In This Article Zechariah

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • The Text of Zechariah
  • Sociological Studies
  • Tradition-History Studies
  • Zechariah and the Book of the Twelve
  • The Use of Zechariah in the New Testament

Biblical Studies Zechariah
by
Anthony Petterson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0197

Introduction

The book of Zechariah is set initially in 520 BC, some twenty years after the first Jews returned from exile in Babylon to the region of Judah (Yehud). Earlier prophets had promised a glorious restoration of the nation (e.g., Zeph. 3:20). However, the reality for those who returned fell far short of these expectations. Their endeavors to rebuild the city, the temple, and their community life were frustrated at many levels. Into this situation, the prophet Zechariah (a contemporary of Haggai) calls on the people to return to Yahweh (1:1–6). Zechariah is given eight night visions that promise the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the temple, the overthrow of hostile nations, the eradication of wickedness, and YHWH’s return to the people along with a future Davidic king (1:7–6:8). A prophetic sign action (6:9–15) reiterates several of these themes. Two years after these visions, with the temple nearing completion, a delegation is sent to ask the leadership in Jerusalem whether fasting (instituted after the destruction of Jerusalem a generation earlier) was still appropriate. Zechariah calls the people to pursue covenant faithfulness, and to set their sights on the consummation of YHWH’s kingdom, when fasting will become feasting and the nations will come to Jerusalem to share in this blessing (7:1–8:23). Zechariah 9–14 contains two “oracles” (chaps. 9–11 and chaps. 12–14) that dramatically portray YHWH returning to his people and establishing his kingdom. These oracles depict a future battle and explore what God’s coming means from different perspectives: for the nations, God’s people, those who are leaders, God’s king, Jerusalem, and all creation. These chapters are undated and they lack any direct reference to readily identifiable persons, including the prophet (though the prophet plays a role in chapter 11). Since the 17th century, scholars have proposed a variety of authors and different provenances for chapters 9–14. From the 17th to the late 19th centuries, these chapters were mostly seen as pre-exilic, but after the work of Bernhard Stade in 1881, they were mostly dated to the Hellenistic period. More recent studies argue that chapters 9–14 should be dated to the mid-5th century, and some earlier (post 515 BC). Others go further and argue for Zecharian authorship of the entire book. Recent years have seen a return to studying the book as a whole (particularly literary and thematic studies, and also commentaries).

General Overviews

Meyers and Meyers 1992, Petersen 1992, Larkin 2001 and Wolters 2012 are dictionary articles that, along with Coggins 1987 and McConville 2002, provide orientation to the book. Hoglund and Walton 2009 gives an introduction to the historical background of Zechariah. Floyd 1999 traces recent shifts in the research on Zechariah. Most Commentaries also have introductory material that provides a general overview of the historical background, contents, themes, and history of interpretation of Zechariah.

  • Coggins, Richard J. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Old Testament Guides. Sheffield, UK: JSOT, 1987.

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    An overview of the historical period and scholarly approaches to Zechariah, especially Sociological Studies that attribute different parts of Zechariah to different community parties in this period.

  • Floyd, Michael H. “Zechariah and Changing Views of Second Temple Judaism in Recent Commentaries.” Religious Studies Review 25 (1999): 257–263.

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    Identifies the shifts in scholarly views concerning second temple Judaism and their impact on major commentaries on Zechariah published in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Hoglund, Kenneth G., and J. H. Walton. “Zechariah.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Edited by John H. Walton, 202–231. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

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    Gives background to the historical context of Zechariah, particularly places and customs referred to in the book. Numerous illustrations are provided.

  • Larkin, Katrina J. A. “Zechariah.” In The Oxford Bible Commentary. Edited by John Barton and John Muddiman, 610–615. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Offers brief introductions to the following issues: text, division of the book, social context, and relation to apocalyptic and older prophecy. Also provides a brief commentary on the book.

  • McConville, J. Gordon. “Zechariah.” In The Prophets. Exploring the Old Testament 4. 239–257. London: SPCK, 2002.

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    Gives an overview of the history of interpretation, an outline of the contents of the book, an introduction to key themes, and a brief bibliography.

  • Meyers, Carol L., and Eric M. Meyers. “Zechariah, Book of (Zechariah 1–8).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 1061–1065. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Addresses the issues of date of composition, structure, historical background, and the main features of Zechariah 1:1–6, 1:7–6:15, and 7:1–8:23.

  • Petersen, David L. “Zechariah, Book of (Zechariah 9–14).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 1065–1068. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    Discusses the history of research on authorship and date of Zechariah 9–14. Outlines the contents of the two “Oracles” (Zech. 9–11 and 12–14).

  • Wolters, Albert. “Zechariah, Book of.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville, 889–899. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012.

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    A recent overview of historical background, textual transmission, structure, content, themes, and history of interpretation of Zechariah from a confessional critical point of view.

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