Reviewed by Jeremiah Zuo
Mark J. Boda is Professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College, where he has taught for the past thirteen years. He is the author of nine books, the editor of 17 more, and has also published over 100 articles. His areas of expertise include the theology of repentance, the history and literature of the Persian period, and the prophetic literature. Additionally, Boda has worked in and preached Zechariah from the earliest days of his seminary education. This makes him an obvious choice to write a commentary on Zechariah. The NICOT entry represents Boda’s second Zechariah commentary. He has previously authored the NIV Application Commentary on Haggai/Zechariah.
Boda’s commentary uses the same structure as the rest of the NICOT series. The commentary opens with a 45 page introduction to orient the new reader to Zechariah. This section covers issues of textual history, referential history, composition, literary form, structure, inner-biblical illusions, and a survey of the major themes addressed.
Of particular interest in the initial chapter is what Boda calls the “referential history.” This is his section on the historical events and situations surrounding the message of the book. Boda’s discussion is a useful summary and overview of this particular period in biblical history, covering the Babylonian Period (586 BC and onward) up to 420 BC. It is not dry, as many similar historical discussions can often be, and it is not overly technical. It would function as a great primer for any pastor planning to preach/teach from a text from the same time period (Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles, etc).
Boda views Zechariah as the result of a redactor working to bring together varied material. Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14 are taken to be two main works. These two halves are viewed as compilations produced by separate individuals or groups. At an early point Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14 were then brought together and unified into the present final form of Zechariah. Boda’s section on the compositional history provides a detailed catalogue of lexical and conceptual links across Zechariah. These connections are especially helpful for the interpreter to keep in mind as they go about developing a theology of Zechariah. However, it is not as clear whether or not Boda’s conclusions about the separate origins of the various sections of Zechariah will be as convincing to evangelical readers.
In the commentary proper, Zechariah is divided into four main thematic sections based on introductory formulas employed. These main sections are further divided according to various types of units: vision reports, oracles, or sermons. Each major section opens with a discussion of specific issues that will be encountered. More detailed looks at composition history, themes, and inner-biblical allusions abound in these introductions. Each vision report, sermon, or oracle is broken up into manageable chunks of text. The text itself is presented in Boda’s translation, followed by commentary on units of 1-3 verses at a time. Text-critical and translational issues are dealt with in footnotes immediately under the translation. The comments are reserved for exegesis, historical context, and theological reflection.
The commentary on each verse is substantial. Most details are covered thoroughly. Boda’s long period of personal study really shines in this area. Commentaries which deal with verse groupings can often be sparse on the details. Though at times Boda deals with verses in small groups, for the most part he treats individual verses. The reader almost never feels like an issue is skipped. Often times the commentary will be up to 10 pages for a single verse.
To take one prominent example, Boda’s commentary on the famous Zechariah 9:9 spans just over eight pages. In those pages, he interacts with the scholarly identification of forms found in the text (in this case the Aufruf zur Freude form), mines studies on the use of feminine imagery in the OT and wider ANE, and also engages in word and concept studies (e.g., rejoice/גיל, saved/נושע, righteous/צדיק, humble/עני, donkey/חמור/עיר/בן-אתנות). All of this is woven into a theology of the ideal king and his mission, “Thus the various characteristics associated with this king emphasize his upstanding character (righteous, humble), and his dependent (saved) yet honored (riding on an ass/donkey) status.” (570)
Boda’s expertise on Zechariah is apparent. He interacts in great detail with the scholarly literature, but in a way that is not overbearing. The main discussions consult relevant studies and occasionally refute them—Boda does not shy away from bringing up work that disagrees with his own conclusions.
Boda treats Zechariah as a unified whole. He sees a clear compositional process which arrived at the book as we now possess it, as well as a close connection between the two halves of Zechariah 1-8 and 9-14. In order to properly interpret each part, they need to be read in light of each other. The critical consensus has been to separate the two to such a decree that they are treated independently in interpretation. Those who take the later route tend to date the parts to vastly different time periods. However, Boda dates both parts to the same time period (early Persian). Boda’s interpretational strategy is to treat the book primarily from the point of view of the audience of the final product, and not any individual portion divorced from its current canonical context.
How to Read
Boda’s commentary is not the type you would turn to look up a quick solution to a grammatical or textual problem. Boda’s format, style, and focus on integrated interpretation make it more conducive to reading whole sections at a time. Longer stretches of reading will allow the reader to really benefit from the fruit of Boda’s efforts.
Hebrew is employed in transliteration and discussed often, but the volume is not primarily a linguistic commentary. Nor is it an applicational commentary. Boda does not devote space to “bridging the gap” and connecting Zechariah’s message to the modern concerns of the reader.
The commentary is deeply theological. Biblical theology is the main focus, with some peripheral treatment of dogmatic and systematic theology. The sections on inner-biblical allusion and major themes are good for fitting Zechariah conceptually into a biblical theology in preparation for preaching/teaching.
This commentary really shines in integrating interaction with critical studies into theological interpretation. The NICOT Zechariah volume is a good example of how one can employ and benefit from the fruits of critical scholarship in theological reflection. Often these two are seen as enemies. Either one capitulates to critical scholarship and reads the Bible as a purely human document or one studies the Bible theologically. Boda reads Zechariah theologically through carefully weighing the fruit and discarding the chaff of critical biblical scholarship. Each reader may not be convinced at every point, but this volume contains many worthy examples of using critical scholarship. For the pastor wondering if there is any benefit to the scholarly study of the Bible for theology, NICOT Zechariah will make a useful addition to their shelves.
Jeremiah Zuo is a PhD student in Old Testament Hebrew, Literature, and Exegesis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.
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