The people of God who had returned from exile in Babylon were being oppressed by their neighbors. As a result they were discouraged and they let their temple lie in ruins. Zechariah encouraged them with a vision of things to come. God continued to love Jerusalem and the land of Judah, and his unwavering plan was to live there again with His people and establish His rule over all the earth. Zechariah warned Israel not to repeat the sins that had led to exile, and he called those who wavered between God’s truth and human wisdom to return to God, obey the commands of His covenant, and practice justice in the land. Zechariah encouraged the Jews to rebuild the temple. The Book of Zechariah is essentially a message of hope and encouragement for the postexilic Jews. The prophecies of the first eight chapters were given between 520-518 B.C. His name means the Lord remembers. Zechariah is given eight visions by God and he receives them all in one night. They were not dreams because Zechariah was awake. There are a couple of themes in the Book of Zechariah. The first is about Israel’s near future. The first eight chapters of this book deal with the near future of the restored community. Zechariah encouraged them as they struggled to rebuild the temple. At the same time he was calling them to repent of their sins. Zechariah exhorted the Jews to exhibit compassion and mercy towards the vulnerable. His night visions expressed God’s continuing concern for the protection and restoration of His people, as well as the importance of Zerubbabel and Joshua in His plans. The second theme concerned Israel’s distant future. The last six chapters of Zechariah focus on the distant future of the restored Jewish community. These prophecies reveal God’s plan to bring further and greater blessings to Jerusalem. God would avenge His people by destroying their enemies. Israel’s ultimate King would arrive in Jerusalem, ushering in a time of peace. God would gather His scattered people. The final chapters culminate in a vision of God’s ultimate victory over those who continue to resist His will and of the cleansing of the land and people. The Divine Warrior will return and all humans will submit to His rule. Zechariah’s vision of a coming King and an ultimate and divine victory over evil points not only to Christ’s earthly ministry, but also to His ultimate return as described in the Book of Revelation.
The first six verses of the Book of Zechariah are called a prelude. They describe the book’s themes as repentance and spiritual renewal, and establish a tone of hope and encouragement. Zechariah was not only a prophet but a member of a priestly family. He was a contemporary of Haggai but continued his ministry long after Haggai was done prophesying. The time frame was October/November of 520 B.C. King Darius ruled from 522-486 B.C. and this was his second year. This book is an Oracle, an authoritative message inspired by God. The prophet Zechariah was God’s emissary, designated to speak with God’s authority. God began by telling the people He was very angry with their ancestors, and then He issued an invitation. His words, return to me, remind us of the depth of God’s unconditional love. A person who repents makes a complete turn around…a shift away from sin and self toward loyalty to God and His covenant. But the people did not listen and as a result, they were carried away into exile. God has an infinite number of angelic troops ready to carry out His will. This was probably meant as words of encouragement for the Jews. Before the exile the earlier prophets actively called Judah and Israel to repentance, but the people would not listen. Zechariah reflects the prophetic influence of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And he reminded the returned Jews that everything God had said would happen…did. The covenant curses had overtaken their ancestors who refused to obey.
Verse 7 is the beginning of Zechariah’s eight visions. They are addressed to the Judean’s fears that prevented them from responding in faith to God’s promises. These visions, which occurred two months after Haggai’s final two messages, suggest that Haggai’s prophecies were being fulfilled. The first vision depicts God’s concern for Jerusalem, followed by a response that confirmed God’s intentions to rebuild His temple and restore the city’s prosperity. The vision during the night follows a standard pattern. First there is an introductory statement, then a description of the vision , the prophet’s request for an interpretation, and an angelic explanation. The first vision is a man among the Myrtle Trees. The Myrtle is an evergreen that was once very common in the vicinity of Jerusalem. These were most likely in the wooded Kidron Valley just outside the city. So the Lord had symbolically returned to the city’s outskirts but had not yet entered Jerusalem because the temple was still under construction. The colors of the red, brown, and white horses are not significant to this vision’s meaning. These colors reflect normal horses in the ancient world. Instead, the horses draw attention to the peaceful place where they are pastured; a fertile and peaceful place. These angelic riders patrolled the earth, showing God’s continuing concern over Jerusalem. The Word patrol suggests the angelic riders ongoing scrutiny of the earth. And, the man sitting in the red horse in the Myrtle trees is called the angel of the Lord. This angel prayed about 70 years. References to 70 years in scripture usually refer to symbolic periods of time with 70 often seeming to be the period of divine anger and national humiliation. This was the time of the exile during which the temple lay in ruins.
The prophet overhears a conversation between the angel of the Lord and God. This may be a conversation between the Pre incarnate Jesus and the first person of the Trinity, God the father. It is certainly an illusion to Jesus’ role as intercession. As the author of the Book of Hebrews tells us, Jesus lives to make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father. The interpreting angel spoke to Zechariah and revealed that God is zealous for Jerusalem, and for Zion. This reflects the intense single minded devotion that could produce hatred, and envy, or zeal and devotion. God is jealous. As the one true living God, He has exclusive rights to His creatures worship. Gods promised to show compassion on His people and to rebuild the temple. Four times in verse 17 we find the word ‘again’ in the Hebrew. This serves to emphasize the certainty of God’s intention to restore Jerusalem. The surveyors line that is stretched out over Jerusalem was used to make measurements in preparation for new construction. This was a promise that the work would not only begin but it would come to completion.
The second vision was four horns and four blacksmiths. Zechariah tells us that when he looked up he saw another vision. In other words while he was pondering the first vision the second appeared. Horns symbolize power and authority in the biblical world and they even represent individual rulers at times. This vision states God’s plan to bring His judgement against the nations who destroyed Jerusalem and exiled Judah. The prophet leaves unspecified the identity of the nations representing the four horns. The number four represents totality. This suggests that all the nations of the earth had a hand in the destruction of Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. The four most common kingdoms that are associated with the four horns are: Assyria, Babylon, Mede-Persia, and Greece. The word translated blacksmith could refer to any sort of craftsman; mason, carpenter, smith. The four craftsmen destroyed the four horns. If the horns were metal then the blacksmiths were appropriate to the task of destroying them. Historically Babylon destroyed Assyria, Mede-Persia defeated Babylon, Greece conquered Persia, and Rome defeated Greece. These are the dominant themes in the Book of Daniel. When Zechariah asked for clarification the angel told him the four nations had literally lifted up their horns against Judah. Now the Lord would cut off those horns, throw them down to the ground, and bring an end to their authority. The Jews would no longer have to fear the surrounding nations.
As we begin chapter 2 the scope of the visions has gone from the cosmos, to the nations, to the city of Jerusalem. His third vision is followed by an explanation of its meaning. This measuring line is a plumb line, used for making sure walls are straight and correctly sized. By taking this measurement, God showed that He was planning for Jerusalem’s future. Zechariah and the angel encounter yet another angel who referes to Zechariah a young man. This may indicate that Zechariah was young when he began his prophetic ministry. The renewal of Jerusalem would be so successful that they would not have walls because they would need much room for all the people and animals who would live there. Instead there would be a wall of fire, which indicates divine protection. Gods would guarantee Jerusalem’s safety and security. Even better, God would be the glory in her midst. Both fire and glory point us back to the exodus and Mount Sinai. But they also point us into the future and a vision of the new Jerusalem.
The rest of chapter two is the call for the exiles to return home. They will leave Babylon and return to the promised land to rebuild and God will restore His presence in their midst. The call to come away is issued twice, making it an emphatic command that carried the force of a promise that the Lord would lead His people out of exile and into a restored Jerusalem. The return will end in celebration with rejoicing and with God dwelling with the people. The term daughter of Babylon is a reference to the Babylonian empire. The Hebrew exiles would come from the four winds, indicating God’s people would return from all over the place. We see just how precious the Jews are to the Lord. He calls them the apple of His eye. This refers to the pupil, and just as we protect our eyes from even the smallest particle of dust, so God will protect and care for His people. It could also mean that those who had harmed God’s precious and chosen people poked themselves in the eye by bringing God’s judgement upon themselves. Then their own slaves will plunder them takes us back to the night the Israelites left Egypt. They plundered the Egyptians, asking for their gold jewelry and treasured possessions. And the Egyptians gave them everything! At that point people will know Zechariah’s commission as God’s spokesman is legitimate, when the prophecy comes true.
It is the period after the exile that foreign nations come to Jerusalem to become a part of Israel. They now come seeking the Lord. Israel is the special possession of the Lord, His inheritance. The land was holy because the Lord is holy and because of His glorious presence in the temple. This is the Holy Land. Zechariah asks the people to be silent, the Hebrew word here meaning hush! God has aroused Himself from His heavenly sanctuary and was about to intervene on behalf of His people. The ‘be silent’ here is not in anticipation of worship, but calls for terror at the judgement that was about to be unleashed from God’s glory.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W