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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Zechariah 7

 

 

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 1-7

Zechariah 7:1-7 f. The original account of the question about the fasting and Zechariah's answer has been considerably amplified by the insertion of other prophecies, probably later compositions, though they bear some resemblance to the style of Haggai. Note the editorial introductions to the paragraphs beginning Zechariah 7:8 and Zechariah 8:1, which are unnecessary if Zechariah is the speaker throughout. The date is Dec. 4, 518. In Zechariah 7:2-7 we have an excerpt from Zechariah's own narrative, the beginning of which is lost. The text of Zechariah 7:2 a is in confusion, and correction can be only conjectural. Apparently originally only two people were mentioned by name; the first, the sender, being Bethel Sharezer, and the second, the person sent, being Regem-melech (the names are probably corrupt). The sender of the deputation doubtless speaks in the name of the community, and is presumably the governor; moreover, since he is interested in merely Jewish fasts, he must be a Jew. This points to Zerubbabel. Sharezer may have been part of his Bab. name, but we have no evidence for this. It is improbable that a question would be formally asked in Dec. about a fast to be observed during the following Aug., and Zechariah 7:5 implies that the question concerned the fast of Oct. also, while in Zechariah 8:19 four fasts are mentioned, viz. in July, Aug., Oct., and Jan. The question put on Dec. 4 presumably had at least special reference to this last; it must therefore have been mentioned. Probably the list of fasts in Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5 has been accidentally cut down. The fasts mentioned seem to have been instituted in commemoration of the following national calamities: on July 9, 586, Jerusalem was taken (Jeremiah 39:2); on Aug. 7 the city and Temple were burnt (2 Kings 25:8); in Oct. Gedaliah was murdered (Jeremiah 41); on Jan. 10 the siege of Jerusalem began (2 Kings 25:1). The question about the fasting, since it concerned a matter of torah, would probably be addressed to the priests only, "and to the prophets" being added because Zechariah gave the answer. The fasts, he maintained, had not betokened any real repentance on the part of the people, but had been due to a superstitious belief that their calamities might be mechanically removed. There had been no more thought of glorifying God by the fasts than by eating and drinking, Zechariah 7:7 (note italics) is mutilated; the LXX reads, "Are not these the words," etc. The South is the Negeb (p. 32), the lowland is the Shephelah (p. 31).


Verses 8-14

Zechariah 7:8-14 is probably an amplification of the original address by a later hand and likewise Zechariah 8:1-17. Both are much like Zechariah 1:2-6.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-7.html. 1919.

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