The “He-Me” Pattern in Zechariah 2:8-12 and Zechariah 9

Zechariah 2:8-12 and Zechariah 9 are both carefully constructed around a matching literary pattern. The pattern takes its shape around God alternating between speaking of Himself in the first and third person (for clarification, words like “I” or “Me” depict the first person; “He” or “the LORD” represent the third person). For ease of reference, I am calling it the “He-Me” pattern. To examine its function, let’s first turn our attention to Zechariah 2, which establishes this pattern, and then compare it with Zechariah 9.  

The “He-Me” Pattern in Zechariah 2:8-12

The entire section of Zechariah 2:8-12 focuses on God’s reported speech, wherein He quickly alternates, without clear notice, between referring to Himself in the first and third person. On three occasions, God, quite perplexingly, even depicts Himself acting in the same event as two distinct agents – both of which He identifies with Himself.  Here is how we see this. Zechariah makes it is clear at both the beginning and end of the reported speech that God is the one who is speaking (“the LORD of armies says,” verse 8; “declares the LORD,” verse 10). Yet, as He speaks of Himself in the first person (“Me,” verses 8, 9, 11), He talks of being sent by His same title (“the Lord of armies has sent Me,” verses 9, 11, see also, “He has sent Me,” in verse 8). Taken together, the passage reads, “The LORD of armies says this: ‘. . . the LORD of armies has sent Me. . . ’ declares the LORD.” From this, it appears that “He-Me” pattern incorporated throughout the passage serves two purposes: 1) to highlight the perplexing relationship of the LORD sending Himself; and 2) to further clarify that God, even with His rapid changing of viewpoint, is the focal character throughout. 

In total, God’s recorded speech changes between the first and third person ten times (throughout its eleven units) with verse 10 appearing at its center. As we noted with the passage’s chiasm, this central placement is one of the ways authors would commonly signal to their readers that they are to reflect on this point as being particularly significant. So, what do we find in the center of this passage? “Shout for joy and rejoice, daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst” (Zechariah 2:10).[1]

This structure, with its central focus on the coming of the LORD in verse 10, is further supported by where Zechariah locates his three mentions of the phrase, “the Lord of armies has sent Me.” Notably, Zechariah uses this key theological phrase to introduce the first, middle, and last sections where God speaks of Himself in the first person. Its central mention is what introduces Zechariah 2:10. The structured use of this phrase serves to emphasize that the key figure who is promised to come in verse 10 is the LORD of armies who, quite perplexingly, is also said to be sent by the LORD of armies. Zechariah’s literary play with this “He-Me” pattern serves to elucidate his inspired theological message on the nature of this figure. 

You can follow the alternating pattern between God referring to Himself in the first and third person in the text below.

I marked references to the speaker in blue, showing how it is consistently the Lord speaking and not someone else. In red are three statements of the LORD sending Himself. And then in purple are statements of God (speaking in the first person) coming to dwell in the midst of His people. Highlighted in yellow are references to God in the third person and highlighted in Green are references to God in the first person.

8For the Lord of armies says this

After glory He has sent Me against the nations that plunder you, for the one who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. 9For behold, I am going to wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves.

Then you will know that the Lord of armies has sent Me. 10Shout for joy and rejoice, daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,”

declares the Lord.

11“And many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and

you will know that the Lord of armies has sent Me to you.12And the Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

The “He-Me” Pattern in Zechariah 9

The use of this pattern in chapter 2 to center on verse 10 is noteworthy for at the center of Zechariah 9 (as established through the same “He–Me” literary pattern as we find in 2:8-12) we find our very similar-sounding triumphal entry passage: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). These close parallels alert us to something significant. The repeated “He–Me” literary pattern in these passages – a pattern that develops the same themes in both passages and focuses in on the same central statement – is significant because it links the passages together, encouraging us to see the coming of the “King” in Zechariah 9:9 as the sent “the LORD of armies” in Zechariah 2:10.

  1. It is not unheard of for Old Testament authors to at times overlap two or more literary patterns. We see this, for example, in Moses’ account of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Along with maintaining a linear chronological order, Moses incorporates three overlapping literary structures: 1) the use of parallel pairs: a-a’ || b-b’ || c-c’ || d-d’ || etc.; 2) a fourteen-part chiasm spanning the entire story; 3) two seven-part chiasms, developed around distinct themes, that span each half of the story. See David A. Dorsey, The Literary Structure of The Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999), pp. 59-63. Although we do not want to uncritically mistake happenstance repetition as intentional, there are several indicators that Zechariah was intentional in his overlapping use of this additional structure: the unusually rapid and frequent change from the first to third person in these sections; the role this pattern plays in symmetrically dividing key themes throughout chapter 9; its centering on parallel passages between chapters 2 and 9; and the additional mention of “He sent Me” in 2:8 (in addition to the parallel phrases used in verses 9 and 11) which plays no role in the chiastic arrangement but serves to further clarify this pattern by introducing through key phrasing the first, middle, and last sections that use the first person.

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