Explore the Bible Series

July 15, 2007


Background Passage: Zechariah 1:1-3:10

Lesson Passage: Zechariah 1;1-6; 2:7-13


Introduction: Old Testament scholars have debated the unity of the Book of Zechariah for years.  Many detect a radical break between Chapters Nine and Ten, and these scholars tend to date the second section of the book quite late, long after the life of Zechariah.  If Bible students have a particular interest in the contours of that debate, I recommend Dr. E.J. Young’s excellent little summary in An Introduction to the Old Testament (See pp. 277-383). Young provides coherent, concise arguments for the unity of the book, arguments that I find persuasive and helpful.


Zechariah is the most apocalyptic of the Minor Prophets, and these prophetic elements provide a challenge for Bible students.  During seminary years, Dr. Huber Drumright occasionally compared apocalyptic literature to viewing a mountain range; sometimes it is difficult to gauge the distance from one mountain (prophetic event) to another.  These prophecies, at times, seem a bit puzzling, and I claim no ingenious insight into the ultimate meaning of much of what appears in Zechariah.  Nevertheless, this lesson will attempt to decipher difficult passages and shed some light on Zechariah’s meaning.  The task calls for humility and studious discipline.


The Book of Zechariah shares a similar historical background with the Prophecy of Haggai; therefore, this lesson includes comments from the previous lesson concerning the historical dynamics that shaped the ministries of these men.


Material from Last Week’s Lesson


God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to challenge the backslidden conditions of Post-Exilic Judah in the late Sixth Century B.C.  As we shall see, the exiles had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple (under the leadership of Zerubbabel and, later, Ezra) and the city walls (under the leadership of Nehemiah).  Sadly, after an initial period of energetic progress, work on the Temple had come to a standstill.  Two factors contributed to this unfortunate situation. First, the builders met with significant, threatening opposition to the work.  Samaritan and Persian government officials, led by the ungodly Rehum and Shimshai, vigorously resisted rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, and their opposition resulted in sinister schemes and violent threats (See Ezra 4).  The Jews, apprehensive of their powerful opponents, discontinued the work because they feared these adversaries.  Second, affluence seduced the Jews into spiritual indifference, and, while they lived in paneled houses, reconstruction on God’s house languished.  Haggai and Zechariah addressed this disgraceful circumstance and urged the people to renew their commitment to serve the Lord.


After early progress on Temple renovation the work had discontinued, and the Jews abandoned their work, devoting themselves to creating comfortable lives for themselves.  Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah and predated Ezra and Nehemiah by about seventy-five or eighty years. The book takes great pains to date the prophetic oracles of Haggai, and it is interesting that the prophet used secular, Gentile time markers to date these oracles.




Lesson Outline:


I.                   The Theme of the Book of Zechariah (1:1-6)

A.    Introduction (v. 1):  Zechariah introduces himself as “the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo.”  Young surmised that this Iddo might well be identified with the man mentioned in Nehemiah 12:1-16.  If so, Zechariah descended from the line of Jewish priests, and he may be the man mentioned in Nehemiah 12:16. The prophet received his message during the reign of Darius, about the same time of the ministry of Haggai.

B.     God’s vow to return to his people (vv. 2-6): Zechariah reminded Judah of the Lord’s anger with the previous generations.  They had prostituted themselves to idol worship, and God had unleashed his indignation with a rebellious, defiled, and inattentive people.  Prophetic voices resounded through out the land, but the prophets’ words fell on deaf ears.  Years of severe chastening had followed, but now, God invited his people to return to him.  How wonderful these words must have sounded to the Jews, "Return to me…and I will return to you.”


II.                The First Vision: The Horsemen (1:7-17)   

A.    The appearance of the horseman and his retinue (vv. 7-9): A rider, seated on a red horse, appeared to the prophet, and three other horsemen attend the central figure in the vision.  Zechariah expressed his perplexity at the vision and asked an angel to identify the riders.

B.     The identity of the horsemen (vv. 10-11): a man, standing among myrtle trees observed that these angelic beings had ridden throughout the earth, and they concluded, as they rode, that the earth was at peace.

C.     The angels’ intercession for Judah (vv. 12-170:  Judah was the notable exception for this prevailing peace in the world, and the angel wondered when God would restore the Jews to their former glory.  God’s anger, kindled against the pagan nations, would be restrained no more, and the Lord planned to return to Judah in mercy.  The prophecy promised that Jehovah would rebuild the Temple as a token of his kindliness toward Judah.


III.             The Second Vision: The Horns and Smiths (1:18-21): This brief oracle signaled the destruction of nations that had troubled (or will trouble) Judah.  Since the prophet singled out Judah, the horns (ancient symbols of power) probably represent Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome; therefore, from the perspective of the prophet, the oracle had both past and future implications. Like metal smiths who might destroy a flawed horn, God will send his messengers to devastate the four nations.


IV.             The Third Vision: The Man with the Measuring Line (2:1-13)

A.    Zechariah’s encounter with the man (vv. 1-5): The prophet saw a young man, a builder who planned to measure out the dimensions of rebuilt Jerusalem.  In a sense his task is futile. An angel told the man that Jerusalem’s population will swell beyond the capacity of containing walls.  God will act as a wall of fire around the inhabitants and his glory will fill the city.  This symbol recalls the fiery pillar of the Exodus.

B.     A glorious invitation (vv. 6-9): God summoned the exiles to return to Jerusalem.  Of course, many of the people had returned during Zechariah’s day, but the majority remained in Babylonian captivity.  However, a day would soon come when Jehovah would bid all the exiles to return.

C.     A call to worship (vv. 10-13): notice the balance between singing and silence.  The paragraph begins with the tumult of praise. God’s promise to dwell with his people should be met with exuberant worship:  nevertheless, the glory of this deliverance must also evoke a reverent silence before the majestic presence of the Lord.  All true worship must include both exuberance and reverence.


V.                The Fourth Vision: The High Priest Joshua (3:1-10)

A.    The cleansing of the priesthood (vv. 1-5): The High Priest Joshua, in a sense, symbolizes the spiritual defilement of the nation.  The priests stood in a mediating position between God and the people; yet, the ancient priests had defiled themselves with the paganism that characterized the nations of the Middle East. Notice the presence of Satan in this scene.  The Great Adversary stood ready to accuse the high priest.  Also note that the Lord offered no defense of Joshua; rather, he provided a gracious cleansing from all that defiled him. Zechariah used two analogies to reflect God’s grace toward Joshua.

1.      a brand plucked from the fire: this image depicts God’s mercy toward the priesthood and the people. The brand, engulfed in the fire, is snatched from certain destruction.

2.      removal of defiled garments: The garments, of course, reflect the moral defilement of the priesthood.  The angel commands that attendants remove the filthy clothing and replace the soiled items with clean vestments.

B.     A messianic promise (vv. 6-10): After the attendants purified Joshua, the angel gave the priest a solemn charge.  The redeemed servant must walk in righteousness before the Lord, and, if he remains pure, God would grant him a place among the hosts of heaven.  The Lord pledged to raise up a Branch (See Isaiah 11:1) and a Stone (Psalm 118:22) to bring redemption to the House of Judah. The “seven eyes”, it seems, represent God’s watchful care over his people, and the engraved inscription denotes his determination to forgive the sins of Judah. The vine and fig tree reflect provision and protection for those whom God has redeemed.