Seventh Vision: The Four Chariots/Horses and the Crown of Joshua the High Priest
With chapter 6 we conclude the visions the Lord has sent Zechariah. Up to this point in the visions we have seen the Lord beckoning the Jews to return from Babylon to Jerusalem in order to build the Temple. God has invested both Zerubbabel and Joshua with authority not only to rebuild the Temple but also to lead His people. Finally, God has warned the people that the blessings He has promised are NOT automatic. The people must put away the sin in their midst if they are going to receive the blessings of God. With this final seventh vision God is going to promise peace to the whole world and also the coming of His Messiah who will reign in peace upon the world.
PART ONE: The Four Chariots and Horses
Zechariah sees 4 chariots with their horses coming from between 2 mountains of bronze. One chariot is drawn by a red horse, the second by a black horse, a third by a white horse, and finally the last horse by a dappled-colored one. These 4 chariots have come forth from the Lord to spread His rule upon the entire world. They represent the 4 winds or spirits which God has sent to subdue the world of mankind. Two chariots, drawn by the black and white horses, headed north, while a third chariot, drawn by the dappled-colored horse, heads south. No mention is made of the destination of the 4th chariot, drawn by the red horse. After these chariots have patrolled the earth, peace from God covers the land.
The whole vision is highly symbolical. Just like the Persian emperor sent out his patrol of horses throughout his empire to subject all peoples to his rule, so the Lord now is sending out His chariots, His angelic messengers to bring the whole world beneath His rule.
It may seem strange to think that the horses going only north and south would bring peace to the whole world. What about the east, and what about the west? Why does Zechariah mention chariots going only to the north and south?
First, the chariots come forth from the Lord, from between His two mountains of bronze. No mountain was ever made of bronze; however, since bronze was considered the strongest metal in that day, these 2 mountains are to be viewed as the world's strongest mountains, the mountains where the Lord dwells. In Zechariah's day though these 2 mountains would be Mt. Moriah and Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem. The chariots then are coming from the throne of God, from His Temple.
The three chariots are heading to the north and south because these were the 2 directions Israel's enemies nearly always came from. They didn't come from the east because of the desert lay to the east, an impassable region for almost any ancient army. They wouldn't come from the west because the Mediterranean Sea lay to the west, again a formidable barrier for almost any army to overcome. On the other hand, Israel's traditional enemy of Egypt lay to the south, while the Assyrians and Babylonians would always march down from the north to attack Israel. The chariots head in these 2 directions to vanquish once and for all Israel's enemies.
The Hebrew word for "north" (Zaphon) though has a special meaning. It was also the name of a Syrian city famous for being the birthplace of the worship of the Canaanite god Baal. In fact it served as the meeting place of all the Canaanite gods just like Mt. Olympus served as the gathering place for the Greek gods. By dispatching His chariots to Zaphon, God was annihilating once and for all the pagan worship of Baal. (What is interesting is that after this time we hear no mention of the worship of Baal. Whatever else the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem accomplished, it accomplished once and for all the destruction of the worship of Baal and other idols in Jerusalem. The Jews knew that it was idolatry which led to the destruction of Jerusalem. They were not about to make the same mistake again.)
Only after the chariots have accomplished their task of vanquishing these 2 hostile empires does God now rest in peace in the land of Israel. The long-awaited peace has finally come.
Part Two: The Crown of Joshua the High Priest
At this point Zechariah summons 4 leaders of the exiles who have just come from Babylon: Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah. Zechariah then instructs them to bring silver and gold they have brought with them from Babylon and to make crowns for Joshua the high priest. (What is interesting here is that Zechariah is commanding the exiles from Babylon to duplicate what the early Israelites did when they left Egypt under Moses. Just like the early Israelites took the gold and silver, etc. from Egypt to help construct the Tabernacle, so these exiles are bringing silver and gold to help construct the new crown for Joshua. The past normally gives us a hint of the future.)
Two issues arise in connection with this command.
Why does Joshua the high priest wear a crown whenever the political rulers were the only ones who were supposed to wear the crown? Apparently we see the prophecy that the High Priest of Israel was also one day going to become the King of Israel. God one day was going to combine these 2 offices in the person of one Man. After Joshua has been crowned, the crown is to be taken and placed in the newly built temple. It will serve there forever as a memorial to the exiles who contributed the gold and silver for its creation.
At this point Zechariah shifts the focus from Joshua to the Branch, a technical name for the Messiah. (The name "Branch" is an appropriate name for the Messiah because He was supposed to be a branch from the tree of David. The tree has been reduced to a stump because of the devastation which has fallen upon the house of David. Not much of that house is left; however, enough of it is left in order to produce the Branch, that is, the Messiah.) What accounts for this sudden shift of focus from Joshua to the Branch, the Messiah?
This final vision transitions from the 7 visions to chapters 9-14. The 7 visions appear to refer strictly to Zechariah, Zerubbabel, and Joshua as they rebuild the temple in Jerusalem from 519-516 B.C. Chapters 9-14 speak about the days of the coming Messiah. This vision then concludes the previous six visions AND introduces the last part of this book which focuses on the Messiah who was yet to come. Joshua was NOT the Branch; however, his life and ministry pointed beyond itself to THE Branch, to the Messiah.
It is true that we are all valuable because God created us; however, we are far more valuable than that for other reasons. Joshua was valuable because his life and ministry pointed to the life and ministry of the Messiah, Jesus. Just like the kingship and high priesthood were combined in the person of Joshua, they were combined in an ultimate and final way in a later Joshua, the Hebrew name for the Greek name of "Jesus."
According to Zechariah, the Branch, the Messiah will build the Temple of the Lord and will rule on God's throne both as king and priest.