Study Guide

The Twelve Minor Prophets What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

This is a trick question, right? After all, twelve books of Minor Prophets make for a total of twelve endings, just like Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King.

But fear not, dauntless Shmoopers, the Minor Prophets like to repeat themselves—with two big exceptions.

The general pattern is pretty simple: sin, punishment, restoration, wash, rinse, repeat. Even the book of Jonah ends on an upbeat note, at least for folks who are not into plant rights.

Nahum ends with the flipside of restoration: the violent slaughter of God’s enemies. This book is the very definition of the word schadenfreude, since it is one long—well, OK, short—“in your face!” to the collapsing Assyrian empire, which had been making Israelites miserable for years. The book begins with the Lord all vengeful and full of wrath, and it ends with Nahum doing a Snoopy dance on Assyria’s grave.

Malachi is Minor Prophets’ Debbie Downer. His book ends with the return of the prophet Elijah to get God’s people to repent so God “will not come and strike the land with a curse.”

Why so serious?

It has to do with Malachi’s place in the Hebrew Bible. He’s not just the last of the Minor Prophets—according to Jewish tradition he’s the last prophet until Elijah’s return. The Hebrew Bible is finito, and as the last one out Malachi gets to turn out the lights.

He ends by summing up the Minor Prophets in one verse. God’s people keep breaking the divine covenant, everything goes bad, and God calls them back to put an end to their punishment. The prophets are God’s Facebook wall, and since Yahweh won’t be posting for a while he leaves one last message for his people at the top.

As usual, the privacy settings are worthless.

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