St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“THE BOOK OF TWELVE (The Minor Prophets: II and III Zechariah)”
Group Leader / Handouts: Mike Kreutzer, Rector
Sunday, May 14, 2006
The Book of the Twelve — Adult Forum Notes
Chapters 9-14 make no claim to be from Zechariah and probably come from the Greek period (cf. 9:13).
(Alexander the Great’s conquests took place between 336 and 323.) These chapters appear to have been written by unknown authors living sometime during the fourth and third centuries, but it is impossible to pinpoint their historical setting exactly.
Scholars attribute chapters 9-11 to II Zechariah, and chapters 12-14 to a III Zechariah, although both sections seem to be a compilation of material from multiple authors. Some of the material may be from the time of I Zechariah.
(Elizabeth Achtemeier, p. 107, suggests that chapters 9-14, along with the book of Malachi, were added to an earlier collection of the prophets in order to bring the number to 12.)
As for the authors, the same commentator says (page 146): “These are not supporters of the Zadokite priestly party, nor have they been in exile, as was the author of I Zechariah. These are members of the prophetic reform group who remained in the land during the time of exile and who fought the battle of purifying Israelite religious life and leadership after the return of the exiles to Jerusalem and Judah.”
In place of I Zechariah’s call to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, II and III Zechariah warn of the coming of universal warfare and the siege of Jerusalem. They may be from dispirited disciples of I Zechariah. The images of a “Prince of Peace and of a “Good Shepherd” smitten for the flock are used by New Testament authors in reference to Jesus.
I Zechariah spoke about the coming of the Kingdom of God as comforting and effortless. II and III Zechariah arise from a realization that it is not that easy. The Kingdom of God — which is to be on this earth, not separated from the world in which we live —will come only through the struggles and suffering of the faithful.
9:1-17 This section begins with a description, not of historical battles, but of the final victory of God for Israel. Verses 1-4 picture God’s victory over the cities to the north, thereby extending Israel’s territory even farther than it had been under David. Verses 5-6 portray a victory over Israel’s historical enemies in Philistia.
1-8 and 11-17 picture a warrior God, such as the one pictured in Exodus and other places. In some of the prophets (e.g. Jer. 4 and Ez. 13), God is a warrior against Israel; the “war” ceases in Is. 40:2. This image is picked-up in the New Testament by Mark 13:24-27 and in the Armageddon scene in Rev. 16-19. It provides the image of a God who is in control of history and who actively works to defeat evil.
Verses 9-10 picture the coming of a messianic king. He is “triumphant” and “victorious” (lit. “saved” by the warrior God who has won the victory); the image intended here may be of one who has been declared righteous by God. Since this will be God’s doing, not the messiah’s, he will be “humble”.
He comes “riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” This is a case of poetic parallelism: only one animal is intended. (Mt. 21:7 misunderstands this and has Jesus somehow riding on two animals at the same time!) Genesis 49:7 pictures a future ruler from the tribe of Judah who rides on a donkey, and this verse in II Zechariah is patterned on the verse from Genesis.
His rule shall be greater than any in Israel’s history, from sea (Mediterranean) to sea (Persian Gulf), from the river (Wadi el Arish) to the ends of the earth.
10:1 – 11:17 The oracles of II and II Zechariah are not in any chronological (or logical) order.
Following the image of the final victory and the messianic king in chapter 9, we return now to the current state of affairs, where the leadership is corrupt and God stands in judgment. The people lack an effective shepherd, and their corrupt practices negatively affect nature itself (10:1-2).
In verse 3, God’s responds in anger to the “shepherds” and sets out himself to care for Israel. They will be like God’s warhorse. He will bring out from them and for them a cornerstone, a tent peg, a battle bow, every commander: all images of God’s decisive power working in them.
Verses 6-7 describe how God will care for them and enable them to defend themselves once again.
Verses 8-12 pictures God gathering the people from all the nations where they have been scattered, and then defeating their enemies.
11:1-3 picture God’s coming destruction of the whole earth, beginning on the mount of the Canaanite gods (in Lebanon) and moving right through Israel.
4-6 Those who are supposed to care for the “sheep” lead them to be slaughtered in order to enrich themselves.
Therefore, in verse 7-14, God sends a new shepherd to care for the sheep. They, however, reject him. He takes one of his two staffs, Favor, and breaks it, declaring by his action that the covenant between them has been broken. They try to pay him off by giving him thirty shekels of silver, which is the price of a slave who has been killed by a ox (Ex. 21:32); that’s all they think of him. He throws the money into the treasury and breaks the second staff, Unity. (Mt. 26:15 gives this as the amount of money paid Judas to betray Jesus. Mt. 27:5 pictures him throwing the money into the sanctuary before hanging himself.)
15-17 The people, who really did not want the righteous shepherd to come because he would reveal their wickedness and call them back to God, reject him. God, therefore, will give them a worthless shepherd who will take advantage of them and destroy them. That worthless shepherd will then be destroyed as well.
Chapters 12-14 add promises to II Zechariah’s words of judgment.
Its first section (12:1 – 13:6) begins (1) with poetic praise of the God of all creation. It then includes three promises:
(1) God will deliver Jerusalem and Judah from all their enemies (12:1-9). The nations will attack Jerusalem, but God will destroy them. God will then strengthen Judah and Jerusalem (8).
(2) God will pour out on Jerusalem a spirit of repentance (12:10-14). The people will recognize that they have rejected and killed their messiah. They will mourn, not only because they have offended God, but because they have destroyed their own hope in the process. Quoted in Jn. 19:37.
(3) God will cleanse the land of its idolatry and false prophets (13:1-6). God will destroy the false prophets. Those who remain will try to hide the fact that they are prophets.
The second section (13:7-9) speaks of the messianic shepherd, and of God’s works of judgment and mercy. The people have struck down God’s shepherd; therefore, they have been scattered and most of them will be destroyed. The remnant shall be purified and then returned to God.
Its third section, Chapter 14 explains how the renewed relationship between God and God’s people will come about, what that covenant relationship will be, and what implications it will have for the nations of the earth.
1-2 First, the nations will conquer Jerusalem and divide up the spoil in their streets.
3-5 Then God himself will come to fight on their behalf. He will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and split the Mount of Olives in two. These sections will move to the north and the south, opening up a great plain from the desert to Jerusalem. (5a appears to be a gloss.) That plain will be the grand entryway for the coming of God and all those who are with him.
6-8 A virtual new creation will herald the coming of God.
9 God will come and will be acknowledged as King of all the earth.
10-11 Jerusalem will be exulted. It will be inhabited and will live in security.
12-15 The covenant curses are no longer directed against Judah and Jerusalem, but against their enemies. 14a means that Judah will fight, not against Jerusalem itself, but against the enemies who have come to attack Jerusalem. The wealth of the nations shall flow in, and the enemies of Judah will be destroyed.
16-21 The remnant of the peoples will come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD and to share in the Feast of Tabernacles, in which the covenant stipulations were read, the people renewed their vows to keep the covenant, and the covenant sacrifice was offered. Even Egypt will worship the LORD and bind itself to him by covenant. On that day, all of Jerusalem shall be made holy and acceptable for the worship of the LORD.
Uses of II and III Zechariah in the Sunday readings of The Revised Common Lectionary
9:9-12 Year A, Proper 9 Nehemiah.