Ezra,Nehemiah, I and II Chronicles, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel and Malachi

Module VI

(Ezra, Nehemiah, I and II Chronicles, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, Malachi)

 

In this module we will focus on the books of the Old Testament that help us understand the challenges the exiles faced as they returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra and Nehemiah will help us appreciate the challenge of rebuilding the temple and the walls of Jerusalem, as well as the spiritual rebuilding that needed to be done by the covenant people of God. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah provide moral encouragement to the returned exiles to complete the rebuilding of the temple. I and II Chronicles retells Israel’s history with a special focus on Kings David and Solomon and their commitment to and involvement with the worship life of God’s people. By recalling God’s everlasting covenant with David, this history was meant to breathe fresh hope into the hearts of the returning exiles, call them to fervent trust in the God of the covenant and worship of him alone, and urge them to walk in the way of their covenant commitments. How easy it was to stray from such loyalty to God and faithfulness to the covenant is borne out by the warnings of the Prophet Malachi and the exhortations and encouragements of the Prophet Joel.

 

Ezra and Nehemiah

 

Among scholars, a certain diversity of opinion holds regarding the relationship, the authorship, and the precise ordering of the material in Ezra and Nehemiah. One widely held theory is that I and II Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah were all penned by the same author, conveniently called “the Chronicler.” According to this view, the three works formed a trilogy, with Ezra and Nehemiah providing the sequel to the Book of Chronicles. Another view is that though many emphases are held in common by these three works, Ezra and Nehemiah were written by another author, likely Ezra, and with still others suggesting that Ezra was written by Ezra and Nehemiah was written by Nehemiah. Still others note that due to chronological issues, it is unlikely that either Ezra or Nehemiah wrote these books. The issues involved in determining the authorship and the ordering of the material in Ezra and Nehemiah are complex. Our approach shall therefore be not to get sidetracked on these difficult issues but rather focus on the content of these two books, that we may understand their message for post-exilic Israel—and by extension, for us today. One thing is certain: Ezra and Nehemiah provide the most important source for us of what happened between 538 BC, when Cyrus issued his decree permitting the Jews to return to their home land, and 428 BC, when Nehemiah and Ezra disappear from sight, their work of reconstruction accomplished.

 

Historical Background

In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Medea-Persia issued the decree permitting the Jews in Babylon to return to their native land. In contrast to the Babylonian and Assyrian practice, he encouraged the various people to return to their own lands and practice their own religions. A large number returned under the leadership of Sheshbazzar and began the task of rebuilding. The foundation of the temple was laid in 532, but building the structure itself stalled until the endeavor was taken up anew in the reign of Darius I, who ascended the throne in 522. Stirred to action by the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was finally completed in 515 under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the high priest.

Resettling and rebuilding the society was not an easy task. As Ezra and Nehemiah point out, the city of Jerusalem needed to be made safe, its population replenished, and the people called to live in accordance with the covenant. Temple worship needed to be re-instituted and then practiced. Intermingling with the people of the land led to the threat of syncretistic worship and idolatry. Intermarriage with their pagan neighbors could lead to a repeat of the disasters they had experienced in the past. Nehemiah addressed the critical need to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Ezra led the people in a renewal of the covenant and a re-commitment to following its statutes. Both Ezra and Nehemiah exposed the dangers of mixed marriages and forbid the Israelites to enter them. Ezra arrived in 458 BC (Ezra 7:1) and Nehemiah in 445 BC (Nehemiah 2:1,11). He stayed there until 433 when he was recalled to Persia by the king (Neh. 5:14; 13:6).

 

I and II Chronicles retold Israel’s history to help the returned exiles understand that their future rested in faithful worship at the temple and adherence to the Law.  The Chronicles’ emphasis on the Davidic endorsement and promotion of temple worship encouraged them to understand that even if a descendent of David was not on the throne, they could maintain their covenant identity via this means. In a similar fashion, Ezra and Nehemiah were written to help the people find their identity in their loyalty to God and his Word, in temple worship, and in maintaining their marriages and families without contaminating them by inappropriate relationships with their pagan neighbors.

 

In our world today, where we Christians are surrounded by those who follow another god than the One revealed in Holy Scriptures, Ezra and Nehemiah give us much to reflect on and ponder.

 

Authorship, Sources, and Date

As already noted, resolving issues of authorship and ordering of the material are complex. Nevertheless, it will be helpful to point to some of the literary characteristics we observe in these two books.

 

One characteristic is the propensity to utilize lists, which may well have come from official records. There are lists of the temple vessels that were being brought back from Babylon; there were lists of heads of families, of priests, Levites, temple servants, singers, and gatekeepers. We learn who worked in the temple, who got involved in mixed marriages, etc.

 

Another characteristic we note is the use of official documents, many of which are in Aramaic, which was the official international language of the empire. [Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12-26 are written in Aramaic.]

 

In both Ezra and Nehemiah, we have first-person memoirs, while we also have some of the material written in the third person. These first person memoirs may suggest that Ezra wrote Ezra and Nehemiah wrote Nehemiah or that a later writer incorporated their memoirs into his work. The note at the beginning of Nehemiah suggests that there were two separate books, but the earliest Hebrew manuscripts present them as one book.

 

Suggested dates are 440 BC for the composition of Ezra and 335 BC for that of Nehemiah.

 

The Message of Ezra and Nehemiah

In his book, Survey of Covenant History, Dr. Walter R. Roehrs writes, “The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record how the Babylonian captivity, the tomb of Israel’s national identity, became the womb of its rebirth” (p. 168). Often when conquered nations were taken captive and relocated to another region, they were absorbed by the peoples where they were relocated, and vanished from history. This was not to be the case with God’s chosen people. They were “his precious possession” among the nations, his “holy nation,” his “kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) He would not let them die but give them rebirth. Through King Cyrus, he authorized their return to their homeland, that they might pursue their God-given calling with renewed commitment.

 

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah both present programs of reconstruction. Both include physical building programs: Ezra records the rebuilding of the temple; Nehemiah the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s city wall. Both books record sincere and strenuous efforts at moral “reconstruction,” rebuilding their lives on the basis of God’s Word that they might function as his people in a pagan environment. God was the Actor in restoring them to their homeland in a Second Exodus. Their call now was to act on the basis of his Word and grace, that they might fulfill their calling as his people.

 

The challenge they confronted could be met, through the power of the God who had promised their return through the Prophet Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1). May your study of Ezra and Nehemiah lead you to rise to the challenge of your day through the same gracious power of God that enabled the Jews to meet their responsibilities in the fifth century BC.

 

Outlines to assist you in reading and studying Ezra and Nehemiah (from the Concordia Self-Study Bible, pp. 671-672 and 692-693)

 

Outline for Ezra

  1. First Return from Exile and Rebuilding of the Temple (chs. 1-6)
  2. First Return of the Exiles (1:1-11)
  3. The edict of Cyrus (1:1-4)
  4. The return under Sheshbazzar (1:5-11)
  5. List of Returning Exiles (2:1-70)
  6. Revival of Temple Worship (3:1-13)
  7. The rebuilding of the altar (3:1-3)
  8. The Feast of Tabernacles (3:4-6)
  9. The beginning of temple reconstruction (3:7-13)
  10. Opposition to Rebuilding (4:1-23)
  11. Opposition during the reign of Cyrus (4:1-5)
  12. Opposition during the reign of Xerxes (4:6)
  13. Opposition during the reign of Artaxerxes (4:7-23)
  14. Completion of the Temple (4:24-6:22)
  15. Resumption of work under Darius (4:24)
  16. A new beginning inspired by Haggai and Zechariah (5:1-2)
  17. Intervention of the governor, Tattenai (4:3-5)
  18. Report to Darius (5:6-17)
  19. Search for the decree of Cyrus (6:1-5)
  20. Darius’ order for the rebuilding of the temple (6:6-12)
  21. Completion of the temple (6:16-18)
  22. Dedication of the temple (6:19-23)
  23. Ezra’s Return and Reforms (7:1-10:44)
  • Ezra’s Return to Jerusalem (7:1-8:36)
  1. Introduction (7:1-10)
  2. The authorization by Artaxerxes (7:11-26)
  3. Ezra’s doxology (7:27-28)
  4. List of those returning with Ezra (8:1-14)
  5. The search for Levites (8:15-20)
  6. Prayer and fasting (8:21-23)
  7. The assignment of the sacred articles (8:24-30)
  8. The journey and arrival in Jerusalem (8:31-36)
  9. Ezra’s Reforms (9:1-10:44)
  10. The offense of mixed marriages (9:1-5)
  11. Ezra’s confession and prayer (9:6-15)
  12. The people’s response (10:1-4)
  13. The calling of a public assembly (10:5-15)
  14. Investigation of the offenders (10:16-17)
  15. The list of offenders (10:18-43)
  16. The dissolution of mixed marriages (10:44)

 

The Outline for Nehemiah (CSSB, 692-693)

  1. Nehemiah’s First Administration (1:1-12:47)
  2. Nehemiah’s Response to the Situation in Jerusalem (1:1-11)
  3. News of the plight of Jerusalem (1:1-4)
  4. Nehemiah’s prayer (1:5-11)
  5. Nehemiah’s Journey to Jerusalem (2:1-20)
  6. The king’s response (2:1-8)
  7. The journey itself (2:9-10)
  8. Nehemiah’s nocturnal inspection of the walls (2:11-16)
  9. His exhortation to rebuild (2:17-18)
  10. The opposition of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem (2:19-20)
  11. List of the Builders of the Wall (3:1-22)
  12. The northern section (3:1-7)
  13. the western section (3:8-13)
  14. The southern section (3:14)
  15. The eastern section (3:15-22)
  16. Opposition to Rebuilding the Wall (4:1-23)
  17. The derision of Sanballat and Tobiah (4:1-5)
  18. The threat of attack (4:6-15)
  19. Rebuilding the wall (4:16-23)
  20. Social and Economic Problems (5:1-19)
  21. The complaints of the poor (5:1-5)
  22. The cancellation of debts (5:6-13)
  23. Nehemiah’s unselfish example (5:14-19)
  24. The Wall Rebuilt Despite Opposition (6:1-19)
  25. Attempts to snare Nehemiah (6:1-9)
  26. The hiring of false prophets (6:10-14)
  27. The completion of the wall (6:15-19)
  28. List of Exiles (7:1-73a)
  29. Provisions for the protection of Jerusalem (7:1-3)
  30. Nehemiah’s discovery of the list of returnees (7:4-5)
  31. The returnees delineated (7:6-72)
  32. Settlement of the exiles (7:73a)
  33. Ezra’s Preaching and the Outbreak of Revival (7:73b – 10:39)
  34. The public exposition of the Scriptures (7:73b – 8:12)
  35. The Feast of Tabernacles (8:13-18)
  36. A day of fasting, confession, and prayer (9:1-5a)
  37. A recital of God’s dealings with Israel (9:5b-31)
  38. Confession of sins (9:32-37)
  39. A binding agreement (9:38)
  40. A list of those who sealed it (10:1-29)
  41. Provisions of the agreement (10:30-39)
  42. New Residents of Judah and Jerusalem (11:1-36)
  43. New residents for Jerusalem (11:1-24)
  44. Introductory remarks (11:1-4a)
  45. Residents from Judah (11:4b – 6)
  46. From Benjamin (11:7-9)
  47. From the priests (11:10-14)
  48. From the Levites (11:15-18)
  49. From the temple staff (11:19-24)
  50. New residents for Judah (11:25-36)
  51. Places settled by those from Judah (11:25-30)
  52. Places settled by those from Benjamin (11:31-35)
  53. Transfer of Levites from Judah to Benjamin (11:36)
  54. Lists of Priests and the Dedication of the Wall (12:1-47)
  55. Priests and Levites from the first return (12:1-9)
  56. High priests and Levites since Joiakim (12:10-26)
  57. Dedication of the wall of Jerusalem (12:27-43)
  58. Regulation of the temple offerings and services (12:44-47)
  59. Nehemiah’s Second Administration (13:1-31)
  60. Abuses during His Absence (13:1-5)
  61. Mixed marriages (13:1-3)
  62. Tobiah’s occupation of the temple quarters (13:4-5)
  63. Nehemiah’s Return (13:6-9)
  64. His arrival (13:6-7)
  65. His expulsion of Tobiah (13:8-9)
  66. Reorganization and Reforms (13:10-31)
  67. Offerings for the temple staff (13:10-14)
  68. The abuse of the Sabbath (13:10-14)
  69. Mixed marriages (13:23-29)
  70. Provisions of wood and firstfruits (13:30-31)

Haggai

 

Background

In 538 BC, King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree that permitted the Jews who had been exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar to return home to Jerusalem. Led by Zerubbabel, a group of 50,000 journeyed back and began their resettlement. They accomplished the laying of the temple’s foundation by the end of the second year, but then halted the work, due to opposition from the Samaritans and their own preoccupation with their homes, their work, and businesses. In 522 BC a new king ascended the throne in Persia, Darius the Great. He took a special interest in the religions of his empire. In 520 BC, Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets, took up the call of urging the Jews to complete the temple they had begun more than 15 years before.

 

Author

Haggai’s name means “festal,” which may suggest that he was born at the time of one of the major Israelite festivals. Together with Zechariah, he urged the returned exiles to complete the project the Jews had undertaken some 15 years earlier. Ezra refers to the work of these two prophets, but we know little about Haggai, other than what can be surmised from his short book.

 

Date

The messages of Haggai were delivered during a four month span of time in 520 BC, since each of them is precisely dated: August 29 (1:1), September 21 (1:14), October 17 (2:1), December 18 (2:10, and the last one also on December 18 (2:20).

 

 

Literary Features

Haggai uses questions to engage his hearers and address key issues (see 1:4, 9; 2:3, 9, 19.). He makes effective use of repetition: “Give careful thought” (1:5, 7; 2:15, 18); “I am with you” (1:13; 2:4); “I will shake the heavens and the earth” (2:6, 21). In 2:4, he encourages the people with the triple exhortation God used to stir up Joshua, “Be strong.” (Joshua 1:6-7, 9, 18)

 

Themes and Teaching

The four messages of Haggai confront and encourage. The first word confronts their self-centered preoccupation with their own homes rather than the house of the Lord. Having God at the center of their lives will put their personal affairs in proper perspective. The second word speaks words of encouragement and hope to their disappointment and disillusionment that the “replacement” temple did not match the splendor of the original: “Be strong . . . and work, for I am with you” (2:4). The third word is a wonderful word to the defiled people of God whose efforts had produced only meager results: “I will bless you” (2:19b). And the final word speaks God’s ultimate authority over the nations–he is Lord–and assures Zerubbabel how he will make him to be his signet ring, “for I have chosen you” (2:24).

 

The theme and teaching of this prophet ring clear and pure: put your trust in God, follow his commands, do his work, and he will bless you. He is the Lord of history who promises to be with you–and carry out his purposes. As Dr. Franzmann says in the Concordia Self-Study Commentary, “The purpose now is that He may have His abode among men and reign over them in a concrete place (temple) where His grace may be focused and concentrated: ‘In this place I will give prosperity.'” (645b) [Prosperity, it should be noted, here translates shalom, peace, signifying wholeness, completeness, soundness, health–the normal state of things which the Creator intended for man and his world.]

 

An  Outline to Guide You in Your Reading and Study (from Concordia Self-Study Bible, p. 1407)

  1. First Message: The Call to Rebuild the Temple (1:1-11)
  2. The People’s Lame Excuse (1:1-4)
  3. The Poverty of the People (1:5-6)
  4. The Reason God Has Cursed Them (1:7-11)
  5. The Response of Zerubbabel and the People (1:12-15)
  6. The Leaders and Remnant Obey (1:12)
  7. The Lord Strengthens the Workers (1:13-15)

III. Second Message: The Temple to be Filled with Glory (2:1-9)

  1. The People Encouraged (2:1-5)
  2. The Promise of Glory and Peace (2:6-9)
  3. Third Message: A Defiled People Purified and Blessed (2:10-19)
  4. The Rapid Spread of Sin (2:10-14)
  5. Poor Harvests because of Disobedience (2:15-17)
  6. Blessing to Come as the Temple is Rebuilt
  7. Fourth Message: The Promise to Zerubbabel (2:20-23)
  8. The Judgment of the Nations (2:20-22)
  9. The Significance of Zerubbabel (2:23)

 

Zechariah

Background

Zechariah was engaged in the same work as the Prophet Haggai: urging the returned exiles to rebuild the temple. For the details of the background, please see the introductory material provided with Haggai, Ezra and Nehemiah.

 

Author and Unity

Zechariah was both prophet and priest. (See Neh. 12:4, 16.) He was born in Babylon and returned with the exiles in 538 BC under Zerubbabel. He was the son of Berakiah and the grandson of Iddo. (1:1, 7) He     was apparently a young man when the word of the Lord came to him (1:1) [= his call to be a prophet] as 2:4 implies. A contemporary of Haggai, his ministry continued after him. Whereas we hear nothing more from Haggai after December, 520, Zechariah provides the date of December 7, 518 for a later revelation from the Lord. His ministry could have possibly extended into the reign of Artaxerxes I (465 -424 BC).

 

Some have questioned whether chapters 9-14 were authored by Zechariah on the basis of style and historical and chronological references that allegedly require a different date and author from those of chapters 1 -8. In contrast to the first eight chapters, there is no mention of the prophet’s name, none of the oracles is dated, and the specific historical themes of the first half do not recur. The style and tone of the two parts differs considerably. Some have explained the difference to a changed situation—the temple did get rebuilt and dedicated in 515—which occurred later in the prophet’s life, which affected and influenced his writing style. Others have assigned them to another prophet. Among those who advocate another author than Zechariah for chapters 9-14, there is no agreement as to the date or the circumstances.

 

Whether one assigns the second half of the book to Zechariah or another prophet, what is important is that the student seeks to hear the word of the Lord that is proclaimed there, learn its message, and apply it to his life and that of the church. Beautiful in the second half of the book are the numerous passages which relate to our Lord in his suffering and death, as the following New Testament references suggest. Compare Matthew 21:1-5 (Zech 9:9); Mt. 26:28 (Zech 9:11); Mt. 9:36 (Zech 10:2); John 10:12ff (Zech 11:4ff., 15ff.); Mt. 26:15 (Zech 11:12); Mt. 27:9-10 (Zech 11:13); Jn. 19:37 (Zech 12:10); Mt. 26:31 (Zech 13:7); Mt. 21:12 (Zech 14:21).

 

The Purpose

The chief purpose of Zechariah was to rebuke the people of Judah and to encourage and motivate them to complete the rebuilding of the temple. The purpose of the night visions was to urge their response, as the Lord said, “Return to me, and I will return to you” (1:3). Do not be like your ancestors who refused to listen to the prophets God sent to them.

 

Literary Forms and Themes

The book uses a variety of forms to convey its message: a call to repentance (1:2-6), prophetic visions (1:7-7:8), and judgment and salvation oracles. (9:1-14:21) The visions function to provide encouragement to God’s people. When the visions are read alongside the salvation oracles in chapters 9 to 14, it becomes clear that the dominant theme of the prophecy is that of encouragement. Because of the glorious future God has in store for his chosen people, they can undertake the work he has given them to do now: rebuild the temple as the place where God meets with them in his grace and glory to encourage and empower them for their life as his chosen servant people.

 

An Outline to Guide Your Reading

The following outline is a hybrid, with the portion from 1:1 through 6:5 coming from the Concordia Self-Study Bible (1413), and the rest coming from the Concordia Self-Study Commentary (648).

 

  1. Introduction (1:1-6)
  2. The Date and the Author’s Name (1:1)
  3. A Call to Repentance (1:2-6)
  4. A Series of Eight Night Visions (1:7 – 6:8)
  5. The Horseman Among the Myrtle Trees (1:7-17)
  6. The Four Horns and the Four Craftsmen (1:18-21)
  7. A Man with a Measuring Line (ch. 2)
  8. Clean Garments for the High Priest (ch. 3)
  9. The Gold Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees (ch. 4)
  10. The Flying Scroll (5:1-4)
  11. The Woman in a Basket (5:5-11)
  12. The Four Chariots (6:1-8)

III. The Symbolic Crowning of Joshua the High Priest (6:9-15)

  1. Your Feasts Shall Become Fasts (7:1 – 8:23)
  2. The Inquiry Concerning the Observance of Fasts (7:1-3)
  3. The True Meaning of Fasting (7:4-6)
  4. Why Feasts Become Fasts (7:7-14)
  5. How Fasts Become Feasts (8:1-23)
  6. His Kingdom Rules Over All (9:1 – 11:17)
  7. His Royal Word Rules over All (9:1-8)
  8. Your King Comes to You (9:9-10)
  9. God’s Reign Delivers from All Evil (9:11-17)
  10. God the King as Giver of Daily Bread (10:1-2)
  11. The Kingdom as the Reign of the Good Shepherd (10:3-11:3)
  12. The Kingdom of God Suffers Violence (11:3-17)
  13. Inherit the Kingdom (12:1 – 14:21)
  14. The Victory of the People of God (12:1-9)
  15. The Inner Renewal of the People of God (12:10-13:6)
  16. The Stricken Shepherd and the Scattered Sheep (13:7-9)
  17. The Lord Will Become King over All the Earth (14:1-21)

I and II Chronicles

 

Author, Date, and Sources

As with the books of Samuel and Kings, Chronicles was originally one book. It was first divided into two books by the translators of the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.) The book can be conveniently divided into four sections: a) the genealogies from creation to the time of the kings (I Chronicles 1-9),  b) the reign of King David, with chapter ten devoted to Saul’s reign, (I Chronicles 10-29),  c) the reign of Solomon (II Chronicles 1-9), and d) the divided monarchy but with all the emphasis on the southern kingdom (II Chronicles 10-36).

 

According to ancient Jewish tradition, Ezra is the author of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, with the work being written in the last portion of the 5th century B.C. This is certainly a possibility, but there is a growing consensus, however, to see Chronicles and Ezra and Nehemiah as two distinct works with separate authors, even though they have certain basic orientations in common. The author of the former work is often just called “the Chronicler,” of whose identity we cannot be certain.

 

Reading Chronicles, moreover, one soon realizes that the author used a variety of sources–certainly Samuel and Kings were his basic source, but one can also detect the use of the Pentateuch, Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations. There are frequent references to the books of the kings, to the annals of King David, to the books of the kings of Judah and Israel. It is unclear whether these all refer to the same source, or to different sources. Additionally there are references to records of prophets including Samuel, Gad, Ahijah, Iddo, Shemaiah, Isaiah, and “the seers.” What becomes evident as one reads the Chronicles is that the author selected the material he wanted to use to tell the story of Israel’s history—to encourage the exiles who had returned from Babylon. He wrote the narrative in such a way as to help them address the new situation in which they found themselves.  (Recall how the history from Joshua through Kings, written in the mid 6th century when the exiles were in Babylon, led that author to tell the story in such a way that it was a “prophetic” history. With the Chronicles we have a similar situation, with the author writing to help the returned exiles make sense of their new circumstances.)

 

Purpose and Themes

Questions arose for the post-exilic community that called for answering. As the Concordia Self-Study Bible suggests in its introductory material, the returned exiles were asking: “Is God still interested in us? Are his covenants still in force? Now that we have no Davidic king and are subject to Persia, do God’s promises still have meaning for us? After the great judgment (the dethroning of the house of David, the destruction of the nation, of Jerusalem and of the temple, and the exile to Babylon), what is our relationship to Israel of old?” (579)

 

The book of Chronicles seeks to provide a clear and hopeful response to these concerns. (1) Continuity with the past is signified by the fact that the temple was “rebuilt by the Lord’s sovereign influence over a Persian imperial edict (II Chr 36:22-23). For a generation that had no independent political status and no Davidic king, the author takes great pains to show that the temple of the Lord and its service . . . are supreme gifts of God given to Israel through the Davidic dynasty. For that reason his account of the reigns of David and Solomon is largely devoted to David’s preparations for and Solomon’s building of the temple, and David’s instructions for the temple service.” (579)

 

(2) Chronicles also makes clear the power of God’s election in furthering his purposes for Israel: choosing a) the tribe of Levi to serve before the Ark of the Covenant;  b) David to be king;  c) Solomon his son to be king and build the temple; d) Jerusalem to be the holy city; and e) the temple as the place where God’s Name would be present among his people. (579)

 

(3) Chronicles lifts up “the law and the prophets” as a major focus of her [Israel’s] covenant life under the leadership of the house of David. The records highlight those kings who sought to lead their people to comply with the covenant (David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah). They also demonstrated that they heeded the Lord’s word given to them through the prophets. Those kings judged unfaithful heeded neither the law nor the prophets. The Concordia Self-Study Bible thus concludes “Thus the law and the prophets, like the temple, are more crucial to Israel’s continuing relationship with the Lord as the presence or absence of a king, the reigns of the Davidic kings themselves being testimony.” (579)

 

(4) The Chronicles also stressed the importance of obedience to the law and the prophets by recording the immediate consequences when the kings were disobedient. In this way the returned exiles were encouraged to act in accord with the ancient covenant and its stipulations.

