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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Zechariah 14

Introduction

A.M. 3494. B.C. 510.

In this chapter we have a continuation of the prophecy begun in the last two verses of the preceding chapter. Here is

(1,) The taking and spoiling of Jerusalem by many and cruel enemies, Zechariah 14:1 , Zechariah 14:2 .

(2,) The Lord coming forth to fight against the nations who had been the instruments of his vengeance, Zechariah 14:3 , Zechariah 14:4 .

(3,) The manifestation of the kingdom of God, and the great increase of spiritual light and grace, till the name and majesty of Jehovah are acknowledged through the whole earth, Zechariah 14:5-9 .

(4,) The rebuilding, replenishing, and final establishment of Jerusalem in security, Zechariah 14:10 , Zechariah 14:11 .

(5,) Dreadful judgments inflicted upon all who fought against her, Zechariah 14:12-19 .

(6,) The extraordinary holiness of the church in the latter days, Zechariah 14:20 , Zechariah 14:21 .

Verses 1-2

Zechariah 14:1-2. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh A day of the Lord’s great wrath and indignation will soon overtake you, O sinful, unthankful, bloody Jews! A day remarkable for the execution of divine vengeance upon you, and your city, Jerusalem. This chapter ought to have been joined to the preceding; for here the prophet continues to foretel the execution of the threatenings contained in the latter part of the former chapter; namely, how the unbelieving Jews should be destroyed by the Romans. Thy spoils shall be divided in the midst of thee All that thou hast, O Jerusalem, shall become a prey to thine enemies, who shall be such absolute masters of thee, that, in the greatest security, they shall divide among themselves whatever spoil they take from thee, in the very place where they take it. For I will gather all nations “The Romans, being lords of the known world, had the strength of all nations united in their forces. Thus, (Jeremiah 24:1,) Nebuchadnezzar is said to fight against Jerusalem with all the kingdoms of the earth.” Lowth. And the city shall be taken For God is its enemy, and who can stand before him, or before nations gathered by him? Where he gives commission, he will give success. And the houses rifled, and the women ravished The Roman soldiers shall exercise those acts of lust and violence which are too frequent among conquerors. That all the outrages were committed, and the miseries endured, which are here predicted, when the Romans took Jerusalem, we have abundant proof from Josephus and other historians: see notes on Deuteronomy 28:0. And half of the city shall go into captivity The Hebrew word rendered half, may be translated a portion. It must be observed, that the city only is here spoken of; but chap. Zechariah 13:8, where mention is made of two parts being cut off and dying, refers to the whole land. And the residue of the people shall not be cut off “The Romans spared the young and useful part of the Jews: Josephus, Bel. Jud., 6. 9:2. However, these were either condemned to the mines in Egypt, or exposed to the sword and to wild beasts in the provincial theatres, or sold for slaves. Ibid. It must be observed, that the forty thousand who were permitted to go where they pleased, were Idumeans: Bel. Jud., 6. 8:2.” Newcome. “But it is probable that the remnant of the Jews, who survived this almost exterminating destruction, and their descendants, who have for so many centuries been preserved a distinct people, in order to their future restoration, are intended.” Scott.

Verse 3

Zechariah 14:3. Then shall the Lord After he hath sufficiently punished Jerusalem and the rest of the Jewish nations; go forth Out of his holy place, as a warrior prepared for battle. This is spoken after the manner of men; and fight against those nations Which had taken and destroyed Jerusalem, and oppressed his people. As when he fought in the day of battle As in those days when he evidently fought for his people. The meaning is, that in after times God would discomfit and destroy the posterity of these nations, namely, the Roman idolaters and those under their empire; that when he had made use of them as a scourge to his people, he would execute his judgments upon them, as when he fought against the enemies of his church formerly, the Egyptians, Canaanites, and others. Observe here, reader, the instruments of God’s wrath will themselves be made the objects of it; for it will come to their turn to drink of the cup of trembling; and whom God fights against, he will be sure to overcome. It is observable that the Roman empire never flourished after the destruction of Jerusalem as it had done before; but God evidently fought against it, and against all the nations under its dominion, or in alliance with it, till at last it was subverted and destroyed, its richest cities taken and plundered, and its various provinces ravaged by the Goths and Vandals, and other barbarous invaders.

Zechariah 14:4-5 , And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, &c. It is very difficult to say to what time this prediction refers, or what is its precise meaning. Commentators are not at all agreed on the subject. Some think the passage refers to the time immediately subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem, foretold in Zechariah 14:1-2, and that it is to be understood figuratively, namely, 1st, That by the Lord’s standing before Jerusalem on the east, is meant, his drawing peculiarly near to his church and people, here, as frequently elsewhere, signified by Jerusalem; and that he would be at hand to succour and save them; and would give success to, and be manifested in, the gospel preached by his apostles, who received their commission on that mount before Christ’s ascension. 2d, That by the cleaving of the mount of Olives in the midst, toward the east and toward the west, so as to make a very great valley, is meant the removing of the ceremonial law, which was like an aspiring mountain, or partition wall, between the Jews and Gentiles, and a great obstruction to the conversion of the latter, and their entrance into the church of God: but that, by the destruction of Jerusalem, this mountain should be made to cleave, as it were, in the midst, this partition wall be broken down, and God’s church, the spiritual Jerusalem, made of easy access to the Gentiles. Thus the way of the Lord would be prepared, every mountain and hill brought low, and a plain and pleasant valley, or open way of communication, be found in the place of them: see Isaiah 40:4. 3d, That by the valley of the mountains, is meant the gospel church, to which, as a place of refuge, many of the Jews should flee, as people fled formerly from before the earthquake here mentioned, and should hasten into it together with the Gentiles. 4th, That by this valley reaching to Azal, or, to the separate place, as the word signifies, is signified that the privileges of the church should not be limited, as formerly, to any particular nation, or people, but should be extended to all those who, in obedience to the call of God, should come out from the world, separate themselves from sinners, devote themselves to God, and become his peculiar people. And, 5th, That by the Lord’s coming, and all his saints with him, is signified the spiritual coming and extension of his kingdom, whereby a multitude of converts, both of Jewish and Gentile extraction, should be made, who, through faith working by love, should become saints, or holy persons. This, in substance, seems to be Henry’s view of the passage, as it is that of many others.

Lowth, on the other hand, interprets it literally, as follows: His feet shall stand upon the mount of Olives “The glory of the Lord, that is, the Shechinah, or symbol of God’s presence, when it departed from the city and temple, settled itself upon the mount of Olives, Ezekiel 11:23; so when God shall return to Jerusalem, [that is, to Jerusalem rebuilt and inhabited by the converted Jews restored to their own land, at the beginning of the millennium,] and make it the seat of his presence again, it [the Shechinah] shall return by the same way it departed, Ezekiel 43:2. We may add, that when our Lord ascended from the mourn of Olives, the angels told his disciples, he should come again in like manner, that is, in a visible and glorious appearance, at the same place, Acts 1:11-12. And the mount of Olives shall cleave, &c. By an earthquake, such as was in the time of King Uzziah: see Amos 1:1. The middle of mount Olivet shall cleave asunder, and sink into a deep valley, so as to leave the two points, or tops of the hill, north and south, still standing. For mount Olivet, as we learn from Maundrell, had three tops, or eminences; one on the north side, another on the south, and a third in the middle, from whence Christ ascended, and where the Christians in after times erected a cross, in memory of his ascension there. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains When ye see the mount of Olives cleave asunder, ye shall flee toward the valley for fear. The margin reads, The valley of my mountains, which may be understood of Zion and Moriah; but the Chaldee and LXX. read, The valley of my mountains shall be filled up; for the valley of the mountains shall join even to Azal, it shall even be filled up, as it was by the earthquake in the days of Uzziah. Josephus writes, ( Ant. Jud., lib. 9. cap. 10,) ‘That before the city, at a place called Ερρωγη , [or the cleft,] one half of the mountain, on the western side, was broken off, and having rolled four furlongs toward the eastern mountain, stopped, so that the roads were choked up, and the king’s gardens.’ And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints [or holy ones ] with thee Or with him, as the Chaldee and LXX. read.” “The words,” Lowth adds, “are a description of Christ’s coming to judgment, attended with all the holy angels, as the writers of the New Testament express it, the word קדשׁים , translated saints, often signifying angels: see Deuteronomy 33:2; so the word saints seems to be used 1 Thessalonians 3:13; and St. Judges 1:14, quoting the prophecy of Enoch, says, The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, or holy ones: a place exactly parallel with this of the text.”

One observation seems needful to be made here: if the visible and personal coming of Christ be intended in these verses, it certainly cannot be his coming to raise the dead and judge the world in righteousness, because that view of the passage would not, by any means, be consistent with what is said in the two next verses concerning the continually increasing light of knowledge, holiness, and happiness in the gospel church, till, at length, at evening time it shall be quite light: but it must rather be understood of his coming to introduce, establish, and perfect his millennial reign, believed in and expected generally in the first Christian church. The reader will consider these different interpretations, and will of course adopt that which he thinks the most probable.

