About the Book of Zechariah
Zechariah wrote his book in the *Hebrew language. The *Hebrew word ‘zechariah’ (or ‘zachariah’) means ‘God remembers’. Zechariah was a *prophet. This meant that he did two things.
(1) He told people what God was saying about the present time.
(2) He told people what God was saying about the future.
Zechariah 1:1 says that the *prophet was the ‘son of Berechiah, son of Iddo’. Ezra 5:1 says that he was the son of Iddo. This is a puzzle for Bible students. There are three possible explanations.
(1) Berechiah was the son of Iddo, who was therefore Zechariah’s grandfather.
(2) There were two Zechariahs. One of them wrote chapters 1-8. The other one wrote chapters 9-14.
(3) One of the names is a mistake.
These notes believe that (1) is correct.
Many Bible students think that Zechariah was a young man in chapters 1-8, but much older in chapters 9-14. They think that he came back from the *exile in Babylon about 530 *B.C. The *exile was when the King of Babylon made the *Jews live in Babylon in 586 *B.C. God punished the *Jews by the *exile because they had not obeyed his rules. ‘*Exile’ is when people live away from home. *B.C. means ‘years Before Christ came to the earth’.
In chapters 1-8, Zechariah helped another *prophet, Haggai. Zechariah started to *prophesy just before Haggai finished. ‘*Prophesy’ means ‘to tell people what God is saying’. Compare Haggai 2:10 with Zechariah 1:1. They both encouraged the leaders and the people among the *Jews. There were two main leaders. Joshua was the Chief Priest and Zerubbabel was the political leader. The *prophets encouraged the leaders and people to rebuild the *temple in Jerusalem. They told them to do this before they built the walls of the city and their own houses. This *temple was God’s house in Jerusalem. People met there to praise him. They also burned things to offer to God there. Soldiers from Babylon destroyed the old *temple in 586 *B.C. The *Jews finished building the new *temple in 516 *B.C.
By this time, Zechariah was older. Chapters 9 to 14 are quite different from chapters 1 to 8. But they are very important. As Zechariah became older, he thought about the future. Much of what he said became true in the life and death of Jesus. This is why the *New Testament repeats so many verses from Zechariah chapters 9 to 14. It repeats more from those chapters than from most other books of the *Old Testament. It is probably true to say that you cannot understand Zechariah chapters 9 to 14 without the story of Jesus! That is why my ‘Something to do’ sections in these chapters ask you to compare *Old Testament and *New Testament verses.
Zechariah means ‘The *LORD remembers’. ‘*LORD’ is one of God’s names. Zechariah taught people that God remembers his promises. God made promises by his *prophets. One of these promises is that the *Jews would return from *exile. Also, that the *LORD would return with them to his *temple in Jerusalem. Here are some of the promises.
Isaiah 40:3 ‘Prepare the way for the *LORD. Make a straight road in the desert for our God.’ Isaiah imagines that God is travelling on a road. It starts from somewhere to the east of Judah and it ends in Jerusalem. There is a note on *LORD at Zechariah 1:1-2.
Ezekiel 43:4 ‘The *glory of the *LORD came into the *temple.’ Ezekiel imagines that God is coming into the *temple at Jerusalem. ‘*Glory’ is something that shines very much.
Jeremiah 29:10 ‘After 70 years in Babylon, I will cause you to return to this place.’ This place is Jerusalem in Judah.
There are three sections in Zechariah’s book.
Chapters 1-6 Build the *temple. The *Jews had started to rebuild their *temple. They did this when they returned from Babylon. But other people opposed them. (See Ezra 4:4-5.) So the *Jews stopped rebuilding the *temple for about 15 years. They decided to build houses for themselves. (See Haggai 1:2-4.) Also, they wanted to build walls round the city to protect themselves. But in 520 *B.C., the *prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged them to finish building the *temple. Zechariah said, ‘Build the *temple first. God will protect you. You do not need city walls to keep out the enemy.’ Zechariah explained this by his 8 *visions. A ‘*vision’ is something that a *prophet ‘sees’. God shows the *vision to the *prophet. The *visions also say that God would take away *sin from the country. *Sin is our behaviour when we do not obey God’s laws. After the 8th *vision, God made a promise. He promised to put crowns on the heads of Joshua the chief priest and Zerubbabel the political leader. They would then rule God’s people together.
Chapters 7-8 Obey the laws of God. Some of the 8 *visions also said that God had taken away *sin from Jerusalem and Judah. But now God’s people must obey God’s laws. This was more important than their *fasts. A *fast is to be sad and to eat no food for reasons of religion or health. First they should build the *temple where they could *worship God. After that, there must be social *justice. The notes explain the words ‘*worship’ and ‘*justice’.
Chapters 9-14 God will send a *messiah who will be PRIEST AND KING. In chapters 1-8, Joshua was the chief priest and Zerubbabel was political leader. But one day God would send a *messiah who would be both priest and king. *Messiah is a word in the *Hebrew language. It meant a special leader. God’s *messiah would take away his people’s *sin and he would rule over them. Some of these ideas are in chapters 1-8 also. This gives unity to the whole book. Today, *Messiah, with a capital M, usually means Jesus Christ. ‘Christ’ comes from the word for *Messiah in the *Greek language.
God would do all this because of his promises. God remembers his promises!
Words in brackets … ( … ) … are not in the *Hebrew Bible. They are there to help us to understand what Zechariah wrote. The notes explain words with a *star by them the first time that we use the word. After that, please refer to the word list at the end.