Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
Verses 1-8. - § 4. The Lord promises to show his love for Zion, to dwell among his people, and to fill Jerusalem with a happy lace. Verse 1. - Again; rather, and. This chapter contains the second half of the Lord's answer concerning fasting, merging into prophecy.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Verse 2. - Thus saith the Lord of hosts. This formula occurs ten times in this chapter, thus enforcing the truth that all the promises made to Zion come from the Lord himself, and are therefore sure to be fulfilled. I was jealous; - I am jealous, as Zechariah 1:14 (where see note). With great fury. Against her enemies (Zechariah 1:15). "Zelus" is defined by Albertus Magnus: "amor boni cum indignatione contrarii." One side of God's love for Zion is shown in the punishment of her enemies. Knabenbauer likens this zeal or jealousy of God to the pillar of fire at the Exodus - light and protection to the Israelites, darkness and destruction to the Egyptians (Exodus 14:20).
Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
Verse 3. - I am returned (Zechariah 1:16); I return. When Jerusalem was taken and given over to the enemy, God seemed to have deserted her (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 11:23); but new the restoration of the exiles, the rebuilding of the temple, the voice of prophecy, showed that the Lord had returned, and that new he will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:10). A city of truth; city of truth; no longer full of lies and treachery and infidelity. God dwelling therein, it shall be "the faithful city" (Isaiah 1:26), in which all that is true and real shall flourish (comp. ver. 16; Zephaniah 3:13). The holy mountain. The hill whereon the temple is built shall be called the holy mountain, because the Lord dwelt in the sanctuary. The prophecy in this and the following verses received a partial fulfilment in the days between Zerubbabel and Christ; but there is a further accomplishment in store.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.
Verse 4. - There shall yet old men...dwell (sit), etc. A picture of happy security and plenty, in vivid contrast to the desolation deplored in Lamentations 2; Lamentations 5. In the days of the Maccabees it is noted, among other tokens of peace and prosperity, that "the ancient men sat all in the streets, communing together of good things" (1 Macc. 14:9). For very age; Hebrew, for multitude of days. People shall reach the utmost limits of human life. According to the old Law, length of days was the reward of obedience (Genesis 15:15; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 4:40), and an early death was inflicted as a punishment of sin (Deuteronomy 28:20; Psalm 54:23; 78:33). Such promises are made also in Messianic times (Isaiah 65:20), though in a different sense.
And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
Verse 5. - Full of boys and girls. Jerusalem and the other cities had long been strangers to any such happy sight. Large increase of population is a blessing often promised in the latter days (Hosea 1:10; Micah 2:12). Perowne remarks that our Lord alludes to the games of children the marketplaces as a familiar incident his days (Matthew 11:16, 17; comp. Jeremiah 11).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 6. - In these days; rather, in those days. If what is promised in vers. 3-5 seems incredible to those who shall see the fulfilment. The remnant. The returned Jews and their posterity (Haggai 1:12-14). Should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? Certainly not. Nothing is impossible with God.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;
Verse 7. - God promises to bring his dispersed people home again - a promise only yet partially fulfilled. My people. A title of honour (Hosea 2:23). From the east country, and from the west country. Two regions are named, symbols of the whole world (comp. Psalm 50:1; Malachi 1:11). The return of the captives from Babylon was a prelude of the future restoration of the dispersed, when all Israel shall be saved (Romans 11:26). (See a similar promise, Isaiah 43:5, 6; comp. John 11:52.)
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
Verse 8. - In the midst of Jerusalem. As the centre of worship (see Zechariah 2:4, and note there). In truth and in righteousness. The words belong to both parts of the preceding clause: God will deal truly and righteously with them, but they must deal truly and righteously with him. If they are faithful to their obligations, God would be unto them all that he had promised to be.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.
Verses 9-17. - § 5. The people are exhorted to be of good cheer, for god will henceforth give them his blessing, which, however, was conditional on their obedience. Verse 9. - Let your hands be strong (comp. Haggai 2:15-19). Be of good courage for the work before you (Judges 7:11; Isaiah 35:3; Ezekiel 22:14). By (from) the mouth of the prophets, which were. Who came forward as prophets. These prophets, who prophesied after the foundations of the temple were laid, were Haggai and Zechariah; they are thus distinguished from the pre-exilian seers mentioned in Zechariah 7:7. The same prophets who encouraged you in your work at first are they who have spoken to you words of promise in those days. That the temple might be built; Revised Version, even the temple that it might be built. This could not be predicated of the first foundation, which was followed by a long period of inaction (Ezra 4:24), only terminated by the vigorous exhortations of the prophets, which led to a resumption of the work that might be called a second foundation of the temple.
For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.
Verse 10. - The prophet reminds the people of the sad condition of affairs during the cessation of the good work, and how things began to improve directly they showed diligence and zeal. There was no hire for man, etc. Either the yield was so small that no labour of men or beasts was needed to gather it in, or the general poverty was so great that labourers could not get their wages nor the oxen their well earned share of provender (Haggai 1:11; Haggai 2:17, 18). Neither was there any peace...because of the affliction; rather, because of the adversary. They could not go about their usual occupations, or pass in safety from place to place, on account of the enemies that compassed them about (Ezra 4:4). The rendering of the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint and Vulgate, but the word (tsar) is often used for the concrete, "adversary." So the Syriac here. I set all men every one against his neighbour. There were internal dissensions as well as outward opposition. God had allowed this for his own wise purposes.
But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
Verse 11. - But now I will not be. God's attitude towards the people had already changed in consequence of their diligence in the work of restoration. Perowne renders, "Now I am not." The residue; the remnant; the returned Jews (ver. 12; Haggai 1:12). The former days. In the time of their inactivity, when a curse rested upon them and upon their land. The curse was now removed, and a marked amelioration had set in (Haggai 2:15-19).
For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
Verse 12. - The seed shall be prosperous; literally, (there shall be) the seed of peace. The crops sown shall be crops of peace, safe and secure, in contradistinction to the threat in Leviticus 26:16, that the seed should be sown in vain, for it should be devoured by an enemy (Knabenbauer). Or, more generally, all farming labours shall succeed and prosper. Jerome's paraphrase is, "There shall be universal peace and joy;" Septuagint," But I will show forth peace." Another way of understanding the words which has found much favour with modern commentators is to take the clause in apposition with the words immediately following; thus: "The seed (i.e. growth) of peace, the vine, shall give its fruit." But there is no especial reason why the vine should be called "the seed of peace." It is not peculiar among fruit trees for requiring a time of peace for its cultivation. And the term "seed" is very inappropriate to the vine, which was not raised from seed, but from cuttings and layers. Perowne also points out that such a rendering destroys the balance of the three following clauses, which explain and expand the general statement that agriculture shall prosper. Dr. Alexander takes "the seed of peace" to be that from which peace springs; i.e. that peace should be radically established in the land, and from this fact the results following should ensue. This affords a very good sense; but it is probably a metaphor quite unintended by the prophet. The Syriac reads differently, "The seed shall be safe." The remnant (see on ver. 11). To possess; to inherit; Septuagint, κατακληρονομήσω (Revelation 21:7). This promise recalls the blessings in the old Law (Leviticus 26:4, etc.; Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalm 67:6).
And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
Verse 13. - As ye were a curse among the heathen. As your fate was used as a formula of imprecation among the heathen; e.g. "May your fate be that of the Jews" (see examples of this, 2 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 65:15; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:22). The other way of taking the expression as meaning the object of curse (i.e. as the heathen once used to curse you), is not so suitable. Judah... Israel. This expression includes the twelve tribes, of all of which some members had returned, and continued to return, from the Captivity. They were united now and formed one nation (see note on Zechariah 9:10). So will I save you. In as open and significant a manner will I show that I am delivering and favouring you. Ye shall be a blessing. This must be taken correspondingly to the former phrase, being a "curse;" ye shall be used as a formula for blessing; e.g. "God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh" (Genesis 48:20; comp. Ruth 4:11, 12). Fear not (Zephaniah 3:16). "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31; comp. Numbers 14:9). Let your hands be strong (see note on ver. 9). The LXX. takes the paragraph differently and erroneously: "And it shall be that in like manner as ye were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing," i.e. a cause of blessing, Ητε ἐν κατάρᾳ... ἔσεσθε ἐν εὐλογίᾳ.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:
Verse 14. - The ground of the prom[so is the will of God, who cannot deceive. As I thought to punish you; as I purposed to do evil to you; i.e. to the nation whose continuity is thus intimated (comp. Haggai 2:5; and for a similar contrast of punishment and blessing, see Jeremiah 31:25). I repented not. God carried out the dread decree to the full (Zechariah 1:6; 2 Chronicles 36:16). (For the phrase applied to God, comp. Numbers 23:19; Jeremiah 4:28; Jonah 3:10, where see note.) Vulgate, "I pitied not."
So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
Verse 15. - So again have I thought, etc. The past chastisement, which happened as it was threatened, is a guarantee of the fulfilment of the promised blessing. But there is a condition to be observed, which is set forth in the two next verses. The LXX. has, "So have I ordered and purposed." In these special blessings Judah and Jerusalem alone were to share at the first; Israel's happy time (ver. 13) was to come later.
These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
Verse 16. - These are the things. To secure the fulfilment of the promise of good, they must do the will of God (Zechariah 7:9. etc.). Truth. This was to be observed in all conversation and transactions with their neighbours. St. Paul quotes this injunction (Ephesians 4:25). Execute the judgment of truth and peace; literally, judge ye truth and the judgment of peace. So the Septuagint and Vulgate. Practise perfect equity in judgments, and so decide, according to truth and justice, as to secure peace and concord between the parties concerned. In your gates. Where the judges sat, and justice was administered (Deuteronomy 16:18; Deuteronomy 21:19; see note on Amos 5:10).
And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.
Verse 17. - Let none of you imagine (see note on Zechariah 7:10, where these words occur). Love no false oath. The prevalent sins at this time were not idolatry, but cheating and lying and injustice, vices learned in the land of exile, where they had turned their energies to traffic and commerce (see Zechariah 5:2-4, and note on ver. 3 there).
And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,
Verses 18-23. - § 6. Here follows the direct answer to the question originally proposed. The fasts should be turned into joyful festivals, former calamities being forgotten. Then the change extending its influence, the heathen shall worship the God of Israel, and esteem it an honour to be received into fellowship with the Jewish nation.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
Verse 19. - The fast of the fourth month, etc. (For the occasions of these fasts, see note on Zechariah 7:3.) Jerome gives the later Jewish traditions concerning them. The fast of the seventh day of the fourth month commemorated the breaking of the two tables of the commandments by Moses, as well as the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem; that of the fifth month was observed in memory of the return of the spies sent to explore Canaan, and the consequent punishment of forty years' wandering in the wilderness, as well as of the burning of the temple by the Chaldeans; that in the tenth month was appointed because it was then that Ezekiel and the captive Jews received intelligence of the complete destruction of the temple. Joy and gladness. The observance of these fasts seems, by the Lord's answer, to have been neither enjoined nor forbidden; but as for their sins their festivals had been turned into mourning (Amos 8:10), so now their fasts should be turned into joyful feasts, and former miseries should be forgotten in the presence of the blessings now showered upon them. Therefore love the truth and peace. This is the condition of the fulfilment of the promise (ver. 16; Zechariah 7:9), here again forcibly impressed.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:
Verse 20. - It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people; peoples. The sight of the prosperity of the Jews shall induce surrounding nations to join in the worship of Jehovah. The same truth is expressed in Psalm 126:1-3. Perowne thinks that vers. 20, 21 refer to the tribes of Israel; but it seems unnatural to suppose the prophet asserting that it will yet happen that Israelites will seek the Lord, when there is no reason to think that they had not done so in some fashion, or that they would need the previous deliberation mentioned in the next verse. Many cities. So the LXX. and Vulgate. Others translate, "great, or, populous cities;" but this is less suitable.
And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
Verse 21. - The inhabitants of one city shall go to another. The LXX. has, "The inhabitants of five cities shall go unto one;" Vulgate, "The inhabitants go one to another." Let us go speedily. The Hebrew is an imperfect followed by an infinitive absolute - an idiom which implies combination, Let us go on and on, continually. So Pusey and Wright. To pray before the Lord; to entreat the favour of the Lord (see note on Zechariah 7:2). The Gentiles would be moved, not only to make pilgrimages to the great annual festivals, but to seek to know the Lord, and how to worship him acceptably. I will go also. The inhabitants answer willingly to those who exhort them. It is quite unnatural to take the clause to mean (as Drake does), "I, Zechariah, will go too, to see the alteration in the mode of observing these fast days."
Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
Verse 22. - Many people (peoples) and strong nations. This explains ver. 20 more fully. The Jews were not actuated by the missionary spirit, yet even before Christ's advent their religion had spread into all parts of the world, as we see from the catalogue of proselytes in Acts 2:9-11. Intimations of the same fact are given in Ezra 6:21; Esther 8:17. To seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem; i.e. to keep the solemn festivals observed there (comp. Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 66:20-23 Micah 4:1, and note there). The literal fulfilment of this prophecy is not to be looked for. It declares the future conversion of the Gentiles, and their being made one with Israel in the Church of Christ, "one fold under one Shepherd" (John 10:16).
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
Verse 23. - Ten men. The number ten is used for a large indefinite number (comp. Genesis 31:7; Leviticus 26:26; 1 Samuel 1:8). Out of all languages (the languages) of the nations. The diversity of languages shall not hinder the unity in the faith (comp. Isaiah 66:18; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9). Shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew. Taking hold of the skirt implies a desire to share the privileges, and to be united in fellowship with (comp. Isaiah 4:1; Haggai 2:12). St. Cyril considers the idea to be that the heathen shall cling to the Jews like children holding their fathers' dress for support and guidance. In "the man that is a Jew" St. Jerome discerns the Messiah. We will go with you. The picture presented to the mind by this verse is of a Jew journeying to Jerusalem from some distant country to keep a solemn festival, and a number of Gentiles clinging round him, asking permission to accompany him on his journey, because they have learned how good the Lord has been to his countrymen. But the ideal intended is much more than this. Salvation, indeed, is of the Jews; it began to be announced at Jerusalem; it was preached by the Jewish apostles; its founder was of the seed of David. But the true Israelites are not merely those who are of the natural posterity of Abraham, but all true Christians united under Christ, the Head. To their number all who would be saved must be joined (comp. Romans 4:11; Galatians 3:7, 29; Galatians 4:26, etc.).