Monday, October 3, 2011

October Bible Study: Amos, Zephaniah, Malachi

This month we’ll read books of three distinct prophets, to see how time and context shape their message. This simple timeline may be helpful:

1020 United kingdom (Saul, David, Solomon)
922 Split of kingdom (10 tribes of Israel; 2 tribes in Judah)
786-746 King Jeroboam, Amos
721 Assyrians defeat Israel; Jerusalem taken; temple destroyed
640-609 King Josiah, Zephaniah
587 Exile under Babylonian empire
538 Return under Persian empire
515 return to Jerusalem; temple rebuilt
After this, Malachi; no longer a king for the people
(If you have a Lutheran Study Bible, there’s a timeline on p. 30-32)

As you read each book, try to answer these questions for each:

--What is God / prophet upset about?
--Will there be punishment? What does it look like?
--Will there be reconciliation? What does it look like?
--Can you think of anything specific that happened that could have been interpreted as punishment or reconciliation?

Book details:
Amos writes before exile, and addresses the northern tribes of Israel primarily. He assumes they are familiar with the Torah, the Law, and so they’ll see the error of their ways and return to the covenant YHWH established with all twelve tribes (the split was their idea; they left the other two, Judah and Benjamin).

Zephaniah writes after the destruction of Jerusalem, the capital of the promised land and center of God’s kingdom; but before the Babylonian exile. There is concern for loyalty to YHWH, especially in the midst of other nations exerting their power over the Israelites; will they remain faithful, will they be able to find God, outside of Jerusalem? The name Ba’al means “master” or “lord” and is used as an honorific title, rather than referring to a particular deity. There were many “baalim” followed by “false prophets”, and were probably various local deities favored by a village. Remember that YHWH is a jealous God, and does not want the people honoring any other god as holy.

Malachi writes after the exile and return to Jerusalem, after the temple has been rebuilt and rededicated. The people are “home” again, with a new “home” for God, but things are still not right. The name “Malachi” means “messenger” and does not refer to a particular person, but is a general message to God’s people in a time of transition. Things are not the same and never will be, but in 500 years God will do a new thing (Matthew is next!)

Dates and locations for October:
(all Wednesdays)
10/5 6:30pm Rasmussen's (Kyle)
10/12 10:00am Living Word (Buda)
10/12 6:30pm Bouzard's (San Marcos)
10/19 6:30pm Marshall's (Buda)
10/26 6:45pm Just's (Austin)

See you soon! Of course you may bring a friend...