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Zechariah 10

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Restoration of Judah and Israel The Lord Alone Controls Nature The Lord Promises Deliverance Faithfulness to Yahweh
10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2
  The Lord Alone Controls History   Israel's Deliverance and Return
10:3-12 10:3-12 10:3-5 10:3-12
    10:6-12  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter continues the same themes as chapter. 9. The time element is still ambiguous.

 

B. Verses 4 and 11-12 are Messianic. Notice the capitalizations of NASB. The Aramaic Targums also assert these verses as Messianic. However, others see v. 4 as referring to Judah and vv. 11-12 as referring to YHWH.

 

C. The theme of this chapter is the covenant people's dependence on YHWH, not Ba'al. This is the focus of v. 1. Verse 2 shows the falsehood that Israel was depending on (cf. Hos. 11:3). The chapter concludes with an emphasis on His people's victorious return in YHWH's name, not a fertility idol's name.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:10:1-12
 1Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring rain—
 The Lord who makes the storm clouds;
 And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man.
  2For the teraphim speak iniquity,
 And the diviners see lying visions
 And tell false dreams;
 They comfort in vain.
 Therefore the people wander like sheep,
 They are afflicted, because there is no shepherd.
  3My anger is kindled against the shepherds,
 And I will punish the male goats;
 For the Lord of hosts has visited His flock, the house of Judah,
 And will make them like His majestic horse in battle.
  4From them will come the cornerstone,
 From them the tent peg,
 From them the bow of battle,
 From them every ruler, all of them together.
  5They will be as mighty men,
 Treading down the enemy in the mire of the streets in battle;
 And they will fight, for the Lord will be with them;
 And the riders on horses will be put to shame.
  6I will strengthen the house of Judah,
 And I will save the house of Joseph,
 And I will bring them back,
 Because I have had compassion on them;
 And they will be as though I had not rejected them,
 For I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
  7Ephraim will be like a mighty man,
 And their heart will be glad as if from wine;
 Indeed, their children will see it and be glad,
 Their heart will rejoice in the Lord.
  8I will whistle for them to gather them together,
 For I have redeemed them;
 And they will be as numerous as they were before.
  9When I scatter them among the peoples,
 They will remember Me in far countries,
 And they with their children will live and come back.
  10I will bring them back from the land of Egypt
 And gather them from Assyria;
 And I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon
 Until no room can be found for them.
  11And He will pass through the sea of distress
 And strike the waves in the sea,
 So that all the depths of the Nile will dry up;
 And the pride of Assyria will be brought down
 And the scepter of Egypt will depart.
  12And I will strengthen them in the Lord,
 And in His name they will walk," declares the Lord.

10:1 "Ask rain" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 981, KB 1371). Rain was a gift from God, e.g. Isa. 30:23; Jer. 10:13). The emphasis of 1:17; 9:17 is on social stability and fruitfulness being from YHWH. Famine was part of the curse of Deut. 28 (cf. Jer. 14:1-6), but abundant rain was also part of the promised blessing if they followed God (cf. Deut. 11:13,14; 28:12). During Israel's periods of idolatry (e.g. Hos. 4) she ascribed fertility to Ba'al (Canaanite storm and fertility god) and not to YHWH (cf. Jer. 14:22). Chapter 10 highlights this grave mistake (cf. 14:17).

"at the time of the spring rain" In Palestine there were only two periods of rain (cf. Deut. 11:14; Joel 2:23).

1. early rain at the autumn time before spring planting (Oct. - Nov.)

2. latter rain at the time of the maturing plant (Mar. - April)

Most regular moisture came from the heavy dew. Because of the covenant promises and cursing of Deut. 27-29, these periods of rain became metaphors of spiritual renewal and the presence of God with His people for blessing.

The "latter rains" became an idiom for God's blessing in the end-time (e.g. Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23).

NASB, NRSV
NJB"the storm clouds"
NKJV"flashing clouds"
TEV"rain clouds"

The Hebrew word (BDB 304) is found twice in Job in contexts implying lightning (JB, cf. 28:26; 38:15). The thrust of the passage is that God controls the weather and, thereby, food production and fertility (cf. Deut. 11:14-15).

10:2 "teraphim" This refers to household idols, apparently in humanoid form, used to discern the will of the departed family spirits or the family gods (cf. Gen. 31:19,34; Jdgs. 17:5; 18:14-20; I Sam. 15:23; 19:13; II Kgs. 23:24; Hos. 3:4). The exact etymology of this term (BDB 1076) is uncertain.

NASB"speak iniquity"
NKJV"speak delusion"
NRSV"utter nonsense"
TEV"nonsense"
NJB"have talked nonsense"

The VERB (BDB 180, KB 210) is a Piel PERFECT.

The NOUN (BDB 19) basically means "trouble," "sorrow," or "wickedness" (cf. Num. 23:21; Ps. 10:7; 55:11; Isa. 10:1; 55:7). It is used in combination with Bethel in Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5,8; and Amos 5:5 to label the worship of the golden calf as wilfully idolatrous (i.e. "nothing," cf. Isa. 1:11-15). Possibly the classic text is I Sam. 15:22-23. It is surprising that a list of idolatrous activities is mentioned in the post-exilic period (cf. Mal. 3:5). This whole chapter may be an allusion to Moses' prophecy in Deut. 4:25-31.

▣ "the diviners see lying visions" This is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE (BDB 890, KB 1115, "the ones divining") plus a Qal PERFECT VERB (BDB 302, KB 301, "see lies"). Most of these false methods of attempting to find the will of God are mentioned in Deut. 18:9-13, esp. v. 10 (cf. II Kgs. 17:17). Divining is especially mentioned in I Sam. 15:23. It either refers to natural (e.g. flight of birds, clouds, sheep livers) or manmade (e.g. casting sticks, tea leaves) means of determining the will of God (cf. Ezek. 21:21). Here this term (BDB 890) refers to false prophets (cf. Isa. 3:2; Jer. 27:9; 29:8; Ezek. 13:9,23; 22:38; Micah 3:11).

For a good discussion of "divination" see New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 3, pp. 945-951 or Zondervan's Pictorial Encyclopedia of The Bible, vol. 2, pp. 146-149.

▣ "and tell false dreams" The VERB (BDB 180, KB 210) is a Piel IMPERFECT. God did often speak through dreams (e.g. Jacob, Gen. 28; Joseph, Gen. 37:39-41; Dan. 1:17; 2:4,7). However, sometimes dreams were simply manipulative lies or imaginations of the human subconscious (e.g. Deut. 13:1-5; Jer. 23:32; 27:9-10; 29:8-9).

▣ "They comfort in vain" The VERB (BDB 636, KB 688) is also a Piel IMPERFECT. The NOUN (BDB 210 I) "vain," or "empty," so common in Ecclesiastes, is the same root as "idol" (cf. II Kgs. 17:15; Jer. 23:32; 27:9,10). They are nothing, just figments of human superstition and fear, as is this false hope from false prophets!

▣ "Therefore the people wander like sheep" The VERB (BDB 652 I, KB 704) is a Qal PERFECT. The term "the people" is in italics, which shows that it is not in the Hebrew text. This verse could refer to the religions leaders, the people, or both. The classic prophetic text about false shepherds and God's flock is in Ezek. 34, but also is used often by Jeremiah (cf. 2:8; 10:21; 23:1-2; 50:6).

▣ "They are afflicted, because there is no shepherd" This is a Qal IMPERFECT VERB (BDB 776 III, KB 853) followed by a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, "shepherding" (BDB 944 I, KB 1258). The concept of shepherd as a title for kings is very common in the ancient East (cf. Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, pp. 171-172). The king often stands as a representative of the national god. YHWH is often spoken of as shepherd and His people as sheep (cf. Gen. 49:24; Num. 27:17; Ps. 23:1-2; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:12).

This discussion of a divine shepherd sets the stage for chapters 11-13. Zechariah is unique in his imagery of a wounded shepherd (cf. 12:10; 13:7), which is theologically parallel to the Suffering Servant of Isa. 53 (the same Hebrew term, "afflicted" (BDB 776 III) is used in Isa. 53:4,7).

10:3 "My anger is kindled against the shepherds" This is another Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE (BDB 944 I, KB 1258) and a Qal PERFECT VERB (BDB 354, KB 351), "is hot." In Ezek. 34 (esp. v. 17) God also condemns His covenant people's civil and religious leaders for their lack of faithfulness to Him. The term "male goats" may refer to foreign leaders (TEV, cf. v. 11; Isa. 14:9; Jer. 51:40).

▣ "For the Lord of hosts" See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Dan. 4:2.

NASB, NKJV"has visited"
NRSV"cares for"
TEV"will take care of them"
NJB"comes to visit"

The Hebrew VERB (BDB 823, KB 955, Qal IMPERFECT) means "visited" (for blessing, cf. v. 3c; Gen. 50:24; Exod. 3:16; 4:31; 13:19, or for judgment, cf. v. 36; I Sam. 15:2; Lam. 4:22; Hos. 8:13; 9:9). The best parallel passage is Jer. 23:2. In Zech. 11:16 God allows an evil shepherd to decimate the flock.

▣ "His flock, the house of Judah" This refers to the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Simeon and most of the tribe of Levi. The northern remaining tribes were known as Israel (collective name), Ephraim (largest tribe) or Samaria (the capital city). This tribal split occurred in 922 b.c. (cf. I Kgs. 11:9-13,26-40).

In this chapter Judah is mentioned in v. 3 and Ephraim in v. 7. This prophet emphasizes their reunification (cf. v. 6a,b). The post exilic community and the eschatological will be one people (cf. vv. 4d; 6a,b; 8:13)

▣ "He will make them like His majestic horse in battle" The VERB (BDB 962 I, KB 1321) is a Qal PERFECT. The term majestic (BDB 217 I) is used to describe horses in Job 39:19-25, esp. v. 20. This same word is used in 6:13 for the majesty of the coming king, but here of His war mount. These are metaphors for God's people being used (cf. Jer. 51:20-33) and honored by God's Messiah when He returns to rule and reign.

God is transforming and equipping His people so as to change them from sheep (or devious "he goats") into majestic war stallions (cf. 9:13). This is an example of the drastic contrasts in prophetic literature (e.g. no war in 9:10 vs. war in 9:13; 10:3).

10:4 "From them" The Masoretic Text has "from him" (cf. NKJV and NAB, also note "He" of v. 11). There have been several possibilities as to the object of this verse: (1) it refers to future events, either Maccabean or eschatological; (2) it is a direct reference, which means out of Judah leaders will come (NIV, cf. vv. 3-6; Gen. 49:10; II Sam. 7); or (3) the Targums, which are Aramaic translations and interpretations of the Hebrew text, assert that this refers to King Messiah.

▣ "the cornerstone" This refers to the Messiah in Ps. 118:22 and Isa. 28:16. See Special Topic at Dan. 2:34.

"tent-peg" This Hebrew term (BDB 450) is used of two kinds of pegs.

1. for tents (cf. Jdgs. 4:21; 5:26; Isa. 33:20; 54:2)

2. for hanging things on (cf. Isa. 22:22-24; Ezek. 15:3)

3. for building the tabernacle (cf. Exod. 27:19; 35:18; 38:20,31)

The point of the metaphor is its holding ability and thereby permanence (cf. Ezra 9:8). In this context #1 fits best.

▣ "the bow of battle" This is a military idiom (cf. 9:10; Exod. 15:5). The metaphors of this verse speak of stability, victory, and unified leadership.

▣ "ruler" This is literally "oppressor." This is the very same Hebrew word (BDB 620) which is used in 9:8 in a negative sense. However, it seems to be used in a positive sense here (cf. Isa. 60:17) for the administrative or military leaders at the inauguration of the reign of the coming Messiah.

10:5 "treading down the enemy in the mire of the streets in battle" "Treading down" (BDB 100, KB 115) is a Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE, possibly "trampling." This phrase is a standard idiom of defeat (cf. II Sam. 22:43). However, in this context where rain is mentioned (cf. v. 1) it may refer to mud caused by God's special presence (cf. Jdgs. 4-5).

The term "streets" (BDB 299) means "outside streets," which seems to refer to an open market (e.g. 9:3; 10:5; Isa. 5:25; 10:6; 15:3; 24:11; 51:20,23; Jer. 5:1;7:17,34; 37:21; Ezek. 11:6; 28:23).

"they will fight, for the Lord will be with them" Zechariah 9:1-10 shows that God would do the fighting, but 9:13-16 and 10:3-7 seem to say that the Israelites would do the fighting (BDB 535, KB 526 Niphal PERFECT), but with God in their midst (cf. Jer. 51:20-23).

"the riders on horses will be put to shame" YHWH turns His people into majestic war horses (cf. v. 3d), but the war horses of the enemies are defeated (BDB 101, KB 116 Hiphil PERFECT, cf. Amos 2:15; Hag. 2:22).

10:6 Notice the parallelism in the first two lines. God will unify His people (i.e. "Judah" and "Joseph"). Also notice the parallelism of the VERBAL form in which the first person PRONOUN is inherit of the first three lines. His people are "strengthened" (BDB 149, KB 175 Piel PERFECT) and "saved" (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil IMPERFECT) because He acts! The entire verse reflects God's sovereignty, past, present, and future.

