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The Shape of Zechariah

The book of Zechariah takes post-exilic Israel from the founding of a new Jerusalem under Persia to its destruction under Rome. For the saints, however, for whom judgment is a blessing, the prophecy works from glory to glory, from Jerusalem below to the unshakeable one above, from an earthly Sabbath to an eternal one.

As a Covenant document, the book of Zechariah has five major parts. The prophet uses this structure to allude to the journey of Israel from Canaan to Egypt and back again to Canaan, that is, from promise to fulfilment. Since the practice of literary recapitulation is ubiquitous among the prophets, identification of this literary arrangement in Zechariah is a key to the meaning of the prophecy:

TRANSCENDENCE (Zechariah 1-6)
Genesis: A series of visions describes the “oikoumene” covenant – the foundation for the “new Jerusalem” of their contemporaries Ezra and Nehemiah – as a new creation. (Sabbath)
HIERARCHY (Zechariah 7-8)
Exodus: The Lord chastises the people for the same hypocrisy that broke the Covenant. But as with Israel at Sinai, He renews the promise with a new set of “tablets.” This is the “new covenant” spoken of by Jeremiah.1See Jeremiah’s New Covenant. (Passover)
ETHICS (Zechariah 9)
The central section has three parts which reflect the expansion of the Covenant Ethics into the Triune Office. They briefly describe from a Covenant perspective the history between the visions at the beginning of the book and those at the end:
Leviticus: (9:1-8) Priesthood: The Proud Nations Cut Off – Alexander’s conquests in Syria
The idolatry of the surrounding Canaanite nations is judged, and the Lord “encamps” at His house as a “guard,” the ultimate Levite, the gatekeeper-God. (Firstfruits)
Numbers: (9:9-13) Kingdom: The Coming King of Zion – Israel under Greek rule
As a conflation of Israel’s “mighty men,” David and Solomon, war and peace, the Lord preserves Israel from the corruption of Hellenism. (Pentecost)
Deuteronomy: (9:14-17) Prophecy: The Lord Will Save His People – The Maccabean deliverance
Imagery including arrows of lightning, trumpets, whirlwinds and jewels (plunder and plagues) depicts a gathered Israel as the warrior bride, awesome as an army with banners. (Trumpets)
OATH/SANCTIONS (Zechariah 10-11)
Joshua: Now Israel is under the Herods. The Lord promises to judge the false shepherds of Israel by becoming Himself the High Priest. He will gather the faithful (Covenant blessings), scatter the unfaithful (Covenant curses), give the Temple to its destroyers, and lead His sheep to martyrdom. (Atonement)
SUCCESSION (Zechariah 12-14)
Judges: Just as chapters 1-6 described the foundation of a “new Jerusalem,” so the final sequence outlines its end under the Roman generals. It does so with great irony, using the same sevenfold “festal” sequence which structures the book. Ultimately, the salvation of the righteous is achieved through the judgment of the wicked. See The Festal Structure of Zechariah 12-14. (Booths)

If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

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