V. The Rule of Nabonidus. The successors of Nebuchadrezzar proved weak and inefficient. His dissolute son, Amil-Marduk, was soon murdered by his brother-in-law Nergalsharuzur (Gk. Neriglissar). This ruler is probably the Nergal-sharezer of Jeremiah 39:3 who directed the final capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. After reigning four years he died, leaving the Babylonian empire to his young son, who soon fell a victim to a conspiracy of his nobles. They placed on the throne a certain Nabuna'id, who is known to the Greek historians as Nabonidus. He appeared to be more interested in excavating ancient ruins and in rebuilding old temples than in ruling his subjects. By his arbitrary religious policy and his neglect of the popular gods of the Babylonians, he completely alienated the loyalty of his people. During the latter part of his reign, which extended from 555 to 538 B.C., he left the government largely in charge of his son Belsharuzur, the Belshazzar of the story in Daniel.
VI. Rise and Conquests of Cyrus. While the Babylonian empire was sinking into decay, the Median kingdom on the north and east experienced a sweeping revolution. Its cause was the discontent of the older Median population under the rule of the more barbarous Umman-Manda. These later Scythian conquerors had, under their king Cyaxares, broken the power of Assyria and fallen heir to its eastern territory. The older elements found a leader in Cyrus, the king of Anshan, a little state among the mountains of Elam, northeast of Babylonia. From contemporary inscriptions it appears that the followers of Astyages, who succeeded Cyaxares to the Median throne, rebelled against their king and delivered him over into the hands of Cyrus. As soon as Cyrus became master of the Median Empire, he proved an able commander, a skilful politician, and a wise statesman. Recognizing that he could hold in control the diverse and turbulent elements in his heterogeneous kingdom only as he kept them actively occupied, he at once entered upon a series of campaigns which in the end left him undisputed master of southwestern Asia. In 547 B.C., two years after he became king of Media, he crossed the Tigris and conquered Mesopotamia, which had been held for a time by the Babylonians, Apparently he did not assume the title King of Persia until 546. Appreciating the great strength of Babylon, he did not at first attempt its capture, but began at once by intrigue to pave the way for its ultimate overthrow. In 545 he set out on a western campaign against Croesus, the king of Lydia, the ancient rival of Media. After a quick and energetic campaign, Sardis, the rich Lydian capital, was captured, and Cyrus was free to advance against the opulent Greek colonies that lay along the eastern shores of the Aegean. These in rapid succession fell into his hands, so that by 538 B.C. he was in a position to advance with a large victorious army against the mistress of the lower Euphrates.
VII. His Capture of Babylon. The campaigns of Cyrus were naturally watched with keen interest by the Jewish exiles in Babylonia. The songs in Isaiah 14, 15, and 21:1-10, and Jeremiah 51:29-31, voice their joyous expectation of Babylon's impending humiliation. In a contemporary inscription Cyrus has given a vivid account of the fall of the capital. Early in October of the year 538 B.C. he assembled a large army on the northern borders of Babylonia. Here a battle was fought in which the Babylonians were completely defeated. The town of Sippar quickly surrendered to Cyrus's general, and two days later the Persian army entered Babylon. The record states that the gates of the mighty city were opened by its inhabitants, and Cyrus and his followers were welcomed as deliverers. King Nabonidus was captured and banished to the distant province of Carmania, northeast of the Persian Gulf. In the words of Cyrus: "Peace he gave the town; peace he proclaimed to all the Babylonians." In the eyes of the conquered, he figured as the champion of their gods, whose images he restored to the capital city. The temples as well as the walls of Babylon were rebuilt, and the king publicly proclaimed himself a devoted worshipper of Marduk and Nebo, the chief gods of the Babylonians. Thus from the first the policy of Cyrus in treating conquered peoples was fundamentally different from that of the Babylonians and Assyrians. They had sought to establish their power by crushing the conquered rather than by furthering their well-being; but Cyrus, by his many acts of clemency, aimed to secure and hold their loyalty.
VIII. His Treatment of Conquered Peoples. Cyrus showed the same wisdom in his treatment of the many petty peoples who had been ground down under the harsh rule of Babylon. In one of his inscriptions he declares: "The gods whose sanctuaries from of old had lain in ruins I brought back again to their dwelling-places and caused them to reside there forever. All of the citizens of these lands I assembled and I restored them to their homes" (Cyrus Cyl., 31, 32). In the light of this statement it is clear that the Jews, in common with other captive peoples, were given full permission to return to their homes and to rebuild their ruined temple. The decree of Cyrus recorded in the Aramaic document preserved in Ezra 6:3-5 is apparently the Jewish version of the general decree which he issued. It is also possible that he aided the vassal peoples in rebuilding their sanctuaries; for such action was in perfect accord with his wise policy. He also intrusted the rulership of different kingdoms as far as possible to native princes. In the Greek book of I Esdras has been preserved a list (which has fallen out of the biblical book of Ezra) of those who availed themselves of Cyrus's permission to return to Palestine. It includes simply the priest Jeshua, or Joshua, the lineal heir of the early Jerusalem priestly line of Zadok, and Zerubbabel, a descendant of the Judean royal family. They doubtless took with them their immediate followers and were probably accompanied by a few exiles whose loyalty impelled them to leave the attractive opportunities in Babylon to face the dangers of the long journey and the greater perils in Palestine.
From Jeremiah 41:5 and Haggai 2:14 it appears that a rude altar had been built on the sacred rock at Jerusalem and that religious services were held on the site of the ruined temple soon after its destruction in 586 B.C. With the gifts brought back by Zerubbabel and his followers, daily sacrifices were probably instituted on the restored altar under the direction of the priest Joshua (cf. Hag. 2:10-14). In the light, however, of the oldest records it is clear that the revival of the Judean community in Palestine was gradual and at first far from glorious. The Jews were a broken-hearted, poverty-stricken, persecuted people, still crushed by the great calamity that had overtaken their nation. The general return of the exiles was only a dream of the future, and, despite the general permission of Cyrus, the temple at Jerusalem still lay in ruins.
Section XCIV. THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE
[Sidenote: Hag. 1:1-6] In the second year of Darius the king, in the first day of the sixth month, this word of Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet: Speak to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest, saying, 'Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, "This people say: The time has not yet come to rebuild the temple of Jehovah."' Then this word of Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet: Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your own ceiled houses, while this temple lies in ruins? Now therefore, thus saith Jehovah of hosts, 'Consider your past experiences. Ye sow much, but bring in little; ye eat, but ye do not have enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled; ye clothe yourselves, but not so as to be warm; and he who earneth wages, earneth wages in a bag with holes.'
[Sidenote: Hag. 1:7-11] Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, 'Consider your experiences. Go up to the mountains, and bring wood and rebuild the temple; then I will be pleased with it, and I will reveal my glory,' saith Jehovah. 'Ye looked for much, and it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I blew upon it. Why?' saith Jehovah of hosts. 'Because of my temple that lieth in ruins, while ye are running each to his own house. Therefore the heavens withhold the dew, and the earth withholdeth its fruit. And I have called forth a drought upon the land and upon the mountains, and upon the grain and the new wine and the oil and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men and animals, and upon all the labor of the hands.'
[Sidenote: Hag. 1:12-15a] Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest, with all the rest of the people, obeyed the command of Jehovah their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as Jehovah their God had sent him to them. The people also feared before Jehovah. And Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest, and the spirit of all the rest of the people, so that they came and worked on the temple of Jehovah of hosts, their God, in the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
[Sidenote: Hag. 1:15b-2:5] In the second year of Darius the king, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, this word from Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet: Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, saying, 'Who is left among you that saw this temple in its former glory? and how do you see it now? Is it not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel,' is the oracle of Jehovah; 'and be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and be strong, all ye people of the land,' is the oracle of Jehovah, 'and work, for I am with you,' is the oracle of Jehovah of hosts, 'and my spirit abideth in your midst; fear not.'
[Sidenote: Hag. 2:6-9] For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: 'Yet a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, and the precious things of all nations shall come; and I will fill this temple with glory,' saith Jehovah of hosts. 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,' is the oracle of Jehovah of hosts. 'The later glory of this temple shall be greater than the former,' saith Jehovah of hosts; 'and in this place will I grant prosperity,' is the oracle of Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Hag. 2:10-14] In the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, this word of Jehovah came by Haggai the prophet: Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: 'Ask of the priests a decision, saying, "If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any food, shall it become holy?"' And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by reason of a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai and said, So is this people and so is this nation before me, is the oracle of Jehovah; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
[Sidenote: Hag. 2:15-19] And now, I pray you, think back from this day, before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of Jehovah; how were ye? When ye came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten; when ye came to the wine vat to draw out fifty vessels, there were but twenty. I smote with blasting and with mildew and with hail all the work of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, is the oracle of Jehovah. Think back from this day, think! Is the seed yet in the granary, yea, the vine and the fig tree and the pomegranate and the olive tree have not brought forth; from this day will I bless you.
[Sidenote: Hag. 2:20-22] This word of Jehovah came the second time to Haggai in the twenty-fourth day of the month: Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, and say: 'I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those who ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, each by the sword of his brother.
[Sidenote: Hag. 2:23] 'In that day,' is the oracle of Jehovah of hosts, 'I will take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel,' is Jehovah's oracle, 'and will make thee as a seal-ring, for I have chosen thee,' is the oracle of Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Ezra 5:3-5] At that time Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them, and spoke thus to them, Who gave you permission to build this temple and to finish this wall? And who are the builders who are carrying this through? But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they did not make them cease, until a report should come to Darius and a written decision concerning it be returned.
[Sidenote: Ezra 6:1-5] Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the archives where the official documents from Babylon had been deposited. And at Ecbatana, the royal palace in the province of Media, a roll was found, and in it was thus written: A record: In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king made a decree: 'Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, where they offer sacrifices and bring him offerings made by fire; its height shall be sixty cubits, and its breadth sixty cubits. It shall be constructed with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timber; and let the expenses be paid out of the king's treasury. Also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple at Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought to the temple which is at Jerusalem, each to its place; and you shall put them in the house of God.'
[Sidenote: Ezra 6:6-12] Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and the rulers of the province beyond the River, go away from there; let the work of this house of God alone; let the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God in its place. Moreover I make a decree in regard to what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that out of the king's wealth from the tribute of the province beyond the River the expenses be exactly paid to these men, and that without delay. And whatever is needed, both young bullocks and rams and lambs for burnt-offerings to the God of heaven, also wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the direction of the priests at Jerusalem, let it be given to them day by day without fail, that they may regularly offer sacrifices of sweet savor to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and of his sons. Also I have made a decree, that whoever shall make this command invalid, a beam shall be pulled out from his house, and he shall be impaled upon it, and his house shall for this be made a refuse heap. And the God who hath caused his name to dwell there shall overthrow all kings and peoples who shall put forth their hand to make invalid the command or to destroy the house of God at Jerusalem. Exactly will it be executed.
[Sidenote: Ezra 6:13,14] Then Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did exactly as Darius the king had given command. And the elders of the Jews built and prospered. And they finished the building according to the command of the God of Israel and according to the decree of Cyrus and Darius.
I. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are the chief sources of information regarding Jewish history during the Persian period. They fall into nine general divisions: (1) the return of the Babylonian exiles and the revival of the Judean community, Ezra 1-4;
(2) the rebuilding of the temple, 5-6; (3) Ezra's expedition and the priestly reformation, 8-10, and Nehemiah 8-10; (4) Nehemiah's work in rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah 1:1-7:5; (5) census of the Judean community, 7:6-69; (6) measures to secure the repopulation of Jerusalem, 11; (7) genealogy of the priests and Levites, 12:1-26; (8) dedication of the walls, 12:27-43; and (9) Nehemiah's later reform measures, 12:44-13:31. It is evident that Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one book, and that they come from the same author as I and II Chronicles. This important fact is demonstrated by the presence of the same marked characteristics of thought and literary style in both of these books. The closing verses of II Chronicles are also repeated verbatim at the beginning of Ezra.
Throughout these books the interest is religious and ceremonial rather than civil and national. They constitute in reality a history of the Jerusalem temple and its institutions. The whole may properly be designated as the "Ecclesiastical History of Jerusalem." It traces the history of Jerusalem and the southern kingdom from the earliest times to the close of the Persian period. Its author, who is commonly known as the Chronicler, evidently lived during the earlier part or middle of the Greek period. Certain characteristics of his literary style and point of view indicate that he wrote about 250 B.C. His peculiarities and methods of writing are clearly revealed by a comparison of the older parallel history of Samuel-Kings with the books of Chronicles. In general he lacks the historical spirit and perspective of the earlier prophetic historians. He also freely recasts his record of earlier events in order to bring it into accord with the traditions current in his own day. Above all he aimed to establish the authority and prestige of the Jerusalem temple, and to prove that Jehovah "was not with Israel" (II Chron. 25:7), which was represented in his day by the hated Samaritans. The hatred engendered by the Samaritan feud explains many of the peculiarities of the Chronicler. He was, in fact, an apologist rather than a historian. Thus post-exilic institutions, as, for example, the temple song service with its guilds of singers, are projected backward even to the days of David, and the events of early Hebrew history are constantly glorified. The numbers found in the earlier, prophetic sources are magnified, and at every point it is easy to recognize the influence of the Chronicler's familiarity with the splendor and magnificence of the great Persian and Greek empires, and of his desire to inspire his fellow-Jews with national pride and with loyalty to their religious institutions.
II. The Chronicler's Conception of the Restoration. Fortunately the Chronicler did not depend entirely upon traditions current in his day, or upon his own conceptions of the early history, but quoted freely from earlier sources. As a result a large portion of the prophetic history of Samuel and Kings is reproduced verbatim in I and II Chronicles. For the Persian period, regarding which he is our chief authority, he apparently quoted from three or four documents. In Ezra 4:7-23 is found a brief description in Aramaic of the opposition of Judah's neighbors to the rebuilding of the walls, probably in the days of Nehemiah. In Ezra 5 and 6 there is another long quotation from an Aramaic document that describes a similar attempt to put a stop to the rebuilding of the temple in the days of Haggai and Zechariah. The Chronicler evidently believed that the second temple was rebuilt, not by the people of the land to whom Haggai and Zechariah spoke, but by Jewish exiles who on the accession of Cyrus had returned in great numbers from Babylon. He assumed that Judah had been depopulated during the Babylonian exile, and that the only people left in Palestine were the heathen and the hated Samaritans. He also pictures the return of the exiles, not as that of a handful of courageous patriots, but of a vast company laden with rich gifts and guarded by Persian soldiers.
A careful examination of Ezra 2, which purports to contain the list of The 42,360 exiles who returned immediately after 538 B.C., quickly demonstrates that, like its duplicate in Nehemiah 7:6-69, its historical basis, if it has any outside the fertile imagination of the Chronicler, is a census of the Judean community. This census was taken, not at the beginning, but rather at the end of the Persian period. Thus in the list of the leaders appear the names not only of Joshua and Zerubbabel, but also of Nehemiah and Ezra (Azariah). Certain leaders, such as Mordecai and Bigvai, bear Persian names which clearly imply that they lived far down in the Persian period. The family of the high priest Joshua already numbers nine hundred and ninety-three. In this census are also included the inhabitants of many towns outside Jerusalem, as, for example, Jericho, Gibeon, and Bethlehem. Moreover, certain towns are mentioned, such as Lud and Ono, which were not added to the Judean community until the latter part of the Persian period. In view of these facts and the unmistakable implications in the sermons of Haggai and Zechariah that in their day there had been no general return of their kinsmen from Babylon, the prevailing popular interpretation of this period of Israel's history is clearly untenable and misleading. If there was a general return of exiles from Babylon, it certainly did not come until after the walls had been rebuilt under the inspiring leadership of Nehemiah. The Jews to whom Haggai and Zechariah preached, and who rebuilt the second temple, were the people of the land who had survived the destruction of Jerusalem, or else had returned from their temporary refuge on the borders of the land of Egypt.
