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Israel Urged to Repent
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo, saying: 2The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. 4Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.” But they did not hear or heed me, says the Lord. 5Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your ancestors? So they repented and said, “The Lord of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds, just as he planned to do.”
First Vision: The Horsemen
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo; and Zechariah said, 8In the night I saw a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9Then I said, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.” 10So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, “They are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.” 11Then they spoke to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have patrolled the earth, and lo, the whole earth remains at peace.” 12Then the angel of the Lord said, “O Lord of hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you have been angry these seventy years?” 13Then the Lord replied with gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. 14So the angel who talked with me said to me, Proclaim this message: Thus says the Lord of hosts; I am very jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15And I am extremely angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they made the disaster worse. 16Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17Proclaim further: Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.
Second Vision: The Horns and the Smiths
18 And I looked up and saw four horns. 19I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he answered me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20Then the Lord showed me four blacksmiths. 21And I asked, “What are they coming to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no head could be raised; but these have come to terrify them, to strike down the horns of the nations that lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”
Zec 1:1-17. Introductory Exhortation to Repentance. The Visions. The man among the myrtles: Comforting explanation by the angel, an encouragement to the Jews to build the city and temple: The four horns and four artificers.
1. See Introduction.
2. God fulfilled His threats against your fathers; beware, then, lest by disregarding His voice by me, as they did in the case of former prophets, ye suffer like them. The special object Zechariah aims at is that they should awake from their selfish negligence to obey God's command to rebuild His temple (Hag 1:4-8).
sore displeased—Hebrew, "displeased with a displeasure," that is, vehemently, with no common displeasure, exhibited in the destruction of the Jews' city and in their captivity.
3. saith the Lord of hosts—a phrase frequent in Haggai and Zechariah, implying God's boundless resources and universal power, so as to inspire the Jews with confidence to work.
Turn ye unto me … and I will turn—that is, and then, as the sure consequence, "I will turn unto you" (Mal 3:7; Jas 4:8; compare also Jer 3:12; Eze 18:30; Mic 7:19). Though God hath brought you back from captivity, yet this state will not last long unless ye are really converted. God has heavier scourges ready, and has begun to give symptoms of displeasure [Calvin]. (Hag 1:6).
the former prophets—those who lived before the captivity. It aggravated their guilt that, not only had they the law, but they had been often called to repent by God's prophets.
5. Your fathers … and the prophets, do they live for ever?—In contrast to "My words" (Zec 1:6), which "endure for ever" (1Pe 1:25). "Your fathers have perished, as was foretold; and their fate ought to warn you. But you may say, The prophets too are dead. I grant it, but still My words do not die: though dead, their prophetical words from Me, fulfilled against your fathers, are not dead with them. Beware, then, lest ye share their fate."
6. statutes—My determined purposes to punish for sin.
which I commanded my servants—namely, to announce to your fathers.
did they not take hold—that is, overtake, as a foe overtakes one fleeing.
they returned—Turning from their former self-satisfaction, they recognized their punishment as that which God's prophets had foretold.
thought to do—that is, decreed to do. Compare with this verse La 2:17.
7. The general plan of the nine following visions (Zec 1:8-6:15) is first to present the symbol; then, on a question being put, to subjoin the interpretation. Though the visions are distinct, they form one grand whole, presented in one night to the prophet's mind, two or three months after the prophet's first commission (Zec 1:1).
Sebat—the eleventh month of the Jewish year, from the new moon in February to the new moon in March. The term is Chaldee, meaning a "shoot," namely, the month when trees begin to shoot or bud.
8. by night—The Jews begin their day with sunset; therefore the night which preceded the twenty-fourth day of the month is meant (Zec 1:7).
a man—Jehovah, the second person of the Trinity, manifested in man's form, an earnest of the incarnation; called the "angel of Jehovah" (Zec 1:11, 12), "Jehovah the angel of the covenant" (Mal 3:1; compare Ge 16:7 with Zec 1:13; Ge 22:11 with Zec 1:12; Ex 3:2 with Zec 1:4). Being at once divine and human, He must be God and man in one person.
riding—implying swiftness in executing God's will in His providence; hastening to help His people.
among the myrtle trees—symbol of the Jewish Church: not a stately cedar, but a lowly, though fragrant, myrtle. It was its depressed state that caused the Jews to despond; this vision is designed to cheer them with better hopes. The uncreated angel of Jehovah's presence standing (as His abiding place, Ps 132:14) among them, is a guarantee for her safety, lowly though she now be.
in the bottom—in a low place or bottom of a river; alluding to Babylon near the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, the scene of Judah's captivity. The myrtle delights in low places and the banks of waters [Pembellus]. Maurer translates, from a different root, "in a shady place."
speckled … white—The "white" implies triumph and victory for Judah; "speckled" (from a root "to intertwine"), a combination of the two colors white and red (bay [Moore]), implies a state of things mixed, partly prosperous, partly otherwise [Henderson]; or, the connection of the wrath (answering to the "red") about to fall on the Jews' foes, and triumph (answering to the "white") to the Jews themselves in God's arrangements for His people [Moore]. Some angels ("the red horses") exercised offices of vengeance; others ("the white"), those of joy; others ("the speckled"), those of a mixed character (compare Zec 6:2, 3). God has ministers of every kind for promoting the interests of His Church.
9. the angel that talked with me—not the "man upon the red horse," as is evident from Zec 1:10, where he (the Divine Angel) is distinguished from the "angel that talked with me" (the phrase used of him, Zec 1:13, 14; Zec 2:3; 4:1, 4, 5; 5:5, 10; 6:4), that is, the interpreting angel. The Hebrew for "with me," or, "in me" (Nu 12:8), implies internal, intimate communication [Jerome].
show thee—reveal to thy mental vision.
10. answered—The "angel of the covenant" here gives the reply instead of the interpreting angel, to imply that all communications through the interpreting angel come from Him as their source.
Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth—If "Satan walks to and fro in the earth" (implying restless activity) on errands of mischief to God's people (Job 1:7), the Lord sends other angels to "walk to and fro" with unceasing activity everywhere to counterwork Satan's designs, and to defend His people (Ps 34:7; 91:11; 103:20, 21; Heb 1:14).
11. The attendant angels report to the Lord of angels, "the earth … is at rest." The flourishing state of the heathen "earth," while Judah was desolate and its temple not yet restored, is the powerful plea in the Divine Angel's intercession with God the Father in Zec 1:12. When Judah was depressed to the lowest point, and the heathen elated to the highest, it was time for Jehovah to work for His people.
sitteth still—dwells surely.
12. Not only does Messiah stand among His people (the "myrtles," Zec 1:8), but intercedes for them with the Father ("Lord," or "Jehovah of hosts") effectively (Zec 1:13; Heb 7:25). Compare Ps 102:13-20; Isa 62:6, 7, as to Judah's restoration in answer to prayer.
answered and said—said in continuation of the discourse: proceeded to say.
how long—Messiah's people pray similarly to their Head. Re 6:10, "How long," &c. Heretofore it was vain to pray, but now that the divinely appointed "threescore and ten years" (Jer 25:11; 29:10) are elapsed, it is time to pray to Thee for the fulfilment of Thy promise, seeing that Thy grace is not yet fully manifested, nor Thy promise fulfilled. God's promises are not to make us slothful, but to quicken our prayers. Henderson, dating the seventy years from the destruction of Jerusalem (588 B.C.), supposes two years of the seventy had yet to run (520 B.C.).
13. the Lord—Jehovah, called "the angel of the Lord (Jehovah)" (Zec 1:12).
good words and comfortable words—literally, "words, consolations." The subject of these consolatory words is stated in Zec 1:14, &c.; the promise of full re-establishment, Jer 29:10, 11 (compare Isa 57:18; Ho 11:8).
15. very sore displeased with the heathen—in contrast with "I was but a little displeased" with My people. God's displeasure with His people is temporary and for their chastening; with the heathen oppressors, it is final and fatal (Jer 30:11). God's instruments for chastising His people, when He has done with them, He casts into the fire.
are at ease—carnally secure. A stronger phrase than "is at rest" (Zec 1:11). They are "at ease," but as I am "sore displeased" with them, their ease is accursed. Judah is in "affliction," but as I love her and am jealous for her, she has every reason to be encouraged in prosecuting the temple work.
16. I am returned—whereas in anger I had before withdrawn from her (Ho 5:15).
with mercies—not merely of one kind, nor once only, but repeated mercies.
line—(Job 38:5). The measuring-line for building, not hastily, but with measured regularity. Not only the temple, but Jerusalem also was to be rebuilt (Ne 2:3, &c.; compare Zec 2:1, 2). Also, as to the future temple and city, Eze 41:3; 42:1-44:31; 45:6.
17. yet—though heretofore lying in abject prostration.
My cities—not only Jerusalem, but the subordinate cities of Judah. God claims them all as peculiarly His, and therefore will restore them.
through prosperity … spread abroad—or overflow; metaphor from an overflowing vessel or fountain (compare Pr 5:16) [Pembellus]. Abundance of fruits of the earth, corn and wine, and a large increase of citizens, are meant; also spiritual prosperity.
choose—(Zec 2:12; 3:2; Isa 14:1). Here meaning, "show by acts of loving-kindness that He has chosen." His immutable choice from everlasting is the fountain whence flow all such particular acts of love.
Zec 1:18-21. Second Vision. The power of the Jews foes shall be dissipated.
18. four horns—To a pastoral people like the Jews the horns of the strongest in the herd naturally suggested a symbol of power and pride of conscious strength: hence the ruling powers of the world (Re 17:3, 12). The number four in Zechariah's time referred to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Wherever God's people turned, there were foes to encounter (Ne 4:7); the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north; Egypt and Arabia on the south; Philistia on the west; Ammon and Moab on the east. But the Spirit in the prophet looked farther; namely, to the four world powers, the only ones which were, or are, to rise till the kingdom of Messiah, the fifth, overthrows and absorbs all others in its universal dominion. Babylon and Medo-Persia alone had as yet risen, but soon Græco-Macedonia was to succeed (as Zec 9:13 foretells), and Rome the fourth and last, was to follow (Da 2:1-49; 7:1-28). The fact that the repairing of the evils caused to Judah and Israel by all four kingdoms is spoken of here, proves that the exhaustive fulfilment is yet future, and only the earnest of it given in the overthrow of the two world powers which up to Zechariah's time had "scattered" Judah (Jer 51:2; Eze 5:10, 12). That only two of the four had as yet risen, is an argument having no weight with us, as we believe God's Spirit in the prophets regards the future as present; we therefore are not to be led by Rationalists who on such grounds deny the reference here and in Zec 6:1 to the four world kingdoms.
19. Judah, Israel—Though some of the ten tribes of Israel returned with Judah from Babylon, the full return of the former, as of the latter, is here foretold and must be yet future.
20. four carpenters—or "artificers." The several instrumentalities employed, or to be employed, in crushing the "Gentile" powers which "scattered" Judah, are hereby referred to. For every one of the four horns there was a cleaving "artificer" to beat it down. For every enemy of God's people, God has provided a counteracting power adequate to destroy it.
21. These are the horns—rather, Those, namely, the horns being distinguished from the "carpenters," or destroying workmen ("skilful to destroy," Ex 21:31), intended in the "these" of the question.
no man … lift up his head—so depressed were they with a heavy weight of evils (Job 10:15).
to fray—to strike terror into them (Eze 30:9).