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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 8

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


This chapter is a continuation of the last, both of them being the account of Zechariah’s response to the inquiry of a delegation of the returned captives then living in Bethel, one of the pre-exilic centers of the paganism that had morally destroyed the chosen people. Their question carried with it the implication that they would like to omit keeping the fast day on the tenth of Ab (tenth month), which marked the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, some seventy years prior to their seeking an answer from Zechariah.

The prophet’s answer (that part of it in Zechariah 7) refused even to discuss their illegal fast day, born of self-pity, not of the Word of God, and celebrating the wrong thing; but, instead, he had challenged them to “Hear the word of Jehovah,” repeatedly admonishing them to “return unto Jehovah” by heeding the Word of God as delivered to them through the Law of Moses and through the Spirit-filled prophets whom God had sent to them again and again.

Four other brief sections of Zechariah’s response occur in this chapter, beginning with Zechariah 8:1; Zechariah 8:9; Zechariah 8:14; Zechariah 8:18.

Verses 1-2

“And the word of Jehovah of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.”

As in all of the sections of this response, there is first an assurance from the prophet that the words given are not his, but the word of the Lord.

“I am jealous for Zion” The use of the poetic word, “Zion,” with its spiritual overtones, points further backward in Israel’s history than their destroyed city of Jerusalem, the capital of their once-great empire. It was not their wicked state that God loved; in fact, God hated it. What a pity it was that the returned and recreated nation never comprehended this truth. Their hopes and intentions contrasted sharply with the purpose of God; for, throughout their subsequent history, they wanted nothing in heaven or on earth any more than a restoration of their scandalous world state. By the time of the advent of Christ, this evil desire on their part had become a savage, malignant patriotism; and the blessed Saviour’s refusal to bless their wicked plans through cooperation with them in restoring their carnal state was the primary reason for their rejection and crucifixion of him.

“I am jealous for her with great wrath” God’s zealous love for the true Israel and her priceless spiritual endowments carried with it a corollary, as stated here. That part of the total Israel which would oppose God’s will and would choose to become “sons of the Devil” (John 8:44) rather than “sons of Abraham,” becoming thereby enemies of the true Zion, that Israel would incur the violent and destructive wrath of God.

“Jealous,” as used here denoted intense, righteous emotion, a meaning not at all related to the vindictive, wicked emotion associated with the term in its current use.

“Great wrath” The wrath of God would certainly be visited upon all enemies of the true Israel, regardless of whether or not such enemies were beyond the borders of Palestine or mingled among God’s people themselves.

Verse 3

“Thus saith Jehovah: I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called the city of truth; and the mountain of Jehovah of hosts, The holy mountain.”

The punishment of Israel, God’s unfaithful wife (an analogy used throughout the Bible) being completed, God promised here to return to Zion and Jerusalem. Note that “Zion” was used a second time in order to emphasize what part of Israel is the subject here.

The ultimate fulfillment of this glorious promise occurred when the gospel was sent forth to all nations, “beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Furthermore, there is absolutely no unlimited guarantee on God’s part that he would never leave Jerusalem. Therefore, we must reject an opinion such as this:

“He begins by saying that he will now… return to Zion... moreover, this is to be a final reunion between him and his people, for he is careful to say that he will abide, make his permanent home, in Jerusalem.”(F1)

Such a comment presses a word like “abide” down on its all-fours. Jesus used the same expression when he promised to “abide” in the home of Zaccheus, a visit that lasted one day! (Luke 19:5). It is not true that God’s return to Jerusalem was an irrevocable, eternal commitment. As a matter of fact, God would again commit the city to total destruction in the generation following his “bride’s” stubborn rejection of the gospel; nor is there any possible denial of that in this verse. It is mandatory to remember that all of God’s promises are contingent, contingent upon the faith and fidelity of those whom he promises to bless.

God’s return to Jerusalem would indeed be permanent enough to allow the bringing in of the Redeemer, and to allow the establishment of his Church in that City on the first Pentecost after the Resurrection of Christ; but any further dwelling of God in Jerusalem would depend, absolutely, upon whether or not that city would recognize the “time of her visitation” and lovingly receive the only One who could have saved her (Luke 19:42 ff). Their failure to do so was the signal for the final rejection of the old Israel and God’s marriage to a new bride, i.e., the Gentiles. This also carried with it the corollary of God’s no longer “dwelling in” Jerusalem, except in the mystical sense of his abiding in his Church.

“City of truth... The Holy mountain…. etc.” All such expressions refer to the church of Jesus Christ, exclusively, as “the pillar and the ground of the truth,” and the custodian of the “word of the Lord” going forth from Mount Zion.

The entire prophecy of Zechariah is Messianic; and, although many of the prophecies of Messiah’s times also had material fulfillment in some of the immediate blessings that fell on the literal city of Jerusalem, nevertheless, the burden of this chapter and of the whole book relates to the blessings in Christ. The New Testament use of Zechariah’s prophecy makes this certain.

Another important feature of this chapter is that it forms an accurate, majestic prelude for the second great division of the prophecy, Zechariah 9-14. “The chapter looks beyond the immediate future to the glorious era of Messiah’s reign and forms a glorying prelude to Zechariah 9-14.”(F2) Higginson also added that, “Some of the themes of those chapters begin to appear here (Zechariah 8).”(F3)

The affirmation by Mitchell, quoted above, to the effect that God was very quickly about to take up his permanent dwelling place in literal Jerusalem appears to derive from mistaking the tense of the verbs. Watts has pointed out that, “The verbs are in the perfect tense, the `prophetic perfect.’ They indicate a decision already reached by the Lord which, although its fulfillment is future, can be called a fact.”(F4) In this light, there is no statement that God will dwell in an earthly city, but rather a promise of his taking up residence in the spiritual body of Christ, “The heavenly Jerusalem, which is our mother” (Galatians 4:26).

Notice also should be given to the very strong affirmations of premillennial scholars with reference to this passage. Linger thought it refers to, “The Lord’s personal return to Zion and permanent dwelling in Jerusalem… The city will then become the religious capital of the millennial earth.”(F5) Although we disagree with such interpretations, we nevertheless praise God for the conviction of men who indeed believe these prophecies of God and that they are certain to be fulfilled. Our own studies have never enabled us to accept the view that there is any kind of a “reign of Christ” other than the one that is going on right now and has been with men since the beginning of the gospel age. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Nor can we for a moment accept the notion that the old harlot Israel of the Old Testament is ever scheduled to be God’s wife again. Her status was forever changed in the events typified by Hosea’s divorce of Gomer. Gomer was indeed purchased as a slave by her former husband; but she returned not as his wife, but as a slave. “Thou shalt not be wife to any man, and so will I be unto thee.”

“For the Children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim” (Hosea 3:4). This is a prophecy of the long, bleak interval between the Old Testament and the New Testament, during which the Northern Israel never had a king, and during which time the southern kingdom too fell into vassalage to other nations, which status was theirs when Zechariah wrote, thus paying dearly for their loss of status as God’s wife.

God indeed chose Israel again as his bride, but it was the new Israel “in Christ” not the discredited old harlot. The theory that Almighty God is still hankering to marry the old whore whom he divorced so long ago strikes us as a preposterous error. We especially apply this conviction to modern Israel. (For a comprehensive discussion of this whole question, see pp. 53-67 in my commentary on the Minor Prophets, Vol. 2.)

This verse (Zechariah 8:3) had an immediate application… but there is also no doubt that it looked to a fuller and more glorious fulfillment in the present Messianic period.(F6)

The thing that makes it certain that the old Jerusalem was not meant here primarily is the declaration of the prophet that it would be “a city without walls” (Zechariah 2:4-5). Such a city Jerusalem was not, except for a relatively short time prior to their rebuilding the walls.

“City of truth” There has never been a single moment throughout human history when such a prophecy as this ever applied to literal, secular Jerusalem; and certainly, it does not apply today. Such promises as these show unequivocally that “the heavenly Jerusalem” is the city in view.

Verse 4

“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for very age.”

It may readily be supposed that there was a measure of fulfillment of this promise in the interval between Zechariah and our Lord Jesus Christ; but whatever fulfillment occurred, it does not exhaust the meaning, nor deny the Messianic import of the passage. As Keil said:

“From Isaiah 65:20, we see that extreme old age also belongs to the times of Messiah; and as Israel always suffered extensively from wars, etc., during the times from Zechariah to Christ, it must be admitted that the prophecy received only a meager fulfillment before the coming of Christ.”(F7)

Verse 5

“And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”

This verse actually is a continuation of the thought in Zechariah 8:4. What is pictured is a city of safety where people are secure in possessions and person. This marvelous ideal has seldom been achieved anywhere on earth, especially in any great city; and wherever it ever existed even in a token degree, it was an ephemeral and vanishing condition.

Verse 6

“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in mine eyes? saith Jehovah of hosts.”

There are ten of these brief statements in this chapter, each one introduced by an affirmation that the promise is of God and not of Zechariah. They begin in Zechariah 8:2-4; Zechariah 8:6-7; Zechariah 8:9; Zechariah 8:14; Zechariah 8:19-20; Zechariah 8:23.

The subject here is the marvelous fact that a remnant of the people of God have been brought back home, an event unique in human history up to that time. “The message means that the Lord attributes just as much miraculous significance to these events as the amazed people do.”(F8)

Verses 7-8

“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”

“East country and the west country” Such expressions need not be assigned to some particular geographical area, as they are a stereotyped expression meaning, “from all around,” or “from everywhere.” The meaning here, is “from all over the world,” in the times of the Messiah.

“They shall be my people, and I will be their God” This is hailed as God’s renewal of the covenant with Israel, God’s remarriage to the apostate people who had rebelled against him and had suffered such punishment; but it is no such thing. It is a statement of the status pertaining to the children of God in Christ Jesus, in the coming kingdom of Messiah, i.e., the church of Jesus Christ. This verse teaches, “That a people will, indeed, be gathered unto God, but they must neither of necessity be of the race of Jews, nor will they all dwell in Jerusalem.”(F9) Everyone familiar with the sacred New Testament understands this perfectly. The holy apostles of Jesus preempted all of the loving titles that once applied to the secular Israel and applied them to the members of Jesus’ church who make up, in its totality, the Israel of God in this dispensation. Christians are called “The Israel of God,” the “Chosen People,” the “Royal Priesthood,” even “The Twelve Tribes of Israel” (James 1:1). The question of race is of no more concern to God than is the question of whether or not one has brown hair or red.

A covenant is surely in view here, but it is the “New Covenant” prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-35. In this connection, it should always be remembered that no Jew was ever excluded from this covenant on account of his race, any more than he ever qualified for membership in it on account of his race.

Verse 9

“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets that were in the day that the foundation of the house of Jehovah of hosts was laid, even the temple, that it might be built.”

“The temple that it might be built” There are two temples in view in the return of a remnant to Jerusalem and in the laying of an actual foundation for the second literal temple. Of course, the visible, physical temple is easily recognized; but there is another temple, the spiritual body of Christ, the Church, the only true temple God ever had. The foundation of it also appears in the events of Zechariah’s day. The little remnant of returnees would deliver the Christ child in a manger at Bethlehem, and the light of the Son of God would begin to shine for all people. We may well suppose that Zechariah might have imagined that only the physical temple was included in those events; but the ages have also revealed the other.

“Let your hands be strong” Diligence and hard work are the twin virtues that have marked the behavior of every God-fearing generation that ever lived.

“The prophets that were in the day” Zechariah here makes an objective reference to himself in the third person. “Those prophets were: Ezekiel, Haggai, and Zechariah.”(F10)

Verses 10-11

“For before those days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in, because of the adversary: for I set all men every one against his neighbor. But now, I will not be unto the remnant of this people as in the former days, saith Jehovah of hosts.”

There is a definite and practical promise in this that has direct and immediate application to “the remnant of this people.” It means that God will bless them, a very necessary thing in the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose, due to their being, in a very genuine sense, the foundation of the spiritual temple in that through them the Messiah would be born.

“But now, I will not be unto the remnant of this people as in the former days” It is customary for commentators to make this passage say, merely, that God has finished punishing his people, and that he will no longer “set every man against his neighbor,” as formerly. We believe there is far more here than that. It means that God will no longer be Israel’s husband, in the old sense of the sacred covenant. These words certainly have that meaning! Subsequent events proved that this was what God meant. No succession of prophets appeared in the inter-testamental period. Israel’s status for some half a millenium was markedly different from what it had once been. Homer Hailey, and other commentators restrict “in the former days” as applicable merely to the period of adversity and conflict that marked earlier efforts to build the second temple.(F11) That a blessing is indeed promised seems sure; but the peculiar language here appears to us to be applicable in a much greater dimension.

Verse 12

“For there shall be the seed of peace: the vine shall give its fruit, and the ground shall give its increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.”

God would indeed richly bless Israel, enabling them to prosper in every degree necessary to make possible the appearance, in time, of the Son of God. No evil of any kind whatever would be allowed to interfere with that.

“And I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things” “The remnant,” as used here is interesting. The small group of returnees were themselves “the remnant”; but the “remnant of this people” could mean that portion of the returnees who would be faithful, “the remnant of the remnant.” That, of course, is exactly the way it turned out. The holy apostles of Jesus were but a tiny remnant of the larger Israel which rejected the Saviour; and they, along with those who followed them, proved to be those who, indeed, “inherited all of these things.”

Dummelow commented on this place that, “Nature also will contribute to the glory of the Messianic age.”(F12)

Verse 13

“And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

“A curse among the nations” Great dishonor came to the Jews as a result of their being dispossessed from their country and carried captive to Assyria and Babylon, a status from which the vast majority never recovered.

“So will I save you” This was the GREAT blessing God always had in mind from the beginning of his promise to Abraham until the present day. To be “saved” by God! Nothing can compare with such a blessing. The one and all of living should be the realization of such a blessing.

Note that this promise is not a promise to destroy the Gentile nations and make the Jews rulers of the world, a mistaken conception that persisted and was prevalent in the days when Jesus actually appeared among them.

It is still true that those who serve God merely for what they fancy to be the temporal benefits of so doing are overlooking the GREAT thing, the blessing of being “saved.” This business of salvation, of course, is primarily the blessing of the New Covenant and proves that it is in focus here in Zechariah’s prophecy.

The removal of the status of Israel and Judah from that of being a curse among the nations would appear in connection with their being “saved,” that is, in connection with their acceptance of Jesus Christ and his gospel.

As Pusey pointed out, the appearance of “House of Israel,” and “House of Judah” here has the effect of making this a blessing of the distant future in the times of Messiah; because “The House of Israel” did not return from captivity; thus Zechariah was not speaking merely to the returnees in this verse.

“Fear not, but let your hands be strong” There are echoes of the New Covenant here also. “Fear Not” was the very first commandment of the Messianic age when the angels of heaven said, “Be not afraid” (Luke 2:10).

Verses 14-15

“For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: As I thought to do evil unto you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I repented not; so again have I thought in these days to do good unto Jerusalem and the house of Judah; fear ye not.”

The basis of the change announced here was effectively and clearly explained by the prophet Jeremiah:

“Thus saith Jehovah, At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and destroy it; if that nation concerning which I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. “And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if they do that which is evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them (Jeremiah 18:7-10).”

No factor of the divine providence is any more ignored or denied than is this one. All of God’s promises, either for destruction or for blessing are contingent, always, invariably, and eternally contingent upon the status of the recipient with regard to the fact of whether or not he is obedient to the Lord. There are no preferred classes where this rule is suspended, not even for those who say they “believe” but do not obey the teachings of the Lord.

The purpose of these verses is to show that obedience will be the primary condition in the establishment of the New Covenant.

Verses 16-17

“These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth with his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; and let none of you devise evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith Jehovah.”

The effect of these verses is merely that of emphasizing the truth that all blessings of God are contingent upon his servants receiving and obeying the commandments God has given. All the ethical and moral obligations mentioned here are found in the Mosaic Law, the ancient covenant God had made with his people. See under Zechariah 8:15.

“This stresses the fact that there are conditions that Israel must meet if God is to bestow a blessing.”(F13) It seems nearly incredible that Israel missed the point on this; but then it is just as incredible that the vast majority of modern clergymen have likewise overlooked it. The ancient Jews went right on preaching that nothing mattered except being a literal, fleshly son of Abraham; and the modern theologians have gone right on preaching that nothing matters except “faith in Christ,” shouting to all who will listen that, “We are saved by faith alone!” The errors are one and the same in that both of them overlook the contingent nature of all of the blessings God ever promised anybody.

Verses 18-19

“And the word of Jehovah of hosts came unto me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace.”

Here at last came the direct answer to the inquiry that had precipitated this rather lengthy response from Zechariah with various direct revelations from Jehovah. Although they had at first inquired about only one of the four popular fasts, later mentioning another, Zechariah named all four of them and, in effect, cancelled them, all of them being illegal, human-initiated religious observances without any value whatever. For a little more detail on these, see under Zechariah 7:3, above.

Wellhausen made a deduction from this passage that the Day of Atonement (a fast) had not been instituted in Zechariah’s day, because there was no mention of it here by Zechariah. Leupold properly discerned the reason for Zechariah’s omitting a reference to it here, stating that:

“The Day of Atonement was the only divinely appointed fast, whereas the four under consideration were of human choice and of comparatively recent date. It could not have occurred to Israel to ask for an abrogation of the fast on the Day of Atonement.”(F14)

Keil gives a quotation of Martin Luther’s paraphrase of the meaning of this verse thus:

“Keep only what I command, and let fasting alone. Yea, if ye keep my commandments, not only shall such fasts be over and come to an end; but because I will do so much good to Jerusalem, all the affliction, for which ye have chosen and kept such fasting, shall be forgotten, that ye will be transported with joy when ye think of your fasting, and of the heart’s grief on account of which ye fasted.”(F15)

Verses 20-21

“Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: It shall yet come to pass that there shall come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities, and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to entreat the favor of Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts: I will go also.”

Dummelow summarized the meaning of this passage thus:

“The gathering in of the nations was never adequately fulfilled in regard to Jerusalem or the Temple then approaching completion; but the prophecy foretells most strikingly the success of the kingdom of Christ. It was the dream of all Hebrew prophecy.”(F16)

The magnificent fulfillment of such glorious promises has characterized the march of Christianity through the ages. Christ is now reigning over the twelve tribes of the children of the New Israel (Matthew 19:28). The rejection of their Messiah by the secular Israel has made no difference at all, except as it regards the destiny of those who reject him; and the epic sweep of the truth of the gospel over all lands and nations is yet going forward all over the world.

Verses 22-23

“Yea, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek Jehovah of hosts, and to entreat the favor of Jehovah. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

This is but a continuation of the prophecy of the previous two verses regarding the worldwide multiplication of followers of Jehovah during the reign of Christ, that is, during the present times, when Christ is upon his throne in full possession of “All authority in heaven and upon earth” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“In Jerusalem”

“In the light of what preceded we now realize that seeking “in Jerusalem” is purely a bit of local color that states the case in the thought forms of the 01d Covenant, where all seeking the Lord was required to be done there.”(F17)

Also, these words are appropriate, because it was indeed “from Jerusalem” that the word of the gospel went out to all nations, and that “Salvation is of the Jews.”

“Him that is a Jew” We recognize here a reference to the Messiah himself. “How earnestly have men sought salvation! They find it in Him, a member of the Jewish race, the Saviour of the world.”(F18)

Failing, absolutely, to find anything resembling even a token fulfillment of this in the period of Israel prior to Christ’s coming, and denying its application to the spread of Christianity, the premillennialists suppose that:

“Here is a remarkable picture, not of world conversion in this age, but of the restoration of the Jew to the center of God’s favor. With the Davidic kingdom established, Israel will be a medium of blessing to the entire globe.”(F19)

We cannot accept such a notion, because the apostle Peter, whom we believe to be inspired, stated categorically on Pentecost that the resurrection and elevation of Christ to the right hand of God in heaven was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the restoration of the Davidic kingdom.

“The literal fulfillment of this prophecy (centering the kingdom of God in literal Jerusalem) is not to be looked for. This declares the future conversion of the Gentiles, and their being made one with Israel in the Church of Christ, `one fold under one Shepherd’“ (John 10:16).(F20)

“Ten men… out of all the languages of the nations” is a perfect number, following the Hebrew usage of numbers, standing for an infinitely greater number from all the nations, that is, the Gentiles of the world. The same number applied to the “ten horns” of Revelation’s scarlet colored beast (Revelation 13) is a similar usage standing for the numerous world powers that shall rise up simultaneously following the progression of the seven great monolithic powers identified as the seven heads. It is our conviction that we now live in the age of the “ten horns” of the beast. Higginson also pointed out this usage of the number ten: “Ten stands for an indefinitely large number.”(F21)

This chapter ends the first section of Zechariah, all of the visions and direct revelations forming the overture, or prelude, for the rest of the prophecy. Just as no one expects the second movement of a symphony to follow the pattern of the first, so we should be prepared for a different type of book in the remaining six chapters.

How incredible must this prophecy have seemed to the enemies of Israel. Who could have believed that a little handful of despised returnees would yet see the whole world turn to one of them for redemption and salvation? Yet it has been gloriously fulfilled.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/zechariah-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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