The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 09

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(Chapter vi. 1–8)

And again I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass. In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; and in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled strong horses. Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. The chariot wherein are the black horses goeth forth toward the north country; and the white went forth after them; and the grisled went forth toward the south country. And the strong went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and He said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. Then cried He to me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, they that go toward the north country have quieted My spirit in the north country.


WE come to the eighth, or last vision, in which the prophet's eyes are opened to see the invisible chariots of God which are being sent forth for the overthrow of Gentile world-power, and to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Messiah, which " shall never be destroyed."

What the Prophet saw

Probably directed again by the interpreting angel to do so, the prophet lifts up his eyes and beholds four chariots coming forth from between two mountains of brass.[1] These chariots were drawn by horses of various colours. In the first were red horses, in the second black, in the third white, and in the fourth grisled, or speckled, horses, to which also are applied the epithet D ifOX (amutsim, " strong "y

The Significance of the Symbolism

I. The two mountains, which in the Hebrew have the definite article, indicating that they are well known, and which, as we may gather from the 5th verse, are associated with the " presence," or special dwelling-place, of " the Lord of the whole earth," are very probably Mount Zion and Mount Olivet, " viewed as ideal mountains, and as the place whence God's judgments go forth over the world."

This is the more likely true explanation, since the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the meaning of which is " Jehovah shall judge "), which lies between these two " mountains," or " hills," is associated in the prophetic Scriptures with God's judgments upon the nations (Joel iii. 2). [2]

At any rate, this much is clear (as Dr. Wright points out), that the chariots are represented as going forth from a place situate between " north " and " south " i.e., from Palestine, and from that place in the Holy Land where Jehovah was wont to display His gracious presence. From this spot, which God has chosen as His earthly dwellingplace, and as the centre of His governmental dealings with the nations, blessing goes forth in all the world, and from it also judgments proceed.

They are spoken of as mountains of " brass," or, more literally, " copper," to indicate the strength and inaccessibleness of God's dwelling-place. He can, and does, send forth His chariots to build up, or to pull down and destroy, but no one can penetrate into His presence. Or, as Pusey observes, " the mountains of brass may signify the height of the Divine wisdom (in all His plans and purposes con cerning the nations), and the sublimity of the power which putteth them in operation. As the Psalmist says: Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God. "

II. The Chariots. If, with the prophet, we ask, What are these? the answer of the Interpreting Angel in ver. 3 is: " These are the four winds of heaven, which go forth from standing before the Lord of the whole earth" We must therefore regard them either as ideal appearances, personifying the forces and providential acts which God often uses in carrying out His judgments on the earth, or, what seems to me the simplest and most natural explana tion, angelic beings, or heavenly powers those invisible " messengers " of His " who excel in strength, and who ever stand in His presence, hearkening unto the voice of His word," and then go forth in willing obedience, as swift as the "winds," to carry out His behests (Ps. ciii. 20, 21, civ. 4).

These, no doubt, are also meant by " the chariots of God, which are twenty thousand, even thousands upon thousands," of which we read in Ps. Ixviii. 17, though the word " angels " (used in the Authorised Version) is not found in the original of that verse. Indeed, there is a striking connection between the first and the last visions. In the first vision (chap. i. 717), at the beginning of this, to the prophet, memorable night, he saw the angelic riders with the Angel of the Lord, Himself mounted on a red horse at their head, appearing in the presence of the Lord, to bring in, as it were, their report after " walking to and fro through the earth " as to the condition of the Gentile nations and their attitude to the people and the land. And now, toward morning, as the visions were about to be brought to an end, he sees the same angelic hosts, now turned into God's war chariots, actually being sent forth (no longer to report) but to carry out the judgments of God upon those nations with whom He is " very sore dis pleased," because " they helped forward the affliction " of His own people, whom, even in the time of their banish ment and scattering, He has never cast off.

III. We now come to the difficult point of the number of the chariots and the significance of the colours of the horses.

The number, four, clearly brings to our mind again the four great Gentile world-powers, whose successive course makes up " the times of the Gentiles," and whose final over throw must precede the restoration and blessing of Israel, and the visible establishment of the Messianic kingdom.

In this connection it is again interesting to observe that these four " chariots " are explained to be the " four winds." Now, in Dan. vii. 13 we read of the four winds of heaven " striving," or " breaking," upon " the great sea," which caused the four great Beasts, " diverse one from the other" (symbolical of the four great Gentile world-powers), to arise; and here we see the " four winds " sent forth to break up these same empires; from which we may surely learn that it is by the will and power of God, and by His direct interposition, either by visible, natural, or by angelic agency, that empires rise and fall.

