Zechariah, Book of
Zechariah, Book of
ZECHARIAH, BOOK OF
Zechariah is the eleventh of the twelve minor Prophets. Zechariah's ministry extended at least from November 520 to November 518 b.c. and so partly coincided with that of Haggai [see haggai, book of]. Both men campaigned after the return from the Exile for the reconstruction of the Temple. Zechariah's words, however, are confined to ch. 1–8 of the book bearing his name. The last six chapters were added later from various anonymous sources. This second section, in fact, may once have included the Book of malachi, because the original introduction to Malachi (Mal 1.1) seems to have been the same as in Zec 9.1 and 12.1, the simple phrase maśśā’ (literally, burden, i.e., oracle). When the three chapters of Malachi were separated from Zechariah, possibly from a desire to divide the minor Prophets into the sacred number of 12, the name "Malachi" (Heb. mal’ākî, my messenger) was borrowed from a reference in Mal 3.1. The two major sections of Zechariah, ch. 1–8 and ch. 9–14, are here considered separately, both as to author and content, after a discussion of the Prophet himself.
The Prophet. Zechariah (Heb. z ekaryâ, Yahweh remembers) is called the "son of Berechiah, son of Iddo" (Zec 1.1). The phrase "son of Berechiah" is suspect, for it is missing in Ezr 5.1; 6.14; Neh 12.16; it probably slipped in here from Is 8.2, and the confusion continued in Mt 23.35. As a son of Iddo, Zechariah belonged to a priestly family (Neh 12.4, 6). This fact, coupled with the dominant influence of Ezekiel in postexilic Judaism, explains why priestly attitudes and interests deeply colored Zechariah's preaching. Zechariah's command of words, sweep of ideas, and sense of the practical reveal a gifted speaker. He was able to distract people's minds from "the day of small beginnings" all around them (Zec4.10) by his effusive, apocalyptic writing, which included visions, mysterious knowledge of the future, angelic mediators, other ethereal beings, extensive symbolism, and expectation of the messianic breakthrough at any moment. Besides being an apocalyptist, Zechariah was also a reforming Prophet. Although primarily interested in the Temple and its liturgy, Zechariah defended the homeless, the orphan, and the widows (7.1–14). Moral integrity, he insisted, must accompany the worshiper at the sanctuary (ch. 3).
Zechariah preached from the 8th month of the 2nd year of Darius I (Oct. 27 to Nov. 25, 520 b.c.) to at least the 4th day of the 9th month of the 4th year of this king (Dec. 8, 518 b.c.; Zec 1.1; 7.1). darius i, king of persia (521–486 b.c.), governed a sprawling empire. The fact that he seized the throne amid palace intrigues and assassinations and that for two years he conducted vigorous military campaigns to suppress revolts may help to explain Zechariah's messianic concerns (see messianism), especially his hopes for Jewish independence and for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy under Zerubbabel (6.9–15).
In his preaching Zechariah gave first place to the reconstruction of the Temple and the worthy performance of its liturgy. [see temples (in the bible).] The Temple is the place where God renews His great acts of salvation and where the messianic age will suddenly appear (1.16–17). It is not enough to observe ceremonial laws; moral wickedness must be atoned for and removed (3.1–10; 5.1–11). Zechariah witnesses to the postexilic devotion to angels (1.9, 12, 14; 2.7; 3.2); they are present not only to explain the strange, even weird, visions that fill his prophecy but also to impress upon the people the fatherly concern of Almighty God. In postexilic theology God is awesome and transcendent, but He sends His angels to protect and lead His people. Finally, a rather pronounced universalism extends the Prophet's thoughts to the salvation of all men (2.15; 8.21–22).
First Major Sections: Chapters 1–8. The anthology of Zechariah's preaching in ch. 1–8 begins with a description of the Prophet's vocation (1.1–6). There immediately follows an account of eight visions (1.7–6.8), told in highly apocalyptic language. This choice of style, in fact, makes us suspect that "vision" was more a literary medium than an actual fact. The first vision of the Four Horsemen (1.7–17) moves quickly from a report of tranquility and rest (perhaps that which settled upon the Persian Empire after Darius I crushed all resistance) to the sight of Israel's despondency over messianic frustrations and concludes with a glimpse of the new Jerusalem. The second vision of the four horns and the four blacksmiths [2.1–4; in the Septuagint (LXX) and Vulgate (Vulg) 1.18–21] remains extremely vague even for modern interpreters. The third vision of the new Jerusalem (2.5–17; in the LXX and Vulg 2.1–13) reviews the glorious prospects of Jerusalem, peaceful, prosperous, and reminiscent of the days of Moses, when God had led His people by columns of fiery clouds (Ex 13.21–22). The fourth vision (Zec 3.1–10; 4.4–10) presents no difficulty in its general sweep of thought: the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak, will be cleansed of moral guilt and ceremonial fault in order to represent the nation worthily before the throne of God. The Prophet thus recognizes the important messianic role of the priesthood. Either Zechariah or, what seems more probable, a later editor of this prophecy balances the priestly reference with a recognition of Zerubbabel and the messianic position of the Davidic family. The fifth vision, that of the lampstand and the two olive trees (4.1–3, 11–14), has various explanations: the lampstand can represent God, His providence, His universal power, the Jewish people as witnesses, or the Temple. The two olive trees probably symbolize the priestly and royal representatives, both of whom were consecrated with olive oil. While the sixth and seventh visions of the flying scroll and the flying bushel (ch. 5) announce the removal of sin from God's people, the eighth vision (6.1–8) seems to repeat the thought and imagery of the first vision.
It is difficult to decide whether the coronation of Zerubbabel (6.9–15) really took place or whether it is another symbolic vision. The Hebrew text, which seems to be garbled here, speaks of more than one crown and centers the action around the high priest Joshua. Because of surrounding phrases, however, most scholars feel that Zechariah was thinking exclusively of Zerubbabel. In the last two chapters of this section (ch. 7–8) is heard an echo of authentic prophetic preaching, in the insistence that faith, kindness, and compassion are far superior to fasting and liturgical ceremonies (7.1–14; 8.18–23). The ten separate, messianic oracles of ch. 8 also resound with familiar prophetic phrases, but the central position of the Temple and priesthood shows that the leadership in the prophetic movement had passed into priestly hands.
Second Major Section: Chapters 9–14. The second part of the book (ch. 9–14) reveals such differences of style and background that scholars are almost unanimous in attributing these chapters to one or more inspired authors other than Zechariah. Unlike ch. 1–8, these chapters do not provide any clear, historical allusion; precise dates and names are completely lacking. Nor are ch. 9–14 preoccupied with Temple reconstruction, the high priest Joshua, or the governor Zerubbabel. While ch. 1–8 are prosaic, redundant, and involved, ch. 9–14 are poetic, simple, and direct. The lack of specific historical references, however, often makes it impossible to identify the events alluded to, although these, no doubt, were evident to the original audience. What was of primary, messianic interest in the first part—Jerusalem and the revival of the Davidic dynasty—is reduced to a secondary position in the second part. The apocalyptic spirit of the first part, however, continues through these chapters and, in fact, reaches one of its most intense expressions in ch. 14.
The second part is often called "Deutero-Zechariah" (i.e., second Zechariah). It is best to explain Deutero-Zechariah as the end product of an inspired tradition, rather than as the work of a single author, for these chapters not only drew upon the texts and references of earlier Prophets but also developed and expanded through the years until they reached their present form. New sections were added and older ones were reworked and enlarged. For a while, as already mentioned, the three chapters of Malachi were probably included here.
The composition of this second part, therefore, extends through the entire 1st century of the Hellenistic Age (333–63 b.c.). The earliest references to foreigners seem friendly enough (9.7; 14.21); the Jews at first welcomed Alexander the Great as a divine instrument in delivering them from Persian oppression. Later additions, however, reflect hatred and hostility (9.13b; most of ch. 12–14). The historical details, here as always in postexilic Judaism, are very difficult to reconstruct. We sense a scourge of internal intrigue and external persecution that recall the teaching of the Songs of the suffering servant in Isaiah (see especially Is 52.13–53.12). Suffering, with its power to purify and strengthen (Zec 12.10–14), will issue in a perpetual messianic Feast of Tabernacles (14.8, 16), a constant thanksgiving for abundant joys.
Not only do ch. 9–14 weave in many quotations from, or allusions to, earlier prophetic writings (especially Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Joel), but verses from the chapters of Zechariah are themselves frequently quoted in the New Testament: Zec 9.9a in Lk1.28?; Zec 9.9b in Mt 21.5; Zec 11.12 in Mt 26.15; Zec 12.4 in Lk 20.17–18; Zec 12.10 in Jn 19.37 and Rev 1.7; Zec 13.7 in Mt 26.31; Zec 14.21b in Jn 2.16.
Bibliography: p. r. ackroyd in Peake's Commentary on the Bible, ed. m. black and h. h. rowley (New York 1962) 646–655. s. bullough, Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, ed. b. orchard et al. (London-New York 1957) 689–700. t. chary, Les Prophètes et le culte à partir de l'exil (Tournai 1955) 118–127. a. gelin, Aggée, Zacharie, Malachie in Bible de Jérusalem (Paris 1957) 1960. r. t. siebeneck, "The Messianism of Aggeus and Proto-Zacharias," The Catholic Bible Quarterly 19 (1957) 312–328. t. h. robinson and f. horst, Die zwölf Kleinen Propheten in Handbuch zum Alten Testament, ed. o. eissfeldt (14; Tübingen 1954), with complete bibliog.