This month our Bible reading plan takes us to the Minor Prophets. To help us assemble these books and understand their message, here are a number of resources to Zechariah, the first book of The Twelve. You can find more information about the Minor Prophets here.
Like Haggai, Zechariah is a book with clear historical references. It begins by saying “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah” (1:1). Zechariah 1:7 places the seven or eight night visions (see below) in the eleventh month of the same year. Zechariah 7:1 indicates a word from the Lord in the fourth year of King Darius. From these historical references, it is evident that Zechariah is a contemporary of Haggai and a prophet whom the Lord used to spur on the construction of the temple in 515 B.C.
The second section of Zechariah (chs. 9–14) forecast events in the future, but that does not signify a difference in time or authorship. As the ESV Study Bible puts it, bringing both sections together:
Zechariah began his ministry in 520 B.C., shortly after Haggai had begun his prophetic work, and there are many points of contact between Haggai and Zechariah 1–8. Both contain precise date formulas for their oracles and address the need to rebuild the temple, along with giving reassurance that God will bless his people for their faithfulness.
Zechariah 9–14 is different in style and content from the earlier chapters, showing more similarities to the later book of Malachi. Some scholars therefore claim that it was written by a different author at a different time. But the evidence in the text can be explained equally well if Zechariah himself wrote those chapters significantly later, perhaps in the fifth century B.C., when different needs surfaced within the community of God’s people.
An Outline of Zechariah
The Message of the Twelve provides a good overview of the three sections to Zechariah (p. 287):
|Zechariah 1–6||Zechariah 7–8||Zechariah 9–14|
|Prophetic Vision Reports:
The prophet receives revelation in the form of visions and then provides explanation of visual elements.
|Calls to Repentance:
The prophet calls for the people to practice justice and offers promises of future blessings of Israel as positive motivation for change.
|Prophetic Oracles of Salvation:
Promises of Israel’s future salvation and portrayals of what the future kingdom will be like.
- An Historical Introduction (1:1–6)
- Eight Visions + One Bonus Vision (1:7–6:15)
- Conclusion (7:1–8:23)
- The people ask about the timing of God’s kingdom (7:1–14)
- The Lord calls for the people to keep covenant (8:1–23)
- Images of the Messianic Kingdom (9:1–14:23)
- Part 1
- The coming kingdom (9:1–10:12)
- The rejection of the shepherd (11:1–17)
- Part 2
- Justice Restored to Jerusalem (12:1–13:9)
- The Promise of a New Eden (14:1–23)
- Part 1
The Eight Visions + One Bonus Vision
|Four Horseman on Patrol
|Four Horns – Assyria and Babylon driven out by Persia
|Temple measured and rebuilt
|Joshua the Priest Cleansed
|The Priest is Crowned
|Four Horseman on Patrol
|Woman (Babylon) driven out
|Scroll measuring the New Jerusalem
|Two Olive Branches = Priest + King
- Oracles and Visions (1:1–8:23)
- Introduction: return to me and I will return to you (1:1–6)
- Eight night visions and a sign-act (1:7–6:15)
- Vision one: the Lord’s hidden horsemen (1:7–17)
- Vision two: Judah’s oppressors oppressed (1:18–21)
- Vision three: Jerusalem unwalled (2:1–13)
- Vision four: the reclothing of Joshua (3:1–10)
- Vision five: the olive trees and the lampstand (4:1–14)
- Vision six: the flying scroll—wickedness judged (5:1–4)
- Vision seven: the flying ephah—wickedness removed (5:5–11)
- Vision eight: the Lord’s army on the move (6:1–8)
- A sign-act: the crowning of Joshua (6:9–15)
- From fasts to feasts (7:1–8:23)
- The Return of the King (9:1–14:21)
- The first oracle: leaders and their people (9:1–11:17)
- The second oracle: the people and their leaders (12:1–14:21)
In his book, Glory In Our Midst: A Biblical-Theological Reading of Zechariah’s Night Visions, Meredith Kline argues for a three part division of Zechariah, where 3:1–10; 6:9–15; and 11:1–17 function as three “center pieces” in the book. In this way of reading Zechariah, Kline outlines seven visions (not eight), because the flying scroll (5:1–4) and the flying ephah (5:5–11) are read as one, because both deal with wickedness removed.
Even more, these seven visions form a chiastic structure in chapters 1–6, with 3:1–10 being the center and 6:9–15 being the center of the book. Then chapters 7–14 center their message on the third-sign act, the rejection of the shepherd in 11:1–17. This is a different way of reading Zechariah than what is proposed above, but it has a lot to commend.
What follows is an adaptation of Kline’s outline.
Seven (or Eight) Visions (1:8–6:8)
Vision 1: Four Horseman, patrolling the earth (1:7–17)
Vision 2: Four Horns, wickedness removed (1:18–21)
Vision 3: The Measuring Line and Jerusalem (2:1–13)
Sign-Act / Vision 4: Priesthood Cleansed (3:1–10)
Vision 5: The Measuring Line and Kingdom (4:1–14)
Vision 7: Four Horses (6:1–8)
The Central Sign Act of Zechariah: The Priest Crowned (6:9–15)
The Historical Judgment and Salvation of Jerusalem (7:1–8:23)
- Judgment on Jerusalem (7:1–14)
- Salvation for Jerusalem (8:1–23)
The Future Salvation of Jerusalem by means of Priest-King’s Rejection (9:1–14:23)
- Oracle 1: The Rejection of the Shepherd-King-Priest (9:1–11:17)
- Oracle 2: The Restoration of the Shepherd-King’s Flock (12:1–14:21)
N.B. This Bible Project Video does an excellent job outlining the flow of thought in Zechariah, but it misses a crucial point—the prophetic witness to the cross of Christ. Sadly, this is revealing example of the theology that drive Tim Mackie. In his estimation, the cross is a testimony to God removing evil and injustice (both of which are true). Unfortunately, fore-fronting this Christus Victor understanding of the cross downplays the penal substitution of the cross. For more on this point, see this illuminating article that affirms the goodness of The Bible Project combined with its aberrant reading of the cross.
Overview Sermons on Zechariah
- Major Points from Zechariah by John Blanchard
- Does God Give Second Chances? The Message of Zechariah by Mark Dever
- God’s Great Heart of Love Toward His Own by Mike Bullmore
Sermon Series on Zechariah
- Returning to a Godly Vision (Zechariah 1–6)
- Returning to Authentic Joy (Zechariah 7–8)
- Returning Home (Zechariah 9–14)
Via Emmaus Articles on Zechariah
- Reading Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation: Interpretive Help from Bob Fyall
- Joshua & Associates: Finding Your Place in Christ’s Royal Priesthood (Zechariah 3)
Via Emmaus Articles on The Twelve
- Reading the Minor Prophets Together: Ten Observations from Paul House’s ‘The Unity of the Twelve’
- Finding Theological Unity in The Twelve: Reading the Minor Prophets with Richard Fuhr and Gary Yates
- The Theological Message of the Twelve
- Putting the Prophets in Their Place: An Introduction to the Historical Background of the Minor Prophets
Books on Zechariah
- Long for God in an Age of Discouragement: The Gospel according to Zechariah by Bryan Gregory
- Glory In Our Midst: A Biblical-Theological Reading of Zechariah’s Night Visions by Meredith Kline
- The Book of Zechariah (NICOT) by Mark Boda
Books on the Minor Prophets
- Richard Alan Fuhr, Jr. and Gary E. Yates, The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2016).
- Paul House, The Unity of the Twelve (New York: T & T Clark).
Books on the Prophets in General
- Peter J. Gentry, How to Read and Understand the Prophets (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
- O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2004).
- Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching from the Worlds of the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2015)
Soli Deo Gloria, ds