Zechariah’s Visions: Horns and Carpenters

“Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 1:18-19)

Immediately after seeing the horsemen that were sent to determine the state of the earth, Zechariah observes four “horns” amid the myrtle trees. Zechariah is told that they represent the authorities responsible for scattering the people of the two nations of Judah and Israel, destroying Jerusalem in the process as well.

The image of horns usually refers to empires in other passages of Scripture. The horns of the goats in Daniel 7 and 8 and the horns of the seven-headed dragon used in Revelation 13 and 17 are good examples. Zechariah may have understood this specific vision as a reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image recorded in Daniel 2. We would identify those horns as Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. It is possible that the previous empires of Egypt and Assyria would have been included, but the context does not specify.

The purpose of this vision seems to lie in the task of the four carpenters that appear following the horns (Zechariah 1:20). The Hebrew could be better undersood by our words “craftsmen” or “artisans” since they were assigned the task to “fray [terrify] them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it” (Zechariah 1:21).

Even though human history seems to creep by, God will execute His plans for all nations. God’s sovereignty has “determined the times before appointed” (Acts 17:26) and He has often assured us that His Word “shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). HMM III

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