|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:18-21 The enemies of the church threaten to cut off the name of Israel. They are horns, emblems of power, strength, and violence. The prophet saw them so formidable that he began to despair of the safety of every good man, and the success of every good work; but the Lord showed him four workmen empowered to cut off these horns. With an eye of sense we see the power of the enemies of the church; look which way we will, the world shows us that; but it is only with an eye of faith that we see it safe. The Lord shows us that. When God has work to do, he will raise up some to do it, and others to defend it, and to protect those employed in doing it. What cause there is to look up in love and praise to the holy and eternal Spirit, who has the same care over the present and eternal interests of believers, by the holy word bringing the church to know the wonderful things of salvation!
Verses 18-21. - § 4. The second vision. the four horns and the four craftsmen. Verse 18. - I lifted up mine eyes, and saw. This vision is closely connected with the former. The prophet had been told that the hostile nations should be punished and scattered; he now is shown this threat being executed. Four horns, belching to four beasts but dimly seen or wholly invisible. Horns are symbols of strength and power (comp. Psalm 75:4, 5; Daniel 8:3; Amos 6:13). Here they mean powers hostile to Israel, and the number "four" (the symbol of completeness) points to the four winds from which they come, i.e. from every side. In the Hebrew ch. 2. begins at this verse.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then I lifted up mine eyes,.... To behold another vision which follows:
and saw, and behold four horns; either iron ones, such as Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made to push the Syrians with, 1 Kings 22:11 or horns of beasts, as the horns of unicorns, to which the horns of Joseph are compared, Deuteronomy 33:17 and signify kingdoms or kings, and these very powerful and mighty; and so the Targum interprets them of "four kingdoms"; and which Kimchi and Abarbinel understand of the four monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman; so ten horns, in Daniel 7:24 design ten kings or kingdoms; unless rather, seeing these horns were such who had already distressed and scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem; and two of the above monarchies were not yet in being, the Grecian and Roman, when this vision was seen; and one of those that were, were friends to the Jews, as the Persians; they may in general signify all the enemies of the Jews that were round about them, on the four corners of them; as the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, on the north; the Ammonites and Moabites on the east; the Edomites and Egyptians on the south; and the Philistines on the west; as Junius thinks. Cocceius interprets them of four kings, Shalmaneser, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes the first, called Longimanus; and may be applied to the antichristian states, Pagan and Papal, in the various parts of the world, called horns, Daniel 7:24.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Zec 1:18-21. Second Vision. The power of the Jews foes shall be dissipated.
18. four horns—To a pastoral people like the Jews the horns of the strongest in the herd naturally suggested a symbol of power and pride of conscious strength: hence the ruling powers of the world (Re 17:3, 12). The number four in Zechariah's time referred to the four cardinal points of the horizon. Wherever God's people turned, there were foes to encounter (Ne 4:7); the Assyrian, Chaldean, and Samaritan on the north; Egypt and Arabia on the south; Philistia on the west; Ammon and Moab on the east. But the Spirit in the prophet looked farther; namely, to the four world powers, the only ones which were, or are, to rise till the kingdom of Messiah, the fifth, overthrows and absorbs all others in its universal dominion. Babylon and Medo-Persia alone had as yet risen, but soon Græco-Macedonia was to succeed (as Zec 9:13 foretells), and Rome the fourth and last, was to follow (Da 2:1-49; 7:1-28). The fact that the repairing of the evils caused to Judah and Israel by all four kingdoms is spoken of here, proves that the exhaustive fulfilment is yet future, and only the earnest of it given in the overthrow of the two world powers which up to Zechariah's time had "scattered" Judah (Jer 51:2; Eze 5:10, 12). That only two of the four had as yet risen, is an argument having no weight with us, as we believe God's Spirit in the prophets regards the future as present; we therefore are not to be led by Rationalists who on such grounds deny the reference here and in Zec 6:1 to the four world kingdoms.
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