In 8:12, one finds the writer portraying vines, the land, and the heavens (in the sense of sky[1]) as producing bountifully for the returnees. This verse contains these metaphors which demonstrate that Yahweh has completed his judgment upon the people, and restored (or will restore) the intended order. It reads, ‘For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. As a restoration of order, these metaphors may be understood as a part of creation continua. This idea is expressed in agrarian language, drawing upon fertile imagery.

As discussed above, the people who remained in the land were likely engaged in syncretistic practices. One of those practices would be fertility cults of Canaan, which Israel struggled with during the monarchy. These three metaphors all speak polemically against the idea of Canaanite deities having power to provide for the people.[2] Yahweh will use the vines, land, and heavens as his agents of blessing.[3] If Yahweh can command these, then it follows that he must have power over them – the power of the one who created them.

Haggai 1:10-11 and its reversal in Hag 2:9 is sometimes understood to be the text (perhaps the idea?) which Zechariah drew these ideas from.[4] Haggai gives a more extensive list of items which are not fruitful. Yahweh specifically called for a drought in Hag 1:11. It’s scope was broad enough to include: mountains, grain, new wine, oil, men, cattle, and even humanity’s work. But, after the completion of the temple, the curse is reversed in 2:9. Zechariah is at least describing a similar turn of fortunes, if not the same one.

The metaphors in this text serve to reiterate that when the people follow the will of Yahweh (obedience, doing justice, etc.) then Yahweh will bless them by having the land bring forth produce. Yahweh has affirmed the returnees with creative acts of blessing. So, these metaphors are polemical against fertility deities, and assert Yahweh’s power and creative ability.[5] Zechariah eight makes the point that the people must be obedient to Yahweh if they wish to be identified as his ‘remnant’ or people. In this context the creation metaphor functions to solidify the promise of blessing to those who are obedient.

[1]In this case the word ~ymV refers to air or sky, and not the dwelling place of gods. See TDOT s.v. ~ymV Bartelmus.

[2]I have in mind Baal and Asherah specifically, but also Ahriman as mentioned in the Persian Background above.

[3]Brueggemann has given extensive detail to this idea in his work The Land, as mentioned above; Petersen makes the observation that Yahweh commands these agents, in Peterson, Haggai and Zech 1-8, 306; Merrill describes these metaphors as a general reversal or reordering of the present conditions, in Merrill, Haggai, Zech, Malachi, 226; Meyers and Myers take a similar position, in Meyers and Meyers, Haggai and Zech, 423; McComisky mostly agrees, but also says that the vine can also refer to economic prosperity, giving a fuller sense of the people being a blessing to the nations, in McComisky, The Minor Prophets vol. 3, 1147; Klein agrees in so far as that this is a dramatic reversal of fortunes, in Klein, Zech, 244.

[4]Meyers and Meyers say this in Haggai and Zech 1-8, 423; Klein agrees in Zech, 241.

[5]Against Baal, Asherah, and Ahriman.

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