Archive for the ‘Haggai 1’ Category

Judah’s Triumph Over Her Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Woods, Ben Burton Park, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, October 29, 2017

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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READING SECOND ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Zechariah 9:1-11:17

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Zechariah 9:1-8 may be the original portion of Second Zechariah.  This opening oracle names enemies of the Hebrews:

  1. Aram (Zechariah 9:1-2a; Amos 1:3-5; Isaiah 17:1-14; Jeremiah 49:23-27);
  2. Tyre and Sidon (Zechariah 9:2b-4; Amos 1:9-10; Isaiah 23:1-18; Ezekiel 26:1-28:26); and
  3. Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7; Amos 1:6-8; Isaiah 14:28-32; Jeremiah 47:1-17; Ezekiel 25:15-17).

One may read about the Jebusites (Zechariah 9:7) in Judges 19:10; 2 Samuel 5:6, 8; 2 Samuel 24:16, 18; 1 Kings 9:20; 1 Chronicles 11:4.

The development of Zechariah 9:1-8 is complicated.  The original version of it may predate the Babylonian Exile.  The reference to the rampart of the fortress (9:3) may allude to a military campaign of Alexander the Great in 333 B.C.E.  Zechariah 9:1-8 seems to have passed through various editorial hands before settling down into its current state.

Regardless of the number of editorial stages of development of all the segments of Zechariah 9:1-11:17, the final version is about an ideal future when the full-realized Kingdom of God is evident on the earth and when the Messiah, a descendant of King David, is triumphant and victorious.  The arrangement of material is odd.  YHWH is triumphant in chapter 9.  The promise of restoration fills chapter 10.  Chapter 11 concludes with the desperate situation extant in First Zechariah (chapters 1-8).  The editing seems backward, from a certain point of view.  Anyway, the present day of Second Zechariah, obviously far from ideal, has much in common with 2021.

Time passes.  Technology changes.  Social mores and norms change, also.  Locations vary.  Yet much remains the same.  False prophets abound (10:2).  [Note:  The reference to teraphim in 10:2 is to household cultic objects, as in Genesis 31:19, 30-35; Judges 17:5.  Deuteronomy 18:9-14 condemns divination.  Also, Deuteronomy 13:6 and Jeremiah 23:25-32 are suspicious of dreams.]  Many leaders–shepherds, metaphorically–are oppressors and predators (10:3; 11:4-17).  In this case, prophets and leaders are the same.  This makes sense; one is a leader if one has followers.  The text is sufficiently ambiguous to apply to those who are false prophets or predatory political leaders without being both, though.

Zechariah 11 concludes on a hopeful note:  Those leaders responsible for social ills will fall from power.  This is good news the metaphorical sheep.

I, as a Christian, pay especially close attention to Zechariah 9:9-10.  This is a vision of the Messiah, sometime in the distant future, approaching the glorious, restored Jerusalem after God’s victory.  The image of the Messiah–“your king”–triumphant, victorious, and humble, riding on a donkey, occupies the background in accounts of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-15).  Understanding Zechariah 9:9-10 helps one grasp the imagery of Christ’s self-presentation in the Gospels’ accounts of that event.

The placement of the oracles in Zechariah 9-11 in the future, without claiming,

Do x, and God will will do y,

in such a way as to date the prophecies, works.  One may recall that Haggai made the mistake of being too specific (and objectively wrong) in Haggai 1 and 2.  The prediction of the restoration of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel of Israel (9:17-10:12), therefore of the restoration of the unity of Israel and Judah, remains unfulfilled.  One may doubt that it will ever come to pass, but one cannot legitimately criticize the text for establishing a temporal marker already past (from the perspective of 2021) and being objectively wrong, by that standard.

Reality falls short of God’s ideal future.  Yet we may legitimately hope and trust in God.  Details of prophecies, bound by times and settings of their origin, may not always prove accurate.  So be it.  We moderns ought to read these types of texts poetically, not as what they are not–technical manuals for the future in front of us.  We should focus on major themes, not become lost in the details.  We ought not to try to match current events and the recent past to details of ancient prophecy.  The list of books whose authors did that and whom the passage of time has proven inaccurate is long.  One can easily miss the forest by focusing on the trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF R. B. Y. SCOTT, CANADIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, HYMN WRITER, AND MINISTER

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The Coronation of Joshua, the High Priest   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua, High Priest

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XIII

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Zechariah 6:9-15

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

Zechariah 6:9-15 depicts the making of two crowns yet the coronation of just one man–the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadak.  We read another reference to “the Branch,” Zerubbabel, supposedly due to wear a royal crown and restore the Davidic Dynasty.  We know that he did neither.  We read an affirmation of the dual leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 6:15 predicts the completion of the Second Temple, under one condition:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That is almost a quote from Deuteronomy 28:1, at the beginning of a chapter about blessings, curses, and the consequences of disobedience to God.  Deuteronomy 28, placed in the mouth of Moses, comes from a time long after him.  The chapter benefits from centuries’ worth of hindsight.

Hindsight is the context from which people tell stories and weave interpretations.  Hindsight is useful and crucial during transitional periods, such as the temporal context of Haggai-First Zechariah.  Those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are not destined to repeat them.  Time does not play on a loop.  No, those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are destined to commit variations of those errors in new contexts.

Zechariah 6:15b states the overriding theme of Haggai 1-2 and Zechariah 1-8:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

This is also a theme that repeats, as if on a loop, throughout the Old and New Testaments.  This theme remains germane in 2021.  However, knowing the details of how to obey God can prove challenging.  Applying timeless principles in circumstances introduces a degree of relativism.  I know, for example, that God commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  But how I should do that in a particular time, place, and cultural setting, as opposed to another time, place, and cultural setting?

One may have to do one’s best, trust in God, hope to get it right, and pray for forgiveness if one errs.  The desire to please God is a good start, at least.  It is more than many people want to do.  And, by grace, one can forgive oneself for trying and failing, just as God has forgiven one.

The rest of the story comes from Ezra 6:1-22 and 1 Esdras 7:-15.  We read that the construction of the Second Temple was complete in 516 B.C.E., and that a celebration of Passover followed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Vision, Fifth Vision, and Second Oracle of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART IX

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Zechariah 3:1-4:14

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The fourth vision (3:1-10; 4:4-5) is of the purification of the high priest Joshua ben Jehozadak, whom we met in Haggai 1:1.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) correctly translates the label in 3:2 as “the Accuser,” not “the Satan” or “Satan.”  This version thereby avoids an anachronistic reading of the doctrine of Satan, who, in Jewish theology, went from being an employee of YHWH to rebellious free agent during the Persian period.  “The Satan”–“the Accuser” and “the Adversary”–as an employee of YHWH in Numbers 22:26 and Job 1 and 2, for example.

One may legitimately argue that Satan was a rebellious free agent long before Zoroastrianism influenced Jewish theology, after the Babylonian Exile.  I, as a student of history, try not to read anachronisms into Biblical stories, though.

The vision depicts high priest Joshua as an unjustly criticized servant of God, affirmed and purified by God.  We read that Joshua was human, therefore flawed, yet that this intracommunity sniping was harmful.

We also read (as in Haggai 1:1) that Joshua and Zerubbabel (the governor) shared power.  One may recall Zerubbabel from Haggai 1:1 and 2:20-23.  One may remember that Zerubbabel would have been the Davidic king if there had been one.  One may recall that Haggai identified Zerubbabel as a king in the future (our ancient past).  Zerubbabel is “the Branch” in Zechariah 3:8.  The oracle about Zerubbabel (4:6-10) follows the fourth vision and relates to it.  That oracle declares that the governor will, by divine aid, oversee the completion of the rebuilding of the Temple.

The vision regarding high priest Joshua also predicts unusual prosperity in the future (Zechariah 4:4).  See Micah 4:4 and 1 Kings 5:5, also.

The fifth vision (4:1-3, 11-14) is of the lampstand (a menorah) and olive trees.  This vision speaks of Joshua and Zerubbabel as partners in power, with God being present.  One olive tree stands of Joshua.  The lampstand symbolizes God.  The other olive stands for Zerubbabel.

First Zechariah committed an error Haggai also made:  he predicted that Zerubbabel would become king and that the Davidic monarchy would resume.  He did not become a king, and no Davidic monarch has ruled since the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).

Sometimes–perhaps frequently–when God restores and revives peoples, God does so in ways they do not expect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The First Two Visions of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zechariah’s Vision of the Four Horns and the Four Craftsmen

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VII

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Zechariah 1:7-21 (Anglican and Protestant)

Zechariah 1:7-2:4 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The first vision (1:8-17) is of horsemen.  We read that, as of early February 519 B.C.E., the status quo of bad harvests and a poor economy had not changed, despite the oracles in Haggai 1 and 2.  We read that the earth (or land, depending on translation) dwelt in “tranquility,” that is, not change (1:11).  The negative connotation of “tranquility” is evident in 1:12.  We read that, at an undefined point in the future, God will “choose Jerusalem again” (1:17).  One may raise one’s hand and ask,

What about God pressing the giant reset button about three months prior, in Haggai 2:10-19?

Such a person raises a legitimate point.

Anyhow, in Zechariah 1:17, we read that the situation will improve eventually.  The prophecy does not say when, wisely.  One may recall Haggai moving the goal post in chapters 1 and 2, only for First Zechariah to move it again.

The first vision also mentions the “seventy years” (1:12).  This calls back to Jeremiah 25:11.  For more about the “seventy years” and interpretations of them, read this post.

The second vision (1:18-21/2:1-4, depending on versification) is of the four horns and the four craftsmen.  The horn is a recurring image in some Biblical visions.  The horn evokes horned altars, with a horn at each corner–a common sight in the ancient Near East.  The horn also symbolizes power, especially military power.  The analogy is to the horns of a bull or an ox (Psalm 132:17; Deuteronomy 33:17).  We read in the second vision that those who scattered Judah came from the proverbial four corners of the earth.  These horns in the vision are metal, hence the craftsmen.  These craftsmen will execute divine judgment on the enemies of Judah, we read.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER SCHMORELL, RUSSIAN-GERMAN ORTHODOX ANTI-NAZI ACTIVIST AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSECKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; HIS TEACHER, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; AND HIS SON, JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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The Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

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Haggai 2:10-19

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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The First Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Haggai 1:1-15

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King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Haggai 1:1-15 establishes two dates and three names:

  1. The first date (1:1), converted to the Gregorian Calendar, is August 9, 520 B.C.E.
  2. The first name is Haggai, who prophesied from August 9 to December 18, 520 B.C.E.
  3. The second name is Joshua ben Zehozadak, the chief priest.
  4. The final name is Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (of the House of David), the satrap (governor).   Notice the lack of the Davidic monarchy, O reader.
  5. The final date (1:15) is September 21, 520 B.C.E.

Haggai offered a simple explanation of why the drought was severe and the economy was poor.  He blamed everything on the lack of a completed Temple in Jerusalem.  The prophet argued that such disrespect for God was the culprit, and that the poverty and drought were punishment.  Work on the construction of the Second Temple resumed.  Surely resuming construction of the Second Temple ended the drought and revived the economy, right?  No, actually, hence Haggai 2:10-10.

Haggai’s heart was in the right place, but he missed an important truth that predated Jesus:

[God] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

–Matthew 5:45b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Haggai could have recalled certain laments from Hebrew literature.  He could have remembered Psalm 73, for example.  Why did the wicked flourish and the righteous falter?  Haggai could have recalled the Book of Job, in which the innocent, titular character suffered.

I make no pretense of being a spiritual giant and a great spring of wisdom, O reader.  However, I offer you a principle to consider:  God is not a vending machine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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Introduction to Haggai-First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART I

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Haggai 1-2

Zechariah 1-8

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The Book of Haggai consists of two chapters, four oracles, and thirty-eight verses.

The Book of Zechariah consists of two sections–First Zechariah (chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (chapters 9-14).  Haggai and First Zechariah share a background and setting. Also, the chronology of Haggai-First Zechariah starts in Haggai, continues in First Zechariah, returns to Haggai, then resumes in First Zechariah.

Jerusalem, 520-518 B.C.E.  Darius I (r. 522-486 B.C.E.) was the King of the Persian Empire.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had fallen in 539 B.C.E.  The Babylonian Exile had ended in 538 B.C.E.  The rebuilding of Jerusalem was underway, slowly.  The standard of living there was bad yet improving, slowly.  The construction of the Second Temple had started then paused indefinitely.

Names interest me.  “Haggai,” derived from the Hebrew stem for “to make a pilgrimage feast,” means “festal.”  Not surprisingly, the Temple is central to the prophetic book bearing this name.  “Zechariah” means “YHWH remembers.”  One may want to keep that in mind while reading First Zechariah.

The Temple is central to Haggai-First Zechariah.  The prophecies of certain Hebrew prophets do not reflect this bias; see Amos (5:18-25) and First Isaiah (1:12-16), set before the Babylonian Exile, O reader.  Also consult Third Isaiah (66:1), from after the Babylonian Exile.  Diversity of opinions exists in the corpus of canonized Hebrew prophecy.  So be it.

I will unpack another theme as write posts to succeed this one.  As I have established in this long-term project of reading and blogging about the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order, some Hebrew prophecies contradict historical, documented, objective reality.  This is not a matter of legitimate dispute; “alternative facts” are not valid.  The Haggai-First Zechariah provides some examples of this pattern.  When predictions do not come true, some people become discouraged, understandably.  I, as a student of history, take note of the prophecy and the reality.  The facts are what they are, and speak for themselves.  In the face of the contradiction between reality and prophecy, some people should become discouraged.

