Zechariah Urges God’s Service Despite Ban
WHY did Jehovah God effect the release of the Jewish captives in Babylon that they might return to their homeland? Why, after their capital city of Jerusalem had lain desolate for seventy years, were they returned to Judah and Mount Zion? Was it for the sake of their political independence, so called? No; but for the restoration of God’s service in accord with Theocratic law. To this end the decree in the opening year of Cyrus’ full power over Babylon read: “Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah, the God of heaven, given me; and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all his people, his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of Jehovah, the God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem.”—Ezra 1:1-3, Am. Stan. Ver.
Accordingly in 537 B.C. nearly 50,000 devoted worshipers of Jehovah undertook the perilous journey to return to their desolated homeland. Zerubbabel was made governor of this restored remnant, and prominently associated with him in the work of rebuilding the temple was the high priest Joshua, or Jeshua. In the second year of their return the foundation of the new temple for the worship and service of Jehovah had been laid.—Ezra 2:1, 2, 64-70; 3:1-4, 8-11.
At this time opposition to rebuilding the temple broke out among the Gentile nations in Palestine. They carried on an official persecution of the temple builders and tried to hold up their work all the days of King Cyrus. Then they joined in sending a letter to Cyrus’ successor, King Artaxerxes, and accused the temple builders of seditious aims against the political state. King Artaxerxes believed the accusation. Contrary to the law of the Medes and Persians, he countermanded the temple decree of Cyrus, and had the temple work stopped. “So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”—Ezra 4:1-24.
That means that for sixteen years the work of rebuilding the temple had lain idle. Then, “the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 5:1) Of the two prophets, Haggai was the elder and he took the lead in stirring up the Jews to activity in God’s service of rebuilding the house of Jehovah. Less than four weeks after his opening blast the temple work was resumed, in the teeth of the imperial ban! Two months after Haggai led off with his vigorous exhortations the younger contemporaneous prophet Zechariah joined in with his voice: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet.”—Zech. 1:1.
From the above it appears that Zechariah was the grandson of Iddo and the son of Berechiah. That Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet is shown at Nehemiah 12:12, 16. When he started his prophetic service, in 520 B.C., he was yet a young man, and continued in it at least two years, until 518 B.C.—Zech. 2:4; 7:1.
Zechariah, addressing both Joshua and Zerubbabel as prefiguring Christ Jesus the High Priest and Headstone of God’s house, wrote: “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at [men of wonder, or sign]: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts. . . .
“This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.”—Zech. 3:8, 9; 4:6, 7, 9.
And when the Jews plunged anew into the rebuilding work as a result of prophetic urging, what was the result of such defiance of the decree of the political state? The enemies appealed to King Darius to punish these seeming violators of the law, but courageously the temple builders contended that their God-given work was not against the interests of the state but was perfectly legal according to the original decree of King Cyrus. Thereupon King Darius turned to basic law and had search made in the state archives. The decree of King Cyrus was uncovered. It must stand and be enforced according to the rule of the law of the Medes and Persians, which changes not. The work of building the temple was finished, while the enemies looked on with chagrin. Worse still, they were ordered by the king to furnish aid to the temple work. In the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and in the sixth year of King Darius (516 B.C.), the rebuilt temple was dedicated with great joy by the remnant, and Jehovah’s word and name were vindicated.
A closer look at the prophetic book that Zechariah wrote under inspiration shows that it is generally divided into two parts: Zec chapters 1-8 and Zec chapters 9-14. The first part consists mainly of a series of visions which generally relate to the temple and the hopes raised by its rebuilding, and ends with a discourse replying to questions raised concerning certain feasts. Summarizing it, the prophet sees horsemen of the Lord inspecting the affairs on earth and hears promise of the temple’s completion and Jerusalem’s prosperity; he sees the four horns that scattered Israel and the four carpenters that are to destroy the horns; he has the vision of a man with a measuring line in his hand approaching Jerusalem, which foretells the growth and prosperity of Jerusalem and the joining of other nations unto the Lord; he hears Satan rebuked and sees high priest Joshua’s filthy garments replaced with glorious change of raiment; a seven-lamped golden candlestick flanked by two olive trees for its oil supply next greets his wide-eyed gaze and he hears the cries of “Grace, grace” heralding the bringing forth of the temple headstone; he envisions a flying roll that records the curse that comes on those who rob God and those who swear falsely to him; he sees Babylonish wickedness removed from among God’s restored remnant; finally, four horse-drawn chariots appear in symbol of God’s war organization, and God’s temple-builder is identified as “The Branch”, who will be a priest upon his throne.
The last two chapters Zec 7-8 of this first section give answer that feasts of weeping and self-pity should give way to times of joy and gladness, that restored Zion was to prosper and that men from all nations would take hold of “the skirt of him that is a Jew” to accompany him to Jerusalem because of Jehovah’s blessings upon his people.
The second part of Zechariah’s prophecy, Zec chapters 9-14, has the usual prophetic tone and character, in contrast with the preceding vision-filled part so similar to the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel. Many Bible critics claim that this latter portion, because of the change of style and other supposed internal evidence, was written by one other than Zechariah, one living much earlier than Zechariah’s time. To those who appreciate not only the matter of miniature fulfillment, but also the more important matter of major fulfillment, their devious arguments are not very impressive. The definite change in subject matter easily accounts for the change in approach and style. Similar forms of expression and like prophetic messages tie together both parts. Most convincing, the writer of the second part shows knowledge of the writings of the prophets following Jerusalem’s destruction, but by making allusions thereto he refers to the future antitypical fulfillment of such prophecies. Hence the second part could not have been written by one much earlier than Zechariah, but, like the first, must have been written after the Jewish exile. Zechariah was doubtless the one Jehovah used to record the entire fourteen chapters Zec 1-14 of the book that bears this prophet’s name.
This latter portion declares vengeance against heathen nations, foretells Christ’s ride as King into Jerusalem on an ass, the extension of Kingdom rule earth-wide, the gathering of His people, the betrayal of Christ for thirty pieces of silver, the outpouring of God’s spirit upon his remnant after their repentance, the shame of false prophets and the futility of hiding their identity, and the fall of two elements of the people and salvation of a third element (a remnant) by purification. The last chapter Zec 14 foretells the international assault upon Jerusalem in the day of Jehovah, the split “mount of Olives” as a refuge for his people, Jehovah’s undisputed Kingship over the earth, the plague wherewith he will smite the opposers, and the regular worship of him year by year by the people and through his holy temple organization.
Many of Zechariah’s prophecies have been fulfilled, and one-hundred-percent fulfillment of them in major completeness is not far distant. For references to Zechariah’s prophecy in the Greek Scriptures, thus further establishing the book’s authenticity, compare Zechariah 8:16 with Ephesians 4:25; Zechariah 9:9 with Matthew 21:4, 5 and John 12:14-16; Zechariah 12:10 with John 19:37; Zechariah 13:7 with Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27, showing fulfillment of such prophecies in miniature.
Zechariah was faithful to God, and in pursuing that faithfulness he urged the doing of God’s work even in the face of imperial ban. Because he remembered Jehovah and His service and held fast to integrity toward God, that prophet will be “remembered of Jah”, which is the meaning of the name Zechariah.