Zechariah the priest (Lk 1:5-1:5)

“In the days

Of King Herod

Of Judea,

There was a priest

Named Zechariah.

He belonged to

The priestly order

Of Abijah.

His wife was

A descendant

Of Aaron.

Her name

Was Elizabeth.”

 

Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας ἱερεύς τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά, καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών, καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ.

 

The first person that Luke introduced was Zechariah.  None of the other gospel writers mentioned Zechariah.  However, Luke placed him within a historical context.  This all this took place during the reign of King Herod of Judea (Ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἡρῴδου βασιλέως τῆς Ἰουδαίας).  Matthew, chapter 2:1-12, had mentioned King Herod and the intriguing story of the Magi.  King Herod the Great (74 BCE-1 CE) was the Roman client king of Judea.  In fact, the Roman Senate named him King of the Jews in 40 BCE.  He built many things during his reign, including expanding the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  At his death, his kingdom was divided among his children.  There was a prophet and book of Zechariah, chapter 1:1, who lived around 520 BCE.  However, this Zechariah here (τις ὀνόματι Ζαχαρίας) was a priest (ἱερεύς), probably in Jerusalem.  He belonged to the priestly division of Abijah (ἐξ ἐφημερίας Ἀβιά), which was the 8th of the 24 divisions of priests that served in the Temple as laid out in 1 Chronicles, chapter 24:7-19.  His wife was also a daughter or descendant of Aaron (καὶ γυνὴ αὐτῷ ἐκ τῶν θυγατέρων Ἀαρών), a Levite or part of the priestly class.  She was called Elizabeth (καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτῆς Ἐλεισάβετ).  Thus, the action of his gospel begins with the unique story of the Jerusalem Temple priest Zachariah and his Levite wife Elizabeth.  Some biblical scholars think that this infancy story, like the infancy story of Matthew, chapter 1:18-2:23, are later additions.  They are here, so I will deal with it.

The kings of Judah from Solomon to the gap (Mt 1:7-1:8)

“Solomon was

The father of Rehoboam.

Rehoboam was

The father of Abijah.

Abijah was

The father of Asaph.

Asaph was

The father of Jehoshaphat.

Jehoshaphat was

The father of Joram.”

 

Σολομὼν δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ῥοβοάμ, Ῥοβοὰμ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀβιά, Ἀβιὰ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἀσάφ, Ἀσὰφ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσαφάτ, Ἰωσαφὰτ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωράμ.

I Chronicles, chapter 3 lists the kings of Judah, based on 1 Kings and 2 Kings.  Based on those 2 books, there was no disruption in the lineage of David via Solomon to all the kings of Judah before the Exile, since there were no revolutions in the southern kingdom of Judah.  The son of Solomon (Σολομὼν) was Rehoboam (Ῥοβοάμ) who ruled from about 931-913 BCE.  His son Abijah (Ἀβιά,) or Abijam ruled from about 913-911 BCE.  His son Asaph (Ἀσάφ) or Asa ruled from about 911-870 BCE.  His son Jehoshaphat (Ἰωσαφάτ) ruled from about 870-848 BCE.  His son Joram (Ἰωράμ) or Jehoram ruled from about 848-841 BCE.  The Greek text used the term “begat” (ἐγέννησεν) to represent the relationships between these 5 men.  However, it seems perfectly acceptable to simply call them the father instead of saying “fathered them.”  Now there was a gap in this genealogy from 841-781 BCE, since there was no mention of Ahaziah, Azariah or Jehoahaz who only ruled for less than a year in 741 BCE.  Actually, his mother Athaliah, ruled for about 6 years until her grandson Joash or Jehoash ruled from about 835-796 BCE.  Joash’s son, Amaziah ruled from about 796-781 BCE.  Perhaps this gap in the chronology of the kings was done to keep the numbers down to 14.

The priests with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:1-12:7)

“These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua. They were Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and of their associates in the days of Jeshua.”

Now suddenly we are back to the list of those who came with Zerubbabel some 90 years earlier. This is like an appendix to this document. It refers to Ezra, chapter 2. There are 22 priests listed here. Of the 22, only 2 were listed in Ezra, chapter 2, Seraiah and Rehum. Jedaiah is listed twice. Clearly Zerubbabel and Jeshua were the leaders. 11 off these same people, Seraiah, Jeremiah, Amariah, Hattush, Malluch, Meremoth, Ginnethon, Abijah, Mijamin, and Shemaiah, signed the agreement with Nehemiah in chapter 10 of this book. However this took place about 90-100 years after the original group, which would make it difficult for these same people to sign the document, after having returned 90 years earlier. Ezra is mentioned with this group but he did not return until about 10 years before Nehemiah.   Iddo was with Ezra so that he would not have been with the original group. Shecaniah and Meremoth were builders of the wall so that they could not have come with the original group, almost a century earlier. This is the only mention of Maadiah, Bilgah, and Amok so they are real possibilities. Jedaiah was the son of Joiarib, so that he could not have come with the original group, but Joiarib might have. Sallu was the son of Meshullam so that he could not have been there 100 years earlier. Seraiah was the son of Hilkiah, so that he could have been with the original group. Thus, not more than 4 or 5 of the named priests could have come back with Zerubbabel, unless the ones at the time of Nehemiah had the same name as the ones who came nearly a century earlier.

The priests who sign the agreement with Nehemiah (Neh 10:1-10:8)

“Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These are the priests.”

Obviously leading this signing of the covenant document is Nehemiah himself. Although he lists these people as priests, he himself was not a priest. He was the governor. Most of these 22 priests appear elsewhere in this book. This Zedekiah is difficult to locate since he obviously was not the last king of Judah, but he does appear elsewhere in this book. Daniel is not from the book of Daniel, but there is no mention of his name in this book. Maaziah and Bilgai only appear here. Meshullam appears over 13 times in this book, while the other 17 are mentioned anywhere from 2 – 5 times in this book.

 

The reign of King Hezekiah (2 Chr 29:1-29:2)

“King Hezekiah began to reign when he was twenty-five years old. He reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the sight of Yahweh, just as his ancestor King David had done.”

This is based on 2 Kings, chapter 18. King Hezekiah was a good king because he followed King David rather than his father, King Ahaz, who was not as good in the sight of Yahweh. He was 25 when he became king and died at age 54 after 29 years as king. His mother’s name was Abijah, but in 2 Kings she was called Abi, since she had the same father.

 

The peace of King Asa (2 Chr 14:1-14:5)

“The son of King Abijah, Asa, succeeded him. In his days the land had rest for ten years. King Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of Yahweh his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places. He broke down the pillars and hewed down the sacred poles. He commanded Judah to seek Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. They were to keep the law and the commandments. He also removed from all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. The kingdom had rest under him.”

This is loosely based on 1 Kings, chapter 15. Here there nothing about his grandmother Maacah and her infidelity since it comes up later in this chapter. More importantly, King Asa walked in the ways of Yahweh with a heart true for Yahweh, just like King David, his great grandfather. There is a little contradiction with 1 Kings here. Here it says that he removed all the high places, but in 1 Kings, it explicitly said that the high places were not taken away. There is no mention of the male prostitutes in the temple worship places here. However, both texts mentioned that he removed all the incense altars and the sacred totem poles.

The war with King Jeroboam (2 Chr 13:1-13:3)

“In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam of Israel, King Abijah began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Micaiah daughter of Uriel of Gibeah. Now there was war between King Abijah and King Jeroboam. King Abijah engaged in battle having an army of valiant warriors, four hundred thousand picked men. King Jeroboam drew up his line of battle against him with eight hundred thousand picked mighty warriors.”

Once again, this information is loosely based on 1 Kings, chapter 15. The first few verses are almost word for word. King Abijah, the son of King Rehoboam, only ruled for 3 years, a very short period of time compared to the others. There is no explanation of how and why he died. Interesting enough, here he has the same name as King Jeroboam’s young son that died, Abijah. While in 1 Kings, he was called Abijam. His mother’s name was Micaiah and not Maacah, as earlier and in 1 Kings. Here she is called the daughter of Uriel not Absalom. I am not sure which is correct since this Uriel is only mentioned here. There was a continuous war with King Jeroboam. However, here there is some kind of great battle between the north and the south. The numbers of troops on both sides were astronomical, and an obvious exaggeration. King Abijah of Judah had 400,000 troops, while King Jeroboam of Israel had 800,000 troops. Where would all these people fit and gather together? Were there that many people living there?