W. Reyes 8
Wilma Ivelisse Reyes
OT520 Old Testament Introduction
Dr. Brian Russell
August 10, 2015
ISRAEL’S COVENANTAL LAW REGARDING THE POOR AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EXILE ACCORDING TO ZECHARIAH 7:9-14
The Sinaitic Covenant of YHWH with the people of Israel and its laws regarding their relationship with the poor and the needy is in direct relationship with the reasons why Israel was exiled from their land, first by the Assyrians around 740 BCE and later by the Babylonians in 539 BCE.
Zechariah is an Old Testament postexilic prophet whose visions present a reversal of circumstances where “YHWH promises to ‘return’… [upon] the community’s repentance or return to YHWH” (Ollenburger) after enduring a period of judgment away from their land, their temple, and their unity as a people. The verses pertaining to this study are part of a larger sermon structure in which Zechariah “looks back at the reasons for the fall of Jerusalem and the exile” (Gowan).
Zechariah 7:9-14 (NIV) states;
9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
13 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’”
The prophet’s call echoes the message of earlier prophets, with its focus on “social justice as an expression of covenant faithfulness” (Boda) centering on four groups: the widow, the orphan, the sojourner, and the poor. The relationship between the indictment uttered by the prophet over Israel and the exile experienced by them as a community at the hands of foreign nations is a provocative stance which challenges the person who reads it to delve into the prominence of YHWH’s standards for his people’s way of life.
At the center of the prophet’s statement lies “the Old Testament’s typical description of the nature of a healthy community … expressed by three potent words – justice (mishpat), loyalty (ḥesed), and compassion (rḥamim)” (Gowan). The type of justice to administer is referred to as “true,” a word which in the Hebrew has the connotation of faithfulness, and always used to speak about God’s character. “Judging faithfully here speaks of judging with faithful adherence to God’s law no matter who stands before the court (Boda).” The next imperative is the term “loyalty.” Which is described in the Hebrew as “the loyalty...