Among the last twelve books of the Old Testament, this book contains the most chapters. There are a slew of men in the Bible with the name “Zechariah.” The writer of this book was the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo” (Zechariah 1:1,7) – not the same person as an earlier prophet Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20).
Historical setting: Zechariah, a contemporary of and co-worker with the prophet Haggai, played a key role in encouraging the Jews who had returned to their homeland to finish the reconstruction of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1,2; 6:14,15). He began prophesying in about B.C. 521/520, in the second year of Darius (Zechariah 1:1). Under Zerubbabel and Joshua’s leadership, coupled with the prophetic work of Zechariah and Haggai, the temple was completed in B.C. 516/515, which was twenty years after the first group of Jews returned to Judah (Ezra 6:14,15).
Some key thoughts:
(1) God’s passionate appeal to the Jews in the days of Zechariah was, “Return to Me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you” (1:3).
(2) Like the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation, in many aspects the book of Zechariah involves apocalyptic literature. “Apocalyptic” literally means that which unveils or uncovers. This type of literature uses a series of visions and signs/symbols that unveil/uncover God’s message. In the first half of Zechariah’s message, there are at least eight visions (1:8-17; 1:18-21; 2:1-5; 3:1-10; 4:1-14; 5:1-4; 5:5-11; 6:1-8). “The visions of Zechariah focus one’s thoughts on the omnipresence of Jehovah, the reality of sin and suffering, and the dire need of divine pardon. Zechariah’s visions foretell the overthrow of Zion’s enemies, the heathen nations who would thwart the purposes of God. And his visions thrill the heart with promises of Jerusalem becoming the City of Peace” [V.E. Howard, The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament, “The Living Message of Zechariah, p. 400].
(3) Zechariah’s message was one of encouragement and hope for the Jews who faced difficulties. The first eight chapters of this book offer words of encouragement connected with the task of completing the rebuilding of the temple. God told His people that He was jealous for Jerusalem (1:14), which is called “the apple of His eye” (2:8). He said, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it” (4:9). It was not a one-person job, as Zechariah exhorted all the Jews, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Let your hands be strong . . . that the temple might be built” (8:9). God wanted the Jews to know that He would be with and bless their building project as they served Him.
Chapters 9-14 provide encouragement in matters related to the future coming of the Messiah. This latter section of the book shows God’s people as victorious under His mighty care for them. They were to rejoice greatly in the Messiah’s coming (9:9). God would strengthen and save His people (10:6,8,12). Remember: the blessings to be obtained during the reign of the Christ (blessings connected with God’s temple, Jerusalem, and His people) are spiritual blessings that we have in Jesus through His spiritual reign. The thought that everything would work out for the ultimate good of the Lord’s people should have been a comforting message to the Jews.
(4) References to the coming Christ abound in Zechariah’s writing. If we miss these, we have missed a major thrust of this book. Consider these prophecies:
3:8 – The Lord would raise up His servant, the BRANCH (Romans 15:12).
6:12,13 – The BRANCH shall build the Lord’s temple, shall sit and rule on His throne, and shall be priest on His throne (Hebrews 8:1,4).
9:9,10 – Riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-5)
11:12,13 – Betrayal for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15)
12:10 – They shall look on Him whom they have pierced (at the crucifixion, John 19:34-37)
13:1 – A fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (Jesus’ blood, Colossians 1:14)
13:7 – Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered (the apostles fled, Mark 14:27,50).
Other memorable lessons and reminders:
God refers to the prophets as “My servants” (1:6).
An intriguing question: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (4:10).
God sees all: “. . . the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth” (4:10).
God always has expected His people to be honest: “Speak each man the truth to his neighbor” (8:16; referenced in Ephesians 4:25).
The Lord is portrayed as the Good Shepherd who saves and protects His flock (9:16). Does that not remind us of the Lord Jesus? (John 10:11).
Jehovah is the One who “forms the spirit of man within him” (12:1).
The book of Zechariah is challenging. Within its message, though, are mighty messages of great encouragement for the Jews of the prophet’s day. And for us, the multiple references to the coming Messiah and those fulfilled prophecies reconfirm His deity.
— Roger D. Campbell