What is the book of Zechariah about?

Last updated on July 18, 2023

In verse 13:1 of his book, Zechariah writes something that would one day become relevant to all Christians who accept Jesus Christ as their Redeemer. His words were, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Zechariah himself was a prophet who lived in Jerusalem about 2500 years ago. He told the Israelites what God had revealed to him. Let’s see what this centuries-old prophecy has to say to present-day believers.

1. The importance of Zechariah in the New Testament

The Apostle John confirms the fulfillment of this prophecy twice: in 1 John 1:7, and, most vividly, in John 19:34. The fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy takes place on that day– the day Jesus was crucified. John narrates how one of the soldiers guarding the Calvary site pierces Jesus’ side with a spear. This brings a sudden flow of blood and water: the ‘fountain’ which secured the cleansing (Hebrews 9:22) of the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as Zechariah had predicted some 500 years earlier. And as we learn through the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, this cleansing applies to anyone who accepts Jesus as Savior (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).

Biblical scholars identify between forty and seventy instances in which the Book of Zechariah is quoted in the New Testament. Jesus Himself is believed[1] to have acknowledged Zechariah – or rather Zechariah’s murder – when accusing the Pharisees in Jerusalem, shortly before His own murder (Matthew 23:35). In addition to Zechariah 13:1, Zechariah writes about the Lord Jesus Christ on at least five occasions (Zechariah 6:12-13; 9:9; 11:13; 12:10; 13:7b).

Modern Christians often revert to Isaiah 52-23 for detailed Old Testament prophecies on Jesus Christ but clearly, Zechariah was also the blessed recipient of many valuable visions. Ranked among the so-called ‘minor prophets’, his book is the longest.

2. Zechariah’s message to the people of Israel

Zechariah was primarily tasked to pass on God’s warning and promise to the nation of Israel. “Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Zechariah 1:3). Failure to return will result in punishment; several verses describe God’s anger with the people (1:2; 1:15; 8:14 and 10:3). Zechariah, however, looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise: that God would return to the Israelites to “dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” (Zech. 8:3) so that there would once again be “joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” (Zech. 8:19).

In preparation for God’s return, the temple of Jerusalem needed to be restored. The Book of Zechariah is not an easy one to read (and his original audience – the Israelites – may have struggled with his words to the same extent that modern readers do) but God’s promises about the rebuild of the temple (Zech. 1:16; 4:9; 6:12 and 6:15) were clear enough. The Israelites will have been overjoyed to see these promises fulfilled only a few years later. And in spite of the many harsh words emphasizing the need for them to return to God, God also showed Israel and Judah His mercy: “so will I save you, and you shall be a blessing” (Zech. 8:13).

3. Zechariah’s message for Christians

Zechariah, like Isaiah, was aware that God’s plan for salvation would at some point in the future include the Gentiles, now known as Christians. “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you’” (Zech. 8:23). Zechariah was not the first to introduce the inclusion of the Gentiles; even Abraham knew that “all peoples on earth” (and ‘all’ includes ‘us’, too!) would one day be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). Zechariah reaffirms this merciful grace in chapter 9, verse 1, where he singles out the tribes of Israel but not before establishing that God “has an eye on [all of] mankind.” The message to Christians is the same as the one to the Israelites: (re)turn to God, and worship Him.

4. Some parallels between the Books of Zechariah and Revelation

Zechariah, like John in the Book of Revelation, received visions in which he finds himself in conversations with angels. During these conversations, certain visions are explained to him. There is, for example, mention of a Horseman and horses (Zech. 1:8; 6:2-3 vs Rev. 6:1-8); someone with a measuring line (Zech. 2:1-2 vs Rev. 21:15-17 [2]), and the importance of the appropriate clean clothes is emphasized (Zech. 3:4 vs Rev. 3:4; 4:18; 6:11; 7:9; 15:6; 19:13 and notably, 19:7). The books share an important warning: God is not pleased with sinful behavior and wants people to change their ways. The need to repent is another parallel. In Zechariah, it is found in verse 1:4; in Revelation, Jesus tells four of the seven churches to repent (Revelation 2:5; 2:16; 3:3 and 3:19).

5. ‘Did you realize?’

  • The name ‘Zechariah’ means ‘the LORD remembers’.
  • Zechariah was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai, and ministered to the Jews who had returned from captivity in Babylon.
  • Zechariah’s conversations with the Angel are almost amusing. He asks questions with a healthy dose of curiosity and even interferes with heavenly proceedings by offering clothing advice (Zech. 3:5). All very much unlike the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation, where John is mostly overcome with fear. Perhaps the problem is age-related: Zechariah is described as (still) a “young man” (Zech. 2:4) whereas John was a very elderly person when he received the visions and wrote Revelation.


[1] In spite of Jesus’ clear reference to Zechariah, son of Berekiah, some believe Jesus was speaking about Zechariah the priest rather than (this) Zechariah, the prophet.

[2] Note that John himself is instructed to measure God’s Temple in Rev. 11:1

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