Zechariah 1:2
The LORD has been sore displeased with your fathers.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1:1-6 God's almighty power and sovereign dominion, should engage and encourage sinners to repent and turn to Him. It is very desirable to have the Lord of hosts for our friend, and very dreadful to have him for our enemy. Review what is past, and observe the message God sent by his servants, the prophets, to your fathers. Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings. Be persuaded to leave your sins, as the only way to prevent approaching ruin. What is become of our fathers, and of the prophets that preached to them? They are all dead and gone. Here they were, in the towns and countries where we live, passing and repassing in the same streets, dwelling in the same houses, trading in the same shops and exchanges, worshipping God in the same places. But where are they? When they died, there was not an end of them; they are in eternity, in the world of spirits, the unchangeable world to which we hasten apace. Where are they? Those of them who lived and died in sin, are in torment. Those who lived and died in Christ, are in heaven; and if we live and die as they did, we shall be with them shortly and eternally. If they minded not their own souls, is that a reason why their posterity should ruin theirs also? The prophets are gone. Christ is a Prophet that lives for ever, but all other prophets have a period put to their office. Oh that this consideration had its due weight; that dying ministers are dealing with dying people about their never-dying souls, and an awful eternity, upon the brink of which both are standing! In another world, both we and our prophets shall live for ever: to prepare for that world ought to be our great care in this. The preachers died, and the hearers died, but the word of God died not; not one jot or title of it fell to the ground; for he is righteous.Wroth was the Lord against your fathers with wrath - o, that is, a wrath which was indeed such, whose greatness he does not further express, but leaves to their memories to supply. Cyril: "Seest thou how he scares them, and, setting before the young what befell those before them, drives them to amend, threatening them with the like or more grievous ills, unless they would wisely reject their fathers' ways, esteeming the pleasing of God worthy of all thought and care. He speaks of great wrath. For it indicates no slight displeasure that He allowed the Babylonians to waste all Judah and Samaria, burn the holy places and destroy Jerusalem, remove the elect Israel to a piteous slavery in a foreign land, severed from sacrifices, entering the holy court no more nor offering the thank-offering, or tithes, or first-fruits of the law, but precluded by necessity and, fear even from the duty of celebrating his prescribed and dearest festivals. The like we might address to the Jewish people, if we would apply it to the mystery of Christ. For after they had "killed the prophets" and had "crucified the Lord of glory" Himself, they were captured and destroyed; their famed temple was levelled, and Hosea's words were fulfilled in them; "The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king and without a prince, without a sacrifice and without an image, without an ephod and without teraphim" . 2. God fulfilled His threats against your fathers; beware, then, lest by disregarding His voice by me, as they did in the case of former prophets, ye suffer like them. The special object Zechariah aims at is that they should awake from their selfish negligence to obey God's command to rebuild His temple (Hag 1:4-8).

sore displeased—Hebrew, "displeased with a displeasure," that is, vehemently, with no common displeasure, exhibited in the destruction of the Jews' city and in their captivity.

The Lord, the holy, the mighty One, your God, the just Governor of the world, hath been sore displeased; so long provoked, that his displeasure at last enkindled within his breast, and broke out into that flame which hath consumed your land, city, and temple.

With your fathers; all that were progenitors, forefathers to the returned captives, from their entrance into Canaan, but especially since the apostacy in Jeroboam’s time; for many hundred years your predecessors have provoked God by their notorious sins, even to the days of their captivity. The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers. Who lived before and at the time of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and which was manifest by their captivity; all which were occasioned by their sins, with which they provoked the Lord to sore displeasure against them; and this is mentioned as a caution to their children, that they might not follow their example, and incur the like displeasure. The LORD hath been {c} sore displeased with your fathers.

(c) He speaks this to make them afraid of God's judgments, so that they should not provoke him as their fathers had done, whom he so grievously punished.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. sore displeased] Lit. displeased with displeasure. The addition of the noun serves to give emphasis to the verb. Comp. Luke 22:15. What a commentary on this “sore displeasure” was the scene on which the prophet and his hearers gazed, in its contrast with the past: the House, which had once been “exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries” (1 Chronicles 22:5), now slowly rising above its foundations, the poor and feeble representative of its former self: the city, which had once been “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth,” now such as Nehemiah some seventy-five years after saw it, on that memorable night when he “on his mule or ass, accompanied by a few followers on foot, descended into the ravine of Hinnom, and threaded his way in and out amongst the gigantic masses of ruin and rubbish …; the gate, outside of which lay the piles of the sweepings and offscourings of the streets; the masses of fallen masonry, extending as it would seem all along the western and northern side; the blackened gaps left where the gates had been destroyed by fire; till at last by the royal reservoir the accumulations became so impassable, that the animal on which he rode refused to proceed” (Stanley, Jewish Church, Vol. III. p. 125, Nehemiah 2:12-15): the people, once “many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry” (1 Kings 4:20), now scattered among the heathen, represented on their native soil only by the poor and subject “remnant,” to whom the prophet addressed himself!

2. The company of horsemen and their Leader;

2–6. The call to Repentance. Zechariah’s first message is one of warning, by the example of their fathers and the earlier prophets. On their fathers, as they well knew, the displeasure of Almighty God had fallen heavily (Zechariah 1:2). Now, for the first time in this new era of their history, God is sending to them, as He did to their fathers of old, His servants the prophets, himself and Haggai, with a call to repentance and a promise of reconciliation, Zechariah 1:3. Let them not be like their fathers, who turned a deaf ear to the remonstrances of the prophets and refused to amend, Zechariah 1:4; lest, being like them in their sin, they should be like them in their punishment also, and should have with them to confess, in the bitter experience of their accomplishment, that God’s unheeded threatenings would surely take effect, Zechariah 1:5-6.Verses 2-6. - § 2. The prophet admonishes the people not to follow their forefathers evil example, but to turn to the Lord with all their heart. Verse 2. - Hath been sore displeased; literally, displeased with displeasure, which the versions render, ὠργίσθη ὀργὴν μεγάλην: iratus iracundia (el. ver. 15). Not only events connected with their earlier history proved that God had been incensed with their forefathers, but the ruin of their kingdom, and the late Captivity, and the desolation around them, were evidence of the same sad truth. Such an end will come to the Assyrian kingdom on the overthrow of Nineveh. Nahum 3:18. "The shepherds have fallen asleep, king Asshur: thy glorious ones are lying there: thy people have scattered themselves upon the mountains, and no one gathers them. Nahum 3:19. No alleviation to thy fracture, thy stroke is grievous: all who hear tidings of thee clap the hand over thee: for over whom hath not thy wickedness passed continually?" The king of Asshur addressed in Nahum 3:18 is not the last historical king of that kingdom, but a rhetorical personification of the holder of the imperial power of Assyria. His shepherds and glorious ones ('addı̄rı̄m, as in Nahum 2:6) are the princes and great men, upon whom the government and defence of the kingdom devolved, the royal counsellors, deputies, and generals. Mâmū, from nūm, to slumber, to sleep, is not a figurative expression for carelessness and inactivity here; for the thought that the people would be scattered, and the kingdom perish, through the carelessness of the rulers (Hitzig), neither suits the context, where the destruction of the army and the laying of the capital in ashes are predicted, nor the object of the whole prophecy, which does not threaten the fall of the kingdom through the carelessness of its rulers, but the destruction of the kingdom by a hostile army. Nūm denotes here, as in Psalm 76:6, the sleep of death (cf. Psalm 13:4; Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57 : Theodoret, Hesselb., Str., and others). Shâkhan, a synonym of shâkhabh, to have lain down, to lie quietly (Judges 5:17), used here of the rest of death. As the shepherds have fallen asleep, the flock (i.e., the Assyrian people) is scattered upon the mountains and perishes, because no one gathers it together. Being scattered upon the mountains, is easily explained from the figure of the flock (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Zechariah 13:7), and implies destruction. The mountains are mentioned with evident reference to the fact that Nineveh is shut in towards the north by impassable mountains. Kēhâh, a noun formed from the adjective, the extinction of the wound (cf. Leviticus 13:6), i.e., the softening or anointing of it. Shebher, the fracture of a limb, is frequently applied to the collapse or destruction of a state or kingdom (e.g., Psalm 60:4; Lamentations 2:11). נחלה מכּתך, i.e., dangerously bad, incurable is the stroke which has fallen upon thee (cf. Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 14:17; Jeremiah 30:12). Over thy destruction will all rejoice who hear thereof. שׁמעך, the tidings of thee, i.e., of that which has befallen thee. Clapping the hands is a gesture expressive of joy (cf. Psalm 47:2; Isaiah 55:12). All: because they all had to suffer from the malice of Asshur. רעה, malice, is the tyranny and cruelty which Assyria displayed towards the subjugated lands and nations.

Thus was Nineveh to perish. If we inquire now how the prophecy was fulfilled, the view already expressed by Josephus (Ant. x. 2), that the fall of the Assyrian empire commenced with the overthrow of Sennacherib in Judah, is not confirmed by the results of the more recent examinations of the Assyrian monuments. For according to the inscriptions, so far as they have been correctly deciphered, Sennacherib carried out several more campaigns in Susiana and Babylonia after that disaster, whilst ancient writers also speak of an expedition of his to Cilicia. His successor, Esarhaddon, also carried on wars against the cities of Phoenicia, against Armenia and Cilicia, attacked the Edomites, and transported some of them to Assyria, and is said to have brought a small and otherwise unknown people, the Bikni, into subjection; whilst we also know from the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 33:11) that his generals led king Manasseh in chains to Babylon. Like many of his predecessors, he built himself a palace at Kalah or Nimrud; but before the internal decorations were completely finished, it was destroyed by so fierce a fire, that the few monuments preserved have suffered very considerably. His successor is the last king of whom we have any inscriptions, with his name still legible upon them (viz., Assur-bani-pal). He carried on wars not only in Susiana, but also in Egypt, viz., against Tirhaka, who had conquered Memphis, Thebes, and other Egyptian cities, during the illness of Esarhaddon; also on the coast of Syria, and in Cilicia and Arabia; and completed different buildings which bear his name, including a palace in Kouyunjik, in which a room has been found with a library in it, consisting of clay tablets. Assur-bani-pal had a son, whose name was written Asur-emid-ilin, and who is regarded as the Sarakos of the ancients, under whom the Assyrian empire perished, with the conquest and destruction of Nineveh (see Spiegel in Herzog's Cycl.). But if, according to these testimonies, the might of the Assyrian empire was not so weakened by Sennacherib's overthrow in Judah, that any hope could be drawn from that, according to human conjecture, of the speedy destruction of that empire; the prophecy of Nahum concerning Nineveh, which was uttered in consequence of that catastrophe, cannot be taken as the production of any human combination: still less can it be taken, as Ewald supposes, as referring to "the first important siege of Nineveh, under the Median king Phraortes (Herod. i. 102)." For Herodotus says nothing about any siege of Nineveh, but simply speaks of a war between Phraortes and the Assyrians, in which the former lost his life. Nineveh was not really besieged till the time of Cyaxares (Uwakhshatra), who carried on the war with an increased army, to avenge the death of his father, and forced his way to Nineveh, to destroy that city, but was compelled, by the invasion of his own land by the Scythians, to relinquish the siege, and hasten to meet that foe (Her. i. 103). On the extension of his sway, the same Cyaxares commenced a war with the Lydian king Alyattes, which was carried on for five years with alternating success and failure on both sides, and was terminated in the sixth year by the fact, that when the two armies were standing opposite to one another, drawn up in battle array, the day suddenly darkened into night, which alarmed the armies, and rendered the kings disposed for peace. This was brought about by the mediation of the Cilician viceroy Syennesis and the Babylonian viceroy Labynetus, and sealed by the establishment of a marriage relationship between the royal families of Lydia and Media (Her. i. 74). And if this Labynetus was the same person as the Babylonian king Nabopolassar, which there is no reason to doubt, it was not till after the conclusion of this peace that Cyaxares formed an alliance with Nabopolassar to make war upon Nineveh; and this alliance was strengthened by his giving his daughter Amuhea in marriage to Nabopolassar's son Nebuchadnezzar (Nabukudrossor). The combined forces of these two kings now advanced to the attack upon Nineveh, and conquered it, after a siege of three years, the Assyrian king Saracus burning himself in his palace as the besiegers were entering the city. This is the historical kernel of the capture and destruction of Nineveh, which may be taken as undoubted fact from the accounts of Herodotus (i. 106) and Diod. Sic. (ii.-24-28), as compared with the extract from Abydenus in Euseb. Chron. Armen. i. p. 54; whereas it is impossible to separate the historical portions from the legendary and in part mythical decorations contained in the elaborate account given by Diodorus (vid., M. v. Niebuhr, Geschichte Assurs, p. 200ff.; Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums. i. p. 793ff.; and Bumller, Gesch. d. Alterth. i. p. 316ff.).

The year of the conquest and destruction of Nineveh has been greatly disputed, and cannot be exactly determined. As it is certain that Nabopolassar took part in the war against Nineveh, and this is indirectly intimated even by Herodotus, who attributes the conquest of it to Cyaxares and the Medes (vid., i. 106), Nineveh must have fallen between the years 625 and 606 b.c. For according to the canon of Ptolemy, Nabopolassar was king of Babylon from 625 to 606; and this date is astronomically established by an eclipse of the moon, which took place in the fifth year of his reign, and which actually occurred in the year 621 b.c. (vid., Niebuhr, p. 47). Attempts have been made to determine the year of the taking of Nineveh, partly with reference to the termination of the Lydio-Median war, and partly from the account given by Herodotus of the twenty-eight years' duration of the Scythian rule in Asia. Starting from the fact, that the eclipse of the sun, which put an end to the war between Cyaxares and Alyattes, took place, according to the calculation of Altmann, on the 30th September b.c. 610 (see Ideler, Handbuch der Chronologie, i. p. 209ff.), M. v. Niebuhr (pp. 197-8) has assumed that, at the same time as the mediation of peace between the Lydians and Medes, an alliance was formed between Cyaxares and Nabopolassar for the destruction of Nineveh; and as this treaty could not possibly be kept secret, the war against Assyria was commenced at once, according to agreement, with their united forces. But as it was impossible to carry out extensive operations in winter, the siege of Nineveh may not have commenced till the spring of 609; and as it lasted three years according to Ctesias, the capture may not have been effected before the spring of 606 b.c. It is true that this combination is apparently confirmed by the fact, that during that time the Egyptian king Necho forced his way into Palestine and Syria, and after subduing all Syria, advanced to the Euphrates; since this advance of the Egyptian is most easily explained on the supposition that Nabopolassar was so occupied with the war against Nineveh, that he could not offer any resistance to the enterprise of Necho. And the statement in 2 Kings 23:29, that Necho had come up to fight against the king of Asshur on the Euphrates, appears to favour the conclusion, that at that time (i.e., in the year of Josiah's death, 610 b.c.) the Assyrian empire was not yet destroyed. Nevertheless there are serious objections to this combination. In the first place, there is the double difficulty, that Cyaxares would hardly have been in condition to undertake the war against Nineveh in alliance with Nabopolassar, directly after the conclusion of peace with Alyattes, especially after he had carried on a war for five years, without being able to defeat his enemy; and secondly, that even Nabopolassar, after a fierce three years' conflict with Nineveh, the conquest of which was only effected in consequence of the wall of the city having been thrown down for the length of twenty stadia, would hardly possess the power to take the field at once against Pharoah Necho, who had advanced as far as the Euphrates, and not only defeat him at Carchemish, but pursue him to the frontier of Egypt, and wrest from him all the conquests that he had effected, as would necessarily be the case, since the battle at Carchemish was fought in the year 606; and the pursuit of the defeated foe by Nebuchadnezzar, to whom his father had transferred the command of the army because of his own age an infirmity, even to the very border of Egypt, is so distinctly attested by the biblical accounts (2 Kings 24:1 and 2 Kings 24:7; Jeremiah 46:2), and by the testimony of Berosus in Josephus (Ant. x. 11, 1, and c. Ap. i. 19), that these occurrences are placed beyond the reach of doubt (see comm. on 2 Kings 24:1). These difficulties would not indeed be sufficient in themselves to overthrow the combination mentioned, provided that the year 610 could be fixed upon with certainty as the time when the Lydio-Median war was brought to a close. But that is not the case; and this circumstance is decisive. The eclipse of the sun, which alarmed Cyaxares and Alyattes, and made them disposed for peace, must have been total, or nearly total, in Central Asia and Cappadocia, to produce the effect described. But it has been proved by exact astronomical calculations, that on the 30th September 610 b.c., the shadow of the moon did not fall upon those portions of Asia Minor, whereas it did so on the 18th May 622, after eight o'clock in the morning, and on the 28th May 585 (vid., Bumll. p. 315, and M. v. Niebuhr, pp. 48, 49). Of these two dates the latter cannot come into consideration at all, because Cyaxares only reigned till the year 594; and therefore, provided that peace had not been concluded with Alyattes before 595, he would not have been able to carry on the war with Nineveh and conquer that city. On the other hand, there is no valid objection that can be offered to our transferring the conclusion of peace with the Lydian king to the year 622 b.c. Since, for example, Cyaxares became king as early as the year 634, he might commence the war with the Lydians as early as the year 627 or 628; and inasmuch as Nabopolassar was king of Babylon from 625 to 605, he might very well help to bring about the peace between Cyaxares and Alyattes in the year 622. In this way we obtain the whole space between 622 and 605 b.c. for the war with Nineveh; so that the city may have been taken and destroyed as early as the years 615-610.

Even the twenty-eight years' duration of the Scythian supremacy in Asia, which is recorded by Herodotus (i. 104, 106, cf. iv. 1), cannot be adduced as a well-founded objection. For if the Scythians invaded Media in the year 633, so as to compel Cyaxares to relinquish the siege of Nineveh, and if their rule in Upper Asia lasted for twenty-eight years, the expedition against Nineveh, which led to the fall of that city, cannot have taken place after the expulsion of the Scythians in the year 605, because the Assyrian empire had passed into the hands of the Chaldaeans before that time, and Nebuchadnezzar had already defeated Necho on the Euphrates, and was standing at the frontier of Egypt, when he received the intelligence of his father's death, which led him to return with all speed to Babylon. There is no other alternative left, therefore, than either to assume, as M. v. Niebuhr does (pp. 119, 120), that the war of Cyaxares with the Lydians, and also the last war against Nineveh, and probably also the capture of Nineveh, and the greatest portion of the Median conquests between Ararat and Halys, fell within the period of the Scythian sway, so that Cyaxares extended his power as a vassal of the Scythian Great Khan as soon as he had recovered from the first blow received from these wild hordes, inasmuch as that sovereign allowed his dependent to do just as he liked, provided that he paid the tribute, and did not disturb the hordes in their pasture grounds; or else to suppose that Cyaxares drove out the Scythian hordes from Media at a much earlier period, and liberated his own country from their sway; in which case the twenty-eight years of Herodotus would not indicate the period of their sway over Media and Upper Asia, but simply the length of time that they remained in Hither Asia generally, or the period that intervened between their first invasion and the complete disappearance of their hordes. If Cyaxares had driven the Scythians out of his own land at a much earlier period, he might extend his dominion even while they still kept their position in Hither Asia, and might commence the war with the Lydians as early as the year 628 or 627, especially as his wrath is said to have been kindled because Alyattes refused to deliver up to him a Scythian horde, which had first of all submitted to Cyaxares, and then fled into Lydia to Alyattes (Herod. i. 73). Now, whichever of these two combinations be the correct one, they both show that the period of the war commenced by Cyaxares against Nineveh, in alliance with Nabopolassar, cannot be determined by the statement made by Herodotus with regard to the twenty-eight years of the Scythian rule in Asia; and this Scythian rule, generally, does not compel us to place the taking and destruction of Nineveh, and the dissolution of the Assyrian empire, as late as the year 605 b.c., or even later.

At this conquest Nineveh was so utterly destroyed, that, as Strabo (xvi. 1, 3) attests, the city entirely disappeared immediately after the dissolution of the Assyrian kingdom (ἡ μὲν οὖν Νῖνος πόλις ἠφανίσθη παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὴν τῶν Σύρων κατάλυσιν). When Xenophon entered the plain of Nineveh, in the year 401, on the retreat of the ten thousand Greeks, he found the ruins of two large cities, which he calls Larissa and Mespila, and by the side of the first a stone pyramid of 200 feet in height and 100 feet in breadth, upon which many of the inhabitants of the nearest villages had taken refuge, and heard from the inhabitants that it was only by a miracle that it had been possible for the Persians to conquer those cities with their strong walls (Xenoph. Anab. iii. 4, 7ff.). These ruined cities had been portions of the ancient Nineveh: Larissa was Calah; and Mespila, Kouyunjik. Thus Xenophon passed by the walls of Nineveh without even learning its name. Four hundred years after (according to Tacitus, Annal. xii. 13), a small fortress stood on this very spot, to guard the crossing of the Tigris; and the same fortress is mentioned by Abul-Pharaj in the thirteenth century (Hist. Dynast. pp. 266, 289, 353). Opposite to this, on the western side of the Tigris, Mosul had risen into one of the first cities of Asia, and the ruins of Nineveh served as quarries for the building of the new city, so that nothing remained but heaps of rubbish, which even Niebuhr took to be natural heights in the year 1766, when he was told, as he stood by the Tigris bridge, that he was in the neighbourhood of ancient Nineveh. So completely had this mighty city vanished from the face of the earth; until, in the most recent times, viz., from 1842 onwards, Botta the French consul, and the two Englishmen Layard and Rawlinson, instituted excavations in the heaps, and brought to light numerous remains of the palaces and state-buildings of the Assyrian rulers of the world. Compare the general survey of these researches, and their results, in Herm. J. C. Weissenborn's Ninive u. sein Gebiet., Erfurt 1851, and 56, 4.

But if Nahum's prophecy was thus fulfilled in the destruction of Nineveh, even to the disappearance of every trace of its existence, we must not restrict it to this one historical event, but must bear in mind that, as the prophet simply saw in Nineveh the representative for the time of the power of the world in its hostility to God, so the destruction predicted to Nineveh applied to all the kingdoms of the world which have risen up against God since the destruction of Asshur, and which will still continue to do so to the end of the world.

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