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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Zechariah 3

 

 

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 1-10

THE FOURTH VISION: THE HIGH PRIEST AND THE SATAN

Zechariah 3:1-10

The next Visions deal with the moral condition of Israel and their standing before God. The Fourth is a judgment scene. The Angel of Jehovah, who is not to be distinguished from Jehovah Himself, stands for judgment, and there appear before him Joshua the High Priest and the Satan or Adversary who has come to accuse him. Now those who are accused by the Satan-see next chapter of this volume upon the Angels of the Visions-are, according to Jewish belief, those who have been overtaken by misfortune. The people who are standing at God’s bar in the person of their High Priest still suffer from the adversity in which Haggai found them, and the continuance of which so disheartened them after the Temple had begun. The evil seasons and poor harvests tormented their hearts with the thought that the Satan still slandered them in the court of God. But Zechariah comforts them with the vision of the Satan rebuked. Israel has indeed been sorely beset by calamity, a brand much burned, but now of God’s grace plucked from the fire. The Satan’s role is closed, and he disappears from the Vision. Yet something remains: Israel is rescued, but not sanctified. The nation’s troubles are over: their uncleanness has still to be removed. Zechariah sees that the High Priest is clothed in filthy garments while he stands before the Angel of Judgment. The Angel orders his servants, those "that stand before him," to give him clean festal robes. And the prophet, breaking out in sympathy with what he sees, for the first time takes part in the Visions. "Then I said, Let them also put a clean turban on his head"-the turban being the headdress, in Ezekiel of the Prince of Israel, and in the Priestly Code of the High Priest. This is done, and the national effect of his cleansing is explained to the High Priest. If he remains loyal to the law of Jehovah, he, the representative of Israel, shall have right of entry to Jehovah’s presence among the angels who stand there. But more, he and his colleagues the priests are a portent of the coming of the Messiah-"the Servant of Jehovah, the Branch," as he has been called by many prophets. A stone has already been set before Joshua, with seven eyes upon it. God will engrave it with inscriptions, and on the same day take away the guilt of the land. Then shall be the peace upon which Zechariah loves to dwell.

"And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and the Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And Jehovah said to the Satan: Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan! Jehovah who makes choice of Jerusalem rebuke thee! Is not this a brand saved from the fire? But Joshua was clothed in foul garments while he stood before the Angel. And he - the Angel-answered and said to those who stood in his presence."

"Take the foul garments from off him (and he said to him, See, I have made thy guilt to pass away from thee), and clothe in fresh clothing. And I said, Let them put a clean turban on his head. And they put the clean turban upon his head, and clothed him with garments, the Angel of Jehovah standing up the while. And the Angel of Jehovah certified unto Joshua, saying: Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, If in My ways thou walkest, and if My charges thou keepest in charge, then thou also shalt judge my house, and have charge of My courts, and I will give thee entry among these who stand in My presence. Hearken now, O Joshua, high priest, thou and thy fellows who sit before thee are men of omen, that, lo! I am about to bring My servant, Branch. For see the stone which I have set before Joshua, one stone with seven eyes. Lo, I will etch the engraving upon it (oracle of Jehovah), and I will wash away the guilt of that land in one day. In that day (oracle of Jehovah of Hosts) ye will invite one another in under vine and under fig-tree."

The theological significance of the Vision is as clear as its consequences in the subsequent theology and symbolism of Judaism. The uncleanness of Israel which infests their representative before God is not defined. Some hold that it includes the guilt of Israel’s idolatry. But they have to go back to Ezekiel for this, and we have seen that Zechariah nowhere mentions or feels the presence of idols among his people. The Vision itself supplies a better explanation. Joshua’s filthy garments are replaced by festal and official robes. He is warned to walk in the whole law of the Lord, ruling the Temple and guarding Jehovah’s court. The uncleanness was the opposite of all this. It was not ethical failure: covetousness, greed, immorality. It was, as Haggai protested, the neglect of the Temple, and of the whole worship of Jehovah. If this be now removed, in all fidelity to the law, the High Priest shall have access to God, and the Messiah will come. The High Priest himself shall not be the Messiah-this dogma is left to a later age to frame. But before God he will be as one of the angels, and himself and his faithful priesthood omens of the Messiah. We need not linger on the significance of this for the place of the priesthood in later Judaism. Note how the High Priest is already the religious representative of his people; their uncleanness is his; when he is pardoned and cleansed, "the uncleanness of the land" is purged away. In such a High Priest Christian theology has seen the prototype of Christ.

The stone is very difficult to explain. Some have thought of it as the foundation-stone of the Temple, which had already been employed as a symbol of the Messiah and which played so important a part in later Jewish symbolism. Others prefer the top-stone of the Temple, mentioned in Zechariah 4:7, and others an altar or substitute for the ark. Again, some take it to be a jewel, either on the breastplate of the High Priest, or upon the crown afterwards prepared for Zerubbabel. To all of these there are objections. It is difficult to connect with the foundation-stone an engraving still to be made; neither the top-stone of the Temple, nor a jewel on the breastplate of the priest, nor a jewel on the king’s crown, could properly be said to be set before the High Priest. We must rather suppose that the stone is symbolic of the finished Temple. The Temple is the full expression of God’s providence and care-His "seven eyes." Upon it shall His will be engraved, and by its sacrifices the uncleanness of the land shall be taken away.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Zechariah 3:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/zechariah-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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