St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“THE BOOK OF TWELVE (The Minor Prophets: Zechariah)”
Group Leader / Handouts: Mike Kreutzer, Rector
Sunday, April 30, 2006
The Book of the Twelve — Adult Forum Notes
Chapters 1-8 are from “First Zechariah,” the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the priest (cf. Nehemiah 12:16); he is mentioned along with Haggai in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Chapters 9-14 (“Second” and “Third Zechariah”) come from the Greek period.
Zechariah was probably among the Zadokite priests who had been in exile.
Zechariah’s words come from the same time as Haggai’s: beginning in the second year of Darius (520). They probably overlap as well the authors of III Isaiah (Is. 56-66).
Zechariah’s literary style is completely different from that of Haggai. He uses night visions and dialogues between God, himself and an interpreting angel to deliver his message. In doing so, he utilizes the form and style of Jewish apocalyptic literature. He message dates between 520 and 518.
2:13 sounds the theme: “Be silent, all people, before the LORD; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” The ruler of the universe has set out on a new course of action.
1:1-6 an introduction
1:7 – 2:13 Section 1 good news of the coming of a new age and the reelection of Jerusalem
3:1 – 6:15 Section 2 authority in the new age
7:1 – 8:19 Section 3 the nature of life in the new age
8:20-23 a concluding oracle
1:1-6 an introduction; The people lived in the midst of all the destruction that had taken place nearly 70 years earlier. The nation had lost its independence. The people now lived in poverty and fear and uncertainty; and they wondered where God was. Was God really in control of history? Zechariah points to their surroundings and tells them that all that has happened was not because God was absent, but because God was present and because God did exactly what he said he was going to do.
1:4 quotes Jeremiah (18:11, 25:5, 35:15); In accordance with Deuteronomy (28:15-68), God destroyed the nation that abandoned him.
On February 15, 519, about 3 ½ months after his initial preaching (1:1) and two months after Haggai’s final oracle (Hag. 2:20-23), Zechariah received a series of eight visions.
1:7 – 2:13 Section 1
Vision One 1:7-17
1:11 The earth is supposedly “at peace” but it is not God’s peace. The nations are in control, and God’s people are suffering and oppressed. (They are saying, “’Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” – Jer. 614 and 8:11)
1:12 The angel intercedes for Judah. God has said that he will punish them for 70 years. Counting from the first exile (597), 70 years have come and gone. The plea is based on God’s own promise to restore them after that time.
1:13 The Lord replies “with gracious and comforting words.” (cf. Is. 40:1 ff.)
1:17 God’s plan for his people from the beginning: “again…, again…, again…)
Vision Two 1:18-21
1:18 “horns” = symbols of strength; not four nations, but perhaps the nations from the four corners of the earth who have attacked and destroyed Judah
“blacksmiths” = representative of God’s strength which strikes down those who are raised up
Vision Three 2:1-5
A man is measuring where Jerusalem’s walls were in the past in order to begin rebuilding. But “another angel” comes to Zechariah’s interpreting angel and tells him that the glory of the coming Jerusalem will be far greater than the old one could hold. So many people will live there that walls cannot contain them. The old, physical walls had not protected the city, but its new “wall,” who is God himself, will be their true protection.
Oracle One 2:6-9
God calls on those in exile, wherever they may be (“the land of the north”), to return to Jerusalem before God destroys Judah’s enemies.
Oracle Two 2:10-12
God will return to a restored Jerusalem and its temple. A new twist in this oracle is that, contrary e.g. to Vision 2 and Oracle 1, many people of other nations will join themselves to God’s covenant people.
2:13, the conclusion to section 1
The people’s response is silence, waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
3:1 – 6:15 Section 2
Vision Four 3:1-7
In a vision of the heavenly court, Joshua the high priest is on trial, representative of all the Zadokite priests. Satan accuses him of unfaithfulness to the torah. God, who has delivered him from exile, forgives him. He calls him to live in accordance with the law and gives him the right to decide who may enter the presence of God.
Oracle Three 3:8-10
Joshua and the priests who are with him are signs of what is to come. God makes three promises: in the fullness of the new age, God’s “Branch” will come to rule over the people; an enigmatic seven-faced stone will be set before Joshua; and God will engrave the stone as a sign of Joshua’s sacred role among the people.
Vision Five 4:1-14
In a very confusing vision, God promises to make the restored Israel and its leader, Zerubabbel, prosperous. The image of the “lampstand” seems to be based on columns that have been found. It is topped with a large bowl, surrounded by seven lamps. Each lamp has seven lips for wicks; therefore, there are 49 lights. It is fed oil by the olive trees. It is a symbol of God’s presence and of God’s blessing and light poured out on Israel. The key to the vision is verse 6: “not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”
Vision Six 5:1-4
A giant scroll (c. 10 yards by 5 yards) carries curses on the corrupt practices in Judah. Third Isaiah blames the Zadokite priests for this corruption.
Vision Seven 5:5-11
Wickedness personified is picked up in a large basket and taken to the land of Shinar: Babylon, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, where it can work its evil ways. The people of Israel are delivered from it.
Vision Eight 6:1-8
This final vision is parallel to Vision One (1:7-17) where a false peace exists on the earth. Here, in contrast, God’s true rule over all the earth is established, culminating in the “north”: the symbolic source of all evil.
A Prophetic, Symbolic Action 6:9-15
Zechariah approaches three recently returned exiles and goes with them to a fourth (apparently a metal worker) to make a crown for Joshua, who temporarily wears it as a sign of God’s coming Messiah. There he pronounces a five-part oracle: the Messiah (“Branch”) will come; he shall come from Israel; he shall build the lasting temple of the Lord; he shall sit and rule on the throne; he shall serve both as ruler and high priest.
7:1 – 8:23 Section 3
7:1-14 A delegation from Bethel asks for a ruling on the torah.
Since Jerusalem was destroyed (587), the people had practiced fasting four times each year: (1) on the 9th day of the 4th month, commemorating the breaching of the city walls; (2) on the 7th day of the fifth month, commemorating the destruction of the temple; (3) in the 7th month, remembering the murder of the governor, Gedaliah; and (4) 10th day of the 9th month, commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem. The delegation asks, since the temple was now being rebuilt, should they continue the second fast. Zechariah does not directly answer their question, but points instead to a much more important issue: faithfulness in living out the entire law in the people’s lives. (The oracle in 8:18-19 will directly answer the question about all four fasts.)
8:1-8 a series of oracles
Here is a collection of brief oracles, each introduced by “Thus says the LORD of hosts…” They picture the kingdom of God in terms of very old people sitting around talking while children play in the streets with no one to bother them.
8:9-19 three oracles: 9-13 speaks of the reversal of God from curses to blessings;14-17 assures the people that God keeps his word; and 18-19 replaces the four annual fasts with feasting.
8:20-23 a concluding oracle
God’s kingdom is not for Israel alone, but for all the earth. Because God’s kingdom has come and the people of Israel have apparently been living in accordance with God’s law, the people of the other nations will all come to Jerusalem “for we have heard that God is with you.”
Uses of I Zechariah in the Sunday readings of The Revised Common Lectionary