Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
INTRODUCTION TO ZECHARIAH
The Prophet Zechariah
Of the Prophet Zechariah, as of his colleague and contemporary Haggai, very little is known. He tells us himself that he was the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo (Zechariah 1:1). And though in the Book of Ezra he is called “the son of Iddo” (Zechariah 5:1, Zechariah 6:14), the simple and satisfactory explanation of the apparent discrepancy seems to be, that while the historian uses the word “son” in its less restricted sense of descendant, and passes over Berechiah, who never became the head of the family, dying probably early and without distinction, the prophet himself gives us, as it is natural he should do, the actual order of descent. If the Iddo thus spoken of is to be identified, as with much probability he may be, with the person of that name mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah, we have this explanation confirmed by the fact, that while Iddo is among the “priests” who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zechariah 12:4), “Zechariah of Iddo” takes his place amongst “the priests, the chief of the fathers,” under Joiakim, the son of Joshua, in the next generation (ver. 12, 16). If this view be adopted, it follows that Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet, and that, since his grandfather was still living when the first caravan returned under Zerubbabel, he must have been a comparatively young man when sixteen years later he entered upon his prophetical office. That he was born in Babylon is highly probable. Tradition associates him with Haggai in his connection with the Psalter and the Liturgical worship of the restored Temple, and also with the Great Synagogue, of which he is said to have been a member (see Introduction to Haggai, Chapter II.). “The patristic notices of the Prophet are worth nothing. According to these, he exercised his prophetic office in Chaldæa, and wrought many miracles there; returned to Jerusalem at an advanced age, where he discharged the duties of the priesthood, and where he died, and was buried by the side of Haggai.” Dict. of Bible, Art. Zechariah. See also Zechariah and his Prophecies, Introd. xvii., xviii., Rev. C. H. H. Wright.
The scanty information thus obtained accords with what little may be gathered, respecting the prophet, from his undoubted writings. His birth and early education in Babylon account for his frequent use, in common with Ezekiel and Daniel, of visions and allegories; the Divine Spirit adapting Himself, as ever, to the capacity and training of the human instrument, in imparting His revelations. His visions themselves have been thought to be “tinged with Persian imagery,” “as might be expected from one whose prime had been spent under Persian rule.” “He saw the earth, as it now presented itself to the enlarged vision of those who had listened to the Wise Men of Chaldæa, its four corners growing into the four horns that toss and gore the lesser powers of the world (Zechariah 1:18-19); the celestial messengers riding on horses, red or dappled, hurrying through the myrtle-groves that then clothed the base of Olivet, or from the four quarters of the heavens driving in chariots, each with its coloured horses, to and fro, across the Persian empire (Zechariah 1:8-11, Zechariah 6:1-8), as in the vast machinery of the posts for which it was celebrated (Herod. viii. 98; Esther 3:13; Esther 3:15), and bringing back the tidings of war and peace.” Jewish Church, iii. 102. It has also been pointed out (Dict. of Bible), that “the vision of the woman in the ephah is oriental in character,” and that Zechariah “is the only one of the prophets who speaks of Satan.”
Unity Of The Book Of Zechariah
Much difference of opinion exists amongst scholars upon the question, whether the Book of Zechariah, as it now stands in our Bibles, is the work of a single author, or contains the writings of two, or even of three, different persons, which have been brought together under one title. The first eight chapters are universally ascribed to Zechariah. The remaining six are of disputed authorship. In dealing with this and similar Biblical questions, it is important clearly to understand that they are purely critical in their character, and must be discussed and decided on grounds of scholarship alone. It is a mistake to suppose that the higher question of the inspiration and authority of the Bible is involved in them. It may be quite true that those who are agreed on this latter question will often be found on the same side, in the controversies to which those former questions give rise. But this is by no means exclusively the case; and the interests of truth and of scholarship, which is the handmaid of truth, alike require that such higher considerations should not be unnecessarily introduced into investigations, which are properly independent of them. It is unworthy of a scholar and alien from the calm, candid spirit of a seeker after truth, to taunt an opponent with the name of “orthodox,” or “rationalist,” instead of weighing his reasons, and accepting or refuting the arguments which he adduces. A moment’s reflection will suffice to convince us that it is quite possible to acknowledge unreservedly, as an integral part of God’s Word written, and to reverence accordingly, a Book of which the authorship is uncertain or unknown. Of the Book of Job, of many of the Psalms, of the larger part of the historical Books of the Old Testament, we do not know the authors. The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews will probably be a moot question as long as the world lasts. Yet all these writings hold their place in the Canon of Scripture, on equal terms with those of which the authorship is undoubted.
Approaching, then, in this spirit the particular question before us of the unity of the Book of Zechariah, we are met at the outset by the fact, that its unity does not appear ever to have been doubted, either by Jews or Christians, till our own countryman, Joseph Mede, avowed his disbelief in it some two centuries ago. The first of the considerations, by which Mede and the earlier critics who followed him were led to their conclusion, was the quotation by St Matthew (Matthew 27:9) of the well-known passage in our present Book of Zechariah (Zechariah 11:12-13), as a prophecy not of his but of Jeremiah’s. Regarding the Evangelist’s reference as an authoritative correction of the received tradition on the subject, they set themselves, with this supposed clue in their hands, to study the later chapters of this Book, and found in their contents much that seemed to them to warrant the belief that they belonged to Jeremiah or his times. “There is no scripture,” writes Mede, “saith they are Zachary’s; but there is scripture saith they are Jeremy’s, as this of the Evangelist.” But whatever may be thought of the argument from the quotation in the New Testament (and few modern scholars will be found to attach much importance to it), the fact remains, that Zechariah’s authorship of the whole Book which bears his name was for so long a time unquestioned. And it is a fact, which without over-estimating it, has a right to have its due weight in the controversy. How came these writings to be collected into a single volume and inscribed with a single name? Ob similitudinem argumenti, Mede would reply. But the reply is inadmissible, because it is the dissimilarity of the contents of the former and latter portions, which is most strongly urged by those who impugn the common authorship of the whole. You cannot first say, “These documents are so unlike in style, in subject-matter and in the historical stand-point of their writers, that though they bear a common name we are unable to accept them as the work of the same author,” and then go on to argue, “Nevertheless, it is easy to account for their being attributed to the same author, because of the great similarity between them.” Except as regards style (for criticism of style was and is a thing unknown to Jews), whatever dissimilarity exists must have been felt, at least as forcibly, by the compilers of the Canon as it is by ourselves. And if the tradition be trustworthy, that Zechariah himself took part in its compilation, it is difficult to conceive how he could have allowed the utterances of one or more earlier and anonymous prophets to have been added, without note or comment, as an appendix to his own. To say that some of the Psalms are anonymous, and yet are included in the Psalter, which as a whole is ascribed to David, is to urge a wholly irrelevant argument. It is one thing to insert in a collection of lyric poems some compositions by unknown authors, and then to inscribe the book with the name of the most distinguished and principal author of the collection. It is quite another thing to introduce into a series of twelve compositions, each bearing its author’s name, one or two documents, of greater bulk than some of the twelve, and to introduce them, neither in their chronological place, nor at the end of the series, as independent books, similar in character, though of unknown or undeclared authorship; but in the midst of the series, and as an avowed continuation of one of the compositions, from which, however, they stand apart both in date and contents.
Nor is this argument for the unity of the book weakened, as it might materially be, by a general agreement amongst those who controvert it, as to the date and authorship of the last six chapters. If even a majority of competent critics, who espouse that side in the controversy, were at one as to the approximate time in which the later Zechariah of Zechariahs lived and prophesied, there would be considerable weight in their conclusion. But so far from this being the case, not only do they differ among themselves, as to the single or dual authorship of these chapters, but in assigning a date to them, their criticism, as Dr Pusey expresses it, “reels to and fro in a period of nearly 500 years, from the earliest of the prophets to a period a century after Malachi, and that on historical and philological grounds.” “One must admit,” writes one of them, “that the division of opinions as to the real author of this section and his time, as also the attempt to appropriate single oracles of this portion to different periods, leave the result of criticism simply negative; whereas, on the other hand, the view itself, since it is not carried through exegetically, lacks the completion of its proof. It is not till criticism becomes positive, and evidences its truth in the explanation of details, that it attains its completion; which is not, in truth, always possible” (Hitzig, quoted by Pusey).
The principal arguments, which have been adduced on both sides of the controversy, will be found fully and impartially stated in the Article on Zechariah, in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, and reference is made to many of them in the notes of this Commentary. The following brief summary of them may be sufficient here.
A. The objections against the unity of the Book may be classified, generally, under two heads:
1. Differences in style and other features of composition, pointing to difference of authorship.
2. Historical and chronological references, indicating a difference in the time at which the writers who make them lived.
1. (1) It is impossible to read through the Book of Zechariah, as it now stands in our Bibles, without being struck by the great change of style, which meets us when we pass from the earlier (chaps. 1–8) to the later (chaps. 9–14) portion of the Book. The earlier is for the most part prosaic and unimpassioned in style and diction. The later is full of poetic fire and fervour.
(2) Special phrases and idioms, such as come to be favourite forms of expression with a writer, and peculiarities which serve to identify him, are found in each of the two divisions of the Book; but in neither case do those of one division occur in the other. For example, the phrases, “The word of Jehovah came unto me” (Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 4:8; Zechariah 6:9; Zechariah 7:1; Zechariah 7:4; Zechariah 7:8; Zechariah 8:1; Zechariah 8:18), “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts” (Zechariah 1:4; Zechariah 1:16-17; Zechariah 6:12; Zechariah 8:2; Zechariah 8:4; Zechariah 8:6-7; Zechariah 8:9; Zechariah 8:14; Zechariah 8:19-20; Zechariah 8:23), “I lifted up my eyes and saw” (Zechariah 1:18; Zechariah 2:1; Zechariah 5:1; Zechariah 6:1), are found repeatedly in the first division, but never in the second; while the common phrase of the second division, “In that day” (Zechariah 9:16; Zechariah 11:11; Zechariah 12:3-4; Zechariah 12:6; Zechariah 12:8-9; Zechariah 12:11; Zechariah 13:1-2; Zechariah 13:4; Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:6; Zechariah 14:8-9; Zechariah 14:13; Zechariah 14:20-21), is altogether wanting in the first.
(3) Similar differences are the mention of his own name and the names of other contemporary persons by the writer of the first division only (Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 3:1; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 6:10; Zechariah 6:14; Zechariah 7:1-2; Zechariah 7:8); his notes of time (Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1), as against the formula of introduction prefixed to separate sections of the second division (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1); and the disappearance of “Satan” (Zechariah 3:1-2), and of the “seven eyes” (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10), from the later portion of the Book.
(4) The figures and imagery of the two divisions have nothing in common. The visions of the first division, with their mystic significance, needing an angel to interpret them, give place in the second division to the allegory or dramatic representation of the wise and foolish shepherds. And in that division only the images of the shepherd and the sheep, and of Jehovah as the Captain of His people, with the warlike accompaniments of charger and trumpet and weapons, are introduced.
2. The objections to the unity of the Book on historical and chronological grounds are drawn from references and allusions, both to the Jews themselves and to other nations, which are held to argue that a different date must be assigned to their authors.
(1) As regards the Jews themselves, it is urged that the general scope of the two divisions of the prophecy proves conclusively, that they belong to different eras in their national history. For, while the former division is directed to encouraging them to rebuild their temple and city, by promises of immediate success and future prosperity, the latter, if it had appeared at the same time, would have been eminently calculated to produce a precisely opposite effect. Its tendency would have been to discourage and deter them, inasmuch as it abounds in vivid pictures of the destruction of Jerusalem and the future miseries of the nation.
Other considerations, drawn from the internal history of the Jews, which seem to favour an earlier date for the closing prophecies of the Book, are the reference to the two Kingdoms as still standing (Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:6), while at the same time the union between them is at an end (Zechariah 11:14), which, when regard is had to the threat against Damascus (Zechariah 9:1), might seem to point to the coalition between Israel and Damascus against Judah (2 Kings 16:5-6); and again the state of anarchy predicted (Zechariah 11:4-8), which finds its parallel in the period immediately following the death of Jeroboam II. (2 Kings 15:8-15).
(2) As regards other nations, it is alleged that when the later chapters were penned, “the pride of Assyria was at its height (chaps. 10, 11), and the Jews had already suffered from it;” and also that “Egypt and Assyria are both formidable powers” (Zechariah 10:9-11).
The conclusion arrived at is, that whether we have respect to the Jews themselves or to foreign nations, the internal evidence of the later chapters is in favour of their being the work of a contemporary of Isaiah.
The same, or similar, arguments are employed by those who would assign different dates and authors, not only to the first and second divisions, but to the two sections of the second division of this Book.
B. All these objections have been met, by what have been deemed by those who produced them satisfactory answers.
1. In contravention of the objections from style it has been alleged:
(1) That the difference in the two divisions of the Book is not greater than may be reasonably accounted for by the difference of subject-matter in the two. They differ “as the style of the narrator differs from the style of the orator.” And this judgment has been fortified by observing that when prophecy proper, as distinct from narration or description, enters into the first division of the Book, the style at once approaches more nearly to that of the second division (e.g. Zechariah 2:4-13).
(2) The same consideration of subject-matter, together with the fact that the prophet is dealing, in the earlier part of his Book, directly and immediately with his contemporaries, and with the actual condition at the time of the city and nation, is thought sufficiently to explain his introduction into that part only of dates and names, and his use of phrases, which in the later part give place to others more suited to his altered theme and circumstances.
(3) At the same time, it is pointed out that there are peculiar forms of expression, which are found in both divisions of the Book, as for example Zechariah 7:14 with Zechariah 9:8, and Zechariah 3:4 with Zechariah 13:2, where the Hebrew forms amount to what may be regarded as characteristic phrases.
2. To the objections connected with points of history and chronology counter-arguments have been opposed by the advocates of the integrity of the Book.
(1) The re-building of the Temple, it has been said, which was the immediate object of Zechariah’s earlier prophecies, had long been accomplished when the prophetic Spirit moved him to his later utterances. There was no risk, therefore, of his discouraging his countrymen from doing that which was done already. Not now to urge them to the finished task of former years, but to unfold before them and the Church of God, for instruction, for warning and for comfort, the future to which the accomplishment of that task would lead, was the prophet called. Nor are there wanting, as it has further been pointed out, predictions of the same future, of the same Messianic times and events, in the earlier chapters of this Book. Its two parts are not conflicting and contradictory, but successive and complementary oracles.
So again, it has been argued that the reference to the whole nation, as restored to their own land and to the favour of Almighty God, is common to both divisions of the Book; while the identification of the picture in Zechariah 11:8 with the period after the death of Jeroboam II. has rightly been held to be exceedingly precarious.
(2) As regards historical allusions to other nations and the conclusions to be drawn from them, it has in like manner been shewn, that the historical position of the writer of the last six chapters of Zechariah is not inconsistent, so far as internal evidence is concerned, with a post-exile date. Indeed that is the date which, as some have thought, may on that evidence be most satisfactorily assigned to him.
It has further been urged as a weighty argument on this side of the controversy, that if some things in these later chapters seem to favour an earlier date for their author, his evident familiarity with the writings of the prophets of the period of the exile is in itself a sufficient and conclusive proof, that he did not live before them.
It may be said then generally, from this brief summary, that if the objections against the unity of the Book are neither few nor frivolous, the counter-considerations by which they have been met are of at least equal weight. If, for example, the difference of style between the first eight and the remaining six chapters of the Book, which is certainly remarkable, and which no competent scholar will venture to deny, has been urged in proof of the different authorship of the two portions, the fact, which is no less incontrovertible, that the style of the same writer is wont to vary greatly with his subject, may be insisted upon with much reason as a countervailing argument. A writer whose narrative style was comparatively tame and prosaic, in relating visions which he had seen, or events in which he had taken part, might well be expected, without losing his identity, to rise to far higher conceptions and more eloquent utterances when a distant and glorious future was unfolded before him. Examples of such a change of style are common both in sacred and secular literature. If, again, the historical allusions of the later chapters are thought to be inconsistent with the date, which the writer of the earlier chapters assigns to his own prophecies, it must not be forgotten, that a reasonable explanation of those allusions can be given on the supposition of the unity of the Book, and that the whole force of this argument has, in one noteworthy instance at least, been neutralized by a single weighty consideration on the opposite side. “The manifest acquaintance on the part of the writer of Zechariah 9-14, with so many of the later prophets seemed so convincing to De Wette that, after having in the first three editions of his Introduction declared for two authors, he found himself compelled to change his mind, and to admit that the later chapters must belong to the age of Zechariah, and might have been written by Zechariah himself.” Dict. of Bible.
The conclusion, therefore, at which it seems not unreasonable to arrive is, that while we hold ourselves open to give candid consideration to any fresh arguments that may be adduced, or evidence that may be offered, we have not as yet sufficient ground for relinquishing the ancient and tenable belief, that the Book of Zechariah is not only an integral part of the Word of God and of the inspired prophecy of the Old Testament, but is also throughout the work of the author whose name it bears.
Analysis Of The Book
The Book of Zechariah falls, as has been said, into two principal parts, very dissimilar in style and in the form and vehicle chosen to convey their teaching; yet really combining in one harmonious whole, and containing a continuous revelation of the purposes of God and the future of His Church.
It will be sufficient to give here a general outline of the contents of the Book. A more detailed analysis of the several parts will be found at the commencement of each section in the following Commentary.
Part I. chaps. 1–8
I. Introduction to the whole Book, Zechariah 1:1-6, consisting of
1. Title and author’s name, ver. 1;
2. Call to repentance, as a necessary preliminary to the bright future afterwards unfolded, ver. 2–6.
II. A series of eight visions, with accompanying interpretations, seen by the prophet on the same night, which, like dissolving views, melt each into another, and so gradually open up the whole prospect, Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:8.
1. A band of horsemen in a myrtle grove first meet the prophet’s view. They have traversed the whole earth, and report a state of universal repose, without a sign of that shaking of the nations which is to bring deliverance to Israel. But the discouraging sentence of the vision, which was but the echo of the despondency of the prophet and his people, as they looked on the actual condition of all around them, is immediately reversed by a promise, addressed to faith, that all adverse appearances notwithstanding, the Temple shall be completed and Jerusalem and the cities of Judah be rebuilt and prosper, Zechariah 1:7-17.
2. The promise, of which the terms are so far merely general, is now expanded more particularly. Four great horns, representing the world powers that had oppressed the Jews, appear on the scene, and are presently destroyed by four artificers, who come forth against them, Zechariah 1:18-21.
3. The way being thus cleared by the destruction of the enemies of Judah, the next vision reveals the rebuilding of Jerusalem. A man with a measuring line comes upon the stage. But, as he is about to mark out the ground-plan of the city, he is stopped by an intimation that the Jerusalem of the future shall neither admit of walls, because of its overflowing population, nor require them, inasmuch as Jehovah Himself will be a wall of fire about her. In jubilant strain, as the vision swells far beyond the immediate future, her children are called upon to return, and the nations of the earth are invited to join themselves to Jehovah in Zion, Zechariah 2:1-13.
4. In the next two visions, the restoration of the Temple and its service is depicted. Joshua, the High-Priest, is seen in the first of them, clothed in the sordid garments of a criminal and arraigned at the judgment-seat by a stern accuser. But he is acquitted by the interposition of the Angel of Jehovah, and, arrayed in the goodly raiment of innocence, receives his commission to minister before God. His office, he is assured, is typical of a greater Priest to come, and, as a pledge of His coming and a preparation for it, Almighty God makes the completion of the Temple His own peculiar care, Zechariah 3:1-10.
5. The golden candlestick of the Tabernacle is next seen, its seven lamps fed by two olive trees, one on either side of it, denoting mysterious agencies, by which the grace of God is conveyed to His Church. On that grace the vision encourages Zerubbabel to rely, for by virtue of it he shall see his work accomplished, and the golden lamps shedding forth their light in the completed Temple, Zechariah 4:1-14.
6. Passing now to the cleansing and sanctifying of the people and the land, the prophetic scenery first assumes the form of a vast expanded roll, flying rapidly through the air to denote the swiftness with which its mission shall be executed. It bears inscribed on it the curse, which shall descend upon the house of the sinner, and consume it together with its owner, Zechariah 5:1-4.
7. To this vision succeeds another, in which a woman, in whom the wickedness of the land is personified, is pressed down into a great ephah, or measure, and carried, fast shut up in it, by swift ministers, into the land of Babylon, the proper home of all iniquity, Zechariah 5:5-11.
8. The visions close with a remarkable scene, in which four chariots issue from the valley between two brazen mountains, and speed forth, as the messengers of Jehovah’s wrath, till His judgments are executed upon the nations of the earth, and His anger is pacified, Zechariah 6:1-8.
Resting, thus, on the then present circumstances of the Jews, as its historical basis, the prophecy of these visions deals chiefly with the immediate future—the re-building of the Temple and city, the re-peopling of the land, the restoration of the Temple-service, the purifying of the nation; while at the same time, both by the pregnant terms of its predictions in all these particulars, and by the vistas which from time to time it opens up in its course, it reaches forth unmistakably towards a more distant goal.
III. A symbolical action, Zechariah 6:9-15, which forms the next section of this part of the Book, and which, though without date, may be supposed to have followed closely upon the visions, is a fitting sequel to them in its prophetical character. A deputation had arrived at Jerusalem, bringing offerings towards the completion of the Temple, from Jews who still remained in the land of their captivity. Out of the silver and gold which they brought the prophet is directed to make crowns, and first place them on the head of Joshua, the High-priest, and then hang them up for a memorial in the Temple. By this significant action it was intimated that the Temple then in progress, in which those crowns were hung, should be finished and adorned in the coming time with gifts and offerings; but also that another Priest should in due course arise, who should be a King as well, and who in a truer and higher sense should build the Temple of Jehovah.
IV. Answer as to observance of Fasts, chaps. 7, 8. After a silence of some two years, the prophet again speaks, and his prediction moves on substantially the same lines as those which have gone before, though it is cast in a different mould. The question had not unnaturally been agitated among the returned captives, whether they ought still to observe the national fasts, which had been instituted in connection with the leading incidents in the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. On the one hand, it seemed that the restoration already commenced put an end to these observances. On the other hand, the still feeble condition and doubtful fortunes of their church and nation might be construed into a call to continued fasting and humiliation before God. In the dilemma thus created, they seek and obtain an authoritative decision through the prophet. “In language worthy of his position and his office, language which reminds us of one of the most striking passages of his great predecessor (Isaiah 58:5-7), he lays down the same principle that God loves mercy rather than fasting, and truth and righteousness rather than sackcloth and a sad countenance. If they had perished, he reminds them it was because their hearts were hard while they fasted; if they would dwell safely, they must abstain from fraud and violence and not from food (Zechariah 7:4-14).” Dict. of Bible. To urge them to this he draws again, in chapter 8, a glowing picture of Jerusalem, the habitation of Jehovah, the city of truth and holiness, old men venerable with age moving along its streets, children making its thoroughfares resound with their mirth and pastimes, plenty and prosperity crowning their land. Then shall all fasts, he assures them, be turned into festivals, and all nations worship the God of Israel and esteem if an honour to be associated with a Jew.
Part II., chaps. 9–14
After a lapse, it may be, of many years (for there is no date to this second division of the Book), when, perhaps, the active work of a long life was done, Zechariah is again called to prophesy. The event, which was the immediate subject of his earlier prophecies, had now become an accomplished fact. The Temple was restored and its worship resumed. “Moved by the Holy Ghost” (Φερόμενος ὑπὸ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου), he soars now into loftier regions of prophetic inspiration, and in two “burdens of the word of the Lord,” depicts in glowing language and vivid imagery the nearer and more distant future as they expand before him.
I. The First Burden, chaps. 9–11
He, who had been foretold in the earlier prophecies of the Book as the Branch or Shoot, and who was to be a King as well as a Priest (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12-13), is the central figure of both sections of this Burden.
1. The first section, The Coming of the King, chaps. 9, 10, describes His advent as King to Zion, and its consequences. The section opens with a prophecy of the destruction of the immediately surrounding nations by Alexander, and the preservation of the Jews at the time of his invasion, Zechariah 9:1-8. Then to Zion, thus and for this very end preserved, her King comes in lowly majesty, to inaugurate a peaceful rule over her children, united again into one people, and over the heathen nations of the world; to set free the captives of Israel, overthrow their enemies, and raise them to the height of honour and prosperity, 9–17. Pausing for a moment, to remind his countrymen that these and all good things must be looked for from the God of Israel, and not from the false gods and diviners, their recourse to whom had been the cause of all their troubles, Zechariah 10:1-2, the prophet resumes his theme. The bad rulers, who for their sins had been set over them, shall make way for worthy leaders in every department of the state. Victory is again promised them, and the scattered ten tribes, they are assured, shall be gathered from all parts of the world to their ancient dwelling-place and their fathers’ God, Zechariah 10:3-12.
2. The second section of this Burden, The Rejection of the Shepherd, chap, 11, foretells the treatment, in His character of Shepherd, of the King whose coming and its results the first section had described. The order, however, of the former section is reversed. This section opens with a graphic picture of the consequences of the events which it afterwards records. On the stately forests of Lebanon and the giant oaks of Bashan the storm of wrath descends, and visits in its onward course the lowlands of Jordan and the south, Zechariah 11:1-3. It has come to avenge the insulting rejection by His people of Jehovah’s Shepherd, whom the prophet is directed to personate. He describes his assumption of the typical office, his efforts to discharge it faithfully, his failure and consequent resignation of it in disgust, and the contumely which his demand for his wages, in token of his complete discharge from it, brought upon him, Zechariah 11:4-14. The section terminates with a prediction of the cruel and disastrous rule of a foolish shepherd, whom again the prophet personates, who shall be set over the people as a punishment for their rejection of the Good Shepherd, but who himself in turn shall be miserably destroyed, Zechariah 11:15-17.
II. The Second Burden, chaps. 12–14
This Burden, like the First, has two sections, both of them concerned with events which are almost exclusively still future.
1. The first section, Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6, depicts the hostile gathering of all nations against Jerusalem, and their overthrow by the intervention of Jehovah, and by the prowess of His people, strengthened and inspirited by Him, Zechariah 12:1-9. The deliverance thus vouchsafed to them shall be followed, so the prophet intimates, by a national repentance and by deep and bitter sorrow and humiliation, on account of their past ingratitude and injury to God their great Benefactor, Zechariah 12:10-14. And this their penitence shall result in purification from past defilement, and in future amendment and utter abhorrence and putting away of evil, Zechariah 13:1-6.
2. The second section, Zechariah 13:7 to Zechariah 14:21, recurring to an earlier period than that with which the first section is mainly occupied, goes beyond it at its close into a more distant future, and reaches finally the times of the end. Its starting point is the smiting of Jehovah’s Shepherd, whose rejection the First Burden had recorded. A few pregnant sentences, involving the history of ages, suffice to describe the consequences of the smiting—the scattering of the sheep, the destruction of most of them, the severe but salutary discipline and ultimate restoration, of the remainder, Zechariah 13:7-9. Then the scene suddenly changes. Once again the city, which in the fact of the present and the assured promise of the future had filled already so large a place in the prophet’s contemplation, on which he had looked with his bodily eyes, a shapeless mass of ruins; which he had seen in the far-reaching vision of an inspired seer, now beleaguered by hostile forces, and now peaceful and prosperous, safe and happy in the protection of Jehovah, rises before him. The city is already in the hands of its captors. They are dividing its spoil in the midst of its streets. Fierce warriors, of every nation under heaven, are filling it with slaughter and rapine, and leading forth its children into captivity. But Jehovah Himself becomes, as in the days of old, the champion of His people. He appears suddenly on the scene in person, attended by His holy ones, and with the accompaniment of great physical convulsions, to effect their deliverance. The discomfiture of their enemies is complete and final, Zechariah 14:1-7. The conformation of the land is now changed. Its rugged and mountainous character ceases. It becomes a vast plain, out of which Jerusalem rises proudly on high as the metropolis of the country, Jehovah Himself dwelling in her as King, Zechariah 14:8-11. Going back again to the destruction of her enemies, out of which this prosperity had arisen, the prophet depicts the terrible plagues by which they shall be consumed, Zechariah 14:12-15, and the homage which the survivors shall be compelled under heavy penalties to pay, Zechariah 14:16-19. The Book closes with a brief but striking description of the holiness which shall prevail, as the great climax of all. No distinction of secular and sacred shall any more exist. All things shall be alike sacred. The instruments of human pomp and pride, the commonest objects of daily life, shall be consecrated to the service of God. Holiness to the Lord shall, when that day comes, be inscribed on all, Zechariah 14:20-21.
“Lo, thus the hearts of all righteous in the Old Testament from Adam unto Christ, even 3974 years, have stood only upon Christ: in Him was their comfort, upon Him they trusted, it was He whom they longed for, and in Christ Jesu were they saved. Therefore hath our Christian faith endured since the beginning of the world, and is, and continueth still the only true, old, undoubted, and fast grounded faith.”
Bishop Myles Coverdale.
“This gift of expounding and interpreting the Scriptures was, in St Paul’s time, given to many by special miracle, without study: so was also, by like miracle, the gift to speak with strange tongues, which they had never learned. But now, miracles ceasing, men must attain to the knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues, &c. by travail and study, God giving the increase. So must men also attain by like means to the gift of expounding and interpreting the Scriptures.”