1. Author and Time of Writing
Zechariah (= Remembered of Jehovah) was the second post-exile prophet and a contemporary of Haggai. They prophesied at the same time (see Ezra 5:1; 6:14).
It is generally assumed that the prophet Zechariah is identical with the man of the same name mentioned in Neh. 12:16. Hence Zechariah was prophet and priest at the same time as were Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Out of Zech. 2:4 we further see that he started his prophetical ministry in early years.
Zechariah’s first prophecy (Zech. 1:1) was uttered two months later than Haggai’s first message in the second year of Darius I (522 – 485 BC), which would have been 521/520 BC. A further date is found in chapter 7:1 where king Darius’ fourth year is mentioned (519/18 BC). Zechariah probably wrote the undated part of his book (chap. 9 – 14) only around 480 BC. He then is likely to have been killed by his own compatriots (see 3. Peculiarities).
The critics have not to criticize much in the first part of the book (chap. 1 – 8) whereas the second part (chap. 9 – 14) is much attacked. But the critics are not unanimous among themselves. The gospels repeatedly mention the second messianic part of Zechariah in connection with the Lord Jesus:
2. Purpose of Writing
Although Zechariah spoke to the remnant of Israel in God’s commission at the same time as Zechariah’s message was a totally different one. While Haggai had to rebuke the people most of the time because their zeal for the building of the temple wearied Zechariah speaks more of the city of Jerusalem. Besides he is the only post-exile prophet to give a detailed overview on the history of God’s people and the nations connected with Jerusalem. He describes the rejection of the Messiah by His earthly people Israel and their repentance and acknowledgment of the Messiah who will appear to establish His reign of peace. In this Zechariah is very similar to Daniel the prophet. Zechariah has also been compared to Isaiah “the evangelist among the prophets”. The keynote of his message is the unchanging love of God and His care for His earthly people. He will preserve them from all dangers coming from the world’s powers and keep them for His kingdom on earth.
a) Zechariah’s Death
The Lord Jesus says in Matthew 23:35 “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar”. Zacharias and Barachias are the Greek forms of the Hebrew names Zechariah and Berechiah. This Zechariah has of old been connected with 2 Chron. 24:20 – 21 although Zechariah is called son of Jehoiada. The reason for this supposition is probably that in the Hebrew Bible the Chronicles are placed at the very end. Abel then would be a man out of the first and Zechariah a man out of the last book of the Old Testament. It is more obvious however to think of the prophet Zechariah for primarily the problem with his father’s name disappears and secondly Zechariah the prophet lived at the end of the Old Testament’s period. – Further examples for facts from the time of the OT that are only revealed in the NT are the names of the Egyptian magicians Jannes and Jambres (2 Tim. 3:8) and Enoch’s prophecy.
b) Zechariah and Jeremiah
The fact that Matthew 27:9 cites Zech. 11:12-13 as a prophecy of Jeremiah sometimes causes a problem to Bible readers. A comparison of both passages shows that Zechariah does not write anything of buying a field while Matthew wants to explain precisely the purchase of the potter’s field. Jeremiah 32:6-7 however mentions the purchase of a field. Matthew obviously links the thought of buying a field in Jer. 32 with the 30 pieces of silver the price of the estimate in Zech. 11. While referring to both passages he only mentions the more known prophetical book of Jeremiah (a similar reference of Malachi and Isaiah is found in Mark 1:2-3).
4. Overview of Contents
I. Zechariah 1 – 8: Dated Prophecies during the Building of the Temple
II. Zechariah 9 – 14: Undated Prophecies after the Building of the Temple