When God decided it loved Judah and Israel again, It decided that it was also time to curse every neighboring country and kingdom, including Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Philistia. Then the peace will reign in Mesopotamia and the Jews will prosper and be happy.
God told Zechariah, I’m taking Judah and Israel back. I love them both, like, so much that I’m jealous if any other god even looks at either of them. I’ve totally forgiven them for cheating on me with all those other gods and for not doing the things I told them to do. And I proved my point–I destroyed both of them like I said I would. So all my people will return from exile, and Jerusalem will again be a prosperous city, with old people sitting on stoops complaining about the weather and children playing in the streets. Be sure to tell everyone that if they want their nation to be my baby for now and forever–for ever ever–then all they got to do is not cheat on me and to follow my rules and be merciful and just and honest. That’s not so hard, right? And if they do these things, I’ll be their forever God and will protect them from any other nation that wants to hurt them.
Early in King Darius’s reign, the people of Bethel sent representatives to the Temple to find out, now that the exile was ending, if the mournful fasts they periodically held were still necessary. God’s response was, Uh, yeah! Then It told Zechariah to remind everyone why they had been sent into exile in the first place. So Zechariah said, Hey, don’t you remember that God got pissed and let Its people be defeated and scattered because we didn’t obey It? And all It wanted was for us to treat each other with justice and fairness; to be merciful and forgiving; and to not oppress needy people, like single women and their children, immigrants, or poor people. But we didn’t, and we were punished.
Zechariah dreamed of four chariots, one drawn by red horses, one drawn by black horses, one drawn by dappled horses. His angel told him they represented the four winds patrolling the earth.
When some exiles returned from Babylon, God told Zechariah to take three of them–Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah–to Zephaniah’s house and there to take their gold and silver to make a crown for the high priest Joshua because God loved him so much because he was making sure the Temple got rebuilt.
Zechariah had more dreams he thought were important visions. In the first he saw a gigantic scroll flying around and the angel that was his spirit guide told him it was a curse on all thieves and anyone who swore to God but didn’t mean it. In the second, Zechariah saw a woman sitting in a basket. The angel shoved her down in it and put a lead cover on then some women with stork wings flew down, picked it up and carried it off. The angel looked at a confused Zechariah and said, The broad is Wickedness and the basket is Iniquity. The stork-girls will take her to Babylon to live from now on.
Zechariah had a vision of the High Priest Joshua. In it, Joshua, his defense angel, and D.A. Satan stood before God. But before Satan could accuse Joshua, God said, Shut up, Satan! I love Joshua and he represents all the Jews, whom I’ve forgiven. Case dismissed! Then the angel gave Joshua shiny new threads and was all, Look, Josh, God really likes you, and if you always obey It and follow Its rules, you will be Its seven-faceted diamond, and God will bring peace on earth!
Zechariah had another vision. In it, he saw an angel with a measuring tape about to measure Jerusalem for its new city walls. But then another angel came up and was all, You don’t need to do that because Jerusalem will be too large and too powerful to need city walls!
So then Zechariah went around telling all the Jews left in Persia to return to the Promised Land. God has forgiven us and will make us prosper! It will soon punish these nations that conquered us! Return south posthaste!
God told Zechariah to remind everyone not to be losers like their ancestors and cheat on God again, because they were still recovering from that mistake. God also showed him visions of guardian angels riding red horses who persuaded God to relent and forgive the Jews. The angels even got God to promise to punish the nations that conquered Judah!
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!
Efforts were made during the tumultuous time of the returning exiles described in Ezra to rebuild the Temple. The prophet Haggai wrote to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel, and the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadek, that God wanted Its house rebuilt and ASAP. Haggai wrote, God wants to know if y’all think it’s ok that y’all are living in houses and It’s still homeless? God also wants you to know that the reason nothing y’all do down in Judah ever prospers is because y’all have left It homeless. Until you rebuild God’s house, you will never be able to turn a profit or grow enough crops!
So Zerubbabel and Joshuah organized the people to get the materials and crews to rebuild the Temple.