Part I. A SERIES OF EIGHT VISIONS, AND A SYMBOLICAL ACTION.
§ 1. Title of the book, and author. The eighth month. This was called Bul before the Captivity (1 Kings 6:38), and afterwards Marchesvan (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 1.3 3); it answered to parts of October and November, and was a time of rain. Haggai had first prophesied two months earlier. The second year of Darius. Being now under foreign rule, the prophet uses the regnal years of the king to whom his people were subject (see note on Haggai 1:1). Son of Berechiah (see Introduction, § II.). The prophet. This appellation belongs to "Zechariah," as the LXX. and Vulgate take it. A comma should be inserted after "Iddo" here and in verse 7. Saying. The visions virtually spoke to him, communicated to him the Lord's will; but first he has to deliver the following warning.
§ 2. The prophet admonishes the people not to follow their forefathers' evil example, but to turn to the Lord with all their heart.
Hath been sore displeased; literally, displeased with displeasure, which the versions render, ὠργίσθη ὀργὴν μεγάλην: iratus iracundia (cf. Zechariah 1:15). Not only events connected with their earlier history proved that God had been incensed with their forefathers, but the ruin of their kingdom, and the late Captivity, and the desolation around them, were evidence of the same sad truth.
Say thou unto them. The prophet shows why he has reminded them of their forefathers' sins and punishment. Saith the Lord of hosts. The expression recurs three times in this verse; it denotes the almightiness and infinite resources of God (see note A in the appendix to Archdeacon Perowne's edition of this prophet). Its constant repetition, as in Haggai, gives a certain heaviness to the prophet's style. Turn (return) ye unto me. He calls the people to repentance, partly, doubtless, with a view to their taking an active part in rebuilding the temple, thus carrying on the exhortations of Haggai, but also with reference to their general indevotion and laxity which Ezra afterwards had to reprove (see Ezra 9:2). Saith the Lord of hosts; literally, (it is) the utterance of Jehovah of hosts. This is a more threatening form than the mere "saith" in the other two places in this verse. And I will turn (return) unto you (Malachi 3:7). God promises his favour on their repentance and better conduct; as Haggai had been commissioned to proclaim a return of fruitful seasons as soon as the people obeyed his word and attended diligently to the work before them (Haggai 2:19). They were called now to attend to the pure worship of the Lord, as the sole condition of prosperity. It has been well observed that when it is said, "Turn ye unto me," etc; we are reminded of our free will; and when we cry, "Turn us, good Lord, and we shall be turned," we acknowledge the need of God's preventing grace.
The former prophets have cried. Omit "have." The prophets referred to are those before the Captivity, both those whoso writings are extant, as Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc; and those whose names are mentioned in the historical books, e.g. Nathan, Gad, Shemaiah, Azariah, Hanaui, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah (Pusey). (See similar complaints in 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 36:15, etc.; Jeremiah 25:3-8, which last passage seems to have been in Zechariah's mind.)
To compel them to listen to the warning, he asks them, Your fathers, where are they! What became of those who paid no heed to the admonitions of the prophets? Have they not suffered dire calamities and perished miserably? And the prophets, do they live forever? They can teach and threaten no longer. It is true that the seers who warned your fathers are no more, but did not their words come true (see Zechariah 1:6)? Jerome referred these words to the false prophets, resting, doubtless, on Jeremiah 37:19. But it is more natural to refer them to the "former prophets" mentioned above and in the following verse.
My words. The words that God put into the mouths of the prophets (Jeremiah 39:16; Lamentations 2:17). Statutes, usually applied to the Law, which the prophets had to announce and enforce; but it may mean "decrees" which God appointed (Zephaniah 2:2). The LXX. inserts "receive ye" to govern these nouns. I commanded. The LXX. adds, ἐν πνεύματὶ μου, "by my inspiration." Did they not take hold of your fathers? Did they not overtake, etc.? Did not their threatened chastisements, however long delayed, reach your fathers in the end? And they returned; turned, as Zechariah 1:3, Zechariah 1:4. They turned so far as to acknowledge that the threats had been fully accomplished (see Daniel 9:5; Ezra 9:6, etc.). Thought to do; παρατέτακται, "designed, purposed to do" (comp. Lamentations 2:17).
§ 3. The first vision: the horsemen in the myrtle grove.
In a series of visions it is now shown what is the nature of the restored theocracy, and what shall befall it. Thus were the people comforted by bearing God's purposes of mercy and the great future that awaited Israel. In this first vision it is revealed to Zechariah that the Gentile nations should be overthrown, and that whatever might be the present condition of the Jewish people, God's purpose of mercy toward them was unshaken and would be fulfilled. The four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat. This month (called here by its Chaldean name) answered to parts of January and February. It was three months since Zechariah had been called to the prophetical office, and five since the building of the temple had been resumed at Haggai's remonstrance. Meantime Haggai had concluded his mission by uttering his final prophecies two months ago, and now Zechariah carries on the revelation. A comparison of the months in the cuneiform inscriptions with the Hebrew will be found in Schrader, 'Keilinschriften,' 379, and in Dr. Wright's note on this verse. The word of the Lord. Thee visions with their explanations are in effect the oracle (see note on verse 1).
I saw by night; in the night; i.e. the night of the twenty-fourth day (Zechariah 1:7). The visions were seen in this one night at short intervals. There is nothing to make one suppose that they came in dreams (Isaiah 29:7). The prophet is awake, but whether he sees these scenes with his bodily eyes, or was rapt in ecstasy, cannot be decided. A man riding upon a red horse. This is the Angel of Jehovah, mentioned again in Zechariah 1:10 and in Zechariah 1:11, in both of which places the description, "that stood among the myrtle trees," serves to identify him. He is different from the interpreting angel, and is the leader of the company of horsemen that follow him. Keil and Wright consider that the rider on the red horse cannot be identified with the Angel of Jehovah, because otherwise he would have been represented as standing opposite to the other horsemen to receive the information which they brought him, and they would not have been spoken of as "behind" hint. But the expression in Zechariah 1:8 may mean merely that the prophet sets his eyes first on the leader and then on the attendants. Or in Zechariah 1:10 he is the spokesman who begins the account of the riders' doings, which these themselves complete in Zechariah 1:11. Thus there are in the scene only
The red colour of the horse is supposed to represent war and bloodshed, as in Revelation 6:4; but this seems unsuitable in this piece, where nothing of the kind is intimated, but rather the contrary (Revelation 6:11). It is, indeed, impossible to affix any satisfactory explanation to the colour. If, as we may well suppose, this personage is the Angel of the covenant, who was the leader and guide of the Israelites (comp. Joshua 5:13), his standing in the valley among the myrtles may represent the depressed and humbled condition of the chosen people, which yet was well pleasing unto God, like the sweet scent of odoriferous myrtles is agreeable to men. The myrtle trees. The myrtle is indigenous in the hilly regions of Northern Palestine, and is still seen in the glens near Jerusalem, though no longer on the Mount of Olives, where the returned captives found it when celebrating their first Feast of Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:15). In the bottom; the valley. Myrtles love such places. "Amantes littora myrtos" (Virgil, 'Georg.,' 4:124). The term would suit the valley of the Kidron. Others render, "the shady place," or "the tabernacle," but not so appropriately. LXX; ἀναμέσον τῶν [Alex; 860] ὀρέων τῶν κατασκίων, "between the shady mountains." The Greek translators seem to have borrowed their reading from Revelation 6:1-17; where the chariots issue from between two mountains of brass. Behind him were them red horses; i.e. horses mounted by riders (Revelation 6:11). Speckled. It is not clear what colour is meant by this word. The Revised Version gives sorrel; Wright, "bay or chestnut;" LXX; ψαροί καὶ ποιλίλοι: "dapple-grey and spotted;" Vulgate, varii. The Septuagint Version is probably a double rendering. The word occurs elsewhere only in Isaiah 16:8, where it is applied to the tendrils of the vitae. What is intended by the different colours of the horses is a matter of great dispute, and cannot be known. There is some reason for considering that they represent the world powers at this particular period—the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greek; three of those concerning which Daniel prophesied; the fourth, the Roman, not having yet come in view. The notion of tutelary angels, presiding over countries, was familiar to the Hebrew mind (see Daniel 10:12, Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:20, Daniel 10:21). These horsemen are evidently not post couriers, but warriors on military service.
