Book of Zechariah
The Jewish saying was, "the spirit of Jeremiah dwelt in Zechariah." Like Ezekiel and Daniel, Zechariah delights in symbols, allegories, and visions of angels ministering before Jehovah and executing His commands on earth. Zechariah, like Genesis, Job, and Chronicles, brings Satan personally into view. The mention of myrtles (representing the then depressed Jewish church, Zechariah 1:11) accords with the fact of their non mention before the Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 8:15); contrast the original command as to the trees at the feast of tabernacles, "palms, and willows of the brook" Esther's name Hadassah means "myrtle". (See MYRTLE.) Joshua's filthy garments (Zechariah 3) were those assumed by the accused in Persian courts; the white robe substituted was the caftan, to this day put upon a state minister in the East when acquitted. Some forms and phrases indicate a late age (as 'achath used as the indefinite article).
Zechariah encouraged the Jews in rebuilding the temple by unfolding the glorious future in contrast with the present depression of the theocracy. Matthew (Matthew 27:9) quotes Zechariah 11:12 as Jeremiah's words. Doubtless because Zechariah had before his mind Jeremiah 18:1-2; Jeremiah 32:6-12; Zechariah's prophecy is but a reiteration of the fearful oracle of Jeremiah 18-19, about to be fulfilled in the destruction of the Jewish nation. Jeremiah, by the image of a potter's vessel (the symbol of God's absolute power over His creatures: Romans 9:21; Isaiah 45:9; Isaiah 64:8), portrayed their ruin in Nebuchadnezzar's invasion.
Zechariah repeats this threat as about to be fulfilled again by Rome for their rejection of Messiah Matthew, by mentioning Jeremiah, implies that the field of blood now bought by "the reward of iniquity" in the valley of Hinnom was long ago a scene of doom symbolically predicted, that the purchase of it with the traitor's price renewed the prophecy and revived the curse. The mention of Ephraim and Israel as distinct from Judah, in chapters 10 to 14, points to the ultimate restoration, not only of the Jews but of the northern Israelite ten tribes, who never returned as a body from their Assyrian captivity, the earnest of which was given in the numbers out of the ten tribes who returned with their brethren of Judah from the Babylonian captivity under Cyrus. There are four parts:
(I.) Introduction (Zechariah 1:1-6), a warning resting on the previous warnings of Haggai (Haggai 1:4-8).
(II.) Symbolical (Zechariah 1:7 to chapter 6), nine visions in one night.
(III.) Didactic (Zechariah 7; 8), answer to a query of Bethelites concerning a, certain fast.
(IV.) Prophetical (Zechariah 9 to 14).
In the second part, the interpretation of the visions is given by the angel who knows Jehovah's will, intercedes with Jehovah for Israel, and by whom Jehovah speaks (Zechariah 1:9), "the angel that talked with me," or "in me"; compare 1 Peter 1:11, "the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets." The Angel of Jehovah the Man upon the red horse among the myrtle trees, is apparently identical with the interpreting angel through whom Jehovah communicates with His servants (Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 1:10-11; Zechariah 1:12). The Angel of Jehovah is the Second Person in the Godhead.
The first vision represents Jehovah' s messengers announcing that after walking to and fro through the earth they found it at rest (in contrast to and counterworking Satan who "walks to and fro upon the earth" to hurt the saints, Job 1:7); this secure rest of the pagan earth is the interceding Angel's plea for the desolate temple and Judah, and elicits Jehovah's great jealousy for Zion, so that He returns to her with mercies and with judgments on the pagan oppressor (Haggai 2:20-23).
The second vision states how Jehovah will repair Jerusalem's breaches namely, as the four (the four cardinal points of the horizon marking worldwide extension) great world powers, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, scattered Judah and Israel, so four "destroying artificers" shall fray (strike terror into) and cast out the horns of the Gentiles which lifted up their horn over Judah (Psalm 75:4-5; Ezekiel 34:21; Luke 21:24). The third vision is the man with line measuring Jerusalem; Messiah, its coming Restorer (Ezekiel 40:3; Ezekiel 41:42). Instead of Jerusalem's past limiting wall, her population shall spread out beyond into the open country and need no wall, Jehovah Himself being "a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her" (Zechariah 2:1-5; Ezekiel 38:11).
The next two (fourth and fifth) visions (Zechariah 3-4) show Joshua the high priest's (representing Jerusalem) trial and vindication against Satan, being justified by Jehovah through Messiah the Righteous Branch, though unclean in himself (compare Psalm 109:6; Psalm 109:31; Luke 1:11; Judges 1:9; Judges 1:23; Romans 8:33-34; Isaiah 64:6; Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 66:21; Revelation 19:8; Luke 15:22).
Jehovah saith "I have laid the (foundation) stone (as the chief architect) before (in the presence of) Joshua," by the hand of Zerubbabel, so that your labour in building the temple shall not be in vain. Antitypically, Christ is the stone (Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Daniel 2:45; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:6-7).
The "seven eyes upon the one stone" are carved on it; not so much the eyes of the Father (the eye symbolizing providence, seven perfection) and of angels and saints ever fixed on Him (Zechariah 4:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; John 3:14-15; John 12:32; John 8:66), as His own sevenfold fullness of grace, and of the Spirit's gifts put "UPON Him" by God, so that "He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes" (Isaiah 11:2-3; Isaiah 42:1; John 1:16; John 3:34; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9); He is the living stone who not only attracts the eyes of His people, but emits from Himself all illumination. Contrast the "little horn" with the "eyes of a man" (Daniel 7:8).
The fifth vision (Zechariah 4:1-9), the candlestick or chandelier with seven lights, fed by seven tubes apiece, borrowed from the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31, etc.), implies that the real motive power in the work of God (as Zerubbabel's building of the temple)is God's Spirit. The seven times seven imply the manifold modes by which the Spirit imparts grace to the church in her manifold work of enlightening the world.
The "two olive trees" supplying oil to the "bowl" answer to the Holy Spirit supplying with infinite fullness Jesus the fount (bowl) at the head of the church, for the twofold function of bringing the grace of atonement as our Priest, and of sanctification and glorification as our King, Every mountain in Zerubbabel's way must yield; so, antitypically, the "destroying mountain" antichrist (Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:45; Matthew 21:44; Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 49:11) must give place to the "stone cut out of the mountain without hands"; and the top stone shall crown the completed church "with shoutings, Grace, grace unto it."
The sixth vision (Zechariah 5:1-11) is the curse upon a flying roll, recorded against sin, over Judaea primarily and ultimately the whole earth; it shall extirpate the fraudulent and perjurers; compare in Zechariah's time Nehemiah 13:10; Malachi 3:5; Malachi 3:8.
Seventh vision. The woman in the ephah symbolizes wickedness and idolatry removed for ever from the Holy Land to Babylon (from whence Israel is redeemed), there to mingle with kindred elements. The ephah, their instrument of fraud, shall be the instrument of their punishment; idolatry and sin shall cease from Israel (Isaiah 2:18; Isaiah 4:4).
Eighth vision. Four chariots, symbolizing the fourfold dispensations of Providence as regards the contact of the four great world powers with Judaea, come out from between the two mountains Zion and Moriah (the seat of the temple, representing the theocracy) where the Lord is (Zechariah 2:10), and from whence He sends His ministers of judgments on the pagan; the red horses in one represent carnage; the black, sorrow and famine (Revelation 6:5-6); the white, joy and victory; the grisled or piebald, a mixed dispensation, partly prosperity, partly adversity; all alike working together for good to Israel.
The red go northward to bathe in blood, Babylon; the white go north after the red, to conquer Medo-Persia; the grisled go south to deal with Graeco-Macedonian Egypt; the bay or rather fleet "walk to and fro through the earth" to counterwork "Satan's going to and fro in the earth" in connection with Rome, the last of the four world powers (Job 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 4:1).
Ninth vision. The double crowning of Joshua symbolizes the union of the priesthood and kingship in Messiah (Zechariah 6:13; Psalm 110:1-2; Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:10; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 7:1-21). The crowns were made of silver and gold, presented for the temple by Heldah, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, coming from Babylon, and should be deposited in the temple' as a memorial of the donors until Messiah appear; and as typifying Israel's return from afar to the King of the Jews at Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:9), and secondarily the conversion of the Gentiles from "far off" (Zechariah 6; Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 8:22-23; Isaiah 60:10; Isaiah 57:19).
The didactic part (Zechariah 7-8) lays down that God loves obedience rather than fasting; the fate of Israel's fathers, but still more God's present promise of coming blessedness to Jerusalem, should stimulate the Jews to obedience, even as adversity attended them while neglecting in build the temple.
Prophetical (Zechariah 9-14). Alexander's conquests in Syria and Philistia (Zechariah 9:1-8). God's people safe because her King cometh lowly, yet showing Himself a Saviour and about to create universal peace (Zechariah 9:9-10). The Maccabean deliverance a type hereof (Zechariah 9:11-17). The Jewish exiles in affliction in Egypt, Greece, etc., under Alexander's successors, especially Antiochus Epiphanes who profaned the temple, slew thousands, and enslaved more, should be delivered under the Maccabees by looking to the Lord. Antitypically so shall Israel be delivered from her last oppressor, antichrist, by looking to Messiah.
Zechariah 10 urges prayer, and promises in answer to it rulers coming out of themselves (the Maccabees, Judah's governors and deliverers from Antiochus, typifying Messiah), conquest of enemies, restoration of both Israel and Judah in their own land in lasting peace. Zechariah 11 foretells the destruction of the second temple and Jewish polity for the rejection of Messiah (Zechariah 11:4; Zechariah 11:7, the "flock" doomed to slaughter by Rome, whom Messiah "fed," but they rejected Him "the Bread of life".) The Roman buyers (qonehen, KJV "possessors"), did "not hold themselves guilty," as they were but the instruments of God's righteous vengeance (Jeremiah 50:7).
Judah's "own shepherds" (Zechariah 11:3; Zechariah 11:5; and Zechariah 11:8) by selfish rapacity sold their country to Rome (John 11:48; John 11:50). The climax was the sale of Messiah through Judas to Rome for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:13). The breaking of the two staves Beauty (Israel's peculiar excellence above other nations: Deuteronomy 4:7; Daniel 8:9; Daniel 11:16; Psalm 147:19-20; and the temple beauty of holiness, Psalm 29:2) and Bands (the brotherhood between Judah and Israel: Nehemiah 10:29) answers to the destruction of the temple, which constituted the chief visible beauty and He of brotherhood uniting the nation. Not even Titus could save the temple from the fury of his soldiery, Julian was unable to rebuild it. The three shepherds (Zechariah 11:8) cut off in one month answer to the three last princes of the Asmonaean line, Hyrcanus, Alexander, and Antigonus (the last conquered by Rome and Herod, and slain by the executioner, 34 B.C.), whose violent death in a brief space transferred Judaea from native princes to the foreigner.
Henceforth, God's covenant was not "with all the people "but only with the elect (Zechariah 11:10-11). When Messiah demanded His" price" for pastoral care of Israel during the whole theocracy, and especially in the three and a half years of His ministry in person, they gave only 30 shekels, the price of a gored bond servant (Zechariah 11:12-13; Exodus 21:32). The despicable sum was cast to the temple potter, plying his trade in the polluted valley of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10) because it furnished clay, the scene of Jeremiah's (2 Kings 18-19; Matthew 27:9) symbolical prophecy as to the same period. The breaking of the bands between Israel and Judah, and between the members of Judah itself, illustrated in the fratricidal factions in Jerusalem's last siege, will last until the reunion (Romans 11:15). Jehovah gave them up to a foolish (wicked) shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17) since they would not have the good Shepherd; namely, Rome pagan and papal, and finally the blasphemous antichrist (John 5:43; Daniel 11:35-38; Daniel 12:1; Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 13:5-6; Revelation 13:13-18).
But he shall perish, and Judah and Israel be saved. Zechariah 12 foretells that Jerusalem shall be the instrument of God's judgment on her foes, after that He pours on her the spirit of grace and supplication. Chap. 13 the cleansing of her sin and removal of her idolatry and the unclean spirit (Revelation 16:13; 1 John 4:6). At Zechariah 13:7 the prophecy of Messiah's betrayal (Zechariah 11:4; Zechariah 11:10; Zechariah 11:13-14) is resumed, "Awake O sword against My Shepherd and against the Man that is My Fellow (the mighty Man of My union, 'geber 'amithiy,' one indissolubly joined by a common nature; contrast the Levitical law against injuring one's fellow. How extreme the need which required God not to spare His own Fellow: Romans 8:32), saith the Lord of hosts"; and the consequent punishment of the Jews.
Zechariah 9-14 foretells Jerusalem's last struggle with the hostile world powers. Messiah-Jehovah shall save her and destroy the foe of whom the remnant shall turn to Him reigning at Jerusalem. Such an interposition certainly did not take place at the last siege by Rome, though looked for by the zealots within Jerusalem; Zechariah 13:9 and Zechariah 14 must refer to the future. The reference to the glorious millennial feast of tabernacles to come is in undesigned coincidence with Zechariah's assisting Zerubbabel who kept the typical feast (Zechariah 14:16; Ezra 3:4; Ezra 5:1-2).
The difference in style between the earlier and the last chapters (Zechariah 9-14) is due to the difference of subject: the first eight being symbolical, occasionally oratorical and practical, the last six transporting the prophet into the glorious future; the style of the latter is naturally therefore more elevated. The notes of time in the former (Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 7:1) and the references to the temple are accounted for through the prophet's busying himself here with his own time, but in the latter with the far off future.
The same phrases recur in both: as "passeth by and returneth" (meobeer 'umishab) in Zechariah 7:14, also in Zechariah 9:8; "to remove" (hebir), Zechariah 3:4, and Zechariah 13:2; "the eye of God," Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 9:8; Israel's return from exile and ruling the foes, by the law of righteous retribution (Zechariah 2:10; Zechariah 9:12; also compare Zechariah 2:10 with Zechariah 9:9; Zechariah 14:4); Jehovah's coming to Zion and dwelling there.
Compare also similar phrases in Zechariah 2:9; Zechariah 2:11, and Zechariah 11:11; Zechariah 2:4 and Zechariah 14:10; Zechariah 8:20-23 and Zechariah 14:16. Chaldaisms occur: tsaabaa; Zechariah 9:8; raamah; Zechariah 14:10; bahal, millee qesheth (Zechariah 9:13) for darak qesheth. Zechariah, even in his later chapters, shows his familiarity with the prophets of the exile, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; Zechariah 9:2 alludes to Ezekiel 28:3; Zechariah 10:3 alludes to Ezekiel 34:17; Zechariah 11:4 alludes to Ezekiel 34:4; Zechariah 11:3 alludes to Jeremiah 12:5; Zechariah 13:8-9 alludes to Ezekiel 5:12; Zechariah 14:8 alludes to Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:10-11 alludes to Jeremiah 31:38-40; Zechariah 14:20-21 alludes to Ezekiel 43:12; Ezekiel 44:9.
It is not necessary for unity of authorship that the introductory formulas of the first eight chapters should occur in the last six. The non-reference in the last six chapters to the completion of the temple, and to the Jews' restoration after captivity, is just what we should expect if those chapters were written long after the completion of the temple, and restoration of the Jews' polity, under different circumstances from the former eight chapters.
The style is conversational or poetical, according to the theme. Explanations accompany the enigmatical symbols. The prose is diffuse and abounds in repetitions, the rhythm somewhat uneven, and the parallelism not always symmetrical. But Zechariah is often elevated, as the earlier prophets; and the style generally accords with the subject. His merit is graphic, vivid power; spiritual being's are often introduced. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are the three prophets of the restoration, best illustrated by comparison with Ezra and Nehemiah; Haggai and Zechariah are at the beginning of the period, Malachi at the close.
The altar was built by Sheshbazzar or Zerubbabel and Jeshua, 536 B.C. (Ezra 2:64). After 14 years of interruption under Smerdis the rebuilding of the temple was resumed, 70 years after the fall of Solomon's temple; Haggai and Zechariah encouraged Zerubbabel and Jeshua amidst apathy on the part of the younger generation who were accustomed to the absence of Mosaic ritual in Babylon, and who undervalued the humble beginnings of the restored temple, in contrast with the gorgeous pomp of the Babylonian temples. As the work of Haggai and Zechariah was that of restorers, so Malachi's was that of a reformer, cooperating with Ezra 458 B.C. (80 years almost after Zerubbabel's first expedition from Babylon to Jerusalem), and Nehemiah 445 B.C., who rebuilt the city wall and restored the civil and religious polity of the theocracy and corrected the various abuses in church and state.