Introduction to Zechariah

Study notes ▪ 2017
Tags: Zechariah; Jerusalem; Israel; Day of the Lord; Apocalyptic literature


Author

Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo (1:1; 1:7); acknowledged in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 as a prophet who ministered to the remnant that returned to Judah from Babylonian exile; regarded by some to be a priest based on mentions of Iddo and Zechariah in Nehemiah 12 (see vv. 1, 4, 16)

Date

520-? BC
  • The first eight chapters repeatedly align the ministry of Zechariah with the early reign of Darius over Persia (1:1; 1:7; 7:1). Conservative scholars such as Merrill thus regard Zechariah’s prophecies to have begun around 520 BC (494, 496).
  • Differences between Zechariah 1-8 and the remainder of the book have led many scholars to attribute authorship of the later chapters to another author (Fensham 1185). Nevertheless, if one accepts that the second half of the book is the work of an anonymous author, “it is important to emphasize chapters 9-14 are still fully inspired” (Nelson 848).
  • According to Nelson, “some scholars argue that chapters 9-14 were composed by Zechariah, but at a later time in his life” (848). Geisler, who postulates a date range of 520-480 BC for Zechariah, may represent this view (231). Austel concludes that “there is no valid reason the book ought not to be considered as a unified work from the hand of Zechariah” (688).

Kings Mentioned  

Judah: None
Israel: None

Nation(s) Targeted

Primary: Judah, as evidenced by the book’s references to Jerusalem (42 times), Judah (22 times), the temple/house of Yahweh (14 times), Zion (8 times), and priests (6 times); nevertheless, its prophecies ultimately envision the restoration of all of Israel (e.g., 8:13; 9:1; 9:10; 10:6-7)
Secondary:
  • Syria, represented by the locales of Hadrach, Damascus, and Hamath (9:1-2)
  • Phoenicia, represented by the cities of Tyre and Sidon (9:2-4)
  • Philistia (9:5-7)

Representative Texts

1:1-4; 1:14-17; 2:6-12; 3:1-4; 4:8-10; 6:9-13; 7:4-10; 8:14-15; 8:20-23; 9:9-10; 10:6-9; 11:4-6; 12:1-5; 12:10; 14:1-4; 14:16-17

Core Message

A merciful future awaits Yahweh’s people Israel, and particularly the city of Jerusalem. In the near term a remnant will inhabit the city; they must return to the Lord, rebuild the temple, and pursue justice. God will dwell in the midst of his people, cleansing them and empowering their leaders. Additionally, he will defeat the nations that scattered them.

In the more distant future Yahweh will bring even greater glory to his chosen city, land, and people. A humble king will rise to bring salvation and peace. Israel will experience spiritual vitality and military strength. Jerusalem and Judah will face a seemingly insurmountable end-time attack, but the Lord will intervene decisively to deliver them, ushering in his reign over all the earth. Many citizens of other nations will join in worshiping Yahweh, and those who do not will suffer judgment.

New Testament References[1]

  • 4:1-14 (Rev. 11:3-4)
  • 6:1-8 (Rev. 6:2-8)
  • 8:16 (Eph. 4:25)
  • 9:9 (Matt. 21:5; John 12:15)
  • 11:13 (Matt. 27:9-10)
  • 12:10 (John 19:37; Rev. 1:7)
  • 13:7 (Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27)

Features

The book of Zechariah is the longest of the minor prophets. Its influence on the New Testament writers, especially the gospels and Revelation, is significant (Fensham 1186; Nelson 851). It is noteworthy as “one of the few OT books with definite apocalyptic characteristics” (Fensham 1185).

According to the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, “The most striking literary feature of Zechariah is the ‘vision’” (Ryken, Wilhoit, and Longman 978). This form of divine revelation occurs eight times in the first half of the book; by contrast, the latter half consists of oracles (978). Zechariah employs a wide variety of images, including horns, a measuring line, horses, a shepherd and his flock, and a lampstand fueled by olive trees.

Sources

Austel, Hermann J. “Zechariah.” Baker Commentary on the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Books, 2000, pp. 687-703.
Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson, eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Fensham, F. Charles. “Zechariah, Book of.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, fully revised, vol. 4, Eerdmans, 1988, pp. 1183-86.
Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Baker Book House, 1977.
Merrill, Eugene H. Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel. Baker Books, 1996.
Nelson, William B., Jr. “Zechariah, Theology of.” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, Baker Books, 2000, pp. 848-51.
Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity, 1998.

[1] New Testament citations of texts from Zechariah were identified in part by consulting Beale and Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.


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