About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 1:1-6  ch. 1:7-17   ch. 1:18-20

My Commentary On The Book Of Zechariah




This commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  Chapter titles in this commentary correspond with chapter titles in the NIV which make for easy study purposes.


Zechariah was a prophet that spoke the Word  of the Lord to Israel around 520 BC.  His prophecies were meant to be a comfort to Israel.  Haggai also spoke the Word of the Lord at the same time as Zechariah.  Both prophets messages were meant to be an encouragement for Israel to begin to rebuild the temple of God that they had begun but had stopped about 15 years earlier due to outside pressure.  Zechariah’s message also included some encouragement for Israel that came in the form of prophecy concerning the future.


Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was a priest who became a prophet due to his prophecies.            


A Call To Return To The Lord (ch. 1:1 - 6)


Verse 1 tells us that the Word of the Lord first came to Zechariah in the 8th month of the second year of king Darius.  Darius was king of Persia. The Jews were subject to the Persian king.  The 8th month would be our September.


Verse 2 simply states that God was very angry with the Jews forefathers.  That is why they were led away as captives by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon. This shows us that God does chasten, and even punish His children.


God tells Zechariah to tell Israel to “return to Him and then He will return to them”.   This is the message of the gospel.  It’s always been the message from God’s lips.  Repent, and God will come to you.  We often think the gospel is in New Testament times only, and there is a sense of rightness to this, yet the message of repentance and faith is found in Old Testament times as well. Thus was the case here.


In verse 4 God through Zechariah reminded Israel that prophets long ago spoke a similar word to their forefathers.  They were told to turn from their evil ways, but they did not hear God’s message and they continued in their evil ways and evil practices, and they were judged accordingly.


In verse 5 God asks, “where is your forefathers, and where are the prophets that spoke to them.”   The answer is obvious.  Both were long gone. Yet even though those men were dead, the Word of the Lord remains valid.  It even remains valid in our day today, and in every generation that lives on the face of the earth.


Another question is asked in verse 6.  God asks, “did not my decree overtake your forefathers?”  God’s decrees outlived Israel’s forefathers.


Also in verse 6 we read, “then they repented…”  The question is asked, “who does the word ‘they’ refer to?”  It’s either one of two groups.  It either refers to the forefathers or the men and women that Zechariah is speaking to.  I think the word “they” is in reference to the people living in Zechariah’s day.  The NIV has this sentence in a new paragraph that suggests to me a new thought, a new group of people.


Israel ’s repentance is seen in what they say in the rest of verse 6.  They basically say that they deserve the punishment they got.  Repentance is all about accepting God’s punishment and acknowledging your sin, and this is what the Jews did at this time.  There was a national revival of repentance as seen in Ezra 9 and 10.


The Man Among The Myrtle Trees (ch. 1:7 - 17)


In verse 7 we note that Zechariah’s first vision came on the 24th day of the eleventh month.  That would be our Nov. 24th.


Verse 8 tells us that this vision came at night.  We need to understand that this was a vision, not a dream. Just because the even took place at night doesn’t mean it was a dream.


The vision begins with a man riding a red horse.   There were other red, brown, and white horses behind him. There is no mention of men on these other horses, but I believe we can assume there is from the context.  The man on the red horse apparently got off his horse because the text states the he was standing among the myrtle trees.  Myrtle trees are small evergreen shrubs.  They don’t grow very tall.


In verse 9 we see that along with this vision there was an angel talking with Zechariah, giving him certain explanations of what these things meant.  So Zechariah asked this angel what this meant and the angel told him that he’d explain. 


Verse 10 says, “then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained”.  This is where things are a little confusing and there are differing explanations.  Because the rider on the horse was standing among the myrtle trees as seen in verse 9, you might think the man spoken of here in verse 10 is him, but it’s not.  This man is the angel explaining the vision to Zechariah. 


We then see that God had sent these riders throughout the earth.  The King James Version states that these are they that walk “to and fro” throughout the earth.  We know from other Biblical passages that the devil himself walks “to and fro throughout the earth” as seen in the case of Job.  Some might think that these are demons because of this.  I don’t think so.  Because God has sent these riders, I believe they are angels themselves, and that might well be why the angel talking with Zechariah is in the vision. 


Verse 11 says that “they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees.”  The word “they” refers the riders on horses. This angel is not the angel who has been explaining the vision.  He is another angel.   He is specifically called “the angel of the Lord”.  He in fact is the man on the red horse.  The other riders went throughout the earth to see what they could see.   


The last part of verse 11 states what was reported by the riders on the horses to the angel of the Lord.  They told the angel of the Lord that the nations of the earth were at “rest and peace”. 


In verse 12 the angel of the Lord gives his response to this report.   His response is actually a prayer to God.  He asks God how long He will withhold mercy from Jerusalem and Judah, since He’s been angry with them for seventy years now.  This tells us that the peace and rest in the world has something to do with God being angry at Israel.


In verse 13 the angel who is explaining these things notes that God spoke “kind and comforting” words to the angel of the Lord. These words were to be an encouragement to Israel, who at this point were pretty discouraged.  


In verse 14 the angel who was doing the explaining spoke to Zechariah and told him what to say to Israel.  The angel said, “this is what the Lord Almighty says”.  So this angel heard from God, repeats it to Zechariah so Zechariah can repeat it to Israel. 


This is the first thing God says.  He says, “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.”  God is extremely jealous about His people, even when they have given themselves to someone else as they did.   This jealousy makes God angry with both the Jews and those to whom the Jews have given themselves to. Thus God allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and in return for this destruction, God allowed Persia to defeat Babylon.  The reason for the final defeat of Babylon was in direct relation to Israel. 


It’s my opinion that God is still jealous for His people, and in these New Testament times His people are both Jews and Gentiles who have given their lives to Jesus, the Messiah.  It’s also my opinion that God is still jealous for the city of Jerusalem.


We may think that jealousy is a negative characteristic, but we know that God does not have negative personality traits.  This jealousy in fact is a righteous jealousy.  That’s really why God has destroyed Jerusalem more than once.  The last destruction was in 70 AD and was a major event in Jewish history.  This event then was a demonstration of God’s wrath, anger, and jealousy.     


In verse 15 God says that he is angry with the nations that feel secure. Israel is not among these nations.  The nations that God is speaking about here are those nations who as  already noted were at rest and peace in verse 11. God said that He was only a little angry with them but He is even more angry since they’ve done further things to make Him angry.


God continues to speak in verse 16. He says that He will return to Jerusalem with mercy and His temple will be rebuilt.  Then He says that His measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem.  The measuring line speaks of the reconstruction of the city.  So we have both the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and the temple.


The last thing that God says in this vision is that His towns will overflow with prosperity, and that He will comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.


Let’s sum up the vision at this point.  You have a man riding a red horse with other men behind him riding horses.  Most scholars feel the man on the red horse is Jesus.  The red horse might be symbolic of Jesus’ blood.  The man on the red horse is called the angel of the Lord in this vision, and every time you see this term mentioned in the Old Testament, that speaks of pre-incarnate Jesus.  There is an angel in the vision explaining the vision to Zechariah.  God tells these horsemen to go throughout the earth to see what they can see.  They report back to the angel of the Lord, or Jesus, that the earth is at rest and peace.  Because of their answer, the angel of the Lord asks God how long He will withhold mercy from Israel and Jerusalem.   God answers by saying that the day will come when Israel and Jerusalem will prosper and their enemies will be destroyed. The enemies are those countries who are at rest and peace.  


So what does all this mean?  First of all there are two figures in the vision who we know for sure.  When the text speaks of “the Lord Almighty”, He is God.  When it speaks of “the angel of the Lord”, that is Jesus.  There is no real discrepancy among Bible teachers on this point.     


From here on out, we have to deduct who the riders on the horses are behind the lead rider who is Jesus.  I suggest they are angels, or ministering spirits as the writer of Hebrews puts it.    


These angels go out through the earth and note that the nations are a peace and rest, which reminds me of what Paul says – when there is peace and rest there is no real peace and rest.  I believe this is a reference to the end of this age when the anti-christ brings peace to the world. 


In response to this false peace that the anti-christ can muster up, Jesus asks God how long He will be angry at Israel.  Will it only be for the seventy years?  To make God’s answer simple,  He says that He will have mercy on Israel again at some future point.  We do know that God’s anger did not depart from Israel for good in Zechariah’s day.  As a matter of fact, His anger is still present over Israel.   The day has not yet come when God’s glory will be seen in Israel as the text states here. 


Along with God’s anger being removed from Israel, this text states that God will be very angry at those nations who claim to be at peace and rest.  God will destroy these nations at the last and great battle as seen in the book of Revelation.  So this is the meaning to this part of the vision, as I see it. 


God also says that the towns of Israel and the temple will be rebuilt and His people the Jews will find prosperity.  This is the end result of Israel as also seen in Revelation and elsewhere.


At the end of this age many nations will attempt to destroy Israel and Jerusalem.  Then the end will come, and Israel will find its peace and prosperity during the thousand year rule of Jesus in Jerusalem.  The Messiah, Jesus Himself will live in Jerusalem and rule from there until the thousand years ends, after which the new heaven and new earth will replace what we now have.


So the meaning of this vision is all about the end of the age, and what Israel will end up to be. It also states the future  of Israel’s enemies.  All this is meant to encourage the Jews in Zechariah’s day.  God is telling them that a day is coming when He will no longer be angry at them. 


Four Horns And Four Craftsmen (ch. 1:18 - 20)       


 Zechariah’s second vision begins in verse 18 where he sees four horns.  In verse 19 he asks the angel that has been explaining the visions to him what these four horns meant. The angel replies by saying that the four horns are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. 


It is important to note that in the Old Testament the word horn refers to nations with power and authority.  We know the four empires that had scattered the Jews.  They are; Babylon,  Persia, Greece and Rome, although both Greece and Rome are in the future to when Zechariah had these visions.


After Zechariah saw the four horns, in verse 20 he then sees four craftsmen, and so he asks who these are.


The angel explaining these things says that these four craftsmen are actually four horns themselves that have displaced the four horns who have scattered Israel.  For example, Babylon took the Jews captive.  They were a horn.  Yet another horn, that is Persia, conquered Babylon.  So Persia is both a horn and a craftsman. 


There are some people that tend to see these four horns as the four horsemen found in Revelation 6, but at the moment, I don’t see it this way.


Thus even though someone takes Israel captive or scatters them abroad, there is always someone else that comes along and conquers the one who harms Israel.  The Jews were to take comfort in that fact.  The conqueror that will overthrow those who attempt to destroy Israel is Jesus Himself. 


We’ve noted the four horn empires above that scattered Israel.  They were Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome .  The four craftsmen as we noted above, are four empires that defeated the empires that defeated Israel.  It worked this way.  Babylon was the first horn that defeated Israel, and Babylon was defeated by the first craftsman which was Persia.  Then Persia , the second horn was defeated by the next craftsman Greece.  Then Greece, the third horn was defeated by the next craftsman Rome Now Rome is interesting.  Rome was not defeated by anyone but itself.  It actually just crumbled over time.  But here we learn from history as well as from Daniel’s vision of the man whose parts of his body were made of different material.  Without going into the vision, the feet represent Rome.  But the feet crumbled away as Rome did in history.  But the feet had ten toes that were ten nations that was finally defeated at the end of the age by a Rock who is Jesus.  So Rome, the last horn here, although it crumbled will re-emerge and will be defeated by the last craftsman Jesus.         


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