Zechariah’s name means “God remembers.” Zechariah was the son of Berechiah and the grandson of Iddo, one of the priests who returned to Jerusalem in the group led by Zerubbabel. (Nehemiah 12:16) As a young man, Zechariah also traveled with them and was already a priest. He was born in Babylon and had just become priest at the time the exiles returned to Jerusalem.
His ministry took place during the reign of Darius the Great. After the death of Cyrus, Darius consolidated power and took office in 522 BC. His system divided the different colonies of the empire into easily manageable districts overseen by governors. Zerubbabel comes into the story, appointed by Darius as governor over the district of Yehud Medinata. Under the reign of Darius, Zechariah emerged and centered his energies towards the rebuilding Solomon’s temple. Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire went to great lengths to keep “cordial relations” with the Jews. The rebuilding of the temple was encouraged by the leaders of the empire.
Zechariah began prophesying during the same year as the prophet Haggai. Twenty years after the first Jews returned, the temple was still a blackened ruin, and the people did not see how it could be restored. At this critical moment, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to encourage them that it was still possible. Jesus spoke of Zechariah in Matthew 23:25. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Zechariah predicted more about the Messiah than any other prophet except Isaiah.
Verses 1 through 6 begin with a preface of the nation’s history, for the purpose of presenting a solemn warning to the present generation. What follows next is a series of eight successive visions that took place in one night. This is to give hope to the returned exiles and describe how the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of the Messiah.
Verse 8: I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom and behind him there were red horses, speckled and white. The myrtle trees in the ravine represent Israel under Gentile subjection. Myrtle symbolizes sweetness, justice, divine generosity, peace, God’s promise and recovery. Zechariah’s vision reinforced God’s promise that the returned exiles would be prosperous. The myrtle was used as a wedding decoration in Zechariah’s time and they also used it to make booths for the Feast of the Tabernacles. The Jews would welcome the Sabbath with two bouquets of myrtle blossoms. When the leaves are crushed on a myrtle tree a fragrant, spicy oil is produced. Though Israel was crushed in Babylonian captivity, they would blossom again.
Verse 9: Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew you thee what these be. Angels move by will through the force and power of the mind of God. As a rule, God uses ministers, both people and angels, to speak. Angels always give the exact words of the Lord.
Verses 10-11: And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.
There are many interpretations of who the man is in the myrtle trees. One popular opinion is that is it Michael, the Archangel. Michael has a special role in guarding the nation of Israel as he is chief warrior. Michael means, “Who is like God?” He is called both a man and angel of the Lord. Angels can resemble men. The horses talk back to Michael. Horses of the Lord are also mentioned in different parts of scripture: Habakkuk 3:8, II Kings 2:11, 6:17, Psalm 68:17, Isaiah 66:15. Scriptures about Michael: Jude 1:9, Daniel 10:13, 21, 12:1, Revelation 12:7, Joshua 5:13-15.
The horses respond “All is at rest.” The nations that destroyed Israel were quiet and peaceful. But the red horse represents war, supporting the idea that the rider would be Michael, the chief warrior. Behind him are red horses, speckled and white. A speckled horse indicates a time of partial peace and partial conflict. The white horse is peace. In Revelation, the Antichrist comes on a white horse (peace) and then the red horse appears (war). So there is a reversal. In the Old Testament some things are presented one way and then they are reversed in the New Testament.
Verse 12: Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? This angel could have been Gabriel since he is God’s messenger. For seventy years, Israel had been captive in Babylon. But now God was going to restore them and pronounce judgment on their enemies.
Verses 13-15: And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. The Lord declared that the people who afflicted Israel had gone too far. Israel received double punishment for their sins. (Isaiah 40:1-2) The heathen had hurt God’s people more than He intended. The myrtle trees were in the valley, but God wanted to take his people out of the valley to a hill called Zion which is a good place.
Verses 16: Therefore thus saith the Lord, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. The Lord will have compassion and His temple will be built again. A measuring line will be used to reconstruct the city of Jerusalem. Verse 17: Cry yet saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion; and shall yet choose Jerusalem. The cities once again will overflow with prosperity.
Verse 18: Then lifted I up mine eyes. And saw, and behold four horns. 19—And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Let’s take a look at the four horns. They coincide with Daniel 7:2-7, representing Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece to come and then Rome. Horns in the Bible represent power and strength, especially Gentile kings and kingdoms. Certain animals use their horns to attack. The kingdoms have scattered the Jews to many different places, that the heathen nations described are beast-like.
Verse 20-21: And the Lord shewed me four carpenters. Then said I, what come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah.
The breaking of an animal’s horn ensures its defeat. The first carpenter is Media-Persia breaking the horn of Babylon. The second carpenter is Greece breaking the horn of Media-Persia. Rome would be the third breaking the horn of Greece. But the fourth carpenter is Jesus who will break the revived Roman Empire in the last days. He will set up His kingdom on the earth. Jesus was a carpenter in the New Testament. He was called the son of a tekton which could be translated as a carpenter or a stone mason. In ancient times, it was customary for a son to follow his father into his trade. Joseph practiced his trade in the small village of Nazareth, but he probably worked in nearby towns as well. Recent archaeological digs at the ancient Galilean city of Zippori, only four miles from Nazareth, have shown that extensive building was done in the former district capital. Zippori, called Sepphoris in Greek, was completely restored by Herod Antipas, during the years that Joseph was working as a carpenter. It’s very likely that Joseph and the young Jesus made the hour’s walk to help in the city’s reconstruction. Jesus probably spent hours helping his father cut and shape stones. Nazareth was a small agricultural village so Jesus and his father may have made plowshares and yokes as well. Many parables of Jesus refer to crops, sewing, reaping and other common farming terms. Jesus was probably working a twelve to sixteen hour shift each day to provide for his mother and brothers and sisters. Yet He managed to prepare for his ministry while doing many hours of hard, demanding work in the hot sun six days a week. In the New Testament there are passages where the building skills of Jesus play into the language. John 2:9: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Matthew 16:18: On this rock, I will build my church.
Old Testament scriptures of Jesus: Psalm 118:22: The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. Daniel 2:45: Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath make known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Jesus built the promised church. He alone is the architect, builder, owner and Lord. The people of Nazareth said, “Is not this the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55)?” The people knew Joseph, Mary, and his younger brothers and sisters. They would not accept that a person with the origin of Jesus and the background of Nazareth could possess the wisdom which he had. Jesus, the son of a lowly carpenter from Nazareth thus becomes a great builder. He has built a living and continuing house that we can benefit from and become a part of yet today, two thousand years after the original foundation was laid.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ ( I Corinthians 3:11).