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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 3

 

 

Introduction

Zechariah 1-8.

Unlike Haggai, Zechariah would appear to have written his own prophecies, but the original document, which has not come down to us quite complete, has been edited with sundry introductory notes and contains, apparently, some interpolations. Of the latter, Zechariah 1:2-6 is an instance. There is here nothing peculiarly characteristic of Zechariah, though in so short a book arguments from style must not be pressed. It is, however, strange that when the restoration of the Temple was going on apace, Zechariah, with his hopeful temperament, should preach a sermon implying the continued impenitence of the people. Probably a later exhortation has been substituted for the original opening, deemed for some reason unsuitable. "The former prophets" implies a contrast with the later prophets, Jeremiah being assigned to another era. While the section would suit better the situation at the beginning of Haggai's ministry, it is not quite in his style, and it suggests sins more serious than the apathy which he attacks. The author of Zechariah 1:2-6 seems to have expanded Zechariah 1:7 f.

The nature of Zechariah's activity is clear from his own words. The first utterance which can be certainly ascribed to him (Zechariah 1:7-17) is dated Feb. 24, 519 B.C. At this date the revolts which had broken out against Darius in various parts of the Persian empire were being rapidly quelled, and the disappointment of the hopes raised by Haggai in the previous Oct. (Haggai 2:6 f.) had caused depression in Judah. Zechariah, however, did not lose courage, predicting the overthrow of the nations and the completion of Zion's restoration. But he protested against the fatuity of Zerubbabel's advisers, who, untaught by the lesson of the exile, wished not only to restore but to fortify Jerusalem, a project which aroused Samaritan jealousy and caused Persian intervention.

The prophecies of Zechariah are of supreme importance through the light which they throw on the internal history of Judah. For some reason not definitely stated, an attempt was made to deprive Joshua of the High-priesthood. Joshua apparently belonged to the community which had remained in Palestine during the exile (p. 573), and consequently when Zadokite priests returned from Babylonia, friction inevitably arose, since the latter would regard Joshua as an upstart fit at best for the subordinate position of Levite (see Ezekiel 44:10-14). Moreover, Joshua and Zerubbabel seem to have quarrelled personally. Zechariah boldly championed the cause of Joshua, declaring that so long as his conduct was blameless he ought to be the head of the Temple. Zerubbabel also had his own sphere of usefulness, and both should work together for the good of Judah.

According to Ezra 6:15 the Temple was finished on March 3, 515. This is probably the date of the completion of all building operations within the Temple area, the Temple proper having been completed much earlier. At any rate on Dec. 4, 518, the work was progressing so well, that a deputation was sent, apparently by Zerubbabel, to the religious leaders to inquire whether the fasts commemorating the disasters of 586 should still be observed (Zechariah 7:1 ff.). Zechariah replied that they should henceforth be observed as holidays, since the restoration of the Temple was an earnest of the restoration of national prosperity.

From a literary point of view Zechariah makes a new departure, inasmuch as he delivers his message in a series of allegories purporting, like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, to be a dream. The germ of this style may indeed be found earlier (1 Kings 22), but the development of it is Zechariah's. These allegories or word-painted pictures, though to us they may appear somewhat bizarre, were clearly as intelligible in his age as our own political cartoons are in ours. Another new feature in his prophecies is the avoidance of the apparent familiarity in speaking of the Lord which is characteristic of the older literature. This may be due partly to increased reverence, partly to the decline of poetry and the growth of a more prosaic literalism. Thus, though he uses freely the old formula "saith the Lord," he represents himself as addressing the Lord not directly, but through the mediation of an angel who interprets to him the meaning of what he sees.

Zechariah's teaching is characterised by sanctified common sense. Although he hoped to see Zerubbabel actually king of Judah, he was not blind to the dangers of the course he was pursuing. Recognising as clearly as any Zadokite priest the need of a rallying point for Jewish religion, he was free from the petty narrowness which could see no merit in any priest of another guild. In an age when, as it would seem, the civil and the religious leaders were striving for the pre-eminence, he declared that each had his own proper sphere. He recognised the value of fasting if performed in the right spirit, but he did not desire that the children of the bride-chamber should fast while the bridegroom was with them.

Unhappily Zechariah's countrymen would have none of his counsels of patience. His mission was denied, and his advic disregarded. Only too late did the Church of Judah learn the truth of his reiterated assurance, "Ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me unto you." Had his counsel been followed, the suspicion of the Samaritans would never have been aroused by the attempt to fortify Jerusalem, and the jealousy between Samaria and Judah, at first merely political, would not have been extended to religious matters also. Like Him whose forerunner he was, Zechariah would have gathered Jerusalem's children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and they would not.


Verses 1-10

Zechariah 3:1-10. The Trial of Joshua.—Several corrections are necessary in this paragraph, some of which are confirmed by the LXX. In Zechariah 3:2 read, "And the angel of the Lord said." In Zechariah 3:4 f. read with LXX, "Take the filthy garments from off him (And he said unto him, Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee); and clothe him with rich apparel, and set a fair mitre," etc. In Zechariah 3:8 we should probably read, "Thou and thy fellows which sit before thee are men which," etc. Among the Hebrews any disaster was regarded as a sign of Divine displeasure or, to use a common Heb. figure of speech, a sign that the Lord was bringing a charge against the person afflicted. The "satan" or opponent—for here, as in Job, the word is not a proper name—is not a devil but an angel, perfectly obedient to the Lord and commissioned by Him to test men's sincerity by bringing misfortune upon them. He may therefore be regarded as the angel of trial. A representation of the High Priest as upon his trial implies that he has been visited with some misfortune, the nature of which is indicated by his filthy garments, i.e. garments in which it would be impossible for a priest to minister. In other words, an attempt has been made, whether successfully or not, to turn Joshua out of the High-priesthood. The parenthesis in Zechariah 3:4, which may be a later insertion, does not necessarily imply actual misconduct on Joshua's part; for according to Heb. idiom, "iniquity" or "guilt" rested upon every accused person until he was acquitted. The angel of the Lord, who is the presiding judge, confirms Joshua in the High-priesthood, so long as his conduct is worthy of his office, and gives him a definite sphere of action ("places to walk in," not "a place of access") among the Lord's messengers or angels. Joshua is further informed that he and his assistants who have preserved a priesthood in Jerusalem are an earnest that the monarchy will not be extinguished but that the Lord will fulfil the anticipation of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 23:5 ff.) and produce a shoot (mg., not "branch") from the root of the cut-down tree of David which in time will itself develop into a tree. As Haggai (Haggai 2:23) expects to see in Zerubbabel a reversal of the woe pronounced by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:24) upon Jehoiachin, so Zechariah expects to see in him a fulfilment of Jeremiah's prediction of a restored monarchy. This passage indeed is probably the first clear instance of the expression of a hope based upon a definite prophecy, so that Jeremiah 23:5 ff. may be regarded as the starting-point of "Messianic" hope. The latter part of the paragraph is apparently mutilated, for the stone mentioned in Zechariah 3:9 as known has not been mentioned before; moreover "that land" can scarcely be right. The reference to the stone is obscure, but a clue may be found in Zechariah 6:9-14. We are probably to understand a gem which is committed to Joshua's keeping until it can be worn by Zerubbabel as one of the insignia of royalty. The "seven eyes" are either seven surfaces or facets, or more probably seven circles, possibly representing seven stars, engraved upon the stone as upon a signet. Zechariah 3:10 is one of those descriptions of the good time to come which later editors have so plentifully inserted in the prophetic books. It is clearly addressed to the people generally, whereas the preceding verses are addressed to Joshua.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 3:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-3.html. 1919.

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