[part 1] Kerux 6:1 (May 1991): 16-31.
Confronted with the tableau of the rider on the red horse in the midst of the myrtles by the deep (Zech. 1:8), Zechariah requested an explanation (v. 9). It was given by the Angel-rider himself. In particular, he identified the horsemen (v. 10), whose report on their world mission (v. 11) prompted his intercession in behalf of Jerusalem (v. 12). The response of the Lord of hosts to this was then disclosed by the divine Angel to Zechariah through the interpreting angel (vv. 13-17). In the successive steps of this explanatory process each of the elements of the symbolic scene is in turn illuminated: the deep (vv. 9-11), the myrtles (v. 12), and the Glory-Presence (vv. 13-17).
I. State of the World Report (1:9-11)
A. Jurisdiction over the Deep: We have found that the sea symbolized the mighty forces of disorder and satanic hostility which the Lord overcomes in working out his creative kingdom purposes in the history of his covenant people. In Zechariah’s vision, the deep represented the world power which had subjugated Israel and terminated the Davidic dynasty. Dispatched to this deep of the nations, the heavenly horsemen were to discover whether the imperial powers were now in compliance with the rule of Yahweh as sovereign of heaven and earth; more specifically, whether they were assuming a proper stance with respect to the nation of Israel, at that time God’s kingdom on earth.
Indicative of the judicial character of the horsemen’s mission is the verb used for their ranging over the earth (Hithpael of halak). Zechariah employs it again for the world traversing heavenly chariots in the parallel seventh vision (Zech. 6:7). Its first appearance in Scripture is in Genesis 3:8, where it denotes the advent of God for judgment at the Fall of man. A judicial connotation may be present in the following passages, in all of which the Lord is the subject of this verb: Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14; 2 Samuel 7:6; and Job 22:14. Used with reference to Enoch (Gen. 5:22,24) and Noah (Gen. 6:9), it signifies their involvement in the judicial council of the Lord of hosts, the heavenly experience that later characterized the true prophet in Israel. Similarly, the judicial oversight of Israel by the prophet-judge Samuel is summed up by this verb in 1 Samuel 12:2, where it is also used for the king. In Psalm 82 (whose setting—God standing for judgment in the midst of the Elohim-beings of the divine council—is not unlike that in Zechariah’s first vision), this verb describes the activity of the earthly judges who are the objects of the divine condemnation (v. 5). In Job 1:7 and 2:2 it refers to Satan’s malicious scrutiny of men as he goes about like a lion (cf. Ezek. 19:6) securing evidence for his accusations.
In the Job passages just cited a parallel verb is shut, which is used in 2 Chronicles 16:9 for the eyes of the omniscient Lord judicially surveying the earth. The Lord’s eyes are a figure for the divine agents of world surveillance, the same reality that is symbolized by the horsemen in Zechariah’s first vision. Indeed, Zechariah himself employs the imagery of the seven eyes of the Lord in 3:9 and 4:10, making much the same point as 2 Chronicles 16:9, viz., Yahweh is Judge of all the earth. A prominent element throughout Zechariah’s prophecy, the theme of the sovereignty of Israel’s Lord over all the nations emerges in his opening vision. The scope of the heavenly horsemen’s reconnaissance “to and fro through the earth” (1:10) which is reflected in their earth encompassing report (1:11) manifests the universal authority of him who sent them on their judicial mission.
B. Eschatological Delay: At the same time, however, the horsemen’s report gives rise to an urgent theological question which becomes the central issue of this vision. It concerns the perplexing absence of penal enforcement of God’s holy will against those who scorn his claim to universal sovereignty. For the scoffer this provides an occasion to call that claim in doubt. For the people of God this translates into a soul-trying postponement in the realization of the promised goal of their salvation, the coming of the kingdom in glory. In all ages until the end of their pilgrimage through this fallen world, eschatological delay places the patience of the faithful under severe strain. This is a theological issue that cannot be raised with theoretical detachment; it is profoundly existential and emotive. When the report of the horsemen brought this matter into focus, the divine Angel was at once stirred up to pastoral intercession, pleading, “How long?”
