In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Zechariah

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dictionary Articles
  • Bibliographies
  • The Text of Zechariah
  • Handbooks on the Hebrew Text and Translation
  • Sociological Studies
  • Tradition-History Studies
  • Redaction-Critical Studies
  • Zechariah and the Book of the Twelve

Biblical Studies Zechariah
Anthony Petterson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 03 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0197


The book of Zechariah is set initially in 520 BCE, 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 YHWH (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 at Jerusalem 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. Recent studies argue that chapters 9–14 should be dated to the mid-5th century, and some earlier (post 515 BCE). Others go further and argue for Zecharian authorship of the entire book, though several redaction-critical studies of the Book of the Twelve propose an early Hellenistic date for chapters 9–14. Recent years have seen a return to studying the book of Zechariah as a whole (particularly literary and thematic studies, and also commentaries).

General Overviews

Coggins 1987, McConville 2002, Collins 2004, and Hess 2016 provide orientation to the book. Floyd 1999 traces 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: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 1987.

    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.

  • Collins, John J. “Postexilic Prophecy: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Joel.” In Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. By John J. Collins, 401–424. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

    Provides an overview of the contents of the book and its main themes.

  • Floyd, Michael H. “Zechariah and Changing Views of Second Temple Judaism in Recent Commentaries.” Religious Studies Review 25.3 (1999): 257–263.

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

  • Hess, Richard S. “Zechariah.” In The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction. By Richard S. Hess, 690–701. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.

    An overview of the content of Zechariah and scholarly approaches to the book.

  • McConville, J. Gordon. “Zechariah.” In The Prophets. By Gordon J. McConville, 239–257. Exploring the Old Testament 4. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2002.

    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.

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