The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 17
ISRAEL S FINAL CONFLICT AND GREAT DELIVERANCE
The burden of the word of Jehovah concerning Israel. Thus saith Jehovah, who stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him : Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling unto all the peoples round about, and upon Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples ; all that burden themselves with it shall be sore wounded ; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered against it. In that day, saith Jehovah, I will smite every horse with terror, and his rider with madness : and I will open Mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the peoples with blindness. And the chieftains of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in Jehovah of hosts their God. In that day will I make the chieftains of Judah like a pan of fire among wood, and like a flaming torch among sheaves ; and they shall devour all the peoples round about, on the right hand and on the left : and they of Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in their own place, even in Jerusalem. Jehovah also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem be not magnified above Judah. In that day shall Jehovah defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem ; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David ; and the house of David shall be as God, as the Angel of Jehovah before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication ; and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced : and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land shall mourn, every family apart ; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart ; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart ; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart ; the family of the Shimeites apart, and their wives apart ; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
IN commencing my notes on the last section of Zechariah (chaps, xii. xiv.), I take the liberty of repeating a brief paragraph from my introductory remarks to the 9th chapter to which I would again draw the attention of the reader.
The overthrow of world-power, and the establishment of Messiah s Kingdom, may be given as the epitome of the last six chapters of Zechariah. The two oracles which make up the whole of the second half of the book (chaps. ix.-xi. and xii.-xiv.) show by their headings, as well as by their contents, and even by their formal arrangement, that they are corresponding portions of a greater whole. Both sections treat of war between the heathen world and Israel, though in different ways.
In the first (chaps, ix.-xi.), the judgment through which Gentile world-power over Israel is finally destroyed, and Israel is endowed with strength to overcome all their enemies, forms the fundamental thought and centre of gravity of the prophetic description. In the second (chaps, xii.-xiv.), the judgment through which Israel itself is sifted and purged in the final great conflict with the nations, and transformed into the holy nation of Jehovah, forms the leading topic.
The foreground, or more immediate future of the first main section of the second half of the book (chaps, ix.-xi.), were, as shown in my notes on those chapters, the victories of Alexander the Great, the overthrow of the Persian Empire, the advent of the Messiah, and His rejection by Israel though even there, as we had occasion to observe more particularly in connection with chap. ix. 9, 10, and chap. x. 4 12, the foreground of the more immediate or
proximate future, and the events which were to precede and accompany the First Advent, merge into the great and solemn events of the Second Advent, and the time of the end.
The second or last section, on the other hand (chaps, xii. xiv.), seems to me to carry our thoughts altogether to the more distant future, and is eschatological and apocalyptic in its character, for it is impossible to apply the solemn predictions in these chapters to events at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which is the favourite theory of those who assign a pre- exilic origin for the second half of Zechariah, and who degrade this great prophecy to the level of a mere " political divination of the affairs of the kingdom of Judah in which ardent hopes were expressed by the unknown prophet hopes destined, however, to be sadly disappointed respecting the final result of the struggle of the Jewish kingdom with the Babylonian power." l
Neither can we, without doing great violence to the prophecy, interpret it of the taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, as some do, nor to the destruction of the city and Temple by the Romans ; for (to quote from words of my own) in none of those calamitous events in the past history of Israel did God in the person of the Messiah visibly appear on the Mount of Olives with His angelic hosts as the Deliverer of His people and the destroyer of many nations which were gathered against them ; nor was the spirit of grace and supplication ever yet poured out upon the Jewish nation, so that they might look upon and recognise " Him whom they have pierced " ; nor has the Lord, from any of those past events onward, be come " King over the whole earth " (chap. xiv. 9) ; not to mention many other great and solemn events which are predicted in these chapters which cannot be allegorised or explained away. We must reject, therefore, the view of some of the " orthodox " commentators that this last section traverses the ground already trodden in the previous
1 Thus, for instance, Ewald in Die Propheten des alten Bundes.
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chapters, and " refers to the events which took place in the period between the time of the prophet and the day of the Messiah."
The mnn Di\ yom ha hu, the " that day " which is mentioned no less than fourteen times in these last three chapters, is indeed " the day of the Messiah," but it is the day not of His first advent in humiliation, but of His manifestation in glory. It is, therefore, pre-eminently called ffihv Q\\yom la-Yehovah a day for Jehovah the day set apart and appointed by Him not only for the dis play of His majesty and vindication of the holiness and righteousness of His character and ways, but it is " the day " of the manifestation of His Divine might and glory in the destruction of Israel s enemies, and the salvation of His own people.
The main theme of the first nine verses of chap. xii. is Israel s sudden deliverance by the interposition of God and the destruction of the armies of the confederated anti- Christian world-powers in the final siege of Jerusalem. But inasmuch as this siege, or " straitness," and the solemn events of " that day " synchronise with " the time of Jacob s trouble," and covers the period of unparalleled sufferings and " tribulation " by means of which the Jewish nation is itself first purged as in a fiery furnace, the prophecy properly begins with the words V>^ ^ *] >?! *&?, massa debhar Yehovah al Israel " the burden of the word of Jehovah upon (or over ) Israel " ; the word massa, as we have seen, when dealing with the ist verse of chap, ix., being as a heading confined entirely to prophecies which contain threatenings and announce judgments.
But though it will be a time of unspeakable anguish for Israel, the climax of all their sufferings and tribulations through all the centuries since the commencement of " the times of the Gentiles," they " shall be saved out of it." Yea, in their greatest extremity, and in the time of their most dire need, God Himself in the person of their Messiah shall interpose on their behalf, and He will be "jealous for His land, and have pity on His people," or, in the words of
424 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
the inspired prophetic song which Moses was commanded to teach the children of Israel, so that it "should not be forgotten out of the mouth of their seed," and which sets forth in advance all the vicissitudes of their history to the very end
" Jehovah shall judge His people, And repent Himself for His servants : When He sees that their strength is gone, And that there is none remaining, shut up or left at large
Then He will " lift up His hand to heaven " and swear, saying :
" As I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and Mine hand take
hold on judgment ;
I will render vengeance to Mine adversaries, And will recompense them that hate Me. I will make Mine arrows drunk with blood, And My sword shall devour much flesh" J
For the enemies of His people will then be accounted as His enemies, which in reality they are.
But to return to our chapter.
To remove all possibility of doubt of the fulfilment of the great and wonderful things which the prophet is about to announce from the mouth of Jehovah, we are reminded of the almighty-creative and sustaining power of the ever lasting God. This surely is a sufficient basis for our faith in His word, however great the human improbabilities and natural impossibilities of their ever being literally fulfilled, may appear to us.
" Thus saith (or the saying of) Jehovah, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him."
A similar declaration of God s almighty-creative and
1 Deut. xxxii. 36-42.
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sustaining power is made in Isa. xlii. 5, and with the same purpose, namely, to remove all doubt as to the realisation of the great and mighty things which the prophet there predicts: "Thus saith God, Jehovah, He that createth the heavens and stretcheth them forth ; He that spread abroad the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath ( ni ?F?> nesJiamah soul) unto the people upon it ; and spirit (nn, ruacJi) to them that walk therein."
The participial verbs in our passage in Zech. xii. nob, np, itf noteh, yosed, yotzer " stretcheth," " layeth " (literally, foundetli], and " formeth " are intended to remind us of God s omnipotence and the continuous active display of His power and wisdom in the universe which He has created.
Jehovah is altogether a different being from the god of the deist. He not only once for all " in the beginning " created the heavens and the earth, and appointed certain " laws " to regulate their motions, without troubling Himself further about them, or about man, who is admittedly the goal and climax of His creative work on earth. No. " My Father worketh hitherto," said our Lord Jesus, " and I work " ; 1 and this is equally true in the sphere of creation, providence, and redemption. According to the Biblical view, as a Bible scholar well observes, " God stretches out the heavens every day afresh, and every day He lays the foundation of the earth, which, if His power did not uphold it, would move from its orbit and fall into ruin." 2 In like manner, when it is said that " He formeth the spirit of man within him," it does not refer merely " to the creation of the spirits or souls of men once for all, but denotes the continuous creative formation and guidance of the human spirit by the Spirit of God." 3
Now let us hear what Jehovah, the Author of all being and all life, the Creator of heaven and earth, proceeds to say, and be assured, without any shadow of doubt, that what He hath spoken He will in His appointed time bring to pass : " Behold, I (which is very emphatic) will make
1 John v. 17. 2 Hengstenberg. 3 Keil.
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Jerusalem a goblet (or basin ) of reeling (or giddiness ) unto all the peoples round about"
The cup of reeling, or giddiness, is frequently used in Scripture as a symbol of the judgment of God which brings man into a condition of helplessness and misery like unto that of the staggering, intoxicated man who is unable to stand, or walk. " For in the hand of Jehovah" we read in the Psalms, " is a cup, and the wine is red (or foametk ) / it is full of mixture, and He poureth out of the same ; surely the dregs thereof, the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them" *
In Isa. li. 2123 the figure is used of the judgments which Israel itself first experiences : " Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine : thus saith thy Lord the Lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of staggering (or reeling ), even the bowl of the cup of My fury ; thou shalt no more drink it again : and I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee ; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over : and thou hast laid thy back as the ground, and as the street to them that go over"
In those passages, however, it is the D13, kos (cup), that is spoken of, but here in Zech. xii. it is the *!?, saph? the bowl, or " basin of reeling " ; the thought expressed in this instance is that of a vessel large enough for all nations to drink out of it, " either together, or one after another in succession." And they shall all drink of this intoxicating cup of God s judgment and stagger and fall, not to rise again.
The structure of the second half of the verse presents some difficulty, and has been variously rendered and interpreted by commentators. Literally, the clause in Hebrew reads, "And also upon Judah shall be in the siege against Jerusalem?
The question is, What subject must be supplied to the
1 Ps. Ixxv. 8.
2 ID, saph, has also the signification of threshold, and the LXX, Vulgate, Calvin, etc., have translated it in that sense ; but the rendering basin is the only suitable one here. It is used of the vessel containing the blood of the Paschal Lamb ; also in 2 Sam. xvii. 28 and I Kings vii. 50, etc.
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verb " shall be " ? Ewald and others have rendered it thus : "And also upon Judah shall it be (incumbent to be occupied] in the siege against Jerusalem . Similarly, already the Targum, Kimchi, Jerome, and many of the modern commentators have explained the passage as " containing a prediction that the people of Judah should be arrayed among the hostile forces marshalled against Jerusalem, that they should be forced to assume such a position by reason of the enemies round about, but that after a certain time the people should be able to break away from the ranks of the hostile army, and would ultimately assist the beleagured citizens of Jerusalem."
I cannot enter on a minute examination of the critical grounds on which this view has been advocated, but I believe the explanation to be an erroneous one. It is asserted that it is to be inferred from the context that Judah is regarded as in the camp of the enemy, 1 but I agree with Keil, who truly observes that in what follows
" There is no indication whatever of Judah s having made common cause with the enemy against Jerusalem ; on the contrary, Judah and Jerusalem stand together in opposition to the nations, and the princes of Judah have strength in the inhabitants of Jerusalem (ver. 5), and destroy the enemy to save Jerusalem (ver. 6). Moreover, it is only by a false interpretation that any one can find a conflict between Judah and Jerusalem indicated in chap. xiv. 14. And throughout it is incorrect to designate the attitude of Judah towards Jerusalem in these verses as opposition, a notion upon which Ebrard (Offenb. Joh.} and Kliefoth have founded the marvellous view, that by
The following is from Kimchi s commentary: "The sense of the whole passage is, that when Gog and Magog come against Jerusalem after the redemp tion, they will go up by the land of Judah, for the desire of their faces will be to come against Jerusalem first ; and they will not be anxious first to subdue the whole land of Israel, for they will think, when we have subdued Jerusalem, the whole land will fall before us. But they will go up to Jerusalem by the way of the land of Judah, which is their natural route, and they will take with them the children of Judah against their will to go with them to besiege Jerusalem ; and so Jonathan has interpreted."
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Jerusalem with its inhabitants and the house of David we are to understand the unbelieving portion of Israel ; and by Judah with its princes, Christendom, or the true people of God, formed of believing Israelites and increased by believing Gentiles. Judah is not opposed to Jerusalem, but simply distinguished from it, just as the Jewish kingdom or people is frequently designated by the prophets as Jerusalem and Judah. The Dj>, gam, which does not separate, but adds, is of itself inapplicable to the idea of opposition. Consequently, we should expect the words also upon Judah to express the thought that Judah will be visited with the same fate as Jerusalem as Luther, Calvin, and many others follow the Peshito in supposing that they do."
The best rendering of the clause in my view is that suggested by a Hebrew student, 1 namely : " And also on Judah sJiall be (or, fall, this reeling) in (or during } the siege (which is to take place] against Jerusalem " the sense being that already expressed by Keil, that Judah, which stands here for all the rest of the people of the land, shall experience the same ordeal of suffering in that siege as the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ere the Lord finally interferes on their behalf as the destroyer of their enemies.
The prediction of judgment against the nations who will be gathered against Jerusalem " in that day," is strengthened in the 3rd verse by the use of another figure: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone (lit., a stone for lifting) for all the peoples ; all that burden themselves with it (lit., all tJiat lift if] shall be sore wounded (or lacerated! or tear rents for themselves ) ; and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered together against it," z
1 W. H. Lowe, M.A., in his Hebrew Studenfs Commentary. Pusey thinks that the " Burden of the Word of the Lord" is the subject to be supplied, i.e., the burden which was to be, or should be, upon Judah, i.e., upon all great and small ; but that phrase is too remote from the verb to admit of its being regarded as the "natural subject."
2 The figure of the "burdensome stone" is, according to Jerome (died 420) and others, based on a custom which prevailed in Palestine. That "old
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It has been pointed out that there is a gradation in the thought, both in the figure of the " burdensome stone," which cuts and wounds those who try to lift it, whilst the " reeling cup " in the 2nd verse only makes powerless ; and also in the description given of the hosts gathered for the attack. In the 2nd verse the nations round about Jerusalem are spoken of, but in the 3rd verse it is " all peoples " and " all nations of the earth."
The magnitude of the danger and of the sufferings of Jerusalem are brought before our minds in the last clause of the 3rd verse, and are to be inferred from the fact that " all nations of the earth" represented, no doubt, by the flower of their armies, " will be gathered against it."
" The gathering of these hosts is not unfrequently referred to in the Scripture, and always in language calculated to impress the mind with the peculiar magnitude of the power to be displayed in this last great effort of man under Satan. In the Revelation, for example (chap. xvi. 14), it is said that spirits of devils, working miracles, shall go forth to gather the kings of the whole world to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." T Joel also speaks of the same mighty confederation : " Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles, prepare war, wake up the mighty
usage," he says, "is kept up to this day throughout Judea, that in villages, towns, and forts round stones are placed, of very great weight, on which young men are wont to practise themselves ; and, according to their varying strength, lift them some to the knees, others to the navel, others to the shoulders and head ; others lift the weight above the head, with their two hands raised up, showing the greatness of their strength. In the Acropolis at Athens I saw a brass globe, of very great weight, which I, with my little weak body could scarcely move. When I asked its object, I was told by the inhabit ants that the strength of wrestlers was proved by that mass, and that no one went to a match until it was ascertained, by the lifting of that weight, who ought to be set against whom."
But, as it has been observed, the stone of which the prophet speaks here was not such a round stone, but one with sharp edges by which those who sought to raise it were lacerated. Keil may be more correct in considering that the figure is taken from operations connected with building. Another has suggested that the reference is to " one of the large stones half buried in the earth, which it is the effort of the husbandman to tear from its bed and carry out of his field before he ploughs it."
1 B. W. Newton.
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men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up ; beat your ploughshares into swords and your pruning-hooks into spears ; let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye Gentiles, and gather yourselves together round about" (Joel iii. 9-12).
But the extremity of Israel s need, as already stated, will be God s opportunity for the display of His power in the destruction of their enemies, and His grace in their deliverance, It is to " that day " that the prophetic words in Ps. cxviii. refer :
" Out of my distress l I called upon Jehovah : Jehovah answered me and set me in a large place. Jehovah is on my side ; I will not fear : What can man do unto me ?
All nations compassed me about :
In the Name of the Lord I will cut them off.
They compassed me about ; yea, they compassed me about :
In the Name of the Lord I will cut them off.
They compassed me about like bees ; they are quenched
as the fire of thorns : In the Name of the Lord I will cut them off"
The manner of God s interposition on Israel s behalf is described in the verses which follow : " In that day, saith Jehovah, will I smite every horse with astonishment (lit., with bewilderment or stupefaction ), and his rider with madness : and upon the house of Judah will I open Mine eyes, and every horse of the peoples (i.e., of their attacking cavalry] will I smite with blindness"
It is interesting to note that the three nouns timmahon, " astonishment " or " bewilderment " ; shigga on, " mad ness " ; and ivvaron, " blindness," which here describe God s judgment on the confederated armies of the anti- Christian world-powers which will be gathered against Jerusalem, are used elsewhere only of the judgment which
1 i$sn [p. The word also means " straitness," " siege," and is the same as is used in Zech. xii. 2 of the "siege."
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was to come upon Israel in case of their apostasy. In the 2nd verse the prophet uses the symbol of the cup, or goblet, of reeling, which, as we have seen, had also been used in the first instance of Israel. Among the other plagues which Israel has had long to drink out of that "cup" are those enumerated in Deut. xxviii. 28 : "Jehovah shall smite thee with madness, and with blindness, and with astonishment, or bewilderment? But when Zion s warfare shall be accomplished and her iniquity pardoned, and God s time to favour Zion comes, He says : " / will take out of thine hand the cup of reeling, even the bowl of the cup of My fury : thou shalt no more drink again, and I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee" and they shall drink to the dregs these very plagues.
The effect of the enemies of Israel being smitten with these three plagues has been thus described : " The terrified horses of the cavalry of the assembled hosts (being thus suddenly smitten with bewilderment, or terror, are repre sented as unable any longer to be guided by bit and bridle. The riders in their madness are described as unable to manage their steeds, while the steeds themselves are portrayed as struck with blindness (or blind staggers ), and therefore unable to escape from the dangers around them. And while the enemies of God s people will find themselves in such straits at the very moment when they imagined that they had gained the victory, and while, instead of chasing the vanquished Jews in headlong flight, they themselves are described as rushing upon destruction, Jehovah will open His eyes upon the house of Judah , which stands here for the whole covenant nation."
And that look of Jehovah, through the eyes of their Messiah Jesus, upon His long unbelieving and rebellious people a look of love and pity, not unmixed with tender reproach will have something of the same effect on stubborn Israel as the look of the Lord Jesus on Peter from the hall of Caiaphas the high priest, 1 when that apostle had thrice denied Him. It will at last soften and
1 Luke xxii. 6l, 62.
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melt their hard heart to true repentance, and cause them to " weep bitterly." But this is set forth fully in the last part of this chapter, and for the present we must return to the prophet s description of their outward deliverance and the destruction of their enemies.
While terror and confusion seize the ranks of the assembled hosts as the result of the plagues with which they shall be smitten, unity, confidence, and assurance of victory take possession of the " heart " of the reduced, and till then demoralised, remnant of Judah, from the moment that they become conscious that the eye of Jehovah is upon them for good, and that the " Captain of the Lord s host " Himself is with them : "And the governors (or princes ^} of Judah shall say in their hearts, The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength (or, a strength to me ) in Jehovah of hosts their God .
" The princes of Judah," as Keil truly observes, " recognise in the inhabitants of Jerusalem their strength or might not in the sense that Judah, being crowded together before Jerusalem, expects help against the foe from the strength of the city and the assistance of its inhabitants, as Hoffmann and Koehler maintain, for their whole account of the inhabitants of the land being shut up in the city (or crowded together before the walls of Jerusalem, and covered by them) is a pure invention, and has no foundation in the text but in this sense, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are strong through Jehovah their God, i.e., through the fact that Jehovah has chosen Jerusalem, and by virtue of this election will save the city of His sanctuary " (comp. x. i 2 with iii. 2, i. 17, ii. 16).
It is the fact that Jehovah hath chosen Jerusalem, and has returned to her with mercies, 2 which makes the princes of Judah confident in her invincibility. " God is in the midst of her," sings the Psalmist, looking on to the solemn
1 ijVx, alluphei. See the footnote on the meaning of " alluph" in chap. ix. 7. The root-idea is expressed in the LXX, which renders "captain of thousands."
2 Chap. i. 1 6.
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events of " that day " in the spirit of prophecy " she shall not be moved ; God shall help her " (lit, " at the dawn of the morning" l i.e., after the long night of sorrow and weeping.
A slight alteration in the original text of this verse has been suggested already in the Targum, which would read : " The princes of Judah shall say in their heart, The strength of the inhabitants of Judah is in Jehovah their God." But the " correction " is not needed, for this is not the only instance, even in Zechariah, where a collective body is represented as speaking in the singular as one man. Thus, the inhabitants of Bethel speak to the prophet through the deputation which they sent to him (chap. vii. 15), saying, " Should I weep, etc. ?" The singular pro noun, y, It (" my," or, " to me ") is meant to express the fact that each individual says, " in their heart " (which is also in the singular), because all are as one in this con fidence that there is strength for them in Jehovah their God, whose power is now displayed on behalf of Jerusalem. " And in that day" the prophecy proceeds, " will I make the princes of Judah as a pan (or basin ) of fire among wood, and like a torch of fire among sheaves, and they shall devour all the people round about on the right hand and on the left, and Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in her own place in Jerusalem " (tachteah, lit., " under her place" i.e., " in her place ") the name " Jerusalem " in this last clause standing in the first instance for the people personified as a woman, and in the second for the city as such.
That this great deliverance will be all of grace and by the power of God is brought out in the verses which follow: " And Jehovah shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, be not magnified against Judah?
The reason that " Judah " (which stands here for the people of the land generally in contrast to those who are within the city of Jerusalem) are saved " first," is not, as is mistakenly supposed by some, because Judah, having,
1 Ps. xlvi. 5. 28
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though unwillingly, joined the foe in the siege, " will be>? found in a place more rebellious and more evil than that of:<: Jerusalem," but because of their weak and defenceless: condition (as indicated by the fact that they dwell ir.-i " tents ") as contrasted with those within the city walls. . Or, in the words of another, " The defenceless land will bf ^ delivered sooner than the well-defended capital, that tht ; latter may not lift itself up above the former, but that both i may humbly acknowledge (as Jerome expresses it) that th< 2 victory is the Lord s," and that both alike may magnifj / the grace of God in their deliverance. " The glory (or splendour, rnsarij tipheretJi) of the house of David " con sists in the fact that it is the God-appointed royal line in Israel, which was continued in Zerubbabel, the prince who was Zechariah s contemporary, and culminated in our Lord Jesus, the true Son and Heir of David ; and " the glory " or " splendour " of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may be regarded as consisting in the fact that they may consider themselves as especially privileged and exalted above th<2 rest of the people of the land as dwellers in the city which God has especially chosen as the seat of His earthly throne.
But the deliverance of the defenceless people of the land will be only the " first " act of God s interposition on. behalf of Israel in that day.
The heart of the great conflict will be in and around the walls of Jerusalem, for on it all the fury of the enemy i attack will be directed. But " in that day stiall Jehovah defend (lit., shield } the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and he tha.t is feeble among them shall be as David ; and the house of\ David shall be as God, as the Angel of Jehovah before v them Not its walls or bulwarks will constitute the ; " defence " of the remnant of the people which shall be- left in Jerusalem in that solemn day. From chaps, xiii. 8, 9 \ and xiv. I 6, which, as we shall see, refer to the same ^ invasion of the 1" and siege of Jerusalem by the Gentile i ai hosts, we learn \ -.at the city, or a great part of it, will j e actually be "taken" and spoiled, and half of the city (thatj^ is, of the population) " go forth into captivity," and that
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then, when the enemy lifts his hand for the last blow in order utterly to destroy them, " that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance " the visible appearance of Jehovah in the person of their Messiah Jesus takes place. The uplifted arm of the adversary becomes suddenly withered ; and because Jehovah intervenes as the shield of the remnant that remains, therefore " the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city " (xiv. 2). " For thus saith the Lord unto me, Like as when the lion growleth, and the young lion over his prey, if a multitude of shepherds be called forth against him, he will not be dismayed at their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them : so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight upon Mount Zion, and upon the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts protect Jerusalem ; He will protect and deliver it ; He will pass over and preserve it" *
And not only shall Jehovah Himself " go forth and fight against those nations," but when once the weak and broken remnant of the people recognise their Divine Saviour, and hear the shout of the King in their midst, they are suddenly girt with superhuman strength. The feeblest of them, hannikhshal (lit., " he that stumbleth," i.e., the one so weak that he could not even stand, much less fight), shall in that day be as David the greatest of Israel s national heroes, and " to the Jew, therefore, the highest > [type of strength and glory on earth" and the house of M "David shall be as Elohim (i.e., " God " in His might and ,; majesty), and as the Divine " Angel of Jehovah," who of < old went " before them " in the desert and through the Red vi Sea smiting down their enemies, and therefore, " the highest
- lie type of strength and glory in heaven."
be No wonder, therefore, that through Him they " will 9 push down their adversaries," and " through His Name tread ra e them under that had risen up against them " ; 2 and, if I tile may venture a brief digression, I would say that there is a message in this scripture for you too, dear Christian reader. It is this, that however weak in yourself and ready 1 Isa. xxxi. 4, 5 (R.V.). Ps. xliv. 4, 5.
436 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
to " stumble," you may be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, and that " more " and " greater " is He that is for us, and with us, than all that can be against us. " Through God" exclaims the Psalmist, " we shall do valiantly " (or, as it might be rendered, " in God we shall form an host " however weak and few and insignificant in ourselves), for He it is that shall tread down our adversaries. 1 But to return to our chapter. While Jehovah endows the inhabitants of Jerusalem with supernatural strength so that they perform exploits, He will "seek to destroy all nations that come against Jerusalem " (i.e., in martial array to attack, as the phrase in the original implies). The expression " seek to do " is always used in the Bible " of seeking to do what it is a person s set purpose to do if Ju can" Man may seek to do a thing and fail, but " woe indeed to those whom Almighty God shall seek to destroy " ; for that on which His heart is once set He will assuredly accomplish, whether it will be in blessing on His people or in vengeance on His enemies.
The Great Spiritual Crisis in Israels History
The first nine verses of the 1 2th chapter of Zechariah describe prophetically, as we have seen, Israel s great national deliverance and the destruction of the armies of / the confederated anti-Christian world-powers which shall be gathered in the final siege of Jerusalem. That will, indeed, be a great and wonderful day in their history, " an hour of triumph such as they have never known before, greater than when they quitted Egypt ; greater than when they triumphed ; over Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea ; greater than lc when they entered the Promised Land, and the walls of \ Jericho fell down before them."
But yet there is something greater, more solemn and Tl more blessed, than mere outward deliverance and triumph , n , over their enemies that Israel is to experience on " that day," and that is God s final conquest over them. Ah! yes, Israel
1 Ps. lx. 12.
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 437
shall then learn the truth of the saying, that "our only true triumphs are God s triumphs over us, that His defeats of us are our only true victories"; l and will learn with the great apostle -whose history and experiences are in many ways a fore shadowing of the history and experience of his nation to say, " Thanks be unto God, who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ " 2 that is, as former enemies who have been vanquished, and whom He is now leading about as manifest trophies of His all-subduing grace and power.
" On former occasions, when Jeshurun had been made to ride on the high places of the earth, he had waxed fat and kicked ; then he forsook God which made him, and
lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. But it will never be so again. He who comes to conquer their foes comes also to subdue their hearts." Hence, great as their triumph will be, great as will have been their individual might in the last stage of their conflict with the surrounding hosts (so that " he that is feeble among them will be as David "), t, when they return from their victory, this their glorious day of triumph will end in self-abasement and tears. 3 How this wonderful change will be brought about, how the stubborn heart of unbelieving and gainsaying Israel will at ast be broken, we are told in the loth verse : " And I will
ai pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication ; and they
fc: shall look upon Me whom they have pierced : and they shall
- mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall
be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his
" I think," said a great master in Israel, " there is
r nothing in the whole range of scripture more touching than
01 Jthe promise contained in these simple, unadorned words. iAs they touch the heart they fix themselves on our
- c memory. Who can ever forget them ? They shall look
unto (or " upon ") Me whom they have pierced. "
And yet there is not another scripture in the Old
1 Dean Alford. * 2 Cor. ii. 14 (R.V. ).
- B. W. Newton. Adolph Saphir.
438 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
Testament around which more controversy has raged than around " these simple, unadorned," and, to the Christian, most precious words. Jewish commentators and some rationalistic Christian writers who seem not less biased in their anti-Christological methods in interpreting the Old Testament, 1 have tried their utmost to divert this scripture from Him whose rejection and suffering unto death, and yet future recognition and penitent reception on the part of " His own " nation, it foretells.
The modern Jewish translation of the passage as given, for instance, in the " Appendix of the Revised Version," issued by the Jewish Community in England for the use of Jews, in 1896, is as follows: "And they (i.e., the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem) shall look up to Me because of Him whom they (i.e., the nations which come against Jerusalem) have pierced." This translation, first suggested by Rashi, adopted by Kimchi in his com mentary on Zechariah, was fully elaborated by Rabbi Isaak of Troki 2 in his polemical work against Christianity, Chizzuk Emunah (" Strengthening of the Faith "), who thus ex plains :
" If it should happen that any of the Israelites should be pierced, namely, in that war, even though it should be one of the most inconsiderable, they shall wonder greatly how this could happen, and will think that this is the
1 Thus, for instance, Ewald, one of the fathers of the " Higher Criticism," and who has a very large following among Christian- commentators and theological writers in this country, considers the mourning pictured by the prophet in the scripture "as a mourning over the Jews fallen in the defence of their city," as martyrs for their country and faith ; those slain in the battlefield he considers to be "those pierced by the heathen." Canon Driver, in his Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, makes this passage to refer to some "deed of blood " in which the house of David, together with the people, became implicated some time before these chapters were written, which, according to him (and in opposition to Ewald and his school, who assign a pre-exilic origin to the second half of Zechariah) was some time between 518 and 300 B.C., of which deed of blood, as pointed out in my " Introduction to the second half of Zechariah," which could occasion such deep and universal mourning, history knows nothing.