According to their report all the earth was living quietly at rest (shaqat). That verb describes regions and peoples experiencing prosperous security, free from civil strife and warfare. It is used for the intermittent periods of relief from the succession of foreign oppressors during the time of the judges (Jdg. 3:11,30; 5:31; 8:28) and for times of quiet after conflict during the monarchy (e.g., 2 Chron. 14:6; 20:30; 23:21). More to the point, in God’s promises to his people this word depicts the happy conditions they would enjoy when he brought them home from exile (Jer. 30:10; 46:27) and the peace of the messianic era (Isa. 14:7; 32:17). It is precisely in connection with these cherished prospects that the report of the horsemen posed a problem. Their reconnaissance disclosed that what had been promised to God’s people as distinctly their blessed future was being enjoyed instead by the other nations, the nations symbolized by the deep. Is not the sea supposed to be restless? Isaiah had described it as that which cannot rest (shaqat). He used the turbulent waters of the deep as a simile for the wicked who are not supposed to have peace (Isa. 57:20; cf. Jer. 49:23). But strangely, according to the findings of the heavenly patrol, it was not the land of Israel but the sea of the wicked nations that was peacefully calm. In contradiction of the hope of Israel, the deep was undisturbed.
This peace predicated of the world in Zechariah 1:11 is sometimes interpreted narrowly of the political fortunes of the Persian empire. It is then disputed whether the tranquility reported in v. 11 harmonizes with the date formula in v. 7, since there is a question whether the disturbances that marred the beginning of the reign of Darius had completely subsided by his second year. But though the Persian empire was of central interest, the mission of the horsemen was of global scope and their report not restricted to the state of Darius’ reign. More importantly, such a narrow interpretation is out of touch with the redemptive-historical realities and concerns of the canonical context of Zechariah’s visions.
The focus of concern is the myrtles by the deep—God’s covenant people in relation to the world. In the history of the redemptive program Israel had been established as God’s own nation, a unique holy kingdom of priests set apart from the common nations. This intrusion of a theocracy into world history produced for the contemporary surrounding nations a special situation, imposing on them peculiar obligations with respect to the cult and community of the Lord God thus kingdomized in their midst. It is the demands of this special historical-redemptive situation that are in view in the horsemen’s scrutiny of the nations.
Specifically, their world reconnaissance was to discover what the world powers were doing in the second year of Darius by way of helping or hindering the Israelites in their efforts to reestablish themselves in their land and to restore the temple-cult of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Measured in terms of their special obligations in this typological situation, the nations were found wanting. They showed no inclination to fulfill the commitments that had been made by Cyrus to provide subsidies from the Persian treasury for restoring the Jerusalem temple (Ezra l:lff. and 6:1ff.). Opposition to the restoration of Jerusalem from various quarters had brought initial efforts to rebuild the temple to a halt (Ezra 4; cf. Hag. 1:2) and in the interval the Persian officials had in fact become ignorant of the very existence of the earlier grants (Ezra 5). Moreover, whatever aid of this sort Persia rendered at one time or another, their imperial dominion over the Lord’s covenant community was not relinquished. Any attempt to restore the Davidic dynasty and independent sovereignty would have been totally unacceptable to the Persian overlord.
The point of the patrol’s report was not that there was a lull in the incessant international strife and warfare but rather that the world powers were manifesting their defiant indifference to the God of heaven and earth by failing to assist his covenant people in their struggle to recover from the devastation of the Babylonian exile and to rebuild the sanctuary where he placed his name. This indictment of the nations as guilty of hostile disregard for the honor of God’s name and for the plight of his people is repeated in the Lord’s own description of them as “at ease” (sha’anan, v. 15). The overtones of scornful complacency, insolence and hateful arrogance attaching to this term are plain in the plea of the oppressed saints in Psalm 123. They cry to the Lord for mercy, lamenting that they have experienced their fill of “the scorn of those at ease and the contempt of the arrogant” (v. 4; cf. Isa. 32:9,11,18; 37:29; Amos 6:1). What was disclosed by the horsemen’s survey of the deep corroborated the portrayal of the great sea in Daniel’s night vision. It was the spawning place of beast kingdoms, hostile to the kingdom of the Son of Man, animated by the spirit of antichrist (Dan. 7; for symbols of Persia see 7:5 and 8:3,4,20). Not only were the nations arrogantly ignoring their obligations to Israel and Israel’s God, they were doing so with apparent impunity. The proverbially restless sea was at rest.
C. Antitypical Dimension: Another vital factor in interpreting the horsemen’s state of the world report is the typological character of the prophetic idiom. In the divine structuring of redemptive history the old covenant was designed to relate to the new covenant as anticipatory prototype to the later ultimate reality. Israel’s restoration from Babylonian exile is an instance of this. Like their exodus from Egypt, it was arranged by the Lord of history and redemptive revelation as an instructive model of the messianic salvation. Reflecting this topological structure of the history, the language of prophecy portrayed the coming new covenant salvation history under the figure of its old covenant prototypes. The prophets spoke of the messianic kingdom in parables, parables drawn from the Lord’s grand historical parable, which was old covenant Israel.
In keeping with this parabolic idiom of prophecy, the reference of the horsemen’s report is not limited to the immediate typal situation but carries a level of meaning pertaining to the messianic age. It has a more ultimately eschatological dimension. Hence the assessment of the nations as at rest is to be understood according to the standard of the ultimate kingdom hope of the redemptive covenant. A promissory forecast of that was made by Zechariah’s fellow prophet Haggai four months earlier (Hag. 2:6-9, cf. v. 1) and repeated just two months before (Hag. 2:21-23, cf. v. 20). Haggai foretold a total reversal of the present subservience of God’s people under the world power. As divine warrior the Lord would launch holy war against the enemy nations. They would be overthrown (haphak) amid cosmic convulsions and their treasures would be appropriated as battle spoils to adorn God’s temple. Here again the prophecy was cast in the prophetic idiom, pointing beyond the typal level to the messianic antitype. Certainly no such total reversal of positions occurred before the new covenant order replaced the old. Moreover, the shaking of the nations prophesied in Haggai 2:6 is interpreted in Hebrews 12:26-29 in terms of the kingdom inheritance still anticipated by believers under the new covenant. Isaiah had also foretold this ultimate spoiling of the world power in a declaration that combined the verb of overturning or reversal (haphak) echoed by Haggai and the image of the sea for the nations found in Zechariah 1:8. “The abundance of the sea will be overturned on you; the wealth of the nations will come to you” (Isa. 60:5; cf. Zech. 2:8,9[12,13]; 14:14; Rev. 21:26).
The condition of the nations discovered by the agents of the Angel-rider was in stark contrast to that eschatological hope. Seismic upheavals overturning the nations and emptying out the glory of their treasures into the holy city were nowhere to be detected. Not a tremor registered on the seismograph of heaven. All the earth was at rest. The great deep was calm. “Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Rev. 13:10; cf. 14:12).
II. Advocacy of the Angel (1:12)
Here the focus moves from the deep to the myrtles. The depressed condition of the covenant nation was the correlate of the ease of the dominant world nations reported by the horsemen. Upon receiving that report, therefore, the Angel of the Lord was constrained to make intercession for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah (v. 12).
A. Completed Retribution: As the basis for his petition Israel’s advocate referred to a completed period of seventy years. This was an allusion to an earlier divine promise given through Jeremiah. The Angel was thus appealing to the integrity of the Lord of the covenant as he sought prompt action on behalf of Judah.
