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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Zechariah 1

 

 

Verses 1-21

AS WE COMMENCE to read Zechariah we note that, just as with Haggai, definite dates are given for the messages that God gave through him; and the first verse reveals that his first message — Zechariah 1:2-6 — was uttered between Haggai's word of encouragement, in the early part of his second chapter, and the word of warning, recorded later in that chapter. We think we may term Zechariah's first message, a word of exhortation.

We may wonder perhaps, why such a word at that juncture was needed? Had the people not responded to the word of rebuke, and so diligently resumed work on the temple that they were encouraged by a prophetic view of its future glory? Yet before Haggai's word of warning, uttered on the ninth month there came this call to them to remember the directness and certainty of God's governmental dealings with their fathers, and the certainty of similar dealings if like their fathers, they turned away from Him. The exhortation therefore is, 'Turn ye unto Me, saith the Lord of hosts'. Had they not done this? Yes, indeed, outwardly and in action. But had there been that inward and vital turning of heart, which is what counts in the sight of God? Their subsequent history, as revealed by the prophet Malachi, shows how little they were marked by this inward turning of heart to God.

So, as we open this fresh prophecy, we meet with something calculated to make us 'wise unto salvation', from a similar danger today. How easy for us to be satisfied with correctness of outward behaviour, without that inward heart-turning, of great value in the sight of God. Very possibly the 'uncleanness', which in his third message Haggai pointed out as marring the work of their hands, was connected with this matter.

In verse Zechariah 1:7 we travel on to the eleventh month of the second year of Darius, so important in the history of the Jews, and we commence a whole series of visions which were granted to the prophet — visions which had a bearing upon their position at that time, but which carried in them allusions to the far future, and the ultimate deliverance to come through Christ.

Before starting on them we may pause to notice the great difference of style that marked the two prophets. Of all the Minor prophets, none is more plain and direct, and free from figurative language and visions, than Haggai: and none more full of figurative language and the record of visions than Zechariah; yet both were equally used, and at the same time. We see foreshadowed that which comes plainly to light in God's administration for the Church, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 - What God establishes is marked by diversity in unity. Each servant of God is marked by difference and variety as to detail — like the many differing members of the human body — but all bound together in a God-created unity. Let us never forget this fact in our dealings with, or our judgments of, God's many servants today.

From verse Zechariah 1:7 of our first chapter, till the later part of Zechariah 6:1-15, we get a series of visions that were granted to the prophet, and recorded by him. The words, 'Then lifted I up mine eyes', (Zechariah 1:18), occur a number of times, as he puts on record what he saw. As we ponder these visions we may discern a certain sequence in them.

The first is that of the rider on a red horse among the myrtle trees, and behind him other horses, red, speckled and white. They represented those whom the Lord had sent forth to walk to and fro through the earth. As a symbol, a horse is generally used to indicate strength and power, but in this first vision nothing is said to show just what form of strength is meant, though we gather not earthly kingdoms, such as Persia or Greece, since the horses walk on tours of inspection through the earth. When, however, we read Zechariah 6:1-15, we again find horses mentioned, and they are described as, 'the four spirits of the heavens'; that is, they are angelic in character. This, we believe, they are here; and their report is that though God's city and people were still in distress at the end of the seventy years, the nations under the Persian empire were having a very quiet and restful time.

This being so, the angel of the Lord gave Zechariah a clear message to the effect that He was sore displeased with the apparently prosperous nations, and was going indeed to return to Jerusalem in blessing. Reading verses Zechariah 1:16-17, we cannot but feel that though the help and blessing that visited the people during the next few years was a fulfilment of these words, the complete fulfilment awaits the time when the glorious appearing of Jehovah, predicted in Zechariah's last chapter, takes place.

Then a fresh vision met the eyes of the prophet: the four horns representing the four earthly powers that were permitted to scatter so completely the people and their city. Then there came into his view the four carpenters, who would come, as sent of God, to disturb and destroy the four powers that had done it. The prophecy views the whole matter in a comprehensive way, as from God's side. In Zechariah's days, the first of these 'horns', the Babylonian empire, had been 'cast out', and the second was in power, the third and fourth yet to come; but God was making known the fact that their rule was only temporary, and that each would be 'cast out' in turn.

There can be no doubt, we think, as to the identity of the four horns, though we may not be able to identify in the same way the four carpenters. We believe, however, again that the prophecy is not yet completely fulfilled, for the 'horns of the Gentiles', which lift up their power for the scattering of Israel, are not completely disposed of while 'the times of the Gentiles' (Luke 21:24), still run their course. But the remnant, now back in Jerusalem, were given the encouragement of knowing that the day of their oppressors would come to an end in God's own time. It is an encouragement to us to know it also.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Zechariah 1:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/zechariah-1.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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