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§ 4. The Lord promises to show his love for Zion, to dwell among his people, and to fill Jerusalem with a happy lace.
Again; rather, and. This chapter contains the second half of the Lord's answer concerning fasting, merging into prophecy.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts. This formula occurs ten times in this chapter, thus enforcing the truth that all the promises made to Zion come from the Lord himself, and are therefore sure to be fulfilled. I was jealous;—I am jealous, as Zechariah 1:14 (where see note). With great fury. Against her enemies (Zechariah 1:15). "Zelus" is defined by Albertus Magnus: "amor boni cum indignatione contrarii." One side of God's love for Zion is shown in the punishment of her enemies. Knabenbauer likens this zeal or jealousy of God to the pillar of fire at the Exodus—light and protection to the Israelites, darkness and destruction to the Egyptians (Exodus 14:20).
I am returned (Zechariah 1:16); I return. When Jerusalem was taken and given over to the enemy, God seemed to have deserted her (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23); but new the restoration of the exiles, the rebuilding of the temple, the voice of prophecy, showed that the Lord had returned, and that new he will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:10). A city of truth; city of truth; no longer full of lies and treachery and infidelity. God dwelling therein, it shall be "the faithful city" (Isaiah 1:26), in which all that is true and real shall flourish (comp. Zechariah 8:16; Zephaniah 3:13). The holy mountain. The hill whereon the temple is built shall be called the holy mountain, because the Lord dwelt in the sanctuary. The prophecy in this and the following verses received a partial fulfilment in the days between Zerubbabel and Christ; but there is a further accomplishment in store.
There shall yet old men … dwell (sit), etc. A picture of happy security and plenty, in vivid contrast to the desolation deplored in Lamentations 2:1-22.; Lamentations 5:0. In the days of the Maccabees it is noted, among other tokens of peace and prosperity, that "the ancient men sat all in the streets, communing together of good things" (1 Macc 14:9). For very age; Hebrew, for multitude of days. People shall reach the utmost limits of human life. According to the old Law, length of days was the reward of obedience (Genesis 15:15; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 4:40), and an early death was inflicted as a punishment of sin (Deuteronomy 28:20; Psa 54:1-7 :23; Psalms 78:33). Such promises are made also in Messianic times (Isaiah 65:20), though in a different sense.
Full of boys and girls. Jerusalem and the other cities had long been strangers to any such happy sight. Large increase of population is a blessing often promised in the latter days (Hosea 1:10; Micah 2:12). Perowne remarks that our Lord alludes to the games of children the marketplaces as a familiar incident his days (Matthew 11:16, Matthew 11:17; comp. Jeremiah 11:1-23).
In these days; rather, in those days. If what is promised in Zechariah 8:3-5 seems incredible to those who shall see the fulfilment. The remnant. The returned Jews and their posterity (Haggai 1:12-14). Should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? Certainly not. Nothing is impossible with God.
God promises to bring his dispersed people home again—a promise only yet partially fulfilled. My people. A title of honour (Hosea 2:23). From the east country, and from the west country. Two regions are named, symbols of the whole world (comp. Psalms 50:1; Malachi 1:11). The return of the captives from Babylon was a prelude of the future restoration of the dispersed, when all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26). (See a similar promise, Isaiah 43:5, Isaiah 43:6; comp. John 11:52.)
In the midst of Jerusalem. As the centre of worship (see Zechariah 2:4, and note there). In truth and in righteousness. The words belong to both parts of the preceding clause: God will deal truly and righteously with them, but they must deal truly and righteously with him. If they are faithful to their obligations, God would be unto them all that he had promised to be.
§ 5. The people are exhorted to be of good cheer, for god will henceforth give them his blessing, which, however, was conditional on their obedience.
Let your hands be strong (comp. Haggai 2:15-19). Be of good courage for the work before you (Judges 7:11; Isaiah 35:3; Ezekiel 22:14). By (from) the mouth of the prophets, which were. Who came forward as prophets. These prophets, who prophesied after the foundations of the temple were laid, were Haggai and Zechariah; they are thus distinguished from the pre-exilian seers mentioned in Zechariah 7:7. The same prophets who encouraged you in your work at first are they who have spoken to you words of promise in those days. That the temple might be built; Revised Version, even the temple that it might be built. This could not be predicated of the first foundation, which was followed by a long period of inaction (Ezra 4:24), only terminated by the vigorous exhortations of the prophets, which led to a resumption of the work that might be called a second foundation of the temple.
The prophet reminds the people of the sad condition of affairs during the cessation of the good work, and how things began to improve directly they showed diligence and zeal. There was no hire for man, etc. Either the yield was so small that no labour of men or beasts was needed to gather it in, or the general poverty was so great that labourers could not get their wages nor the oxen their well earned share of provender (Haggai 1:11; Haggai 2:17, Haggai 2:18). Neither was there any peace … because of the affliction; rather, because of the adversary. They could not go about their usual occupations, or pass in safety from place to place, on account of the enemies that compassed them about (Ezra 4:4). The rendering of the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint and Vulgate, but the word (tsar) is often used for the concrete, "adversary." So the Syriac here. I set all men every one against his neighbour. There were internal dissensions as well as outward opposition. God had allowed this for his own wise purposes.
But now I will not be. God's attitude towards the people had already changed in consequence of their diligence in the work of restoration. Perowne renders, "Now I am not." The residue; the remnant; the returned Jews (Zechariah 8:12; Haggai 1:12). The former days. In the time of their inactivity, when a curse rested upon them and upon their land. The curse was now removed, and a marked amelioration had set in (Haggai 2:15-19).
The seed shall be prosperous; literally, (there shall be) the seed of peace. The crops sown shall be crops of peace, safe and secure, in contradistinction to the threat in Leviticus 26:16, that the seed should be sown in vain, for it should be devoured by an enemy (Knabenbauer). Or, more generally, all farming labours shall succeed and prosper. Jerome's paraphrase is, "There shall be universal peace and joy;" Septuagint," But I will show forth peace." Another way of understanding the words which has found much favour with modern commentators is to take the clause in apposition with the words immediately following; thus: "The seed (i.e. growth) of peace, the vine, shall give its fruit." But there is no especial reason why the vine should be called "the seed of peace." It is not peculiar among fruit trees for requiring a time of peace for its cultivation. And the term "seed" is very inappropriate to the vine, which was not raised from seed, but from cuttings and layers. Perowne also points out that such a rendering destroys the balance of the three following clauses, which explain and expand the general statement that agriculture shall prosper. Dr. Alexander takes "the seed of peace" to be that from which peace springs; i.e. that peace should be radically established in the land, and from this fact the results following should ensue. This affords a very good sense; but it is probably a metaphor quite unintended by the prophet. The Syriac reads differently, "The seed shall be safe." The remnant (see on Zechariah 8:11). To possess; to inherit; Septuagint, κατακληρονομήσω (Revelation 21:7). This promise recalls the blessings in the old Law (Leviticus 26:4, etc.; Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalms 67:6).
As ye were a curse among the heathen. As your fate was used as a formula of imprecation among the heathen; e.g. "May your fate be that of the Jews" (see examples of this, 2 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:22). The other way of taking the expression as meaning the object of curse (i.e. as the heathen once used to curse you), is not so suitable. Judah … Israel. This expression includes the twelve tribes, of all of which some members had returned, and continued to return, from the Captivity. They were united now and formed one nation (see note on Zechariah 9:10). So will I save you. In as open and significant a manner will I show that I am delivering and favouring you. Ye shall be a blessing. This must be taken correspondingly to the former phrase, being a "curse;" ye shall be used as a formula for blessing; e.g. "God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh" (Genesis 48:20; comp. Ruth 4:11, Ruth 4:12). Fear not (Zephaniah 3:16). "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31; comp. Numbers 14:9). Let your hands be strong (see note on verse 9). The LXX. takes the paragraph differently and erroneously: "And it shall be that in like manner 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," i.e. a cause of blessing, Ητε ἐν κατάρᾳ … ἔσεσθε ἐν εὐλογίᾳ.
The ground of the prom[so is the will of God, who cannot deceive. As I thought to punish you; as I purposed to do evil to you; i.e. to the nation whose continuity is thus intimated (comp. Haggai 2:5; and for a similar contrast of punishment and blessing, see Jeremiah 31:25). I repented not. God carried out the dread decree to the full (Zechariah 1:6; 2 Chronicles 36:16). (For the phrase applied to God, comp. Numbers 23:19; Jeremiah 4:28; Jonah 3:10, where see note.) Vulgate, "I pitied not."
So again have I thought, etc. The past chastisement, which happened as it was threatened, is a guarantee of the fulfilment of the promised blessing. But there is a condition to be observed, which is set forth in the two next verses. The LXX. has, "So have I ordered and purposed." In these special blessings Judah and Jerusalem alone were to share at the first; Israel's happy time (Zechariah 8:13) was to come later.
These are the things. To secure the fulfilment of the promise of good, they must do the will of God (Zechariah 7:9. etc.). Truth. This was to be observed in all conversation and transactions with their neighbours. St. Paul quotes this injunction (Ephesians 4:25). Execute the judgment of truth and peace; literally, judge ye truth and the judgment of peace. So the Septuagint and Vulgate. Practise perfect equity in judgments, and so decide, according to truth and justice, as to secure peace and concord between the parties concerned. In your gates. Where the judges sat, and justice was administered (Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19; see note on Amos 5:10).
Let none of you imagine (see note on Zechariah 7:10, where these words occur). Love no false oath. The prevalent sins at this time were not idolatry, but cheating and lying and injustice, vices learned in the land of exile, where they had turned their energies to traffic and commerce (see Zechariah 5:2-4, and note on Zechariah 5:3 there).
§ 6. Here follows the direct answer to the question originally proposed. The fasts should be turned into joyful festivals, former calamities being forgotten. Then the change extending its influence, the heathen shall worship the God of Israel, and esteem it an honour to be received into fellowship with the Jewish nation.
The fast of the fourth month, etc. (For the occasions of these fasts, see note on Zechariah 7:3.) Jerome gives the later Jewish traditions concerning them. The fast of the seventh day of the fourth month commemorated the breaking of the two tables of the commandments by Moses, as well as the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem; that of the fifth month was observed in memory of the return of the spies sent to explore Canaan, and the consequent punishment of forty years' wandering in the wilderness, as well as of the burning of the temple by the Chaldeans; that in the tenth month was appointed because it was then that Ezekiel and the captive Jews received intelligence of the complete destruction of the temple. Joy and gladness. The observance of these fasts seems, by the Lord's answer, to have been neither enjoined nor forbidden; but as for their sins their festivals had been turned into mourning (Amos 8:10), so now their fasts should be turned into joyful feasts, and former miseries should be forgotten in the presence of the blessings now showered upon them. Therefore love the truth and peace. This is the condition of the fulfilment of the promise (verse 16; Zechariah 7:9), here again forcibly impressed.
It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people; peoples. The sight of the prosperity of the Jews shall induce surrounding nations to join in the worship of Jehovah. The same truth is expressed in Psalms 126:1-3. Perowne thinks that verses 20, 21 refer to the tribes of Israel; but it seems unnatural to suppose the prophet asserting that it will yet happen that Israelites will seek the Lord, when there is no reason to think that they had not done so in some fashion, or that they would need the previous deliberation mentioned in the next verse. Many cities. So the LXX. and Vulgate. Others translate, "great, or, populous cities;" but this is less suitable.
The inhabitants of one city shall go to another. The LXX. has, "The inhabitants of five cities shall go unto one;" Vulgate, "The inhabitants go one to another." Let us go speedily. The Hebrew is an imperfect followed by an infinitive absolute—an idiom which implies combination, Let us go on and on, continually. So Pusey and Wright. To pray before the Lord; to entreat the favour of the Lord (see note on Zechariah 7:2). The Gentiles would be moved, not only to make pilgrimages to the great annual festivals, but to seek to know the Lord, and how to worship him acceptably. I will go also. The inhabitants answer willingly to those who exhort them. It is quite unnatural to take the clause to mean (as Drake does), "I, Zechariah, will go too, to see the alteration in the mode of observing these fast days."
Many people (peoples) and strong nations. This explains Zechariah 8:20 more fully. The Jews were not actuated by the missionary spirit, yet even before Christ's advent their religion had spread into all parts of the world, as we see from the catalogue of proselytes in Acts 2:9-11. Intimations of the same fact are given in Ezra 6:21; Esther 8:17. To seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem; i.e. to keep the solemn festivals observed there (comp. Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 66:20-23 Micah 4:1, and note there). The literal fulfilment of this prophecy is not to be looked for. It 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).
Ten men. The number ten is used for a large indefinite number (comp. Genesis 31:7; Le Genesis 26:26; 1 Samuel 1:8). Out of all languages (the languages) of the nations. The diversity of languages shall not hinder the unity in the faith (comp. Isaiah 66:18; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9). Shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew. Taking hold of the skirt implies a desire to share the privileges, and to be united in fellowship with (comp. Isaiah 4:1; Haggai 2:12). St. Cyril considers the idea to be that the heathen shall cling to the Jews like children holding their fathers' dress for support and guidance. In "the man that is a Jew" St. Jerome discerns the Messiah. We will go with you. The picture presented to the mind by this verse is of a Jew journeying to Jerusalem from some distant country to keep a solemn festival, and a number of Gentiles clinging round him, asking permission to accompany him on his journey, because they have learned how good the Lord has been to his countrymen. But the ideal intended is much more than this. Salvation, indeed, is of the Jews; it began to be announced at Jerusalem; it was preached by the Jewish apostles; its founder was of the seed of David. But the true Israelites are not merely those who are of the natural posterity of Abraham, but all true Christians united under Christ, the Head. To their number all who would be saved must be joined (comp. Romans 4:11; Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:26, etc.).
Assurance of favour.
"Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me." When warning is carried too far, it degenerates into threatening, and defeats its own end, producing despair instead of desire to escape. It is probably on this account that the solemn warning with which Zechariah 7:1-14. concludes gives place, in this chapter, to an animating series of encouragements and promises. (For somewhat similar transitions, see Hebrews 6:9; Isaiah 1:18, etc.) In the verses now immediately before us, we have the beginning of these encouragements in a gracious assurance of favour to the remnant addressed by the prophet—an assurance conveyed to them in the way
(1) of emphatic repetition;
(2) of graphic detail; and
(3) of copious addition.
I. EMPHATIC REPETITION. We have such repetition:
1. Of the feelings of Jehovah towards the enemies of his Zion. He had described himself before (Zechariah 1:14) as looking with an eye of displeasure and jealousy on the comparative "ease" of those foes. We have the same idea here (in Zechariah 7:2) in a still more forcible shape. "I was jealous for Zion with great fury." What can go beyond that?
2. Of the purposes of Jehovah towards Zion herself. On this point, also, God's former declaration (as found in Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 2:10) is repeated and enforced. Not only would God again dwell in her, as prophesied before; but he would do so in such a manner as to make her a city of truth and holiness (Zechariah 7:3; and comp. Jeremiah 31:23). All this as though to impress on his people how deliberately he had spoken. "I know what I said, and I mean it; I meant even more than I said." Such is the purport, such also the effect, of repetition like this. It is the natural language of steadfast purpose and conscious power to fulfil. Some persons think, accordingly, that the Epistle to the Ephesians is, virtually, such a repetition of that to the Colossians; and that the same holds good about the two Epistles to the Galatians and Romans.
II. GRAPHIC DETAIL. A previous prophecy (Zechariah 2:4) had declared that Jerusalem should be inhabited as "towns without walls." Verses 4 and 5 of the present chapter amplify this description under three principal ideas of great beauty and force.
1. The idea of restoration and order. Instead of being a city of waste places, we see it a city of populous "streets." This a wonderful touch. In a growing neighbourhood, where every new building is an event, we think most of the houses; in a completely built city, where there is no room for more buildings, we think most of the thoroughfares.
2. The idea of safety and peace. In times of warfare and tumult the first to succumb to violence and privation and terror are the aged. Streets, therefore, full of such (verse 4) tell a twofold tale. Had there not been long peace in the past, these aged ones would not have survived. Were there not assured peace in the present, they would be in flight or concealment, and not in the streets.
3. The idea of gladness and joy. What happier sight on this earth than that described in verse 5, in its comparative innocence, its abundant life, its musical utterances, its sweet faces and smiles, its graceful figures and movements, and the untold wealth of tender love and delighted looks, of which, in so many different homes, it gives proof! How all this detail would help men to realize what God's promises meant!
III. COPIOUS ADDITION. Did these visions seem very marvellous in the eyes of those to whom they were shown? Almost too good, in fact, to be true. Let such persons remember:
1. That they were not too marvellous for God's power. Often had God shown this kind of thing to be true (see Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:6-17, where note connection with the subject of restoration after Captivity, as in this instance). Let such persons understand of these promises:
2. That they were far beneath God's power, in real fact. Besides the remnant now brought back from the Captivity, he would bring others as well; not only those from the east, but those from the west (verse 7); not only also (verse 8) those who were his people already, but those who should become so in the fullest manner. Most probably much of the meaning of this would be concealed at that time from the prophet's understanding, but even to see such distant peaks "afar off" (Hebrews 11:13), and above the clouds, as it were, would be a great help on the road.
Two important lessons derivable to conclude.
1. How to receive God's Word, viz. as something not only perfectly sure, but also as something wonderfully significant and overflowingly full. It is with the secrets of grace as with those of nature; they can never be fully described, never altogether exhausted (see Ecclesiastes 3:11; Ecclesiastes 8:17; Romans 11:33; Psalms 36:6; Psalms 77:19; and especially what is said in Job 11:6, of the "secrets of wisdom," that they "are double to that which is").
2. How to set forth God's truth, viz. as having both a sombre side and a bright one. Some are now preaching the gospel as though no such thing as repentance and judgment were mentioned in the Bible. Others confine themselves to repentance and judgment, as though there were no pardon or love. The right "proportion" (Romans 12:6) is shown us in our present passage combined with our last, and in such Scriptures as Psalms 101:1; Romans 2:3-11, etc.
Evidence of favour.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong," etc. In the beginning of these verses we have the opposite of that with which the previous verses concluded. There God confirmed his people in hoping for certain comparatively proximate blessings by assuring them of other and greater blessings which he designed afterwards to bestow. Here he confirms their hopes of what is more distant by pledging himself, as it were, to what is nearer. And this he does, we shall find, by drawing their attention
(1) to the mercies of the present; and
(2) to the judgments of the past.
I. THE MERICES OF THE PRESENT. (Zechariah 8:9-13.) Three things, especially, to be noted regarding these.
1. How marked their character! Great temporal mercies (Zechariah 8:12) are to be "now" (Zechariah 8:11)—abundant produce both in the open "ground" and cultivated enclosure, abundant blessing both in the soil itself and in that which came on it. These also all the more notable for coming after a widely different state of things, when, besides utter want (Zechariah 8:10), even for those most desirous to work, there was the common concomitant of such evils, viz. home dissension and strife; and that, wherever men were and whatever they did (see also Haggai 2:16, Haggai 2:17, describing those same evil days). Who could avoid seeing and admiring so blessed a change?
2. How striking their connection! This happy change in their circumstances had taken place simultaneously with a corresponding change in their doings. From the very day when, as it were, for the second time they "laid the foundation" of God's house (Zechariah 8:9; Ezra 4:24; Ezra 5:1, Ezra 5:2), God had begun to prosper thus the work of their hands. "Before" then (Zechariah 8:10) was trouble; but now (Zechariah 8:11) I am not (so some) as before. This, too, we find occurring (see Haggai 1:9-11; Haggai 2:15-19) in accordance with express promise to this effect.
3. How hopeful their bearing! What was all this but plain evidence of a corresponding change, as it were, up above? And what might not be expected in future, such being the case? Even all promised in Zechariah 8:13, viz. that God's people should become as conspicuous new for their prosperity as formerly for their adversity (see also Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:18; Jeremiah 42:18, etc.). Much as when, from the very day on which a certain remedy is first employed, a sick man begins to improve. How easy then to believe the physician's assurance that he shall ultimately become better than ever!
II. THE JUDGMENTS OF THE PAST. This conviction further confirmed by going till further back in their history. For doing so shows:
1. The steadfastness of God's purposes. (Zechariah 8:14, Zechariah 8:15.) When the state of things is such as to call for judgment, ye have seen how the thought of such judgment is carried out by me. Learn from this, when things, as at present, are different, to rely on the stone steadfastness on my part.
2. So to describe it, the easiness of God's terms. All that he asks on their part, in order to ensure on his part the full accomplishment of his purposes o! mercy, was that (as in the case of their fathers) which would he for their good. See previous remarks on Zechariah 7:9, Zechariah 7:10; and note that we have here, in verses 16, 17, the same thoughts and almost words as before, followed up, however, by two remarkable additions which seem specially meant for those times—the mention of false swearing (comp. Zechariah 5:4); and the implied assurance that, if these evils were persisted in, they would stop the current of God's love. "All these things, being hurtful to you, are hateful to me. Therefore, on every account, do them not."
Do we not see here, in conclusion:
1. The unchangeableness of God's nature? His dealings with men vary often and widely; his character, never. He is always true to his purpose; never, as men are, turned from it by caprice. The very variety of his dealings helps to demonstrate this. The very same sunshine which melts the ice hardens the clay. See this illustrated by the opposite effects of mercy and favour, hardening some (Isaiah 26:10; Ecclesiastes 8:11, etc.) and melting others (Psalms 130:4; Psalms 116:1, Psalms 116:12); also of affliction or chastisement, humiliating some (Luke 15:17-19; 2 Chronicles 33:12) and exasperating others (Gen 4:13; 2 Chronicles 28:22; Revelation 9:20, Revelation 9:21).
2. The certainty of God's promises? Established, as we see, by God's very judgments, what wider base can they have (comp. Malachi 3:6; also Psalms 119:52, "I remembered thy judgments of old, and comforted myself")? In this way, how many (apparently) unlikely things combine to preach Christ! Even the thunders of Sinai itself (see in one sense, Galatians 3:24)! Other things, perhaps, more articulately as it were, but none with more power.
"And the word of the Lord of hosts came unto me, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month," etc. The close of this chapter gives an answer at length to the question asked in Zechariah 7:3. And this answer consists—unlike the intervening stream of mingled denunciation, warning, and encouragement of an almost unbroken outburst of promise and hope. The only apparent exception, in fact, is to be found in the six brief words of admonition at the close of verse 19. How far this abundance of promise was fulfilled in the experience of the literal Israel of the past, how far in that of the spiritual Israel of Christ's Church, and how far it yet remains to be verified in the case of either or both,—has been debated often and much. Taken simply as they stand (which is clearly the first thing to do with them), we may consider the words as setting before us
(1) the future happiness of Judah;
(2) the eminence of Jerusalem; and
(3) the future dignity of the Jew.
I. THE FUTURE HAPPINESS OF THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH. We shall appreciate this best by noting:
1. Their recollections at the time of this prophecy. For seventy years they had been accustomed, on four different annual occasions (see verse 19), to fast and weep in remembrance of four different and dreadful stages in their overthrow as a nation, viz. in the tenth month, in remembrance of the opening of the siege of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 52:4); in the fourth month, in remembrance of its capture (Jeremiah 52:6); in the fifth, in remembrance of the burning of the temple (Jeremiah 52:12-16); and in the seventh, in remembrance of the flight of the last residue of the "seed royal," and army, and prophets, and people from Palestine into Egypt (2Ki 25:25, 2 Kings 25:26; Jeremiah 41:1-43:7). What a succession, what a continual aggravation, what a climax, of ill!
2. Their experience. They had now got so far (as we noted on Zechariah 7:3) that a remnant of the people had returned, and the temple had begun to rise again, and its full restoration seemed only a work of time. This being so, that fifth-month day of humiliation, which was connected with the destruction of the temple, appeared no longer in place. Why should they longer commemorate a loss which they had already begun to efface?
3. Their prospects. Why, indeed, seeing the time was coming (verse 19) when all the calamities commemorated by all the four Captivity fasts here referred to would be so completely outbalanced by corresponding blessings as to call for "cheerful feasts" rather than fasts? Only let them "love truth and peace," and all their losses would be forgotten, as in the case mentioned in Genesis 41:51.
II. THE FUTURE EMINENCE OF JERUSALEM This capital of Israel was to become "yet" (i.e; however apparently unlikely, however apparently delayed) the religious capital of the world. As foretelling this, we have portrayed to us here:
1. A great journey resolved on. We see
(1) many pilgrims assembling together, people who have "cities" and settled habitations ("inhabitants" bis) of their own, leaving those cities to visit this (comp. Hebrews 11:8-10, Hebrews 11:14-16; Hebrews 13:14). These pilgrims have
(2) a common purpose, the inhabitants of one city inviting those of others, and volunteering themselves, to go up (Psalms 122:1). They have also
(3) a very earnest purpose: let us go "perseveringly" (Pusey), till we obtain what we seek—till our feet actually "stand" (Psalms 122:2) where we desire. And they have, finally,
(4) a most suitable and laudable purpose, even that of finding that presence of Jehovah which is to be found in that city alone; and are not seeking to reach it merely as a means of reaching something beyond.
2. A great journey accomplished. (Genesis 41:22.) The pilgrims have arrived at last. How mighty in number! "Many people shall come;" and come to seek God. How mighty also in significance! "Strong nations," who might have come as invaders, are here as suppliants before God (comp. Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:11, etc.; Isaiah 2:2-4; and the almost identical passage in Micah 4:1-8, noting specially "the first dominion").
III. THE FUTURE DIGNITY OF THE JEW; i.e. of every individual enjoying, in those days, the natural citizenship of this illustrious city. Even when far from its walls, every such citizen (something as with those referred to in Acts 16:37, Acts 16:38; Acts 22:25-29, etc.) would be almost as much an object of homage as that city itself. Note what is here shown:
1. As to the depth of this homage, men being willing even to sink their own distinctive names in that of an Israelite, even as a woman does when she marries (comp. Ruth 3:9; Isaiah 4:1; and contrast Pilate's indignant question in John 18:35).
2. Its extent. How many would do thus! viz. as many as ten to each Jew. How manifold, also, they would be! viz. out of "all languages" upon earth. Wherever their dwelling, whatever their diversities of race, training, customs, or speech, they would break through all to do this.
3. Its foundation. On the one hand, negatively. The homage paid to this "citizen" is not due to anything else but his being "a Jew." On the other hand, positively. This homage is paid to him because, as being such, he is believed to be peculiarly favoured of God (see end of Genesis 41:23; and Numbers 10:29, Numbers 10:32; and contrast John 4:20; see also end of John 4:22).
Two brief lessons to conclude.
1. As to Israel now. Let us ever think of God's ancient people with peculiar tenderness and respect. With tenderness, as is only proper, because of their having "seen better days." With respect, as is only becoming, considering their "great expectations." Whatever the exact application of the present prophecy, of this much we are sure (Romans 11:1-36; passim). Who, indeed, may not be proud of the name mentioned in John 1:47?
2. As to ourselves. When will the Jews be thus honoured? When they truly seek God. So, therefore, of us, in our turn. We must never forget what it took Peter so much trouble to learn (Acts 10:34, Acts 10:35).
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
The future glory of the Church.
God speaks. Formerly stern rebuke; here sweet encouragement. Glowing picture of the good time coming.
I. GOD'S ABIDING LOVE TO HIS CHURCH. There are times when it would seem as if God had cast off his people. "Has God forgotten to be gracious?" Here is the answer. "I am jealous," etc. There is real, intense, and abiding attachment. Words of good cheer verified by facts. "I am returned," etc.
II. GOD'S GRACIOUS PURPOSE TO RESTORE HIS CHURCH. God's withdrawal was because of sin. But for a season. When we return to God, he will return to us. The very righteousness that obliges him to punish the impenitent, birds him to bless the penitent. The light will shine more and more. Times of revival are times of refreshment. The release of the captives pledges freedom to all. The return of the exiles prophesies of the final restoration.
III. GOD'S DELIGHT IN THE PROSPERITY OF HIS CHURCH. (Zechariah 8:4-6.) Sweet and ravishing picture. So far fulfilled in the heroic times of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 14:8-12). Finds a grander fulfilment under the gospel, and will be perfectly fulfilled in the latter days.
IV. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS IN FULFILLING HIS PROMISES TO HIS CHURCH. There am things which seem too great to be possible—too good to be true. It may be so with man, but not with God. Eternal Wisdom cannot err. Absolute truth cannot alto. Omnipotent love cannot fail.—F.
The soul's response to the gospel call.
"I will go also." This resolution is—
I. PERSONAL. "I." Religion is a thing between the soul and God. We are brought face to face with Christ in the gospel. Free and responsible. Must decide for ourselves.
II. RESULT OF CONVICTION. Many careless, some anxious, others almost persuaded. fie who says, "I will go," has considered the question, and made up his mind on evidence which to him is satisfactory and convincing. "God is with you."
III. PROMPTLY AND THOROUGHLY CARRIED OUT. Not a mere thought; or impulse, or sentiment. Not the result of transitory feelings in times of excitement. But the expression outwardly of the change wrought within—of the heart won to Christ (Psalms 119:59, Psalms 119:60).
IV. FORTIFIED BY THE SYMPATHY AND APPROVAL OF ALL THE GOOD. We crave sympathy. Alliance with others gives courage, especially at the outset. The fellowship of the saints intensifies our best emotions and increases our purest joys.
V. LEADING TO A TRUE AND NOBLE LIFE.—F.
Much depends on whether religion is rightly represented. In order to be attractive, the representation should be—
I. AGREEABLE TO REASON. An irrational religion cannot stand. Christ and his apostles constantly appeal to the moral judgment.
II. CONGRUOUS TO MAN'S NECESSITIES. There is a certain condition of things. The feeling and the cry of sin. The craving for reconciliation with God. Aspirations after holiness. The longing for confirmed tranquillity. The gospel must be shown to meet these needs.
III. IN HARMONY WITH THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. Christ's the gospel. Those who witness for Christ must take heed that their witness is true. We behold in Christ utter truth, disinterested love, self-sacrificing earnestness, supreme sympathy with God.
IV. CONFIRMED BY THE CHARACTER AND LIFE OF ITS PROFESSORS. Conduct is the test of faith. The truth is identified with its advocates. To get others to believe, we must show that we believe ourselves. Life is better than doctrine. To do good, we must be good. Gehazi would never have won Naaman. Lot failed to move his sons-in-law. At home and abroad, Christianity is suffering from the faithlessness of Christians.
V. VERIFIED BY THE DIVINE EFFECTS WHICH IT PRODUCES. "God is with you" (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:25). The gospel is its own best witness.—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The blessed community of men yet to appear on the earth.
"Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury," etc. This chapter does not commence a new subject, but continues the subject of the preceding one. The awful consequences of disregarding the will of Heaven had often been set forth by the prophets; and here, in this chapter, we have the assurance of the renewal of Divine favour to those who had returned from the Captivity. Without concerning ourselves with "times and seasons," it is clear that in this section of Scripture there is sketched a state of human society which has never yet existed on the earth, and which is not likely to appear for many centuries, if not milleniums hence. It is to this community, as herein pictured, that I desire to call the attention of my readers. The following facts are eminently noteworthy in relation to this blessed community.
I. HERE IS A COMMUNITY SPECIALLY INTERESTING TO THE GREAT GOD. "Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury." The rendering of Dr. Henderson is worth citation: "And the word of Jehovah was communicated to me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I have been jealous for Zion with great zeal, yea, with great indignation have I been jealous for her." Jerusalem was a city in which God had chosen "to put his Name;" there was his temple, there were the ark, the mercy seat, and the memorials of his power and goodness in the history of Israel. This city had been destroyed by the Babylonian invaders, and during the whole period of its ruin Jehovah's hand was on it and its scattered and exiled people. During all this time, he says, "I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy." Instead of losing interest in his persecuted people, his feelings were intense concerning them. The Eternal is interested in all the works of his hand, interested in men even in their state of infidelity and rebellion; but specially interested in those whom he regards as his people. "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word;" "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him" (Isaiah 57:15; Psalms 103:13).
II. HERE IS A COMMUNITY IN WHICH THE ALMIGHTY SPECIALLY RESIDES. "Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem." Jerusalem was in a very particular sense the dwelling place of God (Exodus 29:45; Le Exodus 26:12). There shone the symbol of his presence for centuries; there he communed with his people from off the mercy seat; there lived and laboured the priests whom he had chosen to represent his will. But he dwells with his people in a more real and vital sense than this. Know ye not that "ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people"? There are two senses in which the Almighty dwells with good men.
1. By his sympathy. The loving mother dwells with her loved child; yes, though separated by continents and seas. Jehovah's sympathies are with his children.
2. By his presence. The loving parent cannot always be personally with the loved child. In person they may be as far asunder as the poles. But God's presence is always with his people. "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." What a blessed community that must be, where God not only by his sympathies but by his presence dwells!
III. HERE IS A COMMUNITY DISTINGUISHED BY REALITY AND ELEVATION.
1. Reality. "And Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth." What is moral reality? A practical correspondence of the sympathies and life with eternal facts. All whose thoughts, affections, and conduct are not in accord with the immutable moral laws of God, live in fiction, "walk in a vain show;" and in this state most, if not all, communities are found. Alas! "THE CITY OF TRUTH" is not yet established, it is in a distant future.
2. Elevation. "And the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain." Where arc the communities of men now found in a moral sense? Down in the hazy, boggy, impure valleys of carnalities and falsehoods. But this community is up on the holy mountain; it is in a place of high moral exaltation.
IV. HERE IS A COMMUNITY IN WHICH THE VERY AGED AND THE YOUNG LIVE IN SOCIAL ENJOYMENT. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his stag in his hand for very age." The promise of long life was esteemed one of the greatest blessings in the Jewish theocracy (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 4:40); and in Isaiah 65:20-22 this is promised as one of the signal blessings of Messianic times. Through bloody wars and general disregard of the laws of health, only an insignificant minority of the human race reach old age. Blessed is that community in which aged people abound, ripe in wisdom, goodness, and experience. But not only are the very aged in this community, but the young. "The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof." No sight is more refreshing, more morally inspiring to the true-hearted of all ages, even to the oldest, than a community of guileless, bright, and blithesome children. They are the latest emanations and revelations of Infinite Love to the world. They are to adults as flowers growing on the sides of the dry and dusty walks of life. Beautiful city this! The children not filthy, half-starved, diseased arabs in crowded alleys, but bright creatures gambolling in the sunny streets.
V. HERE IS A COMMUNITY WHOSE ESTABLISHMENT, THOUGH INCREDIBLE TO MAN, IS CERTAIN TO GOD. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes?" As if the Almighty had said, "The creation of such a social state amongst you may appear an impossibility; but it is not so to me." Indeed, to create such a community as this on the earth, to make the whole globe a kind of Jerusalem, whose members shall be all holy and all happy, does appear so wonderful that even the most believing amongst us are often filled with doubt. How far off is such a state of things from the present! How imperceptibly slow does the Christly reformation proceed! How vast and mighty is the reign of error and wrong everywhere! and how difficult to believe that the time will come "when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ"! Still, God has promised it; and what he has promised he is able to accomplish. Let us live and labour in faith. "Let us be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know our labour is not in vain in the Lord."—D.T.
Zechariah 8:7, Zechariah 8:8
A twofold Divine restoration.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people ['out of the land of the rising and the land of the setting' (Keil)] from the cast 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." "The east and the west are here put as parts for the whole. The meaning is, 'I will deliver my people from regions whither they have been scattered.' Were there any reason to believe that the prophecy has respect to a restoration of the Jews yet future, there would be a singular propriety in the use of הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ מְבוֹא, 'the setting of the sun,' the Jews being now, for the most part, found in countries to the west of Jerusalem; but there is every reason to conclude that it has an exclusive reference to what was to take place soon after it was delivered. Vast numbers were carried away captive after the time of Alexander. Not fewer than a hundred thousand were carried by Ptolemy, and were settled in Alexandria and Cyrene" (Henderson). We shall use these words as suggesting a twofold Divine restoration—temporal and spiritual.
I. HERE IS A DIVINE TEMPORAL RESTORATION. "And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem." There is no sound reason for believing that the people here mentioned as those that were brought "from the east country and from the west" refer to the Jews in the far future, who, some suppose, will be restored to Jerusalem at last. I know of no authority lop supposing that such a restoration will ever be effected. Nor does the passage point, I think, to the universal conversion of the Jews to Christianity in the last times. The reference is manifestly to those Jews who had been scattered abroad over various countries through the Babylonian Captivity, and other disastrous causes. The point is that the restoration here promised is a temporal restoration to their own land and city. They had been exiled for many long years, and deeply did they deplore in a foreign land their expatriation. "By the rivers of Babylon we sat down," etc. The Almighty by Cyrus restored them. And he is constantly restoring his people to those temporal blessings they have lost. He restores often
(1) to lost health;
(2) to lost property;
(3) to lost social status.
He is the temporal Restorer of his people. In all their distresses he bids them look to him. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," etc.
II. HERE IS A DIVINE SPIRITUAL RESTORATION, "And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness." This may mean, "I will become their God in good faith, or in reality, both on their side and mine." This is incomparably the most important restoration. In truth, all temporal restorations are of no permanent value without this. Observe:
1. Man may lose his God. He may be without "God in the world." Indeed, the millions are in this state. "They feel after him, if haply they may find him."
2. The loss of God is the greatest toss. A man separated from God is like a branch separated from the root, a river from the fountain, a planet from the sun.
3. Restoration to God is the transcendent good. He who can say, "The Lord is my Portion" possesseth all things. This restoration the Almighty is effecting now in the world. "He is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself."—D.T.
A Divine call to a Divine work.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words," etc, This paragraph is promising and cheerful; it is at once intended and suited to animate the builders of the temple and to stimulate them to resolute diligence in their work. It accords with that of Haggai (see Haggai 1:2-6; Haggai 2:15-19) respecting Heaven's displeasure at their apathy in God's work and their eagerness in their own. In the words we have a Divine call to a Divine work. This call is urged on two considerations.
I. THE WRETCHEDNESS CONSEQUENT ON THE NEGLECT OF DUTY. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built." The "prophets" here referred to were undoubtedly Haggai and Zechariah (see Ezra 5:1, Ezra 5:2). The words which they addressed to the people were words of stimulation and encouragement to arise and rebuild the temple. The prophet here reminds them, as an inducement to set in earnest to the work, of the wretched condition of the people before the work began. "For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace." That is, "before the days" the building commenced: They were then destitute of three elements essential to the well being of any people.
1. Industry. "There was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast." The people were purposeless, lazy, and in a state of general lethargy and collapse. No great project inspired their interest, engrossed their intention, enlisted and marshalled their powers. The lack of industry is a curse to any people; it is an injury to health, as well as an obstruction to material and social progress.
2. Peace. "Neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction." The lack of earnest occupation naturally led to intestine broils and contentions. Nothing is more natural and more common than for people without employment to wrangle and dispute with one another. "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." Men who are full of business have no time to quarrel
3. Social unity. "For I set all men every one against his neighbour." In biblical phraseology, the Almighty is frequently represented as doing that which he only permits. It would be unreasonable and even blasphemous to suppose that the God of love and peace exerts himself in any way to inspire his human creatures with hostility towards one another. But for reasons known to himself, and which we are bound to regard as wise and kind, he often allows these feelings to rise and express themselves in malignant recriminations and bloody wars. He originates good, and good only; and the evil which he permits, he overrules for good, and for good only. The general truth here taught is that, so long as duty is neglected by men, certain terrible evils must ensue. Hence the Divine call, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong." Go with courage and energy into the work which is Divinely enjoined.
II. THE IMPROVEMENT WHICH ENSUES ON THE RESUMPTION OF DUTY. "Blot now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts. For the seed shall be prosperous," etc. This means, "But now, as you have resumed the work and rebuilt the temple, I will Bless you." There are three blessings here promised.
1. Temporal prosperity. "For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew." Material nature is in the hands of God, and he can at any moment make it a curse or a blessing to mare Here he promises to make it a blessing. "Godliness is profitable unto all things," etc.
2. Social usefulness. "And it shall come to pass, that u ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel [comprehending the whole of the Jewish people£]; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing." The expression, "a curse among the heathen," may mean either that they were "cursed" by the heathen—objects of their denunciation—or that they were a curse to the heathen by the influence of their corrupt example. The latter seems to me the most likely idea. (See another explanation of the phrase in the Exposition.) The whole of the Jewish people, prior to the Captivity—with a few exceptions—were sunk into almost the lowest depths of moral corruption. But now it is promised that on the resumption of the great duty which Heaven had enjoined upon them, they should be a "blessing." So it ever is; the disobedient are a curse to any community; the obedient are evermore a blessing. "No man liveth to himself." We must either bless or curse our race.
3. Divine favour, "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not: so again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not," Where there was Divine displeasure there would be Divine favour.
CONCLUSION. On these two grounds men may always be urged to duty. Duty neglected brings misery on a people; duty resumed and faithfully prosecuted will utterly reverse the experience, turn the distressing into the joyous, the destitution into abundance, the discordant into the harmonious, the pernicious into the beneficent. Listen, then, to the voice of Heaven! "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong," etc.—D.T.
A universal revival of genuine religion.
"These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour," etc. The whole of this paragraph may be taken as setting forth a universal revival of genuine religion; and, looking at it in this light, we have here two things: the essential prerequisites; and the signal manifestations of a universal revival of genuine religion.
I. THE ESSENTIAL PREREQUISITES. We discover in these verses four prerequisites or preparatories for a universal revival of genuine religion.
1. There must be truthfulness in speech. "These are the things which ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour." Truthful speech is somewhat rare in all social circles, and in all departments of life. Fallacious statements abound in markets, senates, courts, and even families. Men are constantly deceiving one another by words. It is not so easy a matter to speak truthfully as one might think. To speak is easy enough; but to speak truthfully is often very difficult. Truthful speaking involves two things.
(1) Sincerity. To speak a true thing insincerely is not to speak truthfully. A man must conscientiously believe that what he speaks is true, before he can be credited with veracity. There is more truthful speaking in the man who is telling a falsehood sincerely than there is in the man who is telling the truth in insincerity.
(2) Accuracy. A man may speak with sincerity, and yet, from ignorance or mistake, may not speak according to fact; and unless he speaks according to fact, he can scarcely be said to speak truthfully. His speech unintentionally conveys falsehood. Hence, truthful speaking requires a strong sense of right,—and an adequate acquaintance with the subjects of the speech. Considerable effort is herein demanded—effort to discipline the conscience and to enlighten the judgment. But difficult as truth speaking is, it is incumbent. "Every man should be swift to hear, but slow to speak."
2. There must be rectitude in conduct. "Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates." In the East the courts of justice were held at the gates of the city; and perhaps the primary reference here is to the pronouncing of judgment on cases that were righteous and tended to peace. But rectitude of life is even more important and urgent than rectitude in judgment. In fact, scarcely can a man be morally qualified to sit as a judge in a court of justice who is not righteous in all his life and conduct; and yet, alas! it is not uncommon, even here in England, to have men of the lowest morality enthroned on the bench of justice. The great law of social life is, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
3. There must be benevolence in feeling. "Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour." We must not only keep our hands from evil, but we must watch over our hearts that they imagine not any evil against our neighbour. Mischief must be crushed in the embryo. "Charity thinketh no evil," and this charity must be cultivated.
4. There must be abhorrence of falsehood. "Love no false oath" If the oath is false, whether sworn by others or yourself, do not bind yourself to it, recoil from it with horror and abomination. Don't espouse a falsehood because it is sworn to; nay, repudiate it the more resolutely and indignantly. A strong reason is here assigned for a practical respect to all these injunctions; it is this—God abhors the opposites. "For all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord" (see Proverbs 6:19). Whatever God hates, we should hate.
II. THE SIGNAL MANIFESTATIONS. It is suggested that where these prerequisites are found, i.e. where a revival takes place, three things are manifest.
1. An increased pleasure in religious ordinances. "Thus saith the Lord 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." "The fast of the fourth month was on account of the taking of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:5-7); that of the tenth was in commemoration of the commencement of the siege (Jeremiah 52:4). The Jews are distinctly informed that these fasts should be turned into festivals of joy" (Henderson). The idea is, perhaps, that these fast days are no longer seasons of mourning and penitential confession, but seasons of rejoicing. The first sign of a true revival of religion, in an individual or a community, is a new and happy interest in the ordinances of religion.
2. A deep practical concern for the spiritual interests of the race. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also." There will be a mutual excitation amongst the people to seek the one true and living God. Not only shall the inhabitants of one house go to another house, but the inhabitants of one city shall go to another city and say, "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord." "Speedily;" there is no time to be lost; religion is for all, and for all an urgent duty.
3. A universal desire to be identified with the people of God. "In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men [a definite number for an indefinite multitude, indicating many rather than a few] shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew." The Jew (the representative of the people of God), to him men shall go, they shall lay hold of the "skirt" of his garment—an expression conveying the idea either of anxious entreaty or conscious inferiority. Dr. Henderson says, in relation to this, "The prophecy is generally regarded as having respect to something yet future, and is often interpreted of the instrumentality of the Jews when converted in effecting the conversion of the world. I can find no such reference in the passage. 'Jerusalem ' cannot be understood otherwise than literally, just as the term 'Jew' is to be so understood; but according to our Lord's doctrine respecting the new dispensation, that city is no longer the place where men are exclusively to worship the Father (John 4:21-23). Incense and a pure offering are now presented to his Name in every place where his people assemble in the name of Jesus and with a view to his glory (Malachi 1:10, Malachi 1:11). it was otherwise before the advent of Christ. Jerusalem was the place which Jehovah had chosen to put his Name there; and thither all his true worshippers were expected to come to the great festivals, in whatever country they might reside. Thus the treasurer of Candace went all the way from Abyssinia (Acts 8:27), and thus numbers from all parts of the Roman empire assembled in that city at the first Pentecost after our Saviour's resurrection. As the Hellenistic Jews and the Gentile proselytes travelled along in companies, they could not but excite the curiosity of the pagans through whose countries and cities they passed; and, celebrated as the metropolis of Judaea had become for the favours conferred upon it by some of the greatest monarchs of the times immediately gone by, and for the prosperity and warlike prowess of the Jewish people, it was impossible that it should not attract the attention of the surrounding nations to the character and claims of the God who was there adored, and who accorded such blessings to his worshippers. Men, for ages, had to go to the Jew for the true religion; the Gentiles in the apostolic times received it from the Jew; Christ and his apostles were Jews; but in these times the Jews have to come to the Gentiles for the true religion. Still, inasmuch as the Bible is a book of the Jews, Jewish histories, poetries, moralities, etc; and inasmuch as the grand Hero of the book was a Jew, it will, perhaps, ever be true that all nations shall take hold of the Jew in order to 'seek the Lord' with success."
CONCLUSION. When will this universal revival of religion take place? The signs are scarcely visible anywhere. We can only hasten it by attending to the prerequisites—truthfulness in speech, rectitude in conduct, benevolence in feeling, and abhorrence of falsehood.—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent