Zephaniah and Haggai

Good morning! It’s hard to believe in this rush through the final “minor” prophets, but we only have five more days of reading the Hebrew Scriptures! We start the New Testament this Saturday (October 1st), when we will again be on to something very new (yet rooted in all that has been so far). This week would be a great time to invite others to consider joining Daily Bible for the three months we have left! But before we get there, today we read two other small prophetic books, Zephaniah and Haggai.

Scholars date the book of Zephaniah to the time of King Josiah in Judah. The prophet denounces corrupt royal and temple leadership, but doesn’t seem to have Josiah in mind. This suggests that he was writing early in Josiah’s years (when the new king was between 8 and 18 years old). Though Zephaniah critiques the spiritual and moral bankruptcy of his contemporary elites, he trusts that God’s ways will ultimately prevail through a righteous remnant (first mentioned in 2:7) which reestablishes the ways of justice. Zephaniah shares with other later prophets a steady “day of the Lord” motif (see 1:14-18, for instance). He uses the language of “cutting off” the people because of Baal-worship and other idolatry, trying to shake Jerusalem of its lethargy and what he sees as taking God’s favor for granted. Zephaniah’s final chapter talks about the promised remnant (“a people humble and lowly”), especially how they will give Judah and God cause to rejoice together again.

Haggai writes from the scene of Jerusalem’s rubble at the time that exiles are returning from captivity in Babylon, at the same time as Zechariah (whom we will start reading tomorrow). Mentioned in Ezra with Zechariah, this prophet shares a project with Ezra-Nehemiah in rebuilding the temple as a top objective for the returning Judahites. He sees the replacement temple being constructed but only half-heartedly, and contends that unless it’s completed swiftly, the joyful return of exiles from Babylon will be in vain. Even the weather will betray their hopes for harvest! However, if Judah’s returned rulers stay focused on “God’s house” as their number one priority, blessings innumerable will flow to them. To Haggai, the temple represents God’s triumphant reign coming to pass. As its walls take shape again, the fields and forests yield abundant harvests once again. Happy reading!

Read Zephaniah and Haggai. (Note that the link here is only for Zephaniah 1—you will need to click the button at the bottom of the linked page to read the other two chapters, and the two chapters of Haggai.)

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Zechariah 1-6. Thanks for reading!

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