Zechariah 1 Commentary – Part 2
1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,
The date of this verse puts it somewhere around November of 520 BC. This is just after Haggai started his ministry. The cool thing about Zechariah is that he basically adds to the information that Haggai has given us. Haggai focused on the building of the temple while Zechariah showed that God was interested in more than the temple. God is interested in the people. The date of this first chapter is very interesting in that it comes between the two visions that Haggai had, which were in the 7th and 9th months. Zechariah and Haggai both also used a Gentile king to show the date of their prophecies, which gives credence to what Luke said in Luke 21:24 that the age of the Gentiles had started.
There is very little that is known about Zechariah. As discussed last week, we know he was captive in Babylon and a priest as well as a prophet. There are over 27 different Zechariahs in the Bible. The only information we have about this Zechariah comes from Ezra 5-6.
Ezra 5:1-2 – Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
Zechariah’s name means “God remembers.” This is something that is important to realize as he writes about how God continues to care for them. Zechariah worked alongside several such as Haggai, Ezra, and others. The important thing to remember about Zechariah is that while God wants to accomplish His work, He wants to do so with His people.
Jesus even mentioned Zechariah in Matthew 23:35.
Matthew 23:35 – so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
2 “The Lord was very angry with your fathers.
The first 6 verses of this book are basically an overview of what he is about to say in the rest of the book, which is a very strong call for repentance. It starts with telling God’s people that He is very angry with their fathers. He wants them to turn back to the Lord, something their forefathers had forgotten. The same sin that angered the Lord is the same sin that led them into captivity.
One thing to remember is that these people are probably the same and you and I. Most likely very nice people. Only 50,000 thousand returned from the hundreds of thousands that were taken into captivity.
The Hebrew use of “very angry” is actually translated as “sore displeased.” It actually means that, while controlled, it was a long, brewing anger.
3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.
God wants His people to know that He really wants them back. God used the exile to teach the Israelites that they needed God and that they were to obey Him. God loves them, but He doesn’t want to force them to follow Him.
God uses the name “The Lord of hosts” many times and shows that He is the supreme commander of Israel, as is written in 2 Chronicles 26:11, that He is also the commander of the armies of other nations, as is written in Judges 4:2, and that He is the commander of the heavenly armies as was written in 1 Kings 22:19.
This verse, after explaining who is dictating this, is to call for repentance. It shows His people that they will not receive His blessing until they return to Him.
4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.
In Jewish culture, your lineage was very important. In Ezra 9:7 we are told that the people know the sins of their fathers. God is showing His people that their fathers did not even listen to God’s prophets. The false prophets of the day were proclaiming prosperity when their sin was leading them to desperate times.
Because their fathers listened to the false prophets, God needed to prove to the people that His warnings would come true. With captivity still in their mind, God is hoping that they will listen to His warning this time around.
5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?
Their forefathers were all dead. The prophets who warned them were all dead. The false prophets who deceived them were all dead. In 1 Peter 1:25 we are told that the Word of the Lord remains forever. The unfaithful died in captivity. They died in a foreign land. They died with a lack of respect and in tough conditions.
6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’”
God is telling His people that the Abrahamic covenant is still in place. God’s Word is eternal. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do. What we learn here is that the fathers who were in captivity told their children who were born in captivity what it was that got them into the situation.
These prophecies that the real prophets of God proclaimed actually came to pass.
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying,
This is the beginning of the eight night visions. All these visions happened in a single night. The first vision lays the groundwork for the other seven. Like an Avengers movie, if you haven’t seen the others, you will be missing vital information.
These visions are to build the confidence of His people so that they build the temple. The first vision took place about 3 months after the original call to repent.
The day itself seems special to God because on that same day five months earlier the temple was started and that same day two months prior Haggai had been given his vision.
8 “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
This vision starts with a man riding a red horse standing in the myrtle trees with other horses behind him. This red horse that the man is riding is important as red is typically the color of judgment or blood (see Isaiah 63:1-3 or Revelation 6:3).
It is thought that the “myrtle trees in the glen” means the valley of Hinnom, which is outside the temple precinct.
These visions follow a chiasm. The first and last relate to each other, the second and third and the sixth and seventh are pairs, and the fourth and fifth are the climax of the chiasm.
The horses show judgment and victory in their colors.
9 Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’
There are actually two different angels in this first chapter. The “angel who talked with me” and the “angel of the Lord.”
10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’
This rider could be a recon mission to see how the temple is being rebuilt. It runs opposite to what we see in the book of Job (vv1:7, 2:2) where Satan is walking through the earth looking for evil, God has his own people patrolling the earth as well.
The myrtle is an interesting tree. It isn’t like the mighty cedars of Lebanon or the oak trees in other places in the Bible which have strength. Myrtles have blossoms that are fragrant when crushed. This shows the grace that is present in the affliction that Israel received.
11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’
The world is at peace. But, as we will see in a few more verses, God is not happy with the nations during this peace. Israel is still struggling, but the rest of the nations are at peace and content. Darius defeated 9 rebellious leaders across 19 different battles, bringing the world to peace.
This angel of the Lord is a preincarnate appearance of Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:3 – For when they shall say , peace and safety; the sudden destruction comes upon them
12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’
The angel of the Lord, or Jesus, is asking the Father how long Israel must suffer. Looking forward, we see this verse rewritten in the book of Revelation.
Revelation 6:10 – And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, o Lord, holy and true, will you not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth.
All the way through to the book of Revelation we will still be crying this and Jesus will still be interceding for us.
13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
The words that Zechariah talks about here are actually listed in the following verses of 14-17. This reinforces that God cares about His people and loves them. These verses run complimentary to Jeremiah 29:10-11.
14 So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.
The first word of comfort is that God is jealous for His people. If you remember, God described Himself as jealous when He made the covenant with Israel in Exodus 20:5 and 34:14. What is seen as a good jealousy can also be seen as a punitive one as is seen in Deuteronomy 29:18-28 and Ezekiel 5:13.
The bottom line is that God loves His people. At the time of Zechariah that was those under the Abrahamic covenant. Today, that same jealousy is given to the church. Many times in Scripture we see that jealousy as God as the husband wanting to maintain His wife.
It is interesting to see dual names for Jerusalem. While this could simply flow with the poetry of the day, it could also come to mean that it is a Jerusalem of the past and a Jerusalem of the future.
15 And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.
The nations of the world were God’s instruments of judgment on Israel. But those nations went beyond what God desired for the punishment of His people. This can be seen in Isaiah 54:7-8 because those nations did not understand that the punishment was for a limited time.
16 Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.
The Lord is ready to bless His people. Not only would the temple be rebuilt, but they would grow in prosperity. The temple was completed about 515 BC and the wall around the city was completed around 444 BC (Nehemiah 7:4, 11:1).
Isaiah 40:9-10 discusses the prosperity that would follow.
The measuring line that Zechariah talks about describes the exactness that would be used in making sure this was done properly. It can also mean that Jerusalem would be the measure by which all others will be measured as well.
17 Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
The walls of the city would be completed about 75 years after the temple and God would choose Jerusalem as his earthly throne (Psalm 132:13). This will happen in the book of Revelation, the millennial kingdom in Revelation 20.
This one verse holds the key to several prophecies about the millennial kingdom. The presence of God in Ezekiel 48:35, the temple in Ezekiel 40-48, Jerusalem being rebuilt in Jeremiah 31:38-40, the punishment of the nations in Matthew 25:31-46, prosperity in Isaiah 60:4-9, and the blessings of God’s people in Zechariah 9:17.
Jerusalem becomes the capital of the world.
18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns!
Now we begin the second vision. In Daniel 2 there were 4 Gentile governments that were to come to power. The horns represent those governments. Most likely, we are looking at the four main powers of Rome, Greece, Babylon, and Persia. But there are a couple different views on this as I will explain in the next verse.
19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”
Daniel 2 goes into detail about these powers, or horns. Daniel 7 gives another vision of the powers.
When this vision occurred, Babylon had already passed. This means that both the Medes and the Persians were in power and both Rome and Greece were future powers.
Another way to look at it is an allusion to past powers given in the book of Daniel, which would be Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome.
Even another way to look at it is Assyria, Egypt, Babylon and Persia. Each of those powers had “scattered Israel.”
One more view is that the number 4 symbolizes “universal” and the horns symbolize “power.” This could mean that the world is universally against God’s people, seeking to scatter them. But that is very much spiritualizing something that could very well be simple.
I hold to the view that the horns are Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.
20 Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.
Now things get a little more weird. We now have 4 craftsmen that show up. These craftsmen are the ones who will overthrow the horns. As with Genesis 12:3, God has promised to curse those who have cursed Israel.
21 And I said, “What are these coming to do?” He said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.”
Each of the kingdoms had come to defeat the one before it. So Persia destroyed Babylon. Greece destroyed Persia. Rome destroyed Greece and God’s kingdom will destroy Rome.
Another possible view looks less at the book of Daniel and more at the book of Ezekiel. The four craftsmen would be the four judgments: sword, famine, beasts, and plague. While the Ezekiel prophecy is specifically about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, there are parallels in Revelation 6-19.
It is important to note that God knows who has hurt His people. He keeps a record of it and He will punish those who punish His people.