The second vision—the four horns and the four smiths, i, 18-21 (In the Hebrews, ii, 1-4).
18. Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
19. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these? And he said unto me, These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, Jerusalem
20. And Jehovah shewed me four smiths.
21. Then I said, What come these to do? And he said, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man lifted up his head, but these are come to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations, that are lifting up the horn against Judah to scatter her.
18. And I lifted up mine eyes—It means that a new vision engaged the prophet’s attention. Since the visions came in one night, they must have followed one another in close succession. And saw . . . four horns—Whether the prophet saw the horns as belonging to animals and, if so, whether to one or to more animals are questions that the text leaves unanswered and thereby it limits the symbolism to the horns. The four horns scattered God’s covenant people. This makes it clear that they represented political powers that were hostile to the church. The text states that there were four such kingdoms. According to several expositors the number “four” refers to four points on the compass, that is, to the four directions of the earth and in general to every direction and all directions. The meaning of the expression “four horns or kingdoms,” is then taken to be that the church of our prophet’s day was beset by enemies on all sides, that from every direction adversaries crowded upon the Jews during the post-exilic period, the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north, the Egyptian on the south, the Philistine on the West, and Moabites and Ammonites on the east.
But according to others the expression “four horns” does not as such mean “horns on every side,” “and should not, therefore, except for a compelling reason, be regarded as having this meaning. And as this reason is wanting, so it is said, the obvious meaning of the expression should be, maintained, especially so since it does not exclude, so it is said, but includes the idea that the church of Zecharius’ day, as is the case with the church of every day and age, was surrounded on all sides by enemies. And therefore they take the meaning of the expression to be “four horns” (so Keil and others), and not “horns” on every side.” That is to say, to the mind of these expositors, it should not be denied that the primary meaning of the expression is “four horns,” that directly the reference is to just so many horns or hostile political powers.
The expositors that maintain the expression in its obvious and primary meaning differ somewhat in designating the four horns or kingdoms. Some name Pul, Salmaneser, Sennacherib (three kings of Assyria) and Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon). Others name Persia, Macedonia, the Seleucid kingdom, and Egypt. Still others, Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, and Persia. According to Keil and others the four horns represent the four mighty empires, world powers, of Daniel’s vision,—the Chaldean or New Babylonian, the Persian, the Macedonian, and the Roman empire. In favor of this view may be mentioned the following: 1) Jointly these four empires included all the kingdoms of the nations or nearly so of what was then the civilized world. Among the kingdoms included was also that of the Seleucidae, though for a comparatively short time it did exist as an independent kingdom. Much of the time Egypt was under the dominion of the world powers of Daniel’s vision. 2) Each following power of Daniel’s vision absorbed and superseded the preceding so that in mind and spirit the four were one, the one world power. And the beginning of this power was not Chaldea or the New Babylonia but the Old Babylonia of which the mighty Nimrod was the founder. Nor did this power become extinct with the passing away of the Roman empire but it survived and took on new flesh and blood in the kingdoms represented by the brittle feet and toes of the image of Daniel’s vision—kingdoms from the consolidation of which will eventually rise the Babylonian or antichristian world power of the book of Revelation. In principle Nimrod’s kingdom, symbolized by the tower of Babel, Assyria its successor, the new Babylon by which Assyria was absorbed, the rest of the empires of Daniel’s vision, the kingdoms represented by the brittle feet and toes of his vision, and the Babylon of John’s Revelation are one. Always it is the same diabolical world power the prince of which is Satan. That the Persians and Alexander the Great befriended the covenant people is not an objection to this view. Devoid of Saving grace, they were moved by carnal ambition and policy in doing the Jews well.
According to this view then the four horns represent the four empires of Daniel’s vision, that is to say, represent the one world power as constituted of all the kingdoms of the nations of what was then the civilized world and, in the final instance, of all the kingdoms of the nations of this present dispensation of the world but necessarily excluding the kingdoms of the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, the Gog and the Magog of Revelation 20:8.
Yet it may be doubted whether this is the idea of the four horns of this vision. Verse 21 suggests too plainly that the four horns symbolize all the kingdoms of all the nations of the whole earth at any one time in history without any limitations and not alone the four empires of Daniel’s vision. Included therefore are also the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, the Gog and the Magog and that one day, as deceived by Satan, will go up on the breadth of the earth, and encompass the camp of the saints about and the beloved city (Revelation 20:8, 9). That these kingdoms, all of which are hostile, are said to be four in number, is doubtless meant to convey the thought that at all times they beset the church on every side, that from every quarter they crowd upon the covenant people.
19. These aye the four horns—In the first instance all the kingdoms of the nations by which the post-exilic church in Judea was beset on every hand and in the final instance all the kingdoms of all the nations of the whole earth, past, present and future, and by which the church has, is and always will be surrounded on every hand until, at the return of Christ, the world shall be made to pass away forever in order that the church may appear with Christ in glory, that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem—By Israel is meant not Judah but the Israel of the ten tribes. For in subsequent chapters the prophet addresses his gospel also to the ten tribes, to Ephraim (Zech. 9:13) and to Joseph (Zech. 10:6). That special mention is made of Jerusalem is owing to the fact that formerly the city was the religious center of the tribes. For in her had dwelt Jehovah in His holy temple. In the person of Nebuchadnezzar the four horns had overthrown Jerusalem, burned her gates, broken down her wails and plucked up the covenant people—the tribe of Judah—from their native soil and removed them) to Babylon, in the person of the king of Assyria the four horns had carried away the Israel of the ten tribes to Assyria. To the four horns as represented by the Persians the post-exilic church in Judea was in bondage. In the person of the Seleucid Antiochus IV the four horns inaugurated against the covenant people the severest persecutions recorded in the history of the church. In the book of Revelation (Rev. 17) the four horns are presented to view under the image of a beast bearing upon its head a woman—the apostate church—upon whose forehead is written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth, and a woman drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Always has and does and shall the church exist in the midst of conflict. Always is she beset by the four horns, that attempt to scatter her. For the church is a new creature in Christ Jesus. And her light shines—the heavenly light that Christ kindles and sustains within her. And, therefore, the kingdoms of the nation, by which is to be understood the reprobated world, know her not, because they know not Him. It is plain, therefore, that if the church is not to be destroyed from the face of the earth at any one time but, on the contrary is to be gathered through the ages the four horns must be overthrown over and over as they continue to reappear in history. This is the promise of the succeeding verses,—a promise that underlies the good tidings of the previous vision. But now it is proclaimed openly and fully and without reserve.
20. And Jehovah shewed me four smiths—Literally workmen, artificers. The word is used of workers in wood as well as in iron and stone. Since it is not stated whether the prophet saw the horns as having been made of wood or of iron, we have no way of knowing whether it is more suitable to think of the artificers as smiths or as carpenters. It is not impossible that the artificers were armed with hammers or with saws, poised to demolish the horns or to saw them in pieces.
21. Then I said, What come these to do?—Question of the prophet concerning the artificers. Unable of himself to understand the symbolism, he turns to the interpreting angel, for an explanation. These are the horns—The pronoun “these” looks back to the four horns of the previous verse which have scattered Judah—”Israel and Jerusalem” is the thought to be supplied. So that no man lifted up his head—Language descriptive of the state of mind and heart of God’s scattered people. They were overwhelmed. They were disconsolate. There was no spirit left in them. The state of mind of the church in Babylonian captivity is touchingly reflected in Ps. 137. By the rivers of Babylon, there they sat, and wept, when they remembered Zion. They hanged their harps upon the willows, and when their captives required of them a song, they would reply,” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.” Then there is that description of the scattered flock of God contained in the Hebrews (Heb. 11, 36, 37), according to which the faithful had trial of mockings and scouragings, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword, wandered about in sheepskins and goat skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented.But these are come to terrify them—”these,” namely the four artificers. “Them,” that is the four horns. The mission of the four artificers is to terrify the four horns, that is to overthrow, demolish them. To cast down the horns of the nations—That “horns” and “nations” are written with the definite article but that the horns and the nations indicated are not further identified show that the reference is to all the kingdoms of all the nations of the earth, past, present and future, without any limitation. And by setting forth the task of the artificers as consisting in overthrowing not alone the four horns by the many as well, the text here identifies thee four with the many. This shows that the acceptable view is the one according to which the four horns symbolize not just so many empires but the total of hostile political powers by which the church is beset round about at all times. Certainly, in the first instance the four horns symbolize the hostile powers by which the post-exilic church in Judea was on all sides surrounded. The promise to Zerubbabel is that every one of these hostile powers will be cast down in order that God’s little flock may not be overwhelmed by them and as a result the work of building Gods house be interrupted or completely and permanently stopped. These kingdoms shall be cast down in order that Jehovah’s house may be completed.
But through what agency were these hostile powers to be overthrown? Through an agency symbolized in the vision by the four artificers. It is not stated what this agency is, seeing that this has already been made plain. In the previous vision appeared horses, some of which were red, some: reddish- brown and the rest white. As we saw, the color red, according, to the Scriptures (Rev. 6:4) symbolizes war and bloodshed, and reddish-brown the working of God’s wrath in destruction by fire. Through Haggai as His organ the Lord had said, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; and I will overthrow the throne of the 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; and the horses and their riders shall come down, each by the sword of his brother (Haggai 2:22).” Allow me to quote from my exegesis on this verse, “Indicated are the thrones of the kingdoms of the nations of our prophet’s day and in the final instance the kingdoms of all the ages still to come . . . The Lord, will overthrow them all and extinguish their glory. Each by the sword of his brother—Every man’s sword will be against his fellow as was the case with the Midianite hordes with which Gideon did battle in the times of the Judges. But the statement has a more general application. It points to civil war and must be taken to mean that in their wars with one another the kingdoms of the nations destroy themselves as well as each other.”
So then, according to these prophetic, sayings the agency through which Jehovah would cast down the hostile powers surrounding on every side the post-exilic church of Zecharius’ day were the very kings of these powers in their wars with one another in which they would destroy not alone one another but also themselves, their kingdoms. Even at the time that these prophecies were uttered, so I wrote, there were wars and rumors of wars as there are now at the present time. There was war between Persia and Babylon, Persia and Scythia, Persia and Greece, Syria and Egypt. It was all Jehovah’s work. Said He not, “I will overturn the throne of the kingdoms of the nations . . .” So it went with the kingdoms of the nations of our prophet’s day. And so it continued to go with them through all the ages to the present moment. So it does with them at the present time. The kingdoms of the nations are again talking peace but preparing for war. And so it will go with them through the ages to come until the arrival of that hour in which in their totality they shall be made to pass away forever. And, I repeat, it is all Jehovah’s work. It is His way of seeing to it that His church is not destroyed from the face of the earth but abides in order that Christ may continue to gather her until the whole house is full, His temple built.
Still to be noticed is the fact that the number of artificers is equal to the number of horns, so that, for each hostile power there is an agency that is ready to crush it. Or shall we say that for each kingdom there is a kingdom or combinations of kingdoms that is ready to cast it down, and all hostile to the church. For the artificers in the vision are not, as some have it, symbolic of worldly political powers truly friendly to the church. But the result is, nevertheless, that the church is not overwhelmed and destroyed.
Chapter 2: The Third vision—the man with the measuring line, 1-13.
The gospel of this vision is that, with the kingdoms of the nations overthrown and thereby rendered harmless, Jerusalem shall be exalted, Jehovah shall come and dwell in her midst, and many nations shall be joined to Jehovah in that day, and shall he His people.
1. And I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a man and in his hand a, measuring line.
2. Then said I, whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
3. And behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went forth to meet him.
4. And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, As towns without walls shall Jerusalem be inhabited for the multitude of men and cattle therein.
5. For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of file round about, and will be to the glory in the midst of her.
1. And I lifted up mine eye—Again indicating that a new vision absorbs the prophet’s attention. A man with a measuring line—In what sense this is a reiteration of the promise in Zech. 1:16 will become plain presently. This man is not to be identified with the interpreting angel, for it is plain that the latter is distinguished from him in verse 3. It is also doubtful whether there is any ground for regarding him as the angel of Jehovah. It seems that the sole purpose of his appearance in the vision is to give occasion for the proclamation of the glad tiding that Jerusalem shall be exalted.