28 Advent Scriptures
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Acts 1-12: The Early Church
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
Conquering Lamb of Revelation
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Early Church: Acts1-12
Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Listening for God's Voice
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
Sermon on the Mount
Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-135)
James J. Tissot, detail of 'Zechariah the Prophet' (1898-1902) The Jewish Museum, New York.
Haggai's prophecy concluded with a highly personal encouragement to Zerubbabel, governor of the Persian province of Judah (Yehud). The first six chapters of Zechariah's prophecy concern themselves with continued encouragements to Judah's two prime leaders, Zerubbabel, who governed civil affairs of the community, and Jeshua (Joshua) the high priest, who governed religious affairs.
"In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo." (Zechariah 1:1)
Zechariah was a common name in the Bible, meaning in Hebrew, "Yahweh remembers." We don't know a great deal about Zechariah, but we do know that he is:
- A prophet, one who receives the word of the Lord to share with the people.
- A contemporary of Haggai. Haggai begins prophesying on August 29, 520 BC. Zechariah begins to prophecy in November 520, and while Haggai's ministry seems to end in 520 BC, Zechariah's ministry extends to about 515 BC and perhaps beyond.
- Grandson of Iddo, who is probably the head of a priestly family, mentioned in Nehemiah 12:4. If it is the same Iddo, then Zechariah is a priest-prophet.
Now let's consider the word that God gave him for the people.
"2 The LORD was very angry with your forefathers. 3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 1:2-3)
"Return," "turn" is used here in the sense of "to repent," to come back to following the Lord. Notice the exalted title that Yahweh assumes -- "LORD of hosts," "LORD Almighty," which means, "Yahweh of heaven's armies." The title is used 46 times in this book.
The returned exiles have only been in Judah for 17 years or so, but they have already lapsed into a kind of lethargy concerning obeying God. So the Lord reminds them about their former sin and its disastrous consequences.
"4 'Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.' But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the LORD." (Zechariah 1:4)
Human life is short.
"Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever?" (Zechariah 1:5)
Consider the consequence of disobedience. Zechariah has no need to spell it out. The pain of exile is still fresh.
"But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers?" (1:6a)
"Overtake," "take hold" is a hunting term, "overtake, catch up with." The same word is used in a warning in Deuteronomy:
"All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you." (Deuteronomy 28:45, cf. 28:15)
We humans rationalize our behaviors, and having done that, we imagine that God won't mind so much. But God's commands and words do not die. They will catch up with us. There is no escaping truth or judgment. As the Law says:
"You may be sure that your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23)
Our only hope is to repent. Fortunately, these returned exiles listen and obey.
"Then they repented and said, 'The LORD Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.'" (Zechariah 1:6b)
Dear friend, are there "ways and practices" in your life that you know to be contrary to God's word? Don't expect God to give you a "pass," or a "Get Out of Jail Free Card" (a reference to the game of Monopoly). Continual patterns of sin both (1) keep you from closeness to God, and (2) subject you to severe discipline from God if you continue in them. Will you turn? Will you repent? Repentance can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing, but the fruits of repentance are joy, peace, and intimacy with God. His Spirit is speaking to you. Now is the time of repentance.
Q1. (Zechariah 1:3) Why is a message of repentance from
sin such an important part of the Gospel? What happens when we remove
repentance from the core message of Jesus? Why do you think God wants you to
repent of all known sin?
Zechariah's first word is dated in November 520. Over the first six chapters is a whole series of Night Visions that Zechariah receives in one momentous night a couple of months later, on Feb 15, 519 BC. These Night Visions consist of eight symbolic words from God, designed to encourage the people and their leaders to rebuild the temple.
- A Man Among the Myrtle Trees (Zechariah 1:8-17)
- Four Horns and Four Craftsmen (Zechariah 1:18-21)
- A Man with a Measuring Line (Zechariah 2)
- Clean Garments for the High Priest (Zechariah 3)
- The Gold Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees (Zechariah 4)
- The Flying Scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4)
- The Woman in the Basket (Zechariah 5:5-11)
- Four Chariots (Zechariah 6)
Many of Israel's prophets had used objects or word pictures as a starting point for a prophetic word. But the book of Zechariah is different. It belongs to the genre of prophecy termed "apocalyptic." The word comes from the Greek apokalypsis, "revelation, making fully known," literally, "take the cover off." In the Greek Bible, the title of the Book of Revelation is Apokalypsis.
Daniel seems to be the earliest apocalypse (about 600 to 520 BC), followed directly by parts of Ezekiel (597-573 BC) and Zechariah (520-515 BC or a bit later). Then a whole body of Jewish literature sprang up between 200 BC and 100 AD in imitation of Daniel.
Apocalyptic literature is full of symbols that are seen in dreams and visions, such as rich symbolism in the Book of Revelation. Another characteristic of apocalyptic prophecy is a deterministic view -- that history must run its course, but the end is predetermined by God. The end of history will be a violent in-breaking by God to establish his kingdom. Longman writes:
"Apocalyptic is a metaphor-rich genre. In this regard it is like poetry. Metaphors and similes teach by analogy. They throw light on difficult concepts and things by relating them to something we know from common experience. As such, images speak truly and accurately, but not precisely. We often do not know where the analogy stops."
The symbols are designed to communicate not just facts, but also emotional feelings. It is important not to over-interpret these apocalyptic images. The course of history is littered with hundreds of dogmatic interpretations of Daniel, Revelation, and Zechariah, that, in hindsight, appear to be overworked and bizarre.
The book of Zechariah is one of the most difficult books of the Bible to interpret. St. Jerome referred to it as "that most obscure book." So don't be disappointed if we can't unravel all the figures and symbols completely. However, we'll do our best.
'Vision of Zechariah,' detached leaf, Sicily (c. 1300), tempera with gold on parchment, 2-7/8 x 6-7/8 inches, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.
We begin with the first of the seven "Night Visions." Zechariah sees people astride red, brown, and white horses in a myrtle grove, which have returned from surveying the whole earth.
"12 Then the angel of the LORD said, 'LORD Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?' 13 So the LORD spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
14 Then the angel who was speaking to me said, 'Proclaim this word: This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, 15 but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity."
16 Therefore, this is what the LORD says: "I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem," declares the LORD Almighty.
17 'Proclaim further: This is what the LORD Almighty says: "My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'" (Zechariah 1:8-17)
The color and number of the horses in the vision have no sure meaning. But they seem to represent horsemen who have been sent on a reconnaissance mission to evaluate what is going on in the earth, perhaps to the four corners of the earth. They report: "We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace."
Some Jews had been saying, "The time has not yet come for the LORD's house to be built" (Haggai 1:2). Perhaps they felt they needed revenue from the Persian government to continue building, but the government's attention had been elsewhere putting down rebellions. But now by February 519, the horsemen's report is "rest and peace." Now was the time. There are encouraging words:
- The Lord speaks "kind and comforting words" (verse 13).
- God is "very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion," and will defend them against "the nations that feel secure" (verse 14), perhaps referring to the surrounding provinces that are trying to stop work on the temple.
- God will "return to Jerusalem with mercy" to rebuild the temple, indicated by "the measuring line" used by surveyors and builders (verse 16).
- He promises that the towns and cities of Judah "will again overflow with prosperity" (verse 17a).
- That Yahweh will again "comfort" Zion and "choose" Jerusalem (verse 17b).
Yahweh offers two actions: (1) to comfort, and (2) to choose. "Comfort" recalls the great passage from Isaiah:
"Comfort, comfort my people...
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service
has been completed." (Isaiah 40:1-2)
While comfort is God's response to Israel's discipline, "to choose" (verse 17) indicates that he now has a positive intention to further his plans through them. He "chooses" and "decides for" Jerusalem. He removes his people from the sideline of history in Babylon where they languished for 70 years, back into the center of history, rebuilding his house in Jerusalem. We see this theme elsewhere:
"The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!" (Zechariah 3:2)
"The LORD has chosen Zion." (Psalm 132:13)
"Once again he will choose Israel." (Isaiah 14:1a)
God had spoken through Isaiah concerning this time:
"The Lord ... says of Jerusalem, 'It shall be inhabited,' of the towns of Judah, 'They shall be built,' and of their ruins, 'I will restore them.'" (Isaiah 44:26)
For a people who had started rebuilding the temple, then faltered, God's words of encouragement through Zechariah must have been energizing.
The next vision Zechariah sees that night is not of horses, but of the curious symbols of horns and craftsmen.
"18 Then I looked up -- and there before me were four horns! 19 I asked the angel who was speaking to me, 'What are these?' He answered me, 'These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.'
20 Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. 21 I asked, 'What are these coming to do?' He answered, 'These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.'" (Zechariah 1:18-21)
"Horn" refers to military power. Hebrew qeren primarily denotes the horn(s) of various animals (ram, wild oxen) that they would use to fight for dominance. But the meaning extends to physical and military might, as well as arrogance and pride. Powerful foreign invaders have scattered God's people and dispersed them in exile to Assyria and Babylon.
The other important figures in this prophecy are four "craftsmen" (NIV, ESV), "blacksmiths" (NRSV), "carpenters" (KJV) is the verb ḥārāsh. The basic idea is cutting into some material, such as engraving metal or plowing. The noun can mean "engraving, carpenter, smith, mason." Craftsman is a generic way of expressing these kinds of workers. The craftsmen correspond to those who destroy Israel's enemies (think of a blacksmith's heavy hammer). That's the big picture.
There's a similar prophecy in Daniel 2, where a rock, representing the Kingdom of God, crushes all the previous world powers (Daniel 2:34-35, 45). Or, to switch analogies, Jeremiah speaks of God's word as a hammer that breaks in pieces those who oppose God (Jeremiah 23:29).
The returned exiles who began to build the temple have been frustrated by their enemies. God's people have enemies, but they don't have the last word. God is with us and will ultimately destroy our enemies -- the theme of many of the Psalms (Psalm 18:3; 23:5; Psalm 59:10; etc.).
"Measuring line" is two words: ḥēbel, "rope, cord," and middâ, "measure, measurement." Twenty-first century contractors use phased infrared light beams to determine distances. But until recently, builders have used rods, chains, and tapes to measure distances. The "measuring line" is a simple cord or rope of a definite length or with distances marked on it -- used by both carpenters (Isaiah 44:13) and surveyors, as in our passage.
"1 Then I looked up -- and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 I asked, 'Where are you going?' He answered me, 'To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.' 3 Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him 4 and said to him: 'Run, tell that young man, "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. 5 And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the LORD, "and I will be its glory within."'" (Zechariah 2:1-5)
Zechariah has a vision of someone who comes to measure the now-small city of Jerusalem, probably to build a wall to protect it. But then God says, that the city, which is now small with few people, will become so large that no wall will be able to contain all the people and livestock that will be in it.
"6 'Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,' declares the LORD, 'for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,' declares the LORD. 7 'Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!'" (Zechariah 2:6-7)
"Daughter of Babylon" means "inhabitants of Babylon." God invites the remaining exiles in Babylon to return to Jerusalem, for God himself will protect and avenge them.
"8 For this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you -- for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye -- 9 I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me." (Zechariah 2:8-9).
God says that to touch Israel, is to touch God's own pupil, the sensitive part of one's eye. God will not let this go unpunished.
be glad, O Daughter of Zion.
For I am coming,
and I will live among you,'
declares the LORD." (Zechariah 2:10)
The idea of God being in the midst of his people goes back to the tabernacle residing in the very center of the camp of Israel in the Wilderness.
"11 Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. 12 The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem." (Zechariah 2:11-12)
Here is a promise that the Gentiles will become one with God's people, with Jerusalem at its center. We see this theme in Psalms, Isaiah, and elsewhere (e.g., Zechariah 8:20-23; Psalm 22:27-30; 68:29-31; Isaiah 2:2-5; 60:3-7).
What is the modern-day equivalent of God in the midst of his people? God dwelling in the midst of his gathered people, the church. In congregations around the world, people experience God in their midst -- as God in his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:5). It is sad that Christians feel free to separate themselves from a congregation and live their lives independent from church. Yes, this is sometimes necessary. But it is not normal, nor is it the place of God's desired blessing. We are part of a people, not "Lone Ranger" Christians.
"The Lord ... has roused himself from his holy dwelling." (Zechariah 2:13b)
God has "roused himself," he is active and ready to fight for his people. There is a 13th century English proverb, "Let sleeping dogs lie," alluding to a time when dogs were trained to be fierce watchdogs, and to wake them would put a person in danger. God is ready to act on behalf of his people -- certainly an encouraging word to the returned exiles who have struggled to build the temple against the opposition of their neighbors.
Because God is ready to act, it is a time to be still before him in awe and fear.
before the LORD, all mankind,
because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling." (Zechariah 2:13)
So often we yammer and complain to God. We fault him for not acting on our behalf according to our own timetable. We act as if we know best and that God is asleep. How foolish. Faith doesn't need noise. Stillness before our awesome God is appropriate.
After escaping Egypt, God told Moses to pitch the Israelite camp next to the Red Sea. When Pharaoh's chariots were spotted pursuing them, and with nowhere they could escape, the people panicked and blamed Moses. But Moses had been with God, and spoke words of faith:
"The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." (Exodus 14:14)
We see this theme elsewhere:
is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him." (Habakkuk 2:20)
"Be silent before the Sovereign LORD,
for the day of the LORD is near." (Zephaniah 1:7a)
"Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10a)
Silence before the Lord could be from frustration, having given up. Or from fear and awe. But it is best used by disciples as a silent trust in God to take care of us and our situation. We can trust him!
Q2. (Zechariah 2:13) Why, in this passage, do you think
the prophet calls all mankind to be still before him? In the context of God
aroused to protect his people from attack, why is silence appropriate? For the
enemy of God, what does silence represent? For the believer, what does silence
before God represent?
One of the things that causes us to lag in serving the Lord is sin. Guilt. The sense of being a hypocrite. I am guessing from this vision that Joshua the high priest (called Jeshua in Ezra and Nehemiah) has fallen into sin. We know that later, two of his sons had married foreign women. But Joshua is high priest, one of the two most important leaders in all Jerusalem. He has been compromised by sin; sin has destroyed his ability to lead effectively. So God gives Zechariah a vision of cleansing and redemption.
"1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, 'The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?'" (Zechariah 3:1-2)
The name Satan (śāṭān) means "adversary, one who withstands," from śaṭan, "be an adversary, resist, accuse." Occasionally, it is used as a title of God's chief opponent, Satan. It appears in the Old Testament in Job 1:6-12; 2:1-8; and 1 Chronicles 21:1 (compare 2 Samuel 24:1). The intertestamental period sees increased interest in Satan. In the New Testament, the title Satan is transliterated from the Hebrew 34 times, though more often he is referred to as "the devil." In opposing God, Satan is a tempter, a corrupter, and then an accuser. Wonderful is the day when we read:
"The accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down." (Revelation 12:10)
In our day, Satan no longer has access before the throne of God, as he seems to have had in Job's day. However, in Zechariah's vision, Satan is accusing Joshua before the Lord. God reproves him most sharply:
This is similar to Amos's admonition of Israel:
"'I overthrew some of you,
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning;
yet you did not return to me,' declares the LORD." (Amos 4:11)
This figure is also used by Jude in the New Testament:
"Be merciful to those who doubt;
snatch others from the fire and save them...." (Jude 22-23a)
If you've observed a fireplace or campfire, then you know that sometimes a piece of wood begins burning when you don't want it to. So you quickly pull it out or rescue it from the fire so it won't burn any more. It had begun to burn, but it has now been rescued, saved. That is Joshua the high priest's situation. He is guilty, condemned, accused, washed up as a leader. But God saves him, silences Satan, and cleanses him for his service.
I think of Peter. Jesus' closest disciple betrays him three times. He's done! He feels unworthy until Jesus restores him and commissions him afresh, "Feed my lambs."
Perhaps you're a believer or a leader who has sinned. Who feels Satan's harsh condemnation. Who has been believing Satan's accusations. I have good news for you. Gospel news! Jesus is in the cleansing and restoration business.
Here's how the gospel of redemption plays out in Zechariah's vision.
"3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, 'Take off his filthy clothes.' Then he said to Joshua, 'See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.' 5 Then I said, 'Put a clean turban on his head.' So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.
6 The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: 7 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: "If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here."'" (Zechariah 3:3-7)
The Lord promises him the privilege of governing the temple -- all by grace!
The angel removes his "filthy clothes" (representing his sin) and clothes him with clean, rich garments (representing cleansing and forgiveness). We see this kind of imagery elsewhere in the Bible:
"He has clothed me with garments of
and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness." (Isaiah 61:10)
"You have taken off your old self with its
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator."
Q3. (Zechariah 3:1-7) What do Joshua's filthy clothes
represent? How does God deal with this? What message is this prophecy intended
to convey to Joshua the High Priest? How might this message apply to Christian
leaders who have sinned?
The next passage introduces a clearly messianic image.
"Listen, O high priest Joshua and your
associates seated before you,
who are men symbolic of things to come:
I am going to bring my servant, the Branch." (Zechariah 3:8)
"Branch" is ṣemaḥ, "sprout, growth, branch," from ṣāmah, "to sprout, spring up." A similar term appears in a Phoenician inscription as "the rightful shoot." A Ugaritic inscription refers to "shoot or progeny." Thus ṣemaḥ is a technical term signifying a scion or son. Already by Zechariah's time, the concept of the Branch springing up from David's line is a recognized messianic figure, introduced by Isaiah, and reinforced by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalmist.
"In that day the Branch (ṣemaḥ)
of the LORD will be beautiful and
and the fruit of the land
will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel." (Isaiah 4:2)
"He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground." (Isaiah 53:2a)
"'The days are coming,' declares the LORD,
'when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch (ṣemaḥ),
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.'" (Jeremiah 23:5; compare 33:15)
"There I will make a horn to sprout (ṣāmah) for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed." (Psalm 132:17)
"On that day I will cause a horn to spring
up (ṣāmah) for the
house of Israel,
and I will open your lips among them." (Ezekiel 29:21)
In our passage, the Branch is referred to as "my servant" and seems to be a different person than Joshua himself. (In Zechariah 6:12 the Branch seems to be the same person as Joshua. More on that shortly.) Here Yahweh promises that the Branch (the Messiah, the Son of David) will come in the future. This prophecy has two more figures.
Next, the prophet refers to a seven-faceted stone (ʾeben). Yahweh is often referred as the Rock (ṣûr), but this is different. Sûr is "rock, boulders or formations of stone and for the material which composes mountains." But a "stone" (ʾeben) was smaller. Stone was used for building -- houses, the temple, altars, markers, pillars. Stone is used several times in the Old Testament as a messianic title -- and quoted in the New Testament.
"He will be a
that causes men to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap
and a snare." (Isaiah 8:14)
"See, I lay a stone (ʾeben) in Zion, a
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed." (Isaiah 28:16)
Daniel sees a Stone that will crush all former kingdoms (Daniel 2:34). Now we come back to the stone before Joshua the high priest in Zechariah's vision.
the stone I have set in front of Joshua!
There are seven eyes on that one stone,
and I will engrave an inscription on it,'
says the LORD Almighty,
'and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.
10 In that day each of you will invite his neighbor
to sit under his vine and fig tree,'
declares the LORD Almighty.'" (Zechariah 3:9-10)
The stone in Zechariah's vision seems to be one of these messianic symbols, particularly since Branch and Stone are in adjacent verses.
The seven "eyes" (NIV, ESV, KJV) or "facets" (NRSV) represent the completeness and perfection of this stone. True, Vision 6 has a menorah with seven lights on it, which represent "the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth" (Zechariah 4:10b), but I think here "facets" is the idea, rather than symbolic eyes. Apocalyptic prophecies often shift around symbols from one prophecy to another.
What the inscription signifies, we can't be sure and speculation doesn't help us much. The image of sitting "under his vine and fig tree" means to enjoy peace and prosperity in the messianic age (1 King 4:25; Isaiah 36:16; Hosea 2:18; Micah 4:4).
The messianic promise of atonement is clear to us in light of Christ.
'And I will remove the sin of this land in a single day." (Zechariah 3:9d)
Messiah Jesus is rather clear about his role.
"For even the Son of
Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
Jesus' words "for many" are intended to echo Isaiah's great prophecy:
"He poured out his life
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12b)
On the day Jesus the Messiah dies on the cross, he takes upon himself not only the "sins of this land" (Judah), but also "the sins of the whole world" (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2). In a later prophecy, Zechariah declares:
"On that day a fountain will be opened to the
house of David
and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zechariah 13:1)
Now we come to the fifth of Zechariah's seven night visions. While Vision 4 was intended to encourage Joshua the high priest, Vision 5 is given primarily to encourage Zerubbabel the governor. Here's Zechariah's vision.
"2 I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. 3 Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left." (Zechariah 4:2-3)
When Zechariah asks an angel what they represent, the angel doesn't immediately solve the riddle, but replies:
" 6 This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. 7 'What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.'" (Zechariah 4:6-7a)
Construction of the temple had been blocked, frustrated by Judah's enemies. For years the partly-constructed temple site lay silent from the sounds of workmen. The task has seemed like a "mighty mountain." But now the project shall become easy -- "level ground."
What is the difference? This time they will build relying upon God's strength, not their own -- God's Holy Spirit.
As I look back on my life, I can see many times when I relied on my own talents and hard work, than on the Spirit of God -- and achieved little. I believe that one of the vital lessons of discipleship is to listen to discern what God is saying and doing, and then cooperate with that, rather than trying to force things to happen by our own will and efforts. This is Jesus' way (John 5:19).
" 7b Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!'
8 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 9 "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you." (Zechariah 4:7b-9)
Verse 7 and 8 contrast two types of stones used in construction: foundation stones and capstones. The foundation stones are placed first, before any other construction takes place. The capstone or capstones go at the very top of the structure to finish it off. Zechariah prophesies even the words that will be spoken when the top stone is placed: The NIV's translation, "God bless it!" is a stretch. More accurate is "Grace to it!" (NRSV, ESV, KJV). "Grace" is ḥēn, "favor, grace." When Zerubbabel lays the final stone the people will shout and attribute the completion to God's favor, God's grace.
Remember how the people had wept when they saw the humble, plain beginnings of the Second Temple that was to replace Solomon's glorious temple? (Ezra 3:12). As the partly-finished temple lay in ruins. Haggai reminds them of their attitude: "Is it not in your sight as nothing?" (Haggai 2:3b).
Sometimes we castigate ourselves for our mistakes and false starts by telling ourselves that we never could have done it anyway. The returned exiles were thoroughly discouraged, from the people to the governor, Zerubbabel. Now Zechariah's prophecy shakes him.
"Who despises the day of small things?
Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel."
Zechariah had despised that early start. How weak, how insignificant, how naive he had been. Yet, in spite of all that, God had been in those beginnings.
How often our efforts for God are attacked by the enemy. We can get so discouraged we don't even want to try again. But God delights in taking the insignificant and making something out of it. Down through history we can see the pattern:
- Moses' rod that delivers a nation from Egypt (Exodus 4:1-9),
- The jawbone of an ass that in Samson's hand kills a thousand Philistines (Judges 15:14-16),
- Five smooth stones that fell the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17),
- The handful of meal and a jar of oil that sustain a widow through years of famine (2 Kings 4:1-7),
- Five barley loaves and a couple of fish that feed a multitude (Matthew 14:13-21), and
- The mustard seed Jesus said will become a great tree for birds to find shelter (Matthew 13:31-32).
What little thing, what dream, what false start, have you despised? Your small church, your tiny Bible study, your hopes of ministry for Christ? Do you despise your failures? Don't. Surrender them to the God who delights in taking human weakness and showing his strength. Take another look at your discarded dreams, this time through God's eyes:
"Not by might, not by power, but my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6)
Trust God, Zerubbabel. Try again, this time with his leading, his Spirit, and his power. And the people who have been thoroughly disheartened by the failure to build the temple will be encouraged by your example. They'll see Zerubbabel out on the ruins of the temple, plumb line in hand, beginning to direct the project again, and they'll rejoice.
