Good morning! Today’s middle portion of Zechariah (chapters 7-9) finishes out the first section of this book with commentary on the spirit of fasting, then the universal promise of Jerusalem. With chapter nine we start the second portion of Zechariah, which was written some years after the temple’s successful reconstruction, according to biblical scholars.
Fasting stands in for a whole range of religious rituals and gets both negative and positive reviews, depending on the spirit with which it is carried out. At first in chapter 7, Zechariah criticizes fasting as a self-aggrandizing gesture that calls attention away from, rather than toward, God’s priorities. However, in chapter 8 the prophet imagines a future with God’s return to the heart of Jerusalem. Here, the fasting will be joyful and other-centered, rather than obsessed with making oneself look good. This Zechariah closes with a vision of people streaming from all over toward Jerusalem, drawn by the promise that God is uniquely present with the Jews.
We transition to a new voice for Zechariah in chapter 9. This chapter has judgement on Israel’s enemies, and the promises of a successful new ruler, though later chapters (in tomorrow’s reading) will turn much more sour on the promises of the temple. Here though, we read how God will go to battle against other nations, vindicating little Judah. This prophet’s vision of a ruler’s coming on the back of a donkey took on a whole new life beyond its original writing. Between Zechariah and the time of Jesus, this became one of the key markers of the Jewish messiah’s arrival. Christians writing the gospels understood it this way when Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem during what we call now Palm Sunday, at the beginning of his final week. Here though, the writer finishes chapter 9 with a vision of God’s promised restoration, and it is good to behold: shining people, abundant grain in the fields, and plenty of wine for all. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Zechariah 10-14. Thanks for reading!