Today’s vision of 4 chariots coming out from between 2 bronze mountains risks premature association with ‘the four horsemen of the apocalypse’ from the Revelation to John. These are 4 teams of horses, each a matched team of one distinct colour: red, black, white, and dappled grey. They patrol the earth, on behalf of God, in each of the 4 directions of the compass.
(Revelation gives us 4 individual horses with individual riders, often associated with death, disease, economic crisis, and war.)
What does ‘north’ mean from Zechariah’s point of view? Despite my poor humour last week, it does seem that ‘flee from the land of the north’ does not mean Santa coming from the North Pole. Refugees returning from the Tigris and Euphrates exile, over the top of the desert, then south from Syria, might be intended. (‘People of the land’, the remnant of Israel around Bethel, might be a second guess, generally considered a weaker argument. )
Zechariah’s errand from God looks to me like a ‘development officer’ or ‘bagman’ raising money from donors, targeting specific rich patrons to sponsor key costs related to the crown and the temple. Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah may have been big names in their time – part of the elite exiled, successful in Babylon, and choosing to return to Jerusalem.
Have you known 20th century refugees to North America, returning to former soviet states after 1989? Having prospered here, and maintained language skills, this crowd is peculiarly positioned to prosper. Bata, Soros, Ignatieff might be familiar names like Heldai, Tobjah, and Jediah.
Zechariah 6 (NRSV)
1 And again I looked up and saw four chariots coming out from between two mountains— mountains of bronze.
2The first chariot had red horses, the second chariot black horses,
3the third chariot white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled grey* horses.
4Then I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’
5The angel answered me, ‘These are the four winds* of heaven going out, after presenting themselves before the LORD of all the earth.
6The chariot with the black horses goes towards the north country, the white ones go towards the west country,* and the dappled ones go towards the south country.’
7When the steeds came out, they were impatient to get off and patrol the earth. And he said, ‘Go, patrol the earth.’ So they patrolled the earth.
8Then he cried out to me, ‘Lo, those who go towards the north country have set my spirit at rest in the north country.’
9 The word of the LORD came to me:
10Collect silver and gold* from the exiles— from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah— who have arrived from Babylon; and go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah .
11Take the silver and gold and make a crown,* and set it on the head of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak;
12say to him: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Here is a man whose name is Branch: for he shall branch out in his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.
13It is he that shall build the temple of the LORD; he shall bear royal honour, and shall sit and rule on his throne. There shall be a priest by his throne, with peaceful understanding between the two of them.
14And the crown* shall be in the care of Heldai,* Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah* son of Zephaniah, as a memorial in the temple of the LORD.
15 Those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD; and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.