Dates of the Twelve Minor Prophets

This set of notes explain in more detail the dates I propose for the Twelve Minor Prophets on the Old Testament Dates page.

HOSEA
Hosea prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (787-734), Jotham (750-730), Ahaz (731-715), and Hezekiah (715-686) of Judah, and of Jeroboam II of Israel (791-750).
maximum range: 791-686
minimum range: 734-715

Hosea’s prophecies are directed primarily against Israel. Some time after Israel had allied with Assyria (5.13; 7.11; 8.9; cf. 2Kgs 15.19: the beginning of the reign of Menachem, 748), but before the rebellion which led to the annexation of most of Israel in 733 (Jezreel still in Israel 1.4-5, etc; Gilgal 4.15; Tabor 5.1; 6.8, 12.11 Gilead). Mention of Shalmaneser III taking Beth-Arbel in 841 (10.14).

While Hosea’s career is given such a lengthy dating through the various reigns, the book itself is more of a piece, relating to a single period at a distance from the parting and end of Israel sufficient that Assyria is threatening, but not certainly on the way. So, Hosea’s prophecies are likely to be dated in the reign of Menachem of Israel, 748-738.

Note Hos 7.7; 8.4; 12.10-11; 10.15 (?) on the absence of kings in Israel

JOEL
Probably to be set in roughly the same period as Hosea and Amos. The setting is that of an invasion (1.6) of Judah. The nations mentioned are: Tyre and Sidon (3.4) & Philistia (3.4). These have captured Judeans and Jerusalemites and sold them into slavery to the Ionian Greeks (3.6), and perhaps looted the Temple (3.5) or at least made off with a great deal of treasure (3.5).

Note the similarities of other eighth century prophetic utterances with those of Joel:

Joel 3.10: Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears
cf Isa 2.4 & Mic 4.3: They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks

Joel 3.16: The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem;
cf. Amos 1.2: The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem. (The two are identical in Heb., with imperfect verbs.)

3.19: Egypt and Edom are said to have done violence to Judah, shedding innocent blood.

There are several potential periods to which Joel might best apply:

  1. Early in the reign of Uzziah, before his conquering of the Philistines. See 2Chr 26.6-8
  2. Early in the reign of Ahaz, 2Chr 28.18, was an invasion of Judah’s Shephelah by the Philistines.
  3. After the fall of Jerusalem

While some would find the similarities with Isaiah, Micah, and Amos, all dated mid-late 8th century, as evidence that Joel must date to a later period, the more obvious solution is that Joel is also a mid-late 8th century prophet, placed appropriately in the list of the Twelve whether according to the order of the MT or the LXX:

The MT organizes the books in an apparently solely chronological order (whether drawing on similarities in the books or other information regarding the actual dates of the authors prophecies is unknown), while the LXX combines both chronological order and organization (in the eighth century books) according to books which are explicitly dated and those which are undated.

The body of evidence points toward a date of about 730 for Joel, based on the above and the campaigns of Edom and the Philistines, both recorded as attacking Judah early in the reign of Ahaz (731-715), see 2Chr 28.17-18.

AMOS
His prophecy is precisely dated to two years before the earthquake in Uzziah’s (787-734) and Jeroboam II’s (791-750) reigns. This earthquake is usually set around c. 750. So Amos prophesied circa 752.

OBADIAH
Obadiah v. 20′s “Halah” in NRSV is only a suggested correction in BHS, and isn’t necessary or likely. This therefore doesn’t mean that Obadiah is necessarily dated after the fall of Samaria. In fact, a better date is early in the reign of Ahaz (731-715). This makes the pairing of territories a reversal of what occurred in those invasions (2 Chr 28.17-18): “For the Edomites had again invaded and defeated Judah, and carried away captives. And the Philistines had made raids on the cities in the Shephelah and the Negev of Judah….”

Obadiah 19-20 pairings:

Negeb = Esau
Shephelah = land of Philistines
Ephraim = land of Samaria
Benjamin = Gilead
Israelite exiles among Canaanites = Phoenicians to Zarephath
Exiles of Jerusalem in Sepharad = Towns of Negeb

Most telling is the pairing of Negeb & Esau, and Shephelah & Philistia. These are exactly the areas closest to the invaders’ territories, and the most likely to be seized. That they were seized around 730 is related in 2 Chr 17.18, above.

This reading thus places Joel and Obadiah in response to the same invasions. It’s not surprising that in at least one ancient tradition of ordering the Twelve Minor Prophets that Joel and Obadiah are thus placed together. Both prophesied around 730.

JONAH
Jonah’s career is placed in (or before) the reign of Jeroboam II (791-750), according to 2 Kings 14.25. The Assyrian kings of this period were not as strong as those before and after, due to the pressure of the Urartian kingdom to their north. These kings were:

Adad-narari III…………………. 810-783
Shalmaneser IV……………… 783-773
Assur-dan III…………………… 773-755
Assur-narari V………………… 754-745

Assyrian resurgence came with the next king, Tiglath-pileser III, 744-727

The Hebrew used in Jonah is so generically prosaic as to be not much help in dating. While it undoubtedly dates to some period after that of which it described, how much later is a question to be answered. Its placement in this position among the Minor Prophets in both the MT and LXX traditions indicates, however, that those doing the ordering of the books were arranging the books by subject matter, and not actual dates of composition (although these could certainly be the same or not very much different!). Using the centerpoint of the reign of Jeroboam II, during which Jonah was active, we can say that his prophetic career was around 770.

MICAH
Micah prophesied during the reigns of Jotham (750-730), Ahaz (731-715), and Hezekiah (715-686)
maximum range: 750-686
minimum range: 730-715

Some similarities and references to be noted:
Micah 4.1-3 = Isaiah 2.2-4
cf. Joel 3.10, Mic 4.3, Isa 2.4
Note also the Amos 1.2 and Joel 3.16 parallel
Jer 26.18-19 dates Micah 3.12 to the reign of Hezekiah (715-686)

Most, if not all, of Micah appears to be prior to the fall of Samaria, but 1.16 indicates an exile has already occurred, so it’s possibly post-733, though it’s an exile of children, which would likely indicate this took place as a corollary to the establishment of a treaty relationship. Certainly a date after the catastrophe of the dissolution of Israel is not indicated. In Micah it is difficult to pin down where the subject is Israel and where Judah. A date of around 730-725 is likely.

NAHUM

Nahum dates to circa 650. Directed at Nineveh, it obviously dates before that city’s fall in 612, but after the sacking of Thebes in 663 (3.8). Assyria is said to be “at full strength” (1.12), which could not be said after 626, when the Assyrian army was defeated at Babylon by the Chaldean army. So, sometime between 663 and 626. In 652, the Assyrian army beat an army of rebels at Babylon, but the conflict was the last success of Assyria, apparently being too great a drain on resources. Just after this would be precisely the time for Nahum—Assyria still ruled, but was on the way down. Her atrocities were to be answered for, according to God’s will!

HABAKKUK
Note Habakkuk 1.6: “For I am rousing the Chaldeans….” This rousing of the Chaldeans occurred in 626 with Nabopolassar’s defeat of the Assyrian army at Babylon. He was promptly crowned King of Babylon, initiating the Neo-Babylonian Empire over the course of the next few years. Thus the prophecy of Habakkuk dates to circa 625. Also, it will have been prior to the reforms of Josiah in 622/1 (1.2-4).

ZEPHANIAH
Zephaniah, like Habakkuk, also dates to circa 625, pre-dating the fall of Nineveh (2.13) and Josiah’s reforms (passim).

HAGGAI
The prophecies of Haggai are precisely dated:
1.1: 29 Aug 520
2.1: 17 Oct 520
2.10: 18 Dec 520

ZECHARIAH
The prophecies of Zechariah are also precisely dated:
1.1: 27 Oct – 24 Nov 520
1.7: 15 Feb 519
7.1: 7 Dec 518

MALACHI
Sometime after 520, when the newly-returned Judean exile community was still not intermarrying, and 457, when the intermarriage problem (etc.) was addressed by Ezra. It is likely closer to the latter than the former, as the situation is so similar to that described in Ezra, and the implication in Malachi that the problem is therefore widespread. Approximating that this situation will have developed by three-quarters of the time had passed between these two points, the prophecy of Malachi probably dates to around 470.

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