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Part III. THE FUTURE OF THE POWERS OF THE WORLD AND OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
A. THE FIRST BURDEN.
§ 1. To prepare the land for Israel, and to prove God's care for his people, the neighbouring heathen shall be chastised, while Israel shall dwell in safety and independence.
The burden (see note on Nahum 1:1). (On the circumstances connected with this prophecy, see Introduction, § I.) Destructive critics attribute ch. 9-11, to an anonymous prophet, whose utterances have been by mistake appended to the genuine work of Zechariah. We have given reasons for disputing this conclusion in the Introduction, § II. In (upon) the land of Hadrach. This expression is found nowhere else, and has occasioned great trouble to the commentators. But Assyrian inscriptions have cleared away the difficulty, and shown that it was the name of a city and district near Damascus, called in the monuments Hatarakha or Hatarika. Expeditions against this place are mentioned as occurring in various years, e.g. B.C. 772. 765, 755. Damascus shall be the rest thereof. The "burden" shall light upon Damascus in wrath, and settle there (comp. Ezekiel 5:13). This district should be the first to suffer. The LXX. has, Καὶ Δαμασκοῦ θυσία αὐτοῦ, "In the land of Sedrach and Damascus is his sacrifice." When the eyes of man, etc.; literally, for to Jehovah (is, or will be) the eye of man and of all the tribes of Israel. This gives the reason why Hadrach and Damascus are thus united. Because Jehovah has his eye on men and on Israel. Septuagint, "because the Lord looketh upon men" (comp. Zechariah 4:10; and Zechariah 4:8 below). We may then translate, "For to Jehovah is an eye over man," etc. He sees their evil doings and their oppression of Israel, and therefore the judgment falls upon them (comp. Jeremiah 32:19). The Authorized Version intimates a conversion of the Gentiles, of which, however, the context says nothing: and there is no sense in saying that judgment shall fall upon a particular nation when, or because, the eyes of all men look to the Lord. Wright explains thus: When the wrath of God falls on Damascus, the eyes of the heathen, as well as those of Israel, will look to the Lord, and they will marvel at the judgment and the close fulfilment of the prediction. This would be a very sound and probable exposition of the passage if the expression, "the eye of man being towards Jehovah," can mean that man marvels at his doings. All the tribes of Israel. God watches over them to guard them from evil (Deuteronomy 11:12; Ezra 5:5; Psalms 33:18).
And Hamath also shall border thereby; Revised Version, and Hamath also which bordereth thereon. Hamath, which is near unto Damascus, shall share in the Divine judgment. The Authorized Version probably means that Hamath shall be the companion of Damascus in punishment. (For Hamath, see note on Amos 6:2.) These Syrian towns, as well as those below in Phoenicia and Philistia, shall be visited, because they were all once included in the territory promised to Israel. The judgment was inflicted by Alexander the Great after the battle of Issus, B.C. 333, when Damascus was betrayed into his hands and plundered of all its enormous treasures. Tyrus and Zidon. Tyre was taken after a siege of seven months, its walls were demolished, its houses burnt, ten thousand of its defenders were massacred, the women and children sold as slaves; and it never rose to greatness again. Zidon, originally the chief city of the country, had long been eclipsed by its daughter, Tyre: it submitted to Alexander without a struggle. Though it be very wise; or, because she is very wise. The pronoun refers to Tyre, the mention of Zidon being, as it were, parenthetical. In spite of, or because of, its boasted wisdom, Tyre should suffer heavy punishment. The wisdom of Tyre is spoken of in Ezekiel 28:3, Ezekiel 28:4. Wright, as the LXX; makes the clause refer to both cities, "though they be very wise." Vulgate, Assum pserunt quippe sibi sapientiam valde.
Tyrus (Zor) did build herself a stronghold (mazor). Wright endeavours to imitate the parouomasia, "Tyre built for herself a tower." It was in her strong fortifications and her amassing of riches that Tyre showed her worldly wisdom. The city was built partly on the mainland, and partly on an island nearly half a mile distant, which rose abruptly out of the water in rocky precipices, and was surrounded with walls a hundred and fifty feet high. The insular portion of the town was that which so long mocked the Macedonian's utmost efforts, which were only successful when he had united the island to the mainland by erecting an enormous mole between them. This causeway has now become an isthmus of some half mile in width, owing to accumulations of sand and debris. As the dust.
Will cast her out; will take possession of her; i.e. will conquer her by the hands of her enemies, as Joshua 8:7; Joshua 17:12. Septuagint, κληρονομήσει, "will inherit;" Vulgate, possidebit; Ewald and Hitzig render, "will impoverish her." Will smite her power in the sea. "Power" here includes all that made Tyre proud and confident—her riches, her fleets, her trade, her fortifications. God declares that she shall be smitten there as she stood in the midst of the sea, which formed her bulwark, and which should soon dash over her ruins. The LXX. translates, "shall smite into the sea." Zechariah seems here to have a reminiscence of Ezekiel 27:32, "What city is like Tyres, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea?" (comp. Ezekiel 26:4). With fire (comp. Amos 1:10). The city was burned by Alexander (see note on Ezekiel 27:2. The siege is narrated by Arrian, 2.15-24; Quint. Curt; 4.2, etc.; Diod. Sic; 17.46, etc.).
Ashkelon shall see it. The ruin of so mighty a city as Tyre naturally filled neighbouring people with dismay. The prophet directs his attention to Philistia, and threatens its chief cities. The cities are enumerated in the same order as in Jeremiah 25:20. Gath is omitted, as in Amos 1:6-8 and Zephaniah 2:4 :. It seems never to have recovered its destruction by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6). (For Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron, see note on Amos 1:6.) Her expectation shall be ashamed. The hope of aid from Tyre shall not be fulfilled. After the fall of Tyre, Alexander continued his march southwards towards Egypt, subduing the cities on his way. The siege of Gaze delayed him some months; and when it was taken, it shared the treatment of Tyre. Its governor, one Batis, a eunuch, was tied alive to the conqueror's chariot, and dragged round the walls, in cruel imitation of the fate of Hector. The king shall perish from Gaza. No particular king is meant; but the prediction says that henceforward no king should reign in Gaze. In contrast with the Eastern policy of allowing conquered nations to retain their own rulers as tributary sovereigns, Alexander always deposed or slew reigning monarchs, and consolidated his empire by replacing them with governors of his own. The various chastisements are meted out by the prophet among the various cities, though they equally apply to all.
A Bastard. The word (mamzer) occurs in Deuteronomy 23:2 (3, Hebrew), where it may possibly mean "a stranger." It is generally considered to signify one whose birth has a blemish in it—one born of incest or adultery. In Deuteronomy the LXX. renders, ἐκ πόρης, "one of harlot birth;" here, ἀλλογενής, "foreigner." The Vulgate has separator, which is explained as meaning either the Lord, who as Judge divides the just from the unjust, or the Conqueror, who divides the spoil and assigns to captives their fate. Here it doubtless signifies "a bastard race"; a rabble of aliens shall inhabit Ashdod, which shall lose its own native population. The Targum explains it differently, considering that by the expression is meant that Ashdod shall be inhabited by Israelites, who are deemed "strangers" by the Philistines. Ashdod (see note on Amos 1:8). The pride. All in which they prided themselves. This sums up the prophecy against the several Philistine cities. Their very nationality shall be lost.
Personifying Philistia, the prophet declares that she shall cease to practise idolatry, and shall be incorporated in Israel. I will take away his blood out of his mouth. This refers to the practice of drinking the blood of sacrifices as an act of worship, or of eating the victims with the blood—a practice strictly forbidden to the Israelites (see Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10, Leviticus 17:12; and comp. Genesis 9:4). Abominations. Sacrifices offered to idols, and afterwards eaten. The two clauses intimate the entire abolition of idolatry. Many see in this prediction a reference to the doings of the Maccabees; how, e.g; Judas destroyed the altars and idols in Azotus (1 Macc. 5:68); Jonathan again took that city, and burned it and the neighbouring towns, and, besieging Ashkelon, was received with great honour by the inhabitants, and confirmed in the possession of this place and Ekron (1 Macc. 10:84, etc.); and Simon stormed Gaza (? Gazara, a place near Ashdod), cleansed the houses of idols, "put all uncleanness out of it, and placed such men there as would keep the Law" (1 Macc. 13:47, 48). But though such events partially fulfil the prophecy, the seer looks forward to a greater issue, and in these comparatively petty details beholds the working of the great principle that all nations shall be subdued to the faith. He that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God; better, he too shall be left (or, a remnant) for our God. The Philistine shall become a choice and elect remnant unto the God of the Israelites, and no longer regarded as alien and impure. As a governor; Septuagint, χιλίαρχος, "head over a thousand." which the word alluph means (Zechariah 12:5, Zechariah 12:6). It is used of the chiefs of Edom in Genesis 36:15, Genesis 36:16, etc; where the Authorized Version gives "dukes." The tribes of Israel were divided into thousands, consisting of families, each of which was held together by closer affinities than the mere tribal bond (see note on Micah 5:2). The meaning is that the Philistine shall be admitted into the commonwealth of Israel as one of her chiefs. Ekron as a Jebusite. "Ekron" is equivalent to "the Ekronite," who again stands in the place of all the Philistines. The Jebusites were the ancient possessors of Zion, who held their position till the days of David, and, when at last conquered by him (2 Samuel 5:6, etc.), were incorporated into his nation, and, as we may infer from Araunah's conduct, adopted his religion (2 Samuel 24:22; 1 Chronicles 21:23). God promises here that the Philistines, like the Jebusites, shall be absorbed into the Jewish Church. Mr. Drake ('Speaker's Commentary,' in loc.) curiously renders, "He shall be as Eleph (Joshua 18:28) in Judah, and Ekron as Jebusi," explaining that the cities of Philistia were to be incorporated into Judaea. The conquests of Alexander conduced to the conversion of the heathen and their reception into the Church of God; and the general principle enunciated by all the prophets was tiros abundantly confirmed. But it is rot easy to discover the exact historical fulfilment of the latter part of this prophecy, concerning the merging of the Philistines in the Jewish nation. Josephus ('Ant.,' 13.15. 4) tells us that, about B.C. 100, the Jews held most of their cities, destroying some whose inhabitants refused to become proselytes. In the time of our Lord, by reason of intermarriage and social intercourse, the Philistines had ceased to be regarded as a separate nation; and a little later Philistia, far from being considered as alien and hostile, under the form Palestine, gave its name to the whole country. Christianity, too, made rapid progress in this district, so that the psalmist's words received herein a fulfilment, "Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Gush; this one was born there" (Psalms 87:4).
While the heathen world suffers the judgment of God, he protects his own people. I will encamp about (for the protection of) my house. God's house, or family, is the kingdom and Church of Israel, as Hosea 8:1. Septuagint, Υποστήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ μου ἀνάστημα, "I will erect a fortification for my house." Because of the army. It may also be translated "against," or "from;" i.e. to defend it from the hostile army. Others, pointing differently, render, "as a garrison," or "rampart." Because of (against) him that passeth by, etc. Against all hostile attacks. The phrase, "him that passeth by and him that returneth," is used of an enemy making incursions, or attacking at various points (see note on Zechariah 7:14). The Vulgate gives the whole clause thus: Circumdabo domum meam ex his, qui militant mihi euntes et revertentes, "I will defend my house with a guard chosen from those who serve me and do my will," i.e. angels. But this seems far from the signification of the Hebrew. Pusey restricts the meaning to the proceedings of Alexander, who passed by Judaea on his way to Egypt, and returned by the same route, without doing any injury to Jerusalem. Here comes in the Talmudic story related by Josephus ('Ant.,' 11.8). The Jews "repaid the protection of Persia with a devoted loyalty, which prompted them to refuse the demand of submission made by Alexander during the siege of Tyre. He marched to chastise them after the fall of Gaza, and the beautiful city had already risen before his view on the hill of Zion, when he found the high priest Jaddua waiting his approach at the watch station of Sapha, clad in his robes of gold and purple, and followed by a train of priests and citizens in pure white. The conqueror bowed in reverence to the Holy Name upon the high priest's frontlet; and, being asked by Parmenio the reason of his conduct, said that in a dream at Dium, he had seen the God of Jaddua, who encouraged him to pass over into Asia, and promised him success. Then entering Jerusalem, he offered sacrifice in the temple, heard the prophecy of Daniel about himself; and granted certain privileges to all the Jews throughout his empire. The desire to honour a shrine so celebrated as, the Jewish temple is quite in accordance with the conduct of Alexander at Ilium and Ephesus, Gordium and Tyre. The privileges he is said to have conferred upon the Jews were enjoyed under his successors, and some minor matters have been adduced in confirmation of the story. On the other hand, the classical writers are entirely silent on the subject, and the details of Josephus involve grave historical inconsistencies. It seems not an unreasonable conjecture that the story is an embellishment of some incident that occurred when the high priest came to Gaza to tender the submission of the Jews. But we must not dismiss it without a remark on the vast influence which the conquests of Alexander had in bringing the Jews into closer relations with the rest of Asia, and so preparing them to fulfil their ultimate destiny as Christians" (P. Smith, 'History of the World,' 1.60, etc). Oppressor. The word is used for "taskmaster" in Exodus 3:7. Septuagint, ἐξελαύνων, "one who drives away;" Vulgate, exactor. This latter rendering would imply that Israel would no longer have to pay tribute to foreign nations, but should henceforward be independent. For now have I seen with mine eyes. It is as though, during Israel's calamities, God had not looked upon her; but now he notices her condition, and interposes for her succour (comp. Exodus 2:25; Exodus 3:7, Exodus 3:9; Acts 7:34). This is done by sending the personage mentioned in the following section.
Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10
§ 2. Then shall the righteous King come to Zion in lowly fashion, and inaugurate a kingdom of peace.
The prophet invites Jerusalem to rejoice at the coming of the promised salvation in the Person of her King; no mighty earthly potentate and conqueror, like Alexander the Great, but one of different fashion (comp. Zephaniah 3:14). Thy King cometh unto thee. St. Matthew (Matthew 21:5) and St. John (John 12:15) see a fulfilment of this prophecy in Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first day of the week in which he was crucified. All attempts to disprove the Messianic import of this passage have been unavailing. Even critics who refer this part of Zechariah (ch. 9-11.) to an unknown author writing in the time of Hezekiah, allow that it is replete with Messianic ideas, and can be applied to no hero of Jewish story or event of Jewish history. There is no other "King" of Israel to whom it can refer. Our blessed Lord himself, by his abnormal actions on Palm Sunday, plainly assumed the part of the predicted King, and meant the people to recognize in him the promised Messiah. Thy King. A king of thine own race, no stranger, but one predestined for thee. He who was foretold by all the prophets, who was to occupy the throne of David, and reign forever (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 45:1, Psalms 45:6, Psalms 45:7; Isaiah 32:1). Unto thee. For thy good, to bless thee (Isaiah 9:6). Just. Righteous in character and in practice, ruling in equity (Psalms 72:1-4, Psalms 72:7; Isaiah 11:2-4). Having salvation; Septuagint, σώζων, "saving." Vulgate, salvator; so the Syriac and Chaldee. The genius of the language requires the participle to be taken passively, as it is in two other passages where it occurs (Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 33:16). The context has seemed to some to demand that it be understood in an active sense, thus contrasting him who came to save with the haughty Grecian conqueror, whose progress was marked by bloodshed. But the usual meaning of the word affords a satisfactory sense. The King who comes is "saved," endowed with salvation, either as being protected and upheld by God (Psalms 18:50; Psalms 110:1, Psalms 110:2, Psalms 110:5; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:8), or as being victorious and so able to aid his people. In this latter view, the active sense is included in the passive. His own deliverance is a sure sign of the deliverance of his people. Lowly; Septuagint, πραύς, "meek;" Vulgate, pauper—meek and lowly, as Christ himself says (Matthew 11:29),far removed from warlike pomp and worldly greatness. The word is also rendered "afflicted," and would then be in accordance with the description in Isaiah 52:13-5; Psalms 22:6. Riding upon an ass. In illustration of his poor or afflicted estate; it is this, and not merely the peace. fulness of his reign, that is meant by this symbolical action, as we see by the following clause, where the youthfulness of the animal is the point enforced. And (even, and that) upon a colt the foal of an ass; such as she asses bear, and one not trained; as the evangelist says, "whereon never man sat." Christ sat upon the foal. In old times judges and men of distinction rode upon asses (Genesis 22:3; Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4); but from Solomon's days the horse had been used, not only in war, but on all state occasions (Jeremiah 17:25); and the number of horses brought back on the return from Babylon is specially mentioned (Ezra 2:66). So to predicate of a King that he would come to his capital riding, not on a war horse, but on a young, unbroken ass, showed at once that he himself was not to be considered a victorious general or a worldly potentate, and that his kingdom was not to be won or maintained by carnal arms. This is signified more fully in the following verse, which describes the character and extent of Messiah's kingdom.
I will cut off the chariot. All the apparatus of war will be removed, Messiah's rule being not established by physical force, or maintained by military defences. The Jews seem to have used war chariots from the time of Solomon, who, we are told, had fourteen hundred of them (1 Kings 10:26). Ephraim … Jerusalem. The former term denotes the kingdom of the ten tribes; the latter, that of Judah; the two together comprising the whole Israelite nation. From the use of these terms here it cannot be concluded that the author wrote at a time when the two kingdoms existed side by side. In the first place, the description of the whole people is given poetically, and must not be taken to have more significance than is intended; and secondly, in Zechariah 8:13, which is confessedly post-exilian, the "house of Judah," and the "house of Israel" are distinguished. Dr. Cheyne notes, too, that in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:15-28), who prophesied during the Captivity, the ten tribes are distinguished by the name of Ephraim, and pertinently asks why such term may not be also used by one who wrote after the Captivity. The battle bow stands for all weapons of war. That Messiah's kingdom should be peaceful and peace-bringing, see the prophecies (Psalms 72:7; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:4-7; comp. Micah 5:10, Micah 5:11). He shall speak peace unto the heathen. He will extend this peace to all the world, teaching the heathen to receive his spiritual rule, to compose their differences, to lay aside their arms, and live as one united family (comp. Ephesians 2:17). From sea even to sea. Geographically, the phrase means from the Dead Sea on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, as in Exodus 23:31 and Psalms 72:8, from whence our passage is derived. Poetically, an Eastern sea, perhaps, is supposed to bound that side of the earth. From the river even to the ends of the earth. From the Enphrates unto the utmost limits of the world (see Amos 8:12; Micah 7:12). Both expressions obtain an unlimited significance, and show the universal extent of Messiah's kingdom; for in him, according to the promise made to Abraham, all the families of the earth should be blessed.
§ 3. All Israel, united into one people, shall wage successful war against adversaries, and attain to high glory, and increase largely in numbers.
As for thee also. The prophet addresses the daughter of Zion, the covenant people (comp. Zechariah 9:10, Zechariah 9:13). "Also" is inserted to intimate that this deliverance is given in addition to the blessings promised in the two preceding verses. All who are living far from their native Zion are invited to come to her and partake of her good things. By (because of) the blood of thy covenant. The covenant is that made at Sinai, sealed and ratified by blood (Exodus 24:4-8), which still held good, and was the pledge to the nation of deliverance and help. This was a token of that everlasting covenant sealed with the blood of Christ, by which God's people are delivered from the bondage of sin (comp. Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:14-23; Hebrews 13:20). I have sent forth; I send forth—the prophetic perfect. The Greek and Latin Versions render, "thou sentest forth," not so correctly. Thy prisoners. Those members of the nation who were still oppressed or captives in foreign lands, as Babylon and Egypt (comp. Obadiah 1:20; Joel 3:6, etc.; Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9, etc.). The pit wherein is no water. "Pit," or cistern, is a common name for a prison (Genesis 40:15; Exodus 12:29; Jeremiah 37:16). The absence of water may be notified either to imply that the tortures of thirst were added to the horror of the situation, or to intimate that the prisoners were not hopelessly drowned therein. We Christians see in this paragraph a figure of the redemption of a lost world by the blood of Christ.
The prophet calls on the prisoners to avail themselves of the offered deliverance. Turn you to the stronghold. Return ye to Zion, the city defended by God (Zechariah 2:5), and able to afford you a safe asylum. (For the spiritual meaning, see Luke 4:18-21.) Ye prisoners of hope. Captives who have good hope of deliverance because they are still in covenant with God. Septuagint, δέσμιοι τῆς συναγωγῆς, "prisoners of the synagogue." Pusey remarks that "hope" here and nowhere else has the article, and that what is meant is "the Hope of Israel," that of which St. Paul spoke (Acts 26:6, Acts 26:7 and Acts 28:20). Even today. In spite of all contrary appearances. Septuagint, ἀντὶ μιᾶς ἡμέρας παροικεσίας σου, "for one day of thy sojourning." Double. A double measure of blessing in compensation for past suffering (Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 61:7). There ought to be a full stop at the end of this verse, as in the Revised Version.
The Lord proceeds to explain the promised blessings in detail. First is signified the victorious resistance of the Maccabees against the Seleucidae—a figure of Messiah's victory over all the enemies of God. When (for) I have bent Judah for me. The verbs are in the prophetical perfect, and may be rendered future By a grand figure God is represented as a warrior armed for battle, who uses his people for the weapons of his warfare. The Hebrews speak of "treading" the bow, where we say "bend," because they used the foot in bending it. In the present case Judah is God's bow. Filled the bow with Ephraim. Ephraim is the arrow (comp. Psalms 127:4, Psalms 127:5). Judah and Ephraim, the united people, are God's instruments, and fight against the world power in his strength. And raised up; better, and I will stir up; Septuagint, ἐξεγερῶ: Vulgate, suscitabo. Greece; Javan. Not a vague term for the tar west, whither some prisoners had been carried, but to be taken strictly as the appellation of Greece. Nothing but inspiration could have enabled Zechariah and Daniel to foresee the rise of the Macedonian dynasty, and the struggle between the Jews and the Syro-Grecian power in Maccabean times, which is here plainly announced. The earlier the date assigned to this part of Zechariah's prophecy, the more incredible is it that any mere human sagacity or prescience should have enabled a man to fore. tell these events, or to see in Greece a power arrayed in conflict with the people of God. And made thee; rather, and I will make thee. God will make his people into a hero's sword to execute vengeance on the enemy.
The Lord shall be seen over them. To encourage the chosen people in the contest, the Lord shall make iris presence manifest as their Leader. His arrow. God's arrows are the judgments which he inflicts upon his enemies, which come forth suddenly as the lightning flash, and cannot be avoided (Psalms 18:14; Habakkuk 3:11). Shall blow the trumpet. As the signal of battle and calamity (Numbers 10:9; Judges 7:19, Judges 7:20; Ezekiel 7:14; Amos 3:6; Zephaniah 1:16). Whirlwinds of the south. He shall come upon the enemy and sweep them away with irresistible force. Storms from the south were the most violent, coming from the Arabian desert (Job 37:9; Isaiah 21:1; Hosea 13:15). Septuagint, Πορεύσεται ἐν σάλῳ ἀπειλῆς αὐτοῦ," He shall go in the surge of his menace."
Shall defend them; ὑπερασπιεῖ αὐτούς, "shall put his shield over them". There are numerous examples, in the Books of Maccabees, of God's special interposition in his people's favour, and thus far and in part fulfilling this prophecy (see 1 Macc. 3:16-24; 4:6-16; 7:40-50; 2 Macc. 2:21, 22; 3:24, etc.; 5:2-4; 11:8; 12:11,15, 22, 28, 37; 15:7, etc.). They shall devour. The prophet seems to have had in view Numbers 23:24, where Israel is compared to a lion, eating of the prey and drinking the blood of the slain. So here he says they shall "devour," i.e. the flesh of their enemies (comp. Micah 5:8). Subdue with sling stones. So the Vulgate, and virtually the Septuagint, taking the case of the noun as instrumental; but it is best to take it as accusative of the object, as in the margin of the Authorized Version, "They shall tread down the stones of the sling." The "slingstones" are the enemies, as in the next verse "the stones of a crown" are the Jews; and the sentence means that the Jews shall tread their enemies underfoot like spent slingstones, which are of no account. Or it may signify simply and without metaphor that they shall despise the enemies' missiles, which shall fall harmless among them (Job 41:28, Job 41:29). They shall drink the blood of the slain, like lions. Make a noise. As men exhilarated with wine. Vulgate, Bibentes inebriabuntur quasi a vino (Isaiah 49:26; Ezekiel 39:17-19). Shall be filled like bowls. They shall be filled with blood like the sacrificial vessels in which the blood of victims was received (Zechariah 14:20). The corners of the altar. The blood was also sprinkled on the corners or sides of the altar (Le Numbers 1:5, Numbers 1:11; Numbers 3:2). There may be included the notion that the war against God's enemies was a sacred war, and accepted by him as a sacrifice. In the Maccabean struggle the bloodshed was often very considerable (see 1 Macc. 7:32, 46; 11:47; 2 Macc. 8:30; 10:17, 23, 31, etc.).
