The coming peace (Zech 8:11-8:13)

“Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘But now I will not deal

With the remnant

Of this people

As in the former days.

Now there shall be

A sowing of peace.

The vine

Shall yield its fruit.

The ground

Shall give its produce.

The skies

Shall give their dew.

I will cause

The remnant of this people

To possess all these things.

Just as you have been a curse

Among the nations,

O house of Judah!

O house of Israel!

Thus,

I will save you.

You shall be a blessing.

Do not be afraid!

But let your hands be strong!’”

Yahweh of hosts was going to deal with his people, but not like in the former days.  Now Yahweh was going to sow peace.  Their vines would yield much fruit.  Their ground would produce rich harvests.  Their skies would send down gentle rain and dew.  The remnant of the people would possess all these things.  Just as many countries had cursed them in the past, now Judah and Israel would be a blessing to many countries.  They should not be afraid, but continue with their strong hands.

The role of the remnant of Jacob (Mic 5:7-5:9)

“Then the remnant of Jacob,

Surrounded by many people,

Shall be

Like dew from Yahweh,

Like showers on the grass.

They do not depend

Upon people,

Nor wait for any mortal.

The remnant of Jacob,

Among the nations,

Surrounded by many people,

Shall be

Like a lion

Among the beasts of the forest,

Like a young lion

Among the flocks of sheep.

When it goes through,

It treads down.

It tears in pieces.

No one would deliver them.

Your hand shall be lifted up

Over your adversaries.

All your enemies

Shall be cut off.”

The remnant of Jacob, those in captivity, would be both a blessing and a curse to those around them.  They would be surrounded by many people from different countries.  However, they would be independent of other people, since they would be like the gentle dew from Yahweh or quiet rain showers on the grass.  However, they could also be like a lion among the beasts of the forest or a lion attacking a flock of sheep.  If they were attacking sheep, they would tread on them and tear them to pieces.  They would surely act like lions against their enemies.  Thus, the remnant of Jacob could be a force for goodness or an attacking lion.

A gracious God (Joel 2:13-2:14)

“Return to Yahweh!

Your God!

He is gracious!

He is merciful!

He is slow to anger!

He is abounding

In steadfast love!

He relents

From punishing.

Who knows

Whether he will not turn?

Who knows

Whether he will not relent?

Leave a blessing

Behind him!

Leave a grain offering!

Leave a drink offering

For Yahweh!

Your God!”

Joel continued with the same theme. They should return to Yahweh. Joel used the ancient words about God as gracious and merciful, since Yahweh was slow to get angry. He was abounding in steadfast love. He did not punish easily. Will he return? Will he relent? Your best shot was to leave a blessing, like a grain or drink offering for Yahweh, their God. Clearly, Joel was tied to the Temple, since he considered the grain and drink offering as a blessing.

The food habits of the priests (Ezek 44:29-44:31)

“They shall eat

The grain offering,

The sin offering,

The guilt offering.

Every devoted thing

In Israel

Shall be theirs.

The first of all

The first fruits

Of all kinds

Shall belong

To the priests.

Every offering

Of all kinds,

From all your offerings,

Shall belong

To the priests.

You shall also give

To the priests

The first of your dough.

Thus,

A blessing may rest

On your house.

The priests shall not eat

Of anything,

Whether bird

Or animal,

That died of itself

Or was torn by animals.”

The Zadok Levitical priests had strict dietary habits that were very favorable to them. They were to eat all the various offerings that the people of Israel presented, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, or any devoted thing in Israel. They would also get the first fruits of all kinds, including the cooked dough. All these food items belonged to the priests. Giving them to the priests meant that your house would have a blessing. However, these priests were not allowed to eat any bird or animal that had died by itself or was mangled by another animal.

The curse of Yahweh (Jer 17:5-17:6)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Cursed are those

Who trust in mere mortals!

Cursed are those

Who make mere flesh

Their strength!

Cursed are those

Whose hearts turn away

From Yahweh!

They are

Like a shrub in the desert.

They shall not see

When relief comes.

They shall live

In the parched places

Of the wilderness.

They shall live

In an uninhabited salt land.’”

Jeremiah had Yahweh issue a curse, not a blessing. If they trusted in mere mortals, if they made their own flesh their strength, and if their hearts turned away from Yahweh, they would be cursed. They are like shrubs in a desert that do not know when help is coming to them. They will live in a wild parched land. They will live in uninhabitable salt lands. Their punishment would be a hard life with bad soil.

A good cluster of grapes (Isa 65:8-65:10)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘As the wine is found in the cluster,

They say.

‘Do not destroy it!

There is a blessing in it!’

So I will do for my servants’ sake.

I will not destroy them all.

I will bring forth descendants

From Jacob.

I will bring from Judah

Inheritors of my mountains.

My chosen ones shall inherit it.

My servants shall settle there.

Sharon shall become

A pasture for flocks.

The Valley of Achor shall become

A place for herds to lie down.

My people have sought me.”

Yahweh here makes an exception. He would not destroy all of them. Just like a good cluster of grapes should be saved for wine, so too, he would save the good Israelites. No one wants to destroy a good cluster of grapes because it was considered a blessing. Yahweh was going to bring descendants from the people of Jacob. The people from Judah would inherit the mountains. These chosen servants of Yahweh would inherit this land and live there. Sharon, the northern coastal plain area, would become a place for flocks to pasture, while the arid valley of Achor, west of the Dead Sea, would also be a great place for herds to rest. Yahweh is doing this because some of his people had sought him out.

A blessing (Sir 45:26-45:26)

“Bless the Lord!

He has crowned you

With glory.

May the Lord

Grant you wisdom

Of mind!

May you judge his people

With justice!

Thus their prosperity

May not vanish.

Thus their glory

May endure

Throughout all their generations.”

Sirach has this blessing at the end of this long section on Aaron and the Levitical priests. You should bless the Lord because he has crowned you with glory. Then the Lord may grant you wisdom to judge with justice. Thus your prosperity may have a glorious future throughout all generations to come.