5 Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, “Lift your eyes, and see what this is that goes forth.” 6 And I said, “What is it?” He said, “This is the ephah that goes forth.” And he said, “This is their iniquity in all the land.” 7 And behold, the leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the ephah! 8 And he said, “This is Wickedness.” And he thrust her back into the ephah, and thrust down the leaden weight upon its mouth. 9 Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings; they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between earth and heaven. 10 Then I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they taking the ephah?” 11 He said to me, “To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it; and when this is prepared, they will set the ephah down there on its base.” Zech. 5:5-11
In this last of eight visions Zechariah again talks with the same angel we see in the previous visions, the angel of the LORD or Jesus. Zechariah sees four chariots with red, black, white and dapple gray horses “come out” between two bronze mountains.
After presenting themselves before the LORD, the chariots and horses are sent to the “four winds of heaven”. We are told the horses are sent to carry out the LORD’s purposes. They appear to be either active agents of peace and/or somehow oversee in the exile and the gathering of the Jews. These four winds of heaven always have to do with exiling and gathering [Jer 49:36 Eze 37:9; Dan 7:2, 8:8; Matt. 24:31; Rev 7:1ff]
North, west and south of the cardinal compass points are mentioned; however, there is no mention of the direction east.
The red horse of Zechariah’s first vision [Zech 1: 8] has a man identified as the angel of the LORD as its rider. Here, the red horse does not appear to be sent out; but by default seems to patrol Judah.
While we are not told that the chariots and horses carry out any specific tasks beyond patrolling, the colors of the horses might suggest that there may be a reason for the specific color of horse. Red is often symbolic of war or bloodshed, black of death, white of righteousness and strength, and dappled gray of pestilence.
FYI : Chariots with horses have been referred to in war and in judgment on nations [Is 66:15; Jer. 47:3, 50:37; Ezek. 23:24, 26:7-10; Joel 2:5].
The chariot with the black horse is mentioned as going towards the north. The north, clearly this is associated with Babylon[Is. 14:13; Jer. 6:1,22]. To get there, you must go north through Damascus; crossing the Syrian desert is not an option. This horse has accomplished its mission to bring the angel’s Spirit to rest; Babylon was indeed at rest at this point.
The chariot with the white horse is mentioned next as going towards the west. There is no empire or nation to the west of Judah. In fact, west is in the Mediterranean Sea. The sea at the time of Zechariah was for all extent and purposes the realm of the Phoenician/Canaanites. They ran their large trading empire out of Tyre. But all this was going to change as the Greeks rise to power. Alexander the Great took Tyre in one of the most famous battles in history. Tyre was in two parts, a mainland town and an Island of the coast of Lebanon. Alexander’s men dismantled the mainland town and built a causeway out to the Island taking 7 months to do so. The island part has never been inhabited since. After this defeat the Phoenician moved their center of operations to Carthage (North Africa). What remained of the people of Tyre, rebuilt their city a little north of the old, as the causeway changed the currents and made the area around what had been Tyre to shallow. The New Tyre continued to be an important shipping center until the Muslims arrived.
The chariot with the dapple horse is mentioned as going toward the south. The south has been traditionally associated with Egypt and at this time was ruled by the Medio-Persians.
There is no horse that patrols to the east; the east was primarily the Syrian desert. The LORD comes from this direction at His “second coming” and heads to the Temple Mount.
The two mountains stand as sentinels, which the chariots with their horses come from between. These mountains are reminiscent of Mt. Ebal, the mountain of the curse, and Mt. Gerizim, the mountain of blessing [Deut 27-29]. This may be a reminder of Deuteronomy 30 where the blessing and curses have been presented to the Israelites in the Sinai desert to choose which path they would take. The LORD reminds the people of Judah with the imagery of the two mountains that they are in the land after the judgment for choosing the curse.
…”I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you this day, God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you…… then the LORD your God will restore you…. bring you into the land which your fathers possessed…. make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers… and the LORD your God will put all these curses upon your foes and enemies who persecuted you….” from Deut. 30
It is a reminder of the choice between life and death. This is also where they are prophetically, being brought back into the land after 70 years punishment because of idolatry. This is a reminder that there is far more judgment to come. They will be at the will of the other bestial nations 2520 year.
The horses that went to the north country have caused the angel of the LORD’s Spirit to be at rest. In the previous chapter we saw the ephah return to Babylon. The wickedness of paganism and idolatry has been returned to the plains of Shinar. The LORD’s Spirit is at rest as His will was accomplished there; idolatry never returned to Judah. The city itself has begun its long decline under the Medio-Persian Empire. For a short time Alexander the Great will start to rebuild the great how-be-it long neglected city. When the Romans come into the area the city is nothing but a ruin, forgotten by the ebb and flow of the Empires.
The eight visions of Zechariah have been a reminder that that those who have returned from Babylon. While they have returned to the land, their return is conditional. It must be met with continual repentance and renewal of their sacred covenants. The Temple will be rebuilt, the priesthood restored, and Jerusalem will once again prosper. But always under the thumb of one Empire after another. Till 1948.
Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. Dan. 12:12