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The Prophet Zechariah and Modern Criticism: David Baron

June 26, 2014 1 comment

The book of Zechariah, especially the last few chapters, often is mentioned as being a challenge for non-futurists and non-premillennialists.  A recent online conversation among a group of preterist amillennialists, for example, involved people citing various commentaries in support of various “spiritual” or allegorical ideas not related to the specific text itself.

David Baron’s Zechariah commentary, written nearly 100 years ago, shows that nothing is new in biblical commentary and criticism. Here is a look at this rather interesting issue, the various “interpretations” of higher criticism and the idea that Zechariah chapters 9 through 14 were not authored by Zechariah.

Before the modern liberal thought, 17th century Joseph Mede argued for pre-exilic authorship and attributed chapters 9 through 14: to justify inerrancy of the reference in Matthew 27:9-10, which ascribes a prophecy in Zechariah 11 to Jeremiah. And proceeding from this point of view, he discovered, as he thought, internal proof that these chapters belonged not to Zechariah’s, but to Jeremiah s time. He was followed by Hammond, Kidder, Newcome, etc. Here Baron considers the possibility that the mistake occurred with the transcribers of Matthew’s Gospel – rather than the Jewish Church making a mistake in their canon of scripture.

The more serious, unbelieving criticism came later, in the era of “modern criticism.” Like the claims of a “deutero Isaiah” and other anonymous writers who added to the original prophets’ writings, this comes from the root of naturalism and an anti-supernaturalist presupposition, the idea that it is not possible for a human writer to so well predict the future.

reading the many, and for the most part conflicting opinions of modern writers on this question, one is struck with the truth of Keil’s remarks, that the objections which modern critics offer to the unity of the book (and the same may be said also of much of their criticism of other books of the Bible) do not arise from the nature of these scriptures, but “partly from the dogmatic assumption of the rationalistic and naturalistic critics that the Biblical prophecies are nothing more than the productions of natural divination; and partly from the inability of critics, in consequence of this assumption, to penetrate into the depths of the divine revelation, and to grasp either the substance or form of their historical development so as to appreciate it fully.”

All operating from the same naturalist presupposition, the various writers come up with several different ideas, with their only thing in common their rejection of the obvious, their insistence that it could not have been written by the prophet Zechariah. Some say it was written by someone during the later, post-Zechariah, post-exile time period (anywhere from 500 to 300 B.C.), while others give it a pre-exile date as in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s time. S. Lewis Johnson’s observation so well applies here: “When we lack the will to see things as they really are, there is nothing so mysterious as the obvious. David Baron well points out the problem with the pre-exilic view:

it must be pointed out that the prophecy, had it preceded the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, could not have been earlier than the reign of Jehoiakim, since the mourning for the death of Josiah is spoken of as a proverbial sorrow of the past. But in that case the prophecy which ” anticipates” a miraculous interposition of God for the deliverance of Jerusalem would have been in direct contradiction to Jeremiah, “who for thirty-nine years in one unbroken dirge predicted the evil” which should come upon the city; and the inventive prophet would have been “one of the false prophets who contradicted Jeremiah, who encouraged Zedekiah in his perjury, the punishment whereof Ezekiel solemnly denounced, prophesying his captivity in Babylon as its penalty ; he would have been a political fanatic, one of those who by encouraging rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar brought on the destruction of the city, and in the name of God told lies against God.

It is such an intense paradox that the writing of one convicted by the event of uttering falsehood in the name of God, incorrigible even in the thickening tokens of God s displeasure, should have been inserted among the Hebrew prophets, in times not far removed from those whose events convicted him, that one wonders that any one should have invented it. Great indeed is the credulity of the incredulous!

The full chapter goes into great detail concerning the views of many scholars of that time, and their flawed reasoning. David Baron provides a good summary of those who stand on the shaky ground of human wisdom:

But there is truth in the remark that “Criticism which reels to and fro in a period of nearly 500 years, from the earliest of the prophets to a period a century after Malachi, and this on historical and philological grounds, certainly has come to no definite basis, either as to history or philology. Rather, it has enslaved both to preconceived opinions; and at last, as late a result as any has been, after this weary round, to go back to where it started from, and to suppose these chapters to have been written by the prophet whose name they bear.”

Zechariah, Jude, and the Body of Moses

April 30, 2014 Leave a comment

From David Baron’s commentary on Zechariah, an interesting note concerning the book of Jude: its reference to the body of Moses, and reference to Zechariah 3.

My only previous acquaintance with Jude’s mention of Michael and the devil arguing over the body of Moses (Jude 9), was a passing comment from an online Bible teacher  who noted this passage as possible support for Moses being one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 (uncertainty concerning whether Moses actually physically died).  But for more in-depth consideration, David Baron addresses Jude 9, its possible meaning and reference to Zechariah 3:1-2:

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee : is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

Some of the church fathers, including Origen, state that the quotation in Jude is from an apocryphal book, the title of which is “The Ascension,” or “Assumption of Moses.” Yet Baron observes that no such account is to be found in our partial fragments of these works, or any indication that such exists in the parts of the book that are missing, that we no longer have.  Here it is possible that the early writers were thinking of other legendary accounts of contests between Moses himself and the Angel of Death, whom he put to flight when he came to take his soul by striking him with his rod, on which the ineffable name Jehovah was inscribed. In the end (so one legend proceeds) “God Himself, accompanied by Gabriel, Michael, and Zagziel (the former teacher of Moses), descended to take Moses soul.  Gabriel arranged the couch, Michael spread a silken cover over it, and Zagziel put a silken pillow under Moses head. At God s command Moses crossed his hands over his breast and closed his eyes, and God took his soul away with a kiss.”

Another way to understand “the body of Moses,” though, is an allegorical sense — contrasting “the body of Christ” (that is, the Church, the New Testament age believers) with “the body of Moses” (unbelieving Jews).  Support for this view includes the point that by the time Jude was writing, the Jewish church had become quite antagonistic and hostile to the Church of Christ and heavily focused on Moses as its teacher, “a claim which might well be admitted as true in the most real sense of the Jewish Church in the days of Zechariah (C. H. H. Wright).”

Whether the “body of Moses” in Jude is to be taken allegorically or not, David Baron emphasizes that Jude certainly had the passage of Zechariah in mind:

1) the use of the formula ‘The Lord rebuke thee’

2) Jude 23:  “pulling out of the fire” — reference “the brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2)

3) “the garment stained by the flesh” — reference the “filthy garments” in which Joshua is first seen.

For further consideration of this question — sources cited by David Baron: 

Dr. C. H. H. Wright, Zechariah and his Prophecies; and Dean (Henry) Alford’s commentary note on the passage in Jude.

Zechariah’s Prophecy: Past Partial Fulfillment, but Future Complete Fulfillment

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

David Baron’s “The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah,” (full online text available here) originally published nearly a hundred years ago, shows that indeed some ideas have been around quite a while, including the Preterist/fulfillment approach to Old Testament scripture. Preterism (and the form called “partial preterism”) has enjoyed greater popularity just in the last 15 years or so, after many decades of dominant futurism in American Christianity. But David Baron’s commentary gives answer to the same question raised today — along with proper balance of interesting details concerning the past partial fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy. We can acknowledge that, indeed, a partial fulfillment or foreshadowing has occurred, recognizing what those historical events are, while understanding that the Old Testament promises have a complete fulfillment yet to occur.

But it might be as well, before proceeding further, to pause and inquire if there is any truth in the assertion that this promise has already been fulfilled … and another, who, in an able and elaborate work, which, however, is chiefly a summary of the explanations and speculations of German commentators who, with very rare exceptions, have no place at all in their theological and exegetical schemes for any future for Israel admitting that it is of the earthly Jerusalem that the words were spoken, tells us coolly that : “There is no need to suppose that the prophecy refers to a still future period, as Von Hoffmann imagines. The prophecy was fulfilled by the restoration of the city of Jerusalem under the protection of God even in troublous days.

The 19th century preterist references the details of Jerusalem’s history during the post-exilic period:

 “Though surrounded indeed by walls, Jerusalem grew so fast that a considerable number dwelt in villages outside the walls. Its population continually increased the city was noted for its splendid appearance in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus. … In the troublous times which intervened between the days of Zechariah and those of our Lord, notwithstanding the disasters which occasionally fell upon the holy city, abundant proof was given that the Lord was not forgetful of His promises, specially to shield and to protect it. The promises,” he proceeds, ” would have been fully accomplished if the people had kept the covenant committed to them, and they were accomplished in a great measure, notwithstanding their many sins.”

Also from David Baron:

A good deal is made of a letter of Aristeas, an Egyptian Jew, to Philocrates, which is referred to by Josephus in the I2th book of his Jewish Antiquities, in which a description of Jerusalem after the restoration is given; also of a fragment of Hecataeus, who lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and who describes the Jews at the time as possessing “many fortresses and towns, moreover one fortified city, by name Jerusalem, fifty stadia in circumference and inhabited by 120,000 men”; and of Josephus’ statement (see his Jewish Wars, v. 4. 2) that at the time of Herod Agrippa, “as the city grew more populous it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northwards of the temple and joined that hill to the city made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called Bezetha, to be inhabited also.” All of which, according to these interpreters, show that the glorious prophecy in Zech. 2 has been fulfilled, and has no more reference to a future period.

But to say that this wonderful prophecy was completely fulfilled in that time misses the mark and misses the depth and meaning of the great words of the actual prophecy. Here are the two major reasons why the prophecy (Zechariah 2) cannot be limited to the past event, and speak of a future fulfillment:

1.  Jerusalem is still being “trodden down of the Gentiles,” which has never ceased to be the case from the time of the Babylonian Captivity to this day. The “times of the Gentiles” began with “the withdrawal of Himself from their midst,” and the darkness of the Jewish nation since then, has not ended. That this period did not terminate with the first advent of our Lord is clear from Christ’s own prophetic forecast of future events, in which He says: “And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

2.  These beautiful words, “For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her,” are really an announcement of the return of the Glory of the Personal Presence of Jehovah to Jerusalem, and an amplification of the words in the first vision, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies.” David Baron further addressed this issue, of the departure of the Glory of God from Jerusalem (Ezekiel’s vision) and the present-day “Ichabod” period of Israel’s history (reference his work, The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew).

The Man Who Was Saved By His Good Looks

June 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A great illustration, even better in that it comes from a true story, shared by S. Lewis Johnson in his series “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History”.

A farmer related this story to a preacher, of how he had been saved by his good looks – at three scripture verses expounded by a visiting preacher who borrowed his barn for some church meetings.

The first look:  Isaiah 45:22

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.

Next, Hebrews 12:2

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Finally, at Titus 2:13

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ

We look to God to be saved (Isaiah 45), and fix our eyes upon Jesus our redeemer.  And we look ahead to the blessed hope, the eager anticipation of our Lord’s Return.  Such a great thought of what is involved with each of us in our own salvation. It’s also a great picture of that glorious future day, referenced in Zechariah 12:10 when the people of Israel “shall look upon me whom they have pierced” and be brought to salvation.

The full story as related by S. Lewis Johnson:

Mr. Wildish told a story once of, it was recorded in a book of biblical illustrations about walking over the fields with an Englishman who was an old farmer, he said he was a fine man, had a cheerful face and twinkling eyes.  He was proud of his land, he kept pointing out the cows and crops, and suddenly, he turned to me and he said, “You know, I was saved by my good looks.”  And Mr. Wildish laughed and he said, “Well you’ve got to tell me how you were saved by your good looks.”  He said, “Well it was like this,” he said, “you know, you can see my farm and my cattle and everything else,” he said. “An evangelist came to town some years ago and asked if he could use my barn.  And I wasn’t using it at the time and so I agreed to let him use the barn, and after he had been using it for a few days my wife said to me, ‘Why don’t you go down and take a look and see what’s happening down in the barn, you haven’t been down there.'”  And so he thought, well I’ll go down there and look at the barn.  And so when he got down there, he went in. He said the barn was full of people; they were singing heartily.  As the singing finished the preacher gave out his first text as Isaiah chapter 45, verse 22, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.”

He told Mr. Wildish that he talked about the cross, he talked about the blood that was shed, he caused me to look at Christ hanging on the cross, and caused me to understand what was transpired.  And he said, “I looked to Jesus on the cross and I proved for myself the truth of that saying, ‘Look unto me and be ye saved.'”  He said, “But then he turned to another verse and the next verse was Hebrews 12:2, ‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.'”  And so he pictured a risen savior, able to save unto the uttermost, those that come unto God by him.  And he said, “I’ll learn to look to Jesus on the throne for all of my daily needs in my Christian life.”  And finally the old man went on, “Before the preacher closed his talk that night he gave us one more wonderful verse in Titus 2:13, ‘Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.'” And he said, “What a thrill it was to hear about the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and I learned to look for the second coming of the Lord Jesus.”  When the farmer finished, Mr. Wildish said “I just put my arms around him and I said, ‘Bravo, that’s wonderful, now I understand how you were saved by your very good looks,’ looking into the face of Jesus and tasting of his great salvation.”

Zechariah 14 and God’s Divine Purpose

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve just finished S. Lewis Johnson’s series through Zechariah.  Zechariah 14 is of course one of the great OT chapters with so much to say about the Second Coming and the Kingdom.  Dr. Johnson noted the problems of spiritualizing, and the importance of recognizing the difference between figures of speech used within a passage, and wholesale allegorizing or spiritualizing to alter the meaning to something else; Zechariah 14 is an especially difficult passage to spiritualize.

Here is a great quote from him, regarding the believers and the missionaries in Korea in the early 20th century  (from the later transcript, second series in Zechariah:

C. G. Trumbull who was at one time associated with the Sunday-School Times took a trip to Korea where a tremendous work of evangelization had taken place in the early part of this century.  In fact, there was a great revival there and Mr. Trumbull was interested in the way in which they had responded to the word of God concerning the second coming of Christ.  And so, he asked one of the Koreans whether the Korean Christians believed in the second coming of Christ.  And he received this answer, “Oh, yes, they believe the Bible.  It’s only when some missionaries come and tell them something different that they begin to have any doubts.”

When one reads the Bible and reads in its normal plain speaking then, I think, the answer usually is, we sense there’s going to be some great disturbances in the future, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to come, we see that he is going to fulfill the promises that he has made to the nation Israel, and we see he’s going to rule and reign upon the earth.  That seems to be the simple reading of the word of God.

Actually, I agree that Zechariah 14 is difficult to spiritualize, and yet of course the allegorizers persist in doing so, since the imagination can come up with so much — yet such treatment leaves the text with nothing of its original plain meaning, becoming instead the inspired version of the “exalted” human teacher who tells us what God really meant to say.

Here are some great recent articles regarding Zechariah 14, from Michael Vlach:

As I’m finding out through a study through Hebrews (also with S. Lewis Johnson),  that book also has many references to the Second Coming, including the Kingdom age.  The OT scriptures quoted in chapter 1 are filled with references to the Davidic covenant and Israel’s future.  Hebrews 2 quotes Psalm 8, a great psalm regarding man’s intended dominion over the earth:  something begun in Genesis 1, but we do not now see it; we will see it in the kingdom.  S. Lewis Johnson specifically noted that in Hebrews 2:5 (which introduces the citation of Psalm 8 ) the words “the world to come” do not refer to this age (the church), and do not refer to the Eternal State, but to the kingdom of God upon the earth.

