This Second Main Section In Chapters 9-14 Probably Came Later in Zechariah’s Life and It Concentrates on the Eschatalogical Future When God Will Finally Bring All His Work to Fruition.
Many years have passed. The building of the Temple has been completed, but it has not produced the spiritual revival that Zechariah had hoped for. The nations round about are constantly at odds with them. The leaders are dallying with divination and the occult (Zechariah 10:2). Zechariah, whose words had been so effective in his youth, now finds his efforts thwarted and he himself rejected and put to one side (Zechariah 11:4-14). His opponents are profiting from their position by misusing the Temple to the detriment of the people, having become ‘traffickers of the sheep’ (Zechariah 11:5; Zechariah 11:7; Zechariah 11:11).
So in this second main section the prophet, realising that everything was not going to happen as speedily as he had hoped, seeks to encourage the faithful in Israel and concentrates on the more distant future, and the fulfilling of the purposes of God. Then the nations as a whole will be dealt with by God and His people will become a blessing to the world, especially through their Coming King. But before the final fulfilment there will be treachery and suffering. For God’s triumph will come through the tribulation of His people.
This second main section divides up into two subsections, 9-11 and 12-14.
ANALYSIS OF THE FIRST SUBSECTION.
This third section of Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:1 to Zechariah 11:17) is not so clearly divided up as the previous sections but we may possibly divide it as follows on the basis of exhortations:
· ‘The burden of the word of YHWH on’ (the northern nations) - (Zechariah 9:1).
· ‘Rejoice greatly O daughter of Zion --- behold your King comes’ (Zechariah 9:9).
· ‘Ask of YHWH rain in the time of the latter rain’ (Zechariah 10:1).
· ‘Open your doors, O Lebanon ---’ (Zechariah 11:1).
IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF Zechariah 9-11.
· Destruction of the pride and wisdom of the nations, salvation for the humbled Philistines, God will encamp around His house (His people) so that they will never again be oppressed (Zechariah 9:1-8).
· ‘His people are called on to behold the arrival of the lowly but triumphant King who will introduce peace and abjure warfare. He will release the captive exiles, who are therefore to turn to the Stronghold, for YHWH will act on their behalf as their Defender using His own weaponry of lightning and whirlwind and thus they will feast and rejoice and flourish in perfect safety (Zechariah 9:9-17).
· His people are to ask of YHWH for the necessary rains and the One Who is their Defender (the One Who makes lightning - Zechariah 9:14) will give them rain, for God will deal with the false prophets and shepherds, and will raise up One Who will be His Cornerstone, His secure nail, and His battle bow, and an army of rulers who will be mighty men and will deliver His people. His people will be made strong and rejoice and He will signal to the exiles, will strengthen them in YHWH and they will return and walk up and down in His Name (Zechariah 10:1-12).
· The nation is to open its doors to invaders because it has listened to the false shepherds and rejected its true shepherd who is valued at a derisory thirty pieces of silver. The result is that they will have to endure the false shepherds that they have chosen (Zechariah 11:1-17)
Note that in ‘a’ God promises that He will deal with the proud nations, and that His people will never be oppressed, and in the parallel His people will be oppressed because they have chosen to follow false shepherds. In ‘b’ their King comes and YHWH fights on His people’s behalf with His own weaponry, and in the parallel He sends His Cornerstone and again acts on their behalf again with His own weaponry.
In this remarkable chapter we have a description of YHWH’s purposes for the world. We may summarise it as follows:
· All who are proud, and especially Tyre and Sidon, the outstanding symbol of pride and wealth at the time, will be brought down (Zechariah 9:1-4).
· This will affect the attitudes of the peoples like the Philistines and they will see what happens and will be afraid. They too will be humbled, but in their case it will lead them to become one with God’s people, freed from idolatry (Zechariah 9:5-7).
· At this time YHWH will become as a guard to His house (the house of Israel), so that His people will be free from oppressors (Zechariah 9:8).
· The coming King will arrive, triumphant and victorious and yet riding in humility on an ass (Zechariah 9:9).
· At this stage all weapons of warfare will be dispensed with, and the King will command peace to the nations and establish worldwide dominion in peace (Zechariah 9:10).
· Because of the blood of the covenant His people will now be free to come out of their prisons as ‘prisoners of hope’ and return to His stronghold (Zechariah 9:11-12).
· The influence of His people will reach across the seas even to Javan (Zechariah 9:13).
· And all this will be wrought by the hand of YHWH as He goes forward to conquer, just as He did before Israel of old (Zechariah 9:14).
· YHWH will watch over His people who will be under His protection and will make even the most fiendish weapons fail against them. They will be able to feast, and tread on their enemies’ sling stones, and satiate themselves with wine in the face of their enemies (Zechariah 9:15).
· And on that day God will save them, and the age of blessing and plenty will dawn (916-17).
So the overall picture is of judgment on the proud, and of salvation to the humble, wrought by YHWH through the coming King.
God’s Anger At False Shepherds Who Lead His People Astray, But God will Ensure The Coming Restoration (Zechariah 10:2-12).
The picture now changes for a moment. If God is so powerful why are His people in their present straits? And the answer lies in whom they are listening to. The theme of Zechariah, as of all the prophets, is the present wrong and the future hope. The future may be filled with hope but at present God’s people are unresponsive and disobedient, ill taught and badly led. They gain their knowledge of the future from anywhere but the prophets. Of course in the future this will be remedied by God Himself, and He will act to bring it about. But prior to that there will be an unspecified time in which the false shepherds will bring disaster on the people (Zechariah 11:4-17). The future is thus seen as a whole. To them there was but one future. And that was indeed so. But it was a future that was more complicated than they could ever have imagined.
We looking back can see its many facets. The encouraging of the people through time, the raising of them from the low state in which they were, the re-establishing of His people in the land, the coming of the Messianic king, the spiritual transformation of His people along with those who would unite themselves to them, the reaching out of God’s truth to the world and the final consummation. All this was encompassed by the prophets, but in terms of their own day. But it was still a future dream because of their false teachers.
‘For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and they have told false dreams, they comfort in vain. Therefore they go their way like sheep, they are afflicted because there is no shepherd.’ .
Zechariah has now come down to earth. The shepherds of the people have been false shepherds and have deceived them. The people have been hearing the future from lying sources. That is why the people are wandering like sheep with no shepherd. They are without protection and defenceless. This will be dealt with in detail shortly (Zechariah 11:4-17). Compare Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8; Micah 3:7 which demonstrate that those who were supposed to be shepherds of God’s people regularly did use these methods.
‘The teraphim have spoken vanity.’ Teraphim were linked with divination and spiritist practises (Judges 17:5; Ezekiel 21:21; 2 Kings 23:24). They were almost always condemned in Scripture (1 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kings 23:24; Judges 17:6). We do not know what form they took or what material they were made of, although they are linked with household gods (e.g. Genesis 31:30 with 34). The word probably links with the Hittite ‘tarpis’, a type of spirit sometimes seen as evil and sometimes as protective. The reason that Rachel stole the teraphim may have been in order to enjoy their protection (Genesis 31:34-35). The latter idea would fit the context here in that the false shepherds have failed to give protection. But whatever their function, rather than giving protection they have spoken only what has brought harm and trouble (’awen).
‘The diviners have seen a lie, and they have told false dreams. They comfort in vain.’ It is clear that the ‘shepherds’ of the people have been using many means to obtain messages from the beyond. But here we are told that their methods are useless and vain and clearly to be condemned. They have no message for God’s people. Their messages are lies. The result is that God’s people are misled and suffer harm. And it is ever so. There are always those who ignore the word of God and proclaim vain words of comfort and false dreams which are not in accordance with its teaching.
In these days when astrology, tarot cards, ouija boards, spirit writing and such like abound we need to recognise their futility and their condemnation by God.
“My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats.” For Yahweh of Hosts has visited his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as his goodly horse in the battle.’
But when God begins to act the false shepherds will suffer God’s anger. The he-goats, the leaders of the flock, will be punished, for they will have misled the people. For God will visit His flock and it is He Who will then protect and lead them, making them His sound and effective instrument.
‘His goodly horse in battle.’ When a mounted man went into battle he needed ideally a horse which was strong, powerful, well-balanced and unafraid. This is what God will make His people to be.
‘From him shall come forth the corner stone, from him the nail, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler together.’
God will provide full protection and strong leadership for His people, replacing these false shepherds. He will supply the cornerstone, the nail, the battle bow and the leadership.
‘From Him -- the corner stone.’ It was the corner stone that strengthened the building and provided its final strength. Compare Judges 20:2 where the leaders are described in the Hebrew as ‘the corners of all the people’. But the finest corner stone of all was the One Whom God sent into the world to save us from our sins and be the foundation of His new people (Psalms 118:22; Matthew 21:42).
‘From Him the nail.’ The steward appointed by God in Isaiah 22 was described as being like a nail in a sure place (Isaiah 22:23) who could bear the weight of what was expected of him. God will provide sufficiency for His people.
‘From Him the battle bow.’ Compare Zechariah 9:13 where Judah is God’s battle bow. The battle bow is seen there as the powerful weapon of God.
‘From Him every ruler.’ The word for ‘ruler’ is nagas, ‘one who exerts pressure’. Thus an exactor exacting taxes, a taskmaster overseeing work, one who governs and rules forcefully (compare its use in Isaiah 3:12).
So God will replace the false shepherds, and those whom God will put over His people will be strong and effective and able to bear the weight placed on them because they participate in His truth and power. The Targums refer this verse to the coming Messiah, and He unquestionably is its final fulfilment. The New Testament refers specifically to Jesus Christ as ‘the cornerstone’ (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6).
‘And they shall be as mighty men, trampling down in the mire of the streets in the battle, and they will fight because YHWH is with them, and the riders on horses will be confounded.’
‘Mighty men.’ Compare the mighty men of David (2 Samuel 23:8). These were the flower of any army, the king’s champions.
This is a picture of triumph and overcoming and the details need not be pressed. The vivid scene was well known to the prophet and his contemporaries for some had seen it in reality. The mud-filled streets of a city, the powerful champions against whom none could prevail, their forward progress trampling all before them, enemy cavalry beaten and destroyed. In the past this had been true of their enemies who had seemed invincible. Now it was to become true of them. In their turn they will be the victors because YHWH is with them.
We may be engaged in a different kind of battle, a spiritual battle, but the way is still miry and the enemy still battling in desperation. Ours too will be the victory if God is with us.
“And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again, for I have mercy on them. And they will be as though I had not cast them off, for I am YHWH their God and I will hear them.”
As in Zechariah 10:3 a we are suddenly introduced to direct words of YHWH. Here is the promise of full restoration for both Judah and Israel (Joseph). Because God will reveal His mercy they will be brought back to the land and be as though they had not been cast off. In other words they will be restored to the ‘ideal’ as God’s covenant people, as what they were intended originally to be in God’s eyes. When God forgives He does it completely. There is full restoration to His service.
‘The house of Joseph.’ As with the use of Ephraim (the son of Joseph) the term includes the whole of Israel. It is an alternative to avoid too much repetition.
‘I am YHWH their God and I will hear them.’ A reminder of their covenant relationship. God is a God Who hears and responds. But all through Zechariah, and indeed the Old Testament, this relationship is dependent on a response of righteous living and obedience. God reveals His mercy and His people must respond accordingly. Then He will hear them.
‘And Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart will rejoice as through wine. Yes, their children will see it and rejoice. Their heart will be glad in YHWH. I will hiss for them and gather them, for I have redeemed them. And they will increase as they have increased. And as there was a sowing of them among the peoples so will they remember me in far countries, and they will live with their children and shall return.’
The result of their new reception by God will be that they themselves will become champions and filled with rejoicing in their hearts. But this joy will not be the result of drinking wine but will be the result of their response to God (compare Ephesians 5:18). Their descendants too will see it and rejoice in it. Indeed God will signal to them and bring them back to the land because He has planned to redeem them as He did at the Exodus. And as they have increased they will continue to increase. He has sowed them among peoples in far countries, but now they will remember Him and this will give them new life along with their children and so they will return to the land.
‘I will hiss for them.’ Make a noise to attract their attention and call them back. We could translate ‘whistle’ as to a sheep dog.
‘As there was a sowing of them.’ Literally ‘I will sow them among the peoples.’ The context demands that this refer to a past sowing. The verse is looking at past and future as one. Hebrew verbs are not as specific as to time as English verbs and must be interpreted from the context. First they had been sown among the people, now they will remember and return.
So God’s purpose that His people should return to the land is emphasised. He wants them there so that they can begin again and be His faithful people. And their final triumph in one form or another is assured.
‘I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria, and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, and place shall not be found for them. And he will pass through the sea of affliction, and will smite the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the Nile will dry up, and the pride of Assyria will be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt will depart away.’
The promise of a new exodus is confirmed and described. Just as God had delivered His people from Egypt under Moses, so would He now again deliver them from their present exiles, both those who had fled to Egypt for shelter, and those carried way to Assyria and elsewhere. The reference to Egypt and Assyria parallels Isaiah 52:4. They were the traditional ‘old enemies’ of Israel, remembered as typical of all their enemies. And Assyria was especially the place to which exiles had been taken from Israel (2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 17:23; 2 Kings 18:11). They were also the two enemies who had previously most clearly suffered at the powerful hand of YHWH, Egypt at the Reed Sea (Exodus 14:27-31) and Assyria before Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36) and could be used as examples.
‘The land of Gilead and Lebanon.’ Such will be the triumph that the boundaries of the old kingdom are to be restored, indeed the people will be so numerous that even this will not be sufficient and Gilead and Lebanon would also be possessed and populated (compare Isaiah 29:17). When we contrast this with the tiny patch of land around Jerusalem populated by the first returning exiles we can see the triumph in the declaration.
The description then follows which reminds them of how He had led them through the Sea of Reeds, but now all obstacles will be dried up, even the Nile itself will be totally ‘dried up’, and the pride of Assyria ‘brought down’. Both mighty Assyria and powerful Egypt will be humbled and subjected to others. The thought is even perhaps that they will be ruled by Judah and Israel. The language is the language of hyperbole. It was a reminder of how Israel had escaped through the dried up waters and through the smiting angel against Assyria. But now even the Nile would be dried up. We do not need to look for a literal drying up of the Nile but of all that the Nile represents in respect of Egypt’s prosperity, affected both by famine and by warfare. That seemingly impregnable nation will be reduced to subservience and all their gods, including the Nile, will prove useless.
Note again the change of persons in midstream from ‘I’ to ‘He’, typical of Zechariah.
The overall description of these verses is to demonstrate that God will do far more than He has ever done before. His people will become strong and mighty and all their adversities will be removed. It is the prophetic equivalent of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22. We need not look for a literal fulfilment to the letter, but can see it as a picture of the final triumph of the people of God.
‘And I will strengthen them in YHWH, and they will walk up and down in his name. The word of YHWH.’
The whole trust of the people will now be in their covenant God and they will find their strength in Him and will walk triumphantly in His name in total confidence. This is ‘the prophetic word of YHWH’.
(Note. As Paul brings out, we must distinguish between those who respond and reveal themselves to be the true people of God, the remnant according to the election of grace, and those who fail to respond and thus cut themselves off from the true Israel. As he demonstrates this was true right from the beginning. Not all Abraham’s seed inherited the full promises, but a select part only. The call was to all in every case, but its fruition depended on response. Ishmael and Esau could have stayed within the covenant community but they chose not to do so. Not all returned from exile. And that has been true throughout history. Potentially ‘the remnant’ was all of Israel who survived. In actual fact it was those who truly responded to God and believed. (See Romans 9-11)).
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 10". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany