Boda, Mark J. Zechariah. NICOT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 935 pp. Hb; $58. Link to Eerdmans
Mark Boda’s new commentary on Zechariah in the NICOT series from Eerdmans sets the standard for exegetical commentaries on this important post-exilic prophet. Too often, Zechariah is bundled in brief commentaries along with Haggai and Malachi. For example, The WBC commentary, for example, devotes a mere 130 pages to the prophet. Joyce G. Baldwin’s useful commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series was replaced by Andrew Hill, who still only manages about 170 pages on Zechariah. Boda himself contributed Haggai, Zechariah to the NIV Application Commentary. George Klein’s 2008 NAC commentary is a notable exception trend.
Based on questions concerning the unity of Zechariah, commentators often divide the book into two volumes, one on chapters 1-8 and a second on chapters 9-14. For example, the excellent commentary on Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 and Zechariah 9-14 by Carol L. Meyers in the Anchor Bible Commentary. The Old Testament Library commentary by David L. Petersen combines Haggai with Zechariah 1-8, and Zechariah 9-14 is combined with Malachi in a separate volume. By devoting over 900 pages to the whole book, Boda is able to argue that Zechariah 1-14 ought to be treated as a single book despite clear evidence of two or three sections and editorial activity. He does not, however, attribute every section to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah.
The Introduction. The commentary begins with a short 56-page introduction, including about ten pages of bibliography. Although this seems to be a short introduction, Bod also includes short introductions in the body of the commentary (labeled “orientation”). For example, the orientation section for the first until the Vision Reports (Zech 1:7-6:15) runs about twenty pages. It includes genre, structure, relationship to the apocalyptic, and relationship to the other sections of Zechariah (intertextuality).
After a short discussion of the text of Zechariah, Boda surveys the historical context of the book. Since the book was composed over an eighty-year period (520-440 B.C.), Boda traces the history of the period from the end of the Babylonian Empire through Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes, and Artexerxes. The rebellions against Cambyses and the rise of Darius are in the background of Haggai and Zechariah,
Second, Boda canvasses the complicated suggestions concerning the composition of the prophecy. Zechariah 1:7-6:15 contains eight “night visions,” and chapters 7 and 8 begin new unites with the phrase “the world of the Lord came to me.” Chapter 9 is a “clear shift in style” marked by the phrase “a prophetic utterance of Yahweh” (mśʾ dbr-yhwh) at 9:1 and 12:1 (23), the same phrase which begins the book of Malachi. Boda argues there is a clear distinction between chapters 9-10 and 12-14, but also an editorial effort to integrate the two sections, including most of chapter 11 (25). Despite his recognition of these basic divisions in the book, Bod thinks there is a warrant for reading the whole book as a single unit. First, both sections have intertextual allusions to earlier biblical material (primarily Jeremiah). Second, the prophetic sign-act appears in Zechariah 1-8 and 11:4-6. The shepherd-flock motif is a “skeleton key” for understanding chapters 9-14 (28). Third, similar themes are developed within redactional material which serve to bind the two parts of the book together, including (fourth) a similar movement from restoration to frustration with the pace of restoration due to the leadership of the community. This “connectivity” suggests the scribal tradition joining the two books is “related to the latter’s recognition of an original editorial intention” (29).
Boda expands this canonical approach to the book to the rest of the Book of the Twelve by arguing for a striking similarity between the messenger formulae” in Haggai 2:10 and Zech 1:1 (30). Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 came together soon after the completion of the Temple in 520 B.C., chapters 9-14 were integrated with an “already existing Haggai-Zechariah 1-8” (30). In addition to these three books, Malachi was added based on the “messenger of Yahweh” in Haggai-Zechariah to form a prophetic corpus calling on the restored community to return to the Lord (Zech 1:3, Mal 3:7).
With respect to dating the original composition, Boda argues chapters 1-8 fit the dynamics of the restoration of the Temple, 520-518 B.C., but the dating of chapters 9-14 range from the eighth to second centuries. Some detect a historical allusion to Alexander the Great in 9:1-8 and possibly Ptolemaic Egypt in chapters 10 and 14. That Zechariah 14 is often identified as apocalyptic has encouraged a later date as well. Boda, however, argues the intertextual links in Zechariah 11:14-16 imply a date near the end of Zerubbabel’s tenure, about 510 B.C. (36). The book functions as “a supplemental vision to that represented by Nehemiah’s infrastructural initiatives, reminding both priestly and political leaders of Yahweh’s desire for renewal that moved beyond physical restoration” (37).
The third and fourth sections concern the literary form and inner-biblical allusions. Zechariah 1:1-6 indicates that the words spoken to the prophets before the exile continue to have meaning to those who are returning to Jerusalem. “My words” and “my statutes” refer to prophecy and the Law of Moses, but Boda argues the forms that appear in Zechariah have been “shaped by the Jeremianic tradition” (40). There are allusions in the book to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, other books within the Book of the Twelve, and the Torah. Boda does not take any time to define what he means by an “intertextual allusion” other than to refer to his earlier work, Bringing Out Treasure: Inner Biblical Allusion in Zechariah 9-14 (T&T Clark, 2003). The “orientations” in the body of the commentary include a section on intertextuality.
Finally, Boda offers a few pages on the message of Zechariah, which has “enduring relevance for communities of faith who have recognized the authority of this book as sacred Scripture” (41). Of particular interest is “Zechariah for today.” Several New Testament writers were influenced by the book and used elements in their presentation of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy. The book continues to be applicable as a warning to believers that sin still can easily entangle communities and individuals.
The Commentary. The body of the commentary resembles other volumes in the NICOT series. Boda offers a fresh translation followed by textual notes, a running phrase-by-phrase commentary on the text. Textual notes on the translation include syntactical options and variations from the Old Greek, Vulgate, or other ancient witnesses. Because the text of Zechariah is difficult, these notes sometimes appear on almost every word of the translation. On 9:11-13, for example, there are 24 notes; on 11:4-12, there are more than three pages of notes! By placing these technical details prior to the commentary proper, the body is more useful for readers who are more interested in the meaning of the text. All Hebrew appears in transliteration in both the body of the commentary and in the footnotes.
Given Boda’s interest in intertextuality, it is not surprising the commentary is rich with possible allusions to other texts in the Hebrew Bible. For example, in Zechariah 9:9, he suggests the verse is “reminiscent of earlier expectations of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8” (565). Commenting on Zechariah 12, he says, “earlier textual traditions have played a key role in the shaping of 12:2-13:6” (696), primarily Ezekiel 36, but “the vocabulary of 13:2 echoes Ezek 14:1-11” and the cleansing contained in 13:1 “reflects the river of water which flows from the temple in Ezek 47:1-12” (696). The section is also “reminiscent” of Isaiah 51, among other texts. A potential objection here is the dating of Ezekiel since it is possible the final form of Ezekiel is later than the composition of Zechariah, about 520 B.C., according to Boda. Although I consider Ezekiel to predate Zechariah, it is at least possible Zechariah and Ezekiel represent common tradition in this particular example.
Zechariah and Apocalyptic. Boda’s commentary reflects, in part, an ongoing discussion of the genre of Zechariah. Since chapters 1-6 are a series of visions that include strange imagery and an angelic guide, the book is sometimes associated with apocalyptic literature. The final two chapters of the book are concerned with eschatological battles using apocalyptic language. Since imagery from Zechariah is used in Revelation, the book is sometimes considered an example of early apocalyptic. Boda, however, does not think it is helpful to read the book as apocalyptic since this makes the reports of the visions refer “strictly to futuristic events, place in the distant future or even eschaton” (102). He argues the vision reports in the book concern recent events in the community, the punishment of Babylon and Persia, and the restoration of the priestly and royal houses in the new province of Yehud (102). It is in fact dangerous, says Boda, to use the term protoapocalyptic because “it encourages treatment of the vision reports as apocalyptic” (102).
Perhaps this is the case, but it is possible Boda has protested too much. The apocalyptic genre does not necessarily require a vision to refer to the extremely distant future. For example, Daniel 8 is clearly apocalyptic, yet it refers to the decline of Persia and the rise of Greece. Depending on one’s view of the date of Daniel, this vision refers to either the near future or the recent past. It does not refer to events of a distant eschatological age at all. Perhaps this is an example of hearing premillennial interpretations of Revelation in the text of Zechariah. There is no reason Zechariah could not use a variation on the developing genre of apocalyptic to comment on the struggles of his own community prior to 520 B.C.
Conclusion. Boda’s commentary on Zechariah is an excellent exegetical commentary on a most difficult prophetic book. His careful attention to detail makes this commentary one of the best on Zechariah available today.
Other Commentaries in the NICOT Series:
- Timothy R. Ashley, The Book of Numbers
- Bill T. Arnold, The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapters 1–11
- Hannah K. Harrington, The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah
- DeClaissé-Walford, Jacobson, and Tanner, Psalms
- John Goldingay, The Book of Jeremiah
- John Goldingay, The Book of Lamentations
- Thomas Renz, The Books of Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah
- Mark J. Boda, Zechariah
- Mignon Jacobs, Haggai, and Malachi
NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.