What is the historical background of the book of Zechariah? Why was the book written? Were there two different authors of the book?


The book of Zechariah is an extraordinary inspired book which contains unique insights into the workings and the mind of God.

Zechariah’s Hebrew name, “Zekar-yah,” means “Yahweh Remembers,” or “Yahweh Has Remembered.” This name is related to the message of the prophet: God remembers His people and will not forget their work for Him, if they follow Him faithfully.

Zechariah was a prophet and a priest–the son of Berechia, the grandson of Iddo the prophet (Zechariah 1:1; compare Nehemiah 12:16, which only mentions Zechariah as a descendant of Iddo, since his father Berechia had apparently died at a young age). Iddo was also a priest who returned from Babylon with Zechariah, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the High Priest. Iddo was, according to tradition, a member of the Great Synagogue (the governing body of the Jews before the Sanhedrin).

Zechariah was one of three prophets, along with Haggai and later Malachi, who ministered to the exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem.

The book of Zechariah was written during the effort of the ancient people of Judah to rebuild the Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Jews had returned 18 years before Zechariah’s appearance to lay the foundation of the Temple, but then the work had stopped. Two months prior to Zechariah, the prophet Haggai had begun to encourage the people to resume building the Temple, but that revival was very short-lived. Haggai’s prophecies can be found in the “Book of Haggai.” Two months later, the work of building the Temple had again stopped. The people had to be encouraged once more by Zechariah, to complete the task of building the Temple.

Zechariah began prophesying in the month of October/November in the second year of the reign of Emperor Darius (520 B.C.). His last dated prophecy was delivered two years later, in 518 B.C.

The Broadman Bible Commentary explains:

“In contrast to most of the Minor Prophets, both Haggai and Zechariah are mentioned outside their own books. They are credited with being the driving forces behind the renewed efforts (ca. 520-515 B.C.) to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 5:1; 6:14)… According to Ezra 5:16 the returning Jews under Sheshbazzar had laid the foundations for a new Temple in Jerusalem in the year 538 B.C. with the permission which the Persian king Cyrus had granted them… However, the work was not completed. For a full 18 years the Temple continued in ruins…

“[By the time of the arrival of Haggai and Zechariah, the] enthusiasm of the pioneering and returning Jews [was]… gone. Quarrels, particularly with the Samaritans, difficulties with the rebuilding of the city, and several years of poor harvests… had dampened their spirits… At this time of low spirits, resignation, unhappiness and hopelessness, God proved his power by sending Haggai to warm the hearts… with new enthusiasm. He persuaded the Jewish community to begin work of the Temple again in 520 B.C. But his encouraging words came to an end after a short period. Zechariah took up his work. Ezra 6:15 records that the rebuilt Temple was formally dedicated in the spring of 515 B.C.”

While the prophet Haggai was a very old man at the time of his public appearance, Zechariah himself was still a “young man” when he began to prophesy. However, the term “young man” could still apply to a 28-year-old man (compare Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, comment to Genesis 41:12: “… Joseph, when he was so designated by the chief butler… was 28”).

Zechariah’s encouragement to continue and finish the Temple was not solely focused on the days of his time. Rather, he reminded the people of the glorious future of the physical Temple: Its completion would be followed by the First Coming of the Messiah, who would visit that physical Temple, and by His Second Coming, who would visit a spiritual Temple–the Church of God–patterned after the physical Temple. It could also point at the building of ANOTHER physical Temple just prior to the return of Christ, which might endure the end-time destruction of Jerusalem and continue to exist in the Millennium.

Zechariah looked into the future–and he communicated the sure prophecies to the people of his time. Today, we can read prophecies relating to events which have occurred by now, and we can thereby find comfort, assurance and renewed faith in the fact that the prophecies of future events will likewise occur, exactly as written in the book.

The Ryrie Study Bible explains that “Zechariah predicted more about Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah… [referring to prophecies] concerning His first coming… and prophecies to be fulfilled at His second coming.”

Unger’s Bible Handbook adds: “This book is unique in its messianic emphasis among the minor prophets and in its unfolding of events connected with the first and second advents of Christ. It has been called the most messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological of all the writings of the OT.”

The commentary of the Scofield Reference Notes elaborates:

“Both advents of Christ are in Zechariah’s prophecy… More than Haggai or Malachi, Zechariah gives the mind of God about the Gentile world-powers surrounding the restored remnant. He has given them their authority and will hold them to account; the test, as always, being their treatment of Israel.”

Some have questioned the authorship of the book of Zechariah, suggesting that it was written by at least two different authors at different times. However, there is no valid reason to doubt that the prophet Zechariah wrote the entire book. As is the case with objections to the single authorship of the book of Isaiah, for example, comments questioning the same regarding the book of Zechariah are to be rejected as well.

The Nelson Study Bible includes the following observation:

“Those who question the unity and single authorship of Zechariah usually argue that chs. 9-14 date from the Hellenistic period (331-167 B.C.) or the Maccabean period (167-73 B.C.). The reference to ‘Greece’ in 9:13 has often been cited as evidence for a late date, after Alexander’s conquests (c. 330 B.C.). However, Greek influence was strong in the ancient Middle East as early as the seventh century B.C… Those who hold the unity of the book generally date its completion between 500 and 470 B.C…”

Rienecker’s “Lexikon zur Bibel” agrees, adding:

“According to Jewish and Christian tradition, Zechariah himself is the author of the entire book; the gospel writers… and Jesus … quote the prophet with that understanding… Some critics assume two different authors… But the disagreements among themselves show that their particular reasoning is not convincing.”

Zechariah recorded many prophecies, which he received and penned under godly inspiration, to persuade us that God is in control. Even in times of great personal and national trials and problems, God is not far from anyone of us, and He is always there to help us and to bless our efforts, when we diligently seek Him.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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