Book of Zechariah Chapter 6 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Four Chariots and the Branch
Have you seen that God communicates with His people? He has expressed His Word, His intentions, His hope for us within the "Bible," the Book that brings us to Jesus Christ, who gives us His Holy Spirit, who opens His Word to our understanding. Here in this chapter we find the eighth vision expressed to us through Zechariah the prophet. "Four chariots" are revealed. Zechariah, still absorbed by the previous visions, looked up and commented in Verse 1, "Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming forth from between the two mountains; and the mountains were bronze mountains." The chariots are described in Verse 5 as "the four spirits (or "winds") of heaven." Historically, people have thought of four directions: North, south, east and west. The imagery here is that God is with His people, reaching out in every direction to help and defend those who love Him.
The chariots came from the mountains...not just any mountains made of rock and dirt that can be eroded away, but substantial sructures, made out of the artificial substance called "bronze." The chariots are described in Verse 6 as "the four spirits of heaven," identifying them as coming from the place of the Lord. The Temple symbolized His abode, and these mountains are reflective of the two bronze pillars at each side of the entrance to the Temple, as seen in 1 Kings 7:13-22. The will of God for Zechariah's people at that time was to rebuild the Temple, a building designed to reflect our need of the Lord and His provision for us.
In Verses 2-3, we find that "with the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot strong dappled horses." These are angelic beings, sent by God, with the intention that they will carry out His will, protect His people, and conduct all-out warfare against the forces of evil so prevalent in this world. One of the direct functions of these powerful beings is as "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). God's holy angels are continually helping His people. If you have trusted in the Lord, then beings like these are watching out for you. And note that the word for "horses" in these verses is from a root meaning, "to skip or jump for joy." The angels who help you—enjoy their assignment.
We can be glad that Zecharich asked questions: In Verse 4, he commented about this eighth vision, "I spoke and said to the angel who was speaking with me, 'What are these, my lord?'" The being speaking to Zechariah is identified as an "angel." And in Verse 5, Zechariah continued, "The angel replied to me, 'These are the four spirits of heaven, going forth after standing before the Lord of all the earth.'" Verse 6 continues the thought, observing that "...the black horses are going forth to the north country; and the white ones go forth after them, while the dappled ones go forth to the south country." The great fear of this people that had so recently been released from captivity, was that they would be invaded again. This eighth vision assured them that God's holy angels would protect His people. By trusting in the Lord, you are under His protection.
The horses are "going forth" in two directions, to the "north" and "south," probable lines of attack in an invasion by hostile forces. To the east was the Medeo-Persian Empire, which had allowed the Hebrews to return to the land and were protecting them at the moment. To the west was the Mediterranean Sea.
Horses are used elsewhere in Scripture to represent God's messengers, His agents, as seen in places like Revelation 6:1-8. They have great power to help us, as indicated by those verses. And we will be like that in eternity—enjoying the work that God assigns to us. Verse 7 reports, "When the strong ones went out, they were eager to go to patrol the earth. And He said, 'Go, patrol the earth.' So they patrolled the earth."
It's important for us to see the HOPE expressed here for us all. Yes we fall short and our sinful ways must be corrected, but we are also under the protective hand of God, who will let the enemy go just so far in our lives and no further. The Hebrew people had been judged, then brought back to the land, and now were no longer under His judgment. Verse 8 says, "Then He cried out to me and spoke to me saying, 'See, those who are going to the land of the north have appeased My wrath in the land of the north.'" God used His angels to stop those in the north who would have brought further harm. We can see how He protects us in the death and the life of Jesus Christ: Most know the words of John 3:16, where Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:17 continues, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." God judged sin by Jesus Christ's death on the cross, giving LIFE to those who are willing to believe in Him and what He has done.
Verses 9-11. "The word of the Lord also came to me, saying, 'Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon. Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.'" This prophetic word not only authenticates the restoration of the office of the High Priest, represented by the man named Joshua, but it also looks ahead to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the "Branch" to be seen in Verse 12. "Heldai" ("mole") is the same as "Helem" in Verse 14, a nickname for "Heldai." Heldai, "Tobijah" ("Yah is good"), and "Jedaiah" ("Praise Yah"), brought gold and silver with them when they returned from captivity in Babylon. They would work with "Josiah" ("Yahweh heals"), making a crown that would be placed on the head of the high priest.
Prophesies often have more than one outcome...a short term fulfillment will be followed by an often much later event that is likely to be more profound than the first. These verses actually do relate to the current high priest named Joshua, and the Temple would be completed during his term of office. Verse 12 contains the words: "Then say to him, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord.'" And it would happen, just like that—the Jerusalem Temple was to exist once more. But the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem both were copies of an original that exists—elsewhere. Revelation 11:19 reports that "the Temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His Temple..."
The high priest Joshua was truly a man in history, but as it is true for so many, he was also a parable, a picture of much more. Verse 13 relates, "Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.'" The Messiah, the Christ would build the true Temple, whereas Joshua would be an instrumental part in rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple, a symbol of the true Temple which is actually made up of people who have faith in the Lord. Paul would later observe, "Jesus Christ Himself (is) the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:20-22). The people of God are the Temple.
Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest held two important offices, combined in Jesus Christ, who is our everlasting High Priest and our King—forever. The crown of Verses 9-11, belongs to the "Branch" in Verse 12. "Now," as stated in Verse 14, "the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the Lord to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen the son of Zephaniah." The crown of Jesus Christ was to be a cruel crown of thorns...part of the torture that led to His death as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. The crown in the Jerusalem Temple and the crown of thorns upon Jesus are reminders of God and His love. Symbols are important to recall the reality underlying them. Jesus Christ died for people all over the world on the cross, and as glimpsed in Verse 15: "Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God." We are part of that temple when we obey our God by trusting in Jesus Christ, who has many names, including this one: "The Lord of hosts." And He is also "the Lord your God." Let's trust in Him now:
Dear Lord, I have sinned, I have been judged, and I see my need of You. I confess my sin and I trust in You right now. Thank You for dying for me. I am Yours. In Jesus Name. Amen.