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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Zechariah - Introduction

THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH is set in the same period as the book of Haggai: the early years of Darius I (reigned 522–486 BCE). The book of Ezra associates Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5.1; 6.14 ) and the building of the Temple; rabbinic sources associate these two prophets with Malachi, and so they create the triad of last prophets (see introductions to Haggai and Malachi).

The book of Zechariah deals with issues similar to those in the book of Haggai: the restoration of the community in the Persian period. Like Haggai, it legitimizes the rebuilding of the Temple and the dual leadership under which it was built. It emphasizes repentance and exhorts the community directly addressed within the book, and above all, that of the readership to behave in accordance with the divine will, so as to avoid the fate of their ancestors (see, e.g., 1.2–6; 7.8–13; 8.13–17 ).

The book also addresses the dissonance between the actual status and power of the community and the Temple and what they should be according to the theological beliefs of the readership. This dissonance is solved in a way that conveys hope and reaffirms the beliefs of the community about its own place in the divine economy. The text communicates divine, unequivocal assertions about an ideal future in which the remnant of Israel will grow and prosper, Jerusalem will take its proper place, the Temple will become the focal point of worship for the entire world, and the kingship of the LORD will be recognized by all nations.

The book as a whole shows a strong orientation toward the future, particularly the ideal future. Not only does it communicate promises of a future glory for Zion, but it also provides some scenarios that would lead to its realization. These scenarios directly address the question of the relations between Zion (and Judah) and the nations in the future, ideal world. They also involve direct action by the LORD, much conflict and stern divine judgment. The book brings to the readers vivid images of the nations' final attack against Jerusalem and a cosmic upheaval that leads to the creation of a new landscape for Jerusalem and for the land as a whole (ch 14 ). The book has certain eschatological and even apocalyptic overtones.

Although there are clear temporal and thematic links between Zechariah and Haggai,the two books, as they stand today, are markedly different in style, structure, and tone. Zechariah opens with a superscription ( 1.1 ) that along with the following passage ( 1.2–6 ) serves as an introduction to the book as a whole. The rest of the book consists of a series of prophetic texts about divine communications associated with Zechariah. At the heart of the first set of texts ( 1.7–8.23 ) are eight visions mediated by an angelic figure (see 1.7–6.15 ) that have no parallel in Haggai, even if the issues they address are similar to those in Haggai. The next sets, 9.1–11.17 and 12.1–14.21, are obviously different from Haggai. Chapter 9 opens with “a pronouncement,” separating the chs that follow from those that precede.

Many scholars have argued that the book of Zechariah originally included only chs 1–8 , and that only at a later stage were chs 9–14 attached to them. According to this position, the first eight chs were written before the rest—chs 9–14 are usually dated to either the late Persian or the Hellenistic period—and each part was written by a different author. This may well be the case, but the book of Zechariah in its present form does not ask its readers to approach it with this information in mind. To the contrary, the book associates all its texts with the prophet Zechariah mentioned in 1.1.

Many ancient readers found in Zechariah numerous references to messianic times. As expected, some early Christian readers understood them in christological terms (see, for instance, Mark 14.27 and Zech. 13.7; Matt. 27.9 and Zech. 11.12–13; John 19.37 and Zech. 12.10; John 12.15 and Zech. 9.9 ). Rabbinic Judaism interpreted many of these texts in relation to a messianic time still to come (e.g., Zech. 3.8; 6.12 in the Targum; in relation to Zech. 6.12 see Num. Rab. 18.21 ; for Zech. 9.9 see Gen. Rab. 56.2, 98.9 ; and for Zech. 12.10 as pointing to the Messiah from the House of Joseph, see b. Sukkah 52a).

Some vv. of Zechariah have been included in Jewish liturgy. The best‐known example is 14.9, which concludes the ‘Aleinu prayer. Zechariah 14.1–21 is the haftarah for the first day of Sukkot since that festival is mentioned there; Zechariah 2.14–4.7 for the first shabbat of Hanukkah and for the parashah of Be‐ha‘alotekha (Num. 8.1–12.16 ), since the lampstand (“menorah”) plays a central role in this passage.

[EHUD BEN ZVI]

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