Zechariah 1–2. Three Visions.
Key Notes: Three prophets after the Exile.What is Apocalyptic? Turn me. Skilled workers bring down empires. People in OT who saw God. Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
The Jews who came back to Judah from exile in Babylon after 536BC were easily defeated and intimidated. They were guests in their own land. Although they knew why they were deported, on their return they slipped into survival mode, as Haggai found. Their motto was "Look out for Number One." They had lost their vision of the future.
The three post-exilic prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were there to motivate them to rebuild the Temple, the city of Jerusalem and the nation. The prophets had to light the way to the future, when God would make Israel glorious again. The Jews needed comfort and reassurance that God was with them and that His purposes would be fulfilled. Haggai’s task was to strengthen them to work for God. Zechariah and Malachi extended the vision.
Zechariah is mentioned in Ezra 5:1; 6:14 with Haggai, showing that they were contemporaries, working together on behalf of the exiles. Zechariah presents his messages differently from Haggai and Malachi. His writing style is called apocalyptic, a literary style used extensively by Ezekiel, Daniel, and in Revelation. Other prophets used it occasionally. The Greek word for Revelation is " Apocalypsis". John's Revelation is the classic work of apocalyptic writing.
Ordinary prophecy addresses the majority living in their own land.
Apocalyptic addresses the minority under foreign domination.
Ordinary prophecy calls on backsliders to repent.
Apocalyptic exhorts the faithful to persevere against oppression.
Ordinary prophecy pronounces God’s judgment of sin at the local level.
Apocalyptic warns of a world-wide cataclysm.
Ordinary prophecy promises local restoration and future blessing.
Apocalyptic prophesies a new heaven and a new earth.
Ordinary prophecy tends to be activist, optimistic.
Apocalyptic tends to be pacifist, pessimistic—at least for the present.
Ordinary prophecy uses narrative and poetry.
Apocalyptic uses visions and symbols, sometimes mysterious and exciting.
The language of Old Testament apocalyptic helps us understand Revelation. Zechariah also has special value because of his many prophecies of the Coming Christ.
The first six chapters of Zechariah contain eight visions.
1. Heavenly couriers survey the earth. 1:7–17
2. Four horns are destroyed by four smiths. 1:18–21
3. A man with a measuring line is to rebuild Jerusalem. 2:1-
4. Joshua the priest is cleansed. 3:1-
5. A scroll flies. 5:1–4
6. A woman in a jar is sent back. 5:5–11
7. Four chariots patrol the earth. 6:1–8 .
8. A crown is given to the priest. 6:9–15
Resemblances are found between visions 1 & 7 (security); 2 & 3 (rebuilding); 4 & 8 (leader support); 5&6 (refining sinners). Four is seen as the climax of the set.
Chapters 7–14 are quite different, more like ordinary prophecy than apocalyptic, with many references to the Messiah.
1:1 Zechariah means "the Lord remembers." Berekiah means" The Lord blesses". Iddo—"Timely".
Together the names give a message rather typical of Zechariah: “The Lord remembers and blesses in a timely fashion.”
1:2 The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Zech. 8:1—“I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy and I am jealous for her with great wrath.”
God’s anger is hatred against sin, but it is also jealousy, a painful grief provoked by an adulterous and cold-hearted nation.
1:3 Return to Me and I will return to you. (Quoted in Mal. 3:7, James 4:8)
Conversion is turning around and going in the opposite direction. Instead of going her own way away from God, Israel must turn‘0° back toward God. That is more easily said than done.
Jeremiah, one of God’s great servants, begged, “Turn me and I shall be turned, for you are the Lord my God.” (Jer. 31:18. KJV)
Again Jeremiah said, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved.” (Jer. 17:14)
“Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored.” (Lam. 5:21)
The message is that in order to make the return, we must ask God’s help. Conversion, a component of saving faith, depends on God’s power to turn us, in response to our prayer.
1:4–6 The fathers are dead. Even the prophets are gone, but the word of God remains.
1:7–19 Zechariah’s first of eight visions. He may have received all eight visions in a short space of time.
There are two angels: One is “the angel who talked with me” (1:13, 14,’) and the other is the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is the Man on a red horse, standing among the myrtles. They are in a valley, suggesting Israel’s lowly situation. The myrtle is a fragrant evergreen bush. It was used by Isaiah as a symbol of Israel’s recovery.
“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle, and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:13
The angel of the Lord received a report from others, presumably angels, also on colored horses, who have been surveying the earth. They report that the earth is at rest. That would seem good, but, “I am very angry with the nations that are at ease....” (1:15), and later, “Those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.” (6:8). That word suggests that God had now dealt with Babylon for its sins. Evidently when the nations are quiet and satisfied, it is when Israel is conquered and in distress. God watches over the nations and is concerned about them.
“[His] eyes keep watch on the nations.” (Psa. 66:7)
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3)
The angel of the Lord then intercedes with God for Jerusalem and Judah: “O Lord, how long…?” God then gives a message of comfort and hope to Zechariah: “Cry out” (1:14) and “cry again” (1:17), that God will assure the rebuilding of the Temple and the cities of Judah.
1:18–21 In the second vision, Zechariah saw four horns that represent the powers that destroyed Israel. (For other examples of horns as political and military powers see Dan. 7:24, Rev. 17:12.) The four horns are probably the great world empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
What is difficult to grasp in either case is that it was not other world powers that disrupted these four powers—that is, horns destroying horns—as usually happens with the great empires, but "smiths"--craftsmen or carpenters. And these carpenters terrify great powers. That is provocative. If we take the four horns to be the four great empires, we look for Jewish leaders at work to control or overthrow them.
Daniel was in leadership in Babylon under Nebuchnezzar and Belshazzar, determining the fate of emperors.
Esther as queen protected her people against a pogrom by the Persians.
The exiles won concessions from Darius that permitted the rebuilding of the temple to proceed. (Ezra 6:1–12)
The Maccabees fought off the Greeks, and liberated Israel.
First century Christians, championed by the Apostle Paul and his missionary co-workers won over the Roman Empire.
Consider a modern application. The forces that broke up communism, and are at work against Islam, Hinduism and western secularism, are not so much governments and armies but rather, diligent Christian workers, technically trained, homemakers and witnesses in the marketplace. They are carpenters who frighten tyrants. Our guns and bombs accomplish little against the principalities, powers, the world rulers of this darkness. But how the little house churches of China threaten the Communist Party!
2:1–5 Zechariah’s third vision is of a man with a measuring line who is intent on rebuilding Jerusalem. “Run and tell that young man”—presumably Zechariah. Jerusalem will have so many people that they will live outside the walls in villages. God will be a ring of fire around her and a glory within.
2:6–13 God exhorts his people to return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Ho! Ho! Flee!
The LORD of Hosts sent the Lord (sic) to the nations that plundered Israel.
He will upset them and they will be plundered.
Then they will know that the Lord of Hosts sent Him.
Many nations will attach themselves to the Lord in that Day.
The Lord will dwell in the midst of His people
and they will know that the Lord of Hosts sent Him.
The Lord will inherit Judah and again choose Jerusalem.
“He who touches you touches the apple of His eye.” The " apple of the eye" is a non-scientific name for the center of the cornea / pupil, arguably the most sensitive spot on the body.
“He kept him (Israel) as the apple of His eye.” (Deut. 32:10)
“Keep me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me.” (Psa. 17:8–9)
God has a special care for His people, then and now.
The text is plain that God is sending God into the world.
"In verses 10–11, we have one Jehovah sending another, and the Jehovah sent is identified with the angel of the covenant." ( The Minor Prophets. Vol. II. J.M.Boice. Baker,’86; p.499)
He will judge Israel's oppressors. He will live among the people and whole nations will be attracted to Him. The word " sent" used three times in this passage (2:6–13) is spoken of Jesus about 40 times in the Gospel of John. So this prophecy was being fulfilled after Pentecost.
God appears to human beings in the Old Testament. Sometimes He appears as a man, sometimes as the Angel of the Lord. In the 20 or more references below , the Angel of the Lord is also called “the Lord” or “God”.
Adam: Gen.3:8 ~ He walked with God in the Garden of Eden.
Enoch: Gen.5:24 ~ He walked with God and "was not, for God took him".
Hagar: Gen.16:7 ~ The Angel of the Lord appeared to her in the desert.
Abraham: Gen.18 ~ The Lord appeared to him at noon with two others, angels.
Abraham: Gen.22:11,15 ~ The Angel of the Lord called to him from Heaven.
Jacob: Gen.28:11–33 ~ The Lord stood above the stair to Heaven.
Jacob: Gen.32:30 ~ "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved."
Moses: Ex.3:2 ~ The Angel of the Lord spoke to him out of the burning bush.
Moses: Ex.33:11 ~ "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend."
Elders of Israel: Ex.24:9–11 ~ "They beheld God, and under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire...they ate and drank…."
Joshua: Josh.5:13–14; 6:2~ The commander of the army of the Lord stood before Joshua with a drawn sword and commanded nim to take off his shoes. He was on holy ground.
Gideon: Judges 6:11 ~ The Angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak at Ophrah.
Parents of Samson: Judges 13:3, 11~ The Angel of the Lord appeared to Samson's mother-to-be, then to both parents.
Isaiah: Isaiah 6 ~ He saw the Lord high and lifted up. (confirmed in John 12:41).
Ezekiel: Ezek.1:26 ~ He saw the likeness of the glory of the Lord.
Job: Job 42:5 ~ "Now my eye sees you and I repent in sackcloth and ashes."
Amos: Amos 9:1 ~ "I saw the Lord standing beside the altar."
Since we know that “no one has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known” (Jn. 1:18), we conclude that Jesus is the Angel of the Lord. He is the pre-incarnate Christ. Jesus was not sleeping until His birth! The revelation of the Trinity does not begin with Jesus’ baptism although it was dramatically presented there. Matt. 3:13–17
1:1–6 ~ Repent! Learn from history. God’s word is consistent.
1:7–17 ~ God has His angels surveying national affairs. The Angel of the Lord (Jesus) is in the midst of Israel and intercedes with God, pleading mercy for Israel and Judah. God promises comfort.
1:18–21 ~ Four militant powers will be overcome by craftsmen, doers of small deeds.
2:1–13 ~ The man with the measuring line is symbolic of Jerusalem’s rebuilding. Israel is very dear to God. He will come Himself to punish the nations, draw nations to Himself and dwell in the midst of Israel.
We see Christ in ancient history concerned for the nations and the recovery of Israel. He lived among His own people two thousand years ago as a human being and has been gathering nations to Himself since then. He will someday return and Jerusalem will be His chosen place.
What more can we say? “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord.”