Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review

Tiemeyer, Lena-Sofia, Zechariah's Vision Report and Its Earliest Interpreters: A Redaction-Critical Study of Zechariah 1–8 (LHBOTS, 626; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2016). Pp. 256. Paperback. US$39.95. ISBN 978-0-56766-522-5.

Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer's Zechariah's Vision Report and its Earliest Interpreters is a continuation and development of the careful exegetical work on Zech 1–6 in her 2014 work, Zechariah and his Visions.[1] Tiemeyer's starting point is that the visionary material in Zech 1–6 is the primary textual layer and that these visions are opaque, enigmatic and multivalent. Tiemeyer's second volume explores the relationship between the visionary and oracular material in Zech 1–8, and argues that the oracles in Zech 1–8 were added to the vision reports to clarify and delimit the meaning of these otherwise multivalent visions. Although her second volume builds extensively on the first, it is well cross-referenced and it is not necessary to consult the first volume in order to engage with the argument of the second.

As the subtitle of the book indicates, this is a redaction-critical study that traces the historical development of Zech 1–8. Tiemeyer argues that the oracles are redactional interpretations added to the visions in order to (re)interpret them for a new historical situation. Tiemeyer's approach is developed in conversation with other redaction-critical approaches (especially those of Schöttler, Wöhrle and Hallaschka).[2] In comparison with other approaches which posit a redactional growth over centuries, Tiemeyer argues for a relatively rapid redactional growth, with much of the redactional work completed (perhaps by Zechariah himself) by around 520 B.C.E. (see further below).

A key feature of Tiemeyer's approach is her argument that visions and oracles are manifestly different in the way that they interact with earlier texts. Put simply, vision accounts “allude to relatively few texts,” whereas the oracular material “is filled to the brim with allusions to and echoes of texts both within and outwith the book of Zechariah” (p. 39). Tiemeyer argues that:

…the oracular material can rightly be labelled schriftgelehrte Prophetie. It alludes to multiple textual sources and these allusions contribute to the readers' understanding of the new text in Zechariah. In my view, this schriftgelehrte quality of the oracles is a sign of their secondary/redactional nature. The authors of the oracular material in Zech 1–8 alluded to multiple earlier texts in order to bolster their own interpretations of the vision accounts and to anchor these interpretations firmly within Israel's textual traditions. (p. 39)

This claim is tested in ten exegetical chapters (chs. 3–12), which examine the text of Zech 1–8 pericope by pericope. The chapters follow a similar pattern. First, the demarcation between image and speech is identified. Second, the intertexts and intratexts of the whole pericope (image and speech) are identified and assessed. Third, the data is used to explore the relationship between the visionary material and the oracular material.

The pattern of Tiemeyer's conclusions in the first of these chapters (ch. 3) on Zech 1:8–17 provides a typical sample of the results of the other exegetical chapters.

  1. Division between image and speech: 1:8–11 is the primary visionary impression. Verses 12–17 are subsequent interpretations (in two layers—see below).
  2. Intratexts and Intertexts: There are very few intertextual allusions in the vision material in vv. 8–11, whereas there are multiple allusions in the oracular material in vv. 12–17 (including “how long?”, withheld mercy, 70 years, comforting words, God's anger, nations as instruments, God's return to Jerusalem, a measuring line, and overflowing Jerusalem).
  3. Vision and Oracle: The relationship between vision and oracle is best explained by a three-stage development of the text. First, verses 8–11 recorded the primary visionary impression. Second, v. 12 was added to the vision, “to change the originally positive understanding of the ‘quiet’ earth into a negative” (p. 67). This was followed by verse 13 (the Lord's response with kind and comforting words) and by what is now vv. 17ab–bb, which provides the content of those words of comfort. Thirdly, the final redaction added the oracles in vv. 14–16 and modified the start of v. 17 to integrate them. Thus, the original vision about God's reconnaissance patrol was first interpreted to be a promise that God would bring peace and prosperity to Jerusalem and Judah and then extended to include an assurance that the temple would be rebuilt (see pp. 74–75).

Similar conclusions emerge from the analysis in the subsequent chapters. The textual allusions broadly follow the same pattern as above—there are very few intertextual allusions in the vision material, in contrast to multiple allusions in the oracular material. Tiemeyer detects a similar three stage development (i.e., primary vision–early oracular interpretation–later oracular modification) in Zech 1:8–17; 2:5–9; 3:1–8a, 9; and 5:1–4. Tiemeyer notes that the oracles tend to limit the possible interpretations of the visions. For example, she concludes that the oracles in 2:10–17 “…are interpretations of the primary vision report but they do not define its meaning. Rather, they expand upon the messages of existing vision accounts, and they give new meaning(s) to individual verses of perceived importance” (p. 123).

The visions in Zech 2:1–4 and 5:5–11 are atypical, in that these visions do not have any associated oracle. The vision in Zech 3 has a “unique literary character” (p. 132)—it was not part of the original vision cycle and its patterns of textual reuse reflect a “uniform scribal character” throughout (p. 152).

Chapter 13 evaluates the two passages that now frame the whole vision account: Zech 1:1–6 and 7:1–8:23. Tiemeyer argues that the texts in 1:1–6 and 7:1–8:23 show little interest in the vision report (p. 229).

Zechariah 1:1–6 introduces the following vision report and directs the reader towards a particular understanding of it which is not inherent to the vision report itself. (p. 246)

This impression is confirmed by a study of the textual allusions in 7:1–8:23. These two chapters have a clear scribal character, in line with the other oracles in chs. 1–8… Their main intertexts are the other oracular sections (1:12–17; 2:10–17; 3:6–10; 4:6ab–10a), as well as the concluding angelic or divine statements (2:2, 4, 8b–9; 5:4; possible also 6:8). (p. 247)

In the final chapter, Tiemeyer provides a tentative proposal for the redactional development of the text of Zech 1–8. The two key hinge points that shape the four-stage chronology are the commencement of the temple (520 b.c.e.) and the beginning of the post-Zerubbabel era (when Zerubbabel was no longer alive/present). The table below is a reading together of the hypothetical scenario outlined on pp. 251–52 and the summarising chart on p. 254.

Pre-520 b.c.e.






Around 520 b.c.e.











1a. Visionary experience => written vision report of all of the vision accounts except Zech 3





4:1–6aa, 10b–14





1b. Early oracular interpretation (angelic/divine statements appended to visions)












2a.Temple-related oracular additions, including most of Zech 3. 2:10–14 added either now or later




3:1–8a, 9





2b. Dating formula and explanatory glosses











3a. Redaction for a post-Zerubbabel political era




3:8b, 10






3b. Either before or after the post-Zerubbabel redaction, Zech 7–8 was compiled











4a. Incorporation into the Book of the Twelve










4b. Redaction of the Book of the Twelve reflecting a positive view of Gentile participation










The redactional scheme proposed by Tiemeyer is based on careful and measured scholarship. I have elsewhere critiqued the methodological inconsistencies in the traditional partitioning of Zech 1–6 into separate categories of “vision” and “oracle.”[3] Tiemeyer's proposal is the most methodologically consistent approach of which I am aware. The difficulty for most other schemes are the “embedded oracles”—that is, divine oracles that are tightly embedded within the narrative of the vision report. For example, other scholars who identify and partition the oracles in Zech 1–6 do not categorise Zech 5:4 as an oracle, even though it meets the formal criteria used to demarcate oracles elsewhere. In contrast, Tiemeyer's proposal consistently excludes all divine speech and angelic interpretation from the primary visionary layer (layer 1a in the table above). Tiemeyer accounts for the embedded oracles as “early oracular interpretations” of the primary vision (layer 1b). Her proposal provides an explanation that (largely) avoids the awkwardness of a vision that contains an opening quotation formula left hanging without any following text.[4]

Her analysis of the intertexts and intratexts broadly demonstrates that the pattern of allusion differs markedly between the (primary) vision account and the oracular material. One may quibble with this conclusion at one or two points. For example, there is a danger of circular reasoning in relation to Zech 3. Notwithstanding the fact that Zech 3 shares the same three-stage development of other pericopes (primary vision–early oracular–later oracular [p. 151]), Tiemeyer argues that the whole vision is a later addition to the vision cycle, which is “supported” by its “uniform scribal character. All of vv. 1–10 interacts with a wide range of texts” (p. 152). It is circular to conclude that all of vv. 1–10 is late because “all of v. 1–10 interacts with a wide range of text,” because this assumes the very thing being proved (that primary visions do not engage in inner-biblical exegesis). On the same evidence, one could just as easily make the alternate argument—Zech 3:1–5 runs counter to the pattern of the other visions, because this primary vision account contains intertextual allusions. One could make similar quibbles about the conclusions in relation to Zech 5:5–11, that the seventh vision, which does not contain any oracular material, is marked by a “scarcity of textual allusions” (p. 201). I would argue that the vision in Zech 5:5–11 is intelligible (and therefore does not require an interpretative oracle) because it is replete with a range of textual allusions.[5]

However, putting these quibbles to one side and accepting the general pattern that the vision material alludes to relatively few texts and the oracular material is full of allusions to texts, it does not follow that “this schriftgelehrte quality of the oracles is a sign of their secondary/redactional origin” (p. 39). The visions in Zech 1–6—devoid of any interpretative oracles—are opaque, enigmatic and multivalent, which is why I would argue that the visions must have required some explanatory word from the outset to make them intelligible, and moreover that this word was typically provided in the associated oracles, as is typical of the vision report genre.[6]

At this point, the difference between my approach and that of Tiemeyer turns on how one understands the revelatory event that occurred when Zechariah received his visions, and in particular whether the visions that Zechariah saw and heard contained some or all of the oracles now embedded in them. However, not a lot turns on this difference, because either approach comes to very similar conclusions about the contents of Zech 1–6 in the second year of Darius (520 B.C.E.).

Whatever approach one takes on these questions of the early history of the vision, Tiemeyer's monograph is stimulating work that deserves wide readership for all those interested in the book of Zechariah. It makes an important contribution to our understanding of the function of the oracles in providing a (re)interpretation of the visions in Zech 1–6 and, in particular, to the way in which the intertextual re-use in the oracles are examples of schriftgelehrte Prophetie.

Michael R. Stead, Moore Theological College

[1] Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer, Zechariah and his Visions: An Exegetical Study of Zechariah's Vision Report (T & T Clark Library of Biblical Studies; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2015). reference

[2] Jakob Wöhrle, Die Frühen Sammlungen des Zwölfprophetenbuches: Entstehung und Komposition (BZAW, 360; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2006); idem, Der Abschluss Des Zwölfprophetenbuches: Buchübergreifende Redaktionsprozesse in den Späten Sammlungen (BZAW, 389; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2008); Martin Hallaschka, Haggai und Sacharja 1–8: Eine redaktionsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (BZAW, 411; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011); Heinz-Günther Schöttler, Gott inmitten Seines Volkes: Die Neuordnung des Gottesvolkes nach Sacharja 1–6 (Trierer Theologische Studien, 43; Trier: Paulinus-Verlag, 1987). reference

[3] Michael R. Stead, “The Interrelationship between Vision and Oracle in Zechariah 1–6,” in Elizabeth Hayes and Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer (eds.), 'I Lifted my Eyes and Saw': Reading Dream and Vision Reports in the Hebrew Bible (LHB/OTS, 584; London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014), 149–68. reference

[4] In Tiemeyer's proposal there is still a residual problem with Zech 2:8. Tiemeyer argues that “Zech 2:5–9 consists of three textual layers. A primary account in vv. 5–8a, and early interpretation of this account in v. 8b (without which the primary account never existed), and finally an additional and complementary interpretation of the vision account in v. 9” (p. 103, emphasis added). The problem is that the command in v. 8a to “Run, speak to that young man” cannot stand alone and so the “primary account” of the vision needs to include v. 8b. This, however, introduces part of a divine oracle (which continues into verse 9) into the “primary” vision layer. There is a similar problem with Zech 5:3, which is an “initial angelic explanation” (p. 188) and by analogy with 1:12–14aa, 17ab–bb; 2:8b should be located in the 1b layer, but in Tiemeyer's treatment elsewhere all of 5:1–3 is included in the primary vision layer. reference

[5] Michael R. Stead, The Intertextuality of Zechariah 1–8 (LHBOTS, 506; London: T & T Clark, 2007), 196–207. reference

[6] See A. Behrens, Prophetische Visionsschilderungen im Alten Testament: Sprachliche Eigenarten, Funktion und Geschichte einer Gattung (AOAT, 292; Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 2002). Behrens demonstrates that a prophetic vision report consists of two elements—the vision proper and the subsequent dialogue between the prophet and a heavenly figure—and that each of these elements typically shares a common form. Behrens's analysis recognises that there are instances where an oracle is embedded within a vision. reference