A VERSE BY VERSE COMMENTARY OF THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH
Zechariah Chapter One
The World at Rest, Don't Fear Opposition
Zec. 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet.
The book uses secular dates based on the beginning of the reign of Darius. The names given to the months, Shevat and Chisleu are Babylonian. This marks the beginning of the general use of secular dates to mark events in Judea. The prophetic office or call to be a prophet came for Zechariah in the eighth month of the second year of Darius. (Zec. 1:1) The first series of prophetic visions began some three months later on the 20th day of the eleventh month of the second year. (Zec 1:7) As in Ezekiel, what follows a given date are visions and events related to that date until another date is given. Thus all of the visions from 1:7 to 7:1 are seen in the second year of Darius when the Temple foundation lay unbuilt upon. The foundation had been laid previously in 534 B.C.E. The time of this prophecy is about 518 B.C.E.
From Zec. 7:1 visions and prophecies are given in the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of Darius or almost two years after the first visions. By that time the Temple is spoken of as a building, unfinished but far enough along that it was then the "house of God." For more on this see the exposition of chapter seven.
Zec. 1:2 The Lord has been sore displeased with your fathers. Zec. 1:3 Therefore you say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts; You turn to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will turn to you, says the Lord of hosts.
If they or ourselves have been removed from God he is waiting for us to make the move to be restored. He is ready always. Man has the responsibility to repent. God cannot do it for him.
Zec. 1:4 Don't be as your fathers, to whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; Turn you now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings; but they did not hear, nor listen to me, says the Lord. "Don't be like your fathers"--an imperative!
"The former prophets" or as the ASV "the earlier prophets." Hebrew has the "first prophets." This is a Scriptural precedent for the division of the prophets into pre-exile, exile, and post-exile prophets. The office of prophet did not become mature until the time of the Kings.
"Your evil doings." from "Ma'alaliym," and here "ma'alleykem" , means your habitual or practiced deeds.
Zec 1:5. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? Zec. 1:6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do to us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so has he dealt with us.
"Take hold." The word "hisig," , means to overtake or cause to overtake. When we reject the word of God we become the victims of the inexorable march of predetermined history as the fathers mentioned here learned. We will be historical victims, too, if we reject his will. We will be overtaken and run over by the events of history related to his word.
"As the Lord thought." Hebrew "zamam," , means consideration with purpose which had been predetermined on the "ways" and "maalaliym" or habits as above.
In verses 7-10 Zechariah describes the "speaking angel" who showed him the horses and riders who had gone over the whole earth to the most remote regions and found it quiet and tranquil. The colors of the horses may have some meaning but it would be entirely secondary to the simple message of a quiet and tranquil earth now taking the place of what had been a long season of universal disorder. Zechariah asks who the horses are and receives the other angel's answer.
Zec. 1:10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro through the earth. Zec. 1:11 And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sits still, and is at rest.
"Walk to and fro." "Hithhalek," is an intensive form which describes the action--walking. It is used in both places. To and fro is not in the text. The intensity of search is in the form itself. The same form describes the voice of the Lord God "hithhalek" (translated "walking") in Genesis 3:8 when God was searching for Adam and Eve calling, "Adam, where are you?"
"The earth stands still and is at rest." Darius had just subdued the rebellious provinces and set up an orderly transition of power for stable government in the world that would (with the usual exceptions) last for many generations. The Temple not only could be built but it could be continually augmented and the religion of the people of God could make progress in the stable political climate to come soon after Zechariah. We are just entering such a period as this in our own time. Political revolution will be followed by a period of unusual stability in which the church of Christ will see unprecedented growth. The spiritual Temple of Christ will enjoy a period of stable world politics in which it can grow for generations to come. (See this author's commentary on Revelation listed in the Bibliography.) Judah was just entering on such a Golden Age which would last more than 300 years.
Zec. 1:12 Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which you have had indignation these seventy years?
"These seventy years." Are the seventy years over? When they ended depends on the observer. Daniel seems to have numbered them from the first captivity in the third year of Jehoiakim and they end in the decree of Cyrus. That is 606 to 536 B.C.E. This is exactly seventy years and it seems to me to be the accurate way of seeing the fulfillment of the period. There is a hint here, however, that the angel is saying the seventy years are just over or just about over. Jerusalem was systematically destroyed by Nabuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's army in the year 585 B.C.E. Zechariah received the vision in this verse about 519 B.C.E. The rebuilt Temple was finished and dedicated in 515 B.C.E. just seventy years from its destruction!
Zec. 1:13 And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
This indicates that the period of comfort, not yet seen, is indeed imminent. The desolation is nearly over. At least the Temple will be finished soon but the return to orderliness of the nation and completion of the city will be progressive. In fact it will be 61 years from the dedication of the Temple until Ezra would appear to revive and purify the Temple worship and set the Law of Moses in order among the people. It is quite possible that Zechariah, a youth in 520, would be an old priest when Ezra appeared on the scene to complete the work of Zechariah's generation. Daniel spoke prophetically of the period of Ezra and Nehemiah. The angel told him, "Know therefore...from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem...the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." (Dan. 9:25)
Zec. 1:14 So the angel that communed with me said to me, Cry, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. Zec. 1:15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, but then they helped forward the affliction.
God's anger at the nations, "goyim," called here heathen, was only "light." Then they gave aid to encourage (Hebrew "azru," , "they helped" the evil; that is, they made matters worse by knowingly adding to the evil of the nation. Affliction here is "raah," , the ordinary word for evil.
Zec. 1:16 Therefore thus says the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
"I am returned." Shavti, . God has returned spiritually with mercies, and blessings are already being experienced by the "yishuv," but the "Skekinah" has not yet been returned since there is not a house to "dwell" in. See 2:10 below.
"Shall be built." God's divine guidance is promised and the completion of the building is imminent and the surveyor's line will make a plat of the new city. As we have seen and will see in chapter seven, the Temple was built on time.
"A line stretched." Only the plan for the new city was laid out at .this time, and though the Temple was soon built the actual building of the city was progressive and waited for Ezra and Nehemiah, 61 years later. The accuracy of the prophecy is precise. It says the Temple will soon be rebuilt and the new city planned.
Zec. 1:17 Cry yet, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem
. The period of comfort and progress, though it would have appeared to Zechariah's listeners to be far in the future, is imminent, as above in verse 13. The elaboration of details of the imminent Golden Age is the most important continuing theme in the first ten chapters of Zechariah. It will be repeated over again, that is, that a period of "comfort," "prosperity" and the presence of God in a real way is imminent and will follow the completion of the soon to be rebuilt Temple.
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