Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentZECHARIAH 6
In this chapter, we have the concluding vision in the series of eight, the vision of the four chariots of God (Zechariah 6:1-8); and an altogether different type of revelation from God to Zechariah, in which by impressive symbolical actions, the coming of the Redeemer of the world is prophesied, namely, the Branch, the Messiah, the holy one who is both Priest and King, Jesus Christ the Lord (Zechariah 6:9-15).
And again I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
Here there come into view four chariots and two mountains. These chariots are symbols of the power of God. "The angels of God are often called the chariots of God (Ps. 48:17, and Ps. 18:10)";F1 and evidently these great powers also appear in Rev. 9:14, where the loosing of the four angels at the great river Euphrates is mentioned. These and also similar visions of chariots and horses are symbols of the universal power of the Eternal in his government of human affairs. Their number, "four," should not be understood as any kind of limitation, but as a suggestion that God's power is universal, bearing upon the "four corners of the earth," encompassing "the four winds of heaven," etc.
The mountains were mountains of brass
The metallic nature of these mountains forbids the notion that they were literal. We may also reject with confidence the allegations of scholars like Mitchell who find here some borrowing by the prophet from Babylonian mythology which alleged that the abode of Deity was guarded on either side by a brass mountain! We believe that God gave the vision to Zechariah and that he was in no way indebted to the silly myths of Babylon. Leupold cited a number of interpretations of the mountains thus:
They are the two fundamental forms of divine appointment (Lange): they are the actual hills Zion and Moriah; they represent church and state; and Luther made them the law and the prophets.F2
Since no inspired interpretation of the meaning of the brass mountains is available, we may safely pass over them as inert figures in the vision.
Verses 2, 3
In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; and in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grizzled strong horses.
Instead of attempting to assign some mystical or specific significance to the various colors of the horses, perhaps we should accept them in the sense of their representing various ways in which the judgments of God are visited upon his enemies. Furthermore, we unhesitatingly identify them as similar in meaning and purpose to the so-called Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse. The red horse stands for war, the black horse for famine, the pale horse for death; and the white horse suggests triumph and victory. One should read in this connection the series of seals, trumpets, and bowls in the Book of Revelation.
Most significantly, the horse and chariot were the ancient equivalent of the modern tank in warfare, hence their association with the judgments of God. Whereas the previous visions have been directed to the particular affairs of Israel, this one looks to the judgment of God upon the nations, a judgment already concluded in the overthrow of Babylon, but a judgment yet to fall upon a succession of enemies of the divine purpose which would appear in history. Baldwin called the horses, "Symbols of God's initiative in international affairs."F3 Hailey also understood these varicolored horses to, "indicate God's judgments of famine, pestilence, and sword, which were victorious in their mission."F4
Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
The answer to this inquiry is given in the next verse, but the answer does not appear in the terminology that we might have expected.
And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
The four winds of heaven
Wind is the basic word for spirit;F5 and it is far better to read spirit here. After all winds do not stand before the Lord! The use of the expression, stand before the Lord shows clearly what is meant. When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said, I am Gabriel who stand in the presence of God (Luke 1:19); and the expression is repeatedly used in Scripture with regard to the holy angels. Therefore, we find full agreement here with Unger who saw that, There is every reason to believe that these chariots represent personal beings, that is, angelic messengers.F6
Understanding the meaning of the word here as "spirits" rather than as "winds" is far superior to the critical fad of emending the text to make it say something more readily understood. Many find the temptation to "emend" the place almost irresistible:
The addition of a single letter in the Hebrew gives the following reading: "These, that is, the chariots and horses, go forth to the four winds of heaven after they have presented themselves before the Lord.F7
The angelic messengers that stand ready to obey the command of God may be considered almost innumerable, if not actually so. Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, mentioned "twelve legions of angels" as ready to answer any summons from the Father. When it is remembered that a single angel slew 180,000 of Sennacherib's army on a single night, how vast must be the power of the entire angelic host?
[The chariot] wherein are the black horses goeth forth toward the north country; and the white went forth after them; and the grizzled went forth toward the south country.
This and the following verse merely reveal that the heavenly patrol, if we may call it that, was actually moving to do God's will. Some scholars have emended these verses to provide a more uniform picture, even coming up with all four directions, north, south, east, and west; but this is absolutely unnecessary. Four directions are no more effective as a symbol than are two. North and south can mean the whole world as easily as north, south, east, and west.
The chariots are not really mentioned here, only the horses, these two words having been supplied by the translators.
And the strong 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.
Sought that they might walk
The eagerness of the angelic host to execute the judgments of God upon powers hostile to his will appears here, indicating that God restrains the powers ever poised to pour out his wrath upon the ungodly. At the proper moment, God will give orders to Loose the four angels that are bound at the great river Euphrates (Revelation 9:14). That same principle of God's restraining powers that would destroy men is apparent here.
In this connection, it should be remembered that the human race was sentenced to death in Eden, that the sentence was never repealed; and that, in time, it will be summarily executed. God, however, will not suffer the frustration of his purpose of redeeming the full harvest of the saved from this earth; and, therefore, the great destructive forces that are always ready to execute men are by the Father's gracious love and longsuffering restrained.
Then cried he to me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, they that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
They have quieted my spirit
Both chariots going to the north have done this: they have put down God's Spirit there. That means they have caused God's anger to cease there.F8 As to how that was accomplished, it resulted from God's severe punishment of the great Babylonian power that had so cruelly treated Israel, along with a reversal of the captivity itself through the efforts of another great power that had succeeded the old Babylon, i.e., Cyrus,
Although God's anger had been satisfied by the Judgment against Babylon, "the north country," there were other great powers yet scheduled for judgment and destruction.
Babylon only of the four great world kingdoms had in Zechariah's time been fully punished; therefore, in its case alone does God now say his anger is satisfied. The others had as yet to expiate their sin.F9
Mitchell also mentioned this as a possible interpretation. "The prophet here again reminds his people of the past, and this time, of their deliverance from the Babylonians by Cyrus."F10 However, he went on to apply it to the future, but we do not think that negates its application to the past also.
And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying,
The revelation given on this occasion did not come by means of a vision, but through some other means. "God... spoke in the prophets by divers portions, and in divers manners" (Hebrews 1:1); but we are not told in this particular instance how God spoke to Zechariah. "The eight night visions have ended, but the coronation of Joshua is closely connected with those visions."F11 This symbolical action also served to emphasize the strong Messianic thrust of the entire prophecy.
Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah; and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, whither they are come from Babylon;
Them of the captivity
This could have other possible meanings, but here the meaning is: Those who have been in exile but have returned to their country.F12 The names of the returnees given here were deeply religious names carrying these affirmations of faith in God: Hildai = the Lord's world; Tobijah = the Lord is good; and Jedaiah = the Lord knows.F13
Come thou the same day
This connects the event of Joshua's crowning with the night visions as having occurred in close succession and causes the coronation to serve to some extent as explanation of the visions. The whole section of Zechariah looks to the revelation of the Messiah and the setting up of his spiritual kingdom.
The house of Josiah
Josiah was apparently the host of the three who had come from Babylon bearing gifts, either from the government, or from the captives who had chosen to remain in Babylon.
yea, take [of them] silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest;
We shall defer the consideration of the crowns (or crown) and take up first the object of the coronation. Was it indeed Joshua, as our text flatly declares, or should we allow the speculations of critics who boldly claim that, "Zerubbabel and not Joshua, must be the subject of the address in Zech. 6:11; for it is he who was building the Temple."F14 It is hard to imagine a more erroneous perversion of the sacred text. First of all, such a notion is founded upon a total misunderstanding of what temple Messiah would build. Indeed Zerubbabel was building a second temple; but the temple which Jesus Christ would build never had any connection whatever with the earthly temples of the Jews, which were never God's, except in an accommodative sense, and which God repeatedly destroyed from the face of the earth. In the second place, there is no textual authority at all for the substitution of the subjective imaginations of men for the written Word of God. Who are these men who boldly write Zechariah here instead of Joshua? They have no authority; they are clearly ignorant in many instances of the most basic truths of Holy Scripture; and they are gullible and pitiful Christians indeed who will allow such godless tampering with the sacred Word. Baldwin exposed this raid on the Bible thus:
It is claimed that a scribe replaced Zerubbabel's name with that of Joshua, and so made the prophecy more credible. If it could be demonstrated that scribes were in the habit of adjusting texts in this way, the argument would be more weighty, but the evidence is all in the other direction. None of the ancient versions has Zerubbabel's name in this verse. Moreover, supposing that a scribe meant to delete all references to the Davidic-prince (Zerubbabel), he did not do so in Zech. 6:13. It is best to allow the text to stand, and to regard Joshua as the one who was crowned.F15
Furthermore, "If a scribe removed the name of Zerubbabel here, he would have needed to remove the clear allusion to him in Zech. 6:13."F16
As a matter of obvious truth no scribe ever meddled with this passage; it is the modern critics who are trying to do that. Their reasons for trying to get Zerubbabel into this passage are based upon the false notion that God would re-establish the Davidic monarchy, something God never intended, nor promised, to do. The promise of "raising up one to sit upon David's throne" was a prophecy of Christ ruling upon the throne of his spiritual kingdom. That the crowning of Joshua was a symbolical action, and that there was no intention whatever of actually making him the king of Israel is clear from a number of considerations:
The fact that the High Priest Joshua who could not wear a crown, here does so, proves that the act is typical, delineating the priestly kingship of Christ according to Heb. 7:1-5, and Ps. 110:4.F17
The further fact of the crown not being worn by Joshua at all, but laid up in the temple as a memorial (verse 14) also emphasizes the typical nature of the action. The function of this revelation is that of combining in one symbolical person (Joshua) the two offices of priest and king in order to prophesy that the Messiah would be both high priest and king. Once this is understood, how ridiculous is the notion that Zerubbabel was the one originally meant. He was disqualified in every conceivable way. He was not a priest and could not have represented that office, no matter what might have been done to him. Also, he was the grandson of Jeconiah (Matthew 1:12); and Zerubbabel positively fell under the prophetic curse against Jeconiah to the effect that, "No man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah" (Jeremiah 22:30). The false allegation that the inspired prophet Zechariah actually installed Zerubbabel as the center of this symbolical action is a denial of his inspiration, and not only that, but a slander making him ignorant of the divine curse against the house of Jeconiah, Zerubbabel's grandfather. Zerubbabel never fitted into this passage, nor was he ever in it, except in the subjective dreamings of the critics.
And make crowns and set them upon the head of Joshua
Scholars have made quite a problem out of the use of the plural here, affirming that, It was a crown of silver and gold;F18 The crown is singular, though the noun is plural;F19 It signifies the two metals of which the crown was made;F20 The original indicates one splendid crown made up of several circlets, for it was intended for the head of Joshua alone.F21 We believe this latter opinion to be true. To be sure, it would take a composite crown of multiple components to represent properly the crown of the glorious Messiah, represented in prophecy as Crowned with many crowns (Revelation 19:12), King of kings and Lord of Lords. It is the complexity of Messiah's crown that is represented here by the plural. As Barnes summed it up:
It is all one then, whether the word designates one single crown, so entitled for its greatness, or one united royal crown uniting many crowns, symbolizing the many kingdoms of the earth, over which our High Priest and King should rule.F22
and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh Jehovah 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 Jehovah;
Behold the man
Strangely, these very words were used by the Gentile governor when Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate (John 19:5). A little later, he added, Behold your king!
The man whose name is the Branch
We have already noted that this was a technical word fully understood among the Jews as referring to the promised Messiah; and such an action as this made it impossible to take the action any other way except as a symbolical prophecy of the coming Messiah, revealing the extremely important truth that the Messiah would combine in himself the offices of both the kingship and the high priesthood.
He shall grow up out of his place
is suggestive of Isa. 53, where the humility and humanity of Jesus are prophetically outlined.
He shall build the temple of Jehovah
As Keil forcefully stated it:
"That these words do not refer to the building of the earthly temple of stone and wood, is so obvious, that even Koehler has given up this view here, and understands the words as relating to the spiritual temple."F23
Note that the promise here is not that of "completing" the earthly temple, which Zerubbabel was already in the process of doing, but that of "Building the Temple." There is no way that the name of Zerubbabel could ever have fitted into this passage. How blind are those who vainly suppose that it did! Of course, two different temples are of necessity in view.
even he shall build the temple of Jehovah; 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.
Even he shall build the temple of Jehovah
So weighty a promise is repeated for emphasis. See further comment below.
And he shall bear the glory
This is terminology that never applied to the earthly monarchs of Israel, and the appearance of these words here denotes that the Messianic age is being spoken of.
Shall sit and rule upon his throne
Zerubbabel was denied this on the basis of Jer. 23; Jer. 30; the promise must be understood of the Messiah. Joshua also did not qualify, for the priesthood never included the kingship. Not even Moses was both king and priest. Only Jesus Christ our Lord can be meant by this passage.
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both
There is much difference of opinion about what this means. It is a reference to Joshua and Zerubbabel;F24 The counsel of peace shall be between Jesus and the Father;F25 We believe that Harley is correct in the explanation that, Peace will be provided by the Branch holding the twofold office of king and priest.F26
He shall build the temple of Jehovah
The repetition of this clause at the end of Zech. 6:12 and the beginning of Zech. 6:13 has been cited as suggestive of the combining of two literary units; but we agree with Baldwin who suggested that the repetition was deliberate.F27
It was a device to distinguish between "he" Joshua and "he" the Branch, as well as between the temporary temple and the one to come.F28
A careful study of the passage shows how necessary such a repetition is and how it illuminates and emphasizes the true meaning of the passage.
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 Jehovah.
We are surprised here by the names apparently being changed from those mentioned in Zech. 6:9; but we refuse to find any problem here. Any of those mentioned could have borne two or more names; and as Baldwin suggested, "It may be that Heldai preferred to use his more dignified name for official purposes; or the names could have been interchangeable."F29
The crowns shall be... for a memorial in the temple
Note that Joshua did not wear the crown. His coronation was a brief, symbolical act only. The crown never any more pertained to him; and it did not even remain in his possession.
And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of Jehovah; and ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me unto you. And [this] shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of Jehovah your God.
They that are far off
If there is an expression in the entire Old Testament that means Gentiles, it is this one, being exactly the terminology used by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost when Peter announced the gospel as being for them that are afar off (Acts 2:39), thus placing a divine seal upon this whole revelation and certifying it as a prophecy of the times of the Messiah and of the coming of the Gentiles into the church of God. The ones that were far off were those not included with Israel in the covenant. They were the nations, or Gentiles of the world. In the new era, however, even the Gentiles would be admitted to fellowship with God.
If ye will diligently obey
Neither the future building of the true temple of God as the church of Jesus Christ, nor the glorious Advent of Him who would build it, was doubtful in the slightest degree. All that was promised would be accomplished with or without Israel's participation; but the persons who would participate in the new order, or have anything at all to do with the true kingdom of God, depended upon an obedient spirit in the participants. The vast majority of secular Israel would have nothing of a spiritual kingdom; but the holy apostles constituting the righteous remnant of the true Israel would hail the Messiah when He came, worship Him as God, rally together after His crucifixion and resurrection, and then go forth into all the world shouting, He is risen, sealing their testimony with their blood, and establishing the church of Christ throughout all the world for millenniums of time!
This great revelation of the Christ as both Priest and King is one of the great passages of the Bible. It should be studied in connection with Ps. 110:4, and Heb. 7.
Footnotes for Zechariah 6
1: Matthew Henry, Commentary, Old Testament, p. 1425.
2: H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), p. 113.
3: Joyce G. Baldwin, Tyndale Commentaries, Vol. 24 (London: Tyndale Press, 1972), p. 131.
4: Homer Hailey, Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 348.
5: Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), p. 104.
7: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York City: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 605.
8: H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), p. 117.
9: Robert Jamieson, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), p. 853.
10: Hinckley G. Mitchell, International Critical Commentary, Zechariah (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1912), p. 181.
11: Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1963), p. 109.
12: Hinckley G. Mitchell, op. cit., p. 184.
13: Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 111.
14: J. E. McFadyen, Abingdon Bible Commentary (New York City: Abingdon Press, 1929), p. 823.
15: Joyce G. Baldwin, op cit., p. 134.
16: David J. Ellis, The New Layman's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), p. 1035.
17: Merrill F. Unger, op. cit., p. 112.
18: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 351.
19: David J. Ellis, op. cit., p. 1035.
20: W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14, Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 59.
21: Charles L. Feinberg, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1962), p. 903.
22: Albert Barnes, Notes on the Minor Prophets, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1953), p. 373.
23: C. F. Keil, Old Testament Commentary, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 299.
24: David J. Ellis, op. cit., p. 1035.
25: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 376.
26: Homer Hailey, op. cit., p. 354.
27: Joyce G. Baldwin, op. cit., p. 135.
29: Ibid., p. 137.