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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 1

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Verse 1


The book of Zechariah occupies a special place among the so-called ‘minor prophets’. This special place is because of the length of his book which contains no less than fourteen chapters, but also because it contains extensive prophecies about the Messiah, world empires and the respective judgments about them and about Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.

The time in which Zechariah lives and prophesies is after the exile, like Haggai and Malachi. Zechariah and Haggai prophesy quite shortly after the return of a handful of Israelites from Babylon to the land and place where the LORD dwelled. When this small group of God's people is back in the land, they start rebuilding the temple, but stop under the pressure of their enemies. They manage to persuade King Artaxerxes to issue an order to stop the rebuilding. As a result, the rebuilding stops for about sixteen years, until the second year of Darius – which is not the same as that of Daniel, but a later one (Ezra 4:23-Jeremiah :).

The people had become languid. Then God calls two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1). Both prophets have written down their message. What Haggai and Zechariah prophesied is also important to us. That is why it is written down and included in God’s Word.

Haggai speaks of “the desire of all nations will come” (Haggai 2:7) – as this part of the verse also can be translated. This is the Messiah Who comes to His temple. Zechariah also speaks about this, and about the restoration of the two and the ten tribes in the land, so that there will again be one people living in the land.

The revival under Zechariah is limited, because after his performance the people sink back into unbelief. This unbelief finds its climax in the days of the Lord Jesus when His people reject Him. Yet His coming is the clearest proof of the meaning of the name Zechariah. Zechariah means ‘the LORD remembers’.

The result of the rejection is that the people have been suffering for many centuries and will experience unprecedented suffering in the great tribulation that is yet to come. They will think that God has forgotten them, but they will also notice that He remembers and will give relief at the appointed time to finally bless them. Then the prophecy of Zechariah will be entirely fulfilled.

Zechariah was born in Babylon into a priestly family taking the opportunity offered by Cyrus to return to Israel (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14; Nehemiah 12:4; Nehemiah 12:16). Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he is both priest and prophet. He is priest by birth and prophet by vocation. Like Jeremiah he is called as a young man (Zechariah 2:4; Jeremiah 1:6). He performs two months after Haggai started his prophecy (Haggai 1:1). The duration of his service is unknown.

Zechariah is a young man. He must have returned from Babylon as a child and knows nothing about the exile and the reason for it. Yet God chooses him as His messenger and not one of the elders. A young man represents youthful energy needed for a faithful service in ‘remnant times’.

Division of the book

Part I: Introduction and night visions (Zechariah 1-6)
A. Introduction to the book (Zechariah 1:1-6)
1. Date and name of the writer (Zechariah 1:1)
2. Call to repentance (Zechariah 1:2-6)

B. Series of eight night visions (Zechariah 1:7-6:8)
1. First night vision: The Man on the red horse among the myrtle trees (Zechariah 1:7-17)
2. Second night vision: The four horns and the four craftsmen (Zechariah 1:18-21)
3. Third night vision: The man with the measuring line (Zechariah 2:1-13)
4. Fourth night vision: Purification and restoration of Israel as a priestly nation (Zechariah 3:1-10)
5. Fifth night vision: The golden lampstand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-14)
6. Sixth night vision: The flying scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4)
7. Seventh night vision: The woman in the ephah (Zechariah 5:5-11)
8. Eighth night vision: The four chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8)

C. The symbolic coronation of Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 6:9-15)

Part II: The problem of fasting and the promises of the future (Zechariah 7-8)
1. The question of the delegation from Bethel (Zechariah 7:1-3)
2. The reproach of the LORD (Zechariah 7:4-7)
3. The order to repent (Zechariah 7:8-14)
4. Ten promises about the restoration of Israel in God’s favor (Zechariah 8:1-23)

Part III: Two burdens: the Messiah and His kingdom (Zechariah 9-14)
A. The first burden: the coming and rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 9-11)
1. The coming of the messianic King (Zechariah 9:1-10:12)
a. The destruction of the nations and the preservation of Zion (Zechariah 9:1-8)
b. The coming of Zion’s King (Zechariah 9:9-10)
c. The deliverance and blessing of Zion’s people (Zechariah 9:11-10:1)
d. Warning and encouragement (Zechariah 10:2-4)
e. Israel’s victory over his enemies (Zechariah 10:5-7)
f. Israel’s complete deliverance and restoration (Zechariah 10:8-12)
2. The Rejection of the messianic Shepherd-King (Zechariah 11:1-17)
a. Introduction (Zechariah 11:1-3)
b. The prophecy of the rejection of the good Shepherd (Zechariah 11:4-14)
c. The worthless shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17)

B. The second burden: the coming and receiving of the Messiah (Zechariah 12-14)
1. The deliverance and conversion of Israel (Zechariah 12:1-13:9)
a. The siege of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-3)
b. Divine deliverance (Zechariah 12:4-9)
c. Israel’s complete deliverance from sin (Zechariah 12:10-13:9)
2. The return of the Messiah and establishment of His kingdom (Zechariah 14:1-21)
a. The siege of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-2)
b. The signs of the return of the Messiah (Zechariah 14:3-8)
c. The establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah (Zechariah 14:9-11)
d. The punishment of Israel’s enemies (Zechariah 14:12-15)
e. The general worship of the King (Zechariah 14:16-19)
f. HOLY TO THE LORD (Zechariah 14:20-21)

Dating and Sender

As with Haggai, the dating of the prophecy of Zechariah is done according to the reign of a heathen monarch. This indicates, as already noted in Haggai 1 (Haggai 1:1), that the times of the nations have come (Luke 21:24; Daniel 7:1; Daniel 8:1). Through the failure of the people, God has moved His throne from Jerusalem to Babylon and its successors. Babylon has fallen, the Medes and Persians now rule Israel with Darius at the head. That’s why his name is mentioned.

Zechariah begins prophesying two months after Haggai began. It may be seen as a special blessing that God sends a second prophet to His people after Haggai. It is the word of the prophecy that comes from the LORD, emanates from Him and is given to Zechariah. How that word of the LORD came to him is not mentioned. It may be in a vision or in his heart or in a dream.

The name Zechariah means ‘the LORD remembers’; Berechiah means ‘the LORD blesses’; Iddo means ‘the appointed time’. We can see from the meaning of the names that the LORD remembers and has not forgotten His people, as it sometimes seems because of all the suffering that has come upon the people, and blesses at the time determined by him.

In Ezra 5 Zechariah is called the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1), while here it appears that Berechiah is his father. It may indicate that Iddo is his grandfather and that his father died in his youth.

Verse 2

The Anger of the LORD

The prophet cuts right to the chase. He wants to strike his fellow citizens in their conscience. They are no better than their fathers. Because of the guilt of the fathers the temple is destroyed. But they are also negligent in rebuilding it. It is easy to get used to our circumstances, without paying attention to the hand of the Lord Who put us in those circumstances because of our unfaithfulness.

The prophet does not elaborate on the cause of the anger. By speaking about it in this way, he asks them, as it were, to examine in their memories the occasions on which that anger has become visible. This should lead them to discover what caused it. That will stop them in their unfaithfulness to the LORD. The prophet warns in a clear way that God does not allow Himself to be mocked.

They have returned to the land of God, but not to God Himself. Their exile and the destruction of the city and the temple are clear proof of God’s anger. But there is a way back and that is the way of conversion to the LORD with their whole heart. That is why in the following verse the offer of grace follows after the anger.

Verse 3

Return to Me

Because they no longer give priority to the rebuilding of the temple, “therefore” Zechariah must now call them to repent. It is a command of the LORD to Zechariah.

Three times Zechariah speaks about conversion, or returning, in his introductory verses: Zechariah 1:3; Zechariah 1:4Zechariah 1:6. He does this precisely to those who may think that they have repented because they have returned from Babylon. Conversion is usually seen as something that belongs only to a gospel message to unbelievers. But that is not correct. Here we hear about the need for conversion for the people of God. It is the call to God’s people to turn from the way they go and return to the LORD with repentance. Then He will return to them with blessing and not with curse. First the people must return to the LORD, then He will turn to them (Malachi 3:7; James 4:7; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 3:12; Ezekiel 18:30; Micah 7:19).

Even as believers, we sometimes have to convert. That does not mean a ‘daily conversion’, as if we should come to God every day as penitent sinners, as if we had never become children of God. But the New Testament does speak about conversion of believers. We see this in the messages of John to the seven churches in Asia Minor. In most of them the recipients are called to repent because there are sins present in those churches (Revelation 2:5; Revelation 2:16Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:3Revelation 3:19). We also hear it when the Lord Jesus says to Peter, who is already converted: “When once you have turned again” (Luke 22:32).

It is clear that believers also must confess if something is not right. He must get down on his knees before God, and also before his neighbor, if he has sinned against that neighbor. There is always a way back, both for the individual believer and for a group of believers, a way that always goes via repentance and confession. That this way is there, is the result of the work of Christ.

The refusal to confess is the cause of the misery. Nobody can hide behind the misleading idea that he cannot repent. When God calls for repentance, it also means that He gives the strength to do so. He makes that power available in the call. It is up to man to make use of it.

The name “LORD of hosts” is characteristic of the last three prophets and is used more than eighty times by them together. In this verse alone this name is used three times.

Verse 4

Do Not Follow the Evil

Their fathers did not listen to the former prophets (Zechariah 7:12), who were the prophets before exile, and did not repent (Jeremiah 25:3-Ruth :; 2 Kings 17:13). A bad example creates bad followers and that is what the prophet warns against. God identifies Himself here with the prophets who have spoken in His Name. He does not say that they did not listen to the prophets, but that they did not listen to Him. Not listening to God’s prophets equals not listening to God (cf. Matthew 10:40).

Verse 5

Two Questions

It is as if, with these two questions, Zechariah wants to disprove the expected objections to his call. In the following verse the answer to these questions comes.

Both the fathers and the prophets are gone. For Zechariah and his contemporaries it is important to learn the lesson of the past. In general there is little knowledge of history. One does not take into account the lessons that can be found in (church) history. History must be seen in the light of the Word of God. God’s hand in history can only be tested against this Word. This is how it happens in this first chapter.

What God has warned of has also literally been fulfilled. Judgment has taken away the fathers and the prophets have been killed. But they are no better than their fathers. The prophets live on in their words, for God’s Word will never perish. The words of the prophets are fulfilled to the fathers. They must acknowledge that God has done what He has warned for and that He has carried out His judgment on them (Deuteronomy 28:45; Joshua 23:15-Nehemiah :; Lamentations 2:17).

Verse 6

Purpose of What God Says

The truth of God who has been preached remains undiminished (Isaiah 14:24). God’s “words” and “statutes” always have purpose. This is what the fathers experienced when they were not converted. Evidence of this has been provided, not in the least by the way they were led into exile. They will also experience this if they do not repent. The Word of God is alive and everlasting (1 Peter 1:23-Lamentations :). What God says happens, whether it is a blessing or a curse.

In days of the greatest unfaithfulness in the church, it remains our support. The acknowledgment of the truth of God’s Word is the first step on the way to blessing.

Verse 7

A New Word From the LORD

Zechariah gets his first night vision three months after his introductory words. He must speak only when the LORD commands him to do so. After three months that command comes. Each night vision contributes to the total picture of the future glory of Israel. The night visions serve as an encouragement for the people to continue with the rebuilding of the temple. We can say that the importance of the vision is this: although Israel is not yet in its promised position, God is already thinking about it.

The series of visions takes us through the time of God’s dealings with Israel. That time runs from the time of their discipline by God among the heathen powers until the time they are restored to their land with their rebuilt city and temple under their Messiah-King. The first vision gives the general theme of the whole series; the other visions add details. While the world is engaged in its own work, God’s eyes and the heart of the Messiah are focused on the humble condition of Israel and on the Temple in Jerusalem.

Verse 8

The Man on the Red Horse

What Zechariah sees takes place at night. He does not sleep, he does not see in a dream, but is in a waking state. He sees a Man. This is the Lord Jesus (Zechariah 1:11), Who is mentioned here for the first time in the book. He sits on a red horse. Behind Him are other horses, each with a different color. At the beginning of all visions stands the Lord Jesus. It is about Him, He determines the future and is its center.

The call to “behold” is to emphasize the wondrous and also importance of what can be seen. It is also meant to make him to look attentively.

Red is the color of blood, of bloodshed (Isaiah 63:2-Numbers :). But the Man does not fight. It is as if He is preparing Himself for it. The horses represent powers, empires yet to come. They stand behind the Man on the red horse. Without Him they cannot move a foot. All power in heaven and earth is given to Him (Matthew 28:18).

He stands “among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine”. The myrtle trees in the ravine, that means down deep, are a representation of the remnant of Israel with which the LORD connects Himself. He stands between them. The ravine indicates a state of humiliation. Myrtle trees are always mentioned in connection with the realm of peace. They seem to point to that time. Now it is not like that yet, they are still in the depths and not on a height.

Myrtle trees are evergreen trees and belong to the Feast of Booths (Nehemiah 8:15-:) and in the Messianic realm (Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13). They announce a time of blessing in the realm of peace. Restoration will begin in the depths, through humiliation and penance.

Israel is still humiliated by the peoples and is still the tail and not the head of the peoples. Yet God can already work this peace in the hearts of those who take their place in the depths, in humility, under the message of the prophet, who wants to reach the heart and conscience.

The horses are angelic powers – or winds or spirits (Zechariah 6:5) – that control the history of the world powers after Babylon. They are given the freedom to cross the earth. As said, they stand behind the Man. There is nothing in our lives or in history that happens without His permission (Proverbs 21:1).

The horses with the three different colors represent the three empires after Babylon, which have already fallen. The red horses represent the Medo-Persian empire. That empire has the same color as the horse on which the Man sits, possibly because at that time the Medo-Persian empire favored the Israelites (Ezra 6:1-:).

Verse 9

The Question for Explanation

Zechariah asks for an explanation. He gets it from an angel. His questioning attitude is a good one for a young man. This angel is probably the one by whom the LORD makes His announcements to Zechariah, and not the angel of the LORD (cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6). The angel does not give the answer himself, but indicates what Zechariah must look for to get the answer.

Verse 10

The Answer

The answer to Zechariah’s question is given by the Man, that is the Lord Jesus. He is the Source to Whom all answers, by whoever given, must be traced back. In His answer He shows His great interest in everything that happens on earth, especially in connection with His people Israel and His own (cf. Job 1:7; Job 2:2). Government power has been given to the nations for a time, but they are accountable to Him (Zechariah 1:11).

Verse 11

Accountability Rendered

The Man on the red horse (Zechariah 1:8) turns out to be here, in contrast to Zechariah 1:9, the Angel of the LORD. This is a special manifestation of the LORD Himself (cf. Genesis 16:7-1 Chronicles :; Genesis 22:11-Song of Solomon :; Exodus 3:2-Joshua :; Judges 6:14; Judges 6:22Judges 13:9-Job :; Judges 13:22). It is a manifestation of the Lord Jesus before He became Man. He represents God and is God Himself. All the (angelic) powers, represented in the different horses, are accountable to Him. He leads the history, He has everything under control.

All powers feel at peace, peace reigns internationally. In one place there is no such peace, and that is in Jerusalem. If there is no peace there, how can there be peace in the world? This must also appeal to the conscience of the people, for they too are quiet. Heaven is busy with Jerusalem and Judah, but the heathen people and also the people of God are busy with their own interests, they are looking for their own prosperity and ease.

Verse 12

How Long Is There No Compassion?

The answer of “the Angel of the LORD” is much like a prayer to the “LORD of hosts”. Here we see the Son of God praying on earth to His God in heaven. When He receives the messages, the reports, from the riders on the horses, it brings Him to pray and beg, to intercession. For although everything seems quiet, the reality is that God’s house and city are not quiet.

What follows in the whole book from now on can be seen as the result of the intercession of the Lord Jesus. A revival is often the answer to the prayer of faithful people, but here it is the answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus.

“These seventy years” are those of exile (Jeremiah 25:11-2 Kings :; Daniel 9:2). The exile is over, but people wonder why God is still angry with them when the appointed time of their punishment has passed. The answer comes in the following verses.

With regard to the church, God worked in the nineteenth century in a number of countries in believers interest in the church as His house, where the Lord Jesus wants to be in the midst of the two or three who want to come together as a church to His Name (Matthew 18:20). This working of God’s Spirit is a response to the intercession of the Lord Jesus. His care for the church is greater than ours ever can be.

Verse 13

Gracious Words, Comforting Words

The answer to prayer is given in “gracious words, comforting words” (cf. Isaiah 40:1-Exodus :; Isaiah 57:18; Joshua 23:14; Jeremiah 29:10). “Gracious [literally: good] words” are words that express what is good for someone. “Comforting words” are words a person needs because he is in misery.

Offering perspective gives comfort. Someone who sincerely cares for the people of God gets comfort. He makes the requested compassion known. The comfort takes shape in what God says to do with the people. The comfort of God is compared to the comfort of a child by his mother (Isaiah 66:13). Fear and restlessness are gone, there is security.

This also applies to us, personally and collectively. Suffering makes God come into the circumstances and makes Himself known to us as “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). God gives comfort through the Scriptures. The Scriptures testify of the Lord Jesus (John 5:39), He is their content. God also consoles through the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). He is the Advocate or Comforter. God’s Spirit takes from the Scriptures in a special way to comfort.

God also wants to use us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4; 2 Corinthians 7:13). True comfort is speaking to one’s heart (Ruth 2:13).

Verse 14

The LORD Commits Himself to His city

The prophet must preach or proclaim what the LORD has said to him. It is not only for him, but the whole people must hear it and be encouraged by it.

Jerusalem is the place of God’s dwelling and throne, the center of His government. He will not abandon that city permanently. Zion is the name of Jerusalem in view of the blessings the city will receive in the realm of peace. Zion means ‘sunny’ because there the “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wing” (Malachi 4:2). Zion, that is Mount Zion, is mentioned together with Jerusalem as the location of the temple. This determines and confirms that only Jerusalem qualifies as the capital of the kingdom of the Son of Man.

Verse 15

God’s Anger With the Nations

God is “very angry” with the nations He has used as a disciplinary rod for His people. He is very angry because they did not measure up, because they were so audacious to want to destroy Israel (Isaiah 47:6; Jeremiah 50:11-Job :; Jeremiah 51:24; Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:8Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 25:15Ezekiel 26:2; Obadiah 1:10-2 Chronicles :). They were unaware that they were only a disciplinary rod in God’s hand, but wanted to take advantage of the opportunity God had given to attack His people (Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:7). Here it also becomes clear that despite the ease that exists at that moment, God is still angry with them and therefore this ease can only be a limited ease with a limited duration.

That God “was only a little angry” is in relation to the duration of the anger (Isaiah 54:8), God’s anger is only for a short time. In Zechariah 1:2 it is about the intensity of His anger.

Verse 16

The LORD Returns to Jerusalem

The LORD returns with compassion to His people from whom He first had to withdraw because of their sins (Hosea 5:15). He remembers in His “in wrath … mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2). Just as He first came to Jerusalem with judgment, so now He comes with compassion.

There is no greater encouragement than to join hands in a work that has God’s complete interest and promotes His purpose. This is how the rebuilding of the temple is presented here. It is a privilege to be able to participate in it. First the house is built, then Jerusalem. God’s dwelling place comes first.

The one to whom “a measuring line” belongs, is entitled to what is measured (Zechariah 2:1; Job 38:5; Ezekiel 41:3; Ezekiel 45:6). The measuring line indicates God’s interest in observing the right situation of the city and to bless it according to His own wise plan at the right time. The measuring line here is a symbol of restoration (cf. Zechariah 2:1; Jeremiah 31:38-Matthew :), whereas it used to be a symbol of judgment (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11).

Verse 17

Overflow, Comfort and Choice

Zechariah must proclaim again by order of “the LORD of hosts”. He must proclaim that not only will there be rebuilding, but also that the cities will overflow with prosperity. Not only Jerusalem, but also the other cities will be restored. God is a God of abundance and He will overflow the cities with prosperity (cf. Proverbs 5:16).

The fulfillment of this verse lies in a future that even today still awaits its fulfillment. Never has the people known a time of such prosperity. The blessing that God has prepared for His people is yet to come.

The Persian empire will exist for some time. Then come the Greek and the Roman empire. How His people will have to suffer from them. In the year 70 AD Jerusalem was trampled by the nations and that is still the case today. But we do see in our days that God is busy making His words to Zechariah come true. Jerusalem has been in Jewish hands again since 1948.

We ourselves, as members of God’s church, have to deal with “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26). God also speaks good words and comforting words about this. It is our task as a church to show on earth the truth of God about the church.

Verses 18-19

Four Horns

Then Zechariah sees “four horns”. It is about the ‘horns’ and the number ‘four’. The four horns refer to the four empires. Now Babylon is also involved because it concerns an overview of the whole history (cf. Daniel 7:4-Judges :). All four of them banged Israel with their horns, i.e. in their power, in order to destroy the people. The inhabitants of Judah, Israel and Jerusalem as the capital of both empires have all been carried away and scattered by the nations.

God places Himself behind history by talking about a scattering that has already taken place by all four empires. That includes the kingdoms yet to come, for at this moment the power belongs to the Medes and Persians, the second empire.

Verses 20-21

Four Craftsmen

The vision of the four craftsmen contains a message of comfort. God says He has His own instruments to destroy the four horns, namely His craftsmen. They are His workmen, they are artists.

We see here the picture that all enemies of Israel will be killed in turn. They may be the different empires, each of which, in turn, will first conquer the previous empire and then be conquered by the next. Thus Babylon has subdued Assyria and Babylon has been conquered by the Medes and Persians.

The Lord Jesus will then conquer the last empire (Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:44-Romans :). This is a comfort for the remnant in the days of Zechariah. God shows that He has the answer to every evil power that attacks His people. In doing so, the Lord Jesus brings the final blow to the enemies of His people. Then all the world empires will be destroyed.

Because of the weight of their sins, Judah has been surrendered by God to the horns, the world empires. As a result, they are so depressed that they are unable to raise their heads (Job 10:15). But this situation will come to an end. God has prepared His craftsmen who will throw down the horns (Psalms 75:10). Whoever touches the city, however in ruins, touches the “apple of God’s eye”. That is why God’s judgment will come on the nations.

Also for us, God has His tools. He uses them in revivals. Every revival is a revelation of the power of God through His Spirit. Then evil is overcome. At the same time it results in a renewed attack by the devil. We already live in the kingdom of God, but it is still a kingdom in hidden form. We need tools that are used in God’s hand to build up His people. They also defend themselves against the enemy who never stops attacking what is of God. What builds up in the church will always overcome what breaks down.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Zechariah 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/zechariah-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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