Where the world comes to study the Bible

Introduction to Zechariah

 

I. UNIQUENESS

 

A. This book is pivotal in our understanding of both apocalyptic literature and eschatology.

 

B. Surprisingly chapters 1-8 are alluded to extensively in the book of the Revelation, while chapters 9-14 are alluded to often in the Gospels.

 

C. Zechariah quotes extensively from the major eighth century prophets (in the North, Amos and Hosea; in the South, Isaiah and Micah) as well as the seventh century prophets, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He brings their insights to bear on his day and the last days. This shows that the prophets of Israel and Judah had access to each other's books.

 

D. This book is a good example of apocalyptic language. This is a literary genre which tries to document end-time events by means of figurative, imaginative symbols. It was often used in tension-filled times to express the hope of God's people that He was/is in control. See Opening Article.

 

E. This book is also very Messianic. He is God's agent of permanent change in human history. Zechariah, like Isaiah (cf. 52:13-53:12), reveals a suffering Messiah (cf. Gen. 3:15).

 

F. Jerome called Zechariah the most obscure book in the Old Testament.

 

II. AUTHOR 

 

A. Zechariah means "YHWH remembers" or "One remembered by YHWH." This prophet's name gives hope to the exiled Jews who wondered if their Covenant God remembered them. Haggai and Zechariah's call to rebuild the temple is physical evidence that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenant promises are restored to the post-exilic community.

 

B. Zechariah was a very common Hebrew name. It was spelled two ways in the English Bibles: Zechariah or Zachariah because of the Hebrew name's translation into Greek. There are twenty-seven people in the English OT who spell it with an "e" and two who spell it with an "a."

 

C. Zechariah 1:1 tells us that he was a priest (cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14; Neh. 12:4,16). Why his ancestor, Berechiah, is omitted from the list is uncertain. This would make him a post-exilic prophet, like Haggai, Malachi, and possibly Obadiah and Joel.

 

D. Many modern scholars deny unity to the book of Zechariah. This is because chapters 1-8 are so different from chapters 9-14. In chapters 1-8 the prophet is named and dates are given. The setting is obviously post-exilic. This section is alluded to extensively by John in his book of the Revelation. However, chapters 9-14 are undated. There is no prophet named. There is no obvious historical setting. This section is alluded to most often in the Gospels. However, this structure is common in several OT prophets (e.g. Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel).

In Matt. 27:9 Jesus attributes a quote to Jeremiah which is from Zech. 11:12-13. This was the beginning of the trend toward denying authorship of chapters 9-14 to Zechariah. However, even the Dead Sea Scrolls have Zechariah as a unity.

There are several internal grammatical and lexical items which point to a unity.

1. the use of the number "two" (4:3; 5:9; 6:1; 11:7; 13:8)

2. the use of the VOCATIVE (2:7,10; 3:2,8; 4:7; 9:9,13; 11:1-2; 13:7)

3. the use of the phrase, "go to and fro," which is unique to Zechariah (7:14; 9:8)

4. the repeated use of "saith the Lord" (used sixteen times)

5. the Qal form of "to dwell" or "to inhabit" ( BDB 442, 2:8; 7:7; 12:6; 14:10)

(These are taken from R. K. Harrison's Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 954). For further discussion of the unity of the book see E. J. Young's Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 280).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MATTHEW 27:9

III. DATE

 

A. From 1:1 we learn that the prophet began his ministry in the second year of Darius. Most scholars assert that this is Darius I Hystapes (522-486 B.C.), who took over the kingdom after Cambyses II (530-522 B.C.), Cyrus II’s son, committed suicide. See A Brief Historical Survey of the Powers of Mesopotamia, Appendix Two.

 

B. This would make the date 520-519 b.c. He preached about two years (cf. 1:7; 7:1).

 

C. Haggai and Zechariah are dated more precisely than any other OT books.

 

IV. PURPOSE

 

A. The major purpose of the book is to encourage the returning Jews to rebuild the temple (cf. Ezra 5). This was started by Sheshbazzar (cf. Ezra 1:8; 5:16), but had not been continued under Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 2:1-2). The temple had been neglected for eighteen years. Haggai asserts that this is because of the apathy of the people (cf. Hag. 1:1-11), while Ezra implies that it was the political maneuvers of the surrounding provinces, especially Samaria.

 

B. Both Haggai and Zechariah address the issue of rebuilding the temple (cf. Zech. 1-8), but Zechariah also covers many more issues (cf. Zech. 9-14).

 

V. BRIEF SAMPLE OUTLINE (taken from Introduction to the Old Testament, by R. K. Harrison, p. 950)

 

A. Dated prophecies, chapters 1-8

1. Introduction and call to repentance, 1:1-6

2. Eight visions, 1:7-6:8

a. four horsemen; the promise of divine restoration, 1:7-17

b. four destroying horns and four smiths, 1:18-21 (Heb. 2:1-4)

c. the immeasurable greatness of Jerusalem, 2:1-13 (Heb. 2:5-17)

d. the cleansing of Joshua; an oracle to him, 3:1-10

e. the seven-branched lampstand, 4:1-14

f. the large, flying scroll, 5:1-4

g. the woman in an ephah removed to Babylon, 5:5-11

h. four horse-drawn chariots traversing the earth, 6:9-15

3. Historical section: Joshua symbolic of the Messiah, 6:9-15 (I think this is a ninth vision)

4. An inquiry of Zechariah concerning fasting, 7:1-8:23

 

B. Undated prophecies, chapters 9-14

1. Judgment of national enemies; the coming of the peaceful prince, 9:1-17

2. Gathering in of the chosen flock by the divine leader, 10:1-12

3. Good and foolish shepherds; the suffering of the flock, 11:1-17

4. Eschatological oracles, 12:1-13:6

5. The purifying judgment of Israel and the blessings of the divine kingdom, 13:7-14:21

 

VI. THE MEANING OF THE EIGHT VISIONS

 

A. The angels on colored horses (cf. 1:7-17) — God knows what is happening on earth, especially as it relates to His plan of universal redemption through a Jewish Messiah. The Jews must be reestablished in Jerusalem for God’s plan to manifest in history.

 

B. The four horns and the four craftsmen (cf. 1:18-21) — God allowed pagan nations to judge His idolatrous people (cf. v. 15), but now He will judge them for their excess and pride. World empires are directed by God for His redemptive purposes.

 

C. The measuring of Jerusalem (cf. 2:1-13) — God will restore His people to the Promised Land and renew and expand the covenant. YHWH Himself will be with them and protect them as in the Exodus experience.

 

D. Joshua forgiven and restored (cf. 3:1-10) — Joshua as High Priest stands for the Jewish nation. He is forgiven and restored, which shows in very clear symbols that the sacrificial system and, thereby, the covenant is fully restored and functioning. The Messianic element shows the priestly aspect of the Messiah’s work (cf. Ps.110; Isa. 53).

 

E. The lampstand (cf. 4:1-14) — God’s power, not human power, will reestablish the covenant (i.e. rebuilt temple as a symbol/sign). God will use Spirit-empowered human instrumentality (i.e. Joshua and Zerubbabel).

 

F. The flying scroll (cf. 5:1-4) — Symbol of God’s judgment on covenant breaking among His people, which will result in the destruction of the violators.

 

G. Wickedness in a basket (cf. 5:5-11) — Rebellion (idolatry) against God will be caged in a basket and removed to the place of human arrogance and idolatry (i.e. Shinar = Babylon).

 

H. The four chariots pulled by colored horses (cf. 6:1-8) — This is parallel to the first vision. God is present and sovereign in all the world.

 

VII. Please read the quotes from D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks, found in Contextual Insights to chapter 11, F. These insights into the nature of apocalyptic literature will be very helpful as we study and attempt to interpret the book of Zechariah.

 

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Bible Study Methods