Zechariah's Second Vision
In just one night, God gave the prophet Zechariah eight visions. Last week we examined the first one, God's survey of the world in Zechariah's day. The conclusion of the survey was that the world is at peace because God has not yet brought judgment on it for its crimes against Israel. God is holding back His wrath because He's waiting for the right time. One day, God will pour out His judgment on the world and pour out His blessing on Israel.
Today, we are looking at Zechariah's second vision, recrorded in 1:18-20:
Then I looked up and saw four horns. So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these?” And he said to me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are they coming to do?”He replied, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so no one could raise his head. These craftsmen have come to terrify them, to cut off the horns of the nations that raised a horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.” (CSB)
Throughout the Old Testament, a nation's power is represented by a horn (Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 132:17; Amos 6:13; Jeremiah 48:25; Daniel 7-8). Horns symbolize national power because they are the means of an animal's power against its foe.
What nations are these horns representing? God calls them "the horns that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem". Students of biblical history will remember that the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and scattered by the Assyrian Empire (734-720 BC). The southern kingdom of Judah, including Jerusalem, was conquered and scattered by the Babylonian Empire (605-586 BC). God also condemned several other smaller countries which joined in or gloated in the time of Jerusalem's conquest, such as Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia and Tyre (Ezekiel 25-28).
After the Babylonian conquest, Persia conquered Babylon and used the opportunity to restore Jews to the land of Israel. Greece conquered Israel and oppressed her during the reign of the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes (175 BCE to 164 BC). The last empire, Rome, conquered Israel in 63 BC and scattered the nation after it revolted in the First Jewish War (73 AD) and again in the Bar Kokhba revolt (135 AD).
With these kinds of conquests in mind, God assures Zechariah that He has appointed "four craftsmen" who will destroy the power of these nations (1:20). These craftsmen will "cut off the horns of the nations that raised a horn against the land of Judah to scatter it". This means that God will remove the power of the nations who are hostile to His people. God is promising a time when foreign nations will never oppress Israel again.
We still await the fulfillment of God's promise to remove the horns of the nations that oppress the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In recent days, we have seen further evidence that the Jewish people in the modern state of Israel are still living next to hostile neighbors. The founding charter of Hamas states "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." Their hostility is a sign that Zechariah's vision is not yet fulfilled.
As Christians, we may not know the identity of these craftsmen, but we know who will lead them: Jesus Christ. In His first coming, He was a humble servant whose atonement took God's wrath for all who believe in Him (Romans 3:25-26). But in His second coming, He will bring God's wrath on all who oppose Him and His people (1 Cor 15:23-28). Christ's earthly reign will consummate the enduring peace of Israel and the fulfillment of Zechariah's second vision.