Monday, we finish reading Habakkuk with a song, to be accompanied with stringed instruments, with a couple of ‘selah’ notes. Aside from a couple of place names south in Midian, the lyrics are generalized awe of God’s capacity to make the earth tremble. God is not angry at creation, but at humans, who suffer from this destruction wrought across the land.
Tuesday, we read the whole of the shortest book of the bible! Jerusalem fell in 586 BCE to the Babylonians, and the southern neighbour Edom participated in the pillaging, ‘piling on’ to use a football term. Edom, land of red soil, mountain passes to the gulf and African trade, is always a rival of Jacob, and associated with Esau, his brother. The accusations are that Edom’s alliance with Babylon feels like betrayal to the prophet, to be avenged by God in time.
Wednesday and Thursday, we jump ahead in time to a prophet’s voice from the end of exile. Babylon had fallen to Cyrus of Persia in 538 BCE, who gave permission to Judeans to return home and rebuild a city and temple at Jerusalem. By the time Darius is settled on the throne, in the second year of his reign, Haggai says the people are doing well in their private ‘panelled’ homes – but have not gotten around to the work of building a temple and a wall for Jerusalem, in accord with 2 Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah ‘later prophets’.
Friday and Saturday, we start the longer reading of Zechariah, about the same time and place as Haggai. Addressing the key officials of the Persian empire, the governor and the high priest of Judah and Jerusalem, Zechariah is finding words for the cognitive dissonance between the grand claims of the offices, and the economic and political reality of a remnant people still clients of empire. This is not a new kingdom of David and Solomon, ruling the territories that Joshua claimed for twelve tribes. Future orientation is expressed in a vision of an idealized future. The visionary shares a Persian cosmology inhabiting the heavens differently than in Torah’s monotheism, and preparing for later apocalyptic literature from Daniel and Ezekiel to Christian gospels and Revelation.