Zechariah 6:5
And the angel answered and said to me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the LORD of all the earth.
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Zechariah 6:5. These are the four spirits of the heavens — Or rather, The four winds, as the word רוחות very frequently signifies, and as it is here rendered in the margin, and also by the LXX. and the Vulgate: that is, these chariots are the four empires in the different parts of the world. Thus Daniel, beginning to foretel the rise of these four great empires, Daniel 7:2, observes, Behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea. But how, it may be asked, could these chariots be said to be winds? Like strong winds they rushed violently on, and produced great agitations and commotions in the earth, resembling the effects of strong winds, both by sea and land. These winds are said to go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth, to signify that, as winds are frequently made God’s ministers, and fulfil his word, (Psalm 148:8,) so these empires, as his servants, should do his pleasure, and execute his purposes, whether of judgment or mercy, upon the different nations of the earth. In other words, they should be made subservient to the designs of his providence.6:1-8 This vision may represent the ways of Providence in the government of this lower world. Whatever the providences of God about us are, as to public or private affairs, we should see them all as coming from between the mountains of brass, the immoveable counsels and decrees of God; and therefore reckon it as much our folly to quarrel with them, as it is our duty to submit to them. His providences move swiftly and strongly as chariots, but all are directed and governed by his infinite wisdom and sovereign will. The red horses signify war and bloodshed. The black, signify the dismal consequences of war, famines, pestilences, and desolations. The white, signify the return of comfort, peace, and prosperity. The mixed colour, signify events of different complexions, a day of prosperity and a day of adversity. The angels go forth as messengers of God's counsels, and ministers of his justice and mercy. And the secret motions and impulses upon the spirits of men, by which the designs of Providence are carried on, are these four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from God, and fulfil what the God of the spirits of all flesh appoints. All the events which take place in the world spring from the unchangeable counsels of the Lord, which are formed in unerring wisdom, perfect justice, truth, and goodness; and from history it is found that events happened about the period when this vision was sent to the prophet, which seem referred to therein.These are the four spirits of the heavens - They cannot be literal winds: for spirits, not winds, stand before God, as His servants, as in Job, "the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord" (Job 1:6; Job 2:1. This they did, (Jerome), "for these four kingdoms did nothing without the will of God." Zechariah sums up in one, what former prophets had said separately of the Assyrian, the Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian. "O Assyria, the rod of Mine anger - I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him a charge" Isaiah 10:5. "I will send and take all the families of the north, and Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land" Jeremiah 25:9. "The Lord shall hiss for the fly, that is in the uttermost part of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria, and they shall come, and shall rest, all of them, in the desolate valleys" Isaiah 7:18-19. "I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the Lord; and they shall come, and shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem" Jeremiah 1:15. Whatever the human impulse or the human means, all stand before the Lord of the whole earth, ministering to His will whose are all things, the Judge of all, who withholdeth the chastisement till the iniquity is full, and then, through man's injustice, executes His own just judgment. Osorius: "He says that they went forth from where they had stood before the Lord of the whole earth, to show that their power had been obtained by the counsel of God, that they might serve His will. For no empire was ever set up on earth without the mind, counsel and power of God. He exalts the humble and obscure, He prostrates the lofty, who trust overmuch in themselves, arms one against the other, so that no fraud or pride shall be without punishment." 5. four spirits of the heavens—heavenly spirits who "stand before Jehovah" to receive God's commands (Zec 4:14; 1Ki 22:19; Job 2:1; Lu 1:19) in heaven (of which Zion is the counterpart on earth, see on [1177]Zec 6:1), and proceed with chariot speed (2Ki 6:17; Ps 68:17) to execute them on earth in its four various quarters (Ps 104:4; Heb 1:7, 14) [Pembellus]. Or, the secret impulses of God which emanate from His counsel and providence; the prophet implies that all the revolutions in the world are from the Spirit of God and are as it were, His messengers or spirits [Calvin]. These are, signify, or are the emblems of, the four spirits, Heb. winds, to which the empires are compared, Daniel 7:2, and for the bustlings of them may be well compared so; and forasmuch as they are raised by the Lord, and are under his command, may properly enough be called

winds of the heavens, which blow as God orders. Or,

spirits, i.e. angels of heaven, who have, as ministers of the Divine Providence, a great share in the management of affairs both of church and states. Or, the impulses of God’s Spirit moving as he pleaseth in the kingdoms of men, and in his church. Indeed this is the great spring which moves angels, and sets them on work about what is to be done by them, either for or against states and kingdoms, especially in reference to the church of God.

Of the heavens, which, as they reside in heaven till employed, so go thence when employed, and observe the will of their God in heaven; and, having done their work, return thither again.

Standing before; they stand as servants attending the will and command of their Lord.

The Lord of the whole earth, their God is Lord of all, and their business, to do his will in all the earth, not in one part only, but every where, whithersoever they are sent. And the angel answered and said unto me,.... In order to grant him his request, and explain the vision of the chariots:

these are the four spirits of the heavens; or, "the four winds of the heavens"; the apostles and ministers of the Gospel may be compared to "the winds", because their ministry is the ministration of the Spirit, which is like wind that blows invisibly, powerfully, and where it listeth; and because in and by it the Spirit breathes life and comfort into the souls of men; and because of the powerful efficacy and penetrating nature of the word preached by them, and their swiftness and readiness to do the will of God: angels are called "spirits" or "winds", Psalm 104:3 they are created spirits, and so differ from God; are incorporeal ones, and so differ from men; and are immaterial and immortal, and so die not: they are spiritual subsistences, and spirits of the heavens, or heavenly spirits; heaven being the place of their abode and residence; and they may be compared to "winds", for their invisibility, wonderful penetration into places and things, their very great swiftness, and prodigious power and strength. The Targum paraphrases the words thus,

"these are the four kingdoms, which are as the winds of heaven;''

and so the same are signified by the four winds in Daniel 7:2 to which they may be compared for their swift and forcible carrying all before them, and for their fickleness and changeableness; and to which, the several parts of the world, into which they went, agree:

which go forth, from standing before the Lord of all the earth: so the apostles of Christ, and ministers of the Gospel, stood before him in his eternal purposes and decrees from everlasting; and went forth, having their commission from him in time; and were sent by him into the several parts of the world he is the Lord of; and by whom they were filled with gifts, grace, and courage, fitting them for their work. Angels also stand before him, ministering unto him; always behold him; are in his presence, and enjoy his favour; and go forth from him, being sent forth by him on various accounts into all the parts of the world; which Jehovah is the Creator, Upholder, and Governor of: moreover, this is applicable to the four monarchies; these stood before the Lord in his vast and infinite mind; in the secret decrees of it, before the world was; and the sending and going forth of them from him show that they were powers ordained of God, who has the government of the whole world in his hands.

And the angel answered and said to me, These are the four {g} spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.

(g) Meaning, all the actions and motions of God's Spirit, whom according to his unchangeable counsel he causes to appear through all the world.

5. spirits] Rather, winds. Comp. Revelation 7:1.

from standing before] as servants to receive His commands. Psalm 104:4.Verse 5. - The four spirits of the heavens. Both the Septuagint and Vulgate render, "the four winds of heaven;" and this is doubtless correct. It was a familiar symbol to the Jews. The winds are often introduced in executing God's will on sinners (comp. Psalm 104:4; Psalm 148:8; Jeremiah 49:36; Daniel 7:2). Which go forth from standing before the Lord (comp. Job 1:6; Job 2:1). The winds are supposed to be God's servants, waiting his pleasure to be sent forth on his errands. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate, "which go forth to stand before the Lord." This denotes merely their usual obedience; but the text implies that the prophet sees them moving from their usual expectant attitude, and hastening forth to do God's commands. This judgment will not be delayed. To terrify the self-secure sinners out of their careless rest, Zephaniah now carries out still further the thought only hinted at in Zephaniah 1:7 of the near approach and terrible character of the judgment. Zephaniah 1:14. "The great day of Jehovah is near, near and hasting greatly. Hark! the day of Jehovah, bitterly crieth the hero there. Zephaniah 1:15. A day of fury is this day, a day of anguish and pressure, a day of devastation and desert, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and cloudy night. Zephaniah 1:16. A day of the trumpet and battering, over the fortified cities and high battlements." The day of Jehovah is called "the great day" with reference to its effects, as in Joel 2:11. The emphasis lies primarily, however, upon the qârōbh (is near), which is therefore repeated and strengthened by מהר מאד. מהר is not a piel participle with the Mem dropped, but an adjective form, which has sprung out of the adverbial use of the inf. abs. (cf. Ewald, 240, e). In the second hemistich the terrible character of this day is described. קול before yōm Yehōvâh (the day of Jehovah), at the head of an interjectional clause, has almost grown into an interjection (see at Isaiah 13:4). The hero cries bitterly, because he cannot save himself, and must succumb to the power of the foe. Shâm, adv. loci, has not a temporal signification even here, but may be explained from the fact that in connection with the day the prophet is thinking of the field of battle, on which the hero perishes while fighting. In order to depict more fully the terrible character of this day, Zephaniah crowds together in Zephaniah 1:15 and Zephaniah 1:16 all the words supplied by the language to describe the terrors of the judgment. He first of all designates it as yōm ‛ebhrâh, the day of the overflowing wrath of God (cf. Zephaniah 1:18); then, according to the effect which the pouring out of the wrath of God produces upon men, as a day of distress and pressure (cf. Job 15:24), of devastation (שׁאה and משׁואה combined, as in Job 38:27; Job 30:3), and of the darkest cloudy night, after Joel 2:2; and lastly, in Zephaniah 1:16, indicating still more closely the nature of the judgment, as a day of the trumpet and the trumpet-blast, i.e., on which the clangour of the war-trumpets will be heard over all the fortifications and castles, and the enemy will attack, take, and destroy the fortified places amidst the blast of trumpets (cf. Amos 2:2). Pinnōth are the corners and battlements of the walls of the fortifications (2 Chronicles 26:15).
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