Superscription, introduction, and call to repentance. The text assumes that the words of the earlier prophets are available and are being studied.
The month is Marḥeshvan, in fall 520 BCE. This divine communication is set slightly later than those reported in Hag. 1.1, 15; 2.1
, but slightly earlier than those in Hag. 2.10, 20
. This temporal note suggests to the readers of the book that they are supposed to read
in the light of the texts in Haggai and vice versa.
He purposed may also be understood as “He considered [doing],” thereby conveying a conditional element from the outset in God's plans:
If the (monarchic period) Israelites had heard their prophets, the punishment would not have come.
Reports of eight visions. The visions are described in graphic, and highly symbolic, detail, as are most apocalyptic visions. The “tour” by an angelic
being is also typical of apocalypse, as is the use of specific numbers. Unlike most later apocalyptic visions, however, the
mediating angel is here anonymous.
The first vision: the horsemen.
Within the world of the present book, this date seems to apply to
, i.e., the entire series of eight visions. The date is just two months after the divine communications in Hag. 2.10, 20
. Given the closeness of the dates, and the similarity of the basic themes and of the formula itself, it seems that the readers
of the book are supposed to read these two texts as informing each other; see also Ezra 5.1; 6.14
The term angel here and elsewhere in the book (e.g., vv. 11, 12, 4.1, 5.10
) may be translated as “messenger,” in the sense of a divine messenger. Is this messenger the same man mentioned in these verses, as Ibn Ezra and others think? Or, are these two beings, one a “man” and the other a “messenger”?
The text itself leaves the question open.
Tranquility carries here a negative connotation, because it is associated with a status quo in which Judah and Jerusalem have not been
restored. The implicit connotation is that their (full) restoration necessitates much turmoil and probably judgment against
the nations (see v. 15 and cf. ch 14
). Some scholars associate this tranquility with the imperial peace achieved by Darius I in his second year, though the point
is not made in the text. Darius plays no active role whatsoever in the book of Zechariah.
Seventy years is a clear reference to Jer. 25.11
), another clear indication that prophetic works were being studied at this period. That text also plays a crucial role in
Dan. ch 9
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