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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Zechariah

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14

Book Overview - Zechariah

by Johann Peter Lange

            

THE

BOOK OF ZECHARIAH

EXPOUNDED

by

TALBOT W. CHAMBERS, D. D.

One Of The Pastors Of The Collegiate Reformed Dutch Church, New York.

PREFACE

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The general form of this commentary has been determined by that of the work of which it forms a part. While conforming to this rule, the author has endeavored to consider fairly every difficult question, to furnish a tolerable conspectus of the different views upon it, and wherever possible to state his own with the reasons upon which it rests. Reference has been had to the wants of ministers and students, and it is hoped that they will be able to find in these pages at least a convenient summary of the present state of critical and exegetical opinion upon this most important of the post-exile prophets. The author has done the best that he could in the limited time allowed him, but feels painfully that he has fallen far short of his own ideal. The work, such as it Isaiah, he humbly commends to the favor of Him without whose blessing nothing is either good or useful. A respectable scholar of the early part of the last century concludes the preface to his annotations upon Zechariah with words which the present writer cheerfully adopts for himself. “Quantum ad nos, rimati sumus hanc prophetiam, verum pro modulo nostro. Omnino enim hic usu nobis venit, quod Paulus 1 Corinthians 13:6 inculcat: Εκ μέρονς γινώσκομεν, καί ἐκ μέρονς προφητενομεν.… Interea, si quid lucis ex opella nostra lector acceperit, Deo acceptum id referat! sin aberasse ac nœvos admisisse nos animadverterit, infirmitati nostrœ condonet! Ingenue namque agnoscimus in exponendo tam sublimi valicinio egisse nos non quantum debuimus, sed quantum potuimus” (J. H. Michaelis, 1720.)

THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH.

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INTRODUCTION

1. The Name and Personal Relations of Zechariah

2. The Historical Background of his Prophecy.

3. The Style and Form of the Book.

4. The Messianic Predictions.

5. The Contents of the Book.

6. The Genuineness of the Second Part.

7. The alleged Influence of the Persian Theology.

8. Literature.

§ 1. The Name and Personal Relations of Zechariah

The name Zechariah is given to more than twenty different persons in the Old Testament (see the enumeration in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p3610), but of these by far the most distinguished is the eleventh in order of the twelve minor prophets. The word זכריה is usually regarded as a compound of the abridged divine name יַהּ and the radicals זכר, but opinions vary as to the proper voweling of the latter word. Some regard it as a masculine noun=man of Jehovah; others as a feminine segholate=memory of Jehovah; but more commonly it is taken as a verb=Jehovah remembers. This corresponds to the usual method in which יָהּֽ is compounded with other words in order to form a proper name. Some of the older expositors (Jerome, Abarbanel), and a few of the moderns (Neumann, Schlier), endeavor to trace a connection between the Prophet’s name and the contents of his utterances, but such a notion is forbidden by the frequency of its occurrence elsewhere, and by the fact that there is no prophet to whose words such a name would not equally apply. He describes himself as “the son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo,” which phrases cannot be taken appositionally (LXX, Jerome, Cyril), but according to all genealogical usage denote that our Prophet was the son of the former and grandson of the latter. It is no objection to this view that in Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14, he is called the son of Iddo, because in Scripture it is by no means unprecedented to give the name son to a grandson, or even a more remote descendant. Thus in the ninth chapter of 2 Kings, Jehu is styled in the fourteenth verse, “the son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi,” but in the twentieth verse, simply, “the son of Nimshi.” Moreover, it is perfectly natural that the Prophet, when formally stating his own descent in the title of his prophecy, should recite the names of his father and grandfather, while the omission of the former in an historical narrative such as Ezra’s, may be easily accounted for, either on the view that Berekiah had died young, or that Iddo was the more distinguished person and perhaps generally recognized as the head of the family, which appears to be a fair inference from Nehemiah 12:1; Nehemiah 12:4-8. In this passage he is stated to have been one of “the heads of the priests and of their brethren,” who came up from Babylon with Zerubbabel, and he is said ( Nehemiah 12:16) to have had a son named Zechariah, in the time of Joiakim, the successor of Joshua in the office of high priest. Hence we may conclude that Zechariah—owing possibly to the death of his father—became the immediate representative of the family after Iddo. He was, therefore, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, a Priest as well as a Prophet. As his grandfather was still in active service in the time of Joshua, Zechariah must have been quite young at that time, a fact which is indicated also by the address made to him in one of the visions ( Zechariah 2:4), “Run, speak to that young man.” He was therefore born in Babylon, and came up with the first company of exiles who returned to Palestine. This fact of itself disposes of the fables of Epiphanius and others that he was a man of advanced age at the time of the return, and had distinguished himself by various wonders and prophecies in Babylon (see the citations in Köhler, Einl.). Similar patristic traditions as to his death and his burial by the side of Haggai, near Jerusalem, have no historical value. The later Jewish accounts that he was a member of the Great Synagogue and took an active part in providing for the liturgical service of the Second Temple, are probable enough in themselves, but cannot be certainly authenticated. The LXX. ascribe to him the composition of Psalm 137, 138, and to him and Haggai, that of Psalm 145-148, in some of which ascriptions the Peshito and the Vulgate agree. There seems to be no means at the present day of determining how far any of these are to be credited. “The triumphant Hallelujuh with which many of these Psalm open, was supposed to be characteristic of those which were first chanted in the Second Temple, and came with an emphasis of meaning from the lips of those who had been restored to their native land. The allusions, moreover, with which these Psalm abound, as well as their place in the Psalter, leave us in no doubt as to the time when they were composed, and lend confirmation to the tradition respecting their authorship” (Smith’s Dict. of Bible, p3599).

§ 2. The Historical Background of his Prophecy

This is plainly determined by the book itself. Zechariah’s first address, one which is on its face introductory, is dated in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, which is two months after the first prophecy of Haggai ( Zechariah 1:1). The two prophets, therefore, were for a time contemporary, and acted in concert in the commencement of their labors so far as concerned their first object, namely, the rebuilding of the Temple. In this Haggai led the way, and then left the work to the younger Prayer of Manasseh, who, however, by no means confined his prophetic activity to this narrow scope.

The restoration of the Temple had been a matter of great and pressing interest to the company of50,000 who came up from Babylon under the summons of Cyrus in the year536 b. c, and reoccupied the land of their fathers. They at once began to collect materials and workmen, and in the second month of the following year laid the foundation of the house with mingled joy and grief ( Ezra 3:11-13). But they were not suffered to proceed in quiet. Their neighbors, the descendants of the people whom Esar-haddon had settled in Samaria, asked permission to join in the enterprise, but were indignantly rejected. In consequence they exerted themselves in opposition, both by throwing obstacles in the way on the spot and by hiring influential counsellors at the Persian court. They were successful even during the life of Cyrus ( Ezra 4:5), but in the reign of Gomates, the pseudo-Smerdis, obtained a decree absolutely prohibiting the further prosecution of the work. In consequence the whole enterprise lay in abeyance for a period of nearly fourteen years. But in the year521 b. c, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, ascended the throne. Immediately the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, inferring that the prohibitory decree of the preceding king ceased at his death, incited their countrymen to resume the work. They did so under the lead of Zerubbabel and Joshua, but were again interrupted, not however by their malignant neighbors, but by Tatnai, the Persian governor west of the Euphrates, who simply as a matter of administration inquired into the origin and object of the movement. The consequence was a written reference to the central government at Babylon. A search in the records at Ecbatana brought to light the original decree of Cyrus ordering the restoration of the Jews and their worship. This, Darius cordially renewed and confirmed in the second year of his reign, so that thenceforth there was no longer any outward difficulty in the way.

But it is very evident from the language of Haggai that a great change had occurred in the views and feelings of the people. Their former zeal for divine worship had almost disappeared. They became engrossed in the work of repairing their private fortunes and securing the comforts of life. They accepted the hindrances in the way of work upon the Temple as providential indications that they were not to resume it, and very energetic appeals and remonstrances were required to rouse them from their apathy, and engage them with becoming diligence and constancy in the enterprise. These efforts of the two prophets were successful, and the building was finished in the sixth year of Darius (b. c515), twenty-one years after its commencement. All the notes of time given in Zechariah ( Zechariah 1:1-7; Zechariah 7:1) fall within the period occupied in labor upon the Temple, but it does not seem to follow as a necessary consequence that all his earlier prophecies are to be understood as mainly intended to secure this consummation. The Temple was to the Jews both an indispensable means of worship and the one great symbol of their faith; and indifference to its existence or progress was a sure token of spiritual declension. The Prophet therefore has a constant reference, direct or indirect, to this work, but he by no means confines himself to it. His utterances take in the whole character and condition of the covenant people, their present dangers and discouragements, their tendencies to formalism and self-deception, their relations to the surrounding heathen and their influence upon the future prospects of the world. His historical position in the second–fourth years of Darius merely furnishes the background for the delineations he presents of the present and coming fortunes of the kingdom of God. To insist, as some recent writers do, upon limiting the scope of the night visions to the Prophet’s own age, greatly embarrasses the interpretation, and at the same time disregards what is one of the characteristic features of all Scripture prophecy, namely, that it constantly brings together the near and the remote, deals in generic statements, and prefers a logical to a chronological connection. The sacred writers of course met the wants of their contemporaries; but the Spirit that was in them gave their words a force and bearing which passed far beyond the immediate present.

§ 3. The Style and Form of the Book

From the earliest period complaint has been made of the obscurity of the Prophet. Hengstenberg quotes from Abarbanel, “The prophecies of Zechariah are so obscure that no expositors however skilled have found their hands ( Psalm 76:5) in the explanation,” and from Jarchi, “the prophecy is very abstruse, for it contains visions resembling dreams which want interpreting; and we shall never be able to discover the true interpretation until the teacher of righteousness (cf. Joel 2:23 marg.) arrives.” The same thing had been said long before these Jewish expositors by Jerome, who after pronouncing the first part very obscure, begins his comment on the second with these words, “Ab obscuris ad obscuriora transimus, et cum Moyse ingredimur in nubem et caliginem. Abyssus abyssum invocat in voce cataractarum Dei, et gyrans gyrando vadit spiritus et in circulos suos revertitur: Labyrinthios patimur errores el Christi cœca regimus filo vestigia.” So Lowth speaks of him as the Prophet “who of all is perhaps the most obscure.” To the same effect speak many of the rationalistic expositors. And although some of these complaints may be traced to subjective causes as, e. g., the extreme difficulty a Jew would find in understanding any writing which apparently describes a suffering Messiah, or the unwillingness of one who denies the possibility of prophecy in the strict sense of the word, to see or admit what manifestly is a prediction of a remotely future event; yet it, is undeniable that there are passages which in themselves are hard to be understood. This is owing mainly to the predominance of symbolical and figurative language, and occasionally to the brevity and conciseness of the statements. Yet, as Vitringa observes, this fact ought not to frighten any one who is eager for the truth, since there is a sense, even if hidden, which relates to the most important things; and this should only stimulate one’s endeavors. Moreover, as Hengstenberg suggests, there are two considerations which greatly aid the interpreter of Zechariah. One is that he leans so much upon his predecessors prior to the Captivity, and hence much light is gained from parallel passages. The other lies in his being a Prophet of the restoration. Of course one element of uncertainty which is found in the earlier Prophets here ceases. A good deal of what was future to them is to Zechariah either past or present, and it is not possible to explain any of his glowing delineations of a future state of deliverance and enlargement as fulfilled in the return from Babylon. The contraction of the possible field of vision lessens the liability to err.

Zechariah delivers his oracles partly in direct prophetic speech, partly in the relation of visions, and partly in the description of symbolical acts ( Zechariah 6, 11). The occurrence of the two latter forms has been attributed to his Chaldaic education, and to the influence of Babylonian usages and doctrines upon his mind. This is far-fetched and needless. Every peculiarity may be sufficiently accounted for by reference to the older Prophets with whom he was familiar, especially Jeremiah and Daniel. The occurrence of symbolic visions cannot be due to the influences of the exile, for such visions are found in Amos (7–9) who lived long before that period, and are not found in Haggai, who was Zechariah’s contemporary. In respect to our Prophet’s doctrine of angels, good or bad, equally groundless is the view which makes him a debtor to Mesopotamian or Persian theology. As this point will be found treated at some length in a subsequent section (§ 7), only a few words need be added here. As to good angels in general, and the angel of the Lord in particular, the Book of Genesis furnished him with accepted models; and as to Satan, his existence is found clearly set forth in the Book of Job, which no sober interpreter has ever assigned to a later date than the Solomonic era. Zechariah, therefore, reveals no “Babylonian-Persian coloring” in his writings. The particulars which have been cited as showing such a coloring are either distinctively Israelitish (e. g., the number seven, Zechariah 3:9), or else manifestly general (e. g., the company of riders, Zechariah 1:8). On the contrary there is every indication that his culture was native and national. Not only does he expressly refer to the former Prophets ( Zechariah 1:4-6; Zechariah 7:7-12) but borrows their phraseology, as in Be silent all flesh, etc, Zechariah 2:13, cf. Habakkuk 2:20; a brand plucked, etc, Zechariah 3:2, cf. Amos 4:11; quiet my spirit, Zechariah 4:8, cf. Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 7:14; Ezekiel 9:8, cf. Ezekiel 35:7; fear not, etc, Zechariah 8:13, cf. Zephaniah 3:16; let us go speedily, etc, Zechariah 8:21, cf. Isaiah 2:3; shall take hold, etc, Zechariah 8:23, cf. Isaiah 4:1. Other references may be seen by comparing Zechariah 1:12 with Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 2:8 with Isaiah 49:20; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 6:12 with Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Jeremiah 3:10 with Micah 4:4; Micah 6:13 with Psalm 110:4; Psalm 8:4 with Isaiah 65:19-20; Isaiah 8:19 with Jeremiah 31:13; Jeremiah 12:1 with Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 51:13.

Henderson speaks of his prose as “diffuse, uniform, and repetitious,” which is far too sweeping a charge. If by it he refers to the reiteration of “Ye shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me” in Zechariah 2, or of “Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts” in Zechariah 8, it may be said that if one considers what an impression is thus made as to the Prophet’s consciousness of his inspiration and the certainty of the declarations he utters, these will not be deemed “vain repetitions.” I agree with Pressel that he must have no eyes who does not see and admire the grandeur of the night visions, and he no ears who does not hear the heavy tread of the last six chapters. Manifest as is the dependence of Zechariah upon his predecessors in the particulars before mentioned, he yet has a marked individuality Both in thought and expression, e. g., God’s protection of Jerusalem as a wall of fire round about and glory within ( Zechariah 2:5); the dramatic scene of Joshua and Satan before the angel of the Lord ( Zechariah 3:1-2); the poetic delineation of the resistless Spirit ( Zechariah 4:7); the development of the idea in the word Branch ( Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12); the exquisite picture of peace and prosperity ( Zechariah 8:4-5); the representation of Judah as a bow which the Lord bends and Ephraim the arrow fitted on the string ( Zechariah 9:13); the energy in describing the wretchedness of the flock of slaughter in Zechariah 11:5; the striking comparisons in Zechariah 12:8-10; the amazing conception in the phrase “fellow of Jehovah” ( Zechariah 13:7); or, the picturesque method of setting forth universal holiness in Zechariah 14:20-21.

The Hebrew of Zechariah is now admitted to be pure and remarkably free from Chaldaisms. There are some orthographic peculiarities, such as דָּוִיד for דָּוִד ( Zechariah 12:7-8; Zechariah 12:10). Some singular uses of words, as אַחַה for the indefinite article ( Zechariah 5:7), and some unusual constructions, as יוֹשֶׁבֶת בּת־בַּבֶל, or the unusual position of אֵת in Zechariah 7:7, Zechariah 8:17, cf. Haggai 2:5; but in the main the language corresponds to that of the earlier models, and exhibits far fewer traces of linguistic decay than we should expect.

§ 4. The Messianic Predictions

It is an old remark that Zechariah is distinguished for his insight into the moral and spiritual meaning of the Mosaic economy, and his illustration of the Apostle’s statement that the law is a schoolmaster unto Christ. A great largeness and clearness of view is apparent even on a cursory inspection of his writings. His rebuke of formal fasting in Zechariah 7. is not nearly so eloquent as Isaiah’s treatment of the same theme in the fifty-eighth chapter of his prophecies, but it is every way as decided and vigorous. The universality of the coming dispensation is suggested again and again. It is not individuals merely, but many nations and far-off peoples who are to be joined unto the Lord. The old boundaries of the covenant people are to be enlarged until they become coextensive with the limits of the habitable earth. See Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 6:15; Zechariah 8:20-23; Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 14:9-16. The sacred inscription upon the tiara of the high priest, Holiness to the Lord, which proclaimed his entire consecration to the sacerdotal function, Zechariah sees engraved hereafter even upon the bells of the horses in token of the fact that all believers are to become a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and that, to such a degree that even the most ordinary functions of life shall be discharged in a religious spirit. (See Zechariah 14:20.) Again, the reconstruction of the material Temple upon its old site is so far from satisfying his enlarged views that he passes at once to the true house of God, the Temple not made with hands, the glorious structure composed of living stones, built and inhabited by the Spirit of the living God. (See Zechariah 6:13; Zechariah 4:6). The golden candelabrum of the Tabernacle is to him not a mere ornament however brilliant, but the resplendent type of the city of God, precious to Jehovah as the apple of his eye, and shining from afar like a city set upon a hill, the means of its illumination being provided from ever fresh and imperishable sources. (See Zechariah 4:1-12.) Himself a member of the priestly order, he looks forward to the time when the patriarchal type of Melchizedek shall be realized in the combination of regal and sacerdotal functions in one person. Not even the evangelical Prophet presents this instructive and consolatory thought with the clearness and emphasis of Zechariah. (See Zechariah 4:13-14; Zechariah 6:13.) Yet again, the union of the highest doctrines of grace with the most stringent ethical claims is given in a manner worthy of Paul. Over and over is it asserted that the Lord has chosen Jerusalem ( Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2), a fact which is made the sole ground of her preservation, enlargement, and defense against all foes, visible and invisible; and yet he who asserts this sees between heaven and earth the flying roll inscribed with curses against all transgressors ( Zechariah 5:2-4), and also lays down with sharp precision the immutable laws of justice, goodness, and truth, founded upon the recognition of man’s relations to his fellow- Prayer of Manasseh, and their common relation to the one Maker and Father of all ( Zechariah 7:8-10; Zechariah 8:16-17). Once more, the fine conception of a joint observance of the Feast of Tabernacles by all families of the earth, represents the final issue of the world’s great pilgrimage, when the race of Prayer of Manasseh, having concluded its march through the wilderness of error and trial, shall gratefully record the divine goodness in the new Exodus, and keep a perpetual memorial of this distinguishing mercy ( Zechariah 14:16).

But besides these general allusions and references to the coming dispensation, there are specific and unquestionable predictions of the one great person through whom they were to be accomplished. These are given not in a continuous succession, but, just as they were by the former Prophets, at different times, and in various relations according to the circumstances and object of the Prophet on any particular occasion. Each prediction answered a definite purpose when it was uttered, and the whole together serve admirably to supplement and complete the Messianic literature of the preëxile period. These specific references are more frequent and emphatic than in any of Zechariah’s predecessors except Isaiah. They are six in number.

1. The first one occurs in Zechariah 3:8, where Zechariah appropriates a name already used by Isaiah ( Isaiah 4:2) and by Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15) for the same purpose—Branch. Jehovah declares that he will bring forth his servant, thus entitled, and, in close connection with this promise, asserts that the iniquity of the land will be removed in one day.

2. In Zechariah 6:12-13, the same promise is resumed and enlarged. The man whose name is Branch. He will start from a lowly origin and build the Temple of Jehovah, not the mere material structure, but the true spiritual Temple composed of living stones. Not only will He sit in majesty upon a throne, but be a priest upon his throne, uniting in Himself the two distinct offices and so securing the perfect discharge of the functions of both.

3. In Zechariah 9:9-10, the King reappears. His dominion is peaceful but universal, and shouts of triumph hail his coining. Yet that coming is marked by signs of lowliness and sorrow. The passage presents the same combination so often found in Isaiah, of the absence of external signs of majesty with the reality of a world-wide power and influence.

4. The next Messianic reference is found in the obscure and difficult eleventh chapter, where ( Zechariah 11:12-13) the wages of the good shepherd are estimated at the contemptuous sum of thirty pieces of silver. “A goodly price,” says Jehovah, with certainly not unbecoming irony, “at which I was prized of them.” The New Testament ( Matthew 27:9-10) leaves no doubt that here is a designed allusion to the price of the fearful treason of Judas and the subsequent disposal of the wages of unrighteousness.

5. In Zechariah 12:10 is a still more remarkable delineation of the suffering Messiah, and a vivid statement of the connection between his death and the kindling of an earnest and genuine repentance in those who look upon Him as one whom they have pierced. It was fulfilled at Pentecost, and has been illustrated in the effects of the preaching of the cross ever since. The repentance thus wrought is not ineffectual, but results in forgiveness and holiness, as is shown in Zechariah 13:1, which is the conclusion of the passage commencing at the tenth verse of the previous chapter.

6. The last distinct reference to the coming Saviour ( Zechariah 13:7), is perhaps the most striking in the entire range of prophecy. In it Jehovah is represented as calling upon the sword to awake against the man who is his fellow, where we are confronted with the two mysteries; that one sustaining such a relation should be subjected to such a doom, and that the Being who calls for and causes it, is Jehovah with whom he is so intimately united. The only explanation lies in the historical statement of the Evangelist,—God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotton Son. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Thus is apparent the gradual progress of the disclosure. First, Jehovah’s lowly servant, Branch; then that servant as priest and king building Jehovah’s Temple; thirdly, as a meek and peaceful, but universal monarch; fourthly, a Shepherd, scorned, rejected, betrayed, and (by implication) slain; fifthly, his pierced form seen by faith a means of deep and general repentance attended by pardon and conversion; and lastly, the Fellow of Jehovah smitten by Jehovah himself, at once the redeemer and the pattern of his flock.

Dr. Lange (Genesis, p40) finds in Zechariah 10:11 a representation of Christ as going before his returning people through the sea of sorrow, beating down the waves of the sea. But this is gained only by an arbitrary interpretation, at war with the connection, unsustained by usage and scarcely admissible even upon the theory of accommodation.

§ 5. The Contents of the Book

It is very obvious on even a cursory inspection, that the book consists of two parts, the former of which ( Zechariah 1-8.) contains mention of the dates at which its various portions were communicated, while the latter ( Zechariah 9-14) contains no dates at all. There are other and even more important points of difference, as will presently be seen, but this one is enough to indicate the occurrence of a break in the stream of prophetic utterance; the first part having been set forth in the earlier years of Zechariah’s activity, even before the completion of the Temple; the latter on the contrary having been delayed for several, possibly many years, as there is no internal indication in either its structure or its substance, that it was called forth by any particular juncture of circumstances in the condition of the people. The analogy of the Book of Isaiah suggests the opinion that the Prophet, having in the former part of his book communicated the revelations which bore immediately upon the duties and interest of his countrymen at the time, in the latter took a wider range, and set forth the future destiny of the Church in its lights and shades, in such a form as to be of equal benefit at all times and to all classes.

The First Part

This is determined by the several dates to consist of three distinct prophetic utterances.

I. Zechariah 1:1-6. These verses contain an introduction in the form of a solemn admonition enforced by an appeal to the experience of the fathers, who not only felt but acknowledged that Jehovah’s threatenings were not a vain thing but a formidable reality. The date is the eighth month of the second year of Darius, b. c515.

II. Chaps, Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15. Eight Night-visions followed by an Appendix, namely:

1. The Man among the Myrtles, or Successful Intercession for the Covenant people ( Zechariah 1:7-17).

2. The Four Horns and Four Smiths, or an Adequate Defender against every Assailant ( Zechariah 1:18-21).

3. The Man with the Measuring Line, or the Enlargement and Security of the People of God ( Zechariah 2.).

4. Joshua the High Priest before the Angel of Jehovah, or the Forgiveness of Sin and the Coming of the Branch ( Zechariah 3).

5. The Candlestick with the two Olive Trees, or the Positive Communication of God’s Spirit and Grace ( Zechariah 4).

6. The Flying Roll, or the Destroying Curse upon all Sinners ( Zechariah 5:1-4).

7. The Woman in the Ephah, or the Permanent Exile of the Wicked ( Zechariah 5:5-11).

8. The Four Chariots, or Jehovah’s Judgments upon the Heathen ( Zechariah 6:1-8).

Appendix. This recites a symbolical action, the Crowning of Joshua, the High-priest, or the Functions of the Priest-King whose name is Branch. The date of the whole series is the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the second year of Darius, b. c515.

III. Zechariah 7, 8. An answer to the inquiry of the People whether they should continue to observe the annual fasts which commemorated special calamities in their former experience. The Prophet first ( Zechariah 7) rebukes their formalism and recounts the sins and sorrows of their fathers; and then ( Zechariah 8) promises such blessings as will change their fasts into festivals and attract even the heathen to seek their fellowship. The prophecy was uttered in the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius, b. c517, which is the last date mentioned in the book.

The Second Part

This, as has been said, bears no date, and may have been, and probably was, delivered long after what is contained in the preceding chapters. It is divided into two oracles by the titles which head respectively Zechariah 11, 12. The general theme is the Future Destiny of the Covenant People.

I. The First Burden ( Zechariah 9-11).

This seems to outline the course of God’s providence toward his people as far as the time of our Saviour.

1. Judgment upon the Land of Hadrach ( Zechariah 9:1-8), or the Syrian Conquests of Alexander the Great.

2. Zion’s King of Peace ( Zechariah 9:9-10). Plainly Messianic.

3. Victory over the Sons of Javan ( Zechariah 9:11-17), or the triumphs of the Maccabees.

4. Further Blessings of the Covenant People ( Zechariah 10). Their gradual increase in means and numbers under native rulers.

5. The Rejection of the Good Shepherd ( Zechariah 11). A striking delineation of our Lord’s treatment by his own people.

II The Second Burden ( Zechariah 12-14).

This carries forward the outlook upon the future even to the time of the end.

1. Israel’s Victory over Trials ( Zechariah 12:1-9), or the Triumph of the early Church over persecuting Foes.

2. Repentance and Conversion ( Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1), or the Power of Christ’s Death to awaken and renew.

3. The Fruits of Penitence ( Zechariah 13:2-6), as shown in the abolition of false worship and false prophecy which stand for all forms of sin.

4.The Sword against the Shepherd and his Flock ( Zechariah 13:7-9), or Christ is smitten by his Father, and his People suffer also.

5. Final Conflict and Triumph of God’s Kingdom ( Zechariah 14), or a General Survey of the checkered course from beginning to end.

§ 6. The Genuineness of the Second Part

The is in some respects the most interesting and important question pertaining to the book, and needs to be considered at some length.

1. The History of the Assault. This is comparatively of late date. The question seems never to have been stirred until the middle of the seventeenth century. The first to raise a doubt was the learned and pious Jos. Mede in the Fragmenta Sacra appended to his Dissert. Eccles. Triga, London, 1653. This was suggested to him by the citation in Matt. ( Matthew 27:9-10), which the Evangelist attributes to Jeremiah, whence he concluded that “the Jews had not rightly attributed these chapters to Zechariah;” and he was further confirmed in this opinion by the contents of the chapters, some of which he thought required an earlier date than the exile, and others were not suitable to Zechariah’s position and object. Mede was followed in this view by Hammond, 1681; Rich. Kidder, Demon. of the Messiah, 1700; Whiston, 1722; Archbishop Newcome, Imp. Version, etc., 1785; to all of whom Blayney made what Hengstenberg calls “an admirable reply,” in his work on Zechariah, Oxford, 1797. The controversy was first awakened in Germany by B. G. Flügge, in an anonymous work published in1784, in which he maintained that the second part consisted of nine distinct prophecies, delivered before the exile. After him Eichhorn, Corrodi, Paulus, and Vatke went to the opposite extreme and assigned its origin to a writer living in the time of Alexander the Great. The greater part of the hostile critics (Bertholdt, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Hitzig, Knobel, Maurer, Ewald, Bleek, Bunsen, Von Ortenberg, Pressel) followed in the wake of Mede and Newcome, and maintained, with however many variations among themselves, that the six chapters in question dated from a period prior to the Captivity. Some (Davidson and Pressel) deem the whole the work of one author, probably the Zechariah mentioned Isaiah 8:2, who lived in the reign of Ahaz. Others (Knobel, Bunsen, et al.) assign Zechariah 12-14 (to which Ewald excepts Zechariah 13:7-9, which he thinks misplaced where it is) to a later unknown author, probably a contemporary of Jeremiah; and thus they make two ante-exile composers of the second part. The traditional view of one book and one author has been maintained by Carpzov, Beckhaus, Jahn, Koster, Hengstenberg, De Wette, (in the later editions of his Einleitung), Umbreit, Hävernick, Keil, Stahelin, V. Hoffman, Neumann, Kliefoth, Köhler, Reinke, et al.; and in England by Henderson, Wordsworth, and Pusey, while Jno. Pye Smith and Davidson hold to the preëxile authorship.

2. The Grounds of Objection to the Genuineness. These have been already suggested. (a.) The first and most important is the New Testament authority as apparently given by Matthew ( Matthew 27:9-10), where the Evangelist attributes to Jeremiah what is unquestionably a citation from Zechariah 11:12. Various readings are found in some MSS. and VSS, but these are such as in all probability sprang from a desire to make the Gospel conform to the fact. (b.) Another ground is sought in the contents of the six chapters, e. g. Mede argues that one of the chapters contains a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem which was fulfilled by Titus, and this was by no means suitable to the object of Zechariah, whose mission was only to console and to encourage. Again, Ephraim and Judah are spoken of together as if both were still existing as distinct kingdoms, which they never were after the exile. Assyria and Egypt are mentioned as formidable powers which at that time they were not, Persia having absorbed the former and subdued the latter. So also are Phœnicia, Damascus, and Philistia represented as important foes, when their power had long been broken. Complaints are made of false prophets and idolatry, of neither of which is any trace found after the Captivity. The delineation of the Messiah in the second part, as rejected and put to death, is inconsistent with those statements in the first, which represent Him as glorious and blessed. (c.) A third objection is drawn from the alleged contrast of style between the parts. The first is prosaic and poor, the second is poetic and forcible, so that the difference is manifest. The one is full of visions, and speaks much of angels and also of Satan, of all of which there is scarcely a trace in the other. Certain characteristic phrases, “The word of Jehovah came,” “Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,” etc, found in the first eight chapters, do not occur at all in the last six, while on the other hand “in that day” occurs frequently in the latter, but not once in, the former. A convenient summary of these objections may be found in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, pp3603, 3609.

3. The Argument for the Traditional View. (a) Here it may be remarked, first that the opinion which refers the origin of the controverted chapters to the time of Alexander or of the Maccabees, is now generally abandoned, and by the later writers on the other side is not deemed worthy of reply. Indeed it never rested upon anything but the dogmatic prejudice that the Prophets could prophecy only of that which lay in their own time, and could be foreknown by their own unaided faculties. Eichhorn frankly confessed that all other arguments were unsatisfactory. (b.) The degree of variation among the objectors themselves, casts suspicion upon their views. Men of equal learning, insight, and candor differ alike upon the authorship they suggest and the grounds upon which they defend it. Some make one writer, others make two; one rests mainly upon the text in Matthew, another is guided by the variations in matter and tone between the first part and. the second, another makes much of the variations in style. It seems then that as soon as we leave the traditional view we are all at sea, with no certain criteria of judgment, and liable to be borne hither and thither by mere subjective influences. (c.) We have no record of any other Zechariah who might be presumed to have written what was afterwards confounded with the genuine writings of the son of Iddo. Mention is made ( Isaiah 8:2) of a man bearing this name, but it is only as a “faithful witness,” without the least indication that he bore the prophetic character or discharged the prophetic office; and later, another is spoken of ( 2 Chronicles 26:5) who was a trusted counsellor of King Uzziah, but this Prayer of Manasseh, even if the text be correct (of which there is serious doubt), while he “understood the sight of God,” yet did not stand in the prophetic order and is not credited with any prophetic utterances, much less writings, for popular edification. Nothing then but a vigorous exercise of the imagination can produce another Zechariah whose compositions might by mistake have been appended to those of the post-exilium Prophet. (d.) The theory of another author or authors implies that there was a mistake made by the framers of the present Canon of the Old Testament. It is quite certain that they intended all the fourteen chapters of Zechariah to be regarded as the work of one and the same person. Did they err? We may admit, as Pressel claims, the paucity of our knowledge as to the time of the compilation of the Canon, and the men by whom it was done; nor can we urge with Hengstenberg that Zechariah lived in the same age with the collectors of the Canon, which may or may not have been the case. But it is certain that the Canon was completed before the version of the Septuagint was made, i. e., in the first half of the third century before Christ, and its compilers had abundant opportunity to satisfy themselves as to the claims of the different classes of writings upon which they adjudicated. Some they admitted; others they rejected; and their judgment stands to-day accredited by the highest authority,—that of our Lord and his Apostles. We know from Josephus and other sources what Scriptures they were upon which the blessed Saviour placed his imprimatur. They included the Δωδεκαπρόφητον, just as it stands, and in this, the Book of Zechariah just as it stands. Would he have sanctioned such an error as is claimed to exist? Is it reasonable to think that the Providence which confessedly watched so carefully over the sacred writings in all other respects would have failed just here? The cases which Mede cites are not parallel. He speaks of Agur’s prayer being included in the Book of Proverbs of Song of Solomon, and of liturgical compositions by other authors being included in what are called the Psalm of David. But in both these cases the rule was applied, a fortiori nomen fit; and besides, the added portions were for the most part marked with the names of their respective authors. In Zechariah nothing of the kind is seen. Not a hint of divided authorship is given, nor was even the thought of such a thing suggested, until twenty centuries had rolled away. Nor is there a single ascertained instance in the older portions of the Scriptures, in which pieces by different authors are collected into one book and ascribed to one and the same author.

(e.) As to the passage in Matthew’s gospel, it may be truly said that the Evangelist would hardly be likely to make a correction of the Jewish Canon in this indirect manner, without giving some intimation to that effect. “The uniform reference of these chapters to Zechariah in the Jewish Canon is much more difficult to account for if he did not write them, than the verse in Matthew Isaiah, if he did” (T. V. Moore). Moreover, Matthew’s statement gives no countenance to those who claim an early Zechariah, for he explicitly mentions Jeremiah, and they who plead his authority must take it as it stands, and not bend it to suit their own purposes. So far then as the present argument is concerned, we might dismiss this citation as having no bearing upon the question of an earlier or later Zechariah. For a full statement of the question the reader is referred to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, 3609, and to Lange’s Comm, on Matthew, l.c. In my own view, the citation is not to be explained as an error of memory, which is inconsistent with the true doctrine of the inspiration of the sacred penmen; nor as a textual error, for the existing text is completely established; nor as a quotation from a lost book of Jeremiah (Origen), or an apocryphal book of his (Jerome, Eichhorn), or one of his oral statements (Calovius), or from a genuine work of Jeremiah from which the Jews have expunged this passage (Eusebius), since all of these suppositions are as destitute of probability as they are of proof; nor by the theory that the Evangelist, fusing two passages together, one from Jeremiah and another from Zechariah, names the joint product from the older Prophet (Grotius, Hengstenberg), for this is extremely artificial and unlikely; nor by the claim that the name Jeremiah was purposely substituted for that of Zechariah in order to teach us that all prophecies proceed from one Spirit, and that the Prophets are merely channels, not sources, of the Divine truth (Wordsworth), for this would create far greater difficulties than it removes, by undermining all confidence in any specific quotations. The only remaining view is that of Scrivener and Lightfoot, that the Book of Jeremiah, being actually arranged by the Jews as the first of all the Prophets (Bava Bathra); gave its name to the whole body of their writings, and that thus Matthew was justified in naming his quotation as he did. If this be not acceptable, all we can do is to assume an error on the part of one of the earliest transcribers, or to say with Calvin, Me nescire fateor nec anxie laboro. But however this citation may be explained, or even if it be given up as inexplicable, it cannot be used to prove that the authorship of the second part of Zechariah was an open question in the time of the Apostles. For if that had been the case we should have had some other evidence of the fact. Especially, since Matthew makes two other quotations from Zechariah ( Matthew 21:5 and Matthew 26:31), but in both cases follows his usual method of quoting without name; in one, saying, “which was spoken by the Prophet,” in the other, simply “it is written.” But if he had really held that the second part of Zechariah, although inspired and canonical, was not attributed to its true author, would he not have said so in these passages as well as in Matthew 27:9?

(f.) As to the contents of the chapters in question the objections spring from a misapprehension of their exegetical meaning. Many of these will be considered as they arise in the course of the exposition, but a few remarks may be made here. The mention of Ephraim by no means presupposes the distinct existence of the northern kingdom. That name is used to designate a part of the existing population just as the corresponding term Israel is employed by Malachi ( Zechariah 2:11), whom no one denies to be a post-exile Prophet. Assyria and Egypt in like manner are brought forward as natural and convenient representatives of the heathen foes of the covenant people. Phœnicia and the other kingdoms on the coast line of Palestine, although not flourishing and independent, were certainly in existence in Zechariah’s time, and suffered under the victorious march of Alexander which our Prophet predicts. The difficulty about the reference to false Prophets and idolatry is diluted by the prophetic peculiarity of representing the future under the forms of the past. As to the Messianic predictions in the second part, they are a pledge of its genuineness, sustaining as they do the same relation to the Messianic allusions in the first part, as Isaiah’s later predictions on the same theme (49, 53) do to his earlier writings (2, 9, 11). When Zechariah’s main object was to encourage the people in carrying forward the Temple, he naturally gave special prominence to the brighter side of the Messianic picture; but afterwards when his scope was larger, he brought in the more developed thought of one who triumphs through suffering. (g.) In Zechariah 12:11 there is an undeniable allusion to the death of Josiah in the valley of Megiddo, which is fatal to the assumption that the second part was composed in the time of Ahaz. Nor can this be successfully eluded by assigning Zechariah 9-11. to one author, and Zechariah 12-14to another, for the two “burdens” are intimately connected by their common description of the people as a flock, and of their leaders as shepherds, and by the dependence of Zechariah 13:7 upon Zechariah 11:11. But if the six chapters form one whole, how could they have been uttered in the days of Jeremiah and yet have attained no recognition at his hand?

(h.) As to the alleged differences of style, Pressel, himself an opponent of the genuineness, says with some sharpness that the man who professes to see such a contrast that he can say of one part that it is post-exile Hebrew, and of the other that it is ante-exile Hebrew, must have an ear fine enough to hear the grass when it grows! Still it must be admitted that there are some differences; yet these are not more than may be easily accounted for by the difference of age and of aim in the author. Zechariah ( Zechariah 2:4) was a young man when he composed the first part, and was possibly quite advanced when he composed the second. The first part is in large measure descriptive, the second wholly prophetic; and there was room in the latter for an elevation and grandeur which were not called for before. It surely is not an accepted canon of criticism that because an author writes at one time in a certain style, he must always use the same in any subsequent work. This reasoning would (as T. V. Moore says) make us affirm that Burke could not be the author of the Reflections on the French Revolution, because he wrote the Treatise on the Sublime and Beautiful, which is as simple and subdued as the former is impassioned and brilliant. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that the first part, which on all sides is admitted to be of post-exile origin, presents some great diversities of conception and expression. What can be more unlike the bold and startling symbolism of the night visions than the plain didactic utterances contained in the two chapters (7,8) which follow them? Yet no one has suggested a different author here. Why then should we think of one when we come to the second part, where the variation is certainly no greater? A word may be added respecting the dependence of Zechariah upon the earlier Prophets (see the citations and references in § 3) as evidence of his posteriority. It is true that Köhler, himself a defender of the genuineness, declines to use this argument, saying that it is impossible to decide in such cases which is the original source of the words, phrases, and images used. But the point is well taken by Stahelin, that it is far more likely that one Prophet quoted from many than that many quoted from one. Indeed, it was this consideration principally which led De Wette to change his opinion, so that after having delared for two authors of Zechariah in three editions of his Introduction, he returned to the traditionary view in the fourth.

(i.) The adverse theory claims that the compilers of the Canon found these six chapters either together or in parts, floating around as a part of the inspired literature of the nation and generally recognized as such, but without having the name of any author prefixed; and that by mistake they put them in connection with the acknowledged prophecies of Zechariah. Here, it may be urged in reply, is an exceedingly improbable supposition at the outset. All the prophetical writings of the Old Testament of which we have any knowledge state in each case at the beginning the name of the author. This is true of the twelve Minor Prophets, of the Books of Isaiah,, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and of the particular prophetic visions of Daniel ( Zechariah 7:1; Zechariah 8:1; Zechariah 9:1-2; Zechariah 10:1). This was not the case with the histories of Scripture, for the obvious reason that these, whether because they were drawn from the archives of the nation, or because they bore intrinsic evidence of their correctness, did not require to be authenticated by the authors’ names. But prophecy had its entire value in its divine inspiration, and its human author must furnish in his name and personality the evidence that he stood in such a relation to God as to be made by Him a channel of revelation. This then being the case, it is wholly unreasonable to suppose that an anonymous prophecy was current among the Jews at the time when the Canon was made. On the contrary we are justified in holding that had such a nameless work come before the compilers, they would have rejected it as on its face spurious.

(j.) The testimony of the Jews on this subject is unanimous. Not only the learned scribes in the days of Ezra and afterwards who compiled the Canon, but the schools of Hillel and Shammai who flourished in Jerusalem, just before and after the time of our Lord, the great Jewish Seminaries of Tiberias and Babylon, the authors of the Targums, and the continuous series of learned Rabbins down to the Reformation, all with one consent, accept the Book of Zechariah just as it stands in the Old Testament as the product of one Prayer of Manasseh, the contemporary of Haggai and Zerubbabel. Of the learning of these men there can be no question. They were as well able to judge questions of evidence, internal or external, as any modern critic. They were notorious for their extreme jealousy for the integrity of the sacred writings. Their absolute silence as to any diversity of authorship is wholly inexplicable, if the apparent indications of that fact have anything like the degree of strength and clearness which is claimed by the opponents of the traditional view.

Mr. Perowne, the author of the article on Zechariah in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, concludes a review of the whole argument, with the remark, “It is not easy to say which way the weight of evidence preponderates.” I cannot agree with this opinion. Of course it would be idle to say that there is no ground for suspecting the preëxile date of the chapters in question. Too many critics of various countries and of different shades of theological opinion, have agreed in adopting this view to warrant its contemptuous rejection. At the same time a careful review of the case justifies the immemorial historical tradition. No dates are given, because none were needed, the entire outlook being on the distant future. The author’s name is not once mentioned; but the same is true of the later prophecies of Isaiah, the twenty-six brilliant chapters which close the book. The northern kingdom is not mentioned in the last three chapters, while it does occur in the three preceding; but if its mention in the latter has no historical significance, its omission in the former need have none. The efforts made to explain particular predictions by occurrences in Hebrew history prior to the Captivity, have totally failed, as e. g., the conquest of the sea-coast ( Zechariah 9:1-8), the victory over Javan ( Zechariah 9:13-17), the feeding of the flock of slaughter (11), the general repentance ( Zechariah 12:10-14), or the inward purity and universal ascendancy of Judah ( Zechariah 14:16-21). But most of these can be very satisfactorily shown to be fulfilled in the period between the restoration from Babylon and the founding of the Christian Church; and any others may safely be considered as belonging to the as yet unfulfilled purposes of the Most High. What then is there startling in the thought that Zechariah in the later years of life, under the guidance of the same inspiration which undeniably vouchsafed to him the night-visions, proceeded to record these two oracles or burdens sketching in outline the future fortunes of the people of God, exhibiting their struggles and triumphs, their sins and purification, and especially their Priest-king, not merely in his wide and peaceful reign, but also in the rejection, humiliation, and sacrifice by which that reign is procured? Then, since we know that Jeremiah on one occasion by divine command ( Jeremiah 36:2) reduced to writing all the prophecies of his preceding ministry, why might not Zechariah have done the same thing, making one complete record of all that the Lord had seen fit to reveal by him?

Furthermore, let the reader compare the course of thought in the eight night visions and their appendix with that of the second part, and he will hardly fail to see a surprising coincidence in the general scope, whatever may be the variations in detail. There are the same promises of increase and enlargement, of protection and security, of overthrow of foes, of removal of iniquity, of effusion of the Spirit, of the punishment of the incorrigible, and of the final ingathering of far-off peoples. This is apparent from a glance at the contents of the respective sections as given in § 5, but is still more evident upon a careful continuous reading of each part with the attention fixed upon the order of thought and its general expression. As to the development of the Messianic idea, the lowly and peaceful rider upon an ass’s foal ( Zechariah 9:9) is quite in harmony with the repeated use in the former part ( Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12) of the modest term “branch” (=sucker, shoot). And although the later chapters contain a revelation of suffering in the good shepherd, of which there is no hint in the earlier, yet this is just what we should expect from the analogy of Isaiah, where we have the king and the kingdom, the branch and the glory in the earlier prophecies, but no indication of the solitary, patient, wronged, and martyred sufferer till we reach the later portion. It seems to have been the purpose of the Most High to give full force and sweep to the brighter and more glowing anticipations of Messiah’s character and course, and after this preparation, to disclose the darker outlines of his extraordinary career. And if, as seems probable, the second part of Zechariah was issued at an advanced period of his life, when the restored exiles had outlived their early trials, and were firmly established on their ancestral soil, their situation would admit of a distinct reference to the suffering Messiah which would have been unsuitable at an earlier period when it was particularly required that they should be consoled and animated.

§ 7. The alleged Influence of the Persian Theology

That Zechariah shows in the style and form of his writings traces of his early Chaldæan education has long been admitted, and the only matter of surprise is that those traces are not more numerous and palpable. But it is often asserted that not only his language but his thought has been affected by contact with Ethnic races and religions, especially by the religious views of the ancient Persians. Thus Mr. Alger says (Doctrine of a Future Life, p132), “We have unquestionable proofs that during the period from the Babylonish Captivity to the advent of Christ, the Jews borrowed and adapted a great deal from the Persian theology.” Again, he quotes (p141) the acute and learned scholar, Dr. Martin Haug, as declaring that “Judaism after the exile received an important influence from Zoroastrianism, an influence which in regard to the doctrine of angels, Satan, and the resurrection of the dead, cannot be mistaken.” As Zechariah does not refer to the resurrection, it is only the former two of these questions which need to be handled here.

There is no doubt that the two systems, the Hebrew and the Persian, substantially agree on these points. According to the latter, Ormuzd, the Principle of Good, the Fountain of Light, not only created the earth and Prayer of Manasseh, but also a number of spiritual beings, some of whom stood as counsellors around his throne and all of whom were engaged in his service. Over against Ormuzd stood Ahriman, the Principle of Evil, the instigator of all wrong and misery and death, who also was attended by subordinate evil spirits like himself. And these two essential principles stood in sternal conflict with each other. Here then is the doctrine of good and evil angels, as a constituent and very ancient part of the Zoroastrian system, as all expositors of that system agree, however they may differ on other points. Its antiquity was at least six centuries before Christ, and may have been four or five centuries earlier, while Dr. Haug, one of the latest scholars in this field, holds it for certain (Alger, p141), that Zoroaster lived from fifteen hundred to two thousand years before the Christian era. On the ground mainly of this early date, it is insisted that Zechariah borrowed from the Zend-Avesta. But surely this position is not tenable. What reason is there which compels us to believe that either borrowed from the other? The Hebrew system claims to be a Revelation, begun at the fall of Prayer of Manasseh, and gradually enlarging in the scope of its disclosures during a long course of ages, while it narrowed in the numbers of those to whom it was given from the whole race at the first to a particular division in the time of Noah, to a particular family in the time of Abraham, and lastly to a single individual in the time of Jacob, whose descendants constituted the chosen seed. If this be admitted, what is to hinder the view that some portions of the primeval revelation to Adam, Noah, or Abraham, may have floated down the stream of time outside the channel of the covenant, and, being appropriated by Zoroaster, were wrought by him into the system which bears his name? Beyond all question the tradition of the flood thus descended in almost every direction. It is surely not unreasonable to think that other traditions were transmitted in the same way. But in only one instance were they seized by a man able to retain these fragments of primitive truth and develope them into a complete monotheistic system. In this way the origin of the Zoroastrian doctrine as to angels, good and bad, may be fairly accounted for. But if on the other hand the postulate of an original revelation at the beginning be wholly denied, we are not shut up to the conclusion that Zechariah and his predecessors borrowed from the author of the ancient Persian faith. For if Zoroaster was able by his own faculties to excogitate the system which bears his name, why may not the same power be supposed to have inhered in one or more of the eminent Hebrews? On the plane of mere naturalism, the question resolves itself simply into one of mental grasp and constructive power, and on what possible ground can it be claimed that Moses or Samuel or David were unable to do what the East Bactrian reformer did? Or even if one should allow the preposterous assertion of Mr. Alger (p141), that, “The Hebrew theology had no Satan, no demonology until after the residence at Babylon,” why could not Zechariah himself have developed this interesting fact of the unseen world without Ethnic aid? He was the heir of a civilization and a literature which had existed for centuries, as well as of by far the purest and most spiritual monotheism which the world has ever seen, and was certainly in a condition to lend truth rather than to borrow it.

Nor does it avail to say, as has been said, “How often the Hebrew people lapsed into idolatry, accepting Pagan gods, doctrines, and ritual, is notorious.” For this remark, true as it Isaiah, does not meet the case. The people did frequently fall away under the pressure of temptation. The instances are too numerous to be recounted, stretching all the way from the calf worship instituted by Aaron at the foot of Sinai, down to the weeping for Thammuz, and the chambers of imagery which Ezekiel rebuked. But the same faithful narrative which informs us of these apostasies, also informs us that they were never regarded as anything else than departures from the truth. However widely they might prevail, always a few were left who remained faithful to the covenant, and these preserved the hereditary faith intact. Error was transient, truth permanent. A sure evidence of this is found in the Book of Psalm. The human authors of this inspired liturgy were many, and they flourished at widely different periods, yet the theology of the book is the same throughout. The earliest Psalm and the latest agree in every doctrinal sentiment. Even in the northern kingdom where, although Jehovah was still worshipped (except in the times of Ahab and Jezebel), idolatry was formally established, the Prophets who officiated in that kingdom ( Hosea,, Amos, etc.) never gave place to the prevailing errors, but rebuked them with the utmost vigor and boldness. There is not a single instance in which Hebrew theology was shaped or even colored by these outside influences. Its authorized expounders with one consent rejected every suggestion of the heathen. Why then should Zechariah have proved an exception? Why should he violate the usage of a thousand years and accept new doctrines from a heathen source? The very fact that the nation previously often went astray in whole or in part, and in some instances for a length of time, and yet never succeeded in ingrafting its errors upon its own literature, renders it a most unlikely thing that Zechariah should have turned aside to borrow a heathen superstitution.

Again, if the Prophet borrowed from the Persian system, why did he stop short with its doctrine of angels? How came he to escape its grand peculiarity—the eternal and necessary existence of Ahriman? This is the answer which Zoroaster gave to the vexed question of all theologies and all ages, Whence comes evil? And it is the best or most plausible solution which unassisted reason can render to that perplexing problem. Now if Zechariah obtained from Babylon the idea of Satan, he must have become familiar with the whole doctrine of the Persians upon this subject. How came he to take just so much and no more? Not a trace of dualism appears in any portion of his prophecies. True, he does not, like his illustrious predecessor Isaiah ( Isaiah 45:7), put his foot upon the seductive theory with such significant words as these: “I form the light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” But he ignores it as contemptuously as if it were unworthy of notice. Yet if he was indebted to this system for the suggestion of an evil spiritual being, the adversary of God and Prayer of Manasseh, it is certainly fair to suppose that in adopting one part of the view, he would at least have hinted at his rejection of the other and more characteristic portion.

Once more. All the circumstances of the case oppose the alleged indebtedness of the Prophet to the Zend-Avesta. The Jews were carried to Babylon against their will, and one of the most painful features of this compulsory exile was its interference with their religious worship and privileges. They had no temple, no altar, no sacrifices, no festivals, no solemn processions, nothing but the law, the Sabbath, and at first the occasional voice of a Prophet. But they appear, with the exception of such as were taken for domestic service, to have been settled together as a sort of colony, so that there was not much difficulty in preserving their ancestral traditions. To these they adhered, seemingly with the more steadfast determination because they were cut off from their regular forms of worship. As Ewald remarks over and over (Geschichte d. V. I., iv. passim), they became entirely self-centered, their thoughts reverted incessantly to their past history, to their peculiar position among the nations of the earth, and to the singular hope of a Deliverer to come which lay at the bottom of their political and religious organization. This is shown by the fact of restoration. Instead of being hopelessly dispersed and merged among the nations with whom they were identified for more than two generations, they survived in sufficient numbers and with enough national spirit, to avail themselves of the permission of Cyrus, and return to their desolated ancestral homes and there renew the old commonwealth. The severity of their trials only endeared to them the more their former faith and institutions. A gleam of this feeling shines out in the touching strains of the 137 th Psalm, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? One thing is certain. There was a complete and surprising change wrought in the whole body in respect to idol worship. Before the Captivity they were incessantly falling into this snare. There was scarcely one of their heathen neighbors whom they did not at some time imitate in their objects of worship. It made no difference who presented the temptation or what was its particular nature, they were always ready to exchange the glory of the uncorruptible God for a lie, and bow down to the objects their own hands had made. But after the Captivity all this was reversed. Henceforth they became proof against any such allurement. Nay, so far from going of themselves into idolatry, they defied the power of any ruler to force them into it. It was the insane fury of Antiochus Epiphanes for the introduction of the Greek cultus into Judæa which occasioned innumerable martyrdoms, and at last provoked the insurrection of the Maccabees and the series of heroic struggles by which they achieved the independence of their country.

The question then recurs—How is it possible that one of the leaders of the people, an inspired Prophet, who shared in all their intense national convictions and hopes, and who as a Jew regarded Gentiles with far more of scorn and dislike than a Greek of the age of Pericles did those whom he called βάρβαροι,—how could he think of improving or perfecting his theology by adaptations from the views of uncircumcised heathen? Such a thing might have been possible (though not probable) at an earlier day, but that it should have occurred at the era of the restoration, Isaiah, I humbly insist, quite inconceivable. Nor is it of any avail to refer to the acknowledged excellences of Zoroastrianism,—its pure theism, its fierce hatred of idolatry, its elevated morality, and its doctrine of a future state, —as if these would conciliate the favor of a devout Hebrew and incline him to adopt new views from such a source. The immemorial faith of the nation was that it had been chosen by Jehovah as the depository of his truth, and therefore had express and immediate revelations from him on all points of religious faith. As long as they held this conviction, it would seem nothing less than treason and sacrilege to borrow doctrinal opinions from any ethnic system, however pure and spiritual it might seem. A pious Jew could not admit that he had anything to learn about religion from an uncircumcised stranger.

§ 8. Literature

I. Patristic. Jerome († 420), Theodore of Mopsuestia († 429), Cyril of Alexandria († 444), Theodoret (†457), all treat of Zechariah in Commentaries upon The Twelve Minor Prophets.

II. Jewish. R. Salomon ben Isaak, called Jarchi or Raschi († 1105). R. Abraham ben Meir ibn Esra, called Aben Esra († 1167), David Kimchi († 1230). All these with the Targum are contained in Buxtorf’s Rabbinical Bible, Basle, 1618. Kimchi, translated by Dr. M‘Caul, London, 1837.

III. Reformers. M. Luther Ausleg. des Proph. Zecharias, Wittenberg, 1528; Melancthon, Comm. in Zechariam, Witt, 1553; Calvin, Prœlec. in Proph. Min.; Tremellius and Junius, Bib. Sac, 1579; J. J. Grynæus, Comm. in Zech., Geneva, 1581.

IV. Later Writers. C. Vitringa, Comm. ad Zach. quœ Supersunt, 1734; B. G. Flügge, Weissag. des Proph. Zach., 1784; Venema, Sermon. in Zech., 1787; Blayney, New Translation of Zech., 1787. Besides, in works on the Minor Prophets: Cocceius, 1652; Markius, 1698–1700; Archbishop Newcome, 1785.

V. Of the Present Century. F.B. Köster, Meletem. in Zach. partem poster., 1818; E. Forberg, Comm. Crit. and Exeg. in Zach. part. post., 1824; J. Stonard, Comm. on Zechariah, London, 1824; Hengstenberg, Integritä des Sach., Berlin, 1831; Christology (second edition), 1856; J. D. F. Burger, Etudes sur Zech., Strasburg, 1841; M. Baumgarten, Nachtgesichte Sach., 1854; E. F. J. v. Ortenberg, Die Bestandtheile des buch. Sach., 1859; W. Neuman, Weissag. des Sachar., 1859; Th. Kliefoth, Der Proph. Sachar., 1862.

In works on the Minor Prophets: Rosenmüller, 1826; Henderson, 1830; F. W. C. Umbreit, 1845; J. Schlier, 1861; Hitzig, 1863; C. F. Keil, 1866; Prof. Cowles, N. Y, 1866; C. Wordsworth, 1870.

In works on the Post-exile Prophets: T. V. Moore, N. Y, 1856; A. Köhler, 1860–65; W. Pressel, 1870.

In Introductions: De Wette, Hävernick, Bleek, Stahelin, Donaldson.

In other writings: J. C. K. Hoffman, Weissagung und Erfüll., 1841; Schriftbeweis, 1857 Reinke, Die Mess. Weissagungen, Giessen, 1859–1862.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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