The book of Zechariah is Narrative History, Prophetic and Apocalyptic in genre. It is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written after (post) the return from captivity (exile) in Babylon. The prophet Zechariah wrote chapters 1-8 approximately 520-518 B.C. (Before the temple completed), and then wrote chapters 9-14 approximately 480 B.C. (After the temple is completed). Zechariah is among the most precisely dated books in the Bible. Key personalities are Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua.
The purpose of this book is that Zechariah wrote to encourage the remnant, who had recently returned from exile. Their faith in God was weak and they were not motivated to build the temple. They needed to learn and conform to the law of God again.
Author: Zechariah 1:1 identifies the author of the Book of Zechariah as the Prophet Zechariah.
Date of Writing: The Book of Zechariah was likely written in two primary segments, between 520 and 470 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: Zechariah emphasized that God has used His prophets to teach, warn and correct His people. Unfortunately, they refused to listen. Their sin brought God's punishment. The book also bears evidence that even prophecy could be corrupted. History shows that in this period prophecy fell into disfavor among the Jews, leading to the period between the Testaments when no lasting prophetic voice spoke to God's people.
Key Verses: Zechariah 1:3, "Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." Zechariah 7:13, "'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty." Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." Zechariah 13:9, "This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'"
Brief Summary: The Book of Zechariah teaches that salvation may be obtained by all. The last chapter depicts peoples from all over the world coming to worship God, who desires that all people follow Him. This is not the doctrine of universalism, i.e., that all people would be saved because it is God's nature to save. Rather, the book teaches that God desires that all people worship Him and accepts those who do, regardless of their national or political expressions, as in the freeing of Judah and Jerusalem from their political enemies. Finally, Zechariah preached that God is sovereign over this world, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding. His visions of the future indicate that God sees all that will happen. The depictions of God's intervention in the world teach that ultimately He will bring human events to the end He chooses. He does not eliminate the individual's freedom to follow God or rebel, but holds people responsible for the choices they make. In the last chapter, even the forces of nature respond to God's control.
Foreshadowings: Prophecies about Jesus Christ and the messianic era abound in Zechariah. From the promise that Messiah would come and dwell in our midst (Zechariah 2:10-12; Matthew 1:23) to the symbolism of the Branch and the Stone (Zechariah 3:8-9, 6:12-13; Isaiah 11:1; Luke 20:17-18) to the promise of His Second Coming where they who pierced Him will look upon Him and mourn (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:33-37), Christ is the theme of the Book of Zechariah. Jesus is the Savior of Israel, a fountain whose blood covers the sins of all who come to Him for salvation (Zechariah 13:1; 1 John 1:7).
Practical Application: God expects sincere worship and moral living of us today. Zechariah's example of breaking through national prejudice reminds us to reach out into all areas of our society. We must extend God's invitation of salvation to people of all national origins, languages, races and cultures. That salvation is only available through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, who died in our place to atone for sin. But if we reject that sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice through which we can be reconciled to God. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved (Acts 4:12). There is no time to lose; today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was also a priest. His grandfather, Iddo, is mentioned in Nehemiah 12:1-4 as one of the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel and Joshua from Babylon. "Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, the Elkoshite." Nehemiah also tells us that Zechariah succeeded his grandfather, Iddo, as head of that priestly family (Nehemiah 12:16).
Zechariah must have been quite young when he began his ministry because in chapter 2:4 we hear Zechariah called a "young man." Zechariah was called by the LORD to proclaim a message to His people at the same time as the prophet Haggai. Just like the prophet Haggai, Zechariah was concerned with the reconstruction of the temple, but also pointed to the future glories for God's people through the coming Savior. Zechariah began his ministry two months after the beginning of Haggai's as we are told in Chapter 1:1. "In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying....". See a chart detailing the Chronology of the work of Haggai and Zechariah (pdf).
Form and Content
The book of Zechariah can be divided into three different types of messages. There are general messages of encouragement from the LORD to His people, similar to what we saw in the book of Haggai. But most of the book comes in the form of prophetic visions like those in Ezekiel or Daniel, and oracles or 'burdens' of judgment and salvation like those in Isaiah.
The book opens with the LORD's call for His people to repent, and not be like their fathers before them, who continued in their evil deeds and did not listen to the LORD. "'Return to Me,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and I will return to you,'" (1:3).
Much of the book is apocalyptic like the book of Revelation in the New Testament, as it uses pictures to describe future events. In the second section, we are introduced to an angel who helps explain eight visions of the LORD to Zechariah.
Finally the LORD points to Joshua the High Priest as a picture of the coming Savior, once again called the "Branch." Once again the LORD emphasizes the inclusion of the Gentiles, "Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you" (6:15).
Chapters seven and eight demonstrate the results of hypocrisy and rejection of the LORD by looking at the lesson left by their fathers and to learn from those mistakes. We also see the peace and prosperity which awaits His people as a result of the return from captivity and the birth of the Messiah. Once again we are told, "Yes, many peoples and strong nations Shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, And to pray before the LORD" (8:22).
In the second part of the book, the LORD speaks a 'burden' against the surrounding nations and even His own people, but also encourages them through many passage which point them to the Savior from their sins. It portrays Christ as the ultimate sacrifice for all sin, and comforts believers with the hope that He will return again to take us from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven.
Christ in the book of Zechariah
Among all of this predictive prophesy concerning what lay in the future for God's people, Zechariah inserts many direct prophesies of the coming Savior. The Messiah is portrayed so often that Zechariah falls second only to the prophet Isaiah in the number of Messianic prophecies mentioned. These Messianic prophecies are so clear that Luther called Zechariah, "One of the most comforting of all the prophets."
Christ is seen in the book of Zechariah as -
Part 1 (Chapters 1-8)
Part 2 (Chapters 9-14)