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Thursday, July 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 1

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-21

God's Call to Return to Him

(vv. 1-6)

Zechariah's name means "Jehovah remembers." He was the son of Berechiah ("Jehovah blesses") who was the son of Iddo ("the appointed time"). Israel had long been in a depressed state. It seemed as though God had forgotten them, but He remembers, and in His own appointed time He returns to them in blessing. But the measure of revival and blessing in Zechariah's day was very limited, and Israel lapsed again into a depressed condition that was still seen when the Lord Jesus came, in whom we see another striking evidence of "Jehovah remembering." By rejecting Christ, Israel has lapsed into a worse state than ever, now for many centuries, and by the time of the great tribulation they will be brought to feel deeply that God has forgotten them. Only then will the prophecy of Zechariah be fully accomplished. It will be God's appointed time of remembering and blessing Israel with blessings that will never end.

Zechariah's message to Israel begins abruptly: the Lord has been greatly displeased with their fathers. How could Israel boast in their lineage when this was true? They had become accustomed to the sins their fathers had allowed, and lacked the exercise that Josiah had (2 Kings 22:10-13) when he heard Scripture read to him and realized how far his fathers had departed from its precepts. Well might the Lord tell Israel to return to Him, with the promise that, if so, He would return to them.

Despite the Lord's sending prophets to urge the people to return to Him from their evil ways and doings, they simply would not listen. Where are their fathers now? Do the prophets live forever? Men cannot long continue living in rebellion. Death overtakes them and then they realize their rebellion to be folly, but too late! The prophets too were only sent by God at specific times to give an urgent message: they did not continue indefinitely as merely servants to be treated as the people pleased. Israel could not depend either on their fathers or on the prophets: they must have their confidence in the living God.

Therefore verse 6 insists on " My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets." Though men die, "the Word of the Lord endures forever" (1 Peter 1:25). This is the only remedy in any day of decline and failure, whether for Israel or for the Church. But God's words had overtaken (NASB) their fathers in spite of their unbelief, and only then did they return and acknowledge that the Lord had done to them just as He warned, because of their disobedience. Would Israel not learn by the history of their fathers?


(vv. 7-11)

Three months later the Word of the Lord came again to Zechariah. This is a prophecy, though in the form of a vision which Zechariah sees at night. The man riding on a red horse is spoken of in verse 11 as "the angel of the Lord," - the Lord Jesus Himself - who often appeared in the Old Testament as the angel or messenger of the Lord. Horses are spoken of inZechariah 6:5; Zechariah 6:5 as "the spirits of the heavens"-the energizing power that sustains their riders. Here the horse is red, reminding us of judgment and bloodshed (Isaiah 63:2-4). He stood among "the myrtle trees in the hollow." The myrtle, growing in low-lying areas, is symbolic of Israel reduced to a state of lowly humiliation. He is standing, not fighting. This reminds us ofHabakkuk 3:6; Habakkuk 3:6, "He stood and measured the earth." The Lord does not judge precipitately, but calmly takes account of every matter before judgment.

Behind the red horse and its rider were other red horses, also speaking of judgment and bloodshed. There also were "sorrel" horses, a mixed color between red and orange. This speaks of judgment tempered with mercy. White horses - the symbol of victory - also were present. These other horses were waiting for the time when their proper ends would be accomplished. In some cases severe judgment would fall, in other cases judgment mingled with mercy, then the ultimate victory of God over evil.

Zechariah asks who these are. Then we are told of "the angel who talked with me," who answers that he would show him. "The angel who talked with me" (spoken of in this way 11 times) is distinguished from "the angel of the Lord." The answer is actually given by the Man who stood among the myrtle trees, and verse 11 shows this to be "the angel of the Lord" who answers that these horses had been sent by the Lord to walk back and forth through the earth. Then "they"- the red, sorrel and white horses - responded to the angel of the Lord that they had walked back and forth, and all the earth was resting quietly. This seems to be again the patience of God before judging, just as there is often a time of calm before a violent storm. Their walking through the earth indicates their work is not yet finished.


(vv. 12-17)

Then the angel of the Lord (Christ), the true Intercessor for His people, addresses God, the Lord of hosts, asking, "How long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?" (v. 12). He is speaking of the 70 years captivity, for though some of Judah had returned to Jerusalem, many of the people were still not really liberated from the oppression of their enemies, as Ezra and Nehemiah bear witness. How much more may the same expression be used today, "O Lord, How long?" - since now it is almost 2000 years since Israel rejected their Messiah, and has continued under the judgment of God.

The Lord's answer to the angel who talked with Zechariah was with good and comfortable words, for God is the God of all comfort and does not desire His people to be discouraged by their circumstances, but to be encouraged in the Lord. Therefore the angel who talked with him gave instructions to Zechariah to cry, saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal." Jerusalem was God's center, and He would not give her up in spite of the many failures of His people. The King James Version uses the word, "jealous," for this is used in the sense of its dictionary meaning of "protective and solicitous." This is jealousy of an admirable kind. He also calls Jerusalem "Zion" which is the special name given her in view of the great blessing she will receive in the Millennium - the thousand year reign of the Lord Jesus following the tribulation. Zion means "sunny," for it anticipates "the Sun of Righteousness" who will arise to Israel with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2), speaking of the coming of the Lord Jesus in majestic glory.

Also, God announces His extreme displeasure with the nations who were at ease and taking advantage of their prosperous circumstances to oppress the Jews because they were downtrodden and afflicted. It was true that God had been displeased with His own people and had allowed them to suffer for their disobedience, even using the Gentile nations to punish them in many ways. So the nations had helped God punish Israel, "but with evil intent" (v. 15), being willing even to cut off Israel from being a nation. Many of the nations since that time have had the same cruel intention, and at the time of the end, with bitter enmity mounting against Israel, the King of the North and his armies will seek to accomplish Israel's destruction. This is not God's purpose when He chastens His people: He has in view their eventual restoration and blessing.

Therefore it was to be proclaimed to all the people that He had returned to Jerusalem with mercies. If they were in a humble state to receive mercy, they would be greatly blessed. God's house would be built in the city, and a line would be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Zechariah 2:1 refers to this measuring line, which indicates God's vital interest in discerning the precise condition of Jerusalem and blessing it according to His own wise estimate in due time.

Again Zechariah is told to "proclaim," raising his voice to draw the attention of all the people, "Thus says the Lord of hosts." This name of God is emphasized in Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi at a time when Judah was far from a "host" (many people), but had been reduced to a very small number. What a mercy that God was not reduced: He was still "the Lord of hosts," and He promises "My cities shall again spread out through prosperity: the Lord will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem" (v. 17). The complete fulfillment of this will only be when Zion becomes in truth the "sunny" metropolis of the world. This will be when Jerusalem is chosen a second time as the true "foundation of peace," with which name she will then prove consistent during the age to come, the Millennium.


(vv. 18-21)

A vision of four horns now draws the attention of Zechariah. He asks the angel who talked with him the significance of these horns, and is told they are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. Verse 21 shows they are Gentiles. Daniel 7:4-7; Daniel 7:4-7 identifies these four kingdoms. The first, a lion with eagles' wings (v. 4), is Babylon. The second, a bear (v. 5), is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. the third, like a leopard with four wings and four heads (v. 6), is the Grecian empire. The fourth, a strong, terrible beast with iron teeth (v. 7), is the Roman empire. Daniel 2:37-40 confirms this from a different viewpoint.

These four enemies have distinct characters, each being responsible for harming and scattering Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. Babylon speaks of dignified, despotic rule as emphasized in Nebuchadnezzar who executed people as he pleased and kept alive whomever he desired (Daniel 5:19). The Medes and Persians prided themselves on making laws that could not be changed (Daniel 6:8). This is stern, proud legality. Greece stands for self-righteous indignation, as seen in Daniel 8:5-8. Alexander, the he-goat, was moved with bitter anger against the ram (Medes and Persians). The Roman empire illustrates the brute strength by which that empire ruled, taking control by the force of superior strength.

These very evils have repeated themselves in the history of the Church on earth, and she too has suffered greatly for this. First, people have exalted themselves, assuming a dignity of being spiritually above the common level of the saints of God, and others have willingly given them this place. When this system of things breaks down, as it will, then the people resort to the principle of imposing binding laws, as did the Medes and Persians. They may begin with relatively good rules and regulations, then degenerate to bad rules. But whether good or bad, they set aside the pure grace of God, which is the only principle on which the Church can receive blessing from God. This legality must break down too. The laws become so intolerable that people revolt against them with self-righteous indignation, reacting in bitter anger that throws off the restraints of law. Still, when not turning in faith to the pure grace of God, their new liberty is only freedom to pursue their own willful ways. This brings confusion, for every individual's will is contrary to those of others, and unity is hopeless. Out of such a situation the natural result is that the strongest will becomes predominant: might becomes right, just as the Roman empire (the strong one) became the oppressor of God's people.

What is the answer? The Lord also showed Zechariah four carpenters, and Zechariah asked for what purpose these came. The answer is that, while the four horns have scattered Judah, the carpenters had come to terrify and cast out the horns of the nations. Their work is constructive, effective and decisive, but the actual fulfillment of this could not be in Zechariah's time, for the Grecian and Roman empires had not even arisen.

Ezra 5:1-2 furnishes us with the names of four men who strikingly resemble these four carpenters, all of whom were present at that time: Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua. The first two were prophets, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest. All of these are pictures of the Lord Jesus, the one predominant Carpenter, but as seen in the four distinct characters in which the four Gospels present Him.

Zerubbabel, the governor, is typical of Christ as seen in Matthew, God's anointed King. As such He is in contrast to Babylon whose dignified pride and authority He reduces to nothing, while He takes the place of absolute authority.

Haggai, the servant-prophet, is a type of Christ as seen in Mark, the lowly Servant of God, a contrast to the haughty legality of the Medes and Persians. In this willing, humble, lowly service of the Lord Jesus is the destruction of the spirit of legality, for as such He attracts the willing-hearted devotion of those who are born of God.

Joshua, the high priest, typifies Christ as seen in Luke, the sinless Son of Man, who, because He has in grace become partaker of flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14-17), is "the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus." Thus He is contrasted to Grecian self-righteous anger as the Intercessor on behalf of those who fall. He triumphs wonderfully over the wrath of the people.

Zechariah is a prophet who emphasizes the deity of the Lord Jesus (Zechariah 9:14-16; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:7; Zechariah 14:5-17.) This corresponds to John's Gospel, and indicates the eternal majesty and power by which the Lord Jesus will overcome the brute strength of Rome and the strong wills of those who have sought to dominate the Church of God in this present age. How marvelous is every character in which we see this blessed Christ of God in His casting out of evil and building that which glorifies God for eternity! In all four of these wondrous aspects of His glory, He is indeed "the Carpenter."

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Zechariah 1". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/zechariah-1.html. 1897-1910.
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