posted on Dec, 9 2016 @ 05:07 PM
The empire founded by the Medes and their Persian allies went through a time of crisis after the death of Cambyses.
We know that Cambyses led his armies into the conquest of Egypt.
According to the “official story” (as provided by Darius later), he made a point of killing his brother Bardes first.
While he was in Egypt, a man called Gaumata, but claiming to be Bardes, launched a rebellion and claimed the throne for himself. Cambyses hurried home
from Egypt, when he heard the news, but he died at some point on the way back.
A group of Persian nobles killed Gaumata and placed Darius on the throne instead.
(The “conspiracy theory” version would be that Gaumata really was Bardes, and that the official story masks a change of dynasty)
Darius had a lot more work to do before he could call his throne secure.
There was an immediate rebellion in Babylon, which had not forgotten being an independent state. Once he had suppressed that rebellion and was
establishing control there, further rebellions broke out in the north among the Medes, in the east among the Bactrians, and among the nomadic tribes
While he was out campaigning in these areas, the Babylonians rebelled again.
Part of the problem was the dubious loyalty of the satraps, or provincial governors, appointed by his predecessors. He needed to assert his control
over them, and his command of the empire was not complete until he had carried this process into Egypt, five years after the crisis began.
This turbulence provides the setting for the opening chapters of Zechariah, beginning with the second year of his reign.
The four horsemen of Zechariah’s first vision had been sent out by the Lord “to patrol the earth”.
They now stand among the myrtle trees, waiting to report back on the information they’ve collected.
“We have patrolled the earth, and behold all the earth remains at rest” (ch1 vv7-11).
This may refer to the time before all the trouble started.
The news makes the angel of the Lord very indignant, because no rest has been given to God’s people in Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah,
“against which thou hast had indignation these seventy years”.
Then the angel himself is able to report the Lord’s response to this complaint;
“I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry [with Jerusalem] but a
little, they furthered the disaster” (vv12-15).
The premise of this reaction is that the peace of the world at large comes at the expense of the peace of Zion.
The Lord promises to restore his people; “The Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem” (v17).
But this can only be done by overturning the peace of the rest of the world, as illustrated in the vision of the horns and the smiths (vv18-21).
Judah had been scattered by the four horns, the power of the four corners of the world.
Therefore God will send the four smiths to break that power, “to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of
Another version of the same promise is provided by the vision of the sixth chapter. The horses of the first chapter are now attached to four chariots.
These instruments of war are “going forth to the four winds of heaven”, to resume the patrolling of the earth.
We must take particular note of the chariot which goes “towards the north country”.
“The north” has a special significance in the writings of the prophets, because all the invading armies (apart from the Egyptians) are coming from
that direction. Thus it comes to represent the source of hostile power.
For this period, “the north country” means the home of Persian authority.
“Behold, those who go towards the north country have set my Spirit at rest in the north country” (v8)
I take this to mean that he is restoring the prosperity of Zion by reversing the conditions of the first chapter.
In the first chapter, the world was resting in a state of peace which was not available to Zion.
In order to give peace back to Zion, it is necessary to overturn the peace of the rest of the world. That is the mission of the four chariots.
So this is the prophetic interpretation of the turbulence now afflicting the Persian empire.
It is God’s way of creating the conditions which will benefit his people.
Persia’s extremity must be Judah’s opportunity.
The opportunity needs to be seized by the two leading figures in Judah.
The first figure is the high priest Joshua. This man has unspecified faults which are serious enough to make him vulnerable to the Accuser.
Yet the Lord’s promise to Joshua is that his iniquity has been taken away from him. If he continues loyal, he will rule God’s house and have
access to God’s court (ch3 vv1-5).
The second figure is the prince Zerubbabel, the governor appointed by the Persians, and also the current representative of the house of David. He
cannot be called “king”, because the Persians would not allow the title, but he would at least have been king-designate in the minds of his
These two men between them, the notional king and the high priest, are the two “olive trees” of the vision of ch4.
They are the two anointed ones, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (ch4 v14).
The Lord wants them to work together.
A couple of months previously, as described in Haggai, they began the project of re-building the Temple.
The Lord now promises that Zerubbabel, who laid the foundation of the house, will be able to complete the work (ch4 v8). He will place the top
The Lord speaks to Joshua and identifies the prince as “my servant the Branch” (ch3 v8).
We can see that he means the prince by comparing the longer message in the sixth chapter.
There the Lord commands a crown to be made and placed on Joshua’s head. He then addresses Joshua, and instructs him to behold someone else, “the
man whose name is the Branch”.
This Branch is the man who will build the Temple of the Lord (a task already promised to Zerubbabel).
He will then rule on the throne, with a priest standing beside the throne, “and peaceful understanding shall be between them both”. Perhaps
meaning “as it has not been previously”? (ch6 vv9-13).
That was how Zion would be restored, taking advantage of the troubles which were diverting the attention of the great nations.
We know that the temple-building project was successful, because the building remained in place in the time of Jesus.
But what about the implied project of proclaiming the Davidic prince as king?
This was clearly foreshadowed in the words of Haggai;
“I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations… On that day I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant the son of Shealtiel, and
make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai ch2 vv22-23).
If this was attempted, it cannot have been successful. We can guess that autonomous action verging on U.D.I. (Unilateral Declaration of Independence)
would not have been tolerated by the Persians.
All we know is that the house of David don’t appear again, even as governors.
Yet the power of the High Priest and the Temple priesthood evidently survived the crisis, re-emerging later as the local authority under alien
There has to be a suspicion that Joshua saved his place from Persian wrath by not fully committing himself to the cause of the prince and the
In other words, his “iniquity” might have got the better of him, after all.