The book of Zachariah (Zachariah 1)

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The author of this book was a priest named Zechariah, the son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo (Zachariah 1:1). Zechariah is mentioned alongside Haggai in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14, and he played a role in the restauration of the post-exilic community. Today, however, many scholars believe that Zechariah wrote only chapters 1-8 of the book by his name, not chapters 9-14; these researchers refer to the two sections of the book, respectively, as “Proto-Zechariah” and “Deutero- Zechariah”. The arguments for dividing the text can be satisfactory answered, however, allowing interpreters to affirm that Zechariah did indeed write the entire book (see Zechariah’s authorship under Zechariah 4).

The prophecies of Zechariah 1-8, dated in the text (1:1, 7, 7:1), were delivered from 520 to 518 B.C. Those of Zechariah 9-14 , on the other hand, are undated, and there are reasons to believe that Zechariah wrote these later chapters long after the initial eight. It is perhaps significant that Zechariah and Haggai did not undertake any leadership role in the community until 520 B.C.,about 18 years after the return from exile (ca 538). The suggestion that they were children at the time of the return is probably confirmed in 2:4 where the prophet in 520 B.C. is called “a young man“.

Zechariah encouraged the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon to complete the rebuilding of the temple and prophesied concerning Jerusalem’s future place in God’s kingdom.

The book of Zechariah was essentially a message of hope and encouragement for the post-exilic Jews. The prophet’s earlier messages in the first eight chapters, like those of Haggai, aimed at prompting the Jews to put an end to their procrastination and defeatism and to give themselves wholeheartedly to the task of rebuilding the community and the temple (e.g. 1:16-17, 2:10-13, 4:7-10). In the latter part of the book, despite a critique of the nation’s leadership (10:3), the positive tone continues (e.g. chapter 9). In short, the book of Zechariah served as an encouragement to the post-exilic community – a people who thought that all of Israel’s glory was in the past – that far greater realities lay ahead. They must, however, perform their duty in the present.

Zechariah’s name, fittingly, means “The Lord (Yahweh) remembers”. As you engage with this prophet, who was a contemporary of Haggai and shared his overall viewpoint, look for evidences that confirm the assertion that God does indeed remember.

Did you know that Zechariah experienced all eight visions during the course of one night? They were not dreams, for the prophet was fully awake (1:8). Did you know that “the land of the north” was Babylonia, which in fact lay to the east? But since a desert separated Assyria and Babylon from Israel/Judah, invading armies regularly attacked from the north (2:6). Did you know that taking off his filthy clothing deprived Joshua of his priestly office but was also symbolic of the removal of sin? Putting a clean turban on his head reinstates him to his high-priestly function so that Israel once again had a divinely authorized priestly mediator (3:4-5). Did you know that a “waterless pit” or empty cisterns was sometimes used as a detention cell (9:11)? Did you know that wounds on a person’s body were at times suspected to have been self-inflicted as a component of idolatrous worship practices (13:6)?


 

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