The Literary Structure of Zechariah 14:1-11

Structuring communication is unavoidable, whether in oral or written form. Just as every story has a beginning, middle, and an end, so it is with the texts of the Hebrew Bible. J.T. Walsh once made the claim that “the ‘meaning’ of a work of literature is communicated as much by the structure of the work as by surface ‘content.’”

Discerning the literary structure of Zechariah has kept scholars busy for some time, leaving a manifold witness of proposals in their wake. Here I will offer my thoughts on the structure of one individual passage: Zechariah 14:1-11.

While some prefer to isolate literary sections based on thematic connections, the fourfold use of one that day (“on that day”) appears to be a more solid foundation. The formula, occurring in vv 4, 6, 8, 9, functions to point forward to the events that will occur on the Day of Yahweh introduced in verse one. Yet, the formula does not strictly occur at the beginning of each new section, but rather, functions to bookend particular sections. A hard break need not be drawn based on the formula’s inclusion, as may be seen in vv 4 and 8, but one may be content to see the literary device as reiterating the temporal nature of the Day of Yahweh. The resulting literary structure can be outlined as follows:

I. The Warfare of Yahweh (1-5)

  • Yahweh’s warfare against Jerusalem (1-2)
    • Declaration of the Day of Yahweh in Judgment (1)
    • The Gathering of nations against Jerusalem (2a)
    • The Devastation of the City (2b)
    • The Exile of half the population (2c)
    • The Preservation of a remnant (2d)
  • Yahweh’s warfare on behalf of Jerusalem (3-5)
    • Yahweh’s warfare against the oppressive nations (3)
    • The arrival of Yahweh leading a new exodus (4-5)

II. The Reign of Yahweh (6-11)

  • Recreation of the Cosmic Order (6-7)
  • Restoration of Eden (8)
  • Reestablishment of Theocracy (9)
  • Exaltation and inhabitation of Jerusalem (10-11)

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