Visions and more visions! Zechariah’s vision of a flying scroll reminded the leaders and people of postexilic Judah that they were still obligated to follow God’s commands. The blessings and curses of the law were still in effect. This is the sixth vision for Zechariah out of eight. Scrolls, in this time and place were the equivalent of books today. These scrolls were often made of rolled up parchment or leather but other times it was papyrus, tin, or copper. This particular scroll was flying unfurled like a banner for all to see. The scroll was big, almost the size of a billboard and the writing on it was a message of judgement. These were covenant curses. Every covenant had curses attached to it for those who chose to violate the agreement. The message in this scroll warned that the curses described in the covenant, as a result of the people’s disobedience would be executed on the whole land. Theft and perjury may have been the most common crimes at this time but here they are probably just representative of all the people’s sins. The people of Judah were guilty of infractions against the whole law. God’s great love does not preclude true existence of His judgement on those who violate His will. But the judgement on the disobedient would be certain and severe.
The seventh vision continues the theme of cleansing that began with the acquittal of Joshua the high priest. The removal of wickedness, much like the removal of Joshua’s filthy garments was a gracious act of pardon by the covenant keeping God. The Hebrew work for basket here literally means ephah, which is a unit of dry measure, almost a half bushel. The Old Testament prophets condemnation of unjust ephahs creates a natural association between the ephah basket and evil. The woman in this basket is evil, typifying the flagrant sins of Israel. She represents a seductive and dangerous force that is difficult to contain. The sin of idolatry had previously provoked God’s judgement. This basket had a lead cover on it. The weight of this lid is a talent, 75 pounds. It is not the typical sort of a cover for this kind of a basket. This shows the extraordinary measures that were needed to seal the baskets unholy contents. Here wickedness refers to evil generally, regardless of the kind. All of it is opposed to righteousness. The word wickedness in Hebrew is similar to Asherah, the fertility goddess of the ancient Near East. This was followed by a vision of two women. This description of divine or angelic winged creatures as women was unusual in the Old Testament. These were God’s agents , disposing of the wicked woman in the basket. These two women had wings like a stork. The stork is a migrations bird frequently seen traveling north along the Jordan River valley in the spring of the year. If the two women are the Lord’s servants, they are unique angels. If they are the attendants of Wickedness, a foreign goddess, their submission to God’s command demonstrates His power over false gods. Zechariah asked where the basket was being taken and the angel answered that it was being taken to a house built specifically for it in Babylon. The fact that a house was built for this signifies that the removal of wickedness from Israel was permanent. Idolatry is potently and aggressively evil. It cannot be confined, but must be shipped back to its source by God’s decree. This symbolism indicates that God is able to purge His people of all the various forms of wickedness that separated them from Him. Babylon was the land of Hebrew captivity. The prophets condemn it as wicked and idolatrous. In the New Testament, Babylon represents the evil Roman Empire.
Chapter six brings the final of Zechariah’s eight night visions. In God’s first and last visions He sends horses to patrol the earth. Both visions show God’s sovereignty and His concern for the nations, a vital component of Zechariah’s message of comfort and encouragement to postexilic Judah. This vision involved four chariots. They symbolize the swift and decisive power of God’s intervention in human affairs. The two bronze mountains may have been Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives, with the Kidron Valley between them. The two bronze mountains could also be a reference to the two bronze pillars that once flanked the entrance to Solomon’s temple. Bronze symbolized the impregnable strength of God’s dwelling. In ancient times two and four wheeled chariots served as vehicles for transportation and for warfare. The war chariots typically had a crew of two or three men including a driver, an archer and a defender who used a shield to protect the others. Again we see the colors of the horses but they have no real significance…However, the colors are the same that we will find in the Book of Revelation. (6:1-8). These chariots and their teams represented four spirits of heaven, probably angels. Sometimes they are called the four winds of heaven. They are most likely members of the divine council who report to God on their reconnaissance missions to the four compass points. Remember the whole world is under God’s dominion. The teams of chariot horses are agents of God’s judgement. The horse teams are portrayed as powerful and eager to do the Lord’s work but they move only at His command.
The Lord summoned Zechariah and the series of visions closed with a direct word from the Lord to Zechariah. Here God bypassed the interpreting angel and emphasized the sure and effective implementation of His word to Israel. God would give His Spirit a rest, but the word spirit here can also mean anger. God would give His anger a rest. The activity of the chariot teams would give rest to God’s Spirit because His agents would be executing His judgement on the nations that threatened Israel. Cyrus’s overthrow of Babylon in 539 B.C. may well have been part of this a judgement. Chapter six finishes with an authoritative message. Joshua’s symbolic coronation as both king and priest was not an actual political arrangement for Judah. It most likely symbolizes the coming of the Messiah, the Branch. The captives here refers to the new arrivals from Babylon, who brought gifts of silver and gold to help the restored community of Israel. These three men were evidently couriers designated by the Jews in Babylon to carry donations to the temple building fund.
The crown was possibly a composite crown made up of several circlets. This crown was to be placed on top of the head of the high priest, Joshua. It may have been made of two bands of metal, one for each of the offices; priest, and king. The Messiah Himself would build the temple of the Lord. Since the second temple was already built by Zerubbabel the temple referred to here is most likely the future temple of the Messianic kingdom. The temple of Zerubbabel was a prophetic symbol of the temple that was still to come. The Branch is a title for the Messiah, whom Joshua represents. Just as Joshua the high priest helped to build the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus the Messiah would build the eternal heavenly temple through His death, burial, and resurrection. The Messiah would rule as king, a role associated with king David and the tribe of Judah. He would also serve as a priest from His throne. The Messiah’s priestly role is associated with Aaron and the tribe of Levi. Joshua’s crown here represents his two roles. Melchizedek also fulfilled the double functions of priest and king, just like the Messiah.
This symbolic crown that united kingship and priesthood was placed in the temple as a memorial to the donors of the silver and gold. It was also a permanent reminder of Joshua’s coronation as priest-king and a visual aid for priests in teaching this new development. Josiah was honored for his role as broker for the meetings between Zechariah and the three former exiles. Exiled Jews in Babylon and other distant lands helped to rebuild the temple. This meant that all Israel could identify with the structure. It promised also means there were Gentiles involved in rebuilding the temple of the Lord. This would point to Jesus and His inclusion of all people in God’s kingdom.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W