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Research paper topic: Zechariah Prophet - 1575 words
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Zechariah Prophet Zechariah is one of the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. His book is located between the books of Haggai and Malachi. Zechariah is thought to have preached from about 520-518 B.C. The book of Zechariah deals with the restoration of Jerusalem, the Temple, and Gods people. Chapter 11 verses 4-17, which is a story of two shepherds, is one of the most difficult passages in the Old Testament to understand.
From the New Living Translation, the passage reads as follows: 4 This is what the LORD my God says: "Go and care for a flock that is intended for slaughter. 5 The buyers will slaughter their sheep without remorse. The sellers will say, 'Praise the LORD, I am now rich!' Even the shepherds have no compassion for them. 6 And likewise, I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of the land," says the LORD. "I will let them fall into each other's clutches, as well as into the clutches of their king.
They will turn the land into a wilderness, and I will not protect them." 7 So I cared for the flock intended for slaughter the flock that was oppressed. Then I took two shepherd's staffs and named one Favor and the other Union. 8 I got rid of their three evil shepherds in a single month. But I became impatient with these sheep this nation and they hated me, too. 9 So I told them, "I won't be your shepherd any longer.
If you die, you die. If you are killed, you are killed. And those who remain will devour each other!" 10 Then I took my staff called Favor and snapped it in two, showing that I had revoked the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 That was the end of my covenant with them. Those who bought and sold sheep were watching me, and they knew that the LORD was speaking to them through my actions.
12 And I said to them, "If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to." So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said to me, "Throw it to the potters" this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potters in the Temple of the LORD. 14 Then I broke my other staff, Union, to show that the bond of unity between Judah and Israel was broken. 15 Then the LORD said to me, "Go again and play the part of a worthless shepherd. 16 This will illustrate how I will give this nation a shepherd who will not care for the sheep that are threatened by death, nor look after the young, nor heal the injured, nor feed the healthy. Instead, this shepherd will eat the meat of the fattest sheep and tear off their hooves.
17 Doom is certain for this worthless shepherd who abandons the flock! The sword will cut his arm and pierce his right eye! His arm will become useless, and his right eye completely blind!" The commentary Obadiah through Malachi begins by commenting on the ambiguous nature of the passage. This vague language makes it very difficult to interpret; thus the details remain elusive. The author feels that this passage goes in accordance with the earlier situation described in Zechariah 10:3. In both passages it is made clear that the leaders (shepherds) of Israel have made the Lord angry. Zechariah is describing the social disorder and the peoples dishonesty toward each other that has overwhelmed the community before it will be restored by God. This commentary is certain that the doomed flock is in fact Israel, but is unsure whom the sheep merchants represent.
Their guess is that they may be the workers in the temple who have hired Zechariah. The shepherd is understood as symbolizing a ruling, most likely a prophetic one. Zechariah is telling his audience that Israel is in total disarray and the leaders arent doing anything to help, in fact some are making the situation worse. God is permitting the corruption by sitting on His hands. While doing so, he stresses the need for repentance so the corrupt community may be restored.
The prophet becomes a leader to try and help Israel, but ends his leadership in disgust. Zechariah decides he will let what is to happen to the people happen to them, because they would not listen when he tried to help. He has given up because he feels the community has become so corrupt that nothing can help the people now. He asks for his pay and is given the price awarded to slave owners when their slave had been killed. He throws it into the treasury as God has instructed him to do so.
The author feels that this symbolizes that corruption has even spread into the temple, the center of religious life in Israel. This act also shows Zechariahs audience how easily and to what extent leaders, even religious ones, become corrupt. The prophet then breaks the two staves symbolizing the annulment of Gods covenant with Israel and any unity that may have taken place between the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. The breaking of the staves also lets the people know that they cannot just sit there and wait for God to make things right. They must repent before restoration can take place.
Next God has Zechariah play the role of a shepherd that neglects his flock. Instead of helping the flock like the first shepherd, he is destroying it. This commentary refers to him as an"anti-shepherd" (p.175). The passage ends by describing that the fate of the"anti-shepherd" will be vicious. He will get what he deserves in that he will be treated worse than he treated his flock.
Interpreting the Minor Prophets agrees with the latter commentary by linking this passage with Zechariahs 10:2-3, which deals with Israels useless and corrupt leaders. When Zechariah takes up the task of the good shepherd, the tone of the passage is ironic and mysterious. He is commissioned to care for sheep that are already being sold by other shepherds and slaughtered by merchants. This suggests that Israelite rulers, "of the postexilic period," were selling Gods people to foreign leaders (266). After learning about the exploitations of the flock, one would most likely expect a message of salvation to follow. However the Lord says instead of rescuing them, He will allow the foreigner leaders to have the sheep, because they are subject to a period of suffering before deliverance will occur due to their rejection of the good shepherd. To expand on this conclusion, the commentary discusses the two staves and the reaction of the people to the good shepherd.
The two staffs were called Union and Favor. Union symbolized the uniting of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. Favor referred to Gods favor to the Israelites that they would be at peace with foreign nations. In addition to taking up the two staves, he also removed three of the negligent shepherds whose identities remain unknown. Despite these great attempts to protect the sheep, the people still rejected him, thus leading him to relinquish his leadership.
Their rejection of the good shepherd is the reason God allows them to suffer for a short time. To officially end his leadership, he breaks the two staves. This symbolizes the postponement of the reuniting of the kingdoms and also that God will allow the people to suffer under the leadership of oppressive rulers for a short period of time. The people pay him for his services by awarding him thirty silver pieces, the price of a slave. After sarcastically commenting on the "large" amount of money they gave him for his services, he gives the money to the potter in the temple as God instructed him to do so.
This commentary does not even attempt to guess at the reason for this action. The author briskly passes it over by saying, " The significance of this action is uncertain" (p. 267). Next, God has Zechariah play the part of a foolish shepherd. This commentary believes that because the people rejected the good shepherd, they will be punished with a bad one. This shepherd has no intention of caring for the sheep.
Instead, he severely mistreats them and shows them no mercy. He is slated to receive a terrible fate as punishment for the careless and cruel way he treated his flock. The author then identifies the good shepherd as being either, "Gods leadership as King of his people, an ideal messianic ruler, or eventually as Jesus Christ" (p.267). The foolish shepherd discussed in this passage may be, "the high priest Alcimus, Herod the Great, Simon bar-Kochba, and the Antichrist, among others" (p.267). The third commentary, Zechariah 9-14, began with the translation the authors used, followed by their notes about it, and ending with their comments.
This commentary disagreed with the others in that it found the passage "simple and straightforward" (p.293). The authors feel that verses 1-3 and verse 17 frame verses 4-16. These poetic oracles precede and follow the prose verses of the chapter. Their unique approach to understanding this chapter has helped clear up some of the questions that have stumped previous translators. The authors found it unusual that Zechariah would start this section with the phrase "Thus spoke Yahweh my God," because Yahweh and God are seldom found together when introducing prophetical statem ...
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