The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 16
|←Chap. XIV||The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah by
What Israel's Shepherd-King will be and do for his people
WHAT ISRAEL S SHEPHERD-KING WILL BE AND DO FOR HIS PEOPLE
Ask ye of Jehovah rain in the time of the latter rain, even of Jehovah that maketh lightnings ; and He will give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie ; and they have told false dreams, they comfort in vain : therefore they go their way like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd. Mine anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats : for Jehovah of hosts hath visited His flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as His goodly horse in the battle. From him shall come forth the corner-stone, from him the nail, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler together. And they shall be as mighty men, treading down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle ; and they shall fight, because Jehovah is with them ; and the riders on horses shall be confounded. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back, for I have mercy upon them ; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off ; for I am Jehovah their God, and I will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine ; yea, their children shall see it, and rejoice ; their heart shall be glad in Jehovah. And I will hiss for them, and gather them ; for I have redeemed them : and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will sow them among the peoples, and they shall remember Me in far countries ; and they shall live with their children ; and shall return. I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria ; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon ; and place shall not be found for them. And he will pass through the sea of affliction, and will smite the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall dry up : and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart. And I will strengthen them in Jehovah ; and they shall walk up and down in His name, saith Jehovah.
THE blessed and prosperous condition of restored and converted Israel under the care and leadership of their true Shepherd-King may be given as the summary of the chapter to which we have now come. The first verses are linked on, and are a continuation of the promises contained in the last section (vers. 711) of the 9th chapter.
Of the abundance of spiritual blessings and glory which shall then dwell in the land, to repeat a few sentences from my notes on chap. ix. 1 9 " Material prosperity and temporal abundance will, as is not the case in the present dispensa tion, be the outward sign and accompaniment." " Corn," exclaims the prophet at the conclusion of that chapter, " shall make the young men cheerful (or, literally, grow or increase ), and new wine the maids (or virgins )."
But for Palestine to become once again, yea, even more
than before, a land " flowing with milk and honey," after its
many centuries of barrenness and desolation, the fertilising
! showers are essential ; and though this is promised to
! them, they are yet exhorted to " ask " for it, even as in
i Ezek. xxxvi., where, after promising, among many other
i great things, that " this land which was desolate shall
I become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and deso-
| late and ruined cities shall become fenced and inhabited,"
we read : " Thus saith the Lord God, yet for this will I be
inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them " *
for the promises of God, whether in relation to temporal
or spiritual blessings, are only turned into experience by
the faith and prayers of His people.
1 Ezek. xxxvi. 37.
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But it is perhaps necessary to repeat and emphasise that it is literal rain which is meant here, in the first instance, in which connection it is important to observe that Israel was taught to regard the giving or withholding of this great temporal blessing, upon which the prosperity of the land and the life of man and beast are dependent, as entirely in the hand of God. "Are there any among the vanities of tJie heathen that can cause rain ? " exclaimed the prophet Jeremiah, " or can the heavens (of themselves] give showers ? art not Thou He, O Jehovah our God ? there fore we will wait upon TJice : for Thou hast made all these things." *
In these modern times men have grown wiser, and no longer recognise or acknowledge God in what to them is entirely due to " natural causes " ; but such wisdom is based on a science only falsely so called, and is foolishness in the eyes of those who know that there is a living, personal God, the Creator and Upholder of all things, who, though He in His infinite power and wisdom appointed certain " laws " to govern His creation, is Himself all the time behind and above these laws, to guide and control ; and does, either by using " natural means " which are known to us, or apart from them, interfere in the affairs of men and nations with a view to deliver, or instruct, or correct. To Israel, rain in due season, so that the land should yield her increase, was promised as the direct reward of national obedience.
" And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments whidi I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your Jieart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil." 2
And it is a notorious fact that the withholding of the showers and the scarcity of the rainfall whatever the secondary causes by which it may be accounted for was one of the chief factors in the predicted desolation of
1 Jer.-xiv. 22. ~ Deut. xi. 13-15 ; Lev. xxvi. 3, 4 ; Deut. xxviii. I-I2.
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Palestine, during the many centuries that the people has been banished from it on account of apostasy.
But to return to our passage. It is especially " the latter rain " which in Palestine is so important as strengthen ing and maturing the crops, that they are here exhorted to ask of the Lord, so that He may graciously complete "what He had begun by the former rain, filling the ears before the harvest." l
But though the primary reference is to literal showers, " on which the successful cultivation of the fruits of the ground depends," I agree with the German Bible scholar who says that the exhortation to ask for rain " only serves Ifto individualise the prayer for the bestowal of the blessings of God, in order to sustain both temporal and spiritual life."
Indeed, there is a blending of temporal and spiritual blessings in the promise in the 9th and roth chapters, Sjithe outward and visible being the types and symbols of n ithe spiritual and eternal. When, on coming out of Egypt,
fld | l There are four words in the Hebrew Bible for rain, three of which occur in u ithis 1st verse of our chapter.
(l) rnv, yorch (also rniD, moreA), which stands for the " first " or "former," or i very early rain. ith I (2) np, matar, the ordinary word for " rain" during the rainy season.
(3) D^j, geshem, which stands for heavy, or torrential rain.
(4) tPip^D, mafqosh, " the latter rain."
The variations of sunshine and rain, which in England extend throughout the year, are in Palestine confined chiefly to the latter part of autumn and winter.
\lt The autumnal, or "early" rain, commences in October (in the Lebanon about
,, a month earlier) and continues to November, with long spells of beautiful weather the whole fall being very small. It prepares the soil for ploughing
- and sowing. November to February inclusive is the rainy season, the storms
diff and showers often being extremely heavy ; but during these months also there
.ft. inay be many days at a time of fine weather.
In March and April is the time of the latter rain. The period of sowing
- i varies according to situation from the end of October right into December
(barley is not, as a rule, sown till January or February). Harvest-time also
tig differs according to situation from early in May, or even April (in the low-lying parts), to June and even July, as we have ourselves witnessed on the higher slopes of the Lebanon. From May to the end of September is the very dry and
fflS | hot season. The almost uninterruptedly cloudless and burning sun dries up all
moisture, and, as the heat increases the grass withers, the flower fades, the bushes and shrubs take on a hard grey look, the soil becomes dust, and many parts of the country assume the aspect of parched and barren deserts.
340 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
Israel was brought into covenant relationship with God, we read, " Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain ; Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance when it was weary" 1
And when Jehovah shall have mercy upon Zion again, and bring back His people after the long centuries of their " weary " wanderings, the light of His blessed countenance shall be as " life " to them, " and His favour as a cloud of the latter rain " 2 yea, in response to the spirit of grace and of supplication which shall then be created in them, God says, " / will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and streams (or floods } upon the dry ground ; I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring. " s
Viewed as a symbol of spiritual gifts and blessings, there is a message also for you and me in this ancient exhortation, dear reader. Indeed, 1 look upon this passage as one of the most beautiful scriptures in the Old Testa ment in reference to prayer, and God s manner of answering.
I. " Ask ye of Jehovah, . . . and Jehovah shall give" which reminds us of the word of our Lord Jesus : " Ask, and ye shall receive," for the God of Israel is a God who does answer prayer. Sometimes the answer may be brought about by apparently natural causes, but all the same it is " Jehovah that maketh lightnings," 4 and commandeth the clouds to discharge their fertilising showers.
II. "Ask ye of Jehovah RAIN, . . . and He shall give them showers of rain, D5?J "i?p, tritar geshem " literally, " rain of plenty, or pouring rain " ; for our God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, and this both in relation to temporal and spiritual things.
III. "And He will give to every one grass in the field? \ for He individualises His gifts and blessings, and not one!; is left out of His gracious and bountiful provision and careJ
But one great condition of effectual prayer is that our; hearts and expectations be set wholly upon God. " Hear
1 Ps. Ixix. 9. - Prov. xvi. 15.
- Isa. xliv. 3.
