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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Zechariah 6

 

 

Verse 1

1. The introductory formula is practically the same as in Zechariah 1:18; Zechariah 2:1; Zechariah 5:1.

Chariots — War chariots. The occupants are sent forth to war.

Four — To be interpreted as in Zechariah 1:18; they were to be sent to the four points of the compass, that is, in every direction. Attempts to identify the four chariots with four world powers, be they those of Daniel 2:31-35; Daniel 7:3-7, or any others, are vain. The angel suggests no such identification. The chariots represent the agents — whatever or whoever they may be — ordained by Jehovah to execute judgment upon the nations, and to bring about the “shaking” which was expected to usher in the Messianic era (Haggai 2:7).

Between two mountains — The Hebrew has the article, the two (well-known) mountains. What mountains were in the mind of the prophet we do not know — some think Mount Zion and Mount Moriah; some, Mount Zion and Mount Olives. The mountains play no further part in the vision, therefore it is immaterial to know what mountains they were; one thing is certain, that they were thought to be near the dwelling place of Jehovah (Zechariah 6:5).

Of brass — A symbol of strength and immovableness.


Verses 1-8

The eighth vision — the four chariots with horses of different colors, Zechariah 6:1-8.

In the eighth and last vision the prophet sees coming from between two mountains four chariots drawn by horses of different colors (1-4). According to the present Hebrew text, two were commissioned to go toward the north, and one toward the south; the destination of the fourth is not indicated (see on Zechariah 6:7). This vision is more obscure than the preceding ones. The interpreting angel informs the prophet (Zechariah 6:5) that the four chariots are the four spirits (R.V., “winds”) of heaven (but see on Zechariah 6:5), ready to carry out the divine commands; but this interpretation retains a symbolical element: the chariots symbolize divinely appointed messengers (Zechariah 1:10). The interpretation is expanded in Zechariah 6:8, which shows that the vision is intended to reveal the fate which is to befall the enemies of the Jews, especially those in the north country (see on Joel 2:20). When the judgment upon the north country is executed the anger of Jehovah is appeased and his spirit is quieted. This vision, then, like the first, is meant to assure the prophet that Jehovah is about to execute judgment upon the nations hostile to him and to his people (compare Haggai 2:7).


Verse 2-3

2, 3. The chariots were drawn by horses of different colors.

Red… black… white… grisled and bay — For the last R.V. reads “grizzled strong.” Various symbolical meanings have been suggested for these colors; for example, red, the color of blood, has been thought to symbolize war and slaughter, black, the color of mourning, the distress following the slaughter. White has been thought to symbolize victory, grizzled has been taken as equivalent to pale, the color of the horse ridden by Death (Revelation 6:8). Those who take the chariots to symbolize four nations interpret the colors as representing the chief characteristics of the nations alluded to. But these and similar interpretations are fanciful; the colors have no symbolical meaning; they serve only to distinguish the chariots from one another. Grizzled means literally covered with hail, that is, spotted (Genesis 31:10; Genesis 31:12). The word joined with it, bay, or R.V. strong, is of uncertain meaning. Since it occurs in connection with several colors, one would expect another color; this is supplied by A.V., but there is little to support the translation bay. In Isaiah 63:1, a similar word is translated “dyed,” margin “crimsoned.” Some think, therefore, that the word used here has the same meaning, or that the other was originally in this place. If so, the meaning might be that the ground color was crimson and that on it were the spots. All this is more or less doubtful. Others, who favor the translation strong, explain the use of the term by the more difficult task assigned to this chariot (but see on Zechariah 6:7). The expression remains peculiar, and Wellhausen and others who, on the basis of Zechariah 6:6-7, omit strong (see on Zechariah 6:7), may offer the correct solution.


Verses 4-7

4-7. The prophet, failing to understand the vision, appeals to his companion, who supplies the desired information.

The four spirits of the heavens — R.V., “the four winds” (compare Jeremiah 49:36). If the R.V. translation is correct one symbol is explained by another which, because of its familiarity, would suggest more readily the significance of the first. The four winds would symbolize the messengers of judgment which are sent by Jehovah in every direction. They go forth from the presence of Jehovah, to whom they have presented themselves to make a report, or to receive their commission. Similarly, the spirits of A.V. would be the ministering spirits sent to execute the judgment. It is difficult to choose between the two translations. In every case the context must decide whether the Hebrew word should be translated spirit or wind; here either gives good sense. More satisfactory than either A.V. or R.V. is a translation first proposed by Wellhausen, “These are going forth to the four winds of heaven from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” With this translation the subject of “are going forth” is the “four chariots” of Zechariah 6:1. This translation is in perfect accord with the rules of Hebrew grammar (G.-K., 118d, f.); if it is adopted the peculiarity of explaining one symbol by another is removed, and the reply of the angel becomes one continuous explanation, reaching its climax in Zechariah 6:8.

The angel, after stating whence the chariots proceed, indicates in Zechariah 6:6-7 the commission of each. Again they are distinguished by the color of the horses, but the red horses of Zechariah 6:2 are absent; instead, the adjectives grizzled strong or grizzled and bay of Zechariah 6:3 are separated and applied to two different sets of horses. Since there can be no doubt that the chariots of Zechariah 6:2-3 are identical with those of Zechariah 6:6-7, the colors mentioned here must in some way correspond to those named in the other verses. The black and the white horses present no difficulty, but when they are disposed of two peculiarities remain, (1) the absence of the red horses, (2) the separation of the grizzled strong horses into two classes. Much ingenuity has been expended in attempts to remove these difficulties, but when all is said and done it is seen that the attempts are not successful. Two of the ancient versions, Peshitto and Aquila, present a solution; they read red instead of strong in Zechariah 6:7 (so margin R.V.), which restores the four colors, black, red, white, grizzled. The error arose first in Zechariah 6:7; from there a later writer inserted strong also in Zechariah 6:3.

The north country — Babylonia. North is used because the Assyrian and Babylonian armies were accustomed to invade Palestine from the north; in reality Babylonia was east of Judah (Zechariah 2:6; see also on Joel 2:20; compare Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1).

After them — If the present Hebrew text is correct the thought is that the white horses go to the aid of the black (see below). Babylon, as the strongest enemy and the one most guilty, will suffer the severest judgment.

The south country — The other long-time enemy of Judah, Egypt, was found there; but if Egypt is in the prophet’s mind it serves only as a type of all enemies in the south. The red (R.V., bay) also “went forth,” but it is not stated whither they went. The tense is the same as in Zechariah 6:6; therefore instead of “went forth” we should translate, as in Zechariah 6:6, “go forth,” for the opening words of Zechariah 6:7 are the continuation of Zechariah 6:6. After go forth a break should be made, for the succeeding words, “and sought to go… ,” refer not only to the red horses, but to the horses hitched to all four chariots. They had come forth from between the two mountains, and the angel had pointed out their destinations, but thus far Jehovah had not given the command to go. Now they begin to express their desire to go about their errands, and they receive permission to go.

Get you hence — Literally, Go ye. As soon as the command is given they proceed. The above appears to be the best interpretation of the present Hebrew text; but in view of the reference to the “four winds of heaven” (Zechariah 6:5) we would expect all four points of the compass to be indicated in connection with the chariots, instead of only two. It has been suggested, therefore, to change after them to toward the west country, a meaning which Ewald thinks may be gotten from the present Hebrew text, which reads literally, “toward behind them” (see on Joel 2:20). The red horses would be commissioned to go “toward the east country.” With these emendations 6, 7a would read, “The black horses which are therein (in the chariot) go forth into the north country; and the white go forth toward the west country; and the grizzled go forth toward the south country; and the red go forth toward the east country.”


Verse 8

8. The greatest enemy of the Jews were the Babylonians, or their successors, the Persians; while their power remained intact there was little hope for a complete restoration. In the first and second visions the prophet had been informed that judgment was about to fall upon that nation; here he is assured once more that the day of judgment is at hand. All the chariots are messengers of judgment, but only the one going toward the north is singled out for further comment.

Have quieted my spirit — A prophetic perfect; the act is still future, but it is so certain that the prophet may speak of it as already accomplished. The spirit is the spirit of wrath (Ecclesiastes 10:4), which they are about to quiet, that is, to pacify, by the execution of the judgment (Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 16:42).


Verses 9-15

THE SYMBOLICAL CROWNING OF JOSHUA, THE HIGH PRIEST, 9-15.

The series of symbolical visions is followed by a command to perform a symbolical act, which is so closely connected with the preceding visions that it seems best to consider this section a sort of appendix to them. The prophet is urged to adorn the high priest Joshua with a crown made of the silver and gold sent by the exiles from Babylon, and to proclaim him the type of “Branch,” who is about to appear in order to complete the temple and to rule over the people. His fame will spread quickly, and those that are afar off will come and join in the building enterprise.

9. The word of Jehovah came — Perhaps during the same night. How it came is not stated, perhaps through the interpreting angel.

Zechariah 6:10-15 state the contents of the word. That the command was carried out is not stated, but there is no reason why it should not have been.

Of them of the captivity — Literally, of the captivity. Of the exiles still dwelling in Babylon, who through the men named, Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, otherwise unknown, sent their gifts to the temple (compare Ezra 7:14-16; Ezra 8:26-30).

The same day — The day belonging to the night in which the revelation came (see on Zechariah 1:8), equivalent to this very day. According to the present Hebrew text these men were lodging in the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where the prophet is to meet them. The Hebrew text of 10b is very cumbersome, hence many consider it corrupt. Nowack suggests as an emendation, partly on the basis of Zechariah 6:14 and partly in order to retain the common meaning of the relative translated whither, “Take… of Heldai, and of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, and of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah, who are come from Babylon.” The result is a smoother text.

11. Then take — R.V., “yea, take of them.” Of the men named the prophet is to take the gifts of silver and gold which they have brought.

Make — Cause to be made (Exodus 25:11 ff).

Crowns — Margin R.V. reads the singular, “a crown.” The pronoun them which follows is not expressed in the Hebrew; it would be just as legitimate to supply the singular it. Since only one person is crowned, since a crowning of one person with two crowns seems unnatural, and since the verb “shall be” in Zechariah 6:14, which belongs to “the crowns,” is in the singular, it is better to follow the margin (compare Job 31:36). The plural may indicate that the crown is to be composed of two or more circlets, perhaps one of gold and one of silver.

Joshua — The same as in Zechariah 3:1 (compare Haggai 1:1). Upon his head the crown is to be placed.

The action is explained in Zechariah 6:12.

Behold the man whose name is The Branch — The last word is without the article in the Hebrew (see on Zechariah 3:8), hence Branch is to be regarded as a proper name. It is impossible to identify Branch with the high priest. The context (compare also Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 4:7) makes the latter only a type of the former, and in the succeeding clauses attention is called to the antitype, not to the type.

And he — Branch.

Shall grow up out of his place — Literally, from under him; margin R.V., “and it (or, they; the indefinite subject=things, everything) shall grow up (bud forth) under him,” that is, under Branch. An obscure expression. The first translation presents the greater difficulties; indeed, no satisfactory explanation has been offered. It is hardly sufficient to say, “compare for the meaning Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2,” for the expressions there are of a different character. It is equally difficult to get from the words the idea that Branch will “grow up from the ground out of obscure lowliness.” The translation offered in the margin is more satisfactory. The influence of Branch will be beneficial, and under his reign everything will revive and flourish. The promise of prosperity in the Messianic age is one found frequently in the prophetic books (compare Hosea 2:21-22; Amos 9:13; compare Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:1 ff.).

And he — Branch.

Shall build the temple of Jehovah — There is no warrant anywhere for making this temple the spiritual temple, the kingdom of God, as distinguished from the temple in Jerusalem, in the building of which Haggai and Zechariah are so deeply interested. The temple mentioned here is no other than the temple of Zechariah 4:7.

In Zechariah 6:13 the promise is repeated for the sake of emphasis.

He shall bear the glory — Of royalty. He will be clothed with regal majesty and splendor (compare Isaiah 9:6); he will, indeed, sit on the throne and rule as king.

He shall be a priest upon his throne — Margin R.V., “there shall be a priest upon his throne.” The former translation implies that Branch will combine in his person the priestly and kingly offices; the latter simply says that at the time when Branch will rule as king there will also be enthroned a priest, either upon a separate throne or upon the same throne with the ruler. The latter is supported by LXX., which reads “at his right hand” for “upon his throne.” The Hebrew permits either translation. Against the second it has been urged that if the high priest is a type of Branch he cannot very well typify a second person, who is to fill his own office. But this objection is by no means conclusive; besides, it is not necessary to think of Joshua as the type of the new high priest. If Zerubbabel is Branch (see below), it is quite probable that Joshua himself is in the mind of the prophet as occupying the high-priestly office in the Messianic era. This is in perfect accord with the teaching of Zechariah elsewhere; he always places Joshua by the side of Zerubbabel; nowhere does he give any hint that the one will supersede the other. To bring out the thought more clearly some insert “Joshua” as the subject: “and Joshua shall be a priest upon his throne,” or “by his side” (LXX.). On the whole, the marginal translation seems preferable. The last clause certainly favors the view that two distinct persons are meant.

And the counsel of peace — There will be peace and harmony between priest and king and they will plan together to promote the peace of the community.

Between them both — Between priest and king. Those who think that Branch is both king and priest interpret both of the two offices. In the past they have been apart, in Branch they will be united in one person, and between the two offices, which apparently pursue different ends, there will be perfect agreement, and both will labor for the same end. This interpretation, however, is less natural. In Psalm cx the Messianic king is represented as combining in his own person the kingly and priestly offices, but this thought seems foreign to Zechariah. Another interpretation makes “between them both” refer to the union between Jehovah and Branch, but this also is unsuitable.

It is not necessary to enumerate the many emendations that have been suggested, for they are not needed, nor do they improve the text. Here, as in Zechariah 3:8, Branch must be Zerubbabel, for the task assigned to both is the building of the temple (compare Zechariah 4:7 ff.). In what sense this and similar passages find their fulfillment in Jesus the Christ is pointed out in the comments on Micah 4:1-5, and at the close of the comments on Micah 5:15. The question may be raised, however, why the crown was not placed upon the head of Zerubbabel, if Zechariah saw in him the Messianic king. The most probable explanation is that the crowning of the civil ruler would have aroused the suspicion of the Persian government and would have invited disaster. The time for such step was not yet ripe. On the other hand, the crowning of the high priest might be looked upon by the authorities as a purely religious ceremony, without any threatening significance, while it would prove a consolation and inspiration to the Jews who were acquainted with the Messianic teaching of the earlier prophets.

14. After the performance of the symbolic act the crown is to be preserved in the temple, soon to be completed, as a memorial to the men who brought the gifts out of which it was made, but perhaps also so as to have it in readiness for the time when Zerubbabel himself should be crowned as Messianic king.

Crowns — See on Zechariah 6:11.

Helem — Probably a copyist’s error for Heldai (Zechariah 6:10), which Peshitto has preserved here.

Hen the son of Zephaniah — Undoubtedly the same person as Josiah, the son of Zephaniah, in Zechariah 6:10. Some commentators take Hen to be a second name of the same person; others (so margin R.V.) translate it as a common noun “for the kindness of the son of Zephaniah,” that is, for the kindness shown by him in receiving in his house the messengers from Babylon (but see on Zechariah 6:10). Still others consider Hen a copyist’s error for Josiah, and they think that the latter should be read here. Whether the emendation is accepted or not, there can hardly be any doubt that the same person is meant as in Zechariah 6:10.

15. Branch will not have to depend exclusively upon the few Jews now in Jerusalem to assist him in the building enterprise.

They that are far off shall come and build — The Jews still in exile, as well as foreigners who will be converted to Jehovah (compare Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 8:20-23; Haggai 2:7-8).

And ye shall know — As in Zechariah 2:9; Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 4:9 (see there). The blessings promised in the symbolical act and in the visions will be theirs only if they diligently obey the words of Jehovah as proclaimed by Haggai and Zechariah, which means, primarily, if they will speedily rebuild the temple. The translation found in the English versions is the only one that can be given of 15b in its present position at the close of the chapter. But the Hebrew reads as if the whole were a protasis with the apodosis dropped out: “And it shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of Jehovah, your God.…” If the apodosis has been lost it is difficult to say what it was.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Zechariah 6:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/zechariah-6.html. 1874-1909.

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