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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Zechariah 1

 

 

Verses 1-6

PART FIRST

UTTERANCES FOR THE PRESENT TIME

Zechariah 1-8

I. THE INTRODUCTION

Zechariah 1:1-6

A. A Call to Repentance ( Zechariah 1:1-3). B. Enforced by an Appeal to the Experience of their Fathers ( Zechariah 1:4-6).

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

2Jehovah hath been sore displeased with your fathers.[FN1]

3Therefore say thou[FN2] unto them, Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

Return ye unto me, saith Jehovah of Hosts,

And I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of Hosts.

4Be not as your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried, saying,

Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

Turn, I beseech you, from your evil ways and from your evil doings;[FN3]

But they hearkened not, and paid no attention to me,

Saith Jehovah.

5 Your fathers, where are they?

And the prophets, can they live forever?

6 Nevertheless,[FN4] my words and my statutes,[FN5]

Which I commanded my servants the prophets,—

Did they not overtake[FN6] your fathers, so that they turned and said,

Like as Jehovah of Hosts purposed to do unto us,

According to our ways and according to our doings,

So hath He dealt with us.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The main design of Zechariah’s prophetic activity was to administer consolation and encouragement to the people of God still in a condition of weakness and suffering. This plainly appears from the general tenor of the night-visions, form the promised change of fasts into festivals, and from the glowing pictures of future blessedness and honor which occur in the latter portion of his book. Yet it was necessary to prevent these consolations from being usurped by any to whom they did not belong, and to show that repentance and holy living were indispensable conditions of the attainment of any of these blessings. This thought is again and again expressed in the course of the prophetic revelations ( Zechariah 3:7, Zechariah 6:15. Zechariah 7:7-10, Zechariah 8:16-17, Zechariah 10:1-2, Zechariah 11:10, Zechariah 14:20), but it is made especially prominent in these opening verses, which seem to be a kind of introduction both to the prophet’s labors in general, and also to the present collection of his utterances. In them Zechariah sounds the key note of all spiritual religion, a return to God, and urges its importance by the mention of their fathers’ sins and their fathers’ punishments.

Zechariah 1:1. In the eighth month, etc. The first note of time does not mean, “In the eighth new moon” (C. B. Michaelis, Köhler), because chôdesh is never used in this sense in chronological notices. The general, introductory nature of this particular address did not require that the precise day of the month should be indicated. On other points in this verse, see the Introduction.

Zechariah 1:2. Jehovah hath been sore displeased, etc. The mention of God’s wrath is the ground of the summons in the following verse. Because God had been so angry with the fathers, the children should now repent in all sincerity. The severity of this wrath had been painfully shown in the overthrow of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple, and the bitter exile in Babylon ( Psalm 137). The contradiction between this verse and the statement in Zechariah 1:17, that Jehovah was “but a little displeased,” is only apparent, for the latter refers to the duration of the wrath, while the former expresses its intensity.

Zechariah 1:3. Return ye … I will return. The exhortation and promise contained in this verse, often repeated elsewhere ( Malachi 3:7, James 4:8), are remarkably strengthened by the trine repetition of “Saith Jehovah of Hosts.” The occasion of the summons is not to be sought in a temporary abandonment of the work of rebuilding the Temple, for which there is no historical ground, but in the spiritual condition of the people. It reminded them that the mere outward work was not enough, but there was need of a thorough conversion, a genuine heartfelt return from their former works and ways to the service and enjoyment of God.

Zechariah 1:4. Be not as your fathers. Since naturally parents are apt to transmit their own character and course to their children, the prophet here repeats his injunction in a negative form, bidding his countrymen carefully to shun the example of their predecessors, who had utterly scorned the Lord’s remonstrances. The former prophets are those before the exile, and Zechariah intentionally overlooks Daniel, because he officiated at a heathen court and not in the midst of his people, and his prophecies treated not so much of the inward duties of Israel as of its outward fortunes amid the mighty revolutions of the heathen world. For a full summation of the course of the former prophets as here set forth, see 2 Kings 17:13-23. The ways and works of the earlier generation are called evil, in the first instance, because they were morally corrupt, but also because they were followed by sore consequences (Köhler).

Zechariah 1:5. Your fathers, where are they? The concluding verses of the section sustain the warning not to imitate the fathers, by pointing out the fate which overtook them in consequence of their disobedience. The general sense is plain, and acknowledged by all interpreters, but the precise force of the questions in Zechariah 1:5 is variously stated. Both, of course, imply a negative answer, but in what sense is the decease of the prophets mentioned? Some (Jerome, Cyril), referring to Jeremiah 37:10, suppose that false prophets are intended; but the persons spoken of here must be the same as those mentioned in the preceding verse, who are manifestly true servants of God. Others make the second question a rejoinder of the people to the first (Raschi, Burger, etc.), which seems forced. Others say that a contrast is presented between the fleeting, dying prophets, and the ever-living word of Jehovah (Calvin, Grotius, Hitzig, etc.), as if the meaning were, I allow that both your fathers and my prophets are dead; but my words, are they dead? but the. latter part of this contrast is not found in the text, but supplied by the interpreters. Another, class conceive that the point of the second question is to remind Zechariah’s contemporaries that the voice of prophecy would soon cease, and therefore they should heed it while they had the opportunity (Abarb, Ewald), which is a very natural sense of the words if they stood alone; but it is contradicted by Zechariah 1:6, which shows that the reference is not to the existing, but to the former prophets. The true view is the one given by Köhler and others, that the former of the two verses contains a concession which is limited and corrected by the latter. Thus: Your fathers are long since dead, and it may seem as though they had thus escaped the threatenings pronounced against them; the prophets, too, have gone the way of all flesh, and apparently their words died with them; nevertheless your fathers did not die until the threatenings of the shortlived prophets had overtaken them, nor until they themselves had acknowledged that fact. This view is sustained by the strong disjunctive conjunction at the commencement of Zechariah 1:6. The phrase, take hold,” in E. V, fails to give the force of the Hebrew verb. The prophet conceives of God’s purposes of wrath as commissioned messengers which followed the Israelites and overtook them (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:45). Mournful acknowledgments of this fact are to be found in Lamentations 2:17, in Daniel’s penitential prayer ( Zechariah 9:4 ff.), and in Ezra’s humbling confession ( Zechariah 9:6-7). There may be long delay, and consequently a growing hope of escape, but sooner or later every transgressor makes the affecting acknowledgment of the Psalmist ( Psalm 40:13), “mine iniquities have overtaken me.”

THEOLOGICAL AND MORAL

1. The opening words of Zechariah state a truth of great importance,—and none the less so because in every age a persistent attempt has been made to deny or to evade it—that God has wrath. The blinding influence of their own depravity renders men insensible to the evil of sin, and they easily come to transfer their own views to their Maker—“thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself” ( Psalm 50:21). Hence they attribute to Him an easy good nature which readily condones moral offenses and is quite too gentle to give effect to the forebodings of a guilty conscience. To set forth his justice, and assert his prerogative as governor of the world, is regarded as an unwarrantable disturbance of men’s peace and an impeachment of the amiableness of the divine character. This device is as old as the Apostles, and Paul exposes it with his usual vehemence, “Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” ( Ephesians 5:6). God has wrath. Nature bears witness to the fact. The earth does not everywhere smile with verdure and beauty, but all over its surface shows blots and scars which suggest the moral disorder of the race. This fact has been set forth with equal eloquence and truth by Mr. Ruskin. Speaking of the revelations of God made on the face of creation, he says, “Wrath and threatening are invariably mingled with love; and in the utmost solitudes of nature, the existence of hell seems to me as legibly declared by a thousand spiritual utterances as of heaven. It is well for us to dwell with thankfulness on the unfolding of the flower and the falling of the dew, and the sleep of the green fields in the sunshine; but the blasted trunk, the barren rock, the moaning of the bleak winds, the roar of the black, perilous whirlpools of the mountain streams, the solemn solitudes of moors and seas, the continual fading of all beauty into darkness and of all strength into dust, have these no language for us? We may seek to escape their teachings by reasonings touching the good which is wrought out of all evil; but it is vain sophistry. The good succeeds to the evil as day succeeds the night, but so also the evil to the good. Gerizim and Ebal, birth and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell, divide the existence of man and his futurity.”

2. The words in Zechariah 1:2 do not belong to the message to the people, but were delivered only to the Prophet; and they disclose to us the internal pressure under which he entered upon his office (Pressel). A due sense of the power of God’s wrath lies at the basis of all true earnestness on the part of his Prophets. It is the “burning fire shut up in the bones” ( Jeremiah 20:9) which imparts its own vehemence to the message, and produces corresponding conviction in them that hear. We observe it in the Prophet of all Prophets, the Saviour Himself. His groaning in spirit at the grave of Lazarus, his tears at the sight of Jerusalem, show how deeply he felt the terribleness of God’s anger. Bunyan’s Grace Abounding affords a remarkable testimony from his own experience. “Now this part of my work I fulfilled with great earnestness, for the terrors of the law and guilt for my transgressions lay heavy on my conscience; I preached what I felt, what I smartingly did feel, even that under which my poor soul did groan and tremble to astonishment. Indeed, I have been as one sent to them from the dead; I went myself in chains, to preach to them in chains; and carried that fire in my own conscience that! persuaded them to be aware of.”

3. The Lord’s first message to the people by the mouth of Zechariah contains the fundamental principle of all his communications to fallen men, alike in the Old Testament and in the New. There is a command and a promise, each comprehending in itself all others of the same class. Men are summoned to turn back to God, and then He engages to return to them. Alienation from God is the primary sin. Men turn away from their Maker, hide from Him like Adam, or wander off like the prodigal, and of course are dissatisfied and wretched. Having left the fountain of living waters, they find the cisterns they hew out for themselves to be broken cisterns which can hold no water. No matter how often the experiment is repeated, it always fails. The only escape, the first duty, is to turn to the Lord. This duty would be difficult, nay, it would be impossible, but for the gracious promise which accompanies it. God is found of those who seek Him. This is a truth of the older dispensation as well as of the later. The father in our Saviour’s parable who, while yet the wayward son was a great way off, discerned, and welcomed, and ran to meet his returning steps, is only a vivid picture of him who waited to be gracious all through the history of his ancient people. Even in the early days of Job, Eliphaz announced ( Job 22:21) the cheering assurance, “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee.”

4. God’s providence not only insures the fulfillment of his threatenings, but compels the acknowledgment of that fulfillment from those who suffer it. In the case of the Jews this recognition was frequently uttered, as mentioned before. (See Exeget. and Crit, ad finem.)

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

T. V. Moore: It is a sign of a sickly piety when men are willing to hear nothing of the wrath of God against sin. If men expect God to return to them in prosperity, they must return to Him in penitence. The flower averted from the sun must turn toward it, to catch its genial smile.

Pressel: No mercy without return, and no return without mercy. He who will not hear, shall feel. Haste (eile) that you may not be overtaken (ereilt). 1. Haste, for your day of grace is short, and even the messengers of grace are passing away2. If once you are overtaken, your eyes will open too late, and only with trembling lips can you give honor to the Lord.

Wordsworth: Zechariah comes forth like John the Baptist, and begins his preaching with a call to repentance, and warns the people by the history of their fathers, that no spiritual privileges will profit them without holiness, but rather will aggravate their guilt and increase their condemnation if they disobey God.

Calvin: We learn here that the examples set up as a shield for wrong-doing are so far from being of any weight before God that they enhance our guilt. Yet this folly infatuates many, for the Papists claim their religion to be holy and irreprehensible, because it has been handed down by their fathers.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Zechariah 1:2.—The collection of the verb and its cognate noun renders this verse very emphatic. Literally, Angry was Jehovah at your fathers with anger.

FN#2 - Zechariah 1:3.—The vav conv. with the Perfect, indicating a necessary consequence from what precedes, is rendered in the imperative.—אֲלֵדֶם does not refer to the nearest antecedent “fathers,” but to the prophet's contemporaries, implied in the pronoun “your.”

FN#3 - Zechariah 1:4.—The Kethib מֵעֲלִילֵיכֶם is to be retained both because the preposition is wanting in the Keri, and also because the latter seems to have originated in the offense taken at the masculine ending in the plural of a noun feminine in the singular, although similar cases are not rare (Green, Heb. Gram., § 200 b).

FN#4 - Zechariah 1:6.—אַךְ. This word is very inadequately rendered in the E. V, by the simple adversative but

FN#5 - Zechariah 1:6.—הֻקַּי. For a precisely similar use of this word, see Zephaniah 2 :and Job 23:14.

FN#6 - Zechariah 1:6.—הִשִּׂיגוּ. The marginal rendering of E. V, overtake, is to be preferred to the text, take hold.


Verses 7-17

II. THE NIGHT VISIONS

Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15

This division contains a series of visions all given at one time and therefore naturally supposed to be closely connected with each other and to exhibit an orderly progress of thought. The first vision sets forth the evident need of a divine interference in behalf of the people, with a strong assurance that it shall be vouchsafed. The second indicates one form of this interference in the fact that the foes are driven away. The third promises great enlargement and absolute security. The fourth exhibits the forgiveness of sin which had been the cause of all the previous troubles and endangered the recurrence of them. The fifth is a counterpart to the fourth by promising the positive communication of God’s Spirit and grace which secure sanctification as well as justification. The sixth gnards against a perversion of the two preceding visions as if they warranted security on the part of the impenitent, by exhibiting the fearful curse of God upon all sinners of whatever class. The seventh enforces the same point still further by representing that a longer and yet more dreadful deportation than that to Babylon awaited the unfaithful members of the theocracy. Finally, the eighth completes the entire series of visions in an artistic manner by returning to the point whence they set out, and repeating much the same imagery. It shows the accomplishment of all which the first image promised. From the purified and divinely protected theocracy, symbolized by mountains of brass, there go forth executioners of judgment who do not stay their hands until God’s Spirit is completely satisfied. But there is another future in reserve for the distant heathen, besides that of judgment. They are to be converted from enemies into friends, and in the days of the Branch shall come from far, and freely contribute to build up and glorify the Lord’s holy kingdom. This cheering thought is exhibited in the shape of a symbolical action, appended to the visions and appropriately closing and crowning their hallowed disclosures.

_____________

VISION I. THE MAN AMONG THE MYRTLES

Zechariah 1:7-17

A. A symbolical Representation of the tranquil Condition of the Heathen World and consequent Need of Divine Interference ( Zechariah 1:7-11). B. Intercession for Suffering and Desolate Judœa ( Zechariah 1:12-13). C. Assurances of Relief and Restoration ( Zechariah 1:14-17).

7On the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month which is the month Sebat,[FN7] in the second year of Darius, came the word of Jehovah to Zechariah, the son of8 Iddo the prophet, saying: I saw that[FN8] night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtles[FN9] that were in the valley, and behind him were red, bay and white horses9 And I said, what are these, my lord? And the angel that talked with[FN10] me said to me, I will show thee what they are 10 And the man who stood among the myrtles answered,[FN11] and said, These are they whom Jehovah has sent to walk through the earth 11 And they answered the angel of Jehovah who stood among the myrtles, and said, We have gone through the earth, and behold, all the earth sits still[FN12] and is at rest 12 Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, Jehovah of Hosts! how long wilt thou not pity Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which thou hast been angry these[FN13] seventy years? 13And Jehovah answered the angel that talked with me, good words, comforting[FN14] words 14 And the angel that talked[FN15] with me, said to me, Cry, saying:

Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

I am jealous[FN16] for Jerusalem and for Zion with great jealousy,

15 And I burn with great anger against the nations at ease.

For I was angry for a little, but they helped forward the affliction.

16 Therefore thus saith Jehovah,[FN17]

I have returned to Jerusalem in mercy,[FN18]

My house shall be built in her, saith Jehovah of Hosts,

And a measuring line[FN19] shall be stretched over Jerusalem.

17 Cry also,[FN20] saying, Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

My cities shall yet overflow[FN21] with prosperity,

And Jehovah shall yet comfort Zion,

And shall yet choose Jerusalem.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Zechariah 1:7. The dale of this revelation is from three to four months after Zechariah’s first prophecy and exactly two months after Haggai’s last, namely, on the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, Shebat, our February, of the year519. The precise day of the month, here and in Haggai 2:10-20, seems to have been suggested by the fact that on just this day of the sixth month the building of the Temple had been resumed ( Haggai 1:14-15). The Lord thus indicated his pleasure in the resumption of the work. The visions are called the word of Jehovah, because they had the significance and answered the purpose of oral revelations.

Zechariah 1:8. I saw that night. The disclosure was made to the Prophet, not in a dream (Ewald, Hitzig), but in a vision. His senses were not locked in sleep, but like Peter at Joppa ( Acts 10:10; Acts 11:4) he was ἐν ἐκστάσει. This trance-like condition, according to Zechariah 4:1, bears the same relation to ordinary human consciousness which that docs to the condition of sleep. A man’s usual state when under the control of the senses and able to see only what his own faculties discover, is one of spiritual sleep; but an ecstatic condition, in which the senses and the entire lower life are quiescent, and only pictures of divine objects are reflected in the soul as in a pure and bright mirror, is one of spiritual waking. The Prophet received his visions at night, because then his susceptibility for divine communications was most lively, in consequence of the stillness, the suspension of worldly cares and the freedom from outward impressions. In the space of one night the whole series of stately symbolic scenes passed before his spiritual eye, for the title in Zechariah 1:7 extends to the end of chap6 after which a new title first occurs, and besides, the narrative itself shows ( Zechariah 2:1; Zechariah 4:1, etc.) that as soon as one vision ended another began. Behold, a man riding upon a red horse, etc. A man, i. e, one in the shape or appearance of a Prayer of Manasseh, for manifestly an angel and not a human being is intended. He is seated upon a red horse, the meaning of which is seen in the fact that red is the color of blood. In Revelation 6:4, it is a rider on a red horse who receives a great sword and has power to take peace from the earth and cause men to kill one another. The color of the horse then is a symbol of the purpose of its rider, namely, wrath and bloodshed. He stood among the myrtles that were in מְעֻלָּה. The meaning of this word is much contested. The Vulgate gives it in profundo, which supposes that the text is only another form of מְצוּלָה, which ordinarily means the depths of the sea. Hengstenberg and Baumgarten adopt this, and explain it as a symbolical designation of the abyss-like power of the world, in which the Church stands like a feeble, lowly shrub. Others (Gesenius, Henderson), following the LXX, derive the word from צָלַל, in the sense of shade (so Dr. Van Dyck in the New Arabic Version), but in this case we should expect a different middle vowel, and besides, as Pressel says, it would be a pleonasm to speak of trees in a shady place. Others (Hitzig, Fürst, Bunsen), following an Arabic analogy, render it tent, by which they suppose heaven is intended, but this is extremely artificial. There seems no reason to depart from the Vulgate and Targum, or to make it other than=deep place, i. e., a low valley or bottom. It will then stand in vivid contrast with the corresponding point in the eighth vision, which is the complement of the first. There, the chariots start from between two mountains of brass=the theocracy under the mighty protection of Jehovah; here, the horsemen issue from amid myrtles in an open bottom=the Church in a condition of feebleness and exposure. Behind the first rider are other horses of different colors. They have riders (see Zechariah 1:11), but this fact is allowed to be understood, because the emphasis is laid upon the color of the horses. They are like their leader red (explained above), or bay, or white. The last like the first is easily understood from Scripture usage—white being the reflection of heavenly glory ( Matthew 17:2), and therefore the symbol of victory ( Revelation 6:2), But the second epithet is difficult שָׂרֹק is rendered by the LXX.: ψαροὶ καὶ ποικίλοι, Vulg, varii, Peshito versicolores, after whom Maurer, Umbreit, Keil, etc, render it as in text of A. V, speckled. But Gesenius and Fürst derive it from an Arabic root, signifying dark red, and Hengstenberg renders this brown, but Köhler bay or flame-colored. The latter gives the better sense. The colors do not signify the three kingdoms against whom the riders were sent (Cyril, Jerome, et al.), for all appear to go in company, nor the quarters of the heavens (Maurer, Hitzig, et al.), for the fourth quarter is wanting; but the nature of the mission which they had to perform, namely, to take an active part in the agitation of the nations, those upon red horses by war and bloodshed, those upon bay horses by burning and destroying, and those upon white horses by victory over the world.

Zechariah 1:9. The Prophet asks. What are these, i. e., what do they signify? The question is addressed to one whom he calls my lord, but who is this? Manifestly, the one who gives the answer, the angelus interpres. It is no objection to this that he has not been mentioned before, for in prophecies, and especially in visions, from their dramatic character, persons are frequently introduced in such a way that only from what they say or do, can we learn who they are. This angelus interpres, or collocutor, had for his sole function to open the spiritual eyes and ears of the Prophet and cause him to understand the meaning of the visions. The preposition in the phrase הֵדֹּבֵר בי is not to be understood, with Ewald, Keil, etc, as denoting the internal, character of the communications made, for this would not distinguish him from the other angels of the vision, but the phrase is simply an official designation of the angel’s character.

Zechariah 1:10. And the man who stood among, etc. The rider on the red horse states the object of the horsemen’s mission. He is said to have answered, because, although not referring to any definite question, his words were a reply to the Prophet’s desire for an explanation.

Zechariah 1:11. The riders themselves state the result of their mission. This is called an answer to the Angel of the Lord, because it replies to a question implied in the circumstances. It is given to the Angel of the Lord. But is this a created or an uncreated angel? The latter view is maintained by McCaul, Lange, Hengstenberg, Philippi, and Kahnis, the former by Hoffman, Delitzsch, Kurtz, Köhler, Pressel. That the angel of Jehovah is distinguished from the other angels, and in many places identified with Jehovah, is undeniable ( Genesis 16:7-10; Genesis 31:11-13; Genesis 32:25-31 comp. with Hosea 12:4; Exodus 3:2-4; Judges 6:11-22; Zechariah 3:1-2). On the other hand, there are passages, where he seems to be discriminated from Jehovah ( Exodus 23:20-22; Exodus 32:34). The simplest way of reconciling these two classes is to adopt the old view that this angel is the Second person of the Godhead, even at that early period appearing as the revealer of the Father. The mingled clearness and obscurity of the representation is quite analogous to the same features in the delineation of the Messiah in Psalm 2, 45, 72, 110, and in various prophecies before and after David’s time. In this vision he appears first as a man upon a red horse, then as the leader of the troop standing behind him, and when these have made their report, as the angel of Jehovah who presents the prayer of the pious before God. The answer which he receives from the troop is that all the earth sits still and is at rest,—a phrase upon which Wordsworth comments as denoting proud and licentious ease, because, as he says, the word for “at rest” is shaanân. This is a strange mistake, for it is another word, שֹׁסָטֶת, which rarely, if ever, has any moral significance, and means merely quiet, peaceful security, without reference to the way in which that state has been attained or is employed. Here the sense is that the nations at large were dwelling in a calm, serene repose, undisturbed by any foe. The reference seems to be to Haggai 2, where the Lord promised that in a little while He would shake the heavens and the earth and all nations, and in consequence his house would be filled with glory. The riders now report that having gone through the earth they find it not at all shaken but quiet and serene. This statement, furnishing such a vivid contrast to the prostrate and suffering condition of the people of God, gave occasion to the intercession recounted in the next verse.

Zechariah 1:12. How long wilt thou not pity Jerusalem, etc.? The language is that of intercessory expostulation. The reference to these seventy years does not imply that that period predicted by Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 25:12) was just drawing to a close, for it had already expired in the first year of Cyrus ( Ezra 1:1). But although the people had been restored, they were still in a sad state,—the capital for the most part in ruins, its walls broken down, its gates burnt ( Nehemiah 1:3), the population small, the greater part of the land still a waste, and the rebuilding of the Temple embarrassed with difficulties. It might well seem as if the troubles of the exile would never end, and the more Song of Solomon, since there was no sign of that violent agitation of the heathen world which was to be the precursor of Israel’s exaltation. The intercession was effectual.

Zechariah 1:13. And Jehovah answered, etc. Here the answer is given to another person than the questioner. The best explanation is that of Hengstenberg, that “the angel of the Lord had asked the question not for his own sake, but simply in order that consolation and hope might be communicated through the angelus interpres to the Prophet, and through him to the nation at large.” Good words are words that promise good. Cf Joshua 23:14 (Heb.); Jeremiah 29:10. The contents of these good and comforting words follow in Zechariah 1:14-17, the first two of which assert Jehovah’s active affection for his people, and the latter two, his purpose to manifest that love in the restoration and enlargement of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 1:14. I am jealous, etc. קִיֵּא, lit, to burn, to glow, indicates a vehement emotion which may have its motive in jealousy ( Numbers 5:14), or in envy ( Genesis 26:14), or in hatred ( Genesis 37:11), or in love ( Numbers 25:11). The last expresses its force here, which is greatly strengthened by the addition of the cognate noun. Jehovah is inspired with a burning zeal for Jerusalem and for Zion, the holy hill which He has chosen for his habitation. He had already displayed this in part, and would soon develop it to the full.

Zechariah 1:15. Toward the heathen, on the contrary, Jehovah burned with great anger. This was partly because they were “at ease,” i. e., not merely tranquil, but in a state of carnal security, proudly confident in their power and prosperity, but mainly because, while He had been angry for a little, i. e., time (cf. Job 10:20), they, on the contrary, had helped forward the affliction, lit, had helped for evil, i. e., so that evil was the result. The Lord contemplated a moderate, limited chastisement in love, with a view to the purification and restoration of his people. The heathen, on the contrary, rioted in the sufferings of helpless Israel, and would willingly prolong them.

Zechariah 1:16. I have returned … Jerusalem. The emphatic therefore indicates the consequence of God’s love for Jerusalem. He has actually returned with purposes of mercy, and these shall be fully executed. All hindrances shall be removed, the Temple completed, and instead of scattered houses here and there, the whole city shall pass under the surveyor’s measuring line. But the blessing is not to be confined to the capital, as appears from what follows.

Zechariah 1:17. Cry also, i. e., in addition to the foregoing. The other cities of Judah shall overflow with prosperity, lit, be scattered, yet not by an invading foe, but by the inward pressure of abundant growth requiring them to diffuse themselves over a larger surface (cf. Zechariah 2:4, Zechariah 8:4, Zechariah 9:17, Zechariah 10:7). This overflow of blessing will assure the covenant people that Jehovah is still comforting Zion, and has by no means renounced the purpose in pursuance of which he had originally choseh Jerusalem. The same cheering reference to God’s electing love is found in Zechariah 2:12; Zechariah 3:2.

The object of this first vision was to satisfy the dispirited colony that although there was no present appearance of an approaching fulfillment of promised blessings, yet these blessings were sure. Jehovah had appointed the instruments of his righteous judgments, and by these would accomplish his purposes upon the ungodly nations, and thus secure the salvation of Zion. The fulfillment then is easily pointed out. The completion of the Temple, the restoration of the city under Ezra and Nehemiah, the increase of the population, all declared Jehovah’s fidelity to his engagements. But this was only the beginning. Zechariah, like his predecessors in office, looks down the whole vista of the future, and utters germinant predictions, as Bacon calls them, which do not exhaust themselves in any one period, but wrap up in pregnant sentences long cycles of historical development. The first vision presents the general theme of the whole series, each of which stands closely related to the others, so that there is an evident advance from the beginning to the end, as will appear in the course of the exposition.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. How near are the seen and unseen worlds! Nor are they without sympathy with each other. We have a craving for the knowledge of creatures higher than ourselves, and yet fellow servants with us of the same Creator. All the various forms of Polytheism show this natural longing of the race, but the Scripture satisfies it by revealing to us the existence, character, and function of the holy angels. This revelation is not made merely to gratify a curiosity, however intelligent and reasonable, but to furnish important aid in the conduct of life. It pleases God to employ the agency of these supernatural beings in establishing his kingdom in the world. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” ( Hebrews 1:14.) In the book of Genesis, after the call of Abraham, we observe frequent instances of this blessed ministry, guiding, protecting, and upholding the patriarchs (18, 19, 24, 27, 32). Again, in the time of the Judges similar manifestations were made to Gideon and to Manoah. But at and after the Captivity, their interposition not only resumes its former frequency, but is manifested on a wider scale. To Daniel and Zechariah the angels are revealed, not only as watching over the covenant people, but as executing the counsels of Jehovah toward the heathen world. There does not seem to be the least necessity for attributing this circumstance to the influence of Chaldæan or Persian modes of thought upon the minds of these prophets. They follow in the line of the earlier traditions of the chosen people, with only that degree of variation and expansion which is natural under the altered circumstances of the case. It was a comforting thought to a feeble colony overshadowed by a colossal empire to be reminded of superhuman helpers whose mighty interposition was ever at hand. Of course even these celestial beings could prove efficient only by the power of God, but their intermediate agency rendered that power more directly conceivable. In the New Testament there is not the same prominence given to these “sons of God” ( Job 38:7), but enough is stated of their ministrations at the Incarnation, in the wilderness, the garden, and the sepulchre, and of their sympathy with the joys and sorrows of God’s people, to make us feel that the shining stairway which rose over Jacob’s head to the clouds ( Genesis 28:12) still exists, and is traversed by the same holy beings. It is still true, as Spenser said, —

“They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,

And their bright squadrons round about us plant,

And all for love and nothing for reward;

Oh! why should heavenly God to man have such regard?”

2. The extraordinary position assigned to the angel of Jehovah in this vision and also in the one recorded in the third chapter, continues and completes the long chain of ancient testimonies beginning in Genesis, to the existence of self-distinctions in the Godhead. (See the summary of the argument in Lange’s Genesis, p386, or Keil On Pant., i184, and Hengstenberg’s Christology, i107 ff, iv285.) The view that this exalted personage was only a created angel through whom God issues and executes his commands, and who speaks and acts in God’s name, was favored by Origen, defended by Augustine, adopted by Jerome and, Gregory the Great, and has been maintained in our own day by some eminent critics; but it cannot displace what has been the almost universal doctrine of the early Church and of the great body of believers in all ages, namely, that this angel was the Old Testament form of the Logos of John, a being connected with the supreme God by unity of nature, but personally distinct from Him. The most frequent and plausible objection to the old view affirms that it unreasonably transfers the revelations of the later dispensation to the older, and introduces notions entirely foreign to Hebrew habits of thought. But the contrary is the case. The Old Testament records one stage in the progressive development of religious truth, and the New Testament another, and both correspond in the most striking manner to each other. Indeed, they present what is not found, is not claimed in any other book in the world,—a complete system of typical and antitypical institutions, events, and persons. This feature has been sometimes pressed to an extravagant extent, and applied where it has no real bearing. But its general correctness is admitted by all sober interpreters. This being Song of Solomon, if the triunity of the divine nature is plainly set forth in the New Testament, especially if the great revealer of the Father ( John 1:18) is emphasized by evangelists and apostles, is it not to be expected that a foreshadowing of so important a truth will be found in the elder Scriptures? Guided by such an analogy, it was neither uncritical nor rash for the Church to conclude that the being called the Angel of Jehovah, the Angel of his Presence, the Angel of the Covenant, in whom Jehovah puts his name, who is identified with Jehovah, who performs the peculiar works of Jehovah, and yet is in some sense distinct from Him, is the same divine person who is represented in the New Testament as the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express type of his essence, the image of the invisible God; in whose face the glory of God shines, and in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

3. The intercession ascribed to our Lord in the Christian Scriptures was not only typified by a remarkable function of the high-priest on the great day of atonement, but was actually performed by the second person of the Godhead long before his incarnation. He was “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” and the merits of his priceless explation could as well be availed of antecedently as subsequently, and they were. In all the affliction of his people, he was afflicted, and his potential voice was habitually uttered for their relief. The returned exiles, who were laying again the groundwork of Judah’s prosperity, were discouraged, not only by their scanty numbers and impoverished resources, but by the consciousness of their own and their fathers’ sins. What claim had such as they upon the Holy One of Israel? The prophet draws aside the veil and discloses an Intercessor who had nothing to hinder Him from immediate access to the Most High, and the surest prospect of success. How long, O Lord, was the anxious refrain of many a distressed believer in former years; and ages afterward John heard the same importunate cry from the souls under the altar ( Revelation 6:10). Many a time since, solitary sufferers, unable to penetrate the dark mysteries of Providence, waiting and watching for relief from sore burdens, have had the same exclamation wrung from their lips. What with them is a burst of impatience or the utterance of exhausted nature, on the lips of the uncreated angel is the calm reminder of Jahovah’s gracious promise and eternal purpose. And his intercession being always “according to the will of God,” is therefore always successful. “Good words, comforting words,” soothe and cheer the tried believer, until those words are translated into deeds, and the weary length of the night is forgotten in the brightness of the dawn.

4. Forbearance is not forgiveness. To the outward observer in Zechariah’s day it looked as if prosperity was all on the side of the heathen world. Quiet reigned in all quarters, and divine justice seemed asleep. But it was only the calm before the storm. God is eternal, and therefore never in haste, and never slack as men count slackness. He can afford to wait. Kings and rulers take counsel together against Him and his Anointed; with malice and rage they help forward the affliction of Zion; but He that sitteth in the heavens laughs ( Psalm 2:4). “Who thought,” said Luther, “when Christ suffered and the Jews triumphed, that God was laughing all the time?” Since He knows that his enemies cannot escape He suffers them to proceed long with impunity. Often He uses them as instruments to chastise his own people, but when the chastisement has been inflicted, He breaks the rod and casts it into the fire. The quiet of the old Persian world was soon broken by a succession of strokes which scattered and destroyed all the persecutors of the Church. But Zion lived and grew and extended, until she became the most potent factor in all human society; and to-day is lengthening her cords and strengthening her stakes to fill the whole earth.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Pressel: The Church militant does not stand alone; there is always at its side the Church triumphant. (1.) It often appears to us as if it stood alone, and then we are misled either to despondency, as if our labor and hope were vain, or to self-confidence, as if the result depended upon our running or willing. (2.) But no, the Church triumphant stands at its side and watches while we sleep; and He who is its Head and ours, brings our prayers before the Father.

Moore: The hour of darkest desolation to the Church, and of haughtiest triumph to her enemies, is often the very hour when God begins his work of judgment on the one, and returning mercy on the other.

Calvin: When the servant of Elisha saw not the chariots in the air, he became almost lost in despair; but his despair was instantly removed when he saw so many angels ready at hand for help ( 2 Kings 6:17); so whenever God declares that angels are ministers for our safety, He means to animate our faith. At the same time He does not send us to angels, but this one thing is enough, that when God is propitious all the angels have a care for our salvation.

Footnotes:

FN#7 - Zechariah 1:7.—שְׁבָט, the month which extended from the new moon of February to the next new moon. The name is Chaldee, but of uncertain etymology.

FN#8 - Zechariah 1:8.—הַלּיְלָה is not accusative of duration=by night, for which there is no other example, but the or that night, namely, that of the day mentioned in the preceding verse.

FN#9 - Zechariah 1:8.—The myrtles. Ewald, following the LXX, supposes the true reading of הֲדַסִּים to be הֶהָיִים, as in Zechariah 6:1, and renders mountains; but there is no reason for departing from the Masoretic text, and the relation of the last vision to the first is one not of resemblance but contrast.

FN#10 - Zechariah 1:9.—בּי has been translated in me, to me, through me, and with me. The last is more accordant with usage ( Numbers 12:8) and the connection.

FN#11 - Zechariah 1:10.—Henderson says that עָנָה signifies to commence or proceed to speak, as well as to answer, and cites ἀποκρίνομαι in the New Testament as used in the same way. But his remark is true neither of the one nor the other. The reference always is to a question preceding, either expressed or implied, or to the resumption of discourse by the same speaker after an interval, as Isaiah 21:9. Of. Vitringa’s remark quoted under Zechariah 3:4, infra.

FN#12 - Zechariah 1:11.—Sits still is a far better rendering of ישֶׁבֶת than the bald and prosaic derived sense adopted by the LXX. and the Vulgate, κατοικεῖται, habitatur.

FN#13 - Zechariah 1:12.—זֶה שִׁבּעִים שָׁבָה might be rendered now seventy years (cf. Zechariah 7:3). A similar combination of noun and pronoun in the singular with numeral adjective in the plural, is not rare. See Deuteronomy 8:2-4; Joshua 14:10; Esther 4:11. Nordheimer (§ 890) explains it as referring to the abstract idea of time; but it seems to me to be due rather to the conception of the various years as a single period or cycle, which like a collective noun would of course admit of a singular pronoun.

FN#14 - Zechariah 1:13.—בִחֻמִּים. The Keri omits the dagesh in מ, but some codd. in Kennicott have the form בִחוּמִים, which grammatically is the more correct. It is not an adjective, but a noun in apposition.

FN#15 - Zechariah 1:14.—This verse and the one before it exemplify one of the infelicities of the E. V, which renders the same original word, in Zechariah 1:13 talked, and in Zechariah 1:14 communed.

FN#16 - Zechariah 1:14.—קִכּאֵתִי. The pret. means not merely, “I have become jealous,” but “I have been and am.” God’s jealousy had already begun to manifest itself.

FN#17 - Zechariah 1:15.—Fürst, sub voce, with great plausibility, renders עָזְרוּ intransitively, “they exerted their power” with a view to destruction.

FN#18 - Zechariah 1:16.—רַחֲמִים occurs only in the plural. To translate it Song of Solomon, therefore, as in A. V, while apparently more literal, is in reality less so.

FN#19 - Zechariah 1:16.—The Kethib קוה, to be read קָיֶה, is an old form, found elsewhere only in 1 Kings 7:23 and Jeremiah 31:39, for which was substituted the contracted form קַו.

FN#20 - Zechariah 1:17.—עוֹד, also here seems to express the sense better than the customary yet. The Prophet was to cry something more besides what he was told in Zechariah 1:14.

FN#21 - Zechariah 1:17.—חְפוּצֶבָּה is simply a variant orthography of תְפוּצֶינֶה (Green H. G., § 158, 3).


Verses 18-21

VISION II. THE FOUR HORNS AND FOUR SMITHS

Zechariah 1:18-21

A. Four Horns which scattered the People of God ( Zechariah 1:18-19). B. Four Smiths which cast down these Horns ( Zechariah 1:20-21)

18–19 And I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns. And I said to the angel that talked with me, What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem20 And Jehovah showed me four smiths 21 And I said, What come these to do? And he said thus,[FN22] These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that[FN23] no man lifted up his head, but these are come to terrify them, to cast out[FN24] the horns of the nations which lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

This vision carries forward the assurance given in the one before it, by showing the provision made for repelling the foes of the covenant people.

Zechariah 1:18. I lifted up my eyes. After seeing the first vision, the Prophet had sunk down in meditation. Again he raises his eyes, and behold, four horns. The horn is a common Scriptural symbol of strength, and in the prophecies usually represents a kingdom or political power. Do these four horns refer to just so many kings or empires which oppressed the covenant people? Not a few expositors answer in the affirmative, but they differ widely in the designation of these opposing powers. Cyril names Pul, Salmaneser, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar; Grotius, the Persian Kings, Alexander, Antiochus, and Ptolemy; Pressel, Assyria, Chaldæa, Egypt, and Persia; but the greater number refer to the four great empires predicted by Daniel, so Jerome; Kimchi, Hengstenberg, Keil, Baumgarten, Wordsworth. It is not a sufficient objection to this last view, to say with Henderson and Köhler, that of these powers two were not in existence at this time, and cannot have been spoken of, because the hostility described in the vision had already taken place; for the vision might very well have included the future as well as the past. A more serious objection is that each of these destroyed its predecessor, whereas in the vision the smiths are represented as distinct from the horns. And besides, neither the Persian nor Alexander were enemies of the Jews. It is better, therefore, with the majority of interpreters (Theodoret, Calvin, Umbreit, Hitzig, Maurer, Köhler), to refer the number four to the cardinal points of the compass, and thus make it include all possible enemies. As a matter of fact the people of God had enemies on all sides, the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north, the Egyptian on the south, Philistines on the west, and Moabites and Ammonites on the east. These foes scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem, i. e., the twelve tribes in their completeness, with special mention for the sake of emphasis, of the capital city. The objection to this founded upon the lack of אֵת before the last substantive (Keil) is of no force, as that sign of the definite object may be inserted or omitted at pleasure, Deuteronomy 12:6 (Green H. G., § 270 b).

Zechariah 1:20. The Prophet saw four smiths. The LXX. render חָרָשִׁים, τεκτονες, whence our E. V, “carpenters.” The Vulgate gives fabri, which corresponds exactly to the Hebrew, but in view of the work assigned to these persons, most expositors render the term smiths. No man lifted up his head=all were in an utterly prostrate condition. To scatter it=its inhabitants. The four smiths simply express the various powers which God raises up and employs to overthrow the agencies which are hostile to his people. There is no indication in the passage itself what these powers are, and there seems to be no need to seek information elsewhere. The point of the entire vision lies in the coincidence of the numbers of the horns and the smiths. For every horn there was a smith to beat it down. The Church then could rest calmly in the assurance that every hostile power that rose in opposition should be judged and destroyed by the Lord. The primary reference was of course to the work of the Jews in restoring the city and completing the Temple, but this did not exhaust the meaning of this very simple but significant symbol. It had as wide a sweep as the corresponding verbal statement of Isaiah ( Isaiah 54:17), “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” Zion’s God controls all persons and powers and events; and through the long tract of the Church’s history it will be seen that for every evil there is a remedy, and for every enemy a deliverer. The horn will arise and do its work, but the smith will also appear and do his work.

It is worthy of observation that what the angel in Zechariah 1:19 calls “Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem,” he calls in Zechariah 1:21 simply “Judah.” So that here is a clear and indubitable proof, in the first part of the Book whose post-exile origin is unquestioned, that Israel is used, not to denote distinctively the northern kingdom, but merely to round out the view of what was left of the entire covenant people after the restoration. This bears upon the similar use of “Israel” and “Ephraim” in the second part of these prophecies.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The Church of God on earth exists in the midst of conflict. There always have appeared horns which attempt to scatter it. A halcyon period sometimes is found like that mentioned in Acts 9:31, “Then had the Churches [true text, Church] rest throughout all Judæa and Galilee and Samaria,” but its normal state is that of a struggle against numerous and mighty foes. The Saviour came not to send peace on earth but a sword. The carnal mind is enmity with God, and the flashing of truth upon an unregenerate conscience must needs provoke wrath. Hence the bloody tracks which so often occur in the records of the past. There has never been any considerable period since our Lord’s ascension, in which persecution of his followers has not existed in some quarter of the earth. Even now it is found in the remote east, in the Turkish Empire and in the Baltic Provinces of Russia. True believers are tossed on the horns of furious foes. Their course lies through a storm to the haven, through a battle to the crown. Let them not “count it a strange thing” when even a fiery trial befalls them. Such an experience belongs to the fixed purpose of God.

2. Conflict does not mean defeat. The very same voice which announces the gory horn, sets forth the agency which is to crush it. The character of this agency varies indefinitely. One horn may be used to destroy another horn, or a totally different instrument may be employed, but in either case the result is the same. Such an equilibrium between assault and defense is maintained that the Church is indestructible. One heathen ruler persecuted, another protected and restored. So in the conflicts of the early Church and of the Reformation, for every formidable horn there was found an equally formidable smith. Thus, too, in the organized attacks of Deism, Rationalism, and Scientific Atheism, at first the air was filled with the shouts of victory, but the rejoicing was premature. In every instance, the head of the Church raised up, sometimes in an unexpected quarter, a workman who needed not to be ashamed, who successfully vindicated the old truth and put to flight the armies of the alien.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Jay: We see from this that the friends of Zion are as numerous as her foes; that her defense is equal to her danger; and that as the state of his people requires it, the Lord will seasonably raise up means and instruments for their succor and deliverance. The assurance may be derived from four principles: the love of God; the power of God; the faithfulness of God; the conduct of God. In the first we see that He must be inclined to appear for them as they are infinitely dear to Him. In the second, we see that He is able to do it. In the third, that He is engaged to do it, and his promise cannot be broken. In the fourth, that He always has done it, Scripture, history, and experience being witness.

Then let the world forbear their rage,

The Church renounce her fear;

Israel must live through every age,

And be the Almighty’s care.

Calvin: The Prophet by asking the angel ( Zechariah 1:19), sets before us the example of a truly teachable disposition. Tough the Lord does not immediately explain his messages, there is no reason for us disdainfully to reject what is obscure as many do in our day, who complain that God’s Word is ambiguous and extremely difficult. The Prophet although perplexed did not morosely turn away, but asked the angel. And though the angels are not nigh us or at least do not visibly appear, yet God can by other means afford us help when it is needed. He promises to give the Spirit of understanding and wisdom. If then, we do not neglect the word and sacraments, and especially if we ask for the guidance of the Spirit, there is nothing obscure or intricate in the prophecies which He will not make known so far as is necessary.

Footnotes:

FN#22 - Zechariah 1:21.—אֵלֶּה הַקְּרנוֹת is not an absolute nominative which would require a different construction, but to be rendered just as the same phrase is in Zechariah 1:19.

FN#23 - Zechariah 1:21—כְּפִי, supply אֶשֶׁר=so that. This is a rare use of the form, but it is allowed by nearly all critics.

FN#24 - Zechariah 1:21—יַדּוֹת. Prof. Cowles says that this word has the sense cast down to the ground, but none of the instances of its use ( Jeremiah 50:14; Lamentations 3:53, etc.) will bear a stronger sense than cast or cast out.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/zechariah-1.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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