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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 14

 

 


Introduction

The occurrence of a new heading, "The burden of the word of the Lord," which occurs again in Zechariah 12:1, and elsewhere only in Malachi 1:1, warns us that a new section begins here. We are no longer concerned with Joshua and Zerubbabel, the small community of Judah, and the hopes and aspirations of their time, but to a great extent with a larger Judaism which is in conflict with a world-power described as Greek, whose strongholds are not Babylon, but Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, and the Philistine towns. No Jewish king or governor is mentioned, and the High Priest appears to be the head of the subject Jewish community. At the same time there is a sharp cleavage in the Jewish community itself; Judah and Jerusalem are opposed to one another, and the greatest Jewish families are regarded as blameworthy. The post-exilic date of Zechariah 9-14 is certain, not merely from the absence of any reference to a king, but also from the widespread dispersion of the Jews, from the mention of Greeks, and from the utter difference in tone between this section and the utterances of the pre-exilic prophets. The mention of Egypt and Assyria side by side is not in itself evidence for a pre-exilic date, since in Ezra 6:22, which can scarcely be earlier than the Greek period, "Assyria" denotes the great empire of W. Asia, which, having originally been Assyrian, passed successively to the Chaldeans, the Persians, and the Greeks (Numbers 24:22 f.*, Isaiah 11:11*, Isaiah 27:13). A late date is also suggested by the obvious use of other passages of Scripture, particularly Ezek. Here, as in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, we have compositions saturated with Biblical terms, evidently emanating from "the people of a book." There are likewise numerous agreements with late Pss. and late post-exilic sections of Is. Like many of the Pss., these chapters appear to have been composed in a time of storm and stress, when the Jews were oppressed by the heathen, and disunited among themselves; and of such a time we have no record before the second century B.C. That they are written in classical Heb. as distinct from the Heb. of the Midrash is no proof to the contrary; for not only did Ben Sira (c. 180 B.C.) write in the older language, but many of the Pss. are as late as the Maccabean age. Space forbids at this point a detailed examination of these six chapters. It must suffice to state what will afterwards be shown in detail that, apart from some points as yet unexplained on any theory of date, every section of these chapters is quite consistent with the known history of the second century B.C. It is scarcely conceivable that a number of compositions dealing both with internal and external affairs should be equally applicable to two or more distinct periods.

These chapters fall into two main divisions (note the new heading in Zechariah 12:1, though the divisions are not necessarily homogeneous). Hebrew methods of arrangement, being based originally on oral rather than on written tradition, are fundamentally different from English; catchwords and prominent phrases being considered rather than logical arrangement. The analytical study of the Synoptic Gospels has shown that an apparently continuous section may be made up of many disjointed fragments, and this fact must be kept in view in the criticism of prophetical literature.

Of the two sections into which. Zechariah 9-14 falls, the first (Zechariah 9-11) is in the main poetical or based upon poetical prophecies, the second (Zechariah 12-14) is entirely prose. In Zechariah 9-11, however, there are some evident divisions, and perhaps we have hero the work of several authors. The mere fact that two poems are composed in a somewhat unusual metre does not prove, apart from subject-matter, that they are from the same hand, for a poet who produced a great impression by a novel form of verse may well have had imitators. If the date given above is correct (the second century B.C.), we may assume that the prophecies were first published in synagogues, and that, after the triumph of the Maccaban party, they passed to Jerusalem and became incorporated in the Scriptures. Sirach 49:10 tells us nothing as to the contents of the books of the twelve, the Minor Prophets, as we call them. A new edition of the Heb. text of Jeremiah, enlarged and rearranged, was issued after the Gr. translation had been made from an earlier edition; and though no new name would have been received as canonical, it was evidently possible for some time after the fixing of the list of canonical prophets to enlarge a canonical book by the incorporation of additional matter.


Verses 1-21

Zechariah 14. The Tribulation of the Struggle against Heathenism and the Glorious Future which may be Anticipated.—It is noteworthy that the writer considers the plundering of Jerusalem as a "day of the Lord." Zechariah 14:1 f. describes the affliction of Jerusalem up to the time of the Maccabæan successes which are referred to in Zechariah 14:3. The sense of what follows is hopelessly obscure in MT and EV owing to the mispronunciation of the Heb. consonants in Zechariah 14:5. The thought of "flight" is here altogether out of place. Following the pro nunciation adopted in LXX, we may render Zechariah 14:5 as follows: "And the valley of my mountains" (but read "the valley of Hinnom") "shall be stopped up—for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel—yea, it shall be stopped up as it was stopped up by the earthquake," etc. In order to understand this description, it must be remembered that a Hebrew allegorist used names of actual places for his purpose, and that our author is addressing those who are familiar with the ancient Scriptures. Here the writer has specially in mind Ezekiel's allegory of the living water issuing from the Temple hill and transtorming the whole district to the east (a natural figure of the heathen world of Asia) by the outflow of the word of the Lord from Zion. Ezekiel's allegory was doubtless suggested by the fact that the only spring in Jerusalem rises at the bottom of the hill on which the Temple stood. But since the water of this spring flows by the valley of the Kidron through a desert gorge into the deep depression of the Dead Sea, a scoffer or despondent person might maintain that the limited effect of such a stream was a fair measure of the possible influence of Jewish religion on the heathen world of Asia. A river sufficient to produce any effect would require the removal of the Mount of Olives which rises before Jerusalem on the east, and which, since mountains are a constant metaphor for obstacles, naturally suggested a hindrance to the flow of living water. But just as, at the Israelites' entry into the land of Canaan, the Jordan ceased to be an obstacle so soon as the feet of the Lord's priests were dipped into its waters, so, when the Lord's return to Jerusalem is made manifest, when His feet stand, as it were, on the Mt. of Olives, the obstruction to the flow of the living water will be removed, the mountain cleaving asunder, so as to leave a vast channel in the midst through which the water may flow to the regeneration of the heathen world on the east. In the second century B.C., however, the Jews' thoughts were directed not only to Asia, but also to the countries about the Mediterranean; and accordingly, as it was necessary that the Mt. of Olives should be made low, in order that the living water might reach the east, so it was necessary that the valley W. of Jerusalem should be exalted in its SE. outlet, in order that the water might flow also to the W.

Zechariah 14:8 seems to be misplaced, and should probably be read immediately after the words "Uzziah king of Judah." The identification of the valley of Hinnom is uncertain; it may be the Tyropœon which runs up into the heart of Jerusalem immediately W. of the Temple, or the valley which bounds the W. and SW. parts of Jerusalem. Both these valleys at their upper end bend somewhat to the W. The writer here pictures one of them as blocked up at its S. end, so that no water can flow out in that direction, and prolonged at its upper end till it reaches Azel, i.e. probably Beth Ezel (Micah 1:11) near the Philistine plain. Josephus states that in the landslip caused by the earthquake in the days of Uzziah (Amos 1:1), at a place called Eroge (probably En Rogel), near the junction of the Kidron and the western valleys, a large portion of the mountain fell away, blocking up the roads and the king's garden.

Zechariah 14:5. The Lord my God shall come: read, "The Lord God of Israel" or some similar expression.—with thee: read with LXX, "with him."—holy ones: the use of this term for the heavenly host is characteristic of late Hebrew; cf. Job 5:1, Psalms 89:5; Psalms 89:7, Daniel 4:13; Daniel 8:13.

Zechariah 14:6-9. The text of Zechariah 14:6 has suffered considerably. The passage perhaps originally read: "there shall not be light and darkness, heat and cold and frost" (see mg.). In any case the sense is clear. We, who live in a temperate climate and in a well-policed society, find it difficult to realise the hardships of life in ancient Palestine, where the struggle to obtain a livelihood was made harder by the extremes of heat and cold (Genesis 31:40), and when darkness was a time of anxiety, since a robber might at any time dig through the mud-built walls (Job 24:16, Matthew 6:20 mg.) and rob and murder (John 10:10). Night, therefore, was a natural metaphor for a time when the wicked might work their will unchecked. The writer looks forward to future peace and ordered government, when there will be, as it were, continuous day, a state of security unbroken by periods of "darkness," i.e. of risk of injury, and when at evening time there will be "light," i.e. safety. This state of blessedness will come to pass when the Lord's law is recognised in all the land, and the Jewish creed (Deuteronomy 6:4) will be everywhere acknowledged. There will no longer be any tendency to identify Yahweh with foreign deities, or to worship the Yahweh of one place as distinct from the Yahweh of another, but His worship will be uniform throughout the country (Zechariah 14:9).

Zechariah 14:10 f. The writer, ignoring his former allegory of the cleaving of the Mt. of Olives and the blocking up and prolongation westward of the valley of Hinnom, represents all Judah as transformed into a plain from its N. frontier Geba to Rimmon (i.e. En Rimmon, Nehemiah 11:29, Joshua 15:32; perhaps the modern Umm er-rummn, 9 miles N. of Beersheba), Jerusalem alone being lifted up above the surrounding country in order to show its spiritual pre-eminence (cf. Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1). Benjamin's gate (Jeremiah 37:12 f.) was, of course, in the N. wall of Jerusalem, and probably near the E. corner. The place (or site) of the first or (former) gate is apparently mentioned as the W. boundary; "unto the corner gate "seems to be a further description of it; it is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:13, 2 Chronicles 26:9, Jeremiah 31:38. The tower of Hananel (mentioned Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39) appears to have been near the NE. corner of the city. The king's winepresses were probably near the king's garden (Nehemiah 3:15). The dimensions of Jerusalem are thus given from E. to W. and from N. to S. The utter impossibility of reconciling the details of one allegorical description with those of another is sufficient proof that the writer had no idea of being understood literally. It is noteworthy that, unlike the authors of Zechariah 14:9-12, he ignores Samaria.

Zechariah 14:12-15. The Punishment of the Heathen Opponents of Jerusalem.—This description also is not to be taken literally. The forces arrayed against the Jews came to nothing as though by internal consumption. Zechariah 14:13 f. appears to be misplaced, and should apparently stand between Zechariah 14:2 and Zechariah 14:3. The mention of Judah as fighting against Jerusalem is quite natural in a description of the earlier stages of the struggle, but out of place after a description of the earlier stages of the restoration of Jerusalem.

Zechariah 14:16-19. The Conversion of the Heathen and the Punishment of those who Fail to Observe the Ordinances of the Jewish Faith.—For the thought, cf. Isaiah 66. The reason for the selection of the Feast of Tabernacles is not quite obvious. Probably it was the only feast which those who lived at a great distance from Jerusalem could reasonably be expected to attend, for it marked the end of the agricultural year, whereas a journey to Jerusalem at Passover or Pentecost would sadly interfere with harvest operations. It is somewhat strange that the threatened punishment of a failure of rain is in accordance with a popular superstition; for the pouring of water on the altar at the Feast of Tabernacles, though it may not have been originally so designed, was commonly regarded as producing rain. In Zechariah 14:18 read the LXX and Syr. text (see mg.). Since Egypt is practically rainless, it is threatened with a different punishment, viz. that of the nations which have opposed Jerusalem.

Zechariah 14:20 f. The Future Purification from Heathenish and Sinful Elements.—Hitherto horses have been regarded as symbolical of influences opposed to the law of the Lord; henceforth, however, the very horses shall be as holy as the High Priest's mitre (Exodus 28:36), and the Temple will be so scrupulously kept, that every pot in it will be as free from pollution as the altar bowls which receive the sacrificial blood; indeed so free will Jerusalem be from anything unclean, that those who come up to keep the feasts may use any pot taken at random for the cooking of the sacrificial flesh. Then there will be no more mercenary priests, such as Jason or Menelaus, buying their office; there will no more be a Canaanite or huckster in the house of the Lord.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Zechariah 14:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/zechariah-14.html. 1919.

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
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