Study Notes

Zechariah 1:7-17


Last Thursday night, we were introduced to Zechariah, one of the prophets that God used during the days that the Israelites had returned from exile in the Babylonian Captivity to rebuild the temple.

When their enemies managed to stop their progress, the prophet Haggai managed to get them started again. The first six verses of chapter one were the prophecy that Zechariah spoke to the people two months after they restarted the work.

He reminded them that their fathers had been exiled for rebelling against the Lord's commands, in spite of the fact that He'd sent the prophets to warn them many times. They didn't repent until after God's Word overtook them.

Now, as we continue in chapter one, we see a prophecy that Zechariah gave more than three and a half months later.

1:7 The Month Of Shebat

Many people do not realize that the Jewish calendar had recently changed in those days. Before the Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites' calendar was based on the moon's cycle.

Every new moon was the first of the month. It was a day of special religious observance (2Kings 4:23) just like the sabbath days and the feast holidays. The people would sacrifice burnt offerings (Num. 29:6; 1Chr. 23:31,Isaiah 1:14 etc.), the trumpets were blown (Psalm 81:3), and traditionally have special celebratory dinners (1Sam 20:5, 20:27).

But during the Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites were educated in the ways of Babylon, and adopted their calendar system, which consisted of a 360-day year. Even the names of the months changed. For example, in the days before the exile, the first month on the Hebrew calendar was Abib (Exod. 12:2; 13:4). But afterwards, it was called Nisan (Neh. 2:1; Esther 3:7). This newer calendar is referred to by commentators as the "post-exilic calendar."

And so this prophecy came to Zechariah in the eleventh month, the month of Sheb-AWT, which, although sounding quite Hebrew, is actually a Babylonian name.

Zechariah, Son of Berechiah, Son of Iddo

Zechariah's family tree is mentioned several times in the Bible (Ezra 5:1; Neh. 12:16; Matt. 23:35; etc.). His father was Beh-rek-YAW, his grandfather was Id-DO. This short family history contains a timeless truth that I think is worth pointing out.

Id-DO can either mean "His witness" or "the appointed time" in Hebrew. Beh-rek-YAW is "Yahweh blesses," and Zechariah, or more correctly, Zek-ar-YAW, means "Yahweh remembers." Thus, his family tree tells us either that "God remembers and blesses His witness," or that "God remembers and blesses at the appointed time."

1:8 Colored Horses

The Word of the Lord came to Zechariah visually and verbally one night in the form of eight visions that stretch from here to chapter six, along with an angel who was speaking to him (1:9).

Colored Horses

In this first vision, he saw a man atop a red horse standing in a ravine among myrtle trees. Behind him were horses colored red, sorrel, and white. What is sorrel? A light reddish brown. But the King James says "speckled," the NIV says "brown," and other translations say "bay," "dapple-gray" and "chestnut." In fact, the real meaning of this Hebrew word, used only here in the entire Bible, has been lost. We know from the context that it describes the horses' color, but we can only guess as to what color it really was.

I find it interesting that Zechariah and Revelation are the only two books of the Bible that mention red, black, or white horses (Zech. 1, 6; Rev. 6, 19). In Revelation 6, the red horse represented war.

Rev. 6:4 ...a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that {men} should slay one another; and a great sword was given to him.

Here in Zechariah, the red horse and rider are standing still.

The white horses in Revelation are ridden by conquering kings. In Revelation 6:2, it is ridden by the antichrist as he conquers the world. In 19:11, it is ridden by Jesus Christ as he conquers the antichrist's kingdom.

But again, here in Zechariah, the white horse is standing still.

Myrtle Trees

They are standing in a ravine surrounded by myrtle trees. The word for myrtle tree is used just six times in the Bible, with half of them being here in Zechariah 1 (vss. 8,10,11).

Myrtle branches were part of the materials used to build booths for the Feast of Tabernacles (Neh. 8:15), which was a celebration of God being in the people's midst, tabernacling among them.

