Book of the Twelve Prophets

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nevi'im (prophets) of the Tanakh
Front prophets
Rear prophets
Book of the Twelve Prophets of the Tanakh Old Testament
Minor Prophets
Names after the ÖVBE
Old Testament books
History books


"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

The twelve minor prophets ( ancient Greek Δωδεκαπρόφητον the Minor , Hebrew תרי עשׂר tre asar ( Aramaic for twelve), German also Twelve Little Prophets) is a compilation of twelve books of prophets in the Tanach , the Hebrew Bible . They were often handed down on a single scroll and have therefore been used in Judaism since around 180 BC. As a book. This belongs in the Tanakh with and after Isaiah , Jeremiah and Ezekiel to the "rear" prophets.

The Christianity took over the twelve prophets as individual books in its Old Testament and had them as "small" follow, including here the "great" prophet Daniel belongs.


In the Greek Septuagint of Judaism (originating from approx. 250 BC) the twelve books of the prophets were arranged somewhat differently than in the later Tanach. The ranking followed a "three-part eschatological scheme":

  1. Judgment against Israel (Hosea, Amos, Micha, Joel)
  2. Judgment against the Nations (Obadja, Jonah, Nahum)
  3. Salvation for Israel (Habakkuk, Zefaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

This arrangement corresponds to the Septuagint version of the Book of Jeremiah, where chapters 46–51 of the Hebrew text (judgment against the peoples) appear between chapters 25 (judgment against Israel) and 26 (salvation for Israel).

In today's biblical canons of both religions, the inner order of the twelve prophets is identical. It resulted on the one hand from the respective self-indications of the individual writings at the time of their effectiveness, on the other hand from thematic references. Accordingly, Hosea and Amos worked in the early 8th century under King Azariah and his successors in the southern kingdom of Judah and under Jeroboam I in the northern kingdom of Israel . In the case of Joel and Obadja there are no comparable information; in fact, they didn't appear until much later. But their message was understood as a continuation of the cult and social criticism of Hosea and Amos and therefore assigned to them in time. The prophet depicted in the book of Jonah was mistakenly equated with a prophet "Jonah, son of Amittai" mentioned in 2 Kings 14.25  EU , who is associated there with Jeroboam II .

The writings of Nahum, Habakuks and Zefanjas contain references to their classification in the 7th century BC. Suggested. Haggai and Zechariah were contemporary post-exilic cult prophets of the 6th century BC. Chr .; the later book Malachi was again understood as a continuation of the content of Zechariah's message.

Above all, the classification of the books Joel, Obadja, Jona and Malachi does not correspond to their actual historical date of origin. These most recent prophetic writings of the Tanakh are also literary works of art, behind which there are not necessarily historical prophets. Nevertheless, their classification is important for the theological understanding of the whole book in the Tanach.


The pre-exilic writings of the prophets from this collection (Hosea, Amos, Micha and Zefanja) that were first created have been lined up since the Babylonian exile of the Judeans (586-539 BC) and handed down together. After the exile, the books Haggai and Zechariah were also combined into one book and then combined with the four combined pre-exilic scriptures. This six-corpus was gradually added to further newly created prophetic writings until the series of twelve around 200 BC. Was completed. Its size roughly corresponds to the entire book of Isaiah.

The number twelve alludes to the twelve tribes of Israel as descendants of the ancestral father Jacob , as Jesus Sirach 49.10  EU , the earliest express reference to the unity of the Book of the Twelve Prophets, shows:

"They [the twelve prophets] brought healing to Jacob's people and helped them with trustworthy hope."

In rabbinical theology , the twelve prophets are considered a single book. In the Babylonian Talmud they were referred to in the treatise Baba Batra 14b / 15a with the Aramaic expression “Trej Ašar” (תרי עשר: “the twelve”).

The oldest surviving manuscript with an almost complete text is the Greek-language scroll of the twelve prophets by Nachal Chever from the 1st century. Another nearly complete manuscript of the Twelve Prophets Code of Washington of the Freer Gallery of Art from the 3rd century. The oldest surviving complete Hebrew text version contains the Codex Leningradensis from 1008. It forms the basis of most of today's editions of the Hebrew Bible.

During the canonization of the Tanakh (around 100), the Book of the Twelve Prophets in the Hebrew version with the three “classic” scriptural prophets of the time of exile was counted among the “rear” prophets who followed the “front” prophets. The history books from the book of Joshua to the book of kings (which is undivided in Judaism) are also understood in Judaism as forward-looking prophetic writings. Together these 21 individual books form the second main part of the Tanach, the Nevi'im (prophets).

The Old Church adopted the twelve books of the prophets from the Septuagint into the Old Testament canon in the 2nd century, although their order was not yet determined. In the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1209 (4th century) and in the Codex Marchalianus (6th century) it was initially: Hosea, Amos, Micha, Joel, Obadja, Jona. Hieronymus , author of the Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate , expressly emphasized in the foreword that the twelve prophets were one book. In all Christian versions of the canons, they stand behind the four books regarded as the “great” prophets of the time of exile.


Order of God

The twelve prophets, like all prophets of Israel, are the herald of the unique, judging and saving will of YHWH for his people, as well as for the foreign peoples who oppress this people and / or through whom God carries out his will for Israel. So Hosea, Joel, Jona, Micha, Zefanja, Haggai and Zechariah begin with a word event formula, be it as a heading or as a statement:

"[This is] the word of YHWH that went out to ..."
"And the word of YHWH went to ..."

The name of the prophet who has been called follows. A variant is the expression "vision of ..." It indicates the reception of a vision that contains the publicly directed word message: as in Obadja and Nahum. In Amos and Habakuk both formulas are combined:

"The words of Amos ... that he saw about Israel ..."
"The saying that the prophet Habakkuk saw ..."

The prophecy of Nahum and Malachi presents itself as a “saying about…” or simply “saying”. The latter is explained as "Word of YHWH to Israel through Malachi."

Calamity and salvation

In their compilation, the twelve books of the prophets form a continuous message from one and the same God to Israel in its history. Hosea and Malachi form the beginning and end of this continuum and provide the basic motives for understanding it.

Above all, Hosea refers back to the exodus from Egypt and the desert wandering of the Israelites : The key to its present and future destiny lies in Israel's relationship to its original election to the people of the liberating God, which was not possible through any self-power. The relentless anger of this God over apostasy, unfaithfulness and betrayal of his "son" Hos 11.1  EU is carried by his infinite love for this people, which ultimately allows him to repent of his judgment and transform it into salvation without human intervention (Hos 11 and 14 as the final chapter of the preceding court sermon). The final verse of Hos 14.10  EU sums up the goal of this love: It should bring about the conversion of those who have been judged and their process of separation from the unrepentant and thus enable the salvation of the whole people.

Both motives - groundless, elective love of God for all of Israel, necessary separation of the righteous from the unrighteous - the book of Malachi takes up again centuries later on Mal 1,2f  EU :

"I loved you ... Didn't I love Jacob and hate Esau?"

Accordingly, the final section tells time from 3.13 to 21  EU to Date OnEU threatened "Day of YHWH" - the final judgment of God upon Israel and the nations - as destruction of the wicked and salvation of the righteous on.

End times perspective

The closing verses of the Book of the Twelve Prophets are:

“Remember the law of my servant Moses ; At Horeb I gave him the statutes and laws that apply to all Israel. But before the day of the Lord comes, the great and dreadful day, see, I am sending the prophet Elijah to you . He will turn the heart of the fathers back to the sons and the heart of the sons to their fathers, so that I do not have to come and do the land to ruin. "

- Malachi 3, 22-24  EU

A presumed final editing thus binds the whole corpus to the Torah and to the Anterior Prophets and at the same time places it in an eschatological perspective. Three motifs are linked:

  • God himself revealed his will for all Israel long ago: The commandments given by Moses on Mount Sinai are the permanent form and norm of this will.
  • All of Israel's prophets serve to remember this will. This culminates in the return of Elijah, the only prophet who met God like Moses on the mountain of God ( 1 Kings 19 : 1-18  EU ), but whom he did not let die, but took up alive into heaven ( 2 Kings 2: 1-11  EU )
  • Elijah as the end-time prophet achieves what all prophets could not do: the conversion of all generations to God and to one another, the unification of the people of Israel in listening to God's long-known instruction, as it was also visionary foretold by Joel 3–4. This is the salvation from the often announced final judgment.


Individual evidence

  1. Jan Christian Gertz (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Tübingen 2006, p. 362f.
  2. a b Erich Zenger: The Book of the Twelve Prophets. In: Introduction to the Old Testament. 6th edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-17-019526-3 , p. 517