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Commentary on Zechariah.

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons:London) DD

Zechariah the Prophet - Short Introduction.

Zechariah was ‘the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo’. He thus came from an important family. In Ezra 5.1 and 6.14 (compare Nehemiah 12.16) he is described as the ‘son of Iddo’. Iddo was his most famous forebear, for Iddo was included among the heads of the first priestly families that returned to Judah from exile in Babylon (Nehemiah 12.4, 16). Calling him ‘the son of Iddo’ was in accordance with the usual practise of often calling a man ‘the son of ’ his grandfather (or an earlier ancestor), especially when the grandfather was prestigious.

Those returning exiles settled down in very difficult conditions and, having erected an altar for commencement of worship, began to build a Temple in the midst of the ruined city of Jerusalem but they were soon thwarted by their neighbours because they refused to let their neighbours, who were syncretistic Yahwists, from having a part in it (for this would have allowed them to introduce their own syncretistic Yahwism). So instead they concentrated on building their own houses and making themselves as comfortable as possible with a view to building the Temple later. It was in order to arouse the next generation to set about building the Temple that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah arose.

Zechariah was a (probably much younger) contemporary of Haggai alongside whom he preached, and with whom he exhorted the people. This was under the Governor Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest. And they called on the people to be revived in their faith towards God and to carry out the rebuilding of the Temple after the exile. Zechariah thus lived in an exciting time when the beginnings of the new nation were being established. His ministry was an essential part of that recovery.

But he also looked forward to the coming of an anointed king under the title of ‘The Branch’, one from ‘the root’ of the house of David, who would establish God’s purposes for His people and bring them to fruition. The two ideas ran alongside each other for, as far as he was aware, the second may have been almost as close to fulfilment as the first. The exile was after all over as far as God was concerned, and new beginnings were in progress, but he never confuses the two in spite of the attempts of some scholars to claim that he did. Never does he exalt Zerubbabel except as the builder of the new Temple (4.1-14). Always he looks forward to another who would come to finalise the purposes of God.

He began prophesying in the second year of King Darius of Persia (reigned 522/1-486 BC). At that time Judah and the remnants of Israel had been in exile in Babylon for over sixty five years, having been carried away en masse following the events that led to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, at the time when Jeremiah and Ezekiel were prophesying its fall. And since that time Judah had lain waste with relatively few inhabitants who scratched a living from the soil.

But under the decree of Cyrus two decades prior to Zechariah’s ministry some exiles had returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 1), and an altar had been erected and work had begun on a Temple. However, once the foundations had been laid this work had languished as those who were antagonistic to them sought to interfere with the work, and the people tried to re-establish themselves in the land, and they had soon lost their vision (see the whole story in Ezra). Thus God’s purposes seemed to be grinding to a halt.

Now God was concerned for the final completion of a proper and worthy Temple, for this would unite His people and give focus to their worship and give them pride in their inheritance.

But it is a mistake to think of Zechariah as only concerned with the building of the Temple. He is concerned with it as part of the wider picture of the return of the exiles, a final outreach to the nations and the establishing of God’s purposes under the future Messianic king. He has the full vision of God’s future purposes.

COMMENTARY

The book naturally divides up into four/five distinct sections by typical introductory phrases as follows:

  • INTRODUCTION - ‘in the eighth month of the second year of Darius came the word of the LORD to Zechariah’ (1.1).
  • FIRST SECTION - ‘On the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius came the word of the LORD to Zechariah ---’ (1.7)
  • SECOND SECTION -‘And it came about in the fourth year of king Darius that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chislev.’ (7.1).
  • THIRD SECTION -‘The burden of the word of the LORD upon the land of Hadrach ---.’ (9.1)
  • FOURTH SECTION - ‘The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel.’ (12.1).

We may, however, see the initial introductory verses as connected with the first main section thus reducing the sections to four.

SECTION 1.

ANALYSIS OF INTRODUCTION AND THE FIRST SECTION.

This first section (1.1-6.15) can be divided up by means of the opening words of sentences as follows:

  • ‘The word of the LORD to the son of Zechariah --- saying’ (1.1).
  • ‘The word of the LORD to Zechariah --- saying, “I saw in the night ---” ’ (1.8).
  • ‘I lifted up my eyes and saw’ (1.18).
  • ‘I lifted up my eyes and saw’ (2.1).
  • ‘And he showed me’ (3.1).
  • ‘And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me --- and he said to me, “What do you see?” ’ (4.1).
  • ‘Then again I lifted up my eyes and saw’ (5.1).
  • ‘Then the angel who talked with me said, “Lift up now your eyes and see --” ’ (5.5).
  • ‘And again I lifted up my eyes and saw ---’ (6.1).
  • ‘And the word of the LORD came to me saying’ (6.9).

It will be noted that the emphasis all the way through is on what he saw or, in the case of the heavenly scene, on what was shown to him. Only 1.1 and 6.9 deal with instructions given to Zechariah by the LORD. The remainder are referring to visions. In the cases where we are told what he saw there is always a question and answer session, but that is not so in the case of the heavenly vision in 3.1-10.

IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF ZECHARIAH 1-6.

  • a Introduction - God calls on His people to return to Him in genuine repentance and points out that all that He had warned them of has come about (1.1-6). Now, however, it is time for them to return to Him, that He might return to them. But He then provides Zechariah with a series of visions which reveal what His purposes are for His people.
  • b THE FIRST VISION - The Horsemen Scouts of YHWH, with their different coloured horses, have gathered outside Jerusalem to report on what they have found as they have scoured the earth. While to the world Persia was the centre of activity from which scouts went out, to God it is Jerusalem that is the centre of such activity. These scouts have found no activity taking place in the world that might portend the full restoration of Jerusalem and Judah. This indicates that the nations are clearly not concerned about them. But the point is that God is. He is looking with mercy on Jerusalem again, and His house will be built in it (Isaiah 44.28) and Jerusalem be comforted (Isaiah 40.1) and chosen (Isaiah 41 onwards) - (1.7-17).
  • c THE SECOND VISION - The Four Horns and the Four Smiths - those who have scattered God’s people will themselves now be dealt with (1.18-21).
  • d THE THIRD VISION - The Measuring of Jerusalem - Jerusalem is to be restored and made prosperous - too large to be surrounded by a wall (compare Ezekiel 38.11) - and God will surround her with fire and be the glory in the midst of her (compare Isaiah 4.5). Her exiles must therefore escape from Babylon and return (Isaiah 48.20). Then she will become His witness to the nations who will join themselves to the LORD and become His people (Isaiah 42.6; 49.6-7). All should therefore be silent and watch for God has stirred Himself to act from Heaven (2.1-13).
  • e THE FOURTH VISION - The Cleansing of the High Priest - This scene alone takes place in the heavenly court (or in the Temple). Joshua the High Priest, standing before God’s throne, is accused by the Adversary (satanas). But his accusation is rejected on the grounds that it is contrary to God’s purpose because God has chosen to pluck Jerusalem like a brand plucked from the fire. Joshua is divested of his filthy garments (defiled by the sins of the past - compare Isaiah 64.6) and richly clothed and turbaned (Isaiah 61.10). From now on if he walks faithfully and is true he will have access to the heavenly court. He is the guarantee that one day God will bring forth His servant the Branch (Isaiah 11.1-4; Jeremiah 23.5; 33.15). Then the iniquity of the land will then be removed in one day and all will live in prosperity as free men under his own vine and his own fig tree (Isaiah 36.16) - (3.1-10),
  • d THE FIFTH VISION - The Two Anointed Ones - Zerubbabel and Joshua - with Zerubbabel prominent as the chosen restorer and rebuilder of the Temple. He and Joshua will stand before the Lord of the whole earth (4.1-14).
  • c THE SIXTH VISION - The Flying Scroll - which contains God’s curse on the sins of the land, especially theft and false witness. They will be removed from the land (5.1-4).

    THE SEVENTH VISION - The Woman In The Measuring Jar - she represents idolatry and wickedness, possibly as the idolatrous Queen of Heaven (Jeremiah 44.17-18), for a temple is to be built for her in Babylon where she belongs. The measuring jar may represent dishonest business interests. Babylon’s dishonest business interests and idolatry are to be returned to her (5.5-11).

  • b THE EIGHTH VISION - The Four Chariots with different coloured horses - who come from the heavenly stables and traverse the earth and have especially ensured peace in the north (from where danger usually threatens). All is set for the prosperity of Jerusalem.
  • a The BRANCH is crowned by proxy - he will build the Temple of the LORD, with the assistance of those from afar off, and will bear glory and rule on his throne as both king and priest. In him kingship and priesthood will be in perfect harmony. But if they are to experience it all is dependent on their diligently obeying the voice of the LORD (6.9-15).

Note that in ‘a’ the people are called to true repentance, and in the parallel learn their reward for such true repentance in the coming of the future King Priest. In ‘b’ the four sets of horsemen go forth, and in the parallel the four chariots go forth. In ‘c’ the external enemies, the antagonistic nations are dealt with, and in the dual parallel the internal enemies, the sins and idolatry of the nation are dealt with. In ‘d’ Jerusalem is to be restored, and in the parallel the Temple is to be restored. Centrally in ‘e’ is the scene in Heaven where the High Priest is purified on behalf of his people and the coming of the BRANCH is promised.

We can also see a progression whereby: the scouts find out that nothing is happening towards the restoration of Jerusalem, God then renders the nations powerless, Jerusalem is measured up with expansion in view, the High Priest is cleansed to prepare for his new duties, the building of the new Temple is guaranteed, sin is dealt with in the land, idolatry is despatched from the land, and the aggressors in the north are pacified, all ready for the coming of the Branch if only the people are responsive.

God’s Call to the People to Return to Him and Live in Obedience to His Demands - The Offer of a New Beginning (1.1-6).

Zechariah is the prophet of the new beginning, but as is always so with God, if there is to be a new beginning there must be repentance, and so his work commences with a call to repentance.

1.1-3 ‘In the eight month, in the second year of Darius, the word of YHWH came to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying “YHWH has been sore displeased with your fathers. Therefore you say to them, ‘Return to me’, says YHWH of Hosts, ‘and I will return to you’, says YHWH of Hosts”.’

The dating of the section in terms of Darius, king of Persia, indicates Jerusalem’s subservient position. She has no king by which the dating can be indicated. She is merely a small dot in a much larger Persian province.

Zechariah’s first charge is to call the people to repentance from past sin. This is, as ever, the first requirement when God is about to act. In the same way John the Baptiser would come preparing the way for the coming of Jesus (Matthew 3.1-2).

He is to remind the people of God’s displeasure with the sins of their ancestors which had resulted in the exile. And to warn them that they too are incurring God’s displeasure, because, in spite of a new beginning, they are neglecting the work of God and not listening to His voice. He warns them that they must return to God and His ways. If they do so they can be sure of one thing, that God will return to them and act on their behalf. Thus as ever the success of God’s people will depend from a human point of view on their response, and their attitude and obedience towards Him.

He wants them to recognise that God has begun His new work. That is why they are back in the land. But he warns them that He will not bring them success unless there is a true response of heart from them. His sovereign activity must be accompanied by obedience. The very fact that the Temple has not been properly built and established is a sign that all is not well with their devotion to God.

‘YHWH of Hosts’. It is the God of the covenant (YHWH) and Lord of all creation (of Hosts, the hosts of heaven and earth and of all within them) Who is speaking to them. He is keeping His part in the covenant by restoring them to the land. They must respond by obeying His laws and living to please Him in every way. Note the twofold stress on YHWH of Hosts. The twofold witness stresses the truth of what is said (Deuteronomy 19.15).

‘Of hosts’ is a reminder that, while they have no army, the hosts of Heaven and earth are at their disposal if they are true to Him. The term includes the angelic heavenly ‘hosts’ as well as the universe, the sun, moon and stars, and all that is in the earth (Genesis 2.1). Thus those who truly respond will not lack for resources.

1.4 “Do not be like your fathers to whom the former prophets cried, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH of Hosts, return you now from your evil ways and from your evil doings.’ But they did not hear or listen to me, says YHWH.”

They are to learn a lesson from what happened to those who were before them. God had in the past called on their fathers to repent, to leave behind their evil ways and their evil activities. He had sent prophets to them to plead with them and warn them. But they had refused to listen to those prophets and in so doing had refused to listen to God. That indeed was why disaster had befallen them. Now the restored people are in danger of doing the same. They are letting the cares of the world interfere with their allegiance to God. His hearers must now make sure that they do listen to God’s messengers and respond. In the end sin, of whatever kind, is direct disobedience to God.

‘The former prophets.’ This is the first use of the term. Here it refers to the pre-exilic prophets. Compare Jeremiah 35.17; and see 25.4, 5; 18.11.

The lesson taught here is one that we must all learn, and that is not to be so wrapped up in earthly affairs that we neglect what is really important.

1.5-6a “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?”

God reminds them that man’s life is temporary. Man is like the grass that quickly withers (Psalm 103.15). In a short while it is gone. On the other hand God’s purposes are permanent, indeed the only real permanence in a changing world. For their fathers this had meant only judgment because of their disobedience. Now they too must consider their ways. They cannot therefore afford to keep putting things off. They must choose between their fleeting ways or God’s permanent activity.

The fathers died. The prophets also died. For even those men of God had only a temporary existence. So man is as grass that flourishes, and then wilts and dies. And the consequences of the sins of their fathers overtook their fathers. Their brief, fleeting lives were spoiled because of their disobedience. The question is, Do they want the same thing to happen to them?

Thus his hearers must remember that it is God and His ways which alone are permanent, and respond accordingly. Let them note that what He had warned through His prophets took place. Their fathers did suffer the consequences of their refusal to listen and respond, and, indeed, they themselves are still suffering the consequences to this very day. So they would be wise to consider their ways.

This is ever the choice that faces the people of God. Will they live for what is passing and temporary, or will they concentrate on what is eternal and everlasting? (see 2 Corinthians 4.18).

1.6b ‘And they turned and said, ‘Just as YHWH of Hosts thought to do to us, according to our ways and according to our doings, so has he dealt with us’.”

The people acknowledge that what the prophet says is true. They and their fathers have reaped the consequences of sin, and those consequences are their own fault for they have resulted from their own failure to follow God’s ways, choosing rather to walk in their own ways. They have not obeyed God but have chosen to do what they wanted rather than what He wanted. God has thus done to them what He determined to do in such circumstances.

‘They turned.’ His words have woken them up to their state and they declare that they have now learned their lesson and have resolved to change. The verb could equally well be translated ‘returned’. The turning leads to returning. Either way it indicates that they have responded to God’s word to them.

Note the double stress all the way through on ‘their ways’ and ‘their doings’. If our hearts are set on the right way then what we do will also be right. But if our hearts are set on the selfish ways then our doings will be similar. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

The Eight Night Visions And Accompanying Oracles (1.7-6.8).

Zechariah now goes on to describe eight night visions, which he appears to have had in one night, which are in the main accompanied by oracles. These portray the commencement of the new beginning and are as follows:

  • The Horsemen Scouts go through the whole earth and find it at rest - Jerusalem will be restored (1.7-17).
  • The Four Horns and the Four Smiths - the opposing nations will be pared back (1.18-21).
  • The Man With The Measuring Line to Measure Jerusalem - Jerusalem will be reoccupied and God will dwell among His people (2.1-13).
  • The Accusation and Cleansing Of Joshua the High Priest - the High Priesthood is restored and the promise is made of the coming Branch (3.1-10).
  • The Golden Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees - Zerubbabel, with Joshua, (the two anointed ones), will rebuild the Temple (4.1-14).
  • The Flying Scroll - a curse will go out that will rid the land of sin (5.1-4).
  • The Woman in the Ephah - wickedness is to be despatched to Shinar/Babylon (5.5-11).
  • The Chariots, which are the Four Winds from the Lord, will travel through the whole earth and especially bring quietness in the north (6.1-8), the source of past invasion. Jerusalem will dwell securely.

Thus the process of restoring and ensuring the security of Jerusalem, is to be accompanied by the restoration of the High Priesthood, the rebuilding of the Temple against all odds, the purification of the whole land, the removal of wickedness, and the ensuring of peace in the north (Mesopotamia).

The First Vision. The Vision of the Horsemen Scouts - God Will Now Restore His People and the Temple Will Be Built (1.7-17).

1.7-10 ‘On the twenty fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of YHWH came to Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying, “I saw in the night and behold a man riding on a red horse and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom (the hollow), and behind him there were horses red, sorrel and white. Then I said, ‘Oh my Lord, what are these?’ And the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what these are.’ And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are they whom YHWH has sent to walk to and fro through the earth.’

The month Shebat is the Babylonian name for the eleventh month and only occurs here in the Old Testament. Previously books have used numbers for months, however the Chronicler also uses Babylonian names for months. This is three months after the first ‘word of YHWH’. Having called His people to return to Him, and having seen their response, God has now surveyed the world so that He can show Zechariah what is happening.

Note that God’s horsemen scouts are gathered outside Jerusalem, for to God Jerusalem is the centre from which all His activity proceeds. Persia may think that it rules its empire, but in the end it is YHWH Who is in charge.

There is no indication that the colours of the horses are significant. They simply indicate a variety, although the redness may be a symbol that God is aware of men’s warfare and its shedding of blood and keeps a constant eye on it. ‘Myrtle trees’ were evergreen flowering shrubs. Compare Isaiah 41.19; 55.13 where with other shrubs they are symbols of the Messianic age. They are thus here a sign of God’s working.

‘The angel (messenger)’ The word for ‘angel’ also means messenger. This messenger has brought ‘the word of YHWH’ - the prophetic word of YHWH. And it was ‘in the night’. Possibly we are to see it as a dream-vision. Or it may indicate the darkness of the times, or that Zechariah is to be seen as the Lord’s night watchman (compare Isaiah 21.6-9, 11-12; Ezekiel 3.17; Habakkuk 2.1-3).

We are not told whether there are only four horses (two red, one sorrel and one white) or whether there are a number of horses, reds, sorrels and whites. Probably the latter is intended. But we are almost certainly to see them as all mounted by horsemen messengers. These are scouts ready to go to find out what is happening. The colours are descriptive rather than obviously symbolic, although may indicate different missions of the horsemen. In Revelation 6 the white horse indicates false religion, the red horse indicates war, the black horse indicates famine and pestilence, and the pale horse widespread death, but that does not really fit here, unless we see it as simply indicating that all these things are under God’s observation. The man on the red (reddish-brown?) horse is clearly the leader, and would seem to be the Angel of YHWH (verse 11). Horsemen were, of course, the means by which earthly generals scouted out the land. They were the fastest known means of transport. These are scouts sent out by YHWH.

‘Oh my Lord, what are these?’ This question is asked of the interpreting angel about the man on the leading red horse, who turns out to be the Angel of YHWH, and his companions. As we go through the first part of his book we will find that Zechariah questions the interpreting angel again and again. It is clear that he wishes it to be apparent that what he writes has a heavenly source, and is given a heavenly explanation.

‘I will show you what these are.’ The angel is directing the vision and deals directly with Zechariah’s question.

‘These are they whom YHWH has sent to walk to and fro through the earth.’ The task of these scouts of YHWH is to travel round the surrounding nations to report on what they find. God is surveying the situation prior to acting. We can compare how the sons of God in Job also walked to and fro on the earth (Job 1.7)

1.11 ‘And they answered the angel of YHWH who stood among the myrtle trees and said, “We have walked to and fro through the earth and behold, all the earth sits still and is at rest.”

‘The Angel of YHWH’. We discover that the leader on the red horse is ‘the Angel of YHWH’. This mysterious figure appears now and again throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes He is distinguished from YHWH and at others He appears to be synonymous with YHWH.

The scouts are reporting back to Him after they have scouted the lands round about (the known earth). Their report is that the earth ‘sits still and is at rest’. The current world leaders appear satisfied and content with things as they are even while God’s people languish. This is an affront to God. Some action is needed to change matters.

A further point being made may be that the fact that nothing is changing is not a good thing for it does not portend well for the return and establishment of the people of God back in their own land.

So Zechariah is being informed that God has already been at work in preparation for what He is about to do. The survey has already taken place. God had not forgotten His people. (Note on the Angel of YHWH.

In Genesis 16.7-13 the Angel of YHWH appeared to Hagar when she ran away from Abraham. It is clear that this Angel is God Himself, for in verse 10 He promises ‘I will greatly increase your seed so that it will not be numbered for multitude’, which compares with a similar promise given by God to Abraham (compare Genesis 13.16).

Yet in verse 11 there is some distinction between the Angel and the Lord, for the Angel says ‘YHWH has heard your affliction’, where we might have expected ‘I have heard your affliction’, which suggests a distinction. But in verse 13 we are told it was the YHWH Who ‘spoke with her’, and she calls Him ‘the God who sees’ (el roi).

Again at Hagar’s second expulsion we are told ‘God heard the voice of the lad’. Then the Angel of God calls to her from Heaven, saying, ‘God has heard the voice of the lad’ as though God were separate from the Angel. Yet from then on it is God Who opens her eyes and is with the lad (Genesis 21.17-20). So there is unity yet distinction.

In Genesis 22.11-12 ‘the Angel of YHWH’ calls to Abraham from Heaven saying ‘now I know that you fear God’, as though God was separate. But then He adds ‘you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me ’, which can only mean the Angel is referring to Himself as God.

Again in Genesis 31.11 it is ‘the Angel of God’ who is said to have spoken to Jacob in a dream, while in verse 13 He says, ‘I am the God of Bethel’. In Exodus 3.2 it is the Angel of YHWH Who appears to Moses in the burning bush, but we soon learn it is YHWH Himself (verse 4). But in 2 Samuel 24.16 ‘the Angel YHWH’ is clearly separate from ‘YHWH’, although closely connected in activity. So there are clear suggestions of dual activity.

In Judges 2.1-5 it is the Angel of YHWH Who rebukes Israel because they have been disobedient and have made covenants with the people of the land and have not driven them out and destroyed their pagan altars, but comparison of 2.3 with 2.21 indicates that reveals that He is YHWH Himself.

In Judges 13 the Angel of YHWH (also referred to in the passage as ‘the angel of God’) appears first to the wife of Manoah, and then to Manoah and his wife, and speaks of God (verse 5) as though separate from Himself. He then adds ‘I will not eat of your bread and if you would make ready a burnt offering, you must offer it to YHWH’, giving the same impression (verse 16). (The writer recognises the distinction and explains that Manoah was not yet aware that this was the Angel of YHWH, for he is puzzled by the distinction revealed). When the burnt offering is offered ‘the angel of YHWH ascended in the flame of the altar’ (verse 20). He then refuses to divulge His name saying, ‘Why do you ask My name seeing it is wonderful (or secret)?’ (verse 18). Basically the idea here is that the name is too holy to be revealed. Manoah later realises that he has been speaking to God (verse 22). Again we receive the impression, as the writer did, that God is one and yet compound.

More significantly, here in Zechariah 1.12 the Angel of YHWH speaks with YHWH, and YHWH answers Him. This stresses a separate and inter-personal relationship. But when in Zechariah 3 Joshua the High Priest is standing before the Angel of YHWH (v.1), we are told in verse 2 it is ‘YHWH’ Who speaks to him, and this looks back to verse 1 in such a way as to suggest that the Angel of YHWH is identifiable with YHWH. Yet in verses 6-7 the Angel of YHWH speaks as though He is speaking on YHWH’s behalf.

Then in Zechariah 12.8 ‘the house of David will be as God, as the Angel of YHWH’, suggesting that God and the Angel of YHWH are one. So in Zechariah the Angel of YHWH is both identified with the Lord, and separated from Him in such a way as to converse with Him.

In a similar way Malachi can say, ‘behold I send My messenger (angel), and he shall prepare the way before Me, and the Lord Whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, and the Angel of the covenant whom you delight in’. Here ‘the Lord’ and ‘the angel of the covenant’ are in parallel as one.

So God is seen as One in thought and action and yet in that unity there is a suggestion of plurality.

Furthermore, while there is no mention of the Angel of YHWH in it, there is an interesting passage where the One Who is ‘the first and the last’ (Isaiah 48.12 compare Revelation 1.17) is speaking through Isaiah and says, ‘From the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time that it was, there am I. And now the Lord God has sent me, and His Spirit’ (Isaiah 48.16). The way that this is usually explained is to say that we have here words interjected by Isaiah himself, but the remainder of the passage is certainly from the mouth of God and the wording is suggestive of God’s revelation of Himself.

Compare with this Isaiah 63.9-10 where Isaiah says, ‘in all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them. In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, and He bore them and carried them all the days of old, but they rebelled and grieved His holy Spirit’, where again we have the YHWH, the Angel and the Holy Spirit.

Finally, in the case of Gideon (Judges 6) the ‘Angel of YHWH’ speaks with Gideon as though He was separate from ‘YHWH’, speaking of Him in the third person (v.12) and Gideon speaks with Him as though He were different from ‘YHWH’ (v.13), yet immediately we have ‘YHWH’ there, and speaking in the first person (v.14-16). Then ‘the Spirit of YHWH’ comes on Gideon (Judges 6.34). So Gideon experiences YHWH, the Angel of YHWH and the Spirit of YHWH.

(End of note).

1.12 ‘And the angel of YHWH answered and said, “Oh YHWH of Hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah against which you have had indignation these seventy years?”

The Angel of YHWH recognises that history seems to have come to a standstill and that this means that God’s mercy is not yet being shown to Jerusalem and Judah. He cries to God to act on Jerusalem and Judah’s behalf, interceding on their behalf. Note the distinction between YHWH and the Angel of YHWH. The Angel of YHWH is YHWH, but YHWH as revealed in distinct inter-personal activity. The idea prepares the way for the coming of Jesus.

Note also the distinction here between Jerusalem and Judah. Throughout its history Jerusalem is always seen as separate from Judah. It was the city of David, who captured it and to whom it therefore separately belonged, and it was ever proud of its uniqueness.

‘These seventy years.’ The time of their exile as prophesied by Jeremiah 25.11-12; 29.10, was ‘until seventy years should be accomplished’. This has now all but passed since the fall of Jerusalem. By this point in time God had promised to punish the king of Babylon and that whole nation and to cause His people to return to their land. Well, Babylon had indeed fallen, and its co-ruler ‘Belshazzar the king’ had been slain in 539 BC (Daniel 5.30) while its king Nabonidus, not in the city at the time, had been taken captive by the Medo-Persians. Some of God’s people had also returned to Judah, but Jerusalem still languished.

It is interesting to note that on the black stone of Esarhaddon of Assyria we find the statement that the god Marduk would be angry ‘until seventy years should be accomplished’. In the event he was restored after eleven years. ‘Seventy years’ would therefore appear to be recognised period for divine anger, not to be taken too literally (compare Isaiah 23.15-17; 2 Chronicles 36.21).

On the other hand if we date the restoration from exile in terms of the first departure of exiles (including Daniel) into Babylonia in 605 BC, then the initial return of the exiles in 537 BC is 68 years afterwards. It may, however, be that in this context Zecghariah is thinking in terms of the period between the destruction of the Temple in 586/5 BC and its restoration and completion in 515 BC.

1.13 ‘And YHWH answered the angel who talked with me with good words, even comfortable words.’

These words are not spoken to ‘the Angel of YHWH’ but to the angel who is speaking with Zechariah. They are meant for Zechariah. The reply of YHWH is positive, satisfactory and comforting. He is ready to act if His people will respond. (Here in fact YHWH may be indicating ‘the Angel of YHWH’).

1.14-15 ‘So the angel who talked with me said to me, “Cry, you, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH of Hosts. I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the nations who are at ease. For I was but a little displeased and they helped forward the affliction’.” ’

God has not forgotten His people although it must have seemed like it. Although they are downtrodden He has watched over them with great jealousy (strong desire for their good) and concern. And He has noted with anger that the nations have taken advantage of the fact that He has used them as instruments of chastisement against His people and have taken things too far. They have done more than they should. Thus His anger is now aroused against them.

Note the distinction between Jerusalem and Zion. In 2.7 ‘Zion’ is the description of the exiles in Babylon. Yet elsewhere Zion is Jerusalem. The terms are both used sometimes to speak of the city and sometimes to speak of the people of God.

These descriptions of God’s emotions as He surveys the situation are, of course, to be seen as anthropomorphic. They are intended to show His deep concern without being taken too literally. They are not irrational responses as so often with men.

‘I was but a little displeased but they helped forward the affliction.’ God describes His displeasure at the past behaviour of His people as ‘little’. He had intended to chastise them but He had not intended to destroy them. However, the nations are now taking advantage of it and treating them very badly. They are multiplying the disaster.

Considering the total destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying into distant exile of the people the ‘little displeasure’ of God has had great consequences. This reminds us that we are dealing with One Who is all-powerful and holy, whose chastisement cannot be treated lightly, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. This is something we always need to remember. But we are also reminded that His faithfulness does not fail. He will yet do great things on His people’s behalf. When things are at their worst God is at His best.

1.16 “Therefore thus says YHWH, ‘I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies. My house will be built in it,’ says YHWH of Hosts, ‘and a line will be stretched forth over Jerusalem’.”

God promises that His time has now come. He will now have mercy on Jerusalem and will step in on their behalf. He will first ensure the building of a new Temple, so that they may be joined in worship, and then He will bring about the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

For YHWH’s house compare 4.9, ‘the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house’; 7.3, where the men of Bethel entreat the favour of the Lord and speak to the priests of the house of YHWH of hosts; 8.9 which refers back to the days when the foundation of the house of YHWH of hosts was laid; 11.13 where Zechariah casts his thirty pieces of silver to the potter in the house YHWH.

‘A line will be stretched forth.’ A measuring line preparatory to rebuilding (see 2.2).

1.17 “Cry yet again saying, ‘Thus says YHWH of Hosts, “My cities through prosperity will yet be spread abroad”, and YHWH will yet comfort Zion and will yet choose Jerusalem.’ ”

His promises continue. His people may look around at the poverty of circumstances surrounding them, but if they are obedient they will again become prosperous and make their impact in the world. Their cities, which are languishing, will grow and spread. And all this will be due to the activity of YHWH as He restores His people and confirms that they are the ‘chosen’ of YHWH to be His ministers to the world.

Note again how Zechariah distinguishes Zion from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city but Zion is the people of God (2.7). Thus the people of God will be strengthened and encouraged and Jerusalem is chosen to be the source of God’s deliverance to man. But the distinction must not be over-pressed. In the end the city is its people. It is man who exalts places, God exalts people. The choosing of Jerusalem will culminate in the glorious vision of chapter 14.

So the plea of the angel of YHWH has been heard. God will now act on behalf of His people. Notice how God’s sovereignty comes out in all this. It is He Who arranges for a successful intercessor because His people are not themselves worthy, and then it is He Who responds to His cry.

(We must not overlook, however, that elsewhere there are those who are interceding effectively on earth, including Daniel - Daniel 9.3 onwards. God always has His intercessors. But without the heavenly intercession their prayers would be in vain).

The Second Vision. The Vision of the Horns and the Smiths (1.18-21).

God will now pare back the horns that have been directed at Jerusalem. The message is that although Israel and Judah have both been scattered, together with the men and women of Jerusalem, by a number of kings, now those nations themselves will be pared back.

1.18-19 ‘And I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold four horns. And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?”. And he answered me, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem”.’

The prophet sees four horns. The horn is the means by which the wild beast exercises its authority. Thus the horns indicate the nations who are seen as powerful wild beasts in violent activity. Four denotes universality, the nations seen as a whole. They are world aggressors, exacting their authority.

‘Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.’ By this he depicts the whole people of God. The threeness denotes completeness before God. No part of His people have been finally rejected. Note again that the terms refer to the people. God is not concerned with places except in so far as they benefit His people.

1.20-21 ‘And YHWH showed me four smiths. Then I said, “What have these come to do?” And he spoke saying, “These are the horns which scattered Judah so that no man lifted up his head. But these are come to fray (or terrify) them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.” ’

With powerful use of their horns the nations have scattered Judah into exile, but now God’s divine instruments will act against the horns, like workmen fraying horns, so that they are rendered powerless. Then it is the nations who will be terrified because God has acted against them on behalf of His people. The smiths thus represent whatever resources God brings against the nations, including angelic ones.

‘No man lifted up his head.’ Every head was bowed down. They had been miserable times for His people. But God now wants them to know that He had not overlooked it, He has not forgotten them.

The Third Vision. The Man With The Measuring Line (Zechariah 2.1-13).

Having learned that nothing has been happening among the nations which will aid in the recovery of YHWH’s people (1.7-11), and having received an oracle to the effect of God’s displeasure at the situation (1.12-17), and having learned that He has now begun to work to that end (1.18-21), Zechariah now sees evidence of God’s intentions. The fact that Jerusalem is to be established (in other words God's dwellingplace with His people) is indicated by it being measured up by ‘a man with a measuring line’.

2.1-2 ‘And I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then I said, "Where are you going?" And he said to me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see what its breadth is and what its length is."

The act of measuring Jerusalem is a sign that God has plans for its rebuilding and establishment. It may seem to have had poor beginnings but it will finally prosper under His hand. This is why He has pared back the nations. This will be partly fulfilled in the making of Jerusalem secure and prosperous prior to the first coming of Christ, but more completely fulfilled in the new Jerusalem which is above.

2.3-4 ‘And behold the angel who talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said to him, "Run, speak to this young man saying, "Jerusalem will be inhabited as villages without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it."

The angel who has been speaking with him goes out to see what is happening, but he is immediately sent back by another angel who tells him to race back to the young prophet to tell him that Jerusalem will yet be so heavily populated and will have such abundance of cattle that it will be impossible to build a wall large enough to go round it. Nor will they need a wall, for God will be their protection.

As we know as we look at the times of Jesus, Jerusalem did grow and extend, and reach out beyond its walls and become prosperous. But this glorious vision found an even deeper fulfilment when ‘Jerusalem’ spread and spread to take in all the people of God around the world (compare Isaiah 2.3). And, of course, its final fulfilment is found in the New Jerusalem in Heaven, ‘Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem’ (Hebrews 12.22; compare Galatians 4.26), where God's people will dwell with Him in glory for ever (Revelation 21.1-22.5).

Six Oracles Concerning His People.

  • 1). "For I," the word of YHWH, "will be to her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her" (2.5).
  • 2). "Ho, ho, flee from the land of the north," the word of YHWH (2.6).
  • 3). "For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven," the word of YHWH. "Ho, Zion, escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon." (2.7).
  • 4). For thus says YHWH of Hosts, "After glory has he sent me to the nations who spoiled you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye." (2.8).
  • 5). "For behold I will shake my hand over them and they will be a spoil to those who served them, and you will know that YHWH of Hosts has sent me" (2.9).
  • 6). "Sing and rejoice, Oh daughter of Zion. For lo I come and I will dwell in the midst of you," the word of YHWH (2.10)

2.5 "For I," the word of YHWH, "will be to her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her."

The angel, who must surely be the Angel of YHWH, and thus essentially YHWH Himself, will be her protection and will be among them in all His glory. This will be in the same way as YHWH’s glory went with the people of Israel in fire by night as they went through the wilderness (compare Isaiah 5.4). We find a fulfilment of this ‘glory in the midst of her’ in Zechariah 14.4, 9, 16. Initial fulfilment came when Jesus Christ came among us and revealed His glory in Jerusalem. But thet Jerusalem rejected Him Thus Paul tells us that this new Jerusalem is 'the Jerusalem that is above' to which belong all who truly believe in Jesus Christ (Galatians 4.26-31). John will later describe the final fulfilment of this in the new Jerusalem which represents the glorified people of God in the new earth in Revelation 21-22 in the presence of God and of the slain Lamb, Jesus Christ. It is the final fulfilment of God's promises to Abraham (Hebrews 11.10-14).

‘The word of YHWH’. A prophetic phrase (‘neum YHWH’) denoting a word from YHWH. It is not YHWH Himself Who is speaking but a person who is revealing His prophetic word.

2.6-7 "Ho, ho, flee from the land of the north," the word of YHWH. "For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven," the word of YHWH. "Ho, Zion, escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon."

God’s call goes out through His angel to those whom He has scattered. His people have been widely scattered, which itself was the work of God, but they must now return. They are God’s people, Zion, and they must cease to dwell in Babylon and escape back to Jerusalem. For the idea of fleeing from Babylon compare Isaiah 48.20.

‘As the four winds of heaven.’ That is in four directions, like the four winds.

‘The land of the north’. The Mesopotamian nations were all seen as ‘from the North’ for that is the direction from which they came when they invaded. (Compare 2.11; Jeremiah 3.18; 16.15; 23.8; 31.8).

Some of His people were obedient, but the majority enjoyed the comforts and consolations of Babylon and remained there. This is ever so. When the call comes, those who respond are few. Yet such is God’s sovereign power that He is not thwarted. When He sent out the Apostles into the world with the Gospel it was these very people of the Dispersion (of the Jews) that were to be the foundation of their success. God has often to use ‘second best’ because we refuse His first best, but He is still successful.

‘The daughter of Babylon’. This phrase contrasts with 'the daughter of Zion' (verse 10). The relationship would seem to speak of the people as the daughter of the city. Thus 'the daughter of the people Zion' represents those who have sprung from Jerusalem. They can thus be called 'Zion' (verse 7). What the people are the city is. Essentially the city is its people.

2.8 ‘For thus says YHWH of Hosts, "After glory has he sent me to the nations who spoiled you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye." ’

YHWH here speaks of Himself in the third person. He has sent Himself (in the form of the angel of YHWH?) to achieve glory by turning the tables on the nations who have been spoiling His people, Judah and Israel (all true believers). His people are cherished by Him as the ‘apple of His eye’, in other words they are seen as that which is of the most importance to Him. Thus their deliverance, and especially the way in which it will be accomplished, will bring glory to Him. Then they will return and He will be the glory in the midst of her (2.5). The final end will be the glory of YHWH (see 14.9) and their having a part in it (14.7).

2.9 "For behold I will shake my hand over them and they will be a spoil to those who served them, and you will know that YHWH of Hosts has sent me."

This continues to be enigmatic for here YHWH of Hosts has again been ‘sent’ by YHWH. The solution lies in the close relationship of the angel of YHWH to YHWH. YHWH has sent Himself (as the Father sent the Son).

God will shake His hand over the nations who have spoiled Judah and Israel, and will in turn make them the spoils of Judah and Israel. The tables will be turned, as they had been at the Exodus (Exodus 11.2-3; 12.35-36), and His people will triumph by the power of YHWH. This found a glorious fulfilment in the spread and triumph of the early church. Then they will know truly that YHWH has sent Himself to their aid, and He will receive glory.

2.10-11 "Sing and rejoice, Oh daughter of Zion. For lo I come and I will dwell in the midst of you," the word of YHWH. "And many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day, and will be my people. And I will dwell among you and you will know that YHWH of Hosts has sent me to you."

The daughter of Zion is Jerusalem as representing His people. If His people return He will dwell (tabernacle Himself) among them. Then many nations will respond to YHWH and become His people, being adopted into the people of God. Thus God will dwell among His people and the people will know that this is God’s working, for He has ‘sent’ Himself to do it.

But there is again here a ‘sent one’ Who is in some way distinctive from YHWH, and yet is Himself YHWH. If we accept that the angel of Yahweh is prominent here we see its wonderful fulfilment later in Him Who was made flesh and tabernacled among us, the One of Whom it could be said ‘we beheld His glory’ (John 1.14).

But because the people as a whole were not obedient, apart from the comparatively few, once He had accomplished His victory there He would have to leave the city of Jerusalem behind. Instead of the people flocking to Jerusalem (as they did to begin with in Acts 2-6) His disciples would finally leave Jerusalem, and then ‘Zion’, His people, would go out among the nations, fashioning a new ‘Zion’, a new people of God, a new Israel, from the old. Thus Jerusalem, the physical city, would lose its favoured position and service through final disobedience, to be replaced instead by Zion, the people of God. But it would still be, as God had promised, the focal point from which salvation went out to the nations.

The message is that God continually works through ‘the few’, the remnant. Only the few returned to Jerusalem. Only the few responded when God came in Jesus Christ. But it was enough.

2.12-13 ‘And YHWH will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will yet choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before YHWH, for he has woken up out of his holy habitation.’’

The prophet is now satisfied that God will act. God will establish His people in the land that He has set apart for the fulfilment of His purposes. This is pictured in terms of God as beneficiary receiving the inheritance allotted to Him (by Himself). It is no accident but part of His sovereign purpose. Initially 'Judah' was re-formed in the holy land and Jerusalem was established. But in the end they rejected Him. And thus God now has a new Judah (Matthew 21.43) and a new Jerusalem (Galatins 4.22) which is composed of all who are truly His people. Like Abraham and the patriarchs they are looking for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. They are looking for the heavenly country (Hebrews 11.10-14).

‘Judah as His portion in the holy land.’ Here it is the people of Judah who are spoken of as Judah, God's people, for they are distinguished from the land itself. The essence of the message is that God’s people will be established and triumphant. God has a future for His people. It is a stress of the New Testament that the church is ‘the Israel of God’, and that all Christians are incorporated into the true Israel (Romans 11.13-24; Ephesians 2.11-22; Galatians 6.16; 1 Peter 2.9).

‘Will yet choose Jerusalem’. God has also yet a purpose for Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the people of God, will yet be His instrument of salvation. He will ‘choose’ them. That is, in His chosen time He will effectually call them to carry out His will and purposes. As the New Testament demonstrates it was in Jerusalem that the Spirit was first poured forth and the infant church began to flourish, and from Jerusalem that His word finally went out to the nations. It was chosen to be the centre from which would go out the greatest work of the Spirit that the world has ever known.

All flesh (everyone) should therefore watch in awed silence and wait in expectation. For God has, as it were, woken up and will no longer stand apart.

‘The holy land --- His holy habitation.’ Where God dwells is holy, set apart and uniquely different. Thus from His eternal dwelling place He will possess the land that He has set apart for His purposes for the fulfilment of those purposes. It was the land to which He would send His Son, which would be the seed bed of the Gospel. Here would 'God made man' live and walk and dwell. And through Him it would be the centre of blessing to the world. And that will then lead on to the perfected Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem which will be the foundation of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21).

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