Introduction to Zechariah
Zechariah’s book is the longest and most important of the three post-exilic prophecies. The other post-exilic books are Haggai and Malachi. Haggai came before Zechariah and Malachi came after. There are more Messianic prophecies in Zechariah than in any of the other minor prophets.
Zechariah began his prophetic ministry very soon after Haggai did (compare Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 1:1). Both prophets urged the people to resume their lagging temple rebuilding project. In contrast to Haggai’s very brief ministry, it is probable that the ministry of Zechariah continued for several decades.
Zechariah, meaning “Jehovah Remembers,” was both a priest and a prophet, being a grandson of another prophet, Iddo, and a member of the original company that had come to Jerusalem with the governor Zerubbabel (Nehemiah 12:4,16; Zechariah 1:1). It is interesting that some twenty-eight other Zechariahs are mentioned in the Old Testament, but this Zechariah is mentioned elsewhere only in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14, where Ezra confirms that both Haggai and Zechariah were instrumental in getting the discouraged Jews back to the job of building the temple.
Some critics have argued that a “second Zechariah” was author of the last six chapters of the book, but there is no historical basis for such a notion. Both divisions of the book are quoted in the New Testament, with no suggestion of different sources. The subject matter of chapters 1–8 is quite different from that of chapters 9–14, a fact which is quite sufficient to explain the differences in style and vocabulary. It is also probable that Zechariah wrote the second section at a much later time in his life than the first section.
The first six chapters of the book are largely occupied with ten remarkable visions, all apparently occurring on the same night. These visions and their symbolic figures relate sometimes to the current situation in Jerusalem, but often to the far distant future. Zechariah 7–8 records special messages from the Lord through Zechariah to the Jewish people and their priests and leaders.
Finally, Zechariah 9–14 is largely Messianic, dealing with both the first and second comings of Christ, rejected at His first coming, gladly acknowledged at His second coming. These chapters also deal, necessarily, with God’s judgments on the nations and their eventual unification under the leadership of Israel in the Messianic kingdom.