Bible: What Does Zechariah 1-3 Teach Us About Prophetic Visions?
THE BOOK OF ZECHARIAH
The dating of Zechariah's first prophecy indicates that he is a contemporary of Haggai (v. 1; cf. Hag. 1:1; Ezra 5:1).
The man of God here proclaims Yahweh's call of repentance to Israel, offering an opportunity to that present generation to do what earlier ones had failed to do (vv. 2-4).
Former prophets had spoken to "their fathers."
Remaining obstinate, those Israelites were required to endure what God had determined to bring upon them.
Now the time had come for new prophets (like Zechariah) to repackage the same divine message (vv. 5-6; cf. v. 4).
The Prophet's First and Second Visions
Two months after Haggai's last revelation (see Hag. 2:10, 20), Zechariah sees his first night vision: the four horses (vv. 7-11).
Appearing in four different hues, the beasts stand among some "myrtle trees in the hollow" (v. 8).
While asking an angelic visitor to identify what they are, the prophet hears another individual—a "man" among the trees—respond that the horses and (presumably) their riders are sent-ones of Yahweh to travel the earth (vv. 9-10).
Verse 11 does not introduce another person, unless the "Angel of the LORD" and another "man" both stood among the myrtle trees at the same time.
The horsemen tell the Angel that they are "world wanderers": the same answer that the "man" related to Zechariah (v. 11).
[In verses 12-13, the first angel who talked with the prophet (v. 9) appears to serve as a mediator for the Angel of the LORD, for the Angel inquires of the LORD (v. 12).
However, Yahweh answers the first angel (v. 13).
Therefore, the ''man" and the "angel of Yahweh" appear to be the same individual, since both of them stand ''among the myrtle trees" (vv. 10, 11)].
The Length of the Captivity
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Knowing that the seventy years of the LORD's anger against Judah (i.e., the Babylonian Captivity) had ended, the Angel inquires as to why Yahweh delays showing mercy (v. 12).
God reveals to Zechariah through his interpreting angel the "good and comforting words'' of His zeal for Zion, which the prophet should make known (vv. 13-14).
The LORD is zealous for Zion, but reserves anger for the nations that He used to chasten Israel.
"They helped," but, as Yahweh remarks, their motives were wrong, and therefore He was going to punish them (v. 15).
Then God discloses His plans to show mercy toward Jerusalem once again, evidenced by the rebuilding of the temple and the prospering of the cities (vv. 16-17).
Four Horns and Four Craftsmen
Zechariah's second vision features four horns (v. 18).
The man of God learns from his angel that these instruments represent the powers that scattered his people (v. 19).
Looking again, the prophet sees four craftsmen (v. 20).
Once more, he asks for information, but this time not about their identity but about their purpose.
To provide a contrast with the craftsmen, the angel briefly reviews what the horns represent.
The horns scattered Zechariah's people, but the craftsmen have come to rid the land of Judah of these "horns'' (v. 21).
Israel: Completely Rejected by God?
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The Third Vision
Zechariah's third vision reveals to him a young man holding a measuring line (v. 1).
Apparently, this figure begins walking away from the prophet; hence, Zechariah's question regarding the former's destination.
[Why is the man going to measure Jerusalem's width and length? (v. 2; cf. Rev. 21:15ff)].
Relaying a divine message, Zechariah's interpreting angel (obeying another angel's direction) runs to tell this young man that he does not need to measure the city, for it shall have no wall; Yahweh's glorious Presence will protect it (vv. 3-5).
"It is time for God's people to flee Babylon," says Yahweh (vv. 6-7; cf. Rev. 18:4).
His Angel, as the Apostle of Yahweh Sabaoth, has come to judge those who have plundered "the apple" of God's eye (vv. 8-9).
Since she knows that one day Yahweh will dwell in her midst, Jerusalem should rejoice (v. 10).
The One whom God has sent will gather many nations to Himself at that time (v. 11), and the LORD will again choose Jerusalem (v. 12).
In light of this future development, the LORD instructs everyone to stand silently in awe of this almighty display (v. 13).
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The Fourth Vision--Joshua
A fourth vision finds the prophet observing the ''judgment" of Joshua, the high priest in Zechariah's day.
This leader stands before the Angel of Yahweh with Satan opposing him (v. 1; cf. Job 1).
Apparently, the devil rails against Joshua because the latter is wearing filthy garments (symbolic of his sinfulness) [v. 3].
The Angel, however, rebukes Satan and announces Joshua's salvation ("a brand plucked from the fire") [v. 2].
To symbolize this reality, He orders attending angels to "clean up" the priest by removing his filthy clothes and dressing him in rich garments and a clean turban (vv. 4-5).
Then the Angel admonishes Joshua, in essence, saying, "Obey Me, and you will continue in a place of spiritual authority under Me" (v. 7).
He directly addresses the priest and his companions (whoever they are who sit before him), declaring to them the coming of the BRANCH (v. 8).
A stone possessing seven eyes and soon a divine inscription lie before Joshua (v. 9a).
[Perhaps this stone represents the land of Israel (see v. 9b) which Yahweh ever watches].
God will one day forgive Israel and grant him an inheritance in the Land (vv. 9b-10).
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