The Book of Zechariah

I. Title

       The title is the same in Hebrew as it is in the English and Greek translations. The name Zechariah probably means "Yahweh remembers".

II. Author and Setting

        A. Author

       The name Zechariah is a very common name in the Old Testament, especially among the priests and Levites of the post-exilic period. There are perhaps thirty different people mentioned in the Old Testament by this name. Four of the most familiar would be:

1. A son of the high priest Jehoiada who was slain in the court of the House of the Lord by order of King Joash (837-800 BC). This Zechariah denounced the apostasy of Judah and preached God's judgment against her (2 Chronicles 24:20-22).
2. A king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the son of Jereboam II, who reigned only six months before being murdered in 745 BC (2 Kings 14:29; 15:8, 11).
3. A son of Jeberechiah, one of the two men Isaiah chose to witness when he wrote Maher-shalal-hash-baz on a large tablet (Isaiah 8:2).
4. The prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, who began prophesying in Judah about 520 BC. He is referred to as "the son of Berechia, the son of Iddo" in Zechariah 1:1 and 7 and simply as "the son of Iddo" in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14.

       For some reason, this difference, "son of Berechia" or "son of Iddo" has caused concern among some commentators and skeptics. Of course it is clear that "son of Iddo" is simply an abbreviated genealogy, equivalent to calling Jesus "son of David".         B. Date and Composition of the Book of Zechariah

The first eight chapters of Zechariah are nicely dated:

1. 1:1 -- the eighth month of the second year of Darius I, which would be October, 520 BC.
2. 1:7 -- the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, in the second year of Darius I, which would be February 15, 519 BC. This date suggests that Zechariah saw all eight of his visions in one night.
3. 7:1 -- the fourth year of King Darius I, in the fourth day of the ninth month of Kislev, which would be December 7, 518 BC.

       There are no dates given for chapters 9-14 and Zechariah's name does not even appear in that section. Times have changed and there is no reference made to Darius or any other king. The temple is standing, instead of waiting to be built (cf. 9:8, 11:13-14, and 14:21). As a result, many scholars suggest that chapters 9-14 of Zechariah were not written by Zechariah at all.
       There is very solid evidence to support this position.

Matthew 27:9-10:

Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me."

       The problem comes in locating this prophesy, which, rather than appearing in the book of Jeremiah, instead shows up in Zechariah 11:12-13.
       One thing to notice is that neither the Septuagint nor the Masoretic text serve as Matthew's text. One possibility to explain the slightly different wording is to suggest that Matthew made use of an Aramaic Targum.
       1. One common attempt to explain the introduction of Jeremiah's name in place of that of Zechariah in Matthew, is to argue that, so far as the principle features are concerned, this prophesy is simply a resumption of the prophecy of Jeremiah 19, and that Zechariah announces a second fulfillment of this prophecy (Hegstenberg), or that it rests on the prophecy of Jeremiah 18, in which the potter is also introduced, and that its fulfillment goes beyond Zechariah's prophecy, so that Jeremiah 18 and 19 are fulfilled at the same time.
       Comparison is also sometimes made to Mark 1:2-3 where Mark states:

       It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way -- a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"

       Here, Mark has quoted from two separate passages in the Old Testament and combined them: Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. So, perhaps Matthew, like Mark, quotes from both Zechariah and Jeremiah, and then names only the more prominent of the two prophets.
       Unfortunately for this explanation, it works only in abstract; it is difficult, if not impossible, to find even one word in the context of what Matthew attributes to Jeremiah, actually in the book of Jeremiah.
       2. A second answer to the problem that has been suggested is that Matthew is simply quoting from a now lost prophecy of Jeremiah, or to a saying of Jeremiah's that was passed down by oral tradition.
       Unfortunately, this is a little too convenient, besides lacking any substantive evidence.
       3. "Jeremiah" is said to begin the Book of the Prophets in the Hebrew canon, and that the use of this name is intended simply to indicate that Matthew is quoting the prophetic section of the Bible. In essence, then, this idea postulates that "Jeremiah" is synonymous to "the prophets" in general.
       Unfortunately, Matthew does not follow this supposed practice with his other Old Testament citations (and for that matter, neither do any of the other New Testament writers -- cf. Romans 9:25 and Acts 2:16). In Matthew 3:3, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:14 and 15:7 Matthew quotes Isaiah, and states that he is quoting Isaiah. He does not announce that he is quoting from Jeremiah. In Matthew 2:17 he states that he is quoting from Jeremiah, and there he actually does. In Matthew 12:39-41 and Matthew 16:4 he claims to quote from Jonah -- and does.
       As if that were not devastating enough to the theory, it should also be noted that Jeremiah does not begin the Book of the Prophets in the Hebrew Bible; rather, Joshua leads as the first book of the section that the Jewish people labeled "the Prophets", dividing them into two sections, the Former Prophets (Joshua-Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi).
       4. A fourth idea that has been postulated is to say that Jeremiah in Matthew is simply an example of a transcription error on the part of an early copyist. Unfortunately, all the manuscripts are unanimous in the reading of Jeremiah's name in Matthew 27:9.
       5. Matthew simply made a mistake. Martin Luther wrote:

       This chapter gives rise to the question, Why did Matthew attribute the text concerning the thirty pieces of silver to the prophet Jeremiah, whereas it stands here in Zechariah? This and other similar questions do not indeed trouble me very much, because they have but little bearing upon the matter; and Matthew does quite enough by quoting a certain scripture, although he is not quite correct about the name, inasmuch as he quotes prophetic sayings in other places, and yet does not give the words as they stand in the scripture. The same thing may occur now; and if it does not affect the sense that the words are not quoted exactly, what is to hinder his not having given the name quite correctly, since the words are of more importance than the name?

       Unfortunately, taking Luther's position leaves us with an error in the Bible, in one blow eliminating the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.
       6. This leads us then, to the sixth and final possibility, which is the one that will be used in this outline of the Bible: Matthew is correct in attributing this to Jeremiah, and our understanding of the book of Zechariah needs some modification.
       The problem of the unity of Zechariah represents one of the earliest critical problems in Old Testament studies. No serious question was raised against Zechariah's authorship of the entire book until the seventeenth century. Come AD 1638, a certain Cambridge theologian pointed out that Matthew 27:9 quotes Zechariah 11:12 as having been written by Jeremiah rather than Zechariah. The theologian's name was Mede. He decided to depart from the tradition that Zechariah wrote the whole book and wrote "There is reason to suspect that the Holy Spirit (through Matthew) desired to claim three chapters 9, 10, 11 for their real author."
       At first Mede denied that Zechariah wrote all of the book on a scriptural basis. He wrote, "There is no scripture sayeth they (chaps. 9-11) are Zachary's, but here is scripture saith they are Jeremy's as this of the evangelists." But Mede did not base his view of Jeremiah's authorship of Zechariah 9-11 on Matthew's reference alone. He also argued on the basis of internal evidence in these chapters that they were earlier than the exilic period. He said, "Certainly, if a man weighs the contents of some of them, they should in likelihood be of an elder date than the time of Zachary, namely, before the captivity, for the subjects of some of them were scarce in being after that time."
       Mede's suggestion did not attract attention until 1699 when Richard Kidder, Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells, wrote, "That Jeremy wrote chapter 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 of Zachary is a very probable opinion. This is certain, that such things are contained in those chapters, as agree with the time of Jeremy, but by no means with that of Zachary, e.g., that the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the Septre of Egypt depart, is foretold Zech 10:11. It is well known that this was past in Zachary's time. And tho' Jeremy might, Zachary could not predict this." (Richard Kidder, A Demonstration of the Mesiah I-III. London, 1664, 1700).
       So why would these sections by Jeremiah be added to the end of a book by Zechariah? Because Zechariah was the last book of the prophets! Zechariah 9-11, Zechariah 12-14, and Malachi (also three chapters in Hebrew) are each called a masa, "a burden". Most scholars therefore believe that these were three floating and anonymous oracles arbitrarily assigned to their present position in the cannon. The third and last of these was given the title "Malachi" from a word in Malachi 1:1 and 3:1, in order to make twelve minor prophets. It is interesting to note that each of these three sections begins with the exact same phrase: "masa deber Yahweh" -- "A burden of Yahweh".

III. An Outline of Zechariah

I. The Eight Visions of Zechariah 1:1-6:15
II. Justice and Mercy instead of fasting 7:1-14
III. Blessing will return to Jerusalem 8:1-23
IV. An Oracle by Jeremiah 9:1-11:17
V. An Oracle by an Unknown Prophet 12:1-21

Questions on Zechariah

1. When did Zechariah prophesy?
2. Who is the author of Zechariah 1-8?
3. Who is the author of Zechariah 9-14?
4. Discuss the following individuals mentioned in Zechariah:

a. Heldai
b. Tobijah
c. Jedaiah
d. Josiah
e. Hen
f. Joshua

5. Discuss the meaning of the following visions:

a. Man among the myrtles (1)
b. The four horns and the four craftsmen (1)
c. The surveyor measuring Jerusalem (2)
d. Joshua the priest (3)
e. The lampstand and the olive trees (4)
f. The flying scroll (5)
g. The woman in the basket (5)
h. The four chariots of judgment (6)

6. Explain what happens in chapter twelve. What relationship does it have to Romans 11:25-32?
7. Do you think the two women with stork's wings (in Zechariah 5:9 ) are angels? Why or why not?