Avraham ben Yaakov
ZECHARIAH CHAPTER 1
V 1: "In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius." Zechariah's first recorded prophecy came in the same period as Haggai was prophesying that the time had come to rebuild the Temple . Haggai had prophesied at the beginning of Elul, the sixth month of that same year, and again on 21 Tishri, the seventh month, telling the people to start preparing building materials. To reinforce the message of restoration and revival, Zechariah prophesied in Heshvan, the eighth month. Haggai then prophesied again on 24 Kislev, when the work of the actual building began, followed by Zechariah two months later on 24 Shevat (Zech. 1:7).
".Zechariah the son of Berechyah the son of Iddo the prophet." From the fact that the names of Zechariah's father and grandfather are given in the text, it is inferred that they too were prophets. Some identify Iddo with Iddo mentioned in Nehemiah 12:16 as one of the priests, which would mean that Zechariah was the leader of his priestly family. Together with the other Men of the Great Assembly, Zechariah received Torah from Baruch ben Neriyah, the student of Jeremiah (Rambam, Introduction to Mishneh Torah). Zechariah was also called Meshullam since he was complete (SHALEM) in his deeds.
The meaning of Zechariah's prophecies is very hidden. Their mysterious imagery bears comparison with the visions of Daniel, for both lived at a time when the power of prophecy was declining owing to the exile, and for this reason they were unable to clarify the full meaning of their visions (Metzudas David on Zech. 1:8). In the words of Rashi: "Zechariah's prophecy is very obscure, for it contains images similar to a dream that should be susceptible to interpretation, but we will not be able to attain the true interpretation until the Righteous Teacher (Mashiah) will come" (Rashi on Zechariah 1:1).
The fourteen chapters of Zechariah make up four separate prophecies: (1) Zech. 1:1-6; (2) Zech. 1:7-6:15; (3) Zech. 7:1-11:21; (4) Zech. 12:1-14:21. The themes of his prophecy are the restoration of Jerusalem and the repentance required on the part of the people in order to establish the new Temple; the destiny of the people in the Second Temple era and thereafter until the end of days, the war of Gog and Magog and the final redemption.
Vv 2ff: "God was greatly displeased with your fathers." The prophet opens with reproof, recalling the sins of the fathers of the present generation, which had caused the destruction of the First Temple . His second prophecy (Zech. 1:7ff) alludes to the future history of the Second Temple and the restoration and consolation of Jerusalem, but before he can comfort the people and give them hope, he must first chastise them in order to make them think about God's ways, which are "measure for measure". Before they could embark on the work of building of the new Temple they had to repent and understand that they must not return to the sinful ways of their fathers. Zechariah's message is highly relevant to the many today who have left the path of loose or even non-existent attachment to Judaism with which they were brought up and seek to embrace the authentic Torah pathway.
Vv 5-6: "Your fathers - where are they?" Zechariah asks the people to reflect on what happened to the generation of the destruction. The people could retort that the prophets who had reproved them were also no longer alive (Sanhedrin 105a), but Zechariah points out that nobody can live forever and that all the dire prophecies of destruction had been fulfilled.
Verse 7 begins a new prophecy which falls into ten sections running until the end of Chapter 6.
V 8: "I saw in the NIGHT." The fact that the vision of the prophet was "in the night" indicates that the power of prophecy was diminished, for the era of prophecy was coming to an end (Metzudas David).
".and behold a man riding on a red horse." - "This 'man' was an angel while the RED horse alludes to the fact that retribution would be exacted from the Kasdim (Babylonians) and from Medea and Persia with the sword and with blood, as it says below (v 15), And I will show great anger to the nations that are at ease" (Rashi on v 8).
".and he was standing among the myrtle bushes that were in the glen." RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that the myrtles, which have a fragrant scent, symbolize Israel , who have the fragrance of the mitzvoth. The man was "standing by them" to help them and take them out of exile, which is the METZULAH ("glen"). ".and behind him were horses, red, faint-colored [or mixed-colored] and white." Metzudas David (on v 11) explains that the horses were sent by God and allude to the world empires. They are symbolized by horses to allude to their great speed and multitude. The red ones allude to Babylon (symbolized in Daniel 2:38 by gold, which is red-colored). The fainter/mixed-colored horses allude to the two empires of Medea and Persia . while the white ones allude to Greece , perhaps because they customarily wore white garments. In this vision He did not show him the fourth empire - that of Rome - because their rule came only after the destruction of the Second Temple and as yet He had not spoken to him about this; later on, after having spoken to him about it, He also gave him allusions about the fourth empire.
Vv 9-11: In answer to the prophet's request for the interpretation of the vision, the angel channeling him prophecy tells him that he will show him its meaning. In verse 10 the angel on the red horse amidst the myrtles begins to give the answer, which is amplified in verse 11. The horses - the empires - have taken over the world and are dwelling in peace [not unlike today, where Europe, America , Russia and China etc. enjoy relative peace while Israel suffers from constant harassment and wars].
V 12: The tranquility of the nations prompts the angel of God speaking in the prophet's mouth to ask why God does not show mercy to Jerusalem : UD MOSAI - "until when???"
V 13-17: This cry of pain to God over the suffering of Jerusalem prompts God's reply of comfort and consolation: God promises that He will return to Jerusalem and rebuild His Temple while the nations that live in tranquility will face His anger for having caused Israel unwarranted suffering.
Verse 1 opens a new section of Zechariah's second prophecy. The four "horns" again symbolize the four main empires that have dominated Israel through history - Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome - just as an animal's horns are emblematic of its power and pride (Metzudas David; cf. Daniel 7:7 & 11, 8:3ff etc.).
Vv 2-4: The four empires come to scatter Judah and treat them without mercy, but the four "craftsmen" (HARASHIM, carpenters, experts at cutting hard wood and tough horn) will exact vengeance from them.
Vv 5-8: An angel is coming to measure the city of Jerusalem , as if to indicate the future greatness it will attain. "The Holy One blessed be He wanted to give a measure to Jerusalem. but the ministering angels said, Master of the World, You have created many great cities in Your universe belonging to the nations of the world and you never put limits on their length and breadth. Will You give a measure to Jerusalem , where Your Name dwells, where Your Temple stands and where there are many Tzaddikim??? God immediately said to the angel that was supposed to measure Jerusalem , Run, speak to that lad (=Zechariah) saying ' Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled towns because of the multitude of men and cattle that shall be in it'" (Bava Basra 75b). In our time we are witnesses to the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jerusalem is now the largest and most populous city in Israel and has spread far beyond the old walled city, with extensive beautiful suburbs on the surrounding hills. Animals too can quite literally be found in the city (such as donkeys and horses, not to speak of cats and dogs), or it could be that the reference to "men" and "animals" here is similar to that in Jonah 4:11 as explained there by Rashi (see our commentary on Jonah 3-4).
V 9: "For I will be to her, says HaShem, a wall of fire round about." - "Said the Holy One blessed be He, I must pay for the fire I kindled: I set Zion on fire. and in the future I will build it with fire" (Bava Kama 60b). This verse is quoted in the NAHEM prayer that is recited in the Tisha b'Av Minchah afternoon service.
Vv 10-11 call on the exiles of Israel to come home.
Vv 12-13: God will take vengeance on the nations, "for he that touches you touches the apple of his eye".
Verse 13 introduces a section of Zechariah (from here until ch. 4 v 7) that is familiar as a Haftara read TWICE every year - on the Shabbos of Hanukah and also as the Haftara of Parshas BeHa'aloschah (the third parshah of Numbers, read in mid-summer shortly after the festival of Shavuos). The prophet comforts the people with the promise that many nations will come to recognize God and serve Him and that God will again inherit Judah as His share and restore Israel and Jerusalem . Speedily in our times!!! Amen.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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