We now continue to look at the remarkable 8th chapter of the equally remarkable prophecy of Zechariah.
In our previous examination of the beginning of this chapter, we saw that the Lord promises a change of direction in his actions toward the covenant people of Israel. ”I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. ”There will again be children playing and elderly men and women sitting along the streets of Jerusalem. Though this may seem too “wonderful” in the sight of the people, nothing is too “wonderful” for Adonai of armies.
Then, going back to a theme first mentioned in passages like Leviticus 26, where the Lord says should the people rebel against Him, going after other gods, He would send a series of ever intensifying disciplines, each one seven times harsher than the previous, until, ultimately, they would be scattered to far-flung places. However, as they realized their error and cried out to Him, He would bring them back to Israel. In this chapter, as in places such as Isaiah 60, God would bring them from the East and the West, referencing the rising and setting of the sun, day and night, with the implied huge gap. The point is clear-wherever they are, God will find them.
“I will bring them back, and, they will live in the midst of Jerusalem. They will be My people, and, I will be their God in truth and in righteousness (verse 8). They will not just randomly find their way back, but, the use of the hiphil stem for the Hebrew verb “to come” clearly implies God’s actively causing them to come back, or, bringing them back.
He then restates the classic formula used in the prophets for the idyllic relationship of Adonai with Israel, that of their being His people and His being their God. The verb that He uses for being their God, ”Ehyeh”, is the same word He stated to Moses from the Burning Bush when Moses asked His Name-“I AM”. While the traditional translation of the use of this verb as merely that is valid and reasonable, one can also validly translate it as “I AM is their God”.
He then adds, this will be “b’emet uvitzadakah”, ”in truth and in righteousness”. This will not be the fantasy or dream of a poet or painter, but, reality. And, like so many of the prophets’ promises, this restoration will not only be a political one, but, spiritual, as well. Ezekiel 36 states it, ”A new heart I will give you, and, a new spirit I will put within your flesh. I will take away the stony heart from within your flesh, and, I will give you a heart of flesh. And, I will sprinkle you with clean water, and, you will be clean…”God’s aspirations are far more than political and geographical, although inclusive of those, but, spiritual, cleansing the real problem and healing the people. This does not sound like a plan to replace them to me!
And, the Temple will be rebuilt and Adonai will not treat the remnant as in former days. We will talk more about this in our next installment.
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Adler
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is on the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.