Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.
"Ask ye of Jehovah rain in the time of the latter rain; Jehovah createth lightnings, and showers of rain will He give them, to every one vegetation in the field. Zechariah 10:2. For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the soothsayers have seen a lie, and speak dreams of deceit; they comfort in vain: for this they have wandered like a flock, they are oppressed because there is no shepherd." The summons to prayer is not a mere turn of the address expressing the readiness of God to give (Hengstenberg), but is seriously meant, as the reason assigned in Zechariah 10:2 clearly shows. The church of the Lord is to ask of God the blessings which it needs for its prosperity, and not to put its trust in idols, as rebellious Israel has done (Hosea 2:7). The prayer for rain, on which the successful cultivation of the fruits of the ground depends, simply serves to individualize the prayer for the bestowal of the blessings of God, in order to sustain both temporal and spiritual life; just as in Zechariah 9:17 the fruitfulness of the land and the flourishing of the nation are simply a concrete expression, for the whole complex of the salvation which the Lord will grant to His people (Kliefoth). This view, which answers to the rhetorical character of the exhortation, is very different from allegory. The time of the latter rain is mentioned, because this was indispensable to the ripening of the corn, whereas elsewhere the early and latter rain are connected together (e.g., Joel 2:23; Deuteronomy 11:13-15). The lightnings are introduced as the harbingers of rain (cf. Jeremiah 10:13; Psalm 135:7). Metar geshem, rain of the rain-pouring, i.e., copious rain (compare Job 37:6, where the words are transposed). With lâkem (to them) the address passes into the third person: to them, i.e., to every one who asks. עשׂב is not to be restricted to grass or herb as the food of cattle, as in Deuteronomy 11:15, where it is mentioned in connection with the corn and the fruits of the field; but it includes these, as in Genesis 1:29 and Psalm 104:14, where it is distinguished from châtsı̄r. The exhortation to pray to Jehovah for the blessing needed to ensure prosperity, is supported in Zechariah 10:2 by an allusion to the worthlessness of the trust in idols, and to the misery which idolatry with its consequences, viz., soothsaying and false prophecy, have brought upon the nation. The terâphı̄m were house-deities and oracular deities, which were worshipped as the givers and protectors of the blessings of earthly prosperity (see at Genesis 31:19). Along with these קוסמים are mentioned, i.e., the soothsayers, who plunged the nation into misery through their vain and deceitful prophesyings. חלמות is not the subject of the sentence, for in that case it would have the article like הקּוסמים; but it is the object, and הקּוסמים is also the subject to ידבּרוּ and ינחמוּן. "Therefore," i.e., because Israel had trusted in teraphim and soothsayers, it would have to wander into exile. נסע, to break up, applied to the pulling up of the pegs, to take down the tent, involves the idea of wandering, and in this connection, of wandering into exile. Hence the perfect נסעוּ, to which the imperfect יענוּ is suitably appended, because their being oppressed, i.e., the oppression which Israel suffered from the heathen, still continued. The words apply of course to all Israel (Ephraim and Judah); compare Zechariah 9:13 with Zechariah 10:4, Zechariah 10:6. Israel is bowed down because it has no shepherd, i.e., no king, who guards and provides for his people (cf. Numbers 27:17; Jeremiah 23:4), having lost the Davidic monarchy when the kingdom was overthrown.
For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.
Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.
To this there is appended in Zechariah 10:3. the promise that Jehovah will take possession of His flock, and redeem it out of the oppression of the evil shepherds. Zechariah 10:3. "My wrath is kindled upon the shepherds, and the goats shall I punish; for Jehovah of hosts visits His flock, the house of Judah, and makes it like His state-horse in the war. Zechariah 10:4. From Him will be corner-stone, from Him the nail, from Him the war-bow; from Him will every ruler go forth at once." When Israel lost its own shepherds, it came under the tyranny of bad shepherds. These were the heathen governors and tyrants. Against these the wrath of Jehovah is kindled, and He will punish them. There is no material difference between רעים, shepherds, and עתּוּדים, leading goats. ‛Attūdı̄m also signifies rulers, as in Isaiah 14:9. The reason assigned why the evil shepherds are to be punished, is that Jehovah visits His flock. The perfect pâqad is used prophetically of what God has resolved to do, and will actually carry out; and pâqad c. acc. pers. means to visit, i.e., to assume the care of, as distinguished from pâqad with 'al pers., to visit in the sense of to punish (see at Zephaniah 2:7). The house of Judah only is mentioned in Zechariah 10:3, not in distinction from Ephraim, however (cf. Zechariah 10:6), but as the stem and kernel of the covenant nation, with which Ephraim is to be united once more. The care of God for Judah will not be limited to its liberation from the oppression of the bad shepherds; but Jehovah will also make Judah into a victorious people. This is the meaning of the figure "like a state-horse," i.e., a splendid and richly ornamented war-horse, such as a king is accustomed to ride. This figure is not more striking than the description of Judah and Ephraim as a bow and arrow (Zechariah 9:13). This equipment of Judah as a warlike power overcoming its foes is described in Zechariah 10:4, namely in 4a, in figures taken from the firmness and furnishing of a house with everything requisite, and in 4b, etc., in literal words. The verb יצא of the fourth clause cannot be taken as the verb belonging to the ממּנּוּ in the first three clauses, because יצא is neither applicable to pinnâh nor to yâthēd. We have therefore to supply יהיה. From (out of) Him will be pinnâh, corner, here corner-stone, as in Isaiah 28:16, upon which the whole building stands firmly, and will be built securely, - a suitable figure for the firm, stately foundation which Judah is to receive. To this is added yâthēd, the plug. This figure is to be explained from the arrangement of eastern houses, in which the inner walls are provided with a row of large nails or plugs for hanging the house utensils upon. The plug, therefore, is a suitable figure for the supports or upholders of the whole political constitution, and even in Isaiah 22:23 was transferred to persons. The war-bow stands synecdochically for weapons of war and the military power. It is a disputed point, however, whether the suffix in mimmennū (out of him) refers to Judah or Jehovah. But the opinion of Hitzig and others, that it refers to Jehovah, is overthrown by the expression יצא ממּנּוּ in the last clause. For even if we could say, Judah will receive its firm foundation, its internal fortification, and its military strength from Jehovah, the expression, "Every military commander will go out or come forth out of Jehovah," is unheard-of and unscriptural. It is not affirmed in the Old Testament even of the Messiah that He goes forth out of God, although His "goings forth" are from eternity (Micah 5:1), and He Himself is called El gibbōr (Isaiah 9:5). Still less can this be affirmed of every ruler (kol-mōgēs) of Judah. In this clause, therefore, mimmennū must refer to Judah, and consequently it must be taken in the same way in the first three clauses. On יצא מן, see Micah 5:1. Nōgēs, an oppressor or taskmaster, is not applied to a leader or ruler in a good sense even here, any more than in Isaiah 3:12 and Isaiah 60:17 (see the comm. on these passages). The fact that negus in Ethiopic is the name given to the king (Koehler), proves nothing in relation to Hebrew usage. The word has the subordinate idea of oppressor, or despotic ruler, in this instance also; but the idea of harshness refers not to the covenant nation, but to its enemies (Hengstenberg), and the words are used in antithesis to Zechariah 9:8. Whereas there the promise is given to the nation of Israel that it will not fall under the power of the nōgēs any more, it is here assured that it is to attain to the position of a nōgēs in relation to its foes (Kliefoth). כּל־נוגשׂ is strengthened by יחדּו: every oppressor together, which Judah will require in opposition to its foes.
Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.
And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.
Thus equipped for battle, Judah will annihilate its foes. Zechariah 10:5. "And they will be like heroes, treading street-mire in the battle: and will fight, for Jehovah is with them, and the riders upon horses are put to shame. Zechariah 10:6. And I shall strengthen the house of Judah, and grant salvation to the house of Joseph, and shall make them dwell; for I have had compassion upon them: and they will be as if I had not rejected them: for I am Jehovah their God, and will hear them. Zechariah 10:7. And Ephraim will be like a hero, and their heart will rejoice as if with wine: and their children will see it, and rejoice; their heart shall rejoice in Jehovah." In Zechariah 10:5, bōsı̄m is a more precise definition of kegibbōrı̄m, and the house of Judah (Zechariah 10:3) is the subject of the sentence. They will be like heroes, namely, treading upon mire. Bōsı̄m is the kal participle used in an intransitive sense, since the form with o only occurs in verbs with an intransitive meaning, like bōsh, lōt, qōm; and būs in kal is construed in every other case with the accusative of the object: treading upon mire equals treading or treading down mire. Consequently the object which they tread down or trample in pieces is expressed by בּטיט חוּצות; and thus the arbitrary completion of the sentence by "everything that opposes them" (C. B. Mich. and Koehler) is set aside as untenable. Now, as "treading upon mire" cannot possibly express merely the firm tread of a courageous man (Hitzig), we must take the dirt of the streets as a figurative expression for the enemy, and the phrase "treading upon street-mire" as a bold figure denoting the trampling down of the enemy in the mire of the streets (Micah 7:10; 2 Samuel 22:43), analogous to their "treading down sling-stones," Zechariah 9:15. For such heroic conflict will they be fitted by the help of Jehovah, that the enemy will be put to shame before them. The riders of the horses are mentioned for the purpose of individualizing the enemy, because the principal strength of the Asiatic rulers consisted in cavalry (see Daniel 11:40). הובישׁ intransitive, as in Zechariah 9:5. This strength for a victorious conflict will not be confined to Judah, but Ephraim will also share it. The words, "and the house of Ephraim will I endow with salvation," have been taken by Koehler as signifying "that Jehovah will deliver the house of Ephraim by granting the victory to the house of Judah in conflict with its own foes and those of Ephraim also;" but there is no ground for this. We may see from Zechariah 10:7, according to which Ephraim will also fight as a hero, as Judah will according to Zechariah 10:5, that הושׁיע does not mean merely to help or deliver, but to grant salvation, as in Zechariah 9:16. The circumstance, however, "that in the course of the chapter, at any rate from Zechariah 10:7 onwards, it is only Ephraim whose deliverance and restoration are spoken of," proves nothing more than that Ephraim will receive the same salvation as Judah, but not that it will be delivered by the house of Judah. The abnormal form הושׁבותים is regarded by many, who follow Kimchi and Aben Ezra, as a forma composita from הושׁבתּים and השׁיבותי: "I make them dwell, and bring them back." But this is precluded by the fact that the bringing back would necessarily precede the making to dwell, to say nothing of the circumstance that there is no analogy whatever for such a composition (cf. Jeremiah 32:37). The form is rather to be explained from a confusion of the verbs עו and פי, and is the hiphil of ישׁב for הושׁבתּים (lxx, Maurer, Hengstenberg; comp. Olshausen, Grammat. p. 559), and not a hiphil of שׁוּב, in which a transition has taken place into the hiphil form of the verbs פו (Ewald, 196, b, Not. 1; Targ., Vulg., Hitzig, and Koehler). For "bringing back" affirms too little here. הושׁבתּים, "I make them dwell," corresponds rather to "they shall be as if they had not been cast off," without needing any further definition, since not only do we meet with ישׁב without anything else, in the sense of peaceful, happy dwelling (e.g., Micah 5:3), but here also the manner of dwelling is indicated in the appended clause כּאשׁר לא־זנחתּים, "as before they were cast off" (cf. Ezekiel 36:11). אענם is also not to be taken as referring to the answering of the prayers, which Ephraim addressed to Jehovah out of its distress, out of its imprisonment (Koehler), but is to be taken in a much more general sense, as in Zechariah 13:9; Isaiah 58:9, and Hosea 2:23. Ephraim, like Judah, will also become a hero, and rejoice as if with wine, i.e., fight joyfully like a hero strengthened with wine (cf. Psalm 78:65-66). This rejoicing in conflict the sons will see, and exult in consequence; so that it will be a lasting joy.
And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.
And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD.
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.
In order to remove all doubt as to the realization of this promise, the deliverance of Ephraim is described still more minutely in Zechariah 10:8-12. Zechariah 10:8. "I will hiss to them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they will multiply as they have multiplied. Zechariah 10:9. And I will sow them among the nations: and in the far-off lands will they remember me; and will live with their sons, and return. Zechariah 10:10. And I will bring them back out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Asshur, and bring them into the land of Gilead and of Lebanon; and room will not be found for them." That these verses do not treat of a fresh (second) dispersion of Ephraim, or represent the carrying away as still in the future (Hitzig), is evident from the words themselves, when correctly interpreted. Not only are the enticing and gathering together (Zechariah 10:8) mentioned before the sowing or dispersing (Zechariah 10:9), but they are both expressed by similar verbal forms (אשׁרקה and אזרעם); and the misinterpretation is thereby precluded, that events occurring at different times are referred to. We must also observe the voluntative form אשׁרקה, "I will (not I shall) hiss to them, i.e., entice them" (shâraq being used for alluring, as in Isaiah 5:26 and Isaiah 7:18), as well as the absence of a copula. They both show that the intention here is simply to explain with greater clearness what is announced in Zechariah 10:6, Zechariah 10:7. The perfect פּדיתים is prophetic, like רחמתּים in Zechariah 10:6. The further promise, "they will multiply," etc., cannot be taken as referring either merely to the multiplication of Israel in exile (Hengst., Koehler, etc.), or merely to the future multiplication after the gathering together. According to the position in which the words stand between אקבּצם and אזרעם, they must embrace both the multiplication during the dispersion, and the multiplication after the gathering together. The perfect כּמו רבוּ points to the increase which Israel experienced in the olden time under the oppression of Egypt (Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:12). This increase, which is also promised in Ezekiel 36:10-11, is effected by God's sowing them broadcast among the nations. זרע does not mean to scatter, but to sow, to sow broadcast (see at Hosea 2:23). Consequently the reference cannot be to a dispersion of Israel inflicted as a punishment. The sowing denotes the multiplication (cf. Jeremiah 31:27), and is not to be interpreted, as Neumann and Kliefoth suppose, as signifying that the Ephraimites are to be scattered as seed-corn among the heathen, to spread the knowledge of Jehovah among the nations. This thought is quite foreign to the context; and even in the words, "in far-off lands will they remember me," it is neither expressed nor implied. These words are to be connected with what follows: Because they remember the Lord in far-off lands, they will live, and return with their children. In Zechariah 10:10 the gathering together and leading back of Israel are more minutely described, and indeed as taking place out of the land of Asshur and out of Egypt. The fact that these two lands are mentioned, upon which modern critics have principally founded their arguments in favour of the origin of this prophecy before the captivity, cannot be explained "from the circumstance that in the time of Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser many Ephraimites had fled to Egypt" (Koehler and others); for history knows nothing of this, and the supposition is merely a loophole for escaping from a difficulty. Such passages as Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3, Hosea 9:6; Hosea 11:11; Micah 7:12; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 27:13, furnish no historical evidence of such thing. Even if certain Ephraimites had fled to Egypt, these could not be explained as relating to a return or gathering together of the Ephraimites of Israelites out of Egypt and Assyria, because the announcement presupposes that the Ephraimites had been transported to Egypt in quite as large numbers as to Assyria, - a fact which cannot be established either in relation to the times before or to those after the captivity. Egypt, as we have already shown at Hosea 9:3 (cf. Zechariah 8:13), is rather introduced in all the passages mentioned simply as a type of the land of bondage, on account of its having been the land in which Israel lived in the olden time, under the oppression of the heathen world. And Asshur is introduced in the same way, as the land into which the ten tribes had been afterwards exiled. This typical significance is placed beyond all doubt by Zechariah 10:1, since the redemption of Israel out of the countries named is there exhibited under the type of the liberation of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt under the guidance of Moses. (Compare also Delitzsch on Isaiah 11:11.) The Ephraimites are to return into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; the former representing the territory of the ten tribes in the olden time to the east of the Jordan, the latter that to the west (cf. Micah 7:14). לא ימּצא, there is not found for them, sc. the necessary room: equivalent to, it will not be sufficient for them (as in Joshua 17:16).
And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.
I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.
And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.
Zechariah 10:11. "And he goes through the sea of affliction, and smites the waves in the sea, and all the depths of the river dry up; and the pride of Asshur will be cast down, and the staff of Egypt will depart. Zechariah 10:12. And I make them strong in Jehovah; and they will walk in His name, is the saying of Jehovah." The subject in Zechariah 10:11 is Jehovah. He goes, as once He went in the pillar of cloud as the angel of the Lord in the time of Moses, through the sea of affliction. צרה, which has been interpreted in very different ways, we take as in apposition to ים, though not as a permutative, "through the sea, viz., the affliction" (C. B. Mich., Hengst.); but in this sense, "the sea, which caused distress or confinement," so that the simple reason why צרה is not connected with ים in the construct state, but placed in apposition, is that the sea might not be described as a straitened sea, or sea of anxiety. This apposition points to the fact which floated before the prophet's mind, namely, that the Israelites under Moses were so confined by the Red Sea that they thought they were lost (Exodus 14:10.). The objection urged by Koehler against this view - namely, that צרה as a noun is not used in the sense of local strait or confinement - is proved to be unfounded by Jonah 2:3 and Zephaniah 1:15. All the other explanations of tsârâh are much more unnatural, being either unsuitable, like the suggestion of Koehler to take it as an exclamation, "O distress!" or grammatically untenable, like the rendering adopted by Maurer and Kliefoth, after the Chaldaeans usage, "he splits." The smiting of the waves in the sea does indeed play upon the division of the waves of the sea when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16, Exodus 14:21; cf. Joshua 3:13; Psalm 77:17; Psalm 114:5); but it affirms still more, as the following clause shows, namely, a binding or constraining of the waves, by which they are annihilated, or a drying up of the floods, like החרים in Isaiah 11:15. Only the floods of the Nile (יאור) are mentioned, because the allusion to the slavery of Israel in Egypt predominates, and the redemption of the Israelites out of all the lands of the nations is represented as bringing out of the slave-house of Egypt. The drying up of the flood-depths of the Nile is therefore a figure denoting the casting down of the imperial power in all its historical forms; Asshur and Egypt being mentioned by name in the last clause answering to the declaration in Zechariah 10:10, and the tyranny of Asshur being characterized by גּאון, pride, haughtiness (cf. Isaiah 10:7.), and that of Egypt by the rod of its taskmasters. in Zechariah 10:12 the promise for Ephraim is brought to a close with the general thought that they will obtain strength in the Lord, and walk in the power of His name. With וגבּרתּים the address reverts to its starting-point in Zechariah 10:6. בּיהוה stands for בּי, to point emphatically to the Lord, in whom Israel as the people of God had its strength. Walking in the name of Jehovah is to be taken as in Micah 4:5, and to be understood not as relating to the attitude of Israel towards God, or to the "self-attestation of Israel" (Koehler), but to the result, viz., walking in the strength of the Lord.
If, in conclusion, we survey the whole promise from Zechariah 9:11 onwards, there are two leading thoughts developed in it: (a) That those members of the covenant nation who were still scattered among the heathen should be redeemed out of their misery, and gathered together in the kingdom of the King who was coming for Zion, i.e., of the Messiah; (b) That the Lord would endow all His people with power for the conquest of the heathen. They were both fulfilled, in weak commencements only, in the times immediately following and down to the coming of Christ, by the return of many Jews out of captivity and into the land of the fathers, particularly when Galilee was strongly peopled by Israelites; and also by the protection and care which God bestowed upon the people in the contests between the powers of the world for supremacy in Palestine. The principal fulfilment is of a spiritual kind, and was effected through the gathering of the Jews into the kingdom of Christ, which commenced in the times of the apostles, and will continue till the remnant of Israel is converted to Christ its Saviour.
And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the LORD.