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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH
Zechariah is the great prophet of the restoration, and, as stated in the introduction to Haggai, was contemporary with him. The prophecies in both books are dated. These are as follows:
In the sixth month of Darius’s second year:Haggai 1:1-15
In the seventh month of the same year:Haggai 2:1-23
In the eighth month, the same year:Zechariah 1:1-21
In the ninth month, the same year:Haggai 2:1-23
In the eleventh month, the same year:Zechariah 1:1-21; Zechariah 2:1-13; Zechariah 3:1-10; Zechariah 4:1-14; Zechariah 5:1-11; Zechariah 6:1-15
In the fourth year of Darius, ninth month:Zechariah 7:1-14; Zechariah 8:1-23; Zechariah 9:1-17; Zechariah 10:1-12; Zechariah 11:1-17; Zechariah 12:1-14; Zechariah 13:1-9; Zechariah 14:1-21
Zechariah is named in Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14; he was of priestly descent, which we learn by consulting Nehemiah 12:4; Nehemiah 12:16. His name means “Jehovah remembers.” He was the son of Berechiah, which means “Jehovah will bless; ” and his grandfather’s name was Iddo; Iddo means “the appointed time.” These are significant names; one might say the great prophetic message of Zechariah is given in these three names in a nutshell. For the covenant-keeping God remembers His people, which the visions and messages of Zechariah show. When He remembers them He will bless them, but it will be at the appointed time, and the appointed time has not yet come, hence the greater part of Zechariah remains unfulfilled.
He was born in Babylon, and when he returned to the land of his fathers he was a child. In his vision he is addressed as a young man, so that he was quite young when called into the responsible position of a prophet. As to the historical setting of his prophecies, it is the same as Haggai’s, and we refer the reader to what we have said there.
According to ancient sources he lived to be a very old man, and was buried alongside of Haggai in Jerusalem; but this cannot be verified. Jewish tradition says that he was a member of the great synagogue, and took an active part in providing for the liturgical service of the new temple. The Septuagint version of the Old Testament ascribes to him the composition of Psalms 137:1-9; Psalms 138:1-8, and to Haggai and Zachariah Psalms 145:1-21; Psalms 146:1-10; Psalms 147:1-20; Psalms 148:1-14; and the same do other versions like the Peshito and the Vulgate. Some expositors have been so superficial in their statements that they identified him with the Zechariah who was slain by Joash of Judah, between the temple and the altar, as mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-23.
His Great Message
Zechariah in his message does not rebuke the people on account of their slackness in building the house of the Lord, as we learned Haggai did, though his great prophecies were given to encourage the remnant in their work. The horizon of Zechariah’s visions and prophecies is far more extended than the horizon of the other minor prophets. He covers the entire future of Israel and leads onward from his days to the time when Messiah comes to Jerusalem, when His own received Him not. He pictures the condition of the nation after the rejection of Christ, and then leads up to the time of His return and the happy results which follow the repentance of the remnant, when they shall look upon Him whom they pierced.
The Gentile world-powers, as prophetically announced in Daniel’s great visions, are seen by him as domineering over Jerusalem; and how the Lord will finally deal with these powers. The last siege of Jerusalem, and what is connected with that siege, the tribulation, the deliverance by the visible coming of the Lord, and the resultant kingdom, concludes his book. It is indeed a complete prophetic history of Israel and the times of the Gentiles from the captivity to the end of these times. His book has rightly been called by the same name as the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse--an unveiling. And there are certain features which identify Zechariah in some measure with the book of Revelation. Zechariah may well be placed alongside of Isaiah and Daniel.
The Messianic Predictions in Zechariah
Zechariah has more to say about Christ, His person, His work and His glory than all the other minor prophets combined. We mention here the more direct predictions found in the book; there are others, which will be pointed out in the annotations.
I. He speaks of Christ as “the Branch.” This is one of the names of our Lord revealed to Isaiah and Jeremiah Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5. Zechariah speaks of Him twice under this title, in chapters 3 and 4. II. A great prediction concerning Christ is found in the sixth chapter, when the prophet is commanded to order the crowning of the high-priest, symbolical of our Lord, who is the crowned King-Priest. III. In Zechariah 9:9-10 we have the familiar passage quoted in the New Testament concerning Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem. In this passage the first and the second coming of our Lord are blended together. IV. He speaks of Him as the Shepherd, and the price of His betrayal, the thirty pieces of silver, also quoted in the New Testament. Zechariah 11:12-13 and Matthew 27:9-10. V. Another great Messianic prophecy is recorded in Zechariah 12:10. Here His death on the cross is predicted, and that He is the pierced One, on whom they shall look, on account of whom they shall yet mourn. (See John 19:1-42, and Revelation 1:1-20.) VI. Still another prophecy relating to the sufferings of Christ is Zechariah 13:7. The sword is to awake against the Man, who is the fellow of God; that sword is to smite Him. VII. Finally, we mention the passage in the last chapter, where the prophet describes Him as coming for the salvation of His waiting people, and that His feet in that day shall stand on the Mount of Olives. It is He who was seen last standing on the Mount of Olives, with the promise of His return “in like manner.”
As stated before, these passages are the prominent ones, but not by any means all the predictions concerning Israel’s Messiah.
There is an interesting Jewish work on Zechariah, the Yalkut of Zechariah. It gives interesting comment on his prophecies. The great teacher Abarbanel confessed his inability to interpret these visions. How could he with his denials that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ? And the much honored Jewish exegete, Solomon Ben Jarchi, declared “his prophecy is very abstruse, for it contains visions resembling dreams, which want interpreting; and we shall never be able to discover the true interpretation until the teacher of righteousness arrives.”
That teacher, the Holy spirit, has come. He guides us now into all truth; He makes plain things to come, as revealed in the prophetic Word. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, and avoiding the “private interpretation” against which Peter warns 2 Peter 1:1-21 we understand the visions, which two of the greatest Hebrew scholars and teachers declared unexplainable.
The Division of Zechariah
For a correct understanding of the book, the correct divisions must be first of all ascertained. We give, therefore, first the scope of the book. After an introduction comprising the first six verses of the first chapter, we have the record of his great night-visions.
1. The Vision of the Man upon the Red Horse Among the Myrtles (Zechariah 1:7-17) 2. The Four Horns and the Four Smiths (Zechariah 1:18-21) 3. The Man with the Measuring Line (Chapter 2) 4. The Vision concerning the Cleansing of the High-Priest (Chapter 3) 5. The Vision of the Candlestick with the Two Olive Trees (Chapter 4) 6. The Vision of the Flying Roll (Zechariah 5:1-4) 7. The Woman in the Ephah (Zechariah 5:5-11) 8. The Vision of the Four Chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8)
Some have made ten visions out of it instead of eight; there is no need for that. The vision which they divided is the one in Zechariah 1:18-21. But this is one vision; and so is the vision in chapter 4. After these visions had been given the young prophet was commanded to make crowns of silver and gold and crown the high-priest. It was a great symbolical action, foretelling Him, who wore on earth the crown of thorns, and who will be crowned with many crowns when the night is gone and the day breaks.
This is the first section of the book. The second section is contained in chapters 7 and 8. It is a kind of parenthesis. Questions concerning certain fasts had been asked by the prophet; they were answered by the Lord and their interesting answers are recorded in these two chapters.
The third section is contained in chapters 9-14; it is the most majestic part of the book. It is arranged in two parts, each beginning with the phrase “The Burden of the Word of the Lord.” The first burden is Zechariah 9:1 and the second is Zechariah 12:1. It reveals in a remarkable manner the future of Jerusalem, so intensely interesting to every true believer in our significant times. We follow this threefold division in our analysis and annotations.
Eve of Ascension