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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Zechariah 1

 

 

Verse 1-2

Zechariah 1:1-2. In the eighth month — This month, according to that reckoning which begins the year with the month Abib, or Nisan, Exodus 12:2, falls in with the latter part of our October, and the beginning of November. Haggai had begun to exhort the Jews to resume the work of building the temple two months before this, and they had actually resumed it on the 24th day of the sixth month, that is, in the beginning of September. In the second year of Darius — That is, Darius the son of Hystaspes, as Dr. Blayney and many other learned men have proved to a demonstration. Came the word of the Lord to Zechariah — Here we see the prophet did not run before he was sent, or undertake a work to which he was not called: as also, that what he communicated to the people, was first communicated to him by the Lord. Saying, The Lord, &c. — Blayney here supplies, Speak unto all the people of the land, saying, &c. He supposes that some words, expressive of that or a similar sense, have been omitted by the carelessness of some transcriber. The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers — He was so long and so much provoked, that his displeasure at last broke out into that flame which consumed your city and temple, and even desolated your country, nay, and punished the inhabitants thereof, and their children, with the captivity of seventy years; yet now he declares himself willing to be reconciled to you upon your repentance.


Verses 3-6

Zechariah 1:3-6. Therefore say — Rather, but say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Turn ye unto me — The word turn, as it related to the people, signified that they should change their corrupt manners and turn to God in newness of life; and by God’s turning to them, was meant, that he would take them again into his favour, and perform for them acts of manifest kindness, instead of displeasure. Be ye not as your fathers — Do not persist in impenitence as your fathers did. Instead of being hardened in your evil courses by the example of your fathers’ sin, rather be deterred from those courses by the example of your fathers’ punishment. Your fathers, where are they — Where are your disobedient fathers? Were they not consumed with famine and the sword, as God threatened them? And the prophets, do they live for ever — Though the prophets, and those to whom they delivered their message, are dead, yet the commandments delivered by their ministry still continue in full force; which appears by the judgments that came upon your fathers, for not hearkening to them; as they themselves could not but acknowledge. And the same punishments will overtake you, if you continue disobedient. But my words — The dreadful menaces which I delivered; and my statutes — The decreed judgments which I resolved to execute on them: did they not take hold on your fathers? — Overtake them as a pursuing enemy overtakes and seizes on the object of his hostility? In other words, Did not the evils which I had denounced by the prophets come upon your fathers? And they returned, &c. — They were forced to acknowledge with sorrow, that all those calamities which I had threatened against them, and forewarned them of, if they did not obey my voice, were actually come upon them.


Verse 7-8

Zechariah 1:7-8. Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month — That is, about three months after he had received the former vision; which is the month Sebat — This was the Chaldee or Syriac name of the eleventh month, not the Hebrew name. This month corresponded with the latter end of January and the beginning of February. Came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah — This second revelation 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 to have 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 1:7-17.” — Blayney. Saying, I saw, &c. — That is, the word came to the prophet, who said, I saw, &c., or, thus recited the divine vision which had been sent him. What now follows (which extends to the end of the sixth chapter) was uttered when the people had made a great progress in the work of the temple, and were now to be excited to the new labour of fortifying Jerusalem. And behold a man — The prophet terms him so, according to his appearance; till, perceiving by his answer, Zechariah 1:10, that he had a divine commission, he afterward gives him the respectable title of the angel, or messenger of Jehovah; riding upon a red horse — A horse of a red or bloody colour was an emblem of the slaughters of war, as appears from Revelation 6:4. But the myrtle being a tree of pleasure, and an emblem of peace, therefore the red horse appearing among the myrtle- trees, signified that the slaughters of war were, or soon would be, repressed or restrained by a profound peace, namely, in the Persian empire, for that is here referred to: and accordingly there was a profound peace in it in the fourth, fifth, and sixth years of Darius. It is doubtful what angel or other being was represented by the figure of a man on this red horse. Some suppose Michael, whom the Prophet Daniel seems to mention as the guardian angel of the Jews, or the angel presiding, under God, over the affairs of their nation, and taking care of them. Others suppose the λογος, or Son of God, is meant; which opinion seems probable. The reason of his appearing in a bottom, or low place, amidst myrtles planted by the waters, is thought to have been to mark out the affliction, humiliation, and sorrow to which Judea was reduced. The myrtle flourishes best in shady and watery places. Littora myrtetis lætissima, says Virgil. See Calmet. Behind him were red horses — With riders on them, as appears from Zechariah 1:10, “who were angels, Zechariah 1:11. They had horses to show their power of celerity; and horses of different colours, to intimate the difference of their ministries.” — Newcome. Or, as others explain it, to signify the various events of the wars waged by Darius, which were sometimes fortunate, at other times unsuccessful.


Verses 9-11

Zechariah 1:9-11. Then said I, O my Lord, what are these — What is the meaning of these appearances, or visions? And the angel that talked with me said — “This was another heavenly minister, sent, probably, to present the visions to the prophet’s imagination, as well as to explain them. Angelus comes et interpres, “an accompanying angel and interpreter.” And under his direction the prophet receives satisfactory information from the month of the first angel and his attendants.” — Blayney. I will show thee what these be — “I will cause that it shall be explained to thee by the angel who stands first among the myrtles. This may have been done by a sign given to that angel, or by words omitted in the relation.” — Newcome. And the man that stood among the myrtle-trees — This was an angel of an order superior to him mentioned in the preceding verse, who either prevents that angel, and takes upon him to return an answer to the prophet’s question, or else sends his answer to Zechariah by that angel, as Christ sent his revelation to St. John by an angel, Revelation 1:1. These are they whom the Lord hath sent — They are the messengers or ministering spirits of Jehovah. And they — The rest of the angels, implied at the end of Zechariah 1:8, and who came after the first; answered, We have walked to and fro through the earth — We have been diligent to execute that office which was allotted to us. And behold all the earth sitteth still, &c. — This must be understood here, and in many other places, in a restricted sense, for all the nations with whom the Jews had a connection. It means here chiefly the Persian empire, which enjoyed peace at that time. But the state of the Jews was unsettled: see Zechariah 1:16 : which circumstance gives occasion to the following intercession.


Verse 12

Zechariah 1:12. Then the angel of the Lord said — “Christ the mediator,” as Bishop Hall explains it, “prayed for the salvation of his church, which was now troubled, when all the countries around were at rest.” But, as we find by the next verse that God’s answer to this petition was given to the angel interpreter, or the angel who talked with the prophet, this seems to determine that the petition was made by that angel. How long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem — At this time Jerusalem lay without any walls or defence, and was not wholly rebuilt; and on the cities of Judah — These still lay wholly in ruins; against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years — There are three ways of computing the seventy years of the captivity, taken notice of in Scripture. The first is, beginning from the fourth year of Jehoiakim to the first of Cyrus: this is Jeremiah’s account, Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 25:11; which Daniel follows, Daniel 9:2. Another may be computed from the besieging of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah, in the tenth month, for which a solemn fast was kept by the Jews: compare 2 Kings 25:1, with Zechariah 8:19. This computation ends with the second year of Darius, which is the reckoning Zechariah here follows. Or lastly, if we compute the beginning of the seventy years from the destruction of Jerusalem and the first temple, which came to pass in the eleventh year of the same reign, they will be accomplished in the fourth year of Darius, and this computation agrees with what is said Zechariah 7:1; Zechariah 7:5. The last two ways of reckoning the seventy years may be reduced to one, only by supposing, that the prophet, in this verse, sets down a complete for an incomplete number, and calls that space of time seventy years, which wanted but little of it: a way of speaking of which several instances may be produced.


Verses 13-17

Zechariah 1:13-17. And the Lord answered the angel — “By a voice, or impulse; and the angel communicated the reply to Zechariah.” — Newcome. So the angel said, Cry thou — Now publish what thou hearest, and assure God’s poor, captive, empoverished church, that he will do her good. Saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts — The God of armies, and the Father of his people; I am jealous for Jerusalem — I have been jealous against, but now am jealous for Jerusalem; my love is now raised to a very high degree of compassion for my people, and of indignation against her enemies and oppressors. The words may be rendered, I am jealous for Jerusalem with great zeal, for so the word קנאהoften signifies. So that the meaning is, I have a great concern for the welfare of my people, and I will not any longer suffer them to be ill treated. I am very sore displeased with the heathen, &c. — The remnant of the Babylonians, Philistines, Edomites, Samaritans, &c., which had not been made such examples of God’s severity as the Jews were. For I was but a little displeased —

Namely, with the Jewish nation; and they — Namely, their enemies; helped forward the affliction — They added to, or lengthened out, the time of the affliction, namely, by hindering the accomplishment of Cyrus’s decree in favour of the Jews: see Ezra 4:1-6. Or the meaning is, “Mine anger did not rise so high, as the punishment which the enemies of my people inflicted.” I made the Babylonians instruments of my vengeance; but they exceeded their commission, and acted as they were prompted by their own ambition and cruelty; and I was displeased with them for their extreme cruelty, and with the nations who insulted over my people in their distress. Therefore I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies — I will have compassion on Jerusalem, and cause her to experience the effects of my favour. And a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem — That is, the architect’s measuring-line, for laying out the buildings. And Jerusalem shall be wholly rebuilt, and fortified with walls, &c. This accordingly was fulfilled not many years after, as we read Nehemiah 3:4. My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad — Over the face of Judea: or, the cities of Judea shall be rebuilt, enlarged, and adorned, throughout the land. And the Lord shall yet comfort Zion — By showing his wonted kindness to her after her affliction.


Verses 18-21

Zechariah 1:18-21. Then, behold, four horns — Horns often signify the power of princes or people, the metaphor being taken from those cattle whose strength lies in their horns. The horns here mentioned denote the powers which had scattered Israel and Judah, or that should scatter them, as a bull, in his fury, tosses into the air whatever opposes him. It is uncertain whether the number four is here used indefinitely, or to denote that specific number; and if the latter, what particular powers are pointed out by it. Calmet supposes the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, and Egyptians. But “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, are intended; namely, the empires alluded to by the four beasts, Daniel 7. By each of these the Jewish nation hath 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.” — Blayney. The Lord showed me four carpenters — Or workmen, as Bishop Newcome renders the word, observing, “Vitringa supposes that the horns were iron, and that these were fabri ferrarii malleis dolabris que intructi,” blacksmiths furnished with hammers and axes. Then said I, What come these to do? — He inquires not who or what they were, but what was their business and design. And he spake, (or said,) These are the horns — In order to satisfy the inquiry of the prophet, the angel first points to the four horns, mentioned Zechariah 1:18-19, as if he had said, See, there are four horns, which have scattered Judah. The LXX. add, και την ισραηλ κατεαξαν, and have broken Israel. Instead of which addition the Arabic has, and destroyed Jerusalem. So that no man did lift up his head — No one had either strength or courage to make any resistance: so dispirited and dejected were all the people. But these are come to fray them — These are principal commanders, or powers, raised up by God to dismay and deter them. To cast out the horns of the Gentiles To break, or cast down, the power of these nations; which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah — Who employed their strength, and used all possible efforts, to hinder the Jewish people from flourishing again in Judea. Observe, reader, in what way soever the church is threatened with mischief, and whatever opposition is given to its interests, God can find out ways and means to check the force, or restrain the wrath of its enemies, and make it turn to his praise.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 1:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/zechariah-1.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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