The decree of Caesar Augustus (Lk 2:1-2:1)

“In those days,

A decree went out

From the Emperor

Caesar Augustus

That all the world

Should be registered.”

 

Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην.

 

Luke tried to put these events within a historical perspective.  He said that in those days (Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις), a decree or dogma went out (ἐξῆλθεν δόγμα) from the Emperor, Caesar Augustus (παρὰ Καίσαρος Αὐγούστου), that all the world should be registered (ἀπογράφεσθαι πᾶσαν τὴν οἰκουμένην).  Could all the world be registered in a census?  Luke referred to the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who ruled the Roman empire with his famous Pax Romana, or peace everywhere, from 27 BCE to 14 CE, precisely the time of these events.  Augustus was born in 63 BCE so that he would have been 77 years old when he died.  He was sometimes called god, son of god, savior, or father.  As the adopted son of Julius Caesar, he defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra to gain sole control of the empire.  He set up an intricate set of taxes for the empire, so that there was a consent source of income.  Thus, the local tax collectors or publicans became rich, but disliked, official people in the empire.  The month of August was named after him, just as July was named after Julius Caesar.  However, there is no evidence of any call to register the whole world.  However, this would not have been inconsistent with his taxing plans, since the main reason for any registration or census would be for tax purposes.  Thus, this is possible, but unlikely.

The Angel Gabriel goes to Nazareth (Lk 1:26-1:26)

“In the sixth month,

The angel Gabriel

Was sent

By God

To a town

In Galilee

Called Nazareth.”

 

Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ,

 

Luke has the angel Gabriel busy again.  He said that in the 6th month (Ἐν δὲ τῷ μηνὶ τῷ ἕκτῳ) since the conception of John, God (ἀπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ) sent this angel Gabriel (ἀπεστάλη ὁ ἄγγελος Γαβριὴλ) to a town in Galilee (εἰς πόλιν τῆς Γαλιλαίας), called Nazareth (ᾗ ὄνομα Ναζαρὲθ).  Gabriel moved from Jerusalem to Nazareth at the request of God.  Galilee was a region in the north, as opposed to Judea that was in the south.

Zechariah was impatient (Zech 11:8-11:9)

“In one month,

I disposed

Of the three shepherds.

I had become impatient

With them,

They also detested me.

Thus,

I said.

‘I will not be your shepherd.

What is to die,

Let it die!

What is to be destroyed,

Let it be destroyed.

Let those that are left

Devour the flesh

Of one another.’”

Zechariah disposed of 3 shepherds in one month.  Who were these shepherds?  They may have been local Israelite officials.  Apparently, Zechariah was not pleased with them, while they detested him, not a good working relationship.  Zechariah was not going to be their shepherd any longer.  If they were in trouble about to die, let them die.  If they were about to be destroyed, let them be destroyed.  Anyone left would probably devour each other.  Everyone for themselves.

No more fasting (Zech 8:18-8:19)

“The word of Yahweh of hosts

Came to me,

Saying.

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

The fast of the fourth month,

The fast of the fifth month,

The fast of the seventh month,

The fast of the tenth month,

Shall be seasons of joy,

Shall be seasons of gladness,

Shall be cheerful feasts

For the house of Judah.

Therefore,

Love truth!

Love peace!’”

Yahweh told Zechariah that the former fasts on the 4th month, the 5th month, the 7th month, and the 10th month remembering the Babylonian siege and attack of Jerusalem would no longer be necessary.  Now there would be times of joy and gladness, cheerful feasts for the people of Judah.  However, they had to live in truth and peace, if this was to be fulfilled.

Should they continue to mourn (Zech 7:2-7:3)

“Now the people of Bethel

Had sent Sharezer

And Regem-melech,

With their men,

To entreat

The favor of Yahweh.

They were to

Ask the priests

Of the house of Yahweh of hosts,

With the prophets,

‘Should I mourn?

Should I practice abstinence

In the fifth month,

As I have done

For so many years?’”

The people of Bethel, from the old northern kingdom of Israel sent a couple of representatives to Jerusalem.  The two men were Sharezer and Regem-melech, both with Assyrian sounding names.  They had come to Jerusalem to find favor with Yahweh.  Thus, they went to his priests and prophets.  They wanted to know if they still had to mourn and abstain in the 5th month of the year as they had done for many years.  Apparently, the 5th month was when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 587 BCE.  Was the time of mourning for the old Temple over?

A new oracle (Zech 7:1-7:1)

“In the fourth year

Of King Darius,

The word of Yahweh

Came to Zechariah,

On the fourth day

Of the ninth month,

Which is Chislev.”

There is another oracle of Yahweh to Zechariah but it is 2 years later in 518 BCE, the 4th year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.  This time it was on the 4th day of the month of Chislev, the 9th month.

A new vision (Zech 1:7-1:7)

“On the twenty-fourth day

Of the eleventh month,

The month of Shebat,

In the second year

Of King Darius,

The word of Yahweh

Came to the prophet Zechariah,

The son of Berechiah,

The son of Iddo.”

This apparently is the first of 8 visions that Zechariah had.  This oracle of Yahweh took place on the 24th day of the 11th month in the 2nd year of King Darius, either late 520 BCE or early 519 BCE.  This month was called Shebat.  Once again, there is a mention of Zechariah’s lineage, via Berechiah and Iddo, with Iddo the most well-known.