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Chapter Four: Prophets from Amos through Second Zechariah
Albert Schweitzer begins his book, The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity, with this statement: Christianity is essentially a religion of belief in the coming of the Kingdom of God. It begins with the message preached by John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan, Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3: 2) It was with the same preaching that Jesus came forward in Galilee after the imprisonment of the Baptist. The Christian view of the Kingdom of God arises out of the Jewish. For this reason a knowledge of the expectation of the Kingdom of God found in the Prophets and in late Judaism is essential if we are to understand the background of the thought of John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul and the earliest Christians. (Schweitzer, p. 3)
Moses was the first and greatest prophet of Judaism. Leader of the Hebrew people in their exodus from Egypt, he was one whom God knew face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10). Moses met with God on top of Mount Sinai and received a set of moral instructions for the Jewish nation. There were also prophets at the time when the Hebrews lived in Canaan before there was a king. Roaming the countryside of Syria and Palestine, these individuals carried on the shamanic practice of communicating with the spirit world while in a trance. Their ecstatic seizures were taken as a sign of inspiration from God. Fearlessly, the prophets would challenge the moral authority of kings.
After Moses, the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament were Elijah and his successor, Elisha. They lived in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reign of King Ahab (869-850 B.C.) and his son Jehoram. It was customary in those days for foreign-born royalty at marriage to bring their native gods with them. Queen Jezebel, formerly a Phoenician princess, had brought the Sidonian god Baal into the royal court. However, the Transjordanian prophet Elijah was devoted to Jehovah (or Yahweh), god of the Hebrew people, whom he considered to be the only true God. A dramatic contest with the priests of Baal demonstrated Jehovahs superior power.
Elijahs disciple, Elisha, destroyed the house of Ahab for its religious apostasy. He instigated a rebellion against Ahabs son, Jehoram, by soldiers stationed on the frontier between Israel and Syria. Elishas disciples anointed an army commander, Jehu, to be king in Jehorams place. Jehu carried out his mandate by traveling to Jezreel, where Jehoram was recovering from wounds, and killing the king, the kings family, and all worshipers of Baal. Jezebel, the queen mother, remained defiant to the end. She, too, was killed and her body was thrown to the dogs.
The story of these prophets is told in the first and second book of Kings. Elijah and Elisha did not write anything themselves; their prophecies were orally delivered. The first writing prophet was Amos, a Judaean herdsman and dresser of fig-mulberries who preached at Bethel in the 8th century B.C. His prophecies concerned the Day or Yahweh (or Day of the Lord). Its idea was that God was to execute judgment on the nations against whom his chosen people Israel had been compelled to maintain themselves in a series of fierce struggles ever since their settlement in Palestine, and that he would subject these peoples to Israel for all time. A reign of peace was expected, in which the mastery of the world would fall to the people of Israel. (Schweitzer, p. 3)
The prophet Amos challenged the idea that, on the Day of Yahweh, God would side with the nation of Israel and smite its enemies. No, this day would be different from what people imagined. Gods judgment would be executed not only upon the enemies of his people but upon the people itself as well. Because Yahweh is an ethical God, to show himself as such he must execute judgment upon all peoples, including the people which belongs to him in a special way, the verdict will be based solely on the good or evil of their deeds.. (Schweitzer, p. 4)
Because several Canaanite peoples had committed evil acts in war, their cities would be destroyed. However, God would also punish Israel and Judah for their iniquities. Fools who long for the day of the Lord!, said Amos; what will the day of the Lord mean to you? It will be darkness, not light. It will be as when a man runs from a lion, and a bear meets him, or turns into a house and leans his hand on the wall, and a snake bites him. The day of the Lord is indeed darkness, not light, a day of gloom with no dawn. (Amos 5: 18-20)
The people of Israel trusted that God would treat them kindy because they had performed the rituals required in Yahwehs cult. Disagreeing, Amos quoted God: I hate, I spurn your pilgrim-feasts; I will not delight in your sacred ceremonies. When you present your sacrifices and offerings I will not accept them, nor look on the buffaloes of your shared-offerings. Spare me the sound of your songs; I cannot endure the music of your lutes. (Instead) let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5: 21-24) This was an important change in religious worship. No longer might one cultivate Gods favor by performing rituals. More important was whether one was a good person.
Still, Amos predicted that God would not destroy Israel for all time. The nation would fall to its enemies but a part of the people would be saved, those who had remained faithful to Gods commandments. Those persons who were pleasing in Gods sight would survive the nations destruction while the wicked perished. And so a kind of sifting would take place. I will not wipe out the family of Jacob root and branch, says the Lord. No; I will give my orders, I will shake Israel to and fro though all the nations as a sieve is shaken to and fro and not one pebble falls to the ground. They shall die by the sword, all the sinners of my people, who say , Thou wilt not let disaster come near us or overtake us. On that day I will restore Davids fallen house; I will repair its gaping walls and restore its ruins; I will rebuild it as it was long ago. (Amos 9: 9-11)
Amos was creating a scenario of future history which set a pattern for subsequent prophecies. It departed from Moses promise that Yahweh would allow the Jews to prosper because they were his Chosen People. By this time, the kingdom of David and Solomon had split into two kingdoms and wickedness had set in. Amos was saying that God would allow foreign enemies to defeat the nation of Israel; but, because of his favor, that nation would later be revived. A new nation, populated by survivors of the earlier calamity, would arise under the leadership of Davids descendants. Purged of its wickedness, this nation would again enjoy prosperity. The prophets Hosea, Micah, and Zephaniah, who followed Amos, adopted his idea that God would punish the Jews for their evil deeds and unfaithfulness but later restore the nation through a remnant of righteous survivors.
Isaiah lived in the southern kingdom of Judah where he was an advisor to the king. Assyria was the dominant military power, and the King of Judah sought security by an alliance with Egypt. Isaiah advised against this policy. The Jewish nation should trust in God instead. Like Amos, Isaiah accepted that the future would bring immediate hardship before the Jewish nation was restored. God would need first to punish his people for their sins. In the end, however, a surviving remnant of the righteous could look forward to establishment of a new kingdom of peace ruled by Davids descendant and armed with the spirit of God.
In Isaiah, the concept of a Messiah is put forth for the first time. Messiah means the Anointed. As the prophet Samuel had anointed Davids head with oil, so the ruler of Gods kingdom would be anointed with divine spirit. This ruler be genealogically descended from King David: God was restoring the kingdom which had allowed itself to lapse into sin. Earthly empires rise and fall but the dynasty of David and Solomon would be spared the fate of ordinary empires. God would intervene to create a kingdom of lasting peace.
The words of Isaiah ring through the ages: Then a shoot shall grow from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall spring from his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and power... (Isaiah 11:1-2) For a boy has been born for us, a son given to us to bear the symbol of dominion on his shoulder; and he shall be called in purpose wonderful, in battle God-like, Father for all time, Prince of peace. Great shall the dominion be, and boundless the peace, bestowed on Davids throne and on his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now and forevermore. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Another new element in Isaiah is the idea that on the Day of the Lord nature will be miraculously transformed. Wild animals will be tamed even as men give up their warlike ways. In the coming Kingdom of Peace, the wolf shall live with the sheep, and the leopard lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall grow up together, and a little child shall lead them ... the lion shall eat straw like cattle; the infant shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the young child dance over the vipers net. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.. (Isaiah 11: 6-9) The expectation that at the time of the Kingdom of Peace God will also transform the natural world appears with ever-increasing emphasis in the later prophets. (Schweitzer, p. 7)
In the terrible period preceding Nebuchadnezzars capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah was continually preaching that resistance to the Babylonians was futile. It was Gods will that the Jews submit to Babylon. Jeremiah believed that God intended to punish the Jews for their apostasy. But, again, the punishment would be temporary. The present misfortunes would be a period of testing which would be followed by a Kingdom of Peace under a Davidic ruler. Jews of that painful period could find consolation in Gods promise of a happy ending.
