Our reading today begins with a vision by the prophet Zechariah. This continues the vision from chapter 4. Here, he sees a flying scroll (5:1). The angel (see 4:1) tells Zechariah that this scroll is a curse (v. 3). Note that the scroll has writing on both sides: on one side is written curses against thieves, and on the other curses against liars. The “cleaned out” (ESV) means “purged” – it is a pronouncement of judgment. This is likely the same scroll of judgment that Ezekiel sees (see Ezek 2:9-10) and that is fulfilled by the Lamb in Revelation (see Rev 5:1). The scroll pictures the final judgment in all of these passages.
Zechariah then sees a basket (vv. 5-6). in the basket is a woman (v. 7) who represents wickedness (v. 8). The two women in verse 9 are a picture of the Holy Spirit (“wind” can be translated “spirit” – see Ezek 37). The Spirit will bring wickedness to Shinar (v. 11). This is Babel (see Gen 10:10, 11:2, 9) which becomes Babylon. This is picturing the wickedness of spiritual Babylon (see Rev 17:5).
Chapter 6 continues the vision. Zechariah sees four chariots riding between two bronze mountains (6:1). This is similar to the vision of 1:7-17 – the variously colored horses, the number four, the valley (or place between two mountains). Additionally, these horses also patrol the earth (v. 7 – see 1:10). Angels are again being represented (see Rev 7:1). The “going out to” in verse 5 should be “going out from.” The angels traverse heaven and earth. The north is cosmic north (heaven) and the south is cosmic south (earth) (v. 6). The dappled and strong horses (see v. 3 – the “strong” refers to the dappled horses) who head south are those that patrol the earth (v. 7). God’s Spirit is at rest in heaven (v. 8) as opposed to the nations that are sinfully at rest on the earth (see 1:15) that are symbolized by Babylon (see 5:11).
In verses 9-11, Zechariah is told to perform an act prophecy. He is to make a crown of precious metals and set it on the head of Joshua the High Priest (v. 11). Like in chapter 3, Joshua is again symbolic of the church: the priests of God in Christ, the true High Priest. He is also prefigured in that the High Priest is crowned the king. We see that Christ is in view because of the reference to the Branch (see 3:8). He (Christ) will build the Temple (the church – see Matt 16:18) and sit as King (v. 13). And yet, those whom He calls will help build the Temple through obedience to Him (v. 15). This is the mission of the church.
In chapter 7, we see men of Bethel come to Zechariah to ask if they should “weep and abstain” in the fifth month as they had been doing since the exile (7:1-3). This weeping and abstaining in the fifth month was a religious ritual that was adopted after the fall of Jerusalem as an annual commemoration. When God answers, He adds a fast in the seventh month (v. 5), which commemorated the murder of Gedaliah (see 2 Kings 25:22-25). God asks rhetorically why they observed these rituals: for Him or for themselves (vv. 5-6)? These outward rituals did not honor God, which God made clear through the prophets before the exile (v. 7). So God repeats Himself: He wants an offering of justice and kindness (vv. 9-10 – see Mic 6:8, Jer 5:28). It was a refusal to heed the warnings of these prophets that resulted in God’s forsaking of them and the captivity (vv. 11-14).
In chapter 8, God appears to Zechariah (8:1). The jealousy God has for Zion reflects His desire to be her only God, and the wrath is what He feels against her enemies (v. 2). Zion and Jerusalem are the spiritual people of God, in whom He dwells (v. 3). The old men and women symbolize peace and life (v. 4) and the boys and girls playing picture joy (v. 5). That this is the spiritual people of God is shown that God will bring them from east and west to dwell in Jerusalem (vv. 7-8). That He will be their God and they will be His people is now for those of the New Covenant (see Jer 31:33).
In verse 9, the physical Temple points to the spiritual Temple. The remnant (v. 11) is the spiritual remnant among the physical people. They will possess the blessings of God (v. 12) and be blessings (v. 13). They will not be judged like the physical people (vv. 14-15). It is the spiritual remnant that will do justice and kindness to each other (v. 16 – see 7:9-10). What caused mourning for the physical people will bring joy to the spiritual remnant (v. 19) who will come from the whole world (v. 20). God will be sought by all nations (vv. 21-22) who will join themselves to the believing Jewish remnant (v. 23).