Zechariah 6. Judgement on the Gentile Nations

This chapter discusses the last of Zechariah’s night visions, as well as a symbolic act concluding the visions.

The four chariots (6:1-8)

Zechariah says: “I looked, and behold, four chariots were coming out from between two mountains of bronze. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses – strong steeds… And the angel said to me, These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth. The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going towards the south country… So they walked to and fro throughout the earth” (6:1-7).

This vision is reminiscent of the first one, with horses going out from the presence of the Lord throughout the whole earth. However, the horses in this vision are harnessed to war chariots to execute God’s judgement on the Gentiles. No mention is made of any riders or charioteers. The four chariots with different-coloured horses speak of the universality of divine judgement which will go in all directions throughout the earth.

The colours are significant since red symbolises war and bloodshed, black designates death and famine, white speaks of triumph and victory, and dappled denotes pestilence and plagues. These horses have a similar mission to the four apocalyptic horses described by John in Revelation 6. The white horse refers to the Antichrist as conqueror and false prince of peace, the red horse denotes bloodshed and war, the black horse typifies famine and pestilence, while the pale horse gathers a harvest for death and Hades.

The interpreting angel explained to Zechariah the significance of the horses with their chariots. The four spirits of heaven may refer to angels of divine judgement (cf. Rev. 7:1), or to the power of God’s Spirit to accomplish His judicial purposes, or both. “For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many” (Isa. 66:15-16).

The divine title, “the Lord of all the earth” is a millennial designation describing the universal rule of the Messiah over the earth during the future kingdom age. The north country refers to Babylon whose invasions on Israel comes from the north, while the south country refers to Egypt. The north and the south are the only directions mentioned as that would be appropriate to Israel’s location. However, the other directions are implied as the chariots will go to and fro throughout the entire earth.

The horses and chariots come on the scene from between two mountains of bronze. This is highly significant since bronze symbolises divine judgement against sin. The bronze serpent which Moses made in the wilderness was a sign of divine judgement on the sins of the nation. Those who looked at the snake were pardoned and lived (Num. 21:9). The bronze snake pointed to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross, who has borne the wrath of God upon all sinners on their behalf (John 3:14-15; Isa. 53:4-5). He has walked the way of suffering because of the sins of lost humanity, therefore “His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15).

The two mountains of bronze in Zechariah 6 most probably refer to Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives. The valley between these two mountains is called Kidron and Jehoshaphat, an area closely associated with divine judgement (Joel 3:2). Zechariah says that the Messiah will set foot on the Mount of Olives (14:4). In Revelation 19:20 it is stated that the false messiah (Antichrist) and the false prophet will both be captured on the day of the Second Coming of the Messiah and cast alive into the lake of fire. The place where this judgement will occur is the valley between Zion and Olivet – referred to as Jehoshaphat, which means The LORD Judges.

From here, the chariots of divine judgement will go out into all directions across the globe, being commissioned to judge the wicked. Joel says: “The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake” (Joel 3:16). Isaiah says that on the day of the Lord everything proud and lofty will be brought down and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day (Isa. 2:12,17). The day of the Lord will come as destruction from the Almighty. This day will be cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger. He will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity. Sinners will be destroyed, and few mortals will be left alive. Babylon will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never again be inhabited (Isa. 13:6,9-12,19-20; cf. Jer 51:61-64).

At the end of this vision, God speaks to Zechariah, saying: “See, those who go towards the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country” (6:8). It is a well-known fact that the Bible identifies Babylon, also referred to as Shinar or the north country, as the origin of all forms of organised rebellion against God in the world. This rebellion manifested as a wide range of beliefs and institutions that emerged from Satan’s kingdom, and includes all the false religions which are based on idolatry, necromancy, witchcraft, astrology, self-deification, and occult practices such as transcendental meditation, clairvoyance, astral projection, and fortune-telling. From Babylon, these beliefs spread all over the world.

Babylon is also the birthplace of political rebellion against God’s order of independent nations with clear boundaries and sovereign governments (Acts 17:26). The first Babylonian world empire set the example for a number of subsequent world empires in which man exalted and even deified himself, subjected an oppressed other nations by forcefully incorporating them into the emerging world empire, and also entered into an alliance with a false world religion. The power attained by these empires was always used against the kingdom of God.

The last of these empires will be the world empire of the Antichrist, who will be the arch-enemy of the true Christ and His people, i.e. Israel and the Christian believers among all nations. The Antichrist will pretend to be a God-man (2 Thess. 2:4; Dan. 11:36) and assemble the dispersed Babylonian religion in an ecumenical body described in the Bible as Mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots (Rev. 17:3-5). He will also centralise all political authority in his world state, rebuild Babylon and control the world from there (Rev. 18).

In Zechariah 5:5-11, the false Babylonian system of worship is relocated to Babylon in preparation of her final destruction. In Zechariah 6:1-8, all the nations are judged for being dominated by the Babylonian spirit of wickedness and rebellion against God. When this task is accomplished, God’s Spirit of justice and judgement will come to rest in the north country where all the evil started. The scene will then be set for the King of all the earth to take the government upon His shoulder and rule from Jerusalem.

The crowning of Joshua (6:9-15)

The eight night visions were concluded with an instruction to Zechariah to perform a symbolic act by crowning Joshua, the high priest, as king: “Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua… the high priest. Then speak to Him, saying: Behold, the Man whose Name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD… He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a Priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (6:11-13).

Joshua represented “the Branch,” the Messiah, who will build the future temple and will be both a Priest and a King. The symbolic act of crowning Joshua only has an end-time fulfilment as, during the Old Testament, it was quite impossible for a high priest to be crowned as king. The kings belonged to the royal lineage of David in the tribe of Judah, while the priests were only chosen from the lineage of Levi. A king could not be appointed high priest, neither could a high priest serve as king. However, when the Messiah comes, His priesthood will be based upon the order of Melchizedek, who was the priest-king of Salem – the place that would later become Jerusalem. He was a type of the Messiah: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the most high God… [was] without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (Heb. 7:1-3; also read Heb. 7:11-28 in connection with the Messiah’s eternal priesthood).

The Branch from the house of David will be a King who shall reign and prosper (Jer. 23:5) and also build the temple of the LORD (Zech. 6:8). He will be a descendant of David in the royal lineage of Judah, who will exercise an eternal priesthood in the order of Melchizedek. Apart from being a Priest-King, He is also the perfect God-man. As the Son of man He was born form a Jewish family, but because of the supernatural conception of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, He is also the Son of God. The angel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). It was also announced that “the Lord God would give Him the throne of His [earthly] father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever” (Luke 1:32-33).

As the Son of God, however, Jesus Christ is the great I AM who existed from all eternity (John 8:24,58). He is the Lord of all the earth, who is rightly described by Zechariah as “the LORD my God” (14:5). Many years later, the doubts of Thomas were dispelled when he bowed down before the risen Saviour of the world and reverently addressed Him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). He is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

The Lord Jesus will come a second time to judge His enemies and to reign from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem. This “Son” who was born in the house of David, is destined to rule as King forever: “Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be on His shoulder. And His name will be called… Mighty God… Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David” (Isa. 9:6-7).

A remarkable aspect of Zechariah’s prophecy is that Joshua was already a priest when he was crowned as king. Likewise, Jesus is already a high priest who ministers His grace to us and makes intercession for us (Heb. 4:14-16; 7:25). In the near future, the royal crown will be added to Him when He will come as the King of kings (Rev. 19:16).

The prophecy in Zechariah 6:12-13 is most significant: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, the Man whose Name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

Prof. C. Feinberg, an eminent Messianic Jew and Old Testament scholar, emphasises the profound significance of these two verses as follows: “This is one of the most remarkable and precious Messianic prophecies, and there is no plainer prophetic utterance in the whole Old Testament as to the person of the promised Redeemer, the offices He was to fill, and the mission He was to accomplish.”

Soon the mighty Priest-King of Israel and the whole world will come to judge His enemies, to save the remnant of Israel, and to rule the world from Jerusalem. His saints will share in His glory and reign with Him as kings.