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sion. But at the same time that he most emphatically declares, that this conversion alone can give them a part in these blessings, he reminds them of the judgments, which had fallen upon those who derided the warnings of the former prophets, he threatens them with new and equally fearful punishments, a new destruction of Jerusalem, and a new dispersion of the people, after they shall have despised the last and greatest manifestation of divine mercy, the sending of the Messiah.
With respect to the arrangement of the prophecies, the collection consists of four parts, distinguished by the time of composition ; of which the second and the fourth, through the difference of object and the new application given to the discourse, fall again into different subdivisions, yet connected together, not only by being composed at the same time, but also by the similarity of the mode of representation and by their relations. 1. The inaugural discourse of the prophet, chap. 1:1-7, held in the eighth month of the second year of Darius ; on what day is uncertain. 2. The emblematic portion of the collection, chap. 1:7 — 6, consisting of a series of visions, partly, as chap. 1-4, of a consoling and encouraging, partly, as chap. 5, of a threatening character, all imparted to the prophet in one night, the 24th of the eleventh month in the second year of Darius. 3. A discourse, at the same time didactic and prophetic, chap. 7, 8, held in the fourth year of Darius, occasioned by the earnest inquiry of the people, whether they should still observe the day of the destruction of Jerusalem as a day of fasting and mourning, or whether so favorable a turn of their fortune was now soon to be expected, that the former adversity would thereby be forgotten. 4. A prophetic picture of the future destiny of the covenant people, essentially like the second discourse, so that no chief point of that is wanting in this, but differing from it, partly in the method of the representation, - here the ordinary prophetic discourse, there a series of visions, partly in the omission here of the distinct reference to the building of the temple, both in the exhortation and the prophecy. From this, taken in connexion with the position of the prophecy, at the end of the collection, we are authorized to conclude, that it was composed after the completion of the temple, therefore in every event after the sixth year of Darius. Hence it may be explained why the prophecy is without date. This was of importance in the three preceding discourses. In the first, because thereby the terminus a quo of the agency of the prophet was deter
mined, which is noted, even by prophets who were accustomed elsewhere to subjoin no mark of time, comp. e. g. Isaiah, chap. 6. In the second, because it contained the promise, without doubt a few years afterwards fulfilled, of the happy completion of the temple by Zerubbabel. In the third, because the inquiry of the people was occasioned by definite circumstances existing in the fourth year of Darius. In the fourth discourse, on the contrary, which, as what was predicted in the second, as the nearest future, had already become the past, related only to events of the more distant future, it was entirely sufficient to know only in general the age of the prophet, which was already shown by the former notes of time.
Among the Jewish interpreters especially we find the loudest complaints of the obscurity of the prophet. Thus Abarbanel on Dan. chap. 11, remarks, “ Vaticinia Zachariæ usque adeo sunt abscondita, ut omnes interpretes, quantumvis periti, manus suas in explicationibus suis non invenerint,” (Ps. 76: 6.) And Jarchi,
'Prophetia Zachariæ valde abstrusa est ; sunt enim in illa visiones somniis similes, in quibus opus est interpretatione. Et nos non poterimus assequi veram ejus interpretationem, donec venerit doctor justitia," (the Messiah, from Joel 2: 23.) But the ground of this assertion, as the last words of Jarchi plainly disclose, was one which existed chiefly in themselves. The more the reference to Christ prevails in Zechariah, the more impenetrable must his obscurity be to those who deprive themselves of the light of the fulfilment, and, having formed their notion of a Messiah according to the desires of their own hearts, necessarily misunderstand and pervert what here occurs, in contradiction to their preconceived opinions, respecting the true Messiah, his humble condition and his death, his rejection by the greater portion of the covenant people, and the judgments inflicted upon them in consequence. The later rationalist interpreters find this ground of obscurity so far in common with the Jews, as that they also must anxiously strive to avoid perceiving too exact an agreement between the prophecy and the fulfilment, or any thing, which, like the humble Messiah, rejected by the covenant people, and suffering death, cannot be explained by attributing it to human foresight. In addition to this, their view of the prophetic order is any thing but suited to make them disposed to overcome the difficulties that really exist, by imploring the divine aid, and by using the utmost diligence. How entirely must the efforts, and consequently the results also, of a De Wette,
who pronounces beforehand, that the last part contains enthusiastic predictions, which mock all historical interpretation, differ from those of a Vitringa, who says (Proll. p. 60): “ Nec tamen obscuritas studiosum veri absterret ab investigatione genuini sensus prophetiæ, dum certo constat, subesse ei sensum reconditum rerum præstantissimarum, quas quilibet non incuriosus veri scire velit, si liceat.” It is, moreover, not to be lost sight of, that though Zechariah, on account of the prevalence of symbolical and figurative language, as well as the roughness and abruptness of his style, is, in a degree, more obscure than the other prophets, yet the interpretation of him is facilitated by two circumstances, almost peculiar to himself. In the first place, a careful comparison of the parallel passages in the interpretation of this prophet, who leaned upon his predecessors, gives more decisive results, than in that of any other. Then, as he lived after the exile, he does not embrace in his prophecy nearly so large a circle of events, as those who flourished at an earlier period. The clare obscure, which e. g. in the second part of Isaiah, and in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, arose from the circumstance, that the whole series of future blessings, namely, the deliverance from captivity, and the Messianic time, were presented to them in one vision, here, where the prophet takes his position between the two events, in a great measure disappears.
It now only remains to mention some of the most important aids in the interpretation. With respect to Jerome, Theodoret, Grotius, and Calvin, we refer the reader to Vol. I. p. 283. The commentary of Calvin on the lesser prophets is far more fully labored, than that on Isaiah. What especially distinguishes it, is the life and reality with which it exhibits the relation of the prophet to those for whom his predictions were in the first instance designed. In the developement of the hortatory portion he is here also far happier, than in that of the strictly prophetic; his aversion to all forced interpretation, which arose from his love of truth in exegesis, rendered him so distrustful of the earlier interpreters, who were often guilty of this fault in order to make out a reference to Christ, that, much more frequently than in Isaiah, and in about the same way as in his commentary on the Psalms, he deviates from them even where their interpretation rests upon the surest ground, and he everywhere endeavours to give to special prophecies a general meaning. In the interpretation of Zechariah, the defective nature of his helps, and of his knowledge of languages,
which were insufficient for the removal of the philological difficulties, which are by no means small, stood in his way; as did also the prevailing symbolical and figurative character of the prophet, which was little suited to the peculiarity of his mind. But, notwithstanding all these disadvantages, his commentary, the work of a Calvin, yields a rich profit; and the more so, since it has been either entirely neglected, or only very superficially and partially compared by the later interpreters, even, which is very surprising, by those of the reformed church. Among the Fathers, Cyril of Alexandria yet deserves to be men
His commentary on the minor prophets, was printed first at Ingolstadt, 1607, fol., then in the t. III., Opp. ed. Auberti. Among a crowd of allegorical interpretations of the Septuagint are found inany fine remarks.
Of the Lutheran church after Luther (Werke, Walch Bd. 6, p. 3292 ff.), and Melancthon (Vorlesungen über den Sacharjah, Opp. t. II.
p. 531 sq.), whose works, it must be confessed, afford in the main, little satisfaction, especially those of the latter, consisting of few pages, and designed only to exhibit some loci communes out of the prophet, Tarnov deserves to be mentioned. His Commentare zu den kl. Pr., first separately, and then collectively, published by Carpzov (L. 1688, 1706), surpassed all that had preceded, and furnished a good basis for future labors. Besides these, we mention the Commentar von Ch. B. Michaelis in den Biblia Halensia, which is still the best help for a cursory reading of the Old Testament. As the Commentar zu den kl. Pr. is among the rest the most distinguished, so again, that on Zechariah is preferable to those on the other minor prophets. It exhibits a careful use of what had before been done, sound judgment, far less doctrinal prejudice, than e. g. in the Commentar über den Psalmen, and in general in the books commented upon by J. H. Michaelis; and, what in the case of Zechariah is altogether the chief excellence, a diligent citation of the parallel passages, which are not to be found so fully in any other general commentary; but, along with these excellences, he has indeed his defects; a want of imagination, producing peculiarly injurious consequences in the interpretation of Zechariah ; frequently rather the work of a compiler, than one of deep and original investigation. Lastly, the Commentary of Burk, whose Gnomon in Prophetas Minores, cum Præf. Bengelii, Heilbr. 1753, 4to., is indeed far inferior to its exemplar, which does not so well admit of an imitation as some others, and is particularly weak in philology, but still manifests independent study and an intimate acquaintance with the Scripture.
By far the most considerable works have proceeded from the Reformed church, and indeed almost exclusively from Holland. After the preparatory works of Drusius, reprinted in the Critici Sacri, besides Grotius, almost the only interpreter of the minor prophets among them, a comparison of whom still rewards the labor, and Cocceius (his Comm. on the Proph. Minores, t. III. Opp. p. 387, sq.), who deserves, at least, the praise of having given a wholesome impulse to his successors, who knew how to separate the wheat from the enormous mass of chaff, appeared the Commentary of Mark, on the minor prophets, (Amsterd. 1696 – 1701, 4 Bde 4to, neue Aufl. mit einer Vorr. vom Kanzler Pfaff, Tüb. 1734, 1 Bd. fol.) This is still the most important work on the minor prophets, a tolerably complete collection of the whole exegetical apparatus, a sort of catena of the earlier interpreters, and indispensable to every subsequent one, on account of the independent labors of the author ; who, in a good measure free from the exegetical aberrations then prevalent in Holland, and occupying the middle ground between the two extremes, exhibits in general a sound judgment. It has indeed its dark sides, of considerable importance; is tedious on account of its prolixity and diffuseness, deficient in grammatical acuteness, and hence a frequent hesitation between different interpretations, or an inadmissible combination of them ; it often exhibits more diligence in compiling than independent and deep investigation. Vitringa (Commentarii ad Librum Prophetiarum Zacharia, que supersunt. Ed. Venema. Leuw. 1734, 4to.) it is to be regretted, was unable to finish his work, which was broken off by his death. We possess only his Prolegomena, the Comm. on chap. 1, 2, and a Meditatio in Visum de Candelabro Aureo. Still this work is worthy of its pious, learned, and talented author, (comp. Th. 1, 2, p. 12.) The Sermones Academici vice Commentarii in Lib. Zach., of Venema, Leuw. 1789, 4to., have not yet been seen by the author.
We believe we need fear no contradiction, when we assert, that the present age has accomplished nothing for Zechariah, and indeed that the interpretation of him, because the diligent use of existing materials has been found too laborious, has considerably retrograded. The commentary of Rosenmüller, not to notice the works of Bauer, - is, and this is the ground of its superiority to the rest,