What is the Book of Zechariah About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and be inspired to read Zechariah!


Historical Context

Zechariah was a prophet and a priest. 

—ESV Global Study Bible

The introductory genealogy does contain a puzzling statement. Why does Zechariah 1:1 identify Zechariah as “son of Berechiah, son of Iddo” when Ezra 5:1 and Ezra 6:14 read “Zechariah the prophet, the son of Iddo?” It would appear that Zechariah 1:1 contradicts Ezra 5:1 and Ezra 6:14. The simplest explanation is that Zechariah was the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo. The Hebrew term ben often means “grandson” or “descendant” in other contexts (Exodus 34:7; Proverbs 13:22).   

—George Klein  

Source: Klein, George. Zechariah: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2008.

The New Testament provides one additional piece of biographical information having to do with Zechariah’s death. In Matthew 23, as Jesus was speaking his woes upon the Pharisees and upon Jerusalem, he recounted the people’s record of killing the prophets. “On you,” he cried, “may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar” (v. 35). Liberal commentators consider this an error in the Bible, since 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 records a different Zechariah being slain in the temple courtyard, long before the time of our prophet. This assumes that there could not have been two different prophets of this name (and Zechariah is a fairly common name in Scripture) so that Jesus was therefore in error. Rather than presupposing Jesus’ fallibility, we do better to accept his word and conclude that our Zechariah, the postexilic prophet, had his own life ended at the hands of the people in the very temple God used him so mightily to see to completion. As such he was the last of the prophets slain in the Old Testament, a line started outside the gates of the Garden with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain.  

—Richard D. Phillips 

Source: Zechariah (Reformed Expository Commentary), Richard D. Phillips, Copyright 2007, P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ.

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Zechariah for your good and to lead you into joy.

Zechariah began his ministry in 520 BC, shortly after Haggai had begun his prophetic work. 

The Near East at the Time of Zechariah

c. 520 BC

Zechariah prophesied to the people of Judah soon after they had returned from exile in Babylon. Several years earlier, in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great had conquered Babylon and absorbed its territory into his empire. A year later he permitted the people of Judah to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. Cyrus and his son Cambyses extended the Persian Empire until it stretched from Egypt and Lydia to the borders of India. 

Nearly 20 years after returning from the Babylonian exile in the time of Cyrus (538 BC), God’s people were discouraged. The foundation of the temple had been laid shortly after the initial return, in 536 BC, but powerful opposition had prevented any further progress on rebuilding the temple. And, there was little evidence of the kind of spiritual renewal that the earlier prophets had anticipated. Jewish sovereignty had not been restored. A moral reformation of the people had not occurred. Jerusalem was still only partially rebuilt and had no significance among the surrounding nations. Under the circumstances, many people concluded that theirs was a “day of small things” (Zechariah 4:10) in which God was absent from his people. Many viewed faithful obedience as useless. It seemed to make more sense to forget God and to pursue the best life possible. 

Almost 50 years later [after the exile], in 538 BC, Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, released the Jews from captivity. He commissioned them to rebuild the temple to their God and reinstitute worship according to their laws (Ezra 1). Although the initial building project began with great energy and optimism, external pressures as well as internal struggle caused the building project to grind to a halt. Eighteen years later, in 520 BC, the temple remained in ruins as the people of God had become preoccupied with securing their own worldly comforts. Into this situation the postexilic prophets [Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi] come with a powerful word of both warning and promise. They warn Israel of the dangers of forsaking their God and remind Israel of God’s unwavering commitment to his people’s welfare. These three themes come to dominate the message of the postexilic prophets: God’s sovereignty over the nations, his presence with his people, and his commitment to the future glory of both Israel and the nations. With these truths pressed firmly on their hearts, Israel will have to wait with patience for the final and ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises, when their deliverance will be complete and the God of Israel will be recognized as sovereign over the whole world.

—Stephen M. Coleman

Source: Content quoted from Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: A 12-Week Study © 2018 by Stephen M. Coleman. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Zechariah by John MacArthur

This message series will not only help you understand the book of Zechariah, but it will also fill your own vision with the glory and goodness of Jesus. Pastor John MacArthur takes his time in these hour-long messages to help us understand and treasure the book of Zechariah.

Zechariah Dictionary

As you read through Zechariah, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

A place where sacrifices were made to worship God. An altar could be a pile of dirt or stones, or a raised platform of wood, marble, metal, or other materials. The bronze or brazen altar was used for burnt offerings in the tabernacle’s courtyard. It was a large box, eight feet square and four-and-a-half feet high, made of wood covered with bronze. A much larger altar replaced it when Solomon built the temple. The altar of incense (also called the golden altar) was smaller, covered with gold, and placed just in front of the veil to the Holy of Holies. Every day, both morning and evening, incense was burned here, symbolizing the prayers of the people.

A powerful and aggressive nation, the most powerful Middle Eastern empire from the tenth century BC through most of the seventh century. Nineveh was the capital city. Assyria conquered Israel and took its inhabitants captive.

The capital city and the country that was one of the major political and cultural centers of the ancient world. The city of Babylon was located at the junction of the Euphrates River and major east-west caravan routes. For nearly 1,000 years, until the rise of Assyria in the ninth century BC, Babylon dominated much of the Middle East. Near the end of the seventh century BC, Babylon regained its independence and for nearly 100 years asserted its influence throughout the region and was a constant threat to the kingdom of Judah, finally resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah’s leading citizens. Babylon was captured by the Persians in 539 BC and then continued to decline, until it was destroyed by the Greek army under Alexander the Great.

The stone that holds two walls together; the final most important stone that finishes a wall. When the Bible calls Jesus a capstone, it reminds us that he is the head of the Church and that he holds all Christians together.

A large stone in the foundation of a building at the corner of two walls, holding the two walls together. The cornerstone is the first and most important stone laid when a building is started. Jesus is called the cornerstone of a Christian’s faith in God because he is the most important part of knowing who God is.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The most important priest of all the priests, who served God in the tabernacle and later in the temple. In the Old Testament, the high priest offered the most important sacrifices to God for the people. In New Testament times, he was also a powerful political leader. He was the head of the Sanhedrin—the group of men who governed the Jewish people. He even had a small army. The high priest wore special clothing described in Exodus 28:1-39. Aaron was the first high priest. All other high priests were his descendants. The New Testament says that Jesus Christ is now our high priest, the one who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (see Hebrews 8–9).

Pure; set apart; belonging to God. God is holy. He is perfect and without sin. Jesus is holy too. He is without sin and dedicated to doing what God wants. Because Jesus died to take the punishment for sin and then rose again, people who believe in him have the power to be holy too. God helps them to become more and more pure and loving, like Jesus.

The most important city of Bible times. Jerusalem was the capital of the united kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. The temple was built in Jerusalem, so many people traveled to the city to worship God. In 587 BC, Jerusalem was captured and mostly destroyed by Babylonian armies. The city was rebuilt when the Jews returned after 70 years of exile in Babylon. Jesus taught in the city of Jerusalem, was crucified outside the city wall, was buried near the city, and then rose again. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit came to the believers there.

(1) One of the sons of Jacob and Leah. (2) The descendants of Jacob and Leah’s son of the same name, who became the tribe of Judah. (3) The southern kingdom when the Israelites divided into two separate countries after the death of King Solomon (The northern kingdom was called Israel.)

Among the Jews, a man who offered prayers and sacrifices to God for the people. Priests led the public worship services at the tabernacle and later at the temple. Often the priests also taught the Law of God to the people. The priests of Israel were all descendants of Aaron’s family. All Christians are also priests (see 1 Peter 2:9). We are to help others learn about and worship God.

Men and women in the Old and New Testaments chosen by God to tell his messages to people. Also refers to the seventeen Old Testament books written by prophets.

A person who takes care of sheep. Shepherds find grass and water for their sheep, protect them from bad weather and wild animals, bring them safely into a sheepfold (or some other sheltered area) at night, and care for sick or hurt sheep.

The unseen part of a person that controls what he or she thinks, feels, and does; soul. The Bible says that God is a Spirit, showing that he does not have a physical body.

The permanent place in Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped God. The first temple was built by King Solomon and the people by following the instructions God had given Solomon’s father, King David. The temple was a very beautiful place. It was destroyed and rebuilt twice. In AD 64, the temple was destroyed again but was not rebuilt.

(1) One of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built (Mount Zion). (2) The entire city of Jerusalem. (3) Another name for the nation of Israel. (4) Another name for heaven.

What the Bible Is All About NIV Henrietta Mears

Dictionary Source

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Zechariah.

This book is the most messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological in the Old Testament. Primarily, it is a prophecy about Jesus Christ, focusing on his coming glory as a means to comfort Israel (cf. Zechariah 1:13, 17). While the book is filled with visions, prophecies, signs, celestial visitors, and the voice of God, it is also practical, dealing with issues like repentance, divine care, salvation, and holy living. Prophecy was soon to be silent for more than 400 years until John the Baptist, so God used Zechariah to bring a rich, abundant outburst of promise for the future to sustain the faithful remnant through those silent years. 

—John MacArthur

Source: Copyright 2023, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You article originally appeared here at

With the exception of Zephaniah, we know more about Zechariah’s lineage than any other Minor Prophet author. The book of Zechariah links the prophet to a priestly family, and particularly chapters 1-8 also introduce the prophet personally, although without the psychological insight garnered from Hosea or Jonah.  

The name Zechariah in Hebrew means “Yahweh remembers,” a popular name belonging to some two dozen different individuals in the Old Testament alone. The name also appears in the New Testament as the name of John the Baptist’s father (Luke 1:5; 3:2). Like many proper names in the Old Testament, Zechariah’s name proclaims a theological message about God and his relationship with his people, Israel. While living in a day filled with political unrest and spiritual apathy, modern readers find it difficult to appreciate the bleak present (and future) that postexilic Israelites faced during the days of Zechariah the prophet’s ministry. Every mention of Zechariah’s name remonstrated against the people’s lack of faith. The prophet’s name, along with his message, consistently reminded the nation that the Lord had made a covenant with Israel, a binding commitment that God would assuredly keep. The people should respond to the reminder of the Lord’s faithfulness with faith and obedience of their own. Israel’s security and future hope will be as sure as the faithfulness of God himself, provided that the nation live obediently before the Lord.   

—George Klein  

Source: Klein, George. Zechariah: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2008.

Zechariah deals with a number of important themes, the most significant being the restoration of Israel. He encourages the people with the promise that Jerusalem and the temple will be rebuilt and that this rebuilding will have worldwide significance. God will once again manifest his presence among his people and cleanse them from their sin. He will overcome their sin and rebellion through a coming Messiah. Zechariah’s visions and oracles teach the people that although the restoration from exile has already begun, it has not yet reached its full consummation.

—Keith Mathison  

Source: Top 5 Commentaries on the Book of Zechariah by Keith Mathison. © Ligonier Ministries 2023. Used by permission of Ligonier Ministries. All rights reserved.

Past generations [of Israelites] were characterized by a hardness of heart. When the Lord had repeatedly sent prophets to urge the people to turn from their wicked ways and to repent for their evil deeds, the people largely ignored them. Eventually, their unrepentant disobedience ended with the judgment of the Assyrian exile of the northern tribes and the Babylonian exile of the southern tribes.

Yet God declared in Zechariah that he was not done with his people. He called them to repent and he promised that if they did he would cleanse them. Though they were filthy from their sins and the stain of exile, God assured them that they would once again be made clean (Zechariah 3:1-10). Gone would be the false prophets, the idols, and the spirit of uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1-3), as well as theft and false testimonies (Zechariah 5:1-4). In their place would be mercy, justice, peace, and prosperity (Zechariah 7:1-8:23). Significantly, the book of Zechariah ends with the declaration that Jerusalem will be so holy that even the common and unclean things like horses’ bells and cooking pots will be inscribed with “Holy to the Lord,” an inscription previously reserved for the gold plate on the high priest’s turban (Exodus 28:36; 39:30).

…Moreover, the Lord will return to Zion and will work salvation for his people (Zechariah 9:9-17). In fact, the book mentions Jerusalem more than forty times. Zechariah longs for the day when the Lord will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem so that they become the “Holy Mountain” and the “City of Truth” (Zechariah 8:3 NIV). It will once again be teeming with people and livestock (Zechariah 2:4). In 1:16, the measuring line is used not just to plan the reconstruction of the temple as in Ezekiel 40, but of the entire city of Jerusalem. In other words, the Lord plans to restore Jerusalem as the imperial city of his coming kingdom.

—Bryan R. Gregory

Source: Longing for God in an Age of Discouragement: The Gospel According to Zechariah, Bryan R. Gregory, Copyright 2010, P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ.

The book of Zechariah’s most foundational purpose is to lift the eyes (a recurring phrase in the book) of the people of God from their discouraging circumstances to see the bigger picture of God’s coming kingdom. If they could begin grasping that “the kingdom of God was already prepared in heaven,” then they would find their discouragement melting away and a renewed motivation to do what the Lord was calling them to do, namely to build the temple, purge the social evils among them, and order their lives and communities around the priorities and expectations of God’s coming kingdom.

—Bryan R. Gregory 

Source: Longing for God in an Age of Discouragement: The Gospel According to Zechariah, Bryan R. Gregory, Copyright 2010, P&R Publishing, Philipsburg, NJ.

Consider a lesson from Zechariah and Scripture’s other prophets: if we are genuinely faithful in the day of small things, our small obedience will become big—but not usually right away, and not often in the ways we expect… As long as we are in the day of small things, then, our job is to bear the Spirit’s fruit of faithfulness as we wait for God to bring the big things (Galatians 5:22–23). And our job is to see, by faith, all the big things right in front of us.

—Scott Hubbard

Source: By Scott Hubbard. © Desiring God Foundation. Source:

From We strongly encourage you to read this phenomenal article as a family!

The incarnation of the Son of God, and what followed over the next three years, was a turning point in world history and in the purposes of God. It introduced a radically new situation in which everything had changed. But it was not a negation of the past, as though all that had gone before was now cancelled out as irrelevant. On the contrary, according to Jesus himself, the new thing that had happened in him was the fulfillment of the past, a past in which, under God’s sovereign guidance and control, the kingdom of God had been slowly but certainly moving towards Bethlehem to be born[1]. The prospect of its coming had captivated the prophets and other inspired writers of the Old Testament for hundreds of years before its realization in Jesus. Like Jesus’ disciples of later times, they too had lived in the tension of the now and the not yet, for they already had the vision of it (at least in outline), but not yet its realization in the Messiah, who was yet to come.  

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.’ 

1. I allude, of course, to the famous words of W. B. Yeats (in his poem ‘The Second Coming’) in which he speaks of a similar (more ominous) inevitability about the way things are presently building towards another great turning point, a (metaphorical) second coming.  

—Barry G. Webb 

Source: Webb, Barry G. The Message of Zechariah. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.  

The Second Temple is the central theme of the Hag-Zech-Mal corpus. Haggai rallied the Hebrew people to rebuild the sanctuary (Haggai 1:14). Zechariah further encouraged the building project (Zechariah 6:9-12) and witnessed the vision of cleansing and investiture for the High Priest Joshua who would oversee temple worship (Zechariah 3; 6:9-15). Later, the prophet Malachi advocated the renewal of proper temple worship and the reform of a corrupt priesthood (Malachi 1-2). 

—Andrew E. Hill  

Source: Hill, Andrew E. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Someone has said that to correctly read the visions of this book, you must shine two lights on them—the light of the cross and the light of the crown. Otherwise, you will find that you don’t have the proper perspective or background to understand Zechariah’s visions. The prophet, looking far into the future, saw two aspects of the future Messiah—one Person, but two appearances. First, he saw him in humiliation and suffering; then he saw him in majesty and great glory. Jewish people who do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah ignore the Christ of the cross. Christians too often ignore the Christ of the crown. Both are wrong!  

—Henrietta Mears  

Source: This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.  

God has comfort. God has counsel, and God has some fantastic coming events for the people who have heard the call to repentance. That’s the gist of the whole book [of Zechariah]. God has got some marvelous things laid out for people who repent. And from 1:7 through 6:15, through the 15th verse of the sixth chapter, comes this comfort. And interestingly enough, it is given in a series of eight visions, and this is a mode that was used very frequently with the prophets. Eight visions. Now each of them is distinct, and yet basically they all say the same thing, but they come at it from different angles. In fact, as I looked at them, it’s very clear that the first one is almost a summarization of the other seven, and the other seven put out the details. But these eight visions were designed to comfort God’s people. 

—John MacArthur

Source: Copyright 2023, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This Grace to You message originally appeared here at

Zechariah Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Zechariah.

New Jerusalem
by Vertical Worship feat. Jon Guerra | Praise & Worship 
Before the Throne of God Above
by Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
There Is a King
by Elevation Worship | Praise & Worship
There Is a Fountain (Full of Love)
by Shane & Shane | Hymn
Lead on O King Eternal
by Sara Groves  | Chill & Relaxing
By My Spirit
by Leslie Phillips | 70s 80s 90s 
Not by Might
by All Things New  | Contemporary
Kingdom Come
by Rebecca St. James feat. for KING & COUNTRY | Pop 
High and Holy King
by Aaron Williams | Praise & Worship
Day of Judgment
by Christ Church Mayfair | Chill & Relaxing
By the Spirit
by Pat Barrett | Contemporary
I Will Bring You Home
by Michael Card | 70s 80s 90s
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