rainAs a Christian who cares about God’s Creation (environment), I’m interested in what the Bible says about creation. In this case we find a direct assertion in the mouth of the prophet regarding the creative abilities of God…

Zech 10:1 says, Ask rain from the LORD at the time of the spring rain– The LORD who makes the storm clouds; And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man. This is a direct assertion that Yahweh will bring rain, and has the power to do so. In a new reality, in a new order (one which has been re-created), Yahweh will bring rain when his people need it. Yahweh will ensure that his people are provided for, through the land he has given them (vegetation in the field).

At least two interpretive issues arise in this verse. Is the rain (‘rj’m’) actual water falling from the sky, or is it a symbol of spiritual blessing?[1] Is the reference to latter rain (vAqêl.m;) an eschatological reference?[2] This verse seems to work in context to tell the people not to look for blessing from intermediaries, but to encourage them to follow Yahweh and trust him to provide.[3] If one works from the supposition that the prophecy had meaning to the implied audience, and was not a mystery only to be understood at a later time, then it seems likely that real rain fits the historical context well.[4] This does not negate the possibility that there could be a future dynamic to these statements as well. Yet, due to the historical context, it seems that real rain was in view. If the text refers to real rain, which Yahweh alone can provide, then it is a bold statement about his creative powers. It is welcome news to people who have been experiencing drought.

Some have asserted this text resembles a divine warrior hymn which would make it a bold statement about Yahweh’s creative powers.[5] It is asserted that Yahweh alone can command the storms and bring the rains – not other Yahwehs (whether Canaanite, Babylonian, or Persian). Additionally it is important to note that this,

. . . activity in the present enables the material of primordial creation to remain intact. For example, the “vegetation in the field” , which benefits from the showers, derives from the primal vegetation. The making of storm clouds now sustains Yahweh’s original work of creation.[6]

So not only is Yahweh alone the creator in a singular act, but he alone can and does sustain creation – which is important for those expecting Yahweh to fulfill promises. This metaphor, and others in chapter 10, demonstrate Yahweh’s ability to bring a new, hopeful, future.

[1]Merrill, considers this reference to rain to mean “showers of blessing”, in Haggai, Zech, Malachi, 268; McComisky seems to think of it as actual rain, in Minor Prophets vol. 3, 1176; Meyers and Meyers base an interpretation of real rain upon the historical understanding of Israelite agricultural practices in which they prayed for rain, in Zech 9-14, 181; Petersen takes a vastly different approach and translates the first verb as “they asked Yahweh for rain”. He then suggests that based upon the condemnation of methods of asking for rain, that this was an improper way of asking for rain. His view is far from the consensus view, in Peterson, Zech 9-14, 71; Klein links this verse to the preceding chapter (9:17), and understands the term to refer to real rain in contrast to the current drought, but also to a future time of bountiful blessing in the distant future, in Klein, Zech, 285. Klein’s view does a good job of reconciling the first three views, and rightly leaves out Petersen’s understanding.

[2]Merrill considers this to refer to showers of blessing that will once again come at an eschatological time, Haggai, Zech, Malachi, 268; McComisky interprets this as the real latter rains of the spring in Palestine, Minor Prophets vol. 3., 1176; Meyers and Meyers base an interpretation of real rain upon the historical understanding of Israelite agricultural practices in which they prayed for rain, Zech 9-14, 181. Petersen suggests that this part of the verse is a response to Jer. 14:22. Understood in this way, the point is that Yahweh the creator alone can bring the bounty – which is a sort of figurative sense of understanding the word, in Peterson, Zech 9-14, 71; Klein understands this term to be referring to the later rains in Palestine, but as paralleling the use in Joel 2:23, which symbolizes eschatological blessing, in Zech, 285; Zobel concludes that the Hebrew word for rain is bound up in polemic references to Baal, as well as statements of Yahweh giving provisions, TDOT, s.v. rjm Zobel; In light of these positions mentioned, it seems plausible that one might find the immediate meaning of ‘latter rains’ to be an event which the people could easily see and relate too, but at the same time referring to something larger and eschatological.

[3]Meyers and Meyers, Zech 9-14, 180. As noted above they work from a perspective which sees this text addressing an agricultural need; Klein suggests that this is a polemic against Baalism, effectively showing that only Yahweh can bring agricultural blessing, in Zech, 285-6; Understood with the discussion in the previous footnote, there would be an element of polemic added to the real meaning and the eschatological one to produce a sort of triple meaning.

[4]Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian vol. 1, 129. He shows archeological reasons for assuming droughts were the norm in the time around and preceding Darius (ca. 520 BCE).

[5]Hanson concludes, “This history of Divine Warrior Hymns furnishes the background against which the hymns in Zech 9 and 10 finally become intelligible. Originating in the league and royal cults which in turn drew upon Canaanite mythic traditions, this hymnic form was later adopted into prophetic eschatology by Second Isa, finally being applied against the hierocratic leaders,” in Hanson, Dawn of the Apocalyptic, 315; Angeline Falk Schnellenberg considers 10:1 to be a part of the Divine Warrior motif as well, in “One in the Bond of War: The Unity of Deutero-Zech,” Didaskalia 12 (2001): 114.One may accept that this text has a similar form to a ‘Divine Warrior Hymn’ without going so far as to say that it was contrived merely to lend legitimacy to the Yahweh cult. Instead, I take the position that the author of Zechariah was drawing upon a form which would have been understood to have polemical implications to his implied audience.

[6]David L. Petersen, “The World of Creation in the Book of the Twelve,” in God Who Creates: Essays in Honor of W. Sibley Towner (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000), 210.

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