Some two decades earlier Daniel, still in exile, had made a remarkably similar prayer-claim (see Dan. 9). It was the first year of Darius the Mede (that is, Cyrus),1 the year the Medo-Persian empire had overthrown Babylon (Dan. 9:1). Study of two prophecies of Jeremiah concerning a seventy year period of exile (viz., Jer. 25:9-14 and 29:10-14) had convinced Daniel that the time for restoration had arrived (Dan. 9:2). The first passage dated to 605 B.C. (cf. Jer. 25:1), the year Jerusalem’s captivity began and Daniel himself was taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:1). In it Jeremiah indicated that the end of the seventy years appointed for subservience to the king of Babylon (25:11) would be marked by the fall of Babylon (25:12). Implicit in Jeremiah 25 was the promise of the return of the captives at the completion of the seventy years and that promise became explicit in the second passage (see Jer. 29:10). Having witnessed the fulfillment of Jeremiah 25 in the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, Daniel proceeded in the first year of Cyrus (538 B.C.) to plead for the fulfillment of Jeremiah 29. His prayer-claim was that the promised restoration of the holy city and temple had been joined to Babylon’s fall as a twin indicator of the end of the allotted seventy years (Dan. 9:3-19; cf. 2 Chron. 36:22) and should, therefore, shortly come to pass.
Of course, the Lord was going to honor his prophetic promise and in the vision of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-27) he assured Daniel that restoration of the typological cultic order would begin at once and be satisfactorily completed, in spite of certain difficulties (v. 25). That very year Cyrus issued a decree authorizing the return (2 Chron. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-5) and the Israelites soon were availing themselves of the privilege. However, the troublous times of which the Lord forewarned had followed (cf. Ezra 4). Indeed, the restoration of Jerusalem and its temple progressed so slowly and relationships with the world powers remained so little improved that twenty years later (in 520 B.C.) the Angel of the Lord, as seen in Zechariah’s vision, had to reiterate the plea of Daniel. He appealed to the fact that the returned captives were the ones “against whom you had indignation those seventy years,” that is, the period of exile predicted by Jeremiah.2 The debt to divine justice had been fully met (such is the significance of the seventy years, as we shall see), and surely now, these twenty years later, it was time for a more conspicuous display of God’s restoring mercies. This was the contention of the Angel advocate.
As interpreted above the seventy years were a literal, if slightly rounded, number for the critical period of captivity (605-538).3 In the biblical context it appears that “seventy years” carries additional symbolic overtones. It amounts to ten sabbatical periods. Such a sabbatical significance of the seventy years exile is brought out in the Chronicler’s account of it as a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. From the perspective of the land of Israel the time of exile was one of Sabbath rest in which it made up for (rasah) the Sabbath years in which it should have lain fallow but had been worked by the covenant-breaking Israelites (2 Chr. 36:21). According to the Chronicler each of the seventy years of exile was in effect a sabbatical year, and each seven years was then equivalent to forty-nine years, a jubilee period, and thus the seventy years were tantamount not just to ten sabbatical periods but to ten jubilee periods (or seventy weeks of years).4
By virtue of these sabbatical-jubilee overtones, the seventy years of Zechariah 1:12 suggest a period that entails the full completion of a work, the consummating of a divine purpose. The specific divine purpose, as the Angel’s plea indicates, was that of manifesting God’s indignation against the violation of his covenant. Isaiah 10 is the main source of this indignation terminology.5 Isaiah prophesied that the nation God employed as the instrument of his indignation against his disobedient vassal people Israel (Isa. 10:5; cf. Ezek. 21:31) would itself succumb to another world-power, also serving as the weapon of Yahweh’s indignation (Isa. 10:26, 13:5; cf. Jer. 50:25). This event was coordinated in Isaiah’s prediction, as in Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years exile, with the completing of God’s indignation against his own people (Isa. 10:25).
