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Book of Zechariah

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Books of Nevi'im
First Prophets
1. Book of Joshua
2. Book of Judges
3. Books of Samuel
4. Books of Kings
Later Prophets
5. Book of Isaiah
6. Book of Jeremiah
7. Book of Ezekiel
8. Minor prophets


The Book of Zechariah is a book of the Bible Old Testament and Jewish Tanakh attributed to the prophet Zechariah.

Historical ContextEdit

Zechariah’s ministry took place during the reign of Darius the Great (Zechariah 1:1), and was contemporary with Haggai in a post-exilic world after the fall of Jerusalem in 586/7 BC.[1] Ezekiel and Jeremiah wrote prior to the fall of Jerusalem, while continuing to prophecy in the earlier exile period. Scholars believe Ezekiel, with his blending of ceremony and vision, heavily influenced the visionary works of Zechariah 1-8.[2] Zechariah is specific about dating his writing (520-518 BC).

During the Exile many Jews were taken to Babylon, where the prophets told them to make their homes (Jeremiah 29), suggesting they would spend a long period of time there. Eventually freedom did come to many Israelites, when Cyrus the Great overtook the Babylonians in 539 BC. In 538 BC, the famous Edict of Cyrus was released, and the first return took place under Shebazzar. After the death of Cyrus in 530 BC, Darius consolidated power and took office in 522 BC. His system divided the different colonies of the empire into easily manageable districts overseen by governors. Zerubbabel comes into the story, appointed by Darius as governor over the district of Yehud (Judah).

Under the reign of Darius Zechariah also emerged, centering around the rebuilding of the temple. Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire went to great lengths to keep “cordial relations” between vassal and lord. The rebuilding of the temple was encouraged by the leaders of the empire in hopes that it would strengthen the authorities in local contexts. This policy was good politics on the part of the Persians, and the Jews viewed it as a blessing from God.[3]

The ProphetEdit

His name means "God has remembered." Not much is known about Zechariah’s life other than what may be inferred from the book. It has been speculated that his ancestor Iddo was the head of a priestly family who returned with Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:4), and that Zechariah may himself have been a priest as well as a prophet. This is supported by Zechariah's interest in the Temple and the priesthood, and from Iddo's preaching in the Books of Chronicles.

AuthorshipEdit

Some scholars accept the book as the writings of one individual. For example, George Livingstone Robinson's dissertation on chapters 9-14[4] concluded that those chapters had their origin in the period between 518 and 516 B.C. and stand in close relation to chapters 1-8, having most probably been composed by Zechariah himself.

Others[citation needed] have concluded that there was more than one contributor to the book. In this view, chapters 1–8 are treated as being the work of the "original" Zechariah. His prophecies and writings were collected by his disciples and his prophetic mantle handed down to other disciples, who bear responsibility for chapters 9–14; so, rather than a single author, there was an inspired tradition of Zechariah after the "original" prophet, and the character of this original is to be found within the lines of chapters 1–8.

CompositionEdit

The return from exile is the theological premise of prophet's visions in chapters 1-6. Chapters 7–8 address the quality of life God wants his renewed people to enjoy, containing many encouraging promises to them. Chapters 9-14 comprise two "oracles" of the future.

Chapters 1 to 6Edit

Gustave Doré (1832-1883) - The Bible (1865) - Zechariah 6-5

Zechariah's vision of the four horsemen (Zechariah 6:1-8), engraving by Gustave Doré.

The book begins with a preface (1:1-6), which recalls the nation's past history, for the purpose of presenting a solemn warning to the present generation. Then follows a series of eight visions (1:7-6:8), succeeding one another in one night, which may be regarded as a symbolical history of Israel, intended to furnish consolation to the returned exiles and stir up hope in their minds. The symbolic action, the crowning of Joshua (6:9-15), describes how the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of God's Messiah.

Chapters 7 and 8Edit

Chapters 7 and 8, delivered two years later, are an answer to the question whether the days of mourning for the destruction of the city should be kept any longer, and an encouraging address to the people, assuring them of God's presence and blessing.

Chapters 9 to 14Edit

This section consists of two "oracles" or "burdens":

  • The first oracle (ch. 9-11) gives an outline of the course of God's providential dealings with his people down to the time of the coming of the Messiah.
  • The second oracle (ch. 12-14) points out the glories that await Israel in "the latter day", the final conflict and triumph of God's kingdom.

ThemesEdit

The purpose of this book is not strictly historical but theological and pastoral. The main emphasis is that God is at work and plans to live again with His people in Jerusalem. He will save them from their enemies and cleanse them from sin.

Zechariah's concern for purity is apparent in the temple, priesthood and all areas of life as the prophecy gradually eliminates the influence of the governor in favour of the high priest, and the sanctuary becomes ever more clearly the centre of messianic fulfillment. The prominence of prophecy is quite apparent in Zechariah, but it is also true that Zechariah (along with Haggai) allows prophecy to yield to the priesthood; this is particularly apparent in comparing Zechariah to "Third Isaiah" (chapters 55–56 of the Book of Isaiah), whose author was active sometime after the first return from exile.

Most Christian commentators read the series of predictions in chapters 7 to 14 as Messianic prophecies, either directly or indirectly. These chapters helped the writers of the Gospels understand Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, which they quoted as they wrote of Jesus’ final days [5] . Much of the Book of Revelation, which narrates the denouement of history, is also colored by images in Zechariah.

FootnotesEdit

  1. Carol L. Myers and Eric M. Myers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8: The Anchor Bible. Garden City, Doubleday and Company Inc., 1987. ISBN 978-0385144827. Page 183.
  2. Myers, p. 30.
  3. Myers, pp. 31-2.
  4. Published in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 12, No. 1/2 (Oct 1895 - Jan 1896), pp. 1-92.
  5. For example, see allusion to Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21:5; also Zechariah 12:10 in John 19:37. These and other references between Zechariah and the New Testament are described in Gill, John, John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible: Introduction to Zechariah, http://www.freegrace.net/gill/Zechariah/Zechariah_1.htm, retrieved 2008-12-27 

SourcesEdit

  • The Student Bible, NIV. Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.
  • D. Guthrie, (ed.) New Bible Commentary. New York: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970.
  • Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion And Dynasty: A Theology Of The Hebrew Bible. Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0830826155
  • Carroll Stuhlmueller, Haggai and Zechariah: Rebuilding With Hope. Edinburgh: The Handsel Press Ltd., 1988. ISBN 978-0905312750.

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