Book of Zechariah

Zacharias, Zachariah

{zek - uh - ry' - uh}

General Information

The Book of Zechariah, one of the so - called Minor Prophets or shorter books of the Old Testament of the Bible, takes its name from a priest who returned to Jerusalem with the exiles from Babylon. Scholars generally acknowledge, however, that only the first eight chapters of the book, which date from 520 to 518 BC, were written by Zechariah. These chapters are apocalyptic in character, consisting principally of a series of eight visions devoted to eschatological themes. Chapters 9 to 11 come from the hand of another author, "Second Zechariah" (c. 300 BC), and consist of sayings against foreign nations together with promises of power for the returning exiles. Chapters 12 to 14, which continue the message of Second Zechariah, are sometimes regarded as a separate unit labeled "Third Zechariah" and dated c. 250 BC.

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George W Coats

D Baron, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah (1918); P D Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalypse (1975).

Book of Zechariah, Zacharias

Brief Outline

  1. Series of eight symbolic night-visions (1-6)
  2. Prophecies, spoken two years later than the above; exhortations and warnings (7-8)
  3. Judgment and mercy; the coming Day of the Lord (9-14)


Advanced Information

Zechariah, Jehovah is renowned or remembered.

(1.) A prophet of Judah, the eleventh of the twelve minor prophets. Like Ezekiel, he was of priestly extraction. He describes himself (1:1) as "the son of Berechiah." In Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 he is called "the son of Iddo," who was properly his grandfather. His prophetical career began in the second year of Darius (B.C. 520), about sixteen years after the return of the first company from exile. He was contemporary with Haggai (Ezra 5:1).

His book consists of two distinct parts, (1) chapters 1 to 8, inclusive, and (2) 9 to the end. It begins with a preface (1:1-6), which recalls the nation's past history, for the purpose of presenting a solemn warning to the present generation. Then follows a series of eight visions (1:7-6:8), succeeding one another in one night, which may be regarded as a symbolical history of Israel, intended to furnish consolation to the returned exiles and stir up hope in their minds. The symbolical action, the crowning of Joshua (6:9-15), describes how the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of God's Christ.

Chapters 7 and 8, delivered two years later, are an answer to the question whether the days of mourning for the destruction of the city should be any longer kept, and an encouraging address to the people, assuring them of God's presence and blessing. The second part of the book (ch. 9-14) bears no date. It is probable that a considerable interval separates it from the first part. It consists of two burdens. The first burden (ch. 9-11) gives an outline of the course of God's providential dealings with his people down to the time of the Advent. The second burden (ch. 12-14) points out the glories that await Israel in "the latter day", the final conflict and triumph of God's kingdom.

(2.) The son or grandson of Jehoiada, the high priest in the times of Ahaziah and Joash. After the death of Jehoiada he boldly condemned both the king and the people for their rebellion against God (2 Chr. 24:20), which so stirred up their resentment against him that at the king's commandment they stoned him with stones, and he died "in the court of the house of the Lord" (24:21). Christ alludes to this deed of murder in Matt. 23:35, Luke 11:51. (See ZACHARIAS [2].)

(3.) A prophet, who had "understanding in the seeing of God," in the time of Uzziah, who was much indebted to him for his wise counsel (2 Chr. 26:5). Besides these, there is a large number of persons mentioned in Scripture bearing this name of whom nothing is known.

(4.) One of the chiefs of the tribe of Reuben (1 Chr. 5:7).

(5.) One of the porters of the tabernacle (1 Chr. 9:21).

(6.) 1 Chr. 9:37.

(7.) A Levite who assisted at the bringing up of the ark from the house of Obededom (1 Chr. 15:20-24).

(8.) A Kohathite Levite (1 Chr. 24:25).

(9.) A Merarite Levite (1 Chr. 27:21).

(10.) The father of Iddo (1 Chr. 27:21).

(11.) One who assisted in teaching the law to the people in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 17:7).

(12.) A Levite of the sons of Asaph (2 Chr. 20:14).

(13.) One of Jehoshaphat's sons (2 Chr. 21:2).

(14.) The father of Abijah, who was the mother of Hezekiah (2 Chr. 29:1).

(15.) One of the sons of Asaph (2 Chr. 29:13).

(16.) One of the "rulers of the house of God" (2 Chr. 35:8).

(17.) A chief of the people in the time of Ezra, who consulted him about the return from captivity (Ezra 8:16); probably the same as mentioned in Neh. 8:4,

(18.) Neh. 11:12. (19.) Neh. 12:16. (20.) Neh. 12:35,41. (21.) Isa. 8:2.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


Catholic Information

(Hebrew zekharyahu and zekharyah; meaning "Yahweh remembers", Sept. Zacharia and Zacharias), son of Barachias, son of Addo, a Prophet who rose in Israel in the eighth month of the seventh year of the reign of King Darius, 520 B.C. (Zechariah 1:1) just two months after Aggeus began to prophesy (Agg., i, 1). The urgings of the two Prophets brought about the building of the second temple (Ezra 5 and 6). Addo was one of the chief priests who, in the first year of the reign of Cyrus 538 B.C., returned with Zorobabel from captivity (Nehemiah 12:4). Sixteen years thereafter, during the high priesthood of Joacim (verse 12), Zacharia, of the family of Addo (Heb. of verse 16), is listed as a chief priest. This Zacharia is most likely the Prophet and author of the canonical book of the same name. It is not at all probable that the Prophet Zacharias is referred to by Christ (Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51) as having been slain by the Jews in the Temple; that Zacharias was the son of Joiada (2 Chronicles 24:20). Moreover, the Jews of Zorobabel's time obeyed the Prophet Zacharias (Zechariah 6:7); nor is there, in the Books of Esdras, any trace of so heinous a crime perpetrated in the Temple court.

The prophecy of Zacharias is one of the books admitted by both Jews and Christians into their canon of Sacred Writings, one of the Minor Prophets. This article will treat its contents and interpretation, canonicity, author, time, place, and occasion.


A. Part First (Chapters 1-8)

Introduction. The purpose of the book, the return of the people to Yahweh (i, 1-6).

(1) The eight visions of the Prophet, on the night of the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the second year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (i, 7-vi, 8).

The horsemen in the myrtle grove (i, 7-17). Their mounts are chestnut, bay, and white. They bring the news from far and wide; all lands are at rest, nor is there any sign of an impending upheaval of the nations such as is to precede the liberation of Israel from thraldom. And yet Yahweh will comfort Sion, He will rebuild the city and the Temple.

The four horns and four smiths (i, 18-21). The former are the nations that have tossed to the winds Juda and Israel and Jerusalem; the latter are the powers that in their turn will batter down the foes of Yahweh. The man with the measuring line (ii, 1-13). He is bidden not to measure Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem will have no need of walls; Yahweh Himself will be unto it a wall of fire, He will dwell within it. The vision now becomes Messianic, extends far beyond the immediate future, and represents all the nations of the world about the new Jerusalem.

Jesus the high priest before the angel of Yahweh (iii, 1-10). Clothed in filthy garments, accused by Satan, the high priest stands in shame. His shame is taken away. Clean raiment is put upon him. The promise is made to the rehabilitation of the high priest in the temple that Zorobabel is to build; and the Messianic forecast is uttered of the sprout (Hebrew çémáh), the servant of Yahweh (cf. Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15), who will be sent in the stead of the Levitic priesthood.

The seven branched lamp of the temple (iv, 1-14). An olive tree on either side feeds the lamp. The seven lamps and their lights are the seven eyes of Yahweh that run to and fro over the whole earth (verse 10). The olive trees are "the two sons of oil", the anointed priest Jesus and King Zorobabel. The picture is that of the providence of Yahweh and His two agents in the theocratic government of restored Jerusalem; this providence is a type of the economy of grace in the Messianic kingdom. Verses 6b-10a seem to be out of place and to belong rather to the end of the chapter or after iii, 10; this latter is the opinion of Van Hoonacker, "Les douze petits prophètes" (Paris, 1908). The flying parchment-roll (v, 1-4). Upon it is the curse of Yahweh that enters in to consume the house of every thief and perjurer. The scene of the prophetic vision has shifted backward several hundred years to the days of the thunderings and denunciations of Isaias, Amos, and Osee; from that distant viewpoint are seen the effects of Israel's sins and Yahweh's maledictions -- the Babylonian exile.

The woman in the epha (v, 5-11). She is forced into the measure, the lid is shut to, a leaded weight is laid thereon; she is hurried off the land of Sennaar. The picture is symbolic of the wickedness of Israel transported perforce to Babylon.

The four chariots (vi, 1-8). Bearing the wrath of Yahweh, to the four corners of the earth they are driven; and the one that goes to the north takes the vengeance of Yahweh upon the nations of the North who have kept His chosen people in captivity. It is to be noted that this series of eight visions begins and ends with similar pictures -- the horses of varied hues whose riders bring back work that all the earth is at rest and whose drivers, in like manner, are the bearers of the message of Yahweh.

(2) Sequel to the eight visions

As a sequel to the eight visions, especially to the fourth and fifth, Yahweh bids Zacharias take of the gold and silver brought from Babylon by a deputation of Jews of the captivity, and therewith to make crowns; to place these crown upon the head of Jesus the high priest, and then to hang them as a votive-offering in the Temple (vi, 9-15). The critics generally insist that it was Zorobabel and not Jesus who was to be crowned. They err in missing the prophetic symbolism of the action. It is the high priest rather than the king that is the type of the priest of the Messianic kingdom, "the Man Whose name is the Sprout" (Heb. text), Who shall build up the Temple of the Church and in Whom shall be united the offices of priest and king.

(3) The prophecy of the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year of the rule of Darius in Babylon (vii and viii)

Almost two years after the eight visions, the people ask the priests and Prophets if it be required still to keep the fasts of the exile. Zacharias makes answer as revealed to him; they should fast from evil, show mercy, soften their hard hearts; abstinence from fraud and not from food is the service Yahweh demands. As a motive for this true service of God, he pictures to them the glories and the joys of the rebuilt Jerusalem (vii, 1-9). The Prophet ends with a Messianic prediction of the gathering of the nations to Jerusalem (viii, 20-23).

B. Part Second (Chapters 9-14): The Two Burdens

Many years have gone by. The temple of Zorobabel is built. The worship of Yahweh is restored. Zacharias peers into the faraway future and tells of the Messianic kingdom.

(1) First burden, in Hadrach (ix-xi)

The coming of the king (ix-x). The nations round about will be destroyed; the lands of the Syrians, Phoenicians, and Philistines will fall into the hands of invaders (ix, 1-7). Israel will be protected for the sake of her king, Who will come to her "poor and riding upon an ass". He Who was spoken of as the Sprout(iii, 8; vi, 12) will be to the new Jerusalem both priest and king (iii, 8; vi, 3).

The shepherds of the nations (xi). The literal, and typical meanings of this passage are very obscure, and variously interpreted by commentators. The spoilation of the pride of the Jordan, the destruction of the land from the cedars of Lebanon to the oaks of Basan, south of the Sea of Galilee (verses 1-3) seems to refer to an event long passed -- the breaking up of the independence of the Jewish state 586 B.C. -- in the same was as does Jer., xxii, 6, 7. The allegory of the three shepherds cut off in one month (verses 4-8) is remarkably like to Jer., xxii and xxiii. Probably these wicked rulers are: Sellum, who was deported into Egypt (Jeremiah 22:10-12); Joakim, son of Josias, who was "buried with the burial of an ass" (ibid., 12-19); and his son Jechonias who was cast out into the land of the stranger (ibid., 24-30). The foolish shepherd (verses 15-17) is probably Sedecias. In verses 9-14 we have Zacharias impersonating the shepherd of Juda and Israel, trying to be a good shepherd, falling outcast, sold for thirty pieces of silver, and in all this typifying the Good Shepherd of the Messianic kingdom.

(2) Second burden, the apocalyptic vision of Jerusalem's future (xii-xiv)

The nations shall be gathered against Jerusalem (xii, 1-3); but Yahweh shall smite them in His power, by means of the house of David (verses 4-9); and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will mourn as one mourneth for an only son (verses 10-14). The prayers of the people of Jerusalem to Yahweh, Who says "they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced", and their grief at the wrongs that they have done Him are all typical of the Messianic kingdom. Yahweh is the type of Jesus, the prayers and mourning of Jerusalem are the type of the prayers and mourning that Jesus will inspire in the Church while its members look upon Him Whom they have pierced (cf. John 19:37). As a result of Yahweh's victory over the nations, idolatry will be stamped out of Juda (xiii, 1-6).

The theme of the shepherds is taken up again. Yahweh's shepherd shall be smitten; the sheep shall be scattered; two-thirds of them shall perish; one-third shall be gathered, to be refined as silver and tested as gold (xiii, 7-9). The prophetic scene suddenly shifts. Zacharias vividly depicts the details of the destruction of Jerusalem. In the first part of his burden, he had foreseen the transference of the Holy City from Seleucids to Ptolemys and back again, the hellenizing and paganizing of Judaism under Antiochus Epiphanes (168 B.c.), the profanation of the temple by Pompey and its sacking by Crassus (47 B.C.). Now, after the casting out of the shepherd of Yahweh, the city is again in the power of the enemy; but, as of after "the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be one". The punishment of the foe shall be terrible (verses 8-19). All things shall be holy to Yahweh (verses 20-21).


Zacharias is contained in the canons of both Palestine and Alexandria; Jews and all Christians accept it as inspired. The book is found among the Minor Prophets in all the canonical lists down to those of Trent and the Vatican. The New Testament writes often refer to the prophecies of the Book of Zacharias as fulfilled. Matthew (xxi, 5) says that in the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the details were brought to pass that Zacharias (ix, 9) had predicted; and John (xii, 15) bears like witness. Although, in xxvii, 9, Matthew makes mention of Jeremias only-yet he refers to the fulfilment of two prophecies, that of Jeremias (xxxii, 6-9) about the purchase of the potter's field and that of Zacharias (xi, 12, 13) about the thirty pieces of silver, the price set upon the type of the Messias. John (xix, 37) sees in the Crucifixion a fulfilling of Zacharias's words, "they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced" (xii, 10). Matthew (xxvi, 31) thinks that the Prophet (xiii, 7) foretold the scattering of the Lord's disciples.


In the foregoing analysis of the contents of Zacharias, we have stated the author, time, place and occasion of the book. The author of the entire prophecy is Zacharias. The time of part first is the second and fourth years of the reign of Darius in Babylon (520 and 522 B.C.). The time of part second is probably toward the end of the reign of Darius or the beginning of that of Xerxes (485 B.C.). The place of the entire prophecy is Jerusalem. The occasion of the first part is to bring about the building of the second Temple; that of the second part is perhaps the approach of the Prophet's death. The traditional view taken by Catholic exegetes on the unity of authorship of the book is due in part to the witness of all manuscripts of the original text and of the various versions; this unanimity shows that both in Judaism and the Church there has never been a serious doubt in the matter of the unity of authorship of Zacharias. Solid reason, and not mere conjecture, are necessary to shake confidence in this traditional view. No such solid reasons are forthcoming. Internal evidence is appealed to; but internal evidence does not here favour divine criticism. Quite the reverse; scope and style are one in the prophecy.

A. Unity of scope

The entire prophecy has the same scope; it is permeated throughout with the very same Messianic forecasting. The kingdom and priesthood of the Messias are obscurely depicted in the visions of the first part; vividly in the two burdens of the second part. Both sections insist upon the vengeance to be wrought against foes of Juda (cf. i, 14, and vi, 8, with ix, 1 sq.); the priesthood and kingship united in the Christ (cf. iii, 8 and vi, 12 with ix, 9-17); the conversion of the gentiles (cf. ii, 11; vi, 15, and viii, 22, with xiv, 16, 17); the return of Israel from captivity (cf. viii, 7, 8, with ix, 11-16; x, 8 sq.); the holiness of the new kingdom (cf. iii, 1, and v, 1 sq., with xiii, 1); its prosperity (cf. i, 17; iii, 10; viii, 3 sq., with xi, 16; xiv, 7 sq.).

B. Unity of style

Whatever slight differences there are in the style of the two sections can be readily enough explained by the fact that the visions are in prose and the burdens in poetry. We can understand that one and the same writer may show differences in form and mode of expression, if, after a period of thirty-five years, he works out in exultant and exuberant poetical form the theme which, long before and under very different circumstances, he had set forth in calmer language and prosaic mould. To counterbalance these slight stylistic differences, we have indubitable evidence of unity of style. Modes of expression occur in both parts which are distinctive of Zacharias. Such are, for instance: the very pregnant clause "and after them the land was left desolate of any that crossed over and of any that returned into it" -- Hebrew me'ober umisshab (vii, 14, ad ix, 8); the use of the Hiphil of 'abar in the sense of "taking away iniquity" (iii, 4, and xiii, 2); the metaphor of "the eye of God" for His Providence (iii, 9; i, 10; and ix, 1); the designations of the chosen people, "house of Juda and house of Israel", "Juda, Israel, Jerusalem", "Juda and Ephraim", "Juda and Joseph" (cf. i, 2, 10; vii, 15 etc., and ix, 13; x, 6; xi, 14 etc.). Moreover, verses and portions of verses of the first part are identical with verses and portions of verses of the second part (cf. ii, 10, and ix, 9; ii, 6, and ix, 12, 13; vii, 14, and ix, 8; viii, 14, and xiv, 5).

C. Divisive Criticism

It is generally allowed that Zacharias is the author of the first part of the prophecy (chapters i-viii). The second part (ix-xiv) is attributed by the critics to one or many other writers. Joseph Mede, and Englishman, started the issue, in his "Fragmenta sacra" (London, 1653), 9. Wishing to save from error Matt., xxvii, 9, 19, he attributed the latter portion of Zacharias to Jeremias. In this exegesis, he was seconded by Kidder, "The demonstration of the Messias" (London, 170), 199, and Whiston, "An essay towards restoring the true text of the Old Testament" (London, 1722), 92. In this way was the Deutero-Zacharias idea begotten. The idea waxed strong as was prolific. Divisive criticism in due time found many different authors for ix-xiv. By the end of the eighteenth century, Flugge, "Die Weissagungen, welche den Schriften des Zacharias beigebogen sind" (Hamburg, 1788), had discovered nine disparate prophecies in these six chapters. A single or a manifold Deutero-Zacharias is defended also by Bauer, Augusti, Bertholdt, Eichorn (4th. ed.), De Wette (though not after 3rd ed.), Hitzig, Ewald, Maurer, Knobel, Bleck, Stade, Nowack, Wellhousen, Driver etc. The critics are not agreed, however, as to whether the disputed chapters are pre-exilic or post-exilic. Catholic Biblical scholars are almost unanimous against this view. The arguments in its favour are given by Van Hoonacker (op. cit., pp. 657 sq.) and answered convincingly.

Publication information Written by Walter Drum. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


The prophecy of Zacharias has been interpreted by ST. EPHRAIM and ST. JEROME; cf. the commentaries on the Minor Prophets by RIBERA (Antwerp, 1571, etc.); MONTANUS (Antwerp, 1571, 1582); DE PALACIO (Cologne, 1588); MESSAN (Antwerp, 1597); SANCTIUS (Lyons, 1621); DE CASTRO (Lyons, 1615, etc.); DE CALANO (Palermo, 1644); MAUCORPS (Paris, 1614); SCHOLZ (Frankfurt, 1833); SCHEGG (Ratisbon, 1854 and 1862); TROCHON (Paris, 1883); KNABENBAUER (Paris, 1886); GRIESBACH (Lille, 1901); LEIMBACH in Bibl. Volksbucher, IV (Fulda, 1908), PATRIZI (Rome, 1852) treated the Messianic prophecies of Zacharias. The Protestant commentaries have been mentioned in the course of the article. The Catholic writers of general introductions are of service in regard to the authorship of Zacharias; cf. CORNELY; KAULEN, GIGOT.

Book of Zechariah

Jewish Perspective Information


-Biblical Data:


-Critical View:

The Second Zechariah.

Date of the Second Zechariah.

-Biblical Data:

Prophetical book composed of fourteen chapters; the eleventh in the order of the Minor Prophets, following Haggai and preceding Malachi. Ch. i.-viii. comprise three prophecies: (1) an introduction (i. 1-6); (2) a complex of visions (i. 7-vi.); and (3) the seed of Peace (vii.-viii.).

(1) The introduction, dated in the eighth month of the second year of King Darius, is an admonition to repentance addressed to the people and rendered impressive by reference to the consequences of disobedience, of which the experience of the fathers is a witness. Contents.

(2) This introductory exhortation is followed on the twenty-fourth day of the month of Shebaṭ by eight symbolic visions: (a) angel-horsemen (i. 7-17); (b) the four horns and the four smiths (i. 18-21 [English], ii. 1-4 [Hebrew]); (c) the city of peace (ii. 1-5 [English]); (d) the high priest and the Satan (iii.); (e) the Temple candlestick and the olive-trees (iv.); (f) the winged scroll (v. 1-4); (g) the woman in the barrel (v. 5-11); (h) the chariots of the four winds (vi. 1-8). To these is added a historical appendix, in which the prophet speaks of the divine command to turn the gold and silver offered by some of the exiles into a crown for Joshua (or Zerubbabel ?), and reiterates the promise of the Messiah (vi. 9-15).

(3) The next two chapters (vii.-viii.) are devoted to censuring fasting and mourning (vii.) when obedience to God's moral law is essential, and to describing the Messianic future. Ch. ix.-xiv. contain:

(1) A prophecy concerning the judgment about to fall upon Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Zidon, and the cities of the Philistines (ix.).

(2) Exhortation of the people to seek help not from Teraphim and diviners but from Yhwh.

(3) Announcement of war upon unworthy tyrants, followed by an allegory in which the faithless people is censured and the brotherhood between Israel and Judah is declared to be at an end; fate of the unworthy shepherd (xi.). To this chapter xiii. 7-9 seems to belong, as descriptive of a process of purification by the sword and fire, two-thirds of the people being consumed.

(4) Judah versus Jerusalem (xii. 1-7).

(5) Results, four in number, of Jerusalem's deliverance (xii. 8-xiii. 6).

(6) The judgment of the heathen and the sanctification of Jerusalem (xiv.).

-Critical View:

Inspection of its contents shows immediately that the book readily divides into two parts; namely, i.-viii. and ix.-xiv., each of which is distinguished from the other by its method of presenting the subject and by the range of the subject presented. In the first part Israel is the object of solicitude; and to encourage it to proceed with the rearing of the Temple and to secure the recognition of Zerubbabel and Joshua are the purposes of the prophecy. Visions, which are described and construed so as to indicate Yhwh's approval of the prophet's anxiety, predominate as the mediums of the prophetic message, and the lesson is fortified by appeals to Israel's past history, while stress is laid on righteousness versus ritualism. The date is definitely assigned to the second year of King Darius Hystaspes. The historical background is the condition which confronted the Jews who first returned from the Exile (see, however, Koster's "Herstel von Israel," 1894). Some event-according to Stade, the revolt of Smerdis; but more probably the second conquest of Babylon under Darius-seems to have inspired buoyant hopes in the otherwise despondent congregation in Jerusalem, thus raising their Messianic expectations (Zech. ii. 10 [A. V. 6] et seq. vi. 8) to a firm belief in the reestablishing of David's throne and the universal acknowledgment of the supremacy of Yhwh. Angels and Satan are intermediaries and actors.

The Second Zechariah.

In the second part the method is radically different. Apocalyptic visions are altogether lacking, and historical data and chronological material are absent. The style is fantastic and contains many obscure allusions. That the two parts are widely divergent in date and authorship is admitted by all modern critics, but while there is general agreement that the first part is by the prophet Zechariah, no harmony has yet been attained concerning the identity or the date of the second part.

Many recent commentators regard the second part as older than the first, and as preexilic in date. They would divide it, furthermore, into at least two parts, ix.-xi. and xii.-xiv., the former by an author contemporary with Amos and Hosea. This assignment is based on the facts that both Israel and Judah are mentioned, and that the names of Assyria, Egypt, and the contiguous nations are juxtaposed, much as they are in Amos. The sins censured are falseprophecy and idolatry (xiii. 1-6). This group of chapters (xii.-xiv.), containing the denunciations familiar in all preexilic prophets, is regarded as later than the other division, since only Judah is mentioned. It is therefore assigned to the period after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, and more specifically, on account of xii. 11, to the last days of the Southern Kingdom after the battle of Megiddo and the death of King Josiah.

Date of the Second Zechariah.

Other scholars have argued with much plausibility for the hypothesis that the second part belongs to a very late period of Jewish history. In the first place, the theology (see Eschatology) of these chapters shows tendencies which are not found in Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, or Jeremiah, but are due to Ezekiel's influence, such as the war on Jerusalem preceding the Messianic triumph. Again, the Temple service (xiv.) is focal even in the Messianic age, and this suggests the religious atmosphere of the Sadducean and Maccabean theocracy with Zion as its technical designation. A mixture of races is also mentioned, a reminiscence of conditions described by Nehemiah (Neh. xiii. 23 et seq.), while deliverance from Babylonian exile underlies such promises as occur in ix. 12. The advent of a king is expected, though as yet only a Davidic family is known in Jerusalem (xii. 7, 12).

The second part of the book may thus be recognized to be a compilation rather than a unit, all its components being post-exilic in character. Two groups, ix.-xi. and xii.-xiv., are clearly indicated. The second group (xii.-xiv.) is eschatological and has no individual coloring, although from the contrast between Jerusalem and the country of Judah a situation may be inferred which recalls the conditions of the early stages of the Maccabean rebellion. The first group may likewise be subdivided into two sections, ix. 1-xi. 3 and xi. 4-17 and xiii. 7-9. The Greeks (see Javan) are described in ix. 13 as enemies of Judea, and the Assyrians and Egyptians are similarly mentioned in x., these names denoting the Syrians (Seleucidæ) and the Ptolemies. In ix. 1-2 Damascus, Hamath, and Hadrach are seats of the Seleucid kings, a situation which is known to have existed in 200-165 B.C. The internal conditions of the Jewish community immediately before the Maccabean uprising appear in the second subdivision, where the shepherds are the tax-farmers (see Tobiads; Menelaus). In xi. 13 there seems to be an allusion to Hyrcanus, son of Tobias, who was an exception among the rapacious shepherds.

Emil G. Hirsch

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.


Wright, Zechariah and His Prophecies, 2d ed., London, 1879, which gives earlier literature; Stade, Deuterozachariah, in Zeitschrift für Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 1881-82; the commentaries by Marti, Nowack, and Wellhausen; G. A. Smith, Twelve Prophets, ii.; Bredenkamp, Der Prophet Sacharya, 1879; Sellin, Studien zur Entstehungszeit der Jüdischen Gemeinde, 1901; Stärk, Untersuchungen über die Komposition und Abfassungszeit von Zachariah, 1891, ix.-xiv.E. G. H.

St Zacharias the Prophet

Orthodox Perspective Information

Commorated September 5

Holy Prophet Zachariah and the Righteous Elizabeth were the parents of the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John. They were descended from the lineage of Aaron: St Zachariah, son of Barach, was a priest in the Jerusalem Temple, and St Elizabeth was the sister of St Anna, the mother of the Most Holy Theotokos. The righteous spouses, "walking in all the commandments of the Lord" (Luke 1:6), suffered barrenness, which in those times was considered a punishment from God.

Once, during his turn of priestly service in the Temple, St Zachariah was told by an angel that his aged wife would bear him a son, who "will be great in the sight of the Lord" (Luke 1:15) and "will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias" (Lk 1:17). Zachariah doubted that this prediction would come true, and for his weakness of faith, he was punished by becoming mute. When Elizabeth gave birth to a son, she announced through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that his name was John, although no one in their family had this name. They asked Zachariah and he also wrote the name John down on a tablet. Immediately the gift of speech returned to him, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, he began to prophesy about his son as the Forerunner of the Lord.

When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them. Herod knew about John's unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. However, Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers. In these tragic days St Zachariah was taking his turn at the services in the Temple. Soldiers sent by Herod tried in vain to learn from him the whereabouts of his son. Then, by command of Herod, they murdered this holy prophet, having stabbed him between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:35). St Elizabeth died 40 days after her husband, and St John, preserved by the Lord, dwelt in the wilderness until the day of his appearance to the nation of Israel.

Dismissal Hymn (Fourth Tone)

In the vesture of a priest, according to the Law of God, you offered Him well-pleasing whole-burnt offerings, as it befitted a priest, O wise Zacharias. You were a shining light, a seer of mysteries, bearing in yourself clearly the signs of grace; and in God's temple, O wise Prophet of Christ God, you were slain with the sword. Hence, with the Forerunner, make entreaty that our souls find salvation.

Kontakion (Third Tone)

On this day the Prophet and venerable priest of the Most High, even Zacharias, the father of the Forerunner, has now mixed for us the draught of virtue and set the table of his sacred memory nourishing all the faithful; for this cause do we extol him as a most godly initiate of grace divine.

Prophet Zachariah

Orthodox Perspective Information

The Prophet Zachariah was the son of Barachias, and a contemporary of the Prophet Aggeus (commemorated December 16). In the days of the Babylonian captivity, he prophesied, as it says in the book of Ezra, "to the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem" (Ezra 5:1); he aided Zorobabel in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. In the book of Ezra he is called "Zachariah the son of Addo (or Iddo)", but in his own prophetic book he is called more fully "Zachariah, the son of Barachias, the son of Addo the Prophet" (Zach 1:1). When the captivity returned from Babylon, he came to dwell in Jerusalem in his old age. His book of prophecy is divided into 14 chapters and has the 11th place among the books of the minor Prophets; his name means "Yah is renowned". Sozomen reports that under the Emperor Honorios, Zachariah's holy relics were found in Eleutheropolis of Palestine. The Prophet appeared in a dream to a certain Calemeros, telling him where he would find his tomb, and his body was found to be incorrupt.

Dismissal Hymn of the Prophet (Second Tone)

As we celebrate the memory of Your Prophet Zachariah, O Lord, through him we beseech You to save our souls.

Kontakion of the Prophet (Fourth Tone)
On this day You have appeared

As a brightly shining lamp that was illumined with the Spirit's fiery beams, O Zachariah most renowned, you prefigured with clarity the Saviour's great and untold condescension toward us.


Jewish Perspective Information

One of the Minor Prophets, to whom is attributed the collection of prophecies and apocalyptic visions constituting the book bearing his name. He was a son of Berechiah and a grandson of Iddo (Zech. i. 1), and was loosely called the son of Iddo (Ezra v. 1, vi. 14); the latter was possibly identical with the Iddo mentioned as high priest in Neh. xii. 4, which would make the prophet himself the high priest named in Neh. xii. 16. Zechariah was probably born during the Captivity, but was brought back early to Palestine. He began his prophetic ministry in the second year of King Darius Hystaspes, a little later than Haggai (Zech. i. 1; Hag. i. 1), his preoccupation being the rebuilding of the Temple. According to the contents of that part of the book which without doubt is by him (i.-viii.; see Zechariah, Book of-Critical View), Zechariah received Yhwh's messages largely through the medium of visions (i. 8; ii. 2, 5; and elsewhere), which excited his curiosity, and which, in answer to his inquiries, were interpreted to him as significant monitions bearing on the condition of the colony and the timeliness of proceeding with the rearing of the sanctuary (i. 16, ii. 14). He appeals for loyalty on the part of Joshua the high priest toward the Messianic prince, the "Branch" (iii. 8) or Zerubbabel (iv. 9). As the mediator of his visions, theprophet names an angel of Yhwh, called sometimes "the" angel, and it is he who introduces also "the" Satan in the rôle of a mischief-maker confirming the people's hesitation and discouraged mood (iii. 1, 2). His method thus borders on the apocalyptic. His style is not lacking in directness in some passages, but in others it leans toward involved obscurity. Zechariah, however, proves himself to be an uncompromising critic of the ritual substitutes for true piety, such as fasting and mourning (vii. 5); and he reiterates the admonitions for mercy and righteousness, which according to the Prophets constitute the essence of the service of Yhwh (vii. 8, 9). For neglect of this service Israel was visited with the sufferings that befell it (vii. 13, 14). Jerusalem is to be called the city of truth (viii. 3), and shall dwell in peace, so that old men and old women shall be found in its streets (verse 4), together with boys and girls (verse 5), and prosperity shall abound in the land (verses 7 et seq.).

While Zechariah lacks originality, he is distinguished from his contemporaries by the "gift of plain speech" (G. A. Smith). But while some of the obscurities and repetitions which mark his visions are probably due to other hands, there remain enough of these defects that come from him to indicate that the visions were not the spontaneous outflow of ecstasy, but the labored effort of a strained and artificial imagination. He was a prophet, but of a period when prophecy was rapidly running to its own extinction. E. G. H.

Emil G. Hirsch

Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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