Introduction to Zechariah
Zechariah entered into his prophetic function two months after Haggai's first prophecy. He was still a youth, when God called him Zechariah 2:4, and so, since in the second year of Darius Hystaspis 18 years had elapsed from the first of Cyrus, he must have been brought in infancy from Babylon. His father Berechiah probably died young, since, in Ezra, the prophet is called after his grandfather, "Zechariah the son of Iddo" Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14. He succeeded his grandfather in the office of "the priests, the chief of the fathers," (of which there were twelve) in the days of Joiakim, the son of Joshua, the High priest Nehemiah 12:10, Nehemiah 12:12, Nehemiah 12:16. Since then, while he prophesied together with Haggai, Joshua was still high priest, and it is Joshua whom he sees in his vision in that same year Zechariah 3:1, he must have entered into his prophetic function before he succeeded to that other dignity. Yet neither is there any reason to think that he ever laid it aside, since we do not hear of any prophet, called by God, who did abandon it. Rather, like Jeremiah, he exercised both; called to the priesthood by the birth given to him by God, called to the prophetic function by divine inspiration.
Like Jeremiah, Zechariah was called in early youth to the prophetic function. The same designation, by which Jeremiah at first excused himself as unfit for the office, is given to Zechariah, "youth." The term does not indeed mark any definite age; for Joseph, when he was so designated by the chief butler Genesis 41:12, was 28 ; Benjamin and Absalom had sons of their own . They were probably so called as terms of affection, the one by his brother Judah Genesis 43:8; Genesis 44:22, Genesis 44:30, Genesis 44:33, the other by David his father 2 Samuel 18:5, 2 Samuel 18:12, 2 Samuel 18:29, 2 Samuel 18:32. But his grandfather Iddo was still in the discharge of his office. The length of his ministry is equally unknown. Two years after his first entrance upon it Zechariah 7:1, when Haggai's function was closed, he was bidden to answer from God those who enquired whether, now that they were freed from the captivity, they should keep the national fasts which they had instituted on occasion of some of the mournful events which had ushered it in. His remaining prophecies bear no date. The belief, that he lived and prophesied to old age, may have a true foundation, though unknown to us. We only know that he survived the high priest, Joshua, since his own accession to his office of head of the priests, in his division, was in the days of Joiakim, the son of Joshua.
Zechariah's book opens with a very simple, touching call to those returned from the captivity, linking himself with the former prophets, but contrasting the transitoriness of all human things, those who prophesied and those to whom they prophesied, with the abidingness of the Word of God. It consists of four parts, differing in outward character, yet with a remarkable unity of purpose and end. All begin with a foreground subsequent to the captivity; all reach on to a further end; the first two to the coming of our Lord; the third from the deliverance of the house then built, during the invasion of Alexander, and from the victories of the Maccabees, to the rejection of the true Shepherd and the curse upon the false; the last, which is connected with the third by its title, reaches from a future repentance for the death of Christ to the final conversion of the Jews and Gentiles.
The outward difference, that the first prophecy is in visions; the second prophecy is a response to an enquiry made of him; the last two visions, in free delivery, obviously did not depend upon the prophet. The occasion also of the first two bodies of prophecy involved that they were written in prose. For the imagery was borne on the prophet's mind in visions. The function of the prophet was only to record them and the explanations given to him of parts of them, which could only be done in prose. So far, he was like the apostles, who enquired of our Lord (when in the flesh) as to the meaning of His parables. There is, as in the later chapters, an abundance of imagery; and it may have pleased God to adapt the form of His revelation to the imaginative mind of the young prophet who was to receive it. But the visions are, as the name implies, pictures which the prophet sees, and which he describes.
Even a rationalist writer saw this. : "Every vision must form a picture, and the description of a vision must have the appearance of being read from a picture. It follows from the nature of the description of a vision, that for the most part it cannot be composed in any elevated language. The simplest prose is the best vehicle for a relation (and such is the description of a vision), and elaborate ornament of language were foreign to it. The beauty, greatness, elevation of a vision, as described, must lie in the conception, or in the symmetry, or wondrous boldness in the grouping of the images. Is the whole group, piece by piece, in all its parts, to the most minute shading, faithful and described with the character of truth, the exhibition of the vision in words is perfect."
The four portions were probably of different dates, since they stand in order in the prophet's book, as indeed the second portion is dated two years later than the first . For in the first part God's people are exhorted to come from Babylon Zechariah 2:7, which command, many in the time of Ezra, obeyed, and doubtless individuals subsequently, when a prosperous polity was restored; in the latter part, Babylon is mentioned no more; only in one place, in the imagery of earlier prophets, the future gathering of God's people is symbolized under the previous deliverance from West and East, Egypt and Assyria (Zechariah 10:10, compare Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:16; Hosea 11:11).
But they agree in this, that the foreground is no longer, as in the former prophets, deliverance from Babylon. In the first part, the reference to the vision of the four empires in Daniel removes the promise of the Deliverer to the fourth empire. For the series of visions having closed with the vision of the four chariots, there follows at once the symbolic act of placing the crown or crowns on the head of the high priest and the promise of the Messiah, Who should be king and priest Zechariah 6:10-13. In the later part the enemies spoken of are in one place the Greeks Zechariah 9:13, subsequent to the protection of the temple under Alexander ; in another, they are the final gathering of all nations against Jerusalem Zechariah 12:2-3, Zechariah 12:9; Zechariah 14:2-3, Zechariah 14:14, Zechariah 14:16, which Joel also places at the end of all things Joel 3:2, after the outpouring of the Spirit, as it was poured out on the day of Pentecost.
In both parts alike, there is no mention of any king or of any earthly ruler; in both, the ruler to come is the Messias. In both, the division of the two kingdoms is gone. The house of Israel and house of Judah are united, not divided ; they had been distinct wholes, now they are in interests as one. Zechariah promises a future to both collectively, as did Jeremiah Jer 23:6; Jeremiah 50:20 long after the captivity of Israel, and Ezekiel promised that they should both again be one in the hand of God Ezekiel 37:16-19. The "brotherhood between Judah and Israel" still existed, after they had weighed the thirty pieces of silver for the Good Shepherd. The captivity, in God's Providence, ended at once the kingdom of Israel and the religious schism, the object of which was to maintain the kingdom.
Even before the captivity, "divers of Asher and Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem" 2 Chronicles 30:11, to the Passover of Hezekiah; nay, "a great multitude of the people from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun" 2 Chronicles 30:18, who had neglected or despised the first invitation 2 Chronicles 30:10, came subsequently. In the great passover of Josiah, we hear of "all Judah and Israel that were present" 2 Chronicles 35:18. The edict of Cyrus related to the "people of the Lord God of heaven, and was published throughout all his kingdom" Ezra 1:1-2, which included "the cities of the Medes" 2 Kings 17:6, where Israel had been removed. The sacred history is confined to Jerusalem, whence the Gospel was to go forth; yet, even "the sons of Bethel" Ezra 2:2, Ezra 2:28, the center of the rival, idolatrous worship, which was "among the mountains of Ephraim," were among those of the people of Israel who returned with Zerubbabel. It is inconceivable that, as the material prosperity of Palestine returned, even many of the ten tribes should not have returned to their country.
But place was no condition of the unity of the Church. Those who returned recognized the religious oneness of all the twelve tribes, wherever dispersed. At the dedication of the house of God, they Ezra 6:17 "offered a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel." At that passover were present, not only "the children of Israel which had come again out of the captivity," but, "all such as had separated themselves unto them from the defilements of the people of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel" Ezra 6:21, i. e., Israelites, who had been defiled by the heathen idolatries. The "house of David" is mentioned; for of his seed according to the flesh Messiah was to be born, but it is his "house," not any earthly ruler in it.
In both parts alike, Zechariah connects his prophecies with the former prophets, the fulfillment of whose warnings he impressed upon his people in his opening exhortation to them Zechariah 1:4-6, and in his answer to the question about keeping the fasts Zechariah 7:7-14 which related to the destruction of the city and temple. In the first part, the title "the Branch" Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12 is used as a proper name, recalling the title of the Messiah in Isaiah and Jeremiah, "the Branch of the Lord" Isaiah 4:2, "a righteous Branch" Jeremiah 23:5, "a Branch of righteousness" Jeremiah 33:15, whom God would raise up to David. The prophecy of the mutual exhortation of peoples and cities to worship at Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:20-22, compare Micah 4:1-2; Isaiah 2:3) is an echo of those of Isaiah and Micah, prolonging them. The prophecy of the four chariots , the symbol of those world-empires, would be unintelligible without the visions in Daniel which it presupposes.
The union of the offices of priest and king in the Messiah is a renewal of the promise through David (Zechariah 6:13, coll. Psalm 110:1-7). In the last chapters, the continuousness of the prophet's diction admits still more of this interweaving of the former prophecies, and these alike from the earlier and later prophets. The censure of Tyre for its boast of its wisdom is a renewal of that of Ezekiel (Zechariah 9:2, and Ezekiel 28:3); the prophecy against the Philistine cities, of that of Zephaniah Zechariah 9:5; Zephaniah 2:4; the remarkable prediction that, when the king should come to Zion, chariots and horses, not of the enemy but of Judah should be cut off, is renewed from Micah Zechariah 9:10; Micah 5:10; the extent of his peaceful kingdom is from a psalm of Solomon Psalm 72:8; the loosing of the exile from the pit, and God's rendering double unto them, are in Isaiah Zechariah 9:12; Isaiah 51:14; Isaiah 61:7. The description of the sifting, in which, two parts having been cut off; even the remaining third should be anew tried and cleansed, is condensed from Ezekiel, so that, "shall be cut off, shall expire," correspond to the natural and violent deaths, by famine and by the sword, spoken of in Ezekiel . The words , "I have said, it is My people, and it will say, the Lord my God," are almost verbally from Hosea, "I say to not-my-people, thou art My people, and it will say, my God;" only omitting the allusion to the significant name of the prophet's son. : "The first part of Zechariah 14:10, "the whole land shall be turned as a plain from Gebah to Rimmon, and Jerusalem shall be exalted," reminds of Isaiah and Ezekiel; the latter part, "it shall be inhabited in her place from the tower of Hananeel to the king's winepresses, and men shall dwell in it and there shall be no more utter desolation, but Jerusalem shall dwell securely," reminds of Jeremiah, "The city shall be built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner; it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more" Jeremiah 31:38, Jeremiah 31:40.
The words, "and every one that is left of all the nations shall go up to worship the king, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" Zechariah 14:16, reminds of Isaiah, "From new-moon to his newmoon, and from sabbath to his sabbath shall all flesh come to worship before Me, saith the Lord" Isaiah 66:23. Zechariah 14:17-19 are an expansion of Isaiah 60:12; Isaiah 5:20 expresses the thought of Ezekiel 43:13 : the prophecy Zechariah 14:21, "there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord forever," refers back to Ezekiel" Ezekiel 44:9. The symbolizing of the Gospel by the life-giving waters which should flow forth from Jerusalem, originally in Joel 3:18, is a miniature of the full picture in Ezekiel Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1-13. The promise, "I will cut off the names of the idols from the land and they shall be no more remembered" Zechariah 13:2; Hosea 2:17, in part verbally agrees with that of Hosea, "And I will remove "the names of the" Baalim "from" her mouth, "and they shall be no more remembered" by their names;" only, since the Baal-worship was destroyed by the captivity, the more general name of "idols" is substituted.
Equally, in descriptions not prophetic, the symbolizing of the wicked by the title of the goats, "I punished the goats" Zechariah 10:3; Ezekiel 34:17, is renewed from Ezekiel; "I judge between flock and flock, between the rams and the he-goats." The description of the shepherds who destroyed their flocks retains from Jeremiah the characteristic expression, "and hold themselves not guilty." The minuteness of the enumeration of their neglects and cruelties is the same (amid differences of the words whereby it is expressed): "the perishing shall he not visit, those astray shall he not seek, and the broken shall he not heal; the sound shall he not nurture, and the flesh of the fat shall he eat and their claws he shall split" Zechariah 11:16. In Ezekiel, "Ye eat the fat and clothe you with the wool; the fat ye slay; the flock ye feed not; the diseased have ye not healed; and the broken have ye not bound, and the wandering have ye not sought" Ezekiel 34:3-4. The imagery of Obadiah, that Israel should be a flame amidst grain to consume it, is retained; the name of Edom is dropped, for the prophecy relates to a larger gathering of enemies. Zechariah has, "In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a hearth of fire among wood and like a lamp of fire in a sheaf of corn, and they shall eat on the right hand and on the left all nations round about" Zechariah 12:6 : Obadiah; "The house of Jacob shall be 'fire' and the house of Jacob a 'flame,' and the house of Esau stubble, and it shall kindle on them and shall eat them" Obadiah 1:18. Even so slight an expression as "the pride of Jordan" Zechariah 11:3, as designating the cane-break around it, is unique to Jeremiah Jer 12:5; Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44.
Zechariah is eminently an Evangelic prophet, as much as Isaiah, and equally in both portions.
The use of different words in unlike subjects is a necessary consequence of that unlikeness. In contrast with that pseudo-criticism, which counts up the unlike words in different chapters of a prophet, the different words used by the same modern poet have been counted . A finer perception will see the correspondence of a style, when the rhythm, subject, words, are different. No one familiar with English poetry could doubt that "the Bard," and "the Elegy in a country Churchyard," however different in subject and style and words, were by the same hand, judging alone from the labored selection of the epithets, however different. Yet, there is not one characteristic word or idiom which occurs in both. But the recurrence of the same or like words or idioms, if unusual elsewhere, is a subordinate indication of sameness of authorship.
They are thus enumerated by the writers who have answered the attacks on the authorship of Zechariah.
"Common to both parts are the idioms, from him who goeth and from him who returneth, which do not occur elsewhere ; the whole Jewish people are throughout designated as "the house of Israel and the house of Judah" Zechariah 8:13, or "the house of Judah and the house of Joseph" Zechariah 10:6, or "Judah Israel and Jerusalem" (Zechariah 1:19, (Zechariah 2:2, Hebrew)), or "Ephraim and Jerusalem" Zechariah 9:10, or "Judah and Ephraim" Zechariah 9:13, or "Judah and Israel" Zechariah 11:14. There is in both parts the appeal to future knowledge of God's doings to be obtained by experience Zechariah 2:13; Zechariah 11:11; in both, internal discord is directly attributed to God, whose Providence permits it Zechariah 8:10; Zechariah 11:6; in both the prophet promises God's gifts of the produce of the earth Zechariah 8:12; Zechariah 10:1; in both he bids Jerusalem burst out for joy; in the first, "for lo, God says, I come and will dwell in the midst of thee" (Zechariah 2:1-13 :14, (10, English)); in the second, "behold thy King cometh unto thee" Zechariah 9:9.
The purity of language is alike in both parts of the book. No one Syriasm occurs in the earlier chapters. The prophet, who returned as a child to Judea, formed his language upon that of the older prophets.
In both there is a certain fullness of language, produced by dwelling on the same thought or word; in both, the whole and its parts are, for emphasis, mentioned together . In both parts, as a consequence of this fullness, there occurs the division of the verse into live sections, contrary to the usual rule of Hebrew parallelism.
This rhythm will appear more vividly in instances ;
"And He shall build the temple of the Lord;
And He shall bear majesty;
And he shall sit and rule on his throne;
And he shall be a priest on his throne;
And a counsel of peace shall be between them both.
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,In the eighth month - o. The date joins on Zechariah's prophecy to those of Haggai. Two months before, "in the sixth month" Haggai 1:1, had Haggai, conjointly with Zechariah Ezr 5:1-2, exhorted Zerubbabel and the people to resume the intermitted building of the temple. These had used such diligence, notwithstanding the partial discouragement of the Persian Government, that God gave them "in the seventh month" Ezra 5:3-5, the magnificent promise of the later glory of the temple through the coming of Christ Haggai 2:1-9. Still, as Haggai too warned them, the conversion was not complete. So Zechariah in the eighth, as Haggai in the ninth Haggai 2:10-14 month, urges upon them the necessity of thorough and inward repentance, as the condition of partaking of those promises.
Osorius: "Thrice in the course of one saying, he mentions the most holy name of God; partly to instruct in the knowledge of Three Persons in one Nature, partly to confirm their minds more strongly in the hope of the salvation to come."
The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.Wroth was the Lord against your fathers with wrath - o, that is, a wrath which was indeed such, whose greatness he does not further express, but leaves to their memories to supply. Cyril: "Seest thou how he scares them, and, setting before the young what befell those before them, drives them to amend, threatening them with the like or more grievous ills, unless they would wisely reject their fathers' ways, esteeming the pleasing of God worthy of all thought and care. He speaks of great wrath. For it indicates no slight displeasure that He allowed the Babylonians to waste all Judah and Samaria, burn the holy places and destroy Jerusalem, remove the elect Israel to a piteous slavery in a foreign land, severed from sacrifices, entering the holy court no more nor offering the thank-offering, or tithes, or first-fruits of the law, but precluded by necessity and, fear even from the duty of celebrating his prescribed and dearest festivals. The like we might address to the Jewish people, if we would apply it to the mystery of Christ. For after they had "killed the prophets" and had "crucified the Lord of glory" Himself, they were captured and destroyed; their famed temple was levelled, and Hosea's words were fulfilled in them; "The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, without a sacrifice and without an image, without an ephod and without teraphim" .
Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.Therefore say thou - Literally, "And thou sayest," that is, this having been so, it follows that thou sayest or must say, "Turn ye unto Me." In some degree they had turned to God, for whose sake they had returned to their land; and again when, after some negligence Haggai 1:2-11, they renewed the building of the temple, and God had said, "I am with you" Haggai 1:13. But there needed yet a more inward, more complete turning, whereon God promises a yet nearer presence, as Malachi repeats the words Malachi 3:7, and James exhorts, "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you" James 4:8. Those who have turned to God need ever to turn more into the center of the narrow way. As the soul opens itself more to God, God, whose communication of Himself is ever hindered only by our closing the door of our hearts against Him, enters more into it. "If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him" John 14:23.
Osorius: "People are said to be converted, when leaving behind them deceitful goods, they give their whole mind to God, bestowing no less pains and zeal on divine things than before on the nothings of life."
Conc. Trid. Sess. vi. c. 5: "When it is said in Holy Scripture, "Turn unto Me and I will turn unto you," we are admonished as to our own freedom; when we answer, "Turn us, Lord, unto Thee, and we shall be turned," we confess that we are forecome by the grace of God."
Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.Be ye not like your fathers - Strangely infectious is the precedent of ill. Tradition of good, of truth, of faith, is decried; only tradition of ill and error are adhered to. The sin of Jeroboam was held sacred by every king of Israel: "The statutes of Omri were diligently kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab" Micah 6:16. "They turned back and were treacherous like their forefathers; they turned themselves like a deceitful bow" Psalm 78:57, is God's summary of the history of Israel. Cyril: "Absurd are they who follow the ignorances of their fathers, and ever plead inherited custom as an irrefragable defense, though blamed for extremest ills. So idolaters especially, being called to the knowledge of the truth, ever bear in mind the error of their fathers and, embracing their ignorance as an hereditary lot, remain blind."
The former prophets - The prophets spake God's words, as well in their pastoral office as in predicting things to come, in enforcing God's law and in exhorting to repentance, as in announcing the judgments on disobedience. The predictive as well as the pastoral office were united in Nathan 2 Samuel 7:4-16; 2 Samuel 12:1-14, Gad 1 Samuel 22:5; 1 Samuel 24:11, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2-4; 2 Chronicles 12:5-8, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15, Hanani 2 Chronicles 16:7-9, Elijah 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 17:14; 1 Kings 18:1, 1 Kings 18:41; 1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 21:21, 1 Kings 21:23, 1 Kings 21:29; 2 Kings 1:4, 2 Kings 1:16, Elisha 2 Kings 3:17-18; 2 Kings 4:16; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:1-2; 2 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Kings 13:14-19, Micaiah the son of Imla, whose habitual predictions against Ahab induced Ahab to say 1 Kings 22:8, "I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." The specific calls to conversion here named and their fruitlessness, are summed up by Jeremiah as words of all the prophets. For ten years he says, "The word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, and ye have not hearkened. And the Lord hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending; but ye have not hearkened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil ways and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers forever and ever; and go not after other gods to serve and worship them, and provoke Me not to anger with the works of your hands, and I will do you no hurt. But ye have not hearkened unto Me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Because ye have not heard My words ..." Jeremiah 25:3-8. The prophetic author of the book of Kings sums up in like way, of "all the prophets and all the seers." "The Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by the hand of all the prophets and all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets, and they did not hear, and hardened their neck, like the neck of their fathers" 2 Kings 17:13.
The characteristic word, "turn from your evil ways and the evil of your doings" occurring in Jeremiah, it is probable, that this summary was chiefly in the mind of Zechariah, and that he refers not to Isaiah, Joel, Amos etc., (as all the prophets were preachers of repentance), but to the whole body of teachers, whom God raised up, analogous to the Christian ministry, to recall people to Himself.
The title, "the former prophets," contrasts the office of Haggai and Zechariah, not with definite prophets before the captivity, but with the whole company of those, whom God sent as He says, so unremittingly.
And they hearkened not unto Me - Jerome: "They heard not the Lord warning through the prophets, attended not - not to the prophets who spake to them but - not to Me, saith the Lord. For I was in them who spake and was despised. Whence also the Lord in the Gospel saith, "He that receiveth you, receiveth Me" Matthew 10:40.
Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?Your fathers, where are they? - The abrupt solemnity of the question seems to imply an unexpected close of life which cut short their hopes, plans, promises to self. "When they said, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them" 1 Thessalonians 5:3. Yet not they only but the prophets too, who ministered God's Word to them, these also being human beings, passed away, some of them before their time as people, by the martyr's death. Many of them saw not their own words fulfilled. But God's word which they spake, being from God, passed not away.
But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.Only My words and My decrees - Which God spake by them, "did not they overtake them?" (as Psalm 2:7; Zephaniah 2:2). Pagan reminiscence of God's justice acknowledged , "Rarely hath punishment with limping tread parted with the forerunning miscreant." "All these curses," Moses foretells, "shall come upon thee and overtake thee, until thou art destroyed" Deuteronomy 28:45.
And they returned to God and said - The history of the Jews in Babylon is omitted in Holy Scripture, except as to His special dealings with Daniel and his three companions. Yet Jeremiah confesses in words, what Zechariah had apparently in his mind; "The Lord hath done that which He purposed; He hath fulfilled His word, which He commanded in the days of old" Lamentations 2:17. The Lamentations are one long confession of deserved punishment, such as Daniel too made in the name of his people with himself Daniel 9:4-16.
It was one long waiting for God and for the restoration of His visible worship. Yet repentance was a condition of their restoration.
Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,On the twenty-fourth day - Exactly five months after the building of the temple was resumed Haggai 2:15, and two months after Haggai's last prophecy Haggai 2:20. The series of visions, leading onward, from the first deliverance from the enemies who oppressed them, to the Coming of Christ, is given as a reward to their first whole-hearted endeavor to restore their worship of Him. The visions are called the "word of the Lord," because they were prophecy, made visible to the eye, conveying the revelation to the soul, and in part explained by Him.
I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.I saw in the night - that is, that following on "the twenty-fourth day." The darkness of the night perhaps was chosen, as agreeing with the dimness of the restored condition. Night too is, Dionysius), "through the silence of the senses and of the fancy, more suited for receiving divine revelations."
A man riding upon a red horse - The man is an angel of God, appearing in form of man, as Daniel says, "The man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, touched me" Daniel 9:21. He is doubtless the same who appeared to Joshua in form of man, preparing thereby for the revelation of God manifest in the flesh - He, before whom Joshua fell on his face and in him worshiped God, through whom also God required the same tokens of reverence as He had from Moses. "Joshua lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold there stood a man over against him with a sword drawn in his hand, who said, as Captain of the Lord's host am I come" (Joshua 5:13-15. See the note on "the Angel of the Lord" in Dr. Pusey's Daniel the Prophet, pp. 519-525). He rides here, as Leader of the host who follow Him; to Him the others report, and He instructs the Angel who instructs the prophet. Red, being the color of blood, symbolizes doubtless "the vengeance of God to be inflicted on the enemies of the Jews for their sins committed against the Jews" (Dionysius), exceeding the measure of chastisement allowed by God. It probably was Michael Daniel 10:13, who is entitled in Daniel, "your prince Daniel 10:21, the great prince which standeth up for the children of thy people" .
And he was standing - Almost as we say, stationary, abiding in that one place. The description is repeated Zechariah 1:10 apparently as identifying this angel, and so he and the "angel of the Zechariah 1:11 Lord" are probably one.
The myrtle trees - from their fragrance and lowness, probably symbolize the Church, as at once yielding a sweet odor, and in a low estate, or lowly. The natural habits of the myrtle make it the fitter symbol.
And behind him - The relation of the Angel as their chief is represented by their following him. This is consistent with their appearing subsequently as giving report to him. The red and white horses are well-known symbols of war and glory, whence He who sits on "the white horse" Revelation 6:2 in the revelations, "went forth conquering and to conquer." The remaining color is somewhat uncertain. If it be ashen gray, it would correspond to the pale horse of the revelations, and the union of the two colors, black and white, is calculated to be a symbol of a chequered state of things, whereas a mingled color like "chestnut" is not suggestive of any symbol.
Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.What are these? - He asks, not who, but what they import.
The angel that talked with me - Literally, "spake in me." The very rare expression seems meant to convey the thought of an inward speaking, whereby the words should be borne directly into the soul, without the intervention of the ordinary outward organs. God says to Moses, "If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, will make Myself known unto him in a vision, I will speak (literally) in him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so - In him will I speak mouth to mouth Numbers 12:6-9;" and Habakkuk says of the like inward teaching, "I will watch to see, what He will speak in me" . It is the characteristic title of one attendant-angel, who was God's expositor of the visions to Zechariah (Zechariah 1:13-14, Zechariah 1:19, (Zechariah 2:2 Hebrew) Zechariah 2:3; (7) Zechariah 4:1, Zechariah 4:4-5; Zechariah 5:5, Zechariah 5:10; Zechariah 6:4). Dionysius: "By his ministry God showed me things to come, in that that angel formed in the spirit and imaginative power of Zechariah phantasms or images of things which were foreshown him, and gave him to understand what those images signified."
And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.And the man answered - To the question addressed to the attendant-angel. He himself took the word.
These are they whom the Lord sent to walk up and down - Satan says of himself that he came "from going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it" Job 2:2. As he for evil, so these for good. Their office was not a specific or passing duty, as when God sent His angels with some special commission, such as those recorded in Holy Scripture. It was a continuous conversation with the affairs of people, a minute course of visiting, inspecting our human deeds and ways, a part of the "wonderful order" , in which God has "ordained and constituted the services of angels and men." Nor is it said that the angels were limited, each to his own special province, as we learn through Daniel, that certain great angels, princes among them, had the charge of empires or nations, even of the pagan . These angels had apparently only the office of inspecting and reporting to angels of a higher order, themselves a subordinate order in the heavenly Hierarchy. Nor are they spoken of, as executing any judgments of God, or as pacifying the earth; they may have been so employed; but they are only said to have reported the state in which they found it.
These answered the unexpressed inquiry of the angel of the Lord, as he had answered the unuttered question of the angel, attendant on Zechariah.
And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.Sitteth still and is at rest - At rest, as the word seems to express, from its accustomed state of tumult and war. Wars, although soon to break out again, were in the second year of Darius for the time suspended. The rest, in which the world was, suggests the contrast of the yet continuing unrest allotted to the people of God. Such rest had been promised to Israel, on its return from the captivity, but had not yet been fulfilled. Through the hostility of the Samaritans the building of the temple had been hindered and was just recommenced; the wall of Jerusalem was yet broken down Nehemiah 1:3; its fire-burned gates not restored; itself was a waste Nehemiah 2:3; its houses unbuilt Nehemiah 7:4. This gives occasion to the intercession "of the Angel of the Lord."
Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?And the Angel of the Lord answered - the implied longing, by intercession with God. As the angel-interpreter in Job had "the office of no mere created angel, but one, anticipative of His, who came at once to redeem and justify," so the Angel of the Lord, in whom God was, exercised at once a mediatorial office with God, typical of our Lord's high priest's prayer John 17, and acted as God.
These seventy years - The seventy years of the captivity, prophesied by Jeremiah Jer 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10, were on the eve of their conclusion at the time of Daniel's great prayer of intercession Daniel 9:2; they ended with the capture of Babylon, and the edict of Cyrus, permitting the Jews to return 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1. Yet there seems to have been a secondary fulfillment, from the destruction of the temple and city, in Zedekiah's eleventh year 2 Kings 25:2, 2 Kings 25:8-9, 588 b.c. to the second year of Darius, 519 b.c. Such double fulfillments of prophecy are not like alternative fulfillments. They are a more intricate and fuller, not an easier fulfillment of it. Yet "these 70 years" do not necessitate such a double fulfillment. It might express only a reverent wonder, that the 70 years being accomplished, the complete restoration was not yet brought to pass. Cyril: "God having fixed the time of the captivity to the 70th year, it was necessary to be silent, so long as the time was not yet come to an end, that he might not seem to oppose the Lord's will. But, when the time was now come to a close and the fear of offending was removed, he, knowing that the Lord cannot lie, entreats and ventures to enquire whether His anger has come to an end, as had those who sinned; or whether, fresh sins having accrued, there shall be a further delay, and their forlorn estate shall be yet further extended. They then who worship God have a good and not uncertain hope, that, if they should offend from infirmity, yet have they those who should entreat for them, not people only, but the holy angels themselves, who render God gracious and propitious, soothing His anger by their purity, and in a manner winning the grieved judge. Then the Angel entreated for the synagogue to the Jews; but we, who believe and have been sanctified in the Spirit 1 John 2:1-2, "have an Advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins," and as the inspired Paul writes, "God hath set Him forth as a propitiation through faith, freeing from sin those who come to Him" Romans 3:25.
And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me - Either directly, at the intercession of the angel of the Lord, or mediately through an answer first given to him, and by him communicated to the subordinate angel. Neither is expressed.
Good words - As God had promised, "after seventy years shall be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word unto you, causing you to return to this place" Jeremiah 29:10; and Joshua says, "There failed not ought of any good word which the Lord spake unto the house of Israel" (Joshua 21:43 (45 English) add Joshua 23:14-15).
Comfortable words - Literally, "consolations" (as Isaiah 57:18). Perhaps the Angel who received the message had, from their tender compassion for us, whereby they "joy over one sinner that repenteth" Luke 15:10, a part in these consolations which he conveyed.
So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.Cry thou - The vision was not for the prophet alone. What he saw and heard, that he was to proclaim to others. The vision, which he now saw alone, was to be the basis and substance of his subsequent preaching Jonah 1:2; Isaiah 40:2, Isaiah 40:6, whereby he was to encourage his people to persevere.
I am jealous for Jerusalem - Literally, "I have been," not now only but in time past even when I did not show it, "and am jealous", with the tender love which allows not what it loves to be injured . The love of God, until finally shut out, is unchangeable, He pursues the sinner with chastisements and scourges in His love, that he may yet be converted and live . But for God's love to him and the solicitations of His grace, while yet impenitent and displeasing Him, he could not turn and please Him.
And for Zion - Which especially He had chosen to put His Name there, and there to receive the worship of His people; "the hill which God desired to dwell in" Psalm 68:16, "which He loved" (Psalm 78:68; add Psalm 132:13-14). Dionysius: "With great and special love have I loved the people of the Jews and what pertained to them, and out of that love have I so diligently and severely corrected her excesses, that she may be more careful for the time to come, as a husband corrects most sharply a wife most dear to him, if she be unfaithful. Whence in the book of Maccabees it is written, "It is a token of His great goodness, when wicked doers are not suffered any long time, but are immediately punished. For not as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish, till they be come to the fullness of their sins, so dealeth He with us; lest, being come to the height of sin, afterward He should take vengeance of us. And therefore He never withdraweth His mercy from us, and though He punisheth with adversity, yet doth He never forsake His people" (2 Macc. 6:13-16).
And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.I am sore displeased - literally "with great anger am I angered against the nations which are at ease." The form of the words shows that the greatness of the displeasure of God against those who oppress His people, is proportionate to the great and tender love toward themselves. God had been angered indeed with His people; with their enemies He was "angered with a great anger;" and that the more, because they were at ease, in unfeeling self-enjoyment amid the miseries of others.
I was a little displeased - Little, in comparison with our deserts; little in comparison with the anger of the human instruments of His displeasure; little in comparison with theirs, who, in their anger, sought their own ends.
They helped forward the affliction - o "He is wroth with the nations at ease, because He delivered His people to be corrected, but they used cruelty toward those delivered; He wills them to be amended as a son by a schoolmaster; they set themselves to slay and punish them, as an enemy. Like that in Isaiah, "I gave them into thy hands; thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancients hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke" Isaiah 47:6.
Or it may be, "helped for evil," in order to bring about evil, as in Jeremiah, "Behold I set My face against you for evil, and to destroy all Judah" Jeremiah 44:11, that is, as we should say, they were the instruments of God, , "cooperated in the execution of My justice toward you, but cruelly and with perverse intention. For although the Assyrians and Chaldaeans wasted the Jewish people, God so ordaining in as far as He willed through them to punish in the present the sins of His people, yet they did it, not in view of God and out of zeal for righteousness, but out of pride covetousness and with the worst ends. Hence God says by Isaiah, "Woe to Asshur, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in his hand is Mine indignation. Howbeit he thinketh not so, but his heart is to destroy and cut off nations not a few" Isaiah 10:5, Isaiah 10:7.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.Therefore - This being so, since God was so jealous for His people, so displeased with their persecutors, "thus saith the Lord," Dionysius, "I who "in wrath remember mercy, am returned" Habakkuk 3:2, not by change of place, who am uncircumscribed, not existing in place, to the people of Judah and Jerusalem in mercies, manifoldly benefiting them by various effects of My love." The single benefits, the rebuilding of His House, and so the restoration of His public worship, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, are but instances of that all-containing mercy, His restored presence in tender mercies. "I am returned," God says, although the effects of His return were yet to come.
Osorius: "The temple was built then, when the foundations of the walls were not yet laid. In man's sight it would have seemed more provident that the walls should be first builded, that then the temple might be builded more securely. To God, in whom alone is the most firm stay of our life and salvation, it seemed otherwise. For it cannot be that he, to whom nothing is dearer fhan zeal for the most holy religion, should be forsaken of His help."
Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.Cry yet - A further promise; not only should Jerusalem be rebuilt, but should as we say, overflow with good ; and God, who had seemed to cast off His people, should yet comfort her, and should show in act that He had chosen her. "love." In all the cases, which Gesenius cites as meaning "love" Genesis 6:2; 1 Samuel 20:30; 2 Samuel 15:15; Proverbs 1:29; Proverbs 3:31; Isaiah 1:29, the sense would be injured by rendering, "loved") Zechariah thrice repeats the promise, given through Isaiah Isa 14:1 to Jerusalem, before her wasting by the Chaldaeans, reminding the people thereby, that the restoration, in the dawn whereof they lived, had been promised two centuries before. Yet, against all appearances. My cities shall overflow with good, as being God's; yet would the Lord comfort Zion; yet would He choose Jerusalem.
Osorius: "What is the highest of all goods? what the sweetest solace in life? what the subject of joys? what the oblivion of past sorrow? That which the Son of God brought upon earth, when He illumined Jerusalem with the brightness of His light and heavenly discipline. For to that end was the city restored, that in it, by the ordinance of Christ, for calamity should abound bliss; for desolation, fullness; for sorrow, joy; for want, affluence of heavenly goods."
This first vision having predicted the entire restoration, the details of that restoration are given in subsequent visions.
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.And I lifted up mine eyes - o. Cyril on Zechariah 2:1 : "Not those of the body (for such visions are invisible to the eyes of the flesh), but rather the inner eyes of the heart and mind." It seems as though, at the close of each vision, Zechariah sank in meditation on what had been shown him; from which he was again roused by the exhibition of another vision.
I saw four horns - The mention of the horns naturally suggests the thought of the creatures which wielded them; as in the first vision that of the horses following the chiefs, implies the presence of the riders upon them. And this the more, since the word "fray them away" implies living creatures, liable to fear. Cyril: "The horn, in inspired Scripture, is always taken as an image of strength, and mostly of pride also, as David said to some, "I said unto the fools, Deal not so foolishly, and to the ungodly, Lift not up the horns. Lift not up your horns on high and speak not with a stiff neck" Psalm 75:4. The prophet then sees four horns, that is, four hard and warlike nations, who could easily uproot cities and countries."
And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.These are the horns which have scattered - o "The four horns which scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, are four nations, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Romans; as the Lord, on the prophet's enquiry, explains here, and Daniel unfolds most fully Daniel 2; who in the vision of the image with golden head, silver breast, belly and thighs of brass, feet of iron and clay, explained it of these four nations, and again in another vision of four beasts Daniel 7, lion, bear, leopard and another unnamed dreadful beast, he pointed out the same nations under another figure. But that the Medes and Persians, after the victory of Cyrus, were one kingdom, no one will doubt, who reads secular and sacred literature. When this vision was beheld, the kingdom of the Babylonians had now passed away, that of the Medes and Persians was instant; that of Greeks and Macedonians and of the Romans was yet to come.
What the Babylonians, what the Medes and Persians, what the Greeks that is, the Macedonians, did to Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, a learned man acknowledgeth, especially under Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, to which the history of the Maccabees belongs. After the Coming of our Lord and Saviour, when Jerusalem was encompassed, Josephus, a native writer, tells most fully, what the Israelites endured, and the Gospel fore-announced. These horns dispersed Judah almost individually, so that, bowed down by the heavy weight of evils, no one of them raised his head." Though these were successive in time, they are exhibited to Zechariah as one. One whole are the efforts against God's Church; one whole are the instruments of God, whether angelic or human, in doing or suffering, to repel them. Zechariah then exhibits these hostile powers as past and gone, as each would be at the end, having put forth his passing might, and perishing. They scattered, each in its day, and disappeared; for the next displaced it.
The long schism being ended, Judah and Israel are again one; and Jerusalem, the place of God's worship, belongs to Israel as well as to Judah.
The explanation of the number four, as symbolizing contemporaneous attacks from the four quarters of the heavens, fails in matter of fact, that, in these later times, the Jews suffered always from one power at a time. There was no such fourfold attack. In Zechariah's time all around was Persian.
Osorius: "Those horns, broken by the angels' ministry, portended that no guilt against the church of Christ should be unpunished. Never will there be wanting fierce enemies from east, west, north, or south, whom God will strengthen, in order by them to teach His own. But when He shall see His work finished, that is, when He shall have cleansed the stains of His own and brought back His Church to her former purity, He will punish those who so fiercely afflicted her."
Spiritually, (Jerome), "those who destroy vices, build up virtues, and all the saints who, possessing these remedies, ever build up the Church, may be called 'builders.' Whence the Apostle says, "I, as a wise builder, laid the foundation" 1 Corinthians 3:10; and the Lord, when wroth, said that He would "take away from Jerusalem artificer and wise man" Isaiah 3:3. And the Lord Himself, Son of the Almighty God and of the Creator of all, is called "the son of the carpenter" Matthew 13:55.
And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.