The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Preface
MANY into whose hands this volume will come know its history in advance, and the character of its contents, but for the sake of others a few words of explanation are necessary.
Being earnestly asked by honoured friends and readers of The Scattered Nation, the Quarterly Record of the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, to write connected expository " Notes on Zechariah," I undertook to do so, without sufficiently realising as I must now confess how formidable the task of a continuous exposition of this particular prophetic book would prove, especially to one whose life is subject to much strain and distraction on account of many other claims and responsibilities in connection with the work of God among scattered Israel.
But having once made a start, the conviction deepened within me that it was a task entrusted to me of God, and that such a handling of this great prophecy, which stands in close organic connection with the whole prophetic Scripture, and the last chapters of which deal so vividly with the solemn events of the end of this present age, might, with His blessing, prove of some use to earnestminded believers and Bible students at this present time. I was also greatly encouraged in the process by the many spoken and written words of approbation and encourage ment from esteemed brethren in Christ Christian ministers, missionaries, and others who read the expositions in the \ fragmentary form in which they first appeared. In the pages of the little Quarterly above named, these " Notes," under the heading of " The Prophet of Hope and of Glory," extended over a period of nearly eleven years. I have now gone through them again, and made a few slight alterations and corrections, but on the whole they are pre sented in this volume exactly as they originally appeared in The Scattered Nation including the introductory re marks in the first chapter, which were written eleven years ago. This will partly account for the style. Did time and strength permit, I might have re-written parts with a view to their abbreviation, but certain circumstances made this impossible. Besides, my object was not to write a " Com mentary " in the sense in which the word is usually under stood, but to unfold and explain this great Scripture in such a manner as to make it at the same time spiritually profitable to the average intelligent Christian reader. That I am not unacquainted with the various works which already exist on Zechariah, the pages of this book will bear witness. To several scholars in particular both English and Continental -I have either in the text, or in the footnotes, again and again expressed my indebtedness. I have indeed gleaned what I considered best and helpful for the elucidation of the text from many sources and even from writers with whose general attitude to the Holy Scriptures and principles of interpretation I am altogether at variance. But almost all the existing works on this prophetic book are in one way or another defective, and some of them even misleading. The older com mentaries, though commendable for their reverent spiritual tone and practical teaching, and some of them containing also a good deal of sound philological and historical matter, are more or less vitiated by the allegorising principle of interpretation by means of which all references to a concrete Kingdom of God on earth, a literal national restora tion of Israel, and the visible appearing and reign of Messiah, are explained away; while most of the modern writers, biased at the outset by their committal to what is known as the Higher Criticism, with its attitude of suspicion of the authenticity and genuineness of the sacred text, spend themselves, so to say, on theories of reconstruc tion, and for the most part uncalled for alterations and emendations, with the result that there is much of criticism in their works, but very little which is worthy of the name of exposition.
As to my own effort now embodied in this volume, I am disposed to say little about it, for I am deeply conscious of the greatness and sublimity of the theme, and my inadequacy in handling it, but I may claim this much, that I have tried in constant dependence on the Spirit of God, who first moved holy men of old to utter the Divine oracles, to deal simply and conscientiously with this great Scripture, and that, while I have consulted many sources and " authorities," my chief guide and final authority has been the Hebrew text itself, viewed in the light of the whole of God's self-revelation in the Old and New Testaments.
The reader will find some parts both in the visions and in the prophecies more thoroughly handled than others, my object being first of all to elucidate as fully as possible the great Messianic prophecies in this book, and secondly to unfold and emphasise the great and solemn prophetic events which centre around the land and the people of Israel events the rapid fulfilment of which men may now begin to see with their own eyes.
Let me add in conclusion that while the whole Scripture, which in each case stands at the head of the chapter in which it is treated, is now given for convenience sake from the American Standard Edition, which I consider the best of all the English versions, in the exposition itself I have had to do only with the original text, and have sought to bring out shades of meaning which cannot be reproduced in any one translation.
The Indexes at the close, prepared by other practised hands, will, I trust, be found helpful for purposes of reference.
Chorley Wood, Herts.