By Carolyn Ruth Chapman
A. The Times of Zechariah
It was Cyrus that called the people to go and rebuild the temple. Ezra 1-4
It makes you wonder if history will repeat itself in this way as well. Will some Gentile rule spur the Jews to start rebuilding their temple again.
Zechariah’s ministry was carried on during a significant period of Israel’s history. When Cyrus sent forth his edict (between 538 and 536 b.c.), some 50,000 exiles returned to Palestine from Babylon (Ezr 2:64–65). With high enthusiasm they determined to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and to repossess the land. They began the work and in the second month of 535 b.c. they laid the temple foundation (Ezr 3:8–13).
The work was started under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua but was again interrupted when an inquiry concerning the purpose of the work was made by Tatnai, the Persian governor W of the Euphrates The matter was referred to Babylon, and the original decree of Cyrus was brought to light. Darius confirmed the permission in the second year of his rule (Ezr 6:1–14).
But outward obstacles were only part of the difficulty, for now there had come a change in the attitude of the people, who saw in the hindrances to the work the restraint of the Lord, forbidding them to go on with the enterprise. The Samaritans, who offered to help in the work and were denied, opposed the work relentlessly. They succeeded in stopping the work even in Cyrus’ reign (Ezr 4:5). For about 14 years nothing was done on the building. When Darius Hystaspes came to the throne in 521 b.c. Zechariah and his contemporary Haggai assumed that the prohibitory decrees of the former monarch were no longer valid. Therefore they exhorted their fellow countrymen to begin the work anew.
However, external oppression and internal depression halted the rebuilding of the temple for about 16 more years of spiritual apathy till the rule of the Persian King Darius Hystaspis (522-486 b.c
Haggai and Zechariah tried to turn the nation from their indifference.
The Lord blessed their ministry, and in 516 b.c. the work was completed. Zechariah later gave himself under God to revealing to the people what glorious things the Lord had in store for the godly under Messiah and His benevolent reign, in 515 b.c. (Ezra 6:15). The dated portions of Zechariah’s prophecy fall within the period of the rebuilding of the temple. The undated prophecies of Zechariah 9-14 were probably written much later in his ministry.
The following summary compares significant dates in the ministries of Haggai and Zechariah (cf. the chart ”Chronology of the Postexilic Period,“ near Ezra 1:1):
The greatest of the prophets who ministered in the days of the restoration from Babylonian Exile. He was a contemporary of Zerubbabel, the political leader of the returned exiles; Joshua the son of Josedech was the priestly head of the nation; and Haggai was also a prophet (Zech 3:1; 4:6; 6:11; Ezr 5:1–2).
Date according to Gentile Monarch
More significant is the fact that a Jewish prophet dated his prophecy according to the reign of a Gentile monarch. This was a vivid reminder to all of Zechariah’s hearers that ”the times of the Gentiles“ (cf. Luke 21:24; Dan. 2; 7) were in progress and that no descendant of David was sitting on the throne in Jerusalem (cf. Hosea 3:4-5 Israel had no king at the time
B. Zechariah as a Person
Zechariah was born in Babylon, born in captivity to another nation who returned to Palestine with Joshua and Zerubbabel. (Neh 12:4).. How often can the Jewish nation say that?
Zechariah means "Jehovah remembers."
means Jehovah blesses.
When we put the three names together we have a summary of the book and Zechariah and God's promise to the Jews at that time and forever. Yes Jehovah remembered their sin but He also remembers his promises to Israel. Jehovah will again bless Israel and in the appointed time the fulfillment of all His promises to Israel will come to pass.
Zechariah’s father Berechiah is supposed to have died young, so that the prophet is designated as the son of Iddo, who was his grandfather (see Ezr 5:1; 6:14; Neh 12:4, 16; cf. Zech 1:1). This argument cannot be conclusive in itself, because, as is known, there is no specific word in Hebrew for grandson, the same word as for son being used Some interpreters consider Zechariah to have been a very young man at the commencement of his ministry (Zech 2:4), but no definite age can be deduced from this reference.
that he was not a full-grown man at the beginning of his prophetic ministry. The term run
, youth, lad, or young man, does not mark any specific age. (Cf. Gen 41:12 with 41:1, 46 of Joseph at twenty-eight; Benjamin and Absalom had households of their own, Gen 43:8; 46:21; 2 Sam 18:5; 14:27.) (1)
Jewish tradition makes him a member of the Great Synagogue. The Great Synagugue is a group that is supposed to have collected and preserved the sacred writings and traditions of the Jews after the Exile.
He began his prophetic ministry two months after Haggai had begun his service (cf. Hag 1:1 and Zech 1:1). It was in the second year of the reign of the Persian Darius (Hystaspes) I (521–485 b.c.). The first recorded prophecy of Zechariah was in the second year of the reign of Darius, in 520 b.c His work and that of Haggai was to encourage the building of the restoration temple, and to reveal the hope of the nation for the future. The length of his ministry is unknown.
According to tradition Zechariah lived to an extreme old age, died in Judea, and was buried near Haggai in the vicinity of Eleutheropolis.
He was the greatest of the prophets who ministered in the days of the restoration from Babylonian Exile. He was a contemporary of Zerubbabel, the political leader of the returned exiles; Joshua the son of Josedech was the priestly head of the nation; and Haggai was also a prophet (Zech 3:1; 4:6; 6:11; Ezr 5:1–2).
C. Zechariah as a Writer
Zechariah writes with the authority of "Thus Saith the Lord." Eighteen times the phrase “thus saith the Lord” is used. Zechariah was in deed a true prophet of the Lord who received the words of the Lord. He is not a true prophet because he used the phrase “thus saith the Lord” but because the “thus saith the Lords” were fulfilled in History and will be confirm in the future. Zechariah did not actually use the phrase himself but it was the angel of the Lord that appeared to Him that said “thus saith the Lord.” This phrase was spoken from heaven and by the God of all History.
As a writer he sums up prophetic words that all the other prophets wrote
in a very terse and brief way. Zechariah’s prophetic words sum up the history of Israel, Jerusalem, Babylon for then and for the end of time. This summary was indeed important because Zechariah and Malachi were the last of the prophets until the time of John the Baptist. No other prophet was called of God for 400 years. Will Israel remember Zechariah’s words.
When you read the book of Zechariah you do not learn about the person Zechariah but you hear the words of the Lord. May our ministries direct people to the words of the Lord and not to the self of man. When we do this, ears are tuned to what God has to say not what man has to say. By reading and studying the Word of God the Spirit Filled man can be tuned to what God is saying today.
D. Zechariah as a Priest
The postexilic Prophet Zechariah was a Levite born in Babylon. (Neh. 12:1,
Zechariah was a prophet and like Samuel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Zechariah however does not assume the role of priest. The focus in Zechariah is upon Joshua who is priest at the time.
Zechariah was both a prophet and priest a fact which reveals that these divinely ordained offices were not antagonistic to each other, as liberal scholars have repeatedly claimed. State and personal religion were united by the voice of God through His prophets.
The kingly order of that day was not ordained by God but by the hearts of Israel. The people wanted a king. The only king to yet rule on the throne of David is to be Jesus the Messiah himself.
E. Zechariah as Prophet
Role in history and his role as a writer, wrote 14 prophetic chapters.
book is the eleventh of the so-called Minor Prophets, or “the Twelve,”
as they were called by the Jews.
The length of his ministry is uncertain, but the final prophecies of the book are of a later period. Jewish tradition credits him with being a member of the Great Synagogue along with Haggai, Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Zechariah was merely the agent of this prophecy and not its source, for the word of the Lord came to him as it did to other true prophets before him (e.g., Hosea 1:1. The source of all true prophecy is not the prophet but God himself.
Because the prophet used the apocalyptic form to convey prophetic truth, his book has been called the Apocalypse of the OT. His revelations are succinct (concise) and terse and brief hence he has been called the epitomist (summarizer) of all the other prophets.
His style varies from direct prophetic address to the presentation of visions and the recording of symbolic acts.
Many have complained in ancient and modern times over the obscurity of the book. Jewish commentators have expressed their inability to fathom the visions and prophecies of the book. The outlook and framework of the prophecy are so definitely messianic that there should be no surprise that an unbelieving approach to the message should yield little results
Even though the book of Zechariah is difficult it is still very important. Luther referred to this book as Der Ausbund der Propheten, the quintessence (spirit, heart & soul) of the prophets.
Its contribution to messianic prophecy is all out of proportion to its size. Zechariah is only a small book but so full of prophecy. Only Isaiah has a fuller portrayal of the person and work of the Messiah. Zechariah's messianic prophecies are rich and beautiful. Zechariah treats both the first and second comings of Israel’s Redeemer. Zechariah's prophecies are rich in its portrayal of end time events, the day of the Lord and the Millenium.
The richness of Zechariah's prophecies we will come to appreciate over the next lessons.