Zechariah 1:15
And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.
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1:7-17 The prophet saw a dark, shady grove, hidden by hills. This represented the low, melancholy condition of the Jewish church. A man like a warrior sat on a red horse, in the midst of this shady myrtle-grove. Though the church was in a low condition, Christ was present in the midst, ready to appear for the relief of his people. Behind him were angels ready to be employed by him, some in acts of judgment, others of mercy, others in mixed events. Would we know something of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, we must apply, not to angels, for they are themselves learners, but to Christ himself. He is ready to teach those humbly desirous to learn the things of God. The nations near Judea enjoyed peace at that time, but the state of the Jews was unsettled, which gave rise to the pleading that followed; but mercy must only be hoped for through Christ. His intercession for his church prevails. The Lord answered the Angel, this Angel of the covenant, with promises of mercy and deliverance. All the good words and comfortable words of the gospel we receive from Jesus Christ, as he received them from the Father, in answer to the prayer of his blood; and his ministers are to preach them to all the world. The earth sat still, and was at rest. It is not uncommon for the enemies of God to be at rest in sin, while his people are enduring correction, harassed by temptation, disquieted by fears of wrath, or groaning under oppression and persecution. Here are predictions which had reference to the revival of the Jews after the captivity, but those events were shadows of what shall take place in the church, after the oppression of the New Testament Babylon is ended.I am sore displeased - literally "with great anger am I angered against the nations which are at ease." The form of the words shows that the greatness of the displeasure of God against those who oppress His people, is proportionate to the great and tender love toward themselves. God had been angered indeed with His people; with their enemies He was "angered with a great anger;" and that the more, because they were at ease, in unfeeling self-enjoyment amid the miseries of others.

I was a little displeased - Little, in comparison with our deserts; little in comparison with the anger of the human instruments of His displeasure; little in comparison with theirs, who, in their anger, sought their own ends.

They helped forward the affliction - o "He is wroth with the nations at ease, because He delivered His people to be corrected, but they used cruelty toward those delivered; He wills them to be amended as a son by a schoolmaster; they set themselves to slay and punish them, as an enemy. Like that in Isaiah, "I gave them into thy hands; thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancients hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke" Isaiah 47:6.

Or it may be, "helped for evil," in order to bring about evil, as in Jeremiah, "Behold I set My face against you for evil, and to destroy all Judah" Jeremiah 44:11, that is, as we should say, they were the instruments of God, , "cooperated in the execution of My justice toward you, but cruelly and with perverse intention. For although the Assyrians and Chaldaeans wasted the Jewish people, God so ordaining in as far as He willed through them to punish in the present the sins of His people, yet they did it, not in view of God and out of zeal for righteousness, but out of pride covetousness and with the worst ends. Hence God says by Isaiah, "Woe to Asshur, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in his hand is Mine indignation. Howbeit he thinketh not so, but his heart is to destroy and cut off nations not a few" Isaiah 10:5, Isaiah 10:7.

15. very sore displeased with the heathen—in contrast with "I was but a little displeased" with My people. God's displeasure with His people is temporary and for their chastening; with the heathen oppressors, it is final and fatal (Jer 30:11). God's instruments for chastising His people, when He has done with them, He casts into the fire.

are at ease—carnally secure. A stronger phrase than "is at rest" (Zec 1:11). They are "at ease," but as I am "sore displeased" with them, their ease is accursed. Judah is in "affliction," but as I love her and am jealous for her, she has every reason to be encouraged in prosecuting the temple work.

helped forward the affliction—afflicted My people more than I desired. The heathen sought the utter extinction of Judah to gratify their own ambition and revenge (Isa 47:6; Eze 25:3, 6; Ob 10-17).

And I; the Lord of hosts, God of Israel,

am very sore displeased with the heathen; exceedingly angry, and will show it, that they may see and feel it, my displeasure is grown up to the highest against them.

At ease; secure in their strength, sing a requiem to themselves and trouble to Israel. See Zechariah 1:11.

I was but a little displeased with mine own people, i.e. in comparison with the anger I bear against the heathen it was little, Psalm 137

And they, the heathen, Babylonians, helped forward; attempted to destroy whom I would but correct, Isaiah 10 Isa 14. I whipped to smart, you wounded to blood; I did wound to bind up, you did wound to kill, &c. It is an anthropopatheia.

The affliction: it was more than they could do to provoke me here against them than their own sins did; but what I permitted for a while they did, and added to the affliction of Israel. I would prune, but they struck at the root. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease,.... The Chaldeans and Persians, and other nations, enemies of the Jews, who were now free from war, and enjoyed great prosperity, when the state and condition of the Jews was very low and discouraging:

for I was but a little displeased: that is, with his people the Jews, for their ingratitude, idolatry, and immorality; and which displeasure he showed by suffering them to be carried into captivity; see Isaiah 54:8,

and they helped forward the affliction; that is, the heathens, among whom the Jews were carried captive; they added to their affliction; they oppressed them more than they ought to have done, and more than was agreeable to the will of God and right in his sight; and they insulted them in their misery, and rejoiced over them. The word in the Arabic language, signifies to "abound" (u); and the meaning is, that they abounded in bringing evil upon the people of the Jews; they multiplied their afflictions and distresses.

(u) "abundavit, multiplicavit", Golius, col. 1705. Castel. col. 2721. "Jazar, cum punctato, exuberavit, abundavit, multus fuit", Schindler. Lex. Pentaglot. col. 1307.

And I am very greatly displeased with the nations that are at ease: for I was but {o} a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.

(o) In destroying the reprobate, I showed myself but a little angry toward my Church, but the enemy would have destroyed them also, and did not consider the goal of my chastisements.

15. heathen] or, nations, R.V.

at ease] as described in Zechariah 1:11. The word in this verse is the same as in Isaiah 32:9; Isaiah 32:11, and Psalm 123:4.

helped forward] Comp. Isaiah 47:6.Verse 15. - The heathen; the nations, who were God's instruments in punishing Israel. That are at ease. Living in proud security and self-enjoyment (Isaiah 32:9, 11; Amos 6:1; comp. ver. 11). Septuagint, τὰ συνεπιτιθέμενα, "which join in attacking her;" Vulgate, opulentas, "wealthy," their riches giving them self-confidence. I was but a little displeased. God had been angry with his people, it is true, but only in measure, chastising them, like a parent, for their good. Others take "a little" (parum, ὀλίγα) to mean "for a little time," in allusion to the seventy years' captivity. And they helped forward the affliction; or, in the LXX., συνεπέθεντο εἰς κακὰ, "helped for evil; "Vulgate, adjuverunt in malum. They exceeded their part as mere instruments in God's hands, and wished to destroy Israel altogether, or to oppress them beyond the purposed period of their chastisement. A similar complaint is made against the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:5, etc.) and the Babylonians (Isaiah 47:6). The believing confidence expressed in this verse does not appear to be borne out by what is actually done by God. The prophet proceeds to lay this enigma before God in Habakkuk 1:13-17, and to pray for his people to be spared during the period of the Chaldaean affliction. Habakkuk 1:13. "Art Thou too pure of eye to behold evil, and canst Thou not look upon distress? Wherefore lookest Thou upon the treacherous? and art silent when the wicked devours one more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:14. And Thou hast made men like fishes of the sea, like reptiles that have no ruler. Habakkuk 1:15. All of them hath he lifted up with the hook; he draws them into his net, and gathers them in his fishing net; he rejoices thereat, and is glad. Habakkuk 1:16. Therefore he sacrifices to his net, and burns incense to his landing net; for through them is his portion rich, and his food fat. Habakkuk 1:17. Shall he therefore empty his net, and always strangle nations without sparing?" In Habakkuk 1:13, טהור עינים, with the two clauses dependent upon it, stands as a vocative, and טהור followed by מן as a comparative: purer of eyes than to be able to see. This epithet is applied to God as the pure One, whose eyes cannot bear what is morally unclean, i.e., cannot look upon evil. The purity of God is not measured here by His seeing evil, but is described as exalted above it, and not coming at all into comparison with it. On the relation in which these words stand to Numbers 23:21, see the remarks on Habakkuk 1:3. In the second clause the infinitive construction passes over into the finite verb, as is frequently the case; so that אשׁר must be supplied in thought: who canst not look upon, i.e., canst not tolerate, the distress which the wicked man prepares for others. Wherefore then lookest Thou upon treacherous ones, namely, the Chaldaeans? They are called בּוגדים, from their faithlessly deceptive and unscrupulously rapacious conduct, as in Isaiah 21:2; Isaiah 24:16. That the seeing is a quiet observance, without interposing to punish, is evident from the parallel תּחרישׁ: Thou art silent at the swallowing of the צדיק ממּנּוּ. The more righteous than he (the ungodly one) is not the nation of Israel as such, which, if not perfectly righteous, was relatively more righteous than the Chaldaeans. This rabbinical view is proved to be erroneous, by the fact that in Habakkuk 1:2 and Habakkuk 1:3 the prophet describes the moral depravity of Israel in the same words as those which he here applies to the conduct of the Chaldaeans. The persons intended are rather the godly portion of Israel, who have to share in the expiation of the sins of the ungodly, and suffer when they are punished (Delitzsch). This fact, that the righteous is swallowed along with the unrighteous, appears irreconcilable with the holiness of God, and suggests the inquiry, how God can possibly let this be done.

This strange fact is depicted still further in Habakkuk 1:14-16 in figures taken from the life of a fisherman. The men are like fishes, whom the Chaldaean collects together in his net, and then pays divine honour to his net, by which he has been so enriched. ותּעשׂה is not dependent upon למּה, but continues the address in a simple picture, in which the imperfect with Vav convers. represents the act as the natural consequence of the silence of God: "and so Thou makest the men like fishes," etc. The point of comparison lies in the relative clause לא־משׁל בּו, "which has no ruler," which is indeed formally attached to כּרמשׂ alone, but in actual fact belongs to דּגי היּם also. "No ruler," to take the defenceless under his protection, and shelter and defend them against enemies. Then will Judah be taken prisoner and swallowed up by the Chaldaeans. God has given it helplessly up to the power of its foes, and has obviously ceased to be its king. Compare the similar lamentation in Isaiah 63:19 : "are even like those over whom Thou hast never ruled." רמשׂ, the creeping thing, the smaller animals which exist in great multitudes, and move with great swiftness, refers here to the smaller water animals, to which the word remes is also applied in Psalm 104:25, and the verb râmas in Genesis 1:21 and Leviticus 11:46. כּלּה, pointing back to the collective 'âdâm, is the object, and is written first for the sake of emphasis. The form העלה, instead of העלה, is analogous to the hophal העלה in Nahum 2:8 and Judges 6:28, and also to העברתּ in Joshua 7:7 : to take up out of the water (see Ges. 63, Anm. 4). יגרהוּ from גרר, to pull, to draw together. Chakkâh is the hook, cherem the net generally, mikhmereth the large fishing-net (σαγήνη), the lower part of which, when sunk, touches the bottom, whilst the upper part floats on the top of the water. These figures are not to be interpreted with such specialty as that the net and fishing net answer to the sword and bow; but the hook, the net, and the fishing net, as the things used for catching fish, refer to all the means which the Chaldaeans employ in order to subdue and destroy the nations. Luther interprets it correctly. "These hooks, nets, and fishing nets," he says, "are nothing more than his great and powerful armies, by which he gained dominion over all lands and people, and brought home to Babylon the goods, jewels, silver, and gold, interest and rent of all the world." He rejoices over the success of his enterprises, over this capture of men, and sacrifices and burns incense to his net, i.e., he attributes to the means which he has employed the honour due to God. There is no allusion in these words to the custom of the Scythians and Sauromatians, who are said by Herodotus (iv. 59, 60) to have offered sacrifices every year to a sabre, which was set up as a symbol of Mars. What the Chaldaean made into his god, is expressed in Habakkuk 1:11, namely, his own power. "He who boasts of a thing, and is glad and joyous on account of it, but does not thank the true God, makes himself into an idol, gives himself the glory, and does not rejoice in God, but in his own strength and work" (Luther). The Chaldaean sacrifices to his net, for thereby (בּהמּה, by net and yarn) his portion (chelqō) is fat, i.e., the portion of this booty which falls to him, and fat is his food ( בּראה is a neuter substantive). The meaning is, that he thereby attains to wealth and prosperity. In Habakkuk 1:17 there is appended to this the question embracing the thought: Shall he therefore, because he rejoices over his rich booty, or offers sacrifice to his net, empty his net, sc. to throw it in afresh, and proceed continually to destroy nations in so unsparing a manner? In the last clause the figure passes over into a literal address. The place of the imperfect is now taken by a periphrastic construction with the infinitive: Shall he constantly be about to slay? On this construction, see Ges. 132, 3, Anm. 1, and Ewald, 237, c. לא יחמול is a subordinate clause appended in an adverbial sense: unsparingly, without sparing.

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