Zechariah’s Night Visions: Introduction
To understand the prophet Zechariah, one must have an understanding of the historical context in which that prophet was writing. In 539 BC, King Cyrus of Persia overthrew the Babylonian Empire and a year later, sent a group of about 50,000 exiles home to Jerusalem with wealth, supplies, and a mandate. The mandate was that they rebuilt the temple of God so that they could worship.
These exiles returned to find Jerusalem in ruins and the land overrun by pagans. While they began work on the temple, they soon decided to put their own houses in order before putting the house of God in order. In about 515 BC, God sent two prophets to light a fire under these exiles to put them back to work. The first was Haggai, whose message was given to chastise the people and to get them back to work. The second was Zachariah, whose message looked toward a future kingdom and Messiah, reminding the people that God is faithful and that He is still at work, bringing about his promises.
In the beginning of Zechariah, then are a series of visions. These visions form the context of this series of devotions. The visions are highly messianic and apocalyptic at the same time. There is a good bit of the book of Revelation that draws upon these images that we are given here in Zechariah.
In the short term, they would finish the temple as a result of the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, though the temple would be a poor copy of Solomon’s, which had been destroyed. Later, God would send another servant, this time a leader of men and not a prophet, to lead the people in rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. This man would be named Nehemiah. You can read the historical accounts of these events in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.