International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
a-na'-ha-rath ('ana-charath, meaning unknown): A place which fell to the tribe of Issachar in the division of the land (Joshua 19:19). Located in the valley of Jezreel toward the East, the name and site being preserved as the modern en-Na`-ura. BDB is wrong in assigning it to the tribe of Naphtali.
TOBIT, BOOK OF
4. Fact or Fiction?
5. Some Sources
7. Place of Composition
9. Original Language
The book is called by the name of its principal hero which in Greek is Tobit, Tobeit and Codex N Tobeith. The original Hebrew word thus transliterated (Tobhiyah) means "Yahweh is good." The Greek name of the son is Tobias, a variant of the same Hebrew word. In the English, Welsh, etc., translations, the father and son are called Tobit and Tobias respectively, but in the Vulgate both are known by the same name-Tobias-the cause of much confusion. In Syriac the father is called Tobit, the son Tobiya, following apparently the Greek; the former is not a transliteration of the Hebrew form given above and assumes a different etymology, but what?
Though this book is excluded from Protestant Bibles (with but few exceptions), Tobit 4:7-9 is read in the Anglican offertory, and at one time Tobias and Sarah occupied in the marriage service of the Anglican rubrics the position at present held by Abraham and Sarah. For the position of the book in the Septuagint, Vulgate and English Versions of the Bible, see JUDITH, 2.
The Book of Tobit differs in essential matters in its various versions and even in different manuscripts of the same versions (compare the Septuagint). The analysis of the book which follows is based on the Septuagint's Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus, which English Versions of the Bible follow. The Vulgate differs in many respects. The book tells of two Jewish families, living, one at Nineveh, the other at Ecbatana, both of which had fallen into great trouble, but at length recovered their fortunes and became united by the marriage of the son of one to the daughter of the other. Tobit had, with his brethren of the tribe of Naphtali, been taken captive by Enemessar (= Shalmaneser). remaining in exile under his two successors, Sennacherib and Sarchedonus (Esar-haddon). During his residence in the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and after his removal to Nineveh (Assyria), he continued faithful to the Jewish religion and supported the observances of that religion at Jerusalem. Moreover, he fasted regularly, gave alms freely. and buried such of his fellow-countrymen as had been put to death with the approval or by the command of the Assyrian king. Notwithstanding this loyalty to the religion of his fathers and the fact that he buried Jewish corpses intended to be
disgraced by exposure, he like other Jews (Daniel, etc.) won favor at court by his upright demeanor and was made steward of the king's estate. Under the next king (Sennacherib) all this was changed, for he not only lost his high office but was deprived of his wealth, and came perilously near to losing his life. Through an accident (bird dung falling into his eyes) he lost his sight, and, to make bad worse, his wife, in the manner of Job's, taunted him with the futility of his religious faith. Job-like he prayed that God might take him out of his distress.
Now it happened that at this time another Jewish family, equally loyal to the ancestral faith, had fallen into similar distress-Raguel, his wife Edna and his daughter Sarah, who resided at Ecbatana (Vulgate "Rages"; compare Tobit 1:14) in Media. Now Sarah was an only daughter, comely of person and virtuous of character. She had been married to seven successive husbands, but each one of them had been slain on the bridal night by the demon Asmodeus, who seems to have been eaten up with jealousy and wished no other to have the charming maid whom he loved. The parents of Tobias at Nineveh, like those of Sarah at Ecbatana, wished to see their only child married that they might have descendants, but the marriage must be in each case to one belonging to the chosen race (Tobit 3:7-15; but see 7, below). The crux of the story is the bringing together of Tobias and Sarah and the frustration of the jealous murders of Asmodeus. In the deep poverty to which he had been reduced Tobit bethought himself of the money (ten talents, i.e. about 3,500 British pounds) which he had deposited with one Gabael of Rages. The Septuagint's Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Vaticanus have Rhagoi) in Media (see Tobit 1:14). This he desired his son to fetch; but the journey is long and dangerous, and he must have a trustworthy guide which he finds in Raphael, an angel sent by God, but who appears in the guise of an orthodox Jew. The old man is delighted with the guide, whom, however, he first of all carefully examines, and dismisses his son with strict injunctions to observe the Law, to give alms and not to take to wife a non-Jewish (EV "strange") maiden (Tobit 4:3;). Proceeding on the journey they make a halt on reaching the Tigris, and during a bath in the river Tobias sees a fish that made as if it would devour him. The angel tells him to seize the fish and to extract from it and carefully keep its heart, liver and gall. Reaching Ecbatana they are hospitably lodged in the home of Raguel, and at once Tobias falls madly in love with the beautiful daughter Sarah, and desires to have her for wife. This is approved by the girl's parents and by Raphael, and the marriage takes place. Before going together for the night the angel instructs the bridegroom to burn the heart and liver of the fish he had caught in the Tigris. The smoke that resulted acted as a countercharm, for it drove away the evil spirit who nevermore returned (Tobit 8:1;). At the request of Tobias, Raphael leaves for Rages and brings from Gabael the ten talents left in his charge by Tobit. Tobias and his bride led by the angel now set out for Nineveh amid the prayers and blessings of Raguel and with half his wealth. They are warmly welcomed by the aged and anxious parents Tobit and Anna, and Tobias' dog which he took with him (Tobit 5:16) was so pleased upon getting back to the old home that, according to the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) rendering, he "ran on before as if bringing the news...., showing his joy by fawning and by wagging his tail" (Vulgate Tobit 11:9; compare English Versions of the Bible 11:4). Upon reaching his father, acting upon Raphael's directions, Tobias heals Tobit's demon-caused blindness by applying to the old man's eyes the gall of the fish, whereupon sight returns and the family's cup of happiness is full. The angel is offered a handsome fee for the services he has rendered, but, refusing all, he declares who he is and why he was sent by God, who deserves all the praise, he none. Tobit, having a presentiment of the coming doom of Nineveh, urges his son to leave the country and make his home in Media after the death of his parents. Tobias is commanded to write the events which had happened to him in a book (12:20). We then have Tobit's hymn of praise and thanksgiving and a record of his death at the age of 158 years (Tobit 13; 14). Tobias and Sarah, in accordance with Tobit's advice, leave for Ecabatana. His parents-in-law follow his parents into the other world, and at the age of 127 he himself dies, though not before hearing of the destruction of Nineveh by Nebuchadnezzar (14:13-15).
4. Fact or Fiction?:
Luther seems to have been the first to call in question the literal historicity of this book, regarding it rather in the light of a didactic romance. The large number of details pervading the book, personal, local and chronological, give it the appearance of being throughout a historical record; but this is but part of the author's article. His aim is to interest, instruct and encourage his readers, who were apparently in exile and had fallen upon evil times. What the writer seeks to make clear is that if they are faithful to their religious duties, giving themselves to prayer and almsgiving, burying their dead instead of exposing them on the "Tower of Silence," as did the Persians, then God would be faithful to them as He had been to Tobit.
That the book was designed to be a book of religious instruction and not a history appears from the following considerations:
(1) There are historical and geographical inaccuracies in the book. It was not Shalmaneser (Enemessar) who made the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun exiles in Assyria, but Tiglath-pileser (734); see 2 Kings 15:29. Sennacherib was not the son of Shalmaneser (Tobit 1:15), but of Sargon the Usurper. Moreover, the Tigris does not lie on the way from Nineveh to Ecbatana, as Tobit 6 imply.
(2) The prominence given to certain Jewish principles and practices makes it clear that the book was written on their account. SeeTobit 1:3;, Tobit's integrity, his support of the Jerusalem sanctuary, his almsgiving, etc.: (a) he buries the dead bodies of Jews; (b) he and his wife pray; (c) he teaches Tobias to keep the Law, give alms, etc. Note in particular the teaching of Raphael the angel (Tobit 12:6;) and that contained in Tobit's song of praise (Tobit 13).
(3) The writer has borrowed largely from other sources, Biblical and non-Biblical, and he shows no regard for correctness of facts so long as he succeeds in making the teaching clear and the tale interesting. The legend about the angel who pretended to be an orthodox Jew with a proper Jewish name and pedigree was taken from popular tradition and could hardly have been accepted by the writer as literally true.
