The Twelve Prophets (Sirach 49:10)

The Twelve Prophets (Sirach 49:10)

The Twelve Prophets were a dozen of the most famous prophets from Jewish history. In the name of God, they called the people to repentance, spoke out against injustice and made spiritual observations about the politics of the day. Sometimes they are referred to as the ‘Twelve Minor Prophets’.

The Twelve were Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Their messages were written down in a series of short books that were named after them. Some time before the birth of Christ, their writings were joined together into a single book.

Over a period of around two hundred years (8th-6th century BC), the Twelve Prophets spoke about events within the Jewish kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They also preached about the politics of the Middle East in general. Several of them predicted disaster for neighbouring nations, such as Assyria, Edom and Phoenecia.

Other major themes from their writings included Judgment Day (known as ‘the Day of the Lord’), social issues (such as corruption, violence and inequality), as well as God’s determination to both forgive sin and punish criminals.

We don’t know a lot about the Twelve Prophets themselves, apart from a few details. Hosea had a difficult marriage, while Amos was a shepherd and farm-worker. (Hosea 3:1-3; Amos 1:1, 7:14). Habakkuk was probably a temple musician, while Jonah was from Galilee (Habakkuk 3:1,19; 2 Kings 14:25). Haggai and Zechariah both supported the Jewish governor Zerubbabel. (Ezra 5:1-2)

The Twelve also spoke cryptically about the arrival of a future king called the Messiah. The Messiah (the Hebrew word for ‘Christ’), would be born in Bethlehem, preach the good news, visit the rebuilt Temple, be descended from David and save God’s people (Micah 5:2; Nahum 2:1; Malachi 3:1; Hosea 3:5; Habakkuk 3:13).

This glorious East Window featuring half of the Twelve Prophets is found within the sanctuary of St Mary’s, in Gosport. The window was designed in the 1850s by the respected German artist, Gottfried Semper. It unites two themes – the Jesse Tree and the Immaculate Conception. As such, it focuses on the prophets who spoke about the coming Messiah – and the woman who would be his mother.

Malachi, Micah and Nahum can be seen on the top right, while Habakkuk, Amos and Hosea (Osee) cling to the tree on the top left. They are all focused on the coming Messiah, who sits within the arms of his mother, Mary. The window also features other Old Testament figures who anticipated the birth of Christ, such as the Four Major Prophets, King David and King Solomon.

At the bottom of the window are scenes of the Fall of Adam and Eve, with the Annunciation on both sides. The tree of life within the Garden of Eden neatly acts as the theme for the Jesse Tree window. The image summarises how Christ came to undo the actions of Adam and Eve and to fulfil Old Testament prophecy. It also explains the special role of Mary in bringing Christ into the world.

See the full image:

TwelveProphetsGottfried Semper/ The Jesse Tree & The Immaculate Conception / Stained glass / c.1850s

Here is a close-up of the prophets to the left and right:


And of the Annunciation (Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary):


And finally, the Fall of Adam and Eve:


Where to find this work of art
St Mary’s, Gosport

Read the relevant passage
Sirach 49:10

On a similar theme

  • From the Old Testament: Moses appointed Twelve Spies to scope out the Promised Land.
  • From the New Testament: Following the pattern of choosing twelve close associates, Christ appointed Twelve Apostles.

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