As Michael Vlach also noted in the third blog article link above:

These conditions of Zechariah 14 can only occur in an intermediate kingdom between the present age and the eternal state. While people from all nations are being saved in the church age, the nations themselves do not obey our Lord (see Psalm 2). In fact, they persecute those who belong to the Lord. In the coming kingdom Jesus will rule the nations while He is physically present on earth. The nations will obey and submit to His rule, but as Zechariah 14 points out, whenever a nation does not act as they should there is punishment. On the other hand, in the eternal state there will be absolutely no disobedience on the part of the nations. The picture of the nations in the eternal state is only positive. The kings of the nations bring their contributions to the New Jerusalem (see Rev 21:24) and the leaves of the tree of life are said to be for the healing of the nations (see Rev 22:2).

Zechariah’s Prophetic Burdens

September 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m nearing the end of S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series, and the following is an overview concerning the book’s outline and prophecies.

A basic outline of Zechariah includes:

  •     Chapters 1-6:  prophetic visions given to Zechariah during one night
  •     Chapters 7-8: answer to a question about fasting and related matters
  •     Chapters 9-14: two prophetic burdens, one in chapters 9-11, the other in chapters 12-14

Each of the burdens begins with the words “The burden of the word of the Lord.”  The first burden is “against the land of Hadrach” (Zechariah 9:1),  and the second burden “concerning Israel” (Zechariah 12:1).

The first burden’s theme includes the First Advent and the Jewish rejection of the Messiah.  It also stresses the judgment that would come on the Gentiles in Israel’s deliverance.  The second burden’s theme is the blessing that God will give them when they return to their Messiah.  It also stresses the deliverance amidst the judgments of the last days.

The First Burden:  Zechariah 9-11
Zechariah 9 begins with a prophecy about Alexander the Great (verses 1-8) followed by a contrast: Alexander the Great, versus God’s King, Christ the Lowly, in the familiar words of verse 9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

The scene changes in verse 10, shifting from the First Coming to the Second.  The next passage, verses 10-17, includes a prophecy of peace (v. 10), a prophecy of liberation beginning in verse 11, and praise for the Messiah of Israel.  We see here God’s sovereignty: for all the attempts of man to bring peace, man’s attempts at disarmament contracts and treaties, that sought after peace will never happen until God brings it to pass.  The prophecy does have some reference to the more immediate Old Testament situation (Greece), but the language goes beyond it, describing worldwide dominion (verse 10:  from sea to sea … to the ends of the earth) and “in that day,” a prophetic term used frequently throughout the Old Testament, always in connection with events at the last judgment and Second Coming.

Chapter 10 showcases the Shepherd-King amidst the climax of occultism, in the Great Tribulation period of great satanic opposition. God is mighty to save the people who have wandered because of idolatry (Zech. 10:2), without a shepherd.  Verses 8 through 10 describe the regathering of the people of Israel, who had been scattered among the nations.

Chapter 11 begins with their rule by the Romans, until verse 4, which foretells their rejection of their Messiah.  The “three shepherds also I cut off in one month” in verse 8 possibly refers to the three offices, or three groups, of leaders in Israel:  kings, priests, and prophets.  Certainly that is what happened, at the rejection of Christ, and the destruction in A.D. 70:  no more prophets in Israel (or in the church), no more priests, and the king is in heaven, not on the Earth.

Zechariah, probably in ecstatic vision, acts out the scene of Christ coming to His people and being rejected and sold for 30 pieces of silver: the price of a slave that had been gored by an ox!

The national calamity is described in several verses of chapter 11, events fully described by Josephus in the historical records.  Such a horrific judgment:  the nations disavowed them (and sold them as slaves), their leaders disavow them; the Jews turned against each other. (Zechariah 11:5) The Lord Himself turned against them and did not pity them.

Zechariah 11:15 jumps ahead to the last days, describing the false shepherd: the antiChrist, also known as the man of sin, the son of perdition, the beast, the one who makes a covenant with the people but then turns against them in the middle of that seven-year period:

a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.

