Zechariah Chapter 1:Visions of Horses and Carpenters

Dec 19th, 2009 | By | Category: Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name), Zechariah

Zechariah Chapter 1:Visions of Horses and Carpenters

Zech. 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto

Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

The word of Jehovah came unto Zechariah in the eighth month of the second year of Darius.

Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaneous prophets, and Haggai’s prophecy immediately precedes that of Zechariah in Holy Writ. Haggai’s ministry started in the sixth month of the same (or second) year of Darius (Hag. 1:1; 2:1,10,20). Haggai spoke again in the seventh and ninth months, and then his ministry ended, whereas Zechariah’s ministry continued on. The Book of Haggai consists of only two chapters, whereas the Book of Zechariah has 14 chapters.

Haggai’s ministry was of short duration, lasting for only four months before he disappeared from the scene. Zechariah’s ministry was also brief. As a young prophet, he appeared on the scene like a meteor and recorded the visions and tremendous knowledge that he received.

Incidentally, through the lineage, Zechariah was both a prophet and a priest, as were both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who prophesied approximately a hundred years earlier, around 606 BC.

The thinking of Bible scholars has been that Haggai, as a very old person, was helpful in stirring up the Israelites who had returned to the homeland from Babylonian exile. When Zechariah came on the scene, he was a young prophet, as shown in the second chapter, where he was watching a scene in a vision and hearing about himself. It was said of him, “Run, speak to this young man” (Zech. 2:4).

When Cyrus, king of Persia, issued the decree in 536 BC that allowed Jews to return to the homeland to rebuild the Temple, about 50,000 Jews were willing to forsake all in Babylon and go back to Israel. There the Jews were under the jurisdiction of Joshua (or Jeshua) as high priest and Zerubbabel as governor. At first, the Jews zealously worked on the Temple, but the work soon bogged down when they began to slack off on the Lord’s work and to build their own homes instead. They were more concerned for their families and their own dwelling places than for hastening to complete the work on the Temple. Accounts in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell what happened. For two years, the Jews made progress on the Temple, but after that, they were frustrated and had difficulties with their neighbors in the Jerusalem area, who were like a hybrid race. (Some of the Jews who were not taken into Babylonian captivity came back to Israel and intermarried with people of the land.) As a result, no work was done on the Temple for 15 years. In other words, following the two years, there came a 15-year hiatus with no progress being made on the Temple.

Eventually along came another important individual, Ezra, who was given permission to return to Israel. Of the two contemporary prophets Ezra wrote the following. Haggai and Zechariah “prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them…. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it [the Temple], according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius [Hystaspes], and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Thus the ministries of Zechariah and Haggai pertained to the rebuilding of Zerubbabel’s Temple. As short as Haggai’s ministry was, it greatly helped and encouraged the rebuilding. The Darius of verse 1 is Darius Hystaspes, the sequence of the Persian kings being Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius Hystaspes, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes. The sequence becomes important in understanding the time period. Cyrus reigned for seven years (not the nine years attributed to him in history by incorrectly accrediting to him the two years of the reign of Darius the Mede). In round numbers, Cambyses reigned for eight years, Smerdis was king for about three months, and Darius Hystaspes was on the throne for 36 years. The ministry of Zechariah began early in the reign of Darius Hystaspes, starting in the second year.

“Darius” was a title. The Bible mentions that the kingdoms of the Medes and the Persians were combined (Dan. 8:3). This uniting happened through marriage with the daughter of one line and the son of the other line. When Babylon was captured in 536 BC, Darius the Mede was the king, and Cyrus (the Persian) was the general. For a very short time, the Median kingdom was superior to the Persian kingdom, but then the Persians took the ascendancy. For Hystaspes to take the title “Darius” many years later indicates a Median background in his lineage.

Verses 1-6 provide a historical introduction to show what period of time the Prophet Zechariah occupied, and they also serve as a backbone for the advice about to be given. Zechariah, whose name means “God remembers,” was “the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet.”

However, Zechariah is also said to be simply “the son of Iddo” (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). How is this difference harmonized? Berechiah seems to have been the true father of Zechariah, but when he died early, Iddo, another son, apparently married Berechiah’s wife. During the 70-year captivity in Babylon, liberty was given for this type of arrangement, which occurred frequently. In other words, whenever a man could not produce seed with his wife and he died, another took the same wife to bear children so that the posterity would not be lost. Therefore, Zechariah could be titled “the son of Iddo the prophet.” It is interesting that in the Book of Ezra, the priesthood is traced back 17 generations to Aaron. Thus the priestly lineage was not lost down to and through the Babylonian captivity.

Zech. 1:2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.

The opening remarks of the Book of Zechariah were uncomplimentary to the Jews who had returned from Babylonian captivity.

Zech. 1:3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

Zech. 1:4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.

The prophet spoke the message God had given him: “Turn ye unto me, … and I will turn unto you.” Not only were these words the keynote here, but the same principle is involved with consecration in the Gospel Age (James 4:8).

Many years earlier Isaiah had described the sinful condition of the nation of Israel: “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it [the nation]; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:6). Moreover, through Isaiah, God likened the people to Sodom and Gomorrah: “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah” (Isa. 1:10). But then God added, “Come now, and let us reason together, … [for] though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as [white] wool” (Isa. 1:18). In dealing with His people in Old Testament times, God was forgiving and merciful as long as they repented.

Through Zechariah, God was enjoining the people by reminding them of their fathers and saying in effect, “Do not follow the example of your forebears, who have had a history of not listening to me.” The Lord deals with individuals the same way in the present age; that is, He calls attention to their sinful condition and their need for cleansing, and then, as one responds, He speaks encouragingly.

Comment: Throughout the Old Testament, even though the Israelites continued to sin generation after generation, God repeatedly pleaded with them to turn from their evil ways. He has been very merciful from their earliest days.

Reply: Yes, this has been the message, but in addition, God punished them for disobedience.

Q: Cyrus gave the decree allowing the Israelites to return to the homeland in 536 BC. Was the time setting now about 16 years after that?

A: We know from history that the year was about 520 BC. When the city of Babylon was taken, Darius the Mede was the king and Cyrus the Persian was his general. At first, therefore, the kingdom of the Medes was superior to the kingdom of the Persians. The decree of Cyrus was not given until he succeeded Darius two years later.

Q: Why was the title “LORD of hosts” used nine times in this first chapter of Zechariah?

A: Zechariah was trying to encourage the Israelites by reminding them of God’s power and authority. Thinking about His being “the LORD of hosts” helped remove their fear and trepidation of the enemies that surrounded Jerusalem and were threatening them. The city lay in ruins and the enemies far outnumbered them—much like the Arab-Israeli situation today. The enemies were very hostile to the Israelites’ rebuilding effort.

Zech. 1:5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?

Zech. 1:6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.

After saying, “Be ye not as your fathers,” God asked the Israelites, “Your fathers, where are they? Your prophets, do they live forever?” The answer to those questions was past history, and now a new chapter of history was starting. God was saying, “Based upon what happened back there, you have come to a time of decision making. Will you do the same as your forebears?”

God continued, “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded … the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?” In other words, “The prophets are off the scene, but weren’t their prophecies fulfilled? For example, didn’t Jeremiah predict the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple? Didn’t those things happen?” God’s words and statutes as given by previous prophets had proven to be true, and now Zechariah was coming as a prophet in the name of the Lord.

Verses 5 and 6 can also be read from the negative standpoint that the smooth, good things prophesied by the false prophets never materialized. In fact, just the opposite occurred.

“They returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he [God] dealt with us.” The Jews who went back to the homeland 70 years later when Cyrus issued his decree for the rebuilding of the Temple attested that what Zechariah was saying was true. What the prophets of the past had spoken in the name of the Lord came to pass just as they had said. The Jews had learned the lesson.

Comment: Lamentations 2:17 is pertinent: “The LORD hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old: he hath thrown down, and hath not pitied: and he hath caused thine enemy to rejoice over thee, he hath set up the horn of thine adversaries.”

Reply: The Book of Lamentations was the expression of the Israelites in Babylonian captivity, where they could affirm that events had come to pass exactly as predicted by Jeremiah. Although Zechariah 1:5,6 was written later, about 520 BC, the sentiments are similar.

Q: What is the thought in the last part of verse 5: “and the prophets, do they live for ever?”

A: From one standpoint, the implied answer was yes. Even though the prophets died, their testimony and the truthfulness of their testimony lived on. Zechariah was merely reviewing what had already happened and was saying that the fulfilled events verified the words spoken by the prophets and God’s displeasure toward the fathers who had disobeyed and refused to hearken. However, if the question is taken from the negative standpoint, the answer was no because the false prophets had perished.

And there is another point. Prophets may come and go, but are they recognized? Sometimes people forget a true prophet. He dies and his prophecy dies with him. But generally speaking, if he has been a true prophet of the Lord, that testimony is sure. The Lamentations text is saying the same thing, namely, that God has proven Himself to be correct.

Incidentally, how much rested on one man’s shoulder! Had King Zedekiah obeyed, Jerusalem and the Temple would not have been destroyed. That is an astounding realization. Earlier the princes were presented with the same option, but they also failed to hearken. Thus a person’s background powerfully affects his decision making over the years. In regard to God’s Word, Christians need to ask themselves the following questions. Am I influenced by numbers? Am I influenced by friends? Am I influenced by family? Almost everyone is influenced by one or more of these factors, but some are radically influenced. With some, the difference is black and white. With others, it is more of a gray area, and with still others, there is a little bending of the truth depending on the closeness of the relationship. To be truly just in decision making is very hard, but we must strive for that goal and practice over the years. It would be wonderful to be correct in every matter, but perfection will not come on this side of the veil. Actually, if we were always correct in the present life, the danger would be pride.

Zech. 1:7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

In the eleventh month—just three months later—Zechariah had a series of visions in the same night (see chapters 1–6). Of course the Holy Spirit aided his memory, but here is another case where God used as His instrument a person who had the power of retention and memory.

Zechariah had to remember all the details of multiple visions, plus the explanations that accompanied them, and record everything the next morning. Depending on how the visions are counted, there were seven or eight in all. The words “I lifted up mine eyes” introduce many of the visions and are a clue they all occurred in the same night (Zech. 1:18; 2:1; 5:1,9; 6:1). First, the prophet saw a vision, then he listened with rapt attention as it was explained to him, and after that he thought on the vision. Then he lifted up his eyes and saw the next vision, etc.

Zech. 1:8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

The first vision was of a man riding on a red horse in a forest of myrtle trees. The horse came to a stop and stood among myrtle trees that were in “the bottom,” that is, in a valley. In other words, the man on the red horse entered a forest glade that was in a valley. Behind him were three groups of horses, each being a different color: red, speckled, and white.

What does the “red horse” represent? Usually a horse is a doctrine or message that goes through the earth on a mission. Here is where the writings of the Pastor have proven very valuable, for they show that the color red refers to the Ancient Worthies. The red heifer that was slain in connection with the Tabernacle sacrifices is a picture of the Ancient Worthy class (Num. 19:2-10). As further confirmation, the memory or example of the Ancient Worthies is spoken of in the Book of Hebrews as the “ashes of an [red] heifer” (Heb. 9:13). After the flame of a fire goes out, smoke continues to ascend for a while. In the antitype, sometimes the smoke is favorable, and sometimes, as with mystic Babylon, it is the opposite. The figurative smoke of the burning (destruction) of the mother system will forever be a memorial to future generations; that is, what has happened in past history will forever be etched in memory.

Zechariah “saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.” If we understand correctly, “myrtle trees” did not grow too high, but they provided shade and coolness. Moreover, they had a beautiful fragrance as if to say that something good would result.

In the vision, the man, representing the Logos, was back in Zechariah’s day during the development of the Ancient Worthy class. Horses symbolize doctrines, and the doctrines go throughout the earth on a mission in a sequence of development. Stated another way, each color horse (doctrine) develops a different class. As we will see, chapter 6 furnishes more clues for the interpretation of this vision in chapter 1.

The “red horses,” which appeared on the scene first in this vision, represent the doctrine that developed the Ancient Worthies. Accordingly, the Ancient Worthies were the first faith class to be developed. Hebrews 11 gives a partial listing by name of individuals who comprise this class by faithfully finishing their earthly calling for future service in the Kingdom. The last Ancient Worthy was John the Baptist, who had the honor of announcing the presence of Messiah at the First Advent. God does things according to His own will, and we cannot say that fairness would require John’s eligibility for running the race for the high calling. Many Christians have been perplexed as to why God bypasses one person and calls another, but that is His prerogative. To illustrate the principle, Jesus showed favoritism to three disciples: Peter, James, and John. The Old Testament states the principle of not showing partiality to either the poor or the rich, but that is in matters of judgment in court cases. In other words, has the individual done right or wrong? Will he get a pardon or a sentence? However, God has the right to show favoritism, or partiality, and we should be very thankful for whatever providences we receive as individuals and not desire more honor and recognition in the present life. In the future, in the Kingdom arrangement, we will be rewarded according to our faith and faithfulness now.

The color red is appropriate for the Ancient Worthies, for they were a sinful class in the sense that they were not justified like Christians in the Gospel Age, whose sins are covered by the blood of Christ. The Ancient Worthies were reckoned as righteous from the standpoint of being a friend with typical justification, and not a son with real justification (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; James 2:23). They manifested the same type of faith that the Church in the Gospel Age manifests, but since Jesus had to be the first of this very elect class, God chose him to be the first among many sons in both time and importance (Col. 1:18; Heb. 2:10; Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

Of course Jesus was the Logos at the very beginning. The Logos rode the red horse for many centuries before the First Advent, that is, (1) during the dispensation before the Flood when there were at least three Ancient Worthies (Abel, Enoch, and Noah) and (2) during the Patriarchal and Jewish Ages after the Flood when there arose other prophets, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel, to whom the Logos gave messages from Jehovah.

Zech. 1:9 Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will show thee what these be.

Now we are told that the man riding on the red horse was an “angel.” Zechariah inquired of the angel, “What is the meaning of this vision?” Who might this “angel“ be who was sent to convey information to Zechariah? He was the Logos back in the prophet’s day during the development of the Ancient Worthy class. The man, the angel, was on a red horse because the time setting of the vision was in the period of the Ancient Worthy selection. Thus the angel who talked with Zechariah and the man on the red horse were the same individual: the Logos. He said to Zechariah, “I will show thee what these [the horses] be.”

Zechariah’s question “O my lord, what are these?” shows that God reveals prophetic matters according to one’s interest. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” is the principle (Matt. 11:15). Those who hunger for prophetic understanding and are interested in things of the Lord are proportionately blessed as long as a time restraint does not prohibit the revealment. In other words, much of the understanding of God’s Word was locked until an appropriate time period for the information to be disclosed. Many prophets and angels desired to see the things

prophesied, but in spite of their holiness and intense interest, understanding was not given because it was not the due time. However, when the due time comes, those who have this hunger and interest are usually the ones most informed and proportionately blessed. Thus, in addition to the more technical prophecies, subtle nuances such as Zechariah’s question are woven into the Scriptures to give us understanding along the lines of character doctrine.

Zech. 1:10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.

The man (the Logos) replied to Zechariah’s inquiry about the horses: “These are they whom the LORD [Jehovah] hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.” The point is that the horses had a heaven-originated mission to accomplish in the earth, namely, “to walk to and fro through the earth.” We know the messages are favorable because God sent them to walk to and fro.

Zech. 1:11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

After the angel on the horse explained to Zechariah who the horses were, they responded in a chorus, “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” In other words, “We were sent on a mission, but there has been no response.”

The silence, or peace, signified that they had not received the anticipated reception. They had performed their commission, but conditions were not yet conducive for the message to be revealed. In fact, there was almost a Laodicean spirit, for the people were engrossed in their own problems and were not looking to the Lord in a special sense.

It is important to realize the circumstances of the time. A few months earlier, the Prophet Haggai had begun to stir up the people. His prophecy, consisting of only two chapters, was very short, but it awakened the people.

Comment: God’s sending the horses to walk to and fro through the earth would imply a selection of individuals by the respective horse doctrines down through the ages.

Reply: The Logos was standing among the myrtle tree class, those individuals who would be called in all three periods, that is, the people of God in whatever age they happened to be, whether prior to or during the Gospel Age. Through the Logos, God sent messages down here to seek out and develop these individuals.

Comment: Then the thought is that the myrtle trees were men in any age whom the horse doctrines would select for the respective classes.

Reply: A doctrine develops a class. Therefore, the horses represent doctrines that develop individuals, who are represented by the myrtle trees.

The horses answered the angel of the Lord, the Logos, and said, “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.” This picture, or prophecy of the future, is meant to be a message of encouragement. Sometimes the Lord speaks of the future as though it were in the past; that is, He speaks of things that have not yet occurred as being in the past, whereas they are really prophecies of events yet to occur. The world will be at rest in the Kingdom Age after all of these selections have taken place.

Zech. 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?

The Logos, the “angel,” the rider on the red horse, petitioned God, “O Jehovah of hosts, how long will you not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which you had indignation for 70 years?” The Jews had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years as a result of God’s indignation, which caused the land to be desolate and the Temple of Solomon to be destroyed. At the end of the 70 years, the Lord answered the Jews through the decree of Cyrus, which granted liberty to return to the homeland to rebuild the Temple. However, there had not been much progress because of harassment from neighbors. As a result, the Jews, being frustrated in their efforts to build the Temple, quickly lost interest and concentrated instead on personal matters and building their own homes.

Comment: The Logos asked this question for Zechariah’s benefit.

Reply: Yes, and for our benefit too.

Zechariah’s ministry took place years after the 70 years of indignation that Jehovah had on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. And the time setting was a number of years after Cyrus’s decree that permitted the Israelite captives who so desired to return to their homeland. Cyrus even wanted to supply protection, and he gave them aid in going back. Of the Jews, who had multiplied prolifically during the 70 years, only about 50,000—a minority—went back to Israel. The others stayed where they were, being comfortable with houses and property; they did not want to return and start from scratch. The Jews who went into captivity were instructed to build houses, for they would be there for 70 years. However, as expressed in Lamentations, those in exile who mourned for Jerusalem and Israel had the right heart condition.

Now, in the second year of Darius, 16 years after some of the Israelites had gone back to the homeland, they were complaining. The reasons for the complaints are revealed in the Book of Haggai. God said to the Israelites through the prophet: “Do you expect me to reward you when you came back and laid the foundation of the Temple and then started to build homes for yourselves? For many years, you have forgotten the Temple. Consider what has been happening to you. While you were building your houses, your crops yielded only half of what you expected. Moreover, all this time you have been under a threat from your enemies, and they have made certain incursions. However, if you hearken to me, you will prosper. If you turn around and think of my house, not your houses, I will support, bless, and prosper you.”

Way back in Leviticus 26, Moses had warned of calamities that would occur if the Israelites disobeyed.

In this vision, the Logos was questioning Jehovah in order to point up what the Israelites had been thinking and doing. The people got the answer in verses 13-17. God’s indignation subsequent to the 70 years would have been eliminated if the Israelites had continued to work on rebuilding the Temple.

Zech. 1:13 And the LORD answered the angel that  talked with me with good words and comfortable words.

Zech. 1:14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.

In the vision (or dream), Jehovah now responded with good and comfortable words to the angel on the red horse, who had been talking with Zechariah on the side. He said, “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” For the benefit of Zechariah’s hearing, the angel (the Logos) mentioned his prayer (verse 12), which was ostensibly to Jehovah.

Then the Logos turned to Zechariah and instructed him to “cry,” that is, to raise his voice and cry aloud to the public. The prophet was to do this public crying after he came out of this series of visions in the night and resumed his normal activities. In other words, it was Zechariah’s duty to proclaim to the people the message “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” The people were encouraged when they heard this message because they thought it was the promise of the Kingdom when God would speak comfortably to Jerusalem. Of course that was not the case, but the Jews grasped the point that God was giving them good news and that He would help them if they turned around and finished the Temple.

Comment: The “jealousy” of verse 14 was in a good sense, meaning “zeal.” God was zealous for Jerusalem and Zion.

Zech. 1:15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.

The angel continued to speak for the Lord of hosts: “I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” Similarly in principle, the Moabites and the Ammonites rejoiced when they saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 606 BC. This helping to “forward the affliction,” this harassment by the neighbors, took place both when the Jews were in Babylonian exile for 70 years and also afterwards when some of them returned to Jerusalem. Thus, in the homeland, the problem was now occurring again. At first, God was only “a little displeased” because the trouble was intended for the correction of Israel. The heathen nations were allowed to render a judgment upon Israel, but they went beyond what God intended them to do.

Zech. 1:16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.

This was a prophecy of mercy. God promised that “a line” would be surveyed for the court of the Temple so that the returned Jews could build the house of the Lord. Hence “mercies” were gradually coming back to the Jews. Of course the work was frustrated for a while, but a number of years later Ezra got a commission to return to Israel and beautify the house. Thus, at the time of Ezra, the Temple was built and refurbished to its former glory with the vessels that had been brought back.

God said, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies,” but at first, in the second year of Darius, the mercies seemed to be short-lived because a hiatus occurred before Ezra’s appearance on the scene. Later, 13 years after the house was beautified, a line was laid on Jerusalem by Nehemiah, and the wall of Jerusalem was built. Just as the building was done in steps and stages back there, so the same is true at this end of the age. The Pastor expressed, among other things, that the Church would be complete and glorified in 1914. When that expectation was not realized, he extended the date to 1918. He also expected a full return of favor to the Jew by those dates, but that event did not happen. Thus we learn from the way the “mercies” began to extend to the returned Jews from Babylonian exile that the Lord accomplishes His favor in steps and stairs in harmony with the hunger, desire, prayer attitude, and longing of His people.

Here we are in the year 2003—quite a long time after 1914—and the Church is not yet complete. The time period from the decree of Cyrus until the building of the walls of the city was 82 years, and in our day, not only has the time period been more than 120 years since 1878, but it is getting close to 100 years since 1914.

God gave this information to Zechariah, and when the prophet repeated the words, the people were very encouraged. God was for them, but they had to get busy and work in this reconstruction era. Haggai, an old prophet, had spoken during the two preceding months, opening the door on this subject. Probably he deceased shortly thereafter, in the ninth month. Beginning with the eighth month, the Lord was using Zechariah, a new mouthpiece, in Haggai’s stead.

In summary, the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile was a very small beginning followed by frustration and struggle. During the Harvest period, there has been somewhat of a parallelism in principle.

Q: Does verse 16 refer to the building of the Third Temple after Jacob’s Trouble?

A: Verse 16 is speaking of the condition that existed at the time Zechariah received the vision. Cyrus had issued a decree about 19 years earlier—that is, 19 years before the second year of Darius—for any Jews who so desired to return to the homeland and rebuild the Temple and the wall that circuited the Temple. However, the work came to a standstill. The Jews leveled the ground, built an altar, and offered sacrifices, but when they were frustrated and harassed by surrounding neighbors, they stopped working after only partially finishing the Temple complex. Instead they were determined to build their own homes. Now, some 19 years later, the Lord raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to prompt the Jewish people to finish the Temple. The work that was started at the time of Joshua and Zerubbabel, when the Jews initially returned from Babylon, needed to be completed. Zechariah said in effect, “The Lord is telling me that you should go back to the work of the Temple, and then you will have His blessing. God will help you.” His message was basically one of encouragement and incitement to finish the work. The Apostle Paul stated the principle of Zechariah’s mission: “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).

Review and Further Explanation

Zechariah had a series of seven or eight visions at night, which are covered in chapters 1–6. In the first vision, which pertained to horses, Zechariah saw a man riding on a red horse enter a valley of myrtle trees and come to a stop. Three types of horses were behind him: red, speckled, and white. This first chapter (and vision) purposely omitted the fourth category of horses that is mentioned in chapter 6, a grouping described as grisled and bay.

We can assume that the three kinds of horses in Zechariah 1:8 were good horses (that is, good doctrines of the Lord) because they followed the Logos on the red horse. The word “speckled” is a confused term that needs clarification, for it implies spotted or sprinkled—having a variety of spots—which is not the thought in the Hebrew.

Notice, first, that a sequence is implied with the three kinds of horses. But we want to know, Are the red, speckled, and white horses a sequence of importance or a sequence of time and development? If importance is indicated, we would not know whether the sequence is one of ascending or of descending importance; that is, which is more important, the first (red) horses or the last (white) horses?

For the moment, we will set aside the thought of sequence and consider the speckled horses. Verse 8 is the only time the Hebrew word translated “speckled” is used in the Old Testament. However, the root meaning of this word, which becomes very important, is used elsewhere in Scripture but not in this type of classification. To reach a definitive conclusion on the meaning of the three kinds of horses, we assumed that the same horses are described in chapter 6 plus a fourth category. There is a seeming difference, however, for in chapter 6, the second type of horses is described as black, and here the corresponding horses in the second category are speckled. A rabbi named Levi, who is considered one of the wise men whose sayings are collected by Jews in a book called the Targum, suggested that the Hebrew word saroq, translated “speckled,” does not refer to a color but to a dark-maned horse. In other words, instead of just calling the horses “black” as in chapter 6, the first chapter calls attention to the mane, the long hair, of the horses. The root Hebrew word, when used elsewhere in Scripture, usually signifies “to be entwined” or “to be entangled,” depending on whether it is used in a favorable or an unfavorable sense. With the favorable sense applying here in chapter 1, the field is narrowed down a little. The startling fact about this second category of horses is that the hair of both the mane and the tail was intertwined, or braided. To repeat, the mane and the tail were both braided. In horse shows and exhibits, especially when a breed is of a very pure line genetically speaking, the hair of the horse is braided to signify nobility, and one of the meanings of the Hebrew word saroq conveys the thought of “noble.” For instance, a noble vine in a vineyard would be a vine that is well dressed and well cared for. One who sees such a vine knows that the owner of the vineyard considered it to be a very precious strain of vine.

With this background for the Hebrew word, we feel that the speckled horses, the second category, are the most important. The listing of horses in chapter 6 verifies this thought, for there the black horses are shown to go to the “north country”; that is, the Little Flock goes to heaven. In the Song of Solomon, the color black is a sign of favor, for it signifies the basic ingredient of humility that God is looking for in His people. In contrast, the white horses of chapter 6, the Great Company, follow afterward into the north country.

Now we begin to see that the “speckled” horses are a noble breed. Their manes and tails are braided to show nobility. The Hebrew word saroq can also mean princely, princess, queen, or captain—a leadership capacity. Thus, of the three kinds of horses in chapter 1, the most important is the second, the “speckled.” We can also conclude that the sequence of the horses is one of appearance on the scene of history.

The foregoing long explanation of chapter 1 harmonizes with chapter 6 of this same book. The horses have the same representation in both chapters. The fourth category of horses, as listed in chapter 6, is omitted in chapter 1 because it pertains to the development of humanity in the Kingdom Age (and thus human salvation), whereas the first three categories pertain to those who will eventually get a spirit resurrection. Even though the Ancient Worthies will be raised perfect and will be human agencies, or servants, of the Little Flock in the Kingdom Age, being “princes in all the earth” (Psa. 45:16), their ultimate destiny is a spirit resurrection. The Pastor gave three lines of evidence to support this conclusion. At the end of the Kingdom, when the saved and obedient of mankind are brought up to human perfection, the Ancient Worthies will be rewarded with a spirit resurrection for leading many people to righteousness (Dan. 12:3).

The Great Company will not be dealt with as a class until after the Church has been changed to glory. Then attention will be turned to the Great Company, the little sister who has no breasts (Song 8:8). Jesus and the Church will assist the Great Company to the reward of a secondary spirit salvation. After the wedding has taken place, the call will go forth, “Blessed are they which are called [not to the marriage but] unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

In another picture, “the virgins her [the Bride’s] companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee [after the wedding]” (Psa. 45:14). Only the names of the Little Flock will be individually presented and confessed before the Father.

In summary, then, Zechariah chapter 6 provides clues for interpreting this first vision. The red horses picture the Ancient Worthies, the speckled horses represent the Little Flock, and the white horses are the Great Company.

Q: If the red horses picture the Ancient Worthies, why was the Logos riding a red horse?

A: The vision occurred in Zechariah’s day, which was during the time of the calling of the “red horse” (Ancient Worthy) class. Zechariah saw the vision in the second year of King Darius Hystaspes. Subsequently he saw a repeat of this vision with a little different characterization. (For example, four chariots were included.) The time setting of the prophecy was when Jesus was the Logos, the mouthpiece of God, and no doubt he was the particular angel to whom Zechariah spoke (verse 9).

Verses 10 and 11 bring out another peculiarity with regard to the horses. “The man [the Logos] that stood among the myrtle trees answered [Zechariah] and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they [that is, the red, speckled, and white horses behind the Logos] answered [in a chorus] the angel [the Logos] of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.“ In other words, the horses, who had been sent on a mission into the earth, affirmed what the Logos, who was in front, had just said. In the chorus, they said not only, “Yes, what the Logos just stated is true,” but also, “We have already done that which we were commissioned to do.” A logical question arises. Since Zechariah was on the scene in the second year of Darius Hystaspes, the king of Persia, how could it be said that the horses had already accomplished this work? The horses represent doctrines, truths, prophecies, teachings, etc., and these teachings had already been recorded in the Bible at this point in time. Zechariah was one of the last prophets of Israel, for only Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi were on the scene later. The horses had already gone to and fro throughout the land. In other words, the people of Israel had already been informed, in prophetic language, about the doctrines and events yet future.

When we examine the books of the Old Testament that were written by prophets, we find that the doctrines of these three classes are mentioned. Certainly Jesus is traced throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as the scarlet thread of redemption, and restitution is also spoken by the mouth of God’s holy prophets. In addition, the Little Flock and the Great Company are shown.

For example, Elijah pictures the Little Flock, and Elisha represents the Great Company. In the Song of Solomon, the sister picturing the Little Flock arises of her own volition, whereas the sister who represents the Great Company delays until it is too late to be of the Bride class. Rebekah was accompanied by bridesmaids in her journey to meet Isaac in the field. The Benjamin class is contrasted with the Joseph class. Of the 2 1/2 tribes that occupied land in Gilead, Reuben pictures the Little Flock, and Gad is the Great Company. Thus the two spiritual classes of the Gospel Age, as well as the Ancient Worthies, had been sufficiently recorded at the time of Zechariah’s vision.

Even Jesus’ role as the Logos was taught in the Old Testament. Hence the “man” riding on the red horse was past tense by Zechariah’s day. For example, Moses had spoken of Jesus: “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet [Jesus] from the midst of thee [the nation of Israel], of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut. 18:15). In summary, then, the horses following behind the man on the red horse could say, “We have done what God commanded.”

Zech. 1:17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.

Verse 17 was a climactic statement, certifying that God’s purpose would be fulfilled. There was a partial fulfillment in Zechariah’s day; the real fulfillment is still future.

Zech. 1:18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.

Zech. 1:19 And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

Zech. 1:20 And the LORD showed me four carpenters.

Zech. 1:21 Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.

In verses 18-21, the second vision, Zechariah beheld four horns and four carpenters. Because of the wording in verse 18, “Then lifted I up mine eyes,” this vision presumably occurred on the same night as the vision of the three kinds of horses; that is, after the vision previously described, there was a follow-up dream the same night of four horns and four carpenters.

In the Scriptures, a “horn” is a symbol of power (whether on an altar, on an animal, or used figuratively), and a “carpenter” is a symbol of one who builds up. Therefore, the four horns in this vision are four powers, but what powers? They could not be the best of powers because they destroyed or injured, their effect being to scatter (punish) Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

The implication is that Gentile powers did the scattering. The usual explanation given by Bible commentators, if they treat the subject at all, is a localized application, which is probably how those living in Zechariah’s day viewed this prophecy.

In this particular context, the sequence is Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem (the city). The usual application benefited those back in 520 BC in Ezra and Zechariah’s day. Judah, the southern kingdom was scattered by the Gentile powers of Egypt and Babylon. With Israel, the northern kingdom, the scattering Gentile powers were Assyria and Syria. But since the Old Testament prophecies are written for the Christian’s admonition, the primary application pertains to a greater picture with a different starting point than either Egypt or Assyria.

The four universal empires listed in Scripture are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Consider King Nebuchadnezzar, an enemy of Israel, who was called a “lion” that would come down from the north and scatter Israel (Jer. 4:7). God also called him “my servant” (Jer. 25:9).

Nebuchadnezzar was permitted to come down against Israel to destroy Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple because of the nation’s previous disobedience and waywardness. And even when Cyrus, the king of Persia, allowed the Israelites to go back to their homeland, they were a subject people, for Israel could not be a sovereign nation again until after 1914—until after the Times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. Then Israel would come into a condition of rest. Although today we see favor coming back to Israel and the Jewish people have national polity, they certainly have not been at rest. While they have their independence in that they are no longer a subject people, the Bible is speaking of a different type of rest. Therefore, the four horns picture the four major Gentile powers, or empires, starting with Babylon and corresponding with the image in the second chapter of Daniel. After the stone smites the image (yet future) and starts to grow, it will picture Israel. The present growth of Israel is not the growth of the stone. In addition to prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel of the destruction and tearing down by Babylon, each of these prophets also predicted a restoring work, a building up. Isaiah not only told of dire things to come but also gave encouragements, conveying some of the most beautiful prophecies of hope for mankind. Although the bulk of Jeremiah’s messages were harsh, he also gave some wonderful encouragements, and so did Ezekiel. Thus the Jewish polity would have the experience of being visited by four destroying powers, but four carpenters would also be used to build up the nation. In the final analysis, Zechariah’s message was one of encouragement.

Zechariah asked, “What come these [four horns and four carpenters] to do?” The angel, the Logos, replied, “These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did [could] lift up his head: but these [the four carpenters] are come to fray [terrify—RSV] them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.” The image of Daniel 2 consisted of a head of gold, arms and breast of silver, thighs and belly of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes of clay mixed with iron. The image was a prophecy of the four Gentile powers that would be permitted to overcome and oppress Israel at various times.

However, these prophecies were really a prototype. Of course the right-hearted Jews benefited from these prophecies, but they were really written for our admonition during the Gospel Age.

Back there the Jews viewed the prophecies from the prototype standpoint by trying to look at four individuals or powers that frustrated them in connection with the rebuilding of the Temple, but the larger picture is Gentile dominion over Israel. Since the First World War, the tables have changed, and Israel is beginning to come back into more and more favor. In spite of the terrible conditions that exist today, the Jews are at least organized as a nation with armaments and a society. Moreover, the Word of God is available to them, and they are still God’s people. Although full favor has not yet been restored to them, the current experience is deemed necessary for their instruction in righteousness, which will eventually lead some of them to repentance. Many sour with persecution because they lack faith, but a Holy Remnant class is being developed. The unfaithful class is being temporarily cast off, but these Jews will be restored and given an opportunity for life later when the Kingdom is established.

A consideration of the identity of the four (Gentile) horns starts with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the first horn. What did he do? Didn’t he destroy Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple,

and didn’t he decimate the Jewish people? In all, 4,600 males, plus women and children, were taken into captivity, but what happened in Babylon? Daniel, who was among the captives, was elevated to a very high office, being made chief of the wise men, and three of the Hebrew children were his companions. The point is that the decimation, which was designed of the Lord to lead to repentance, actually led to a promotion with some.

The next Gentile empire (and hence the second horn) was Media-Persia. Under Darius the Mede, Daniel was also promoted, even though he was later temporarily cast into the lions’ den.

Thus the enemy was sort of a friend to one class of Jews and a means of punishment to the greater number of exiles who were resident in the foreign land. Cyrus the Persian gave the Jews permission to go back to the homeland and allowed Zerubbabel to return. Darius Hystaspes granted permission for Ezra to return to Israel, and he also favored Zechariah. In addition, Artaxerxes gave permission for Nehemiah to go back to Israel.

In other words, in the prototype back there in Zechariah’s day, the Jews identified four personalities who had a leading role in both visiting judgment upon and, at the same time, promoting individuals in a sensational fashion. However, in the larger type, the four horns picture four Gentile powers down through the age: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Stated another way, there are two pictures here; one is a condensed picture in which the Jews looked for four “carpenters” (individuals) who would be built up, or promoted, by the very enemy who did the destroying work. These things are not usually spoken of because of a lack of the knowledge of history. In fact, ancient secular history negates and minimizes events and time periods as recorded in the Bible.

Thus far in the visions on the same night, three kinds of horses picture doctrines that develop classes, four horns represent Gentile powers that scatter Israel, and four carpenters represent constructive building forces (in contrast to the tearing down). It is logical to think of the carpenters as either four individuals or four peoples under the leadership of individuals. The four horns scattered Judah, but the four carpenters troubled and cast out the horns of the Gentiles.

Q: Can the prophets be considered “carpenters”?

A: Yes, in principle, for they were constructive. The Hebrew word for “carpenter” is “plow.”

Comment: A plow turns over or breaks up the soil. The four carpenters would take the four universal empires and dispose of them, as stated in verse 21. Thus the four carpenters would accomplish the reverse of what the four horns did. First, the four horns scattered Israel; then the four carpenters would oppose the four horns and plow them under.

Reply: Since the four carpenters fray or control the four horns, they are in opposition to the horns. Who are the four carpenters that turn over the four horns? To “fray” means to cause trouble, terror, dismay, etc. Hence the carpenters are troublemakers to the horns, disrupting the status quo that exists during four periods of time. Back to the question, what four individuals would overthrow the four Gentile powers? (1) Cyrus, as the general of King Darius the Mede, overthrew the Babylonian Empire; (2) Alexander the Great of Greece overthrew the Persian Empire; (3) the Caesars of Rome overthrew the Grecian Empire; and (4) Jesus will overthrow the Roman Empire when the stone smites the image. God providentially raised up certain individuals. For example, Cyrus had great accomplishments for several years before he got down to Babylon. The talents of Alexander the Great were so unusual that those underneath his control almost idolized him, especially when they saw his brilliant ideas and successes. And Tiberius, Julius, and Augustus Caesar were also providentially raised up. Of course the overthrow of the fourth universal empire, Rome, will result in Jesus’ Kingdom.

Q: Ezra 5:1,2 reads, “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.” With the carpenters, was there a specific time frame or an overall view?

A: There are two thoughts. The localized view is that Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the priest, and the two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were the four carpenters. The two prophets spoke comfortable words to the people, and their deeds were constructive in helping Israel. But the four carpenters who negate the power of the horns are the empires of Media- Persia, Greece, and Rome plus the overthrow of the Roman Empire by Jesus.

Let us consider the fourth universal empire, or horn, in more detail. Rome has been in existence and power for a long time—from before Christ all the way down to the present age. Today Europe is the remnant of Rome and the ten toes. No doubt God has raised up different Jewish individuals during the Gospel Age to keep the Jewish hope alive and to help preserve that identity. For example, two of the more recent individuals were Theodor Herzl, who founded the Zionist movement, and Chaim Weizmann. Although the Jews are called a stiffnecked people in Scripture, God treats them with the view that there is to be a reawakening, a resuscitation, in the future (Exod. 32:9; 33:3,5; Deut. 9:6,13; 31:27; Jer. 17:23). If there is no resuscitation and no new beginning with a new opportunity for life, God’s dealings with them would not make sense. As the Apostle Paul said of Christians (paraphrased), “If there is no resurrection, then we of all people would be most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:16-19). We are sacrificing our lives for the hope of a resurrection.

We are in the day of the presence of Jesus, but he is not yet reigning as King over the world. However, we can see God’s providence overruling events that have been helpful before the real Kingdom of peace is established and before He stands up in the person of Jesus and the Church—“saviours” (plural) coming from Mount Zion—to rescue Jacob in the nation’s hour of trouble (Obadiah 21; Jer. 30:7). At the present time, a preparatory work is going on, preceding the real breaking, or scattering, of the Gentile powers. The smashing of the image, a cessation of the Gentiles powers, will be to the glory and happiness of Israel as a people, who will be saved in their hour of need.

(2000 and 2003)

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