I. Introduction (Zechariah 1:1-6)
The opening verses identify Zechariah as Berechiah's son and Iddo's grandson. The time period and situation is identified as the eighth month of Darius's second year--that is, the late 500s B.C.E.--when the immediate task facing the returning exiles was to rebuild the temple.
II. Visions and Oracles (Zechariah 1:7-8:23)
The first eight chapters are a series of visions; there are more visions here than contained in any other prophetic book. "I looked up and saw" is a recurring phrase that begins many of the visions. Interspersed among the visions are oracles.
A. The First Vision (Zechariah 1:7-17)
Zechariah sees a man on a red horse among myrtle trees, representing those who patrol the earth on God's behalf. An angel of the Lord pleads for mercy for Jerusalem and Judah, and the Lord answers with assurance that Jerusalem will be restored and "overflow with prosperity."
B. The Second Vision (Zechariah 1:18-21)
Zechariah sees four horns, and the angel informs him that those horns dispersed Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel, but will now be used to strike down those nations who scattered the people of Judah. "Horns" are a symbol of military power and may represent the nations that have oppressed Israel, such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.
C. The Third Vision (Zechariah 2:1-5)
Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand, who is going to measure Jerusalem. Two angels command the prophet to inform the man that he need not measure Jerusalem for a wall, because the Lord will protect the city with a wall of fire.
D. Oracle against the Plundering Nations (2:6-13)
God announces the coming destruction of those nations that have "touched" or plundered Israel, because, says God, Israel is "the apple of my eye."
E. The Fourth Vision (Zechariah 3:1-10)
Zechariah sees three figures--Joshua, the high priest during the rebuilding of the temple, stands before the angel of the Lord, while Satan accuses the priest. Joshua is dressed in filthy clothes. The Lord rebukes Satan, and the angel reclothes Joshua with festive garb, promising him restoration.
F. The Fifth Vision (Zechariah 4:1-14)
Wakened by the angel, Zechariah sees a golden lampstand topped by a bowl, which has seven lamps, each having seven lips. Next to the lampstand are two olive trees with branches pouring out oil representing the "two anointed ones who stand by the Lord," perhaps the collaborative leadership of the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua. In the midst of the vision is an oracle that Zerubbabel will finish the temple.
G. The Sixth Vision (Zechariah 5:1-4)
Five visions of promise are followed by judgment in the sixth and seven visions, which declare that wickedness must be removed. The sixth vision is a flying scroll, which represents a curse against those who steal and those who swear falsely. Their houses will be destroyed.
H. The Seventh Vision (Zechariah 5:5-11)
Zechariah sees a basket (ephah, about seven gallons) of iniquity. The woman sitting in it, says the angel, is wickedness. Two women carry the basket to the land of Shinar--that is, the land of wickedness--which may be Babylon or Mesopotamia.
I. The Eighth Vision (Zechariah 6:1-8)
The four horsemen from the first vision appear again, this time on chariots. They are the four "winds of heaven," patrolling the earth on behalf of the Lord.
III. The Coronation and the Branch (Zechariah 6:9-15)
The Lord instructs Zechariah to make a crown for the man named "Branch" who will finish the temple, with the priest by his side, "with peaceful understanding between the two of them." The passage is confusing, implying a leader and a priest, but omits mention of Zerubbabel, presumably the leader. The oracle suggests the peaceful collaboration of governor and priest. Some connect the Branch to the shoot from Jesse in Isaiah 11:1 and take it as a messianic reference.
IV. Oracles about the Practice of Religion (Zechariah 7 and 8)
These two chapters are a series of oracles, usually beginning with "the word of the LORD came to me," in which Zechariah speaks about religious practices. Rather than mournful fasting and abstinence the Lord instructs the people to attend to how they treat each other: "Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor….Speak the truth…love no false oath" (7:9-10; 8:16-17). When people harden their hearts to the law, wrath will come. On the other hand, when the people obey the Lord, God will dwell in Jerusalem, and there will be joy in the city, with "boys and girls playing in its streets" (8:5). The concluding oracle is a grand vision of people coming to Jerusalem to seek the Lord's favor, and the Jews will be the envy of all nations (8:20-23).
V. An Oracle of Judgment, the Coming Ruler, and Restoration (Zechariah 9-11)
This oracle begins with a pronouncement of judgment on Israel's enemies--Hadrach, Aram, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Ashdod, Philistia, and the Jebusites. Then the people of Judah and Jerusalem are told to rejoice, because their king will arrive, and God will lead his people to victory. The Lord will redeem them, and though they have been scattered, God will gather them up and bring them home. In chapter 11, following an oracle of judgment against Lebanon, two kinds of shepherds are portrayed. The meaning is puzzling, but the first seems to be the prophet himself. He is rejected by the people, so he breaks his two staffs of favor and unity, annulling the covenant. The second is a "worthless shepherd…who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones" (11:15-16).
VI. An Oracle of Victory for Jerusalem (Zechariah 12-14)
The closing sections of the book begin with an oracle of final victory for Jerusalem. The Lord will pour out compassion, so that those who have caused suffering will mourn. Idolatry will be eliminated and false prophets will be shamed. Sheep who follow the false shepherd will be scattered, but the one-third remnant will remain and be refined as silver and gold. The closing chapter of the book is a sweeping vision of that day when Jerusalem will prosper and enemies will be destroyed. Everything in Jerusalem will be blessed, so that even ordinary cooking pots will be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar.
AUTHOR: Michael Rogness, Professor of Preaching and Professor Emeritus of Homiletic