Click here to join the effort!
by Joseph Exell
§ 1. SUBJECT OF THE BOOK
THE prophecy of Zechariah (at least that contained in the first eight chapters) continues and supplements that of his contemporary Haggai. These two prophets were raised up and inspired to animate the flagging energies of the Jews, who, on their return from Babylon, had begun to rebuild the temple, lout were soon disheartened, and at length, owing to opposition of neighbours and adverse circumstances, ceased altogether from the work. Now after sixteen years' intermission, encouraged by the accession of Darius Hystaspes, who looked with favourable eyes on their undertaking, the Jews had an opportunity of resuming their operations. Almost simultaneously with Haggai, Zechariah comes forth to enforce the same lesson, urging them to restore the house of the Lord, and inspiring them with hopes of a glorious future. The rest of the prophecies, if they belong to the same age and author, without special mention of the return from the Captivity, reach to far distant time; they are supposed to speak of the preservation of the temple under Alexander the Great, of the victories of the Maccabees; they certainly speak of the rejection of Christ; they speak of the repentance of the Jews for this rejection, and the final conversion of them and of the Gentiles.
The temple was finished in the sixth year of Darius; and the latter part of Zechariah's prophecies may have been spoken after that event, and possibly many years subsequent.
The book consists of three parts. The first, after a brief prelude, describes certain visions revealed to the prophet, and ends with a symbolical action typifying the completion and glory of the new temple. The second part comprises an answer to certain questions about the observance of fasts, and a comfortable assurance of the future happiness of Jerusalem. In the final portion the prophet foretells the struggle of God's people against the powers of the world, and Messiah's victory, and announces the conversion of Israel, the destruction of the enemies of the theocracy, and the final exaltation of God's kingdom.
The following is a brief analysis of the book, considered as one harmonious whole, applying to the condition of the chosen people, their dangers and errors, their connection with the powers of the world, God's purposes towards them, and the future that awaits the Church. The first part, consisting of ch. 1-6., commences with an introduction, giving the title, date, and author's name, followed by a warning from the past and a call to repentance and renewed energy. Then the prophet describes eight visions which came to him on the same night, descriptive of events near at hand and far distant, the interpretation of which is imparted by an angel. In the first vision (Zechariah 1:7-17) the prophet sees, in a myrtle grove, a rider upon a red horse with attendants. These announce that the whole earth is quiet as yet, unshaken by the storm that is to fall upon it; but God assures the angel that the temple shall be completed, the cities of Judah restored, and Zion comforted. To confirm and explain this promise a second vision is granted (Zechariah 1:18-21). Four horns, symbols of hostile powers, are destroyed by four craftsmen ("carpenters," Authorized Version). All impediments being thus removed, the various steps to the restoration of the theocracy are revealed. The prophet is shown, in the third vision (Zechariah 2:13), a man with a measuring line, who is checked in marking out the ground-plan of Jerusalem by an intimation that the city of the future shall be too large to be compassed by any wall, so abundant will be its population, but that God himself will be her defence and her glory. At this prospect, and at the thought of the affiliation of many heathen nations, Zion is bidden to exult. But the restoration of the material temple would be of no avail without a holy priesthood to minister therein; so the fourth vision (Zechariah 3:1-10) exhibits Joshua the high priest engaged in some official duty clad in filthy garments, not in the spotless garb required. But he is pardoned and purified, invested with robes of honour, and reinstalled in his office; and he is promised the Divine protection, and receives an announcement of the advent of Messiah, "The Branch," of whom his office is typical. The spiritual support of the theocracy is next displayed by the vision (the fifth) of the golden candlestick of the holy place (Zechariah 4:1-14), which is fed by two olive trees, representing the agencies which convey God's grace to the Church. Zerubbabel is taught to rely upon this, for by it he shall bring his work to completion. The people and the land are now to be sanctified; accordingly, the sixth vision (Zechariah 5:1-4) represents a huge roll, on which is inscribed the curse against the evil, flying rapidly through the air in token of the speed with which its mission shall be executed. God thus reveals his wrath against sinners in the land. Similarly, in the seventh vision (Zechariah 5:5-11), the unclean thing, represented by a woman, is caught and confined in an ephah, pressed clown by a sheet of lead, and transported out of the Holy Land unto Babylon, the proper home of all that is wicked. The final vision, the eighth (Zechariah 6:1-8), discloses four chariots issuing from between two brazen mountains, which are sent as the messengers of God's wrath in the four quarters of the world, till his judgments are satisfied. The destruction of the enemies of God's people is the inauguration of Messiah's kingdom; what glory is reserved for the future temple and who should be the priest to build it up, is set forth by a symbolical action (Zechariah 6:9-15). The prophet is directed to take the silver and gold, which some Jews had just brought from Babylon as offerings for the temple, and of them to make crowns, which he was first to place on the head of Joshua, the high priest, the type of Messiah, in whom were united the offices of king and priest, and then to hang them up for a memorial in the temple.
The second part (Zechariah 7:8.) is shorter and simpler than the preceding. It is after a silence of two years that the prophet now speaks. A deputation comes to the temple to ask whether the fasts instituted in memory of the calamities of Jerusalem are still to be observed. Zechariah, as chief of the prophets as well as priest, is commissioned to answer. He teaches them that God loves justice and mercy better than outward observances; that they had not listened to previous warnings, and that their hearts were hard even while they fasted. Obedience, he tolls them, is the only warrant for blessing from God; and to urge them to this he draws a glowing picture of the prosperity of restored Jerusalem, in whose happiness the once alien nations shall share, esteeming it an honour to be associated with an Israelite.
The interpretation of the rest of the book depends largely upon the view taken of its unity and integrity. If we regard Zechariah 9-11, and Zechariah 12-14, as written by the same Zechariah as the first part (which seems to me to be the most reasonable hypothesis), the following is the most acceptable explanation of them.
The temple rebuilt and its worship restored, after, it may be, the lapse of many years, Zechariah is inspired to utter the prophecies which compose the third part of his work (Zechariah 9-14.). He has two "burdens" to deliver, contained respectively in Zechariah 9-11, and 12-14. At the time when these last prophecies were uttered the Jews needed encouragement. Things had not prospered as they hoped; they were still in a depressed condition, vassals of a foreign lord, endangered by the proximity of bitter enemies. The heathen had not come flocking to Jerusalem, eager to embrace the Jewish religion; the temple was not enriched by the gifts of distant nations; their country suffered much from the passage of alien armies which traversed their territory. They had no king; the family of David had fallen into utter insignificance, and their political degradation seemed complete. Now the prophet is commissioned to raise their spirits by a series of fresh communications. And first he gives them hopes of renewed prosperity by foretelling the chastisement of those nations which held territory originally granted to the Israelites — Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, and over which David and Solomon had actually ruled. So he opens with announcing the judgment on these nations in the neighbourhood, and the preservation of Judaea amid the coming calamities (Zechariah 9:1-8). Then shall come to Zion, in meek and lowly fashion, her King, no lordly warrior, but a peaceful Prince, who shall cause the weapons of war to perish, unite in one the divided people, restore the captives, give fertility to the land, and found one universal kingdom (Zechariah 9:9-17). Such happy results can be expected only from the God of Israel, not from the idols and teraphim to which once they had recourse. It was for such sins that they had evil rulers set over them; but these shall be removed, and the theocracy shall be established on a firm and lasting foundation, victory and happiness shall be theirs, and the scattered tribes shall be gathered from every part of the world, and serve the Lord in their own chosen land (ch. 10.). But there is another side to the picture. They shall not receive this Prince, this Shepherd, when he comes; and punishment falls upon them, first in the north and then in the lowlands and the south. The prophet is bidden to personate Jehovah's Shepherd, and he relates what he himself did in carrying out his commission, the treatment which he received, and how he threw up the office in disgust. The section ends with the prediction of the calamitous rule of "a foolish shepherd," who shall himself be in turn destroyed. The second "burden" is concerned with events chiefly future, but all connected with Israel and the theocracy. The prophet sees Jerusalem surrounded with enemies, but saved by the intervention of Jehovah, who strengthens the people to fight valiantly. This great deliverance shall be followed by a national repentance, which shall be deep and full, resulting in the abolition of the very memory of idols and false prophets, and a general purification (Zechariah 12:1-13:6). Recurring to the statement of the rejection of the Shepherd, the prophet shows the result of this sin — the Shepherd smitten, the sheep are scattered, and a remnant only is saved through much tribulation (Zechariah 13:7-9). Then Jerusalem is introduced vanquished, plundered, desolate, when suddenly the Lord comes to her rescue; mighty convulsions of nature accompany his appearance; he raises the holy city to the highest splendour; the enemies perish in terrible fashion; all that are left of the nations shall come hither to worship, and everything hence. forward shall be "holiness to the Lord" (ch. 14.).
"Through the ages, ever since the Christ took his seat on the throne, 'crowned with glory and with honour,' his prediction has been and is being fulfilled. In degree as the kingdom extends and its influence is felt, the curse is lifted from the race, and 'holiness to the Lord' becomes inscribed on those who have been in arms against him, enemies by a mind in evil works. The end is not yet; we see not yet all things put under him. But we see the kingdom advancing, and in due time the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets (Revelation 10:2) — that mystery which is also 'the mystery of Christ,' that the Gentiles (ταÌ ἐìθνη, those outside the Israel of God) are fellow heirs (with Israel) and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel (Ephesians 3:3-6). This mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but is manifested now in this latter time, it was given to Zechariah as to other prophets of the former dispensation to make known".
§ 2. AUTHOR AND DATE.
The name Zechariah was not uncommon among the Jews; more than twenty bore it in the Old Testament. It is interpreted, "The Lord remembers." The prophet calls himself (Zechariah 1:1) "the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo," which words the LXX. translates, Ζαχαριìαν τοÌν τοῦ Βαραχιìου υἱοÌν ̓ΑδδωÌ τοÌν προφηìτην, as if he was son of Barachias and Iddo, one his natural father, the other his by adoption. But the English Version is doubtless correct in calling him "son of Berechiah," who was son of Iddo. The only objection to this genealogy is that he is termed in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14, "the son of Iddo;" but the word "son" is used loosely for "grandson," as Laban in Genesis 29:5 is called "son" of Nahor, and in Genesis 31:28 Laban calls Jacob's children his "sons." Probably Barachias died young, and Iddo, being more celebrated, and being the immediate predecessor of his grandson, was alone mentioned in the historical books. Iddo was one of the priests who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Nehemiah 12:4) Zechariah, therefore, was one of the family of Aaron, and exercised his sacerdotal office in the days of Joiakim, the son of Jeshua (Nehemiah 12:12, Nehemiah 12:16). But he acted as prophet before this, if we can reason on the term "young man" possibly applied to him in Zechariah 2:4 (comp. Jeremiah 1:6). He must have been born in Chaldea, as he commenced his prophetical office eight years after the return, some two months later than his elder contemporary, Haggai, both of these seers having the same object in view — the encouragement of the people in the interrupted work of rebuilding the temple. Jewish tradition makes him a member of the great synagogue, and to have had some share in providing for the liturgical services of the temple. As has been noted in the Introduction to Haggai (§ II.), these two prophets are credited with the production of some eight of the psalms, the contents of which are quite consistent with their supposed authorship. The latest note of time in the prophecy is the fourth year of Darius (Zechariah 7:1); but it is with reason conjectured that Zechariah lived to see the temple finished two years later (see Ezra 6:14, Ezra 6:15). Tradition makes him arrive at extreme old age, dying in Judaea, and being buried in a tomb near to the last resting place of his fellow seer Haggai, in the neighbourhood of Eleutheropolis. The sepulchral monument called after him on Mount Olivet is of much later date. Many early writers identified our prophet with the "Zacharias son of Barachias" slain, as our Lord says (Matthew 23:35), "between the sanctuary and the altar." But it is most improbable that the Jews should have committed such a crime at that time, when they had just hearkened to the prophet's voice and done his bidding; there is no hint of any such ending to Zechariah's career in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, or Malachi, nor is any tendency to such a national crime imputed to his contemporaries. And it is now well recognized that the name Barachias in the text of the Gospel is an interpolatian or alteration, and that the incident mentioned has nothing to do with our prophet, but concerns the son of Jehoiada, whose murder is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.
The first prophecy of Zechariah being uttered in the second year of Darius, and his third in the fourth, the period of the active exercise of his office extended from B.C. 520 to B.C. 518. The headship in the college of priests became his subsequent to this last date, probably on the death of Iddo, his grandfather. It is well pointed out by Dean Perowne how important for the due discharge of his special duty was Zechariah's priestly origin. In the history of Israel "too often the prophet had had to stand forth in direct antagonism to the priest." When the latter was a mere formalist, and ignorant of the inner meaning of the holy things which he handled, the former had to recall men's minds to the truth enshrined in the outward ritual. At this time there was danger of apathetic neglect of religion, that the soul and the expression of it would fade entirely away. "At such a time, no more fitting instrument could be found to rouse the people, whose heart had grown cold, than one who united to the authority of the prophet the zeal and the traditions of a sacerdotal family."
Concerning the genuineness of the first eight chapters of the Book of Zechariah, no question has ever been raised. It is quite different with regard to the remainder, the authorship of which has been the subject of dispute since the days of Joseph Mede until the present, and is still undecided. Merle was led to dispute the unity of the book by the fact that in Matthew 27:9 the well known passage concerning the thirty pieces of silver in Zechariah 11:12, Zechariah 11:13 is attributed to Jeremiah. Acting on this hint, Mede and his followers found what they considered ample grounds for considering these six last chapters to belong to pre-exilian times, "disputing," as Calmer dryly remarks, "several chapters of Zechariah in order to restore a verse to Jeremiah." Various explanations of the statement in St. Matthew have been offered, e.g. that the name "Jeremiah" is an interpolation, or a clerical error, or that the evangelist quoted from memory, or that the Book of Jeremiah being placed first gave its name to the writings of the other prophets. Any one of these answers would be sufficient to overthrow the argument that is built on this quotation. It cannot be denied that the opposition to the opinion of the unity of our book is of quite modern growth. It was absolutely unknown to antiquity. Neither Jew nor Christian ever disputed the genuineness of these six chapters till some two hundred years ago. It must be remembered that the sacred canon was fixed soon after Zechariah's death, when the question of authorship could most early have been settled, and there is no proof whatever that the book was not then such as it has reached our hands, and such as all the versions make it to be. The care exhibited in assigning the other prophetical works to their rightful authors, even in the case of the brief prophecy of Obadiah, would surely not be wanting in the case of this long and important oracle. The uniform consensus of antiquity can only be overborne by most cogent arguments. If, indeed, later critics were of one mind on the subject; if, induced by weighty considerations, supported by the new appliances of modern scholarship and fresh discoveries, they were unanimous in affixing a definite date or author to the disputed chapters, there would be, perhaps, sufficient reason to subvert the traditional opinion. But unanimity is remarkably wanting in the theories that have been published. While some affirm merely that the six last chapters are not written by the author of the first eight, others assert that this portion of the book is the work of two authors living at different periods. Many later critics assign ch. 9-11, to an anonymous prophet who lived in pre-exilian times, and ch. 12-14, to another Zechariah who flourished just before the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The diversity of date assigned to these supposed authors is wide indeed. Dr. Pusey, in his edition of the 'Minor Prophets,' gives a curious "Table of dates which in this century have been assigned to Zechariah 9-14." By this it appears that the evidence which satisfies one critic that Zechariah wrote in Uzziah's reign, convinces another that he lived some four hundred and fifty years later — about B.C. 330. The internal evidence which produces such astonishing results must be very uncertain in itself, or be manipulated and interpreted in the loosest manner. The arguments on both sides of the question have been discussed at great length, and will be found set forth in order in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' and in the works of Dr. Pusey, Dr. Wright, and many others, and succinctly in Archdeacon Perowne's useful edition of 'The Prophet Zechariah.' We add here a brief view of the matter, the objections against the unity of the book and the answers to these objections following one another.
The objections may be classed under two heads, viz.: A, differences in style in the two parts of the book; and, B, historical and chronological references which are inconsistent with the traditionary view of the authorship.
A. Differences in style. That there is a marked difference between the style of Zechariah 1-7, and the other parts is evident.
1. The first is prosaic, unimaginative, cold; the second is fervid, poetical, lofty, mysterious. But this variety is accounted for by the change of subject. The description of certain visions which really occurred to the writer required a plain, unvarnished narrative, in which flights of imagination and oratorical effects would have been unsuitable. The grand prophecies which follow, uttered probably many years later, and which bear a great similarity to the later Jewish apocalyptic literature, allowed a different treatment. The writer's individuality might here appear; he might bestow care on the form and diction of his communications, and make his language equal his theme. The prophetical inspiration came, it may be, slowly and gradually, giving him time to elaborate the scenes presented and to paint them with the hues of imagination. Many men write both prose and poetry, and it would often he very difficult to decide from internal considerations that these compositions were the work of the same author. It must also be observed that the passage Zechariah 2:10-13 rises into poetry, while Zechariah 11:4, etc., sinks to ordinary prose.
2. Special phrases and idioms which occur in one part are not found in the other. Thus the introductory formulae, "The word of the Lord came" (Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 4:8; Zechariah 6:9, etc.), "Thus saith the Lord of hosts" (which occurs very frequently), "l lifted up mine eyes, and saw" (Zechariah 1:18; Zechariah 2:1; Zechariah 5:1; Zechariah 6:1), are never found in the second part; while the phrase, "in that day," which is very common in the latter (e.g. Zechariah 9:16; Zechariah 11:11; Zechariah 12:3, Zechariah 12:4, etc.), is entirely absent from the former. Now, Hosea uses introductory formulae in the first five chapters of his book, but none in the last nine; yet no one disputes the integrity of that work. How little dependence can be placed on such variations may be seen by an examination of three of Milton's poems by Professor Stanley Leathes, quoted by Dr. Pusey, p. 505, note 9, by which it appears that in 'L'Allegro' there are 325 words not in 'II Penseroso,' and 315 not in 'Lycidas,' and that in 'I1 Pensoroso' there are nearly 440 words not in 'Lyeidas.' Some of the formulae mentioned are not needed in the second part, and their absence proves nothing. On the other hand, there are certain rare expressions common to both portions. Thus: "None passed through nor returned" (Zechariah 7:14 and 9:8); "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come" (Zechariah 2:10 and 9:9). There is a peculiar use of the word "eye" in Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10; and Zechariah 9:1, Zechariah 9:8. The appellations, "Judah and Israel," "Ephraim and Joseph," are applied to the theocracy (Zechariah 1:12; Zechariah 2:2, Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 8:15; and 9:13; 10:6; 11:14, etc.). In both divisions the destruction of the enemies of Israel is predicted (Zechariah 1:14, Zechariah 1:15; Zechariah 6:8; and 9:1-6; 12:2, etc.; 14:14); Messiah is celebrated and highly exalted (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; and 9:9, 10); the tribes are invited to return (Zechariah 2:6, Zechariah 2:7 and 9:11, 12); the nations shall be converted and join themselves to Israel (Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 6:15; Zechariah 8:22; and 14:16, 17); holiness shall be found preeminently in the restored community (Zechariah 3:2, etc.; 5:1, etc.; and 13:1, etc.; 14:20, 21). We may compare also the promises of abundance, peace, and happiness, in Zechariah 1:16, Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:2, Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2; Zechariah 8:3-5, with those in Zechariah 9:8, etc.; 12:2, etc.; 13:1; 14:8, etc.; and of the return of the tribes and their consolation in Zechariah 8:8, Zechariah 8:9 and 10:6, 10 (Knabenbauer).
3. The mention of the prophet's own name or the names of his contemporarie, (Zechariah 1:1, Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 3:1; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 6:10, Zechariah 6:14; Zechariah 7:1, Zechariah 7:2, Zechariah 7:8); the notes of time (Zechariah 1:1, Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1); the introduction of Satan (Zechariah 3:1, Zechariah 3:2). All these things, found in the first part, are absent in the second. Naturally so. The earlier section deals directly with contemporary persons and events, the later contains dark prophecies of the future, the date and place of whose delivery were of no practical importance. The course of his predictions did not lead the prophet to speak of Satan in the second part, and the omission of all mention of the evil spirit is equally a feature in the books of other prophets.
4. The absence of visions and the change of figures and imagery entirely separate the second from the former part. But really the answer already given to objection 1 applies equally to this criticism. The changes observed are no more than such as might reasonably be expected from the differing subjects. In the one case the prophet had to narrate visions, and to give practical warnings and exhortations; in the other he was carried away into the distant future, rapt in anticipations of coming glory. What wonder is it that the form of his utterances was altered, and tropes and figures hitherto unused were introduced? We may add, too, that Amos has visions in one part of his book, and in the other only denunciations, and that the first part of our book comprises two chapters in which there are no visions; yet no one has disputed the integrity of the prophecy of Amos, or doubted that the author of ch. 1-6, of Zechariah and 7., 8., was one and the same. But there is another positive argument for the integrity of the book that must not be neglected, and this is the apparent use made in both parts of the earlier and post-exilian prophets. In his opening address, and afterwards, Zechariah refers to "the former prophets" (Zechariah 1:4-6 and 7:7, 12), and commentators have gathered numerous such allusions. Thus the mention of the vine and fig tree (Zechariah 3:10) seems to come from Micah 4:4; the remarkable prediction that when the king came to Zion chariots and horses should be cut off from Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:10), is also renewed from Micah (Micah 5:10); the exhortation to "flee from the land of the north" (Zechariah 2:6, Authorized Version) is founded on that of Isaiah (Isaiah 48:20), "Flee ye from the Chaldeans;" the words, "Every one that is left of all the nations shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles" (Zechariah 14:16), are a remembrance of Isaiah 66:23, "From one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord" (comp. Isaiah 60:6-9); the words (Zechariah 13:9), "I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God," are almost verbally from Hosea 2:23; the use of the title of the Messiah, "The Branch" (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12), is in accordance with Isaiah 4:2 and Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; the loosing of the exiles from the pit, and the rendering of double unto them (Zechariah 9:11, Zechariah 9:12), are found in Isaiah 51:14 and 61:7; Zechariah 9:5, in which is announced the desolation of Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron, is taken from Zephaniah 2:4; the language (Zechariah 10:3) concerning "the shepherds" and the "goats" is borrowed from Ezekiel 34:2, Ezekiel 34:17; from Ezekiel 24:0, comes the whole allegory of Zechariah 11:0.; from Ezekiel 5:2, Ezekiel 5:12 is derived the warning (Zechariah 13:8, Zechariah 13:9) that two parts of the people shall be cut off, while a third is loft in the land; the prophecy of the four chariots (ch. 6.) would be unintelligible without the visions in Daniel 2:7.; the expression, "the pride of Jordan" (Zechariah 11:3), is taken from Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:19. We need not multiply instances further. If these examples are worth anything, and are themselves genuine, they are sufficient to show that the author makes ample use of the prophets that were before him, and likewise, in the second part, quoted largely from post-exilian writers, thus determining, one would infer, his own date.
B. The second head of objections is concerned with historical and chronological references. Critics, as we said above, have divided Zech. 9-14. among two writers, sometimes assigning ch. 9-11, to one, a contemporary of Amos and Isaiah; and the remainder to another, whose date is more uncertain, but at any rate was pre-exilian. Another theory, which places the author in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, needs no refutation in the face of the only consistent exegesis. The point of the former objection is that the whole part is thought to show indubitable proof that it was written before the Captivity.
1. The kingdom of the ten tribes is supposed to be still standing (Zechariah 9:10, Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:6, Zechariah 10:7, Zechariah 10:10; Zechariah 11:14); the prophecy against Damascus, etc. (Zechariah 9:1-7), would have been meaningless if the peoples therein denounced had already lost their national existence and suffered punishment for their sins against the Hebrews. But this prophecy may be regarded as especially applicable to the Persian period, and the territory named is that which Persian armies would traverse in their march southwards; it belonged according to promise to the Israelites, and the fate announced for its inhabitants was intended as an assurance to the returned Jews that God watched over them still, and would in the end punish those who usurped their privileges. Nothing can be inferred from the use of the terms "Ephraim," "Judah," and "Israel," for they are employed indiscriminately to express the whole people in or after the Captivity (comp. Jeremiah 30:3, Jeremiah 30:4; Jeremiah 31:6, Jeremiah 31:27, Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 33:14; Ezekiel 37:16; Ezra 1:3; Ezra 3:1; Ezra 4:1, Ezra 4:3, Ezra 4:4; Ezra 7:13, Ezra 7:14).
2. Idolatry is still practised (Zechariah 10:2), which was not the case after the return. But it is very probable that the prophet in this passage is referring to past transgressions; nothing is said of idolatry being a sin of his days; though a warning against superstitious practices connected with teraphim and divination may have been needed then, as indeed it might be now in the case of some of the inhabitants of Palestine. 3. The mention of Assyria instead of Babylon in Zechariah 10:10 shows that the prophecy was composed when Assyria was still a flourishing kingdom. In answer it may be said that the country is referred to whither the tribes had been deported, and where doubtless they had suffered much cruelty at the hands of the Assyrians, though these were now a conquered people. The name "Assyria," too, is used in a loose way for Babylon and Persia in Ezra 6:22; Judith 1:7; 2:1. 4. The state of things described in Zechariah 11:2, Zechariah 11:3, Zechariah 11:6, Zechariah 11:8, belongs to the period of anarchy after the death of Jeroboam II. (2 Kings 15:8-16). The description, however, would equally well suit any invasion which occasioned widespread ruin and destruction, and might be applied to the Roman or any other attack; and whatever explanation we give of the cutting off of the "three shepherds," nothing compels us to see in it the violent deaths of Shallum, Zechariah, and a third (?) Menahem — a suggestion which Dr. Pusey calls "even absurd." So it is affirmed that the statements in Zechariah 13:9 and 14:2 apply to times before the Captivity; whereas it is plain that the prophet is hero speaking of the future, not of the past. To touch briefly on the positive side of the question, we may say that there are details and passages and allusions which could have been written only after the exile. Zechariah mentions governors; he never hints that there was any king in Judaea at the time when he writes; Judah and Israel had been in exile, and some of them still remained in the land of their captivity (Zechariah 9:11, Zechariah 9:12; Zechariah 10:6-10); the Jewish nation, Judah and Ephraim, shall wage successful war against "Javan," the Greek rulers of Syria (Zechariah 9:13); for the jealousy between the two divisions of the chosen people is ended, and they form one nation, dwelling in Judah and Jerusalem. This could never have been said of pre-exilian times.
Many other alleged proofs of pre-exilian authorship are capable of easy solution, as will be soon by examining their treatment in the Exposition Suffice it here to say that, while adhering to the traditionary view of the unity and integrity of the book, we lay no great stress on the consideration that Zechariah is the author of the whole; and as long as it is allowed that the writer was gifted with predictive powers, and exercised his prophetical office under the inspiration of God, we deem it a matter of secondary importance whether the words that pass under his name are assigned to one, two, or three authors. It is conjectured that these last chapters had been placed at the end of the minor prophets before Malachi was added to the canon, and thus became appended to Zechariah without further examination. While generally adopting the traditional theory in the Exposition, we have not been unmindful of modern criticism, and, whore practicable, have introduced the interpretation which other views of the author's date have constrained some commentators to maintain.
§ 3. GENERAL CHARACTER.
Regarding the Book of Zechariah in its integrity, we moot with great diversity of style, in accordance, as we have seen above, with the varying subject matter. Visions that came before the prophet's own eyes are narrated in simple prose; in uttering prophecy he rises to a higher level, employing figures and symbols such as Jeremiah and Daniel used, but also showing an originality which gives a peculiar character to his work. The grandest and most powerful passages are found in ch. 9-11. These are as fine as any in Hebrew poetry. But in other places the prophet is often harsh, inharmonious; emphasized by repetition; passes from one point to another abruptly, without connecting link. His parallelisms want the neatness and harmony which are found in earlier writings; his language is tolerably pure and free from Chaldaisms. Many causes have combined to render his oracles difficult of comprehension, so that Jerome speaks of Zechariah as the longest and most obscure of all the twelve prophets. But it must be observed that many of the difficulties found in his work have been imported by commentators themselves. Jewish expositors have refused to acknowledge in his pages a humbled and suffering Messiah; and modern critics, coming to the study with prejudiced notions concerning the prophet's office, have endeavoured to discover sanction for their views in the text, and naturally find the task an arduous one. Scholarship without faith is of little use in interpreting dark placea of Scripture.
§ 4. LITERATURE.
The special commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah are very numerous We select a few out of many that are noteworthy. Among the Jews we have David Kimchi's 'Commentary,' translated by A. McCaul, and other commentaries by Rashi and Aben Ezra. Of Christian and modern commentators we may mention the following:, Grynaeus; Ursinus; W. Pembte, 'Exposition; Nemethus, 'Proph. Zechariah Explio.'; Venema, 'Serm. Acad.'; Biayney, 'A New Translation'; Koester, 'Meletemata'; Stonard; Baumgarten, 'Nachtgesichte Zach.'; Moore, 'Prophets of the Restoration'; Neumann, 'Die Weissag. d. Sakh.'; Kliefoth, 'Der Fr. Sach. ubers.'; Kohler, 'Die Nachexil. Proph.'; Von Ortenberg, 'Die Bestundtheile d. Buch. Sach.'; Pressel, 'Comm. zu Haggai,' etc.; Dr. C.H.H. Wright, 'Zechariah and his Prophecies'; W.H. Lowe, 'Hebr. Student's Comm. on Zechariah'; Dr. W.L. Alexander, 'Zechariah, his Visions and Warnings'; Archdeacon Perowne, in 'Cambridge Bible for Schools'.
Besides the above-named commentators, there are numerous writers who have discussed the question of the integrity of the book, a list of the chief of whom will be found in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' and a further selection in the Introduction to Dr. Wrights work.
5. ARRANGEMENT IN SECTIONS.
The book consists of three parts.
Part I. (Zechariah 1:6.) A series of eight visions, and a symbolical action.
§ 1. (Zechariah 1:1.) Title and author.
§ 2. (Zechariah 1:2-6.) The prophet admonishes the people not to follow their forefathers' evil example, but to turn to the Lord with all their heart.
§ 3. (Zechariah 1:7-17.) The first vision: the horsemen in the myrtle grove.
§ 4. (Zechariah 1:18-21.) The second vision: the four horns and the four craftsmen.
§ 5. (Zechariah 2:1-13.) The third vision: the man with the measuring line.
§ 6. (Zechariah 3:1-10.) The fourth vision: Joshua the high priest before the angel.
§ 7. (Zechariah 4:1-14.) The fifth vision: the golden candlestick.
§ 8. (Zechariah 5:1-4.) The sixth vision: the flying roll
§ 9. (Zechariah 5:5-11.) The seventh vision: the woman in the ephah.
§ 10. (Zechariah 6:1-8.) The eighth vision: the four chariots.
§ 11. (Zechariah 6:9-15.) A symbolical action — the crowning of the high priest,
Part II. (Ch. 7, 8.) Answer to a question concerning the observance of certain fasts.
§ 1 (Zechariah 7:1-3.) A deputation comes from Bethel to ask whether a fast instituted in calamitous times was still to be maintained.
§ 2. (Zechariah 7:4-7.) In answer they are told that fasting is in itself an indifferent thing, but is to be judged by the conduct of those who observe it.
§ 3. (Zechariah 7:8-14.) They are further reminded that they had been disobedient in old time, and had been punished by exile.
§ 4. (Zechariah 8:1-8.) The Lord promises to show his love for Zion, to dwell among his people, and to fill Jerusalem with a happy populace.
§ 5. (Zechariah 8:9-17.) The people are exhorted to be of good cheer, for God will henceforth give them his blessing, which, however, was conditional on their obedience.
§ 6. (Zechariah 8:18-23.) The fasts should be turned into joyful festivals, former calamities being forgotten; the heathen should worship the God of Israel, and esteem it an honour to be received into fellowship with the Jewish nation.
Part III. (Zechariah 9-14.) The future of the powers of the world and of the kingdom of God.
A. (Zechariah 9-11.) The first burden.
§ 1. (Zechariah 9:1-8.) To prepare the land for Israel, and to prove God's care for his people, the neighbouring heathen shall be destroyed, while Israel shall dwell in safety and independence.
§ 2. (Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10.) Then shall the righteous King come to Zion in lowly fashion, and inaugurate a kingdom of peace.
§ 3. (Zechariah 9:11-17.) All Israel united into one people shall wage successful war with adversaries, and attain to glory, and increase largely in numbers.
§ 4. (Zechariah 10:1, Zechariah 10:2.) These blessings are to be asked from the Lord, not from idols or teraphim.
§ 5. (Zechariah 10:3, Zechariah 10:4.) The evil rulers set over them for their sins shall be removed, and Israel shall be firmly established.
§ 6. (Zechariah 10:5-7.) Israel and Judah together shall triumph over their foes.
§ 7. (Zechariah 10:8-12.) The scattered people shall be gathered from all parts of the world, and dwell in their own land, under the protection of Jehovah.
§ 8. (Zechariah 11:1-3.) The Holy Land is threatened with judgment.
§ 9. (Zechariah 11:4-14.) The punishment falls because the people reject the good Shepherd, personified by the prophet, who rules the flock and punishes evildoers in vain, and at last flings up his office in indignation at their contumacy.
§ 10. (Zechariah 11:15-17.) In retribution the people are given over to a foolish shepherd, who shall destroy them, but shall himself, in turn, perish miserably.
B. (Zechariah 12-14.) The second burden.
§ 1. (Zechariah 12:1-9.) Hostile nations gather together against Jerusalem, but shall themselves be overthrown; for the inhabitants and their leaders, trusting in the Lord, will overcome all opposition.
§ 2. (Zechariah 12:10-14.) There shall ensue an outpouring of God's Spirit, which shall produce a great national repentance.
§ 3. (Zechariah 13:1-6.) This repentance wilt lead to purification from past defilement, and a reaction against idolatry and false prophets.
§ 4. (Zechariah 13:7-9.) For the smiting of the good Shepherd Israel is punished. passes through much tribulation, by which it is refined, and in the end (though but a remnant) is saved.
§ 5. (Zechariah 14:1, Zechariah 14:2.) Jerusalem is represented as taken and plundered.
§ 6. (Zechariah 14:3-7) Then the Lord himself comes to her help, great convulsions of nature accompanying his presence.
§ 7. (Ch. 14:8-11.) The land shall be transformed and renewed, and the Lord shall be owned as the sole King of all the earth.
§ 8. (Ch. 14:12-15.) Further details concerning the destruction of the enemies: they shall perish by plague, by mutual slaughter, by the sword of Judah.
§ 9. (Ch. 14:16-19.) The heathen shall be converted and join with the Hebrews in the regular worship of Jehovah.
§ 10. (Ch. 14:20, 21.) Then everything alike shall be holy, and the ungodly shall be wholly excluded from the house of the Lord.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29