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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 1

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-21

Notes on the Prophecy of Zechariah


Zechariah, like Haggai and Malachi, was a post-captivity prophet. He was one of those who came up from Babylon with Zerubbabel (having been born in the land of the stranger) and gave the word of the Lord to the returned remnant. It was Haggai’s mission to arouse to action when they had been overcome by sloth and self-seeking. Zechariah followed with messages of cheer and encouragement designed to bring the souls of the people into the power of the coming glory. He is therefore largely occupied with the appearing of Messiah and His reign of righteousness. There is blessing in thus having heart and mind transported to the days of heaven upon earth. It is then that one is able to estimate aright the transitory glories of this present evil age. The hope of the Lord’s coming has a purifying effect upon the lives of those held by it. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

The Church has lost much, therefore, by neglecting the study of prophecy. It should be borne in mind that while the prophets of the Old Testament do not speak of the assembly of the present dispensation, nevertheless those who compose the Body of Christ and the Bride of the Lamb may learn much that is for edification and blessing through Jehovah’s word to Israel. Then too it should be enough for the devoted soul to know that Christ is to be the center of all that glory which is soon to be revealed. If He is concerned in it, all who love Him will find spiritual delight in tracing the steps leading up to His exaltation and the establishment of His kingdom.

This is what is characteristic in Zechariah. He marks out the various stages leading to the appearing of Messiah, thus opening up, in large measure, “the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”

His book falls readily into two main parts. The first six chapters relate the visions of the prophet. The last eight are devoted to instruction based upon these visions. There are numerous subdivisions which we shall notice as we go on.

It would seem as though Zechariah, like many of his predecessors, died a violent death, and that at the hands of the Jews returned from Babylon, when decline had again set in. At least our Lord Jesus speaks of “the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar,” and which was to be required of the men of that generation, who had filled up the iniquity of their fathers (Matthew 23:35).

It is barely possible, though not probable, that our Lord was referring to the martyrdom of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, who was stoned to death in the court of the temple (2 Chronicles 24:20, 2 Chronicles 24:21); but in that case we have to suppose a Berechiah in the genealogy of Jehoiada, or else a copyist’s error in transcribing the Greek text. In the absence of proof to the contrary, it seems safer to assume that Zacharias the son of Barachias is none other than the prophet to whose writings we are about to turn for instruction and warning.

The Jews have a tradition that he perished in the manner described. J. N. Darby, in his “Irrationalism of Infidelity,” says that “the Jewish Targum states that Zechariah the son of Iddo, a prophet and priest, was slain in the sanctuary.”30

As the rabbis could have no possible reason for seeking to confirm the words of the Lord Jesus, it would seem as though their testimony were conclusive.

Chapter 1

Israel And The Divine Government

By comparing verse 1 with the opening words of Haggai’s prophecy, it will be observed that an interval of two months, approximately, occurred between the beginning of the recorded ministry of the two prophets. Conscience was aroused, and the work of building the house of the Lord begun, as a result of Haggai’s stirring message. In the seventh month he sought to encourage the now awakened people by directing their attention to the future day of Messiah’s glory. Then in the month following, the eighth of Darius’ second year, Zechariah was bidden to speak to them, first in a rousing call to self-judgment, followed later on by a remarkable unfolding of what Haggai had so briefly outlined in chapter 2:6-9.

Others have long since noticed the striking significance of the names in this first verse: “Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.” Zechariah means Jehovah remembers; Berechiah is Jehovah blesses; and Iddo, The appointed time. So read, we would have: “Jehovah remembers, Jehovah blesses at the appointed time.” Thus, when the set time to favor Zion has come, all the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled, and carried out in blessing. If any think such an interpretation fanciful, let them remember how the apostle, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, dwells on the meaning of names, and their order, in the case of Melchizedek, King of Salem, in Hebrews 7:2. There is surely more than a hint in that remarkable passage that there are vast stores of instruction in the names of men and places used throughout the Scriptures that many of us have little dreamed of.

Verses 2 to 6 comprise Zechariah’s first message, and are a suited introduction to the book. In view of the return from captivity and the rebuilding of the temple, the people are warned not to repeat the errors of their fathers-a warning, alas, soon forgotten and quite unheeded.

With their ancestors the Lord had been grievously displeased, and because of their sins had given them into the hand of the Gentile foe. Now let the children of those who had failed so repeatedly turn to Him with all their hearts, and He would turn unto them, openly acting for them as Jehovah of hosts. Let them not refuse to hearken as their fathers refused to obey the messages of the prophets that had given them the word of the Lord prior to the long-predicted captivities of Assyria and Babylon. To them He had cried, “Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings!” but His words had been despised. Where were they now who had thus dared to refuse obedience to the Word of the living God? They had been made to know the power of His displeasure, and had at last been obliged to own that His word was infallible. In the land of the enemy they sadly confessed, “Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath He dealt with us” (ver. 6). Thus had He been glorified even in their abasement and discomfiture. In all this how serious and important the lesson for us!

In verse 7 Zechariah begins to relate a series of eight visions, all intimately connected; all of which seem to have been given him on the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, in the same year as that of verse 1. The first vision and its partial explanation occupies verses 7 to 17. For convenience we shall call it, The Man among the Myrtle Trees.

The prophet beheld a man riding upon a red horse, in a deep valley, among a grove of myrtle trees, “and behind him red horses, speckled, and white.” In reply to his surprised inquiry, “O my lord, what are these?” an angel replied, “I will show thee what these be.”

Upon this the rider on the red horse, twice called a man, but in verse 11 identified as the angel of Jehovah, said, “These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.”

Then, as though summoned to give account, the hitherto unmentioned riders31 on the attending horses answered the angel of the Lord, and said, “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”

The rider on the first horse would seem to be the Covenant-Angel, standing for the people of Jehovah’s choice. The other horses speak of the providential agencies, possibly angelically-directed, working among the Gentile nations. Observe, the Lord had sent them. The powers that be are ordained of God. They had lately been used for the chastisement of offending Israel. Now all the world was at peace, and the nations utterly indifferent to the low estate of the seed of Abraham.

Hence the cry of the Angel of Jehovah, “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which Thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?” (ver. 12). The Babylonian captivity had come to a end. Cyrus had given permission for the Jews to return to Jerusalem; but though a remnant had gone back, there was utter indifference on the part of the great powers as to any recognition nationally of the people who were destined to be the chief of the nations. Hence the angel’s question, which Jehovah answered with good words and comfortable words.

It is a little difficult here to distinguish between the Angel of Jehovah riding on the horse among the myrtles (who really speaks of Messiah Himself as the Angel-intercessor on behalf of Israel, as in Revelation 8:1-4), and the interpreting-angel who explained the visions to Zeehariah. The latter it is, in verse 14, who gives the seer a prophetic message telling him to, “Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.”

Proud and self-sufficient, the Gentile powers seek only their own, and regard His chosen with indifference and scorn; but He is looking on, and they are thereby but adding to the cup of their iniquity.

In His own set time, as intimated already in connection with the prophetic character of the three names in verse 1, Jehovah will arise on behalf of His people, and return to Jerusalem, so long trodden under foot of the nations, with great mercies, bringing in all the blessings of the new covenant for the long-despised nation. His house shall be built in the land once more, on a more magnificent scale than ever, as set forth in the last eight chapters of Ezekiel. Jerusalem itself shall arise from its ruins, a glorious city, unequaled in splendor by any of the cities of the nations, in the day when “the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (vers. 16, 17).

It is of importance throughout to distinguish between vision and interpretation. Verses 8 to 13 give the vision. Verses 14 to 17 are the divine explanation. Judah and Jerusalem form the subject. There is no reference to the Church of the present dispensation whatever. Spiritualizers have always been fond of so applying it, but to do so is to violently wrest the passage.

The second vision, of the four horns and the four carpenters, or four smiths, is given in verses 18 to 21. The four Gentile world-empires, made familiar to us in Daniel’s prophecy, are exemplified by the horns (symbols of power), viz., Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

But for every horn there is a carpenter; and like as they have agreed together to oppress and destroy Israel and Judah, so shall God use these carpenters to destroy them. Israel’s enemies are God’s enemies, and must be frayed and broken when their appointed course is run, with a view to the full deliverance of the remnant of the people of His choice.

In the Hebrew text this vision belongs to the next chapter, as chapter 1 ends with verse 17. It requires no further comment. For the saint of any dispensation it ministers blessed truth, reminding him that God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; and evil is only permitted in so far as it will serve in the carrying out of His wondrous purposes of blessing.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 1". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/zechariah-1.html. 1914.
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