See Hengstenberg, Christology of the OT, Vol. II, MacDonald
and Pusey, The Minor Prophets, Barnes' Notes, Baker BookHouse.]
(Proof read, 12/28/89) June 2, 1994
To me, a book becomes much more real if I know about the author and the circumstances in which he wrote and the people he addresses. I hope it does to you also because I am going to give some background for this book.
I think one of the more important points concerning Zechariah and his prophecies would be found in Ezra 6:14. There we see that the rebuilding of the temple prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. Thus:
1) If someone wants to build or rebuild for God, the books of Haggai and Zechariah are very important. The rebuilding of a destroyed temple and city, in the face of absolutely hopeless odds, prospered under these two prophets. There is no reason that the building for God and His kingdom today cannot continue to prosper under these two prophets.
2) To properly understand as well as apply Zechariah, the records of Ezra and Nehemiah will also have to be considered.
The book of Zechariah takes place after the people returned from Babylonian captivity. It is very important that we keep in mind that these people DID NOT return from Babylon to Jerusalem because life would be better for them at Jerusalem. Rather, it would be filled with hardship to say the least.
Ezra and Nehemiah both provide a record of the Jew's return,
the hardship involved and the work which was accomplished. Haggai
and Zechariah give us the sermons that were preached to those
who returned that kept them going in the face of all which the
world, flesh and the devil could throw at them to discourage and
hinder their dedication to build for God.
Also, keep in mind that Daniel was alive at this time, Dan. 9:1; 11:1-Zec 1:1; Ezra 1:1-Dan 10:1; Haggai 1:1. Because Ezekiel's prophecies were at the beginning of the captivity, his prophecies contain a mixture of the regathering under Ezra/Neh, and the gathering of the church under Christ. Thus Zachariah does not write with the Babylonian captivity in view as does Isaiah and Jeremiah, making his prophecies concerning the Messiah and His kingdom easy to follow. Also, Zechariah based a large amount of his prophecies upon those who had gone before him, Jeremiah especially.
Zechariah is one of the more important OT prophetic books. The prophecies of Zechariah would be second to only Isaiah in clarity and importance as he talks of the Messiah. As we look at this book, we will see many familiar passages.
Notice Ezra identifies Zechariah as one of the prophets (along with Haggai), who prophesied to the returned Jews, Ezra 5:1. Also of interest, Zechariah would have prophesied during the time of Daniel, Daniel 9:1. Daniel was in Babylon and Zechariah was in Judah.
We see from 2:4 that Zechariah was a young man of priestly decent, as were Jeremiah and Ezekiel. 1:1, Berechiah was his father and Iddo his grandfather. Neh 12:4 lists Iddo as one of the Godly priests which returned to help rebuild Jerusalem. Evidently Zechariah's father died young because we see the priestly line passed directly to him when his grandfather, Iddo, died, Neh. 12:16. Therefore, we see that Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet.
Zechariah's prophecies are made up of four addresses.
First address was delivered in the eighth month of Darius.
Second address is found in 1:7.
Third address is found in 7:1.
Fourth address is in 9:1.
Now, let's consider some of the historical circumstances which Zechariah addresses, (Christology, pg. 955).
Ezra 1:1-4, Cyrus proclaimed that any Israelite in his vast
kingdom could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the
Lord. But the returning exiles lacked both the zeal and means
to rebuild the temple without foreign aid. Because of previous
promises which had been misread and misunderstood from scripture,
the returned exiles expected ease, prosperity and deliverance
as they returned. Therefore, many of the exiles returned from
Babylonian captivity with the motive of improving their own personal
affairs. When they got back, what they found was not at all what
the what they expected. Rather than the expected life of ease,
they found only obstacles to prevent their doing as they should.
Reality dashed their hopes, and they lost their zeal.
God called Haggai and Zechariah to counter the problem of each person seeking to improve his own personal affairs. Haggai's reproofs resulted in an immediate renewal of effort to rebuild the temple, Hag 1. Zachariah's emphasis, though, was not on the outward effort or work as was Haggai's. Rather, Zechariah sought to bring about a complete spiritual change in the people themselves. The change within the people would result in increased zeal to do the Lord's work.
Zechariah realized that outside indifference to the things of God is only a reflection of the inward indifference to the things of the Lord. Any outward labor which might look good without the inward zeal for God, will be very burdensome. Therefore, Zechariah's efforts center on building that inner zeal for God's work.
There have been a great many "great temples" built with outside zeal with the inward change missing. If we want the inward zeal that results in outward zeal for God's work, Zechariah is an important book for us.
There were two classes of people to whom Zechariah was called to labor.
The first class was those who loved God, and in their love, had zeal to obey Him. They knew God's word and were familiar with His promises. Yet when they confronted the task before them, the reality of what they saw and what they believed seemed to be two different things. What confronted them in reality seemed to be a hopeless cause, yet the promises of God were not hopeless. To these people, Zechariah pointed to the unfulfilled promises and prophecies of a better and more glorious future. From the unfulfilled prophecies that Zechariah gave, those who were sincere drew strength to continue on. Zechariah moves their attention from the seemingly hopeless situation in the present to the glorious promised future.
The second class was the hypocrites. These professed to love God as did the first group, yet their desire and expectation was to share in the promised blessings apart from obedience to God's law-word. In other words, they followed Zechariah for what was in it for them.
This class felt that because they had refrained from the grosser forms of idolatry, i.e. unlawful outward acts, they would share in the promised blessings made to those who would return and take part in the work of the Lord. The problem was, though, that they had only exchanged one form of idolatry for another: outward they were now righteous, but inward they were filled with dead men's bones. Ezekiel refers to these type of people when he was commanded to dig through the wall.
Zechariah still held out a blessing to the second class of
people, but he was very emphatic: the blessing of God was conditioned
upon inward heart conversion.
He reminded them of the judgment that came upon their fathers for trying to serve God apart from the inward conversion.
He tells them of the coming Messiah, and if the people rejected the Messiah, there will be another destruction of Jerusalem and dispersion of the nation. We know that they did reject Christ, and God held good to His promise through Zechariah.
Both classes of people are readily identifiable today:
First, there are those with a love, zeal and desire to serve God and obey Him. These desire to build Jerusalem (the Church) today. The promises are there: promises of His power and presence such as is found in Matt. 28:19, 20. There are hundreds of promises, even the promise that the gates of hell will not be able to withstand the gospel, Matt. 16:18.
Then comes reality. Those with the zeal to build the kingdom of God are faced with situations that seem to be totally contrary to all God's promises. It seems that as the gates of hell are attacked the gates not only stand, but fall on those doing the attacking. The day to day reality of the work is just not according to the promises.
Upon reading the promises, it seems that all we have to do
is walk up to someone and say, "Are you saved? Are you a
child of God?"
Then their response will be, "No, I'm not, but I sure want to be," as they fall under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
Yet we do not see this. More often than not we see, "I'm not interested at all."
Thus we see two completely different things and this can be
1. we see the promise that as we represent God's kingdom and seek to advance it, He will be with us and His kingdom will be advanced by His power.
2. but when we attempt to build His Kingdom (Jerusalem), the response is not what we seemed to read in the promises.
To those with a love, zeal and desire to serve God and obey Him, Zechariah speaks loud and clear: he takes our eyes off of the present, seemingly hopeless situation, and directs our attention to the future which is yet to come.
Zechariah is a building block here in these prophets. Follow
a little the building these prophets build:
Micah says, Therefore I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation: My God will hear me, (7:7).
Nahum carries on with, The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust him (1:7).
Then Habakkuk says, The just shall live by his faith (2:4).
Zephaniah continues with, Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger (2:3).
Though these prophets all spoke before the captivity, their message is the same: "Do right and leave the results up to God."
Let's mention Zechariah's contemporary, Haggai. He says, ...be strong, ...be strong, ...be strong, ...for I am with you (2:4). Here we see the exhortation is not to look at the present difficulties; rather, look on the power of our God.
This is the word for our day for those who do desire with a sincere heart to serve God and advance His Kingdom: as we attack the seemingly impregnable gates of hell, let us not get our eyes and attention on their strength. Rather, let us keep our eyes upon the promises of God which He has made to His faithful obedient servants. We will see many of the promises as we look at Zechariah.
The second group is also with us. This group makes an outward show of being interested in building Jerusalem (advancing His Kingdom). But the primary reason they identify with the sincere ones is for what is in it for them. They have heard of the promised blessings laid up for the obedient; they have heard that God is on the side of His faithful people, so they also profess to be faithful.
They profess to be concerned about the cause of Christ, yet their heart is far from being in their actions. When there is actual work is to be done, they are scarce as hen's teeth. When there is sacrifice to be made, they are hard to find. They desire the benefits of the prosperity promised with the Kingdom of God, yet they avoid the responsibility that goes with the kingdom promises. They are disappointed that the promised blessings of the Kingdom are conditional, and they seek to avoid having to meet those responsibilities in order to inherit the promise. Their actions may be totally correct, yet their heart is a thousand miles away.
To this second group, the word of God also presents promises:
First, if they will be converted in their heart, they also can inherit the promises.
Second, if they remain in their idolatry, they will inherit the promise also, only the promise is of judgment against their well hidden, favorite sin, idolatry. Zechariah reminds these people that outward Godly actions did not spare the people of God of old from God's hand against them. The only way to avoid the chastening hand of the loving Father is to serve Him from a sincere, converted heart. Then and only then can they claim the promised blessings which are associated with the kingdom of God.
Below is in outline
Zechariah addressed two kinds of people:
1. Those who sincerely love God and are seeking to serve Him: the reality they experience is quite different from the promises they read. Answer? Keep our thoughts and attention upon what lies ahead and the power of our God.
2. The hypocrite: he wants the advantages of the kingdom without having to make the sacrifice to serve the king. Answer? His heart needs to be changed, Ps. 51:10, or only judgment lies ahead if he is a child of God.
Finally, let us look at the divisions of this book which are very interesting (Hengstenberg, pg. 956):
First and foremost is that the triumph of the people of God is still in the distance:
(1) The four monarchies of Daniel must first finish their course, 1:18-21.
(2) The worldly power (Persia at the time) is to be overthrown,
a.) This will be done by the Greeks, 9:13. (Greece is made the mighty sword).
(3) In the midst of this catastrophe against all of these nations round about, Judea is carefully protected by God, 9:8.
(4) The people of the covenant (Judah and Ephraim), which have
returned from captivity (Zechariah is writing after the return),
10:8-10, are drawn into the conflict with the Greeks.
a.) The results of which is victory and freedom for the covenant people, 9:11-10:12.
(5) The liberty won under the Greeks is short-lived. Just prior to the coming of the Messiah, Judah sinks very low again, and looses all its worldly power, 9:10. (Judah was under Rome when Christ came).
While we are at this point, note Zec 9:10. All of Israel's worldly might and power is stripped from them, yet the Messiah comes and establishes His total dominion, from sea even to sea. How does He do this if the chariot, horse and battle bow is cut off from his people (all worldly power)? The answer is right in the verse: And he shall speak peace... (My, how we need Him to do this today to the many hearts we know of.) Also, note the context, v. 9, was the prophecy of the coming of Christ, Mat 21:5, &c.
(6) The sixth division: Even in its terrible circumstances, Judah may still comfort itself with the mercies of its God; the civil and religious authorities are still the instruments of God's blessing, 3:4. (Joshua, the high priest would have represented all civil as well as religious authority at this time.)
(7) After a period of time, the Lord intervenes by sending
the Messiah. The Messiah will spring from the family of David,
a.) At the same time, the Messiah will be connected to the Lord by a mysterious unity of nature, and the angel of the Lord will manifest Himself in Him, chp. 11, 12:8, 10.
b.) He appears in a poor and lowly form, riding upon an ass, but still He is rich in salvation, and able to overcome the whole world, 9:9, 10. Again, follow this verse: even though He is described in v. 9, His dominion is clearly established in v. 10.
c.) He combines in His own person both the High Prist and the King, 6:9-15.
1.) As king He procures peace for His nation and rises it to a universal dominion, 9:9, 10.
2.) As High Priest, He expiates (an act which purifies the guilty, or is accepted by the offended party as satisfaction for the injury) in one day the sin of the whole land, 3:9, and provides an open fountain for sin and uncleanness, 18:1. This is all done by the means of His death and shedding of His blood, 12:10.
(8) This appearance of Christ the Messiah does not at once
secure salvation for all the covenant-nation. Rather, it is cause
for fearful judgment.
a.) Chp. 5, starts the announcement of another severe judgment against Judah and a new removal of Judah from the Lord's own land. Follow this through in chp. 11.
(9) The Lord, by His angel, undertakes the office of shepherd
over the nation which is on its way toward destruction for its
sins. (This can all be followed in the NT: Matt. 21-24, as well
as John 9, 10, [see our paper on Matt. 24].)
a.) This good shepherd comes in sharp collision with the wicked, depraved authorities (shepherds) of the nation.
1.) He is forced by the bad shepherds to give up His office of shepherd.
2.) He receives for His pay, thirty pieces of silver, chp. 11.
(10) The Shepherd is torn away from his flock by a violent death, 13:7.
a.) Pierced by His own nation, 12:10.
(11) As punishment for this, the worst of all its crimes, the nation is given over into the hands of the wicked shepherds, and destroyed by strife within and enemies without, chp.11.
a.) Two thirds of the nation is destroyed, 13:8. Only those
who believed our Lord's words and fled from the doomed city while
there was still time, were spared.
b.) But this is not the end of God's dealing with them: He will pour out His Spirit upon them; they will return and look with mourning and penitence upon Him who they pierced, 12:10-13:6.
[As we read of what happened in 70 A.D., this is one of the things which stand out: many of the people in Jerusalem, when they saw what Rome was about to do, wanted to leave. In fact, at the very beginning of the siege, Titus offered to allow those who wanted to, to leave. It was the religious leaders who shut the gates from the inside, and prevented the people from leaving. These leaders were so hot with zeal that they even killed their own people who wanted to flee the doomed city. As the siege went on, the Roman army became very hostile against any and every Jew. If one managed to escape, Rome would capture him. After they found that many escapees had swallowed gold coins, they cut open their stomachs for the gold, (while they were still alive).
The thing which comes to mind is that the religious leaders are the ones who moved the crowed to cry out, "Let Him be crucified; gave us Barrabas." God gave the nation over to these same leaders who they followed in crying for the Messiah's death. Only this time, He gave them over to a terrible destruction like the world had never seen. In fact, Rome cut all remaining trees for many miles around Jerusalem to crucify the men who they captured alive. These trees with men on them lined the roads for miles around Jerusalem. The very wrath of a Holy God was poured out against the murderous nation through the armies of Rome. The historians, and even Titus who commanded the armies of Rome in the siege, were impressed at the wrath which the soldiers had against the Jews. The nation allowed itself to be moved by these religious leaders to cry for Christ's death. God delivers the nation again to these leaders within the walls of Jerusalem to their own horrible destruction.]
(12) The whole nation did not reject salvation. There is a
small flock within it that welcomed salvation with joy, 9:9. (See
Rom. chps. 9, 10, 11.)
a.) To this select body (the poor of the flock who hold to the good shepherd), the kingdom is given, 11:11.
b.) This small group endures a sever conflict with the whole of the heathen world. Yet through the miraculous intervention by their God, they are victorious, 6:1-8; 12:1-9; 13:9; 14.
(13) The Gentile world not only is judged, but is also converted,
and is brought into the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom will cover
the whole earth. 8:20-23; 9:10; 14:16.
a.) Notice the passage 14:16ff: all nations are expected to serve the Great King. Failure to do so will not only cost them the blessings of God, but will also cost them their physical health, (check and compare with Acts 14:17.)