Zechariah 6:1-15

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Zechariah introduced the eighth vision that he saw with the words, “And again I raised my eyes and saw, and look!” Identical or similar wording introduced five of the seven previous visions. (1:18[2:1]; 2:1[2:5]; 5:1, 5, 9) The prophet saw four chariots coming from between two mountains. He described these mountains as mountains of copper or bronze. Verse 5 indicates that the chariots had departed from God’s presence. Accordingly, the heavenly realm appears to be portrayed as situated behind impenetrable metal mountains, with a passageway situated between them. (6:1)

Red horses were hitched to the first chariot, and black horses to the second one. At least two horses must have been pulling each chariot. Nothing in the context suggests that the colors of the horses had a symbolic significance. The colors probably serve to differentiate them. (6:2)

White horses pulled the third chariot. The plural forms of the Hebrew adjectives baród (dappled or spotted) and ’amóts (possibly skewbald) describe the horses hitched to the fourth chariot. This could mean that the horses were spotted with patches of white and another color other than black. The adjectives in the Septuagint are plural forms of poikílos (spotted) and psarós (dapple gray) and could indicate that the horses were spotted with varying shades of gray. In Hebrew, the consonants for the adjective ’amóts are the same as for the verb meaning “be strong.” This appears to be the reason for the Vulgate description of the horses as being varii (dappled) fortes (strong). (6:3)

Desiring an explanation for what he had seen, Zechariah asked the angel who had been speaking to him as his interpreter and guide, “What [are (included in LXX)] these, my lord?” The expression “my lord” is a respectful form of address. In the Septuagint, the pronoun “my” is not included. (6:4)

The angel answered the prophet’s question, telling him, “These [are (included in LXX)] the four spirits [plural of rúach] of the heavens going forth after stationing themselves before the Lord of all the earth.” In Hebrew, the noun rúach can mean either “spirit” or “wind.” The Septuagint translator chose as the rendering for the Hebrew word the plural form of the noun ánemos (“wind”). In view of the reference to the four having been standing before the “Lord of all the earth” (YHWH the Supreme Sovereign), the reference is more likely to be to “spirits” and, more specifically, to angelic spirits. Anciently, chariots were primarily used in warfare, and so the four horse-drawn chariots may well represent angelic forces that are prepared to carry out God’s will. Their having been stationed before him suggests that they received a commission from him, after which they would make their entrance on the earthly scene. In this case, the number “four” may be understood to denote a complete number of angelic hosts. With hosts of angels in his service, YHWH exercises full control over the whole earth and its affairs. Therefore, developments on earth take place either by his declared will or by his permission (which, according to his purpose, may often be temporary). (6:5; see the Notes section.)

The chariot with the black horses (literally, “which on it the black horses”) had the assignment to go to the “land of the north.” According to the literal reading of the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, “the white ones go after them.” A number of modern translations render the Hebrew words according to an emendation of the text, indicating that the white horses head westward. “The chariot with black horses goes toward the north, the chariot with white horses goes toward the west.” (CEV) “The chariot with the black horses is going to the land of the north, that with the white to the far west.” (REB) “The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west.” (NIV) The chariot with the spotted horses was revealed as going to the “land of the south,” which would have been Egypt. (6:6)

With neither the Septuagint nor the Vulgate giving support to a rendering that supplies “west,” other translators have not chosen to include this direction. “The black horses are leaving for the land of the north; the white are following them, and the piebald are leaving for the land of the south.” (NJB) “The chariot with the black horses was turning toward the land of the north, the red [this color is not included in the Hebrew text nor in the Septuagint], and the white horses went after them, and the spotted ones went toward the land of the south.” (NAB) From the standpoint of Zechariah and his fellow repatriated Jews, the “land of the north” and the “land of the south” would have been the most significant regions, for to the west lay the Mediterranean Sea and to the east stretched a vast desert region. Therefore, the original text may never have included any reference to the east or to the west. Whereas the “land of the north” actually lay to the east, armies and merchants who started out from there made their way into the land of Judah from the north, avoiding travel through the arid desert. Accordingly, Babylonia was designated as the “land of the north” even though the city of Babylon lay east of Jerusalem. (6:6)

With their chariot, the “skewbald” (a possible meaning for ’amóts) horses or the dapple gray (psarós [LXX]) ones came forth. (See verse 3.) The reference to their seeking to go “to patrol the earth” appears to indicate that they were eager to carry out an assigned duty when moving about on the earth or the land. Verse 8 suggests that YHWH is the one who told them, “Go; patrol the earth.” “And they patrolled the earth.” The forms of the Hebrew verb halák are here rendered “to go,” “to patrol, and “patrolled.” This verb basically means “go,” “walk,” or “move about.” This would have been purposeful movement comparable to engaging in patrol duty. (6:7)

In view of the accomplishment of those who had gone forth from “the Lord of all the earth” (verse 5) to the “land of the north,” YHWH must be the one who cried out to Zechariah, saying to him, “Those going to the land of the north have given rest to my spirit in the land of the north.” Babylonia, the “land of the north” was then part of the Persian Empire. Through the activity of the angelic forces there, God’s spirit had come to rest. This appears to indicate that the spirit came to exercise a powerful influence in the “land of the north,” either in motivating the Jewish exiles still there to return to Jerusalem and the land of Judah (Ezra 7:1-8:35) or (especially in the context of Zechariah’s service as a prophet) in compelling the Persian monarch to lift the ban on rebuilding Jerusalem, decreeing that the work on the temple should continue, and giving full support to the Jews in their labors. (6:8; Ezra 5:1-6:15)

Again the “word of YHWH” came to Zechariah. This “word” was a message that revealed significant future developments. (6:9)

Zechariah would have had no problem in understanding the instructions he was given. The preserved wording of the Hebrew text, however, is somewhat ambiguous, and the Septuagint rendering provides no clarification. Zechariah was to “take” from the “exile” (gohláh). Just what he was to take is not specified, but the following verse indicates that it was “silver and gold.” The Hebrew text may be literally translated, “Take from the exile, from Heldai and from Tobijah and from Jedaiah, and go the same day, and go to the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, who have arrived from Babylon.” (6:10)

Possibly Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah had come from Babylon as representatives of the Jewish community still residing there and had been entrusted by the exiles with a contribution of silver and gold. Josiah the son of Zephaniah may have been their host in whose house they were staying. Although the Hebrew designation gohláh (“exile,” “captivity,” or “deportation”) could refer to the Jews still residing in Babylon, it may be understood to apply to those exiles who were then living in Jerusalem and the land of Judah. This would mean that Zechariah was to take silver and gold from the Jewish community that had returned from exile and from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah who had just then arrived from Babylon. Another way of viewing the text is to consider Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah as being described as men of the “exile” or as being exiles. This is a significance reflected in the renderings of a number of translations. “Take [an offering] from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go that same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah.” (HCSB) “Take from the returned captives Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah; and go the same day to the house of Josiah, son of Zephaniah (these had come from Babylon).” (NAB) “Receive the gifts from the exiles Heldai, Tobiah, and Jedaiah who have returned from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah.” (REB) (6:10)

The Septuagint does not include Heldai, Tobiah, and Jedaiah as the names of three men. It refers to taking “the things from the captivity, from the rulers and from its skilled people [literally, useful ones] and from the ones having come to know it [the captivity]. And you shall enter in that day into the house of Iosias [Josiah] the son of Sophonias [Zephaniah], the one having come from Babylon.” This could be understood to mean that either Josiah or Zephaniah is the one who had earlier come from Babylon. (6:10; for other ways in which the Hebrew text has been rendered, see the Notes section.)

From the silver and gold taken from the ones mentioned in the previous verse, Zechariah was to make “crowns.” The plural “crowns” may be a plural of excellence and designate a magnificent crown. Another interpretation found in a number of translations is that one of the crowns was to be placed on Joshua’s head. “Make crowns, and set the one upon the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.” (Margolis) “Take silver and gold and make crowns. Place [one] on the head of High Priest Joshua son of Jehozadak.” (Tanakh) A rendering that is less likely to be correct is one that represents several crowns as being placed on Joshua’s head. “Take silver and gold, make crowns and place them on the head of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest.” (HCSB) In the Septuagint, the plural of stéphanos is the rendering of the Hebrew word for “crown” and designates a victory wreath (like one that is placed on the head of a winner in an athletic contest). (6:11)

Although Zechariah was directed to make the “crown” or “crowns,” he probably arranged for the actual work to be done. The placement of a crown on Joshua’s head was a symbolic act that pointed to a future development. (6:11)

Zechariah was to tell Joshua, “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the Lord Almighty (LXX)], saying, “Look! The man whose name is Sprout; and from under him, he will sprout and he will build the temple of YHWH.” This declaration of YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service, links the crowning of Joshua with the sprouting (the rising [like that of the sun], LXX) of the man called “Sprout” (Dawn or Sunrise [anatolé], LXX). Therefore, the placing of the crown on the head of Joshua appears to have prophetically indicated that the man called “Sprout” would function as high priest in addition to ruling as king. (Verse 13) He would sprout from below as from a root, or from the ancestral royal line that had its start with David of the tribe of Judah. (6:12)

Jesus proved to be the Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ who “sprouted” from the royal line of David when it had been reduced to a level of obscurity comparable to a root in dry ground. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-5; 53:2.) He alone, as one who came through the royal line of David, is both high priest and king. (Hebrews 1:8, 9; 7:14-17, 26-8:6) The temple he builds is one composed of living stones, of his devoted disciples. These faithful followers of his form a congregation, a community, or a temple in which God dwells by means of his spirit. (Matthew 16:18; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4, 5) Decades before Zechariah began serving as a prophet, Ezekiel saw in vision a temple that differed markedly from the one that was to be rebuilt. (Ezekiel 40:1-43:12) In this way, by means of a visual representation, it was divinely revealed that at a future time there would be a uniquely different temple (as is definitely true respecting the temple consisting of living stones). (6:12)

Apparently for emphasis, the thought that the man named “Sprout” would “build the temple of YHWH” is repeated. He is the one who would bear “splendor” or royal dignity and “sit and rule on his throne.” There would be a “priest on his throne,” and “counsel of peace” would be “between them both.” In the former kingdom of Judah, there were times when serious conflicts arose between the king and the Aaronic priest. This happened when the priest Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, publicly reproved the people, including the King Jehoash, for transgressing YHWH’s commands. Thereafter, at the order of the king, the people killed Zechariah by hurling stones at him in the courtyard of the temple. (2 Chronicles 24:20-22) No disastrous rift of this nature would be possible when the offices of king and high priest would be bestowed on one person. It would then be as if the king and the high priest were united in a peaceful understanding, adhering to counsel or advice that promoted peace between them. In the fulfillment relating to the Anointed One, Christ, or Messiah, to Jesus the “Sprout” who came from the royal line of David, the positions of king and high priest are combined. This aspect is not expressed explicitly in the prophetic word, but the focus is on the complete harmony in the functions of the two offices. (6:13)

In the Septuagint, the wording is even more specific than the Hebrew text in referring to two persons. It indicates that both the ruler and the priest would function unitedly in administering affairs among the people, with the priest giving full support to the ruler as one stationed at his right hand. The one called “Sprout” (“Dawn” or “Sunrise” [LXX]) is represented as gaining renown (literally, receiving “virtue” or “moral excellence” [areté]) and sitting and governing “on his throne.” “And the priest will be on his right, and counsel of peace will be between both of them.” In this context, the Greek word areté may denote the renown or good reputation of the virtuous ruler. (6:13)

Neither the high priest Joshua nor anyone else would wear the crown that had been placed on his head as a symbolic act. This crown would occupy a place in the completed temple of YHWH, serving as a memorial to Helem (Heldai), Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen (probably another name for Josiah the son of Zephaniah), apparently for their significant contribution to the temple rebuilding work and also for a testimony about the coming of a future ruler, the man “Sprout” from the royal line of David. (6:14)

As in verse 10, the Septuagint includes no reference to Heldai (Helem), Tobijah, and Jedaiah. It says that the “crown” or victor’s wreath (stéphanos) “will be for those who endure and for her [probably Jerusalem’s] skilled people [literally, useful ones] and for those who have known it [likely meaning the exile (based on the antecedent for the same expression in verse 10)].” This crown would also prove to be for a “grace” or a gracious reward to the son of Sophonias (Josiah the son of Zephaniah) and for a “psalm” or a tangible expression of praise to God in his temple (in the “house of the Lord”). (6:14)

Those “far away”or “far from them” (LXX) could designate Jews who were then residing in lands far away from Jerusalem and the land of Judah. They would be prompted to return to the land of Judah and offer assistance for the rebuilding of YHWH’s temple. Upon witnessing this development, the people would know, or have it confirmed to them, that YHWH of hosts (the Lord Almighty [LXX]), their God with hosts of angels in his service, had sent the prophet Zechariah to them. If they listened, truly listened (literally, “to hear, you will hear”) to the “voice of YHWH” their God through his prophet, acting in harmony with the message proclaimed to them, all that had been made known to them would take place. (6:15)


In verse 5, the Septuagint rendering indicates that the four winds “go forth to attend to,” or to render service to, “the Lord of all the earth.”

The measure of obscurity in the Hebrew text of verse 10 has given rise to a variety of renderings, including ones that adopt parts of the Septuagint reading. “Take silver and gold from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who were captives in Babylon. Go that same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah, who came from Babylon.” (NCV) “Take the gifts given by the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, and go at once to the home of Josiah son of Zephaniah. All of them have returned from exile in Babylonia.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah will bring gifts of silver and gold from the Jews exiled in Babylon. As soon as they arrive, meet them at the home of Josiah son of Zephaniah.” (NLT) “Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah have returned from Babylonia. Collect enough silver and gold from them to make a crown. Then go with them to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah and put the crown on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak.” (CEV)