Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The prophet earnestly exhorts the people to repentance, that they may escape such punishments as had been inflicted on their fathers, Zac 1:1-6. The vision of the horses, with the signification, Zac 1:7-11. The angel of the Lord successfully intercedes in behalf of Jerusalem, Zac 1:12-17. The vision of the four horns, and of the four carpenters, Zac 1:18-21.
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius - This was Darius Hystaspes; and from this date we find that Zechariah began to prophecy just two months after Haggai.
Son of Iddo - There are a number of various readings on this name, ידו Iddo, and עדוא Iddo, both in MSS. and in editions; but they are only different ways of writing the same name.
The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers - For their ingratitude idolatry, iniquity, and general rebellion.
Turn ye unto me - This shows that they had power to return, if they would but use it.
And I will turn unto you - I will show you mercy and grant you salvation, if you will use the grace I have already given you. Men are lost, because they turn not unto God; but no man is lost because he had not power to return. God gives this, and he will require it.
Your fathers, where are they? - Israel has been destroyed and ruined in the bloody wars with the Assyrians; and Judah, in those with the Chaldeans.
The prophets, do they live for ever? - They also, who spoke unto your fathers, are dead; but their predictions remain; and the events, which have taken place according to those predictions, prove that God sent them.
Did they not take hold of your fathers? - Every thing happened according to the predictions, and they were obliged to acknowledge this; and yet they would not turn from their evil way.
Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month - This revelation was given about three months after the former, and two months after they had recommenced the building of the temple.
Sebat - Answers to a part of our February. See Hag 2:18.
I saw by night - The time was emblematical of the affliction under which the Jews groaned.
A man - An angel in the form of a man: supposed to have been the Lord Jesus; who seems to have appeared often in this way, as a prelude to his incarnation; see Jos 5:13; Eze 1:26; Dan 7:13; Dan 10:6. The same, probably, that appeared to Joshua with a drawn sword, as the captain of the Lord's host. Jos 5:13-15.
A red horse - An emblem of war and bloodshed.
Among the myrtle trees - This tree was an emblem of peace; intimating that all war was shortly to end. But some think these trees are emblematical of the true followers of Christ.
And behind him were there red horses - Probably pointing out the different orders of angels in the heavenly host, which are employed by Christ in the defense of his Church. The different colors may point out the gradations in power, authority, and excellence, of the angelic natures which are employed between Christ and men.
O my lord, what are these - The angel here mentioned was distinct from those mentioned in the eighth verse; he who talked with the prophet, Zac 1:13.
The man that stood among the myrtle trees - The angel of the Covenant, as above, Zac 1:11.
Whom the Lord hath sent - Who are constituted guardians of the land.
All the earth sitteth still, and is at rest - There is general peace through the Persian empire, and other states connected with Judea; but the Jews are still in affliction; their city is not yet restored, nor their temple built.
Then the angel of the Lord - He who was among the myrtles - the Lord Jesus.
O Lord of hosts, how long - Jesus Christ was not only the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," but was always the sole Mediator and intercessor between God and man.
These threescore and ten years? - This cannot mean the duration of the captivity for that was nearly twenty years past. It must mean simply the time that had elapsed from the destruction of the temple to the time in which the angel spoke. As the temple was destroyed in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, and this vision took place in the second year of Darius, the term of seventy years was completed, or nearly so, between these two periods.
The Lord answered the angel - And the angel told the prophet that the answer was gracious and comfortable. This answer is given in the next verse.
I am jealous for Jerusalem - I have for them a strong affection; and indignation against their enemies.
I was but a little displeased - I was justly displeased with my people, and I gave their enemies a commission against them; but they carried this far beyond my design by oppression and cruelty; and now they shall suffer in their turn.
I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies - Before, he came to them in judgments; and the principal mercy is, the house of the Lord shall be rebuilt, and the ordinances of' the Lord re-established.
And a line shall be stretched forth - The circuit shall be determined, and the city built according to the line marked out.
By cities - shall yet be spread abroad - The whole land of Judea shall be inhabited, and the ruined cities restored.
And behold four horns - Denoting four powers by which the Jews had been oppressed; the Assyrians, Persians, Chaldeans, and Egyptians. Or these enemies may be termed four, in reference to the four cardinal points of the heavens, whence they came: -
1. North. The Assyrians and Babylonians.
2. East. The Moabites and Ammonites.
3. South. The Egyptians.
4. West. The Philistines.
Four carpenters - Four other powers, who should defeat the powers intended by the horns. These are the same as the four chariots mentioned Zac 6:1-3, Zac 6:6, Zac 6:7. The first was Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, who overturned the empire of the Assyrians. The second was Cyrus, who destroyed the empire of the Chaldeans. The third was Alexander the Great, who destroyed the empire of the Persians. And the fourth was Ptolemy, who rendered himself master of Egypt. Some of these had already been cast down; the rest were to follow. Calmet gives this interpretation, and vindicates it at length.
These are come to fray them - To break, pound, and reduce them to powder. Fray, from the French, frayer, to rub. חרשים charashim signifies either carpenters or smiths; probably the latter are here intended, who came with hammers, files, and such like, to destroy these horns, which no doubt seemed to be of iron.
From a sensible correspondent I have received the following note: -
"The word we translate carpenters, חרשים charashim, is a root which, according to Mr. Parkhurst, denotes silent thought or attention; and in kal and hiphil, to contrive, devise secretly, or in silence; hence applied as a noun to an artificer of any kind, and to any work which disposes to silent attention. Thus, to potters' ware, Lev 6:28; Job 2:8; and in many other places. So also to ploughing, Deu 22:10; Pro 20:4, which requires constant attention to make 'the right-lined furrow.' Let it be remembered that in ancient times such works were more esteemed than the useless ones we have learned to admire. So again, in Gen 24:21, and elsewhere, it implies to be silent, as in deep thought or great attention.
"Now it is evident that the purport of this vision is the same with the gracious declarations which precede it, viz., to express the return of the protecting mercies of God to his people, delivering them from their enemies. I should therefore be inclined to render חרשים charashim here, watchers or inspectors, in the sense which our translators have rendered the Chaldee עיר ir, a watcher, in the fourth chapter of Daniel, Dan 4:13; understanding thereby 'spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth,' Zac 6:6, and are described in the first vision as 'sent to walk to and fro through the earth.' This gives to the whole narrative a sublime and important sense, affording us some glimpse of the Divine government by the ministration of angels, such as Jacob was favored with in his vision at Beth-el, and which our Savior himself informed Nathanael constituted part of the glory of his mediatorial kingdom." - M. A. B.