The restoration of Jerusalem. (1-8) The people encouraged by promises of God's favour, and exhorted to holiness. (9-17) The Jews in the latter days. (18-23)
Verses 1-8 The sins of Zion were her worst enemies. God will take away her sins, and then no other enemies shall hurt her. Those who profess religion must adorn their profession by godliness and honesty. When become a city of truth and a mountain of holiness, ( zechariah 8:4-5 ) describe a state of great outward peace, attended with plenty, temperance, and contentment. The scattered Israelites shall be brought together from all parts. God will never leave nor forsake them in a way of mercy, for this he has promised them; and they shall never leave nor forsake him in a way of duty, as they have promised him. These promises were partly fulfilled in the Jewish church, betwixt the captivity and the time of Christ's coming; and they had fuller accomplishment in the gospel church; but the full import must be as to the future times of the Christian church, or the future restoration of the Jews. With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible; so far are God's thoughts and ways above ours. In the present low state of vital godliness, we can hardly conceive that so complete a change can be made; but a change thus extensive and glorious, can be brought to pass by the almighty power of the new-creating Spirit, in less time than he was pleased to employ in creating the world. Let the hands of all who labour in the cause of the gospel be strong, serving the Lord in true holiness, assured that their labour shall not be in vain.
Verses 9-17 Those only who lay their hands to the plough of duty, shall have them strengthened with the promises of mercy: those who avoid their fathers' faults have the curse turned into a blessing. Those who believed the promises, were to show their faith by their works, and to wait the fulfilment. When God is displeased, he can cause trade to decay, and set every man against his neighbour; but when he returns in mercy, all is happy and prosperous. Surely believers in Christ must not trifle with the exhortation to put away lying, and to speak every man peace with his neighbour, to hate what the Lord hates, and to love that wherein he delights.
Verses 18-23 When God comes towards us in ways of mercy, we must meet him with joy and thankfulness. Therefore be faithful and honest in all your dealings; and let it be a pleasure to you to be so, though thereby you come short of the gains others get dishonestly; and, as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men. Let the truths of God rule in your heads, and let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Thus the ancient servants of God drew the notice of heathen neighbours, whose prejudices were softened. A great increase to the church shall be made. Hitherto the Jews had been prone to learn the idolatries of other nations: what more unlikely than that they should teach religion to their conquerors, and to all the principal nations of the earth! Yet this is expressly foretold, and it came to pass. Hitherto the prophecy has been wonderfully fulfilled, and no doubt future events will explain it further. It is good to be with those who have God with them; if we take God for our God, we must take his people for our people, and be willing to take our lot with them. But let not any one think that mere zeal, either for Jews or Gentiles, will stand in the place of personal religion. Let us be living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men, so that others may wish to go with us, and to have their portion with us in the realms of bliss.
Zechariah 8:1-23 . CONTINUATION OF THE SUBJECT IN THE SEVENTH CHAPTER. After urging them to obedience by the fate of their fathers, he urges them to it by promises of coming prosperity.
2. jealous for Zion--( Zechariah 1:14 ).
with great fury--against her oppressors.
3. I am returned--that is, I am determined to return. My decree to that effect is gone forth.
Jerusalem . . . city of truth--that is, faithful to her God, who is the God of truth ( Isaiah 1:21 Isaiah 1:26 , John 17:17 ). Never yet fully fulfilled, therefore still to be so.
the mountain of the Lord--( Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:3 ).
holy mountain--( Jeremiah 31:23 ).
4. So tranquil and prosperous shall the nation be that wars shall no longer prematurely cut off the people: men and women shall reach advanced ages. The promise of long life was esteemed one of the greatest blessings in the Jewish theocracy with its temporal rewards of obedience ( Exodus 20:12 , Deuteronomy 4:40 ). Hence this is a leading feature in millennial blessedness ( Isaiah 65:20 Isaiah 65:22 ).
for very age--literally, "for multitude of days."
5. boys and girls playing--implying security and a numerous progeny, accounted a leading blessing among the Jews. Contrast Jeremiah 6:11 , 9:21 .
6. However impossible these things just promised by Me seem to you, they are not so with God. The "remnant" that had returned from the captivity, beholding the city desolate and the walls and houses in ruins, could hardly believe what God promised. The expression "remnant" glances at their ingratitude in rating so low God's power, though they had experienced it so "marvellously" displayed in their restoration. A great source of unbelief is, men "limit" God's power by their own ( Psalms 78:19 Psalms 78:20 Psalms 78:41 ).
these days--"of small things" ( Zechariah 4:10 ), when such great things promised seemed incredible. MAURER, after JEROME, translates, "in those days"; that is, if the thing which I promised to do in those days, seems "marvellous," &c.
7. save my people from . . . east . . . west--that is, from every region (compare Psalms 50:1 ; the "West" is literally, "the going down of the sun") to which they are scattered; they are now found especially in countries west of Jerusalem. The dispersion under Nebuchadnezzar was only to the east, namely, to Babylonia. The restoration, including a spiritual return to God ( Zechariah 8:8 ), here foretold, must therefore be still future ( Isaiah 11:11 Isaiah 11:12 , Isaiah 43:5 Isaiah 43:6 , Ezekiel 37:21 , Amos 9:14 Amos 9:15 ; also Zechariah 13:9 , Jeremiah 30:22 , Jeremiah 31:1 Jeremiah 31:33 ).
8. in truth--in good faith, both on their side and Mine: God being faithful to His everlasting covenant and enabling them by His Spirit to be faithful to Him.
9-13. All adversities formerly attended them when neglecting to build the temple: but now God promises all blessings, as an encouragement to energy in the work.
hands . . . strong--be of courageous mind ( 2 Samuel 16:21 ), not merely in building, but in general, as having such bright prospects ( Zechariah 8:13 , &c.).
these days--the time that had elapsed between the prophet's having spoken "these words" and the time ( Zechariah 8:10 ; compare Haggai 2:15-19 ) when they set about in earnest restoring the temple.
the prophets--Haggai and Zechariah himself ( Ezra 5:1 Ezra 5:2 ). The same prophets who promised prosperity at the foundation of the temple, now promised still greater blessings hereafter.
10. before these days--before the time in which ye again proceeded with the building of the temple ( Zechariah 8:9 ), namely, at the time that the temple lay neglected.
no hire for man . . . beast--that is, no produce of the field to repay the labor of man and beast on it ( Haggai 1:6 Haggai 1:9 Haggai 1:10 , 2:16 ).
neither . . . peace to him that went out or came in--( 2 Chronicles 15:5 ). No one could in safety do his business at home or abroad, in the city or in the country, whether going or returning.
because of the affliction--so sorely pressed were they by the foe outside. MAURER translates, "Because of the foe" ( Ezra 4:1 ).
every one against . . . neighbour--There was internal discord, as well as foes from without.
11. "But now that the temple has been built, I will not do as I had formerly done to those who returned from Babylon" [JEROME]. Henceforth I will bless you.
12. seed . . . prosperous--that is, shall not fair to yield abundantly ( Hosea 2:21 Hosea 2:22 , Haggai 2:19 ). Contrast with this verse Haggai 1:6 Haggai 1:9-11 , 2:16 .
dew--especially beneficial in hot countries where rain is rare.
13. a curse--As the heathen have made you another name for "a curse," wishing to their foes as bad a lot as yours ( Jeremiah 24:9 , 29:18 ); so your name shall be a formula of blessing, so that men shall say to their friend, May thy lot be as happy as that of Judah ( Genesis 48:20 ). Including also the idea of the Jews being a source of blessing to the Gentile nations ( Micah 5:7 , Zephaniah 3:20 ). The distinct mention of "Judah" and "Israel" proves that the prophecy has not yet had its full accomplishment, as Israel (the ten tribes) has never yet been restored, though individuals of Israel returned with Judah.
14. I thought--I determined.
you--that is, your fathers, with whom ye are one; the Jewish Church of all ages being regarded as an organic whole (compare Haggai 2:5 , Matthew 23:31 Matthew 23:32 ).
repented not--I changed not My purpose, because they changed not their mind ( 2 Chronicles 36:16 ). With the froward God shows Himself froward ( Psalms 18:26 ). If the threatened punishment has been so unchangeably inflicted, much more will God surely give the promised blessing, which is so much more consonant to His nature ( Jeremiah 31:28 ).
16, 17. The promised blessings are connected with obedience. God's covenanted grace will lead those truly blessed by it to holiness, not licentiousness.
truth to . . . neighbour--not that the truth should not be spoken to foreigners too; but He makes it an aggravation of their sin, that they spared not even their brethren. Besides, and above all outward ordinances ( Zechariah 7:3 ), God requires truth and justice.
judgment of . . . peace--Equitable decisions tend to allay feuds and produce peace.
gates--the place where courts of judicature in the East were held.
17. all these . . . I hate--therefore ye too ought to hate them. Religion consists in conformity to God's nature, that we should love what God loves and hate what God hates.
18, 19. The prophet answers the query ( Zechariah 7:3 ) as to the fast in the fifth month, by a reply applying to all their fasts: these are to be turned into days of rejoicing. So Jesus replied to His disciples when similarly consulting Him as to why fasting was not imposed by Him, as it was by John the Baptist. When the Sun of righteousness shines, tears are dried up ( Matthew 9:15 ). So hereafter ( Isaiah 35:10 ).
19. fast of . . . fourth month--On the fourth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign, on the ninth day, Jerusalem was taken ( Jeremiah 39:2 , Jeremiah 52:6 Jeremiah 52:7 ). It was therefore made a fast day.
tenth--On the tenth month and tenth day, in the ninth year of Zedekiah, the siege began ( Jeremiah 52:4 ).
therefore love the truth--or, "only love." English Version is better. God's blessing covenanted to Israel is not made to depend on Israel's goodness: but Israel's goodness should follow as the consequence of God's gracious promises ( Zechariah 8:16 Zechariah 8:17 , Zechariah 7:9 Zechariah 7:10 ). God will bless, but not those who harden themselves in sin.
20. ( Isaiah 2:3 , Micah 4:2 ).
Thus saith the Lord of hosts--a preface needed to assure the Jews, now disheartened by the perils surrounding them, and by the humble aspect of the temple. "Unlikely as what follows may seem to you, Jehovah of hosts, boundless in resources, saith it, therefore it shall be so." Just before Christ's coming, a feeling grew up among the heathen of the unsatisfactoriness of their systems of religion and philosophy; this disposed them favorably towards the religion of the Jew, so that proselytes embraced the worship of Jehovah from various parts of Asia; these again were predisposed to embrace Christianity when it was preached to them ( Acts 2:9-12 Acts 2:41 ). But the full accomplishment of the conversion of the Gentiles foretold here is reserved till "Jerusalem" ( Zechariah 8:22 ) becomes the center of Christianized Jewry ( Romans 11:12 Romans 11:15 ).
21. Let us . . . I--manifesting zeal and love: converted themselves, they seek the conversion of others ( Solomon 1:4 ). To exhortation in general ("Let us go"), they add individual example ("I will go"). Or, the change from plural to singular implies that the general consent in religious earnestness leads each individual to decide for God.
go speedily--literally, "go, going"; implying intense earnestness.
pray--Hebrew, "entreat the face" ( Zechariah 7:2 ); entreat His favor and grace.
22. many . . . strong nations . . . in Jerusalem--In contrast to the few and weak Jews now building the temple and city, then such shall be their influence that many and strong nations shall come to worship Jehovah their God in Jerusalem ( Isaiah 60:3 , 66:23 ).
23. ten--a definite number for an indefinite. So in Leviticus 22:26 , Numbers 14:22 .
of all languages of the nations--that is, of nations of all languages (compare Isaiah 66:18 , Revelation 7:9 ).
take hold of the skirt--a gesture of suppliant entreaty as to a superior. Compare Isaiah 3:6 , 4:1 , on a different occasion. The Gentiles shall eagerly seek to share the religious privileges of the Jew. The skirt with a fringe and blue ribbon upon it ( Numbers 15:38 , Deuteronomy 22:12 ) was a distinguishing badge of a Jew.
God is with you--the effect produced on unbelievers in entering the assemblies of the Church ( 1 Corinthians 14:25 ). But primarily, that produced on the nations in witnessing the deliverance of the Jews by Cyrus. Finally, that to be produced on the nations by the future grand interposition of Messiah in behalf of His people.