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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 14

 

 

Verse 1-2

Capture and deliverance of Jerusalem, Zechariah 14:1-7.

1. Behold,… cometh — Better, Behold,… is about to come. The coming is imminent (G.-K., 116p).

Day of Jehovah — Literally, a day is about to come for Jehovah. The day is the day of Jehovah mentioned so frequently by the prophets (see on Joel 1:15). In 1b Jerusalem is addressed. The prophet does not stop to describe the struggle; he passes immediately to the outcome and states that the city will be taken and plundered.

In the midst of thee — Indicates the completeness of the defeat; the enemy will gain complete possession of the city.

In Zechariah 14:2, which is omitted by some as a later expansion of Zechariah 14:1, the prophet pictures the struggle in greater detail.

I will gather all nations — The rest of the verse would seem to indicate that Jehovah sends them to execute judgment upon the city (compare Isaiah 10:5-6; not so in Joel 3:2; Joel 3:9-11; Ezekiel 38:39). The city will be taken, and the conquerors will spare nothing.

The women ravished — A practice not uncommon in ancient warfare (see on Amos 7:17; Joel 3:3).

Half — In a general sense — a portion. One portion will be carried into exile, the other will be allowed to remain in the city (compare Zechariah 13:8).


Verses 1-21

FINAL CONFLICT AND TRIUMPH OF JERUSALEM, Zechariah 14:1-21.

Chapter 14 is an independent piece. The struggle depicted in the first few verses is not the one described in Zechariah 12:1-9; nor can these verses be considered “a further expansion of the summary announcement of the judgment upon Israel, and its refinement (Zechariah 13:7-9).” The prophet beholds a new conflict between Jerusalem and the nations. In Zechariah 12:1-9, the enemies are described as smitten before they are able to capture the city; here the announcement is that “the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished, and half of the city shall go forth into captivity.” Only then will Jehovah appear for the salvation of a remnant and for the setting up of his kingdom (1-7). From Jerusalem, the dwelling place of Jehovah, two streams of living water will go forth covering the whole land with blessing and fertility (8-11). The nations that have come to war against Jerusalem will be destroyed, and their wealth will be given to the Jews (12-15). Those who escape will turn to Jehovah in true worship; those who refuse to do so will be smitten with drought (16-19). Jerusalem and Judah and all that is in them will be holy unto Jehovah (20, 21).


Verse 3

3. Then — When the conflict will have reached this stage Jehovah will interfere.

Shall Jehovah go forth — To fight and destroy the nations. Why he will do this after commissioning them to execute judgment upon the city is not stated. It may be because they will go beyond their commission (compare Isaiah 10:7).

As when he fought in the day of battle — Refers to all the occasions in the past when Jehovah fought for Israel (Joshua 10:14; Joshua 10:42; Joshua 23:3; Judges 4:15, etc.). These acts of the past will be repeated.


Verses 4-7

4. He will appear as a warrior.

The mount of Olives — Since Jerusalem is in the hands of the hostile nations Jehovah cannot be represented as coming from Mount Zion (compare Amos 1:2); he will come from his heavenly dwelling place (Joel 3:16), and take his stand upon the mountain east of the city, whence he can get a good view of the scene of conflict. The term mount of Olives occurs only here in the Old Testament, though the mountain itself is spoken of several times (see Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Mount of Olives”). To accomplish the deliverance of the remnant Jehovah must employ supernatural powers.

Shall cleave — R.V., “shall be cleft.” As soon as Jehovah steps upon it, for before him the whole earth trembles (Exodus 19:18; Judges 5:5; Habakkuk 3:5 ff.). It will cleave from east to west; as a result the northern and southern portions will be separated, and when they recede, the one to the north, the other to the south, a great valley is formed between which will serve as a place of refuge for the remnant that is still in the city. It need hardly be stated that the whole description is figurative, and that it was never intended to be understood literally.

The translation and interpretation of Zechariah 14:5 are uncertain, and it is not improbable that the text has suffered.

Ye shall flee — This is the reading of the text in the common Hebrew Bibles. The eastern Masorites and some of the ancient versions favor the reading of margin R.V., “the valley of my mountains shall be stopped.” The Greek versions read a form of stop in all three places where the English has a form of flee; support for this reading is found also in Josephus (Antiquities, Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:4). What the meaning of this reading would be is not quite certain; it may be that at a given place the valley comes to an end. The common reading is very appropriate. In the day when Jehovah appears the survivors will flee to the valley (Zechariah 14:4) prepared as a place of refuge.

The valley of the mountains — Literally, of my mountains. This must be the valley of Zechariah 14:4. The mountains are called by Jehovah my mountains because he made them by stepping upon the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). In the second clause also we should read, perhaps, “my mountains.”

Azal — An obscure word. It is not even certain whether or not it is a proper name. If it is it must be a place name, which may be identical with Beth-ezel (Micah 1:11), whose location is not known. According to Cyril it is a village to the east of Mount Olives, but his statement is based upon mere hearsay. It would have to be sought some distance from Jerusalem, for the purpose of the prophet seems to be to indicate the great extent of the valley; it will be large enough to accommodate all. The flight of the people will be like their flight, or rather like the flight of their ancestors, on the occasion of a terrible earthquake. The point of comparison is the swiftness and anxiety with which they will seek a place of refuge.

In the days of Uzziah — See p. 195. This earthquake is mentioned again in Amos 1:1, but nothing more is known concerning it. It must have been a serious calamity, else the memory of it would not have remained alive for so many centuries.

The transition to the last part of Zechariah 14:5 is somewhat abrupt. It gives the full reason for Jehovah’s coming. To fight against the nations is only one reason; his ultimate purpose is to establish his kingdom upon earth with Jerusalem as the center. When he comes he will be accompanied by his heavenly attendants.

All the saints — Literally, and R.V., “all the holy ones” — the heavenly host, the angels, who will assist Jehovah in the struggle against the nations (Deuteronomy 33:2; Job 5:1).

With thee — LXX. and Peshitto read “with him,” which is probably original.

Zechariah 14:6-7 are not the continuation of Zechariah 14:1-5, they are rather parallel to them. They describe in apocalyptic imagery the struggle that is pictured in 1-5. R.V. reads Zechariah 14:6, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light; the bright ones shall withdraw themselves.” With the present Hebrew text the translation of R.V. is to be preferred. The day on which Jehovah will make his appearance will be a dismal and dreary day (see on Joel 2:2; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; compare Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12). There will be no light, because the heavenly lights will vanish.

The bright ones (R.V.) — The lights of Genesis 1:14-18.

Withdraw themselves (R.V.) — They draw in their brightness (Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15).

7. The result is not absolute darkness, but the deep gloom of a cloudy day.

One day — A unique, unparalleled day, well known to Jehovah.

Not day, nor night — Unbroken dismal gloom, as if light and darkness were struggling for supremacy with one another; however, darkness shall not prevail.

At evening time it shall be light — “The new creation shall be ushered in, as the first was, by a day of lurid gloom and darkness visible, which shall not, however, deepen into night, but brighten at its close into the everlasting dawn.”

This interpretation is based upon the assumption that the present Hebrew text of Zechariah 14:6-7 is substantially correct. Some consider the two verses a continuation of Zechariah 14:1-5, describing the conditions that will prevail after the divine interference; but such interpretation demands several emendations of the text. Marti, for example, reads Zechariah 14:6-7 partly on the basis of LXX., “Nor will there be any heat and cold and frost. And it will be one continuous day, without a change of day and of night; even at evening time it will be day.”

Fertility and prosperity of the whole land, 8-11.


Verse 8

8. When the kingdom of Jehovah is established, with Jerusalem as the center, the whole land will be blessed with fertility and prosperity.

Living waters — See on Joel 3:18. A picture of the powers producing extreme fertility.

Former sea,… hinder sea — R.V., “eastern sea,… western sea” — the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean (see on Joel 2:20). The picture of the water flowing in both directions is meant to teach that the whole land will be benefited.

In summer and in winter — Most rivers in Palestine contain water only during the rainy season, from October until April; the promised streams will be perennial; they will retain their water and give out fertility all the year round.


Verse 9

9. The temporal blessings will be accompanied by spiritual gifts.

Jehovah shall be king — He will be ruler, counselor, protector (see on Joel 2:27; Joel 3:17).

Over all the earth — The context requires the translation “over all the land,” that is, of Judah (compare Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 2:3). The extension of Jehovah’s rule over the nations is spoken of in Zechariah 14:16 ff. R.V. renders 9b, “in that day shall Jehovah be one, and his name one,” which is more accurate.

Jehovah shall be one (R.V.) —Throughout the entire land he will be recognized as the one and only God, idolatry will disappear completely (Zechariah 13:2; see on Joel 2:27).

His name one — See on Amos 2:7; Micah 5:4; Joel 2:27. The manifold activities of Jehovah will no longer be ascribed to different deities (compare Zechariah 13:2), nor will any name but his be used in worship.


Verse 10

10. The presence of Jehovah will bring about a complete transformation of the land.

As a plain — R.V., “like the Arabah.” The word may be rendered as a proper name (R.V.; see on Amos 6:14), or as a common noun (A.V.). Probably the latter is to be preferred here. The whole country, with the exception of Jerusalem, will be made into a level plain. The Arabah is more than a thousand feet below the sea level immediately east of Jerusalem. The thought of fertility does not seem to be implied; as a matter of fact, the Arabah, with the exception of a few isolated tracts, is barren and unfruitful. The extent of the district to be thus transformed is indicated more definitely.

From Geba — In the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:24), now Jeba, about five miles north of Jerusalem, at the time of Josiah and perhaps throughout a long period the northern boundary of Judah (2 Kings 23:8).

Rimmon — Distinguished by the addition “south of Jerusalem” from a Rimmon in the north (Joshua 19:13). The one mentioned here marks the southern border of Palestine (Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:7); now Umm-er-Rummanin; it is located only a short distance north of Beer-sheba (2 Kings 23:8). While this region, which is meant to include the whole of Judah, is leveled to a plain, Jerusalem will be elevated.

Lifted up — The city, which is built upon two mountain spurs, will retain its elevation, or will be raised even higher (see on Micah 4:1; compare Isaiah 2:2). The exalted position will proclaim it the center of the kingdom of God.

Shall be… inhabited in her place — Better, R.V., “shall dwell in her place”; that is, it will be established forever. As of the land, so of the city, its full extent is indicated. The localities mentioned cannot all be identified.

Benjamin’s gate — May be identical with gate of Ephraim (2 Kings 14:13; Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39), in the north wall of the city, through which led the road to Ephraim and Benjamin (compare Jeremiah 20:2).

The place of the first gate — This gate is otherwise unknown; some identify it with the corner gate mentioned immediately afterward; the latter is thought to stand in apposition to the former for the purpose of explaining an uncommon designation. This is improbable. Others identify it with the old gate (Nehemiah 12:39), as marking the eastern end of the north wall. Much uncertainty remains.

Corner gate — Mentioned again in 2 Kings 14:13; Jeremiah 31:38; it was located at the west end of the northern wall. All three points seem to indicate the northern boundary of the city and its extent from east to west.

Tower of Hananeel — Probably in the northeast corner (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 12:39).

The king’s wine presses — The exact location of these is not known; it is probable, however, that they were near the king’s garden (Nehemiah 3:15), which is to be sought near the palace in the southern part of the city. If so, this location would mark the southern boundary of the city. The localities named may have been of special prominence in the days of the author. The first three seem to indicate the extent of the city from east to west, the last two from north to south. Marti omits all but the first and the last, “from the Benjamin’s gate to the king’s winepresses,” which he thinks are to indicate the extent of Jerusalem from north to south.


Verse 11

11. The city will be inhabited.

No more utter destruction — R.V., “no more curse.” Sin has been wiped away (Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 13:9); therefore no further judgments are needed (compare Jeremiah 25:9; Isaiah 43:28; Malachi 4:6).

Shall be safely inhabited — Better, R.V., “shall dwell safely.” The city need not fear any hostile attacks or calamities of any sort.


Verse 12

12. Plague — Or, pestilence. A word always used of a plague or punishment sent directly by Jehovah. The nature of the disease is described in the rest of the verse.

Fought against Jerusalem — See on Zechariah 14:1-2.

Their flesh shall consume away — Literally (G.-K., 113y), he (Jehovah) will cause their flesh to rot.

While they stand upon their feet — While they are still alive. To show further the terribleness of the plague the destruction of the eyes and tongue, important members of the human body, is specified. The prophet probably did not intend these expressions to be pressed too literally. He makes the description so vivid simply to indicate the awfulness of the calamity, whatever might be its exact character.


Verses 12-15

Destruction of the hostile nations, 12-15.

While Jerusalem and the Jews will be exalted and glorified, Jehovah will utterly destroy all the nations that have dared to lift their hands against the holy city. Some will be destroyed by pestilence (Zechariah 14:12; Zechariah 14:15), some will be slain in the confusion that is produced among the hostile armies at the blows of Jehovah (Zechariah 14:13), some will be cut off by the inhabitants of Judah, who then will be enriched by the spoil. Zechariah 14:15 forms the natural continuation of Zechariah 14:12; therefore several recent commentators consider Zechariah 14:13-14 a later insertion. If they are original, a more logical order would be Zechariah 14:12; Zechariah 14:15; Zechariah 14:13-14. A disastrous pestilence strikes the camp (Zechariah 14:12; Zechariah 14:15), which produces panic and confusion (Zechariah 14:13); when this is seen by the Jews they rush against the enemies, cut them down, and take to themselves their possessions (Zechariah 14:14).


Verse 13

13. Additional disaster will result from a panic into which the enemies are thrown; then the terrified soldiers will turn their weapons against one another (compare Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20; 2 Chronicles 20:23).

A great tumult from Jehovah — Jehovah will cause the tumult or confusion through the blow described in Zechariah 14:12.

Lay hold… on the hand — Seize, to destroy.

His hand shall rise up — The hand is said to rise up because it holds the weapon; equivalent to “he shall rise up against his neighbor.”


Verse 14-15

14. The defeat of the nations is made complete by the Jews who, when they behold the ranks of the enemies thinned by pestilence and mutual slaughter, will rush upon the helpless remnant.

Shall fight at Jerusalem — Targum and Vulgate, “against Jerusalem”; but the context forbids this interpretation. It means at or near the city, where the events described in Zechariah 14:12-13 will take place.

Judah — Not only the country districts (Zechariah 12:5-7), but the whole people. With the army destroyed, the camp with all its rich treasures will fall into the hands of the victors. The punishment will be according to the lex talionis (compare Zechariah 14:2).

Zechariah 14:15 is the continuation of Zechariah 14:12 (see introductory remarks on this section). A plague as disastrous as that which smites the men (Zechariah 14:12) will destroy the beasts of the hostile army.

Horse — The beast of war.

Mule,… camel,… ass — Beasts of burden.

All the beasts — Cattle and other animals carried along for food (compare Joshua 7:24). The last words, “as this plague,” should, perhaps, be omitted; they are superfluous and make the reading awkward. In this wise all the wrongs done to the people of Jehovah will be avenged.

The conversion of a remnant of the nations, 16-19.

The survivors among the nations will cease their rebellion and turn to Jehovah. If any fail to do this they will be smitten with his curse.


Verse 16

16. Every one that is left — Few, if any, will escape from the catastrophe described in Zechariah 14:12-15, but since the judgment is expected to fall before Jerusalem the noncombatants at home will be spared. These will see the hand of God in the disaster that befalls their armies; they will recognize his supremacy, and will render homage to him as their King and God. The conversion of the nations is pictured under the figure of annual pilgrimages to the temple.

From year to year — Three times a year all males among the Jews were required to appear before Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:16; compare Exodus 23:17; Exodus 34:23). For the converts from the more distant lands one such pilgrimage appears to have been considered sufficient.

Feast of tabernacles — One of the three occasions mentioned in Deuteronomy 16:16. Various reasons have been suggested why this rather than one of the others is selected here. The more important are: (1) The feast of tabernacles came in autumn, when traveling is most pleasant and convenient. (2) It was primarily an agricultural feast, celebrated at the close of the harvest season; in it all the nations of the earth might join to give thanks for the blessings of nature. (3) It was the last and most joyful of all the great festivals in the year, gathering up into itself, as it were, the year’s worship. (4) It more than any other would typify the ingathering of the nations into the kingdom of God. Which of these explanations is correct, of whether or not there is any special reason for mentioning the feast of tabernacles, it is difficult to say.


Verse 17

17. Those who fail to take part in the harvest festival of thanksgiving will be punished by the withholding of rain during the following year, which will result in the failure of crops and in famine. The withholding of rain is mentioned to carry to completion the figure in Zechariah 14:16. As the celebration of the harvest festival symbolizes the conversion of the nations, so the withholding of the rain symbolizes the withdrawal of all God’s blessings.

The text of Zechariah 14:18, as it stands at present, offers considerable difficulty. R.V. differs but slightly in its translation from A.V.; for “that have no rain” it reads “neither shall it be upon them.” All becomes smooth if, following LXX. and Peshitto, we omit one negative and alter the accentuation; then the verse will read, “And if the family of Egypt go not up and come not, upon them shall come the plague wherewith Jehovah will smite…”

Family — Nation (compare Amos 3:1).

Egypt — Egypt is singled out because of the peculiar condition of its climate. It is not dependent directly on rain for fertility, but on the overflowing of the Nile, caused by heavy rainfall in Ethiopia, south of Egypt. The threat of Zechariah 14:18, therefore, would have no special terror for Egypt, and some might think that Egypt could refuse to worship Jehovah. Not so, says the prophet; Egypt also must go or suffer severe punishment.

Plague — The context suggests that it also will consist in drought and failure of the crops; there seems to be no reference to the plague of Zechariah 14:12.


Verse 18

Zechariah 14:19 concludes the section with a reiteration of the threat.

Punishment — Literally, sin; here equivalent to punishment for sin (Numbers 32:23).

Jerusalem and Judah holy unto Jehovah, 20, 21.

From the description of the destiny of the hostile nations the prophet returns to complete the description of the glory of the city and land of Jehovah; Zechariah 14:20-21, therefore, are in a sense the continuation of Zechariah 14:11. Jerusalem and Judah will be freed from everything that is unclean and, with all their contents, will be holy unto Jehovah.

Bells of the horses — The reference may be to bells worn by the horses or to metal plates — which would make a tinkling sound when the horses moved — upon which was inscribed the name of the owner. Horses are frequently mentioned by the prophets as beasts of war and splendor (compare Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 10:5); in the new age they will no longer be used for warlike enterprises, they will be devoted exclusively to the service of Jehovah, whose name will be inscribed upon the bells or plates as that of the owner.

Holiness — R.V., “Holy.” The noun is used in the Hebrew in the place of the adjective for the sake of emphasis (G.-K., 141c).

Unto Jehovah — The same inscription was found upon a gold plate in the mitre of the high priest (Exodus 28:36; Exodus 28:38), to designate him as a person consecrated to the service of Jehovah. This is the meaning here as in Zechariah 14:21. “When it [the word holy] is applied to things it expresses the idea that they belong to Jehovah, are used in his service or dedicated to him, or are in some special way his property” (A.B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, p. 253; see on Joel 2:1).

The pots in Jehovah’s house — The earthen vessels in which the flesh of the sacrifice was cooked for priests and laymen (1 Samuel 2:14; 2 Chronicles 35:13), whose use was therefore semi-secular.

Shall be like the bowls before the altar — The vessels serving semi-secular and unimportant purposes will in the new era be as sacred and holy as the bowls in which is caught the blood of the sacrificial animals (Numbers 4:14; compare Zechariah 9:15). These bowls possessed a special degree of sanctity, because the blood was considered peculiarly sacred by the Hebrews. Some see the point of comparison not in the sanctity but in the size; but this is less probable.

In Zechariah 14:21 the prophet goes even further. The whole land will be Jehovah’s (Zechariah 14:9-11); by that very fact it will be made holy unto him (see on Zechariah 14:20; Joel 2:1), and this holiness will attach to everything found in the land.

Every pot — Not only the vessels in the temple, but also those used in private homes for secular purposes; they will possess in the new age the same sanctity as the former.

They that sacrifice — Strangers from the distance, who cannot carry with them sacrificial implements, but have to secure them after their arrival in the city.

Take of them — As many as they need, without fear that they will secure an unclean vessel.

Canaanite — Some take this word in a commercial sense, merchant, trafficker (see on Hosea 12:7), and they interpret the passage as meaning that, since any vessel the worshiper may lay his hand on will serve his purpose, there will be no further need of merchants selling these wares in the temple (compare Matthew 21:12; John 2:14). Others take the word literally of the inhabitants of Canaan, and they think that it refers to the Canaanites employed to perform the lowest duties in the temple. Still others expand the application of the term so as to include all unclean persons, whether Jews or foreigners. All such will disappear, for both men and things throughout Judah and Jerusalem will be holy unto Jehovah. Between these interpretations it is difficult to choose. With the second may be compared Ezekiel 44:9; but the context favors the first.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Zechariah 14:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/zechariah-14.html. 1874-1909.

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