Meet Zechariah: John the Baptist's Father

Zechariah the priest was an instrument in God's plan of salvation

Who Was John the Baptist's Father? Zechariah
Zechariah, priest of the Temple, writes, "His name is John.". Mondadori Portfolio/Contributor/Getty Images

Zechariah was a priest in the Jerusalem temple. As John the Baptist's father, Zechariah played a key role in God's plan of salvation because of his righteousness and obedience. God worked a miracle in his life to provide a herald to announce the coming of the Messiah, another indication that the life of Jesus was divinely planned.

Zechariah in the Bible

  • Known for: Devout Jewish priest of the Jerusalem temple and father of John the Baptist.
  • Bible References: Zechariah is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 1:5-79.
  • Ancestor: Abijah
  • Spouse: Elizabeth
  • Son: John the Baptist
  • Hometown: An unnamed town in the hill country of Judea, in Israel.
  • Occupation: Priest of God's temple.

A member of the clan of Abijah (a descendant of Aaron), Zechariah went to the temple to carry out his priestly duties. At the time of Jesus Christ, there were about 7,000 priests in Israel, divided into 24 clans. Each clan served at the temple twice a year, for a week each time.

John the Baptist's Father

Luke tells us Zechariah was chosen by lot that morning to offer incense in the Holy Place, the temple's inner chamber where only priests were allowed. As Zechariah was praying, the angel Gabriel appeared at the right side of the altar. Gabriel told the old man that his prayer for a son would be answered.

Zechariah's wife Elizabeth would give birth and they were to name the baby John. Further, Gabriel said John would be a great man who would lead many to the Lord and would be a prophet announcing the Messiah. Zechariah was doubtful because of his and his wife's old age. The angel struck him deaf and mute because of his lack of faith until the child would be born.

After Zechariah returned home, Elizabeth did conceive. In her sixth month, she was visited by her kinswoman Mary. Mary had been told by the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Savior, Jesus. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaped for joy. Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth proclaimed Mary's blessedness and favor with God:

At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”  (Luke 1:41–45, NLT)

When her time came, Elizabeth gave birth to a boy. Elizabeth insisted his name be John. When neighbors and relatives made signs to Zechariah about the baby's name, the old priest took a wax writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John."

Immediately Zechariah regained his speech and hearing. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he praised God and prophesied about his son's life.

Their son grew up in the wilderness and became John the Baptist, the prophet who proclaimed the arrival of Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah.

Accomplishments of Zechariah

Zechariah served God devoutly in the temple. He obeyed God as the angel had instructed him. As John the Baptist's father, he raised his son as a Nazarite, a holy man pledged to the Lord. Zechariah contributed, in his way, to God's plan to save the world from sin.


Zechariah was a holy and upright man. He kept God's commandments.


When Zechariah's prayer for a son was finally answered, announced in a personal visit by an angel, Zechariah still doubted God's word.

Life Lessons

God can work in our lives in spite of any circumstance. Things may look hopeless, but God is always in control. "All things are possible with God." (Mark 10:27, NIV)

Faith is a quality God values highly. If we want our prayers to be answered, faith makes the difference. God does reward those who depend on him.

Key Insights From the Life of Zechariah

  • John the Baptist's story echoes that of Samuel, the Old Testament judge and prophet. Like Samuel's mother Hannah, John's mother Elizabeth was barren. Both women prayed to God for a son, and their prayers were granted. Both women unselfishly dedicated their sons to God.
  • John was about six months older than his kinsman Jesus. Because of his old age when John was born, Zechariah likely did not live to see his son prepare the way for Jesus, which happened when John was about 30 years old. God graciously revealed to Zechariah and Elizabeth what their miracle son would do, even though they never lived to see it come to pass.
  • Zechariah's story tells much about persevering in prayer. He was an old man when his prayer for a son was granted. God waited so long because he wanted everyone to know that the impossible birth was a miracle. Sometimes God delays for years before answering our own prayers.

Key Bible Verses

Luke 1:13
But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John." (NIV)

Luke 1:76-77
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins ... (NIV)

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Your Citation
Zavada, Jack. "Meet Zechariah: John the Baptist's Father." Learn Religions, Dec. 6, 2021, Zavada, Jack. (2021, December 6). Meet Zechariah: John the Baptist's Father. Retrieved from Zavada, Jack. "Meet Zechariah: John the Baptist's Father." Learn Religions. (accessed June 8, 2023).