Before the Babylonian exile, Biblical prophesy reached its highest point. Prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel changed and molded the scope of Israelite religion. Their writings were intelligent, insightful, well developed, and contained a great spiritual meaning. Following the Babylonian exile, however, prophesy took a depressing downward turn. There are many post exilic prophets, yet their writings are usually short, mostly irrelevant, repetitive, and, for the most part, anonymous.
Though this is the case for many of these prophets, their works cannot be overlooked. Haggai and Zechariah were leaders in the cultic reform of the Israelite people. Malachai calmed their fears, and assured them of God's love. Still other prophets told of a new, Messianic time when the word of the Lord would be held in its former glory. These were the most important works, as post exilic Israel needed not only protection, but spiritual guidance to sustain their society.
The prophet Haggai was in integral figure in uniting the Israelite people. Upon return to their homeland, the Israelites found most of the infrastructure in a state of disrepair, with the people uncaring for their moral and social responsibilities, to say nothing for their religious practices. (OVC) Even the temple of the Lord had been destroyed. Haggai emphasized the return to a more cultic society. Through Haggai, God explained the plight of the Israelite people, as in Haggai 1:6: "You have sown much, but harvested little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough...Why? Because of My house which lies desolate while each of you runs to his own house." (Haggai 1:9) The word of Haggai is accepted as the word of God, and the temple is rebuilt in less than four years. "I am with you," said the Lord,in Haggai 1:13 when the temple was finally built. (EIB)
The prophesy of Haggai did not end with the building of the Lord's temple. He offered a message of hope to the people of Israel. Haggai said that the promises made by God would be kept, now that He had a dwelling place within the city. God inspired the people of the newly reformed city, saying: "Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?...Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, and in this place I shall give peace." (Haggai 2:3,9) He also talks of a time of political upheaval and reform, when he promises to "overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms and nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, every one by the sword of another." (Haggai 2:22)
The "latter glory" foretold in Haggai's prophesy is emphasized in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah prophesied in the shadow of Haggai, but gave his words a slightly different spin. He emphasizes, like the pre-exilic prophets, the importance of a moral reform among the Israelites. Zechariah's way of receiving
the word of God is very unique
among the prophets. The word comes to him in the form of eight visions. These "colorful and strange" visions make up most of his book. (OVC) The visions are so bizarre that the Lord sends an angel as in interpreter, so that Zeccariah can derive meaning from them. (I have taken descriptions of these visions, from the OVC and other texts, and combined them with actual verses from the bible in order to create these descriptions.)
The first of thsese eight visions is that of four angels, whose amazing speed is symbolized by horses. These four angels report that all is at peace with the nation, because the opponents to the nation have been silenced. This is called "a time of universal peace" (Carstensen, OVC). Even though the land is peaceful, the Lord is not, and he expresses his hatred toward...
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