Haggai wrote other letters to Governor Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel and High Priest Joshua ben Jehozadak about to give them God’s messages. In one of these letters, Haggai wrote, So God wants to know if any of y’all ever saw the Temple before it was destroyed? Or even read a description of it? Because It’s not, how shall I put this? impressed with the results so far. But no matter. It’s going to shake up the nations and make it rain on Judah so y’all can bling it up.
And another time, Haggai wrote to them to ask, Do y’all understand the difference between clean and unclean things? Like, have you even cracked open Leviticus? Because y’all keep offering some things the Lord don’t like. But, here’s what God’s willing to do. If you only offer the right sort of things in the right sort of ways, God will make sure that the crops stop suffering from blight and drought and that the next harvest will be huge.
In a third letter, Haggai wrote to Zerubbabel to tell him that God had chosen him as Its signet ring, and to remember that he was blessed and loved by God during the coming wars.
The end! More about the Second Temple in Zechariah next time!
During Jehoiakim’s war with Nebuchadnezzar, God decided to test this clan of people, the Rechabites, who, like many rural folk, had sough refuge in Jerusalem. God told Jeremiah to invite the clan to the Temple and to offer them wine as a refreshment. Jeremiah did, but the Rechabites were all, No thank you. We don’t drink. We vowed to our father and grandfather that we, nor any of our women or slaves would ever drink or would live in houses. Our clan has a strict no booze, tent only policy. We’re only here in Jerusalem because of this blasted war. We’d rather be out camping in our tents, and as soon as it’s safe, that’s where we’ll be.
Jeremiah said, God is pleased with your answer and promises that there will always be a Rechabite to stand before It. Your clan is a lesson for all other Jews who have broken all the vows their ancestors made to God. For this they will be destroyed!
Jeremiah got thrown in jail because, when Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city, he made a point to go to the king and tell him that Jerusalem would fall and Zedekiah would be captured, taken back to Babylon and there be executed–but, at least he could look forward to a state funeral–he was king after all.
One of the reasons God had decided to punish Jerusalem with horror, pestilence, and famine was because they were breaking God’s slaver laws that declared that Hebrew slaves had to be freed after seven years.
Then Jeremiah went and stood outside of the palace and shouted, If you start making sure everyone follows God’s rules, It might yet spare you! But you have to stop oppressing and cheating poor people! You have to treat widows and orphans well–with charity and love! You can’t abuse and mistreat immigrants! And you have to stop killing the innocent. If you do these things, God will forgive you and spare the city! But you won’t, of course, and so everyone will die and the the city will be destroyed!
Here me, King Zedekiah! Your brother, King Jehohaz isn’t king anymore because he is a captive and will die one! And your brother, King Jehoiakim, who mourns him? Or his ill-fated son, who will also die a slave in a foreign land, childless and forgotten!
Now I returned to the king in Susa when all was finished.
A few years later, I sought permission to return to Jerusalem to see how all carried on. When I got there, I was appalled! Always Tobiah’s creature, the high priest Eliashib allowed that evil wretch to live inside the Temple! Moreover, the Levites were not receiving their tithes and no one kept the Sabbath! The gates were always open from dawn til dusk and traders plied a brisk trade as the errant children of Abraham bought and sold!
I quickly worked to set all to right, evicted Tobiah, restored the Temple furnishings, appointed new treasurers over the storehouses, and commanded that all commerce and work on the Sabbath cease thenceforth.
Then I went among the people and saw mongrel half-breed “Jews” who couldn’t even speak Hebrew. Horror washed over me. I beat the godless urchins! Then I, again, forbade the practice of miscegenation. I ordered Ezra to make sure that all heathen whores and their unholy brats were promptly divorced, disowned, and cast out.
Remember me, oh God, for all the good I have wrought in your name!
And so ends the book of Nehemiah, the account of a minor Persian functionary whose petty, self-aggrandizing memoir somehow has been elevated to the word of a supernatural being that supposedly created the universe. Next time, Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia.
All the people vowed to keep the covenant–to keep the Sabbath holy, to stop intermarriage with non-believing peoples, and to pay the titles and offer the proper sacrifices.
At the wall dedication ceremony, the scribe Ezra read the laws of Moses before the assembled multitude. The people were appalled to hear the laws because they became aware of what horrible sinners they were. They lamented loudly, so I assured them that this was a holy feast day on which they should rejoice! And I sent the priests out among them to console and soothe them.
Later we celebrated the Feast of Booths for the first time since Joshua’s day, and all swore to follow God’s laws from then on.
When they got there, they kept the feast days and the laws and started rebuilding the Temple, and everyone was so happy.
Here, it’s Hezekiah instead of Joash (II Kings 22) who reinstates Passover.
Part of Jehoshaphat’s religious reforms included appointing judges throughout the land, as well as a supreme court in Jerusalem to enforce and prosecute infractions against mosaic law.