Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.1. turned, and lift up] Rather, lifted up again. Comp. Zechariah 5:1.
looked] Rather, saw.
four chariots] These have very commonly been identified with the four great powers or kingdoms of Daniel’s visions (chap. 2, 7). The first chariot, as to the destination of which the vision is silent, will then represent the Babylonian empire, of which the power was already broken, and which had therefore no future to be foretold. The second and third chariots are, on this supposition, the Medo-Persian and Macedo-Grecian empires, by which successively the overthrow of Babylon, “the north country,” was to be completed; while the fourth chariot, the power of Rome, triumphing first over Egypt, “the south country,” extends its victorious sway over all the earth. This view, however, is not without its difficulties, and some commentators prefer to regard the chariots generally, in accordance with the interpretation put upon them by the Angel (Zechariah 6:5), as swift and mighty engines of destruction (four in number like “the winds of heaven”), which fall with twofold vengeance (Zechariah 6:6) on Babylon the latest enemy of Israel, while they execute wrath also upon Egypt (Ib.), her earlier oppressor, and thus cause that “shaking of all nations,” which was the promised precursor of good. Haggai 2:7.
two mountains] Lit. the two mountains. The use of the definite article has been held to indicate the (well-known) mountains, either of Zion and Moriah (which, however, do not appear to have been generally regarded by the Jews as two), or more commonly of Zion and Olives. The chariots would then travel along the valley of Jehoshaphat. This is not, however, necessarily the force of the article (comp. “the ephah,” Zechariah 6:6). It may only mean that the prophet saw the chariots coming into view between “the two mountains,” which he had previously noticed though he has not previously mentioned them, as the side-scenes of the picture.
mountains of brass] Denoting, perhaps, that the great powers or agencies, which overthrow empires and shape the destinies of nations, as they come forth from God (Zechariah 6:5), so also have their course defined by the counsels of His irresistible and immutable will.
In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;2. red horses] The colours of the horses are not necessarily significant (see Zechariah 1:8, and note there). They have, however, been interpreted, as for example by Pusey: “Red, as the colour of blood, represented Babylon as sanguinary (Revelation 6:4).” “The colour black doubtless symbolises the heavy lot, inflicted by the Medo-Persians (Ib. 5, 6).” “White is a symbol of joy, gladness (Ecclesiastes 9:8), victory (Revelation 6:2), perhaps also, from its relation to light of acute intelligence.” “The grizzled, the Romans in their mingled character, so prominent in the fourth empire of Daniel (Daniel 2:41-43).”
And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.3. grisled and bay] Rather, spotted and active, or strong, as in margin of A. V. and R. V. They were spotted, perhaps with white spots on a dark ground, “sparsis pellibus albo dixit” (Virgil, Ec. ii. 41); comp. Genesis 31:10; Genesis 31:12. In addition to the mention of their distinguishing colour, they are said here to be active, and again in Zechariah 6:7, where the reason for this characteristic being mentioned appears in the request which they make.
Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.5. spirits] Rather, winds. Comp. Revelation 7:1.
from standing before] as servants to receive His commands. Psalm 104:4.
The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.6. the black horses which are therein] Lit. (that) wherein are the black horses, (they, the horses) are going forth, &c., i.e. The chariot wherein are the black horses goeth forth, &c. R. V.
the north country] The land of Babylon, see Zechariah 2:6.
the south country] probably Egypt. Comp. Daniel 11:5.
And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.7. walk to and fro through the earth] The supposed mixed colour of these horses has been thought to signify a mixed exercise of judgment and mercy by the power which they represent: “partim ut malis supplicia irrogarent, partim ut bonos, si qui supersint, defenderent.” Rosenm. But the scope of the vision seems rather to point to judgment exclusively.
Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.8. cried he upon me] The word is used of a royal proclamation cried aloud through the city. Jonah 3:7. Here the loud call of the Angel was probably intended to rouse the prophet’s attention to what was the chief point of the vision.
quieted my spirit] Lit. have caused my spirit to rest, which was perturbed before with sore displeasure against my enemies (Zechariah 1:15), but is now at rest because the righteous retribution is completed. Others take “spirit” to be equivalent here, as it is elsewhere (Ecclesiastes 10:4; Proverbs 29:11, in which latter place, as here, the LXX have θυμός), to anger. “Have made my anger to rest on, i.e. have carried it thither and deposited it there, made it to rest upon them as its abode, as St John says of the unbelieving, ‘the wrath of God abideth on him.’ ” Pusey. See Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 16:42.
Symbolical Action. Crowning of the High-priest, Zechariah 6:9-15. In another of the “divers manners” (πολυτρόπως, Hebrews 1:1), which He was pleased to adopt, Almighty God now speaks by the prophet. The visions of the night give place to a literal transaction by day, which, however, repeats and confirms their message. Zechariah is directed to go to the house of Josiah in Jerusalem, and to take from certain Jews who were lodging there gold and silver, a portion of the offerings to the House of God, which they had brought from their brethren still in exile, Zechariah 6:9-10. Of this gold and silver he is to make a crown, and put it on the head of Joshua the High-priest, Zechariah 6:11. The significant action is to be accompanied by a prediction in the name of Jehovah, that in due time there shall “grow up the Branch,” who shall be the true builder of the temple of the Lord, who shall be both King and Priest, and in the exercise of those two offices the author and dispenser of peace, Zechariah 6:12-13. Meanwhile, in gracious remembrance both of those who have brought the offerings and of him who has received them into his house, the crown which has been placed on the High-priest’s head is to be hung up in the Temple at Jerusalem, Zechariah 6:14, where it will also be a silent prophecy of the day when not only Jewish exiles, but Gentiles also who are now “far off,” shall be builders in the spiritual temple. That event, when it comes to pass, will prove the divine mission of the prophet; but obedience on the part of those who hear the prophecy is the condition of their sharing in the blessings of its fulfilment, Zechariah 6:15.
And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,9. came unto me] There is no note of time. It may well have been shortly after the night on which Zechariah saw the visions, or the day on which he told them to the people.
Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;10. Take] Lit. to take. This has been thought to be a general direction, extending to all that they had brought, “let (their offerings) be received, or accepted;” the special taking of silver and gold for a particular purpose by the prophet being mentioned in the next verse. But there is no reason whatever to suppose that the Jews who were rebuilding the temple had ever any scruple about receiving such offerings even from heathens (Ezra 1:4; Ezra 1:6-7; Ezra 6:8-10), so that such a direction would have been superfluous. It is better, therefore, to render with A. V. “take (thou)” sc. “silver and gold,” the direction being interrupted to tell the prophet where to meet with these men, and resumed at the beginning of Zechariah 6:11.
the captivity] used of the Jews who had returned from exile to their own land, Ezra 9:4; Ezra 10:8; but also, as here, of those who were still in exile, Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 3:11; Ezekiel 3:15.
which are come from Babylon] This clause is transposed in A. V. from the end of the verse where it stands in the Hebrew. It should be left there, as in R. V., and rendered, to which they are come from Babylon. It will then read: Take of the captivity, even of Heldai of Tobijah and of Jedaiah (their messengers and representatives)—and come thou (thyself to take it in person), even come into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, to which they have come from Babylon—and take silver and gold, &c.
Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;11. crowns] The plural may perhaps be used for one crown (a crown, R. V. margin), as it is apparently in Job 31:36. Or there may have been two wreaths or fillets, possibly one of each precious metal, woven into a crown. In Zechariah 6:14 where the word again occurs it is joined with a verb in the singular: lit. the crowns (it) shall be. In any case it refers exclusively to the royal crown or crowns (Revelation 19:12). The High-priest’s mitre is never called a crown.
Josedech] Jehozadak. R. V.
And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:12. the Branch] See chap. Zechariah 3:8 and note.
out of his place] Lit. from under him. Comp. for the expression Exodus 10:23; and for the meaning Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2. Other less satisfactory renderings are, it shall grow up under Him, i.e. all things fair and good shall spring up and flourish under Him. Cf. Pers. Sat. 2, 38: “quidquid calcaverit hic, rosa fiat” (Maurer); or, “He shall sprout forth from under Himself, i.e. send forth shoots as from a parent stem.” (Speaker’s Comment.)
Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.13. Even he shall build] The repetition of these words from the preceding verse is emphatic, as is the introduction now of the personal pronoun, He. It is as much as to say, you are building a temple of the Lord, but the building of the true temple is reserved for Him.
bear the glory] i.e. the royal majesty, as the word is used Daniel 11:21; 1 Chronicles 29:25; though doubtless there lies behind such glory as is spoken of John 1:14; John 17:5; Hebrews 2:9.
the counsel of peace shall be between them both] This has been explained to mean, that the two offices, the sacerdotal and the regal, being merged in the one person of Him, who “shall be a priest upon His throne,” shall be exercised in perfect harmony, as though a treaty of peace were ratified between them. “The counsel of peace,” however, would seem to mean more than this, and to denote a counsel, or measure, devised by “them both,” of which the fruit would be peace to those whom it contemplated. This counsel, by which peace is procured and bestowed (Ephesians 2:14; John 14:27) is for its execution “between them both,” i.e. between the two offices, or rather between the Holder of them both regarded now as King and now as Priest. The view that “them both” refers to the Eternal Father and Messiah, Jehovah and the Branch, though it has been ably advocated, is scarcely warranted by the context, in which the mention of Jehovah is not sufficiently direct and prominent to sustain such a reference.
And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD.14. Helem] This may of course be another name borne by the person who in Zechariah 6:10 is called Heldai. The conjecture, however, that Helem is a copyist’s error for Heldai, the difference between the two Hebrew words being slight, is not improbable.
to Hen] Rather (as in R. V. margin), to the favour, or kindness of the son of Zephaniah, i.e. the crown suspended in the Temple shall be a lasting memorial, not only of the zeal and piety of these offerers of gifts from a far off land, but also of the kindness shewn them by Josiah the son of Zephaniah, who had received them into his house, Zechariah 6:10. “He that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” Matthew 10:41.
And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.15. they that are far off] Comp. Ephesians 2:13; Ephesians 2:17, where there is perhaps a reminiscence of the οἱ μακρὰν of the LXX. here. “The counsel of peace,” and the “building in the temple of the Lord,” may also have been in St Paul’s mind when he wrote that passage.
if ye will diligently obey] The meaning is not, that the coming and work of Messiah, but that their share in it depended on their obedience. 2 Timothy 2:13; Malachi 4:1-2; Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 4:11.
The Deputation from Bethel. Chaps. 7, 8. After the lapse of nearly two years, Zechariah is again called to prophesy, the occasion of his doing so being the arrival at Jerusalem of a deputation, sent from Bethel to enquire whether they ought still to observe a national fast, which had been instituted in the time of the captivity, Zechariah 7:1-3. The answer of Almighty God by the prophet falls into four sections (marked by separate paragraphs in R. V.), each of which is introduced by the same formula, Zechariah 7:4; Zechariah 7:8; Zechariah 8:1; Zechariah 8:18. The return in the last of these sections (Zechariah 8:19) to the question out of which the whole arose, shews that the prophecy is really one. In the first section the people are reminded that their fasting and feasting had alike been observances terminating upon themselves and devoid of religious motive and spiritual aim, and consequently unacceptable to God; in accordance with the teaching of the earlier prophets, in the times of Jerusalem’s prosperity, Zechariah 7:4-7. In the next section the substance of this teaching, as insisting on moral reformation and not on outward observances, is given; and to the neglect of it are traced the rejection by God of His people, and the calamities that had come upon them in their captivity and dispersion, Zechariah 7:8-14. Passing now to a happier strain of hope and promise, the prophetic word tells of the bright days of holiness and prosperity in store for Jerusalem, in contrast with her earlier condition of distress and discord, and urges the people, on the strength of these promises, to holy obedience, Zechariah 8:1-17. The concluding section predicts that the question from Bethel shall be solved, by the transformation of the fasts of their captivity into joyful feasts, to which willing multitudes shall throng from all parts of the land; heathen nations joining also in their celebration, and counting it an honour and protection to be associated with a Jew, Zechariah 8:18-23.