Jesus and the Mount of Olives [33 page pdf file]
Zechariah: his visions and warnings
By William Lindsay Alexander. 1885. p. 246-257.
ISRAEL'S CONFLICT AND VICTORY.
"The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which 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 trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it, In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness; and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, do not magnify themselves against Judah. In that day shall the Lord 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 the Lord before them."--Zech. xii. 1-8.
With this chapter commences a new section of the prophetic utterances concerning Israel, extending to the end of chapter xiv. It comprises two distinct but closely allied prophecies; the one relating to the conflict of Israel with the nations--the victory and ultimate sanctification of the covenant people (xii. 1-xiii. 6); the other setting forth the judgment by which Israel should be wholly refined, and with that the final glory of Jerusalem (xiii. 7, xiv. 21). In the former of these there are four sections, viz., xii. 1--4, the conflict with the nations and their destruction; 5-9, the endowment of the princes of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem with strength to overcome all their foes; 10-14, the pouring out on them of the spirit of grace, so that they shall bitterly repent their maltreatment of the Divine Shepherd; and xiii. 16, the cleansing of Israel and their entire restoration from all apostasy. The inscription, "The burden of the Word of Jehovah," is the title of the entire prophecy.
"The burden of the Word of Jehovah over (or concerning) Israel." This title corresponds to that inscribed on the preceding prophecy, chapter ix. I. Massa has here, as there, its proper meaning of burden; but as the prophecy is not directed immediately against Israel, but rather against the enemies of Israel, though, at the same time, intimating that it was through affliction and trial that Israel was to pass to victory and blessing, the burden is not said to be on (3), but rather over or concerning (***) Israel. There is a difference also in the reason by which the oracle is enforced; in the former it is the omniscience of God, whose eye is upon all men, that is referred to; here it is the Divine omnipotence to which appeal is implicitly made. This oracle is the saying of Him "who stretcheth out the heavens and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him" (ver. 1). As God upholds and directs all the material universe by the word of His power, and as He moulds and regulates each, man's inner nature as He sees meet, there can be no uncertainty as to the accomplishment of all that He predicts. It is not so much to the original creation of all things material and spiritual by God that reference is here made, as to the continual agency of God in maintaining and ordering the universe He has formed in all its parts. He implanted in man a spirit, an intelligent nature, at first, and He fashions (***, moulds as a potter) each man's spirit not only in its original constitution, but also in its dispositions, tendencies and actings (cf. Prov. xxi. I ; Jer. xix. I ff.; Rom. ix. 21 ; Phil. ii. 13). He who stretched forth the heavens like a curtain and settled the earth on its basis, has power over that which He has thus framed, to order it as-He wills (cf. Ps. civ. 2 ff.). The resources of the universe are at His disposal; "He doth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, What doest Thou ?" (Dan. iv. 35.) With perfect confidence, then, may His people rest assured that what He has promised He will perform, what He has said He will bring to pass.
The enemy hovering over Jerusalem should make an attack upon it, but only to be himself thrown back and made to stagger to ruin like a drunken man: "Lo, I will make Jerusalem a bowl of reeling to all the peoples around, and also upon Judah shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem" (ver. 2). "The bowl of reeling" is a goblet filled with intoxicating drink, of which those who partake are maddened and destroyed. The figure is often employed in Scripture to denote the judgment which God inflicts upon transgressors for their punishment (cf. Isa. li. 17 ; Jer. xxv. 15 ff., xlix. 12 ; Ezek. xxiii. 31 ff.; Hab. ii. 16). As those who drain the intoxicating cup are sickened or frenzied thereby, lose all power of self-direction and ultimately fall helplessly to the ground, so are those upon whom the judgment of God falls paralysed, cast down and destroyed. Such a source of misery and ruin should Jerusalem be to those hostile powers by which it was assailed; "Ita enim eos inebriabit ut vertigine correpti ruant, atque ad mortem soporentur" (Rosenm.). The latter part of this verse is obscure, and has been variously explained. According to the Authorised Version, the statement is as to the time or occasion when Jerusalem shall prove a bowl of reeling to the nations around it; but this interpretation is obtained at the expense of an entire misrendering of the words of the passage. St. Jerome's explanation is that "Judah, during the siege of Jerusalem, being captured by the nations, and passing into alliance with them, is compelled to join in the siege of its own metropolis," which is substantially the explanation of the Targum and Jewish interpreters, as well as of Rosenmuller, Ewald, and others, among those of more recent times. In support of this it is urged that the phrase *** *** involves the idea of obligation resting upon the party who is the object of it, so that to be upon Judah here means that obligation is laid on Judah. But, thus construed, the sentence is incomplete, for, to make sense, we must supply some such phrase as "to be" or "to act," and read the clause thus: "And on Judah it shall be laid to be in the siege," etc. But this is to make a meaning for the passage, not to bring out the meaning of the passage as it stands. Besides, "There is not the slightest indication in what follows of any participation on the part of Judah in the siege of Jerusalem; on the contrary, Judah is represented as the ally of Jerusalem, by whose victories, obtained through the help of the Lord, Jerusalem is to be delivered" (Hengstenberg). The statement in xiv. 14 that "Judah shall fight also against Jerusalem," relates to a later epoch and a different condition of affairs from this. In the Geneva Version the clause is rendered, "And also with Judah will she be in the siege against Jerusalem," with the explanatory note "Jerusalem shall be defended against all her enemies; so shall God defend all Judah also;" and this rendering is retained in the margin of the Authorised Version. To the rendering, as such, no objection can be taken; but as the Lord is the speaker here, it is obviously improper to regard Him as the subject of the clause. It is better, therefore, to render "also against Judah shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem." This, however, leaves the subject of the clause undetermined. Various suggestions have been offered as to this. Hengstenberg says, "The subject to *** is to be obtained in part from ***, burden, in part also from the previous clause." Pusey adopts this in the main, affirming that massa "is the only natural subject," and explaining the purport of the clause to be, that "the burden of the word of the Lord which was on Jerusalem should be also on Judah, i.e., upon all, small and great;" and with this Keil also is substantially in accordance. "The best course," he says, "is probably to take it [the subject] from the previous clause, 'that which passes over Jerusalem.'" Adopting this, the purport of the clause is, that the country at large should be involved in the same kind of calamity as the capital; as Jerusalem should be besieged, Judah should be at the same time invaded by the peoples round about.
To those who assailed
Jerusalem she should be a bowl of reeling; to those who sought to
remove and carry her away she should prove a burden that would only
injure those who attempted to bear it: "And it shall be in that day
that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all the peoples; all
who lift it shall surely be lacerated, and all the nations of the earth
shall be gathered against her" (ver. 3). Jerome supposes that allusion
is here made to a custom in the towns of Palestine, which prevailed
even in his day, of placing large round stones of great weight, with
which the youths exercised themselves by attempting to lift them; and
he gives the sense of the passage as, "I will place Jerusalem to all
nations as a heavy stone to be lifted; lift it indeed they will, and
according to their power will devastate it; but of necessity through
the effort to raise so heavy a weight the stone will inflict a certain
rent or wound on those who lift it." But as the case supposed here is
not that of exercise for amusement or for display of strength, but that
of hostile attack and capture, it is better to understand the figure of
the raising of a stone for the purpose of carrying it away, or of using
it in building or otherwise. The stone would be found not only heavy
and burdensome, but would positively injure the bearer by lacerating
his hands or dislocating his sinews; even so Jerusalem would prove, to
those who sought to take her and use her for their own ends, not only a
heavy burden, but a cause of injury and distress. As the statement is
quite general, there is no need for inquiring what special end it is to
which those who lift up Jerusalem may intend to adapt her--such, for
instance, as that suggested by Dr. Wright, the "fitting of the stone of
Jerusalem into any of the political structures which they might seek to
erect;" it is enough to accept the general declaration that they who
would seize on Jerusalem and make her subserve their own ends shall
find her a burden, which, too heavy for them, will overtask their
strength, and recoil with disastrous effect upon themselves. And this
shall happen not once only, or with one nation only; time after time,
and with the world powers generally, will this take place: "All the
nations of the earth shall be gathered against her;" "The prophet
marshals them all against Jerusalem only to say how they should perish
before it" (Pusey) (cf. Joel iii. 2 [Heb. iv. 2]).
In what follows, the entire overthrow of those who would oppress and suppress Israel is announced: "In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with consternation, and its rider with madness; but upon the house of Judah will I open my eyes, and every horse of the peoples will I smite with blindness" (ver. 4). The three plagues, consternation, madness, and blindness, are those which God threatened to send upon the Israelites in case of their disobedience (Deut . xxviii. 2 8); these He now declares He would inflict on the enemies of Israel In Scripture, "the horse and his rider" is a phrase characteristic of warlike strength and power, and is specially used of the power of the heathen (cf. Ex. xv. 1, 21; Job xxxix. 18 ; Jer. li. 21; Hag. ii. 22); and the smiting of these here indicates that God would utterly paralyse the enemies of Jerusalem, so that though the whole world conspired against her, He would thwart all their efforts, repel their assault, frustrate their designs, and ultimately destroy them. Struck with consternation, utterly infatuated and blinded with terror, they should rush on their own ruin; confusion would reign through their ranks; and they should "come down every one by the sword of his brother" (Hag. ii. 22; cf. Judges vii. 22; I Sam. xiv. 20; Zech, xiv.). But whilst destruction thus awaited the assailants of Jerusalem, the Lord would open His eyes on Judah. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (Ps. xxxiv. 15); and of the land of Israel it was said by Moses, ages before this, "It is a land which Jehovah thy God careth for; the eyes of Jehovah thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end thereof" (Deut. xi. 12). This secures for Israel the protection and care of the Almighty (cf. I Kings viii. 29; Neh. i. 6; Jer. xxiv. 6). "The house of Judah" is here the covenant nation as a whole.
In the next verse the governors or chiefs of Judah are represented as reposing with confidence in the strength of the capital and the valour of its inhabitants under God: "And the princes of Judah will say in their hearts, 'Strength to me are the dwellers in Jerusalem, by Jehovah of hosts their God'" (ver. 5). "The princes of Judah" are the leaders of the people in war, and the confidence which they feel is that with which the entire nation is inspired. To "say in their hearts" is to have a firm, settled conviction--not a loud, boastful profession, but a quiet, serene, heartfelt assurance. The singular "to me" expresses the individuality of the conviction; each individual in the host had it as for himself. This assurance which they had in the inhabitants of Jerusalem rested not on anything in them, but because Jehovah of hosts was with them and would help them. From Him would come united counsels, wise plans, ready co-operation, as well as courage and might, to both rulers and people; and so they would be made strong against all their adversaries (cf. i . 17, ii. 12, iii. 2, x. 12). The effect of this would be that they should overcome and destroy their enemies: "In that day will I make the princes of Judah as a pan of fire among sticks, and as a naming torch in a sheaf; and they shall consume on the right hand and on the left all the people round about; and Jerusalem shall dwell in her place, in Jerusalem, continuously " (ver. 6). Strengthened and sustained by God, the princes of Judah should as readily vanquish their enemies as a pan of fire cast among dry faggots would consume them, or a torch placed under a sheaf of corn would reduce it to ashes. As a consequence, Jerusalem, personified here as a female, should continue to sit in her own place, in Jerusalem her city. And not only should the capital, the strong city, abide in safety; the country at large, even the outlying villages and the dwellers in huts, should share in the security: "The Lord also will succour the tents of Judah first (or, according to another reading, supported by the LXX, Syriac and Vulgate, as in former days), in order that the splendour of the house of David and the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not exalt itself over Judah" (ver. 7). By "the tents of Judah" are designated the inhabitants of the land generally; not, as has been suggested, those dwelling in "huts which cannot afford any protection to their inhabitants" (Calvin), but the country at large, with its inhabitants, as distinguished from Jerusalem, with its princes and people. It is not of much moment which of the two readings above noted is followed, as in either case it is the deliverance of Judah as preceding that of Jerusalem that is intimated. This should be in order to preclude any exaltation of itself by the capital or its princes over the nation at large. "The splendour (***, beauty, magnificence, glory, not boasting here) of the house of David," is the glory and honour which God should put upon Zerubbabel, in whom the royal line was continued (cf. Hag. ii. 20-23 ; Zech. iv. 6-10, 14); and "the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem" is the dignity and honour which rested on that city because of God's habitation there, and the glory that should come upon it from this (cf. i. 16, ii. 8-13). The general purport of this announcement is that the whole covenant nation should participate in the salvation of the Lord alike, and that this should be brought about by the country at large being delivered sooner than the metropolis, so that the latter should have no vocation to lift itself up above the former, but both should rejoice together in that salvation which the Lord had brought.
Through the assault of the heathen powers Jerusalem was plunged in conflict; but, endowed with marvellous strength, she should be able to resist all their efforts and ultimately to overcome and destroy them. "In that day shall the Lord protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them in that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of Jehovah before them" (ver. 8). Jerusalem was the city of God, the place of His habitation, and over it He would watch with constant care to protect it from all harm (cf. 2 Kings xix. 34, xx. 6; Isa. xxxi. 5, xxxvii. 35, &c.). In it there were some who were weak; some who through weakness could not stand steady on their feet, but stumbled (hannikshal) (1 Sam. ii. 4). These, when God came to protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, should be as David, strong and brave and potent as was He, the great hero of their nation (cf. I Sam. xvi. 18; 2 Sam. xvii. 18; I Chron. xiv. 17). And whilst the weak should thus be made strong, they that were already strong and powerful, "the house of David," the chiefs and leaders of the people, should be endowed with supernatural might; they should be as God, mighty as the angel of Jehovah who went up with Israel out of Egypt, discomfited their enemies and led them through the wilderness to the promised land (Ex. xxiii. 20 ff.; Josh. v. 13 ff.; Ps. cvi. 9, 10). "The general meaning is that the Lord God will strengthen the weakest and give additional elevation, honour, and influence to the highest, and add divinely to the might of the mightiest, so that no opposing power shall ever stand before them, any more than when that Divine angel of the covenant was commissioned to be their conductor and guardian, of whom Jehovah said, My Name is in Him" (Wardlaw). And whilst God thus endows His people with strength, He will come forth against their enemies and seek to destroy them (ver. 9). God here speaks after the manner of men. He says that He will seek to destroy the enemies of Jerusalem, to indicate that this was His determined purpose, that on which He was bent and which He certainly would effect.
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