Verses 6-7

Zechariah 14:6-7. And it shall come to pass in that day Namely, when the Lord shall come forth to fight against the enemies of his church, the nations that fought against Jerusalem, as foretold Zechariah 14:3; or, in that day when he shall come to convert and restore the Jews, and spread his gospel through all the world; the light Namely, of knowledge, holiness, and happiness in his church; shall not Namely, at first; be clear Like that of the perfect day; nor dark As perfect night, but shall be a kind of twilight, a mixture of light and darkness, of knowledge and ignorance, as to divine things, of holiness and sin, of happiness and misery, or of prosperity and adversity. But it shall be one day One continued day; there shall be no setting of the sun to make it quite night; but God will invariably pursue the end he has in view, and always act in order to it, namely, the full salvation of his spiritual Jerusalem. Which shall be known to the Lord The Lord will always have his eye upon this progressive day, and upon all the events of it. He will continually take notice of them, and order and dispose of all for the best, according to the counsel of his own will. But at evening time

When natural days end, and when, perhaps, the shades of the evening may appear to be coming on, and there may be an apprehension of returning darkness; it shall be light This spiritual day shall be full of light and glory, Isaiah 48:8; and Isaiah 60:19-21. Mr. Scott considers these verses as containing a compendious prophecy of the state of the church, from its establishment in the apostles’ days, to those glorious times which are expected; a prophecy foretelling that, “for a long season, the light would neither be clear nor dark: it would be greatly obscured by ignorance, heresy, superstition, and idolatry, yet not wholly extinguished: and the state of the church would be much deformed by sin and calamities; yet some holiness and consolation would be found. This period could neither be called a clear, bright day, cheered and illumined by the shining of a summer’s sun, nor would it be dark, as if the sun were set or totally eclipsed; but it would contain a great mixture of truth and error, of holiness and sin, of happiness and misery. Yet it would form one day, and never be interrupted by a night of total darkness. It would also be known unto the Lord, as to the degree of its light, and the term of its continuance; and he would watch over, and take care of, his cause and people all the time of it. But his people would hardly know whether to call it day or night, or a compound of both: yet, at length, toward the evening of the world, the Sun of righteousness would break forth and shine with unclouded splendour, dispelling the gloom of ignorance, heresy, idolatry, and superstition, and illuminating the church and the earth with knowledge, righteousness, peace, and consolation.”

Verses 8-9

Zechariah 14:8-9. And it shall be in that day Spoken of Zechariah 14:6, when the light shall not be clear, nor dark, that is, during the whole of the forementioned period; living waters shall go out from Jerusalem The enlightening, quickening, and saving truths of Christianity, accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, shall proceed from the church of Christ, the true spiritual Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea The eastern sea; and half of them toward the hinder sea The western sea. They shall spread themselves eastward and westward, and on all sides; and even the sea, whether on the east or west, shall not be able to obstruct their progress; but, having watered and refreshed, enlightened, renewed, and cheered the continent, they shall make their way into the islands, and diffuse their renovating and gladdening influence even over them. In summer and in winter shall it be Perpetually, without intermission; these waters shall never dry up, be obstructed in their course, or lose their healing, fructifying, and refreshing virtue. In other words, “the gospel, attended by the influences of the Holy Spirit, having begun its progress from Jerusalem, shall continue its course on every side, amidst all those changes of which summer and winter are an emblem: so that nothing shall totally impede its progress, till the Lord shall become King over all the earth, not only in right but in fact; till neither idols, false religion, nor antichristian power, shall remain as his rivals; till all princes shall submit to and serve him; and all the earth shall agree in one object and way of worship, and unite in submission and obedience to one Lord.” Scott.

Verses 10-11

Zechariah 14:10-11. All the land The whole land of Judea, a type of the whole earth, the seat of the universal church, filled with the knowledge of God, and abounding with multitudes of converts: shall be turned as a plain All high, uneven places, all rocky and barren grounds, shall be changed into fruitful vineyards. So the church of Christ shall be fruitful, humble, and lovely. From Geba The north boundary of the land; to Rimmon The south boundary. And it That is, Jerusalem; shall be lifted up Raised out of the dust, to which its enemies had brought it, through God’s permission. Jerusalem, taken mystically, is the church of Christ in gospel days; and by the repair of all parts of this Jerusalem, as here described, is shadowed out the complete building of the church on all sides, north, south, east, west. From Benjamin’s gate That is, this gate was probably to the north of Jerusalem; unto the place of the first gate Or, as Newcome reads it, the former gate, supposed to be that called the old gate, Nehemiah 3:6; Nehemiah 12:39, placed by Lightfoot toward the south- west. Unto the corner-gate See 2 Kings 14:13. And from the tower of Hananeel Placed by Cocceius eastward; who observes, that the tower and corner-gate seem mentioned as two extremities of the city. Unto the king’s wine-presses Near the king’s garden southward. So Cocceius. “These points are given, no doubt, to signify that Jerusalem shall again occupy as much space as ever it did in its most flourishing times. The same intention appears Jeremiah 31:38-40. Both these places may derive some illustration from comparing them together, and at the same time inspecting the plan of Jerusalem in the Ancient Universal History, vol. 1. b. 1., which seems to have been laid down pretty accurately, according to the circuit of the walls made by the two companies, Nehemiah 12:40, and the information collected from other parts of Scripture.” Blayney. And men shall dwell in it Many, for number; eminent, for worth. And there shall be no more utter destruction They that dwell in it shall dwell securely, and there shall be none to make them afraid. There may be afflictions, but there shall be no more of that utter destruction that formerly laid both town and country waste. There shall be no more curse, as the latter part of the sentence may be translated. In the new state of things, here foretold, the curse which sin brought into the world shall be, at least in a great measure, if not entirely, removed. Similar words, recorded Revelation 22:3, seem to be taken from this place. But Jerusalem shall safely be inhabited A promise often repeated by the prophets. See Jeremiah 23:6, and the note there.

Verses 12-13

Zechariah 14:12-13. And this shall be the plague, &c. Those that do not die in battle, nor fall by the hand of their brethren, shall be destroyed by famine, or consumption. Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet They shall be miserably emaciated, even while they stand in arms ready to fight; or so suddenly, that they shall hardly have time to lie or sit down. And their eyes shall consume away in their holes A dreadful and exemplary blindness shall seize them. A great tumult That is, confusion; from the Lord Hebrew, of the Lord, that is, one caused or permitted by him; shall be among them Shall take place and prevail, as a punishment of their hostility to God’s church. Those that are confederated and combined against God and his people, will be justly separated, and set against one another; and their tumults raised against God will be avenged in tumult among themselves. And they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour That is, they shall seek help from one another, but instead of helping they shall turn their arms against one another. And his hand shall rise up, &c. The sum of the verse is, that intestine divisions and hostilities shall be added to the foregoing divine judgments.

Verses 14-15

Zechariah 14:14-15. And Judah also shall fight at [or rather, for ] Jerusalem The meaning seems to be, that while the enemies of Jerusalem are engaged in fighting with each other, Judah also (Hebrew, וגם יהודה ,) will come up and join their forces with those of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, will fall upon the weakened nations, and take from them great spoil. And the wealth of all the heathen, &c., shall be gathered together And shall fall into the hands of God’s people. Thus the wealth of the sinner is often laid up for the just; and the Israel of God are enriched with the spoil of the Egyptians. And so shall be the plague of the horse, &c. The very cattle shall share in the plagues with which the enemies of God’s church shall be cut off, as they did in divers of the plagues of Egypt.

Verse 16

Zechariah 14:16. And every one that is left of all the nations Such as escape the fore-mentioned strokes of divine judgment, and are by mercy preserved; of all the nations which came against Jerusalem That is, many among all these nations shall consider God’s hand, repent, and submit to his law. Such a change shall the grace of God, sanctifying his judgments, make upon them. Of Christ’s foes, as some shall be made his footstool, so others shall be made his friends; and when the principle of enmity is slain in them, their former acts of hostility are pardoned to them, and their services are accepted as though they had never fought against Jerusalem. Shall even go up to worship, and keep the feast of tabernacles That is, they shall join in the solemn acts of Christian worship. The prophets, as we have repeatedly had occasion to observe in the course of these notes, often describe, the state of the gospel by the usages of their own times. The feast of tabernacles, being kept in remembrance of God’s conducting and preserving the Israelites forty years in the wilderness, and afterward bringing them into the promised land, was observed with extraordinary expressions of rejoicing. Here this one solemn festival is, by a figure, put for all the days consecrated to God for holy worship; and that very properly, because of those two great graces which were, in a special manner, signified and required in that feast, namely, contempt of the world and joy in God, Nehemiah 8:17. The life of a true Christian is a constant feast of tabernacles, and in all our acts of devotion we must retire from the world and rejoice in the Lord, or worship as the truly pious did in that feast.

Verses 17-18

Zechariah 14:17-18. Whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth If there be any remiss herein, and neglect to worship the Lord; even upon them shall be no rain They shall be punished with want of rain, and of the blessings which plentiful and seasonable rains produce; their land shall be barren, and they shall suffer a famine. “There is a restriction, Zechariah 14:16,” says Newcome, “to such nations as warred against Jerusalem.” “But if, according to the opinion of many commentators, by going up to Jerusalem to worship, and to keep the feast of tabernacles, be only meant a conformity to the established worship of the one true God, or, which is the same thing, to the Christian religion, there can be no objection to understanding a strict universality of the nations. For it is repeatedly foretold, that a time would come, when all the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before him, Psalms 22:27.” Blayney. And if the family of Egypt go not up, that have no rain Where, by the situation of the country, there is no rain; there shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen That is, although they be not visited in the same manner as the other nations, namely, with a want of rain, which of itself would be no punishment to that country; yet, as it follows in the next verse, they shall not be exempt from the same punishment with the other nations that sinned in like manner, namely, famine, “which would be the sure consequence if the rains did not fall in Ethiopia, so as to cause an overflowing of the Nile.” Newcome. The reader will observe, respecting these predictions, that the prophet, “foretelling the blessings arising from the restoration of the Jews, and the conversion of the Gentiles to the Christian faith, draws his images from the old dispensation; and, as is usual throughout the prophetic writings, expresses the rewards and punishments of the new dispensation, under figures borrowed from the old.”

Verses 20-21

Zechariah 14:20-21. In that day When the nations are converted to God, as is foretold Zechariah 14:16; shall there be upon the bells of the horses Written, as it were, on every common thing; HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD This was the inscription on the mitre of the Jewish high-priest, denoting the great holiness of his office, and how he ought to conduct himself in a holy manner in all things, especially in those relating to divine worship. Now in these days of the gospel, when the Jews shall be converted to Christ, and the fulness of the Gentiles brought in, and made a holy nation, a royal priesthood, the grace of God shall be so abundant and efficacious, that common ordinary things in the hands of Christians, much more their persons, shall bear the dedicating inscription of HOLINESS TO THE LORD, and by their study and practice of holiness they shall make good their motto; they shall honour and glorify God in all circumstances and situations, times and places, and use every thing in a holy manner. And the pots in the Lord’s house The meanest utensil employed in his service; shall be like the bowls before the altar Shall be as the vessels of silver and gold used in the solemn sacrifices. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem shall be holiness unto the Lord The utensils of private houses shall all be dedicated to God’s service, and employed in his fear and to his glory; with such sobriety and temperance, such devotedness to God, and such a mixture of pious thoughts and expressions, that even their meals shall look like sacrifices; they shall not eat and drink to themselves, but to Him that spreads their tables and fills their cups. And all they that sacrifice In allusion to sacrifices, the prophet expresses all religious affections, practice, and worship, which shall be as pleasing to God as were the sacrifices of his people, offered up with divine warrant and approbation. Shall come and take of them Of those pots and vessels, freely and without scruple; and seethe therein The ceremonial distinction between holy and unholy places and things shall cease with the ritual law on which it was founded. One place shall be as acceptable to God as another, and one vessel or instrument of divine service as holy as another. For the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, and men shall pray and give thanks everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. Little regard shall be had to the circumstance, provided there be nothing indecent or disorderly, while the life, and soul, and substance of divine worship and service are religiously preserved and adhered to. And there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord There shall be no more a profane or impious person in the societies of the faithful. For though persons that were Canaanites, strangers, and foreigners, should be brought into the house of the Lord, yet they should cease to be Canaanites; they should have nothing of the spirit or disposition of Canaanites, or heathen, in them. And though in gospel times people should be indifferent as to holy vessels and holy places, yet they should be very strict with respect to church discipline, and careful not to admit the profane to sacred ordinances, or to Christian fellowship with them, but should separate between the precious and the vile, between Israelites and Canaanites. Yet this will not have its perfect accomplishment short of the heavenly Jerusalem, that house of the Lord of hosts into which no unclean thing shall enter. For at the end of time, and not before, Christ shall gather out of his kingdom every thing that offends; and the tares and wheat shall be perfectly and eternally separated.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zechariah-14.html. 1857.