Zechariah Chapter One

 

Introduction:

 

            As we had just covered in our study of the book of Haggai, Zechariah prophesied during the time of the rebuilding of the temple and of the city of Jerusalem after the Jews were returned from captivity in Babylon.

 

Ezra 5:1Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.”

 

            Zechariah is the eleventh of the minor prophets that have been preserved in our canon of scripture.  In a number of places he assures his listeners and readers that what he is presenting is the “WORD OF THE LORD”.  He indeed was one such as described by the Apostle Peter:

 

II Peter 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

 

            In addition to being a prophet of God, Zechariah was also a priest, a Levite.  He was the grandson of Iddo who is listed among the priests and Levites that returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in Nehemiah 12 and is also listed in that chapter as one of those who “WERE PRIESTS, CHIEF OF THE FATHERS” indicating that he may have served as a high priest as well.

            Some of the characteristics of Zechariah’s prophesy are that he was one who both “FORTHTOLD” or preached the Word of God for the current situation of Judah and also “FORETOLD” things that would come to be in the future.  He writing is much the same as that of Jeremiah and as was noted by brother Robert Taylor Jr. in his commentary “Next to Isaiah he is the most Messianic of Old Testament prophets and by far the most Messianic of the twelve minor prophets.”  Consequently we will see many references to Christ, the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church in our study this book.  For this same reason much of the book is also written to describe visions brought to Zechariah from God by various means.  This has presented problems for some folks in understanding his writing but perhaps we can avoid most of those pitfalls.

 

Read Zechariah 1:1-6 – An Exhortation to Repentance

 

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

 

            We remember that Haggai began his prophecy in the sixth month of the second year of the reign of Darius over the Persian Empire.  Zechariah follows him just two months later, in the eighth month of the same year, and they actually overlap in their work.  For those interested in such things, the sixth month of the Jewish calendar corresponds to late August and early September, and the eighth month to late October, early November on our calendar.

            We also see the linage of Zechariah, including his father and grandfather.  In Ezra 5, Zechariah is called the “SON OF IDDO” when he is actually the grandson of Iddo.  When we look at Jewish genealogy we need to remember that it was common practice to call any direct descendant a “SON” even though they might be separated by one or more generations.  This is not a conflict in scripture but rather a peculiarity of language usage and all languages and cultures have such peculiarities.

 

v.2-3The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.

 3Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.”

 

            As is commonly the case when God chooses to send his messenger to his people, God is sending a warning to Judah.  God had been “SORE DISPLEASED” with the fathers of this current generation of Israelites.  We need but review the history of Israel’s apostasy, her rebellion against the covenant she made with God, her idolatry, her continued violations of the Law given through Moses to understand why.  Consequently at the very beginning of his work Zechariah brings an admonition to Judah to avoid their sins.  They are exhorted to “TURN YE UNTO ME”, an exhortation for any age, any generation of mankind.  This is the same exhortation that Jeremiah and the prophets that preceded him gave Judah before their captivity:

 

Jeremiah 25:5They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:”

 

This turning would result in God removing their sins as Micah prophesied:

 

Micah 7:19He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

 

We are given the same kind of exhortation today by James:

 

James 4:7-10Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  8Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.  9Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.  10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

 

v.4Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.”

 

            Do not do as your fathers did!  Need we be reminded what the fathers, the ancestors of these Jews did to God’s messengers?  We could look at many examples but find a very concise description in:

 

II Chronicles 36:15-16And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:  16But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”

 

And they continued in their iniquity “TILL there was NO REMEDY”, not that God was not capable of forgiving them.  But rather that they would no longer turn from their evil ways back to God so that he could forgive them.

 

v.5Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?”

 

            What happened to these rebellious people?  “WHERE are THEY”?  During the prophesies of both Haggai and Zechariah there were those who could remember the splendor of Solomon’s temple and the city of Jerusalem before it was destroyed and thousands that were slain by the Chaldeans.  Because of their continued disobedience to God they died or were taken captive.  They were punished for their iniquity and Judah is made to remember and take these lessons in life to heart in their present generation.

 

v.6 “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of [overtake] your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.”

 

            The words of God are true, they are powerful, they will continue even when all of God’s creation has either been destroyed or judged.  Or as the Hebrew writer records for us:

 

Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

            God’s promises are sure and will be kept as we’re assured:

 

James 1:17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

 

            As we have seen many times during our study of the minor prophets, the promises and curses that God gave Israel as part of their covenant in Deuteronomy 28 have been kept without fail or favor.  As Jeremiah records:

 

Lamentations 2:17The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.”

 

Read Zechariah 1:7-11 – The Vision of Horses

 

v.7Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”

 

            Now time moves forward another couple of months to the 24th day of the month of Sebat or Sevat which corresponds to our mid January to mid February.  Using the precision of dating given us this would be early February of 519 BC.

 

v.8I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.”

 

            Here we have the first of eight visions given to Zechariah by God.  He sees a man on a red horse among the myrtle trees in the low lands or what we might call the river bottom and he is being followed by others on red horses, speckled or sorrel horses and white horses.  This is much the same kind of vision was given to the Apostle John where the red horse represented the power given to his messenger by God:

 

Revelation 6:4And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”

 

v.9-10Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.  10And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.”

 

            So Zechariah asks God’s messenger what these things mean.  Who are these people that he is seeing in his vision.  The angel says he will show him.

 

v.11And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

 

This angel of the Lord that is standing in the shadows of the myrtle trees says they have been sent to observe the earth and those who inhabit it.  In their observations they see that after being visited by the wrath of God the earth is at rest just as the prophet Isaiah had said it would be after Babylon is conquered:

 

Isaiah 14:7The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.”

 

Read Zechariah 1:12-17 – God’s Promise to Jerusalem

 

v.12Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?”

 

            Now we start to see the purpose of this vision.  The time has come for Jerusalem to be at peace, the time that God has set to comfort his people has come just as a Psalmist records.   A Psalmist who looks forward by prophecy to the time when God’s mercy will be given to Jerusalem:

 

Psalms 102:13Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.”

 

So after being punished for their iniquity by destruction and captivity, how long is this period of peace going to last?

 

v.13-14And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.  14So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

 

            But the Lord doesn’t answer the question directly.  Instead he gives them words of comfort and assurance, words of comfort and assurance similar to those of Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 40:1-2Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.”

 

            Judah has received from the hand of God a double portion of his wrath, his punishment.  So now the Jews and the city of Jerusalem are assured that God will look after them with a godly jealousy.  He has chosen Zion for a purpose, revealed in prophecy but yet to be brought into being, that will cause Him to protect them.  They have turned and repented as he has commanded so now God will do as the prophet Joel said:

 

Joel 2:18Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.”

 

v.15And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.”

 

            God has used the heathen people of the world to punish Israel for their transgressions and Israel’s neighbors for their wickedness.  Now the world is at ease and even though he used them God is not pleased with those who have become conquerors.  The indication is that in their pursuit of carrying out God’s intent they were more cruel and more warlike than God would have preferred.  We have some indication of this in the prophesy of Amos against Edom:

 

Amos 1:11Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever:”

 

v.16-17Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.  17Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”

 

            “THEREFORE”, consequently now God has returned to Jerusalem.  He has come with mercies, he has mandated that his house will be rebuilt.  The day has now come that Isaiah spoke of when he wrote that:

 

Isaiah 12:1And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.”

 

That comfort that Isaiah spoke of again in a later chapter:

 

Isaiah 51:3For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”

 

It is in Mount Zion that God wishes to make his abode for now.  It is from that same mount that he will launch the new kingdom of God.  It is from this city that the church, the spiritual kingdom of God will begin.  For this purpose he will preserve her and comfort her until the time comes that she should be completely destroyed.

 

Read Zechariah 1:18-21 – Visions of the Horns and Carpenters

 

v.18-19Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.  19And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

 

            In prophesy horns represent power or might like the horns of a bull or buffalo.  It is a representation of God’s ability to do physical damage.  We find a direct reference to their purpose in:

 

I Kings 22:11And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.”

 

In Zechariah these horns represent the kingdoms that punished and scattered Israel, Judah and Jerusalem; i.e. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and possibly Persia.  Since this prophet is speaking of something that has already passed, he would not be speaking of the same four kingdoms found in Daniel 2:44.

 

v.20-21And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.  21Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.”

 

            Now God shows Zechariah four carpenters or smiths.  We would call them blacksmiths or by the more modern term millwrights.  These have been set up to punish those who have punished and scattered Judah, and restore Judah and Jerusalem.  They will “CAST OUT THE HORNS OF THE GENTILES” who scattered the Jews.  We find a similar relationship using the same symbolism in:

 

Psalms 75:10All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

 

William L. Schwegler; Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; Sunday Morning Adult – July 26, 2009