Mark J. Boda is professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He is a graduate of Westminster Seminary and the University of Cambridge, and the author of many books and over seventy articles, many of which deal with Zechariah, the Book of the Twelve, or the post-exilic period. In fact, he is an acknowledged expert in the field of Zechariah studies and has already authored the NIV Application Commentary volume, Haggai, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004). Whereas that commentary is intended for a broader, non-technical audience and focuses on contemporary application, this one contains very little application and will be most appreciated by readers with some knowledge of Hebrew. The 44-page introduction (plus seven pages of bibliography) in the present commentary might seem slight considering the volume’s 911 pages, but each of the four divisions of the book (1:1–6; 1:7–6:15; 7:1–8:23; 9:1–14:21), as well as the smaller sections of the commentary (e.g., 1:8–17; 2:1–5, 6–13; 3:1–10; 14:1–21), begin with their own introductions. So introductory issues are adequately and expertly handled.
Boda argues that the book was composed over an eighty-year period, between 520 and 440 BC. The messages of the prophet Zechariah are especially dominant in chapters 1–8, but superscriptions indicate the involvement of someone else in the book. The next sections, chapters 9–11 and 12–14, “may have different points and sources of origination” and were edited separately, but “they have been drawn together into a unified literary collection” (p. 23). Although Boda acknowledges clear differences of style between chapters 1–8 and 9–14, he is convinced that “Zechariah 1–14 should be treated as a single book” (p. 28). He also sees “those responsible for the book of Zechariah were also responsible for drawing Haggai and Malachi into the Haggai–Malachi corpus and placing it within the Book of the Twelve” (p. 31). He dates chapters 1–8 in the early Persian period, chapters 9–10 about 515–510 BC, much of chapter 11 after 510 BC, and much of chapters 12–14 during Nehemiah’s governorship in the latter fifth century BC (likewise the final form of chs. 9–11; pp. 521, 529). The final form of the book addresses those living in Yehud in the mid- to late-fifth century. It calls for repentance and stresses the need for faithful leadership.
The commentary is divided into numerous small sections, some of which begin with an introduction to its context, structure, composition, and significance (see the sample list above). The size of sections varies from a paragraph to only a verse or two. A translation is then offered with careful and helpful translation notes. Virtually every grammatical, textual, and lexical detail is carefully analyzed in the light of the latest scholarship. On grammatical issues, he makes abundant use of modern grammars as well as his own examination of usage. The usage of every word and phrase is carefully studied, as when he argues that לַיְלָה with the article in 1:8 is wrongly rendered “at night” or “in/during the night” in most translations; instead, it means “this past night” as in 1 Samuel 15:16. In addition, much attention is given throughout to Zechariah’s use of other Old Testament passages. No one working in Zechariah can afford to neglect this invaluable resource.
Nevertheless, someone looking for a whole-canon perspective on Zechariah must look elsewhere. This may be observed in Boda’s discussion of the identity of צֶמַח in 3:8 and 6:12, which he translates as “Sprout.” He argues that the translation “branch” is “inappropriate and an imposition of the royal expectation of Isaiah 11:1 (where נֵצֶר appears)” (p. 250). On an intertextual note, he correctly notes that Isaiah 3:16–4:6 is in the background of Zechariah 3, and that צֶמַח in Isaiah 4:2 refers not to a future king but to the future re-sprouting of Israel; he also acknowledges that Zechariah is reading the Isaiah passage in light of Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15, where “Sprout refers to a future righteous descendant of David who will reign over Israel.” After making these intertextual observations, however, Boda denies that Zechariah’s “Sprout” is messianic (p. 254) and asserts that he is instead a “human being” (pp. 254, 399). Furthermore, despite the connection between the Sprout and the engraved stone to the removal of guilt “in a single day” (Zech 3:9), he holds that “one should not presuppose that this phrase signals a shift to a far-off future age” (p. 262). In addition, his comments on 6:12–13 identify the “Sprout” with Zerubbabel, and “[t]he fact that Zerubbabel never reigned as an independent king does not disqualify him as a candidate for Sprout” (p. 408). Nor does Zerubbabel’s initial presence in Judah disqualify him, because “it is not inconceivable that, at some point, Zerubbabel returned to Mesopotamia” (p. 409).
Boda likewise identifies the righteous and humble king of 9:9–10 as Zerubbabel. In his view, “It is thus likely that 9:9–10 joins Hag 2:20–23 in creating high expectations for Zerubbabel’s rule. As will be seen in 11:4–16, these high expectations will soon be dashed, due to the fragility of human participants” (p. 565; cf. pp. 678, 738). Similarly, no connection to a future Messiah is seen in 11:13 (“thirty pieces of silver”), in 12:10 (“they will look at me whom they have pierced”), nor in 13:7 (“strike the shepherd, and let the sheep be scattered”). The latter passage “possibly signals the end of the Davidic line . . . [which] may explain why Zechariah 14 makes no reference [to it]” (p. 738).
In his NIVAC commentary, Boda acknowledges that the New Testament writers found the Messiah in the book of Zechariah. But this commentary might lead one to assume they were mistaken. For even as the volume includes a 90-page Scripture index, references to NT passages are confined to a bit more than a third of a page. This stands in stark contrast to the last sentence of the Introduction: “Yahweh’s commitment to renewal . . . is only possible, as we discover in the New Testament, through the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit” (p. 44). Due to their differences of emphasis, Boda’s NIVAC commentary on Zechariah will be better for those who seek a Christian reading of Zechariah, while this NICOT commentary will be more suitable for exegetes of the Hebrew text.