1902 Encyclopedia > Zechariah


ZECHARIAH, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, or by con-traction son of Iddo, appeared as a prophet in Jerusalem along with HAGGAI (q.v.), in the second year of Darius Hystaspes (520 B.C.), to warn and encourage the Jews to address themselves at length to the restoration of the temple, which, since their return from exile eighteen years before, had lain unaccomplished, less through want of zeal than through the pressure of unfavourable circumstances. Supported by the prophets, Zerubbabel and Joshua set about the work, and the elders of Judah built and the work went forward (Ezra v. 1 sq., vi. 14). The first eight chapters of the book of Zechariah exactly fit into this his-torical setting. They are divided by precise chronological headings into three sections,—(a) chap. i. 1-6, in the eighth month of the second year of Darius; (b) chap. i. 7-vi. 15, on the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the same year; (c) chap, vii.-viii., on the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius. The first sec-tion is a preface containing exhortation in general terms. The main section is the second, containing a series of night visions, the significant features of which are pointed out by an angel who stands by the prophet and answers his questions.
i. 7-17. The divine chariots and horses that make the round cf the world by Jehovah's orders return to the heavenly palace and report that there is still no movement among the nations, no sign of the Messianic crisis. Seventy years have passed, and Zion and the cities of Judah still mourn. Sad news ! but Jehovah gives a comfortable assurance of His gracious return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of His temple.
i. 18-21 (Heb. ii. 1-4). Four horns, representing the hostile
world-power that oppresses Israel and Jerusalem, are routed by four
ii. 1-13 (Heb. ii. 5-17). The new Jerusalem is laid out with the
measuring line. It is to have no walls, that its population may not
be limited, and it needs none, for Jehovah is its protection. The
catastrophe of the nations is near to come ; then the exiles of Zion
shall stream back from all quarters, the converted heathen shall
join them, Jehovah Himself will dwell in the midst of them, even
now He stirs Himself from His holy habitation.
iii. 1-10. The high priest Joshua is accused before Jehovah by
Satan, but is acquitted and given rule in Jehovah's house and courts,
with the right of access to Jehovah in priestly intercession. The
restoration of the temple and its service is a pledge of still higher
things. The promised "branch" (or "shoot," tTDY), the Messiah,
will come: i.e., the Persian lordship has an end ; the national king-
dom is restored in its old splendour ; and a time of general felicity
dawns, when every man shall sit happy under his vine and under
his fig tree. As by rights the Messianic kingdom should follow
immediately on the exile, it is probable that the prophet designs to
hint in a guarded way that Zerubbabel, who in all other places is mentioned along with Joshua, is on the point of ascending the throne of his ancestor David. The jewel with seven facets is already there, only the inscripition has still to be engraved on it (iii. 9). The charges brought against the high priest consist simply in the obstacles that have hitherto impeded the restoration of the temple and its service ; and in like manner the guilt of the land (iii. 9) is simply the still continuing domination of foreigners.
iv. 1-14. Beside a lighted golden candlestick of seven branches
stand two olive trees—Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two anointed
ones—specially watched over by Him whose seven eyes run through
the whole earth. This explanation of the vision is separated from
the description by an animated dialogue, not quite clear in its
expression, in which it is said that the mountain of obstacles shall
disappear before Zerubbabel, and that, having begun the building of
the temple, he shall also bring it to an end in spite of those who
now mock at the day of small beginnings.
v. 1-4. A written roll flies over the Holy Land ; this is a con-
crete representation of the curse which in future will fall of itself
on all crime, so that, e.g., no man who has suffered theft will have
occasion himself to pronounce a curse against the thief {of. Jud.
xvii. 2).
v. 5-11. Guilt, personified as a woman, is cast into an epha-
measure with a heavy lid and carried from Judah to Chaldsea, where
it is to have its home for the future.
vi. 1-8. The divine teams, four in number, again traverse the
world toward the four winds, to execute Jehovah's commands.
That which goes northward is charged to wreak His anger on the
north country. The series of visions has now reached its close,
returning to its starting-pioint in i. 7 sqq.
An apjpendix follows (vi. 9-15). Jews from Babylon have brought gold and silver to Jerusalem ; of these the prophet must make a crown designed for the "branch " who is to build Jehovah's house and sit king on the throne, but retain a good understanding with the high priest. Zerubbabel is certainly meant here, and, if the received text names Joshua instead of him (vi. 11), this is only a correction, made for reasons easy to understand, but which breaks the context and destroys the sense and the reference of "them both " in verse 13.
The third section (chaps, vii.-viii.), dated from the fourth year of Darius, contains an inquiry whether the fast days that arose in the captivity are still to be observed, with a comforting and encouraging reply of the prophet.
Thus throughout the first eight chapters the scene is Jerusalem in the early part of the reign of Darius. Zerub-babel and Joshua, the prince and the priest, are the leaders of the community. But, while the spiritual head is in office, the authority of the civil head is rather moral than official, and is not so much actual as hoped for. The great concern of the time and the chief practical theme of these chapters is the building of the temple; but its restoration is only the earnest of greater things to follow, viz., the glorious restoration of David's kingdom. The horizon of these prophecies is everywhere limited by the narrow con-ditions of the time, and their aim is clearly seen. The visions hardly veil the thought, and the mode of expression is usually simple, except in the Messianic passages, where the tortuousness and obscurity are perhaps intentional. Noteworthy is the affinity between some notions evidently not framed by the prophet himself and the prologue to Job,—the heavenly hosts that wander through the earth and bring back their report to Jehovah's throne, the figure of Satan, the idea that suffering and calamity are evidences of guilt and of accusations presented before God.
Passing from chaps, i.-viii. to chaps, ix. sq., we at once feel ourselves transported into a different world.
Jehovah's word is accomplished on Syria-Phcenicia and Philistia ; and then the Messianic kingdom begins in Zion, and the Israelites detained among the heathen, Judah and Ephraim combined, receive a j)art in it. The might of the sons of Javan is broken in battle against this kingdom (ch. ix.). After an intermezzo of three verses (x. 1-3 : " Ask rain of Jehovah, not of the diviners ") a second and quite analogous Messianic prophecy follows. The foreign tyrants fall; the lordship of Assyria and Egypt has an end ; the autonomy and martial power of the nation are restored. The scattered exiles return as citizens of the new theocracy, all obstacles in their way parting asunder as when the waves of the Red Sea gave passage to Israel at the founding of the old theocracy (x. 3-12). Again there is an interlude of three verses (xi. 1-3): fire seizes the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan, which the rabbins refer to the burning of the sanctuary of Jerusalem. The difficult passage about the shepherds follows.
The shepherds (rulers) of the nation make their flock an article
of trade and treat the sheep as sheep for the shambles. Therefore
the inhabited world shall fall a sacrifice to the tyranny of its kings,
while Israel is delivered to a shepherd who feeds the sheep for those
who make a trade of the flock (|NSn xi. 7, 11 = ''they that
sell them," ver. 5) and enters on his office with two staves, " Favour " and " Union." He destroys " the three shepherds " in one month, but is soon weary of his flock and the flock of him. He breaks the staff "Favour," i.e., the covenant of peace with the nations, and asks the traders for his hire. Receiving thirty pieces of silver, he casts it into the temple treasury and breaks the staff "Union" i.e., the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. He is succeeded by a foolish shepherd, who neglects his flock and lets it go to ruin. At length Jehovah intervenes ; the foolish shepherd falls by the sword ; two-thirds of the people perish with him in the Messianic crisis, but the remnant of one-third forms the seed of the new theocracy (xi. 4-17 taken with xiii. 7-9, according to the necessary transposition proposed by Ewald). All this must be an allegory of past events, the time present to the author and his hopes for the future beginning only at xi. 17, xiii. 7-9. The general situation is clear: foreign kings govern Israel through native princes. The details cannot bo explained in the absence of information as to the date and historical course of the events described by the prophet in allegorical form. But those who seek to escape this difficulty, by supposing that the word of the prophet was unintelligible to his contemporaries, and gained a true meaning only in its New Testament fulfilment, must forget that in Zech. xi. 9 the shepherd wearies of his office and abandons the flock, while in the New Testament the shepherd gives his life for the sheep, and that in Zech. xi. 12, 13 the price is paid to the shepherd, but in the New Testament to the traitor.
Chap. xii. presents a third variation on the Messianic promise. All heathendom is gathered together against Jerusalem and perishes there. Jehovah first gives victory to the countryfolk of Judah and then they rescue the capital. After this triumph the noblest houses of Jerusalem hold, each by itself, a great lamentation over a martyr " whom they have pierced" (or " whom men have pierced ").
In xii. 10 followed by lvl? cannot be right. If be deleted,
we may read "IB>K vK, but "not "ICX \b&, wdiich is not Hebrew.
Yet it is very doubtful if the deletion of OX is justifiable or suffi-cient. It is taken for granted that the readers will know who the martyr is, and the exegesis of the church applies the passage to our Lord. Chap. xiii. 1-6 is a continuation of chap. xii. ; the dawn of the day of salvation is accompanied by a general piurging away of idolatry and the enthusiasm of false prophets. Yet a fourth varia-tion of the picture of the incoming of the Messianic deliverance is given in chap. xiv. The heathen gather against Jerusalem and take the city, but do not utterly destroy the inhabitants. Then Jehovah, at a time known only to Himself, shall appear with all His saints on Mount Olivet and destroy the heathen in battle, while the men of Jerusalem take refuge in their terror in the great cleft that opens where Jehovah sets His foot. Now the new era begins, and even the heathen do homage to Jehovah by bringing due tribute to the annual feast of tabernacles. All in Jerusalem is holy down to the bells on the horses and the cooking-pots.
There is a striking contrast between chaps, i.-viii. and chaps, ix.-xiv. The former prophecy is closely tied to the situation and wants of the community of Jerusalem in the second year of Darius I., and all that it aims at arises out of the necessities of the time, and is of a practical and possible kind—-the restoration of the temple and perhaps the elevation of Zerubbabel to the throne of David. The latter chapters, on the other hand, soar far above the field of reality; the historical situation from which they start can hardly be recognized; and the future hope has very little connexion with the present. The fundamental differ-ence between the two parts of the book lies, not in the subject but in the nature of the prophecy,—in the first part realistic and almost prosaic, in the second vague and fantastic. There are corresponding differences in style and speech; and it is particularly to be noted that, while the superscriptions in the first part name the author and give the date of each oracle with precision, those in the second part (ix. 1, xii. 1) are without name or date. That both parts do not belong to the same author must be ad-mitted. But most recent critics make the second part the older. Chaps, ix.-xi. are ascribed to a contemporary of Amos and Hosea, about the middle of the 8th century B.C., because Ephraim is mentioned as well as Judah, and Assyria along with Egypt (x. 10), while the neighbours of Israel appear in ix. 1 sq. in the same way as in Amos i.-ii. That chaps, xii.-xiv. are also pre-exilic is held to appear especially in the attack on idolatry and lying pro-phecy (xiii. 1-6); but, as this prophecy speaks only of Judah and Jerusalem, it is dated after the fall of Samaria, and is assigned to the last days of the Judaean kingdom on the strength of xii. 11, where an allusion is seen to the mourn-ing for King Josiah, slain in battle at Megiddo. Some suppose that the author of ix.-xi. is the Zechariah, son of Jeberechiah, of Isa. viii. 2, and Bunsen ascribes xii.-xiv. to the prophet Urijah, son of Shemaiah (Jer. xxvi. 20 sq.). It is more likely that chaps, ix.-xiv. go all together and are of much later date. These vague predictions have no real spiritual affinity either with the prophecy of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, or with that of Jeremiah, where we always feel the solid ground of present reality under our feet. It was only after the exile that prophecy lost its close connexion with history and ceased to be built on present realities. The kind of eschatology which we find in Zech. ix.-xiv. was first introduced by Ezekiel, who in particular is the author of the conception that the time of deliverance is to be preceded by a joint attack of all nations on Jerusalem, in which they come to final overthrow (Ezek. xxxviii. sq.; Isa. lxvi. 18-24; Joel). The importance at-tached to the temple service, even in Messianic times (Zech. xiv.), implies an author who lived in the ideas of the religious commonwealth of post-exile times. A future king is hoped for; but in the present there is no Davidic king, only a Davidic family standing on the same level with other noble families in Jerusalem (xii. 7, 12). The "bastard" (mixed race) of Ashdod reminds us of Neh. xiii. 23 sqq.; and the words of ix. 12 ("to-day, also, do I declare that I will render double unto thee ") have no sense unless they refer back to the deliverance from Babylonian exile. But the decisive argument is that in ix. 13 the sons of Javan, i.e., the Greeks, appear as the representatives of the heathen world-power. The prophecy, therefore, is later than Alexander; and indeed the hostility to the Jews implied in the passage just cited dates only from the time when Palestine passed from the hands of the Ptolemies to those of the Seleucids. Assyria and Egypt (x. 11) may well be the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms, which to-gether made up for the Jews the empire of the sons of Javan. In ix. 1 sq. (imitated from Amos i.-ii.) Seleucid Syria is described as parcelled out into a number of small principalities, some of which were at the time nearly independent. That the Jews had reason enough to hate their neighbours, even in later times, appears, e.g., in 1 Mac. v.; compare especially ix. 6, 7 with 1 Mac. v. 68. The reference in ix. 8 would fit well with the Egyptian cam-paigns of Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, when Jerusalem suf-fered so much on the outward march and still more on the return of his troops. That the victory of Judah over the heathens is to precede the deliverance of Jerusalem (xii. 5 sqq.) is a remarkable feature, hardly to be explained except by the history of the Maccabee wars. The complaint about idolatry also fits this period; and that a new kind of prophecy then came up, in an age where it no longer had a legitimate place, is far from unlikely.
If this date is assumed for chaps, ix.-xiv., we must hold that, by the copious use of phrases from older prophets and other means, the author sought to give his oracles an archaic garb. That this is no unfair assumption appears especially in xiv. 5, in the reference to the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, which is natural only if the author addressed contemporaries of that catastrophe. This passage is indeed a stronger argument for a date in the Assyrian period than anything cited from chaps, ix.-xi. If, notwithstanding this, no commentator dates chap. xiv. less than 150 years after Uzziah, it is illegitimate to protest against the view that in chaps, ix. sq. Ephraim is an archaizing name for the Diaspora (1 Mac. v. 23, 45, 53).
How so late a piece was admitted among the prophetic writings, while Daniel, written about the same time, is placed only among the hagiographa, is a question not yet answered. We know too little about the history of the canon. A similar case is that of Isa. xxiv.-xxvii. But it is not less difficult to explain how a prophecy of the 8th century could have turned up in post-exile times and been appended to the book of Zechariah.
The literature of the book is cited by C. H. H. Wright, Zechariah
and his Prophecies, 2d ed., London, 1879. See also Stade, " Deu-
terozacharja," in Zeitschr. f. AT. Wiss., 1881, p. 1 sq.; 1882, pp.
151 sq., 275 sq. (J. WE.)


See Wagenseil, Sola, p. 927 ; Lightfoot, on Matt. xxvi. 3.
Matt, xxvii. 3-10 ; cp. Jahrbb. f. D. Theol., 1878, p. 471 sq.

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-21 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries