When someone asks “What did I do to deserve this?”, they’re usually not looking for an answer. They feel that they don’t deserve it, whatever it is, and if they’re looking for anything it’s assurance that they really are OK.
That’s why it’s always a good idea not to ask the question within earshot of a Minor Prophet.
The Minor Prophets have an answer for everything. Literally. One answer for everything, and it’s this: you made a covenant with Yahweh and you broke it. Now eat your vegetables and if you’re lucky God will give you dessert.
This prophetical Swiss Army Knife was a handy way of addressing a number of puzzling situations. For example, Hosea uses it as the basis for practical politics—Israel swore an oath in the name of Yahweh that it would ally with Assyria, so if they don’t want Assyria to whomp them they need to keep their word. This explanation also provides a practical plan of action for people who have been taken captive and now live in exile—if the people of Judah want to go back home, they need to put away other gods, follow the law of Yahweh and act like the nation they want to become once again.
Assyria and Babylon may be long gone, but oppression, exile and hope based on the covenant with Abraham and the contract at Sinai have remained important themes in Judaism from the time of Malachi through the present day.
Questions About Covenant and Captivity
- Did Israel and Judah deserve what happened to them?
- Are the Minor Prophets relevant to the tensions in the Middle East today?
- Do the covenant promises and threats apply to anyone else besides the original twelve tribes of Israel?
- What can modern politicians and pundits learn from the Minor Prophets?