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Zechariah & Haggai tag team Israel towards heart change
Tonight we are going to begin the book of Zechariah, but I want to clear up a potential issue which we had addressed much earlier. It is a recording and dating issue largely from the book of Ezra.
At the time of our studying the book of Ezra I ran into a difficulty in figuring out which king was reigning at the time since chapter 4 of Ezra introduced a difficulty. It seemed as if Ezra was claiming things as happening under the wrong Persian king. It truly threw me a little and I wavered regarding the order in which these foreign kings were reigning following the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. I quickly regained my footing a week later in our 2nd ‘Thru the Bible’ teaching in the book of Ezra entitled – Return to rebuild – the Historical account of Ezra Pt. 2. I then went back to the post from the first teaching on Ezra [Return to Rebuild: The Historical account of Ezra] and added this NOTICE…
I believe that both Ezra and Nehemiah lived during the reign of Artaxerxes I and that the difficulties introduced by the information in Ezra 4 have multiple solutions.
That having been said, these solutions have the unfortunate “appearance” of historical sleight of hand since in the western world of the 21 century we are unfamiliar with such writing techniques and cultural tendencies.
It was not in any way uncommon for Persian kings of this day to go by 2 or more names, often evoking the name of their predecessor. It is much like happens in Jewish writing at times when a man is called the “son” of someone who was actually his grandfather. We have a similar practice in English, but it serves a different purpose. We might say that of a boy that he is “the son of his great-grandpa [insert name]”. In saying this we are often saying that a primary character trait which was dominant in that great-grandpa is also dominant in him. So languages and cultures all have things which are unique to them and somewhat odd to others and this may be all there is to the difficulty of these names. As such it is “possible” that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:6,7-23 were kings Cambyses (530-522B.C.) and Smerdis (522 B.C.) respectively. Both of these kings reigned before Darius I. Since Persian kings frequently had two or more names, it is not unfathomable to think that Cambyses and Smerdis also may have gone by the names Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes (see Wilson, 1996; see also Fausset, 1998). 1, 2
A secondary possibility and the one to which I currently subscribe is that these kings of Persia mentioned in Ezra 4 are grouped by topical theme rather than by chronological order. Meaning that rather than the data appearing in sequence according to chronology, verses 6-23 act as a type of parenthetical comment. That Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:6-7) are in fact Ahasuerus (486-465B.C.) and Artaxerxes I (465-424B.C.). Writers from antiquity sometimes recorded non-sequential information which they saw as relevant to the topic within the flow of an otherwise chronological narrative. Examples of this can be found in Genesis 10-11 and Matthew 28:1-7. In this case the writer would have been following a description of the difficulties rebuilding the temple (4:1-5) with information on a similar resistance the Jews encountered while rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (4:6-23). Today, this sort of thing can easily result in confusion, but if one takes a step away and examines the passage in this light the addition of this non-sequential information does fit the overall theme of the narrative.
In any case, I stand by my decision that I was in fact incorrect in this teaching that Ezra’s work was during the reign of Artaxerxes II and now believe it could not have been anything other than during the reign of Artaxerxes I.
My apologies for any confusion or misunderstandings.
All of that having been said, Zechariah lived and conducted his ministry during the reign of Darius I thus overlapping the lives and ministries of Haggai, Zerubbabel, Joshua the priest and just before Malachi.
You remember that Zerubbabel, had been appointed governor of Judah by and under Cyrus the Great and the work of rebuilding the temple began immediately. However, as Ezra tells us, not long into the project Cyrus was succeeded by both his son Cambyses II who reigned for only 8 years and then by Smerdis who died that same year of 522B.C. One of these men put a stop to the rebuilding effort which was not resumed until Darius I succeeded Smerdis.
So this is why there seems to be a gap of time interrupting the temple restoration process.
As I mentioned earlier, not only was the rebuilding of the temple opposed but also the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem we studied in the book of Nehemiah. Both Ezra and Nehemiah came to Judah following the reign of Darius and his successor Xerxes during the reign of Artaxerxes I.
The name Zechariah means – “Yahweh remembers”. Because God remembers, there is hope for the people of Israel. God will remember His covenant with them recorded in Deuteronomy 28-30 and will keep His promises.
He is the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo. Iddo was head of the priestly families coming back from exile (Nehemiah 12:4,16) making him both a prophet AND a priest. Perhaps this is one reason why God chose to use him regarding the temple and priestly matters.
Through Zechariah God offers Israel hope. The first 8 chapters of Zechariah contain 8 visions. Much of the imagery used will be familiar to New Testament readers. There is mention of the four horses, four horns, four chariots (heavenly beings), a man with a measuring line measuring Jerusalem, a golden lampstand and two olive trees.
The crowning of Joshua a priest instead of Zerubbabel seems to describe in predictive fashion the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdoms of our lord and Christ in Jesus our Priest and King in the Millennial kingdom.
The last 6 chapters contain apocalyptic pronouncements against the nations.
“(1) In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:
I did not make this part of my study but a potentially interesting study might be done comparing the messages and their timings between that of Haggai and Zechariah. God was using both of these men to address and advance different aspects of His work in Israel and in His predictive statements regarding Messiah. To examine them side by side might reveal things about how and why God calls and uses those He does.
At any rate, the timing of this prophetic word was just two months after Haggai’s first prophecy. Guzik says this places Zachariah’s first prophecy between October and November of 520B.C.
While Haggai’s prophecy was about stirring the people back up towards work on the Temple, Zechariah’s focus is of a more spiritual nature beginning with God’s anger with their forefathers and His jealousy towards them.
(2) “The LORD was extremely angry with your ancestors. (3) So tell the people: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: “Return to Me“–this is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts–“and I will return to you, says the LORD of Hosts.
This is another proof of the unchanging nature of God, for under the New Covenant James refers to this passage in his encouragement of believers who have strayed from their steadfastness in Christ.
“(4) Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. (5) Or do you think it’s without reason the Scripture says that the Spirit He has caused to live in us yearns jealously? (6) But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (7) Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! (9) Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. (10) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” – James 4:4-10
These Jews of the post-babylonian exile had been through much.
- They left Babylon to return to a Jerusalem that lay in ruins.
- The work of restoration was not just for the temple, but their very houses as well.
- The work was hard and was not without opposition.
- Their divided allegiance led to a soft-judgment from God which diminished their crops, livelihood and prosperity.
- Like their ancestors, they were likely being tempted with overly romantic memories of easier times back in Babylon.
But God is NOT without compassion! Though no doubt all of these conditions made them feel as if they were at it alone. As if God were Himself very distant from them, God used Zechariah to assure them that nothing was further from the truth. He reminded them of the same tendencies, feelings and responses from their ancestors and encouraged them to seek His face!
If IN THEIR HEARTS, they would return to Him, He would return to them as well!
In this way, Zechariah is building on the work and message of Haggai and he on Zechariah’s. They were not just instituting jurisdictional and political change, they were advocating for and teaching the need for spiritual change.
“(4) Do not be like your ancestors; the earlier prophets proclaimed to them: This is what the LORD of Hosts says: Turn from your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they did not listen or pay attention to Me”–the LORD’s declaration.
(5) “Where are your ancestors now? And do the prophets live forever? (6) But didn’t My words and My statutes that I commanded My servants the prophets overtake your ancestors?
They repented and said: As the LORD of Hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so He has dealt with us.”
“(7) On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:
Red, Chestnut and White horses
“(8) I looked out in the night and saw a man riding on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in the valley. Behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
(9) I asked, “What are these, my lord?”
The angel who was talking to me replied, “I will show you what they are.”
(10) Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.”
Since they are patrolling the earth it seems reasonable that these are actually angels, though when dealing with the spiritual world of which NONE of us knows much worth speaking of, who knows but that they might very well be horses.
“(11) They reported to the Angel of the LORD standing among the myrtle trees, “We have patrolled the earth, and right now the whole earth is calm and quiet.”
(12) Then the Angel of the LORD responded, “How long, LORD of Hosts, will You withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah that You have been angry with these 70 years?”
(13) The LORD replied with kind and comforting words to the angel who was speaking with me.’
There seems to be some confusion as to who this “Angel of the Lord” is with many claiming it is the Lord Himself. This seems both unnecessary and unlikely since he seems to address the Lord as if he were a separate being. Also later in chapter 3:2 I believe we get a clue that this is in fact Michael the Archangel. This seems counterintuitive since one would think there is a difference between an archangel and an angel, but perhaps the difference in one of rake and not physical substance. This would be much like the difference between a private and a General. They are both humans, but are of vastly different rank.
‘(14) So the angel who was speaking with me said,
“Proclaim: The LORD of Hosts says: I am extremely jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. (15) I am fiercely angry with the nations that are at ease, for I was a little angry, but they made it worse. (16) Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I have graciously returned to Jerusalem; My house will be rebuilt within it”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts–“and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.
(17) “Proclaim further: This is what the LORD of Hosts says:
My cities will again overflow with prosperity; the LORD will once more comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.”
(18) Then I looked up and saw four horns.
(19) So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these?” And he said to me,
“These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”
This is NOT the first time we’ve seen these horns. Horns, as you may remember, represented those with power and authority and therefore were nearly always kings or kingdoms.
