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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

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Commentary on Zechariah

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Commentary spanning earlier chapters

3.1–10 :

The fourth vision: Joshua's installation as high priest. This vision may have been a later addition to the vision sequence; it does not open with the question and answer exchange between Zechariah and the interpreting angel that begins the other visions.

1 :

The term Satan does not refer to the prince of evil familiar from early Christian writings. It is a common noun, not a name, in Hebrew and means “adversary” or “accuser” (see note g), that member of God's heavenly court designated to bring cases against individuals (Job 1.6 ).

2 :

A brand plucked from the fire refers to someone who has survived God's judgment of Israel and Judah (Am 4.11 ).

3–5 :

The reclothing of Joshua symbolizes his sanctification for priestly office (Lev 8.6–9 ).

7 :

My house is the Temple * in Jerusalem.

8 :

My servant and the Branch are royal titles used of the Davidic dynasty * (2 Sam 7.5; Jer 23.5 ) and may be used here of Zerubbabel ( 4.6–10a; Hag 2.23 ), governor of Judah and a member of the Davidic family.

9 :

The seven-faceted stone and its inscription are images of royalty (2 Sam 12.30; 2 Kings 11.12 ).

4.1–14 :

The fifth vision: The golden lampstand and Judah's leadership. This vision may originally have been the central vision in a seven-vision sequence.

2 :

The lampstand (Heb., “menorah”) in the Temple * is unusually elaborate and difficult to describe, though it is related to the lampstand in the tabernacle * (Ex 25.31–37 ). The bowl may have contained the oil for the lamps, and the lips held the lamps' wicks.

3 :

Images of trees adorned the walls of Solomon's Temple (1 Kings 6.29 ).

6–10a :

This speech to Zerubbabel, encouraging him in the rebuilding of the Temple (Hag 2.1–4; Ezra 5.1–2 ), interrupts the vision narrative * and may be a later addition.

10b :

The vision narrative resumes with the explanation that the seven lamps represent God's eyes, watching the entire earth.

14 :

The anointed * ones, symbolized in the vision by the two olive trees (vv. 3, 11 ), represent Judah's leadership, shared by a religious figure (the high priest Joshua; 3.1–10 ) and by a political figure (Zerubbabel; 4.6–10a ).

5.1–4 :

The sixth vision: The flying scroll and social justice. The scroll's flight indicates that the power of its message covers the whole land.

3–4 :

The two crimes mentioned in the scroll's text are theft and deceit in official transactions (swearing falsely), two of the ten commandments (Ex 20.7, 15 ). Why these two are singled out is not stated, but they represent the elimination of corruption from Judean society, the theme of the next vision as well.

6.1–8 :

The eighth vision: The heavenly chariots and international peace. In this, Zechariah's final vision, as in his first vision ( 1.7–17 ), the world is at peace, but now that peace includes the restoration of Judah and Jerusalem among the nations.

1–3 :

These four chariots parallel the four horsemen in Zechariah's first vision ( 1.8–10 ) and represent God's heavenly patrol (v. 7 ) assigned to watch over the world's affairs. Mountains signify the abode of the gods in antiquity (Ps 48.1 ).

8 :

The chariot patrol that sets God's spirit at rest in the north country thereby establishes the security of Judah on the international scene. It was from the north that Judah's enemies attacked (Jer 6.22 ), and it was from the north that Judah's exiles returned from captivity in Babylon (Jer 3.18 ).

10.6–12 .

6–7 :

The house of Joseph and Ephraim are references to the northern kingdom of Israel.

10 :

Egypt and Assyria are two of the countries to which Israelites were exiled (2 Kings 17.5–6; 25.26 ). Gilead and Lebanon are territories to the north of Israel.

13.1–9 :

God removes false prophets and leaders. This text, like 11.4–17 , focuses on corruption within Judah itself, especially among its leaders.

2–3 :

The prophets whose writings have been preserved in the Bible often find themselves in conflict with other prophets preaching opposite messages (Jer 14.14; Ezek 13.1–7 ). Here the prophet accuses his opponents of preaching lies in the name of the L ORD and announces God's judgment on them. The unclean spirit (or “breath”) is the source of the prophets' false inspiration or revelation (1 Kings 22.19–23 ).

7 :

The judgment on Judah's shepherd resumes the criticism of Judah's leadership in 11.4–17 .

8–9 :

The division of Judah into thirds for punishment is reminiscent of Ezekiel's prophecy ( 5.1–12 ). But here the prophet concentrates on a third that, though punished, will survive and renew their relationship to God.

14.1–21 :

God defeats the nations and restores Jerusalem. Speeches such as this one describing the defense and restoration of Jerusalem in the context of God's intervention against the neighboring nations that have oppressed it are common in the period after the Exile, * as chs. 9, 10, and 12 illustrate (Isa 59.15–20; Joel 3 ).

1 :

The plunder once taken from Jerusalem will be returned.

2 :

This is the only verse in the chapter that describes judgment, rather than restoration, for Jerusalem. The prophet either anticipates a coming judgment on Jerusalem's corrupt leadership ( 11.4–17; 13.2–9 ) or recalls the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE.

4–5 :

The citizens of Jerusalem will escape God's attack on the nations by fleeing east through a great rift in the Mount of Olives, which in reality towers over the city of Jerusalem.

1.1–6 :

Zechariah's opening speech. Zechariah's visions ( 1.7–6.8 ) are introduced and concluded (chs. 7–8 ) by speeches in which Zechariah urges his listeners to embrace the social responsibilities and just behavior preached by the prophets * before him.

1 :

Zechariah's opening and closing speeches ( 1.1; 7.1 ), together with his visions ( 1.7 ), are dated. The second year of Darius (522–486 BCE) is 520 BCE, the same year in which Haggai preached (Hag 1.1; 2.1, 10 ).

4 :

The former prophets are Zechariah's predecessors who preached before the fall of Jerusalem. Zechariah quotes words similar to Jeremiah's (Jer 25.5 ).

1.7–17 :

The first vision: The heavenly horsemen and God's plans for Jerusalem. This is the first of eight visions that make up the core of Zechariah's prophecy.

7 :

The chronological notice dates the entire vision complex three months later than Zechariah's opening speech, or early in 519 BCE.

8 :

These horsemen are God's heavenly patrol, keeping watch over the world's affairs (v. 10 ). The significance of the horses' colors is uncertain, but the number four represents totality.

11 :

Peace in this case is undesirable, since the plight of Jerusalem remains unchanged.

12 :

The Babylonian exile lasted only 50 years (587–538 BCE), not seventy, but Jeremiah mentions a 70-year period of servitude to Babylon (Jer 25.11–12 ), to which Zechariah may be referring.

16 :

The rebuilding of the Temple * is the central concern of Zechariah's contemporary Haggai.

1.18–21 :

The second vision: The four horns and Judah's security.

18 :

The horn, a symbol of power (Ps 18.2 ), represents the strength of the nations that have conquered and exiled the Israelite people. The number four probably represents totality rather than specific countries.

20–21 :

The four blacksmiths strike off the horns, thus putting an end to the power of the nations to dominate Judah.

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