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THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH

The Book of Zechariah, because of its great variation in style, content, and language, is widely believed to be a composite work. Made up of First Zechariah (chaps. 18) and Second Zechariah (chaps. 914), the book has been attributed to at least two different prophets. The prophecies of First Zechariah can be dated to the late sixth century B.C., contemporary with those of Haggai; the oracles of Second Zechariah are somewhat later.

The most striking feature of First Zechariah is a series of visions in which the prophet describes the centrality of Jerusalem, its Temple, and its leaders, who function both in the politics of the region and of the Persian empire and in God’s universal rule. These visions clearly relate to the Temple restoration begun in 520 B.C.

The prophecies of First Zechariah can be divided into three literary units. A brief introductory unit (1:16) links the prophecies of chaps. 18 with those of Haggai. The visionary unit (1:76:15) consists of seven visionary images plus an associated vision dealing with the high priest Joshua. The third unit (7:18:23) consists of two parts: (1) an address (7:114) to a delegation sent from Bethel in anticipation of the end of the seventy years of exile; (2) a series of oracles (8:123): seven oracles dealing with the restoration of Judah and Zion (vv. 117), followed by three oracles of hope concerning Judah and the nations (vv. 1823).

Coming nearly a century later, the prophecies of Second Zechariah are extraordinarily diverse. A complex assortment of literary genres appears in these six chapters, which consist of two distinct parts (chaps. 911 and chaps. 1214), each introduced by an unusual Hebrew word for “oracle.” Despite the diversity of materials, the structural links among the chapters along with verbal and thematic connections point to an overall integrity for Zec 914.

Second Zechariah draws heavily on the words and ideas of earlier biblical prophets. The prophet is acutely aware of the devastation that comes from disobedience to God’s word, as had been spoken by God’s prophetic emissaries. Yet, it was now clear in this century after the rebuilding of the Temple and the repatriation of many of the exiles, that Judah would not soon regain political autonomy and a Davidic king. So the various poems, narratives, oracles, and parables of Second Zechariah maintain the hope of previous prophets by depicting a glorious eschatological restoration. At that time all nations will recognize Jerusalem’s centrality and acknowledge God’s universal sovereignty.




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