The myrtle was one of several trees that Isaiah prophesied would grow in the wilderness when God blessed (Isa. 41:19; 55:13).

So myrtle would seem to speak of God's deliverance, blessings, and abiding with His people.

But what does all of this represent? Thankfully, Zechariah asks that very question in the next verse.

1:9-11 Patrolling The Earth

Zechariah didn't have any better idea that we did about what this vision of the horses meant, so he asked the angel that was speaking to him. The angel told Zechariah that he would show him.

As a result, the man on the red horse began to explain: God had sent them to patrol the earth. This has always fascinated me. You see, it is understandable to me that our enemy the devil patrols the earth. We know from Job 1 and 2 that he is,

Job 1:7 "...roaming about on the earth and walking around on it."

Peter tells us that,

1Pet. 5:8 ...Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

It is no surprise that satan, being inferior to God and not omnipresent, would have to patrol the earth. But what amazes me is that God, although having eyes that go to and fro throughout the earth, sends heavenly emissaries to patrol the land, sometimes even going Himself.

You recall that just prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord came with two angels and spoke with Abraham.

Gen. 18:20-21 And the LORD said, "The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know."

Then, as He spoke with Abraham, He sent the two angels on ahead to Sodom. I do not understand why God has set things up this way, with angelic patrolmen, but I do know that He has.

These patrollers had been all over, and reported that the earth was peaceful and quiet.

The Angel Of The Lord

Notice to whom they reported: the man standing among the myrtle trees on the red horse. But here in verse 11, we are told something else about him: He is the Angel of the Lord.

There is a distinction in the Bible between angels and "the Angel of the Lord." The word angel means "messenger," and the celestial beings we call angels are not the only messengers God uses. Sometimes God calls men "angels," and sometimes He Himself is His own messenger. "The Angel of the Lord" seems to point to God being His own messenger. Specifically, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, before He was born to a woman in Bethlehem.

You might remember in Genesis 16, when Hagar ran away into the wilderness, the angel of the Lord spoke to her.

Gen. 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

Hagar had seen the Angel of the Lord, and called Him God.

In Genesis 22, Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac, and

Gen. 22:11-12 ...the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

Abraham was sacrificing him to the Lord, and the Angel of the Lord said it was to "Me."

When Moses went up the mountain to investigate the burning bush,

Exod. 3:2 ...the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

Exod. 3:6 He said also, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

This was the Son of God as the Angel of the Lord Who appeared to Gideon (Judges 2 & 6), the parents of Samson (Judges 13), and Elijah (2Kings 1).

1:12 How Long?

Now Jesus Christ is seen as a mediator for Israel, as He prays to the Father, "How long will you be indignant with Israel? When will You show them compassion?"

This is the role that Jesus sits in for us today. We know that...

1Tim. 2:5 ...there is one God, {and} one mediator also between God and men, {the} man Christ Jesus

He is our mediator, standing in the gap, interceding for us.

Rom. 8:34 ...Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

Hebr. 7:25 ...He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

This is Jesus' full-time job: interceding for us.

1:13 Gracious, Comforting Words

The Father did not respond to the Son with the answer, for He already knew it. Instead, He spoke to the angel that was talking to Zechariah.

Notice too that God did not get angry with what we might think was a presumptuous prayer. No, God delights in the opportunity to demonstrate His grace and mercy. The words He spoke to the angel were gracious and comforting. Never forget that He is...

2Cor. 1:3-4 ...the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our affliction...

Remember that God describes Himself as,

Exod. 34:6 ...compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth

1:14-17 The Lord's Proclamation

God had spoken to the angel, and the angel gave the word to Zechariah to speak to the people of Israel: God had used the nations to judge Israel, but now they would be punished for their part. Although they were currently at peace, the anger of God was against them.

The nation of Israel was promised that they would be restored and God would prosper them. Jerusalem would increase in size, and the temple would be finished.

Next week, we will look at more visions which Zechariah received that night.

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