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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Zechariah 6

Verses 7-8

II. THE EIGHT NIGHT VISIONS AND FOUR MESSAGES 1:7-6:8

Zechariah received eight apocalyptic visions in one night (Zechariah 1:7). As the text shows, 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. They deal with issues of more immediate concern to the restoration community, though none of them was fulfilled in Zechariah’s day. 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.

Certain features mark each of these eight visions: an introduction, an explanation of what the prophet saw, his request for clarification of its meaning, and the elucidation. Oracles accompany three of the visions making their messages clearer (Zechariah 1:16-17; Zechariah 2:6-13; Zechariah 4:6-10). Some interpreters also connect the oracle in Zechariah 6:9-15 to the vision in Zechariah 6:1-8, but it seems to me, and others, that that oracle was separate from the preceding vision.

". . . The arrangement of the visions follows a chiastic pattern [abbccbba]. The first and last bear a strong resemblance to one another, the second and third, sixth and seventh are pairs, and the fourth and fifth, with their assurance of God-given authoritative leaders, form the climax. All eight visions are meant to be interpreted as one whole, for each contributes to the total picture of the role of Israel in the new era about to dawn." [Note: Baldwin, p. 93.]

A The horseman among the myrtle trees (Zechariah 1:7-17)

B The four horns and the four smiths (Zechariah 1:18-21)

C The surveyor (ch. 2)

D The cleansing and restoration of Joshua (ch. 3)

D’ The gold lampstand and the two olive trees (ch. 4)

C’ The flying scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4)

B’ The woman in the basket (Zechariah 5:5-11)

A’ The four chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8)

Verse 1

The next thing Zechariah saw in his night visions was four chariots coming out from between two bronze mountains. Due to the increasing repetition of "come forth" or "go forth" (Heb. yasa’) through the series of eight visions, the careful reader feels a developing sense of intensity in the activity being described that reaches its climax in this vision (Zechariah 6:8). Chariots were instruments of judgment, and bronze is a color that often carries this connotation in Scripture (cf. Exodus 27:2; Numbers 21:9). William Kelly and others believed the four chariots represent the four great kingdoms in Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 2; Daniel 7). [Note: William Kelly, Lectures Introductory to the Study of the Minor Prophets, p. 461.] This seems unlikely. [Note: See Feinberg, God Remembers, pp. 95-97, or Keil, 2:287, for refutation.]

Bronze was used to defend against attackers (Isaiah 45:2; Jeremiah 1:18), so perhaps impregnability is also in view. Some interpreters believed the color bronze was due to the rising sun. This results, in the interpretations of some, in the first vision taking place at evening and the last at sunrise. [Note: See G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2:287.] Leupold referred to the commentators who take this view as letting "their fancy play at this point." [Note: Leupold, p. 110.]

Perhaps the mountains represent the gateway to heaven from which these agents of judgment come. [Note: Baldwin, p. 130; McComiskey, p. 1106.] Another more probable view is that they were Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives with the valley between being the Kidron Valley. [Note: Barker, p. 636; Keil, 2:287; Unger, p. 101; Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 95; idem, "Zechariah," p. 903.] A third possibility is that they are the two parts of the Mount of Olives that will split apart when Messiah returns to the earth (cf. Zechariah 14:1-8). Nevertheless they are "bronze."

"Always in Scripture symbolism, they [chariots and horses] stand for the power of God earthward in judgment (Jeremiah 46:9-10; Joel 2:3-11; Nahum 3:1-7). The vision, then, speaks of the LORD’s judgments upon the Gentile nations north and south in the day of the LORD (Isaiah 2:10-22; Revelation 19:11-21)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 968.]

Verses 1-8

H. The four chariots 6:1-8

There are several similarities between this last vision and the first one (Zechariah 1:7-17) indicating a return to ideas introduced at the beginning of this chiastic series of revelations. Again there is a group of horses of various colors, but their order and colors are somewhat different. Zechariah mentioned a rider in vision one but no chariots, but in vision eight chariots without horsemen appear. There is a similar emphasis on the fact that Yahweh controls history and subdues the nations that oppress Israel.

