Rebuilding a People for God[a]
Be Converted to Me.[b] 1 In the second year of Darius, in the eighth month, this word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo:
2 The Lord was greatly angered at your ancestors. 3 Therefore, say to the people: Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. 4 Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the prophets of that time proclaimed. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Forsake your evil ways and your evil deeds. But they refused to listen or to pay attention to me, says the Lord.
5 Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 As for my words and my decrees which I entrusted to my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your ancestors? As a result, they repented and said, “The Lord of hosts has treated us as he had determined to do, according to what our lives and our deeds deserve.”
Renewal of the Holy City[c]
The Four Horsemen.[d] 7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.
Zechariah related: 8 During the night I had a vision in which a man was riding a red horse among the myrtle trees in a glen. Behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9 “What are these, sir?” I asked, and the angel who was conversing with me said, “I will show you what they are.”
10 The man standing among the myrtle trees said, “They are the ones whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.” 11 Then they in turn spoke to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have been patrolling the earth, and the entire earth is tranquil and at peace.”
12 Then the angel of the Lord asked, “O Lord of hosts, how long will you withhold your mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah who have been the object of your wrath for the last seventy years?” 13 Thereupon, the Lord replied with kind and comforting words to the angel who had talked with me.
14 The angel who was talking with me then said to me: Proclaim this message. Thus says the Lord of hosts: I feel very protective toward Jerusalem and Zion, 15 but I am deeply angry with the nations that feel complacent and secure. Previously I was angry only to a certain extent, but they added to the disaster.
16 Therefore, says the Lord, I will return to Jerusalem with compassion, and there is where my house will be rebuilt, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17 Proclaim in addition: Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities will once again overflow with prosperity. The Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.
- Zechariah 1:1 During the Exile in Babylon and even after returning, some Jews undoubtedly cherished the hope of avenging the devastation of their homeland and restoring its past grandeur. But twenty years after the deportation had ended (538–519 B.C.) their enthusiasm had cooled. They had to resign themselves to an impoverished existence in a ravaged land. Judea remained under Persian control and in ruined Jerusalem everything had to be reconstructed and rebuilt, beginning with the temple, the new foundations of which had recently been laid. Along with Haggai, the prophet Zechariah became the guiding spirit of the restoration, which was being directed by the high commissioner, Zerubbabel, of the royal house of David, and by the high priest Joshua, who took precedence, even over Zerubbabel.
- Zechariah 1:1 The messages of the prophets might be occasioned by quite different situations: they also passed quite different judgments on events at hand. Fundamentally, however, they were calls to conversion. When men of God pray, they see this conversion as a gift from heaven, a grace (Ps 51:10-12; Ezek 36:25-27). When they speak, they must remind the people that they themselves must make the effort to change. The dialectic of grace and freedom is always at work.
Zechariah began to preach in 520 B.C., only a few months after the first message of Haggai; he reminds his hearers that past defeat was the result of infidelity. He criticizes a religion still marked by fear and self-interest, and predicts a more radical return to God, a more solid faith in his covenant.
- Zechariah 1:7 Twenty years have passed since the authorization was given to return, but not all have made the journey to Jerusalem, nor are they anxious to do so. On the other hand, those who did make the journey are now asking whether it had not been a mistake. The building of the temple seems at last to be progressing, but all do not have the same enthusiasm for it. In order to raise morale, the prophet presents a first series of visions: God is on the point of restoring his people, and he asks the doubtful to return to Judah and take part in the work of reconstruction.
- Zechariah 1:7 The scene takes place in God’s dwelling, as the evergreen myrtle trees symbolically indicate.