1In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, this word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo:
The prophecy: of Zechariah is extremely enigmatic, because it contains visions resembling a dream that requires an interpretation. We cannot ascertain the truth of its interpretation until the teacher of righteousness comes. Nonetheless, I will put my heart to reconciling the verses, one by one, according to the interpretations that resemble it and following the interpretation of Jonathan .
In the eighth month: Before they commenced resuming the work of the construction, for they commenced it on the twenty-fourth day of the [ninth] month.
Dreams and visions in the scripture are of very limited use for prophecy. It is difficult enough when spoken directly by the Lord and indirectly by the word of the Lord. Dreams and visions have to be interpreted in view of the prophet, when and where he lived, his audience and the purposes G-d may have had outside of prophecy.
2The Lord was very angry with your fathers.
with your fathers: who were in the generation of the destruction of the Temple.
with your fathers: the generation known as the Babylon exiles. This includes the exiles that were already in Assyria of all of the twelve tribes according to the words of the Lord through Isaiah. Not just the last exiles deported from the Kingdom of Judah.
3Say to them further: Thus said the Lord of Hosts: Turn back to me—says the Lord of Hosts—and I will turn back to you—said the Lord of Hosts. 4Do not be like your fathers! For when the earlier prophets called to them, “Thus said the Lord of Hosts: Come, turn back from your evil ways and your evil deeds, they did not obey or give heed to Me—declares the Lord. 5Where are your fathers now? And did the prophets live forever?
[As for] your fathers – where are they?: See that they suffered an evil blow, with famine, with the sword, and with pestilence.
But the prophets – do they live forever?: And if you ask, “the prophets, too where are they? Have they not died?” I [God] will answer you, “Should the prophets have lived forever?” But their end proves that their words were true; for all My words, and the declarations of the decrees of My retribution that I commanded My servants, the prophets, concerning you – did they not overtake your fathers?
Where are your fathers now?: They are scattered throughout Assyria.
6But the warnings and the decrees with which I charged My servants the prophets overtook your fathers—did they not?—and in the end they had to admit, ‘The Lord has dealt with us according to our ways and our deeds, just as He purposed.’”
7On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month of the second year of Darius—the month of Shebat—this word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo: 8In the night, I had a vision. I saw a man, mounted on a bay horse, standing among the myrtles in the Deep, and behind him were bay, sorrel, and white horses.
I saw tonight: Our Sages explained [this phrase as] they explained [it] in the Aggadah of the chapter entitled “ Helek ” (Sanh. 93a), but the sequence of the chapter and the language do not fit it.
and behold! A man: an angel.
on a red horse: This is an allusion that He would exact retribution upon the Chaldeans, Media, and Persia with the sword and with blood, as He says (verse 15 below): “And I was very wroth with the nations.”
and after him were red, etc., horses: prepared for the mission of the Omnipresent. That there were among them [horses of] many sorts of colors was a [means of] praise for him.
black: do not know what color this is. Jonathan rendered קְוָחִין.
among the myrtles that were in the pool: Among the myrtle trees of Babylon.
In the night, I had a vision: There is a man on a horse in the myrtles. The angel of the Lord is standing in the myrtles. A man is standing in the myrtles. The Lord is there but His presence and place unknown. Zechariah has an angel with him who is like a guide and interpreter and reminds me of myself and the spirit of the Holy G-d. The Deep is like a valley Zechariah is looking down on filled with myrtle trees and then an open area below that where the bay, sorrel and red horses are. This sets the scene of the vision and the actors.
9I asked, “What are those, my lord?” And the angel who talked with me answered, “I will let you know what they are.”
And I said: to one angel who showed me all this.
“What are these, my lord?”: He was the one riding on the red horse.
What are those, my lord?: Zechariah is asking about the horses in the open area to his angel guide.
10Then the man who was standing among the myrtles spoke up and said, “These were sent out by the Lord to roam the earth.”
to walk to and fro on the earth: To see the tranquility of the nations.
Then the man who was standing among the myrtles spoke up and said: The man standing in the myrtles answers the question of Zechariah to his angel guide.
11And in fact, they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtles, “We have roamed the earth, and have found all the earth dwelling in tranquility.”
Rashi: no commentary
they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtles: They who reported are the horses who have gone to and fro throughout the earth and they spoke the report to the angel of the Lord. The horses speaking that all is tranquil means a vast area was covered so horses are used instead of men. It could have been a flock of birds in the myrtles but G-d chose horses. The report seems to be that there were no battles being waged in the territory of the Babylon exiles and the land of Israel based on the rest of the chapter. It also appears that the angel of the Lord is the man standing among the myrtles.
12Thereupon the angel of the Lord exclaimed, “O Lord of Hosts! How long will You withhold pardon from Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, which You placed under a curse seventy years ago?”
And the angel of the Lord replied: The angel that was speaking to me.
O Lord of Hosts! How long will You withhold pardon from Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, which You placed under a curse seventy years ago: We know that the Babylon exile was prophesied by G-d to be seventy years, that G-d did a “new thing” in forgiving the sins of all of the exiles and that Cyrus of Persia declared that all of the twelve tribes who wanted to return to build the second Temple could freely travel to Jerusalem into the land of Israel and begin construction. All of this is written in the book of Isaiah long before it happened. So we already know the answer is “right now” and all is pardoned (all sins of the people Israel forgiven by G-d). This story re-runs with the “new covenant” of sin forgiveness that arrives with Elijah and the angel of the covenant after the exiles of the Roman dispersal return to the land of Israel to rebuild the third Temple that G-d will return to “quickly”. All of this is written in the book of Malachi.
13The Lord replied with kind, comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
And the Lord answered the angel who was speaking to me, good words: Not that the prophet heard what He answered [the angel], but from what the angel said to him, “Proclaim, saying, ‘I am jealous etc.,’” I know that He answered him good words.
The Lord replied with kind, comforting words to the angel who talked with me: Zechariah does not say he did not understand the words. The Lord had spoken the words to his angel guide and does not speak to Zechariah. Words in response to when will the Lord pardon the exiles and allow their return to Jerusalem. He may have said “I forgive them of all of their sins and I still love them very much”.
14Then the angel who talked with me said to me: “Proclaim! Thus said the Lord of Hosts: I am very jealous for Jerusalem—for Zion—
I am jealous for Jerusalem: I am exacting the retribution [for] the cause of Jerusalem from those who oppress her.
Then the angel who talked with me said to me: “Proclaim! Thus said the Lord of Hosts: This is like the spirit of G-d knowing from the words spoken to him by the Lord what he should have Zechariah say. The Lord of hosts did not say to Zechariah proclaim the following words of the Lord. This is an example of the scripture phrase “the word of the Lord came to me” and it is the spirit guide who is telling the man what to say the Lord said.
15and I am very angry with those nations that are at ease; for I was only angry a little, but they overdid the punishment.
that are at ease: Concerning whom these [messengers] say that they sit still and are at rest.
for I was wroth: with My people, a little.
and they helped to do harm: In addition to the wrath, [they helped] to do harm.
and I am very angry with those nations that are at ease; for I was only angry a little, but they overdid the punishment: G-d feels that the nations (gentiles) should realize He is unhappy with their treatment of the exiles and now G-d is angry at them.
16Assuredly, thus said the Lord: I graciously return to Jerusalem. My House shall be built in her—declares the Lord of Hosts—the measuring line is being applied to Jerusalem.
and a plumb line shall be stretched out: to measure its wall, its length and breadth.
I graciously return to Jerusalem: G-d says in the book of Isaiah that He forgives the exiles of all of their sins because they have made Him look bad as His chosen people and they have been punished for all to see. “9For the sake of My name I control My wrath; To My own glory, I am patient with you, And I will not destroy you. 10See, I refine you, but not as silver; I test you in the furnace of affliction. 11For My sake, My own sake, do I act—Lest [My name] be dishonored! I will not give My glory to another.” Isaiah 48/9-11 Tanakh JPS 1985. He forgives them and returns to them in Jerusalem as they build His Temple again for His dwelling place.
17Proclaim further: Thus said the Lord of Hosts: My towns shall yet overflow with bounty. For the Lord will again comfort Zion; He will choose Jerusalem again.”