Zechariah's father, Berechiah, probably died when his son was young, making Zechariah the immediate successor of his grandfather, Iddo (Neh. 12:4). Iddo was a priest who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua and was, according to tradition, a member of the Great Synagogue (the governing body of the Jews before the Sanhedrin). The name Zechariah (used in the O.T. of 27 other people) means "Yahweh remembers." This Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai (Ezra 5:1; 6;14).
During the reign of Cyrus, more than 50,000 Jews returned to Palestine from Babylon in 538. They laid the foundation of the Temple in 536, but opposition stalled the work for 15 years (Ezra 1:1-4; 4:1-5). Darius Hystaspes (1:1), who came to the throne in 521, confirmed Cyrus' decree, and Zechariah, like Haggai, encouraged the people to finish the Temple (which they did in 516).
Zechariah predicted more about Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah. Prophecies concerning His first coming include 3:8; 9:9; 11:11-13; 12:10; 13:1,6; and prophecies to be fulfilled at His second coming include 6:12; 14:1-21.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Introduction to the Book of Zechariah, p. 1414
Time of writing and time in history:
While Haggai sees to have been an old man, it seems that Zechariah was a young man, for he was the grandson of Iddo who had returned to Jerusalem 16 years previously. Haggai had been preaching two months, and the Temple work had already started, when Zechariah began. Haggai’s total recorded ministry lasted a little less than 4 months; Zechariah’s about 2 years. But, no doubt, they were on hand the whole 4 years, exhorting and helping.
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, p. 378
We now find Judah still a remnant, Jerusalem far from restored, the Gentile nations at ease round about her (Zechariah 1:14-16). Zechariah, a young prophet who had stood alongside the aged Haggai, strengthened the children of Israel as they built the Temple and warned them not to disappoint God as their fathers had done. He pictured God's love and care for His people. He quickened their hopes by painting in glowing colors the time of perpetual blessing that was coming to Israel in the far-off ages.
Zechariah, like Haggai, was a prophet to the remnant of the Jews who returned from Babylon after the seventy years of captivity. The Jews, once a powerful nation as God had planned them to be, were now a pitiful and insignificant remnant, dwelling in their promised land only because of the courtesy of a foreign ruler. Both Haggai and Zechariah tried to tell the people that it would not always be so. One day the Messiah would come and God's chosen people would rise into power. Zechariah was the prophet of restoration and glory. Born in Babylon, he was priest as well as prophet. Zechariah, whose name means "Jehovah remembers," prophesied for three years. The glorious future rather than the sad present was his message. He was a poet; Haggai, on the other hand, was a plain, practical preacher.
Zechariah's keen enthusiasm for the rebuilding of the Temple kept the people at the task of finishing the work. Serious crop failures and business depression among the Jewish people had made them so discouraged that only Haggai's blunt and consistent hammering kept them at the work. They needed a new voice. Zechariah's was that one. He threw himself into the work of helping his great friend Haggai.
Zechariah does not condemn the people but presents in glowing pictures the presence of God to strengthen and help. He especially encourages the governor, Zerubbabel, who was conscious of his own weakness. Hear what Zechariah says, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts (read Zechariah 4:6-10). He promised that the mountains of difficulty would be removed. How marvelously this truth was fulfilled at Pentecost when God filled men with His power.
Zechariah foretells the Saviour more than any other prophet except Isaiah:
- Christ the Branch—3:8
- Christ my Servant—3:8
- Christ's entry in Jerusalem on a colt—9:9
- Christ the good Shepherd—9:16; 11:11
- Christ the smitten Shepherd—13:7
- Christ betrayed for 30 pieces of silver—11:12-13
- Christ's hands pierced—12:10
- Christ's people saved—12:10; 13:1
- Christ wounded in the house of His friends—13:6
- Christ's coming on the Mount of Olives—14:3-8.
- He who ascended from the Mount of Olives shall so come in like manner as He went Read Acts 1:11.
- Christ's coming and coronation—Zechariah 14. Someone has said to read the visions of this book aright you must get two lights upon them—the light of the cross and of the crown. Otherwise you will find these pictures of Zechariah to be without perspective or background. The prophet, looking far into the future, saw the Messiah of the days to come as one Person, but in two aspects. First, he saw Him in humiliation and suffering, and again, in majesty and great glory. Zechariah seems to let the glory of Christ glow in all his teaching and preaching. The angelic horseman—1:7-17: here is a picture of Israel today, outcast but not forgotten by God. The measuring line—2:1-13: the coming prosperity of Jerusalem is seen. The city, walled in by the presence of God is great in extent and blessed by His favor. The golden candlesticks—4:1-14: Israel is shown as God's future light bearer. Olive trees, anointed of God, speak of Zerubbabel the ruler, and Joshua the priest. The ephah—5:5-11: Borne away on divine wings, wickedness is removed.What the Bible is All About, Henrietta C. Mears, pp. 323-324
- The four chariots—6:1-8: "Administrative forces of righteousness" (Dr. G. Campbell Morgan).
- The flying roll—5:1-4: wicked governments receive God's curse in this unique picture.
- Joshua, the high priest—3:1-10: filthy garments clothing the priest and representing Israel's sin are removed, replaced, and the Branch, Christ, introduced.
- The horns and blacksmiths—1:18-21: the overthrow of Israel by her enemies is foreseen.
- Of the Minor Prophets, Zechariah alone majors in visions. I saw by night, and behold... (1:1-7).
- The Jew ignores the Christ of the cross. The Christian too often ignores the Christ of the crown. Both are wrong!
- Two Searchlights
From the time of Zechariah and Haggai, the priesthood takes the lead in the nation. The history of God’s people falls into three main periods:
From Moses to Samuel – Israel under Judges
From Saul to Zedekiah – Israel under Kings
From Jeshua to 70 A.D. – Israel under Priests
Through the Bible in One Year, Allen B. Stringfellow, p. 106
Zechariah was a passionate young prophet who was zealous for the rebuilding of the Temple. God gave him the messages of this book to provide encouragement to those who were doing the rebuilding. He shows them that the rebuilding was not just an attempt to bring back the past glories of Israel…but to prepare for the future glories of the Messianic Kingdom.
The Call for Repentance Zechariah 1:1-6
Zechariah 1:1-6-The year is 520 B.C. God speaks to Zechariah and tells him that the people have turned away from Him…and as a result, He has turned away from the people. However, He offers them another chance. If they will repent and return to Him…He will return to them (:3). God warns them to not respond to Zechariah in the manner that they had responded to the prophets He had sent in the past. They “did not listen or give heed to Me.” Then God demonstrates which is more important…their ancestors, or His words…by simply pointing out that their ancestors are dead and gone, but His word is still present and active. When the people heard this they “repented” and returned to the Lord. Repentance is always the first step away from the past…and towards the future.
The Visions at Night Zechariah 1:7-6:15
Zechariah had a series of visions at night (:7-8). Bible commentators differ on how many individual visions he saw…generally ranging from seven to ten. Zechariah struggled to understand the meaning of these visions. No less than 12 times he asked for an explanation (1:9,19,21; 2:2; 4:4,5,11-13; 5:6,10; 6:4). These visions encouraged the people rebuilding the Temple because they demonstrated the sovereignty of God. He is in control of what will happen in the future. And what they are doing in rebuilding the Temple is a part of His plan.
Zechariah 1:7-17-Vision 1: The Rider on the Red Horse
Zechariah has a vision of a man riding a red horse. In addition, there are four more men/angels on horseback. An angel tells him that they have patrolled the earth and found that while Israel is still in bondage, the rest of the nations are at peace. God says that He is concerned for His people and will bring them back to the land where they will rebuild the Temple and prosper. The Temple was finished in 516 B.C. The “measuring line” refers to a surveyor.
Zechariah 1:18-21-Vision 2: The Four Horns
He now sees four horns. They represent the four nations that had scattered Israel (Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, Medo-Persia). Then he sees Four Craftsmen. They represent the Four Nations that God used to overthrow the enemies of Israel. Some Bible commentators see this as two separate visions. One is the Four Horns and the second is the Four Nations. They base this on the wording in verse 20, “Then the LORD showed me…”, suggesting that each time it was used it represented a separate vision. There was the first vision, “Then,” a second one. Whether there is one, or two…the meaning remains the same.
Zechariah 2:1-13-Vision 3: The Man with the Measuring Line
Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line (a surveyor). He is told to measure Jerusalem...because it will expand beyond its borders in the Millennial kingdom. At that time, people from many nations will become a part of the people of God. The LORD says that He will disperse the nations around Israel so that she will have more room for the people to live. Anyone who tries to interfere with Israel is in danger…”for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye” (:8). The “apple of the eye” is the pupil. God is saying that if you mess with Israel…it is like you are poking Him in the eye! Not a good idea, at all. In the Millennial kingdom many nations will join Israel as God’s people and God will live in their midst (:10-11).
Zechariah 3:1-10-Vision 4: Joshua the High Priest
Zechariah now sees a vision of Joshua, the High Priest (:1). He is wearing dirty clothing. It represents sin (:3). Satan is standing to his right and is accusing him of sin and thus being unfit to serve as a priest. But God says that He has "taken away your iniquity". This removal of sin is visually portrayed by having the dirty clothes of Joshua removed and then his being clothed in clean garments. Notice that his clothes were not removed by himself…but by the others present. Even so, we cannot remove our own sin…but it must be done by God (:4). A “turban” was placed on his head (:5). On the turban of the High Priest was a plate on which the words, “Holy to the Lord” were engraved (cf. Exodus 28:36-38). This is the spiritual status we have when God cleanses us from sin. The angel told Joshua that God had said, “If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service”…then God will allow him to have leadership over the Temple and he will have access to God through prayer (:7). The priests that were there served as a “symbol”. They represented the coming Messiah (who would be the final High Priest)...here called, "My servant the Branch" (:8). The “stone” also represented the Messiah. It has “seven eyes”…the number seven standing for completeness and eyes for knowledge (:9). The Messiah has total and complete knowledge of all things. Nothing, and no one, escapes His attention.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for this picture of salvation. You cleanse us from our sin. You give us a right standing with You. It is not our goodness, our ability, or our sacrifice. It is You, and You alone. Now, help my service to You to be a reflection of my love for You. Please let my service be acceptable and pleasing to You. May it bring You praise and glory.