2 Isaac Ben Abraham of Troki, a Karaite Rabbi born in 1533, died in 1594. His book is still the chief arsenal whence many arguments of modern Jews in their polemics against Christianity are drawn.
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 439
beginning of a fall and defeat before their enemies, as Joshua did. When the men of Ai smote thirty-six of Israel, he said : Alas! O Lord God, why didst Thou cause this people to pass the Jordan ? And again : What shall I say when Israel turn their backs before their enemies ? (Josh. vii.). So will it be at that time if they should see any of them pierced, they will be astonished, and look on Me on account of Him whom they pierced."
This translation, however, to which English-speaking Jews have, as we have seen, officially committed themselves, only shows the length which modern Judaism will go in misinterpreting the plainest scriptures so as to evade the Christian argument drawn from them in support of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. 1
It is a rendering which is contrary to grammar and to the natural sense, for, first, the word "i^K JIN (eth asher) cannot possibly mean " because of Him whom," but simply " whom," emphatically and definitely expressed. And, secondly, the modern Jewish rendering or paraphrase implies that the subject of the second verb of the first verse, VIJTI, daqaru " pierced," is a different one from that of the first verb, i^ani, v hibitu " shall look" in the same short sen tence. But it is altogether unnatural to suppose that two
1 An instance of departure not only from the plain sense and grammar, but from the more ancient Jewish traditional interpretations of Messianic passages for controversial reasons, is found in Rashi (Rabbi Solomon Bar Isaac), the most popular commentator on the Bible and Talmud born at Troys in 1040, died in 1 105. In his commentary on this passage in the Bible he says : " They shall look back to mourn because the Gentiles had pierced some amongst them, and killed some of them."
But in his commentary on the Talmud he says : "The words, the land shall mourn, are found in the prophecy of Zechariah, and he prophesies of the future that they shall mourn on account of Messiah, the son of Joseph, who shall be slain in the war of Gog and Magog" (Sukkah, fol. 52, col. l). That this mani fest contradiction is not accidental, but intentional, appears from the fact that this writer has dealt similarly by other controverted passages ; for instance, Isa. liii., which, in his commentary on the Bible, he expounds of the Jewish people ; but in his commentary on the Talmud he explains of Messiah. Indeed, his determination to get rid of any explanation that could favour Christianity is plainly avowed in his commentary on Ps. xxi., where he says: "Our Rabbis have expounded JE it of the King Messiah, but it is better to expound it further of David himself, in | order to answer heretics."
440 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
parties were in the prophet s mind, and that " they " who " shall look " are the Jews, and " they " who " have pierced " are the Gentile nations.
Another "Jewish" rendering of the passage, equally unfair and even less tenable, but contradictory of the above, is that found in the bulky " Jewish Family Bible," which has also a kind of " official " air about it, inasmuch as it was " printed with the sanction of (the late) Rev. Dr. Adler, the chief Rabbi." l The critical passage in question is translated thus : " But I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, and they whom the nations are piercing shall look upon Me, and shall mourn over it," etc. But a translation which does not scruple to interpolate words and expressions is not worth noticing, except to point out that it can claim, at best, to be only a polemical Targum, or commentary, the chief aim of which is the elimination of all references to a suffering, atoning Messiah from the pages of the Old Testament. It is not necessary to point out to any one who can read the original that the words, " whom the nations were piercing," are not found in the Hebrew text, and are an unjustifiable gloss of the " reviser."
But there is a more ancient Jewish interpretation of this prophecy than those to which I referred, which were invented by Jews for controversial reasons ; it is that, namely, which applies the passage to Messiah ben Joseph. Thus Aben Ezra, 2 who wrote after Rashi, says : " All the heathen shall look to me to see what I shall do to those who pierced Messiah, the son of Joseph " ; and Abarbanel, 3 after noticing the interpretation of Rashi and Kimchi, says :
1 It claims to be the Authorised or "Anglican" version, revised by Dr. M. Friedlander, Principal of the Jews College, published in 1881. Its honesty as a translation, or " revision," may be judged from its rendering of this and other Messianic passages.
2 Aben Ezra Rabbi Abraham ben Ezra one of the greatest of Jewish com mentators and grammarians: born, 1088 ; died, 1176.
8 Abarbanel (or Abravanel), Rabbi Dan Isaac ben Jehudah, the celebrated Jewish statesman and philosopher, theologian and commentator : born, 1437 ; died, 1508.
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 441
" It is more correct to interpret the passage of Messiah, the son of Joseph, as our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have interpreted it in the treatise Sukkah, 1 for he shall be a mighty man of valour of the tribe of Joseph, and shall at first be captain of the Lord s host in that war (namely, against Gog and Magog), but in that war shall die."
This interpretation is of interest and importance to the Christian student, in so far as it shows that the disciples of Christ, when the New Testament was written, were not alone in interpreting this scripture of the Messiah. The Jewish Rabbis explained it in the same way, only they applied it to Messiah ben Joseph, who does not exist in Scripture, and is an invention of their own brains.
Let me, while dwelling on the Jewish interpretation of this passage, reproduce a striking passage from Alshech, 2
1 The passage will be found in Bab. Talmud, Sukk. 520.
2 Moses Alshech flourished in Safed, Palestine, in the second half of the sixteenth century. The doctrine or theory of two Messiahs a Messiah ben Joseph, who should suffer and die, and the Messiah ben David, who shall reign in power and glory can be traced back to the third or fourth century A.D., and very probably originated in the perplexity of the Talmudists at the apparently irreconcilable pictures of a suffering, and yet a glorious Messiah, which they found in the prophecies. Instead of finding the solution in two advents of the one person, they explained the different scriptures as referring to two different persons.
"But whom did the Rabbis mean by the epithet Messiah ben Joseph?" writes a learned Hebrew Christian brother. We do not hesitate to answer : " None other person than Jesus, whom, after their great disappointment in the revolution of Bar-Cochba, they tacitly acknowledged as the suffering Messiah, and denominated Him by the name that He was commonly called in Galilee, in order perhaps to screen themselves against the hatred and persecution of their own followers, or of their Roman masters. This idea has been hinted at by the Rev. M. Wolkenberg in his translation of The Pentateuch according to the Talmud, p. 156, and broadly asserted by Dr. Biesenthal in his Hebrew com mentary on St. Luke (chap, xxiii. 48). This accounts for the remarkable fact that on the Feast of Trumpets, before the blowing of the ram s horn, God s mercy is besought through Jesus, the Prince of the Presence of God, the Metatron, or the One who shares the throne of God. At this same service, verses, mostly from Ps. cxix., are repeated, whose first letters form the name of Christon, but so ingeniously chosen, that they should at the same time read JBty jnp, the Bruiser of Satan. This name also is written on amulets and in Jewish houses when a child is born, as well as the name of the angel, TXDXD, which is mentioned in the said service, with alteration of only one accountable
442 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
which, barring the mention of Messiah ben Joseph, might almost be accepted as a statement of the Christian view of this scripture.
" I will do yet a third thing, and that is, that they shall look unto Me, for they shall lift up their eyes unto Me in perfect repentance, when they see Him whom they pierced, that is, Messiah, the Son of Joseph ; for our Rabbis, of blessed memory, have said that He will take upon Himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make an atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced Him, for on account of their sin He has died ; and, therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One, saying that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of Him who died for their sin : this is the meaning of They shall look upon Me. "
There is another critical point on which I must very briefly touch before proceeding with the exposition. The reading of the Massoretic text, ^N ^arn, vhibitu elai (" they shall look unto Me "), has been much disputed by Jews and modern writers, but it is supported by all the ancient versions and extant MSS with very few ex ceptions, and is the reading which is accepted in all the Rabbinic quotations made above. In a few MSS, how ever, the marginal correction vta, alav " unto Him," instead of ^K, elai " unto Me," was made by Jewish hands ; and in several instances this " Keri," or marginal reading, has, as is sometimes apt to be the case, crept into the text itself.
letter, and which stands for the King our Righteousness, the King our Righteousness, Jesus the Messiah. To this Metatron is again applied in the Talmud (Sanked. p. 256), the passage Ex. xxiii. 20, and it is added that His name is the name of His Master. And in the liturgy of the Feast of Tabernacles reference is made to the glorious and dread Metatron, who was transformed from flesh to fire.
" Who cannot see in these mysterious hints a purposely covered belief in the Messiahship of Jesus, and that in a most orthodox manner?" (From Rays of Messiahs Glory. )
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 443
But we need not impute any dishonest intention to the Jews in this matter, as some have done, 1 and of a desire to corrupt the text ; for, as a matter of fact, however much they obscured and perverted the true sense of Scripture, through their misinterpretations, and in their paraphrases and commentaries, they always most jealously guarded the original letter and text of Scripture from alteration or corruption.
The marginal reading in the few MSS which is also accepted in the Talmud, is, however, not recognised as a Keri> or proper reading, in the Massoretic text. It originated in the very natural difficulty, from the Jewish point of view, of conceiving how God, who is undoubtedly the speaker in the first part of the verse, since He promises to pour out the spirit of grace and supplication, can be " pierced." It requires the light which is thrown on Messianic prophecy by the New Testament ; and a knowledge of Him in whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and who could say, " I and the Father are One, " for men to grasp this mystery. 2
But we are told by Jewish and rationalistic writers that we must not " read the New Testament into these Old Testament prophecies, " but rather ask ourselves what meaning the people in the prophet s own time would attach to them. To this we reply. First : Though it is true, generally speaking, that the prophets spoke first and primarily to those in their own time, there is, never-
1 As, for instance, Martini.
2 It need not, it seems to me, be supposed that the Apostle John, in John xix. 37, quoted from a manuscript which read, "They shall look on Him." It is rather his adaptation and application of the prophecy in the light of fulfilment (as far as the piercing is concerned) to our Lord Jesus. lie knew well that in its connection, in Zech. xii., it is spoken of God ; but this passage, like many other prophecies and promises which in the Old Testament centre in Jehovah, find their fulfilment and realisation in history in the person of the Messiah, whom this beloved apostle depicts to us as " the Word made flesh," and in whose face he beheld the glory of the only-begotten of the Father. Hence, as he now gazes upon Him on the Cross, and beholds the Roman soldier plunging his spear into His side, he says, "Here, truly, is the One to whom this Scripture applies they shall look on Him whom they have pierced."
444 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
theless, a predictive element in Holy Scripture, and that many of the prophetic utterances concerning " the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow " were not only not fully comprehensible to the people to whom they spoke, but to the prophets themselves, 1 and could only be fully understood after, and in the light of, their fulfilment.
Secondly: Even the Jews in the prophet s own time, if they pondered on the prophet s word, must have understood, at any rate this much, that the prediction refers to " a national mourning over some one who stood in an intimate connection with Jehovah, and whose rejec tion and death was to be bitterly bewailed by the people of Israel. Such would have been the meaning conveyed by the passage to the Jews of the time of Zechariah. Assuming that the prophecy proceeded from the same author as that of the previous chapter and there are not sufficient grounds on which to deny it the rejection of the representative of Jehovah (namely, the Good Shepherd, whose rejection is there spoken of as followed by a terrible punishment), and the national mourning described as taking place for one who should be, in some mysterious manner, pierced by the nation when acting in the capacity of the representative of Jehovah, must both have been considered by the hearers of the prophet to refer to one and the same event."
But now, to be done with criticism and controversy, let us look into the heart of this great prophetic promise.
We will take the words in the order in which they stand in the Hebrew. "And I will pour" ^ssyi, v sha- phachti the word expresses the fulness and abundance of the gift of the Spirit which shall then be bestowed upon the people. The promise points back to Joel ii. 28, 29: " And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh" etc. ; or, as we read in Isaiah : " / will pour My spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring " in the same abundance and with the 1 2 Pet. i. 10-12.
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 445
same blessed quickening and fertilising effects as " waters " and " streams " are poured " upon the dry and thirsty ground." l
" Upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem" Jerusalem and its inhabitants are mentioned alone in the text, " not as though the blessing of the gracious outpouring of the spirit was to be confined to them, but because Jerusalem is used as a designation for the whole people, in accord with the custom of regarding the capital as the representative of the whole nation " ; 2 for it is clear enough from the whole context that, if the great penitential sorrow which is to be the fruit of this out pouring commences in Jerusalem as the centre, and with " the house of David," which stands for the highest among the people, it extends to " the whole land " (ver. 1 2), and to all " the families of the people."
" TJie spirit of grace and of supplication " D wnrn jn nn, ruach hen v thachnunim is the Holy Spirit of God who conveys grace and brings our hearts into a condition of grace. Just as " The spirit of wisdom and understanding " is the spirit infusing wisdom and understanding, and " the spirit of counsel and might " is that same spirit imparting the gift of counsel to see what is to be done, and of might to do it, and " the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord" is that same spirit infusing intimate acquaintance with God with awe at His infinite majesty ; so " the spirit of grace " is that same spirit infusing grace and bringing into a state of favour with God, and a " spirit of supplica tion " is that spirit calling out of the inmost soul the cry for a yet larger measure of the grace already given. 3 But the simplest way to understand the two kindred terms, hen and thachnunim " grace and supplication "is to view them in the light of cause and effect, for grace is that which God bestows and the Holy Spirit conveys, and " supplication " is the fruit of that condition of heart, or soul, which that same spirit creates within us.
1 Isa. xliv. 3 ; see also Ezek. xxxix. 29, xxxvi. 26, 27. - Keil. 3 Pusey.
446 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
The blessed effect of the outpouring of the spirit of grace and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem " in that day " will be that " they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and mourn"
(a) They shall look (^aiTi, v hibitu] with no ordinary or mere passing look, but " with trustful hope and long ing," as one has paraphrased it. Among the other mean ings which this particular verb has is that of " to regard," " to consider," " to contemplate," " to look upon with pleasure." It is used, for instance, in that remarkable story of the brazen serpent in Num. xxi. 9, which, as it seems to me, was in the mind of Zechariah when he uttered this prophecy : " And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it on a pole (or the standard ), and it came to pass that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld it (or looked unto ^arn, v hibif), tJie serpent of brass, he lived" With this same eager look of faith and hope shall Israel in that day behold and contemplate Him, who is the great antitype of the brazen serpent, and who was " lifted up " for us on the Cross, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. It is this word also which is used in Num. xii. 8, as describing the beatific view of the very " form " or " similitude " of God, which it was the distinction and privilege of Moses above the other prophets to " behold." Thus also, not " in a vision " or " in a dream," but face to face, and with no longer any veil to hide His glory, shall Israel in that day " look upon " Him who came once in humiliation to suffer and die, but who shall be manifested now in the glory of His Father and with His holy angels. 1
() " Unto Me," or " Upon Me ($K, elai}.
This sets forth the character and majesty of Him whom they shall behold as their great Deliverer, for the One who speaks throughout the chapter, as already
1 See also, for instance, Ps. xxxiv. 5 : "They looked unto Him and were lightened " ; and Isa. li. I, 2 : "Look unto the Rock whence ye were hewn" ; "Look unto Abraham," etc.; where the same word is used to express the "look," not only of faith, but of contemplation.
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 447
observed, is none other than Jehovah, " which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him " (ver. I ) ; and who in this I oth verse says : " / will pour out the spirit of grace and of supplications." This, as already observed above, is a great mystery comprehensible only to faith based on the Biblical revelation of the twofold nature of the Messiah ; but when perceived it is very precious and beautiful.
" They shall look upon Me"
The Jewish nation has hitherto regarded faith in our Lord Jesus as irreconcilable with faith in God, and have conceived of Him as being in opposition to God.
This was the chief ground of the blind hostility to Christ on the part of the scribes and Pharisees during His earthly ministry, and has continued to this day, not knowing that their hatred of Christ was in its essence nothing else than hatred of God, and their opposition to Him nothing else than a fighting against God. But, as Saul of Tarsus (whose experience and history are in many ways a foreshadowment of the history of his people in relation to Christ) was startled and surprised to learn from that voice on his way to Damascus, " / am Jesus whom thou persecutest," that those hated Nazarenes whom he was persecuting, even unto death, were one with Him who was now revealed to him as the risen and living Son of God, and that he who was touching them was touching " the apple of His eye"; so shall the Jewish nation in the day when the spirit of grace and of supplication is poured upon them, and " the eyes of the blind are opened " to behold the divine glory of their Messiah, be startled and surprised to discover that their having persecuted and " pierced " Him was equivalent to their having persecuted and pierced God, because of His being one with God, in a higher and deeper sense even than believers are with Christ.
But just as the words, " they shall look unto Me," set forth the essential oneness of the pierced One with Jehovah,
448 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
so does the sudden transition in the same verse from the first person to the third, and the words, " they shall mourn for Him" teach us that, as to His person, He is yet distinct from God. The same mystery and apparent paradox meet us in many other Old Testament scriptures which speak of the Messiah as " Jehovah " the " mighty God," and yet as one sent by, and coming in the name of God, and is a mystery which (as already stated above) is solved to all whose eyes have been opened to the Biblical doctrine of the Tri-unity of the blessed Godhead, and to the twofold nature of the promised Redeemer, who is perfect God and perfect Man the Son of David and the Son of the Highest.
(c) " Whom they have pierced."
The verb ip^, daqar, means " to pierce," or " thrust through with a spear or lance," 1 and points to " the climax of our Saviour s mortal sufferings " when, as the Gospel narrative bears witness, " one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and straightway there came out blood and water." ^
It was a Roman soldier who did the actual deed ; Roman soldiers also were they who pierced His blessed brow with the crown of thorns, and His hands and feet with those cruel nails ; but the guilt and responsibility for
1 See Num. xxv. 7, 8, where the same verb is used in connection with ncn, "spear" or lance ; the same verb is used also in Zech. xiii. 3.
2 It has been urged that stress must not be laid on the literal fulfilment of this item in the prophecy as recorded in the Gospel narrative, since the prophet uses language in chap. xiii. 7 "which if its literal signification be insisted on, would imply death by the sword " ; but this is a misapprehension, a^n, "sword," is used frequently, in a general way, as the instrument of death by violence, without in many cases defining that it would be brought about by being literally slain with the sword. In Ps. xxii. 20, e.g., we read : "Deliver my soul from the sword (i.e., from death), my darling (my only one) from the power of the dog" ; yet in the immediate connection we read : "They pierced My hands and My feet." We take it then that in chap. xiii. 9 we have a prophecy of Messiah s sufferings unto death in a general way, by the use of a
-nire well understood as having this signification, but that chap. xii. 10 refers lighter?,, definite act in process of the infliction of the sufferings unto death on our "Look ^P l ^ e li tera l fulfilment of which the Apostle John lays such emphasis "look," not ">4-37)-
FINAL CONFLICT AND DELIVERANCE 449
these actions will be brought home to the heart and con science of the Jewish nation in that day, and they will then acknowledge that both directly, by delivering Him into the hands of the Gentiles, and indirectly, on account of their sins, it was they who pierced Him.
(ct) "And they shall mourn for (or over } Him" vesaphedhu alav not only with the ordinary " mourning," as those who mourn for the dead (in which sense the verb
- JQD, saphad, is generally used), but with a deep and intense
mourning, namely, " as one that mourneth for his only son " (or, literally, " with the mourning for an only one "), and " they shall be in bitterness for Him as one that is in bitterness for his first-born." Mourning for an " only son " was proverbial as descriptive of the magnitude of the grief, as we read in Jer. vi. 26: "O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth^ and wallow thyself in ashes : make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation And again in Amos viii. IO: " 1 will make it as the mourning for an only son"
But not only on account of their proverbial use to ex press the intensity and bitterness of the sorrow and grief, are these names " the only one " and " first-born " introduced here in connection with Israel s mourning over the Messiah whom they had pierced, they are peculiarly appropriate designations of Him who is " the First-born of every crea ture," and of whom the apostle exclaims : " We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father full of grace and truth And He is not only the " first " and " only-begotten " as the Son of God, in relation to the Father, but as the Son of Man, and more particularly in relation to the Jewish nation. He was their child of promise upon whom the hopes and expectations of the nation had been centred through the centuries. He is the " only One " whom this nationally barren woman, who was betrothed unto Jehovah, had brought forth, as it were, miraculously, by the power of God. And it was ordained that He should be " the First-born among many brethren," first and fore most to them who, according to the flesh, are " His own," 29
450 VISIONS AND PROPHECIES OF ZECHARIAH
as well as in relation to men generally and Him they have with wicked hands " pierced " and slain! No wonder that " in that day," when the spirit of grace and supplica tion is poured upon them, and their eyes are open to behold Him, and to recognise the fearful national crime which they committed, to their own sorrow and hurt, they shall mourn over Him " with the mourning for an only one," and shall be in bitterness for Him as he is in bitterness " who mourneth for his first-born."
It is in that day of their deep sorrow and contrition that they shall, amid their broken-hearted sobs, utter that great national confession and lament contained in that wonderful chapter in Isaiah :
" He was despised, and rejected of men ; a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their face He was despised ; and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows ; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions ; He was bruised for our iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him ; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray ; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
(e) And not only will the mourning be great and intense, it will also be universal and yet individual: "In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. And the land sJtall mourn, every family apart ; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart ; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart ; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart ; tJte family of the Shimeites apart, and their wives apart : all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart"
One or two points in these verses need explanation :
(i) Israel s great penitential mourning over their Messiah is likened by the prophet for magnitude to
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" the mourning of Hadadrimmon 1 in the valley of Megid- don."
The reference can be nothing else than to the national mourning over the pious young king Josiah, who was slain by Pharaoh Necho " in the valley of Megiddon," as recorded in 2 Kings xxiii. 29, 30, and more fully in 2 Chron. xxxv. 20-27. His death was the greatest sorrow which had till then befallen Judah, inasmuch as he was " the last hope of the declining Jewish kingdom, and in his death the last gleam of the sunset of Judah faded into night." In that great mourning for Josiah the prophet Jeremiah took part, and wrote dirges for it (2 Chron. xxxv. 25), and the national lamentations over him continued and became " an ordinance " in Israel, which survived the seventy years
1 "Hadadrimmon" was, according to Jerome, a city near Jezreel ("in the valley of Megiddo"), which in his day was called Maximianopolis, and has been identified by others with the site of the modern village of Rammaneh, or Rumani, in the same " valley," or " plain " ; but the identification is doubtful.
Hitzig, who first held that the reference might be to some mourning for Ahaziah, king of Judah, who was wounded by Jehu when the latter rebelled against Joram, and who fled to Megiddo, and died there (2 Kings ix. 27), afterwards, in his commentary, propounded the still more absurd view, which, however, has been adopted by some modern writers, i.e., that the mourning of Hadadrimmon refers to the mourning for the god Adonis, who, according to mythology, was slain by a boar, and whose orgies probably had their origin in Phoenicia.
A plausible ground for the conjecture that Hadadrimmon, instead of being a place-name, might rather be the name of the object of mourning that is, the god Adonis is advanced by these critics, namely, that according to 2 Chron. xxxv., Josiah, though mortally wounded in Megiddo, was brought to Jerusalem, where he died, and that the great mourning for him took place there.
But to this it has been properly replied that " the mourning may be considered as having commenced at Hadadrimmon, where the good king received his deadly wound, even though the great national mourning took place in Jerusalem, whither his body was brought from the fatal field."
Moreover, as it has been suggested, "the mourning of Hadadrimmon" may be explained as " the mourning over Hadadrimmon," i.e., over the national calamity which took place there.
Other suggestions such as that of Pressel, who considers that the mourning refers to the wailing of the mother of Sisera over her son, the great chieftain of the Canaanites, who was slain by Jael not far from Megiddo are not worth examining. It is quite wonderful to what absurd theories and conjectures some scholars will resort when the simple and obvious sense of these prophecies is passed over.
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captivity and continued " to this day," when the chronicles were closed. It was worthy, therefore, to be referred to by the prophet, and to be compared with the still greater and more bitter mourning of repentant Israel in the future.
(2) In the universal, yet individual, mourning which, commencing in Jerusalem, will spread throughout the whole land, four " families " are especially singled out as being conspicuous. Of these four, two are well known, namely, " the family of the house of David " and " the family of the house of Levi." But who are meant by " the family of the house of Nathan " and " the family of Shimei " (or of " the Shimeites ") ?
It would require a treatise to analyse the various con jectures and explanations which have been advanced on this point by Jewish and Christian commentators.
Let me in the briefest possible manner give here what seems to me the most satisfactory explanation. And first, we may say with certainty that "the family of the house of Nathan " does not refer to the posterity of Nathan the prophet, as representing the prophetic order, as the Rabbis and some Christian writers have supposed, but to the family of Nathan, the son of David and brother of Solomon (2 Sam. v. 14), whose name figures also in the genealogy of our Lord in Luke iii. 31. Likewise, "the family of the Shimeite " does not refer to the tribe of Simeon, which, according to rabbinic fiction, furnished the teachers of the nation ; l for in that case, apart from other considerations, the name would be differently written in the Hebrew, 2 but refers to Shimei, the son of Gershon and grandson of Levi (Num. iii. 1 8). We have thus two families of the royal and two of the priestly line, and of these one stands for the
1 Jerome sums up the Jewish view, which he seems to have adopted, thus : "In David the regal tribe is included, i.e., Judah. In Nathan the prophetic order is described. Levi refers to the priests from whom the priesthood sprang. In Simeon the teachers of Israel are included, as companies of masters sprang from that tribe. He says nothing about the other tribes, as they had no special privilege or dignity." But, as stated above, these conjectures rest on no historic basis of fact.
2 iype>, Simonite instead of as it is in the text ypt*.
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chief (David for the royal, and Levi for the priestly), and the other (Nathan for the royal, and Shimei for the priestly), for the subordinate families of their lines as including and representing the whole to indicate, as Hengstenberg suggests, that the mourning spoken of would pervade every family (of these lines) from the highest to the lowest.
But though these, as the two aristocratic and privileged lines, the rulers and priests, who, alas! in times past often set an evil example to the whole nation, will now be fore most in their self-contrition and mourning over the great national sin, their example for good will now also be followed by all the rest of the people. This is expressed in the last verse of the chapter, which tells us that " all the families that remain shall mourn, every family apart, and their wives apart."
In the last sentence of the chapter, not only the magni tude and universality, but the depth and intensity, as well as the individual character of this unprecedented mourning, is once again described. It is strikingly pictured as a mourning which shall not only be manifested in public, but be participated in by each family apart. And not only are families spoken of as mourning apart from families, but individuals, compelled by the deep sorrow which shall overwhelm them, shall weep apart by themselves.
This depicts a sorrow greater than any previous sorrow. Even husbands shall mourn apart from their wives, and wives apart from their husbands, because each individual man or woman will be overwhelmed with his or her own individual share in the guilt of having slain their Messiah.
It will thus be both a national and individual mourning at the same time, and no mere ceremonial lamentation, but a genuine sorrow of heart. " Each individual shall experi ence the grief so keenly as to desire to hide himself from the eyes of others " 1 even from those nearest to them.
The only one who will be able effectually to comfort them in this great mourning will be the Lord Himself, He over whom ttiey shall mourn. And He shall comfort them
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in that day as "him whom his mother comforteth," and they " shall be comforted in Jerusalem."
When once this great but godly sorrow shall have accomplished its blessed end in working a repentance never to be repented of, He shall pour His consolations into their broken hearts, and give unto them the " oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Like Joseph to his brethren (in whom the history of Christ and Israel is depicted), He will say unto them : " As for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive : now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves." l
We are done with the exposition of this great Messianic prediction. The ultimate literal fulfilment of it lies yet in the future, in the day for which we watch and pray, when our Lord Jesus shall, according to His promise, appear in His glory, and the Jewish nation shall literally look upon Him whom they have pierced, and be, as it were, " born in a day." But there is a forestalment, so to say, in the fulfil ment of this prophecy in the case of the individual even now. " And thus," to quote the words of an honoured Hebrew Christian brother and true master of Israel, "every Jew who, by the grace of God since the Day of Pentecost, has been brought to Christ, fulfils this prediction ; he looks unto Him whom he has pierced. It is the look of repent ance ; for only a sight of the crucified Jesus shows us our sin and grief. It is the look of supplication and faith ; for He only can bless and save, and He saves all who believe. It is the look of peace and adoration ; for His love is infinite, unchanging, and omnipotent. It is the look which never ceases and never ends ; for now the veil is taken away, and we with open face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory." 2
And as it is with the individual Jew, so it is with the individual Gentile. Yes, thanks be to God, as we all,
1 Gen. xlv. 5, 1. 20. 2 Adolph Saphir.
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whether Jew or Gentile, had our share in the guilt of Christ s crucifixion because of our common sin, so also may all have their share in the salvation which comes through a penitent look of faith on Him whom we have pierced.
The Cross has been from the beginning, and must continue to be, the centre of all true Christian devotion, " the security against passion, the impulse to self-denial, the parent of zeal for souls, the incentive to love. This has struck the rock, that it gushed forth in tears of penitence ; this, the strength and vigour of hatred of sin to look to Him whom our sins have pierced."
Let us all then look to Him for our salvation, and have our gaze fixed upon Him for our sanctification, and so have no occasion to dread that awful day when " He cometh with clouds ; and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him : and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen" (Rev. i. 7).