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Lessons from the Past. The First and Second Visions
1-6. The Prophet’s message. He calls the people to repentance.
8-17. The First Vision: The Divine Messengers ever watching over the affairs of the nations.
18-21. The Second Vision: Hostile nations subdued by divinely-appointed agents.
1. The eighth month] the month Bul (see 1 Kings 6:38), corresponding to part of October-November. The second year of Darius] i.e. 520 b.c. This was the first Darius, son of Hystaspes, who had just succeeded to the Persian throne. Babylonia formed part of his dominions. He found the old decree of Cyrus in the archives of Babylon, permitting the Jews to return and build the Second Temple, and renewed it (Ezra 6:1). The son of Iddo the prophet] There should be a comma after Iddo. Zechariah was the prophet.
2-6. The people are warned to repent by the fate of their fathers, who suffered exile because they refused to listen to God’s word by the earlier prophets.
3. Unto them] i.e. the people. The Lord of hosts] a frequent phrase in Zechariah. Probably the original idea was of Jehovah as the leader of Israel’s armies, then of sun, moon, and stars, the hosts of heaven, then of angelic hosts. The title expresses God’s supreme power and majesty.
4. Zechariah evidently knows the works of the earlier prophets: cp. Amos passim, Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 35:15, etc.
5, 6. Prophets and people alike die, but the Word of God lives anew in every generation, and from the experience of the past appeals to men to shun those errors of their fathers which brought such dire punishment. Take hold of] RV ’overtake.’
8-17. The First Vision: The horseman among the myrtles. The seven visions have one date, viz. the twenty-fourth day of the month Sebat, RV ’Shebat’ (the name is Babylonish), i.e. part of January and February, 519 b.c. The occasion of the visions is the growing impatience of the returned exiles. They could perceive no sign of God’s presence, or of His interest in their labours and difficulties. Haggai had assured them that in ’a little while’ God would ’shake the kingdoms’ and fill His house with glory (Zechariah 2:6-7). But time passed and there was no sign of this. The people began to lose faith in God. These visions of Zechariah thus came at a most important crisis. To his countrymen they were a bright panorama of hope, revealing the marvellous providence of God, and His love for His people.
The first vision assures them that God knows every detail of their circumstances. His messengers are ever on the alert, bringing tidings to their King from all parts of the earth.
8. Myrtle trees] rare in Palestine today, but once common around Jerusalem: cp. Nehemiah 8:15. They have no special significance in the vision. Bottom] RM ’shady place.’ Red horses, speckled, and white] RV horses, ’red, sorrel, and white.’ Some take the colours to indicate various countries whence the messenger came, but this is unlikely.
9. O my lord] addressing the angel of the Lord, who has not yet been mentioned.
10. The figure is military and suggests horsemen hovering on the flanks of an army—the scouts of God’s great host.
11. At rest] probably a lull in the wars of Darius, and so all the more remarkable.
12. One angel speaks from among the myrtle trees, another from beside the prophet. The second asks why in this universal peace Jerusalem alone is unvisited of God. To the nations He sends peace as a sign, to Jerusalem He seems to give no sign. Threescore and ten years] in round numbers: cp. Jeremiah 25:11; Jeremiah 29:10. The first captivity took place in 597 b.c.; the final destruction of Jerusalem in 586; Cyrus’ decree for return in 537 this prophecy in 519.
14, 15. Outward condition may be no indication of God’s favour. Though the nations are at rest, God is angry with them. They have exceeded their commission in punishing Judah so severely. Though Jerusalem is troubled, yet God is returning with mercies for her.
16. A line] the measuring line which the builders would use in restoring her ruined streets.
17. Shall yet be spread abroad] better, ’shall yet overflow with prosperity’ (RM), i.e. the cities of Judah: see v.
12. Zion] a synonym for Jerusalem; properly the higher of the two spurs on which Jerusalem was built.
18-21. The Second Vision: The four horns and the four smiths. This vision forms a fitting supplement to the first, and describes the destruction of those enemies of Israel (the four horns) who, having been too zealous in punishing her for her sins, are now themselves worthy of punishment.
18. Four horns] Vain efforts have been made to identify these with four nations or races, who at one time or another were Israel’s oppressors, e.g. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia. A more likely suggestion is that’ four’ may indicate the whole of Israel’s enemies from the four quarters of the globe. But even this seems arbitrary. On ’horns,’ as a symbol of military power, see 1 Kings 22:11.
20. Four carpenters (RV ’smiths’)] lit. ’workers’ (sc. in iron), as in Isaiah 44:12. Probably one to deal with each horn. The language is symbolic, and does not necessarily imply the sending of four deliverers.
21. No man did lift up his head] In the events culminating in the captivity, the people were utterly crushed. Fray] an obsolete word meaning ’terrify’: cp. Deuteronomy 28:26. The root is seen in ’afraid,’ i.e. affrayed. But the reading in LXX suggests a Hebrew word meaning ’file down,’ which certainly gives a better sense to the whole passage. Cast out] RV ’cast down.’
Gentiles] RV ’nations,’ and so throughout.
The imagery of this vision is somewhat difficult, but the meaning is quite plain, viz. the judgment of those nations who had harried God’s people.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 1". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany