Good morning! Today we start our second-to-last book of the Old Testament, that of Zechariah. This book gathers together two separate voices (or more likely, communities). We’ll start to hear from “Second Zechariah” tomorrow, but the prophet in focus today comes from an educated, priestly background (attested by his pedigree in 1:1 and 1:7). He makes common cause with Haggai, advocating for rebuilding at the site of the temple in Jerusalem. Almost twenty years after returning from Babylon with Cyrus the Persian’s permission to rebuild, the temple was still unfinished. Haggai and Zechariah were active at the same time, but Zechariah prophesied for somewhat longer if we take the historical references in the text at face value. These men succeeded in their advocacy, because historians believe the temple was fully restored and rededicated just a couple years after Zechariah’s time.
Chapters 1-6 of Zechariah report one visions and oracles (eight and four respectively, by one account) that describe Judah’s resurgent power, and God’s determination to defeat opponents of the reconstituted Israel. The visions pile up; this prophet had a penchant for memorable imagery! Heavenly horses feature several times, with vivid descriptions that might have contributed to the similar characters in Revelation, developed there as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”. “The Satan” in chapter 3 is to be understood in the same sense as in Job; an accuser or challenger, rather than a personified “lord of the underworld”. Within chapter 4’s vision of a candelabra manifestation of God, we find a description of Zerubbabel (the reigning king) and the “great mountain” of labors he had to undertake to work toward the temple’s reconstruction. The notes in my study Bible suggest that the “top stone” in 4:8 might have been a piece salvaged from the earlier temple of Solomon. Incorporating that as a keystone or cornerstone in the new construction would help to assure sacred continuity. Notwithstanding these careful intentions, the final promise of the temple comes “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (4:6). Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Zechariah 7-9. Thanks for reading!