Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Zechariah

Zechariah 6 Commentary: Verses 1-8

Zechariah 6 Commentary: Verses 1-8
Explaining the Book of Zechariah

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Today we’ll be entering into the sixth chapter of the Old Testament minor prophet Zechariah. So, let’s turn our attention there to Zechariah, chapter 6. 

And when we open to this chapter, we see what is possibly the last of Zechariah’s night visions. There might be one more after this one, but at the very least, we’re getting toward the end of the visions. 

And so, let’s read Zechariah 6:1-8 and then we’ll get into the details of each verse. 

[Read Zec 6:1-8…

What Zechariah Sees | 1 

So, to begin this vision, Zechariah describes for us what he sees in verse 1. 

KJV Zechariah 6:1 ¶ [And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked,/Now I lifted up my eyes again and looked,/Once more I looked,/I looked up again–] and, [behold,/this time I saw/there before me were]  

[there came four chariots out/four chariots were coming forth/four chariots emerging/four chariots coming out] from between [two/the two] mountains;  

and the mountains were mountains of [brass/bronze]. 

Four chariots 

So, in this book of Zechariah we saw four horns in one of the visions. Those horns were being pursued by four craftsmen or smiths. We’ve also had the Lord declare that he had scattered the Jews to the four winds of heaven – to every direction on earth. 

And now here in this vision we have four chariots. 

Now, this mention of chariots reminds us of Habakkuk 3:8 where that prophet states that the Lord has horses that he rides on and chariots of salvation. And we’re going to see in this passage that these chariots have horses and that they are indeed the Lord’s. And I think that we’ll also see that these chariot are definitely chariots of salvation – of help – for God’s people the Jews. 

Coming from between 

Now, these chariots are doing something. Zechariah sees that they “came out.” That’s the action that we saw the basket doing in our last vision. That’s what the flying scroll was doing. These chariots are going out just like those other items. 

Two bronze mountains 

And they’re performing this action of “going out” from between two bronze mountains. The chariots are apparently behind those two mountains as the vision starts and then they come out from behind them and become visible to the prophet in his vision. 

So, picture this. Four chariots come driving out from between two mountains. And these mountains aren’t made of dirt and grass and trees. They’re made of this hard solid material we call bronze – which in the world of the Old Testament was one of the hardest materials available. 

Color of Horse Associated with Each Chariot | 2-3 

And so, with that much of the scene presented to us, we now have Zechariah explain for us that these chariots are led by multiple horses – each of a different color. 

2 [In the/With the/Harnessed to the/The] first chariot [were/had] red horses;  

[and in/with/to] the second chariot black horses; 

3 [And in/with/to] the third chariot white horses;  

and [in/with/to] the fourth chariot [grisled and bay horses./strong dappled horses./spotted horses, all of them strong./dappled– all of them powerful./piebald and ash-coloured horses.] 

In the X Chariot 

Now, we need to note first of all that the KJV’s rendering of these verses might cause some confusion to modern English readers. The KJV tells us that these horses are “in” these chariots. And the picture I get when I read that is one in which there are four chariots and each chariot is carrying numerous horses.  

But that’s not what’s happening in this vision. Rather, the horses are pulling these chariots. So, rather than “in the chariot” the better translation would be “with the chariot.” The idea is that these horses are harnessed to each of these four chariots. 

First Vision 

Now, we’ve seen something similar to this scene before. Not identical – but similar. In the first vision we saw back in Zechariah 1 we had the Angel of the Lord on a red horse and then we were introduced to more red horses, sorrel/speckled horses, and white horses. 

Similarities 

So, this vision is similar in at least three ways. 

First, in both visions, red horses are introduced first. 

Second, there are white horses in both this vision and in the that first vision in chapter 1.  

And third, depending on how it’s translated, that first vision featured either “sorrel” or “speckled” horses. And here in this last vision we have that last group of horses as either grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald horses.  

So, those are the similarities so far between this vision and the first one. 

Differences 

But there are also at least three differences between this vision and that first one.  

First of all, there are black horses in this vision whereas that color was not mentioned in the first vision.  

Second, the Angel of the Lord does not appear in this last vision.  

Third, there are chariots in this vision, where there were simply horses – and presumably their riders – in that first vision. 

So, you can see similarities and differences between this vision and the first one. 

Summary 

So, in this vision we’re seeing multiple horses with each chariot – they’re harnessed to each of these four chariots. 

Chariot 1: Red horses 

Chariot 2: Black horses 

Chariot 3: White horses 

Chariot 4: Spotted and strong horses 

Zechariah Asks Angel What These Are | 4 

Well, you might guess what happens next based on what we’ve seen numerous times before in this book. Zechariah sees something and describes it. And then he wants to know… what is it?! And that’s what he asks in verse 4. 

4 [Then I/I/And I] [answered and said unto/spoke and said to/asked] the [angel/angelic messenger] [that/who] [talked/was speaking] [with/to] me,  

What are these, [my lord/sir]? 

And once more, we’ll notice that on some level Zechariah knows what these are. He’s already identified and described them for us. They’re four chariots with four colors of horses that are harnessed to each chariot and they’re coming out from between two bronze mountains. 

And yet, that doesn’t satisfy Zechariah’s curiosity. He wants to know why God is feeding him this vision. What is the significance of these chariots and horses and mountains? 

Angel Answers 

And throughout this book a few times the angel has almost sort of chided the prophet for revealing his ignorance in this way. But he doesn’t do that this time. The angel gives Zechariah an immediate answer without probing the prophet’s ignorance. 

5 [And the/The] [angel/messenger] [answered and said unto me/replied to me/replied/answered me],  

These are the four [spirits/winds(LXX)] of the heavens, [which go forth from standing before/going forth after standing before/that have been presenting themselves before/going out from standing in the presence of/and they are going forth to stand before] the Lord of [all the/the whole] [earth/world]. 

Four spirits of the heavens 

So, we’re told that these four chariots are also four spirits or four winds. In fact, they are “the” four spirits or four winds of the heavens. 

What does that mean? 

Well, that phrase “four spirits” (arba ruach) is used in Scripture to speak of scattering nations as a punishment from God. In fact, God said earlier in this book that he scattered Israel to these four spirits or four winds during the Babylonian exile as a punishment. In the book of Jeremiah God says that he will scatter a nation called Elam to these four spirits or four winds. 

So, I believe that this is what’s in view in this passage. There are chariots – the ultimate military weapon of that day. And there are these multiple horses attached to each one. And they’re coming from their strong fortress which consists of two mountains made of some of the strongest stuff on earth! 

It’s a military context. And judgement is in view. And we’ll discover as we go on who this judgement is for. Who will these horses and chariots be visiting to attack them and spread them to the four spirits or winds of heaven in order to execute God’s judgement against them? That will be clear in a little bit. 

Going forth from the Lord 

Now, we can be sure that if this vision is speaking of judgement, then this judgement is coming directly from the Lord. How do we know that? Well, at the end of verse 5 which we just read we saw that these four spirits or winds are coming forth from the Lord’s presence. 

They’re sent on a mission of judgement directly from him. And they’re not wasting any time. 

Now, what we see next is either a continuation of the angel’s explanation of what Zechariah sees concerning the horses and chariots – or it’s Zechariah observing and writing about what he’s seeing after the angel’s brief explanation that equated the chariots to the four spirit of heaven. 

6 [The black horses which are therein/With one of which the black horses/The chariot with the black horses/The one with the black horses] [go forth/are going forth/is going/went out] [into/to/toward] the [north country/land of the north];  

and the [white/white ones] [go forth after them/toward the west(NIV)];  

[and/while/but] the [grisled/dappled ones/spotted ones/piebald] [go forth/are going/went out] [toward/to] the [south country/south/land of the south]. 

Destinations 

So, the angel describes the destination of these horses or spirits or winds. But they’re back to being just horses again in this vision. 

Red Ones? 

Now, we note that he doesn’t mention anything about where the red ones are going. Maybe that’s because the red ones stick around and patrol the area of Israel. We don’t know, because the angel doesn’t say. But that would be my assumption – the red ones are stationed in the land of Israel in this vision. 

But we are told where the other ones go. 

Black to Babylon 

The black horses and the chariot that they’re pulling go to the north. Now the north country or northland or land of the north is constantly spoken of in the book of Jeremiah as being Babylon. And the reason is that when Babylon came they would have had to go north of the desert that separates Babylon from Israel. And so, when Babylon finally arrived in Israel they were coming from the north. 

So, these black horses lead their chariot to Babylon. 

White to Babylon 

Then the white horses are mentioned as going forth after the black horses. I believe that this means that the white horses are pulling their chariot to Babylon as well. 

Grisled/Dappled/Spotted/Piebald Go South 

And then the horses that are described in various translations as either grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald. Apparently, they have some distinctive marks.  

What do the Colors Mean? 

And by the way, while I wish that part of the explanation given included what these colors mean, we are unfortunately left somewhat in the dark about that. Apparently, the Lord doesn’t want us to attach much of any significance to the colors of these horses. Perhaps all he wanted to do was to add variety to this vision and help us identify which horses are going where. 

Can you imagine if the Lord had not included colors in this vision? It would read something like this – “Some horses went north and a few others followed behind them. In addition, the rest of the horses went south.” And while that might still communicate the message, it is rather bland and nondescript.  

So, as I understand it, God gives us these vivid descriptions to get our minds working concerning this vision. 

Back to the Grisled/Dappled/Spotted/Piebald 

OK, so, the grisled/dappled/spotted/piebald horses go south.  

And you might wonder where is south? It might be Egypt. In fact, I think that’s most likely in view. Egypt was still a player on the international scene, even though they were displaced by Babylon as the dominant world power. 

No Reds 

And as I’ve said before, there is no mention of the chariot pulled by the red horses. 

Summary 

So, those three chariots go out. And two of them go to judge Babylon. And one of them goes to judge Egypt. 

Strong Horses | 7 

Now, up to this point, we were told of four horses. We’ve heard of three of them and one has been left out. 

But now in verse 7 we’re going to see that the last group – identified back in verse 3 as “grisled and bay” or “strong dappled” or “spotted horses, all of them strong” or “dappled– all of them powerful” or “piebald and ash-coloured horses” – these horses are not one group – but rather two groups in one. There are the grisled or dappled or spotted or piebald horses in this one last group. And then in that same group there are ones who are bay or strong or particularly powerful horses. 

And these strong ones aren’t content to go to just one geographical location. No, they want to patrol the whole earth. 

7 [And the/When the/All these] [bay/strong ones/powerful horses/ash-colored] [went forth/went out/are scattering], [and sought/they were eager/they have sought permission/they were straining/and looked] to go [that they might walk to and fro through/to patrol/and walk about over/throughout/and compass] the earth:  

So, the strong horses want to go everywhere and see what’s happening in the whole world. 

And so, they’re portrayed as seeking permission to do so. And here’s the response they get. 

[and he/the Lord had] said,  

[Get you hence,/Go!] [walk to and fro through/patrol/Walk about over/throughout/and compass] the earth.  

Now, this is the action of those horses in chapter 1 of this book. They were patrolling the earth or walking all around in it. 

So, here in this vision these strong horses are granted their desire to patrol the whole earth. And so, that’s just what they do. 

[So/And] they [walked to and fro through the earth/patrolled the earth/are doing so/went throughout the earth/compassed the earth]. 

So, we saw the angel allowing the strong horses to go everywhere patrolling the earth. 

Judgement for Babylon 

But that’s not what the Lord wants to end the focus of this vision with. In verse 8, the Lord ends this vision noting what the black horses did in Babylon. 

8 [Then/And] [cried he/he cried out/he called] [upon me, and spake unto me, saying,/to me and spoke saying/to me/and spoke to me, saying,] 

[Behold,/See,/Look!] [these that go/those who are going/The ones going/those going/these go out] [toward/to] the [north country/land of the north/the northland] [have/and they have] [quieted my spirit/appeased My wrath/brought me peace/given my Spirit rest/quieted mine anger] [in/about] the [north country/land of the north/northland]. 

And so, we’ve come full circle with these visions in this book. The very first vision has the Lord expressing his compassion for his people – and a large part of that compassion would have been the destruction of their enemies – Babylon in particular. God said there that he was very angry at those who were oppressing his people. 

And from there, the Lord promised to wave his hand over Babylon and make them a prey – remember that? Then he gave the vision of the horns and the smiths indicating that God was going to judge the oppressors of his people. 

And now here in the very last vision, the Lord reveals that he has sent his judgement to the oppressing nation of Babylon – and of course Persia who took over for them as the oppressors of the Jews. 

The Lord was angry at Babylon. So, he sent his judging and punishing spirits or winds to punish that nation. And so here, toward the end of these visions, the Lord is indicating that he has taken care of the source of his anger – the oppressors of his people. 

And if we know the Lord, we too have the assurance that one day all wrongs will be made right and anyone who oppresses his people will be dealt with. Justice will be done, and God’s wrath will be appeased. 

And those of us who know the Lord through our faith in his Son Jesus Christ can rejoice that while we are fully deserving of God’s righteous wrath – just like others – yet God has saved us – forgiven us – punished his son Jesus Christ in our place. 

Praise the Lord for his perfect justice and forgiveness. 

And so, next time we’ll try to decide whether what we just studied today is the last vision in this book or if we have one last vision to study. 

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