Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was also a priest. His grandfather, Iddo, is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:1-4 as one of the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua from Babylon. “Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, the Elkoshite.” Nehemiah also tells us that Zechariah succeeded his grandfather, Iddo, as head of that priestly family (Nehemiah 12:16).
Zechariah must have been quite young when he began his ministry because in chapter 2:4 we hear Zechariah called a “young man.” Zechariah was called by the LORD to proclaim a message to His people at the same time as the prophet Haggai. Just like the prophet Haggai, Zechariah was concerned with the reconstruction of the temple, but also pointed to the future glories for God’s people through the coming Savior. Zechariah began his ministry two months after the beginning of Haggai’s as we are told in Chapter 1:1. “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying....”. See a chart detailing the Chronology of the work of Haggai and Zechariah (pdf).
The book of Zechariah can be divided into three different types of messages. There are general messages of encouragement from the LORD to His people, similar to what we saw in the book of Haggai. But most of the book comes in the form of prophetic visions like those in Ezekiel or Daniel, and oracles or ‘burdens’ of judgment and salvation like those in Isaiah.
The book opens with the LORD’s call for His people to repent, and not be like their fathers before them, who continued in their evil deeds and did not listen to the LORD. “‘Return to Me,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’” (1:3).
Much of the book is apocalyptic like the book of Revelation in the New Testament, as it uses pictures to describe future events. In the second section, we are introduced to an angel who helps explain eight visions of the LORD to Zechariah.
Vision One - The Horseman: Four horses report that the world is at peace, yet we are told that God’s people are still struggling. The temple was still not finished and they were under the control of foreign powers. But the LORD promises, “‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem’” (1:16).
Vision Two - The Four Horns and the Four Craftsmen: The four horns represent those nations who have oppressed Judah in the past and the four craftsmen to the nations which the LORD would raise up to defeat those nations.
Vision Three - The Measuring Line: The LORD encourages His people to leave the land of Babylon and return to Jerusalem, promising that He would be with them and protect them. The LORD also speaks of the inclusion of the Gentiles as His people through the Savior, saying, “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you” (2:11).
Vision Four - Joshua the High Priest: This vision brings out the full blessing of God’s grace through His Servant the Righteous Branch who would “remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (3:9).
Vision Five - The Golden Lampstand: Here the LORD encourages His people that He would provide the strength to complete the rebuilding of the temple through the person of Zerubbabel. “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.... The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you” (4:6,9).
Vision Six - The Flying Scroll: In this vision the LORD especially condemns the sins of stealing and of swearing, and the punishment that would be received for committing such sins.
Vision Seven - The Basket of Iniquity: The LORD promises that wickedness will not be allowed to continue forever, but in His good time, will cast it away forever.
Vision Eight - The Four Chariots: In this vision the LORD reveals to Zechariah and His people that the seventy years of captivity was now over and the LORD was giving His people another chance to trust in Him.
Finally the LORD points to Joshua the High Priest as a picture of the coming Savior, once again called the “Branch.” Once again the LORD emphasizes the inclusion of the Gentiles, “Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you” (6:15).
Chapters seven and eight demonstrate the results of hypocrisy and rejection of the LORD by looking at the lesson left by their fathers and to learn from those mistakes. We also see the peace and prosperity which awaits His people as a result of the return from captivity and the birth of the Messiah. Once again we are told, “Yes, many peoples and strong nations Shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, And to pray before the LORD” (8:22).
In the second part of the book, the LORD speaks a ‘burden’ against the surrounding nations and even His own people, but also encourages them through many passage which point them to the Savior from their sins. It portrays Christ as the ultimate sacrifice for all sin, and comforts believers with the hope that He will return again to take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.
Among all of this predictive prophesy concerning what lay in the future for God’s people, Zechariah inserts many direct prophesies of the coming Savior. The Messiah is portrayed so often that Zechariah falls second only to the prophet Isaiah in the number of Messianic prophecies mentioned. These Messianic prophecies are so clear that Luther called Zechariah, “One of the most comforting of all the prophets.”
Christ is seen in the book of Zechariah as -
The Righteous Branch - “Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH” (3:8 cf. 6:12-13);
The Humble King, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9-11);
The Shepherd Rejected and Sold, “Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ — that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter,” (11:12-13);
The Pierced One, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (12:10);
The Cleansing Fountain, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (13:1);
The Smitten Shepherd, “'Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,' Says the LORD of hosts. 'Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.'” (13:7);
and the Coming Judge and Righteous King, (14).
Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church,
Lawrenceville, GA by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew