|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!
Verse 20. - Four carpenters; craftsmen; Revised Version, smiths, in which case "the horns" would be made of iron. The word is applied to workers in wood, stone, and metal; therefore an ambiguous rendering seems most suitable here. LXX., τέκτονας; Vulgate, fabros. They represent the human agencies employed by God to overthrow the powers hostile to the Church. Their number is the same as that of the "horns," thus showing their adequacy for the work which they have to execute. It is quite unnecessary to attempt to identify the four "craftsmen." Some take them to be Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra, and Nehemiah; or Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Cambyses, and Alexander the Great; or the four evangelists; or generally, angels. We shall be safer if we look upon them merely as God's instruments and servants without further identification.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord showed me four carpenters. To saw and cut in pieces the four horns; or rather "four blacksmiths" (y); these horns were horns of iron; so the word is rendered a "smith" in 1 Samuel 13:19 and indeed it signifies both a worker in wood and a worker in iron; and who are sometimes distinguished by what they work in, whether wood or iron; see Isaiah 44:12. The Jews say (z) these four carpenters are Messiah ben David, Messiah ben Ephraim, Elijah, and the priest of righteousness; or, as elsewhere (a), Elijah, the King Messiah, Melchizedek, and he that was anointed for war; though Kimchi much better interprets them of the kings, the princes above, who preside over kingdoms, that is, the angels; and so Jerom and Theodoret; who have been sometimes employed in the destruction of the enemies of God's people, or in preventing them doing the mischief they otherwise would; and even the several monarchies themselves have been the means of destroying each other; so the Babylonians were destroyed by the Medes and Persians; the Persians by the Grecians; the Grecians by the Romans; and the Romans by the Goths, Hunns, Vandals, &c. in the western part of the empire; and by the Saracens and Turks in the eastern part of it: and they may be applied to the apostles of Christ, who were chiefly mechanics, mean and illiterate persons, yet workmen in the Gospel, that need not to be ashamed; and who were sent by Christ into the four parts of the world, to spread his Gospel, set up his interest, and pull down the kingdom of Satan: and since the Jews make the Messiah himself one of these carpenters, they have no reason to upbraid or be offended at Jesus our Messiah being a carpenter, and a carpenter's son, as in Matthew 13:55 and Kimchi owns that their ancient Rabbins explain this verse of the days of the Messiah.
(y) "fabros ferrarios", Pembellus, Sanctius, Burkius. (z) T. Bab. Succa, fol. 52. 2.((a) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 11. 4. Vid. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 14. fol. 111. 4.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. four carpenters—or "artificers." The several instrumentalities employed, or to be employed, in crushing the "Gentile" powers which "scattered" Judah, are hereby referred to. For every one of the four horns there was a cleaving "artificer" to beat it down. For every enemy of God's people, God has provided a counteracting power adequate to destroy it.
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