Timeline of the Latter Prophets
Micheal W. Palmer
  


 
The following dates are approximate and represent the rough consensus of modern biblical scholars.

The Assyrian Crisis of the 8th-7th Centuries BCE (Map)
c. 750 BCE Amos, a resident of Judah, prophesied in Israel, the northern kingdom. He challenged popular ways of thinking about the Day of Yahweh. Rather than being a day of deliverance, it will be a day of judgment, a time when Yahweh will punish Israel and its neighbors for their social and economic abuses. Amos claimed that Israel had perverted the worship of Yahweh into a worthless exercise of ritual. 
c. 740-730 BCE Hosea claimed that Israel's worship of Baal was like marital infidelity. He continued Amos' claim that Israel's social and economic injustice deserved severe punishment, even devastation of the nation. Still, Hosea emphasized Yahweh's devoted commitment to Israel's well-being (God's hesed).
c. 742-695 BCE Isaiah of Jerusalem was closely associated with the Jerusalem temple and the Davidic royal family. Like Amos and Hosea he condemns the greed of the wealthy class and its lack of concern for the poor. He lived during the Assyrian invasion of Judah and counseled a policy of total dependance upon Yahweh.
c. 730-701 BCE Micah was a rural villager in Judah. He denounced the rich landowners who oppressed the rural farmers. He warned that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed (See Micah 3:9-12).



The 7th Century decline of Assyria and rise of Babylon
630-622 BCE The book of Zephaniah was compiled at the time of Josiah's reign in Judah. The book begins by declaring Yahweh's intention to "cut off humanity from the face of the earth" (1:3), but in the middle of chapter 3 changes tone to announce that "The Lord has taken away the judgment against you" (3:15). Could the abrupt change in tone reflect the institution of Josiah's reform?
c. 612 BCE Nahum rejoiced over the fall of Assyria shortly before its capital at Nineveh was destroyed (612 BCE).
c. 605-600 BCE When it became clear that the Babylonians would soon conquer Judah, Habakkuk questioned God's fairness, but concluded that the righteous person must have faith in God's justice.



The 6th Century Babylonian Exile (Map) (Map)
c. 627-580 BCE Jeremiah lived in the period leading to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (from the time of Josiah to Zedekiah) and for a short time after that event. He argued that Yahweh was using Babylon as the instrument of his judgment against Judah for its breaking of the covenant. Jeremiah believed that neither the temple cult nor the Davidic family could save Judah. He urged Judah's kings to submit to Babylon. The book of Jeremiah includes an announcement of a future covenant which will not be broken like the old one (See Jeremiah 31:31).
c. 587 BCE (or shortly afterward) Obadiah condemned Edom for its role in helping the Babylonians as they crushed Jerusalem in 587 BCE.
c. 593-570 BCE Ezekiel was a priest exiled to Babylon sometime after 597 BCE. He asserted that Yahweh is too holy to live among a people who are unjust and violent. With powerful mystical imagery, Ezekiel saw Yahweh departing from Jerusalem, abandoning it to the forces of Babylon. He also envisioned a future in which there would be a new temple and a new Jerusalem.
c. 540 Some portions of the book of Isaiah (especially chapters 40-55) reflect a Babylonian setting. This material is often called Second Isaiah. The author witnessed Cyrus of Persia's rise to power (c. 550-539 BCE) and calls him Yahweh's mashiah (anointed one). These portions of the book of Isaiah reflect a strict monotheism, presenting Yahweh as the director of human history. They include four songs (often called the "Servant Songs") in which the servant of Yahweh acts to carry out the divine will. 



The Late 6th Century: the Restored Judean Community (Map)
c. 520 Haggai prophesied at the time of Zerubbabel, a descendant of David whom the Persians appointed as governor of Judah (which was now a province of the Persian Empire). Haggai urged the restored community to rebuild the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem saying that Yahweh would bring the wealth of the nations to the city if the community would complete this task.
c. 520-515 The author of the first eight chapters of the book of Zechariah lived at the same time as Haggai (under the rule of Zerubbabel). He reported a series of eight visions encouraging the returned exiles to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple and rely on Yahweh as they awaited the restoration of the Davidic line of kings. Many scholars see the remainder of the book (chapters 9?14) as being the work of a series of later prophets, perhaps disciples of the original Zechariah. This later material is often called Second Zechariah.
c. 515? The third major section of the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 56?66) includes a mix of materials reflecting nearly the whole range of historical situations mentioned above. Some of this material appears to reflect the conditions of the post-exilic period and is called Third Isaiah. In a time of poverty and political helplessness, the prophet criticized the community for its religious apathy and for allowing idolatry and social injustice. He urges that foreigners should be integrated into Judah's religious life and uses apocalyptic language to speak of a future renewed creation (new heavens and a new earth).
c. 400-350? The book of Joel contains a set of apocalyptic visions. With striking imagery Joel speaks of plagues and other divine judgments signaling the coming of the Day of Yahweh. Joel calls for repentance and pictures a future time when the spirit of God will be poured out on all people.
? Malachi, whose name means "my messenger," criticizes Judah's religious apathy. He predicts the coming of the Day of Yahweh when the nation will be judged and says that Yahweh's messenger will prepare the way for that day. The book ends with talk of a future appearance of Elijah. It is not possible to assign a definite date to this material, but the book probably reflects a post-exilic setting. Its condemnation of infidelity and divorce (2:13?16) may be a reaction to Ezra's postexilic command that Jewish men must send their non Jewish wives away (Ezra 10:3 and 44).
? Unlike the other Latter Prophets, the book of Jonah is a narrative (sometimes viewed as a parable). This story in which Jonah is swallowed by a large fish and spit up on dry ground contrasts Jonah's limited view of guilt and judgment with Yahweh's concern for all people?even for Israel's enemies. As with the book of Malachi, Jonah is probably post-exilic, but it is not possible to assign a date with confidence. Jonah's message also seems relevant to the end of the Assyrian Empire much earlier.

 
Other Resources for Studying the Latter Prophets

As you study this chronology of the Latter Prophets, you should also look at a good map of the region around Israel and Judah. The maps on pages 203 and 212 of Stephen Harris, Understanding the Bible are useful for this purpose. Maps 6-7 in the New Oxford Annotated Bible are also useful. 

Barry Bandstra has made several very useful maps available online. 


A few useful timelines are also available.