Zechariah speaks of YHWH's salvation and deliverance (1) from the Exile (cf. 8:7); (2) from cursing to blessing (8:13); and (3) unto an eschatological triumph (cf. 9:9; 10:6; 12:7).

"Joseph" This is another way of referring to the northern tribes, as are Israel, Ephraim (v. 7), and Samaria.

"I shall bring them back" This word (BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil PERFECT) is a combination of (BDB 998), "bring them back" (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, cf. 10:10) and "make them dwell" (BDB 442, cf. NASB footnote and v. 4), which is the translation of the Septuagint. Many rabbis assert that the form is definitely ambiguous so as to emphasize both elements (i.e. repentance and permanent residence in the Promised Land).

NASB, NRSV"because I have had compassion on them"
NKJV"because I have mercy on them"
TEV"I will have compassion on them"
NJB"because I have taken pity on them"

This Hebrew VERB (BDB 933, KB 1216, Piel PERFECT) is used often for God's compassion on His people (cf. Exod. 33:19; Deut. 30:3; II Kgs. 13:23; Isa. 14:1; 30:18; 49:10,13; 54:8,10; 55:7; 60:10; Jer. 12:15; 30:18; 31:20; 33:26; Hos. 1:6-7; 2:19,23; Micah 7:18-20). This word assured them that YHWH had reestablished the covenant with all of its benefits!

"they will be as though I had not rejected them" This verse surely speaks of God's forgiveness and restoration, but it also denotes that YHWH broke the covenant because of His people's sins. It is so difficult to talk about the mercy and forgiveness of God while at the same time reminding humans that the covenant is conditional. God desires fellowship with a holy people. He wants a holy people to reflect His character to a lost world. The old covenant was performance based (cf. Deut. 27-29), but fallen humans were incapable of obedience (cf. Rom.7 and Gal. 3). Therefore, the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) is based on the gracious, unchanging character of YHWH (cf. Mal. 3:6), the work of the Messiah, and the drawing power of the Spirit (cf. John 6:44,65). The goal is still a righteous people, but the mechanism of that righteousness has changed.

▣ "For I am the Lord their God, and I will answer them" These covenant terms emphasize the restoration of the covenant relationship. Answered prayer (BDB 772 I, KB 851, Qal IMPERFECT) is one of the benefits. The broken covenant is illustrated in 7:13.

10:7 "Ephraim will be like a mighty man" The northern ten tribes, so devastated by exile, will be reunited with Judah into one family. The term "mighty" (BDB 150) is used of Judah's men in v. 5.

▣ "their heart will be glad as if from wine" Psalm 104:15 says that wine is a gift from God to gladden the hearts of men. In Zech. 9:15 it described victorious soldiers. Here it is also a metaphor of joy for military victory provided by YHWH.

SPECIAL TOPIC: BIBLICAL ATTITUDES TOWARD ALCOHOL AND ALCOHOLISM

▣ "their children will see it and be glad" This speaks of social stability and peace, as does 9:17.

"their hearts will rejoice in the Lord" This same VERB (BDB 162, KB 189, Qal IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE) was used in 9:9 (Qal IMPERATIVE) at the coming of the Lord. In this verse the root is used of exalting in the Lord Himself and His acts of deliverance and establishment of His people. This verse may be an allusion to Isa. 41:16.

10:8 "I will whistle for them" This (Qal IMPERFECT COHORTATIVE) refers to a characteristic call or sound (i.e. piping) of the shepherd gathering (SECOND verb, "GATHER" [BDB 867, KB 1062] is a Piel IMPERFECT used as a COHORTATIVE) his sheep (cf. Jdgs. 5:16). The exact sound is uncertain (BDB 1056, KB 1656), but it is an allusion to God's gathering His scattered people (cf. Isa. 5:26; 7:18,19).

▣ "I have redeemed them" This Hebrew term (BDB 804, KB 911 Qal PERFECT) means to buy back or ransom. Here it is used of God's activity of restoring His people to the Promised Land (cf. Jer. 31:11). Jeremiah 31:10-13 may be the background to Zech. 9:17. Zechariah uses many phrases and terminologies from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Minor Prophets before his day.

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

▣ "they will be as numerous as they were before" This context is reminiscent of Jer. 30:18-22. Not only will the remnant return, but YHWH will restore the full number of residents (cf. Ezek. 36:37-38).

One of God's promises to the Patriarchs was that their descendants would be numerous (cf. Gen. 13:16; 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; 28:14; 32:12; Num. 23:10).

10:9 "I scatter them" This context emphasizes the sovereignty of YHWH over history and redemption (cf. vv. 3,6,9,10). God acts in blessing and cursing (cf. Deut. 27-29) based on His people's obedience to the Mosaic covenant. But even amidst disobedience, He still acts in faithfulness to His own character and purpose (cf. Jer. 31:27-28).

The Hebrew term "scatter" (BDB 281, KB 282, Qal IMPERFECT) can mean "sow" (NKJV). God sowed them because of their idolatry and faithlessness to His covenant (cf. Ezek. 6:9-10), but after judgment they will remember Him and be faithful to Him and teach their children about Him. This was God's plan for taking His message to the world. Often acts of judgment turn into blessings: (1) the dispersion after the tower of Babel in Gen. 10-11 caused nationalism, which protects humanity from a one-world government; (2) the wilderness wandering period was due to their unbelief, but YHWH turned it into a unique time of His personal care, provision, and presence with His people; (3) Calvary looked so evil and hateful, but God used it for universal redemption; and (4) the persecution of the early church resulted in world-wide gospel proclamation [cf. Acts 8:4]). His people did not reach out so He sowed them into the world that He might bring them and others (cf. 8:20-23) back with them to Himself (see Solomon's prayer in I Kgs. 8, especially vv. 43 and 60)!

"they will remember Me" The VERB (BDB 269, KB 269) is a Qal IMPERFECT. This reminds one of Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple (cf. I Kgs. 8:46-53). Note the personal element "remember Me," not just the stipulations. Both are part of the covenant relationship.

God's people are to remember what God has done for them (i.e. Exodus) and trust Him in the present difficulties. God acts according to His unchanging, gracious character. Even His judgment is an act of mercy (i.e. Exodus, Exile).

10:10 "Egypt. . .Assyria" These were the ancient enemies of Israel used to symbolize all of the enemies of God's people.

"the land of Gilead" This was a famous pasture land (cf. Jer. 22:6; 50:19) on the east side of Jordan above the Jabbok River. It was known for its cattle and medicine (cf. Jer. 8:22; 46:11).

"Lebanon" This refers to the realm of Hiram, later called Phoenicia. It was famous for its artisans and lumber (cf. I Kgs. 4:33; 5:6,9,14; 7:2; 16:17,21; Isa. 35:2). It was a place of famed beauty and fertility (cf. Song of Songs 4:8,11,15; 5:15; 7:4). It is included in the Promised Land in Deut. 1:7; 11:24 and Joshua 1:4.

"Until no room can be found for them" This is an idiom of abundance. The Promised Land will be completely filled with God's faithful people.

This multiplication of inhabitants (especially children, cf. v. 7c) is also mentioned in Isa. 49:14-21 and 54:1-3.

10:11

NASB"He will pass through the sea of distress"
NKJV"He shall pass through the sea with affliction"
NRSV"They shall pass through the sea of distress"
TEV"When they pass through their sea of trouble"
NJB"they will cross the sea of Egypt"

As is so common to prophetic and apocalyptic literature, the subject and mood change without notice or textual markers. This is especially true of this context in Zechariah. See Contextual Insights at the beginning of chapter 9.

The problem is trying to find the SUBJECT and OBJECT of vv. 11 and 12. Some assert that (1) it is the returnees because of v. 10, "they," LXX; (2) it is the Messiah (MT, "he"); (3) it is YHWH (cf. v. 12; Isa. 43:2, The Pulpit Commentary, Zechariah, vol. 14, p. 108) and is an allusion to the Exodus (cf. JB and RSV translations). In my opinion, because v. 12 implies YHWH and another person ("he"), I believe that these verses are Messianic.

"so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up" This is surely a historical allusion to the crossing of the Red Sea (cf. Exod. 15:5) and Jordan Rivers. These were mighty acts of provision. The return from Exile is depicted in the same way (cf. Isa. 44:27). Eschatologically YHWH removes all natural barriers to Himself: rivers, valleys, mountains, as a symbol of a full and free access.

10:11 "the pride of Assyria" See note at 9:6.

10:12 "in His name" Verse 1 of chapter 10 begins by saying they were to pray for rain from God, as they had previously been praying to idols. Verse 12 concludes this thought by asserting that they would walk in God's name and not in the idol's name (cf. Micah 4:5).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the time element of this chapter? (past, present, near future, or end-time) Why?

2. Does v. 2 ever describe the life of the Jewish nation? If so, when?

3. Why is God called "shepherd" and His people sheep?

4. List the Messianic references of this chapter.

5. How and when will Judah and Ephraim be reunited?