Zechariah (also Zacharias) was the husband of Elizabeth and father to God's forerunner to Jesus Christ, John the Baptist. Zechariah was a priest in the Levitical Priesthood in Abijah's division, which was established during the reign of David. While he and his wife were righteous before God, they had no children because Elizabeth was barren. Once when Zechariah was working a shift in the Second Temple, an Angel, Gabriel- came to him and told him that his wife would conceive and give birth. Zechariah questioned this in disbelief and was muted until after the child was born. Zechariah is only documented in the Book of Luke
Zechariah was born sometime during the presence of the Roman Empire and Judea as a Roman province. He was a Levite, a descendant of Aaron. He was also a descendant of Abijah, because he was in his division. His father would have also served in Abijah's division as a priest.
He may have been named after the prophet Zechariah or less likely the King of Israel. From a young age Zechariah would have been trained in becoming a priest, so he eventually could take his rightful place in the priesthood. At a younger age Zechariah married another Levite, named Elizabeth. She was the cousin of the Judahite Mary who would be Jesus's mother; making Zechariah Jesus's uncle.
His wife was barren though and they were unable to have children until their old age. They prayed for some time to be able to have children, but it would not be until years later before it was fulfilled.
A Foretold Son
Zechariah lived to an old age. In his older years he continued to serve as a priest, obeying all the Lord's commands. Once Zechariah's division was on duty and he was selected to burn incense in the temple. While all the worshippers came to pray during the burning, an Angel came to Zechariah. The Angel, revealing himself as Gabriel startled Zechariah and he became fearful. After Zechariah was told to not be fearful, he was promised that a son would be born to him, who must be named John and be a nazirite.
Zechariah questioned this in disbelief and in uncertainty since he and his wife were beyond age. Since he did not believe, Gabriel muted him and told him he would be unable to speak until the prophecy was fulfilled. After this Zechariah came outside to the assembled worshippers who were relieved to see him after he had been inside so long. Zechariah could not speak to anyone, but he made signs with his hands instead. Seeing this, the people realized he had seen visions. Once Zechariah's appointed shift was over he returned home and his wife Elizabeth conceived.
Awaiting the child
Mary in the home
Upon returning home, Zechariah would have had to make a difficult adjustment. Suddenly he was unable to speak, with no way to explain this to his wife. Somehow (possibly by writing) Zechariah would have explained the prophecy to Elizabeth. He may have remained in seclusion with his wife for five months, or continued working while his wife stayed out of the public eye.
During the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy she finally allowed her cousin, Mary to visit her. While Mary entered the home belonging to Zechariah (rather than the home referred to being Elizabeth's), Zechariah is not mentioned during her visit. Zechariah may have been present for this meeting. If he was present, only in silence could he be in awe of his son leaping in the womb. Otherwise he would have been out working as a priest or other housekeeping duties. Mary did stay with three months, so Zechariah would have had to help care for his cousin-in-law.
No longer mute
In the ninth month of pregnancy Elizabeth gave birth to the child, just as it had been foretold. On the eighth day, during the circumcision ceremony all of the relatives wanting to name the child after their father. Elizabeth pleaded he may not be named after the father, but instead be named John. The relatives did not understand why she would want to name the child John, because none of the relatives had that name. The relatives made signs to Zechariah, asking him what he thought the child should be named. He requested a writing tablet and wrote out that his name would be John.
Everyone was astonished that Zechariah had picked the name that the mother had given, but it was God who gave the name. Suddenly Zechariah's speaking ability was restored and he began to praise the Lord. Everyone was filled with awe and stories of this filled throughout the entire Judean countryside.
Zechariah became filled with the Holy Spirit and gave a prophecy
Zechariah means "the Lord has remembered me".