So many people see the Bible as puzzle pieces scattered on a table without the box.
They can tell you bits and pieces of stories they have heard in church, but rarely do they see the Bible as a whole, because we rarely just sit back and look at "The Big Picture".
Each week, we will take a book of the Bible and simplify it's main message, in order to help you understand the Bible as a whole. We will also mention a few main themes / lessons found in each book of the Bible. We are not trying to get too deep or even focus on one particular story, but rather tie the puzzle pieces together, so your personal study is more clear and enjoyable.
We will be using the book, "What the Bible is all About" by Henrietta C. Mears to gather our notes.
We recommend you purchase this book and use it for study - Click Here!
Understanding Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi
Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the last of the prophetic books. They prophesied to the Jews after they returned to Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem and had completely destroyed the Temple.
This, however, did not bring the Jews to national repentance. In reading Ezra, we find that when Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree permitting all the captives to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple, only about 50,000 returned. Most of these were priests and Levites and the pious among the people.
Although the Jews increased in power and in numbers, they never established their political independence. They were a subject people under Gentile rulers from that time on.”
Before Haggai’s time, the Jews had returned to their own land under Zerubbabel and began to build the Temple (see Nehemiah 12). But their enthusiasm soon waned.
They made no progress beyond laying the foundation. The Samaritans and their enemy neighbors were determined that Jerusalem should not be rebuilt, and they managed to stop the work for 15 years.
During these years, each person became interested in building a private house. It was then that Haggai rose and gave his message. He encouraged the people to rebuild the Temple. This time it was finished in four years. It seemed incredible that God’s people should have waited so long to do the very thing they had come back to do.
AUTHOR: Haggai 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Haggai as the prophet Haggai.
DATE: The book was written in approximately 520 BC.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
This book consists of four prophecies delivered within the space of four months, some 16 years after the return of the first exiles to Jerusalem. Work on the second Temple had begun in 536 BC, shortly after the exiles’ arrival home, but after a few years the work had ceased. Haggai, a contemporary of the prophet Zechariah, challenged the people to wholeheartedly take up the task again of rebuilding the house of God.
HAGGAI 1:1-11: A MESSAGE OF REBUKE
HAGGAI 2:1-9: A MESSAGE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
HAGGAI 2:10-23: A MESSAGE OF ASSURANCE
AUTHOR: Zechariah 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Zechariah as the prophet Zechariah.
DATE: The book was likely written in two primary segments, between 520 and 516 BC.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
Sometimes called “The Apocalypse of the Old Testament,” this book contains the messages of the prophet Zechariah, a contemporary of Haggai. The main divisions of the book (1–8 and 9–14) are noticeably dissimilar in both style and subject matter. The first eight chapters are primarily concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple, although the language used is highly symbolic.
Chapters 9 through 14 deal with “last things,” or the End Times. Many messianic prophecies are found in this book, and Zechariah prophesies the Day of the Lord, when Israel will be “restored fully to the Promised Land of Israel, the nations will be judged, and God’s kingdom will be established on earth by the Messiah ruling in Jerusalem.
Zechariah is a book of the future. It is the book of revelation of the Old Testament.
ZECHARIAH 1–8: THE CHOSEN PEOPLE AND THE TEMPLE
We now find Judah still a remnant, Jerusalem far from restored, and the surrounding Gentile nations feeling secure (see Zechariah 1:14-16). Zechariah, a young prophet who had stood alongside the aged Haggai, strengthened the children of Israel as they rebuilt the Temple; and he warned them not to disappoint God as their fathers had done.
He pictured God’s love and care for His people. He revived their hopes by painting in glowing colors the time of perpetual blessings that would come to Israel in the future.”
ZECHARIAH 9–14: THE MESSIAH AND THE KINGDOM
The last chapters of Zechariah are full of promises of the coming Messiah and a worldwide kingdom. The prophet no longer pictured a city rebuilt on its old foundations but a glorious city whose wall is the Lord. It will not be armed for war but will be a city filled with peace, for the Prince of Peace will reign.
Zechariah foretold the Savior more than any other prophet except Isaiah:
• Christ, “the Branch”—Zechariah 3:8
• Christ, “my servant”—Zechariah 3:8
• Christ’s entering Jerusalem on “a colt”—Zechariah 9:9
• Christ, the good Shepherd—Zechariah 9:16; 11:11
• Christ, the stricken Shepherd—Zechariah 13:7
• Christ betrayed for “thirty pieces of silver”—Zechariah 11:12-13
• Christ’s hands “pierced”—Zechariah 12:10
• Christ’s people saved—Zechariah 12:10; 13:1
• Christ wounded “in the house of [His] friends”—Zechariah 13:6
• Christ’s coming on the Mount of Olives—Zechariah 14:3-8
• Christ, as King—Zechariah 14:9
AUTHOR: Malachi 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Malachi as the prophet Malachi.
DATE: The book was likely written between 490 and 450 BC.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
Malachi’s name means “my messenger.” The book of Malachi is an invaluable source concerning the restored Jewish community in Jerusalem during the Persian period, the fifth century BC. Two themes are predominant: the sin and apostasy of God’s people (see Malachi 1-2); and the coming judgment upon the faithless, with blessings promised for those who seek the Lord and turn away from evil (see Malachi 3–4).
The growing messianic expectation in the Old Testament becomes apparent in Malachi by the announcement of God’s “messenger of the covenant,” by whose coming God’s people will be purified and judged (Malachi 3:1). The coming of the Messiah is linked to the return of the prophet Elijah who will proclaim the “day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5).
We have now come to the last book in the Old Testament. It sums up much of the history of the Old Testament. Martin Luther called John 3:16 “the little gospel.” In the same way, we might speak of Malachi as the “little Old Testament.”
Malachi is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. To understand this, read Malachi 3:1. Who is “my messenger”? Read John 1:23 and Luke 3:3-4. “Malachi” means “my messenger” (that is, “of the Lord”). Like John the Baptist, about whom he prophesied, Malachi was but a voice.
There were 400 years of silence between the voice of Malachi and the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4).
The Old Testament closes with the word “curse” (Malachi 4:6). The New Testament closes with blessing: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21).”
AUTHOR: The author of the book of Nahum is identified as “Nahum the Elkoshite” (Nahum 1:1).
Events mentioned in the book of Nahum suggest that the book was written between 663 and 612 BC. Two events are mentioned that can help us to determine these dates.
First, Nahum mentions the city of No in Egypt falling to the Assyrians (663 BC) in the past tense, so this event had already happened (see Nahum 3:8).
Second, the remainder of Nahum’s prophecies came true in 612 BC, when the Assyrian capital, Nineveh (mentioned in Nahum 1:1), was destroyed by the Babylonians.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
This book is a vivid prediction of the approaching downfall of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire at the end of the seventh century BC. The Assyrians practiced some of the most brutal forms of warfare in the ancient Near East, including impaling their enemies, skinning them alive, and burying them alive inside the mud brick walls that surrounded cities.
Nahum, whose name means “consolation” or “comfort,” spoke God’s comfort to His people, long harassed by Assyria, with the promise that this cruel and oppressing people would soon meet destruction at God’s hand.
The main event prophesied in this book is the destruction of Nineveh, the city Jonah had warned. Nineveh was again guilty of sin, and God sent Nahum to declare His righteous judgment on her. In the judgment of Nineveh, God was in effect judging a sinning world. The book of Nahum was written about 150 years after the revival that occurred during Jonah’s day when the city of Nineveh was brought to repentance.
No doubt the Ninevites were sincere then, at the time of Jonah, but their sincerity did not last. They were again guilty of the very sins of which they had repented. Nineveh, the glory of the Assyrians, was again completely and deliberately defiant of the living God. The people were not just backsliders! They intentionally rejected the God they had accepted (see 2 Kings 18:25,30,35; 19:10-13). Mercy given little regard finally brings judgment.
God sent Nahum to predict the final doom of such wicked and rebellious people and the complete, violent destruction of Nineveh and the empire of which she was the capital. (This city had one more rebuke, given a few years later by Zephaniah [see Zephaniah 2:13].) Assyria had enjoyed 300 years as a world empire. In 722 BC, she had destroyed Israel and threatened Judah.
Habakkuk 1:1 identifies the book of Habakkuk as an oracle from the prophet Habakkuk.
The book was likely written between 627 and 605 BC.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
Habakkuk is written in the form of a dialogue between the prophet and the Lord. It starts with Habakkuk’s complaints questioning the Lord’s allowing evildoers among God’s people to go unpunished. The Lord replies that He is sending overwhelming judgment on them by bringing the Babylonian army against His people.
Habakkuk is stunned by the Lord’s response, but he affirms that even in overwhelming judgment, “I will rejoice in the LORD. . . . The LORD God is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).”
Habakkuk was a prophet (see Habakkuk 1:1), but we find something else of interest about him. He may have been one of the Levitical choristers in the temple (see Habakkuk 3:19) or he may have helped arrange the services.
We learn much about him as a thinker and a man of faith from his own words. He was a contemporary with Jeremiah at home and with Daniel in Babylon.
Habakkuk seemingly poses the question -
Why should any nation as wicked as Babylon conquer a nation like Judah, which was less evil?
It seemed to him that it was just a matter of evil triumphing over evil (see Habakkuk 1:13). What good could come of this? God had to show him His ultimate plan. Judah needed punishment.
God was using Babylon to correct Judah, but Babylon’s turn would come. Babylon would be utterly blotted out. For God’s people, there was yet to be a glorious future and a kingdom where Jehovah Himself would prevail.
Two conversations are recorded and the book closes with a hymn and doxology, which reveal that all the questions have been answered and there is a new confidence in God.
AUTHOR: Zephaniah 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Zephaniah as the prophet Zephaniah.
DATE: The book was likely written between 735 and 725 BC.
PURPOSE AND SUMMARY:
This book, though brief, is comprehensive, embracing the two great themes of prophetic teaching: judgment and salvation—both extending to all nations. In apocalyptic terms, on the Day of the Lord—perhaps partly fulfilled in the Scythian invasion of the Near East in the late seventh century BC—Zephaniah saw God’s decisive judgment upon the nations, including Judah.
He exhorted the people to turn away from sin and back to the Lord, and he assured them that God would dwell in the midst of a righteous remnant, following judgment.
Zephaniah began his ministry as a prophet in the early days of the reign of Josiah (641-610 BC). Fifty years had elapsed since the prophecy of Nahum. Three of Hezekiah’s descendants had succeeded him (see 2 Kings 20–21). Two wicked and idol-worshiping kings had preceded Josiah on the throne, and the land was overrun with evil practices of every kind.
Social injustice and moral corruption were rampant on every hand. The rich had amassed great fortunes by oppressing the poor. The conditions were as bad as it could be when King Josiah, only 16 years of age, started a religious revival. He became one of the most beloved of the kings of Judah. He got rid of the pagan altars and images. ”
Zephaniah depicted God as both loving and severe (see Zephaniah 1:2; 3:17).
As you start reading this book, you will be appalled by its contents. There is nothing but accusations, threats and divine chastisements.
The poet William Cowper said that punishment and chastisement are “the graver countenance of love.” “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).
In all of this is proof of God’s love. The book begins with sorrow and is full of sadness and gloom, but it ends with the singing of one of the sweetest songs of love in the Old Testament.
Excerpt From: Dr. Henrietta C. Mears. “What the Bible Is All About KJV.”
The Bible is a book, written by men, inspired by God, tested through time and verified by our faith.
II Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The Bible was written in different countries and cultures, without a single contradiction.
The Bible was written by kings, fishermen, poets, teachers, prophets, government officials, doctors, and underprivileged people.
The Bible contains the oldest and most reliable records of ancient history ever written.
Some doubt the Bible:
If you doubt the validity of something, the most common solution to resolving the question, is to study and test it's message.
This is exactly what generations have done over and over, and yet still today, millions of Christians trust all 66 books of the Bible to be the actual Word of God!
Time and again, its narratives have been shown to contain a remarkably accurate account of people, places and events of bygone ages.
The Bible is published in over 2,000 languages and dialects, and the number of Bibles produced far surpasses anything ever printed and published in the history of mankind. It remains the world’s best- selling book every year.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek:
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, the Jews original language.
Bible historians tell us that the Jews language changed from primarily Hebrew to Greek, due to the hundreds of years of foreign invasion.
Therefore, the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the most common language in the time surrounding Jesus and His church.
The King James Bible:
In the year 1611, one of the most popular and accurate Bible translations was published into English.
This was a literal word transfer, as well as why so many have a hard time reading in the King James Version, in comparison to some of the more modern versions.
We recommend using the KJV for study, along side more modern versions, for simple comprehension.
Think of it like this -
Reading a modern version, is like paraphrasing the King James Version to your friends, so they will understand it better.
The problem with the paraphrasing, is that it puts all interpretation in the hands of the paraphraser.
This is why we study the Bible and not just read the Bible . . .
In order to extract the truth from the Bible, we must -