Meredith G. Kline, “Marana Tha” Kerux 11:3 (Dec. 1996): 10-28.
In the concentric series of seven visions, the final vision (Zech. 6:1-8) parallels the first (Zech. 1:7-17), resuming its theme and imagery. Vision seven answers to the eschatological longings voiced in the “How Long?” cry of the opening vision. The marana tha prayer raised heavenward there was prompted by the state of the world report brought to the messianic rider of the red horse. As discovered by the celestial horsemen in their world reconnaissance, the nations were displaying defiant indifference to the Lord God, particularly by their oppressive domination of God’s people, and they were doing so with apparent impunity. Their hostile arrogance had, however, provoked the Lord to jealous anger, which he makes known in an oracular response to the intercession of the messianic Angel (Zech. 1:14-17). God assures his suffering servants of his presence with them and his determination to deal in his wrath with the nations at ease. Vision seven announces the fulfillment of that divine commitment. Equine imagery is again employed for the heavenly agents and the scope of their judicial mission is again global. Visions one and seven thus form an inclusion, framing the series of visions.
Immediate preparation for vision seven and its prophecy of final judgment is provided in vision six (Zech. 5:1-11). One way it does so is by completing a two-directional sorting out process that transpires on a world-wide scale. The third vision had prophesied of a messianic evangel that would summon the dispersed people of God out of Babylon back to Zion, an efficacious call that would result in many nations being joined to Yahweh in that day (Zech. 2:6-11
A. God’s Presence in Glory. A site marked by two bronze mountains is the starting point of the mission of four chariots (Zech. 6:1). The identification of this site is given in the hierophant angel’s statement that the chariots came forth “from standing before the Lord of all the earth” (v. 5).2 The setting alluded to is the heavenly court where the cosmic Sovereign sits enthroned in Glory. It is there that his angel-ministers stand in attendance upon him, harkening unto the voice of his word (cf. Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 103:19, 20; Zech. 4:14). This closing vision thus fits the consistent pattern according to which the celestial council is the background or even immediate setting of each of the seven visions.3 We may speak of this divine self-manifestation as a parousia in the sense of “presence.”
1. Two Mountains: The imagery of two mountains with the God of Glory between (and above) them is a variation on symbolism we have observed previously, the symbolism of the divine Presence enthroned between matching objects on either side. In vision one, the messianic rider of the red horse is stationed between what may well be two myrtles, representing the holy community of God’s servant-people.4 In vision five, the two olive trees overarching the menorah reflect the Shekinah theophany complex in the holy of holies, with the Glory-cloud above the ark, footstool of God’s throne, and the two cherubim on the right and left.5 And as we have suggested, behind this imagery is the two-pillar theophany of the Glory-cloud, representing God standing on earth, particularly in oath-taking stance and in other judicial capacities.6 There is also an architectural dimension to this polyvalent imagery. The Glory above with the flanking cherubim were the lintel and side columns respectively, framing an entryway that leads from the terrestrial world into heaven. This gate of heaven symbolism found in the holy of holies was repeated in the entrance into the temple with its two bronze pillars (1 Kgs. 7:13-22).7
Similar symbolism of deities associated with a pair of cosmic mountains is found in Near Eastern mythological traditions. The sun-god is represented as appearing between two mountains, and two mountains mark the point of access to the realm of the netherworld deity. It has been suggested that the sunrise motif informs Zechariah’s seventh vision. Appeal might be made to Psalm 19 as affording a biblical instance of the imagery of the sun, in a manifestation of God’s glory, coming forth from a heavenly tent and entering on a world-traversing mission. But the concept conveyed in Zech. 6:1-8 is rather that of chariots of war passing through the boundary gate of heaven and earth, dispatched by the heavenly Suzerain-Judge on an earthly mission of world judgment.
One likely tributary of this two-mountain imagery is the scene of the covenant ratification ceremony conducted by Joshua at the adjacent mountains of Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. 8:30-35; cf. Deut. 27). There too the enthroned divine presence, symbolized by the ark, stood in the center between the two mountains. That ceremonial scene at Shechem in the center of the promised land proclaimed Yahweh’s sovereignty over the whole land. The altar erected on Ebal was a virtual victory stele celebrating the Lord’s defeat of the gods and nations of Canaan and the vindication of his claims to this domain, the prototype of his cosmic kingdom.8 It is this sovereign status of the God of Israel, Potentate of all the earth, that is also signified by the two-mountain scene in Zech. 6: 1-8.
