Sunday, May 28th, 2023
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ zechariah-14.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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Zechariah 14:1, Zechariah 14:2
§ 5. The afflictions of the people and their results are set forth in figure and symbol. Jerusalem is represented as taken and plundered.
The day of the Lord; a day of (or, to) Jehovah cometh. The Greek and Latin Versions have the plural, "days of the Lord come." It is a time when he will specially manifest his glory and power, and be recognized as allowing the trial of his people for wise purposes. It is impossible to fix on any historical fulfilment of this prophecy. The details suit neither Maccabean nor Roman times; the attempt to define exactly the period and matter of its accomplishment has proved a failure, and has led to a mingling of events of very different dates, and to a conglomeration of senses literal, metaphorical, and anagogical, which creates confusion while assuming to explain difficulties. The literal interpretation must be resigned, and the whole prophecy must be taken to adumbrate the kingdom of God in its trial, development, and triumph. Thy spoil shall be divided. Jerusalem is addressed; and the prophet intimates that the enemy shall get possession of the capital, plunder it, and divide its spoil among themselves in its very midst with the greatest security, the inhabitants being wholly at the conquerors' mercy.
How this shall come to pass is now shown. For I will gather all nations. God uses the Gentile nations as his instruments in this trial of his people; they are the fires by which he refines and purifies his elect (Joel 3:2, Joel 3:9-11). The city shall be taken. The outrages offered to the captive city are such as are indicated in the case of Babylon (Isaiah 13:16; comp. Lamentations 5:11, etc.). Half of the city. The term "half" must not be pressed, as if it contradicted the mention of the two-thirds that were to perish, according to the prediction in Zechariah 13:8. It is a mere rhetorical expression. Or it may apply to the city alone, while the other referred to the whole land. Shall not be out off. In the former captivity all the people were carried away; in this capture of the city a remnant shall be left therein. It is plain from this statement that the prophecy cannot apply to the destruction of the city by the Romans; for, according to the account of Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' Romans 6:9), the city itself was razed to the ground, and all the inhabitants were either put to the sword or sold for slaves.
§ 6. Then the Lord himself comes to her help, great convulsions of nature accompanying his presence.
Shall go forth. God is said to "go forth" when he manifests his power by delivering his people and punishing their enemies (comp. Isaiah 26:21; Isaiah 42:13; Micah 1:3). As when he fought in the day of battle. The Hebrew is in general terms, "as when he fighteth in a day of battle," or, "slaughter;" Septuagint, καθὼς ἡμέρα παρατάξεως αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμέρα πολέμου, "as a day of his battle in a day of war;" Vulgate, sicut praeliatus est in die certaminis. There is nothing in the text to confine the reference to any one special interposition; it refers rather to the general course of God's providence in defending his people, though, doubtless, the prophet has in his mind the crowning act of mercy at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13, Exodus 14:14, Exodus 14:25), which is so often referred to as a typical deliverance (comp. Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 16:14; Jeremiah 23:8; Habakkuk 3:15; and above, Zechariah 10:11).
His feet shall stand. By this theophany he shall come to the aid of his people; nature shall do his bidding, owning the presence of its Maker. Upon the Mount of Olives … on the east. This mount lay on the east of Jerusalem, from which it was separated by the deep valley of the Kidron, rising to a height of some six hundred feet, and intercepting the view of the wilderness of Judaea and the Jordan ghor. The geographical detail is added in the text to indicate the line of escape which shall be opened for those who are to be de-livened. This is the only place in the Old Testament where the Mount of Olives is thus exactly named; but it is often alluded to; e.g. 2 Samuel 15:30; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:13 (where it is called "the mount of corruption"), etc. Shall cleave in the midst thereof. As the enemy are supposed to beset Jerusalem, so as to make escape by any ordinary road impossible, the Lord will open a way through the very centre of the mountain (as he opened a path through the Red Sea), by cleaving the hill in sunder, the two parts moving north and south, and leaving a great valley running east and west, and leading to the Arabah.
Ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains; i.e. by the ravine made by the cleaving of Olivet into two, which God calls "my mountain," because effected by his special interposition. Septuagint, Φραχθήσεται ἡ φάραγξ τῶν ὀρέων μου, "The valley of my mountains shall be blocked;" Vulgate, Fugietis ad vallem montium eorum. The last word is probably an error for meorum. Into the chasm thus miraculously formed the remnant shall flee for refuge. Unto Azal; ἕως Ἰασόδ; usque ad proximum (Vulgate); so Symmachus. If Azal, or Azel, be a proper name, it is with some probability identified with Beth-ezel, mentioned in Micah 1:11, a village on the east of Olivet. The meaning in this case is that the valley should extend from the west unto the east side of the Mount of Olives, and that in it the people shall find an asylum, that they might not be involved in the judgments which fall on the enemy. Some take Azal to mean "union," and see in it a symbol of the union of the Law and the gospel, or the Jew and Gentile, in one Church—the valley of God's mountain extending to "union;" that is, to enfolding all the faithful (see Wordsworth, in loc.). The earthquake in the days of Uzziah. This is mentioned in Amos 1:1, but not in the historical books (see note on Amos, loc. cit.). The intervention of the Lord is here accompanied by an earthquake, which produces the same panic as on the former occasion, and drives the inhabitants to flight. Shall come. To smite his enemies and to defend his people. All the saints (holy ones) with thee. The versions have, "with him;" and thus many Hebrew manuscripts. But such abrupt changes of persons are not uncommon (see note on Zechariah 2:8). The "holy ones" are the angels (comp. Deuteronomy 33:2; Job 5:1; Daniel 7:10; and the parallel predictions in Matthew 24:30, Matthew 24:31; Matthew 25:31).
The light shall not be clear, nor dark. The Greek, Syriac, and Latin Versions have, "There shall not be light, but cold and ice." With the absence of light and sun shall come bitter frost, which impedes all activity, and kills life: or, taking the Septuagint rendering, there shall no longer be the interchange of seasons, but one lasting sunshine. It is plain that a time of distress and calamity is intended, and that the passage is threatening and not consolatory, at any rate, at first. There is solid ground for the rendering of the Revised Version margin, adopted by Cheyne and others, which is according to the Khetib, "There shall not be light, the bright ones shall contract themselves;" i.e. the heavenly bodies shall contract their light, or be heaped confusedly together, and cease to shine. The prediction in this case may be compared with that in Joel 3:15; Isaiah 13:10; and in Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12, Revelation 6:13. The Authorized Version is explained in the margin, i.e. "It shall not be clear in some places, and dark in other places of the world"—a gloss which is inadmissible.
One day. A unique day, unparalleled (comp. So Zechariah 6:9; Ezekiel 7:5). Which shall be (is) known to the Lord. Its peculiar character, and the moment of its arrival, are known to God, and God only (Matthew 24:36). Not day, nor night. It cannot be called truly the one or the other, because there is darkness in the day and light at night, as the following clause says. This is symbolically explained by St. Ephraem, "It will not be altogether consolation, nor altogether affliction." It is not full daylight, for calamity presses; it is not deep night, because there is hope amid the distress. At evening time it shall be light. In the midst of trouble and danger deliverance shall come. The whole section is a figurative description of the fortunes of the Church militant, even as Christ announced to his disciples: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33); "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20); "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
§ 7. Then shall occur a season of joy. The land shall be transformed and renewed, and the Lord shall be owned as the sole King of all the earth.
Living waters; i.e. water fresh, pure, and perennial (Genesis 26:19; Jeremiah 2:13), a figure of the spiritual blessings and graces bestowed by God upon his Church. From Jerusalem, as the centre and representative of the kingdom of God, as in Zechariah 12:2. The city itself was, as we know, abundantly supplied with water by many conduits and subterranean channels; but standing, as it does, surrounded by hills higher than itself, it is physically impossible that the waters could literally flow as stated.
The description is symbolical, though the natural features of the country are supposed to be changed in order to preserve verisimilitude (comp. Ezekiel 47:1, etc.; Joel 3:18). The former (eastern) sea … the hinder (western) sea. The Dead Sea is tile eastern sea to one looking to sunrise from Jerusalem: the Mediterranean is the western sea, behind the observer's back. Into every quarter the salutary stream shall flow. In summer and in winter. Neither drought nor frost shall stop their perennial flow. "Alike in times of peace and of persecution those waters shall continue their course" (St. Jerome); Septuagint, "In summer and in spring"—a rendering which seems to indicate the home of the Alexandrian Version.
All the earth; all the land of Israel (Zechariah 14:8, Zechariah 14:10)—a type of the kingdom of God in all its extent (Revelation 11:15, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever"). Shall there be one Lord; rather, Jehovah shall be one. He shall be universally acknowledged as "the blessed and only Potentate" (1 Timothy 6:15). His name one. Idolatry shall be abolished, and the one God shall be everywhere adored (comp. Zechariah 13:2; Deuteronomy 6:4). Men shall no longer attribute operations and effects to various heavenly powers, but shall see and confess that all are derived from and centre in him, and are only different revelations of his ineffable nature and attributes. We do not, indeed, see this prediction yet fulfilled, but the grace to accomplish it is ready and operating; it is only men's perverse wills that impede the gracious purpose of God.
All the land shall be turned as a plain. To indicate the exaltation and stability of the centre of the new theocracy, the prophet announces that all the country round Jerusalem shall be turned into a plain, dominated by the metropolis, which stands sublime on a lofty mountain. The Revised Version renders, "shall be turned as the Arabah," i.e. as the Jordan ghor, a valley of abnormal fertility. From Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; i.e. from the north of Judah to its southern boundary. Geba was a town and district on the edge of the great Wady Suweinit, five miles north of Jerusalem. It is identified with Jeba (1 Samuel 13:3), and it formed the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah (Joshua 18:24). Rimmon is described as "south of Jerusalem," to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Galilee (Joshua 19:13), and from the famous rock Rimmon, to which the Benjamites fled (Judges 20:45, Judges 20:47). It was situated in the territory of Simeon (Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:7), and has been identified with Umm-er-Rummamin, a town ten miles north of Beersheba. It shall be lifted up. Jerusalem shall remain exalted on its hill, while all the country around sinks into a plain—a figure representing the spiritual exaltation of the new theocracy. Inhabited in her place; or, shall dwell in her place. Shall occupy her ancient limits, and abide there safely without fear (comp. Jeremiah 31:38-40; Ezekiel 48:15, etc.). From Benjamin's gate, etc. (Jeremiah 37:13). It is difficult to define the given boundaries with certainty in every particular. Benjamin's gate is the same as the gate of Ephraim (2 Kings 14:13; Nehemiah 8:16), so called as leading to the territory of Benjamin, and beyond again to that of Ephraim. It was situated in the north or second wall. From this point the course of the wall is followed, first to the west, and then to the east. The first gate. This was in the eastern part at this wall, and is the same as "the old gate," or "gate of the old town," of Nehemiah 12:39. The corner gate (2 Kings 14:13; Jeremiah 31:38) was at the northwest corner, west of the gate of Benjamin, at the angle where the first and second walls approached each other. These dimensions would give the breadth of the city from east to west. The tower of Hananeel (Nehemiah 3:1-32 :l) was at the northeast corner of the north wall, where the citadel Basis or Antonia afterwards stood. The king's wine presses were probably near "the king's garden" (Nehemiah 3:15), at the southeast extremity of the city. They may have been cut out of the rock, as was often the case. This description gives the extent of the city from north to south. Thus Zechariah illustrates the growth and stability of the Church of God by the figure of the earthly city Jerusalem, firmly and orderly built, and inhabited by a teeming population, as the following verse shows. There is no ground for expecting the literal fulfilment of this prediction.
Men shall dwell in it. There shall be no tear of exile and captivity, and no necessity to fly from a victorious enemy (Zechariah 14:2, Zechariah 14:5). Utter destruction; literally, curse, ban; LXX. and Vulgate, "There shall be no more anathema." The inhabitants shall not incur the curse which is inflicted on transgressors, idolaters, and their cities by the old Law (see Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 13:12-15; Deuteronomy 20:17; comp. Ezra 10:8; Isaiah 43:28; Revelation 22:3). Shall be safely inhabited; or, shall dwell safely. Sin being removed, there will be no more occasion for chastisement; and the spiritual Jerusalem shall never be destroyed.
§ 8. Having noted the blessings on the true Israelites, the prophet gives further details concerning the destruction of the enemies: they shall perish by plague, by mutual slaughter, by the sword of Judah.
This shall be the plague. These are the instruments which the Lord uses when he fights against the nations (not the people, as in the Authorized Version), Zechariah 14:3. The plague, or smiting (maggephah), is some contagions affliction sent by God, as in Exodus 9:14; Num 14:37; 1 Samuel 6:4. Their. It is, in the Hebrew, "his flesh, his feet," etc; to show that the general plague extends to every individual. In the last clause the plural is used, "their mouth." With body, eye, and tongue they opposed the holy city, and took pleasure in its discomfiture: in all their members they shall suffer retributive punishment. While they stand upon their feet. The flesh of each shall putrefy and moulder away, while he is still alive and arrayed against the city of God. Holes; soakers. The eyes had spied out the weak places in the defence, and looked with malicious pleasure on the defeat and fall. Tongue. They had blasphemed God, and cried against his holy place, "Down with it, even to the ground!"
A great tumult from the Lord (Zechariah 12:4). A general panic or confusion sent by the Lord, such as befell the Midianites (Judges 7:22) and the Philistines (l Samuel Zechariah 14:20), which ends in mutual slaughter. They shall lay hold every one, etc. In this general panic each shall seize his neighbour's hand in fierce contention. The next clause gives the same meaning (comp. Zechariah 11:6).
Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem. The adversus Jerusalem of the Vulgate and some Jewish interpreters is a mistake, and introduces a wholly irrelevant idea. The meaning is that the Judaeans outside of Jerusalem, the nation at large, rallying to the attack, shall fall on the enemy, now thinned by pestilence and internecine conflicts within the walls of the city, and prevail against them (comp. Zechariah 12:6). Septuagint, Ἰούδας παρατάξεται ἐν Ἱερουσαλήμ," Judah shall draw up his forces in Jerusalem." The wealth of all the heathen (nations) round about. The costly booty of the enemy shall fall into Judah's hands. Thus the Church emerges victorious from persecutions, and is enriched and adorned by the means of those who planned her overthrow.
So shall be the plague of the horse, etc. As was the plague that came on men (Zechariah 14:12), so shall be tide plague that falls on their beasts and cattle. The brute animals suffer for their owners' sin according to the ban under the old Law (Deuteronomy 13:15; comp. Numbers 16:32, Numbers 16:33; Joshua 7:24, Joshua 7:25). Tents; camps; Septuagint, παρεμβολαῖς. The verse illustrates the utter destruction which shall befall the enemies of God's Church.
§ 9. Warned by these manifestations of God's power, the residue of the heathen shall be converted, and shall join with the Hebrews in the regular worship of Jehovah.
Every one that is left. All the heathen that attacked the holy city shall not be destroyed; the remnant saved small become subjects of the Divine kingdom. Shall go up. This is the usual phrase for going to Jerusalem for the purpose of worship (comp. Isaiah 2:2, Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2; Luke 2:42; John 7:8). The prophet here and in the following clause speaks as a Jew to Jews, who knew and observed only the prescribed form of worship. It is evident that the announcement could never be literally fulfilled; the Gentile world could never come yearly to pay their devotions at Jerusalem. The prediction can only signify that under Messiah's reign the Gentiles shall be converted to true religion and worship God in regular, orderly fashion, the prophet intimating this in terms derived from the old dispensation, which had the Divine sanction. The Feast of Tabernacles. The Israelites were required to appear before the Lord three times in the year (Exodus 23:17; Deuteronomy 16:16)—at the festivals of the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. But the Gentiles are here required to present themselves only once. The Feast of Tabernacles is chosen for this occasion owing to its peculiar character and tile associations connected with it. It commemorated not only the ingathering of the harvest, but also Israel's sojourn in the wilderness and tide Divine protection there accorded to them, and their entrance into tide promised land; it was therefore a fitting symbol of the rescue of the Gentiles from the devil's kingdom, and their entry into the Church of God, where they enjoyed the blessings of God's grace and protection. It was also a more catholic feast, in one sense, titan the Passover or Pentecost, not being so distinctively Jewish, but one which all nations could keep in gratitude to the Giver of material benefits. We must remember, also, that it was at this feast that our Lord cried (John 7:37), "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink," and likewise he declared himself to be "the Light of the world" (John 8:12), wishing us, it may be, to understand that this feast was the one we should need to keep, being the one which specially sets him forth as the Sustainer and Guide through life's pilgrimage.
Will not come up; goeth not up. Those who neglected this yearly worship shall be punished according to the threat in Deuteronomy 11:16, Deuteronomy 11:17. No rain. The failure of periodic rain in Eastern countries meant drought, famine, and widespread distress. In a spiritual sense, rain represents the grace and blessing of God; these are withholden from those who refuse to worship him and wilfully cut themselves off from the Church. The LXX. has, Καὶ οὗτοι ἐκείνοις προστεθήσονται, "These shall be associated with those," i.e. shall be reckoned among those enemies whose punishment has been mentioned above.
If the family of Egypt go not up. Egypt is mentioned as the great typical enemy of God and Israel, and therefore most obnoxious to punishment if it did not obey the call. That have no rain. This rendering implies, what is not the fact, that Egypt is without rain, and is not dependent upon rain for its fertility. The expression in the text is elliptical, being merely, "then not on them," and it is obviously natural to supply, "shall there be rain." As the rise of the Nile depends upon the equinoctial rains in the interior, the failure of these would be disastrous. Another way of rendering the passage is to combine the clauses and append a note of interrogation; thus: "Shall there not be upon them the plague wherewith," etc.? The LXX. and Syriac omit the negative, Καὶ ἐπὶ τούτους ἔσται ἡ πτῶσις, "Even upon these shall be the plague."
The punishment; literally, sin; ἁμαρτία: peccatum; here obviously the punishment of sin—sin with all its fatal consequences (comp. Numbers 18:22; Lamentations 3:39; Lamentations 4:6).
Zechariah 14:20, Zechariah 14:21
§ 10. Then everything alike shall be holy, and the ungodly shall be altogether excluded from the house of the Lord.
Upon the bells of the horses. The prophet, describing the holiness of the theocracy, uses imagery drawn from the ritual customs of the Law. "The bells," says Henderson, "were small metallic plates, suspended from the necks or heads of horses and camels, for the sake of ornament, and making a tinkling noise by striking against each other like cymbals." Probably these plates had the names of the owners engraven on them. The Septuagint gives "bridle," which possibly the unusual word metzilloth may mean. HOLINESS (holy) UNTO THE LORD; Sanctum Domino (Vulgate); Ἅγιον τῷ Κυρίῳ παντοκράτορι. This was the inscription upon the golden plate on the mitre of the high priest (Exodus 28:36). The affixing of this inscription on the trappings of horses signifies that the commonest things shall become holy, all things that men use for work, profit, or ornament shall be consecrated to God's service. The pots in the Lord's house. The "pots" are vessels of inferior sanctity used for boiling the meat of the sacrifice (1 Samuel 2:14; 2 Chronicles 35:13). The bowls before the altar. These held the blood of the victims for sprinkling on the altar, and the sacred libations, and were considered of superior sanctity. The prophet announces that now all shall be holy, the lower equal to the highest.
The last announcement is amplified. Every pot. All the vessels of the country shall be consecrated and used in Divine service. The Levitical distinction shall be abolished, and the Lord's service shall be perfect freedom. Every member of the Church, however humble his station or mean his acquirements, shall be a saint and fit for the Lord's use. The Canaanite; mercator (Vulgate). The word is used in the sense of "trafficker," or "merchant," in Job 40:1-24 :30 (Job 41:6, Authorized Version); Proverbs 31:24 (comp. Zephaniah 1:11). If any vessel might now be used in God's service, worshippers would no longer be obliged to buy special bowls from those who sold in the temple courts (Matthew 21:12). But it is best in agreement with the context to take "Canaanite" to mean any unclean or profane person (comp. Genesis 9:25; Le Genesis 18:28, etc.). Thus Daniel, in the History of Susanna, verse 56, addresses the wicked elder, "Thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Jude;" and Isaiah (Isaiah 1:10) calls the chiefs of Israel "rulers of Sodom," and "people of Gomorrah." Henceforward the "people shall be all righteous" (Isaiah 60:21). There shall be one, holy, Catholic Church. Thus the vision of the golden candlestick (Isaiah 4:1-6.) is fulfilled; and that this should come to pass is the design of God's manifold providences and operations (comp. Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15).
A signal revelation.
"Behold, the day of the Lord cometh," etc. The "day of the Lord" here referred to seems that of the second coming of Christ. We say this partly because it is a tiny to be marked by a signal exercise of Jehovah's power against his enemies, "as in the day of battle" (2Pe 1:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Joshua 10:14, Joshua 10:42); partly, also, because he is then to appear in person in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4), as though in fulfilment of Matthew 23:39; Acts 1:11, Acts 1:12; and partly, again, because of those who are mentioned here (end of Acts 1:5) as then to appear in his suite (comp. Matthew 25:31; Daniel 7:10; Jud Daniel 1:14, Daniel 1:15; Revelation 19:11-16). Understood thus of that stupendous event, the prophecy seems to describe
(1) its immediate antecedents; and
(2) its primary results.
I. ITS IMMEDIATE ANTECEDENTS. These appear to be described here only so far as "Jerusalem" is concerned—whether we understand thereby, as some do, the literal city inhabited again and besieged (see above, Zechariah 12:2) by the rest of the nations, or that great "spiritual city," the Christian Church (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 3:12). In either (or both) of these senses we see the condition of "Jerusalem" at the time intended (note "then" in Acts 1:3). For example, we see:
1. The city itself wholly subdued. Its bulwarks are all "taken," its separate "houses" "dried," its choicest treasures boldly divided by the secure and triumphant enemy in its most central positions, and every refuge against the deepest indignities utterly gone. 2 Its population half destroyed. When the inhabitants of a neighbourhood are decimated by disease it is awful enough. Here we have a proportion of lost ones just fives times as great! Every second house uninhabited! Every family less by one half! What all this exactly points to it is hard to say; but there are passages connecting such unexampled excess of trial with the very eve of the Saviour's coming, in Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:12, Matthew 24:13; possibly, also, in a spiritual sense, in Luke 18:8.
II. ITS PRIMARY RESULTS; viz. as might be expected, very great natural—or else spiritual—convulsions (comp. Haggai 2:6, and beginning of 7; Malachi 3:1, Malachi 3:2). Three things to be marked about these.
1. How mighty they are in nature! To divide the tideless waters of the upper Red Sea in old days had been much. To do the same by the flowing waters of Jordan (Joshua 3:16) perhaps more. To separate, as prophesied here, into two districts, and far removed portions, the solid range of Mount Olivet, more again. At any rate, nothing less.
2. How momentous in results! Jerusalem, with Mount Olivet practically gone from "before" it "on the east," where it had stood for so long the most conspicuous object all round about (comp. Psalms 125:2), would be no longer the same place as before. Where once had been a mountain was now a valley; where a barrier, a way of escape—a way of complete escape to "Azal;" either, i.e; as far as needed (so some), or else close at hand (as others). Certainly, if we may judge from the case of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:4, 2 Kings 25:5), the "way of escape" in previous sieges had been by a very different route.
3. How easily wrought! viz. immediately on the Master's arrival, by the mere force of that arrival itself by the mere touch, as it were, of his feet! Compare—itself not improbably another prediction of the same occurrence—the striking description of Habakkuk 3:6; also 2 Thessalonians 2:8, "Whom the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of his coming", as darkness is destroyed, and that instantly, by the mere presence of light.
Observe, from all this, the inevitable consequences of every manifestation of Christ, specially, of course, of the latest of all.
1. Amazing changes to all. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low." These will be partly, of course, in the world of feeling and thought. "Then shall the righteous shine forth," as they certainly do not at present (see also Matthew 20:16, and elsewhere; and Acts 3:20, Acts 3:21). Partly, also, it is far from improbable, in the world of matter and sense. (See such passages, on the one side, as Psalms 67:6; Ezekiel 34:25, Ezekiel 34:26; Amos 9:13; the very ground which was cursed for the first Adam's sake being blessed then for the sake of the second. See, on the other, 2 Peter 3:10, etc.)
2. Exceeding fear to some. Many then will be found fleeing as though for their lives, even in such a way as they did on the occasion of that appalling earthquake in the days of Uzziah, the terror of which had engraved itself so deeply on the national mind. Never before had there been greater fear than there will be at "that day" (Matthew 24:30; Isaiah 2:19; Revelation 6:15-17).
3. Corresponding triumph to others. How many things which now divide Christ from his people—how many which now separate his people from one another—shall then be things of the past! All his "saints" shall be with him then (2 Thessalonians 2:5), and with him forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Consequently (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:49), they shall be fully "like him" at last; and therefore, also, like one another; and therefore, again, divided no more! No longer, when at last in the Master's presence, will they "dispute," as they once did "by the way".
A wonderful day.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark," etc. However obscure, in some respects, the opening verses of this passage, the "day" they speak of is to be, very manifestly, a day by itself. How strange, e.g; the character of its light! Is it the light of "day"? or the darkness of "night "? How strange, also, its time—so that it should be, apparently, at its brightest just when the light of day is no more (end of Zechariah 14:7)! Altogether, a kind of "day" only fully "known to the Lord" (see, though not in exactly the same connection, Matthew 24:36). Corresponding to this, in other respects also, shall be the character of that day. In particular, "Jerusalem" shall then, as never before, be
(1) a centre of blessing;
(2) a centre of rule; and
(3) a centre of strength.
I. A CENTRE OF BLESSING. This is represented to us under the figure of a flow of "living waters" therefrom (see Joel 3:18; Ezekiel 47:1-23; passim, and especially Ezekiel 47:9; also John 4:10; John 7:38) What is remarkable in this case is that the flow of these waters shall be:
1. In most unusual directions. Some will flow, naturally enough, along the intervening descent to the "former," or eastern sea; but some also, altogether supernaturally according to the lie of the land, to the "latter," or western sea. Countries and races, that is to say, which at present are hardly sprinkled with gospel influences, and to which at present it seems almost impossible to send them, shall then be overflowed by them as by a flood.
2. At most unusual seasons. How sadly intermittent, as things are now, is the flow of Church work! Now in decadence, now restored! Now frozen by indifference, now revived by warmth! Now exhausted by heat, now refreshed by rain (Psa 68:1-35 :92)! The flow of these days is to be independent of seasons—rivers all the year through (comp. Revelation 22:2).
II. A CENTRE OF RULE. Very naturally does this head follow from that before. Influence of such a gracious character, so universally and constantly in operation, will subdue the whole world in due time. This is what seems foretold in Zechariah 14:9. In the present divided rule of the world—and, in some measure, of the Church as well—it is difficult to give hearty subjection to this authority without rebelling against that. Not so when, in all the world, there shall be but one supreme Head. Not so, still more, when the possessor of that supreme authority shall only be known by one name. At present, in many cases, we have vast composite sovereignties, "united kingdoms," "dual empires," at best. The man obeyed here as Emperor of Austria is only obeyed next door as King of Hungary. Not so at all in "that day." The King of "Jerusalem"—Christ in his Church—shall be the one title of that "only Potentate".
III. A CENTRE OF STRENGTH. "Jerusalem" is to be strong then for three different reasons. There shall be:
1. No facilities for attacking it. Beginning from the ancient fortress of Geba on the north (Pusey, in loc.), down along the whole mountain range to Rimmon in the south, instead of lofty hills sheltering the invaders and dominating the hill of Mount Zion, the "whole land shall be a plain."
2. Every facility for defending it. What those other mountains lose, as it were, the hill of Zion shall gain. Remaining still "in her place," but "lifted up" (setup. Isaiah 2:2) far above her former elevation, the holy city shall look down then on the whole subject neighbourhood—every ancient wall and battlement being also restored and elevated together with it, and so made doubly effective as a means of defence.
3. Better still, the knowledge of the possession of these advantages shall prevent the very thought of attack. "Men shall dwell there"—shall choose to dwell there—knowing how secure it is from attack. What had been so often there shall be never again. "Jerusalem" now is a city which can never be touched. This shall be felt, this shall be acted on, by all without, by all within.
This glorious prospect of that future day of blessing and peace, whether comparatively near or far off, may console us greatly in the days that now are, whether in witnessing:
1. Their cruel dissensions. What a scene of selfishness, greed, competition, strife, suspicion, distrust, and violence is that now around us! Worse than a "struggle for existence," it is too often a struggle, even where existence is not imperilled, to keep others down. See how the whole civilized (!) world is standing armed to the teeth, possessed of deadlier weapons, and, consequently, of deadlier determination, than ever. How restful to the spirit to look beyond all this to that described here!
2. Their cruel disappointments. Much as these evils have been bewailed and lamented, and often as many men have hitherto tried to relieve them, how little comparative success they have reached! Political endeavours to remedy these evils have only led to worse, as a rule. Even the religion of Jesus, the religion of "liberty, equality, and fraternity," in the very best (and perhaps only possible) sense, has become the occasion, too often, though not the cause, of that which it sought to remove. It is a comfort to know that another hand will itself apply this remedy in due time; and that that will be easily accomplished by him when he comes down from the "mount," which is now impossible to his friends (Mark 9:14-27).
A regenerate world.
"And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem," etc. A regenerate man is not a man without disposition to sin, but a man in whose case that disposition is habitually overcome. In that regenerate world partially described in the previous verses, something very similar is to hold good. All the elements of evil are not then altogether to cease; but there shall be in operation then a new principle of action, which shall prevent them from raising their heads. How exceedingly different a condition of things the full establishment of such a rule will result in seems to be taught us, in these concluding verses, in three different ways; viz. in regard
(1) to those who shall hate "Jerusalem;"
(2) to these who shall despise it; and
(3) to those who shall inhabit it, in those days.
I. THOSE WHO HATE IT. For such persons there will be, even at that time, as at all previous times, in existence. There will even be some in existence—at any rate, at the very beginning of "that day"—who shall be bold enough to declare war against it. How will it be with such then? Not at all as it is with them now, when they seem so often and so mysteriously to have the "upper hand" (Psalms 9:19, Prayer book Version) against God. On the contrary, partly
(1) by judgments within them, their very bodily organs, as it were, visibly withering away under God's displeasure; partly
(2) by judgments among them, causing them, as in a kind of frenzy, to lay violent hands on one another; partly
(3) by judgments upon them, which shall turn their very endeavours to injure "Jerusalem" into means for enriching it; and partly
(4) by judgments around them, represented as coming even on the poor brutes they employ for their sakes;—God will testify openly what are his feelings and purposes with regard to such doings. In such circumstances, if evil be sometimes desired, it will very seldom be deliberately attempted, and never achieved. How total a contrast, in every respect, to that which we read of in Ecclesiastes 8:11!
II. THOSE WHO DESPISE IT. Besides that hostility which is open and active, there is that which is passive and half-concealed. Some men do not so much oppose religion as ignore its injunctions. Men disposed to act thus will not be lacking, even in that glorious "day." This illustrated here by a reference to that well known ancient "Feast of Tabernacles," in which the settled Israelites commemorated the fact of their having been wanderers once in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:41-43). Something so far corresponding to this, at any rate, as to be fitly described by the same appellation, will be of universal obligation in the final settlement of that great sabbatical "day" (comp. Hebrews 4:1-9). How will things be with those who despise it and neglect to "come up" (Ecclesiastes 8:17) ? Not as now (see Matthew 5:45); but rather as it was in those days when Goshen was distinguished for Israel's sake, as by a special command from Heaven, from all the rest of the land. Every such contemptuous nation or "family," whatever the peculiarity of their circumstances and ordinary climate, shall be made to feel then the open displeasure of him who commandeth the clouds. How widely different in those days the language of Heaven! How widely different the conduct, may we not expect, therefore, of the most callous of men!
III. THOSE WHO INHABIT IT. These men shall find Jerusalem then "the holy city" indeed. Speaking here of the future, in language drawn from the usages of his own time; or possibly, as some have supposed, speaking so because there will be a certain measure of return to those usages in the future;—there are three great changes which the prophet bids us expect in the "Jerusalem" of" that day." Its inhabitants will see:
1. The previously "common" become "holy." The very bells of the horses being outwardly marked for God's service, like the high priest's mitre was in ancient times (Exodus 28:36-38; see also Isaiah 23:17, Isaiah 23:18).
2. The previously holy made holier still, The ordinary temple "pits," only used of old days for "dressing the victims" (Pusey), being now regarded as like the sacrificial "bowls before the altar," containing the atoning blood itself; and even those vessels outside the "house," which were only so far holy before that they were found in "Jerusalem" (the holy city), or belonged to "Judah" (the holy people), shall now be regarded as tilt for employment in the temple worship itself.
3. The irreclaimably profane forever shut out. "The Canaanite," i.e; as representing those who, though not truly the children of promise, yet "would live" amongst them (Judges 1:35) through all the ages, being never seen there again (comp. Isaiah 35:8; Joel 3:17; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15).
"Not yet! not yet! The faultless flock,
The field without a tare,
Come last of all the blessing sought
By centuries of prayer!"
How fitting a close of the whole is this thought! How rightly does this chief prophet of the post-Captivity Jerusalem tell us thus, in conclusion, of that far more glorious Jerusalem which is some day to shine forth! It is much the same that the Prophet Daniel does at the end of his prophecy. It is the same also that "St. John the divine" does at the end of his song. They bring their message to an end when they have given us a glimpse of the end which God has in store. It is for us to take care that we are truly numbered with those for whom that "end" is prepared.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Lessons of the earthquake.
"Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee." So said Job (Job 12:8). The earthquake serves—
I. TO IMPRESS US WITH THE GREATNESS OF GOD. There are forces great and terrible. But back of all, and controlling all, is God. So the prophets taught, and so we believe (Psalms 68:8; Psalms 104:32; Job 25:1-6 :9-14; Exodus 19:18).
II. TO HUMBLE US UNDER A SENSE OF OUR UTTER HELPLESSNESS. Many things possible to man. Can tame the wild beasts and subdue the earth. Can make fire and air and water his servants. But there are times when he feels his impotence. When the earthquake comes, can only say, "It is the will of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:19-22).
III. TO CONVINCE US OF THE INSTABILITY OF ALL EARTHLY THINGS. The earth seems of all things the most stable. But there comes a crisis, and our old faith is gone forever. "A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations. The earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet; one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity which hours of reflection could not have produced" (Darwin).
IV. TO ADMONISH US OF THE JUDGMENTS THAT ARE COMING UPON THE EARTH. Geologists tell us of internal fires, and the probability of some great catastrophe, sooner or later. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Earthquakes are prophecies. Confirmed by Scripture (2 Peter 3:10-12).
V. TO TEACH US THE PERFECT SECURITY OF GOD'S SAINTS. Come what will, who shall separate us from the love of God? There are things which cannot be moved, and they are the heritage of God's people (Isaiah 54:10; Psalms 46:1-11.; Hebrews 12:25-29). We look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.—F.
Zechariah 14:6, Zechariah 14:7
The day of days.
The promise that "at evening time it shall be light" is suggestive and comforting.
I. THE DAWN. Ordinary light seems withdrawn. Things are seen dimly. Discouragement and fear. Ready to say, "Darkness shall cover us." Call for faith. "God is light." "He will bring the blind by a way that they know not, making darkness light before them" (cf. Isaiah 1:10).
II. PROGRESS. Still uncertainty. Neither wholly day nor night. Alternations. Now the sun seems about to break forth, now the gloom returns. Hopes and fears. But on the whole advance. Faith still finds firm footing. Rope brightens. Love never fails. Amidst all the conflicts with science and philosophy, Christianity abides in its power. There is promise of the "perfect day."
III. THE CLOSE. "Evening." After long waiting and many disappointments, When most needed and least expected. Not in the order of nature, but of grace. When the shadows are lengthening and the sun going down, the light shines forth with a sweet and beautiful radiance. Glorious ending to a dark and cloudy day. The history of the Church, and the experience of individual Christians, afford many illustrations. The promise sometimes finds a tender and comforting fulfilment in the last hours of the dying believer. Bunyan tells us of Mr. Fearing, that, at the entrance of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he was "ready to die for fear." But to him the valley was quiet from troublers. Then Greatheart notes, as something very remarkable, at the departure of this pilgrim, "The water of that river was lower, at this time, than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last not much above wet shod."—F.
Emblematic of the gospel.
I. SOURCE. "Jerusalem." Centre of supreme authority and law. The place of holy sacrifice. The city of the great King. Here is God's throne (Revelation 22:1). "Salvation is of the Jews." "Of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came."
II. DIRECTION. There is movement. Not arbitrary, but regulated. Not limited to one land, but for all people. "Beginning at Jerusalem." Such was the law; but from that starting point the messengers of salvation were to go forth to the whole earth. Water seeks the lowest level, and the gospel comes down to the poorest, the most despised, "the chief of sinners."
III. AFFLUENCE. Rich supply—ample to meet the needs of all. In the wilderness the rock waters followed the Israelites in all their wanderings. But this river is sufficient "for the whole world."
IV. PERPETUITY. There are rivers that vary. They run part of the year, and then they fail. But this river never fails. Neither the winter's cold nor the summer's heat can affect its flow. There are rivers that have disappeared—like old peoples and old civilizations—but this river runs on throughout the ages with unchanging life and virtue.
V. BENEFICENCE. Vitality. Life and the power of life. What so sweet and refreshing as the streams of pure water? Carry blessings far and wide. So with the gospel. Converting souls. Purifying society. Advancing the world in the highest forms of civilization. Grand future. Universal subjection. Universal homage. "One Lord."—F.
The elevation of Zion.
Morally and spiritually (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Ezekiel 40:2).
I. RAISED ABOVE THE STRIFE OF FACTIONS. Sects. Party spirit. Din and strife of tongues. Confusion and every evil work. But for Zion's children there is a purer atmosphere and serener skies.
II. RAISED ABOVE THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE WORLD. We hear much in our day of germs. The air is everywhere infected. The seeds of disease are on every side. But rise higher, and the danger ceases. So of Zion. Drunkenness, illegitimacy, worldliness, and other sins abound, and lower the tone of society. Need to rise nearer to heaven. "Ye are from beneath: I am from above," said our Lord.
III. RAISED ABOVE THE ASSAULTS OF THE WICKED. Storms. Enemies. Temptations. Cry, "Deliver us from the evil." The higher we rise, the greater our safety. The more we resemble Christ, with the more hope can we say, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."
IV. RAISED ABOVE THE VICISSITUDES OF TIME. Dispensations vary. Habits of society alter. Beliefs may change. But eternal truth and righteousness abide. "The true religion is built upon the rock, the rest are tossed upon the waves of time" (Bacon).
"Serene will be our days, and bright
And happy will our nature be,
When love is an unerring light,
And joy its own security."
The great harvest home.
The Feast of Tabernacles had a threefold reference. It was a memorial of the past, it was a service of thanksgiving, and it was also foreshadowing of the better things to come. Well, therefore, may the prophet make it a symbol of the glory of the latter days, when under Messiah's reign the fulness of the Gentiles should be brought in, and all Israel should be saved. The glowing and beautiful picture may represent the great harvest home of the world.
I. UNITY OF WORSHIP. No more many gods, but one. No more hostile sects and parties, but the holy Catholic Church of the living God. At last the old promise is fulfilled (Numbers 14:21).
II. JOYFULNESS OF SERVICE. The Spirit of Christ reigns. Love and joy and peace are in all hearts. From all lands and peoples come the songs of praise and the services of thanksgiving to the Father of lights, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
III. SANCTITY OF LIFE. Society is purified. Every life is consecrated to God. There is no need any more for the law of ordinances, for all things are cleansed. "Holiness" is the law everywhere.
1. Common life.
2. Domestic life.
3. Religious life.
"Ah! when shall all men's good
Be each man's rule, and universal peace
Lie like a shaft of light across the land,
And like a lane of beams athwart the sea,
Thro' all the circle of the golden year?"
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
A sketch on bad men.
"And thy spoil shall be divided," etc. There are three facts here suggested concerning bad men.
I. THAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF PERPETRATING THE GREATEST ENORMITIES ON THEIR FELLOW MEN. "The city of Jerusalem shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished." In the account given by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, we have a record of enormities at which we might well stand aghast. Christ said, concerning this event, "There shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." "The particulars," says Dr. Wardlaw, "here noted, are such as usually, it might be said invariably, attend the besieging, the capture, and the sacking of cities; especially when, as in this case, the assailing army has been exasperated by a long, harassing, and wasting defence. The entrance of the unpitying soldiery, the rifling of houses, the violation of women, the indiscriminate massacre, and the division of the spoil, are just what all expect, and what require no comment. And never were such scenes more frightfully realized than at the destruction of Jerusalem, when God in his providence, in judicial retribution, gathered all nations against the devoted city to battle." "All nations," a correct description of the army of Titus, the empire of Rome embracing a large proportion of the then known world, and this army consisting of soldiers of all the different nations which composed it. And, while such was to be the destruction brought upon the "city," the desolation was to extend, and that in different ways, at short intervals, throughout "the land." The fact that men are capable of perpetrating on their fellow men such enormities, shows:
1. Man's apostasy from the laws of his spiritual nature. To love supremely the supremely good, to do unto others what we would have others do unto us, to love and to be loved, seem to us to be truths inscribed upon the very constitution of the soul. They are instinctive truths. But in all such abominations as here recorded, all these are outraged. Men have fallen away from their own nature. Somehow or other they have become denaturalized.
2. The great work which the gospel has to do in our world. The great mission of the gospel (and admirably adapted it is to its mission), is morally to renew human nature, to bring it back to its true self and its God. It has done so in millions of instances, it is doing so and will continue to do so until the present abominations shall be unknown amongst the race.
II. THAT WHATEVER ENORMITIES THEY PERPETRATE, THEY ARE EVERMORE INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE WORLD'S GREAT RULER. The period in which these abominations were enacted is in the text called the "day of the Lord," and he is represented as calling the Gentile armies to the work. "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished." If we are to particularize the predicted destruction, and are not satisfied with figurative explanation, we may look to the conquest under Titus, as in some sort fulfilling the announcement. Rome at this time was the mistress of the world, and the army of Titus, who besieged and sacked the holy city, was composed of soldiers of all the nations. These all moved freely, unconscious of any Divine restraint; still they were but the "sword" of justice in his hand—mere instruments. God in his retributive procedure punishes the bad by the bad. In this case:
1. No injustice is done. The men of Jerusalem deserved their fate. They "filled up the measure of their iniquity." So it was of old with the Canaanites, who were exterminated by Joshua and his triumphant hosts—the aborigines deserved what they received. Joshua was but the sword of justice. No injustice therefore is done.
2. There is no infringement of free agency. Good men might revolt from inflicting such enormities upon their fellow creatures, but it is according to the wish of bad men. They go to it freely. It is the gratification of their malign nature. This is God's retributive method, to punish the bad by the bad. Thus he makes the very wrath of bad men to praise him.
III. THAT ALTHOUGH THEY ARE BUT INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE WORLD'S RULER, HE WILL PUNISH THEM FOR ALL THEIR DEEDS OF ENORMITY. "Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." That is, for example, he will fight against Rome, the instrument with which he inflicted just punishment upon the sinners at Jerusalem. By successive irruptions of the barbarous tribes of the north, the glory of Rome was extinguished, and its end hastened. Where is the justice of punishing men whom he employs to execute his own will? Two facts will answer this question.
1. What they did was essentially bad. Murder, plunder, rapine, etc; were all violations of his great moral laws, and repugnant to his holy nature.
2. What they did was in accord with their own wills. He never inspired them nor constrained them. They were free, and because they committed crimes of their own free accord, eternal justice required their punishment. Of the Divine government, the justice cried, "Awake, O sword!"
CONCLUSION. Do not let the abominations of war and the outrages on justice, truth, and humanity, which are rife in this country of ours, shake our faith in God. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice;" "The Lord sitteth upon the flood."—D.T.
Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:5
God in relation to a suffering world.
"And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the cast, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley," etc. The men in Jerusalem were in great suffering and imminent peril, and here is a figurative representation of the Almighty in relation to them.
I. HE OBSERVES THEIR TERRIBLE CONDITION. "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east." On this Mount of Olives Jesus often stood, and from it he commanded a view of the holy city; on one occasion, from its brow, he beheld the city, and wept over it on account of its approaching doom. But the idea suggested here is that God observes men in all their calamities and dangers. His eye is on them. He watches them with the interest of a Father. This is especially the case with his people. We are assured that his eye is ever upon the righteous. Job said, "He knoweth the way that I take." Let us remember, in our greatest trials and sufferings, that he stands on the Mount of Olives. In standing there:
1. He sees what we have to endure.
2. He sees how we behave ourselves in our condition, whether under our afflictions we are trustful, patient, and submissive, or otherwise; whether in our perils we are making an effort to escape. How comforting it is to feel that the eye of a tender, compassionate Father is ever on us, in all our sufferings, in this world of sorrow, trial, and dangers! "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."
II. HE MAKES A WAY FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE. "And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley" "These verses," says Dr. Henderson, "convey in language of the most beautiful poetical imagery, the assurance of the effectual means of escape that should be provided for the truly pious. We accordingly learn from Eusebius that on the breaking out of the Jewish war, the Christian Church at Jerusalem, in obedience to the warning of our Saviour (Matthew 24:16), fled to Pella, a city beyond Jordan, where they lived in safety. As the Mount of Olives lay in their way, it is represented as cleaving into two halves, in order to make a passage for them." it is not necessary to suppose that the Mount of Olives was thus riven asunder. The idea is that the obstruction to their escape, though formidable as a mountain, should be removed. Christ had said, "Let them which be in Judaea flee unto the mountains," etc. It was their duty, therefore, to do so. And here is promised the removal of every obstruction. The Almighty would give them every facility to escape to the refuge. This he does for our suffering race. He makes a way for their escape. He makes the crooked places straight, and the rough places smooth. The way for their escape from guilt, ignorance, and misery, which has been blocked up by mountains of difficulties, he has reade straight. The mountains have been cleft asunder, nay, removed. Christ is the Way.
III. HE PROVIDES A REFUGE FOR THEIR SAFETY. "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah." Mark here three things.
1. The scene of refuge. "Azal." Where is this "Azal"? No one knows. Its position is a matter of pure conjecture. Nor does it matter. It was some asylum to secure them from danger. God has provided a refuge for sinners. We are exhorted to flee to the Refuge set before us in the gospel.
2. The impulse of flight. "Like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah."
3. The necessity of the flight. "The Lord my God shall come." Providential dispensations are often spoken of in the Scripture as the coming of the Lord. The destruction of Jerusalem is spoken of as his coming, and here it is assured as a certainty, the ruin was inevitable. "There is not a word," says a modern expositor, "concerning this earthquake as spoken of in Scripture history." The only other allusion to it occurs in the Book of Amos, who was amongst the herdmen of Tekoa, "which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah King of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash King of Israel, two years before the earthquake." It must have been something extraordinary, unusually extensive and awful, when it is thus used to date a period, and, at the same time, as having occasioned such a flight from the destruction wrought by it as to render it a suitable comparison for the prophet here. Fear was to be their inspiration in flight. As the people fled panic stricken from the presence of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, they were to flee from the dangers at Jerusalem. "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
CONCLUSION. How thankful should we be to know that God has not deserted humanity in its sins and sorrows! His eye is on it. He has provided a Way for its escape, and a safe Refuge to which it should flee. Our world, bad as it is, is not a God-deserted world.—D.T.
Zechariah 14:6, Zechariah 14:7
Dark and bright periods in human life.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light." The word rendered "clear" is in the margin "precious," and is in the plural. The word "dark" here is in the margin rendered "thickness." The following translation by Dr. Henderson gives, I think, the meaning: "And it shall be in that day, that there shall not be the light of the precious orbs, but condensed darkness. But there shall be one day, it is known to Jehovah, when it shall not be day and night; for at the time of the evening there shall be light." We have here two distinct periods—one of unmitigated distress, the other of uninterrupted prosperity.
I. HERE IS A PERIOD OF UNMITIGATED DISTRESS. "Shall not be clear nor dark," or, as it is rendered, "condensed darkness." Dr. Keil gives the same idea as Dr. Henderson, "And it will come to pass on that day, there will not be light, the glorious ones will melt away." This period of unmitigated calamity primarily refers, we have no doubt, to those long centuries of oppression, cruelty, mockery, and scorn, to which the Jewish people have been subjected ever since the destruction of Jerusalem. In the predictions of Joel (Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15) referring to the destruction of the holy city and the breaking up of the Jewish commonwealth, the period is referred to as a period when "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood." The history of the Jews, indeed, for eighteen centuries has been the history of one long starless night. Two remarks are suggested concerning this dark day.
1. Such a day is the hard destiny of some men. It is so with individuals. There are hundreds and thousands of men in every age and country who pass through life from its beginning to its close with scarcely a ray of hope or a beam of joy. Their life is a day of darkness. It is so with some nations. The history of some nations and tribes is little less than a history of crushing oppression, bloody revolutions, and untold cruelties and sufferings. The precious orbs are seldom if ever seen in their political heavens.
2. Such a day is deserved by most men. All men are sinners, and deserve this blackness of darkness forever. The very tendency of sin, in fact, is to quench every light in the firmament of the soul. Thank God, Christ has come a Light to the world, and into that light during our stay here we may all enter.
II. HERE IS A PERIOD OF UNINTERRUPTED JOY. "But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night, but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light." This is indeed a unique day. Even when evening might be anticipated, "it shall be light."
1. Such a day as this is destined to dawn on every good man. Heaven is a scene of light. No clouds of ignorance or suffering obstruct the rays, nor will the sun ever go down: "the Lord God is the Light thereof."
2. Such a day as this is destined to dawn on the world in the future. Some expositors consider that the millennium is here pointed to—that long bright period when "all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest." This period is promised, and it must come; for "heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of his word shall fail to be accomplished." When will it come? It is far off, I know. "It shall be known to the Lord;" "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons," etc.
CONCLUSION. Are there not dark and bright days in every good man's life? There are days when he walks in darkness, when neither sun nor star appears; and there are days too when all is cloudless and bright. He needs the dark day to prepare him for the full appreciation and enjoyment of the light. As the earth requires the dark cold days of winter as well as the bright and genial days of summer, in order to prepare it to yield the fruits that man and beast require, so doth the human soul require periods of gloom and tempest as well as periods of brightness and calm.—D.T.
The gospel river.
"And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be." The "former sea" here means the Dead Sea; the "hinder sea," the Mediterranean. The great populations of the world lie towards the west of Jerusalem, and these are to be refreshed by "living waters." Taking the passage as referring to the gospel, we will notice—
I. ITS NATURE AND ITS RISE.
1. Its nature. It is "living water." Water is the most precious element in nature; it may be regarded as the source, the substance, and the sustenance of all life. But then it is not so precious as the gospel. The gospel is often referred to in Scripture as the river of life, the pure water of life. It is a living water. Not a dead lake or stagnant pool, but a living stream.
2. Its rise. "It shall go out from Jerusalem." The gospel might be said to have commenced at Jerusalem. The apostles were commanded to commence there: "Beginning at Jerusalem." In Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the river might be said to have broken forth.
II. ITS DIFFUSION AND CONTINUOUSNESS.
1. Its diffusion. "Half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea." It is to go from the east and from the west, from the sun's rising to its setting. The gospel is for all climes. It is world wide in its provisions: adaptations, and claims.
2. Continuousness. "Summer and winter." In all seasons of human life, individually and corporately.
(1) It is constant in the fitness of its supplies for human wants. Men, through all changes, in all places, and through all times, want Divine knowledge, moral purity, heavenly forgiveness, fellowship with the Eternal. The man will never be born who will not require these things.
(2) It is constant in the fulness of its supplies for human wants. It is an inexhaustible river. After countless myriads have had their wants supplied, it remains deep and full as ever.
(3) It is constant in the availableness of its supplies for human wants. Faith is the great condition on which its blessings are communicated, and every man can believe. It is just that act of mind that comes within the power of the child and the adult, the learned and the rude, the savage and the sage, the bond and the free, to perform. How obvious, then, our duty and our interest!
CONCLUSION. How profoundly thankful should we be to Almighty Love for opening in our world such a "living" river as this! and how earnest should we be in our endeavours to let its waters flow into every heart and home and land, the world over!—D.T.
The coming moral reign of God on the earth.
"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth," etc. The subject is the coming moral reign of God on the earth. We say moral, for physically he reigns everywhere. Morally, alas! his reign depends upon the will of men, and that will is hostile. As a moral Monarch, the Almighty has to be chosen by his subjects. Three things are suggested in the text as to his coming moral reign on the earth.
I. IT IS TO BE EXTENSIVE. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth." Although in the next verse "all the earth" is rendered "all the land," meaning the land of Judaea, we are authorized to believe that he will one day reign over all the earth; that all souls will bow to his influence, as the ripened fields of autumn to the winds of heaven. His kingdom shall come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
II. IT IS TO BE EXCLUSIVE. "In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name One." He will be regarded as the one King whose laws all study and obey. The great question of all souls will be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" No other power will rule the soul where he becomes the moral Monarch.
III. IT WILL BE BENEFICENT. "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem." Taking Zechariah 14:10 and Zechariah 14:11, we gather at least two beneficent results of his moral reign.
1. The removal of all obstructions to the river of truth. "The land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon," etc. That is, from the northern to the southern boundary of Judaea. The levelling of this land would not only leave Jerusalem conspicuous, but allow the "living waters" to have free flow.
2. The elevation and establishment of the good. Jerusalem is here represented, not only as being raised and made conspicuous, but as settling down and dwelling securely. "It shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place." There shall be no more utter destruction; Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
CONCLUSION. Who will not pray, "Let thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Let God reign on earth, and all obstructions to the progress of truth will be removed, and his people will be exalted and established forever.—D.T.
The elements by which the Divine government punishes sin.
"And this shall be the plague," etc. In the third verse of this chapter we are told that "the Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations," that is, against those nations comprehended in the armies which destroyed Jerusalem; and we have elsewhere endeavoured to illustrate how God punishes bad men by bad men. This passage is a further illustration of the idea. There are three elements of punishment which Jehovah is represented as employing in these verses—physical diseases, mutual animosity, and temporal losses.
1. PHYSICAL DISEASES. "And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth." "This description of the plague-stricken people," says a modern author, "is shocking, but it is not more than what actually occurs" (see Defoe's 'Plague of London'). Kingsley says, "What so terrible as war? I will tell you what is ten times and ten thousand times more terrible than war, and that is outraged nature. Nature, insidious, inexpensive, silent, sends no roar of cannon, no glitter of arms, to do her work; she gives no warning note of preparation Man has his courtesies of war and his chivalries of war; he does not strike the unarmed man; he spares the woman and the child. But Nature … spares neither woman nor child … silently she strikes the sleeping child with as little remorse as she would strike the strong man with the musket or the pick axe in his hand." One could scarcely imagine a more revolting condition of humanity than is here presented—a living skeleton, nearly all the flesh gone, the eyes all but blotted out, the tongue withered. Physical disease has ever been one of the instruments by which God has punished men in this world—pestilences, plagues, epidemics, and so on. But it is not merely a plague amongst the people, but also amongst the castle, as we see in Zechariah 14:15. "And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague." These words remind us of Byron's description of the destruction of Sennacherib's host. "
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf."
II. MUTUAL ANIMOSITY. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour." The idea is, perhaps, that God would permit such circum stances to spring up amongst them as would generate in their minds mutual misunderstandings, malignities, quarrellings, and battlings. "They shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour." "Every man's sword shall be against his brother." All the jealousies, envyings, contentions, that are rife in society may be regarded as the means by which sin is punished. Sin punishes sin, bad passions not only work misery, but are in themselves miseries.
III. TEMPORAL LOSSES. "And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem." Not against Jerusalem. "And the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in abundance." Earthly property men in their unrenewed state have always valued as the highest good. To attain it they devote all their powers with an unquenchable enthusiasm, and to hold it they are ever on the alert, and their grasp is unrelaxable and firm. To have it snatched from them is among their greatest calamities; and how often this occurs in society! By what we call accidents, by a commercial panic, legal flaws, chicaneries, and frauds, rich men frequently are deprived of their wealth, men who are born in palaces often die in a pauper's hovel. "Riches take to themselves wings, and fly away." This is another way in which Heaven punishes sin.
CONCLUSION. See those elements of retribution working everywhere around us. They have worked through all history. Because they are common we do not note them as we ought. We connect them not with the Justice that reigns over the universe. Albeit they are penal forces.—D.T.
The public worship of Jehovah.
"And it shall come to pass," etc. Two remarks are suggested here concerning the public worship of Jehovah.
I. IT IS A DUTY BINDING ON ALL PEOPLE. "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of. all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." "Keil thinks the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned because it was a feast of thanksgiving for the gracious protection of Israel, in its wanderings through the desert, and its introduction into the land flowing with milk and honey, whereby it foreshadows the blessedness to be enjoyed in the kingdom of God. but in rejecting Koehler's observation that there is a reference to the feast as a harvest thanksgiving, he overlooks the fact that, if this harvest reference is not recognized, the punishment threatened in the next verse, the absence of rain, loses its appropriateness. The Feast of Tabernacles was meant to keep them in mind, amidst their abundant harvests, and well cared-for fields and vineyards, that as in the desert so still it was God who gave the increase. It was therefore a festival most suitable for all the nations to join in, by way of acknowledging that Jehovah was the God of nature throughout the earth, however various might be the aspects of nature with which they were familiar. Besides, there can be little doubt that by the time of Zechariah, and probably long before, this feast had become a kind of symbol of the ingathering of the nations (John 4:35) " (Dr. Dods). Whilst the thousands neglect public worship, not a few argue against it, they say it is uncalled for and unnecessary. In reply to this, we state, where there is genuine religion:
1. Public worship is a natural development. The being we love most we crave an opportunity for extolling; we want that all shall know his merits. If we are really religious, we love God supremely, and is it not natural to declare our affection in the presence of our fellow men?
2. Public worship is a happy development. What delights the soul so much as to hear others praise the object we love the most? This at once gratifies the religious instinct and the social love. Every true worshipper in the great congregation can say it is a good thing to give praise—it is a happy thing.
3. Public worship is a beneficent development. There is nothing that tends so much to quicken and ennoble souls as worship, and nothing gives such a vital interest in one soul for another as public worship. In genuine public worship there is a close coming together of souls, an interblending of the deepest thoughts and the purest sympathies, a kind of spiritual amalgamation. "We should, therefore, not forsake the assembling of ourselves together."
II. ITS NEGLECT EXPOSES TO TERRIBLE CALAMITIES. "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." Two things are to be observed here.
1. The greatness of the punishment. "Upon them shall be no rain." Now, the absence of rain involves every temporal evil you can think of—famine, pestilence, loss of physical enjoyment, loss of health, loss of life.
2. The fitness of the punishment.
(1) To the offence. "The withholding of the rain," says Dr. Dods," was not only one of the ways by which idolatry and apostasy were punished under the theocracy, but it was the appropriate punishment of those who refused to acknowledge Jehovah as the Giver of the harvest. This suiting of punishment to offence is a marked characteristic of God's government, and should probably be more used in education than it is (e.g. by secluding for a time, from all intercourse with his companions, the boy who has told a lie, and so on). Dante has largely utilized the principle in his great poem. In his vision of the realms of punishment he saw tyrants immersed in blood; gluttons exposed in all their pampered softness to a sleety tempest of cold, discoloured, stinking bail; the proud bending forever under heavy burdens; schismatics, who have rent the Church, themselves cleft asunder; those who had pried into the future, and professed prophetic foresight, with faces reversed, unable to see their own way"
(2) To the offender. The idea of not having rain would not, perhaps, terrify the Egyptians, for they had the Nile, which supplied them with abundance of water. Hence a plague is threatened to them, and no word to them was more terrible than the word "plague." They had not forgotten the ten plagues inflicted on them in the time of Moses. It was a land of plagues. Thus God punishes. But mark, the punishment was to come because of the neglect of public worship, and the neglect of public worship is punished:
(a) Now; by the loss of the highest spiritual enjoyments.
(b) Hereafter; by the reproaching of conscience and the banishment from all good.—D.T.
Zechariah 14:20, Zechariah 14:21
The bright future of the world-the reign of holiness.
"In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses," etc. Looking at the passage as a portraiture of the future of the world, we are reminded that holiness will be its grand characteristic. There may be, and no doubt there will be, other things—great material and mental prosperity—but holiness will be its salient feature. The holiness will be universal.
I. IT WILL EMBRACE THE AFFAIRS OF COMMON LIFE. "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses." It was common amongst ancient nations to have bells on horses for use or ornament, or perhaps for both. It is said that in Alexander's funeral procession the horses had gold bells attached to their cheek straps. "Holiness unto the Lord," under the Law of Moses had been inscribed on the frontlet of the high priest, and nowhere else; now it was to be even on the bells of the horses, the commonest things of secular life. In this age no horses will be employed in wars and races, they will only be employed for right purposes and in a right way. The men who ride and drive them in state will be holy men, the men who use them in agriculture will be holy men. Horses, which for ages have been unrighteously treated and unrighteously used, in that day will be properly treated and properly employed.
II. IT WILL EMBRACE ALL DOMESTIC CONCERNS. "Every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts." The idea is that holiness will extend even to the minutest concerns of domestic life, the members of families will be religious. The very pots in which the priests cooked their food should be as sacred as the bowls that caught the victim's blood. Observe
(1) that the distinction between the sacred and secular is to be abolished; but
(2) not by separation from the world, nor by making all things secular, but by making all things holy, by carrying into all occupations the spirit and delight of God's presence. "'Holiness to the Lord' is not to he obliterated from the high priest's mitre, so that he might feel as little solemnized when putting on his mitre and entering the holiest of all, as if he were going into his stable to put the collar on his horse; but when he puts the collar on his horse and goes to his day's work or recreation, he is to be as truly and lovingly as one with God as when with incense and priestly garments he enters the holy of holies" (Dr. Dods).
III. IT WILL EMBRACE ALL RELIGIOUS CHARACTERS. "In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." "By 'Canaanite,'" says Dr. Henderson, "is meant 'merchant.' The Phoenicians who inhabited the northern part of Canaan were the most celebrated merchants of antiquity. The word may fairly be regarded as standing for mercenary men—men animated by the mercenary spirit." Such men are ever to be found in connection with religion. The old prophets bewailed this spirit. It was found in the earlier ages of the Christian Church. Men who considered "gain as godliness," the Canaanite or the merchant, do not necessarily belong to mercantile life, but to other avocations as well, and even to the priestly life. Perhaps the mercenary spirit is as rife in priests and ministers now as ever. But in the coming age there will be no more the Canaanite—the mercenary man—in the house of the Lord; all will be holy.
CONCLUSION. Hail, blessed age! May the chariot of time quicken its speed, and bring this blessed age to this world of depravity and sin!
Note: This closes our sketches on the prophecy of Zechariah. We confess that going through it seriatim we have found in various passages, expressions and allusions to which we were utterly unable to put any clear and intelligible interpretation. There is a haze more or less over the whole book, and our endeavour has been, wherever we have caught a glimpse of a great, practical truth, to bring it out and work it into the service of soul culture. Though we may have failed to give the true meaning to many passages, we know that we have not intentionally misinterpreted any utterance, or turned a phrase or a word to any theological or ecclesiastical predilection, if indeed any such we have.—D.T.