The Minor Post Exilic Prophets

Before the Babylonian exile, Biblical prophesy reached its highest
point. Prophets such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel changed and molded the
scope of Israelite religion. Their writings were intelligent,
insightful, well developed, and contained a great spiritual meaning.
Following the Babylonian exile, however, prophesy took a depressing
downward turn. There are many post exilic prophets, yet their writings
are usually short, mostly irrelevant, repetitive, and, for the most
part, anonymous.
Though this is the case for many of these prophets, their works
cannot be overlooked. Haggai and Zechariah were leaders in the cultic
reform of the Israelite people. Malachai calmed their fears, and
assured them of God\'s love. Still other prophets told of a new,
Messianic time when the word of the Lord would be held in its former
glory. These were the most important works, as post exilic Israel
needed not only protection, but spiritual guidance to sustain their
society.
The prophet Haggai was in integral figure in uniting the Israelite
people. Upon return to their homeland, the Israelites found most of the
infrastructure in a state of disrepair, with the people uncaring for
their moral and social responsibilities, to say nothing for their
religious practices. (OVC) Even the temple of the Lord had been
destroyed. Haggai emphasized the return to a more cultic society.
Through Haggai, God explained the plight of the Israelite people, as in
Haggai 1:6: "You have sown much, but harvested little; you eat, but
there is not enough to be satisfied; you put on clothing, but no one is
warm enough...Why? Because of My house which lies desolate while each
of you runs to his own house." (Haggai 1:9) The word of Haggai is
accepted as the word of God, and the temple is rebuilt in less than four
years. "I am with you," said the Lord,in Haggai 1:13 when the temple
was finally built. (EIB)
The prophesy of Haggai did not end with the building of the Lord\'s
temple. He offered a message of hope to the people of Israel. Haggai
said that the promises made by God would be kept, now that He had a
dwelling place within the city. God inspired the people of the newly
reformed city, saying: "Who is left among you who saw this temple in its
former glory?...Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? The
latter glory of this house will be greater than the former, and in this
place I shall give peace." (Haggai 2:3,9) He also talks of a time of
political upheaval and reform, when he promises to "overthrow the
thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms and nations;
and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and
their riders will go down, every one by the sword of another." (Haggai
2:22)
The "latter glory" foretold in Haggai\'s prophesy is emphasized in
the book of Zechariah. Zechariah prophesied in the shadow of Haggai,
but gave his words a slightly different spin. He emphasizes, like the
pre-exilic prophets, the importance of a moral reform among the
Israelites. Zechariah\'s way of recieving the word of God is very unique
among the prophets. The word comes to him in the form of eight visions.
These "colorful and strange" visions make up most of his book. (OVC)
The visions are so bizarre that the Lord sends an angel as in
interpreter, so that Zeccariah can derive meaning from them. (I have
taken descriptions of these visions, from the OVC and other texts, and
combined them with actual verses from the bible in order to create these
descriptions.)
The first of thsese eight visions is that of four angels, whose
amazing speed is symbolized by horses. These four angels report that
all is at peace with the nation, because the opponents to the nation
have been silenced. This is called "a time of universal peace"
(Carstensen, OVC). Even though the land is peaceful, the Lord is not,
and he expresses his hatred toward those who have been allied against
the Israelites.
The second vision is of four horns and four smiths. This vision
fortells the complete destruction of the enemies of God. The horns may
be the four most powerful armies allied against the nation, and the
smiths