When the Babylonian captivity of Israel is perceived as a combination of the Lord’s indignation and of the seventy years understood as signifying the completion of divine action, it emerges as a parable of the eternal perdition of hell, as a punishment that constituted at a temporal-typological level a consummate divine retribution, a full satisfaction of divine justice. Such significance had been assigned to this ultimate covenant curse of exile by Moses in his prophetic overview of the course of old covenant history in Leviticus 26. This passage depicts the exile as an extended Sabbath for the land (the idea echoed in 2 Chron. 36:21) and it contains the motif of sevenfold (i.e., complete) punishment for sin (vv. 18,21,24, and 28). Most to the point, it states that the exiles’ experience of misery and anguish would make up for (rasah) their iniquity (v. 41). This verb is used in v. 34 to express the land’s making up for its missed Sabbaths during the exile (again cf. 2 Chron. 36:21). These two ideas are indeed conjoined in v. 43, with rasah used for both: “The land will make up for its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them and they will make up for their iniquity.”6
Israel in exile received a full equivalence in penal recompense for her sins. Those sufferings were not a sacrificial atonement akin to the propitiatory achievement of the Cross. Captive Israel was not the suffering Servant heralded by Isaiah, the vicariously suffering Servant stricken of God for the transgressions of others. Her sufferings were rather the kind of reparations paid by those condemned to hell. However, unlike the doom of the lake of fire, God’s judicial response at the ultimate eschatological level of radical religious reality to reprobate individuals, the sentence of Babylonian exile dealt with Israel at the typological level of the provisional Mosaic economy. At the level of the second death retribution is unending; at the typological level a finite period of retribution, the seventy years, sufficed as a complete payment, a making good in full for national Israel’s transgressions.
B. Poignant Appeal: That is the point being made by the Angel advocate in Zechariah 1:12. Israel had met in full the curse-debt of the broken covenant. The allotted seventy years indignation had been completed some twenty years ago. But how disappointingly slow had been the progress in restoring the theocratic community and its temple. Still scarred by ruins, Jerusalem remained without walls for defense. Scarcely any headway had been made on the temple since the original efforts had been interrupted by vociferous foes. The land was unproductive. Recovery of independent national self-rule and reinstituting of the Davidic dynasty were nowhere in sight. How long was this to continue? Had not the Lord promised in a prophecy of Haggai just two months before Zechariah’s night visions that from that day onward, the day of the community’s taking up afresh the task of building God’s house, he would bless them (Hag. 2:19)?
“How long?”—the cry of the Angel—is a familiar introduction to prayers that lament intolerable circumstances and express yearning for relief. They are characterized by calls for divine mercy and deliverance from adversaries. Most poignant is the lament that longs for a cessation of what is perceived as the displeasure of the Lord himself (see, e.g., Pss. 6:3; 80:4; 90:13; cf. 79:5). Some Psalms where the “how long?” appears reflect situations like that in Zechariah 1:12 and indicate more explicitly the kind of divine action the Angel would have been requesting. Psalm 74:10 asks how long the enemy will continue to reproach and blaspheme God’s name. Adversaries have devastated God’s sanctuary, profaning his name (vv. 3-8). The psalmist laments that God has cast off his congregation in anger forever (vv. 1,2) but appeals to him as the Creator (vv. 16,17), the God of the exodus who overcame the sea and the sea-monsters (vv. 13-15). In remembrance of his covenant (vv. 2,20) let him achieve victory in the midst of the earth (v. 12). Psalm 80:4(5) asks how long the Lord, the God of hosts, would be angry against his people, beset by derisive foes (vv. 6,12,13[7,13,14]). God is identified in terms of the Glory enthroned above the cherubim, which he is requested to manifest in power, shining forth for the salvation of his people (vv. 1-3,7,19[2-4,8,20]). Psalm 94:3 asks how long the arrogant defiance of the wicked will continue. They have crushed the Lord’s people and afflicted his heritage, as though divine justice were blind (vv. 4-7). As judge of all the earth, the God of vengeance, the Lord is petitioned to shine forth, rising up in judgment to render to the proud their deserts (vv. 1,2).
C. Sojourning Saints: While the Angel’s plea for such divine intervention in Zechariah 1:12 does take account of the immediate situation and though it is couched in the typological terms of that stage of redemptive history, the horizon of his concern extends far beyond into the antitypical age of the new covenant. This perspective is required by the context. When dealing with God’s response to the Angel (vv. 13-17) we shall see that it contains promises clearly pertaining to the messianic age. Here we want to observe that the wilderness situation of the faithful portrayed in the symbolism of the myrtles by the deep (v. 8), the situation that evoked the Angel’s intercession, continued throughout the remainder of old covenant times, into the new covenant age, and indeed obtains until the Final Judgment.7 If so, then the rectifying of that situation sought by the Angel must also ultimately be the final, eschatological deliverance.
The Angel’s advocacy was not without more immediate results at the typological level. For the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem with its environs did move forward decisively, even though the city walls were not finished for many years (cf. Neh. 7:4; 11:1). Nevertheless, in fundamental respects the existence of the covenant community continued to be a wilderness experience. Restoration of the temple did not end the domination of the temple-community by the kingdoms of the earth. The succession of world beast-powers surveyed in Daniel 7 continued in the state of defiant ease reported by the horsemen to the Angel of the Lord for centuries longer. That would at last be changed by the cataclysmic judgment predicted by Haggai (Hag. 2:6,7,21,22), but nothing of the sort accompanied the limited restoration after the Babylonian exile. David’s fallen tabernacle remained in ruins, not to be raised up within Old Testament times.
Why was restoration of the kingdom in its typological form so limited? In particular, why was the Davidic throne not restored and another glory age enjoyed in those postexilic centuries? For one thing, although Israel had, at the typological level, fully paid for its past offenses by the seventy years exile, that payment did not earn future blessings. Israel’s restoration to the land, like their original reception of it after the exodus, was a gift of grace. Moreover, in the postexilic phase of the old covenant as in the preexilic a principle of works was operating in the sense that retention of the typological kingdom blessings had to be earned by demonstrated covenant obedience, with the measure of such blessings fluctuating with Israel’s erratic faithfulness (cf. Rom. 10:5,6; Gal. 3:12). Further, since it was a major purpose of the Mosaic economy to prepare an appropriate historical setting for the advent of the Messiah and since he must appear in a state of humiliation to fulfill his mission as the suffering Servant, the covenant community could hardly have been in a state of glorious power with a representative of David’s dynasty on the throne when Jesus Christ was born.
Wilderness status still characterizes God’s people in the present new covenant era. To be sure, the Lord, true to the Davidic Covenant and in fulfillment of specific promise, has raised up the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11,12; Acts 15:16-18), and that not merely on the level of the typal throne in old Jerusalem but on the antitypal plane of the heavenly reign of Jesus. Nevertheless, the New Testament portrays the church on earth as a sojourning pilgrim people, as a church in the wilderness (cf. e.g., Heb. 3:7-4:11; 1 Pet. 1:17; 2:11; Rev. 12:14).8 Satan’s agent, the Beast power from the deep, still wars against the saints and is yet to come up out of the abyss for his hour of apparent triumph over them before he goes into perdition (Rev. 11:7; 13:1ff; 16:13-16; 17:10-13; 19:19; 20:7-9).
The purview of the whole context before and after the Angel’s intercession in Zechariah 1:12 thus includes the future of the covenant people down to the consummation of the messianic age and this clearly determines the eschatological horizon of that intercession. Such a long-range concern is only what would be expected on the part of this Angel. The “how long?” question he raises in Zechariah 1:12 had been put to him not long before. The occasion was the vision described in Daniel 12, one that resembles Zechariah’s first vision in several respects. It contains a theophany by the waters; it deals with a situation fraught with peril for the saints; and it envisages the church age, including the final antichrist crisis (cf. Dan 11:36ff.; 2 Thess. 2:3,4). At that time, the “how long?” was voiced by one of the heavenly beings who accompanied the Glory-Angel (Dan. 12:6). By way of answer the theophanic Angel spoke of the three and a half times (v. 7), the symbol in the books of Daniel and Revelation for the preconsummation history of the church of the new covenant, the time of the church in the wilderness (Rev. 12:6,14; cf. Rev. 13:5; Dan. 9:27). Only after this period would deliverance come to the people of Michael-Messiah (cf. Dan. 12:1-3). Whether answering or asking the “how long?” of eschatological hope, the messianic Angel could not but have in view those new covenant developments that would be set in motion by his own entrance into history as the Messiah, the son of David. When he cries “how long?” he is expressing the eagerness of the Son for the arrival of the hour when the Father will send him to earth on his covenanted mission to make an atonement for his people, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to anoint the eternal temple. His cry of longing reveals the passionate love of the savior-shepherd for the flock he hastens in spirit to seek and find and bring home.
D. Christ—Judge and Advocate: In the opening night vision of Zechariah the messianic Angel is cast in the dual role of judge of the nations and advocate of the Israel of God. Remarkably, this portraiture of Christ in his royal-priestly office is found again at each main juncture in the structure of Zechariah: in the central, fourth member (3:1-10) of the seven night visions; in the central hinge section (6:9-15) of the overall diptych form of the book; and in the central unit (11:1-17) of the burdens that comprise the second half of the prophecy. Most like the first vision is Zechariah 3, where the Angel of the Lord is again present, presiding as judge, yet simultaneously advocating the cause of Joshua the high priest, Satan-accused but chosen of God.
The Christian readily recognizes his savior-shepherd as the subject of this priest-king portrait. Jesus is the Angel of the Lord, now come in the flesh. To him all authority in heaven and earth has been given and in the day of his parousia he will judge all the nations in righteousness. Until that day he intercedes in the court of heaven for his afflicted flock in the wilderness. His claim before the ancient of days is that the “seventy years” curse of divine wrath has been fully accomplished for his redeemed. That eternal wrath of God against them was compressed into the hours of his once-for-all sufferings on the Cross. Hence, the accuser of the brethren is rebuked (cf. Zech. 3:2). They overcome him because of the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). Beyond his passive obedience in his enduring of the “seventy years,” our advocate at the right hand of the Father presents in our behalf the claim of his active obedience, the fulfillment of the covenant probation, and that merit imputed to us is the ground of our inheritance of the heavenly Jerusalem. The advocacy of our ever-living heavenly priest is not in vain. It prevails to bring the longed for response of favor and blessing from the Lord of hosts (cf. Zech. 1:13-17). He is the true Servant of the Lord, able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him (Isa. 53:12; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:28).
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
* This article and another to follow continue the biblical-theological reading of the first of Zechariah’s night visions begun under the title “The Rider of the Red Horse.” See KERUX 5:2 (September 1990), pp. 2-20 and 5:3 (December 1990), pp. 9-28.
1. Cf. Dan. 6:28, translating: “even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
2. Note the correspondences of Zechariah 1:1-6 to the Jeremiah 25 context, especially vv. 3-9.
3. The seventy years have also been understood as a conventional expression for a full span of divine displeasure (cf. Isa. 23:15). Others see a reference to the period from the fall of Jerusalem in 587 to the time of Zechariah’s night visions (520), or to the revelation he received two years later (and thus almost exactly seventy years after 587), in which “these seventy years” are again mentioned (Zech. 7:5).
4. This symbolism was then used again in the prophetic vision of Daniel 9:24-27, given in response to the prayer of Daniel, itself prompted by reflection on Jeremiah’s seventy years prophecy.
5. Isaiah 10 lies behind the passages in Jeremiah and Daniel that were the literary background of Zechariah 1:12 (cf., e.g., Isa. 10:22,23 with Daniel 9:26,27).
6. For rasah in the sense of make good, make up for, receive one’s due (whether compensation or retribution) see Job 14:6, where it refers to the hired laborer working off his contracted day, and Job 20:10, where it means to indemnify in a case of ill-gotten gain. In Isaiah 40:2 this verb refers, as in Leviticus 26:41, to making up for sin. It is reinforced there by statements that the allotted years of the sentence have been completed and that God’s people have received from the Lord’s hand the full equivalent (not “double”) for all their sins.
7. The wilderness image in the above analogy is simply the area outside the promised paradise land through which the saints make their pilgrim journey. It does not entail the notion of exile-like banishment to wanderings under the sentence of divine wrath. The redeemed travel a processional highway home through this wilderness (cf. Isa. 11:16; 35:8-10; 40:3; 49:11,12).
8. Cf. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections on Postmillennialism,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, eds. W. S. Barker and W. R. Godfrey (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 197-224.