4 The lightnings are spoken of as the harbingers of rain ; see also Jer. x. 13, " He maketh lightnings for the rain," which is a verbal repetition of Ps. cxxxv. 7
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O My people, and I will testify unto thee : O Israel, if thou
- } wouldest hearken unto Me ; there shall no strange god be
in thee ; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt : open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" x
It was Israel s divided heart, the turning away from the true and living God to follow after the vanities of the Gentiles, which was the cause of Israel s calamities and ruin in the past. This is what the prophet reminds them of in the 2nd verse : " For the idols ( teraphim ) have spoken vanity, and the diviners fiave seen a lie ; they have told false dreams (or, and dreams speak vanity ), they comfort in vain : therefore they went their way (or wandered ) like sheep, they are oppressed (or afflicted ), because there was no shepherd
It is the teraphim, or "speaking" oracles of the heathen, and their consulters, or diviners, that the prophet specially speaks of in this verse.
" Apart from our passage there are only seven other scriptures in the Hebrew Bible where the teraphim are introduced ; but these suffice to show that they were not only idols, the use of which is classed by God with witch craft, stubbornness, and iniquity, 2 but that they were a peculiar kind of idols, namely, those used for oracular responses. The first mention of the teraphim is in connec tion with Jacob s flight from Laban, in Gen. xxx. ; and in the light of the other passages there seems probability in the explanation of Aben Ezra that Rachel stole them in order that her father might not discover the direction of their flight by means of these oracles. 3
" The second place where we find them is in that strange narrative about the Ephraimite Micah, and the Danite expedition to Laish, in Judg. xvii. and xviii., where we get a sad and characteristic glimpse of the condition of some among the tribes in those days, when there was no
1 Ps. Ixxxi. 8-10. - i Sam. xv. 23.
3 See Aben Ezra in loc. Gesenius traces "teraphim" to the unused root " taraph," which in the Syriac has the significance, " to inquire."
342 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
king in Israel, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. This narrative supplies an illustration of the fact that not only is man incapable of himself to find God, but that, left to himself, he is incapable of retaining the knowledge of God in its original purity even when once divinely communicated ; and that even the things revealed, apart from the continued teaching of God s Spirit, are liable to become corrupted and distorted in his mind. Here we have a sad instance of a certain knowledge of Jehovah mixed up with the worship of a graven image and a molten image, which were an abomination in His sight, and the illegitimate use of the divinely instituted ephod, which was only to be borne by the high priest, joined together with the pagan teraphim. But the point to be noted is that here also these teraphim were used for oracular con sultations, for it was of them that the apostate Levite of Bethlehem asked for counsel for the idolatrous Danites. 1 In Ezek. xxi. 2 1 we find the exact antithesis to David s consulting the ephod, in the pagan king of Babylon con sulting with images (literally, teraphim ), in reference to his projected invasion of Palestine. 2
" Now it is clear that in olden times, whenever by apostasy and disobedience fellowship with Jehovah was interrupted, and when in consequence there was no revela tion from Him, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets, Israel turned to the pagan teraphim, or, like poor Saul, they sought unto such as had familiar spirits and wizards that peep and mutter.
" A parallelism, in its spiritual significance, is to be found in Christendon. What the ephod or the prophet was in olden times, Holy Scripture is now. It is even a more sure word than voices from heaven, or answers by
1 Judg. xviii. 5, 6.
2 The only other instances where teraphim are mentioned are I Sam. xix. 13-16, from which we gather, first, the sad fact that idolatry was practised by Michal, the daughter of Saul ; and, secondly, that the teraphim must have had some resemblance to the human form, since the idol could be mistaken for the body of David. There were no doubt larger ones in the temples, and smaller ones of all sizes, and for idolatrous purposes, in the houses.
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Urim and Thummim. The Scriptures, first spoken by holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, are now the oracles of Godl themselves speaking with voices which carry their own conviction to hearts honestly seeking for truth, and ever confirming themselves in the world s history and in the Christian s experience ; but men in the present day, even in Christendom, stumbling at the supernatural, as if there could be a revelation of the Infinite and Everlasting One without such an element in them, turn away from these oracles often on the flimsiest grounds, and instead are giving heed on the one hand to the speculations of a science falsely so called, and on the other hand to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and are thus in a measure supplying an illustration of the solemn words of the apostle, that if men receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God shall for this cause send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie. a
" For of the modern Christian teraphim it is as true as of the ancient pagan ones, that they speak vanityl or wickedness ; and as for their diviners/ or false prophets representing them, they see a lie, and tell false dreams, they comfort in vain ; for it is a comfort not well founded, and will not stand the test of death, or of a judg ment to come." 2
But to return to our passage : " Therefore " the prophet continues, because they followed lying oracles, and they who should have strengthened them in God, and in His truth, told them their own false dreams, and comforted them with vain expectations " tliey went their way (or 1 wandered ) 3 like sheep, they are afflicted (or oppressed ), because there is no shepherd"
The primary reference is very probably to their wander ing and oppression in the Babylonian Captivity, but the picture is true also of the much longer exile and greater
1 2 Thess. ii. n, 12.
2 Quoted from The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew.
3 lypj, nas u. The metaphor of the verb is taken from the pulling up the stakes of a tent or sheep-fold, a breaking up which involves an idea of wandering, and in this connection of wandering into captivity.
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affliction which commenced with the destruction of the second Temple.
This is how our Lord Jesus beheld Israel s multitudes, and " was moved with compassion on them, 1 because they were distressed (or plagued, or harassed ) and scattered," i.e., they were troubled, neglected, uncared for.
Their outward condition, as they followed Him about from place to place, a disorganised mass, hungry and weary, was pitiable enough, but this was but a faint picture of their ? iritual condition, of the wretchedness of their souls, in insequence of the misguidance and tyranny of their false leaders.
And there in Matt, ix., even as in this passage in Zech- ariah, which may have been in our Lord s mind at the time, the saddest touch in the gloomy picture of Israel s distressed and helpless condition is contained in the words, " because there is no shepherd" or, " as sheep having no shepherd" i.e., no one to guide, or control, or care for them. There were indeed in the time before the Captivity, as later in our Lord s time, many who called themselves " shepherds," but they were false, deceiving shepherds, who devoured the flock, and sought only to feed themselves.
But to proceed to the 3rd verse.
Because their appointed shepherds have proved false, Jehovah Himself, in the Person of the Messiah (as we shall see from the 4th verse), is going to act the part of the Good Shepherd to them. And first He will show His care for His people by delivering them from their false shepherds. " Mine anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats" It is not necessary to suppose, with Hengstenberg, Keil, Koehler, etc., that by these false shepherds and he-goats, the " heathen governors and tyrants " who ruled over them in captivity, are meant. It is much more likely that the prophet has such scriptures from the " former prophets," as Jer. xxiii. and Ezek. xxxiv., in his mind, where the false shepherds are their own faith less princes, priests, and prophets in short, those in their 1 Matt. ix. 36, R.V.
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own nation who should have led them, but only misled them ; and of whom, alas ! there has been no lack at any time or period in Jewish history.
DHtfiy, atudim " he-goats," though it does sometimes (as in Isa. xiv. 9) signify rulers or princes, must not here be confounded with " the shepherds," but must be viewed in the light of Ezek. xxxiv., where, after judgments are announced against the false shepherds (or rulers), we read, " And as for you, O My flock, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, as well (as between} the rams and the he-goats (atudim} " 1 where the latter stand for the rich and strong ones among the people themselves who oppressed the humble and the poor.
And not only will He deliver them from the false shepherds, the best part of the promise is contained in the second half of the verse, " For Jehovah of Jwsts hath visited (or visits } His flock, the house of Judah, and makes them as His goodly horse in the war (or battle )." The perfect tense of paqad, " to visit," is used here also pro phetically of what God has resolved to do and will assuredly carry out. And when He visits His flock for good, and assumes His shepherd-care of them, they will be no more like distressed and scattered sheep, a prey to any wild beast, but they shall be strong in Jehovah and in the power of His might. He shall make them (or " set them ") " as His goodly horse," or, as the phrase may be rendered, "the horse of His Majesty" that is, the horse fit and equipped for the God of Majesty to ride forth upon " in battle," to execute His judgments upon the nations.
We now come to the 4th verse of the roth chapter, which I regard as one of the richest Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. In keeping with Zechariah s style, which I have so often had occasion to point out in my notes on the earlier chapters, we have in this short verse not only allusions, but a terse summary of a number of utterances by the "former prophets" in reference to the character and mission of Israel s promised Redeemer. 1 Ezek. xxxiv. 17.
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" From him the corner (or corner-stone ), from him the nail (or peg }, from him the battle bow, yea, from him shall proceed every ruler together (or, he that will exercise all rule )." !
1 Many different interpretations of this verse have been given by commentators, who for the most part ignore any reference to the Messiah. Dr. Wright admits that "the corner" means the corner-stone, and that in Isa. xxviii. 16 this title, with others, is used in reference to the Messiah (p. 272) : and so evidently the term "nail," which is taken from Isa. xxii. ; but a few pages further on he blames Dr. Pusey, Bishop Wordsworth, and others for explaining these terms of the Messiah (which the Jewish Targum also does), and says that " such explana tion cannot be defended on any rational principles of exegesis." But if in those passages in Isaiah (which there is every reason to believe were known to Zechariah, and to which he very probably alludes) these titles refer to the Messiah, what " rational " grounds are there for saying that they do not refer to the Messiah in this passage in Zechariah ?
Hengstenberg, who translates, " Out of him the corner-stone, out of him the peg, out of him the war-bow, out of him will every ruler come forth together," explains in a general way as follows : " Having attained perfect freedom by the help of the Lord, who gives success to their arms, they will now receive rulers and officers from among themselves, and a military force of their own ; and whereas they formerly were a prey to strange conquerors, they will now terrify even foreign nations."
Keil, who translates the same as Hengstenberg, explains phinnah, the "corner," as "a suitable figure for the firm stately foundation which Judah is to receive." Yathed, "nail" or "plug," is a suitable figure for the supports or upholders of the whole political constitution. The war-bow stands for weapons of war and the military power ; and noges (which I have rendered ruler in the absolute sense), according to him (as well as Hengstenberg), " has the subordinate idea of oppressor or despotic ruler in this passage also ; but the idea of harshness (which is implied in the title) refers not to the covenant nation, but to its enemies." Kliefoth, explaining each word on the principle of a part of the whole, interprets "the corner-stone" to indicate the walls or fortifications; the "tent peg," to denote the camp; "the battle bow," warlike weapons of offence in general. All these are, according to him, included in the last phrase, Khol noges yachdav ) which he translates, "All which rules."
Lange maintains that the four terms are expressions denoting the leaders of the people two of them indicating the leaders required for war, and the other two the leaders in the days of peace. According to him, the "corner-stone denotes the fixed and established government; the "tent peg," those who took charge of travel; while the "battle bow " is supposed to indicate the regular leaders on the battlefield; and the noges, which he renders "assaulter" or " oppressor," the man who breaks through the hostile line of battle. But the explanation is fanciful, as are others which may be quoted.
On the rendering of the last clause see the note on p. 355.
I must add that in my notes on this verse I have embodied some paragraphs from the chapter, "Four Precious Titles of the Messiah," in my book, Rays of Messiah s Glory, which is out of print.
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" From him," must be understood of Judah the sense being equivalent to " out of himself? with a probable allusion to Deut. xviii. 15-19, where the promised great prophet like unto Moses, but who should yet be greater than Moses, is spoken of as coming forth "from the midst of thee, of thy brethren"; and Jer. xxx. 25, where we read: "And their Prince (literally, their glorious one ) shall be of themselves, and their ruler shall proceed from the midst of them" It is partly in explanation how, and through whom, the promise in the 3rd verse shall be fulfilled, namely, that when Jehovah visits " the house of Judah " they shall suddenly be transformed from a flock of scattered, troubled sheep, into His stately irresistible war-horse.
It is also in harmony with the whole testimony of prophetic scripture that the family of David, of the tribe of Judah, should be the human stock, and Bethlehem Ephratha in the portion of Judah, the place on earth where He should come forth " that is, to be Ruler in Israel" though we are at the same time reminded that, according to His Divine nature, " His goings forth are from of old from the days of eternity," as the passage in Mic. v. 2 reads literally.
I. The Corner-stone
Out of Judah then shall come forth " the corner " (H3Q, pliinnah, the corner-stone}. The allusion is doubtless to Isa. xxviii. 1 6, where, contrasting the sure refuge which He Himself provides for His people with the refuges of lies which men make for themselves, which shall be swept away by the hailstorms of His judgments, the Lord says, " Behold, I lay in Z ion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation ( a foundation well founded } ; he that believeth shall not make haste " a scripture which has always been regarded as Messianic by both Jews and Christians. The Christian cannot also forget the fact that in the New Testament the figure of the foundation stone, and head-stone of the corner, is applied to our Lord Jesus
348 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
both by Himself and by the apostles. 1 But the question is, What is implied in it? Writing as I do here, primarily for Christians, and in the full light which the New Testa ment revelation casts upon the ancient prophecies in the Old Testament, I would say that the first and most obvious truth which the Spirit of God would have us learn from this figure is that the Messiah is the sure foundation of " the House of God, which is the Church of the living God."
For the safety and stability of a building almost every thing depends on the foundation. The plan and material may be ever so perfect ; the ornamentation ever so elaborate and beautiful but all is of no avail if the foundation be sand, for it cannot abide the storm or flood. On the other hand, the materials of a building may be of more humble quality, the ornamentation may be less elaborate or plain ; but if the foundation be sound, the rain may descend, the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon that house, it will not fall, for it is built upon a rock. Now the great God, the Divine Architect of the universe, has purposed within Himself from all eternity to raise out of frail, im perfect, human materials a glorious Temple for His own eternal habitation through the Spirit, which, when completed, shall show forth, even more than the material temple of the universe, to principalities and powers the infinite power and manifold wisdom of God ; and in order to ensure its eternal safety He has bestowed great care on the foundation. He Himself has laid it : " Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation," for it is a task which could not be entrusted to, or accom plished by, men or angels.
And the " tried " and " precious " corner-stone which He laid as the basis of this mystical structure is His own Son, who is " perfected for evermore," against whom even the gates of hell shall not prevail.
This accounts for the continuance and immovableness of the Church of Christ, in spite of the many storms it has had to brave, and the insidious attacks from enemies and false friends. Let the storm rage ; let infidelity assail ; let
1 Matt. xxi. 42 ; Acts iv. 1 1 ; I Pet. ii. 4-8.
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men and devils do their utmost. Has it not been foretold in advance that the same precious foundation stone upon which millions would build unto their eternal safety, would also become a stone of stumbling and rock of offence against which many would stumble, and fall, and be broken to pieces ? l
But " the foundation of God remains sure," and those whose feet are firmly planted on it have no occasion to fear. Therefore the prophet adds : " He that believetk shall not make haste " that is, to flee in alarm at the threatened judgments, in the day when God ariseth to shake terribly this earth, but shall abide safe on the unshakeable Rock of Ages and Eternal Refuge.
But, secondly, the corner-stone served not only as a foundation, but, to quote a dictionary definition, it is " that stone which unites the two walls at the corner." It is a point of much interest that the original foundation stone of Solomon s Temple was actually discovered as one of the early results of the exploration carried on by the Palestine Exploration Fund. I take the following from a small work by one of its agents, which gives the account of this discovery :
" Among the ancient Jews the foundation corner-stone of their sanctuary on Moriah was regarded as the emblem of moral and spiritual truths. // had two functions to perform : first, like the other foundation stones, it was a support for the masonry above ; but it had also to face both ways, and was thus a bond of union between two walls. . . .
" The engineers, in order to ascertain the dimensions of this foundation stone, worked round it, and report that it is three feet eight inches high and fourteen feet in length. At the angle it is let down into the rock to a depth of fourteen inches ; but, as the rock rises towards the north, the depth of four feet north of the angle is increased by thirty-two inches, while the northern end seems entirely embedded in the rock. The block is further described as squared and polished, with a finely dressed face.
1 Isa. viii. 14, 15 ; Matt. xxi. 42-44.
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" It does not appear to have any marginal draft at the bottom, and indeed this was not necessary, as the lower part, being sunk in the rock, would always be hidden from view ; but the absence of the lower draft indicates that the block was dressed in the quarry in a somewhat peculiar style, with a view to its being the foundation corner-stone. The draft on the upper margin of the stone is four inches wide. Fixed in its abiding position 3000 years ago, it still stands sure and steadfast, a fitting emblem of the Rock of Ages, that cannot be removed, but abideth fast for ever." l
And in this respect also the corner-stone is a fit emblem of our Lord Jesus Christ. " For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us ; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordi nances ; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace" 2 In spite of mutual prejudice and the otherwise impassable legal and ceremonial gulf that separated the Jew from the Gentile, Christ is the angle at which they both meet to be united as one building, or, even more closely, as the members of one body. This indeed is the connection in which Paul speaks of Christ under this figure in that great scripture from which I have already quoted.
After reminding the Ephesian believers how that formerly they were " Gentiles in the flesh, called uncircum- cision by that which is called circumcision in the flesh made by hands, . . . without Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world," he proceeds to say :
" But now, in Christ Jesus, ye ivho sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of CJirist. . . . Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God ; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ
1 Recent Discoveries in the Temple Hill of Jerusalem, by J. King, M.A.
2 Eph. ii. 14, 15.
THE SHEPHERD-KING 351
Himself being the chief corner-stone ; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God througJi the Spirit? 1
I must not tarry here to point out the difference between the " corner-stone " and the " head-stone of the corner," to which there are also many allusions in the Hebrew Scriptures, and of the important truths which are set forth under the figures in reference to Israel s past and future attitude to their Messiah, having elsewhere fully entered into these subjects." 2
I proceed therefore to the second designation of the Messiah in this passage.
II. The Nail in the Sure Place
The word 1JV, yathed, translated here " nail " (rendered in the Septuagint Trao-o-aXo?), is used first of a tent-pin, or stake, which is driven into the ground and to which the tent is fastened ; 3 and, secondly, of the strong peg inside the Oriental tent, or which is built into the wall of the Eastern building, on which is hung most of its valuable furniture. 4
The primary allusion is to Isa. xxii., where we read : " A nd tJie key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder, and he shall open and none shall shut ; and he shall shut and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place ; and he shall be for a throne of glory to his fathers house. And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father s house, the offspring and the issue, every small vessel, from the vessel of cups even to all the vessels of flagons." 5
Now this prophecy in Isaiah, though uttered primarily of a son of David namely, Eliakim merges into the Son
1 Eph. ii. 19-22.
2 See "The Conclusion of the Hallel, a Prophetic Drama of the End of the Age," in The Ancient Scriptures and the Modern Jew.
3 Ex. xxvii. 19, xxxv. 18 ; Isa. xxii. 22, 23.
4 Ezek. xv. 3.
6 Isa. xxii. 22-24 (R.V.).
352 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
of David, the Messiah, in whom all the promises given to the Davidic house finally centre and are being fulfilled. It is He who is " the glorious throne to His Father s house," the true heir and perpetuator of the throne of His father David, and of His Kingdom, "to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteousness from henceforth, even for ever," 1 and who, as we have seen in the exposition of chap, vi., " shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne." Anyhow, to us it is not without significance that the risen Christ in His message through His servant John to the Church in Philadelphia, in allusion to the words addressed to Eliakim, claims to be the one who is in possession of the key of the house of David " These things, saith He that is holy, He that is true, He tJiat hath the key of David, He that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth." z
The reference in Isa. xxii., and in our passage in Zechariah which is based upon it, is not to the " nail," or pin, or stake, to which the ropes of the tent are fastened, but to the strong peg inside the tent, or built into the wall of the house.
(a) The " nail," or peg, when thus fastened in a sure place, was used to hang burdens upon. This we see from Isa. xxii. 25, where, speaking of the overthrow of the unfaithful Shebna, the treasurer of the king s house, who thought himself quite safe in his position, as a nail in a sure place, the Lord says, " And the burden upon it " (Nfrsn, hammassa " the heavy weight," used here figuratively of the weight of office and responsibility as governor of the king s house) " shall be cut off."
In the light of this fact we easily perceive the applica bility and preciousness of this figure as applied to the Messiah. He is not only the Foundation of the mystical temple, and the uniting " Corner-stone " in whom all believers, either Jew or Gentile, are made one, but to those inside the spiritual house He is the Nail in a sure place, upon whom they may hang their " burdens." Ah, how many
1 Isa. ix. 7. 2 Rev. iii. 7.
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- here be among God s people who know Christ as the
Foundation of their hopes for eternity, but little as their Burden-bearer, " who bears their grief and carries their sorrows " ! Cast thy burden upon the Lord, O Christian, vhatever it may be, " and He will sustain thee."
() But, secondly, the chief purpose of the nail, or peg astened in a sure place, is, that upon it may hang all the rtory of the house, " all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups (or goblets ) even to all the vessels of iagons." A great portion of the wealth of the ancient Orientals (and the same is still true in measure) consisted in gold and silver vessels and in changes of raiment. These, as well as shields, swords, and suits of armour taken n battle, they were wont, with Eastern ostentation, to hang )n the " pegs " in their tents or houses for the admiration of ill who entered.
And this, to pass from the figure to the great truth it s meant to represent, is what God expects us to do with Christ. When it is said, " They shall hang upon Him all he glory of His Father s house," it means that Israel shall et render to Him that honour and glory, that joyful .llegiance and willing consecration of themselves and their >ossessions, to which He is entitled as the true heir of the Davidic " house," and Lord of the theocratic kingdom. \nd it is our privilege also even now, during the period of flis rejection, to " hang upon Him," that is, consecrate to iim and His service all that which we may regard as " our
- lory." Nor is there any one, even the least and the
weakest of His redeemed people, who can say that he has lothing which he can dedicate to Him, for that which is nost precious in His sight is a loving, confiding heart and .n adoring spirit. But next to, and together with, the ffering of ourselves, we are to " hang upon Him " whatever lossessions or gifts or talents which He may have ntrusted to us. And it is precious and beautiful to note hat there is a place on the peg for " the cup or goblet " as /ell as for the " flagon " : and " the vessel of small quantity," /hen fully consecrated to the Master s use, is of greater use, 23
354 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
and brings more " glory " to Him, than the " vessel of large quantity " when not so fully surrendered. And as with our persons, so with our gifts. The " small offerings " from those who have but little, and to whom the giving implies real sacrifice for His blessed Name s sake, are at least equally if not more precious in His sight than the " large offerings " from those who have much. Above all, it is the motive which Jehovah, "by whom actions are weighed" (not counted or measured), takes into account.
III. The Battle Bow
It is generally agreed that every one of the four terms used in this verse (phinnah, " corner " ; yathed, " nail " ; qesheth milchamah, " battle bow " ; and noges, " ruler " or " exactor ") are all used metaphorically, and denote persons, or, as I verily believe, one Person, who Himself fulfils these different functions. The last two terms bring before us an aspect of the Messiah s character which will be manifest at His Second Coming. Then He will be the " Battle bow " the mighty and skilful Archer, who shall send forth His " sharp arrows " in the heart of the king s enemies, " whereby the people shall be made to fall under Him." *
This is an aspect of Christ s character on which men do not like to dwell ; but let it not be forgotten that the same prophet, Isaiah, who pictures Him in the 5 3rd chapter as the suffering Lamb of God, who " as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, openeth not His mouth," describes Him in the 63rd chapter as clothed in majesty, marching forth in the greatness of His strength to take vengeance on the nations : " Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in tJie winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the peoples there was no man with Me : yea, I trod them, in Mine anger, and trampled them in My fury ; and their lifeblood is sprinkled upon My garments, and I have stained all My raiment " 2 - an Old Testament vision which will be fulfilled at " the revelation
1 Ps. xlv. 5. - Isa. Ixiii. 2-4 (R.V.).
THE SHEPHERD-KING 355
of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of His power, in flaming fire, rendering vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus, . . . when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believe." l
" A nd I saw the heaven opened ; and behold, a "white horse, and He that sat thereon, called Faithful and True ; and in righteousness He doth judge and make war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems ; and He hath a name written, which no one knoweth but He Himself. And He is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood : and His name is called The Word of God. A nd the armies which are in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of His mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, ttiat with it He should smite the nations : and He shall rule them with a rod of iron : and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God. And He hath on His garment and on His thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." 2
IV. The Autocratic Ruler, or " Exactor"
It is not possible to speak with absolute certainty of the exact meaning of the last clause in the verse which we are considering, as the construction of the sentence in the original is unusual and peculiar, and has led to conflicting translations and interpretations. In rendering the words Virp tPJia 72, khol noges yachdav " every ruler together," or, " he that will exercise all rule," I am guided more by the context and obvious sense than by strict principles of
Hebrew grammar. 3 It seems to me that, as the first terms
1 2 Thess. i. 7-10 (R.V.). 2 Rev. xix. 11-16 (R.V.).
3 It is capable also of the following renderings, for which some have con tended : " Out of him (Judah) shall come (or go ) forth every exactor (in the sense of absolute ruler) together." But, even if this be the most correct reading, it would still apply to the Messiah, inasmuch as He embraces in Himself a variety of different functions. Thus, for instance, He is represented by the prophets as being "a Priest upon His throne" (Zech. vi.), and not only as
356 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
in this verse undoubtedly refer to the Messiah in allusion to utterances about His person and mission by the " former prophets," so must this last clause also. Certain it is that the Messiah at His Second Coming shall gather up in Himself all authority and rule. He shall be then not only the Nasi the chosen Prince from among the people ; not only the Moshel, God s Viceroy or Deputy Ruler on the earth ; not only a constitutional King, who reigns but does not rule but He shall be the Noges, the absolute Ruler, or " Exactor " the most absolute and autocratic King the world has yet seen.
In Messiah s reign on the earth God s sovereignty will be fully manifested, but it is blessed to remember that it will be sovereignty exercised by One who is not only " glorious in holiness," infinite in wisdom and power, but by Him who is also infinite in compassion, and whose very nature is love. His absolute autocratic rule, therefore, though a terror to the ungodly, is a thought full of comfort to the righteous, for it will mean righteousness, peace and joy to this long-afflicted earth, and the very consummation of blessedness to His own people. But there is truth in
Israel s King, but as the Prince (Ezek. xxxvii. 24, 25). The Messiah was to be like unto Moses (Deut. xviii. 15), who, in himself, united the different offices of prophet, priest, and king ; so that the phrase is quite applicable to Him on that account. Just as His atoning death can be spoken of in the plural (see Hebrew of Isa. liii. 9), on account of the various sacrifices receiving their fulfilment in His own body, which He offered once and for all so, in a sense, He is many also in His reign, because all authority will meet in Him as the Centre. Aaron Pick, formerly Hebrew Professor at the University of Prague, in his Literal Translation of the Twelve Minor Prophets, renders our text thus : " From Him the Corner, from Him the Nail, from Him the Battle Bow, yea, from Him shall come forth He that conquereth all together."
The last sentence may also be understood as gathering up the ideas in the first three terms, Pkinnah, Yathed, and Qesheth milchamah. From him (Judah) the Corner, from him the Nail, from him the Battle Bow ; yea, from him shall proceed He who shall unite in Himself, not only all that is implied in these three terms, but every power and authority "together." Yet another rendering, but in the sense just suggested, is given by George Adam Smith in his Book of the Twelve Prophets, namely, "From him the Corner-stone, from him the Stay (or Tent-pin ), from him the War-bow, from him the Oppressor shall go forth together." That B Ji:, noges, is here used in a good sense, is pretty generally admitted by lexicographers and commentators. Hitzig renders it " Feldhe rr " (commander). The cognate word in Ethiopic, Negus, signifies king.
THE SHEPHERD-KING 357
the suggestion that the title noges (absolute ruler or " exactor ") is applied here to Israel s ideal king or absolute ruler in His relation, not to His own people, but to their and His enemies, from whom He will " exact submission and allegiance with a rod of iron," and who will make down trodden Israel to rule over those who have long oppressed and ruled over them.
" Now therefore be wise, O ye kings : Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve Jehovah with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish in the
When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him"
In the 5th verse the line of thought unfolded in the first three verses of this chapter is resumed, and the change which will come over the people after Jehovah of hosts, in the person of the Messiah, shall " visit His flock, the house of Judah " (ver. 3), is now fully described.
Instead of being like a troubled and helpless flock of sheep (ver. 2), they shall suddenly be transformed into His " goodly horse " (or " the horse of His Majesty ") in battle, and instead of being " afflicted " and at the mercy of their adversaries, they shall be as " mighty men " treading upon
- their enemies. The " mire of the streets " is used here as
a figure of their enemies, and is parallel to chap. ix. 15, where it is said, " they shall trample on the sling stones " (which is the figure of contempt used there to describe their adversaries), while they themselves are likened to the abhnei nezer, "stones of a crown" (or jewels set in a con secrated crown), lifted on high over the land. The figure is found elsewhere in the prophetic Scriptures. Thus Micah says, " Mine eyes shall behold her ( mine enemy ) ; now shall she be trodden down (or, a treading down ), as the mire of the street " ; * but Zechariah, by a yet bolder
1 Mic. vii. IO.
358 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
image, " pictures those trampled upon as what they had become the mire of the streets as worthless, as foul." l But not in their own strength shall they prevail, they shall | be and " fight " as heroes, " because Jehovah is with them" the source and secret of their strength therefore, " the riders upon horses " the enemies cavalry, the most formid able arm of the hostile forces shall be put to shame, or j. confounded.
Yes, Israel in that day shall experience the truth of j
the words of their sweet Psalmist :
" Some trust in chariots and some in horses ; But we will make mention of the Name of Jehovah our \
They are bowed down and fallen ; But we are risen up and stand upright."
And the great deliverance which Jehovah shall then accomplish for Israel will embrace the entire nation, which in Zechariah s prophecies are regarded as no longer divided into two separate kingdoms, but as one people, with a common and inseparable destiny. " And I will strengthen the house of Judah ; and I will save the house of Joseph ; and \ I will bring them again, and make them dwell (or settle \ them ) / for I have mercy upon them, and they shall be as \ though I had not cast them off ; for I am Jehovah their God, i and I will hear them"
In keeping with Zechariah s very terse style, and the summaries which we find sometimes in single words and expressions, both in the first and second parts of his book, of utterances by the " former prophets," we have here embodied in the one word DTiUKTii (which the Authorised Version has translated, " I will bring them again to place them "), the promise uttered fully by Jeremiah, namely : " / will bring them again into this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely" 2 for the most satisfactory grammatical explanation of the Hebrew word is that it is a blending of two verbs which have the respective meanings of " I will
1 Pusey. 2 Jer. xxxii. 37.
THE SHEPHERD-KING 359
make them dwell," and " I will bring them back " both ideas, as already the Jewish commentator Kimchi points out, being expressed in the one word, namely, " He will cause them to return to their own land, and will cause them to dwell there in peace and security."
And He will do all this strengthen, save, restore, and establish them, because " He shall have mercy upon them" for, " The goodness and loving-kindness of God, and not any merit of theirs, is the first and principal cause" of Israel s whole salvation and grace, and the words of the inspired Psalmist : " They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them " ; but
" Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy
countenance, Because Thou hadst a favour unto them "
will be true of the future restoration, as it was true of their original possession of the land !
And His mercy and loving-kindness will blot out all the past of sin and sorrow. " And they shall be," He says, " as though I had not cast them off" (or, literally, " as though I had not loathed them," the word being expressive of God s strong abhorrence of sin, and of sinners when they become wedded to it) which reminds us of the greater promise of the new covenant : " / will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more " ; * and of the promise in Ezekiel : "And 7 will settle you as in your old estates, and I will do better unto you than at your beginnings" 2
The 5th verse ends with a beautiful glimpse of the restored relationship between Jehovah and His long- wandering people :
" For I am JeJwvah" that is, the everlasting, un changeable, covenant-keeping God which is the reason why the sinful sons of Jacob have not been consumed. And He is now " their God" for the Lo-ruhamah and Lo- ammi period of Israel s history shall then be ended, and no
1 Jer. xxxi. 34. 2 Ezek. xxxvi. II.
360 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
longer shall He say : " Ye are not My people, and I will not be your God." 1 No ; then He " will hear them " or, as we read more fully in the I 3th chapter, " They shall call on My name, and I will hear them ; and I will say it is My people ; and they shall say Jehovah is my God," 2 which reminds us of many similar, if more general, promises in the prophetic Scriptures, as, for instance : " Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah shall answer ; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am " ; and again : " /, Jehovah, will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them 3
And the joy and blessing and victory here promised is henceforth to be shared alike by the whole nation, which the prophet, in keeping with the peculiarity of his style, designates by the separate names, " House of Judah," and " House of Joseph," or " Ephraim," which together include the whole people which had, indeed, previous to the Exile, been for a long time divided into two frequently hostile kingdoms, but are from the time of the partial restoration from Babylon regarded as one nation, with one common hope and destiny.
" And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their hearts shall rejoice as tJirough wine ; yea, their children shall see it and rejoice ; their hearts shall rejoice (or be glad ) in the Lord" which is in effect a repetition more parti cularly in reference to " Ephraim " of what is stated in chaps, ix. 1 5 and x. 5 of Judah. And the reason why " Ephraim," or those previously belonging to the northern kingdom, are specially mentioned as included in the word of promise, is probably to be found (as suggested by Calvin and Hengstenberg) " in the circumstances of the times," or in the historic foreground of this prophecy. If the predic tions of the earlier prophets in reference to Judah were now (that is, in Zechariah s time) only beginning to be fulfilled, and therefore needed to be renewed lest the nation should think itself deceived, much more was this the case with regard to Ephraim.
The great body of the people belonging to the northern
1 IIos. i. 8. - /ech. xiii. 9. 3 Isa. xli. 17, Iviii. 9.
THE SHEPHERD-KING 361
kingdom was still in exile, though a small fraction of them had joined the children of Judah on their return, and there was outwardly but little in existing circumstances to support the hope of that grand restoration, which, according to the declaration of the former prophets, was one day to occur.
They of the " house of Joseph," as being in an appar ently even more hopeless condition, are therefore especially assured that under the true son of David, the Redeemer- King, whose advent to " Zion " and " Jerusalem " the prophet had jubilantly announced in the 9th chapter, and who, in the 4th verse of the I oth chapter is spoken of as coming forth out of Judah, would fully share in all the blessings promised to the " house of Judah." They too would be brought back and made strong in the Lord and in the power of His might for the final conflict with their adversaries, so that they " shall be like a mighty man" or hero (that is, in " tread ing down their enemies in the mire of the streets," ver. 5), " and their hearts shall rejoice as through ^vine " which exhilarates and " maketh glad the heart of man " with a gladness which is not natural, and is a fit emblem, therefore, of the strength and exhilaration which are imparted by the Spirit of God. 1
And it will not be an evanescent joy which will soon fade away. No ; " their children (also) shall see it" that is, the great things which God shall then do unto them and be glad. " Their heart shall rejoice in Jehovah " as the highest and only lasting source of joy " to whom," as an old writer puts it, " is to be referred all gladness which is derived from created things that whoso glorieth may glory in the Lord, in whom alone the rational creature ought to take delight."
Most commentators suppose that ver. 8 to the end of the chapter still speak of Ephraim ; but the supposition is, I think, without sufficient warrant. Having spoken of the "house of Judah" and the "house of Joseph" separately, the prophet now proceeds to set forth the purpose of God
1 Eph. v. 18.
362 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
in reference to both parts of the nation who constitute one people with one common destiny :
" / will hiss for them, and gather them ; for I have redeemed them"
This verb P?B>, sharaq, to " hiss," or " whistle," or " pipe," is used several times in the earlier scriptures to describe God s signal in calling together nations and peoples to accomplish His purposes. Thus, in Isaiah He uses this word when He threatens to gather the Gentile nations to chastise His people : " // shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah shall hiss (or whistle ) for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee tJiat is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come and rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes" And again : " He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss (or whistle } unto them from the end of the earth. And behold they shall come with speed swiftly ; none shall be weary or stumble among them." l That is, He would gather the hostile nations against them " like the countless numbers of the insect creation, which, if united, would irresistibly desolate life. He would summon them as the bee-owner by his shrill call summons and unites his own swarm." But now the time to favour Zion having come, this same word is used in our passage in Zech. x. for the signal which He will use for the gathering together of His own dis persed people from the four corners of the earth.
The word sharaq, however, describes not only the shrill noise used to call together a swarm of insects it means also, as already suggested above, to " pipe," z and is used of the shepherd signal for the gathering of his scattered flock.
This, indeed, is the picture presented to our minds in this chapter. At present, because they have given heed to false dreamers, " they go on their way (or wander about)
1 Isa. v. 26, 27, vii. 18, 19.
2 In the Song of Deborah, Judg. v. 16, translated in the A.V. : "Why abodest thou among the sheepfolds to hear the bleatings of the flocks?" is properly rendered in the R.V. : "Why safest thou among the sheepfolds to hear the pipings for the flocks ? D"ny nip-ip (shtriqoth adarim)."
THE SHEPHERD-KING 363
like sheep ; they are troubled (or afflicted ) because there is no shepherd " (ver. 2) ; but when Jehovah of hosts, in the person of the Messiah, again " visits His flock," namely, " the house of Judah " (ver. 3) and " the house of Joseph " (ver. 6), He " will pipe for them and gather them."
If I may digress for a moment, and mention incidents of personal experience, I would say that on more than one occasion I have had the figure referred to in this passage illustrated before my eyes. On one occasion (it was in 1891) while camping for a few days with missionary friends in a wild part high up on the Lebanon, a picturesque-looking young Bedouin shepherd was leading a small flock of sheep to some distant part in search of pasturage. Passing our encampment he stopped for a while to converse with us, and in the meantime his flock got scattered among the rocks ; but by and by, when he was ready to start, he pulled out from under his burnoose a reed pipe, and began to play on it a not very melodious tune ; and it was interesting and beautiful to notice how, as he was playing, his scattered sheep, some of which had wandered off to some distance, collected closer and closer around him, and formed into a flock ; and when they were all there he started off again at their head. Involuntarily this passage from Zechariah came to my mind : " / will pipe for them and gather them" On another occasion, when travelling in 1889 one whole night in a diligence in inland Algeria, we stopped about dawn at an inn in a small Arab village to change horses. While this was being done, an Arab who stood near began to play, or whistle, on one of the same kind of rough reed or bamboo pipe. At first I thought he was playing for our benefit in order to get baksheesh, but I soon observed that as he continued " piping," sheep and cows and goats came toward him from all directions. It was the village shepherd gathering his flock to lead them forth to pasture.
Thus also the Shepherd of Israel is going to gather His flock and lead them into their own pastures. " If any of thine outcasts be in the uttermost parts of heaven" He says, " thence will Jehovah thy God gather thee y and from thence
364 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
will He f etc/i tJiee ; and Jehovah thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shaft possess it ; and He will do thee good, and multiply tJiee above thy fathers." *
And He will do this, He says, because " / have redeemed them " with a full and complete redemption, not only from outward captivity, but "from all their iniquities" 2 so that they shall be known and called in that day " The holy people, the redeemed of Jehovah " henceforth to serve and glorify Him, " Who hath ransomed them from the hand of him that was stronger than he." 3
And when thus redeemed and gathered in their own land again, "they shall increase as they have increased" - which latter phrase, as already Kimchi in his commentary explains, is meant to remind us of God s wonderful and gracious dealings with them during the last days of their sojourn in Egypt, where " the children of Israel were fruit ful" because of the blessings of Jehovah upon them, " and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding miglity ; and the land ivas filled with them." 4 And thus, again after the future greater redemption, the spared remnant, who shall have been brought through the fiery purging ordeal described in the last chapters of this very prophecy, shall increase mightily, even " as they have increased " (that is, in Egypt), and become a mighty nation on the earth.
And this increase will characterise the seed of Israel in a striking degree, even while still scattered among the nations. This I believe to be the meaning of the words which follow in the Qth verse: "And I vvill sow them among the peoples ; and they shall remember Me in far countries : and they shall live with their children, and sJiall return! The controversy among commentators as to whether the expression, " / will sow them among the peoples" is to be understood as a prediction of a scattering of the people among the nations subsequent to the partial
1 Deut. xxx. 4, 5. 2 Ps> cxxx g
3 Isa. Ixii. 12 ; Jer. xxxi. u. 4 Ex. i. 7.
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restoration from Babylon, is, according to my judgment, settled by the fact that the verb JHT (zarcf] t which is employed, is never used of scattering, or dispersing, in a bad sense, but always " to sow " ; and the prediction in this verse cannot therefore refer to a dispersion of the Jewish people to be inflicted as a punishment. It is most probable that this passage in Zechariah is based on two utterances of the former "prophets." The first is Hos. ii. 23, where we read : " And I will sow her unto Me in the earth ; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy ; and I will say to them which were not My people, Thou art My people ; and they shall say, Thou art my God" And the second is Jer. xxxi. 27: "Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beasts"
It is not necessary then to understand the words in Zachariah as referring to a future act of dispersion (though, as a matter of history, a dispersion subsequent to the partial restoration from Babylon or rather, a new and more terrible and universal phase of the dispersion which was inaugurated by the Babylonian Captivity, did take place after Israel s national apostasy from God was com pleted in the rejection and crucifixion of their Messiah), but rather as a prediction first of all that in the dispersion which had already begun with the destruction of the city and Temple by the Babylonians, and which would last till the full and final restoration of the whole nation (Judah and Israel) to their own land, which is still in the future God would cause them to multiply. This increase (to judge from the analogy of their experience in Egypt, to which allusion is made more than once in this chapter) would take place toward the end of the time of their sojourning among the nations, and would be a precursor of their national restoration. 1
1 The marvellous increase of the Jewish people since their so-called "emancipation" in the nineteenth century, is, indeed, a striking sign of the times. The statement of a recent writer in the Jewish Chronicle, that at the commencement of the sixteenth century there could scarcely have been more than a million Jews left in the entire world after the untold sufferings, dispersions,
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And not only would they be preserved even in dis persion, and increase and multiply even as they did during the last days of their sojourn in Egypt, but in those " far countries " where they shall be found " they shall remember Me" saith Jehovah which is perhaps an inspired echo by Zechariah of the words of Ezekiel : "And they that escape of you shall remember Me among the nations whither they shall be carried captive, and they shall loathe themselves for the evil which they have committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord" x
The next sentence in the pth verse, " They shall live with their children, and turn again" must be connected with the words which immediately precede. Because they shall remember Jehovah " in the far countries " they shall live, Here we probably have an allusion (as Hengstenberg suggests) in one word (in the Hebrew) " to the figure which Ezekiel has so beautifully carried out in chap, xxxvii." They who, while dispersed among the nations, are seen by the prophet as dry bones scattered over the valley of vision, are to live again, for : " Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O
and massacres which they had to endure in the dark and middle ages is prob ably true. The historian Basnage, in his History of the Jews from Jesus Christ to the Present Time, calculated that in his time (end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century) there were three million Jews in the world. Since then, however, the growth of Jewry has been phenomenal. At the com mencement of the nineteenth century there were said to be five millions. Half a century later the numbers reached six or seven millions ; and at the end of another half a century in 1896 the greatest living authority on Jewish statistics gave their number as eleven millions. And now after this short interval it is officially established that there are over thirteen million Jews in the world. And the surprising feature of this latest calculation is the officially- authenticated fact that, in the country where they are most persecuted, and which during the past three decades has driven forth millions to seek an asylum in other countries, there are more Jews to-day than ever before ; and this in spite of pogroms, and baptisms, and overcrowding, and starvation, and the pursuance of a merciless policy of repression which led Pobiedonostsef to prog nosticate that, in the end, a third of Russia s Jews would emigrate, a third would die, and a third would join the dominant faith. The old story of Israel in Egypt renews itself to-day in Russia: "The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied." 1 Ezek. vi. 9.
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My people ; . . . and I will put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live, . . . and ye shall know that I am Jehovah x Neither shall this new national and spiritual life be transient in its character. No ; not only shall they live, but " their children " also, the thought expressed in these words being the same as "their children also shall see it," in the gth verse. " And shall return " (or " turn again ") not only to their land but to their God, the word being the same which the prophets constantly used when calling to Israel to repent as, for instance : " Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways : for why will ye die, O house of Israel ? " 2
In the loth verse the gathering and leading back by the Shepherd of Israel of His scattered flock are more minutely described :
" / will bring- them back out of the land of Egypt, and from Assyria will I gather them " ; which two Powers, to quote another writer, may perhaps be regarded as " standing here as of old, for the two conflicting empires (Egypt to the south and Assyria to the north) between which Israel lay, at whose hand she had suffered, and who represent the countries which lay beyond." But there is no need to allegorise the names of Egypt and Assyria, as almost all the commentators do, as used only typically of the lands of Israel s oppression. I believe it to be a prophecy which merges into the most distant future (from the prophet s then point of view), and will be literally fulfilled at the final restoration, "when Jehovah shall lift up His hand
1 Ezek. xxxvii. 11-14.
2 This is one of those scriptures which seem to speak of a turning of Israel to God while still in the " far countries" of their dispersion, and may appear to be in conflict with the many prophecies which predict a restoration of Israel in unbelief, and their conversion in the land at the visible appearing of Christ. But there is no real conflict or contradiction between these various scriptures, the solution of the apparent difficulty being in the fact that while a large repre sentative section of the nation will be in Palestine in a condition of unbelief when the Lord appears, and will be converted there, the remaining part of the nation will still be in the dispersion, and upon them the spirit of grace and supplication will come in the "far countries " where they shall be found. The subject is fully dealt with in Types, Psalms, and Prophecies, pp. 364- 377-
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again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from Assyria and from Egypt, . . . and from the four corners of the earth.* *
It is a fact that there are now many Jews scattered in the regions which formed the "Assyrian" or Babylon empire 2 as well as in Egypt, and with the revival and progress of the East their numbers in those countries will greatly increase.
And when Jehovah thus gathers them and leads them back, He will bring them " into the land of Gilead and Lebanon" which probably represent the whole promised land east and west of the Jordan. But even there "place will not be found for them" which reminds us of Isa. xlix. 20, 21, where we read: " The children of thy bereavement shall yet say in thine ears, The place is too strait for me : give place to me that I may dwell. Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have been bereaved of my children, and am solitary, an exile, and wandering to and fro ? Who hath brought up these ? Behold, I was left alone ; these, where ivere they ? " which again reminds us of the jubilant exclamation in Isa. liv. :
" Sing \exult\ O barren, thou that didst not bear ; Break forth into singing, and cry, thou that didst not
For more are the children of the desolate Than of the married wife, saith Jehovah"
1 Isa. xi. II, 12.
2 Ewald, Hitzig, and other writers who deny the post-exilic origin of the second half of Zechariah, have argued from the mention of " Assyria (and not Babylon) that these chapters must have been written before the Babylonian Captivity and soon after the overthrow of the northern kingdom of Israel " ; but it must be borne in mind that in post-exilic times the King of Babylon was sometimes styled " the King of Assyria " (Ezra vi. 22 ; 2 Kings xxiii. 29 ; Judith i. 7, ii. I ; comp. Herod, i. 178, 188), inasmuch as his authority extended over Assyria, In later books the expressions, "King of the Persians " and " King of Assyria" are interchanged. Compare Ezra (i Esdr. ii. 30) with vii. 15. The King of Persia is also styled King of Babylon (Ezra v. 13 ; Neh. xiii. 6), and references are sometimes made to Assyria when Babylon is really signified, or when, as in this passage, allusion is made to the enemies of the covenant people north and south of their land (comp. Lam. v. 6; Jer. ii. 18).
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The words are addressed to Jerusalem, the counterpart of Sarah, in her barrenness at first and her fruitfulness afterwards. She is barren now not, indeed, because she had never borne children, but because in her captivity and exile she had been robbed of her children, and as a holy city had all this time given birth to none. But she is to awake and sing, because the children that shall gather around her after her long period of desolateness would be more than when in the time before her calamity came upon / her she had as a married wife yea, so great will be the e increase of Zion s future population, that, instead of bewail- i] ing her lonely and desolate condition, she shall even hear s her children say "in her own ears" that the place is too v strait, and the call to the surrounding nations : " Give place (literally, give way, or fall back ), that I may be able to settle down."
I have elsewhere pointed out l that the land which God by oath and covenant promised to the fathers is about fifty times as large as the part which hitherto the Jews actually possessed, and that it is only pitiable ignorance which made the superficial Voltaire utter the blasphemy that the God of the Jews must have been a little God, because He gave His people a land no larger than Wales, and called it " a good land and a large " (Ex. iii. 8). Surely a land which includes within its boundaries an area at least one-third more than the whole of France may with right be called " a large land " ; but it is possible that even the larger land, with its desert parts transformed into fruitful fields, will not suffice to hold the whole of blessed Israel in the millennial period, so great and rapid will be the increase of the saved remnant.
In the iith verse God s wonderful works on behalf of His people in the past are again alluded to as the basis and illustration of what He will do for them in the yet greater deliverance of the future. When He brought them out of Egypt, He went before them in the pillar of cloud ; and when pursued by Pharaoh and his host, and there
1 See The Jewish Problem. 24
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seemed no way of escape, He made a way in the sea, and a path in the deep waters for His redeemed to pass over. 1 Now, " as in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt," He says, " will I show him marvellous things." 2 Once again He Himself will march at their head, and no obstacle shall be allowed to hinder the progress of His redeemed people on their way back to Zion. Should any hindrance present itself, even if it be as formidable as the Red Sea at the exodus from Egypt, " He shall pass through the sea of affliction (or straitness), and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the river (or Nile) shall dry up (even as the Jordan did before the Ark of the Covenant) : and the pride of Assyria (Israel s former oppressor from the north) shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt (Israel s enemy from the south) shall depart"
But these two empires may also represent Gentile world-power in general, which will then give way to the Kingdom of the Messiah which the God of heaven shall set up, Whose blessed rule shall extend from Mount Zion even unto the ends of the earth.
And not only will the Shepherd of Israel gather them and lead them back to their own habitation, removing by His Almighty power and grace every obstacle out of the way, but there in their own land, when the Spirit shall have been poured upon them from on high, they shall be " strong in the Lord and in the power of His might," and ready to do exploits in His name. " I will strengthen them, in Jehovah" we read in the last verse of our chapter, " and in His Name shall they walk up and down " which last ex pression may denote first their life, or walk and conversation, which shall all be rooted in God, and be in full accord with " His Name" which stands for His revealed character, which shall then be fully and gloriously manifested in their midst in the person of their Messiah, the image of the invisible God. But the phrase ^rw toPM, u-bhistimo yithallakhu, probably means also that they shall walk up and down in His Name, as His messengers and representatives, dispensing
1 Isa. li. 10. - Mic. vii. 15.
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the blessings of Messiah s gospel among the nations by whom they shall be known as the " priests of Jehovah," and be welcomed as " the ministers of our God," 1 njpp DXJ, neum Yehovah " the saying, or utterance, of Jehovah."
These are the last words of the chapter, and form, so to say, the signature which stands pledged to the fulfilment of the contents of the prophecy.
And yet even evangelical writers and commentators deny that there ever will be a literal fulfilment of these plain and solemn predictions, and see in them at the most only forecasts of the gradual spread of Christianity and of the absorption of a certain number of Jews into the Church. Thus, one German scholar, after summarising the contents of the whole prophecy from chap. ix. 1 1 to the end of chap, x., says : " The principle of fulfilment is of a spiritual kind, and was effected through the gathering oi the Jews into the Kingdom of Christ, which commenced in the times of the Apostles, and will continue till the remnant of Israel is converted to Christ its Saviour." 2
And another, to whose elaborate and, in some respects, useful work reference has often been made in these " notes," says : " In the remarkable position occupied by Israel in the early Christian Church for our Lord and His apostles were Jews, and the majority of the early evangelists were men of this nation in the wonderful fact that the Jews, though politically crushed beneath the Gentile yoke, con quered the nations of the earth by means of that religion which sprang from their midst in such facts this prophecy, and other similar prophecies, found a most glorious and real fulfilment. The nations have been enlightened by the Jews, and books written by Jewish pens have become the laws and oracles of the world." 3
But, as I have had occasion to remark more than once, such method of interpretation turns the great prophetic utterances in the Bible into mere hyperbole, and substitutes an unnatural and shadowy meaning for what is plain and obvious, thereby throwing a vagueness and uncertainty over 1 Isa. Ivi. 6. - Keil. J Wright.
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all Scripture. No, no ; just as the scattering of Israel was literal, so the gathering also will be literal ; and it is not in the absorption of a remnant of the Jewish people into the Church, and in the gradual spread of " Christianity " that " these prophecies find a most glorious and real fulfilment," but in a yet future nationally restored and converted Israel, which shall yet be the centre of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ, and the channel of blessing to all the nations of the earth.