Zechariah delivered his prophecies after Israel returned to her land after exile in Babylon. The prophet encouraged the leaders in Jerusalem and called for the rebuilding of the Temple. The book of Zechariah looks forward to ultimate restoration in the Millennium.
Zechariah is important because of the wide range of prophecy found in it. In all the scope of Bible prophecy, Zechariah holds the most prolific detail. The prophet related the person and work of the Messiah to the predictions of Isaiah and Jeremiah by designating Him as the “Branch.” He wrote that the Branch will sit on His throne as both Priest and King. He will build the Temple where both Jews and Gentiles participate.
Zechariah was frequently quoted in the New Testament—about 40 times.
George L. Robinson said the Book of Zechariah is “the most messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological of all the writings of the Old Testament” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
The background of the message of Zechariah occurred during 586 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took most people in Judah to Babylon (2 Kgs 25:1-21). The Assyrians had previously taken the northern 10 tribes into captivity.
Jeremiah predicted that the Jews would return to the Promised Land after 70 years of discipline in exile. They remained deported for 70 years (Jer 25:11; 29:10). The Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen earlier, in 722 BC.
In 538 BC the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon. He published a decree allowing captured Jews to return to the Promised Land (2 Chr 36:22-23). He gave them permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezr 1:1-4). They started building the Temple in 537 BC, but Samaritan opposition delayed the building for 16 years. Two prophets came on the scene in 520 BC, Haggai and Zechariah, to challenge the Jews to finish building the Temple.
Nehemiah identified Zechariah as one of the priestly family that had returned to Jerusalem under the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua (Neh 12:4, 16). Zechariah appeared in 520 BC along with prophet Haggai during a difficult time for Israel in the land. Tattenai, governor of the province of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai objected to rebuilding the Temple. These men demanded to know by what authority the Jews were doing this work (Ezr 5:3). They searched the royal archives in Babylon and found Cyrus’s decree (Ezr. 6:1-5), which allowed for the Jews to return to their land but provided financial help from Cyrus’s government as well, including the return of gold and silver from the Temple.
When the exiles encountered opposition from people in the land, they ceased working. Haggai and Zechariah charged the people to finish building the Temple, and they resumed in 520 BC (Ezr 4:24). In 516 BC they finished constructing the Temple (Ezr 6:15).
A relatively small group of 50,000 Jews (including Haggai and Zechariah) returned to the land under Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest (Ezr 2). They reinstituted the Levitical sacrifices and a rebuilt altar (Ezr 3:1-6). In the second year they laid the foundation of the Temple (Ezr 3:8-13; 5:16). They halted the rebuilding of the Temple for 16 years because of spiritual apathy.
In the second year of the reign of King Darius Hystaspis, the Persian king (522-486 BC), the people began to rebuild the Temple again. Two months after Haggai began to encourage the Jews, Zechariah gave his first prophecy (Hag 1:1; Zech 1:1). After his prophecy the people finished rebuilding the Temple in 515 BC (Ezr 6:15). Zechariah wrote chapters 9-14 later in his ministry.
The Jews completed the building of the Temple in 516 BC (Ezr. 6:14-16). Because of this the people looked forward to the dawn of a bright future, but the reality was that they faced difficult times. This produced a period of skepticism.
Zechariah was born and raised in Babylon; his family was in exile (597-538 BC).
Zechariah returned from captivity in 536 BC with the political leader Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest.
Zechariah was a contemporary of Zerubbabel and Haggai.
Twenty-eight people in the NT have the name Zechariah.
Meaning of the name: Jehovah Remembers.
Zechariah’s father Berechiah died young; his grandfather Iddo adopted him.
The book is traditionally attributed to Zechariah.
Zechariah was both a priest and a prophet.
He was from a family of priests that returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:16).
His grandfather Iddo was listed among the priests returning with Zerubbabel (Neh 12:1-4, 16).
Zechariah was a postexilic prophet, a Levite (Neh 12:1, 16).
Zechariah’s prophecies began in 52O BC.
STYLE OF WRITING
The book of Zechariah is called the Apocalypse of the Old Testament because it uses a symbolic and figurative style of writing.
Apocalyptic means uncovering or revelation. Apocalyptic literature describes visions in symbolic language.
“Lord of Hosts” is found 52 times.
REFERENCES IN NT:
The Lord Jesus referred to Zechariah as the son of Berechiah, whom the Jews murdered between the Temple and the altar (Mt 23:35).
To encourage Israel to rebuild the Temple with a view to the coming of the Messiah.
The glory of Jehovah.
The theological emphasis is on God’s sovereignty over the world. He has allowed the Jews to undergo Gentile domination, but He also has a plan for the nation. Nations going beyond God’s purpose for the Jews went and are to go under God’s judgment.
Hope is a focus of Zechariah because the Lord promised to return Israel to a state of blessedness. Zerubbabel and Joshua’s Temple prefigures the coming Messianic kingdom.
Zechariah portrays the Messiah as the “BRANCH” (Zc 3:8), God’s “Servant” (Zc 3:8), God’s “Shepherd” (Zc 13:7). The Messiah’s ministry will be as a Priest-King (Zc 6:130). Zechariah prophesied the Messiah riding into Jerusalem on a colt (Zc 9:9; cf. Mt 21:4-5; Jn 12:14-16), His betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (Zc 11:12-13; cf Mt 27:9, 10), the piercing of His hands and feet (Zc 12:10; cf Jn 19:37), and the cleansing of sin by His death (Zc 13:1; cf Jn 1:29). The book of Zechariah also prophesies the conversion of Israel (Zc 12:10-13:1,9; cf. Ro 11:26) and the reign of Christ (Zc 14:9, 16; cf Re 20:4-6).
Zechariah chapters 9-14 are the most-quoted section of the Prophets in the Gospel narratives.
Zechariah uses God’s title “the LORD of hosts [armies]” as a key term. It is used 53 times in Zechariah. The meaning of this title conveys the idea of God leading Israel sovereignly with might in extracting Israel from captivity and in future direction.
Encouragement and hope.
Zechariah used exhortation, dream-visions, apocalyptic literature, and oracles.
Call to repentance (Zech 1:1-6)
The eight visions to rebuild the Temple (Zech 1:7-6:15)
Four messages of restoration of Israel to God (Zech 7:1-8:23)
Two apocalyptic oracles (Zech 9:1-14:21)
I. Three Challenges to Rebuild the Temple (1:1-8:23)
Challenge One: a call to repentance (1:1-6)
Challenge Two: to trust God (1:7-6:15)
Symbolic Visions and Oracles (1:7-6:8)
Riders under Myrtle Trees (1:7-17)
Four Horns (1:18-19)
Four Smiths (1:20-21)
Man with Measuring Line (chapter 2)
The High Priest Joshua and Satan (3:1-7)
The Branch (3:8-10)
Lampstand and Two Olive Trees (4:1-14)
Flying Roll/Scroll (5:1-4)
Woman in Ephah (5:5-11)
Four Chariots (chapter 6)
Climax of Visions: Joshua’s crown symbolizing Messiah’s reign (6:9-15)
Challenge Three: to Hope (7:1-8:23)
Fasting to Feasts (chapters 7-8)
Response to revelation (7:8-14)
Future of Jerusalem (8:1-23)
II. Oracles about the Coming Messiah (chapters 9-14)
Rejection of the Messiah (9-11)
Return and Reign of the Messiah (12-14)