Incidentally, a plumb line is still used in building to this day to make sure the wall of a building is straight up and down -- plumb. Essentially, a plummet or plumb bob, is a stone or weight on a string. Gravity pulls the line straight down. Simple, but effective.
Q4. (Zechariah 4:1-10) Why do we so easily fall into the
trap of trying to do God's work with our own strength? What does it mean, "Not
by might, not by power, but by my Spirit"? How might you apply this truth to
Now Zechariah returns to some of the more difficult symbols of this vision: olive trees, a pedestal lampstand holding seven lamps, and golden pipes that transmit olive oil from the olive trees to the lamps.
"I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at
and seven lights on it,
with seven channels to the lights." (Zechariah 4:2)
The lamp described in Zechariah's vision is probably a pedestal lampstand. These are normally a cylindrical column made of pottery, tapering slightly towards the top, with a bowl on top. Here the seven lamps are wicks are set around the bowl, apparently with a channel to each of the lights to bring oil from a central supply in the middle. But this lampstand is gold!
"(These seven are the eyes of the LORD,
which range throughout the earth.)" (Zechariah 4:10b)
The seven lamps represent the seven all-seeing eyes of Yahweh (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3; Revelation 5:6). Zechariah asks the angel what this means.
"These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth." (Zechariah 4:13)
It seems to me that here's how it works, though the symbols are somewhat bizarre. The "two olive trees" represent Zerubbabel and Joshua, the two men whom Yahweh is encouraging through this vision. They are "anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth." The golden pipes seem to run from the olive trees to pour out "gold oil" that lights the lamp, which probably represents Israel. We see an echo of this in Revelation in the Two Witnesses:
"These are the two olive trees and the two
that stand before the Lord of the earth." (Revelation 11:4)
Taken together, Vision 5 encourages Zerubbabel that God's Spirit will help build the temple and that, together, the anointed leaders of Judah, Zerubbabel and Joshua, will provide what is needed to accomplish God's plan. It will all be by God's grace, however, not man's effort. Yes, Zerubbabel and Joshua must lead well and the people will work, but it is God's grace that allows it to come to completion.
Just when are beginning to make sense out of Zechariah's night visions, along comes one that is full of mystery. Though the details may be unclear, the overall thrust of visions 7 and 8 is clear: condemnation of sin and its removal from the land.
Again, the figures are somewhat bizarre.
"I looked again -- and there before me was a flying scroll! 2 He asked me, 'What do you see?' I answered, 'I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide.'" (Zechariah 5:1)
Banner being towed by small plane.
Highway billboards can be that large. When I lived in Los Angeles, I would often see small airplanes pulling long banners to advertise a product or promote a cause. Such aerial banners might be 15 to 30 feet tall and as long as 100 feet -- or larger. So when I read of Zephaniah's flying scroll I can picture it. By any standard, Zephaniah's banner was huge 15 by 30 feet (4.6 by 9 meters). The size of the banner is to indicate that its message is intended to be read by all God's people.
"3 And he said to me, 'This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. 4 The LORD Almighty declares, "I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of him who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in his house and destroy it, both its timbers and its stones."'" (Zechariah 5:3-4)
The message is a curse upon those who steal and those who lie under oath -- thieves and perjurers. These are violations of the third, eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). Here are the sins:
- Stealing is a double violation of both the eighth and tenth commandments. Stealing is taking something that belongs to someone else (Exodus 20:15). It comes from letting selfishness run rampant, from "coveting" what belongs to someone else (Exodus 20:17). This violates Jesus' second greatest commandment, to love one's neighbor as oneself (Mark 12:31). Paul even has to reinforce this command in the New Testament church (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Corinthians 6:10).
- Swearing falsely in Yahweh's name is also a double violation. The ninth commandment is "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). This, of course, is lying, but in particular, lying in court with the intent of hurting another person. Perhaps even more serious, however, is breaking the second commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Exodus 20:7). When we use our association with God or Christianity to deceive or perpetrate a wrong, we show utter disregard -- not only for the people we are defrauding, but for God himself! This completely breaks Jesus' first command to love the Lord your God fully (Mark 12:30).
This vision of the flying banner focuses on the sins of stealing and lying under oath, but probably is intended to be understood as a curse against all sin. A curse is a solemn oath or promise against a person or people. A curse was considered to possess an inherent power of carrying itself into effect.
God had promised a blessing for keeping the covenant commandments and a curse for breaking them (Deuteronomy 11:26-29). Half a chapter of Deuteronomy is devoted to describing the curses that will rest upon those who break God's covenant by disobedience (Deuteronomy 29:15-68).
When God is for us, life is good. But when God himself turns his anger against us to bring us down, the results are devastating.
The penalty for sin that Zechariah pronounces is harsh -- or so our world would judge it. The penalty is two-fold:
- Banishment. The sinner is "banished" (NIV), "cut off" (NRSV, KJV), "cleaned out" (ESV). The sinner is to be cut off from the community -- banished, excommunicated.
- Destruction. The sinner's own house is consumed, "both timber and stones." The curse is a kind of devouring thing, "destroy" (NIV), "consume" (NRSV, ESV, KJV). The word is often used of violent destruction, such as in war. The curse continues until the man's house is completely gone. He has nothing to return to.
Terrible judgment is pronounced against sinners. We recoil from this. How can God be loving if he punishes sin so savagely? We can't be that bad! Our attitude comes from being immersed in a culture that both belittles sin and emasculates God. In both the Old and New Testaments, the punishment for sin is horrific. Jesus himself said:
"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter life maimed
than with two hands to go into hell,
where the fire never goes out." (Mark 9:43)
Jesus talked more about hell than any other person in the entire Bible. Sin is an offense against the holiness of God.
God is love. But he is also holy, righteous, and just. This is part of the Good News. And without it, the Good News of grace doesn't appear nearly as gracious.
While the punishment for sinners is terrible in its utter completeness, so the redemption of sinners is wonderful in contrast. Jesus' death on the cross on our behalf is the reason that God says in Vision 4 above:
"I will remove the sin of this land in a single day." (Zechariah 3:9)
Vision 7 carries on a discussion of sin and its removal, and belongs closely to Vision 6.
"Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, 'Look up and see what this is that is appearing.'" (Zechariah 5:5)
There has been a flying scroll or banner. Now there is a flying basket with a lead lid.
"6 I asked, 'What is it?' He replied, 'It is a measuring basket.' And he added, 'This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.' 7 Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! 8 He said, 'This is wickedness,' and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth." (Zechariah 5:6-8)
This measuring basket was the size of an ephah, about two-thirds the size of our bushel basket. Sometimes you see large baskets of wicker or woven rushes that might have looked like this. But what makes it unique is what is inside.
A woman. If you take the size of the basket literally, this would be a small woman indeed. But we're dealing with symbols in a vision -- concepts, not exact sizes. The women is identified by the angel as "wickedness." She tries to escape, but the angel pushes her back into the basket and covers it with a lid of lead. Near the end of the Bible, we see a another woman represent wickedness, "the great prostitute" (Revelation 17:1-6).
"Wickedness" is a concept far removed from Western culture in our day. Yes, we have "the wicked witch of the West" in "The Wizard of Oz," and "wicked" stepmothers in fairytales. But the word "wicked" is seldom used to describe people these days. Instead, we tend to use the word "evil" for really bad people -- not ourselves, of course.
"Wickedness" is rishʿâ, "guilt, wickedness," a comprehensive word, often used as the antithesis of righteousness, including civil, religious, and ethical evil. In the Bible, the wicked are often contrasted with the righteous (Genesis 18:25; Proverbs 10:3; etc.). Psalm 1 describes the wicked as those who give evil counsel, take advantage of the poor, renounce the Lord, murder the innocent, curse, and lie.
Our problem comes with the realization that, "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10). We have all gone astray. We seek for our own interests. We are selfish. We rebel against God. We do what we know we shouldn't do. "And there is no health in us," as the prayer of confession in the Book of Common Prayer puts it.
Our pretended righteousness cannot save us.
"All of us have become like one who is
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6a)
In Zechariah's day, even the high priest is compromised, corrupted, and needs cleansing. You and I are wicked enough that Jesus had to die for us.
I've spent some time on this so that we can grasp the importance of God removing sin from us. In Zechariah's vision, the basket of wickedness is transported to Babylon, to a kind of shrine where people worship wicked gods (Zechariah 5:9-11). This brings to mind a wonderful verse about God's complete forgiveness.
"He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:10-12)
This vision is intended to encourage the returned exiles that God had cleansed their sin. This gives them hope to complete the work on the temple. It also gives us courage to serve the God of Grace.
Now we consider the eighth night vision -- of four chariots patrolling the earth. These indicate the hosts or armies of heaven.
"7 When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, 'Go throughout the earth!' So they went throughout the earth. 8 Then he called to me, 'Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.'" (Zechariah 6:7-8)
The command to go patrol the earth is the same as in Vision 1 in Zechariah 1:10. It indicates God's sovereignty over the whole earth, with swift chariots ready to do his bidding. In Revelation we see various colored horses that are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:1-8), executing God's judgment on earth.
The horsemen see the power of the nations, but God is sovereign. His chariots are stronger than any army. Remember the terror of Elisha's servant when he saw the mighty army of Aram surrounding the city of Dothan. God assurance is: "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16-17). We need not be afraid of Satan and his minions, nor the nations of this world!
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
The night visions conclude with a strange symbolic coronation of Joshua the high priest.
[silver and gold] from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived
from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah.
11 Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak." (Zechariah 6:10-11)
If I were Zechariah, I would be having a dispute with Yahweh about now. O God, kings wear crowns, not priests! This just isn't proper. It goes against all custom and tradition. But the command is clear. With the crowning comes an amazing word:
"12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.'" (Zechariah 6:12-13)
"Branch" is ṣemaḥ, which we saw above in Zechariah 3:8, which refers to the family tree line of a legitimate royal son. The high priest is of the line of Moses and Aaron, not David's line. Nevertheless, the prophet is told to put this crown on the high priest's head, symbolically combining the roles of king and priest. This is fulfilled in Christ Jesus centuries later.
This symbolic crowning ceremony doesn't institute a permanent change in the government of the province, since we know that Nehemiah is appointed governor several decades later. Nor is Zerubbabel thrust aside; he is part of the rebuilding leadership (Zechariah 4:6-10; Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4, 20-23). If you recall, the Lord declares Zerubbabel as his signet ring (Haggai 2:23). The crowning here seems to be primarily a prophetic symbolic act. Nevertheless, to remember the event, the crown is to be placed in the temple for preservation (Zechariah 6:14).
This whole section concludes with the promise that those from afar -- perhaps Jews returning from exile as well as Gentiles -- will come and help build the temple.
"Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the LORD, and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God." (Zechariah 6:15)
The promise we saw in Zechariah 2:8-11 is repeated here, that people far away will help build the temple. One interpretation of this is that these are the Gentiles who come to the Lord in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 56:6-8; 57:19; 60:10; Ephesians 2:13-22).
Finally, Zechariah calls for diligent obedience -- that is, repentance from their former neglect of the temple project, and continued work to bring the project to completion.
We've covered a lot of territory in the first six chapters of Zechariah. It's amazing how many lessons God has revealed to his people through the prophet. Rather than rehearse the prophetic images themselves, let's consider the discipleship lessons that we learn from these chapters.
- The way to God begins with repentance -- away from evil and toward God. Otherwise, the consequences of our sin will overtake us (Zechariah 1:3-6).
- The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple -- indeed all things -- comes through God's choice and grace (Zechariah 1:7-17).
- God is our protector. We can trust him to deal with our enemies (Zechariah 1:18-21).
- God has chosen to live in the midst of his people -- but has extended to all the invitation to be part his people. The modern expression of this is God living in the midst of his gathered people, the church (Zechariah 2:1-12).
- Sometimes the only appropriate response to God is stillness and awe (Zechariah 2:13).
- We are unworthy to stand before God and touch holy things. But he desires to cleanse us and clothe us with his righteousness. This is all by his grace, not because we deserve it (Zechariah 3:1-7).
- In Zechariah's prophecy we see the Messiah represented by titles such as The Branch, and the Stone, and the One who removes sin from the land in a single day -- the day he died for our sins on the cross (Zechariah 3:8-9).
Available in paperback, PDF, Kindle formats
- We must not be discouraged by "the day of small things." Rather, we trust God to increase what he has begun (Zechariah 4:10a).
- God chooses anointed men and women to build his Kingdom. Not perfect men and women, but those who will stand as channels of his anointing, his Spirit, and his power (Zechariah 4:1-14).
- God expects us to keep His commandments. If people persist in disobedience, rather than turn in repentance, their destiny is terrible -- banishment from the presence of God and destruction (Zechariah 5:1-4).
- Temptation to wickedness is present; our only hope is God's cleansing and removing wickedness far from us (Zechariah 5:5-11).
- God is sovereign over all the earth; nothing is hidden from him (Zechariah 6:1-8).
- The crowning of Joshua the high priest symbolizes Jesus Christ, our Messiah, who holds in himself two roles: Priest and King.
Father, thank you for your love that never gives up on us. Thank you for your gifts of repentance, cleansing, forgiveness, and restoration. Without you we fumble and bumble and are ultimately lost. But you stoop to dwell in our midst because you have chosen us. You love us. Thank you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
"'Return to me,' declares the LORD Almighty, 'and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 1:3, NIV)
"'I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 1:16, NIV)
"'And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.'" (Zechariah 2:5, NIV)
"... Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye." (Zechariah 2:8b, NIV)
"The LORD said to Satan, 'The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?'" (Zechariah 3:2, NIV)
"This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty." (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)
"Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel." (Zechariah 4:10a)
 The Qal stem of the very common verb shûb, "turn, return" physically, used theologically in a two-fold sense here to describe God's people returning to God (repentance), and, turning away from evil (renouncing and disowning sin) (Victor P. Hamilton, shûb, TWOT #2340). The word is also used in the sense of return from exile.
 Nāśag, Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 247, 1.
 Some of the Jewish apocalyptic writings include: First and Second Enoch, Book of Jubilees, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Psalms of Solomon, Assumption of Moses, Fourth Ezra, and the Apocalypse of Baruch.
 George Eldon Ladd, "Apocalyptic Literature," ISBE 1:151-160; also George Eldon Ladd, Jesus and the Kingdom (Harper & Row, 1964), chapter 3, later published under the title, The Presence of the Future.
 Tremper Longman III, The NIV Application Commentary: Daniel (Zondervan, 1999), p. 178.
 The historical background may illuminate the horsemen's report of "rest and peace." Cyrus's son and successor, Cambyses, died in July 522 BC, at reports of unrest in the eastern part of the Persian Empire. Darius, an officer in Cambyses entourage, siezed the throne, dealt with the rebels, and then proceeded to put down rebellions in other parts of the Empire. It seems that by 520 BC, when Haggai and Zechariah had begun to prophesy, Darius had secured his throne.
 "Overflow" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "spread abroad" (KJV) is the Qal stem of pûs, "scatter, disperse," here in the sense of "overflow," as in Proverbs 15:7 (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 290, 3).
 "Prosperity" is the common noun ṭôb, "good, goodness," here referring to economic or material good (TWOT #793a).
 Here Zion is a synonym of Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the part of the city that David conquered from the Jebusites.
 "Comfort" is the Piel stem of nāḥam, "comfort (with words)" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 234). The root seems to reflect the idea of breathing deeply, hence the physical display of one's feelings, usually "sorrow, compassion, or comfort" (Marvin R. Wilson, TWOT #1344).
 "Choose" is the Qal stem of bāḥar, "to choose, elect, decide for" TWOT #231), "select" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 37, I, 2).
 Qeren, TWOT #2072a.
 "Scattered" is zārâ, "to scatter, spread, cast away, disperse" (TWOT #579).
 Some have attempted to define the four horns as Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, and Persians, but it's harder to identify the four craftsmen. Perhaps it's better to see four as representing the totality of opposition from every direction, the four winds (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 104).
 Leon J. Wood, ḥārāsh, TWOT #760a.
 "The apple of one's eye," that is, the "pupil," is an English idiom, not a Hebrew one. The phrase goes back to King Alfred in the 9th century AD. The Hebrew idiom is different. In Zechariah 2:8, "apple" is bābâ, "pupil, eyeball," of uncertain derivation. (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 33). Hebrew ʾîshôn (literally, "little man" of the eye) is used elsewhere for "pupil" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 14; Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2). In Lamentations 2:18, the phase is literally the "daughter" of the eye.
 "Roused" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "raised up" (KJV) is the Niphal stem of ʿûr, "be stirred up, be set in motion" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 268).
 "Be still" (NIV), "be silent" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is hasâ, "an interjection with imperative force meaning be silent, hush" (Carl Philip Weber, TWOT #511). Also in Habakkuk 2:20 and Zephaniah 1:7a.
 "Be still" (NIV), "keep still" (NRSV), "be silent" (ESV), "hold your peace" (KJV) is the Hiphil stem of ḥārēsh, "keep still, be silent, let someone do something without objection" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 118). The basic idea is of non-communication, expressed by either not speaking or not hearing (Leon J. Wood, TWOT #761).
 "Be still" is the Hiphil stem of rāpâ, "leave someone alone" (= not bother)" (Holladay, pp. 344-345; William White, TWOT #2198).
 J. Barton Payne, śaṭan, TWOT #2252.
 Daniel P. Fuller, "Satan," ISBE 4:344.
 "Rebuke" is gāʿar, "rebuke, reprove." This root indicates a check applied to a person or peoples through strong admonitions or actions (Harold G. Stigers, TWOT #370).
 Also Zechariah 1:17; 2:12.
 "Burning stick" (NIV), "brand" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is ʾûd, "log" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 6), "brand, firebrand" (BDB, 15).
 "Snatched" (NIV), "plucked" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is the Hofal stem of nāṣal, "rescue, save," here, Hofal, "snatched away" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 244).
 Semaḥ, TWOT #1928.
 Hōṭer, "branch or twig" (TWOT #643a).
 Nēṣer, "branch, shoot, sprout" (TWOT #1408a).
 Yônēq, "suckling, sapling, young plant" (TWOT #874a).
 John E. Hartley, ṣûr, TWOT #1901a. In only one case is Yahweh referred to as "the Stone (eben) of Israel" (Genesis 49:24).
 "Eyes" (ESV, KJV) or "facets" (NIV, NRSV) is ʿayin, "eye." Here they refer to "facets," used in the sense of "surface" as in Exodus 10:15 ("the eye [surface] of the whole land") (Carl Schultz, TWOT #1612a).
 "Capstone" (NIV), "top stone" (NRSV, ESV), is literally "headstone" (KJV). The word modifying stone ('eben) is rōʾshâ, "top, i.e. the topmost stone," from rōʾsh, "head," then "top, summit" (TWOT #2097b).
 Hēn, "favor, grace," from the verb ḥānan, to be gracious, pity." The verb ḥānan depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694a).
 "Plumb line" (NIV, ESV), "plummet" (NRSV, KJV) is ʾeben, "stone," a word we've seen before in this passage.
 The Hebrew text uses the phrase "sons of oil," or those full of oil. Anointing, of course, is accomplished by using olive oil. Olive oil also is also used in the lamps on the menorah.
 "Swears falsely." In verse 3, most translations supply "false" from its use in verse 4. Shābaʿ, "to swear, adjure," in the Niphal stem, means "to bind oneself by an oath" (TWOT #2319). "Falsely" is sheqer, "lie," from the verb shāqar, "to deal falsely, be false," used of words or activities which are false in the sense that they are groundless, without basis in fact or reality (Herman J. Austel, TWOT #2461a).
 To "misuse" (NIV), "make wrongful use of" (NRSV), "take ... in vain" (ESV, KJV) means to make a false statement followed by "so help me God."
 "Curse" in Zechariah 5:3 is ʾālâ, "an oath, solemn statement, promise, curse" (for broken oath) (TWOT #94a). Hebrew uses a variety of words for "curse."
 T. Lewis and R.K. Harrison, "Curse," ISBE 1:83.
 "Curse" in Deuteronomy 11:26-29; 29:15-68 is qelālâ, "curse," from qālal, "be slight, trifling, of little account." The primary emphasis here is the absence (or reversal) of a blessed or rightful state and lowering to a lesser state (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #2028d).
 The word is the Niphal stem of nāqâ, a verb with the original sense of "pour out" and "be empty, clean." The word can be used with positive connotations, but here the use is obviously negative -- a punishment. Probably the best sense here is "to be cut off" (Milton C. Fisher and Bruce K. Waltke, #1412). Baldwin says, "The verb means 'purged out' (RV), or 'exempted from obligation' imposed with the covenant, and so will be 'cut off' from the community" (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 127). See also Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 245.
 This is the Piel stem of kālâ. The basic idea of this root is "to bring a process to completion." Here it is used negatively, "[Qal] used up, vanished, spent, [Piel] consumed" The idea of being consumed is most commonly applied to violent destruction, often by war (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #982).
 "Measuring basket" (NIV), "basket" (NRSV, ESV), "ephah" (KJV) is ʾêpâ, a dry measure, frequently mentioned in the OT, estimated to be equivalent to from three-eighths to two-thirds of a bushel. A "bath" was a liquid measure of the same size. An ephah would be the basket used to measure out this standard dry measure (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #82; E.M. Cook, "Weights and Measures," ISBE 4:10).
 Rishʿâ, TWOT #2222d.
 Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp. 128-129.
 "Go throughout" (NIV), "go, patrol" (NRSV, ESV), "walk to and fro" (KJV) represent the verb hālak, "go, walk," a word denoting movement in general, usually of people (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #498). Here the word is doubled for emphasis, a Hebrew grammatical device known as an infinitive construct. Combined here, with the preposition le, it perhaps indicates obligation or permission (Gesenius, Hebrew Grammar, p. 350). Satan patrols the earth in Job 1:8.
 Phillips, Zechariah, p. 135.
 "Crown" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "crowns" (KJV) is ʿaṭārâ, "crown, wreath." This is the general term for crown, should be distinguished from nēzer, the royal and priestly crown. The word in Hebrew is plural, perhaps to indicate the superlative, the ultimate crown (Carl Schultz, TWOT #1608a).
 High priests did wear a sort of crown, though different than a regal crown. It was a small golden plate fastened with blue cord to the front of the high priest's turban. Inscribed on the plate were the words: "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38; 39:30-31; Leviticus 8:9). This called by two words. The first is "plate" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "rosette"(NRSV), ṣîṣ, "flower," as an ornament on the forehead of the priest (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 306). The second is nēzer, "consecration, ordination," then a kind of crown, "diadem, headband," of silver or gold with lacing-holes as a mark of being consecrated (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 233). Nēzer is also used in Zechariah 9:16 to indicate a crown with jewels set in it.
 "Diligently obey" is shāmaʿ, "hear, listen to, obey" (TWOT #2212). However, here the word is repeated for emphasis, using a Hebrew construction known as the Infinitive Absolute.
In-depth Bible study books
You can purchase one of Dr. Wilson's complete Bible studies in PDF, Kindle, or paperback format.
- 28 Advent Scriptures
- 1, 2, and 3 John
- 1 Peter
- 2 Peter & Jude
- 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- 1 & 2 Timothy
- 1 Corinthians
- 2 Corinthians
- Apostle Paul
- Abraham, Faith of
- Christ Powered Life (Romans 5-8)
- Christmas Incarnation
- Colossians and Philemon
- Conquering Lamb of Revelation
- David, Life of
- Early Church: Acts 1-12
- Glorious Kingdom, The
- Great Prayers of the Bible
- Holy Spirit, Disciple's Guide
- Jacob, Life of
- Jesus and the Kingdom of God
- JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
- John's Gospel
- Lamb of God
- Listening for God's Voice
- Lord's Supper
- Luke's Gospel
- Moses the Reluctant Leader
- Names and Titles of God
- Names and Titles of Jesus
- Rebuild & Renew: Post-Exilic Books
- Resurrection and Easter Faith
- Sermon on the Mount
- Seven Last Words of Christ
- Songs of Ascent (Ps 120-134)