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Whedon's Commentary on the Bible Whedon's Commentary
by Daniel Whedon
THE prophet Zechariah the name means Jehovah remembers is called “the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo” (Zechariah 1:1), in Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, “the son of Iddo.” The last named was the chief of one of the priestly families that returned from exile with Zerubbabel and Joshua (Nehemiah 12:4). Berechiah may have died young or at least may never have come to prominence, and so the name of the better-known grandfather came to be attached to that of the prophet. That the latter should be called the son of the former is easily explained by the loose use of that term among Semitic peoples. The only passages outside of the Book of Zechariah in which the prophet is mentioned are Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, where it is recorded that he, in company with Haggai, was instrumental in reviving interest in the rebuilding of the temple. In Nehemiah 12:16, a priest Zechariah is mentioned, who may be identical with our prophet; if so, Zechariah, like Ezekiel, combined the priestly and the prophetic offices.
For other information concerning the prophet’s life we are dependent upon the book bearing his name. According to Zechariah 1:1, his activity began “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius” (520 B.C.), that is, about two months after Haggai began preaching. The last date mentioned (Zechariah 7:1) is the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of King Darius. From these chronological notes it would seem that the public activity of Zechariah covered only about two years. If he was the grandson of Iddo, who returned from exile in 537, Zechariah was probably a young man when the prophetic call came to him, and we may assume, perhaps, that his influence continued to be felt for many years subsequent to 518 B.C. The time demanded a prophet with a living faith and moral earnestness. The lofty anticipations of the pre-exilic prophets and the prophets of the exilic period had not been realized; the foreign oppressor was still strong and powerful, while the Jews were poor and feeble; as a result the first hopeful enthusiasm of the returned exiles had been displaced by despondency and gloom. To remove these and to revive faith in God and in the ultimate triumph of his kingdom was the task of Zechariah.
Of the later years of the prophet we know nothing. Numerous traditions and legends have grown up around the name of Zechariah, but they are of little or no historical value. One of these asserts that, at an advanced age, he died in Jerusalem and was buried by the side of Haggai.
Unity and Date of the Book.
Since between chapters 8 and 9 a distinct break may be noticed, it has become customary to divide the Book of Zechariah into two parts, chapters 1-8 and chapters 9-14. The utterances contained in the first eight chapters are ascribed to Zechariah by their headings (Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1), but no statements of this character are found in chapters 9-14. This in itself does not point to diversity of authorship, for it is not necessary to place at the head of each separate oracle the name of the author; the name found in the earlier chapters might be thought to cover all the utterances of the entire book. And yet, for other reasons, many Old Testament scholars believe that chapters 9-14 do not come from Zechariah, the author of chapters 1-8. This makes it necessary to consider, first of all, the unity of the book, to see whether it is the work of one prophet or of more. Only when this question is settled is it possible to consider intelligently the question. of date or dates.
All scholars are agreed that chapters 1-8 come from Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo (Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1), and that the prophecies contained in these chapters were delivered in the second and fourth years of Darius (520 and 518 B.C.). The historical situation of Judah during these years is described in the Introduction to Haggai (see pp. 548ff.). but it may not be amiss to point out briefly how the internal evidence confirms the testimony of the chronological notes. The temple and the city walls were still in ruins (Zechariah 1:7-17); the foundation was laid, but the completion seemed far distant (Zechariah 4:6-10); peace had been restored throughout the Persian empire (Zechariah 1:7-21); the nonfulfillment of the pre-exilic prophecies had caused the people to lose confidence in the civil and religious leaders (3, 4), and to doubt the reality of the divine interest and power (Zechariah 1:16). All this was true in 520 B.C., and the messages of Zechariah contained in chapters 1-6 were admirably adapted to the needs of that time, and they were not without effect.
The building enterprise was resumed, and two years later sufficient progress had been made to raise the question whether the time had not arrived to discontinue the fasts instituted to commemorate events centering around the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 (Zechariah 7:1-7; Zechariah 8:18-19); evidently the prospects were becoming brighter (Zechariah 8:20-23). In view of this internal evidence there can hardly be any doubt that the prophecies in chapters 1-8 were uttered in 520 and 518 for the comfort, encouragement, and inspiration of the postexilic community.
Can the same assertion be made of chapters 9-14? Are they the work of the author of chapters 1-8? If not, is it possible to determine their date?
I. Unity. Until near the middle of the seventeenth century no doubts were expressed concerning the unity of the Book of Zechariah. Then the Cambridge theologian Joseph Mede suggested that chapters 9-14 came not from Zechariah but from Jeremiah. He was led to this conclusion partly by the testimony of Matthew 27:9, which quotes Zechariah 11:13, as coming from Jeremiah, and partly by a study of the contents of the chapters, which he thought pointed to a period other than that of Zechariah. “There is no scripture saith they (9-14) are Zachary’s, but there is scripture saith they are Jeremy’s as this of the evangelist.” And again, “Certainly if a man weighs the contents of some of them, they should in likelihood be of an elder date than the time of Zachary, namely, before the captivity, for the subjects of some of them were scarce in being after that time.” Since the days of Mede, and especially since the publication of Fluegge’s treatise on Zechariah, in 1784, the unity of the Book of Zechariah has received perhaps as much attention as any problem of Old Testament criticism. Professor Robinson ( American Journal of Semitic Languages, xii, pp. 2ff.) enumerates one hundred and three authors who, since the days of Mede, have treated the subject in one or more publications. According to his classification thirty-six of these “defend” the unity of the book; it should be noted, however, that in some instances the defense is by no means enthusiastic; J.J.S. Perowne, for example, who is classed among the defenders, is content with saying, “Indeed, it is not easy to say which way the weight of evidence preponderates.”
Modern scholarship tends more and more toward denying to the prophet Zechariah the last six chapters of the book; even cautious and otherwise exceedingly conservative scholars like Von Orelli and Kirkpatrick have felt constrained to give up the unity of the book. “It seems,” says the latter, “in the highest degree improbable that these chapters can be the work of Zechariah, the coadjutor of Zerubbabel and Joshua in their great work of rebuilding the temple.” Within recent years there has been made but one attempt to defend, by the use of strictly scientific methods, the unity of the book, namely, by Professor Robinson in the dissertation to which reference has been made. Other scholars hold the same view, but no one else has treated the subject so exhaustively. C.H.H. Wright, both in the Bampton Lectures of 1878 and in his Introduction to the Old Testament, takes the ground that “the arguments in favor of the genuineness and unity of the book overweigh those adduced on the other side.” So also T.T. Perowne, “We have not as yet sufficient ground for relinquishing the ancient and tenable belief that the Book of Zechariah… is throughout the work of the author whose name it bears.”
An exhaustive discussion of the entire question would require more space than can be given to it in a work of this kind, and all that the present writer can expect to do is to point out the lines on which the investigation must proceed, and the most probable results to which this inquiry leads. The student who desires to pursue the subject further may find much valuable information in the dissertation of Professor Robinson; in the Expositor’s Bible; in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Zechariah”; in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Zechariah”; in Driver’s Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, and in other books and articles mentioned by these authors.
The investigation must be carried on along three lines, the linguistic, the historical, and the theological:
1 . Linguistic Characteristics. It has been pointed out again and again by writers that there exist between the two parts of the Book of Zechariah very marked differences in diction, in style, and in other features of composition. (1) With reference to the general style the justice of Eichhorn’s remark is recognized by all. “The manner of writing,” says he, “in the second portion is far loftier and more mysterious, the images employed grander and more magnificent.” Rosenmueller calls the style of the first eight chapters “prosaic, feeble, poor”; that of the last six, “poetic, weighty, concise, flowing.” (2) Attention has been called to the preference, in one or the other section, for certain phrases and words for example, in chapters 1-8, “thus saith Jehovah,” “the word of Jehovah came unto,”
the parenthetic “oracle of Jehovah”; in 9-14, “in that day,” etc. Long lists of individual words have been prepared. (3) In the second part are wanting the careful headings indicating author and date, which are found in the first part. (4) The figures and imagery of the one differ from those of the other. The first part abounds in visions, with imagery mysterious enough to require an interpreter; the second part has no visions, but in chapter xi it introduces two allegories. It has the images of the shepherd and the sheep, of Jehovah as the captain of his people, of the use of the people as weapons, and others.
Some of these arguments possess little or no weight: (1) The occurrence of visions and the use of certain imagery in one part of the book (objection 4), while in the other part visions are absent and different imagery is used, is not conclusive against the unity of authorship. The change may be due to a change of subject or of purpose (compare Amos 1-6 with 7-9). (2) The absence of careful headings in the second part (3) proves nothing, by itself. (3) Over against the lists of words and phrases which are thought to point to difference in authorship (2) long lists of words and phrases thought to favor unity of authorship have been presented. In addition, Professor Robinson has pointed out that both parts contain specimens of clumsy diction, of repetition of the same words, of the use of phrases not the same in both parts unused by other writers, of the frequent use of vocatives, and of variableness of spelling. But arguments of this sort prove either too much or nothing at all, for, as Cheyne says, “by such a method it would be easy to prove that the whole of the Old Testament had but one author.” Similarities and resemblances in language and style may easily be explained, but when different parts of one and the same book show marked differences the question arises inevitably whether such differences can be harmonized with unity of authorship. However we may explain the resemblances in the language of the two parts and they can all be explained by the fact that both sections belong to the same stage in the history of the Hebrew language the question still arises whether the differences in style and language which remain after all due allowance has been made for difference in subject-matter can be harmonized with unity of authorship. The present writer has expressed in another connection (see on Joel, p. 137) his conviction that style and diction by themselves are unsafe criteria to determine the date of a writing, and yet it seems to him that in the present case the two parts differ so widely in the broad and general linguistic features that it becomes at least very probable that the two parts were not written by one and the same author.
2 . Historical Statements and Allusions. The historical situation described and presupposed in chapters 9-14 is not that of chapters 1-8. The prophecies in the early part of the book have an intimate connection with the events in the days of Darius; they meet the needs of a well-defined historical situation. The Jews are encouraged to rebuild the temple and the city; they are promised speedy deliverance from their present distress, and success and prosperity for the immediate future. Such message was adapted to the needs of the Jewish community in 520; but are the pictures of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and of the other calamities which are to befall the nation (chapters 12, 14) before the final triumph shall come, adapted to the needs of the same community? What is true of these two chapters is equally true of other portions of 9-14. This claim does not imply a denial of the reality of prediction in Zechariah 9-14; for whenever the words were written, it is clear that the writer penetrated the future until he beheld the final consummation of the kingdom of God; nevertheless, the prophecies whose dates are beyond question make it certain that the prophets always connected the future with the present, that their messages were intended primarily for their day and generation. Now, the message of chapters 9-14 presupposes an historical situation in Judah other than that presupposed in chapters 1-8; and this remains true, though it may be impossible to determine the exact period into which these chapters fit. And what is true of conditions within the Jewish community is equally true of conditions throughout the Eastern world. “Zechariah 1-8 picture the whole earth at peace, which was true at least of all Syria; they portend no danger to Jerusalem from the heathen, but describe her peace and fruitful expansion in terms most suitable to the circumstances imposed upon her by the solid and clement policy of the earlier Persian kings. This is all changed in 9-14. The nations are restless; a siege of Jerusalem is imminent, and her salvation is to be assured only by much war and a terrible shedding of blood. We know exactly how Israel fared and felt in the early sections of the Persian period; her interest in the politics of the world, her feelings toward her governors, and her whole attitude to the heathen were not at that time those which are reflected in Zechariah 9-14.” True, Professor Robinson has attempted to prove that these chapters had their origin between 518 and 516, but his arguments are not convincing. Most writers who favor the unity of the book are content with proving that the historical situation presupposed is that of the period after the exile, which is far from proving that it fits the period of Zechariah.
3 . Theological Ideas Expressed and Implied. The opponents of the unity of the book call attention to the diversity of theological ideas in the two parts. On the other hand, Robinson devotes one section of his dissertation to a demonstration of the similarity in fundamental ideas between the two parts.
A brief outline of his argument will reveal immediately the weakness of his position: 1. An unusually deep spiritual tone pervades the entire book. 2. There is a similar attitude of hope and expectation in both parts: (1) The return of the whole nation. (2) Jerusalem shall be inhabited. (3) The temple shall be built and shall become the center of the nation’s religious life. (Under this head he gives as references from the second part Zechariah 9:8; Zechariah 14:20-21. Do these verses contain anything that could possibly be construed as a promise of the rebuilding of the temple?) (4) Messianic hope is peculiarly strong in both. (5) Peace and prosperity are expected. (6) The idea of God’s providence as extending to the whole earth. 3. The prophet’s attitude toward Judah is the same in both parts. 4. The prophet’s attitude toward the nations, the enemies of the theocracy, is the same in both parts.
That there are resemblances between the two parts is not and need not be denied, but do the similarities enumerated prove anything? If they prove that the two parts come from one author, it becomes a very simple matter to prove, by the same line of reasoning, that the same author wrote a number of other prophetic books. Vague and general resemblances in ideas, such as may be found between these two parts, can be noted between other prophetic writings coming certainly from different authors, and yet in these cases no one would think of claiming that they prove common authorship. Again the real question is whether the differences in ideas can be harmonized with unity of authorship. Such differences are discovered as soon as one goes behind the general outline of thought, and attempts a comparison in details. In 9-14 there is no concern for the rebuilding of the temple, while in 1-8 the sublimest hopes center around the completion of the house of Jehovah. True, the Messianic hope is strong in both parts, but are there not marked differences between the Messianic ideas and ideals of 1-8 and those of 9-14? (Compare Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12-13, with Zechariah 9:9-10; chapter 8 with chapter 14.) Alongside of a few general similarities in the hopes for the future of the Jewish community may be seen notable differences in detail (compare Zechariah 1:21; Zechariah 2:8-11; Zechariah 8:7-8, with Zechariah 12:2 ff.). Equally noteworthy is the silence in chapters xii-xiv concerning a return (compare Zechariah 2:6 ff.). See further on Teaching of the Book, pp. 601ff.
As in all investigations of this character, a mathematical demonstration is not possible, and yet the facts enumerated make it, to say the least, exceedingly probable that chapters ix-xiv do not come from Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.
But even within chapters 9-14 the question of unity has been raised. Nowack, for example, finds in this part of the book no less than four originally independent pieces:
I. Chapter 9;
II. chapters (Zechariah 10:1-2) Zechariah 10:3 to Zechariah 11:3;
III. Zec 11:4-17 + Zechariah 13:7-9;
IV. Zechariah 14:0.
However, most commentators who doubt the unity of the section recognize only two independent portions: Zechariah 9-11 + Zechariah 13:7-9, and Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6 + Zechariah 14:1-21.
That differences exist between these two portions is recognized even by those who believe that the entire section comes from one author. The most important of these differences may be enumerated: Chapters 9-11 speak of a return from exile, chapters 12-14 are silent concerning it; the first part (Zechariah 9:9-10) speaks of a Messianic king, in the second Jehovah himself is king (Zechariah 14:16); in the first part the picture of the future is comparatively simple, in the second part it is “highly imaginative and obscure”; in the first part the horse is to be cut off from Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:10), in the second part it is retained (Zechariah 14:20); Ephraim and Joseph are common names in chapter 10, but they are not found in chapters 12-14. On the other hand, it may be pointed out that the two sections speak in the same manner of idolatry, of the heathen, of their punishment and conversion, and that language and style favor unity of authorship. That one author is responsible for all these chapters is the opinion of Stade and Cheyne, who have subjected the matter to a more thorough investigation than anyone else within recent years. “With perhaps one or two exceptions,” says the latter, “chapters 9-11 and 12-14 are so closely welded together that even analysis is impossible.” On the other hand, cautious scholars like Driver and Kirkpatrick are inclined to recognize two authors. The data are much less numerous and decisive than they are when chapters 1-8 are compared with chapters 9-14, and with our present knowledge or lack of knowledge it may be best to leave the unity of chapters 9-14 an open question, though it may be admitted that the internal evidence in favor of diversity of authorship appears to be stronger than that in favor of unity.
II. Date. If chapters 9-14 do not come from the sixth century Zechariah, is it possible to determine their date? In the investigation of this point we are confronted, as in the case of Joel (see pp. 129ff.), with the difficulty that the internal evidence, upon which the conclusion must be based, seems to point in different directions. As a result some scholars favor a pre-exilic, others a postexilic date. The defenders of the pre-exilic date, with very few exceptions, believe that chapters ix-xiv contain two separate oracles, coming from two authors living in different periods. The first oracle, chapters 9-11, is commonly assigned to the latter part of the eighth century some have ascribed it to the Zechariah mentioned in Isaiah 8:2; chapters 12-14 chiefly on account of Zechariah 12:11, to the years between the death of Josiah (608) and the fall of Jerusalem (586).
Since the two parts, 9-11 and 12-14, present marked differences, and since many scholars are inclined to assign them to different dates, it may be advisable to consider the dates of the two parts separately:
1. Chapters 9-11. The evidence thought to point to a pre-exilic date may be summarized as follows: (1) The kingdoms of Judah and Ephraim (Israel) are still standing (Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:6). (2) A partial exile of the northern kingdom is implied (Zechariah 10:6; Zechariah 10:8-10). If a complete exile were implied, a date subsequent to the fall of Samaria (722-721) would have to be assumed, but other passages imply that the northern kingdom is still standing; besides, the mention of Gilead in Zechariah 10:10, makes it probable that the districts east of the Jordan had just passed through severe suffering, which points to a date subsequent to 734, when Galilee and Gilead were devastated by Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kings 15:29). (3) Both Egypt and Assyria are still powerful empires (Zechariah 10:9-11); the arrogance of Assyria is at its height (Zechariah 10:11). (4) The prophet expects the avenger to come from the northeast, destroying in order Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia (Zechariah 9:1-7). This is the road which Sennacherib took in 702-701 (compare Taylor Cylinder, 2: 34ff.). (5) The prophecy implies that there is danger of an open rupture between Israel and Judah (Zechariah 11:14; compare 2 Kings 16:5-6). (6) The threat against Damascus is appropriate in the eighth century (compare 2 Kings 16:9). (7) The expression “flock of slaughter” (Zechariah 11:4), the vivid picture of oppression (Zechariah 11:5), and of the cutting off of three shepherds in one month (Zechariah 11:8), reflect the state of anarchy and the foreign entanglements following the death of Jeroboam II (see Introduction to Hosea, p. 18). Two of the shepherds are thought to be Zechariah and Shallum (2 Kings 15:8-15). To account for the other it is said that during a period of such anarchy a third rival king might easily have arisen, whose name might have been omitted in Kings, because he was soon put out of the way. (8) Idolatry and soothsaying are widespread in the land (Zechariah 10:2; compare Isaiah 2:6-8). (9). With the picture of the Messianic king in Zechariah 9:9-10, may be compared Isaiah 9:1-7, and Micah 5:1-4. (10) Other minor similarities are pointed out between this section and the eighth century prophets; Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 10:4-5, are compared with Micah 5:10; Isaiah 9:5-6; Isaiah 9:1-7, with Amos 1:3 ff.; 10:10, with Micah 7:12-13. The style and the vivid imagery are said to have their counterparts in Hosea.
Over against these arguments may be placed several facts in favor of a postexilic date: (1) A natural interpretation of Zechariah 9:11 ff., and of Zechariah 10:3 ff., makes it certain that not only a partial or complete exile of the northern kingdom is presupposed, but an exile of Judah as well. (2) Whenever the older prophets announce judgment upon the nations they are accustomed to state the causes of the judgment. In the postexilic writings this is not done, because the wrongs done to the Jews throughout the centuries, culminating in the destruction of the holy city, are well known, and all recognize that they deserve the severest retribution (compare Zechariah 9:1-7). (3) The hostility toward Philistia (Zechariah 9:5-7), especially the curse pronounced upon Ashdod (6), becomes more intelligible in postexilic days (compare Nehemiah 4:7; Nehemiah 13:24). It was during the exile that the Edomites began to press westward and threaten the Philistian territory. (4) The mention of the “sons of Greece” (Zechariah 9:13) points to a postexilic date. The expression itself, it is true, might have been used in pre-exilic times (see p. 132), but in this passage Greece is thought of as a world power, which it did not become until after the exile. (5) While the dependence of this section upon other Old Testament writings has been exaggerated, especially by Stade, it is probable that in some cases dependence does exist; compare, for example, Zechariah 9:1-8, with Ezekiel 28:1-5; chapter 11 with Ezekiel 34:0, Jeremiah 25:34-38; Jeremiah 10:3-12, with Hosea 2:0. This list might be enlarged, but the references given may be sufficient to show that a close connection in thought, and sometimes in form of expression, exists between this section and other Old Testament writings. Now, it is always difficult in the case of two similar passages to say which is the original (see p. 136), and yet in this instance those who have given the subject the most thorough examination believe that Zechariah is the borrower. To De Wette, for example, the evidence in favor of the dependence of chapters 9-14 upon Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other pre-exilic prophets became so convincing that, after defending a pre-exilic date for many years, he found himself compelled, on this ground alone, to change his opinion and insist that these chapters come from the postexilic period.
Is it possible to decide between this apparently conflicting evidence? Of the arguments in favor of the pre-exilic date, (8) loses its force in view of Malachi 3:5 (compare also Josephus, Antiquities, viii; Zechariah 2:5); (9) also must be set aside, for the picture of the Messianic king is not identical with those of the eighth century. Indeed, it contains features which are foreign to that age; besides, Zechariah 9:9, reads as if the “daughter of Zion” had no king at the time the words were uttered. The resemblances enumerated under (10) may be explained satisfactorily on the assumption that the author of chapters 9-11 was acquainted with other prophetic books. Argument (7) also is without much force. The first two passages (Zechariah 11:4-5) might equally well describe the troubled conditions in postexilic times, as they are pictured in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah 11:8, cannot be fitted into the eighth century without importing a ruler of whom no hint is given anywhere in the Old Testament. Argument (5) does not necessarily point to the pre-exilic period. If the staff “Bands” signifies not a united nation, but, as is even more probable, the promise of a reunion (see on Zechariah 11:14), the reference would fit equally well into the postexilic period. The expectation of a reunion of the north and south is a common feature of postexilic prophecy (see on Zechariah 8:13); Zechariah 11:14, speaks of the destruction of the hope pointing to a final complete reunion between north and south, which was an essential condition of ultimate triumph. Again, (2) does not prove a pre-exilic date; at the most it permits it. The statements receive a much more natural interpretation if applied to the exiles of both north and south. The remaining arguments also are inconclusive. (1) Do Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:6, really prove that the kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah are still in existence? In Zechariah 9:10, the prophet speaks of the Messianic age; but the restoration of both kingdoms in connection with the dawn of the Messianic age is expected by all the prophets. All that the prophet assumes is the completion of the restoration, to which he looks forward with a yearning assurance. Surely, there is no reason for doubting that in the various returns beginning with 537 many descendants of northern families returned to Palestine. This passage again does not militate against a postexilic date. This leaves but three closely related arguments, (3), (4) and (6). The occurrence of the name Assyria does not prove the existence of Assyria as a world power, for the name is used of Babylon (Lamentations 5:6) and of Persia (Ezra 6:22), and at a later time of Syria. The power of Assyria made such deep and permanent impression upon the Jews that the name was retained as a designation of the powerful successors of Assyria, long after the fall of Assyria itself. So it may be used in this passage. With this usage may be compared the expression “land of Omri” or “house of Omri,” found as a designation of Israel on the Assyrian inscriptions long after the death of Omri himself. Egypt may be mentioned as the typical oppressor of Israel (see on Joel, p. 189), or it may be the Egypt of the Ptolemies. Syria, Phoenicia, and Philistia are, indeed, condemned by Amos for their cruelties. It is noteworthy, however, that in Zechariah 9:1-7, these nations are not spoken of as present enemies of Judah; but even if they were mentioned as such, the possibility of a postexilic date would not be excluded. The Philistines continued their hostility down to the Maccabean period; Phoenicia is denounced by Ezekiel, and there is good reason for supposing that our passage is dependent on Ezekiel 28:1-5; Hadrach, Hamath, and Damascus might be mentioned in postexilic times as well as in the eighth century B.C.
All the points alluded to here but briefly are discussed at length by Robinson, and he reaches the conclusion, which seems well founded, that every passage quoted in favor of a pre-exilic date receives an equally satisfactory, or even more satisfactory, explanation when assigned to a postexilic date. On the other hand, some of the evidence in favor of a postexilic date, especially that mentioned under (1), (4), (5), receives no natural explanation if a pre-exilic date is assumed. We may conclude, therefore, that chapters 9-11 were written in the postexilic period by a prophet who was thoroughly familiar with the more ancient sacred writings of his people, and who may have availed himself to a large extent of pre-exilic material.
2 . Chapters 12-14. The defenders of the pre-exilic date of these chapters assign them almost universally to the years between 608 and 586 B.C. In favor of this date the following reasons are advanced: (1) The earthquake in Uzziah’s reign appears to be quite fresh in the memories of the people (Zechariah 14:5). (2) The same is true of the death of Josiah (Zechariah 12:11). (3) Zechariah 14:18, presupposes hostility against Judah on the part of Egypt, which was true of the reigns of Josiah and Jehoiakim. (4) Zechariah 12:10, is best interpreted as a reference to the persecutions under Manasseh (2 Kings 21:0). (5) Zechariah 13:2-6, makes it clear that idolatry and false prophecy are prevalent (compare Jeremiah 23:9 ff.). (6) The northern kingdom has disappeared from the scene; all interest is centered in Judah and Jerusalem. Attention is called also to the mention of Geba (Zechariah 14:10), the northern boundary of Judah. (7) The references to the “house of David” (Zechariah 12:7-8; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:12) indicate that the kingdom of Judah is still in existence. (8) The predictions of the siege and doom of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2 ff; Zechariah 14:2 ff.) are best explained as pointing to the impending destruction of the city by the Chaldeans.
Again the arguments fail to establish the position taken by the defenders of a pre-exilic date. Some of the passages quoted as proving a pre-exilic date receive a more natural explanation if a postexilic date is assumed; the others can be explained equally well as coming from that period. (1) If the prophecy is dated after 608 the earthquake must have occurred about one hundred and fifty years before, so that a personal reminiscence is excluded; but if the earthquake was terrible enough to leave a vivid impression for one hundred and fifty years it might certainly be remembered for many years more (see further on Zechariah 14:5). (2.) The reference in Zechariah 12:11, is uncertain; but even if the passage refers to the mourning for Josiah it does not establish the pre-exilic date. The tragic death of the reformer king was remembered for centuries, as is proved by the account which 2 Chronicles 35:25, gives of the public mourning for the king. It is distinctly stated that the custom was continued “unto this day,” that is, about 350 B.C. (3) Zechariah 14:18, neither says nor implies anything concerning the hostility of Egypt; the latter is named for an entirely different reason (see comment). (4) It is mere assumption to connect Zechariah 12:10, with the persecutions under Manasseh or with the murder of Uriah by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:20 ff.). It is much more natural to connect it with the events described in Zechariah 11:9 ff. (5) False prophecy (Zechariah 13:2-6) was not unknown in the postexilic period (Nehemiah 6:10 ff.). Concerning the condemnation of idolatry Kirkpatrick says, “The prediction of the final extirpation of idolatry appears to be a repetition of Hosea’s prediction (Hosea 2:17), and does not necessarily imply the prevalence of idolatry” (compare Isaiah 65:1 ff.). (6) There is no reference to the northern kingdom, but this silence proves only that the northern kingdom was destroyed, which is equally true of the postexilic period; the mention of Judah, however, does not prove the existence of the southern kingdom, for the postexilic community is often called Judah, as chapters 1-8 clearly show. (7) The “house of David” is mentioned, but there is no reference to a king; and 1 Chronicles 3:17-24; Ezra 8:2, prove that the descendants of David were reckoned as a distinct family as late as the time of the Chronicler. On the other hand, the manner in which the “house of Levi” is co-ordinated with the “house of David” in Zechariah 12:12 ff., points to the postexilic period, when for the first time the civil and ecclesiastical rulers possessed equal authority. (8) The coloring of chapters 12, 14 is more in accord with the apocalyptic pictures of Joel and Daniel than with any predictions of the fall of Jerusalem found in Jeremiah or other pre-exilic writings.
As in the case of chapters 9-11, we find, then, that the evidence for the pre-exilic date of chapters 12-14 is not conclusive. In addition a few facts in favor of the late date may be pointed out: (1) The prominence given to the priestly family (Zechariah 12:12-13). (2) The prominent place assigned to the feast of tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16). (3) The dependence of the section upon earlier prophecies (compare chapters 12, 14 with Ezekiel 38, 39; Ezekiel 14:8-11, with Ezekiel 47:1-12; Ezekiel 12:1, with Isaiah 51:13). (4) The apocalyptic tone of the entire section. The evidence may not be as extensive and decisive as in chapters 9-11, but it is definite enough to make it more than probable that these chapters also are of a postexilic date.
Can the exact date or dates of chapters 9-14 be determined? Kirkpatrick is content with saying, “In so difficult a question it is necessary to speak with hesitation; but at present it seems to me that these chapters belong to the same class of apocalyptic-eschatological prophecy as Isaiah 24-27, and may with considerable probability be assigned to the same period, the first sixty or seventy years after the return.” Wellhausen dates 9-11 + Zechariah 13:7-9, in the first part of the second century, 12-14 in the “Maccabean period,” which means, at about the same time. Nowack, who divides the section into four independent parts, assigns Zechariah 9:1 to Zechariah 11:3, to the period “subsequent to Alexander the Great.” Of Zechariah 11:4-17 + Zechariah 13:7-9, he says, “This alone may be regarded as beyond doubt, that we are directed to a time after the exile,” though he refers favorably to Wellhausen’s suggestion that the passage may reflect the incidents of the last decade preceding the Maccabean uprising. Of Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6, and chapter 14 he is unwilling to say more than that they belong to the later postexilic times, chapter 14 after Malachi. Marti thinks that the entire section, with the possible exception of Zechariah 10:1-2, originated in the year 160 B.C.
The uncertainty is due, in part, to our ignorance concerning the greater part of the postexilic period; in part, to the indefiniteness of the data supplied by the chapters themselves. There is, indeed, only one reference that furnishes some sort of a foothold. Joel, about 400 B.C., mentions the Greeks as a distant nation (Zechariah 3:6); in Zechariah 9:13 there is insufficient reason for regarding the words “thy sons of Greece” a later interpolation (see comments) they appear as a foe with whom Judah may come in conflict at any moment. This would fit the period preceding the Syrian campaign of Alexander, about 333 B.C. It has been suggested, however, that “Greece” in this passage might mean the Syrian empire of the Seleucidae, which was formed after the death of Alexander, and that the reference might be to the struggles between Judah and the Seleucidae leading to the Maccabean troubles. “Assyria” (see p. 584) would then be another name for the same power, while Egypt (Zechariah 10:11) would be the empire of the Ptolemies. Damascus, Hadrach, and Hamath (Zechariah 9:1-2) might be mentioned as principal cities of the Seleucid empire; the three shepherds (Zechariah 11:8) might be three leaders of the foreign armies, cut off in these struggles, or, if the prophecy is brought down late enough, they might be three high priests Marti suggests Lysimachus, Jason, and Menelaus cut off in the troublesome days connected with the Maccabean uprisings. Everything seems to work out beautifully, and yet one must never forget that conjecture plays a large part in these attempts of fixing an exact date. On the basis of Zechariah 9:13, we may be justified in assigning at least chapters 9-11 to a date not earlier than 350 B.C., but beyond that we can hardly go with confidence. To bring the chapters down to 160 B.C. would make it difficult to account for their position in the prophetic canon, which was apparently completed in the days of Jesus ben Sirach, about 180 B.C.
It would also seem strange that one and the same power should be called both Greece and Assyria. If chapters xii-xiv come from the same author, they must come from the same period; if they are assigned to a different author, their date must remain uncertain, for the data in these three chapters are even less decisive than in 9-11. If Zechariah 14:1, is dependent on Malachi 4:6, as has been suggested, though with little probability, the chapters would be later than Malachi, about 450 B.C.
If chapters 9-14 do not come from the author of chapters 1-8, how is it that at present they form a part of the Book of Zechariah? To this question no entirely satisfactory answer has been found, though the following explanation, which is accepted very widely, has much in its favor. Zechariah 9-11; Zechariah 12-14; Malachi 1-4, have similar titles (compare Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1). The three sections are thought to have come into the hand of the collector of the Minor Prophets as three separate anonymous writings. He would naturally place them at the end of the collection; in so doing he prefixed to Zechariah 12:1, and Malachi 1:1, titles similar to the one prefixed to Zechariah 9:1, or, some think, he originated all three titles. Malachi 3:1, contains the phrase “my messenger,” Hebrews Maleakhi, equivalent to the English Malachi. This messenger the collector identified with the author of the book, and understanding the Hebrew form as a proper noun, the name of the author, he made it a part of the title. As a result Malachi came to be regarded as a separate book; the two remaining pieces, still anonymous, in the course of time came to be counted as a part of the preceding book, whose author was given. This may be the correct explanation, but much uncertainty remains.
It is hardly necessary to add that, whatever the date or dates, and whoever the author or authors, the inspiration or authority of Zechariah 9-14 is in no wise affected by the uncertainty. “A moment’s reflection,” says T.T. Perowne, “will suffice to convince us that it is quite possible to acknowledge unreservedly as an integral part of God’s written word, and to reverence accordingly, a book of which the authorship is uncertain or unknown.”
Contents and Outline of the Book.
1 . Contents. The Book of Zechariah opens with an appeal in which the prophet urges the people to return to Jehovah. He reinforces this appeal by pointing to the experiences of the fathers, who were severely punished when they refused to listen to prophetic exhortations. Disobedience on the part of the present generation may bring to it a similar fate, for the word of Jehovah abides forever (Zechariah 1:1-6).
About three months after the delivery of the first message, there came to the prophet in one single night, a series of eight symbolical visions, the significance of which was explained to him by a heavenly interpreter (Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:8). All these visions are linked together by a common purpose, “the encouragement of the Jews to continue the work of restoring the temple, of rebuilding the city, and of re-establishing the theocratic government.” The first vision the angelic horsemen is intended to assure the community that, though the shaking of the nations (Haggai 2:7-8), which was to be preliminary to the restoration of the divine grace and mercy to Zion, was still delayed, it will surely come, and Jehovah will return to his city and people with an abundance of mercies (7-17).
On the one hand, the message of the first vision is one of encouragement to the Jews; on the other, one of judgment to the nations. These two aspects are expanded in the second and third visions respectively. The second the four horns and the four smiths pictures the judgment upon the nations that have ill-treated the chosen people (18-21). The third the man with the measuring line describes the glorious restoration. Jerusalem is to be rebuilt and repopulated, Jehovah will return to live in Zion, and many nations will join themselves to the redeemed community (Zechariah 2:1-13).
In the fourth vision the trial of the high priest Zechariah sees the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of Jehovah; at his right hand stands the adversary, ready to present accusations against him. After a rebuke is administered to the adversary, the angel of Jehovah instructs the servants to take from Joshua the filthy garment with which he is clothed, and to clothe him instead with the rich garments of the high-priestly office, including the miter. Then he instructs Joshua in the duties and responsibilities of the office to which he is restored, and promises him access to the Most High, if he will discharge his duties faithfully. The angel declares also that the high priest and his fellows are a sign of the coming of “Branch,” who will remove iniquity from the land in one day and will restore peace and prosperity forever (Zechariah 3:1-10).
The experience of the high priest described in these verses was of deep significance to him, but its symbolic meaning is more comprehensive. Since he is the representative of the people before Jehovah, his experiences vitally affect the whole nation; and his purification in the vision symbolizes the moral and spiritual regeneration of the whole people, which must take place if the new community would be in a real sense the people of God.
The fifth vision the golden candlestick and the two olive trees is a message of encouragement to Zerubbabel. The prophet sees a golden candlestick with seven lamps; on top it has a reservoir of oil which is connected with the lamps through pipes. Beside it stood two olive trees; from two overhanging branches of these trees oil flowed without interruption to supply the reservoir and the lamps (Zechariah 4:1-14). It may be difficult to determine the meaning of every feature of this vision, but its general purpose is clear. “It is intended to encourage Zerubbabel in the work of rebuilding the temple by impressing upon him the truth that, as that candlestick gave forth its light in silent, ceaseless splendor, unfed and untended by human agencies, so the work in which he was engaged” should surely be accomplished through the divine Spirit’s co-operation with him. The mountains of difficulty will be brought low, and he will carry his divinely appointed task to completion.
The sixth and seventh visions the flying roll, and the woman in the ephah serve similar ends. In the sixth vision the prophet beholds flying through the air an immense roll symbolizing the curse of God upon evil doers of every kind. He is informed that the roll will enter the house of every man and consume it utterly (Zechariah 5:1-4). The removal of all iniquity is promised in Zechariah 3:9; this vision indicates one method by which it is accomplished, the destruction of the wicked. In the seventh vision the prophet sees an ephah, in which sits a woman; upon its mouth is a cover. Two women with wings lift up the ephah and carry it through the air. Upon inquiry he is told that the woman is to be deposited in the land of Shinar (Zechariah 5:5-11). As the vision unfolds the interpreting angel explains its symbolical meaning. The woman represents wickedness, which is to be removed from the land (Zechariah 3:9). She is fastened securely in the ephah, but to reduce the danger of pollution to a minimum she is to be carried to the far-distant Shinar, there to be established forever.
In the eighth and last vision the four chariots the prophet beholds four chariots, drawn by horses of various colors, coming out from between two mountains. They are commissioned to go in different directions throughout the whole earth; the most important mission is intrusted to the chariot going toward the north country (Zechariah 6:1-8). The details of the vision are somewhat obscure, but its chief purpose is clear. It is to bring assurance to the prophet that Jehovah is about to execute judgment upon the nations hostile to him and to his people. The “northerner” will suffer most.
With Zechariah 6:8, the series of visions comes to an end. In Zechariah 6:9 ff., the prophet is urged to perform a symbolical act. This act is so closely connected with the preceding visions that it seems best to regard Zechariah 6:9-15, a kind of appendix to the visions. Zechariah is instructed to adorn the high priest Joshua with a crown, made of the silver and gold sent by the exiles from Babylon, and to proclaim him as the type of “Branch,” who is to carry to completion the building of the temple and is to sit on the throne, and whose fame will be so glorious that people from afar will come and assist in the enterprise (Zechariah 6:9-15).
Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the relative importance of moral and ceremonial requirements. In the fourth year of King Darius, nearly two years after the date mentioned in Zechariah 1:7, a deputation came to the prophet to inquire whether or not it was still obligatory to observe the fasts instituted in commemoration of events connected with the destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:1-3). In reply the prophet points out that fasting is not an essential element of true religion; it is of value only as a means to an end, and as an expression of heart piety (4-6). He turns the attention of the inquirers to the real requirements of Jehovah, for whose disregard their fathers had brought upon themselves awful judgments. From these experiences of the past the present generation should learn a lesson, lest worse things come upon it (7-14). Reaffirming Jehovah’s jealousy for Zion, the prophet then pictures the prosperity and glory in store for Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:1-17). When that time arrives the question of fasts will solve itself; they will be transformed into seasons of festivity, to which multitudes will gather from all parts of the land; even foreign nations will gladly and anxiously join themselves to the Jews in their felicity (18-23).
With Zechariah 9:1, begins the second main division of the Book of Zechariah (chapters 9-14), consisting of several utterances, which are only loosely connected, chiefly apocalyptic in character, and all dealing with the events leading up to the final triumph of the kingdom of God.
The section opens with an announcement of judgment upon the nations surrounding Judah; they will perish, while Jerusalem will remain unharmed (Zechariah 9:1-8). The judgment is thought of as proceeding from the north or northeast. Syria, represented by Hadrach, Damascus, and Hamath, will suffer first; powerful and proud Phoenicia will come next (1-4); from there the invader will pass down the Maritime Plain and crush Philistia. Its pure-blooded population will be slain or carried into exile; a “bastard” race will take its place, which in time will join the Jews in the worship of the true God (5-7). While these events transpire, Jerusalem will rest in safety (8).
The events pictured in verses 1-8 are preparatory to the coming of the Messianic king to Zion, his capital, where he will reign in righteousness and peace (9, 10). The captives in exile at that time will be restored (11, 12); Jehovah will use the restored exiles to confound the hostile nations (13, 14); the struggle will be bloody, but Jehovah will deliver his people and exalt them to glory (15-17).
Chapter 10 is joined closely to chapter 9 by Zechariah 10:1-2.
Zechariah 9:17, contains a promise of future exaltation; but the prophet, while anticipating the glories of the future, is anxious to transform the present, and in Zechariah 10:1-2, he exhorts his contemporaries to turn even now to Jehovah, the giver of every good and perfect gift, for the idols can render no assistance.
The allusion to the “shepherd” in verse 2 prepares the way for the next oracle (Zechariah 10:3 to Zechariah 11:3), which is, however, independent of the preceding verses. “When Israel lost its own shepherds it came under the tyranny of bad shepherds,” that is, of representatives of foreign powers, who oppressed the people of Jehovah. These Jehovah will cut off, for he has determined to deliver the oppressed flock (3). Judah and Ephraim will be transformed into mighty men, able to throw off the yoke of the enemy (4-7). Jehovah will bring the exiles from Egypt and Assyria, and, while the latter will be humiliated, the restored community will live in prosperity and felicity (8-12). Then the chosen people will rejoice in their own glorification, while the humiliated hostile powers will wail and lament over their utter undoing (Zechariah 11:1-3).
In Zechariah 11:4 ff., the prophet takes a look into the past. In the form of an allegory he describes Jehovah’s dealings with his people, the ingratitude of the latter, his wrath and the resulting judgment. Jehovah appointed a good shepherd to give loving care and protection to the flock of slaughter, which Jehovah had determined to deliver from its oppressors (4-6); but the flock was so unappreciative (7, 8) that finally the shepherd decided to discontinue his shepherding care (9-14). The result was disastrous, for Jehovah gave the flock into the hands of a foolish shepherd, who not only neglected the sheep but abused and destroyed them to satisfy his own lust (15, 16). This condition, the prophet declares, will not continue forever; the foolish shepherd will be slain, and though a large part of the flock will be cut off as punishment for the treatment accorded to the good shepherd, one third will be preserved, purified, and restored to Jehovah’s favor (Zechariah 11:17; Zechariah 13:7-9).
A new beginning is made with Zechariah 12:1. The remaining portion of the book falls naturally into two parts: Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6, and Zechariah 14:1-21. The former falls naturally into three divisions:
Zechariah 12:1-14; Zechariah 13:1-6. The first of these pictures a marvelous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem. The prophet beholds the nations of the earth gathered around Jerusalem to besiege it; Jehovah smites them with terror; when the chieftains of Judah see the panic and recognize that Jehovah is fighting for the capital, they rise against the enemies and overwhelm them completely. Jehovah saves the “tents of Judah” first, to prevent the inhabitants of Jerusalem from magnifying themselves over those living outside the city, but Jerusalem also is gloriously saved (1-9).
The blessings vouchsafed in Zechariah 12:1-9, are purely temporal and physical. From the triumph in battle the prophet turns to the spiritual blessings that will be the possession of the people of God; but in order to enjoy these fully they must pass through a process of spiritual preparation. When they become fully conscious of the depth of the divine mercy manifesting itself in the wonderful deliverance described in verses 1-9, they will be seized by a heartfelt sorrow for all past sins, and in deep humility they will prostrate themselves before Jehovah (10-14).
The penitential mourning and supplication will not be in vain. Jehovah will remove all sin and uncleanness and will work a complete moral and spiritual transformation in the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. A life of intimate fellowship with God will follow, and everything that in any way might hinder the most direct fellowship with him will be swept away; even prophecy as a distinct office will be removed (Zechariah 13:1-6).
In chapter 14 the prophet pictures a new conflict between Jerusalem and the nations. In Zechariah 12:1-9, the nations are described as being smitten before they can capture the city; here “the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity” (1, 2). Only when these things have happened will Jehovah appear to save a remnant and to set up his kingdom (3-7). From Jerusalem will go forth two streams of living water, which will cover the whole land with blessing and fertility (8-11). The nations that have warred against Jerusalem will be smitten, and the treasures of their camp will fall into the hands of the Jews (12-15). Those who escape will turn to Jehovah (16); any who fail to do him proper homage will be smitten with drought (17-19), but Judah and Jerusalem with their inhabitants and their possessions will be “holy unto Jehovah” (20, 21).
2 . Outline.
I. MESSAGES OF EXHORTATION, OF CONSOLATION, AND OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE CONTEMPORARIES OF ZECHARIAH, Zechariah 1:1 to Zechariah 8:23
1. Call to repentance Zechariah 1:1-6
2. Eight night visions Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:8
(1) The angelic horsemen Zechariah 1:7-17
(2) The four horns and the four smiths Zechariah 1:18-21
(3) The man with the measuring line Zechariah 2:1-13
(4) Trial and acquittal of the high priest Joshua, Zechariah 3:1-10
(5) The golden candlestick and the two olive trees, Zechariah 4:1-14
(6) The flying roll Zechariah 5:1-4
(7) The woman in the ephah Zechariah 5:5-11
(8) The four chariots with horses of different colors Zechariah 6:1-8
3. The symbolic crowning of the high priest Joshua, Zechariah 6:9-15
4. The relative importance of moral and ceremonial requirements Zechariah 7:1 to Zechariah 8:23
(1) Occasion of the prophetic utterance Zechariah 7:1-3
(2) Fasting not an essential element of true religion Zechariah 7:4-6
(3) The true requirements of Jehovah Disregard of them is always followed by severe punishment Zechariah 7:7-14
(4) The time of redemption is at hand Zechariah 8:1-8
(5) Message of encouragement and admonition Zechariah 8:9-17
(6) Fasting to be changed into rejoicing, Zechariah 8:18-23
II. THE FINAL TRIUMPH OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD Zechariah 9:1 to Zechariah 14:21
1. Oracles dealing with the establishment of the new theocracy Zechariah 9:1 to Zechariah 11:17; Zechariah 13:7-9
(1) Judgment upon the surrounding nations; preservation of Jerusalem Zechariah 9:1-8
(2) The Messianic king and his reign Zechariah 9:9-10
(3) Deliverance and exaltation of the Jews Zechariah 9:11-17
(4) Exhortation to return to Jehovah Zechariah 10:1-2
(5) Restoration of the Jews and overthrow of the hostile nations Zechariah 10:3 to Zechariah 11:3
(a) Rejuvenation of Ephraim and Judah, Zechariah 10:3-7; Zechariah 10:3-7
(b) Restoration of the exiles from Assyria and EgyptZechariah 10:8-12; Zechariah 10:8-12
(c) Lamentation of the humiliated enemiesZechariah 11:1-3; Zechariah 11:1-3
(6) Allegory of the good shepherd Zechariah 11:4-14
(a) The shepherd’s loving careZechariah 11:4-6; Zechariah 11:4-6
(b) The people’s lack of appreciationZechariah 11:7-8; Zechariah 11:7-8
(c) Withdrawal of the good shepherdZechariah 11:9-14; Zechariah 11:9-14
(7) Allegory of the foolish shepherd Zechariah 11:15-17; Zechariah 13:7-9
(a) Conduct of the foolish shepherdZechariah 11:15-16; Zechariah 11:15-16
(b) Overthrow of the foolish shepherdZechariah 11:17; Zechariah 11:17
(c) Fate of the shepherd’s flockZechariah 13:7-9; Zechariah 13:7-9
2. Various utterances concerning the future of Israel Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 14:21 (exc. Zechariah 13:7-9)
(1) Marvelous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem Zechariah 12:1-9
(2) Penitential mourning and supplication Zechariah 12:10-14
(3) Purification of Jerusalem; removal of all hindrances to direct communion with God Zechariah 13:1-6
(4) Final conflict and triumph of the kingdom of God Zechariah 14:1-21
(a) Capture of Jerusalem and its deliveranceZechariah 14:1-5; Zechariah 14:1-5
(b) The day of JehovahZechariah 14:6-7; Zechariah 14:6-7
(c) Fertility and felicity of the whole landZechariah 14:8-11; Zechariah 14:8-11
(d) Destruction of the hostile nationsZechariah 14:12-15; Zechariah 14:12-15
(e) Conversion of a remnant of the nationsZechariah 14:16-19; Zechariah 14:16-19
(f) Judah and Jerusalem holy unto JehovahZechariah 14:20-21; Zechariah 14:20-21
Teaching of the Book.
For the sake of convenience and clearness the two great divisions, chapters 1-8 and chapters 9-14, may be considered separately:
I. Chapters 1-8. 1. Zechariah differs widely from the great prophets who preceded him, in three points: (1) In the emphasis which he places upon visions as a means of divine communication; (2) in the apocalyptic symbolism which enters into the visions; (3) in the large place occupied by angelic mediation in his intercourse with Jehovah. The first two concern chiefly the form of revelation, only the last may be considered an element of his teaching. In the Book of Zechariah we have in embryo some of the ideas which are found in a fuller stage of development in the later Jewish and in the New Testament angelology. Here we meet also the beginning of the tendency so widespread in the later Judaism, which considered Jehovah too sacred to come into direct contact with human beings and removed him so far away from man that direct communion with him came to be thought of as almost impossible. Even prophecy seems to have lost in a measure its sense of immediate communion with God. The prophet receives his instruction through an angel, who acts as intermediary, interpreter, and guide. Angels appear in the unfolding of the visions, they carry forward the events symbolized, and they are active participants in the working out of human history. Here also is used for the first time in prophecy the noun “Satan.” With Zechariah the word is not yet a proper name; a literal reproduction of the phrase in Zechariah 3:1, is “the adversary” (see margin), it becomes a proper noun only in 1 Chronicles 21:1; but “the adversary” of Zechariah is closely related to “the adversary” who plays such important part in the prologue to the Book of Job, to “Satan” now a proper name in 1 Chronicles 21:1, and to the New Testament Satan.
2 . Worthy of note is also the unique place which the temple occupies in the thought of the prophet. From beginning to end Zechariah pleads for the rebuilding of the house of Jehovah, and his sublimest promises center around the completed temple. With him the rebuilding of the dwelling place of Jehovah is an indispensable condition of the arrival of the Messianic era. “As the commencement of the judgment formerly showed itself when the glory of Jehovah was seen by Ezekiel (Ezekiel x) to forsake the temple, so upon the day when Jehovah once more makes his abode with his people all the distress of the time shall come to an end; in short, this dwelling of Jehovah in the temple is the sine qua non of the dawn of the Messianic age.” This high estimation of the temple and the priesthood, and so of the externals of religion, is not the outgrowth of lower spiritual conceptions, but rather of a clear appreciation of the needs of the hour. The Jews had not yet reached the stage of religious and spiritual development when they could afford to discard forms and symbols; they needed the temple as a symbol of the presence of Jehovah. Besides, in an age when religion was the only bond that united the heterogeneous elements in the postexilic community, it was needed as a common place of worship. Continued existence without a temple would have resulted, humanly speaking, in the loss of true religion to the world. The fullness of time, when people would worship Jehovah “neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem,” but everywhere in spirit and in truth, had not yet arrived.
3 . Of importance are also the Messianic hopes of Zechariah. The temple plays a prominent part, but only as an earnest of better things to come; the high priest and his fellows receive honor, but only as a sign of one greater than they, of “Branch.” Around the person of this Branch center the Messianic hopes of Zechariah. It is he who shall complete the building of the temple, who shall have constant access to Jehovah, who shall reign in peace forever. The prophet identifies this “Branch” with Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:7); in his person, therefore, a descendant of David comes once more to the front, destined to occupy a prominent place in the kingdom of God. The blessings of the Messianic age will be both temporal (for example, Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:4-5) and spiritual (for example, Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 3:9); they will be enjoyed primarily by the Jews, but not by them exclusively. True, some of the nations are destined to be “a spoil to those that served them,” but the prophet anticipates also the conversion of the nations: “And many nations shall join themselves to Jehovah in that day, and shall be my people” (Zechariah 2:11).
4 . Zechariah has been accused of being the teacher of a heartless and unspiritual formalism. An unbiased study of his prophecies proves this accusation to be false, for he teaches plainly that forms and ceremonies are not essential elements of true religion (compare 7, 8). His conception of the requirements of Jehovah is indicated in these words: “Speak ye every man the truth with his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith Jehovah” (Zechariah 8:16-17). He values forms and ceremonies only as means of grace, by the use of which men may be led into purer and nobler lives. His conception of the Messianic age includes the removal of sin from the land and from the people (chapters 3 and 5). The people, the city, the land, all must be holy, not only in a ceremonial but in an ethical sense as well, in order to enjoy the presence of Jehovah and become partakers in his blessing.
5 . Another truth constantly emphasized by Zechariah is that the ultimate triumph is dependent on the divine cooperation. “Not, by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). These words have reference primarily to the rebuilding of the temple, but the same thought pervades the prophecy from beginning to end. Only as Jehovah gives his support can the people be restored to their own land, there to live in joy and felicity forever.
II. Chapters 9-14. The teaching of these chapters differs materially from that of chapters 1-8. The angels disappear entirely; in chapters 1-8 the interest centers around the building of the temple and the restored community during the latter part of the sixth century, in chapters 9-14 the interest centers around other things. Differences may be noted also in the Messianic ideas and ideals of the two sections (compare Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12-13, with Zechariah 9:9-10; chapter 8 with chapter 14) as well as in the picture of the nation’s future (compare Zechariah 1:21; Zechariah 2:8-11; Zechariah 8:7-8, with Zechariah 12:2 ff.; Zechariah 14:1 ff.). The last-named differences arise largely from the fact that while the prophecies in 1-8 are closely connected with the conditions of the Jewish community during the reign of Darius, and aim to meet the needs of that day, the utterances in 9-14 cut themselves loose from these conditions, and to a large extent from all present historical surroundings though there can be no doubt that historical events form the background of the prophet’s picture and deal almost exclusively with the consummation of the kingdom of God “in that day,” and with the events leading up to the same. The entire section is essentially apocalyptic and eschatological.
We may follow Kirkpatrick in grouping the distinctive teaching of chapters 9-14 around four topics, even though we may be compelled to reject, in some cases, his interpretation. These topics are: 1. The Messianic king; 2. the rejected shepherd; 3. the restored and penitent people; 4. the divine sovereignty.
1 . The Messianic King. The person of the Messianic king appears only in Zechariah 9:9-10, but there very distinctly. The low estimate which Nowack places upon this passage is not warranted. “The Messianic king,” says he, “still appears, it is true, in Zechariah 9:9 f., but he is a comparatively otiose figure which might be left out without damaging the connection. He is no longer the leader in the conflict against enemies, but exclusively Prince of Peace, with an extremely passive character. The conception of the final king had at this time assumed a pale cast, that it might be able to take on other colors, namely, those of priest and prophet.” That the verses might be omitted without damaging the connection is no more true of this passage than of other Messianic passages scattered throughout the Old Testament, and, in fact, of hundreds of non-Messianic passages. True, he is the prince of peace rather than the leader in conflict, but that is true of the great Messianic picture in Isaiah 9:1-7, as well as of other Messianic utterances of less importance. Again, it is not quite true that the king assumes a “pale cast”; the description is quite vivid, and in some respects the conception of Zechariah 9:9-10, is in perfect accord with that found in other prophetic books. He is righteous and peaceful, and his sovereignty will be recognized throughout the whole land. However, two new features are introduced, “having salvation, lowly.” The meaning of the former term may be somewhat uncertain (see comment on Zechariah 9:9), not so the other; its thought is found in an expanded form in Isaiah 53:0, and it receives a new significance when studied in the light of the life and sufferings of Jesus the Christ.
2 . The Rejected Shepherd. In general it may be said that shepherd in these chapters is equivalent to ruler, but in different parts of the section the term is applied to different persons of different characters. The passage demanding special consideration is Zechariah 11:4-14, and perhaps Zechariah 11:15-17 + Zechariah 13:7-9. In the former passage Jehovah is represented as commanding the prophet to take charge of his oppressed flock, to guard and protect it; but, finding himself unable to carry out his gracious purpose, he finally decides to abandon the flock. A foolish shepherd takes his place, who neglects and ill-treats the flock; but he is to be cut off by Jehovah. Notwithstanding all that has been said to the contrary, it seems best to interpret Zechariah 13:7-9, as describing the fate of the foolish shepherd and of his flock (see comments); and yet the passage still implies that the good shepherd was cruelly rejected, and Zechariah 12:10, which alludes to the fate of the good shepherd (see comments), calls his rejection a “piercing” of Jehovah.
What is the teaching of this allegory? Undoubtedly the prophet has in mind prophecies like Jeremiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 34:0; Ezekiel 37:24 ff., which connect the raising up of the good shepherd with the Messianic era of the future; at the same time, it is quite certain that the passage in Zechariah does not point to the future, but describes Jehovah’s dealings with Israel in the past; only Zechariah 11:17 + Zechariah 13:7-9, point to the future. Consequently, the rejection of the good shepherd cannot be made a direct prophecy of the rejection of Jesus, though it may be regarded as a type of his rejection, just as the good shepherd himself is a type of the good shepherd of John 10:0. The allegory contains a most solemn warning how the divine care and grace may be frustrated by human obstinacy. It has been done again and again in the past, it has been done in the immediate past to which the prophecy points; it may occur again, unless the prophet’s contemporaries take heed. The promises in chapters ix, x are glorious. Will they be realized? All will depend upon the attitude of those for whom the blessings are intended. The sublime and spiritual fulfillment of the promises was ushered in by Jesus (see at close of Micah v), and in carrying out his plan and purpose he suffered a rejection more bitter than that suffered by the good shepherd of this prophecy; and even in this day the allegory stands as a warning describing the far-reaching effects of human obstinacy.
3 . The Restored and Penitent People. As is the case with other Old Testament prophets, the eschatological hopes of the author of chapters 9-14 center around the restored Jewish community. Some prophets give a more prominent place to the temporal aspects of the future glory, others to the spiritual aspects; some give equal prominence to both, implying at the same time that the temporal prosperity can be enjoyed in the fullest measure only after a spiritual regeneration has taken place and Jehovah has re-established himself in the midst of his people. To the last class belongs the author of these chapters. Chapters 9, 10 promise the restoration and reunion of Judah and Ephraim under the rule of the Messianic king, and the triumph of the reunited nation over all enemies. Zechariah 11:1-3, continues this thought. The rest of the chapter sounds a warning; these triumphs can be theirs only on certain conditions; their rebellious attitude has frequently robbed them of Jehovah’s favor; it may do so again, and instead of immediate salvation additional judgment will be their fate (Zechariah 13:7-9). Zechariah 12:1-9, and Zechariah 14:1-15, announce that these judgments will fall upon the community; at the same time, they promise that in the end the Jews will triumph over all their enemies and enjoy abundant temporal prosperity. The pictures in these chapters differ from those employed in chapters 9, 10. Jerusalem is the center; against her the nations gather for a final onslaught. According to Zechariah 12:2 ff., the destructive blow will fall upon them before they can take the city; according to Zechariah 14:1 ff., the city will meet temporary defeat; then Jehovah will appear, the nations will be completely routed, and their wealth will fall into the hands of the Jews. In both cases final triumph is assured.
However, this triumph and the resulting temporal prosperity is only one phase of the eschatological hope of the author; Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:6; Zechariah 13:9; Zechariah 14:20-21, present the other side. Rich spiritual blessings await the redeemed remnant. Uncleanness, even the spirit of uncleanness (see on Zechariah 13:2), will be taken away; so also everything that in any way might hinder direct personal communion with Jehovah. The transformation will be so complete that both men and things in Judah and Jerusalem will be holy unto Jehovah. That ceremonial holiness should occupy a prominent place in these pictures cannot appear strange when we remember that all postexilic prophecy lays great stress upon the externals of religion, but in justice to the author we should not forget that he is not content with external cleansing. Zechariah 13:1 ff., implies a great moral and spiritual regeneration; and the emphasis which he places upon heartfelt repentance (Zechariah 12:10-14) is evidence enough to show that this author, like the pre-exilic prophets, has a clear apprehension of the essentials of true Jehovah religion and of the divine plan of redemption.
4 . The Divine Sovereignty. The author of chapters 9-14 is not behind the prophet Zechariah in recognizing that during the Messianic era, Jehovah will be King of all the nations. True, Jerusalem and Judah will enjoy in a special manner the divine favor; true, the nations will suffer terrible disasters; but when the last conflict is over, a remnant of the nations will “worship the King, Jehovah of hosts” (Zechariah 14:16-19). Jehovah will rule in the midst of his people, with Jerusalem as the center of his realm, and unto this center many nations will come, saying, “He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths, for out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.”