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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Zechariah 2

 

 

Introduction

ZECHARIAH

(Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14; Zechariah 5:1-11; Zechariah 6:1-15; Zechariah 7:1-14; Zechariah 8:1-23)

"Not by might, and not by force, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of Hosts."

"Be not afraid, strengthen your hands! Speak truth every man to his neighbor; truth and wholesome judgment judge ye in your gates, and in your hearts plan no evil for each other, nor take pleasure in false swearing, for all these things do I hate-oracle of Jehovah."

THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH

(1-8)

THE Book of Zechariah, consisting of fourteen chapters, falls clearly into two divisions: First, chapters 1-8, ascribed to Zechariah himself and full of evidence for their authenticity; Second, chapters 9-14, which are not ascribed to Zechariah, and deal with conditions different from those upon which he worked. The full discussion of the date and character of this second section we shall reserve till we reach the period at which we believe it to have been written. Here an introduction is necessary only to chapters 1-8.

These chapters may be divided into five sections.

I. Zechariah 1:1-6 -A Word of Jehovah which came to Zechariah in the eighth month of the second year of Darius, that is in November, 520 B.C., or between the second and the third oracles of Haggai. In this the prophet’s place is affirmed in the succession of the prophets of Israel. The ancient prophets are gone, but their predictions have been fulfilled in the calamities of the Exile, and God’s Word abides forever.

II. Zechariah 1:7 - Zechariah 6:9.-A Word of Jehovah which came to Zechariah on the twenty-fourth of the eleventh month of the same year, that is January or February, 519, and which he reproduces in the form of eight Visions by night.

(1) The Vision of the Four Horsemen: God’s new mercies to Jerusalem. [Zechariah 1:7-17]

(2) The Vision of the Four Horns, or Powers of the World, and the Four Smiths, who smite them down [Zechariah 2:1-4], but in the Septuagint and in the English Version. [Zechariah 1:18-21]

(3) The Vision of the Man with the Measuring Rope: Jerusalem shall be rebuilt, no longer as a narrow fortress, but spread abroad for the multitude of her population. {Zechariah 2:5-9;, Hebrews 2:1-5 LXX and English} To this Vision is appended a lyric piece of probably older date calling upon the Jews in Babylon to return, and celebrating the joining of many peoples to Jehovah, now that He takes up again His habitation in Jerusalem. {Zechariah 2:10;, Hebrews 2:6-13 LXX and English}

(4) The Vision of Joshua, the High Priest, and the Satan or Accuser: the Satan is rebuked, and Joshua is cleansed from his foul garments and clothed with a new turban and festal apparel; the land is purged and secure (chapter 3).

(5) The Vision of the Seven-Branched Lamp and the Two Olive-Trees: [Zechariah 4:1-6; Zechariah 4:10-14] into the center of this has been inserted a Word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6-10 a), which interrupts the Vision and ought probably to come at the close of it.

(6) The Vision of the Flying Book: it is the curse of the land, which is being removed, but after destroying the houses of the wicked. [Zechariah 5:1-4]

(7) The Vision of the Bushel and the Woman: that is the guilt of the land and its wickedness; they are carried off and planted in the land of Shinar. [Zechariah 5:5-11]

(8) The Vision of the Four Chariots: they go forth from the Lord of all the earth, to traverse the earth and bring His Spirit, or anger, to bear on the North country (Zechariah 6:1-8).

III. Zechariah 6:9-15 -A Word of Jehovah, undated (unless it is to be taken as of the same date as the Visions to which it is attached), giving directions as to the gifts sent to the community at Jerusalem from the Babylonian Jews. A crown is to be made from the silver and gold, and, according to the text, placed upon the head of Joshua. But, as we shall the text gives evident signs of having been altered in the interest of the High Priest; and probably the crown was meant for Zerubbabel, at whose right hand the priest is to stand, and there shall be a counsel of peace between the two of them. The far-away shall come and assist at the building of the Temple. This section breaks off in the middle of a sentence.

IV. Chapter 7-The Word of Jehovah which came to Zechariah on the fourth of the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius, that is nearly two years after the date of the Visions. The Temple was approaching completion; and an inquiry was addressed to the priests who were in it and to the prophets concerning the Fasts, which had been maintained during the Exile while the Temple lay desolate. [Zechariah 7:1-3] This inquiry drew from Zechariah a historical explanation of how the Fasts arose. [Zechariah 7:4-14]

V. Chapter 8-Ten short undated oracles, each introduced by the same formula, "Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts," and summarizing all Zechariah’s teaching since before the Temple began up to the question of the cessation of the Fasts upon its completion-with promises for the future.

