ZECHARIAH

Introduction and Chapters 1-5

Introduction

According to Zechariah himself, his father was Berechiah, and his grandfather was Iddo. At first glance, this seems to contradict the information presented by Ezra that Iddo was his father (Ezra 5:1 and 6:14; and both these passages also mention that Haggai and Zechariah were prophesying at the same time). The waters are muddied even further when we read in II Chron. 24:20 that Jehoiada, the priest, was the father of Zechariah. The discrepancy between Zechariah and Ezra is easily explained if we realize that in Hebrew, anyone in the patriarchal line can be referred to as a “father” of someone. The problem with Chronicles is more difficult to explain. However, the books of Chronicles are generally held to be somewhat less reliable than other biblical books, so my position would be that of these three sources, Zechariah himself is the one most likely to know who his father was. Of course, almost nothing is ever totally certain, for we have to allow for the possibility that the text was corrupted, or that some scribe added the name of Berechiah later, to bring it in line with Isa. 8:2, which states that Zechariah was the son of Jeberechiah.

In any case, Zechariah appears to have been part of a group of Jews who returned to the land of Israel after the Babylonian Exile was officially ended in 538 BC by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, who founded the Achaemenid Empire, and who had been called the “anointed one” by Isaiah 1 long before he ever came on the scene. Cyrus ruled until 530 BC, when he was killed in battle. He was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who further enlarged the Achaemenid Empire 2 by conquering Egypt, Nubia and Cyrenaica during his short reign (530-522 BC). He was succeeded by Bardiya, who was in office less than one year and was killed by Persian aristocrats. Then Darius I took over in 522 BC, and he continued in office until 486 BC. Therefore, if Darius was in his second year when Zechariah began prophesying, this would have been about 520 BC. Zechariah, along with Haggai, preached to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem.

Footnotes
1. Isa. 45:1.
2. The Achaemenid Empire lasted 550-330 BC.
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Chapter 1

    1. In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, the prophet, saying:
    2. Yahweh was filled with wrath toward your fathers.
    3. And you will say to them, Thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, Return to me, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, and I will return to you, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts.
    4. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets called, saying: Thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, Repent of your wicked ways and your wicked deeds; but they did not hear or listen to me, says Yahweh.
    5. Your fathers – where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
    6. But my words and my decrees which I have commanded my servants the prophets, did they not reach your fathers? And they repented and said, As Yahweh planned to do with us according to your ways and according to our deeds, so has he done with us.
    7. On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shevat, in the second year of Darius, the word of Yahweh came to Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, the prophet saying:
    8. Tonight I was looking, and behold, a man riding upon a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtles which were in the bottom (of a valley), and after him were red, piebald, 1 and white horses.
    9. And I said, What are these, my lord? And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, I will show you what these are.
    10. And the man who was standing among the myrtles answered and said, These are the ones whom Yahweh has sent to patrol the earth.
    11. And they answered the angel of Yahweh, who stood among the myrtles, and they said; We have patrolled the earth, and behold, the whole earth is still and quiet.
    12. And the angel of Yahweh replied and said; Oh Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with whom you have been indignant these seventy years?
    13. And Yahweh answered the angel who had been speaking to me with good words, words of consolation.
    14. And the angel who was speaking to me said; Call out, saying, Thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly hosts, I have been jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion – very jealous.
    15. And I am very angry with the nations at ease, with which I was merely displeased, but (then) they promoted the evil.
    16. Therefore, thus says Yahweh, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy. My house will be built there, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, and a plumb line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.
    17. Furthermore, call out and say, Thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, My cities will yet be spread out in prosperity, and Yahweh will yet comfort Zion, and he will yet choose Jerusalem.
    18, And I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns; 2
    19. And I said to the angel who was speaking to me, What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which scattered Judah and Israel and Jerusalem.
    20. And Yahweh showed me four craftsmen.
    21. And I said, What are these coming to do? And he spoke saying; These are the horns which scattered Judah to the extent that no man raised his head, and these are coming to make them afraid, to cast down the horns of the nations which are carrying a horn to the land of Judah to scatter it.
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1. The Hebrew word here is problematic. It is seruqim and the meaning is uncertain, but the BDB (sub שׂרק) suggests that it might mean “sorrel.” I find that very unlikely, because (as someone who has raised horses), I am well aware that if there is any one color of horse which might be considered “red” it is sorrel. But the word “red” is already taken in this verse, so if “red” here really means “sorrel,” then seruqim must be some other color. Both the LXX and the Peshitta use a word here which means “spotted” or “piebald.” A piebald horse is one which is black and white (as opposed to the “pinto” which is traditionally brown and white). I therefore have to believe that the color in question is a spotted, or piebald horse. One might even argue that the mention of spotted horses in 6:3 might strengthen the argument that the word here also means spotted. In 6:3 the meaning of the word in unequivocal, because the word there is berudim, which comes from the word for “hail,” and the connotation of spotted is well established.
2. The verses in chapter 1:18-21 in the English version correspond to chapter 2:1-4 in the MT.
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Chapter 2

Yahweh promises the restoration of Judah and Jerusalem and promises to live in their midst

    1. And I raised my eyes and say, and behold, a man, and in his hand was a measuring line. 1
    2. And I said, Where are you going? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem, to see how much its breadth is, and how much its length is.
    3. And behold, the angel who was speaking to me was going forth, and another angel was going forth to meet him.
    4. And he said to him, Run, speak to this young man and say, Jerusalem will be inhabited like unwalled towns because there will be so many men and animals in it.
    5. And, says Yahweh, I will be a wall of fire for it round about, and I will be the glory in its midst.
    6. Hear! Hear! And flee from the land of the north, says Yahweh, for I have spread you out like the four winds of heaven, says Yahweh.
    7. Hear, Oh Zion! Flee, (you) who dwell like a daughter of Babylon!
    8. For thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, In order to obtain glory, he sent me to the nations which are plundering you, for whatever affects you, affects the apple of his eye.
    9. For behold, I raise my hand against them, and they will be prey for those who serve them, and you will know that Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts has sent me.
    10. Sing and rejoice, Oh daughter of Zion, for behold, I will come and dwell in your midst, says Yahweh.
    11. And many nations will join Yahweh in that day, and they will become my people, and I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts has sent me to you.
    12. And Yahweh will inherit Judah as his portion upon the sacred ground, 2 and he will yet choose Jerusalem.
    13. Be silent all flesh in the presence of Yahweh! For he has been awakened from his holy habitation.
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1. Chapter 2:1-13 in the English version corresponds to chapter 2:5-17 in the MT.
2. The Hebrew phrase here is ‘ademat haqodesh. The usual word for “land” in phrases such as “the land of Israel” is ‘aretz. ‘Ademah is occasionally used for a similar purpose, but it can also refer to “ground” as something which is plowed, or a piece of ground or property. Therefore, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that the term ‘ademat haqodesh, as used here, refers to the consecrated ground upon which the temple stands. In that case, this verse would be telling us that Yahweh will “inherit” Judah during some ceremony or action that takes place in the temple.
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Chapter 3

The restoration of the priesthood is prefigured by the installation of Joshua

    1. And he showed me Joshua, the High Priest, standing before the angel of Yahweh, and Satan was standing at his right, to oppose him.
    2. And Yahweh said to Satan, Yahweh rebukes you, Oh Satan! And Yahweh rebukes you; he who choses Jerusalem. Is this not a poker plucked from the fire?
    3. And Joshua was dressed in filthy garments and standing before the angel.
    4. And he answered and said to those standing before him, saying: Remove the filthy garments from him. And he said to him, See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and clothed you with robes (of a high priest).
    5. And I said, Let them put a pure turban 1 on his head. And they clothed him in the garments while the angel of Yahweh was standing (there).
    6. And the angel of Yahweh admonished Joshua saying;
    7. Thus says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, If you walk in my ways and if you keep my charge, then you will both judge my house and keep my courtyards, and I will give you free access among these who are standing.
    8. Hear now, Oh Joshua the High Priest! You and your companions who are sitting before you, for they are men (who serve as) a sign, for behold, I am bringing my servant, the Shoot. 2
    9. For behold the stone which I placed before Joshua. Seven eyes are upon one stone. Behold, I am engraving its inscription, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in a single day.
    10. On that day, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, you will call, each man to his neighbor, (to come) under the vine and under the fig tree.
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1. A part of the garb of the high priest at that time.
2. See the footnote to Jer. 23:5.
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Chapter 4

The restoration will not come by human strength, but by the spirit of Yahweh

    1. And the angel who had been speaking to me returned, and he awakened me as a man who wakes up from his sleep.
    2. And he said to me, What do you see? And I said, I saw, and behold, a candlestick entirely of gold, and a bowl was on top of it, and seven lamps upon it, (and) seven pipes to each of the seven lamps which were on top of it.
    3. And two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and one to the left of it.
    4. And I responded and said to the angel who was speaking to me, saying; What are these my lord?
    5. And the angel who was speaking to me answered and said to me, Do you not know what these are? And I said, No, my lord.
    6. And he answered and said to me, saying; This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel, saying; Not by strength, nor by force, but by my spirit, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts.
    7. Who are you, Oh great mountain? Before Zerubbabel (you will become) a plain, and he will bring forth the headstone with cries of grace, grace unto it!
    8. And the word of Yahweh came to me saying:
    9. The hands of Zerubbabel founded this house, and his hands will carry it to completion, and you will know that Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts has sent me to you.
    10. For who has despised the day (because of) small things? But they will see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of Yahweh, which eagerly go here and there upon the earth.
    11. And I responded and said to him, What are these two olive trees on the right of the lamp and on its left?
    12. And I responded again and said to him, What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes which empty the golden (oil) out of themselves?
    13. And he spoke to me saying; Do you not know what these are? And I said, No, my lord.
    14. And he said, These are the two anointed ones 1 who stand near the Lord of the entire earth.
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1. Lit. “sons of fresh oil.”
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Chapter 5

Iniquities will be gathered and deposited in the land of Sumer

    1. And I returned and looked up and saw, and behold, a flying scroll.
    2. And he said to me, What do you see? And I said, I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width is ten cubits.
    3. And he said to me, This is the curse that goes forth upon the face of all the earth, for the thief will be purged (from the land) according to it, and the swearer will be purged (from the land) according to it.
    4. I have brought it forth, says Yahweh of the Heavenly Hosts, and it will come to the house of the thief, and to the house of the him who swears falsely by my name. And it will lodge in the midst of his house and make an end of him, and his wood and his stones.
    5. And the angel who was speaking to me came forth and said to me; Raise your eyes and see what is coming forth.
    6. And I said, What is it? And he said, That is the ephah basket 1 that is coming forth. And he said, This is their iniquity 2 in all the land.
    7. And behold, a talent of lead was raised up, and this is a woman who sits in the midst of the ephah basket.
    8. And he said, This is wickedness, and he cast her into the midst of the ephah basket, and he cast the lead weight into her mouth.
    9. And I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, two women were coming forth with wind in their wings, and they had wings like the wings of the stork. And they lifted the ephah basket between the earth and the sky.
    10. And I said to the angel who was speaking to me, Where are they taking the ephah basket?
    11. And he said to me, To build a house for it in the land of Sumer, 3 and it will be prepared, and set there upon its own base.
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1. In other words, a basket that has a capacity of one ephah, which appears to be the receptacle to hold all the iniquity.
2. The word in the MT is written as though it is the word for “eye,” while in both the LXX and the Peshitta the word is “iniquity.” Since “eye” does not make any sense here, I have decided it must be a scribal error and that the original word must have been “iniquity.” In Hebrew the two words are very similar, and in the unpointed text, it is merely a matter of the stem of one letter being slighter longer or shorter. One can get some sense of that from the two unpointed words here, which are עין and עון.
3. This refers to that part of Mesopotamia which was inhabited by the Sumerians, who were the predecessors of the Akkadians, who in turn, later became the Babylonians (in the south) and the Assyrians (in the north). Most of this area is in present-day Iraq. The mention of Sumer here is quite possibly a reference to Babylon under a more ancient name. In that case, he is saying that iniquities will be returned to Babylon, whence they came.
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