God really does not want any person to perish, and He proved it when He called a simple prophet named Jonah (c. 780–750 BC) to preach repentance to the Ninevites (Assyrians), who were brutal enemies of Israel and Judah.
The purpose of the book of Jonah is to show that God is a merciful and gracious God. Although the wicked city of Nineveh deserved to be crushed immediately, God was patient towards them. A reluctant prophet, Jonah originally ran from God before delivering a message of repentance to the nation of Nineveh.
The common title for these twelve books of the English Bible is “minor prophets.” Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. This title originated in Augustine’s time (late fourth century A.D.), but they are minor only in that they are each much shorter than the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (called “major prophets”). In Old and New Testament times, the Old Testament was called “The Law and the Prophets.” This title looked at the Old Testament from the standpoint of its divisions, but it also included the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, which constituted a 24-book division.
In the Hebrew canon the Prophets are divided into the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,) and the Twelve, or Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).
We will be talking about the six books called the former prophets in this lesson.