Zechariah 5-8

Interesting. Okay. So these chapters are further encouragement to Israel regarding their restoration, promising judgment on their enemies, and compelling them to be better than their fathers. I didn’t find much to really hang on to here, to be honest, but there’s one thing about chapter 6 that got my attention.

There are four chariots: one pulled by black horses, one pulled by white horse, one pulled by red horses, and… this is where it starts getting weird. The translation I’m using, the ESV, calls them dappled horses. Others call them grisled bay, grisled and bay, strong spotted… there’s actually a lot of variation here. And in some translations, like the ESV, the adjective strong is applied to all the horses: — all of them strong. In others, the fourth horses are the only ones described as strong. The Faithlife Study Bible actually suggests that the description strong means that they are especially spotted.

That is a LOT of variation.

I only know this because I wondered what happened to the red horses. The black horses go north. The white horses follow them, and the dappled horses go south. The red horses aren’t mentioned at all.

Reading the ESV, vs 7 follows this up with “When the strong horses came out, they were impatient to go and patrol the earth.” This reading, with the earlier application of “strong” to all the horses, implies they were all impatient to go their assigned ways.

But I found a blog that suggested that maybe this separation of dappled/grisled/spotted and strong actually suggests that they are two separate groups of horses.

I don’t know that this clarifies anything. I rather think it muddies it further. Now you don’t just have missing red horses but you have extra “strong” horses.

Did I work it out? Did I collate the various interpretations and come up with a logical explanation that satisfies me?

Nope. Not at all.

You know what I honestly think is going on here? Language issues. Translation between languages and across time has created some confusion. I’m okay with that.

I know some people would/will be very upset by the very suggestion that the Bible is not perfect. The Spirit inspired the writing and will have guarded the translations throughout history.

Yes. I do actually believe that. However, I don’t necessarily believe that means down to the letter, to the word. I believe the message was inspired, the intent, the point. I believe that was protected. I do not believe there is a “perfect” translation available. If there were, anyone studying any other translation would not be studying “The Bible.”

I believe that the Spirit moves through us as we read as much as she moved through those working on translations, those writing the original manuscripts. I also believe she is just as capable of teaching us through confusion as through clarity.

Do you know my response to a passage that seems to clearly suffer from errant translations? I marvel that the message still comes through. I marvel that the rest of the scripture, compiled over centuries, preserved through centuries, millennia, is coherent. Somehow, miraculously, we have a single narrative, a tapestry of letters and literature, that carries one message, that allows us to know one God.

Errors do not invalidate the work. To me, it shows the age, proves the distance it has endured. Does your faith hang on color of horses in a single vision that held a contextual message? That the message was given, received, understood, and relayed is what is relevant in this passage. That God is the Lord of Hosts, commander of the powers and judge of nations is what is important.

But, I’ll be honest, I still want to know where the red horses went…

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