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The Prophecy of Zechariah – Part 1, Visions Near and Far
The writing of the book of Zechariah the prophet can be dated rather accurately to begin about 520 BC, during the reign of the Persian king known as Darius the Great. Zechariah was one of three post-captivity prophets whose writing we have in our Bibles. The others are Haggai and Malachi. According to Haggai himself, the written records of his prophecy were initiated just over two months before those of Zechariah, at the very beginning of the sixth month in the second year of Darius. While the book of Malachi is not dated, from internal evidence it was clearly written some time after both Haggai and Zechariah, as the Levitical priesthood which was reestablished in the time of the first two second-temple prophets was being corrupted in the time of Malachi. Therefore Malachi may have been written as late as the events described in Ezra chapters 9 and 10, and possibly even later.
As we more fully demonstrate in an article at Christogenea entitled Notes Concerning Daniel's 70 Weeks Prophecy, the mission of Nehemiah preceded that of Ezra by many decades. The first captives, unrecorded by Scripture, may have returned to Jerusalem some time after 539 BC, when Cyrus had conquered Babylon. Evidently, some time during this period, some rebuilding in Jerusalem may have begun but was never completely finished. Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus who ruled from 529 to 522 BC, was a difficult man. Upon complaints from the Samaritans and others, he had ordered any building activity at Jerusalem to cease. This was recorded by Flavius Josephus. After Cambyses had died from a wound in battle, Darius became King of Persia, in 522 or 521 BC, and by 520 the rebuilding in Jerusalem had commenced. The opening verses of Haggai the prophet records that the temple was rebuilt at this very time.
When Nehemiah first returned to Jerusalem, as it is related in chapter 2 of his writing, the walls were broken down, and at least some of the entrances into the city were impassable because of the debris which resulted when the city was destroyed by the Babylonians. In our notes on the period, it has been established that where the English versions of Nehemiah have Artaxerxes, the reference is a mere title which Nehemiah used for that same king Darius, in spite of the fact that the Greeks commonly used their form of that title in reference to the Artaxerxes who ruled Persia from 465 BC, which was during the time of Ezra.
Zerubbabel was appointed governor of those returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple in 520 BC. Nehemiah was appointed the governor of Jerusalem by Darius from about 502 to 489 BC. Ezra received his own commission in 458 BC. However, Ezra was with Nehemiah and Zerubbabel in Jerusalem as a young man. In the opening chapters of the Book of Nehemiah, he describes the building of the gates and walls of Jerusalem, which would ostensibly also clear the debris. He had received building materials for the walls and gates of the city, as it is described in chapter 2 of his prophecy. In his time, as the walls and gates were being built, Eliashib is the high priest. Nehemiah does not describe the rebuilding of the temple: which had evidently already been built, as Haggai describes and as one may see where it is mentioned in Nehemiah chapter 6.
Then in chapter 7 Nehemiah lists those who had first returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel, who was appointed governor before him. In that place Nehemiah is reflecting on things that had happened much earlier, as he says in verse 43: “And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein...” There, at the top of the list, he mentions himself after Zerubbabel and another man, who in the King James Version is called Jeshua. This Jeshua was also a high priest, and must be the same high priest called Joshua who is mentioned here in the prophecy of Zechariah. Eliashib, the high priest who later rebuilt the walls in the time when Nehemiah was governor, was the grandson of this Jeshua. In the genealogy of the priests, in Nehemiah chapter 12, we read: “10 And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib”.
[As a digression, an examination of line of the high priests here also proves that our chronology of Nehemiah and Ezra is correct, in spite of the fact that it is contrary to all of the established Biblical so-called scholarship. I may have missed something, but I know of no one else who has ever asserted that the commission of Ezra follows that of Nehemiah by 44 or 45 years. But it is nevertheless true. It also helps to prove that most so-called Christian scholars of the last few centuries merely take for granted the errors of the Jews their lies about Scripture. Just to give my listeners an idea of how long I have considered this, I actually worked this chronology out in late 2002, after reading I Esdras in the Septuagint, and Clifton first published it in May, 2009. I do not know if either of us had mentioned it earlier.]
So the Jeshua who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in the days of the Persian King Darius, an event which is also recorded in retrospect in the opening chapters of the Book of Ezra, is the same high priest Joshua of this prophecy of Zechariah. The rebuilding of the temple commenced in 520 BC, as we can tell from Ezra chapter 6 as well as from Haggai, and we can determine that it was completed in or around 516 BC, as Ezra 6:15 states that it was completed in the 6th year of Darius. Nehemiah’s own records are less complete, but his primary concern is with the gates and walls of the city.
There is an allusion in Nehemiah chapter 2, in a description of a request for building materials, to “beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house”, which shows that the House of God must have been built already, and this is also evident where the temple is first mentioned explicitly in Nehemiah chapter 6, where it is already built. More often in Nehemiah the temple is referred to as the “House of God” rather than as a temple. So the temple must have been built by Zerubbabel in the days of Joshua the high priest, and then a few years later the walls and gates of the city were rebuilt by Nehemiah, in the days of Eliashib the high priest, who is the grandson of Joshua.
The building of the walls and gates apparently being complete, and the temple already being built, the city itself was not built up, and Nehemiah was recalled to Persia after the Persian defeat at the Battle of Marathon which occurred in 490 BC. Some time after the ensuing Persian war against the Greeks was lost, building projects in the empire resumed, and in 458 BC Ezra received his commission to return and build the city. When Ezra returned to Jerusalem, the temple, gates and walls were already built. At this time it is apparent that Johanan was the high priest, who was mentioned by both Ezra and Nehemiah as being the son of Eliashib, something which is only vaguely evident in Ezra 10:6, and also in Nehemiah 12:23 where it says that the sons of Levi were recorded in the chronicles “even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.” So the Johanan who was evidently high priest in the time of Ezra had already succeeded his father before the close of the time of Nehemiah around 489 BC.
Ezra’s commission is described in Ezra chapter 7. The first 6 chapters of Ezra (or 7 chapters in the better and more complete version found in the apocryphal book I Esdras) are an account of things which happened before Ezra had received his commission, in the days of Zerubbabel and then Nehemiah, both of whom had preceded him as governor of Judaea. So in both chapters 5 and 6 of Ezra we see him mention Zechariah the son of Iddo. This is of course the same prophet Zechariah who describes himself as “Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet”. Whatever happened to his father, we do not know. However Iddo and Zechariah are both mentioned among the returnees to Jerusalem in the company of Zerubbabel at Nehemiah 12:16. The fact that Berechiah did not accompany his father and his son to Jerusalem is probably why in his book Zechariah described himself further as “the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet”, because his readers in Jerusalem would recognize the name of his grandfather, but perhaps not that of his father.
The prophet Zechariah is mentioned in the New Testament, but we believe that the reference is spurious, and that Christ was actually referring to another man of the same name. In Luke chapter 11 we see Yahshua Christ mention a “Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple”, but in the same account as it is related in Matthew 23:35 the King James Version has it as “Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” This infers that this prophet Zechariah was killed at the temple in Jerusalem. The Codex Sinaiticus, however, does not contain the words for “son of Barachias”. Neither do most copies of the Gospel of Luke, outside of the Codex Bezae and some other late manuscripts which do contain the words. We have long rejected the references to Berechiah in those manuscripts as an interpolation. Rather, we believe that the reference Christ had made to Zacharias was a reference to the father of John the Baptist. This connection was also made in antiquity, as early as the 3rd century Christian writer Origen, and the early apocryphal Infancy gospel which was attributed to James. We do not accept those writings as canonical, or inspired, but that does not mean that everything in them is wrong.
With this foundation, we shall begin to discuss certain aspects of Zechariah’s prophecy.
On the surface, the subject of Zechariah’s prophecy appears to be the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Judaea, which was a process which would take a total of 80 or so years, from the first commission of Zerubbabel by Darius to the final commission of Ezra by the historical Artaxerxes. (As opposed to the use of Artaxerxes as a title in reference to others which is evident in Nehemiah.) Zechariah’s prophecy is presented at the time of the building of the second temple in the days of Zerubbabel, in the beginning of the reign of Darius. Zechariah chapter 7 mentions the fourth year of Darius, and was therefore written two years before the second temple was completed.
At this time the Joshua of Zechariah chapter 3, or, as he is called in the King James Version of the Book of Nehemiah, Jeshua, is the high priest who returned with Zerubbabel. Zechariah and his grandfather Iddo, who was also a prophet, were also among the initial returnees.
The name Jeshua, as it appears in Nehemiah (Strong’s # 3442 ישוﬠ) is actually a contracted form of the name Joshua (Strong’s # 3091 יהשע) which appears in Zechariah. According to Strong’s Concordance, the first is interpreted as he will save, and the latter as Yahweh saved. Strong nevertheless admitted that the first version stands for the latter, connecting the words in his definition (where at 3442 he wrote “for 3091”).
So Joshua the high priest who is mentioned here in Zechariah is representative of the historical Jeshua, the high priest of this very time. But he is also representative of something more than Jeshua the high priest, since in Hebrew his name is filled out first to be the same as that of Joshua the son of Nun, who succeeded Moses, and also as that future Joshua who is Yahshua Christ.
As a digression, some commentators maintain in contention that the given name of Christ should also be interpreted as Jeshua, and not as Joshua. However the writings of the New Testament and the Greek of the Old Testament as well as certain prophecies can prove otherwise. In both Acts 7:35 and in Hebrews 4:8, for instance, Joshua the son of Nun is referred to with the same Greek form of the name spelled as Jesus in the King James Version of the New Testament. Furthermore, where the Hebrew form of Joshua appears in the Septuagint, the Greek is represented by the same Greek name Ἰησοῦς which gives us Yahshua, or Jesus, in the New Testament. So the ancient Hebrew translators of the Septuagint, as well the translators of the New Testament in the King James Version, equated the Hebrew form of the name for Joshua to the Greek form of the name for Jesus, whom we prefer to call Yahshua. The same is true of Jeshua, which in the Septuagint Greek also appears as Ἰησοῦς, or Jesus. So James Strong was correct to connect the two names, Jeshua and Joshua, since in reality one is only a further contraction of the other.
We believe that the understanding of these names as they appear in the prophetic Zechariah and the historical Nehemiah is quite important. This is because, as we are persuaded, it helps to enlarge the understanding that while the immediate subject in Zechariah appears to be Jerusalem in Judaea in the days of the high priest Jeshua, that is not at all the ultimate purpose of the prophecy. Such is the dual nature of many of the Biblical prophecies, that they are given in a manner which has both an immediate application and an ultimate, transcendental meaning which shall also be fulfilled.
The ultimate purpose of these early chapters of the prophecy of Zechariah is to describe the reconciliation of the people of Israel in their dispersions, as well as the condition of their true High Priest before their sins are removed in the propitiation which that Priest, Joshua, or Yahshua Christ, makes on their behalf. Joshua, which is descriptive of Jeshua who is the high priest of Zechariah’s time, is only a type for Yahshua Christ. Jerusalem, the actual city, is only a type for the true Jerusalem, the City of God come down from heaven, which is a metaphor for the actual people of God. Finally, the rebuilt temple is a type for the restored Body of Christ found in those of His people who are willing to hearken in obedience to Him. We shall establish these things as we proceed with our commentary.
Now we shall present Zechariah chapter 1:
Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
As we may have noticed with the chronology given in our introduction to the prophet, Zechariah and Iddo had returned to Jerusalem in the days of Zerubbabel, some time this year, where it is about 520 BC.
2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers. 3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
About eighteen years later, in Nehemiah chapter 1, we see a similar expression described in the context of a confession and a promise, where it says “7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. 8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.” Yet neither was this fulfilled literally in the second temple period, because the ultimate gathering of the cast-out children of Israel is in Yahshua Christ. It was not during the second temple period.
4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?
In John 8:52, the opponents of Christ attempted to take advantage of the fatalistic warnings of Scripture in an attempt to discredit Christ, where we read “52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?” The understanding of this exchange is enriched once it is realized that at least many of the opponents of Christ were Sadducees, who denied the continuation of the Spirit, the conscience of a man, after his death. Christ replied by insisting otherwise, and said in part: “56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”
Indeed the prophets shall live forever, as Christ also said to His opponents in Luke chapter 13 that “28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.”
Reconciling the Gospel of Christ with both the Old Testament promises and the words of Zechariah here we can only come to one conclusion: that if the fathers had been obedient, they may not have seen physical death, regardless of the ultimate promise of eternal life, and the prophets would not have died along with them. Of course, they had this offer, but Yahweh knew long in advance that they would fail, since Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world – meaning that His incarnation and sacrifice for His people, which became necessary as history unfolded, was known from the beginning.
The failure of those early Israelites prevented them from entering into the rest – or Sabbath - of God. Paul informs us in Hebrews that Joshua the son of Nun could not give that rest to the children of Israel on account of their disobedience. Paul explains in Hebrews chapter 4: “8 For if Jesus [meaning Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” So that rest promised to the people of God shall not come until the return of another Joshua, Yahshua Christ. But if the fathers had been obedient, ostensibly they would have obtained that rest, and they would not have died, which is a model that is here offered as an example in the words of Zechariah. While God foresaw their failure, they nevertheless had the opportunity for success extended to them. They could not help but fail.
6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.
Here the prophet portrays a confession on the part of the people of Judah, that their fate in Babylonian captivity was just punishment for the magnitude of their sins. The prophet Daniel made a similar plea just before he received his vision of the 70-weeks Kingdom: “9:16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.”
In spite of their education in the Law, the people only acknowledge their sins once they have suffered from the results.
The next vision of Zechariah does not come for at least three months later:
7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.
The word for bottom in the King James Version in verse 8 refers to a valley, hollow or ravine. The Septuagint version of the verse, translated appropriately from the Greek by Sir Francis by Brenton, reads: “I saw by night, and behold a man mounted on a red horse, and he stood between the shady mountains; and behind him were red horses, and grey, and piebald, and white.” Likewise, where the phrase “among the myrtle trees” appears in verses 10 and 11, the Septuagint has “between the mountains”. Verse 8 as well as most of verses 10 and 11 are missing from the fragments of the copies of Zechariah which have survived in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The colors of the horses may be significant. In the Revelation, in chapter 6, it is apparent that the different colors of four horses represented the various stages of the Roman empire, from its period of growth with the white horse, to civil war with the red, and on to decadence and death with the black and the pale, or green horses.
9 Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. 10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.
The question is in reference to the horses in verse 8. Here the Septuagint adds grey horses to the mix, and piebald is another word for speckled. We may assume that the red horse represents wrath in the judgment of God, where the red may be blood or anger, and the speckled represents a mix of fortunes for Jerusalem (which had indeed become speckled), while the White represents the mercy or salvation of God. This is the interpretation which seems to be evident in the explanation to come, however the wrath is reserved for the nations of the heathen which surround Jerusalem, and the mercy is for Jerusalem itself. In any event, the horses seem not to be confined to the city, but rather they “walk to and fro through the earth.”
11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.
Cyrus, the great Persian king, had died trying to subject the Scythians, in 529 BC. His son Cambyses died of wounds in what was apparently a failed venture against the Ethiopians. Darius seems to have had a relatively peaceful rule which focused on organization of government and construction projects, however he too marched against Egypt in order to assure its control and had made campaigns in the east as far as the Indus River Valley. Crossing the Bosphorus in the west around 515 BC, he attacked the Scythians of Europe as well as the Thracians. According to Herodotus, he did all of this in preparation for an invasion of Greece.
However except for two revolts of the Babylonians which were put down within the first year of Darius’ rule, the Persian empire itself did enjoy a relatively long period of peace at this time. So by “all the land” the prophecy must refer to all of the land of the empire, of which Judaea was a portion.
12 Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?
Of course, this prophecy in itself also heralds the fulfillment of another prophecy, given by the prophet Jeremiah many decades before, which is found in Jeremiah chapter 29: “10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Later on in Zechariah chapter 7 the prophet refers to “even those seventy years”, in a further chastisement of these people.
13 And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
Zechariah portrays the angel as a go-between, repeating to him what Yahweh Himself had already said to the angel.
14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen [nations] that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.
The heathen, the nations which were at ease, are ostensibly all of the surrounding nations which over the centuries before were the enemies of ancient Israel, which Yahweh had made many utterances against in the earlier prophets. While some of the larger nations whom He had spoken against were already destroyed, such as Assyria, or on their way in decline, such as Egypt, many were still thriving. Where it says “they helped forward the affliction”, perhaps it would be more accurate to write “they helped in regards to the injury”, or the evil things which they had done to Judah in the past.
Accepting the reading of this passage in the Septuagint version, the angel and the horses which follow him are stationed between two great mountains. This is consistent with the King James Version where it speaks of a bottom, a valley or ravine, in verse 8. Mountains often represent great nations in Scripture. As Daniel had also prophesied (Daniel chapter 8), war between the Persians and Greeks was imminent. Therefore they must be the two great mountains, and Zechariah seems to be telling us that caught between these two great mountains, all of these other nations which had done evil against Judah would be judged. While detailed histories are often wanting, after the wars with Persia and the Hellenistic period, the map of the ancient world was indeed quite different from the time of Darius.
16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
In the short run, in the literal sense, it is evident that the house referred to here is the second temple. But Yahweh had already said in Jeremiah chapter 19 that “Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again”. This could not have been a prophecy of what had happened in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Rather, Daniel, writing after 586 BC, after prophesying of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, had said concerning that same city that after the cutting off of the Messiah, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”, and this was the desolation which Christ had promised would come upon that same Jerusalem during His ministry.
Again, in a Messianic prophecy in the words of that same prophet, in Jeremiah chapter 33, we read “14 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. 15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.”
So if Jerusalem was to be destroyed never to be made whole again, which it was in 70 AD, and if Jerusalem was to be saved and dwell safely, it is evident that Jerusalem stands for something greater in the words of the prophets than the mere city in Palestine. In Jeremiah chapter 33, in the context of the prophecy in Jeremiah 19, it must mean something other than the city in Palestine. The Jerusalem of today is not Jerusalem, because it is built and inhabited by God’s enemies and not God’s people, in fulfillment of another prophecy in Malachi. Rather, Jerusalem in the prophets becomes an allegory for the seats of government of the people of God, wherever they happen to be. That is how a new Jerusalem is portrayed as descending from heaven, in the closing chapters of the Revelation.
The second temple, this temple of which Zechariah speaks, had one purpose only, as it was described by Daniel the prophet. Daniel is still speaking of the city and of the Messiah and he wrote: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.… [then a little further on, speaking of the Messiah:] He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation”. Until the consummation, Jerusalem shall be desolate, so it will remain desolate until after the return of that same Messiah. With the advent of the Messiah, the temple is no longer a necessity, as Paul had said in Acts chapter 17, “24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands..”, and there is a New Jerusalem which descends from heaven.
So where Yahweh said of Jerusalem “My house shall be built in it”, the short term reference may refer to the second temple, and work had already begun. But while He is apparently speaking of this second temple, in a transcendental prophecy He is actually speaking of the advent of the Messiah, which is Yahweh God manifest in the flesh as a man. This is evident in John chapter 2: “19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building [speaking of the third temple, Herod’s temple], and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body.” The physical person of Christ is the real house, or temple, which was built in the 70-weeks Kingdom, and Zechariah’s prophecy applies to one and to the other.
17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.
Just as Jerusalem can be an allegory for the seats of government of the people of God wherever they happen to be, likewise Zion is an allegory for the people of God wherever they also happen to be. This is evident in many places in Scripture, such as Psalm 146: “10 The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.” One other place where the analogy is clear is in Isiah chapter 52, addressed to people of “the isles… from afar”: “1 Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. 2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion. [The people in captivity.] 3 For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. 7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! 8 Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”
These things were to be done in Christ, and not during the second temple period. In Zechariah chapter 9 we have a more explicit prophecy, which again elucidates the dual purpose of Zechariah’s words here in these early chapters: “9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Christ riding into the old city Jerusalem on a lowly ass was a symbolic type for the humble manner in which the Gospel was initially brought to the scattered tribes of Israel.
Zechariah sees another vision:
18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. 19 And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
Horns in prophetic Scripture most often represent kings, or kingdoms. The picture of world empires described by Daniel begins with Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s own time. So Daniel only prophesied four beast kingdoms, two of which had not come yet in Zechariah’s time, and here Zechariah is speaking in the past tense. However, if we look at the wider panorama of history, as Revelation 17:10-11 also does, perhaps we can imagine that the four horns are the four beast empires that existed until Zechariah’s time, which are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Medo-Persia. From the time of the Exodus, each of those four empires did have a hand in scattering Israel and Judah and the people of Jerusalem. It would be apparent of Egypt, once it is understood, and as the ancient historians also attest, that many Israelites departed Egypt by sea rather than joining Moses, never to be joined to the main body of Israel again. Those Israelites have histories as distinct nations, and in certain places that history is evident in Paul’s epistles. The scattering of Israel by Assyria and Babylon is clearly apparent in Scripture. While the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius had good intentions towards Jerusalem, they nevertheless made war against the Scythians in both the east and the west. The Scythians, being the children of Israel and Judah of the Assyrian captivity, were scattered further afield because of the wars made against them by the Persians. So we would identify Zechariah’s four horns with those four kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon and Persia, which indeed scattered Israel, Judah and Jerusalem.
20 And the LORD shewed me four carpenters. 21 Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles [nations], which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.
Carpenters are not kings or kingdoms, but rather they are builders. The work which they build shall ultimately enable the people of Judah to overcome the horns which scattered them. Israel is not mentioned, which should probably be factored into the interpretation. Therefore we may imagine that the carpenters are those who did the work of God in establishing the 70-weeks kingdom, ensuring that Judea would remain for the appointed time and purpose, which was to produce the Christ. That would be the short-term interpretation. However perhaps we may conjecture that the transcendental interpretation refers to the four Gospels of Christ, which truly casts out the horns of all the heathen nations.
Now we shall proceed with Zechariah chapter 2, which begins a new vision:
Zechariah 2:1 I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2 Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
Perhaps this vision may also lend us further insight into the nature and meaning of Ezekiel’s temple vision, which was also measured by angels but which was much more elaborate. But Ezekiel’s temple never materialized in Palestine, and it never will. Ezekiel’s temple seems only to be an assurance that there is a place for all of the tribes of Israel in the plan of God, as Christ also told His apostles, “In the house of My Father there are many abodes,” in John 14:2. As we shall soon see, neither can this Jerusalem measured here in Zechariah be the Jerusalem in Palestine, and therefore we have further proof of the dual nature of Zechariah’s prophecy. The next time Jerusalem is measured in Scripture, it is the New Jerusalem descended from heaven, in Revelation chapter 21, and the measurement is an allegory for the people of God.
3 And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, 4 And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: 5 For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
We see in verse 4 that Zechariah is described as a boy, or youth, so evidently he must have been quite young when he was inspired to this prophecy.
The King James Version adds words to the text which do not really appear in the Hebrew or in its Greek translations. But the Hebrew of the passage does inform us that Jerusalem would be inhabited as open country. The word perazah (Strong’s Hebrew # 6519) means open country, and was interpreted by the King James translators with the phrase “as towns without walls”. The Septuagint translation omits the word, but it does appear to be present in the fragments of the verse found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Nevertheless the meaning is evident in both the King James Version and the Septuagint where in verse 5 Yahweh says “I … will be unto her a wall”, meaning that this Jerusalem of the prophecy will be without walls of its own, and God will be its wall. However in Zechariah’s time, Jerusalem’s walls were built soon after the temple was built, or at least within two decades. Eventually all of the significant towns of second-temple period Judaea had walls. Rather, Yahweh is once again speaking of Israel scattered abroad, as the next verse explicitly states:
6 Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD. 7 Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
The words come forth are clearly added to the text, as the King James Version signifies by printing them in italics, and therefore they do not belong to the original. Neither are they in the Septuagint, which reads very much like the King James Version does except for the added words.
The immediate interpretation of the prophecy is that it represents an appeal to the Judahites of Babylon to return to Jerusalem in Palestine. But, as the records indicate, relatively few of them had complied.
Aside from the remnant which returned to Jerusalem in Zechariah’s time, the children of Israel, the Zion of Zechariah’s prophecy, were scattered abroad and remained scattered abroad throughout the entire second temple period, and none of them were ever known as Jews. So Paul say in Acts chapter 26: “6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews.” If those twelve tribes were gathered in Judaea before Christ, then James would not have written to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad”, and Paul would not have distinguished them from the Jews, as he indeed visited Jews overseas as well as in Judaea. But none of the twelve tribes were Jews, although some of the Judaeans were Israelites.
To interpret the prophecy, Zion, the people of Israel, must be properly identified in history, and so does the “daughter of Babylon”. Zechariah has a meaning which far transcends the 70-weeks kingdom. Psalm 137 provides a clue, where the daughter of Babylon is also associated with the Edomites who destroyed the original temple of Yahweh: “7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. 8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. 9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” That prophecy in the Psalms has not yet been fulfilled, and it will not be fulfilled until the passing of the prophecy in Revelation chapter 18, where much of the same language appears and where, after the fall of Mystery Babylon, all of the enemies of God shall be destroyed by His people. That is how Zion shall deliver itself from the daughter of Babylon.
8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
The phrase “after the glory” appears in the same sense in both the Greek and Latin translations of Scripture. The short term interpretation may be related to the completion of the second temple. However there are greater promises of the glorification of Yahweh God in the prophets. One place where this is evident is in Isaiah chapter 49: “3 And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. 4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the nations, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. 7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.” So it is evident, that God is glorified in Israel, and Israel is glorified in Christ at the time of their restoration.
But that restoration cannot come until Zion delivers itself from the daughter of Babylon. So in Acts chapter 1 the apostles had asked Christ “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” And He had answered them: “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
In Zechariah Yahweh continues by the manner in which delivery from the daughter of Babylon comes:
9 For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me. 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
During the short-lived restoration of Jerusalem, the Judahites did indeed make war against and defeat all of their surrounding enemies, especially in the Hellenistic period. However there were other prophecies and factors to consider, especially those of Daniel and Malachi, and certain prophecies of Jeremiah. Furthermore, the far-reaching objective of prophecy foretold of the permanent restoration of scattered Israel, and not merely the temporary restoration of the 70-weeks Kingdom. But the purpose of the 70-weeks kingdom was for the ultimate restoration of scattered Israel. So Zechariah has an evident short-term fulfillment, but the short-term fulfillment was short-lived.
The long-term fulfillment is evident in Revelation chapters 18 and 19, which the children of Israel still await. There the progression is much the same. Caught in the captivity of Mystery Babylon, the children of Israel are told to come out of her as it falls. They are then commanded to repay her as she had rewarded them, and in the cup of her wrath to fill for her double. After the lamentation over Mystery Babylon is described, we have Revelation chapter 19, where all the nations are depicted as gathering against the Christ, and they are all destroyed by Him and His armies. That long-term fulfillment of this prophecy of Zechariah is the permanent and lasting fulfillment. The second advent of the Messiah is when, as Yahweh says here, “I will come and dwell in the midst of thee”, which was fulfilled for the short term in the ministry of Christ.
11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
Those many nations are the nations of the seed of Abraham, the great nation and company of nations promised to the children of Israel in Genesis. They are the twelve tribes scattered abroad and the “lost sheep” of the House of Israel. As Christ said in a parable in Matthew chapter 25: “31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world….” But all the goats are forever destroyed.
12 And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. 13 Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
The last passage of Zechariah chapter 2 also has a meaning pertaining to Yahshua Christ, and then, in Zechariah chapter 3 the prophet states: “1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
Now these passages can also be interpreted to represent the struggles which the people of Judah in Zerubbabel’s time had with the Samaritans and the Edomites in the environs of ancient Jerusalem. But they are more properly interpreted as a prophetic description of the overall history of ancient Jerusalem and a struggle which would not come to a head until the time of Jesus, or Yahshua Christ, when He had persistently rebuked His enemies in the temple in Jerusalem.
That is where we will continue in our next segment of the prophecy of Zechariah: Jesus and Satan.