Grace Institute: The Prophets: Zechariah
Grace Institute for Biblical Leadership

Zechariah

Survey of the Old Testament: The Prophets

Fall 2005


Introduction

Background

Name & Author: Zechariah.

Date: Zechariah receives the Word of the LORD in the 8th month of the second year of King Darius. This would place this revelation between the second and third messages of Haggai (see Haggai for background of the times). The visions in chapter 1-6 come in the 11th month. The rest of the book is written two years later.

Audience: Those Jews who have returned from exile in Babylon. The returning exiles were facing opposition from the inhabitants of the land and were discouraged in their rebuilding.

Purpose

The book of Zechariah was written to encourage the returning exiles by telling of the future glory of Jerusalem and by building up their leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua.

Structure

Zechariah's Eight Visions
Question about Fasting
Zechariah's Two Burdens
  1. The Horsemen (1:7-17)
  2. The Horns & the Craftsmen (1:18-21)
  3. The Man with the Ruler (2:1-13)
  4. Joshua, the High Priest & Satan (3:1-10)
  5. The Lampstand and Olive trees (4:1-14)
  6. The Flying Scroll (5:1-4)
  7. The Woman in a Basket (5:5-11)
  8. The Four Chariots (6:1-15)
The First Advent of the Messiah
The Second Advent of the Messiah
1             6 7
8
9
11
12
14

Zechariah is divided into three main messages. The first message comes through a series of 8 visions all given in a single night (chapters 1-6). The second message comes in answer to an inquiry about keeping a fast (chapters 7-8). The final message outlines the future of the city of Jerusalem leading to the final glory of Jerusalem as it is ruled by the Messiah-King (chapters 12-14).

Theme

Haggai was very specific and pointed the people to the past glory of Jerusalem as a motivation to continue building the temple. Zechariah is more general in his messages, and he focuses much more on the future glory of Jerusalem as a motivation for building the temple. [1]

Zechariah's Eight Visions (Chapters 1-6)

In the 11th month of Darius' second year, Zechariah receives 8 visions in one night, all proclaiming God's deliverance for Judah and it's coming glory.

The Horsemen and the Man Among the Myrtle Trees (1:7-17)

Description of the Vision

Horsemen are riding amongst the Myrtle Trees. The Angel of the LORD is standing among the trees. The Angel reveals that the horsemen are the protectors of Jerusalem and that Jerusalem will be restored.

Message

God declares his passion for the city of Jerusalem. This passion is repeated again and again throughout the book. But he also expresses his anger towards the arrogant nations who are “at ease.”

The Horns and the Craftsmen (1:18-21)

Description of the Vision

Four workmen come and cast out the four horns. The angel describes the horns as the powers that took Judah captive (likely the same four nations mentioned in Daniel)

Message

God will defeat the nations who took Judah captive.

The Man with the Ruler (Chapter 2)

Description of the Vision

A man with a ruler goes out and measures Jerusalem to show how big it will be.

Message

Jerusalem may not have any walls, but the LORD himself will be the walls and protect Jerusalem. God's glory shall dwell in Jerusalem and people from many nations will come and join in the worship of Yahweh in Jerusalem.

Joshua the High Priest and Satan (Chapter 3)

Description of the Vision

Joshua, the High Priest, is standing before the LORD, but is being accused by Satan. The LORD dresses Joshua in clean clothing, and then explains how a branch will come to take the iniquity of the people away.

Message

Joshua represents the Israel and its unclean state. But the promised messiah will come to remove the sin of the Land, allow access to God, and silence Satan's accusations.

The Lampstand and Olive Trees (Chapter 4)

Description of the Vision

Zechariah sees a lampstand with seven lamps and two olive trees.

Message

God declares that Zerubbabel, through the power of the Spirit, will complete the temple while two anointed ones stand near.

The Flying Scroll (5:1-4)

Description of the Vision

Zechariah sees a flying scroll.

Message

The thief and liar will be banished from the land.

The Woman in a Basket (5:5-11)

Description of the Vision

Zechariah sees a basket and a woman sitting in the basket. These represent iniquity and wickedness.

Message

God will seal iniquity up and send it away until it is deemed ready.

The Four Chariots (Chapter 6)

Description of the Vision

Four chariots come down from the mountain, each with a different colored horse.

