Zechariah Chapter Eight
The Return of the Skekinah
Zec. 8:1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 8:2 Thus says the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. 8:3 Thus says 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.
"I am returned." Hebrew "shavtiy," , although a preterit, or past tense, verb, it may be understood as future. Thus, "I will return." The Septuagint has "I will return." In Hebrew "will dwell," "shakantiy" , is also preterit but the KJV uses the future tense for it and also the other preterit (passive) verb in the verse "shall be called," Heb. "niqra'ah" . The question is whether this verse says the "Skekinah" is already in the Temple or whether this restoration of the Divine presence is imminent. See the chapter on the "Skekinah" in this book where this verse and the implications of it are discussed in detail. In this case they should not all be translated as future verbs. As far as the form is concerned the KJV is correct in translating it as "I am returned" (completed action). If "shavtiy" is future here it predicts an event two years in the future and is not an unfulfilled prophecy as the futurists of our day hold. The next paragraph explains why.
For an explanation of the difficulty in ascribing "time" to the tense of a Hebrew verb see the discussion in Apology for this Translation See also paragraph explaining "time defined Hebrew" verbs in the introduction to the translation of the Qumran Isaiah Scroll.
Ezekiel's elaborate description of the restored Temple, (Eze. 40:ff) was also prophetic since he wrote it after 574 B.C.E. (see Eze. 40:1) when the Temple and Jerusalem were desolate. He gives the time frame when the "Skekinah" would return to the Temple. The departure from the Temple is in Eze. 11:22. The terrible descriptions of corruption and idolatry that precede the departure of the "Skekinah" tell us that God is merciful and is willing to put up with a great deal before He finally abandons hope in his created beings. When the Spirit of God left the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E., described in Eze. 11, they were then abandoned to the promised destruction and seventy years of desolation. It is possible that the city, even then, would have been saved if they had repented. Immediately following this departure Eze. 12 prophetically describes the beginning of the third stage of the captivity under Zedekiah. The "Skekinah" presence had departed. More than seventy years would pass before the "Skekinah" presence of God would return to Jerusalem. Ezekiel would see in a vision the return of the "Skekinah" to the restored Temple in Eze. 43:2-5. This was to be after the things were accomplished in Ezekiel's description of the restored Temple with all the pertaining buildings, walls and courts. This would have actually happened after the rebuilding which was prompted by Zechariah and Haggai and accomplished under the direction of Zerubbabel and Joshua. Following this line of thinking the "Skekinah" would not actually return to the Temple before the completion of the Temple but before the dedication which was probably two years after the time this chapter was first written. Because as Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy an "inhabited" Temple neither would the Jews dedicate a "desolate" Temple. The Shekinah had returned. This verse in Zechariah then is a prophecy of the return of the "Skekinah" and corresponds to the description of that return in Eze. 43:2-5. (See the chapter on the Skekinah in this book.)
Zec. 8:4 Thus says 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. 8:5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. 8:6 Thus says 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 my eyes? says the LORD of hosts.
These verses add more beauty to the simple joys of the promised age that would follow a repentant, observant nation of worshippers who would endure the hardships of rebuilding. The reward is certain and the period of peace is described in the essay in this book on the Golden Age in the "Silent Years" that we refer the reader to in chapter III. This is the oft recurring theme of Zechariah referred to in earlier chapters.
Zec. 8:7 Thus says the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; 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.
Further "aliyah" (immigration to the Holy Land) is indicated and thus the nation will continue to grow. These promises in this verse can be extended to the Messianic ingathering promised in so many of the prophets and fulfilled in the Gentiles making the heavenly Jerusalem their home. However, the primary intent is to predict the return of dispersed people from all parts of the world including the major body in Babylon who will become "oliym chadashiym" or new immigrants in the new nation which will have a restored Mosaic observance and a long period of peace and glory.
Zec. 8:9 Thus says the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, you 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. 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.
The admonition is to finish the rebuilding of the Temple which has been predicted since the time of the laying of the foundation which is now about eighteen years previous to this admonition. There is a reminder of the lack of blessing while the Temple lay in ruins and there was no one to champion the task of rebuilding. It is implied that the economic and agricultural depression is over. Of course that had been previously promised and the date of the end of hard times is marked in Haggai as the twenty fourth of the ninth month of the second year (Hag 2:18,19). This theme is continued in the verses to follow.
Zec. 8:11 But now I will not be to the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts. 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. 8:13 And it shall come to pass, that as you 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.
This is the same promise given in Haggai 2:18,19 where they were to reckon from the twenty fourth day of the ninth month of the second year of Darius, because from that day God would begin to bless them physically with increase. At this time the Temple is so far along, not dedicated but almost complete, and the hearts of the people are now so close to God that God promises increased blessings to the "yishuv." The blessings did not come overnight however, even though there was a marked increase at this time in God's watch-care. We must remember that sixty years later the nation was in need of revival and much restoration still remained to the city. But Ezra and Nehemiah came to a "yishuv" prepared to restore both the ancient city and their own lives. They had been prepared by the generation of Zechariah. Only good memories could come out of these days indicated here. Love of God, hard work, and progress spiritually and materially make life a joy.
God here calls them the combined houses of Israel and Judah even though the nation of Israel was never restored. That is fully explained in the chapter in this book on the restoration of Israel and notes on Zec. 11:14. It is plain that Zechariah saw the predictions of the earlier prophets about the restoration of Judah and Israel as fulfilled in his day in the continuing "aliyah" from among the nations.
Zec. 8:14 For thus says the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, says the LORD of hosts, and I repented not; 8:15 So again have I thought in these days to do well to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear you not.
God says, I punished your fathers as I said I would. I have promised you good things. Therefore, work for them with patience. The promise is that they will not be disappointed by someone else enjoying the fruits of their labors as happened to their ancestors who had been carried to Babylon.
Zec. 8:16 These are the things that you shall do; Speak you every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates; 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, says the LORD.
Here again the internal and spiritual moral values that are the result of truly performing the will of God are enjoined. As Jesus taught us these are more weighty matters of the law and supersede external acts of ritual performance even though commanded by God himself. If these are lacking there is no need to perform the rituals because they become empty and vain. It is a foolish question, however, to ask if these alone, without the ritual, are enough to please God. Those who have internalized truth will not eliminate faithful obedience. What contradictions would follow if they willfully did so and sought His blessings?
Zec. 8:18 And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying, 8:19 Thus says 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 question in Zec. 7:3 is finally answered as to whether these fasts are to be continued in the light of a partially finished Temple. See the notes there on the question and the circumstance which cause Zechariah to expound a number of things before he gives this direct answer to the question.
Deane cites Jerome as giving the Jewish traditions which originated these fasts during the Babylonian captivity. The fasts of the fourth month commemorated breaking the tablets of the commandments on Sinai as well as the first breach in the wall of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The fast of the fifth month was for the burning of the Temple. It was about this fast that the question of whether it ought to be continued was asked. That of the tenth month was when Ezekiel, among the captives, received the news of the destruction of the Temple. The fast of the seventh month is mentioned in Lev. 23:26 and is the only one enjoined by the Law of Moses.
The answer seems to be indifferent as to whether it was correct to observe these fasts. The answer includes that these periods of mourning are soon to be over and they will be joyful celebrations because of the continued growth of the "yishuv" due to many "oliym chadashiym" from many nations making the "aliyah" and thereby increasing and enriching the "yishuv." He says as much in the next verse.
Zec. 8:20 Thus says the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 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.
Although verses like these can have Messianic reference it is more likely a prophecy describing the state of careful and joyful communal religious life of the "yishuv" during the Golden Age, mentioned in an earlier essay in this book, which Zechariah announced as coming soon and which took place during the three hundred "Silent Years" before the time of the Macabbees.
Zec. 8:22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 8:23 Thus says 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.
"Him that is a Jew."
This is a good illustration of a restoration passage speaking of the literal restoration of Judah and then extending the result of the conditions of restoration to the kingdom of the Messiah. This is a Messianic passage since it speaks of the times when numerous nations diligently seek to follow the Jewish God and his laws. Here the word "Jew" is used generically to refer to God's people in the nation of the Messiah. At this time, when Zechariah voiced the prophecy, the Jewish nation contained the true remnant of all the tribes of Israel. Thus being a "Jew" is spoken of as extending to Messiah's kingdom and in that sense we, in spiritual Israel as a grafted branch, hark back to the Jewish root that still bears us. However other prophecies indicate Judah would be broken from Israel in the Messiah's kingdom. The apostle Paul taught that predominantly Gentile spiritual Israel, as a branch, replaced the Jewish nation whose branch was cut off, and spiritual Israel was grafted on to the Jewish root. This is further explained in the chapter on the Restoration of Israel and in notes on Zec. 11:14.
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