We complete the Christmas season, the ‘twelve days’ to Epiphany, with a reading of the rest of Zechariah. It may seem like a different book than last week’s chapters of Zechariah’s visions set on a Persian-inspired heavenly stage, and addressing the rebuilding under Darius, with a new governor and high priest.
Was this ‘deutero-Zechariah’ written later in the life of the original prophet, or as some speculate based on Matthew 27 (!) long before by Jeremiah before exile, or in a later scholarly line of reasoning, as late as the 3rd century BCE. The language and style are different from the first 8 chapters – but does it transcend specific historic events?
The week begins with looking at neighbouring nations, the prosperous trading ports on the Mediterranean Sea, Tyre and Sidon, and along the Gaza strip. Look then to the King’s Highway we know as Jordan, or down into Edom. Zechariah assures us that Assyria and Egypt have fallen, and the scattered people may return home.
These are Messianic expectations in a new age. We are not simply one nation with its own god among the polytheistic universe, nor have the imperial gods proven durable as alternatives to Yahweh. The king promised this time is humble, riding on a donkey. The prophets have been proven fools, and won’t be easily trusted again. The shepherds have failed, and Zechariah himself will act out faithful pastoring.
Do you expect your God to be impartial, or uncritically your patron? How does love balance with justice, and how far are the consequences of bad leadership and self-serving weak people to be permitted to play out? Is this really limited to a prediction of Jesus, expected in about 500 years, or is it a shape of leadership to which he will conform? What patterns do you recognize?
Listen and read through these final 6 chapters, distinct from last week’s visionary arc. There’s an invitation to the nations – not simply a threat to enemies, but a song to the scattered tribes of Israel and Judah, and to their neighbours abroad. What does ‘evangelism’, proclaiming good news, mean in this week’s rhetoric, balancing poetry and prose that doesn’t shy from predicting massive losses?