Zechariah 1:18
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
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Zechariah 1:18-21. Then, behold, four horns — Horns often signify the power of princes or people, the metaphor being taken from those cattle whose strength lies in their horns. The horns here mentioned denote the powers which had scattered Israel and Judah, or that should scatter them, as a bull, in his fury, tosses into the air whatever opposes him. It is uncertain whether the number four is here used indefinitely, or to denote that specific number; and if the latter, what particular powers are pointed out by it. Calmet supposes the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, and Egyptians. But “the most ancient and prevailing opinion among the Jews themselves, and perhaps the most probable of any, is, that the four great empires, the Assyrian, or Babylonian, the Persian, Grecian, and Roman, are intended; namely, the empires alluded to by the four beasts, Daniel 7. By each of these the Jewish nation hath been in turns oppressed, and all of them have been successively brought down and annihilated; although, from the depression of the last, the Jews have not as yet apparently derived any considerable advantage.” — Blayney. The Lord showed me four carpenters — Or workmen, as Bishop Newcome renders the word, observing, “Vitringa supposes that the horns were iron, and that these were fabri ferrarii malleis dolabris que intructi,” blacksmiths furnished with hammers and axes. Then said I, What come these to do? — He inquires not who or what they were, but what was their business and design. And he spake, (or said,) These are the horns — In order to satisfy the inquiry of the prophet, the angel first points to the four horns, mentioned Zechariah 1:18-19, as if he had said, See, there are four horns, which have scattered Judah. The LXX. add, και την Ισραηλ κατεαξαν, and have broken Israel. Instead of which addition the Arabic has, and destroyed Jerusalem. So that no man did lift up his head — No one had either strength or courage to make any resistance: so dispirited and dejected were all the people. But these are come to fray them — These are principal commanders, or powers, raised up by God to dismay and deter them. To cast out the horns of the Gentiles — To break, or cast down, the power of these nations; which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah — Who employed their strength, and used all possible efforts, to hinder the Jewish people from flourishing again in Judea. Observe, reader, in what way soever the church is threatened with mischief, and whatever opposition is given to its interests, God can find out ways and means to check the force, or restrain the wrath of its enemies, and make it turn to his praise.

1:18-21 The enemies of the church threaten to cut off the name of Israel. They are horns, emblems of power, strength, and violence. The prophet saw them so formidable that he began to despair of the safety of every good man, and the success of every good work; but the Lord showed him four workmen empowered to cut off these horns. With an eye of sense we see the power of the enemies of the church; look which way we will, the world shows us that; but it is only with an eye of faith that we see it safe. The Lord shows us that. When God has work to do, he will raise up some to do it, and others to defend it, and to protect those employed in doing it. What cause there is to look up in love and praise to the holy and eternal Spirit, who has the same care over the present and eternal interests of believers, by the holy word bringing the church to know the wonderful things of salvation!And I lifted up mine eyes - o. Cyril on Zechariah 2:1 : "Not those of the body (for such visions are invisible to the eyes of the flesh), but rather the inner eyes of the heart and mind." It seems as though, at the close of each vision, Zechariah sank in meditation on what had been shown him; from which he was again roused by the exhibition of another vision.

I saw four horns - The mention of the horns naturally suggests the thought of the creatures which wielded them; as in the first vision that of the horses following the chiefs, implies the presence of the riders upon them. And this the more, since the word "fray them away" implies living creatures, liable to fear. Cyril: "The horn, in inspired Scripture, is always taken as an image of strength, and mostly of pride also, as David said to some, "I said unto the fools, Deal not so foolishly, and to the ungodly, Lift not up the horns. Lift not up your horns on high and speak not with a stiff neck" Psalm 75:4. The prophet then sees four horns, that is, four hard and warlike nations, who could easily uproot cities and countries."

Zec 1:18-21. Second Vision. The power of the Jews foes shall be dissipated.

18. four horns—To a pastoral people like the Jews the horns of the strongest in the herd naturally suggested a symbol of power and pride of conscious strength: hence the ruling powers of the world (Re 17:3, 12). The number four in Zechariah's time referred to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Wherever God's people turned, there were foes to encounter (Ne 4:7); the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north; Egypt and Arabia on the south; Philistia on the west; Ammon and Moab on the east. But the Spirit in the prophet looked farther; namely, to the four world powers, the only ones which were, or are, to rise till the kingdom of Messiah, the fifth, overthrows and absorbs all others in its universal dominion. Babylon and Medo-Persia alone had as yet risen, but soon Græco-Macedonia was to succeed (as Zec 9:13 foretells), and Rome the fourth and last, was to follow (Da 2:1-49; 7:1-28). The fact that the repairing of the evils caused to Judah and Israel by all four kingdoms is spoken of here, proves that the exhaustive fulfilment is yet future, and only the earnest of it given in the overthrow of the two world powers which up to Zechariah's time had "scattered" Judah (Jer 51:2; Eze 5:10, 12). That only two of the four had as yet risen, is an argument having no weight with us, as we believe God's Spirit in the prophets regards the future as present; we therefore are not to be led by Rationalists who on such grounds deny the reference here and in Zec 6:1 to the four world kingdoms.

Then; after I had seen those things, and heard those comfortable words, and received commission to publish all the good news I had heard.

I lifted up mine eyes: he was so intent before, that he looked on nothing else; now he lifts up his eyes.

Saw; clearly, certainly, and distinctly.

Behold four horns; emblems of the enemies of the Jews, for strength, fierceness, and pride, and for their number, from all parts of the world.

Then I lifted up mine eyes,.... To behold another vision which follows:

and saw, and behold four horns; either iron ones, such as Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made to push the Syrians with, 1 Kings 22:11 or horns of beasts, as the horns of unicorns, to which the horns of Joseph are compared, Deuteronomy 33:17 and signify kingdoms or kings, and these very powerful and mighty; and so the Targum interprets them of "four kingdoms"; and which Kimchi and Abarbinel understand of the four monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman; so ten horns, in Daniel 7:24 design ten kings or kingdoms; unless rather, seeing these horns were such who had already distressed and scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem; and two of the above monarchies were not yet in being, the Grecian and Roman, when this vision was seen; and one of those that were, were friends to the Jews, as the Persians; they may in general signify all the enemies of the Jews that were round about them, on the four corners of them; as the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, on the north; the Ammonites and Moabites on the east; the Edomites and Egyptians on the south; and the Philistines on the west; as Junius thinks. Cocceius interprets them of four kings, Shalmaneser, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes the first, called Longimanus; and may be applied to the antichristian states, Pagan and Papal, in the various parts of the world, called horns, Daniel 7:24.

Then I lifted up my eyes, and saw, and behold {r} four horns.

(r) Which signifies all the enemies of the Church: east, west, north, and south.

18. four horns] The horn is a symbol of honour (1 Samuel 2:1; Job 16:15), and of power (Jeremiah 48:25; Amos 6:13). Here the latter idea is prominent. By the four horns some understand four definite powers or kingdoms, either, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Romans, in accordance with the visions of Daniel, chaps. 2, 4; or, inasmuch as the horns are interpreted in Zechariah 1:19 to be powers which “have (already) scattered” Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, Assyria, Egypt, Babylon and Medo-Persia. But it is better to take the number four generally of enemies on every side, or towards every point of the compass.

Verses 18-21. - § 4. The second vision. the four horns and the four craftsmen. Verse 18. - 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. Psalm 75:4, 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 ch. 2. begins at this verse. Zechariah 1:18The second vision is closely connected with the first, and shows how God will discharge the fierceness of His wrath upon the heathen nations in their self-security (Zechariah 1:15). Zechariah 1:18. "And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. Zechariah 1:19. And I said to the angel that talked with me, What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Zechariah 1:20. And Jehovah showed me four smiths. Zechariah 1:21. And I said, What come these to do? And He spake to me thus: These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no one lifted up his head; these are now come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations which have lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it." The mediating angel interprets the four horns to the prophet first of all as the horns which have scattered Judah; then literally, as the nations which have lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it. The horn is a symbol of power (cf. Amos 6:13). The horns therefore symbolize the powers of the world, which rise up in hostility against Judah and hurt it. The number four does not point to the four quarters of the heaven, denoting the heathen foes of Israel in all the countries of the world (Hitzig, Maurer, Koehler, and others). This view cannot be established from Zechariah 1:10, for there is no reference to any dispersion of Israel to the four winds there. Nor does it follow from the perfect זרוּ that only such nations are to be thought of, as had already risen up in hostility to Israel and Judah in the time of Zechariah; for it cannot be shown that there were four such nations. At that time all the nations round about Judah were subject to the Persian empire, as they had been in Nebuchadnezzar's time to the Babylonian. Both the number four and the perfect zērū belong to the sphere of inward intuition, in which the objects are combined together so as to form one complete picture, without any regard to the time of their appearing in historical reality. Just as the prophet in Zechariah 6:1-15 sees the four chariots all together, although they follow one another in action, so may the four horns which are seen simultaneously represent nations which succeeded one another. This is shown still more clearly by the visions in Daniel 2 and 7, in which not only the colossal image seen in a dream by Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 2), but also the four beasts which are seen by Daniel to ascend simultaneously from the sea, symbolize the four empires, which rose up in succession one after the other. It is to these four empires that the four horns of our vision refer, as Jerome, Abarb., Hengstenberg, and others have correctly pointed out, since even the picturing of nations or empires as horns points back to Daniel 7:7-8, and Daniel 8:3-9. Zechariah sees these in all the full development of their power, in which they have oppressed and crushed the people of God (hence the perfect zērū), and for which they are to be destroyed themselves. Zârâh, to scatter, denotes the dissolution of the united condition and independence of the nation of God. In this sense all four empires destroyed Judah, although the Persian and Grecian empires did not carry Judah out of their own land.

The striking combination, "Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem," in which not only the introduction of the name of Israel between Judah and Jerusalem is to be noticed, but also the fact that the nota acc. את is only placed before Yehūdâh and Yisrâ'ēl, and not before Yerūshâlaim also, is not explained on the ground that Israel denotes the kingdom of the ten tribes, Judah the southern kingdom, and Jerusalem the capital of the kingdom (Maurer, Umbreit, and others), for in that case Israel would necessarily have been repeated before Judah, and 'ēth before Yerūshâlaim. Still less can the name Israel denote the rural population of Judah (Hitzig), or the name Judah the princely house (Neumann). By the fact that 'ēth is omitted before Yerūshâlaim, and only Vav stands before it, Jerusalem is connected with Israel and separated from Judah; and by the repetition of 'ēth before Yisrâ'ēl, as well as before Yehūdâh, Israel with Jerusalem is co-ordinated with Judah. Kliefoth infers from this that "the heathen had dispersed on the one hand Judah, and on the other hand Israel together with Jerusalem," and understands this as signifying that in the nation of God itself a separation is presupposed, like the previous separation into Judah and the kingdom of the ten tribes. "When the Messiah comes," he says, "a small portion of the Israel according to the flesh will receive Him, and so constitute the genuine people of God and the true Israel, the Judah; whereas the greater part of the Israel according to the flesh will reject the Messiah at first, and harden itself in unbelief, until at the end of time it will also be converted, and join the true Judah of Christendom." But this explanation, according to which Judah would denote the believing portion of the nation of twelve tribes, and Israel and Jerusalem the unbelieving, is wrecked on the grammatical difficulty that the cop. ו is wanting before את־ישׂראל. If the names Judah and Israel were intended to be co-ordinated with one another as two different portions of the covenant nation as a whole, the two parts would necessarily have been connected together by the cop. Vav. Moreover, in the two co-ordinated names Judah and Israel, the one could not possibly stand in the spiritual sense, and the other in the carnal. The co-ordination of 'eth-Yehūdâh with 'eth-Yisrâ'ēl without the cop. Vav shows that Israel is really equivalent to the Jerusalem which is subordinated to it, and does not contain a second member (or part), which is added to it, - in other words, that Israel with Jerusalem is merely an interpretation or more precise definition of Yehūdâh; and Hengstenberg has hit upon the correct idea, when he takes Israel as the honourable name of Judah, or, more correctly, as an honourable name for the covenant nation as then existing in Judah. This explanation is not rendered questionable by the objection offered by Koehler: viz., that after the separation of the two kingdoms, the expression Israel always denotes either the kingdom of the ten tribes, or the posterity of Jacob without regard to their being broken up, because this is not the fact. The use of the name Israel for Judah after the separation of the kingdoms is established beyond all question by 2 Chronicles 12:1; 2 Chronicles 15:17; 2 Chronicles 19:8; 2 Chronicles 21:2, 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 23:2; 2 Chronicles 24:5, etc.

(Note: Gesenius has correctly observed in his Thesaurus, p. 1339, that "from this time (i.e., from the severance of the kingdom) the name of Israel began to be usurped by the whole nation that was then in existence, and was used chiefly by the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Deutero(?)-Isaiah, and after the captivity by Ezra and Nehemiah; from which it came to pass, that in the Paralipomena, even when allusion is made to an earlier period, Israel stands for Judah," although the proofs adduced in support of this from the passages quoted from the prophets need considerable sifting.)

Jehovah then showed the prophet four chârâshı̄m, or workmen, i.e., smiths; and on his putting the question, "What have these come to do?" gave him this reply: "To terrify those," etc. For the order of the words מה אלּה בּאים לעשׂות, instead of מה לעשׂות אלּה בּאים, see Genesis 42:12; Nehemiah 2:12; Judges 9:48. אלּה הקּרנות is not a nominative written absolutely at the head of the sentence in the sense of "these horns," for that would require הקרנות האלּה; but the whole sentence is repeated from Zechariah 1:2, and to that the statement of the purpose for which the smiths have come is attached in the form of an apodosis: "these are the horns, etc., and they (the smiths) have come." At the same time, the earlier statement as to the horns is defined more minutely by the additional clause כּפי אישׁ וגו, according to the measure, i.e., in such a manner that no man lifted up his head any more, or so that Judah was utterly prostrate. Hachărı̄d, to throw into a state of alarm, as in 2 Samuel 17:2. Them ('ōthâm): this refers ad sensum to the nations symbolized by the horns. Yaddōth, inf. piel of yâdâh, to cast down, may be explained as referring to the power of the nations symbolized by the horns. 'Erets Yehūdâh (the land of Judah) stands for the inhabitants of the land. The four smiths, therefore, symbolize the instruments "of the divine omnipotence by which the imperial power in its several historical forms is overthrown" (Kliefoth), or, as Theod. Mops. expresses it, "the powers that serve God and inflict vengeance upon them from many directions." The vision does not show what powers God will use for this purpose. It is simply designed to show to the people of God, that every hostile power of the world which has risen up against it, or shall rise up, is to be judged and destroyed by the Lord.

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