Zechariah 6

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Vision of Four Chariots The Eighth Vision: Four Chariots The Vision of the Four Chariots The Eighth Vision: The Chariots
6:1-8 6:1-8 6:1-4 6:1-8
    6:5  
    6:6-8  
The Command to Crown Joshua The Crowning of the Messianic Leader The Command to Crown Joshua The Votive Crown
6:9-13 6:9-14 6:9-14 6:9-15a
6:14-15      
  6:15 6:15  
      6:15b
       

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This eighth vision seems to parallel 1:7-17, the first vision (the same number of colored horses and the same patrolling activity in all directions).

 

B. The main thrust is God's knowledge and control of human history to accomplish His complete redemptive purposes.

 

C. Verses 9-15 are not another vision, but a historical reference focused toward Joshua. This Messianic passage links the royal aspect (i.e. "crown," v. 11; "set and rule on His throne," v. 13) and the priestly aspects ("the high priest," v. 11; "He will be a priest on His throne," v. 13).

Yet, it must be asserted that the term "Branch" may refer to Zerubbabel (cf. 3:8). It is obvious that Joshua and Zerubbabel are linked together (cf. 4:1,14; 6:13). This linking of king and priest is also present in Ps. 110:1,4 and implied in I Sam. 2:35.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:1-8 
 1Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains. 2With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, 3with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses. 4Then I spoke and said to the angel who was speaking with me, "What are these, my lord?" 5The angel replied to me, "These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth, 6with one of which the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country. 7When the strong ones went out, they were eager to go to patrol the earth." And He said, "Go, patrol the earth." So they patrolled the earth. 8Then He cried out to me and spoke to me saying, "See, those who are going to the land of the north have appeased My wrath in the land of the north."

6:1 "I lifted up my eyes again and looked" See note at 1:8.

"four chariots" Four (BDB 916) is often used as a symbol of the whole world (or known world, cf. Dan. 2,7) or universe (cf. Dan. 8:8; 11:4; Zech. 6:5, see John J. David, Biblical Numerology, pp. 122-123; Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 12, pp. 1255-1259; or Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 382).

1. four horsemen, 1:8

2. four horns/four craftsmen, 1:18,20

3. four winds of heaven, 2:10

4. four chariots, 6:1

5. four spirits (or "winds," like 2:10) of heaven, 6:5

"Chariots" (BDB 939) are war machines, the fastest and deadliest of the day.

 

▣ "two mountains" The term "mountain" (BDB 249) is used several times in Zechariah.

1. 4:7, the problems (the surrounding nations) facing Zerubbabel in rebuilding the temple

2. 6:1, bronze mountains of opposition against YHWH's judgment on the nations

3. 14:4-5, opposition of the nations to YHWH and the safety of God's people

Mountains often symbolize the opposition of the nations which YHWH will remove (e.g. Isa. 41:15; Jer. 13:16; 51:25).

The aspect of "two" mountains with a valley in between may foreshadow 14:4-5 (the eschatological work of the Messiah), which builds on the literal valley between the temple (Mt. Moriah) and the Mount of Olives.

If the Jerusalem area is the object of the symbol, it is also possible that the two "bronze pillars" in front of the temple itself (cf. I Kgs. 7:15-22) are the focus. This would imply that YHWH dwells with His people again in the temple being rebuilt.

▣ "bronze" This was the strongest alloy known in that day (BDB 638, cf. I Kings 7:13-22). This description as being of bronze shows their symbolic nature.

6:2 "red horses" The color red (BDB 10) is probably reddish brown when it refers to animals.

"black horses" Chapters 1 and 6 do not parallel exactly. There are two reddish houses in chapter1, but no black one is specifically mentioned.

6:3

NASB"strong dappled horses"
NKJV"dappled horses—strong steeds"
NRSV"dappled gray horses"
TEV"dappled horses"
NJB"vigorous, piebald horses"
NIV"dappled—all of them powerful"
JPSOA"spotted—dappled"

From these English translations it is obvious there are two options: (1) the color of the horses (but different from the ones mentioned in 1:8) or (2) the strength of the horses. The Hebrew term (BDB 55) means "strength" or "might" and probably applies to all of the horses, not the color of the last horse (BDB 136, spotted or dappled, cf. Gen. 31:10,12).

It is also possible that the red chariot (following chapter 1) contains the leader of the group and it, thereby, is designated by the term "strong" (cf. Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 355).

6:4 This parallels 1:19.

6:5

NASB, NKJV"the four spirits of heaven"
NKJV, TEV,
NJB"the four winds of heaven"

The Hebrew word (BDB 924) can be translated "breath," "wind," or "spirit," depending on the context. In Ezekiel 37 it is used in all three senses.

1. breath, vv. 5,6,8,9,10 (cf. Gen. 6:17; 7:15,22)

2. wind, v. 9 (cf. Gen. 8:1)

3. spirit, vv. 1,14 (cf. Gen. 1:2; 6:3; 41:38; 45:27)

The phrase, "the four winds" is also used in Jer. 49:36; Dan. 7:2; 11:4; Rev. 7:1 in a universal sense.

"standing before" This is a Hebrew idiom (BDB 426, KB 427, Hithpael INFINITIVE), which denotes service. Here it speaks of angelic beings presenting themselves before YHWH as in Job 1:6; 2:1.

"the Lord of all the earth" See note at 4:14.

6:6 "north" This term refers to the invaders of Palestine from Mesopotamia. Because of the desert these empires followed the Euphrates River to the coastal plain and then went south. Therefore, "the north" became an idiom of peril, invasion, death, exile.

NASB, NKJV"go forth after them"
NRSV"go toward the west country"
TEV"were going to the west"
NJB"following them"
NIV"toward the west"

The Hebrew text has the term (BDB 29) "after them" or "following them." This means the black and white horses would go the same direction. It is possible to understand the PREPOSITION in v. 6 as "beside," implying another direction (i.e. west) or "the region of the west" or "toward the sea," which seems to fit the context of "four" representing the entire known world.

6:7

NASB"the strong ones"
NKJV"strong steeds"
NRSV"steeds"
TEV, JPSOA"dappled horses"
NJB"vigorously eager"
NET"all these strong ones"
NIV"the powerful horses"

The term "strong" (BDB 55) was used in v. 3 to describe all of the four colored horses, so too here, instead of a color.

NASB, NRSV"to go to patrol the earth"
NKJV"to walk to and fro throughout the earth"
TEV"to go and inspect the earth"
NJB"to patrol the world"
NET"to go and walk about over the earth"
NIV"straining to go throughout the earth"

These angels were ready and eager to serve God, but they must wait for His permission (BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE, "go" and BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael IMPERATIVE, "partrol"). They are a symbolic way of representing God's omniscient presence and knowledge, as does the "four colored horses" of 1:8-11.

6:8

NASB"have appeased"
NKJV"have given rest"
NRSV"have set. . .at rest"
TEV"have quieted"
NJB"brought. . .to rest"

This Hebrew term (BDB 628, KB 679) is the Hiphil PERFECT, meaning "to cause to rest" or "give rest." It is also used several times of YHWH's wrath being appeased in Ezekiel (cf. 5:13; 16:42; 24:13).

NASB"My wrath"
NKJV"My Spirit"
NRSV, NJB"my spirit"
TEV"the Lord's anger"

Literally it is "my spirit" referring to YHWH's personified wrath. This may refer to Cyrus' defeat (cf. Isa. 44:28-54:1) of Babylon.

Verses 7 and 8 are direct speech, but from whom? It is difficult in this type of literature to identify the speakers. Sometimes the prophet (cf. vv. 9-12) and the angels speak for God (cf. v. 7). However, this is complicated in Messianic texts when the Messiah (angel of the LORD, cf. 3:6-8) speaks as God. I think it best to understand vv. 7 and 8 as YHWH speaking and vv. 5-6 as the angel speaking.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:6:9-15 
 9The word of the Lord also came to me, saying, 10"Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon. 11Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 12Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, "Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. 13Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices."' 14Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the Lord to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah. 15Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God."

6:9 "The word of the Lord also came to me" This is a prophetic formula which introduces a new revelation from YHWH (cf. 1:1,7; 4:6,8; 6:9; 7:1,4,8; 8:1,18). Theologically this asserts that the information is not from human origin, but from a divine source. Inspiration is a crucial, non-compromisable truth. The Bible is not just another "holy" book of the world religions!

6:10

NASB"take an offering from the exiles"
NKJV"receive the gift from the captives"
NRSV, NJB"collect. . .from the exiles"
TEV"take the gifts given by the exiles"
NET"choose some people from among the exiles"

Most English translations understand the VERB (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE) as referring to (1) the silver and gold from Persia or (2) an offering from the exiles, but the RSV, NAB, and NET Bibles assume it refers to a select group from among the exiles as a way to honor all those Jews who chose to return. There is no stated object of the VERB in the Hebrew text.

This refers to the returning Jewish Levites and priests from Babylon coming with a gift from the Persian court to help rebuild the temple (cf. Ezra 7:13-16; 8:24-30). They are told to go immediately to Josiah's house (another priest, cf. Jer. 29:25,29), who was possibly their host.

▣ "enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon" It is possible to interpret this as all four men named had just come from Persia with gifts for the temple. Josiah's lineage is given because he was the most prominent of the group (cf. Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 132).

The other way is to see Josiah as a resident of Jerusalem, where the group of three men stayed (cf. H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, p. 121). If so the concluding phrase is out of normal order (cf. UBS' Handbook on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, pp. 170-171).

6:11 "crown" This is PLURAL (used with a SINGULAR VERB in v. 14), but it seems to refer to one crown, possibly a double crown (like those from Egypt) symbolizing "the two offices" (cf. v. 13). The Hebrew term (BDB 742) does not refer to a priestly crown (BDB 63, cf. Exod 29:6; Lev. 8:9), but to a royal one (cf. 9:16; I Chr. 20:2; Isa. 28:5; 2:3; Jer. 13:18; Ezek. 21:26).

▣ "on the head of Joshua. . .the high priest" Some theories relating to the high priest crowned as king are: (1) for political reasons Zerubbabel could not be crowned; (2) a textual error; (3) a scribal change; (4) Joshua was a type of Christ as both priest and king as Jesus was in the NT in the book of Hebrews (cf. 5:1-10; 7:1-25); or (5) the high priest, after Zerubbabel's death, took over the office of king (as did eight Hasmonian rulers).

6:12 "then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts'" It is difficult to follow the levels of direct and indirect speech in Zechariah. Here it is obvious the LORD directs Zechariah to speak on His behalf. Sometimes the angel of the LORD speaks on YHWH's behalf. It is possible that in certain contexts the angel of the LORD is the Messiah. The antecedent to the PRONOUNS is not always evident from the context.

▣ "a man" The Messiah will be a human person (cf. Dan. 7:13). In Zechariah angels are designated as men (e.g. 1:8,10; 2:1,4), as well as the Messiah (symbolized by Joshua and Zerubbabel). God will use human instrumentality to reveal Himself, accomplish redemption, and provide an example for all other human beings.

"Branch" This word (BDB 855) means "sprout" (cf. 3:8; 6:12; Isa. 4:2; 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). This is a title for the Messiah. In Zechariah it refers to Zerubbabel as a type of the Messiah (cf. Ibn Ezra and Rashi). The name, Zerubbabel, in Akkadian, means "shoot of Babylon." This was possibly a play on his name since he rebuilt the temple in 516 b.c., but it is really an ultimate reference to Jesus. This title and the matching VERB ("will branch out," Qal IMPERFECT) appear together in this verse.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, NIV,
JPSOA"for He will branch out"
TEV"will flourish"
NJB"there will be a branching out"
NET"who will sprout up"

The title "Branch" is used as a VERB (BDB 855, KB 1033, Qal IMPERFECT). This may imply a world-wide kingdom (cf. Isa. 45:22; 52:10; Micah 5:4; Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) or a renewed (Davidic) kingdom (cf. II Sam. 7; Isa. 11:1).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TENSION BETWEEN OLD COVENANT PROPHETIC MODELS AND NEW COVENANT APOSTOLIC MODELS

"He will build the temple" This seems to refer to Zerubbabel historically (cf. 4:9), but to Jesus eschatologically. The temple that Jesus will build seems to be spiritual (cf. John 2:19-21), although some see it as the temple of Ezekiel 38-40. The book of the Revelation speaks of a heavenly temple (cf. 3:12; 7:15; 11:1-2,19; 14:15,17; 15:5,6,8; 16:1,17). However, when New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven (cf. Rev. 21:22), there is no temple mentioned. The book of Hebrews speaks of a heavenly tabernacle into which Jesus entered once and for all to offer Himself as a sacrifice to God on our behalf (cf. Heb. 8-10), but it is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, although the detailed plans of Exod. 25-27 seem to imply a heavenly original.

The term "house" (BDB 108) is used often (cf. 1:16; 3:7; 4:9; 8:9) to refer to the temple (BDB 228). However, in 8:9 both terms are used synonymously, so there is no intended distinction.

6:13 This seems to combine in one person both kingly and priestly offices (cf. Ps. 104:1,4). Others see v. 13 as an emphasis on two offices (i.e. two thrones). This would attribute to Zerubbabel the rebuilding of the temple, and to Joshua, sitting and co-ruling (both VERBS Qal PERFECTS) in it.

"the counsel of peace" These two leaders would reign together in perfect cooperation and harmony. The peace (shalom, BDB 102) between them would bless the nation they serve and reflect the God of the nation they represent.

6:14 These four Hebrew names refer to those mentioned in v. 10, but two of the names are different. The Peshitta, NRSV, TEV, and NIV take the word hen (BDB 336), which means "grace," "favor," or "kindness" ("gracious one," possibly their host) as referring to Josiah, son of Zephaniah (cf. v. 10).

The Hebrew language often uses different spellings for the same person. For example, there are four ways to spell Joshua.

1. Yehoshu'a, Deut. 3:21

2. Hoshe'a, Deut. 32:44

3. Yeshoshu'a, Joshua 1:1

4. Yeshu'a, Neh. 8:17

The same person can also go by several names (nick names, titles). For example, Moses' father-in-law:

1. Jethro, Exod. 3:1

2. Jether, Exod. 4:18

3. Reuel, Exod. 2:18

4. Priest of Median, Exod. 3:1

5. Hobab, Jdgs. 4:11

 

6:14

NASB"the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the Lord"
NKJV"the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the Lord"
NRSV"the crown shall be in the care of. . .as a memorial in the temple of theLord"
TEV"the crown will be a memorial in the Lord's Temple in honor of"
NJB"the crown will serve. . .as a memorial of favor in Yahweh's sanctuary"
NIB"the crown will be given to. . .as a memorial in the temple of the Lord"
JPSOA"the crown shall remain in the Temple of the Lord as a memorial to"

This majestic coronation of Joshua as symbolic co-ruler with the Branch is a powerful symbol of the coming Priest-King Messiah! Exactly how this is related to the men listed is uncertain. This event is far more significant than just a memorial to four men. This is the focus of the preceding visions. It had national and international implications (cf. v. 15).

The crown (BDB 742 I, PLURAL) was obviously not worn everyday, but displayed as a fulfilled and to-be fulfilled promise of restoration and complete eschatological restoration!

6:15 "those who are far off" Historically this refers to (1) the Jews of the Diaspora (cf. in the Fertile Crescent and Egypt; (2) the Persian court, possibly represented by the three men of vv. 10 and 14; and (3) eschatologically it refers to the Gentiles (cf. 2:11; 8:20-23; Isa. 2:2-4; 56:6-8; 60:5c-9,10; Micah 4:1-5; Eph. 2:11-22).

▣ "then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me" If this is historical, then this is referring to Zechariah (cf. 2:8,9,11; 4:9). If it is eschatological then it refers to Jesus. The inclusion of Gentiles into God's covenant plan does not fit the historical setting of the post-exilic period (esp. Nehemiah and Haggai). The PRONOUNS are ambiguous in this book and could refer to (1) the prophet; (2) an angel in the visions; or (3) the Messiah.

"it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God" Notice that there is a conditional element in these promises (cf. 3:7). This is a quote from Deut. 28:1 (Deut. 27-29 contains the Covenant Cursing and Blessing Litany).

SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What are the eight visions trying to convey to us?

2. Do the visions relate to the post-exilic period or to the end-time?

3. Why is Joshua crowned in v. 11 and not Zerubbabel?

4. Will Jesus rebuild the Jewish temple?

 

Passage: