Where the world comes to study the Bible

An Introduction to the Book of Zechariah

Related Media

I. TITLE OF THE BOOK:

A. Hebrew: In Hebrew the book is titled hyrkz meaning “Yahweh remembers”

B. Greek: In Greek the book is titled ZACARIAS, a transliteration from the Hebrew name

II. AUTHOR: Zechariah the prophet

A. About the Prophet Zechariah:1

1. Zechariah was a Levite who was born in Babylon (Neh 12:1, 16)

2. He was the son of Berekiah and the grandson of Iddo the priest (Zech 1:1; cf. 12:4, 16; Ezra 5:1; 6:14), therefore, although the name was a common one, it is possible that he was a priest2

3. Zechariah was a prophet (Zech 1:1)

4. A contemporary of Haggai the prophet, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, the high priest (cf. Ezra 5:1-2; Zech 3:1; 4:6; 6:11)

5. Unlike Haggai, Zechariah was probably a young man when he prophesied (cf. Zech 2:4)

B. Controversy over Authorship and Unity of the Book:

1. Many critical scholars have decided that chapters 9--14 were not authored by Zechariah, and the reasons have been based upon internal evidence:3

a. Unlike chapters 1--8 where Zechariah’s name was mentioned three times (1:1; 1:7; 7:1) it is not mentioned in the last six chapters

b. The last six chapters do not mention dates

c. The last six chapters do not make clear references to known historical events like the completion of the temple

d. The book of Zechariah lacks unity in its contents, style, and vocabulary4

Chisholm writes, “Arguments of this type are often subjective. Others have presented lists of stylistic and thematic similarities between the two sections.”5

2. It seems that these differences may be best explained in view of the apocalyptic genre of the material rather than through differences in authorship. Chisholm writes, “Any actual differences may be due to changes in subject matter and literary genre”6

III. DATE: 520 B.C. until later in Zechariah’s ministry (end of the sixth century B.C.)

A. The dates for the three messages in chapters 1--8 identify his ministry there in concurrence with Haggai’s ministry with a one month overlap for the first message

B. The biblical dates from Haggai & Zechariah, and Julian calendar dates are provided below in the following chart:7

Reference

Year of Darius

Month

Date of New Moon

Day

Equivalent Date, BC

Hag. 1:1

second

sixth

29 Aug.

1st

29 Aug. 520

Hag. 1:15

24th

21 Sept. 520

Hag. 2:1

seventh

27 Sept.

21st

17 Oct. 520

Zec. 1:1

eighth

27 Oct.

-----

-----

Hag. 2:10,20

ninth

25 Nov.

24th

18 Dec. 520

Zec. 1:7

eleventh

23 Jan.

24th

15 Feb. 519

Zec. 7:1

fourth

ninth

4 Dec.

4th

7 Dec. 518

C. No dates are provided in the text for the two “oracles” in chapters 9--14; this has led to debate about their chronology:

1. Preexilic Date (and thus not by Zechariah)

a. Matthew 27:9-10 refers to Zechariah 11:12-13 but is attributed in Matthew to Jeremiah8
However, as Chisholm writes, “Matthew’s quotation is probably a composite of Zechariah 11:12-13 and passages from Jeremiah (cf. 18:1-2; 32:6-9), perhaps being based on an early Christian testimonial collection. Like Mark 1:2-3, which attributes a composite quotation (from Isa. 40:3 and Mal 3:1) to Isaiah, the more prominent of the prophetic authors involved, so the quotation in Matthew 27:9-10 is ascribed to the well-known prophet Jeremiah, even though its wording is more dependent on Zechariah”9

b. The references to Ephraim and Judah, Assyria and Egypt were considered to be preexilic descriptions
However, the prophet could have been drawing on earlier prophetic passages for his terminology10

2. Post-Zecharian Date:

a. A military conflict between Israel and Greece is an allusion to the Maccabean-Seleucid struggles of the second century B.C.
However, “Greece” may be used here to symbolize the distant nations (cf. Isa 66:19) who will resist the extension of the Lord’s kingdom in the eschaton. Even if the Maccabean wars are in view, one should not necessarily presuppose the existence of a Greek empire in the author’s day. Even though Persia, not Greece, was the major power in Zechariah’s time, a keen observer might have been able to foresee Greece’s eventual rise to prominence. If so, then certainly a divinely aided prophet could have looked beyond contemporary political realities and have foreseen future developments”11

3. Later In Zechariah’s Ministry

a. Some would affirm that the book comes from a time later in Zechariah’s ministry, but not by Zechariah. They would affirm that it was written by a disciple of Zechariah. This is primarily due to the unity which the book has been demonstrated to have12

b. If the book could have been written during the life of Zechariah, there is no reason to believe that it could not have been written by Zechariah himself; it is not necessary to assume that the same author can write in different genres
In addition the canonical history of the book of Zechariah has always included all fourteen chapters in the book. Baldwin writes, “Even the tiny fragment of the Greek manuscript found at Qumran, which includes the end of chapter 8 and the beginning of chapter 9, shows no gap or spacing whatsoever to suggest a break between the two parts. Again, as P. R. Ackroyd comments, ‘The very fact that this linking of 9--14 with 1--8 took place argues for some recognition of common ideas or interests’“13

IV. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

A. First Return: The first return from Babylonian exile was under Zerubbabel in 538 B.C. when Cyrus was King (539-530) (Ezra 1--6)

1. Return of Haggai and Zechariah: This was probably when Haggai and Zechariah returned to Jerusalem14

2. Temple Rebuilt: Haggai and Zechariah prophesied and the Temple was completed under Darius I (521-486)

a. Levitical sacrifices were reinstituted on an altar built for burnt offerings (Ezra 3:1-6)

b. The foundation for the temple was laid in the second year of the return (536 B.C.; cf. Ezra 3:8-13; 5:16)

c. Samaritan and Persian resistance ended the rebuilding of the temple for 16 years (until 520 B.C.; cf. Ezra 4:4-5)

d. Haggai and Zechariah prophesy from 520-518 B.C. encouraging the nation to rebuild the temple

e. The Temple was completed in 516 B.C. (Ezra 5--6)

B. Second Return: The second return from Babylonian exile was under Ezra in 458/57 B.C. while Artaxexes I Longimanus was King (Ezra 7--10)

1. Ezra 7:1 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem during the reign of Artaxerxes the king of Persia

2. Ezra 7:8 affirms that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king (Artaxerxes)

a. The is some question as to whether this was in the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus (464-423 B.C.) or Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-359 B.C.)15

b. The evidence seems to be that this was during the reign of Artaxerxes I Longimanus; therefore, the seventh year of his reign would have been 458/457 B.C.

1) Nehemiah 8:2 identifies Ezra as Nehemiah’s contemporary

2) The Elephantine Papyri16 [c. 400 B.C.] mentions Johanan (the grandson of Eliashib [Neh 3:1, 20])17

C. Third Return: The third return from Babylonian exile was under Nehemiah in 445/444 B.C. also while Artaxerxes I Longimanus was king (Neh 1--13).

1. Nehemiah I: Nehemiah’s first arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 445/444 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 1:2 and 2:1 affirm that the events of Nehemiah occurred in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes

b. Nehemiah arrived the first time in Jerusalem twelve-thirteen years after Ezra arrived

2. Nehemiah II: Nehemiah’s second arrival in Jerusalem was probably in 433/432-420 B.C.

a. Nehemiah 13:6-7 reads, “But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king. After some time, however, I asked leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil ....”

b. Nehemiah left Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes

c. Nehemiah may also have returned to Jerusalem in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes (this is not certain since the text reads, “After some time, ...”

V. LITERARY GENRE:

A. This book is apocalyptic genre like parts of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation

B. It is characterized by symbolic visions, animal symbolism, symbolic numbers (two, four, seven), and a blending of history and imagery18

C. Apocalyptic literature was meant to offer hope to a down cast people through describing the ultimate defeat of evil and victory of God for His people

D. In some ways apocalyptic literature is like parables in that it is meant to reveal and hide truth. Ezekiel calls his apocalyptic material parables

E. It seems that the visions of Zechariah are more developed than those of Amos and Jeremiah and yet less developed than those of Daniel and later Jewish apocalyptic literature like the book of Enoch. Revelation is fully developed apocalyptic literature19

F. The literary content of Zechariah is as follows:

1. An Opening Exhortation: 1:2-6

2. Eight prophetic dream visions: 1:7--6:8

3. Historical Messages: 7--8

4. Two Prophetic Oracles: 9--14

VI. PURPOSES FOR THE BOOK:

A. To introduce glimpses of reality for the postexilic community from a heavenly standpoint, namely, that “The transcendent God is working out His eternal purpose for Judah and Jerusalem, equipping His covenant people to fulfil [sic] the spiritual role for which He chose them (Zc. 1:7--6:15)”20

B. To describe the quality of life which the postexilic community is to display (Zech 7:1--8:32)21

C. To demonstrate that the Lord will establish His kingdom, not through a gradual evolutionary process, but through struggle and tension22

D. To urge Israel to return to Yahweh so that He would return to them and continue to fulfill His word23

E. To promise that in spite of the nation’s lowly position and its spiritual insensitivity, a Deliverer will bring a time of ultimate blessing


1 F. Duanne Lindsey, Zechariah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1454.

2 See Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 60-61.

3 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 62-63. She writes, The fact that these chapters are included under the name of Zechariah in our Bibles could mean no more than that they were anonymous writings, known to be authentic prophetic words but, because of their fragmentary nature, in danger of being lost and needing to be included on the scroll allocated to another prophet to save them from extinction. The Jewish Rabbis have written of cases in the prophets where they believed this principle to have operated (Ibid., 62).

4 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 62-63.

5 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 233. See also Charles L. Feinberg, God Remembers: A Study of Zechariah, 8-9.

6 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 233; Kenneth L. Barker, Zechariah, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:596-97.

7 This chart comes from Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 29.

8 This was first raised as an issue by Joseph Mede (1586-1638); see Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 63.

9 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 232. Feinberg writes, the Talmud specifically states (Baba Bathra) that Jeremiah was arranged by the Jews in their canon as the first of the prophets. In this was Jeremiah lent his name to all the prophetic books, and Matthew so treats it (Charles L. Feinberg, God Remembers: A Study of Zechariah, 8).

10 Chisholm writes, Long after the exile of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C., both Jeremiah (30:3-4; 31:6, 27, 31; 33:14) and Ezekiel (37:16), like Zechariah, envisioned the reconciliation of Israel/Ephraim and Judah. In speaking of a return from Egypt and Assyria, Zechariah may have been alluding to the promises of Isaiah (11:11-16) and Hosea (11:11) (Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 232).

11 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 233.

12 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 68-70; Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary, XXXII:170.

13 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 69-70.

14 Robert L. Alden, Haggai, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:572; cf. Ezra 2.

15 See Albright's early discussions. He seems to have changed his mind about this matter.

16 LaSor et al write, These business documents and letters were found on the island of Elephantine, north of the first cataract of the Nile and opposite Aswan. They belonged to a Jewish military colony established at least as early as the fall of Jerusalem in 586. The texts throw brilliant light on the affairs of the Jewish colony in Upper Egypt, especially for the period 425-400. In 410 these Jews wrote a letter to Johanan, high priest at Jerusalem (Neh. 12:22), regarding the rebuilding of their temple. In 407 they sent a long appeal in the same regard to Bagoas, governor of Judah, in which they mentioned a similar letter to 'Delaiah and Shelemiah, the sons of Sanballat the governor of Samaria. Assuming this is the same Sanballat who was the inveterate enemy of Nehemiah (2:19; 4:1 [MT 3:33]), the Artaxerxes referred to in 2:1 must be Artaxerxes I (LaSor, Hubbard, and Bush, Old Testament Survey, 560, n. 33; See also ANET, pp. 491ff).

17 Archer writes, This Johanan was a grandson of the Eliashib mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1 and 20 and Nehemiah was a contemporary of Eliashib. It therefore follows that when the biblical record speaks of Nehemiah going to Jerusalem in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (Neh 1:1) and again in his thirty-second year (Neh. 13:6), the reference must be to Artaxerxes I (yielding the date 445 and 433 respectively) rather than the reign of Artaxerxes II (which would result in the dates 384 and 372 respectively--far too late for the high priesthood of Johanan) (Gleason L. Archer, Jr. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 419-20).

18 For a fuller discussion see Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 70-74.

19 Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., Interpreting the Minor Prophets, 233-34; Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 71.

20 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction & Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 59.

21 Ibid.

22 Baldwin writes, The book prepares God's people for the worst calamity they can ever face, the triumph of evil over good. Even God's representative dies at the hand of evil men. There is no room in Zechariah's thinking for glib optimism, but when evil has done its worst the Lord remains King, and will be seen to be King by all the nations (Ibid., 60).

23 Kenneth L. Barker, Zechariah, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, VII:599.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines