Zechariah: Part 2

Uggh.  O.k.  Straight up: Zechariah is the most difficult Bible book review I’ve had to write thus far, and we’re nearly done with the Old Testament.  Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written any reviews, and that is probably partly playing into this, but I swear to you this is the worst.  And why is that?  Zechariah is one of those books that is weird for the first half and then goes completely off the rails in the second half.  And when I say off the rails, I mean really just … I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to make heads or tails of it for weeks now.  I’ve never in the entire time I’ve been reviewing the Bible had to split a review into 2 posts before.  But I did it this time because if I kept this as one post, it was going to be pushing 7,000 words.  Part 1 is here if you haven’t read it, and it covers all Zechariah’s visions from chapters 1-8.

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Zechariah: Part 1

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O.k., well, this is not what I was expecting.  First off, Hi.  It’s been over a year since my last Bible book review.  In case you were sitting there waiting and wondering where I’ve been, as I’m sure so much of my imaginary loyal readership has, I’ve been around.  Just busy with obnoxious stuff.  Well, one of the things keeping me busy was good, which was that I got a new job.  Yay!  The other stuff was bad.  Other than the new job I got, which I am genuinely happy about, 2016 was a shitshow for everyone, right?  It’s not just me?   Right.  O.k. let’s move on.

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Haggai

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Haggai wants you to restore the glory of the Lord’s Temple.  Why won’t you do it?  Just do it, dude.  K?  Alright, here’s what Haggai has going for it: 1) It’s short and sweet: only 2 chapters.  2) Haggai lived in a later time period than all the other prophets so far, which makes his book juusst different enough from the same tired stuff we’ve read for the past 15 books or so, to make it somewhat palatable.  Of all the previous prophet books, the one that had covered the latest time period was Daniel, which covered the period after Babylon defeated and destroyed Judah/Jerusalem, while the Jews were exiled in Babylon.  Haggai comes even after Daniel’s timeframe, which I’ll get into more below.  Is it interesting?  Mmmm Nah.  It’s still pretty boring.  But at least it’s a teeny bit different.

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Habakkuk

Why *are* these things happening, Habakkuk? You tell me.

Why *are* these things happening, Habakkuk? You tell me.

You know, all I can think of when reading some of these minor prophet books at the end of the Old Testament – Nahum, Obadiah, Habakkuk, etc. – is how the hell did I memorize all these book names for my church confirmation process when I was a teenager?  I didn’t know jack shit about what any of the books actually said back then, so what was the point of memorizing all their titles?  It seems ridiculous, but I can’t entirely blame the Methodist church for my lack of proper training, as I wasn’t exactly the best Sunday School student.  If I had only realized what I was missing back then, maybe I would’ve been more interested.  I’d be extremely curious to know how 13  year-old me would’ve reacted to these things.  We’ll never know now.

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Nahum

1:2 The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.

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Oh really now!  Ya don’t say.

1:7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him…

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Oh … uhhh, o.k. thank goodness I was starting to get a little worried for a second there haha because I mean that other verse said …

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Micah

Why do I keep putting off writing this Micah review?  I’ve been busy lately, but that’s nothing new.  Hey that rhymed.  It was an accident.  I ain’t tryna make a poem out of this.  Anyway as I’m sitting here forcing myself to start writing it, I’m realizing the problem – Micah is like the prophet book equivalent of vanilla ice cream.  Take the most generic, stripped-down and standardized “prophet book” outline and then write only that, and you’ve got Micah.  No frills and nothing novel or interesting to jazz it up.  No major hook.

No hot gingers

No locusts

No whale

No lions

No whoore wives

No Samuel L. Jackson reading (or sorta reading) its verses in a classic movie

No bears eating children

NADA.

Just another prophet blabbing about God’s plans to inflict violent punishment on his people.  Yaaawwwn.  OH WAIT – I actually did just remember one thing: This is apparently one of those Old Testament books that the New Testament later references as a supposed prophecy about the coming of Christ.  So, I guess it does have one thing going for it, but unfortunately there’s not much I can even say about that until I get to the part of the New Testament that references it.  I need context.  Well o.k., I’ll do what I can for now.

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Jonah

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You know what’s really weird about Jonah, as a Bible book?  Until now, there have only been a couple books out of the last 25 or so that I immediately remembered the main gist of, from my Sunday school days, before reading them.  There was Daniel, which I knew would involve a lions’ den, and there was Job, which I knew would involve a dude who would get screwed over royally and painfully.  And now, there’s Jonah, which I knew would involve a wha- err … o.k. a “great fish” which would swallow him right up.  But what’s so weird about Jonah in comparison with the previous two books is how utterly simple it is.

Both Daniel and Job – although I had remembered the main gist of each correctly – were far more detailed and/or convoluted than what I recalled being taught in Sunday school as a kid.  Daniel’s backstory leading into the lions’ den tale was quite comprehensive, and then post-lions, his book took a weird 6-chapter acid trip of a turn that I was not expecting.  Job, similarly, spent a surprising 35 chapters on Job & friends just sitting around speculating about God’s motivations for torturing him.  But Jonah, conversely – which is only 4 chapters long – is not only exactly what I learned as a kid, but it provides what might be even less detail than the Sunday school stories as I recalled them.  It goes like this:

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Amos

Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Amos.  He baked some cookies, and then he got famous.

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O.k. fine, the idiocy of that joke is indicative of how hard it’s been for me to start writing this review even though I finished reading Amos over a week ago.  I just don’t know how many times I can review the same story over and over and over again.  We’ve been through 3 major prophets and 3 minor prophets now and it’s always essentially the same thing.  Israel and/or Judah are misbehaving.  God angry.  God angry, god SMASH.  God smash, God smash a lot.  O.k. ohhhh k, God sorry God smash.  God make things better again for God’s people.

hulk-smash11So what’s different or interesting about Amos vs. everything else we’ve read so far?  Per usual let’s start off with the setting and we’ll go from there.  “1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoasha was king of Israel.”  You may recall that both Hosea and Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  They had been the earliest prophets of the bunch so far.  Well Amos, it seems, actually slightly preceded both of those dudes (with some overlap).  His active years were somewhere around the 765-753 BC timeframe, according to the estimates listed on Wikipedia.  Those years are estimated based on the years of the reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah, plus a historically verifiable earthquake that happened early on in this timeframe, which according to this verse, happened 2 years after Amos began to prophecy.

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Joel

Uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh …….

Wait.

What?

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Can someone please explain to me what this book is about so I can write a review on it?  Do you wanna know what the entire description of Joel is in the first section of its Wikipedia page?  Here you go:

The Book of Joel is part of the Hebrew Bible.  Joel is part of a group of twelve prophetic books known as the Twelve Minor Prophets.

Riiiigghhhht.  Clearly I’m not the only one who has been left confused.  Joel is 3 chapters long, which I thought would make it a super easy read (and review).  Turns out I was sorely mistaken.  I mean it was a quick read, sure, but that doesn’t mean I had any idea what was going on or what the point was.  I still don’t.

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Hosea

1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him,
“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her,
for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
1:3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

Gomer, daughter of Diblaim

Gomer, daughter of Diblaim

Hosea … more like Ho-sea!!  Amiright folks??  Looks like Israel’s been hoin’ around with every Tom Dick and Harry she can get ‘er paws on eh?  Yeah.  That disturbing analogy has been used several times in the Bible so far, but with Hosea, we manage to get an entire book about it.  Yay!!  So if you’ve been reading the Bible up till this point and thinking, “You know, I’m kinda bummed that we’ve only focused on degrading women some of the time so far … I’d like more of that,” then you’re in luck!  Hosea is the book for you.

Here’s the scoop.  We’ve gotten several books leading into this that are considered as the books of the “Major Prophets” – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  Hosea, a far shorter book than any of those ones, apparently starts off the 12 books of the “Minor Prophets” that seem to be the ones that close out of the Old Testament.  I think we’re in the home stretch here, folks.

In terms of chronology, Isaiah lived and prophesied first, during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  Then came Jeremiah, who lived through the Babylonian takeover of Judah/Jerusalem.  Then lastly was Ezekiel, who showed up during the Babylonian exile.  He started later than Jeremiah but overlapped him by a good bit, as far as I can tell.  With Hosea though, we rewind back to the time of Isaiah.  Hosea’s timeframe is listed here as being during the reigns of the exact same kings – Uzziah through Hezekiah.  Both these guys were around before and into the takeover of Israel by the Assyrians, which happened a good while before the Babylonian takeover.

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