 

(5) The frequent references to the promise made to David (II Samuel 7) was meant to maintain the hope of a coming Messianic king from the line of David.  The idealized   portrayal of the “good” Davidic kings lends credence to this prospect, and this portrayal helps us see the good kings as types of the ideal Davidic king.

 

(6) Another dimension to the Chronicler’s presentation of Israel’s history is that he envisions a whole, new Israel. While the old northern kingdom is virtually bypassed and ignored in the retelling of Israel’s history, he does not abandon the hope of a purified, re-united Israel under the ideal Davidic king. Further re-enforcing the Chronicler’s perspective are the speeches he records, for they underscore the emphasis he was making. The genealogies connect post-exilic Israel with pre-exilic Israel. They are the same nation. (See CSSB, 579-581.)

 

To help you appreciate how the Chronicler presented David and Solomon as the ideal Messianic king, it is helpful to note the material which he omitted from his sources, particularly Samuel and Kings. Anything that would diminish them in the reader’s eyes is not included. There is no mention of David ruling for seven years in Hebron before becoming monarch of the entire kingdom; of the wars between the houses of David and Saul, the negotiations with Abner, the difficulties with his wife Michal, the murders of Abner and Ish-bosheth. Also omitted is the revolt fomented by his son Absalom, his affair with Bathsheba, the crime and death of Ammon, etc. David is well received by all the people, the ideal king.

 

Similarly nothing is mentioned about the way in which Solomon consolidated his reign, executing people who would be a threat to him. Rather he is presented as being accepted and honored by all the people. Solomon’s many wives, the idolatry to which he succumbed, the forced labor he required of the resident aliens in the land, the heavy taxation he levied on his people–all of these aspects of his reign are not mentioned, so that Solomon comes across as an ideal Davidic king, whose building of the temple and support of its worship there would communicate to the returned exiles the importance of temple worship and adherence to the covenant.

 

An Outline to Give You an Overview of I and II Chronicles

  1. Genealogies: Creation to Restoration (I Chr 1:1-9:44)
  2. The Patriarchs (I Chr 1:1-54)
  3. The 12 sons of Jacob-Israel (I Chr 2:1-2)
  4. The Family of Judah (I Chr 2:3-4:23)
  5. The Sons of Simeon (I Chr 4:24-43)
  6. Reuben, Gad, and the Half-Tribe of Manasseh (1 Chr 5:1-26)
  7. Levi and Families (1 Chr 6:1-81)
  8. Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher (I Chr 7:1-9:44)
  9. The Reign of David (I Chr 10:1-29:30)
  10. Death of Saul (I Chr 10:1-14)
  11. Capture of Jerusalem; David’s Power Base (I Chr 11:1-12:40)
  12. Return of the Ark; Establishment of David’s Kingdom (I Chr 131-16:43)
  13. Dynastic Promise (I Chr 17:1-27)
  14. David’s Conquests (I Chr 18:1-20:8)
  15. The Census (I Chr 21:1-30)
  16. Preparations for the Temple (I Chr 22:1-19)
  17. Organization of the Temple Service (I Chr 23:1-26:32)
  18. Administrative Structures of the Kingdom (27:1-34)
  19. David’s Final Preparation for Succession and the Temple (28:1 – 29:20)
  20. Succession of Solomon; Death of David (29:21-30)

III. The Reign of Solomon (II Chr 1 – 9)

  1. The Gift of Wisdom (II Chr 1:1-17)
  2. Building of the Temple (II Chr 2:1 – 5:1)
  3. Dedication of the Temple (II Chr 5:2 – 7:22)
  4. Solomon’s Other Activities (II Chr 8:1-18)
  5. Solomon’s Wisdom, Splendor and Death (II Chr 9:1-31)
  6. The Schism, and the History of the Kings of Judah (II Chr 10:1-36:23)
  7. Rehoboam (II Chr 10:1-12:16)
  8. Abijah (II Chr 13:1 – 14:1)
  9. Asa (II Chr 14:2 – 16:14)
  10. Jehoshaphat (II Chr 17:1 – 21:3)
  11. Jehoram and Ahaziah (II Chr 21:4 – 22:9)
  12. Joash (II Chr 22:10 -24:27)
  13. Amaziah (II Chr 25:1-28)
  14. Uzziah (II Chr 26:1-23)
  15. Jotham (II Chr 27:1-9)
  16. Ahaz (II Chr 28:1-27)
  17. Hezekiah (II Chr 29:1-32:33)
  18. Manasseh (II Chr 33:1-20)
  19. Amon (II Chr 33:21-25)
  20. Josiah (II Chr 34:1-36:1)
  21. Josiah’s Successors (II Chr 36:2-14)
  22. Exile and Restoration (II Chr 36:15-23)

Malachi

Background

Spurred on by Haggai and Zechariah, the exiles have finally rebuilt the temple under the leadership of their governor, Zerubbabel. It was dedicated in 515 BC. In 458 the community was strengthened by the coming of Ezra and several thousand more Jews. The King of Persia (Artaxerxes) encouraged Ezra to develop the temple worship (Ezra 7:17) and to insure that the Law of Moses was being followed. (Ezra 7:25-26)

 

In 445, Artaxerxes permitted his cupbearer, Nehemiah, to return to Jerusalem to provide leadership for the rebuilding of the city walls. [It should be noted that a cupbearer for the king was a most responsible position, since he would guarantee that there would be no poison in the cup to assassinate the king.] Serving as the governor in his homeland, Nehemiah not only spearheaded the rebuilding of the wall under adverse circumstances, but saw to it that the poor would not be neglected, that mixed marriages should be avoided, and that the offerings and tithes should be made faithfully.

 

In 433, Nehemiah returned to Persia and the service of the king. During his absence, the Jews fell into sin once more.  Some time later, probably in 428 BC, he returned to Jerusalem and found the reoccurrence of sins he had addressed before–intermarriage with foreigners, neglect of the Sabbath and the tithes, and a priesthood that had become corrupt.

 

Author and Message

The book gives us no personal information about the author. The name, Malachi, may not have been a person’s name but simply his title. It means “my messenger.” (See 3:1) The name is appropriate, for the book brings two messages: a) God is displeased with the lack of piety in the community that gathered around the temple (1:6-2:16; 3:6-12), and b) God is about to send a messenger who will re-unite and purify all of Israel “before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (4:5). (HCSB, 1428)

 

Date

The criticism that the prophet levels against the people of Jerusalem for the superficial nature of their worship, for their failure to practice the behavior that their worship implied, and for their intermarriages with pagan spouses suggest a date in the mid-400’s BC. These were the same concerns addressed by Ezra and Nehemiah who were active at this time in Judah and Jerusalem. This allows sufficient time to pass for the worship at their rebuilt temple to become corrupted, and for the people not to take their covenant responsibilities as seriously as they should. Thus, a date in the mid 400’s, perhaps before Ezra’s arrival in 458, is most likely.

 

Literary Features

The book calls itself an oracle, and Malachi brings this word of the Lord in a very effective manner. He uses questions posed by both the Lord and the people to make his points. The people’s questions often have a sarcastic tone and are a lame attempt to excuse their irresponsible practices and positions. As an example, see 1:2, where the Jews question the Lord’s assertion that he has loved them. “How have you loved us?” The Lord responds with a question, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” and reminds them that God’s choice rested on Jacob, their ancestor, a sign of his love for them. In 1:16, the Lord leads with a question that follows the principle of a son honoring his father, and a servant his master: “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” After the prophet lays blame on the priests for this sorry state of Israel’s contempt for the Lord’s name, they ask sarcastically, “How have we shown contempt for your name?”

 

A second noteworthy feature of the book is the vividness of its images. It helps to deliver its message with impact. The coming messenger of the covenant will be like the refiner’s fire or the launderer’s soap (3:1-4). The priests “sniff” contemptuously at their sacrifices and say, “What a burden!” In 2:3 the Lord says that he is going to spread the entrails from the sacrificial animals—which normally would be burned outside the camp—on the priests’ faces. The Lord’s coming will be like fire that consumes stubble of a field so that not a branch or root remains, but for those who revere the Lord’s name, he will be “the sun of righteousness who rises with healing in its wings.” The righteous’ response will be like frisky young calves who have been released from the confinement of their stalls. (4:1-2)

 

Theology and Themes

The promises of God to the exiles in Babylon raised high prospects in their minds of a grand and glorious future. Upon their return, they found their homeland devastated, rebuilding was extremely demanding, and they were anything but a mighty nation. Rather, they were a tiny province far from the center of power of a massive Persian empire. Their God had not yet come with majesty and power to exalt them before the nations. Hope began to wane, they doubted the love of their covenant God, and they complained, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17) They fell into a deep spiritual malaise and became apathetic in their spiritual discipline. They let their worship degenerate into a mere performance of the prescribed rituals. It was to this setting that the Prophet Malachi directed the Lord’s message.

 

The Concordia Self-Study Bible summarizes that message this way: “Malachi rebukes their doubt of God’s love (1:2-5) and the faithlessness of both priests (1:6-2:9) and people (2:10-16). To their charge that God is unjust (“Where is the God of justice?” 2:17) because he has failed to come in judgment to exalt his people, Malachi answers with an announcement and a warning. The Lord they seek will come—but he will come ‘like a refiner’s fire’ (3:1-4). He will come to judge—but he will judge his people first (3:5).

 

“Because the Lord does not change in his commitments and purposes, Israel has not been completely destroyed for her persistent unfaithfulness (3:6). But only through repentance and reformation will she again experience God’s blessing (3:6-12). Those who honor the Lord will be spared when he comes to judge (3:16-18).

 

“In conclusion, Malachi once more reassures and warns his readers that ‘the day (‘that great and dreadful day of the Lord,’ 4:5) is coming’ and that ‘it will burn like a furnace’ (4:1). In that day the righteous will rejoice, and ‘you will trample down the wicked’ (4:1-3). So ‘remember the law of my servant Moses’ (4:4). To prepare his people for that day the Lord will send ‘the prophet Elijah’ to call them back to the godly ways of their forefathers (4:5-6).” (p. 1430)

 

An Outline to Guide Your Reading (CSSB, 1430)

  1. Title (1:1)
  2. Introduction: God’s Covenant Love for Israel Affirmed (1:2-5)

III. Israel’s Unfaithfulness Rebuked (1:6 – 2:16)

  1. The Unfaithfulness of the Priests (1:6 – 2:9)
  2. They dishonor God in their sacrifices (1:6-14)
  3. They do not faithfully teach the law (2:1-9)
  4. The Unfaithfulness of the People (2:10-16)
  5. The Lord’s Coming Announced (2:17 – 4:6)
  6. The Lord Will Come to Purify the Priests and Judge the People (2:17-3:5)
  7. A Call to Repentance in View of the Lord’s Coming (3:6-18)
  8. An exhortation to faithful giving (3:6-12)
  9. An exhortation to faithful service (3:13-18)
  10. The Day of the Lord Announced (4:14)

Joel

 

Date

The traditional date for Joel has been the 9th century B.C., approximately the time of Elijah and Elisha. Its placement in the Hebrew Bible between Hosea and Amos suggests that time frame, but the book itself provides no specific information that enables one to make a conclusive determination of the date. As a result, the dates suggested for the writing of the book vary widely between the 9th century and the 4th century B.C., with most scholars preferring the later date. No king is mentioned in the book; the priests and elders appear as leaders of the community. The temple is standing, and the rituals are being observed. The references are usually to Judah and Jerusalem, which lends itself to a time after the fall of Samaria. Many of the people are scattered in exile. These suggest a time after the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, but before the armies of Alexander have conquered the Mediterranean world. The evidence is not conclusive, but the later date seems preferable.

 

The Prophet

The name Joel means, “The Lord is God,” but other than his prophecy he is unknown. His father is Pethuel, and his prophecy supports the position that he was a resident of Judah, as fervently as he speaks about it and Jerusalem.

 

The Occasion

A plague of locusts of unprecedented severity has come upon his land, and they are cutting down everything in their path. The land is devastated by them, the crops are devoured, and man and animals suffer. The occasion becomes an urgent call to repentance, for the prophet acknowledges that the locusts are God’s army, which he has sent against them (2:25).

 

The prophet sees the reality of the locusts and their destruction as predictive of what God was about to do. It was a sign of the nearness of the day of the Lord and led to his urgent call to put on sackcloth, to sanctify a fast, to call a solemn assembly and to cry out to the Lord in genuine repentance. (1:13-14; 2:1, 12-16) His call went out to all—young and old (1:2-3), to drunkards (1:5), farmers (1:11), and priests (1:13). Behind that call was the conviction that God was “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him?” (2:13-14)

 

The Message

The central teaching of Joel is that the day of the Lord is approaching. This phrase recurs multiple times in Joel’s prophecy. In 1:15, it is described as “destruction from the Almighty.” It is “near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and darkness.” (2:1,2) As the locusts are described as the Lord’s army mowing down everything in the way, the prophet exclaims, “Truly the day of the Lord is great; terrible indeed–who can endure it?” (2:11) At the end of the chapter, the day is described with the same words again (2:31), but a full look at the concept helps one realize that it is not meant to be only  judgment but also salvation. It will be the day God will act for his people.

 

As already indicated, the prophet Joel saw the invasion of the army of destructive locusts as a call to repentance. If his people were not to experience it as judgment but as salvation, they needed to repent from the heart, not superficially. God’s salvation would be grand and glorious. He would pour out his Spirit on young and old, men and women. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (2:28, 29, 32)  “The Lord is a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel” (3:16). The devastation caused by the locust will be reversed. The fields and vineyards will produce in abundance (3:13, 18). Judah and Jerusalem will be inhabited forever (3:20) and her enemies judged (3:1-8, 19, 21).

 

On Pentecost, Peter linked the outpouring of the Spirit with the fulfillment of the prophecy in Acts 2:28-32. His call to the crowds in Jerusalem that day was the same as Joel’s: Repent, that you might experience the salvation of the Lord. This fulfillment bids each of us also to turn to the Lord, in sincere repentance and enjoy the blessings he desires to pour upon us. In that way the message of Joel will continue to do its work today.

 

An Outline to Guide Your Reading  (CSSB, 1343)

  1. Title (1:1)
  2. Judah Experiences a Foretaste of the Day of the Lord (1:2-2:17)
  3. A Call to Mourning and Prayer (1:2-14)
  4. The Announcement of the Day of the Lord (1:15-2:11)
  5. A Call to Repentance and Prayer (2:12-17)

III. Judah is Assured of Salvation in the Day of the Lord (2:18-3:21)

  1. The Lord’s Restoration of Judah (2:18-27)
  2. The Lord’s Renewal of His People (2:28-32)
  3. The Coming of the Day of the Lord (3:1-21)
  4. The nations judged (3:1-16)

2. God’s people blessed (3:17-21)

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