by Charles Henry H. Wright
The two streams represented here as flowing east and west correspond to the four streams of Paradise spoken of in Genesis. The whole is to be viewed as an ideal scene, and not as a literal description. Comp. Isa. xli. 17, 18, xliii. 20. xliv. 3, etc. The physical nature of the whole land would require to be changed to permit literal rivers to flow forth from Jerusalem. The prophet, indeed, describes such a physical change in the position of Jerusalem (verse 10), but the change must be considered as an ideal one. Rivers of grace are here signified, which are depicted as forming one mighty stream in Ezekiel and the Revelation. As all nature is represented as mourning and sad in a day of God's wrath, for then the fertile fields become a wilderness, and the trees and plants wither, the cattle die, and the birds of heaven flee away; so in a day in which the mercy and grace of Jahaveh are displayed, the wilderness becomes a fertile field, the trees clap their hands and are clothed with verdure, the birds sing in their branches, while the mountains and hills break forth into singing, and the lambs feed after their manner, no longer terrified by beasts of prey. (See Isa. v. 17, xxxv. 1,2, lv. 12, 13, lxiv. 10, with Jer. iv. 23-27, etc). Compare the language of the apostle, one day to be gloriously realized, "the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. viii. 21).
In such a day of blessing, "Jahaveh shall be as a king over all the land" (verse 9). This has been generally explained to mean "over all the earth." But Kohler, Keil, and Pressel are right in rejecting this view. For in the previous verse Zechariah speaks only of the land of Judah, not even of the whole of the land of Israel. In that which follows (verse 10) he mentions the land of Judah under the same designation (***), for its limits are expressly stated as reaching from Geba to Rimmon. It is almost impossible to consider "the whole earth" to be meant in the intervening verse (verse 9). It is there stated that the reign of Jahaveh would first embrace Jerusalem and Judah. The great battle which was to result in victory is described as "beginning at Jerusalem" (verse 14). Judah is to acknowledge the true God, and to be victorious in his cause. Zechariah's description of the transformation of the Holy Land (verses 10, 11) presents evident marks of having been composed at a time when only the narrow district there named was in actual possession of the people of the covenant, and he accordingly describes the great blessing as commencing within that territory. Thus the description might be viewed as affording an indication of the date of the writer, who lived some years after the erection of the second temple, when that district only was in the possession of the Jews, and when there was much reason to fear a gathering of the nations around against Jerusalem. The prophets often saw the future on the background of their own present, and it was under such circumstances and amid such fears that Zechariah was inspired to portray this picture of "the last things" or "the latter days."
The statement that "in that day Jahaveh shall be one, and his name one," is by no means superfluous. It may be compared with Jer. xxxi. 1, "at the same time, saith Jahaveh, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people." In the commencement of this prophecy of Zechariah, Jahaveh is described as acting against Jerusalem on account of its sin. He is now represented as the one King and God of his ransomed people, recognised by them as such, his name only, and not that of other gods, being named by his people. No doubt Jahaveh was from the beginning the only God, "for all the gods of the nations are idols, but Jahaveh made the heavens" (Ps. xcvi. 5). But he was not recognised as such by his people, for they often forsook him and served other gods. The difficulty which Henderson seems to find in this translation of the verse, that it would make the passage teach either that Jahaveh was not one before, or that he would cease to be triune, is purely imaginary.
Lange protests strongly against the view of those who consider verse 9 to refer only to the land of Judah. He forgets, however, that no one maintains that the prophet imagined the limits of Jahaveh's reign would be confined to the limits of Judah, but only that he speaks of the Lord's kingdom as commencing in that place where his wrath would be most terribly poured forth on both Israel and the Gentiles. There, as the very result of that judgment, was Jahaveh first to be honoured and accepted as king by both Israel and the Gentiles. The latter are to be thought of as intermingled with Israel, for that which is only briefly related in verses 8-11 is described more in detail in verses 12-17.
Lange prefers to adopt the explanation of the last clause given by Hitzig, namely, that in consequence of the display of Jahaveh's glory, the heathen who had hitherto worshipped God under other names, such as Moloch, Baal, etc., should from henceforth honour and adore him as Jahaveh, under which name he had made himself known to the people of Israel. The idea that the heathen under the various names of their gods really meant to worship Jahaveh appears to be an attempt to engraft modern ideas upon those of the Old Testament prophets.
The prophet next proceeds to speak of the change the configuration of the whole land. "All the land will change itself," or, "be changed, (so as to become) as the Arabah." The clause cannot certainly be explained with Kliefoth, "as the plain from Gebah to Rimmon," for, as Keil notes, the whole of that country is composed of mountains and hills. Kliefoth is not forgetful of this fact, but his idea is that the passage first describes the country around Jerusalem as sinking so as to become a plain with the city of Jerusalem towering aloft in its centre, and afterwards the whole of the earth as becoming in the future a plain like that plain, watered literally by streams from Jerusalem. But this is a most unnatural exposition, and need not be discussed here.
The Arabah is the name of that remarkable depression which runs from the slopes of Hermon to the Red Sea, known as the deepest depression on the surface of the globe, the Sea of Galilee, situated within it, being 652 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, while the Dead Sea, which is also included in its course, is 1,316 feet below that level, or the level of the Red Sea. Hitzig thinks that reference is made by the prophet to the fertility of that valley; but though the Ghor has fertile spots, such as that once described in Gen. xiii. 10, its features are generally of the very opposite character, and it is evident that it is to its great depth that the prophet here refers.
The portion of the land mentioned as to be depressed to the level of the Ghor or Arabah is that which extends from Geba, the modern Jeba', probably Gibea of Saul, in the territory of Benjamin (Josh. xviii. 24), situated between Michmash and Ramah (Isa. x. 28, 29), which formed the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings xxiii. 8), even to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. The latter place formed the southern boundary of Judah on the borders of Edom, south of Eleutheropolis, probably Rimmon (Josh. xv. 32 belonging to the tribe of Judah, not far from Beersheba, now the ruin Umm er Rumamin. It afterwards belonged to the tribe of Simeon (Josh. xix. 1,7; I Chron. iv. 32), and is mentioned as south of Jerusalem, to distinguish it from the Rock of Rimmon (Rumman) in the territory of Benjamin (Jud. xx. 45, 47), and the town of Rimmon (now Rummanch) in Galilee (Josh. xix. 10, 13).
While the whole country of Judea is thus represented as sunk to the level of the Arabah, the city of Jerusalem is represented as exalted, and as firmly dwelling upon that which was under it,--that is, on the ground on which it was built. The passage in Jer. xxxi. 38, was plainly in the prophet's mind, where the Lord promises that the city should be built from the tower of Hananeel unto the corner gate. Keil, therefore, considers that Zechariah's object in adding this clause when speaking of the elevation of the entire city, in its extent as mentioned by Jeremiah, was to describe the whole city as destined to be recovered from its ruins, and built upon its base in all its extent as before.
The elevation of the city predicted by Zechariah is the same as the exaltation of the mountain of the house of Jahaveh above the hills, spoken of by Isaiah and Micah (Isa. ii. 2; Mic. iv. 1), or the construction of that city which was seen by Ezekiel upon a very high mountain (chap. xl. 2). No actual physical elevation of Jerusalem or depression of the country around is signified. If such a sinking of the country were to be understood in all its literality, and the district named to subside by some volcanic action to the level of any portion of the Arabah, the whole land would be submerged by the waters of the Mediterranean. All that is signified by such language is that Jerusalem is to be the centre of the kingdom of God. The place where Jahaveh rests and is enthroned must needs be glorious, and, therefore, Jerusalem will be glorious when Jahaveh displays his glory there (Isa. xi. 10, lx. 13). In Dan. ii. 35, the stone which represents the Messianic kingdom becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth. Accordingly, Zechariah describes the holy city as elevated above the whole land of Judah, in order that all the nations might be drawn to worship the God of Israel, "the God of the whole earth shall he be called" (Isa. liv. 5). The mountains of Judaea are regarded in the eye of the prophet as hindrances in the way of this consummation, and, therefore, they were to be levelled, not only that Jerusalem itself might be exalted, but also that the streams of living water might flow forth from thence (Reinke) to fructify the land of Israel, and thereby blessings might be bestowed upon the nations.
"The natural situation of Jerusalem," remarks Hengstenberg, "forms the starting point here. . . . All around are higher hills. This external position of Jerusalem was also regarded by the writer of Psalm cxxv. (verse 2) with the eye of a theologian. But whilst, in his view, the mountains round about Jerusalem were symbols of the protection of God, to Zechariah the comparative height of Jerusalem was a symbol of the depressed condition of the kingdom of God under the Old Testament."
The limits of Jerusalem mentioned by Zechariah are "from the gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, even to the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel to the wine presses of the king." These limits cannot be positively ascertained. The gate of Benjamin was that which looked towards the territory of Benjamin (Jer. xxxvii. 13, xxxviii. 7), and was, therefore, in the direction of Ephraim. It was probably the same as the gate of Ephraim mentioned in connexion with the corner gate (2 Kings xiv. 13; 2 Chron. xxv. 23), and in connexion with the tower of Hananeel (Neh. xii. 39), not far from the present Damascus gate, if it be not identical with it. There is little to surprise us in the fact that Zechariah should call this "the gate of Benjamin," while Nehemiah speaks of it as "the gate of Ephraim." For if the two were identical, which is very probable, the gate must have been known under both names before the Captivity, and was therefore called by both after the Restoration. In order to justify such a statement being treated, with Pressel, as a presumption against the authorship of the prophecy by the post-exilian Zechariah, we should be able first to demonstrate that the two gates are not identical.
The expression rendered in our A. V. "the first gate," may be also translated "the oldest gate" or "the outermost gate." The translation "first gate" is preferred by Hitzig and Ewald, who consider that it was so termed in the sense of "the former gate," i.e. that which was destroyed. In defence of this signification, Hitzig appeals to several passages (Exod. xxxiv. 1; 2 Kings i. 14; 2 Chron. iii. 3; Jer. xi. 10). But these passages cannot be regarded as conclusive proofs that the numeral has such a meaning. Hitzig thinks that there was no gate of that name then existing, but that the one which the prophet refers to was identical with "the corner gate" named immediately afterwards, at which Uzziah built a tower (2 Chron. xxvi. 9), and that the old name was added because the tower was no longer standing, and every one did not know that "the tower of the corner" had stood there. The expression "into the place of the first gate" seems to indicate that the gate itself was indeed not in existence in the days of the writer. The "oldest" gate would be a rather indefinite signification, and we can hardly suppose that a particular one was known by such a designation. Hence Kohler and others prefer to regard it as "the outermost gate," the first counting from the east, probably identical with the *** ***, the gate of the Altstadt, or old city, mentioned together with the gate of Ephraim in Neh. xii. 39. The limits thus far defined the breadth of one side of the city, the starting point being from the gate of Ephraim in the middle, first in the direction of the "first gate," and then from the gate of Benjamin to the corner gate. The breadth of the city from north to south is defined as running from the tower of Hananeel to the royal wine presses. The tower of Hananeel formed part of the wall of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah (Neh. iii. I, xii. 39). The corner gate is mentioned by Nehemiah as the gate in the west end of the north side of Jerusalem (Jer. xxxi. 38), and was four hundred cubits distant from the gate of Ephraim (2 Kings xiv. 1352 Chron. xxv. 23). The wine presses of the king, which are not mentioned elsewhere, probably lay in the royal gardens in the valley at the extreme south-east of Jerusalem, near the junction of the valley of Jehoshaphat and the valley of Hinnom (2 Kings xxv. 4; Jer. xxxix. 4, lii. 7; Neh. iii. 15). These wine presses, being probably cut out of the rock, may easily have been in existence in the days of Zechariah. Unfortunately no remains of them have been discovered during the recent explorations in Jerusalem, and Lieut. Claude R. Conder, who has recently conducted the survey made under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund, has informed me that he knows of no wine presses in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem. The mention of them is no proof of a preexilian date, as regarded by Bertholdt, Rosenmuller, Maurer and Hitzig; but, as Bleek (Stud. u. Krit. p. 302) has rightly conceded, the name is used simply as a topographical description of a distinct point in Jerusalem, which might have been in use after the Restoration as well as previous to the exile.
The prophet proceeds next (verse 11) to describe the different condition of the inhabitants of the newly formed Jerusalem as contrasted with that of the inhabitants of that city in other days: "And they shall dwell (proph. perf.) in her, and there shall be no curse more, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely." The verb ***, from which the word translated "curse," or "bann," is derived, seems to signify "to cut off," "to sunder" (see Muhlau and Volck's edit, of Gesenius' Lexicon), and the verb is used in the signification of devoting something to God which could not be redeemed. It is specially found in the signification of devoting something to destruction, e.g. a city, in which meaning our A.V. has rendered it by destroy (Deut. ii. 34). It is also used of persons to be cut off and devoted to destruction (Exod. xxii. 19, E.V. verse 20; Lev. xxvii. 29). Hence the noun signifies such a "consecration" as would cut off a person or a thing from ordinary use, and make over that person or thing to Jahaveh. Property, whether consisting of chattels or of nonIsraelitish slaves, could thus be consecrated to Jahaveh (Lev. xxvii. 28). An Israelite, if guilty of idolatry, was to come under such "consecration," and to be put to death (Exod. xxii. 19, E.V. verse 20); and a city guilty of such transgression, whether Canaanite or Israelitish, was to be destroyed (Deut. vii. 2, xiii. 15, 16). Such an act of "consecration," or the fulmination of such a "curse," could only be performed by competent authority after due examination into the matter (Deut xiii. 14). In such a case all the goods of the city were to be destroyed, and the cattle slain. A milder kind of bann, in which no death penalty followed, though the same verb is used, is that spoken of in Ezra. x. 8. God is said to have given up Israel to such a "curse" for their sin (Isa. xliii. 28), and Malachi records the Divine threat to smite the earth with such "a curse" (Mal. iii. 24, E.V. iv. 16). The statement, therefore, that "there shall be no more curse," implies that there should be no more any destruction caused by God's righteous judgment, or, in other words, that there would be no more unrighteous persons to become objects of the Divine anger. A similar statement is made in more simple terms in Rev. xxii. 3, and is substantially set forth in Isa. lxv. 18, ff.
Such is Zechariah's description of the blessings to be vouchsafed to "the remnant of the people." In one sense of the expression they should "not be cut off from the city," though in another sense they would be enabled by Divine providence to escape therefrom in a period of peril and danger. There is no difficulty in supposing that Jerusalem here is at one time to be taken for the professing people who were so sadly unfaithful, while that city at another time is used to express a higher ideal. In the New Testament, true believers, the sanctified, the holy, are in one sense the only persons recognised as really belonging to the Church of Christ; and yet the apostles often use other language, the language of fact, and denounce such transgressors as are outwardly in communion with the holy, but on account of whose sins judgment must commence at the house of God. Zechariah, moreover, gives us clearly to understand that the character of Jerusalem is to be completely changed at the close of this great day or period introduced by the advent of Jahaveh, even though that advent might not at once be perceived by Israel in general.
Having thus glanced at the blessings to be manifested at the close of the great period commencing with such horrors, on account of the sin of Israel, Zechariah returns to give further details connected with the destruction of the enemies of the people of God. The destruction of the foe was passed over for a time in the prophetic narrative, in order that the wonderful rescue of the people of Jahaveh from peril and the transformation of the city of Jerusalem might be first described.
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