The Burden of Prophecy: Poetic Utterance in the Prophets of the Old Testament

By Albert Cook | Go to book overview

7
The Pressure of History in Zechariah and Daniel

First Zechariah

T HE CHAPTERS OF First Zechariah (1-8), while not losing sight of the prophet's orientation toward God in moral leadership over the people, exhibit a temper put at some remove from collective social stresses by the generations of exile under Babylonian and Persian rule. This prophet can, as it were, adapt the spatial orientation of Ezekiel by taking it for granted. Consequently the prophet's vision begins with his situation in a low valley, and it unfolds more loosely and relaxedly, without the firm hierarchies of Ezekiel, to say nothing of the intensities of Jeremiah. This prophet's attention is on restoration, immediate and ultimate. Like his contemporary Haggai, Zechariah prophesies at the rebuilding of the Temple ( Ezra 5.11) under Darius I, 520-518 B.C.E., who confirmed and reaffirmed the original decree for its restoration promulgated by Cyrus ( Ezra 6).

The prophet looks back somewhat peacefully to the old ways, unstressfully evoking the symmetry of old and modern troubles between prophets and people by recalling the old situation. "Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways and from your evildoings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us" (1.4-6). Here the old triangle of forces, God-people-prophet, is redescribed and evoked again as a cyclical pattern of some assurance, because the people possess

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