Zechariah (Hebrew prophet)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people of the same name, see Zechariah (disambiguation).
Zechariah as depicted on Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Zechariah (/zɛkəˈr.ə/; Hebrew: זְכַרְיָה, Modern Zekharya Tiberian Zəḵaryā, "YHWH has remembered"; Arabic: زكريّاZakariya' or Zakkariya; Greek: Ζαχαρίας Zakharias; Latin: Zacharias) was a person in the Hebrew Bible and traditionally considered the author of the Book of Zechariah, the eleventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was a prophet of the two-tribe Kingdom of Judah, and like Ezekiel was of priestly extraction.

Prophet[edit]

According to Ezra 5:1; 6:14 Iddo is the father of the prophet Zechariah, according to Zechariah 1:1 Berechiah is the father of Zechariah, and Iddo is his grandfather. "This discrepancy is best explained on the supposition that the words 'the son of Berechiah' did not form part of the original text of 1:1 - had they done so, it is very improbable that they would have been omitted in the Ezra passages - but that they are an insertion on the part of someone who identified the prophet Zechariah with Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, who is mentioned in Isa. 8:2, Berechiah in Zech. 1:1 being a corruption of Jeberechiah." [1] However, another explanation might be that 'father' is used in a broader sense, meaning that Iddo was Zecharia's father in the sense that he was antecedent to him. His prophetical career began in the second year of Darius, king of Persia (B.C. 520), about sixteen years after the return of the first company from their Babylonian exile. He was contemporary with Haggai (Ezra 5:1).

From The Interpreter's Bible's introduction: “Zechariah… played a significant part in the rebuilding of the temple… he was no friend of the Samaritans. The first impulse to rebuild the temple had been provided by Haggai, who saw in the revolts that shook the Persian Empire when Darius came to the throne the prelude to the advent of the messianic age ...But soon the revolts were put down, and Darius was firmly established on his throne… The enthusiasm which the revolts had kindled among the Jews began to wane… Zechariah, however, believed… in the near advent of the messianic age… As for Zechariah’s hostility to the Samaritans, more than once does he imply that the blessings of the messianic age are to be enjoyed by Judah only, not by the people of the north… He should therefore be regarded as sharing with Haggai the responsibility for taking a decisive step in the direction of that narrow exclusiveness which was typical of postexilic Judaism…

“Certain passages in Zechariah … indicate that the prophet could still feel, as did the pre-exilic prophets, that Yahweh revealed himself directly to him. At the same time he appears to be conscious that he is not quite of their company, and that their authority derives more directly from Yahweh than does his own… Yahweh is indeed thought of as far off from man, and revelation of himself is conceived of as less direct than it was... Zechariah’s visions... have to be interpreted for him by a mediating angel… Yahweh has been enthroned high beyond the reach of man. He sits above the heavens, remotely transcendent. Not even prophets now have direct access to him…

“The emphasis upon the transcendental character of Yahweh is accompanied in the book of Zechariah by a prominence accorded to angelic figures which is quite remarkable… Of special interest and importance is the fact that in the book of Zechariah (3:1-2) there occurs for the first time in the Old Testament a reference to ‘The Satan,’ the superhuman adversary… His function here is to accuse Joshua, the high priest. ‘The Satan’ is next mentioned in the book of Job… The latest mention in the Old Testament of Satan, now no longer, as in the books of Zechariah and Job, a title, but a proper name – the definite article of the earlier passages had been dropped – is to be found in I Chr. [Chronicles] 21:1, where later religious scruples have attributed to him the responsibility for provoking David to sin, which in the earlier literature (II Sam. [Samuel] 24:1) was attributed to Yahweh…" [2]

Not much is known about Zechariah’s life other than what may be inferred from the book. It has been speculated that his ancestor Iddo was the head of a priestly family who returned with Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:4), and that Zechariah may himself have been a priest as well as a prophet. This is supported by Zechariah's interest in the Temple and the priesthood, and from Iddo's preaching in the Books of Chronicles.

Possibility of martyrdom[edit]

In the Gospel of Matthew,[3] Jesus is quoted as stating that Zechariah son of Barachiah was killed between the altar and the temple. A similar quotation is also found in the Gospel of Luke.[4] Although there is an indication in Targum Lamentations that "Zechariah son of Iddo" was killed in the Temple,[5] scholars generally understand this as a reference to the death of a much earlier figure, Zechariah ben Jehoiada.[6] As Abel was the first prophetic figure killed in the Hebrew Scriptures, and Zechariah ben Jehoiada was the last figure killed in those Scriptures, which conclude with 1 and 2 Chronicles, they represent the full historical scope of prophetic martyrdom. By using their names Jesus brings to bear on the Jewish establishment of his day the cumulative guilt for killing those prophets, to which within a few days they would add his own death. The logic of the accusation means that the reference is almost certainly to Zechariah ben Jehoiada.

Bahá'í Faith[edit]

Zechariah is mentioned in the Summons of the Lord of Hosts, a collection of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, in the Súriy-i-Haykal.[7]

Islam[edit]

The Qur'an mentions only 25 prophets by name, including a different Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Muslims believe that many prophets were sent to mankind to spread the message of God, including many not mentioned in the Qur'an. Therefore, although this particular Zechariah is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an, some scholars, including Abdullah Yusuf Ali[8] and Muhammad Asad, have suggested that Qur'anic verses mentioning the martyrdom of prophets and righteous men are a reference to the slaying of, among others, Zechariah son of Berechiah.

Liturgical commemoration[edit]

On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, his feast day is February 8. He is commemorated with the other Minor Prophets in the calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainEaston, Matthew George (1897). "Zechariah". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons. 

  1. ^ The Interpreter's Bible, volume VI, page 1,053
  2. ^ Thomas, The Interpreter's Bible, 1956, pp. VI 1,053-1,055
  3. ^ Matthew 23:35: "that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar." ASV (Public Domain)
  4. ^ Luke 11:51: "from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zachariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary: yea, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." ASV (Public Domain)
  5. ^ Targum on Lam 2:20: "Is it right to kill priest and prophet in the Temple of the Lord, as when you killed Zechariah son of Iddo, the High Priest and faithful prophet in the Temple of the Lord on the Day of Atonement because he told you not to do evil before the Lord?" Cited with permission from English translation by C.M.M. Brady at http://www.targum.info/meg/tglam.htm.
  6. ^ Brady, 1999, “Targum Lamentations’ Reading of the Book of Lamentations” (1MB pdf), page 116.
  7. ^ Comparison of the Suriy-i-Haykal and the Prophecies of Zechariah by Cynthia C. Shawamreh, written for the Wilmette Institute, December 1998
  8. ^ The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Note 364: "Examples of the Prophets slain were: "the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar" (Matt. 23:35)