The two women and the wicked basket (Zech 5:9-5:11)

“Then I looked up.

I saw two women

Coming forward.

The wind

Was in their wings.

They had wings

Like the wings

Of a stork.

They lifted up the basket

Between the earth

And the heavens.

Then I said to the angel

Who talked with me.

‘Where are they taking

The basket?’

He said to me.

‘To the land of Shinar,

To build a house for it.

When this is prepared,

They will set the basket

Down there on its base.’”

Next two-winged women came forward, with wings like a stork.  They took the basket into the sky with the wicked woman in it.  Zechariah wanted to know where they were taking the basket.  The angel who had been talking with Zechariah said that they were taking the basket to the land of Shinar, another name for Babylon.  There they were going to build a house or a temple and put this basket of wickedness in the middle of the temple on a base set up there.  In other words, this wicked basket was going to become a Babylonian idol.

Preparing to build the Temple (Hag 2:15-2:15)

“But now,

Consider what will come to pass

From this day on!

Before a stone was placed

Upon a stone

In the Yahweh’s temple!”

They were to prepare themselves to build the Temple of Yahweh.  They should think what they were about to do, before they starting putting the stones together.

Useless work (Hag 1:9-1:9)

“‘You have looked

For much,

But it came to little.

When you brought it home,

I blew it away.

Why?’

Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Because my house

Lies in ruins,

While all of you

Hurry off

To your own houses’”

They had looked for many things, but they could only find a few little things.  When they finally brought them home, Yahweh blew them away.  Even though Yahweh’s house was in ruins, they hurried off to build their own homes.  Yahweh wanted them to pay more attention to the house of Yahweh.

Get some wood (Hag 1:7-1:8)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Consider how you have fared.

Go up to the hills!

Bring wood!

Build the house!

Thus,

I may take pleasure

In it.

I will be honored.’

Says Yahweh.”

Once again there was an oracle of Yahweh, via Haggai.  This time there were suggestions on what to do.  They were to go up into the hills or mountains around Jerusalem.  There, they would get some wood to build the house that Yahweh wanted.  Then, Yahweh would take pleasure in it by being honored and glorified.

Remain in this land (Jer 42:9-42:10)

“Jeremiah said to them.

‘Thus says Yahweh,

The God of Israel,

To whom you sent me

To present your plea

Before him.

‘If you will remain in this land,

Then I will build you up.

I will not pull you down.

I will plant you.

I will not pluck you up.

I am sorry for the disaster

That I have brought upon you.’”

Jeremiah then reported back to the people that Yahweh, the God of Israel, had spoken to him after 10 days. In a surprising response from Yahweh, he says that he is sorry for the disaster that he brought upon them. It is odd to hear God say that he was sorry. Most times, the opposite is true. Humans are sorry. Yahweh said that if they remained in this land, he would build them up and not pull them down. He would plant them and not pluck them up. Yahweh seems to show some regret for the Babylonian attack and captivity.

The comparison with his father (Jer 22:15-22:17)

“‘Are you a king

Because you compete in cedar?

Did not your father eat?

Did not your father drink?

Did not your father do justice?

Did not your father do righteousness?

Then it was well with him.

He judged the cause of the poor.

He judged the cause of the needy.

Then it was well.

Is not this to know me?’

Says Yahweh.

‘But your eyes

With your heart

Are only on your dishonest gain,

Are only for shedding innocent blood,

Are only for practicing oppression,

Are only for violence.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, takes on King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE) by making a comparison with his father King Josiah (640-609 BCE). His father rightly judged the cases of the needy and the poor. He never tried to build a great house of cedar. He ate and drank, but was filled with justice and righteousness. Thus, everything went well with him. On the other hand, King Jehoiakim has turned his eyes and heart to dishonest gain, shedding innocent blood, practicing oppression, and doing violence. Which king would you rather have?

Yahweh consecrates Jeremiah (Jer 1:9-1:10)

“Then Yahweh put out his hand.

He touched my mouth.

Yahweh said to me.

‘Now I have put my words

In your mouth.

See!

Today I appoint you

Over nations.

Today I appoint you

Over kingdoms.

You will pluck up.

You will pull down.

You will destroy.

You will overthrow.

You will build.

You will plant.’”

Yahweh then consecrated Jeremiah by putting out his hand and touching his mouth. He told Jeremiah that he was going to put his words into his mouth. Jeremiah would be over many nations and kingdoms. His task was to pluck up and pull down, destroy, and overthrow. Yet at the same time he was also going to build and plant. Jeremiah had a unique but difficult task as a prophet of God.

Temple worship (Isa 66:1-66:2)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Heaven is my throne.

The earth is my footstool.

What is the house

That you would build for me?

What is my resting place?

My hand has made

All these things.

So all these things are mine.’

Says Yahweh.

‘But this is the one

To whom I will look.

I will look to the humble.

I will look to the contrite in spirit.

I will look to the one

Who trembles at my word.’”

This is an oracle about Temple worship. Yahweh said that heaven was his throne, while the earth was his footstool. What kind of resting house should they build for him? Yahweh has made everything, so that everything was his. What was he looking for? He wanted someone who was humble, contrite in spirit, and trembled at his word.

The happy people in Jerusalem (Isa 65:21-65:23)

“They shall build houses.

They shall inhabit them.

They shall plant vineyards.

They shall eat their fruit.

They shall not build

With another inhabit it.

They shall not plant

With another eat it.

Like the days of a tree

Shall the days of my people be.

My chosen ones shall long enjoy

The work of their hands.

They shall not labor in vain.

They shall not bear children for calamity.

They shall be offspring

Blessed by Yahweh.

Their descendants shall be blessed

With them.”

Everyone will be happy in this new Jerusalem. When they build a house, they will live there, since no one else will live there. If they plant vineyards, they will enjoy their fruit, since no one else will enjoy their crop. Their lives will be long like the days of a large tree. They will benefit from their own work. They will not labor in vain. Their children will not have misfortunes because they and their children will be blessed by Yahweh.

Supreme power of Yahweh (Isa 45:11-45:13)

“Thus says Yahweh!

The Holy One of Israel!

It’s Maker!

‘Will you question me

About my children?

Will you command me

Concerning the work of my hands?

I made the earth.

I created humankind upon it.

It was my hands

That stretched out the heavens.

I commanded their entire host.

I have aroused Cyrus in righteousness.

I will make all his paths straight.

He shall build my city.

He shall set my exiles free,

Not for a price or a reward.’

Says Yahweh of hosts.”

There is no doubt that this is an oracle of Yahweh, the Most Holy One of Israel, and its maker, here in Second Isaiah. Yahweh was defending his choice of Cyrus. Why would any of his children question him? Why should they say anything about how he is doing things? Yahweh has made the heavens and the earth with all the humans that live here. Thus he has appointed Cyrus in his righteousness. Yahweh is going to level the ground in front of him. In turn, Cyrus was going to build a city and set his exiles free, but he would not receive any money or reward for this action.