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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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