O my lord. The prophet speaks to the angel of the Lord, who answers briefly, and is succeeded by the interpreting angel. What are these? Not "who," but "what;" i.e. what do they signify? (comp. Amos 7:8). That talked with me; literally, as the LXX. and Vulgate, that spake in me. So Zechariah 1:13, Zechariah 1:14, and in the following visions. Hence some regard the expression as intimating a communication berne inwardly to the soul without the aid of external organs, or that the angel overpowered and influenced the prophet as the evil spirit possessed the demoniac. But the same term is used, as Dr. Wright points out, in the sense of to commune with a person (Numbers 12:6, Numbers 12:8; 1 Samuel 25:39), and to speak to a person (Hosea 1:2; and perhaps Habakkuk 2:1). It may, however, be that the angel of the Lord presented matters objectively, and the prophet's own angel interpreted subjectively. But the Authorized Version is probably correct. I will show thee. This he does through the chief angel (Zechariah 1:10).
The man that stood, etc. The rider upon the red horse of Zechariah 1:8, the leader of the company of horsemen. Answered the question which the prophet had proposed, or answered in response to a sign from the interpreting angel. They whom the Lord hath sent, etc. These angelic ministers had been sent to traverse the earth and to report its condition (comp. Job 1:7; Job 2:2; Hebrews 1:14), and to guide it to the carrying out of God's purposes.
They answered. Having said who they were, the angel directs them to tell of their doings. The angel of the Lord. The "man riding upon the red horse" (Zechariah 1:8) is now called "the Angel of Jehovah." This term is usually held to denote a manifestation of the Logos, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, assuming an angelic form or imparting his immediate presence to the revealer of his will. Sitteth still, and is at rest. The world was lying in proud security. There was no sign of that shaking of nations which Haggai (Haggai 2:7, Haggai 2:21, Haggai 2:22) had foretold should precede the coming of Messiah and the restoration of Israel. In this second year of Darius, the empire, though suffering from internal disturbances, was outwardly at peace, and was threatened by no enemy at a distance. But the condition of the Jews was sad and disheartening; the temple still unbuilt, the walls of Jerusalem lying in ruins, themselves only a small remnant, exposed to the insults and attacks of jealous neighbours, living on sufferance as subjects of a heathen power, and no sign of the predicted salvation appearing,—this was their state. And the angel sees their despondency, recognizes their disappointment, and intercedes for them.
Answered. He answered the feeling in the prophet's mind, the unexpressed longing of his heart. O Lord of hosts. The angel is the intercessor for the people. So Christ prays to the Father (John 17:1-26.). How long wilt thou not have mercy, etc.? He prays that the weary waiting for deliverance may speedily come to an end, and Jerusalem be restored, and Judaea be again inhabited by a happy population. These three score and ten years. The predicted seventy years of captivity (Jeremiah 25:11; Jeremiah 29:10) were past; it was time that the punishment should cease. There are two computations of this period. The first dates from the first capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 606, when Judaea was made tributary to Babylon (2 Kings 24:1 : 2 Chronicles 36:6; Daniel 1:1, etc.), unto the return of the company of exiles under Zerubbabel, B.C. 536; the second dates from the final destruction of Jerusalem, B.C. 588, unto the second year of Darius, B.C. 519, when Zechariah saw these visions. However reckoned, the dark period was now over; might they not now expect the commotion among the nations which was to precede their own restitution?
The Lord answered. The Angel of Jehovah is thus ca]led as the representative of God, whether we regard him as the Logos or a created angel empowered by God (see note on Zechariah 1:11). This personage is often seemingly identified with Jehovah (comp. Zechariah 3:2; Genesis 18:1, Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:13, Genesis 18:17, Genesis 18:22; Joshua 5:14, Joshua 5:15; Joshua 6:2). He gives the answer to the interpreting angel, which the latter is to convey to the prophet, which he, in turn, was to announce to the people. Good words, promising blessing and salvation (1 Kings 12:7); and these are comfortable words (Isaiah 57:18), a message calculated to bring comfort to the people's desponding hearts. What the message is is given in the following verses (14-17).
Cry thou (Isaiah 40:6). The prophet has to publish two things:
I am jealous. The term implies ardent love, which cannot bear itself to be slighted, or the object of its affection to be injured (comp. Zechariah 8:2, and note there; Numbers 25:11, Numbers 25:13; Joel 2:18). For Jerusalem, as the capital of the kingdom; and for Zion, as the seat of worship.
The heathen; the nations, who were God's instruments in punishing Israel. That are at ease. Living in proud security and self-enjoyment (Isaiah 32:9, Isaiah 32:11; Amos 6:1; comp. Amos 6:11). Septuagint, τὰ συνεπιτιθέμενα, "which join in attacking her;" Vulgate, opulentas, "wealthy," their riches giving them self-confidence. I was but a little displeased. God had been angry with his people, it is true, but only in measure, chastising them, like a parent, for their good. Others take "a little" (parum, ὀλίγα) to mean "for a little time," in allusion to the seventy years' captivity. And they helped forward the affliction; or, in the LXX; συνεπέθεντο εἰς κακὰ, "helped for evil; "Vulgate, adjuverunt in malum. They exceeded their part as mere instruments in God's hands, and wished to destroy Israel altogether, or to oppress them beyond the purposed period of their chastisement. A similar complaint is made against the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:5, etc.) and the Babylonians (Isaiah 47:6).
Therefore. Because God loved his people and was incensed with the heathen. I am returned; I return. According to the promise in Zechariah 1:3 (see note on Zechariah 8:3). A line shall be stretched forth. A measuring line shall now be used to mark out the city for rebuilding (Job 38:5). The first proof of God's renewed mercy would be seen in the restoration of the temple, the symbol of the theocracy, and in the revival of the city, the type of national life. The "line" had been used for purposes of destruction (2 Kings 21:13; Isaiah 34:11; Lamentations 2:8).
Cry yet, saying. This introduces the second part of the prophet's message. The LXX. begins the verse with the words, "And the angel that spake in me said unto me." My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad. "Yet," in this verse, is better rendered again. God calls the cities his, to show his love for Judah; and he promises that they shall not only be reoccupied by returning immigrants, but increased in extent and number by reason of the enlarged population. So Josephus tells us that in later times Jerusalem had outgrown its walls, and that the fourth quarter, Bezetha, was added ('Bell. Jud.,' 5.4. 2). But it seems' best to translate the clause thus: "My cities shall yet overflow with prosperity." Vulgate, Adhuc affluent civitates meae bonis; LXX; ἔτι διαχυθήσονται πόλεις ἐν ἀγαθοῖς. Shall yet comfort Zion, for all her afflictions. Shall yet choose Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:12 [16, Hebrew]; Zechariah 3:2). God will show that the election of Israel remains unimpaired and secure. The partial fulfilment of the items of this prophecy are to be found in the rebuilding of the temple, the restoration of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, and the prosperity of Judah under the Asmonean princes. A hint of further blessings is given in the final clause, but their nature is not expressly mentioned.
§ 4. The second vision. the four horns and the four craftsmen.
I lifted up mine eyes, and saw. This vision is closely connected with the former. The prophet had been told that the hostile nations should be punished and scattered; he now is shown this threat being executed. Four horns, belching to four beasts but dimly seen or wholly invisible. Horns are symbols of strength and power (comp. Psalms 75:4, Psalms 75:5; Daniel 8:3; Amos 6:13). Here they mean powers hostile to Israel, and the number "four" (the symbol of completeness) points to the four winds from which they come, i.e. from every side. In the Hebrew Zechariah 2:1-13. begins at this verse.
Which have scattered, etc. Some see here an allusion to the prophecy of Daniel concerning the Babylonians, Medo-Persians, Macedonians, and Romans. Against this view it is urged that the prophet is speaking of past events, not of a far distant future. Others Lake the four horns to represent Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia, all of which had scattered Israel. But it is well to lay no special stress on such explanations of symbolical language, which are at best mere conjectures, liable to be overthrown by a new theory. The word "scattered," which Jerome renders ventilaverunt, means properly, as Wright observes, "to winnow," to separate and scatter by means of the wind. The perfect tense of this verb must not be pressed so as to exclude all notion of coming events. The prophets see at one glance past and future, and combine in one expression far distant occurrences. Doubtless Zechariah's vision has some relation to Daniel's, and his description of the powers hostile to the Church of God runs on parallel lines with that of his predecessor. Whether be refers to the same four empires must be left in uncertainty. Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. All the tribes and the capital. According to Ewald, Judah is named first as occupying the place of honour, even as Benjamin is named before Judah in Psalms 68:27, because the capital city lay in its territory. Jerusalem was the centre of worship and government for all the people, the northern tribes being represented by Israel. the southern by Judah. Some critics cancel the word "Israel" here, and there is no doubt that it is often written for "Jerusalem" by mistake (comp. Jeremiah 23:6 [where see Professor Cheyne's note]; Jeremiah 32:30, Jeremiah 32:32; Jeremiah 51:49; Zephaniah 3:14; Malachi 2:11). Gratz supposes that in the present passage the scribe discovered his mistake, and wrote the right word "Jerusalem" after the wrong one "Israel," but leaving the latter still in the manuscript. Of course, there is no proof of this supposition. Some manuscripts of the Septuagint omit "Jerusalem" here.
Four carpenters; craftsmen; Revised Version, smiths, in which case "the horns" would be made of iron. The word is applied to workers in wood, stone, and metal; therefore an ambiguous rendering seems most suitable here. LXX; τέκτονας; Vulgate, fabros. They represent the human agencies employed by God to overthrow the powers hostile to the Church. Their number is the same as that of the "horns," thus showing their adequacy for the work which they have to execute. It is quite unnecessary to attempt to identify the four "craftsmen." Some take them to be Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah; or Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Cambyses, and Alexander the Great; or the four evangelists; or generally, angels. We shall be safer if we look upon them merely as God's instruments and servants without further identification.
And he spake. The interpreting angel spake. Which have scattered Judah. The LXX. adds, "and broke Israel in pieces." Did lift up his head. These powers laid Judah prostrate. To fray them. To terrify the powers symbolized by the four horns, and disturb their self-complacent Security (Zechariah 1:15). The LXX; mistaking the sense, gives, τοῦ ὀξῦναι αὐτὰ εἰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν τὰ τέσσαρα κέρατα, "To sharpen them, even the four horns, in their hands." To cast out; to cast down, to overthrow these proud powers. Over (against) the land. The nations had treated Judah as a wild bull treats things that oppose him, tossing and scattering them to the wind.
A timely warning.
"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," etc. Special attention seems invited in the opening verse of this opening prophecy to the question of time. Probably because the time of its utterance was a time of much hope, as shown by the cotemporaneous prophecies of Haggai 1:13-15 ("sixth month"); Haggai 2:1-9 ("seventh month"); and Haggai 2:18, Haggai 2:19 ("ninth month"). Probably also because a time of much hope is a time of much fear; the season of bloom is the season of blight. Accordingly, the whole of this opening message—a kind of prologue to the visions that follow—is one of admonition and warning, a warning which turns
I. PRESENT POSITION.
1. The fact. How did they stand before God? As the children of sinners (Haggai 2:2). This is the first thing to be remembered by them, as also by us all (Ephesians 2:3, end).
2. The significance of the fact; and that in two opposite directions.
3. Their attitude was one even of malignant aversion, if so we may speak, always tending of itself, like certain malignant bodily diseases, to become aggravated and worse. The longer we postpone our repentance the more difficult it becomes. This is the most serious consideration of all.
II. PAST EXPERIENCE. (See Exodus 34:5, Exodus 34:6.) In these they are reminded:
1. That some things belonging to the past had indeed passed away, as it were. "Their fathers," e.g. who had received so many warnings, and despised them. Even "the prophets" also, who had delivered these warnings, and believed them, had fulfilled their days, and departed. Like a scene in a play, like a picture in a magic lantern, there was something else in their place.
2. Some things belonging to the past were still remaining. The truth of God's Word, for example (see Psalms 6:6-8). This manifest to their senses. Did not "my words and my statutes take hold of your fathers"? All their recent history, their complete and long enduring captivity, their partial return, their present condition, an affirmative answer to this question. This same truth acknowledged, too, by those gone. They acknowledged the fact: "As God thought to do, so he did." They acknowledged Its justice. According to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he" done (comp. Lamentations 2:17, Lamentations 2:18; and as to the general principle, 1:7). This the special triumph of God's Word, that it is vindicated and preached at times by its bitterest foes.
In conclusion, we may note and admire in this passage:
1. The discrimination of Scripture. How exactly suited the whole tenor of this passage to the case of those here addressed! Reminding us of the "wise steward," who gives to "every one a portion of meat in due season." Also of the declaration of the apostle, that all inspired Scripture is so variously profitable as to make "the man of God" complete, or perfect, as to all that he needs (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:17).
2. The faithfulness of Scripture. How different all this from the flattery with which most nations are addressed by their teachers; and which most nations also demand! Contrast "When France is content, Europe is tranquil;" also, as to our own country, the words of the poet—
"Thou shalt flourish, great and free,
The dread and envy of them all."
3. The mercy of Scripture. Notwithstanding all provocations—all personal, all patrimonial, iniquity—the language of God here is, with outstretched hand (Romans 10:21), "Be ye reconciled unto me" (2 Corinthians 5:20; comp. also Hosea 3:1-5; and the emphatic "only" in Jeremiah 3:12-14). Note also how greatly this mercy is set forth by the greatness of the faithfulness before named. In the words of our English laureate—
"He showed me all the mercy,
For he showed me all the sin."
A vision of rest.
"Upon 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," etc. Several points in this vision, as in many others, cannot certainly be explained. The nature and significance of the colours of the horses is one of these points. Another is as to the identity or otherwise of the "angel" of verse 9 with that of the "rider" of verse 8, who seems undeniably to be the "man" of verse 10 and the "angel of the Lord" of verses 11, 12. The idea of identity is favoured by Pusey's rendering, "talked in me," compared with Numbers 12:6-9; Habakkuk 2:1; 1 Peter 1:11; also by the high probability of the person promising in 1 Peter 1:9 being the same as the person performing in 1 Peter 1:10; and by the similar probability that the person asking in 1 Peter 1:12, and the person answered in 1 Peter 1:13, should be one and the same. From these very uncertainties, however, we may, perhaps, learn an incidental truth of importance. We may learn, e.g; that the agents of God are not less manifold, nod not less mysterious to us, than his works. Also that whether the "angel of the Lord" speaks to us directly, or only by the instrumentality of one of his accredited servants, it comes to much the same in the end. In the rest of the vision we may notice
I. THE KING HIMSELF. Under this head we learn:
1. His condition. He appears as a Rider, i.e. as one who has left his home and is on a journey for a season.
2. His rank. He has many and various attendants, but all "behind him" (comp. Revelation 19:14, where the rider probably appears on a white horse, because riding in triumph).
3. His place; amongst the myrtle trees in the hollow; representing, it is thought, the people of God, humble yet pleasing to him, in their then low estate (see Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13).
4. His apparent purpose; viz. to "visit" and save his people (Genesis 1:24; Exodus 3:16; Exodus 4:31; Luke 1:68).
II. THE KING'S SERVANTS. Of these we find that they are the objects:
1. Of special inquiry. Who the Leader is the prophet understands. Who these are that attend upon him he cannot tell, yet much wishes to know, probably because of something very special in their numbers and variety and general appearance of readiness and expectation. "What is it the King means to do with all these?"
2. Of special explanation. Explanation very readily given. Your difficulty is natural. Your inquiry is legitimate. "I will show thee what these be." Explanation also very sufficiently given. Who are they? They are persons "sent;" they have a mission indeed to accomplish. Who sent them? The Lord himself. For what purpose? For that of special investigation. To investigate where? In all parts of the earth. This is why God has visited his people, viz. to learn, by means of these his servants, how things are with them in the world.
III. THE KING'S WORK. The nature and completeness of this are shown to us by his servants' report. For example, we see:
1. Its great promptitude. The next thing we hear of this report is of its completion (1 Peter 1:11). No time, apparently, has been lost. While the prophet's question has been put and acknowledged, their mission has been accomplished (comp. Daniel 9:21; Ezekiel 1:14).
2. Its perfection. They have examined the whole earth. They have examined it all so thoroughly that they challenge any one ("behold") to do more.
3. Its purport and unanimity. This is how they all found the world, viz. "sitting still and at rest"—like a weary traveller who has finished his long journey, and taken his seat, and only asks to sit still.
See, therefore, in conclusion, respecting this vision:
1. How specially encouraging it was at theft time. By the Jews, just then exhorted to recommence the restoration of their temple, two things only were specially required. The one was to know, as to God, that his eye was upon them for good (see Ezra 5:5). The other was to know, as to men, that they would be let alone in their work (Ezra 4:3). And these, we see, were just the two things of which this vision assures them. With everything to help them in heaven, and nothing to hinder them on earth, what more could they ask?
2. How instructive for all times. When any direct work for God, such as that of building his house or enlarging his Church, has to be done, this is how it often pleases him to order the world. So Solomon was raised up as a "man of rest" to build the original temple. So Christ was born, and the foundations of the Christian Church were laid, when all the world was at peace. So we read also in Acts 9:31. Compare also the language of the Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity; and the connection between Acts 9:2 and Acts 9:4 in 1 Timothy 2:1-15.
A vision of mercy.
"Then the angel of the Lord answered and said," etc. In the last portion (Zechariah 1:7-11) we saw Christ, or the Angel-Jehovah, presented to us as a King, exercising visitatorial powers. In the present we seem to read of him under those two other principal aspects in which he is revealed to his people, viz.
I. INTERCESSION. We find this to be:
1. Exceedingly apposite. Much had already been done for the remnant of the Captivity; but much also remained. A mere handful (some fifty thousand all told, Ezra 2:64, Ezra 2:65), compared with the many thousands of Israel, had been brought back; a few scattered centres of population only were to be found in the land, and Jerusalem itself was more like a city of the dead than of the living (compare the description of it in Nehemiah 7:4, many years afterwards). This state of things is exactly recognized in the Angel-Jehovah's petition, "How long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah?" (For similar and, probably, nearly contemporaneous request for further mercy after much mercy received, comp. Psalms 126:4 and Psalms 126:1.)
2. Very judicious. See what this intercession allows, viz. the justice of God. "Thou hast had indignation;" and rightly, so it implies. (For similar confessions of God's justice in pleading for mercy, comp. Genesis 18:25; Jeremiah 12:1.) See also what this intercession relies on, viz. on the one hand, God's character, as delighting to exercise mercy (so to speak) as soon as he can; and, on the other hand, on God's faithfulness, as being Sure to confine his indignation strictly to the duration specified by him. "These three score and ten years" (see Jeremiah 26:11, Jeremiah 26:12).
3. Very effectual. This shown by the answer obtained, which consisted, on the one hand, of "good words" i.e. words promising good; and on the other hand, of "comfortable words," literally, words "sighing with," or full of sympathy, in the spirit of Romans 12:15; Isaiah 63:9; and so being all that could be wished for, both in matter and manner.
II. INSTRUCTION. The Angel-Jehovah, having received this reply, then proceeds—either personally or, as some think, through the instrumentality of some subordinate angel—to instruct the prophet accordingly. In this we may notice:
1. His commission. The satisfactory answer just received by the Angel-Jehovah the prophet was now to make known in his turn: "Cry thou." He was also to tell it aloud, to proclaim it: "Cry" (bis); comp. Genesis 41:43; 2 Chronicles 32:18, where the same word is employed. And he was to do so being thus commissioned (this also is mentioned twice, 2 Chronicles 32:14, 2 Chronicles 32:17) in God's name.
2. His message. This corresponds, as might be expected, with the "words" of 2 Chronicles 32:13. For example, it is a message
Do we not see illustrated in all this, finally?
1. The perfection of the gospel. "Good words and comfortable words"—"glad tidings of great joy"—so we see it to be. How full of sympathy! How full of hope! Its excellency culminating in this, perhaps, above all, that we have not only such a "Propitiation" (1 John 2:2). but such a perpetual "Advocate" (1 John 2:1) and Intercessor to plead it (see also Hebrews 7:25; Luke 22:31, Luke 22:32; Luke 13:8, Luke 13:9; Acts 7:55).
2. The certainty of the gospel. As to its essence and source, on the one hand. As in 2 Chronicles 32:13, it is, in effect, the promise of God to his Son (comp. Psalms 2:7-9; Psalms 110:1-7; passim). As to its conveyance to us, on the other; being, in effect, as in 2 Chronicles 32:14, the message of Christ himself to us through those appointed by him. Compare the visions of Christ to Isaiah (6.; John 12:1-50.) and Daniel (Daniel 10:5, Daniel 10:6, and references); also John 14:26; John 16:13, John 16:14; Colossians 3:16, etc.
A vision of help.
"Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw," etc. In these verses, and some that follow, certain detached portions of the previous general prophecy seem to be set before us again in greater amplitude and detail—like maps of England, France, and so on, in an atlas, following the general but smaller-scaled map of the whole "quarter" of Europe. In the verses now especially before us, it is the previous message concerning the enemies of God's people (Zechariah 1:14, Zechariah 1:15) which seems to be thus followed up and enlarged. And the twofold purpose in view seems to be that of reminding his people in this connection
I. THEIR SPECIAL DANGER. On this point they are shown:
1. Its reality,. Though God was sorely displeased with the heathen, though he had done much already to restrain them, so that the earth now was "at rest" (supra, Zechariah 1:11), and the returned people were able to rebuild his house, he had by no means destroyed them as yet. The four "horns" seen in the vision—the well known symbols of authority and strength and hostility (Psalms 75:4-7, Psalms 75:10; Jeremiah 48:25; Deuteronomy 33:17; 1 Kings 22:11)—suffice to prove this. However restrained at that moment, the ability and the disposition to injure were still in existence.
2. Its peculiar greatness. This
II. THEIR SPECIAL DEFENCE.
1. The fact itself. This manifest—having such enemies as they had—from their still continued existence. Though "scattered," it was not beyond recovery; though so prostrate that no man could "lift up the head," they were not destroyed (comp. Psalms 129:1, Psalms 129:2). Who could have caused this but Jehovah himself?
2. The peculiar nature of this defence. Jehovah restrains the many enemies of his people by "fraying" or frightening them from going too far (comp. Psalms 76:9, Psalms 76:10; also Genesis 35:5; Exodus 15:16; 2 Kings 19:6; 2 Chronicles 17:10; and to some extent the cases of Abimelech, Genesis 20:1-18 :0, 7; and Balsam, Deuteronomy 23:5).
3. The peculiar instrument of this defence. Not other "horns" to push against these; not other men of war to overcome these; but artificers only, men of peace. Possibly also artificers of the class engaged in building, as though to intimate that the work of building God's temple was the best defence at that time to God's people.
4. The peculiar completeness of this defence. As shown, perhaps, by there being as many in