THE GENTILE HORNS OF A JEWISH DILEMMA (ZECHARIAH 1:18-21)

The discipline of God upon the nation of Israel does not invalidate the promises God made to them. In fact, the discipline and judgments prescribed for Israel are in keeping with the promises of God in His relationship to Israel. The judgments do not negate the promises to bless Israel but establish the need that Israel has for the messianic promises set forth in Zechariah. Zechariah sets for the principles that undergird the eventual restoration of national Israel in fulfillment of the covenant promises given to Israel.

DISCIPLINE MANDATED IS IN ACCORD WITH THE PROMISES OF GOD TO ISRAEL

The LORD used gentile nations and their leaders to discipline His people Israel for breaking the terms of the Mosaic covenant as stipulated in the Mosaic covenant.

“But, if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you….[1] The Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them. And you shall be a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.”[2]

RETRIBUTION PRESCRIBED IS IN ACCORD WITH THE PROMISES OF GOD TO ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS 

According to the “four horns and four craftsmen” vision in Zechariah 1:18-21, the LORD promises to bring retribution upon those nations and people that go beyond the discipline ordered by the LORD. Those nations and people who persecute and otherwise mistreat Israel, the Lord judges in accord with the manner and degree which those nations afflicted the people and the land of Israel.[3] The progress and decline of nations are linked, in part, to their relationship to the land and people of Israel as stated in the Abrahamic covenant: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse….”

  • The “four horns” represent the nations throughout the history of Israel that have “scattered” and otherwise brought suffering to “Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”

“…these are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”[4]

“…these are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head.”[5]

  • The “four craftsmen” represent the retribution designed for each of those nations for their part in harming the people and the land of Israel.

“And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little [for Israel], they [the gentile nations] furthered the disaster.”[6]

“And these [craftsmen] have come to terrify them [horns], to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it.” [7]

The retribution prescribed for the nations represented in the four craftsmen does not mean that God has rejected the nations forever. Zechariah shows that the restoration of Israel will bring blessing to the other nations of the world in keeping with the terms set forth in the Abrahamic covenant: “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”[8] These blessings to Israel and the nations are in keeping with the messianic program of God as set forth in the OT, Zechariah in particular.

The judgments prescribed by God upon Israel and the nations do not negate the promise to bless Israel, but establishes the need that Israel and the world have for the coming of the Messiah to redeem Israel and mankind from sin and judgment. Understanding the circumstances of the call, fall, and rise of Israel give reason to trust in the God who makes and keeps His promises.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Dt 28:15.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Dt 28:25.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ge 12:3.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Zec 1:19.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Zec 1:21.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Zec 1:15.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Zec 1:21.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Ge 12:3.