Shall save them. He shall give them a positive blessing beyond mere deliverance from enemies. Keil, "Shall endow them with salvation." As the flock of his people; so the Vulgate; literally, as a flock, his people; Septuagint, ὡς πρόβατα, λαὸν αὐτοῦ. He will tend his people as a shepherd tends his flock (Psalms 77:20; Psalms 100:3; Jeremiah 23:1; Ezekiel 34:2, Ezekiel 34:8, etc.), So Christ calls himself the "good Shepherd," and his followers "little flock" (John 10:11; Luke 12:32). Stones of a crown. The valuable gems set in crowns and diadems, or in the high priest's official dress. The people shall be in God's sight as precious as these in the eyes of men, and shall be highly exalted. The Septuagint and Vulgate render, "sacred stones;" and Knabenbauer thinks that by the term is meant the temple of God, which shall arise or shine in the Holy Laud, as a reward for its faithful defence. But the sense given above is satisfactory and simpler. Lifted up as an ensign upon his land; better, as the Revised Version margin, glittering upon his land. "His" may refer to Jehovah, or Israel; probably the latter is meant. The "land" is the crown or diadem in which the precious stones, the redeemed people, are set. They shall be raised to the highest possible glory and honour. If the words be taken in the sense of "raised on high over his land," they must be considered to indicate that the crown which contained the gems shall be raised aloft in victorious triumph.
His goodness. The goodness, i.e. the prosperity, of Israel or the land. Revised Version margin, "their prosperity." If the affix "his" is referred to Jehovah, the nouns "goodness" and "beauty" must be taken, not as his attributes, but as gifts bestowed by him, the prosperity and beauty which he confers. But it is more suitable to the context to consider the reference to be to the people, who in the next clause are divided into young men and maidens, and to take the "goodness," or goodliness, as appertaining more especially to the former, and the "beauty" to the latter. His beauty (comp. Ezekiel 16:14). (For the Messianic interpretation, see Psalms 45:2; Isaiah 33:17.) Corn … new wine. This is an expression often found to denote great abundance and prosperity. The two are distributed poetically between the youths and maidens (Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalms 72:16; Jeremiah 31:12, Jeremiah 31:13; Joel 2:18, Joel 2:19). Make … cheerful; literally, make sprout. It probably refers to the increase of population occurring in times of plenty. This outward prosperity is a symbol of God's favour and the uprightness of the people. In these things, too, we may see adumbrated the spiritual blessings of the gospel, which are, as corn and wine, to strengthen and refresh the soul.
A visitation of judgment.
"The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach," etc. Whatever view is taken of the exact time of the fulfilment of the glorious promises with which the last chapter concludes, it was necessarily a time still future when those promises were uttered. Other things of a very different nature were first to occur. On some of these, accordingly, as constituting a kind of "burden" (Zechariah 9:1) on some of the lands and people contiguous to Israel, the tongue of the prophet, in the verses before us, next speaks—something, probably, after the fashion of Luke 19:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:3. Most commentators believe that what he thus predicts was fulfilled in connection with the Syrian conquests of Alexander the Great. Certainly we shall find this predicted "visitation of judgment" to correspond very strikingly with the history of those conquests in three principal ways, viz. in regard
(1) to the circumstances it came in;
(2) to the path it followed; and
(3) to the marks it left.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IT CAME IN. It was a time when the "eyes of man," and especially (so Pusey, in loc.) "of all the tribes of Israel," should be "toward the Lord." This seems to describe, first and generally, a condition of expectation and wonder—perhaps also of fear (see Luke 21:26). Secondly, and more particularly, and it may be of the "tribes of Israel" especially, a spirit of trust and reverence (see Psalms 5:3; 2 Chronicles 20:12; Psalms 145:15; Psalms 123:2; Isaiah 17:7, Isaiah 17:8). If so, we may find that in the history supposed to be referred to which corresponds in both respects very exactly. How certainly great, for example, was the expectation and wondering fear of the inhabitants of the East at large, after the astounding victory of Alexander at Issus, when he first sent his general and turned his attention to Syria and Damascus! How exceedingly natural, also, that the marvellous speed and completeness of his triumph should remind "the tribes of Israel" of Daniel 8:1-8, Daniel 8:20, Daniel 8:21, and so fix their eyes on their own Jehovah in adoration and trust! This almost certain, indeed, if we believe what Josephus tells us of the prophecies of Daniel being afterwards shown to Alexander.
II. THE PATH WHICH THIS VISITATION FOLLOWED. Three principal stages are mentioned in the prophecy.
1. Where the "visitation" began; viz. (see verse 1) in the land of Damascus and Hadrach, a principal city, as only lately known (see Pusey), of Syria, towards the northeast.
2. Where it went next; viz. to Tyrus and Zidon (vote. 2 4), cities of Phoenicia, travelling west.
3. Where it went last; viz. to the cities of the Philistines (verses 5, 6), travelling south. Three corresponding stages are also traceable in the history referred to. So Pusey writes, "The selection of the places and of the whole line of country corresponds very exactly to the march of Alexander after the battle of Issue, when the capture of Damascus, which Darius had chosen as the strong depository of his wealth, etc; opened Coele-Syria; Zidon surrendered; Tyre was taken; Gaza resisted, was taken, and, it is said, plucked up." Also Eichhorn, as there quoted, "All the chief places, which Alexander, after the battle of Issue, either took possession of or conquered, are named one by one—the land of Hadrach, Damascus and Hamath, Tyre and Zidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod."
III. THE MARKS IT LEFT. Here, again, in the prediction, the description is threefold. In the country of Hadrach and Damascus and their neighbouring city Hamath ("Hamath, which bordereth thereby," so some), the great mark was the abiding character of the visitation, or "burden." There judgment was to come first, and them to remain. In the case of Tyrus (Zidon being only mentioned parenthetically), the result, notwithstanding all her wisdom (Ezekiel 28:2, Ezekiel 28:3), strength, wealth, and power, would be her total overthrow and destruction by fire. In the cities of Philistia the results would be fear, sorrow, disappointment; in one case, the loss of the ruler (verse 5); in another (verse 5), the loss of inhabitants; in all, the abasement of "pride." More briefly still—"subjugated," "ruined," "humbled"—so would this visitation, according to this prediction, leave these three lands. According to the history, we read the same. "The Syrians, not as yet tamed by the losses of war, despised the new empire; but, swiftly subdued, they did obediently what they were commanded" (Q. Curtius, quoted by Pusey). Of Tyre we read, in the pages of history, as to her "stronghold" and her "power on the sea," and wealth, that the inhabitants "determined to resist Alexander, trusting in the strength of the island, and the stores laid up," as also that they "mocked at the king, as though he thought to prevail against Neptune." As to her "wisdom," we read of "unwearied inventiveness of defence," etc. As to the result, that "Alexander, having slain all save those who fled to the temples, ordered the houses to be set on fire." Of Gaza, which had had kings for fifteen hundred years, that Betis, its "king," after a two months' siege, was dragged to death at the chariot wheels of his conqueror (see further Pusey and Wardlaw, in loc.). This passage, thus interpreted, may seem to illustrate, in conclusion:
1. The imperfection of man's knowledge. This city, Hadrach, which turns out to have been most conspicuous and important for many generations, afterwards for many generations is so forgotten that its very name is a riddle. How much beside, therefore, has doubtless been so buried by time that all traces of it are gone!
2. The perfection of God's knowledge. He knows even the future infinitely better than we do the past. Doubtless, on this account, there are some touches in this prediction which we cannot appreciate, but which may, however, have been of peculiar interest to devout Jews at this time.
Zechariah 9:7, Zechariah 9:8
A visitation of mercy.
"And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth," etc. The key to this passage seems to be in its very last words (comp. Exodus 3:7 and end of Exodus 3:6). In the preceding verses we saw how God "visited" the nations bordering on Israel with a "visitation of judgment." Here we seem to read how he visits his own people with a "visitation of mercy," He does so, apparently, in two principal ways, viz.
(1) indirectly, by converting their enemies; and
(2) directly, by defending themselves.
I. IN CONVERTING THEIR ENEMIES. (Comp. Proverbs 16:7.) Of this conversion, as described in Zechariah 9:7, three things should be noted.
1. Its completeness. This evidenced, partly, by the doing away of that especial outward token of religious distinction connected with "eating the blood" (see Leviticus 17:10, Leviticus 17:11; Psalms 16:4; Ezekiel 33:25); and partly, also, by the fact of this greatly prized heathen indulgence being given up when "between the teeth," and so when most enticing and pleasant (comp. Jonah 3:8, "the violence that is in their hands").
2. Its extent. It would apply to all the Philistines that "remained;" and to all of them, also, in such a manner that every one of them individually ("he that remaineth, even he") should be on the God of Israel's side.
3. Its importance. Every individual so gained would he as great a source of strength as a "governor," or captain of a thousand; and every band of them as great an advantage as when their originally indomitable enemy, the "Jebusite," became, in the person of Ornan or Araunah, the king-like giver of the very site on which their temple was built (see Joshua 15:60; Jdg 1:21; 1 Chronicles 21:15; 2 Samuel 24:18; 1 Chronicles 22:1). In supposed fulfilment of all this, some have noticed what Josephus relates as to the way in which the Philistines, many years afterwards, identified themselves with the Jews. But we are, perhaps, on safer ground if we notice, with a similar view, how completely, in New Testament times, the Philistines have disappeared from sight as enemies of the Jews; and how much, also, we read of the early triumphs of the gospel in their part of the land (see the mission of St. Peter as related in Acts 9:32-43; Acts 10:1-48.; Acts 11:1-18). Was not Cornelius as important to the Gentile Church as Araunah to the Jewish temple?
II. IN DEFENDING THEMSELVES. Here also three features to be specially marked. Notice:
1. The completeness of this defence. In many ways there would be danger: in the mere existence of an "army" or hostile body; in its close proximity to them when in movement, and that, both when "passing by" and also when "returning;" perhaps, also, in the terrible character and exceptional might of that army's commander, as signified by what is twice said here so emphatically about "him" in connection with its movements. From all these dangers defence is here promised.
2. Its secret. By God's own hand: "I will encamp" (comp. Psalms 20:7; Psalms 34:7; 2 Kings 6:17). For the sake of God's own house, some expressly render the words, "about mine house" (comp. Psalms 122:9; 1 Kings 8:29).
3. Its results; viz. comparative freedom from oppression to God's people till their then work should be accomplished. They might be visited; they might be attacked; but they would not, as before, be left to the oppressor's mercy and will. In apparent fulfilment of this part of the prophecy, we may notice, in the pages of history, how Alexander, when engaged in besieging Tyre, demanded the assistance of the Jews; how the high priest, Jaddua, refused on account of his previous oath to Darius; how Alexander threatened Jerusalem in consequence; how, after destroying Gaza, he passed by them to subdue Egypt; how he returned thence, vowing vengeance; how Jaddua and the priests met him, and showed him the prophecies of Daniel; how Alexander is said to have recognized in Jaddua the same man as had long previously appeared to him in a dream; how, on all these accounts, he not only spared the Jews, but promoted them, and laid the foundation of a policy in regard to them which helped to preserve them till New Testament times (see Josephus and other authorities, as quoted by Wardlaw, and by Pusey in 'Minor Prophets,' and 'Daniel the Prophet').
Thus regarded, we seem taught for ourselves:
1. How God preserves those that are his—how variously; how wonderfully; how abundantly. Though unarmed themselves, they not only escape, they more than disarm, the vengeance of the conqueror of the world.
2. Why God preserves them, viz. because of their connection with his "temple"—in other words, with his Son (comp. John 2:19-21; Col 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:5; Acts 4:12; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:39, etc.).
A joyful kingdom.
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem," etc. How sudden, how loud, how urgent, is this call to rejoice! No wonder; for in the bare fact announced here there is ample cause to rejoice. "Thy King cometh"—a King of thine own, not an alien king like him just spoken of. This possibly the connection of thought. Still greater the cause for rejoicing in what is said of this King; whether
(1) to Zion herself; or
(2) to her Gentile neighbours; or
(3) to mankind at large.
I. TO ZION HERSELF. Consider:
1. The purpose of his coming, viz.:
(1) To save his people, not to condemn them (Luke 9:56; John 3:17, etc.). This the more necessary to specify, because of the righteousness or justice so specially attributed to him in this place. Although "just," he is coming to pardon.
(2) To save his people indeed. To save them not only from the guilt, but also from the practice and power of their sins; calling "sinners," but calling them to "repentance." Although coming to pardon, he is just (Romans 3:26).
2. The manner of his coming. How admirably this corresponds to his purpose! Being a King, he appears (for once at least) in befitting state, riding on an animal never employed before. Being also a Saviour, he comes in mercy and meekness, in the lowliest way a king could.
II. TO THE HEATHEN NEIGHBOURS OF ZION. As shown by the description given here:
1. Of the aspect of his kingdom towards them. "He shall Speak peace to the heathen" (Zechariah 9:10). The Jews themselves seem to have expected otherwise; as shown to some extent by such passages as Acts 1:6; Mark 10:37; and specially by the extreme unwillingness of the Apostle Peter to treat any Gentile whatever (Acts 10:4) as otherwise than common or unclean. This "enmity" (Ephesians 2:16) was to be so completely "taken away" that the very weapons of warfare were to be "cut off" and perish. A cause for rejoicing, indeed, when accomplished, both to believing Jews (Acts 11:18) and to Gentiles (Acts 13:48).
2. Of the extent of his kingdom among them. "From sea to sea," etc. (Mark 10:10). The reference, apparently, is to Psalms 72:8; also to the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18; and ultimately to Psalms 2:8. How this was fulfilled in gospel times we learn from such passages as Acts 11:26 and Acts 17:6; Romans 15:19; Colossians 1:6.
III. TO MANKIND AT LARGE. Whether we consider:
1. The kind of persons saved. These would appear (from Colossians 1:11) to be the worst cases of all—persons needing salvation the most. They are described as being persons in prison; as being in its lowest part, perhaps in its "pit;" as being there without means of subsistence; as having their life, in fact, like Joseph in Genesis 37:24, Genesis 37:27, only not gone.
2. The kind of salvation vouchsafed.
(1) Its certainty. A matter of "covenant" (Genesis 37:12)—of a covenant still binding, renewed "today;" a covenant made by the greatest of all beings, and in the most solemn of all methods, viz. by shedding of "blood" (see 1 Peter 1:19, etc.).
(2) Its fulness. "I will render double unto thee." Not merely as the offence" is this "free gift" (Romans 5:15), though that would be surprising enough. It is very "much more," even "double" (comp. Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 61:7).
CONCLUSION. How great cause, in all this, for us, too, to rejoice! If the prospect was good, the fulfilment is better (Matthew 13:16, Matthew 13:17; Hebrews 11:13, Hebrews 11:39, Hebrews 11:40; 1 Peter 1:10-12). If the mere hope was so bright, how much better the harvest! How great cause, also, for taking warning! The fuller the salvation, the greater the peril of rejecting it (Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 10:28, Hebrews 10:29). The more complete, also, its provisions, the more final. "There remaineth no more sacrifice for sin;" "Last of all he sent unto them his Son"
A successful campaign.
"When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim," etc. It is clear, from the beginning of these verses, that we have to do here, in some sense, with battle and war. It is equally clear, from the fact that the persons here mentioned have been described in Zechariah 9:10 as specially separated from battle and war, that we have only to do here with such things in some more literal sense. It seems most probable, therefore, that the "peace" spoken of in the latter portion of the passage must be something equally peculiar in its way. Let us endeavour to find, in each case, where the peculiarity lies.
I. AS TO WAR. Under this head we may notice:
1. The description of the combatants. On the one hand, "Judah," "Ephraim," and "Zion," representing probably the Jewish people at large, as specially identified with the worship of Jehovah, the true God (Psalms 87:2). On the other hand, "Greece," as probably representing the heathen at large (Zechariah 9:10), in connection with those mythological fictions and philosophical inquiries in which the "sons" of Greece took the lead. When did these combatants and these systems of thought come into conflict? Even when God raised up those Jewish apostles of Christ (so it has been answered), who, by the preaching of the cross, attacked and overcame the religion and wisdom of Greece (1 Corinthians 1:18-24). This was most truly a kind of "war," which also spoke "peace" (Zechariah 9:10); a war, also, in which the "Word of the Lord out of Zion" (Isaiah 2:3) was as a "sword" (Ephesians 6:17) in God's hand.
2. The description of the conflict. Was not the Lord truly "seen over," or with these combatants for his truth (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 2:4)? Did not God's Word also, as spoken by them, find its mark like an "arrow" (Act 2:37; 1 Corinthians 14:24, 1 Corinthians 14:25)? Did it not shake and overthrow many deeply rooted convictions, like the "trumpet" of Jericho, as though by its sound (Acts 17:6)? And overcome apparently insuperable obstacles as though by a "whirlwind" (2 Corinthians 10:4, 2 Corinthians 10:5)? Did not God again specially "defend" these combatants when endangered (Acts 5:23; Acts 12:1-17; Acts 14:20, Acts 14:21; Acts 16:26; Acts 19:23-41; Acts 21:32, etc.)? Did they not also, with their weapons of peace, "devour and subdue" those weapons of war, "the stones of the sling" (margin), spreading the gospel even when destroyed themselves (Acts 11:19-21)? And altogether were they not like men carried along as though with a holy "wine" from the "altar," in their fervour of zeal and success (Acts 2:13; Acts 26:24; 2 Corinthians 5:13)? In all these respects we seem to have here a faithful description of the earlier conquests of Christ's cross.
II. AS TO PEACE. Corresponding to this singular and hallowed warfare shall be its hallowed results. The Church, or congregation of God's believing people, shall be made thereby a new thing on the earth.
1. Externally; and that in three ways.
(1) As to members, Before "that day" the family of God was confined almost entirely to one little people and land. Now, those thus saved by him should be "as the flock of his people."
(2) As to appreciation. Like "the stones of a crown," like so many jewels, that is to say, not only most valuable in themselves, also most appreciatingly employed, shall his people then be. Compare the name of Peter, signifying "a Stone," and such passages as 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12.
(3) As to effect. The Church becoming then, like a "standard" or "ensign," something easily seen, readily recognized, and faithfully followed (comp. So Revelation 6:10). So numerous, so illustrious, so conspicuous, was the New Testament Church, on the one hand, to become. Just so, on the other hand, with all its faults and corruptions, has it actually been!
2. Internally. And this, in turn, manifested in three different ways.
(1) In a special sense of God's love. "How great is his goodness!" (comp.John 3:16; John 3:16; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:17; Romans 5:5; Ephesians 2:4-7).
(2) In a special sense of God's perfections. "How great is his beauty!" (Compare such passages as Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26; Rom 11:33; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Corinthians 1:25, 1 Corinthians 1:30.)
(3) In a special consequent sense of satisfaction and rest; and that amongst all. "Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids." Illustrated, perhaps, by such passages as Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2; Acts 16:34; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; and it may he also, if we look to the margin, by Acts 2:16-18; Acts 21:4, Acts 21:9. Never have all these things been so deeply and so commonly felt in the "Israel of God," as since the days when the apostles first went forth to preach Christ.
From the various predicted changes thus accomplished, we may see, in conclusion:
1. The supernatural origin of Christianity. Physically, the Roman conquered the world. Intellectually, the Greek conquered the Roman. Spiritually, the Jew has conquered them both. A little society, formed originally out of the most despised of the nations, and principally, if not exclusively, out of the most despised of its provinces (Acts 2:7; John 7:52), has become the ruling society upon earth. Can we help saying as in Psalms 118:23?
2. The supernatural value of Christianity. Is there any system to be compared with it as to the blessings it bestows? Can the statement of 1 Timothy 4:8 be made of any other religion as it can of this one? Can anything else also so completely satisfy all the cravings of our nature (see John 4:14)?
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
I. THE DARK SIDE. "Burden." Word of ill omen to God's enemies. God's eye is on all. Storm gathering. Will soon burst in fury, just, universal, overwhelming. None so small as to be overlooked. None so great as to secure immunity. The wisdom of the wise, the resources of the rich, and the fame of ancient days will prove as vanity.
II. THE BRIGHT SIDE. Eye of kindness. Hand of gracious interposition. Incorporation of Jews and Gentiles in one glorious Church.
1. Divine protection. "Encamp," etc.
2. Righteous freedom. No more taskmasters, as in Egypt.
3. Grateful service.—F.
The ideal King.
I. BEAUTIFUL VISION. Poets in rapt moments have had glimpses of the highest (Psa 45:1-17 :72). The character, the life and work of a true King, have passed before them as things fair to see. But where is the reality? "Find me the true king or able man, and he has a Divine right over me" (Carlyle).
II. PASSIONATE LONGING. The heart yearns for what is best. The need presses. Circumstances now and again arise that intensify the feeling and the cry. There is so much to be done—evils to remove, wrongs to be redressed, rights and liberties to be secured. Oh for the coming of the true King! "What he tells us to do must be precisely wisest, fittest, that we can anywhere or anyhow learn, the thing which it will in all ways behove us, with right loyal thankfulness and nothing doubting, to do. Our doing and life were then, so far as government would regulate them, well regulated" (Carlyle).
III. IMMORTAL HOPE. There have been kings, good, bad, and indifferent. Some began well, but did little. The best have come far short of the highest standard. The true King "not yet." Still hope. Faith in the possibilities of human nature; above all, faith in the promise of God.
"Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good....
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land.
Ring in the Christ that is to be."
Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10
The advent of the King.
The accession of a sovereign is a time of rejoicing (cf. Solomon, 1 Kings 1:40). But there may be disappointment. The early promise may fail, and the first joys end in bitterness. Not so with Messiah. The better he is known, the more he is loved. The longer experience of his reign, the greater the satisfaction.
I. THE GREATNESS OF HIS NATURE. Son of man. Son of God. Dignity commanding the highest homage.
II. THE BEAUTY OF HIS CHARACTER. Everything in him that is true and fair and good. He is altogether lovely.
1. Just. Fulfils all righteousness.
2. Merciful. Stoops to the lowest. Kind to the poorest. Equitable to all.
3. Humble. Meek and lowly.
III. THE GLORY OF HIS REIGN.
1. Empire spiritual. His kingdom is "within." He writes his Jaws upon the heart.
2. Based on the free convictions and love of the people. His subjects do not bow the knee in form, but in truth. They honour him not with mere lip service or state ceremonials, but with the homage of the heart.
3. Characterized by righteousness and peace. "Salvation" is brought by him to all. He not only pardons the rebel, but converts him into a loyal subject. He not only emancipates the slave, but binds him forever to himself in grateful devotion. He not only rescues the lost, but unites them with all the redeemed in one holy and loving brotherhood.
4. Destined to universality and immortality. Of his kingdom there shall be no end.—F.
Zechariah 9:11, Zechariah 9:12
The sinner in three aspects.
I. SELF-RUINED. Joseph, Daniel, Jeremiah, were cast into "the pit" by wicked hands. The sinner has himself to blame. if there is gloom, chains, and misery, it is because of revolt from God. It is not the body but the soul that is "in prison," and no soul can be imprisoned save by its own deed and consent.
II. GOD-PITIED. Though we have cast off God, he has not cast off us. He is long suffering and merciful. His voice to us is fall of pity and inspires hope. "Prisoners of hope." Why? Specially:
1. As called of God.
2. Roused to a sense of danger.
3. Encouraged to seek deliverance.
III. CHRIST-RESCUED. Refuge is provided. "Stronghold."
2. Open to all.
3. Ample for the reception and defence of all who come.
Hence the urgent and loving appeal, "Flee" Happy they who have responded, "who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the Hope set before us" (Hebrews 6:19)!—F.
Victory through God.
I. THE MARSHALLING OF THE FORCES. The "trumpet" calls to arms. On one side are the armies of heaven, and on the other the hosts of darkness.
II. THE TERRIBLENESS OF THE STRUGGLE. Characterized by:
1. Might, as of a storm carrying havoc far and wide.
2. Fury, as of wild beasts raging and ravening.
3. Deadliness, as of arrows that strike quick, and with fatal effect.
III. THE SPLENDOUR OF THE VICTORY. Complete overthrow of God's enemies. Establishment of his people as a flock, in unity and peace. Human agency, but Divine efficiency. Everything here to rouse ardour, to quicken flagging energies, and to nerve the soul to the highest endeavours, under the eye of the great Captain of our salvation.—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The dark and the bright side of God's revelation to mankind.
"The burden of the word of the Lord," etc. This chapter begins that portion of the book whose genuineness, though denied by some, is accepted by most unbiassed expositors. As it is our main purpose, in preparing these sketches, to use the statements, whether prosaic or poetic, prophetic or historic, to illustrate truths of universal application, it comes not within our purpose to discuss the questions of genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration. In the preceding chapters the prophet had in vision seen and said much concerning many of the more remarkable events connected with the continued rule of the Persians; he advances now to foretell some of the more striking circumstances which would transpire under that of the Greeks, during the military expeditions of Alexander and his successors, so far as they had a bearing upon the affairs of the Jewish people. "He describes," says Dr. Henderson, "in this chapter the conquest of Syria after the battle of Issus (Zechariah 9:1), and the progress of the army of Alexander along the coast of the Mediterranean, involving the capture of the principalities of the Phoenicians and Philistines, but leaving the Jews unmolested, through the protecting care of Jehovah (Zechariah 9:2-8). He then contrasts with the character and military achievements of that conqueror the qualities which should distinguish the Messiah and his kingdom, whom he expressly predicts (Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10). After which he resumes the thread of his historical discourse, and describes the wars of the Maccabees with Antiochus Epipbanes, and the victory and prosperity with which they were followed (Zechariah 9:11-17)." These verses may be taken to illustrate the dark and the bright side of God's revelation to mankind. Here are threatenings and promises. The Bible, in relation to humanity, is something like the mystic pillar in the wilderness, as it appeared on the Red Sea; it threw a radiance on the chosen tribes as they advanced, and a black cloud upon their pursuing foes, overwhelming them in confusion. Notice, then—
I. THE DARK SIDE OF THE DIVINE WORD. Notice two things.
1. In this aspect it is here called a "burden." The word "burden" is almost invariably used to represent a calamity. Thus we read of the burden of Babylon, the burden of Moab, the burden of Damascus, the burden of Tyre, the burden of Egypt, etc. The general meaning is a terrible sentence. God's sentence of condemnation is indeed a terrible thundercloud.
2. In this aspect it bears upon wicked men. The doomed peoples are here mentioned. They are in "the land of Hadrach." Whether Hadrach here means the land of Syria or the common names of the kings of Syria, it scarcely matters; the people of the place of which Damascus was the capital were the doomed ones. Besides these, there are the men of "Hamath," a country lying to the north of Damascus and joining the districts of Zobah and Rehub. And still more, there are "Tyrus" and "Zidon," places about which we often read in the Bible, and with whose history most students of the Bible are acquainted. "Ashkelon," "Gaza," and "Ekron" are also mentioned. These were the chief cities of the Philistines, and the capitals of different districts. All these peoples were not only enemies of the chosen tribe, but enemies of the one true and living God. History tells us how, through the bloody conquests of Alexander and his successors, this "burden of the word of the Lord" fell with all its weight upon these people. Observe:
(1) That the Bible is heavy with black threatenings to the wicked. It has not one word of encouragement to such, but all menace; not one gleam of light, but a dark mass of cloud. (Quote passages.)
(2) That these black threatenings will inevitably be fulfilled. All the threatenings here against the land of Hadrach, Hamath, Tyrus, Zidon, Gaza, Ekron, Ashkelon, and the Philistines were fulfilled.
II. THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THE DIVINE WORD. There is a beam of promise here. "And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite. And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes." The following is Dr. Keil's translation of these verses: "And I shall take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth, and he will also remain to our God, and will be as a tribe prince in Judah, and Ekron like the Jebusite. I pitch a tent for my house against military power, against those who go to and fro, and no oppressor will pass over them any more; for now have I seen with my eyes." The promise in these words seems to be twofold.
1. The deprivation of the Tower of the enemy to injure. "I will take away his blood from between his teeth," etc. "The Philistines and other enemies of the Jews," says Scott, "world be deprived of their power to waste them any more; and the spoils they had taken by violence and the most abominable rapine would be taken away from them as prey from a wild beast." The Bible promises to the good man the subjection of all his foes. "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly;" "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
2. Divine protection from all their enemies. "I will encamp about mine house," etc. "They were not to be injured," says Henderson, "by the army of Alexander, on its march either to or from Egypt—a promise which was fulfilled to the letter, for while that monarch punished the Samaritans, he showed great favour to the Jews. Nor was any foreign oppressor to invade their land, as the Assyrians and Chaldeans had done, during the period that was to intervene before the advent of the Messiah. predicted in the verse immediately following. They were, indeed, subject to much suffering, both from the Egyptian and the Syrian kings, especially from Antiochus Epiphanes; but their nationality was not destroyed; and the evils to which they were exposed only paved the way for the Maccabean victories and for the establishment of the Asmonean dynasty. For this preservation they were indebted to the providence of God, which watched over them for good. This is emphatically expressed in the last clause of the verse." The Bible promises eternal protection to the good. "God is our Refuge and Strength," etc.—D.T.
Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10
The ideal Monarch of the world.
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion," etc. "In the former part of this chapter," says Dr. Wardlaw, "we found in the progressive conquests of Alexander the Great and the favour which, in the midst of them, he showed to Jerusalem, the execution of God's vengeance, as here threatened, against the enemies and oppressors of his people, along with his protecting care over his people themselves. By the reference to these speedily coming events, and in them to the career of that mighty prince and warrior—of whom it has been strongly said that, having conquered one world, he sat down and wept that he had not another to conquer—the prophet, under the impulse of inspiration, is rapt into times more distant; and fixing his eye on a King and a Conqueror of a very different description, invites his people, in terms of exulting transport, to hail his coming." That these verses point to the advent of Christ is an opinion entertained both by Jewish and Christian expositors. The references in Matthew 21:1-5 and John 12:12-16 contribute not a little to the confirmation of this opinion. Anyhow, the words depict a Monarch the like of whom has never appeared amongst all the monarchs of the earth, and the like of whom is not to be found on any throne in the world today—a Monarch, the ideal of whom is realized in him whom we call with emphasis the Son of man and the Son of God. There are five things here suggested concerning this Monarch.
I. HERE IS A MONARCH THE ADVENT OF WHOM IS A MATTER FOR RAPTUROUS JOY. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem." What sincere, thoughtful man, in any kingdom on the face of the earth, has any reason to look forward today with rapture to the successors of any of the monarchs of the earth? In most cases there are sad forebodings. Christ's advent to the world was announced by the gladsome music of angelic choirs. "Glory to God in the highest," etc. Why rejoice at his advent? Because he will
(1) promote all the rights of mankind;
(2) remove all the calamities of mankind.
II. HERE IS A MONARCH THE DIGNITY OF WHOM IS UNAPPROACHED. "Thy King cometh unto thee." "Thy King." Thou hast never yet had a true king, and there is no other true king for thee: this is thy King.
1. The King who alone has the absolute right to rule thee. Thou art his—his property. All thy force, vitality, faculty, belong to him.
2. The King who alone can remove thy evils and promote thy rights.
III. HERE IS A MONARCH THE CHARACTER OF WHOM IS EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD,
1. He is righteous. "He is just." The little word "just" comprehends all virtues. He who is just to himself, just to his Maker, just to man, is the perfection of excellence, is all that Heaven requires. 2 He is humble. "Lowly, and riding upon an ass." Where there is not genuine humility there is no true greatness; it is essential to true majesty. Pride is the offspring of littleness; it is the contemptible production of a contemptible mind. No man ever appeared in history whose humility approached the humility of Christ. "He was meek and lowly in heart;" he "made himself of no reputation." How different is this righteous, humble character from that of human monarchs! How often have their moral characters been amongst the foulest abominations in the foulest chapter of human history!
IV. HERE IS A MONARCH WHOSE MISSION IS TRANSCENDENTLY BENEFICENT.
1. It is remedial. "Having salvation." Salvation! What a comprehensive word! Deliverance from all evil, restoration to all good. Worldly monarchs often bring destruction. They have never the power, and seldom the will, to bring salvation to a people. Any one can destroy; God alone can restore.
2. It is specific. "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall he cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen." He will put an end to the "chariot," the "horse," the "battle bow," of war, and "speak peace" to the nations. Peace! This is what the nations have always wanted. War has been and still is the great curse of the nations. Here is a King who speaks peace to the nations. His words one day shall be universally obeyed. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid," etc. (Isaiah 11:6-9).
V. HERE IS A MONARCH THE REIGN OF WHOM IS TO BE UNIVERSAL. "And his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth." The language here employed was universally understood by the Jews as embracing the whole world. He claims universal dominion; he deserves it, and will one day have it. "The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ," etc.
1. The infinite goodness of God in offering to the world such a King. It is the world's great warn.
2. The amazing folly and wickedness of mad in not accepting this Divine offer. Not one tenth of the human population have accepted him. What ingratitude is here! and what rebellion! Yes, and folly too. It is his characteristic and his glory as a King that he does not force his way to dominion. He submits himself to the choice of mankind. This monarchy is a moral monarchy, a monarchy over thought, feeling, volitions, purpose, mind.—D.T.
Zechariah 9:11, Zechariah 9:12
Historical facts illustrations of spiritual realities.
"As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope: even today do declare that I will render double unto thee." In these verses we have three subjects which demand and will repay thought.
I. HERE IS A STATE OF WRETCHEDNESS WHICH REMINDS US OF MAN'S MISERABLE CONDITION AS A SINNER. "As for thee also"—that is, as for thee, daughter of Zion and Jerusalem—"by the blood of thy covenant"—that is, according to the covenant vouchsafed to thee on Mount Sinai, and ratified by the blood of sacrifices (Exodus 24:8)—"I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water." The Jewish people are here represented as having been prisoners in a pit without water. "Dungeons were often pits without water, miry at the bottom, such as Jeremiah sank in when confined (Genesis 37:24; Jeremiah 38:6). This image is employed to represent the misery of the Jewish exiles in Egypt, Greece, etc, under the successors of Alexander, especially under Antiochus Epiphanes, who robbed and profaned the temple, slew thousands, and enslaved more. In Zechariah's time, the time of the Persian rule, the practice was common to remove conquered peoples to distant lands, in order to prevent the liability to revolt in their own lands." Very fairly may this be taken as an illustration of that miserable moral condition in which all unregenerate men are found. They are in a "pit" of ignorance and depravity, shut out from the true light, and destitute of true liberty. It is a "pit" in which the soul is. A man's body may be in a "pit," and yet he may possess light and liberty within. Men have sung in dungeons ere now. But when the soul is in "a pit," the man himself is enthralled in darkness and bondage.
II. HERE IS AN ADMONITION WHICH REMINDS US OF MAN'S DUTY AS A SINNER. "Turn yea to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope." The prisoners here undoubtedly signify the Jewish exiles who were in bondage in Egypt and Greece and other countries, and whose restoration is here promised. Though they were prisoners, they were "prisoners of hope." God was on their side, and had made to them the promise of redemption.
1. All sinners are "prisoners of hope." Though bound by the chains of guilt and corruption, there is "hope" for them; means of deliverance have been provided, and millions upon millions of prisoners have reached to the full enjoyment of that deliverance. There is hope; for—
"While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return."
2. They are "prisoners of hope" for whom a "stronghold" has been provided. If these exiles would return to Jerusalem, they would be safe. Jehovah himself would be their Guard and Defence. Christ is the "Stronghold" of sinners; he is their "Refuge and Strength;" "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth;" "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!"
3. They are "prisoners of hope" who should flee to the "Stronghold" at once. "Even today." When the prospect seems most gloomy, when the cloud of despair seems spreading over the heavens, and things are at the worst, "even today." This is the "accepted time," today is the "day of salvation."
III. HERE IS A PROMISE THAT GIVES ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE SINNER. "I will render double unto thee." As if Jehovah had said to the daughter of Zion—Great as has been thine adversity, thy prosperity shall be doubly greater (Isaiah 61:7). "Turn you to the Stronghold," and you shall not only be saved, but more than saved. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
"God's boundless mercy is to sinful man
Like to the ever-wealthy ocean;
Which, though it sends forth thousand streams, 'tis ne'er
Known, or else seen, to be the emptier:
And though it takes all in, 'tis yet no more
Full and filled full, than when full-filled before."
God works amongst the nations in the interests of his people.
"When I have bent Judah for me," etc. "The double recompense which the Lord will make to his people will consist in the fact that he not only liberates them out of captivity and bondage, and makes them into an independent nation, but that he helps them to victory over the powers of the world, so that they will tread it down, i.e. completely subdue it. The first thought is not explained more fully because it is contained implicite in the promise of return to a strong place, the 'double' only is more distinctly defined, namely, the victory over Javan. The expression, 'I stretch,' etc; implies that the Lord will subdue the enemies by Judah and Ephraim, and therefore Israel will carry on this conflict in the power of its God" (Keil). Referring our readers for minute criticisms on this passage to such authors as Henderson, Hengstenberg, Pusey, and Keil we note the great facts which it contains.
I. THAT GOD WORKS AMONGST THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH. God is here represented as raising up Zion against. Greece. "And raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons. O Greece." The literal reference, it may be, is to the help which he would render the Maccabees, as the heroic leaders of the Jews, to overcome the successors of the Grecian Alexander, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the other Grecian oppressors of Judah. He works with the Jew and the Greek, or Gentile—the two great divisions of mankind. He is in their conflicts and their battles. Three remarks are suggested concerning his work amongst men.
1. He works universally amongst men. He works with the "sons" of Zion and the "sons" of Greece. He operates with all, with the remote and the distant, with the little and the great, with the good and the bad; he is in all human history. All good he originates, all evil he overrules.
2. He works by human agency amongst men. "When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim." Ephraim and Judah, which here represent the whole Jewish people, are, by a strong figure of speech, spoken of as the bows and arrows of Jehovah, the military weapons which he would employ in crushing the Grecians under Antiochus Epiphanes. God carries out his purposes with man by the agency of man; wicked kings are his tools, obscure saints are his ministers of state.
3. He works manifestly amongst men. "And the Lord shall be seen over them;" or, as Keil renders it, "Jehovah will appear above them." What thoughtful student of human history has not felt disposed to exclaim, as he has passed from page to page, "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes"? We say, "thoughtful student;" for it is only manifest to the spiritually thoughtful. The hearts of others are so thickly veiled with depravity and wickedness that they see him not; they neither recognize ills hand nor hear his voice.
4. He works terribly amongst men. "And his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south." "Like the lightning will his arrow go forth, and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpets, and will pass along in storms of the south" (Keil). "Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6)—done it by permission? He is in the crashings of conflagrating cities, in the booming thunders of contending armies, in the wild whirlwinds of battling kingdoms; with him there is "terrible majesty" as he proceeds on his march in human history.
II. GOD WORKS AMONGST THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH IN THE INTERESTS OF HIS PEOPLE.
1. He works for their defence. "The Lord of hosts shall defend them;" or, "shelter them." He guards his saints; they are as the apple of his eye; he is their Shield and Defence.
2. He works for their victory. "They shall devour, and subdue with slingstones," etc. "Jehovah of hosts shall protect them, and they shall devour and tread down the slingstones, they shall drink, they shall be noisy, as those who drink wine; they shall be full as the bowl, as the corners of the altar" (Henderson). The idea is their complete triumph over their enemies. Hengstenberg observes that there is not the least indication that a spiritual conflict is intended. Quite true, but a spiritual conflict it may illustrate, and its victory too. In such a conflict we are all engaged, and God has promised, if we are faithful, to make us more than conquerors.
3. He works for their salvation. "And the Lord their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people." They shall be restored to the fold and guarded by Jehovah as their Shepherd. God works for the entire salvation of his people—salvation from all evil, salvation to all good.
4. He works for their glory. "They shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land;" or, as Hengstenberg renders it, "For crowned jewels shall they be rising up upon his land." There is true glory awaiting the good. There is a crown of glory laid up in heaven, etc.
5. He works for their perfection. "For how great is its goodness, and how great is its beauty! Corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids." We accept the rendering of Keil here, which is not only faithful to the original, but in harmony with the context. The prophet is speaking of the high privileges of God's people, and not of the excellences of the Supreme. It is an exclamation of admiration of the high privileges of the godly.
CONCLUSION. As much of the writings of this prophet admit of so many interpretations, and are perhaps impossible fully to understand, we have thought, not only the most useful, but the safest way of treatment to be the employment of statements and phrases to illustrate those spiritual realities which are important to man in all times and places. It is true that God works amongst men, and it is true that he works amongst men in the interests of those who love and serve him. May we be of that number, and thus realize in our experience the fact that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose"!—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 9". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany