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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Zechariah 8

 

 

Verses 1-3

Imminence of the day of redemption, Zechariah 8:1-8.

The introductory formula of Zechariah 8:1, does not mark the beginning of a new discourse; it introduces only a new line of thought in the prophecy which begins in Zechariah 7:4. In Zechariah 7:6 ff., the prophet dwells upon the past; in Zechariah 8:1, he turns to the present and from the present outlook he draws a new argument, to show that the observance of the solemn fasts is not essential. In chapter vii he sets forth that in the past Jehovah demanded justice and mercy, not the observance of the external forms; judgment came upon the fathers, because they disregarded the ethical demands of Jehovah; all of which shows that even to-day fasting is of secondary importance. In chapter 8 he points out that the time of redemption is at hand, therefore fasting and mourning are no longer needed; they will be changed into seasons of rejoicing.

Zechariah 8:2 emphasizes the motive that prompts Jehovah to bestow the new blessings.

Thus saith Jehovah — Repeated ten times in this chapter, always introducing assurances of divine interest (see on Zechariah 1:3).

I was jealous — Better, R.V., “I am jealous” (compare Zechariah 1:14; see on Joel 2:18).

For Zion — Here the entire postexilic community.

With great fury — Against the enemies of Zion (see on Nahum 1:2). 2b repeats the thought of 2a for the sake of emphasis.

Zechariah 8:3 introduces the promise of speedy redemption.

I am returned — The tense may express the idea that Jehovah has already returned and is about to begin his activity on behalf of Zion, or it may be a prophetic perfect, which would place the action in the future but would express absolute confidence in the fulfillment of the promise (Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 2:10 ff.). Since the temple, which was to be the dwelling place of Jehovah, was not yet completed, the latter interpretation is to be preferred. Ezekiel had seen the glory of Jehovah departing from Zion before the capture of the city (Ezekiel 9:3; Ezekiel 10:4; Ezekiel 10:18), but on the completion of the temple Jehovah will return.

In the midst of Jerusalem — See on Joel 2:27; Joel 3:17.

Shall be called — Among the Hebrews the name serves frequently as a symbol of character; in such cases the calling of anyone by a certain name suggests that he possesses a certain character, hence to be called is practically equivalent to to be (Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 9:6; Ezekiel 48:35).

City of truth — Equivalent to faithful city (Isaiah 1:21); a city known for its truthfulness and fidelity to Jehovah.

Holy mountain — Holy because occupied once more by Jehovah (see on Zechariah 14:20; Joel 2:1).


Verses 4-6

4, 5. During the early postexilic period the inhabitants of Jerusalem were few in number (Nehemiah 11:1 ff.); in the new era this will change, for Jerusalem will again swarm with inhabitants (compare Zechariah 2:1 ff.).

Old men and old women — Long life is a divine blessing (Exodus 20:12; Psalms 91:16; Isaiah 65:20), which will be enjoyed by many in the new age.

Staff… for very age — Extreme old age will compel them to lean upon staves (compare Isaiah 36:6).

Boys and girls playing — The wealth of children also is an indication of the divine favor (Psalms 127:3; Psalms 128:3). Free from care and surrounded by peace and prosperity they will joyfully spend their youth. Promises of this nature would have a peculiar significance in those days, in view of the fact that those who returned from exile appear to have been chiefly persons in the full strength of manhood. 6. Jehovah will surely fulfill the promise, though it may seem incredible. A free rendering of 6a would bring out the thought more clearly, “Though that which shall take place in those days may seem too wonderful to the remnant of this people.”

The remnant of this people — Those of the present generation who will live to see the fulfillment of the promises.

In these days — Points to the time in the future when the promises contained in Zechariah 8:4-5 will be fulfilled.

Should it also be marvelous in mine eyes? — The question presupposes a negative answer. Though the people may think it incredible, there is no limit to the divine power and resources.


Verse 7-8

7, 8. There will be a restoration more extensive than the return of 537.

My people — The Jews still in exile (compare Zechariah 2:6 ff.; Isaiah 43:5-6; Jeremiah 30:10).

East… west — Literally, rising and setting of the sun. Only two points of the compass are mentioned, though the prophet expects a return from all quarters of the globe (compare Psalms 50:1; Malachi 1:11). All the returning exiles will flock to Jerusalem, the dwelling place of Jehovah, there to worship him as their God (see on Micah 4:1-4; Hosea 2:23). The restoration to fellowship will be sealed with a new covenant (Jeremiah 30:22).

In truth and in righteousness — See on Hosea 2:19-20.

Message of encouragement and admonition, 9-17.

After picturing the future in such glowing colors the prophet turns with words of encouragement to his contemporaries, who might be tempted to lose heart. True, they have suffered much, but now Jehovah is thinking “to do good unto Jerusalem and to Judah” (9-15), if they will keep his commandments (16, 17).


Verse 9

9. The promises already uttered should be an inspiration.

Let your hands be strong — Equivalent to be of good courage; and, being of good courage, they should undertake their tasks fearlessly (Haggai 2:4; compare Judges 7:11; Ezekiel 22:14). Primarily an exhortation to continue energetically the building of the temple, but also in a more general sense an admonition to face bravely all the difficulties of the present and future.

These words — Of promise, found in Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:8; Zechariah 8:1-8; Haggai 2:1-23.

The prophets — Haggai and Zechariah, who are separated from the former prophets (Zechariah 1:4; Zechariah 7:7; Zechariah 7:12) through the relative clause which closes Zechariah 8:9. Instead of “in the day” LXX. and Peshitto read “from the day,” which is more suitable, for the prophets continued their ministrations while the building was progressing.

The foundation — The laying of the foundation mentioned in Ezra 5:1-2 (compare Haggai 2:18). The words “even the temple that it might be built” may have been added by the prophet to show that he is not thinking of the first laying of the foundation (Ezra 3:10-12), which came to nothing, but of that which resulted in the erection of the temple. Some omit the words as a later addition.


Verses 10-15

10. Another ground for being of good courage may be found in the improvement in conditions which has taken place since the people began in earnest the rebuilding of the temple. How different is the present from the past.

Before these days — Better, R.V., “those.” Before the resumption of building operations.

No hire for man,… for beast — No returns were had from labors expended in the cultivation of the soil; there was not enough grown for fodder.

To him that went out or came in — In following his daily occupation (Deuteronomy 28:6; Psalms 121:8).

Neither… any peace — From within or without. The last clause indicates that the prophet is thinking of troubles and dissensions within the community as well as of attacks from without (compare Ezra 4:4; Nehemiah 6:1 ff.).

Affliction — R.V., “adversary.” A.V. is to be preferred. The affliction is the calamity described in Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9-11; Haggai 2:16-17, and the troubles and dissensions mentioned in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

11ff. A marvelous transformation is at hand, for Jehovah is about to change his attitude into one of mercy and loving-kindness (compare Zechariah 8:2-3).

The residue of this people — R.V., “the remnant.” As in Zechariah 8:6; or perhaps equivalent to this remnant of the people, that is, those who have escaped from exile.

The former days — Not the days before the exile, but the days before the resumption of the building enterprise (compare Zechariah 8:10). 12.

The seed shall be prosperous — An impossible rendering of the Hebrew. R.V., “there shall be the seed of peace.” Since peace implies prosperity, and since seed is sometimes equivalent to seedtime or sowing (Genesis 8:22) or even to produce or harvest (Job 39:12), Perowne suggests as a free rendering, “the processes of agriculture shall prosper.” That this is the thought the prophet desired to express is not improbable; it seems doubtful, however, that he would express it in this ambiguous and obscure manner. This difficulty has been felt by many, and it has been proposed to take the words in apposition to “the vine,” which immediately follows — “the seed of peace, the vine, shall give its fruit,” equivalent to “the vine, which is the seed or plant of peace, shall give its fruit” (Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 17:5-6). The vine is thought to be called the seed of peace because it can “flourish only in peaceful times and not when the land is laid waste by enemies” (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4). This translation also is not without its difficulties; it would certainly be unusual to have the appositional clause precede its noun; hence many commentators question the accuracy of the text. Klostermann emends it by transposing one letter from the beginning of the second word to the close of the first, by which he secures the following reading: “her seed shall be prosperous,” that is, the seed planted by the remnant (in Hebrew a feminine noun). The promise, then, means that the seed will no longer dry up in the ground, but will spring up and bear abundant fruit. Others, following LXX., read, “I will sow prosperity,” and they understand the rest of the verse as explaining how the prosperity is to be brought about. Whatever the exact meaning of the first clause, Zechariah 8:12 contains a promise of the restoration of the divine blessing. For the rest of the verse see on Hosea 2:21-22 (compare Haggai 1:10; Haggai 2:19). Future abundance will compensate for the scarcity of the past, and all will be for the remnant of this people.

Dew — See on Haggai 1:10.

13. As ye were a curse —On account of their afflictions they were regarded as cursed of God, and so they became objects of reproach and curses among the nations (compare Joel 2:17; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:9).

So will I save you — From the calamity and distress which made them a byword among the nations.

Ye shall be a blessing — The restoration of the prosperity will be an evidence of the divine favor, hence the people who in the hour of calamity cursed them will call them blessed. In both cases the noun is used in the place of the adjective for the sake of emphasis (G.-K., 141c). A somewhat different interpretation of the promise is suggested by Jeremiah 29:22; Genesis 48:20, namely, that while at one time their name served as a formula of cursing, in the future it will be used as a formula of benediction.

Judah… Israel — The future prosperity is not to be confined to the southern kingdom; all the tribes are to share it. Convinced that these glorious prospects will soon be realized, the prophet repeats his exhortation to be of good courage (Zechariah 8:9).

Zechariah 8:14-15 emphasize once more the change in the divine purpose, Zechariah 8:16-17 call attention to the conditions which must be met, in order to realize the blessings which are the result of this change of attitude on the part of Jehovah.

Punish — R.V., “do evil.” Not moral evil, but calamity (see on Amos 3:6). Jehovah determined to send calamities as punishment for their sins (Jeremiah 31:28).

You — The houses of Israel and Judah (Zechariah 8:13). Primarily the reference cannot be to the contemporaries of the prophet, since the judgment is said to have been called forth by their fathers’ sins. The prophet has in mind the calamity of the exile, from which his contemporaries had not yet fully recovered.

I repented not — I allowed the judgment to take its course (see on Joel 2:13; compare Jeremiah 4:28). As Jehovah purposed to execute judgment and firmly adhered to his purpose, so he purposes now to restore his favor, and he will just as firmly adhere to the new purpose.

Do well — The very opposite of do evil (Zechariah 8:14); he will restore blessing and prosperity.

Jerusalem… Judah — Though the blessings will reach all (Zechariah 8:13), the prophets always represent Jehovah as sustaining a peculiarly close relation to Jerusalem and Judah (compare Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12).

Fear ye not — With the divine good will assured, no one can harm them.


Verse 16-17

16, 17. The conditions on which these blessings may be secured are essentially the same as those proclaimed by the earlier prophets (see on Zechariah 7:9-10).

Speak… truth — Without truthfulness among its members no community can prosper permanently.

Execute the judgment of truth and peace — Margin R.V., more literally, “judge truth and the judgment of peace.” Judge truth is equivalent to give true and righteous judgment (see on Zechariah 7:9); the judgment of peace is “such an administration of justice as tends to promote peace and establish concord between those who are at strife.” Some commentators omit the second truth as an erroneous repetition suggested by Zechariah 7:9.

In your gates — The place where justice was administered (see on Amos 5:10; compare 2 Samuel 15:2; Deuteronomy 21:19).

Let none… imagine evil — See on Zechariah 7:10.

Love no false oath — See on Zechariah 5:3. All these things Jehovah hates, and therefore he is bound to punish them (compare Amos 5:21).

Fasting and mourning will be changed into joy and glory, 18-23.

The emphasis upon the real requirements of Jehovah and the promise of a speedy redemption (Zechariah 7:4; Zechariah 8:17) would suggest a solution of the problem raised in Zechariah 7:3; in Zechariah 8:18-23, the prophet gives a direct answer: the fasts will give place to “joy and gladness and cheerful feasts” (19), because the blessing and favor of Jehovah will be restored to the people (20-23).


Verses 18-23

Zechariah 8:18 is identical with Zechariah 8:1.

19. The fast of the fourth month — The fast kept in commemoration of the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on the ninth day of the fourth month (Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:7).

Fifth… seventh — See on Zechariah 7:4.

Tenth — A fast held to commemorate the beginning of the siege on the tenth day of the tenth month (Jeremiah 39:1; 2 Kings 25:1).

Joy… gladness,… cheerful feasts — The seasons commemorating the darkest events of Jewish history will become occasions of joy and festivity, because the new blessings of the divine grace will be so rich and so superior to those of the past that the Jews will entirely forget the sorrows of the past. But these blessings can be experienced only if the conditions laid down in Zechariah 8:16-17 are met, some of which the prophet reiterates.

Love the truth and peace — They must exert their efforts on behalf of truthfulness and concord (see on Zechariah 8:16).

Zechariah 8:20-23 indicate the magnitude of the future glory. The manifestations of Jehovah will be so marvelous that they will impress even foreign nations with the reality of the power and supremacy of Jehovah, and will attract them to Jerusalem, where they may properly worship him (compare Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4; Jeremiah 16:19).

People — Better, R.V., “peoples”; that is, whole nations. Many cities —Scattered throughout many lands. For “many” margin suggests “great,”

that is, populous. Zechariah 8:21 describes the enthusiasm with which people will exhort one another to seek Jehovah (compare Isaiah 2:3).

Pray —R.V., “entreat the favor.” See on Zechariah 7:2.

Seek Jehovah — As in Amos 5:4 (see there).

I will go also — Not an expression of determination on the part of Zechariah to go to Zion to witness the glorious scenes, but the reply of the other city to the exhortation of the first.

Zechariah 8:22 is an emphatic repetition of the thought of Zechariah 8:21, as is also Zechariah 8:23. The Jews, now despised by the surrounding nations, will be honored in that day as mediators between these very nations and Jehovah, and they will be entreated by the former to secure the favor of their God. In great numbers the foreigners will crowd around the Jews, anxious to be admitted into fellowship with them, so that through them they may be admitted into fellowship with Jehovah.

Ten men — An expression denoting an indefinite, moderately large number, like seven in Isaiah 4:1, and the colloquial a dozen.

Shall take hold — Repeated for the sake of emphasis (compare Zechariah 6:10-11); anxiously they will press forward to take hold.

All languages — Should perhaps be read, “from all languages and all nations” (compare Isaiah 66:18); from nations speaking many different languages.

Skirt — Literally, wing (compare Haggai 2:12); equivalent to border of the garment (Matthew 9:20).

We will go — Better, cohortative, let us go.

We have heard — Through the mighty works of Jehovah.

God — Since the speakers are foreigners, they do not use the covenant name Jehovah.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Zechariah 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/zechariah-8.html. 1874-1909.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
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