By Joseph Benson
The Prophet. His name means "Jehovah is God," but his birth-place and conditions of life are unknown. He very probably prophesied in Judah (2:15-17) and the time of his ministry is commonly thought to have been during the reign of Joash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah. It seems certain his is one of the earliest (some think the very earliest) of the prophetic books, and his references to the temple and its services have caused some to conclude he was a priest.
The Prophecy. (1) The occasion of the prophecy was four successive plagues of insects, particularly the locusts (2:25) and a drouth (2:23) which had been unprecedented. These calamities the prophet declares are the results of their sins and should call them to repentance, that God may bless instead of curse their land. (2) The people repent and the calamity is removed. This is used by the prophet to foreshadow the coming destruction and restoration of Israel and this restoration is also doubtless used to prefigure Christian church and its triumph on earth. (3) The great subject is the terrible judgments of God which were to come upon the people because of their sins. (4) His great distinctive prophecy is 2;28-32 which was fulfilled on the day of pentecost, Acts 2:16-21. (B) In it all, he is emphasizing the rewards of the righteous and certain punishment of the wicked and thus he appealed to both the hopes and the fears of men. But the relief value of the book is its optimism. There was victory ahead, the righteous would finally triumph and be saved and God's enemies will be destroyed. The conflict of good and evil and of Israel and her enemies will end in entire and glorious triumph for Israel and right.
I. The Call to Repentance, Chs. 1:1-2:17.
II. Israel's Repentance and Jehovah's Promised Blessing, 2:18-3:21.
For Study and Discussion. (1) Point out the different statements about the drouth and locusts that indicate their severity and ruinous effects. (2) Collect the passages referring to the Messianic age and try to see how or what each foretells of that age. (3) Point out all references to the sins of Israel. (4) Collect evidences of the divine control of the universe as seen in the book.