For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

8:1.  “Again the word of the Lord of hosts came unto me, saying”

The frequency with which the term “the Lord of hosts” is used in this chapter continues to remind us that He Who promises is the One Who has also the power to fulfill His word, whether for cursing or blessing.

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 word jealous is used here in a bad sense meaning that the Lord had been provoked to zealous anger through Israel’s sin, reminding us that all sin on our part evokes the same response on His.  What folly, then, to arouse His anger against us when obedience would just as surely command His blessing.

The mention of Zion as a synonym for Jerusalem is deliberate, for it focuses attention on the spiritual rather than the temporal, since it was the site of the Temple, the center of Israel’s religious life.  It was their observance of the outward ritual, divorced from love for Him, that had provoked God’s anger in the past, and that provokes it still today against Christendom.

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.”

It was the obedient repentant return of the believing remnant from Babylon that had assuaged God’s anger, causing Him to look upon them again with favor, and enabling Him to bless them. 

God’s return to Zion is still future, but so certain is that return that He speaks of it here as an accomplished fact.  The tangible evidence of God’s presence in the midst of Israel in the past had been the shekinah glory over the mercy seat, but after its departure as recorded in Ezek 10 and 11 it never returned, nor will it until the Millennium, see Ezek 43:4-5.

Note too that His return to Zion will be synchronous with His dwelling also “in the midst of Jerusalem,” for as Zion is associated with Israel’s religious or spiritual life, so is Jerusalem the center of their political and economic life.  The lesson couldn’t be more plainly written: if the spiritual life of a man or a nation isn’t right, neither will any other part be. 

But the mountain upon which the city stood was in addition to be called “the holy mountain.”  Since a mountain is the biblical symbol of a king or kingdom, this reference to the mountain is the symbolic announcement of the truth that there would also be governmental integrity.  There would be no more false treaties, nor more plotting evil against neighboring countries; nor would there be any more corruption in the law courts.  Holiness would luster every facet of Jewish life.

Sadly, what God desired, and what might have been, never came to pass.  The good intentions of the returned remnant were never realized.  Scripture records no specific cause for the failure, but surely experience furnishes the explanation.  The small believing remnant within the nation were unable to stop the tide of evil spawned by the unbelieving mass, with the result that the spiritual ideal was quickly superceded by the same outward observance of an empty ritual that had first provoked the Lord’s anger, and that had brought the Babylonian captivity as His judgment upon it.

The Church has had the same sad experience.  Adherence to mere outward form quickly stifled what was spiritual, the climax to that evil activity coming with the alleged conversion of Constantine c.320 AD, when the Babylonian system, cloaked in Christian garb, was imposed, and Roman Catholicism was born, that evil system having ruled virtually all of Christendom with a mailed fist for the past two thousand years.

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.”

Nothing in Scripture validates the belief that this occurred at any time in the period between the day when Zechariah was given this information and the Diaspora, for this clearly looks on to a day still future.  Certainly there were old men and women in Jerusalem always during the days when the city was the capital of the Jewish kingdom, but the implication here seems to be to the phenomenal old age that will be the norm in the Millennium when men will live for a thousand years, death coming only upon the man whose sin becomes overt.

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

The same remarks apply here as in the previous verse.  The reference seems to be to the halcyon days of the Millennium.

8:6.  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts.”

To that feeble little remnant addressed by the prophet, the fulfillment of God’s word may indeed have seemed impossible of fulfillment; but as it is written, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God,” Lk 18:27.  The NAB translation of this verse reads in part, “... shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also...” the words “in those days” hinting at a fulfillment in the far distant future rather than in the days when the promise was given.  There is much to indicate that complete fulfillment awaits the millennial age.

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

Here again the reference may have been to a fulfillment in the immediate future, but it seems far more likely that the Millennium is meant, for at the time the prophet spoke there were no Jews in any significant numbers westward.

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.”

This also points to the Millennium, for apart from the small believing remnant in the past, Israel has never fulfilled these conditions, and it is to be remembered that the obedience implied in “truth and righteousness” is a prerequisite of God’s dwelling in the midst of His people at any time.

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.”

The exhortation given here reverts to the day when Zechariah addressed the people, encouraging them to continue fearlessly with the building of the Temple, for as has been discussed already, the building of that Temple was a necessary step on the long road that would eventually bring a repentant and converted generation of Israel into the enjoyment of the millennial blessings so long forfeited by disobedience.

The application is also to us.  In a day when there is much to discourage, we are to be wholeheartedly about the Lord’s business, knowing that what we do today is only part of the great work that will culminate with the addition of the last living stone to the Church, and the return of the Lord to the air to rapture that glorious mystical building home to heaven to enjoy eternal blessings with Him there.

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 neighbor.”

This is the reminder that all labor which is not for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom is profitless, not only for eternity, but also for time, for the man who busies himself wholeheartedly with this world’s business will never be satisfied.  No matter how much money he makes, how much fame he acquires, how much power he wields ... he will never have enough to satisfy him enabling him to say, It is enough.  He will be like the man who is unable to find employment for himself or his animal. 

“... neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of affliction.”  The lawlessness that prevailed prior to the captivity was such that the man going out of the city could never be sure that he would return to it alive; or that he who entered it would return alive to the place from which he came.  Those were dangerous times; but we are missing the lesson if we fail to recognize that in this as in every age, the man who sets his heart on the things of this world, is exposed to far more terrible danger: in an instant he could be cut off in his sins, having to leave behind him all the worthless things he valued so highly, while his soul descends into hell to await the resurrection of damnation, following which he will be cast body, soul, and spirit into the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire, John 5:29; Re 20:11-15.

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

“... the residue” is literally that which remains, and while the reference may be in a measure to the remnant returned from Babylon and addressed by the prophet, it is much more likely that “the residue” will be the remnant that will emerge from the Tribulation to inherit millennial blessings.

In the past, as for example in the days of the Judges, there had been the dreary cycle of rebellion, chastisement which brought temporary repentance, deliverance, and in a very short time, the repetition of the same sad cycle.  And the same proved to be true of the remnant to whom Zechariah spoke.  The repentance and reformation of the nation were short-lived, so that in AD 70 God scattered them amongst the Gentiles, where the majority of them remain to this day.  But it will be different with the Tribulation age remnant.  With them the repentance produced by those terrible judgments will be lasting, enabling God to bless them abundantly in the Millennium.

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.”

In a measure these blessings were made good to the remnant returned from Babylon, but there is nothing in their history to indicate that there was anything like the outpouring of blessing that seems to be implied here, and that will come only in the Millennium.

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.”

Certainly this promise has not yet been made good to Israel, for since the glorious reign of Solomon, Judah and Israel, so far from being a blessing to the nations, have never been anything but accursed in their view.  The days spoken of here: of Israel’s being saved, and of their being a blessing to the nations, will not be until the Millennium.

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 (relented) not:”

God reminds them here that when their fathers had provoked His anger He didn’t hesitate to execute the threatened punishment, nor will it ever be different: a Holy God must punish sin, the evidence of that immutable principle being demonstrated dramatically at Calvary when He didn’t hesitate to pour out upon His only beloved Son, the full measure of punishment due to sin when that same Son had assumed responsibility for your sin and mine.

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

God’s desire to bless is governed by the same immutable principle as that which requires Him to punish sin, for as sin surely brings judgment, so does obedience just as surely bring blessing.  God’s longing desire to bless Israel or anyone else, however, doesn’t imply that He will violate that principle and bless apart from obedience.  He won’t!  No matter how great His desire to bless, there must be obedience on the part of the man or nation who would inherit His blessing.

God’s thinking or desiring “to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” was frustrated, as so many times in the past, by their refusal to repent of their sin and obey Him.  His “fear ye not” was the assurance that they had nothing to fear from man or demon if they would only obey Him, the omnipotent Lord of hosts.  Sadly, the one thing they needed to fear, but didn’t, was to sin against that same Holy God.  And again, we are missing the lesson if we fail to see that the same principle governs Him in His dealings with us.

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

God’s blessing was not to be secured simply by their adherence to an empty religious ritual which they mistakenly believed would placate Him.  The only thing that brings blessing to a man is to repent of sin, and have faith to believe that the vicarious death of the Substitute God Himself has provided, is sufficient to expiate that sin.  In the OT age that substitute was the offering appointed by God, each one of those offerings being but a type of God’s spotless Lamb the Lord Jesus Christ, Who by His death at Calvary, has made atonement for all the sin of the world, that sacrifice, however, being efficacious only to the man who will confess himself a sinner, and trust in Christ as His Savior.

In commanding them to be truthful in their dealings with one another, and to be just and fair in the judgments they handed down in their gates, i.e., in their law courts, God was not teaching them that good works would secure His blessing, any more than would their mechanical observance of a religious ritual.  He was teaching the same principle relative to good works as still applies today.  Good works will save no one, see Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

In the OT age men were saved by faith apart from works, as are men today, the only difference being that the faith of the OT believer looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ, while the faith of the NT believer looks back to it, but each was and is exercising the same faith.

But where then is the place for works, for that they have a place in the believer’s life is crystal clear.  The simple answer is that good works ought to accompany a genuine conversion, being the outward evidence of inward believing faith; but it is a fatal mistake to equate good works with conversion, or to believe that the formula for conversion is faith plus works.  To add anything to faith as a necessity of salvation is to detract from the efficacy of Christ’s finished work, for it is simply another way of saying that His sacrifice alone is inadequate, and that is blasphemy!

This was part of God’s answer to their question as to whether they should continue the fasts which they, without any command from Him, had begun in Babylon.

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

This verse continues to teach a further truth relative to genuine conversion: there must be more than a mental assent to the value of Christ’s death and resurrection, for the truth is that a man may believe the historicity of Christ, and still remain unsaved.  Belief in the historicity of Christ is effective to save only when it is linked to the honest confession of my sin, and is seen as indispensable to the expiation of that sin.  There may be a verbal profession of faith in Christ, and there may be also moral reformation producing good works, but saving faith produces also a changed mind - and the mind is the object of God’s scrutiny.  The outward things: verbal profession and good works are for the eye of man, and may deceive him; but God looks on the mind, and He is omniscient: He cannot be deceived.  The solemn truth is that if I have only a lip profession of faith, accompanied by a moral reformation, but do not have a changed heart (mind), I am not only deceiving men: I am deceiving myself, and unless awakened, will dwell in the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

It was, in fact, this very condition that marked the Jews in the days of Christ.  They were punctilious relative to outward ordinances, and they loudly professed faith in God, but the state of their heart - the one that mattered - revealed that they were, in spite of all the outward appearances, children of the Devil, see John 8:44.  In their hearts they hated God and crucified His Son, for that same hatred lurks in the heart of every unconverted man, as is written in Eph 2:3, “... and were by nature the children of wrath,” i.e., those who are exposed to God’s wrath.

8:18.  “And the word of the Lord of hosts came unto me, saying,”

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.”

In 7:3,5 only the fasts of the fifth and seventh months are mentioned, but here two others are added: those of the fourth and tenth months, indicating that Israel had multiplied these self-appointed times of mourning, for the natural man is always eager to invent ways of ingratiating himself with God, while ignoring the Divinely appointed way of faith alone apart from works.  But a day still future, the Millennium, will see men brought into a right relationship with God, with the result that their fasts will become feasts; their mourning, sighing; and their tears  exchanged for laughter.

Relative to these four fasts, William MacDonald has noted that, “The fast of the tenth month mourned the siege of Jerusalem (2 Ki 25:1); the fourth month marked its capture (2 Ki 25:3); the fifth month, its destruction (2 Ki 25:8-10); the seventh month, the murder of Gedaliah (2 Ki 25:25).

“... therefore love the truth and peace.”  This continues to emphasize that the new life received by faith will always express itself in good works.

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:”

Verse 22 makes it clear that the people mentioned here are not just of Israel, but of the whole millennial earth

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.”

“Pray” in the present context means “entreat or seek the favor of.”  In the Millennium the nations which for so long have defied God, will realize the folly of rebellion against Him, and the wisdom of submission to His will.  That same principle has always governed man’s relationship with God, but sadly it is recognized by only a relative few today, and obeyed by even fewer.

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

Throughout the ages the nations, depending on their own strength, have failed to learn the feebleness of that puny power, but the terrible Tribulation judgments will have taught them the folly of striving against the Almighty, and the wisdom of simply supplicating Him relative to every need.  Only a very few have learned that lesson through the ages, but the serenity of their lives, even in the midst of seeming adversity, has attested the wisdom of obedient trust in that same omnipotent Lord of hosts.

Their coming to Jerusalem confirms that that city will be the millennial center of world government.

“... and to pray before the Lord.”  One of the blessings of the millennial age will be that the majority will know what is known today by only a very small minority, i.e., the power of prayer, Paul having given the assurance of the blessing that attends the exercise of that privilege, “Be careful (anxious) about nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” Php 4:6-7.

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.”

Ten is used here simply as a representative number, but since it is the scriptural number of Divine government it is also an indirect reminder that in the Millennium Christ will rule with a rod of iron.  Disobedience will not be tolerated, hence the phenomenal blessing of the millennial age.

The mention of languages may indicate that there will not be a universal millennial language; and the fact that the men of other nations will “take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew” simply means that in that glorious age Israel will be chief among the nations, as foretold in De 28:13, “And the Lord shall make thee the head and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.” 

The lesson God would teach us in this is the vanity of striving for earthly promotion, and the wisdom of simply obeying Him, recognizing that, “Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another,” Ps 75:6-7.  In essence, the lesson being taught is that His will is, “good, and acceptable, and perfect,” Ro 12:2; and that “all things work together for good to them that love him,” Ro 8:28, love being manifested in obedience, as the Lord Himself has declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.

[Zechariah 9]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough