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77.  THE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF THE PROPHETS.

1.  That the Canonical order of the books of the prophets is not their Chronological order is well known.

But the dates usually to be found at the head or in the margin of our Bibles -- as well as in many of the "Tables" supplied in "Aids" to students -- involve the subject in hopeless confusion.

The four prophets commonly styled "Greater" (or Longer), viz. ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, EZEKIEL, and DANIEL, are all dated.

Of the other twelve, called "Minor" (or shorter), six are dated and six are undated.  (See the Structure on p. 1206).

The dated books are HOSEA, AMOS, MICAH, ZEPHANIAH, HAGGAI, and ZECHARIAH.

The undated books are JOEL, OBADIAH, JONAH, NAHUM, HABAKKUK, and MALACHI.

Of the whole sixteen, therefore, we have ten dated and six undated.  (See Ap. 10.)

From the particulars given in the dated books themselves, we are enabled to lay down with precision the years and periods covered by the respective prophecies.

With regard to the undated books the case is different; and we have to rely upon the guidance of their internal evidence.  But this in almost every case is so clear, that there is no great difficulty in assigning each of the prophetical books to its respective chronological position (Obadiah being perhaps the only exception).

The Chart on p. 113 has been prepared accordingly.

It must be premised that the periods indicated by the thick black lines are the duration of the periods in which the Divine Message continued to "come" to and through the particular prophet named :  e.g. ISAIAH is shown on the Chart as 649-588 B.C., thus comprising a period of sixty-one years.  This does not represent the years of the prophet's life, which in all probability extended to some 81 or 83 years.  (See notes on p. 930.)



2.  It is a Jewish belief that JEREMIAH and ZECHARIAH were contemporaries.  This is quite possible.  We are not told when, or how, or where Jeremiah died.  When Jerusalem was destroyed finally by Nebuchadnezzar (477 B.C.) Jeremiah would be about 57 years old.  He may easily have lived another thirty or forty, or even more, years after that event. (*1)

If we suppose he outlived the destruction of Jerusalem by forty years, then the year of his death would be 437 B.C., eleven years before the end of the Babylonian Captivity, in 426 B.C.

ZECHARIAH began his seven years of prophetic ministry twenty-seven years later, in 410 B.C.

But we are not told anything about him in Scripture, save that his grandfather was a prophet; neither have we any clue to his age, as we have e.g. in the cases of JEREMIAH and DANIEL.  ZECHARIAH may very well have been at least thirty or forty years of age in 410 B.C., when he gives us his first date (1:1).  Consequently, he would have been contemporary with the great Benjamite priest for from three to thirteen years!



3.  It is further necessary to state, and important to be observed, that the dates given in the Chart on p. 113 have been charted down from the dating given (or suggested by internal evidence) in the prophetic books themselves, and NOT vice versa.  So the student may understand that the remarkable and significant groupings of the prophets as therein depicted are in no wise "manipulated" or "fitted in" to suit any preconceived ideas or theories.  They are charted down simply from the dates and the data afforded by the sacred records themselves, and tell clearly their own story.


4.  Turning now to the Chart itself (p. 113), it must be further premised that "section-paper" has been used, as in Ap. 50.  This is highly important; as only thus can the exact relative proportions of the length of each prophetical ministry be presented accurately to the eye.  The thick black lines represent the period covered by each prophet, either as expressly stated, or to be inferred from internal or historical evidence.

And here, the value of the section-paper is at once apparent :  as these black lines are not merely an approximate in their proportions of length one to another -- as would be the case if they were set up in type; but, in each and every case, they begin and end exactly at the very year stated or indicated.  Thus the eye is enabled at once to grasp the proportionate lengths of each and all of the prophetical periods; the overlapping and concurrences in each particular group; and their historical position as shown on the background of the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel.

The columns of figures to the left and right are the B.C. years, rising by tens from 350 to 700 B.C.  Each of the larger section-squares thus shows twenty years, and each of the small ones two years.

On this plan, every date, year, and period has been charted down, and can be checked by the student with absolute exactitude.

It must also be observed that the thick black lines themselves mark the exact positions of the beginning and ending of the years shown on the figure-columns to the left and right, and indicated by the fainter horizontal lines -- and NOT the figures placed directly above and below in each case.  These latter merely state the years which begin and end each period, as shown accurately by the top and bottom of the black line throughout :  e.g. JEREMIAH is given as 518-477 B.C.  The top and bottom of the thick black stroke are on the lines of these respective years in the figure-columns.

Where there is only one figure given, as in the case of HABAKKUK and ZEPHANIAH, viz. 518 B.C., it will be understood that only one date year is indicated in the Scriptures.


THE TABLE.

5.  It will be seen on referring to the Chart on p. 113 that the sixteen prophetical books fall into four remarkable and well defined divisions, separated by three "breaks", or periods of years as shown below :--
 

  YEARS.
The First Group consists of six prophets :  viz. :  
     JONAH, AMOS, HOSEA, ISAIAH, MICAH, NAHUM, covering a period of  102
     Then follows a great "gap" or "break" of 70
The Second Group consists of seven prophets :  viz. :  
     JEREMIAH, HABAKKUK, ZEPHANIAH, DANIEL, JOEL, EZEKIEL, OBADIAH covering a period of 94
     Followed by a "gap" or "break" of  14
The Third Group consists of two prophets :  viz. :  
     HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH covering a period of  7
     Then follows a "gap" of  29
Which is closed by the prophet MALACHI  
The whole period covered by the sixteen prophets is therefore 316

From the above it is seen that MALACHI is to be reckoned as being separate and apart from the rest; and not, as usually presented, linked together with HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH.  "By the Hebrews, Malachi is known as 'the Seal of the Prophets',  and as closing the Canon of the Jewish Scriptures." (*2)

The other fifteen prophets (5 x 3) arrange themselves in three groups of 6, 7, and 2; and the period covered by these collectively -- including the breaks -- is 287 years (forty-one sevens).



6.  The First Group commences with JONAH and ends with NAHUM.  Both are connected with Nineveh.  This group consists of six prophets, and the period they cover is 102 years (seventeen sixes).

Between the First and Second Groups there is the great "gap" or "break" of seventy years (ten sevens, see Ap. 10).  According to Jewish tradition, ISAIAH perished in the Manassean persecution (see the Note on p. 930).  If this persecution took place, or culminated, about five years after Manasseh's accession -- as is most probable -- this would be 584 B.C.; and that year is sixty-five years from the dated commencement of Isaiah's "Vision" :  viz., the year in which King UZZIAH died (649 B.C. :  see Ap. 50. VII, p. 68, and cp. the Chart on p. 113).

We have, however, no indication that "the Word of the Lord came" to ISAIAH later than the end of the reign of ZEDEKIAH, and MANASSEH'S accession in 588 B.C.

Therefore, from that year on, and until "the thirteenth year of Josiah" (518 B.C.), there was no "coming" of "the Word";  but, instead, a long solemn silence on the part of Jehovah for seventy years!  (588 - 518 = 70.)  This silence was broken at length by the Divine utterances through JEREMIAH, HABAKKUK, and ZEPHANIAH simultaneously, in 518 B.C.; and the Word then "came" in an unbroken sequence of ninety-four years (518 - 424 = 94) through the seven prophets associated with the final scenes in the history of the Southern Kingdom, JUDAH -- including the Babylonian Captivity -- as the six earlier prophets had been associated with the closing scenes of the Northern Kingdom, which ended in 601 B.C.

The Second Group closes with the latest date recorded by Daniel, "the third year of Cyrus" (Dan. 10:1), i.e. in 424 B.C.

Then occurs a short break of fourteen years (two sevens) between DANIEL and HAGGAI (424 - 410 = 14), followed by

The Third Group, consisting of HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH, extending over seven years (410 - 403 = 7).

The seven years covered by Zechariah are succeeded by the last "break" of twenty-nine years, closed by the affixing of "the Seal of the Prophets", MALACHI, in 374 B.C.  This was exactly thirty years from the restoration of the Temple worship and ritual, commencing after the Dedication of the Temple in 405 B.C., with the First Passover in Nisan, 404 B.C. (Ap. 58, p. 84).

This year (374 B.C.) marked the commencement of the last great national testing time of the People in the land :  viz. four hundred years (40 x 10), and ended with the beginning of Christ's ministry in A.D. 26.



7.  On examining this chronological grouping, it will be seen that it presents the prophetical books to us as
a whole; and thus, in a manner is at variance with the usual classification into "Four Prophets the Greater (or Longer), and Twelve Prophets the Minor or (Shorter)."

Although it is, of course, manifestly true that ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, EZEKIEL, and DANIEL are "greater", in the sense that they are messages of ampler dimensions, and far wider scope than the majority of the others, yet -- according to their chronological positions in the Scriptures, as shown in the Chart (p. 113) -- it would appear that they are grouped together by the Divine Spirit, with the so-called "Minor" (or Shorter) prophets, as being units only in a particular "coming" of the Word of Jehovah, during certain clearly defined periods of time connected with the close of the national history of Israel's sons as possessors of the land.

It is interesting to note the close association of the figures "6" and "7" with these periods.

(a)  The three groups together cover a period of 203 years, during which "the Word of the Lord came" through the prophets (102 + 94 + 7 = 203); and 203 is twenty-nine sevens.

(b)  The prophecies of the First Group, linked together by the number of Man "6" (Ap. 10), are seen to be closely connected with the last hundred years or so of the Northern Kingdom.

The prophecies of the Second Group, linked together by the special number of Spiritual Perfection "7" (Ap. 10), are as closely connected with the destruction and punishment of JUDAH and JERUSALEM.

(c)  In the First Group, HOSEA, ISAIAH, and MICAH were contemporary for twenty-one years (three sevens); viz. from 632 to 611 B.C.

In the Second Group, JEREMIAH, DANIEL, JOEL, and EZEKIEL are contemporaries for seven years (one seven); viz. from 484 to 477 B.C.

If OBADIAH'S date is 482 B.C., then we have five prophets all contemporaries during this period.  And five is the number associated with Divine Grace (Ap. 10).

After the "break" of fourteen years (two sevens) between the Second and Third Groups, we have ZECHARIAH, the last of the fifteen prophets of the three groups, continuing from 410 to 403 B.C. (one seven); HAGGAI being contemporary with him in 410.

The fifteen prophets represent the number of Grace thrice repeated (5 x 3).



8.  MALACHI'S date is 374 B.C.  As stated above, this is exactly thirty years after the Restoration, and the resumption of the Temple worship and ritual, beginning with the Passover in 404 B.C. (Ezra 6:19).  The "Seal of the Prophets" was therefore affixed thirty years from that important start-point, and twenty-nine clear years from Ezra's last date :  viz., 1st of Nisan 403 B.C. (Ezra 10:17), the year that witnessed the Dedication of the Wall (Neh. 12:27-47) and the Reformation of the People under Nehemiah (Neh. 13:1-31).


9.  It may also be noted that the Book of JONAH -- the prophet quoted by our Lord as the "Sign" of His own Resurrection -- commences the grouped fifteen, while ZECHARIAH ends them with the glorious and detailed statements of the Return of the King to reign as "the Lord of all the earth".

Again :  as the "break" of twenty-nine years follows after Zechariah, before the "Seal", MALACHI, is affixed in 374 B.C., this points to a fact of great importance :  viz., that the O.T. is really closed by the Book of Zechariah and not Malachi, as usually understood.  Malachi marks the commencement of the great final probationary period of 400 years, which ended with the coming of "My Messenger" (John the Baptist) followed by the Advent of "the Messenger of the Covenant" (Messiah Himself).

MALACHI is thus seen to be linked on to John the Baptist (cp. Mal. 4:5, 6, and Matt. 11:10-15), and "seals" together the last page of the O.T., and the beginning of "The Book of the Generation of Jesus the Messiah."



notes :
(*1)  The belief of some that Heb. 11:37 refers to Jeremiah is based on the Jewish tradition that the prophet was "stoned" to death in Egypt.  But of this we have no proof.
(*2)  WORDSWORTH on Malachi, Prelim. note.

The Table From Page 113.