Zechariah Chapter 8: After Jacob’s Trouble

Dec 18th, 2009 | By | Category: Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name), Zechariah

Zechariah Chapter 8: After Jacob’s Trouble

Zech. 8:1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,

Zech. 8:2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.

The cross-reference for verse 2 is Nahum 1:2, “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.” The occasion for God’s jealousy was His visitation of judgment upon Babylon. The 70-year captivity and desolation of the land ended with the fall of Babylon, which occurred when Cyrus captured the city by going under the gates. That judgment broke the back of Babylon the Great. The time setting was now about 20 years later.

In other words, the judgment had occurred a couple of decades before this statement came to Zechariah, telling how, in the past, God was jealous (or zealous) for His people because of the indignities that were inflicted on them, let alone on Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple. When the 70 years expired, God visited them with favor, but to do that, Babylon first had to be conquered. Two years later Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to go back to their homeland and even rebuild the Temple with some modifications. Therefore, God said, “I was jealous for Zion [my people] with great jealousy, and … with great fury.” He had visited great fury (1) when He permitted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple because of the Jews’ wrongdoing and (2) when Babylon, the enemy of the Jews, was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. Nebuchadnezzar, a Gentile king, accomplished the first judgment, and now, after the 70 years of trial for the Jews in captivity, God was zealous for them because of the indignities and the reproaches they had suffered as captives. The ensuing message would be favorable because while trouble might come on the Jews, God always mixed in with the trouble the fact that He would recompense them with His mercy and goodness.

Zech. 8:3 Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.

A question immediately comes to mind as to when verse 3 will be fulfilled. We know that Jerusalem will not be called the “city of truth” in a real sense and the “mountain of the LORD of hosts” will not be the “holy mountain” until the inauguration of the Kingdom. But what about the Jews who went back to Israel at the end of the 70-year captivity and started to build Zerubbabel’s Temple? The work began, starting with the altar, and then stopped for a while.

Later on, after encouragement from Haggai and Zechariah, a house of worship was finally erected, for out of the mouth of two witnesses came strengthening messages to continue the building. In the meantime, the city was still laid waste with broken-down walls, yet God said, through Zechariah, “I will dwell in Jerusalem.” In other words, the city would be rebuilt, but God did not say when. Nevertheless, the message was encouraging. Of course the Lord knew that thousands of years would pass before Jerusalem would be the “city of truth” and an emblem of righteousness with the Temple and the Ancient Worthies.

When the returned Jews heard these words from Zechariah, they assumed this condition would transpire soon. Not too many years later the walls of the city were built, providing protection for the Temple, and the people began to reinhabit and build up Jerusalem again. As a result, they thought Zerubbabel’s Temple was the real Temple, whereas actually it was only the second Temple. The Scriptures show that the Third Temple will be built in the Kingdom in our day in the near future, but in order not to dishearten the people, the Lord did not reveal the time interval of 2,500 or so years. Thus the Jews were encouraged back in Zechariah’s day because they assumed the fulfillment was occurring at that time. With this encouragement, they began to prosper for a while.

Prophecy is intentionally worded so that it is a blessing to the contemporary generation, but as centuries go by, the details become a little clearer. We now recognize by prophecy that we are in an end-time period and that the trouble and setting up of the Kingdom cannot be too far off because Jerusalem is “a burdensome stone” to all nations, as prophesied by Zechariah long, long ago (Zech. 12:3).

Zech. 8:4 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.

Zech. 8:5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.

When the Jews heard these words or read the scroll, they felt there would be at least a relative period of growth and prosperity wherein young people would grow to old age and not die in battle. Hence they read this prophecy a little differently from its true fulfillment. God gave crumbs of promise and encouragement back there, but the real depth of fulfillment is future.

Q: Do verses 4 and 5 refer to the awakening from the tomb in the general resurrection?

A: All who are in their graves will come forth as they were when they died. For example, infants will come back as infants, and those who died at age 100 will come back at that age, for “where the tree falleth, there it shall be” (Eccl. 11:3). A person will come forth whole and with the measure of health to enable him to bow the knee to Messiah in the Kingdom. Yes, all who previously died will come forth, and Jerusalem and the land will prosper and become filled with inhabitants, as many Scriptures so indicate.

However, verses 4 and 5 are speaking especially of the Holy Remnant, who are mentioned many times in God’s Word, especially in the Book of Isaiah. The rescue of the Holy Remnant will take place down here; that is, it is not a rescue from the tomb because, their names having been written in the book of life, they will not die in Jacob’s Trouble. Those who comprise this class will be of various ages—old men and young men, old women and young women, and their children. In His mercy, God will spare some of the loved ones, the family members (particularly the young), of the Holy Remnant. After Israel is purged in Jacob’s Trouble, the spared Holy Remnant will be honored, for they will manifest a proper heart condition.

When God rescues the Holy Remnant and they come forth after Jacob’s Trouble—when He visits and honors His people by fighting for them as He did in the days of old—there will be great rejoicing. The Holy Remnant will see that all of Israel’s enemies have been destroyed. In the tremendous exultation that follows, they will praise and bless the Lord for their deliverance.

Zechariah was sent as a firebrand of enthusiasm to the Jews who returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus’ decree but were discouraged by their experiences in the homeland. The statement “there shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age” was interpreted as pertaining to a soon-to-come rescue of Jerusalem. However, the real fulfillment is future. Similarly, Joel 2:28,29 revived the hopes and encouraged the people back there, but the prophecy applies to the near future: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”

Zech. 8:6 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.

“If it be marvellous in the eyes of the [holy] remnant of this people in these days, should it [not] also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.” The message continues to be enthusiastic, and God did do wondrous things for the Jews back there. However, verse 6 is particularly a prophecy of the future Holy Remnant. The deliverance will include both old and young—all who are trying to please the Lord and have faith in Him and in His promises. A large portion of the Messianic Jews in Israel today, as well as some Orthodox Jews, think very much on God’s promises to Israel, but they are a minority as far as the general populace of Israel is concerned.

Zech. 8:7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;

Zech. 8:8 And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

Verses 7 and 8 are a prophecy of the future. The Lord made this true statement, knowing the Jews back there would misconstrue the fulfillment as being in their day. Psalm 97:11 reads, “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Truth is sown for the righteous, but the benefit grows as time goes by. During the past two generations, Jews have been going back to Israel from Europe and also from America. Many of them will be on hand during Jacob’s Trouble, and those who are of the Holy Remnant will ultimately be delivered.

Zechariah was saying that of the last regathering, which will take place after Jacob’s Trouble, God would dwell with those Jews in a very real sense. They would come “from the east” (Asia) and “from the west” (Europe and the United States). The prophecies indicate that there are two regatherings in our day, one before and one after Jacob’s Trouble. The first regathering has been going on ever since 1878 and still continues today. Most of the Jews in this regathering have been from the Western Hemisphere. After Jacob’s Trouble, all surviving Jews in whatever land they are living will be encouraged to go back to the Promised Land, and the Gentiles will assist in providing transportation. This second regathering will occur after God manifests His anger against His enemies and delivers His people. At that time, there will be a gathering of the entire Holy Remnant—of Jews already resident in Israel as well as Jews in Gentile lands. They will want to return when they realize that God is the God of Israel. There are many wonderful promises to the natural kingdom, to natural Israelites who are faithful in trying to serve God to the extent of their knowledge and capability. The surviving Jews “shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”

Zech. 8:9 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.

What “day” is referred to here? “Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid.” Zechariah spoke these words in 518 BC “in the fourth year of king Darius … in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu” (Zech. 7:1). Two years earlier, in the second year of Darius, Haggai recorded the specific date in which Zerubbabel’s Temple “was laid” (the court, the altar, etc.), namely, the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month (Hag. 2:10,18). Haggai’s short ministry took place in the second year of Darius, and Zechariah’s ministry was in the second and fourth years of Darius, as recorded in chapters 1-6 and 7-14, respectively. The mention of dates and circumstances will eventually lead up to a grand climax in Zechariah’s prophecies.

Zech. 8:10 For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.

When the Jews first came back from Babylon, there was a period of no employment. They had brought back some of their goods and possessions and the vessels of the Lord. They started to build the Temple but then felt they needed houses for themselves. Meanwhile, there was no place to purchase produce, so they were in real straits and had to live from hand to mouth on a daily basis. In addition, God allowed the hostile neighbors to be a problem. Not only did the Jews need employment and food to feed hungry mouths, but also they had trouble warding off these enemies, who were continually doing mischief. God said, “I set all men every one against his neighbour.” In other words, God was responsible for the problem. He allowed this situation to awaken the Jews to see that they had to finish building His house. Both Haggai and Zechariah pronounced this message. The Jews needed to associate the trouble with their cessation of work on the Temple and the resultant period of quiet. If they would get busy and complete the work in the full sense of the word, God would take care of the problem and furnish their daily bread. Sure enough, when the Jews resumed work on the Temple, other encouragements came. For example, Ezra and Nehemiah were raised up, in addition to Haggai and Zechariah. The Jews began to prosper materially.

Zech. 8:11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.

Zech. 8:12 For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.

These blessings occurred as a miniature experience and picture of that which will come in a larger sense at the end of the Gospel Age in the near future. In addition to Ezra and Nehemiah, there came on the scene, not too far distant, two other individuals who were not front stage at first, namely, Mordecai and Esther, who eventually emerged as prominent personalities. Hence there were two prophets (Haggai and Zechariah), two principal men (Zerubbabel and Joshua), two individuals (Ezra the priest and Nehemiah the cupbearer), and two prominent Jews (Mordecai and Esther, who became queen). Therefore, in the midst of turmoil and threatening conditions, the Jews began to develop, prosper, and grow—until the holocaust of AD 69-73 scattered them in Diaspora. They were being developed as a people in preparation for Jesus’ First Advent. Even though Jesus “came unto his own” and the nation did not receive him, a holy remnant class of apostles was developed (John 1:11). Not only were the apostles specially selected, but several of them were family members. Thus, unbeknownst to the Jews, they were being developed and were getting the fruitage of spiritual blessings. It is wonderful to see the providences of the Lord, but of course we have hindsight on the records of history.

Zech. 8:13 And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.

Zech. 8:14 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:

Zech. 8:15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.

Verses 13-15 applied to Zechariah’s day. Just as surely as Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple were destroyed in 606 BC as punishment for the Jews’ disobedience, so now God would “do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.” Therefore, the advice was, “Fear ye not [the hostility of your neighbors].” There was a reversal of fortunes.

Zech. 8:16 These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:

Zech. 8:17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.

Zechariah was speaking to two groups of Jews: (1) to former exiles in Babylon who had returned to the Promised Land after the decree of Cyrus and (2) to those Ezra brought back later. Verses 16 and 17 are the instructions that God charged Zechariah to speak to these Jews who were back in the homeland. “Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.” These instructions were simple and easy to understand. It was as if God were saying, “These commands should be your motivation. Now that you are back in your homeland, you should talk and act like people in the Holy Land in dealing with one another.”

Zech. 8:18 And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,

Zech. 8:19 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.

The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months were to be “to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts.” Therefore, the Jews were to “love the truth and peace.”

Because they were back in their homeland and Jerusalem was being rebuilt, the fasts in these four months were no longer to be times of mourning but were to be occasions of joy. What did these four fasts commemorate?

The fast in the fourth month pertained to famine. 2 Kings 25:3,4 reads, “And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain.” The famine and the breaking up of Jerusalem both occurred at that time. Without food, the people no longer had any resistance, so the city was breached, broken up, and entered.

The fast in the fifth month commemorated the burning of the Temple and the houses in the city. The fast in the seventh month called to remembrance the assassination of Gedaliah. The seventh chapter mentioned only the fasts of the fifth and the seventh months (Zech. 7:5).

2 Kings 25:1 mentions the tenth month: “And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it; and they built forts against it round about.” Hence the fast in the tenth month pertained to the siege King Nebuchadnezzar put around Jerusalem. In the chronological sequence in which the events originally occurred, the tenth month was actually in the preceding year and, therefore, was the first event. The order was the tenth month, the fourth month, the fifth month, and the seventh month. The famine came about as a result of the siege.

Verse 19, then, was just mentioning the sequence of fasts that occurred in a calendar year in commemoration of what had happened previously. God was saying, “If you behave yourselves, if you renew your vows to me and obey, then these fasts should be changed into festivities of joy. The fasts of mourning should be forgotten, relatively speaking, because you are back in the land. See what I have done for you. Get busy and complete the work.”

Zech. 8:20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:

God continued to speak through Zechariah, saying in effect, “Moreover, it shall come to pass that people will come to Jerusalem, and the land will be populated more and more with cities as time goes on. Do what I tell you, and conditions will be entirely changed.”

An analysis of Zechariah’s prophecies throughout the book shows the emphasis to be on deliverance. Yes, the historical events that had brought sadness, concern, and trouble were discussed, but the prophet ended each time with the theme of deliverance. In chapter 8, the people were back in the land, and the message to them was, “Good things will happen, but you should do what you refused to do previously.”

Zech. 8:21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.

Zech. 8:22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.

Zech. 8:23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

Verses 21-23 are plainly stated, but since hindsight shows us that these conditions did not occur in the past, we consider them to have a fulfillment yet future. However, the Jews back there understood these verses to mean that if they obeyed the Lord, these events would happen to them as stated. And it is true that if the Jews had obeyed the Lord, these things would have occurred in the past, but the people did not comply with the relatively simple requirements. The Temple of Zerubbabel met with misfortunes, but it was not totally destroyed. Just before the First Advent, Herod enlarged and restored the Temple that already existed, added some colonnades, and built the Wailing Wall. In reality, then, the Herodian Temple was the second Temple. The Third Temple, yet to be built, is the Temple of future prophecy.

When Zechariah spoke to the Jews along this line—that ten men would take hold of the skirt of a Jew—it was simple for him to say, “If you listen to me, my people, and do what I say, this is what will happen.” God was not remiss in making this statement, even though He knew the people would not obey. Thank God that, in His mercy, He will go ahead with this promise and will accomplish it in His own way and time! Thus prophecy has always been helpful, even though it has not been fully fulfilled in the past. Seeing this wonderful picture as happening in the future does not minimize the grand view of what will occur, for God’s Word is an “amen” to His covenant. Zechariah, a young man, was quite enthusiastic about the promises, and no doubt when he mentioned them, he did it with an encouraging voice. Unlike Jeremiah, who wept and got angry with righteous indignation at times because the people paid no attention to the warnings and were so dull of hearing, Zechariah referred to the promises. He said in effect, “The Lord has brought you back to the homeland. Doesn’t that show He has had mercy on you? The very fact you are here and I am speaking to you proves the Lord will do things for you, so hearken and obey!” The tone of Zechariah’s message was different from the tone of some of the other prophets.

Q: In verse 23, is the reference to “ten men” a general statement, or can it be equated with the ten toes of the image?

A: The number 10 shows temporal completion in a general sense. The “ten men” refer to the nations, or peoples, starting with the ten nations of Europe, the ten toes of the image (Dan. 2:41,42). The picture of the image is basically the Roman Empire, which still exists; the image has not been destroyed. However, it also embraces America because this country was populated with people who fled from persecution in the Old Country.

(2000 and 2003 Studies)

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