Date: Between 520 B.C. and 500 B.C.
Zechariah preached to the restored community at the same time that Haggai did. The people had returned home from exile only to find an enormous task confronting them. There were homes to build, walls to erect, fields to plow, forests to clear, roads to build, and a temple to construct, all in the face of strong opposition from the people who had moved into the land after the Jews had been carried away into captivity. Haggai encouraged the people to rebuild the temple, while Zechariah preached on more general issues. The heart of the book is the eight visions:
Vision 1: Riders on colored horses through a grove of trees. This is interpreted as pronouncing judgment on the nations, with God being the rider of the main horse. Israel would be comforted in three ways: The temple was to be built, the city of Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, and the outlying districts were to overflow with prosperity.
Vision 2: Four horns that scattered Jerusalem. The four horns were four kingdoms (Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Medo-Persia), all of which would fall in recompense for having destroyed Jerusalem.
Vision 3: A young man with a tape measure to measure Jerusalem. This was an encouraging vision about safety in Jerusalem. The young man is forced to stop measuring the city for the rebuilding of its walls, because God would be a wall of fire around it to guard it from the surrounding nations.
Vision 4: Joshua the High Priest in rags before the Lord. This graphic vision depicts the grace of God. Joshua is not fit to stand before God wearing the rags of his self-worth. Satan accused him, only to be silenced by God who provides clothes fit for the divine presence. Only God can make us presentable in the courts of heaven, by an act of grace and mercy.
Vision 5: Two trees feeding oil into a central bowl supplying seven lamps. This vision shows the never-failing supply of strength from God (the trees), the agent of supply (the Holy Spirit), the human agents used by God (Joshua and Zerubbabel), and the fact that the job gets done. The key verse in this vision is 4:6. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Vision 6: A flying scroll. This is a public declaration that the sins of Israel will be punished. It shows that even in the restored community sin was still a problem and needed to be dealt with.
Vision 7: A flying bushel basket. The basket, when opened, reveals the sins of the nation. They are removed when two stork-winged women carry the basket away. This shows both the presence of sin in the community and the fact that God can forgive it.
Vision 8: Four chariots between two copper mountains. This obscure vision speaks of the certainty of God’s will being done. The mountains represent the strength of God’s decrees, and the chariots represent the divine agencies through which God accomplishes his purposes.
The collection of miscellaneous visions is important because they refer to the Messiah as the Good Shepherd, rejected by his people, sold for 30 pieces of silver, riding into Jerusalem in triumph on a donkey, and mourned for as an only son. The New Testament sees all this as having been fulfilled by Jesus.
Theological Themes in the Book of Zechariah
The basic message of Zechariah concerns the accomplishment of God’s will. God is in absolute control of life and history. By symbol, vision, image, and statement, Zechariah hammered home the point that we need never fear if we are doing God’s will. The Messiah (Jesus Christ) will come to represent God and will do God’s will. First he comes in weakness, but later as a sovereign Judge.
Outline for the Book of Zechariah
- Introduction Zechariah 1:1-6
- A series of eight visions Zechariah 1:7-6:15
- Miscellaneous oracles Zechariah 7:1-14:21