The Word Made Fresh
1I looked up again and saw four chariots coming from between two bronze mountains. 2The first was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, 3the third by white horses, and the fourth by dappled horses. 4Then I said to the angel, “What are these, my lord?”
5The angel said, “These are the four spirits of heaven. They are going out after presenting themselves to the LORD of the earth. 6The chariot driven by the black horses is going toward the north country; the one drawn by white horses is going toward the west; and the dappled ones are going toward the south.”
7The horses were straining to get started roaming the earth. The angel said, “Go now, and comb the earth,” and they left on their errands. 8Then the angel called to me, and said, “See, those who go north have put my mind at rest in the north country.”
9Then the word of the LORD came to me: 10“Gather the wealth from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah. They have arrived from Babylon. Then immediately go to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. 11Take gold and silver to make crowns, and place one on Joshua’s head, the high priest, son of Jehozadak. 12Tell him that the man named Branch is here; he will branch out in his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13He is the one to build the temple and he will be honored royally and will rule from his throne. He will have a priest beside the throne, and the two of them will have a good relationship. 14Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah son of Zephaniah will have charge of the crowns, and keep them as a memorial in the LORD’s temple. 15The people will come from afar to help build the temple of the LORD. You will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. All this will come to pass if you strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
1-8: The 8th vision is reported. Some scholars wonder that there are eight instead of only seven, since the number seven seems to play so important a part in the book. That has given rise to speculation that the final form of Zechariah includes some later additions (the 3rd vision is a usual suspect) and rearrangements. Also, modern commentators have attempted to see structure of the visions with the last repeating elements of the first. In any case we find ourselves in a scene reminiscent of John’s vision in Revelation 6, but there the four horses are sent to carry out specific tasks. Here they represent the four winds and are sent in different directions. There are some problems in the narrative. Zechariah sees four horses; the angel only mentions three. The horses are sent out to the north, south, and west, but not to the east. One explanation is that the horses, like the sun, come out of the east and so the red horse is already there and need not be sent. Despite the difficulties, it is clear that the main point of the vision is that God’s spirit is set at rest in the “north country,” clearly a reference to Babylon. Although Babylon lies primarily east of Jerusalem, one must travel along a northern route for the first leg of the journey. The essence of the vision, then, is that peace now prevails, and the exiles are free to return to Jerusalem.
9-14: The names of the recent returnees from Babylon are not known elsewhere, but it is clear that Zechariah is to receive an offering from the latest group of returnees out of which he is to fashion two crowns. When the Hebrew was translated into Greek, the translators couldn’t see why two crowns were needed. It seems obvious, though, that two crowns are needed – one for Joshua the high priest, and one for Zerubbabel the governor. Zerubbabel is the logical candidate for “Branch,” since “Branch” is the one to rebuild the temple and Zerubbabel was said in 4:9 to be the one to do just that. Why his name is not mentioned here a bit of a mystery, though. The really interesting thing about this oracle is that the high priest will be crowned also, thus sharing authority with the crown prince for the government’s administration.
15: God’s word to Zechariah is that the work force needed for the construction of the temple will be provided by returnees from Babylon who continue to arrive in the city.
God never gives up on the faithful; even when we follow a wrong path and find ourselves heading in a direction that is not the best for us, God is ever ready to take us back and guide us in the proper direction.