SPECIAL TOPIC: ZECHARIAH (BDB 272)

I. UNIQUENESS

A. This book is pivotal in our understanding of both apocalyptic literature and eschatology.

B. Surprisingly Zechariah 1-8 are alluded to extensively in the book of the Revelation, while Zechariah 9-14 are alluded to often in the Gospels.

C. Zechariah quotes extensively from the major eighth century prophets (in the North, Amos and Hosea; in the South, Isaiah and Micah), as well as the seventh century prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.  He brings their insights to bear on his day and the last days.  This shows that the prophets of Israel and Judah had access to each other's books.

D. This book is a good example of apocalyptic language.  This is literary genre which tries to document end-time events by means of figurative, imaginative symbols.  It was often used in tension-filled times to express the hope of God's people that He was/is in control. 

 

II. CANONIZATION

A. This book is part of the "latter prophets" (Ecclesiasticus 49:10).

B. It is part of "the Twelve," a grouping of minor prophets (Baba Bathra 14b).

1. like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, they fit on one scroll

2. they represent the twelve tribes or the symbolic number of organization

3. they reflect traditional view of the books chronology

C. The order of "the Twelve" or Minor Prophets has been linked by many scholars to a chronological sequence.  It is obvious that Haggai and Zechariah form a historical pair.

 

III. GENRE

A. This book is an example of apocalyptic literature.

1. Zechariah 1-8 are basically prose.

2. Zechariah 9-14 are basically poetry.

B. This genre was unique to the Jews.  It was often used in tension-filled times to express the conviction that God is in control of history and would bring deliverance to His people.

C. It was characterized by

1. a strong sense of the universal sovereignty of God

2. a struggle between good and evil in this age

3. use of secret code words

4. use of colors

5. use of numbers

6. use of animals, sometimes animals/humans

7. God communicates His revelation by means of dreams or visions usually through angelic mediation

8. primarily focuses on the future

D. Some other examples are

1. Old Testament

a. Daniel 7-12

b. Ezekiel 37-48 (?)

2. New Testament

a. Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, 2 Thessalonians 2

b. Revelation

3. non-canonical

a. I Enoch

b. IV Ezra (Esdras)

c. II Baruch 

E. Jerome calls Zechariah the most obscure book in the OT.  Yet, it is alluded to extensively in the NT:

1. chapters 1-8 in the book of Revelation.

2. chapters 9-14 in the Gospels.

F. These visions are difficult to interpret but if we keep the historical setting in mind they must relate to the rebuilding of the Temple in post-exilic Jerusalem.  They are focusing on a new day of forgiveness and the coming of the Messiah.

 

IV. AUTHOR

A. Zechariah was a very common Hebrew name.  It was spelled two ways: Zechariah or Zachariah.  There are 27 people in the OT who spell it with an "e" and 2 who spell it with an "a."

B. Chapter 1:1 says that he is a priest (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14; Neh. 12:4,16).  Why Berechiah, who is mentioned in 1:1 but was omitted in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 is uncertain.  This would make Zechariah an early post-exilic prophet, like Haggai and Malachi, and possibly Obadiah and Joel.

C. Many modern scholars deny the unity of Zechariah.  This is because chapters 1-8 are so different from chapters 9-14.  In chapters 1-8 the prophet is named and the historical dates are given.  The setting is obviously post-exilic.  This section is alluded to extensively by John in his book of the Revelation.  However, chapters 9-14 are undated.  There is no prophet named.  The historical setting is eschatological.  This section is alluded to most often in the Gospels.

 

In Matt. 27:9 Jesus attributes a quote to Jeremiah which is from Zech. 11:12-13. This was the beginning of the trend toward denying authorship of chapters 9-14 to Zechariah.  However, even the Dead Sea Scrolls have Zechariah as a unity. There are several internal items which point to a unity.

1. the use of the number "two" – 4:3; 5:9; 6:1; 11:7; 13:8

2. the use of the vocative – 2:7,10; 3:2,8; 4:7; 9:9,13; 11:1-2; 13:7

3. the use of the phrase "from passing and from returning," which is unique to Zechariah – 7:14; 9:8

4. the repeated use of "saith the Lord" – used 16 times

5. the Qal form of "to dwell" – 2:8; 7:7; 12:6; 14:10

(These are taken from R.K. Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament, p.954).  For further discussion of the unity of the book (cf. E. J. Young's Introduction to the Old Testament, p.280).

D. The fact that Zechariah is made up of a historical and future section should not be surprising. We have seen this pattern before.

1. Isaiah 1-39 and 40-66

2. Ezekiel 1-29 and 30-48

3. Daniel 1-6 and 7-12

E. A new Old Testament Introduction by Andrew Hill and John Walton, on p. 421, outlines both divisions by a series of chiasmic parallelism (a, b, b, a or a, b, c, b, a).  This consistent literary technique gives future evidence of one author.

 

V. DATE

A. Zechariah 1:1 states that the prophet began his ministry in the 2nd year of the 8th month of the reign of Darius I (522-486 b.c.).  Most scholars assert that this is Darius I Hystrapes who took over the kingdom of Persia after Cambyses II (530-522), Cyrus II's son, died in 522 b.c.  Darius was a general of the Persian Army. 

B. This would make the date 519 or 520  (2 months after Haggai).  He preached about two years (cf. 1:1,7; 7:1).

 

IV. MAIN TRUTHS

A. The major purpose of the book is the encouraging of the returned Jews to rebuild the Temple.  This was started by Sheshbazzar, Ezra 1:8; 5:16, but had not been continued under Zerubbabel.  The Temple had been neglected for several years.  Haggai asserts that this is because of the apathy of the people, while Ezra implies that it was the political maneuvers of the surrounding provinces, especially Samaria.

B. This book is very Messianic.  Many of the prophecies about Jesus' life came from chapters 9-14

1. king is humble and riding on the foal of a donkey, 9:9

2. sold for thirty shekels of silver, the price of a slave, and a potter's field as Judas's burial place, 11:13

3. emphasis on descendant from David, 12:4-9

4. "they will look on Me whom they have pierced. . ." 12:10

C. The universal love and reign of God is seen in 2:11; 8:20-23; 14:9,16.  But in chapters 9-14 the universal rebellion of all peoples is stressed, 12:3 and 14:2 (Psalm 2)

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