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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 6

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3484. B.C. 520.

In this chapter we have,

(1,) A vision of four chariots, drawn by horses of different colours, representing the four great empires of the world, rising in succession, and distinguishable, both by their order and by their attributes, Zechariah 6:1-8 .

(2,) The prophet is commanded by God, in the presence of witnesses, and for a memorial to them, to place a crown, or crowns, upon the head of Joshua the high-priest, thereby constituting him a type of Christ, the Branch, whom he proclaims, as about to come to build the spiritual temple of Jehovah, and to preside over it, both as king and priest, for the great purpose of peace, Zechariah 6:9-14 .

(3,) The accession of strangers to assist in building the temple is foretold, and given as a proof of the prophet’s divine mission, Zechariah 6:15 .

Verse 1

Zechariah 6:1. And I turned and looked, &c. “The main design of this eighth and last vision is to confirm the Jews in their faith in, and dependance upon God, by showing them that, weak and defenceless as they seemed to be, they had nothing to fear from the greatest earthly powers, while they remained under the divine protection; since all those powers originally proceeded from the counsels of the Almighty, were the instruments of his providence, and could not subsist, nor act, but under his permission.” Blayney. And behold there came four chariots Horses and chariots are the usual emblems of conquerors: see Isaiah 21:7-9; Zechariah 10:3. The four chariots, here mentioned, denoted the four great empires, which either had subdued, or were to subdue the greater part of the then known world, namely, the Assyrian, or Babylonian, the Persian, Grecian, and Roman. They are here represented as coming from between two mountains, because mountains are the natural barriers which divide kingdoms; which, though they be strong as brass, are here supposed to be broken through by those that invade and conquer their neighbours. And it is observable, that several of the mighty conquerors of the world owed the beginning of their greatness to their successful passage through the straits of mountains, where a small force might have maintained the passes against a powerful army. Thus the beginning of Alexander’s success against the Persians, was his passing without opposition through the straits of Cilicia; through which also the Babylonians and Persians had passed before, when they marched into Syria and Judea.

Verses 2-3

Zechariah 6:2-3. In the first chariot were red horses This meant the Chaldean empire, the bloody cruelties of which were signified by the red colour of the horses. This empire being overthrown, and its power extinct, when the prophet had this vision, it is only mentioned by-the-by, for the sake of order, and nothing further is said of it. And in the second, black horses We find by the Apocalypse, Revelation 6:5, that a black horse was an emblem of famine, or dearth, so that the chariot with black horses seems to have signified the Persian empire, which brought desolation on many countries, as appears from the history of Darius and Xerxes. And in the third chariot white horses Conquerors used to ride on white horses, when they were triumphing on account of victories gained over their enemies. This, therefore, aptly denoted the almost continual victories of Alexander, who in a few years overturned the Persian empire, and set up the Macedonian. And in the fourth chariot Representing the Roman empire; grizzled and bay horses Denoting the various forms of the Roman government.

Verse 5

Zechariah 6:5. These are the four spirits of the heavens Or rather, The four winds, as the word רוחות very frequently signifies, and as it is here rendered in the margin, and also by the LXX. and the Vulgate: that is, these chariots are the four empires in the different parts of the world. Thus Daniel, beginning to foretel the rise of these four great empires, Daniel 7:2, observes, Behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea. But how, it may be asked, could these chariots be said to be winds? Like strong winds they rushed violently on, and produced great agitations and commotions in the earth, resembling the effects of strong winds, both by sea and land. These winds are said to go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth, to signify that, as winds are frequently made God’s ministers, and fulfil his word, (Psalms 148:8,) so these empires, as his servants, should do his pleasure, and execute his purposes, whether of judgment or mercy, upon the different nations of the earth. In other words, they should be made subservient to the designs of his providence.

Verses 6-7

Zechariah 6:6-7. The black horses go forth into the north country The Persians (signified, as before observed, by the black horses) marched from Persia into Chaldea, which lay north of Judea, and is commonly denominated the north country. And the white go forth after them Alexander, with his Macedonians, signified, as we have said, by the white horses, marched from Greece through Asia Minor to Babylon, after the Persians, who retired before his victorious army. And the grizzled go forth toward the south country This probably was intended to denote the Romans conquering Egypt, frequently called the south country in Scripture: see Daniel 11:6. This was the last country the Romans subdued, under Augustus, whereby they became masters of the greatest part of the known world. And the bay sought to go, &c., that they might walk to and fro through the earth As the bay horses, as well as the grizzled, belonged to the fourth chariot, representing the Roman empire, (see note on Zechariah 6:3,) and the bay horses are mentioned after the grizzled, this verse may be intended to describe the ambition of the Romans, especially under the last form of their government, the imperial, to extend their conquests to every quarter of the globe; and the divine permission granted them so to do, signified in the latter part of the verse. Or, as Lowth supposes, a different branch of that empire may be here intended, which should arise and extend its conquests in the latter times; namely, the empire of the Goths and Vandals, whose power rose out of the ruins of the first Roman empire, and who set up the kingdom of the ten horns, mentioned Revelation 13:1; Revelation 17:3.

Verse 8

Zechariah 6:8. Then cried he unto me, Behold, these that go toward the north Namely, the black horses, denoting the Persian empire; have quieted my spirit in the north country That is, by conquering the Babylonians, and executing upon them the punishment which they deserved for their cruelty and other crimes, they have satisfied the wrath which I had conceived against that people. So the LXX., ανεπαυσαν τον θυμον μου εν γη Βορρα , they have caused my wrath to cease in the land of the north. Instead of these that go toward the north, it would be better to translate the words, those who have gone toward the north; because it is spoken of the Persians overturning the Babylonian empire, which happened before the prophet was favoured with this vision.

Verses 9-11

Zechariah 6:9-11. And the word of the Lord came unto me, &c. The prophet here proceeds to relate how he was favoured with another revelation, respecting a kingdom very different from the preceding; saying, Take of them of the captivity, &c. That is, receive from the captivity, from Heldai, from Tobijah, &c. The exiles who remained in Babylon, showed their regard for the temple that was then building, by sending their gifts and oblations to Jerusalem, for carrying on the work, and adorning the temple after it was built. These offerings, it is to be supposed, they sent about the time when the prophet had this vision, by the persons here named, as they did afterward by Ezra and his companions: see Ezra 7:16; Ezra 8:25-26. And go into the house of Josiah This was probably one who came from Babylon along with those before mentioned, namely, Heldai, &c.; for in other versions the words, which are come from Babylon, are put at the end of the verse. Then take silver and gold That is, receive from them silver and gold, namely, of that which they had brought for the service of the temple, from those who remained still in Babylon. And make crowns “That is, cause to be made by the artist.” Newcome, who observes that Josiah, above mentioned, was probably a worker in gold and silver. Some versions read, not crowns, but a crown. It seems, however, more probable, that “two crowns are here ordered to be made, and both of them to be placed upon the head of Joshua; to signify that the Messiah, the branch, spoken of in the next verse, of whom Joshua was a type, should be both a king and a priest, and so should have a right to wear the two crowns that belonged to these offices. One crown was probably made of silver, and the other of gold; or both silver and gold might be used on the same crown; the silver denoting the human nature of the Messiah, and the gold the divine; or the former the exercise of his offices of priest and king on earth, and the latter the exercise of them in heaven. Or, as some think more probable, both crowns were made of gold, and the silver was employed for some different sacred use, especially as the high-priest’s crown, inscribed with HOLINESS TO THE LORD, was to be entirely made of pure gold.

Verse 12

Zechariah 6:12. And speak unto him, saying Bishop Chandler justly observes, that the prophet’s speech is directed to Joshua only; the two crowns are put only on the head of Joshua; to him only it is said, Behold the man whose name is The Branch As much as to say, “Behold the sign of the BRANCH, the person whom I promised to David in Solomon, and by the prophets after David to the Jews, by the name of the BRANCH.” “There cannot be a doubt,” says Blayney, “that the same person is meant by the BRANCH here, who is so called chap. Zechariah 3:8, and this has been already shown to be, not Zerubbabel, but the Messiah himself; of whom Joshua is made the type, or representative, by the crown placed on his head. For to what end should he have been called in to represent Zerubbabel, who was his cotemporary, and altogether as ready at hand as himself. Nor will the passage, strictly and literally translated, answer to any other but him who was at once both king and priest, and, by uniting both characters in himself, was completely qualified to bring about the counsel of peace, or reconciliation between God and man.” It must be observed, however, that the human nature of our Lord is here chiefly intended by the expression, The man, the BRANCH. For, considered in his divine nature, he is not the branch out of the stem of Jesse, or David, but their root, as he is termed Isaiah 11:10; Revelation 5:5; Revelation 22:16. In this his human nature, he was small in his beginning, even as to his kingdom as well as his person; and mean in his appearance, as a mere bud or sprout, but gradually flourishing and becoming great and fruitful. As a branch, he was to be cut off, but would produce sprouts, branches, and trees of righteousness innumerable. He shall grow up out of his place Out of the tribe and family, and in the place foretold; as if he had said, Though you may suspect the root to be dry and dead, yet assuredly it is not: the branch will spring up, the Messiah, who shall be both priest and king, will make his appearance in due time. The Hebrew, מתחתיו יצמח , is literally, He shall spring up, or flourish, from under himself; by his own power, or by the power of his own Spirit, he shall be both stock and stem to himself. The words seem evidently to express his miraculous conception. He shall build the temple of the Lord As the preceding clause speaks of his person, his conception, and birth, so this describes his work; as if he had said, He it is that stands by you, though unseen, and enables you to build this material temple; which neither Zerubbabel, nor Joshua, nor all the Jews uniting with them, would be able to complete without him. This, however, is a temple far inferior to that spiritual building, the gospel church, which the Messiah will in due time raise, beautify, preserve, and honour; the spiritual house, in which he will dwell, 1 Peter 2:4; the temple built on the foundations laid in Zion, where he will manifest his grace and glory, and be worshipped in Spirit and in truth, 1Co 3:9-16 ; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22.

Verse 13

Zechariah 6:13. Even he shall build the temple of the Lord Here we have a sentence omitted by the LXX., Syriac, Arabic, and one MS., and which Archbishop Newcome proposes to expunge, as being only a different reading of the foregoing clause. “But, in arrest of judgment,” says Dr. Blayney, “I would beg leave to plead, that, in my opinion, the clause is not superfluous, but highly emphatic, implying that EVEN HE, the self-same person, who should build the temple of Jehovah, והוא , EVEN HE, should have the honour of governing and presiding in it, as both king and priest, in both capacities advancing the peace and prosperity of his people.” Or, perhaps, the prediction is repeated, chiefly in order to confirm the Jews in the assured expectation of what is promised. And he shall bear the glory The glory of the priesthood and royalty had been divided between the house of Aaron and that of David: but now, he alone shall bear the glory of both. Glory, in general, is a burden, and this double glory would be a double burden; but not too heavy for him to bear who upholdeth all things. He bore the cross, which was his glory, and he bears the crown, an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. They shall hang on him all the glory of his Father’s house, &c., Isaiah 22:24. He shall bear such glory that the glory of the latter house shall be greater than that of the former. Thus he shall raise, or lift up (Hebrew, ישׂא ) the glory. The glory of Israel hath been thrown down and depressed, but he shall raise it out of the dust. And shall sit and rule upon his throne He shall have a throne: the government shall be on his shoulders; which denotes both dignity and dominion, exalted honour and extensive power: he hath a name above every name; all power is his in heaven and on earth. And this throne is his: by birth-right; by donation of his Father; by purchase; by conquest: it is his most undoubted right. And its being said that he shall sit and rule upon his throne, signifies at once his royal magnificence, the perpetuity thereof, and the ease with which he shall rule, namely, the world, by his providence, judging and punishing, or sparing and pardoning nations, families, or individuals; or the church, and all the members of it, by his word, especially his laws, his Spirit, and the exercise of discipline. Observe well, reader, Christ, who is ordained to offer sacrifice for us, is authorized to give law to us. He will not save us, unless we be willing he should govern us, Hebrews 5:9. God has prepared him a throne in the heavens, and if we would have any benefit by that, we must prepare him one in our hearts, and be willing and glad that he should sit and rule there, and to him must every thought be brought into subjection. And he shall be a priest upon his throne With the majesty and power of a king, he has the tenderness and sympathy of a priest, who, being taken from among men, is ordained for men, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for men; who can have compassion on the ignorant, &c., Hebrews 5:1-2. In all the acts of his government as a king, he prosecutes his intentions as a priest. Let not those, then, that believe in, and are subject to him, look on his throne, though a throne of glory and of judgment, with terror and amazement. For as there is a rainbow round about the throne, so there is a priest upon the throne. And his office as a priest is no diminution to his dignity as a king. But his dignity as a king gives efficacy to his intercessions and services as a priest. The counsel of peace shall be between them both Between Jehovah on the one hand, and the man, whose name is the Branch, on the other. That is, the counsel concerning the peace to be made between God and man, by the mediation of the Messiah, shall be, or rather, shall appear to have been, concerted by infinite wisdom, in the covenant of redemption; and that the Father and the Son understood each other perfectly in that matter. So some interpret the words. But it seems more probable that the kingly and priestly offices of Christ are here referred to, and that the meaning is, that the peace made for God’s people shall rest on these two offices; that Christ, by his priestly office, should make peace for them with God, and by his kingly office should deliver them from their spiritual enemies: that by the former he should expiate sin, and by the latter extirpate it; that as a priest he should make, and as a king maintain peace.

Verses 14-15

Zechariah 6:14-15. And the crowns The two crowns before mentioned, made of the gold and silver brought from Babylon, Zechariah 6:11; shall be to Helem and to Tobijah, &c. Of these persons we know no more, with any certainty, than their names. For a memorial in the temple of the Lord Namely, of this transaction, of the pious liberality of those men, who had presented the gold and silver of which they were made, and especially of the Messiah’s certain and speedy coming. And they that are far off shall come and build, &c. Though this verse, in its literal sense, may refer to the Jews who lived in distant parts, and other artificers, coming to Jerusalem to assist in building the material temple, yet, in its mystical and ultimate meaning, it refers to the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ, and to that true temple, the Christian Church, in helping to erect, enlarge, and beautify which, thousands and myriads of the Gentiles have co-operated, and still more, in ages to come, will co-operate. And ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you And the event of things, which, if not prevented by your disobedience, will be agreeable to my predictions, shall prove to you, beyond all doubt, that I was divinely inspired, and commissioned to declare these things to you: that is, the prediction, as far as it was intended to be understood literally, shall be accomplished in your days; and, in its mystical sense also, it shall be fulfilled in its season: the Gentiles shall come in and be united with you as brethren, and will help you to build the spiritual temple; if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord For I must again desire you to observe, that the accomplishment of these promises depends on the condition of your obedience: for if you rebel and obey not, you shall even be cast out of God’s church, shall be deprived of his protection and care, and the Gentiles shall be taken to be his peculiar people in your place.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 6". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zechariah-6.html. 1857.
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