John J. Collins, writing in The Catholic Study Bible, Third Edition (2016), offers some food for thought:

Hope should not be focused on specific predictions.  The faith of Habakkuk was secure because it was a faith in ultimate justice and did not depend on specific events coming to pass within a short space of time.  Haggai’s more specific prediction gives rise to problems.

–RG404

I know this problem from elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic literature.  The prediction of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian conquest of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:1-8; Jeremiah 46:2-28; Ezekiel 29-32) contradicts the the historical record, which indicates that, in 525 B.C.E., Egypt fell to the Persian Empire, which had previously conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  If the prophecies were, in contrast, of the fall of Egypt to a great, unnamed empire from the east, there would be no problem, though.

Yet, as Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel wrote, prophets were people, not microphones.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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Three Prophecies Against Gog, With the Return of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  King Gyges of Lydia

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART XVII

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Ezekiel 38:1-39:29

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The identities of Gog and Magog are topics of scholarly dispute.  Gog may be a reference to a mythical ruler, and Magog (the land Gog governed) may be mythical, too.  Another hypothesis holds that Magog (Akkadian, “mat-Gog”) may refer to the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, which fell to the Persian Empire in 546 B.C.E.  If Magog is a reference to Lydia, Gog is a reference to King Gyges of Lydia (r. 685-652 B.C.E.).  The main idea, anyway, is that Magog refers to a distant, northern kingdom.  This kingdom will attack restored Israel, but God will fight for restored Israel, Ezekiel 38-39 say.

In Hebrew prophetic literature, invasions usually came from the north, as in Jeremiah 1:13-15.  Gog and Magog, regardless of any real-world references, represented an unspecified threat at some undefined point in the future, relative to Ezekiel’s time.

Above:  A Map Showing the Kingdom of Lydia

Image in the Public Domain

The restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 39:21-29) is also a prominent theme in Chapters 36 and 37, of course.  The Book of Ezekiel is repetitive.

The language of prophecy is frequently vague and poetic.  When it is not–as in Haggai 1 and 2, for example–one problem is that the prediction may not come to pass, and disillusionment will ensue, predictably.  I do not know if Ezekiel 38 and 39 represent bad history or unfulfilled prophecy.  Whichever one they represent, so be it.  The really big idea is plain and clear, however.  That point is that God is in control of human history.  Once God has demonstrated that point, the restoration of Israel can begin.  And all flesh will see it together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GEORGE NICHOLS AND RICHARD YAXLEY, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYRS, 1589; SAINT HUMPHREY PRITCHARD, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589; AND SAINT THOMAS BELSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1589

THE FEAST OF GEORGES BERNANOS, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF HULDA NEIBUHR, CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR; HER BROTHERS, H. RICHARD NIEBUHR AND REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIANS; AND URSULA NIEBUHR, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH BOISSEL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND MARTYR IN LAOS, 1969

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Posted July 5, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 36, Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel 39, Haggai 1, Haggai 2, Jeremiah 1

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Good and Bad Figs, and the Cup of God’s Wrath   3 comments

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XV

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Jeremiah 24:2-25:38

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Chronology is not the organizing principle in the Book of Jeremiah.  Chapter 21, for example, is set circa 586 B.C.E., at the end of the reign (597-586 B.C.E.) of King Zedekiah.  Chapter 24 opens earlier, circa 597 B.C.E., also during the reign of Zedekiah, after the brief reign (597 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah.  Furthermore, Chapter 25 opens in the fourth year (605 B.C.E.) of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim.

The good figs in Chapter 24 represent the faithful remnant of Judah–exiles of 597 B.C.E.–that would eventually return to the ancestral homeland after the Babylonian Exile.  They would also return to God.  The bad, inedible figs, however, represent those, who, between 597 and 586 B.C.E., remained in Judah or fled to Egypt, and were destined for annihilation.  In Jeremiah 24 and Ezekiel 11:6, the exiles of 597 B.C.E. were the only recipients of the divine promise of future restoration.  They alone were covenant people of God.

By 605 B.C.E., Jeremiah had been prophesying for twenty-three years. He had been faithful to God, the people had not.  They would face destruction, therefore, Jeremiah decreed yet again.

And those nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.  When the seventy years are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their sins–declares the LORD–and I will make it a desolation for all time.

–Jeremiah 25:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Let us consider some historical dates and perform some arithmetic, O reader.

  1. Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian domination started in 605 B.C.E.
  2. The first Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian deportation of Judean exiles occurred in 597 B.C.E.
  3. The Fall of Jerusalem and the more famous deportation occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  4. The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire fell in 539 B.C.E.
  5. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland, starting in 538 B.C.E.
  6. 605 – 539 = 67.
  7. 597 – 538 = 59.
  8. 586 – 538 = 48.

Seventy is a round and symbolic number.  It means, in Mesopotamian terms, a long duration.  In Zechariah 1:12 and 7:5, seventy is the number of years between the destruction of the First Temple (586 B.C.E.) and the dedication of the Second Temple (516 B.C.E.).  This reinterpretation in Zechariah addresses the despair of the returned exiles in Haggai 1 and 2.

The reinterpretation of Biblical prophecies within the Bible itself is a recurring theme.  Other examples include all those exuberant visions of what the the Holy Land would be like after the Babylonian Exile.  The Biblical record indicates, however, that those visions did not come true, and disappointment was commonplace among returned exiles.  Therefore, we read interpretations of those prophecies to apply them to a then-future time (and perhaps a still-future time).  This practice of reinterpreting prophecies that, objectively and literally, did not come to pass, is consistent with the practice of adding to Hebrew prophetic books as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Hope is one of the basic human needs.

But first, there was more divine judgment to ponder.  All twenty-six nations of the world known to Jeremiah were to drink the poisoned wine of the wrath of God then to suffer the sword of divine punishment.

The text minces no words:

In that day, the earth shall be strewn with the slain of the LORD from one end to the other.  They shall not be mourned, or gathered and buried; they shall become dung upon the face of the earth.

–Jeremiah 25:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Jeremiah 25:30, God’s residence is in heaven, not the Temple in Jerusalem (Joel 4:16; Amos 1:2).  This detail may be significant, given expressions of divine displeasure with Judah in the Book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25 concludes on a terrifying and vivid poetic account of divine wrath and sovereignty (verses 34-38).  God is in control of the world.  The King of Babylon is God’s vassal, although he does not know it.  (See Jeremiah 27:6, also.)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMEGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Eschatological Ethics I: Living in Exile at Home   Leave a comment

Above:  The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, whose throne is set eternal in the heavens:

make ready for thy gracious rule the kingdoms of this world, and come with haste, and save us;

that violence and crying may be no more, and righteousness and peace may less thy children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Zechariah 10:6-12

Romans 13:8-10

Matthew 21:1-13

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Reading of our Lord and Savior’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of Advent may seem odd to some, but not to many members of the Moravian Church.  That denomination has a tradition of using the same liturgy for Palm Sunday and the First Sunday of Advent.  The theme of the arrival of the Messiah unites the two occasions.

The theme of being in exile at home unites Zechariah 10:6-12 and Matthew 21:1-13.  In this matter I acknowledge the influence of N. T. Wright, author of Jesus and the Victory of God (1996) on my thinking.

Zechariah is a book in two separate sections:  First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) and Second Zechariah (Chapters 9-14).  First Zechariah is historically related to and concurrent with Haggai (both chapters of it), and dates, in its current state, from no later than 515 B.C.E.  Second Zechariah, from the late Persian period, dates, in its current state, from the middle 400s B.C.E.

The Persian Empire of that period was hardly an onerous taskmaster of Jews living within its borders.  There were ups and downs, of course, but Persians were, overall, much better to live under than the Assyrians and the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Nevertheless, in the context of the militarization of the western satrapies during the Greco-Persian wars and the slow economic recovery in the Jewish homeland, many Jews dwelling in their homeland must have felt as if they were in a sort of exile.  Where was the promised Davidic monarch prophets had predicted?

And where was the promised Davidic monarch in the first century C.E., when the Roman Empire ruled the Jewish homeland and a Roman fortress was next door to the Second Temple?  Roman occupation must have felt like a sort of exile to many Jews living in their homeland.

And where was the promised Kingdom of God/Heaven in 85 C.E. and later, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire in 70 C.E.?  The Kingdom of God was simultaneously of the present and the future–a partially realized reign and realm of God on Earth, but the Kingdom of Heaven was the promised fully realized reign and realm of God on Earth.  (I refer you, O reader, to Jonathan Pennington‘s dismantling of the Dalman consensus, or the ubiquitous argument that, in the Gospel of Matthew, “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution.)

For that matter, where is the promised Kingdom of Heaven today?  We of 2018 live in exile while at home.  Only God can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.

We can, however, live ethically, both collectively and individually.  Love, after all, is the fulfillment of the Law.  May we, therefore, strive to live (both collectively and individually) according to the Golden Rule, and not make a mockery of that commandment by citing doctrine and dogma to excuse violations of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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