A Summary of Zechariah: So, for the last year and a few weeks, we’ve grown accustomed to turning our attention to the book of Job. But unfortunately we came to the end of that book and now we need to move on to something else.
And as I prayed, a few different possibilities were in my mind. Finally, it seemed that the Lord had placed a specific book in my mind as the next subject of our study.
But it’s a really hard book. It’s really rather cryptic. And for that reason I initially despaired of even trying to seek to explain this book in front of all of you. But the Lord is able to give us understanding and help with this, so we’ll press on.
A Summary of Zechariah: In Brief
The book I’m referring to has a number of very interesting accounts. Allow me to lead you on for a little while longer! This book has horses and myrtle trees. There are four horns and four craftsmen. This book has a man with a measuring line, and the High Priest Joshua standing before the Lord being accused by Satan. There’s a candelabra being fed with olive oil. And don’t forget the flying scroll and the woman in the ephah being sent to Shinar. Chariots, a crown of gold, questions about fasting, and oracles about the nations and about Israel all are featured in this book. And this book – which is in the Old Testament – features several exciting but veiled references to the coming Messiah.
And so, of course, the book that I’m referring to and which we’ll be studying for a little while is the Old Testament book of Zechariah. So, let’s turn there.
A Summary of Zechariah: The Lord Remembers
Now, the name Zechariah (zakar + yah) means “Yah Remembers” – the LORD remembers. Well, what does the Lord remember? We’re going to see in this book that the Lord is displayed as remembering his people, Israel. He hadn’t forgotten them.
A Summary of Zechariah: Exile
Why is that important? Well, because the Jews had been in exile. Look at Zechariah chapter 1, verses 1-2.
KJV Zechariah 1:1 ¶ 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, saying,
2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.
Let’s skip verse 3 and read verses 4-6.
KJV Zechariah 1:4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings:
but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me,
saith the LORD.
5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?
6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?
and they returned and said,
Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us,
according to our ways, and according to our doings,
so hath he dealt with us.
Now, this is pointing to the reality of the exile of Judah by Babylon. A long time prior to Zechariah’s ministry, God had been calling these people to repent. They refused. And so, God had to send them out of their land for 70 years.
Now, at this point as Zechariah is prophesying, God is speaking with the children and grandchildren of those exiles. And he does so – it says here – in the second year of Darius.
By the way, that’s one of three time-references in this entire book – in chapter 1, verse 1. The second time-reference that we’re given is in chapter 1, verse 7. And then the last time-reference we’re given is in chapter 7, verse 1.
And we’ll try to get into the details of the time frame discussed in this book as we deal with the individual chapters and verses throughout this study. But suffice it to say that a certain number of Jews had returned from Babylon at this point in history. And they were charged by King Cyrus of the Persians – and by the Lord himself – to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
But the people got discouraged.
Is there anyone in here like that? You have a task that you know that God wants you to perform but it’s hard and you’re ready to quit. That’s what was happening in Israel in Zechariah’s time.
And so, God sent this prophet, Zechariah – as well as the prophet Haggai – and their job was to encourage the people to continue the work that God had for them.
So, in the midst of this situation, God has the following message of encouragement for his covenant people, the Jews. That’s verse 3 of chapter 1 of Zechariah.
KJV Zechariah 1:3 Therefore say thou unto them,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts;
Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts,
and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. That’s the message that the Lord gives Zechariah to start off this book of the recorded prophecies that were given to him. God is ready to receive his formerly disobedient people. He’s ready to restore and forgive. He’s giving them another chance. This is a hopeful book. The Lord indeed is remembering (zakar-ing!) his people.
And in God’s manifold wisdom, he doesn’t choose to convey this message of hope and encouragement in a straightforward manner. Instead, God gives visions to Zechariah, which the prophet then records for us to read now thousands of years after they were originally given.
So, in chapter 1 and verse 8 and running through to the end of Zechariah chapter 6, the prophet relates to us 9 visions. And all of them contain some message of hope for God’s previously forgotten – but now remembered people!
A Summary of Zechariah: First Vision
Look at chapter 1, verse 8…
KJV Zechariah 1:8 I saw by night,
and behold a man riding upon a red horse,
and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom;
and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.
And that’s it. That’s literally what Zechariah sees. Now, this isn’t happening in the physical material realm. This is a vision. That’s very important to note.
We need to read the Bible literally. And part of that literal reading is taking the author seriously when he tells you that what he’s conveying to you he saw in a vision. Not in this material world – but rather something that God portrayed to the prophet.
So, the prophet isn’t saying that he woke up at night to peek out his window and then he saw myrtle trees and horses of several different colors. God is giving him this vision in a supernatural way. But he is literally seeing these things even if they are not literally, physically, materially there.
Now, sometimes, these visions can be confusing to us. And while that’s sort of embarrassing to us and humbling and maybe even a little frustrating, we’re actually in good company. Because Zechariah himself couldn’t understand what these things meant either. Verse 9…
KJV Zechariah 1:9 Then said I,
O my lord, what are these?
And the angel that talked with me said unto me,
I will shew thee what these be.
And of course the angel explains what Zechariah is seeing. These horses go throughout the earth and discover that all the nations are calm and peaceful at this point in history. And yet, Jerusalem and greater-Israel are in ruins. God’s place is desolate.
And so, the Lord speaks words of comfort. He expresses his anger toward the nations and then promises to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and repopulate Jerusalem.
And while certainly some of this was fulfilled in the years between the Old and New Testaments, its ultimate fulfillment will occur in the Millennium when Jesus the Jewish Messiah reigns in this great city of Jerusalem.
So, that’s Zechariah’s first encouraging vision. God is going to favor Israel once more.
A Summary of Zechariah: Second Vision
So, let’s move on to the second vision. Read chapter 1, verse 18.
KJV Zechariah 1:18 ¶ Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
Now, mind you, this is still in Zechariah’s dream vision. We’re in his dream visions until the end of chapter 6.
And what Zechariah goes on to relate in this second vision is that the horns – probably looking to him like literal animal horns – that they represent the nations that have oppressed God’s people the Jews. And these nations are the ones that are now at ease, as the horsemen just attested to.
But there’s good news. God is going to send some craftsmen to shave down and cut off these horns so that they won’t scatter God’s people anymore.
Now, are God’s covenant people the Jews still scattered? They are. Are there still nations that are seeking to scatter them yet again? Yes. But there’s a day coming when that will no longer be the case.
And the Jews didn’t experience this deliverance in Zechariah’s time or in the time leading up to Jesus’s first advent. They’re not experiencing this today. So, can you guess when this will finally happen for them? Once more, in the Millennium when Jesus their Messiah King and ours is reigning in Jerusalem.
So, that’s the end of Zechariah’s second vision. God will deliver Israel from their enemies.
A Summary of Zechariah: Third Vision
So, let’s move on to Zechariah’s third vision.
Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand in chapter 2, verse 1. And that prompts him to make the following comment in verse 2.
KJV Zechariah 2:2 Then said I,
Whither goest thou?
And he said unto me,
To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
Well, that’s still not so clear to us or to the prophet. And so, an angel comes and explains a bit more to Zechariah. Basically, the idea is that Jerusalem will once again be inhabited. And that God will protect her and actually dwell in her.
And because of that, God calls for his scattered people to come back to the land and to escape from the places to which they were previously scattered.
And then we get this awesome glimpse of the Lord sending… the Lord to deliver the Jews from the nations that are oppressing them and then to personally dwell in their midst.
And the result is that not only will the Jews be gathered to the Lord, but even many nations will be as well.
So, that’s Zechariah’s third vision. Jerusalem will be repopulated, dwelt in, and protected by Jesus – their Messiah and ours.
A Summary of Zechariah: Fourth Vision
Let’s briefly consider then his fourth vision.
Read chapter 3, verse 1.
KJV Zechariah 3:1 ¶ And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD,
and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
And so, with Joshua we have the representation of Israel’s religious system and leadership. The problem that will become apparent as you read through this vision is that Joshua is in filthy clothes. Israel’s religion had become defiled by gross idolatry and immorality and disobedience. That’s why God had to kick them out of the land.
But that’s not the emphasis of this vision. The emphasis is on restoration.
The Lord rebukes Satan – not listening to the accusations that he was hurling against the High Priest. And then Joshua is clothed with fine and clean garments, signifying that God has once again cleansed his people’s religious system and leaders.
And that’s just the beginning. God was going to do something much better in the future. Because it’s here in this vision that God prophesies that he is going to bring forth the man he identifies mysteriously as “The Branch.”
And we learn here and in the book of Jeremiah that this Branch is the Messiah – whom we now know to be Jesus of Nazareth. And this vision will end by speaking of the peace that this one will bring to Israel and the whole world.
So, that’s the fourth vision. A cleansed and restored religious system and leadership – ultimately, preparing the way for the ultimate High Priest – Jesus the Messiah.
A Summary of Zechariah: Fifth Vision
Time for Zechariah’s fifth vision.
And we find that in chapter 4. Let’s read verses 1-3.
KJV Zechariah 4:1 ¶ And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
2 And said unto me,
What seest thou?
And I said,
I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
And so, that’s what he sees. So… what does that mean?! That’s what we all wonder.
And again, thankfully Zechariah is just as in-the-dark as we are! And so, he asks the angel about what this means.
And the Lord then gives a message to Zerubbabel that’s based on this vision. Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah at this time. And God wants him to know that God will use him to rebuild the temple – not by might nor by power – but by God’s spirit. Just like the oil in the vision constantly was being supplied to the candle contraption – so too God’s spirit would continually provide the needed grace and strength for Judah’s governor to finish the work on the temple.
And toward the end of this vision, Zechariah asks about those two olive trees and olive branches that provide the oil. And God says that these are the two anointed that stand before him. And so, I honestly don’t at this point feel prepared to give the interpretation of that. One source says that these represent Joshua and Zerubbabel. I’m just not quite sure yet. And that’s why we’ll be going through each of these chapters in some detail in the coming weeks.
But, the big idea is that not only has Israel’s religious system been set right – Israel’s governing system has been fixed. Both their High Priest and now their Governor are both receiving God’s help and grace and acceptance. That’s the big idea behind this fifth vision.
A Summary of Zechariah: Sixth Vision
So, let’s move on to the sixth vision.
Now, the sixth and seventh visions as I count them seem to be related in that they picture something flying in the air.
So, let’s become acquainted with the sixth vision in chapter 5, verse 1.
KJV Zechariah 5:1 ¶ Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
Or a scroll that was flying. And we’ll see that this scroll is a full 30 feet long and 15 feet wide!
And we’re going to see the activity of this scroll. It destroys sinners – people who are transgressing against God’s law.
And that seems to be perhaps not be so encouraging. And yet, we need to recall that much of the suffering and misery in this life is caused by people sinning against others. In fact, this was a large part of the reason that all Israel needed to be exiled – they couldn’t stop sinning against and abusing one another. And God was gracious with them for a long time. And that actually encouraged them to keep on sinning in more extreme ways.
But God is picturing a time when it’s as if his law flies through the air and into homes and deals immediately with sin. This will be a good thing.
And I think this is picturing a time when Jesus the Messiah reigns on earth and sin is dealt with promptly and appropriately.
A Summary of Zechariah: Seventh Vision
So, let’s get to the seventh vision.
It begins in chapter 5, verse 5 with an ephah – a large container – going out of the land of Israel.
But what’s really interesting in this vision is the content of that container. Look at verse 7.
KJV Zechariah 5:7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead:
and this [is/!] a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
So, the heavy lead lid of this ephah is lifted and we’re confronted with a woman sitting in it. And again, let’s remind ourselves that this is a dream vision outside of the realm of time and space. This is not a literal woman with flesh and blood and a soul. This is the portrayal of such a woman.
My point is – don’t feel bad for the woman. This vision could have the warning: “No women were harmed in the giving of this vision.” This is not advocating putting women in ephahs, either! Don’t do that.
So, we’re told then that this woman is wickedness! That’s the meaning of this woman. Wickedness is being taken out of the land of Israel – purged out.
But she ends up somewhere. And that’s in the land of Babylon, where there will be a place made for her.
God’s temple goes up in Jerusalem and as a result, wickedness needs to find its own place somewhere else.
So, to summarize visions 6 and 7, sin will be dealt with in Israel and wickedness will be cast out. And in its place, the Messiah will rule in Jerusalem.
A Summary of Zechariah: Eighth Vision
That gets us to the eighth vision of Zechariah.
Let’s read chapter 6, verse 1.
KJV Zechariah 6:1 ¶ And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold,
there came four chariots out from between two mountains;
and the mountains were mountains of brass.
So, we get the picture of strength. And we’ll see that there are four horses, all of different colors. And they go forth to the south and to the north. And they quiet the north country – perhaps Babylon.
And I hope to find more significance in this vision as we study it in a more concentrated fashion later on. But for now, that’s what we see – God’s spirits as he calls these horses going forth to put down rebellion from the nations. And this certainly will be the case when Jesus the Messiah reigns.
A Summary of Zechariah: Ninth Vision
Alright, on to the ninth and final vision.
This vision ends chapter 6. And in it we see some exiles coming from Babylon to make a crown. They put that crown on Joshua the High Priest. Well, that’s strange because priests don’t wear crowns!
Ah, but there will be a priest who wears the crown in Israel someday. And that’s this enigmatic figure referred to once more as “The Branch.” He’s going to rebuild the temple.
Wait – I thought Zerubbabel builds the temple! He does – but there’s going to be another one after that! And Jesus the Messiah will build it.
And what’s more – he will rule as a priest and a king. Kings and priests were separate offices in the Old Testament. But Jesus will be both king and priest. I should say, he is right now both king and priest!
And that’s the end of the visions in this book.
A Summary of Zechariah: Fasting
The next section runs from chapter 7, verse 1 to chapter 8, verse 23.
And the situation is laid out for us in chapter 7, verses 1-3.
KJV Zechariah 7:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
3 And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying,
Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
So, the question is whether they should weep and fast. Apparently, after the exile – to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the destruction of the former temple, these Jews had been holding some sort of formal religious observance marking these events with some level of somberness and sorrow.
And God’s response will be one that we’ve heard numerous times in the Old Testament. And that is to say that God was aware of their external religious devotion – fasting and weeping – and yet, that fasting wasn’t really for him. The external show of humility and repentance was not matched by the internal reality of a truly repentant heart.
And so, God calls on them to do what he wanted their ancestors to do. Not the external religious devotions devoid of all internal reality – but he wanted their hearts and he wanted them to do right. And that God’s big emphasis through to the end of chapter 7. Live right! Don’t expect to live as a pagan and then do some little religious exercises and consider yourself to be fine with God. No – live it! Live your faith.
And then God begins chapter 8 breaking out with wonderful magnificent promises to restore Israel and Judah and to do them tremendous good and to bless them. And he just wants them to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and to do right.
And then finally at the of chapter 8, the Lord returns to their original question about fasting. And God basically says that he’s going to make those fasts into feasts. He’s going to turn their sorrow into singing.
And the result will be that all sorts of nations will come and seek out the Jews because they want to go up to the House of the Lord in Jerusalem! What a day that will be!
A Summary of Zechariah: Burdens
Now, we still have chapters 9-14 left.
And these chapters consist of prophesies concerning a large range of time – from Zechariah’s day through to the Millennium when Jesus the Messiah is reigning in Jerusalem.
A Summary of Zechariah: Burden 1
Chapter 9 starts with an oracle against an area that extends from up north in modern-day Syria down through the Mediterranean coast near Israel.
And many of those nations and cities in that area will be destroyed. But God will protect Jerusalem in that day.
And then we have an amazing reference to Israel’s king coming lowly and seated on a donkey – which is referenced by the Gospel writer concerning Jesus’s coming into Jerusalem at the start of his passion week.
And to the end of chapter 9 there seem to be alternating times of military loss and victory for the Jews, with victory being the permanent condition eventually for them.
Chapter 10 then is addressed to the Jews and is full of promises of future strengthening of them and answering of their prayers.
Chapter 11 then is addressed to Lebanon at the beginning with threats of burning and destruction.
And then for the majority of that chapter there’s this talk of shepherds and sheep and staffs being broken and 30 silver pieces being given to the potter and a foolish shepherd who will not care for the flock. And I trust that we’ll gain more insight into that chapter as we study it in detail.
A Summary of Zechariah: Burden 2
Then, chapter 12. It’s a burden concerning Israel.
All the nations one day will come against Jerusalem. And God will protect that city and fight for it and destroy those nations.
And then at that time, the people of Israel will all mourn when they see the one whom they’ve pierced. We all know who that is! Jesus the Messiah!
Then in chapter 13 God tells of a time when he will open a fountain of cleansing for Israel. And he’ll destroy all idols. And there will be no more false prophets in the land.
But in the midst of that discussion, God foretells striking his shepherd and having the sheep scatter. And from there into chapter 14 God speaks of a major battle that’s to occur in Israel. But God will fight for them and carve with his foot a valley into the midst of the Mount of Olives and living waters will flow from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea and Mediterranean Sea. The Lord will rule the whole world in that day and every nation will come to Jerusalem to worship Jesus and everything will be utterly holy to the Lord.
And that’s the book of Zechariah. I hope this introduction will help us see the big picture as we get into the details in the coming months.