Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Ask ye of the Lord rain - "Ask and ye shall receive" our Lord says. Zechariah had promised in God's name blessings temporal and spiritual: all was ready on God's part; only, he adds, ask them of the Lord, the Unchangeable, the Self-same not of Teraphim or of diviner, as Israel had done aforetime Isa. 2:5-22; Jer 44:15-28. He had promised, "If ye shall hearken diligently unto My coramandments, to love the Lord your God, I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, and I will send grass in thy field for thy cattle" Deu 11:13-15. God bids them ask Him to fulfill His promise. The "latter rain" alone is mentioned, as completing what God had begun by the former rain, filling the ears before the harvest. Both had been used as symbols of God's spiritual gifts, and so the words fit in with the close of the last chapter, both as to things temporal and eternal. Osorius: "He exhorts all frequently to ask for the dew of the divine grace, that what had sprung up in the heart from the seed of the word of God, might attain to full ripeness."
The Lord maketh bright clouds - (Rather) "lightnings, into rain," as Jeremiah says, "He causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings into rain" Jer 10:13; Jer 51:16; and the Psalmist, "He maketh lightnings into rain" Psa 135:7, disappearing as it were into the rain which follows on them. "And giveth them." While man is asking, God is answering. "Showers of rain" , "rain in torrents," as we should say, or "in floods," or, inverted, "floods of rain." "To every one grass," rather, "the green herb, in the field," as the Psalmist says, "He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men" (Psa 104:14, see also Gen 1:30; Gen 3:18). This He did with individual care, as each had need, or as should be best for each, as contrariwise He says in Amos, "I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city; one piece was rained upon, and the piece, whereon it rained not, withered" (Amo 4:7; see note).
The Rabbis observed these exceptions to God's general law, whereby He "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" Matt. 5:49, though expressing it in their way hyperbolically; , "In the time when Israel doeth the will of God, He doeth their will; so that if one man alone, and not the others, wants rain, He will give rain to that one man; and if a man wants one herb alone in his field or garden, and not another, He will give rain to that one herb; as one of the saints used to say, This plot of ground wants rain, and that plot of ground wants not rain" (Cyril). Spiritually the rain is divine doctrine bedewing the mind and making it fruitful, as the rain doth the earth. So Moses saith, "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb and as the showers upon the grass" Deu 32:2. Cyril: "The law of Moses and the prophets were the former rain."
For the teraphim have spoken vanity - Rather, "spake vanity." He appeals to their former experience. Their father had sought of idols, not of God; therefore they went into captivity. The "teraphim" were used as instruments of divination. They are united with the "ephod," as forbidden, over against the allowed, means of enquiry as to the future, in Hosea, "without an ephod and without teraphim" Hos 3:4; they were united in the mingled worship of Micah Jdg 17:5; Jdg 18:14, Jdg 18:17-18, Jdg 18:20; Josiah "put" them "away" together with the "workers with familiar spirits and the wizards" Kg2 23:24, to which are added, "the idols." It was probably, a superstition of Eastern origin. Rachel brought them with her from her father's house, and Nebuchadnezzar used them for divination. Eze 21:21. Samuel speaks of them, apparently, as things which Saul himself condemned. "Rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness as iniquity or idolatry, and teraphim" Sa1 15:23. For it was probably in those his better days, that "Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits and wizards out of the land" Sa1 28:3. Samuel then seems to tell him, that the sins to which he clave were as evil as those which he had, in an outward zeal, like Jehu, condemned. Anyhow, the "teraphim" stand united with the "divination" which was expressly condemned by the law Deu 18:13-14. The use of the teraphim by Rachel Gen 31:19, Gen 31:34-35 and Michal Sa1 19:13, Sa1 19:16 (for whatever purpose) implies that it was some less offensive form of false worship, though they were probably the "strange gods" Gen 35:2, Gen 35:4 which Jacob bade his household to put away, or, anyhow, among them, since Laban calls them, "my gods" Gen 31:30, Gen 31:32.
Zechariah uses anew the words of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, "Hearken ye not to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers" Jer 27:9; and, "let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams, which ye cause to be dreamed" Jer 29:8; and Ezekiel, "While they see vanity unto thee, while they divine a lie unto thee" (Eze 21:29; add Eze 22:28). The words not only joined on the prophet's warning with the past, but reminded them of the sentence which followed on their neglect. The echo of the words of the former prophets came to them, floating, as it were, over the ruins of the former temple.
Therefore they went their way as a flock - Which, having no shepherd, or only such as would mislead them, removed, but into captivity. "They were troubled." The trouble lasted on, though the captivity ended at the appointed time. Nehemiah speaks of the exactions of former governors, "The former governors which were before me, laid heavy weights upon the people, and took from them in bread and wine, after forty shekels of silver; also their servants used dominion over the people; and I did not so, because of the fear of God" Neh 5:15.
Because there was no shepherd - As Ezekiel said of those times, "They were scattered, because there is no shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered: My flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth; and none did search or seek after them" Eze 34:5-6.
Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds - As Ezekiel continued, "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand" Eze 34:10.
I punished the he-goats - The evil powerful are called the "he-goats of the earth: Isa 14:9; and in Ezekiel God says, "I will judge between cattle and cattle, between rams and he-goats" Eze 34:17; and our Lord speaks of the reprobate as goats, the saved as sheep Mat 25:32. God "visited upon these in His displeasure, "because" He "visited His flock, the people of Judah," to see to their needs and to relieve them.
And hath made them as the goodly horse - As, before, He said, "I made thee as the sword of a mighty man" Zac 9:13 Judah's might was not in himself; but, in God's hands, he had might like and above the might of this world; he was fearless, resistless; as Paul says, "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" Co2 10:4.
Out of him came forth - Or rather, "From him is the corner," as Jeremiah, "Their nobles shall be from themselves, and their governor shall go forth from the midst of them" Jer 30:21. Her strength, though given by God, was to be inherent in her, though from her too was to come He who was to be "the head-corned-stone," the sure Foundation and Crowner of the whole building.
From thee the nail - An emblem of fixedness in itself, (as Isaiah says, "I will fasten him a nail to a sure place" Isa 22:23) and of security given to others dependent on Him, as Isaiah says further, "And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, from the vessels of cups to the vessels of flagons" Isa 22:24; all, of much or little account, the least and the greatest. Osorius: "Christ is the cornerstone; Christ is the nail fixed in the wall, whereby all vessels are supported. The word of Christ is the bow, whence the arrows rend the king's enemies."
From it every exactor shall go forth together - God had promised Zac 9:8 that no "oppressor," or "exactor Isa 14:2, shall pass through them anymore." He seems to repeat it here. "From thee shall go forth every oppressor together; go forth," not to return: as lsaiah had said, "Thy children shall make haste to return; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee" Isa 49:17. "From it, its cornerstone; from it, the sure nail; from it, the battle bow; from it," he no longer unites closely with it, that which should be from it, or of it, but - "from it shall go forth every oppressor together;" one and all, as we say; a confused pele-mele body, as Isaiah, "all that are found of thee are bound together" Isa 22:3; "together shall they all perish" Isa 31:3; or, in separate clauses, "they are all of them put to shame; together they shall go into confusion" Isa 45:16.
And they - (the house of Judah , of whom he had said, He hath made them as the goodly horse in the battle) shall be as mighty men, trampling on the mire of the streets Micah had said, "she shall be a trampling, as the mire of the streets" Mic 7:10, and David, "I did stamp them as the mire of the street" Sa2 22:43. Zechariah, by a yet bolder image, pictures those trampled upon, as what they had become, "the mire of the streets," as worthless, as foul; as he had said, "they shall trample on the sling-stones" Zac 9:15. And they shall fight, because the Lord is with them, not in their own strength, he still reminds them; they shall have power, because God empowers them; strength, because God strengthens them : in presence of which, the goodly war-horse of God, human strength, "the riders on horses, shall be ashamed."
I will bring them again to place them - Zechariah seems to have condensed into one word two of Jeremiah, "I will bring them again" unto this place, and "I will cause them to dwell" safely Jer 32:37. Kimchi. It is not a confusion of forms, but the blending of two words into one. So also Ibn Ezra): "The two ideas are here both implied, he will cause them to return to their land, and will cause them to dwell there in peace and security."
For I will have mercy upon them - Dionysius: "For the goodness and lovingkindness of God, not any merits of our's, is the first and principal cause of our whole salvation and grace. Therefore the Psalmist says, 'neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favor unto them' Psa 44:3."
And they shall be, as though I had not cast them off - (Etymologically, "loathed," "cast off as a thing abhorrent" .) God is ever "the God of the present." He does not half-forgive. "Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more" Heb 8:12. God casts off the sinner, as being what he is, a thing abhorrent, as penitence confesses of itself that it is "a dead dog, a loathsome worm, a putrid corpse." God will not clothe with a righteousness, which He does not impart. He restores to the penitent all his lost graces, as though he had never forfeited them, and cumulates them with the fresh grace whereby He converts him (see vol. i. on Joe 2:25, pp. 192, 193). It is an entire re-creation. "They shall be, as though I had not cast them off." "I will settle you as in your old estates, and will do good, more than at your beginnings, and ye shall know that I am the Lord" Eze 36:11.
For I am the Lord their God, and will hear them - As He says by Malchi, "I am the Lord; I change not" Mal 3:6. His unchangeableness belongs to His Being; "I Am; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed;" and by Hosea, "The Lord of hosts, The Lord is His memorial, therefore turn thou to thy God" (Hos 12:5-6, (6, 7 Heb.) See vol. i. pp. 119, 120). Because God was "their God," and as surely as He was "their God," He would hear them. His Being was the pledge of His hearing. "I, the Lord, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them" Isa 41:17.
And Ephraim, they shall be like a mighty man - Prophecy, through the rest of the chapter, turns to Ephraim, which had not yet been restored. With regard to them, human victory retires out of sight, though doubtless, when their wide prison was broken at the destruction of the Persian empire, many were free to return to their native country, as others spread over the West in Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, and so some may have taken part in the victories of the Maccabees. Yet not victory, but strength, gladness beyond natural g adness, as through wine, whereby the mind is exhilarated above itself; and that, lasting, transmitted to their children, large increase, holy life in God, are the outlines of the promise.
Their heart shall rejoice in the Lord - Psa 44:3 : "As the principal object, the first, highest, most worthy Giver of all good, to whom is to be referred all gladness, which is conceived from created goods, that 'whose glorieth may glory in the Lord' Co2 10:17, in whom alone the rational creature ought to take delight."
I will hiss for them - Formerly God had so spoken of His summoning the enemies of His people to chastise them. "It shall be in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly, that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria, and they shall come, and shall rest all of them in. the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns and upon all bushes" Isa 7:18-19. "He will hiss unto them from the ends of the earth, and behold they shall come with speed swiftly; none shall be weary or stumble among them" . He would gather them, like the countless numbers of the insect creation, which, if united, would irresistibly desolate life. He would summon them, as the bee-owner, by his shrill call, summons and unites his own swarm. Now, contrariwise God would summon with the same His own people. The fulfillment of the chastisement was the earnest of the ease of the fulfillment of the mercy.
For I have redeemed them - Then they are His, being redeemed at so dear a price. Dionysius: "For Christ, as far as in Him lay, redeemed all." God had done this in purpose, as John speaks of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Rev 13:8.
And they shall increase as they increased - Kimchi: "As they increased in Egypt, so shall they increase at that time." The marvels of God's favor in Egypt shall be repeated. The increase there had been promised beforehand. "Fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation" Gen 46:3. The fulfillment is recorded, "the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them" Exo 1:7. God appointed that this should be part of their confession at their yearly prosperity, the offering of the basket of first-fruits; "A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went into Egypt and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous" Deu 26:5. The Psalmist dwelt upon it. "He increased His people greatly, and made them stronger than their enemies" Psa 105:24. It became then one of the resemblances between the first deliverance and the last. Dionysius: "For the Apostles and others converted from Judaism, had more spiritual children, all those whom they begat in Christ, than the synagogue ever had after the flesh."
And I will sow them among the nations - Such had been the prophecy of Hosea; "I will sow her unto Me in the earth," as the prelude of spiritual mercies, "and I will have mercy on her that had not obtained mercy, and I will say to not-my-people, Thou art My people, and they shall say, my God" . Hosea's saying, "I will sow her in the earth" that is, the whole earth and that "to Me," corresponds to, and explains Zechariah's brief saying, "I will sow them among the nations." The sowing, which was future to Hosea, had begun; but the purpose of the sowing, the harvest, was wholly to come; when it should be seen, that they were indeed sown by God, that "great" should "be the day of Jezreel" (Hos 1:11. See vol. i. p. 25). And Jeremiah said, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah, with the seed of man and with the seed of beast" Jer 31:27. The word is used of sowing to multiply, never of mere scattering .
And they shall remember Me in far countries - So Ezekiel had said, "And they that escape of you shall remember Me among the nations, whither they shall be carried captive - and they shall loath themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" Eze 6:9.
And shall live - As Ezekiel again says, "Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up out of your graves, O My people, and shall put My Spirit in you, and ye shall live" Eze 37:13-14. "With their children." A continuous gift, as Ezekiel, "they and their children, and their children's children forever: and My servant David shall be their prince forever." Eze 37:25.
And turn again - To God, being converted, as Jeremiah had been bidden to exhort them; "Go and proclaim these words toward the north" Jer 3:12, the cities of the Medes whither they were carried captive, "and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, and I will not cause Mine anger to fall upon you;" "Turn, O backsliding children - and I with take you, one of a city, and two of a family, and will bring you to Zion, and I will give you pastors according to Mine heart" Jer 3:14-15. "Return, ye backsliding children; I will heal your backslidings." And they answer, "Behold, we come unto Thee; for Thou art the Lord our God" Jer 3:22. So Isaiah had said, "A remnant shall return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God" . Dionysius: "They shall return by recollection of mind and adunation and simplification of the affections toward God so as ultimately to intend that one thing, which alone is necessary."
I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt - Individuals had fled to Egypt ; but here probably Egypt and Assyria stand, as of old, for the two great conflicting empires, between which Israel lay, at whose hands she had suffered, and who represent the countries which lay beyond them. Hosea unites (Hos 11:10-11; Isa 11:15-16; add Isa 19:23-25; Isa 27:13; Isa 52:4; Mic 7:12. See ab. p. 96), "the West, Assyria, Egypt," the three then known divisions of the world, Europe, Asia, Africa (see at Hos 11:11, vol. i., p. 115). Asshur, after Nineveh perished, stands clearly for the world-empire of the East at Babylon , and then in Persia Ezr 6:22. Balaam includes under Asshur, first Babylon, then the third world-empire (Num 24:22-24; coll. Dan 11:30).
Babylon, which was first subject to Nineveh, then subjected it, was at a later period known to Greek writers (who probably had their information from Persian sources) as part of Assyria .
And I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon - Their old dwellings, east and west of Jordan. "And place shall not be found for them, as Isaiah says, "The children of thy bereaved estate shall yet say in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place, that I may dwell" Isa 49:20.
And He - that is, Almighty God, shall pass through the sea, affliction As He says, "When thou walkest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not oveflow thee. And shall smite the waves in the sea" Isa 43:2, as in Isaiah, "The Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea" Isa 11:15. The image is from the deliverance of Egypt: yet it is said, that it should not be any exact repetition of the miracles of Egypt; it would be as the Red Sea Exo 14:10, Exo 14:12, which would as effectually shut them in, and in presence of which they might again think themselves lost, through which God would again bring them. But it would not be the Red sea itself; for "the sea" through which they should be brought, would be "affliction;" as our own poet speaks of "taking arms against a sea of troubles." Cyril: "The promise of succor to those who believe in Christ is under the likeness of the things given to those of old; for as Israel was conveyed across the Red sea, braving the waves in it; "for the waters stood upright as an heap" Exo 15:8, God bringing this to pass marvelously; and as "they passed the Jordan on foot" Jos 3:17; so he says, those who are called through Moses to the knowledge of Christ, and have been saved by the ministries of the holy Apostles, they shall pass the waves of this present life, like an angrily foaming sea, and, being removed from the tumult of this life, shall, undisturbed, worship the true God. And they shall pass through temptations, like sweeping rivers, saying with great joy, in like way, "Unless the Lord had been for us, may Israel now say, the waters had drowned us, the stream had gone over our souls" Psa 124:1-5.
He shall smite the waves in the sea. There, where the strength of the powers of this world is put forth against His people, there He will bring it down. "All the deeps of the river," that is, of the Nile ,
"Shall be dried up." The Nile as a mighty river is substituted for the Jordan, symbolizing the greater putting forth of God's power in the times to come.
And the pride of Asshur shall be brought down - Ribera: "When the good receive their reward, then their enemies shall have no power over them, but shall be punished by Me, because they injured My elect. - By the Assyrians and Egyptians he understands all their enemies."
I will strengthen them in the Lord - As our Lord said to Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness," and Paul said in turn, "When I am weak, then am I strong. And in His Name shall they walk up and down," have their whole conversation (Dionysius), "in Him according to His will, and diligent in all things to speak and act in ills grace and divine hope." Jerome: "Christians walk in the Name of Christ, and there is written on the new white stone given to them a "new name" Rev 2:17, and under the dignity of a name so great, they walk with God, as "Enoch walked and pleased God and was translated" Gen 5:24.
Saith the Lord - Dionysius: "Again the Lord God speaks of the Lord God, as of Another, hinting the plurality of Persons in the Godhead."