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3. Zechariah Part 1 - The Night Visions (1:1—6:15)


This rather lengthy introduction is clearly intended to serve as a preface to all the night visions of chapters 1-6, if not to the entire book. This is evident from the fact that 1:7 is also an introduction, either to the first vision (1:8-17) or, more likely, to all eight because none of the others has a typical introductory statement.223 As for the occasion and purpose of the entire complex of visions, Halpern suggests that they have to do primarily with the foundation of the second Temple.224 On the whole this is most plausible, though Zechariah’s intention clearly goes beyond this to include major eschatological themes, such as messianic rule and universal salvation. In fact, Siebeneck goes so far as to say that this section (with chaps. 7-8) “is devoted almost exclusively to the messianic promise,”225 perhaps also an overstatement. Nolting proposes that the overriding theme of the vision section is the coming of the King. This seems to be a more accurate assessment.226 Petersen maintains that the visions “stand somewhere between utopian social vision and concrete physical and social detail.” Zechariah provides through the visions, according to Petersen, “a theological perspective relevant to a new situation, that of a Yahwism without independent territorial state.”227 This is probably too much a “this-worldly” interpretation.


1In the eighth month of the second year of Darius the Word of YHWH came to the prophet *Zechariah, son of Berechiah son of Iddo, saying, 2“YHWH was very angry with your fathers. 3Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Turn to Me,” *says YHWH of hosts, “and I will turn to you,” says YHWH of hosts.’ 4Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets called out, saying, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts, “Turn now *from your evil ways and deeds,” but they would not listen or obey Me,’ says YHWH. 5As for your fathers, where are they? And do the prophets live forever? 6But did My words and statutes which I commanded my servants the prophets not overtake *your fathers?” Then they turned, saying, “As YHWH of hosts decided to do to us in accordance with our ways and deeds, thus He has done.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The second year of Darius Hystaspes was 520 B.C., and the eighth month, translated into the Julian/Gregorian calendar, was October-November (see Introduction to Zechariah, p. 61). This vision came to Zechariah about a month before the prophet Haggai received his final vision on the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, December 18, 520 (Hag. 2:10, 20). Why the prophet failed to include the day of the month in his dating formula is unclear because he does so in his other two uses of the formula (1:7; 7:1). It may be, as Carol and Eric Meyers suggest, that it is because this is the only date of Zechariah that falls within Haggai’s chronology and that greater specificity was not required.228

Zechariah, here identified as the son of Berechiah and grandson of Iddo, is referred to otherwise only in Ezra (5:1; 6:14) and Nehemiah (12:16) in the OT. Both Ezra and Nehemiah imply that the prophet is the son of Iddo, neither one mentioning Berechiah, father of Zechariah. It is likely that Berechiah died young and that Zechariah was reared by his grandfather. Zechariah was brought by his grandfather from Babylonian exile and succeeded him in the office of priest (Neh. 12:16).229 Since Iddo was a contemporary of Zerubbabel at the time of the “first return” (538 B.C.), Zechariah was likely quite young in 520, being, in fact, a contemporary of Joiakim, son of the first postexilic priest Joshua (Neh 12:10, 12-16). Joiakim’s own son Eliashib was high priest in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 3:1; cf. 13:4), about 445 B.C., so Joiakim’s priesthood (and thus Zechariah’s ministry) very likely lasted well after 520, perhaps as late as the end of the first quarter of the fifth century.230

A more perplexing and serious problem regarding Zechariah is the possibility of his being identified by Jesus in the gospels (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51) as the “Zechariah son of Berachiah” who was slain between the sanctuary and the altar. The only OT reference to such a martyrdom appears to refer to a prophet Zechariah who was a son of Jehoiada the priest, a story to be dated no later than 800 B.C. (2 Chron. 24:20-22). A further complication is that there was also a Zechariah son of Jeberechiah who was an acquaintance of the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 8:2). Though he is not described in Isaiah as a prophet, it is likely that he was, particularly because he served as a witness, along with Uriah the priest, to the message YHWH was delivering to Isaiah. The name Jeberechiah is clearly not a difficulty, being but a fuller writing of Berechiah. It may be this man, then, to whom Jesus referred.

The problem with this explanation, of course, is that there is no record of the violent death of this Zechariah. One might suppose that Jehoiada the priest had a son Berechiah, no longer known apart from the NT, and that it was his son Zechariah who was murdered. The great age of Jehoiada at his death (130 years; 2 Chron. 24:15) would suggest that Zechariah was his grandson and not son, particularly if the Zechariah of 2 Chron. 24:21 is the same as the prophet who tutored young Uzziah at around 800 B.C. (2 Chron. 26:5). As Matthew suggests, Jesus is referring to the first (Abel) and last (Zechariah) prophetic martyrs in terms of their canonical appearance, Gen. 4 and 2 Chron. 24 respectively, and not as the first and last chronologically.231

The only other explanation that avoids the assumption of pure error is that Zechariah the prophet of our book was martyred eventually and that this fact went unrecorded in either the OT or subsequent Jewish tradition. This obviously is most unlikely.

The first part of the prophet’s message is a solemn exhortation to learn from history. One can almost describe Zechariah’s remarks in 1:2-6 as a sermon, for, as Mason has shown, it bears the characteristics of the Gattung “sermon,” as do other passages in the book (e.g., 7:4-7, 11-14; 8:1-8, 9-13, 14-17).232 YHWH had been extremely displeased with the generations past (v. 2), for they had stubbornly refused to heed the appeal of the prophets of old who had in vain pleaded with them to turn to YHWH that he might turn to them (vv. 3-4). The verb bWv (sub, “turn”), used three times in vv. 3-4, has a strong covenant connotation.233 This is confirmed by the technical terms rb*D** (dabar, “word”) and qj) (hoq, “statute”) of v. 6. These nouns refer regularly to the stipulations of the covenant made with Israel at Sinai (cf. Deut. 4:1-2; 17:19; 27:8, 10; Neh. 9:8, 13, 14).234

To turn from YHWH, therefore, is to break covenant with Him and to turn to evil ways and deeds (v. 4). In a covenant context “ways” and “deeds” refer not just to incidental sins but to a whole pattern of rebellion and disloyalty. The reference to the former prophets and their cry of repentance echoes the verdict of the history of the northern tribes following the collapse of Samaria under the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The defeat of Israel, the historian had said, came about because Israel had sinned against YHWH by “fearing other gods” and “walking in the statutes” (<yQ!j%, huqqm) of the nations (2 Kings 17:7-8). This act of treason was denounced by the prophets who had urged the nation to “turn” (bWv) from their “evil ways” (<yu!r`h* <k#yk@r+D^, darekem hara`m), the very language of Zechariah 1:4, and to keep the commandments, statutes (huqqm), and law YHWH had given them (2 Kings 17:13). The connection with the covenant is made directly in 2 Kings 17:15 with the juxtaposition of huqqm and tyr]B= (berit, “covenant”).

Zechariah next turns his attention to the calamity that overcame the ancestors because of their failure to heed. Both they and the prophets who warned them had long since passed away (v. 5), but the Word had come to pass. The wicked nation had been overthrown according to the terms of the covenant, and those who lived to see it had had to admit that what YHWH had threatened He had brought to pass (v. 6). There is an ironic twist to the reaction of the people who”turned,” Zechariah says (v. 6), in response to their calamity, but not in repentance.

This is the best understanding of bWv here, for otherwise there appears to be a contradiction with v. 4, which says that the warnings of the prophets were to no avail. Most commentators, however, view the subject of v. 6 as the fathers of the exilic period, whereas that of v. 4 is the unrepentant fathers of the preexilic era. This seems arbitrary.235

The message of Zechariah is precisely the same as that of his prophetic forebears. His people must turn to YHWH in covenant affirmation if they expect YHWH to reciprocate (v. 3). The rupture in covenant that seems so obvious in Haggai (1:4-6, 9-11; 2:14-17) must be addressed and redressed, says Zechariah. Perhaps that is the explanation for the integration of his message with that of his contemporary prophet.

Additional Notes

1:1 The name Zechariah reflects the Hebrew hy`r+k^z+ (zekarya), “he whom YHWH remembers.” It is thus of a type known as a theophoric name, one containing part or all of a divine name, in this case YHWH.

1:3 The phrase “says YHWH of hosts,” occurring three times in this verse, is lacking in some of the LXX codices in the last two instances. The heaping up of this epithet is clearly rare but on the other hand most striking. Haggai employes it 14 times in only 38 verses, Zechariah 53 times, and Malachi 24 times. Its abundant use in postexilic times ought not be surprising, for in light of the emergence of universal empires Judah needs to know that YHWH is indeed almighty, the “Lord of Hosts,” Lord even of those mighty powers.

1:4 For the clearly mispointed Kethib <k#yl@yl=u&m^ read with Qere <k#yl@l=u^m^ or perhaps with many versions <k#yl@l=u^M^m! (“from your deeds”), though hl*yl!u& (fem.) is attested as a noun meaning “deed.”

1:6 BHS reads <k#t=a# for <k#yt@b)a& in order to avoid contradiction with v. 4. Thus, the prophet addresses the fathers in v. 4 and his own postexilic audience (“you”) in v. 6. It is his own generation, then, that repents.

Vision One: The Four Horsemen

    A. Introduction to the Visions (1:7)

This second introduction in the book embraces all the visions to follow (1:8—6:16), as is clear from the absence of another until chap. 7. It is also the mark of a subdivision of the book following the general introduction of 1:1-6. In the strict sense, the first vision itself consists of vv. 8-15, with v. 7 providing the introduction and vv. 16-17 the interpretive oracle.236 Petitjean more precisely ends the vision at v. 14a, but in doing so includes (incorrectly in my view) vision material, such as the angelic discourse, in the oracle which is not visionary.237


7On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the Word of YHWH came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah the son of Iddo, saying,

Exegesis and Exposition

The twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, Shebat, is February 15, 519 B.C., in the modern calendar (see Introduction to Zechariah, p. 61). This is approximately three months after the initial call of Zechariah (1:1) and two months after Haggai’s last revelation (Hag. 2:10, 20). It is quite possible that the vision introduced first on that date was prompted by the need to affirm Haggai’s endorsement of Zerubbabel as the signet of YHWH (Hag. 2:23), the one who would rule on his behalf. That notion of dominion is central in the first vision. The return of Darius to Persia from Egypt, through Palestine, may also have given rise to elements of the vision, particularly the horsemen. H. G. May, with some plausibility, argues that the New Year ritual of coronation may be in view. New Year’s day was coming shortly, a time when Zerubbabel could be crowned as the Davidic successor. When May suggests, however, that the horses in visions one and eight indicate Zechariah’s dependence on Babylonian mythological motifs, he goes beyond the evidence.238

    B. Content of the Vision (1:8)


8I saw in the night and look, a man riding a red horse who stood among some myrtle trees in the ravine. And behind him were red, *sorrell, and white horses.

Exegesis and Exposition

Though the technical terms for vision, such as /ozj* (hazon) and ha#r+m^ (mare), and for dream, such as <olj& (halom), are lacking here and throughout the whole vision section, it is most obvious that the prophet is recounting a series of dream-visions that he saw all in one night. But these dreams were not random and from his own imagination, for they appear to be in a kind of historical and chronological sequence, on the one hand, and in an interlocking literary pattern, on the other. For now, it is worth noting that vision eight (6:1-8), like this first one, also features four kinds of horses.

Either the man on the red horse dismounted and stood in the ravine, or the horse itself stood there with the rider still on him. The Hebrew grammar would favor the former, as does verse 10. A more difficult problem is the location of the scene. Rather than “myrtle (trees)” the LXX presupposes “in the midst of the mountains” (<yr]h**h# for the MT <yS!d^h&h^), perhaps because of the problematic “ravine” that follows. Moreover, the sixth vision, a counterpart to this one, also refers to mountains (Zech. 6:1). The fact that these two visions share much in common does not, however, demand that they resemble each other in every respect. The myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a particularly appropriate element of this vision. A fragrant, decorative shrub that sometimes reaches the size of a tree, it was used in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles and in postbiblical times in betrothal celebrations.239 Its perpetual greenness and aromatic and other qualities provided a suitable setting for the inauguration of YHWH’s dominion, which is everlasting and pleasant in every way. The specific and particular functions of the horses of vision eight (Zech. 6:1-8) may indeed assist in elucidating the meanings of their colors (see pp. 183-87), but it is fruitless to speculate about such meaning here, especially because the colors here and in vision eight do not coincide. As for the three horses that stood in the background, it is not certain whether they had riders, though presumably they did, as the plural pronouns of the speakers of verse v. 11 imply.

Additional Notes

1:8 The colors and other descriptions of the horses here and in chapter 6 have occasioned considerable variation in the ancient versions and in modern translations. All agree on the “red” and “white,” so the issue is the <yQ!r%c=, rendered by KJV “speckled,” by JPSV “sorrel,” by JB “chestnut,” by NASB “sorrel,” and by NIV “brown.” Though 1:8 and 6:2-7 share much in common, including four different colored horses, there is no reason to assume that the horses must match, an error on the part of many ancient and modern scholars. For now, then, only the passage at hand will receive attention in its own right. Comparisons will be made when chapter 6 comes up for consideration.

The LXX renders <yQ!r%c= with a double translation, kai yaroiV kaiV poikivloi, “dapple gray and spotted.” The Peshitta and Vg have only “variegated,” apparently an attempt to harmonize the LXX tradition. R. P. Gordon, on the basis of Gen. 30:32, 33, 35, 39; 31:8, suggests that the best Targumic reading here is /yjwrq, “white-spotted,” a translation in line with the other ancient versions (R. P. Gordon, “An Inner-Targum Corruption (Zech. I 8),” VT 25 [1975]: 216-21.

Because <yQ!r%c= clearly has the meaning “red, ruddy” in Hebrew (BDB, 977; KBL, 932-33) and the cognate languages (cf. Arab. sharaqa, Akk. sarqu), the versions derive their meaning, “variegated, speckled, spotted,” from some other source. McHardy proposes that the reading in 1:8 should be <yr]j)v= (as in 6:2), meaning “black.” This came about, he says, because of a system of abbreviations in which v represented <yr]j)v= of 6:2. Because the four horses of each vision must have the same colors (a dubious and unproved assumption), v must have stood in 1:8 and was subsequently and erroneously read <yQ!r%c=; (W. D. McHardy, “The Horses in Zechariah,” In Memoriam Paul Kahle, eds. M. Black and G. Fohrer [Berlin: Verlag Alfred Tpelmann, 1968], 174-79.

Gordon offers the suggestion (“An Inter-Targum Corruption [Zech. I 8]”) that the versions may reflect another root qr^c*, meaning “comb, card” (BDB, 977). How this would yield “speckled” or the like is not clear. He also refers to a meaning “dappled” known to both Ibn Janah and Kimchi (p. 218). Modern lexicons attest no such meaning, however, so it is likely that the medieval rabbis were themselves dependent on the LXX and other ancient versions, the source of whose dependence in turn can no longer be ascertained. Most likely they were trying to bring 1:8 in line with 6:2-7 and therefore rendered <yQ!r%c= as though it were equivalent to <yX!m%a& <yD!r%B= in 6:3— “dappled strong.” This will be considered at greater length later.

In conclusion, <yQ!r%c rests on unassailable textual evidence and undoubtedly means “ruddy, sorrel,” or the like. The versions, like many modern scholars, appear to have fallen victim to a desire to harmonize 1:8 with 6:2-7, an unnecessary and improper endeavor.

    C. Interpretation of the Vision (1:9-15)


9Then I said, “What are these, sir?” The messenger who spoke to me said, “I will show you what these are.” 10The man standing among the myrtle trees spoke up and said, “These (are the ones) whom YHWH has sent to walk about on the earth.” 11These then responded to the Angel of YHWH, the one standing among the myrtle trees, “We have been walking about on the earth, and now the whole earth is at rest and quiet.” 12The Angel of YHWH then asked, “YHWH of hosts, how long will you not have compassion on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah with which you have been indignant for these seventy years?” 13YHWH then addressed the messenger speaking to me with good, comforting words. 14The messenger speaking to me said to me, “Cry out, Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15But I am greatly displeased with the nations that take their ease, for I was a little displeased, but they enhanced the (resulting) harm.’”

Exegesis and Exposition

The meaning of the colors of the horses in the present vision (v. 8) may not be clear, but because the interpretation offers no explanation, it is clearly not important. The specific and particular functions of the horses of vision eight (Zech. 6:1-8) may indeed assist in elucidating the meanings of their colors (see pp. 183-87), but it is fruitless to speculate about such meaning here, especially because the colors here and in vision eight do not coincide. What is important is that the horses represent the irresistible dominion of YHWH over the whole earth. Once his wrath against the nations has run its course, He will turn to His own people with grace and forgiveness.

A major difficulty in the passage is to ascertain the number of figures involved and their identity.240 First of all, it is apparent that a messenger of God is in close conversation with the prophet. Three times he is described as “the messenger who spoke to me” (vv. 9, 13, 14). The term for “messenger” (Ea*l=m^ , malak) is frequently translated “angel” and may be here as well. A second clearly defined individual is the man among the myrtle trees (v. 10), already introduced in the vision itself (v. 8). A plain reading of the account suggests that he is the same as the “Angel of YHWH” (v. 11), who also is described as standing among the myrtles. This common point almost certainly makes them one and the same.

A third actor is YHWH (v. 13) or YHWH of hosts (v. 12). He cannot be the same as the Angel of YHWH, inasmuch as the two are in conversation (v. 12). This is a remarkable and important contribution to the theology of the Angel of YHWH, for, as is well known, the Angel of YHWH appears pervasively in the OT as the agent of YHWH and, indeed, almost as His incarnation (cf. Gen. 18:2, 13, 17, 22; Ex. 23:20-21; Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 6:11-24; 13:2-20).241 Whatever might be said elsewhere, in this vision YHWH and his Angel are separate persons.

It seems, then, that Zechariah stands with an interpreting messenger and that both of them hear the answer to Zechariah’s question as given by the man among the myrtles, that is, the Angel of YHWH. His answer as to the meaning of the horses is confirmed by the riders of the horses themselves (v. 11). Overwhelmed by his own response, the Angel of YHWH addresses YHWH and asks how long the 70 years of discipline will last (v. 12). YHWH answers but directs his response to the messenger-interpreter standing by Zechariah, for it is Zechariah who raised the first inquiries about the vision he had seen. That messenger in turn spoke to Zechariah, commanding him to deliver the Word of God to his people (v. 14).

The mission of the four horses and their riders (or at least the rider of one of them, the red horse) was to walk about on the whole earth (v. 10). The verb form here, the hithpa’el of El^h* (halak, “walk”), is extremely significant, for in that stem the verb frequently has the idea of dominion. To walk about on the earth is to assert sovereignty over it. A few examples must suffice. When Abram’s allocation in Canaan was pointed out to him, he was told to “walk about” in it (Gen. 13:17). The king of Tyre, in his hubris, “walked up and down” in proclaiming his kingship (Ezek. 28:14). Satan, when questioned by God as to his whereabouts, said he had been “walking up and down” in the earth (Job 1:7), clearly asserting his lordship over it and all its inhabitants (Job 2:2-3). Here in vision one (and in vision eight as well [Zech. 6:7]) it is YHWH who, through the symbolism of four cavalry charges, is announcing that He is Lord of all.

The result of their traversing the earth is that it is now at rest and quiet (v. 11).242 It is now a suitable time for YHWH to undo the judgment of the seventy-year exile by displaying His compassion upon His elect people (v. 12), a hope that, in fact, is already being realized. Despite his discipline of Jerusalem and Judah, they are still the nation of the covenant for whom YHWH is uniquely concerned. His “jealousy” for Judah (v. 14) is, after all, an expression of His singular interest in her and his determination to restore her.243 The reference to Zion focuses on the Davidic reign as a part of the messianic program of redemption.244 The nations, on the other hand, have become the object of YHWH’s judgment, for the relatively insignificant displeasure He felt toward Israel has been augmented by them as they helped bring about an even greater measure of retribution than He intended (v. 15).

The last clause of verse 15, hu*r`l= Wrz+u* hM*h@w+, reads literally, “and they helped to evil.” What is in view is that YHWH would have punished up to a certain point, but the wicked nations helped Him to make the judgment of Israel even more severe. Deissler draws attention to similar ideas as regards Assyria (Isa. 10:5 ff.) and Babylonia (Isa. 47:6 f.; Jer. 50:29; 51:24) in particular. He suggests, correctly, that there may be a warning here for Persia as well.245

The vision, though clearly with eschatological implications, relates to the historical circumstances of the late sixth century. The Pax Persiaca, brought about by Cyrus, had been strengthened and expanded under Darius. He had put down rebellions attendant to his accession to the throne in 522 B.C. and in 520-519, the very year of this vision, and brought Egypt to heel, thus reducing the whole Eastern world to his control.246 What he could not know, of course, was that it was YHWH, God of Israel, who had brought universal peace. The horses of Darius were, in fact, the horses of the Lord.

The conditions were suitable, then, for the 70-year exile to be over. Jeremiah had first referred to the 70 years, dating their end with the demise of the Chaldean kingdom (Jer. 25:11-12), an event that took place in 539 B.C. with Cyrus’s conquest of Babylon (cf. Ezra 1:1). The beginning of the 70 years was 605, the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 25:1). Technically this leaves a period of less than 70 years, actually about 66 (605-539). The same prophet referred to the 70 years commencing in the fourth year of Zedekiah (Jer. 28:1; cf. 29:10), c. 594.247 This would require, if taken literally, a completion date of c. 524, close to but not exactly in the year of the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel in 520.

It was clearly understood, however, that the 70 years had flexible termini ad quem and a quo, for their termination also is connected to the completion of the second Temple.248 This seems clear from our very passage (cf. v. 16), for if the 70 years had expired with the fall of Babylon, the concern about its ending would never be raised here in 519 B.C. Zech. 7:5, in the context of fasting and other cultic matters and dating from 518, also supports the idea of the 70 years ending with the completion of the Temple, that is, in 516. This would tie in nicely with the date of the destruction of the earlier Temple in 586, exactly 70 years before. It is in keen anticipation of the nearness of the end of that era that prophet and people alike ask their questions about that event and its meaning for them (cf. Hag. 1:2).

    D. Oracle of Response (1:16-17)


16“Therefore, YHWH says, ‘I have turned toward Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be rebuilt in it,’ says YHWH of hosts, ‘and a (measuring) line will be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17Proclaim again and say, Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘My cities will once more overflow with prosperity, and once more YHWH *will comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’”

Exegesis and Exposition

It was pointed out in the Introduction that many of Zechariah’s visions, including this one, are accompanied by oracles, the primary purposes of which are (1) to confirm the message of the vision, (2) to provide further understanding of its meaning, and (3) to exhort the audience to implement whatever injunctions it might convey.

The vision report itself said that YHWH spoke “good, comforting words” (v. 13) to the interpreting messenger; now the explicit content of those words appears in the oracle.249 Using the past tense to express a fait accompli, YHWH says He has turned (bWv, sub) to Jerusalem with compassion (<ym!j&r^ , rahamm).

There is some question as to the translation for the verb bWv here. First of all, is it past or future, and second, does it mean “turn” or “return”? The form is a qal perfect and usually is construed as past. If it is to be rendered “return,” it should no doubt be construed as future, however, in line with the following imperfect “will be built.” If taken as “turn,” on the other hand, it is best to see it as past. The reason is that bWv, combined with <ym!h&r^, conveys a covenant idea. YHWH has “turned with compassion” and because of that the Temple will be rebuilt. That it has already happened is clear from careful attention to vv. 12-13. The Angel of YHWH has asked, “How long will you not have compassion (<j@r^j=-aO)?” to which YHWH answers comforting words. These words are that He has already turned to them in compassion and that the Temple construction is nearly finished. It is likely that His turning in compassion occurred once the conditions for it had been met, namely, the relaying of the Temple foundations in 520 B.C. (cf. Hag. 1:8, 13; 2:4)250.

The two technical terms sub and rahamm are stock vocabulary in covenant contexts (Deut. 13:17; Pss. 71:29; 85:7; Jer. 12:15; Mic. 7:19-20; Zech. 8:15),251 and here the expression makes clear that the terms have been met whereby YHWH and his people may once more enjoy covenant fellowship. In response to Haggai’s appeal to rebuild the Temple (Hag. 1:8) the people had been obedient (1:12), thus making possible the guarantee that YHWH was with them (1:13; 2:4). Moreover, once the ceremony of laying the Temple foundation had taken place (Hag. 2:18), YHWH had said that He would bless from that time onward (2:19).

The work of Temple building had begun on September 21, 520 (Hag. 1:15), about five months before Zechariah received the night visions, but it was far from finished. In fact, it seems that as late as December 18 only the foundation had been laid. What had been started would now be brought to fruition (Zech. 1:16; cf. 4:9). Indeed, not only would the Temple be rebuilt but the surveyor’s line (a synecdoche for reconstruction)252 would stretch out over all Jerusalem and even the outlying cities (vv. 16b-17). They would become abundantly prosperous (lit., “spread out from goodness”).

Then, in a closing couplet of synonymous parallelism and freighted with covenant overtones, YHWH said that He would “comfort” and “choose.” The former verb translates <j^n` (haham), a term that frequently appears in covenant renewal passages (Isa. 49:13; 51:1-3; 52:9; 61:1-2).253 It suggests the basis for YHWH’s elective overtures—his pure grace. Likewise, and more explicitly stated, He said He will choose once more. The verb rj^B* (bahar)254 is a favorite term to describe God’s sovereign, unconditional choice of a people to whom He will relate in salvation and service (Deut. 4:37; 7:6-7; 12:14; 14:2; 1 Kings 8:16; 11:34; 1 Chron. 28:4, 5, 6; 2 Chron. 6:6; Pss. 33:12; 78:67, 68, 70; Isa. 41:8; 43:10; 44:1, 2; Ezek. 20:5; Hag. 2:23; Zech. 2:12; 3:2).

Additional Notes

1:17 For the MT <j^n] the LXX has ejlehvsei, presupposing <j^r`. This would be preferable in the context, since it provides a good follow-up to the cognate noun <ym!j&r^ in v. 16. The more difficult MT should, however, be retained.

Vision Two: The Four Horns
(1:18-21; HB 2:1-4)

    A. Content of the Vision (1:18, 20; HB 2:1, 3)

This brief vision account consists of two parts interwoven as the content (vv. 18, 20) and interpretation (vv. 19, 21). There is, in this instance, no accompanying oracle.255 Moreover, just as visions one and eight complemented each other by similar themes and perspective, so this vision and number seven (5:5-11) are a matched pair. They each have two parts and each is concerned with the nations, four unnamed in vision two and Shinar, or Babylon, in vision seven.


18I looked again and saw four horns. 19So I said to the messenger who spoke with me, “What are These?” He replied, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20Next YHWH showed me four blacksmiths. 21I said, “What have these come to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, so that no one could raise his head. But these (others) have come to terrify them (and) to throw down the horns of the nations which raised (their) horn against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The connections between this vision and the first are also striking. It is clear that the fact that there were four horses in vision one and four horns and four craftsmen in this one is significant.256 The implied hostility of the nations in vision one (vv. 12, 15) is explicit in vision two (vv. 19, 21). Finally, just as the horses of the first vision were YHWH’s instruments of dominion over all the earth (vv. 10, 11), so the four craftsmen reduce the nations to defeat (v. 21).

The use of the horn of an animal as a metaphor for political and military power is familiar not only in the OT but in ancient Near Eastern literature in general.257 It suggests power, authority, prestige, and influence. In perhaps the earliest biblical usage, Hannah sings of her triumph over her foes in terms of the exaltation of her horn (1 Sam. 2:1). She concludes that song by declaring that YHWH will strengthen His coming king and exalt the horn of his anointed one (v. 10). Thus, to exalt the horn is synonymous with providing strength.

In the poetic literature the connection is even plainer. David describes YHWH as his rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, tower, and horn (Ps. 18:2; HB 18:3). Psalm 75:10 (HB 75:11) speaks of the defeat of the wicked in terms of the cutting off of their horns. The prophets employ the image similarly. Jeremiah refers to the defeat of Moab as the cutting off of his horn (Jer. 48:25), whereas Micah speaks of the iron horn of the daughter of Zion whereby she will shatter her enemies (Mic. 4:13). Daniel’s descriptions of the various world kingdoms of his day include the metaphor of animals with horns (Dan. 7—8).

The immediate source of Zechariah’s language might, in fact, be traced to Daniel.258 He had identified the horned beasts of his visions and dreams with empires and nations such as Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece, some of which (undoubtedly Babylon at least) are in Zechariah’s purview as well.

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (1:19, 21; HB 2:2, 4)

Exegesis and Exposition

Because the vision contains two elements—the four horns and the four blacksmiths—the interpretation also is divided into two parts. In response to the query as to the horns, the angelic interpreter first merely asserts that they are scatterers of Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. He goes on, under further interrogation, to associate the horns with the nations. Thus it is the nations that have used their horns, that is, their military might, to effect the dispersion of God’s people.

As for the smiths, their task, the messenger says, is to bring down these nations, to nullify the effect of their great power. The ultimate result presumably would be to reverse the scattering so that the dispersed could return again to their land.

The Ea*l=m^ (malak) here is the same messenger as the interpreter in the first vision.259 Though he is mentioned only after the first part of this vision (v. 19), he obviously provides the answer to the question of v. 21 as well. The answer he offers to the question concerning the identity of the horns is clear enough insofar as their function is concerned, but the order in which he lists the objects of the horns’ attack—Judah, Israel, Jerusalem—is not so clear. Nor is it clear why only Judah is mentioned as the victim in the second section of the vision.

Perhaps to alleviate this very problem, some LXX witnesses omit Jerusalem, whereas others omit Israel. More commonly, but with no basis in the text, the name Israel is simply regarded as an unwarranted interpolation.260 If, however, one views the names not as having chronological sequence, as is usually done, but in some other pattern, the difficulties disappear. Because Judah alone appears at the end of the pericope, Judah must be central. Israel, then, denotes the nation in its broadest sense, Jerusalem in its narrowest. The scattering was total, from the greatest extent to the most central and local extreme.261

Earlier exegetes tended to seek for four particular nations or events to account for the four oppressive horns.262 The symbolism of four, however, makes that approach very unlikely. What is suggested here and elsewhere by that number is the universal character of the persecution of God’s people by the nations. From the time of their settlement in Canaan until the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the story of Israel’s struggle had been the same. It was only that that final destruction had been so climactic and irreversible that it stands out in the text at hand. The scattering here is most particularly the Babylonian diaspora which had just recently been at least partially overcome.263

The smiths likewise cannot be further identified, though the historical context of the vision might favor the universal dominion of Cyrus and the Persians. The noun vr`j* (haras), used here as their designation, means any skilled artisan regardless of his medium. In two passages, however, the task of the haras takes on a meaning most appropriate to this message of Zechariah.264 The first is Isa. 54:16 which, in the context of the restoration of Judah under the aegis of Cyrus, speaks of a haras who creates an instrument for his own use. The chiastic pattern of the verse suggests that this haras is also a masht (fyj!v=m^), a “destroyer,” whose task it is to bring to ruin. A smith could thus be a devastator.

Ezek. 21:36 (EB 21:31) refers to fyj!v=m^ yv@r`j* (harase masht), lit., “workers of destruction,” who will destroy the people of YHWH. It is in this sense that Zechariah is referring to the four harasm. They have come forth to throw down the arrogant nations that have scattered God’s elect. The Persians, and most particularly Darius, again come to mind.265 The Babylonian horn has been cut off by the instruments of Darius, artisan of YHWH. The promise of rebuilding in vision one (1:16-17) can now become possible.

Vision Three: The Surveyor
(2:1-13; HB 2:5-17)

    A. Content of the Vision (2:1-2; HB 2:5-6)

This third vision finds its counterpart in vision six, that concerning the flying scroll (5:1-4).266 This is evident in that both have to do with measuring and/or dimensions, but particularly in that their focus has narrowed from cosmic or even international interest to Jerusalem itself. Vision three defines the locus and importance of Jerusalem, whereas vision six obliquely pertains to civil and religious law within the community.


1I looked again, and there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2I asked, “Where are you going?” He replied, “To measure Jerusalem in order to determine its breadth and its length.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The persona of vision three are only the prophet himself and a man, otherwise unidentified, to whom the prophet speaks directly. This is the first time in the visions proper that Zechariah has been an interlocutor.267 He observes that the man has something in his hand, an object designated in Hebrew as hD*m! lb#j# (hebel midda, “measuring line”). Hebel alone is a generic term for any kind of cord or rope, but with midda it refers to a surveyor’s line (as here).268 Without the qualifier midda (“measure”) it still has the nuance of measuring, as in 2 Sam. 8:2 where David lines the Moabites up for slaughter. Amos uses the word hebel with reference to the subdivision of Israel by the Assyrians following the conquest of Samaria (7:17). Here surveying is clearly in view as properties are measured out for redistribution.

What Zechariah sees is a remeasurement of Jerusalem in order to reestablish the ancient boundary lines preparatory to the city’s full reoccupation. Jeremiah had anticipated such a day when he, prior to the fall of Jerusalem, had redeemed the property of his uncle against the day when the Babylonian exile would be over and land could be reclaimed (Jer 32:6-15). With full confidence in the promises of YHWH, Jeremiah had avowed that “houses, fields, and vineyards will once more be bought in this land” (v. 15).

Ezekiel had seen a similar scene, but the surveyor in his vision measured out the land with a reed rather than a cord (Ezek. 40:3). His objective is the same, however: to designate the allocations of properties for both sacred and secular use. Specifically, in Zechariah’s case, the task of the man is to measure Jerusalem by breadth and length. The reason breadth precedes length may be because of the orientation of the city. The focus of the ancient Palestinian was on the east, so he naturally would give east-west measurements before north-south. Jerusalem, of course, was on a north-south axis, so its length would be determined by those compass points, whereas its width would be narrower, on the east-west plane. Petersen points out that city sizes are not usually given in terms of length and breadth in the OT and that only here and in Ezekiel 40-48 are breadth and length employed in this manner. In Ezekiel the breadth (east-west) is much longer than the length (north-south) of each of the subdivisions of the land.269

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (2:3-5; HB 2:7-9)


3At this point the messenger who spoke to me went out, and another messenger came to meet him. 4This one said to him, “Hurry, speak to this young man as follows: ‘Jerusalem will be a place of open land because of the multitude of people and animals there. 5“But I,” YHWH says, “will be a wall of fire surrounding her and glory in her midst.”’”

Exegesis and Exposition

The interpreting messenger (or angel) appears again for the third time, now to provide further information to the prophet than he had already obtained from the surveyor. To do this the messenger takes an unusual initiative in stepping forward to the scene of action. There he is met by still another messenger, who instructs him to disclose to Zechariah (“this young man”) that the surveyor is in process of laying out allotments in and around Jerusalem in preparation for the burgeoning population that will live there. This is particularly necessary because the old boundary lines defined by the walls will need to be redrawn in light of the absence of those walls.

Many commentators understand the young man (ru^n~) to be the surveyor in light of the fact that the measuring he is undertaking will be useless inasmuch as Jerusalem will be a city without walls 270 However, the point of the prophetic vision is not to instruct an inexperienced angel, but the prophet himself.271 It is Zechariah who must understand that the city to come will spill out over its ancient walls and that YHWH will become the wall, the measurements of which the surveyor is taking.

The presence of a secondary messenger is unusual in the night visions, only vision one also attesting to his presence. There he appeared as the “man among the myrtle trees” (1:8), later identified as the Angel of YHWH (1:11). In a sense, he was an interpreter for the interpreter, a role he plays as well in vision three. It is impossible, however, to deduce that he is the Angel of YHWH here, the other parallels between the visions notwithstanding.272

The second messenger, with a sense of great urgency, commands the first to run to Zechariah with the meaning of the vision. This urgency is communicated by the double imperative in Hebrew, rB@D^ Jr% (rus dabber, “run, speak”). This can only mean that what is about to happen is imminent. Neither the messenger nor Zechariah can be slow to hear it and act upon it.

What is in view is the reoccupation of Jerusalem by such a vast population that the walls that once circumscribed it will become inadequate. The text reads literally, “Jerusalem will sit/dwell as open regions,” the last phrase to be taken as an adverbial accusative. The next phrase (“without walls”) in many translations can only be inferred from the passage, but, in line with reference to the wall in v. 5, it is a logical inference. The term tozr^p=, as a designation for unwalled settlements, occurs elsewhere in the OT only in Ezek. 38:11 and Est. 9:19. Jeremias draws attention to the distinction in the latter passage between the walled city of Susa and the undefended villages of the Persian countryside in which the Jewish exiles lived.273 The peril of life in unwalled settlements was well-known in ancient times.274

The problem, of course, is the historical referent. Does the vision have only eschatological significance, or can it relate to Zechariah’s own circumstances? In our judgment it does both. The eschatological aspect is brought out clearly in v. 5, so only the historical will be addressed just now. The evidence must begin with a look at the situation in Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah, in 445 B.C., some 75 years after the revelation of the night visions. The first crisis related in Nehemiah’s memoirs is that of the ruinous state of Jerusalem, particularly the absence of walls (Neh. 1:3). It was, in fact, that crisis that prompted Nehemiah to journey to Jerusalem and, as governor of Judah, to supervise the rebuilding of the walls (Neh. 2:9—6:19).

One should not assume from this that there had been no walls around Jerusalem from 586 B.C., the date of the Babylonian conquest, to 445 when Nehemiah completed his work. In fact, Ezra attests that walls existed in the time of King Artaxeres I (464-424), They were built, it seems, before his reign, probably in that of his immediate predecessor, Xerxes (Ezra 4:12). Nehemiah’s complaint, moreover, is that the walls of Jerusalem have been destroyed and need to be rebuilt. Because their destruction was news to him, the reference could not be to the walls of 586, for he surely was very much aware that those walls had been leveled by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. These must be walls subsequently built and then destroyed once more.275

Preliminary work on walls may have begun as early as 520, Zechariah’s own day, as Ezra 5:3, 9 expressly states. The resistance this project engendered appears to have left the walls unfinished, for all subsequent references to building in that period are limited to the Temple itself (Ezra 6:7-8, 14-15). If indeed walls were begun then, they were not sufficient to enclose the city and for all practical purposes left Jerusalem as an open space without protection. As suggested above, this condition must have continued at least until the reign of Xerxes (485-464). This means, then, that if vision three has anything to do with Zechariah’s own times, there must have been a period either then or later when Jerusalem was populated sufficiently to expand beyond the perimeters of the earlier walls. That viewpoint may be surmised from several lines of evidence from within Ezra-Nehemiah.

First, the contingent of Jews that returned from exile under Sheshbazzar’s leadership in 538 B.C. numbered 42,360 citizens in addition to 7,337 slaves and 200 singers, or a total of 49,897 (Ezra 2:64-65). Of interest is the fact that they brought with them more than 8,000 animals (2:66-67). Admittedly, not all of these settled in Jerusalem, but one gets the impression that many did (2:70; 4:4).

Since it appears that most of the Jewish exiles taken into Babylon originated in Jerusalem and not the towns and villages of Judah (2 Kings 24:12-16; Jer. 39:9-10; 2 Chron. 36:19-20), it follows that they and their descendants would have returned to Jerusalem as well. The priests, Levites, and other cultic personnel settled throughout the land in accordance with Mosaic requirement, but it is noteworthy that Ezra says that only “some of the people” settled outside the city (2:70). The total he gives, in fact, would be 8,540 (vv. 21-35), leaving about 41,357 for Jerusalem, less the aforementioned religious persons, about 5,022 in number (vv. 36-58), or 36,335 in all in Jerusalem. It is true that this must have included several contingents, but Ezra is careful to exclude his own later group from them (Ezra 2:1-2; cf. 8:1). It is very unlikely that pre-exilic Jerusalem ever contained as many as 40,000 persons, so the population in Zechariah’s time and later would clearly have been unable to live within the pre-exilic walls. Broshi estimates that the city had 24,0000 inhabitants in 700 B.C., a population that was so large that it was forced to live in the unwalled suburbs to the north and west as well as within the city proper. Prior to that, he argues, the walled city contained only 6,000-8,000 inhabitants.276

Eighty years later Ezra himself led about 5,000 more individuals back to Judah (Ezra 8:1-14),277 most of whom apparently settled in or about Jerusalem, thus swelling the already considerable population (Ezra 8:31-32). When Nehemiah arrived 13 after that, he found whatever walls had been built reduced to rubble and set about making repairs. The full course of his walls can no longer be determined, but they appear to have been less extensive than those of pre-exilic times.278 With the ruin of the walls that preceded his coming, the population of the city had evidently evacuated, for Nehemiah notes that the city was “large and spacious but the people within it were few” (Neh. 7:4). Williamson takes this to mean a reduction of population, an unsuitable situation that Nehemiah sought to rectify later on (Neh. 11:1-2).279

In conclusion, it is impossible to know a great deal about the construction and configuration of walls about Jerusalem in the post-exilic period, including the time of Nehemiah. What is clear is that for the greater period of time there were no walls or none sufficient, at least, to provide protection. Whether this was due only to harassment from unfriendly neighbors or also because of a population that had outstripped the capacity of the earlier walls cannot be known. It very likely was a combination of the two.

The eschatological import of the vision is much less debatable. The time will come, Zechariah learns, when there will be no need of walls to protect the great population of the city, for YHWH Himself will be a wall of fire and a source of glory (v. 5).280 Such a vision of Jerusalem first appears in Ezekiel in an eschatological passage (38:10-13) that speaks of the nation’s security despite the absence of material fortification. When the enemies of Israel advance upon them, YHWH will send fire against them (39:6) with the result that His holy name will be known in the midst of Israel (39:7). The juxtaposition of the themes of unwalled villages, fire, and YHWH’s glorious presence is certainly striking and instructive.

Though the imagery is different, one can nevertheless hardly fail to connect the fire and glory of this vision with the language of the exodus and wandering narratives.281 YHWH had led His people out of Egypt by a guiding and protecting pillar of fire (Ex. 13:21; cf. 14:19-20, 24, 25; Pss. 78:14; 105:39), one associated with His glory (Ex. 33:9). Isa. 4:5 is especially relevant, for it too looks forward to the day when YHWH will create over Zion and her people “a flaming fire at night, for over all the glory will be a canopy.” That glory will, of course, be His own presence (vv. 10, 11; cf. Hag. 2:9).

    C. The Oracle of Response (2:6-13; HB 2:10-17)

      1. Warning to Babylon (2:6-9; HB 2:10-13)


6“Ho, there! Flee from the northland!” says YHWH, “for like the four winds of heaven I have scattered you,” says YHWH. 7“Ho, Zion, escape, you who live with the daughter of Babylon.” 8For thus says YHWH of hosts, “After glory has He sent Me to the nations plundering you, for he who touches you touches the *opening of My eye. 9I am about to shake my hand over them, so that they will be a spoil to their own slaves. Then you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me.

Exegesis and Exposition

This oracle,282 unlike that of 1:16-17, does not respond immediately or peculiarly to the preceding vision but serves more as a summation of the message of the first three visions as a whole, much like 6:9-15 provides an oracular conclusion to the last three visions. The points of commonality between these two pericopae will be explored at some length below. For now it is important to note that the oracle at hand has a twofold thrust: warning to Babylon (vv. 6-9) and promised blessing to Judah (vv. 10-13). In both cases the message is addressed directly to Judah, both as an exiled (vv. 6-7) and a restored (vv. 10-11) people.

There is no question as to the location of the “northland” (v. 6), for the next verse identifies it as Babylon. This fixes the setting, then, as the Babylonian exile, the occasion for God’s people having been scattered to the four winds. But that is precisely the problem, for the exile, by Zechariah’s time, had already come and gone. In what sense could YHWH be appealing for Zion to return from Babylonian bondage? The question might be answered partially in the recognition that the return to the homeland was not complete. Indeed, it appears likely that only a minority of the exiles ever returned. But this can hardly be in mind here, for Zion or the daughter of Zion (v. 10) is none other than the reconstituted community, the remnant that was the nucleus of the redeemed covenant people. They have already come home by 519 B.C.

It is more likely that the answer must be found once more in the eschatological realm. The prophets universally attest that the return from Babylon under Cyrus was by no means the only example of such a thing. Indeed, they knew of a dispersion far more serious and widespread than anything known in biblical times, a dispersion nonetheless couched in terms of a Babylonian exile (cf. Deut. 28:64; 30:1-4; Isa. 40—55; Ezek. 12:15-16; Mic. 4:10). It is that great scattering yet to come that is the subject here. But the emphasis is not on the judgment but on restoration.283 YHWH will send his people into exile but will bring them triumphantly back again for one overriding reason—that they might know that YHWH of hosts has sent one to deliver them (v. 9).

That the aspect is primarily eschatological is put beyond question by the comparison of the scattering of Judah to the spreading of the four winds; it is universal in scope, not just a localized diaspora. “Four winds” is most likely a way of speaking of the four quarters of the earth, that is, the whole earth.284 Jeremiah, referring to a scattering of the Elamites, says that YHWH will disperse them by the four winds from the four quarters of the heavens, so that “there will be no nation where the outcasts of Elam will not come” (Jer. 49:36). Daniel describes in the same terms the distribution of the divided Macedonian empire (Dan. 11:4).

There will be an escape for God’s people from this worldwide dispersion. In fact, Zion is commanded to escape, as the imperative mode makes clear. The language once again is unmistakably eschatological, for in this kind of prophetic discourse Zion is the favorite term used to describe the eschatological kingdom.285 “Daughter of Babylon” (v. 7) is simply a synonym for Babylon itself, but again one much at home in end-time speech (Isa. 47:1; Jer. 50:42; 51:33).286

After the double command of “flee” and “escape,” directed to Zion, YHWH states the reason for His desire that His people should do so—for their good and his glory. Verses 8 and 9 are unusually difficult because of the confusion about the subject and the agent. YHWH speaks in v. 8, but the verb in the next clause, yn]j^l*v= (selahan, “sent me”), appears to suggest that some unknown subject has sent YHWH himself “after glory.” If indeed the pronominal suffix refers to YHWH, the subject also must be YHWH, because only God could so act in reference to deity. The meaning then would be, “After glory I have sent Myself.” This is obviously a highly circuitous way to say something that could be said much more plainly.

The BHS note suggests that yn]j^l*v= be emended to yn]a& j^l@v) (soleah an), to be rendered “I am sending.” While this would provide a happy solution, it lacks any support in the text or the versions. Another way must be sought.

The best approach may be to construe the standard introductory phrase of verse 8 not as a direct quotation formula (“thus says YHWH”) but as an introduction to the task of the prophet himself who, therefore, becomes the referent in the pronominal suffix (“He has sent me”). One could then translate something like, “YHWH of hosts has said the following, that after glory He has sent me….” This may indeed have been the understanding of the scribes who recognized the difficulty in verse 8b of the first common singular suffix on “eye” (yn]yu@, `en “my eye”) and through a tiqqun sopherim altered it to “his eye” (wnyu@, `eno).287 This allows the prophet to continue to be the speaker throughout the verse. If the first singular suffix is retained, YHWH must be the subject of the predicate jl^v*, (salah, “sent”) and the original problem remains. For that reason we argue for the following rendering of verse v. 8: “YHWH of hosts has said the following, that after glory He has sent me to the nations plundering you, for he who touches you touches the opening of His eye.” It is Zechariah who has been sent, clearly only in the sense of his being a herald from Jerusalem.

The phrase “after glory” is also problematic. Both BHK and BHS try to clarify it by proposing odb)K= rv#a& (aser kebodo) for dobK* rj^a^ (`ahar kabod). This alters the translation from “after glory” to “according to his glory,” a reading that is both ingenious and reasonable. Again, however, no ancient witnesses support such a proposal, so it must be understood as it stands. The particle rj^a^ by itself can function as either an adverb, a conjunction, or a preposition288 but with the following noun dobK* is doubtless here a preposition of place or an adverbial conjunction of time or purpose. If the former, the idea is that the sending immediately followed in the wake of glory, a most difficult conception. If viewed temporally, the sending succeeded the glory, that is, sprang from it. Thus, perhaps, “After (the display of His) glory, He sent me.”289 This would not be unusual, for the self-disclosure of YHWH’s glory was often the occasion of or motivation for the ministry of the prophets (cf. Isa. 6). It is obvious that the glory of YHWH had been most manifest to Zechariah in the night visions he was experiencing.

The third possibility, that rj^a^ refers to purpose, seems most satisfactory.290 The idea is that the prophet has been sent in order to restore and magnify the glory of YHWH. He has gone to the nations only in the sense of his proclamation of salvation and judgment (cf. Ezek. 39:21).

The recipients of Zechariah’s message or ministry here are the nations who plunder Zion. The present participle <yl!l=v) (solelm) implies not necessarily that the plundering is occurring at the moment, but that it is characteristic of the nations that they are plunderers of God’s elect people.291 This is only one example of their “touching” them, a touching that is tantamount to laying injurious hand on YHWH himself. The verb ug~n` (naga`, “touch”), especially with the preposition B (b), usually denotes to touch harmfully292 and it clearly does here, as the plundering has already indicated.

With v. 9 the subject shifts once more as YHWH declares that he will shake His hand over these foes of Zion just described. The shaking of the hand is a use of the verb [Wn (nup, “shake”) in a hostile sense.293 It is as though YHWH has an instrument of war which He is about to bring down upon Babylon and the nations. In a most ironic twist, these nations who plundered Zion will become a plunder of their erstwhile slaves.294 Isaiah particularly supports this notion in his description of the second exodus of God’s people from the Babylonian bondage (Isa. 45:3, 14; 49:22-23; 60:5-6, 10, 16, 17; 65:13-16; cf. Hag. 2:7; Zech. 14:14). The lesson is clear. From the very beginning YHWH had said to Abraham in that great covenant affirmation of Gen. 12:3: “I will bless them that bless you, but him who curses you I will curse.” That pledge was never abrogated and proved to be in force even with respect to the postexilic community of Judah.

Shifting the subject one more time, Zechariah establishes the credibility of his message and ministry by declaring that once YHWH’s gracious act of restoration had occurred, it would be obvious to all the world that YHWH had sent him (v. 9b). Like Moses long before, and in a similar context of judgment and redemption, Zechariah’s credentials would be validated by YHWH’s faithfulness to the word He had proclaimed through his servants the prophets (Ex. 3:12; 4:1-5).295

Additional Notes

2:8 The famous “apple of his eye” derives from a hapax legomenon (hb*B*, baba), cognate to Aramaic aB*B* (baba) or Akkadian babu, both meaning “gate.” It is thus the opening of the eye that is intended here or, perhaps with most modern scholars, the pupil.296 In either case it represents one of the most important and vulnerable parts of the body. To strike a blow at Zion is to strike one at YHWH, wounding him in a most sensitive area, to carry out the full import of this bold anthropomorphism.

      2. Blessing for Judah (2:10-13; HB 2:14-17)

10 “Sing out and be happy, daughter Zion, for look, I have come; I will settle in your midst,” says YHWH. 11“Many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day, and they will be *My people. Indeed, *I will settle in your midst.” Then you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you. 12YHWH will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land and will choose Jerusalem again. 13Be silent, all flesh, in YHWH’s presence, for He is roused in His holy dwelling place.

Exegesis and Exposition

From a word of warning to Babylon and the nations (vv. 6-9) the prophet turns to one of blessing for Judah. These two ideas are closely connected, for the blessing of God’s own people can come ultimately only when all hostile powers have been put down. The two parts of the oracle also hang together literarily around the themes of the daughter of Babylon versus the daughter of Zion (vv. 7, 10) and the mighty acts of YHWH as empirical evidence of the integrity of Zechariah as a prophet (vv. 9, 11).

The expression “daughter of Zion,” like “daughter of Babylon,” is a personification that in this case suggests not only the corporateness of Judah’s existence as one people of YHWH, but the tenderness that YHWH feels toward her as the Father. There is also the likelihood that the phrase is merely a circumlocution for Jerusalem, as several other references in the OT attest.297 Thus David speaks of the gates of the daughter of Zion (Ps. 9:14), contextually Jerusalem, and Song of Solomon, in parallel stanzas, equates the daughters of Jerusalem with the daughters of Zion (3:10-11). This last reference is of no relevance to the matter of Zion and Jerusalem as daughters, but it does show that Zion and Jerusalem are synonymous.

Isaiah commonly employs the phrase to denote Jerusalem. He remarks that the daughter of Zion has been left as a hut in the field (1:8), a “besieged city.” Also, he speaks of the washing of the daughters of Zion parallel to the cleansing of Jerusalem (4:4). An even more remarkable parallel occurs in Isa. 37:22, in which the daughter of Zion and the daughter of Jerusalem are one and the same. More apropos of the use in Zechariah is the eschatological passage Isa. 62:11-12. There the daughter of Zion is told, “Your salvation is coming,” the result of which is that she will be called “one sought out, an unforsaken city.”

Jeremiah (6:1-2; Lam. 1:6, 7; 2:10), Micah (1:12-13; 4:8), Zephaniah (3:14), and Zechariah elsewhere (9:9) use the same figure. The fact that YHWH goes on to say in the present oracle that He will live in the midst of Zion puts the Zion=Jerusalem equation beyond doubt, for the Temple was in the Holy City. While he may inherit all of Judah as his allotment, YHWH pledges to choose Jerusalem above all (v. 12).

Zion’s response to the redemption promised in vv. 6-9 is a ringing cry of joy. The verb expressing this (/n~r`, ranan) is a neutral one conveying the idea of a loud, piercing cry or shout. Coupled with jm^c* (samah, “be happy”), as here, it means an expostulation of indescribable joy.298 One could even translate the verbs as a hendiadys, “shout joyfully.” The reason for such unmitigated joy is that YHWH is coming and will live in Zion’s midst.

One of the major tenets of ancient Israel’s faith that distinguished it from the paganism of the ancient world was her concept of the immanence, the nearness, of her God as opposed to the aloofness of the gods of the nations. They had their altars and idols, to be sure, but these were only tangible means of having access to deities that were otherwise beyond human reach. YHWH also is utterly transcendent, as the OT consistently affirms. But—and this is the revolutionary contribution of Israel’s theology—He also lives among His people, even if invisible. The covenant relationship between them calls for a place where He resides on earth and in which He can be approached.

This “theology of presence”299 appears as early as Genesis, where it is emphasized that “God walked in the garden” with man (Gen. 2:8). It continues in the stories of the patriarchs, who time after time were conscious of the presence of YHWH among them (Gen. 17:22; 18:1, 22; 32:22-30). Moses most dramatically was aware of YHWH’s presence (Ex. 3:1-5; 19:3, 20; 33:17-23), and it was he who articulated the truth that YHWH, the God who made covenant with Israel, desired to live among his people, particularly in Tabernacle and Temple. He told Moses, after the Book of the Covenant was delivered, “Make for me a dwelling-place that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). He then promised that his presence would go with them (Ex. 33:14). The Psalms (68:16, 18 [HB 68:17, 19]; 74:2) and prophets (Isa. 8:18; Joel 3:17, 21; Zech. 8:3, 8) also describe YHWH as the one who dwells in their midst. This is the message of the NT as well, for God according to John “became flesh and dwelled among us” (John 1:14). A major eschatological theme there is the eternal residence of God among His redeemed ones (Rev. 21:3). That theme, of course, is consonant with that of the OT, where the promise appears that “I will set My tabernacle among you” and “will walk among you and be your God” (Lev. 26:11-12). Ezekiel, in the same eschatological context, proclaims the promise of YHWH that “I will set My sanctuary in their midst forever…and the nations will know that I am YHWH who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forever” (Ezek. 37:26-28). Even the name of Jerusalem in that day will be hM*v* hw`hy+ (YHWH samma), “Yahweh is there” (Ezek. 48:35).300

Both Haggai (2:4, 9) and Zechariah share this theology of divine presence, a note that was especially meaningful in the days of the regathered community that was struggling to build a Temple worthy of God’s dwelling-place. But Zechariah is particularly concerned to orient this theological truth to the age to come, when not just Israel or Judah, but all nations, would join themselves to YHWH and be his people (2:11). This, too, is a hope shared by the united voice of the prophets, for it has ever been the purpose of YHWH to redeem all the peoples of the earth to himself in a mighty display of grace. Of these peoples (<y]og, goyim) He will make a nation (<u*, `am), the disparate becoming one in a common faith and mission.301 It is these, all peoples, who will know YHWH, and it is they among whom He will live in that day.

A hint of this universal dominion appears already in the early psalms (e.g., Pss. 22:27-28 [HB 22:28-29]; 67:2-4 [HB 67:3-5]; 72:11, 17; 86:9), but the great eschatological sections of the prophets spell it out in glorious detail. Isaiah refers to the latter days (cf. “that day” in Zech. 2:11) in which all nations will make pilgrimage to the house of YHWH and will walk in His ways (Isa. 2:2-3). They will see His glory and will worship Him (66:18-20). Micah concurs (Mic. 4:1-2), adding the promise that the gathered nations will no longer go to war but will sit in peace under their vines and fig-trees (4:3-4). Zephaniah, too, speaks of an assembling of nations who, following their purification, will praise YHWH as one people (Zeph. 3:8-9).

Jeremiah says that Israel’s repentance will make possible the blessing of the nations (4:1-2), but it is only after the exile that hope for the nations once more becomes a major concept. Haggai hints of it (2:7), but it is Zechariah who raises the issue to the forefront. In our present passage (2:11) he casts the verb “join” (hw`l*, lawa) in the niphal stem, suggesting that it is YHWH who joins the nations to Himself as an act of grace.302 They also come as an act of their own will (Zech. 8:22-23), complementing the process of salvation initiated by YHWH. “In that day,” Zechariah says finally, “YHWH shall be king over the whole earth” (Zech. 14:9; cf. vv. 16, 17). When that happens, those to whom the prophet is speaking will know that he has been a true messenger of YHWH. He will have passed the acid test of prophetic credibility, the fulfillment of the prophetic word (v. 11; cf. 2:9; Deut. 18:20-22).

Zechariah continues his marvelous disclosure of end times by asserting that not only will the nations confess YHWH and become His people, but YHWH will take as His special allotment in all the created universe the land of Judah, the “holy land” (v. 12). This focus on Judah, and specifically on Jerusalem, is a well-established emphasis in the OT, as we have already noted. All the nations will be His, but the very heart of the nations will be Judah and the holy city.303

The word used to designate YHWH’s relationship to Judah in the eschaton is the verb lj^n` (nahal, “inherit”), a term commonly used in legal texts to refer to inheritance or other means of acquisition of property or possessions.304 Preparation for this eschatological dimension lies already in the historical record of the OT, where YHWH’s ownership of territory and/or possessions is clearly spelled out as a function of His sovereignty. In the broadest sense, “the whole earth is mine,” He says (Ex. 19:5), testifying thereby to His right to distribute it in turn to His elect people as a covenant grant (cf. Lev. 25:25-46). In a narrower sense, Canaan becomes His land, a hl*j&n~ (nahala) or “inheritance” he provided for His ungrateful people. The same collocation of land and inheritance occurs in Jer. 16:18. Psalm 79:1 defines the inheritance of YHWH as the Temple and, by extension, Jerusalem. Finally, Zechariah also designates Jerusalem as YHWH’s inheritance, and with it the land of Judah.

Of interest here is the increasingly narrow parameters of YHWH’s inheritance, from the whole earth to the Jerusalem Temple. This narrowing of compass runs parallel, however, to an increasing broadness of His saving activity, for He becomes, in the end, not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but the God of the nations. The eschatological vision is that of the Sovereign One reigning from the Temple in Jerusalem over all His redeemed creation, a vision supported particularly in the exilic and post-exilic prophetic literature (Ezek. 36:22-23; 37:21-28; 38:16, 23; 39:7; 47:21-23; Hag. 2:7-9; Zech. 8:3, 20-23; 9:9-10; 14:9-11, 16). This insistence by Haggai and Zechariah on the importance of the Temple as the earthly center of YHWH’s universal dominion must have provided great impetus to their community to undertake Temple reconstruction as a necessary precondition to that eventuality.

The oracle closes with a solemn injunction to all humanity to be silent before YHWH (v. 13), an understandable reaction to the glorious revelation just disclosed. How can human lips speak in the presence of a holy God, one who has saved His people in mighty demonstrations of power in the past and who is now aroused once more to do the same.305 The arousing (or awakening) of YHWH does not suggest He has been asleep, but the verb rWu (`ur) as used here means to “incite to activity.”306 He is in his holy dwelling place (/oum*, ma`on), no doubt a reference here to the heavenly realm, from whence He will shortly come to make His abode among his people. The prophet’s allusion in v. 12 to the “holy land” (vd#Q)h^ tm^d+a, dmat haqqodes) as the earthly home of YHWH, who will come (v. 13) from His “holy dwelling-place” (ovd+q* /oum=, me`on qadso), is a most striking literary device.307

Additional Notes

2:11 To avoid the unexpected and unannounced reference by the prophet to himself at the end of v. 11, LXX and Syr read (or alter) the pronominal afformatives on yl! and yT!n+k^v* to ol and (presumably) Wnk=v* respectively, resulting in, “many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day and they will be His people. Indeed, they will settle in your midst.” While this brings this verse into conformity with an otherwise third person account, such jarring interruptions of subject are not at all foreign to Hebrew syntax, especially when, as here and in v. 9, there is a formulaic phrase such as “you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me (to you).” Mitchell (A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, 147), cites several other examples (Ezek. 11:10, 12; 13:9, 14).

Vision Four: The Priest

    A. Content of the Vision (3:1-5)

As many scholars have noted, vision four, although certainly part of the series of eight in Zechariah, is quite different from the others.308 First, only it and the next (4:1-4) deal with actual, identifiable human persons. Second, the usual vision introduction formula is lacking. Characteristically the prophet sees (1:8, 18; 2:1; 4:2; 5:1; 6:1) but here is shown (hiphil of ha*r`, raa; v. 1) by an unknown subject. Third, there is no interpreting messenger here, contrary to the other visions where an angel (1:9, 19; 2:3; 4:5; 5:5; 6:4) or YHWH himself (1:21) serves that role. So much an aberration is this omission that some scholars find no interpretation section to this vision at all. Petersen, e.g., limits the vision to vv. 1-5, followed by two oracular responses (vv. 6-7, 9; and v. 8) and a final verse (v. 10) building upon one of the oracular responses. He argues that neither response belongs originally to the vision.309 Finally, there appears to be an absence of standard formulaic language in the vision, such as “raising my eyes,” “looked/saw,” “again,” “what/where/whither?” an angel asking “what,” and so forth.

Some of these observations may be significant, but not to the extent of doubting the originality of vision four to the series or to arguing on form-critical or other grounds that it fails to qualify as an apocalyptic message. With that in mind it might be helpful to take an overview of the passage.

Joshua, the high priest with whom Zechariah was personally acquainted, appears in the prophet’s vision in a state of ritual impurity, so much so that he is being condemned for it by Satan in the very presence of YHWH. YHWH, however, views Joshua as a chosen vessel and demands that he be considered as such and provided appropriate attire. This is done, and then Joshua is told that if he continues to be faithful to YHWH, he will have a place of ongoing prominence in the purposes of YHWH. The lesson to be learned, so the oracular section (vv. 8-10) points out, is that Joshua and his colleagues are a sign of what YHWH is about to do by means of his servant the Branch, who will be a foundation stone of redemption and restoration.


1Next he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the messenger of YHWH, and Satan was standing on his right to accuse him. 2* YHWH therefore said to Satan, “May YHWH rebuke you, O Satan; may YHWH, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you. Is this one not a brand snatched from the fire?” 3Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothing while standing before the messenger. 4The latter spoke up to those standing in His presence, “Take the filthy clothing from him.” Then he said to him, “Look, I have absolved you of your iniquity and * will dress you in fine attire.” 5* Then I spoke up, “Let a clean turban be put on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, the messenger of YHWH standing (nearby).

Exegesis and Exposition

As already noted, the vision commences abruptly without the usual formula. The anonymity of the subject draws immediate attention to Joshua, not to the prophet himself or someone else. This Joshua is the same as that mentioned by Haggai (Hag. 1:1), namely, the son of Jehozadak.310 He appears one more time in Zechariah (6:11) and is well known in the books of Ezra (2:2; 3:2, 8; 4:3; 5:2; 10:18) and Nehemiah (7:7; 12:1, 7, 10, 26). Ezra mentions him as one of the early leaders of the returnees to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., listing him after Zerubbabel, with whom he is often mentioned and usually in that order. He was instrumental in getting an altar set up (3:2) and in organizing the work of rebuilding the Temple (3:8-9). He stood with Zerubbabel in resisting the overtures of the Jews’ enemies, who wanted to participate in the project at first (4:3) but then tried to bring it to a halt.

Neither Ezra nor Nehemiah describes Joshua as “high priest.” This is left to Haggai and Zechariah, though clearly the prominence of Joshua among the priests in even the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah leaves no question that they also knew him as such (cf. especially Neh. 12:1, 7). He was a direct descendant of Aaron through Zadok, founder of the line of priests established by David and Solomon (1 Chron. 6:3, 8-15). His father Jehozadak had gone into Babylonian exile in 586, so it is likely that Joshua was already advanced in years when he returned to Jerusalem in 538, nearly fifty years later. Certainly by the year of Zechariah’s night visions (519) Joshua was an old man.

On the other hand, he was apparently the grandfather of Eliashib, the high priest contemporary with Nehemiah c. 445 B.C. (Neh. 12:10; cf. 3:1). Williamson maintains the possibility (though why is not clear) that Joiakim, son of Joshua, may have filled the nearly 80-year period between 519 and 445, but he thinks it improbable.311 Joshua, however, could easily have served until 500 or so, and Eliashib may have begun as early as 465, leaving Joiakim with only 35 years. Frank Cross arbitrarily dates Joshua’s birth c. 570, making him only 50 in 520. Then, on the basis of what he calls papponymy, he considers Eliashib to be the great grandson of Joshua, dating his birth c. 495. This requires Joiakim to hold office for only 25 years rather than 35. Whether Cross’s papponymy hypothesis is correct or not, the four generations of priests from Jehozadak through Eliashib (c. 445) could easily occupy the 150 years.312 However that may be, there is no reason to question the role of Joshua and his genealogical and chronological linkages in either direction.

The setting of the vision is quite clear. Joshua is standing in a tribunal, where he is being accused of unfitness for the priestly ministry. The judge is the messenger (or angel) of YHWH. The implied definite article makes it virtually certain that this being is the same as the messenger of YHWH in 1:11, 12. There he was distinguished from YHWH himself (v. 12), but here he is identified with him (v. 2).313 This appears even more likely inasmuch as Satan is accusing Joshua before the messenger, a notion that finds no support elsewhere in the Bible.314 The adversary always argues his case before God, not a representative of God, as the very similar scene in the prologue of Job establishes beyond doubt.

There the heavenly court is assembled, and Satan comes before God to report on his activities (Job 1:6-7). He has asserted his dominion over the earth, he says, but God is quick to point out that Job has not capitulated (v. 8). Satan then begins his series of accusations against both Job and God, claiming that Job’s ability to survive is because of the protective hedge of grace that God has placed about him (1:9-11; 2:4-5). Throughout the scene Satan is in dialogue with God, who sits as judge in the case. The same understanding exists in the NT, where the power and sovereignty of God and the authority of Christ finally go unchallenged because the “accuser of the brethren,” who accused them before God continuously, has been cast down (Rev. 12:10).

A possible objection to the identification of the messenger with YHWH in our passage is that the messenger appears to quote YHWH in vv. 6-7, thus differentiating himself from YHWH. However, this is not a serious problem at all, for a careful reading of Angel of YHWH passages makes it clear that the messenger, though distinguished from YHWH, often speaks as YHWH (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 21:17; 22:11-12, 15-16; 31:11-13; Judg. 6:11-24; 13:15-20). That is, the messenger of YHWH is YHWH as He discloses Himself to human beings.

The accuser in the scene is unnamed, being designated only as /f*C*h^ (hassatan, “accuser or adversary”). As is clear from the Job story, the adversary is a powerful angelic being who has direct access to the heavenly courts themselves. A comprehensive biblical theology deduces that he was incarnated in the serpent of the temptation account in Genesis 3.315 How and why he became the adversary remains a mystery, but it is plain throughout the Scriptures that he is subservient to the sovereignty of God and that his pernicious conduct as the accuser is something permitted to him by an all-wise God. The commonly held position that primitive Israelite theology regarded Satan as at first an upright being employed by God for high and holy ends and that he was viewed as having departed from that role in historical times to become the adversary of God finds no support in the Bible.316 In fact, the NT teaching is the very opposite: “The devil sins from the beginning” (1 John 3:8).317

Nonetheless, the doctrine of a personal devil or accuser, known by name as Satan, only gradually emerged in OT revelation. When it originated cannot be known because there is no agreement on the date of the prologue of Job,318 where, as we noted, Satan is mentioned many times. Apart from Zechariah, the only other reference to him by name is in 1 Chron. 21:1. There the author attributes David temptation to number Israel to Satan rather than to God, as the parallel narrative in 2 Samuel 24 implies. Besides revealing the theological development that took place by the time of the Chronicler, it is noteworthy that he omits the definite article and refers to the adversary not as “the Satan” but as “Satan.” The function of the accuser thus was equivalent to his personal name.

Here (as in 1 Chron. 21:1) the accuser and the accused are standing, the former at the right side of the latter. The posture and language of the courtroom are self-evident.319 The accusation is not stated but may be inferred from v. 3: Joshua is clothed with filthy garments. Satan therefore challenges his right to function in the cult under those circumstances. YHWH the judge speaks up, perhaps even before Satan can open his mouth, and rebukes him to his face. The fact that it is YHWH who invokes YHWH to rebuke supports the thesis that the messenger of YHWH in this scene is indeed YHWH Himself.

The rationale for the rebuke is that Satan has overlooked the fact that YHWH, who has chosen Jerusalem, has declared Joshua to be a brand snatched from the fire (v. 2). The reference to YHWH as “He who has chosen” (rj@B)h^, habboher) Jerusalem establishes the connection between this vision and the preceding oracle (and the first as well) where YHWH, speaking with reference to the eschaton, promises to choose Jerusalem again (2:12; cf. 1:17; 2 Chron. 6:6; Isa. 14:1 [Israel]). “He who has chosen Jerusalem” thus orients the vision to the end times, but it also draws attention to Jerusalem as the place of YHWH’s habitation, particularly in the Temple.

The high priest of that Temple, at least in the early postexilic period, is Joshua, one compared here to a brand snatched from the fire. One should not look for too much hidden meaning in the metaphor.320 All that YHWH is saying is that when it looked as though all was lost as far as the covenant community and its worship were concerned, YHWH graciously stepped in and rescued a remnant by means of which He would reconstitute a believing people.321 The same figure of speech appears in Amos 4:11, where YHWH describes the survivors of His various judgments on Israel as a brand (dWa, ud, as in Zech. 3:2) snatched from the burning. The concept of a remnant is most evident.322 What Satan must understand is that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Joshua, indeed, and with him the entire remnant nation,323 may be impure, but the elective grace of God is still in effect. He has snatched Joshua from the fire and will do something wonderful for him.

The scene that meets the human eye is that of a high priest dressed in garments stained with excrement,324 a sign of the vilest defilement. The same way of describing human sinfulness is found in Isa. 4:4 where, interestingly enough, the daughters of Zion will be cleansed from their filthiness in a purging associated with the coming of the “Branch,” a messianic figure introduced in Zech. 3:8 in connection with our present vision. As distasteful and shocking as this may be in general terms, the appearance of the high priest so defiled was beyond comprehension. His dress was to be of the finest, purest linen, especially on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:4), so to see him this way was to see him in a state of absolute cultic and spiritual disqualification.

The laws of ritual purity are most explicit regarding a case like this. In Leviticus 22 YHWH instructs Moses to excommunicate any priest who tries to minister with his “uncleanness” upon him (22:3). The word used here is ha*m=f% (tuma), a generic term for uncleanness, but one that would include the specifics of this vision. The only remedy for a condition like this is the ritual bath that cleanses him and allows him once more to minister the priestly office (Lev. 22:6-7). A change of garments would obviously be necessary as well.325

Against this background, the accusation of Satan regarding Joshua is most cogent. Joshua indeed is unclean and unsuitable for service. But precisely at this point of his need YHWH speaks, commanding those attending Him to remove Joshua’s filthy garments and to replace them with “fine attire” (v. 4) or, as BDB suggests (p. 323), “A robe of state taken off in ordinary life” (cf. Isa. 3:22). He passes from a condition of utmost defilement to one of unsurpassed glory. It is significant, however, that hx*l*j&m^, the word used here to speak of the new garments, is not the normal one for the robes of the high priest (vd#q)-yd@g+B!, “holy garments”; cf. Ex. 28:2). Rather, it describes the apparel of royalty or wealth. The point is that Joshua forms with Zerubbabel a dyarchic rule in which the high priest increasingly enjoyed political as well as cultic authority. The turban of v. 5 also supports this understanding. 326

Not to be missed is the hint of interpretation in the middle of v. 4. In the course of the exchange of garments YHWH says to Joshua, “I have absolved you of your iniquity.” The hiphil of rb^u* (`abar, “absolve”) stresses the fact that the removal of the sin is an act of grace; it is YHWH who causes it to happen. The issue is not so much one of mere ritual disqualification, as serious as that is, but of iniquity in general.

Once the rich, clean apparel has been placed on the priest, he gains also a new turban for his head (v. 5). This object ([yn]x*, sanp) distinguished the high priest from his fellows (Ex. 28:39),327 but the most striking thing about it was the inscription attached to its front, “Holy to YHWH” (Ex. 28:36). The defilement and unholiness of Joshua have been dealt with so radically that he now appears as the epitome of holiness.

In a remarkable twist to this whole episode, the messenger of YHWH, who has up till now issued the condemnation against the accuser and the commands to deal with Joshua’s impurity, stands aside while Zechariah himself speaks up.328 As a priest he was very much aware of all the implications of what he saw, and so it seems that when Joshua stood reclothed with all but the headdress, the prophet could no longer restrain himself. “Let them put a clean turban on his head,” he cried out. Such interruption of a vision by the one receiving it is not common in other prophets (cf. Isa. 6:8), but it does occur frequently elsewhere in this very book (cf. 1:9, 19, 21; 2:2; 4:2, 4; etc.). What is unique here is the command of a mere man to bring about a purpose of God.

Additional Notes

3:2 An attempt to circumvent the problem of the messenger of YHWH and YHWH Himself as interchangeable figures appears to be at the root of the Syriac reading “messenger of YHWH” for the MT “YHWH.” This, of course, is unnecessary.

3:4 The difficult inf. abs. vB@l=h^ for the expected imperfect l.c.s. vyB!l=a^ or (if the proposed transposition of BHS be accepted) 2 m.p. impv. WvB!l=h^ or pret. 3 m.p. WvyB!l=Y~w^ is perfectly acceptable in light of the frequent use of infinitive absolute for a finite verb. cf. GKC, 113 z.

3:5 Zechariah’s sudden interruption in the MT has prompted the Vg and other ancient witnesses to read “he said” for “I said,” allowing YHWH to continue as the subject. The LXX tries to resolve the tension by omitting the verb rm^a)w` (“then I said”) and commencing the sentence with the jussive Wmyc!y` (“let them set”) or imperative Wmyc!w+ (“set”), thus again making YHWH the subject. Both of these alternatives, although possible and even helpful, are unnecessary once it is granted that the recipient of the vision may participate in his own revelation, a phenomenon that occurs many times within this book alone. See the commentary on this verse.

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (3:6-7)


6 Then the messenger of YHWH charged Joshua, 7 “Thus says YHWH of hosts, ‘If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will judge my house and keep my courts; and I will give you free access among these who stand by.’” (3:6-7)

Exegesis and Exposition

Having invested Joshua with pure, clean clothes and a spotless turban, thereby signifying the removal of his ritual impurity, YHWH reveals to him the meaning and purpose of what He has done. He has prepared him for a larger role in the covenant community, provided Joshua meets the conditions of obedience incumbent in that relationship.

There is more than mere suggestion or proposal here. The verb dWu (`ud, “charged”) in the hiphil carries the idea of bearing witness or testifying or, as in this case, delivering a solemn exhortation.329 Joshua has not been cleansed for nothing. He must now respond to the act of grace by assuming the task to which his reinstatement has called him. There are, however, two conditions that must be met, one having to do with his way of life and the other with his specific vocation as priest.

First, Joshua must walk in the ways of YHWH. This way of describing a godly pattern of life is particularly native to covenant contexts, where “way” (ErD#, derek) is a metaphor for covenant fidelity.330 It is not surprising that the idiom occurs many times in Deuteronomy and the “Deuteronomistic” literature, given the covenant basis of that literature. Deuteronomy 8:6 commands Israel to walk in the ways of YHWH, an exhortation coupled with that of fearing him. In the famous covenant charge of Deut. 10:12-22, YHWH lists the requirements of the relationship: to fear Him, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him, and keep His ordinances and statutes. The verb “keep” (rm^v*, samar) is the same as that in the second part of the charge to Joshua (Zech. 3:7). A third example must suffice, that in Deut. 28:9, where YHWH promises to make Israel a holy people (cf. Ex. 19:6) if they “keep the commandment” and “walk in his ways.” The charge to Joshua the priest to walk in the ways of YHWH must clearly be seen in a covenant framework.

The second part of the admonition, to “keep my requirements,” refers to the particular office to be filled by the one who has entered into covenant relationship with YHWH. The cognate accusative based on the verb meaning “to guard or watch,” (trm#v=m! rm^v*, samar mismeret) is, again, most at home in covenant passages (cf. Deut. 11:1; Gen. 26:5; 1 Kings 2:3). With particular application to the office of priest, which is the matter of concern in our passage, the same cognate accusative construction appears elsewhere.331 The Aaronic priests must “keep the charge of YHWH” lest they die (Lev. 8:35: cf. 22:9). In Ezekiel’s vision of the eschatological Temple YHWH rebukes His people for having broken the covenant by not keeping the charge of His holy things (Ezek. 44:8). The new order of priests, the Zadokites, will, however, keep the charge entrusted to them (44:16; cf. 48:11). Nehemiah reports that as late as his own time the Jews rejoiced that the priests and Levites had kept the charge of God, particularly with respect to purification (Neh. 12:45).

There can be no question, then, that Joshua’s commission pertains to a priestly function within the framework of a covenant relationship. The faithful disposition of the two prerequisites just described in reference to this will result in three clearly defined benefits. First, Joshua will judge the house of YHWH. This idiom occurs only here, but since “house of YHWH” or “house of God” refers primarily to the tabernacle or Temple, for Joshua to judge the Temple suggests a meaning for the verb /yD! (dn) such as “rule” or “govern.” This anticipates a quasi-political role of the high priest that gained increasing reality with the decline of postexilic secular authority.332 By the beginning of the Ptolemaic era (c. 300 B.C.) both political and religious power became centered in one man, the high priest.333 Joshua’s governing seems, first of all, to speak of his domination of the Temple and all its functions.

The second promised benefit is that Joshua will “keep the courts” of YHWH. The word translated “courts” (rx@j*, haser) can mean any enclosed area or even a village or settlement, but the strong parallelism between the word here and “house” in line A makes it certain that the outlying precincts of the Temple are in view. Governing the Temple extends to keeping watch over its courts and enclosures.

The third promise is that Joshua will have free access among those who are standing by. This is a circumlocution for the literal “walkings” (<yk!l=h=m^, mahlekm), but the sense is clearly that Joshua as the dominant figure in the cultus—indeed, as its ruler—will come and go as he chooses among “these who stand by.” Who these latter are is not at all fully spelled out in the passage. They are simply those who are “standing.” Clues as to their identity must be found within the vision passage itself. It is worth noting that the participial form of the verb “to stand” (dm^u*, `amad) occurs six times in the vision, four times in the singular (vv. 1 [bis], 3, 5), and twice in the plural (vv. 4, 7). Joshua, Satan, and the messenger of YHWH are all standing in the former singular uses, so the “standing ones” of v. 4 are beyond doubt to be understood as the “standing ones” of v. 7. Those in v. 4 appear to have been individuals attending upon YHWH, for a normal understanding of the syntax would suggest that the pronominal suffix on “presence” (wyn`p*l=, lepanayw) has as its most immediate referent the subject of the clause, namely YHWH. Thus, YHWH commands these of the heavenly council standing before Joshua to remove his filthy garments. These same ones who assist Joshua in this process will constitute the “standing ones” among whom he will walk freely, that is, the angels of heaven.334

One might object that it is unlikely that even angelic attendants could either dress or disrobe the high priest, but where details of the dressing procedure are available they seem to support this very idea. At the initial establishment of the Aaronic priesthood, YHWH commanded Moses to clothe Aaron and his sons (Ex. 28:41; 28:8-9; Lev. 8:7-9; Num. 20:28). Whether this set a pattern for all time cannot be determined, but in the visionary form in which the robing of Joshua takes place one cannot argue out of hand that angelic agents were not employed to assist with the high priest’s clothing.

    C. Oracle of Response (3:8-10)


8 “Hear now, Joshua the high priest, you and your companions who are sitting before you, * these men are a symbol: I am about to bring My servant, the Branch. 9As for the stone which I have set before Joshua, upon (the) one stone there are seven eyes. I am about to carve an inscription on it, “says YHWH of hosts, “that I will * remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10In that day,” says YHWH of hosts, “everyone will invite his friend under the vine and under the fig-tree.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The interpretation of the vision (vv. 6-7) did not completely clarify its message, a task now left to the oracle as well.335 It is important that both vision and oracle be construed as two sides of the one revelation in order for the full import to be appreciated. Thus Joshua, who has been central to the vision, is addressed in the oracle. It is likely that his companions are those of the priestly and levitical offices who served with him. The fact that they are sitting means nothing more than that Joshua himself was likely sitting as Zechariah addressed him as God’s spokesman.336

The visionary nature of the oracle finds further elaboration in the reference to the men as signs, to the branch, and to the engraved stone with eyes on it. Again, it is sound hermeneutics to interpret the vision by the oracle but also the oracle by the vision.

With a sharp command YHWH addresses both Joshua and his companions who sit before him. Their positioning is significant because they are ;ynp*l= (lepaneka, “before you”) here, whereas in the vision the “standing ones” were wyn`p*l= (lepanayw, “before him”), i.e., YHWH, and thus also in Joshua’s presence. That is, they sustained the very same physical relationship in both cases, in a circle of comradeship as it were. Moreover, these men here are described as a “sign,” a term in Hebrew (tp@om, mopet) that connotes a phenomenon that is an act of God himself designed to communicate some mysterious truth.337 Their being symbolical men might relate to the role they played in the vision,338 but more likely they have something to do with the coming of the Branch, a statement appearing in the next clause, probably as an epexegetical comment. That is, these men are a sign concerning the coming of the Branch and of revived and restored Israel as a priestly nation.339

The collocation of “servant” (db#u#, `ebed) and “branch” or “sprout” (jm^x#, semah) is highly allusive messianically.340 Haggai had used the term “servant” to describe Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23; cf. commentary on Haggai, pp. 56-57), and, of course, the prophet Isaiah employs it prolifically in reference to an individual Messiah as well as the nation Israel (41:8, 9; 42:1, 19; 43:10; 44:1, 2, 21; 45:4; 48:20; 49:3, 5, 6, 7; 52:13-53:12). “Branch” is not as common a messianic epithet but is more precise in its connection to the Davidic dynasty. Psalm 132:17 expresses this connection by the use of the cognate verb jm^x* (samah, “sprout”): “There [Zion] I will cause the horn of David to sprout up.” Jeremiah records the promise of YHWH: “I will raise up to David a righteous branch who will reign as king” (Jer. 23:5; cf. 33:15).

That a royal messianic figure is in view can hardly be disputed.341 Moreover, Zechariah later goes on to aver that this Branch-servant will build the Temple of YHWH (6:12-13). This task was already committed to Zerubbabel, at least in early postexilic Judah (Hag. 1:1, 8, 12). It is tempting therefore to identify the Branch of Zechariah 3:8 with Zerubbabel, a possibility to be examined carefully later on. One must remember that Joshua, too, was charged with this responsibility (Hag. 1:1, 12, 14), and it is that fact that gives special cogency to the suggestion that it is he specifically who is in mind here, at least typologically. The difficulty in his being the Branch in the full messianic sense is, of course, his lack of descent from David. H. G. Mitchell sees Joshua in view here, but he bases his conclusion on the false notion that Zerubbabel could not be in view because he had not yet appeared on the political scene.342 The crowning of Joshua in 6:11 and his association (if not identification) with the Branch (6:12) also support the idea that Joshua, too, is a messianic figure.343 Margaret Barker, appealing to Isa. 4:2 (though not to Jer. 23:5; 33:15, perhaps because they hurt her case), argues that “branch” is a priestly epithet in Zechariah both here in 3:8 and in 6:12. Thus Zerubbabel is nowhere in view in either passage. The prophet, she says, is cast as a messianic Temple builder in order to promote the Jerusalem priesthood over others, particularly over the priesthood in Samaria.344

This understanding of the matter gives good sense to the means whereby Joshua and his friends are a sign: they portend the coming of the Davidic ruler. As Joshua rules over the Temple and cult, so the Branch will come to exercise His dominion. This leads nicely into the stone set before Joshua, for in the context of the Branch as Temple builder the stone must be taken to be a foundation-stone for that structure.345 Indeed, Zerubbabel and Joshua had already laid the foundation of the second Temple (Ezra 3:10; cf. Hag. 2:15, 18; Zech. 8:12), an act that prepared the way for God’s cleansing and renewal of His sinful people (Hag. 2:14; cf. 2:19).

Stone as a messianic symbol is also well known throughout the Bible, for the foundation upon which God’s future Temple of redemption and dominion must rest is none other than the messianic figure of whom this scene provides a foreshadowing. As Kenneth Barker points out, the Messiah was, in His first advent, a stumbling stone and rock of offense (Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 8:13-15; Matt. 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7-8) but now is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:19-22). In the eschaton He will be “the dependable rock of the trusting heart.”346 Thus, behind this vision hovers the unmistakable aura of messianic promise and fulfillment.

Remarkable about the stone of the present oracle is that it has seven eyes (Zech. 3:9). Seven in biblical numerology signifies fullness or completeness, so the seven eyes suggest omniscience or undimmed vision.347 In vision five (Zech. 4:1-14) the seven eyes are identified as the eyes of YHWH that “run to and fro over the whole earth” (4:10). This universal attention by YHWH is an affirmation of His sovereign control, His unlimited dominion (cf. 1:10). Hanani the prophet had long before taught King Asa of Judah that “the eyes of YHWH run to and fro over the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is upright toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

In addition to the eyes, however, there is about to be engraved on the stone an inscription reading, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” This admittedly novel interpretation348 of v. 9b rests on several factors. First, it seems evident that the stone in question is the cornerstone of a building, in this case most likely the Temple of YHWH.349 Second, in the ancient Near Eastern world cornerstones invariably bore inscriptions attesting to the builder and the purpose for which the building was erected.350 The eyes on the stone would be the divine signature identifying YHWH as the real architect and builder of the structure. The necessary statement of purpose is the rather oblique reference to the function of the Temple as a place of expiation of sin. When the Davidic branch comes and the Temple of YHWH is complete, the iniquity of all the land will be removed, all in one day.

This removal of iniquity calls to mind the taking away of the iniquity of Joshua in the vision (v. 4). It is most evident that the two ideas, and hence the two passages, are to be taken together. Joshua, “snatched from the fire” by divine grace, is a prototype of the whole nation, the “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6), that will also finally achieve cleansing and forgiveness. When that comes to pass, YHWH pledges, everyone will invite his friends to sit in peace with him under the vine and the fig-tree (Zech. 3:10). This is a common image in the eschatological literature to describe the day of YHWH’s universal dominion (Mic. 4:4; cf. 1 Kings 4:25).

In summary, vision four describes a day of redemption in which Joshua the high priest, typical or representative of Israel as a priestly people, will be cleansed of his impurities and reinstalled in his capacity as high priest. This presupposes a Temple in which this can take place, so Joshua will build such a structure. Again, this Temple is only the model of one to come, one whose cornerstone is YHWH Himself. That cornerstone contains the glorious promise of the regeneration of the nation, a mighty salvific event that will be consummated in one day (Isa. 66:7-9).

Additional Notes

3:8 MT has “they” (hM*h@) are “men of a sign,” which appears to exclude Joshua himself. Syriac reads “you” (<T#a^), which includes Joshua. It is very likely that Joshua is a part of the sign and that “they,” by a shift of object by the speaker, could include all of them. It is also possible that the independent personal pronoun is functioning as a copula and thus is not to be translated. See Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 16.3.3.

3:9 The troublesome yT!v=m^ (mast) of the MT, rendered by the standard lexicons as “depart” in the qal (BDB, 559; KBL, 506), should be compared to Akkadian mesu, “to forgive, disregard sins” (CAD/M II, p. 41).

Vision Five: The Menorah

    A. Content of the Vision (4:1-3)

Vision five forms a matching pair with vision four, both in terms of its juxtaposition to it and its subject matter.351 Both deal with cultic persons or objects (the high priest and the menorah respectively), both mention historical persons contemporary to the prophet (Joshua and Zerubbabel), both refer to temple building, and both reach their climax on a strong messianic note. For all these reasons it is to be expected that the two visions are mutually interpretive. In addition, because there is a clear process of theological development in the series of night visions, all that has gone before will need to be kept in mind as this fifth vision is unfolded.


1The messenger who spoke with me then returned and awakened me as one is awakened from his sleep. 2He said to me, “What do you see?” *I answered, “I have looked and seen a menorah of pure gold with its *receptacle on top and seven lamps on it with seven and seven pipes going to the lamps upon the top. 3(There are) also two olive trees by it, one on the right of the receptacle and the other on its left.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The prophet here sees in vision five a menorah flanked by olive trees, the whole of which symbolizes the Spirit of YHWH. That Spirit will enable Zerubbabel to complete the temple project, which had already gotten underway. The conduits of the supply of the spirit that energizes this work, that is, the olive trees, are two anointed ones who stand by and serve the sovereign Lord of the earth. The task only hinted at in vision four is spelled out clearly: the Temple is to be finished. And the means, also only enigmatically suggested in the symbol of the branch (3:8), is also clarified. It is through Zerubbabel, made powerful by God’s own Spirit. He, with Joshua, has been anointed for this holy task, and the two of them represent the two great messianic offices, priest and king, that are central to the sovereign rule of YHWH over all things.

The “messenger who spoke” to Zechariah, a principal figure in the previous visions except the last (cf. 1:9, 13, 14; 2:3), returns now and awakens the prophet. Since he continues in a visionary state, the awaking cannot be from the vision but from a state of lethargy within the vision.352 The verb rWu (`ur, “awaken”), in fact, frequently means to “stir up” or incite to some kind of action. It is the word used in Hag. 1:14 to speak of YHWH’s stirring up the spirit of Zerubbabel and Joshua to continue work on the Temple (cf. Jer. 51:11; Ezra 1:1). Zechariah is not waking from sleep, then, but his sensibilities have been so heightened as to be comparable to a man waking from a slumber. Otherwise, there is no point to the repetition of the idea that he was awakened “as one is awakened.”

Once Zechariah is aroused, the “messenger who spoke” asks him what he sees. His answer is that he has seen (perfect tense) a golden menorah, an article that would be immediately recognizable by a priest such as Zechariah. The menorah353 was the lampstand of the tabernacle/Temple, located on the south side of the Holy Place. According to the detailed description of Ex. 25:31-37 it was made of pure gold. It consisted of a central lamp with three branches extending from each side, each of which held a lamp. There were thus seven separate lamps in all. The lamps themselves were in the form of a cup (u^yb!G`, gaba), which served as a receptacle for the oil. The purpose of the menorah obviously was to illuminate the interior of the Holy Place (Ex. 25:37), but it also spoke of the illumination of the presence of YHWH Himself.

The menorah of Zechariah’s vision, although having much in common, also differs considerably with the menorah of Exodus.354 First, it appears to have a general vessel for storing the oil located somewhere above the center of the menorah. Called a hL*G% (gulla), it cannot be the ordinary cup for oil at the top of the central stem and branches, for that is always known as a gaba as already noted. It seems rather to have been a reservoir from which pipes distributed oil to the cups on the lamps. The word appears elsewhere to describe a water pool (Josh. 15:19), a bowl (Eccles. 12:6), or the bowl-like shape of the tops of the Temple pillars (1 Kings 7:41). This leads to a second difference, namely, the pipes (toqx*Wm, musaqot), which are never mentioned in connection with the menorah of the tabernacle/Temple. The reason for them here is obvious. The oil is not poured into the lamps by the Levites but comes from the olive trees via the reservoir and from thence into the cups. There is no human hand or effort whatsoever. The third difference is the presence of the olive trees, something unthinkable within the confines of the sanctuary. That the trees directly yield their oil without benefit of plucking and crushing the olives is also suggestive of the visionary nature of this menorah, and hence its allowable differences from the historical object.

The number and distribution of the pipes is somewhat problematic. The MT reads literally, “seven and seven pipes to the lamps which are upon its top” (v. 2). The latter part of the statement locates the seven lamps upon the tops of the central stand and the six branches. “Seven and seven” may be a distributive use of numerals355 to indicate that there were seven pipes on each side of the menorah so that each cup was replenished by two pipes. The reason for this is not clear unless the two olive trees each have seven pipes leading not only into the central reservoir but from it to the seven lamps. The LXX sidesteps the problem by omitting the first “seven” so that there are seven pipes for seven lamps.

Another interpretation that enjoys considerable favor is that there are seven pipes going to each of the seven lamps, making forty-nine in all!356 This almost unimaginable spaghetti-like configuration not only seems overly complicated as a practical matter, but its meaning would also be extremely difficult to recover. Moreover, the notion that there are seven pipes into each of the cups rests on a reading into the passage of something that is not there. The phraseology is simply “seven and seven pipes to (or pertaining to) the lamps.” Only an overly wooden interpretation can find a total of forty-nine such conduits.

Many scholars take toqx*Wm (musaqot, rendered here “pipes”) as referring to the spouts of the lamp basins, openings made in ceramic lamps by pinching the soft clay into a spout-like aperture.357 This is in line with the configuration of lamps excavated all over Palestine whose oil “flowed” in the sense that it was transmitted by the wick from the lamp to the flame. This would generate a translation such as “seven spouts to the lamps which were upon its top.” The difficulty inherent in such a translation has led these same scholars to visualize each cup as having seven spouts or, again, forty-nine in all. The resulting rendering is, typically, “there are seven lamps on it, each of the seven with seven spouts, for the lamps which are on top of it.”358 This is almost a necessary translation if musaqot is taken to be a spout because it is self-evident that each lamp would have at least one spout.

The verb qx^y`, from which toqx*Wm derives, clearly means “flow, pour, cast” (BDB, 427), however, so it is difficult to see how the “flowings” to the lamps from the top basin can be explained by spouts and wicks. Clearly a conduit such as a pipe is required. Difficulties this may raise in terms of cost, complexity, and the like are minimized because this was a vision.

On balance it seems that the best understanding is that there is one menorah with an oil reservoir suspended above it. This provides oil to the seven lamps of the menorah through seven pipes on each side, or fourteen in all. The reservoir itself is connected to two olive trees, one on each side of it. How this latter aspect functions is clarified in the vision interpretation to follow (v. 12).

The major source of lamp oil in ancient Palestine was the olive, so it is not surprising that two olive trees appear in the vision to provide that fuel. It is important to note that the trees are not to the left and right of the menorah, but that they flank the reservoir. The oil cannot go straight to the cups but must be mediated through the upper container that receives it directly from the trees.

Additional Notes

4:2 For the MT Kethib “he said” it is preferable to read with the Qere, many Cairo manuscripts, and most of the versions “I said.”

The LXX, Syriac, and Targums eliminate the mappiq in HL*G%w+, in order to read the vocable as the feminine noun hL*G%, “bowl.” The Masoretic spelling appears to take the form as a 3 f.s. suffix on a noun lG{, otherwise unattested. A 3 f.s. suffix on hL*G%, would, of course, result in Hh*L*G%. Perhaps, with most scholars, an emendation involving the dropping of the mappiq is in order (as in v. 3). See Kevin Cathcart and Robert P. Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets, (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1989), 193.

    B. Interpretation of the vision (4:4-6, 11-14)


4Then I asked the “messenger who spoke to me,” “What are these, sir?” 5The “messenger who spoke to me” replied, “Do you not know what these are?” So I responded, “No, sir.” 6Therefore he told me, “This is the Word of YHWH to Zerubbabel, ‘Not by strength and not by power but by my Spirit,’ says YHWH of hosts.”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

11Next I asked him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and left of the menorah?” 12And I asked again, “What are these two extensions of the olive trees, which by means of the two golden pipes are emptying out the golden (oil)?” 13He replied to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, sir.” 14So he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

Exegesis and Exposition

Baffled by what he has seen, the prophet proceeds to ask several questions of the interpreting messenger. This time the interpretation is divided by the oracular response section (4:7-10) between the two interpretation sections (4:4-6, 11-14). Zechariah first inquires as to the menorah and all its appurtenances and then, following the oracle, asks about the two olive trees.

The reason for such an arrangement of the vision has been a matter of much speculation. Older scholarship generally proposed that the oracle was an unwieldy insertion into a unified vision pericope,359 one consisting of 4:1-6a, 10b-14. There is no evidence for that at any possible redactionary stage and, in fact, there are good reasons for suggesting that the present order of the material is most deliberate, reflecting both structural and thematic patterns.360

First, it is clear that the whole section ends in a most climactic manner: “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” In light of the obvious coupling of visions four and five, it is interesting to note that vision four begins with Joshua the high priest standing before the messenger of YHWH (3:1). As we shall see, there is good reason to think that Joshua is one of the two olive trees, so that his appearance in both places forms an inclusio around the two visions.

Within the present vision there are also signs of bracketing. Verse 13 records a question by the interpreting messenger as to whether Zechariah understands what he has seen. His answer is negative. The identical question and response occur in v. 5. Immediately before each of these, attention is directed to the two olive trees (vv. 3, 11). The two sections dealing with olive trees and their meaning envelop the central oracular section, not so much, it seems, for clarifying the message as for providing an appropriate climactic conclusion and one that rounds off the vision of the priest that commences in Zechariah 3:1.

With this in mind, it is quite evident that the present structure of the passage intends Zechariah’s question of v. 4 to include everything in his purview but the olive trees. His lack of comprehension is met by another question from the interpreting messenger: “Do you not know what these are?” (v. 5). The intent is not to verify that Zechariah is in ignorance, but to drive home the point that he cannot possibly understand what he has seen without supernatural insight. The two parts of the vision are equally mysterious and equally demand outside interpretation.

That interpretation follows. All that the prophet has seen, the messenger says, is the Word of YHWH to Zerubbabel (v. 6). This remarkable association of vision with word makes crystal clear the purpose of such media as visions. They are a means of communicating the mind of God as surely as could a word in propositional form could. Moreover, this is not primarily a word to the prophet but to Zerubbabel, who is mentioned here for the first time in the book (v. 6a). A further linkage between this first part of the interpretation and the oracle is established by this reference to Zerubbabel, for his name occurs only three more times in Zechariah, all in the immediately following oracle section. To have completed the interpretation section here by attaching vv. 11-14 would, of course, separate these references to Zerubbabel.

Those scholars who view vv. 6b-10a as a later insertion do, admittedly, include the name Zerubbabel in v. 6a with that insertion, thus designating the opening phrase as v. 6ab. Their view falters not so much here as at the end, in v. 10a, where the prophet says that “these seven will rejoice.” Since there is no reference to seven things in the oracle, scholars such as Petersen361 must resort to all kinds of manipulations of v. 10 to remove the “seven” from v. 10a and place it in v. 10b. Petersen’s composite translation of v. 10 is:

    For whoever despised the day of small things

      will rejoice when they see the tin tablet

        in the hand of Zerubbabel (10a).

    These seven are the eyes of Yahweh;

      they range about over all the earth (10b).

Apart from such idiosyncrasies as “tin tablet” for “plumb-line” (which may be a good suggestion), the proposed rendering does violence to the MT as it stands and can be sustained only in the interest of removing “seven” from v. 10a (where it belongs), a line belonging to the allegedly interpolated oracle. A literal translation of v. 10 is:

    For who has despised the day of small things?

      These seven will rejoice when they see the

        plumb-line (or tin tablet) in the hand of Zerubbabel (v. 10a).

      These are the eyes of YHWH,

        they run about through all the earth (v. 10b).

It is clear that both “seven” and “Zerubbabel” belong in v. 10a, and that “seven” cannot be torn from the oracle in order to conform to a theory of source division. The subject of the first clause is ym!, the singular interrogative pronoun and not a plural indefinite pronoun as Petersen suggests. The predicate “despised” (zB^) is also singular in agreement with the subject. “Rejoice” (Wjm=c*) and “see” (War`) are both plural and need a plural subject. Petersen’s “whoever” is, as noted, singular (ym!) and therefore cannot be the subject. 362 Only hL#a@-hu*b=v! (“these seven”) can serve this function in the text as it exists. Petersen’s “these seven” is an interpretation, not a translation, for the text actually reads, as suggested already, “these are the eyes,” referring back to the “seven” mentioned in v. 10a.

In conclusion, it is unwarranted to assume a certain redactionary stance and then to buttress it by realigning the elements of the text in question. There can be no doubt that Zechariah composed the passage as is and that the “seven” of v. 10a is defined by him as the “eyes of YHWH” in v. 10b. Unfortunately many modern versions follow Petersen in taking “who” or “whoever” as the subject of “rejoice” and “see,” rather than “these seven,” as the text, as awkward as it stands, requires (thus NIV, JB, JPSV, NEB). Others, however, follow the sense of MT in its traditional rendering (RV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, RSV).

By the date of the night visions, February 15, 519 B.C. (1:7), work on the Temple had begun again in earnest, thanks to the encouragement of Haggai especially (Hag. 2:20-23). That prophet had revealed to the governor that YHWH was about to shake all creation and overthrow all kings and kingdoms by His mighty power. Their military forces particularly would disintegrate before YHWH of hosts. As for Zerubbabel, he would be elevated, becoming the very signet of YHWH—the expression of His sovereignty in the earth.

Against that background the menorah vision finds considerable elucidation. The focus cannot be on the menorah itself but on its source of illumination, the oil that provides its fuel. The reservoir—the lamps, the pipes—all have to do with this fundamental idea that the menorah is useless without the power that energizes it. Likewise the task of temple building and, indeed, of the establishment of the sovereignty of YHWH and His kingdom cannot be accomplished apart from divine enablement; hence the word of YHWH: “Not by strength and not by authority, but by my Spirit” (v. 6).

The pungent, precise style in which this affirmation is made adds to the sense of military flavor inherent in the terminology itself. The strength (ly]j^, hayil) in view here is almost always military in connotation.363 In fact, it could as well be translated “army” here or at least “military strength.” Similarly, the word for “power” (j^oK, koah), though more generic, is frequently used to describe the prowess of armies in battle, especially in Chronicles and other late literature (cf. 2 Chron. 14:11; 20:12; 26:13; Dan. 8:22, 24; 11:25). What Zerubbabel must do as leader of his people cannot be done by normal human resources and means.364 It must be done by the appropriation of supernatural power.

That power is the power of the Spirit of YHWH of hosts. That epithet of YHWH, “of hosts” (toab*x=, sebaot), is in itself descriptive of YHWH’s role and function as the mighty warrior, the commander of heaven’s armies.365 The Spirit of YHWH is His awesome power, made available to human beings who serve Him at His command. OT theology is not clear concerning the person of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead who is so central to NT revelation. It prepares for the personal Spirit in many places, however, by suggesting that what the Holy Spirit does in the NT YHWH’s Spirit has done in the Old.366

In the very beginning one sees the Spirit of God moving upon the primordial waters in creation (Gen. 1:2). The workers on the tabernacle are filled with his Spirit, enabling them to do their creative work (Ex. 28:3; 31:3). Moses’ assistants were filled with the spirit of wisdom so they could help him judge the people (Num. 11:17-29). Many of Israel’s judges accomplished their mighty works of deliverance because the Spirit of God was upon or even within them (Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14, 19). The prophets prophesied truthfully and powerfully as the Spirit gave them utterance (2 Kings 2:9, 15, 16; Ezek. 2:2; 3:12, 14; 8:3; 11:1, 5).

Particularly relevant and instructive to our problem is the reference to the Spirit of YHWH in the commissioning oracle of Isa. 11:1-5, one recognized by all scholars to be messianic and eschatological. The similarity of language in that passage and in Zech. 3-6 is noteworthy and deserves somewhat detailed attention. Isaiah first speaks of a “sprout” (rx#n@, neser) from the root of Jesse (11:1). Though the word here is different from the “branch” referred to in Zech. 3:8 (jm^x#, semah; cf. 6:12; Jer. 23:5), the messianic allusion is exactly the same.367 Isaiah reports that the Spirit of YHWH will rest on this individual, a Spirit granting him wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of YHWH (Isa. 11:2). With those capacities the messianic ruler will exercise justice for the righteous and administer judgment to the godless (11:3-5).

Zerubbabel, the branch (Zech. 6:12), will also accomplish mighty works by the power of the Spirit (Zech. 4:6). This will include the completion of the Temple (4:7-8; 6:12-13), the assumption of rulership (6:13; Hag. 2:23), and the reduction of iniquity and iniquitous forces (3:9; Hag. 2:21-22).

His role is further clarified in the interpretation of the second half of the vision, Zech. 4:11-14. Once more at a loss to understand the vision he has seen, Zechariah asks about the identity of the two olive trees. This time the location of the trees is not as specifically defined. The vision had placed them on the right and left sides of the upper bowl or reservoir, whereas Zechariah, in the interpretation, points out that they are to the right and left of the menorah as a whole. The meaning, of course, is unchanged. The difference in perception may be explained by Zechariah’s interest not in the menorah and its various parts but in the two trees. That, in fact, is his question: “What are these two olive trees?”

So curious and agitated is the prophet that he does not wait for an answer to this question before he asks another: “What are the two extensions of the olive trees, which by means of the two golden pipes are emptying out the solder (oil)?” What he sees here is not completely disclosed in the vision section and will require some comment. The word translated “extensions” (<yl!B)v!, sibbolm) means literally “ears,” usually ears of grain (Gen. 41:5). Here the agricultural use is clearly precluded, except that whatever is in view appears to sustain the same relationship to an olive tree that an ear does to a stalk of grain. It may be the most outstretched branches or perhaps the olives themselves considered collectively.368

In any event there are two of these that are either adjoining two golden pipes or by means of these pipes are discharging their oil. This appears to complete the picture of the vision, for in it the only pipes were the seven on both sides of the menorah whose function apparently was to connect the seven lamps to the reservoir above (v. 2). There was no suggestion as to how the oil was conveyed from its ultimate source (the trees) to the reservoir, a deficiency that seems to be addressed by the two golden pipes. Whether dy~B= rv#a& (`aser beyad) in v. 12 should be taken as an idiom of agency (“which by means of”) or location (“which are beside”)369 makes little difference, for the total process seems quite clear. From points of issuance on the two trees, two golden pipes conduct their oil to some destination, presumably the reservoir from which the fourteen other pipes feed it to the lamps.

The term for the two golden pipes is different from that used to describe the fourteen. Here it is torT=n+x^ (santerot), evidently a plural of roNx! (sinnor). The word is a hapax legomenon, however,370 and its meaning can be determined only by the fact that these objects convey something from the extensions of the trees to another location. Either pipe, trough, sluice, or something of the kind is required. North chooses the option “funnel” on the basis of a supposed connection to roNx! of Ps. 42:8 (EB 42:7), a word he renders “bell” rather than “pipe” or “spout.” Because of its funnel-like shape, he says, it was possible for a bell to be construed as a funnel. It is impossible, however, to derive torT=n+x^ from roNx! on the basis of present evidence, though something like “pipe” (roNx!) is clearly related.371 The fact that they are gold only matches them with the golden menorah.

But what are they conveying? The Hebrew literally says only that they “were emptying from themselves (or from the trees) the gold.” Since the trees are olive trees and the menorah lamps are burning olive oil, one can only deduce that the “gold” is referring to the color of the oil. This obviously is not an altogether inaccurate description of olive oil, but the fact that the color is designated would tend to support the view that its color is not what is significant, but its value.372 The menorah and all its equipment are pure gold, and so is its oil. Precious indeed are all the elements of the vision.

Thus far, then, the prophet Zechariah has described what he has seen, but he cannot understand its significance. For a second time the interpreting messenger underlines the prophet’s inability to comprehend by asking him if indeed he fails to discern these aspects of the vision, and again the prophet must say no (v. 13). At this point the messenger reaches the climax of the whole dialogue by declaring that the olive trees are “the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (v. 14).

The term “anointed ones” calls to mind a familiar messianic epithet. In fact, “Messiah” is merely a transliteration of j^yv!m* (masah), “anointed.” The Hebrew word here in Zechariah is different, however. It is rh*x=Y]h^-yn}B= (bene hayyishar, lit., “sons of fresh oil”; BDB, 844). Ordinarily this word for oil denotes only a product, something to be bought and sold and without any particular cultic use or significance. The reason the normal noun masah does not occur in our passage is, however, quite clear. The whole scene has focused on the menorah and, in particular, on the two olive trees on either side. It is important, then, to connect these two anointed ones with the trees that symbolize them, that is, with olive trees.373 They are not just anointed but are anointed with the oil of these trees.

Only two kinds of officials were anointed in OT Israel, the high priest and the king.374 The act of anointing set the individual apart for special service and also symbolized his enduement with the gifts necessary to his carrying out the work for which he had been chosen. As in the Zechariah vision, the oil of anointing was associated with the Spirit of God. It spoke of both his presence and His enablement.

Anointing is especially prominent in reference to Aaron and his sons (Ex. 28:41; 29:7; 30:30; Lev. 4:3; 6:22; 7:36; 8:12) and to David and his dynasty (1 Sam. 16:3, 12-13; 2 Sam. 2:4; 12:7; 22:51; 23:1; Pss. 2:2; 18:50 [HB 18:51]; 84:9 [HB 84:10]; 89:20, 38, 51 [HB 89:21, 39, 52]). There can be little doubt that Zechariah, by referring to “the two anointed ones” with such specificity, has in mind these two anointed offices, priest and king. These are the two who “keep standing” (present participle of dm^u*, `amad) by the Lord of all the earth, that is, who are constantly at the ready to serve Him.375

Kenneth Strand disputes disputes this whole identification, insisting that “sons of oil” has nothing to do with anointing but is a description of the olive trees themselves. The weakness of his view is apparent in his inability to provide a satisfactory explanation for two trees rather than one (the two pillars of the Solomonic Temple?) and the lack of attention to the unity of Zech. 3 and 4, which demands that both Joshua and Zerubbabel be recognized as anointed leaders.376

More immediate to Zechariah’s own time and perspective, the two anointed ones would likely refer to the latest generations or representatives of the respective offices, namely, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Both were direct descendants of the heads of their lines, Aaron and David. Both have already been singled out (Zech. 3; 4:6; cf. Hag. 1:1, 12, 14) as contemporaries of the prophet who have been greatly involved in the restoration of the postexilic community. Both, finally, have given evidence of having been chosen by God (Zech. 3:2; Hag. 2:23) to serve Him in significant capacities. More will be said about this identification in the next section and in the final oracle of 6:9-15.

The apostle John picked up on the menorah vision in his apocalyptic description of the Temple in remote eschatological times (Rev. 11:1-13). It is not possible or even necessary here to look at the entire pericope of which the two anointed ones are a part. What is important to note is that the two olive trees are accompanied by two menorahs, not one as in Zechariah (Rev. 11:4). This is sufficient to indicate that the Apocalypse is not intending to replicate or even comment precisely on the menorah vision of Zechariah, but only to use it as allusive material in support of an entirely different message.

The two visions do share some things in common, however, besides the trees and menorahs. They both focus on the Temple (Rev. 11:1-2; cf. Zech. 4:9-10; 2:1-5) and its measurements and rebuilding; they both at least obliquely refer to military confrontation (Rev. 11:3; Zech. 4:6); and, most significantly, in both the two olive trees are “standing before the Lord of the (whole) earth” (Rev. 11:4; Zech. 4:14). To John it is crystal clear that the menorah vision of Zechariah has fundamentally to do with the two olive trees as witnesses to the saving and reigning purposes of YHWH.377 His understanding of who they were historically apparently was of little importance to him in his presentation of his apocalyptic message.

    C. Oracle of Response (4:7-10)


7“Who are *you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. And he will bring forth the capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of it.” 8Moreover, the word of YHWH came to me as follows: 9“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this house, and his hands will complete it.” Then *you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you. 10For who has disregarded the day of small things? These seven will see with joy the *tin tablet in Zerubbabel’s hand. These are the eyes of YHWH, those that run to and fro through all the earth.

Exegesis and Exposition

Though virtually all commentators agree that vision five is divided by the insertion of an oracle, they do not agree regarding the oracle’s extent or to the manner or means by which it found its place in the current shape of the passage. Critical scholars generally argue that the oracle embraces 4:6b-10a so that the words “Then he spoke to me, saying (v. 6a), these are the eyes of YHWH…(v. 10b)” belong with the vision text.378 The oracle thus would begin, “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel” (v. 6b). Moreover, they postulate that the oracle circulated independently and was only later inserted here because of the need to provide, alongside Joshua, another individual to make up the two olive trees (v. 3) and two anointed ones (v. 14). Also, the strong emphasis on the high priesthood in Zechariah 3 called for an equally strong emphasis on the Davidic ruler, who with the priest was instrumental in the restoration of the community.379

Even though all of this makes good sense on the supposition that the oracle was not original to the vision, there are good reasons to believe that the passage was composed all at once and in its present form.380 One should begin by noting that there is no manuscript or textual tradition to the contrary. This would at least minimize the possibility of a late redaction. In all fairness it should be said that most scholars who deny the original unity of the material believe it was placed in its present position shortly after the time of Zechariah or even by Zechariah himself. If, however, the oracle fits as uncomfortably into the vision as most of the same scholars allege, how can it be possible that Zechariah or anyone else with any literary sensitivity did not smooth out the transitions between vision to oracle and oracle to vision? In fact, if the notion of an insertion be abandoned altogether, there is no evidence of anything but a smooth transition.

If one accepts the view that the oracle commences in v. 6b, then the interpretation of the menorah (1-3), which begins in vv. 4-5, follows the oracle in v. 10b. The menorah, then, is interpreted as “the eyes of YHWH, running to and fro through the whole earth.” Besides splitting up the vision and its interpretation, this explanation for the menorah is strange indeed. The reference to “seven” in v. 10a, when compared to 3:9, makes it very clear that “eyes of YHWH” in v. 10b is an explanation of “seven” in v. 10a. Verse 10 is, therefore, an indivisible whole. If this is so, the vision cannot resume at v. 10b. Nor can it do so at v. 11 if it ends before the oracle of v. 6a, for the introduction of v. 6a. “he answered and spoke to me saying,” would then pick up with “Then I answered,” etc. (v. 11).

The only way to preserve an interpretation for the menorah that is not separated from the vision itself is to assume that v. 6b is that interpretation.381 This not only retains a literary unit of content + interpretation but, as we have seen, makes good sense. The menorah with all its aspects, especially the oil, symbolizes the power of the divine spirit. This leaves the second part of the vision, the olive trees, as a separate interpretation beginning in v. 11.

If the oracle section then be limited to vv. 6b-10a, a problem remains as to the lack of a proper introductory formula. Ordinarily, as form-critical studies have shown, an oracle begins with a statement such as, “Therefore, thus says YHWH” (cf. 1:16).382 This is provided if one takes v. 6b to be the commencement of the oracle: “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel, saying.”

Careful analysis of just the oracles of Zechariah will, however, show how inconsistently formulae of this kind are employed. It does occur in 1:16, as we have noted, but it is lacking in 2:6, in its regular form at least. Here the “says YHWH” follows the command to flee Babylon. In 3:8-10 there is no “says YHWH” until v. 9b. Looking again at 4:7-10 one should not be surprised that the phrase “The word of YHWH came to me” (v. 8), the equivalent of “says YHWH,” comes later in the oracle. Its absence at the beginning is, in other words, nothing particularly strange.

A final consideration in favor of the original unity of v. 6 and of the commencement of the oracle with v. 7 is the fact that it is unlikely that an oracle mediated through Zechariah would begin with the introductory phrase, “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel” (v. 6a). One would expect it to say (as it does in v. 8), “The word of YHWH came to me.” In its canonical context the reference to Zerubbabel follows a proper oracular form: “Therefore, he told me, ‘This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel,’” etc. Moreover, if one begins the inserted oracle with the message “‘Not by strength and not by power but by my Spirit,’ says YHWH of hosts,” it is difficult to see to what this abrupt announcement refers. One would expect the problem or difficulty to be stated, or at least implied, before this resolution of it is offered. This is indeed the case if the menorah vision itself becomes the occasion for such an observation. The menorah with its flow of oil is indicative not of human strength but of divine power.

The reason for the insertion of the oracle at this point, is, as suggested above, the association of Zerubbabel in the interpretation of the first part of the vision (v. 6) with Zerubbabel in the oracle itself (vv. 7, 9, 10). Having noted that the menorah vision culminates in Zerubbabel and his work of temple building, the prophet immediately delivers his oracle in which Zerubbabel is the central feature.

If that work is to be done, it must be done through the energy of the Spirit of YHWH, for the task that lies ahead is like a veritable mountain in immensity and difficulty. The prophet is confident that this mountainous project can be completed with God’s help and so, addressing the mountain of obstacles, asks rhetorically, “Who are you, O great mountain?” (v. 7). Mountain as metaphor for insuperable opposition or resistance is common in the OT, especially when it is overcome and reduced to a valley or plain (Isa. 40:4; 41:15; 42:15; 64:1, 3; Mic. 1:4; Nah. 1:5; Jer. 4:24; 51:25-26; Hab. 3:10; Zech. 14:4-5). Zerubbabel will be able to face this mountain, level it to a plain, and completely achieve the rebuilding committed to his charge.

Petitjean suggests, perhaps too literally, that the mountain is the massive heap of temple ruins that must be cleared before the new structure can be undertaken in its place. His references to Neo-Babylonian texts which describe such ruins in a similar way are quite persuasive.383 Halpern, following Lipinski, takes the mountain to be the ruinous heap of the old Temple and the stone to be the one extracted from that ruin to serve as a foundation for the new building.384 However, the text does not explicitly state that the stone is taken from the mountain. Moreover, this cannot represent the Temple because Zerubbabel is told that he will level the mountain, a task clearly impossible for him because that had happened 70 years before. Later Halpern must concede this.

That the process of building is actually in view in the metaphor of the leveled mountain is evident from the reference to the hv*ar)h*-/b#a#h* (haeben harosa), literally “the top-stone” (v. 7). Continuing in the language of construction, the prophet speaks of the completion of the work in terms of the positioning of the capstone. David L. Petersen sees hv*ar)h*-/b#a#h* as semantically equivalent to Akkadian libittu mahritu, “the first brick.” This was involved in a ritual in which a brick was extracted from a ruined edifice and set to one side while offerings were made and a lament was sung over it. The purpose apparently was to bridge the gap between the old building and a new one.385 While this is a most interesting and plausible comparison, Zech. 4:9, with its attention to beginning and completing, seems to favor capstone as a sign of completion.386 In brief compass, then, Zechariah describes the whole project from site preparation to finished structure. Historically, the former had been done (Ezra 3:10) over great opposition, but the building lay still unfinished as of 519 B.C., the date of the oracle.

Not only would the capstone signify the completion of the Temple, but shouts of acclamation as it was set in place would explain how it was done. “Grace! grace!” the crowds would declare, testifying to the faithfulness of YHWH in bringing it to pass.387 This is in line with YHWH’s own affirmation that what Zerubbabel would accomplish would be “not by might and not by power but by My Spirit.” Haggai had also promised Zerubbabel that YHWH would be with him (Hag. 1:13; 2:4), overcoming whatever obstacles stood in his way (Hag. 2:21-23).

As though his message to Zerubbabel thus far were not clear enough, Zechariah goes on to be most explicit as to what overcoming mountains and raising capstones were all about. He calls to mind that Zerubbabel had already, nearly 20 years earlier, made preparation for the Temple foundation (v. 9; cf. Ezra 3:8-10; 5:16; Hag. 2:18). Now the hands that had begun the work would finish it, a promise repeated in 6:12-13 and fulfilled four years later, in 515 B.C. (Ezra 6:15). As a result, Zechariah says, the covenant community would know that YHWH had sent him as a prophet to them (v. 9). The acid test of the reliability of his message would be YHWH’s endorsement in terms of fulfillment (cf. 2:11).

Coming back to the present, the prophet acknowledges that one can easily look down upon or be little impressed by small things, in this case the meagerness of the Temple (v. 10; cf. Hag. 2:3). The people in the natural course of events had every reason to believe that the project would amount to nothing, so sparse were their resources and so formidable the opposition. But this was not the natural course of events. “These seven,” Zechariah says, “will rejoice” when they see the tin tablet in Zerubbabel’s hand.

The number seven has already taken a prominent place in Zechariah (3:9; 4:2), signifying there, as in apocalyptic literature generally (Ezek. 40-48; Rev. passim), the idea of fullness or completeness. In the vision of the priest, Zechariah had seen a stone with seven eyes (3:9), a symbol representing omniscience. The matter is put beyond doubt here, for the prophet declares flatly that the “seven” that rejoice are the eyes of YHWH that “run to and fro through the whole earth” (v. 10).

This interpretation, again, depends on the unity of v. 10 and the deliberate integration of the oracle (vv. 7-10) into the surrounding vision and interpretation. (see n. 11 above). If one grants that “seven” belongs with v. 10a, as the Masoretic verse structure requires, then the only reasonable antecedent is the “eyes” of 3:9. To think of inanimate objects, such as seven lamps or seven pipes (v. 2), rejoicing and seeing taxes the imagination even in vision literature. Van de Woude resolves the issue by seeing the seven lamps as symbols of YHWH’s eyes and then associating the whole with the stone and eyes of 3:9.388 The eyes of YHWH rejoice when human eyes cannot because He is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning. Zerubbabel can rejoice in that the Temple foundations are laid, something he saw with his own eyes (Ezra 3:11). YHWH can rejoice because He, in omniscience, can see the completion of the work. There is no day of small things with Him, because the end is as firm and fixed as the beginning.

David Petersen, following Richard Ellis, has suggested that Zerubbabel’s Temple, like those of Middle Babylonian and Achaemenid times, contained an inscription engraved on a tin plate as part of a dedicatory foundation deposit (v. 10).389 This would speak of the glory of the Temple as comparable to that of any other in the pagan world and would also suggest a connection with the engraved stone of vision four, the foundation stone upon which is engraved the message of forgiveness and restoration of the remnant as a covenant people (3:9).

Another connection with an earlier vision appears at the end of v. 10, where the eyes of YHWH are said to “run to and fro through all the earth.” This picture of His universal knowledge and dominion finds a parallel in vision one, where the four horses have been engaged in asserting that dominion by “walking to and fro through the earth” (1:10, 11). That also is in connection with temple building, for as a result of the conquest and resulting peace accomplished by the heavenly horsemen the stage has been set for the Temple to be rebuilt (1:16). The verb here (fWv) is different from that in 1:10, 11 (El^h*), but they are synonymous as their use in parallel members in Job 1:7 and 2:2 makes clear. Both verbs, therefore, can denote dominion or conquest.

Additional Notes

4:7 MT lodG`h^-rh^ hT*a^ poses some difficulty in that one would expect the article with rh^ in this construction. Perhaps BHS is correct in proposing that the h of hT*a^ should be assigned to rh^, giving lodG`h^-rh*h* T*a^. Those scholars who suggest that hT*a^-ym! should be isolated from the following clause (“who are you” [You are] a great mountain, etc.) do so against the Masoretic tradition that places the conjunctive accent Darga between hT*a^ and rh^.

4:9 With some Cairo manuscripts the Syriac, Targums, and Vg read the plural verb form here rather than the singular. This, indeed, would be consistent with the 2 m.p. suffix on the preposition at the end of the line. However, when the community is addressed collectively, the singular “you” is most appropriate. The shift to the plural at the end is not at all inconsistent with Hebrew usage, particularly in the covenant texts in Deuteronomy (cf. GKC 145 b-g).

4:10 Part of the cause for rejoicing is the sight of Zerubbabel with lyd!B=h^ /b#a#h* (haeben habbedl), the “stone of tin,” in his hand. This difficult term is usually thought to refer to a plumb line, taking bedl as a derivative of ld^B*, (badal, “to separate”) and thus indicating a carpenter’s tool.390 The picture would be that of Zerubbabel holding a plumb line as part of the construction work on the Temple. Besides the inherent difficulty of associating bedl with badal semantically as plumb line, bedl ordinarily refers to a metal alloy or tin itself (BDB, 95). In addition, the plumb line would hardly be used once the Temple was actually completed, a situation required by the order of events in the oracle.

Vision Six: The Flying Scroll

    A. Content of the Vision (5:1-2)

In line with the structural pattern of the night visions, visions six and three are a matching pair.391 In support of this the Meyers point first to such matters in common as the national focus of both, that is, the centrality of Judah in the restoration program. Second, a solitary individual in both visions is the immedient recipient of them, contrary to the other visions where multiple recipients appear, at least secondarily. Third, there is the measuring line in vision three with which the unidentified surveyor is about to measure the breadth and length of Jerusalem. Vision six features a scroll that also is measured, but this time in terms of length and breadth. Finally, the scroll is flying, just as the man of vision three is on the move to accomplish his task.


1 Then I turned and looked, and there was a flying scroll. 2 Someone said to me, “What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a flying scroll twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The correspondence in form and content just suggested for visions six and three ought to yield clues to mutual interpretation and, indeed, such is the case, as will become clear in the discussion. For now it is sufficient to identify what is seen and to make preliminary efforts to determine its significance. It is striking that this vision plays down any human activity. Zechariah sees merely a scroll moving, apparently without human aid. Even the interrogator is unnamed and undisclosed except by the third person pronominal form “he said” (v. 2), translated here “someone said.” Presumably this is the “messenger who spoke,” so common to the other visions (1:9; 4:5; 5:5; 6:4, 5).392 The fact that he appears in the matching vision of the surveyor by that common epithet (2:3) makes it certain that the same figure is meant by the anonymous “he” or “someone” of this vision. Still, his lack of disclosure here is meaningful; it is likely that it is to draw full attention to the scroll itself.

The scroll,393 of course, is the familiar leather or parchment “book” consisting of single sheets sewn end on end and rolled around wooden rollers at either end. The writing on the scroll would ordinarily be on the inside of the roll, with only the description of its contents or other brief notations written on the outside. Usually the length of the scroll would be many times its width, the width being the measurement of a single sheet from top to bottom. This seldom exceeded 8-12 inches, and the length would rarely be more than 25-30 feet.

The measurements here are so different from the norm, both in overall terms (except for the length) and in terms of proportion, that one must realize immediately that the dimensions are really not of the scroll itself but of something described within the scroll. Thus the 20 x 10 cubits (about 30 x 15 feet) either define an actual area or refer to something or some place whose length is twice its width.

Among biblical objects or places with these measurements are the Holy Place in the Tabernacle (Ex. 26), the “porch” of Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6:3), and the great bronze altar of the Temple (20 cubits long and 10 high; 2 Chron. 4:2). All three of these have to do with the sanctuary, the place where YHWH meets with His people.394 As the interpretation shows in vv. 3-4, the connection of the scroll with the dwelling-place of YHWH leads to the conclusion that the scroll contains the covenant document that binds YHWH and the nation together.

Though the entire Torah could doubtless be composed on a great “billboard” of 30 x 15 feet, it is unlikely that this is the configuration in view. More likely, Zechariah is describing a scroll 30 feet long and 15 feet thick. That is, when the scroll is rolled up, it is 15 feet in diameter.395 Such an enormous scroll is obviously unrealistic, but its great size is a deliberate attempt to conform to the various tabernacle and Temple measurements noted above and, perhaps, to make it visible to the whole community as it passed by over their heads (cf. Hab. 2:2).

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (5:3-4)


3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse going forth across the whole earth, for whoever steals, on the one hand, according to it will be purged out; and whoever swears, on the other hand, according to it will be purged.” 4“I will send it forth,” says YHWH of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and that of the one who swears falsely in My name. It will lodge in the midst of his house and destroy it with its timber and stones.”

Exegesis and Exposition

The interpretation of the vision is filled with covenant terminology and motifs that make it certain that the scroll either is the Torah or contains covenant texts of the Torah. The unidentified speaker of v. 3 immediately equates the scroll with the “curse” (hl*a*h*, haala), a technical term referring to the sanctions of covenant documents.396 As early as patriarchal times when Eliezer, servant of Abraham, was sent to Nahor to fetch a wife for Isaac, Abraham put him under oath to get a wife there and not from among the Canaanites. But he had told Eliezer that, if he made the effort and yet failed, he would be free from the jl*a*, (ala), the sanction or curse of the oath (Gen. 24:41).

Deuteronomy is especially rich in covenant language and the occurrence of ala there is especially instructive, particularly in the great “concluding charge” of chapter 29.397 There Moses, in a parallel construction (v. 12), makes ala synonymous with tyr]B= (bert) or “covenant” itself (cf. v. 14). Then in more specific terms he warns any who would seek to avoid the curse of covenant violation by renaming it a blessing instead (v. 9). Such a one will find, to his dismay, that all the sanctions of the covenant will be brought to bear against him, and he will be purged from off the earth (vv. 20-21).

The flying scroll of Zechariah mentions only two of the covenant stipulations, violation of which will invite the sanction of curse. These two, however, represent the whole law, for the one has to do with interpersonal, human relations and the other with man’s responsibility before God.398 The first, the one who steals (present participle of bn~G`, ganab), violates the eighth commandment (Ex. 20:15), a breach, therefore, of the whole “second half” of the law (cf. Lev. 19:18; Deut. 4:5-6; Matt. 19:19). He who swears falsely in the name of YHWH (v. 4), who uses his name “in vain” or for illegitimate purposes, violates the third commandment (Ex. 20:7), a statute that is representative of the first part of the law. Whoever breaks either or both parts has sinned grievously, for he has violated the covenant that YHWH has made with him and to which he, as part of the chosen nation, has sworn.

Verse 3 is elliptical and difficult, particularly in the second half. The Hebrew says literally, “for anyone who steals from this according to it has been purged out.” The crux is “from this” (hZ#m!, mizzeh), for otherwise it is clear that a judgment comes upon the thief according to the sanction written in the scroll. The past tense of the verb hq*n` (naqa), “has been purged out,” must be understood in terms of the edict of the law, a fait accompli, but in this context the form should be translated “will be poured out.” As for mizzeh, its repetition with h*omK* (kamoha), “according to it,” at the end of the verse strongly suggests some kind of correlative idea such as “thus … thus” or, as we are proposing, “on the one hand … on the other hand.” (cf. Ex. 17:12; 26:13; Ezek. 45:7; 47:7, 12; 48:21.) Chary draws attention to the phrase <yb!t%K= <h@ hZ#m!W hZ#m!, “They were written on this side and that,” in Ex. 32:15, a particularly pertinent text in that it refers to the two sides of the tablet on which the Mosaic Law was inscribed.399

Another problem with the predicate “has been purged out” (hQ*n], niqqa), in addition to its tense, is the fact that the niphal usually connotes “to be free from guilt” or “exempt from punishment.”400 This would yield a meaning exactly opposite from that proposed here, for it would be saying that the thief and he who swears will be freed from guilt (or has been freed from guilt). Petersen401 offers the following rendition as a way of solving the problem of both the tense and the voice:

    This is the curse which is going out

          over all the earth;

    for all who steal have remained up till

          now unpunished,

    and all who swear (falsely) have remained

          up till now unpunished.

While this is agreeable to the grammar and syntax, it seems unnecessary for two reasons. First, the whole thrust of the interpretation section (vv. 3-4) is present and future, not past. Also, how true could it be to say that up till now thieves and blasphemers have gone unpunished? Second, the niphal of naqa can and does have the meaning of “be cleaned out” or “purged.”402 The clearest example is in Isa. 3:26, where YHWH says of Zion that “her gates will mourn and she will be emptied out, sitting on the ground.” Nearly always where the idea of being free or exempt from blame or punishment is in view, the verb is followed by the preposition /m! (min, “from”) (cf. Gen. 24:8, 41; Num. 5:19; 5:31; Judg. 15:3; Ps. 19:14 [EB 19:13]), something lacking here.

What this purging is all about is explained in v. 4. The scroll, YHWH says, is something He has sent out. He is its author in terms of both its content and its intended purpose. It is a message but also a weapon by which He will judge His recalcitrant people. It is His powerful word which accomplishes the objective for which it is sent, whether that be salvation or condemnation (Isa. 55:11). Wielded by YHWH, the scroll will enter the house of the thief and of him who swears falsely in YHWH’s name. And the visit will not be only momentary. Using a verb normally found in situations of hospitality (/Wl, lun), the prophet relates that the scroll will “spend the night,” that is, will stay until its intended mission is accomplished.403

That mission is transparently clear—the scroll will demolish the house to the last timber and stone. Althoug this should be taken literally to some extent as referring to material structures, the use of “house” as a metaphor for one’s family and life is more likely. The scroll as the covenant Word of God contains the message that judges and brings to ruin all human efforts at salvation and success. The covenant breaker will find that his sins against God and against men will lead inexorably to utter devastation.

In concluding comment on this vision, another instructive but contrastive parallel should be drawn to vision three. There the surveyor was about the business of building, the result of which was a city with no wall of protection but YHWH Himself, the “wall of fire” (2:5). Here the scroll does not build but, to the contrary, destroys, leaving neither wall nor roof nor foundation. In the first case, the remnant people who trust confidently in YHWH will find adequate shelter in His presence among them. In the present case, the thief and blasphemer will know nothing of this protective grace but only the wrath of a holy God whose covenant mercies have been spurned (cf. Hab. 2:9-11).

Vision Seven: The Ephah

    A. Content of the Vision (5:5-7)

This is one of the most perplexing of the night visions of Zechariah because of both grammatical and syntactical conundrums and the rather bizarre nature of what is being presented. Before an effort is made to dissect the vision itself, it might be well to compare and contrast it with vision two, its literary counterpart.404

In both, the “messenger who spoke to me” is essential to the introduction to and interpretation of the vision (1:19, 21; cf. 5:5, 8, 10, 11). In both, the prophet confesses his ignorance of what he sees and asks for an explanation (1:19; cf. 5:6). In the vision of the horns they are pushing in all directions, scattering “Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem,” clearly a reference to the Babylonian dispersion. In the ephah vision, contrariwise, it is personified wickedness that is going into exile, borne along by flying women who finally deposit her in Shinar, that is, Babylon. Finally, both visions share a common interest in the international world, particularly Persia in Zechariah’s own day.


5Then the “messenger who spoke to me” went out and said to me, “Look and see what this is that is going out.” 6I answered, “What is it?” And he replied, “This is the ephah that goes forth.” Moreover, he said, “This is their ‘eye’ in all the earth.” 7Then there was a lead disk raised up; (in connection with) this (there was) one woman sitting in the midst of the ephah.

Exegesis and Exposition

In this vision, as in vision five, it is the interpreting messenger who takes the initiative to introduce the scene (v. 5; cf. 4:1). He commands the prophet to take note of “this” (feminine gender) that is going forth. The “going forth” (ax*y`, yasa) of both the messenger and the still unnamed object heightens the sense of movement and brings an air of excitement to what follows. The reason for the feminine demonstrative pronoun becomes evident first when the messenger, responding to Zechariah’s query, tells him that what he sees is an ephah (a noun in feminine gender). The ephah, is the familiar unit of solid or liquid measure approximately equivalent to five gallons. Sustaining the movement of the scene, the interpreting messenger repeats that the ephah is “going forth” (v. 6). And, amazingly enough, it is going airborne.

The grammatical feminine gender now takes on new meaning, for there is a woman (feminine) in the ephah, one who personifies wickedness (v. 8). This line of thought has other implications that will be explored presently.

First, it is necessary to deal with the very much debated “their eye” in v. 6b. Many versions translate “their appearance,”405 a clearly attested rendering for Hebrew /y]u^ (`ayin) (Lev. 13:5; Num. 11:7). That may, indeed, be the preferred translation, but that does not solve the difficulties. The LXX and Syriac read “their iniquity,” based on a reading <n`ou&, (`awonam) for the MT <n`yu@, (`enam).406 This would solve the problem of meaning nicely, especially in light of “wickedness” in v. 8, but the text-critical principle of lectio difficilior would tend to rule that out.

The answer lies, we submit, in letting Zechariah supply his own fund of language and imagery. He has used the phrase Jra*h*-lk*B= (bekol haares), “in (or through) all the earth,” three times previously in the book (1:10, 11; 4:10) and does so once again later (6:7). Without exception it occurs in contexts having to do with dominion, especially YHWH’s universal rule. In one of those instances “eyes” is part of the formula, namely, in 4:10. There YHWH identifies the “seven” of v. 10a as “the eyes of YHWH which run to and from through the whole earth.” As argued at that passage, this refers to YHWH’s omniscience by which He knows the end from the beginning.

This is likely the import of “their eye” in 5:6. Without repeating the whole clich, “their eye which runs to and fro through the whole earth,” the interpreting messenger compresses it to simply “their eye … through the whole earth.” What he has in mind, if this view be correct, is that the forces of evil, like YHWH himself, assert dominion over all the earth, though in their case it is woefully nonomniscient and pitifully inadequate. Yet, like Satan in the prologue of Job (Job 1:7; 2:2), they make the effort oblivious to the sovereignty of YHWH, who will someday call their hand and hold them to account. The ephah and its contents, then, represent the antitheocratic powers of this world with their pseudo-dominion of all the earth. This interpretation has in its favor an inner-hermeneutical method without resort to textual emendation.

In continuation of the vision the prophet sees, in a literal rendering, “a round (thing) of lead” (v. 7). In the context this can only mean a cover for the ephah (v. 8). The fact that it is lead suggesting its very heavy weight.407 Then, in another syntactically problematic statement, the interpreting messenger says of the raised lid and the ephah, “and this one woman sitting in the midst of the ephah.” “This” (taz{, zot) probably does not refer to the woman since one would expect a reverse word order if this were the case, namely, taoZh^ hV*a!h* (haissa hazzot), and a definite article on issa to conform to the definite pronoun.408 The best solution, it seems, is to view the pronoun zot as a nominative absolute to be rendered “as for this,” meaning “as for this whole vision thus far.”409 Then the sentence can go on as the translation above has proposed.

The messenger goes on to point out that there was “one woman” sitting in the ephah. The point, of course, is that there is one here as opposed to two others, mentioned later (v. 9), who transport her to her destination.410 It is when the cover is raised up that the woman therein becomes visible to the prophet. That a woman could be contained in a five-gallon vessel is, in actual life, impossible. But in a vision such things are not only possible but frequently insisted upon in order to draw attention to the surreality of the experience and its divine origination.

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (5:8-11)


8He then said, “This is wickedness,” and he thrust her down into the midst of the ephah and placed the lead weight upon its top. 9Then again I looked and saw two women going forth with wind in their wings (now they had wings like those of a stork), and they lifted up the ephah between earth and heaven. 10I asked the “messenger who spoke to me,” “Where are they taking the ephah?” 11He answered me, “To build her a house in the land of Shinar. When it has been prepared, *she will be set down there in her own resting-place.”

Exegesis and Exposition

At last the woman is identified—she is “wickedness.” This identification also explains the use of the feminine gender up to and including the occupant of the ephah, for hu*v=r], (ris`a), translated “wickedness,” is an abstract noun in Hebrew and thus grammatically feminine. It is appropriate therefore that a woman represent this moral condition, but it seems that one should make no more of it than that, at least for now. Nor can one more narrowly define wickedness here since it is a rather general term encompassing all kinds of civil, religious, and cultic misbehavior.411 Despite this, many scholars suggest that the woman here represents idolatry but, as Chary points out, hn`wzo or some such term would be used rather than hu*v=r]. The few uses of hu*v=r] in the OT (about a dozen) show it to be the opposite of hq*d*x= or, as Chary translates it, “mhancet” or “perversit” (cf. Deut. 9:4; Prov. 11:5; Ezek. 18:20; 33:12, 19).412 Margaret Barker suggests that the evil here is very specific— “commercial malpractice,” an interpretation based on the ephah in the vision. She goes on to say that this was only representative of a general condition of lawlessness (hence LXX ajnomiva) in Jerusalem.413

That the woman is dangerous is most apparent, for no sooner has the interpreting messenger pronounced her name than he slams the heavy cover down upon the ephah to be certain that she cannot escape. The urgency is magnified in the double use of the verb El^v* (salak) in v. 8. The messenger “threw” the woman into the ephah and”threw” the lead weight upon its top. The reason for lead is also now clarified, for the ephah has become not only a means of conveyance but a cage, as it were, in which wickedness is to be carried off against her will. Such a cage needs a door that cannot be opened by its occupant. The peculiar expression in Hebrew trp#uoh* /b#a# (eben ha`operet), “stone of lead,” simply means that the cover of an ephah vessel would normally be stone. Lead is used here in place of stone, hence a “lead-stone.”414

Once this is done the ephah takes wings as it were and begins its flight.But the wings are actually those of two women and are described as “stork-like” wings (v. 9). The stork (hd*ys!j&, hasda) was one of the unclean birds of Leviticus 11, one that could not be eaten because it was an “abomination” (Lev. 11:13, 19). Yet, as its name suggests (from dyx!j&, hasd, “loving, faithful, constant”), it was noted from ancient times as a bird that took affectionate care of its young.415 There is thus the paradoxical picture of an unclean bird, appropriate considering its mission and cargo, providing the tenderest care for its charge as it fulfilled the mandate of YHWH.416

That the bearers of the ephah are also women is consistent with the feminine flavor of the entire vision. Moreover, the motherly attention accorded the task demands the sensitivity that women can best supply. But what they do is made possible by resources outside their natural abilities, for they had “wind in their wings.” Since that would be a normal expectation in flight, its mention here is significant. Doubtless there is a double entendre here, for j^Wr (ruah) means spirit as well as wind. The same spirit of God that empowered Zerubbabel in temple building (4:6) was now at work transporting wickedness to her destination.417

Almost always where heaven and earth are mentioned together, it is in that order as a frozen form or stock expression. Here, however, the ephah is lifted up “between the earth and the heavens,” that is, the upper sky (v. 9). The reason for that most likely is that this is the trajectory of the flight from the viewpoint of the earthbound observer. Those standing on the ground see the ephah departing from the earth toward the heavens. A parallel case in which “earth” precedes “heaven” and in which the Spirit is the agent of levitation occurs in Ezekiel 8. There the prophet describes his experience of being lifted up “between earth and heaven” (v. 3) by the spirit. Interestingly enough, this time the journey is exactly opposite: Ezekiel is not moving from Jerusalem to Babylon but from Babylon to Jerusalem (v. 3), where he sees every kind of wickedness in the very Temple of YHWH (vv. 5-17). It is this wickedness that must be purged and its practitioners who must be removed from the land.

At a loss to understand the destination of the flying ephah, Zechariah asks about it and learns from the interpreting messenger that it is Shinar. There the stork-like women will build wickedness a house, and when it is finished they will settle her there. Shinar is an ancient name for Sumer and Akkad, the district in which the earliest of cities such as Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh were located (Gen. 10:10).418 Babel, of course, is the same as Babylon, “the gate of the gods” (Akk. babu+ ilani, or babilani). Erech is the Sumerian city Uruk (modern Warka), near the Persian Gulf. Accad (or Akkad) is Agade, the capital of the Old Akkadian empire of Sargon. Calneh (if not Calah) cannot be identified with certainty, for it can hardly be the same as the city by that name just north of Aleppo in Syria.

Reference to Shinar is tantamount to reference to Babylon, for that city becomes the very epitome of humanistic independence of and resistance to God and His sovereignty. It was at Babylon, in the land of Shinar, that the rebel human race erected a great ziggurat, the purpose of which was to frustrate God’s mandate to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28; 9:1). The men of Babylon had said, “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the surface of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). From that time Babylon became synonymous with arrogant human independence, the very fountainhead of antitheocratic social, political, and religious ideology.

The leader of the campaign of eastern kings against Canaan and Abraham was “Amraphel king of Shinar” (Gen. 14:1). This was the first act of aggression against the people of YHWH by a hostile power. But not until the rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire under Nabopolassar in 627 B.C. was it evident that the ancient archenemy of YHWH in days of old would rear his ugly head in history and in eschatological time to come in a mighty effort to challenge the salvific purposes of God on earth through His elect people. Even before that revival of Shinar had actually come about, the prophets anticipated it and were fully aware of its historical and theological significance. Isaiah, writing a century before Nabopolassar, composed a collection of oracles in which he set forth the role and destiny of Babylon (chaps. 13-14). Her coming judgment, he said, was nothing less than an expression of the fearful day of YHWH (13:6), a day of cruel war and cosmic dislocation. Proud Babylon would be overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah were in days gone by (13:19). YHWH would then have compassion on His own people (14:1) and through the Medes and Persians (13:17) would deliver them from captivity (14:2) and reduce Babylon to the depths of Sheol (14:3-20). It is Isaiah who describes the king of Babylon as the “daystar” who said “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (14:12-13), a clear reminiscence of human arrogance in the Tower of Babel story.

Babylon as the center of Jewish dispersion is very much a theme in Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the restoration. In a remarkable personification YHWH commands the “virgin daughter of Babylon” to come off her throne and become a shameless, naked slave (Isa. 47:1-3). She will no longer be called the “mistress of kingdoms” (v. 5), the one who boasts “I am and there is no one else besides me” (v. 5). Instead, she will experience sudden and calamitous judgment, all her enchantments and religious apotropaic devices notwithstanding (47:11-15). The epithets “virgin daughter” and “mistress” are particularly striking in light of the feminine tone of Zechariah’s vision of the ephah. One may certainly concede that Babylon is addressed in female terms because such Hebrew abstract noun forms as “kingdom” (hk*l*m=m^, mamlaka) are feminine (i.e., “[kingdom of] Babylon”), but her association with the feminine noun “wickedness,” as in Zechariah 5:8, is also significant.

Jeremiah also focuses much attention on Babylon and, as a contemporary with the rise of the Neo-Babylonian kingdom, he was in a particularly strategic position to assess her meaning to his own day and to the ages to come. In a long oracle section devoted to Babylon (chaps. 50-51) the prophet predicts her collapse at the hands of a northern power (50:2-3), a fall that will free God’s covenant people to return to their own land (vv. 4-10).

Throughout this series of oracles Jeremiah continues, with Isaiah, the feminine description of Babylon. She is like a wanton heifer (50:11) who has striven against YHWH (50:24), a clearly antitheocratic stance. She has exhibited pride against Him (v. 29) as well, but “the proud one will fall” (v. 32). When the northern foe begins to descend on Babylon, her king will suffer convulsions “like a woman in travail” (v. 43). her mighty men will cower and “become as women” (51:30). The “daughter of Babylon” will become like a threshing-floor at the time of the treading of grain (v. 33). Though she should try to ascend to the heavens in her pride, she will be dragged down (v. 53) and utterly overthrown (v. 58).

Throughout these lengthy passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah there are both historical and eschatological perspectives. Frequently it is difficult to separate them, nor is this necessary, for Babylon—whether in the past, present, or future—is the paradigm of wickedness and of hostility to all the gracious purposes of God.419 To Zechariah, however, Babylon’s (or Shinar’s) role must be exclusively future, for by 520 B.C. she had fallen and had been swallowed up by the irrepressible and well-nigh universal Persian Empire. This no doubt is one reason he does not use the name Babylon in the ephah vision (but see 2:7; 6:10), preferring Shinar instead. Shinar, besides taking the theme of Babylon as antagonist back to the very beginning (Gen. 10:10), creating thereby a kind of “historical inclusio,” lends a more trans-historical sense to the message.

Before this long discussion of Shinar and Babylon can be concluded, it is important to see how NT apocalyptic treats the theme. In vision John saw Babylon fall, “she who made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Rev. 14:8). She is the “great harlot,” the “mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (17:1, 5). More significantly, she is “the great city that reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). She will be destroyed in one day, however (18:8, 10, 19—a destruction so irremedial that it is compared to the casting of a huge millstone into the sea, from which it can never be retrieved (18:21).

Zechariah, then, takes his place in a long, full tradition regarding Shinar or Babylon as the seat of iniquitous rebellion against God. For wickedness in the ephah vision to be transported to Shinar is for it to return to where it belongs. It had come from Babylon, as it were, and had dogged the steps of God’s people, leading at last to their destruction and captivity at her hands. But in the day of restoration, YHWH will remove wickedness from His land and force it to return whence it came.420 In that day of triumph she (wickedness) will submit meekly to the Lord of all the earth and will settle in the “house”421 built especially for her until the day of her final disposition, something Zechariah does not explicitly address.

Additional Notes

5:11 The MT verb form hj*yN]h%w+ is somewhat problematic. As pointed it appears to be hophal of j^Wn, but if so, it is the only example. Perhaps with LXX (kaiV qhvsousin ajutov, “and they will set it”) it should be repointed to hiphil h*j%yN]h!w+, “they will set it.”

Vision Eight: The Chariots

    A. Content of the Vision (6:1-4)

If ever a case could be made for matching complementary visions throughout the unfolding of the night visions structure in Zechariah, it can be made here. This last of the eight shares so much in common with the first that the two, at least, must be viewed as book ends enveloping the whole series.422 These points of commonality should be addressed first, then the present vision can better yield its meaning.

First, the two visions concern four principal objects each. Vision one describes four horses (and presumably horsemen), whereas vision eight speaks of four chariots, each of which has horses attached to it. There is apparently some difference in the color of the horses in the respective visions, for in number one they are red (two of them), sorrel, and white, but in number eight they are red, black, white, and variegated.423 Second, the horses in the one vision and the chariots in the other are servants of YHWH who go forth at His bidding to “walk to and fro through the earth” (1:10; cf. 6:7). In other words, both visions speak of YHWH’s universal hegemony. In the third place, the “messenger who spoke to me,” the interpreting messenger, is important both in disclosing the vision and in elucidating its meaning (1:9; cf. 6:4). Fourth, the horses of vision one stand among myrtle trees in a valley or ravine; the chariots of vision eight come out from between two mountains, evidently also through a valley. Finally, both visions share a cosmic, universalistic interest. Vision one mentions “through the earth” twice (1:10, 11) and notes that “all the earth is at rest and is quiet” (v. 11b). Then, as the visions progressed, there was an increasingly narrow focus on the international scene (vision two), Judah and the land (vision three), and the Temple and priesthood (vision four). At this point the trend reverses, beginning with Temple rebuilding and Zerubbabel’s role (vision five), Judah and the land (vision six), the international scene (Babylon; vision seven), and finally “through the earth” repeated three times in vision eight.

Unlike vision one, number eight does not have its own oracle of response, though, as will be argued later, the oracle that follows it (6:9-15) may serve it as such as well as bringing the whole series to an end.


1 Once more I looked and saw four chariots going forth from between two mountains, mountains of bronze. 2 With the first chariot there were red horses, with the second black horses, 3 with the third white horses, and with the fourth spotted, all strong horses. 4 Then I asked the “messenger who spoke to me, “What are these, sir?”

Exegesis and Exposition

Turning now to the details of the vision, one is struck by the occurrence at once of a verb that has dominated Zechariah’s visions, the verb “come forth” or “go forth” (v. 1). In its various forms ax*y` (yas a) appears 15 times in 77 verses, including the introduction and oracles. More striking, however, is the accelerating rate at which the word appears. It occurs not once in visions one and two, once in vision three, not at all in vision four, once in the oracle of vision five, twice in vision six, four times is vision seven, and seven times in vision eight. While this trend must not be given undue importance, it does appear to suggest an intensely heightened sense of activity, one that reaches a dramatic climax in the interpretation of oracle eight, where, with an ironic twist, the last verse ends, “they who go out toward the north country have given My spirit rest in the north country” (v. 8). The flourish of activity of the visions, occasioned by YHWH’s work of renewal and redemption, at last comes to a peaceful end when his sovereignty is established.

What Zechariah sees “going forth” in this vision are four chariots emerging from between two mountains. Of particular note is the fact that these mountains are bronze. The chariot (hb*K*r+m#, merkaba) in the OT is primarily a war machine, not just a mode of transportation (cf. Ex. 14:25; Josh. 11:6; Judg. 4:15; 1 Sam. 8:11; 1 Kings 12:18; 22:35), and in apocalyptic literature represents YHWH Himself (cf. the chariot wheels of Ezek. 1:15-21 as theophany) or His conveyance (Isa. 66:15; cf. Ps. 68:4, 17 [HB 68:5, 18]; Hab. 3:8).424 There are four of them in the vision, a number symbolizing the worldwide extent of the travels of the chariots (cf. 1:8).

Mountains frequently symbolize kingdoms in the OT, again particularly in eschatological texts (cf. Isa. 41:15; Jer. 51:25; Dan. 2:35 [“great rock”]), but it is not likely that that is in mind here for at least two reasons. First, there is nothing in the interpretation section (vv. 5-8) that would support such a view and, second, there is within Zechariah itself a much better option, namely, the mountain that was split in two, leaving a valley in between (14:4). Coupled with this is the mountain of vision five (Zech. 4:7), that which before Zerubbabel would become a level place.

In the latter passage the mountain was seen to be an obstacle standing in the way of Zerubbabel to prevent him from discharging the task of temple-building and administering the affairs of the revived Davidic state. Because of its impenetrability, its sheer hardness, “mountain of bronze” would be an apt description. A problem remains in that only one mountain appears in vision five, whereas there are two here in vision eight. This may be where Zechariah 14:1-8 fits into the equation.425 In the day of YHWH, Zechariah says, YHWH will stand on the Mount of Olives, which will split asunder beneath His feet, in effect creating two mountains, one to the north and one to the south. A great valley will lie between, providing a way of escape for the besieged of Jerusalem and also a conduit through which living waters can flow from Jerusalem to the eastern (Dead) sea (v. 8; cf. Ezek. 47:1-12).

Though the scenes are quite different in all three passages, the common imagery and symbolism cause one to suspect that the author is using stock literary devices in an integrative way to communicate one overall, consistent message. The four chariots are sent forth to reclaim all the earth for the suzerainty of YHWH, a result that also follows the splitting of the mountain in the day of YHWH (Zech. 14:9). Once this is brought to pass, there will be peace in Jerusalem (14:11) and in the whole earth (6:7-8).

To each (not “in each” as some translations read) chariot there are attached draught horses, various in color.426 The first has red horses, the same color as the first horse in vision one (<d)a*, adom; 1:8). The second has black (rj)v*, sahor), whereas the second horse in vision one was also red. The third chariot is drawn by white horses (/b*l*, laban), but the third horse of vision one was sorrel (qr)c*, sãaroq) or “reddish brown.” The horses of the fourth chariot are, according to the prevailing view, “spotted strong” (<yX!m%a& <yD]r%B=, beruddm amussm), and the fourth of the first vision was white. Thus, only the first and fourth horses of the chariot vision were of the same hue as horses in vision one.

The Apocalypse also describes four horses, whose riders have the assignment of going throughout the earth to administer plague and death (Rev. 6:1-8). There can be no doubt that the seer here is dependent on Zechariah for his basic imagery, but the work of the horsemen is spelled out in much greater and more specific detail. The colors are white, red, black, and pale or “yellowish green” (clwrov", chloros).427 The three visions have only the white and red horses in common. The black horses are in Revelation and Zechariah’s vision eight. The pale one is unique to Revelation, the sorrel to vision one, and the “spotted strong” one to vision eight. As a result of this seeming lack of pattern, many scholars conclude that the colors of the horses either are not significant or have significance only in their own contexts.428 What that significance may be is very difficult to determine, at least in the Zechariah visions. The Apocalypse is a little more helpful in this respect because the effect of the various horses and horsemen is spelled out.429 Thus, the white horse is mounted by a rider with a royal crown, who goes forth to conquer (Rev. 6:2; cf. 19:11). One might reasonably conclude that “whiteness” symbolizes conquest in war. This would be very much in line with the visions of the horsemen (Zech. 1:8, 11) and chariots (Zech. 6:3, 6).

The red horse of the Apocalypse carries its rider on an errand of slaughter, resulting in the removal of peace from the earth (Rev. 6:4). The sword he carries is a graphic symbol of bloodshed, a symbol clearly communicated by the color. Again, both Zechariah visions feature the red horse on a mission of at least implicit slaughter. The black horse is associated with famine brought about by severe shortages of food staples (Rev. 6:5-6). Only the chariot vision refers to black horses, and they ride off to the north (Zech. 6:6). If they suggest famine, their role in subduing YHWH’s foes is to do so by creating loss of crops. Interestingly, the white horses follow the black in this case, indicating, perhaps, that conquest follows famine. Finally, the fourth horse of John’s vision is pale. This obviously has to do with the pallor of death, since the rider of the horse is named Death (Rev. 6:8). The death he brings is the final result of the marauding of the previous horsemen, for Death, with Hades, kills with sword and famine.

As noted already, this last horse is unique to the Apocalypse, unless it is the same as either a red or the sorrel horse of Zechariah’s first vision or the “spotted strong” one of his eighth vision. This matter must now be considered, even though it necessitates some attention to the interpretation section of vision eight (Zech. 6:5-8).

A major problem lies in the apparent description of the fourth horses as “spotted strong” (v. 3). The problem is exacerbated by vv. 6 and 7, where the “spotted” horses appear to be distinguished from the “strong.” Are these two different horses? If so, does this mean that the fourth chariot was drawn by a team of mixed colors (v. 3)? Why are the red horses not mentioned again with reference to their particular mission?

Some of the ancient versions such as the Syriac and Aquila have attempted to resolve the dilemma by reading the <yX!m%a& (amussm, “strong (ones),” of v. 7a as <yM!d%a& (adummm), “red (ones).” This would, of course, allow the red horses a role and would not force “spotted” and “strong” to refer to separate horses. However, the Hebrew text tradition is unanimous in supporting the Masoretic reading.

The answer lies, perhaps, in noting that the chariots are dispersed in only two directions, north and south (6:6). Most modern scholars, under the assumption that the vision must require a fourfold destination to all the compass points, resort to all kinds of emendations and additions to the text in order to meet that requirement and also to find an assignment for the red horse.430 There is nothing inherent in the scene to demand four directions, and the passage makes perfectly good sense without the resorts frequently undertaken to bring that about.

The vision shows the black horses going to the north with the white ones following.431 Then the spotted horses turn to the south and appear to be followed by the strong ones. All but the red are accounted for. When one recalls that vision one had two red horses, one of which was mounted by none other than “the messenger (or Angel) of YHWH” (1:8), then it is tempting to assign to that red horse, at least, a position of pre-eminence. It is the horse of the commander, perhaps. May it not be that the red horses of vision eight also draw the chariot of the commander, the messenger of YHWH? In vision one it is the other three horses—the red, sorrel, and white—that are identified as those who go out to walk to and fro through the earth, not the one on which the messenger of YHWH rides.432 Likewise, the absence of the red horses in the execution of dominion in vision eight may be accounted for on the supposition that they are, as the commander’s horses, exempt from the actual task of securing the sovereign’s kingdom. The fact that in both instances the horses are red tends to give increased credibility to this view.

This still leaves the matter of the “spotted strong” horses of the fourth chariot. In light of the distinction that many interpreters draw in the interpretation section (vv. 6-7) between the spotted on the one hand and the strong on the other,433 it seems necessary at first glance to distinguish between them in v. 3. However, that results in the assumption that there were at least four horses to each chariot and that in the case of this one two were “spotted” and two were “strong.” The assumption must extend to the later separation of these horses, so that the spotted pull one chariot and the strong still another. But the record is silent about where an extra chariot might be found to accommodate the team that was separated out from its original chariot. Clearly this multiplication of hypotheses has little to commend it.

What is needed is a fresh reading of the account without resorting either to preconceived ideas about how many horses and chariots are needed or to wholesale patching up of a text that enjoys close to universal manuscript and versional support. First, the adjective “strong” (<yX!m%a&, amussm) at the end of v. 3 should be understood as in apposition to not only to “spotted (<yD!r%B=, beruddm) but to “white” (<yn]b*l=, lebanm), “black” (<yr]j)v=, sehorm), and “red” (<yM!d%a&, adummm) as well. That is, all four horses are “strong.”434 For the translation with this interpretation, see the beginning of this section.

If we turn to the interpretation section (vv. 5-8) with this in mind, the scene appears to be this: The black and white horses go north while the spotted one goes south. Then the speaker says, “Thus the strong (ones) went forth,” etc. There are only three chariots that go, then, not four, just as there were only three horses that rode off through all the earth in vision one. In this important respect, as well as in others already noted, the two visions coincide.

    B. Interpretation of the Vision (6:5-8)


5 The messenger replied to me, “These are the four spirits of heaven that are going forth from having presented themselves before the Lord of all the earth.6 *The (chariot) that (has) with it the black horses is going to the north country and the white ones are going after them, but the spotted ones are going to the south country. 7 Thus *the strong ones are going forth, having sought (permission) to go (in order) to walk about upon the earth.” He had said, “Go! Walk about upon the earth!” So they did so. 8 Then he cried out to me and spoke as follows: “Look! The ones going forth to the northland have brought rest to *my spirit concerning the northland.”

Exegesis and Exposition

In response to Zechariah’s question as to the identification and meaning of the horses and chariots (v. 4), the interpreting messenger said they were heavenly spirits, four in all. “Spirits” is preferred to “winds” here for j^Wr (ruah), both because of the superhuman, militaristic work the spirits must perform (cf. 4:6) and because they have just come from the presence of the Lord of the earth.435 The four must include the red horses, even though they do not go on from this point to serve the Lord abroad. What Zechariah has seen are the four coming between two mountains (6:1), having come there from heaven itself. This, of course, would include the red ones since they also must hear the commissioning charge.

The heavenly scene from which these spirits have come is that of the sovereign (/oda&, adon) of all the earth, who is surrounded by His council and issuing them orders concerning matters of the cosmic realm.436 Such a scene is fairly common in the OT (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-23; Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 82:1; Isa. 6:1) as an anthropomorphic device to depict YHWH’s dominion over all creation. The scene is similar to one in which human monarchs surround themselves with their courtiers. Four of these chariots or spirits have presented themselves before Him to attend to His bidding. What they actually are, whether angels or human instruments, cannot be determined, nor is it important. What is important is that they are expressions of the will of YHWH Himself. That there are four denotes, of course, that the divine purpose will find universal fulfillment (cf. 1:18-21).

Spirits often appear in the OT as ministers of YHWH. The term cannot yet bear the full-blown theological idea of the Holy Spirit, but is likely interchangeable with angels or to be taken as an extension of YHWH. David encourages the angels of YHWH to bless Him, describing them as those “mighty in strength, that fulfill His Word” and “do His pleasure” (Ps. 103:20-21; cf. Heb. 1:14). The author of the very next psalm extols YHWH “who makes spirits [or winds] His messengers (and) flames of fire His servants” (Ps. 104:4).

The black horses and chariot, having passed the portals of heaven (the two mountains?), make their way to the northland followed by the white horses. The geography of Palestine being what it is, one must go north even to go to the northwest and northeast. Thus none of the horses goes directly east or west. Indicative of this fact are the references to Assyria and Babylonia being north of Palestine when in fact they were to the northeast and east (cf. Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6; 6:1; 25:9; 46:10). Even Persia is considered to be in the north (Isa. 41:25; Jer. 50:3; 51:48). Therefore, any nation that must be reached by going north from Palestine can be in view.437 If black and white have the same symbolic meaning here as in the Apocalypse, the vision may be suggesting that famine will break out in the north followed by conquest. Because the southbound horses have a color unlike any in the Apocalypse, however, it is unlikely that the symbolism of the colors, if any, can be pressed.438

The spotted horses and their chariot went the only other direction possible—to the south. Again, this would include all the nations of earth approachable from that direction, including Africa and Arabia. This perspective allows all four compass directions to be covered without the need to emend the text to include east and west and thus demand another chariot and team of horses.

Once the chariots have departed, the interpreting messenger, describing all their horses as “the strong ones” (v. 7),439 says that they are about to go to and fro through the earth, having received permission from the Lord of the earth to do so. This rendering of the tenses and of the whole sequence of events seems to make most sense of the passage, particularly since it delivers the interpreting messenger from the responsibility of giving the chariots permission to go about their work. The fact that the chariots had stood in attendance before the Lord of the earth (v. 5) would strongly suggest that it was He who authorized their mission (v. 7). The whole turns on Wvq=b^y+w^ (wayebaqesu), “they sought (permission),” in v. 7. Following the rather strong disjunctive accent Rebia, this verb would likely not form a compound idea with the preceding verb “went forth” (“went forth and sought”) but would rather introduce a parenthetical idea, such as “now they had sought (permission) to go,” etc.

As noted previously (1:10-11), the idiom “walk to and fro through the earth” is an expression of dominion. The Lord of the whole earth is in process of bringing His domain under His sovereign sway, an assignment He entrusts to the chariots and horses. In terms of the historical and political milieu of Zechariah, this very likely refers to the conquest of Babylonia and other antitheocratic powers by the Persians, beginning with Cyrus and continuing on to the reign of Zechariah’s contemporary Darius Hystaspes. If so, the chariots could be symbolic of the Persians whom YHWH used, even though they may not have realized it, to bring peace to the earth and salvation to His people. In fact, the summary of the vision states that “the ones going forth to the northland have brought rest to my spirit concerning the northland.” The objective of subduing the northern (Babylonian?) powers has been achieved.

Isaiah first announced the use of Persia by YHWH to bring the intractable and cruel Babylonian oppressor to heel. YHWH described Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, as “My shepherd,” the one who “does all My pleasure” (Isa. 44:28). Even more remarkable, Cyrus was His “anointed one” whose hand He strengthened to subdue nations (45:1). Of great interest in light of the bronze mountains of Zechariah’s vision is the statement concerning Cyrus that YHWH would go before Him and “shatter the gates of bronze” (45:2). Earlier, Isaiah had more obliquely referred to Cyrus as the “one from the east” to whom YHWH gave nations and “made him rule over kings” who would be but dust and stubble before him (41:2).

The Chronicler (2 Chron. 36:22-23) and Ezra (1:1-4) record the edict of Cyrus whom YHWH stirred up to deliver His people. He proclaims that YHWH had given him all the kingdoms of the earth and had commissioned him to build the house of YHWH in Jerusalem. Ezra (6:6-12, 22; 7:6, 11-26; 9:9) and Nehemiah (2:8; 11:23) consistently attest to the favor of the Persian kings, who time after time overrode the machinations of the Jews’ enemies.

There can be little doubt that Zechariah’s vision pertains to his own times, but its eschatological, apocalyptic character means it cannot be limited to that era. The picture here, as throughout the apocalyptic literature, is one of final and universal dominion by YHWH over His creation. How that will take place is a major part of the message of the oracles of Zechariah in chapters 7-14.

Additional Notes

6:6-7 The attempt by BHS to provide four chariots and to include the red horses results in a proposal to add whole clauses to the text without any manuscript or ancient version attestation. This subjective method that refuses to accept difficult texts as they are, especially when a reasonable way can be found to explain them, is methodologically unsound.

6:6 HB*-rv#a& is certainly an elliptical way to refer to the chariot with black horses. The reference back to hL#a@ (v. 5) makes it clear, however, that a chariot is in mind.

6:8 The rather abrupt personal pronominal suffix “my” has caused some scholars to suggest that yj!Wr, “my spirit,” originally read (hwh)y j^Wr, “spirit of YHWH,” with the Tetragrammaton having been first abbreviated to y (Yodh) and the y then having become attached to jWr. This would eliminate the shift of subject from the interpreting angel or Angel of YHWH (“he cried,” v. 8a) to YHWH Himself; but, with most scholars, I see no reason to object to the sudden appearance of YHWH as subject in v. 8. Cf. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 107-8. Baldwin’s view that the angel here reveals his identity as the Lord of the whole earth is untenable because elsewhere the “angel who spoke to me” (v. 4) is distinguished from YHWH or the Angel of YHWH (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 132). For a correct assessment, see H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, 181.

The Visions of Zechariah







Four Horsemen

Yahweh’s Sovereignty in Israel’s Restoration



Four Horns

The Persecution and Dispersion of God’s People



The Surveyor

Preparation for Restoration



The Priest

Renewal of Israel’s Priestly Ministry



The Menorah

Messiah as Priest and King



The Flying Scroll

Judgment for Covenant Disobedience



The Ephah

The Return of Evil to Babylon,

Its Place of Origin



The Chariots

Yahweh’s Final and Universal Dominion

Concluding Oracle

    A. The Selection of the Priest (6:9-12a)

That this section is cast in the literary genre of oracle is accepted by scholarship in general, but how it relates to its larger literary context is a matter of some debate. The subject matter is so different from vision eight (6:1-8), which it immediately follows, that it cannot be an oracular response to that vision specifically. Yet the peace and sovereignty achieved by the chariots of that vision are quite compatible with the conditions necessary for Joshua and the Branch to wear the crowns that presuppose those circumstances. The building of the Temple particularly demands cessation of opposition and hostility for its successful conclusion.

On the other hand, this oracle is not a part of the series that commences with chapter seven, for that collection is dated more than a year later (7:1). Moreover, its subject matter is closer to that of the preceding visions and oracles than to what follows. References to Joshua and the Branch alone make that clear.

The case to be argued here is that this oracle serves as a comment on and climax to the night visions as a whole.440 As the passage receives detailed treatment, this thesis will find increasing support. YHWH has revealed in a neat chiastic pattern His subjugation of the nations and deliverance of His covenant people, an act of redemption and restoration that focuses in visions four and five on the elevation of Joshua and Zerubbabel to positions of honor and influence. Not surprisingly, then, these same two persons are the central concern of this final, summarizing oracle. With this connection in mind the oracle will help to synthesize what has preceded it, but the visions also can and must inform the meaning of the text before us.


9The word of YHWH came to me as follows: 10*”Take from among the dispersion, namely, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, all of whom have come from Babylon, and come in that same day and go to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. 11Then take silver and gold and make crowns, setting (them) upon the head of *Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 12aThen speak to him, ‘Thus says YHWH of hosts,

Exegesis and Exposition

In typical oracular formula (cf. 1:1, 7; 7:1, 8; 8:1, 18; etc.) Zechariah declares that YHWH’s Word, a word of commission came to him (6:9). His task is to select from among the Diaspora who had returned from Babylon three men who are to accompany him to the house of a fourth man, Josiah son of Zephaniah. He, with them, is to make crowns for Joshua the high priest and, apparently, for the Branch. Once this is done, it will be clear to the community that YHWH has sanctioned the Temple construction and endorsed the word of the prophet. They will then come even from distant places to finish the work.

The identity of all these men, except Joshua, is not at all clear. The name Heldai (v. 10) belongs to only one other figure in the OT, one of David’s mighty men (1 Chron. 27:15). Related to it is the name Huldah, one of the prophetesses in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 22:14). The name Tobijah, on the other hand, is much more common. It is possible, but by no means certain, that the Tobijah of the oracle is the same as the exile who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Joshua (Ezra 2:60).441 The problem with this is that he was one of the individuals whose genealogical roots could not be ascertained (2:59) and who therefore could not function in the priesthood (2:62). Jedaiah’s name occurs also in Ezra’s list of priests (2:36) and he may indeed be the Jedaiah of Zechariah. In fact, Ezra notes that he was of the house of Joshua, very likely Joshua the high priest (cf. 1 Chron. 9:10; Ezra 2:2).442 Josiah son of Zephaniah is otherwise unknown. There was a preist named Zephaniah who was second to the high priest at the time of the fall of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18), but there is no way of knowing if Josiah was his descendant.443

There is at least some chance that, in terms of their names, the men listed in Zechariah 6:10 were priests, and it is most likely they were given their assignment here.444 That was to take silver and gold on the very day they were assembled at Josiah’s house to fashion a crown (or crowns) for Joshua the high priest. The word for crown (hr`f*u&, `atara) here is the normal one for a royal crown (2 Sam. 12:30; Ps. 21:3 [HB 21:4]; Song of Sol. 3:11; Jer. 13:18), though rz#n} (nezer) is also so used.445 However, `atara is never used in the OT to speak of the headdress of a priest; the term then is either nezer, misnepet (tp#nx=m!), “turban” or “mitre,” or sanp ([yn]x*), “mitre” or “diadem” (cf. Zech. 3:5). This is most significant because the crowning of the priest here must have regal implications.

A slight problem exists at this point as to the number of crowns involved. The MT reads the plural torf*u& (`atarot) whereas several LXX manuscripts, the Syriac, and Targums read the singular trf#u& (`ateret).446 There is nothing inherently improbable about there being two crowns, especially in a vision, so the MT should be accepted. It is possible that the use of two precious metals, silver and gold, suggests that one crown was silver and the other gold. Whenever the metal of crowns is known in the OT, however, it is always gold, so both crowns here are probably manufactured of both metals.447

The crowning of the high priest was an important part of his investiture, though, as just remarked, the crown was not that of royalty. When Aaron and his sons were set apart, Moses placed on Aaron’s head a mitre (tp#nx=m! misnepet). On the front of it was a golden plaque (bh*z` Jyx!, ss zahab) bearing the inscription, “Holy to YHWH” (Ex. 28:36-38). The mitre itself was made of linen (v. 39), so it quite different from a silver or golden crown. The symbolism of the mitre and plate was to communicate to the people that the high priest had the responsibility of making atonement for them in matters of cultic participation, that is, in matters pertaining to holy things (Ex. 28:38).448 The clean turban placed on Joshua’s head in vision four communicates this same idea (Zech. 3:4-5). Some of this intercessory or substitutionary element of the high priest’s ministry may be in view in the present oracle, but the crowning with a royal and not priestly diadem makes it certain that that is not the primary emphasis.

Additional Notes

6:10 For the MT ta@m@ some scholars (so Sellin, 468) suggest ta)c=m^ (“contributions of”), yielding “Take contributions of the dispersion.” This then leads to the specification, silver and gold (v. 11). However, the text as it stands indicates that the men named are a select group from the dispersion, a notion that makes excellent sense here. Others regard j^oql* as an elliptical or pregnant construction, yeilding “Take [silver and gold] from the exiles, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah,….” (cf. A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Syntax, (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901], 88 Rem. 2)

6:11 Because of the problems of crowning the high priest, the reference to the Branch (v. 12), and the work of temple-building, many interpreters (cf. Elliger, p. 128) read “Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel” in place of “Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest.” This highly arbitrary procedure has no ancient text-critical support and is purely in the interest of a hypothesis about the discrediting of Zerubbabel and coincident elevation of Joshua. Theories ought not to dictate texts, however; instead, texts should underlie and justify theories. See commentary on v. 12.

    B. The Significance of the Priest (6:12b-15)


12b“Look—the man whose name is Branch, who will sprout up from his place and build the temple of YHWH. 13Indeed, he will build the Temple of YHWH and will be covered with splendor, sitting and ruling upon his throne. Moreover, *there will be a priest upon his throne and wholesome counsel will be between the two of them. 14The *crowns will belong to *Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and *Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the Temple of YHWH. 15Then those who are distant will come and build the Temple of YHWH (that you might know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you). This will all come to pass if you completely obey the voice of YHWH your God.”’”

Exegesis and Exposition

The Word of YHWH through Zechariah is now directed specifically to Joshua (v. 12a), thus distinguishing him from the man named Branch (12b). It is Branch (jm^x#, Semah) who will sprout up (jm^x=y], yismah) from his place and build the Temple of YHWH. There is no doubt as to who Branch is, for he has already appeared in vision four as the servant of YHWH (3:8), a messianic offspring of David (Isa. 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 33:15; cf. Hag. 2:23). His connection with the “stone” (Zech. 3:9) finds explication in Zech. 4:7-10, where Zerubbabel is named as Temple builder. Thus, converging lines of identification within Zechariah and elsewhere make it certain that Zerubbabel is in view in the present oracle. As a direct offspring of the line of David he is well-qualified to sit on the royal throne of Judah, something clearly stated in v. 13.

For Zerubbabel to sit on the throne as king, whether in reality or as a prototype of the future, eschatological ruler, necessitates a coronation. The reason for two crowns now becomes apparent—Joshua wears one as priest and Zerubbabel another as king. To return briefly to v. 11, it is important to note that YHWH instructs Zechariah and his colleagues to make crowns of silver and gold and place them on Joshua’s head. As already noted, many scholars render “crown” (singular), but only by relying on the versions. Others, in the interest of maintaining a certain ideological point of view that sees the rise of a hierocracy at the expense of secular government, explain the apparent difficulty as a badly botched attempt by redactionary circles to expunge Zerubbabel from the record.449

But the text before us makes perfectly good sense with the double personality and double crown perspective it presents. What the narrative is saying is that crowns are made, only one of which is to be worn by Joshua. One could even translate the relevant passage, “Take silver and gold and make crowns, placing one on the head of Joshua the high priest” (v. 11).450 This admittedly presupposes an elliptical expression of something like “make crowns (and of these one is Joshua’s) and place it,” etc. Such ellipsis is a common feature of biblical Hebrew.451

As for Zerubbabel, he will “sprout up” from his place and build the Temple. “His place” (Heb. wyT*j=T^, tahtayw) implies a lowly station, one hardly likely to develop into anything as grand as the rule of the Davidic kingdom. This need not suggest that Zerubbabel himself was considered insignificant or lacking in necessary qualifications, for his connection to the Davidic dynasty was unimpeachable. What is in view here is the perceived unlikelihood of any revival of that dynasty at all in postexilic Judah.452 It is this pessimistic assessment of things that sets the tone for the discouragement and lethargy so clearly evident in Haggai (1:2, 9; 2:3-4, 14). Humanly there was no hope of ever recovering the glory days of the ancient kings. The ground was dry and infertile, and the rains of blessing had long since ceased.

But a sprout will spring up out of dry ground, Isaiah had predicted (Isa. 53:2), and Zechariah is here to say that Zerubbabel, in some sense at least, is that new growth. From the lowliness of hopelessness he will be elevated to the throne itself, thus restoring glory to Israel and confidence in her God. A sign of divine favor upon him and the nation is the completion of the Temple, an accomplishment made sure by the repetition of the promise (vv. 12b-13a).453

The latter part of v. 13 has engendered a great deal of discussion inasmuch it seems to suggest that the Branch, just enthroned and ruling, will also be a priest. The result of this understanding of things is either that Joshua is the Branch, an impossibility in light of v. 12, or that Zerubbabel usurps the office of priest from Joshua, also impossible because of Zerubbabel’s non-Aaronic lineage and historical evidence to the contrary. The solution lies in the chiastic pattern of vv. 11-13 in which Joshua is identified as priest, the Branch as builder, the Branch rules, and the priest rules. It might be structured as follows:

    A Joshua the priest is crowned (11b)

      B The Branch sprouts up (12a)

        C The Temple is built (12b)

        C The Temple is built (13a)

      B The Branch is enthroned (13b)

    A The priest is enthroned (13c)

The priest and his role provide an inclusio bracketing the Branch and his role.

The two come together in v. 13d: “wholesome counsel will be between the two of them.” Whatever this means, it appears here to identify two separate persons, giving support to the view that Joshua and the Branch (Zerubbabel) are both the center of attention. Both are crowned and enthroned, charged with administering, under YHWH, the affairs of their respective civil and religious realms.

The phrase “wholesome counsel” or, literally, “counsel of peace” is difficult. The most likely meaning is that the two function in a mutually beneficial and positive way, that is, they complement each other.454 This relationship is a reestablishment of the theocratic community going as far back as Moses in which the headship of the nation was dyarchic, shared by prince and priest. The quality of office here has already been anticipated in vision five where Zerubbabel and Joshua appeared as olive trees, anointed ones who “stand by the Lord of all the earth” (Zech. 4:11, 14).455

There is no evidence in history that these two rulers, especially Zerubbabel, actually wore their royal crowns. To the contrary, Zechariah seems to say that the crowns were committed to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen who placed them in the Temple of YHWH as a memorial (v. 14).456 They were more ceremonial than anything else and, like symbols or trophies of the faithfulness of YHWH, were placed on exhibition. Almost like a magnet they would attract the far-flung exiles to Jerusalem to participate in temple-building and kingdom restoration. Subsequent returns such as those under Ezra and Nehemiah must have been encouraged by the renewal of hope initiated by Joshua and Zerubbabel, who so marvelously cooperated in achieving YHWH’s new redemption.

Then, perhaps in a parenthetical observation, the prophet declares that the return to the land brought by the events of this oracle will put beyond any doubt that he is a true spokesman of YHWH (v. 15). The whole community would have to confess that fact, implying no doubt that Zechariah, like all prophets, was continually challenged as to his authority and authenticity. But the fulfillment was not automatic; implicit obedience to YHWH’s Word was essential. In the strongest way of expressing the kind of obedience required, the infinitive absolute before an imperfect (/Wum=v=T! u^omv*, samoa tisme`un),457 YHWH makes clear that there is a part that His people must play if they are to realize the fullness of His grace.

What is ultimately at stake here is not just the crowning of two persons in 519 B.C., no matter how important these two might be in terms of their own circumstances or even in terms of what they symbolize. Joshua and Zerubbabel are signs (Zech. 3:8), anointed ones (4:14) whose messianic significance is unmistakable (Hag. 2:23; Zech. 3:2-5; 6:11-13). That is, they point toward something far more remarkable and transcendent than even they themselves could have anticipated. The historical here is merely a portent of the eschatological to follow.

As already intimated the dual roles of priest and king are central themes of OT history and theology.458 Man was created to have dominion over all things (Gen. 1:26-28) and, like a priest, to stand between God and His creation (Ps. 8:5-8 [HB 8:6-9]). When Israel was elected by YHWH and redeemed from Egyptian bondage, she entered into covenant with Him as “a holy nation, a kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:4-6). Orders of priests and lines of kings emerged in the course of redemptive history, always independent of each other yet complementing one another.

Beginning with David, however, there was the undeniable fact that royal and priestly rule would someday merge in one individual, the scion of David. This anointed one of YHWH would be His son who would reign from Zion and be heir of all the nations (Ps. 2:2, 6-8). Moreover, he, as universal ruler, would also be a priest after the line of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:2, 4). Christian theology identifies this offspring of David as Jesus Christ, a point elaborated in great detail by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 5:1-10; 7:1-25). Postbiblical Judaism, though recognizing the messianic role of both priest and king in the eschaton, failed to bring them together into one; hence the dual messiahship of the Qumran sect and other communities.459

Apart from Psalm 110 there is no OT passage that comes as close as this one in Zechariah to uniting the royal and priestly offices.460 With this in mind, the “wholesome counsel between the two of them” takes on a greatly enhanced meaning. Joshua and Zerubbabel are messianic forerunners whose persons and functions prototypically portray that One to come who died as servant, intercedes as priest, and will return as king, even Christ Jesus.

Additional Notes

6:13 In line with the view that Zerubbabel is the subject of the entire verse (except the last clause), LXX reads “and the priest will be on his right hand.” There is every reason to believe that this is a gloss to explain the admittedly awkward “There will be a priest on his throne” when the antecedent appears still to be Zerubbabel, the Branch. Mastin suggests that it might have appeared to the LXX translators inappropriate for a priest also to sit on a throne (Heb. aS@K!), for which there is evidence as well in the LXX of 1 Sam. 1:9; 4:13, 18 where it translates not by qrovno" but by divfro". Thus he concludes, “The reading of the LXX is to be understood as exegesis of the Massoretic Text” (B. A. Mastin, “Short Notes: A Note on Zechariah VI 13,” VT 26 [1976]: 113-16.

6:14 Again some MSS of the LXX, Syriac render singular “crown” for the same reason as in v. 11 (cf. comment on v. 11). Tg. Ps.-J. omits reference to a crown altogether. For possible reasons, see Cathcart and Gordon, The Targum of the Minor Prophets, 199.

With “Helem” compare “Heldai” in v. 10. Most scholars take “Helem” to be a corruption of “Heldai” (ydlj  <lj), but it is difficult to see how this could have gone unchallenged in the Masoretic tradition and most versions, especially in the self-same passage. Probably Helem and Heldai were different persons. Baldwin, however, citing Heled in 1 Chron. 11:30, known otherwise as Heleb (2 Sam. 23:29) and Heldai (1 Chron. 27:15), proposes that Helem was interchangeable with Heldai (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 137).

“Hen son of Zephaniah” is more difficult because v. 10 identifies the son of Zephaniah as Josiah. The Syriac simply emends /j@ to hY`v!aY{ (yosiyya) in line with v. 10, but that hardly explains the existing text. BHS suggests a transposition of “son of Zephaniah” and “Hen,” thus making them separate persons. It might be best to understand it, then, as a construct with “son of Zephaniah” and render the line something like, “the crowns will be (given over) to Helem, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, to the kindness (/j@) of the son of Zephaniah, as a memorial,” etc. Unger, however, offers the plausible suggestion that Hen was a nickname for Josiah to describe his hospitality and liberality (Unger, Zechariah, 117). Close to this is Demsky’s identification of /h@ plus the preposition l= with Akkadian lahhinu, the title of an official in Assyria responsible for the collection of garments and silver. The term occurs also in the Elephantine papryi as lehen of YHWH. Demsky identifies Josiah as this lehen and translates, “for the lhn son of Zephaniah.” This suggestion, apart from a needed l to precede /j@l=, is most attractive (Aaron Demsky, “The Temple Steward Josiah ben Zephaniah,” IEJ 31 [1981]: 100-102).

223 Theophane Chary, Aggeve-Zacharie, Malachie (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 53.

224 Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978): 169.

225 Robert T. Siebeneck, “The Messianism of Aggeus and Proto-Zacharias,” CBQ 19 (1957): 318.

226 Paul F. Nolting, “The Eight Night Visions of Zechariah,” JTh 26 (1986): 18.

227 David L. Petersen, “Zechariah’s Visions: A Theological Perspective,” VT 34 (1984): 198, 206.

228 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB 25 B (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 90-91.

229 Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 19-20.

230 Cross argues that papponymy (naming after one’s grandfather) was at work in the lists of postexilic priests, so that Eliashib of Nehemiah’s time was actually the great-grandson of Joiakim and not his son. Cross nevertheless dates Joiakim’s birth ca. 545 B.C., in line with my own proposal; Frank M. Cross, “A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration,” JBL 94 (1975): 4-18.

231 Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8—Sacharja 9-14Maleachi, KAT Gütersloh: Gütershoher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 68.

232 Whether or not such sermonic texts were, in fact, first preached orally and were typical of postexilic preaching cannot, I believe, be determined; cf. Rex Mason, “Some Echoes of the Preaching in the Second Temple?” ZAW 96 (1984): 221-35.

233 William L. Holladay, The Root Suba in the Old Testment (Leiden: Brill, 1958), 141.

234 Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 129.

235 For bWv in the ordinary sense of “turn about,” see Gen. 14:7; Ex. 14:2; Josh. 8:21, 1 Chron. 21:20.

236 J. W. Rothstein, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1910), 12-13, 55.

237 Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 53.

238 H. G. May, “A Key to the Interpretation of Zechariah’s Visions,” JBL 57 (1938): 173-84.

239 Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972), 12:717-28, s.v., “myrtle.”

240 Clark sees only two, identifying the Angel of YHWH with the angel in the midst of the trees. This appears to be a majority view. See David J. Clark, “The Case of the Vanishing Angel,” BT 33 (1982): 214-15.

241 See Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1962), 1:285-89.

242 This speaks of the peace brought about by the Persian conquests, a peace, however, which ultimately was achieved by YHWH through Persia, His “four horsemen”; Samuel Amsler, Aggeve, Zacharie 1-8, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestlev, 1981), 63.

243 Cf. G. Sauer, Theologische Handwrterbuch zum Alten Testament, eds. E. Jenni and C. Westermann, 2 vols. (München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1976), 2:647-50, s.v. ha*n+q!.

244 J. J. M. Roberts, “The Davidic Origin of the Zion Tradition,” JBL 92 (1973): 343-44.

245 A. Deissler, Zwlf Propheten III. Zefanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi (Wurzburg: Echter Verlag, 1988), 273.

246 Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 488-91.

247 J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 544.

248 C. F. Whitley, “The Term Seventy Years Captivity,” VT 4 (1954): 72.

249 David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 151.

250 Holladay, The Root Sbh in the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 1958,) 28. Holladay does not include this verse as an example of bWv in a covenant sense, but he does draw attention to the original reading jepiblevpw (“look with favor”) in LXXB for jepistrevfw (“return to”) in A and a. This suggests an ancient tradition at least for bWv as “turn to” in a covenant sense in Zech. 1:16.

251 Ibid., 69.

252 That hw`q* (so to be pointed, or read wq^ with Qere) means to build here is clear from the parallel hn`B*y] yt!yB@, “my house will be built.” Cf. Jer. 31:38-39; Isa. 44:13. This is a sign of the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple. See Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978): 178 n. 31.

253 H. J. Stoebe, THAT 2:62-63, s.v. <jn.

254 H. Wildberger, THAT 1:294, s.v. rjb.

255 Petitjean, following A. Van Hoonacker and H. Junker, takes 2:3-13 (HB 2:7-17) to be “une sorte de commentaire des deux visions [1:18-21 and 2:1-2].” If he is correct, this vision does indeed have an accompanying oracle; Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 89.

256 For a view that sees 1:7—2:17 (EB 2:13) as a single literary unit, with 1:7—2:9 (EB 2:5) as a subdivision, see W. H. Joubert, “The Determination of the Contents of Zechariah 1:7—2:17 Through a Structural Analysis,” OTWSA 20-21 (1977-83): 66-82.

257 B. Couroyer, “Corne et Arc,” RB 73 (1965): 510-21. As the title suggests, this article proposes that “horn” is often symbolic of a war bow, a symbol appropriate to this vision.

258 Samuel Amsler, Aggee, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Paris: Neuchatel, 1981), 68.

259 The phrase yB! rb@D{h^ Ea*l=M^h^ (“the messenger who spoke to me”) becomes a stereotype for the angelus interpres and in all its occurrences (1:9, 13, 14, 19; 2:3; 4:1, 5; 5:5, 10; 6:4) refers to the same person. See David J. Clark, “The Case of the Vanishing Angel,” BT 33 (1982): 214-15.

260 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 132.

261 So Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 104.

262 So Theodore of Mopsuestia, for example. See Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 64.

263 Karl Elliger, Die Propheten Nahum, Habakak, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi, ATD 25 (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1982), 109 n. 1.

264 Klaus Seybold, “Die Bildmotive in den Visionen des Propheten Sacharja,” in Studies on Prophecy, VTSup. XXVI, ed. D. Lys, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 104. For a rejection of this position see Robert M. Good, “Zechariah’s Second Night Vision (Zech 2, 1-4),” Bib 63 (1982): 58.

265 Kurt Galling, “Die Exilswende in der Sicht des Propheten Sacharja,” VT 2 (1952): 20-21.

266 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 158.

267 Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978): 178 n. 48.

268 H.-J. Fabry, TDOT, 4:174-76, s.v. lbj.

269 David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 168-69.

270 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 158.

271 Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 67.

272 As Unger points out, it is gratuitous to identify the second messenger as the Angel of YHWH, for “both his indefinite designation and his implied attendance on the surveyor put him in a subordinate position” (M. F. Unger, Zechariah, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963], 45.

273 Christian Jeremias, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977), 170 n. 30.

274 See Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1963), 16-24.

275 H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, WBC (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1985), 172.

276 M. Broshi, “The Expansion of Jerusalem in the Reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh,” IEJ 24 (1974): 23-24.

277 Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, 110.

278 Kathleen Kenyon, Digging Up Jerusalem (London: Ernest Benn, 1974), 181-85.

279 Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, 270-71.

280 Petersen associates this “wall of fire” with the fire altars that surrounded the unwalled Persian city Pasargadae, altars that symbolized the cosmic god Ahura Mazda and his strength and protection (D. L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 171). Although there is no doubt that the Jewish exiles may have known of such a phenomenon, inner-biblical imagery itself is sufficient to account for Zechariah’s language. For the use of the “wall of fire” motif in post-biblical literature see Ira Chernus, “‘A Wall of Fire Round About’: The Development of a Theme in Rabbinic Midrash,” JJS 30 (1979): 68-84.

281 L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 77-78.

282 For a careful analysis of this oracle, see Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 89-94.

283 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 103.

284 D. Winton Thomas, “The Book of Zechariah, Chapters 1-8,” IB, 6:1065.

285 Cf. Stolz, THAT, 2:550-51, s.v. “Zion.” THAT, 2:550-51

286 Petersen observes that the phrase “daughter of Babylon,” in collocation here with “daughter of Zion” (vv. 7, 10), suggests the diminution of the former and the exaltation of the latter (Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 176).

287 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, 146. The reading onyu@ (eno) is now attested in the Qumran fragment 4 Q 12e, so far the oldest extant witness to Zech. 2:12 (EB, 2:8). Thus, it may not be a true tiqqun at all and may, in fact, represent the original as a euphemism. See Russell Fuller, “Early Emendations of the Scribes: The Tiqqun Sopherim in Zechariah 2:12,” in Of Scribes and Scrolls, ed. by Harold Attridge, John J. Collins, Thomas H. Tobin (Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 1990), 26-27.

288 BDB, 29-30.

289 This is the explanation of Petitjean, who provides an exhaustive history of interpretation as well as a full analysis of occurrences of rj^a^; A. Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 109-19.

290 Carola J. L. Kloos, “Zech II 12: Really a Crux Interpretum?” VT 25 (1975): 729-36.

291 The Meyers see this as a note of caution concerning Persia, which, though up to this point had adopted a benign policy toward the Jews, could never fully be trusted (Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 166).

292 BDB, 619.

293 Samuel Amsler, Aggee, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestle, 1981), 75. Cf Isa. 10:32; 11:15; 13:2; 19:1b; Job 31:21.

294 This, of course, has roots in the Exodus spoliation of Egypt by redeemed Israel (Ex. 12:36; cf. Ezek. 39:10; Obad. 17). See Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 69.

295 For fulfillment of prophecy as attestation to a prophet’s integrity and authenticity, see J. Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 213-15.

296 Unger, Zechariah, 50.

297 Second Kings 19:21; Isa. 52:2; Lam. 2:13; cf. Ps. 76:3 [EB 76:2]; Isa. 10:32 (Q). See H. Haag, TDOT, 2:332-38, s.v. tB^.

298 Chary points out that this combination of verbs is found nowhere else but that /n~r`, with synonyms of jm^c*, occurs frequently as an expression of thanks for deliverance from exile (e.g., Isa. 44:23; 49:13; 54:1; Jer. 31:7; Zeph. 3:14-18); T. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 70-71.

299 This theme forms the center of the theology of Samuel Terrien. See his (The Elusive Presence, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978). Terrien refers to Zech. 2:10 as an announcement of the “imminence of Yahweh’s advent in a language reminiscent of the priestly description of the wilderness tabernacle” (p. 395).

300 For a helpful collocation of the relevant passages on this theme, see Richard D. Patterson, “Joel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:265-66.

301 Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 182.

302 The niphal can be either reflexive (“join themselves”) or passive (“be joined”), but a holistic biblical soteriology demands the latter, for it is always YHWH who takes the initiative in salvation. Meyers and Meyers point out that the phrase “they will be my people” is covenant language, such as is used in Jer. 31:33; and 32:38 with reference to the new covenant between God and His people. His role in covenant-making is that of sovereign, the one who brings people into covenant with Himself (Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 169).

303 Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in EBC, 7:620.

304 E. Lipinski, TWAT, V:3/4:cols. 342-55, s.v. lj^n`.

305 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 112.

306 BDB, 755.

307 Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 150.

308 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), lvii, 179.

309 David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 202. Quite clearly, however, the Angel of YHWH provides an interpretation of the vision in vv. 6-7, a section that gives every impression of being original to the vision proper, particularly inasmuch as the Angel of YHWH is mentioned otherwise in the vision (vv. 1-5).

310 For a discussion of Joshua and his Aaronic and Zadokite lineage, see the commentary on Haggai 1:1. See also Nigel Allan, “The Identity of the Jerusalem Priesthood During the Exile,” HeyJ 23 (1982):259-69; James C. VanderKam, “Joshua the High Priest and the Interpretation of Zechariah 3,” CBQ 53 (1991):553-70.

311 H. G. M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, WBC (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1985), 363.

312 Frank M. Cross, “A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration,” JBL 94 (1975):10, 17.

313 This is so obviously true, and problematic, that most modern scholars, following the Syriac (cf. Additional Notes), emend “YHWH” to “Angel of YHWH.” See, e.g., H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 153. Such special pleading is oblivious to the witness of the OT to the interchangeability of YHWH and the Angel of YHWH.

314 Day attempts (following Nils Johansson, Parakletoi [Lund: Gleerup, 1940], 35) to connect Zech. 3:1-7 to Job 16:20; 33:23 where a mels (“intercessor,” “mediator”) and malak (“angel”) respectively appear as intermediaries (Peggy L. Day, An Adversary in Heaven [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988], 90-94, 101-2). This association is fallacious in that no case at all can be made for the celestial nature of the interpreter in Job 16:20 (cf. N. H. Tur-Sinai, The Book of Job [Jerusalem: Kiryath Sepher, 1967], 269-70). Moreover, in Job 33:23, as Tur-Sinai points out (pp. 471-73), the angelic spokesman is not addressing an interpreter, but he is one. He is speaking to God on behalf of man.

315 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (London: SCM, 1967), 2:205-9.

316 For the history of the development of this view, see Day, An Adversary in Heaven, 5-15.

317 “Beginning” here refers to the beginning of human history when Satan was already a fallen being; cf. Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 44-45. Before that time he had, indeed, existed as a perfect being until, because of hubris, he rebelled against God and was removed from his lofty position, as Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 suggest. See J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 291-95.

318 For the various views, see R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 1036-41.

319 N.L.A. Tidwell, “Waomar (Zech. 3:5) and the Genre of Zechariah’s Fourth Vision,” JBL 94 (1975):347.

320 As Stuhlmueller suggests, “brand from the burning” is proverbial speech used to describe a narrow escape (Carroll Stuhlmueller, Haggai and Zechariah, ITC [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988], 78).

321 Inasmuch as the OT high priest represented the whole covenant people generally (Ex. 28:12, 29, 39, etc.), it is certain that Joshua here symbolizes the remnant nation. See the case for this made by Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in EBC, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:623.

322 For Zechariah’s contribution to “remnant theology,” see Gerhard F. Hasel, The Remnant (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews Univ., 1972), 260-63.

323 Siebeneck is correct in suggesting that Joshua here represents the nation as a whole; Robert T. Siebeneck, “The Messianism of Aggeus and Proto-Sacharias,” CBQ 19 (1957):319.

324 “Excrement” is the best rendering of <ya!ox (BDB, 844; KBL, 789-90). Deut. 23:14 (EB 23:13) commands the Israelites in the wilderness to dispose properly of excrement (ha*x@), for otherwise YHWH will not walk among them but, to the contrary, will turn away from them.

325 Halpern draws attention to the clothing of Aaron and his sons as part of their ordination and investiture; Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978):173; cf. Ezek. 44:18-19.

326 See D. L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 198.

327 The usual word for the high priest’s turban is tp#nx=m!, cognate to [yn]x* but limited to priestly dress. Chary sees in the new dress of Joshua his messianic character, “in type du Christ, prtre et roi” (“as a type of Christ, priest and king”). His suggestion that Zerubbabel was already in decline, and thus Joshua was taking his role as prince, has no basis in history or the text, however (Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie [Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969], 77).

328 Tidwell, “Waomar (Zech. 3:5) and the Genre of Zechariah’s Fourth Vision,” 343-44, 354-55. Tidwell views 3:1-7 form-critically as a “council scene,” a standard feature of which is a single intrusion or outburst that produces a final, conclusive word or deed from YHWH. Zechariah’s “outburst” (v. 5) is therefore very much to be expected.

329 BDB, 730.

330 Alfons Deissler, Zwlf Propheten III. Zefanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi (Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 1988), 278-79.

331 T. Chary, Agge-Zacharie 1-8, 76.

332 Rex Mason, “The Prophets of the Restoration,” in Israel’s Prophetic Tradition, ed. Richard Coggins, Anthony Phillips, and Michael Knibb (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1982), 147.

333 Victor Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1966), 58-59.

334 K. L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in EBC, 7:624-25. In the vision they clearly are angelic beings, but in Joshua’s actual earthly ministry they must be human associates of the priest. See R. T. Siebeneck, “The Messianism of Aggeus and Proto-Zacharias,” 320. For a comprehensive study of the nature and function of the heavenly council, see E. Theodore Mullen, Jr. The Assembly of the Gods: The Divine Council in Canaanite and Early Hebrew Literature (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980).

335 The Meyers (Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 222) describe this as a “supplementary oracle,” a piece much at home in its canonical context. Van der Woude, however, sees it as part of an original literary unit (A. Van der Woude, “Zion As Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” in Text and Context: Old Testament and Semitic Studies For F. C. Fensham, JSOTSup 48, ed. W. Claassen [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988], 243).

336 J. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 116.

337 S. Wagner, TWAT IV: 6/7, 1983, cols. 750-59, s.v. tp@om. Eichrodt draws attention to the connection between Joshua and his priestly colleagues as a sign on the one hand, and the Davidic branch of 6:9-15 on the other (Walther Eichrodt, “Von Symbol zum Typos,” TZ 13 [1957]:509-22).

338 Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 169.

339 The priests now begin to serve a prophetic function inasmuch as they signal the coming of the Branch. Cf. Unger, Zechariah, 64.

340 For an exhaustive survey of usage, see Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto Zacharie, 182-84, 194-206.

341 Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” 169.

342 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, 156.

343 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai-Zechariah 1-8, 203-4.

344 Margaret Barker, “The Two Figures in Zechariah,” HeyJ 18(1977):41-42.

345 Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 179-82. Van der Woude takes the stone to be the temple mountain itself on the basis of the mythological notion of the “primeval stone,” the tj^a^-/b#a# (“one stone”) of v. 9 (A. S. Van der Woude, “Zion As Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” 244-45). For other views, see E. Lipinski, “Recherches sur le Livre de Zacharie,” VT 20 (1970):25-30. Lipiski himself links the stone in Zechariah 3 with the stone of the wilderness from which Moses extracted water. The seven <y]n`yu@ are “seven fountains” from which flow streams of forgiveness and cleansing (pp. 29-30). Thus, Lipinski reads /y]u^ II (“fountain spring”) rather than /y]u^ I (“eye”).

346 K. L. Barker, “Zechariah,” 626.

347 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 209. For other interpretations, see Albert E. “Rüthy, “‘Sieben Augen auf einem Stein,’” TZ 13 (1957):522-29. Rüthy emends to <yn]ou& (“sins”) and says the stone contained seven sins. His association of this with the 12 stones of the priestly mitre is clearly a non sequitur.

348 See, however, Petitjean (Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 185), who comes close to this view.

349 Samuel Amsler, Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981), 85.

350 Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 184-85.

351 The Meyers do not count our vision four (Zech. 3:1-5 [7]) as a numbered vision—describing it instead as the “prophetic vision” —so this is their fourth out of seven, the centerpoint of the series (Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB [Garden City: Doubleday, 1987], liii-lx). Nevertheless, there are points of similarity between 3:1-7 and 4:1-14 (and differences, of course), enough to make the case that their juxtaposition is deliberately arranged to form a matching pair. See Christian Jeremias, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Gttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1977), 202.

352 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 161.

353 Menahem Haran, Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972), 11: cols. 1355-63, s.v. “Menorah.” Critical scholars who date the tabernacle menorah to the P sources of postexilic times generally reject the seven-branched version of P as the model for Zechariah’s vision. On archaeological grounds they see it as a single stand with a lamp on top with several spouts. See, e.g., David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 217-23.

354 For an excellent overview of the whole problem, see Robert North, “Zechariah’s Seven-Spout Lampstand,” Bib 51, (1970): 183-206.

355 GKC, 134q.

356 Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 71.

357 North, “Zechariah’s Seven-spout Lampstand,” 185.

358 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 227.

359 So, e. g., A. Van Hoonacker, Les douze petits Prophetes (Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908), 613-16; D. J. W. Rothstein, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1910), 121-27; D. Ernst Sellin, Das Zwlfprophetenbuch (Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1922), 454-55; Karl Elliger, Die Propheten Nahum, Habakuk, Zephanja, Haggai, Sacharja, Maleachi, ATD (Gttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1982), 110-11, 126-27; Friedrich Horst, Die Zwlf Kleinen Propheten, Nahum bis Maleachi, HAT 14 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964 [1936]), 232-33.

360 L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 163-65.

361 D. L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, 215, 238.

362 Cf. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, 160.

363 BDB, 298-99.

364 As Amsler suggests, all the resources of Persia were at Zerubbabel’s disposal, but even these could not overcome the sense of discouragement felt by the struggling community; Samuel Amsler, Agge Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981), 93.

365 Patrick D. Miller, Jr., The Divine Warrior in Early Israel (Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard Univ., 1973), 145-55.

366 T. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1970), 211-17. For a full discussion of the latency of the Holy Spirit in the OT, see Eugene H. Merrill, “Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Implied in the Genesis Creation Account?” in The Genesis Debate. ed. by Ronald F. Youngblood (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 110-29.

367 S. Wagner, TWAT V:5/6:587-88, s.v. rx#n}.

368 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 255-56; Amsler, Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, 89.

369 For both see BDB, 391.

370 Frederick E. Greenspahn, Hapax Legomena in Biblical Hebrew (Chico, Calif.: Scholars, 1984), 185.

371 North, “Zechariah’s Seven-Spout Lampstand,” 187.

372 Unger, Zechariah, 79.

373 A. S. Van der Woude, “Die Beiden Shne des Ols (Sach. 4;14): Messianische Gestalten?” in Travels in the World of the Old Testament, ed. M. Heerma Van Voss (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1974), 265.

374 R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1961), 103-6.

375 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 124.

376 Kenneth A. Strand, “The Two Olive Trees of Zechariah 4 and Revelation 11,” AUSS 20 (1982): 257-61.

377 Ibid., 259-60.

378 See note 11 above.

379 For a history of the problem and a survey of the various views, see especially Albert Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 207-15.

380 See, e.g., A. Van der Woude, “Zion As Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” in Text and Context: Old Testament and Semitic Studies for F. C. Fensham, ed. W. Claassen, JSOTSup 48 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988), 238-40.

381 Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 121; Unger, Zechariah, 74.

382 Claus Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967), 149-53.

383 Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 257-58.

384 Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978): 170.

385 Petersen, “Zerubbabel and Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction,” CBQ 36 (1974): 368. See also Richard E. Averbeck, “Biblical Temple Building Accounts in Light of Ritual and Structure in the Gudea Cylinders” (Paper delivered at the annual meeting, Society of Biblical Literature, Kansas City, MO., November 24, 1991, 1-15.

386 For a much more fanciful discussion, see Edwin E. Le Bas, “Zechariah’s Enigmatical Contribution to the Corner-Stone,” PEQ 82 (1950): 102-22. Van de Woude favors the idea that it is the primeval stone of myth, Mount Zion as the “navel of the earth” (A. Van der Woude, “Zion As Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” 241.

387 S. Amsler, Agge, Zacharie 1-8, 94.

388 A. S. Van der Woude, “Zion As Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” 243-45.

389 D. L. Petersen, “Zerubbabel and Jerusalem Temple Reconstruction,” 370-71. See also Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” 171-73. Van der Woude, however, takes it as an apposition to “stone,” i.e., a “bedl-stone,” a “separation” stone that describes the primeval mountain as separating chaos from the cosmos (A. Van der Woude, “Zion Primeval Stone in Zechariah 3 and 4,” 243). Resort by the prophet to pagan myth in a case like this is hardly convincing. See Additional Notes.

390 Thus, H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, 191, and most scholars since.

391 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 287-90. In line with their designation of the fourth vision as an unnumbered “prophetic vision,” their fifth vision corresponds to our sixth.

392 Thus Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8-Sacharja 9-14-Maleachi, KAT (Gütersloh: Verlaghaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 115 (“Der Dolmetscher-engel”).

393 The term is hL*g]m=, for which see W. S. LaSor, ISBE, 4:363-64, s.v. “Scroll.”

394 As Chary suggests, Zechariah’s focus in chaps. 3 and 4 has been on the Temple, so it is natural to assume that it and its measurements would be in view here (Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachi [Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969], 99).

395 For various suggestions, including this one, see Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 279-83.

396 Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 (1978):178-79.

397 Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 62-63, 67, 107.

398 Samuel Amsler, Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestl, 1981), 97; Carroll Stuhlmueller, Haggai & Zechariah, ITC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 92.

399 T. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachi, 100; cf. L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 185.

400 C. Van Leeuwen, THAT 2: cols. 101-6, s.v. hqn.

401 David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 245.

402 Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 88; D. Winton Thomas, The Book of Zechariah, IB (New York: Abingdon, 1956), 6:1075. Though this is a rare meaning in Hebrew, the cognate languages attest it in abundance. Thus Akk. naqu in the G means “to pour out” (CAD/N1, 336) and in the N “to pour out as a libation” (340).

403 W. Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8-Sacharja 9-14-Maleachi, 117.

404 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 311-12.


406 See also NIV, RSV, NEB, JB. Margaret Barker, on the basis of the Qere of 1 Sam. 18:9, suggests that <n`yu@ be read as an inf. cst. plus suffix, <n`yu!, “their hostile eye (that is, attitude) toward the whole land”; Margaret Barker, “The Evil in Zechariah,” HeyJ 19 (1978): 22.

407 Samuel Amsler, Aggee, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14. CAT (Paris: Neuchatel, 1981), 100.

408 GKC 34e. It is true that GKC, takes Zech. 5:7 as an example of apposition in which tj^a^ hV*a! is apposite to jaz) (GKC 136d n. 1), but this is certainly not required and, in context, seems unlikely.

409 Rudolph takes taz) as a deictic particle in the sense of “see!” LXX reflects this with the translation ijdouv; Wilhelm Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8—Sacharja 9-14Maleachi, KAT (Gutersloh: Verlaghaus Gerd Mohn, 1976), 118. The translation then could be, “Look, one woman sitting,” etc.

410 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 302.

411 C. Van Leeuwen, TWAT 2: cols. 813-18, s.v. ur.

412 Theophane Chary, Aggee-Zacharie, Malachie, (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 102-3.

413 Margaret Barker, “The Evil in Zechariah,” 23-24.

414 The identification of the trp#uoh* /b#a# (v. 8b) with the trp#uo rK^K! (v. 7a) shows that the cover is not stone at all but lead. The former, “the stone of lead,” is the same as the latter, “a cover of lead.” Thus, the cover is a stone ordinarily, but here it is a slab (or circle) of lead. See Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 299-300.

415 R. K. Harrison, ISBE, 4:631, s.v. “stork.”

416 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 124. Rudolph draws attention to the reference to the stork in Jer. 8:7, where the prophet speaks in complimentary terms of its sensitivity to its appointed times and tasks (W. Rudolph, Haggai-Sacharja 1-8—Sacharja 9-14—Maleachi, 120).

417 As Halpern puts it, “the iniquity of the land is dispatched to Mesopotamia” (Baruch Halpern, “The Ritual Background of Zechariah’s Temple Song,” CBQ 40 [1978]: 180).

418 Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (London: SPCK, 1984), 517.

419 Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 104.

420 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 308.

421 As most commentators agree, ty]B^ (“house”) here means Temple. The ephah will be set up on its “base” (hh*n`k%m=), i.e., the foundation upon which such cult objects were placed in Mesopotamian temples. For such stands in OT temples see 1 Kings 7:27; 2 Kings 23:13, 16; Jer. 27:19; Ezra 3:3; David L. Petersen, Haggai, and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 261-62.

422 Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 332.

423 See discussion on this below.

424 Christian Jeremias, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1977), 123-25.

425 Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), 102.

426 For a helpful comparison of the colors of the horses in vision eight according to the MT and the principal versions, see L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 200-201.

427 William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1957), 890-91.

428 See the helpful excursus by Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 138-40.

429 Unger, Zechariah, 102-3.

430 H. G. Mitchell, A Commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912), 179-80.

431 Kenneth Barker observes that a slight change in the Hebrew text (from <h# yr}h&a^, “after them,” to <Y`h^ yr}h&a^, “after the sea”) yields the meaning “toward the west.” He also suggests that the MT as it stands could mean the same on the basis of similar phrases in Isa. 9:12 (11 MT) and Job 18:20. Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985], 7:638).

432 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 112.

433 Noted but not accepted by Theophane Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, (Paris: Librairie Lecoffre, 1969), 106-7.

434 Rignell, Die, Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, 201-2; Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 322.

435 K. Barker, “Zechariah,” 637. Baldwin suggests “winds” inasmuch as the steeds, like winds, travel over the whole earth (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 131).

436 E. Theodore Mullen, The Assembly of the Gods (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1980), 275.

437 Unger, Zechariah, 106.

438 David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 270-71.

439 Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 106-7.

440 For arguments to this effect—particularly stressing the connection between 6:9-15 and chaps. 3 and 4—see A. Van Hoonacker, Les Douze Petits Prophetes, (Paris: Librairie Victor Lecoffre, 1908), 628-29. Cf. A. Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie (Paris: J. Gabalda, 1969), 268-70; Carol L. Meyers and Eric M. Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, AB (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 366-67.

441 The Meyers raise and reject this possibility for part of the reasons we suggest (Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 341).

442 Meyers and Meyers, Haggai-Zechariah 1-8, 341.

443 Samuel Amsler, Agge, Zacharie 1-8, Zacharie 9-14, CAT (Neuchatel: Delachaux, & Niestl, 1981), 107, tentatively identifies Josiah as son of the priest Zephaniah and suggests also that the “Hen” of v. 14 was an epithet given him because of his hospitality. For other ideas concerning Hen, see below.

444 D. Ernest Sellin, Das Zwlfprophetenbuch, (Leipzig: A. Deichert, 1922), 469-70.

445 Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 283.

446 For a complete discussion of the versional evidence and the views of major commentators, see L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 223-25.

447 The Meyers prefer the view that two crowns, one silver and the other gold, are intended, the former being intended for Joshua and the latter, the monarchic crown, to be placed in the Temple (v. 14) (Meyers and Meyers, Haggai, Zechariah 1-8, 349-55). Unger, though offering the interpretation that only one crown appears here, makes the apt connection between it and the multiple crown of the returning Messiah in Rev. 19:12 (Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963], 112). Lipinski proposes that the afformative in both places (vv. 11, 14) reflects an archaic fem. sing. ending as in Phoenician and certain Hebrew divine and place names (E. Lipinski, “Recherches sur le Livre de Zacharie,” VT 20 [1970]: 34-35). Barker suggests that the plural is used as a “plural of extension,” an “ornate crown with many diadems” (Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” in The EBC, ed. by Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985], 7:639).

448 U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967), 384-85.

449 Friedrich Horst, Die Zwlf kleinen Propheten. Nahum bis Maleachi, HAT 14 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1964 [1936]), 238; Adam S. Van der Woude, “Serubbabel und die messianischen Erwartungen des Propheten Sacharja,” ZAW 100 (1988): 138-56, esp. 147-53.

450 So David L. Petersen, Haggai and Zechariah 1-8, (London: SCM, 1985), 272.

451 E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1898), 1-130.

452 Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 286. M. Barker takes “from his place” to mean that it is Joshua who will take the place of Zerubbabel as Temple builder. This is in line with her view that Zechariah is promoting the Jerusalem priesthood above all others (Margaret Barker, “The Two Figures in Zechariah,” HeyJ. 18 (1977): 43.

453 K. Barker, “Zechariah,” 640.

454 This need not at all suggest that there had been party strife between the royal and priestly factions as Wellhausen, Haller, and Sellin proposed, for in the words of Van Hoonacker, “les partis de Josue et de Zorobabel n’ont sans doute jamais exist que dans l’imagination trop fconde des historiens qui les out invents.” (“the parties of Joshua and Zerubbabel have, without doubt, never existed except in the too fertile imagination of those who invented them”) (Van Hoonacker, Le Sacerdoce levitique, cited by Petitjean, Les Oracles du Proto-Zacharie, 293 n. 2).

455 M. Barker identifies the two parties here (and in the menorah vision, 4:11-14) as two priestly branches that Zechariah was attempting to reconcile (Margaret Barker, “The Two Figures in Zechariah,” 45-46). Her evidence is extremely circular, however.

456 Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, (London: Tyndale, 1972), 137.

457 GKC, 113l-n.

458 For the latter period in particular see W. J. Dumbrell, “Kingship and Temple in the Post-Exilic Period,” RTR 37 (1978): 33-42.

459 Helmer Ringren, The Faith of Qumran (Philadelphia. Fortress, 1963), 171-73; J. R. Villaln, “Sources Vtro-Testamentaires de la Doctrine Quamranienne des Deux Messies,” RevQ 8 (1972): 53-63. Villaln maintains that the name Joshua is not original to the passage, having been worked in later by sacerdotal interests (56-57).

460 L. G. Rignell, Die Nachtgesichte des Sacharja, (Lund: CWK Gleerup, 1950), 229.

Related Topics: Prophecy/Revelation

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