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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 13

 

 


Introduction

The occurrence of a new heading, "The burden of the word of the Lord," which occurs again in Zechariah 12:1, and elsewhere only in Malachi 1:1, warns us that a new section begins here. We are no longer concerned with Joshua and Zerubbabel, the small community of Judah, and the hopes and aspirations of their time, but to a great extent with a larger Judaism which is in conflict with a world-power described as Greek, whose strongholds are not Babylon, but Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, and the Philistine towns. No Jewish king or governor is mentioned, and the High Priest appears to be the head of the subject Jewish community. At the same time there is a sharp cleavage in the Jewish community itself; Judah and Jerusalem are opposed to one another, and the greatest Jewish families are regarded as blameworthy. The post-exilic date of Zechariah 9-14 is certain, not merely from the absence of any reference to a king, but also from the widespread dispersion of the Jews, from the mention of Greeks, and from the utter difference in tone between this section and the utterances of the pre-exilic prophets. The mention of Egypt and Assyria side by side is not in itself evidence for a pre-exilic date, since in Ezra 6:22, which can scarcely be earlier than the Greek period, "Assyria" denotes the great empire of W. Asia, which, having originally been Assyrian, passed successively to the Chaldeans, the Persians, and the Greeks (Numbers 24:22 f.*, Isaiah 11:11*, Isaiah 27:13). A late date is also suggested by the obvious use of other passages of Scripture, particularly Ezek. Here, as in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, we have compositions saturated with Biblical terms, evidently emanating from "the people of a book." There are likewise numerous agreements with late Pss. and late post-exilic sections of Is. Like many of the Pss., these chapters appear to have been composed in a time of storm and stress, when the Jews were oppressed by the heathen, and disunited among themselves; and of such a time we have no record before the second century B.C. That they are written in classical Heb. as distinct from the Heb. of the Midrash is no proof to the contrary; for not only did Ben Sira (c. 180 B.C.) write in the older language, but many of the Pss. are as late as the Maccabean age. Space forbids at this point a detailed examination of these six chapters. It must suffice to state what will afterwards be shown in detail that, apart from some points as yet unexplained on any theory of date, every section of these chapters is quite consistent with the known history of the second century B.C. It is scarcely conceivable that a number of compositions dealing both with internal and external affairs should be equally applicable to two or more distinct periods.

These chapters fall into two main divisions (note the new heading in Zechariah 12:1, though the divisions are not necessarily homogeneous). Hebrew methods of arrangement, being based originally on oral rather than on written tradition, are fundamentally different from English; catchwords and prominent phrases being considered rather than logical arrangement. The analytical study of the Synoptic Gospels has shown that an apparently continuous section may be made up of many disjointed fragments, and this fact must be kept in view in the criticism of prophetical literature.

Of the two sections into which. Zechariah 9-14 falls, the first (Zechariah 9-11) is in the main poetical or based upon poetical prophecies, the second (Zechariah 12-14) is entirely prose. In Zechariah 9-11, however, there are some evident divisions, and perhaps we have hero the work of several authors. The mere fact that two poems are composed in a somewhat unusual metre does not prove, apart from subject-matter, that they are from the same hand, for a poet who produced a great impression by a novel form of verse may well have had imitators. If the date given above is correct (the second century B.C.), we may assume that the prophecies were first published in synagogues, and that, after the triumph of the Maccaban party, they passed to Jerusalem and became incorporated in the Scriptures. Sirach 49:10 tells us nothing as to the contents of the books of the twelve, the Minor Prophets, as we call them. A new edition of the Heb. text of Jeremiah, enlarged and rearranged, was issued after the Gr. translation had been made from an earlier edition; and though no new name would have been received as canonical, it was evidently possible for some time after the fixing of the list of canonical prophets to enlarge a canonical book by the incorporation of additional matter.


Verses 1-6

Zechariah 13:1-6. The result of the national repentance is the removal of guilt. The figure of the fountain is perhaps suggested by Ezekiel 47. The first sign of Judah's true restoration will be the abolition of all idolatry and of the "spirit of uncleanness," i.e. Greek disregard of Hebrew laws of purity. There will also be a total abolition of all the professional prophets who, like modern fortune-tellers and palmists, traded upon the credulity of the foolish. The utter disrepute into which the prophetic order had fallen was due to the abandonment by the better teachers since Ezra's time of the older forms of prophecy for the exposition of the written Scripture. In other words, the true prophets had become scribes, while those who merely prophesied for a livelihood still carned on the calling which they had brought into disrepute. Some of the scribes were no doubt in the highest sense of the word prophets, but since they no longer spoke in the authoritative manner of the ancient prophets, it seemed to their contemporaries that the era of prophecy had passed away (cf. Psalms 74:9, 1 Maccabees 14:41). The writer looks forward to a time when those who "wear a hairy garment to deceive" will be no more tolerated, and when the popular indignation against them will be so great, that even the parents of one who claims to be a prophet will have no hesitation in putting him to death. Then if anyone be accused of prophesying on the ground that he has wounds like the self-inflicted lacerations which the prophets exhibit as a proof of their inspired frenzy, he will prefer to charge himself with disgraceful conduct rather than admit the truth, and will pretend that the wounds have been inflicted on him in some vile debauch. The word rendered "friends" means elsewhere "lovers" and that in a bad sense. A different vocalisation would give the sense "amours"; i.e. the false prophet will pretend that he has been wounded by the indignant relatives of the victims of his lusts. [J. G. Frazer (Adonis, Attis, Osiris,3 i. 74f.) thinks that the "wounds between the arms" were "marks tattooed on his shoulders in token of his holy office," the "lovers" being the Baalim. The shoulders are among some primitive peoples "the sensitive part" of the medicine-man, and are often "covered with an infinite number of small marks, like dots, set close together."—A. S. P.]


Verses 7-9

Zechariah 13:7-9. A short fragment, parallel partly to Zechariah 11:15-17 and partly to Zechariah 14. The "man of the Lord's fellow ship" can scarcely be anyone but a High Priest. For "smite" read as in Mark 14:27, "I will smite." There is no actual condemnation of the shepherd, and it is difficult to say whether Onias or Menelaus is referred to. In Zechariah 13:8 f. the harrying of the Jewish population in the Maccaban struggle is described. The writer esti mates that two-thirds perished. The survivors had indeed passed through the fire, and their fiery trial had not been in vain. From 141 B.C. onward there was no fear of Judah's lapsing into idolatry.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 13:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-13.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 19th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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