Zechariah: Introductory Thoughts

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo…

Zechariah 1:1

The book of Zechariah is one of the most difficult books in the Old Testament to study and interpret.  One of the reasons is due to the highly symbolic, apocalyptic style in which it is written.  “Apocalyptic” in this context does not have to do with the end of the world.  The book of Revelation (apokalypsis) is known not only for its discussion of the end of the world, but also for its highly figurative, symbolic language.  Thus, Bible scholars have come to refer to language in the Bible which is figurative and symbolic as “apocalyptic.”  Zechariah is filled with this kind of writing, thus making it similar not only to Revelation but also to other Old Testament books such as Ezekiel and Daniel.  Zechariah is also similar to Isaiah in that it contains many prophecies about the Messiah.

One can find Zechariah among the section of the Old Testament which many classify as the “Minor Prophets” (Hosea-Malachi), right after the section classified as the “Major Prophets” (Isaiah-Daniel).  These sections of the Old Testament are called “major” and “minor” not because Isaiah’s message was supposedly more important than Hosea’s, but rather because of the length of their respective books.  The books of the “Major Prophets” tend to be much larger than the books of the “Minor Prophets.”  With fourteen chapters, Zechariah is the longest of all the books listed among the “Minor Prophets.”

The prophet Zechariah’s name literally means “whom Jehovah remembers.”  In the Old Testament as a whole, there are at least 27 men who have this name.  Zechariah prophesied alongside the prophet Haggai (Ezra 5:1; 6:14) during the time of Old Testament history in which the Jews were allowed by the Persian king Cyrus to return home after 70 years of Babylonian captivity (Ezra 1:1-5).  We know this because Ezra records Zechariah prophesying during the reigns of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, all kings of Persia (Ezra 6:14).  Additionally, one of the messages and one of the visions which God gave to Zechariah was said to take place during “the second year of Darius” (Zech. 1:1, 7).  Later, we also read that God gave a message to Zechariah to give to the people “in the fourth year of King Darius” (7:1).

Zechariah’s grandfather was a prophet named Iddo (Zech. 1:1; cf. Ezra 5:1; 6:14).  Iddo might have been among the priests and Levites which returned to Jerusalem from captivity with Zerubbabel (Neh. 12:1-7).  Zechariah’s father was named Berechiah (Zech. 1:1).  It is interesting to note that many biblical translations cite Jesus, during His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees days before His death, mentioning “the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matt. 23:35).  This would naturally lead many to believe that Christ was talking about the prophet Zechariah of the book of Zechariah.  However, in reality Jesus was referring to a different prophet named Zechariah.  This Zechariah was the son of a priest named Jehoiada, and he was stoned to death by King Joash and the leaders of Judah many years before the Jews were taken into Babylonian captivity (2 Chr. 24:20-22).  So why does Matthew have Jesus referring to the Zechariah who was the son of Berechiah?  If you look, it’s likely that your Bible’s publisher made a notation about Matthew 23:35 saying that not all copies of the original text include the phrase “son of Berechiah.”  This is true.  The addition of “son of Berechiah” in Matthew 23:35 is an error made by some who copied the original manuscript of Matthew’s gospel.  Likely some scribe was copying the text, saw Jesus refer to a Zechariah, wrongly assumed He was talking about the Zechariah from the Old Testament book bearing his name whose father is Berechiah, and thus inserted the phrase “son of Berechiah” into the text.

Any study of Zechariah should certainly be done with prayer and humility, and it is my hope that these next few articles will be of some help to you, the reader, in your efforts to become more familiar with this section of Scripture.

— Jon

One thought on “Zechariah: Introductory Thoughts

  1. Looking forward to this study. I love Bible history and how things unfolded because it shows how powerful our God is and the methods He took to bring about salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus.

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