Zechariah 1:18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
19 And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
20 And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
21 Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.
God continued to speak to Ezekiel by some interesting visions. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This is not true of most pictures and God does not use pictures instead of words but He used them at times with words.
Horns in the Bible are often used to symbolize power. There were four horns on four corners of the brazen altar. They were used to fasten the animal onto the altar as it was being burned as a sacrifice to the Lord. Joab would later take hold of the horns of the altar in the hope that his life would be spared in doing so. King Solomon ordered him to be killed right there while holding onto those horns. Horns were also used as a means of drawing attention to an invasion or to call the people together for instructions.
In our text we see that Ezekiel was not sure what the purpose of these horns was. The angel stated that these horns were used to scatter Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. They were used to symbolize the power of the Babylonians whom God used to scatter the Jews of Judah. Jerusalem was also altered greatly with the Babylonian invasion. The temple was destroyed and the gold taken from it. The vessels that were to be used in the service of the temple were also taken to Babylon. Belshazzar would later use some of them in a drunken party he set up. This would be his downfall and lead to his death. The walls of Jerusalem were also torn down in large part. Jerusalem became a desolate place that was overrun by wild animals. It was a shocking change that took place.
Babylon was not that powerful, but they were given the power to invade and conquer Judah and Jerusalem by God.
In verse 20 Ezekiel saw four carpenters. Carpenters usually build or repair buildings or other things. Joseph was a carpenter. Ezekiel wanted to know the purpose of these carpenters.
In verse 21 God reminded him that the horns were used to scatter Judah to the point where Judah was greatly humiliated and shamed. They were discouraged because they had lost their homeland. They had long ago lost the significance of Jerusalem and the temple. The temple had become a status symbol but it was not a place to meet with God. They were too invested in idolatry to appreciate the importance of the temple. Now the temple was destroyed so they could not even look at it in their pagan ways.
The word translated as “fray” means “to terrorize.” Carpenters use saws and hammers and planes to shape and prepare to build things. They sometimes need to tear down the old and rotten in preparation for building new. In this context, the carpenters would be used to terrorize the enemies of God.
The text tells us they would cast out the horns of the Gentiles. They were not going to terrorize the Jews, but they were going to chase away the enemies of the Jews. In order for the rebuilding of the walls and the temple, there needed to be some peace in the land. God would set the conditions for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He would put the fear of God into the enemies of God once again. For many years no nation had dared to attack Judah because they knew it would be disaster for them. However, as Judah became more pagan, God began to spank them by sending enemies to pick away at the borders of the land. Eventually He would bring the Babylonians right into Jerusalem to destroy it. This was quite a shock to the nation but it was something that God had warned them of.
Now after their seventy years of exile, God was bringing the people back again. The walls needed to be rebuilt. Nehemiah wrote about that work. The temple needed to be rebuilt. Ezra and Haggai wrote about that.
We see here as well that the word “horn” is in reference to power. It is the power of the enemies of God. They had moved and scattered the Jews. Now the carpenters were going to chase these Gentiles out of the land. Israel was given some reprieve from their enemies. They did not appreciate this and so they did not enjoy the peace and freedom that God would have wanted to give them.
However, they would be reminded of the blessing they could have if they would turn back to God.
Today, Israel still needs to be reminded of the need to turn back to God. They are facing some severe challenges right now. They are better off yet now than they were during the Second World War. They had no means of defending themselves then. Many were taken to concentration camps and to gas chambers to be killed. That was a sad and dangerous time for the Jews. They are facing enemies now, but they have some weapons and some help from a few nations. This will likely change shortly. God is helping them but they do not appreciate this at present.
The greatest need Israel has is the need to turn to God in repentance. They need to see the true God as their help.
Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
The Psalmist understood where he needed to go for help. He found help in the LORD. Israel needs to be brought to the place where they will look to the same LORD for help as well. According to the Bible, they will need to struggle for a time yet before the nation will bow before the true God. There are individual Jews getting saved, but the majority are still stubbornly rejecting God.
The same problem exists for the Gentile world. They will never turn to God as a people, but individual Gentiles are being saved. There is a great need for more to be saved before it is eternally too late. God’s clock is ticking. It never loses any time. It is right on schedule. It is important to listen to the truth and know the true God now. That is the way of blessing and hope.