Zechariah’s Night Visions: Vision Eight

The final night vision concerns the solemn subject of God’s judgment on the nations of earth. There is a clear parallel with the first night vision as the judgment then determined upon the Gentile nations is now executed (Zec 1:15; 6:7-8). The vision is followed by a revelation of the future enthronement of the “man whose name is The Branch” (6:12).[1] Sin has obscured the revelation of God’s glory in the earth, but it will yet shine forth in the preeminent Priest-King, clothed in the splendour of deity. With the night visions now at an end, Israel has moved from the darkness of the valley of captivity into the dawning of millennial day.

Divine Providence – The Chariots of Judgment (6:1-8)

The last vision depicts “four chariots” coming out from between “two mountains … of brass.” We are later told the chariots represent “the four spirits of the heavens” – angelic agents executing divine judgment (v5). The message of this vision seems to be closely connected to that of Haggai 2:21-22, “I will shake the heavens and the earth; And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them.” Chariots are a symbol of military power and might. Thus, God is ready to send forth His heavenly army of chariots as vehicles of divine judgment upon the nations.

Divine purpose in relation to Israel must be realised. The fact that there are four chariots suggests this judgment is universal in character. The two mountains could refer to Mount Zion and Mount Olivet, between which lay the valley of Jehoshaphat, a valley associated with God’s judgments on the nations (cf. Joe 3:2). But these mountains are not specifically identified, and being made of brass suggests they are symbolic rather than literal. Brass speaks of divine righteousness in judgment. Thus, it is perhaps better to see these mountains as an allusion to the heavenly dwelling place of God, especially since the angelic agents go forth from the presence of “the Lord” (v5). Mountains are sometimes used figuratively for the seat of rule and could represent two immovable principles of divine government – being “righteousness like the great mountains” (Psa 36:6) and “justice” according to truth (Psa 89:14).

Harnessed to the chariots are horses of varying colours (cp. Rev 6:1-8). Horses denote swiftness and strength in executing judgment, the colours indicating the different forms of judgment employed. “Red” is linked with blood and vengeance (v4). “Black” is associated with famine and death (vv5-6). In a military scene, “white” represents victory, triumph and conquest (v2). Finally, the “grisled” (spotted) symbolise a mixture of judgments and plagues (v8). All the horses are powerful or “strong” (Zec 6:3 ESV) – judgment is sure.

The interpreting angel explains the chariots as the “four spirits [Heb. ruah] of the heavens.” Whilst ruah has a wide range of meanings, it most often refers to spirit beings, including the Spirit of God. Thus, these chariots represent four angelic agents, moving swiftly as the wind, to subjugate the enemies of the “Lord of all the earth” who is coming to reign! The black and white horses are sent to the “north country,” the direction from which Israel’s greatest enemies came (Assyria, Babylon and Seleucid Greeks). Indeed, in tribulation times, the “king of the north” will prove to be a formidable foe (cf. Dan 11:13,15,40). The spotted horses go into the “south country,” the location of Israel’s first oppressor, Egypt. Again, the “king of the south” will be active in end times (cf. Dan 11:25,40). The red horses are not mentioned, either because their mission was already complete (a possible hint of the already fallen Babylon) or they are incorporated in the inclusive opening statement of verse 7. The New English Translation (NET) reads: “All these strong ones are scattering; they have sought permission to go and walk about over the earth” (v7). Thus, the angelic agents are eager to establish God’s judgment in all the earth, not just the immediate north and south of Israel.

The vision closes with the (battle) “cry” of the Lord Himself. With judgment executed in the north, justice is satisfied, and He is “quieted” (at peace). This was fulfilled in measure by the overthrow of Babylon by Medo-Persia but looks on to the Tribulation and final judgment of Israel’s enemies.

Divine Promise – The Crowning of Joshua (6:9-15)

The position of these verses after the eight visions is significant. All opposing rule has been subdued, and thus the way made clear for the kingdom of God to be manifested on earth. This is typified by the crowning of Joshua the High Priest. So, the order is clear: first, the judgments of the Day of the Lord (Rev 6-19) and, second, the millennial reign of Christ (Rev 20:6).

A Commandment (vv9-11a). Three exiles had apparently arrived from the Jewish community in Babylon with a gift of silver and gold from which a crown is commanded to be made. Though “crowns” is plural (KJV), it is likely that a single splendid crown is denoted, consisting of several gold and silver twists (as Christ who wears several diadems as one crown, cf. Rev 19:12).

A Coronation (vv11b-13). The crown was placed on the head of Joshua the High Priest. This was quite unexpected since it was normally kings, not priests, who wore crowns. We remember that Joshua and his fellow priests were symbolic of things to come, and thus the crowning of Joshua represents the crowning of the mighty King-Priest of a future day. He is “the Branch,” referring to a tender shoot springing from the root (lineage) of David, and thus symbolising a future Messianic ruler. Not only would He build the future temple of Ezekiel, but He would be clothed in royal majesty as one who shall “bear the glory.” For the first time there will be One governing on earth adequate to all the requirements of the glory of God!

A Commemoration (vv14-15). The crown was to be stored in the rebuilt temple as a “memorial” to the symbolic act of the crowning of Joshua. The crown was a pledge and earnest of a glorious future, reminding the priests and the people of the coming King-Priest of whom Joshua was a mere shadow. The deputation from Babylon were themselves a foreshadowing of scattered Jews and Gentiles who will yet come from afar bringing offerings for the construction of the temple (cf. Isa 2:2-4). In His grace, Christ will permit others to labour under His direction and control in the building of the temple. Likewise, it is our privilege today to build into the spiritual fabric of the local assembly that which befits its foundation which is “Jesus Christ” (1Co 3:10-12). Could our contribution to the assembly, its worship and witness be described as gold, silver and precious stones?

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.