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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Zechariah 8

Verses 1-8

The Lord’s Concern for Jerusalem (8:1-8)

A final group of prophecies ascribed to Zechariah begins with a promise concerning the future welfare of Jerusalem. This prophecy, together with the others of the chapter, is not dated and has no particular contact with the events of the reign of Darius. Its concern is the "great jealousy" of the Lord of hosts for Zion. The "holy mountain" is not merely the Temple hill, Moriah, but the adjacent hill Zion and the rest of Jerusalem with its other high points. To Zion the Lord promises to return, and in its midst he will dwell.

As a result of the blessing thus brought to Jerusalem, the prophet sketches conditions: old men and women will sit in the streets watching many children playing; people from east and west will return to live under the blessing of the Lord of hosts. Zechariah’s picture is not as detailed or specific as that of Isaiah 60, but it is a picture of prosperity in which the burdens of labor will be removed from older people and from little children, so that neither group will be decimated by disease or forced to stay indoors at work. The basis for this glorious future is the presence of the Lord of hosts, dwelling in the midst of his people "in faithfulness and in righteousness." Can any community enjoy real blessing apart from the presence of God?

Verses 9-13

"Let Your Hands Be Strong" (8:9-13)

Following closely upon the promise that God will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem is a brief message of exhortation particularly directed toward the work of reconstruction of the Temple. It is addressed to those who have been attentive to the "words from the mouth of the prophets, since the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid." The prophet contrasts conditions before the laying of the foundation of the Temple, when "there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in." At that time God set every man against his neighbor, and there was no prosperity or security. Now, since the foundation of the Temple was laid (see Haggai 1:12-14), apparently in response to the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, the Lord promises not to deal in the same manner with "the remnant of this people," the returned exiles and the faithful Jews who had remained in and around Jerusalem. Prosperity will begin with good crops as a result of bountiful moisture, and will lead to a reversal of status among the nations; the cursing and taunts of other peoples will become blessing. The message is addressed to both Judah and Israel, and evidently contemplates the re-establishment of the whole people as they had been under David and Solomon.

In view of the promise of improvement in condition which God will bring as he saves his people from the deleterious effects of internal strife, adverse weather, and the hostility of neighboring peoples, the word of exhortation is appropriate: "Let your hands be strong." God’s process of salvation may not eliminate these external and internal evils completely or immediately; men must contribute their effort and must help in the removal of lingering evils. God saves, but men must build!

Verses 14-17

God’s Purposes and Man’s Duties (8:14-17)

The next declaration from the Lord could be treated with the previous section, for it builds upon the contrast between former times and the future. The fathers had provoked God to wrath, and he did not relent; now his people need no longer fear, for the same Lord of hosts purposes "to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah." But the people have moral duties as well as an obligation to rebuild the Temple: they must speak the truth and render true judgments, and they must not devise evil or love a false oath. God has not ceased to hate the things that grieved him in the lives of the fathers. The people are under obligation not only to work at the Temple but also to build a moral structure in their community. So, though God purposes good for his people, his good intention for them is never held apart from the requirement of good behavior as set forth in his laws.

Verses 18-19

A Further Word About Fasts (8:18-19)

Almost as an afterthought on the matter of fasts comes another word of the Lord to Zechariah. Four fasts, including the two mentioned in 7:5 and adding the fasts of the fourth month and the tenth month, are to be turned into seasons of joy. The fast of the fourth month, observed on the ninth day of the month, recalled the breaching of the wall of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:3-4 and Jeremiah 39:2-3). That of the tenth month, observed on the tenth day, recalled the beginning of the siege of the city by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1). All four fasts, recalling the fall of Jerusalem, are to be made into feasts.

The concluding exhortation urges the love of truth and of peace, and suggests a proper mood for the celebration of feasts to replace the fasts. Incidentally, such a spirit is appropriate for all religious observances.

Verses 20-23

Pilgrimages to Jerusalem (8:20-23)

A final brief word of the Lord speaks of the future popularity of the Jews and of the way in which peoples will come to Jerusalem "to entreat the favor of the Lord." Jerusalem appears as a sort of Mecca for pilgrims from the neighboring nations; every Jew will find ten foreigners tagging along with him when he makes his pilgrimages to Jerusalem — all because the peoples of the nations, so unfriendly in the days of the Exile, have discovered that God is with his people.

Thus to the very end of the first section of the Book of Zechariah, we are concerned with the needs of people who cannot see God or hear his voice directly. In this last section it is no longer the Jewish people living in Jerusalem after the Exile, but foreign nations, who yearn for contact with God. Here, instead of angelic beings seen in visions it is the Holy City and the Jewish people who mediate the presence of God. Some mediation of God’s presence is needed by prophet and Chosen People and also by the peoples of the world. What contemporary instruments mediate the presence of God to the modem world?

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Zechariah 8". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/zechariah-8.html.