Vision Eight: The Chariots
1 Once more I looked, and this time I saw four chariots emerging from between two mountains of bronze.#tn Heb “two mountains, and the mountains [were] mountains of bronze.” This has been simplified in the translation for stylistic reasons.sn Bronze, a hard, almost impenetrable metal, is an apt figure to speak of the obstacles standing in the way of the accomplishment of God’s purposes for the postexilic Jewish community (cf. 4:7). The cleft between the two from which the chariots emerge might be related to the eschatological triumph of the Lord who will return to the Mount of Olives and divide it into two mountains, one on the north and the other on the south (cf. Zech 14:1-8; Ezek 47:1-12). 2 Harnessed to the first chariot were red horses, to the second black horses, 3 to the third white horses, and to the fourth spotted horses, all of them strong.#tc For the MT reading אֲמֻצִּים (’amutsim, “strong”) Aquila and Syriac presuppose אֲדֻמִּים (’adummim, “red”), thus giving the red horse an assignment and eliminating the problem of a fifth, “spotted” horse. The fourth would be a mottled red horse according to this view. There is, however, no manuscript support for this interpretation. 4 Then I asked the angelic messenger#tn See the note on the expression “angelic messenger” in 1:9. who was speaking with me, “What are these, sir?” 5 The messenger replied, “These are the four spirits#tn The Hebrew term translated “spirit” here may also be translated “wind” or “breath” depending on the context (cf. ASV, NRSV, CEV “the four winds of heaven”; NAB similar). of heaven that have been presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The chariot with the black horses is going to the north country and the white ones are going after them, but the spotted ones are going to the south country. 7 All these strong ones#tn The present translation takes אֲמֻצִּים (’amutsim, “strong”) to be a descriptive of all the horses – white, black, red, and spotted (cf. NAB, NIV, NLT). are scattering; they have sought permission to go and walk about over the earth.” The Lord had said, “Go! Walk about over the earth!” So they are doing so. 8 Then he cried out to me, “Look! The ones going to the northland have brought me#tn Heb “my spirit.” The subject appears to be the Lord who exclaims here that the horsemen have accomplished their task of bringing peace. peace about the northland.”#sn The immediate referent of peace about the northland is to the peace brought by Persia’s conquest of Babylonia, a peace that allowed the restoration of the Jewish people (cf. 2 Chr 36:22-23; Isa 44:28; 45:1-2). However, there is also an eschatological dimension, referring to a time when there will be perfect and universal peace.
A Concluding Oracle
9 The word of the Lord came to me as follows: 10 “Choose some people#tn The words “some people” are supplied in the translation. The Hebrew verb translated “choose” (alternatively “take” [NAB, NIV]; “collect” [NRSV, CEV]) has no direct object specified in the text. Some translations supply “silver and gold” (NIV, NRSV) or “an offering” (NASB). from among the exiles, namely, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, all of whom have come from Babylon, and when you have done so go to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah.#sn Except for Joshua (v. 11) none of these individuals is otherwise mentioned and therefore they cannot be further identified. 11 Then take some silver and gold to make a crown#tn Heb “crowns” (so KJV, ASV; also in v. 14). The Hebrew word for “crown” here is עֲטֶרֶת (’ateret), a term never used in the OT for the priestly crown or mitre. Thus, the scene here describes the investing of the priest with royal authority. and set it on the head of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 12 Then say to him, ‘The Lord who rules over all says, “Look – here is the man whose name is Branch,#tn The epithet “Branch” (צֶמַח, tsemakh) derives from the verb used here (יִצְמָח, yitsmakh, “will sprout up”) to describe the rise of the Messiah, already referred to in this manner in Zech 3:8 (cf. Isa 11:1; 53:2; Jer 33:15). In the immediate context this refers to Zerubbabel, but the ultimate referent is Jesus (cf. John 19:5). who will sprout up from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 Indeed, he will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed in splendor, sitting as king on his throne. Moreover, there will be a priest#sn The priest here in the immediate context is Joshua but the fuller and more distant allusion is to the Messiah, a ruling priest. The notion of the ruler as a priest-king was already apparent in David and his successors (Pss 2:2, 6-8; 110:2, 4), and it finds mature expression in David’s greater Son, Jesus Christ, who will combine both offices in his kingship (Heb 5:1-10; 7:1-25). with him on his throne and they will see eye to eye on everything. 14 The crown will then be turned over to Helem,#tn “Helem” is probably the same individual as “Heldai” in v. 10. Since the MT and the major ancient versions leave the apparent conflict unresolved it is probably best to view “Helem” as interchangeable with “Heldai” (cf. “Heled” in 1 Chr 11:30 with “Heleb” [2 Sam 23:29] and “Heldai” [1 Chr 27:15]). A number of modern English versions use “Heldai” here (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV, TEV, NLT). Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen#tn Since the “son of Zephaniah” in v. 10 is Josiah, it might be best here to understand “Hen” in its meaning “grace” (חֵן, khen); that is, “Hen” is a nickname for Josiah – “the gracious one.” A number of modern English translations use “Josiah” here (e.g., NCV, NRSV, NLT). son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord. 15 Then those who are far away#sn Those who are far away is probably a reference to later groups of returning exiles under Ezra, Nehemiah, and others. will come and build the temple of the Lord so that you may know that the Lord who rules over all has sent me to you. This will all come to pass if you completely obey the voice of the Lord your God.”’”