Zechariah 8

‘Jealousy’ has a pretty negative semantic field for us. We confuse it with envy, or covetousness, by broadening its meaning as if they were synonyms. A closer word might be ‘possessiveness’ – which still has negative connotations between lovers when it is overly controlling. The idea of a patriarchal god feeling possessive wrath toward Israel feeds the discourse about domestic abuse and sexualized violence. Is there any redemption in a god in relationship, angered?

God’s response through Zechariah is to end this abandonment of exile and diaspora, and to cohabit with this people in Jerusalem at Zion. Imagine a faithful city and a holy mountain. Picture a place where old women and men sit safely on the street, among children playing. Apparently, widows and orphans have nothing to fear in such a city, with such a God.

Zechariah acknowledges that this vision is hard for a remnant, beyond their accomplishment – but not impossible for God. If the people have already begun to return from the north, they might also come from east and west: remember the patrolling chariots.

Look, Cyrus said we could come home in 521BCE, and here it is 20 years later in the time of Darius, 2 Persian rulers later, and not much progress is visible in rebuilding the walls or the temple. Ezra and Nehemiah provide the conventional historical narrative, one of delay and division.

Zechariah sums it up: so far in the restoration, there were no wages for workers in the project, nor safety from opposition. From now one, the deal changes, and as in former days, stuff will work out.

This is still conditional: stop plotting evil against one another. Speak truth. Play fair. When you arbitrate disputes in the city gate – act justly. The ethical and moral participation is what keeps this thing safe for widows and orphans.

Imagine such a city and such a mountain. People would flood from all generations. For every Jewish person in diaspora, ten gentiles, goyim from the nations, will grab a piece of their cloak, and want to join the movement.

In that context, the fasts of each of the prescribed months will no longer be times of lament, but of celebration and rejoicing. Imagine that.

Zechariah 8 (NRSV)

1 The word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying:

2Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.

3Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts shall be called the holy mountain.

4Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.

5And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

6Thus says the LORD of hosts: Even though it seems impossible to the remnant of this people in these days, should it also seem impossible to me, says the LORD of hosts?

7Thus says the LORD of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country;

8and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.

9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Let your hands be strong— you that have recently been hearing these words from the mouths of the prophets who were present when the foundation was laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the LORD of hosts.

10For before those days there were no wages for people or for animals, nor was there any safety from the foe for those who went out or came in, and I set them all against one another.

11But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts.

12For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

13Just as you have been a cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save yo u and you shall be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.

14 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Just as I purposed to bring disaster upon you, when your ancestors provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts,

15so again I have purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; do not be afraid.

16These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace,

17do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the LORD.

18 The word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying:

19Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah: therefore love truth and peace.

20 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities;

21the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Come, let us go to entreat the favour of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’

22Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the LORD.

23Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’