Chronological Arrangement of the Old Testament Prophets
Historical Observations in a Short Narrative
Dr. Jay A. Quine
Before 722 BC (to Israel)
As Israel's rebellion became increasingly acute, the Lord sent messengers to deliver warnings of certain judgment unless they repent. Reminding Judah (Israel) of the absolute sovereignty of God who controls not only the affairs of nature (drought and locust plague) but also of nations (Gentile armies), the prophet Joel was the Lord's first spokesman (c. 830 B.C.; 2Ch 23:1--24:27 assuming Obadiah is later and not 845 B.C.). The Lord provided an example of a people moved to repentance by the preaching of a prophet sent not to Israel, but to a Gentile city state. Jonah (Jeroboam II's reign, 793-753 B.C.; 2Kg 14:25) was commissioned to Nineveh to proclaim its destruction. Ironically Nineveh responded to God's servant, but the Northern Kingdom did not even though they heard the message from both Amos (c. 760 during Jeroboam II), who wrote during a time of great prosperity and described the Lord as a Lion roaring against them for their abandonment of the Covenant, and Hosea (during the time of Tiglath-pileser III, Shalmaneser, Sargon II, and Sennacherib of Assyria, and Jeroboam II of Israel; c. 750-721 B.C.), who saw Israel's final days and whose marriage pictured her adultery against the Lord.
Before 586 BC (to Judah)
During this time Judah's spiritual integrity continued to rise and fall. Summoning Judah to "hear" the indictment against them, Micah began his ministry to the south before the north's fall (began about 735 - 679 B.C.). His preaching with Isaiah's (his 58 year ministry began just prior to Uzziah’s death in 740 B.C.), who called them to be the servant the Lord intended, may have in part contributed to the miraculous deliverance Jerusalem and Hezekiah experienced from Sargon's army (701 B.C.). Yet they both maintained that God would judge Judah just as He had Israel.
After Israel fell to Senacharib of Assyria in 722 B.C. the Lord sent Nahum (c. 663 the fall of Thebes - 612 the fall of Nineveh) to predict Nineveh's own destruction and provide comfort to Judah (during Manasseh's reign in Judah; Ashurbanipal in Assyria). Yet soon thereafter Zephaniah began his ministry (c. 628 - 612 B.C.) to stress the inevitable judgment on Judah for her evil (such as Manasseh's evil reign) in his day and in the future as part of the day of the Lord. Recording his own dialogue with the Lord, Habakkuk (612-590 B.C.) asks how evil Gentile empires can be used as instruments of God's judgment? The Lord promised that they will in turn be judged for their evil, and God's people living by faith will be extended mercy. Echoing this promise, Obediah (586 B.C.) illustrates by proclaiming judgment against Edom who, rather than come to the aid of his "brother," joined forces with Babylon and looted Jerusalem. Using Edom's fall as a prototype for the future, he concludes by looking to the ultimate day of reckoning when the Lord's judgment will fall on all of His enemies and His eternal Kingdom will be established.
Just before and after 586 BC (to Israel/Judah)
First warning of the coming of the Gentile armies and explaining the New Covenant God will make with his people, the prophet/priest Jeremiah (from 605 - 584 B.C.) witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and was carried to Egypt with those who fled. As part of the first exile to Babylon, Daniel (605 - 562 B.C.) served as an example of how God could bless His people even in exile. Trusting in God's sovereign control of his life, he is shown God's sovereign plan for world history into which will erupt the Son of Man and His Kingdom. Taken as part of the second wave of captives to Babylon (597 B.C.) Ezekiel writes and illustrates God's judgment not only on Judah but also those Gentile nations who believed they escaped the Babylonian threat. He encourages the captives by reminding them of the New Covenant and the reunification and resuscitation of the dead bones to the Land.
As the Lord promised Jeremiah, the return from exile came 70 years after Jerusalem's destruction. The mission of the first returning group to rebuild the Temple (under Zerubabbel, 538 B.C.) was frustrated for 17 years. The Lord sent Haggai (520 B.C.) with four messages of challenge ultimately reminding them of the eschatological hope connected with their own faithfulness. Returning as part of this first group as a boy, Zechariah (writing 520 - 518 B.C. and 485 B.C.?) grew up to also encourage its construction through ten visions of the Temple and the end of resistance from Jerusalem's neighbors. Extending his message to the future, he concludes with two apocalyptic messages describing deliverance from Gentile domination upon the Messiah's return. The importance of obedient living in light of this hope is addressed by the Lord's last prophet of this era, for Malachi (438 B.C.) explains to a despondent generation nearly 100 years after the first return that their indifference to the Law of the Lord must change in view of His coming day.
Some Historical Background to the Exilic / Post Exilic Prophets
In 626 BC the great neo-Caldean/Aramean/Assyrian Empire begins to fall (“neo” because it follows the Chaldean Emipre of the second millennia of which Hammurabi was a part). The Chaldean Nabapollassar begins to rise up against the Assyrian Empire. Finally in 612 BC the Medes, Cynthians, Elomites and Chaldeans unite together to destroy the great city of Nineveh. The Assyrians flee to Harran (west). Nebuchadrezzar pursues to fight the Assyrians, who are joined by Pharaoh Necho (who has defeated Josiah at Medeggo along the way). They are routed from Harran in 609 BC, and suffer final defeat at the Battle of Charcemish in 605 BC. The Assyrians never again rise to power.
Nebuchadrezzar reigns from 605 – 562 BC (approx. 43 years). He is succeeded by his son Labashi-Marduc who reigned only a few years. Naraglisis enjoyed only a short reign, but Nabonidus ruled from 556 – 539 BC, although from Temah (likely exiled there by the powerful priesthood) for 10 years. In his absence from Babylon, Belchazar reigns. Cyrus becomes leader of the Medes (559 or 550 BC) and topples the Babylonian Empire under Belchazar’s reign (539 BC).
During the Babylonians supremacy there were three main contacts with Judah. In 605 BC Jehoiakim submits to Babylon. The Chronicles state that he was seized and taken to Babylon (2Ch 36:6). In 597 Jehoiakim is murdered, and Jehoichin (then 8 years old) is placed on the throne (2Ch 36:10). He is exiled to Babylon (2Ch 36:10) with many others, including Ezekiel. Zedekiah is set up as their last king. In 586 BC Jerusalem falls (2Ch 36:11-21).
It is during this time period in which Ezekiel prophesied and Daniel served. Before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC yet after his own exile to Babylon in 597 BC Ezekiel condemned Judah for their idolatry and warned of the judgment from God’s instrument, Babylon. Afterward he spoke / wrote of the future restoration of Jerusalem and re-institution of the Levitical priesthood.
In 538 BC Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews exiled by Nebuchadrezzar to return to Jerusalem and reconstruct their religious shrines. Zerubbabel led the return in 537 BC alone with some 50,000 people with hopes to rebuild their homes and the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Shortly after beginning the reconstruction of the Temple (having laid the foundation, Ezra 3:11-13) the work was hindered by the Samaritans (Ezra 4:5). Work was halted until 520 BC when the document authorizing the project had been found by Darius the Great (522 – 486) who then forbid any more interference. It was at this time that Haggai and Zechariah began their prophetic ministries. A simple timeline of these events is as follows:
Cyrus (550 – 527 B.C.)
539 B.C. The Fall of Babylon
537 / 538 Decree allowing the return to Jerusalem
537 B.C. Zerubbabel, et. al., leave Babylon
536 B.C. Temple construction begins
Cambysis (527 – 522 B.C.)
Gaumata (522 – 521? B.C.)
Durias the Great (522 – 486 B.C.)
520 B.C. Haggai’s and Zechariah’s Ministries begin
516 B.C. Temple Completed
Xerses (486 – 465 B.C., aka, Ahasuerus; cf. Ezra 4:6)
Artexerxes I (465 – 424 B.C.)
454 B.C. Ezra Returns
445 B.C. Return under Nehemiah; building of the city
 In Daniel, it appears that “Chaldean” refers both the ethnic designation as well as to denote the court wise men. Nebopollassar was ethnically Chaldean.
 Part of the agitation against the Assyrians may be seen as far back as 702 BC when a delegate is sent to Palestine to stir up trouble with Hezekiah in Isaiah’s day.
 Cambridge Ancient History, Vol III, The Assyrian Empire, 1929, Chapter X, p. 210-212.
 See generally R.K. Harrison, ”Zerubbabbel,” Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia, 5:1057.