For oral and written sources used by the author of Tobit see the next section. A writer whose aim was to give an exact account of things which happened would hardly have gone to so many sources belonging to such different times, nor would he bring into one life events which in the sources belong to many lives (Job, etc.).
5. Some Sources:
The Book of Tobit is dependent upon older sources, oral or written, more than is the case with most books in the Apocrypha. The following is a brief statement of some of these:
(1) The Book of Job.
Besides belonging to the same general class of literature as Job, such as deals with the problem of suffering, Tobit presents us with a man in whose career there are alternations of prosperity and adversity similar to those that meet us in Job. When Anna reproaches her husband for continuing to believe in a religion which fails him at the critical moment (Tobit 2:14), we have probably to see a reflection of the similar incident in Job ("renounce God and die" (Job 2:9)).
(2) The Book of Sirach.
There are so many parallels between Sirach and Tobit that some kind of dependence seems quite clear. Take the following as typical: Both lay stress on the efficacy of alms-giving (Tobit 4:11; 12:09; compare Sirach 3:30; 29:12:00; 40:24). Both teach the same doctrine of Sheol as the abode of feelingless shades to which the good as well as the bad go (Tobit 3:6, 10; 13:2, compare Sirach 46:19; 14:16; 17:28). The importance of interring the dead is insisted upon in both books (Tobit 1:17; 2:3, 7; 4:3; compare Sirach 7:33; 30:18:00; 38:16). The same moral duties are emphasized: continued attention to God and the life He enjoins (Tobit 4:5, 19; compare Sirach 6:37; 8:8-14; 35:10:00; 37:2); chastity and the duty of marrying within one's own people (Tobit 4:12; 8:06; compare Sirach 7:26; 36:24); proper treatment of servants (Tobit 4:14; compare Sirach 7:20); the sin of covetousness (Tobit 5:18; compare Sirach 5); see more fully Speaker's Apocrypha, I, 161 f.
(3) The Achiqar Legend.
We now know that the story of Ahikar referred to in Tobit 14:10 existed in many forms and among many ancient nations. The substance of the legend is briefly that Achiqar was prime minister in Assyria under Sennacherib. Being childless he adopted a boy Nadan (called "Aman" in 14:10) and spared no expense or pains to establish him well in life. Upon growing up the young man turns out badly and squanders, not only his own money, but that of Achiqar. When rebuked and punished by the latter, he intrigues against his adoptive father and by false letters persuades the king that his minister is a traitor. Achiqar is condemned to death, but the executioner saves the fallen minister's life and conceals him in a cellar below his (Achiqar's) house. In a great crisis which unexpectedly arises the king expresses the wish that he had still with him his old and (as he thought) now executed minister. He is delighted to find after all that he is alive, and he loses no time in restoring him to his lost position, handing over to him Nadan for such punishment as he thinks fit.
There can be no doubt that the "Achiacharus" of Tobit (Achiacharos, 1:21; 2:10; 11:18; 14:10), a nephew of Tobit, is the Achiqar of the above story. George Hoffmann of Kiel (Auszuge aus syrischen Akten persiacher Martyrer) was the first to connect the Achiqar legend with the Achiacharus of Tobit, though he believed that the story arose in the Middle Ages under the influence of Tobit. Modern scholars, however, agree that the story is of heathen origin and of older date than Tobit. Rendel Harris published a Syriac version of this legend together with an Introduction and translation (Cambridge Press, 1898), but more important are the references to this tale in the papyri found at Elephantine and recently published by Eduard Sachau, Aramaic Papyrus und Ostraka, (1911, 147;). This last proves that the tale is as old as 400 B.C. at least. For lull bibliography on the subject (up to 1909) see Schurer, GJV4, III, 256;. See also The Story of Achiqar from the Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Slavonic versions by Conybeare, J. Rendel Harris and A. S. Lewis, 1898, and in particular Histoire et Sagesse d'Achiqar, paragraph Francois Nace, 1909.
(4) The Book of Esther:
The occurrence in Tobit 14:10 of "Aman" for "Nadan" may show dependence upon Esther, in which book Haman, prime minister and favorite of Ahasuerus (Xerxes, 485-464 B.C.) exhibits treachery comparable with that of Nadan. But Esther seems to the present writer to have been written after and not before Tobit (see Century Bible, "Esther," 299;). It is much more likely that a copyist substituted, perhaps unconsciously through mental association, the name Haman for that which stood originally in the text. Marshall (HDB, IV, 789) thinks that the author of Tobit was acquainted with the Book of Jubilees, but he really proves no more than that both have many resemblances. In its angelology and demonology the Book of Jubilees is much more developed and belongs to a later date (about 100 B.C.; see R.H. Charles, Book of Jubilees, lviff;, lviiiff;). But the two writings have naturally much in common because both were written to express the sentiments of strict Jews living in the 2nd century B.C.
This book seems to reflect the Maccabean age, an age in which faithful Jews suffered for their religion. It is probable that Judith and Tobit owe their origin to the same set of circumstances, the persecutions of the Jews by the Syrian party. The book belongs therefore to about 160 B.C. The evidence is external and internal.
(a) Tobit 14:4-9 implies the existence of the Book of Jonah and also the completion and recognition of the prophetic Canon (about 200 B.C.).
(b) Since Sirach is used as a source, that book must have been written, i.e. Tobit belongs to a later date than say 180 B.C.
(c) The Christian Father Polycarp in 112 A.D. quotes from Tobit, but there is no earlier allusion to the book. The external evidence proves no more than that Tobit must have been written after 180 B.C. and before 112 A.D.
(a) Tobit 14:5 seems to show that Jonah was written while the temple of Zerubbabel was in existence, but before this structure had been replaced by the gorgeous temple erected under Herod the Great: i.e. Tobit was written before 25 B.C.
(b) The stress laid upon the burial of the dead suits well the period of the Syrian persecution, when we know Antiochus Epiphanes allowed Jewish corpses to lie about unburied.
(c) We have in Tobit and Judith the same zeal for the Jewish Law and its observance which in a special degree marked the Maccabean age. Noldeke and Lohr (Kautzsch, Apok. des Altes Testament, 136) argue for a date about 175 B.C., on the ground that in Tobit there is an absence of that fervent zeal for Judaism and that hatred of men and things non-Jewish which one finds in books written during the Maccabean wars. But we know for certain that when the Maccabean enthusiasm was at its height there existed all degrees of fervor among the Jews, and it would be a strange thing if all the literature of the time represented but one phase of the national life.
7. Place of Composition:
We have no means of ascertaining who wrote this book, for the ascription of the authorship to Tobit (1:1;) is but a literary device. There are, however, data which help in fixing the nationality of the writer and the country in which he lived. That the author was a Jew is admitted by all, for no other than a Jew could have shown such a deep interest in Jewish things and in the fortunes of the Jewish nation. Moreover, the fact that Tobit, though member of the Northern Kingdom, is represented as worshipping at the Jerusalem temple and observing the feasts there (1:4-7) makes it probable that the author was a member of the Southern Kingdom wishing to glorify the religion of his country.
That he did not live in Palestine is suggested by several considerations:
(1) The book describes the varying fortunes of Jews in exile so completely and with such keen sympathy as to suggest that the writer was himself one of them.
(2) The affectionate language in which he refers to Jerusalem and its religious associations (Tobit 1:4;) is such as a member of the Diaspora would use.
(3) The author nowhere reveals a close personal knowledge of Palestine. That Tobit, the ostensible author (1:1), should be set forth as a native of Galilee (1:1) is due to the art of the writer.
Assuming that the book was written in a foreign land, opinions differ as to which. The evidence seems to favor either Persia or Egypt. In favor of Persia is the Persian background of the book. Asmodeus (Tobit 3:8, 17) is the Pets Aesma daeva. The duty of burying the dead is suggested to the Jewish writer by the Persian (Zoroastrian) habit of exposing dead bodies on the "Tower of Silence" to be eaten by birds. Consanguineous marriages are forbidden in the Pentateuch (see Leviticus 18:6 ff;); but they are favored by Tobit 1:9; 3:15; 4:12; 7:04. The latter seems to show that Tobias and Sarah whom he married were first cousins. Marriages between relatives were common among the Iranians and were defended by the magicians as a religious duty. One may say it was allowed in the particular case in question on account of the special circumstances, the fewness of Jews in the parts where the families of Tobit and Raguel lived; compare Numbers 36:4 ff; for another special case. The fact that a dog is made to accompany Tobias on his journey to Ecbatana (Tobit 5:17; 11:4) favors a Persian origin, but is so repugnant to Semitic ideas that it is omitted from the Hebrew versions of this story (see DOG). For an elaborate defense of a Persian origin of Tobit see J. H. Moulton, The Expository Times, XI, 157;; compare H. Maldwyn Hughes, The Ethics of Jewish Apocryphal Literature, 42;. The evidence is not decisive; for a knowledge of Iranian modes of thought and expression may be possessed by persons living far away from Iranian territory. And at some points Tobit teaches things contrary to Zoroastrianism. Noldeke and Lohr hold that the book was composed in Egypt, referring to the facts that the demon Asmodeus on being overcome flees to Egypt (8:3) and that there were Jews in Egypt who remained loyal to their ancestral faith and were nevertheless promoted to high places in the state. The knowledge of Mesopotamia shown by the author is so defective (see 4, above) that a Mesopotamian origin for the book cannot be conceived of.
Tobit exists in an unusually large number of manuscripts and versions showing that the book was widely read and regarded as important. But what is peculiar in the case of this book is that its contents differ largely-and not seldom in quite essential matters-in the various manuscripts, texts and translations (see 3. above).
Tobit has come down to us in the following languages:
Manuscripts of the Greek text belong to three classes:
(a) that found in the uncials Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus, BA, (which are almost identical) and most Greek manuscripts; our English and other modern translations are made from this;
(b) that of Codex Sinaiticus which deviates from (a) often in important matters. The old Latin tallies with this very closely;
(c) that of Codices 44, 106 and 107 (adopting the numbers of Holmes and Parsons), which largely coincides with (b).
From 7:10 onward this text forms the basis of the Syriac (Peshitta) version Opinions differ as to which of these three Greek texts is the oldest. Fritzsche, Noldeke and Grimm defend the priority of BA. In favor of this are the following: This text exists in the largest number of manuscripts and translations; it is most frequently quoted by the Fathers and other early writers; it is less diffuse and more spontaneous, showing less editorial manipulation. Ewald, Reusch, Schurer, Nestle and J. Rendel Harris hold that [?] represents the oldest Greek text. Schurer (GJV4,III, 243) gives the principal arguments for this view (compare Fuller, Speaker's Commentary, I, 168) is much fuller than BA. Condensation (compare BA) is much more likely, Fuller and Schurer say, than expansion (Codex Sinaiticus); but this is questioned. In some cases, Codex Sinaiticus preserves an admittedly better text, which is of course true often of the Septuagint and even the minor versions as against the Massoretic Text.
(i) The Old Latin based on Codex Sinaiticus found in (i) the editions published in 1751 by Sabbathier (Bib. Sac. Latin versions Antiq.); (ii) in the Book of Tobit (A. Neubauer, 1878). This text exists in at least three recensions. (b) The Vulgate, which simply reproduces Jerome's careless translation made in a single night; see (3). In Judith and Tobit, the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) is in every respect identical with its translation made by Jerome.
(3) Aramaic (a Term Which Strictly Embraces Syriac).
(a) That from which Jerome's Jewish help made the Hebrew that formed the basis of Jerome's Latin version. We have no copy of this (see next section).
(b) That published by Neubauer (Book of Tobit, a Chaldee Text) which was found by him imbedded in a Jewish Midrash of the 15th century.
Neubauer was convinced and tried to prove that this is the version which Jerome's teacher put into Hebrew and which therefore formed the basis of Jerome's own version In favor of this is the fact that in Tobit 1-36, and therefore throughout the book, Tobit is spoken of in the third person alike in this Aramaic (Chaldee) version and in Jerome's Latin translation; whereas in all the other versions (compare chapters 1-36) Tobit speaks in the first person ("I," etc.). But the divergences between this Aramaic and Jerome's Latin versions are numerous and important, and Neubauer's explanations are inadequate (op. cit., viff;). Besides, Dalman (Grammatik des jud.-palest. Aramaic, 1894, 27-29) proves from the language that this version belongs to the 7th century A.D. or to a later time.
The text of this version was first printed in the London Polyglot (Volume IV) and in a critically revised form in the Lib. Apocrypha. Vet. Test. Syriac of Lagarde. This text consists of parts of two different versions. The Hexaplar text based on the usual manuscripts (Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus etc.) is used from Tobit 1:1-7:9. From 7:10 onward the text corresponds closely with the Greek, [?], and [?] especially in parts, with the manuscripts 44, 106, 107. Seefully Schurer, GJV4, 244;.
None of the Hebrew recensions are old. Two Hebrew texts of Tobit have been known since the 16th century, having been printed then and often afterward. Both are to be found in the London Polyglot.
(a) That known as Hebraeus Munsteri (HM), from the fact that it was published at Basel in 1542 by Sebastian Munster, though it had also been printed in 1516 at Constantinople.
(b) That known as Hebraeus Fagii (HF), on account of the fact that Paul Fagius published it in 1542.
It had, however, been previously published, i.e. in Constantinople in 1517. HF introduces Biblical phraseology wherever possible. Since these are comparatively late translations they have but little critical value, and the same statement applies to the two following Hebrew translations discovered, edited and translated by Dr. M. Caster (see PSBA, XVIII, 204;, 259;; XIX, 27;):
(a) A Hebrew manuscript found in the British Museum and designated by him HL. This manuscript agrees with the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and Aramaic at some points where the other authorities differ, and Dr. Gaster thinks it not unlikely that in HL we have a copy of the original text. He has not been followed by any scholar in this opinion.
(b) Dr. Gaster copied some years ago from a Hebrew Midrash, apparently no longer existing, a condensed Hebrew version (HG) of Tobit. Like HL it agrees often with the Vulgate and Aramaic against other versions and manuscripts.
Dillmann has issued the ancient Ethiopic versions in his Biblia Veteris Testamenti Aethiopica, V, 1894.
9. Original Language:
The majority of modern scholars, who have a better knowledge of Sere than the older scholars, hold that the original text of Tobit was Semitic (Aramaic or Hebrew); so Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Graetz, Neubauer, Bickell, Fuller (Speaker's Apocrypha), Marshall (HDB). In favor of this are the following considerations:
(1) The existence of an Aramaic text in Jerome's day (see (3), above).
(2) The proper names in the book, male and female, have a Semitic character.
(3) The style of the writer is Semitic rather than Aryan, many of the expressions making bad Greek, but when turned into Semitic yielding good Aramaic or Hebrew.
Seethe arguments as set out by Fuller (Speaker's Apocrypha, I, 164;). Marshall (HDB, III, 788) gives his reasons for concluding that the original language was Aramaic, not Hebrew, in this opinion following Neubauer (op. cit.). Graetz (Monatsschrift far Geschichte und Wissenschaft der Juden, 1879, 386;) gives his grounds for deciding for a Hebrew original. That the book was written in Greek is the view upheld by Fritzsche, Noldeke, W.R. Smith, Schurer and Lbhr. The text of Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus says Lohr, contains Greek of the most idiomatic kind, and gives no suggestion of being a translation.
Much of the best literature has been cited in the course of the preceding article. See also "Literature" in article APOCRYPHA, for text, comms., etc., and the Bible Dicts., Encyclopedia Biblica (W. Erbt) and HDB (J. T. Marshall). Note in addition the following: K. D. Ilgen, Die Geschichte Tobias, nach den drei verschiedenen Originalen, Griechisch, Lateinisch u. Syriac., etc., 1800; Ewald, Gesch.3, IV, 269-74; Graetz, Gesch.2, IV, 466;; Noldeke, "Die Texte des Buchs Tobit," Monatsschrift der Berlin Acad., 1879, 45;; Bickell, "A Source of the Book of Tobit," Athenaeum, 1890, 700;; 1891, 123;; I. Abrahams, "Tobit's Dog," Jewish Quarterly Review, I, 3,288 E. Cosquin, "Le livre de Tobie et l'histoire du sage Achiqar," Rev. Biblical Int., VIII, 1899, 50-82, 519-31, rejects R. Harris' views; Margarete Plath, "Zum Buch Tobit," Stud. und Krit., 1901, 377-414; I. Levi, "La langue originale de Tobit," Rev. Juive, XLIV, 1902, 288-91, Oxford Apocrypha, "Tobit" (full bibliography).
T. Witton Davies
ZECHARIAH, BOOK OF
1. The Prophet
2. His Times and Mission
3. Contents and Analysis
4. The Critical Question Involved
5. The Unity of the Book
Few books of the Old Testament are as difficult of interpretation as the Book of Zechariah; no other book is as Messianic. Jewish expositors like Abarbanel and Jarchi, and Christian expositors such as Jerome, are forced to concede that they have failed "to find their hands" in the exposition of it, and that in their investigations they passed from one labyrinth to another, and from one cloud into another, until they lost themselves in trying to discover the prophet's meaning. The scope of Zechariah's vision and the profundity of his thought are almost without a parallel. In the present writer's judgment, his book is the most Messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological, of all the writings of the Old Testament.
1. The Prophet:
Zechariah was the son of Berechiah, and the grandson of Iddo (Zechariah 1:1, 7). The same Iddo seems to be mentioned among the priests who returned from exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua in the year 536 B.C. (Nehemiah 12:4 Ezra 2:2). If so, Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet, and presumably a young man when he began to preach. Tradition, on the contrary, declares that he was well advanced in years. He apparently survived Haggai, his contemporary (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14). He was a poet as well as a prophet. Nothing is known of his end. The Targum says he died a martyr.
2. His Times and Mission:
The earliest date in his book is the 2nd year (520 B.C.) of the reign of Darius Hystaspis, and the latest, the 4th year of the same king's reign (Zechariah 1:1, 7; Zechariah 7:1). Though these are the only dates given in his writings, it is possible of course that he may have continued active for several additional years. Otherwise, he preached barely two years. The conditions under which he labored were similar to those in Haggai's times. Indeed, Haggai had begun to preach just two months before Zechariah was called. At that time there were upheavals and commotions in different parts of the Persian empire, especially in the Northeast Jeremiah's prophecies regarding the domination of Babylon for 70 years had been fulfilled (Jeremiah 15:11; Jeremiah 29:10). The returned captives were becoming disheartened and depressed because Yahweh had not made it possible to restore Zion and rebuild the temple. The foundations of the latter had been already laid, but as yet there was no superstructure (Ezra 3:8-10 Zechariah 1:16). The altar of burnt offering was set up upon its old site, but as yet there were no priests worthy to officiate in the ritual of sacrifice (Ezra 3:2, 3 Zechariah 3:3). The people had fallen into apathy, and needed to be aroused to their opportunity. Haggai had given them real initiative, for within 24 days after he began to preach the people began to work (Haggai 1:1, 15). It was left for Zechariah to bring the task of temple-building to completion. This Zechariah did successfully; this, indeed, was his primary mission and work.
3. Contents and Analysis:
The prophecies of Zechariah naturally fall into two parts, chapters 1-8 and 9-14, both of which begin with the present and look forward into the distant future. (1) Zechariah 1-8, consisting of three distinct messages delivered on three different occasions:
(a) Zechariah 1:1-6, an introduction, delivered in the 8th month of the 2nd year of Darius Hystaspis (520 B.C.). These words, having been spoken three months before the prophecies which follow, are obviously a general introduction. They are decidely spiritual and strike the keynote of the entire collection. In them the prophet issues one of the strongest and most intensely spiritual calls to repentance to be found in the Old Testament.
(b) Zechariah 1:7-6:15, a series of eight night visions, followed by a coronation scene, all delivered on the 24th day of the 11th month of the same 2nd year of Darius (520 B.C.), or exactly two months after the corner stone of the temple had been laid (Haggai 2:18 Zechariah 1:7). These visions were intended to encourage the people to rebuild God's house. They are eight in number, and teach severally the following lessons:
(i) The vision of the horses (Zechariah 1:7-17), teaching God's special care for and interest in his people: "My house shall be built" (Zechariah 1:16).
(ii) The four horns and four smiths (Zechariah 1:18-21), teaching that Israel's foes have finally been destroyed; in fact that they have destroyed themselves. There is no longer, therefore, any opposition to building God's house.
(iii) The man with a measuring line (Zechariah 2), teaching that God will re-people, protect and dwell in Jerusalem as soon as the sacred edifice has been built. The city itself will expand till it becomes a great metropolis without walls; Yahweh will be a wall of fire round about it.
(iv) Joshua, the high priest, clad in filthy garments, and bearing the sins both of himself and the people (Zechariah 3); but cleansed, continued and made typical of the Messiah-Branch to come.
(v) The candelabrum and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4), teaching that the visible must give place to the spiritual, and that, through "the two sons of oil," Zerubbabel the layman, and Joshua the priest (Zechariah 4:14), the light of God's church will continue to burn with ever-flaming brightness. For it is "not by might" but by Yahweh's Spirit, i.e. by divine life and animation, by divine vigor and vivacity, by divine disposition and courage, by divine executive ability and technical skill, that God's house shall be built and supplied with spiritual life (Zechariah 4:6).
(vi) The flying roll (Zechariah 5:1-4), teaching that when the temple is built and God's law is taught the land shall be purified from outward wickedness.
(vii) The Ephah (Zechariah 5:5-11); wickedness personified is borne away back to the land of Shinar, teaching that when the temple is rebuilt wickedness shall be actually removed from the land.
(viii) The four chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8), teaching that God's protecting providence will be over His sanctuary, and that His people, purified from sin, shall rest secure in Him.
These eight visions are followed by a coronation scene, in which Joshua the high priest is crowned and made typical of the Messiah-Priest-King, whose name is Branch (Zechariah 6:9-15). (c) Zechariah 7; 8, Zechariah's answer to the Bethel deputation concerning fasting; delivered on the 4th day of the 9th month of the 4th year of Darius (518 B.C.). The Jews had been accustomed to fast on the anniversaries of the following four great outstanding events in the history of their capital:
(i) when Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem, in the 4th month (Jeremiah 52:6);
(ii) when the Temple was burned in the 5th month (Jeremiah 52:12);
(iii) when Gedaliah was murdered in the 7th month (Jeremiah 41:2); and
(iv) when the siege of Jerusalem was begun in the 10th month (2 Kings 25:1).
There are four sections to the prophet's answer divided by the slightly varying formula, "The word of Yahweh came unto me" (Zechariah 7:4, 8; Zechariah 8:1, 18) and teaching:
(a) Fasting affects only yourselves; God requires obedience (Zechariah 7:4-7).
(b) Look at the lesson from your fathers; they forsook justice and compassion and God punished them (Zechariah 7:8-14).
(c) Yahweh is now waiting to return to Jerusalem to save His people in truth and holiness. In the future, instead of a curse God will send blessing, instead of evil, good (Zechariah 8:1-17).
(d) In fact, your fasts shall be changed into festivals, and many nations shall in that day seek Yahweh of hosts in Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:18-23).
(2) Zechariah 9-14, consisting of two oracles, without dates;
(a) Zechariah 9-11, an oracle of promise to the new theocracy. This section contains promises of a land in which to dwell, a return from exile, victory over a hostile world-power, temporal blessings and national strength, closing, with a parable of judgment brought on by Israel's rejection of Yahweh as their shepherd; thus Judah and Ephraim restored, united and made victorious over their enemies, are promised a land and a king (Zechariah 9); Israel shall be saved and strengthened (Zechariah 10); Israel shall be punished for rejecting the shepherding care of Yahweh (Zechariah 11);
(b) Zechariah 12-14, an oracle describing the victories of the new theocracy, and the coming day of Yahweh. This section is strongly eschatological, presenting three distinct apocalyptic pictures: thus how Jerusalem shall be besieged by her enemies, but saved by Yahweh (Zechariah 12); how a remnant of Israel purified and refined shall be saved (Zechariah 13); closing with a grand apocalyptic vision of judgment and redemption-the nations streaming up to Jerusalem to keep the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, and everything in that day becoming holy to Yahweh.
