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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Zechariah 6

 

 

Introduction

Zechariah 1-8.

Unlike Haggai, Zechariah would appear to have written his own prophecies, but the original document, which has not come down to us quite complete, has been edited with sundry introductory notes and contains, apparently, some interpolations. Of the latter, Zechariah 1:2-6 is an instance. There is here nothing peculiarly characteristic of Zechariah, though in so short a book arguments from style must not be pressed. It is, however, strange that when the restoration of the Temple was going on apace, Zechariah, with his hopeful temperament, should preach a sermon implying the continued impenitence of the people. Probably a later exhortation has been substituted for the original opening, deemed for some reason unsuitable. "The former prophets" implies a contrast with the later prophets, Jeremiah being assigned to another era. While the section would suit better the situation at the beginning of Haggai's ministry, it is not quite in his style, and it suggests sins more serious than the apathy which he attacks. The author of Zechariah 1:2-6 seems to have expanded Zechariah 1:7 f.

The nature of Zechariah's activity is clear from his own words. The first utterance which can be certainly ascribed to him (Zechariah 1:7-17) is dated Feb. 24, 519 B.C. At this date the revolts which had broken out against Darius in various parts of the Persian empire were being rapidly quelled, and the disappointment of the hopes raised by Haggai in the previous Oct. (Haggai 2:6 f.) had caused depression in Judah. Zechariah, however, did not lose courage, predicting the overthrow of the nations and the completion of Zion's restoration. But he protested against the fatuity of Zerubbabel's advisers, who, untaught by the lesson of the exile, wished not only to restore but to fortify Jerusalem, a project which aroused Samaritan jealousy and caused Persian intervention.

The prophecies of Zechariah are of supreme importance through the light which they throw on the internal history of Judah. For some reason not definitely stated, an attempt was made to deprive Joshua of the High-priesthood. Joshua apparently belonged to the community which had remained in Palestine during the exile (p. 573), and consequently when Zadokite priests returned from Babylonia, friction inevitably arose, since the latter would regard Joshua as an upstart fit at best for the subordinate position of Levite (see Ezekiel 44:10-14). Moreover, Joshua and Zerubbabel seem to have quarrelled personally. Zechariah boldly championed the cause of Joshua, declaring that so long as his conduct was blameless he ought to be the head of the Temple. Zerubbabel also had his own sphere of usefulness, and both should work together for the good of Judah.

According to Ezra 6:15 the Temple was finished on March 3, 515. This is probably the date of the completion of all building operations within the Temple area, the Temple proper having been completed much earlier. At any rate on Dec. 4, 518, the work was progressing so well, that a deputation was sent, apparently by Zerubbabel, to the religious leaders to inquire whether the fasts commemorating the disasters of 586 should still be observed (Zechariah 7:1 ff.). Zechariah replied that they should henceforth be observed as holidays, since the restoration of the Temple was an earnest of the restoration of national prosperity.

From a literary point of view Zechariah makes a new departure, inasmuch as he delivers his message in a series of allegories purporting, like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, to be a dream. The germ of this style may indeed be found earlier (1 Kings 22), but the development of it is Zechariah's. These allegories or word-painted pictures, though to us they may appear somewhat bizarre, were clearly as intelligible in his age as our own political cartoons are in ours. Another new feature in his prophecies is the avoidance of the apparent familiarity in speaking of the Lord which is characteristic of the older literature. This may be due partly to increased reverence, partly to the decline of poetry and the growth of a more prosaic literalism. Thus, though he uses freely the old formula "saith the Lord," he represents himself as addressing the Lord not directly, but through the mediation of an angel who interprets to him the meaning of what he sees.

Zechariah's teaching is characterised by sanctified common sense. Although he hoped to see Zerubbabel actually king of Judah, he was not blind to the dangers of the course he was pursuing. Recognising as clearly as any Zadokite priest the need of a rallying point for Jewish religion, he was free from the petty narrowness which could see no merit in any priest of another guild. In an age when, as it would seem, the civil and the religious leaders were striving for the pre-eminence, he declared that each had his own proper sphere. He recognised the value of fasting if performed in the right spirit, but he did not desire that the children of the bride-chamber should fast while the bridegroom was with them.

Unhappily Zechariah's countrymen would have none of his counsels of patience. His mission was denied, and his advic disregarded. Only too late did the Church of Judah learn the truth of his reiterated assurance, "Ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me unto you." Had his counsel been followed, the suspicion of the Samaritans would never have been aroused by the attempt to fortify Jerusalem, and the jealousy between Samaria and Judah, at first merely political, would not have been extended to religious matters also. Like Him whose forerunner he was, Zechariah would have gathered Jerusalem's children together as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and they would not.


Verses 1-8

Zechariah 6:1-8. A more Definite Version of the Allegory in Zechariah 1:8 ff.—Here, however, the horsemen of the former allegory, who represent messengers, are replaced by chariots which symbolise warlike agencies. By "mountains of brass" (or rather bronze) we are not to understand the Lebanon with its copper mines (Cheyne), for in that case we should require the definite article (read RV text, not mg. in Zechariah 6:1; so LXX). Perhaps the two mountains (bronze indicates their irresistible strength) are, so to speak, gateposts on the road to the four quarters of the world from the abode of God. In Zechariah 6:3 omit "strong" (see mg.) and substitute "red" for it in Zechariah 6:7 (see mg.). In MT of Zechariah 6:5 the "chariots" symbolize the four winds of heaven; a slight change gives the superior sense, "These (i.e. the chariots) are going forth unto the four winds of heaven after presenting themselves unto," etc. For the meaningless "after them" (Zechariah 6:6), the Heb. of which is peculiar, we evidently require some point of the compass; Wellhausen suggests the jand of the east." There is a confusion of the tenses; the present tense should probably be read in all cases in Zechariah 6:6 and in the first clause of Zechariah 6:7, which has further suffered some mutilation, since the destination of the fourth chariot, probably the west, is not mentioned. The subject of "sought" (i.e. asked permission) is obviously not, as EV suggests, the bay horses, but the occupants of all four chariots. Their audience is now over, and they ask leave, which is granted, to depart on their several missions. For "have quieted" (Zechariah 6:8) we must read "will quiet"; i.e. the chariot with the black horses goes out to take vengeance on the north country, and to satisfy the Lord's spirit which has been distressed by the injury done to His people. The text at the beginning of Zechariah 6:8 is somewhat uncertain. Zechariah apparently (see Zechariah 1:11) looked for judgment on "the north country," not from the existing political situation, but as satisfying Divine justice.


Verses 9-15

Zechariah 6:9-15. A Crown for Zerubbabel.—The text is considerably confused, partly through accident, partly it would seem by deliberate alteration. The Heb. of the words rendered "and come thou the same day, and go into the house of," incredible as it may appear, seems to have arisen merely through various attempts to correct a misreading of "from"; in Zechariah 6:11; Zechariah 6:14 for "crowns" read "crown." In Zechariah 6:13 b the LXX reads, "shall be priest at his right hand," which, coupled with the mention of "them both," proves conclusively that originally the section contained the name not only of Joshua, but also of Zerubbabel. Since the subject of the words "shall be priest at his right hand" can only be Joshua, the person at whose right hand Joshua shall be priest must be Zerubbabel, and his name must be substituted for that of Joshua in Zechariah 6:11. The four names in Zechariah 6:10 should clearly be the same as the four in 14, Tobijah and Zephaniah being common to both verses. Helem (Zechariah 6:14) is an impossible name, and possibly Heldai should be read in both cases: there is no common measure between Josiah and Hen, and both names may be corrupt. With the above corrections the section will run as follows: "Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, and of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, and of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, who have come from Babylon; yea, take silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it upon the head of Zerubbabel; and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold a man whose name is Branch" (or rather Shoot; a sucker from the root is meant), "and he shall grow up in his place, and he shall build the Temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and Joshua shall be priest at his right hand, and counsel of peace shall be between them both." It would seem that four men who have arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon, whether having fled thither or having been despatched on a mission to Zerubbabel cannot be determined, have brought with them an offering of silver and gold. Zechariah advises that this shall be made into a crown, which shall be placed on the head of Zerubbabel, whom he hails as the fulfilment of Jeremiah's prophecy (Jeremiah 23:5 ff.), and whom he regards as the restorer not only of the Temple, but also of the Monarchy. Alongside of Zerubbabel Joshua shall be priest, and counsel of peace (i.e. counsel for the welfare of Judah) shall be between them both. In the light of Zephaniah 3 this insistence on Joshua's position is very significant. Zechariah 6:14 states what is to be done with the crown, which Zerubbabel is as yet unable to wear. It is to be deposited in the Temple as a place of safety, the four men who brought the gold and silver being trustees for it. Their advent encourages Zechariah to hope for a yet greater return of Jews from exile. The last sentence of Zechariah 6:15 is the beginning of a lost prophecy, and has no connexion with the preceding context.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-6.html. 1919.

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