Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Unclaimed Crown of Zechariah 6:9-15

The Empty Throne in Gondor

I am currently working on a short commentary on Zechariah for one of the New Interpreter's projects, and today I am writing up Zechariah 6:9-15. I have some fascinating student comments in my notes, including some class discussion comparing the unclaimed messianic crown of Zechariah 6 and the empty high throne in Gondor, in the Hall of Kings, in J. R. R. Tolkien's Return of the King. I've placed an image from the movie version of the story at the top of this post (click to enlarge; the high throne faces away from us at the near end of the shot). Until the coming of the true king, the high throne remains empty, and Denethor, the Steward (Lord) of Gondor, sits upon a black stone chair at the foot of the steps to the throne. Just so, the prophet Zechariah makes two crowns (see the Hebrew and NRSV n. b), one of which is to remain unclaimed until the royal Messiah, the "Branch" reveals himself in history. Note that the then current governor, Zerubbabel cannot be crowned---to do so would upset the Persian overlords. Joshua is crowned as high priest, but is cautioned to hold vigil for God’s royal “Branch” (v. 12; see 3:8) and to sit as “a priest by his throne” (v. 13) when he arrives.

Here is the NJPS translation of Zech 6:9-15, which is very close to the Hebrew: (11) Take silver and gold and make crowns. Place one on the head of High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, (12) and say to him, "Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Behold, a man called the Branch shall branch out from the place where he is, and he shall build the Temple of the LORD.(13) He shall build the Temple of the LORD and shall assume majesty, and he shall sit on his throne and rule. And there shall also be a priest seated on his throne, and harmonious understanding shall prevail between them."


Blogger Peter Carey said...


This is really cool; thanks for sharing your thoughts on the unclaimed crown of Zechariah, also, I appreciate the Lord of the Rings reference. I've read a few books that take a look at Christian themes in Tolkien, but I don't remember any references to Zechariah - - so, very very cool.

Hope you are well, I continue to enjoy reading your posts on Biblische Ausbildung!

Peter Carey+

Tue Jul 01, 02:40:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Hi Peter, Thank you for linking to this post on your blog. God's Peace, ---SLC

Tue Jul 01, 08:30:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in responding to Peter, i think it's unlikely that Tolkein had this in mind when he described the situation in Gondor; his technique is not so C-S-Lewis-like an allegory. i think rather it's a common literary trope (consider that the legend of Robin Hood is built on the same steward-of-the-king dynamic), and the image of that empty throne seems a lot like the image of the crown on the wall, waiting.

(and the messianic character of Aragorn, of course, helps the analogy tremendously.)

Tue Jul 01, 11:48:00 PM GMT-5  

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