Connections between the Twelve Prophets

The Book of the Twelve Prophets, like each of the other Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel), is a “book” or “scroll” in one sense (see Sir 49:10; cf. 48:23; 49:6, 8), and yet it is actually an edited collection of prophetic anthologies, compendiums, or collections—a “book” of “books,” or a collection of collections—attributed to or associated with specific preachers of Israel and Judah. Each “book” is a collection of writings, largely poetic sermons and occasionally prose proclamations, carefully edited and designed to powerfully speak the word of God in written form. Though the poems, oracles, and sermons were delivered on various occasions in different kinds of settings and circumstances, these backgrounds are largely left out of the books. The books preserve and speak these sermons in a new written context as a testimony and challenge to all later generations.
There is no external evidence as to why the book of the Twelve Prophets is arranged as it is in the tradition of the Hebrew scriptures. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures, orders the first six a little differently, specifically, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Joel, Obadiah, and Jonah. Many think that the Septuagint placed the first six in order of length, with Jonah last because of its genre; or the book of Jonah as an introduction to things pertaining to the next six books of the Twelve. It is often suggested that the traditional arrangement of the Twelve Prophets in the Hebrew scriptures (which is what we have in the English Bible) may reflect “the arranger’s” view of the chronological order of the prophets (only Jonah is mentioned in Kings, see 2 Kgs 14:25). The evidence, however, is inconclusive because several of the prophets lack a heading (see compare prophetic headings). For example, the historical location of Joel is widely debated. At the same time, Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi aptly conclude the book of the Twelve as post-exilic preachers. In any case, the book of the Twelve can be read along a theological axis, especially accenting the oft repeated day of Yahweh (see note in Joel).
It is thought by some that the book of the Twelve has similarities to some of the narrative books, namely, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings (four Former and four Latter Prophets). Others note the” three plus twelve” pattern from the three patriarchs and the twelve sons of Israel, and suggest the possibility that this is reflected in the Latter Prophets by the three longer prophetic books and the book of the Twelve.[1] For my present purposes it is enough to note that without external evidence it is suitable to simply analyze the book of the Twelve Prophets in its present form. In my view, approaching this collection of prophetic writings has some similarities with approaching the collection of collections of proverb anthologies in the book of Proverbs. The last number of decades have given rise to many studies on the unity and structure of the Twelve as a single book. Yet, these books have also been studied individually since antiquity (e.g., Pesher Habakkuk [1QpHab] and Pesher Nahum [4QpNah] among the Dead Sea Scrolls [see J. D. Bos, review of The Thematic Unity of the Twelve by J. T. LeCureux, RBL Aug 2014]). Here is an overview of some of the major connectors between the books within the book of the Twelve Prophets. [2]

Hos 1:1-Mal 4:6 Note especially the framing by theme of God’s love in Hosea and Malachi (cf. esp. Mal 1:2).

Hos 14:2 with Joel 2:23 (also cf. Hos 14:4-9; Joel 1:2).

Joel 3:16 [Heb 4:16] with Amos 1:2 link in a catch-word fashion. Compare: “And the Lord roars from Zion And utters his voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the Lord is a refuge for his people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel” (Joel 3:16 NAS) with “And he said, ‘The Lord roars from Zion, And from Jerusalem he utters his voice; And the shepherds’ pasture grounds mourn, And the summit of Carmel dries up’” (Amos 1:2 NAS). Also compare: Joel 3:1-3=Amos 1-2 judgment against the nations (cf. Nah.; Hab.; Zeph.); Joel 3:10=Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3; Joel 3:19=Amos 9:11 Edom motif; Joel=Amos 5:18-20 “the day of the Lord”; Joel=Zeph. in the day motif.

Amos 9:12 with Obad 1, 19 “Edom” serves as a catch-word formal link between Amos and Obadiah. This in part explains the unusual use of “Edom” in Amos 9:12.

Jon 1:1--3; 4:1-2 with Obad 1:10-14 are conceptually linked. Jonah wanted to treat Nineveh in the manner that Edom was judged for treating the Israelites. House wrote, “Obadiah 10-14 describes Jonah’s attitude perfectly.”[3] The attitude of Jonah toward the Ninevites makes him no better than a sinful Edomite.

Jonah 2:3 and Mic 7:19 “depth of the sea.”

Exod 34:6-7 in Joel 2:12-14, 18; Jon 3:9; 4:2; Mic 7:18-19; Nah 1:3.[4]

Micah serves as an apt thematic summary-conclusion to the sin section of The Twelve (Hos-Mic). Compare prostitute imagery (Mic 1:7 with Hos 1:2); a conqueror threatens the land (Mic 1:15 with Joel); the ethical excesses (Mic with Amos 2:1ff.); the nations will worship the Lord (Mic 4:1-5 with Jon 1:14; 3:5-9). Also, the sins of foreign nations will be judged as in Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah. Both inward and outward sin is exposed (cf. esp. Mic 2:1ff.; 6:6-8 with Hos and Joel).[5]

Mic 7:8-20 with Nah 1:2-8 (also cf. Nah 3:15-17 and Hab 3:17, in light of Joel 1:4; 2:25).

Perhaps Nahum and Habakkuk are framed by the hymns that open the former and close the latter[6].

Nah, Hab, Zeph all prophesy the certainty of God’s judgment of the sinful. The Lord punishes justly (Nah 1:3), yet the just will live by faith (Hab 2:4). God is still sovereign (Hab 3:17-19) and a remnant can survive the dreadful time (Zeph 3:6-20).[7]

Hab 2:20 with Zeph 1:7.

Zeph 3:18-20 “that time” with Hag 1:4 “it is time.”

The two halves (1:1-8:23; 9:1-14:21) of Zechariah are different and serve to bridge Haggai and Malachi. The dated visions (1:1, 8; 7:1) are akin to Haggai and the two oracles (9:1; 12:1) are comparable to Malachi which causes Zechariah’s distinct literary form to stand “in between.”[8]

Zech 8:9-23 with Mal 1:1-14.

 See discussion in Marks, “The Twelve Prophets,” 207-9, in Alter, ed., Literary.
[2] The connections are based primarily on my own reading. Several are from Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, esp. 15, 35. These connections are repeated, piece by piece, at the appropriate places below.
[3] House, Unity, 83.
[4] Nahum 1:3 is one of the significant pointers to the hand of the “arranger of the book of the Twelve” as it interrupts a partial alphabetic acrostic in order to make this connection. See Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, 15.
[5] See ibid., 85.
[6] See Childs, “Canonical Shape,” 51.
[7] See House, Unity, 96.
[8] See ibid., 103-5.

Also see introduction to the prophets, and see bibliography on the prophets.

Copyright 2011