Here is a free commentary on Zechariah for you to download (PDF, 1MB). It contains all our 2021 posts on Zechariah, including the introduction (below). Enjoy.
Introduction to Zechariah
This is not a verse-by-verse exposition of Zechariah. Plenty of commentaries already do that. This one views Zechariah’s visions from a particular angle, a kingdom perspective.
Why Zechariah? While studying Matthew’s Gospel, I found Jesus repeatedly referring to Zechariah. Along with the Psalms and the major prophets, Zechariah was crucial to how Jesus understood his mission and message — what he was doing, and his good news of the kingdom. To understand the Christ, I needed to see what he saw in Zechariah.
We haven’t always found Zechariah easy. Around AD 400, Jerome translated the Bible into Latin. He called Zechariah “the longest and most obscure of the Twelve Minor Prophets.”
Tips for understanding Zechariah
Begin by asking what God was saying to the returning exiles through Zechariah. Our first enquiry isn’t about Jesus or ourselves. It’s about God’s message for a people whose world had fallen apart when Babylon invaded their city, cut off the worship of their God, terminated the reign of their kings, and swallowed their nation.
After hearing Zechariah as Hebrew Scripture, we can see what Jesus made of the book centuries later. The temple had been restored, but the kingdom had not. His people were still ruled by foreigners. Zechariah’s vision of a victory parade with the peaceful king entering Jerusalem on a donkey remained unfulfilled. What Jesus made of Zechariah becomes a second level of enquiry, a fresh interpretation that assumes we’ve understood the first one.
Only then can we understand how to apply Zechariah today. Skip the first two stages, and the book will remain a puzzle. Pursue the three stages in order, and the book will unfold as one of the most magnificent visions anywhere in Scripture, the promise of God restoring his reign to a fallen creation.
Babylon had fallen to Persia, and the children of the exiles were beginning to return to Jerusalem to try to rebuild their broken identity as God’s nation. Zechariah declares that God has not abandoned them: as they return, God will return to them (1:3).
Zechariah focuses on two markers of God’s presence: the temple, and the kingship. Building the temple was their invitation for their heavenly sovereign to live among them and lead them. The kingship was the expression of God’s reign on earth through his anointed leaders, the descendants of King David.
Along with Haggai, Zechariah encourages them to complete the second temple, the replacement for the one Babylon destroyed. Around 515 BC they complete this task and install a high priest named Joshua.
But they’re unable to restore the Davidic kingship. The Persian rulers permitted them to build a temple to their God, but appointing a king would be an act of treason. Descendants of King David such as Zerubbabel cannot be king at this stage. Zechariah declares that, one day, God will restore them as a nation under his reign.
But centuries rolled by and God’s nation did not resurface. As new empires rose to swallow the old ones, the Jewish people found themselves in the stomachs of Babylon, Persia, and then Greece as Alexander conquered Persia around 334 BC.
Chapters 9–14 deal with this later time, the Greek invasion (9:13). These chapters are not described as messages given to Zechariah, unlike the earlier prophetic words (1:1, 7; 7:1, 8; and by implication 8:1).
These later chapters are a different kind of prophetic mediation (a mǎś·śā in 9:1; 12:1), a response to the reality that the kingdom has not been restored. In the face of failed leadership (shepherds), the restoration of the kingdom becomes the main focus of the book.
Unsurprisingly, these later chapters are the ones Jesus refers to:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9).
How God fulfils these promises
Zechariah expresses so much of Jesus’ kingdom expectations, his good news of the kingdom, his prophetic acts and teaching of the people, his role as the shepherd, struck down, traded for 30 pieces of silver, his mission to restore the reign of God for the people of God and for the nations who mourn over the pierced king. All of this flows like a confluent stream from the kingdom promises of Zechariah 9–14.
Join me as we explore the message of Zechariah in its settings and examine how that message informed Jesus’ identity and ministry. That’s how Zechariah’s message shapes the identity and ministry of those who are in Christ, participants in the reign of God’s anointed leader for humanity.
What others are saying
Barry Webb, The Message of Zechariah: Your Kingdom Come, The Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 20:
For the Christian, then, a journey into the world of Zechariah and his contemporaries is not a journey into alien territory, but a pilgrimage to the land of his spiritual ancestors. It is to meet people fired by the same vision as himself, and living with many of the same tensions and challenges. That is why the study of the book of Zechariah is bound to be so enriching; it is imbued, from beginning to end, with the same heart-cry that Jesus turned into a prayer for all of us: ‘Your kingdom come’.
For Logos users
In Logos, go to Tools | Personal Books, and complete as follows. Be sure to set Type to Bible Commentary (so the milestones are recognized).
- Title: Zechariah: a kingdom perspective
- Author: Browne, Allen
- Copyright: Copyright 2021 Allen J Browne
- Type: Bible Commentary
- Publisher and Publication Date: (leave Publisher blank) 2021
- Subject Heading: Zechariah
- Subject Heading: Kingdom of God
- Description: What was Zechariah saying to the returning exiles about the restoration of the kingdom? How did Jesus understand his role in relation to the later chapters of Zechariah? What implications does Zechariah’s message have for us as God’s people in Christ?
- Ephesians: a kingdom perspective (free commentary)