Lesson 1 of 5
In Progress

Summary of Zechariah


The enthusiasm of the Jews returning to Judah from their exile in Babylon was soon dampened by discouragement as they faced the pile of rubble that remained of the temple and the devastated land surrounding it. According to Ezra (5:1; 6:14), both Haggai and Zechariah prophesied about 520-516 B.C.E. With a series of visions and oracles Zechariah assures Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest, that together they will finish rebuilding the temple, which they did accomplish.


To our secular society, which sees only what is immediately visible, Zechariah presents visions of sweeping breadth. The cosmos reaches from God and the angels to Satan, the accuser. The view of time stretches from the early days of Israel’s history to a magnificent future where the Lord will rule through a righteous king. Yahweh is not only the God of Israel, but the God of all the earth.


Zechariah is the thirty-eighth and next to last book of the Protestant Old Testament. It is the eleventh of the twelve “minor prophets” (or shorter prophets), following Haggai, Zechariah’s contemporary, and preceding Malachi.


The author identifies himself in the first verse as “the prophet Zechariah, son of Berechiah son of Iddo.” Iddo was the head of one of the priestly families among the returning exiles (Nehemiah 12:4, 16). Zechariah may have been a boy when his family returned to Jerusalem. Chapters 9-14 are probably by a different author, sometimes called “Deutero-Zechariah” or “Second Zechariah.” The mention of the Greeks in 9:13 suggests a later date and authorship than Zechariah, but the historical setting of these later chapters is difficult to determine.


The first eight chapters clearly apply to the period of return from exile, with frequent historical references to that period. Chapters 9-14 are more difficult to date, with estimates ranging from preexilic times to the Greek and Roman periods.


Arriving in Jerusalem among exiles returning from Babylon in the late 500s B.C.E., the prophet Zechariah criticizes disobedience but looks forward to the restoration of the temple and the prosperity of a people faithful to God.


Imagine living for a long time in a foreign country, then returning to find your own country in ruins. You would wonder if your hardships were punishments from God, as many prophets have said, and you would ask how one can be restored to God’s favor. From that perspective we read Zechariah, who pronounces judgment for disobedience, but also envisions a rebuilt temple and a restored Jerusalem. The book also causes us to look for God’s activity not only in the past but also in our world today, and how this might develop in the future. What is the future hope for people who live in seemingly hopeless situations?