The reason why Jeremiah could expect the people to accept patiently as something sent by God all the misfortunes they had to endure was that these events were trivial compared with the time which would follow the testing. It was of no real consequence whether Judah was for a few years an independent kingdom or a vassal of the Chaldaeans. The only thing that mattered was what would become of it when the humiliation gave place to the exaltation. (Schweitzer, p. 8-9)
The new age would begin with the return of those exiled to Babylon, whether from Judah or Israel. The new Kingdom of Peace would again be ruled by a scion of David. The days are now coming, says the Lord, when I will make a righteous Branch spring from Davids line, a king who shall rule wisely, maintaining law and justice in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5) I will heal and cure Judah and Israel, and will let my people see an age of peace and security. I will restore their fortunes and build them again as they once were. I will cleanse them of all the wickedness and sin that they have committed; I will forgive all the evil deeds they have done in rebellion against me. This city will win me a name and praise and glory before all the nations on earth, when they hear of all the blessings I bestow on her. (Jeremiah 33: 6-9)
Jeremiah foresees that God will make a new covenant with his people. Not only the king but the people, too, will become vehicles for divine spirit. In Gods new covenant with the Jews, laws will be written not on paper or in stone but directly in peoples hearts. The time is coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although they broke my covenant, I was patient with them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with Israel after those days ... I will set my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will become their God and they shall become my people. No longer need they teach one another to know the Lord; all of them, high and low alike, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31: 31-34)
The law of Moses is here being replaced by a new spiritualized covenant, where obedience is effected by spirit rather than through human effort. Such is the law that will govern the coming Kingdom of God. God will forgive sins, not exact punishment. Yet, while a descendant of David will rule this kingdom, God will have mercy on the Gentiles, too. He will allow them to participate in the Kingdom on equal terms with the Jews. While Judah is surrounded by evil neighbors ...yet, If they (the neighbors) learn the ways of my people, swearing by my name ... they shall form families among my people. (Jeremiah 12: 16) So Gentiles, too, will learn to worship the One True God. The development of the expectation of Gods people from particularism to universalism is based upon the ethical conception of God. (Schweitzer, p. 10) It is a theme that will continue in future prophecies.
Ezekial, a prophet of the Exile, was first to write prophecies which included elaborately conceived visions and symbolic actions. (Schweitzer, p. 11) He deals with the problem that the Kingdom resurrected after the exiles return from captivity might contain ungodly persons among those who have survived Jerusalems destruction. His solution is to suppose that only the good have survived. Therefore, the postexilic kingdom will consist only of righteous persons, the bad having perished.
In proposing his theory, Ezekial offers a vision of Jerusalem before it was captured. He imagines hearing God tell a scribe dressed in linen: Go through the city, through Jerusalem ... and put a mark on the foreheads of those who groan and lament over the abominations practiced there. To the six men carrying battle-axes who accompanied this scribe, God says: Follow him through the city and kill without pity; spare no one. Kill and destroy them all, old men and young, girls, little children and women, but touch no one who bears the mark. (Ezekial 9: 4-6) Thus, a process of moral selection took place before Jerusalem fell. Only those who passed the test lived to be deported to Babylon so that only morally fit persons would still be around. There would be no further need to distinguish between righteous and unrighteous persons in the Kingdom of God. The problem of determining a righteous remnant was solved.
Being a member of the Jewish priesthood, Ezekial did not share Amos disdain of ritual. Once the Jews returned to Judaea, God would restore the temple worship at Jerusalem and accept sacrifices. Ezekial had particular ideas about the design of the temple. The city of Jerusalem would be laid out in a large square with three gates on each side. The restored temple would be built within a smaller square in the center of the city. Water would gush from a spring underneath the temple and proceed to the Dead Sea whose salty water would miraculously become fresh and support many fish. Along its banks would grow fruit-bearing trees whose leaves would never wither.
Here, again, one finds supernatural elements entering into prophecies about the restoration of Israel. In Isaiah there had been a transformation in living nature, in so far as the creatures are granted a way of life which gives them the possibility of sharing in the Kingdom of Peace. In Ezekial inanimate nature also achieves a transformation from a state of imperfection to one of perfection. The hope of the miraculous becomes increasingly prominent in the expectation of the future. (Schweitzer, p. 13)
Ezekial is an important source of prophecies concerning the battle of Armageddon. Once Gods kingdom was established, an enemy would attack it from the north. This was Gog from the land of Magog. The evil army would descend upon Palestine where God had arranged that this force would be destroyed and its host become a meal for the birds and beasts that inhabit the mountainous areas. The purpose of this event would be to exhibit Gods power in the world. I will send fire on Magog and on those who live undisturbed in the coasts and islands, and they shall know that I am the Lord. My holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel and will no longer let it be profaned; the nations shall know that in Israel I, the Lord, am holy. (Ezekial 39: 6-7)
Second Isaiah (or Deutero-Isaiah) was a person writing under the name of the prophet Isaiah who actually lived during the Captivity. He was the author of the 40th through 62nd chapters in the Book of Isaiah. We can date the time of his writing because Second Isaiah referred to the exile and the fact that Cyrus had allowed the temple to be rebuilt, even mentioning the Persian emperor by name. (Isaiah 44:28) Despite his anonymity, this writer was one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament. He build a foundation for religious monotheism and presented a portrait of Gods suffering servant which bore an uncanny resemblance to Jesus.
The preaching of Deutero-Isaiah takes the form of hymns on the imminent redemption of Israel. He is a poet-prophet. These hymns look forward to the return of the people seen as a completely supernatural event. God will lead those who return to Jerusalem. Nature will give expression to its joy at their good fortune and make itself serviceable to them by his command. The new Jerusalem will be like a home in another world. (Schweitzer, p. 14)
Nature exhibits miracles as the exiles return home. There is a voice that cries: Prepare a road for the Lord through the wilderness, clear a highway across the desert for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill be brought down; rugged places shall be made smooth and mountain-ranges become a plain. Thus shall the glory of the Lord be revealed, and all mankind together shall see it. (Isaiah 40: 3-5) Come out of Babylon, hasten away from the Chaldaeans ... tell them, The Lord has ransomed his servant Jacob. Though he led them through desert places they suffered no thirst, for them he made water run from the rock, for them he cleft the rock and streams gushed forth. (Isaiah 48: 21)
Further evidence of Jehovahs unique power is the fact that Gentile nations will aid in the exiles return to Judaea and the restoration of the temple. They will help to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and will themselves offer gifts to God. Foreigners shall rebuild your walls and their kings shall be your servants ... Your gates shall be open continually, they shall never be shut day or night, that through them may be brought the wealth of nations ... The wealth of Lebanon shall come to you, pine, fir, and boxwood, all together, to bring glory to my holy sanctuary, to honor the place where my feet rest. The sons of your oppressors shall come forward to do homage, all who reviled you shall bow low at your feet; they shall call you the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 60: 10-11, 13-14)
The guilt of the people and their punishment by God are buried in the past. No more thought is to be given to it. Again and again the prophet preaches that henceforth God will have nothing but compassion and love for Israel. God will make a new covenant with his people and provide a descendant of David as ruler for them and for the whole world. (Schweitzer, p. 15)
Isaiah says: Though the mountains move and the hills shake, my love shall be immovable and never fail, and my covenant of peace shall not be shaken. (Isaiah 54: 10) I will make a covenant with you, this time for ever, to love you faithfully as I loved David. I made him a witness to all races, a prince and instructor of peoples; and you in turn shall summon nations you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall come running to you, because the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, has glorified you. (Isaiah 55: 3-5)
Earlier prophets had interpreted the Exile and other misfortunes in terms of Gods punishing the Jews to cleanse them of their sins. The fact that God has dispersed the Jewish people among Gentile nations now opens up another interpretation. The Jews unhappy experience has nevertheless created an opportunity for the Gentiles to learn about Jehovah, the one true God. Their survival during the Exile and King Cyrus edict of tolerance have given the Jews renewed confidence in the uniqueness of their God. There is only one God. It is he who created heaven and earth ... That he is the Lord of all peoples can be seen from the fact that Cyrus, the mighty king of the Persians, who does not know the true God, has to carry out what God has in mind for his people. (Schweitzer, p. 16)
The idea that the Jews have suffered captivity for the sake of exhibiting their God gives rise to the image of Gods suffering servant: He was despised, he shrank from the sight of men, tormented and humbled by suffering; we despised him, we held him of no account, a thing from which men turn away their eyes. Yet on himself he bore our sufferings, our torments he endured, while we counted him smitten by God, struck down by disease and misery; but he was pierced for our transgressions, tortured for our iniquities; and the chastisement he bore is health for us and by his scourging we are healed. We had all strayed like sheep, each of us had gone his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. (Isaiah 53: 3-6)
Who was this suffering servant? Was it Jesus? Schweitzer and others believe that it initially referred to the corporate people of Israel. Yet, the image of Christs crucifixion comes through clearly: He was afflicted, he submitted to be struck down, and did not open his mouth; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter, like a ewe that is dumb before the shearers. Without protection, without justice, he was taken away; and who gave a thought to his fate, how he was cut off from the world of living men, stricken to the death for my peoples transgression? He was assigned a grave with the wicked, a burial-place among the refuse of mankind, though he had done no violence and spoken no word of treachery. Yet the Lord took thought for his tortured servant and healed him who had made himself a sacrifice for sin ... and in his hand the Lords cause shall prosper. After all his pains he shall be bathed in light, after his disgrace he shall be fully vindicated; so shall he, my servant, vindicate many, himself bearing the penalty of their guilt. (Isaiah 53: 7-11)
Second Isaiah follows the scenario of a divine kingdom that will follow the period of suffering in which the Jews found themselves. A descendant of David would rule Gods kingdom and a new covenant would replace the previous one. God required ethical conduct to be pleasing to Him. Individuals must be ethical, not just nations. It was important to observe the Sabbath, show concern for ones neighbor, and be humble before God. In Second Isaiah, monotheism reaches its full development. It is no longer enough to look up to Yahweh (Jehovah) as the God who is exalted far above the gods of other peoples by his power and his ethical nature. He moves on from the conception of his uniqueness ... to that of his sole existence. (Schweitzer, p. 16)
The last four chapters of the Book of Isaiah were not written by Second Isaiah but by another prophet who lived toward the end of the Exile. While the themes of these chapters are consistent with the ones in chapters 40 through 62, they present the coming of Gods kingdom in miraculous terms. This prophet writes of a new creation. For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth. Former things shall no more be remembered nor shall they be called to mind. Rejoice and be filled with delight, you boundless realms which I create. (Isaiah 65: 17-18) Here the idea ... (found in earlier prophets) ... that a wonderful transformation of nature will take place in the age of the Kingdom of God reaches its final conclusion. The Kingdom is beginning to become something wholly supernatural. (Schweitzer, p.19)
Haggai and Zechariah: Prophets after the Exile
After King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 538 B.C., he issued an imperial edict allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. Instead of miraculous events, conflict developed between the Jews returning from Babylon and Samarians settled in Judah. The Babylonian Jews would not let the Samarians participate in rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem. The latter denounced the Babylonian emigres to the Persian court for seeking independence of Persia so that the emperor withdrew permission to rebuild the temple. Darius I lifted the ban in 520 B.C., the second year of his reign. Construction of the temple was complete in 516 B.C. The returned exiles were then under the leadership of Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, and of Joshua, the high priest.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah, writing at this time, interpreted the turbulent events preceding Darius ascension to the throne as a sign that the Persian empire was breaking up and the Kingdom of God would soon arrive. Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was the promised Messiah. Although the events following the return had followed such a mundane and melancholy course, the two prophets did not cease to expect the miracle of a speedy divine intervention. (Schweitzer, p. 19)
Haggai wrote: You have sown much but reaped little ... Go up into the hills, fetch timber, and build a house acceptable to me, where I can show my glory. (Haggai 1: 6-9) Take heart, all you people ... Begin the work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Hosts, and my spirit is present among you ... One thing more: I will shake heaven and earth, sea and land, I will shake all nations; the treasure of all nations shall come here, and I will fill this house with glory. (Haggai 2: 4-7) Tell Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, I will shake heaven and earth; I will overthrow the thrones of kings, break the power of heathen realms, overturn chariots and their riders ... On that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, my servant, and will wear you as a signet-ring; for you it is that I have chosen. (Haggai 2: 21-23)
Zechariah had a vision of men on horseback roaming the land to learn what the moral condition of its inhabitants might be. How long, O Lord of Hosts, wilt thou withhold thy compassion from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah?, an angel asked God. God replied: I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion ... My cities shall again overflow with good things; once again the Lord will comfort Zion, once again he will make Jerusalem the city of his choice. (Zechariah 1: 12, 15, 17) Jerusalem shall be a city without walls, so numerous shall be the men and cattle within it. I will be a wall of fire round her, says the Lord. (Zechariah 2: 4-5) This is the word of the Lord concerning Zerubbabel: Neither by force of arms nor by brute strength, but by my spirit! How does a mountain, the greatest mountain, compare with Zerubbabel? It is no higher than a plain ... Zerubbabel with his own hands laid the foundation of this house and with his own hands he shall finish it. So shall you know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me to you. (Zechariah 4: 7-9)
Once again all these hopes were doomed to disappointment. Nothing more is heard of Zerubbabel; there is no record of what became of him. (Schweitzer, p. 20)
The Book of Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. It was assumed that Malachi was the last prophet; the sacred scripture ends with his writings. Malachi lived in Jerusalem around 450 B.C. when Judah was still a province within the Persian empire. This was shortly before Nehemiah and Ezra arrived from Babylon to begin their program of religious cleansing. Previous hopes for a glorious restoration of Judah under the House of David had faded. Instead, there was corruption within the Temple. Malachi complained of priests who were sacrificing only those animals with blemishes and were keeping the best ones for themselves. He also complained of Jewish men who were marrying Gentile women. God was not receiving the tithes due him.
In view of this backsliding, Malachi returned to the idea that the Jews needed to be punished for their sins. Prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah had promised that such judgment was behind them and in the future God would show only mercy and forgiveness. Evidently times had changed. Malachi, like Amos, wrote of a process of separating good people from bad. Instead of sifting grain, he envisioned a refiners fire. The righteous, like a precious metal, would survive Gods fiery judgment, while ungodly persons would be destroyed. Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand firm when he appears? He is like a refiners fire, like fullers soap; he will take his seat, refining and purifying; he will purify the Levites and cleanse them like gold and silver, and so they shall be fit to bring offerings to the Lord. (Malachi 3: 2-3)
The most important point in Malachis prophecy was the idea that before the Day of the Lord the prophet Elijah would return to earth. That great prophet of the 8th century, B.C., had not died but had ascended to Heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2: 12) It was fitting, then, that God would send Elijah back to earth in the same manner before the day of the Lord. Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear a path before me. (Malachi 3: 1) Look, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will reconcile fathers to sons and sons to fathers, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it. (Malachi 4: 5-6)
Malachis is a grim message. Gods people have again gone astray. They have disregarded the Law of Moses. More punishment lay ahead. The day comes, glowing like a furnace; all the arrogant and the evildoers shall be chaff, and that day when it comes shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of Hosts, it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings, and you shall break loose like calves released from the stall. On that day that I act, you shall trample down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, says the Lord of Hosts. (Malachi 4: 1-3)
Joel, Isaiah 24-27, Zechariah 9-14
After Malachi came a number of prophets who attached their writings to previous prophesies or wrote under anothers name. Since the canon was closed, they could not otherwise have been included in the sacred scripture. The prophet Joel lived around 400 B.C. - fifty years after Malachi. The authors of the 24th through 27th chapters of Isaiah and of the 9th through 14th chapters of Zechariah lived in the period when the Persian empire was overthrown by Greek armies under Alexander the Great. These prophets continued to look forward to the coming Day of the Lord.
Joel resumed the argument that God would defend his people Israel despite their faults. On the Day of Yahweh, they would be protected from the Gentiles who mocked their God. These Gentiles would be brought to judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat. All who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved. An important addition in Joel was the idea that the Day of Yahweh would be marked by miracles and an outpouring of spirit. It is this scripture which Peter quoted at Pentecost.
Thereafter the day shall come when I will pour out my spirit on all mankind; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams and your young men see visions; I will pour out my spirit in those days even upon slaves and slave-girls. I will show portents in the sky and on earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who invokes the Lord by name shall be saved: for when the Lord gives the word there shall yet be survivors on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem a remnant whom the Lord will call. (Joel 2: 28-31)
The author of Isaiah, chapters 24 through 27 was in general agreement with Joel. This prophet contributed two notable elements to the scenario of events relating to the final days. First, he wrote that God would punish the heavenly beings which had become disobedient. The idea of fallen angels comes from the Zoroastrian cosmology although these beings may also have been a product of the mating between earthly women and sons of God mentioned in Genesis. On that day the Lord will punish the host of heaven in heaven, and on earth the kings of the earth, herded together, close packed like prisoners in a dungeon; shut up in gaol, after a long time they shall be punished. (Isaiah 24: 21-22)
His second contribution to prophecy is the idea of a miraculous feast prepared for all people on Mount Zion. On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will prepare a banquet of rich fare for all the peoples, a banquet of wines well matured and richest fare, well-matured wines strained clear. (Isaiah 25: 6) Those inhabiting the Holy Mountain would be spared of death. On this mountain the Lord will swallow up the veil that shrouds all the peoples, the pall thrown over all the nations; he will swallow up death for ever. (Isaiah 25: 7) The first passage supports what became known as the Messianic banquet. This was a feast in Heaven after Gods kingdom had been established.
Chapters 9 through 14 in the Book of Zechariah contain many passages familiar to Christians:
Rejoice, rejoice, daughter of Zion; shout aloud, daughter of Jerusalem; for see, your king is coming to you, his cause won, his victory gained, humble and mounted on an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)
"On that day, I will set about destroying all the nations that come against Jerusalem, but I will pour a spirit of pity and compassion into the line of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Then they shall look on me, on him whom they have pierced, and shall wail over him as over an only child, and shall grieve for him bitterly as for a first-born son. (Zechariah 12: 9-10)
Then they weighed out my wages, thirty pieces of silver. (Zechariah 11: 13)
Alas for the worthless shepherd who abandons the sheep; a sword shall fall on his arm and on his right eye. (Zechariah 11: 17)
Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered. (Zechariah 13: 7)
Zechariah 9-13 follows Ezekials lead in prophesying that a fountain of living water will flow from the temple to the sea. It is a fountain to remove sins. On that day a fountain will be opened for the line of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to remove all sin and impurity ... living water shall issue from Jerusalem, half flowing to the eastern sea and half to the western ... Then the Lord shall become king over all the earth. (Zechariah 13: 1, 14: 8-9)
The same writer envisions that God will destroy all the nations that make war on Jerusalem. On that day a great panic, sent by the Lord, shall fall on them ... the wealth of the surrounding nations will be swept away ... And slaughter shall be the fate of horse and mule, camel and ass, the fate of every beast in those armies. (Zechariah 14: 13-15) The survivors of this attack on Jerusalem shall come up year by year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the pilgrim-feast of Tabernacles ... Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of Hosts, and all who sacrifice shall come and shall take some of them and boil the flesh in them. So when that time comes, no trader shall again be seen in the house of the Lord of Hosts. (Zechariah 14: 16, 21)
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