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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Zechariah 6



Verses 1-8

The Eighth Vision. The Four Chariots - the Four Winds of Heaven - and Their Activity on Earth (Zechariah 6:1-8).

Whereas in chapter 1 the horsemen were scouts going out to see if any activity was going on in the earth, chariots would suggest something more serious. These chariots are coming forth to do God’s will and purpose. Jerusalem, the High Priest and the Temple having been restored, and sin and idolatry having been removed from the land, God will now establish His people in security and peace. They do not want any more invasions from the north.

Zechariah 6:1-3

‘And again I lifted up my eyes and saw, and behold there came four chariots out from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of brass. 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 speckled bay horses.’

It is possible that the mountains of brass represent something similar to the pillars of brass in the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 7:15) which had been carried off to Babylon (2 Kings 25:13). Then the thought would be of the chariots, which represent the four winds of heaven who stand before the Lord of the whole earth (Zechariah 6:5), coming out from God’s own heavenly Temple (compare Ezekiel 40-48).

Alternately brass is seen as a strong metal, often paralleled with iron (Job 40:18; Job 41:27; Psalms 107:16; Isaiah 45:2; Isaiah 48:4; Daniel 7:19), ‘gates of brass’ representing a formidable obstacle to freedom (Psalms 107:16; Isaiah 45:2). Thus the mountains of brass would then be symbols of the strength and power of heaven.

The word translated ‘bay’ has the root meaning of ‘strong’, but a colour would seem to be required here. No special significance appears to be given to the colours of the horses.

Zechariah 6:4-5

‘Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” And the angel answered and said to me, “These are the four winds (or spirits) of heaven who go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”

It is clear from this that the chariots, following the horses which have scouted out the earth, have now come out to carry out the will of Yahweh. They represent heavenly forces and will carry out His will on earth. They come from standing before the Lord of the whole earth.

‘The four winds of heaven.’ These are often used to describe divine activity. In Ezekiel they are life-giving (Ezekiel 37:9). In Jeremiah they scatter Elam in judgment (Jeremiah 49:36). In Daniel 7:2 they rouse the nations to fulfil their destiny. In Daniel 8:8; Daniel 11:4; Zechariah 2:6 they are used indirectly to describe a wideness of activity.

Zechariah 6:6-8

‘The chariot wherein are the black horses goes forth towards the North country, and the white went forth after them. And the speckled went forth towards the South country. And the bay went forth and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth. And he said, “Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth.” So they walked to and fro through the earth. Then he cried on me and spoke to me saying, “Look, those that go towards the North country have quieted my spirit in the North country.’

We learn here that we must beware of thinking of the four winds as directly representing the four points of the compass. They represent rather God as active towards the earth. In this case both the black and white horsed chariots go towards the North, towards Babylon and its neighbours, where God’s people are scattered and where the nations hold them in subjection. The white and black may indicate that they were to deal with the wuaestion of idolatry (false white - Revelation 6:2) and wickedness (compare Zechariah 5:5-11). Possibly they are to check on the safe arrival of the woman in the Ephah. God is now as it were combining His forces on behalf of His people. That He is successful comes out in that their activity ‘quietens His spirit’. Thus now, and later under Nehemiah, the return of His people (or the remnant of them) will continue and prosper.

No mention is made of the red-horsed chariot (which may represent general warfare - Revelation 6:5) for its activity is irrelevant to the matter on hand, but it reminds us that God is also active elsewhere, while the speckled bay-horsed chariot (which may represent different forms of death dealing - Revelation 6:8) goes towards the South and then patrols the whole earth as the threefold stress on ‘walk to and fro’ emphasises. So here God is seen as acting universally while also concentrating efforts on behalf of His people. It may also include the thought that God is stirring up His people wherever they are to return to Jerusalem, the centre of His promises.

(To Israel and Judah world-activity was always North or South for that is where the invading nations came from. To the West was the sea and the coast was useless for large ships, and to the East was the desert).

In spite of what is said above it is questionable whether we are to see any significance in the colours of the horses which vary from the vision in chapter 1. Black is sometimes the colour of mourning (Jeremiah 8:21; Jeremiah 14:2) or of suffering (Nahum 2:10) and white of purity and heavenliness, or of false religion, and it may be that we are to see God’s activity as producing contrasting results, mourning for some (the nations) and joy for others (the returning remnant) but if so it is left to be inferred.

(Note. ‘Four’ probably represents universality in terms of before and behind and to each side. In that sense it is connected with the four points of the compass. But the former is the prevalent idea behind its use, not the latter).

Verses 9-15

The Crowning of Joshua as Proxy for the Branch - Witnessed by the Returning Exiles as an Encouragement for Others to Return (Zechariah 6:9-15).

The acting out of the future was a regular prophetic method (Isaiah 20:2-4; Jeremiah 27:2-7; Ezekiel 12:1-12) and it was regularly accompanied by oracles. It would seem that that was what Zechariah is doing here as he portrays what is to happen in the future.

Zechariah 6:9

‘And the word of YHWH came to me saying, “Take of those of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah and of Jedaiah, and you come the same day and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, to where they are come from Babylon.’

The house of Josiah would seem to have been a gathering place for returning exiles. Zechariah is exhorted to gather together the recently returned exiles (the families of Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah) along with Josiah and himself for the purpose of the crowning of Joshua the High Priest on their behalf. They are to act on behalf of all exiles from Israel and Judah everywhere.

Zechariah 6:10-12

‘Yes, take of them silver and gold, and make crowns and set them on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the High Priest, and speak to him saying, “Thus says Yahweh of Hosts, saying ‘Behold the man whose name is the Branch and he will shoot up out of his place and he will build the Temple of YHWH. Even he will build the Temple of YHWH, and he will bear the glory and will sit and rule on his throne, and he will be (or there will be) a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace will be between them both.’

The exiles are to provide silver and gold for the making of a crown or crowns, which are then, after the crowning of Joshua, to be kept in the Temple as a memorial, a continual reminder, for them (Zechariah 6:14). This gives the whole event a symbolic significance.

In Zechariah 3:8 the God gave His promise that He would bring forth His servant the Branch, and as we saw the Messianic king was in mind there. Zerubbabel was already at that time governor, and could not therefore be ‘brought forth’ and it is not he who is crowned here. (To crown the governor could well have been seen as treason). Thus the Branch is not Zerubbabel. And in Zechariah 3:8-9 Joshua and his fellow priests were a sign of the coming of the Branch. Thus the Branch is not Joshua. This demonstrates that when Joshua is crowned here with the words ‘behold the man whose name is the Branch’ he is being crowned symbolically in the name of another.

As the returned exiles watch the crowning of Joshua they are seeing before their eyes an acting out of the scene when the Messianic king, the Branch from the house of David, from the root of Jesse, would appear. The crowning and the crowns are signs and guarantees of His coming. He par excellence will build the true Temple of YHWH, and will be a bearer of God’s true glory and will establish His rule. He will be both king and priest, for in Him the two functions will be united. ‘The counsel of peace will be between them both.’

Thus the eyes of the returned exiles are turned towards the coming of the Messianic king as an encouragement both to them and to their fellows still in exile of the certainty of His promises and the guarantee of their fulfilment. And in view of the fact that the building of the Temple is to be a Messianic act this is to encourage them in assisting in the building of the Temple, not for its own sake, but as a precursor to the coming of the Messiah. No one could conceive in that day that the Messiah’s ‘Temple of YHWH’ and ‘the Holy City’ would be His people (1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 21) and His body (John 2:19; John 2:21).

Zechariah’s prophecies reach beyond the building of the Temple to the significance of that building as a precursor to the Messianic age. In the end it is that that he has in view.

Zechariah 6:14

‘And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah and to the favoured one (or Hen), the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the Temple of YHWH.’

The crowns were made from the gifts of these men (Zechariah 6:10-11) and are retained by them within the Temple as a remembrance of this moment and of the promises now made, as an encouragement to urge the exiles to return home and to establish God’s new rule in Judah.

‘The favoured one’. The Hebrew is ‘Hen, ‘for grace’, or ‘favour’, and replaces the name of Josiah given earlier (Zechariah 6:9). The idea would appear to be that this man who does so much for returning exiles is looked on with favour by God.

Zechariah 6:15

‘And they that are far off shall come and build in the Temple of Yahweh, and you will know that YHWH of Hosts has sent me to you.’

The result of Zechariah’s prophecies, and of this prophetic act in the crowning of Joshua as a proxy for the Messianic king, will be the return of many exiles and the establishment of the purposes of YHWH in the building of the Temple with all that that means in terms of the future of Israel and Judah. Thus will his prophecies be seen to come from YHWH Who has sent him.

Zechariah 6:15

‘And this will come about if you will diligently obey the voice of YHWH your God.’

‘This will come about.’ The promise is a firm one. But as ever obedience is required if God is to act.


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

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