Zechariah’s first vision (in Italian art from the 1300s)

What is in Zechariah?
Zechariah is the 38th book of the Bible and one of the Old Testament prophetic books.

After a 70-year exile from Jerusalem, Babylon fell and King Cyrus of Persia allowed the people to begin returning to their own land in 538 B.C. Zechariah first receives the word of the Lord around the same time Haggai does. The Lord tells the Israelites to ‘return to me… and I will return to you.’ Zechariah then receives eight visions in chapters 1-6.

The first vision describes angels who were sent to patrol the earth and report to the Lord. They intercede for Jerusalem and Judah. The second vision has Zechariah being shown four horns symbolizing that which ‘scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem’. The third vision is one who is measuring Jerusalem, but the city will no longer have any walls, instead being inhabited by ‘a multitude of people and livestock’. The Lord will be the defender of this new Jerusalem, casting judgment on the nations that once conquered it. The fourth vision shows Joshua being presented with clean garments for the role of high priest, with the Lord declaring that as he keeps the Lord’s commandments, he shall rule over His people. The fifth vision is of a golden lampstand with seven lamps on it. The seven lamps are the eyes of the Lord, covering the whole earth. The sixth vision is of a flying scroll, a curse to those who break the command of the Lord. The seventh vision is of a woman in a basket. The woman symbolizes wickedness, and the basket is being taken away to a foreign land. The last vision is of four chariots, symbolic of God’s power over the earth.

After these visions, Zechariah is instructed to set a crown on the head of Joshua, the high priest. The Lord declares that those who are far away shall come to help build the Lord’s temple. The Lord then speaks of the establishment of the houses of Judah and Israel under the Lord’s protection, a coming of peace, and a command to do good to one another. The Lord then says, in Zechariah 9, that judgment will come on Israel’s enemies. Also, a king of Zion will come to Jerusalem on a donkey, bringing peace and salvation (sound familiar?). The Lord then speaks of the failure of false gods to fulfill Israel’s needs, and denounces the false teachers who worship them, before turning to speaking of the house of David and how it will be used to glorify God and fulfill His purposes of salvation for the land.

Starting in Zechariah 13:7, the Lord speaks of some trials for the land. A flock of sheep will be scatted across the land, and many will ultimately perish. The ones who remain will be refined like silver, and will be committed to the Lord. In Zechariah 14, the last chapter of the book, the Lord foretells of another capture of Jerusalem, but then He will fight those who captured it, in what will be a ‘unique day’, where ‘there shall be no light, cold, or frost’, but ‘at evening time there shall be light’. At the end, the Lord will reign supreme over the whole land, with the survivors of the nations gathering to worship Him.

When does it take place?
Zechariah 1:1 says the word of the Lord came to Zechariah in the second year of King Darius of Persia. This is in 520 B.C., the same year that Haggai started hearing the word of the Lord. The latest date mentioned in Zechariah is from the fourth year of Darius, two years later. It’s also possible that chapters 9-14 came even later, although we don’t know from the text when that would have been.

Who wrote it?
Zechariah was part of a family of priests, and he returned to Jerusalem with other exiles in 538 B.C.

Who did Zechariah prophesize to?
Zechariah’s words are clearly meant for Judah, encouraging them to restore their relationship with God.

How does Zechariah apply to me today?
The book of Zechariah does a lot to proclaim the glory of God at all times. Some prophecy is meant to be understood in the prophet’s own time, some prophecy refers to Jesus, hundreds of years after Zechariah, and some prophecy seems to refer to a time beyond even now. In all cases, the Lord emerges reigning supreme, pronouncing judgment on evil nations and spreading peace among those who remain.

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Recommended resources:

As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project video on Zechariah