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Zechariah 1:21

21 I asked, “What are these coming to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”a

Read Zechariah 1:21 Using Other Translations

Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.
And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it."
“What are these men coming to do?” I asked. The angel replied, “These four horns—these nations—scattered and humbled Judah. Now these blacksmiths have come to terrify those nations and throw them down and destroy them.”

What does Zechariah 1:21 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Zechariah 1:21

Then said I, What come these to do?
&c.] That is, these four carpenters; for, being artificers or workmen, as the Targum renders the word, the prophet concluded there was some work for them to do: And he spake, saying;
meaning the angel that talked with him, and interpreted the visions to him: These [are] the horns which have scattered Judah;
not that the carpenters were the horns, for these two are distinct from, and opposite to, one another. The words should rather be rendered, "these horns which have scattered Judah", as before said, ( Zechariah 1:19 ) : so that no man did lift up his head;
or, as the Targum paraphrases it, "did not suffer" (a man) "to go with an erect stature"; but, through oppression, sorrow, and misery, was obliged to stoop, and bow, and hang down his head: but these are come to fray them;
these carpenters are come to frighten the horns, to put terror into those kings and kingdoms; to cast out the horns of the Gentiles;
to destroy their kingdoms, and take away their power from them: which lifted up [their] horns over the land of Judah to scatter it:
who make use of their power, and do harm to the people of Israel, and triumph and insult over them; see ( Psalms 75:4 Psalms 75:5 ) all which may be applied to the ministers of the Gospel, who are workmen; and whose business it is to fight or terrify the horns, wicked men, even men in power, the enemies of Christ's church and people; by their preaching, which has made a Felix to tremble; by their prayers, which they have been more afraid of than an army of men, as Mary queen of Scots said of the prayers of John Knox; and by their good lives and conversations, which made Herod stand in fear of John the Baptist; nay, even they have been a terror to the devil himself, and have been the means of casting him, and his principalities and powers, out of the Gentile world, and out of both the bodies and souls of men; and of casting down the strong holds of sin, and of breaking in pieces the kingdom and interest of Satan, and of building up the churches of Christ; the work of these spiritual carpenters is to cut down men, comparable to strong, sturdy, and lofty trees, for the pride and haughtiness of their hearts, the stiffness and stubbornness of their wills, and for their show of goodliness and beauty: this is done by the ministry of the word, the cutting doctrines of it, accompanied with the Spirit and power of God; as it is said, "I have hewed them by the prophets, I have slain them by, the words of my mouth", ( Hosea 6:5 ) whereas, when before, they grew up and stood on their own bottom, their morality, civility, and works of righteousness; now they are cut down, and die to all these things, as to any hope of salvation by them; and then, as the carpenter smooths and planes a timber he has hewed, and fitly frames it together, and joints it in, and lays it on a good foundation; so do Gospel ministers, as instruments in the hands of God, after hewing and cutting work through the ministration of the law, the killing letter, and which works wrath; speak comfortably to such souls, by directing them to the blood and righteousness of Christ for pardon of sin and justification of life; and ministerially lay them in the spiritual building, the church; or advise and exhort them to submit to the ordinances of Christ, and join themselves to Gospel churches; and, above all things, instruct them to build on Christ, the sure foundation in Zion; and ministerially lay him as the alone foundation to build upon for life and salvation, and not upon any works of righteousness done by them; and put them upon walking according to the line and rule of the divine word, in matters of worship, discipline, and conversation: and as there were in the first times of the Gospel many such builders, and have been more or less since; so there will be many more in the latter day, who will be very successfully employed in building, repairing, and beautifying the church of God; see ( Isaiah 58:12 ) ( 60:10 ) ( 61:4 ) ( Zechariah 6:15 ) . Some by the four carpenters understand Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah; and so, by the four horns, those that opposed them in building the city and temple, as Rehum, Shimshai, Sanballat, and Tobiah; but these seem too inferior governors to be signified by horns; nor did they do what is here ascribed to them; rather their nations, Samaritans, Arabians, Ammonites, and Philistines, are meant.

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