For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

1:1.  “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”

Eight is the biblical number which speaks of a new beginning; and two, of witness or testimony.  The message the prophet was about to deliver was one of good tidings, of a new beginning for those who had been in Babylonian bondage for seventy years, that bondage having been imposed by the Lord as chastisement upon Judah for their blatant rebellion against Him.  The bondage, however, had ended.  The old rebel generation had virtually died out, and had been replaced by the one that had grown up during those seventy years of chastisement, the obedience of a remnant of that new generation being demonstrated by their having returned to Canaan in response to the permission granted by the Persian king Artaxerxes, Babylon in the interval having fallen to the Persians.

God’s taking up that new second generation for blessing is yet another of the many demonstrations of the principle which runs through Scripture from beginning to end, “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second,” Heb 10:9, that principle being itself the declaration of the truth that apart from the new birth no man can hope to enter heaven.  The Lord reiterated that truth in His conversation with Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:3, 7, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.... Ye must be born again,” and Paul emphasized the same truth in 1 Cor 15:50, “... flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”

That returned remnant had been commanded to rebuild the Temple, the original built by Solomon having been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar had led the people away captive.  The returned remnant, however, having laid the foundation of the Temple, had then abandoned the work partly because of opposition from their enemies, but more so because of apathy and self-seeking on their own part, and now after the lapse of another sixteen years God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to rebuke their indolence and encourage them to resume the work. 

It isn’t difficult to see in this a typological picture of the experience of the Church.  The remnant, a new generation, returned from Babylonian bondage, corresponds to the believers of the early Apostolic age, who through faith in Christ were delivered from the yoke of ritualistic Judaism; and the laying of the foundation of the Temple corresponds to the laying of the foundation of the Church.  The abandonment of the building of the Temple after the laying of the foundation is a foreshadowing of what occurred even before the Apostles had passed from this scene of their earthly labors.  The love and zeal that had marked the early believers in the first two decades following the Lord’s death and resurrection, had very quickly begun to cool, as we read in Ga 1:6-7, which was written less than twenty years after the Lord’s death and resurrection, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel; which is not another; but there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”  In Col 4:14, and Phm 24, both written about AD 60, Demas is included in those who joined Paul in sending greetings to the recipients of the two letters, yet in 2 Tim 4:10, written just seven years later, Paul writes sorrowfully, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world....”  Likewise in regard to the church at Ephesus, the Epistle written to them in AD 62 indicates that the believers were going on well in the things of God, yet just a little more than twenty years later, the Lord through John writes concerning them, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love,” Re 2:4.

1:2.  “The Lord hath been sore displeased (very angry) with your fathers.”

Judah’s sin had been compounded by virtue of the fact that she had had opportunity to learn from the fate that had overtaken Israel(the ten northern tribes) which had been carried captive into Assyria about a hundred and thirty years earlier for the very same sins: idolatry, immorality, and oppression of the poor by the rich, to name but a few.  Having failed to profit by Israel’s experience Judah had duplicated her sister’s sin, with the result that she had been delivered into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar who carried the bulk of the people captive into Babylon in 586 BC, sparing only the very poor of the land.

It might be supposed that the remnant, just recently returned from that captivity, would have needed no reminder of the folly of disobeying God, but the unfinished Temple bore eloquent testimony to the contrary.  They had not profited either by the experience of their sister Israel, or of their fathers.

It might also be supposed that the early Church would have profited, not only by these earlier captivities of Israel and Judah, but by the Diaspora of AD 70, a scattering which even now after two thousand years finds the Jews still dispersed amongst the nations, except for the relatively small number who have returned to the land since the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948.  As already discussed above, however, after the halcyon days of the early Apostolic age, the Church quickly forgot the lessons of the past, with the result that apart from a small faithful remnant, the bulk of professing Christians quickly became apostate, the corporate body developing into the terrible Romish system which has been the bitterest enemy of Christ and His own, and which has lorded it over them and a very large segment of humanity for the past fifteen hundred years.

1:3.  “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.”

The term “Lord of hosts (armies)” is used nine times in this first chapter, designedly it seems, to remind them that though in patient grace He condescends to plead with them, He is nevertheless the Almighty, Who when His patience is exhausted by entreaty spurned, will execute judgment.  The use of the term ought to have reminded them also that the One Who called them to obedient trust was the One who is ever ready to exercise His omnipotence for the protection and blessing of all who do trust Him.

That lesson is no less applicable to men and women today.

1:4.  “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord.”

Their fathers had compounded their guilt by reason of the fact that they had experienced God’s gracious care in His having put forth His almighty power to deliver them from Egypt’s bitter bondage; in His having divided the Red Sea to afford them safe passage; in His having destroyed the armies of Egypt; in having preserved them for forty years in the wilderness, miraculously feeding them with manna, and giving them water from the smitten rock; in having divided the flooding Jordan to bring them dry-shod into Canaan, and in having given them victory over all their enemies during the seven-year campaign under the leadership of Joshua.

But with the passing of that first generation which had entered Canaan with Joshua, the people quickly forgot all these things, and rebelled against God by intermarrying with the Canaanites, and worshiping their false gods.  And when He sent prophets to plead with them to abandon their evil ways, and return to Him, they refused to listen, and plunged deeper into sin.

Christendom likewise has had all these evidences of God’s eagerness to bless obedience, but also of His power to punish rebellion, there being available to those of this Church age what was not available to those addressed by the prophet: the Diaspora of AD 70 which left Jerusalem a heap of rubble, which saw thousands slain, thousands more sold as slaves, and the remainder scattered amongst the nations, were the bulk of their descendants remain to this day.

1:5.  “Your fathers, where are they?  and the prophets, do they live for ever?”

The brevity of human life, and the folly of squandering those few and fleeting years in rebellion against the God of heaven are announced in these two rhetorical questions.  “Your fathers, where are they?”  Their brief day on earth had passed, and they had gone out into an eternal existence, the rebellion of the majority having taken them into the torment of hell to await the resurrection of damnation, and ultimate consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire, while the obedience of the relatively small faithful remnant had transported their souls into paradise, from which they have been removed to heaven at the time of the Lord’s resurrection, where they now await the resurrection of their bodies at the resurrection of life, and the eternal reward of their faithfulness while here on earth.

“... and the prophets, do they live for ever.”  The faithful prophets had also gone to the same blessed destination and ultimate reward as those mentioned above who had heeded their warnings.

And so has it been throughout the two thousand years of the Church age.  The rebellious majority have gone to the same terrible place to await the same dreadful eternal fate as their unbelieving fellows of the OT age.  The souls of the small believing remnant, like those of their fellows of the OT age, have also gone to heaven, where they await the resurrection of their bodies and the enjoyment of eternal bliss in heaven with their Savior.   

1:6.  “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?  and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.”

Just as surely as time had carried away the people and the prophets, each to an eternal recompense proportionate to the degree of faithfulness exhibited during his earthly life, so had God’s word been fulfilled.  The foretold chastisements had fallen, and now the remnant returned from Babylon were being reminded that their fathers had been brought to acknowledge their own folly, and to confess the righteousness of God in His dealings with them, both in chastisement for disobedience, and in blessing for obedience.

1:7.  “Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”

This begins a new section in which the prophet is being shown things that will be in the future, some of that future being relatively near; other parts of the prophecy relating to what has not yet been fulfilled even in our day.  This new revelation was given Zechariah less than three months after the one we have just been considering.  The day of the month is designated by the number twenty-four divided into four the number of earth and testing; and twenty which can be factorized as two and ten, or four and five.  Two is the number of witness or testimony; ten, of God as the Governor or Ruler of all things; and five, of responsibility.  They combine to convey the message that all things bear witness to God as the Ruler of the universe, and to remind men that all the events of life are ordered or permitted by Him to test man’s obedience, there being an eternal reward, proportionate to the degree of their obedience, reserved for the enjoyment of those who are believers; and an eternal measure of torment, proportionate to the measure of their rebellion, reserved for those who refuse to repent of their sins and who thereby reject God’s gift of eternal life.

Sebat, incidentally, means smite thou, reminding us that God’s initial smiting is intended to lead men to repentance and blessing; but when that smiting goes unheeded, that is, when it produces no repentance, it is thereby transmuted into eternal punishment to be endured in the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.

1:8.  “I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.”

Every biblical reference to literal night or darkness is designed to teach truth relative to the spiritual darkness in which the world lies enshrouded, and which blinds men’s minds to the truth, so that the prophet’s seeing “by night” reminds us that the only light which can penetrate this pall of spiritual darkness is that which comes from God’s Word through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, as it is written, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple,” Ps 119:130.

As the following verses make clear the rider on the red horse is “the angel of the Lord,” that is, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in human form, and it is instructive to note that in Re 6:4 He is also presented as riding upon a red horse, His mission there being to plunge the world into war during the Great Tribulation.  There can be little question that the vision shown Zechariah here has reference also to the Great Tribulation.

The myrtle tree is an evergreen, bearing fragrant white flowers and aromatic berries, every other biblical reference to it being in the context of peace and prosperity, so that the picture here seems to be of the world as it will be during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation era, when men will be basking in the false peace inaugurated by the Beast.  Some take the myrtle trees to represent Israel, but there is little to support such an interpretation.

“... the bottom” is literally a shady place or valley, the present context indicating that it may well be symbolic of the valley of Megiddo or Armageddon into which the armies of earth will be gathered and destroyed by the Lord at the end of the Great Tribulation.

The army mounted on various colored horses behind the rider on the red horse may correspond to the rider on the black horse of Re 6:5, and to the rider on the pale horse of Re 6:8, the different colored horses of this present verse representing the other evils, besides famine and disease, that will devastate the earth in the Great Tribulation.

1:9.  “Then said I, O my lord, what are these?  And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.”

Since the Lord Jesus Christ is represented by the rider on the red horse, the angel talking with Zechariah is not the Lord, but a heavenly messenger sent to act as the intermediary between the two.

1:10.  “And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.”

Since the man on the red horse, standing among the myrtle trees, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Who has sent these horsemen “to walk to and fro” through the earth, i.e., to patrol the earth, must be God the Father; and their patrolling the earth reminds us that in spite of what the present state of the world may indicate to the contrary, God is in complete control, and is working all things together to accomplish His immutable purposes for His Own glory, and the ultimate eternal blessing of those who belong to Him.

1:11.  “And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”

The “they” who here addressed the rider on the red horse, i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ, reported that during their patrol of the earth, they had found the whole world enjoying prosperity and peace; but it is to be remembered that this will be the state of the world only during the first half of the Tribulation era as a result of the satanically inspired governmental skill of the beast emperor.  It will, however, be a false peace, as we are assured in 1 Th 5:3, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”

1:12.  “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?”

Here “the angel of the Lord,” i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ, addresses the Father, asking how long it would be before He would have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah now that a remnant of the people had returned from the seventy-year captivity of Judah in Babylon.

As noted in the introduction to this study, the people, upon their return from Babylon, had begun to build the Temple, but after laying the foundation, they had abandoned the work, and for about sixteen years not one stone had been laid upon that foundation, nor had Jerusalem and the other ruined cities of Judah been rebuilt.

The Lord’s question, however, has to be understood in context.  It was less a question of how long God would defer blessing, as it was of how long the people themselves would hinder that blessing by their disobedience, for blessing and disobedience  are mutually exclusive.  God had manifested His desire to bless by bringing them back from Babylon, and His having sent His servant Zechariah to exhort them to obedience, was further  evidence of His continued desire to bless them.

As already noted, however, the history of Judah and Israel is but the typological prewritten history of the professing church - Judah representing true believers; and Israel, the professing but apostate mass of Christendom.  The experience of the true Church and of Christendom confirms the accuracy of the type, for both have duplicated the conduct of their prototypes, the true Church having been guilty of the same delinquency as Judah; and apostate Christendom, of apostate Israel.  And as the Lord sent the prophets to rebuke, exhort, and encourage Judah and Israel, so are their words designed to do the same today to the true Church and her apostate sister, Christendom.  We rob ourselves of valuable instruction if we see their writings as being for Judah and Israel only.

1:13.  “And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.”

“... the Lord” here appears to be the Father responding to the question of the Lord Jesus Christ (the man on the red horse among the myrtle trees), but directing His answer to Zechariah, His “good ... and comfortable words (gracious and comforting words)” being the assurance of His jealous loving care for His people, in spite of all their waywardness.

1:14.  “So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.”

The prophet’s being commanded to cry or shout out, declares God’s desire to have the whole world know of His great love for His errant people the Jews, for “jealous” is literally “zealous,” and is used here to describe a love similar to that of a loving husband for his wife.

Jerusalem, and Zion (the Temple mount), are used here as synonyms for all the people of Judah, Jerusalem being associated with the governmental supremacy God has always wanted them to enjoy, but which their own disobedience has denied them; and Zion clearly speaks of their religious supremacy, theirs being the only  religion which He recognizes.  Sadly it will not be until genuine repentance and acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior have brought them into the millennial kingdom that they will enjoy these privileges.

Israel’s future millennial blessings, however, will be exceeded by those reserved for the believers of the Church age, for Israel’s will be earthly; ours, heavenly.  We will reign with Christ, not only over the millennial earth, but over all creation.

1:15.  “And I am very sore displeased (angry) with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.”

Having declared His love for His earthly people, God here announces His very great anger against the Gentiles, for while He had used them as His instruments to chastize His rebellious people, they had carried the chastisement far beyond anything He had ever intended.  Their affliction of the Jews has been and still is viciously cruel.

Relative to God’s use of the Gentiles as instruments for the chastisement of His wayward people, The Liberty Bible Commentary makes the following instructive observation, “They were not consciously serving God.  They did what they did because of their own greed; hence, God will hold them accountable for their deeds and will judge them (cf. Isa 10; Hab 1:5-2:20).

1:16.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.”

The immediate reference is to the rebuilding of the city that lay a desolate ruin at the time Zechariah was commissioned to deliver God’s promise of coming blessing.  His Temple would be rebuilt, as would also the city itself.  The stretching out of a line upon Jerusalem refers to the use of the builder’s plumbline.

This word was fulfilled in the days of Ezra, see chapter six of that book; but what isn’t mentioned here is that the city and Temple would be destroyed again, by the Romans in AD 70, and the people scattered amongst the Gentiles where the bulk of them remain to this day, only a relatively small number having returned since the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948.  That most recent return is of particular significance, for the Lord Himself declared that the generation witnessing that return would not have passed from the earth until all would be fulfilled, i.e., the seven-year Tribulation era which will end with Christ’s destruction of the rebel armies gathered in the valley of Armageddon, His judgment of Israel and the nations, and His inauguration of His glorious millennial kingdom, see Mt 24:3-34; Mk 13:3-30; Lk 21:7-32.

1:17.  “Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”

While this might be applied in a limited measure to the period which began with the return of the remnant addressed by Zechariah and ended with the Diaspora of AD 70, there can be little question that its correct application is to the millennial age.

“My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad” is literally “shall overflow with prosperity and blessing.”  The full measure of blessing indicated here has never been experienced even in the days of Solomon, nor will it be until the Millennium.

1:18.  “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.”

Having been informed of the blessing yet to be enjoyed by millennial Israel, the prophet is now being shown a very different picture: God’s preparation to punish the nations which have so cruelly oppressed His people.

1:19.  “And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these?  And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

Since a horn is one of the biblical symbols of a king or kingdom, these four represent the four great Gentile empires which have exercised actual or potential dominion over the whole world, i.e., they represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and each has been an oppressor of Israel.

1:20.  “And the Lord shewed me four carpenters.”

The word translated “carpenter” is literally an artificer of wood, metal, stone, etc., many translators rendering it here as blacksmiths or metal-workers, though in the present context the exact shade of meaning is of little importance.

1:21.  “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.”

As noted above, the horns represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, and the cruel character of their oppression of Israel and Judah is indicated in the words, “so that no man did lift up his head.”  It has to be recognized, however, that each of these great powers embodied much of the character of its predecessor, so that for the duration of its supremacy each was simply the visible form of the Satanic power behind all of them, they being merely the instruments through which Satan opposed God.  But that evil spirit can do nothing more than God permits, and the words, “these are come to fray (rout or terrify) them (the Gentile nations energized by Satan), declare that God is always in control, and in His own good time will check Satan’s activity, punish every evildoer, and right every wrong.

This prophecy awaits fulfillment, for it is obvious that the Gentile powers have not yet been destroyed, the European Common Market coalition being part of the fulfillment of prophecy, for it is clearly a part of the foretold revival of the Roman Empire which received a deadly wound in 476 AD, but from which it is to recover and be governed by the Tribulation-age beast emperor (see Re 13), its destruction coming when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to end the Tribulation and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  That revival going on today, together with the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948, assures us that we are the generation spoken of by the Lord Himself in Mt 24, Mk 13, and Lu 21, and which is not to pass from the earth until all is fulfilled, i.e., until the setting up of His millennial kingdom.

[Zechariah 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough