Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentZECHARIAH 10
Keil gave this chapter the title of, "Complete Redemption of the People of God;"F1 and Gill entitled it, "Zion Triumphant through the Messiah."F2 The principal focus of this chapter is not the inter-testamental period at all, but the establishment of the kingdom, or church, of Jesus Christ our Lord. Assyria, Egypt, Judah, Ephraim, etc. are mentioned, but they are symbols of qualities reaching beyond the original meaning of those terms. At the time of Zechariah's prophecy, an entirely new set of world conditions prevailed. Assyria was no longer an enemy of God's people, nor was Egypt. Ephraim had been totally and utterly destroyed for ever, and only a remnant of Judah still existed.
To suppose that references in this chapter to the future prosperity of Judah and Ephraim are a prediction of the restoration of their outlawed and destroyed monarchy is ridiculous. The prophet of God had already promised the Jews that they would "sit still" for God many days, and that they would be without king, prince, sacrifice, etc., for "many days," a reference to the whole time between the Old Testament and the New Testament (Hosea 3:3,4), a period that was beginning when Zechariah prophesied. It is futile, therefore, to suppose that the Maccabees were any restoration of the monarchy; we do not believe that the Maccabees are in this prophecy at all, except indirectly.
No, the chapter deals with Christ and his kingdom in terminology related to the prior history of Israel.
Ask ye of Jehovah rain in the time of the latter rain, [even of] Jehovah that maketh lightnings; and he will give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.
It had been the apostasy of Israel in their worship of Baal as the giver of rain and other agricultural blessings that had led to their ruin in the first place, a punishment just concluded by the return of a little remnant to Jerusalem; and this verse was a well-timed admonition for the returnees not to fall into their old errors.
It is nothing short of astounding that critics, fail to see how necessary, important, and appropriate it is that this verse should introduce another section dealing with the times of the Messiah, toward which the Jewish remnant so eagerly turned their eyes. Dentan stated that these two verses (Zechariah 10:1,2) are, "unrelated to the context in which they are now found."F3 "Spiritually, Israel had had her former rains; but a long and terrible drought had set in,"F4 and it was destined to continue for ages. How absolutely mandatory, therefore, it was that they should pray for the "latter rain." The fact of there being no mention of the other rains shows that this is to be understood spiritually.
The significant meaning of this verse is that, "The condition for obtaining the promised blessings (all of them) is that they are to be sought from the Lord, and not from idols."F5
For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie; and they have told false dreams, they comfort in vain: therefore they go their way like sheep, they are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.
This, of course, is an accurate description of what had happened to the pre-exilic Israel. Their leadership, whether of the priests and prophets who were their shepherds, or their kings, judges, and magistrates, -- all of them had proved incompetent, and had succeeded in leading the nation into total ruin. It has been wondered by some how "thanks to God" instead of to idols should have been singled out here; but it is precisely at this point of thankfulness to the True Source of all human blessing that human apostasy always began. When Paul recounted the awful debaucheries of the pre-Christian Gentile world, he cited first of all the fact that, "Knowing God they glorified him not as God, and neither gave thanks" (Romans 1:21). Christians who leave the faith usually begin in the same way; they stop giving thanks to God, either at the table or anywhere else.
Deane stated that all of the things mentioned here refer "to superstitious devices";F6 in this same line of thought, McFadyen wrote:
"Superstition, i.e., a way of life divorced from God and his guidance, is the parent of restlessness and instability and reduces men to the level of shepherdless sheep."F7
were household gods or idols (Gen. 31:19,30; Judges 7:5). They bore the likeness of some human figure (1 Samuel 19:13); and they also took the form of signs of the Zodiac and other instruments of astrology.F8
The test of any people's true worship is found in the way they pray regarding the essentials and the catastrophies of life. It is a mistake so to spiritualize religion that it is considered to be irrelevant to such mundane things.F9
We have already noted in our studies of the other Minor Prophets that the Israelites worshipped their drag, practiced rhabdomancy and indulged in other superstitions.
Mine anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats; for Jehovah of hosts hath visited his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them as his goodly horse in the battle.
Although stated in the future tense, this passage refers to something that God had already done to the shepherds and he-goats of Israel; but the use of the future here indicated that the same anger of the Eternal would fall upon any future sins like the ones already punished. Of course, that occurred. When the shepherds and he-goats of the people led Israel in the rejection of their Messiah, the anger of God fell upon them and their city again, Jerusalem being utterly destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. That Zechariah certainly had that in mind is evident from Zech. 12:2.
These are the emblems of headstrong wantonness and offensive lust.F10 Our Lord spoke of the reprobate as the goats (Matthew 25:32).
House of Judah
Both this term and Ephraim used later are references to the spiritual Israel of the new dispensation. The only Israel of God when Zechariah wrote was contained within the remnant of the returnees from Babylon. Thus it was appropriate to speak of them as the house of Judah.
From him shall come forth the corner-stone, from him the nail, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler together.
This is a dramatic reference to Jesus Christ the Messiah. He is the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:3-8); he is the nail, or the tent peg, upon which all depends; he is the battle bow, and from him comes every ruler together.
All earthly authority derives from Christ who told Pilate that he would have no power at all except it had been given to him from above (John 19:11).
has as its antecedent Judah in the previous verse. Jesus Christ came of that tribe; and in this passage the true character of the Son of God as The lion of the tribe of Judah is set forth. Even the Targum interprets this verse as a reference to Messiah.F11
The RSV has "them" instead of "him" in this place, but the meaning is the same either way. Christ was descended both from Judah as an individual, "him," and also from the tribe of Judah, "them."
And they shall be as mighty men, treading down [their enemies] in the mire of the streets in the battle; and they shall fight, because Jehovah is with them; and the riders on horses shall be confounded.
This is a promise that God's covenant people under the Messiah shall win all their spiritual battles; that actual carnal conflict is not in the passage appears in the statement that "riders on horses" shall be confounded. The Lord's true people will not fight their battles with carnal weapons. "Spiritual truths are stated in the terms of well known situations."F12
And they shall be as
The last word here is also translated like; and Higginson cautioned: Notice the figurative nature of the verse in the little word like.F13 We cannot find any reference whatever in this passage to the carnal conflict involving the Maccabees.
And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back; for I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am Jehovah their God, and I will hear them.
We shall begin by noting what is not in the passage. There is no promise here of recreating any secular state, or of providing Israel with an earthly dynasty descended from David, or of giving Israel carnal victories over their political enemies. Of course, the inherent purpose of God to preserve Israel until the birth of the Messiah occurred resulted also in the necessity of God's providential protection until that was done; and all of the Maccabean victories came within the periphery of that protection.
I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back ... I will have mercy upon them ..
All of these promises speak of the salvation of souls from sin, the bringing back of the captives in sin to the fold of Jehovah, etc. And when will all of that occur? It will happen when all the tribes of Israel, including both Judah and Joseph (Ephraim, or northern Israel) accept the Son of God and become his followers. Saving the house of Joseph cannot mean putting them in the saddle of another godless state.
"This of course, in its entirety (Zechariah 10:6) depicts God's attitude toward his church, also the New Testament Church; but, as to form, the statement is cast in terms of conditions as Zechariah found them in the land in his day."F14
There was nothing in the history of Israel from Zechariah to the first advent of Christ that even resembled the union of both the northern and southern Israel in receiving God's salvation; and, based upon that, the interpreters who assign this promise to fleshly Israel in Palestine, project a far future time when these things will literally take place; but we believe that the promise was gloriously fulfilled in the union of all men "in Christ Jesus." This verse reveals that no Jew will ever be excluded from Christ's kingdom because of his race, but there is no hint whatever that any Jew would ever be included in it because of his race.
Some renditions of this place include the thought that God will "place Israel," "settle them" or "cause them to dwell" in their land; but that meaning does not appear in the text.F15 The American Standard Version is correct here.
And [they of] Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine; yea, their children shall see it, and rejoice; their heart shall be glad in Jehovah.
If there had been any doubt of the spiritual nature of these promises, this verse would have removed it. It is not old fleshly Israel "in their land" that is promised here, but the "Bride of Christ," God's new Israel "IN JEHOVAH," i.e., "IN THE LORD." This expression, used some 169 times in Paul's writings alone, dominates the entire New Testament; and the startling appearance of the phrase here shows quite definitely that God is speaking of New Testament conditions. Salvation for any one who ever lived is possible only "in the Lord."
Commentators make a serious mistake when they cite specific campaigns and historical persons as any kind of fulfillment of a passage like this. The prophet is not always foretelling future events.
Oftentimes he is teaching, warning, and exhorting; and generally he is enunciating great principles, the truth of which would appear in the future, rather than predicting particular facts.F16
Again, the figurative nature of the verse is heralded by the little word "like," showing that a simile is being used.
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them; and they shall increase as they have increased.
It is "saved" or "redeemed" Israel that God spoke of here; and where was Israel to procure that "salvation"? In the last chapter (Zech. 9), it was revealed that the lowly king riding upon an ass and "bringing salvation" would be the unique provider of it. This speaks of the times of the Messiah, during which the worldwide spread of Christianity would "gather" God's people all over the world. As Hailey viewed it:
"The same provision made for Judah's redemption will have been made for Ephraim's (and for every man, J.B.C.); both would be redeemed from their captors, and both would be redeemed in the Messiah."F17
And I will sow them among the peoples; and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and shall return.
I will sow them
The substitution in the Revised Standard Version and other versions of the past tense instead of the future, and scattered instead of sow is erroneous; because, as Dentan admitted, emendation (deliberately changing) of the sacred text was necessary in both instances.F18 Such a perversion of the scriptures was actually made upon the basis of what the critics believe God should have said in this place, instead of what he actually said. The emended passage reads, I have scattered them, thus referring it to a past condition in Israel's history when the nation was deported to Assyria and Babylon; but that is not what God was speaking of here through Zechariah. He was speaking of the far future, in the times of Christ, when God's people would be sowed (implying the expectation of a harvest) all over the world. It began to be fulfilled when there arose a mighty persecution after the martyrdom of Stephen; and the disciples were scattered abroad, and went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4).
"Sow" and "scattered" are very similar words, based on the fact that the ancient method of "sowing" was that of "scattering" seeds as the sower proceeded, taking handfuls from a bag and casting them as far as he could.
I will sow
The significance of this is that it recalls the sacred name of the second bride of Israel's God, the people God married (in a figure) after the old wife (fleshly Israel) was divorced. The name of that second bride is given in Hos. 2:22 as Jezreel, literally meaning to sow in the sense of scattering seeds.F19 (See full comments on this in my commentary on the Minor Prophets, vol. 2, pp. 20, 51.)
There is unquestionably a reference here to the sacred covenant name of God's New Israel in Christ, absolutely demanding that the passage be referred to Messiah and his times.
And they shall return
does not apply to fleshly Israel's returning from Babylonian captivity, but to the coming of all men to Christ, having escaped from the slavery of sin. This use of captivity as a metaphor for sin is extensive throughout the Bible, as in 2 Tim. 2:26, etc., etc.
Being absolutely blind to the obvious meaning of this verse, critics have first perverted the meaning of it and then disagreed violently on the interpretation of their error. Some, for example, offer it (the emended text) as proof that Zechariah was written prior to the deportation of northern Israel in 722 B.C.: and others, Orelli for example, use it to "prove" that Zechariah was not written till the Maccabean period (168-104 B.C.)!F20
I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and [place] shall not be found for them.
These words here are used typically of the slavery and captivity of sin. The reference coming, as it did, centuries after God's people came out of Egypt, and ages after Assyria had fallen to the Babylonians, and the Babylonians to the Persians, could have none other than a figurative sense here.
Egypt is introduced as a type of the land of bondage, on account of its having been the land where Israel lived in the olden time under the oppression of the heathen world; and Ashur (Assyria) is introduced in the same way.F21
McFadyen, and others, insist that Egypt and Assyria here refer to "the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty of Syria";F22 but the Jews were never slaves to either dynasty.
The reference to the crossing of the Red Sea in the next verse, an event typical of the Christian's baptism into Christ, makes it sure that the passage is not focused upon fleshly Israel at all, but upon Christ and his kingdom.
And he will pass through the sea of affliction, and will smite the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall dry up; and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart.
Egypt and Assyria are mentioned here in the reverse order from that of their mention in Zech. 10:10, another indication that a figurative use of the terms is to be understood. McFadyen quite accurately observed that, when taken in connection with other scriptural passages (Exo. 14; Isa. 11:15,16), there are two promises here: "Ancient miracles would be repeated to facilitate their journey home"; and "They would cross the Red Sea, the sea of affliction, in safety."F23 Amen! And when were the ancient miracles of Moses repeated? When that Prophet like unto Moses, even Christ, appeared and did even more astounding wonders than those of Moses. And how do God's people cross the Red Sea in safety on the way home? 1 Cor. 10 reveals that this occurs when people are baptized "into Christ." The great analogy of the experience of Israel in coming out of Egypt, being baptized in the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10), struggling through their wilderness probation, and finally entering Canaan, as a divinely appointed figure of how Christians forsake the slavery of sin (Egypt), cross the Red Sea by being baptized into Christ, endure the tribulation of their earthly probation (Israel's wilderness), and finally enter heaven (Canaan)--that grand analogy is one of the greatest in the Bible; and it shines in this passage. See full discussion of this in 1 Cor. 1:1-10, where the apostle Paul outlined it. (Comment is made at length on this subject in my commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, pp. 145-155.)
Sea of affliction
What an appropriate designation of the sea (our baptism) that separates the Christian from the slavery of sin and launches him upon the period of his probation, a period of tribulation (Acts 14:22)!
And I will strengthen them in Jehovah; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith Jehovah.
I will strengthen them in Jehovah
The big words in this whole chapter are IN JEHOVAH, here and in Zech. 10:7. God is not promising to put sinful old Israel back in Canaan, but to put them in Jehovah, in the Lord, in Christ. This is a technical expression which cannot mean anything else except the union of baptized believers in Christ. All of the vain speculations of men about God's restoring the old secular kingdom of the Jews in Palestine are not merely out of sight here, but flatly contradicted by the passage.
The meaning of this prophecy, from Zech. 9:9 through this verse, is that all of the prosperity of the two kingdoms of the old Israel, wherever they may be scattered throughout the earth, will find the blessing of God, along with all who desire salvation from among the Gentiles as well, and that all of them together, without any partiality or distinction whatever shall be gathered into one fold with one shepherd (Christ) in the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. The notion that after Christ came there would continue to be some distinction between Jews and Gentiles is a proposition categorically denied by the inspired writers of the New Testament. God has only one Israel, and it is the CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST.
"And the Spirit bade me go with them (to the house of Cornelius the Gentile), making NO DISTINCTION" (Acts 11:12).
"And God gave them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; and he made NO DISTINCTION between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles), cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9).
"For there is NO DISTINCTION between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him" (Romans 10:12). How many times does God have to say it?"
They shalt walk up and down in his name
This has the meaning that:
"The Jews shall have complete liberty; they shall appear everywhere as a part of the flock of Christ, and no difference be made between them and the the converted Gentiles. They shall all be in one fold under one Shepherd (Christ) and Bishop of souls."F24
But what about the Jews who will not accept Christ? The unwillingness of men to accept the will of God is not a problem that concerns commentators. The faithfulness and impartiality of God made it certain that God will not punish unbelieving Jews to any greater degree or any more severely than he will punish unbelieving Gentiles; but, by the same token, God is not going to provide some special deal for any Jew, any more than he will do so for Gentiles.
Footnotes for Zechariah 10
1: C. F. Keil, Commentary on Old Testament, Vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 844.
2: Clinton R. Gill, Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Zechariah (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 1971), p. 386.
3: Robert C. Dentan, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VI (New York City: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 1098.
4: H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets (Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers, 1909), p. 396.
5: W. J. Deane, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14, Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 105,
6: Ibid., p. 106.
7: J. E. McFadyen, Abingdon Bible Commentary (New York City: Abingdon Press, 1929), p. 827.
8: Clinton R. Gill, op. cit., p. 337.
9: John D. W. Watts, Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1972), p. 345.
10: Robert Jamieson, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), p. 860.
11: Joyce G. Baldwin, Tyndale Commentaries, Vol. 24 (London: Tyndale Press, 1972), p. 174.
12: H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), p. 195.
13: R. E. Higginson, The New Bible Commentary, Revised (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 796.
14: H. C. Leupold, op. cit., p. 196.
16: W. J. Deane, op. cit., p. 107.
17: Homer Hailey, Commentary on Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 378.
18: Robert C. Dentan, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VI (New York City: Abingdon Press, 1957), p. 1100.
19: J. D. Given, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 13, Hosea (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 4.
20: H. C. Leupold, op. cit., p. 199.
21: C. F. Keil, op. cit., p. 351.
22: J. E. McFadyen, op. cit., p. 827.
23: Ibid. p. 828.
24: Adam Clarke, Commentary, Vol. IV (London: T. and T. Clarke, 1837), p. 790.