I just finished preaching a short series through the night visions of Zechariah (Zech 1.8-6.15) and thought I’d do a post reflecting on the books I used and how they helped me in preparing for these sermons.
Prior to starting the series, I worked through the Zechariah portion of the introductions written by Ray Dillard & Tremper Longman, as well as that of Brevard Childs. Both were very nice overviews and, especially in the case of Childs, helped me to start thinking about how to tie together some of the theological and critical issues related to these texts.
I began studying each textual unit by reading through my English Bible, just to get an idea of the flow of the text. I circled things that I really wanted to check in the Hebrew and tried to make note of some of the imagery that I thought might be relevant. Next, I worked through the Hebrew text in my Reader’s Hebrew Bible by Zondervan. I went ahead and marked it up pretty thoroughly, drawing attention to places where the ESV smoothed out the text too much or places where there were syntactical and/or lexical problems. (Of course I used Bibleworks 8 during this process too, in order to do some quick concordance searches.)
From here, I started with one of my favorite scholars, Marvin Sweeney. His commentary on Zechariah (part of his 2 volume set on The Twelve Prophets ) is superb. Sweeney does an amazing job of synthesizing the historical issues with the theological issues. He practices a very robust form of inner-textuality/innerbiblical exegesis, and draws some amazing and erudite conclusions. Conservative readers might not always like what he has to say, but one is very unwise to skip (or even skim) Sweeney on Zechariah. He was by far my favorite commentary.
From here, I also consulted David L. Peterson’s commentary (1984), and that of Eric and Carol Meyers (1987). These were not quite as innertextual as was Sweeney, but were very historical and did a fine job of wrestling with the historical and philological issues (Myers and Meyers) and the relevant archaeological material (Peterson). I always worked through Peterson’s volume, but found that I only had time to spot check from Meyers and Meyers (their treatment is REALLY thorough). Both volumes are a bit dated, but both helped me to get my historical bearings.
In order to exhaust a technical understanding of the intertextuality present in the night visions, I turned to Michael R. Stead’s dissertation, The Intertextuality of Zechariah 1-8 (2009), part of the JSOT Supplement Series (now renamed). (My university’s library had a copy so I didn’t have to buy one which would have been a bit pricy!) Stead was a great read! I sometimes felt that he made mountains out of innerbiblical molehills and drew attention to parallels that were a bit tenuous, but as a dissertation written under J.G. McConville, it was pure gold! Though Meredith Kline (to be discussed below) also touched on some of the same issues, Stead’s much more technical/academic treatment made for a VERY useful resource.
At this point, I felt like I had a pretty good grip on the historical and innertextual issues in the text, so I turned to more theological and homiletical treatments. Iain Duguid’s recently published commentary (2010) was a delight! Duguid was able to hone down some of the application and really draw attention to some of the homiletical and redemptive-historical points that would preach. His application sections were hit and miss, but his commentary proper was always chock full of useful application! I would also read through Kline’s Glory in Our Midst, the application of his biblical-theological system to a concrete text. Kline was superb in drawing out some of the innerbiblical imagery and putting a robustly Reformed, redemptive-historical spin on the material. The cogency of his innerbiblical interpretation was spotty – sometimes saying outright weird and midrashic things about supposed intertextual allusions (e.g., his interpretation of the Myrtles in Zech 1) – but when he was on, he was dead center! Duguid and Kline both did outstanding jobs drawing in the New Testament application as well.
Finally, I would read every word written by John Calvin in his exposition of Zechariah. While definitely dated and unaware of some of the more technical issues, Calvin is a must read. Don’t think that by putting him last, I was putting him off. I read Calvin last in order to be most equipped to sit at his feet and integrate his exposition with what I already understood. Calvin did very good to not say too much, but managed to draw out some very nice doctrinal applications from the night visions. His prayers at the end of each segment are also wonderful. Twice I actually read the whole prayer at the conclusion of the sermon.
I found this regimen to be very edifying and at the end, found myself to be ready to write the sermon. I have no doubt that I’ve skipped over some great commentaries, but I had to draw the line somewhere since my time was limited. If I get the chance to rework through these texts homiletically, I’d like to add Mark Boda’s commentary (NIVAC) and grab the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture for the Twelve Prophets. Mark Boda co-edited a really helpful collection of essays with Michael Floyd called Tradition in Transition: Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 in the Trajectory of Hebrew Theology. His own contribution to the volume, dealing with Zech 2.10-17, really whet my appetite to see what he did within the editorial boundaries of the NIVAC series. Richard Phillips’ contribution to the Reformed Expository Commentary series also looks like a nice homiletical tool. (I really like other volumes in this series.)