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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Zechariah 1

 

 

Verse 1

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

The man among the myrtles-Comforting explanation by the angel, an encouragement to the Jews to build the city and temple-The four horns and four artificers.

In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, (the son of Barachiah, the son of Iddo.) See introduction.


Verse 2

The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.

The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers. God fulfilled His threats against your fathers; beware, then, lest by disregarding his voice by me, as they did in the case of former prophets, ye suffer like them. The special object Zechariah aims at, is that they should awake from their selfish negligence, to obey God's command to rebuild His temple (Haggai 1:4-8).

Sore displeased - Hebrew, 'displeased with a displeasure,' - i:e., vehemently, with no common displeasure, exhibited in the destruction of the Jews' city and in their captivity.


Verse 3

Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

Thus saith the Lard of hosts - a phrase frequent in Haggai and Zechariah, implying God's boundless resources and universal power, so as to inspire the Jews with confidence to work.

Turn ye unto me ... and I will turn unto you - i:e., and then, as the sure consequence, "I will turn unto you" (Malachi 3:7; James 4:8 : cf. also Jeremiah 3:12; Ezekiel 18:30; Micah 7:19). Though God hath brought you back from captivity, yet this state will not long last unless ye are really converted. God has heavier scourges ready, and has begun to give symptoms of displeasure, in causing you, while "sowing much" to "bring in little" (Calvin). (Haggai 1:6.)


Verse 4

Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.

Be ye not as your fathers. The Jews boasted of their fathers; but he shows that their fathers were refractory, and that ancient example and long usage will not justify disobedience (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).

Unto whom the former prophets have cried - those who lived before the captivity. It aggravated their guilt that, not only had they the law, but had been often called to repent by God's prophets.


Verse 5

Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?

Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live forever? - In contrast to "my words" (Zechariah 1:6), "which endure forever" (1 Peter 1:25). 'Your fathers have perished, as was foretold; and their fate ought to warn you. But you may say, the prophets too are dead: I grant it, but still MY words do not die: though "the prophets" are dead, their prophetic words from me, fulfilled against your fathers, are not dead with them. Beware, then, lest ye share their fate,


Verse 6

But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, 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.

But my words and my statutes - my determined purposes to punish for sin, which I commanded my servants-namely, to announce to your fathers.

Did they not take hold of your fathers? - i:e., overtake them, as a foe overtakes one fleeing. Did they not take hold of your fathers? - i:e., overtake them, as a foe overtakes one fleeing.

And they returned and said - turning from their former self-satisfaction, they recognized their punishment as that which God's prophets had foretold.

Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us - i:e., decreed to do. Compare with this verse Lamentations 2:17.

According to our ways - evil ways (Jeremiah 4:18; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 23:2).


Verse 7

Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month. The general plan of the nine following visions (Zechariah 1:8 to end of Zechariah 6:1-15) is first to present the symbol, then, on a question being put, to subjoin the interpretation. Though the visions are distinct, they form one grand whole, presented in one night to the prophet's mind, two or three months after the prophet's first commission (Zechariah 1:1).

Which is the month Sebat - the eleventh month of the Jewish year, from the new moon in February to the new moon in March. The term Sh


Verse 8

I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

I saw by night. The Jews begin their day with sunset; therefore the night is meant which preceded the 24th day of the month (Zechariah 1:1).

And behold a man - Yahweh, the second person of the Trinity, manifested in man's form, an earnest of the incarnation; called the "angel of Yahweh" (Zechariah 1:11-12), "Yahweh the angel of the covenant" (Malachi 3:1 : cf. Genesis 16:7 with Zechariah 1:13, where He who is first called "the angel of the Lord" (Yahweh) is afterward called "the Lord" (Yahweh); Genesis 22:11 with Zechariah 1:12; Exodus 3:2 with Zechariah 1:4). Being at once divine and human, He must be God and man in one person.

Riding - implying swiftness in executing God's will in His providence; hastening to help His people. Riding - implying swiftness in executing God's will in His providence; hastening to help His people.

