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Zechariah exhorteth to repentance. The vision of the horses. At the prayer of the angel, comfortable promises are made to Jerusalem. The vision of the four horns, and the four carpenters.
Before Christ 520.
THE first six verses of this chapter contain a separate and distinct revelation, but at the same time connected with the general purport and design of the visions that follow, to which it forms a suitable introduction. The people of the Jews were dispirited with the recollection of their past sufferings, and a sense of their present weak and dependent state. The divine wisdom thought meet to rally their courage, and animate them to the undertaking of what was necessary for the restoration of their affairs, and particularly to a vigorous prosecution of the building of the temple already in hand, by holding forth to them a prospect of better times. Accordingly, they are assured that God was now ready to restore them to favour, and accumulate his blessings upon them, provided they would turn to him, and not provoke his judgments, as their fathers had done, by wilful disobedience.
Zechariah 1:1. In the eighth month— Zechariah begins his prophesy with an exhortation to the people to be converted to the Lord, and not to imitate the stubbornness of their forefathers. Three months afterwards, Zec 1:7 the Lord caused to appear to him an angel on horseback in the midst of a myrtle grove, standing by the side of a river. Several other angels come to the first, and acquaint him, that the whole country was at peace and abounded with inhabitants. He thence takes occasion to intreat the Lord, that he would have compassion on the cities of Judah. The Lord gives him a gracious and comfortable answer, and complies with his request. Then the prophet saw four horns, Zec 1:18 and four men going to break them with hammers; and he was told that these four horns denoted so many powers which had oppressed his people; but that the time was come wherein they should be overthrown, and broken to pieces. See Calmet.
Zechariah 1:5. Your fathers, where are they?— This question signifies that the sepulchre of their fathers was not in Judaea, because they died captives in a foreign land; which was a great disgrace to the children. The question therefore, Where are they? does not mean that they were dead; for it could not by any means be considered as a punishment that the fathers of those whom Zechariah addresses were dead, after the space of seventy years. Prophets had never been wanting in Israel, till the time of the return from the Babylonish captivity. After Zechariah and Malachi, they ceased till Christ was born. The prophet therefore, by the next question, And the prophets, &c. implies, that in a short time it should come to pass, that God would send no more prophets to his people. See Houbigant.
Zechariah 1:6. But my words, &c.— Certainly, my words and my decrees, which I commanded, &c. happened to your fathers; who when they repented, said, &c. Houbigant.
Zechariah 1:7. Upon the four-and-twentieth, &c.— The second revelation, made to Zechariah about three months after the first, contains eight distinct visions following each other in the same night. The first vision is of an angel in a human form, sitting on horseback in a low valley among myrtle-trees, attended by others upon horses of different colours. The prophet asks the meaning, and is informed that they were the ministers of Providence, sent to examine into the state of the whole earth, which they report to be quiet and tranquil. The angel hereupon intercedes for Judah and Jerusalem, which he represents as having suffered under the divine indignation seventy years. He receives a consolatory answer. The prophet is directed to proclaim, that God's wrath against Judah was at an end; that he would cause the temple and Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and would fill the country with good, as a token and consequence of his renewed favour, Zechariah 1:7-38.1.17.
Sebat— This month corresponded with the latter end of January and the beginning of February.
Zechariah 1:8. I saw by night— I saw this night, &c. A red horse is an emblem of war and destruction. The man or angel riding upon him is thought by some to have been the archangel Michael, prince and protector of the people of God. Others suppose that the Logos, or Son of God, is meant, who appeared as the captain of the hosts or armies of God. See the note on chap. Zechariah 2:3. He appeared in obscurity, in a low place, amid myrtles planted by the waters; as it were to mark out the affliction, humiliation, and sorrow, to which his country was reduced. The Hebrew may be rendered, Among the myrtle-trees planted by the waters. The myrtle flourishes best in shady and watery places; Littora myrtetis laetissima, says Virgil. See Calmet. Instead of speckled, Houbigant reads grey.
Zechariah 1:9. The angel that talked with me— This was another heavenly minister, sent probably to present the visions to the prophet's imagination, as well as to explain them. Vitringa styles him, Angelus comes et interpres, "the accompanying and interpreting angel:" and under his direction the prophet receives satisfactory information.
Zechariah 1:11. We have walked, &c.— This passage answers to that opinion of the Hebrews, that every province had its guardian angel. The angels subordinate to the principal one, among the myrtle-trees, report to him, that all the parts of his government are inhabited, and at rest. Instead of, Through the earth, and all the earth, it should be rendered, Through the land, and all the land. After the return from the captivity this province was re-peopled, and enjoyed at the commencement of the reign of Darius a profound peace.
Zechariah 1:15. I am very sore displeased, &c.— I am very sore displeased with the nations who despise her, and who, after I had moderated my anger, have added to her affliction. Houbigant. This may be understood of the Babylonians, Samaritans, and other neighbours of the Jews, who had not been made such terrible examples of God's vengeance as the Jews. See Job 42:7.
Zechariah 1:17. My cities, &c.— My cities shall yet abound with good. Houbigant, and others.
Zechariah 1:18. Behold, four horns— In this second vision, under the emblem of four horns, is represented, that God, by such agents as he would appoint, would quell and bring down all those powers which had risen, or should rise, to oppress his people. Horns are an usual emblem of strength and power; and because those fierce beasts that have them, push and gore with them, and, tossing them furiously about, scatter and drive all before them, they aptly denote conquering and oppressive princes and states. See Daniel 7:0; Daniel 8:0. But whether the number four is used indefinitely, or to denote that specific number, and, if the latter, what particular Powers are pointed out by it, is a question that has been much agitated, but not satisfactorily determined. Several quaternions have been named, but with no other effect than to make the matter more doubtful. The most ancient and prevailing opinion among the Jews themselves, and perhaps the most probable of any, is, that the four great empires, the Assyrian or Babylonian, the Persian, Grecian, and Roman, which most certainly were alluded to by the four beasts in the seventh chapter of Daniel, and I think are designed by the four chariots in the last of these eight visions, chap. 6: are here likewise intended; by each of which the Jewish nation has been in turns oppressed, and all of them have been successively brought down, and annihilated; although from the depression of the last the Jews have not as yet apparently derived any considerable advantage.
Zechariah 1:20. Four carpenters— Or as many subverters of the kingdoms as the kingdoms were which had oppressed the Jews. The word חרשׁ choresh, signifies a mechanic, or artificer in brass, iron, wood, stone, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet Zechariah received his commission from God, and began to speak about two months after Haggai. He is called the son of Berechiah; and was the same, as some suppose, whom our Lord mentions, Mat 23:35 as slain between the porch and the altar, the son of Iddo the prophet, which may refer to Zechariah, and not his grandfather; or he might be a prophet also. He begins his discourse,
1. With reminding the Jews of the sins and provocations of their forefathers, with whom God was highly displeased, and whom he had severely punished, whose sufferings should be a warning to them.
2. With exhorting them to turn unto God; and gives them the most gracious encouragement to do so, for he will turn unto you; and thrice he adds, thus saith the Lord of Hosts, to give weight and authority to the admonition, and engage their faith in the certainty of his promised mercy. Conscious guilt makes the heart fearful; and the sinner, who sees his iniquities in their true colours, can scarcely be persuaded that God can and will receive one so unworthy into his favour.
3. He reminds them of the sins of their forefathers, which had provoked God, and bids them take warning by their sufferings, and not imitate their bad examples. Be ye not as your fathers, treading in their steps, who, though repeatedly, fervently, and for a long season called upon by the former prophets to repent, turned a deaf ear to God's word, and hardened their hearts; and where are they? They went captives into a strange land; and many of them no doubt cut off in their iniquities, and were gone to receive the just reward of their deeds. And the prophets are dead also; but their words survived them, and overtook the sinners against whom they were denounced; and this in so evident a manner, that when the threatened judgments came, too late to be prevented, their forefathers, in a miserable captivity, felt that righteous vengeance which they would not believe till it took hold upon them. Note; (1.) The example of parents is no plea for following their ways, when contrary to God's word. (2.) We should often think of those who are gone before; where are they? gone into bliss or misery eternal, and we are hastening after them: whither then are we going? (3.) God's ministers are dying men; we should improve the season, during which they are spared to labour among us: whilst each of them, considering their own mortality, should speak as a dying man to dying men; and deliver at least their own souls. (4.) Though the denunciations of wrath do not immediately take place against the sinner, being in much patience delayed, yet, if he persist in impenitence, they will take hold of him at last; and too late, in the belly of hell, he will feel that wrath from which he would not be persuaded to flee.
2nd, The vision recorded Zechariah 1:7, &c. was given to the prophet about three months after the former discourse was delivered, and is designed for the encouragement of the people who had turned unto God, and diligently employed themselves in rebuilding his holy temple. We have,
1. The vision. The grove of myrtles in the bottom fitly represented the state of the Jewish church, sunk very low in the deep gloom of afflictions and want, and surrounded by the hills of the neighbouring nations, far greater than they. It may signify also the church militant in general, which through much tribulation enters into the kingdom of God; the members of which, though low, are closely united, and their graces breathe fragrance before God. In the midst of them Jesus appears, become man for us men and for our salvation, and going forth to fight our battles, conquering and to conquer, and riding upon a red horse as the captain of salvation, who by his own blood will save his faithful people, and by his power treads down his enemies, till their blood reaches to the horses' bridles, Revelation 14:20. Behind him stood marshalled the armies of heaven, his ministering spirits, on horses of different colours, according to the various services in which they are employed, for judgment or for mercy.*
* As so many commentators have given this sense to the present passage, and as their interpretation is perfectly consistent with the analogy of faith, I have therefore presented my readers with it: but see the critical notes.
2. The prophet, filled with admiration at what he beheld, presumes with deep respect to ask, O my Lord, what are these? And the angel, he that is the head of all principalities and powers, even the man that stood among the myrtle-trees, is graciously pleased to inform him. These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth, to execute his commands, and minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. So kind and condescending is Jesus to the humble inquirers after divine knowledge, who cry, What I know not teach thou me: these he will guide into all truth.
3. He hears the report which these ministering spirits make to their King and Lord. They had discharged their commission, and report, that the earth sitteth still, and is at rest, undisturbed by wars, as was the case in the reign of Darius; secure and at ease, while the poor people of God are under affliction and perpetual alarms. Thus still a careless world sleeps on: but they will shortly be fearfully roused from this fatal lethargy.
4. The angel, the Lord Jesus, hereupon becomes an advocate for his penitent returning people, and cries for mercy now at last upon them, after the long time that God hath afflicted them, during seventy years; which, if computed from the burning of the temple, were just now completed: so long had they suffered the marks of God's indignation; and now he begs that he will say, It is enough. It is well for the church that believers have such an Advocate with the Father: and in all times of trouble we should remember this for our support.
5. An answer of peace is given to the Saviour's prayer. The Lord answered the angel with good words, and comfortable words; for, him the Father heareth always.
6. He communicates this answer to the prophet, to be proclaimed to his believing people for their comfort and encouragement. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy: on fire to repair their wrongs, and zealous to promote their happiness. Their enemies, who now sit at ease, are the objects of his wrath: he sent them to correct his people in a little displeasure, and they helped forward the affliction, exceeding their orders in cruelty and inhumanity, and insulted over the miseries of their unhappy captives: but God will avenge their quarrel. Whilst on the other hand the prophet must proclaim aloud, Thus saith the Lord, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: the temple shall be built, Jerusalem be raised from its ruins, and plenty and prosperity once more dwell in the cities of Judah. And the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, after the days of her mourning; and shall yet choose Jerusalem for his blest abode: which was literally fulfilled in the days of Zerubbabel and of the Maccabees; but most eminently when the Messiah appeared in the midst of her, and his Gospel went forth through all the cities of the land.
3rdly, We have a second vision to the same purpose as the former, comforting the people of Israel against their mighty foes.
1. The prophet saw four horns, and, asking an explanation of them, is informed, that these are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem; the various nations that at different times harassed and dispersed them, so that no man did lift up his head; so oppressed and dispirited they were, and brought so low. Some refer these horns to the Samaritans, Arabians, Ammonites, and Philistines, who gave them such hindrances in the building of the temple and city. And all who set about this blessed work may expect to be pushed at by many a horn. But see the critical notes.
2. The Lord shewed him four carpenters. These he had not seen. Our fears of danger so engage us, that we often overlook the help provided for us. And he tells him what these came to do, to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles. And these may be interpreted of the several monarchies which have risen up to destroy each other; or of the angels whom God sends to execute his judgments; or of the four great promoters of God's work, Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah; and perhaps of the ministers of the Gospel, who go forth and are strengthened for carrying on the work of God in the midst of all opposition. Note; Whatever enemies are against us, we have greater friends for us: and, though sore thrust at that we may fall, in the Lord is our help, who will break all the horns of the ungodly.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent