Week 22 – The Birth of the King

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2; John 1

Significant Moments in The Story

The announcement of Jesus’ birth to Mary – Luke 1:26-38

The announcement of Jesus’ birth to Joseph – Matthew 1:18-25

The birth of John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-80

The birth of Jesus – Luke 2

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus flee from Herod – Matthew 2

Jesus calls the first disciples – John 1:35-51

Key Themes

Who is Jesus?

Again and again in the gospels, we will hear people ask this question.  It was the effort of each of the gospel writers to try to provide an answer to this question for various groups at various times.  At this point, we should take note of several of the ways that Jesus is identified in the earliest stages of the gospels.

Messiah (Matthew 1:1) – Hebrew word meaning “anointed one”.  The Greek word for Messiah is the word that we translate as “Christ”.  Christ is not Jesus’ last name; it is a title identifying him as the Messiah.  The understanding of the Messiah goes back to Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, who spoke of one who was to come, often one from the line of King David.  This one would be anointed as a ruler, just as David was.  This ruler would be the instrument of God’s restoration of Israel.

Jesus (Matthew 1:21) – Jesus is a form of the name Joshua, which means “he will save”.  Thus, the name that Joseph gives to the child that Mary bears identifies him as Savior.

Son of God (Luke 2:35, John 1:18) – In Daniel 3:25, King Nebuchadnezzar sees a fourth man in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that he describes as “a son of the gods”, indicating that this fourth person appeared to be a divine being.  “Son of God” was a common term to refer to such heavenly beings.  In Exodus 4:22-23, God calls Israel “my firstborn son”.  Other passages refer to a king in the line of David as a “son of God” (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 89:26-27).  When we move into the gospels, the gospel writers are in uniformity in identifying Jesus as Son of God.  This identification seems to incorporate elements of previous uses of the title – divine nature, a Davidic king who will save Israel.  However, the gospel writers are also clear that the title of Son of God given to Jesus is a unique identity that elevates him above all others.

Word (John 1) – the translation of the Greek word logos.  The term is not only used to refer to the spoken word; it is also used to describe the action and the will.  John, in calling Jesus “the Word”, is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of God’s commands, God’s actions and God’s will.  He is, in fact, God – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Mark is the only gospel that does not contain some attempt to explain Jesus’ birth or origin.  However, he is united with the other gospels in his statement of who Jesus is.  Mark 1:1 reads, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Background Information

The gospels

Each of the gospels speaks with a unique voice and for a unique purpose, though they share some common stories.  Below, I will share briefly some of the distinguishing marks of Matthew, Luke, and John.  We will discuss Mark more next week.

Matthew

The gospel of Matthew seems to have a very clear structure that seeks to group together Jesus’ teachings around common themes.  If you looked at a red-letter version of the gospel (where the words of Jesus are printed in red) you would notice that there are large blocks of Jesus’ teaching, and each of these blocks has a common theme.  We believe that the gospel of Matthew was originally written to serve as a teaching instrument.  Matthew cites more prophetic texts as proof of Jesus’ identity and calling than any of the other gospels.  It would seem that the original audience of Matthew was primarily Jewish.

Luke

Luke’s audience would seem to have been primarily a Gentile audience.  In Luke 1:1-4, the author indicates he is writing this book for a certain “Theophilus”.  We are not told anything about Theophilus, and some suspect that he may have been a high-ranking Roman official.  Others, such as Luke Timothy Johnson, wonder if the name “Theophilus”, which in Greek means “God lover”, is an indication that the book is really intended for any believer.  In any case, Luke cites the fewest Old Testament passages in his gospel and seems much more concerned with capturing the universal mission of Christ, that his salvation is for all people.  Luke’s gospel seems to be organized around the city of Jerusalem – we are often told about Jesus’ spatial and spiritual relationship to the city of Jerusalem.

John

John is probably the latest of all of the gospels, likely written near the close of the first century A.D.  John’s gospel seems less concerned with providing a chronological account of Jesus’ ministry.  Instead, John seems much more interested in theologically reflecting on Jesus’ identity and mission.  John states the purpose of this reflection in John 20:31, “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  John speaks of the miracles of Jesus as “signs”, markers that point to Jesus’ true identity and purpose.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth – Matthew 1

It is interesting that three women are listed in the genealogy of Jesus.  Typically, a child’s lineage was concerned only with the father.  It is even more interesting that the three women who are listed are these three.

Tamar (Genesis 38) was a daughter-in-law of Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  When Tamar’s husband, Judah’s son, dies without having produced an heir, the expectation is that Judah will give his next oldest son to Tamar as a husband to produce an heir.  Judah fails to carry out his responsibility, and Tamar is forced to disguise herself as a prostitute and lay with Judah to insure that there is an heir in her family.

Rahab (Joshua 2) was a Canaanite prostitute in the city of Jericho.  As the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, they sent two spies to check out the defenses of Jericho.  Rahab hid the spies from city officials on the promise that she and her family would be spared.  She knew that Jericho stood no chance against Israel’s God.

Ruth (Ruth 1-4) was a Moabite woman who married a man from Israel during a time of great famine.  The Moabites were long-time enemies of Israel.  When her husband died, she journeyed with her mother-in-law back to Israel and did everything she could to take care of her new family.

Likely all three of these women were non-Israelites, and all three had backgrounds that would not have made them worthy of much note in Israel’s history.  Yet all three are specifically noted in the lineage of the Messiah.  Perhaps the intention was to address those who were concerned about the more controversial aspects of Jesus’ own birth.  By including these three women in the genealogy, it is a reminder that God has worked through unusual circumstances before.

Additional Resources

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Week 21 – Rebuilding the Walls

Scripture Reading – Ezra 7; Nehemiah 1-2, 4, 6-8; Malachi 1-4

Significant Moments in The Story

The priest Ezra comes to Jerusalem to teach the Law – Ezra 7

Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall – Nehemiah 2

The rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem is completed – Nehemiah 6

Ezra reads the law to all the people – Nehemiah 8

The following comes from The Story Small Group Discussion Guide

Chapter Summary

It’s no surprise that the Hebrew people were homesick after 70 years of foreign captivity. At this point, it had been 80 years since King Cyrus first gave the green light for the exiles to return to their beloved Jerusalem. Zerubbabel was among the first to go. Fifty thousand former slaves packed their bags and joined him on the trek back to the holy city in 537 B.C. But many remained beyond the borders of God’s promise.

Ezra had earned the favor of Persia’s King Artaxerxes during his time in Babylon. The king authorized Ezra to take a second contingent of Israelites back home. Ezra was a faithful scribe and teacher, and he was given permission not only to teach God’s law but also a mandate to appoint judges and a bottomless expense account to finance his journey.

Nehemiah remained in the palace of Susa as the favored cupbearer of the Persian king. He was dismayed to hear that the walls of Jerusalem remained in disrepair, for without walls, no city would be secure. The king gave Nehemiah a leave-of-absence so he could lead 42,000 exiles back to Jerusalem. His first order of business was to assess the condition of the walls and the people. He quickly rallied the city leaders to rebuild.

Sanballat and Tobiah were none too pleased. As leaders of nearby nations, they were threatened by the prospect of Jerusalem’s comeback. They retaliated with intimidation and made repeated attempts to out-maneuver Nehemiah and his rebuilding project, but Nehemiah was undeterred. He encouraged his leaders and armed his people. Some worked while others stood guard. Some carried supplies with one hand and a weapon in the other, but the threats continued. Even when Israel’s enemies enlisted an Israelite as a false prophet to undermine the progress, Nehemiah was not shaken. He refused to entertain empty lies, and the wall was rebuilt in record time—only 52 days!

As Nehemiah rebuilt the walls, Ezra set out to rebuild God’s people. He began by teaching them the Scriptures for the next 13 years. The people gathered to hear Ezra read and other priests joined in to teach as well. At last, they got it! They grasped the reality of God’s great story and celebrated the Feasts of Booths as Moses had written of so long before. The people and the priests hungered to worship God and God’s people were restored in the Land of Promise.

Yet old habits die hard and the people’s fervor soon dwindled. The priests and the people became apathetic, so God commissioned the prophet, Malachi, to speak His words of divine warning. The priests had begun to dishonor God with sacrifices that were less than the best. They treated their wives poorly and wondered why God was not pleased with their worship. They withheld their offerings and the whole community began to again turn away from God.

Malachi prophesied the return of the prophet Elijah as sign of things to come. God had restored His people and protected His faithful remnant. He had protected Judah’s royal line in keeping with His promise to David. He spoke His final words of warning and promise through Malachi and then God was silent. God’s people would not hear from Him again until the promised Elijah would step forth as God’s new messenger. God’s redemptive story, for now, was quietly marching toward history’s climactic event.

Icebreaker Question: What’s the most extensive remodeling or construction project you have been involved in?

  1. List the three things to which Ezra devoted himself (Ezra 7, p. 292). What is significant about this order that also applies to the successful Christian life of every believer?
  2. Why is it important for teachers like to be like Ezra – “well versed” and “learned” (Ezra 7, p. 291) in God’s word? Share with your group who has been your most influential Bible teacher and why.
  3. Compare the “first exodus,” Exodus 11:1-3 and 12:35-36, with this second exodus. How can you tell that this was clearly God’s response to Ezra’s prayer (Ezra 7, p. 294)?
  4. Why do you suppose Nehemiah did not reveal to anyone the plan that God had put in his heart (Nehemiah 2, p. 295-296)?
  5. Nehemiah prayed for protection, but he also posted guards. Does this show a lack of faith on Nehemiah’s part? How should we “follow-up” after we pray for something?
  6. Nehemiah’s enemies tried to use the false prophet Shemaiah to distract him from the rebuilding project. How do you determine if a message from God or another source?
  7. What can you learn from Nehemiah about leadership?
  8. What does Nehemiah teach us about prayer? Do you notice any patterns in his prayer life?
  9. Years after the walls had been rebuilt, the prophet Malachi was sent to correct the priests and the people (Malachi 1-4, p. 302). What were they doing that dishonored God?
  10. According to the prophet Malachi, what is the correlation between one’s relationship with God and one’s treatment of their spouse?

Key Themes

What defines a Jew?

Up until this point, the Jewish people have been primarily defined by their nationality/tribal identity or by their connection with the territory of Judah/Israel.  During the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, a shift will begin to take place.  Identification with the Jewish community will no longer be an issue of nationality or location but adherence to the Law.  Central to this week’s readings are Ezra’s calling to return to Jerusalem to teach the Law and the reading of the Law in Nehemiah 8.

This focus on the question of identity will also be key to one of the more controversial parts of the part of the Bible.  In Ezra 10, when it is discovered that a number of Jewish men have married non-Jewish women, Ezra orders that all who have married non-Jewish women should divorce their wives and send them away with their children.  This passage is troubling on several levels, and there are some who believe that stories such as Ruth may have been included in the Scripture, in part, as a counter-argument to this move.  In any case, it should be understood that the primary concern for Ezra was not so much idolatry as identity.  Ezra, and later Nehemiah in his concern for rebuilding the wall, intended to establish boundaries in which a clear Jewish identity could be maintained.

God is faithful

Once again, the theme of God’s faithfulness to His covenant and His people echoes throughout these passages.  The story of the provision of resources for the rebuilding of the wall, the royal permission given to Ezra to teach the Law, and the success of rebuilding the wall in the face of threats from surrounding peoples is all understood as the fruit of God’s work to bring restoration to His people.  Through every disaster and through ever moment of Israel’s rebellion against God, God has not given up on his promise to sustain his chosen people.  In light of God’s enduring faithfulness, His people are invited to turn to Him and renew a right relationship with God based on faithfulness to His covenant and commitment to relate only to Him.

Background Information

What happens between the time of Ezra & Nehemiah and the Gospels?

In October of 333 BC, Alexander the Great defeats the king of the Persian empire, establishing Alexander and the Greeks as the dominant power in the known world.  Ten years later, when Alexander dies, a great struggle for control of his expansive empire begins.  During this struggle, Judah is invaded numerous times by competing factions seeking to gain control of as much of Alexander’s realm as possible.  Eventually, the chaos will subside, and more positive aspects of the Greek empire – language, culture, philosophy – will begin to seep into the lands under Greek control, including Judah.  Many Jews will begin to focus on becoming citizens of a larger world, while others will find such efforts a threat to their identity as God’s people.  Judaism will enter into a time of struggle with forces without and within.  On one side, there will be those who argue that Judaism should adapt to a Hellenized world, while those on the other side will argue for rejecting such a world.  Those on this side of the argument will shift their focus to the Temple as a symbol of remaining distinct from the rest of the world.

In the 2nd century BC, the Hasmonean family will gain political and religious control of Judah, thanks in part to an alliance with the growing power that was Rome.  While the Hasmoneans will gain Judah independence from Greek political control, the substance of Greek influence will remain in place.  This will lead to the formation of three important groups in Judah that will become significant as we turn to the Gospels.

The first group was the Sadducees.  This group was made up of members of the priestly and wealthy class.  They supported the Hasmoneans and a more Hellenized culture.  At the same time, they were committed to the ancient symbols of the king and the Temple.  They compared the Hasmoneans to King David, and they looked to the Scriptures to root their new Greek experience.

The second group that formed during this time was the Essenes.  They were so horrified by the Hasmoneans and their Hellenistic influence that they withdrew completely from culture as a “new exodus.”  Living in their own communities like Qumram, the Essenes devoted themselves to the Scripture, looking forward to the renewal of a proper priestly order and the day when God would redeem Jerusalem and the Temple.

The third group that formed during this time was the Pharisees.  Like the Essenes, they devoted themselves to the Torah and to the strictest observance of the commandments.  The Pharisees were convinced that the Hasmoneans were bad and asked the Roman governor Pompey to remove the Hasmoneans from power.  They were certain that Judah was better off under the control of a foreign power than “bad Jews”.

In 63 BC, Pompey and the Romans entered Jerusalem and removed the last of the Hasmoneans from power.  Pompey and his troops entered the Temple, to the Holy of Holies.  However, they did not destroy or maim it in any way.  In 42 BC, after Augustus and Antony take control of the Roman empire, they place Herod in control of Judah.  Herod will undertake many building projects, including a complete renovation of the Temple.  It is this structure, far grander than the one Zerubbabel rebuilt in the book of Ezra, that we will encounter in the Gospels.

Week 20 – The Queen of Beauty and Courage

Scripture Reading:  Esther 1-9

Key Moments in The Story:

Esther chosen by King Ahasuerus to be the new queen – Esther 2

Haman hatches a plan to kill all the Jews – Esther 3

Mordecai warns Esther of Haman’s plan – Esther 4

Esther reveals Haman’s plot to the king – Esther 7

Inauguration of the Feast of Purim – Esther 9

Key Themes:

Providence (?)

Esther is unusual in the Bible because the name of God appears nowhere in the entire book.  As a matter of fact, there is little dealing directly with religion and faith in the entire book.  However, the entire story is centered around the theme that circumstances align to insure that the right people are in the right places at the right time to insure the well-being of the Jewish people.  One could argue that, though God is absent on the surface, the story details the working out of God’s covenant of blessing upon Israel in the face of a tremendous threat.

At the same time, though, we can also perhaps hear in the book of Esther a warning against reading the hand of God into every act.  Chapters 8-9 detail an almost farcical situation.  Even though Haman, the originator of the plot against the Jews, has been killed, the king’s order to all the cities in his kingdom to kill all the Jews is still out there.  However, a king’s edict cannot be revoked.  The solution?  The king allows Mordecai to issue an edict in the king’s name permitting the Jews in every city to take up arms and kill any who try to kill them, including their wives and children, and to plunder all of their goods.  Esther 9:16 says that the Jews killed 75,000 people on that day.

We return to the first statement in this section:  nowhere in this book does the name of God appear.  The question we are left to ask is:  is this really the only response that was available?  What does it say that an all-powerful king can’t change his own order?  Again, nowhere in the book is God given any credit for any of what takes place.  Perhaps, the story of Esther is a story of warning:  to believe in a God who can do anything does not mean that God does everything.  Perhaps we should be hesitant about reading God’s will and God’s action into every moment and event.

