Zechariah is the longest book among The Twelve. In some ways it also is the most fascinating. It also has been called the “most obscure” book of the Hebrew Scriptures. It also is a very important book considering the many references to it in the New Testament. Many introductions and commentaries cite Lamarche as showing that Zechariah 9-14 is the most frequently cited portion of the Old Testament in the Passion narratives and others add that the book is a major influence (2nd only to Ezekiel) on the book of Revelation. The date opening the book is set in the same year that Haggai prophesied in Jerusalem.
The first eight chapters are all dated within the first four years of King Darius (521-518 B.C.). Chapters 9-14 are much more difficult to date. Some call the book of Zechariah apocalyptic and it certainly exhibits the features of apocalyptic literature.
Zechariah the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo is the same prophet the book of Ezra-Nehemiah called Zechariah the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1, 6:14). Remember that the Hebrew phrase “son of” can skip generations. He was the grandson of Iddo, who was a priest (Neh 12:16).
The large sections of Zechariah are fairly easy to divide. Zechariah 1:1-6 is an introductory exhortation. Zechariah 1:7-6:8 is a series of visions with oracles. Zechariah 6:9-15 shows a prophetic sign-act. Chapters 7-8 are another section and Chapters 9-14 consist of a pair of “burdens” (cf. Zech 9:1, 12:1). Chapters 9-14 are different enough that some modern scholars argue that those chapters are written by a second Zechariah. Every commentary I can find divides the text into these portions though some commentaries would consider some of the smaller portions to be part of larger sections.
Meredith Kline divides the text of Zechariah the way that we have above. He argues that Zechariah 6:9-15 is a “separate major section” because of its introductory formula (Zech 6:9) and because it is a different genre than the preceding visions. Moreover, Zech 7:1 clearly marks a new section. Kline sees as key to the structure of the book the similarities between Zechariah 3:1-10, 6:9-15, and 11:1-17. These are the only portions of Zechariah that include prophetic sign-acts and they have common themes: in each the prophet participates in a coronation and shows the Messiah being commissioned a royal-priest task.
As you might have realized by now there are two large sections of text in Zechariah. The first large section is the visions of Zechariah 1:7-6:8. The text of Zechariah 3:1-10 falls at the center of that large section. As Kline sees it, Zechariah 3:1-10 is the fourth of seven oracles with three oracles before it and three after it. The second large section is Zechariah 9-14. The text of Zechariah 11:1-17 falls at the center of that large section. And Zechariah 6:9-15 falls at the center of the whole book. Kline thus argues that Zechariah 6:9-15 is the hinge of the book and that the similar sections of Zechariah 3:1-10 and 11:1-17 are hinges of their respective blocks of text.
These are called diptychs. A diptych is where one has two panels connected by a hinge. Certainly the book as we have it is a literary unit and is highly stylized and organized. This argues against efforts to divide the book into two and claim that chapters 9-14 are by a different hand.
Further evidence of the structure of the book then is that there is an introductory text before each major panel (Zech 1:1-6, and ch.7-8). Both of the introductions open with a date formula and have other similarities.
Regarding the visions of Zech 1:7-6:8, Kline shows that they are two panels with the hinge we have noted. The two panels consist of three visions each. As panels, the first vision in each correspond, as does the second vision in each, as does the third vision in each. Another way to describe this would be to say that the section is a complex (ABA’) chiasm with the hinge (B) at the climax and the two “A” portions following an alternating pattern of a,b,c. Part a of each panel begins at night or sleep (Zech 1:8, 4:1). Parts b and c of each panel begin with “And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold…”
The first vision is Zech 1:8-17 (“I saw in the night and behold”), the second vision is Zech 1:18-21 (Hebrew Zech 2:1-4) (“And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold”), the third vision is Zechariah 2 (Hebrew Zech 2:5-13) (“And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold”), the fourth vision is Zechariah 3 (“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest…”), the fifth vision is Zechariah 4 (“again, woke me”), the sixth vision is Zechariah 5 (“again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold”), and the seventh vision is Zechariah 6 (“again I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold). The only difference between the two panels is “again” (Zech 4:1, 5:1, and 6:1).
The introduction to the central vision of Zech 3 sets it apart from the rest of the visions. Kline also argues that each of the other six visions includes the phrase, “I saw, and behold” but not the hinge vision (cf. Zech 4:2). He makes similar observations showing a similar relationship of the two “burdens” in Zechariah 9-14.
The appendix on Kline’s book called Glory in Our Midst: A Biblical-Theological Reading of Zechariah’s Night Visions regarding the structure of the book adds many more supporting observations that are very convincing.
Now we turn to the text. The first introduction, after date and author formulas, and comment about YHWH being angry with “your fathers,” exhorts, “Return to me, says YHWH of Hosts, and I will return to you, says YHWH of Hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says YHWH of Hosts, ‘Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds,’ but they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares YHWH. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?”
While the introduction was set in the 8th month of the 2nd year of Darius, Zechariah 1:7 sets the visions on the 24th day of the 11th month of the 2nd year of Darius. It repeats the author formula: “the word of YHWH came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying” (Zech 1:1, 1:7).
Kline argues that there are three main topics to Zechariah. The first and primary one, as he calls it, “is the return and presence of God’s Glory in the midst of his people as their strength and salvation.” The other two points are the promised results of that – the elimination of evil and “the redemptive establishment of the Zion community as an expression and embodiment of God’s universal sovereignty” (p.1). He describes then the primary characters in this story as the Glory-Presence of YHWH, the satanic world, and the redeemed covenant community. These three are symbolically represented in Zech 1:8 by the red horse, the deep (“glen, etc.”), and the myrtle trees.
Thus Zechariah introduces the primary characters of the whole story in Zech 1:8 opening the first vision. The verse reads, “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen (bottom, deep), and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.” The angel-man riding the red horse is the pre-incarnate Christ. The man of Zechariah 1:8, 10 (who rides the red horse) is called “the angel of YHWH” in Zechariah 1:11, 12. The other horsemen answer to the one who is “the angel of YHWH.”
There is another angel in the text that Zechariah calls “the angel who talked with me” (cf. Zech 1:9, 13, 14, 19). He is the angel that interprets the apocalyptic vision to Zechariah. But this angel and the others all answer to “the angel of YHWH” who is the pre-incarnate Christ and the Lord of angels. Kline notes the similarities between “the angel of YHWH” in this text and the “commander of the army of YHWH” in Joshua 5. Both refer to the pre-incarnate Christ. John in Revelation describes Christ as riding on a white horse (Rev 19:11, cf. Rev 6:2) with a similar military idea.
So the apocalyptic portrait that Zechariah is painting is one of the Christ-warrior who will lead the angels into battle. And as is common with literature with apocalyptic features, the goal is to bring comfort to Israel. So “the angel of YHWH” who is Christ says, “O YHWH of Hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years? And YHWH answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.”
The second vision (Zech 1:18-21, Hebrew: 2:1-4) is of four horns. In apocalyptic imagery (and in imagery in general) a horn is a symbol of power. You may recall there is apocalyptic horn imagery in the book of Daniel. The interpreting angel explained the four horns to Zechariah “these are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem” (Zech 1:19, English). Then Zechariah sees four craftsmen who have come to “terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it” (Zech 1:20-21, English). So this is a message of comfort for the people of Judah.
The third vision is of a man (Christ) with a measuring line in his hand. We have seen measuring line imagery before. In fact, we have seen it in the first vision in Zechariah: “and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem” (Zech 1:16b). Now we see the man with a measuring line in his hand and Zechariah asked him where he was going with it and he said, “To measure Jerusalem…” And one of the angels said, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, a declaration of YHWH, and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zech 2:4b-5, English).
Glory in her midst we said was one of the characters in the apocalypse of Zechariah. The Glory-Presence of YHWH is a theme that we could trace throughout Scripture including how we remember seeing it leave the Temple in Ezekiel. The idea of God dwelling with His people is repeated later in this vision: “for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, a declaration of YHWH, and many nations shall join themselves to YHWH in that day and shall be my people, and I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that YHWH of Hosts has sent me to you” (Zech 2:10-11, English). Note the two “dwell in your midst” portions just quoted highlight the text between.
The last two verses of the vision are also powerful: “’And YHWH will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.’ Be silent, all flesh, before YHWH, for He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling” (Zech 2:12-13, English).
Here Zechariah is using the prophetic typological idiom – when he speaks of the city of Jerusalem that is actually a type for the New Testament church. It is noteworthy that the picture here highlights the fullness of the Gentile nations being included in the church, which is a theme of the whole book.
Kline helpfully adds that there is a proclamation section to this vision. The vision opens with imagery in two scenes (Zech 2:1-2 and 3-5 in English) and then the proclamation (Zech 2:6-13, English). This was also true in the first vision and we will see it too in visions five and seven. Thus visions 1, 3, 5, and 7 have a proclamation section – note the pattern of all the odd numbered visions. Structurally these are all of the visions in the “a” position of the chiastic order of the panels (panel 1 is visions 1-3, panel 2 is visions 5-7). The proclamation section he says, “makes interpretive application of the preceding imagery.”
The fourth vision is, as we have seen, the climax of the seven night visions. We noted earlier that only in the hinge passages does Zechariah personally participate in the prophetic vision. Thus we see a prophetic sign-act in this text. Another feature that Kline notes in common between the three hinge portions is “the involvement of specific historical individuals.” He notes, “while the other visions symbolize earthly realities by imaginary forms, actual persons (Joshua and his fellow priests) appear in Zechariah 3.” And we already noted the common theme of coronation – showing the commissioning of the Christ to his role as priest-king.
Kline also notes an additional chiasm of the seven visions. If you label them this way: A,B,C,D,C’,B’,A’ (where D is the fourth vision we are looking at now) then the A portions mention the nations, the B portions move to the land of Judah/Israel, and the C portions to the capitol Jerusalem/Zion, and the D vision is set in the Holy of Holies. Thus in many ways the fourth vision (Zechariah 3) is the climax of all seven visions.
The Christ is present in this climatic vision as “the angel of YHWH.” Moreover, Joshua the high priest in the passage is a type pointing to Jesus. Joshua represents the people as their high priest. Notably then we also see the character of Satan in the passage. Satan, which is Hebrew for “the accuser,” was “standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zech 3:1). And so this is a conflict between the Christ and Satan over Joshua the high priest. We are meant to think of Genesis 3 (and cf. Revelation 12). The vision is set in the courts of heaven (the background for all of the seven visions but at the forefront here).
Joshua appears in this scene before the angel “clothed with filthy garments” (Zech 3:3). He represents the people who have been defiled by sin. Remember though that the Torah required the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies in the clean and beautiful vestments described in the Torah. The fact that he is dressed in “filthy garments” exposes him to Satan’s accusations. Satan then gets to pretend that he is a cherub who guards the sanctity of the heavenly court. And thus Kline notes it was an attack on God with the accusation that God who claims to be holy is present with sinners.
Thus in the vision Satan is actually accusing the angel of YHWH – the pre-incarnate Christ. “And YHWH said to Satan, “YHWH rebuke you, O Satan! YHWH who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!” (Zech 3:2). It is YHWH saying again, “Cursed are you…” to Satan like in Genesis 3. Revelation 12 will show the fulfillment as Messiah-Michael casts Satan down out of heaven. (I understand the archangel Michael as “the angel of YHWH” – He represents in apocalyptic imagery the Christ as an angel). But the point is that during OT times Satan had access to the divine court but Christ in the NT put an end to that.
Therefore on the basis of what Christ would do, He rejected the accusation of Satan and justified Joshua the high priest. He told him to remove the filthy garments and says, “I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments” (Zech 3:4). After being redressed Joshua is exhorted: “If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here” (Ezek 3:7).
Concerning the stone mentioned, Kline says, “The identity of the stone as the signet-seal on the high priest’s mitre explains Zechariah’s zealous concern that this head-dress be bestowed on Joshua (Zech 3:5 [“And I (Zechariah) said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head’]). For it was the Lord’s seal of acceptance (Exod 28:38). It was a stamping of God’s name (signet impressions being signatures) upon the forehead of his priestly servant, acknowledging him as his own personal possession, sanctified unto him.”
Kline sums up the vision this way: “The mission of the messianic priest-king has a double portrayal in Zechariah 3. It is typified by the figure of Joshua and his diadem-stone, but it was also set forth by the acts of the Angel of the Lord described in verses 1-5. All that divine Angel is seen doing for Joshua in the vision he would later do as the incarnate Servant-Son. In that day he would in historical fact vanquish the serpent, accuser of the brethren; remove the guilty stains of his people and clothe them in righteousness; seal them with his Spirit, renewing them in the image of God [the high-priest’s clothes were symbolic of the IOG]; and restore them as a royal priesthood, heirs of heaven’s glory, blessed with access into the throne-presence of the Lord their God. Behold the Angel of the Lord, the coming One. Behold my Servant, the Branch.”
The end of that quote refers to Zech 3:8 where the text says, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.”
The fifth vision shows Zerubbabel as a type of Christ. Zerubbabel was the descendant of David that we talked about when looking at Haggai because of his role in getting the Temple rebuilding started. There too Zerubbabel was described by the prophet Haggai as a type of the Christ. It contains a section of proclamation explaining the imagery of the lampstand and the two olive trees. The menorah is the Hebrew word for the lampstand in the tabernacle. It was made of gold and shaped like a tree with a trunk, three branches on the sides and with leaves and such. The menorah had seven oil lamps.
Zechariah appears to be describing a menorah because he mentions a gold lampstand with seven lamps. But this one is somewhat different than the one from Scripture we see in the Tabernacle with no mention of branches. Each of the seven lamps has a seven-wick design for a total of 49 lamp-lights. Additionally the menorah in the Tabernacle had to be trimmed each morning and lit each evening by the priests. However, the one in Zechariah 4 has two olive trees next to it that are connected to it and supply oil continually to the lamps so that they will not go out. Oil, as is common in Scripture, represents the Holy Spirit.
While in the Tabernacle the lamps represented the Glory-Presence of YHWH, here in Zechariah 4 it is the two olive trees that represent His Glory-Presence. The picture is similar to that of the cherubim who spread their wings over the ark of the covenant. But here the trees are like the legs of God standing to judge, according to Kline. Thus the menorah represents the people of Israel. 49 lights is suggestive of Jubilee and points us to the new covenant church. The menorah itself stands for a tree, which reminds us of the first vision where the people are myrtle trees. And as a menorah we are to shine light into the darkness.
What Zechariah describes Zerubbabel as building is actually what Jesus builds. The New Testament church that Jesus builds is constantly supplied with the Spirit as oil for our lamps that we are to shine into the darkness.
The sixth vision is all of Zechariah 5. Many commentaries divide the visions of Zechariah into eight visions rather than seven. However, Kline makes a convincing case that we are really looking at seven and that Zechariah 5 is one vision. Zechariah 5:5 where many see another vision starting does not have the introductory formula that we see in any of the other visions. And additionally the text that follows that verse depends on the previous verses. Moreover in the structure of this section the sixth vision is parallel to the second vision and both visions have two parts.
The vision opens with a flying scroll. The scroll is interpreted as a curse that goes out over the face of the whole land. It is a double-sided scroll. It is a covenant document with curses for breaking the covenant. The vision is one where the covenant-breakers will be removed from the holy land and taken into exile. The stork is an unclean animal. And Zechariah sees two women with wings like a stork and they take a basket to the land of Shinar (Babylon) to build a house for it (recall the tower of Babel). The vision is a cleansing of the holy land of the covenant breakers.
The seventh vision shows four chariots coming out from between two mountains of bronze. The chariots had different colors of horses – first, red; second, black; third, white; and fourth, dappled. The interpretation is that these are going to the four winds of heaven after presenting themselves before YHWH of all the earth. As you no doubt can tell, this resumes the imagery we saw in the first vision. It answers the question, “How long?” that we saw asked in the first vision. So far in the visions we have seen the people of God brought back into the holy land, the covenant breakers in the holy land removed, and now come the chariots of judgment.
In the seventh vision the two bronze mountains represent the Glory-Presence of YHWH. They are like the bronze pillars at the entrance to the Temple. It is a picture of God, or more accurately His Glory-Presence, standing in judgment and the Christ and His armies entering through that door from heaven to the earth. See also the vision in Ezekiel 1:7. The reason for the concentration on the north country is that is where the final battle is described in Ezekiel 38-39.
And then we have the climax of the whole book after the seventh vision with Zechariah 6:9-15. It is introduced, “And the word of YHWH came to me” (Zech 6:9). It again focuses on specific historical people – Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, Josiah the son of Zephaniah. And it shows a coronation – the instruction is to take silver and gold from them and make a crown and put it on the head of Joshua the Zadokite high priest. Again we see reference to “the Branch” who will build the temple of YHWH. The Messianic overtones of all of this are obvious. The difference is that this is history rather than vision.
Yet it is not Joshua the high priest who is the primary concern but that Joshua was a type of the coming Christ. Joshua was not a priest-king but only the high priest (Zerubbabel is the royal figure), Jesus is the priest-king. And it is not insignificant that it says that “those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of YHWH” as “those who are far off” is a way of speaking about the Gentiles who are not just helping to build the new covenant Temple but are part of that Temple. All this has come to pass because Christ was obedient even unto His death on the cross.