Message

God's Spirit will go throughout the earth. The branch will complete the construction of the temple.

Zechariah's Words From the LORD (Chapters 7-8)

Two years later, the people send a representative to the priests and prophets wondering if they should continue to fast in the fifth month as they had been doing “for so many years”. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed in the fifth month (2 Kings 25:8-9), and it appears that since that time the Jews fasted in commemoration of this tragic event. [2] In light of the construction of the temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the people wondered if they needed to mourn the destruction that had taken place some 70 years earlier. Zechariah receives a Word from the LORD in response to this question.

Obedience Is More Important than Fasting (7:4-14)

God Questions Their Motives (7:4-7)

In verse 5 God asks the question “did you really fast for Me?” It seemed that the people's sorrow was self-pity and not true repentance to God. The purpose of fasting is to humble yourself before God, but the people were using it as a time of self-pity. God would have preferred that they just obey Him.

Reminder of Past Disobedience and Subsequent Judgement (7:8-14)

God reminds the people that the reason that Jerusalem was destroyed in the first place was not because they did or did not keep fasts and other rituals, but that they lacked justice, mercy, and compassion (Zechariah 7:9-10).

Call to Obedience and the Subsequent Blessing (Chapter 8)

Promise of God's Presence (8:1-18)

But while the disobedience of the past brought destruction, so their obedience today would bring blessing. In a series of 9 messages from “the LORD of hosts,” the restoration of Jerusalem is described.

•  God is Zealous for Zion (8:2) - Again we see God's passion for Jerusalem, using the same terminology that was used in Zechariah's first vision (1:14)

•  God will dwell in Jerusalem (8:3)

•  The City will be well populated (8:4-5)

•  The City will be marvelous (8:6)

•  The Jews will be gathered back to Jerusalem (8:7-8)

•  Encouragement to Build the Temple (8:9-13) - The encouragement to be strong and diligent comes from the promise that they would be prosperous. This is in marked contrast to the lack of prosperity two years prior as described in Haggai.

•  Encouragement to Speak Truth (8:14-17) - There is a parallel to Zechariah's vision of the flying scroll, where the liars are cast out. There is a call for truth, justice, and peace among the people.

Sincere Fasting Will Draw All People's to God (8:19-23)

God re-institutes the Fasting (8:18-19)

After the promise of Jerusalem's future glory, the LORD re-institutes the fasts. Now, however, they are no longer fasts, but feasts of joy, because Jerusalem would be regaining its future glory.

Then the People will be drawn to Jerusalem (8:20-23)

But when would this future glory come? Certainly Zechariah's audience were thinking that the fulfillment of the prophecy was at hand with the rebuilding of the temple. In part, perhaps, it was fulfilled as Jerusalem was rebuilt over the next several decades. However, verses 20-23 indicate that the final fulfillment of Jerusalem's glorification is yet to come. As a result of the pure motives in their fasting and prayer, the Jews will serve as a witness to the nations.

Zechariah's Two Burdens (Chapters 9-14)

Zechariah's prophecies point to a time when the LORD will come and live amongst his people in Jerusalem. In the last five chapters, it is almost as if Zechariah is answering his readers unspoken question: when is this going to happen? He does this by prophesying about coming events in the Israel's history and the coming of the Messiah.

First Advent of the Messiah (Chapters 9-11)

The Arrogant Nations Defeated (9:1-8)

Zechariah begins this foretelling by describing how Syria, Tyre, and the Philistines are going to be destroyed because of their arrogance. If you trace the path of these conquests, you discover this follows the path that Alexander the Great took as he conquered the regions around Jerusalem [3]. Alexander's conquest of the region concluded with the encampment around Jerusalem, but did not include Jerusalem's destruction, as predicted in verse 9:8.

The King & Kingdom of Peace (9:9-10)

In verses 9-10, Zechariah then shows the sharp contrast between the arrogant warrior to be found in Alexander and the humble peacemaker to be found in the coming Messiah. The coming Jewish King will be humble, riding on a young donkey, and will bring peace to Israel, not war.

The Uprising Against Greece (9:11-17)

However, before this humble peacemaker comes, Zechariah predicts that Israel will be stirred up against Greece.

Zechariah is writing about a rebellion by the Jews against the Greeks hundreds of years before Greece even controls Israel. At the time of these prophecies, Israel was under Persia's control, and the prediction here was not one which people would have just speculated would happen. The fulfillment of this prophecy is clearly part of the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century BC.

Judah & Israel Restored (Chapter 10)

Zechariah then predicts the restoration of Israel. In very descriptive terms he speaks of the faithfulness of the Jews during the dispersion, and his calling them back to Israel.

Rejection of the Messiah (Chapter 11)

Zechariah tells the story of the shepherd who comes to lead the flock, but is rejected by the people. When the shepherd goes to collect his wages for his work, the people pay him in 30 shekels of silver. This was a low wage that would have been insulting. In retrospect, however, we come to recognize this as the price paid to Judas for his treachery. This clearly, then, is a prediction of the rejection of the Good Shepherd, Jesus.

Zechariah predicts that after the rejection of this Good Shepherd, God will send a “worthless” shepherd with a sword in his hand (vs. 17). This is Rome, who came after Christ and destroyed the Jews and lead to the woes predicted in verses 1-3 of this chapter.

Second Advent of the Messiah (Chapters 12-14)

Judah will Mourn for the Pierced One (Chapter 12)

In Zechariah's second burden of this section of the book, we see a change of heart in the Jewish people. While before they had rejected the Messiah, now they will mourn for the one whom they pierced.

The Shepherd Returns (Chapter 13)

When Israel responds to the Messiah, understanding the suffering he went through, the restoration of Jerusalem will begin. Their sins will be forgiven (13:1), idolatry will cease (13:2), and prophecy will no longer be necessary (13:3-4).

The King Returns and Establishes His Holy Kingdom (Chapter 14)

Zechariah then concludes with the return of the King and the establishment of the millennial kingdom of Christ. The return comes with a battle between Israel and the nations, which will be ended as Christ returns on the Mount of Olives (14:4-5). Then, the Lord will dwell on the earth as the King.

With the coming of the Messianic kingdom, the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of booths with the Messiah. But there will be no rain or light from the heavens, for the Messiah would cause water to flow out of Jerusalem, and the Messiah himself would be a light to the world. The entire world would have to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of booths and get their sustenance from the Messiah.

The feast of booths was a reminder to the people of the wilderness wandering of the Israelites (Leviticus 23:33), and its celebration included a number of ceremonies. One of those ceremonies was intended to remind the people of how God miraculously provided water to the nation while in their desert wanderings. In this ceremony a priest would go down each day of the feast to the Gihon spring and fill up a pitcher with water, and then return to the temple altar and pour it out (Psalm 78:15-16).

In John chapters 7, Jesus goes to Jerusalem during the festival of booths. On the last day of the festival, Jesus interrupts this ceremony, crying out, “if anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink”(7:37). Jesus was referring in this case to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit that would come after Jesus was glorified (7:39). All that would be necessary to receive the Spirit was belief in Him (7:38). Later that day Jesus also proclaims, “I am the Light of the World.” Those who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness but will have the Light of life (8:12) [4].

Jesus is boldly claiming to be the Messiah and is claiming to be Yahweh, who will reign over the earth as king and provide all sustenance to the people.

Footnoes

  1. Charles Lee Feinberg, God Remembers: A Study of the Book of Zechariah , New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1965, p. 117)
  2. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: Expanded Edition , Chicago: Moody Press, 1995, p. 1469.
  3. Kim, Stephen S. Classroom notes from “Gospels, Hebrews-Revelation.” Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Spring 2003.
  4. Ray C. Stedman, “Zechariah: You Return to Me, I'll Return to You,” Adventuring Through the Bible, from the Ray C. Stedman Reference Library on the World Wide Web, http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/adventure/0237.html.

Bibliography

Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2002.

Feinberg, Charles Lee. God Remembers: A Study of the Book of Zechariah , New York: American Board of Missions to the Jews, 1965, p. 117)

Kim, Stephen S. Classroom notes from “Gospels, Hebrews-Revelation.” Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Spring 2003.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell., Ryrie Study Bible: Expanded Edition , Chicago: Moody Press, 1995, p. 1469.

Stedman, Ray C. “Zechariah: You Return to Me, I'll Return to You,” Adventuring Through the Bible, from the Ray C. Stedman Reference Library on the World Wide Web, http://www.pbc.org/dp/stedman/adventure/0237.html.

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