Zechariah 6 – A King and Priest
A. The vision of the four chariots and their horses.
1. (1-3) What Zechariah saw.
Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses—strong steeds.
a. Four chariots were coming from between two mountains: Since the original text says the two mountains, most people assume they are the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion. Mountains of bronze associates these mountains with strength and judgment.
b. Four chariots.… red horses…black horses…white horses…dappled horses—strong steeds: The horsemen of Zechariah 1 were observers on reconnaissance. These four chariots and their horses seem to be hostile agents of God’s judgment, emissaries of His war against the earth.
i. Some commentators want to identify these four chariots with Daniel’s four world empires (Daniel 2 and Daniel 7) but the colors essentially are the same as the four horsemen in Revelation 6, the emissaries of God’s judgment. Some commentators connect these with the angelic messengers of judgment in Revelation 7:1-3.
ii. “In the usual Scriptural symbolism red speaks of war, black of famine and death, white of victory, and grizzled of pestilence (Ezekiel 14:21, Revelation 6:1-8).” (Luck)
2. (4-8) What the vision means.
Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” And the angel answered and said to me, “These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth. The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country.” Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, “Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth.” So they walked to and fro throughout the earth. And He called to me, and spoke to me, saying, “See, those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country.”
a. Four spirits of heaven: This means that these four chariots were actually four angelic beings sent from God. Therefore these may not be exactly the same as the four horsemen of Revelation 6, but the idea of their mission and purpose is similar.
i. John Calvin said that these angels are compared to horsemen on chariots because “These ride swiftly as it were through the whole world to execute what God commands them.” If Zechariah had reference to the technology of today, he might picture the angels in fast cars or fighter jets, showing how swiftly and powerfully they move across the earth to accomplish God’s purpose.
b. To the north country: Two of the horses are focused on the north, where Babylon and Magog are. Nevertheless, each of the four also walks to and fro throughout the earth.
c. Those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country: God’s Spirit is only at rest when His enemies and the enemies of His people are judged.
B. The crowning of Joshua, the high priest.
1. (9-11) A command to make a crown for Joshua.
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.”
a. Receive the gift from the captives…who have come from Babylon: As the refugees continued to return from exile they brought with them gifts from wealthy Babylon.
b. Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah: Taking the meaning of the names (Heldai means robust, Tobijah means God’s goodness, and Jedaiah means God knows), McGee sees in the meaning of these names the sense that God knew that through His goodness, He would put His king on the throne, and He would do it in a robust manner.
c. Make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua: It was unthinkable to crown a high priest because priests were never crowned as kings and kings were never priests.
i. 2 Chronicles 26 tells the tragic story of King Uzziah who tried to function as a priest, and was stricken with leprosy until the end of his life. Throughout the history of Israel God commanded a separation between the religious and the civil leadership of Israel.
ii. Elaborate crown: This was definitely a royal crown and was not the customary headdress of the high priest.
d. On the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: There already was a strong, godly civil leader in Jerusalem named Zerubbabel. It seems like it would have made a lot more sense to crown Zerubbabel instead of Joshua…the high priest. But Joshua was crowned because a coming descendant of David to rule over Israel would be Jesus, prefigured by the high priest Joshua.
i. Liberal critics are so certain that Zerubbabel should be crowned here that they think that the text is in error. This misses the whole point because this crowning of Joshua prophesies the King-Priest Jesus.
2. (12-13) Prophecy of the Branch, who is both King and Priest.
“Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying:
“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH!
From His place He shall branch out,
And He shall build the temple of the LORD;
Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.
He shall bear the glory,
And shall sit and rule on His throne;
So He shall be a priest on His throne,
And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’”
a. Behold, the Man whose name is the Branch! We already saw this Branch in Zechariah 3:8, and it was a familiar title for the Messiah (Isaiah 4:2 and 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5 and 33:15). The Branch was associated with fruitfulness and life. Jesus used the same image when He said that He is the vine and we are the branches (John 15:5).
i. Behold, the Man: “In the Hebrew text the prophecy begins ‘Behold the Man,’ the very words Pilate used to present the beaten Christ to the people of Jerusalem: ‘Ecce homo!’” (Boice). But in Zechariah’s vision it isn’t the humiliated Jesus we are asked to behold, it is the triumphant Jesus.
b. From His place He shall branch out: This speaks of the fruitfulness and spreading life of the Messiah.
i. “He will come where there is little promise of new life, unexpectedly, like the root out of a dry ground.” (Baldwin)
c. And He shall build the temple of the LORD: The Branch will rebuild the temple – not the same temple Zerubbabel worked on, but the temple of His people (Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:5).
d. So He shall be a priest on His throne: This was an unthinkable concept previously in Israel because priests did not sit on thrones and kings did not serve as priests. Nevertheless, the Branch is different; He rules as both a King and Priest.
3. (14-15) The crown as a memorial.
“Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the LORD for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
a. Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial: The LORD made it clear that the crown for Joshua was a picture of the ruling Priest-King in the future. God never intended for Joshua to take control as king in the Jerusalem of his day.
b. Hen the son of Zephaniah: Earlier, Josiah was said to be the son of Zephaniah, and Zechariah apparently gave this prophecy in his house (Zechariah 6:10). Since the name Hen means “gracious,” it is almost certainly another name, and an appropriate name, for this Josiah the son of Zephaniah.
c. Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD: The elaborate crown spoke of something that would not happen for a long time in the future. Still, God’s promised blessing in the future means that He wants the work to continue right now, and that He will bless the current work.