Barnes' Book Notes
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 II Samuel 18:5, II Samuel 18:12, II Samuel 18:29, II 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 Jeremiah 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" II Chronicles 30:11, to the Passover of Hezekiah; nay, "a great multitude of the people from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun" II Chronicles 30:18, who had neglected or despised the first invitation II Chronicles 30:10, came subsequently. In the great passover of Josiah, we hear of "all Judah and Israel that were present" II 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" II 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. Psalms 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 Psalms 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 Jeremiah 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.
Ashkelon shall see, and shall fear;
Gaza, and shall tremble exceedingly;
And Ekron, and ashamed is her expectation;
And perished hath a king from Gaza,
And Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.
And I will take away his blood from his mouth;
And his abominations from between his teeth;
And he too shall be left to our God,
And he shall be as a govenor in Judah;
And Ekron as a Jebusite.
"In that day, saith the Lord,
I will smite every horse with astonishment,
And his rider with madness;
And upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes,
And every horse of the nations I will smite with blindness."
Koster further refers to Zechariah 1:4, Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 3:5, Zechariah 3:9 and, on the other hand, to Zechariah 9:9-10, Zechariah 9:13, Zechariah 9:15; Zechariah 10:11; Zechariah 11:2, Zechariah 11:7, Zechariah 11:9, Zechariah 11:17; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:8.
With one considerable exception, those who would sever the six last chapters from Zechariah, are now at one in placing them before the captivity. Yet, Zechariah here too speaks of the captivity as past. Adopting the imagery of Isaiah, who foretells the delivery from the captivity as an opening of a prison, he says, in the name of God, "By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water" Zechariah 9:11. Again, "The Lord of hosts hath visited His flock, the house of Judah. I will have mercy upon them (Judah and Joseph) and they shall be as though I had not cast them off" Zechariah 10:3-5. The mention of the mourning of all the "families that remain" Zechariah 12:14 implies a previous carrying away. Yet more; Zechariah took his imagery of the future restoration of Jerusalem, from its condition in his own time. "It shall be lifted up and inhabited in its place from Benjamin' s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner-gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king' s winepresses" Zechariah 14:10. "The gate of Benjamin" is doubtless "the gate of Ephraim," since the road to Ephraim lay through Benjamin; but the gate of Ephraim existed in Nehemiah' s time Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39, yet was not then repaired, as neither was the tower of Hananeel Nehemiah 3:1, having been left, doubtless, at the destruction of Jerusalem, being useless for defense, when the wall was broken down. So at the second invasion the Romans left the three impregnable towers, of Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne, as monuments of the greatness of the city which they had destroyed. Benjamin' s gate, the corner gate, the tower of Hananeel, were still standing; "the king' s winepresses" were naturally uninjured, since there was no use in injuring them; but "the first gate" was destroyed, since not itself but "the place" of it is mentioned.
The prophecy of the victory over the Greeks fits in with times when Assyria or Chaldaea were no longer the instruments of God in the chastisement of His people. The notion that the prophet incited the few Hebrew slaves, sold into Greece, to rebel against their masters, is so absurd, that one wonders that any one could have ventured to forge it and put it upon a Hebrew prophet .
Since, moreover, all now, who sever the six last chapters from the preceding, also divide these six into two halves, the evidence that the six chapters are from one author is a separate ground against their theory. Yet, not only are they connected by the imagery of the people as the flock of God Zechariah 9:16; Zechariah 10:3, whom God committed to the hand of the Good Shepherd Zechariah 11:4-14, and on their rejecting Him, gave them over to an evil shepherd Zechariah 11:15-17; but the Good Shepherd is One with God Zechariah 11:7-12; Zechariah 13:7. The poor of the flock, who would hold to the Shepherd, are designated by a corresponding word.
A writer has been at pains to show that two different conditions of things are foretold in the two prophecies. Granted. The first, we believe, has its foreground in the deliverance during the conquests of Alexander, and under the Maccabees, and leads on to the rejection of the true Shepherd and God' s visitation on the false. The later relates to a later repentance and later visitation of God, in part yet future. By what law is a prophet bound down to speak of one future only?
For those who criticize the prophets, resolve all prophecy into mere "anticipation" of what might, or might not be, denying to them all certain knowledge of any future, it is but speaking plainly, when they imagine the author of the three last chapters to have "anticipated" that God would interpose miraculously to deliver Jerusalem, then, when it was destroyed. It would have been in direct contradiction to Jeremiah, who for 39 years in one unbroken dirge predicted the evil which should come upon Jerusalem. The prophecy, had it preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, could not have been earlier than the reign of the wretched Jehoiakim, since the mourning for the death of Josiah is spoken of as a proverbial sorrow of the past. This invented prophet then would have been one of the false prophets, who contradicted Jeremiah, prophesying good, while Jeremiah prophesied evil; who encouraged Zedekiah in his perjury, the punishment whereof Ezekiel solemnly denounced Ezekiel 13:10-19, prophesying his captivity in Babylon as its penalty; he would have been one of those, of whom Jeremiah said that they spake lies Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:22; Jeremiah 27:15; Jeremiah 28:15; Jeremiah 29:8-9 in the name of the Lord. It was not "anticipation" on either side.
It was the statement of those who spoke more certainly than we could say, "the sun will rise tomorrow." They were the direct contradictories of one another. The false prophets said, "the Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace" Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 23:17; the true, "they have said, ' Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" Ezekiel 13:2-10; the false said, "sword and famine shall not be in the land" Jeremiah 14:15; the true "By sword and famine shall their prophets be consumed;" the false said, "ye shall not serve the king of Babylon; thus saith the Lord, even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years" Jeremiah 27:9-14; Jeremiah 28:11; the true, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and all nations shall serve him, and his son and his son' s son" Jeremiah 27:4, Jeremiah 27:6-7. The false said, "I will bring again to this place Jeconiah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon" Jeremiah 28:4; the true, "I will cast thee out and the mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born, and there ye shall die. But to the land, whereunto they desire to return, thither they shall not return" Jeremiah 22:26-27. The false said; "The vessels of the Lord' s house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon" Jeremiah 27:16; the true "the residue of the vessels that remain in this city, - they shall be carried to Babylon" Jeremiah 27:19-22.
If the writer of the three last chapters had lived just before the destruction of Jerusalem in those last reigns, he would have been a political fanatic, one of those who, by encouraging rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, brought on the destruction of the city, and, in the name of God, told lies against God. "That which is most peculiar in this prophet," says one , "is the uncommon high and pious hope of the deliverance of Jerusalem and Judah, notwithstanding all visible greatest dangers and threatenings. At a time when Jeremiah, in the walls of the capital, already despairs of any possibility of a successful resistance to the Chaldees and exhorts to tranquility, this prophet still looks all these dangers straight in the face with swelling spirit and divine confidence, holds, with unbowed spirit, firm to the like promises of older prophets, as Isa. 29, and anticipates that, from that very moment when the blind fury of the destroyers would discharge itself on the sanctuary, a wondrous might would crush them in pieces, and that this must be the beginning of the Messianic weal within and without."
Zechariah 14 is to this writer a modification of those anticipations. In other words there was a greater human probability, that Jeremiah' s prophecies, not his, would be fulfilled: yet, he cannot give up his sanguineness, though his hopes had now become fanatic. This writer says on Zechariah 14 , "This piece cannot have been written until somewhat later, when facts made it more and more improbable, that Jerusalem would not any how be conquered, and treated as a conquered city by coarse foes. Yet, then too, this prophet could not yet part with the anticipations of older prophets and those which he had himself at an earlier time expressed: so boldly, amid the most visible danger, he holds firm to the old anticipation, after that the great deliverance of Jerusalem in Sennacherib' s time Isaiah 37 appeared to justify the most fanatic hopes for the future, (compare Psalm 59). And so now the prospect moulds itself to him thus, as if Jerusalem must indeed actually endure the horrors of the conquest, but that then, when the work of the conquerors was half-completed, the great deliverance, already suggested in that former piece, would come, and so the Sanctuary would, notwithstanding, be wonderfully preserved, the better Messianic time would notwithstanding still so come."
It must be a marvelous fascination, which the old prophets exercise over the human mind, that one who can so write should trouble himself about them. It is such an intense paradox, that the writing of one convicted by the event of uttering falsehood in the name of God, incorrigible even by the thickening tokens of God' s displeasure, should have been inserted among the Hebrew prophets, in times not far removed from those whose events convicted him, that one wonders that anyone should have invented it, still more that any should have believed in it. Great indeed is "the credulity of the incredulous."
And yet, this paradox is essential to the theories of the modern school which would place these chapters before the captivity. English writers, who thought themselves compelled to ascribe these chapters to Jeremiah, had an escape, because they did not bind down prophecy to immediate events. Newcome' s criticism was the conjectural criticism of his day; i. e. bad, cutting knots instead of loosing them. But his faith, that God' s word is true, was entire. Since the prophecy, placed at the time where he placed it, had no immediate fulfillment, he supposed it, in common with those who believe it to have been written by Zechariah, to relate to a later period. That German school, with whom it is an axiom, "that all definite prophecy relates to an immediate future," had no choice but to place it just before the destruction of the temple by the Chaldees, or its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes; and those who placed it before the Captivity, had no choice, except to believe, that it related to events, by which it was falsified.
Nearly half a century has passed, since a leading writer of this school said, "One must own, that the division of opinions as to the real author of this section and his time, as also the attempts 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 yet 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 did what he could, "to help to promote the attainment of this end according to his ability." But although the more popular theory has of late been that these chapters are to be placed before the captivity, the one portion somewhere in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, or Hezekiah; the other, as marked in the chapters themselves, after the death of Josiah; there have not been wanting critics of equal repute, who place them in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Yet, criticism which reels to and fro in a period of near 500 years, from the earliest of the prophets to a period a century after Malachi, and this on historical and philological grounds, certainly has come to no definite basis, either as to history or philology.
Rather, it has enslaved both to preconceived opinions; and at last, as late a result as any has been, after this weary round, to go back to where it started from, and to suppose these chapters to have been written by the prophet whose name they bear.
It is obvious that there must be some mistake either in the tests applied, or in their application, which admits of a variation of at least 450 years from somewhere in the reign of Uzziah (say 770 b.c.) to "later than 330 b.c."
Philological and historical criticism, bearing on events (as it is assumed) of the day, which should, in its variations, oscillate between the reign of John or of Charles I, or (to bring it nearer to ourselves) the first half of the 14th century or the latter part of the 18th century, would not gain much attention. Indeed, it is instructive, that after the philological argument has figured so much in all questions about the date of books of Holy Scripture, it is virtually admitted to be absolutely worthless, except negatively. For, in regard to Zechariah, the argument is not used, except in proof that the same writer cannot have written prose and poetry, which would establish that Hosea did not write either his three first chapters or his last nine; nor did Ezekiel write his inaugural vision, the visions of Ezek. 9-10, and the simple exhortations to repentance in Ezek. 18 and Ezek. 33. Based upon the same "evidence," I do not know how, of modern writers, Scott and Southey could be supposed to have written their own prose and poetry. How easy it would be to Proverbs that the author of Thalaba did not write the life of Wesley or the history of the peninsular war, nor did Shakespeare author Macbeth and any comedy which criticism may yet leave to him; still more that he cannot have written the deep tragic scenes of Hamlet and that of the gravediggers.
Yet, such negations have been practically considered as the domain of the philological neo-criticism. Style is to be evidence that the same prophet did not write certain prophecies; but, this being demonstrated, it is to yield no evidence, whether he wrote, when Hebrew was a dead language or in the time of its richest beauty. Individuals indeed have their opinions; but philological criticism, as a whole, or as relates to any acknowledged result, is altogether at fault. Having done its function of establishing, that, in the mind of the critic and his disciples, certain chapters are not Zechariah' s, the witness is immediately dismissed as incompetent even to assist in proving anything beside. The rest is to be established by historical allusions, which are by some adapted to events in the reign of Uzziah, by others to those of the Maccabees: or rather, it being assumed that there is no prophecy, this latter class assumes that the book is to belong to the times of the Maccabees, because one part of it predicts their victories.
Those who tell us of the unity of the results of this modern criticism, must have been thinking of the agreement of its negations. As to the positive results, a table will best show their harmony. Yet, the fault is not in the lack of an ill-exercised acumen of the critics; their principle, that nothing in the prophets can relate to any distant future, even though that future exactly realized the words, is the mainspring of their confusions. Since the words of Zechariah do relate to, and find their fulfillment in, events widely separated from each other, and the theory of the critics requires that they should belong to some proximate event, either in the present or some near future, they have to wrest those words from the events to which they relate, some in this way, some in that; and the most natural interpretations are those which are least admitted.
Certainly since the descriptions in Zech. 9 suit with the wars of Alexander and the Maccabees, no one, but for some strong antecedent exigency, would assume that they related to some expected expedition of an Assyrian monarch , "which may be conjectured as very probable, but which, for want of historical data, cannot be indicated more circumstantially," or to "a plan of the Assyrians which was not then carried out," or Uzziah' s war with the Philistines II Chronicles 26:6, and some imagined "attitude of Jeroboam II against Damascus and Hamath," or "a concealed denunciation against Persia," against which Zechariah did not wish to prophesy openly, or to have had no special meaning at all .