In this case they are kingdoms which both had and will scatter Israel before Messiah comes. We’ve seen them already in the book of Daniel, though now, the second of the two world powers was now already reigning.
Back in Daniel 7 we concluded that one of two possibilities might be the correct understanding.
The first interpretation would be:
- The 1st could be Babylon
- The 2nd would therefore be Medo-Persian Empire
- The 3rd the Grecian Empire
- The 4th Rome.
The second interpretation would be:
- The 1st would therefore be Medo-Persian Empire
- The 2nd the Grecian Empire
- The 3rd Rome.
- The 4th the future reign of AntiChrist
“(20) Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen.
(21) I asked, “What are they coming to do?”
He replied, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so no one could raise his head. These craftsmen have come to terrify them, to cut off the horns of the nations that raised their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”
The word craftsman can also mean an artisan or engraver – someone skilled in a craft. Who these are I do not know though they could refer to prophets – perhaps Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jesus or perhaps John the Baptist. It is hard to say!
The next chapter seems to clump the past, present and future (both immediate and distant) all together.
Zechariah 2:1-13, “(1) I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. (2) I asked, “Where are you going?”
He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem to determine its width and length.”
(3) Then the angel who was speaking with me went out, and another angel went out to meet him. (4) He said to him, “Run and tell this young man: Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it.”
(5) The declaration of the LORD: “I will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it.”
This seems to speak to the millennial kingdom in a very similar fashion to the way Ezekiel 39 spoke of it as well as in Revelation 19 & 20. A kingdom so vast and so protected against war that it had no walls and the glory of the Lord was present in it.
Then He speaks either as a memory of what He did with those present as having been called out of Babylon (the country to the North) or to those Jews still living there. This may even have a passing, future reference to Gog and Magog of the extreme North who will eventually come against Jerusalem in their future time of peace and no walls.
Both during the life of Jesus and the Apostles, people from all nations joined themselves to the Lord, and this might be making a reference to that time, it is also referring to the time of the Millennial kingdom when all nations will look to Israel to teach them the ways of the Lord.
(6) “Get up! Leave the land of the north”–the LORD’s declaration–“for I have scattered you like the four winds of heaven”–the LORD’s declaration.
(7) “Go, Zion! Escape, you who are living with Daughter Babylon.” (8) For the LORD of Hosts says this: “He has sent Me for His glory against the nations who are plundering you, for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye. (9) I will move against them with My power, and they will become plunder for their own servants. Then you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent Me.
(10) “DaughterZion, shout for joy and be glad, for I am coming to dwell among you”–the LORD’s declaration.
(11) “Many nations will join themselves to the LORD on that day and become My people. I will dwell among you, and you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent Me to you.
(12) The LORD will take possession of Judah as His portion in the Holy Land, and He will once again choose Jerusalem. (13) Let all people be silent before the LORD, for He is coming from His holy dwelling.”
Zechariah 3:1-10, “(1) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, with satan standing at his right side to accuse him. (2) The LORD said to satan: “The LORD rebuke you, satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
This is the reference I mentioned earlier. I believe this “Angel of the Lord” is Michael, since a similar mention is made in regard to the rebuking of satan regarding the body of Moses by Jude and he identified the Angel of the Lord as Michael the Archangel.
Jude 1:9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
Zechariah 3 cont…
“(3) Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the Angel. (4) So He spoke to those standing before Him, “Take off his filthy clothes!”
Then He said to him, “See, I have removed your guilt from you, and I will clothe you with splendid robes.”
(5) Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the Angel of the LORD was standing nearby.
(6) Then the Angel of the LORD charged Joshua: (7) “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here. (8) “Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch.
(9) Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts–“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.
(10) On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.”
The key to understanding this passage is that it is illustrative and therefore serves two purposes. There is an immediate fulfillment and a predictive future fulfillment. Zephaniah even tells them that THEY serve as a sign that Messiah ‘the branch’ is coming. Jesus is of course referred to as the Branch which grows from the root of Jesse. He is the stone or rock set before Israel Who will take away their sins in a day.
See if this passage in Isaiah does not perfectly coincide with all that is here said –
Isaiah 11:1-12, “(1) Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
(2) The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him–a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
(3) His delight will be in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears, (4) but He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips.
(5) Righteousness and faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.
(6) The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them. (7) The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox.
(8) An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den.
(9) No one will harm or destroy on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is filled with water.
(10) On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will seek Him, and His resting place will be glorious.
(11) On that day the Lord will extend His hand a second time to recover–from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west–the remnant of His people who survive.
(12) He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; He will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
- Fausset, A.R. (1998), Fausset’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
- Wilson, R. Dick (1996), “Artaxerxes,” International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).