Upon a red horse - the colour that represents bloodshed; implying vengeance to be inflicted on the foes of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 3:22; Isaiah 63:1-2; Revelation 6:4); also implying fiery zeal.

Among the myrtle trees - symbol of the Jewish Church: not a stately cedar, but a lowly though fragrant myrtle. It was its depressed state that caused the Jews to despond; this vision is designed to cheer them with better hopes. The uncreated angel of Yahweh's presence, standing (as in His abiding place, Psalms 132:14) among the myrtles, is a guarantee for her safety, lowly though she now be. It is a conjecture of Perowne (Smith's 'Bible Dictionary'), that the myrtle was imported into Palestine from Babylon. This seems not unlikely, as the myrtle is not mentioned elsewhere, except in Isaiah. It is a native of Persia. Esther's name, Hadassah, means 'the myrtle;' and she seems to have received it in the Persian court (Esther 2:7). But his supposition that it was not known among the Jews before the exile is refuted by Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13, which, doubtless, was as much written by Isaiah as the earlier chapters. There was communication in Isaiah's times, and earlier, with Assyria and Babylon (Isaiah 39:1-8), so that the importation of the myrtle was quite possible then.

In the bottom - in a low place, or bottom of a river; alluding to Babylon, near the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, the scene of Judah's captivity. The myrtle delights in low places and the banks of waters (Pembellus). Maurer translates, 'in a shady place' [ m


Verse 9

Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.

The angel that talked with me - not the "man upon the red horse among the myrtle trees," as is evident from the tenth verse, where He (the Divine Angel) is distinguished from the "angel that talked with me" [hamal`aak hadobeer (Hebrew #1696) biy (H871a) - the phrase used of him, Zechariah 1:13-14; Zechariah 2:3; Zechariah 4:1; Zechariah 4:4-5; Zechariah 5:5; Zechariah 5:10; Zechariah 6:4] - i:e., the interpreting angel. The Hebrew [ biy (H871a)] for "with me," or 'in me' (Numbers 12:8, "with him will I speak" - literally, 'in him will I speak') implies internal, intimate communication: 'the angel that spake within me' (Jerome). [So, en (Greek #1722) profeetais (Greek #4396), Hebrews 1:1, "God, who ... spake by" - literally, 'IN the prophets;' 1 Peter 1:11, "the Spirit of Christ which was IN them"].

I will show thee - reveal to thy mental vision.


Verse 10

And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.

And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered. The "Angel of the Covenant" here gives the reply, instead of the interpreting angel, to imply that all communications through the interpreting angel come from Him as their source.

These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. If "Satan walks to and fro in the earth" (implying restless activity) on errands of mischief to God's people (Job 1:7), the Lord sends other angels to "walk to and fro" with unceasing activity everywhere, to counterwork Satan's designs, and to defend His people (Psalms 34:7; Psalms 91:11; Psalms 103:20-21; Hebrews 1:14).


Verse 11

And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees ... We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. The attendant angels report to the Lord of angels, "the earth ... is at rest." The flourishing state of the pagan "earth," while Judah was desolate and its temple not yet restored, is the powerful plea in the Divine Angels intercession with God the Father in Zechariah 1:12. When Judah was depressed to the lowest point, and the pagan elated to the highest, it was time for Yahweh to work for His people.

Sitteth still - dwells surely. It is when all shall seem secure, in the God-ignoring tranquillity of the world-kingdoms, that God shall "shake and overthrow the throne of the kingdoms" (Haggai 2:7; Haggai 2:21-22), in order that, upon their downfall, He may rear the everlasting throne of Messiah, who shall reign in Jerusalem, and may raise to their due elevation, as designed from the beginning, the elect nation, His own ancient people, so long down-trodden.


Verse 12

Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, 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?

Then the angel of the Lord ... Not only does Messiah stand among His people (the "myrtles," Zechariah 1:8), but intercedes for them with the Father ("Lord," or "Yahweh of hosts") effectively, as their "ever-living Intercessor" (Zechariah 1:13; Hebrews 7:25). Compare Psalms 102:13-20; Isaiah 62:6-7, as to Judah's restoration in answer to prayer. While "all the earth ... is at rest," Israel, literal and spiritual, alone being depressed, 'the Lord's remembrancers (Isaiah 62:7, margin) shall give him no rest until he establish, and until he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.'

Answered and said - said in continuation of the discourse; proceeded to say.

O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem ... against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? Messiah's people pray similarly to their Head (Revelation 6:10), "How long?" etc. Heretofore it was vain to pray, but now that the divinely-appointed "threescore and ten years" (Jeremiah 25:11; Jeremiah 29:10) are elapsed, it is time to pray to thee for the fulfillment of thy promise, seeing that thy grace is not yet fully manifested, nor thy promise fulfilled. God's promises are not to make us slothful, but to quicken our prayers. Henderson, dating the 70 years from the destruction of Jerusalem (588 BC), supposes two years of the 70 had yet to run, (520 BC) But though the Jews, through indolence as to the temple-work, may have meant this in saying, "The time is not come" (Haggai 1:2), yet the time seems really to have elapsed in 536 BC, the year of Cyrus' decree for the building of the temple, 70 years from 606 BC, the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when he first became Nebuchadnezzar's servant (2 Kings 24:1).


Verse 13

And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.

And the Lord - Yahweh, called "the angel of the Lord" (Yahweh) (Zechariah 1:12).

Answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words - literally, words, consolations. The subject of these consolatory words is stated in Zechariah 1:14, etc.; the promise of full re-establishment, God's "comforts being restored unto him and to his mourners" (Jeremiah 20:10-11 : cf. Isaiah 57:18; Hosea 11:8).


Verse 14

So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.

Cry thou - Proclaim so as to be heard clearly by all (Isaiah 40:6; Isaiah 58:1).

I am jealous for Jerusalem - as a husband jealous for his wife, wronged by others. So Yahweh is for Judah, who has been injured wantonly by the pagan. Zeal for His own honour, involved in Zion's wrong, is implied (Zechariah 8:2; Numbers 25:11; Numbers 25:13; 1 Kings 19:10; Joel 2:18).


Verse 15

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.

And I am very sore displeased with the heathen - in contrast with "I was but a little displeased" with my people. God's displeasure with His people is temporary, and for their chastening; with the pagan oppressors it is final and fatal (Jeremiah 30:11). God's instruments for chastising His people, when He has done with them, He casts into the fire.

That are at ease - carnally secure. A stronger phrase than "all the earth is at rest" (Zechariah 1:11). They are "at ease," but, as I am "sore displeased" with them, their ease is accursed. Judah is in "affliction;" but as I love her, and am jealous for her, she has every reason, notwithstanding her affliction, to be encouraged in prosecuting the temple-work.

And they helped forward the affliction - afflicted my people more than I desired. The pagan sought the utter extinction of Judah, to gratify their own ambition and revenge (Isaiah 47:6; Ezekiel 25:3; Ezekiel 25:6; Obadiah 1:10-17).


Verse 16

Therefore thus saith the LORD I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.

Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem - whereas in anger I had before withdrawn from her, having "returned to my place, until they should acknowledge their offence, and seek my face" (Hosea 5:15).

With mercies - not merely of one kind, nor once only, but repeated mercies. With mercies - not merely of one kind, nor once only, but repeated mercies.

My house shall be built in it - which at this time (the second year of Darius, Zechariah 1:1) had only its foundations laid (Haggai 2:18). It was not completed until the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6:15).

And a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem - (Job 38:5). The measuring line is used for building, not hastily, but with measured regularity. Not only the temple, but Jerusalem also, was to be rebuilt (Nehemiah 2:3, etc.: cf. Zechariah 2:1-2). Also, as to the future temple and city, Ezekiel 41:3; Ezekiel 42:1-20; Ezekiel 43:1-27; Ezekiel 44:1-31; Ezekiel 45:6 .


Verse 17

Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.

Cry yet ... Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities - not only Jerusalem, but the subordinate cities of Judah. God claims them all as peculiarly His, and therefore will restore them.

Through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad - or overflow; metaphor from an overflowing vessel or fountain (cf. Proverbs 5:16). (Pembellus.) Abundance of fruits of the earth, grain and wine, and a large increase of citizens, are meant; also spiritual prosperity.

Yet - though heretofore they have been lying depressed and prostrate.

And the Lord shall yet comfort Zion - (Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 51:3).

And shall yet choose Jerusalem - (Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2; Isaiah 14:1). Here meaning, 'He will yet show by acts of loving-kindness that He has chosen Jerusalem.' His immutable choice from everlasting is the fountain whence flow all such particular acts of love.


Verses 18-21

Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.

The power of the Jews' foes shall be dissipated.

Verse 18. Behold, four horns. To a pastoral people like the Jews the horns of the strongest in the herd naturally suggested a symbol of power and pride of conscious strength: hence, "horns" represent the ruling powers of the world (Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:12). The number four in Zechariah's time refers to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Wherever God's people turned there were foes to encounter (Nehemiah 4:7); the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north; Egypt and Arabia on the south; Philistia on the west: Ammon and Moab on the east. But the Spirit in the prophet looked further-namely, to the four world-powers, the only ones which were, or are, to rise until the kingdom of Messiah, the fifth, overthrows and absorbs all others in its universal dominion. Babylon and Medo-Persia alone had as yet risen, but soon Graeco-Macedonia was to succeed (as Zechariah 9:13 foretells), and Rome, the fourth and last, under which we live, was to follow, (Daniel 2:1-49; Daniel 7:1-28.) The fact that the repairing of the evils caused to Judah and Israel by all four kingdoms is spoken of here, proves that the exhaustive fulfillment is yet future, and only the earnest of it gives in the overthrow of the two world-powers which, up to Zechariah's time, had "scattered" Judah. How significantly the retribution in kind upon the Babylonian world-power is marked in Jeremiah 51:2; as Babylon "scattered into all the winds" Israel, so "fanners" were sent against Babylon herself "round about," to "fan her, and empty her land" (Ezekiel 5:10; Ezekiel 5:12). That only two of the four had as yet risen, is an argument having no weight with us against the reference to the four great world-powers, as we believe God's Spirit in the prophets regards the future as present; we therefore are not to be led by rationalists, who, on such ground, deny the reference here and in Zechariah 6:1 to the four world-kingdoms.

Verse 19. These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Though some of the ten tribes of Israel returned with Judah from Babylon, the full return of the former, as of the latter, is here foretold, and must be yet future.

Verse 20. And the Lord showed me four carpenters - or artificers. The several instrumentalities employed, or to be employed, in crushing the "Gentile" powers which "scattered" Judah are hereby referred to. For every one of the four horns there was a cleaving artificer to beat it down. For every enemy of God's people God has provided a counteracting power adequate to destroy it.

Verse 21. What come these to do? ... These are the horns which have scattered Judah - rather, Those, etc.-namely, the horns, being distinguished from the "carpenters" or destroying workmen ("men skillful to destroy," Exodus 21:31), intended in the "these" of the question.

So that no man did lift up his head - so depressed were they with a heavy weight of evils (Job 10:15).

But these are come to fray them - to strike terror into them (Ezekiel 30:9).

To cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it - in the haughtiness of conscious strength (Psalms 75:4-5) tyrannizing over Judah the (Ezekiel 34:21). While the world-powers "lifted up their horns" in the times of the Gentiles, no man in Judah "did lift up his head." But, when those "times of the Gentiles" shall have been "fulfilled," Jerusalem shall no longer "be trodden down of the Gentiles."

Remarks:

(1) When God has been sore "displeased" with us for sin, and has, therefore, chastened us, if we desire that He should "turn unto" us in mercy, we must "turn to Him" in penitence (Zechariah 1:3). God's dealings with past generations are designed for the instruction of our generation, and of ourselves (Zechariah 1:2). Since God is "the Lord of Hosts," His resources are as infinite now as ever for the punishment of backsliders, and for the encouragement, strengthening, and final recompensing of His obedient children. Let us therefore not walk as those of our fathers who refused to obey the voice of God by His ministers, beseeching them to "turn from their evil ways;" but let us be followers of those fathers "who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Hebrews 6:12). (2) Though former ministers, and the past generations to whom they ministered, are dead and gone, "the word of the Lord endureth forever" (1 Peter 1:25). The lesson to be derived from the punishment of those bygone Israelites who were "overthrown in the wilderness" (1 Corinthians 10:5) on account of their refractory spirit toward the Lord, and toward His servant Moses, is as fresh for our "admonition (1 Corinthians 10:11), upon whom the ends of the world are come," as for that of the several ages that have intervened (Zechariah 1:5-6). Also the example of those who, through God's chastisements, were led to "return" to God, and to acknowledge the justice of His dealings in punishing them, is as instructive to us now as ever.

(3) It is a solemn thought that, in the very same place where we now live, work, and on the Sabbath hear the preachers of the Gospel, not very long ago others lived, worked, and on the Sabbath heard the Word preached by ministers of God: and where now are both the ministers and their hearers? Their doom for eternity is now forever fixed, according to their use, or else abuse, of their spiritual privileges here. Though dead, their case speaks plainly, though silently, to us to "redeem the time" yet left to us: and though the voice of former ministers is no longer heard, He lives in whose name they spake: and to His living word let us give diligent heed while our day of salvation lasts.

(4) Though the spiritual Israel, the Church, is, to the eye of the "happy" and proud world, extremely lowly, like a grove of "myrtles" in a low-lying ground (Zechariah 1:8), yet the Lord "stands" in the midst of her, ready to appear for the immediate relief of His people with irresistible might. Then, too, he has angels of various functions to subserve His glory and the interests of His Church (Zechariah 1:8-10). While some of these are ministers of fiery vengeance to the Church's foes, others are ministers of joy and triumph to His people. However active Satan may be, "walking to and fro upon the earth," in order to injure the saints, the angels of the Lord "walk to and fro through the earth" to counteract his schemes and deliver the saints. Thus all things must work together for good to them that love God.

(5) The time when the enemies of the Church seem most triumphant, and "the each" is securely "at rest," is often the very time when God begins His work of judgment on the enemy, and of mercy to the Church. Messiah's goodness to His people is not restricted to His spiritual presence among them; He also intercedes for them with the Father, when they need His intercession most. His plea for Jerusalem and Judah is, that the time appointed by God for the continuance of His "indication against" His people is expired (Zechariah 1:12). God doth "not contend forever, neither is he always wroth," though his people's sins require temporary chastisement (Isaiah 57:16.) Let us in trial wait patiently for God's own time for the removal of it, and commit our cause to our Great High Priest, "who ever liveth to make intercession for us." Then will our Heavenly Father speak "good and comfortable words to our souls" (Zechariah 1:13).

(6) Yahweh espouses the cause of His people as His own. He is "jealous" for their honour, as involving His honour (Zechariah 1:14). Though he employs the ungodly to execute His purpose of chastising His people, He will deal sternly with the former for having exceeded their commission, and for having sought to extinguish utterly the latter. Whereas God was "but a little displeased" with His people, the enemy has afflicted them to the uttermost. Therefore God will be not mealy a little, but "very sore displeased" with the selfishness and malice of the enemy who is at "ease" while the Lord's people are in bitterness of soul (Zechariah 1:15). Let us pray for the time when the Lord will "return to Jerusalem with mercies" (Zechariah 1:16).

(7) The future "prosperity" and "the comforting" of Zion flow from the gratuitous love of God, whereby He chooses her as His, irrespectively of any merits in her to recommend her to His favour (Zechariah 1:17).

(8) As the four great world-powers, like four destroying horns lifted up on high, have "scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head" (Zechariah 1:21), so God provides counteracting powers, like the destroying "workmen, to fray and to cast out the horns of the Gentiles" which have so haughtily tyrannized "over Judah." As many soever as may be the foes of the Church, God has an infinity of instruments to foil their devices and counterwork all the evil which they from time to time work against her. If only we be true believers, whatever be our troubles, God will provide a complete and final deliverance out of them all. "God is in the midst of" His Church; "she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early" (Psalms 46:5 ).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Zechariah 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/zechariah-1.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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