This portion of the Word of God came to us through Zechariah, son of Berechiah. For our purposes here, we will not assume any textual error in Matt. 23:35 where Jesus says that Zechariah, son of Berechaiah, was murdered between the temple and the altar. This had also happened to Zechariah, son of Jehoidah, in 2 Chron. 24:20-22. But Zechariah was a very common name, and martyrdom was common to the faithful.
“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,” (Zechariah 1:1-6).
The nation of Judah had been taken into exile in Babylon. This Babylonian captivity lasted from 586- 539 BC. The first return to the land was shortly before the ministry of Zechariah, which began in 520 BC. This is just several months after the ministry of Haggai began. During Zechariah’s time, the dominant empire was that of the Persians. Darius I began his rule in 522.
Understanding This Book
Although the context is the same as we find in Haggai, the images are much more vivid and apocalyptic, and therefore more difficult for moderns to understand. Four things will encourage you as we work through this book.
Just relax and read—do not try to read this book as though it were a letter of Paul. Do not try to dismantle and analyze as you go. You will be learning some alien literary forms, and you must begin by letting those forms “happen” to you. Repeatedly. Do not try to squeeze this book into any existing categories you might have in your mind.
Mind his prophetic companions—Zechariah ministered alongside Haggai. As you read and reread this prophecy of Zechariah, take care to read his contemporary and companion in ministry. Note the impact—second only to the book of Ezekiel, the prophecy of Zechariah had a profound impact on the book of Revelation. This is not revealed through direct quotation, but through many allusions and symbols. Take care also to read the book of Revelation after you have read Zechariah, taking special note of any similarities.
And remember we have an inspired interpretation—the New Testament writers teach us what many Old Testament passages mean. This in turn sheds much light on the original context of the OT passage. Further, the apostolic writers teach us how to handle such passages. In other words, we learn our hermeneutic from the apostles.
“And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; Even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zech. 3:2). See Jude 9. “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:” (Zech. 8:16). See Eph. 4:25.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; Lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9). See Matt. 21:5 and John 12:15.
“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” (Zech. 11:12–13). See Matt. 26:15 and Matt. 27:9-10
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, The spirit of grace and of supplications: And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, And shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” (Zech. 12:10). See John 19:37 and Rev. 1:7
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, Saith the LORD of hosts: Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: And I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” (Zech. 13:7). See Matt. 26:31 and Mark 14:27.
The Prophetic Collection
The prophecy of Zechariah comes to us in four distinct parts.
Introductory—the introduction is simply the first six verses of the books (Zech. 1:1-6).
Symbolic—the second section is a series of symbolic “night visions,” bringing us to the end of chapter six (Zech. 1:7-6:15). These night visions are chiastic. Visions 1 and 8 have the colored horses. Visions 2 and 3 match visions 6 and 7, and deal with obstacles the people were facing as they rebuilt the Temple. Visions 4 and 5 are the centerpiece, and deal with encouraging the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua.
Didactic—the teaching portion of the book is found in chapters 7 and 8 (Zech. 7:1-8:23). A question arises about fasting, and the people are told to turn their fasting into rejoicing (8:18-19).
Prophetic—in the prophetic section of the book we find two great oracles. The first (Zech. 9:1-11:17) prophesies the coming of the Shepherd King, and the second deals with the salvation of the entire world (Zech. 12:1-14:20). The coming king will be killed, but the kingdom triumphs regardless.
Learning from History
The prophet is bringing a word of encouragement to the people. But he does not gloss over sin in order to bring a false encouragement. Gospel encouragement is not possible apart from genuine and true repentance.
Wrath and encouragement—we find no salvation in turning to the ways of our fathers. This is good or bad, depending upon what our fathers were doing. In this instance, “do not be like your fathers,” Zechariah says.
All flesh is grass—your fathers who were disobedient are all dead. The prophets who rebuked them all also dead. In contrast to both rebel and servant, the word of the Lord continues on.
Look around—the land was originally a land of milk and honey. After the return from exile, the children of Israel were standing in the midst of a great ruin.
Remember —one of the great features of the biblical sermon is the call to remember. One of the great sins in Scripture is that of forgetting. What the Lord said He would do to the fathers, He has most certainly done. Look around you, remember the Word of the Lord, and draw conclusions.