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Ezra 6:14 says that Zechariah (as well as Haggai) preached to those who returned from Exile to rebuild the temple. This book is in two parts: First Zechariah (chapters 1–8) is the prophecies of Zechariah son of Ido, received in night visions, to those returned to Jerusalem in the second year of Darius (520 BCE) and addresses the concerns of inhabitants of the Persian empire. Second Zechariah (chapters 9–14) never mentions Darius and 10:2 denounces dreams as lies.[1 p12–3]

"Zechariah is, of course, a lot more than just a series of visions. Nevertheless, because they play such a big part in his ministry, we'll take one last look at this topic. Why does God use visions to communicate with us, anyway, when a perfectly straightforward message would do? There are numerous advantages.

  1. They're visual! We remember more of what we see.
  2. They're colourful, surreal—​just like cartoons. In visions anything can happen. Look, for instance, at the amusing tale of the woman in the basket in Zechariah 5:5–11.
  3. They bypass conservative, logical, conceptual, modernistic defences. As happened with Ananias in Acts chapter 9, or Peter in Acts chapter 10.
  4. They don't need words and can therefore be shared across linguistic and cultural barriers (see Genesis chapter 40).
  5. They can be given to believer and non-believer alike; although it may need the gifts of a discerning believer to interpret them (e.g. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, see Daniel 2:24).
  6. They can be a gateway to a sense of God's majesty and splendour far beyond the normal mechanisms of our understanding ( e.g. Isaiah chapter 6 or Revelation 1:1–2).
  7. God sometimes uses dreams to alert people to dangers or extreme situations (e.g. Pilate's wife, see Matthew 27:19).

"The Bible is surprisingly full of visions and dreams. Providing that the sort of guiding principles mentioned in 'Going deeper' are wisely followed, there is no reason why we can't be open to God in this manner today. People often claim to have 'pictures', which is like seeing a vision with the 'pause' button on! Why not let go of the button and allow God to give you the full 'presentation'!"[2]

Zechariah is quoted more in the New Testament than any other Old Testament book. This may well be because it makes frequent references to "Joshua" which is the Old Testament form of the name "Jesus", so it seems quite legitimate to apply these prophecies (where it makes sense to do so) to Jesus.[3]

We should also bear in mind that prophecy might have more than one meaning. A pictorial vision might be a symbol for something topical at the time, a pattern for some act of redemption by Jesus, and a literal description of something happening in heaven.

Zechariah saw symbolic visions similar to those recorded by John in Revelation from chapter 4 onwards, and he asked what each element signified, which is recorded for our benefit. The first few chapters of Zechariah are therefore a help for understanding Revelation.



cf. Zechariah 6:1–8, Revelation 6:2–4 and Revelation 19:11–21.


cf. John measuring in Revelation 11:1.


"Joshua" is the Old Testament form of the name "Jesus", so these verses might refer to the original Joshua, or to Jesus, or both.


This verse implies that Joshua and the other Old Testament figures were symbols, that is, the Old Testament is a lived-out allegory of spiritual life. See also 1 Corinthians 10:11 where Paul says the Old Testament events are examples to teach us.


cf. 1 Kings 4:25.


cf. Revelation 1:14–15.


cf. Revelation 11:3–12. The lamps in verse 2 are probably burning olive oil, so the olive trees may represent the source of the light.


cf. Zechariah 1:8–11, Revelation 6:2–4 and Revelation 19:11–21.


The mention of east and west seems ambiguous: it might mean that the Jews had dispersed to places other than Babylon, or it imply an exodus from Babylon (coming back from the East) like the Exodus from Egypt (coming back from the West).


God wanted to restore the relationship promised in Genesis 17:8.


cf. Isaiah 62:11. This was fulfilled in Matthew 21:2, Mark 11:7, Luke 19:35. The poetic structure forced the writer to say there were two animals; this may be poetic license, eliminating the difficulty in imagining Jesus riding on two animals.


This verse might be making a pun on the name Jerusalem, because it sounds like shalom, which means peace and wholeness.


cf. Judas's thirty pieces of silver in Matthew 26:15 which was only half as much again as the price for a teenage slave in Genesis 37:28, the price of a damaged slave in Exodus 21:32. Those who under-value their spiritual shepherds are subject to judgment.


This verse was fufilled in John 19:34.


Jesus quoted this verse in Mark 14:27.


cf. Luke 23:44.


cf. John 4:10.


See Deuteronomy 11:11.


The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible speaks of no more traders, rather than Canaanites, in the house of the Lord, cf. Jesus cleansing the Temple in Matthew 21:12.


  1. Rofe, A. The Nature of the Prophetic Books Sheffield, 1997
  2. Scripture Union Closer to God bible reading notes July/August/September 2001
  3. Scripture Union Closer to God bible reading notes July 2005
  4. Coggins, Richard Introducing the Old Testament Oxford University Press, 2nd edition 2001

© David Billin 2002–2021