Zechariah – In Context

To read Zechariah, I think you need to put it in context with the Haggai and Ezra.  I know that Malachi has been put last in the Old Testament because of 4:5, that is about Elijah coming again, but it has no time stamps as to when it was written.  Haggai and Zechariah are time-stamped so it is very easy to believe that these were the last two prophets to write their visions and words from the Lord. (Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah were written after Haggai and Zechariah but they are “historical” books.)

Zechariah is written in two sections, which a course means someone has to say it has two different authors from two times!  The sections are chapters 1 – 8 and 9 – 14; 1 – 8 deal with the building of the Second Temple and 9 – 14 are independent “oracles” that could have come at any time during Zechariah’s time as a prophet.  This second section, to me, could be a recap of many of the Prophets before his time and the Father is restating and adding to words and ideas that have come before. I see Zechariah as a man “standing on the shoulders” of people who have come before him.

This seems to be the order of the timestamps that I was talking about:

  • 2y of Darius – Ezra 4:24 Starts his telling of the story about the building and the opposition to the Temple
  • 2y, 1d, 6m – Haggai 1:1; call to restart building the Temple

24d, 6m – Haggai 1:15; building starts again

  • 2y, 21d, 7m – Haggai 2:1; to encourage Zerubbabel
  • 2y, 8m – Zechariah 1:1; call to return to the Lord
  • 2y,24d, 9m – Haggai 2:10; was defiled now blessed

Haggai 2:18; blessings from this day on

Haggai 2: 20; encouraged Zerubbabel

  • 24d, 11m – Zechariah 1:7; various visions for the leaders and people
  • 4y, 4d, 9m – Zechariah 7:1; call to administer true justice and words of encouragement
  • 6y, 3d, 12m – Ezra 6:15 Temple completed
  • 7y, 14d, 1m – Ezra 6:19 Passover celebrated

Zechariah – The Prophet With A Family History

The word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.  Zechariah 1: 1(NIV)

When you do a study on people in the Bible it is good to look at the meaning of their names, and like this study who was related to them.  Given the fact that names were given to later generations in honor of their forefathers, this can prove tricky to be as accurate as people want.  This study is one of those that could have several possibilities but I will try my best; please be merciful.  So, first, we will look at the meanings of the names and a common city that turned up with several of them.  (The numbers are Strong’s Concordance Hebrew references numbers.)

  • Zechariah (#2148) Jah (God) has remembered
  • Berekiah (#1296) knee or “blessing” of Jah
  • Iddo – (#5714, 3260, 3035, 112) 5714 – timely; 3260 – appointed or JEDI (for you Star Wars fans); 3035 – praised; 112 may be related to Edom or worshipper of Him. It seems that changing the spelling of the name happened for the same person.

Zechariah – There are many people with that name in the Bible, so not much there.

Berekiah – It seems there are two “major” families that share that name.

  1. A relative of King Jehoiakim – 1 Chronicles 3:20 and probably the family in Nehemiah 3:4, 30, and 6: 18. They rebuilt a portion of the wall and married into the family of a troublemaker for Nehemiah.
  2. A Levite from the tribe of Merarites from Mahanaim – 1 Chronicles 9:16, 15:17,23

Iddo – Other than “our” Zechariah there are four people(s) with this name.

  1. 1 Kings 4:14 and 1 Chronicles 27:21 talk about an Iddo from Mahanaim who was an administrator for Solomon.
  2. The seer who wrote down history and genealogies for Solomon and Abijah. 2 Chronicles 9:29, 12: 15, and 13: 22
  3. A leader of Levites that Ezra asked for help. 1 Chronicles 6:21 and Ezra 8: 17
  4. A priest whose son (Zechariah) went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. Nehemiah 12:4, 16

Mahanaim is a city that was east of the Jordan River.  It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where Jacob wrestled the angel (Genesis 32: 2).  It was a “city of refuge” for people who accidentally killed someone.  This is where King Saul’s general, Abner, set up Saul’s last son, Ish-Bosheth, to reign as king. Finally, it is where King David went when he ran from Absalom.  It is easy to see that this was a town of some importance in the area of Gilead.  So, Mahanaim was either a fortified city that was very important on the edge of the kingdom or they were trying to use the Law as protection against those looking to harm them.

Can we know for sure exactly who was the family of Zechariah?  No, but I will go with this idea.  He was a Levite (not the priest) whose family had lived in Mahanaim and his grandfather had been the seer and administrator who worked for Solomon.  This would mean that he was part of a family that had served God for many generations as prophets; that is quite a family legacy.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament – Joel, Micah, Zechariah

Zechariah 4: 6 Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.

These three prophets contain the last eight references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.  They may be few in number but they are very important shadows and references in the New Testament story.

Joel – Chapter 2: 28 + 29 are the verses Peter uses on the day of Pentecost and are very well known.

Micah – The verses here are 2: 7 and 3:8. These verses contrast true and false prophets; 2: 7 is the idea that false prophets were saying and 3:8 Micah describes himself (and Jesus) and reflects the statement in Isaiah 61: 1.

Zechariah – 4: 6, 6: 8, 7: 12, and 12:10.  With Zechariah, it is important to remember that he was a counterpart of Ezra and Haggai.  The first verse (4: 6) is for Zerubbabel, a descendent of David/Jesus who was rebuilding the Temple.  12: 10 is important because it mentions David’s son Nathan*, who is in Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3: 31, and talks about the “pierced one.”  For me the 6: 8 is the one that got my attention, so after some more studying it will be a post; it refers to the Spirit getting rest from those who have gone north (possibly the black horse.)

*  To be fair, I have always taken this to be Bathsheba’s son (1 Chronicles 3:5), but it may refer to Nathan the prophet that was with David for years.

Christmas Characters – Zechariah

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, has two scenes in the first chapter of Luke but is still important in the life and mission of Jesus.  The good doctor Luke begins the Christmas story with him.  Not just as the father of John but as a time reference.  He is performing the priestly duties of the division of Abijah during the time of Herod.  We really are not sure when this was but Theophilus could have figured it out.

David in 1 Chronicles 24 assigned the two priestly families months when they would serve at the Tabernacle.  (For a small discussion of the families go to Samuel – Priest.)  These assignments would have held until the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians.   This concept is applied again by Nehemiah when he was governor (12:17).  Abijah is one of the four names that are in both lists.

There are some loose comparisons between Zechariah and Abraham, but the notable difference is that he did not believe the news about a child being born.  Just for fun I reviewed the writings of the Prophet Zechariah and found a few light comparisons; mostly that the prophet also had angelic visits.  Zechariah’s (father of John) prophesy in Luke 1: 67 – 79 does carry some of the themes in the Book of Zechariah.

The fear Zechariah had while burning the incense (Exodus 30) possibly came from the incense_stickthought that he had done something wrong and was not worthy to be performing that duty. This fear started with the death of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 and Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16.  I have read in a variety of places that the priest would have a rope tied to his ankle just in case he messed up and was struck down behind the curtain.

His reaction to Gabriel’s heavenly message was just one of unbelief, not a happy surprise; he challenged the reality that it would happen.  There could be many reasons for Gabriel stopping Zechariah from speaking, but stopping the spread of his doubt seems the best.  Also, his total silence for nine months adds to the importance of his real inclusion in this story, the birth of John.  The other three Gospels include John and his mission, but it is interesting that the only non-Jewish writer included the miracles and signs associated with his birth.

I have tried to connect Zachariah’s service with the birth of Jesus in the Post – The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany.  The results are not what I expected about the birth time of Jesus.  The legend/history is better than I thought.

Nine months of silence and a visit from Mary prepared Zachariah for his final scene in birth-of-johnLuke when he confirmed the angelic message by naming his child John.  He joined the small group of people who are recorded in the pre-Pentecost time as having been filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is worthy to note that his prophesy started with the news of Jesus and then went to his son John.  That part of his utterance carries the words of Gabriel and Malachi 3:1.

Besides fathering John, Zachariah was the link to the priesthood informing them that something great was about to happen!  They choose not to accept!



Christmas – Two Questions

Christmas – Two Questions

“How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” – Zechariah (Luke 1:18)

“How can this be, since I am­­ a virgin?” – Mary (Luke 1:34)

Two visits from the angel Gabriel, two “fear nots”, two explanations, two questions, and two different human responses are the start of the Christmas story.  The first chapter of Luke introduces us to Zechariah and Mary and how both got news about babies from the angel Gabriel.  Zechariah’s news comes as response from prayer, but you get the idea that it did not show up when he expected it too.  In fact it seems many years late according to Zechariah.  Mary’s news is completely unexpected, a little troubling, but received by a willing heart.

After some struggling with these two stories, some underlining, and looking up some words I am going to try and write this blog and what may seem an unfair situation. It took me a while to understand that Father God had His timetable and His will was carried out for both Zechariah and Mary.

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had prayed for a child, God had heard that prayer and was answering it, but not according to human thinking. (Mary was not ready, who knows she may not have even been born when they were praying for a child.)  Zechariah got the news of a lifetime, in the Holy of Holies, from an angel that startled and caused fear in the old man.  His response of unbelief is reflected in his question and probably in body language but it had to be in his heart as well.  So even though he was silenced for nine months Father God still used him and answered the pray. In my thinking Zechariah was treated unfairly until I studied Mary’s part of the story.

Both, Zechariah and Mary’s story are very similar.  Gabriel introduces himself and both Nativity_Scenes002get a “fear not.”  Both are told they will have a baby and are given some explanation, and then both ask their question.  The difference with Mary is that she gladly accepted the news (vs. 38).  The terms that help put light on this was “highly favored” (charitoo) and “favor” (charis).  According to my Strong’s/Vine’s Concordance favor is a gift from the “giver’ of the favor but needs to be received with thanksgiving.  I think it would have been a different story for Zechariah if he had praised and thanked God for the news before he asked his question.

The term charitoo is used only twice in the New Testament here with Mary and then again in Ephesians 1:6.  In Ephesians it is in connection with “us” being adopted as sons so that we can receive “every spiritual blessing.”  I find no mistake that charitoo is in the same verse as the words grace and praise.  Here it is translated as “freely given.”  The concordance adds an interesting note for the Ephesians verse; it says that “grace is a free gift” while “favor may be deserved or gained.”

My personal take away now is there is a big difference between answered prayer and favor.  I hope that I can be like Mary and Elizabeth (vs. 25) and praise God with a thankful heart for the things that show up in my life.

Pic.  http://clipart.christiansunite.com/