I. The Kingdom Is Coming (Zechariah 1:1–8:23)
I. The Kingdom Is Coming (1:1–8:23)
A. Kingdom Repentance (1:1-6)
1:1 To a people crushed and demoralized by years of captivity, oppression, and occupation, the prophet Zechariah offered a message of inspiration and encouragement so that his people might continue the reconstruction of God’s temple. It had ceased years before due to enemy opposition (see Ezra 4:1-5; 5:1-2; 6:14).
Zechariah dates his ministry to the second year of Darius, king of the Persian Empire. All the Jews, of course, knew Darius because the Persian Empire was the world superpower that ruled over Judah.
Zechariah reminds his readers that the true King is in heaven when he says the word of the Lord came to him. When you’re at the end of your rope, what you need more than anything else is the word of the Lord. With God’s word comes God’s presence, and with God’s presence comes God’s power, and with God’s power comes God’s deliverance.
1:2-3 Zechariah opens by reminding his audience how they got into their mess: The Lord was extremely angry with their ancestors (1:2). After years of rebellion and idolatry, the Lord had cast his people out of the land and sent them into exile. The destructive situation the people faced was directly related to the actions of their forefathers. They had no control over their ancestors’ choices; however, they could respond to the Lord themselves. Thus, God urges them through his prophet: Return to me . . . and I will return to you (1:3). Even today, God calls us to repentance and faith. If we respond to him, we can count on him to show himself mighty on our behalf.
1:4-6 God had commanded their ancestors to turn from their evil ways and evil deeds. In spite of God’s incredible patience and continued threats of judgment through his prophets, though, Israel and Judah did not listen (1:4). And they paid a severe penalty. So, God asks the people, Where are your ancestors now? (1:5). That’s an easy one: they were dead. Didn’t my words and my statutes . . . overtake your ancestors? (1:6). While their ancestors thought they could despise God and get away with it, they’d been proven wrong. As Isaiah says, “People are grass. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isa 40:7-8). So don’t play chicken with God’s word. There will be only one winner, and it won’t be you.
The people to whom Zechariah was preaching learned what their ancestors had not. Thus, they repented of their own personal sins and accepted the circumstances that God had dealt them (1:6). The first step to following God’s kingdom agenda is kingdom repentance.
B. Kingdom Visions (1:7–6:15)
1:7-9 The next time the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah three months later, it was to deliver a series of eight visions. In the first vision, he looked out in the night and saw a man riding on a chestnut horse . . . Behind him were other horses (1:8). In response to Zechariah’s inquiry, an angel told him he would explain what he was seeing (1:9). The prophet was given a glimpse into the angelic activity transpiring behind the scenes. The hidden spiritual world that affects the visible physical world, therefore, is briefly laid open before our eyes. It’s a reminder that when we think nothing is happening, God is always at work.
1:10-11 These riders are the ones the Lord has sent to patrol the earth (1:10). Having completed their patrol, they reported to the angel of the Lord that all was calm and quiet (1:11). The all-knowing God, of course, does not need angels to inform him of the state of the earth. Nevertheless, he has created them to serve him and to help humanity (see Heb 1:7, 13-14), and they must report to him. If angels must give an account of their work to the Lord, how much more will the followers of Jesus Christ have to give an account one day of their service to the King and his kingdom?
1:12-13 The angel asked the Lord how long he would withhold mercy from Jerusalem, the city with which he had been angry for seventy years (1:12). The comforting words from the Lord no doubt indicate that his anger was complete (1:13). After all, the Lord had promised through the prophet Jeremiah, “When seventy years for Babylon are complete, I . . . will confirm my promise concerning you to restore you to this place” (Jer 29:10). The time of exile had come to an end.
1:14-17 That the Lord was extremely jealous for Jerusalem indicates his intense love for his people (1:14). Though he was a little angry with them, the nations he’d used to punish them had arrogantly made the destruction worse (1:15). So God promised to build his house (1:16). With this promise, Zechariah could encourage those in Jerusalem to persevere in their work on the temple, for God would be with them.
That was great news, but there’s more here than a quick reading will reveal. According to the CSB, the Lord declares, I have returned to Jerusalem (1:16). But, the original Hebrew from which this is translated can also be rendered as a future verb: “I will return to Jerusalem.” The Lord’s future return to Jerusalem is a reference to the coming of the Messiah to rule on his throne in the millennial kingdom. Zechariah is to proclaim that the cities of Judah will again overflow with prosperity, and they will be the recipients of God’s mercy (1:16-17).
1:18-21 In the second vision, Zechariah saw four horns and four craftsman (1:18-20). The horns are the nations that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem (1:19). The craftsmen are the nations that would come to cut off the horns that attacked the land (1:21). God had given a promise regarding the nations of the world and their relationship to his people: “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt” (Gen 12:3). These nations experienced the power of God’s curse.
2:1-2 In Zechariah’s third vision, he saw a man with a measuring line whose job was to measure Jerusalem to determine its width and length. Such dimensions could be determined by measuring the city’s walls. In previous years, Jerusalem had formidable walls to provide defense against enemies. But, the fact that the Jews had been exiled was proof that the walls could be—and had been—breached (see 2 Chr 36:19).
2:3-5 In the future, though, Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it (2:4). The city will be bursting with people in the Messiah’s coming kingdom. In that day, there will be no need for walls, for Jerusalem will have something indestructible and everlasting for its protection: God himself will be a wall of fire around it, and . . . the glory within it (2:5).
The idea of a wall of fire protecting God’s people is reminiscent of the pillar of fire God used to protect Moses and the children of Israel as they left Egypt (see Exod 14:24). The Egyptian army was a major earthly superpower, but it was nothing before the God of creation. Similarly, the Lord guarantees the safety of his city in the millennium. Though Jerusalem will be swelling with people, they will have no need to fear because God himself will be their wall of protection.
2:6-9 Next, the Lord exhorts those Jews remaining in Babylon to return to Jerusalem: Flee from the land of the north. . . . Escape, you who are living with Daughter Babylon (2:6-7). Why? Those who’d plundered Judah would be the object of God’s wrath: I am raising my hand against them, and they will become plunder for their own servants (2:9). God welcomes his people home and promises vengeance on their enemies.
2:10-13 Daughter Zion, shout for joy and be glad, for I am coming to dwell among you (2:10). Jerusalem will be glorified when the Messiah comes to dwell within the city during his millennial kingdom. At that time, Gentiles will join with believing Jews to worship the Messiah: Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day and become his people (2:11). Then, Israel will be the Holy Land it was created to be (2:12). All humanity will submit to the Messiah’s authority when he returns to earth to rule his kingdom (2:13). Those who saw their nation in a state of destruction heard a promise of a glorious coming kingdom that would provide hope, encouragement, and comfort.
3:1 The fourth vision involved Joshua, who served as high priest in Jerusalem after the return from exile (see Hag 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4). Zechariah saw Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.
Satan is the Hebrew word that means “adversary.” It is also used as a proper name to refer to the one known in Scripture as “the evil one” (Matt 6:13; 2 Thess 3:3), “the devil,” “the ancient serpent,” and “the great dragon” (Rev 12:9). Satan was once a righteous angel, but he rebelled against the Lord and fell from grace (see commentary on Isa 14:1-23). As the chief demon, he has set up a rival “kingdom” in opposition to God (Matt 12:26). He is “the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4), “the ruler of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2), and “the one who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He tempted Adam and Eve to reject God’s word (see Gen 3:1-5) and still tempts us today. He seeks to hinder the work of God’s kingdom in the world (see Mark 4:15; 1 Thess 2:18).
One of the chief ways Satan opposes God’s kingdom is by acting as “the accuser of our brothers and sisters” whom he “accuses . . . before our God day and night” (Rev 12:10). We see Satan’s accusing work in the life of Job (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5), and we see it here in Zechariah.
3:2-7 But, when Satan stood by Joshua to accuse him, the Lord came to Joshua’s defense with a rebuke for Satan (3:2). Joshua’s filthy clothes represented his sins before God (3:3), but the angel of the Lord removed the high priest’s iniquity and clothed him with festive robes and a clean turban (3:4-5)—that is, he took away his sin. With this cleansing work of God accomplished, he charged Joshua to walk in his ways, keep his mandates, and rule his house (that is, the temple) (3:7).
Though Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), sometimes—when he points out our sin—his accusations are correct. Enter the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on the cross to forgive believers and set them free from slavery to sin. In spite of Satan’s continual accusations, Christians have “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 12:10-11). And, in light of the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, we can accomplish the kingdom tasks that God puts before us. In order for him to grant you access to his kingdom power and restore you to your kingdom position and purpose, he calls you to repent and walk in his ways and keep his mandates (3:7). This is the appropriate response to God’s grace (see Luke 22:31-32; cf. John 21:15-17).
3:8 The cleansing of the High Priest Joshua and his fellow priests was a sign that God was about to bring his servant, the Branch (see also 6:2). The careful reader of the Old Testament knows that this is a messianic reference. God had promised David that a dynasty of kings would descend from him, leading to a King who would have an eternal throne and kingdom (see 2 Sam 7:11-16; 1 Chr 17:10-14). But, most of the Davidic kings rebelled against the Lord; therefore, they experienced God’s judgment when Judah was carried into exile by Babylon.
Nevertheless, God promised, “A shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse [David’s father], and a branch from his roots will bear fruit” (Isa 11:1). Though the Davidic dynasty had experienced the ax of God’s judgment, the stump and its roots were still there, and a branch would grow—“the Branch of the Lord” (Isa 4:2), the Messiah.
3:9-10 According to Zechariah, the fact that the priests had returned from exile and were serving before the Lord again was a physical sign that the Branch, the messianic King, would come. When he establishes his kingdom on earth, he will take away the iniquity of Israel and grant it peace and prosperity.
4:1-5 The fifth vision was of a gold lampstand with a bowl at the top. It had seven lamps, each having seven spouts (4:2). Clearly, this lampstand could hold a tremendous amount of oil; it had a total of forty-nine lit wicks. That’s one amazingly bright lampstand! On either side of it were two olive trees (4:3), but the prophet was at a loss to understand the significance of any of it (4:4-5).
4:6-7 The angel interpreted the vision for Zechariah by giving him a word of the Lord for Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah and descendant of David who was overseeing the rebuilding of the temple (see 1 Chr 3:17-19; Ezra 3:2, 8; Hag 1:1): Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit (4:6). The Jews in Jerusalem had faced much opposition and discouragement (see Ezra 4:1-23); therefore, if Zerubbabel were to complete the temple, it would not be the result of mere human strength but through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the abundant oil supplying the brilliant lampstand represented the overflowing power of God’s Spirit.
4:8-10 Given the divine enablement of his Spirit, the Lord promised that just as Zerubbabel’s hands had laid the foundation of the temple, so his hands would complete it (4:9). The angel assured Zechariah that the seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the ceremonial stone in Zerubbabel’s hands (4:10). The Lord had not providentially brought the Jews back from exile simply to see them fail. He would ensure that the work would be accomplished. With that knowledge, Zechariah could confidently encourage Zerubbabel and the Jews to continue the task God had given them (see Ezra 4:24–5:2).
As you seek to engage in God’s kingdom work in the world, you, too, should have the words of God to Zechariah ringing in your ears: “Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit” (4:6). Human effort will only get you so far. The empowerment to do the work of God comes only through the Spirit of God.
4:11-14 When Zechariah asked about the two olive trees from the vision, the angel informed him that these were the two anointed ones . . . who stand by the Lord of the whole earth (4:11, 14). Who are they? Kings and priests were anointed in the Old Testament (see Lev 8:10-12; 1 Sam 16:13); therefore, in the days of Zechariah, the anointed ones would be Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the (Davidic) governor (because Jerusalem was ruled by Persia and could not have its own king). The lampstand empowered by the Holy Spirit, then, would represent Israel itself.
However, the angel also seems to be pointing Zechariah to a yet future time. For these two anointed ones “stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (4:14). In the messianic kingdom, Israel will rebuild the millennial temple (see Ezek 40–48). Then, they will fulfill their role as a light to the nations as the Messiah (who is both King and priest) rules all on behalf of the Lord of the earth.
5:1-4 Zechariah’s sixth vision was of a flying scroll . . . thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide (5:1-2). The scroll is the curse that is going out over the whole land (5:3). It represents the judgment of God’s Word symbolically covering Israel. It will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely. . . . It will stay inside his house and destroy it (5:4). In others words, the Lord’s judgment is all-encompassing and does not allow for any to escape. He will deal once and for all with the sinful transgression of his law when the Messiah comes and establishes his kingdom.
5:5-11 Zechariah then saw a seventh vision: a measuring basket with a lead cover, which represented Israel’s iniquity. Inside it was a woman called Wickedness (5:5-8). Two other women with wings were carrying the basket to build a shrine for it in the land of Shinar to be placed there on its pedestal. When God’s judgment comes on the sins of Israel (5:11), then, the nation’s wickedness will be removed to the place of destruction: “Shinar”—that is, Babylon (see Gen 11:2; Rev 18:2, 21). In the coming kingdom ruled by the Messiah, there will be no room for wickedness.
6:1-8 The eighth vision of Zechariah involved four chariots coming from between two mountains . . . made of bronze (6:1). Mountains carry the idea of strength and power (see Isa 2:2; Dan 2:35); thus, these bronze mountains may represent heaven, because the chariots were the four spirits of heaven going out after presenting themselves to the Lord of the whole earth (6:5). Some went to the north and some to the south so that they might patrol as God commanded (6:6-7).
These spirits patrol the earth, keeping watch on the Lord’s behalf for anything that opposes the King’s agenda. To know that the God of heaven is always watching over his creation is a comfort to the people of God throughout the ages.
6:9-15 Having shown Zechariah some previews of the coming kingdom, the Lord then showed him a preview of a preview. This word of the Lord was like a taste of frosting just before it’s placed on the cake (6:9). God commanded him to take an offering from the exiles (6:10). With this silver and gold, they were to make a crown to be placed on Joshua . . . the high priest (6:11). Then, Joshua was to be called by the name of Branch because he would branch out from his place and build the Lord’s temple (6:12). Not only that, but he would also sit on his throne and rule (6:13).
The making of the crown symbolizes the unification of the office of priest and king. Joshua prefigured this, but it would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah, who will rebuild the temple and rule over his kingdom in the millennium. He will be a priest on his throne (6:13). The crown being in the Lord’s temple was a reminder of their future Messiah and their obligation to fully obey the Lord (6:14-15). When the Messiah comes in his kingdom, Gentiles will join in and contribute to the building of the temple (6:15).
C. Kingdom Fast (7:1–8:23)
7:1-3 The next word of the Lord that Zechariah received came in the fourth year of King Darius (7:1) or about two years after the eight visions (1:7). This prophecy came in response to the people of Bethel inquiring of the priests about whether they should continue to mourn and fast at an appointed time as they had done in the past (7:2-3). Apparently, now that they were back in the land and the temple was nearly built, they wanted to know whether this mourning and fasting was still necessary.
7:4-6 God’s answer makes it clear that they had not asked an innocent question: When you fasted and lamented . . . for these seventy years, did you really fast for me? (7:5). God knew their hearts and saw that they had gone through the rituals, but not out of love and reverence for him. When you eat and drink (for the annual feasts and festivals), don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves? (7:6). Rather than rejoicing in God’s deeds and provisions at such time, they had been merely eating and drinking.
7:7 Aren’t these the words that the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure? This third question suggests the people’s actions were nothing new. In fact, they were repeating some of the same sins for which the prophets had chastised the people before the exile! As Isaiah said prior to that event and as Jesus would say many years later, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:8, quoting from Isa 29:13).
7:8-9 The people were walking on thin ice. If they weren’t careful, they’d repeat the failures of their ancestors. God had given the prior generations of Israelites several benchmarks for their behavior, including the admonition to show faithful love and compassion to one another (7:9). Biblical love isn’t a sentimental feeling. To love your neighbor is to righteously desire his good and to meet his needs in a way that glorifies God.
7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor brings to my mind James’s teaching to the Christians to whom he was writing: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27). God champions the cause of the weak and oppressed. He expects the same of his people, if they expect to be in fellowship with him.
Do not plot evil in your hearts against one another. You can’t plot evil in your heart against others if you’re focused on showing “love and compassion to one another” as expected (7:9). Physical evil (whether through words or actions) starts in the heart and mind. The external and visible is driven by the internal and spiritual. Life transformation comes through “the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
7:11-14 Unfortunately, the previous generations had refused to pay attention to God. They closed their ears and made their hearts like a rock so that they wouldn’t listen to God’s prophets (7:11-12). In other words, they had not been merely passive but had actively opposed God’s law. Nevertheless, you can’t mock God and expect no consequences. And the consequences for Israel and Judah had been disastrous. Because of his intense anger, God scattered them . . . over all the nations . . . and the land was left desolate behind them (7:12-14).
To prevent the generation of Zechariah’s day from repeating the problems of the previous generations, a history lesson was in order. Actions have consequences. Those who had returned from exile needed to know that. And so do you. The only way to remedy the violation of kingdom principles is to put in place kingdom practices.
8:1-3 At the close of their history lesson in chapter 7, God reminded the Judeans that the land was desolate because of the actions of their ancestors. But, that didn’t mean that God’s love for his people and their land had failed: I am extremely jealous for Zion; I am jealous for her with great wrath (8:2). In fact, God’s love for Zion is so great that he made a promise: I will return to Zion and live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the Lord of Armies will be called the Holy Mountain (8:3).
The Jerusalem that existed prior to the captivity cannot compare with the Jerusalem of the future; they are as different as day and night. Zechariah’s vision of the coming messianic kingdom when Jesus Christ will dwell in the midst of the city is a beautiful reminder that through his righteous reign and protective care, Jerusalem will be a place of faithfulness and security.
8:4-8 A people whose city had been destroyed and who had been oppressed and killed by their enemies will one day see a complete reversal of circumstances for Jerusalem. Old men and women will again sit along the streets, which will be filled with boys and girls playing (8:4-5). The Jews will return and once again live in their land (8:7-8). Those to whom Zechariah was preaching may have thought all this impossible (8:6), but “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
8:9-15 With Israel’s punishment behind them, God exhorts the people through Zechariah to let their hands be strong so that they can finish the work of rebuilding (8:9, 13). Just as he had resolved to bring retribution on their ancestors, so now he had resolved . . . to do what is good to Jerusalem (8:14-15).
8:16-17 In view of this, their hearts should have been inspired and ready to continue the work on the temple. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean they could cast aside God’s kingdom principles. If they wanted the blessings that their ancestors had lost, they must do the kingdom agenda that their ancestors had rejected: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your city gates. Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury.
8:18-19 After highlighting the motives of the people of Bethel, explaining his expectations, rehearsing the history of Israel’s failure, and declaring the promises of the messianic kingdom (7:4–8:17), the Lord finally answers the question initially raised by them in 7:3. The appointed fasts will become times of joy, gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah (8:19).
Times of fasting honor the Lord and bring joy when they are set in the context of a relationship with him. Moreover, fasting must not be divorced from a life that loves truth and peace (8:19). To fulfill religious duties while ignoring kingdom principles is to embrace empty ritual rather than kingdom relationship.
8:20-23 At this point, Zechariah returns to a vision of the millennial kingdom. In that day, peoples from all over the world will go to Jerusalem to seek the Lord due to their supernatural transformation as a result of their acceptance of the Messiah (8:20-22).
In that day, God’s favor to his people will be so great that individuals from nations of every language will grab the robe of a Jewish man tightly, urging: Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you (8:23).