Overview of the Book of Zechariah

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Overview of the Book of Zechariah
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Overview of the Book of Zechariah

Author: The prophet Zechariah.

Purpose:

To encourage belief in Zechariah's predictions not only of trials, but also of the great blessings for Jerusalem when the Kingdom of God comes in its fullness.

Date: 520-475 B.C. (Zechariah's Ministry)

Key Truths:

  • God offered wonderful blessings to his people after exile through Zerubbabel, the son of David, and through Joshua, the High Priest.
  • Despite the failures of those who returned from exile, God would not fail to complete his promises.
  • God has all power to defeat his enemies and will do so one day.
  • A final battle will bring ultimate victory to God's people.

Author:

Zechariah 1:1 identifies the author as "Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo." The traditional view is that this man was a sixth-century contemporary of Haggai and that the entire book was written by him. Some modern interpreters believe that what we know as one book was originally two books (Zech. 1-8 and Zech. 9-14). Those holding this view consider the first part to be from the sixth-century prophet and the second from an author of a later time (The Maccabean era [c. 168 B.C.] is the period most frequently suggested). Various literary and historical arguments have been used to arrive at these conclusions, but none of them provide compelling reasons to abandon the traditional view that follows the testimony of the book itself.

Time and Place of Writing:

The historical background of Zechariah is the same as that of Haggai (see "Introduction to Haggai"), but their ministries differed in emphasis. Haggai's work centered on the rebuilding of the Temple; Zechariah was concerned with rebuilding the Temple as well, but his prophecies also encouraged God's people regarding Jerusalem's place in the long-term future of the Kingdom of God.

It is helpful to keep in mind the sequence of historical events as they relate to Haggai, Zechariah and their speeches.

Date Haggai Zechariah Ezra
Aug. 29, 520 B.C.
Haggai's First Message (Hag. 1:1-11)
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Sept. 21, 520
Rebuilding Temple Resumes (Hag. 1:12-15)
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Oct. 17, 520
Haggai's Second Message (Hag. 2:1-9)
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Oct./Nov. 520
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Zechariah's Preaching Begins (Zech. 1:1-6)
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Dec. 18, 520
Haggai's Third Message (Hag. 2:10-19)
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-
Dec. 18, 520
Haggai's Fourth Message (Hag. 2:20-23)
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519-518
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Tattenai Complaint to Darius (Ezra 5:3-6:14)
Feb. 15, 519
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Zechariah's Night Visions (Zech. 1:7-6:8)
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Feb. 15, 519
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Joshua Crowned as High Priest (Zech. 6:9-15)
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Dec. 7, 518
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Zechariah Calls for Repentance (Zech. 7:1-8:23)
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Mar. 12, 516
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Dedication of Temple (Ezra 6:15-18)
After 480
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Zechariah's Later Prophecies (Zech. 9:1-14:5)
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Purpose and Distinctives:

Zechariah contains a variety of literary forms. The visions of the first part are similar to those of Ezekiel and Daniel. The book is often taken as an example of early apocalyptic literature, and certainly methods and themes characteristic of such literature are in evidence. In chapter 14 a description is found of a final war against Jerusalem in which God comes as a victorious warrior to save his people from their enemies. Similarly the visions of the horsemen (Zech. 1:7-17), the four chariots (Zech. 6:1-8), and the woman in the basket (Zech. 5:5-11) might also be viewed as early forms of apocalyptic literature.

The welfare and future of Jerusalem as the holy city is a pervasive theme in Zechariah. Several of the visions develop this theme (see notes on Zech. 1:7-17; 2:1-13; 5:1-4). Chapter 8 gives a picture of an idyllic Jerusalem, and the book ends with a chapter developing this theme (Zech. 14). Zechariah's focus on Jerusalem reflects the theology of Zion that is found especially in Psalms 46-48 and Psalm 132.

Christ in Zechariah:

Zechariah spoke both to Israel's immediate future and to the distant future in Christ. As with most prophecies of Israel's restoration after exile, the predictions he made had immediate significance for Zerubbabel the son of David, for Joshua the High Priest and for Jerusalem. At the same time, however, Zerubbabel was only the continuance of, not the end of, the Davidic line. Joshua was also a continuance of the priestly line and was "symbolic of things to come" (Zech. 3:8). As a result, what was said about Zerubbabel and Joshua anticipated what the final Son of David, the Messiah, would one day accomplish in full measure. For example, the predictions of God's blessing on Jerusalem (e.g., Zech. 2:5, 11) were genuine offers to the returnees. These blessings could have been realized to some extent during the early years after the exile but were largely lost because of sin. Yet what was offered to Zerubbabel would certainly be fulfilled in the Messiah, who would bring all the hopes of David's dynasty and the priesthood to their final fulfillment by means of his perfect obedience. We may rightly say, therefore, that Zechariah provided many insights into the Messiah, Jesus.

Zechariah focused on the royal family of David (Zerubbabel) and the Zadokite priesthood (Joshua) as central figures in the realization of God's restoration blessings. It is not surprising, then, that Christ's fulfillment of these two roles is tied to Zechariah's prophecies. Jesus is the King who came riding into Jerusalem in the manner predicted in Zechariah 9:9-10, a passage quoted by Matthew with regard to Jesus' triumphal entry (Matt. 21:1-11). Christ's betrayal and death are spoken of in Zechariah 13:7. Moreover, Zechariah developed the Messianic imagery of a branch that combines the offices of a priest and king (see notes on Zech. 3:8; 6:12).

Although the Messiah is not specifically mentioned in Zechariah 2:5 and Zechariah 10, the promise of God's dwelling in the midst of his people is realized in Christ (John 1:14). Similarly the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated in Zechariah 14:16-20 will find its fullest expression in the final stage of the Kingdom of the Messiah in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-3).

Introduction Material:

Introduction to the Prophetic Books

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).