Zechariah preached in the same period as did Haggai. But the present Book of Zechariah combines Zechariah’s own words in chapters 1-8 with a series of later oracles in chapters 9-14 which were delivered by an unknown prophet against the Greeks about one hundred and fifty years later. Just as most scholars now refer to a First Isaiah as well as a Second and Third Isaiah, they often speak of First Zechariah and Second Zechariah to describe these two parts.
Zechariah delivered his prophetic words between November 520 and November or December 518 B.C. These include at least three sets of oracles (Zec 1:1-6, 7:1-14, 8:1-23) and eight visions (Zec 1:7-6:15). He shares Haggai’s concerns for rebuilding the temple, creating a purified community, and predicting the coming of a new messianic age centered on Zerubbabel. One of the differences between the two prophets is the greater attention to priestly matters in Zechariah. He is himself the son of a priest (Ezr 5:1), and he makes a special point of emphasizing the role of the high priest Joshua beside that of Zerubbabel as prince. In chapter 4 he has a vision of a gold lampstand with two olive trees beside it. Zechariah asks what the two olive trees represent. An angel replies: “These are the two anointed who stand beside the Lord of the entire world” (Zec 4:14).
A second difference between Haggai and Zechariah is seen in the use of visions. Zechariah uses highly symbolic figures of horses of different colors (Zec 1:7-17), four horns (Zec 1:18-21), angels who explain the visions (chapters 3-5), a flying scroll (Zec 5:1-11), and flying chariots (Zec 6:1-8). Earlier prophets had also depended on visions in their preaching. Amos 7-8 contains a series of visions, and Ezekiel had a number of visions during his years of preaching, including the chariot of Yahweh (Ez 1), a scroll full of writing (Ez 2:8-10), and a valley full of dead bones (Ez 37:1-14) But Zechariah uses visions as the major point of his prophetic work, and his visions are much more mystical and symbolic than the rather clear metaphors of Ezekiel or Amos. Instead of making the message clearer, these colorful descriptions mask its real meaning to all except those who know what the prophet is talking about. Thus was born a prophetic code known to believers but hidden from pagans and outsiders. This use of an almost-secret language becomes more and more common in the last centuries of the Old Testament era, and reaches its fullest use in apocalyptic books such as Daniel or Revelation in the New Testament….
Despite this new way of expression, Zechariah stands within the tradition of Israel’s prophets. He clearly follows the lead of Ezekiel in combining purification, moral uprightness and the divine blessings upon the people. He follows Ezekiel in hoping for a day of restoration when the land will have prosperity and peace. He matches the finest thought of the prophets who came before the exile when he says:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do true justice, show compassion and mercy to your brother, do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner or the poor; and do not plan evil against one another in your hearts (Zec 7:9-10).
Lawrence Boadt, Reading the Old Testament, pp. 440-441
Several verses stood out to me today in reading Zechariah 1-4. First, Zechariah 1:3, “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you.” It occurs to me that this is something we need to do every day.
Second, Zechariah 2:8 talks about the Jews being the apple of God’s eye. The apple of the eye is the pupil. The expression suggests that the people whom God has his eye on are reflected in his eye. The phrase also suggests that we see who we really are when we look at our reflection in God’s eye.
On one occasion, I attended a Sunday evening service at St. Mark’s Dundela in Belfast, C. S. Lewis’ childhood parish. Communion was served followed by prayers for healing. I went forward and knelt at the altar railing seeking emotional healing for a certain heartbreaking situation in which I was involved as well as others. I will never forget the priest referring to me as “the apple of God’s eye” as he prayed over me, not knowing that was the word I most needed to hear at that moment.
You too are the apple of God’s eye. He has his eye on you. He loves and cares for you more than you can possibly imagine.
The third thing that stood out to me in this reading was the picture of the high priest Joshua being accused by Satan, then having his filthy clothes removed and festal apparel put on him. I believe that is a picture of each of our positions before the host of heaven. Satan seeks to accuse us of all manner of things, but the Lord will have none of it. Rather than accuse us, he removes from us that which is offensive and unclean, and he replaces it with a party frock, so to speak. What a beautiful image!
And how does God do this? Zechariah refers to the guilt of this land being removed in a single day (Zechariah 3:9). Certainly that is a prophetic picture of what God did through Jesus on the cross—he removed our guilt in a single day. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!