Faithfulness requires the evils of captivity: Zechariah 5-6

These chapters established the moral character of the eschatological land.  In ch. 5, the Lord judged every nook and cranny of the land and then removed the unfaithfulness of the people from the land to Shinar, Babylon.  In ch. 6, the Lord commanded his spirit to rest in Babylon.  His spirit animated the un-people of Israel so that they could come forth.  The treasure they brought out of exile became the symbols of rule in the land afterwards.  As faithfulness was removed from the land, the humility gained from captivity pervaded the land.

Apocalyptic literature often employs bizarre images to make its point.  Such images stick in one’s mind and force one to grapple with what those images represent; the text can draw one’s attention to the principle concept of the author.  Thus a flying scroll can represent judgment, and a woman in an ephah basket can represent unfaithfulness.

The scroll that judges and the removal of unfaithfulness: Zechariah 5

A flying scroll of curses that can enter into people’s houses, appeared in a vision in 5:1-4.  While the created order changed systematically throughout the past several chapters and books of the XII, the Torah is one thing that stayed the same.  The curse that went out to everyone judged according to the original 10 Commandments, represented here by the sins of stealing and false oaths.  This scroll, unlike those known until then, could move on its own.  (Perhaps this scroll’s mobility drew from the image of the Lord’s mobile chariot in Ezekiel 1-3.)  It could move with such power as to enter into someone’s house to destroy it.

The next image, of a woman in a basket born by women with stork wings, represented the unfaithfulness of the land (5:5-11).  Generally, the Lord is personified in the Bible as a man and the people as a woman.  Significantly for the present context, the first chapter of the Book of the XII, Hosea 1, depicts the relationship thus.  While it is not PC in our society to do so, the assumption was that the husband protects and provides for the wife, and the correct wife serves the husband faithfully.  The woman who does not return gratitude and faithfulness for the provision she receives, is considered unfaithful.  Thus Israel, the Lord’s people, is often depicted as a woman.  The flying women seal off the wickedness and remove it from the land.  In this eschatological reality, wickedness will be sent far away–to Shinar, in Babylon, where it will form the basis of an idolatrous shrine.

Once judgment according to the Torah penetrates every corner of the land, the Lord’s servants will remove unfaithfulness.  A new purity will pervade his eschatological land, and the wickedness will be removed to Babylon.  A sharp divide emerged: wickedness would remain exclusively in Babylon, and faithfulness exclusively in the land.

The Lord’s glory coming out of Babylon: Zechariah 6

This chapter traced the voyage of the people, from Babylon to the land.  We read about the Lord’s glory, namely, his ability to create something out of nothing.  In this case, he created a people out of an enslaved and wicked non-people by his spirit.  The people, therefore, had nothing to boast about, as their existence depended completely on the Lord.  By reminding them of their humble origin, he could found the eschaton on the humility of the people.

Reminiscent of Zecharaiah 1:8-12, the Lord sent out chariots with horses throughout the land in 6:1-8.  In the earlier scene, the angel was upset when the horsemen came back from their reconnaissance to report peace throughout the land.  The Lord promised to overturn the powers around, so this promise was not coming to pass.  In this instance, the charioteers were commanded to walk all around the world.

Those going to the North (referring to Babylon, who always came in and out of Israel through the North) received a special command: to see the ultimate results of the Babylonian captivity.  Because of their suffering, and because of the Lord’s mighty act at liberating them from Babylon, the remnant that emerged from captivity displayed the Lord’s glory.  The Lord’s spirit animated them, made them a people and brought them to life (cf. the spirit animating the dead bones in Ezekiel 37).  By coming out of Babylon, they show the Lord’s glory by living by his spirit.

In the next section, the glory of captivity metaphorically crowns the eschatological rulers with the literal gold brought from Babylon (6:9-15).  The prophet took the gold and silver from those who came out of captivity to create two crowns, one for Joshua, the High Priest, and one most likely for the Branch, Zerubbabel.  This scene recalls the captives from Egypt during the Exodus who “borrowed” the gold and silver of the Egyptians, effectively plundering them without a fight.  Those riches, however, created the golden calf, an idol and mockery of the Lord.  In the eschaton, the gold and silver will crown the new rule of humility to the Lord’s Torah.

As the captives departed from Babylon, they left the spirit of the Lord in their trail.  Their walk of liberation was animated by the spirit.  When they came to the land, their bounty from Babylon formed the symbols of power for the new rulers.  Both their departure from Babylon and arrival to the land originate in the humbling, dehumanizing captivity, and this humility formed the basis of the eschaton.

Good is faithfulness

The wickedness, represented by a woman, was related to the good, which was always rooted in the captivity.  By grace the Lord led the people from captivity, like in Exodus, establishing them as a people.  When the people understood deeply their personal and corporate existence as completely dependent on the Lord, they would be motivated to remain faithful to him.  A return to the belief that they were masters of their own destiny, a destiny in which the Lord played only a small part, would form the kernel of wicked unfaithfulness.  Goodness in the eschaton would always have to keep one foot in the captivity as the motivation for faithfulness.

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