For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 19
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 22—23; Revelation 10; Zechariah 6; John 9
THE LAST OF THE EIGHT VISIONS and a related oracle now unfold (Zech. 6). This last vision (6:1-8) is in some ways parallel to the first. In the first, there were horses but no chariots; here there are both. In the first, the setting was a valley; here, two mountains. There the horses were coming in to report; here they are sent out—indeed, they are eager to be off. In both, they are part of the Lord’s worldwide patrols.
Although various explanations have been offered for the two mountains made of bronze, the most likely recalls the gigantic bronze pillars that stood on either side of the entrance to the original temple (1 Kings 7:15-22). Bronze and iron were used in defense against attack (e.g., Jer. 1:18). No one can force entrance to God’s dwelling. I cannot deal here with the intricacies of the colors and destinations. Zechariah is told by the interpreting angel that the four horses/chariots are “the four spirits [= winds] of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world” (6:5). Like the winds, they are God’s messengers (Ps. 104:4), ranging over the whole world, for the whole world belongs to God. Chariots were the panzer divisions of ancient warfare. If they already control “the north country” (6:6, 8), where the mightiest pagan empires flourished, then they control everything. At the end of the vision, the angel is more than an interpreter for the prophet. The verb “He called [literally, ‘cried’] to me” introduces a proclamation. This angel of the Lord discloses his identity, for he speaks either for or as the Lord of the whole earth. The promised rest and salvation have been achieved.
Yet the final oracle (6:9-15) leaves the chapter with a slightly different feel. The climax of God’s redemptive purposes lies not in a temple or a ritual, but in a person. Asking for a share of the silver and gold recently arrived in a new caravan from the exiles in Babylon, Zechariah is to make a magnificent crown (its magnificence is hinted at in the Hebrew plural). This crown is for the head of the high priest Joshua the son of Jehozadak (6:11). That is so stunning that some contemporary commentators want to emend the text. Surely the ruler with the crown is the Davidic king, they argue, not the high priest. Others think this reflects a very much later time when the priests picked up more political power. But the truth is simpler: here God brings together into one figure both the kingly symbolism and the priestly functions. His name is the Branch (6:12; compare the use of this title in Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). New Testament readers cannot doubt where the fulfillment is found.