[b-hebrew] Zech 1:19,21

George Athas george.athas at moore.edu.au
Thu Apr 19 21:39:57 EDT 2007

>> The four horns represent the four kingdoms - Babylonia, Persia/Medea,
>> Greece, Rome, - that would persecute Israel, until the final
>> Maschiach; the four carpenters  are the successive conquerers who
>> would conquer these  kingdoms.  The fourth and final conquerer will
>> be Mashiach.
>> Shoshanna
> [Steve Miller]
> Thanks Shoshanna. This is the standard Christian explanation also. I did
> know that it came from Jewish sources

I dare say that there is no 'standard Christian explanation' on this. It
certainly may be a popular explanation, but is by no means the 'standard'
The context of the image is 520 BC (before Greece and Rome). It would seem a
more natural reading of the text to suggest the four horns are symbolic of
international powers in general. Four is often symbolic for 'the whole
world' (cf. the four patrolling horsemen) and 'horns' are symbols of
strength. To identify four specific powers (one for each horn) is, I think,
going beyond the context. You could read four specific powers back into the
image with a few more centuries of hindsight, but this does not seem to be
Zechariah's intention.
In any case, the Persians seems to come out ok in most biblical literature,
including Zechariah. I don't think we can really talk about the Persians
persecuting the post-exilic community. They do not seem to have come
'against the land of Judah to scatter its people' (1.21 [Heb 2.3]). Such a
view would not only go against what we know historically, but would also cut
against the grain of the literature in question. This therefore puts a dent
in the suggestion that Persia is one of the horns.
I think a specific identification of four powers here is influenced by
readings of Daniel. It seems to be trying to get a uniformity of four
historical persecuting entities across all biblical literature which, in my
opinion, steamrolls the particular concerns, motifs, and devices of each
individual book. Furthermore, Daniel represents a more fully-blown
apocalyptic style, while Zech 1-6 is more incipient in it apocalypticism
(proto-apocalyptic?). We have to be careful, then, about our interpretive
methodologies for each respective work.

Best Regards, 

Moore Theological College (Sydney) 
1 King St, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia 
Ph: (+61 2) 9577 9774 


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