Commentary on Zechariah 1
A call for repentance, a vision of hope for Jerusalem, and a vision of despair for the nations.
The time period is the eighth month of the second year of the Persian King Darius I’s reign. This is around the year 520 BC. The first group of Jewish captives have already come home from Babylonian captivity and laid the foundation of the temple, but have stopped building. The temple remains incomplete. We learn this from Haggai who prophesied during the same year, two months before Zechariah’s first message to the returned people of Jerusalem.
Zechariah is introduced as a prophet, and the of son Berekiah and grandson of Iddo. Neh. 12:4,16 tells that Iddo was a Levite and priest, and Zechariah was the head of Iddo’s priestly family.
Zechariah is charged with the task of telling the returned captives they needed to return to God. Just as with us today, it was the same for the Jews then. If we are far from God, it is not He who has moved, but us. He reminds them of the reason they had been in captivity in the first place. This was because of the sins of their ancestors. God punished His people severely, for their severe disobedience. Zechariah also reminds the people of one other thing, that is that His words and commandments overtook everything including the prophets and their ancestors. We must remember God never changes and is eternal. He will always overtake everything and everyone.
This vision of Zechariah is approximately three months after his above plea for the remnant to return to God. It is the twenty fourth day of the eleventh month in the same year as the first six verses.
The vision was of a man sitting on a red horse underneath a grove of myrtle trees near a ravine. There were red, white, and brown horses behind him. The man explained to Zechariah that these were messengers sent by God to go throughout the world. Definitely important to remember here is that God is watching. He goes throughout the whole world watching.
The messengers come back, and report to the angel among the trees that the world is at peace and rest. The angel then pleads to God for the remnant in Jerusalem. He asked how much longer mercy would be witheld and anger shown. He also reminds God that their seventy years of captivity are over. God then comforts the angel. God is a comfort to His own.
Next, Zecharaiah is told the great news for the remnant. God is very jealous or zealous (depending on the version) for His people. Now the ancient Hebrew word for jealous and zealous (qinah) are the same in this instance. It’s the idea of becoming red, flushing with emotion. So God feels very deeply for His people. He promises them several things:
-He will return to Jerusalem with mercy.
-His temple will be rebuilt. (This did occur four years later in 516 BC.)
-The measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem. (This is an important promise because measuring in the old testament was often a sign of ownership.) God will be the owner of His people again.
-The towns will overvlow with prosperity.
-God will comfort Zion.
-He will choose Jerusalem.
It is amazing what returning to God will do for the lives of His people. The grace and mercy shown by God can truly change every aspect of our lives.
Zechariah now sees four horns and four craftsmen.
Horns, especially in the prophets, were a symbol of power or authority. The angel tells Zechariah that these were the four horns that scattered His people. Most likely these horns represented the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. The same four empires Daniel prophesied about in Daniel 2. Obviously this would mean that there was more scattering to take place because the Greek and Roman empires had yet to come to their full power at this point in history.
Zechariah then sees the four craftsmen. The angel tells him the craftsmen are there to terrify the horns. It is interesting to note here that God was the one to appoint these nations in their positions over His people. God fulfills His plan by working through us. God was not angry at the nations for taking His people into captivty but for being cruel, arrogant, and forgetting their place. In vs. 15 God says, “I was only a little angry, but they went too far with their punishment,” and in vs. 20 He says the nations kept His people from even raising their heads. So now the craftsmen are coming to put them in their place. These craftsmen were most likely different nations. God used Medo-Persia to take down Babylon, and He would do the same with the Greeks and the Romans.
It is always wise to remember there is no rest when God’s people suffer. The world thought they were at rest and peace, they appeared to be anyway. However, God shows us there is no such thing for a world that does not recognize the sovereignty of God, and abide by decent treatment of one another.