There is a certain parallelism to be observed also between this vision and the second act of the historical prophetic drama unfolded in the vision of the four horns and four carpenters (chap. i. 18-21) only here we have the great fact still more clearly brought out, that behind visible phenomena and all human motives and actions there is the eternal purpose and power of God, and the invisible active agency of His angelic hosts.

But there is a difficulty in connection with the number of the chariots, and in the description of the colours of the horses, which we must face before proceeding further. The difficulty, briefly stated, is this: In the vision itself (vers. 2, 3) the prophet beholds four chariots, in the first of which were red horses, in the second black, in the third white, and in the fourth grisled horses, to which last is also added the epithet D^ps (amutsim> " strong "); but in the inter pretation by the interpreting angel (vers. 5-7) the first with the red horses is passed over. The black and the white are explained as going forth into the north country, the grisled into the south, and then we read of the amutsim (" strong "), which in ver. 3 are the same as the " grisled," wanting to go forth on a separate, or yet another mission.

The explanations of this difficulty which have been jiven by interpreters both Jewish and Christian, ancient ind modern, are many, but for the most part are faretched and unsatisfactory. Some get over the difficulty ightly by the very simple method of correcting the text md substituting DM2TJN (adummim, " the red ") in the 7th /erse for DJf"OK (amutsim, " the strong "), which they regard is a scribal error. This, I might mention, had been done ilready by the translators of the ancient Syriac version. 3ut this solution of the difficulty, apart from other objecions, does not explain why the description " the strong"

hould be used as an additional epithet of the " grisled " in he 3rd verse, nor why the red, which in the vision was ieen first, should in the Angel's interpretation be spoken of is going forth last.

Another explanation already adopted in the Septuagint version, the Targum, Kimchi, etc., and by some Christian nterpreters, including Calvin and Koehler, is that amutsim Iocs not here mean " strong," but denotes a colour. They egard fox (amots] as a softened form of pon (Jiamuts), a vord found in Isa. Ixiii. I, and there signifying "red."[3] But apart from the fact that it is impossible (as Keil )bserves) to see why so unusual a word should have been

hosen by the prophet in the 7th verse to describe the
olour " red," instead of the intelligible word adummim, vhich he had already used in the 3rd verse, there is no;atisfactory ground for identifying amots with hamuts.

Moreover, as Dr. Wright points out, there is a serious lifficulty in the way of this explanation, that the same vord would then be used in ver. 3 and in ver. 7 in two otally different significations in the first place as an idditional description of the " grisled," or " speckled," and n the latter to denote the " red."

Hengstenberg attempts to solve the difficulty in the bllowing manner: According to him there can be no loubt as to the meaning of the word amutsim; it can only signify " powerful," or " strong," but he argues that this predicate, although only formally connected with the horses in the fourth chariot, at the end of the 3rd verse, " cannot apply to them in contrast with those of the other three chariots, but must, in fact, belong equally to all the four."

The " strong " horses therefore, seen to go forth last, in the 7th verse, are in reality the " red " of the first chariot. He lays emphasis on the article, " the strong ones," in ver. 7, and says, " the strong ones, that is, those in comparison with which the others were to be regarded as weak, although in themselves they were really strong; ... in other words, the strongest among them. They are mentioned last because in the consciousness of their strength they were not content like the rest with one particular portion of the globe, but asked permission of the Lord to go through the whole earth." But, excepting on the supposition that a word in the 3rd verse has dropped out, Hengstenberg's exposition is, as is now pretty generally agreed, on gram matical reasons " impossible."[4]

Let us now give what appears to be the most likely and satisfactory solution of the difficulty. We have already observed that though these four chariots, which with their horses are interpreted by the angel to be " the four winds," or " spirits," of the heavens, cannot be identified with the four Gentile world-powers of Dan. ii. and vii., on which Zechariah's second vision, that of the horns and carpenters, is, as we have seen, based they are closely connected, and primarily refer to those empires whose united successive course make up the " times of the Gentiles."

These four are the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian (or Graeco-Macedonian), and the Roman. " These are the horns (or Gentile powers) which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem" (chap. i. 19), and it is the overthrow and judgment of these, by means of invisible heavenly powers appointed of God as a necessary precursor to the establishment of Messiah's kingdom, and the blessing of Israel, which is symbolically set forth to the prophet in this last vision.

But these powers, though in vision and prophecy seen together, are, as a matter of fact, successive in time*

Now, when these visions were shown to Zechariah, Babylon had already been overthrown, and its world-empire taken away, visibly and apparently, by the Medo-Persians, behind whom, however (as the prophet beholds), there was the invisible chariot of God, with its red horses of blood and vengeance.

This act of judgment on the first great Gentile worldpower which had oppressed Israel and laid waste his land j being already an accomplished fact (though in the 3rd verse, for completeness sake, all the four are shown to the prophet together, as is the case in the vision of the four! jj horns, one of which had also been already overthrown), this first chariot is passed over by the Angel in the inter1 pretation, and is not seen among those who "go forth" in i ver. 6 its mission, as far as the Babylonian Empire is i, concerned, having already been fulfilled.

The black horses, significant probably of sorrow and; sij mourning in consequence of sore judgments to be inflicted, go forth toward the north country, and "after them," going forth in the same direction, are the white, symbolical of victory, triumph, and glory over Gentile world-power for both the Medo-Persian and Graeco-Macedonian Empires, being each in turn successors of the great Babylonian Empire, were the great hostile northern powers in relation to Palestine.

In contrast to these who went forth to the north country, the beruddim (" grisled," or " speckled " horses) the exact colour of which it is difficult to give with certainty, but which probably answers to the seruqqim (" speckled ") in chap. i. 8 go forth to the south country.

Now, the south country is Egypt, the other direction from which hostile world-power came into contact with Israel and Palestine; and " the king of the south," as, for instance, in Dan. xi., is the king of Egypt. But there it was that the fourth great world-empire came into collision with the declining Macedonian power, and that it was first brought into direct contact with the Jewish nation. It is most probable, therefore, that the fourth chariot, appointed for the overthrow and destruction of the fourth great worldempire, is seen to go forth, first to the south, as if to encounter this fresh hostile power at the point at which it first came into contact with Israel.

But the Spirit of God, foreseeing that the fourth empire, unlike its predecessors, would spread itself, not only to the north, and south, and east, but westward also, and practi cally embrace the whole known world; and that it would, in the different stages of its existence, endure for a con siderably longer period than its predecessors the horses of this same chariot are represented as desiring also, after having accomplished their mission in the south, to go forth to walk to and fro through the earth. " And He " (that is, the Lord of the whole earth, before whom they were all seen " standing " in the first instance) " said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth," in order to meet this power in every place where it shall establish itself, to hold it in check, and to counteract its evil plans, until the signal shall be given for its final overthrow.

If we are asked why the horses in this last chariot are seen first going forth as the " grisled " or " speckled," and then, in the 7th verse, as the " strong " (which, be it noted, was the additional epithet applied to them already in the 3rd verse), the true answer is probably that suggested by| Bredenkamp, who says that " speckled strong horses " ar such as, regarded from the point of view of their colour, are " speckled " (gefleckte), but from the point of view of their special characteristic, are " strong."

Viewed as going forth like the other chariots into a particular direction, and as encountering a particular power, they are described, like the previous ones, by their colour, which is in itself symbolical; but when the fact is brought into view that this particular power which these horses are to encounter is unlike its predecessors, but will assert its dominion over the whole earth, then their special character istic as " the strong ones " is emphasised.

To this we may add the striking fact that strength was to be an outstanding feature of the fourth great worldempire, even as we read in Dan. vii. 7: " After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts which were before it; and it had ten horns."

Now, over against the might of man, and of all the powers of darkness which assert themselves in this last great world-power, there is the might of God; and we are reminded in this vision that His invisible hosts are a match for the mightiest, and that God is ever stronger than His foes.

We now come to the 8th verse:

" And He cried unto me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, those which go toward the north country have quieted ( caused to rest ) My spirit in the north country"

The idiom, " to cause to rest upon " a person, or, as in this case, upon a land, involves, as Pusey rightly observes, that that person (or land) is the object on whom it abides, not that the spirit is quieted in him whose it is, as some interpreters have explained it. The word nri (ruach, " spirit ") must, I believe, be understood here as anger, in which sense it is found also in other scriptures.[5] The meaning of the 8th verse, then, is that that company of the invisible host whose mission was toward the north country caused God's anger to rest on it i.e., " have carried it thither, and deposited it there (made it to rest upon that people or kingdom) as its abode "; as John says of the unbelieving, " The wrath of God abideth on him"[6] The reason why " the north country " is specially singled out for the region on which God's anger was already resting, is to be found, perhaps, first of all in the fact that there the first great world-power namely, the Babylonian was already overthrown by God's judgments. Secondly, because it was probably intended as a message of comfort more directly to the restored remnant, to whom the prophet was primarily commissioned to relate the visions to indicate, namely, that the second great northern worldpower, the successor of Babylon, under whose yoke they were then groaning,[7] was already the object of God's anger, and would soon be trodden down under the feet of the horses of God's war chariot which was being sent forth in that direction.

And, thirdly, as Bredenkamp suggests, God's wrath is specially spoken of in this last vision as being caused to rest on " the north country," because not only was it there that the attempt was first made to array a world -empire against God, and where apostasy sought, so to say, to organise and fortify itself; not only did Babylon also, at a later time, become the final antagonist and subduer of God's people and the destroyer of His Temple, but probably because there, " in the land of Shinar," the metropolis of world-power, Babylon, the great rival of the city of God wickedness, as we have seen in the con sideration of the last vision, will once again establish itself, and all the forces of evil again for a time be concentrated.

Then God's judgments shall be fully poured out, and anti-Christian world-power be finally overthrown to make room for the Kingdom of Christ, whom the Father has invested with all power and dominion and glory, " that all nations and languages should serve Him." His dominion is an everlasting dominion, " and His Kingdom shall never be destroyed."

And this, dear reader the establishment of Messiah's throne of righteousness on Mount Zion, that from it, and Israel as a centre, His beneficent rule may extend over the whole earth and bless all peoples is the appointed goal of history toward which all things are moving. It is the motive, also, of all God's providential dealings with the nations. " Political changes," as one has expressed it, " are the moving of the shadow on the earth's dial-plate that marks the mighty motions going forward in the heavens "; and however conflicting and confusing to our poor human judgments, they mark but the various stages of a plan and counsel which God formed from eternity.

In reference to the four great world-powers, whose successive course was to make up " the times of the Gentiles," we have to note that three of them have already long ago disappeared, in accordance with the clear pre dictions of Scripture, and the fourth, which (as also foreseen and foretold) was to drag on longest, is now, as is generally agreed by all students of the sure Word of Prophecy, fast approaching its very last phase of existence. We may, therefore, say with confidence that we are on the eve of the most solemn events in the world's history, and are very fast approaching " the day," not only of our own final and complete " redemption " as believers at the manifestation of Christ, but the " set time," when God shall again arise and have mercy upon Zion, and when, through the restoration and blessing of Israel, " the nations shall fear the Name of Jehovah, and all kings of the earth His glory."

  1. The Rabbis understood a chariot as signifying a team of four horses. Their reason is a curious one. In I Kings x. 29 it is said: " And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels, and a horse for a hundred and fifty." The price of a chariot is here four times that of a horse. Thus, there fore, Kimchi says, " A chariot is a team oi four horses."
  2. All sorts of fanciful explanations have been given by interpreters of these two mountains. Hengstenberg regards them as merely emblematic of the power of God, which shields and protects His people. Baumgarten says that they represent the east and west as the two central points of the world-power. But these in Zechariah's visions, as Dr. Wright properly points out, are rather the north and south. Hitzig would, it seems, locate them in heaven, and regards the chariots as having been seen coming forth from the dwelling-place of the Most High.

    Von Hoffmann, Pressel, and others have explained them to be the mountains of Zion and Moriah, " for from these two mountains in Messianic days the Kingdom of God should be spread abroad" (Pressel); "and they will be the mountains whence God should send forth His last judgments upon the world."

    The opinion of Jasper Svedberg, the father of the renowned Swedenborg, may be mentioned as a curiosity of exposition. According to him, the prophet, when speaking of mountains of brass or copper, evidently alluded to the country of Dalarne, in Sweden, which, he thought, was destined to be of great import ance in thejlatter daysj

  3. This conjecture is the basis of the rendering "bay" in the Authorised and levised Versions.
  4. If D ycN (amutsim, "strong"), in the 3rd verse, were intended to be referred to the horses in all the chariots, the phrase would have been expressed by D73 O XSN, amutsim kulam "all of them strong." As to Hengstenberg's argument that the article before amutsim (the strong), ver. 7, is to be regarded as emphatic, it must not be forgotten that all the adjectives used in reference to the horses when first mentioned naturally occur without the article; but when spoken of by the interpreting angel are all used most naturally with the article. "The use of the article with the adjective in ver. 7 can no more be regarded as emphatic than when used -with the black, the -white, and speckled (or grisled ) horses. Amutsim is similarly used at first without the article; but when mentioned the second time it takes the article just as the other adjectives."
  5. Judg. viii. 3; Eccles. x. 4.
  6. Pusey.
  7. Neh. ix. 36, 37.