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ZECHARIAH, the eleventh book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. While the book is attributed to one prophet, in style and content it is clearly separated into two parts:

(1) Chapters 1–8 are written with the return from Babylonian Exile as background, and the name of the prophet and the dates of his prophecy are clear;

(2) Chapters 9–14 are of an eschatological nature and are written in an obscure style with allusions to unclear backgrounds. Contemporary commentaries tend to treat *Haggai-Zechariah 1–8 together, and separately from Zechariah 9–14.

Zechariah 1–8

The introduction to the book attributes the work to Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo the prophet (Zech. 1:1, and 1:7). The prophet's name is mentioned elsewhere in the Book (7:1, 8). He is mentioned as well, along with *Haggai, in Ezra 5:1; 6:14, where he is referred to as the son of Iddo, rather than grandson. In Nehemiah 12:4 and 16, mention is made of a priest named Zechariah of the family of Iddo, who may be Zechariah the prophet. Three of Zechariah's prophecies are dated between the second and fourth years of Darius' reign (520–18 B.C.E.; 1:1, 7; 7:1). This makes Zechariah a contemporary of Haggai. The Talmud (TJ, RH 1:1, 66b) considers the beginning of Zechariah's prophecy to predate Haggai, although in at least one of his prophecies (8:9–13), he appears to refer to concerns of Haggai as matters which preceded him (Haggai 1:2–11; 2:15–19). In all probability, therefore, he was a younger contemporary of Haggai (cf. Zech. 2:8, where he is called naʿar, "lad"). The chronological headings of Haggai-Zechariah 1–8 are more detailed than earlier books of the Bible, so much so that we can see that they cover a period of less than two and a half years in the reign of Darius I the Great (522–486). Haggai and chapters 1–8 of Zechariah seem to be part of the same redactional effort. Zechariah sees himself in the line of the preexilic prophets (ha-nevi'im ha-rishonim; Zech. 1:4; 7:4, 12), whose words of warning were fulfilled over the doubts of the people to whom they were addressed. From the fact that Yahweh's words of doom and destruction of Judah and Jerusalem conveyed by the prophets were fulfilled, Zechariah concludes that Yahweh's promises to do good for Judah and Jerusalem will likewise be fulfilled (Zech. 8:14–15). Indeed, in response to the question of whether the fasts commemorating the disasters of the earlier sixth century should continue to be observed (Zech. 7:3), the prophet responds that these days will be turned into festivals (Zech. 8: 18–19). In contrast to some of the pre-exilic prophets, he is an enthusiastic supporter of the temple (Zech. 2:16), to which he refers as "Yahweh's palace" (hekal YHWH; contrast Jer. 7:4 in which that characterization is termed sheker, "a lie"), to Mount Zion as the holy mountain and Jerusalem as the city of truth in which YHWH dwells; a holy land (Zech. 2:16; 7:3). Like the pre-exilic prophets he calls for social justice, honesty, and equity and regard for the poor and defenseless (Zech. 7:8–10; 8:16–17). Zechariah makes much use of symbolic visions, seeing in them a connection between the visionary and real objects, by blurring the time and location. Unlike the visions of the pre-exilic prophets, the visions of Zechariah are accompanied by direct or indirect explanations made by the angel who speaks to him, and who serves as an intermediary between the prophet and God. The angel also serves to transmit prophecies from God to the prophet (see below).

Chapters 1–6 contain eight visions (among which some other fragments are inserted; see below). In the first of these (1:8–17), Zechariah one night sees a man astride a red horse standing among myrtle trees "in the depths," or, perhaps, "in the shadow." Behind him are red, sorrel, and white horses. Replying to the prophet's question, the angel explains that the horses symbolize messengers sent throughout the world by God to see what is transpiring (cf. Job 1:7). The image is probably based on the Persian surveillance system. They return with the information that all is tranquil. The angel, apparently disappointed, perhaps because the disturbances following the death of the Persian emperor Cambyses (530–522) had raised hopes of independence among the subject peoples of the empire, prays for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah which have aroused God's anger for "these seventy years"; the Lord replies that He is jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and will return to them. In the second vision (2:1–4), which continues along the lines of the first, the prophet sees four horns (like those of a siege ram butting against a wall), which represent the nations that destroyed Jerusalem. Zechariah then observes four craftsmen who go to cut the horns down, i.e., who restore the city. In the third vision (2:5–9), a man sent to measure Jerusalem with a measuring rod is sent away by an angel who states that Jerusalem does not need a man-made wall: it will be inhabited without walls, God being the wall about "the multitude of men and cattle therein." The fourth vision (Zech. 3), the only vision in the Hebrew Bible in which a historical character appears, takes place in heaven, where a court is in session. The accused is the high priest Joshua and the prosecutor is the Satan (Heb. ha-satan as in Job 1; a title, not yet a proper name). God rebukes the Satan: "Joshua is a brand saved out of fire" and is not to be harmed. An angel orders that Joshua's filthy garments, symbolic of his human impurity, be replaced with robes and a clean turban. He promises Joshua that if he will walk in the ways of God, keeping His charge, he will have "free access among these that stand by," i.e., among the angels (cf. the symbolic purging by which *Isaiah is qualified to participate in the deliberation of the heavenly council; Isa. 6:1–8). In vague language, the angel prophesies that God will bring "My servant the Branch" (see Zech. 6:12; Cf. Jer. 23:5–6; 33:15–16), a reference to Zerubabel, grandson of the Davidic King Jeconiah deposed in 597. He shows Joshua a stone with seven eyes. The vision is interrupted by an inserted oracle to Zerubabel, promising that it is he who will complete the temple and triumph in his mission through the agency of the divine spirit rather than through military force as might have been hoped during the period of the empire's unrest (cf. Hag. 2:20–23). Following the insertion, the eyes in the stone are symbolically explained (Zech. 4:10b) as the seven eyes of YHWH, which range through all the earth. The prophet then observes a golden lampstand with a bowl above it and seven lamps upon it, and "each of the seven with seven spouts, for the lamps which are on top of it" (see illustrations in IDB 3:66; Meyers and Meyers, pl. 12–14). Two olive trees, one on each side, have branches, which serve as conduits to empty the golden olive oil through two golden şantәrot (?). The two olive trees represent "the two sons of oil who stand by the Lord (adon) of the whole earth," i.e., Joshua and Zerubbabel, who will rule jointly and by their close association with Yahweh represent fertility and prosperity (Meyers and Meyers 1988, 276). The prophet sees two more visions (Zech. 5), which are also related to each other. A large scroll, perhaps inscribed with a curse, perhaps the Torah, flies through the air, symbolizing the curse which will fall upon a thief or one who swears falsely. He then sees a tub/container (?) (Heb. efah) containing a seated woman, who is being carried "between earth and heaven" to the land of Shinar, i.e., Babylon, by two winged women. A lead disc is thrown over the mouth of the tub and seals it. The angel explains that the woman symbolizes wickedness, which is being expelled to a distant place. The final vision (6:1–8) resembles the first one: four chariots, harnessed to horses of various colors appear between "mountains of brass." They represent the four winds of heaven, which leave after presenting themselves to the Lord, in order to fulfill their task on earth.

The visions are accompanied by a fragment relating a dramatic act of Zechariah (6:9–15). The prophet is ordered to take silver and gold from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who recently returned from the Exile, and to bring it to Josiah son of Zephaniah (the craftsman?) who will make crowns from it. One crown is to be placed on Joshua's head and the other, apparently, is to be reserved for "the Branch" (Zerubbabel), who he prophesies, will build the Temple and "shall bear glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne." The high priest will stand by his side "and the counsel of peace shall be between both." The crowns are said to have been placed in the Temple as a memorial and to have remained there throughout the period of the Second Temple (Mid. 3:8). The prophet closes with words regarding proselytes who will be brought to the Lord in the end of days.

In chapters 7 and 8, Zechariah turns from matters directly concerning the returning exiles to eternal prophetic concerns. The returning exiles had asked the priests and prophets in Jerusalem if they were still obligated to observe the four fast days connected with the destruction of Jerusalem. Zechariah raises the question of the fundamental purpose of divine worship (cf. Isa. 58). The basic point is not fasting, but ethical conduct – "honest justice… judgment… mercy, and compassion" (7:9), "the honest and equitable justice" (see 8: 16; see *Peace). Transgressing these precepts had brought "wrath," while keeping them would lead to redemption and to the conversion of fasts into occasions of joy and gladness. The point then is to "love honesty and equity" (8:19). Again, he ends with a vision of "many peoples and mighty nations" recognizing the Lord, and turning to Israel to accompany her in the "search for the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem" (cf. Isa. 2).

Zechariah's central themes in chapters 1–8 do not differ significantly from those of the prophets who preceded him. In a sense, their words, to which he regularly alludes, are already Scripture for him. He esteems the Temple service, and at the same time considers the observance of the precepts of righteousness, truth, and peace most important. Jerusalem is God's chosen city and He is jealous for its honor. The future of the non-Jewish nations is also concerned with the city, for they will eventually seek Yahweh and pray to him. They will acknowledge that God (elohim) is with the Jews (Zech. 8:20–23). One innovative aspect of Zechariah's prophecy is the special importance he accords to the high priest. This is a result of the changed circumstances of the Persian period, in which it appeared that the Davidic monarchy would not be restored. The prophetic compromise was a dyarchy, in which Zerubabel and Joshua would each sit on a throne (Zech. 6:13) and that "'a counsel of peace' would exist between them," an outcome which failed to materialize. Zechariah, like later *apocalyptic, makes use of an angel, who instructs the prophet, explaining the strange and wondrous visions which the latter does not comprehend. Much in the fashion of the apocalyptists, Zechariah sees angels standing in God's presence, though he does not see God Himself, as previous prophets had dared (I Kings 22:19; Isa. 6:1–2). Zechariah's language in describing the visions is prosaic and dry, and occasionally even confused; however, some prophetic passages, such as 2:10–17, do rise to lyricism.

Zechariah 9–14

The entire second section of the book (chapters 9–14) lacks any mention of the prophet's name and period. Chapter 9 begins with the word massaʾ ("an oracle"), as does chapter 12. The first half of the chapter (vs. 1–8) contains prophecies of divine punishment of Israel's neighbors: Hadrach, Damascus, and Hamath, all in Syria; Tyre and Sidon; and the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Ekron, and Ashdod. All are to be destroyed or annexed to Israel. The second half (vs. 9–17) is a prophecy of redemption for Israel: a savior-king will come to Zion to save all "the poor as well as the one who rides an ass, yea a colt, foal of a donkey" (Tur-Sinai; Held). He will put an end to war in Ephraim and Jerusalem, "and he shall speak peace unto the nations, and his dominion shall be from sea to sea." He speaks of the return from captivity, the war of the sons of Zion against the sons of Javan, and God's appearance in battle to save His people.

In chapter 10 the prophet belittles teraphim and diviners as sources of aid. Only the Lord can produce "showers of rain." He mentions God's wrath at "the shepherds," and goes on to describe the victorious battle of the houses of Judah and Joseph against their enemies. He describes the ingathering of exiles from Egypt and Assyria "into the land of Gilead and Lebanon," and the humbling of Egypt and Assyria. In chapter 11 he returns to his prophecy of divine punishment of the evil "shepherds" (cf. Ezek. 34). He himself is called upon to feed some flocks, using two staves, which he names "Pleasant" and "Binders." He (or God?) cuts off three shepherds in one month. It can be understood from what follows that the nation loathes him, paying him 30 pieces of silver, an ancient idiom for a trifling amount, going back to Sumerian (Reiner). He takes this silver and at God's command throws it into the temple for use by the potter. (These verses inspired Matt. 26:15; 27:3–5.) He then announces the breaking of "the brotherhood between Judah and Israel." He prophesies the rise of a "foolish shepherd" who will neglect the flock, and he curses him strongly.

Chapter 12, like chapter 9, opens with the word massaʾ ("an oracle"). Jerusalem will be besieged by many nations, but Yahweh having made Jerusalem into a cup of reeling, these attackers together with their horses will be struck with confusion and madness. In another image, Yahweh makes Jerusalem into a burdensome stone, which cuts anyone who carries it off. In yet a third image of Judah harming all who attack her, Yahweh will make the clans of Judah into a wood-burning brazier or a torch set to a sheaf and they will consume their attackers "on the right and on the left." The next several verses are highly problematic. They seem to indicate some tension between Jerusalem and the Davidides on the one hand and the "tents of Judah" on the other (12:7–8). Verses 10–12 refer to widespread mourning over one who was stabbed, comparable to the loss of a firstborn son or to the mourning over/at Haddad Rimmon in the Valley of Megiddo. Chapter 13 tells of a fountain of purification, which will be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The names of the idols will be cut off from the land, and the "unclean" spirit will be swept out of the land. Reflecting the new phenomenon that the divine word should be sought in a limited corpus of Scripture, the writer predicts that Yahweh will also remove prophecy from the land. A prophet will be stabbed by his parents for prophesying. Prophets will deny their vocation by attributing to horsing around any wounds that might be taken as a sign of ecstatic behavior. Once again a flock and a shepherd who will be punished are mentioned. Two parts of the nation "shall be cut off and die," and the remaining third will be purified like silver and gold: "They will call my name and I will answer them; I will say 'That is my people,' and they will say, 'Yahweh is my God,'" an exchange drawn directly from Hos. 2:25.

Chapter 14 begins with a siege of Jerusalem. First, Yahweh brings the gentiles to Jerusalem to make war against it. The city is conquered and plundered, half of the people going into exile. The gentile victory though is short-lived because Yahweh himself will go forth to battle the nations; He will first set his feet on The Mount of Olives and it will be split across from east to west. Then one part will shift north and the other south, creating a huge gorge. The Valley in the Hills (Wadi Kidron?) will be stopped up the way it was in the earthquake of the eighth century in King Uzziah's reign. On a day known only to Yahweh, there will be one continuous day, neither day nor night. On that day fresh water will flow from Jerusalem, part of it to the Dead Sea and part of it to the Mediterranean all year round. Yahweh will be King over all the land (kol ha-areẓ) of Israel; others "all the earth"), there will be one Yahweh with one name (i.e., no more Yahweh of Samaria, Teiman, etc.) Then all the land (kol ha-areẓ) will become (depressed) like the Arabah, so that Jerusalem (in fulfillment of Isa. 2:2) will be raised, after which it will be secure (Zech. 14:11). Having rearranged the topography, Yahweh is now ready to smite all the peoples who attacked Jerusalem at his invitation, as well as their mounts, with a plague that rots their skin, eyes, and tongues (vss. 12, 15). A panic from Yahweh will fall upon all. Judah will join in the fighting and the wealth of all the nations will be gathered to Jerusalem (vs. 14). Finally, every survivor among the nations struck by Yahweh will make an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow down to Yahweh and to celebrate the Feast of Booths; if not, they shall have no rain. Egypt, which depends on the Nile rather than rainfall, will be punished in some other way if they fail to make the pilgrimage. All of Jerusalem will be pure. "Holy unto Yahweh" will be inscribed on everything from bells on horses to metal pots.

Chapters 9–14 are unclear, and the historical allusions they contain remain contested. There is no apparent temporal connection between them and the contents of the earlier chapters of the book. The two sections differ both in form and style. Much of earlier scholarship concentrated on analyzing the text into sources without attempting to account for why the sources were combined. Contemporary scholarship attempts both. First, 9–14 is now generally subdivided into 9–11 and 12–14, each headed "Oracle, word of Yahweh." But whereas the first heading indicates that the word is directed against various foreign nations, the second is directed against Israel. Though the material is diverse there are several themes in common: military conflict, criticism of leadership, and Jerusalem's future prosperity (see Petersen). There are various reasons why chapters 9–14 were combined with 1–8. For one, both sections contain strange visions. More important, both sections promise the future glory of Jerusalem. Chapter 8:20–23 speaks of all the peoples coming to Jerusalem to seek Yahweh, while chapter 14 concludes with all the nations coming annually to Jerusalem to bow down to Yahweh and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. Jerusalem. As is true of the other late biblical books, both sections of Zechariah constantly quote earlier Scripture, reinterpret it, or allude to it, a process commonly but inaccurately called "intertextuality." (For Zech. 1–8 see Boda; for Zech. 9–14, see charts in Meyers and Meyers 1993, 40–43).

Zechariah in Later Sources

In the Aramaic section of the Book of Ezra (5:1), Zechariah is cited together with Haggai as one of those supporting the building of the Second Temple in the early days of Darius. One passage in Zechariah (1:3) appears to have been quoted in Malachi (3:7). At a later period, some translations of the Bible credited Zechariah with the authorship of several psalms at the end of the Book of Psalms. The Greek translation credits him with Psalms 137 and 138, and in collaboration with Haggai, with 145 through 148; the early Latin version with 112; the Vulgate with 112 and 146, done jointly with Haggai; and the Syriac version in the Polyglot Bible with 126, and 145 to 148. The "addendum" to the Syriac also dates these psalms and describes their use in the Temple. Christianity made much use of Zechariah 9–14, which is the most quoted of the Hebrew prophets in the Gospels, and is second only to Ezekiel in its influence on the Christian apocalypse Revelation. The author of Matt. 23:25 confused our prophet with Zechariah b. Jehoiada of II Chr. 24:20–22, while Matt. 27:9 quotes Zech. 11:12–13, but mistakenly attributes it to Jeremiah.


G.H. Kraeling, in: AJSLL, 41 (1924/25), 24–33; S. Feigin, in: JBL, 44 (1925), 203–13; B. Heller, in: ZAW, 45 (1927), 151–5; W.W. Cannon, in: AFO, 4 (1927), 139–46; E. Sellin, in: JBL, 50 (1931), 242–9; H. Schmidt, in: ZAW, 54 (1936), 48–60; R. Press, ibid., 45–48; H.G. May, in: JBL, 57 (1938), 173–84; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 1 (19512), 208–14; K. Galling, in: VT, 2 (1952), 18–36 (Ger.); M. Tsevat, in: Tarbiz, 25 (1955/56), 111–7; M. Zer Kavod, Ḥaggai, Zekharyah, Malakhi (1957); Y. Kaufmann, Toledot, 3 (1960), 322–33; 4 (1960), 226–74; F.F. Bruce, in: BJRL, 43 (1960/61), 336–53; B. Uffenheimer, Ḥazonot Zekharyah (1961); D.R. Jones, in: VT, 12 (1962), 241–59; M. Treves, ibid., 13 (1963), 196–207; for further bibl., see: EM, 2 (1954), 928–9. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 143–4. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: N. Tur-Sinai, The Language and the Book (1954), 390; E. Reiner, in: JAOS, 88 (1968), 186–90; M. Held, in: BASOR, 200 (1970), 32–40; P. Hanson, IDBSup, 982–83; R. Smith, Micah-Malachi (Word; 1984), 166–293; C. Meyers and E. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 18 (AB: 1987); idem, Zechariah 914 (AB; 1998); idem, ABD, 6:1061–65; D. Petersen, ibid, 1065–68; idem, Haggai and Zechariah 18 (1984); idem, Zechariah 914 and Malachi (1995); M. Saebø, DBI, 2:666–68; A. Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East c. 3000330 B.C. (1995), 647–701; H. Tadmor, in: R. Chazan et al. Ki Baruch Hu… Studies B. Levine (1999), 401–12; P. Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander A History of the Persian Empire (2002); M. Boda and M. Floyd (eds.); Bringing Out the Treasure: Inner Biblical Allusion in Zechariah 914 (2003); Y. Hoffmann, in: O. Lipschits and J. Blenkinsopp (eds.). Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (2003), 169–218; R. Albertz, in: idem and B. Becking (eds.), Yahwism after the Exile (2003), 49–17; M. Boda, ibid., 49–69.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.