Bible Question:

What were the major prophets trying to accomplish?

Bible Answer:

The ancient prophets were chosen by God to represent Him in a variety of ways to the nation Israel. Their primary function was to speak for Him. Much of the Old Testament was written by the prophets. Phrases such as “God said,” “God says” and “thus says the Lord” are common throughout their writings. The New Testament captures this truth with these words,

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son . . . (NASB) Hebrews 1:1-2

Both major and minor prophets recorded God’s promises or prophesies. Here is one example,

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures . . . (NASB) Romans 1:1-2

The prophets did many things for God. God called them to obey Him and to be faithful. The prophet Jonah learned that lesson the hard way. He did not want to obey God on one occasion and attempted to flee from God (Jonah 1:1-3). In response, God motivated a crew of seamen to throw Jonah out of a boat (Jonah 1:4-17). When that occurred, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish. Jonah repented and did as God had asked (Jonah 2-3). He went and warned those living in the city of Nineveh to repent and they did. God had called him to preach a message of warning. God also used His prophets to warn the ancient Jews in the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah to turn from their sin and live in obedience to God’s law from the heart.

The prophets also suffered for their obedience to God, Hebrews 11 provides a short summary of the horrible persecution endured by both the minor and major prophets.

And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (NASB) Heb. 11:32-34

While the primary responsibility of the prophets was to speak for God, their faithfulness benefited us. 1 Peter 1:10-12 tell us that their ministry was to help us discover that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, our Lord and Savior, and God. That is the message of the next two passages,

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come. . . (NASB) 1 Peter 1:10

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ . . . (NASB) Ephesians 4:11-12

Here is a summary of the message of each of the major prophets. It should be noted that the major prophets are called major because of the length of their writings. The major prophets include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and the books they wrote are named after them.

Major ProphetsMessage
Isaiah 740-680 B.C.Isaiah was a prophet who warned Judah to repent and announced of coming judgment through Babylonian captivity (chapter 1-39). Through Isaiah, God also warned other nations of future judgment. In chapters 40-66 God encouraged Judah that He will eventually rescue and restore them.
Jeremiah 627-580 B.C.Jeremiah was also a prophet commissioned by God to warn Judah that judgment was certain and coming. Judah rejected his warnings. Yet, God promised that some day He would put a new spirit in them.
Ezekiel 593-571 B.C.Ezekiel warned the Israelites that Jerusalem would fall, the people would be taken captive and then return. Starting with chapter forty, Christ’s future earthly kingdom temple is described.
Daniel 605-535 B.C.Daniel is a series of prophecies about the rise and fall of kingdoms. He starts with the Babylonian empire, followed by the Medo-Persian, Grecian, and the Roman empires. His prophecies predict a gap in time and then a revival of the aforementioned sequence of empires. The revived empire will be headed by the anti-christ. That empire will fall and be replaced by God’s kingdom.

Conclusion:

Both the major and minor prophets did whatever God wanted them to do. The above passages have provided an overview. Everything the prophets did benefited someone. Moses was a prophet (Deuteronomy 34:10) who led the Jewish people out of Egypt and toward the Promised Land. Daniel was a prophet who ruled in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. Samuel was asked to select and anoint the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, Elisha, Malachi, Jonah, and many other prophets spoke and acted on behalf of God. God asked them to submit, obey, and speak for Him and they did.

Reference Links:

Is there a list of all the known prophets and prophecies?
Was Christ the last prophet to come to earth?