"This last of the eight [visions] shares so much in common with the first that the two, at least, must be viewed as book ends enveloping the whole series." [Note: Merrill, p. 181.]

Verses 2-3

The two horses pulling the first chariot were red. Black horses pulled the second chariot, white horses the third, and dappled horses the fourth. All of them were strong. These horses evidently represent angels who facilitate the work of other angels, represented by the chariots (cf. Zechariah 6:5). The colors of the horses may symbolize various aspects of judgment, perhaps war and bloodshed in the case of the red horses, famine and death for the black, victory and triumph for the white (cf. Zechariah 1:8; Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:14), and plague and disease for the dappled (spotted; cf. Revelation 6:1-8). [Note: Unger, pp. 102-3.]

Verses 4-6

In response to the prophet’s request for interpretation, his angel guide explained that the chariots represented the four spirits (winds, Heb. ruhoth) of heaven (i.e., angels), which were going forth having been in the presence of the Lord of all the earth (cf. Zechariah 4:14). They were His messengers, the executors of His will (cf. Psalms 104:4). The chariot with the black horses went north from Jerusalem, the direction from which most of Israel’s enemy invaders descended on the Promised Land (e.g., Babylonia; cf. Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:22; Ezekiel 1:4). The chariot with the white horses went out next and evidently followed the previous one north. The one with the dappled horses headed south. Egypt lay to Israel’s south, and it was another implacable enemy. Presumably the red horses went south too.

Because of the geography of Palestine all of Israel’s enemies came against her from the north or from the south; the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Arabian Desert on the east prohibited major foreign invasions from those directions. Since the chariots went in compass directions we should probably understand their judgment to be universal (cf. Zechariah 2:6; Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Revelation 7:1). They went north and south out of Palestine, but they executed judgment in every direction. The total picture is of God executing His judgments against all nations that oppose Israel.

Verse 7

When these horses (angels) went out from between the bronze mountains they were eager to patrol the earth; they were anxious to carry out these judgments. The Lord gave them permission to patrol it, so they did.

"From first to last (cf. Zechariah 1:10) the affairs of the nations are under God’s direction, not man’s. It is this certainty that makes prophecy possible." [Note: Baldwin, p. 132.]

Verse 8

The Lord then called out to Zechariah that the horses that had gone out into the north had appeased His wrath in the land of the north. This probably represents judgment on Babylonia specifically, but it probably hints at the total destruction of all enemies of Israel. Babylon had fallen to the Persians 20 years earlier, in 539 B.C.

Zechariah’s Eight Night Visions
NumberReferenceSubjectLesson
1Zechariah 1:7-17The horseman among the myrtle treesYahweh’s sovereignty over Israel’s restoration
2Zechariah 1:18-21The four horns and the four smithsThe triumph of Israel over her enemies
3Zechariah 2The surveyorPreparations for Israel’s future restoration
4Zechariah 3The cleansing and restoration of JoshuaThe renewal of Israel’s priestly ministry
5Zechariah 4The gold lampstand and the two olive treesIsrael’s testimony under Messiah as priest and king
6Zechariah 5:1-4The flying scrollJudgment on Israel for covenant disobedience
7Zechariah 5:5-11The woman in the basketThe return of evil to Babylon
8Zechariah 6:1-8The four chariotsJudgment on Israel’s enemies

Verses 9-10

The Lord’s word came to Zechariah instructing him to go and take part (or all) of an offering that certain of the exiles had brought from Babylon for the restoration of the temple. These recent returnees were Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah. The prophet was to meet these men at the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they were evidently staying.

Verses 9-15

III. THE SYMBOLIC CROWNING OF Joshua 6:9-15

The visions ended and Zechariah awoke from his dream-like state. What follows is a symbolic act that took place in Jerusalem at the Lord’s command.

"The position of this actual ceremony after the eight visions is significant. The fourth and fifth visions, at the center of the series, were concerned with the high priest [Joshua] and the civil governor in the Davidic line [Zerubbabel]. Zechariah here linked the message of those two visions to the messianic King-Priest. . . . Thus restored Israel is seen in the future under the glorious reign of the messianic King-Priest." [Note: Barker, pp. 638-39.]

"Immediately following the overthrow of Gentile world power by the earth judgments symbolized by the horsed chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8) occurs the manifestation of Christ in His kingdom glory (Zechariah 6:9-15) typified by the crowning of Joshua the high priest. This is the usual prophetic order: first, the judgments of the day of the Lord; then full kingdom blessing (Psalms 2:5, cf. Psalms 2:6; Isaiah 3:24-26; cf. Isaiah 4:2-6; Isaiah 10:33-34; cf. Isaiah 11:1-10; Revelation 19:19-21; cf. Revelation 20:4-6).

"The eight night visions have ended, but the coronation of Joshua is closely connected with these revelations which extend in scope from Zechariah’s day to the full establishment of Israel in blessing. The crowning of King-Priest Messiah is thus set forth symbolically by the coronation of Joshua, which is not a vision, but an actual historical act, which evidently took place the day following the night of visions." [Note: Unger, pp. 109-10.]

". . . this oracle serves as a comment on and climax to the night visions as a whole." [Note: Merrill, p. 193.]

Some commentators connect this oracle with the preceding vision as the other oracles in chapters 1, 2, and 4 connect with the visions in their contexts. [Note: E.g., Baldwin, p. 85.] Nevertheless even these writers acknowledge that this oracle was not originally part of the vision in Zechariah 6:1-8 but supplements the earlier mention of the Branch in Zechariah 3:8.

"Unlike vision one, number eight does not have its own oracle of response, though . . . the oracle that follows it (Zechariah 6:9-15) may serve it as such as well as bringing the whole series to an end." [Note: Merrill, p. 182.]

The lesson that this symbolic act illustrated was that Messiah would appear as a king-priest and rebuild God’s temple in the days of Israel’s future restoration (i.e., the Millennium).

"This is one of the most remarkable and precious Messianic prophecies, and there is no plainer prophetic utterance in the whole Old Testament as to the Person of the promised Redeemer, the offices He was to fill, and the mission He was to accomplish." [Note: D. Baron, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah, p. 190.]

Verse 11

Zechariah was to make an ornate crown out of at least some of the silver and gold that had been donated and to place it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest (Zechariah 3:1). The Hebrew text has "crowns," not "crown." The plural could indicate a composite crown (cf. Revelation 19:12), a superlative crown, and or a sacred crown. [Note: Cf. Baldwin, p. 133.] One writer believed there were two crowns and a double crowning, of Joshua and Zerubbabel. [Note: Merrill, pp. 197-201.] But I see no evidence of this in the passage. This crown was not the regular turban of the high priest (Heb. nezer) but a kingly crown with many parts (Heb. ’ataroth; cf. Revelation 19:12). Zechariah was to crown the high priest as a king, not as a priest (cf. Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 7:1-3).

"Christ is now a Priest but is still in the holiest within the veil (Hebrews 9:11-14; Hebrews 9:24; cp. Leviticus 16:15) and seated on the Father’s throne (Revelation 3:21). He has not yet come out to take His own throne (Hebrews 9:28)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 968.]

Verse 12

Zechariah was then to announce in the name of sovereign Yahweh that those present should behold Joshua, whom Zechariah would designate as Branch (lit. Sprout, Heb. semah, cf. Zechariah 3:8; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 33:15; Haggai 2:23). Joshua represented (was a type of) the coming messianic Branch. This name signified that the coming Shoot would shoot up from His humble place of origin (cf. Isaiah 53:2; Micah 5:2). "He will branch out from where He is" is a pun on the word "branch." It means, "The shoot will shoot up from beneath (where there is little promise of life)." His kingdom would be widespread. Furthermore, He would build the temple of Yahweh. Zerubbabel, not Joshua, was God’s choice to build the restoration temple (Zechariah 4:9-10), but Messiah, whom Joshua prefigured, would build the future temple for Yahweh (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 56:6-7; Ezekiel 40-43; Micah 4:1-7; Haggai 2:6-9). For amillennialists, the temple equals the church. [Note: E.g., Leupold, p. 124.]

"How appropriate therefore that both the type (Joshua) and the antitype (Jesus) have a name meaning ’the Lord saves’ (cf. NIV mg. at Matthew 1:21)!" [Note: Barker, p. 639.]

The Aramaic Targum, the Jerusalem Talmud, and a Midrash all regarded Zechariah 6:12 as messianic. When Pilate said, "Behold, the man" (John 19:5), he was announcing to the Jews unwittingly that Jesus was the Branch promised in this verse.

Verse 13

Indeed He (emphatic in the Hebrew text) would build the Lord’s temple. The Lord repeated this assurance for emphasis. The Branch would bear the honor of royal majesty (cf. Daniel 11:21; 1 Chronicles 29:25), sit enthroned-Israel’s priests never sat while ministering-and rule on David’s throne (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16; Isaiah 9:7; Luke 1:32). He would be a priest ruling as a king, and peace (Heb. shalom) would mark his dual offices.

Along with Psalms 110, this verse is one of the clearest statements in the Old Testament that the coming Davidic king would also be a priest (cf. Hebrews 5:1-10; Hebrews 7:1-25). Chisholm favored the view that Zechariah’s audience would have understood that "the Davidic ruler, though not a priest as such, will enjoy the full support of the priesthood." [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," p. 425.]

Verse 14

The ceremonial crown that Zechariah made for Joshua was to remain in the restoration temple as a reminder to Helem (strength; or Heldai, mole, Zechariah 6:10), Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen (Josiah) the son of Zephaniah. It would doubtless remind other Israelites as well, but they were the prominent men during this event. "Hen" means "gracious one" in Hebrew, and it was likely an honorary title for Josiah who had been the host of this historic coronation (Zechariah 6:10).

Verse 15

When the Branch appeared, Gentiles from afar would come and help build the temple of Yahweh (cf. Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 8:22; Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 56:6-7; Isaiah 60:1-7). The donors mentioned earlier (Zechariah 6:10; Zechariah 6:14) were typical of Gentiles who would come from afar in the last days to help build the Lord’s house (cf. Isaiah 60:4; Isaiah 60:6; Isaiah 60:9). When this happened, the people would know that Yahweh had sent Messiah to His people (cf. Zechariah 2:8-11; Zechariah 4:9). Another view is that the fulfillment would vindicate Zechariah as the Lord’s messenger. All these people could participate in the building of the future temple, by bringing gifts (Isaiah 56:7), if they were faithful to obey the Lord by doing all that He commanded (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-2; Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

"In the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:26-27), God personally guarantees that the people will ultimately obey; his Spirit will enable them to do so." [Note: Barker, p. 641.]

What is the temple that the Branch will build? It appears to be a literal building in Jerusalem during the Millennium where God will reside that will bring great glory to Him (cf. Ezekiel 40-46). There will be no temple in the New Jerusalem in the eternal state (Revelation 21:22). Whereas the church is now the temple of God (i.e., Christians corporately and local congregations of believers; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5), the church is not in view here. The equality of Jewish and Gentile believers in one body (i.e., the church) was a mystery that was unknown until God revealed it later (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:11 to Ephesians 3:11).

"Here we have the end and consummation of all the prophetic Scriptures: the crowning of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only after the dark night of world judgment and punishment is passed, that the glorious light of Christ’s coronation day will follow. This is one of the sublimest passages in the Scriptures on the Person and work of the Messiah." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 100.]

The sequence of events in the eight night visions and the crowning of Joshua argues for the traditional dispensational interpretation that Jesus will begin reigning as the Davidic king when He returns to the earth at His second coming. The progressive dispensational view, on the other hand, as well as the covenant premillennial and amillennial views, are that Jesus began ruling as the Davidic king at His first advent.

"The fulness [sic] of this Messianic prophecy can better be seen if we but marshal the distinctive features in order: 1. The humanity of the Branch. 2. The place of His birth. 3. The building of the millennial temple by Him. 4. His fitness to bear the glory of God. 5. His reign on the throne of David. 6. His priestly ministry. 7. The issue of His blessed ministry-peace." [Note: Ibid., p. 106.]

This is the end of the apocalyptic visionary section of the book. Chapters 7-14 contain regular prophetic messages. Some scholars have tried to correlate the last eight chapters of Zechariah and the eight night visions, but these attempts seem strained.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/zechariah-6.html. 2012.