Vision #2: The Hammering Of The Horns! Judgment Against The Oppressive Gentile Nations – Zechariah 1:18-21


The “time of the Gentiles” will not last forever. In their pride and false sense of security, they judge themselves to be impenetrable. They have spread terror among God’s people in scattering and oppressing them and obliterating all hope of deliverance. But God will terrorize them and ultimately overthrow their sovereignty to establish His own righteous reign.


I. (:18-19) THE FOUR HORNS

  1. The Vision: “Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there were four horns

Mackay: There seems to be no break from the first vision as Zechariah proceeds.

  1. The Question: “So I said to the angel who was speaking with me, ‘What are these?’

Lindsey: A horn when used symbolically indicates invincible strength (cf. Micah 4:13) or often a Gentile king who represents his kingdom (Dan. 7:24; Rev. 17:12). Here the four horns symbolize proud Gentile powers. . .

Mackay: How this arose can easily be seen, in that the horn is used by the animal to defend itself and also to attack. It is the horn that is displayed as a trophy when the hunter has captured a wild beast.

  1. The Answer Given by the Interpreting Angel: “And he answered me, ‘These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.’

Mackay: The unusual order in which Judah, Israel and Jerusalem are mentioned has given rise to much speculation. One might have expected Israel to be mentioned before Judah in that the Northern Kingdom with its capital at Samaria was overthrown earlier in 722 B.C.

Laetsch: Judah is the tribal name, Israel, the honorable name of the nation chosen by the Lord (Gen. 32:24-30); and Jerusalem, the seat of God’s dwelling; a climax indicating the wickedness of the enemy who opposed and sought to destroy not merely a sister nation, but God’s people, Jehovah’s own city, a blasphemous crime.


  1. The Vision: “Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen
  2. The Question: “I said ‘What are these coming to do?’
  3. The Answer Given by the Interpreting Angel
    1. The Culpability of the Gentile Nations — Review of the Vision of the Horns: “These are the horns which have scattered Judah so that no man lifts up his head

Mackay: The picture of being unable to raise the head is one of utter conquest and subjugation (Judg. 8:28).

    1. The Sovereign Conquest of the Gentile Nations: “but these craftsmen have come to terrify them, to throw down the horns of the nations who have lifted up their horns against the land of Judah in order to scatter it.


  1. Note other passages in the Bible where the figure of a “horn” signifies political authority and power.
  2. How can these Gentile nations be held accountable by God if they were used as His instrument to judge rebellious Israel?
  3. Why do we believe that the present scattering of the Jewish people is not a permanent situation?
  4. What does the figure of craftsmen signify in this passage?


MacArthur: four horns — Horns were symbols of power and pride (cf. Pss 75:10; 89:17; 92:10; Da 7:24; 8:20, 21; Mic 4:13). In the context of judgment each symbolizes either a nation or the head of that nation (cf. Da 7:21, 24; 8:3; Rev 17:12). Here the horns represent nations that attacked God’s people (vv. 19, 21), referring either to Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and Medo-Persia or perhaps, more likely, to the 4 world empires of Da 2:7: Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, all of which oppressed Israel.

MacArthur: four craftsmen – The word is literally the term for stoneworkers, metal workers, and wood workers – those who shape material with hammers and chisels. These “hammers” represent the nations which overthrow the 4 horns (v 18). As with the 4 beasts of Da 7, each empire is overthrown by the subsequent one, the last being replaced by Messiah’s kingdom (cf. Da 2:44; 7:9-14, 21, 22). Babylon was hammered in a night attack by the Medo-Persians (539 B.C.). With the victory of Alexander over Darius in 333 B.C. at Issus, the Greeks hammered the Medo-Persian “horn.” In the second century B.C., the Roman hammer fell and one by one the nations fell (Israel in 63 B.C.) The Roman Empire, revived in the last days, according to Daniel, will be hammered by the returning Messiah (cf. Da 2: 34, 35, 45).

Lindsey: It seems better either to regard the number four as a number of completeness, the totality of Israel’s opposition, or to refer the four horns to four nations that had scattered Israel before Zechariah saw the vision (perhaps Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Medo-Persia). [because of the past tense in 1:19]

Merrill: The connections between this vision and the first are also striking. It is clear that the fact that there were four horses in vision one and four horns and four craftsmen in this one is significant.256 The implied hostility of the nations in vision one (vv. 12, 15) is explicit in vision two (vv. 19, 21). Finally, just as the horses of the first vision were YHWH’s instruments of dominion over all the earth (vv. 10, 11), so the four craftsmen reduce the nations to defeat (v. 21).

Keathley: The first horn is Babylon. Babylon takes over Judah, but what does Nebuchadnezzar do? He is told that he is the head of gold on the statue, but he likes the idea of being the whole statue, so he builds a golden statue. Then what does God do with the head of gold? He makes it go eat grass. Belshazzar comes along and likes all the treasure from the temple in Jerusalem and decides to throw a party. God writes on the wall and says, “you have been measured, found wanting and deserving of destruction.” Along comes the first craftsman. The first craftsman is Persia. Then Greece and finally Rome.

The whole point is that the horns are the Gentile nations that come along to discipline Israel, and the craftsmen come along to discipline the Gentile nations who became arrogant in their domination. You would almost think God was in control.

Spurgeon: And then he finds the right men; not four gentlemen with pens to write; not four architects to draw plans, but four mechanics to do rough work. He who wants to open an oyster, must not use a razor: there needs less of daintiness, and more of force, for some works: providence does not find gentlemen to cut off the horns, but carpenters. The work needs a man who, when he has his work to do, puts his whole strength into it, and beats away with his hammer, or cuts through the wood that lays before him with might and main. Rest assured, you who tremble for the ark of God, that when the horns grow troublesome, the carpenters will be found.