The book of Zechariah was written between 520-522 BC the book opens in the 2nd year of Darius’ reign and the last date mentioned is the 4th year of his reign which give us a clue to the dating. This was a time of deep discouragement for the Jewish people who had returned from the Babylonian captivity. Most of the Jewish people returning from exile had lost their will to continue the daunting task of reclaiming the land. Nehemiah describes the mood and the destruction that they faced as they returned home. It seemed that God Himself had turned His back on them.
They had returned 18 years earlier from Babylon with hearts overflowing with joy. Within seven months of their return, the Levitical system of sacrifices had been restored. In the second month of the second year of their return, they had completed the foundations for their new Temple (Ezra 3:8). Initially, the work went well, until adversaries conspired to prevent the Jews from completing the work (Ezra 4). 18 years passed during which no construction was done on the Temple, and the people nearly gave up hope of ever rebuilding their place of worship. They had no leader and their spirits were broken. They questioned God’s faithfulness and wondered if they had returned to their land in vain? Why was their God silent? Had He forgotten them? Would He keep His word?
It was at this point that God rose up two prophets to speak and encourage them. The first was the Prophet Haggai. He was old enough to have had seen Solomon’s Temple before its destruction, as well as the years of exile endured by Judah. His words were a rebuke to the returning exiles: “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:4-5) “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Haggai charged them to go to Mount Moriah and rebuild their Temple, along with the city and its walls.
Two months after Haggai the Lord rose up the prophet Zechariah, who was young and brought God’s word to them for many years. Zechariah brought a more hopeful and encouraging word to the Jews who had returned from captivity. His very name spoke of hope, Zechariah means God remembers. He brought a message that told of Israel’s glorious future and events that would happen in the last days.
Through visions given to him by the Lord, Zechariah foretold the Messiah’s two comings. Throughout the book the Messiah is described. Zechariah makes it very clear in this book that God has not forsaken or forgotten His people or the city of Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1:1-6 -The book begins, “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, …” Darius was the second ruler of Persia after the death of Cyrus the Great. Cyrus was the king who had decreed that the Jewish people could return home following the Babylonian captivity. Zechariah identified himself as the son of Berechiah the grandson of Iddo.
His father Berechiah probably died young, since, in Ezra, he is called after his grandfather, “Zechariah the son of Iddo” Ezra 5:1; 6:14. He succeeded his grandfather in the office of “the priests, the chief of the fathers,” Zechariah was a priest as well as a prophet.
Zechariah spoke “the word of the Lord” (Zechariah 1:1). His first message to the returned exiles was that they were not to live as had their fathers. God’s anger with the preceding generation warned them about following a similar path. The pre-exilic prophets had come upon the scene one after another, crying, “Repent, and turn from your evil ways.” But the people refused to hear.
Therefore, God repeatedly reminded the following generations that if their fathers had obeyed the earlier prophets, they would not have been forced into 70 years of captivity in Babylon, nor would they have known the destruction of their glorious city and Solomon’s magnificent Temple.
Had they repented, God would have been willing to turn His wrath away and spare the city, just as He had spared a repentant Nineveh in the days of Jonah more than 200 years before. Once again He extended His mercy to them. “Turn to me,” He implored, “and I will turn to you” (Zechariah 1:3).
Zechariah called God’s people to get on with the Lord’s work. If they refused, they would experience the same discipline that God placed on their fathers. This message still speaks to us today. If we think we are exempt from God’s discipline when we ignore God’s word we are just deceiving ourselves. Zechariah’s word speaks to us even more so since the first coming of Messiah has already occurred and the second coming is right at the door.
The solution to Israel’s current state was to “return” (Zechariah 1:3) to the Lord. In all of Scripture that is the one prerequisite to receiving any of God’s blessings. The call to “return” is God’s call to reverse our direction; when we are following our own goals and aims. God asks us to do a 180 degree turn and make Him the goal and aim of our lives.
Although these people at great sacrifice had returned from Babylon they were discouraged and distraught. They had reinstituted the sacrificial system after being home only six months (Ezra 3:6). An attempt to rebuild the Temple had been initiated but enemies had disrupted their work (Ezra 4:1-5). They were unable to resume work on the Temple during the reign of Cyrus and into the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:5).
This was the situation when Zechariah began his prophecy (Zechariah 1:6). Zechariah challenged them to renew the vision of rebuilding the Temple. He reassured them that the sovereign God was still on His throne, and He was orchestrating a series of amazing events that would, in the end, bring it to pass.
When their adversaries heard that they were rebuilding the Temple, they first sought to form an alliance with them. Zerubbabel and the other leaders reused their offer. Then their enemies became open in their opposition and hired lobbyists to go before the king against them (Ezra 4:1-5). They succeeded in part when King Artaxerxes, influenced by their false accusations, commanded that work on the Temple be suspended (Ezra 4:23-24).
God responded to this by raising up Haggai and Zechariah, to bring His message to them. Then the Lord stirred up the elders of Israel to appeal directly to Darius the king (Ezra 5:5). The king looked into the problem and discovered that the Jews had every right to rebuild the Temple because Cyrus, had decreed its rebuilding. Darius not only renewed the previous decree but was willing to do all he could to assist them calling for their enemies to cooperate with them or there would be severe repercussions (Ezra 6:8-12). The result was that they built and finished the Temple.
Comparing verses 1 and 7 shows that these visions came on a night two to three months after Zechariah was given God’s command to challenge the people to forsake the ways of their fathers and turn to the Lord. Zechariah through a series of visions, assured the people that the Temple would be completed. God gave Zechariah eight visions that spoke of the rebuilding of the Temple and what would happen to the city of Jerusalem from that day until the end of time. These eight visions are recorded in the first six chapters of the book.
Zechariah 1:7-8 In this vision Zechariah sees two groups of angelic beings. The man riding the red horse is probably the same as the “Angel of the Lord.” Most Bible scholars identify the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament as the second person of the Trinity. In Exodus 23:20-21, God’s “name” was “in” this one called the Angel of the Lord. He is the One sent from the Father. In verse 13 he is called “the Lord.” The rider on the red horse was none other than God in the flesh. He was Israel’s Messiah, the pre-incarnate Christ, The first appearance of the “Angel of the Lord in Scripture is in Genesis 16 where He appears to Hagar and speak with the authority of God and having the power of God.
There are many other appearances of this angel of the Lord, Jacob wrestled with the Lord, Joshua saw him as the Lord of Hosts in Joshua 5:13 ff. The other riders, said in Zechariah 1:8 to be riding behind him on “red, sorrel, and white” horses, are only angels. The “angel who talked with me” is an angel sent to walk with the prophet and explain things to Zechariah in his visions (Zechariah 1:8;2:3;4:1,5;5:5;6:4).
At the center of this vision, and at the center of all of history, is the rider on the red horse, Who is the angel of the Lord” (Zechariah 1:11). He is said to be “among the myrtle trees” (Zechariah 1:8). The “myrtle,” or hadassah shrub which grew all over Israel and was a popular name for Israel. So Zechariah and the people understood this as an indication that the Lord was among His people.
To help us better understand what is unfolding, we need to consider Revelation 6, where four horsemen are pictured riding horses of colors similar to the horses in Zechariah, each representing something different. Revelation 6:4 describes a red horse and its rider: “Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.
To him was given a large sword.” The red horse is a prophetic symbol of war. When this horse and rider enter the scene, peace will be removed from the earth and fighting will break out and will result in the death of multitudes. The passage in Revelation 6 helps us understand this first vision given to Zechariah.
He had just encouraged the people to get on with the task of building the Temple and this rider along with the host of heaven were ready to fight for Israel reminding them that God is their strength and their shield. This was to be a source of encouragement for them and that they should not lose heart.
Through the Prophet Zechariah, the Lord gave to His people their first word of encouragement in 18 years. They were not alone the rider on the red horse was guarding them and was ready to do battle on their behalf. We who know the Lord should always remember that, just like Israel, believers have someone to lift them from discouragement and the uncertainties of the future. Jesus said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Believers have “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
God had not forgotten them, nor had He forsaken them. He was personally on the scene to accomplish His will and purposes for His Israel. With this in view, it was no time for discouragement. Their victory was assured. We will do well to remember that in the difficult times we are in. If we focus our eyes on the world around us, we can become just as disillusioned as the God’s people in Zechariah’s day.
But by living in the Word of God and focusing our eyes on the Lord, we gain a very different perspective, that in spite of the situations surrounding us, God’s promises and plans are being carried out before our very eyes. As children of God, we are part of that plan, and He is with us every step of the way
Beginning here we learn that Zechariah received eight visions from the Lord in one night. These visions concerned God’s purpose for the future of Israel, particularly Jerusalem, and the seat of King David’s dynasty and the site of the temple. None of these were fulfilled in Zechariah’s day. The broad theme of this section is the coming of the King. The purpose of these visions was to encourage the Jewish people who have returned from the captivity in Babylon so that they would persevere in rebuilding the temple.
There is a pattern in each of the eight visions: an introduction, an explanation of what the prophet saw, his request for clarification of its meaning, and the exposition. The question posed in Zechariah 1:12 was the same question that was in the hearts of the people. The 70 years of captivity had ended, but when would the Lord show His mercy and allow the rebuilding to move forward? The answer is found in Zechariah 1:16 – God gave them their answer, He was already there, the city belonged to Him, and the rebuilding of the Temple was only a matter of time.
The Lord had given them a promise, and He would fulfill it. This first vision emphasizes that God was lovingly jealous of His people and would restore them even though they were disturbed at present and the nations that oppressed them were living well. In the vision the angels serving the Lord reported on the state of the whole earth. This vision presents hope God’s people. The Word of the Lord always brings hope whether by vision or by the Scriptures themselves.
Zechariah 1:14-17 Zechariah was instructed to “Cry” out this that God was “jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion” (Zechariah 1:14b). The word jealousy comes from the root of the verb that means to burn or glow. God’s jealousy is very different from man’s jealousy. It is a pure and holy desire to guard and keep for Himself those who belong to Him. He was never removed from the needs of His children but concerned and involved in every event in their lives. He is, of course, no less concerned about us who trust in Him today.
The greatest comfort available to us is recognizing that nothing can come into the life of a believer that God does not anticipate. His loving care reaches into the smallest details of our lives. We can totally and confidently rest in Him. His care for the sparrow that falls illustrates His tender watch care over His own Matthew 10:29ff. The Lord expressed His deep love for Israel in verse 14 but then showed His righteous anger in the following verse. We can almost feel the heat of God’s anger reflected in this verse.
Just as Zechariah 1:14 expressed God’s love to the Jewish people, in Zechariah 1:15 His fury, wrath, and fierce anger were turned on the Gentile nations who, with God’s permission, had conquered His people. But His anger was raised because they had taken pleasure in afflicting Israel. Although He had sent them to conquer His people because of their sin and idolatry, the nations that God had raised up to punish His people for those 70 years had gone too far. They had gone so far as to try to annihilate His people, and now they faced God’s wrath. This is the basis of Zechariah’s second vision in Zechariah 1:18-21.
The phrase “the nations that are at ease or feel secure” has a deeper meaning when you consider how this phrase is used in other portions of Scripture. In at least eight places where this phrase appears it is used in a derogatory way. (2 Kings 19:28 “insolence”). It is a description of arrogance. God’s anger, or “zeal,” was aroused by this “ease”. The word arrogant is also used in Psalm 123:4, to describe those who were proud. In Amos 6:1 the phrase is used of those trusting “in the mountain of Samaria” rather than in the Lord. This describes an attitude when we trust in anything other than in the Lord. Our attitude should be as in Psalm 20:7.
The Lord was aroused in anger with those nations who went beyond His bounds of discipline to the Jewish people, displayed in their pride and arrogance. Zechariah was used by the Lord to speak of judgment on tall nations who dared to come against Israel to destroy them.
At the same time, he would sound the word of blessing in store for Jerusalem. This was a great message of hope to the remnant of Jews living in the valley south of Jerusalem. Frustrated in their every effort to rebuild their Temple, they received words of encouragement. In essence, God said, In spite of what you may have thought, I’m in your midst. Your enemies will not prevail. I will deal with you in mercy.
Another basic thought arises from the Hebrew here in these verses. God’s words are expressed in the prophetic perfect tense, speaking of a future event as if it had already occurred. That event is the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem, and it was their assurance that their immediate desire would be fulfilled.
The Temple would be completed because God Himself would see to it that it was built. But the near-term building of the Temple was only a partial fulfillment of the promise. A greater Temple was yet to be built, with a greater high priest. That part of the fulfillment waits the day of the literal kingdom of God on the earth.
The promise that “a line shall be stretched over Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:16) refers to a day in Israel’s future. In Zechariah 2:1-5 a young man is told not to measure the city because it will be so large that it will not be measurable. In that day the glory of God will dwell once again in the city and He will protect it. There will be no need of an army. The measuring line speaks of a call to prepare for the days of prosperity that would come to these pioneers who returned to a land that was in ruin.
God’s blessings on Jerusalem would be seen in their lifetime, but even greater blessings lay ahead in the kingdom age, much like we view Jerusalem today. We live in a day when we can see how this prophecy might come true, but for nearly 2 thousand years such ideas seemed impossible. This is a reminder that God is in control what seems impossible to man at one time with God can be in a moment very possible.
Jerusalem will be His city with the Messiah Jesus reigning as King. It is a biblically established fact that God’s beloved city is at the very heart of His plans for the future. During the Millennial Kingdom, Jerusalem, the city of peace, will finally be at rest and will know the peace it has so long desired. We can be assured that as Jerusalem will know peace when Jesus returns to rule there, we, as individuals, can have peace with God now through faith in the one who will bring peace to Jerusalem.
The way of peace with God and the peace of God is found through the Prince of Peace who provided it through his death on a cross 2,000 years ago. Those who have come to understand what He did on that cross in taking away sin and that He removed it forever with his resurrection know that peace today. It can be experienced by all who will come to Him and one day the world will all experience that peace when He returns as Zechariah predicts.
Zechariah 1:18-19 – This first vision of Zechariah emphasized that God was lovingly jealous for His people and that He would restore them even though the nations that were oppressing them were living well. At the conclusion of the first vision, the Lord gave His assurance that He had returned to Jerusalem and that the Temple would be rebuilt. There are repeating motifs in prophecy; a near and far fulfillment.
We have an example of this in Hosea 11:1. In the same way there is a near fulfillment of this prophecy regarding the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Israel and the far fulfillment that will be fulfilled in the last days. We are living in the days when these events are at the door.
The fact that God has once again taken up the cause of His people after His discipline of them is indeed good news to the remnant of Jews gathered in the city who were waiting for an answer from the Lord. The remnant could take comfort in the fact that the Lord had chosen Jerusalem as His own, and they would prosper in the place of their inheritance.
Zechariah is now given a vision of four horns in Zechariah 1:18-19. Grateful but exhausted after receiving the first vision, Zechariah closed his eyes. Perhaps he had begun to fall asleep. But God had much more to reveal to him about the future of His city and His people. Altogether Zechariah received five different visions from the angel sent to him (Zechariah 1:18;2:1;5:1;5:5;6:1). In the second vision he sees four horns (Zechariah 1:18). He asked the angel what they meant in Zechariah 1:19. Likely because of Daniel’s visions he knew that a horn represented power or kingship (Daniel 7:24). In Daniel 7::21 we learn that each horn represented a Gentile world power.
He was given a parallel message to the one given to Daniel (Daniel 2:36-44;7:3-7). Once again we learn that we must primarily interpret Scripture using Scripture. This is the way that Revelation becomes discernible by knowing the prophecies of the prophets of the Old Testament. Four horns, or Gentile powers, would affect the course of history of his people, his nation, and the city of Jerusalem.
By comparing parallel passages in other prophetic Scriptures, particularly Daniel, we know these nations or powers to be Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire, Greece, and Rome. These powers all figure in the future as well. We can see these things happening when we consider that they represent Iran and Iraq, and Greece and Rome are part of the European Union. As each of these powers encountered Israel, they accomplished a specific element of prophetic truth.
Zechariah 1:20-21 -The craftsmen are men trained and skilled at working with their hands. Four of them now appear in this vision. They become involved with the horns, or Gentile powers. The powers were so overwhelming, we are told, “that no one could raise his head,” (Zechariah 1:21). No national power was strong enough to prevent them from conquering Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem and scattering the people.
Then something unusual happens each one of these craftsmen become horns. On several occasions in Scripture, the Lord has allowed a person or a nation to punish either a portion or all of the Jewish people for their sin and idolatry. A Biblical truth in both Old and New Covenants is that whom the Lord loves he disciplines. When God’s children turn away from Him, He brings His discipline that they might come to their senses, confess their sins and be restored to Him and to others.
However there have been many times when the Lord allowed a nation or an individual leader to punish His people, that punishment was often inflicted with vengeance exceeding what was necessary to accomplish God’s purpose. In response to such excesses from those nations or individuals, God responded with judgment upon them. This was the case with Edom in the past and with Assyria and many other nations that were raised up by the Lord to discipline His people.
This truth explains the relationship between the horns and the craftsmen. God would raise up a horn, or power, to punish Israel for her sin. When that power overstepped their bounds, punishing God’s people beyond His intention, the Lord would intervene by raising up another nation and leader (craftsman) to subdue them. The new craftsman, in turn, would rise to empire status and, in the process, gain power, prestige, and wealth. The new empire usually lasted for several hundred years before being replaced by a new horn.
Each new horn was used to carry out a phase of disciplining Israel when the nation began to fall away from the Lord. In due time, each new horn, in its turn, overstepped God’s limitations, and, in response, the Lord raised up another nation. The cycle has happened over and over again. In this vision the chief nations or craftsmen are the four major empires named in the Scriptures (Babylonian Empire, 586 to 450 b.c.; Medo-Persian Empire, 450 to 330 b.c.; Greek Empire, 330 to 166 b.c.; and Roman Empire, 63 b.c. to 330 a.d.).
The Babylonian Empire, identified as the first horn, was the first Gentile world power revealed in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2) and the later dream and vision of Daniel (Daniel 7). The first craftsman was the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medes and Persians succeeded Babylon to become the next horn. Eventually they too became oppressors of God’s people and fell victim to the next craftsman, the Greek Empire, led by Alexander the Great and followed by his 4 generals who become mini empires one of which figures in the events of Hanukkah. Finally, Rome, the last great empire, came on the scene as the craftsman that destroyed the Greek Empire and its mini offshoots.
It is interesting to note that the fourth craftsman is missing. No nation has come on the world scene to decisively depose Rome, unless you consider the U.S. And we should consider that the Roman Empire crushed the Jewish people so harshly that they were sent into dispersion for nearly two thousand years. Although Rome was fragmented by internal corruption, the empire was never really destroyed. The spirit of Rome still exists, and, as the Scriptures point out, a major portion of that empire will be reassembled in the end times. It will be a marriage of something like the EU and the religious/political kingdom of the Vatican.
Who is the fourth and final craftsman or Horn? Daniel refers to Him as a “rock cut out the mountain … but not without hands” (Daniel 2:45) that will fall on all the Gentile nations, destroy them, and become the ruler of a kingdom that “the God of heaven set up … which shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). These words make it clear that the stone is Jesus the Messiah, and the kingdom will be established and ruled over by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Messiah Jesus. When He takes His throne all earthly governments will bow their knees to Him.
Jesus will rule over the earth from Jerusalem in the midst of born again and sanctified Israel, the very nation that the other horn kingdoms have sought to destroy. The spirit of the world, the spirit that defies the rule of God continues to attempt to destroy the Jewish people trying to thwart God’s certain plan for his destruction. Anti-Semitism is a demonic plan to wrest control of the world from God and His King and to destroy His people and those who have been made partakers with her, the true followers of the God of Israel. Scriptures warns us that these kind of activities will only worsen as the world moves deeper into the end times and will gain a stronghold as the Antichrist vents Satan’s wrath on the Jewish people during the Tribulation period.
Zechariah’s vision indeed reveals that this fourth craftsman will come to do His work in harmony with the perfect will of God. Jesus will, once and for all, rid the world of Anti-Semitism and establish God’s kingdom in the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, and among the people of God who have been so long troubled by Gentile oppressors. It is this assurance that should cause us to be of good courage no matter how terrible the world situation becomes, we live in the confidence that God is still on the throne. He will overcome. Jesus will win the battle, and we who belong and abide in Him will, with and through Him overcome the world.
What a blessing Zechariah’s prophecy was for the God’s people living in Jerusalem who had returned from the Babylonian captivity. Even if nothing more had been written, they would have learned four important things: Their Temple would soon be rebuilt; prosperity would return to their land; God would comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem for His own; and God would eventually bring judgment to the Gentile nations. He did it then and He will do it again in the Last Days.