Zechariah’s ministry took place during the reign of Darius the Great, and was contemporary with Haggai in a post-exilic world after the fall of Jerusalem in 586/7 BCE.
Most modern scholars believe the book of Zechariah was written by at least two different people. Zechariah 1-8, sometimes referred to as First Zechariah, was written in the sixth century BCE. Zechariah 9-14, often called Second Zechariah, contains within the text no datable references to specific events or individuals but most scholars will give the text a date in the fifth century BCE. Second Zechariah, in the opinion of some scholars, appears to make use of the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Deuteronomistic History, and the themes from First Zechariah.
The word came to Zechariah (himself the son of a prophet) in the second year of Darius. The orders his people to return to Him, and not to follow the example of their fathers. Zechariah has a vision of a man on a red horse among myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, sorrel (off yellow) and white horses. They are a patrol, which has found that the earth is at peace. However, God is angry with the nations at ease, because they assisted in Judah’s and Jerusalem’s suffering. The Lord’s house will be built in Jerusalem, and comfort Zion. Zechariah has a vision of four horns, symbolising the four nations that scattered God’s people. Craftsmen are coming to terrify them, and cast them out.
Zechariah has a vision of a man with a measuring line, going to measure out Jerusalem. The Lord will provide a wall of fire around Jerusalem, and be the glory in her midst. Exiles are exhorted to return from the north. He who touches God’s people touches the apple of his eye. Sinf and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! When the Lord dwells in the midst of Jerusalem, many nations shall be drawn unto Him.
Joshua the high priest stands before the Lord. Satan also stands before the Lord to oppose Joshua. The Lord rebukes Satan. Joshua’s filthy garments are removed, and he is given clean garments. Joshua is told that if he walks in the Lord’s ways, he will judge His house. The Lord says he is bringing forth his servant, the branch. A stone is laid before Joshua which has seven eyes. The iniquity of the land will be removed, and everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.
Zechariah has a vision of a lampstand, next to which there are two olive trees that supplied the seven lamps with oil through seven pipes. Zerubbabel will accomplish the work of rebuilding the temple through the Lord’s Spirit. Encouragement is given. The two olive trees represent the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.
Zechariah has a vision of a flying scroll, twenty cubits by ten. On it are written curses against thieves and perjurers. Wickedness is personified as a woman sitting in a basket. An angel thrusts down the woman, and places a lead covering over the top of the basket. Two winged women take the basket to Babylon.
Zechariah has a vision of four chariots coming between two mountains of bronze. They go before the Lord. Those who go toward the north country have given rest to the Lord’s Spirit in the north country. Joshua receives a crown of gold and silver. The branch shall build the temple of the Lord. The crown will be a memorial in the temple.
In the fourth year of Darius, the people ask if they should weep and fast in the fifth month to commemorate the destruction of the first temple. The Lord rebukes the practice of fasting for being perfunctory. Justice, mercy and compassion are more important – this is why the people were scattered.
The Lord says He is zealous for Zion with great zeal. The Lord will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be a thriving, safe place. More people will return from the east and the west. Encouragement is given to finish the temple. Judah was a curse, but it shall become a blessing. The Lord is as determined to bless now as He was to punish in the past. Act righteously to one another. Feasting is now more appropriate than the appointed fasting times.
Burden against the cities of Lebanon, and the Philistines (which was fulfilled by the conquests of Alexander the Great). A lowly king riding on a donkey shall come into Jerusalem. He shall speak peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea. The blood of the covenant will set prisoners free from the waterless pit. Judah and Ephraim are the bow and arrow to be drawn against Greece. Grain shall make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women.
The Lord will grant showers of rain. The people of God will conquer, while idolaters will be led astray like sheep. The houses of both Judah and Jerusalem will be brought back. Israel will be gathered into the land from across the earth.
Creation mourns because of the coming judgment. Zechariah is told to feel a flock of sheep for slaughter, as the Lord with do with his people, particularly those who are rich and complacent. Zechariah’s two staffs are called Beauty and Bonds. Zechariah dismisses three shepherds (prophets, priests and kings?), and breaks the staff called Beauty. Playing the role of a shepherd, Zechariah is paid what he sarcastically calls a ‘princely sum’ of thirty pieces of silver, which he gives to the potter. Zechariah breaks the staff called Bonds, to symbolise the severance of Judah and Israel. Zechariah is told to take the implements of a foolish shepherd, to indicate that the Lord will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off. Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock!
Jerusalem will protected from attack by the Lord – it will be a cup of drunkenness and a heavy stone to surrounding peoples. The feeble shall become be like David, and the house of David shall be like God. The spirit of grace and supplication will be poured on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. ‘They will look on me whom they pierced.’ All Jerusalem will humbly repent.
A fountain shall cleanse sin. Idolatry and false prophets will not be tolerated. The man accused of being a false prophet insists the scars on his body are not the self-inflicted wounds often associated with false prophets, but merely the result of a brawl in his friend’s house. The Lord calls for the swords to be struck against His shepherd, who is His companion. Israel will be scattered, smitten, refined, and saved.
The day of the Lord is coming, when Jerusalem will be attacked. Half of the city will be taken off in captivity, but the remnant shall not be cut off. The Lord will fight against the nations that attack. The Mount of Olives will be split in two, allowing escape. Living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, which will be safely inhabited. The enemies of Jerusalem and their livestock will be stricken with plague. All nations shall come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Plague and no rain will be the punishment for those families who do not attend. ‘Holiness to the Lord’ shall be engraved on the balls of the horses, and every pot in Jerusalem shall become like the bowls before the altar. The profane becomes holy.