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Monday, September 26, 2005 

Understanding the Prophet Zechariah, ben Berechiah, ben Iddo

Admittedly, the book of prophecies and oracles revealed to Zechariah is hard to understand. Consider the following sampling:

7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 8 "I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Zechariah 1:7-8

And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, "What do you see?" I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." 6 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" 8 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. "These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth." 11 Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" 12 And a second time I answered and said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?" 13 He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord." 14 Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth." Zechariah 4:1-14

Again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a flying scroll! 2 And he said to me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits." 3 Then he said to me, "This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. For everyone who steals shall be cleaned out according to what is on one side, and everyone who swears falsely shall be cleaned out according to what is on the other side. 4 I will send it out, declares the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. And it shall remain in his house and consume it, both timber and stones." 5 Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, "Lift your eyes and see what this is that is going out." 6 And I said, "What is it?" He said, "This is the basket that is going out." And he said, "This is their iniquity in all the land." 7 And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket! 8 And he said, "This is Wickedness." And he thrust her back into the basket, and thrust down the leaden weight on its opening. 9 Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. 10 Then I said to the angel who talked with me, "Where are they taking the basket?" 11 He said to me, "To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it. And when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base." Zechariah 5:1-11

The reason I am thinking about Zechariah these days is because of a friend and C. H. Spurgeon. My friend has been asking me a lot about typology, sensus plenior, and what is justified symbolism from the Old Testament. C. H. Spurgeon is often brought up, since he so frequently "spiritualized" a text from Scripture. He is known to have said (something along the lines of), "I'd rather find Christ in a verse where He isn't, than be guilty of missing Him in a verse where He is."

Such logic, while refreshing in comparion to legalistic, moralistic teaching that passes as preaching in so many pulpits today, can also be a bit misleading. So Zechariah is an excellent test case, in that his language is so contextualized in Hebraisms and Old Testament typology, yet is thoroughly employed in NT apocalyptic texts like Revelation. Also, if you - like me - are reading through Spurgeon's Morning and Evening as part of your devotions, then you know he picked on two texts from Zechariah today.

While What the Thunder Said doesn't pretend to have all the answers, perhaps a suggestion may prove helpful. Compare two different approaches to Zechariah: the approach taken by C. H. Spurgeon in his devotionals, and the approach taken by Meredith Kline, in Glory in Our Midst. While Spurgeon was baptistic, primarily a preacher, and English, Kline is Reformed, teaching at Westminster Seminary (East & West), and takes a very certain, scholarly look at the OT text.

His book, Glory in Our Midst, was originally journal articles that ran as a series in the biblical/typological theology journal Kerux. Later, the articles were compiled into the book, and published by Wipf & Stock.

So what we recommend (to the billions of readers frequenting What the Thunder Said... I know you're out there) is that a bit of a comparison take place. Get a hold of Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, and go to the entry for September 26, 2005. (Here is a link for Phil Johnson's version, which is phenomenal.) In the morning, Spurgeon addresses Zechariah 1:8 - "The myrtle trees that were in the bottom."

Similarly, Kline also discusses the myrtle trees. To read his discussion, you can go about it a few different ways. First, if you're like me, you'd like to own a copy of his work. As I mentioned, Glory In Our Midst is published by Wipf & Stock. However, and this may be more appealing and educational for all involved, go download a free copy of the ENTIRE monograph at Two Age Press. Two Age Press is a website devoted to biblical theology in the tradition of M. G. Kline. What is more, you can also download other complete monographs. (I highly recommend Karlberg's treatment of Covenant Theology.) Once you have the text, start at p. 15, where his discussion begins, and dig into the myrtle trees.

So now you have your assignment. I trust everyone will check back in with their results. How do we handle symbolism, first in the Old Testament, and then applying it cross-covenantally to post-Pentecost believers? Happy reading.


Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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