Where the world comes to study the Bible

Zechariah 8

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Jerusalem, Holy City of the Future The Lord Will Return to Zion and Do Good to Jerusalem and Judah The Lord Promises to Restore Jerusalem A Prospect of Salvation
8:1-8 8:1-8 8:1-5 8:1-8
    8:6-8  
8:9-13 8:9-13 8:9-13 8:9-13
8:14-17 8:14-17 8:14-17 8:14-15
      8:16-17
      The Answer to the Question of Fasting
8:18-23 8:18-19 8:18-19 8:18
      8:19
      A Prospect of Salvation
  8:20-23 8:20-23 8:20-22
      8:23

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:1-8
 1Then the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, 2"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.' 3Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.' 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. 5And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.' 6Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the Lord of hosts. 7Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; 8and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'"

8:1 This phrase introduces a new stage of the discussion beginning in 7:1 and 8.

8:2 "the Lord of hosts" This was a common post-exilic title. See Special Topic: The Names for Deity at Dan. 4:2.

▣ "I am exceedingly jealous" See full notes at 1:14.

▣ "Zion" This is one of the seven hills in Jerusalem, but it came to stand for the entire city, including Mount Moriah on which the temple stood. See note at 1:14.

NASB, NRSV"with great wrath"
NKJV"with great fervor"
TEV"made me angry"
NJB"furious jealousy"

The Hebrew root (BDB 404) means "to be hot." The implication here is YHWH's passion (the Piel form means "to conceive"). This term is often used by the seventh century prophets (i.e. Jeremiah and Ezekiel, note specifically Ezek. 36:6-7). The interpretive question is how to understand "wrath." (1) Is it meant to refer to God's hot passion for His people or (2) His anger at those He chose to discipline her? I believe the Hebrew phrase, "I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, with great wrath, I am jealous" best fits option #2 (cf. NIV, REB). This is not the same Hebrew word as 7:12 (BDB 893).

8:3 "I will return to Zion" YHWH had left the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Ezek. 10) because of the Jews' idolatry (cf. Ezek. 8), before the city was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Ezek. 9). YHWH went to be with the Jews in exile (cf. Ezek. 1).

His return (BDB 996, Qal PERFECT) was the confirmation that He had forgiven His people and renewed His covenant with them.

"will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem" There is no greater blessing than the personal presence of God with His people (e.g. Exod. 25:8; Lev. 26:11-12; Num. 5:3; 35:23; Deut. 23:14). The sacrificial system and temple were the hope of sinful people who God would forgive (cf. Exod. 29:45).

Notice these two phrases are parallel with (both Qal PERFECTS) each other, as are the next two phrases in v. 3.

▣ "City of Truth" This could also be translated "city of faithfulness" (BDB 893). The faithful God had returned to the faithless descendants of Abraham.

In Isa. 1:21-23 Jerusalem is sarcastically called "the faithful city," yet in 1:24-26 YHWH the Faithful will change her and forgive her so that she would truly be "the faithful city" (cf. v. 2b) again.

▣ "the mountain of the Lord" This refers to the temple area or Mt. Moriah ("YHWH provides"). This is the place where:

1. Melchizedek was anointed priest/king, Gen. 14

2. Abraham was to offer Isaac, Gen. 22

3. David offered a sacrifice to stop God's judgment, I Chr. 21:9-30

4. Solomon built the temple, II Chr. 3:1

 

"the Holy Mountain" It is holy because YHWH's presence is there. His presence must be reflected in His people (cf. Deut. 28:9). They must be different; they must be like Him (e.g. Lev. 19:2 [I Pet. 1:16]; Matt. 5:48). See Special Topic: Holy at Dan. 4:8.

8:4 "old men and old women" Most of the elderly died because of the exile and those who grew old in Babylon could not easily return, therefore, elderly people in the land was a sign of lengthy prosperity (cf. Deut. 28:3) or the new age (cf. Isa. 65:20).

8:5 "boys and girls playing" This was a sign of God's blessing (cf. Deut. 28:4) and normal social life. This shows the reversal of YHWH's curse (i.e. the fall of Jerusalem, cf. Deuteronomy 27-29) and His restored presence and blessing!

8:6 "If it is too difficult" The Jewish people had become accustomed to captivity and judgment so these promises overwhelmed them! The term "difficult" (BDB 810, Niphal IMPERFECT) also means "wonderful." See note at Dan. 8:24.

"the remnant of this people" The Hebrew term "remnant" (BDB 984) basically means "the remainder," "what is left," "the residue." In the prophets it takes on a special meaning, "the faithful remnant," which refers to the few descendants of Abraham who believed, trusted, and worshiped YHWH. It is these He would restore (cf. Isa. 37:4,32; 46:3; Jer. 23:3; 31:7; Micah 2:15; 5:7,8; 7:18; Zeph. 2:7,9; Ezra 9:14; Zech. 8:6,11,12). The difficulty about this term is the time factor. Does it refer to (1) the post-exilic period or (2) the end-time (notice the phrase in Zech. 8:6, "in those days")? This may be an example of multiple fulfillment prophecy.

"will it also be too difficult in My sight" There is a faith connection between God's acts and the faith of His people. However, even if God's people do not have faith, God still acts. God is committed to sinful humanity's redemption (cf. vv. 7-8; Ezek. 36:22-38).

8:7 "save" The Hebrew VERB "save" (BDB 446, KB 448 Hiphil PARTICIPLE) is used in several senses.

1. Hiphil = "to deliver" (cf. 9:9; Jer. 30:7-11; 31:7-8) or "to give victory" (e.g. Isa. 59:16; 63:5)

2. Niphal = "to be liberated," "to be saved," or "to be victorious"

It is used of the activity of God on behalf of His people (cf. 8:7,13; 9:16; 10:6; 12:7). YHWH delivers those who trust Him (e.g. v. 6; Ps. 37:40; 86:2).

Just a note to acknowledge that modern scholarship is still uncertain about the origin or root meaning of this term. It has been assumed that it is from an Arabic root meaning "to be wide or spacious," but this is not a consensus.

In this context YHWH is promising to deliver His people from exile and restore them to the Promised Land. However, the apocalyptic nature of the book projects this promise into the future as well as the present. It surely refers to the return to Jerusalem in 538 b.c. (Cyrus' decree), but since "the nations" (e.g. 2:11; 8:20-23) are included and the concept of Messiah is revealed and expanded in chapters 9-14, then this must also have an eschatological focus.

▣ "east. . .west" These compass directions are used in the universal sense as in Ps. 50:1; 113:3; Isa. 59:19; Mal. 1:11.

8:8 "My people and I will be their God" This is covenant language (e.g. Lev. 26:12; Deut. 4:20; 18:2; 29:12-13; Jer. 31:33; 32:38; Hos. 2:23) and clearly shows that the covenant is restored.

▣ "truth" This Hebrew word (BDB 54) means "firmness," "faithfulness," or "truth." Originally it referred to a stable stance and then came to be used metaphorically for that which is trustworthy or faithful or reliable. This then becomes a description of YHWH (e.g. Ps. 71:22; 117:2; 146:6; Isa. 38:18-19; Neh. 9:33). Faithless, fallen humanity's only hope is in the unchanging, faithful mercy of God!

This term is used in chapter 8 several times (cf. vv. 3,8,16[twice],19) in the sense of "truth." In 7:9 and 8:16 it refers to a true or faithful testimony in court. Verses 16 and 19 are parallel and speak of the truthful and trustworthy relationship between covenant partners in society. Truth has a corporate societal focus. Truth is relational as well as propositional!

For a good discussion of this Hebrew word in all its forms see New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 1, pp. 427-433.

"righteousness" See Special Topic at Dan. 4:27.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:9-13
 9"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built. 10For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another. 11But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' declares the Lord of hosts. 12For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things. 13It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.'"

8:9 "let your hands be strong" This is a Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 304, KB 302) used in a JUSSIVE sense. Notice that this idiomatic phrase begins and concludes (cf. v. 13) this paragraph. This phrase shows the human side of the covenant relationship.

This may be an allusion to Haggai 2:4, who prophesied just before Zechariah. Both of them addressed the same issue—the rebuilding of the temple needs to be finished. Throughout Israel's history God has encouraged His people to be strong and courageous and not to fear (e.g. Josh. 1:6-9; I Chr. 22:13; Isa. 35:4).

8:10 This is a summary of what life in Palestine was like ("before those days") between the fall of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (586 b.c.) and the return ("but now" of v. 11) to Jerusalem decreed by Cyrus (538 b.c.).

The phrase "I set all men one against another" is the exact opposite of vv. 3-8. God's presence or absence can be noted by how people treat each other (cf. 7:8-14). We reap what we sow (cf. Gal. 6:7). Israel reaped the bounty of the presence and forgiveness of God (cf. vv. 11-12).

Notice that God takes personal responsibility for Israel and Judah's exile (cf. v. 14; 7:14). God allowed foreign nations to defeat His people (cf. Isa. 10:5; Jer. 51:20). This judgment was the necessary discipline to bring about a renewed covenant and people.

8:11 "the remnant" See note at 8:6.

8:12 This reflects the covenant blessings of Deut. 27-29 (cf. Hag. 2:19).

8:13 This is a very important verse because it shows the intended purpose of Israel. God called Abraham to call a world (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6). God's special relationship and blessing to the descendants of Abraham was meant to attract the notice of the rest of the sons of Adam. The nationalism of Genesis 10-11 is reflected in v. 10c. However, the Jewish people were not faithful to the covenant. Their lives did not reflect the holiness of YHWH, but the fallenness of Genesis 3. Those who were meant to be a light became a deterrent (cf. Ezek. 36:18-23). God had to first change His own people's hearts and minds. They could not perform God's covenant requirements. Therefore, a new covenant was required; one based on God's character and provision (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-38). With this new covenant God's people can become their intended "blessing" to a lost world. The "curse" of Deuteronomy 27-29 has been removed through Messiah. The tragedy is that Israel did not recognize this new opportunity to fulfill her world-wide missionary mandate. She turned inward into exclusivism and pride instead of outward. God's heart for "the nations" was not her heart. Monotheism and the unity of mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) demands a universal people! Israel was a means to that end, not that end! The new age of righteousness depicted in Isaiah 55-66 was not fulfilled in the post-exilic return, but it will be in the Messianic Kingdom.

▣ "Do not fear; let your hands be strong" These are both Qal IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense (cf. Vv. 9,15). This is a recurrent admonition.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:14-17
 14"For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,' says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I have not relented, 15so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear! 16These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. 17Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,' declares the Lord."

8:14 "I have not relented" The Hebrew VERB (BDB 636, KB 688), in its Niphal PERFECT form, means "to be sorry," "to console oneself." YHWH was patient with His people. He relented the punishment that they deserved (cf. Amos 7:3,6), but there was a limit to His relenting (cf. Jer. 15:8). There came a time when YHWH disciplined His people and He did not relent (cf. 8:14; Ezek. 24:14), but He wanted to (cf. Jer. 26:3,13; Hos. 11:8).

This anthropomorphic word shocks us because we think of God as unchangeable. It is surely true that His character and commitment to redemption are unchangeable, however, if God is unchangeable in all ways, why do we pray? Intercessory prayer is based on the belief that supplication can change God's dealings with humans, both individually and corporately. There is a true personal relationship between God and believers.

God's word is sure, both positively and negatively (e.g. Jer. 4:28; Ezek. 24:14; Gal. 6:7). God's faithless people finally reaped the consequences of their acts (cf. 7:9-14). God allowed exile to make restoration a possibility (cf. v. 15). God wants a people who reflect His character (cf. vv. 8, 16-17; 7:9-10) so that the nations can know Him and trust Him!

8:15 Judgment is God's last resort. He wants to bless (e.g. Hos. 11:8) to fulfill His larger redemptive purposes.

8:16-17 "these are the things which you should do" These verses reflect 7:9-10 and 8:8, but they truly reflect the Mosaic legislation. It was very clear to these Jewish people what God's will for them was among each other and foreigners (i.e. two positive commands in v. 16 and two negative commands in v. 17).

This ethical aspect to biblical faith is needed in a day like theirs and ours when faith in God is limited to:

1. initial decision (ticket to heaven)

2. emotional moment

3. selected times and places

4. rituals/liturgy

These things are good, but unless they issue in a daily, moral lifestyle they are false hopes (cf. Matt. 7; John 15; II Pet. 2). The goal of biblical faith is not only heaven when we die, but Christlikeness now. Anything less is biblically suspect! Western Christianity is characterized by "what is in it for me?" but true biblical faith is meant to serve and reflect God!

▣ "gates" This was the place of judicial acts and social events.

8:17 The first two negated VERBS are Qal IMPERFECTS used in a JUSSIVE sense. God hates premeditated schemes!

"all these are what I hate" Both "hate" (BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal PERFECT, cf. Prov. 6:16-19) and "love" (BDB 12, Qal IMPERFECT and Qal IMPERATIVE, v. 19) are human emotions applied to God (anthropomorphism). God is surely personal and thereby has feelings and emotions, but His holy, gracious, unchanging character controls the mood swings experienced by fallen humans. These words are analogous, not definitive!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:18-19
 18Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, 19"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.'"

8:19 This literary unit which begins in 7:1 with a question about the need to continue certain fast days related to the Babylonian exile. After discussing the reason for the exile and the hope of restoration, Zechariah returns to the question about specific fast days.

"the fast of the fourth" This was a fast in memory of Jerusalem's walls being breached (cf. Jer. 39:2; II Kgs. 25:3).

▣ "the fast of the fifth" This was a fast in memory of the destruction of the Temple (cf. II Kgs. 25:8).

▣ "the fast of the seventh" This was a fast in memory of Gedaliah's death (cf. II Kgs. 25:25).

▣ "the fast of the tenth" This was a fast in memory of the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar II's siege of Jerusalem (cf. II Kgs. 25:1-2; Jer. 39:1).

▣ "will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts" There will be no more fasts! Israel's mourning will be changed to joy, her captivity into deliverance (cf. Jer. 31:10-14). Isaiah 65 combines a renewed Jerusalem with the new age!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:8:20-23
 20"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. 21The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, "Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go." 22So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.' 23Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."'"

8:20-21 As some came (possibly from Bethel (cf. 7:2) to seek the favor of the Lord, so now other cities of Judah come to Jerusalem and the new temple to seek YHWH's blessing.

8:21 "to seek the Lord" There are two parallel phrases:

1. "to entreat the favor of" - Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, BDB 318 II, KB 316

2.  "to seek" - Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT, BDB 134, KB 152

This is an idiom for worship (cf. Isa. 51:1; Jer. 50:4; Hos. 3:5; 5:6) which usually refers to Jews, but here to Gentiles.

"I will also go" This is an emphatic statement of intent (two COHORTATIVE forms of "go," cf. v. 23). There is an urgency to v. 21.

8:22 "so many peoples and mighty nations will come" The Hebrew ADJECTIVE "mighty" (BDB 783) can mean "numerous" (cf. Ps. 35:18; Prov. 7:26; Isa. 53:12; Amos 5:12). If so, then "many peoples" is parallel to "numerous nations."

As other Jews come so now the initial purpose of God is fulfilled when "many peoples and mighty nations" come to Him. This universal aspect in Zechariah (cf. 2:11) is surprising in light of (1) Zech. 1:15,21; (2) the racial tone of Haggai; and (3) the problems faced by Nehemiah (cf. Neh. 4:6). Zechariah is looking beyond the immediate (cf. Isa. 2:2-4; 56:7; 66:18-24; Micah 4:1-3). He is looking to the days of "the wounded shepherd" (cf. chapters 12-13)!

8:23

NASB"will grasp the garment of a Jew"
NKJV"will grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man"
NRSV"shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment"
TEV"come to one Jew"
NJB"will take a Jew by the sleeve"
JPSOA"they will take hold of every Jew by a corner of his cloak"
PESHITTA"shall take hold of the skirt of a Jew"
NIV"will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe"

The Hebrew VERB "take hold" (BDB 304, KB 302) in the Hiphil form is repeated twice (first IMPERFECT then PERFECT) for emphasis and urgency (see use in I Kgs. 1:50; 2:28; II Kgs. 4:27; Prov. 26:17; Isa. 4:1).

The intended purpose of the call of Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:3) is to be realized!

The confusion (many languages) of the tower of Babel has now been overcome. Pentecost is the reversal of Gen. 10-11 as these people from many lands heard the gospel in their own language. This verse is a prophetic glimpse.

"we have heard that God is with you" God's presence is the greatest blessing (cf. Isa. 7:14; 8:8,10; 45:14) and the goal of creation (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:8-9). The barrier (cf. Gen. 3:10-21) between God and mankind is removed.

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. Why is there a lapse of time between 1:1 and 7:1?

2. Who does verse 7:2 refer to?

3. Why was God so upset with their religious fasts?

4. What is the ultimate purpose of Israel?

5. Why is 8:20-23 so surprising, yet so important?