Judah fell to the Babylonians around 586 BC. Many were carried into Babylon. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were the prophets of the early exile. Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, took over the empire in 539 BC. While the Babylonians sought to intimidate its subjects, the Persians sought to please them, so they would be willing subjects of the kingdom. Cyrus returned the Jews to Jerusalem. His successor, Darius, divided his empire into divisions ruled by governors. Zerubbabel was made governor over Judah (Yehud). Haggai and Zechariah were the chief prophets in Judah during this period (about 520 BC).
A focus of both Darius and the prophets was the rebuilding of the temple. For Darius, it helped to consolidate his strength in the Persian Empire. For the Jews, it was a Godsend.
Zechariah was the son of Berechiah and a descendant of the chief high priest, Iddo. Zechariah means “God remembers.” Berechiah means “God will bless.” Iddo means “At the appointed time.” Together, their names suggest: At the appointed time, God remembers and will bless them.”
The Key Concepts of the Old Testament
With Zechariah and Malachi, we complete the year study of the Old Testament. It continues with a pattern seen frequently in the official lessons and in my blog: a pattern of Creation, Fall and Restoration.
Since the Creation of the earth, the Fall of Adam, and the future promise of the earth’s paradisiacal restoration to an Edenic state, we see in the Bible and other scriptures a pattern of creation, fall, and restoration. Adam was created in the Garden of Eden, fell from it, and was restored to Yahweh/Jehovah’s presence at Adam-Ondi-Ahman (D&C 107).
The Gospel was preached by Enoch and Noah. The righteous who believed them were translated and restored to God’s presence in the City of Enoch, while the wicked experienced the Fall of the Great Flood.
Yahweh created Israel, his people of promise, by making a special covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Over time they fell from favor and were enslaved by Egypt. God sought a new creation for Israel by rescuing them via Moses. Moses desired to restore Israel to God’s presence at Mt Sinai (D&C 84), but when Israel refused to enter into Yahweh’s presence, they were given a lesser restoration and promise. Instead of all of Israel serving God in His presence, only a select few of Israel would do so: prophets and priests. The Tabernacle, and later the temples in Jerusalem, Elephantium and in Samaria, would be holy places where the people could approach near the throne of God, located in the Holy of Holies of the temples. The Jerusalem temple’s ark of the covenant held the national treasures of Israel: the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s budding stick, manna, and other miraculous and sacred objects of God’s power. The ark was part of the Mercy Seat, seated between the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies, where God judged his people. When they were righteous, he restored them to blessings. When they rebelled, he allowed them to fall from His presence, and lose the protection of being the Promised people.
While the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were carried off, and the tribes of Israel still lost to mankind, the Lord promised to restore them. Judah would return from captivity and the temple rebuilt (known as the Second Temple). Yet in 70 AD, Judah would be destroyed again, this time by the Romans. They would live in exile for almost 2000 years, with the hope that someday Yahweh would restore them to their land, and allow them to build the third temple in Jerusalem.
With the earth fallen from God’s presence, Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi and other prophets foresaw the day when Yahweh would return in power and glory, Restoring not only Israel, but the whole earth, back into God’s presence.
Zechariah’s Teachings and Prophecies of the Temple and Messiah
Zechariah’s teachings and prophesies of the future focus on the priesthood and temple. While Judah has a governor, greater emphasis and power is given to the chief high priest, Joshua. Joshua, as chief high priest, was directly involved in the building of the 2nd temple and the services occurring within it. For Zechariah, Joshua is viewed as a symbol of the future Messiah, who would save Israel in the long run. Joshua restored the priestly blessings of the temple to Israel, and the Messiah would restore Israel back into God’s presence in his celestial temple.
Interestingly, the name Jesus is the Greek form of Jehoshua, or Joshua. Zechariah may have been speaking regarding the great chief priest of his day, but his prophesy foreshadows the Messiah, who also would be named Yeshua. Joshua is told to remove his dirty clothes and replace them with clean and holy garments. This is a common theme for priests and prophets who are cleansed prior to entering into God’s presence. Moses removed his sandals on holy ground; Aaron and his sons were clothed in priestly temple robes; in early Jewish-Christian texts, Enoch, Isaiah and others put on celestial clothing prior to performing service at God’s throne. Joshua’s clothing change symbolized his inner cleansing and that of Judah, as the temple was readied for service.
In Wikipedia’s comments regarding the Book of Zechariah, we read:
“The purpose of this book is not strictly historical but theological and pastoral. The main emphasis is that God is at work and plans to live again with His people in Jerusalem. He will save them from their enemies and cleanse them from sin.
“Zechariah's concern for purity is apparent in the temple, priesthood and all areas of life as the prophecy gradually eliminates the influence of the governor in favour of the high priest, and the sanctuary becomes ever more clearly the centre of messianic fulfillment. The prominence of prophecy is quite apparent in Zechariah, but it is also true that Zechariah (along with Haggai) allows prophecy to yield to the priesthood; this is particularly apparent in comparing Zechariah to "Third Isaiah" (chapters 55–66 of the Book of Isaiah), whose author was active sometime after the first return from exile.
“Most Christian commentators read the series of predictions in chapters 7 to 14 as Messianic prophecies, either directly or indirectly.These chapters helped the writers of the Gospels understand Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, which they quoted as they wrote of Jesus’ final days. Much of the Book of Revelation, which narrates the denouement of history, is also colored by images in Zechariah.”
Jim Faulconer notes that the first 6 chapters may be a chiasmus, which allows the earliest portions to help explain the later, more obscure prophesies. It also demonstrates that the priesthood and temple are in the center of Zechariah’s prophesy. We learn that the priesthood represents God’s power and the temple represents God’s knowledge, secrets, and presence.
In chapter 6, Zechariah makes crowns, one of which is placed upon Joshua’s head. Zechariah sees that the Branch will also receive a crown, rebuild the temple, serving and blessing the people, even as Joshua will do for his people.
According to Bible.org, we find that:
“Some of the things we know about the Branch:
(1) The Branch will be a man. (Isa 4:2; Jer 23:3-5; 33:14-26)
(2) The Branch will be from Israel. (Micah 5:2; Isa 53:2)
(3) The Branch will build the temple. (Eze 40-43; Hag 2)”
The Branch is the Messiah, even Jesus Christ. And there is a double fulfillment we can understand about the Branch. In his first coming as a mortal, Jesus was a man from Israel. The temple Jesus built in mortality was that of his resurrected body. The Lord told the Jews that the temple would be destroyed and then rebuilt in three days, meaning his physical body. We know that in his 2nd Coming in glory, Jesus will come as a man, reclaiming his position as King and High Priest over Israel, and he will turn the earth into a paradisiacal temple. The temple in Jerusalem, as well as others, will be built across the world to perform service to God throughout the millennial era.
That Zechariah was so closely connected to the 2nd Temple’s beginnings, establishing Joshua as the chief priest of the temple and as a Messianic symbol, extends to his visions of the latter-days. In conjunction with Daniel and John’s Revelation, we see the day would come when the Gentile nations would attack Jerusalem. The prophet warns the Jews of his day to escape Babylon (2:6-7) in the north. This prophecy applies today for those who engaged in modern Babylon. Babylon was a nation that mistreated and abused Israel, forcing others to engage in its industry and belief system (think on how Daniel and his friends were forced to worship the gods and king of Babylon). Zechariah’s Judah was protected by King Darius of Persia. Darius means “Lord”, and so the latter-day Israel is called to flee Babylon to modern Israel, where the Lord can be their protector.
Prophesying of the mortal Messiah, Zechariah saw that the staff of Beauty, even Jesus, would be “cut asunder” and sold for 30 pieces of silver. This was the price for purchasing a slave, and it was the 30 pieces that Judas Iscariot would cast to on the Potter’s Field (Zech 11:10-13). Zechariah foresaw the world laying siege to the holy city (12:1-2). It will be in that day that the Lord will send His grace upon them, even the Messiah to deliver them. At that time, they will see the one whom they pierced and weep. They shall weep for joy that they have been delivered, and weep for sorrow for the Christ whom they slew 2000 years before (12:8-11, 13:6).
Malachi means “my messenger.” He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and probably lived around 420 BC. The Jews had rebuilt the temple only a century before, but already were falling into apostasy and rebellion. They were not grateful that God watched over them, allowing Jacob to prosper, even while the nations of Esau (Jacob’s brother) remained in ruin. Children and servants honor parents and masters, yet Judah refused to honor God, profaning the temple worship with their greed and pride.
They refused to care for the poor, orphans, widows and needy. They no longer paid their tithes, thus “robbing” God of what was due him. They dealt treacherously with each other, forgetting the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
The prophet foresaw the coming of forerunner to Christ, prior to his sudden appearance in the temple (Mal 3:1). All Christians will recognize the forerunner as John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming in mortality. A second fulfillment of this prophecy occurred in 1836 after the Kirtland Temple was dedicated (D&C 110). In this event, Joseph Smith was the forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord by building a temple. Jesus suddenly came to this temple to restore priesthood power and keys as a preparation for His Second Coming.
On his Second Coming in glory, the only ones who would “abide the day of His coming” are those who have gone through the refiner’s fire. Intense heat was used anciently, as well as today, to remove impurities from precious metals, such as gold and silver. The residue was the dross, good for nothing, and thrown away. Only those who are purified will abide the 2nd Coming. All others will be as the dross, unable to withstand the purification process (3:2-3). The priesthood will be the first to be refined (vs 4), for they cannot serve God and prepare a sacrifice worthy of God if they are filthy.
Malachi lists those who will be judged by God and found wanting: sorcerers (false priesthood and magic), adulterers (sexual sin), false swearers (false witnesses and liars), oppressors of the poor and widows, and those who do not fear (respect and reverence) God (3:5).
In accusing Israel of not paying tithes and offerings, the Lord was showing them a concept they refused to see. Such payments had nothing to do with economics or ability to pay. Instead, it was an issue of faith. In paying tithes and offerings to God in faith, one opened up the windows of heaven to pour out blessings, which could include economic blessings. These moneys paid to maintain the temple, to help the poor, widows and orphans, and to bring about God’s great work. Neglecting these offerings meant man refused to be a partner with God in caring for the poor, and in moving his great works forward. Yet the proud thought that the wicked were blessed with wealth and all things needed, while the righteous never could get ahead. They did not understand that their material wealth was a fleeting thing that would end (ch 3).
It is in chapter four that God explains what will happen in the long run to the proud, the wealthy, and the other wicked who do not serve Him. While the righteous will go through a refiner’s fire that will purify them into God’s useful tools, the wicked and proud will burn as stubble. Stubble is what is left over in the field after the harvest, when the grain and hay has been cut and collected. After the harvest, the stubble was burnt to help prepare the land for the next growing season. A good burning would not only burn up the remains one could see above the ground, but would even burn up the roots of the stubble, leaving the ground ready for plowing and planting.
For the righteous, the Son of Righteousness will come with “healing in his wings.” He will heal those who have suffered for God’s name. He will heal the sick, wounded, widow, orphan, poor. He will heal those who have patiently waited on his name, offering righteous sacrifices and offerings in his name.
Finally, Malachi saw that prior to the Messiah’s 2nd Coming, Elijah the Prophet must return to prepare the way, turning the hearts of fathers and children to one another, otherwise there would be no one to save at the Lord’s return. This occurred when the Lord suddenly appeared at the Kirtland Temple in 1836, during the Jewish festival of Passover (D&C 110). Elijah gave to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the sealing powers. These priesthood powers allowed families to be sealed eternally, and to receive the greatest blessings of the temple. As I’ve noted before, the temple is the holy space on earth, where man prepares to see God’s face. We are sealed to God in the holy temples, and prepare and practice in those temples to be in the Lord’s presence and see his face. This return of Elijah is such an important prophecy that many Jews still reserve an empty seat at their dinner table for the Prophet during their Passover meal. What they do not know is that Elijah did return at Passover, preparing the way for the Lord’s Second Coming.
And with that Second Coming, of which both Zechariah and Malachi spoke of, will come the final restoration. As I stated, the Old Testament is a recurring story of Creation, Fall and Restoration. At the Second Coming, Israel will be restored to its true promise. All the righteous will be restored to God’s presence. The Messiah will come with healing in his wings, restoring us to a perfect joy and happiness. And the temple is the holy place where we prepare for that great day when we will see Christ face to face, and wash his feet with our tears for redeeming us.
Book of Zechariah – Wikipedia
Jim Faulconer’s Lesson 48 comments on Zechariah’s chiasmus
Bible.org on Zechariah
New Advent - Zechariah