The Book of Zechariah is the eleventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The name Zechariah means God remembered. Not much is known about Zechariah’s life other than what may be inferred from the book itself. His grandfather Iddo was the head of a priestly family who returned with Zerubbabel. Thus, Zechariah may himself have been a priest as well as a prophet. Just like the prophet Ezekiel, he came from a priestly family and prophesized in Judah.
Zechariah’s prophecies took place during the reign of the Persian King Darius the Great. Thus, Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai. Zechariah was specific about dating his writing between 520–518 BCE, tying it to specific dates during the reign of King Darius. The Persian Cyrus had overtaken the Babylonians in 539 BCE. He then issued a famous edict a year later, so that freedom eventually came to many Israelites. After the death of King Cyrus in 530 BCE, King Darius consolidated power and took over by 522 BCE. His system divided the different colonies of the empire into easily manageable districts overseen by governors. Zerubbabel was appointed by Darius as the governor over the district of Yehud Medinata or Judah. Under this reign of King Darius, the prophet Zechariah emerged with his emphasis on rebuilding the Temple. In fact, the Persian Empire went to great lengths to encourage the restoration of the Temple.
Although most accept this book as the writings of one individual in the 6th century BCE, the second part might be a later edition that used the other major prophets. Zechariah’s concern for purity is apparent in the sayings about the Temple, the priesthood, and all areas of life. He definitely favored the high priest, Josiah. The return from exile was the theological premise of this prophet’s visions. The main emphasis was that God was at work among them. He planned to live again with his people in Jerusalem. He would save them from their enemies and cleanse them from their sins.
This last part of the Book of Zechariah was an early example of apocalyptic literature. Christians have read the oracles in the second part of Zechariah as messianic prophecies. The Book of Revelation was clearly colored by images in Zechariah. Although not as fully developed as the apocalyptic visions described in the Book of Daniel, these oracles certainly contained apocalyptic elements, especially with the emphasis of the Day of Yahweh. In most apocalyptic literature, there was the constant theme of pessimism about the present, but optimism about the future reward, the ultimate victory of God.
Although there is no mention of it in this book, the later gospels of Matthew and Luke had Jesus say that Zechariah, son of Barachiah, was killed between the altar and the temple. Perhaps this was another Zechariah.
This book began with a preface that included the title that called for a conversion, since they were not to be like their ancestors. The first six chapters describe eight night-visions. The first vision was about horses patrolling the earth. Yahweh would have compassion on Jerusalem and Judah. The second vision about the four horns with four blacksmiths, while the third vision was about measuring Jerusalem.
There would be a call to the exiles. The former plundering nations would themselves be plundered. Yahweh would dwell in their midst, so the everyone should remain in silence before Yahweh.
The fourth vision of Joshua the high priest had a conversation between Yahweh and Satan. Joshua was told to take off his filthy clothes. They were to walk in the ways of Yahweh. There also was a branch as well as a stone with an inscription.
Zechariah had a wake-up call about the fifth vision of the golden lamp stand with the two olive trees on each side. Zechariah questioned these visions. What was the role of Zerubbabel? He was to lay the foundation of the Temple. Then an angel interpreted the seven facets or eyes and the two olive trees.
The sixth vision was about a large flying scroll. The angel gave the interpretation of this flying scroll as a warning on both sides. The seventh vision was a wicked woman in a basket. Two winged women took the wicked basket to Babylon.
The eighth vision was about four chariots with four different colored horses that went to the four corners of the earth. They too, were patrolling the earth. The returning exiles were to make a crown of silver and gold to remember their exile during this new age where the kingdom of God would dominate.
Chapters 7 and 8 address the quality of life God wanted his renewed people to enjoy. He encouraged them, since they were now free. They took up the question of whether the days of mourning for the destruction of the city should be kept any longer. This new oracle talked about the former fasting. They were now to give true judgments of kindness and mercy. They had refused to listen, so that they were punished.
Yahweh was jealous, so that he was going to return to the holy mountain. Thus, the old and the young would talk and play in the city streets. The remnant would be Yahweh’s people. Although there were terrible times, things would be better with the foundation laying of the Temple. There would be a coming peace, instead of the disaster for their ancestors. If they were good today, and spoke the truth, there would be no more fasting. Many people would come to Yahweh, since God was with them.
Chapters 9 to 14 are perhaps later editions with various oracles. The first oracle gave an outline of God’s providential dealings with his people. There was the typical harangue against Aram, Tyre and Sidon, as well as the Philistine cities. Yahweh was going to be their guard. There would be a new victorious king with the return of the captured prisoners as Yahweh’s people. Yahweh was on their side since he controlled nature. The house of Judah was important. Yahweh was going to save both the north and the south with his great return, as long as they walked with Yahweh/
They would be ruins, like the ruin of the powerful trees. Yahweh would not have pity on the sheep merchants. Zechariah had two staffs, favor and unity. He became impatient, so he broke the staff of favor. He wanted his wages, but instead he got thirty shekels, the price of a slave. Then he broke his second staff of union indicating the breakup of north and south. Zechariah wanted Yahweh to issue a curse against the worthless shepherd.
This second oracle in chapters 12 to 14 pointed out the glories that awaited Israel in the last days, when the final conflict and triumph of God’s kingdom would take place. The world was Yahweh’s creation. There was a problem with Jerusalem and Judah, particularly the clan leaders of Judah. However, there would be a future glory for Jerusalem and Judah, since those against Jerusalem would be destroyed. The people of Judah and Jerusalem would have compassion with great individual mourning periods.
The cleansing fountain would take away their sins and impurities. They would get rid of all their idols. The future false prophets would fail. They would try to kill the shepherd.
There would be a return to plunder, with an attack on Jerusalem. Yahweh would split the Mount of Olives, so that people could get out of Jerusalem. However, there would be no cold or night. The living waters would flow from Jerusalem. Yahweh was the king of the earth. Thus, Jerusalem would remain, despite a rotten plague that would include the domestic animals. There would be a great panic. However, the survivors would worship Yahweh. There would be a drought for those who failed to worship Yahweh, especially in Egypt. All the cooking pots in Jerusalem would be holy.