A long time ago in a Galilee far, far away, the twelve tribes of Israel were adjusting to the new normal after a political crisis. They had split into two countries, each with its own king, religious culture, international intrigue and national brand of hummus.
Enter the prophets. While the A-listers tend to get all the attention due to the universal tendency to assume that bigger is better, other equally relevant but more concise spokesmen for God also have something to say. Over time they come to be known as the Minor Prophets, a term that refers to the shorter length of their books and the musical key of their songs.
The earliest prophets, such as Amos and Hosea, warn Israel (and sometimes Judah) about the danger of an invasion by the Assyrian empire, based in the powerful city-state of Nineveh. However, their message is not simply a prediction of coming dire straits. It’s a series of epic rants against everything Israel and Judah are doing wrong, such as breaking their agreements, worshipping foreign gods, exploiting the poor and listening to Barry Manilow. He was Jewish, but still…
To drive home the point the prophet Hosea marries an adulterous prostitute, which to the surprise of no one does little more than ratchet up page views for TMZ. God judges Israel by having Assyria invade. The Assyrians give the Israelites a one-way ticket to parts unknown, where they become known as the Lost Tribes of Israel, or Mormons.
But God is an equal opportunity judger, and eventually Assyria gets his. Or hers. Or whatever gender countries are in the Minor Prophets, which we’ll see can be a rather fluid concept. Along the way a prophet named Jonah gets swallowed by a giant fish, while the far less known Nahum gets so stoked by the takedown of Assyria that he can’t foresee how the new empire in town, Babylon, will make Judah miserable a few years later.
The Minor Prophets end with the fallout of Judah’s return from its seventy-year Babylonian exile. It’s a new day until old habits kick in. The prophet Malachi throws in the towel for all the prophets and the Hebrew scriptures come to bittersweet end, but not before he predicts that God will someday restore Israel and Judah to their former glory as one nation. Then, a sudden Sopranos-style cut to black, with no psalm playing over the credits and no bonus scene after the credits end.