Zechariah 1 – “God’s Plea; Zechariah’s Night Vision”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God urges the people to return to him, Zechariah sees a man with supernatural horses, and an angel convinces God to rebuild the temple.

II. Photo
Zechariah has a night vision: “In the night, I had a vision. I saw a man, mounted on a bay horse, standing among the myrtles in the deep.” (v. 8a)

III. Selected Verses
1: In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, this word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo.
3b-4: Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Turn back to me — says the LORD of Hosts — and I will turn back to you — said the LORD of Hosts. Do not be like your fathers! For when the earlier prophets called to them, “Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Come, turn back from your evil ways and your evil deeds, they did not obey or give heed to Me — declares the LORD.
12-13: Thereupon the angel of the LORD exclaimed, “O LORD of Hosts! How long will You withhold pardon from Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, which You placed under a curse seventy years ago?” The LORD replied with kind, comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
16-17: Assuredly, thus said the LORD: I graciously return to Jerusalem. My House shall be built in her — declares the LORD of Hosts — the measuring line is being applied to Jerusalem. Proclaim further: Thus said the LORD of Hosts: My towns shall yet overflow with bounty. For the LORD will again comfort Zion; He will choose Jerusalem again.”

IV. Outline

1-6. Oracle
    1. Superscription
    2. God’s anger at the fathers
    3-6. Plea for the people to return to God, unlike their fathers
7-17. Vision report
    7. Superscription
    8-11. A man with horses that roam the earth
    12. An angel petitions God about Jerusalem
    13. God comforts the angel
    14-15. Oracle: God is angry for Jerusalem
    16-17. God will rebuild the temple and Jerusalem

V. Comment
The book of Zechariah can be broken into two units, chapters 1-8 and 9-14, and some scholars call these sections First and Second Zechariah. While little is known about the man Zechariah, we are told that he prophesied during the second year of Darius (=520 BCE). This is corroborated by the book of Ezra: “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, inspired by the God of Israel.” (Ezra 5:1) Similarly, Ezra 6:14-15 says: “So the elders of the Jews progressed in the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia. The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.”

Chapter 1 begins with an oracle asking the people to return to God, and concludes with a vision report. Zechariah, who is accompanied by an angel, sees a man with horses who travel around world. Collins notes that Zechariah, who prophesied at the beginning of the Persian period, can be viewed as a “link” between the early prophets and the apocalyptic writers of the late and post biblical periods: “These visions are innovative in another respect: they are interpreted for the prophet by an angel (who is often called ‘the interpreting angel or angelus interpres in modern scholarship). There is some precedent for this kind of vision in the book of Amos, where the Lord asks Amos what he sees and then explains it to him (e.g., Amos 8:1-2, where a basket of summer fruit symbolizes the ‘end’ that is coming on Israel). Zechariah visions are more elaborate than those of Amos, but less elaborate than what we will find in the later apocalyptic visions of the book of Daniel. It may be significant that symbolic visions of this kind are also known in Persian tradition.  (In the Bahman Yasht, Zoroaster sees a tree with metal branches, which is explained to hum by the god Ahura Mazda.) It is possible that Zechariah’s visions reflect Persian influence, but the point cannot be proven. In any case, the introduction of the interpreting angel is a significant innovation in the Hebrew prophetic tradition. With respect to their literary form the visions of Zechariah may be said to mark a transitional stage between the visions of the older prophets and the later apocalyptic writers.” (405)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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