Zechariah 1:20
And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
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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!These are the horns which have scattered - o "The four horns which scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, are four nations, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians and Romans; as the Lord, on the prophet's enquiry, explains here, and Daniel unfolds most fully Daniel 2; who in the vision of the image with golden head, silver breast, belly and thighs of brass, feet of iron and clay, explained it of these four nations, and again in another vision of four beasts Daniel 7, lion, bear, leopard and another unnamed dreadful beast, he pointed out the same nations under another figure. But that the Medes and Persians, after the victory of Cyrus, were one kingdom, no one will doubt, who reads secular and sacred literature. When this vision was beheld, the kingdom of the Babylonians had now passed away, that of the Medes and Persians was instant; that of Greeks and Macedonians and of the Romans was yet to come.

What the Babylonians, what the Medes and Persians, what the Greeks that is, the Macedonians, did to Judah, Israel and Jerusalem, a learned man acknowledgeth, especially under Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, to which the history of the Maccabees belongs. After the Coming of our Lord and Saviour, when Jerusalem was encompassed, Josephus, a native writer, tells most fully, what the Israelites endured, and the Gospel fore-announced. These horns dispersed Judah almost individually, so that, bowed down by the heavy weight of evils, no one of them raised his head." Though these were successive in time, they are exhibited to Zechariah as one. One whole are the efforts against God's Church; one whole are the instruments of God, whether angelic or human, in doing or suffering, to repel them. Zechariah then exhibits these hostile powers as past and gone, as each would be at the end, having put forth his passing might, and perishing. They scattered, each in its day, and disappeared; for the next displaced it.

The long schism being ended, Judah and Israel are again one; and Jerusalem, the place of God's worship, belongs to Israel as well as to Judah.

The explanation of the number four, as symbolizing contemporaneous attacks from the four quarters of the heavens, fails in matter of fact, that, in these later times, the Jews suffered always from one power at a time. There was no such fourfold attack. In Zechariah's time all around was Persian.

Osorius: "Those horns, broken by the angels' ministry, portended that no guilt against the church of Christ should be unpunished. Never will there be wanting fierce enemies from east, west, north, or south, whom God will strengthen, in order by them to teach His own. But when He shall see His work finished, that is, when He shall have cleansed the stains of His own and brought back His Church to her former purity, He will punish those who so fiercely afflicted her."

Spiritually, (Jerome), "those who destroy vices, build up virtues, and all the saints who, possessing these remedies, ever build up the Church, may be called 'builders.' Whence the Apostle says, "I, as a wise builder, laid the foundation" 1 Corinthians 3:10; and the Lord, when wroth, said that He would "take away from Jerusalem artificer and wise man" Isaiah 3:3. And the Lord Himself, Son of the Almighty God and of the Creator of all, is called "the son of the carpenter" Matthew 13:55.

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. The Lord; Jehovah, who before is the Angel, i.e. Christ, he is the eternal One, the great God.

Showed me; both proposed the thing to be seen, and gave eyes to see and discern it.

Four carpenters; known by their garb and tools to be carpenters, or smiths, as the Hebrew bears it.

The Lord; Jehovah, who before is the Angel, i.e. Christ, he is the eternal One, the great God.

Showed me; both proposed the thing to be seen, and gave eyes to see and discern it.

Four carpenters; known by their garb and tools to be carpenters, or smiths, as the Hebrew bears it.

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.

And the LORD showed me four {s} craftsmen.

(s) These craftsmen or smiths are God's instruments, who with their mallets and hammers break these hard and strong horns which would overthrow the Church, and declare that no enemies' horn is so strong, but God has a hammer to break it in pieces.

20. the Lord] Jehovah, from whom the whole series of visions proceeded, Zechariah 1:7.

four carpenters] Rather, artificers, or workmen; (smiths, R. V.). The word is used of working in wood, but also in metals and in stone. Isaiah 44:12-13; 2 Samuel 5:11. There is no ground for the idea that these artificers represent angelic ministries. They rather indicate generally the various human agencies, corresponding in number and variety to the enemies of Israel, by the instrumentality of which those enemies should be overthrown. “Comparat gentes, quæ infestæ fuerant Judæis, cornibus: postea comparet fabris alios hostes, quorum manu et opera utitur Deus ad frangendos conatus eorum omnium, qui molesti erunt ecclesiæ.” Calvin.

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. Zechariah 1:20The second vision is closely connected with the first, and shows how God will discharge the fierceness of His wrath upon the heathen nations in their self-security (Zechariah 1:15). Zechariah 1:18. "And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. Zechariah 1:19. And I said to the angel that talked with me, What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem. Zechariah 1:20. And Jehovah showed me four smiths. Zechariah 1:21. And I said, What come these to do? And He spake to me thus: These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no one lifted up his head; these are now come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations which have lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it." The mediating angel interprets the four horns to the prophet first of all as the horns which have scattered Judah; then literally, as the nations which have lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it. The horn is a symbol of power (cf. Amos 6:13). The horns therefore symbolize the powers of the world, which rise up in hostility against Judah and hurt it. The number four does not point to the four quarters of the heaven, denoting the heathen foes of Israel in all the countries of the world (Hitzig, Maurer, Koehler, and others). This view cannot be established from Zechariah 1:10, for there is no reference to any dispersion of Israel to the four winds there. Nor does it follow from the perfect זרוּ that only such nations are to be thought of, as had already risen up in hostility to Israel and Judah in the time of Zechariah; for it cannot be shown that there were four such nations. At that time all the nations round about Judah were subject to the Persian empire, as they had been in Nebuchadnezzar's time to the Babylonian. Both the number four and the perfect zērū belong to the sphere of inward intuition, in which the objects are combined together so as to form one complete picture, without any regard to the time of their appearing in historical reality. Just as the prophet in Zechariah 6:1-15 sees the four chariots all together, although they follow one another in action, so may the four horns which are seen simultaneously represent nations which succeeded one another. This is shown still more clearly by the visions in Daniel 2 and 7, in which not only the colossal image seen in a dream by Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 2), but also the four beasts which are seen by Daniel to ascend simultaneously from the sea, symbolize the four empires, which rose up in succession one after the other. It is to these four empires that the four horns of our vision refer, as Jerome, Abarb., Hengstenberg, and others have correctly pointed out, since even the picturing of nations or empires as horns points back to Daniel 7:7-8, and Daniel 8:3-9. Zechariah sees these in all the full development of their power, in which they have oppressed and crushed the people of God (hence the perfect zērū), and for which they are to be destroyed themselves. Zârâh, to scatter, denotes the dissolution of the united condition and independence of the nation of God. In this sense all four empires destroyed Judah, although the Persian and Grecian empires did not carry Judah out of their own land.

The striking combination, "Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem," in which not only the introduction of the name of Israel between Judah and Jerusalem is to be noticed, but also the fact that the nota acc. את is only placed before Yehūdâh and Yisrâ'ēl, and not before Yerūshâlaim also, is not explained on the ground that Israel denotes the kingdom of the ten tribes, Judah the southern kingdom, and Jerusalem the capital of the kingdom (Maurer, Umbreit, and others), for in that case Israel would necessarily have been repeated before Judah, and 'ēth before Yerūshâlaim. Still less can the name Israel denote the rural population of Judah (Hitzig), or the name Judah the princely house (Neumann). By the fact that 'ēth is omitted before Yerūshâlaim, and only Vav stands before it, Jerusalem is connected with Israel and separated from Judah; and by the repetition of 'ēth before Yisrâ'ēl, as well as before Yehūdâh, Israel with Jerusalem is co-ordinated with Judah. Kliefoth infers from this that "the heathen had dispersed on the one hand Judah, and on the other hand Israel together with Jerusalem," and understands this as signifying that in the nation of God itself a separation is presupposed, like the previous separation into Judah and the kingdom of the ten tribes. "When the Messiah comes," he says, "a small portion of the Israel according to the flesh will receive Him, and so constitute the genuine people of God and the true Israel, the Judah; whereas the greater part of the Israel according to the flesh will reject the Messiah at first, and harden itself in unbelief, until at the end of time it will also be converted, and join the true Judah of Christendom." But this explanation, according to which Judah would denote the believing portion of the nation of twelve tribes, and Israel and Jerusalem the unbelieving, is wrecked on the grammatical difficulty that the cop. ו is wanting before את־ישׂראל. If the names Judah and Israel were intended to be co-ordinated with one another as two different portions of the covenant nation as a whole, the two parts would necessarily have been connected together by the cop. Vav. Moreover, in the two co-ordinated names Judah and Israel, the one could not possibly stand in the spiritual sense, and the other in the carnal. The co-ordination of 'eth-Yehūdâh with 'eth-Yisrâ'ēl without the cop. Vav shows that Israel is really equivalent to the Jerusalem which is subordinated to it, and does not contain a second member (or part), which is added to it, - in other words, that Israel with Jerusalem is merely an interpretation or more precise definition of Yehūdâh; and Hengstenberg has hit upon the correct idea, when he takes Israel as the honourable name of Judah, or, more correctly, as an honourable name for the covenant nation as then existing in Judah. This explanation is not rendered questionable by the objection offered by Koehler: viz., that after the separation of the two kingdoms, the expression Israel always denotes either the kingdom of the ten tribes, or the posterity of Jacob without regard to their being broken up, because this is not the fact. The use of the name Israel for Judah after the separation of the kingdoms is established beyond all question by 2 Chronicles 12:1; 2 Chronicles 15:17; 2 Chronicles 19:8; 2 Chronicles 21:2, 2 Chronicles 21:4; 2 Chronicles 23:2; 2 Chronicles 24:5, etc.

(Note: Gesenius has correctly observed in his Thesaurus, p. 1339, that "from this time (i.e., from the severance of the kingdom) the name of Israel began to be usurped by the whole nation that was then in existence, and was used chiefly by the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Deutero(?)-Isaiah, and after the captivity by Ezra and Nehemiah; from which it came to pass, that in the Paralipomena, even when allusion is made to an earlier period, Israel stands for Judah," although the proofs adduced in support of this from the passages quoted from the prophets need considerable sifting.)

Jehovah then showed the prophet four chârâshı̄m, or workmen, i.e., smiths; and on his putting the question, "What have these come to do?" gave him this reply: "To terrify those," etc. For the order of the words מה אלּה בּאים לעשׂות, instead of מה לעשׂות אלּה בּאים, see Genesis 42:12; Nehemiah 2:12; Judges 9:48. אלּה הקּרנות is not a nominative written absolutely at the head of the sentence in the sense of "these horns," for that would require הקרנות האלּה; but the whole sentence is repeated from Zechariah 1:2, and to that the statement of the purpose for which the smiths have come is attached in the form of an apodosis: "these are the horns, etc., and they (the smiths) have come." At the same time, the earlier statement as to the horns is defined more minutely by the additional clause כּפי אישׁ וגו, according to the measure, i.e., in such a manner that no man lifted up his head any more, or so that Judah was utterly prostrate. Hachărı̄d, to throw into a state of alarm, as in 2 Samuel 17:2. Them ('ōthâm): this refers ad sensum to the nations symbolized by the horns. Yaddōth, inf. piel of yâdâh, to cast down, may be explained as referring to the power of the nations symbolized by the horns. 'Erets Yehūdâh (the land of Judah) stands for the inhabitants of the land. The four smiths, therefore, symbolize the instruments "of the divine omnipotence by which the imperial power in its several historical forms is overthrown" (Kliefoth), or, as Theod. Mops. expresses it, "the powers that serve God and inflict vengeance upon them from many directions." The vision does not show what powers God will use for this purpose. It is simply designed to show to the people of God, that every hostile power of the world which has risen up against it, or shall rise up, is to be judged and destroyed by the Lord.

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