Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
This chapter has been considered somewhat of an enigma by commentators for centuries. Even Luther said, "In this chapter, I surrender, for I am not certain of what the prophet treats." Of Zechariah 14:3, Adam Clarke stated that, "This is an obscure place." After pointing out conflicting interpretations, Pusey could not decide between them, "Leaving the truth of the time (prophesied) to the judgment of the Lord." The critical scholars admit all kinds of difficulties and propose various emendations, excisions, rearrangements and interpolations as solutions. We do not consider the chapter to be more than ordinarily difficult.
Several keys to unlocking the mystery of prophetic writings are available to the student of the scriptures. One of these is the device of answering multiple questions with one answer, a device used by Jesus in that great 24th chapter of Matthew where the subject under discussion is exactly the same as the theme of Zechariah here, "the destruction of Jerusalem (and the temple)," and "the time of the end of the world" (Matthew 24:3). Jesus' reply comprises the whole subsequent chapter, in which he clearly indicated that Jerusalem the literal city would be destroyed, making it at the same time a type of events of final world conflict and the Second Coming of Christ. Many of the things Jesus said describe both events. For example, "this generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:34) has a double application derived from the double meaning of "generation." In the case of the destruction of Jerusalem, it referred to the life-span of an ordinary generation (forty years); but in the case of the Second Coming, it meant that "the generation" or "posterity" of Abraham would not perish until the end of time. A dozen other examples of the same thing are seen in that single chapter.
There is such a resemblance between this chapter in Zechariah and that of Matthew 24, that it is safe to suppose that Jesus' words in the New Testament may actually be understood, partially, as an expansion and elaboration of this very prophecy.
Another key to understanding the prophecies regards such expressions as "last days" and "the day of the Lord," as used by the inspired apostles and prophets of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. The scholarly distinction between eschatology and the entire Christian dispensation cannot possibly be correct. Peter identified the preaching of the gospel on Pentecost as pertaining to "the last day"; and the pedantic device of writing that off as Peter's mistake is nothing but a means of concealing their own error. It is not Peter who was mistaken on Pentecost, but the eschatologists who have failed to see that everything, absolutely everything, in the whole Christian dispensation belongs to the "last days," or to "the day of the Lord." Paul likewise referred to this period as "the ends of the ages" (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Thus, it is that men fail to see that the opening paragraph (Zechariah 14:14) is a reference to the destruction of literal Jerusalem, and must be applied to the literal city. It cannot be understood in any other way. How, for example, would the women be "raped" spiritually? However, there is an application far beyond the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. The destruction of Jerusalem, the capital of the apostate "chosen people," as a punishment of their rejection of the Son of God, is a type of the ultimate judgment against the apostate church of God at the end of the age and prior to the Second Coming. The first Israel was an eloquent type of the second Israel.
Zechariah's marvelous prophecy of "the day of the Lord" is neither as specific nor as complete as that of Jesus; but, with the help of Jesus' elaboration of it, it is quite easily understood. The first paragraph details the destruction of Jerusalem; and we turn now to the study of the text on that (Zechariah 14:1-5).
"Behold, a day of Jehovah cometh, when thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city."
We do not hesitate to apply this to the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Romans some forty years after their cruel and inhumane crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ (A.D. 70). For centuries, the great students of the Bible have discerned this. Luther, Clarke, and many others understood it this way. Objections to this view are that:
This interpretation is made untenable by the assurance that, "the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city." Of Jerusalem's destruction by the Romans, Josephus says, "Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury ... Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple."
Note the word "plunder" in Josephus' quotation. Enslavement of people was one of the principal elements of "plundering" any city in ancient times; and we may be certain that the Romans never overlooked this. "Half the city shall go forth into captivity" means that a great part of the people became slaves. But how about their "not being cut off from the city?" This applies to the Christians, none of whom lost their lives in the siege of Jerusalem; because, forewarned by the Saviour, they were miraculously enabled to escape prior to the fall of the city. See under Zechariah 14:4, below. The city from which they were not "cut off" was the holy church, not the literal Jerusalem.
The weight of Hailey's objection lies in his supposition that the Romans took no slaves; but Josephus stated flatly that, "The rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines." This did not include countless thousands of others reserved for the triumph, and sent as gifts to the provinces, where the local magistrates had the option either to destroy them in their theaters (with wild beasts, or gladiatorial contests) or to employ them as slaves, all mentioned in the same passage. This completely nullifies all objections based upon the allegation that a vast number were not sold as slaves. They most certainly were, just as this prophecy declared.
"For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle ..." First, this applied to the literal overthrow of the earthly Jerusalem in 70 A.D. "The Roman armies were composed of all the nations of the world." In the second place, this refers to the gathering of all nations against Christianity in times leading up to the Second Coming of Christ (See Revelation 16:13,14). "They are the spirits of demons working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty" (Revelation 16:14). This understanding of the double significance of the passage clears up the conflict between those interpretations which stress one meaning, and those that emphasize the other. Both meanings are present.
Gill, for example, saw that, "We are here dealing with events of the end time"; and Martin Luther referred it to the destruction of Jerusalem and the events that occurred at the close of Christ's ministry (by the Romans in 70 A.D.). Just as the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24 was indicated as typical of a greater crisis of events at the Second Coming "and the end of the world" in Matthew 24, so it is in this passage of Zechariah. Both meanings are definitely in the passage.
"Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle."
"Then shall Jehovah go forth ..." There is a change from the first person to the third in this verse; but this is par for the course in the prophetic writings:
"But this, as has been shown, is not a sufficient reason for denying the genuineness of the passage, since such changes occur in cases in which the hand of the original author is generally recognized."
Young students, especially, need the warning of Leupold who observed that: "The critical school, however, devotes itself almost entirely to finding fault with the text and the message and consequently arrives at no certain conclusion." We are also thankful for Leupold's perception that, here "We have a passage that applies to the entire Messianic time from beginning to end."
God's fighting against those nations that oppose his will and oppress his people shall never cease throughout the dispensation. Although using one wicked nation to destroy another; God nevertheless eventually judges and destroys all wickedness, being restrained only by his benevolent purpose of the work of redemption proceeding throughout the temporal era till the second coming, at which time the work shall have been concluded, and the judgment of all the earth will occur.
"And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."
The Premillennial school of interpreters see in this some tremendous upheaval at the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ; but our view is that God in the person of Christ has already touched his feet down upon the mount of Olives. Not only was Jesus a frequent guest in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus at Bethany (on mount Olivet), but his ascension into heaven (at least upon one occasion) was from the mount of Olives (See Luke 24:50,51, and Acts 1:12). That event, with all of its implications, is a sufficient fulfillment of the wonder foretold here. Of course, there was no physical earthquake; but the spiritual earthquake which occurred in that event was surpassingly great enough to qualify as the fulfillment.
Added to this is the fact of a tremendous earthquake being always associated with the Second Coming, which, as far as we know may be literal, and remembering that both events are in the prophet's view, the meaning is plain.
"Shall be cleft in the midst ... A very great valley ..." We see in this the grand cleavage of the entire human race as achieved in the preaching of the gospel of Christ. "The very great valley" that separates between them is that "impassable gulf" dividing the saved from the lost (Luke 16:26).
All of the speculation about Jesus returning the second time to stand upon the mount of Olives belittles what he did in the first advent when there he planted his feet before ascending into heaven. The passage needs no further fulfillment.
Notice too the result of Jesus' standing on the mount of Olives, as outlined in the next verse.
"And ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel; yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee."
"And ye shall flee ..." Here is the secret of how "the residue of the people were not cut off" (Zechariah 14:2). They would escape through flight, a possibility envisioned here as being opened up by the mighty earthquake and the splitting of the mountain. Did it happen? Indeed so. Josephus recounts the amazing, unnecessary, and incredible withdrawal of Cestius Gallus in the siege of Jerusalem, stating that, "Upon his besieging Jerusalem, he retreated from the city without any just occasion in the world." Of course, it was during that interval that every Christian, having heeded Jesus' warning, had opportunity to escape and flee. It was indeed an earthquake that opened up a way of escape. In this there is also a pledge that in the great holocaust that shall conclude our age, not a single Christian shall be lost.
"Earthquake... in the days of Uzziah ..." The exact date of this earthquake is not known; but it is mentioned in Amos 1:1; and Josephus describes it as a supernatural occurrence that interrupted Uzziah's presumptuous usurpation of the priestly function by going into the sanctuary to offer incense:
"A great earthquake shook the ground ... a rent was made in the temple ... leprosy seized upon the king immediately ... Before the city at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs and stood still at the east mountain. The roads, as well as the king's gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction."
As Whiston declared, "There seems to have been some considerable resemblance between these historical and prophetic earthquakes."
That this earthquake is identifiable with the final judgment appears in the fact of that earthquake in Uzziah's day having been a judgment upon him for presumptuous sin; and Zechariah immediately made that clear by the words:
"And Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee ..." Significantly Jesus Christ himself in the Matthew parallel made certain reference to the final judgment:
"Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:30,31)."
"And all the holy ones with thee ..." "The holy ones are the angels." Many New Testament passages associate the "holy ones" or angels with the Second Coming of Christ, as in Matthew 13:41,49, and 2 Thessalonians 1:7.
"With thee ..." The change to the second person here is no problem. It is simply the manner in which the prophets wrote. See under Zechariah 14:3, above.
To make the connection between this passage and Matthew 24 even more certain, it should be recalled that when Jesus spoke the remarkable words recorded in Matthew 24, that he did so sitting upon the mount of Olives, the very mountain so prominent in this passage (Matthew 24:3); add that to the fact of this passage in Zechariah's being one of only two places where the mountain is mentioned in the Old Testament (the other being Ezekiel 11:23), and named only in this place. From all this, it is clear enough that Jesus interpreted this passage as teaching the same thing that he taught in Matthew 24.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light; the bright ones shall withdraw themselves: but it shall be one day which is known unto Jehovah; not day and not night; but it shall come to pass that at evening time there shall be light."
Scholars complain that the text here "appears to be damaged and is very puzzling"; but we are sure that the best chance of understanding it lies in the acceptance of what has descended to us through so many centuries, and not in the acceptance of the wild guesses of those who subjectively try to imagine what the prophet wrote or should have written. As Watts correctly noted, "The various parts are not mentioned in the order of their occurrence." Here, as in Matthew 24, we have a montage of events connected with the total time between the two Advents of Christ. No one can be sure, in some instances, of the particular time indicated, other than the general inclusion of all in the times of Messiah.
"These words have been interpreted from time immemorial in very different ways." To us, the most reasonable interpretation is that which sees the whole passage as a "figurative description of the fortunes of the Church militant." "Not day" and "not night," simply means that Satan will be able to confuse many people. The demarcation between truth and error shall not always be distinct. "The bright ones shall withdraw themselves" speaks of the failure of those very institutions which should be teaching people the truth, but yet are teaching them error. Universities, churches, and many other institutions fill the bill on this perfectly. The vial of God's wrath shall be poured upon the sun itself (Revelation 16:8), so that it scorches men instead of illuminating them. See the extended comment on this in my commentary on the Book of Revelation.
"At evening time, there shall be light, ..." At the close of the Gospel Age, the truth shall at last be clearly visible to all men. In the meanwhile, "we must through great tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
"One day which is known unto Jehovah ..." As Deane observed, "This suggests what Jesus said in Matthew 24:36."
However, throughout the Scriptures such events as the sun's becoming as sackcloth of hair, and the moon becoming as blood, and the stars falling, and mighty earthquakes, and removal of mountains and islands are everywhere associated with the "last days"; and while these things certainly have a spiritual and symbolical meaning for all the generations of the Christian era, it should be remembered that a final fulfillment of such things may definitely occur in a most literal manner. There is every reason to believe that our earth shall be involved in some kind of cataclysmic disaster that shall conclude the era; and we claim no capability whatever for ascertaining exactly what it may be. The extensive references to this throughout the Bible are so numerous that no effort to present them all and comment upon them will be attempted here. One passage in Hebrews will suffice, in which the Word of God affirms that:
Yet once more will I make the earth to tremble, and not the earth only, but the heavens also. And this word "Yet once more," signifies the removing of those things which are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain (Hebrews 12:26,27).
We believe that same thought is included in this passage of Zechariah.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea: in summer and winter shall it be."
Here we are on safe ground. Christ only is the source of "living water" as he himself stated in John 7:37-39, where the Holy Spirit which the Father would send was firmly identified as "the living water." That Spirit came on Pentecost, making "that day" here to be nothing other than the times of the Christ, our present era, the Christian dispensation.
"Eastern sea ... western sea ..." These are symbolical references to the universal, worldwide sweep of the Christian religion.
"In summer and winter ..." There shall never be any cessation of the preaching of Christ and the benefits of serving him. As Paul said to Timothy, "Be urgent in season and out of season" (2 Timothy 4:2).
Robert C. Dentan's comment that, "The provision of an adequate supply of water in a land in which the water supply was a chief problem," is connected with what is mentioned here is amazing. The physical water supply of any country cannot be indicated by an expression such as "living water." Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well (John 4) made that eternally clear.
"And Jehovah shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall Jehovah be one, and his name one."
The triumph of God through Christ in the eradication of the gross paganism that corrupted ancient peoples is stated here. "The influence of Deuteronomy 6:4 is seen here, although, `his name one,' does not appear there in so many words." "The scope of this verse is universal. It asserts that Yahweh shall be king over, not merely the whole of Palestine, but all the earth." There are many, of course, who do not believe that God through Christ now rules over the earth; but that error is due solely to their misunderstanding of what the kingship of God really means. At this very moment, all who desire salvation in the name of Christ may receive it, if they will. In the whole dispensation, however, God allows the free exercise of the human will; and the fact of many willing to disobey God and his commandments in no way denies or prevents the rule of God. "All authority in heaven and upon earth" at this very moment is firmly in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).
"All the land shall be made like the Arabah, from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and she shall be lifted up, and shall dwell in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, and from the tower of Hananel unto the king's winepress."
Under the figure taken from a period of Jerusalem's former security, before its devastation by the Babylonians, the safety and security of God's church throughout the ages are indicated. There would appear to be no promise of any kind that literal Jerusalem shall ever be lifted up in the whole world.
The places named here cannot be certainly identified, and they are not important anyway. They evidently embrace the entire dimensions of Jerusalem and the land of Palestine. The passage refers to the prosperity and success of the kingdom of Christ throughout history. "Thus Zechariah represents the growth and stability of the church of God by the figure of the earthly city Jerusalem." As to the question of Zechariah's understanding the full import of this prophecy, we may be reasonably sure that he did not, and that he thought the reference was solely to the earthly fortunes of the literal city. See 1 Peter 1:10-12.
"And men shall dwell therein, and there shall be no more curse; but Jerusalem shall dwell safely."
All that was said under Zechariah 14:10 applies equally here. "And there shall be no more curse ..." The addition of this line seems to point even beyond the earthly sojourn of the church of God; because the total absence of any curse appears to be uniquely associated with that eternal city that cometh down from God out of heaven. "And there shall be no curse any more" (Revelation 22:3). Such a situation will prevail all over the earth only in the times of the final glory of God's people. Higginson understood the condition prophesied here thus: "All things will have returned to a state of primitive perfection. The picture is ideal."
"And this shall be the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite all the peoples that have warred against Jerusalem: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their sockets, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth."
This horrible plague was prophesied as the fate of all who "warred against Jerusalem," these being the enemies of God. The New Testament does nothing to soften the dreadful picture of what shall eventually befall all who make themselves enemies of God. That the language here is figurative seems certain, as are the "lake of fire and brimstone," "the outer darkness," "the river of blood," etc., which are some of the expressions used to describe the ultimate reward of all such persons in the New Testament.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from Jehovah shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbor."
Both the previous verse and this one are descriptive of the ultimate and final apostasy of the whole human race which shall issue in the eternal judgment, being preceded by a time of anarchy, chaos, and universal destruction, in which the "cities of the nations" shall fall. (Revelation 16:19). Revelation 18 is a further elaboration of the same situation.
This verse describes what the "plague" of Zechariah 14:12 actually is. It is the ultimate appearance of the kind of society that inevitably results when God's will is almost totally rejected on earth. When the rebellious rulers of earth's kingdoms shall succeed in the near-destruction of every vestige of religion from the earth (even the accommodative religion characteristic of the apostasy), they shall suddenly discover what such a world really is. Then will come the wailing of the kings and the mighty men who sorrow and grieve for all of the wretched disasters that have fallen upon them. That is when they will cast dust upon their heads and lament for that which they themselves had effectively destroyed. (Revelation 18). As the prophet said a few lines earlier, "In the evening time, there shall be light!" God will finally permit this rebellious humanity gone berserk against the will of God, and steering a collision course with disaster, to discover just what serving the devil actually means.
"And Judah shall also fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all nations round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel in great abundance."
This is one of the most astonishing passages in the Old Testament. Although classified as "ambiguous" by scholars, based upon the fact that the Hebrew word here rendered "at" (Judah shall fight at Jerusalem) may also be accurately rendered "against." Although practically all of the current scholars insist that the passage means that Judah will fight in Jerusalem, we strongly believe that the RSV and the Douay Versions of this verse are correct: "And even Judah shall fight against Jerusalem."
"Jerusalem" signifies either all of the literal Jews, as used in some statements, or all of the people of God's church in other passages. "Judah" is not needed as an additional symbol used in connection with "Jerusalem" to mean the church. Therefore, "Judah" in this passage has reference to the secular, fleshly Israel, particularly that segment of Abraham's posterity who rejected Christ and have carried on a relentless war against Christianity ever since. That warfare is exactly what Zechariah prophesied here. Furthermore, this interpretation harmonizes perfectly with the revelation of Zechariah 12:2, in which the "cup of reeling" which destroys the enemies of the true Jerusalem (the church), falls likewise upon Judah, revealing Judah in that passage, as in this, as an enemy of God and his holy church. At any rate, that is what Judah has consistently been now for a period approaching two millenniums, and we believe that astounding truth is exactly what Zechariah here prophesied; and it will take something besides an alternate translation of a Hebrew word to destroy that conviction. Even if the alternate rendition (as in the ASV) is allowed, it still falls short of presenting Judah as a helper of the holy Jerusalem.
This understanding of the place is very old. The Catholic Bible translates it: "Even Juda shall fight against Jerusalem"; and the footnote explains it thus: "The carnal Jews and other false brothers shall unite in persecuting the church."
"Gold... silver ... apparel ..." These elements of wealth are here represented as buttressing Judah's fight against Jerusalem, all three of them being precisely the type of wealth characteristic of carnal Jews throughout history.
"And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in those camps, as that plague."
The meaning here is that the animal kingdom along with the human race shall receive the destruction that "cometh upon the children of disobedience." Man's wickedness shall ultimately succeed, not merely in accomplishing his own destruction, but also that of his environment, and that of the lower creations as well as his own.
"And it shall come to pass, that everyone that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles."
"Everyone that is left ..." is a reference to the survivors from repeated judgmental destructions that shall mark the progress of the holy church throughout the ages of her probation, during which time the forces of evil align themselves repeatedly against Christ and his church, suffer the inevitable judgment that Jehovah brings upon the persecutors, with the consequent destruction or humiliation of the evil powers. It is the survivors of those wicked powers who are envisioned here as accepting the gospel of Christ and keeping the duties and ordinances of his church.
"The feast of tabernacles ..." The three great feasts of the Jews were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. (The feast of Lights was added after the Macabbean wars.) Tabernacles was the feast which the Jews celebrated in memory of their forty years wandering in the wilderness, that experience coming in time to stand for the Church's probation throughout the Christian dispensation. The Jewish wanderings were "on the way to the promised land"; The Christian's wanderings are "on the way to heaven." What is said here must be applied totally to that "Jerusalem which is above," the church of Jesus Christ. The language is metaphorical and simply means that all nations of the earth shall yield a harvest of souls unto Jehovah, and that these shall accept Jesus Christ and dutifully observe the teachings and ordinances applicable under his supreme authority.
Any literal acceptance of this verse as a pledge that God will destroy the whole world except a remnant of Jews in every nation, and that the entire physical earth shall journey three times a year to physical Jerusalem to live in tents for a week must be accounted as a preposterous misunderstanding.
There is nothing in the last 2,000 years that resembles a fulfillment of this prophecy, except the repeated triumph of Christ and his gospel in those very lands which once were pagan enemies of the Lord. This verse is a pledge that it will continue to be so.
"And it shall be, that whoso of all the families of the earth goeth not up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Jehovah of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, neither shall it be upon them; there will be the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles."
"There shall be no rain ..." Literal rain cannot be the subject here; the word is used metaphorically. Christ himself took special precautions to destroy the old Jewish prejudice that God sent his rain only upon the righteous, saying:
"The Father... maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:44).
Of course, in the history of Israel, there had indeed been a special providence of God in withholding rain from Israel during the idolatrous times of Ahab; but the miraculous interposition on the part of the Father, attempting to rescue Israel from the head-long plunge into idolatry, did not change the eternal law of God.
Therefore, we must look for some ether meaning here; and it is not far to seek. Rain stands for the precious showers of God's grace upon his people. And the full impact of these verses is that it is available nowhere else in the universe except in Jesus Christ our Lord. "The Father... hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).
What has this to do with "the feast of tabernacles?" That feast was the response of the Old Israel to the blessing and commandment of God; but the Old Israel is no more. God divorced her in the days of Hosea and has married another, the New Israel is Christ; and in this passage the duties of the Old Israel are mentioned as typical of those of the New Israel. After all, the mention of those specific obligations of the New Israel could not have been understood until "the fullness of time"; hence the necessity of speaking about them in terms of the Old.
"This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations that go not up to keep the feast of tabernacles."
"Punishment of all the nations ..." By this, the prophet makes it clear that the word "Egypt" was used as a "type" of all the peoples of the earth who forget God and heed not his mercies. It was an especially appropriate type, because it had been Egypt which reduced the people of God to slavery, committed genocide against them, and subjected them to cruel and inhumane treatment. Also, Egypt was the first head of the great Seven-headed Scarlet Beast symbolizing the opposition of an evil world to the will of God (Revelation 13). Another good reason lay in the fact that Egypt was not particularly dependent upon ordinary rain, as the Nile river was the source of its agricultural life. This compels a metaphorical understanding of "rain."
"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLY UNTO JEHOVAH; and the pots in Jehovah's house shall be like the bowls before the altar."
One of the truly marvelous revelations of Hebrew prophecy is this: THERE IS A NEW MEANING OF WHAT IS SACRED in the religion of Christ. The words here listed as being "upon the bells of the horses" was exactly the inscription engraved upon a plate of pure gold on the turban of Aaron the High Priest (Exodus 28:36-38).
"Holy unto Jehovah" was thus in the life of Israel reserved for the highest and holiest position and function imaginable ... on the turban of the loftiest spiritual dignitary of the nation and its representative before God.
What could a thing like this signify? Many illuminating comments have been made regarding this:
"The affixing of this inscription on the trappings of horses signified that the commonest things shall become holy; all things that men use for work, profit, or ornament shall be consecrated to the service of God. In that day, everything that pertains to the kingdom of God will be holy. The war horses will have been cut off from Jerusalem (9:10); therefore, the figure here is that instead of these being for war, they will be consecrated to a nobler service. The old distinction between sacred and secular will have been abolished. Everything will have become holy because it will be dedicated to a holy purpose. The artificial distinction between the sacred and the secular will be broken down; and everything, even the most common things, such as kitchen utensils, will be recognized as sacred, because all of life is sacred.
E. Stanley Jones, a popular writer in the first half of this century, pointed out that Christianity greatly expanded the view of what is sacred or not sacred, many ancient errors being denied: (1) There is no sacred sex ("neither male nor female in Christ"). (2) There is no sacred language (the many "tongues" of Pentecost). (3) There is no sacred place ("neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem"). (4) There is no sacred dress, or clothing (all are clothed in the righteousness of Christ). (5) There is no sacred occupation ("Whatsoever good things each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free"). Remember the inscription on the bells of the horses!
"Yea every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holy unto Jehovah of hosts; and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and boil therein: and in that day there shall be no more a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of hosts."
We believe that the purpose here is to show that even those vessels (pots) once excluded from the lists of the sacred, shall in the new age be as holy as the "bowls before the altar" (Zechariah 14:20). Such a conclusion as that of Mitchell, supposing that the pots were much more numerous than the bowls, and from this concluding that the verse teaches a vast "increase in the number of worshippers," while true enough as an abstract principle, would seem, nevertheless, to have no connection whatever with this passage. Numbers do not appear here at all; the subject is "holiness."
"There shall be no more a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of hosts ..." The word "Canaanite" is of special interest. (See the full comments on this in my commentary on the minor prophets, vol. 2, p. 198.) The word means "trafficker," especially a crooked and deceitful one. It was a derogatory word used of the pagan population driven out of Palestine and supplanted by the Jews, who in time, also became "Canaanites" (Hosea 12:7). It stands for any wicked, profane, and idolatrous person.
"In the house of Jehovah of hosts ..." The Jewish temple, symbolical of Jehovah's house, became infested with Canaanites, as witnessed by the double cleansing of the temple by Jesus Christ who drove the money-changers out of it, both at the beginning and at the end of his personal ministry on earth. Thus, "Canaanite in the house of Jehovah" stands for any person who prostitutes sacred calling, office, or position for selfish, evil, and unholy purposes.
Such shall not be in "the house of Jehovah!" But how can it be prevented? Historically, the Canaanites have been an eager, ingenious, skillful breed of schemers; and there are many instances in which they have revived the abuses of the secular temple in Jerusalem. They have sold indulgences, prayers to get people out of purgatory, prescribed "penance" for the forgiveness of sins, etc., etc. But in spite of flagrant violations by those who mistakenly suppose themselves to be "in the house of Jehovah of Hosts," it must ever be true that Canaanites are not in the Lord's house at all. Wherever one discovers them, it is not in the house of the Lord. The Lord keeps his house. The Lord knoweth them that are hi own; and he never makes a mistake.
Preachers who are primarily purveyors of the word of God for money are the true Canaanites of this current era; and the suspicion is fully justified that there are many who fall into this category.
This verse concludes this "most Messianic" of the prophecies." A careful study of the last six chapters is all that is needed to assure on of their authenticity and true identity as the word of the Lord. No imposter, editor, redactor, interpolator, or glossator could ever, in thousand years, have produced such a masterpiece of prophecy as that which concludes Zechariah. No wonder, Christ and the holy apostles turned her again and again for prophecies bearing upon the epic ministry of the Son of God. Blessed be the name of the Lord; and Blessed be the WORD of th LORD.
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