It is marvelous, on what slight data this modern school has satisfied itself that these chapters were written before the captivity. To take the statement of an epitomator of German pseudo-criticism: "Damascus, Tyre, and Sidon, Philistia, Javan Zechariah 9:1, Zechariah 9:6-12 Assyria and Egypt Zechariah 10:10 are the enemies of Judah." "The historial stand-point is different from that of Zech. 1-8." Of all these, Javan, the Greeks, alone are spoken of as enemies of Judah, who before the captivity were known only as purchasers of Hebrew captives; the only known wars are those of the Maccabees.
"The two kingdoms of Judah and Israel still exist. Surely the language, ' that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel,' implies that both kingdoms existed as part of the covenant nation."
Zechariah speaks of Judah and Israel, but not as kingdoms. Before the captivity, except during the effects of the intermarriage with Athaliah, there was not brotherhood but enmity. In the reigns of Amaziah and Ahaz there was war.
"The house of David is spoken of in Zechariah 13:1." The "house," not the kingdom. The house existed after the captivity. Zerubbabel, whom the Persians made governor, was its representative.
"Idols and false prophets (Zechariah 10:2; Zechariah 13:2 etc.) harmonize only with a time prior to the exile."
Idolatry certainly was not the prevailing national sin, after God had taught the people through the captivity. It is commonly taken for granted, that there was "none." But where is the proof? Malachi would hardly have laid the stress on "marrying the daughters of a strange god" Malachi 2:11, had there been no danger that the marriage would lead to idolatry. Nehemiah 13:26 Nehemiah speaks of the sin, into which Solomon was seduced by "outlandish women," as likely to recur through the heathen marriages; but idolatry was that sin. Half of the children could only speak the language of their mothers Nehemiah 13:23-24. It were strange, if they had not imbibed their mothers' idolatry, too. In a battle in the Maccabee war, it is related "under the coats of every one that was slain they found things consecrated to the idols of the Jamnites, which is forbidden the Jews by their law" (2 Macc. 12:40).
The "Teraphim" were, moreover, an unlawful and forbidden means of attempting to know the future, not any coarse form of idolatry (see below on Zechariah 10:2); much as people now, who more or less earnestly have their fortunes told, would be surprised at being called idolaters. But Zechariah was probably speaking of sins which had brought on the captivity, not of his own day. The prediction repeated from an older prophet, that in the true Judah, the Church, God would cut off even the names and the memory of idols, does not imply that they existed .
False prophets continued after the captivity. Shemaiah, who "uttered a prophecy against" Nehemiah, "the prophetess Noadiah," and "the rest of the prophets," are known to us from Nehemiah' s relation Nehemiah 6:12, Nehemiah 6:14. Such there were before our Lord came, of whom He said, that they "were thieves and robbers" John 10:8 : He warned against them, as "coming in sheep' s clothing," but "inwardly they are ravening wolves" Matthew 7:15; He foretold that "many false prophets shall arise and deceive many" Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; the Acts tell us of the "false prophet Acts 13:6, a Jew, Bar-jesus;" and "Theudas," and "Judas" of Galilee Acts 5:36-37. John says, "many false prophets have gone out into the world" I John 4:1. False prophets aggravated the resistance to the Romans and the final destruction of Jerusalem .
"The mention of a king or kingdom, in Zechariah 11:6; Zechariah 13:7, does not suit the age of Zechariah."
Zechariah had already implied that they had no king then, for he had bidden Zion to rejoice that her king "would come" to her; accordingly she had none. In Zechariah 11:6, God says, "I will no more pity the land; I will deliver man, every one into the hand of his king." It is an event, not of the prophet' s time, but of the future; in Zechariah 13:7, there is no mention of any king at all.
Such being the entire absence of proof that these chapters were written before the captivity , the proof that Zech. 11 relates to the time of Menahem is even absurd. The process with those who maintained this, has been, assuming as proved, that it was written before the captivity, and that it contained no prophecy of the future, to ask, to what period before the captivity does it relate? One verse (Zechariah 11:6, compare Isaiah 9:20; Isaiah 49:26; Jeremiah 19:9.) relates to civil confusion, such as is foretold also, with the same metaphor, by Isaiah and Jeremiah. The choice was large, since the kingdom of Israel had the curse of discord and irreligion entailed upon it, and no king ventured to cut off the entail by cutting off the central sin, the worship of the calves, which were to consolidate it by a worship, the rival of that at Jerusalem. Of the 18 kings between Jeroboam and Hosea, 9, including Tibni, died violent deaths.
The choice was directed to Menahem, because of the words in Zechariah, "three shepherds also I cut off in one month," and Shallum murdered Zachariah the son of Jeroboam; and he himself, after he had "reigned a full month in Samaria," was murdered by Menahem. Here, then, were two kings cut off: But the third? Imagination is to supply it. One conjectures Menahem; but "he" reigned 10 years, and so, he invents a meaning for the word, that the prophet does not mean "cut off," but "denied" them, leaving it open whether he meant "removed" or merely "did not acknowledge them, as Menahem at first certainly found no recognition with the prophetic order" II Kings 15:16, II Kings 15:19; another imagined "some third rival of Zachariah and Shallum, of whom there is no mention in the historical books;" but there is no room for a third king, since Shallum murdered Zachariah; and Menahem, Shallum; another found in Hebrew words have signified "before the people publicly assembled together."
The Syro-Hexaplar version by Paul of Tela translates the words, and introduces "Kebdaam" with Origen' s asterism, and so, as not belonging to the Septuagint The Alexandrian and two other manuscripts (one of Constantinople cent. x.) also retain the rendering. The singular "conspired," which excludes "Keblaam" from the place which it commonly occupies, occurs in 3 manuscripts, the Syro-Hex. Georg. Slav-Ostrog. Versions and the Complutensian; "and smote him" is also sing. in 3 manuscripts and Compl. The word "Keblaam" was doubtless only the Hebrew words, written by one, who did not know how to translate them, and is variously written and placed as if the scribes did not know what to do with it. Four manuscripts make it the name of a place, "in Ieblaam." They are retained in the place of the Hebrew words in the Vat. manuscript, but more commonly are added to "Shallum son of Jabis:" in some manuscripts and a note in the Syr. Hexapla, they are followed by "and Selem or Selem his father."
They are written, "Kebdaam, Kebdiam, Kebdam, Kaddaam, Kaibdaam, Keblaam, Keddaam, Kebdaan, Ieblaam, Iebaan, Iebdaam Bdaam, Beldaam." See the Septuagint ed. Parsons) which had crept into the Septuagint, an usurper Kobal-am, of whom he says truly, "we hear nothing;" another conceived of some usurper after the murder of Zachariah or of Shallum (this is left free), who about this time "may" have set himself at the head of the kingdom, but scarcely maintained himself some weeks; another says, "This refers probably to the Interregnum 784-773, in which many "may" have set themselves as kings, but none have maintained themselves." Another "An anti-king "may" at this time have set himself up in other parts of the kingdom, whom Menahem overthrew as he did that murderer." Others say of the whole, "The symbolical representation, Zechariah 11:3 ff, admits of no detailed explanation, but can be understood only as a whole. It describes the evil condition of Judah under Ahaz." Another , equally certain that it relates to Ahaz, says, "the three shepherds, who peished in one and the same month, were probably men who, in the long anarchy before Hosea ascended the throne, contended for the sceptre."
Yet, another is so confident in this interpretation as to the three kings, Shallum, Zechariah and Menahem, that, whereas the book of Kings says expressly that Shallum reigned "a full month" II Kings 15:13 literally, "a month of days," the commentator says, "The month cannot have been full; Zechariah 11:8 evidently refers to the three Kings, Sachariah, Sallum and Menahem," while others will have it that Zechariah by "one month" means some indefinite space more than a month. This is indeed required (although not stated) by all these theories, since Shallum alone reigned "a full month," and, consequently, the other two kings (if intended at all by the term "shepherds" ) must have been cut off at some period, outside of that "one month."
Truly, theory is a very exacting taskmaster, though strangely fascinating. It is to be one of the triumphs of the neo-criticism to distinguish between the authorship of Zechariah 9-11 and Zechariah 12-14. the point alleged to Proverbs that Zech. 11 belongs to the time of Menahem is one at variance with history. It is not that the whole is like, while in one point the likeness is imperfect. It is the point, alleged as the keystone of the whole, which fails. The words of God by the prophet are, "' Three shepherds' have I cut off in ' one month.' " It lies on the surface of the history, that Zachariah, son of Jeroboam, was murdered by Shallum, after reigning 6 months; and that Shallum, after reigning one full month, was himself murdered by Menahem II Kings 15:8-14. The succession of murders was not so rapid as when Zimri had murdered Elah, Baasha' s son, and after reigning 7 days, committed suicide, lest he should fall into the hands of Omri I Kings 16:15-18. Elah and Zimri were cut off in one month; Zachariah and Shallum, in two. But in neither case was there any visible result, except a partial retribution of God' s justice. The last executioner of God' s justice "slept with his fathers;" his retribution was after death. He was not cut off. And this is the proof, which is to supplant the testimony to Jesus. The Apostle' s words come true, as so often beside: "They shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables" II Timothy 4:4.
"Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way, yet saidst thou not, there is no hope" Isaiah 57:10. One should have thought that some must have, at times, thought of the old days, when the prophecy was interpreted of the Good Shepherd and of the 30 pieces of silver which were the price of His Blood, and which were cast into the house of the Lord Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 27:3-10. But this would have been fatal to "historical criticism," whose province was to find out events of the prophet' s own day to fill up the words of prophecy.
The human authorship of any books of Holy Scripture, and so of these chapters of Zechariah is, in itself, a matter which does not concern the soul. It is an untrue imputation, that the date of books of the Bible is converted into matter of faith. In this case Jesus has not set His seal upon it; God the Holy Spirit has not declared it. But, as in other cases, what lay as the foundation of the theory was the unbelief that God, in a way above nature, when it seemed good to Him, revealed a certain future to His creature man. It is the postulate, (or axiom, as appears to these critics), that there is no superhuman prophecy, which gives rise to their eagerness, to place these and other prophetic books or portions of books where they can say to themselves that they do not involve such prophecy. To believers it has obviously no religious interest, at what time it pleased Almighty God to send any of His servants the prophets. Not the dates assigned by any of these self-devouring theories, but the grounds alleged in support of those dates, as implying unbelief in God' s revelation of Himself, make the question one of religious interest, namely, to show that these theories are as unsubstantial as their assumed base is baseless.
It is an infelicity of the modern German mind, that it is acute in observing detailed differences, rather than comprehensive in grasping deeper resemblances. It has been more busied in discovering what is new than in observing the grounds of what is true. It does not, somehow, acquire the power of balancing evidence, which is habitual to the practical minds of our own countrymen. To take an instance of criticism, apart from theology, the genuineness of a work of Plato.
"The genuineness of the Laws," says their recent translator , "is sufficiently proved by more than 20 citations of them in the writings of Aristotle (whom Plato designated "the intellect of the school," and who must have been intimate with him for some 17 years) who was residing at Athens during the last years of the life of Plato, and who returned to Athens at the time when he was himself writing his Politics and Constitutions;
(2) by the allusion of Isocrates, writing 346 b.c., a year after the death of Plato, and not more than 2 or 3 years after the composition of the Laws:
(3) by the reference of the comic poet Alexis, a younger contemporary of Plato (356 b.c.);
(4) by the unanimous voice of later antiquity, and the absence of any suspicion among ancient writers worth noticing."
Yet, German acuteness has found out reasons why the treatise should not be Plato' s. Those reasons are plausible, as most untrue things are. As put together carefully by one who still attaches no weight to them, they look like a parody of the arguments, produced by Germans to tear in pieces the books of Holy Scripture. Mutatis mutandis, they have such an absurdly ludicrous resemblance, that it provokes a smile. Some 50 years ago, there was a tradition at Gottingen, where Heyne had lived, that he attributed the non-reception of the theories as to Homer in England to the English Bishops, who "apprehended that the same principle would be applied to Holy Scripture." Now, for half a century more, both sets of critics have had full scope. The Classical sceptics seem to me to have the advantage. Anyone who knew only a little of the uncritical criticism applied to the sacred books could imagine what a jubilee of triumph it would have occasioned if such differences as those pointed out between "the Laws" and other treatises of Plato could have been pointed out to detach any book of Holy Scripture from its traditional writer. Yet it is held inadequate by one, of whom an admirer said, that "his pecliar mode of criticism cut the very sinews of belief." I insert the criticisms , (omitting the details of illustration) because their failure may open the eyes of some to the utter valuelessness of this sort of criticism. The accuracy of the criticisms is not questioned; the statements are not said to be exaggerated; yet, they are held invalid. The question then comes with great force to the conscience; "Why, rejecting arguments so forcible as to a treatise of Plato, do I accept arguments very inferior, as to such or such a book of the Old or New Testament, - certain chapters of Isaiah, or Ecclesiastes, or these chapters of Zechariah, or the Epistle to the Hebrews, or the Revelation of John - except on grounds of theology, not of criticism, and how am I true to myself in rejecting such arguments as to human books, and accepting them as to divine books?"