Zechariah 8 Bible Study Verses 18-23

Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 18-23: Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 8. We’ll be studying verses 18-23 to end this chapter.

And what we’ll see in this section is the Lord’s 4th response to the Jews’ question about fasting. Remember that the Jews who came back from Babylon to Jerusalem were curious as to whether they should keep mourning and fasting to commemorate the destruction of the Temple by Babylon about 70 years prior to this point.

And the Lord answered their question in four separate responses. The first response highlighted the fact that God was not happy with their fasts in the first place because those fasts were self-centered and not done for the Lord. The second response highlighted the Jews’ previous lack of love for one another. So, these Jews had not loved God or neighbor as they had been commanded. And this is why the Lord had to destroy their temple in the first place, which is why they were fasting.

Then the third response let these Jews in on the fact that God was planning to richly bless them with his own presence among them in the future. And that’s still future to this day.

And so, now here’s the fourth and last response from the Lord. And it also – like the third response – addresses the awesome blessings that God has in store for them.

So, let’s read Zechariah 8:18-23 to see this last response in full.

[Read Zec 8:18-23…]

Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 18-19

So, first of all, let’s examine what the Lord is talking about with these various fasts in all of these months that he mentions in verses 18 and 19.

KJV Zechariah 8:18 ¶ [And the/The/Again the] word of the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] came [unto/to] [me, saying,/me as follows/me]

19 [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]

The fast of the fourth month,
and the fast of the fifth,
and the fast of the seventh,
and the fast of the tenth,

[shall be/will become] [to/for] the house of Judah [joy/joyful] and [gladness/happy/glad occasions], and [cheerful feasts/pleasant feasts/happy festivals];

[therefore/so] love [the truth/truth] and peace.

Now, the Lord just mentioned four separate fasts that the Jews of Zechariah’s day were observing. And that’s interesting because our knowledge of the number of months on which these Jews were fasting has been increasing throughout these two chapters that we’ve been studying for the last few weeks.

At first the Jews come and ask the Lord whether they should fast in the fifth month. By they way, they came in the ninth month to ask that question. So, they were looking forward to the fast that was to come in a few months. But anyway, the Jews initially asked only about the fast of the fifth month. That’s just one month they’re asking about in Zechariah 7:3.

Well, then the Lord responds to their question in Zechariah 7:5 by mentioning their fasting in both the fifth and seventh months and how neither was pleasing to him because they were done improperly with a focus on themselves rather than on the Lord to whom they were supposedly fasting. But you can see that now the number of months in which these Jews were fasting is expanded to two from the one they originally mentioned.

But now here in Zechariah 8:19 we have not one… not two… but actually four months during which these Jews were fasting. That’s what God says.

So, we’re going to look at these various months and try to figure out what caused the Jews to fast during them.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Fourth Month

First, God mentions the fourth month. And there are two passages in the book of Jeremiah that help us figure out why the Jews were fasting and mourning to commemorate that month.

The first reference is Jeremiah 39:2 where we’re told…

KJV Jeremiah 39:2 And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the [city/city wall] was [broken up/breached/broken through].

And then this event is restated in Jeremiah 52:6 where Jeremiah records this…

KJV Jeremiah 52:6 And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.

KJV Jeremiah 52:7 Then the [city/city wall] was broken [up/into], and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.

So, in summary, what happened in the fourth month about 70 years prior to the question asked in this passage in Zechariah? The Babylonians broke into the city of Jerusalem through the city wall. And the Jews that went into exile in Babylon would every year mourn and fast as they remembered this breach of the wall of their beloved city.

So, that’s the fast of the fourth month.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Fifth Month

Then we have the fast of the fifth month. And numerous awful events happened in the fifth month for which there are two references in the book of Jeremiah.

The first reference is at the very beginning of that book in which that faithful prophet tells us the following…

KJV Jeremiah 1:3 [It/God’s word to Jeremiah] came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the [carrying away/exile] of [Jerusalem/the people of Jerusalem] captive in the fifth month.

So, that’s a brief summary of what happened in the fifth month. Jerusalem – really, the people residing in Jerusalem – were taken away captive into Babylon where they would remain for about 70 years.

But if you want the details of what all happened in that month you can go to the end of the book of Jeremiah in chapter 52 and you’ll be given the following details in verses 12-16…

KJV Jeremiah 52:12 ¶ Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,

KJV Jeremiah 52:13 And burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:

KJV Jeremiah 52:14 And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.

KJV Jeremiah 52:15 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.

KJV Jeremiah 52:16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left certain of the poor of the land for vinedressers and for husbandmen.

So, that’s the whole story. Jeremiah 1 gives you a brief summary – Jerusalem was exiled to Babylon. But it’s in that last chapter that you hear the details.

Babylon burned all the houses in Jerusalem – both men’s houses and God’s house – the temple. Babylon broke down the city wall around Jerusalem. And then finally Babylon took everyone except the poorest and brought them to Babylon.

So, what was to fast about in the fourth month? The wall was breached.

And what did that lead to in the fifth month that was fast-worthy? The destruction of all the houses and walls of Jerusalem and the deportation of almost all of her people.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Seventh Month

But some people were left. And that brings us to the fast of the seventh month. What happened then that was worth mourning and weeping and fasting about?

Well, according to Jeremiah 41, those people who were left experienced a very unpleasant episode involving an assassination, a rescue, and then finally all the people being led away from Israel back into Egypt. That’s in Jeremiah 41…

KJV Jeremiah 41:1 ¶ Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.

KJV Jeremiah 41:2 Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

KJV Jeremiah 41:3 Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.

So, Ishmael who was a royal heir murdered the Babylonian-appointed governor of Israel at the time – Gedaliah. This was a national tragedy that these Jews of Zechariah’s day were still mourning over.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Tenth Month

And the last month mentioned for fasting – the tenth month – is actually the basic reason that these Jews were fasting.

The events of the seventh month with Ishmael and Gedaliah happened… because the events of the fifth month with Jerusalem being destroyed and exiled happened… because the city wall was breached in the fourth month… because of what happened in the tenth month.

What happened in the tenth month that was worthy of mourning and fasting? It was in the tenth month in which Babylon came and laid siege to Jerusalem to begin with, according to Jeremiah 39:1…

KJV Jeremiah 39:1 ¶ In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.

And Jeremiah tells us why Babylon came in the first place in Jeremiah 52:3 where he says…

KJV Jeremiah 52:3 ¶ For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

KJV Jeremiah 52:4 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about.

So, the tenth month is when it all started. Babylon came in response to the rebellion of the king of Judah at that time.

So, the Jews were fasting during four different months for things all related to the destruction of their city and especially the temple that was in that city. These were sorrowful memories for the Jews.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Joy, Gladness, Cheerful Feasts

But God is saying here in Zechariah 8:19 that this was all going to change. There will be a time for the Jews that instead of sorrow and mourning and fasting there will be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study Love Truth and Peace

But there seems to be some sort of condition placed on this happening. In order for these fasts to be turned into feasts for these people, they needed to love truth and peace.

In these last two chapters – chapters 7 and 8 – the Lord has been encouraging them to love these two realities – truth and peace. Most recently in verse 16 of this chapter the Lord admonished the Jews to both speak and judge truthfully and to pursue peace in their judgements. Truth and peace. They were to love it.

Did the Jews of Zechariah’s day do this? Well, shortly after this time period, the prophet Malachi communicated his prophecies to these same people. And his book is notable for all of the rebuking the Lord did through him to the people. They still were not loving truth and peace.

How about in Jesus’ day? Did the Jews all together love truth and peace? No, they crucified their Messiah by giving him untruthful trials. Instead of being at peace with their God they attacked and killed God the Son. Those Jews were not loving truth and peace.

How about the Jews of modern times? No, they’re still not obeying this command. And apparently these people need to obey this command in order for their fasts to be turned into feasts. So, something is going to need to change, isn’t it?

And that something, as we’ve seen before, is exactly what we see in the book of Revelation. Jesus their rejected Messiah is going to need to return and save these people. They will need to look on him whom they’ve pierced and they’re going to need to mourn again. They’re going to need to mourn – not the destruction of their temple, but rather their crucifying and rejecting their Savior. And then at that point there will be a fountain opened for cleansing for these Jews.

And it’s at that point when this passage will come to pass and their fasts will turn into feasts. They will love truth and peace.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 20-21

And so, with this promise of Israel’s fasts being turned into feasts, the Lord is going to spend the rest of this chapter painting a picture for us of what that’s going to look like. What will it look like for Israel to no longer fast and mourn – but rather instead that they would gather to celebrate feasts?

Well, according to verse 20 at that time when this reality will come to pass, Israel’s cities will be filled with people.

20 ¶ [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]

[It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:/’It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities./’It will someday come to pass that people– residents of many cities– will come./”Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come,/Yet shall many peoples come, and the inhabitants of many cities;]

And I just said that these people are all in Israeli cities. But I suppose they don’t need to be. These cities could be both Jewish and Gentile. But I think the emphasis in verses 20 and 21 is Israel, because later in verse 22 we have a mention of nations coming in addition to these people in these cities.

So, people in cities – especially cities in Israel – will all come, as verse 20 says.

Well… “come” where? And for what purpose are they coming? Verse 21.

21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,

[Let us/Let’s] [go/go up] [speedily/at once] to [pray before/entreat the favor of/ask the favor of/entreat/make supplication to] the LORD, [and to/to/and] seek the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty]:

[I will/Indeed, I’ll/I myself will] [go also/also go/go with you/am going].

So, these people from these cities in Israel are going to go get each other and they’re going to go to pray before the Lord. They’re going to seek his mercy and favor – and just him himself – in the Millennium.

And of course, they’ll be going to Jerusalem. That’s where the Lord was to be sought in the Old Testament with their temple. And that’s where the Lord will be sought in the Millennium in the person of Jesus the Messiah who will rule from that city for 1,000 years.

And the Lord presents what the people of Israel will say and feel in those days. The people from one city going to the people from another city and saying that they should go to Jerusalem aren’t just doing what some folks do today. They’re not like the parents who send their kids to church on a bus because they feel like their kids needs some religion – but they themselves don’t feel all that compelled to be at church.

No, these Jews of those days will be compelling each other to go seek the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. And they’ll all know and recognize their need to do this. And not just need – but really, excitement and anticipation!

Zechariah 8 Bible Study verse 22

But it’s not just Jews from the cities of Israel that will be going up to Jerusalem to seek the Lord. Many nations will also be engaged in this activity, according to verse 22.

22 [Yea, many/So many/Many/And many] [people/peoples] and [strong/mighty/powerful/many] nations [shall/will] come to seek the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [in/to] Jerusalem, and to [pray before the LORD/entreat the favor of the Lord/ask his favor/entreat him].

So, just what we heard that the Jews will be doing, so too will the Gentiles do. They will also come to pray before the Lord – to seek his favor and entreat him.

And notice that these nations in the Millennium are strong. This group of nations would certainly include what we would call the world-powers in the Millennium.

Imagine our current president Donald Trump leading a delegation from the United States to humbly and earnestly seek the favor of the Lord in Jerusalem. Imagine Vladimir Putin bringing a group of the most important Russian oligarchs to acknowledge his need and the need of his country for the Lord’s help and favor. Or the leaders of the currently-atheistic Communist China or North Korea or Venezuela. Or currently-Muslim nations coming to seek the favor of Jesus Christ, the Jew.

But there will be no Islam in those days. There will be no atheistic Communism. And there certainly won’t be any American materialism.

But rather the strength of each of these nations will be subdued by a greater strength in those days – that of Yahweh of Hosts – Yahweh who commands the armies of heaven – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Zechariah 8 Bible Study verse 23

And if you’re curious as to how these people will carry themselves while doing going to Jerusalem – are they going to be grudgingly going up to Jerusalem? Are they going to be insincere about it?

Well, the Lord ends his response to the Jews’ question about fasting by giving us the mindset of these nations as they go up to Jerusalem to pray before Jesus Christ in verse 23.

23 [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/Thus says the LORD of hosts,/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]

In those days [it shall come to pass, that ten/ten] [men/people]
[shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying,/from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying,/from all languages and nations will grasp hold of– indeed, grab– the robe of one Jew and say,/from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say,/of all the languages of the nations should take hold– even take hold of the hem of a Jew, saying,]

[We will/Let us] go with you:

[for/because] we have heard that God is with you.

So, you sense some urgency in the hearts of these numerous Gentiles who will come to worship the Lord in Jerusalem during the Millennium.

There’s the overwhelming number of them. Ten come and mob one Jew. And they’re going to grasp the garment of that Jew, again indicating some breathless urgency about something.

Now, the Jews have been mobbed like this before – they’ve been surrounded and have been grasped by their garments by hostile Gentiles throughout the centuries.

But a time is coming when they will be mobbed and grabbed by Gentiles – not for harm – but because these people want something from them.

These Gentiles will want to “go with” the Jews. Go where? Go up to Jerusalem like we heard about in the previous verse.

And why will these Gentiles want to go with these Jews up to Jerusalem? They will have heard that “God is with” the Jews. They will know that Jesus Christ – God the Son – is ruling in Jerusalem over the whole world – and those Gentiles – all 10 of them for every 1 Jew – will want to seek the Lord Jesus Christ.

You have a small picture of what this will be like in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of John where some Greeks – some non-Jews, some Gentiles – we don’t know how many there were – maybe 10??? – but they come and get Philip and say, “Sir, we [would/wish to/would like to] see Jesus.” Gentiles (these Greeks) had come to a Jew (Philip) and asked to see the Lord (Jesus Christ).

This is what it will be like in the Millennium. These Gentiles – at many times in history hostile to the Jews and to their God – will be clamoring for the Jews to lead them to their God who will be on the throne in the city of Jerusalem ruling over the whole world.

Now, let’s acknowledge something before we end. Did God answer the question of these Jews? They came and asked him if they should keep fasting and mourning concerning the destruction of their Temple. Did God say “yes” or “no?”

He didn’t answer them. Why?

Well, consider that these fasts they had been doing were not direct commands from the Lord. Nowhere did the Lord command them to hold these fasts. But they fasted anyway.

And so just like the Lord never commanded them to fast in the first place, so too he is not going to command them to stop. But what he is offering them is a glimpse into the future where they won’t even think of fasting. There will be no reason to mourn and fast and grieve. If you have a problem or are troubled – just go to Jesus! And we’re not speaking metaphorically of praying to someone you can’t see – though you know he’s there. No – in those days these people can take their problems directly to the Lord who sits on the throne in Jerusalem.

What a glorious day that will be! May the Lord come quickly and bring these things to pass.

Zechariah 8 Commentary Verses 9-17

Zechariah 8 Commentary Verses 9-17 | Let’s turn our attention to the 8th chapter of the book of Zechariah.

This book has started with a call to repentance for the Jews who had returned to Israel after being held captive in Babylon for about 70 years. The Jews apparently did repent and so God promised to turn to them.

Then we had those multiple visions in chapters 1-6 – many of them containing a hopeful message for these returned exiles.

And after that, we’ve been studying these two chapters – chapters 7 and 8 – in which God has been asked a question and is now in the process of answering that question. The question had to do with whether the returned Jews ought to fast or not.

Why were they fasting? Because about 70 years ago God had the Babylonians come in and destroy their temple because the Jews kept sinning against him.

But now that Zechariah and Haggai were preaching that these people need to get to work rebuilding the temple – and that’s just what they were doing – with the temple being resurrected before their very eyes… did they need to keep fasting about the destruction of this building that was now being reconstructed?

And as we’ve seen, God answers that question in four separate answers.

First, the Lord let these people know that their fasting wasn’t pleasing to him because they weren’t doing it for him. They weren’t loving God.

Second, the Lord told the people that their ancestors had sinned against their fellow-man.

And both of these realities – not loving God and not loving neighbor – caused the destruction of their former temple and thus was the ultimate reason that these people had been fasting in the first place.

Then we entered into the third response from the Lord to this question about fasting last time. And where the first two responses were negative and accusing the Jews of wrongdoing, this third response is full of forgiveness and mercy and wonderful promises.

And so, we covered verses 1-8 last time and saw the first part of this third response that God gives to their question about fasting. Lord-willing today we’ll be studying verses 9-17 to see the second part of this response.

Let’s read Zechariah 8:1-17 to see the broader context and then we’ll study verses 9-17 in detail.

[Read Zec 8:1-17]

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.9

Let’s look at that 9th verse once more.

9 ¶ [Thus saith/Also says] the LORD of hosts;

[Let your hands be strong/Gather strength],

ye that hear in these days these words [by/from] the [mouth/mouths] of the prophets,

[which were/those who spoke/who were there] [in the day that/at] the [foundation/founding] of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid,

[that/to the end that/so that] the temple might be built.

So, this is encouragement for the Jews of Zechariah’s time to continue doing what the Lord sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to do. God sent those prophets to encourage the people to keep rebuilding the temple.

These prophets – Haggai and Zechariah and perhaps others that we’re unaware of – were sent when the temple foundation was laid already. The foundation was laid but the work was discontinued for 16 years while the people gave in to discouragement.

But now God has returned to these people and wants them to get back to doing what he sent them to Jerusalem to do in the first place – to rebuild that temple whose destruction the Jews were still mourning to that very day!

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.10

Well – what reason does God give for these Jews to be strong and encouraged that the temple will be rebuilt?

That’s what God gives these people in verse 10 and 11. There’s a negative and a positive reality that should encourage them.

First the negative reality that they should remember in verse 10. God wants the Jews to contemplate how bad things were in the days before he visited them with these prophets who encouraged them to start doing God’s will again.

10 For before [these days/those days/that time] there was no [hire/wage/compensation] for man,

nor [any hire for/for] [beast/animal];

neither was there any [peace/relief/safety] to him that went [out or came in/about his business] [because of the affliction/because of his enemies/from adversity]:

[for/and/because] I [set/had pitted/had turned] [all men one/every one/everybody – each one/every man] against [his neighbor/everyone else].

So, there were economic repercussions to the Jews’ previous disobedience in not rebuilding the temple. Human labor wasn’t profitable. Animal labor wasn’t making any money.

There were also physical security concerns that resulted from their disobedience. The Jews were afflicted by their hostile neighbors. And that’s actually one reason that they originally stopped rebuilding the temple. However, God made that situation much worse.

And isn’t that the case that sometimes the thing that we allow to influence us away from obedience to the Lord… actually, the Lord will use to discipline us? That’s what happened to the Jews. They had no peace or safety because the adversity from their neighbors was so overwhelming.

Well, why all of this? Why the economic depression? Why the lack of physical security all around them?

That’s what God admitted to at the end of verse 10. God did this. God directly turned everyone against everyone else.

Why did he do that? Because the one thing he wanted them to do was the very thing that they refused to do – namely, rebuilding this temple.

So, that was the past for these people.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.11

But now, the encouraging future as God turns back to his people with compassion and blessing – verse 11.

11 But now I will not [be unto/treat] the [residue/remnant] of [this/my] people as in the [former days/past],

[saith/declares] the LORD of hosts.

So, God is the same. His character has not changed. Mankind is the same. God still knows that these Jews are going to sin and disappoint him. But the way that God is going to work with these people is going to change.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.12

And the way that God wants to highlight his changing approach to these people is found in verse 12 where he promises on them economic blessings. Before they were cursed economically. But now they will be blessed as they continue to build his temple.

12 For [the seed shall be prosperous/there will be peace for the seed/there will be a peaceful time of sowing/the seed will grow well/I will shew peace];

the vine [shall give her/will yield its/will produce its] fruit,

[and the/the] [ground/land] [shall give her/will yield its/its/will produce its] [increase/produce/yield/crops],

and the [heavens/skies] [shall give their/will give their/will rain down/will drop their] dew;

[and I/then I/I] will cause the remnant of this people to [possess/inherit] all these things.

So, seeds will be sown peacefully and will produce abundantly. There would be plenty of grapes and plenty of crops. There will be just the right amount of rain to nourish all of these things.

And just like God was directly involved in the revoking of these blessings – so, too, he reveals here that he is just as directly involved in the restoring of these blessings.

Now, we need to remind ourselves that this is how God decided to deal with his people in Old Testament Israel. From the beginning of God’s relationship with them obedience was met with material blessings and disobedience was physically cursed.

That’s not the way it works in the Church. And really, it’s not totally the way it even worked in the Old Testament. Since the fall of Adam, life has never been perfect for those who obey God – mostly because no mere man since Adam has been perfectly obedient to God.

Anyway, I’m just saying that we shouldn’t start to think that the way that God is working with the Jews here in Zechariah is the way he works with us. It isn’t, and we shouldn’t expect him to treat us the exact same as he treated Israel.

So, God was saying that he is going to change his approach to the Jews and bless them materially. So, the economic curses have been reversed.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.13

And now in verse 13 we’re going to hear that the adversity that the Jews had been experiencing from their adversaries was going to change as well.

13 And it shall come [to pass/about], that as ye were a curse [among/to] the [heathen/nations], [O/both] [house of Judah/Judah], and [house of Israel/Israel];

so will I save you, [and/that] [ye/you] [shall be/may become/will be] a blessing:

[fear not/Do not fear/Do not be afraid], [but let/let/instead let] [your hands be/be] strong.

So, in terms of their status in the eyes of their neighboring nations, Israel will go from being accursed in the minds of those nations to being blessed.

The nations will both perceive that the Jews are blessed, and the Jews will also actively bless their national neighbors.

And this will all happen when the Lord saves these people. And for that reason I am inclined to see between verse 12 and verse 13 something of a temporal break. There’s a break in the timeline.

I think up through verse 12 we have realities that happened in Zechariah’s day.

But in verse 13 we’re given reason to think that the activity in that verse is future.

One reason is that the Jews are going to be a blessing to other nations. I don’t believe that that has happened yet.

Another reason is that this is going to happen when the Lord saves them. And I know that salvation can have more of a physical context, but I think this in combination with their being a blessing to other nations has more of a spiritual and future context.

So, because these realities will happen in the future – the Jews were to not be afraid. These things could happen at any moment and are presented as imminent. And therefore, because of all the blessings that God promises the Jews, they were to not be afraid. They must not allow anything to make their hands weak so that they cannot do the work that God has called them to.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.14

And God is going to give these people more reasons to not fear and to strengthen their hands to do the work of rebuilding the temple. He’s going to give them another pair of contrasts between how he acted toward the Jews in the past and how he’s planning to act toward them in Zechariah’s day.

First the negative past.

14 ¶ For thus saith the LORD of hosts;

[As/Just as] I [thought to punish/purposed to do harm to/had planned to hurt/had determined to bring disaster upon] you, when your fathers [provoked me to wrath/made me angry/angered me],

saith the LORD of hosts,

and I [repented not/have not relented/was not sorry/showed no pity]:

So, in the past God made mental plans to bring disaster on his rebellious people for their rebellion. And after he made that determination he would not change his mind.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.15

But now, this. Just like God used to be toward Israel…

15 So [again/to the contrary/now] [have I/I have] [thought/purposed/planned/determined] [in these days/again] to do [well/good] [unto/to] Jerusalem and [to the house of Judah/Judah]:

[fear ye not/Do not fear!/Do not be afraid].

So, now in this book God is planning to do good to his people Israel and he will not turn from that determination.

And one more time God gives that encouragement to continue to do the work that he’s called them to do – don’t be afraid!

Do you think that they had reason to be afraid? Of course they did! That’s why they stopped obeying God in the first place. But God wants them to stop fearing people and start fearing him.

Zechariah 8 Commentary 8.16-17

Well, the Lord ends this third response to the question about fasting by putting some reasonable requirements on these people in verses 16 and 17. God wants to bless his people – but that doesn’t mean that he’s fine with them acting wickedly.

No, rather God lays out the requirements…

16 These are the things [that ye/which you/you] [shall/should/must/are to] do;

Speak [ye every man the truth to his neighbor/the truth to one another/the truth, each of you, to one another/the truth to each other];

[execute the judgment of truth and peace/judge with truth and judgement for peace/practice true and righteous judgement/and render true and sound judgment] in your [gates/courts]:

17 [And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts/Also let none of you devise evil in your heart/Do not plan evil in your hearts/do not plot evil] against [his neighbor/another/one another/your neighbor];

[and love no false oath/and do not love perjury/Do not favor a false oath/and do not love to swear falsely]:

[for all these are things that I hate,/for all these are what I hate/these are all things that I hate/I hate all this]

[saith/declares/says] the LORD.

So, speak truth to each other. Protect the innocent and make righteous judicial calls. Don’t plan to do evil to your fellow man. Don’t lie.

Or, said another way, love your neighbor. Positively speak truth and render decisions for people in a way that God would do if he were here on earth. Negatively, don’t plan to hurt your fellow-man and don’t lie to each other.

Anything else – any behavior that contradicts these approaches to life with your fellow-man are things that God hates.

So, to wrap things up, if response 1 to the question about fasting and mourning about the destruction of the temple could be summarized in the words, “Love God” and response 2 could be summarized as “Love Your Neighbor” then this 3rd response might be best summarized as God saying, “I have determined to bless you.”

And that only leaves response 4 – which is more exciting future blessing that lies in store for Israel in the days to come.

Zechariah 8 Visions Verses 1-8

Zechariah 8 Visions Verses 1-8 | Let’s turn to Zechariah 8 in our Bibles.

The 8th chapter of the book of Zechariah is where we find the third response of the Lord to a question that the Jews asked earlier in chapter 7. The entire third response is found in verses 1-17. But we’re only going to be able to study the first part of this response in verses 1-8 today.

Now, the original question that the Jews asked the priests is this: “Should we keep fasting to commemorate and mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC?

And God’s first response could be summarized like this: “Your fasting wasn’t right, you did it for yourself, you did not love me with all your heart and (by implication) this is why your temple was destroyed which is why you have been fasting these 70 years in the first place.”

Then God’s second response was something like this: “Historically you people have been unloving to your neighbor and this is yet another reason why your temple was destroyed which is the reality that has caused you to fast.

And now, we’re going to see the first part of God’s third response to the Jews’ question about fasting. As I said, the entire response is found in verses 1-17 of chapter 8. But we’re going to cover only the first 8 verses of this chapter.

Now, where God’s first two responses were essentially negative – focusing on the faults of the people – and especially the sins of the ancestors of these Jews of Zechariah’s day – this third response is very positive and focuses on God’s actions with a very heavy emphasis on the future.

So, let’s read Zechariah 8:1-17 in its entirety.

[Read Zec 8:1-17…]

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.1

Now, we notice that this is indeed a new response from the Lord because of what verse 1 says.

KJV Zechariah 8:1 ¶ [Again/Then/And] the word of the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] came to me, [saying/as follows],

And we’ve seen that this is how each of these four answers start – with the word of the Lord coming to Zechariah. So, this is the third of those four responses.

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.2

And here is how the Lord begins this third response to their question about fasting.

2 [Thus saith/X Says this/This is what X says] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

I [was/am/have been] [jealous for Zion with great jealousy/exceedingly jealous for Zion/very much concerned for Zion/very jealous for Zion],

[and I/yes, I/indeed, I] [was/am] jealous for her with great [fury/wrath]. [i.e., so concerned for her that my rage will fall on those who hurt her…]

So, the Lord begins by focusing on his emotions toward his chosen people. He is extremely jealous for his people – for what is his. Now, it’s immoral to be jealous for what is not yours – but it is completely acceptable to be jealous for what is rightfully yours.

And this jealousy of God for his people morphs into another emotion – that of anger – great anger. It’s an anger that we’ve heard about before in this book – an anger that will be unleashed on the enemies of God’s people.

Now, the Jews had been fasting since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC until Zechariah’s day almost 70 years later. And what led to that destruction on a human level was the oppression of God’s people by the Babylonians.

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.3

And even though God had to send that nation to judge his people so many years prior to this – yet, he’s still very jealous for his people and now he’s going to promise to change his approach to them. Verse 3.

3 Thus saith the LORD;

I [am returned/have returned/will return] unto Zion,

and [will dwell/will live/dwell] [in the midst of/within/in] Jerusalem:

[and/then/now] Jerusalem shall be called [a city of truth/the city of truth/“truthful city”/a true city];

[and the mountain/“mountain] of the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all”/Almighty] [the holy/will be called the holy/“holy/a holy] mountain[].

So, the Lord promises to return to Zion and Jerusalem – which is basically speaking of the same geographical location. And ultimately, it’s not just the land that God was concerned about – but it’s his people who inhabited that land that he was really focused on.

And even though this message would have been an encouragement for the Jews of Zechariah’s day that God was still interested in their welfare, yet I think the emphasis timewise here in this passage is the future.

The Lord did in a sense already return to Zion and Jerusalem. And yet, it seems that Jerusalem couldn’t in Zechariah’s day be called “a city of truth.” It certainly couldn’t be given that title a few hundred years later in Jesus’ day with all of the hypocrisy and religious corruption.

So, it seems that the reality in this passage will happen when the Lord Jesus Christ literally dwells in the midst of Jerusalem when he returns and reigns for 1,000 years.

So, when Jesus does come and rule on his throne, Jerusalem will be called a truthful city. There will be no lies. Lies will be swiftly punished.

Can you imagine the difference it would make if Washington, DC could truly be called a city of truth? What kind of legislation would come out of there? What kind of injustice would be squashed immediately? Can our current president make that city a city of truth? Can any man or woman make that city a city of truth? No – only the Lord Jesus Christ can transform a city – Jerusalem in this case – into a city of truth.

And it’s not just truth that God is concerned about. He also wants holiness. The mountain upon which Jerusalem sits will be called a holy mountain when Jesus returns.

Again, imagine the capital city of our nation, Washington DC. And imagine it being transformed to a place where the label affixed to it is “holy.” Set apart – unique – morally excellent.

Does Roe v. Wade happen in a holy city? Does so-called same-sex marriage get the endorsement of the highest court in the land that’s based in a holy city?

Do you see what Israel – and the whole world – has to look forward to when Jesus returns and reigns in Jerusalem and that city is transformed to the point where the two adjectives that adequately describe it are: “true” and “holy”?

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.4-5

And when that happens, that city will be populated with people – both old and young. Verses 4 and 5.

4 [Moreover…] Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

[There shall yet old men and old women dwell/Old men and old women will again sit/Old men and women will once more live] in the [streets/plazas] of Jerusalem,

[and every man/each man/each one/each] [with his staff in his hand/leaning on a cane/with cane in hand] [for/because of] [very age/age/advanced age/his age].

5 [And the/The] [streets of the city/city streets] [shall/will] be [full of/filled with] boys and girls [playing in the streets thereof/playing in its streets/playing/playing there].

And this was not really what the Jews of Zechariah’s day were experiencing. The population of Jerusalem was pretty sparse. The city was still full of rubble from its previous destruction around 70 years prior to this.

But that will all change. Some of that changed in Zechariah’s day and even in the time of Jesus’ first coming to Israel. There were old folks and children in the streets of Jerusalem. Even at this very time, if you were to visit Jerusalem you would see some of this.

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.6

But once more, we’re directed to the fact that this is something to come in the future, as verse 6 would lead us to believe…

6 [Thus/and’] saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

[If/Though] [it/such a thing] [be/is/may seem to be] [marvelous/too difficult/difficult/impossible(LXE)] [in the eyes of/in the sight of/to/in the opinion of] the [remnant of this people/small community] [in/of/at] [these days/those days/that time],

[should/will/but will] it also [be/appear/seem] [marvelous/too difficult/difficult/impossible(LXE)] [in mine eyes/in my sight/to me]?

[saith/declares/asks] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty].

So, catch what the Lord is saying there. What he’s promised so far up through verse 5 is amazing to the point of seeming to be impossible.

Now, if these things had happened already to the Jews of those days, then this would not have been amazing. It would have just been the status quo – what they had been experiencing already.

But God is informing us that the people of that day were amazed by these promises – of the Lord being jealous for Jerusalem and his promise of coming and dwelling in their midst and transforming their capital city to one that’s full of truth and holiness. But these are promises to come – and not ones that they already had. Otherwise, if these promises had already been fulfilled in their day, then why would they be amazed by them?

But the fact is that these things were for a future time. And the people were amazed at these promises. And the people will be amazed at these promises being fulfilled and coming to pass when they actually do start taking shape when Jesus returns to reign on earth.

But there was one who was not amazed by the promises made. And that was God. For God, this was no big deal. He’s more than able to make anything happen according to his will. For with God, nothing is impossible.

Zechariah 8 Visions 8.7-8

Well, how is the Lord going to populate Jerusalem in the future when he decides to bring back his Messiah and have Christ reign for a thousand years? Here’s how – verse 7.

7 Thus [saith/asserts] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

[Behold, I/I] [will/am going to/am about to] save my people from the [east country/land of the east/lands of the east/countries of the east],

and [from the west country/from the land of the west/the west];

8 [And I/I] will bring [them/them back],

[and they shall dwell in the midst of/to settle within/to live in] Jerusalem:

and they [shall/will] be my people,

and I will be their God, [i.e., I will be their God in the following manner:…] in truth and in righteousness.

So, the Lord promises to restore the Jewish captives from all over the world and bring them back to Jerusalem.

And when he does that – when Christ returns to reign in Jerusalem – then the Jews will once again be God’s special people. And he alone will be their God.

And he won’t be a god like they’re used to with their idols. He will be true and righteous. That’s the kind of God that they can expect with the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so, the Lord will continue this third response to the Jews’ question about fasting to commemorate the destruction of the temple next time.

Zechariah 7 Commentary Verses 8-14

Zechariah 7 Commentary Verses 8-14: Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 7.

We’ll be continuing today in a section that began in the first verse of this chapter with a question. A few of the Jews had been sent by others to ask whether they should continue to mourn and fast commemorating the destruction of their temple around 70 years prior to this point.

And they get their answer. Well, they get four installments to their answer because God replies to their question with four separate responses.

Last time, we saw the first response that God gave to their question regarding whether they should keep weeping and fasting concerning the destruction of their temple and of Jerusalem.

And that first response basically probed the nature of their fasting. We saw that God was not at all impressed with their fasting because they did it selfishly.

In other words, because God had sent them to Jerusalem to build his temple and they had not done it but rather they were just living their lives for themselves – whatever they did – whether they ate or drank or abstained from these activities – it was all selfish. And God was not impressed.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: God’s Second Response (7:8-14)

And that brings us to God’s second response to their question about fasting in the 5th month. So, let’s read verses 8-14 of Zechariah 7 to start to understand the next point that God wants to make to these Jews of Zechariah’s day.

[Read Zec 7:8-14…]

So, this section breaks down into three major parts.

We have God’s original message to the Israelites of old – the commands he gave to his people before he had to send them into exile. That’s verses 8-10.

Then God details their response to that original message. And we come to discover that the people’s response to God’s message before the exile was stubborn rebellion. That’s verses 11-12a.

And finally, in this section we have God reminding these Jews that he was left with no choice but to punish them. And the way that he chose to punish them was by sending them out of their land. We see that in verses 12b-14.

Zechariah 7 Commentary God’s Original Message (8-10)

So, let’s look at God’s original message that went unheeded for a long time by his people. It’s a message that is very relevant to their question of whether they should mourn the destruction of their temple, because their original response to this message caused the destruction of that very temple!

8 ¶ [And/Then/Again] the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,

9 [Thus speaketh/Thus has X said/X said] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty], saying,

So, the following content is something that God had already expressed in the past. We need to be clear on that. It’s not that the Jews of Zechariah’s day were being told this – no, this was the message that their ancestors heard. Here it is.

[Execute/Dispense/Exercise/Administer/Judge] [true/righteous (LXX)] [judgment/justice],

and [shew mercy/practice kindness/show brotherhood/deal mercifully] and compassions [every man to his brother/to each other/to one another]:

10 And oppress not the widow, nor the [fatherless/orphan], the [stranger/foreigner/alien], nor the poor;

[and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart./and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’/nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’/In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’]

So, the Lord is focused on how the Jews treated their fellow-man.

God’s first response to their question about fasting was to probe their relationship to him directly. Remember that he identified their selfish fasting and eating and how they were fasting – but that it wasn’t done … for him. That was the big emphasis – they were performing the religious activity of fasting – but it was not for the Lord that they were doing it.

Now in this new section, the Lord is focusing on the Jews’ mistreatment of their fellow humans. As Jesus stated, the great commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor. The Jews had not loved God as we saw in the last response from the Lord. And now here we’re told that they did not love their neighbor properly.

And God reminds the people that he gave their ancestors in a general way two positive commands and two negative commands that encouraged them to love their neighbor.

First, positively, the Lord commanded that these people execute true justice. He wanted them to see to it that justice was done – that everyone got fair and impartial treatment.

Second, positively again, the Lord commanded the Jews to treat each other with mercy and compassion.

Third, negatively, the Lord had told these people’s ancestors to not oppress those who were neediest and most helpless in society.

This is the opposite of the first command – to execute justice. Oppression of course is not justice.

And then fourth, negatively, the Jews had been commanded to not think up evil plots against each other.

And this would be the opposite of the second positive command given – to treat each other with mercy and compassion. Plotting and planning and scheming to ruin someone else is not the definition of mercy and compassion.

So, that’s what God wanted from these people’s ancestors – the Israelites from days of old. It’s not complicated – do what’s right, be kind – and then the opposite – don’t oppress the weak, don’t plan to do evil to others.

Simple. Right? Love your neighbor. That’s all. Not complicated or complex.

Zechariah 7 Commentary The People’s Original Response (11-12)

But the Jews of old demonstrate the wickedness of man’s natural heart. When it comes down to it, God shows us through their example of failures that it isn’t all that easy for sinful man to do right to – and to love – his neighbor.

And so, this message that God had been giving the Jews for centuries went unheeded before, according to verses 11 and 12.

11 But they refused to [hearken/pay attention],

[and pulled away the shoulder/and turned a stubborn shoulder/turning away stubbornly/stubbornly they turned their backs],

and [stopped/stopped up] their [ears, that they should not hear/ears from hearing/ears so they could not hear/ears].

12 Yea, they made their hearts as [an adamant stone/flint/hard as diamond],

[lest they should/so that they could not] [hear/obey] the [law/Torah], and the words which the LORD of hosts [hath/had] sent [in/by] his spirit [by/through] the [former/earlier] prophets:

So, this is a synopsis of how God’s chosen people for the most part received God’s words and instructions and corrections. And this is also how the natural man tends to treat any sort of communication from God.

It’s rejection in every way. In the realm of hearing, this rejection takes the form of refusal to hear. In the realm of the mind, it’s an unwillingness to pay attention to God’s words. Even physically, there is a turning away of the shoulder stubbornly in response to God giving his instructions to a lost person. Internally, it’s as if our natural heart could be intentionally hardened – as hard as diamond.

So, God commands all mankind to love his neighbor – a very reasonable command. It’s a command that we ourselves benefit from if all of us are following it, even!

But we’ve just seen the response of mankind to this reasonable demand of the Lord. Rejection and rebellion and stubbornness and closing off of every sense to receive such a good and right command.

The command to love is a command that’s broken every time a wife is not submissive to her husband. It’s broken every time a husband fails to love his wife. When children disobey their parents this command to love one’s neighbor is broken. When parents don’t love their children it’s disobedience to the Lord’s desires.

This disobedience to God’s command to love one’s neighbor fills the news each and every day. As I was preparing this message, I decided to look at some of the news headlines to demonstrate how we’re doing as a race on obeying God’s command to love our neighbor.

The initial headline was something about a presidential candidate (not our current president) being inappropriate with a woman. Does that sound like real love?

Another headline read something about the crisis at America’s southern border. And depending on your political slant you’re going to see there either a lack of justice or a lack of mercy and compassion – and you know what? Both of those have been condemned by the Lord earlier in this passage!

We have one political party in our country calling another “scaredy-cats.” Another headline speaks of two segments of America and how fierce each side is toward one another. There’s a headline about a South American country whose dictatorial leader has run the place into the ground. Another article tells of how a left-leaning group has been accused of racism and sexism.

And of course, to understand fully the content of these articles and how they relate to God’s command for people to love one another, we’d need to take more time than we have here. But the point is – mankind is doing very poorly in terms of our requirement to obey God’s desire that we love one another – that we, as this passage says, positively execute justice and show mercy and negatively don’t oppress and don’t plan evil schemes against our fellow man.

Zechariah 7 Commentary God’s Corresponding Judgement (12b-14)

And so, lastly in this second response of the Lord to this question about fasting, he speaks of how he had to punish his people of old for not obeying his commands to love one another.

therefore [came a/X came/X was poured out] great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

This is God’s reaction to sustained disobedience from man in general – and especially those who claim to be his people and yet don’t obey him – great wrath.

This is a constant theme throughout the Scripture.

We’re told in Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

In Ephesians 5:6 the Apostle Paul tells us, “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.” Now, what things bring the wrath of God? Immorality, impurity, and greed according to verse 3 of that chapter. Filthiness, silly talk, and course jesting, according to verse 4. Immorality, impurity, covetousness, and idolatry, according to verse 5. And some of these things are directed against God directly. And yet, a number of these sins are sins against mankind.

So, God’s response to the sustained unrepentant sin of man against man – especially from those who identify as his people – is eventually (after great patience) great wrath.

And so, this is what this ended up looking like for the Jews. What did God’s great wrath look like for ancient Israel?

13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he [cried/called/cried out], and they would not [hear/listen/obey];

so they [cried/called/cried out], and I would not [hear/listen],

saith the LORD of hosts:

And this is only fair. God had called out to them in these matters. He was communicating with them through his prophets. But the people refused to listen.

And so, eventually the Lord put them in a situation where they would finally need to address him and ask him for help and deliverance – but he refused to listen to them. Just like they treated him, so he treated them.

So, the ultimate result of God’s wrath and refusal to listen to his wayward people was to remove them from the portion of creation that he had carved out especially for them.

14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not.

Thus the land [was/had become/was left so] desolate [after/behind] them, [that/so that] no man [passed through/was crossing through/could come] nor [returned/returning/go]:

[for/This is how] they [laid/made] the [pleasant/fruitful/choice] land [desolate/a waste].

And this last verse gets to the reason that these Jews had to come and ask the question they asked at the beginning of this chapter.

They came to ask the Lord if they should keep fasting in the fifth month. Why were they fasting in the fifth month? It’s because that’s when Babylon came – around 70 years previous to this – and they destroyed Jerusalem and sent the Jews out of their land.

That’s what God is talking about here! Sending his people out of their land and leaving the land desolate because of their sin.

And we mentioned already that this all happened because of God’s wrath. Constant and persistent disobedience to God’s commands to love one another brings God’s wrath especially to those who claim to be God’s people.

But for those of us who are God’s people through faith in his son, Jesus Christ, we have this wonderful word of assurance in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The message of Scripture is that we are terrible sinners – all of us. We do not love God and we do not love our neighbor. And because of this, wrath is coming on the sons of disobedience.

Who are the sons of disobedience? Everyone. Because everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s unique moral perfection.

So, wrath is coming on everyone… unless, God has appointed you to salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ! He willingly suffered the penalty for my and your stubborn unwillingness to obey God’s reasonable commands.

And everyone is now welcomed to be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus Christ. Whoever wants to may come. It’s like John 3:36 says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” It’s as simple as that. Believe in Jesus Christ and you have life that never ends.

But the alternative is in the second part of that verse, “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Two choices face all of us. The default is God’s wrath for our sin. The second merciful glorious choice is to put your full faith in God’s Son and receive eternal life.

The Jews of the Old Testament opted for the former choice. They would rather remain in their sin than believe God’s promises and submissively respond to his commands. And so, wrath came on them as an example for us.

And all of this so far in Zechariah 7 has been relatively negative for the Jews who came to ask the priests and prophets this question about fasting. They have been reminded how their ancestors had not loved God and had not loved their fellow man and so, they received wrath from God.

But – true to the nature of this book of Zechariah – there is hope! For the very next section says this – “KJV Zechariah 8:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. 3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.”

So, things were bad because of the people’s sins. But God isn’t finished with them. And he’s going to show mercy to them once more. And so, we’ll hear more about God’s merciful return to his people next time.

Zechariah 7 Commentary Verses 1-7

Zechariah 7 Commentary Verses 1-7: Let’s turn our attention to the 7th chapter of the book of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah 7 begins a new section in this book. Up to this point, Zechariah started his book with a message from the Lord commanding the Jews to turn to him so that he might turn to them. Well, they turned, so he turned as well.

And part of that turning of God to his people has been all of those visions that he gave them in the first 6 chapters of this book.

But today in chapter 7 we start into new material. Because all of chapters 7 and 8 are one section in which some Jews ask Zechariah a question and then the Lord answers the question with four separate responses through his prophet Zechariah.

So, let’s read the section that we’ll cover today – verses 1-7 of Zechariah, chapter 7.

[Read Zec 7:1-7…]

Zechariah 7 Commentary: The Introduction (7:1-3a)

Now, let’s just notice this first verse once more. It serves to introduce this section of chapters 7 and 8…

KJV Zechariah 7:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, [even in/which is] [Chisleu/Chislev/Kislev];

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Fourth Year of Darius

Now, there are a number of events in the Old Testament associated with this king mentioned in verse 1. But of all of those events, what we have here in the 7th chapter of Zechariah is the latest.

When Darius became king of Babylon or Medo-Persia, finally the Jews were able to start rebuilding their temple. It seems that the coming of this king allowed for the work on the temple in Jerusalem to start back up again – and until he was king the work had been hindered and abandoned.

We see mention of temple activity start back up again under the reign of Darius in that some priests were registered or recorded in his days as king.

It was actually in the first year of King Darius that Daniel the prophet – who was over in Babylon as Zechariah was in Israel – well, Daniel offered his now-famous prayer that caused the Lord to respond with his prophecy of the 70 Weeks.

The prophet Haggai gave three prophecies in the 2nd year of King Darius.

And the prophet whose book we’re now studying has already given two prophecies himself in he second year of this king.

And so now in this chapter we start to see material that is given the latest in the reign of King Darius. At this point we’re not in Darius’ first year or second year. But we’ve come to the fourth year of his reign. And it seems that this is actually the last we hear of this king in the Old Testament.

So, the setting to this section is that we’re in Year 4; Month 9; Day 4 of this Persian king.

And here’s what happened at that time in Zechariah’s life.

2 [When/Now] [they/the people of] [had sent unto/sent] [the house of God/Bethel] Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their [men/companions], to [pray before/seek the favor of/entreat] the LORD,

Zechariah 7 Commentary: House of God/Bethel

Now, this is saying either that people sent these men to “the house of God” or it’s saying that the people of “Bethel” sent these men – depending on the translation you have in front of you.

And this confusion is due to the fact that “Beth-El” translates literally as “House of God.” “Beth” is “house” in Hebrew and “El” is a word to address deity.

So, some translations say, “house of God” and others say “Bethel.”

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Sherezer and Regemmelech

Well, whatever translation you favor, the idea is still the same. There are these two men along with their entourage that are being sent by someone to seek God’s guidance on some matter.

And by the way, we don’t know anything else about these two men mentioned here. There are no references to them outside of this verse in Scripture.

So, these men are sent to seek the Lord. And we see next that they are being sent in order to ask a question to certain people.

3 [And to speak unto/speaking to/by asking] the priests [which were in/who belong to/of] the [house/temple] of the LORD [of hosts/WHO RULES OVER ALL/Almighty], and to the prophets, saying,

The content of their question comes up in the rest of this verse.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Priests and Prophets

But right now, we just need to realize that these men are sent to the priests and prophets in Jerusalem. They have a question of a religious nature and so, in Old Testament times, who else do you go to for advice on such matters but priests and prophets?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: In the House of the Lord

And these priests are in the house of the Lord or are in some other way affiliated with the temple.

Now, the reality is that the temple was not yet totally finished. We learn from Ezra 5:11 that the temple was completed in the 6th year of Darius in about 516 BC. And do you remember what year we’re in at this point in Zechariah 7? We’re in the 4th year of Darius – which would be around 518 BC. So, the temple is not yet completed at this point. How much of it was done? I don’t know. I’m guessing that a decent amount of the temple was finished.

But however much of the temple was there or not, these priests had their headquarters stationed around the temple complex. And that’s where these visiting Jews that have come with a question for them – this is where they find these men.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: The Jews’ Question (7:3b)

So, what’s their question? Here it is in the rest of verse 3.

[Should/Shall] [I/we] [weep/mourn] in the fifth month, [separating myself/and abstain/fasting/and fast], as I have done [these so many/these many/over the] years?

So, these men want to know – should they mourn and fast / weep and separate themselves in the fifth month?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Fifth Month

Now, what month are we in in this chapter? According to verse 1, we’re in the 9th month. So, these men are looking forward about 8 months and wondering if they ought to weep and fast in that month.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Fasting

So, the question that should immediately come to your mind is… Why are these men fasting in the 5th month? And why have they been doing this for so long? They say they’ve been doing this for “these so many years.” Why?