4. The Critical Question Involved:
There are two opposing schools of criticism in regard to the origin of Zechariah 9-14; one holds what is known as the pre-exilic hypothesis, according to which chapters 9-14 were written before the downfall of Jerusalem; more specifically, that Zechariah 9-11 and 13:7-9 spring from the 8th century B.C., having been composed perhaps by Zechariah, the son of Jeberechiah mentioned in Isaiah 8:2; whereas Zechariah 12-14, except 13:7-9, were composed by some unknown contemporary of Jeremiah in the 7th century B.C. On the other hand, there are also those who advocate a late post-Zecharian origin for chapters 9-14, somewhere about the 3rd century B.C. The latter hypothesis is today the more popular. Over against these the traditional view, of course, is that Zechariah, near the close of the 6th century, wrote the entire book ascribed to him. Only chapters 9-14 are in dispute. No one doubts the genuineness of Zechariah 1-8.
The following are the main arguments of those who advocate a pre-exilic origin for these oracles:
(1) Zechariah 11:8, "And I cut off the three shepherds in one month." These "three shepherds" are identified with certain kings who reigned but a short time each in the Northern Kingdom; for example, Zechariah, Shallum and Menahem (2 Kings 15:8-14). But the difficulty with this argument is that they were not cut off "in one month"; Menahem, on the contrary, reigned 10 years in Samaria (2 Kings 15:17).
(2) Zechariah 12:11-14, which speaks of "a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon," is claimed to fix the date of Zechariah 12-14. Josiah fell in the valley of Megiddo (2 Kings 23:29 2 Chronicles 35:22). But surely the mourning of Judah for Josiah might have been remembered for a century, from 609 B.C. till 518 B.C.
(3) Zechariah 14:5, referring to the "earthquake" in the days of Uzziah, is another passage fastened upon to prove the preexilic origin of these prophecies. But the earthquake which is here alluded to took place at least a century and a half before the date assigned for the composition of Zechariah 14. And surely if an earthquake can be alluded to by an author 150 years after it occurs, Zechariah, who lived less than a century later, might have alluded to it also.
(4) A much stronger argument in favor of a pre-exilic origin of these prophecies is the names given to theocracy, e.g. "Ephraim" and "Jerusalem" (Zechariah 9:10), "Judah" and "Ephraim" (Zechariah 9:13), "house of Judah" and "house of Joseph" (Zechariah 10:6), "Judah and Israel" (Zechariah 11:14), implying that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah are still standing. But subsequent to the captivity the Jews ever regarded themselves as representatives of the 12 tribes, as is obvious from their offering 12 sacrifices (Ezra 6:17; Ezra 8:35). Moreover, old names such as "Israel" and "Judah" long survived (compare Jeremiah 31:27-31 Zechariah 8:13).
(5) Zechariah 14:10, which defines the area occupied by Judah as extending "from Geba to Rimmon," which corresponds, it is alleged, with the conditions which prevailed just prior to the captivity. But it satisfies equally well the conditions after the exile in Zechariah's own time.
(6) Again, it is argued that the national sins, the prevailing sins, idolatry, teraphim and false prophecy (Zechariah 10:2; Zechariah 13:2-6), are those of pre-exilic times. But the same sins persisted in the post-exilic congregation (Nehemiah 6:7-14 Malachi 2:11; Malachi 3:5), and there is no special emphasis laid upon them here.
(7) Finally, it is argued that the enemies of Israel mentioned in Zechariah 9-14 are those of pre-exilic times, Assyria and Egypt (10:10, 11), Syria, Phoenicia and Philistia (9:1-7). But forms of expression are slow in changing: the name "Assyrians" occurs in Lamentations 5:6, and "Assyria" is employed instead of "Persia" in Ezra 6:22. Jeremiah prophesied against Damascus and Hamath long after their loss of independence (49:23-27). After the exile, the Philistines resisted Israel's return (Nehemiah 4:7, 8). In short all these nations were Israel's hereditary foes, and, therefore, judgments pronounced against them were always in place. Furthermore, it may be said in general that there are reasons for thinking that, in both halves of the Book of Zechariah, the exile is represented as an event of the past, and that the restoration from exile both of Ephraim and Judah, though incomplete, has already begun. This is unquestionably true of Zechariah 1-8 (1:12; 2:6-12; 6:10; 7:05; 8:7, 8). The exile is treated as a fact. It is almost equally true of Zechariah 9-14 (compare 9:8, 11; 10:6, 8-10). Moreover, it may with justice be claimed that the alleged authors of chapters 9-14 dissociate themselves from any definitely named person or any specific event known to be pre-exilic. God alone is described as Ruler of His people. The only king mentioned is the Messiah-King (9:9, 10; 14:9). The "house of David" mentioned in 12:7-12; 13:1, is never described as in possession of the throne. It is David's "house," and not any earthly ruler in it, of which the prophet speaks. Further, there are passages, indeed, in chapters 9-14 which, if pre-exilic in origin, would have been obscure and even misleading to a people confronted by the catastrophes of 722 and 586 B.C. No specific enemy is alluded to. No definite army is named as approaching. Instead of Assyria, Javan is painted as the opposing enemy of theocracy (9:13), and even she is not yet raised up or even threatening. On the other hand, in Zechariah 12-14, it is not the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar, but "all nations," who are described as coming up against Jerusalem (12:2, 3; 14:2). Moreover, victory and not defeat is promised (9:8, 14, 16; 12:4, 7, 8). The preexilic prophets Amos, Hosea and Jeremiah held out no such hopes. These oracles, however, promise even temporal prosperity and abundance (9:17; 10:1, 8, 12; 12:08; 14:2, 14); and they exhort the people to rejoice rather than to fear (9:9; 10:7); while in 14:16-19 all nations are represented as going up to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, which was the most joyous feast of the Hebrew calendar. All this is quite the opposite of what the pre-exilic prophets (who are known to have been pre-exilic) actually prophesied. In Zechariah 9-14, there is sounded forth not one clear note of alarm or warning; judgment rather gives place to hope, warning to encouragement, threatening to joy and gladness, all of which is most inconsistent with the idea that these chapters are of preexilic origin. On the other hand, their are perfectly consistent with the conditions and promises of post-exilic times.
The other hypothesis remaining to be discussed is that known as the post-Zecharian. This may be said to represent the prevailing critical view at the present time. But it, like the pre-exilic hypothesis, is based upon a too literalistic and mechanical view of prophecy. Those, like Stade, Wellhausen, Kuenen, Marti, Kautzsch, Cornill, Cheyne, Driver, Kuiper, Echardt and Mitchell, who advocate this view, employ the same critical methods as those whose views we have just discussed, but arrive at diametrically opposite conclusions. Indeed, no two critics agree as to the historical circumstances which produced these oracles. Most are of the opinion, however, that these chapters were composed during the Greek period, i.e. after 333 B.C. In examining the arguments urged by the representatives of this school special caution is needed in distinguishing between the grounds advanced in support of a post-exilic and those which argue a post-Zecharian date. The former we may for the most part accept, as Zechariah was himself a post-exilic prophet; the latter we must first examine. In favor of a very late or Grecian origin for Zechariah 9-14, the chief and all-important passage, and the one upon which more emphasis is placed than upon all others together, is 9:13, "For I have bent Judah for me, I have filled the bow with Ephraim; and I will stir up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and will make thee as the sword of a mighty man." Kuiper in summing up throws the whole weight of his argument in favor of a Greek date on this verse. Wellhausen makes it decide the date of these prophecies; while Stade declares that the announcement of the "sons of Javan" is alone sufficient to prove that these prophecies are after 333 B.C. Two things are especially emphasized by critics in connection with this important passage:
(1) that the sons of Javan are the world-power of the author's day, namely, the Greek-Maccabean world-power; and
(2) that they are the enemies of Zion.
But in opposition to these claims it should be observed
(1) that the sons of Javan are but one of several world-powers within the range of the prophet's horizon (Zechariah 9:1-7, Syria, Phoenicia, Philistia; 12:2 f; 14:2, all nations; and 10:10, 11, Assyria and Egypt); and
(2) that the Greeks under Alexander were not the enemies of Zion, and did not fight against the Jews, but against the Persians.
Assuming the genuineness of the passage (Zechariah 9:13), the following considerations point to the Persian period as its probable historical background:
(a) The prophecy would be vague and meaningless if uttered after the invasion of Alexander.
(b) The passage does not describe a victory for the sons of Javan, but rather a defeat.
(c) It is introduced by an appeal to those still in exile to return, which would have been quite meaningless after Alexander's conquest.
(d) In short, Zechariah 9:13-17, as a whole, is not a picture of actual war, but rather an apocalyptic vision of the struggle of Israel with the world-power of the West, hence, its indefiniteness and figurative language.
Furthermore, it must not be forgotten that in Zechariah's own day the Greeks were rapidly becoming a menacing world-power. In the first 3 years (521-519 B.C.) of Darius' reign, 12 different revolts took place, principally in the North and East But, in 518, Darius was compelled to move westward at the head of his royal armies; Darius' visit to Egypt in 517 B.C. was cut short by the disturbances of the Greeks (compare Wiedemann, Gesch., 236). In the year 516 B.C. the Greeks of the Hellespont and Bosporus, with the island of Samos, were made to submit to Pets rule. The next year (515 B.C.), Darius led an expedition against the Scythians across the Danube, the failure of which encouraged the Ionians subsequently to revolt. In 500 B.C. the great Ionian revolt actually took place. In 499 B.C. Sardis, the most important stronghold for Persia in Asia Minor, was burned by the Athenians. In 490 B.C. Marathon was fought and Persia was conquered. In 480 B.C. Xerxes was defeated at Salamis. But it is unnecessary to sketch the rise of Jayan further. Enough has been related to show that already in the reign of Darius Hystaspis-in whose reign Zechariah is known to have lived and prophesied-the sons of Greece were a rising world-power, and a threatening world-power. This is all really that is required by the passage. The sons of Jayan were but one of Israel's enemies in Zechariah's day; but they were of such importance that victory over them carried with it momentous Messianic interests. The language of chapter 9 is vague, and, in our judgment, too vague and too indefinite to have been uttered after Marathon (490 B.C.), or even after the burning of Sardis (500 B.C.); for, in that case, the author would have been influenced more by Greece and less by the movements and commotions of the nations.
Other arguments advanced by the post-Zecharian school are:
(1) Zechariah 14:9, "And Yahweh shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall Yahweh be one, and his name one." To Stade this passage contains a polemic against the conditions in Greek times when all gods were conceived of as only different representations of one and the same god. But, on the contrary, the post-exilic congregation was as truly a theocracy in the days of Darius Hystaspis as in the period subsequent to Alexander's conquest. The Jewish colony of the Restoration was a religious sect, not a political organization. Zechariah often pictures the close relation of Yahweh to His people (2:10-13; 8:3, 13), and the author of chapters 9-14 describes similar conditions. The "yearning for a fuller theocracy," which Cheyne (Bampton Lectures, 120) discovers in Zechariah 9-14, is thoroughly consistent with the yearning of a struggling congregation in a land of forsaken idols shortly after the return from exile.
(2) Zechariah 12:2 b, interpreted to mean that "Judah also, forced by the enemy, shall be in the siege against Jerusalem," is a proof, it is alleged, that the children of the Diaspora had served as soldiers. The verse, accordingly, is said to be a description of the hostile relations which actually existed between Jerusalem and Judah in the beginning of the Maccabean struggle. The validity of these claims, however, is vitiated by a correct exegesis of the passage in hand. The text is apparently corrupt. In order to obtain a subject for "shall be," the preposition before Judah had better be stricken out, as in the Targum. The passage then translated reads, "And Judah also shall be in the siege against Jerusalem." But this is ambiguous. It may mean that Judah shall fight against Jerusalem, or it may mean that Judah, too, shall be besieged. The latter is obviously the true meaning of the passage, as Zechariah 12:7 indicates. For, as one nation might besiege Jerusalem (a city), so all nations, coming up are practically going to besiege Judah. The Septuagint favors this interpretation; likewise the Coptic version; and Zechariah 14:14. Wellhausen frankly concedes that "no characteristic of the prophecy under discussion in reality agrees with the conditions of the Maccabean time. The Maccabees were not the Jews of the lowland, and they did not join themselves with the heathen out of hatred to the city of Jerusalem, in order finally to fall treacherously upon their companions in war. There is not the slightest hint in our passage of religious persecution; that alone decides, and hence, the most important sign of Maccabean times is wanting."
(3) Zechariah 10:10, 11, which mentions "Egypt" and "Assyria" (and which, strange to say, is also one of the strongest proofs in support of the preexilic hypothesis), is singularly enough interpreted to refer respectively to the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. But this is quite impossible, and especially so in view of the prominence which is given to Egypt in 14:19, which points to Persian rather than Greek conditions; for then Egypt, in consequence of her perpetual efforts to throw off the Persian yoke, was naturally brought under the observation of the Jews in Palestine, who repeatedly beheld the Persian armies passing on their way to the valley of the Nile.
(4) Still another argument advanced in favor of a late post-Zecharian date for these oracles is that from language and style: Aramaisms, scriptio plena, the preponderance of the shorter form of the personal pronoun "I," the Hebrew ending on, the frequent use of the nota accusativi, especially with suffixes, the omission of the article, the use of the infinitive absolute, and the clumsy diction and weary repetition of these prophecies are pointed to as evidence of their origin in Grecian times. But in opposition to these claims, it may be remarked in general that their force is greatly weakened by two considerations: (a) the fact that the author of Zechariah 9-14 depends so largely on older prophecies for his thoughts, and consequently more or less for his language; and (b) the fact that these prophecies are so very brief. There is no mode of reasoning so treacherous as that from language and style. (For the technical discussion of this point, see the present writer's The Prophecies of Zechariah, 54-59.)
5. The Unity of the Book:
Among the further objections made to the genuineness of Zechariah 9-14, and consequently to the unity of the book, the following are the chief:
(1) There are no "visions" in these oracles as in Zechariah 1-6. But there are none either in Zechariah 7; 8, and yet these latter are not denied to Zechariah. As a matter of fact, however, visions do actually occur in chapters 9-14, only of a historico-parabolic (11:4-17) and eschatological character (9:13-17; chapters 12; 14).
(2) There are "no dates," as in Zechariah 1:1, 7; Zechariah 7:1. But dates are seldom attached to "oracles" (Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 15:1 Nahum 1:1 Habakkuk 1:1 Malachi 1:1). There is but one instance in the entire Old Testament (Isaiah 14:28 margin); whereas "visions" are frequently dated.
(3) There is "no Satan." But Satan is never mentioned elsewhere in any prophetic book of the Old Testament.
(4) There is "no interpreting angel" in Zechariah 9-14. But "oracles" need no interpreting angel. On the other hand, "the Angel of Yahweh" is mentioned in both parts (3:1;; 12:8), a fact which is far more noteworthy.
(5) Proper names are wanting in Zechariah 9-14, e.g. Zerubbabel and Joshua. But neither do these names occur in chapters 7; 8.
(6) The sins alluded to are different, e.g. theft and false swearing in Zechariah 5:3, 1; while in 10:2 seeking teraphim and in 13:2; false prophecy are named. But these sins may have existed side by side. What is far more noteworthy, in both parts the prophet declares that all these evils shall be taken away and removed out of the land (3:9; 5:9-11; 13:1, 2).
(7) The Messianic pictures are different, e.g. in Zechariah 1-8 the Messiah is spoken of as Branch-Priest (3:8, 9; 6:12, 13); whereas in chapters 9-14, as King, (9:9, 10). But in 6:13 it is expressly stated that the Branch-Priest "shall sit and rule upon his throne." Of far greater moment is the picture of the nations coming to Zion to worship Yahweh. This remarkable picture recurs in all the different sections of the book (6:12, 13, 15; 8:20-23; 12:06; 14:16-19).
On the other hand, the following are some of the arguments which favor the genuineness of these disputed chapters:
(1) The fundamental ideas of both parts are the same. By this we mean that the deeper we go the nearer we approach unity. As Dr. G.A. Smith argues against Graetz, who divides Hosea 1-3 from Hosea 4-14, "in both parts there are the same religious principles and the same urgent and jealous temper"; the same is equally true of Zechariah 1-8 and Zechariah 9-14. Certain similarities are especially noteworthy, e.g.
(a) an unusually deep, spiritual tone pervades the entire book.
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ZEPHANIAH, BOOK OF
I. THE AUTHOR
2. Ancestry 3. Life
2. Political Situation
3. Moral and Religious Conditions
1. The Day of Yahweh
3. Messianic Prophecy
I. The Author.
The name "Zephaniah" (tsephanyah; Sophonias), which is borne by three other men mentioned in the Old Testament, means "Yah hides," or "Yah has hidden" or "treasured." "It suggests," says G. A. Smith, "the prophet's birth in the killing time of Manasseh" (2 Kings 21:16).
The ancestry of the prophet is carried back four generations (Zechariah 1:1), which is unusual in the Old Testament (compare Isaiah 1:1 Hosea 1:1); hence, it is thought, not without reason (Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 505), that the last-mentioned ancestor, Hezekiah, must have been a prominent man-indeed, no other than King Hezekiah of Judah, the contemporary of Isaiah and Micah. If Zephaniah was of royal blood, his condemnation of the royal princes (1:8) becomes of great interest. In a similar manner did Isaiah, who in all probability was of royal blood, condemn without hesitation the shortcomings and vices of the rulers and the court. An ancient tradition declares that Zephaniah was of the tribe of Simeon, which would make it impossible for him to be of royal blood; but the origin and value of this tradition are uncertain.
Zephaniah lived in Judah; that he lived in Jerusalem is made probable by the statement in 1:4, "I will cut off.... from this place," as well as by his intimate knowledge of the topography of the city (1:10, 11).
For how long he continued his prophetic activity we do not know, but it is not improbable that, as in the case of Amos, his public activity was short, and that, after delivering his message of judgment in connection with a great political crisis, he retired to private life, though his interest in reforms may have continued (2 Kings 23:2).
The title (Zechariah 1:1) places the prophetic activity of Zephaniah somewhere within the reign of Josiah, that is, between 639 and 608 B.C. Most scholars accept this statement as historically correct. The most important exception is E. Koenig (Einl, 252;), who places it in the decade following the death of Josiah. Koenig's arguments are altogether inconclusive, while all the internal evidence points toward the reign of Josiah as the period of Zephaniah's activity. Can the ministry of the prophet be more definitely located within the 31 years of Josiah? The latter's reign falls naturally into two parts, separated by the great reform of 621. Does the work of Zephaniah belong to the earlier or the later period?
The more important arguments in favor of the later period are:
(a) Deuteronomy 28:29, 30 is quoted in Zechariah 1:13, 15, 17, in a manner which shows that the former book was well known, but according to the modern view, the Deuteronomic Code was not known until 621, because it was lost (2 Kings 22:8).
(b) The "remnant of Baal" (Zechariah 1:4) points to a period when much of the Baal-worship had been removed, which means subsequent to 621.
(c) The condemnation of the "king's sons" (Zechariah 1:8) presupposes that at the time of the utterance they had reached the age of moral responsibility; this again points to the later period.
These arguments are inconclusive:
(a) The resemblances between Deuteronomy and Zephaniah are of such a general character that dependence of either passage on the other is improbable.
(b) The expression in Zechariah 1:4 bears an interpretation which made its use quite appropriate before 621 (Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 508).
(c) "King's sons" may be equivalent to "royal princes," referring not to Josiah's children at all. The last two objections lose all force if the Septuagint readings are accepted (Zechariah 1:4, "names of Baal"; 1:8, "house of the king").
On the other hand, there are several considerations pointing to the earlier date:
(a) The youth of the king would make it easy for the royal princes to go to the excesses condemned in Zechariah 1:8, 9.
(b) The idolatrous practices condemned by Zephaniah (1:3-5) are precisely those abolished in 621.
(c) The temper described in Zechariah 1:12 is explicable before 621 and after the death of Josiah in 608, but not between 621 and 608, when religious enthusiasm was widespread.
(d) Only the earlier part of Josiah's reign furnishes a suitable occasion for the prophecy.
Evidently at the time of its delivery an enemy was threatening the borders of Judah and of the surrounding nations. But the only foes of Judah during the latter part of the 7th century meeting all the conditions are the Scythians, who swept over Western Asia about 625 B.C. At the time the prophecy was delivered their advance against Egypt seems to have been still in the future, but imminent (Zechariah 1:14); hence, the prophet's activity may be placed between 630 and 625, perhaps in 626. If this date is correct, Zephaniah and Jeremiah began their ministries in the same year.
2. Political Situation:
Little can be said about the political conditions in Judah during the reign of Josiah, because the Biblical books are silent concerning them. Josiah seems to have remained loyal to his Assyrian lord to the very end, even when the latter's prestige had begun to wane, and this loyalty cost him his life (2 Kings 23:29). As already suggested, the advance of the Scythians furnished the occasion of the prophecy. Many questions concerning these Scythians remain still unanswered, but this much is clear, that they were a non-Semitic race of barbarians, which swept in great hordes over Western Asia during the 7th century B.C. (see SCYTHIANS). The prophet looked upon the Scythians as the executioners of the divine judgment upon his sinful countrymen and upon the surrounding nations; and he saw in the coming of the mysterious host the harbinger of the day of Yahweh.
3. Moral and Religious Conditions:
The Book of Zephaniah, the early discourses of Jeremiah, and 2 Kings 21-23 furnish a vivid picture of the social, moral, and religious conditions in Judah at the time Zephaniah prophesied. Social injustice and moral corruption were widespread (3:1, 3, 7). Luxury and extravagance might be seen on every hand; fortunes were heaped up by oppressing the poor (1:8, 9). The religious situation was equally bad. The reaction under Manasseh came near making an end of Yahweh-worship (2 Kings 21). Amon followed in the footsteps of his father, and the outlook was exceedingly dark when Josiah came to the throne. Fortunately the young king came under prophetic influence from the beginning, and soon undertook a religious reform, which reached its culmination in the 18th year of his reign. When Zephaniah preached, this reform was still in the future. The Baalim were still worshipped, and the high places were flourishing (1:4); the hosts of heaven were adored upon the housetops (1:5); a half-hearted Yahweh-worship, which in reality was idolatry, was widespread (1:5); great multitudes had turned entirely from following Yahweh (1:6). When the cruel Manasseh was allowed to sit undisturbed upon the throne for more than 50 years, many grew skeptical and questioned whether Yahweh was taking any interest in the affairs of the nation; they began to say in their hearts, "Yahweh will not do good, neither will he do evil" (1:12). Conditions could hardly be otherwise, when the religious leaders had become misleaders (3:4). The few who, amid the general corruption, remained faithful would be insufficient to avert the awful judgment upon the nation, though they themselves might be "hid in the day of Yahweh's anger" (2:3).
The Book of Zephaniah falls naturally into two parts of unequal length. The first part (1:2-3:8) contains, almost exclusively, denunciations and threats; the second (3:9-20), a promise of salvation and glorification. The prophecy opens with the announcement of a world judgment (1:2, 3), which will be particularly severe upon Judah and Jerusalem, because of idolatry (1:4-6). The ungodly nobles will suffer most, because they are the leaders in crime (1:8, 9). The judgment is imminent (1:7); when it arrives there will be wailing on every hand (1:10, 11). No one will escape, even the indifferent skeptics will be aroused (1:12, 13). In the closing verses of chapter 1, the imminence and terribleness of the day of Yahweh are emphasized, from which there can be no escape, because Yahweh has determined to make a "terrible end of all them that dwell in the land" (1:14-18). A way of escape is offered to the meek; if they seek Yahweh, they may be "hid in the day of Yahweh" (2:1-3). Zechariah 2:4-15 contains threats upon 5 nations, Philistia (2:4-7), Moab and Ammon (2:8-11), Ethiopia (2:12), Assyria (2:13-15). In Zechariah 3:1 the prophet turns once more to Jerusalem. Leaders, both civil and religious, and people are hopelessly corrupt (3:1-4), and continue so in spite of Yahweh's many attempts to win the city back to purity (3:5-7); hence, the judgment which will involve all nations has become inevitable (3:8). A remnant of the nations and of Judah will escape and find rest and peace in Yahweh (3:9-13). The closing section (3:14-20) pictures the joy and exaltation of the redeemed daughter of Zion.
The authenticity of every verse in Zephaniah 2 and 3, and of several verses in chapter 1, has been questioned by one or more scholars, but the passages rejected or questioned with greatest persistency are 2:1-3, 4-15 (especially 2:8-11); 3:9, 10, 14-20. The principal objection to 2:1-3 is the presence in 2:3 of the expressions "meek of the earth," and "seek meekness." It is claimed that "meek" and "meekness" as religious terms are post-exilic. There can be no question that the words occur more frequently in post-exilic psalms and proverbs than in preexilic writings, but it cannot be proved, or even shown to be probable, that the words might not have been used in Zephaniah's day (compare Exodus 10:3 Numbers 12:3 Isaiah 2:9;; Micah 6:8). A second objection is seen in the difference of tone between these verses and Zephaniah 1. The latter, from beginning to end, speaks of the terrors of judgment; 2:1-3 weakens this by offering a way of escape. But surely, judgment cannot have been the last word of the prophets; in their thought, judgment always serves a disciplinary purpose. They are accustomed to offer hope to a remnant. Hence, 2:1-3 seems to form the necessary completion of chapter 1.
The objections against Zephaniah 2:4-15 as a whole are equally inconclusive. For 2:13-15, a date preceding the fall of Nineveh seems most suitable. The threat against Philistia (2:4-7) also is quite intelligible in the days of Zephaniah, for the Scythians passed right through the Philistine territory. If Ethiopia stands for Egypt, 2:12 can easily be accounted for as coming from Zephaniah, for the enemies who were going along the Mediterranean coast must inevitably reach Egypt. But if it is insisted upon that the reference is to Ethiopia proper, again no difficulty exists, for in speaking of a world judgment Zephaniah might mention Ethiopia as the representative of the far south. Against 2:8-11 the following objections are raised:
(a) Moab and Ammon were far removed from the route taken by the Scythians.
(b) The "reproaches" of 2:8, 10 presuppose the destruction of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 25:3, 6, 8).
(c) The attitude of the prophet toward Judah (Zech 2:9, 10) is the exact opposite of that expressed in Zephaniah 1.
(d) The qinah meter, which predominates in the rest of the section, is absent from 2:8-11.
(e) Zechariah 2:12 is the natural continuation of 2:9.
These five arguments are by no means conclusive:
(a) The prophet is announcing a world judgment. Could this be executed by the Scythians if they confined themselves to the territory along the Mediterranean Sea?
(b) Is it true that the "reproaches" of 2:8, 10 presuppose the destruction of Jerusalem?
(c) The promises in 2:7, 8-10 are only to a remnant, which presupposes a judgment such as is announced in chapter 1.
(d) Have we a right to demand consistency in the use of a certain meter in oratory, and, if so, may not the apparent inconsistency be due to corruption of the text, or to a later expansion of an authentic oracle?
(e) Zechariah 2:8-11 can be said to interrupt the thought only if it is assumed that the prophet meant to enumerate the nations in the order in which the Scythians naturally would reach their territory.
From Philistia they would naturally pass to Egypt. But is this assumption warranted? While the objections against the entire paragraph are inconclusive, it cannot be denied that 2:12 seems the natural continuation of 2:9, and since 2:10 and 11 differ in other respects from those preceding, suspicion of the originality of these two verses cannot be suppressed.
Zechariah 3:1-8 is so similar to chapter 1 that its originality cannot be seriously questioned, but 3:1-8 carry with them 3:9-13, which describe the purifying effects of the judgment announced in 3:1-8. The present text of 3:10 may be corrupt, but if properly emended there remains insufficient reason for questioning 3:10 and 11. The authenticity of 3:14-20 is more doubtful than that of any other section of Zephaniah. The buoyant tone of the passage forms a marked contrast to the somber, quiet strain of 3:11-13; the judgments upon Judah appear to be in the past; 3:18-20 seem to presuppose a scattering of the people of Judah, while the purifying judgment of 3:11-13 falls upon the people in their own land; hence, there is much justice in Davidson's remark that "the historical situation presupposed is that of Isaiah 40;." On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that the passage is highly poetic, that it presents an ideal picture of the future, in the drawing of which imagination must have played some part, and it may be difficult to assert that the composition of this poem was entirely beyond the power of Zephaniah's enlightened imagination. But while the bare possibility of Zephaniah's authorship may be admitted, it is not impossible that 3:14-20 contains a "new song from God," added to the utterances of Zephaniah at a period subsequent to the fall of Jerusalem.
The teaching of Zephaniah closely resembles that of the earlier prophetic books. Yahweh is the God of the universe, a God of righteousness and holiness, who expects of His worshippers a life in accord with His will. Israel are His chosen people, but on account of rebellion they must suffer severe punishment. Wholesale conversion seems out of the question, but a remnant may escape, to be exalted among the nations. He adds little, but attempts with much moral and spiritual fervor to impress upon his comtemporaries the fundamental truths of the religion of Yahweh. Only a few points deserve special mention.
1. The Day of Yahweh:
Earlier prophets had spoken of the day of Yahweh; Amos (5:18-20) had described it in language similar to that employed by Zephaniah; but the latter surpasses all his predecessors in the emphasis he places upon this terrible manifestation of Yahweh (see ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT). His entire teaching centers around this day; and in the Book of Zephaniah we find the germs of the apocalyptic visions which become so common in later prophecies of an eschatological character. Concerning this day he says
(a) that it is a day of terror (1:15),
(b) it is imminent (1:14),
(c) it is a judgment for sin (1:17),
(d) it falls upon all creation (1:2, 3; 2:4-15; 3:8),
(e) it is accompanied by great convulsions in Nature (1:15),
(f) a remnant of redeemed Hebrews and foreigners will escape from its terrors (Zechariah 2:3; 3:9-13).
The vision of the book is world-wide. The terrors of the day of Yahweh will fall upon all. In the same manner from all nations converts will be won to Yahweh (Zechariah 3:9, 10). These will not be compelled to come to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh (Isaiah 2:2 Micah 4:1); they may worship Him "every one from his place" (Zechariah 2:11), which is a step in the direction of the utterance of Jesus in John 4:21.
3. Messianic Prophecy:
The Messianic King is not mentioned by Zephaniah. Though he draws a sublime picture of the glories of the Messianic age (Zechariah 3:14-20), there is not a word concerning the person of the Messianic King. Whatever is done is accomplished by Yahweh Himself.
Cornms. on the Minor Prophets by Ewald, Pusey, Keil, Orelli, G. A. Smith (Expositor's Bible); Driver (New Century); Eiselen; A. B. Davidson, Commentary on Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah (Cambridge Bible); A. F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; Eiselen, Prophecy and the Prophets; F. W. Farrar, "Minor Prophets," Men of the Bible; S. R. Driver, Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament; Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes), article "Zephaniah, Book of"; Encyclopedia Biblica, article "Zephaniah."
F. C. Eiselen
ABRAHAM, BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
BOOK OF ABRAHAM
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
BOOK OF ENOCH
See ENOCH, BOOK OF.
BOOK OF NOAH
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
ENOCH, BOOK OF
see ENOCH, ETHIOPIC, BOOK OF; ENOCH, SLAVONIC, BOOK OF
ENOCH, ETHIOPIC, BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
ENOCH, SLAVONIC, BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
ENOCH; THE BOOK OF THE SECRETS OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
ESDRAS, FOURTH BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, sec. II, i, 5.
ESDRAS, SECOND BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE, sec. II, i, 5.
JANNES AND JAMBRES, BOOK OF
An apocryphal work condemned by Pope Gelasius.
See preceding article, JANNES AND JAMBRES.
JASHER, BOOK OF
ja'-sher, jash'-er: the King James Version for JASHAR (which see), and see BETH-HORON, THE BATTLE OF.
JUBILEES, BOOK OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
MODAD, BOOK OF ELDAD AND
See ELDAD AND MODAD, BOOK OF.
NEHEMIAH, BOOK OF
NOAH, BOOK (APOCALYPSE) OF
See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE.
WARS OF YAHWEH (THE LORD) BOOK OF THE
See BIBLE, IV, 1, (1), (b).