ZECHARIAH (Heb. זְכַרְיָה; "YHWH has remembered"; end of ninth century B.C.E.), the priest, son of Jehoiada. According to II Chronicles 24:20–22, Zechariah admonished the people in the courtyard of the Temple. They plotted against him and stoned him at the command of *Joash, king of Judah. The latter had forgotten that Jehoiada, Zechariah's father, had once saved his life and made him king (II Chron. 22:11ff.). As Zechariah died he said: "May the Lord see it, and avenge it." (The historicity of the incident is questioned by H.L. Ginsberg.) The tombstone over the alleged grave of Zechariah son of Jehoiada stands in the Valley of Kidron opposite the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

[Yehoshua M. Grintz]

In the Aggadah

The aggadah about the murder of Zechariah in the Temple concerns Zechariah the son of Jehoiada (II Chron. 24:20ff.); but in some of the sources he is confused with Zechariah the prophet (Zech. 1:1; Ezra 5:1) and also with the Zechariah mentioned in Isaiah 8:1. The aggadah magnifies the crime which was committed by the king and the people: "Seven transgressions were committed by Israel on that day" (Lam. R., Proem 23), among them that he was slain on the Day of Atonement which happened to fall on the Sabbath. Not content with the punishment which King Joash suffered according to the biblical story (II Chron. 24:23ff.), the aggadah tells that after the slaughter in Jerusalem and its environs, Nebuzaradan found the "blood of Zechariah bubbling up." When he inquired as to the nature of this blood, he was first told that it was the blood of sacrifices; but when he investigated and found it not to be so, they admitted whose blood it was. Nebuzaradan said "I will appease him" and he stood and killed in cold blood the members of the Sanhedrin, the priestly class, and the rest of the people – a total of 94,000; but the blood still seethed until Nebuzaradan angrily rebuked Zechariah saying "Do you want me to destroy them all?" Then the blood stopped seething (Git. 57b; Sanh. 96b; Lam. R. ibid.; also on Lam. R. 4:13, TJ, Ta'an. 69a–b; Sanh. 96b; cf. also Matt. 23:35f.). According to some of the versions, Nebuzaradan was so impressed by this example of divine justice that he repented his own misdeeds and was converted to Judaism. Thus the murder of Zechariah was the direct cause of the destruction of the Temple and all the suffering connected with it. Although the story refers explicitly to the First Temple, it seems meant to explain the destruction of the second one, for which no obvious reason was apparent. Hence it is quite plausible that the aggadah has in mind similar incidents which happened prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, such as the murder by John Hyrcanus of his brother during the sacrificial service (Jos., Ant., 11:300) or the slaying by Zealots of an innocent citizen, called Zechariah(!), in the Temple (Jos., Wars, 4:335).

[Joseph Heinemann]


Ginsberg, in: JBL, 80 (1961), 347; de Vaux, Anc Isr., 346, 377, 385. IN THE AGGADAH: S. Baeck, in: MGWJ, 76 (1932), 313–9; H.S. Blank, in: HUCA, 12–13 (1937–38), 327–46; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (19475), 304; (19463), 396–7.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.