Well, a review of Jeremiah chapter 52 reveals that the 5th month was the very month in which Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. They burned the temple to the ground. And that all happened in the 5th month way back about 68 years prior to Zechariah 7.

And so, apparently the Jews as they were in exile in Babylon adopted this practice of fasting and mourning in the 5th month of the year. They were remembering year after year the destruction of their special city, Jerusalem. They were remembering the sin that had led to that destruction. And their response – at least the response of those who were more noble among them – was to be sad and to be so sad that they couldn’t eat.

Have you ever been there? To be so sad that you can’t even eat? And you’re just pouring out your bitterness to the Lord? And at the same time, you’re aware that your own sin has brought this sorrow to you. That’s where these Jews had been for almost 70 years – especially when the anniversary of the destruction of their city rolled around.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Should I?

So, why do they ask if they should keep doing this? Why would they even think that this practice should perhaps be halted?

Well, think of what’s going on at this time in their lives. The very city that had been invaded and destroyed by Babylon has been in the process of being rebuilt! And the Babylonians have sent these very people back to the very city that they once destroyed.

Also, consider that a central part of the rebuilding of Jerusalem had to do with rebuilding their temple. And at this point in history the Jews are apparently about 1 ½ to 2 years away from this temple being completely rebuilt.

And so, it makes sense for the Jews to wonder if they still ought to mourn and weep and fast – all commemorating the destruction of this place that is now almost completely rebuilt!

I mean, it’s like Mary and Martha and Lazarus. The sisters are weeping while their brother is dead. But when Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead… How inappropriate would it have been for Mary and Martha to keep weeping? When your dead loved one is raised from the dead, there’s no more cause for weeping!

And so, with the Jews of Zechariah’s day, they are wondering if they ought to keep weeping and mourning and fasting to remember the destruction of this city which in their days was being basically “resurrected.”

So, that’s their question. Should we keep commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem in the 5th month of the year?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: God’s Response

And God responds to the Jews’ question with four answers that take up the remaining material from here in verse 4 clear through to the end of chapter 8.

So, let show you how I’m getting four responses. Each response begins with this phrase “the word of the Lord came.”

Look at the very next verse – chapter 7, verse 4. “Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me.” And from there to verse 7 you have God’s first response to these people’s question.

Then look at verse 8 of chapter 7 – “And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah.” And so, from there to the end of chapter 7 you have God’s second response.

Look at chapter 8 and verse 1. “Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me.” And from verse 1 to verse 17 you have God’s third response to these people’s question about fasting.

And last, look at chapter 8, verse 18. “And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me.” And from there to the end of chapter 8 you have God’s last response.

OK – so, four responses over these two chapters to this one question of whether these people ought to continue fasting and mourning in order to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem about 70 years prior to this point in history.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: God’s First Response (7:4-7)

So, let’s look at God’s first response to this question. Verse 4 again.

4 Then came the word of the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] unto me, saying,

5 [Speak/Say/Ask this question] unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, [saying/as follows],

So, God is going to respond to their question with his own question.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Unto All the People

And he wants this question to go not just to those who asked. He doesn’t even want his question limited to the priests and prophets who had been approached by these men. No – the Lord wanted all of the people of the land to hear his question to them.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: The People’s Fasting was and is Self-Centered

And now we’ll get into the question itself. What does God want to ask these people that in some way is going to serve as an answer to their question about fasting and mourning in light of the destruction of Jerusalem?

Well, the Lord is going to probe the nature of this fasting that these people are engaged in.

God responds to them by pointing out that their fasting (or their abstaining from eating) – and even their engaging in eating – is all self-centered. And he goes on to state that this is what these people had been condemned for for a long time by the earlier prophets.

That’s a summary of God’s response. So, now let’s get into the details of the end of verse 5 to verse 7.

Now, first we see the Lord calling these people to account for their selfishness even in these religious rituals of theirs.

When ye fasted and [mourned/lamented] in the fifth and seventh month, [even those/these/through all these/of the past] seventy years, [did ye at all fast unto me, even to me/was it actually for me that you fasted/did you truly fast for me-for me indeed]?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: For Me?

And of course, the answer that God is expecting is a negative – “no, we have not really been fasting for you.” The Jews had then been apparently engaged in more of what the prophets of old condemned them for. They had been clinging to ritual without the heart reality to go along with it.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Ill: Church Attendance

And this is so easy to happen for God’s people. Let me ask you – why are you at church today? It’s a Sunday and here you and I are in a building that calls itself a church. And of course, we trust that a local expression of Christ’s body is indeed here in our midst and that we – the people who have been born-again through faith in Jesus Christ – that we make up this church.

And at our best, our answer is going to include wanting to worship the Lord. We’re going to say that we want to be a blessing to his people. We might even be so sophisticated in our theological knowledge that we say that we want to follow the New Testament pattern of assembling with believers in Christ on the first day of the week – and so, here we are!

Those are good answers. They are the correct answers. And yet, I think that we can acknowledge that sometimes those answers that we give for why we assemble on Sundays – we know they’re true – but that maybe it not what’s really in our hearts.

When it comes down to it, people all across the world are in churches for various reasons. A person who shows up at church could be there to look good. To look moral. Even though inwardly there is gross immorality, at least if you show up at church you can feel a little better about yourself. A person might show up at a church because – well – that’s just what my family has been doing for years or it’s just what I’ve been doing for years and it’s a comfortable routine at this point.

But those reasons don’t cut it. If you or I are assembled here today because of those or other selfish reasons that I haven’t mentioned, then we might be holding to some external ritual that the Lord even commands. But there’s not internal reality that fuels the ritual.

For these Jews, there was nothing wrong with fasting. God commends the practice in both Old and New Testaments. There’s nothing wrong with the practice of withholding food from yourself.

The problem was – and is in our day as well – when people practice religious rituals without the corresponding internal realities behind those rituals.

So, keep coming to church. But make sure that your reason for being here is right – that it’s not selfish and self-gratifying and self-glorifying. Or you might get a rebuke like this from the Lord.

OK, so the Jews’ fasting in the 5th and 7th months were selfish. They weren’t for the Lord.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Seventh Month

And by the way, did you notice that the Jews didn’t mention the 7th month – but the Lord did?

Now, the fast of the 5th month is a little easier to understand. But the reference to an additional fast in the 7th month is a little more difficult to identify.

I think that the best explanation of why the Jews were fasting in the 7th month is that according to Jeremiah 41:1 this was the month in which Ishmael – who was a royal heir – attacked and murdered Gedaliah who was the governor of the Jews after Babylon came in and destroyed Jerusalem.

From there you might recall that Ishmael basically kidnapped all the remaining Jews and tried to take them to another country. Then one of the Jewish leaders fought Ishmael. Ishmael fled. And then, against God’s will, the people who liberated the Jews from Ishmael brought them down into Egypt.

It was a total disaster. Disobedience on every side.

Ishmael’s antics and what followed was all a great national tragedy that was closely associated with the destruction of Jerusalem. And so, apparently, the Jews were mourning both of those events – the destruction of Jerusalem and the kidnapping-then-liberation-then-exile of the remaining Jews into Egypt.

And God says that in these seventy or so years that passed between those events and now, the ritual had become rote. The Jews were not fasting to be noticed by the Lord and answered.

But it’s not just their fasting – their abstaining from food – that’s been selfish. Their eating – their partaking of food – also has been full of self with a general disregard of the Lord.

6 [And when/When/And now when] [ye did eat, and when ye did drink/you eat and drink], [did not ye/do you not] eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: For Yourselves

The point seems to be that especially before Zechariah and Haggai came and started preaching to these Jews, they had all been engaged in life as usual.

Now, these Jews were not sent to live life for themselves, but rather to do God’s work. They were supposed to be building the temple. They were commissioned by man (the Persian king) and by God to go do this.

But they became discouraged. There was opposition. So, the work went undone for some 16 years.

In that time – yes – these people had been eating and drinking and fasting – all for themselves. They were not living life with a regard for the Lord and his will and his plans and his purpose in this world. In New Testament terminology, these people had not been “seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” They were merely engaged in “all these things” that Jesus promises to give us as we’re seeking first God’s interests.

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Seeking First God’s Kingdom

So, let me ask you – are you seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness? Let’s put it this way – what does God have you here for? Why does he have you in the house that you’re in? Why did he lead you to the work that you’re doing? Why are you and I in the cities that we find ourselves in?

Does God have us in these places so that we can make a name for ourselves? Did God put you where you are to punch the clock and to get your pay and to spend your money on living a pleasant life – ONLY? Is that all that this life is about? To live the American Dream?

Or has God put you and me where we are and when we are in order to influence various people around us for Christ? Hasn’t the Lord given you your paycheck in order to provide the needs of your family and the needs of others and the needs of his church? The money that he puts into your bank account and the time that he gives you and the family he’s given you and the acquaintances and the friends and all of these things – he wants you and me to use them – to do business with them for his kingdom.

And he’s going to have us give a report to him on how we’ve used these things in this life. Has it all been spent selfishly – your time and money and talents? Or have you and I been serving the Lord with these things? That will be determined at the judgement.

And for now, we still have time. Let’s not be found to be in the situation that these Jews are being accused of here – where everything they do is done with no thought about the Lord. Brethren, our lives are not our own. We’ve been bought with a price. And the only fair payback – that doesn’t even get close to a full repayment – is that we give our lives to the one who gave his life for us.

Now, this message that God is giving the Jews is not something new. No, in fact the preceding rebuke is just what these people have heard before from the earlier prophets. That’s what the Lord says in verse 7.

7 [Should ye not hear/Are not these/Should you not have obeyed]the words which the LORD [hath cried/proclaimed/cried out] [by/through] the [former/earlier] prophets, when Jerusalem was [inhabited and in prosperity/inhabited and prosperous/peacefully inhabited/at rest and prosperous], and the cities thereof round about her, [when men inhabited/and were inhabited/and were populated] the [south/Negev] and the [plain/foothills/Shephelah/western foothills]?

Zechariah 7 Commentary: Former Prophets

So, it’s not as if the Lord is dropping any new revelation on these people in a way. This kind of message, rebuking the people’s selfishness is what they’d been hearing for hundreds of years prior to the Lord giving them this message through Zechariah.

You might recall that in Isaiah 58 the Lord there criticizes the way in which the Jews had been fasting. Their fasting was selfish. Sounds like a familiar charge, doesn’t it?

Isaiah said that the Jews sought their own pleasure when they fasted. They got into fistfights on such days out of their own competing selfishness. That was not the kind of fast that the Lord wanted. And this is something that the Lord revealed somewhere around 300 years before Zechariah’s message here.

There’s also the reference in Amos 5 where the Lord rhetorically asks the Jews if they were sacrificing to him those 40 years they were wandering in the wilderness. And then he answers his own question by revealing that the Jews had been worshipping false gods when they were in the wilderness.

So, these are a few examples of “former” or “earlier” prophets that had said about the same things as what God is now saying through Zechariah.

The Jews’ religious rituals had been tainted by their own selfishness. It wasn’t about the God that they claimed to worship or seek as they fasted. What they were doing was removed from any internal heart reality.

And so, this is how God begins to respond to the Jews. They ask if they should keep fasting and mourning. And God declares that up to this point, their most sincere religious exercises have been done of out selfishness. In other words, God says, “I’m not impressed with what you’ve been doing.”

But, that’s only one-fourth of his total answer. Next time we’ll see him add more to his response.

Zechariah 6 Commentary: Verses 9-15

Let’s turn our attention once more to the 6th chapter of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah.

There’s no question that Zechariah 6 contains the last vision given to this prophet. The problem is determining which of the two visions in this chapter are indeed the “last” vision.

Was the vision that we studied last time with the chariots and the two bronze mountains – was that the last vision? Some people think so.

Or is the last vision in this book within the material that we’re going to study today? I have personally come to think that this material today is the last vision in this book.

So, let’s read Zechariah 6:9-15 and then I’ll try to show why I think that this is the last vision rather than what we had last time.

[Read Zec 6:9-15…]

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 9

So, let’s read verse 9 one more time in order to see one reason I think this section is the last vision in this book.

KJV Zechariah 6:9 ¶ [And the/The] word of the LORD [came/also came] [unto/to] [me, saying,/me as follows:/me:]

There it is. Here’s one reason I think this is the last vision – this phrase in verse 9.

Because we see this exact phrase in Zechariah 4:8, which is a continuation of the vision of the olive trees and the golden menorah. So, this section that we’re studying today is possibly a continuation of the last vision about the chariots and their horses and the two bronze mountains.

Or maybe this section is simply a continuation of all of the visions that we’ve been receiving from Zechariah so far. But however it works, this wording in verse 9 lends credibility to the idea that verses 9-15 are the last vision in this book.

But there’s another factor that leads us to believe that this is the last vision in this book. And that is this – there are three time references in this book that seem to split up the material.

We have the first time reference in chapter 1 verse 1. You can look there if you’d like and maybe even note it somehow. But in Zechariah 1:1 we’re told that the date is the 8th month of the Persian king Darius’ second year. And it’s at that point that God gave a message to all the returned Jews in Israel that if they turn to him, he will turn to them. So, that was a pretty straightforward prophecy and it was introduced by this first time reference that we see in this book.

The second time reference is just a few verses later in chapter 1, verse 7. In Zechariah 1:7 the date given is still Darius’ second year. But it’s now the 24th day of the 11th month. And it’s at that time that God decided to send these visions to the prophet Zechariah – which is the section we’ve been in now for around four months.

And that leads us to the third and last time reference in this book – the reference that is going to end the visionary material. And you know what? That reference is not found in verse 9 of Zechariah 6. It’s not found in verse 10 or 11. Actually, it’s not found anywhere in this chapter.

Where the last time reference is found is after verse 15 – in chapter 7. It’s there in Zechariah 7:1 where we’re taken about a year or two past the time reference of these visions into the 4th year of Darius in the 9th month and the 4th day of that month.

So, for these reasons in my estimation, we’re still in visionary material as we study the last verses of Zechariah 6. Verse 9 is using wording that we’ve seen already in these visions so far and the next time reference that lets us know that we’re in a different section doesn’t appear until after we’re done with chapter 6.

So, hopefully we’re all convinced that what we’ll be studying now is a vision. And if not, maybe it will become clearer as we go along in this message.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 10

So, here’s how this vision starts – with a commandment to Zechariah – verse 10.

10 [Take of them of the/Take an offering from/Choose some people from among the/Take silver and gold from the] [captivity/exiles], even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, [which are come/when they have arrived/all of whom have come/who have arrived] from Babylon,

and [come thou the same day, and/you go the same day and/when you have done so] [go into/enter/go to] the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;

So, Zechariah is commanded to take some of the Jews who had returned from exile in Babylon. Three of them, actually – and we’re given their names.

And then when Zechariah gathers these men – I’m assuming in his vision and not actually in real life – then the four of them are supposed to go visit this last man mentioned named Josiah.

So, this verse ends picturing these five men gathered in this one house now.

Now, the fact that Zechariah is commanded to do something in this section might make you wonder if this is a vision. But we need to remember that Zechariah has been commanded to do things before in these visions. Zechariah has been commanded to “proclaim” (Zec 1:14,17), to lift up his eyes (Zec 5:5), and to see (Zec 6:8).

In fact – and this is a rather obscure point of Hebrew grammar for most of us – but this word “take” in Hebrew is actually not even technically an imperative. It’s an infinitive. So, verse 9 into verse 10 reads like this, “And the word of Yahweh came to me to say to take…

And I know that’s too much information in some ways – but I’m just trying to answer a question I had when I read this – I asked myself whether God would issue a command to Zechariah in a vision – or if the fact that God is commanding Zechariah something means that this is in real life now. Again, I’m just trying to discern whether this is indeed a vision or not.

And the answer to that question is that yes God has given Zechariah commands in these visions before and that actually this is not technically a command in Hebrew anyway.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 11

Well, here’s what these men are supposed to do when they’re there in Josiah’s house in this vision.

11 [Then take/Take/And thou shalt take(LXX)] [<– Not an imperative, but a perfect] [silver/some silver/the silver] and gold, [and make/make/to make] [<– Not an imperative, but a perfect] [crowns/an ornate crown/a crown],

So, these men bring silver and gold along with bringing themselves to this house. And if the silver and gold aren’t brought by these men, then perhaps these precious metals are just there at this house. And if this is a vision then I guess that makes sense – it’s not unusual for things to just all of a sudden “be there” in a vision.

So, however these five men have this gold and silver, they’re supposed to make crowns or perhaps just one crown, depending on how you translate the verse.

Now, let me ask you – do you know how to make a crown? If someone were to give you gold and silver, would you be able to make a crown?

Well, I’ll tell you that I’m pretty proud of my crown-making abilities. This winter, my in-laws came, and we exchanged a few presents. Well, one of the things my mother-in-law got us was a package of colored pipe cleaners. Wouldn’t you know it – I fashioned several of those pipe cleaners into a rather marvelous crown. I have pictures to prove it!

Alright, so I can make a decent crown out of colored pipe cleaners. But I can assure you that I would make a royal mess of crafting a crown out of silver and gold.

And I’m guessing that Zechariah would have been in the same boat. He’s a prophet and priest – he’s not a silversmith. Now, maybe the three men he brought to Josiah’s house were craftsmen or maybe Josiah himself was. I don’t know because we’re not told.

If this is not a vision, then these men probably would need to be silver smiths. If it is a vision, it doesn’t matter what they are or what they are able to do.

So, these men fashion a crown. And here’s what they’re supposed to do with it.

and [set/thou shalt put] [<– Not an imperative, but a perfect] [them/it] [upon/on] the head of [Joshua/Jesus(LXX)] the son of [Josedech/Jehozadak], the high priest;

So, Zechariah and these four men are to take the crown they crafted and put it on the head of Joshua the High Priest.

I guess they were supposed to find him wherever he was.

And once more if this is a vision then perhaps in the vision, Joshua is just right there in the house with them all of a sudden. Or maybe they needed to go to the Temple with that crown.

I’m just trying to picture what this would look like.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 12

Well, whatever the case, the crowning of Joshua the High Priest was to be accompanied with a message which starts in verse 12.

12 [And speak (perfect) unto him, saying,/Then say to him,/Tell him/and thou shalt say to him,]

[Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying,/’Thus says the LORD of hosts,/’The LORD who rules over all says,/this is what the LORD Almighty says:]

Here’s the message for Joshua through Zechariah from the Lord of Hosts…

[Behold/Look—Here is/Here is] [the/a] man whose name is [The BRANCH;/Branch]

[and he/for He/who] [shall/will] [grow up/branch/sprout up/spring up] [out of/out from/from] [his place,/where He is/his stem(LXX)]

and [he shall build/He will build/build] the [temple/house(LXX)] of the LORD:

So, Zechariah is supposed to look at Joshua the High Priest and declare that he is the Branch. And this designation as we’ve seen before is used in the book of Jeremiah of this one who would be the perfect King of Israel. And this is the individual whom Zechariah is supposed to identify Joshua as.

But Joshua is Joshua. He’s not the Branch – literally. He’s a high priest who under the Old Testament system will never be king.

So, something unusual is happening in this vision. We’re led to believe that the one whom Joshua is being identified as is not really at all who Joshua is. And yet, Joshua – this priest who is now wearing a crown in this vision – is supposed to somehow represent this one who was to come who is known in Scripture as the Branch.

Interestingly, this term Branch is translated into Greek as anatole. That’s the word that Zacharias – the father of John the Baptist in the New Testament – he uses this word in Luke 1:78 to describe whom John was to prepare the way for. So, we get a hint here that the Branch is actually Jesus Christ himself!

Well, we’re told that Jesus Christ – the Branch – the one who is being represented by Joshua the High Priest – whose name in Greek is “Jesus” by the way – well, Jesus Christ is going to build the Temple.

And of course, there’s a sense in which Joshua the High Priest built the Temple in Zechariah’s day. So, there’s a double fulfillment, it seems.

You have God speaking to Joshua and encouraging him that he will rebuild the Temple in his day. But you also have God saying that Joshua represents a coming figure – whom we now know to be Jesus Christ – and Jesus Christ will build the Temple as well.

And Jesus has not yet built the Temple, so this is something we can expect that he will do – probably after the Tribulation.

And until he does rebuild that physical temple, we’re reminded of what the New Testament says of us believers in Christ – that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Each of us individually is and all of us altogether are.

How’s your personal temple doing? Is the temple of your body filled with idols like it was in Israel in the days of the idolatrous King Manasseh? Or is it clean and pure as God intends it to be?

And how is the temple of this corporately assembled body? Are we all together walking in holiness and purity? Or does God need to do some cleansing of his temple? …

Well, Joshua was to be crowned with this silver and gold crown and then Zechariah was to proclaim that we should behold the Branch who will build the Temple. And there’s some ambiguity as to whom this is referring – to Christ or to Joshua the High Priest.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 13

But, in verse 13 there’s no question that the focus shifts from Joshua the High Priest to the coming Messiah.

13 [Even he/Yes, it is He who/Indeed, he/It is he who] [shall/will] build the temple of the LORD;

OK, we heard that before…

and he [shall bear/who will bear/will be clothed in (or with)] [the glory/the honor/splendor/majesty],

Well, I suppose that’s something that would be somewhat appropriate for a man. But you’d almost expect that kind of glory to be reserved for deity…

But this next statement is not speaking of Joshua, the mere human High Priest…

[and shall sit/and sit/sitting/and will sit] [and rule/as king] [upon/on] his throne;

Whoa! So, Joshua is going to sit on a throne? Joshua never sat on a throne. Never. He was a human Jewish priest. And priests – as its been pointed out – never sat when they worked. They certainly never sat on a throne. Kings do that – not priests.

And that’s where the prophet Jeremiah’s statements about this one known as the Branch come into play. The Branch as far as Jeremiah was told would be a king – the perfect king of Israel.

But now here in Zechariah we finally get a more rounded picture of Jesus Christ. He would be king – yes. But he’s also a priest. He’s a priest that will rebuild the temple and sit on the throne. He is king and priest. He rules and he mediates.

The Old Testament High Priest Joshua never filled both offices of priest and king. But the man whom he represents in this vision – the Branch – Jesus Christ – he will.

And the Lord reiterates this startling proclamation…

[and/Thus/Moreover] [he shall/he will/there will] be a priest [upon/on/with him on (NET)] his throne:

So, it’s almost as if there are two people on one throne – a priest and a king. But there’s only one – and because of that there will be total unity between those two offices in this one person the Branch – Jesus Christ, our Messiah…

and the counsel of peace [shall/will] be between [them both/the two offices]. [i.e., and they will see eye to eye on everything./And there will be harmony between the two.’]

But as we know, this did not happen in Zechariah’s life time. Jesus the Messiah the Branch did not come right away. He came a few hundred years later.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 14

And so, the Jews would need a reminder of this promise of the coming Branch who would rule and mediate for his people. And that’s why we have what we have in verse 14.

14 [And the/Now the/The] [crowns/crown] [shall/will] [be/become/be turned over/be given] to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, [for/as] a [memorial/reminder] in the temple of the LORD.

Now, two of the names in this verse are different from the people we were first introduced to originally. Heldai from back in verse 10 is now Helem. And Josiah from verse 10 is now Hen.

There are two possible explanations for that.

First, it’s not uncommon for people in the Old Testament to have a few different names or ways to identify them.

It’s not quite the same, but in my family we each have several different names we go by. I could be speaking to my one son by name or I could speak to Bearster, for example. Or maybe I’d address the other son or equally valid I could address Sonny. I could speak to Lori or to Momma or to Dear. And of course, I have no nickname. 😊 Anyway, this could be happening here in this passage – these two men could have different names that they go by.

Second though, maybe Helem is really a different person than Heldai and Hen is a different person than Josiah. In this case, perhaps the Lord just wants different people who will work in the completed Temple that Joshua was going to finish to be involved in memorializing this promise that God is making.

So, whoever is in view, these men are supposed to take this crown that was presented to Joshua and to place it in the Temple as a way for people to remember that one day the Branch would come as king and priest.

If this is indeed a vision, then that crown was not actually placed in the physical temple when it was constructed.

But if this isn’t a vision – and this consideration more than any other makes me want this to not be a vision – then it’s an interesting thought that this crown would have still been there when Zacharias – the father of John the Baptist – went in to the Temple to burn incense in Luke 1.

Zechariah 6 Commentary Verse 15

Well, the Lord has three last things to say about the rebuilding of this temple by the Branch in verse 15.

15 ¶ [And they that are/Those who are/Then those who are] far [off/away] [shall/will] come and [build/help to build] [in the/the] temple of the LORD,

This is probably a reference to the scattered Jews returning to build the Temple with Jesus Christ. After the Tribulation, all the Jews will be gathered together to Israel and will rebuild the Temple with their king and priest Jesus Christ.

And at that point all of the Jews will have no question as to Jesus’ identity.

[and/Then/so that] [ye/you] [shall/will/may] know that the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [hath/has] sent me [unto/to] you.

The Lord has sent the Lord. God the Father has sent God the Son. The Jews to this day doubt that God sent Jesus. They will doubt no longer when he comes according to this prophecy.

And last, there’s a condition for this to happen.

[And this/And it/This all] [shall/will] [come to pass/take place/happen], if [ye/you] [will diligently/completely] obey [the voice of the/the] LORD your God.

So, Jesus will come when the Jews diligently obey the voice of the Lord their God. … We might have to wait a long, long time, right?

Because the Jews of Jesus’ day were not obedient. They were self-righteous to the point that they killed God. Fortunately, God cannot remain dead – so Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. But, the Jews of Jesus’ day were not ready for him to rebuild the Temple.

What about the Jews of our day? Are they ready? I’m afraid not – they’re hardened against the Lord – although there is a remnant that does believe in their Messiah. Yet, almost all of them would not be characterized as diligently or completely obeying the voice of the Lord their God.

Do you know when this condition will be met? When the Jews are surrounded on all sides by enemies and they have absolutely no hope of survival. But just then, Jesus Christ returns and destroys their enemies and rescues them – his people! That is when the Jews will finally obey the voice of the Lord their God – of Jesus their Messiah.

May the Lord hasten that day! Come, Lord Jesus.

Zechariah 6 Commentary: Verses 1-8

Today we’ll be entering into the sixth chapter of the Old Testament minor prophet Zechariah. So, let’s turn our attention there to Zechariah, chapter 6. 

And when we open to this chapter, we see what is possibly the last of Zechariah’s night visions. There might be one more after this one, but at the very least, we’re getting toward the end of the visions. 

And so, let’s read Zechariah 6:1-8 and then we’ll get into the details of each verse. 

[Read Zec 6:1-8…

What Zechariah Sees | 1 

So, to begin this vision, Zechariah describes for us what he sees in verse 1. 

KJV Zechariah 6:1 ¶ [And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked,/Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked,/Once more I looked,/I looked up again–] and, [behold,/this time I saw/there before me were]  

[there came four chariots out/four chariots were coming forth/four chariots emerging/four chariots coming out] from between [two/the two] mountains;  

and the mountains were mountains of [brass/bronze]. 

Four chariots 

So, in this book of Zechariah we saw four horns in one of the visions. Those horns were being pursued by four craftsmen or smiths. We’ve also had the Lord declare that he had scattered the Jews to the four winds of heaven – to every direction on earth. 

And now here in this vision we have four chariots. 

Now, this mention of chariots reminds us of Habakkuk 3:8 where that prophet states that the Lord has horses that he rides on and chariots of salvation. And we’re going to see in this passage that these chariots have horses and that they are indeed the Lord’s. And I think that we’ll also see that these chariot are definitely chariots of salvation – of help – for God’s people the Jews. 

Coming from between 

Now, these chariots are doing something. Zechariah sees that they “came out.” That’s the action that we saw the basket doing in our last vision. That’s what the flying scroll was doing. These chariots are going out just like those other items. 

Two bronze mountains 

And they’re performing this action of “going out” from between two bronze mountains. The chariots are apparently behind those two mountains as the vision starts and then they come out from behind them and become visible to the prophet in his vision. 

So, picture this. Four chariots come driving out from between two mountains. And these mountains aren’t made of dirt and grass and trees. They’re made of this hard solid material we call bronze – which in the world of the Old Testament was one of the hardest materials available. 

Color of Horse Associated with Each Chariot | 2-3 

And so, with that much of the scene presented to us, we now have Zechariah explain for us that these chariots are led by multiple horses – each of a different color. 

2 [In the/With the/Harnessed to the/The] first chariot [were/had] red horses;  

[and in/with/to] the second chariot black horses; 

3 [And in/with/to] the third chariot white horses;  

and [in/with/to] the fourth chariot [grisled and bay horses./strong dappled horses./spotted horses, all of them strong./dappled– all of them powerful./piebald and ash-coloured horses.] 

In the X Chariot 

Now, we need to note first of all that the KJV’s rendering of these verses might cause some confusion to modern English readers. The KJV tells us that these horses are “in” these chariots. And the picture I get when I read that is one in which there are four chariots and each chariot is carrying numerous horses.  

But that’s not what’s happening in this vision. Rather, the horses are pulling these chariots. So, rather than “in the chariot” the better translation would be “with the chariot.” The idea is that these horses are harnessed to each of these four chariots. 

First Vision 

Now, we’ve seen something similar to this scene before. Not identical – but similar. In the first vision we saw back in Zechariah 1 we had the Angel of the Lord on a red horse and then we were introduced to more red horses, sorrel/speckled horses, and white horses. 

Similarities 

So, this vision is similar in at least three ways. 

First, in both visions, red horses are introduced first. 

Second, there are white horses in both this vision and in the that first vision in chapter 1.  

And third, depending on how it’s translated, that first vision featured either “sorrel” or “speckled” horses. And here in this last vision we have that last group of horses as either grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald horses.  

So, those are the similarities so far between this vision and the first one. 

Differences 

But there are also at least three differences between this vision and that first one.  

First of all, there are black horses in this vision whereas that color was not mentioned in the first vision.  

Second, the Angel of the Lord does not appear in this last vision.  

Third, there are chariots in this vision, where there were simply horses – and presumably their riders – in that first vision. 

So, you can see similarities and differences between this vision and the first one. 

Summary 

So, in this vision we’re seeing multiple horses with each chariot – they’re harnessed to each of these four chariots. 

Chariot 1: Red horses 

Chariot 2: Black horses 

Chariot 3: White horses 

Chariot 4: Spotted and strong horses 

Zechariah Asks Angel What These Are | 4 

Well, you might guess what happens next based on what we’ve seen numerous times before in this book. Zechariah sees something and describes it. And then he wants to know… what is it?! And that’s what he asks in verse 4. 

4 [Then I/I/And I] [answered and said unto/spoke and said to/asked] the [angel/angelic messenger] [that/who] [talked/was speaking] [with/to] me,  

What are these, [my lord/sir]? 

And once more, we’ll notice that on some level Zechariah knows what these are. He’s already identified and described them for us. They’re four chariots with four colors of horses that are harnessed to each chariot and they’re coming out from between two bronze mountains. 

And yet, that doesn’t satisfy Zechariah’s curiosity. He wants to know why God is feeding him this vision. What is the significance of these chariots and horses and mountains? 

Angel Answers 

And throughout this book a few times the angel has almost sort of chided the prophet for revealing his ignorance in this way. But he doesn’t do that this time. The angel gives Zechariah an immediate answer without probing the prophet’s ignorance. 

5 [And the/The] [angel/messenger] [answered and said unto me/replied to me/replied/answered me],  

These are the four [spirits/winds(LXX)] of the heavens, [which go forth from standing before/going forth after standing before/that have been presenting themselves before/going out from standing in the presence of/and they are going forth to stand before] the Lord of [all the/the whole] [earth/world]. 

Four spirits of the heavens 

So, we’re told that these four chariots are also four spirits or four winds. In fact, they are “the” four spirits or four winds of the heavens. 

What does that mean? 

Well, that phrase “four spirits” (arba ruach) is used in Scripture to speak of scattering nations as a punishment from God. In fact, God said earlier in this book that he scattered Israel to these four spirits or four winds during the Babylonian exile as a punishment. In the book of Jeremiah God says that he will scatter a nation called Elam to these four spirits or four winds. 

So, I believe that this is what’s in view in this passage. There are chariots – the ultimate military weapon of that day. And there are these multiple horses attached to each one. And they’re coming from their strong fortress which consists of two mountains made of some of the strongest stuff on earth! 

It’s a military context. And judgement is in view. And we’ll discover as we go on who this judgement is for. Who will these horses and chariots be visiting to attack them and spread them to the four spirits or winds of heaven in order to execute God’s judgement against them? That will be clear in a little bit. 

Going forth from the Lord 

Now, we can be sure that if this vision is speaking of judgement, then this judgement is coming directly from the Lord. How do we know that? Well, at the end of verse 5 which we just read we saw that these four spirits or winds are coming forth from the Lord’s presence. 

They’re sent on a mission of judgement directly from him. And they’re not wasting any time. 

Now, what we see next is either a continuation of the angel’s explanation of what Zechariah sees concerning the horses and chariots – or it’s Zechariah observing and writing about what he’s seeing after the angel’s brief explanation that equated the chariots to the four spirit of heaven. 

6 [The black horses which are therein/With one of which the black horses/The chariot with the black horses/The one with the black horses] [go forth/are going forth/is going/went out] [into/to/toward] the [north country/land of the north];  

and the [white/white ones] [go forth after them/toward the west(NIV)];  

[and/while/but] the [grisled/dappled ones/spotted ones/piebald] [go forth/are going/went out] [toward/to] the [south country/south/land of the south]. 

Destinations 

So, the angel describes the destination of these horses or spirits or winds. But they’re back to being just horses again in this vision. 

Red Ones? 

Now, we note that he doesn’t mention anything about where the red ones are going. Maybe that’s because the red ones stick around and patrol the area of Israel. We don’t know, because the angel doesn’t say. But that would be my assumption – the red ones are stationed in the land of Israel in this vision. 

But we are told where the other ones go. 

Black to Babylon 

The black horses and the chariot that they’re pulling go to the north. Now the north country or northland or land of the north is constantly spoken of in the book of Jeremiah as being Babylon. And the reason is that when Babylon came they would have had to go north of the desert that separates Babylon from Israel. And so, when Babylon finally arrived in Israel they were coming from the north. 

So, these black horses lead their chariot to Babylon. 

White to Babylon 

Then the white horses are mentioned as going forth after the black horses. I believe that this means that the white horses are pulling their chariot to Babylon as well. 

Grisled/Dappled/Spotted/Piebald Go South 

And then the horses that are described in various translations as either grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald. Apparently, they have some distinctive marks.  

What do the Colors Mean? 

And by the way, while I wish that part of the explanation given included what these colors mean, we are unfortunately left somewhat in the dark about that. Apparently, the Lord doesn’t want us to attach much of any significance to the colors of these horses. Perhaps all he wanted to do was to add variety to this vision and help us identify which horses are going where. 

Can you imagine if the Lord had not included colors in this vision? It would read something like this – “Some horses went north and a few others followed behind them. In addition, the rest of the horses went south.” And while that might still communicate the message, it is rather bland and nondescript.  

So, as I understand it, God gives us these vivid descriptions to get our minds working concerning this vision. 

Back to the Grisled/Dappled/Spotted/Piebald 

OK, so, the grisled/dappled/spotted/piebald horses go south.  

And you might wonder where is south? It might be Egypt. In fact, I think that’s most likely in view. Egypt was still a player on the international scene, even though they were displaced by Babylon as the dominant world power. 

No Reds 

And as I’ve said before, there is no mention of the chariot pulled by the red horses. 

Summary 

So, those three chariots go out. And two of them go to judge Babylon. And one of them goes to judge Egypt. 

Strong Horses | 7 

Now, up to this point, we were told of four horses. We’ve heard of three of them and one has been left out. 

But now in verse 7 we’re going to see that the last group – identified back in verse 3 as “grisled and bay” or “strong dappled” or “spotted horses, all of them strong” or “dappled– all of them powerful” or “piebald and ash-coloured horses” – these horses are not one group – but rather two groups in one. There are the grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald horses in this one last group. And then in that same group there are ones who are bay or strong or particularly powerful horses. 

And these strong ones aren’t content to go to just one geographical location. No, they want to patrol the whole earth. 

7 [And the/When the/All these] [bay/strong ones/powerful horses/ash-colored] [went forth/went out/are scattering], [and sought/they were eager/they have sought permission/they were straining/and looked] to go [that they might walk to and fro through/to patrol/and walk about over/throughout/and compass] the earth:  

So, the strong horses want to go everywhere and see what’s happening in the whole world. 

And so, they’re portrayed as seeking permission to do so. And here’s the response they get. 

[and he/the Lord had] said,  

[Get you hence,/Go!] [walk to and fro through/patrol/Walk about over/throughout/and compass] the earth.  

Now, this is the action of those horses in chapter 1 of this book. They were patrolling the earth or walking all around in it. 

So, here in this vision these strong horses are granted their desire to patrol the whole earth. And so, that’s just what they do. 

[So/And] they [walked to and fro through the earth/patrolled the earth/are doing so/went throughout the earth/compassed the earth]. 

So, we saw the angel allowing the strong horses to go everywhere patrolling the earth. 

Judgement for Babylon 

But that’s not what the Lord wants to end the focus of this vision with. In verse 8, the Lord ends this vision noting what the black horses did in Babylon. 

8 [Then/And] [cried he/he cried out/he called] [upon me, and spake unto me, saying,/to me and spoke saying/to me/and spoke to me, saying,] 

[Behold,/See,/Look!] [these that go/those who are going/The ones going/those going/these go out] [toward/to] the [north country/land of the north/the northland] [have/and they have] [quieted my spirit/appeased My wrath/brought me peace/given my Spirit rest/quieted mine anger] [in/about] the [north country/land of the north/northland]. 

And so, we’ve come full circle with these visions in this book. The very first vision has the Lord expressing his compassion for his people – and a large part of that compassion would have been the destruction of their enemies – Babylon in particular. God said there that he was very angry at those who were oppressing his people. 

And from there, the Lord promised to wave his hand over Babylon and make them a prey – remember that? Then he gave the vision of the horns and the smiths indicating that God was going to judge the oppressors of his people. 

And now here in the very last vision, the Lord reveals that he has sent his judgement to the oppressing nation of Babylon – and of course Persia who took over for them as the oppressors of the Jews. 

The Lord was angry at Babylon. So, he sent his judging and punishing spirits or winds to punish that nation. And so here, toward the end of these visions, the Lord is indicating that he has taken care of the source of his anger – the oppressors of his people. 

And if we know the Lord, we too have the assurance that one day all wrongs will be made right and anyone who oppresses his people will be dealt with. Justice will be done, and God’s wrath will be appeased. 

And those of us who know the Lord through our faith in his Son Jesus Christ can rejoice that while we are fully deserving of God’s righteous wrath – just like others – yet God has saved us – forgiven us – punished his son Jesus Christ in our place. 

Praise the Lord for his perfect justice and forgiveness. 

And so, next time we’ll try to decide whether what we just studied today is the last vision in this book or if we have one last vision to study. 

Zechariah 5 Commentary Verses 5-11

Zechariah 5 Commentary: We’re going to be studying the second vision recorded in the fifth chapter of the book of Zechariah. So, let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 5.

You may recall that in verses 1-4 last time we saw a vision about a flying scroll. And the message that we discovered from that vision was that sins will be dealt with swiftly some day when God’s Messiah is on the throne in Jerusalem.

So, that section was about God dealing with sins in the land of Israel. But now in the rest of chapter five we’re going to see sin just altogether sent out of the land of Israel completely. We’re going to see in particular, the sin of Idolatry Becoming a Foreign Thing to the land of Israel.

So, let’s read Zechariah 5:5-11 first and then study it in detail.

[Read Zec 5:5-11…]

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Angel Tells Zechariah to See What’s Leaving

So, to begin this new vision we see an angel telling Zechariah to look at something that’s “going forth” or leaving. Just like we had a scroll that was “going forth” in Zechariah 5:1-4, now in the rest of this chapter we have something else that is also “going forth.”

5 ¶ [Then/After this/And] the [angel/angelic messenger] [that/who] [talked/was speaking/had been speaking] [with/to] me [went forth/went out/came forward], and [said unto me/said],

[Lift up now thine eyes,/Look,] [and see/see] what [is this that/is] [goeth forth/leaving/is appearing].

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Goeth Forth

So, the action of this thing that the angel draws Zechariah’s attention to is one that describes going out or going forth. Leaving is another way to translate this.

So, the angel that has been leading Zechariah through all of these visions – who himself is described as one who “went forth” – now this angel turns his attention to something that is leaving. Leaving where?

Probably leaving the land of Israel.

Just like the scroll in the last vision was – I believe – local to the land of Israel. So now, this thing that’s leaving is leaving the land of Israel. It’s not leaving the whole world – we’ll see as this passage unfolds that it’s being sent out of Israel.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Zechariah Asks What It Is

Well, don’t you wonder what this thing is? Zechariah does too in verse 6.

6 [And I/I] [said/asked],

What is it?

And I think it’s amazing that even as Zechariah is looking at this thing, he can’t figure out what it is.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Angel Explains What It Is

And we’ve seen Zechariah express this kind of confusion before. But often, he’s been expressing that he wants to know the meaning behind what he’s seeing.

Yet, here in this passage, I think the prophet actually cannot identify what he’s seeing right in front of his face.

And so, the angel needs to explain it.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Basket

And so, as part of the explanation, the angel begins by noting the presence of a basket.

[And he/He] [said/replied],

[This is/It is] [an ephah/the ephah/a basket for measuring grain/a measuring basket/the measure (LXX)] [that goeth forth/going forth/that is moving away from here].

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Ephah

An ephah (that’s a transliterated Hebrew word) was a basket used for measuring something – usually grain. Now, it’s my understanding that an ephah would contain about 5 gallons.

In Ezekiel 45 the Lord mentions that an ephah ought to be 1/10th of something called a chomer. And a chomer is apparently about 55 gallons. One tenth of that is about 5 gallons.

[Pull out 5-gallon bucket…]

So, I believe that a container about the size of a 5-gallon bucket is what is in view here in this passage. For some reason, I always thought that this container was larger as I would read through these verses. But apparently this is about as small as this ephah is.

And the angel has something more to say about this measuring basket.

[He said moreover,/Again he said,/Moreover, he said,/And he added,/And he said,]

This is [their/the] [resemblance/appearance/‘eye’/iniquity of the people/iniquity] [through/in/throughout] [all the/the] [earth/land].

Now this is the part of the passage that I puzzled over most while studying for this message. What does this mean that the basket is “their” … “resemblance” … “through all the earth?” Those are the three key parts of this verse and – I believe – of the whole vision. If you get this, I think the rest of the vision unlocks for you.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Resemblance

So, the word translated by the KJV as “resemblance” is literally the Hebrew word that usually means “eye.” But in the KJV 11 times this word is translated as “fountain.” In fact, elementary Hebrew flashcards give two meaning for this word – the first is “eye” and the second is “fountain.”

Now, I’ll just mention it because I think it’s interesting and it explains why certain translatios might say something different than resemblance or appearance or eye – but the Septuagint and some other English version have translated this word in the KJV “resemblance” as “iniquity.” That’s because the Hebrew word behind this word looks fairly similar to the word “eye” in Hebrew. But the Hebrew itself is “eye” or “fountain.”

And the only way I could make sense of this passage is by translating this word not as “eye” or “resemblance” or “appearance” – but as “fountain.” As in the source of something and that sends forth something from itself.

So, “this is their fountain” is what the angel is saying.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Their

And the angel says that this basket is “their” “fountain.” Whose fountain is this?

Well, I think the nearest referent we have is from our last vision at the start of chapter 5 – the thief and the one who swears falsely by the Lord’s name. Remember them? The ones whose houses that giant scroll is going to enter and destroy when Jesus Christ reigns on earth? This group of individuals – sinners – have a fountain. They have – at least in this vision – a source from which their wickedness is derived and informed and encouraged and acted upon.

So, the source of these sinners’ actions and lifestyles is – in this vision – pictured as a basket.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Through all the earth

And this source of the sinners’ sins is found “through all the earth.” Or it could be translated as “in all the land” referring to the land of Israel. And I prefer that way of translating this because this basket is going to be taken – not out of the earth and into outer space somewhere – but it’s going to be taken out of the land of Israel.

So, this is the key to the whole vision. The angel explains to Zechariah that this basket is the source of the sin that’s committed by sinners in Israel.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Compared to the Last Vision

So, let’s compare what we’re seeing so far in this vision to what we saw in the last vision.

In the last vision we saw the promise of God to deal swiftly with the sins of sinners when Jesus Christ comes to reign on the earth in Jerusalem. That flying scroll will destroy those people immediately and completely. And so, that vision deals with striking the fruit of the tree of sin – the external manifestations of sin will be dealt with swiftly.

But what about the source of sin? What about – not the fruit of sin – but sin’s root? That’s what this vision is talking about now. The Lord is going to deal with the source of sin as well.

This basket is pictured in this vision as if it were the single source of sin in Israel. As if it were what is motivating sinners to commit their sins in the land of Israel.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: The Cover Lifted

Well, we go on in verse 7 to discover that this basket has a cover.

7 [And, behold,/Then] [there was lifted up a talent of lead/a lead cover was lifted up/a round lead cover was raised up/the cover of lead was raised/a talent of lead lifted up]:

So, there’s a talent – or a cover – that’s made of lead on top of this basket. Apparently, this is to keep in whatever is inside of this basket – this source of sin.

So, something very dangerous is inside of this basket. Even today when you go to the dentist and get an x-ray of your teeth, they will put a heavy apron on you to protect you from the dangerous x-rays that they’re shooting at your mouth. Do you know what’s inside of that apron that makes it so heavy? You guessed it – lead!

And so, apparently in this vision before mankind probably knew anything about radiation, here is God portraying the awful contaminating effects of sin as if it were radiation – and he’s containing those affects by means of lead.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Woman

Well, you wonder, what’s so dangerous in this basket that it needs to be held in with a lead cover as if it were toxic radiation? Continue in verse 7.

[and this is/revealing/and/and behold] a woman [that sitteth/sitting/sat] [in the midst of/inside/there in/in the midst of] the [ephah/basket/measure].

Now, I’ve already argued for the size of this ephah or basket. From my best understanding this is basically a five-gallon bucket. Question – how many full-grown women do you know that could fit inside of a five-gallon bucket? Answer – Full-grown women don’t fit inside of five-gallon buckets. Even if they’re sitting like this woman is.

So, that clues you into the fact that this woman is not a typical normal woman. It is a woman – and not a girl – and she’s intentionally small in this vision. I’m of the opinion that this is actually an idol because of her size and because of what we’re going to hear about her later on this in this passage.

So, a female idol is now revealed to be what’s so dangerous inside of this basket because it’s basically the source of sin in Israel.

And this makes some sense historically. What was it that Israel was tempted to do while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law? They were tempted to commit idolatry and they ended up doing just that. What was it that provoked God to anger to such a degree that he needed to send them out of the land of Israel? It was idolatry – among other things.

Idolatry played a huge role in every bad thing and every major calamity in Israel. It was the source of Israel’s sin.

And when we think about it, you commit idolatry any time to take the true God and move him out of the main focus of your life and replace him with something else. Most often I think we tend to replace him with ourselves – our thoughts, our goals, our desires. You go from serving the Lord to serving money or immorality or the easy life or the American Dream or even good things like your kids or your spouse. But all of that is idolatry because the Lord is not the one you’re serving.

Idolatry is deadly and dangerous. In this vision it needs to be contained within a basket with a protective lead cover.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Wickedness

So, if this basket and the miniature idol woman inside it is the fountain and source of the sins of all sinners in the land of Israel, then what does this woman symbolize? Answer – verse 8.

8 [And he/Then he/He then/He] said,

This [is/woman represents] [wickedness/iniquity].

So, this miniature woman represents wickedness. So, I think that she doesn’t represent only idolatry to the exclusion of other sins – but more broadly, she represents all wickedness. The heart of the source of every sin that sinners commit is wickedness.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Woman and Cover Thrown Back Into Place

And the angel is rightly disgusted by this display of wickedness personified and so he takes action in the rest of verse 8.

And he [cast/threw/pushed] [it/her] [into the midst of/into the middle of/into/back into] the [ephah/basket/measure];

and [he cast/cast/placed/pushed] the [weight of lead/lead weight/lead cover] [upon the mouth thereof/on its opening/on top/down over its mouth/on the mouth of it].

So, he throws wickedness back into the source of sin in the land of Israel and puts the cover back on.

I imagine that the angel is doing what I sometimes tend to do on garbage day. I come home and see that the garbage men have taken our garbage and oftentimes the cover to my garbage can is left open. And invariably as I approach the can and reach to close the lid, my nose is assaulted by an awful stench. And I am compelled almost involuntarily to slam that lid shut on that garbage can.

That’s the reaction of a holy angel to sin. Humans might want to sniff around as it were. We might even want to climb into that disgusting basket! But the holier we are, like this angel here, the less wickedness will appeal to us and the more it will offend our senses.

And yet even as believers we have this sin nature with us still that still loves to go dumpster diving. How sick. Wretched men that we are! But we can thank God through our Lord Jesus Christ who will one day deliver us totally from this body of death.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Two Women

Well, we have this kind of garbage can – the source of sinners’ sins in Israel. We have wickedness at the heart of this source.

I’ve compared this basket to a garbage can.

And so, now – if you’ll allow me to extend the metaphor – here come the garbage men in verse 9! Though, they’re not men at all…

9 [Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked,/Then I lifted up my eyes and looked/Then I looked again/Then I looked up/And I lifted up mine eyes] [and, behold,/and/and saw/and before me] there [came out two women/two women were coming out/two women going forth/two women/two women coming forth],

Now, these women are doing exactly what the curse-scroll earlier in this chapter was doing. It’s just what this basket in this vision was doing as well. They are “going out.”

Zechariah 5 Commentary: They’re Flying

Now, garbage men in our day have garbage trucks. But these women fly with birds’ wings!

[and/with] the wind [was in/in] their wings;

[for they/and they/they] had [wings like the wings of a stork/wings like those of a stork/stork’s wings]:

So, Zechariah is seeing two women that are coming out to “take out the trash” of sin from the land of Israel. And they’re being conveyed by two storks’ wings each.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: They Pick Up the Basket

And now finally these two women are – as it were – going to “take out the trash.”

and they lifted up the [ephah/basket/measure] between [the earth and the heaven/the earth and the sky/heaven and earth].

So, they lift up the source of sin in Israel and you would expect that they’re going to take it somewhere else.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Zechariah Asks Angel Where They’re Going

And that’s what Zechariah wonders about out loud to the angel that’s been leading him through these visions in verse 10.

10 [Then said I to/I said to/I asked/And I said to] the [angel/messenger] [that/who was] [talked/was speaking/spoke] [with/to] me,

[Whither/Where] [do/are] [these/they] [bear/taking/carry away] the [ephah/basket/measure]?

So, “Where are they taking the trash?” Zechariah asks.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Angel Answers

And here’s the answer in verse 11 to end this vision.

11 [And he/Then he/He] [said unto me/said to me/replied],

To build [it an house/a temple for her/a house for it] in the land of [Shinar/Babylonia/Babylon]:

[and/when/and to] [it shall be established/it is prepared/it is finished/it is ready/prepare a place for it], [it = the house…]
[and/she will be/the basket will be] [she = the idol…] set there [upon/in] [her/its] own [base/pedestal/residence/place].

So, this is what compels me to think of that miniature woman in that five-gallon bucket as an idol. The two women are taking this source of sin for Israel and transporting her to Babylon – around modern-day Iraq.

And when they get her there, they’ll make an idol temple for her – a house for her. At this point in Israel’s history, the Lord’s temple was being constructed in Jerusalem. And so, this bucket of trash – idolatry, the source of sin in Israel – had to go.

But it would be gladly welcomed in Babylon where idolatry was rampant and accepted and, really, there was no alternative.

So, what do we have with this vision?

Well, the vision about the flying scroll last time informed Israel that in the future the Lord was going to deal with sin immediately and without delay.

And so, now this vision is something of a continuation of that one. But now the source of the sin that needs to be dealt with immediately is being deported from Israel. God is coming to dwell in their midst in the temple and he’s going to kick out all competition.

I think that’s what’s going on in this vision.

And next time we’ll see what I think is the last vision in this section.

Zechariah 5 Commentary Verses 1-4

Zechariah 5 Commentary: We’re going to study Zechariah’s 6th vision today. So, turn your attention to the 5th chapter of the book of Zechariah.

We’ll be studying the first four verses of Zechariah 5. And the point of this passage is to tell the Jews of Zechariah’s day that at some point in the future God will totally cleanse sin from their land. And he’ll do that by immediately and directly punishing sinners.

So, let’s read the entire 5th chapter of Zechariah and then we’ll go on to study the details of verses 1-4.

[Read Zec 5…]

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Verse 1

So, to begin, we just read about what Zechariah saw. Let’s read that once more.

KJV Zechariah 5:1 ¶ Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and [behold/there before me was] a flying [roll/scroll/LXX: sickle].

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Direction

So, this new vision begins with the prophet Zechariah coming to the realization that something new is in front of him. Well, actually, he makes it sound like it was behind him. He had to turn to see this new reality.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Roll?

And what did he see but a flying roll!

Now, I wouldn’t doubt that there would be some who would read this in the KJV and think that Zechariah is seeing a flying piece of bread. But it’s not that kind of roll!

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Scroll

The word “roll” is the word used by the KJV to speak of a scroll. After all, you roll-up a scroll and you unroll scroll.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Sickle?

And I’ll just mention this because it’s interesting to me – the Septuagint – the Greek version of the Old Testament – translates the word “roll” to rather be “sickle.” And I wasn’t able to figure out why that is, quite honestly. But I think that as we go along in this vision, we’re going to see that this thing – whatever it is – has two sides and writing on both sides. Does that sound more like a scroll or a sickle? Sickles don’t have writing on them – at least in Zechariah’s day they wouldn’t have. So, I’m not sure why the Septuagint has what it has, but it seems to be the wrong translation of that word. Thankfully we’re using the Hebrew text and not the Septuagint.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Megillah

And one last thing about this scroll – you might actually know the Hebrew word that’s behind our English translation “roll.” It’s megillah. As in the phrase, “the whole megillah” which means the entirety of something. Maybe you’ve heard that expression before. Well, that comes from this word that means scroll.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Flying

Now, this scroll is not set neatly on a table. It’s not rolled-up in a cabinet somewhere. It’s flying. Flying like a bird or like a locust. It’s on the move and in the air.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Summary of Verse 1

So, this is what Zechariah sees. A scroll that is flying.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Verse 2

Alright, now all of a sudden someone talks to Zechariah about what he just saw.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: The Question 

2 [And he said unto/Someone asked/He asked] me,

What [seest thou/do you see]?

Now, we’ve heard this question before asked by the angel who’s been leading Zechariah through these visions. And even though he’s not identified by name in this vision, I think it’s most likely that he’s the one who is asking this question to Zechariah right now.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: The Answer

So, the angel who speaks with Zechariah asks him what he sees. And Zechariah responds. He says…

And I answered,

I see a flying [roll/scroll/LXX: sickle];

And of course, we already heard about that. But now Zechariah gives more detail about this flying scroll…

the length thereof is [twenty cubits/thirty feet], and the [breadth/width] thereof [ten cubits/fifteen feet].

[Demonstrate 10 cubits/15 feet and 20 cubits/30 feet]

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Twenty Cubits/Thirty Feet

Now, twenty cubits was the width of Solomon’s temple (1Ki 6:2). And of course, then the foundation of the temple was also 20 cubits wide to support that structure (2Ch 3:3). 20 cubits is also all three dimensions of the inner sanctuary – the Holy of Holies – it was 20 cubits x 20 cubits x 20 cubits (1Ki 6:20; 2Ch 3:8). And within that inner sanctuary there were those two carved cherubs whose total wingspan was 20 cubits – 10 cubits per cherub (2Ch 3:11). And finally, with Solomon’s temple there was a bronze altar that was 20 cubits long and 20 cubits wide (2Ch 4:1).

All of those items are 20 cubits in some dimension – which is equal to the length of this flying scroll that Zechariah sees.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Ten Cubits/Fifteen Feet

Now, those cherubs in the Holy of Holies that I just mentioned were also 10 cubits high (1Ki 6:23). And of course, I mentioned that the two cherubs were a total of 20 cubits wide. And that means that each one was individually 10 cubits wide from the tip of one outstretched wing to the tip of the other (1Ki 6:24). Some of the foundation stones of Solomon’s temple were 10 cubits – the text doesn’t say, but I assume this is either their width or length (1Ki 7:10). Solomon’s temple also featured a large bronze basin for washing and that basin was 10 cubits wide (1Ki 7:23; 2Ch 4:2). That bronze altar that we heard about already was 10 cubits high (2Ch 4:1).

And all of those dimensions are the same as the width of this flying scroll.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Significance of the Measurements

So, those are some references to these two measurements in the Scripture – 20 cubits and 10 cubits. And I think it’s pretty interesting that most of the references have to do with the temple. Did you catch that?

Well, why is that interesting? Again, as we’ve said before in this study, consider the context of Zechariah. Why is Zechariah receiving these visions? Why has he been sent to give these messages?

The big reason that Zechariah is even there in Jerusalem is to encourage the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua along with all the people to build…what? To build the temple!

And so, God creates this vision for Zechariah with a flying scroll. And the scroll has dimensions that are found in various aspects of this temple that they’re all supposed to be rebuilding.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Verse 3

But what we’re going to see is that actually the scroll itself – and the message that its presence is supposed to convey – seems to have less to do with the temple, and more to do with dealing with the people’s sins.

3 Then said he unto me,

This is [the/a] curse [that goeth forth over the face of/traveling across/that is going out over] the whole [earth/land]:

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Curse

So, this gigantic scroll – 15 feet wide by 30 feet long, and probably totally unrolled – that is flying around – represents a curse – or probably itself contains writing that curses ungodly behavior.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: The Whole Earth

And where is it going? It says, “the whole earth” in the KJV. The word “earth” (eretz) can also be translated as “land.” So, to translate it as “earth” gives you the idea that this is going everywhere in the world, just like God’s seven eyes that we’ve been reading about in this book.

But if that word is translated as “land” then the scroll that contains the curse is flying just in Israel – or even more narrowly, Judah and Jerusalem.

So, which one is it? Where is this thing flying around? I have a hunch that it’s flying around Israel only. And hopefully the rest of what’s said bears that out.

So, the angel that speaks with Zechariah declares that this flying scroll that Zechariah sees in his vision is a curse that is flying around the land of Israel at some point.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Stealing

Well, what is the content of this curse? What kind of behavior is this flying scroll calling-out and punishing?

There are two such behaviors mentioned. The first is stealing.

[for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it;/ surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side,/ For example, according to the curse whoever steals will be removed from the community;/ for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished,/for every thief shall be punished with death on this side,]

So, apparently on one side of the flying scroll there are curses concerning stealing.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Cut Off

And what does this scroll make happen to these thieves? The KJV says that they will be “cut off.” Another translation says that they’ll be “purged away.” Another says they’ll be “removed from the community.” And the Septuagint says that these thieves will be “punished with death.”

The Hebrew word behind these English phrases is actually a little counter-intuitive. It’s a word that typically means something like “unpunished” – which is the exact opposite of how the Lord is using it here.

The KJV translates this word as… unpunished 11x, guiltless 5x, innocent 5x, clear 4x, cleanse 3x, free 2x.

So, what makes the translators of these various translations give this word a more negative connotation here in Zechariah 5? CONTEXT!

This passage in its entire context is not talking about a scroll going around and declaring thieves guiltless or unpunished. After all, this scroll is said to be a curse – that’s a bad thing! We’re going to see what the result of this curse is when it enters the home of these people in the next verse and it’s not pretty.

The way this is translated here is a lot like how the word “bless” is used – especially in the southern United States. When someone declares, “bless his heart” sometimes that person is meaning exactly the opposite – he wants that person’s heart to be cursed, not blessed. And you would know what that person uttering this “blessing” really means by the context of the rest of what he says.

Consider this statement. “Bless his heart, that man annoys the biscuits and gravy out of me!”  Obviously in that statement “bless” means something quite different than its normal meaning in that context.

So, this dynamic is why the translations of Zechariah 5 are all translating this word that usually means unpunished or guiltless in a way that’s rather unusual for how it’s normally translated – CONTEXT is the key.

So, this enormous scroll is flying through the land of Israel and it’s resulting in a curse for those who steal – for thieves.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Liars

It will also do that same thing for another group of individuals.

[and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it./and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side./or on the other hand (according to the curse) whoever swears falsely will suffer the same fate.”/and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished./and every false swearer shall be punished on that side.]

So, apparently on the other side of this scroll are curses concerning those who swear. And these curses for people who swear have the same effect as on those who steal.

And when God speaks of swearing here, he’s not using that term in the way that some might today – to mean using foul language. That’s not what’s in view here.

It’s actually speaking of those who swear an oath – as in the phrase, “I do solemnly swear” to do this or that – like you see used in the swearing-in of a number of offices in our country.

And you might wonder, “What’s wrong with swearing oaths – with making solemn promises?” Is it wrong for people to swear oaths? Why is God saying that he’s going to curse these people who swear oaths?

Well, in the Old Testament oaths were permitted – and even encouraged – sometimes mandatory. In the New Testament, I think it’s fair to say that oaths are generally discouraged in favor of speaking the simple truth.

But here in the Old Testament, swearing oaths is an acceptable activity. It’s not something that would earn a person punishment by itself when done correctly.

So, the question remains – why is God cursing these people for apparently doing something that was allowed in the Old Testament?

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Verse 4

And, this is one of those instances where the Lord intends us to read the next verse. Many questions are answered by doing that very simple exercise – just read the next verse.

Because in the next verse, we’re going to learn more about the kind of swearing that God will target with these curses on this enormous flying scroll. The core of the issue that we’ll discover in verse 4 is that these people swearing oaths were doing so in a false manner. They were lying.

4 I will [bring it forth/make it go forth/send it out], [saith/declares/says] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty],

and it [shall/will] [enter into/enter] the house of the thief,
and [into the house of/the house of/of] [him/the one/the person] [that/who] [sweareth/swears] [how is he swearing…?] falsely [by/in] my name:

[and it/It] [shall/will] [remain/spend the night/land/rest] [in the midst of/within/in the middle of/in] [his/that] house,
and [shall consume/destroy] [it with the/both] [timber thereof/timber] and [the stones thereof/stones].

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Falsely By My Name

OK, so first we see that the Lord is going to curse those who swear – not correctly by his name – but rather those who do so falsely.

And so, God declares that he is going to basically kill everyone who steals and everyone who uses his name in vain to make promises.

If you think of the way that the 10 Commandments were transmitted onto two stone tablets – then you can imagine that the first tablet was commands concerning duties toward God and the second tablet contained commands concerning duties toward your fellow-man.

So, stealing is a sin committed against your fellow-man. The thief steals what belongs to someone else. We can think of that as the second stone tablet of the law.

The one who swears falsely in God’s name is indeed sinning against his fellow-man in the sense that he is providing inaccurate information to him – usually to take advantage of that person.

And yet, the sin of swearing falsely in God’s name makes God look bad. In essence, when you promise to do something and call on God to be your witness – and then you don’t do that thing, you make it look like God is in agreement with your lie. So, the sin of swearing falsely could be placed on that first stone tablet. It’s against God.

And yet, we’re not talking about stone tablets. We’re talking here in the book of Zechariah about a humongous flying scroll. And instead of two tablets, we have two sides of this scroll. The one side perhaps has wording on it condemning the action of stealing and other sins that affect mankind. And the second side might have wording that condemns swearing falsely and perhaps other sins that abuse God directly.

And we’ve already heard of the ultimate fate of these two groups of people. They will be cut off or killed.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Entering Houses

But now in this verse we’re told of a further repercussion that will come to these people. This over-sized scroll will enter into their house and destroy it.

Imagine a 15×30 foot scroll flying into the house of some notorious liar and remaining there over night and the result is that the whole house just collapses. That’s what God is picturing here.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: The Meaning

But what does this really mean? Why is God showing Zechariah this vision? What is it meant to communicate to the prophet?

Let’s ask ourselves – has this ever literally happened? Has a giant scroll flown around Israel and destroyed liars and their houses? No.

OK, do we have reason to believe that this will literally happen where a flying scroll enters houses and kills thieves? I don’t think so.

But, here’s what I do think the Lord is communicating through this vision.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: A Book of Hope

Think of all the hopeful things that God has communicated to Israel so far in this book. The people heed God’s call to repent in the first chapter and God then promises to return to them with blessings. They’ve had assurance that the Lord is concerned for them and angry at their oppressors. They’ve been assured that in the future there will be so many Jews in Jerusalem that it will be impossible for a wall to hold them all in. They have been assured that their religious system and political system have been cleansed and that God is with them. This has been a book of hope so far for this nation.

So, what’s the hope that this passage is encouraging in God’s people?

It’s this: that God is going to totally cleanse the land of sin. Israel was filled with sin before they were exiled to Babylon – and their sin is why they were exiled to Babylon in the first place. God would no longer stand their sin.

But now here in Zechariah 5 we have assurance that God will deal with sin swiftly. And not just on a national level. But when an individual sins he will be dealt with immediately and definitively.

It’s like the passage in the book of Leviticus that speaks of leprosy. If leprosy was found in a house eventually that house needed to be torn down – both its timber and its stones. And that’s how that leprous house would be cleaned. (Lev 14:43-45)

Just like that, God is saying here in Zechariah 5:1-4 that he is going to totally cleanse the land of sinners. Just like he dealt with leprosy. Total destruction of the contaminating agent.

Zechariah 5 Commentary: Timing

Alright, so when is this going to happen? Has God done this yet? No.

I expect that this will happen during Jesus Christ’s Millennial reign in Jerusalem. He will cleanse the land of sinners. Those who enter that kingdom will be righteous. And as Christ rules on his throne, there will be perfect justice executed on those who end up doing wrong.

That will be a glorious day – when the Lord purges all sin from the land. May the Lord bring that day soon.

Zechariah 4 Meaning: Verses 8-14

Zechariah 4 Meaning: We’ll be studying the second half of Zechariah’s 5th prophecy today. So, let’s turn our attention to Zechariah chapter 4 – the fourth chapter of the Old Testament minor prophet Zechariah.

Last time we studied the first seven verses of this chapter. And so, let’s just try to recover some of the things we saw in those verses.

First, Zechariah needs to be awakened by the angel that’s guiding him through these visons. And I said that this is probably because receiving visions is apparently a fairly exhausting process – as we see in the life of the prophet Daniel.

Well, then the angel asks Zechariah what he sees in this new vision.

Zechariah answers that he sees a golden candlestick or in Hebrew he sees a menorah. And this menorah is a little difficult to picture.

It seems to me that there’s a column in the middle with the bowl on top to receive the oil for the lamps. That’s the easy part.

The layout of the lamps is the kind of controversial part. Are there three lamps on each side of the column with the seventh lamp somehow in the middle, making seven lamps? Or are there seven lamps on each side of the column for fourteen total lamps? I’m not sure – but it’s got to be one of those arrangements.

Also, this menorah is like the ones that would have been used in the temple that the Jews were rebuilding at this point in their history. So, there’s a reason that God is showing Zechariah a menorah for that prophet to go and talk to and encourage his people to go rebuild his temple.

Then Zechariah saw two olive trees – one on either side of the menorah. We don’t know why they’re there yet, but that should become clear in these last seven verses today.

This sight prompts Zechariah to inquire about the meaning of these things – this menorah and the two olive trees.

The angel then expresses some amazement that Zechariah doesn’t understand the meaning intended by these objects in this vision and asks Zechariah if he really doesn’t understand. Zechariah replies humbly that he in fact does not understand the meaning of this vision.

So, the angel explains that this vision is meant to communicate that the rebuilding of the temple won’t happen by human might or power – but it will happen through the Lord’s Spirit helping his people do the work. And we saw that the Lord’s Spirit used the Lord’s prophets to encourage the people to do God’s work.

The Lord then compares the task of rebuilding the temple to a mountain. But he maintains that the governor of the Jews, Zerubbabel, is going to flatten that mountain, as it were, and bring out the capstone to the temple – the last stone to be laid – joyfully exclaiming about the Lord’s grace that has led the whole process.

So, that gets us through verse 7 of this chapter.

Let’s read verses 8-14 and then study the details of the rest of this vision.

[Read Zec 4:8-14]

Zechariah 4 Meaning: Message Continued

So, the message that the Lord had started in verses 6 and 7 is continued in verse 8

8 [Moreover/Also/Then/And] the word of the LORD came [unto me, saying,/to me, saying/to me as follows/to me]

So, here’s something else that the Lord wants to communicate to his people – and especially to their governor Zerubbabel – through the prophet Zechariah.

And it has to do once more with the rebuilding of the temple.

9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the [foundation/foundations] of this [house/temple];
his hands [shall/will] [also/and x] [finish/complete] it;

So, in case there was some confusion about the Lord’s previous statement concerning the mountain being flattened by Zerubbabel and the fact that Zerubbabel was going to bring forth the capstone of the temple, the Lord makes explicitly clear what he plans to help Zerubbabel to do.

Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the temple by this point in history. That’s what Ezra 3:8-10 says. I’ll read that.

KJV Ezra 3:8 ¶ Now in the second year of [their coming/the coming of the group that included Zerubbabel the governor] unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.

9 Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.

10 ¶ And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.

And so, Ezra 3:10 mentions “builders.” Now, of course, the Levites were the main workers in the temple and they’re mentioned several times. But yet Zerubbabel plays his role in this process, too. He has a part in laying the foundation of the temple. That’s what God is saying back in Zechariah 4:9.

So, just like Zerubbabel had a part in laying the foundation of the temple – of starting the process of rebuilding it – so, too, Zerubbabel according to God’s promise would have a role in finishing that temple.

And when this happened, it would prove that the Lord of Hosts had sent the one who’s speaking here.

[and/Then] [thou shalt/you will] know that the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [hath/has] sent me [unto/to] you.

Now, this statement is admittedly difficult to understand. We’re all going to need to gird up the loins of our mind and get ready for action here in trying to figure out what the Lord is saying.

First of all, notice who is speaking at the end of verse 9. When this person says that you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me to you, who is this person? Who is “me?”

Well, look at verse 8. Whose word is this that comes to Zechariah? It’s the word of the Lord. And Lord is in all caps, which means it’s God’s covenant name – YHWH.

So, the one who is speaking is the Lord himself – God – Yahweh. And therefore, the one who is identified as “me” at the end of verse 9 is also the Lord.

But once more, we’re amazed at the fact that the Lord is sending the Lord. Do you see that at the end of verse 9? When Zerubbabel finishes the temple, then the Jews will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent the Lord to them.

Or to put it another way, which I’ve already explained and defended before – the Jews at this point will know that God the Father has sent God the Son – the Lord Jesus Christ.

But wait,” you might think! “Zerubbabel would have finished the temple around 500 years before Jesus Christ came to this earth. And when Zerubbabel finished the temple, we don’t all of the sudden see the Jews receiving Jesus. Jesus hadn’t even come yet at this point.

And this is where I’m compelled to see Zerubbabel as representing some other person after him. To be sure, the Lord is encouraging the Jews of Zechariah’s day that Zerubbabel would indeed literally finish rebuilding the temple in their day. But I think that the Lord also intends to look forward to some one and some reality beyond Zerubbabel and the temple of Zechariah’s day.

Let me show you another place in Zechariah where this happens – where the person that is identified is not ultimately the one that God is talking about. Turn to Zechariah 6 for a moment. And let’s read verses 9-15.

KJV Zechariah 6:9 ¶ And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;

11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

12 And speak unto him, saying,

Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying,

Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:

13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between [them both/both offices of priest and king].

14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD.

15 ¶ And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.

So, this is a lot of information and one day soon we’ll get to this passage and study it in detail if the Lord wills, but what I want us to notice here is that Joshua is spoken of initially. And then immediately God starts talking about this individual referred to as the Branch in Zechariah and Jeremiah. This is the Messiah. And God says that he will build the Temple.

So, is it Joshua who’s going to rebuild the Temple? Well, yes. We see him being a part of rebuilding the Temple in Zechariah’s day.

And yet, God is looking forward to a future time where the Messiah will actually be the one to rebuild the Temple. But he combines both of those realities into the same message without much warning or explanation as to the fact that he’s doing that.

Is he saying that Joshua will rebuild the temple or that Messiah will? Yes! Both men will rebuild the temple – but at different times in history.

And I think something similar is happening back in our vision for today in Zechariah 4. In verse 9 we were told that Zerubbabel started the Temple and that he would finish it. And he literally did back around the early 500s BC.

And yet, I believe that God is also looking forward to this time when his servant the Branch rebuilds the Temple. Zerubbabel’s descendant, the Messiah, will rebuild the Temple. Did you know that Zerubbabel is the ancestor of the Messiah Jesus Christ? The genealogies in both Matthew and Luke assert this fact.

So, at that point when the Messiah rebuilds the Temple – I believe after the Great Tribulation – then the Jews will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent him – that God the Father had truly sent God the Son.

But back to Zechariah’s day, before Messiah comes and rebuilds the Temple, at this point in Jerusalem all they have is an altar and the Temple’s foundation laid. All the walls are broken down. The enemies around them could come in at any moment. It was a very pathetic situation that they found themselves in.

It was the kind of time period in the Jews history that would lead them and others to think very lightly of what God wanted them to do.

And that’s why God asks this rhetorical question in verse 10.

10 ¶ [For who/Who] [hath despised/has despised/dares make light of] [the day of small things/small beginnings/LXX: the small days]?

A valid question, of course. But what we see from biblical history is that probably most of the Jews were doing this. They were despising the day of small things – the small beginnings of rebuilding the Temple.

And so, God admits that the beginnings of rebuilding this Temple in Zechariah’s day were indeed small. They appeared to be insignificant.

And yet, God now is going to look forward to the glorious conclusion of this seemingly-insignificant beginning as we continue in verse 10.

[for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven;/ But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel–/These seven eyes will joyfully look on the tin tablet in Zerubbabel’s hand./Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel./LXX: surely they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet of tin in the hand of Zorobabel:]

So, what does this mean?

Well, this “plummet” or “plumb line” or even perhaps “tin tablet” has something to do with Zerubbabel finishing the Temple. It’s similar to him bringing the capstone with shouts of “Grace!” from earlier in this vision.

In fact, this one word in English – “plummet” – is actually two words in Hebrew. It’s a combination of “stone” and “tin.” A stone of tin. Maybe a stone encased in tin? Maybe like a capstone.

So, we just read that “those seven” are going to rejoice when Zerubbabel brings this stone to the temple – again probably indicating the completion of this building. So, who are “those seven?”

Well, the closest reference to “seven” is in verse 2 of this chapter, speaking of seven lamps and seven pipes that bring oil to those lamps.

But that’s actually not what God is referring to here when he mentions that these “seven” will rejoice when Zerubbabel is finished rebuilding the temple. Look what he says at the end of verse 11.

[they/these/these seven] are the [eyes/LXX: seven] of the LORD, [which/LXX: that] [run to and fro/range to and fro/constantly range/range/LXX: look] [through/throughout/across/LXX: upon] [the whole/LXX: all the] earth.

Do you remember the last vision we studied? It was a vision about Joshua, and how God was cleansing Judah’s religious system. And in that vision Zechariah was shown a stone with seven eyes. So, I think that the Lord is referring here back to that previous vision with these seven eyes.

And it’s likely that these seven eyes represent God’s omniscience. He knows everything because he can see and perceive and understand everything.

And those eyes of the Lord that run all over the world will rejoice when in this small city in this small country, a small temple is being built. And yet, this more than anything is what is going to bring joy to God’s eyes.

And in light of that, who is going to despise the day of small things? Who is going to think little of the rebuilding of this temple? Well, we know who isn’t going to despise it. And that’s the Lord himself.

So, that’s the end of the angel’s explanation of what Zechariah is seeing. Zechariah asked about the meaning of the vision of the menorah with the two olive trees surrounding it. And this was the response he received.

Zechariah 4 Meaning: Zechariah Asks About Olive Trees

But you have to admit that there are still some questions remaining concerning this vision. The angel did nothing to explain to Zechariah the meaning of these individual items in the vision – the menorah and all of its parts and the two trees.

And so, after asking, “What are these?” and getting the response he got from the angel, Zechariah is going to follow-up on that question with another more specific question.

11 [Then/Next/And] [answered I, and said unto him,/I said to him/I asked the messenger/I asked the angel]

What are these two olive trees [upon/on/which are on] the right [side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?/of the lampstand and on its left?/and the left of the menorah?/and the left of the lampstand?]

Alright, so as I said Zechariah gets more specific. The question this time is not simply, “What are these?” but now he’s asking for the particular identification of the two olive trees that are on either side of the menorah.

Zechariah 4 Meaning: Zechariah Asks About Olive Branches/Extensions

And before the angel is able to respond, Zechariah asks one more question about what he’s seeing. And actually, what he asks about next concerns a reality that I think we were previously ignorant of. Let’s read that.

12 [And I answered again, and said unto him,/And I answered the second time and said to him/Before he could reply I asked again/Again I asked him]

What [be/are][these/the]two [olive branches/extensions of the olive trees/branches of the olive trees] [which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?/which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?”/which are emptying out the golden oil through the two golden pipes?”/beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?”/that are by the side of the two golden pipes that pour into and communicate with the golden oil funnels?]

So, it appears that in addition to the presence of these two olive trees there are pipes coming from those trees and somehow emptying out the olive oil from those trees into the menorah so that the lamps will have this olive oil as fuel.

Like I said last time, I picture these pipes as something like the kind of taps that people put into sugar maple trees to gather syrup from the sap of those trees. But of course, no one taps olive trees. Olive oil doesn’t come from the sap of the olive tree, but rather it comes from pressing the olive fruit.

But this is a vision after all and we’ve already seen that these visions don’t always need to correspond to literal reality. You can have a stone with eyes on it – which never happens in reality. But this can happen in a vision sent from the Lord.

So, it appears that Zechariah is seeing some sort of extensions coming from these olive trees that are providing this menorah with oil to burn for the purpose of light.

Zechariah 4 Meaning: Dialog Between the Lord and Zechariah

Well, once again, the angel reacts with incredulity that Zechariah doesn’t understand the meaning of these things.

13 [And he answered me and said,/He replied]

[Knowest thou not/Do you not know/Don’t you know] what these [be/are]?

And once more, Zechariah responds with humility.

And I said,

No, [my lord/sir].

So, the prophet honestly admits his ignorance – just like we need to do as we’re studying through these visions. It’s OK to admit that you don’t know what certain things mean in these visions. Of course, we would hope that after we’re given the explanation we’ll know better what’s being communicated.

Zechariah 4 Meaning: The Lord Explains the Olive Trees

And so, the angel answers one more time Zechariah’s final question in this vision.

14 [Then/So/And] said he,

These are the two [anointed ones/who are anointed/lit: sons of oil], [that stand by/who are standing by/who stand by/to serve] the Lord of [the whole/all the] earth.

Let’s try to figure this verse out.

First, notice that these two anointed ones are represented in this vision by two olive trees. What comes from them – what pours out of them – produces light. They stand by the Lord of the whole earth ready to serve him – and actually serving him.

So, who are these two? Your mind might want to go immediately to the book of Revelation. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit, but for now, let’s just stay here. In the whole context of Zechariah – and in particular in chapters 3 and 4, have we seen two characters who have been the focus of these last two chapters?

What human being has been the central focus of this chapter – chapter 4? Zerubbabel.

And what human being was the central focus of chapter 3? Joshua.

And so, I would say that in context, these two olive trees have to be Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor of Judah. They – like those trees – are working and the product of their work is providing light for God’s people. It’s ultimately providing a restored temple and biblical religious system. And from these things, God would give light to Israel and to the world.

So, the two olive trees represent Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Now, let’s consider Revelation for a moment because it seems that that book says something really similar to what we have here n Zechariah 4.

In Revelation 11 we see mention of two witnesses who stand before the God of the earth. They’re going to minister during the first part of the Great Tribulation, be killed by the Antichrist, and then be resurrected.

And God says that they are two olive trees and two candlesticks. Now, this description sounds really similar to what we saw in Zechariah 4. Except, in Zechariah 4 we had two olive trees but only one candlestick.

So, if we’re trying to compare Revelation 11 and Zechariah 4 then we are probably safest to recognize some similarities and also the difference. The main difference is that the two witnesses of Revelation 11 are not just the olive trees but also the candlesticks themselves. Whereas, the two anointed ones in Zechariah 4 are just the olive trees who produce the oil for the work done by the candlestick.

And to get any more conclusive about the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, we’d need to conduct a study on that.

Anyway, we’ve now reached the end of Zechariah 4. The Lord is giving Zechariah and Zerubbabel and all of his people encouragement that the temple would be rebuilt in their day – and that he was going to use not just the high priest Joshua to do this, but also Zerubbabel their governor to accomplish this work.

Just like the Lord had previously had to abandon the religious system and leaders of his people – but was now restoring those – so too, the Lord had previously abandoned Israel’s civil leadership. But now he is demonstrating a great desire to use them once more – as we’re seeing in the case of Israel’s civil leader Zerubbabel.

And, next time the Lord will move on to the matter of a flying scroll.