The Feast of Purim

There are many who believe that the story of Esther was originally told to explain the origins of the Feast of Purim, a Jewish festival which, though still celebrated today, has no root in the Mosaic law as the other feasts and celebrations do.  The festival, even as it is described in Esther 9, has no overt connection to the action or purposes of God.  Instead, it was intended to be a festival celebrating the Jews deliverance from Haman’s plot by the actions of Esther and Mordecai.  The term Purim comes from a Babylonian root word meaning “lot”, as in the lot of chance that Haman cast to determine what day would be the day when all the Jews would be slaughtered.  As in several cases in the book of Esther, there is an irony here – the day of the Jews’ destruction becomes the day of the Jews’ victory and deliverance.

Jews and Gentiles

The story of Esther is a very interesting story to read in light of the history of the Jewish people and the anti-Semitism that they would face throughout their history, even until today.  Though we most often think of the Holocaust in relation to anti-Semitism, history tells us that the Jewish people have been targeted for violence and persecution throughout the centuries. Esther’s story points to an ongoing historical reality, even though many believe that the story of Esther is more legendary than historical fact.  The question that Esther’s story raises is what relationship the Jews should have with Gentiles and, perhaps, a word of warning about future persecution by Gentiles.  Interestingly, the Apocrypha preserves a later Greek translation of the book of Esther which contains 107 additional verses.  In these additional texts, there is a very strong sentiment which some take to be a sense that God has chosen for Israel and against the nations.  The belief is that these later additions may represent a response to a particular time of persecution by neighboring Gentiles.  In any case, the story of Esther invites us to consider the often dark history of Jewish-Gentile relations and ask where we need to address misunderstandings and stereotypes that can lead to violence and hatred.

Irony and contrast

The book of Esther is ripe with all kinds of ironic and contrasting ideas.  For example, the king dismisses Queen Vashti as a warning that “every man should be master in his own house.”  However, the story of Esther is about the king gives in to the wishes of Haman, then Esther and Mordecai.  Vashti was to be an example of a woman’s “rightful place”, yet it is Haman’s wife who tells Haman to hang Mordecai from the gallows and it is Esther who is the lone spokesperson for her people.  Other such notable ironies will be pointed out in other places in this post.

Background Information

Ahasuerus – Esther 1:1

This is another name for King Xerxes I, who ruled a portion of the Persian Empire spanning from India to Ethiopia beginning in 485 B.C. until 464 B.C.

Susa – Esther 1:2

Susa was not the capital of Xerxes empire.  Instead, Susa was the king’s winter home, located about 200 miles northeast of Babylon.

Mordecai the Benjaminite and Haman the Agagite – Esther 2-3

It is not trivial information that we are told the tribal associations of Mordecai and Haman.  The term “Agagite” was probably a reference to King Agag, the Amalekite king that King Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, defeats in 1 Samuel 14:7-9.  The fact that Saul does not kill Agag after Samuel has told Saul that he must utterly destroy all of the Amalekites is one of the reasons why Saul ultimately loses the throne.  So perhaps the text is giving some justification why Mordecai will not honor Haman when he comes by.

Fasting – Esther 4:16

Fasting is the only seemingly religious activity mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, though it was certainly not exclusive to the Jewish people.  In the story, the call to fasting provides an ironic counterpoint to the elaborate feasts of the Persians, who in some cases got drunk to make decisions because they believed drunkeness allowed them to connect with a higher spiritual state.  The call to fast also stands in contrast to Mordecai’s call to feast in Esther 9 when the pogrom, or program of persecution against the Jews, has been put down.  In the Old Testament, fasting is often associated with prayer, though no such obvious connection is made in this situation.

Some Questions That Might Come Up

Why could Esther be killed for going to see the king without being invited?

The answer is relatively simple:  security.  If someone came to see the king without being invited by the king, it was assumed they represented a risk to the king and intended to do him harm.

Additional Resources

 

 

“One Night with the King” – the movie based on the story of Esther

Week 19 – The Return Home

Scripture Reading: Ezra 1-6; Haggai 1-2; Zechariah 1,8

Significant Moments in The Story
King Cyrus of Persia decrees Israelites can return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple – Ezra 1
The altar and Temple foundations are rebuilt – Ezra 3
The rebuilding of the Temple ceases in face of opposition – Ezra 4
The rebuilding process is resumed and completed – Ezra 6

Key Themes

Living in a new reality

The end of the exile in Babylon and the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem was a moment of joy and celebration to be sure, one that some perhaps believed they would never see.  However, those who returned are faced with the harsh reality that life in Israel will not be easy.  There will be rivalries with those peoples that now live in the surrounding region.  They are charged with not only rebuilding buildings but a nation and all that entails.  In addition, they have to rebuild the religious life of Israel, which during the exile has taken on a different appearance from before the exile.  This is perhaps marked best by the account of the laying of the foundations of the new Temple in Ezra 3.  The new Temple will be a smaller and less ornate structure from the one Solomon built.  This is a combination of factors, including fewer resources and a greater emphasis on the Temple as a house of prayer.  Some would see the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple as a reason to celebrate, but some would see the outlines of what was to come as cause to lament what had been lost and what was different.  These accounts challenge us to consider how we confront theologically and faithfully those moments in life when we are forced to live by new realities that are not necessarily of our making or choosing.

Finish what you start

In Ezra 4, we are told that the rebuilding process of the Temple stops for a time due to pressure exerted on the Persian emperor by the neighboring peoples.  In response, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah rise up to encourage the people to take up the task of rebuilding the Temple.  Their messages shed light on another reality:  the struggle to run with perseverance the race that is before us until we reach its finish.  Challenges externally and internally rise up to pull the Israelites away from the task of rebuilding the Temple, just as we often are distracted from our work by external pressures and internal fears or desires.  The prophets encourage the people see to completion the work they had begun in God’s name.

 

Background Information

“… in order that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished …” – Ezra 1:1

In Jeremiah 29:10, as part of his letter to those who are already in exile in Babylon, Jeremiah says, “For thus says the LORD:  Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”

Cyrus orders the Temple to be rebuilt – Ezra 1:2-4

Cyrus was known to be interested in restoring local temples.  It should be noted that his understanding of God is that he is the God of Jerusalem (Ezra 1:3).

“Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do …” – Ezra 4:2

After the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and carried the people off into exile, they resettled the land with peoples from other conquered nations.  Eventually, these peoples began to worship Yahweh, but they also worshiped other gods that they brought with them.  This synthesis of religious beliefs and the mixing of other nations into the land of the north would lead those who had returned from exile in Babylon to identify themselves as the only true Israel.  They refuse the offer of help, believing that permission to rebuild the Temple was given exclusively to them by King Cyrus.  In response, the “people of the land” would seek to stop both the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall around Jerusalem to keep the returned exiles vulnerable.

This history is the root of the Jewish-Samaritan animosity that will be evident during the time of Jesus.

Haggai

The prophet Haggai’s career was relatively short, spanning from August to December of the year 520 B.C.  Haggai’s primary focus was to call the people to finish the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Haggai 2:10-19 is believed to be a speech that Haggai made on the day that the cornerstone of the foundation was laid.  In this speech, Haggai marks the importance of beginning the work of rebuilding the Temple.  Haggai explains that the beginning of the work marks a turn of Israel away from guilt and abandonment of God to a time of blessing and restored relationship.

As part of that time of blessing, Haggai envisions a restored monarchy with Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah who led the rebuilding effort, as God’s chosen one to be king (Haggai 2:20-23).  This passage reminds us that the returned exiles not only were struggling with rebuilding buildings but trying to determine what would be the best order of rule and governing themselves.  Zechariah, a contemporary of Haggai, will have a slightly different idea.

Zechariah

Zechariah’s prophetic ministry seems to have spanned about 2 years.  Like Haggai, Zechariah portrays the effort of rebuilding the Temple as a turn in Israel’s relationship with God (Zechariah 8:9-13).  However, though there is much that Zechariah and Haggai share in unison, Zechariah’s message does take a unique shape.

For one, Zechariah envisions that, in the new day of God’s blessing, the high priest will be the king of the people, specifically Joshua (Zechariah 6:9-13).  There seems to be some indication of two rulers sharing power (Zechariah 6:13), leading some to wonder if originally Zechariah envisioned Zerubbabel crowned king, sharing power with the high priest Joshua.  Whatever the case, Zechariah’s description of governance in the new day of blessing is different from the one described by Haggai.

Zechariah’s message also includes an atmosphere of welcoming of other nations (Zechariah 8:20-23).  This will present an interesting contrast to the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah that we will look at next week.