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13In the towns of the hill country, of the Shephelah, and of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places around Jerusalem, and in the towns of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.

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Encouraging Prospects. (b. c. 589.)

10 Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast,   11 The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the Lord.   12 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Again in this place, which is desolate without man and without beast, and in all the cities thereof, shall be a habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down.   13 In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the vale, and in the cities of the south, and in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of him that telleth them, saith the Lord.   14 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.   15 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.   16 In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.

Here is a further prediction of the happy state of Judah and Jerusalem after their glorious return out of captivity, issuing gloriously at length in the kingdom of the Messiah.

I. It is promised that the people who were long in sorrow shall again be filled with joy. Every one concluded now that the country would lie for ever desolate, that no beasts would be found in the land of Judah, no inhabitant in the streets of Jerusalem, and consequently there would be nothing but universal and perpetual melancholy (v. 10); but, though weeping may endure for a time, joy will return. It was threatened (ch. vii. 34 and xvi. 9) that the voice of joy and gladness should cease there; but here it is promised that they shall revive again, that the voice of joy and gladness shall be heard there, because the captivity shall be returned; for then was their mouth filled with laughter, Ps. cxxvi. 1, 2. 1. There shall be common joy there, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; marriages shall again be celebrated, as formerly, with songs, which in Babylon they had laid aside, for their harps were hung on the willow-trees. 2. There shall be religious joy there; temple-songs shall be revived, the Lord's songs, which they could not sing in a strange land. There shall be heard in their private houses, and in the cities of Judah, as well as in the temple, the voice of those that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts. Note, Nothing is more the praise and honour of a people than to have God the glory of it, the glory both of the power and of the goodness by which it is effected; they shall praise him both as the Lord of hosts and as the God who is good and whose mercy endures for ever. This, though a song of old, yet, being sung upon this fresh occasion, will be a new song. We find this literally fulfilled at their return out of Babylon, Ezra iii. 11. They sang together in praising the Lord, because he is good, for his mercy endures for ever. The public worship of God shall be diligently and constantly attended upon: They shall bring the sacrifice of praise to the house of the Lord. All the sacrifices were intended for the praise of God, but this seems to be meant of the spiritual sacrifices of humble adorations and joyful thanksgivings, the calves of our lips (Hos. xiv. 2), which shall please the Lord better than an ox of bullock. The Jews say that in the days of the Messiah all sacrifices shall cease but the sacrifice of praise, and to those days this promise has a further reference.

II. It is promised that the country, which had lain long depopulated, shall be replenished and stocked again. It was now desolate, without man and without beast; but, after their return, the pastures shall again be clothed with flocks, Ps. lxv. 13. In all the cities of Judah and Benjamin there shall be a habitation of shepherds, v. 12, 13. This intimates, 1. The wealth of the country, after their return. It shall not be a habitation of beggars, who have nothing, but of shepherds and husbandmen, men of substance, with good stocks upon the ground they have returned to. 2. The peace of the country. It shall not be a habitation of soldiers, not shall there be tents and barracks set up to lodge them, but there shall be shepherds; tents; for they shall hear no more the alarms of war, nor shall there be any to make even the shepherds afraid. See Ps. cxliv. 13, 14. 3. The industry of the country, and their return to their original plainness and simplicity, from which, in the corrupt ages, they had sadly degenerated. The seed of Jacob, in their beginning, gloried in this, that they were shepherds (Gen. xlvii. 3), and so they shall now be again, giving themselves wholly to that innocent employment, causing their flocks to lie down (v. 12) and to pass under the hands of him that telleth them (v. 13); for, though their flocks are numerous, they are not numberless, nor shall they omit to number them, that they may know if any be missing and may seek after it. Note, It is the prudence of those who have ever so much of the world to keep an account of what they have. Some think that they pass under the hand of him that telleth them that they may be tithed, Lev. xxvii. 32. Then we may take the comfort of what we have when God has had his dues out of it. Now because it seemed incredible that a people, reduced as now they were, should ever recover such a degree of peace and plenty as this, here is subjoined a general ratification of these promises (v. 14): I will perform that good thing which I have promised. Though the promise may sometimes work slowly towards an accomplishment, it works surely. The days will come, though they are long in coming.

III. To crown all these blessings which God has in store for them, here is a promise of the Messiah, and of that everlasting righteousness which he should bring in (v. 15, 16), and probably this is that good thing, that great good thing, which in the latter days, days that were yet to come, God would perform, as he had promised to Judah and Israel, and to which their return out of captivity and their settlement again in their own land was preparatory. From the captivity to Christ is one of the famous periods, Matt. i. 17. This promise of the Messiah we had before (ch. xxiii. 5, 6), and there it came in as a confirmation of the promise of the shepherds whom God would set over them, which would make one think that the promise here concerning the shepherds and their flocks, which introduces it, is to be understood figuratively. Christ is here prophesied of, 1. As a rightful King. He is a branch of righteousness, not a usurper, for he grows up unto David, descends from his loins, with whom the covenant of royalty was made, and is that seed with whom that covenant should be established, so that his title is unexceptionable. 2. As a righteous king, righteous in enacting laws, waging wars, and giving judgment, righteous in vindicating those that suffer wrong and punishing those that do wrong: He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. This may point at Zerubbabel, in the type, who governed with equity, not as Jehoiakim had done (ch. xxii. 17); but it has a further reference to him to whom all judgment is committed and who shall judge the world in righteousness. 3. As a king that shall protect his subjects from all injury. By him Judah shall be saved from wrath and the curse, and, being so saved, Jerusalem shall dwell safely, quiet from the fear of evil, and enjoying a holy security and serenity of mind, in a dependence upon the conduct of this prince of peace, this prince of their peace. 4. As a king that shall be praised by his subjects: "This is the name whereby they shall call him" (so the Chaldee reads it, the Syriac, and vulgar Latin); "this name of his they shall celebrate and triumph in, and by this name they shall call upon him." It may be read, more agreeably to the original, This is he who shall call her, The Lord our righteousness. As Moses's altar is called Jehovah-nissi (Exod. xvii. 15), and Jerusalem Jehovah-shammah (Ezek. xlviii. 35), intimating that they glory in Jehovah as present with them and their banner, so here the city is called The Lord our righteousness, because they glory in Jehovah as their righteousness. That which was before said to be the name of Christ (says Mr. Gataker) is here made the name of Jerusalem, the city of the Messiah, the church of Christ. He it is that imparts righteousness to her, for he is made of God to us righteousness, and she, by bearing that name, professes to have her whole righteousness, not from herself, but from him. In the Lord have I righteousness and strength, Isa. xlv. 24. And we are made the righteousness of God in him. The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall have this name of the Messiah so much in their mouths that they shall themselves be called by it.