|Part one, in chapters 9-11, is the burden of the word of Yahweh. There are two burdens which deal with the same subject matter. These are: the future judgment of the Gentile world powers, and the deliverance of Israel. In the second part of the eschatological division, comprised of chapter 12-14, there is more detailed information about the manner in which the events announced in 9-11 are to take place.
Zechariah gives us the clearest Messianic prophecies in the entire
Old Testament. The most important aspects of Messiah, as presented by Zechariah, are: Christ as the Branch (3:8); the Messiah as God’s Servant (3:8); the Messiah as the Shepherd (9:16; 11:11); the Messiah as the smitten Shepherd (13:7); Messiah’s entry into Jerusalem on a colt (9:9); Messiah’s betrayal for thirty pieces of sliver (11:12-13); Messiah’s pierced hands and feet (12:10); Messiah’s return to the Mount of Olives (14:3-8); the prophecy that Messiah will remove iniquity (ch. 3); the fact that the Messiah will unite the priesthood and kingship in His own Person (6:9- 13); the prophecy that the Messiah-King will be a suffering Servant (ch. 9); the fact that the Messiah-Shepherd will be rejected by Israel (ch. 11); the death of the Shepherd (12-13); the prophecy of the conversion of Israel (ch. 13); and finally, the prophecy of the destruction of Israel’s enemies, the salvation of Jerusalem, and the reign of the Messiah over the entire world from Zion.
It is evident that the central theme of Zechariah’s prophecies is to
show that the restoration of Zion, the destruction of all the Gentile nations - Israel’s old historic enemies, and the universal reign of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, will come to pass in God’s time. In fact, the prophecy of Zechariah is to the Old Testament what the book of Revelation is to the New Testament. It can be called the Apocalypse of the Old Testament.
Ritual vs. Righteousness
Chapter 7 begins with an event which took place in 518 B.C., in
the fourth year of Darius. The leaders of Bethel had sent a delegation to inquire from the priests and prophets whether or not they should weep and fast in the fifth month as they had done during many years before.
An examination of II Kings 25:8, will show that this was a man-made
feast and fast, to commemorate the destruction of the house of the
Lord by Nebuchadnezzar.
The word of the Lord came to Zechariah telling him that he should
ask, “When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those
seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me?” Since this was a man-made observance of their calamity, not something established by God, He was not interested in their man-made rituals.
In verses 9-10, God continued speaking through Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment,
and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother. And
oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the
poor, and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your
In verse 7, Zechariah said that these words had been proclaimed by the former prophets much earlier when Jerusalem was inhabited and surrounded by prosperous cities. What had those people done with this same message? Verse 11 says that they had refused to listen, they had stopped up their ears, and made their hearts like flint. As a result, “they cried and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts.“ He scattered them and the land became desolate. In this way, and with this solemn illustration, Zechariah reminded the people that God expects true worship from the heart which is demonstrated by one’s dealings with his fellow man, not outward ritual.
In 8:14-17, Zechariah applied the message to his own generation:
For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when
your fathers provoked me to wrath.... and I repented not, So again
have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the
house of Judah: fear ye not. These are the things that ye shall do;
Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment
of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine
evil in your hearts against his neighbour, and love no false oath:
for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.
In this we see that God expected the same things from the new post-exilic community that He had expected from the previous generation
which He had to drive from the land because of their disobedience.
Triumph of the Messiah
Finally, from his vantage point in the late sixth century B.C.,
through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah looked down
through the centuries beyond our own time to the second advent of
Messiah. This is such a marvelous passage of Scripture, that I want the Bible to be a commentary on itself as you read Zechariah 14.
Beginning with verse 1:
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided
in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem
to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the
women ravished, and half of the city shall go forth into captivity,
and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then
shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he
fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day
upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east,
and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward
the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley;
and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of
it toward the south.
Continuing with verse 16:
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the
nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year
to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast
of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all
the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the
Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
And verse 20:
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS
UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like
the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah
shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice
shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day
there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of
LXXXV MALACHI: PRELUDE TO SILENCE
Malachi, as the last prophet in the post-exilic community, brings
to a close the one thousand years of prophetic revelation, which began with Moses in the years 1446 to 1406 B.C.
Date and Setting
There are two generally accepted dates for the book. Some scholars
favor a date of about 458 and the others prefer a date of about 433, or possibly a little later. I believe that 433 or later is more probable, because of the close agreement between Malachi and Nehemiah, in regard to the abuses which Nehemiah sought to correct (priestly behavior, nonpayment of tithes, neglect of the temple service, mistreating the Sabbath, mixed marriages). These similarities seem to indicate a close proximity of time. Certainly, the appeal by Malachi to observe the law of Moses pre-supposes that Ezra had already been there to restore the law as recorded in Nehemiah 8-10. The condemnation by Malachi, of the unworthy sacrifices and unfaithfulness that the people exhibited in not bringing in the tithes, indicates that they were expected to provide for the sanctuary and the priests.
Contrariwise, in the time of Ezra, the government met the expenses
of the temple (Ezra 7:15-24), but later in Nehemiah’s day (Neb.
10:32ft), provision was made by the people for the support of the temple. So, while Malachi condemns them, he also lets us see that he was probably prophesying in the time period following Nehemiah.
Therefore, to put Malachi in his proper historical setting, assuming
that he was prophesying in approximately 430 B.C., the people had
been back in the land of Judah for over a hundred years. The temple
was completed about eighty-five years previously, and the wall had
been built for at least ten to fifteen years. So, in the time of Malachi, the people were enjoying religious and political freedom. Nevertheless, they still had not returned to God with their whole hearts. This is the central message of the book of Malachi.
Indictment of the People
The word Malachi means angel, or my messenger. It does not appear
anywhere else in the Old Testament. “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us?” With these words, Malachi established the format which he will use throughout the book. God makes an indictment; the people dispute it; then the Lord points out the truth of the statement. The behavior he condemns grows out of lack of respect or fear of the Lord. “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then, I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?” You have despised My name, God points out, because you show no reverence for the sacrifices and offerings you bring to My altar.
The sacrificial animals they brought were the blind, the lame, the
sick, and those that had little or no market value. “Offer it now unto thy
governor, “ God says with some sarcasm. “Will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person?” (1:8). They would never risk insulting their rulers by such offerings, yet they dared to bring them to the Lord. By their attitude they said, “The table of the Lord is contemptible.” The table of God was something to be despised.
It would appear that the priests were so ungodly, that they did not
even care that the people brought such unsuitable sacrifices, and their unconcern was reflected in the attitude of the people. They were bored with the ritual and the sacrificial system. “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it” (1: 13). They turned up their noses! They brought in sheep they had stolen, and animals which were torn, lame, and sick.
Verse 14 condemns the two-faced hypocrite. He was the person
who vowed a prize male animal from his flock, in such a way that everyone would know about his piety and praise his generosity. Then,
secretly, he would substitute a sickly sheep as his actual offering. “Should I accept this of your hand?...I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen.”
Indictment of the Priests
Because the priests were involved in this hypocrisy and corruption,
God also rebuked them. Reminding them that He had chosen the
tribe of Levi for the special service which was their privilege, He said
(vs. 5), “My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name.“ I am sure this illustration described their ancestor Aaron, the first high priest, because he saw God’s fire go forth and kill his two disobedient sons. (Lev.10:1-5) In 2:6, God lists four necessary facets of the priesthood. 1) The law of truth was in his mouth. 2) Unrighteousness was not found on his lips. 3) He walked with Me in peace and righteousness. 4) He turned back many from iniquity.
Verse 8 continues to condemn the priests. “Ye are departed out of the
way, ye have caused many to stumble at the law, ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi.”
The indictment ends with 2:17:
Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein
have we weaned him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is
good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where
is the God of judgment?
Malachi accused them of tempting God because, until that time, they
had been getting away with it. They did not remember that God reserves His wrath for a future time.
Chapter 3 begins:
Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way
before me.... But who may abide the day of his coming? ... for he is
like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap.... He shall sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi... Then
shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord.
And verse 6 concludes, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore Ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.“ God states here that because He does not change, He will continue to honor the Davidic Covenant.
He continues to plead with them. “From the days of your fathers you
have gone away from mine ordinances.... Return unto me, and I will return
unto you.” Still, in their gross lack of understanding they asked, “Wherein shall we return?” “You have robbed Me,” God said. They asked, “Wherein have we robbed thee?” They had robbed Him of tithes and offerings and therefore, “Ye are cursed with a curse.... Bring ye all the tithes unto the store-house... and ... I will ... pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it. “You have spoken arrogant words against Me,” God said. And they asked, “What have we spoken against thee?” Yet they had been saying, “It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?”
Yet even in that unheeding and scornful generation, there were
among them those “that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.“
God remembered them also and promised them His blessing (3:16-18).
Chapter 4 is eschatological. Malachi said a day is coming when all
that do wickedly, shall be stubble and burned with fire. “But unto you
that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his
wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.“ In that day, the wicked will be as ashes under the feet of the righteous.
Verses 4-6 are the concluding admonitions of God through Malachi.
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded
unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the
great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of
the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their
fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
This was God’s last word to His people for over four hundred years,
until John the Baptist came proclaiming, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
After Malachi: 400-4 B.C.
At the conclusion of Malachi the inter-testamental period began.
Many historical events transpired during this four hundred year period
which are of importance to the Bible student. Philip of Macedon was
assassinated in 336 B.C. and was succeeded by his son Alexander the Great. Alexander destroyed Thebes in 335 B.C. He campaigned against Persia and defeated Darius at Issus in 333 B.C. He conquered Tyre and Jerusalem in 332 and defeated Darius in 331.
Alexander occupied Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis in 330 B.C. In
326, after extending his empire to the Indus river, he was forced by his generals to turn back. He died in Babylon in 323 B.C. and his empire was partitioned among his generals.
The Hellenistic period of Greek art began in 320 and extended
down until about 30 B.C. Alexander the Great had founded the port of
Alexandria in 332, and Jewish trading centers were established in Egypt and Cyrene. It was in Alexandria, around the middle of the third century B.C., that the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, which resulted in the version which is called the Septuagint.
The Seleucids of Syria ruled Palestine until about 314 B.C. The
Colossus of Rhodes was completed in 275 B.C. and was destroyed by an earthquake in 224 B.C. The Roman silver coin called the denarius first appeared in 268 B.C., and the first public combat of gladiators took place in Rome in 264 B.C.
Looking back on the long sweep of Hebrew history which we
have studied, there is probably no better way to summarize it than by
quoting from Psalm 78:1-7.
Give ear, 0 my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of
my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark
sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers
have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to
the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength,
and his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a
testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded
our fathers, that they should make them known to their
children: That the generation to come might know them, even the
children which should be born; who should arise and declare them
to their children; That they might set their hope in God, and not
forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.
Then follows a long resume of all the wonderful things the Lord had
done for His people beginning with the time He defeated the Egyptians and divided the Red Sea. Interspersed with these reminders is the tragic litany of their faithlessness and disobedience, even while being the recipients of His numerous and continual blessings. The Psalm ends with a reminder of the king He had given them, through whom would come the Messiah, the greatest blessing He could give (vss. 70-72).
He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:
from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed
Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according
to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness
of his hands.
As we bring this study to a close, I hope that it has been a blessing
to you and that it opened up new avenues of study and new insights
into the Word of God which will help you in your study, your preaching, and your teaching.
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