The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Zechariah 1

Zec 1:1

See Lesson, Prophet, the.

See Lesson, Minor prophets, and their messages.

See Lesson, Post-exile period, dates.

Vv 1-6: That this section introduces the whole book seems clear since v 7 introduces the eight night visions that follow it (Zec 1:7 -- 6:8). Its content also provides the foundation to all that follows.

"It strikes the keynote of the entire book, and is one of the strongest and most intensely spiritual calls to repentance to be found anywhere in the Old Testament" (Robinson).

"The initial six verses of the first chapter of Zechariah constitute a synopsis of a sermon of the prophet. Its theme strikes the keynote of the entire book and forms an indispensable introduction to it. The truth it enunciates is one which runs throughout the revealed ways of God with man; namely, the appropriation and enjoyment of God's promises of blessing must be prefaced by genuine repentance" (Unger).

Even though the Israelites had failed God miserably in the past, this introductory message clarified that the Abrahamic Covenant was still in force. God promised to bless His people, but their enjoyment of that blessing in any given generation depended on their walking with Him in trust and obedience.

"Zechariah enumerates in his introductory address five great principles: (1) The condition of all God's blessings: v 3. (2) The evil and peril of disobedience: v4. (3) The unchangeable character of God's Word: v 6a. (4) God's governmental dealings with His people in accordance with their deeds: v 6b ('according to our ways and according to our deeds'). (5) God's immutable purposes: v 6b ('as Jehovah... determined... so did he with us')" (Feinberg).

THE EIGHTH MONTH OF THE SECOND YEAR OF DARIUS: Oct-Nov 520 BC. Since there was no human king of Israel then, the writer dated the prophecy in reference to Darius, a reminder that Israel was in "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Two months after Haggai began his ministry.

ZECHARIAH... BEREKIAH... IDDO: The three names together signify: "Yahweh has remembered, and has blessed, the appointed time."

IDDO: One of the priests who returned from the Captivity with Zerubbabel and Joshua (Neh 12:4,16).

Zec 1:3

THE LORD ALMIGHTY: Yahweh Tzvaoth = the LORD of hosts! The militant title of God, and an indication of the forces that could be arrayed on the side of Israel, if they would only return to their God.

RETURN TO ME... AND I WILL RETURN TO YOU: If they turned back to the Lord, He would return to bless them (cp Isa 55:6-7; Jer 3:12; Hos 7:10; Joel 2:12-13; Amos 5:4, 6; Mal 3:7). This is the clarion call that furnishes the background for this book's message of hope. And this was the reassurance that the restoration community needed after the discipline of the Exile. They were to return to Yahweh, to a personal relationship and allegiance to Him, not just to formal obedience to His law and covenant.

This earlier repentance and return of Israel is surely typical of the soon-to-come repentance and return of Israel on a far grander scale, in preparation for the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Both these epochs are foretold in the Book of Zechariah.

Zec 1:4

DO NOT BE LIKE YOUR FOREFATHERS, TO WHOM THE EARLIER PROPHETS PROCLAIMED...: Zechariah was to warn the Israelites not to be like their forefathers -- who refused to respond to the preaching of earlier (pre-exilic) prophets who urged them to repent (eg, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk). Their failure to do so resulted in the heaviest of punishments falling upon them: cp 2Ki 17:13,14; 2Ch 36:15-17; Jer 7:25,26.

TURN FROM YOUR EVIL WAYS...: "The world says, in its little, passing wisdom, that if you desire a better position in life: act and dress for it now. Live mentally in its atmosphere. Adopt all the ways and views constant with it. Eliminate from your life those things that are beneath its dignity and importance. Lift your conduct to comport yourself on its level. This is the world's meaningless 'advancement': but the principle is so true in eternal things. If we expect to be made 'equal to the angels' and 'stand in the presence of God' throughout eternity, we must start acting like it now. We must live in harmony with it. Many things must be put away which -- though not really 'bad' in themselves, and quite suitable for earthlings -- are quite out of place in the environment we seek, and for which we must prepare ourselves. Do not carelessly indulge yourself at present with things inconsistent with divinity, in the vain delusion they'll be miraculously and conveniently, at the last day, cleaned out of your mind and interests, to make you suitable for God's company. It will be too late then. It's your whole life's present purpose (and opportunity) to labor fervently on it now -- with, of course, God's offered and essential help. Time is short! Don't drift in fatal self-delusion" (GVG).

Zec 1:5

WHERE ARE YOUR FOREFATHERS NOW? AND THE PROPHETS, DO THEY LIVE FOREVER?: Their ancestors had perished, and the former prophets who warned them were no longer alive to continue warning them. This is a pointed reminder that they -- the present generation -- would not have endless opportunities to repent. The punishments that the former prophets had warned the people about had overtaken them.

Zec 1:6

BUT DID NOT MY WORDS AND MY DECREES, WHICH I COMMANDED MY SERVANTS THE PROPHETS, OVERTAKE YOUR FOREFATHERS?: The LORD had pursued and caught the evildoers like a hunter captures his prey. Then they acknowledged that the LORD had indeed done as He had warned them that He would do (cp Deu 28:15, 45; 2Ch 36:16). This would be the experience of the contemporary Israelites too if they failed to heed Zechariah's exhortation (cp 1Co 10:11).


Zec 1:7

Zec 1:7 -- 6:8: Zechariah received eight apocalyptic visions in one night (Zec 1:7). As the text will show, they concerned God's purpose for the future of Israel, particularly Jerusalem, the seat of the Davidic dynasty and the site of the temple, and Judah. The broad theme of this section is the coming of the King. The purpose of these visions was to encourage the returnees to persevere in their work of rebuilding the temple.

Vv 7-17: The horseman among the myrtle trees: This first vision emphasizes that God was lovingly jealous of His chosen people, and would restore them -- even though they were troubled at present and the nations that oppressed them were at ease. In the vision an angelic patrol reported on the state of the whole earth. This vision presents hope for dispersed and downtrodden Israel.

ON THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF THE ELEVENTH MONTH: "On the same day (24 Shebat), five months earlier, the rebuilding of the temple had been resumed (cp Hag 1:14,15; see also Hag 2:10,18,20). It was evidently a day in which God had special delight because of the obedience of his people" (EBC).

Also on that day two months previously Haggai had delivered a stern rebuke to the priests for their impurity and to the people for their delay in building the temple (Hag 2:10-17). On that day, moreover, Haggai had received the far-reaching revelation (Hag 2:20) of the destruction of Gentile world power previous to the establishment of millennial rule of the greater Zerubbabel-Messiah (Hag 2:21-23).

THE MONTH OF SHEBAT: Corresponds to February. A significant time: the time of the blossoming of the almond tree, and the putting forth of leaves by the fig tree (cp Jer 1:11,12; Song 2:13).

Zec 1:8

DURING THE NIGHT: Night had connotations of gloom, obscurity, and foreboding. The present was such a period for the Israelites. The light of joy, clear sight, and security was yet to break for them.

A MAN RIDING: Presumably the other horses also had riders (cp v 11). The riders evidently represent some of the LORD's angelic army (host) that serve as His scouts and report conditions in Israel to Him (v 10).

RED HORSE... RED, BROWN AND WHITE HORSES: Horses were instruments of war and prestigious possessions (Zec 10:3; Job 39:19-25; Pro 21:31; Jer 8:6; 1Ki 10:26; Rev 19:11-16), and the colors of these horses apparently represent their mission. The colors doubtless implied something to Zechariah, possibly bloodshed, a mixed mission (of judgment and blessing), and victory (cp Zec 6:2; Isa 63:1-6; Rev 6:4).

RED: Sym war and bloodshed: cp Jer 25:33.

THE MYRTLE TREES IN A RAVINE: "In Neh 8:15 myrtle trees, which are evergreen, are associated with the Feast of Tabernacles for making booths; and in Isa 41:19 and Isa 55:13 they are included in a description of messianic kingdom blessing. Perhaps, then, they speak of the hope and promise of the future, the restoration from Babylonian exile being but the initial stage in the progressive fulfillment of that promise. The trees are situated in a ravine. At the foot of the Mount of Olives are myrtle groves in the lowest part of the Kidron Valley. The ravine may picture Judah's lowly condition at the time" (EBC).

BROWN... HORSES: "Speckled" (AV), or "bay" (AV mg). Prob a mixture of red and brown -- suggesting the continuing effects of war?

WHITE HORSES: Heb "laban" -- sometimes related to the whiteness of leprosy. Suggests disease and famine -- although at other times "white" might suggest peace and the proclamation of the gospel. At this point, it is difficult to ascertain the meaning of "white" here.

Zec 1:10

THE MAN STANDING AMONG THE MYRTLE TREES EXPLAINED, "THEY ARE THE ONES THE LORD HAS SENT TO GO THROUGHOUT THE EARTH": The angel, who looked like a man and who was standing in the grove of trees, said that the horsemen were Yahweh's representatives whom He had sent to patrol the earth. "Like the Persian monarchs who used messengers on swift steeds to keep them informed on all matters concerning their empire, so the Lord knew all about the countries of the earth, including the great Persian state" (Baldwin). Elsewhere these are called the "eyes of Yahweh" (Zec 4:10). Other angels have acted in this capacity: Gen 18:21; 2Ch 16:9; Dan 4:17; Ezra 5:5).

Zec 1:11

WE HAVE GONE THROUGHOUT THE EARTH AND FOUND THE WHOLE WORLD AT REST AND IN PEACE: The horsemen then reported to the angel that they had patrolled the earth and had found it peaceful and quiet.

"Darius boasted that in nineteen battles he had defeated nine rebel leaders and had subdued all his enemies. So the empire was again virtually quiet by 520 BC" (EBC).

Zec 1:12

HOW LONG WILL YOU WITHHOLD MERCY FROM JERUSALEM...?: Then the angel asked Yahweh how long He planned to remain bent on disciplining Israel, which He had done in His indignation for the last 70 years (the period of the captivity: cp Jer 25:11,12). That prophesied period was now over or coming to a swift end, but the Israelites were still oppressed and under foreign domination.

HOW LONG...?: This has been the unremitting cry of the faithful through the ages: cp Dan 12:6; Rev 6:10; 13:10; Hab 1:2; Psa 74:10.

Zec 1:13

SO THE LORD SPOKE KIND AND COMFORTING WORDS TO THE ANGEL WHO TALKED WITH ME: Yahweh responded to the angel's question graciously and with comforting words. However, what He said Zechariah did not reveal either because he did not hear it or because he chose not to do so under divine inspiration.

Zec 1:14

I AM VERY JEALOUS FOR JERUSALEM AND ZION: Jealousy when used to describe God's attitude refers to His careful concern, specifically intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness, for the well-being of others. Often in Scripture it alludes to God as a husband wanting to keep His wife, Israel or the church, true to Himself. It has none of the negative connotations that we associate with selfish human jealousy.

The Heb word is also translated "zeal". Yahweh's zeal shall preserve the remnant of His people (Isa 37:32), cause Him to arm His warriors against the enemies of His people and land (Isa 59:17), supervise the successful prosecution of the coming war of conquest (Isa 42:13; Zec 8:2), gather the nations together for judgment (Zep 3:8), and establish the throne of David in glory (Isa 9:7).

Zec 1:15

I WAS ONLY A LITTLE ANGRY, BUT THEY ADDED TO THE CALAMITY: The LORD continued to explain that He was very angry with the Gentile nations who were presently at ease. He was angry because they had compounded the punishment of Israel that God had inflicted on the Chosen People by prolonging it (cp Gen 12:3; Jer 2:3; 30:16; 50:7; Eze 26:2,3).

Zec 1:16

I WILL RETURN TO JERUSALEM WITH MERCY, AND THERE MY HOUSE WILL BE REBUILT: The people of Jerusalem had experienced so much hostility, but now Yahweh promised to return to them and to show them compassion. The sovereign LORD promised that the temple would be rebuilt there, and the city again would become a viable entity. The Jews finished the temple in 515 BC, but the city walls were not complete until 444 BC (Neh 7:4; 11:1).

Beyond this, of course, the vision is of a Last Days return of Israel, and blessing of Jerusalem, and a Millennial Temple of Glory: signified by the glorified immortal saints, reigning with Christ: Eze 43:1-5; Dan 12:3; Mat 13:43; Psa 110; Rev 5:9; Zec 14:16; 8:22,23; Isa 2:2-4; etc.

THE MEASURING LINE WILL BE STRETCHED OUT OVER JERUSALEM: Measuring the city pictures its expanded restoration (cp Jer 31:38-40), the measuring line being a construction tool. [Cp also -- and more generally -- the measuring of the Temple in Rev 11:1-3.]

"God's thoughts are far from universally accepted. His voice has been for so long silent that both His purposes and the way by which He will bring them to pass have been lost sight of. The very practical nature of the promises is ignored or rejected. The Hope of Israel is not understood. Yet the language could not be plainer than that employed by the prophets concerning God's special care for His land and people... Yet nations cast longing eyes on the land and persecute the people. A change is coming, to be introduced by the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion" (PAE 32).

Zec 1:17

MY TOWNS WILL AGAIN OVERFLOW WITH PROSPERITY, AND THE LORD WILL AGAIN COMFORT ZION AND CHOOSE JERUSALEM: Cp 1Ki 8:44,48; 2Ch 6:6,34,38). "The distinctive features of comfort for Israel in this first vision are: (1) the presence of the Angel of Jehovah in the midst of degraded and depressed Israel; (2) His loving and yearning intercession for them; (3) the promises of future blessings. We may say, then, that the import of the vision is this: although Israel is not yet in her promised position, God is mindful of her, providing the means of His judgment on the persecuting nations, and reserving glory and prosperity for Israel in the benevolent and beneficent reign of the Messiah.

"The series of visions carry us through God's dealings with Israel from the time of their chastisement by God under the Gentile powers until they are restored to their land with their rebuilt city and temple under their Messiah King. The first vision gives the general theme of the whole series; the others add the details... When the world was busy with its own affairs, God's eyes and the heart of the Messiah were upon the lowly estate of Israel and upon the temple in Jerusalem" (Feinberg).

Zec 1:18

Vv 18-21: The four horns and the four "carpenters": The second vision builds on the concept of comfort promised in the first vision (vv 13,17). Here we learn how God will execute His anger against the nations that excessively oppressed His people. The nations will meet with retribution. Israel will triumph over her foes.

FOUR HORNS: The prophet observed four animal horns. Presumably they were on living animals since they could feel terror (v 21), though there is no mention of animals. Horns were a common figure for power in Biblical and ANE symbolism (eg, Psa 18:2; 75:10; 89:17; Dan 7:24; 8:20-22; Rev 17:12).

Zec 1:19

THESE ARE THE HORNS THAT SCATTERED JUDAH, ISRAEL AND JERUSALEM: In response to the prophet's request for an interpretation, the assisting angel explained that they represented the powers that had scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Assyria took Israel into captivity, and Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem and took the Judahites captive. So perhaps the fact that there were four horns symbolizes that they represented nations from the four corners of the world, the totality of opposition. Possibly they stand for Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and Medo-Persia, all of which major powers scattered the Israelites at times. In later days, the four powers could be -- as with Daniel's vision -- Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Zec 1:20

FOUR CRAFTSMEN: Four "carpenters" (KJV), "craftsmen", or -- more particularly -- smiths (Heb "harashim", lit, workers in metal). This is an apt figure, since there would have been many such craftsmen working on the Temple in Zechariah's day. It may also draw attention to Jesus prophetically -- for he was a "craftsman" or "carpenter" (cp Mar 6:3; Mat 13:55).

Zec 1:21

THE CRAFTSMEN HAVE COME TO TERRIFY THEM AND THROW DOWN THESE HORNS OF THE NATIONS WHO LIFTED UP THEIR HORNS AGAINST THE LAND OF JUDAH TO SCATTER ITS PEOPLE: Again in answer to the prophet's request for interpretation, the angel repeated that the horns represented the powers that had scattered the Israelites. Then he added that the four artisans had come to terrify these horns and to overthrow them for attacking Israel and scattering the Israelites. These smiths evidently carried hammers with which they threatened to smash the horns. Probably the kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and Messiah are in view. Each of these kingdoms destroyed the preceding one, Medo-Persia having defeated Babylonia, etc (cp Dan 2:34,35,44,45).

Another fulfillment: they will all appear in the future to take vengeance on Israel's Last Days enemies -- and that they will first destroy all the "horns" that have been lifted up against Israel; and then, in keeping with their profession as craftsmen, rebuild... God's Kingdom!

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