Not the former days

Zechariah 8:9-13 forms a single unit within the chapter, and is organized chiastically:

A. strong hands, v 9a

B. house of Yahweh, v 9b

C. no wages, v 10a

D. no peace, v 10b

E. Not according to former days, v 11

D’. peace for seed, v 12a

C’. produce of the land: inherit, v 12b

B’. house of Judah/Israel, v 13a

A’. strong hands, v 13b

Several notes.  First, the exhortation to “let your hands be strong” reminds us of David’s exhortations to Solomon and Moses’ to Joshua.  Zechariah is exhorting the people to be strong and diligent in a new temple-building project, which is also a new conquest.  Second, the B sections interestingly connect the house/temple of Yahweh with the house of Israel and Judah.  Third, the C section seems to be a rebuke to Israel’s economic injustices prior to the exile; men were not paid for their work, and even animals were not hired.  In the reversal in C’, Yahweh takes responsibility for ensuring that every Israelite among the remnant has an inheritance, the produce of the land.

Fourth, the connection of the D sections helps to illumine the grammatically puzzling “seed of peace” in verse 12a.  Verse 10b describes conflicts of neighbor with neighbor, social chaos brought by Yahweh Himself.  The seed that will enjoy peace in verse 12a is not primarily the seed planted in the land but the seed of the remnant of the people.

Finally, of course, Yahweh’s own decision to do things differently is the hinge on which Israel’s restoration and redemption turns.  It is an unmotivated decision, a sovereign act of an electing God.  He has punished earlier generations of Israel and Judah, but now He is determined that he will not treat the new generation, the seed and remnant, in the same way, and reinforces this with the oracle formula ne’um YHWH tzeba’oth .

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