The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 19

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah by David Baron
The Opened Fountain and its Cleansing Power

CHAPTER XVIII

THE OPENED FOUNTAIN AND ITS CLEANSING POWER

(CHAPTER XIH. 1-6)


457


In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered : and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live ; for thou speakest lies in the name of Jehovah : and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he prophesieth ; neither shall they wear a hairy mantle to deceive : but he shall say, I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the ground ; for I have been a bondman from my youth. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds between thine arms ? Then shall he answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.


458


CHAPTER XVIII

THE first six verses of the I3th chapter stand in closest connection with the great prophecy in the i 2th chapter.

There the prophet depicts in the last verses the great national repentance and sorrow of Israel over Him " whom they have pierced," as the result of the pouring out upon them of the spirit of grace and supplication. Here we see how that same blessed Spirit, who shall have wrought in them this godly penitential sorrow on account of their great national sin, shall also bring them into the experi ence of forgiveness, and open their eyes to the provision God has made for their justification and cleansing.

" In that day " the goal of prophetic vision in relation to the nation, the great " day " of Israel s national atone ment when " the iniquity of that land shall be removed in one day," l and when a whole nation shall, as it were, " be born at once," z " sJtall a fountain be opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness."

The word employed here for " fountain " is ">ipc>, maqor, which, according to its etymological meaning, describes a place " dug " out, 3 and perhaps originally standing for " well," or artificially made " cistern," came to mean spring or fountain. It is the substantive used in Ps. xxxvi. 9 : " For with Tltee is the fountain of life " ; and in Jer. ii. I 3 and xvii. 13 it is used as the figure of Jehovah Himself, " tfie Fountain of living ivaters"

Here in Zech. xiii., however, it is not primarily as the

1 Zech. iii. 9. * Isa. Ixvi. 8.

8 From the verb "flp, qur, "to bore," "dig," or "scoop out."

459


460 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH

source of life and refreshment, but as the means of puri fication from sin and moral uncleanness, that the figure of the fountain is introduced.

The background of the figurative language in this prophetic scripture are the Divine appointments in the Levitical ritual. The primary allusion may be to the water used for the purification of the Levites on their con secration, which is called nstan ", mei hattath, literally, " sin water " or " water of expiation." l

It is this Levitical ordinance which was very probably also in the mind of the priestly prophet Ezekiel in his great prophecy concerning Israel s future in chap, xxxvi. : " And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean : from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you"

In our passage in Zechariah, however, the figure is a much stronger one. Instead of water being sprinkled upon the defiled, a fountain of cleansing water is opened, in which the guilty may wash and be clean. But the words le-hattath u-leniddah " for sin and for uncleanness "- seem almost an echo of Num. xix. 9, where these two words are used. The ashes of the red heifer, we read, shall be laid up in a clean place without the camp, " lemai niddah, hattath hi " literally, " for water of purification, a means of removing sin it is."

The Revised Version renders the words " a water of separation ; it is a sin offering." The fact is that hattath means " sin," and also " offering for sin," or " means of removing sin." The same is true of the word niddah, translated "uncleanness" in Zech. xiii. I, 2, and "separa tion" in the Authorised and Revised Versions in Num. xix. 9, which means primarily that kind of ceremonial uncleanness which requires " separation," z but denotes also the means of the removal of this particular uncleanness.

But, to repeat, it is not for the purification from bodily, or ceremonial uncleanness, that the fountain shall then be opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of

5 Num. viii. 7. 2 Lev. xii. 2, xv. 19-24.


lH THE OPENED FOUNTAIN 461

,,,. Jerusalem which in this passage also, as in chap. xii. 10, , f represents the whole nation but for purification from the guilt and the moral defilement of sin, of which bodily j,j s uncleanness is often used in the Bible as a figure. Thus, t |, e for instance, in Ps. li. 7 David prays : " Purge me (literally, u if one may invent an expression, unsin me or rid me of , my sin ) with hyssop " which is a distinct allusion to the L cleansing of the leper from his bodily plague, 1 in connection

/

\with which a Jewish commentator rightly observes : I " What has befallen the soul is like unto the plague of ,j s leprosy in the body." 2 To pass from the figure to the

. treality, from the shadow to the substance, the " fountain"

. which shall then be opened to the house of David and the

n *

, inhabitants of Jerusalem for the national and individual cleansing from guilt and sin, is nothing else than the blood

Mof their Messiah whom they have pierced. Hence, those are not far wrong who trace a connection between ~iip,

maqor (" fountain ") in chap. xiii. I and ip^, daqar

("pierced") in chap. xii. 10, and say that the opening of the fountain took place when the Roman soldier with his spear pierced our Saviour s side, and " there came out of it blood and water" though the basis for the connection is not in philology (the root of the two words not being the same though of cognate significance), but in fact.

Yes, Israel " in that day " shall experience the wonder ful and everlasting efficacy of the blood of Jesus their Messiah, God s Son, which cleanseth from all sin. In quite another and blessed sense shall that fearful prayer once uttered in ignorance, " His blood be on us and our children," which has haunted the Jewish conscience through all the centuries since, and has, like the blood of Abel, brought down the curse of Cain on the whole nation, be fulfilled " in that day." It shall be upon them for life and not for death, for cleansing and not for defilement.

They shall experience then the truth of the inspired words in Heb. ix. 13, that " if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, 1 See Lev. xiv. 1-9. 2 Eben Ezra.


462 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH

sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge our 1 conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

But, it may be objected, if it is the blood of Christ which constitutes the cleansing stream which shall wash away Israel s " sins and uncleanness," then the fountain was " opened " nineteen centuries ago on Calvary ; whereas this is a prophecy of the national purification of Israel which is to take place " in that day " which is yet future.

For answer, I repeat what I stated in my notes on chap. iii. 9 : " I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day " namely, that what is here predicted will assuredly be fulfilled only on the ground and as a blessed consequence of " the day of Golgotha," when Christ, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God ; but actually and experimentally the great "day" of Israel s national repentance and of cleansing will take place when the spirit of grace and of supplications shall be poured out upon them, and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced. The cleansing fountain for sin and for uncleanness was opened once and for all when " the Lamb of God " was slain and His precious blood shed ; but to the sinner actually and experimentally the Day of Calvary is the day his eyes are opened to the true meaning to himself of the great redeeming work there accomplished, and when the Spirit of God applies Jesus blood and righteousness and high-priestly intercession to his own need. Thus " in that day " it will be with Israel nationally. The fountain will be opened then " to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem," because " then the eyes of the blind shall be opened z for the first time to behold the Lamb of God, and to perceive the atoning value and efficacy of the offering which He once made for the sins of many.

Blessed be God ! the fountain once opened shall never

1 Many ancient authorities read " our," and not " your," as in the Authorised and Revised Versions."

  • Isa. xxxv. 5.


THE OPENED FOUNTAIN 463

be closed, for the force of the Hebrew words 1 which are used, is not only " shall be opened," but " shall remain open " ever free and accessible to all, and everlastingly efficacious for " sin and for uncleanness."

From the inward cleansing of the people from the guilt and moral defilement of sin, the prophet passes in vers. 26 to the cleansing of the land and the purification of the environment in which the forgiven and sanctified people shall then live and move. Nothing that defileth shall be permitted in the restored Jewish state in the day when " Jehovah shall inherit Judah, His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again."

The two chief sources of moral pollution and the great besetting sin of Israel in the land were idolatry and false prophecy. These shall be utterly purged out of their midst. " A nd it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that / will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered : and I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land? Not only shall the idols the objects of idolatrous worship themselves be " cut off," but their very names and remem brance shall perish in the land ; and not only shall false prophets disappear, but the unclean spirit the author and inspirer of false prophecy as well as the instigator of idolatry shall be cast out from the midst of the people, whose ears shall then be circumcised to hearken only to words of truth and purity, and whose heart s love and worship shall be centred in Jehovah alone.

The evil spirit is particularly designated as the ruach hattumah (" the spirit of uncleanness "), in contrast to " the spirit of grace and of supplications" in chap. xii. 10, who is pre-eminently the Ruach Ha-qodesh the " Holy Spirit " because He is the representative and revealer of the blessed Godhead, whose chief attribute is that of holiness, and who dwells in the midst of His people to sanctify them and to make them holy, because Jehovah their God is holy.

Some have argued from the mention of idols and false 1 nn?a ,T.T, Yeeyhe nifhtach.


464 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH

prophecy in this passage that these last chapters of Zechariah must have been written in the pre-exilic period when these two great national sins were still prevalent in the land. But there is no real foundation, in fact, for this any more than for the other " proofs " of a pre-exilic authorship of these chapters, as I have already shown else where. 1 In reference to this particular point, though it be true that idolatry, and false prophecy, which was usually associated with it, did not exist any more in their gross form among the Jewish people after the Babylonian cap tivity, such passages as Neh. vi. 10; Ezra. ix. i ; Neh. xiii. 23, 24, etc., which speak of the lying prophets which existed at that time, and of marriages contracted, even by priests, with Canaanitish and other heathen women, whose children could not even speak the Jewish language show very clearly, as Keil and others point out, that " the danger of falling back into idolatry was not a remote one."

The range of the prophetic vision, however, in the six last chapters of Zechariah does not terminate with the mere immediate future, but finds its goal in the time of the end, when the great sins of idolatry and false prophecy shall reach their climax in the worship of the beast and his image, and in the " unclean spirits " z which shall go forth upon the earth to deceive the anti-Christian nations.

The four verses which follow are an amplification of the announcement in ver. 2 that idolatry and false prophecy would be utterly exterminated from the land " in that day." They set forth in realistic we might almost say dramatic form the great change which will then come over the Jewish nation, and their zeal against those sins which formerly were the chief causes of their national ruin.

The 3rd verse introduces an hypothetical case: "And it shall come to pass that, when any shall yet propliesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live : for thou speakest lies in the Name of

1 See the introduction to the second part of this book.

2 2 Thess. ii. 4 ; Rev. xiii. 1-6; xvi. 13, 14.


THE OPENED FOUNTAIN 465

the Lord : and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth"

The allusion is to Deut. xiii. 6-10, where we read : "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, . . . thine eye shall not pity him ; neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him, but thou shalt surely kill him : thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death"

The same injunction holds true in relation to the false prophet who either speaks " presumptuously " or falsely in the Name of Jehovah, or in the name of other gods. " That same prophet shall die? 1

Now the prophet, to illustrate the zeal for Jehovah and His truth which shall then characterise converted and regenerated Israel, supposes such a case. Even if it should be their own son who should presumptuously " prophesy," either to entice them from their allegiance to Jehovah or to spread error in His Name, his own parents will not spare or pity him ; but his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through (ud qaruhu the verb is the same as in chap. xii. I o for " pierced ") when he prophesieth (iaqan:^ Uhinnabho], which may mean either when he is in the act of prophesying, or, " because of his prophesying." Zeal for Jehovah and His law will be so strong as to overmaster even parental affection ; the people themselves would stop short at nothing in order utterly to exterminate the evil should it be possible once again to assert itself.

And not only will false prophets no longer be tolerated in their midst, the pretended prophets themselves will be ashamed of their calling. " And it shall come to pass in that day that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision when he prophesieth ; neither shall they wear a hairy mantle to deceive" "In former days the false prophets had been bold enough to assert their claims even in the very face of the true prophets raised up by Jehovah. Now, popular feeling will run so strongly in an opposite direction that

1 Deut. xviii. 20. 30


466 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH

persons will be ashamed of making any pretence to super natural visions, and confounded when charged with having made such assumptions. Instead of being anxious to be considered as prophets, they will rather seek in every way to avoid the reputation of such a dangerous and unpopular profession." l

The " hairy mantle " was the distinguishing garb of some of the great prophets. Some (as Koehler) suppose it to have been made of untanned skins ; others think it was a garment formed of camel s hair, such as that worn by John the Baptist. Thus, Elijah was recognised by Ahaziah when described by his messengers as " a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins." 2 The " rough garment " was not only the outward sign of " the strict course of life and abstinence from worldly pleasures " " the frugality alike in food and attire," which marked the true prophets of Jehovah but, also (on certain great occasions, at any rate), it was the symbol of grief and mourning for the sins of the nation, and the consequent judgments which they were commissioned to announce.

In the case of the false prophets it was a cloak of hypocrisy, and was assumed " in order to lie," or " deceive " ; for, though outwardly they may be clothed like " sheep," or even like the true prophets of God, inwardly they are " ravening wolves."

The prophet having shown the opposition which would i be exhibited by the Jewish nation to the false prophets, i who in the past were the chief cause of their national un doing first, by the hypothetical instance of a son who should venture to prophecy falsely being slain by his own parents ; and secondly, by the general statement that the pretended prophets would themselves be ashamed of their evil profession and seek in every way to avert suspicion that they ever had to do with such evil practices, with a view to deceive the people proceeds in the next two verses still more fully to illustrate the condition of the time.

In a few but graphic touches he pictures a dramatic

1 Dr. Wright. " 2 Kings i. 8.


THE OPENED FOUNTAIN 467

incident. One who is suspected of being a false prophet is suddenly challenged by a zealous Israelite. He, however, vehemently answers, " / am no prophet " ; far from ever having professed to be an inspired teacher of the people, " / am a tiller of the ground (i.e., belonging to the humblest class of the people), and I have been made a bondsman x (or, a man has bought me ) from my youth"

A certain similarity has been pointed out between the words of this false prophet and those of Amos, when in answer to Amaziah, the priest of the idolatrous worship of Bethel, who warned him to flee to Judah and prophesy there, but to cease prophesying in Bethel, because it was the chief sanctuary and a royal residence of the kings of Israel, the prophet said: "/ was (or am } no prophet, neither was I a propJiefs son, but I was a herdman, and a dresser of sycamore trees?

But the purport of the two passages is very different. Here, in our passage in Zechariah, the false prophet, when accused with exercising the functions of a prophet, utterly denies the charge ; but Amos, though he disclaims having been a prophet by profession and training, is nevertheless conscious of a direct call from God, and boldly asserts his Divine mission in the words which immediately follow : "Jehovah took me from following the flock, and Jehovah said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people Israel" 2 Far, therefore, from being intimidated by the threats of Amaziah, or his royal master Jeroboam II., he proceeds : " Now therefore hear tJwu the word of Jehovah"

1 Wijri kiqnnani. The verb njj; in the Kal means to "originate," "ac quire," " possess" ; but since it occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible in the Hiphil there is great difficulty in determining its exact force in this sentence. Some take it as a stronger Kal, " to purchase," others " to sell." Some taking it as a denominative from njijo, miqneh, "possession," deduce the same meaning, i.e., " to buy."

Rashi and Kimchi derive hiqnnani from " miqnch " in the sense of a flock, and translate " made me a shepherd, or set me to keep his flock."

But in the words of W. H. Lowe : " Whatever be the exact meaning of the word it is clear that the person accused here of assuming prophetic powers dis avows all such assumption, and claims to be looked on as a simple rustic."

2 Amos vii. 10-14.


468 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH

But to return to the dramatic incident in our passage in Zechariah. Not easily put off by the vehement protesta tions of the false prophet that he is not at all likely to have performed the functions of a prophet, seeing he is only a simple peasant in fact, a slave from his youth his inter rogator proceeds : " Wliat are these wounds between thine hands ? And he shall say (They are) those with which I was ivounded in the house of my friends"

The two clauses in this 6th verse are to be understood as " speech and reply, or question and answer." It was very probably these makkoth " wounds " which the zealous challenger of the false prophet had observed which first aroused his suspicion. He evidently regards them as self-inflicted on his person in order to arouse his prophetic frenzy, or in connection with idolatrous rites. " It must not be forgotten," to quote the words of another, " that such rites were sometimes observed even where Jehovah was acknowledged to be the highest object of adoration. In the idolatrous court of Ahab there were hundreds of false prophets who were wont to prophesy in the Name of Jehovah, 1 and yet at the same court priests and prophets of Baal cut themselves with knives and lancets until blood gushed out upon them, 2 in order to procure answers from their god." That such practices were common among Israelites in the days of apostasy is plain from the passage referred to, as well as from the prohibition of similar doings in Deut. xiv. I, in cases of mourning for the dead, which were employed in later times by the Israelites. 3

The expression " between thy hands " is an idiom which may mean on the palms of the hands, or on the arms, i or on the chest between the hands ; but the explana tion of Rashi that it means " between thy shoulders," where persons are wont to be scourged, is a very unlikely one. There is difference of opinion among commentators as to the meaning of the answer of the false prophet in the second half of the verse. It greatly depends on the mean-

1 I Kings xxii. 5, 6, 7, II, 12. - I Kings xviii. 28.

3 Jer. xvi. 6, xli. 5.


THE OPENED FOUNTAIN 469


ing we attach to the word ^n^P rendered " of my friends," in the Authorised Version, but which might more properly be translated " my lover." Now Hengstenberg and others understood the " lovers " to signify idols, and regard the answer as a humble confession on the part of the false prophet who is thus detected, either that his wounds were received during some idolatrous rites, or, though self-inflicted, he was only the instrument the real authors of the wounds beings Ihis "lovers," namely, the idols whom he worshipped. But I agree with Koehler, Keil, Dr. Wright, and others, that, though it be true that the special conjugation of this verb (piel) is used in other cases of dishonourable love, and might therefore be figuratively used of idolatry and idols, " there is nothing in the form of the verb to render that meaning necessary. Intensity of love is all that is expressed in the word ; and the expression might, as far as the form is concerned, be used with reference to parents or any friends, whether good or bad."

It is very probable, therefore, that far from being a humble confession of his guilt, " this answer is also nothing but an evasion, and that he simply pretends that the marks were scars left by the chastisements which he received when a boy in the house of either loving parents, or some other loving relations or friends." *

This seems to me more in accord with the context, and illustrates the general statement that the false prophets would in that day themselves be ashamed of their former evil profession, and when detected would stop short of no falsehood in order to avert or dispel suspicion.

1 Keil. Kimchi explains as follows : " He shall say these wounds are not on account of prophecy, but my friends wounded and chastised me because I was abandoned, and was not industrious in cultivating the land in my youth ; and they beat me that I should cease from the profligacy of young men, and should set to my work. And the reason of the wounds being in the hands is, that they used to bind his hands and feet that he should not go out."