phrase only occurs six times in the rest of the Old Testament. So it was a title favoured by Isaiah in all of his prophecies. Compare Isaiah 6:3 and 5:16. How holy is God in your understanding?

I hope you enjoyed reading the first 12 chapters of Isaiah in your homework. In reading them we get a feel for the whole book, for the contents of the whole book, and can see similarities between Isaiah and Micah in their prophecies given to different audiences.

Isaiah 1:2-4, 12-15 Micah 1:3-7, 2:1 a sinful nation, woes and judgement

Isaiah 1:16-17 Micah 6:8 the moral behaviour God is looking for

Isaiah 4:2-6 Micah 4:1-5 ‘last days’ - Israel’s eventual redemption

Isaiah 6:1-8 Isaiah’s call

Isaiah 5:1-7 vineyard - a picture and interpretation

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Leader's notes: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 is sometimes called the suffering and the glory of the Servant (our Lord Jesus Christ). The detail in the prophecy is amazing when compared to the crucifixion accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But we should not be amazed because Isaiah was only the channel of the prophecy. The author was God.

On to Zephaniah. Teach paragraph two (on page 54 opposite) and work through paragraph three together, asking several ladies to read one group of verses and then another group of ladies to read the second group of verses.

Perhaps tell the ladies “Keep your finger in Zephaniah or put a bookmark in your Bible, then it will be easier to find the other little books.

Introduce Nahum and Jeremiah.

Teach through the Nahum paragraph - Nahum is two books before Zephaniah which you have marked! Check the references as a class together.

Teach to the bottom of the page, using the references yourself.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

In chapters 39-66 of Isaiah God shares with us glimpses of the future. Right in the centre of those chapters, in Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 we have a prophecy of the ministry of the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of the other prophecies still belong to the future but Isaiah 53 has been fulfilled. Hallelujah!

Zephaniah was the next of the prophets we know about. He was a great, great, grandson of King Hezekiah, and was very aware of current political issues. He probably knew of the writings of Amos, Isaiah and Micah. He may have known a young Jeremiah.

Zephaniah prophesied judgement and destruction, Zephaniah 1:2-3,14-18; 2:1,8-9,12-13, and the coming of the day of the Lord, Zephaniah 3:8-10, 12-13, 16-17, 19-20. We know the judgement and destruction happened, but we are still waiting for the day of the Lord.

Nahum and Jeremiah’s ministries overlapped, in that order.

Obadiah probably overlapped with Jeremiah as well, but some people think he lived earlier. If you compare Obadiah verses 1-9 with Jeremiah 49:7-22 it seems as though one used the other’s material, or they both used a common source.

Nahum spoke of the destruction of Nineveh, using the capital city to represent the whole Assyrian Empire. Remember that Jonah had been sent to Nineveh, and second time around he went, still rather unwillingly, to preach judgement unless they repented. They repented, much to Jonah’s annoyance. Perhaps 150 years later, after the Assyrians had overrun Israel and exiled its population, Nahum again prophesies the fall of Assyria. The response of the Ninevites to Jonah’s message did not have a lasting effect, Nahum 1:11-14, 3:18-19. Nineveh was destroyed just before 600B.C. by the Medes and Babylonians, and records from the time talk about the fulfillment of Nahum 2:6 and 3:15. 270 years later another conqueror fought a battle near the site and did not know that Nineveh had ever been there. Nahum 3:7,18-19.

Jeremiah is another major prophet, with a book of 52 chapters. He was a priest, and God called him while he was quite young, to be a prophet, Jeremiah 1:4-6. God told him not to marry, Jeremiah 16:1-2. He was not a public speaker. He was a quiet person who liked the simple life in the country. He had very hard messages to deliver. At times he was very open and honest about his feelings, Jeremiah 15:10. He suffered death threats. He landed up in a dungeon, with his secretary, Baruch, at his side, so the rulers did not have to listen to his messages. The prophecies and events of the book of Jeremiah are not in chronological order. Jeremiah’s faithful secretary, Baruch, who wrote down the prophecies, eventually went with Jeremiah and a remnant of the people, into Egypt when most of the people had been deported to Babylon. He probably died there.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Get the ladies to look at Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-12.

Another split fulfillment.

Five prophet books done - three to go!

On to Obadiah, five books before Zephaniah (if your bookmark is still in place there).

Just two more prophets for today!


Habakkuk. Work through the questions at the bottom of page 55 and come up with answers for the five sections.

Then go on to page 56 and see if you agree with my summaries.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Jeremiah was given the job by God of telling people that the kingdom of Judah would be destroyed, that evil would be rewarded with judgement. This message was interspersed with pictures, with judgements against other nations and with one highlight in Jeremiah chapters 31-33, the new covenant and restoration of Israel. Chapter 31:31-34 is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12. The first covenant was sealed with the blood of animals. The new covenant prophesied here by God through Jeremiah was sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ. We know that happened - hallelujah! - but the restoration of Israel is yet future.


The book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, just 21 verses in one chapter. Verses 1-14 are about the judgement on Edom for their pride and rebellion, and verses 15-21 are about the ‘day of the Lord’ - deliverance for Zion and the Lord’s kingdom established.

Edom was where Esau lived, the elder brother who sold his birthright and was disinherited. Jacob and Esau did become reconciled later. Edom was the country that would not let the Israelites go through on their way from Sinai to the Promised Land. The Edomites often attacked Israel from their strongholds in the mountains.

Five years after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. the Babylonians crushed the Edomites on their way down the military road to Egypt. Some people made their way into what was later called southern Judea and were known as Idumeans. King Herod, visited by the Wise Men, was an Idumean, put in power by Rome. Edam as a nation died out.


No-one is sure who Joel was or when he prophesied. He talks of a locust horde devastating Judah before ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord’ Joel 2:31. He knew that there needed to be repentance before there could be spiritual revival. Joel 2:28-29 was quoted by Peter as having been fulfilled at Pentecost, Acts 2:17-21.


Habakkuk lived at the same time as Jeremiah, but his writings are very different

because they are a record of his conversation with God about evil, intended to help godly people understand what was happening in their world. It is of great relevance to us today.

  1. 1:2-4 What is actually being said in the first complaint?

  2. 1:5-11 What is actually being said in God’s first response?

  3. 1:12-2:1 What is actually being said in the second complaint?

  4. 2:2-20 What is actually being said in God’s second response?

  5. 3:1-19 Habakkuk’s prayer or response.

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Leader's notes: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Rewrite Habakkuk 3:17-19 for your life today. Not from the position you would like to be in, but from the situation you are in. That was the reality Habakkuk came to.

Can you believe what you have written?

If you cannot believe it, it is very unlikely your ladies will do so!

Verse 19 says “The Sovereign Lord” – HE makes all the difference.

Student's worksheet: Lesson 15 - Prophets to the southern Kingdom, Judah.

Our first complaint

Why? Lord Why? Why all the evil?

Why is our country going from bad to worse?

Even the justice system is suspect, and those who live for you are fewer and fewer.

God’s reply

I am doing something amazing in your day - something you will find hard to believe. In your eyes things will get worse. Those in charge will believe in their own ability, the strength of their minds.

Our second complaint

Oh eternal God, we are your people, we are not perfect, but the other people who believe something else are worse than us. Is it right for You who cannot look on evil to allow the goodies to be overrun by the baddies. You are setting us up to be made a laughing stock, and for the others to be affirmed in their own beliefs. Come on, God - I need some answers.

God’s reply

What I have said will happen. There will be no delay in My timing.

But, woe to thieves and those who gain from extortion – they will become victims

woe to those who build great structures by plundering other people - they will

be shamed

woe to those who build their country on crime and bloodshed because the time

will come when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of

the Lord, as the waters cover the sea’

woe to those involved in pornography and sexual exploitation, abuse of alcohol,

cruelty to animals, abuse of the environment, slaughter of whole

populations - disgrace will come to you

woe to those who believe in the power of idols which have no life or breath -

they are silent, but God IS – He is the One with the power.

Habakkuk’s response

I have heard all about you, Lord. I am filled with awe by your amazing works.

I wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren;

even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

Rewrite Habakkuk 3:17-19 for your life today - can you believe that?

Please read Ezekiel 1:1-3, Daniel 1:1-6, Esther 1:1-22 for next time.

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