H. C. Heffren

Part 1 of 3

Introduction to the Message of Zechariah...

To write a commentary on the book of Zechariah is not easy. However, we are assured that Zechariah was inspired of God to give the message that he uttered. The first half of the commentary describes a series of visions that are quite diverse, and yet an angel gives a meaning to each vision. The last half of Zechariah is filled with some of the most momentous prophecies of the coming Messiah. Zechariah seems to stand on a mountain equipped with a long rang telescope able to penetrate the centuries down to the advent and ministry of the Messiah. Most often he prefaces his remarks with, IN THAT DAY, and then he describes some event of such mysterious magnitude that it bears evidence of his inspiration. An example is Zechariah 13:1, IN THAT DAY there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.” Thus Zechariah jubilantly proclaims in words of poetic truth and grandeur; that Christ would provide for man’s atonement through this prophetic cleansing fountain.

There may be things of less gripping interest as we follow the path that leads to Zechariah’s emphasis on the Messiah, but we hope you will stay with us until we arrive at the message he conveys. The Book of Zechariah is not the easiest book to unfold. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia in Vol. 5, pages 3136-3137 says, “Few books of the Old Testament are as difficult of interpretation as the book of Zechariah; no other book is as Messianic…The scope of Zechariah’s vision and the profundity of his thought are almost without parallel…His book is the most Messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatological, of all the writings in the Old Testament…The returned captives from Babylon were feeling disheartened and depressed because Jehovah had not made it possible to restore Zion. Haggai had given them real initiative and the work of rebuilding was begun under him. It was left to Zechariah to complete the structure, and this was his primary work.”

While it is apparent that the message of Zechariah does present some difficulties and differences of interpretation, we should not neglect its message on that account. There are many plain and profound statements. Zechariah was definitely inspired to write as he did. This is emphasized by his frequent appeals to Divine utterance, ”And the Lord said unto me,” Zech. 12:15, and “Thus saith the Lord of hosts,” Zech. 8:4.

In the later chapters of Zechariah there is a constant reference to “In the Last Day”. This invariably refers to the Day of the Messiah and the quotations are frequently referred to in the New Testament, as we shall see. Zechariah is reputed to have died a martyr’s death. Men who have dared to tell the truth have often had to forfeit their lives in all ages. But truth lives on. Judged by what Zechariah did, his achievements were monumental. Judged by what he said, especially as the mouthpiece of God, his words can only be described as immortal, perpetual, unfading and imperishable. His influence is of endless duration. We do well to ponder what the message of Zechariah was all about as it unfolds God’s plan through the ages.

Chapter One

How Zechariah Views the Messiah...

Zechariah is the eleventh of the Minor Prophets. The name means “Whom Jehovah Remembers”. It was a popular Hebrew name, for we find twenty-seven men in the Old Testament called Zechariah. The Zechariah we are concerned with was of priestly descent. He was born in Babylon during the seventy years captivity, but came to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbable, a name that means, “Jehovah is Salvation”. This is the name the Greeks changed to Jesus. Zechariah became a prophet as well as a priest about the same time as Haggai, although Haggai preceded Zechariah by two months. Zechariah, as well as his father, Berechiah, and grandfather, Iddo, were all priests.

When the Jews came back from Babylon, not all of them returned and those that did return found their city in utter ruin. There was constant opposition to their efforts to rebuild the temple and the city. Haggai, the prophet stirred the people along with Zechariah. To these should be added the great influence of Ezra and Nehemiah. History marks this tremendous undertaking to have occurred in the years, 520 B.C. to 515 B.C., although the first contingent of Jews returned about 536 B.C. It is interesting to note the way time was marked in the Old Testament. Zechariah begins with, “in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord to Zechariah”. Zech. 1:1. Again in Zech. 7:1, we read, “And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Darius…” In Amos 1:1 we read, “The word of Amos…two years before the earthquake.” No doubt these events were very well known at the time, but history has a more reliable method of marking time events now. Time is now measured either Before Christ or Anno Domini, which means in the year of our Lord. We are quite sure that the years A.D. are relatively correct, except in ascertaining the dates; the calendar maker discovered the birth of Christ was 4 B.C., which showed a permanent error in the dating of our calendar. There are, however, many uncertainties about dates given in the Old Testament like: “The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah King of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash King of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” No doubt that particular earthquake was of sufficient intensity to mark the year for contemporaries, but the exact year, as well as many other events have had to be fixed. Zechariah fixed his date of prophecy by referring to Darius---it began when God appeared to him in “the eighth month, in the second year of Darius.

From information provided it appears that Zechariah was born in Chaldea, but came to Jerusalem when Cyrus, King of Persia, gave permission for the Jews to return to Jerusalem. It should be noted, however, the return was after seventy years captivity in Babylon as prophesied by Jeremiah. We also note that Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai and Zechariah were priests and that Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries. Zerubbabel was of the kingly lineage of David and he was leader of the group.

Zechariah is the longest book of the Minor Prophets, and in many ways it is the most obscure. We are confronted with visions and angels, with apocalyptic observations and a very strong reference to the Messiah, who is also introduced as the Branch, or Sprout of David. It is characteristic of Bible writers that the nearer they approach the time of the advent of the Messiah, the stronger and clearer are the references to His Advent. While all the books of the Old Testament in some way portray the coming Messiah, the emphasis in Isaiah and Zechariah is most emphatic. This is in harmony with Revelation 19:10, which says, “Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy”. We will refer to many of these observations as we proceed with the prophecy.

Zechariah begins his prophecy with a call to repentance. He says, “Don’t be like your fathers who hardened their hearts and resisted Jehovah obstinately, and as a result suffered exile in Babylon”. (Zech. 1:4) Notice, however, that God’s arrangements are reciprocal and conditional. “If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house…” (Zech. 3:7) In Mal. 3:7 it says, “Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord…” This is confirmed in James 4:8, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you”. We are invited into close fellowship with God, but that fellowship is conditional in every instance.

The prophecy of Zechariah begins in the first chapter at verse 7. Evidently it is what made a deep impression on Zechariah, for he remembered the date explicitly. Zechariah was confronted with eight separate visions in the course of one night. A vision differs from a dream in that a vision comes when you are wide-awake. A dream comes when you are asleep. The dictionary describes a vision as something seen in the imagination.

Perhaps we should briefly examine the Jerusalem that Zechariah (together with Haggai, Ezra and Nehemiah) saw. It was a picture of utter gloom. The walls of the city were a mere pile of rubble. Destruction had been heaped upon every dwelling. The once magnificent temple of Solomon was devastated beyond recognition. They were surrounded; by angry opponents; who threatened them with warlike derision at every move they made. But there was also encouragement given. Perhaps no other book in the Bible is strewn with such words as “Thus says Jehovah, and the Word of the Lord came unto Zehcariah”. In the eighth chapter, Zechariah appeals to Jehovah at least sixteen times to show that he, Jehovah, is the source of the message.

Chapter Two

The First Vision...

In the first vision, Zechariah saw different colored horses with men riding upon them. They were among some myrtle trees at the bottom of a valley. This may have been meant to show the low estate of Israel at that time. But the duty of the horse riders is give by the angel that talked with Zechariah. The horsemen were delegated to walk to and fro through the earth. God watches over all the earth. Nothing happens by accident among nations. The myrtle trees are still plentiful in Palestine…they are a log-flowering shrub. The horses were of different colors, which may be significant, but the reason is not given. The prophet seems impatient at finding Jerusalem still so humiliated and he longs to know why, to which the Lord answered that the future is bright and God will yet rebuild the city with the aid of His trusting servants.

Vision Number Two...

The second vision given to Zechariah shows horns. Zechariah was told by the angel that these horns symbolized the heathen, which persecuted Israel. He was then shown four carpenters, which Zechariah was curious about. Zechariah was told that these carpenters where coming to “fray” the heathen. Fray is a word no longer used, but it means to make afraid, to cause to tremble; fill with consternation. This is the second step taken by God to fulfill His purpose and promise toward Jerusalem. The carpenters are simply men capable of building up what the horns destroyed.

Vision Number Three...

The third vision of Zechariah is most significant. It begins with a man holding a measuring line in his hand. The purpose of this is to measure the city of Jerusalem. There is some mystery about the measurements of this city for it specifies the length and breath, but the wall is, Divine…in that God encircles it with a wall of fire. We are reminded of Ezekiel’s vision where he also saw a man in white measuring the temple. He found the measuring reed like a rod that specified an entrance one reed long by one reed broad, and individual chambers that were one reed long by one reed broad and one reed high. The reed is obviously God’s Word. In the new temple we gain entrance by going the Bible way. When we are inside we find God’s Word measures each occupant. Our lives must be “one Bible long”, “one Bible broad” and “one Bible deep”. The one who does the measuring uses the plumbline or plummer. In God’s church there is no room made for crooked people or misfits. All the church must be erect, straight. This tallies with Eph. 3:18, which says, “we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breath and length, and depth and height…”. Paul gives the dimensions but he does not say what he is measuring. (But) We believe he is describing the church, which is still in the process of being built, but the exact size cannot be given until the entire structure is finished. Until then, its final wall is in the hand of God. Our protection is invincible because it is Omnipotence---protected by God.

A call and a welcome, is extended to any sons of Israel remaining in Babylon. They are invited to return to Zion. But the prophet seems to go beyond Jerusalem to Zion, which is mentioned in Hebrews 12:24, “But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels”. This is the Jerusalem spoken of in Gal. 4:26, “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the Mother of us all”.

Chapter Three

Vision Number Four...

This fourth vision is Messianic. First of all it portrays the conflict between Joshua and Satan. Jesus Christ is always shown as the antithesis of Satan. In Scripture, God is the antithesis of the world, and the Holy Spirit is the antithesis of the flesh. They are always shown in this pattern throughout the Bible.

Thus we have Joshua, the high priest who represents Christ, with Satan at his right hand to resist him. Thus we read in 1 John 3:8, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the work of the devil”. Satan is rebuked by Joshua, who states that “Jerusalem is a Brand plucked out of the fire.” This indicates that Jerusalem has gone through sever trials and is preserved by the hand of God.

Next we observe that Joshua is clothed with filthy garments as he stood before the angel. These filthy garments are symbolic of the sins of the nation he represented. The Bible says, “All our righteousness is as filthy rags”, so that we need to be cleansed. The next representation is that of Joshua being cleansed from his filthy garments. This is typical of the cleansing of being born again and thus becoming a child of God. We simply give up our sins and accept the robes of righteousness provided by God. The comment in Zechariah is, “Behold, I have caused this iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment”.

Then Joshua, the High Priest, was given a mitre, which was the headdress of the High Priest, and the angel of the Lord gave this condition, “If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by”. We will notice here that there are conditions to be observed meticulously in our relationship with God. The responsibility of keeping the charge and of judging the house is conditioned by obeying God in every detail.

There are still two very important observations in this vision that was given to Zechariah. One is in chapter 4:8, which says, ”God will bring forth my Servant the Branch”. There are several references in both Jeremiah and Isaiah to the Branch, and in every case they refer to the Messiah. Along with this is the declaration that a stone is laid before Joshua. “Upon one stone shall be seven eyes.” The seven eyes indicate that God is watching over His people perfectly at all times. They show that God’s care is complete, infinite and eternal. In Psa. 17:8, David prayed, “Keep me as the apple of thine eye”. And in Zech. 2:8 we read, “For thus saith the Lord; after the glory he has sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye”. The apple or pupil of the eye is the most sensitive part, so God’s care of His people reaches to the most sensitive part.

Vision Number Five...

We now come to vision number five. This vision begins with a question. The angel of the Lord asks Zechariah what he sees. The answer is that he sees a candlestick. This candlestick is fed by seven pipes, and besides the candlestick are two olive trees. This would indicate there is ample oil, especially when there is an ever-renewable source by the presence of the two olive trees. We should keep in mind that Zerubbabel is faced with a gigantic task, that of rebuilding Jerusalem. He is faced with almost insurmountable difficulties. It is with this background that we read in Zech. 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of hosts.” We can see by this that the prophet is looking beyond the immediate task at Jerusalem, and is showing that the building of God’s temple, of which the one in Jerusalem was a type, was a work that was accomplished by the hand and the power of God. Zechariah is made aware that his task cannot be achieved by armies or by the influence of finances derived from secular sources. His ultimate resource is from God Almighty.

A further example of this is that Zerubbabel called attention to the mountains that were on either side. These he considered would be overcome by the power of God, and the completion of the temple would reduce such mountains to the normal condition of a plain. It should be observed that Zechariah said there would be “shouting” upon the completion of the temple, “Grace, grace, unto it.” Once again we notice that it is not something accomplished by man, but it is and accomplishment of God, which causes us to shout for joy at the prominence given to Grace, God’s unmerited favor.

We examine the work of Zerubbabel further and notice that Zerubbabel almost boasts that he laid the foundation, and that he will complete it, and in this connection we read verse 10, “For who despised the day of small things?” We should observe that Zerubbabel is building a temple in Jerusalem and he is aware that it is insignificant compare with the temple in Solomon, which was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The temple of Solomon was one of the wonders of ancient history, and the temple of Zerubbabel was in comparison, very insignificant indeed, but God said, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” While the temple of Solomon had the magnificence and outward grandeur to excite the admiration and the wonder of its worshippers, it was the temple of Zerubbabel that had the honor to welcome the Messiah and listen to His wonderful teaching. By comparison, in this sense, the temple of Zerubbabel far outranked the temple of Solomon.

Vision Number Six...

The sixth vision of Zechariah depicted a flying scroll, and the dimensions of the scroll seemed to be very significant. The scroll measured 20 cubits long by ten cubits wide. This was the size of the sanctuary, and was also the size of the entrance to the tabernacle. The inner sanctuary was called the Holy of Holies and holiness was required of the ones who worshipped there. In Lev. 20:7 we read, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the Lord you God.” This exhortation is mentioned on many occasions.

It is mentioned that the scroll contained a curse written on both sides and this indicates that the law was broken, as the Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) The sad conclusion of the human race is summed up in Rom. 3:10, “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” We are all under condemnation as far as the old covenant is concerned. There had to be a new and living way provided. It is significant that with Adam’s fall into sin we have all been under the curse, and the last word in the Old Testament in the King James Version, is the word, “curse”. The first name in the New Testament is Jesus Christ, the name of the One who lifts the curse, and provides the way to a new relationship between God and man.

Vision Number Seven...

This vision is introduced by an angel of God telling the prophet to lift his eyes. When the prophet obeyed, he is asked what he sees. Zechariah responded that He see an ephah, that goeth forth. An ephah is a measure of capacity shaped like a basket or barrel and used for measuring flour or barley. It would amount to three pecks, American measure. In this case the size is not important, for there is a woman sitting in the midst of the ephah, and there is a lid on the ephah composed of lead, so when someone lifts the lid of the ephah it reveals the woman below. This woman symbolizes wickedness, which enshrouds Israel and Judah.

A further revelation shows two women with the winds in their wings. These wings are said to be like the wings of a stork, which indicated they were very strong. They lifted up the ephah between earth and heaven. Zechariah asked the angel whither do these bear the ephah, and he was told to build a house in the land of Shinar and it shall be established and set there upon her own base. There is some mystery to this vision, which we will have to speculate upon. We remember that the Bible frequently compares the winds to the influence of the Holy Spirit. The fact that these two women were capable of removing this ephah from the land of Judah to Shinar, could have reference to the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came with the sound of mighty rushing wind and prevailed over wickedness, and the people were given a new relationship with God.

The land of Shinar happens to be the place where Nimrod was located and everything connected with Nimrod was rebellion against God and against the people of God. The fact that the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost overcame wickedness was like taking the wicked woman away to Shinar where she was placed on her own base, and this indicated that righteousness had prevailed over established wickedness. At Pentecost there was a separation between believers and unbelievers. [ Continued...link below ]

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