Zechariah is a name found several times in the Bible. Its meaning is somewhat obscure, being understood as “Iah remembers” or “Iah is renowned”. Among many that had that name mentioned in the Bible, are a king of Israel, some nobles of several tribes, eight Levites, and at least two prophets:
Who was killed by the people with king Joash's consent, mentioned by the Lord Jesus as the last of a line of martyred prophets starting from Abel (2 Chronicles 24:20-22 and Luke 11:51). It was what the people understood, because 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Old Testament in Hebrew, and
Who prophesied in the second and in the fourth year of the reign of Darius (520 and 518 B.C.). This last one is the author of the prophecy that has his name, the next to the last book in our Old Testament. It is regarding this prophet that we will be commenting on.
Zechariah tells us that he was the son of Berechiah and grandson of Iddo, the prophet. Iddo is the person who returned from the exile under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshuah in the year 536 B.C. with other priests and Levites (Ezra 5:1, 6:14, Nehemiah 12:3,16): Zechariah was a priest as well as prophet and contemporary of prophet Haggai (Ezra 5:1, 6:14), therefore still young when he received the prophecies of the LORD (Zechariah 2:4). It is not known for sure how he died, although the Targum declares that he died as martyr.
The prophecies came to him when there were mutinies and commotions in different parts of the Persian empire, the whole prophecy of Jeremiah as to the captivity of the Jews in Babylon for the exact period of 70 years having been already fulfilled (Jeremiah 29:10).
Those who returned to the Promised Land were discouraged and depressed because the LORD still had not given conditions for Jerusalem to be restored and the temple to be rebuilt, although they had already laid the foundations (Ezra 3:8-10; Zechariah 1:16). The altar of offerings had already been rebuilt on its base and the daily holocausts were offered regularly (Ezra 3:2,3).
The people were apathetic and needed to be wakened up. Prophet Haggai was the first to exhort the people, and 24 days after beginning his ministry the people began to work (Haggai 1:1, 1:15). Two months later the word of the LORD also came to Zechariah, and he then devoted himself to motivate the people to finish the temple.
The book of the prophecies of Zechariah stands out for being one of those that are more difficult for Jewish expositors to interpret, being considered the most messianic of all. The vision of the book and the depth of its teaching are remarkable, being for this reason considered as the most eschatological and apocalyptic of the whole Old Testament. In view of the difficulty, we will try here to supply some elucidations, with the advantage of a good part of the prophecy having already been fulfilled.
Zechariah received the word of the LORD, saying that the people ought to return to Him, in order to receive His attention and that they must not repeat the same mistake as their ancestors. These had not heard nor given attention to the old prophets when they were exhorted to repent from their ways and of their bad works, and consequently had been punished, admitting later that the LORD had done what their ways and practices deserved, as He had promised
Then he deals with several phases of the spiritual life of the nation, and in the last part of the book (chapters 9 -14), the prophet reveals future events, linked with the Messiah's first arrival, His rejection, His final victory and His glorious kingdom. The priesthood would be purified, and the kingdom gloriously established, after the rejection and subsequent victory of the Messiah.
Zechariah had eight visions, all seen in the same night and explained by an angel:
The horses and the horsemen (1:7-17): the world being in peace, God plans great blessing for Jerusalem.
The horns and the craftsmen (1:18-21): The four great people that subjugated Israel (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) would be broken by God.
Jerusalem measured (chapter 2): She will be increased, protected and glorified by God.
Joshua the high priest (chapter 3): This is Jeshua of Ezra 5:2. He represents sinful Israel, but purified and accepted by God, through the redeeming work of the "Branch" (the Messiah).
The Lampstand (chapter 4): It represents the temple, which Zorobbabel (Ezra 5:2) was about to finish building, in power of the Holy Spirit ("oil"). The two "olive trees" were Joshua and Zorobbabel (see also Revelation 11:3-12; 1:5; 3:14).
The flying scroll (chapter 5:1-4): The curse of the law of God on the people (Deuteronomy 27:15-26).
The basket going forth (chapter 5:5-11): the wickedness - idolatry and immorality - taken to Babylon (see Revelation 17:3-5).
The four chariots (chapter 6:1-8): The divine judgements on the world, enemy of Israel (see Revelation 6:1-8).
Joshua, the high priest, is symbolically crowned (chapter 6:9-15), prophesying the union of priesthood and monarchy in the Branch (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:23; Jeremiah 23:5). Without doubt a prophecy already fulfilled in Jesus, who descended from Zorobbabel, of the royal house of David (Matthew 1:12), by God the High Priest of the redeemed people, which is the true Temple (Revelation 5:9-10).
The disobedience of the Jews in passed times is illustrated by the “fast”, a religion without morality, in chapters 7 and 8. God still wants to bless them, the future greatness of Jerusalem being foreseen.
In chapters 9 to 14, we find prophecies about Israel in its fight against the Greek and the Romans (the nations) and the arrival and victory of the Messiah as follows:
The restoration of Israel: chapters 9 and 10.
The rejection of the Shepherd, and the Antichrist: chapter 11.
The salvation of Jerusalem and its repentance: chapter 12.
The purified people, the final victory in the coming of the Lord, and the millenarian glory of Jerusalem: chapter 13 and 14.
We also find in this prophecy eight references to the Messiah, in the following texts:
His death for atonement of sin: chapter 3:8-9; 13:1. Also see 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18.
His task as Builder of the house of the Lord: chapter 6:12. Also see Matthew 16:18 and Ephesians 2:21.
His universal dominion as King and Priest: chapter 6:13 and 9:10. Also see Hebrews 5:9-10 and Philippians 2:9-11.
His entrance in Jerusalem: chapter 9:9. Also see Matthew 21:5.
The 30 silver pieces: chapter 11:12. Also see Matthew 27:9-10.
The pierced hands: chapter 12:10. Also see John 19:37.
The stricken Shepherd: chapter 13:7. Also see Matthew 26:31.
His triumphant life: chapter 14:4-5. Also see Revelation 19:11-16.
The “difficulty” that this prophecy presents to the Jewish commentators is not surprising, because it doesn't make sense to who doesn't believe that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah. But the prophecies that concern the Messiah of Israel are perfectly fulfilled in Him. Notice here the “shadow” of Christ's church, mystery that would only be revealed after the Messiah's rejection by the people of Israel, His church is represented here as the new temple, of which He is the High Priest.
This is one of the most encouraging and comforting prophecies for whoever trusts the Lord Jesus, but faces discouragement and depression because of the strongly sceptic and humanist direction of the world in which we live now. This prophecy, written twenty-five centuries ago, is being faithfully fulfilled and it announces the wonderful destiny of those who are faithful to God.