Zechariah: The Four Chariots of God’s Wrath (The Eighth Vision)

Then he cried to me, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country.”

Zechariah 6:8

The prophet’s final vision of the night started when he saw “four chariots (coming) out from between two mountains” (6:1a).  Zechariah described the mountains as “mountains of bronze” (6:1b), thus showing that the mountains were symbolism rather than literal mountains.  Some view the mountains being made from bronze as symbolic of strength and endurance.  Since the chariots are later said to be leaving “after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth” (6:5), the bronze mountains could symbolize being in God’s presence.  The prophet then described the horses which pulled each chariot:  “The first chariot had red horses, the second black horses, the third white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses – all of them strong” (6:2-3).  A comparison with the horses described in John’s figurative vision provides a possible meaning to what their colors symbolize (Rev. 6:1-8); the red horses could be associated with war, the black horses with famine, the white horses with victory, and the dappled horses with death via pestilence.  Lacking any insight from the inspired text itself, it is impossible to know the meanings of the bronze mountains and the horses, or if any symbolic meanings are intended, with certainty.

After asking the angel with whom he had been talking in the previous visions about the chariots, the angel told him, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth” (6:4-5).  “Winds” (rûaḥ in Hebrew) could also be translated “spirits” depending on the context.  Angels are described as “winds” or “spirits” depending on the translation (Ps. 104:4; cf. Heb. 1:14).  In this context I believe “winds” is more appropriate because of other passages which speak of “four winds” symbolizing God’s judgment upon disobedient nations (cf. Is. 21:1ff; Jer. 4:11ff; 49:36; 51:1ff; Dan. 7:2ff), possibly delivered by angels (cf. 2 Sam. 24:15-16).  This is because the angel went on to say, “The chariot with the black horses goes toward the north country,” followed by the chariot with the white horses (6:6a).  The chariot with the dappled horses would “go toward the south country” (6:6b).  The “north country” would be where Assyria and Babylon once ruled and where the Persian Empire now existed.  The “south country” could refer to Egypt, Edom, and/or Ethiopia.  All these nations, north and south, were enemies of God’s people.  If the comparison with the Revelation horses is an accurate interpretation, this could mean that God would conquer Persia with famine and send death via pestilence and plague to Egypt and/or the other pagan nations south of Judah.

Zechariah then wrote, “When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth” (6:7a).  The angel told them, “Go, patrol the earth,” which they did (6:7b).  Remember, these horses which pulled these chariots were going “to the four winds of heaven” (6:5).  We’ve seen that angels are associated with “winds” or “spirits” and are involved in the divine punishment of nations.  Thus, the horses’ impatience to “patrol the earth” could signify the impatience of angels to deliver God’s punishment upon counties and cultures throughout the earth who rebel against Him.  In this case, they were given permission by the angel who had been speaking to Zechariah.  Would this indicate that the angel talking with him in all these visions was Michael, the archangel (archangelos, chief angel)?  Possibly.  Whoever this angel was, he then “cried” (zāʿaq in Hebrew, meaning “announced”) to Zechariah, “Behold, those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country” (6:8).  Apparently, the punishment given to Persia – and the remnants of Babylon and Assyria still existing within the Persian Empire – for their wickedness had satisfied the wrath of God (cf. Ezek. 5:13; 16:42; 24:13).

With that appeasement comes hope of salvation, as Isaiah would write:  “For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness” (Is. 26:9b).  The same holds true today.  Difficult times can teach us to turn to God (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; Heb. 12:3-14; James 1:2-4).  Are you allowing the struggles of your life to bring you closer to Jesus?

— Jon

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