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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 6

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) And I turned . . . eyes.—Better, And again I lifted up my eyes (Zechariah 4:1; Zechariah 5:1; Zechariah 8:3).

There came.—Better, coming forth. The prototypes of these two mountains were, no doubt, the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4) and Mount Zion, between which lies the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where the Lord judges (such is the meaning of the name) the nations (Joel 3:2, sqq.). But the mountains themselves were visionary, and are represented as of brass, to denote, according to some, the immovable firmness of the place where the Lord dwells, and where He has founded His kingdom.

Verses 1-15


Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15. Between the commencement of Zechariah’s prophetic labours and the incidents recorded in Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15, the Prophet Haggai received the revelation contained in Haggai 2:10-23. On the four-and-twentieth day of the eleventh month, just five months after the re-building of the Temple was resumed, Zechariah sees a succession of seven visions in one night, followed by a symbolic action (Zechariah 6:9-15).

Verse 2

(2) Red.—Better, bay, as in Zechariah 1:8. “Red” is applicable to cows, but “bay” to horses.

Verse 3

(3) For grisled and bay, read only the first word, grey, as in Zechariah 1:8. It is necessary (with the Syriac Version) to make this conjectural emendation, because (as the Hebrew text now stands), in this verse the “grisled and bay horses” are spoken of as identical, while in Zechariah 6:6-7 they are distinguished from one another; and, moreover, the “red horses” are not mentioned again. LXX., ποικίλοι ψαροί.

Verse 5

(5) Spirits.—Better, winds.

Which go forth.—Better, going forth. “Winds,” out of which He makes His messages (Psalms 104:4), are most appropriately used here, as symbolical of the working of God’s Spirit. (Comp. Jeremiah 49:36; Daniel 7:21; John 3:8.) Here the words of the angel-interpreter pass imperceptibly into the prophet’s own description of the scene.

From standing is correct; but LXX. have παραστῆναι, “to stand by.”

Verse 6

(6) The black . . . therein go.—Better, that in which are the black horses went; literally, [were] going. It would seem that two chariots go into the “north country,” because there were there two powers to be overcome: viz., the remnant of the old Asshur-Babylonian and the Medo-Persian.

The south country is Egypt. After the battle of Marathon (B.C. 490), Egypt revolted from Darius, but it was re-conquered by Xerxes (B.C. 485). From that time onward it was continually in a state of revolt, till finally it was subdued to the Persian power by Ochos (B.C. 340). It was afterwards wrested from the hands of Persia by Alexander (B.C. 332).

Verse 7

(7) Bay.—Better, powerful; but in the Hebrew the word which the English Version renders “red” must be substituted here, and rendered bay. Then the destinations of all the four coloured horses—bay, black, white, and grey—will be accounted for.

Get you hence.—Simply, Go ye.

Verse 8

(8) Cried he upon me, means summoned me. (Comp. “Who calls on Hamlet?”—Shakespeare, Hamlet, Acts 5:0, scenes 2, 3.)

Have quieted my spirit.—“Spirit” being used, as in Judges 8:3, in the sense of “wrath.” (For the phrase “to quiet wrath,” comp. Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 16:42; Ezekiel 24:13. This is better than the interpretation, Have made my spirit to rest, i.e., caused my spirit of judgment (Isaiah 4:4) to fall upon. (Comp. Isaiah 56:1.) Many commentators have, without any warrant, drawn their interpretation of the colours of the horses in this vision from the Book of Revelation. According to them, “red” means war. “black” famine, “white” victory, “grisled” various chastisements. They identify the “grisled” with the “bay” of the English Version, or rather powerful ones (as they render the word in Zechariah 6:3; Zechariah 6:7), and say that the last mission was not received by the so-called “red horses,” but by the “powerful ones” (English Version, “bay,”) as the “grisled” are also called in Zechariah 6:3, to indicate that the manifold judgments symbolised by the grisled horses will pass over the whole earth in all their force. But it is better to consider that the horses are represented as of different colours merely in order to give greater distinctness to the vision. (Comp. Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 5:9.) For the commentators fail to discover any ethical or historical reason for famine and victory being especially sent to the north, and various chastisements to the south, or why (according to the unamended Hebrew text) the “red” (English Version), i.e., “bay horses,” should not have been sent out at all. According to the amended text, “the bay horses” seek, and obtain, permission to go through all the earth, signifying possibly that Israel’s Protector would defend His people, not only against their ancient enemies, but also against any who should rise up against them from any quarter whatever. The difficulty with the colours of the horses is supposed by Hitzig to have arisen from the carelessness of the writer; but we agree rather with Maurer, who attributes it to a blunder of an early copyist.

Verse 10


(10) Of them of the captivity.—Even those who had returned from the Captivity were so called (Ezra 4:1; Ezra 6:19). These were probably, however, Jews who intended to remain in the land of their exile, but who were come on a visit to Jerusalem, bringing offerings of silver and gold, to show their sympathy with their brethren who were carrying on the work of the rebuilding of the Temple.

Heldai is called “Helem” in Zechariah 6:14, and Josiah seems to be called “Hen.” It is very common for a person to be called by several different names in the Bible; thus Hobab, Jethro, Reuel, &c., are some of the names of Moses’ father-in-law. LXX. interpret the proper names as follows:—Heldai as “rulers,” Tobijah as “their useful men,” Jedaiah as “those who understood them.”

The same day.—Literally, on that day: viz., on the same day on which thou takest, &c.

Verse 11

(11) Then take.—Better, yea take: viz., from the three mentioned above.

Crowns.—Better, a composite crown, since the word is construed with a singular verb in Zechariah 6:14, and though plural in form it seems to be used of a single crown or fillet in Job 31:36. Zechariah is commanded to go to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah, who was entertaining certain Jews, who seem to have come from Babylon with gifts and offerings for the House of the Lord. From these men he was to take gold and silver, and to cause to be made thereof a composite diadem, with which he was to crown Joshua the high-priest. We cannot, of course, venture with Ewald to insert the words “and upon the head of Zerubbabel” after the words “upon the head of Joshua”; and to insert the name “Joshua” in the clause “and will be a priest upon his throne.” Even if such an arbitrary alteration of the text were admissible, it would be most inappropriate. No crown was placed on Zerubbabel, for such an act would have been a seeming restoration of the kingdom, when it was not to be restored. God had foretold that none of the race of Jehoiakim should prosper, “sitting on the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30). Moreover, the crown had been definitely taken away in the time of Zedekiah, “until he come whose right is” (Ezekiel 21:27 [32]): viz., the “king who should reign in righteousness” (Is. xxxii, 1), “and prosper,” a Branch of righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5).

But there was placed upon the head of Joshua, the high priest, this “royal” (2 Samuel 12:30) crown—for the high priest did not properly wear a crown, and this word is never used for “mitre “—that in his person might be symbolised the twofold office of the Messiah, who, like Melchizedek, was to be a priest and king (Psalms 110:0). That the high priests during a succeeding period were practically the rulers of the nation is not sufficient to account for the terms of this prophecy, especially for the emphatic personality of the royal priest mentioned in the next verses.

Verse 12

(12) The man.—Better, a man, as in Isaiah 32:2.

Branch.—See Note on Zechariah 3:8.

Shall build.—This verb is often used in a figurative sense: e.g., of a family (Genesis 16:2). Since Zerubbabel is not even mentioned in this passage, Zechariah’s hearers could not possibly have thought that this symbolical action was merely a repetition of the promise of Zechariah 4:9, but must have perceived that the building of the Temple here spoken of referred to something of a higher nature than the material building then in progress.

Verse 13

(13) Even he . . . and he.—The pronoun is most emphatic in both cases. It implies that “He” shall be the true builder, “He” the true ruler.

And he shall be a priest upon his throne.—This is the only natural translation of the words. The word “priest” cannot be here taken as “prince” (as in 2 Samuel 8:8), for the expression “high priest” (Zechariah 6:11) sufficiently limits its meaning. Nor can “throne” mean merely “seat” (as in 1 Samuel 4:13), because the regal dignity of “Branch” must have been generally recognised from Jeremiah 23:5, &c. LXX., καὶ ἔσται ὁ ἱερεὺς ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ, καὶ βουλὴ εἰρηνικὴ ἔσται� “And there shall be a priest at his right hand, and a peaceful council shall be between them twain.”

Counsel of peacei.e., a counsel productive of peace. “Peace” denotes the perfection of all highest blessings, temporal and spiritual.

Shall be between them both.—The interpretations of this verse are various—we will note the chief of them. Hitzig holds that the Messiah and an ideal priest are referred to in the clause “counsel of peace shall be between them both.” But we cannot see how the thought of some ideal priest and king, who would coincide in some unity of purpose, could have occurred to the minds of the prophet’s hearers. There would be, moreover, no special reason for speaking of unity as existing between a king and a priest; for, as a matter of history, the priests and kings were seldom at variance, though the prophets and kings were frequently so. Rosenmüller considers that the offices of priest and king are alluded to. But a “counsel of peace” could not be spoken of as existing between two abstracts. Keil takes the words as referring to the two characters of ruler and priest combined in the person of the Messiah. But in this case the clause would be superfluous. Why should there not be unity between two such characters combined in one such person? Koehler thinks that the reference is to the two offices of the Messiah, and that the prophecy speaks of a plan devised by the Messiah in His double character, whereby peace and salvation should be secured to His people. But this is in accord with the modes of thought of neither Old nor New Testament. Such an idea would have been incomprehensible to the prophet’s hearers; and in the New Testament any such unity of design for the salvation of mankind is spoken of as existing between the Father and the Messiah (not between two of the offices of the latter), e.g., John 6:38; John 10:15-18; John 3:16-17; Colossians 1:19-20). The expression “between them both” can only mean between two persons, not between the two abstract ideas of royalty and priesthood. Nor can it mean between the king and the priest, for only one person is mentioned, who is himself a priest on a royal throne. The only two persons mentioned are “Branch” (the Prince of Peace: Isaiah 9:6) and the Lord Himself. It can, then, only mean between them. We must admit that the passage would have been easier of interpretation had it run, “between him and the Lord.” But when we, in the light of later revelation, consider the Divine nature of “Branch,” we can understand the fitness of the expression “between them both,” though to the prophet’s original hearers it must have sounded enigmatical.

Verse 14

(14) The crowns.—Better, the crown. (See Note on Zechariah 6:11.) The verb is in the singular.

For a memorial—viz., of their piety.

Verse 15

(15) And they that are far off.—Hardly the Jews of the Dispersion only, but non-Jews also. (Comp. Haggai 2:7; Zechariah 2:11.)

And build ini.e., work at building, as in Psalms 128:1. With regard to the fulfilment, see Notes on the passages cited.

And this shall come to pass.—Better, And it shall come to pass, if our God. This must not be looked on as an abrupt aposiopesis, for the hearers could never have filled up the gap for themselves. Nor is the rendering of the English Version (although it has the support of Rashi and Kimchi) admissible. It only remains, therefore, to suppose that the remainder of the passage has been lost, though there is no tradition to that effect, as is the case in several instances.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 6". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/zechariah-6.html. 1905.
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