III. Convulsions in the Persian Empire. After a brilliant and successful reign Cyrus died in 529 B.C., leaving his vast empire to his son Cambyses. The new king lacked the wisdom and statesmanship of his father, but inherited his love of conquest. Most of his short reign was devoted to the conquest of Egypt. From their hill-tops the Jews doubtless witnessed the march of the great armies of Persia, and were forced to contribute to their support. It was a period of change and transition, when old empires went down in ruin and new forces gained the ascendancy.
On his return from Egypt, Cambyses, finding a pretender contending for the throne, committed suicide, thus leaving the empire without any legitimate head. During this crisis, in the autumn of 521 B.C., a Persian noble, Darius, was raised to the kingship by conspirators, who had slain the pretender. Darius claimed relationship with the Persian royal family, and strengthened his position by marrying Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus. The beginning of his reign was signalized by a series of revolts throughout the whole extent of the empire. In Susiana a certain Athrina proclaimed himself king. In Babylonia a native prince rallied his countrymen and assumed the title of Nebuchadrezzar III. The Median revolt was led by a certain Pharaortes; while among the Persians themselves a pretender, who claimed to be a son of Cyrus, gained a wide following. Fortunately for Darius there was no concerted action among the leaders of these different rebellions, so that he was able to subdue them in succession; but to the ordinary on-looker the task seemed well-nigh impossible. Not until the spring of 519 did Darius become fully master of the situation.
IV. Haggai's Effective Addresses. It was in the autumn of 520 B.C., when the rebellions in the Persian Empire were at their height, that Haggai made his stirring appeal to the members of the Judean community. From the references in his addresses and in those of his contemporary, Zechariah, it is evident that he and his hearers were profoundly influenced by these great world movements. The situation seemed to give promise not only of deliverance from Persian rule, but an opportunity at last to realize the national hopes of the Jewish race. Haggai's message was simple, direct, and practical. According to the beliefs universally accepted in his day his logic was unanswerable. On the one hand Jehovah, through poor crops and hard times, had plainly showed his displeasure with his people in Judah. The reason was obvious; although they had built comfortable houses for themselves, Jehovah's temple still lay in ruins. If they would win his favor, it was plainly their duty to arise and rebuild his sanctuary. The upheavals in the Persian Empire also gave promise that, if they were true to their divine King, he would at last fulfil the predictions voiced by their earlier prophets.
The words of Haggai, uttered in September of 520, met with an immediate response. Work was begun on the temple in October of the same year. When the energy and enthusiasm of the builders began to wane, the prophet appeared before them again in November of 520 with the declaration that Jehovah was about to overthrow the great world powers and to destroy the chariots, horses, and riders of their Persian masters, "each by the sword of his brother." He also voiced the popular expectations that centred in Zerubbabel, who had already been appointed governor of Judah. The prophet declared boldly that this scion of the house of David would be Jehovah's seal-ring, the earthly representative of that divine power which was about to work great revolutions in the history of the world. During the same period Zechariah also uttered his messages of encouragement and spurred the people on to continued efforts (Section XCV).
V. The Attempt to Stop the Rebuilding of the Temple. The Aramaic document preserved in Ezra 5 and 6 describes in detail an attempt of the Persian governor, who ruled over the province west of the Euphrates, to put a stop to the temple building. The narrative, the letter, and decrees which it contains reveal at many points their Jewish origin. While the tradition may be comparatively late, its circumstantial character favors the conclusion that it preserves the memory of a definite historical event. The action of the Jews in rebuilding their temple was in perfect accord with the policy of Cyrus and also of Darius, as is shown by contemporary inscriptions. The attempt, therefore, to stop the building of the temple failed; and in 516 B.C., four years after the work was begun, it was completed.
VI. The Significance of the Restoration of the Temple. The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple appears to have been of immediate significance chiefly to the Jews of Palestine. The Jews of Egypt, or at least those of Elephantine, had their own temple. From Zechariah 6:9-11 it is evident that the Jewish exiles in Babylon sent certain gifts to the Jerusalem temple; but the hundreds of miles of desert that intervened made communication exceedingly difficult, so that except at rare intervals there was apparently little interchange between Babylonia and Palestine. For all Jews, however, the rebuilding of the temple meant that at last they had a common rallying-place, and that Jehovah was again being worshipped by his own people at his traditional place of abode. In a sense it bridged the seventy years that had intervened since the destruction of the pre-exilic Hebrew state, and made it possible to revive the ancient religious customs. In time it attracted from the lands of the dispersion patriotic Jews whose interest was fixed upon the ceremonial side of their religious life. It also furnished a centre about which gradually grew up a hierarchy with an increasingly elaborate ritual, and a body of laws which ultimately became the characteristic features of Judaism.
Section XCV. ZECHARIAH'S VISIONS AND ENCOURAGING ADDRESSES
[Sidenote: Zech. 1:7-11] In the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month [February], in the second year of Darius [519 B.C.], this word of Jehovah came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo: I saw in the night and there was a man standing among the myrtle trees that were in the valley-bottom, and behind him there were horses, red, sorrel, and white. Then said I, O my Lord, what are these? And the angel who talked with me said to me, I will show you what these are. And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom Jehovah hath sent to go to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of Jehovah who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, We have gone up and down through the earth and behold, all the earth is still and at peace.
[Sidenote: Zech. 1:12-17] Then the angel of Jehovah answered and said, O Jehovah of hosts, how long hast thou no pity on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah with which thou hast been wroth these seventy years? And Jehovah answered the angel who was talking with me with good words, even comforting words. So the angel who was talking with me said to me, Proclaim now, 'Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. But with great wrath am I wroth with the arrogant nations; for I was only a little angry [with Israel], but they helped to make greater the calamity." Therefore, thus saith Jehovah: "I am turning to show mercy to Jerusalem; my temple shall be built in it," saith Jehovah of hosts, "and a measuring line shall be stretched over Jerusalem. Proclaim again, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: My cities shall yet overflow with prosperity; and Jehovah shall yet comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem."'
[Sidenote: Zech. 1:18, 19] Now I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and there were four horns. And I said to the angel who was talking with me, 'What are these?' And he assured me, 'These are the horns with which he scattered Judah.'
[Sidenote: Zech. 1:20, 21] Then Jehovah showed me four smiths. And I said, What are these coming to do? And he said, These are the horns which scattered Judah, so that none lifted up his head; but these are come to terrify them, to strike down the horns of the nations, which lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.
[Sidenote: Zech. 2:2-5] Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I said, Where are you going? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its breadth and length. Thereupon the angel who talked with me stood still, and another angel went out to meet him, and said to him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, 'Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of men and cattle in her midst. For I,' saith Jehovah, 'will be a wall of fire round about her, and I will be the glory in the midst of her.'
[Sidenote: Zech. 2:6-9] Ho, ho, flee from the land of the north, is Jehovah's oracle. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, is Jehovah's oracle. Ho, escape to Zion, ye who dwell in Babylon. For thus saith Jehovah of hosts to the nations which plundered you: He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of mine eye. For, behold, I am about to shake my hand over them, And they shall be a spoil to those who served them; And ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me.
[Sidenote: Zech. 2:10-13] Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for, lo, I come, And I will dwell in the midst of thee, is Jehovah's oracle. And many nations shall join themselves to Jehovah in that among day, And shall be his people, and he will dwell in the midst of thee, And thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me to thee. And Jehovah shall inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, And he shall yet comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before Jehovah; For he hath waked up out of his holy habitation.
[Sidenote: Zech. 3:1-3] Then he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of Jehovah and the adversary standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the angel of Jehovah said to the adversary, Jehovah rebuke thee, O adversary; yea, Jehovah, who hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and was standing before the angel.
[Sidenote: Zech. 3:4-5] And [the angel] answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, Take the filthy garments from off him, clothe him with robes of state; set a clean turban upon his head. So they set a clean turban upon his head, and clothed him with garments; and the angel of Jehovah was standing by.
[Sidenote: Zech. 3:6-10] And the angel of Jehovah testified to Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: 'If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou also shalt rule my house and shalt also keep my courts and I will give thee a place of access among these who stand by. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou and thy associates who sit before me; for they are men who are a sign; for behold, I am about to bring forth my servant the Branch. For, behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; upon one stone are seven facets: behold, I will engrave it,' saith Jehovah of hosts, 'and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day,' saith Jehovah of hosts, 'ye shall each invite his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.'
[Sidenote: Zech. 4:1-6] Then the angel who talked with me came again and waked me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, What seest thou? And I said, I see midst there a candlestick, all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps upon it; there are seven pipes to each of the lamps, which are upon the top of it, and two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl, and the other on its left side. And I spoke and said to the angel who talked with me, What are these, my lord? Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, The eyes of Jehovah, which rove to and fro through the whole earth.
[Sidenote: Zech. 4:11-14] Then I answered, and said to him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon its left side? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
[Sidenote: Zech. 4:6b-10] This is the word of Jehovah regarding Zerubbabel, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith Jehovah of will I make the great mountain before Zerubbabel a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stones with shoutings of, 'Grace, grace, to it.' Moreover this word of Jehovah came to me: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this temple; his hands shall also finish it; and ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me to you. For who hath despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.
[Sidenote: Zech. 6:9-11]. Now this word of Jehovah came to me: Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, of Jedaiah and of Josiah the son of Zephaniah who have come from Babylon, yea, take of them silver and gold in order to make a crown and set it on the head of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel.
[Sidenote: Zech. 6:12-15] Thou shalt also say to them: 'Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place; and he shall build the temple of Jehovah; and he shall bear the glory and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and Joshua the son of Jehozadak shall be a priest upon his right, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. And the crown shall be to Heldai and Tobijah and Jedaiah, and Josiah the son of Zephaniah, as a memorial in the temple of Jehovah. And they who are far off shall come and build in the temple of Jehovah; and ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of Jehovah your God."'
[Sidenote: Zech. 7:1-6] In the fourth year of King Darius, on the fourth day of the ninth month, the city of Bethel sent Sharezer and Regemmelech and their men, to entreat the favor of Jehovah, and to speak to the priests of the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, should I weep in the fifth month [in memory of the destruction of the temple] separating myself, as I have done these many years? Then this word of Jehovah of hosts came to me: Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, 'When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month [when Gedaliah was murdered], even these seventy years, did ye at all fast to me, even to me? And when ye eat and when ye drink, do ye not eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
[Sidenote: Zech. 7:7-14] Should ye not hear these words which Jehovah cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and her cities round about her, and the South Country, and the lowland were inhabited? Execute true judgment, and show kindness and pity each to his brother; and oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the resident alien nor the poor; and let none of you devise evil against your brother in his heart. But they refused to heed, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they might not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant lest they should hear the teaching, and the words which Jehovah of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets. Therefore there came great wrath from Jehovah of hosts. And even when I cried they would not hear, so when they cried I did not hear, saith Jehovah of hosts. And I scattered them by a whirlwind among the nations which they did not know. Thus the land was left desolate behind them, so that no man passed to or fro; for they made the pleasant land a desolation.
[Sidenote: Zech. 8:1-5] Now this word of Jehovah of hosts came to me: Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, 'I cherish for Zion a great jealousy, And I am jealous for her with great indignation.' Thus saith Jehovah, 'I have returned to Zion, And will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; And Jerusalem shall be called, "The City of Truth;" And the mountain of Jehovah of hosts, "The Holy Mountain." Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: 'Old men and old women shall again sit in the broad places of Jerusalem, Each man with his staff in his hand because of old age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys, And of girls playing in its broad places.'
[Sidenote: Zech. 8:6-8] Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Because it seemeth impossible to the remnant of this people, Is it impossible for me? saith Jehovah of hosts. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am about to rescue my people, From the land of the east and the land of the west, And I will bring them and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people in truth and righteousness, And in turn I will be their God.
I. Zechariah's Ancestry and Point of View. Haggai's contemporary, the prophet Zechariah, was evidently a priest. In the genealogy of Nehemiah 12:4, it is stated that he belonged to the priestly family of Iddo. This conclusion is confirmed by the character of his prophecies. Like the priest-prophet Ezekiel he is exceedingly fond of apocalyptic symbolism. He is also deeply interested in the priesthood and in its ceremonial purity. Furthermore, it is exceedingly probable that he was a descendant of one of the many priests carried as exiles to Babylon. This is shown by his keen interest in and exact knowledge of the great political movements that were then shaking the Persian Empire. His conception of Jehovah is also strongly influenced by the analogies drawn from the Persian court. In his thought Israel's God is a transcendental ruler, who communicates with his subjects not directly, but through angelic messengers, and who, like the Persian kings, is dependent for information regarding his great kingdom upon the reports of the different members of his heavenly court. Thus Zechariah marks a wide departure from the simple theology of the pre-exilic prophets who thought of Jehovah as dwelling in the midst of his people and communicating directly with all who turned to him in faith.
II. The Book of Zechariah. The book which records the prophet's sermons contains four distinct divisions: (1) An exhortation addressed to the people in December, 520, three months after Haggai first appealed to them to rise and rebuild the temple, Zechariah 1:1-8; (2) symbolic visions dealing with the problems in the Judean community, 1:7-6:8; (3) practical counsel, exhortations, and promises, 6:9-8:23; (4) a later appendix coming from a prophet who probably lived during the earlier part of the Maccabean period, 9-14. All of Zechariah's recorded sermons probably date from the three or four years between 520 and 516 B.C., during which the temple was being rebuilt. They throw a remarkably clear light upon an exceedingly critical and significant period in the life of the Jews of Palestine. They are also in many ways the best Old Testament source for the study of the unfolding of Israel's messianic hopes.
III. Problems and Hopes of the Judean Community. Four or five practical problems confronted and disturbed the temple-builders. The first was: Would Jerusalem and the temple, still without walls, be protected from the attack of the hostile foes that encircled them. A second and larger question was: What was to be the outcome of the great tempest through which the Persian Empire was passing, and did it mean for the Jews deliverance from the powerful conquerors who for centuries had oppressed and crushed them? The third was: Would the necessarily modest service of the restored temple, already sadly polluted by heathen hands, be acceptable to Jehovah? Another problem was: What were the relations and the respective duties of Zerubbabel and Joshua, the civil and religious authorities in the community? It was also inevitable that at this time the hope of securing their independence under the leadership of Zerubbabel should come prominently to the front. To each of these problems Zechariah addressed himself, and his book records his convictions and public utterances.
IV. Zechariah's Assurances of Jehovah's Care. In his initial vision concerning the angelic horsemen he recognizes that the storms that have swept over the Persian Empire are beginning to subside, but he tells his fellow-laborers that, if they persist, Jehovah's temple shall be rebuilt and that the lands about Jerusalem shall again be sold to eager buyers, and the cities of Judah shall enjoy their former prosperity, for "Jehovah will surely comfort Zion." In the vision of the four horns and of the four smiths whose mission it is to smite the horns, he assures the people that Jehovah in his good time and way will overthrow the nations that now wrong and oppress them. Although there is no promise that Jerusalem will be surrounded by walls, he declares that it shall enjoy a prosperity and a growth which no walls can confine, and that Jehovah himself will be its protection, as well as its glory, that he will gather the scattered exiles, and that they, together with the nations which shall acknowledge Jehovah's rule, shall yet come streaming back to Judah.
In his next vision the prophet graphically presents a scene in Jehovah's court. Joshua the priest, representing the ceremonial service of the polluted temple, is charged by the adversary with uncleanness. Here for the first time in Hebrew literature we catch a glimpse of Satan, who is regarded not as hostile to God but as the prosecuting attorney of heaven. As in the prologue of the book of Job, he is an accredited member of the divine hierarchy. His task is to search out and report to Jehovah the misdeeds of men. In Zechariah's vision, however, the divine judge acquits Joshua of the charge, and causes him to be clad with clean garments, thus proclaiming the divine approval of the modest yet devoted service of the Judean community.
V. Preparations for the Crowning of Zerubbabel. Regarding Zerubbabel, Zechariah declares, in language highly figurative, that he shall yet be crowned and rule over a happy and prosperous people. He is spoken of as Jehovah's servant, the Branch. The term is probably original with Zechariah, although again used in the supplementary passages in Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15. The word is akin to the term "shoot of the house of Jesse" used in Isaiah 11, to describe a certain scion of the house of David, who in all probability was the young Zerubbabel. Zechariah's figure describes the prince as an offshoot of the same royal tree. The obscure passage seems to mean that upon the stone, with its seven facets, which was to be set in the crown prepared for the head of Zerubbabel, Jehovah himself would engrave a fitting title.
In Zechariah's fifth vision he defined the relations between the civil and priestly authorities. The golden candlestick represented the temple and its service. The two olive trees beside it stood for Zerubbabel, the civil ruler, and for Joshua, the high priest. The duty of each was to contribute his part toward the support of the temple service. They were both Jehovah's Messiahs, that is, men anointed as a symbol of the task which each was to perform.
In this connection Zechariah declared that Jehovah would remove all obstacles from before Zerubbabel, and that he who had begun the work should live to see its completion. In an address recorded in the latter part of the sixth chapter of his prophecy (intentionally revised by a later scribe), Zechariah threw aside all symbolism and gave directions to make a crown for the head of Zerubbabel from the silver and gold that had been brought as a gift by a deputation from the Jews of Babylon. He also plainly predicted that this descendant of David should sit on the throne of Judah and that Joshua the priest should be his minister like the priests in the pre-exilic kingdom.
VI. Disappointment of These Patriotic Hopes. With Zechariah's prediction that Zerubbabel should reign on the throne of Judah the descendants of the house of David suddenly and forever disappear from Old Testament history. Whether the Jews made the attempt to shake off the yoke of Persia Or whether Zerubbabel was quietly set aside cannot be determined. Contemporary history states that within at least six months after Zechariah voiced the patriotic hopes of his people the authority of Darius was fully established throughout the empire. He at once began thoroughly to organize the vast realm. Post roads bound together the distant provinces, and satraps, appointed largely from the ranks of the royal family, unified the whole empire and held it under firm control. As a rule Persian governors were substituted for the native princes. With the institution of this policy Zerubbabel may well have been quietly set aside. The event evidently made a profound impression upon the messianic expectations of the Jews. Henceforth, for three or four centuries, the temporal, kingly type of messianic hope, which had been inspired by the glories of the reign of David, entirely disappeared. It was not revived until the military victories of the Maccabean era had again brought prominently to the front this phase of national glory (cf. Section CXVI). As a result of these disappointments Israel's hopes were universalized and spiritualized. Jehovah, instead of a scion of the house of David, was henceforth regarded as the one supreme King of Israel.
VII. Zechariah's Later Exhortations and Predictions. In chapters 7 and 8, which conclude the original sermons of Zechariah, the apocalyptic language with which he clothed his earlier predictions regarding the future of the Judean community disappeared, and he spoke as did Amos and Haggai, plainly and directly regarding the questions which were then stirring the people. When a deputation came from the north to inquire whether or not, now that the temple was being rebuilt, they should continue to observe their fasts in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem and the death of Gedaliah, the prophet raised the searching question of whether their motive in these services was to please Jehovah or to please themselves. He then went on to declare that the only effective way to serve Jehovah was by deeds of justice and kindness, especially to the dependent classes in the community, and that the horrors of the exile had come because their fathers had failed to worship Jehovah by righteous deeds.
The prophet concludes with a brilliant picture of the coming restoration of Jerusalem and of the peace and prosperity which should be the lot of all, because Jehovah was about to gather his scattered people from the east and the west and to establish them in the midst of his sacred city. Other nations should eagerly come to Jerusalem to seek the favor of Jehovah and to ally themselves with his faithful followers, the Jews. In a prophecy, preserved in Micah 4:1-4 and Isaiah 2:1-4 (which probably comes from this period) the same thought is nobly expressed:
It shall come to pass in the latter days, That the mountain of Jehovah shall be established, Even the house of our God on the top of the mountain, And it shall be lifted above the hills. All the nations shall flow to it, And many peoples shall go and say, Come, let us go up to Jehovah's mount, To the house of the God of Jacob, That he may instruct us in his ways, And that we may walk in his paths. For from Zion proceeds instruction, And Jehovah's word from Jerusalem.
Section XCVI. ISRAEL'S TRAINING AND DESTINY
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:1, 2] Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and declare to her, That her hard service is accomplished, her guilt is expiated That she hath received from Jehovah's hand double for all her sins.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:3, 4] A voice is proclaiming: In the wilderness prepare the way of Jehovah, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God! Let every mountain and hill sink down, and every valley be lifted up, And the crooked be made straight and the rough ridges a plain.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:6-8] A voice is saying, Proclaim! and I said, What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass and all its beauty like a flower of the field. Grass withers, flower fades, when Jehovah's breath blows eternal upon it, Grass withers, flower fades, but the word of our God endureth forever.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:9] To a high mountain, get thee up, Zion's herald of good news; Lift up mightily thy voice, Jerusalem's herald of good news. Lift up fearlessly, say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God!
[Sidenote: Isa 40:10, 11] Behold, Jehovah cometh in might, and his arm is maintaining his rule; Behold, his reward is with him and his recompense is before him, As a shepherd he will tend his flock, with his arm he will gather it, The lambs in his bosom he will bear, the ewe-mothers he will lead.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:12] Who hath measured in the hollow of his hand the waters, And ruled off the heavens with a span, Or enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, And weighed the mountains in scales, And the hills in a balance?
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:13, 14] Who hath determined the spirit of Jehovah, And as his counsellor advised him? With whom hath he consulted for enlightenment, And to be instructed in the right, And to be shown the way of discernment?
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:16, 17] Lo the nations! as a drop from a bucket, And as dust on a balance are they reckoned. Lo the isles! as a mote he uplifteth, And Lebanon is not enough for fuel, And its wild beasts for a burnt-offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, They are reckoned by him as void and nothingness.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:18-20] To whom then will ye liken God, And what likeness place beside him? An image! a craftsman cast it, And a smelter o'erlays it with gold. He who is too poor to do this Chooses a tree that is not decayed, Seeks for himself a skilled craftsman, To set up an image that shall not totter.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:21, 22] Do ye not know? Do ye not hear? Hath it not been told you from the beginning? Have ye not been aware from the founding of the earth? It is he who is enthroned above the vault of the earth, And its inhabitants are as locusts; Who stretcheth out the heavens as a thin veil, And spreadeth them out like a habitable tent.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:23, 24] It is he who bringeth princes to naught, The rulers of the earth he maketh as waste. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely hath the stock taken root in the earth, But he bloweth upon them and they wither, And a whirlwind carries them away like stubble.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:25, 26] To whom then will ye liken me That I should equal him? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who hath created these? He who bringeth forth their host by number, And calleth each by his name; Of the many mighty and strong, Not one is missing.
[Sidenote: Isa. 40:27-31] Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel: My way is hid from Jehovah And my right is unnoticed by my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard? An everlasting God is Jehovah. The creator of the ends of the earth. He fainteth not, neither is weary, His wisdom cannot be fathomed, He giveth vigor to the fainting, And upon the powerless he lavisheth strength. Young men may faint and grow weary, And the strongest youths may stumble, But they who trust in Jehovah renew their vigor, They mount on pinions like eagles, They run but are never weary, They walk but never faint.
[Sidenote: Isa. 41:1-4] Listen to me in silence, ye coastlands, Let the peoples come near; then let them speak; Together let us approach the tribunal. Who raised up that one from the east Whose steps victory ever attended, Giving up peoples before him, And letting him trample down kings? His sword made them as dust, And his bow like driven stubble; He pursued them, passing on in safety, Not treading the path with his feet. Who hath wrought and accomplished this? He who called the generations from the beginning, I, Jehovah, who am the first, And with those who come after I am the same.
[Sidenote: Isa. 41:8-10] And thou, Israel, my servant Jacob, whom I have chosen, Offspring of Abraham, my friend, Thou, whom I brought from the ends of the earth, And called from its most distant parts; To whom I said, Thou art my servant, I have chosen and have not rejected thee. Fear not, for I, indeed, am with thee, Be not terrified, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; Yea, I will uphold thee with my righteous hand.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:1] Behold, my servant whom I uphold, My chosen, in whom I take delight; I have put my spirit upon him, That he may set forth law to the nations.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:2-3b] He will not cry aloud nor roar, Nor let his voice be heard in the street. A crushed reed he will not break, And a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:3c-4] Faithfully will he set forth law; He will not lose vigor nor be crushed, Until he establish law in the earth, And for his teaching the coastlands are waiting.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:5-7] Thus saith the one God, Jehovah, He who spread out the heavens and stretched them forth, Who created the earth and its products, Who giveth breath to the people upon it, And spirit to those who walk upon it: I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, I have taken thee by the hand and kept thee, I have made thee a pledge to the people, a light to the nations, To open eyes that are blind, To bring captives out from confinement, From the prison house dwellers in darkness.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:13-50] Ye who are deaf hear, And ye blind look up that ye may see, Who is blind but my servants, deaf as their rulers? Much have ye seen, without observing it, Though your ears were open, ye did not hear.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:21, 22] Jehovah was pleased for his righteousness' sake To make his teaching great and glorious, Yet it is a people spoiled and plundered, They are all snared in holes, And hidden in prison houses, They have become a spoil, with none to rescue, An object of plunder, with none to say, Restore.
[Sidenote: Isa. 42:23-25] Who among you will give ear to this, Will attend and hear for time to come? Who gave up Jacob to plunderers, And Israel to those who spoiled him, And poured out upon him the heat of his anger, And his violence like a flame, So that it scorched him round about, but he knew it not, And it burned him, but he laid it not to heart?
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:1-2] And now thus saith Jehovah, He who created thee, O Jacob, and formed thee, Fear not, O Israel, for I redeem thee, I call thee by name, thou art mine. When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee, Through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; When thou goest through the fire, thou shalt not be scorched, Neither shall the flame burn thee.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:3, 4] For I, Jehovah, am thy God. I, Israel's Holy One, am thy deliverer; I give Egypt as thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Because thou art precious in mine eyes, Art honored and I love thee, I will give lands in thy stead, And peoples for the sake of thy life.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:5-7] Fear not for I am with thee, From the east I will bring thine offspring, And from the west I will gather thee; I will say to the north, Give up! And to the south, Withhold not! Bring my sons from afar, And my daughters from the ends of the earth, Every one who is called by my name, Whom for my glory I have created and formed.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:10, 11] Ye are my witnesses, is Jehovah's oracle, And my servants whom I have chosen, That ye may acknowledge and believe me, And that ye may perceive that I am ever the same, Before me no God was formed, Nor shall there be after me, I, even I, am Jehovah, And beside me there is no deliverer.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:12, 13] It was I who announced and brought deliverance, And I declared, and there was no strange god among you, Ye are my witnesses, is Jehovah's oracle, I am God, yea, from henceforth the same; And there is none who can snatch from my hand, When I work, who can reverse it?
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:14, 15] Thus saith Jehovah, Your redeemer, Israel's Holy One, For your sake I have sent to Babylon, And have brought them all down as fugitives. Even the Chaldeans with their piercing cries of lamentation, It is I, Jehovah, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:22-24] But thou, O Jacob, hast not called upon me, Nor hast thou wearied thyself about me, O Israel; Thou hast not brought me the sheep of thy burnt-offerings, Nor honored me with thy sacrifices. With offerings I have not burdened thee, Nor with incense wearied thee. Thou broughtest me no sweet cane with thy money, Nor with the fat of thy sacrifices sated me. Rather thou hast only burdened me with thy sins, And wearied me with thine iniquities.
[Sidenote: Isa. 43:25-28] But it is I alone who blot out thy transgressions, And I do not remember thy sins. Remind me, let us plead together, Do thou set forth the matter that thou mayest be justified: Thy first father sinned, And thy mediators rebelled against me. Thy rulers profaned my sanctuary, And I gave up Jacob to the ban, And Israel to revilings!
[Sidenote: Isa. 44:1-3b] But now hear, O Jacob, my servant, Israel whom I have chosen; Thus saith Jehovah, thy maker, Even he who formed thee from the womb, who helpeth thee: Fear not, my servant Jacob, And thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen; For I will pour water upon the thirsty land And streams upon the dry ground.
[Sidenote: Isa. 44:3c-5] I will pour out my spirit upon thy children, And my blessing upon thy descendants, So that they shall spring up as grass in the midst of waters, As willows by water-courses. One shall say, "I am Jehovah's," And another shall call himself, "Jacob," And another will inscribe on his hand, "Jehovah's," And receive the surname, "Israel."'
I. The Seventy Years Following the Rebuilding of the Temple. Regarding the seventy years which intervened between the rebuilding of the temple in 516 B.C. and the appearance of Nehemiah in 445 the biblical historians are silent. This silence is probably because there were no important political events in the life of the Judean community to be recorded. During the latter part of his reign Darius bridged the Hellespont and undertook the conquest of the western world. Later, under the reign of his son Xerxes, the mighty hordes of eastern warriors were turned back, and the growing weakness of the great Persian Empire was revealed. In 486 Egypt rebelled, and Persian armies marched along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, probably levying heavy taxes for their support upon the Jews as well as upon the other peoples of Palestine. The suppression of the rebellion in Egypt illustrated how impossible it was for any of the eastern peoples to withstand even the decadent power of the Persian Empire.
In Palestine the Jews were still the prey of their hostile neighbors. No walls protected the temple and city of Jerusalem. The Jews were probably ground down under their greedy Persian governors. With the disappearance of Zerubbabel the local control fell naturally into the hands of the high priest and his followers, whose civil authority from this time on constantly increased. The words of II Isaiah well describe the lot of the Jews of Palestine during this period:
It is a people spoiled and plundered, They are all snared in holes, And hidden in prison houses. They have become a spoil, With none to rescue, An object of plunder, With none to say, Restore.
II. Spiritual Forces in Judaism. The political horizon furnished little to inspire the disappointed and persecuted Jews. Their eyes were still blinded by the brilliant hopes that had stirred them at the time when the temple was rebuilt. The quenching of these hopes had left them in deeper darkness than before. There seemed no rift in the clouds that overshadowed them. Even their priestly rulers were selfish and inconsiderate. For the faithful few who rose above the discouragements and obstacles that confronted them, however, this period of deepest gloom was lighted by a faith that shines through and glorifies most of the later books of the Old Testament. From the psalms and prophecies of the period it is evident that there were a few who in the midst of these discouraging circumstances found peace and joy. As they meditated upon the experiences of their race, and read and pondered the writings of the earlier prophets, they began to appreciate not only the real significance of their past history but the meaning of the present affliction. The chief spokesman of these immortal heroes of the faith was the prophetic author of Isaiah 40-66.
III. Evidences That Isaiah 40-66 were Written in Palestine. Only recently have careful students of Isaiah 40-66 begun to realize that the point of view in all of these chapters is not distant Babylon but Jerusalem. The repeated references in chapter 56 and following to conditions in Jerusalem have led all to recognize their Palestinian origin. The evidence, however, regarding chapters 40-55 is almost equally convincing. The vocabulary and literary figures employed throughout are those peculiar to the agricultural life of Palestine and not to the commercial civilization of Babylon. The problems also are those of the Judean community. The class to whom the prophet addresses his messages is evidently the same as that to which Haggai and Zechariah speak. Jerusalem, not a Jewish colony in Babylon, is the constant object of the prophet's appeal. Babylon is only one of the distant lands of the dispersion. It is from Jerusalem that the prophet ever views the world. Thus in 43:5,6 he declares in the name of Jehovah:
Fear not, for I am with thee. From the east I will bring thine offspring, And from the west I will gather them; I will say to the north, Give up! And to the south, Withhold not! Bring my sons from afar, And my daughters from the ends of the earth.
Interpreted in the light of their true geographical setting, these Prophecies gain at once a new and clearer meaning.
IV. Their Probable Date. The reference in 43:23, 24 to the offerings brought by the people to Jehovah's temple clearly implies that it had already been built. Furthermore, the charges preferred against the Judean community are very similar to those in the book of Malachi, which is generally assigned to the period immediately preceding the arrival of Nehemiah in 445 B.C. (cf. Section XCVII). From the parallels in chapter 48 and elsewhere it is evident that Jehovah's Messiah in 45:1 is not Cyrus but Israel, the messianic nation, to which Jehovah in earlier days under David and his successors gave repeated victories and far-extended authority. The presence of the name Cyrus seems without reasonable doubt to be due to a later scribe, who thus incorrectly identified the allusion. It is supported neither by the metrical structure nor the context of the passages in which it is found. Furthermore, the ideas in Isaiah 40-55 are almost without exception those which Zechariah had already voiced in germinal form, especially in his latest prophecies preserved in chapters 7 and 8. They are here more fully and far more gloriously expanded, indicating that their author lived perhaps a generation later than Zechariah. The years between 500 and 450 furnish the most satisfactory setting for these prophecies. In a very true sense, however, like many of the psalms, they are timeless. The question of their exact date is comparatively unimportant except as it throws light upon their interpretation.
V. Their Literary Characteristics. The prophecies in Isaiah 40-66 are psalms, sharing the characteristics of all lyric Hebrew poetry. Each is complete in itself and yet closely related to the others both in content and literary form. Their nobility of theme, their breadth of outlook, their wealth of rich and glowing figures, and their finished literary character give them an incontestable place among the greatest writings of the Old Testament. While there is a powerful argument running through them all, the logic is not cumulative but rather moves in a spiral, frequently returning to the same subject but having a gradual onward movement. It is the characteristic Oriental method of thinking, which is the opposite of that of the Western world. These poems are grouped into three cycles which apparently represent the prophet's thinking during succeeding periods. The first cycle is included in 40-48. Chapter 48 is a recapitulation of the thought of the preceding, and furnishes a natural conclusion to the first collection. The second group is in 49-55. The note of suffering is here more prominent, and the portrait of the ideal type of servant which Jehovah desires in order to realize his purpose in human history is developed in greater detail (cf. Section XCIX). The third group, in 56-66, is by many assigned to another prophet and to a much later period. While the general theme of the group is different and implies a somewhat changed historical background, the characteristic ideas and literary forms of 40-55 also recur here. From the study of Israel's past and future the prophet turns to the closer consideration of the problems in Palestine. The historical allusions are for the most part in accord with the conditions which Nehemiah found in Jerusalem in 445 B.C.
VI. Their Theme and Purpose. The poems deal with one theme, the destiny of the chosen people. The prophet first reviews their past history to illustrate Jehovah's purpose that was being realized through Israel. He notes the different ways in which Jehovah had trained and prepared them for their great task. In the light of the new situation and his enlarged acquaintance with the world the prophet then proceeds to define the task that awaits his people. While he does not break entirely away from the popular expectation that the scattered exiles would yet be restored to Jerusalem to participate in the universal kingdom that was there to be established, he fully appreciates the larger significance of Israel's mission. He recognizes that it is worldwide. He sees that the Jewish race is called not merely to receive honors and material blessings but also to serve suffering and needy mankind. The disappointments and afflictions through which it is passing are but a part of the divine training for that nobler spiritual service. The servant Israel is called to be a witness to all the nations, faithfully to set forth Jehovah's teachings until his law is established in all the earth. Thus the prophet interprets Israel's past, present, and future in its vital relation to the universal life of humanity, and declares that Israel is destined to be a prophet nation and to reveal Jehovah's character to all mankind.
VII. Reasons Why Jehovah Will Restore His People. The prophet opens with a declaration that Jerusalem's period of forced service is over, that she has paid double for the sins of the past, and that Jehovah is about to remove all obstacles and restore and exalt his oppressed people. He then gives the reasons for his strong conviction: (1) Jehovah is incomparably superior to the forces of nature, to the nations that hold Israel in bondage, and to the heathen gods whose images are shaped by the hand of man. All the powers of heaven and earth are under his control. He is the creator and supreme ruler of the universe, able to remove all obstacles and to give strength and might to those who put their trust in him. (2) Through his leadership of his people in the past, through their victories over their powerful foes, and in all the experiences of their national life he has shown his power to guide and deliver. (3) Toward Israel, his servant, he stands in a unique relation, for he has chosen and trained his people for a great service in behalf of all the world. Therefore he who is able and eager to deliver will not fail his people in their hour of need. (4) Their present affliction is but a part of that training which is essential before they can perform their task as Jehovah's servant; that task is tenderly to espouse the cause of those who are crushed, to open eyes that are blind, to bring captives out of their confinement, and, as a faithful teacher, to inspire all mankind with love for Israel's God.
The prophet's aim was clearly to encourage his despondent people, to show them the deeper meaning of their present afflictions, to open their eyes to Jehovah's gracious purpose, to give to the entire race a goal for which to live and strive, and, above all, to arouse them to effective action. Doubtless the prophet thought only of the problems of the men of his day, but in his interpretation of Jehovah's worldwide purpose and in the faith and devotion which his words inspire he gave to all mankind a universal, undying message.
Section XCVII. CONDITIONS AND PROBLEMS WITHIN THE JUDEAN COMMUNITY
[Sidenote: Mal. 1:6-9] A son honoreth his father, and a servant feareth his master; If then I am a father, where is mine honor? And if I am a master, where is the one who fears me? Saith Jehovah to you, O ye priests, who despise my name. But ye say, 'Wherein have we despised thy name?' Ye offer upon mine altar bread that is polluted And ye say, 'Wherein have we polluted it?' In that ye say, 'The table of Jehovah is contemptible.' And that when ye offer the blind for sacrifice, 'It is no harm!' And that when ye offer the lame and the sick, 'It is no harm!' Present it now to thy governor; will he be pleased with it? Or will he receive thee favorably? saith Jehovah of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God with such an offering, that he may be gracious to us, Would I receive any of you favorably? saith Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Mal. 1:10, 11] O that there were those among you who would shut the doors, That ye might not kindle fire on mine altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, saith Jehovah of hosts, Neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting my name is sacred among the nations, And in every place they offer to my name a pure offering; For my name is great among the nations, saith Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Mal. 1:12, 14] 'The table of Jehovah is polluted, and its food is contemptible.' Ye say also, 'Behold what a weariness is it!' and ye have scorned me; And ye have brought the blind, the lame and the sick. Should I accept this at your hand? saith Jehovah of hosts. But cursed be the deceiver, who has in his flock a male, And vows, and sacrifices to the Lord a blemished thing; For I am a great King, and my name is feared among the nations.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:1-4] And now, O ye priests, this command is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, To give glory to my name, saith Jehovah of hosts, Then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; Behold, I will cut off your arm, And will spread offal upon your faces, even the offal of your feasts, And ye shall know that I have sent this command to you, That my covenant with Levi may be preserved, saith Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:15-7] My covenant with him was to give life and peace; And I gave them to him that he might revere me; And he revered me, and stood in awe of my name. The true instruction was in his mouth, And unrighteousness was not found in his lips; He walked with me in peace and uprightness, And turned many away from iniquity. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, And men should seek the law at his mouth; For he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:8, 9] But ye are turned aside out of the way; Ye have caused many to stumble in the law; Ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, Saith Jehovah of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible, And base before all the people, According as ye have not kept my ways, And have had no respect for me in imparting the law.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:10, 13, 14] Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal faithlessly with one another, Profaning the covenant of our fathers? And this ye do also: Ye cover the altar of Jehovah with tears, So that he regardeth not the offering any more, Neither receiveth it acceptably from your hand. Yet ye say, Why? Because Jehovah hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, Against whom thou hast dealt faithlessly, Though she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:15, 16] Therefore give heed to your spirit, And let none deal faithlessly with the wife of his youth, For I hate putting away, Saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, And him who covers his garment with violence; Therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not faithlessly.
[Sidenote: Mal. 2:17] Ye have wearied Jehovah with your words. Yet ye say, How have we wearied him? In that ye say, Everyone that doeth evil Is good in the sight of Jehovah, And he delighteth in them; Or where is the God of justice?
[Sidenote: Mal. 3:1-4] Behold, I am about to send my messenger, And he shall prepare the way before me; And the Lord, whom ye seek, Will suddenly come to his temple; But who can endure the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, And like fullers' lyes; And he will sit as a refiner and purifier, And he will purify the sons of Levi, And refine them as gold and silver; And they shall offer offerings in righteousness. Then shall the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to Jehovah, As in the days of old, and as in former years.
[Sidenote: Mal. 3:5, 6] And I will come near to you to judgment; And I will be a swift witness Against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, And against those who sware to that which is false, And against those who oppress the hireling, the widow, and the fatherless, Who turn aside the resident alien from his right, And fear not me, saith Jehovah of hosts. For I, Jehovah, change not; But ye have not ceased to be sons of Jacob.
[Sidenote: Mal. 3:7-9] From the days of thy fathers ye have turned aside from my statutes, and ye have not kept them. Turn to me and I will turn to you, saith Jehovah. But ye say, 'Wherein shall we turn?' Will a man rob God? Yet ye robbed me. But ye say, 'Wherein have we robbed thee?' In tithes and gifts. Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye rob me.
[Sidenote: Mal. 3:10-12] Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, That there may be provision in mine house; and test me thereby, If I will not open to you the windows of heaven, And pour you out a blessing, until there is more than enough. I will rebuke for your sakes the devourer that he destroy not the fruit of the ground, Neither shall the vine fail to ripen its fruit in the field, And all nations shall call you happy, For ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Mal. 3:13-16] Your words are hard upon me, saith Jehovah. Ye say, 'What have we said against thee?' Ye have said, 'It is useless to serve God, And what gain is it to us to have kept his charge, And that we have walked in funeral garb before him? Even now we call the proud happy, Yea, those who work iniquity thrive, Yea, they tempt God and escape.'
[Sidenote Mal. 3:16-18] Such things those who feared Jehovah spoke to one another, And Jehovah gave heed, and heard, And a book of remembrance was written before him, Regarding those who feared Jehovah, And those who keep in mind his name; And they shall be mine, saith Jehovah of hosts, In the day that I make up mine especial treasure. And I will spare them, As a man spares his son who serves him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, Between him who serves God and him who serves him not.
[Sidenote: Mal. 4:1-3] For behold the day is coming that shall burn like a furnace, And all the proud and those who work iniquity shall be stubble, And the day that is coming shall burn them up, saith Jehovah of hosts, So that there shall be left them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear my name there shall arise The sun of righteousness with healing on his wings, And ye shall go forth and leap like calves out of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked, For they shall be as ashes under the soles of your feet, In the day in which I begin to execute, saith Jehovah of hosts.
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:1-5] My God, why dost thou forsake me, Far from my salvation is my groaning By day I call, but thou answerest not, And by night there is no respite for me.
Yet thou, O my God, art the Holy One, Enthroned on Israel's songs of praise. In thee our fathers trusted, They trusted, and thou didst deliver them; To thee they cried, and were delivered, In thee they trusted and were not ashamed.
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:6-8] But I am a worm and no man, Reproached by men and despised by the people. Whoever sees me derideth me, They sneer as they toss the head: "He depended upon Jehovah, let him deliver him, Let him save him, since he delighteth in him!"
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:9-11] Yet it was thou who took me from the womb, Who made me safe on my mother's breast; On thee was I cast from birth, Thou art my God from my mother's womb. Be not far from me, for there is distress, Draw nigh, for there is no helper.
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:12-18] Many bulls encompass me, Mighty ones of Bashan beset me round, They open their mouths at me, Like a ravening, roaring lion. As water I am poured out, Yea, all my bones are out of joint, My heart hath become like wax, It is melted within my body, My palate is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; In the dust of death thou dost lay me, For dogs circle me about, The assembly of evil-doers enclose me; They pierce my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones; They stare, they gloat over me. They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots!
I. Date of the Book of Malachi. Malachi in the Hebrew means My Messenger, and the word was apparently taken from the opening verse of the third chapter. Like many of the writings of the post-exilic period, the book, therefore, is anonymous. Its date, however, may be determined from its contents. The reference to the desolation of the land of the Edomites suggests that it was written late in the Persian period after the Edomites had been driven out from Mount Seir by the Nabateans and had found a home on the southern borders of Judah. The priests in the Judean community had become corrupt and the temple service was neglected, indicating that they had lost the early enthusiasm which followed the rebuilding of the sanctuary. The Judean community was discouraged and a spirit of doubt and questioning prevailed in the minds of those who were faithfully striving to serve Jehovah. The prophecy is an exact picture of conditions as Nehemiah found them, so that the book of Malachi may be dated not far from 445 B.C.
II. Neglect of the Temple Service. The prophet's method is akin to that of Zechariah. Evidently the early reverence for the word of the prophet has disappeared. Instead of bare assertions, each conclusion is supported by detailed arguments. The author of Malachi is also deeply interested in the ritual and regards the preservation of its purity as essential to the religious life of the Judean community. He charges the priests with failure to observe the ceremonial laws, especially in allowing the people to bring for sacrifice animals that are blind, lame, and sick. These acts are evidence of the religious apathy that had seized even the religious leaders of the people. The prophet declares boldly that under the guise of religion the priests are robbing Jehovah. Above all they are faithless to their responsibilities as the appointed teachers of the people. In 2:5-7 he presents the clearest picture extant of the task of the priest as teacher. His duty was to instruct the people, to help them to overcome temptation, and to make very clear to them the way of duty. This ideal, the prophet declares, was realized by earlier priests, but now those who are the appointed religious guides are misleading the people.
III. The Need of a Great Moral Awakening. The evils which the prophet denounced were not confined to the priests. The old Semitic law regarding divorce was exceedingly lax. A husband could lead his wife to the door of his tent and tell her to be gone, thereby severing their marriage relation. The Deuteronomic law sought to relieve this injustice by providing that the husband must place in the hand of his wife, as she departs, a document stating the grounds on which he had divorced her. By the middle of the fifth century B.C. divorce had evidently become exceedingly common in Palestine. The prophet denounced it on the basis of its injustice and cruelty. He also maintained that marriage was a solemn covenant before Jehovah between man and wife, and that he who disregarded it dealt faithlessly and was the especial object of divine displeasure.
Traces of the old heathenism still remained in Judah, and the dependent, oppressed classes received little pity from the selfish, heartless rulers. In the face of these evils the prophet declared that Jehovah would surely send a messenger to punish and to reform priest and people. The prophecy was evidently based on a clear recognition that Jehovah was ever working to train and uplift his people, and that a period of degeneration must surely be followed by a period of reform. In the work of Nehemiah the prophet's hopes were in part fulfilled, but the larger fulfilment of the underlying principle was realized in the thorough-going reformatory work of John the Baptist and in that of the Great Teacher. In a later appendix to the prophecy of Malachi this theme is still further developed. The promise is made that another prophet, with the zeal of the great reformer Elijah, would come and prepare the way for a new and nobler era.
IV. The Lot of the Faithful. In the prophecy of Malachi is first voiced the despairing cries and doubts of those of the faithful who failed to rise above the effect of the existing social and religious evils. They are the righteous or afflicted who also speak through certain of the earlier psalms of the Psalter (e.g., 10-17, 22). It was a period when the man who did right and was faithful to the demands of the law was thereby condemned to poverty and persecution at the hands of the corrupt priests and rulers. Worse than that, their poverty and wretchedness were interpreted, According to the current belief of the day, as convincing evidence of Jehovah's displeasure because of their sins. It was a time when wickedness triumphed and innocence suffered, and when the question whether or not a righteous God ruled the universe rose persistently in the minds of the faithful. The author of Malachi recognizes and seeks to meet these doubts:
Ye have said, It is useless to serve God, And what gain is it to us to have kept his charge, And that we have walked in funeral garb before him? Even now we call the proud happy, Verily those who work iniquity thrive, Yea, they tempt God and escape.