- The first message: rebuild God's temple! (1:1 - 15)
- The messages following the rebuilding of the temple (9:1 - 14:21)
Authorship, date, and background Zechariah, the author of this book, whose name means "God has remembered," was the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo. The latter returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua abs was in the priestly line. Zechariah may well be the one mentioned by Nehemiah in 12:16. He was a contemporary of Haggai and had similar interests in the rebuilding of the temple. His prophetic ministry began in 520 B.C.
The historical situation is the same as that described for Haggai. Those who returned to Jerusalem were among the poorer people of the captivity. The wealthier ones stayed behind. The conditions around Jerusalem and the utter desolation created apathy among the refugees, who were more interested in scratching a living from the unproductive soil than in rebuilding the temple. The book of Zechariah is readily divisible into two distinct and quite different segments (chapters 1-8 and 9-14). The first segment is historical and deals with the situation in Jerusalem at the time of its writing. The second half is apocalyptic, having to do with prophecy and the end of the age. Conservative scholars have always refuse to accept the liberal critics' hypothesis that the second half was written by someone other than Zechariah, although it is probably true that the latter portion of the book was written later in his life.
Characteristics and content Zechariah's first emphasis is on the rebuilding of the temple. He urges the people to complete the unfinished task which has been interrupted for some years. He says God will bless his people if they will obey him and finish rebuilding. Beginning with 1:7, Zechariah speaks of a series of night visions he has received from God. The vision of the red horse shows that God is watching over Judah. The vision of the four animal horns and the four blacksmiths indicates the defeat of Judah's enemies. The measuring line vision reveals what the expanded city of Jerusalem will be like. The dirty-clothed Joshua, reclothed in clean garments, portrays the removal of sin and the spiritual reformation of God's people. The gold lampstand whose oil is supplied by two olive trees assures Zerubbabel that God by his Spirit will accomplish his purpose. The scroll flying through the air evidences God's curse on stealing and lying. The vision of the ephah depicts the removal of sin from Judah to Babylon. T he vision of the four chariots bespeaks God's sovereign control as he patrols the four corners of the earth.
Zechariah follows up the visions with a section devoted to the consecration of Joshua, who is thought to be a type of Messiah (the Branch), and one having to do with fasting as a reminder to the people of the fall of Jerusalem.
Beginning with chapter 9, Zechariah looks to the future. He pronounces God's judgment on the surrounding nations and foresees the prospects of a triumphant king over Jerusalem. God ultimately will save and protect his own people. Faithless shepherds will be destroyed by judgment. But God will punish his people first for their refusal to accept and follow the true Shepherd. Even this abandonment of his people by God is part of the divine plan. Someday Jerusalem will be restored and victorious. Before that happens Jerusalem will be rent, many will die, but the coming of the Shepherd will rescue the city, and the remnant will acknowledge that the Lord is God. The Mount of Olives will be split and the Lord will become the King of the entire earth. All those who survive will go to Jerusalem to worship the Lord the King, and they will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Jerusalem will become the capital city for all the nations of the world.