Study Guide

Zechariah in The Twelve Minor Prophets

Zechariah

As the son of a priest, Iddo, Zechariah’s interested in the restoration of the high priests and the holy Temple in Jerusalem. But Zechariah is two, count ‘em, two Minor Prophets in one.

In the first eight chapters of his (or their) book, Zechariah is a more imaginative version of Haggai. Flying chariots! Flying stork women! A flying scroll! There’s a lot of symbolic stuff flying around in Zechariah the First, and all of it has deep prophetic significance for the future of the temple, the priesthood, the government of Judah and final season of Homeland.

Here, for example, is a classic quote about Zerubbabel, the unfortunately named governor of Judah:

He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” (NRSV 4:6-7)

If this prophecy sounds familiar, that’s because the “not by might” bit gets picked up in a number of the Christian hymns, while Jesus himself riffs on using faith to move a mountain (Matthew 17:20, 21:21).

In the rest of the book, though, Zechariah the Second is pretty ticked off at the religious and political leaders of Judah. “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders,” saith the Lord, which generally doesn’t bode well for the folks in charge (NRSV 10:3).

So who was the real Zechariah—the leaders’ cheerleader or their most colorful critic? Whether they are two different people glued together in one book or just a cheery guy who got up on the wrong side of the scroll, the Hebrew Bible’s historical book of Ezra does mention prophets named Haggai and Zechariah in its account of the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian exile:

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set out to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them. (NRSV Ezra 5:2-3)

These two prophetic pals made sure the job got done.