←Books ←Chapters ←Previous Next→

Zechariah and Malachi


Zechariah was a prophet/priest born in Babylonian captivity just before the return and restoration. So his message was for the remnant starting over in Israel, to motivate them to finish the job of rebuilding as a faithful nation.

Malachi seems to have been written after the Babylonian exile, but no one can say exactly how long after. He wrote to the returned exiles and warned them about their empty rituals and twisted logic.


Zechariah begins by setting the backdrop to the prophetic messages, which is the history of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. They must repent before God can bless them, which we know he longs to do. God reminds them that his words have endured long past the people who kept rejecting them, and he had proved that he always did bless them whenever they repented. So the rest of the book will expound upon that basis.

The first vision is of four horses, which should immediately bring to mind the four horses of Revelation 6:1-8. But these aren’t all the same colors. Rev. has white, red, black, and pale/green, while these are two red ones, one of mixed color, and a white one. The difference is due to their purpose here, which is stated in verse 10: to patrol the earth and report back to God. We can only speculate about the meanings of the colors, but red typically represented war, white meant peace, and the mixture probably stood for a transition between the two.

But why would God need patrols to inform him about the world? He wouldn’t; but we, and even the angels, would. A good teacher sometimes gives assignments that make little sense to the student until the tasks are completed, and then the lesson is clear. So such things as this are for the benefit of angels and people. The horses had found the earth to be quiet and resting, so God responds hat it was finally time for compassion and blessing, and for rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple. In verse 18 is another vision, this time of four horns representing the nations who had been instruments of God’s judgment against the people of Israel as a whole. Yet another set of four is given, this time of blacksmiths, who counter the horns and terrify them in defense of the land of Judah.

Another vision comes in ch. 2, of a man sent to measure Jerusalem as a surveyor would, which represents the first stage of restoration. He is told that the restored city would be much larger, and that God himself would be its walls. This of course pertains to the Millennial Kingdom, since it didn’t come to pass in the late centuries b.c.

We see starting in verse 6 where God tells the people to run away from their captivity and toward the land of Judea. They’re called the apple (pupil) of God’s eye because they’re the center of his attention, and anyone who touches them, even if Israel has deserved it, has touched God Himself. Again, this should serve as a warning for anyone, even Christians, who hate and wish to destroy the modern secular nation of Israel, thinking that God couldn’t possibly have anything to do with them— as if anyone else can claim moral high ground.

Promises of blessing follow this, and then in ch. 3 is a vision of the current high priest standing next to Satan, who met with the Angel of the Lord to hurl accusations at the priest. Setting aside pointless speculation about whether this angel was an actual angel or the preincarnate Christ, he calls down God’s rebuke on Satan. The priest’s filthy appearance likely serves to symbolize the condition of Israel, whom Satan wanted to crush but God determined to preserve. So his being cleaned up and dressed in fine clothing represents the forgiveness and restoration of the people and land. We see a clear Messianic prophecy in verse 8, with the familiar terms servant and branch. Likewise, the stone with seven eyes symbolizes the Messiah coming in his kingdom, and it is he who will cleanse the people from their sins.

Ch. 4 begins a vision of a menorah, flanked on either side by olive trees. So the scene presents a light that’s continually energized, since the oil of the olives is growing right beside the menorah. But before explaining, more symbols are given starting in verse 7. Zerubbabel, in the line of David, was the leader of the first group to return from exile. The mountain was the looming task of rebuilding, but this leader would conquer and level it. This small beginning was not to be taken lightly, because God was watching over it, as he does the whole world. So then Zechariah asks again about the two trees beside the menorah, and the answer comes in verse 14: They are the two anointed ones who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.

Are these the two witnesses of Rev. 11:4, since they’re described identically in both passages? Constable’s Notes argues for them representing the high priest and governor at that time, but they certainly also have fulfillment in the future. There will be a temple during the tribulation as well, and the two witnesses will remain in Jerusalem. So if we look back to the first fulfillment we can know what to expect in the second, as was also the case concerning the Abomination of Desolation mentioned by the prophet Daniel.

Since at the time of this prophecy the trees represented priest and governor, we should expect the future two witnesses to do the same. Notice also that both here and in Revelation the grammar indicates a continuing state; that is, these two stand— not have stood or will stand— beside the Lord. But we don’t know if they had always stood there before the world was made, so we still can’t rule out Enoch, Elijah, or Moses.

Ch. 5 presents another vision, this time a negative one about a huge flying scroll (not to be confused with a flying squirrel!). Its size matched that of the Holy Place in the temple, and though the angel says it represents a curse flying over the whole world, it can also mean the land. This meaning fits the context, which indicates that it concerns the laws of Moses that Israel had broken.

The next vision starting in verse 15 is of a large basket for measuring grain that’s going away. The angel adds that it’s also their eye throughout the earth, which refers back to the horses with that same task. But then a lead cover is lifted from the basket to reveal a woman symbolizing wickedness, which again has been used by many supposed Christian teachers over the centuries to paint all women as evil. Such teachers will not fare well at the judgment, and ironically, they’re the ones who belong in that basket.

So the woman is pushed back down and the lead cover replaced. Then two other women appear, but these are representing servants of God who take evil away, which of course the misogynists ignore. They’re portrayed as storks because their task is to carry the large, heavy basket. Zechariah is told that they’re taking it to Babylon, where a temple was to be built for the wicked woman. Some say that since storks were unclean birds then they must represent evil. But as Constable’s Notes points out, if they were evil they would have helped the woman escape the basket, and they were only unclean for the same reason any Israelite would be unclean if they had to take out the trash. This is very much like the removal of the priest’s filthy clothing in the earlier vision.

Ch. 6 begins yet another vision of another group of four, these being chariots coming from between two bronze mountains. Again, the four represent supernatural beings, and here they’re called the spirits of heaven. Notice also that each chariot is pulled by a particular color of horses, and this time the colors match those of Rev. 6. The ones pulled by black and then white horses were headed north, and the spotted or dappled ones south, but nothing is said about the red ones. The point seems to be that they go out from Israel to the rest of the world. Then the report back from the ones that went north is that God’s wrath had been completed and peace was achieved.

The text turns in verse 9 to instructions for Zechariah to put a golden crown on the head of the high priest. He is to be described in Messianic terms as a type and shadow, because he would rebuild and be honored as the future Messiah would ultimately do. He would co-rule with another priest, and everything would be fine— with the stipulation in verse 15 that they completely obey God. So this particular event will have conditional blessings, unlike the future fulfillment.

Ch. 7 turns to specific issues of the time, beginning with the problem of performing rituals only externally, and verse 8 is about their oppression of the poor and vulnerable. Ch. 8 turns to future blessings, followed by pleas from God for the people to live in justice and compassion.

Ch. 9 is given as an oracle against Damascus, but it’s mostly about the blessings of the Millennial age for Israel. Yet verse 9 is where we also see a very familiar passage about the King who would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Everyone agrees this is a Messianic prophecy, but of course the rabbis reject that Jesus fulfilled it. Riding into the city on a donkey indicated that a ruler came in peace, while riding on a horse indicated conquest. So we know that in Revelation at the end of the Tribulation, Jesus coming on a horse means he comes to conquer, to clean house.

Almost 2,000 years have passed so far between the first and second advents of the Messiah, which no one of any prophecy view can rightly deny. This is yet another instance where Bible prophecy in a sentence or two can span quite a lot of time, in spite of no indication in the text that such a gap would take place.

After more about future blessings that continue into ch. 10, we see in ch. 11 a shift to remind Israel and the peoples around them of the consequences of their sin. 11:7 seems to be Zecharaiah talking about things he did in service to God, but it also is held to refer to the future ultimate shepherding of the Messiah. Likewise, all who are evil were, and will be, rejected from the land. And it’s in verse 12 that we see what was referenced in Mat. 27:3 about thirty pieces of silver, including the money being thrown into the temple. In both instances, God is incensed at how little he’s valued by his people.

Starting in verse 16, Zechariah was to play the role of a wicked and worthless shepherd, which is the antitype of Christ, and the literal meaning of Antichrist. This indicates that the Jews will accept a cheap substitute who will abuse and betray them. But notice in verse 17 a curse on the worthless shepherd, wishing for his right eye and right arm to be made useless. The eye symbolized vision or intelligence, while the arm symbolized strength and power. Some take it to mean the Antichrist will be blind in his right eye and have a withered right arm, but we can’t be dogmatic about that.

Ch. 12 explains why it is that Jerusalem has been the focus of the world since modern Israel was born, against all reason. This should tell us we’re on the cusp of that day when all these things will be fulfilled. There is no other explanation for Israel’s survival as a nation, especially when it was attacked almost immediately after it formed. They are there in unbelief and have seven years of purging awaiting them, but woe to the nations that try to take matters into their own hands!

As you read through this passage, remember to pay attention to when it shifts from the beginning of the process to the end, since that day isn’t a literal solar day but a period of time, specifically prophesied by Daniel as seven years. Look especially at verse 10, which says Israel will lament when they see God, whom they pierced, which is a clear reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. Though at least one translation deliberately twists it to say the one they pierced in an effort to make Jesus less than God, it’s an undeniable statement of his divinity.

After that come the events of ch. 13, the cleansing of the land and people of Israel. What verse 3 refers to is that during the Millennium evildoers will have to stay in the closet, but should any dare to come out, they will be put to death even by their own parents. This is what scripture means when it says Jesus will rule with an iron rod— the same Jesus the critics think is the opposite of the God of the Old Testament. Verse 7 turns back to the true Shepherd, and this passage is cited in Mat. 26:31 as applying to when Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross. Verses 8-9 are where we’re told that only one-third of Israel will survive and enter the Millennial Kingdom.

The final chapter in Zechariah, 14, gives more detail about a final battle to destroy Jerusalem, in which the city will fall and the people will be molested and plundered. The exile spoken of here may refer to the faithful who see the Abomination of Desolation and flee to safety for the second half of the Tribulation, while those who stay will be the victims of this assault.

After that, Jesus will return and touch down on the Mount of Olives, which will split in two and create a valley running east and west. The people fleeing through this new path are Israelites, presumably the ones who had been kept safe to the end of the Tribulation. This is the point where Jesus brings all his people from heaven back to earth, and then the luminaries of the sky will apparently melt together in a single day, which takes all the light away until evening— a strange time for light to begin. There is no mention of any rapture at this point. And we’ve read about the waters from the temple in our study of Ezekiel’s later chapters.

So the Millennial Kingdom will finally arrive, and Jesus will be the only king. The earth will be healed and the people of Jerusalem will finally have peace. The events described in verses 12-15 really look back to verse 3 where Jesus goes into battle. It describes in graphic detail what will happen to the army that foolishly tries to fight him. Then it’s back to the Millennium in verse 16, when there will be swift punishment for any nation that fails to worship God in Jerusalem. Those who reject future, literal prophetic fulfillment would be challenged to explain this passage.


Malachi takes the form of questions and answers, where God mocks each question and gives a sharp retort. It absolutely drips with sarcasm from God, not only against the common people but especially against the priesthood— which should be yet another cautionary tale for Christian leaders today. But instead of just describing the text, it will be presented here as a rant the way we might do today toward someone living in denial. But before we get started, just a minor note on verse 2, which some take as that God hates people from eternity past. It’s simply saying that Esau despised the things of God, and the point in this context is that God extends his hand even to people who slap it away. So here we go, and this is God speaking to Israel.

I’ve always loved you. But you say, Oh yeah? How? Well here’s how: I blessed wicked Esau, didn’t I? But look at what you do, you priests: You offer me your leftovers in sacrifice and show me no respect. And you have the gall to say, So? What’s wrong with that? It’s a sacrifice isn’t it?

Well, try that on your governor or your parents! How would you like to get cheap plastic gifts from people who say they care about you? And you know what? I can’t stand your worship services anymore! Other people treat me with more dignity than you do! And you whine and moan about all this, like it’s too much to ask.

And another thing, you priests: I’m about to take the guts of the animals you sacrifice and spread them on your faces, and you’ll be hauled off to the dump with all the other waste. Priests are supposed to be role models, but you’re all back-stabbers who lead people into idolatry.

And another thing you do: You flood the altar with tears, because I stopped talking to you. And you have the nerve to ask why! But you do things like cheating on your wives, even though your ancestor Abraham never did such a thing. I hate it when you abuse your wives and then throw them away, just so you can have new ones!

But you keep yapping at me, and then you ask what you’ve done to wear me out! You even say that I approve of evil and don’t care about justice, just because I haven’t been quick to punish you. But be careful what you ask for, because I’m about to send a messenger to clear the way, and when he comes you won’t like it one bit! He’ll refine you like fire and skim off the dross to be thrown away. Then only real priests will be left. But I’ll be the prosecuting attorney against the astrolgers, the adulterers, the oath breakers, the exploiters, and the cold-hearted.

The only reason there’ll be any of you left is because I keep the promises I made to your ancestors. You’ve been nothing but trouble, the lot of you! You need to return to me, yet you ask with fake innocence, What do you mean, return? How can we return?

I’ll tell you how: Remember what the law says about you bringing a tenth of your crops and herds to the temple to feed the poor and those without land? You don’t, and it’s me you’re robbing! Bring in everything you owe, and see if I won’t open the portals of heaven to rain down so much blessing you won’t have room for it all!

That’s pretty much the end of the rant, so let’s address the issue of tithing. It was only for Israel under contract via the laws of Moses. It was not on wages but profits from the increase of crops and herds. You’ll never hear a tithing sermon from the New Testament because it can’t be done; they always base it on Malachi, which is targeted at Israel and not anyone else.

Now we’re up to 3:16, where it says that the few who heeded God’s rant formed a sort of community of their own, and God took notice. He promised that this minority would be greatly honored in the end times, when at last there will be an obvious difference between those who are faithful and those who aren’t.

Finally, ch. 4 urges Israel to remember Moses, and adds that Elijah (someone in that prophetic office as stated in Luke 1:17) would appear before the terrible Day of the Lord. Constable’s Notes points out that John denied being Elijah in John 1:21-23, but Jesus explained in Mat. 11:14 that he would have been the fulfillment of this prophecy had Israel accepted him. He was indeed the forerunner to prepare the way, but his ministry was cut short just as for the Messiah Himself. Jesus also said in Mat. 17:11 that Elijah would appear again, which gives support to one of the Two Witnesses being that final Elijah.

↑ Page Top