The Four Gospels and Zechariah: The Branch

September 5, 2011 Leave a comment

A few interesting points from S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series and the identity of “the branch.”

Our four gospels present four different aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ, the “branch” described in the Old Testament.

  • Matthew:  Jesus as King
  • Mark:  The Servant
  • Luke:  The Son of Man
  • John:  The Son of God

We can also look in the Old Testament prophets to find these same pictures of “the branch.”

  • Jeremiah tells us of the “branch of righteousness” will come forth from David:  the King aspect   (Matthew).  Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

and

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

  • Zechariah 3:8 refers to “my servant” the branch:  (Mark)

behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.

  • In Zechariah 6:12 the branch is emphasized as “the man”   (Luke)

 

‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.

  • Isaiah 4:2 describes “the branch of the Lord,” which emphasizes the branch’s divine nature: the Son of God  (John)

In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious

Zechariah 4:10 — The Day Of Small Things

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

From Zechariah 4, a comforting thought concerning the day of small things.  The setting was such a time, a remnant of the mighty nation Israel, now back in the land and rebuilding the temple.  As noted in Ezra 3, when the foundation of the new temple was laid, some of the people wept, remembering how much greater Solomon’s temple had been.

Zechariah 4 includes the great words “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord,” followed by the encouragement of verse 10: For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.  As another saying goes, “Little is much when God is in it.”  The temple in Zerubbabel’s day was a “small thing” yet it was God’s will, and great things would later come.  Zerubbabel’s day was even a type of the age to come:  a small temple then, and several hundred years later, Christ’s “small” act of the cross, the time when He was crucified in weakness.

How often life is like that, our activity is usually in the “small things” and yet when it is in God’s will it really isn’t to be judged by our standards of “great” or lesser levels of importance.  God’s providence, His working throughout history, nearly always comes in “small things.”  In my recent Bible genre readings, I read Zechariah at the same time as the book of Esther, another great example of God’s providence in the details.

S. Lewis Johnson, teaching Zechariah 4 in 1967, could give direct application to the situation with Believer’s Chapel, which at that time was a “small thing,” apparently a small group of people who did not yet even have a church building (then under construction).  Yet God was in that too, a ministry that has since helped countless people, both at that church and those of us who benefit from the online sermon collection.  Certainly the same can be said of many other great ministries and missionary efforts, that began as small things.

Reasons for Anti-Semitism: From S. Lewis Johnson

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson, in his Zechariah series (1967) discussed anti-Semitism, listing seven reasons why it exists:

1.  Hatred of Israel’s God
2.  Penal judgment of God:  for their rejection of Him in the 1st century.
3.  National discipline of God:  discipline that will ultimately bring them to Him
4.  Jews’ pride and self-righteousness:  a characteristic trait.
Leviticus 26:19 contains a specific prediction about the Jews’ pride:  I will break the pride of your power
5.  Gentile jealousy of Jewish excellency:   The Jews’ excellency in economics, science, art, music, finance.  Jews are better educated: three times as many Jews go to college as non-Jews.
6.  Jewish Separation:  Produces Xenophobia.  We don’t like people that are different.
Here reference Baalam’s prophecy, that they shall dwell alone.  (Numbers 23:9)
7.  Jewish political liberalism, philosophical radicalism
Yet we must consider here, that this has often been the product of anti-semitic, reactionary conservative control, especially in Russia, where they were forced into the political underground as their only hope (in the natural realm).

More detail and history lies back of these seven reasons.  For instance, number 2 — Penal judgment of God: the Christian Church (the visible one, the Roman Catholic Medieval Church) went far beyond the truth, including forced baptisms and other crimes against the Jews.  Just as the nations in Zechariah’s day punished the Jews yet went far beyond God’s intention in how they treated them, so the visible Christian church went beyond God’s intention for His discipline of them.

How should we look at Genesis 12:3, the statement to Abraham that “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.”?  This does not mean that people cannot criticize an individual Jew, for that individual Jew’s own faults, or that to do so brings judgment from God.  After all, the Bible says if you persecute anybody, if you curse anybody, you can expect divine judgment.   Genesis 12:3 is something different, that has special reference to the religious side of the promises: their future and their land.

From S. Lewis Johnson:

Now, the man who curses Israel is the man who says Israel has no future; the man who curses Israel is the man who says Israel has no covenant; the man who curses Israel is the man who says that Israel has no divine relationship to God which shall ultimately issue in a Messiah who shall die for Israel, and in the land promises ultimately fulfilled to them with the kingdom of God upon the Earth.  That is the man who is guilty of cursing the Jew.  It is the religious side of things that is referred to there. … if we ever should say that Israel has no future; that Israel has not promise; that Israel has not land; that Israel has nothing, we will drive them into the sea as the Assyrians and Egyptians are saying today, and they will not exist as a nation:  then we are guilty of transgressing the promise of Genesis 12.  And down through the years the nations that have done that have discovered the judgment of God.  The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the ancient Romans, the Germans, the Spanish and right down to the present day and they shall.

Was Zechariah the Prophet Martyred?

August 4, 2011 2 comments

I’ve started S. Lewis Johnson’s Zechariah series, and for additional study recently read MacArthur’s notes (MacArthur Bible Commentary) introduction.  One rather surprising item was MacArthur’s note that this Zechariah was martyred, since Jesus mentions Zechariah the son of Berechiah in Matthew 23.  I also remember from S. Lewis Johnson’s Matthew series, a brief mention of that passage and reference to the Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24.  In considering the overall history pre- and post-exile, MacArthur’s note just seemed odd, in that it basically says that there were two men with the same name Zechariah, and both were martyred in the very same manner.

I also consider the overall time periods: the idolatrous pre-exile period of King Joash, as contrasted with the attitude of the remnant in the days of the chapters in Ezra’s book along with parallel material in Haggai.  Haggai’s prophecies in 520 B.C., a few months before the prophecy of Zechariah, were received favorably and achieved the desired result: the people resumed and completed building the second temple.  Zechariah’s prophecy followed up a few months later, in 519 B.C., a favorable prophecy to encourage the remnant concerning the future, that God is still concerned about Israel and still has a great future for them.  Nothing in Zechariah’s prophecy, or in any of the other post-exilic writings, indicates that the post-exile people were still idolatrous and murderous in the manner of the earlier time.  Instead, only a relatively small number of them had returned (about 50,000 at the time of Haggai and Zechariah), and they were very conscious of their past sins, and more prone to discouragement, to build their own homes first.  All of the people faced persecution and opposition during this time, from the surrounding non-Jewish people: not exactly the time when Jews would be turning on their own prophets who were giving them a favorable message — and besides, the temple was only then being rebuilt, so how could Zechariah the prophet be killed in such a structure?  Yes, Stephen in Acts 7 declares to his generation “which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” and yet the post-exile period seems to be one of the rare exceptions, of prophets who gave messages that the people did respond to.  Before and after this period, the people were more secure in their location, not a small remnant oppressed by outsiders, and thus more inclined and able to persecute and kill the prophets.

But what of Jesus’ remark in Matthew 23:35, concerning “the blood of Abel.. to Zechariah the son of Berechiah”?  Some debate exists as to the actual names in the original manuscripts, and it is common enough to find Old Testament characters given more than one name, or even for generations to be skipped, such that the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles could easily have been a grandson of Jehoida.  Nothing in Jesus’ statement itself proves that this had to be Zechariah the prophet.

The reference to the Zechariah of 2 Chronicles makes much more sense when we also realize that the Jewish scriptures are  arranged differently than our Old Testament (see this link for the actual sequence), and 2 Chronicles (the full book of Chronicles actually) is the last book in the Jewish collection.  Thus, a reference to “Abel … to Zechariah” covers everything from the first book to the last book of the Jewish Bible: from Genesis to Chronicles, NOT Genesis to Malachi.

S. Lewis Johnson explained it thus, in his Matthew series:

Now let me say just a word about verse 35.  You’ll notice that our Lord looks back over the whole of the Old Testament, and beginning with Abel, the first of those murdered in the Bible, then on to Zacharias son of Barachias, slain between the temple and the altar (the account of which is given us in 2nd Chronicles).  And do you remember perhaps that in the Hebrew Old Testament the last book of the Bible is 2nd Chronicles?   For them the order of books is different from the order in our English text, so that what our Lord has done is to begin in the first of the murders in the book of Genesis and has ranged through the whole of the Scriptures, as he knew them, to the last of those that were murdered unrighteously, Zacharias son of Barachias, and has in a sense characterized the whole of the divine revelation up to that point as being a situation in which the righteous men were crucified by the religious men.  It’s a remarkable statement, a remarkable summary of the attitude of religious men, hypocritical men to the reality of the truth of the word of God.  We can then understand very easily how he should say, “Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.”

By contrast, MacArthur’s sermon explanation (also in a Matthew series) doesn’t even mention these points, and just assumes it must be Zechariah the prophet, and that Jesus’s statement affirms that the people were always killing their prophets down to the more recent time period.

From a sampling of other commentaries I checked, John Gill’s is the most thorough on this overall question, and he notes several things including the problem of the historical time period, and agrees with S. Lewis Johnson’s view above.  An excerpt from John Gill here:

Others have been of opinion, that Zechariah the prophet is designed; and indeed, he is said to be the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, Zec 1:1 and the Jewish Targumist speaks of a Zechariah, the son of Iddo, as slain by the Jews in the temple. His words are these {a};

“as ye slew Zechariah, the son of Iddo, the high priest, and faithful prophet, in the house of the sanctuary of the Lord, on the day of atonement; because he reproved you, that ye might not do that evil which is before the Lord.”

And him the Jews make to be the same with Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, in Isa 8:2 and read Berechiah {b}: but the Targumist seems to confound Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, with him; for the prophet Zechariah was not an high priest, Joshua was high priest in his time; nor does it appear from any writings, that he was killed by the Jews; nor is it probable that they would be guilty of such a crime, just upon their return from captivity; and besides, he could not be slain in such a place, because the temple, and altar, were not yet built: it remains, that it must be Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, who was slain in the court of the house of the Lord,  2Ch 24:20 who, as Abel was the first, he is the last of the righteous men whose death is related in the Scriptures, and for whose blood vengeance was required, as for Abel’s. He was slain in the court of the house of the Lord; and so the Ethiopic version here renders it, in the midst of the holy house.
. . .
The chief objections to its being this Zechariah are, that the names do agree; the one being the son of Jehoiada, the other the son of Barachias; and the killing of him was eight hundred years before this time; when it might have been thought our Lord would have instanced in a later action: and this he speaks of, he ascribes to the men of that generation: to which may be replied, that as to the difference of names, the father of this Zechariah might have two names, which is no unusual thing; besides, these two names signify much the same thing; Jehoiada signifies praise the Lord, and Barachias bless the Lord; just as Eliakim and Jehoiakim, are names of the same person, and signify the same thing,  2Ch 36:4. Moreover, Jerom tells us, that in the Hebrew copy of this Gospel used by the Nazarenes, he found the name Jehoiada instead of Barachias: and as to the action being done so long ago, what has been suggested already may be an answer to it, that it was the last on record in the writings of the Old Testament; and that his blood, as Abel’s, is said to require vengeance: and Christ might the rather pitch upon this action, because it was committed on a very great and worthy man, and in the holy place, and by the body of the people, at the command of their king, and with their full approbation, and consent: and therefore, though this was not done by the individual persons in being in Christ’s time, yet by the same people; and so they are said to slay him, and his blood is required of them: and their horrible destruction was a punishment for that load of national guilt, which had been for many hundreds of years contracting, and heaping upon them.