Within the Book of Zechariah, and indeed in the section of the second half of the prophecy that parallels the seventh vision in the first half,9 another pair of mountains appears, identified as the Lord’s (Zech. 14:5). These two mountains are produced in the course of a parousia event, an advent of Yahweh with his holy ones.10 As the Lord stands on the Mount of Olives before Jerusalem, it is divided into two mountains (v. 4; cf. Exod. 19:18; Judg. 5:5; Ps. 68:8 ), the feet of the towering figure of the Lord now standing astride the two (cf. Rev. 10:1, 2, 5). The valley created between the parted halves of Olivet provides a passage to safety for God’s people, a mountain guarding both their flanks, the overarching Presence of the Lord a shield above them. This eschatological deliverance prophesied in Zech. 14:4-5 is antitypical to the exodus passage through the Egyptian sea.” Zechariah 14 thus includes more explicitly than Zech. 6:1-8 the soteric aspect of the two-mountain parousia episode, but the association of the two-mountain imagery with the parousia in Zechariah 14 supports the interpretation of the two mountains in Zech. 6:1 as symbolic of the Lord’s parousia-Presence.
2. Bronze Mountains: The two mountains were mountains of bronze and prominent in the use of bronze elsewhere in biblical symbolism is its association with Glory-theophany, more particularly with the legs of the theophanic figure, and with related celestial beings. Ezekiel’s chariot-throne theophany is a conspicuous source of the imagery in Zech. 6:1-8 and the fiery cherubim creatures who bear this vehicular throne of the Glory-Spirit are pictured with legs of gleaming bronze (Ezek. 1:7), harmonious with their total shining appearance, a reflection of the Glory-light of God’s Presence (Ezek. 1:13). The luminous human form on the throne above the cherubim (Ezek. 1:26-28) appears in Daniel 7 as the one like a son of man and again in Daniel 10 as a man with face of lightning, eyes of flame, and arms and legs of burnished bronze (Dan. 10:5, 6; cf. Ezek. 40:3). This same son of man, with face shining like the sun, appears in the opening vision of John’s Apocalypse and once more his legs (as visible below a robe reaching to his feet) are likened to glowing bronze (Rev. 1:15; 2:18). We may also recall here the related symbolism of the two bronze pillars (lit. “standing things”) at the temple entrance (1 Kgs. 7:13-22). In this gate of heaven symbolism, the two bronze pillars represented the side columns, an architectural translation of the anthropomorphic image of the bronze legs of deity standing on the earth.
When dealing with Zechariah’s second vision (1:18-21 [2:1-4])12 we interpreted the four horns as the horns at the corners of an altar, and, viewing the altar as a stylized ziggurat, a structure also capped by four horns, we observed that in the case of both the altar and ziggurat the horns were bronze. Since ziggurats represented the cosmic mountain of the gods, their bronze horns would have a significance appropriate to the divine realm. In the context of the second vision the bronze horns would signify divine power. Similarly the bronze nature of the two mountains in Zech. 6:1-8 might be taken as secondarily connoting the invincible strength of the Lord who resides there and the impregnable permanence of his kingdom. But primarily the bronze here reflects the identity of the two mountains as the site of brilliant divine Presence, the locus of the radiant parousia of the God of Glory. Indeed, the allusive connections we have noted indicate that the two bronze mountains represent the resplendent Lord as planting his feet on the earth, taking his stand in the midst of his people. They thus symbolize much the same reality as the scene of the rider of the red horse stationed between the myrtles by the deep in Zechariah’s first vision.
3. Mount Magedon/Zaphon/Zion: As a representation of the Lord’s place of enthronement, the two bronze mountains are a bifid by-form of what elsewhere appears as a single holy mountain. One of the designations of that mountain of God is har mo’ed, “mount of assembly,” referring to the gathering of the council of angelic beings there in the court of the King of heaven and earth (cf. Isa. 14:13). In Greek transcription har mo’ed becomes har magedon (Rev. 16:16).13 An overlooked but decisive clue indicating that har magedon does indeed mean “mount of assembly (or gathering)” is that it is identified in Rev. 16:16 as Hebraisti, “in Hebrew,” a label consistently accompanied in the Johannine usage by a contextual explanation. And Rev. 16:16 is no exception. The explanation of the “Hebrew” term there is found in the main verb: “And they gathered14 them together unto the place called in Hebrew Har Magedon (Mount of Gathering).”
In apposition with har mo’ed in Isa. 14:13 is another designation for this mountain: yarkete sapon, “the heights of Zaphon.” A secondary meaning which sapon acquired was “north,” but in Isa. 14:13 yarkete sapon refers to the heights of the mount of assembly, the polar opposite on the cosmic axis from the yarkete bor, “the depths of the Pit” (Isa. 14:15). Zaphon was the name of a mountain to the north of Israel that was regarded as the residence of Baal, an earthly localization of the cosmic abode of the gods. Possibly Zaphon appears in Babylonian magical texts as the name of a city (Zabban) mythically interpreted as a cosmic city, guardian of the entry-point into this world for denizens of the netherworld and heaven.15 In addition to Isa. 14:13, other biblical instances of yarkete sapon denoting God’s mountain-city of Har Magedon or a pagan equivalent are Ps. 48:2 and Ezek. 38:6, 15; 39:2. Also, sapon by itself may refer to this heavenly realm, as in the introduction to the chariot-throne theophany of Ezekiel 1. Echoing his opening statement that the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God (Ezek. 1:1), the prophet in verse 4 says he saw the storm-cloud theophany coming out of sapon. Sapon here is the heavenly Zaphon, site of God’s Glory-Presence (not the geographical north, as usually interpreted).16
The Zaphon designation of the mountain (more specifically yarkete sapon) provides a connection between Har Magedon (har mo’ed]), to which it is appositional in Isa. 14:13, and Zion, with which it is equated in the opening two verses of Psalm 48:
Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God; the
mountain of his sanctuary, paragon of peaks, joy of all the earth; Mount
Zion, the heights of Zaphon, city of the Great King.
Zion is the earthly ectypal manifestation of the archetypal heavenly reality of God’s temple-city, Mount Zaphon/Magedon.
In keeping with the typological idiom of the prophets, it is the earthly temple-city of God’s theophanic Presence, Mount Zion, that is represented by the two bronze mountains of Zech. 6:1-8. Indicative of this earthly location of the royal Presence in the seventh vision is the geographic perspective of the account of the chariots’ mission—they issue from a Palestinian site and proceed in various directions relative to that Palestinian point of origin. As Mount Zion, the two bronze mountains speak of the Immanuel Presence of the God of heaven—Ichabod reversed (cf. 1 Sam. 4:21; Ezekiel 10-11). They promise the return of Glory (cf. Ezek. 43:1-7; 40:2), which is fully realized in the antitypical New Jerusalem/Mount Zaphon/Magedon, where the heavenly and earthly become one.
B. God’s Advent in Power. Parousia means presence and also coming. In Zechariah’s seventh vision the static imagery of the two bronze mountains symbolizes God’s presence-parousia and the emergence of the dynamic chariots to charge throughout the earth portrays his advent-parousia. Divine advent-parousia is a majestic coming of heaven’s King with his myriad of holy angels, mighty agents of his judgments on the earth (cf., e.g., Zech. 14:5; Matt. 24:30, 31; 2 Thess. 1:7).
1. Divine Transport: It is on the chariot-agents speeding on their several ways that Zechariah’s vision focuses. But it is not as though the divine Presence has been left behind at the two bronze mountains. This is a parousia-advent, a coming of the Lord himself. We may think of the visionary action in terms of the four-directional chariot-throne of the Glory-Spirit in Ezekiel 1, a living creature and a wheel facing and moving in each direction. What we have in Zechariah’s vision is a dividing of that one chariot complex of four faces into four individual chariots, or better, an explosive extension of it to the four winds of heaven, without, however, the loss of the coherence of the one chariot-throne and without separation from the unifying divine Presence. Like the one chariot-throne, the four chariots are bearers of the Glory-Spirit; the Spirit is indeed their Driver (Ezek. 1:12, 20; 2:2; Ps. 104:3).17 This explains how the arrival of the chariots at their ultimate destination involves a presence and working of the Spirit there (cf. Zech. 6:8).
Procession of the Lord from his mountain, advancing on a mission of redemptive judgment, answers to the Sinai prototype. As celebrated in Psalm 68,18 the God of Sinai went forth from his holy habitation (vv. 7, 8 [8, 9]) as the Rider of the clouds (vv.4, 24 [5, 25]), amid the thousands of his chariots (v. 17 ), to show himself the Savior of the righteous from their enemies (vv. 19ff. [20ff.]). Such is the agenda of the advent of the Lord of the two bronze mountains. It is a time for the injunction of Zech. 2:13 : “Be still before Yahweh, all people, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling place.”
2. Universal Mission: The heirophant angel’s response to Zechariah’s inquiry concerning the chariots (Zech. 6:4) revealed their provenance and their destination (v. 5). In disclosing the source of their mission, that they came forth from standing in the presence of the Lord, he was identifying the chariots as ministers of the Lord of Glory. The chariots would still be so identified, indirectly, even if we translated: “These are the four winds of heaven.” On that translation, the servant-agent status of the chariots would be further suggested by the familiar role of the winds as messengers in God’s service (Ps. 104:4). If the chariots are thus equated with the winds, an indication would also be given of the nature of their mission, for elsewhere the four winds of heaven carry the connotation of destructive power (e.g., Jer. 49:36; Rev. 7:1, 2; cf. Dan. 2:35).
However, the preferable translation is: “These to the four winds19 of heaven are going forth.” A four-direction mission is entailed in our understanding of the four chariots as a development out of the four-direction Glory-chariot of Ezekiel 1. Also, on this rendering of v. 5 as a general statement that the chariots as a group went to all the cardinal points of the compass, v. 6 follows naturally as a specifying of the particular direction each of the chariots took. Moreover, the equivalent phrase employed in the summary statement in v. 7 is “over the earth,” signifying the universal scope of the judicial mission of the agents of the one who is “Potentate of all the earth” (v. 5).
In the Masoretic Hebrew text, the account of the directions taken by the individual teams of horses (with the chariots) omits reference to the red horses, the first of the teams listed in vv. 2, 3. And while the second (black) team goes north and the fourth (piebald) team heads south, it is uncertain whether the third (white) team is said to go along after (or with) the black team to the north, or whether ‘aharehem (either alone or with some addition to the text) signifies “to the west. ” Understandably but not necessarily correctly, many suggest that the original text supplied the apparent omission by including the red team and directing them to the east. The related attempt to demonstrate an association of each color with the assumed direction of its chariot is not persuasive. If we limit ourselves to the data in the extant text, there is a change in perspective when the account proceeds from the general statement in v. 5, which indicates the global scope of the four chariots, to the specifying of the directions of the individual chariots in v. 6. The orientation of the latter is adjusted to the peculiar topography of Palestine and to the visionary circumstance of an (evidently) north-south valley running between the bronze mountains. In that scenario the chariots would emerge from that valley in just those two directions, north and south.20
The list of the chariot teams in Zech. 6:2, 3 concludes with a summarizing epithet, “powerful ones.” Again in v. 7 the whole contingent of horses is designated by this term. Whereas the first vision of the horses on world-wide surveillance evinces the divine omniscience, the divine omnipotence is to the fore in vision seven. The strength of the horses and their high-spirited eagerness to be on their way (v. 7) highlight the nature of the four-chariot mission as a parousia in power. It is an advent of the Almighty.
II. Final Judgment
A. Chariots of Wrath. Chariots were mainly employed in warfare and were indeed the pride of the royal military establishment. Accordingly, the chariot symbolism of Zechariah’s seventh vision is to be understood as signifying an advent of God as the divine warrior, advancing in wrath against his enemies. Similarly the boast of Psalm 68 that God has at his command thousands of thousands of chariots (v. 17 ) is set in the context of his smiting the head of his foes (v. 21 ). And in Isaiah 66 the whirlwind-like chariots of the Lord accompany him as he comes to show fury against his adversaries end to execute judgment on all mankind (vv. 14-16). As extensions of God’s chariot-throne of Glory, the four chariots of Zech. 6:1-8 are insignia of his supreme sovereignty, but the primary military association of chariotry indicates that their particular purpose as they break forth from between the bronze mountains is the judicial enforcement of that divine dominion. They are chariots of wrath. It is the day of the Lord.
In the introductory comments on the seventh vision we noted that the theme of God’s wrath against the hostile nations appears in the first vision in the form of the Lord’s determination and promise to bring them into judgment, a promise whose fulfillment is depicted in vision seven. Meanwhile, in the intervening visions the theme of the Lord’s judgment on the satanic world powers has surfaced repeatedly, leading up to the climactic treatment of it in the final vision, and preparing the reader to recognize it there.
Within the first triad of visions, the second (Zech. 1:18-21 [2:1-4]) develops the divine threat of Zech. 1:14, 15. The bestial powers that have lifted their horns to assault the saints and usurp Zion will be overthrown by God’s agents of vengeance, four expert destroyers. In vision three (Zech. 2:1-13 [2:5-17] ), the messianic Angel declares that he will shake his hand over the nations that have plundered the sons of Zion and the plunderers will become a spoil to their former victims. Vision four (Zech. 3:1-10) unveils the underlying conflict of Christ with Satan, the instigator of the enmity of the nations against the Lord and his people, and reveals the redemptive secret of the believers’ victory. In vision five (Zech. 4:1-14), Messiah, typologically prefigured by Zerubbabel, overcomes the imperial world enemy, symbolized by a great mountain that is leveled into a flat plain before him.21 And as the culminating contribution to this pervasive theme of judgment, vision seven prophesies of an apocalyptic intervention of God. Through his chariot agents sent forth from heaven the divine warrior directs his final judicial vengeance against the nations guilty of offering their affront against his holy majesty.22 God’s retributive justice is satisfied. The Judge of heaven and earth can declare: It is finished.
B. Land of the North. Whatever questions there may be as to which direction each of the several chariot teams went, the conclusion of the vision (Zech. 6:8) makes it clear that “the land of the north (sapon)” was the chief target. Babylon is this “land of the north.” Another instance of this identification in Zechariah is in vision three, where the exiles dwelling in Babylon are summoned to flee “from the land of the north” back to Zion (Zech. 2:6, 7 [10, 11]). This usage is frequent in Jeremiah’s warnings of the judgment to be brought on Jerusalem and Judah by the Babylonians (cf., e.g., Jer. 1:14; 4:6; 6:1, 22; 13:20; 25:9), although Jeremiah also identifies the north with other nations whose hostile entry into Palestine would be from that quarter (e.g., Jer. 1:15). In fact, Jer. 50:9 foretells an alliance of nations from the north which God will bring against Babylon.
Babylon is an appropriate symbol of the world in its opposition to the Lord because it was Babylon that destroyed Jerusalem, took captive the Davidic king, and exercised dominion over God’s people. Babylon was the head of gold in the imperial colossus of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the first of the beast kingdoms in Daniel’s vision. Babylon was the revival of Babel in Shinar, center of the world in its antichrist propensity to build a pseudo-Har Magedon and to exalt itself against the God of heaven.23 As we have seen, Isaiah portrays the king of Babylon as a prototype antichrist, scheming to ascend to a place of preeminence in the divine council, above the heights of sapon, the celestial Zaphon (Isa. 14:13, 14). In terms of its ideological connection with this celestial sapon, Babylon, land of the north (sapon), was an apt symbol not just for the hostile world in general but for the satanic world in the final antichrist stage that evokes God’s final judicial wrath.
Daniel’s treatment of the antichrist theme had similarly associated this development with the north, but he used a different historical situation as his typological model. The Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes, adversary of God’s faithful in the second century B.C., is “the king of the north” whose career in Daniel 11 becomes transmuted into a prophecy of the man of sin who exalts himself above all gods (vv. 36ff., cf. 2 Thess. 2:4).24 In this king of the north/man of sin of Dan. 11:36ff., the world power symbolized by the bestial little horn of Daniel 7 comes to a climactic individual expression of satanic working.
Corresponding to Daniel’s little horn is the beast from the sea in Revelation 13, more specifically that beast at the stage symbolized by the sixth and seventh heads. And Daniel’s antichrist king of the north would be the one who heads up the final irruption of evil represented by the eighth king (Rev.17:11). It is he who leads the deceived kings of the earth to Har Magedon for the battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:16; 17:12-14) and is overwhelmed by the parousia of Christ, the King of kings, coming in the furious wrath of God Almighty (Rev. 19:11-16; cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:8).25 This judgment of the antichrist king of the north is what is signified in Zechariah’s seventh vision by the parousia-advent of the four chariots with the land of the north as ground zero of their attack.
Ezekiel 38-39 is also part of the allusive background of “the land of the north” in Zech. 6:1-8. There again the world to the north of Israel is drawn upon for the figurative depiction of the ultimate outbreak of evil. As in Daniel 11, an individual leader of the world power comes into view, Gog by name, a king of kings whose more immediate domain is the nations to the north in the Asia Minor area (Ezek. 38:2, 3, 6; 39:1). There too Magog is located, Gog’s imperial base, which is called “your [Gog’s] place” (38:2, 15; cf. 39:6).26 Of key import is the identification of Gog’s place as the yarkete sapon, “heights of (Mount) Zaphon” (38:6, 15; 39:2). We have seen that yarkete sapon is har mo’ed/magedon, “the mount of assembly” (Isa. 14:13). We have also seen that Mount Zion represents this celestial court; it is the true yarkete sapon (Ps.48:2 ). That means that Gog’s establishing of Magog as a yarkete sapon was the erecting of a pseudo-Zaphon (a kind of Esagila tower of Babel) in the land of the north. Ezekiel thus presents the remarkable picture of a coming of Gog with his hordes from pseudo-Zaphon/Magedon to challenge the Lord on Zion, the true Mount Zaphon/Magedon.
From Gog’s claim to lordship over Zaphon and his universal gathering of armies against Zion/Har Magedon, it is evident that he is to be identified with the antichrist of the final Har Magedon crisis of Rev. 16:14-16; 19:17-21 (and other passages in Revelation). This is confirmed by other features in Ezekiel 38-39, like the beast symbolism applied to Gog (38:4; 39:2) and numerous parallels to the judgment of the beast of Revelation in the description of God’s destruction of Gog, most striking of these the feasting of the birds and beasts on the slain hordes (Ezek. 39:4, 17-20 and Rev. 19:17, 18). Likewise, parallels between Gog’s career in Ezekiel 38-39 and that of the Pauline “man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2 corroborate Gog’s antichrist identity. Thus, Gog’s advance against Israel in a storm-cloud theophany (Ezek. 38:9, 16) matches the (pseudo-) parousia nature of the man of sin’s appearance (2 Thess. 2:9). Also, in both cases the Lord responds in a parousia-advent with almighty vengeance (Ezek. 38:18-23; 39:1-21 and 2 Thess. 2:3-10).
The Ezekiel 38-39 Gog crisis, which has been found to be the same as the Har Magedon/antichrist crisis of Rev. 16:14-16, the prelude to Christ’s parousia, is also to be identified, of course, with the Gog-Magog event of Rev. 20:7-10. Since the latter follows the thousand year era, so does the Gog/Har Magedon battle (and the parousia). This falsifies the idea that the millennium follows the parousia; the millennium must be the church age which issues in the antichrist/Har Magedon/Gog-Magog crisis. The parousia which visits final judgment on antichrist-Gog does not introduce a transitional stage in the coming of God’s kingdom in glory, but the eternal consummate reign of God.27
Comparison of Zechariah’s seventh vision with these kindred prophecies leads us to recognize in “the land of the north” in Zech. 6:7 an allusion to the world’s final satanic insurrection. In the light of Ezekiel 38-39 we perceive that the parousia movement of the four chariots from the two bronze mountains against the land of the north is a judicial response to a previous titanic challenge of the northern pseudo-Zaphon power under antichrist-Gog against the Lord enthroned on the original, authentic Har Magedon.28 Agreeably, in the Zechariah 14 development of this theme, the parousia-advent of the divine warrior is clearly a counter-attack against the nations that have gathered against Jerusalem.
If the mission of the four chariots symbolically prophesies the Lord’s advent in final judgment against the Har Magedon challenge of antichrist, the consequence of that mission will be the inauguration of the eternal order of God’s kingdom. And that is what we shall find to be the case as we move on to examine the oracle of Zech. 6:8, which concludes the seventh vision.29
C. The Spirit’s Sabbath. A kerygmatic oracle interprets the accompanying imagery in visions one, three, five, and seven. The oracle in vision one (Zech. 1:14-17) conveys the Lord’s promise of his eschatological return to his people; at that time he would vent his wrath on the enemy nations and his house would be rebuilt in restored Jerusalem. The oracle in vision seven (Zech. 6:8) proclaims the fulfillment of that prospect: “Lo, those who go to the land of the north have set my Spirit at rest in the land of the north.”
Here is a vista of the world to come. The holy war is over. At the great battle of Har Magedon the Lord has triumphed; he has eliminated the hostile forces. The final trumpet has sounded and there is “delay no longer;” the mystery of God has been finished as he announced to and through his servants the prophets (Rev. 10:6, 7). Sabbath time has come.
Some have interpreted Zech. 6:8 as describing God’s punitive judgment on the wicked. It is argued that the main verb in this verse (Hiph. of nuah) can be used for a visitation of God’s anger, whether in the sense of bringing it down on someone or of causing it to rest by giving full expression to it so that it is satiated and satisfied (cf., eg., Ezek. 5:13; 16:42; 21:17 ; 24:13; Zech. 9:1). Moreover, the term ruah, object of this verb in Zech. 6:8, at times means “wrath” (cf. Judg. 8:3; Ecc1. 10:4; Prov. 16:32). However, that does not appear to be the sense of these terms here. Although the destruction of the wicked is indeed assumed to have transpired, what this oracle itself contemplates is something subsequent to the act of judgment, the designed consequence of it.
In the context of this set of visions, ruhi is to be understood as God’s Spirit rather than his anger. That is its meaning in vision four. There, in connection with the assertion that the hostile world mountain would be leveled as God’s temple was raised to completion, the secret of this triumph is revealed: “by my Spirit” (ruhi, Zech. 4:6; cf. Hag. 2:5). In vision three the messianic mission of vengeance against the evil nations (the mission executed by the four chariots in Zech. 6:1ff.) is carried out in conjunction with the Glory-Spirit.30 But most conclusive is the imagery in vision seven itself. The four chariots are individualized extensions of the chariot-throne of the Glory-Spirit; they are bearers of the Spirit. It is the Glory-Spirit they have carried to the land of the north and therefore it is the Glory-Spirit that they set down at rest in the land of the north. Also to be noted here is the sixth vision’s counterfeit parallel to the imagery of the chariots carrying the Spirit. There it is the woman Wickedness who is carried by the winged women and is then set down at the destination point. This parallel elucidates more than the carrying action of the four chariots in vision seven, for the verb nuah is used for the act of setting down in both visions. The meaning of the verb in Zech. 6:8 will, therefore, parallel that in Zech. 5:11, where it signifies the setting of the woman at rest on a prepared site. More precisely, and highly significant for the interpretation of Zech. 6:8, the locating of the ephah with the woman in Zech. 5:11 is an act of enthronement.31
Looking beyond the pouring out of the last bowl of wrath, beyond the final judgment on the antichrist world, the oracle of Zech. 6:8 announces the eternal glory of the Spirit. The enthroned Glory-Spirit’s sovereign Presence, which was represented by the two bronze mountains, will be established even in the north country, and, if there, then everywhere. In the consummate state Mount Zion, throne of the Spirit, will be universalized.32
We have compared the two bronze mountains to the scene at mounts Ebal and Gerizim reported in Josh. 8:30-35. The Lord was present there as the victor, taking possession of the land he had claimed for himself in the Abrahamic Covenant, setting up his victory stele in his typological kingdom. Zech. 6:8 represents the universal antitype, the Presence of the Glory-Spirit as the victor celebrating the enforcement of his perfect rule over his creation-wide domain.
The basic outline of the seventh vision: the going forth of the Glory-Spirit from the bronze mountains for battle and his victorious coming to rest, follows the Conquest paradigm. On the larger scale this Conquest pattern covered the history from Sinai to Zion, but it was also reproduced repeatedly on a smaller scale in the order of the Lord’s procession through the wilderness. “When the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up (qum), Yahweh, and let your enemies be scattered and let those who hate you flee before you.’ When it came to rest (nuah), he said, ‘Return, Yahweh, to the midst of the ten thousand thousands of Israel'”(Num. 10:35, 36; cf. Ps. 68:1). This ascending of the Lord refers to the Glory-cloud’s rising up from its session on the ark-throne in the Tabernacle to proceed above Israel and the ark on the ground below, directing the tribes to a resting place (menuhah, Num. 10:33, 34). Num. 9:17-23 (cf. Exod. 40:34-38) indicates this was the procedure followed during all Israel’s journeying. Similar to Moses’ plea for Yahweh to rise up is that of Solomon at the temple dedication, calling on the Lord to be up and doing in behalf of Israel and their anointed king: “Now rise up (qum), Yahweh God, from your resting place (menuhah, cf. Ps. 132:8); arise, (from) the ark of your strength” (2 Chr. 6:41; cf. Ps. 132:8).33
Zechariah’s seventh vision answers to these prototypes. It prophesies the ultimate granting of Solomon’s prayer for God’s saving action and the perfecting of the pattern of the wilderness procession from Sinai to establish the Lord’s sovereignty over Canaan on Zion. The Lord rises up from his royal resting place on the mountains of bronze, up from the ark of his strength, and, as symbolized by the going forth of the chariots, he sets out on his judicial mission accompanied by the heavenly forces associated with his ark-throne. Then, the mission of judgment concluded, the Lord resumes his sovereign repose on his chariot-throne, which has brought him to rest in what had been enemy occupied terrain but now and forever is his unchallenged royal domain.
Such is the interpretation of the seventh vision endorsed by its counterpart in the burdens half of the prophecy. Presented there in Zechariah 14 as the sequel to the eschatological advent of the divine warrior to destroy the hostile nations (vv. 3-5) is an elaborate picture of the eternal order of the new creation (vv. 6ff.). The saints will possess a holy and blessed world, purged of all God’s enemies. The consummation of joy and glory typified by the Feast of Tabernacles will be realized.34 And echoing Zech. 6:8, Zech. 14:9 characterizes that day as the time when Yahweh alone will be king over the whole world.
The key verb of Zech. 6:8, nuah, and its derivative noun, menuhah, are used in Num. 10:36 and 2 Chr. 6:41 (cf. Ps. 132:8), as we have seen, for God’s royal rest, his session on his ark-throne. In Isa. 25:10 the enthronement of the Glory (“hand”) on Zion in the day of resurrection triumph is denoted as a coming to rest (nuah) on the mountain. Isa. 66:12 identifies God’s resting place (menahah) with his heavenly throne. And in Isa. 11:10 that “Glory” throne-site is said to be the eschatological menuhah of the royal messianic Root of Jesse.
The Sabbath connotation of these terms is clear. Indeed, in the Exod. 20:11 reference to Gen. 2:2, the verb nuah takes the place of the verb shabat used in the original account for God’s seventh day rest.35 The throne-session that is identified with God’s menahah is in fact the essence of the divine Sabbath.36 Accordingly, when Zech. 6:8 speaks of setting God’s Spirit at rest, what is signified is the Spirit’s Sabbath.
The Spirit enthroned over the world at the beginning (Gen. 1:2) was the quintessential Sabbath reality. In the Creator’s seventh day rest this Sabbath reality was translated into temporal-eschatological dimensions,37 and this royal Sabbath rest of God, the archetype Sabbath, was symbolically replicated in the ordinance of the Sabbath. The Sabbath ordinance in turn is the type that points to man’s eschatological arrival at the consummation of kingdom history, at the archetype Sabbath become antitype Sabbath. The setting of God’s Spirit at rest, as presented in Zech. 6:8, is the dawning of that antitypical, eternal Sabbath, the epiphany of the parousia-Presence of the Glory-Spirit enthroned in the new heavens and earth.
Westminster Theological Seminary
*This study of Zech. 6:1-8 continues the series on Zechariah’s night vision begun in Kerux 5:2 (September 1990).
1 Similarly, Zech. 13:2-9, the parallel to Zech. 5:1-11 in the burdens-section of the book, prepares for the prophecy of final judgment in Zechariah 14 by its account of the removal of apostates from the covenant community.
2 Even if we so translate Zech. 6:5 as to identify the chariots with the four winds, this last statement in the verse will refer to the chariots. On the translation question, see further below.
3 Cf. Kerux 8:1 (May 1993), p. 23.
4 Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), p. 11.
5 An unholy version of this theophanic formation appears in vision six in the imagery of the two stork-winged women carrying away the ephah. Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 14.
6 Cf. Kerux 9:1 (May 1994), pp. 4, 5.
7 Cf. my Images of the Spirit, p. 40.
8 Cf. my Kingdom Prologue (1993), pp. 229, 230. By the same token the Joshua 8 transaction represented to the Lord’s people a fulfillment of the land grant promised to them in the Abrahamic Covenant. Cf. A.E. Hill, “The Ebal Ceremony as Hebrew Land Grant,” JETS 31:4 (1988), pp. 399-406.
9 For the striking parallel features, cf. my “The Structure of the Book of Zechariah,” JETS 34:2 (1991), p. 192.
10 This exegesis follows the Masoretic text. According to another view, suggested by alternative readings in the versions, “my (God’s) mountains” would be Zion and Olivet, with the Kidron as the valley between.
11 The final judgment is a time of salvation for God’s elect, a safe passage through Jehoshaphat, the valley of judgment (cf. Joel 3:2, 12 [4:2, 12]), only because the Lord himself has first undergone the passage through the dark valley of death, suffering the divine judgment in their place (cf. Gen. 15:17).
12 Cf. Kerux 7:1 (May 1992), pp. 26-27.
13 Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), p. 20; 8:1 (May 1993), pp. 27-29. In. Isa. 14:13, the celestial mount is the exalted location to which the king of Babylon vainly aspires.
14 This verb, synago, used in LXX for the Hebrew ya’ad, root of mo’ed. For a full discussion of the term har magedon and of related topics dealt with under the present heading see my “Har Magedon: The End of the Millennium,” JETS 39:2 (1996), 207-222.
15 Cf. Tzvi Abusch, “The Socio-Religious Framework of the Babylonian Witchcraft Ceremony Maqlu: Some Observations on the Introductory Section of the Text, Part II,” Solving Riddles and Untying Knots: Biblical, Epigraphic, and Semitic Studies in Honor of Jonas C. Greenfield (ed. Z. Zevit, S. Gitin, M. Sokoloff; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 467-494.
16 Cf. also Job 26:7; 37:22; Ps. 89:12 .
17 Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 5.
18 Cf. Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3, Ps. 18:9 ff. [10 ff.]. Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 6.
19 This is an accusative of place whither put first for emphasis (GKC 118f.) Cf. siyyon in Zech. 2:7. The preposition ‘el is avoided after ‘elay ‘elleh. For the concept, cf. Zech. 2:6.
20 Similarly in the first vision the horses are possibly divided into just two groups. Cf. Kerux 5:2 (September 1990), p. 7. Another shared feature of these visions is that the colors in both are natural colors of horses and not to be taken as symbolic of particular forms of judgment in the absence of explicit indications to that effect, such as are found in the vision of the four horsemen in Revelation 6.
21 On the special preparation for vision seven in vision six (Zech. 5:1-11), see the introduction to this article.
22 Also confirming the military-punitive nature of the mission of the four chariots in Zech. 6:1-8 is the warrior role of Yahweh in Zechariah 14 (the parallel passage in the second half of the book), where he goes forth to fight against the world-wide gathering of nations to attack Jerusalem (v.3).
23 Cf. Kerux 7:1 (May 1992), pp. 25-27.
24 If the chariots in Zechariah’s seventh vision are understood as moving from Zion in just the two directions, north and south, the geo-political outlook of Zech. 6:1-8 is comparable to that in Daniel 11 with its concentration on the Ptolemies to the south and the Seleucids to the north, threatening the covenant people in between.
25 In Dan. 11:45 the antichrist king of the north challenges “the temple-mount of glory” (Har Magedon/Zion) and there comes to his end at the advent of Messiah-Michael (Dan. 12:1).
26 The name Gog apparently arises by interpreting the term Magog as “place (ma-) of Gog.”
27 On the millennium, cf. Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), pp. 48-49.
28 Depiction of God’s judgment on Gog in Ezekiel 38-39 contains only a suggestion that retaliation against Gog’s Magog-base in the north is involved (cf. Ezek. 39:6).
29 Similarly, the consummation of the kingdom is presented as the direct consequence of the equivalent crisis episodes of Gog-Magog in Ezekiel 38-39, the king of the north in Daniel 11-12, and the universal gathering against Jerusalem in Zechariah 14.
30 Cf. Kerux 7:3 (December 1992), p. 42.
31 Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 18.
32 Cf. Isa. 2:2; Dan. 2:35; and, in Zech. 2:6 , the Lord’s promise to spread his kingdom people to the four winds of heaven.
33 The synonymous parallelism is missed in the usual translations (which also lose the connection with Num. 10:33, 34). “Your resting place” and “ark of your strength” are obviously equivalent, and the personal pronoun ‘atta, “you”, in the second half functions resumptively for the remainder of the first half, i.e., for the verb and vocative. (This stylistic feature can be shown to resolve perplexities in a number of passages, as I hope to show elsewhere.) “From” is, of course, an attested meaning of the preposition la.
34 Cf. Kerux 5:3 (December 1990), pp. 13, 14.
35 Cf. Kerux 10:3 (December 1995), p. 18.
36 On this see my Kingdom Prologue, pp. 22, 23.
37 Cf. my Images of the Spirit, p. 111.