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Restoration of Judah and Israel


Ask rain from the L ord

in the season of the spring rain,

from the L ord who makes the storm clouds,

who gives showers of rain to you,

the vegetation in the field to everyone.


For the teraphim utter nonsense,

and the diviners see lies;

the dreamers tell false dreams,

and give empty consolation.

Therefore the people wander like sheep;

they suffer for lack of a shepherd.



My anger is hot against the shepherds,

and I will punish the leaders;

for the L ord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah,

and will make them like his proud war-horse.


Out of them shall come the cornerstone,

out of them the tent peg,

out of them the battle bow,

out of them every commander.


Together they shall be like warriors in battle,

trampling the foe in the mud of the streets;

they shall fight, for the L ord is with them,

and they shall put to shame the riders on horses.



I will strengthen the house of Judah,

and I will save the house of Joseph.

I will bring them back because I have compassion on them,

and they shall be as though I had not rejected them;

for I am the L ord their God and I will answer them.


Then the people of Ephraim shall become like warriors,

and their hearts shall be glad as with wine.

Their children shall see it and rejoice,

their hearts shall exult in the L ord.



I will signal for them and gather them in,

for I have redeemed them,

and they shall be as numerous as they were before.


Though I scattered them among the nations,

yet in far countries they shall remember me,

and they shall rear their children and return.


I will bring them home from the land of Egypt,

and gather them from Assyria;

I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon,

until there is no room for them.


They shall pass through the sea of distress,

and the waves of the sea shall be struck down,

and all the depths of the Nile dried up.

The pride of Assyria shall be laid low,

and the scepter of Egypt shall depart.


I will make them strong in the L ord,

and they shall walk in his name,

says the L ord.


Zechariah, after having shown that God would be bountiful towards the Jews, so that nothing necessary to render life happy and blessed should be wanting, now reproves them for their unbelief, because they did not expect from the Lord what he was ready fully to bestow on them. As then it depended on them only, that they did not enjoy abundance of all blessings, he charges them with ingratitude: for though he exhorts them to prayer, there is yet an implied reproof. One by merely reading over the words may think that a new subject is here introduced, that the Jews are directed to ask of the Lord what he had previously promised them; but he who will more minutely consider the whole context, will easily find that what I have stated is true — that the Jews are here condemned, and on this account, because they closed the door against God’s favor; for they were straitened in themselves, as all the unbelieving are, who cannot embrace the promises of God; nor is it at all doubtful but that many made great complaints, when they found themselves disappointed of their wishes. They had indeed hoped for a most abundant supply of corn and wine, and had also promised to themselves all kinds of blessings, yet the Lord, as we have seen in the book of Haggai, had begun to withdraw his hand, so that they labored under want of provisions; and when mine and thirst oppressed them, they thought that they had been in a manlier deceived by God. On this ground the Prophet expostulates with them; they thrust from themselves, by their want of faith, the favor which had been prepared for them. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning.

He bids them to ask rain of Jehovah. They ought indeed to have done this of themselves without being reminded; for though Christ has delivered to his Church a form of prayer, it ought yet to be as it were the dictate of nature to seek of God our daily bread; and it is not without reason that he claims to himself the name of a Father. The Prophet then does here reprove the Jews for their brutal stupidity — that they did not ask rain of the Lord. He adds, at the late season, that is, at spring time; for rains at two seasons were necessary for the corn, after sowing and before harvest, and whenever Scripture speaks of fruitfulness or of a large produce, it mentions rain at these two seasons. Zechariah in this place only refers to the vernal before harvest; for in that hot country the earth wanted new moisture, Ask, he says, rain at the beginning of summer.

Jehovah, he adds, will give it; he will make clouds, or storms, or boisterous winds, as some read; but it is evident from other passages that חזיזים, chezizim, means clouds, which are as it were preparations for rain. 116116     The word in the singular number is found twice, in Job 28:26; 38:25, and rendered “lightning.” Scott, the versifier of the book of Job, renders it “blaze” or “flash of lightning,” deriving it from an Arabic word which means to cut a thing like the jagged edge of a leaf. It is then the zigzag flash of lightning. Marckius renders it here “coruscations;” Dathius and Henderson “lightnings.” To avoid the connection of two words of similar import, the arrangement of the verse may be different, —
   Ask ye from Jehovah rain in the latter season;
Jehovah, who makes the flashes and the rain,
Will a shower give to you,
To every one grass in the field.

   “To you,” [לכם]; so read many MSS., about fifteen, and the Syriac. — Ed.
He then says, that a shower would come with the rain; for some take גשם, gesham, for a shower, that is, heavy rain; but the Prophet introduces here the two words, as though he had said, that the rains would be continued until the ground was saturated and the dryness removed. Some translate, “the rain of a shower,” but this would be too strained. I prefer then this rendering, He will give rain, a shower, that is, abundant rain; to every one grass in the field, that is, so that there may be moisture enough for the ground. In short, he promises a plentiful irrigation, that drought might not deprive them of the hope of food and support. What I have stated will appear more clear from the following verse, for he adds —

Here the Prophet, as I have said, confirms the truth, that the blame justly belonged to the Jews that God did not deal more liberally with them; for he shows that they had fallen into superstitions, and had thus turned away the favor of God, which was already certain and nigh to them. Zechariah does not here condemn foreign nations given to superstitions; but, on the contrary, he reproves the Jews themselves for leaving the true God, and for retaking themselves to idols, to soothsayers, and diviners, and for having thus preferred to feed on their own delusions, rather than to open the door to the favor of God, who had freely promised that he would suffer them to want nothing. As then God had kindly invited the Jews to himself, as he had showed himself ready to do them good, was it not the basest ingratitude in them to turn away to idols and to attend to magical delusions? for they might have safely acquiesced in God’s word. They would not have been deprived of their hope, had they been firmly persuaded that God had spoken the truth to them. As then they had done so grievous a wrong to God, as to run after idols, and after the crafts and impostures of Satan, the Prophet here deservedly condemns them for this wickedness.

Images, 117117     Literally, “the teraphims.” See Hosea 3:4, vol. 1 page 130. They were household gods, called Penates by the heathens. “Images” is the rendering of the Targum of Onkelos, and “worshippers of images” of Jonathan in this place. Jerome has “simulacra — images.” Parkhurst derives the word from [רפה], an appaller, they being the objects of dread of fear. Gesenius, from an Arabic word, which means to “live in comfort,” they being viewed as the givers of happiness. Lee, from an Ethiopic word, signifying a “remnant, a survivor,” and thinks that they mean “relics.” Whatever may be the meaning of the word, they were no doubt a sort of household gods, made, as Aben Ezra says, in a human form, and consulted, says Kimchi, as to future events.
   There are three kinds of idolatrous and superstitious practices mentioned here — the images which were consulted as oracles, the pretenders to visions, and the dreamers of dreams; but all that was spoken, and seen, and dreamt, was vain, and false, and useless. — Ed.
he says, have spoken vanity, and diviners have seen falsehood, and have told dreams of vanity. He means, in short, that whatever means unbelieving men may try, they can attain nothing, and they will at length find that they have been miserably deceived by Satan. They have recourse to various expedients, for unbelief is full of bustle and fervor: “O! this will not succeed, I will try something else.” Thus the unbelieving wander, and resort to many and various expedients. But the Prophet teaches this general truth — that when men turn away from God, they have recourse to vain things; for there is no truth without God.

He afterwards adds, that on account of idols, as well as of diviners and magicians, consolation was given in vain; and this he confirms by the event, and says, that they had wandered as sheep, that they had been distressed, because there was no shepherd. The Prophet no doubt refers here to the time of exile, that the Jews might learn to be wise, at least by the teaching of experience; for they had known to their great loss, that without God there is no real and solid comfort: nor does he without reason upbraid them with the punishment which their fathers had suffered, for he saw that they were walking in their steps. Since then the Jews were imitating the depraved inquisitiveness of their fathers, the Prophet justly charges them, that they did not acknowledge what, by the event itself, was well known to all; for the common proverb is, that experience is the teacher of fools. Since they did not become wise even when smitten, their stupidity was more than proved. We now then perceive what the Prophet means.

But we must first notice, that when he bids them to ask rain of the Lord, he speaks of the kingdom of Christ, as all the Prophets are wont to do; for since the Redeemer, promised to the Jews, was to be the author of all blessings, whenever the Prophets speak of his coming, they also promise abundance of corn, and plentiful provisions, and peace, and everything necessary for the well-being of the present life. And Zechariah now follows the same course, when he declares that it was not owing to anything in God that he did not kindly supply the Jews with whatever they might have wished, but that the fault was with themselves; for they had by their unbelief, as it has been said, closed the door against his favor. We must yet ever remember what we stated yesterday — that whatever the Prophets have said concerning a blessed life, ought to be judged of according to the nature of the kingdom of Christ. It is a strained interpretation to say that rain is heavenly doctrine; and I do not say that Zechariah spoke allegorically, but he describes under this common figure the kingdom of Christ — even that God will fill his elect with all good things, so that they shall not thirst, nor labor under any want.

But at the same time we must bear in mind the exhortation of Christ —

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God; other things,” he says,
“shall afterwards be added.” (Matthew 6:33.)

He then is strangely wrong who thinks that abundance of food was alone promised to the Jews; for God intended to lead them by degrees to things higher. The Prophet then no doubt includes here, under one kind, all things necessary for a happy life; for it is not the will of God to fill his faithful people in this world as though they were swine; but his design is to give them, by means of earthly things, a taste of the spiritual life. Hence the happiness of which Zechariah now speaks is really spiritual; for as godliness has the promises of the present as well as of the future life, (1 Timothy 4:8,) so the purpose of God was to consult the weakness of his ancient people, and to set forth the felicity of the spiritual life by means of earthly blessings.

It ought further to be carefully noticed, that the Jews are here exposed to derision, because they wandered after their own devices, when God was yet not far from them, and ready to aid them. Since God then showed himself inclined to kindness, it was a double wickedness in them that they chose to run after idols, magical arts, and the illusions of Satan, rather than to acquiesce in God’s word. And similar is the upbraiding we meet with in Jeremiah, when God complains that he was forsaken, while yet he was the fountain of living water, and that the people dug out for themselves cisterns, dry and full of holes. (Jeremiah 2:13.) But as this evil is very common, let us know that we are here warned to plant our foot firm on God’s word, where he promises that he will take care of us, provided we be satisfied with his favor; nor let us thoughtlessly run after our own imaginations; for however our own counsels may delight us, and though some success may sometimes appear, yet the end will ever show us that most true is what Zechariah teaches us here — that whatever we may attempt will be useless and injurious too, for God will take vengeance on our ingratitude.

We must now also observe, that since Zechariah adduces an example of God’s vengeance, by which the Jews had found that they had foolishly sought vain consolations, we ought to take heed, lest we forget those punishments with which God may have visited us in order to restore us to himself: let us remember what we ourselves have experienced, and what has happened to our fathers, even before we were born. Thus then ought the faithful to apply their minds so as to recount the judgments of God, that they may derive profit from his scourges. He afterwards adds —

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