Bible Book Number 38—Zechariah
Place Written: Jerusalem
Writing Completed: 518 B.C.E.
Time Covered: 520–518 B.C.E.
1. What was the situation as to the temple in Jerusalem when Zechariah began to prophesy?
AT A standstill! That was the state of the construction work on Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem when Zechariah began to prophesy. Whereas Solomon had built the original temple in 7 1/2 years (1 Ki. 6:37, 38), the repatriated Jews had been back in Jerusalem for 17 years and the building was yet far from completion. The work had finally stopped altogether following the ban by Artaxerxes (either Bardiya or Gaumata). But now, despite this official ban, the work was once more getting under way. Jehovah was using Haggai and Zechariah to stir up the people to renew the construction and to stay with it until completed.—Ezra 4:23, 24; 5:1, 2.
2. Why did the task look mountainous, but to what did Zechariah draw their attention?
2 The task before them looked mountainous. (Zech. 4:6, 7) They were few, the opposers many, and although they had a prince of the Davidic line, Zerubbabel, they had no king and were under foreign domination. How easy to sink into a weak, self-centered attitude, when the time really demanded strong faith and energetic action! Zechariah was used to draw their attention to God’s present purposes and even grander future purposes, thus strengthening them for the work to be done. (8:9, 13) It was no time to be like their unappreciative forefathers.—1:5, 6.
3. (a) How is Zechariah identified, and why is his name appropriate? (b) When was Zechariah’s prophecy spoken and recorded?
3 Who was Zechariah? There are about 30 different persons mentioned in the Bible with the name Zechariah. However, the writer of the book that bears this name is identified as “Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo the prophet.” (Zech. 1:1; Ezra 5:1; Neh. 12:12, 16) His name (Hebrew, Zekhar·yahʹ) means “Jehovah Has Remembered.” The book of Zechariah makes it very plain that “Jehovah of armies” remembers His people, to deal well with them for His own name’s sake. (Zech. 1:3) The dates mentioned in the book give it a coverage of at least two years. It was in the “eighth month in the second year of Darius” (October/November 520 B.C.E.) that the temple building was resumed and Zechariah commenced prophesying. (1:1) The book also makes a reference to “the fourth day of the ninth month, that is, Chislev,” in “the fourth year of Darius” (about December 1, 518 B.C.E.). (7:1) Hence, Zechariah’s prophecy would no doubt be spoken and also recorded during the years 520-518 B.C.E.—Ezra 4:24.
4, 5. (a) Why did Zechariah predict Tyre’s fall long after the siege of that city by Nebuchadnezzar? (b) The fulfillment of what particular prophecies convincingly proves the book’s inspiration?
4 Students of the book of Zechariah will find ample proof of its authenticity. Take the case of Tyre. It was after a 13-year-long siege that the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ruined Tyre. This, though, did not mean the complete end for Tyre. Zechariah, many years later, foretold the total destruction of Tyre. It was the island city of Tyre that Alexander the Great overthrew at the time of his famous causeway-building feat; he ruthlessly burned her, thus fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy of some two centuries earlier.*—Zech. 9:2-4.
5 The most convincing proof of the book’s divine inspiration, however, is to be found in the fulfillment of its prophecies concerning the Messiah, Christ Jesus, as can be seen by comparing Zechariah 9:9 with Matthew 21:4, 5 and John 12:14-16; Zechariah 12:10 with John 19:34-37; and Zechariah 13:7 with Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27. Also, there are the similarities to be noted between Zechariah 8:16 and Ephesians 4:25; Zechariah 3:2 and Jude 9; and Zechariah 14:5 and Jude 14. The harmony found in God’s Word is truly marvelous!
6. (a) What accounts for the change of style from chapter 9 of Zechariah onward? (b) What may be the reason for Matthew’s referring to Zechariah as “Jeremiah”?
6 There are some Bible critics who say that the change in style of writing from chapter 9 onward indicates that that section could not have been written by Zechariah. The change in style, however, is certainly no greater than the change in subject matter would justify. Whereas the first eight chapters 1-8 deal with matters of more present importance to the people of Zechariah’s day, in chapters 9 to 14 the prophet looks forward into a more distant future. Some have queried why it is that Matthew quotes Zechariah but attributes his words to Jeremiah. (Matt. 27:9; Zech. 11:12) It appears that Jeremiah was at times reckoned as first of the Later Prophets (instead of Isaiah, as in our present Bibles); hence Matthew, in referring to Zechariah as “Jeremiah,” could have been following the Jewish practice of including a whole section of Scripture under the name of the first book of the section. Jesus himself used the designation “Psalms” to include all the books known as the Writings.—Luke 24:44.*
7. How is the book of Zechariah arranged?
7 Up to chapter 6, verse 8, the book consists of a series of eight visions, similar in type to those of Daniel and Ezekiel, relating generally to the temple’s reconstruction. These are followed by pronouncements and prophecies regarding sincere worship, restoration, and Jehovah’s day of war.
CONTENTS OF ZECHARIAH
8. What does the vision of the four horsemen show concerning Jerusalem and the nations?
8 First vision: The four horsemen (1:1-17). “Return to me, . . . and I shall return to you,” says Jehovah, and then he asks, “My words and my regulations that I commanded my servants, the prophets, did they not catch up with your fathers?” (1:3, 6) The people admit they have received their just due. Zechariah’s first vision now appears. At night four horsemen stand among trees near Jerusalem, having returned from inspecting the whole earth, which they found undisturbed and at ease. But Jehovah’s angel, who interviews them, is disturbed over Jerusalem’s condition. Jehovah himself declares his great indignation against the nations that helped toward Zion’s calamity, and he says that he will “certainly return to Jerusalem with mercies.” His own house will be built in her, and his cities “will yet overflow with goodness.”—1:16, 17.
9. How does Jehovah explain the vision of the horns and craftsmen?
9 Second vision: The horns and craftsmen (1:18-21). Zechariah sees the four horns that dispersed Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Then Jehovah shows him four craftsmen, explaining that these will come to cast down the horns of the nations that oppose Judah.
10. How is Jehovah associated with Jerusalem’s prosperity?
10 Third vision: Jerusalem’s prosperity (2:1-13). A man is seen measuring Jerusalem. The city will be blessed with expansion, and Jehovah will be a wall of fire all around her and a glory in the midst of her. He calls out, “Hey there, Zion! Make your escape,” and adds the warning, “He that is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (2:7, 8) With Jehovah residing in her, Zion will rejoice, and many nations will join themselves to Jehovah. All flesh is commanded to keep silence before Jehovah, “for he has aroused himself from his holy dwelling.”—2:13.
11. How is High Priest Joshua vindicated, and what course is urged upon him?
11 Fourth vision: Joshua’s deliverance (3:1-10). High Priest Joshua is shown on trial, with Satan opposing him and Jehovah’s angel rebuking Satan. Is not Joshua “a log snatched out of the fire”? (3:2) Joshua is declared cleansed, and his befouled garments are exchanged for clean “robes of state.” He is urged to walk in the ways of Jehovah, who is ‘bringing in his servant Sprout’ and who puts before Joshua a stone upon which there are seven eyes.—3:4, 8.
12. What encouragement and assurance are given concerning the temple building?
12 Fifth vision: The lampstand and olive trees (4:1-14). The angel awakens Zechariah to see a gold lampstand of seven lamps, flanked by two olive trees. He hears this word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by military force, nor by power, but by God’s spirit.’ A “great mountain” will be leveled before Zerubbabel, and the temple headstone will be brought forth to the cry: “How charming! How charming!” Zerubbabel has laid the temple foundations, and Zerubbabel will finish the work. The seven lamps are Jehovah’s eyes that “are roving about in all the earth.” (4:6, 7, 10) The two olive trees are Jehovah’s two anointed ones.
13-15. What is seen in the visions of the flying scroll, the ephah measure, and the four chariots?
13 Sixth vision: The flying scroll (5:1-4). Zechariah sees a flying scroll, about 30 feet [9 m] long and 15 feet [4.5 m] wide. The angel explains that this is the curse that is going forth because of all those stealing and swearing falsely in Jehovah’s name.
14 Seventh vision: The ephah measure (5:5-11). The lid is lifted from an ephah measure (about 20 dry qt, U.S. [22 L]), revealing a woman named “Wickedness.” She is thrust back into the ephah, which is then lifted toward heaven by two winged women, to be carried to Shinar (Babylon) and “deposited there upon her proper place.”—5:8, 11.
15 Eighth vision: The four chariots (6:1-8). Look! From between two copper mountains, four chariots appear, with horses of different colors. They are the four spirits of the heavens. At the angel’s command, they go walking about in the earth.
16. What is prophesied concerning the “Sprout”?
16 The Sprout; insincere fasting (6:9–7:14). Jehovah now instructs Zechariah to place a grand crown on High Priest Joshua’s head. He speaks prophetically of the “Sprout,” who will build Jehovah’s temple and rule as a priest on his throne.—6:12.
17. As to worship, what does Jehovah desire, and what is to result to those resisting his words?
17 Two years after Zechariah started prophesying, a delegation arrives from Bethel to ask the temple priests whether certain periods of weeping and fasting should continue to be observed. Through Zechariah, Jehovah asks the people and the priests whether they are really sincere in their fasting. What Jehovah desires is ‘obedience, true justice, loving-kindness, and mercies.’ (7:7, 9) Because they resist his prophetic words with stubborn shoulders and emery-stone hearts, he will hurl them tempestuously throughout all the nations.
18. What glorious promises of restoration does Jehovah make?
18 Restoration; “ten men” (8:1-23). Jehovah declares he will return to Zion and reside in Jerusalem, which will be called “the city of trueness.” Old people will sit in her public squares, and children will play there. This is not too difficult for Jehovah, the true and righteous God! Jehovah promises the seed of peace to the remnant of his people, saying: “Do not be afraid. May your hands be strong.” (8:3, 13) These things they should do: Speak truthfully with one another and judge with truth, keeping hearts free from calamitous schemes and false oaths. Why, the time will come when the people of many cities will certainly invite one another to go up earnestly to seek Jehovah, and “ten men” out of all the languages will “take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew” and go along with God’s people.—8:23.
19. What severe pronouncements follow, but what is said concerning Jerusalem’s king?
19 Pronouncements against nations, false shepherds (9:1–11:17). In the book’s second section, chapters 9 to 14, Zechariah turns from the allegorical visions to the more customary prophetic style. He begins with a severe pronouncement against various cities, including the rocky island-city of Tyre. Jerusalem is told to shout in joyful triumph, for, “Look! Your king himself comes to you. He is righteous, yes, saved; humble, and riding upon an ass.” (9:9) Cutting off war chariots and bow, this one will speak peace to the nations and will rule to the ends of the earth. Jehovah will fight for his people against Greece, and he will save them. “For O how great his goodness is, and how great his handsomeness is!” (9:17) Jehovah, the Rain-Giver, condemns the diviners and false shepherds. He will make the house of Judah superior and those of Ephraim like a mighty man. As for the redeemed ones, “their heart will be joyful in Jehovah . . . and in his name they will walk about.”—10:7, 12.
20. What symbols are enacted with the staffs “Pleasantness” and “Union”?
20 Zechariah is now assigned to shepherd the flock, which has been sold into slaughter by compassionless shepherds who say: “May Jehovah be blessed, while I shall gain riches.” (11:5) The prophet takes two staffs and names them “Pleasantness” and “Union.” (11:7) Breaking “Pleasantness,” he symbolizes a covenant broken. Then he calls for his wages, and they weigh him out 30 pieces of silver. Jehovah orders Zechariah to throw it into the treasury and, with superlative sarcasm, says, “the majestic value with which I have been valued.” (11:13) Now staff “Union” is cut up, breaking the brotherhood of Judah and Israel. A sword will come upon the false shepherds who have neglected Jehovah’s sheep.
21. (a) What is Jehovah’s judgment on those who fight against Jerusalem? (b) What scattering and refining are foretold?
21 Jehovah wars, becomes king (12:1–14:21). Another pronouncement begins. Jehovah will make Jerusalem a bowl that causes peoples to reel and a burdensome stone that scratches those lifting it. He will annihilate all nations that come against Jerusalem. Upon the house of David, Jehovah will pour out the spirit of favor and entreaties, and the people will look upon the one they pierced through, wailing over him “as in the wailing over an only son.” (12:10) Jehovah of armies declares a cutting off of all idols and false prophets; the very parents of such a one must wound him so that in shame he removes his prophet’s garb. Jehovah’s associate shepherd is to be struck and the flock scattered, but Jehovah will refine a “third part” to call upon his name. Jehovah will say: “It is my people,” and it will answer: “Jehovah is my God.”—13:9.
22. What is to happen to the nations and to Jerusalem in ‘the day belonging to Jehovah’?
22 “Look! There is a day coming, belonging to Jehovah.” All nations will attack Jerusalem, and half the city will go into exile, leaving behind a remnant. Then Jehovah will go forth and war against those nations, “as in the day of his warring, in the day of fight.” (14:1, 3) The mountain of olive trees, on the east of Jerusalem, will split from east to west, making a valley for refuge. In that day living waters will flow east and west from Jerusalem, in summer and in winter, and “Jehovah must become king over all the earth.” (14:9) While Jerusalem enjoys security, Jehovah will scourge those warring against her. As they stand, their flesh, eyes, and tongues will rot away. Confusion will hit them. The hand of each one will turn against his neighbor’s. Those left alive of all the nations will have to “go up from year to year to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies.”—14:16.
23. How is the record of Zechariah strengthening to faith?
23 All who study and meditate on the prophecy of Zechariah will be benefited in gaining faith-strengthening knowledge. More than 50 times Zechariah draws attention to “Jehovah of armies” as the One who fights for and protects His people, filling them with power according to their need. When mountainlike opposition threatened the completion of the temple building, Zechariah declared: “This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘“Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,” Jehovah of armies has said. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a level land.’” The temple was completed with the help of Jehovah’s spirit. Likewise today, obstacles will melt if tackled with faith in Jehovah. It is just as Jesus told his disciples: “If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.”—Zech. 4:6, 7; Matt. 17:20.
24. What illustration of loyalty is given in chapter 13 of Zechariah?
24 In chapter 13, verses 2 to 6, Zechariah illustrates the loyalty that to this day marks Jehovah’s organization. This must transcend every human relationship, such as that of close flesh-and-blood relatives. If a close relative should prophesy falsehood in the name of Jehovah, that is, speak contrary to the Kingdom message and try wrongly to influence others in the congregation of God’s people, the family members of that one must loyally support any judicial action taken by the congregation. The same position must be held with regard to any intimate associate who prophesies falsely, so that he may become ashamed and wounded at heart because of his wrong action.
25. How does the prophecy of Zechariah link with other scriptures in identifying Messiah, the “Sprout,” and his office as High Priest and King under Jehovah?
25 As our introductory paragraphs showed, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as king, “humble, and riding upon an ass,” his betrayal for “thirty pieces of silver,” the scattering of his disciples at that time, and his being pierced on the stake by the soldier’s spear were all foretold by Zechariah in exact detail. (Zech. 9:9; 11:12; 13:7; 12:10) The prophecy also names the “Sprout” as the builder of the temple of Jehovah. A comparison of Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 23:5; and Luke 1:32, 33 shows this one to be Jesus Christ, who “will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever.” Zechariah describes the “Sprout” as “a priest upon his throne,” which ties in with the apostle Paul’s words: “Jesus . . . has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever,” also, “He has sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” (Zech. 6:12, 13; Heb. 6:20; 8:1) Thus the prophecy points to the “Sprout” as High Priest and King at God’s right hand in the heavens, while at the same time it proclaims Jehovah as Sovereign Ruler over all: “And Jehovah must become king over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will prove to be one, and his name one.”—Zech. 14:9.
26. To what glorious “day” does Zechariah repeatedly refer?
26 Referring to that time, the prophet repeats the phrase “in that day” some 20 times, and it even concludes his prophecy. An examination of its many occurrences shows it to be the day when Jehovah cuts off the names of the idols and removes the false prophets. (13:2, 4) It is the day when Jehovah wars on the aggressor nations and spreads confusion in their ranks as he annihilates them and provides ‘the valley of his mountains’ as a refuge for his own people. (14:1-5, 13; 12:8, 9) Yes, “Jehovah their God will certainly save them in that day like the flock of his people,” and they will call one to the other from under the vine and fig tree. (Zech. 9:16; 3:10; Mic. 4:4) It is the glorious day when Jehovah of armies “will reside in the midst” of his people and when “living waters will go forth from Jerusalem.” These words of Zechariah identify events “in that day” as harbingers of “a new heaven and a new earth” of Kingdom promise.—Zech. 2:11; 14:8; Rev. 21:1-3; 22:1.
27. How does the prophecy of Zechariah focus attention on the sanctification of Jehovah’s name?
27 “Who has despised the day of small things?” asks Jehovah. Look! This prosperity is to embrace the entire earth: ‘Many peoples and mighty nations will actually come to seek Jehovah of armies in Jerusalem, and ten men out of all the languages of the nations will take hold of the skirt of a man who is a Jew, saying: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”’ “In that day” even the bells of the horse will bear the words “Holiness belongs to Jehovah!” These heartwarming prophecies are most beneficial to consider, for they show that Jehovah’s name will indeed be sanctified through his Kingdom Seed!—Zech. 4:10; 8:22, 23; 14:20.
Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1973, Vol. 4, col. 828; Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 1, pages 1080-1.