Zechariah 5 – The Flying Roll. & Zechariah’s Authorship

Hands OutIt doesn’t matter who wrote it because You dictated all of books.  No one can claim authorship of the Bible because You are the true author.

Tomorrow, let’s close the section on the Lost Cities of Europe with…

Zechariah 5
The Flying Roll

1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.

1 Darius the Great
Darius the Great reigned over the Persian Empire in the time of Zechariah.

5:1-4 – the sixth vision.  Lawbreakers are condemned by the law they have broken; sinners will be purged from the land.

2 And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

“Twenty cubits…ten cubits” – Thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide, unusually large, especially in its width, fall to see.  Such a bold, clear message of judgment against sin should spur the people on to repentance and righteousness.

3 Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.

“Everyone that stealeth” – breaks the 8th commandment (Ex 20:15).

“Everyone that sweareth” – such a person violates the 3rd commandment (compare #4 with Ex 20:7).  Although theft and perjury may have been the most common forms of law-breaking at the time, they are probably intended as representative sins.

The people of Judah had been guilty of infractions against the whole law (cf. Jas 2:10).

4 I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

“It shall ever…shall consume” – “It” refers to the curse.  God’s word, whether promise or warning, always accomplishes its purpose (Isa 55:10-11; Heb 4:12-13).

5 Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth.

2 The Bible5:5-11 – the seventh vision.  Not only must flagrant, persistent sinners be removed from the land, but the whole sinful system will be removed – apparently to a more fitting place (Babylonian).

6 And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.

“Ephah” – a measuring basket, usually not large enough to hold a person.  This one was undoubtedly enlarged, like the flying roll, for the purpose of the vision.

7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

8 And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.

9 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.

“Wind” – also an instrument of God (Ps 104:3-4).  The removal of wickedness would be the work of God alone.3 Jesus

10 Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?

11 And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.

Shinar” – Babylonian, a land of idolatry, was an appropriate locale for wickedness – but not Israel, where God chose to dwell with His people.  Only after purging it of its evil would the Promised Land truly be the “holy land.”

Zechariah’s Authorship

Before the 16th century A.D. the authorship of Zechariah was uncontested. The book was believed to have been written in its entirety by the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah began his ministry in 520 B.C., a mere two months after Haggai commenced his own.

4 Zechariahs vision
Zechariah’s vision of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse(Zechariah 6:1–8), engraving by Gustave Doré.

During the 17th century A.D., on the basis of Matt 27:9 (which quotes Zec 11:12-13 but ascribes it to the prophet Jeremiah), the suggestion was made that the latter half of Zechariah (chapters 9-14) was actually written by Jeremiah.

Since then the unity of Zechariah has been questioned by many critical scholars. Some hold that the entire work was written before the time of Zechariah, while others are convinced that it was written long after his day.

The various arguments include:

The first eight chapters allude to the historical situation during the restoration of the temple and include the dates when the visions occurred, while the last six chapters contain no such allusions or dates.

There are marked differences in style and vocabulary between chapters 1 -8 and 9-14.

The reference to Greece in 9:13 suggests to some scholars a composition date in the late 4th century B.C., after Greece under Alexander the Great had conquered the Near East. Since Persia, not Greece, was the prevailing power in Zechariah’s day, many believe this particular verse to have been written after the fall of the Persian Empire.

There is little disagreement that chapters 9-14 are different from 1-8 or that the two sections were written at different times.  This does not necessarily preclude, however, the assumption that Zechariah did in fact write the entire book.

5 Russian icon of the prophet Zechariah.Russian icon of the prophet Zechariah.
Russian icon of the prophet Zechariah.

The fact that Zech 1-8 dates it’s prophecies, while chapters 9-14 do not, can be accounted for without postulating a second author.

The first section relates to the crucial events of 520 to 518 B.C., focusing on specific individuals and time frames. This specificity in purpose requires a more concrete historical setting.

The second section is for the most part eschatological (focused on the end times) and oriented toward the distant future.

The first section was most likely written well before the second. Zechariah was a young man in 520 B.C. (2:4) but may have written chapters 9-14 decades later.

The prophet need not have maintained one writing style throughout his ministry. The apocalyptic-type visions of chapters 1-8 are reminiscent of what we see in Ezekiel (completed c. 575 B.C.) and Daniel (completed c. 530 B.C.). Zech 9-14, on the other hand, returns to a more classical style of prophecy.

With regard to 9:13, the Hebrew Scriptures already refer to Greece (“Javan”) before Zechariah’s time (Isa 66:19; Eze 27:13); Greece was a significant power already in the 6th century B.C. By 520 B.C. the Greeks were a considerable irritation to the Persian Empire.

And within a few decades the Persians would assemble one of the greatest armies of ancient history to deal with them— and suffer a catastrophic defeat. Indeed, the Persians may already have experienced a major setback in Greece by the time of the writing of Zech 9-14, and yet those chapters could still be the work of Zechariah himself (the Battle of Marathon was fought in 492 B.C.).

6 Zeruabbel and Joshua begin the rebuilding of the Temple.
Zeruabbel and Joshua begin the rebuilding of the Temple.

Several solutions have been offered for Matthew’s reference to Jeremiah. Some have argued that since the Talmud places Jeremiah at the head of the collection of prophetic books, any prophetic quote might be considered as belonging to the literary collection of Jeremiah.

Others suggest that Matthew originally ascribed the passage to Zechariah but that the name Jeremiah crept in through scribal error. Matthew may have been quoting Zechariah but referring the reader to the prophecy found in Jer 19:1-13 and 32:6-8, which had been repeated and expanded in Zechariah’s work.

In addition to the arguments presented above, the work shows internal signs of unity. The first and second sections are both concerned with the divine protection of Jerusalem, judgment against Israel’s enemies, the Messiah (Zec.3:8; 9:9) and the outpouring of the Spirit (4:6; 12:10).


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