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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 9

 

 

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 1-8

Zechariah 9:1-8. This paragraph, of which the beginning is mutilated and the text is otherwise corrupt, is written in verse, lines of three beats each, arranged in tristichs. This form of verse is unusual, the more common consisting of lines of six beats—falling into two parallel members of three beats each—arranged in distichs. "The burden of the word of the Lord" is the editorial heading (cf. 12:1, Malachi 1:1). The greater part of the first tristich is lost. It has been conjectured that it ran originally somewhat as follows:

The Lrd hath snt a wrd,

And it hath lghted on the lnd of Hdrach (cf. Isaiah 9:8)

And Damscus hath becme its rsting place.

The land of Hadrach (probably the place called Hazrach in an Aram, inscription c. 800) is mentioned on the Assyrian monuments in connexion with Damascus and Hamath. The survival of the old name as late as the second century B.C. is not unlikely. Thus Hamath is still known by its original name, and not by its Gr. name Epiphanea. The text of the second tristich (Zechariah 9:1 b, Zechariah 9:2) is corrupt and emendation is precarious. It is clear, however, that the prophet speaks of a Divine judgment resting on Hadrach, Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, and Sidon, with a description of the former wealth and prosperity of Tyre. The rendering, "which bordereth thereon," is quite impossible; the word so rendered may be a corrupt form of the name Gebal (cf. Ezekiel 27:9), i.e. Byblus on the Phœnician coast. The text of the sixth tristich (Zechariah 9:5 b, Zechariah 9:6 a) is also corrupt. The parallelism suggests that "shall be cut off from" should be read for "shall dwell in," the tristich running thus:

And the kng shall prish from Gza,

And Aśhkelon shall (néver) be inhábited,

And the bstard-race shall be ct off from Ashdod.

This section may be paraphrased as follows: The judgment of the Lord is now coming upon the cities which have been strongholds of the rule of the Greek Syrian kings, and therefore antagonistic to Israel. Tyre, strong as she is, is doomed; Philistia also may tremble for her safety; Gaza will lose her king; the population of Ashkelon will be annihilated; the mongrel race, half Philistine, half Greek, will be driven out of Ashdod. Indeed the Philistine as such will no longer exist, for the Lord, acting through Israel, will enforce the observance of the law of Israel even in the Philistine towns. There will be no more eating with the blood, or other abominable food; for the Philistines will be incorporated with Israel in such a way that henceforth an inhabitant of Ekron will be regarded as a native of Jebus, i.e. Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 87). Moreover, as the result of this Judaizing of Philistia—since the Syro-Greek government has given up the hope of conquering Egypt—Judah will no longer be menaced by the presence of vast armies on her flank. It will be as though the Lord Himself were encamped as a garrison to protect Jerusalem, and no exaction of tribute will trouble her any more. The prophecy is almost certainly later than Jonathan's victorious campaign in Philistia (c. 148) and may be as late as 143-142 when Demetrius granted the Jews full exemption from all taxes or tribute to the Syrian government.


Verse 9

Zechariah 9:9 f. A short prophecy having no direct connexion with the preceding, which it resembles only in its poetical structure. Its tone is entirely different, being as free from thoughts of vengeance as Psalms 22. The poet looks forward to a king who will belong apparently not to the Maccaban, but to the Hasidan (i.e. Hasidim, Psalms 4:3*, see 1 Maccabees 7:13) section of the Jewish community. The prophecy may probably be dated shortly after May 23, 141, when the citadel of Jerusalem surrendered. The writer who sees in recent events an earnest of complete Jewish independence, does not recognise any existing personage as king (render "will come," not "cometh"). The Hasidans acquiesced in the High-priesthood of Simon only conditionally (see 1 Maccabees 14:41). The king hoped for will be no military leader, and will ride not on a horse, the symbol of war, but on an ass. It will be his aim to abolish the equipment of war from Israel itself, and he will speak peace to the Gentiles; depending for safety on a force not his own, and even in his sovereignty not severing his connexion with the poor. The meaning of the curious elaboration given to the description of the animal ridden would be more apparent, if "colt" and "foal of an ass" were printed in inverted commas as a quotation of Genesis 49:11. They imply that the king, whose dominion will be as wide as the ideal dominion of David, will fulfil that prophecy. The mention of Ephraim to denote the northern parts of Israel (included in the jurisdiction of both Jonathan and Simon) is due to imitation of the phraseology of the older Scriptures.


Verses 11-13

Zechariah 9:11-13. A fragment, mutilated at the beginning, apparently slightly earlier than Zechariah 9:9 f., from which it differs in its bellicose tone. The Jewish nation is told that the Lord is now releasing its members confined in the waterless dungeon, i.e. in heathen districts where they are cut off from worship at Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 63:1; Psalms 68:6); these must return to the stronghold of Judah, where they will be safe. For once again the declaration is made to them, as it was to their fathers (Isaiah 40:2*), that they shall receive double compensation for all that they have suffered. Zechariah 9:13 describes the revival of Jewish power under Jonathan and Simon. The Lord has made Judah His bow, the rest of the land His arrow; He will brandish as a javelin the sons of Zion against the Greeks, and will make them as it were His sword (cf. Psalms 60:7; Psalms 108:8).


Verses 14-17

Zechariah 9:14-17. An independent section belonging to the same period as Zechariah 9:11-13, of which it may be a later expansion. The imagery of Zechariah 9:14 is derived from older prophecy, e.g. Amos 1:14; Amos 2:2. By the "whirlwinds of the south" perhaps merely violent storms are intended, but there may be a reference to the Maccabean campaign against Edom which is probably referred to in Isaiah 63:1-6*. Indeed this passage in its savagery strongly resembles that magnificent but terrible description. For "devour" read "prevail" (LXX) and for "they shall drink . . . wine" read "they shall drink their blood like wine" (LXX). The sacrificial blood was dashed against the corners of the altar. The phrase "sling stones" is obscure and probably corrupt; we should expect some description of the Jews' enemies.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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