The vision of the chariots. (1-8) Joshua, the high priest, crowned as a type of Christ. (9-15)
Verses 1-8 This vision may represent the ways of Providence in the government of this lower world. Whatever the providences of God about us are, as to public or private affairs, we should see them all as coming from between the mountains of brass, the immoveable counsels and decrees of God; and therefore reckon it as much our folly to quarrel with them, as it is our duty to submit to them. His providences move swiftly and strongly as chariots, but all are directed and governed by his infinite wisdom and sovereign will. The red horses signify war and bloodshed. The black, signify the dismal consequences of war, famines, pestilences, and desolations. The white, signify the return of comfort, peace, and prosperity. The mixed colour, signify events of different complexions, a day of prosperity and a day of adversity. The angels go forth as messengers of God's counsels, and ministers of his justice and mercy. And the secret motions and impulses upon the spirits of men, by which the designs of Providence are carried on, are these four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from God, and fulfil what the God of the spirits of all flesh appoints. All the events which take place in the world spring from the unchangeable counsels of the Lord, which are formed in unerring wisdom, perfect justice, truth, and goodness; and from history it is found that events happened about the period when this vision was sent to the prophet, which seem referred to therein.
Verses 9-15 Some Jews from Babylon brought an offering to the house of God. Those who cannot forward a good work by their persons, must, as they are able, forward it by their purses: if some find hands, let others fill them. Crowns are to be made, and put upon the head of Joshua. The sign was used, to make the promise more noticed, that God will, in the fulness of time, raise up a great High Priest, like Joshua, who is but the figure of one that is to come. Christ is not only the Foundation, but the Founder of this temple, by his Spirit and grace. Glory is a burden, but not too heavy for Him to bear who upholds all things. The cross was His glory, and he bore that; so is the crown an exceeding weight of glory, and he bears that. The counsel of peace should be between the priest and the throne, between the priestly and kingly offices of Jesus Christ. The peace and welfare of the gospel church, and of all believers, shall be wrought, though not by two several persons, yet by two several offices meeting in one; Christ, purchasing all peace by his priesthood, maintaining and defending it by his kingdom. The crowns used in this solemnity must be kept in the temple, as evidence of this promise of the Messiah. Let us not think of separating what God has joined in his counsel of peace. We cannot come to God by Christ as our Priest, if we refuse to have him rule over us as our King. We have no real ground to think our peace is made with God, unless we try to keep his commandments.
Zechariah 6:1-8 . EIGHTH VISION. THE FOUR CHARIOTS.
1. four chariots--symbolizing the various dispensations of Providence towards the Gentile nations which had been more or less brought into contact with Judea; especially in punishing Babylon. Compare Zechariah 6:8 ("the north country," that is, Babylon); Zechariah 1:15 , 2:6 . The number "four" is specified not merely in reference to the four quarters of the horizon (implying universal judgments), but in allusion to the four world kingdoms of Daniel.
from between two mountains--the valley of Jehoshaphat, between Moriah and Mount Olivet [MOORE]; or the valley between Zion and Moriah, where the Lord is ( Zechariah 2:10 ), and whence He sends forth His ministers of judgment on the heathen [MAURER]. The temple on Mount Moriah is the symbol of the theocracy; hence the nearest spot accessible to chariots in the valley below is the most suitable for a vision affecting Judah in relation to the Gentile world powers. The chariot is the symbol of war, and so of judgments.
of brass--the metal among the ancients representing hard solidity; so the immovable and resistless firmness of God's people (compare Jeremiah 1:18 ). CALVIN explains the "two mountains" thus: The secret purpose of God from eternity does not come forth to view before the execution, but is hidden and kept back irresistibly till the fit time, as it were between lofty mountains; the chariots are the various changes wrought in nations, which, as swift heralds, announce to us what before we knew not. The "two" may thus correspond to the number of the "olive trees" ( Zechariah 4:3 ); the allusion to the "two mountains" near the temple is not necessarily excluded in this view. HENDERSON explains them to be the Medo-Persian kingdom, represented by the "two horns" ( Daniel 8:3 Daniel 8:4 ), now employed to execute God's purpose in punishing the nations; but the prophecy reaches far beyond those times.
2. red--implying carnage.
black--representing sorrow; also famine ( Revelation 6:5 Revelation 6:6 ; compare Zechariah 1:8 ).
3. white--implying joy and victory [CALVIN].
grizzled--piebald. Implying a mixed dispensation, partly prosperity, partly adversity. All four dispensations, though various in character to the Gentile nation, portended alike good to God's people.
bay--rather, "strong" or "fleet"; so Vulgate [GESENIUS]. The horses have this epithet, whose part it was to "walk to and fro through the earth" ( Zechariah 6:7 ). However, the Septuagint and Chaldee agree with English Version in referring the Hebrew to color, not strength.
4. The prophet humbly and teachably seeks instruction from God, and therefore seeks not in vain.
5. four spirits of the heavens--heavenly spirits who "stand before Jehovah" to receive God's commands ( Zechariah 4:14 , 1 Kings 22:19 , Job 2:1 , Luke 1:19 ) in heaven (of which Zion is the counterpart on earth, chariot speed ( 2 Kings 6:17 , Psalms 68:17 ) to execute them on earth in its four various quarters ( Psalms 104:4 , Hebrews 1:7 Hebrews 1:14 ) [PEMBELLUS]. Or, the secret impulses of God which emanate from His counsel and providence; the prophet implies that all the revolutions in the world are from the Spirit of God and are as it were, His messengers or spirits [CALVIN].
6. north country--Babylon quarter specified in particular whence Judah and Israel are hereafter to return to their own land ( Zechariah 2:6 , Jeremiah 3:18 ). "The black horses" go to Babylon, primarily to represent the awful desolation with which Darius visited it in the fifth year of his reign (two years after this prophecy) for revolting [HENDERSON]. The "white" go after the "black" horses to the same country; two sets being sent to it because of its greater cruelty and guilt in respect to Judea. The white represent Darius triumphant subjugation of it [MOORE]. Rather, I think, the white are sent to victoriously subdue Medo-Persia, the second world kingdom, lying in the same quarter as Babylon, namely, north.
grizzled . . . toward the south--that is, to Egypt, the other great foe of God's people. It, being a part of the Græco-Macedonian kingdom, stands for the whole of it, the third world kingdom.
7. bay--rather, the "fleet" (or "strong"). As the "red" are not otherwise mentioned, the epithet "fleet" (as the Hebrew for "bay" ought to be translated) in Zechariah 6:3 seems to apply to all four, and here especially to the "red." Their office is to complete hereafter the work already in part executed by the previous three who have stilled Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Græco-Macedonia; namely, to punish finally the last great foe of Israel, the final form assumed by the fourth world kingdom, Rome, which is to continue down to the second advent of Christ. Hence they "walk to and fro through the earth," counterworking Satan's "going to and fro in the earth" ( Job 1:7 , 2 Thessalonians 2:8 2 Thessalonians 2:9 , 1 Timothy 4:1 ), in connection with the last awful development of the fourth world kingdom. Their "fleetness" is needed to counteract his restless activity; their red color implies the final great carnage ( Ezekiel 39:1-29 Revelation 19:17 Revelation 19:18 Revelation 19:21 ).
8. north . . . quieted . . . my spirit--that is, caused My anger to rest ( Judges 8:3 , Margin; Ecclesiastes 10:4 , Ezekiel 5:13 , 16:42 ). Babylon alone of the four great world kingdoms had in Zechariah's time been finally punished; therefore, in its case alone does God now say His anger is satisfied; the others had as yet to expiate their sin; the fourth has still to do so.
Zechariah 6:9-15 . NINTH VISION. THE CROWNING OF JOSHUA.
The double crown is placed on Joshua's head, symbolizing that the true priesthood and the kingdom shall be conferred on the one Messiah. Compare Hebrews 6:20 , 7:1-21 , on Melchisedek, who similarly combined the kingdom and priesthood as type of Messiah.
10. Take of them of the captivity--Take silver and gold ( Zechariah 6:11 ) from them. The three named came from Babylon (where some of the exiled Jews still were left) to present gifts of silver and gold towards the building of the temple. But in Zechariah 6:11 Zechariah 6:14 , "crowns" are directed to be made of them, then to be set on Joshua's head, and to be deposited in the temple as a memorial of the donors, until Messiah shall appear.
Heldai--meaning "robust." Called Helem below.
Tobijah--that is, "the goodness of God."
Jedaiah--that is, "God knows."
which are come from Babylon--This clause in the Hebrew comes after "Josiah son of Zephaniah." Therefore, MOORE thinks Josiah as well as the three "came from Babylon." But as he has a "house" at Jerusalem, he is plainly a resident, not a visitor. Therefore English Version is right; or MAURER, "Josiah son of Zephaniah, to whom they are come (as guests) from Babylon."
the same day--No time was to be lost to mark the significancy of their coming from afar to offer gifts to the temple, typifying, in the double crown made of their gifts and set on Joshua's head, the gathering in of Israel's outcasts to Messiah hereafter, who shall then be recognized as the true king and priest.
11. The high priest wore a crown above the miter ( Zechariah 3:5 , Leviticus 8:9 ). Messiah shall wear many crowns, one surmounting the other ( Revelation 19:12 ). It was a thing before unknown in the Levitical priesthood that the same person should wear at once the crown of a king and that of a high priest ( Psalms 110:4 , Hebrews 5:10 ). Messiah shall be revealed fully in this twofold dignity when He shall "restore the kingdom to Israel" ( Acts 1:6 ).
12. Behold, the man--namely, shall arise. Pilate unconsciously spake God's will concerning Him, "Behold the man" ( John 19:5 ). The sense here is, "Behold in Joshua a remarkable shadowing forth of Messiah." It is not for his own sake that the crown is placed on him, but as type of Messiah about to be at once king and priest. Joshua could not personally be crowned king, not being of the royal line of David, but only in his representative character. Isaiah 4:2 , Jeremiah 23:5 , 33:15 ).
he shall grow up out of his place--retaining the image of a "Branch"; "He shall sprout up from His place," that is, the place peculiar to Him: not merely from Beth-lehem or Nazareth, but by His own power, without man's aid, in His miraculous conception [HENDERSON]; a sense brought out in the original, "from under Himself," or "from (of) Himself" [CALVIN]. MOORE makes it refer to His growing lowly in His place of obscurity, "as a tender plant and a root out of a dry ground" ( Isaiah 53:2 ), for thirty years unknown except as the son of a carpenter. MAURER translates, "Under Him there shall be growth (in the Church)." English Version accords better with the Hebrew (compare Exodus 10:23 ). The idea in a Branch is that Christ's glory is growing, not yet fully manifested as a full-grown tree. Therefore men reject Him now.
build the temple--The promise of the future true building of the spiritual temple by Messiah ( Matthew 16:18 1 Corinthians 3:17 2 Corinthians 6:16 Ephesians 2:20-22 Hebrews 3:3 ) is an earnest to assure the Jews, that the material temple will be built by Joshua and Zerubbabel, in spite of all seeming obstacles. It also raises their thoughts beyond the material to the spiritual temple, and also to the future glorious temple, to be reared in Israel under Messiah's superintendence (Ezekiel 40:1-43:27'). The repetition of the same clause ( Zechariah 6:13 ) gives emphasis to the statement as to Messiah's work.
13. bear the glory--that is, wear the insignia of the kingly glory, "the crowns" ( Psalms 21:5 , 102:16 , Isaiah 52:13 ). He himself shall bear the glory, not thou, Joshua, though thou dost bear the crowns. The Church's dignity is in her head alone, Christ. So Eliakim, type of Messiah, was to have "all the glory of his father's house hung upon him" ( Isaiah 22:24 ).
sit--implying security and permanence.
priest . . . throne--( Genesis 14:18 , Psalms 110:4 , Hebrews 5:6 Hebrews 5:10 , Hebrews 6:20 Hebrews 6:7 ).
counsel of peace . . . between . . . both--Joshua and Zerubbabel, the religious and civil authorities co-operating in the temple, typify the peace, or harmonious union, between both the kingly and priestly offices. The kingly majesty shall not depress the priestly dignity, nor the priestly dignity the kingly majesty [JEROME]. The peace of the Church, formerly sought for in the mutual "counsels" of the kings and the priests, who had been always distinct, shall be perfectly ensured by the concurrence of the two offices in the one Messiah, who by His mediatorial priesthood purchases it, and by His kingly rule maintains it. VITRINGA takes "His throne" to be Jehovah the Father's. Thus it will be, "there shall be . . . peace between the Branch and Jehovah" [LUDOVICUS DE DIEU]. The other view is better, namely, "Messiah's throne." As Priest He expiates sin; as King, extirpates it. "Counsel of peace," implies that it is the plan of infinite "wisdom," whence Messiah is called "Counsellor" ( Isaiah 9:6 , Ephesians 1:8 Ephesians 1:11 , Hebrews 6:17 ). Peace between the kingly and priestly attributes of Messiah implies the harmonizing of the conflicting claims of God's justice as a King, and His love as a Father and Priest. Hence is produced peace to man ( Luke 2:14 Acts 10:36 Ephesians 2:13-17 ). It is only by being pardoned through His atonement and ruled by His laws, that we can find "peace." The royal "throne" was always connected with the "temple," as is the case in the Apocalypse ( Revelation 7:15 ), because Christ is to be a king on His throne and a priest, and because the people, whose "king" the Lord is, cannot approach Him except by a priestly mediation [ROOS]. Jesus shall come to effect, by His presence ( Isaiah 11:4 , Daniel 7:17 ), that which in vain is looked for, in His absence, by other means. He shall exercise His power mediatorially as priest on His throne ( Zechariah 6:13 ); therefore His reign is for a limited period, which it could not be if it were the final and everlasting state of glory. But being for a special purpose, to reconcile all things in this world, now disordered by sin, and so present it to God the Father that He may again for the first time since the fall come into direct connection with His creatures; therefore it is limited, forming the dispensation in the fulness of times ( Ephesians 1:10 ), when God shall gather in one all things in Christ, the final end of which shall be, "God all in all" ( 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ).
14. the crowns shall be to Helem . . . a memorial--deposited in the temple, to the honor of the donors; a memorial, too, of the coronation of Joshua, to remind all of Messiah, the promised antitypical king-priest, soon to come. Helem, the same as Heldai above. So Hen (that is, "favor") is another name for Josiah (that is, "God founds") above. The same person often had two names.
15. they . . . far off shall . . . build--The reason why the crowns were made of gold received from afar, namely, from the Jews of Babylon, was to typify the conversion of the Gentiles to Messiah, King of Israel. This, too, was included in the "peace" spoken of in Zechariah 6:13 ( Acts 2:39 , Ephesians 2:12-17 ). Primarily, however, the return of the dispersed Israelites "from afar" ( Isaiah 60:9 ) to the king of the Jews at Jerusalem is intended, to be followed, secondly, by the conversion of the Gentiles from "far off" ( Zechariah 2:11 , Zechariah 8:2-2 Zechariah 8:23 , Isaiah 60:10 , 57:19 ).
build in the temple--Christ "builds the temple" ( Zechariah 6:12 Zechariah 6:13 , Hebrews 3:3 Hebrews 3:4 ): His people "build in the temple." Compare Hebrews 3:2 , "Moses in His house."
ye shall know, &c.--when the event corresponds to the prediction ( Zechariah 2:9 , 4:9 ).
this shall come to pass, if ye . . . obey, &c.--To the Jews of Zechariah's day a stimulus is given to diligent prosecution of the temple building, the work which it was meanwhile their duty to fulfil, relying on the hope of the Messiah afterwards to glorify it. The completion of the temple shall "come to pass," if ye diligently on your part "obey the Lord." It is not meant that their unbelief could set aside God's gracious purpose as to Messiah's coming. But there is, secondarily, meant, that Messiah's glory as priest-king of Israel shall not be manifested to the Jews till they turn to Him with obedient penitence. They meanwhile are cast away "branches" until they be grafted in again on the Branch and their own olive tree ( Zechariah 3:8 , 12:10-12 , Matthew 23:39 , Romans 11:16-24 ).