The Old Testament: The Books of Zephaniah and Haggai – As Original as a Summer Blockbuster
I’m a big movie buff. I should say film buff because film connotes better quality than a “movie.” There is snobbery in this difference, but if you have studied film, you appreciate a difference in the level of craft, most particularly in terms of story and character development. Given this, I dial my expectations down in the summer months, and whenever the summer movie trailers start rolling, I’m reminded why: all these films tend to have massive amounts of explosions, high levels of testosterone, and very little concern for story, or at least an original story. Oh look, another Roland Emmerich film where the White House gets blown up!
At some point, you just want to see something new, fresh.
As the Old Testament winds down, I felt this same feeling as I read both the Book of Zephaniah and the Book of Haggai. These two short books don’t cover all that much, especially new material.
Zephaniah prophesizes on the judgment coming Judah’s way and about the bad priests who are going to be cut down. Israel’s enemies also need to watch out: he provides a long list of those who are screwed (2). Given how much I have heard about the extent to which the Old Testament was edited over time—some books kept, some cut, etc.—I wonder why they held on to these. No disrespect, but the one fresh idea seems to be that the meek and humble shall inherit Jerusalem (3). I wish this idea would have been explored more, as it values good qualities.
In his book, Haggai, speaking after the Israelites have returned from exile to rebuild Jerusalem, commands God’s Temple to be rebuilt (1). Now the new Temple sounds plush (and apparently it never actually gets rebuilt, which is interesting), but what does it add? It’s nice that he foretells of the future glory of this Temple (2), and perhaps this is the point, that this glory will not be realized.
I can appreciate coming at a story from several different angles—and perhaps that is the reason the Bible contains so many different takes on the same foretelling of Jerusalem’s destruction, the rebuilding of Jerusalem after exile—but alternate points of view tend to add fresh insight. If the new take doesn’t offer a different way of looking at events (think of the different versions of events used in the classic Japanese film Rashomon), they don’t seem necessary. But maybe if you only encounter one of the Bible books, perhaps it serves its purpose?
After all, there are people this summer who will watch both Olympus Has Fallen (released in the spring but still acts like a summer flick) and White House Down. These movies both explore what would happen when there’s a terrorist attack on the White House. Perhaps these movies are vastly different for some people, but I’m not one of them. Maybe they’re both entertaining, but do we need them both?