Haggai and Zechariah

Haggai and Zechariah 1-8

Dear Daily Devotion

I hope you’ve found the Joint Public Issue Team’s Six Hopes for Society an interesting way to reflect on our justice making.  It’s been good to read them and hear from their interns, and from Simeon Mitchell, our Secretary for Church and Society, in particular.

It’s a joy to welcome back the Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington now for a four week journey through the books of Haggai and Zechariah (1-8).  Janet writes:

It has long been recognized that Zechariah 1-8 is a distinct set of prophetic material and that the remaining chapters of the book derive from a later period and different author. 

The material we will be reading over the next four weeks in Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 is dated precisely to the years 520 and 518 BCE the time when the Jerusalem temple was being rebuilt (before rededication two years later in 516).  The historical context is after the return from exile in Babylon during the period of Persian rule over the whole area.  Jerusalem probably began to be resettled around 525; and so these prophecies speak into the early years of a new socio-political world.  God’s people faced the fundamental need to rebuild a community out of the ruins that still lay around them; as well as issues of survival, identity, leadership and religion.

It is interesting to note that although the dates provided in the texts suggest that the ministries of Haggai and Zechariah overlapped, neither prophet makes any mention of the other.  Both speak from the context of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple is a common concern; but their messages are very different in style and content.  Haggai follows the tradition of speaking his message through oracles addressed to a specified audience.  Zechariah is presented as a visionary, who ‘sees’ the message he is to communicate through a series of dreamlike visions that build together into a whole.  They are described to his audience in a mixture of ordinary and bizarre imagery that attempts to reveal something of the heavenly realm.  Angelic figures acting as divine messengers feature; and one is depicted as an intermediary who interprets the visions to Zechariah – and through his words, to us as readers.   

In both books Joshua features as the High Priest, the earliest references we have to this as the title of the religious leader.  Zerubbabel, the last known direct hereditary descendant of King David, is identified as the Governor, using Persian terminology to define his political role.  Nothing is known about what ultimately became of him, the Bible is strangely silent about this.

Together these books offer us an insight into the early post-exilic years of Israel’s self-understanding and prompt us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that we face when we make a new beginning of any kind.  I hope you will enjoy our journey through these texts and discover more about our amazing God along the way.

I am sure you will enjoy Janet’s reflections as she teaches us yet more of the Old Testament.

with every good wish

Andy

The Rev’d Andy Braunston
Minister for Digital Worship

 

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