The Book of Zechariah begins in the first verse with the word of the Lord coming to this prophet in the eighth month of the second year of Darius’s reign. This is October/November of 520 B.C., and places it between Haggai 2:1 and 2:10. Zechariah was a priest. The text tells us that he was the grandson of Iddo, who was one of the Levitical priests that came back from Babylon with Zerubbabel, the grandson of king Jehoiachin (Nehemiah 12:1-4).
Zechariah is sometimes referred to as the prophet of hope. The people had been back from captivity for twenty years. Taxes were high, especially in light of Darius’s preparations for his campaign against Egypt. Jerusalem was far from restored – in fact, the people felt like they were nothing on the world’s “stage.” The temple foundation had been started shortly after their return, but the effort had stalled due to opposition. Discouragement ruled the day, and the only thing to do seemed to be to just try to get by in the best ways that one could.
That is where Zechariah comes in, letting the people know that despite adversity from hostile enemies, they must remain faithful because God is in control. He was in control of everything before, during, and after captivity. He is in control of what is happening now, and He is in control of what will come to pass. The book is full of apocalyptic visions and oracles that read much like the apocalyptic literature that would come to be so popular, and filled with language and symbolism that would be very meaningful to the people of the times.
The first six chapters are a series of eight night visions that we could spend several pages discussing. They are a combination of reassurances of God’s favor for His people and of Messianic promise – restoring the covenant and the house of David. Chapter 7 takes up two years after these night visions, dealing with all of the fasting that the people are doing. The Lord has not commanded them to do so much fasting. What He wants from the people is for them to return to faithfulness and live by His commandments.
Concluding with chapters 9-14, various future events are addressed – at the forefront are God’s coming judgment on the nations that oppressed them and much emphasis on the coming Messiah. There is much encouragement in these chapters, but also warning – God has had more than enough of idolatry and wicked leadership! The future looks good indeed, but it depends on their faithfulness.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers