Background

“The Lord has remembered” is the meaning of Zechariah, and no less than thirty other Old Testament characters bore the popular name. The prophet lived and labored as a contemporary of Haggai and the historical setting for both of these is the same. He gave his first prophecy in 520 BC, two months after Haggai had given his first prophetic message (Hag 1:1, Zech 1:1). Zechariah’s last dated and revealed prophecy (Zech 7:1) was over two years later, so the known dates of his ministry are 520-518 BC. It is reasonable to imagine his ministry lasted longer than this two-year period, and it is not uncommon for scholars to place the final prophecies (chapters 9-14) several years after this. Scripture offers no direct testimony to confirm or deny this thesis. According to the Talmud, Zechariah was a member of the Great Synagogue (with Haggai and Malachi).1The introductory information on this page is adapted from Professor Emeritus Forrest Bivens’ course notes for Senior Old Testament Isagogics at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Used with permission.

See also the Chronology of the Prophets and the Chronology of Latter Prophets and Intertestamental Period.

Authorship

As were Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was likely both a prophet and a priest. His grandfather, Iddo, is mentioned in Zechariah 1:1 perhaps because he was distinguished as one of the leaders among the Levites who returned with Zerubbabel in the first wave of exiles (Nehemiah 12:1,4,7). If so, Zechariah was a priest and the same mentioned in Nehemiah 12:16. Assuming that Iddo was an elderly man at the time of the return (537-536 BC), the grandson Zechariah was perhaps a child born in Babylon and quite young as part of the remnant who returned.

Purpose and Content

It has been suggested by many that the main theme of the book is the message of Zechariah 1:3, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” One obvious purpose, parallel with that of Haggai, is that of rebuking and encouraging the people to finish building the postexilic temple. If a distinction is to be made, one may say Haggai was more focused on the building of the temple while Zechariah was concentrating more on the spiritual renewal of the people who would then carry out suitable worship and temple service once the building was completed.

The key messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological sections of Zechariah offer additional evidence that here we find instruction and comfort that go beyond the building of the temple. Perhaps the prophet’s name is significant in this connection: “The Lord has remembered” his people and his promises, and this will be demonstrated especially in the ultimate humbling and exaltation of the Messiah. The series of eight night visions (Zech 1:7-6:8) reminded Israel that God still loved his people and would govern the destinies of nations for the benefit of Zion. The truth of God’s sovereign control over all nations and peoples is also a noteworthy emphasis of Zechariah’s prophecies. This rule of the Lord of hosts will endure to the end and, as voiced by so many of the Old Testament prophets, will be realized in the work of the Messiah.

Another observation has been made: unlike most apocalyptic literature, Zechariah’s message shows a high degree of concern for social justice. He emphasizes the kindness and mercy of God in the coming Messiah, and he wants the remnant to show this same kindness and mercy in their lives.

A final significant point Zechariah made has to do with his repeated references to “the earlier prophets” (Zech 1:4, 7:7, 12). This not only served to authenticate his own ministry, but also assured the people that they had not misunderstood the Lord’s earlier revelations. Zechariah confirmed the previously revealed messages from God that he desired to continue his covenant relationship with Israel. Their hope was not misplaced. The Messiah was coming.

Christ Connection

As also mentioned for the book of Haggai, the book of Zechariah is centered on encouragement for the rebuilding of the temple. The rebuilt temple would later play a large part in Jesus’ ministry (see Christ Connection for Haggai).

We also see a number of prophecies concerning the life of the coming Christ, for example details concerning his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Zech 9:9; Mt 21:1-11), his betrayal (Zech 11:12-13; Mt 26:14-16; 27:9), his disciples abandoning him (Zech 13:7; Mt 26:31), and his being pierced (Zech 12:10; Lk 24:39; Jn 19:34; 20:27). Zechariah also proclaims the abundant blessings that will come from this Messiah (Zech 2:10-13; 3:8-9; 9:10-11,16-17; 10:8-12; 13:1,9; 14:9).

Notable Passages

  • Zechariah 1:2-6
  • Zechariah 1:16
  • Zechariah 2:10-13
  • Zechariah 3:8-9
  • Zechariah 9:9-11,16-17
  • Zechariah 10:8-12
  • Zechariah 11:12-13
  • Zechariah 12:10
  • Zechariah 13:1,7,9
  • Zechariah 14:9

Outline

The book easily divides into two major parts. Chapters 1-8 give us the introductory call to repentance, the night visions, and the oracles regarding fasting. Chapters 9-14, giving eschatological oracles, are normally subdivided into two sections, 9-11 and 12-14. For the sake of clarity, most commentators prefer to separate chapters 7-14 from 1-6 and thus end up with three major parts to the book.

  1. Visions to encourage the temple building (1-6)
  2. Questions regarding the use of fasting (7-8)
  3. Symbolical predictions about Israel’s future (9-14)

or

  1. Zechariah’s Visions (1-6)
  2. Zechariah’s Messages (7-8)
  3. Zechariah’s Oracles (9-14)

References   [ + ]

1. The introductory information on this page is adapted from Professor Emeritus Forrest Bivens’ course notes for Senior Old Testament Isagogics at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Used with permission.