Zacharias — (1.) A priest of the course of Abia, the eighth of the twenty-four courses into which the priests had been originally divided by David (1 Chr. 23:1–19). Only four of these courses or “families” of the priests returned from the Exile (Ezra 2:36–39); but they were then re-distributed under the old designations. The priests served at the temple twice each year, and only for a week each time. Zacharias’s time had come for this service. During this period his home would be one of the chambers set apart for the priests on the sides of the temple ground. The offering of incense was one of the most solemn parts of the daily worship of the temple, and lots were drawn each day to determine who should have this great honour, an honour which no priest could enjoy more than once during his lifetime.
While Zacharias ministered at the golden altar of incense in the holy place, it was announced to him by the angel Gabriel that his wife Elisabeth, who was also of a priestly family, now stricken in years, would give birth to a son who was to be called John, and that he would be the forerunner of the long-expected Messiah (Luke 1:12–17). As a punishment for his refusing to believe this message, he was struck dumb and “not able to speak until the day that these things should be performed” (20). Nine months passed away, and Elisabeth’s child was born, and when in answer to their inquiry Zacharias wrote on a “writing tablet,” “His name is John,” his mouth was opened, and he praised God (60–79). The child (John the Baptist), thus “born out of due time,” “waxed strong in spirit” (1:80).
(2.) The “son of Barachias,” mentioned as having been slain between the temple and the altar (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51). “Barachias” here may be another name for Jehoiada, as some think. (See ZECHARIAH.)