(1) A Word affirming Jehovah’s new zeal for Jerusalem and His Return to her (Zechariah 8:1-2).

(2) Another of the same (Zechariah 8:3).

(3) A Word promising fullness of old folk and children in her streets (Zechariah 8:4-5).

(4) A Word affirming that nothing is too wonderful for Jehovah (Zechariah 8:6).

(5) A Word promising the return of the people from east and west (Zechariah 8:7-8).

(6 and 7) Two Words contrasting, in terms similar to Haggai 1:1-15, the poverty of the people before the foundation of the Temple with their new prosperity: from a curse Israel shall become a blessing. This is due to God’s anger having changed into a purpose of grace to Jerusalem. But the people themselves must do truth and justice, ceasing from perjury and thoughts of evil against each other (Zechariah 8:9-17).

(8) A Word which recurs to the question of Fasting, and commands that the four great Fasts, instituted to commemorate the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem, and the murder of Gedaliah, be changed to joy and gladness (Zechariah 8:18-19).

(9) A Word predicting the coming of the Gentiles to the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:20-22).

(10) Another of the same (Zechariah 8:23).

There can be little doubt that, apart from the few interpolations noted, these eight chapters are genuine prophecies of Zechariah, who is mentioned in the Book of Ezra as the colleague of Haggai, and contemporary of Zerubbabel and Joshua at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple. [Ezra 5:1;, Ezra 6:14] Like the oracles of Haggai, these prophecies are dated according to the years of Darius the king, from his second year to his fourth. Although they may contain some of the exhortations to build the Temple, which the Book of Ezra informs us that Zechariah made along with Haggai, the most of them presuppose progress in the work, and seek to assist it by historical retrospect and by glowing hopes of the Messianic effects of its completion. Their allusions suit exactly the years to which they are assigned. Darius is king. The Exile has lasted about seventy years. Numbers of Jews remain in Babylon, and are scattered over the rest of the world. [Zechariah 8:7, etc.} The community at Jerusalem is small and weak: it is the mere colony of young men and men in middle life who came to it from Babylon; there are few children and old folk. {Zechariah 8:4-5] Joshua and Zerubbabel are the heads of the community and the pledges for its future. [Zechariah 3:1-10;, Zechariah 4:6-10;, Zechariah 6:11 ff.} The exact conditions are recalled as recent which Haggai spoke of a few years before. {Zechariah 8:9-10] Moreover, there is a steady and orderly progress throughout the prophecies, in harmony with the successive dates at which they were delivered. In November, 520, they begin with a cry to repentance and lessons drawn from the past of prophecy. [Zechariah 1:1-6] In January, 519, Temple and city are still to be built. [Zechariah 1:7-17] Zerubbabel has laid the foundation; the completion is yet future. [Zechariah 4:6-10] The prophet’s duty is to quiet the people’s apprehensions about the state of the world, to provoke their zeal (Zechariah 4:6 ff.), give them confidence in their great men (Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14), and, above all, assure them that God is returned to them (Zechariah 1:16), and their sin pardoned (Zechariah 5:1-11). But in December, 518, the Temple is so far built that the priests are said to belong to it; [Zechariah 7:3] there is no occasion for continuing the fasts of the Exile, [Zechariah 7:1-7; Zechariah 8:18-19] the future has opened and the horizon is bright with the Messianic hopes. [Zechariah 8:20-23] Most of all, it is felt that the hard struggle with the forces of nature is over, and the people are exhorted to the virtues of the civic life. [Zechariah 8:16-17] They have time to lift their eyes from their work and see the nations coming from afar to Jerusalem. [Zechariah 8:20-23]

These features leave no room for doubt that the great bulk of the first eight chapters of the Book of Zechariah are by the prophet himself, and from the years to which he assigns them, November, 520, to December, 518. The point requires no argument.

There are, however, three passages which provoke further examination-two of them because of the signs they bear of an earlier date, and one because of the alteration it has suffered in the interests of a later day in Israel’s history.

The lyric passage which is appended to the Second Vision {Zechariah 2:10 Hebrew, Zechariah 6:1-13 LXX and English} suggests questions by its singularity: there is no other such among the Visions. But in addition to this it speaks not only of the Return from Babylon as still future-this might still be said after the First Return of the exiles in 536-but it differs from the language of all the Visions proper in describing the return of Jehovah Himself to Zion as still future. The whole, too, has the ring of the great odes in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13, and seems to reflect the same situation, upon the eve of Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon. There can be little doubt that we have here inserted in Zechariah’s Visions a song of twenty years earlier, but we must confess inability to decide whether it was adopted by Zechariah himself or added by a later hand.

Again, there are the two passages called the Word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, Zechariah 4:6 b-10a; and the Word of Jehovah concerning the gifts which came to Jerusalem from the Jews in Babylon, Zechariah 6:9-15. The first, as Wellhausen has shown, is clearly out of place; it disturbs the narrative of the Vision, and is to be put at the end of the latter. The second is undated, and separate from the Visions. The second plainly affirms that the building of the Temple is still future The man whose name is Branch or Shoot is designated: "and he shall build the Temple of Jehovah." The first is in the same temper as the first two oracles of Haggai. It is possible then that these two passages are not, like the Visions with which they are taken, to be dated from 519, but represent that still earlier prophesying of Zechariah with which we are told he assisted Haggai in instigating the people to begin to build the Temple.

The style of the prophet Zechariah betrays special features almost only in the narrative of the Visions. Outside these his language is simple, direct, and pure, as it could not but be, considering how much of it is drawn from, or modeled upon, the older prophets, and chiefly Hosea and Jeremiah. Only one or two lapses into a careless and degenerate dialect show us how the prophet might have written had he not been sustained by the music of the classical periods of the language.

This directness and pith is not shared by the language in which the Visions are narrated. Here the style is involved and redundant. The syntax is loose; there is a frequent omission of the copula, and of other means by which, in better Hebrew, connection and conciseness are sustained. The formulas, "thus saith" and "saying," are repeated to weariness. At the same time it is fair to ask how much of this redundancy was due to Zechariah himself? Take the Septuagint version. The Hebrew text which it followed, not only included a number of repetitions of the formulas, and of the designations of the personages introduced into the Visions, which do not occur in the Massoretic text, but omitted some which are found in the Massoretic text. These two sets of phenomena prove that from an early date the copiers of the original text of Zechariah must have been busy in increasing its redundancies. Further, there are still earlier intrusions and expansions, for these are shared by both the Hebrew and the Greek texts: some of them very natural efforts to clear up the personages and conversations recorded in the dreams, some of them stupid mistakes in understanding the drift of the argument. There must of course have been a certain amount of redundancy in the original to provoke such aggravations of it, and of obscurity or tortuousness of style to cause them to be deemed necessary. But it would be very unjust to charge all the faults of our present text to Zechariah himself, especially when we find such force and simplicity in the passages outside the Visions. Of course the involved and misty subjects of the latter naturally forced upon the description of them a laboriousness of art, to which there was no provocation in directly exhorting the people to a pure life, or in straightforward predictions of the Messianic era.

Beyond the corruptions due to these causes, the text of Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14; Zechariah 5:1-11; Zechariah 6:1-15; Zechariah 7:1-14; Zechariah 8:1-23, has not suffered more than that of our other prophets. There are one or two clerical errors; an occasional preposition or person of a verb needs to be amended. Here and there the text has been disarranged; and as already noticed, there has been one serious alteration of the original.

From the foregoing paragraphs it must be apparent what help and hindrance in the reconstruction of the text is furnished by the Septuagint. A list of its variant readings and of its mistranslations is appended.


Verses 1-13

THE THIRD VISION: THE CITY OF PEACE

Zechariah 2:5-9

Like the Second Vision, the Third follows from the First, another, but a still more significant, supplement. The First had promised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and now the prophet beholds "a young man"-by this term he probably means "a servant" or "apprentice"-who is attempting to define the limits of the new city. In the light of what this attempt encounters, there can be little doubt that the prophet means to symbolize by it the intention of building the walls upon the old lines, so as to make Jerusalem again the mountain fortress she had previously been. Some have considered that the young man goes forth only to see, or to show, the extent of the city in the approaching future. But if this had been his motive there would have been no reason in interrupting him with other orders. The point is that he has narrow ideas of what the city should be, and is prepared to define it upon its old lines of a fortress. For the interpreting angel who "comes forward" is told by another angel to run and tell the young man that in the future Jerusalem shall be a large unwalled town, and this, not only because of the multitude of its population, for even then it might still have been fortified like Nineveh, but because Jehovah Himself shall be its wall. The young man is prevented, not merely from making it small, but from making it a citadel. And this is in conformity with all the singular absence of war from Zechariah’s Visions, both of the future deliverance of Jehovah’s people and of their future duties before Him. It is indeed remarkable how Zechariah not only develops none of the warlike elements of earlier Messianic prophecies, but tells us here of how God Himself actually prevented their repetition, and insists again and again only on those elements of ancient prediction which had filled the future of Israel with peace.

"And I lifted mine eyes and looked, and lo! a man with a measuring rope in his hand. So I said, Whither art thou going? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem: to see how much its breadth and how much its’ length should be. And lo! the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him. And he said to him, Run and speak to yonder young man thus: Like a number of open villages shall Jerusalem remain, because of the multitude of men and cattle in the midst of her. And I Myself will be to her-oracle of Jehovah-a wall of fire round about, and for glory will I be in her midst."

In this Vision Zechariah gives us, with his prophecy, a lesson in the interpretation of prophecy. His contemporaries believed God’s promise to rebuild Jerusalem, but they defined its limits by the conditions of an older and a narrower day. They brought forth their measuring rods to measure the future by the sacred attainments of the past. Such literal fulfillment of His Word God prevented by that ministry of angels which Zechariah beheld. He would not be bound by those forms which His Word had assumed in suitableness to the needs of ruder generations. The ideal of many of the returned exiles must have been that frowning citadel, those gates of everlastingness, [Psalms 24:1-10] which some of them celebrated in Psalms, and from which the hosts of Sennacherib had been broken and swept back as the angry sea is swept from the fixed line of Canaan’s coast. [Isaiah 17:12-14] What had been enough for David and Isaiah was enough for them, especially as so many prophets of the Lord had foretold a Messianic Jerusalem that should be a counterpart of the historical. But God breaks the letter of His Word to give its spirit a more glorious fulfillment. Jerusalem shall not "be builded as a city that is compact together," [Psalms 122:3] but open and spread abroad village-wise upon her high mountains, and God Himself her only wall.

The interest of this Vision is therefore not only historical. For ourselves it has an abiding doctrinal value. It is a lesson in the method of applying prophecy to the future. How much it is needed we must feel as we remember the readiness of men among ourselves to construct the Church of God upon the lines His own hand drew for our fathers, and to raise again the bulwarks behind which they sufficiently sheltered His shrine. Whether these ancient and sacred defenses be dogmas or institutions we have no right, God tells us, to cramp behind them His powers for the future. And the great men whom He raises to remind us of this, and to prevent by their ministry the timid measurements of the zealous but servile spirits who would confine everything to the exact letter of ancient Scripture-are they any less His angels to us than those ministering spirits whom Zechariah beheld preventing the narrow measures of the poor apprentice of his dream?

To the Third Vision there has been appended the only lyrical piece which breaks the prose narrative of the Visions. We have already seen that it is a piece of earlier date. Israel is addressed as still scattered to the four winds of heaven, and still inhabiting Babylon. While in Zechariah’s own oracles and visions Jehovah has returned to Jerusalem, His return according to this piece is still future. There is nothing about the Temple: God’s holy dwelling from which He has roused Himself is Heaven. The piece was probably inserted by Zechariah himself: its lines are broken by what seem to be a piece of prose, in which the prophet asserts his mission in words he twice uses elsewhere. But this is uncertain.

"Ho, ho! Flee from the Land of the North (oracle of Jehovah); For as the four winds have I spread you abroad (oracle of Jehovah). He to Zion escape, thou inhabitress of Babel. For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts to the nations that plunder you (for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye), that, lo! I am about to wave My hand over them, and they shall be plunder to their own servants, and ye shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me. Sing out and rejoice, O daughter of Zion";

"For, lo! I come, and will dwell in thy midst (oracle of Jehovah). And many nations shall join themselves to Jehovah in that day. And shall be to Him a people. And I will dwell in thy midst (And thou shalt know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me to thee). And Jehovah will make Judah His heritage, His portion shall be upon holy soil, And make choice once more of Jerusalem. Silence, all flesh, before Jehovah; For He hath roused Himself up from His holy dwelling."

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Zechariah 2:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/zechariah-2.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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