by Rev. David A. Moffat
Reading the prophecy of Zechariah, I am struck first by its many connections to other parts of scripture. If you are familiar with the book of Revelation, you will notice similarities with some of the visions recorded by John on Patmos, such as
- The horsemen (Zechariah 1:8-11), and chariots (6:1-8)
- Horns (1:18)
- The man with a measuring line (2:1, see Revelation 21:17), and,
- The woman in a basket (5:5-11), who is identified with Babylon in the land of Shinar, as is the woman on the beast in Revelation chapter 17.
Then there are the parallels with the gospel story which are especially well known. The author of Matthew’s Gospel is fond of quoting from the Old Testament in his desire to tell us who Jesus is and the significance of his life. It is particular reference to the last week of Jesus’ life that we find:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9 quoted in Matthew 21:5, for Palm Sunday)
“Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.” (11:12,13 is reminiscent of the money paid for the betrayal by Judas and its subsequently used to buy the potter’s field, Matthew 26:15, and 27: 6-9, although note the connection also to Jeremiah 32:6-9)
“‘Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,’
Says the Lord of hosts.
‘Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.’” (13:7 quoted in Matthew 26:31, at Jesus’ arrest)
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.” (12:10 – quoted in John 19:37 this time, regarding the crucifixion)
There are other connections with books of the Old Testament too, and these are particularly useful for setting Zechariah in its historical context, for example, the names of a number of individuals. We find Darius (1:1), the ruler of Babylon, who plays a significant and dramatic role in the prophecy of Daniel, as well as other references in Haggai, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Joshua the high priest plays a significant part in Haggai’s prophecy alongside Zerubbabel (a governor of Judah, who also appears in Ezra and Nehemiah). From all this, we learn that Zechariah was active well after the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, during a time when the people of Judah are returning to their homeland after seventy years of exile in Babylon. Darius was the Babylonian ruler under whom this repatriation took place, and he allowed the people to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple. This is recorded in the book of Nehemiah especially, but it forms a central theme through Zechariah also, and it is especially important in Haggai.
Notice also the themes and images that run through the book in common with other prophets. Chapter 7 includes the idea that obedience is better than fasting, and throws light on the need for justice and compassion (see Isaiah 58). The corrupt shepherds of chapter 11 compare with the longer passage in Ezekiel chapter 34. And the day of the Lord is an image found throughout the prophets (chapter 14): see especially Malachi 4:5, where it forms an integral part of the very last chapter of the Old Testament, connecting everything that has happened before it with the gospels to come).
But if I were to choose one message which stands out above all others, it would be the prophet’s recollection of the punishment for past sins – that is how the consequences of evil are described here, as they often are in the Bible – but then this is followed by the promise of restoration. Judgment features prominently, and even the evil play their part as instruments of the Lord’s justice, although they frequently overstep the mark and suffer consequences of their own (1:15). But the purpose of judgment is that good and evil may be distinguished, in order that evil may be separated and good saved. It is a hopeful picture: each of us frequently faces the consequences of past evils and poorly thought through actions, but at every step the hope is held out to us of turning a corner, of righting wrongs, of starting afresh, of renewal. This short book reminds us of that hope.