Author and Date
Like Jeremiah () and Ezekiel (), Zechariah was not only a prophet () but also a member of a priestly family. He was born in Babylonia and was among those who returned to Judah in 538/537 b.c. under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua (his grandfather Iddo is named among the returnees in ). At a later time, when Joiakim was high priest (see note on ), Zechariah apparently succeeded Iddo () as head of that priestly family (). Since the grandson succeeded the grandfather, it has been suggested that the father (Berekiah, ) died at an early age.
Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai (; ) but continued his ministry long after him (compare and with ; see also ). His young age (see and note) in the early period of his ministry makes it possible that he ministered even into the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-424 b.c.).
Most likely Zechariah wrote the entire book that bears his name. Some have questioned his authorship of chs. - , citing differences in style and other compositional features, and giving historical and chronological references that allegedly require a different date and author from those of chs. - . All these objections, however, can be explained in other satisfactory ways, so there is no compelling reason to question the unity of the book.
The dates of Zechariah's recorded messages are best correlated with those of Haggai and with other historical events as follows:
|1.||Haggai's first message (; )||Aug. 29, 520 b.c.|
|2.|| Resumption of the building of the temple (; )
(The rebuilding seems to have been hindered from 536 to c. 530
, and the work ceased altogether from c. 530 to 520
|Sept. 21, 520|
|3.||Haggai's second message ()||Oct. 17, 520|
|4.||Beginning of Zechariah's preaching ()||Oct./Nov., 520|
|5.||Haggai's third message ()||Dec. 18, 520|
|6.||Haggai's fourth message ()||Dec. 18, 520|
|7.||Tattenai's letter to Darius concerning the
rebuilding of the
temple ( -- )
(There must have been a lapse of time between the resumption
of the building and Tattenai's appearance.)
|8.||Zechariah's eight night visions ( -- )||Feb. 15, 519|
|9.||Joshua crowned ()||Feb. 16 (?), 519|
|10.||Repentance urged, blessings promised (chs. - )||Dec. 7, 518|
|11.||Dedication of the temple ()||Mar. 12, 516|
|12.||Zechariah's final prophecies (chs. - )||After 480 (?)|
Theological Theme and Message
The book is primarily a mixture of exhortation (call to repentance, ), prophetic visions ( -- ), a prophetic oracle of instruction or exhortation involving a symbolic coronation scene (), hortatory messages (mainly of rebuke and hope) prompted by a question about fasting (chs. - ) and judgment and salvation oracles (chs. - ). The prophetic visions of -- are called apocalyptic (revelatory) literature, which is essentially a literature of encouragement to God's people. When the apocalyptic section is read along with the salvation (or deliverance) oracles in chs. - , it becomes obvious that the dominant emphasis of the book is encouragement because of the glorious future that awaits the people of God.
In fact, encouragement is the book's central theme -- primarily encouragement to complete the rebuilding of the temple. Various means are used to accomplish this end, and these function as subthemes. For example, great stress is laid on the coming of the Messiah and the overthrow of all anti-kingdom forces by him so that God's rule can be finally and fully established on earth. The then-current local scene thus becomes the basis for contemplating the universal, eschatological picture.
Several interpreters have arranged the eight visions of -- in a chiastic (or concentric) pattern of a-b-b-c / c1-b1-b1-a1: