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The Lord’s word came to Zechariah.
"The introductory formula lacks the words to me in the original, a fact which suggests that Zechariah was repeating words he had often spoken rather than expressing a new revelation." [Note: Baldwin, p. 149.]
D. Israel’s restoration to God’s favor 8:1-17
Chapter 8 not only contains two major messages from the Lord (Zechariah 8:1-23) but 10 minor messages, "a decalogue of divine words," [Note: Leupold, p. 141.] that make up the two major ones. Another writer believed there were seven oracles in this section. [Note: Waltke, p. 846.] "Thus says the Lord" introduces each of these minor messages (Zechariah 8:2-23) each of which contains a promise of future blessing for Israel. These short sayings may have been the texts of different sermons that Zechariah had preached and later wove together because of their similar content. [Note: Baldwin, p. 148.]
"In the preceding section [ch. 7] Israel was to repent and live righteously after the punishment of her captivity; here [in ch. 8] she is to repent and live righteously because of the promise of her future restoration." [Note: Barker, pp. 649-50.]
The whole chapter presents Israel’s eventual restoration and participation in full millennial blessing. [Note: Unger, p. 132.] The restoration from exile in Zechariah’s day was only a precursor of greater future blessing and prosperity.
"Of a total of 36 occurrences of ’YHWH of hosts’ in Zechariah, 15 are in this one oracle [ch. 8], the highest concentration of the phrase in the OT with the possible exception of Malachi. Even more remarkable, it occurs six times in the present passage alone [Zechariah 8:1-8], a passage that focuses narrowly on eschatological restoration. So humanly impossible will that be, it can come to pass only by the resources of the Almighty One." [Note: Merrill, p. 220.]
I counted 16 occurrences of "the LORD of hosts" and four more of "the LORD" in this chapter.
Almighty Yahweh had revealed that He was very jealous for the exclusive love and commitment of His people (cf. Zechariah 1:14). His loving jealousy burned within Him.
". . . YHWH is a ’jealous God’ (Exodus 20:5), one who tolerates no rivals real or imaginary and who is zealous to protect His uniqueness and maintain the allegiance of His people to Himself alone. He is also jealous for His people, that is, He is protective of them against all who would challenge them or claim to be elect alongside them. Therefore, He is zealous to safeguard their interests and come to their defense." [Note: Merrill, pp. 220-21.]
The English word "jealous" derives from the Latin zelus, "zeal."
"The zeal with which God had carried through His chastisement of Israel and then of the nations (Zechariah 1:15; Zechariah 1:21) was now burning to restore the covenant bond." [Note: Baldwin, p. 149.]
Yahweh announced that He would return to Zion and reside among His people in Jerusalem again (cf. Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 2:10). When He did, people would call Jerusalem the City of Truth, and they would refer to the temple mount as the Holy Mountain (cf. Zechariah 14:20-21). Finally the recurring cycle of apostasy followed by punishment would end.
"Jerusalem did not acquire this character in the period after the captivity, in which, though not defiled by gross idolatry, as in the times before the captivity, it was polluted by other moral abominations no less than it had been before. Jerusalem becomes a faithful city for the first time through the Messiah, and it is through Him that the temple mountain first really becomes the holy mountain." [Note: Keil, 2:312.]
Then the elderly would feel secure enough to sit in the open streets again, and children would again play in the streets because they would be safe. During the destruction of Jerusalem both of these groups of Israelites had suffered greatly (Lamentations 2:21). In other words, Jerusalem would become a place of tranquillity, long life, peace, prosperity, and security for even the most defenseless of her citizens (cf. Isaiah 65:20-25). These conditions await the return of Jesus Christ at His second coming.
"In one of the most amazing and challenging statements about measurement of the health of society, Zechariah suggests that we look at the place the old and the young have in that society." [Note: Smith, p. 233.]
Even though these blessings seemed impossible to the people of Zechariah’s day, they were not to assume that they would be impossible for the Lord. His promises of blessing were as hard for the returned exiles to believe as His threats of judgment had been for their ancestors previously.
Sovereign Yahweh promised to deliver His people from the distant places in the world where He had scattered them and to bring them back to live in Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 30:7-11; Jeremiah 31:7-8). Jerusalem stands for the whole land here (by metonymy), not "the true church of God." [Note: Leupold, p. 148. Cf. McComiskey, p. 1141.] It identifies the place where people would come to worship the Lord. There they would enjoy intimacy with Him, a relationship marked by truth and righteousness. This future Exodus depended on Yahweh’s electing grace and His covenant faithfulness just as much as the original Exodus did.
"’They will be my people, and I will be . . . their God’ is covenant terminology, pertaining to intimate fellowship in a covenant relationship (cf. Genesis 17:7-8; Exodus 6:7; Exodus 19:5-6; Exodus 29:45-46; Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 22:33; Leviticus 25:38; Leviticus 26:12; Leviticus 26:44-45; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 29:12-13; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3)." [Note: Barker, p. 651.]
"This is one of the greatest and most comprehensive promises in reference to Israel’s restoration and conversion to be found in the prophetic Scriptures." [Note: Baron, p. 237.]
The Lord also told the people to gain strength from the words of the prophets who had encouraged them to complete the rebuilding of the temple ever since they began the project (cf. Joshua 1:7; 2 Samuel 2:7; 2 Samuel 16:21; Haggai 2:4). These prophets were Haggai, Zechariah, and perhaps others (Ezra 5:1-2). Probably the resumption of construction in 520 B.C. (Haggai 2:18) is in view rather than the restoration of the foundation in 536 B.C. (Ezra 3:8). Between these dates the people did little work on the temple, especially between 530 and 520 B.C.
Before the returnees began to rebuild in earnest, there was severe unemployment, so there were no wages for many of the people (cf. Haggai 1:6). Even the animals were not earning their keep. There was also no peace because the enemies of the Jews oppressed them (cf. Ezra 4:1-5; Haggai 1:6-11; Haggai 2:15-19). The Lord Himself was ultimately responsible for the antagonism that existed then.
"This verse presents a contrast of the present, when they had begun to obey the Word of God, with the past, when they did not." [Note: Unger, p. 140.]
The Lord promised to treat the remnant of His people differently in the future than He had in the past (cf. Haggai 2:19). Peace would prevail for the people as they sowed their seed, their fields would become productive (cf. Haggai 2:19), there would be abundant moisture so things would grow (cf. Haggai 1:10-11), and the remnant would enjoy the fruits of all these blessings. These were some of the things God had promised the Israelites for covenant obedience (Leviticus 26:3-10; Deuteronomy 28:11-12; cf. Ezekiel 34:25-27).
Even though the Israelites had been a curse among the nations in the past (cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 29:22), the Lord would save them and make them a blessing to the world in the future.
"Not only the two tribes [of Judah] but the ten [of Israel]. This has never yet been fulfilled." [Note: Perowne, p. 105. Cf. Jeremiah 31:1-31; Ezekiel 37:11-28.]
One of the purposes of these promises was to remove the Jews’ present fear and give them strength to complete the temple. "Let your hands be strong" is the exhortation that frames this sixth message of encouragement (cf. Zechariah 8:9).
Yahweh of armies also promised that just as He had purposed to bring His people into difficult times because of their forefathers’ sins (cf. Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 51:12; Lamentations 2:17), so He would bless Jerusalem in the near future. Covenant disobedience had brought divine discipline, but covenant obedience would bring divine blessing. As He had not relented from bringing the first promise to pass, so He would not go back on the second promise. His determination was equally strong in both instances. Therefore the people should not fear (cf. Zechariah 8:13).
"These glorious eschatological promises illuminating the future of the Jews and setting before them their future national hope also came as an illustration to them of the blessing God had in store for them at that time. To describe this the prophet uses the expression in these days (Zechariah 8:15). But the benefits that were immediate did not exhaust the full scope of these sweeping prophetic previews.
"Like Jonah out of God’s will they have caused a storm among the Gentiles. Yet in a future day, after their great tribulation, like Jonah’s experience in the fish, they shall be restored to faith and obedience to minister to the nations of the millennium, as Jonah did to the Ninevites." [Note: Unger, p. 145.]
In view of this promise, the remnant should speak truthfully with each other. They should also practice justice and promote peace (Heb. shalom) in their community life. They should stop plotting to take advantage of one another and stop lying under oath because the Lord hates these things (cf. Proverbs 6:16-19; Malachi 2:16).
"One theological rationale for ethics, then, is awareness that God hates attitudes and actions contrary to his character. We are to love what God loves and hate what he hates." [Note: Barker, p. 653.]
Zechariah 8:14-15 explain God’s part in the people’s immediate restoration, and Zechariah 8:16-17 explain theirs.
Zechariah received another message from the Lord Almighty. He promised that in the future the sorrowful fasts that the Jews had observed in captivity would give way to joyful feasts. Thus at the end of this section of messages on hypocritical fasting (chs. 7-8), the Lord provided at least a partial answer to the question that the messengers from Bethel had asked about the traditional fasts (Zechariah 7:3). In addition to the fasts in the fifth and seventh months (Zechariah 7:3; Zechariah 7:5), the exiles also had commemorated the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3-4; Jeremiah 39:2) in the fourth month and the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1; Ezekiel 24:2) in the tenth month. [Note: The Illustrated . . ., 8:93.] Strict modern Jews still observe these four fasts. They seemingly died out after the second (restoration) temple was finished, but after the destruction of this temple in A.D. 70 the observance of these fasts revived. [Note: See Keil, 2:319.]
"The manifestation of the kingdom will be attended by such a fulness [sic] of salvation that Judah will forget to commemorate the former mournful events and will only have occasion to rejoice in the benefits of grace bestowed by God." [Note: Unger, p. 148.]
The immediate practical application of this revelation was that the people should love truth and peace (cf. Leviticus 19:18; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 6:5; Psalms 31:23; Amos 5:15). They could value these ideals in the present because they were sure to come in the future. Before mourning could become joy for them, the returnees would need to love truth and peace.
E. Kingdom joy and Jewish favor 8:18-23
This final section of this part of the book (chs. 7-8) returns full circle to the theme with which it began, namely, the people’s concern about fasting (cf. Zechariah 7:1-7). These messages began after a few Bethelites came to Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:2-7), and they ended with the promise that multitudes of Gentiles representing all languages would come to Jerusalem. The fasting of the past would become feasting in the future.
The Lord foretold that people from one of the world’s cities would contact people from another of these cities and would plan to go up to Jerusalem immediately to worship the Lord (cf. Zechariah 7:2). They would do this eagerly, not out of a sense of duty or obligation (cf. Zechariah 2:11; Isaiah 2:1-5; Micah 4:1-5). Many people representing many nations from around the world would come to Jerusalem to pray and worship Yahweh Almighty.
"Jerusalem is no longer viewed simply as the heart of Judaism but as the centre of God’s dealings with all nations, and as a glorious realization of the ancient promise given to Abraham (cf. Genesis 12:3)." [Note: Ellis, p. 1039.]
"With the Davidic kingdom established, Israel will be a medium of blessing to the entire globe." [Note: Unger, p. 148.]
In this future time of Yahweh’s blessing many Gentiles from many nations and language groups will lay hold of a Jew. In this case, as in many others, 10 is a round number suggesting completeness (cf. Genesis 31:7; Leviticus 26:26; Judges 17:10; Ruth 4:2; 1 Samuel 1:8; Jeremiah 41:8). They will do so not to persecute him but to ask his permission to accompany him because God’s blessing would rest on the Jews so obviously.
"The prophecy teaches, then, that Israel will be the means of drawing the nations of the earth to the Lord in the time of the Messiah’s reign of righteousness upon earth." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 146.]
Amillennialists understand this promise as fulfilled in many Gentiles coming to salvation in the present age through Jewish roots (e.g., Messiah, the scriptures, etc.). [Note: E.g., McComiskey, p. 1157.]
"By way of summary . . . we can see the purpose of the Spirit through the prophet in answer to the question concerning fasting. It was a twofold objective: a present and a future one. For the time then present the Spirit pointed out the sham in the fastings, the need for reality and sincerity, the vivid warning from the past sins of the forefathers, and the imperative demand for righteousness in all the relationships of life. With reference to the future Zechariah was directed to point to a day of glorious promise for Israel when the Lord would dwell in her midst, when prosperity and peace would characterize her land, when her dispersed ones would be gathered back to their homeland, and . . . when her fasts would be turned into feasts, the glory of the Lord being so manifest in Israel that all the nations would be drawn to Him through His people." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, pp. 146-47.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany