Zechariah 11:1
Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
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Zechariah 11:1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon — The prophet, having signified in the foregoing prophecy that the Jewish nation should recover its prosperity, flourish for some time, and become considerable; and having announced to Zion the coming of Messiah her king, and congratulated her on the peaceable nature and great extent of his kingdom, with the blessed effects which his rule should produce, proceeds now to foretel the ruin which should come on the body of the Jewish nation for rejecting him, with the destruction of their temple and capital city. To this only can the first three verses of this chapter relate; for no calamities happened to that people, from the time of Zechariah till that event, of which the expressions here used can with propriety be understood. Lebanon itself cannot be here addressed, which had no doors or gates: but it is figuratively put, either for the temple, built of the cedars of Lebanon, as it is Ezekiel 17:3; and Habakkuk 2:17; or for the city of Jerusalem, whose lofty buildings resembled the stately ranks of trees in a forest: but the former is more probably intended. And, if the Jewish writers may be credited, such was the application made of this prophecy by the Rabbi Johanan, when the doors of the temple opened of their own accord, a little before the temple was burned, a circumstance attested by Josephus, Bell. Jud. lib. 6. cap. 5: “Then R. Johanan, a disciple of R. Hillel, directing his speech to the temple, said, ‘I know thy destruction is at hand, according to the prophecy of Zechariah:’ Open thy doors, O Lebanon, &c.” That the fire — Either, figuratively, the wrath of God and the rage of the enemy, or, literally, fire kindled by the enemy; may devour thy cedars — Thy palaces and other fabrics built with cedars.

11:1-3 In figurative expressions, that destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish church and nation, is foretold, which our Lord Jesus, when the time was at hand, prophesied plainly and expressly. How can the fir trees stand, if the cedars fall? The falls of the wise and good into sin, and the falls of the rich and great into trouble, are loud alarms to those every way their inferiors. It is sad with a people, when those who should be as shepherds to them, are as young lions. The pride of Jordan was the thickets on the banks; and when the river overflowed the banks, the lions came up from them roaring. Thus the doom of Jerusalem may alarm other churches.Open thy doors, O Lebanon - Lebanon, whose cedars had stood, its glory, for centuries, yet could offer no resistance to him who felled them and were carried off to adorn the palaces of its conquerors (see above at Zephaniah 2:14, and note 2. p. 276), was in Isaiah Isa 14:8; Isaiah 37:24 and Jeremiah Jer 22:6-7 the emblem of the glory of the Jewish state; and in Ezekiel, of Jerusalem, as the prophet himself explains it Ezekiel 17:3, Ezekiel 17:12; glorious, beauteous, inaccessible, so long as it was defended by God; a ready prey, when abandoned by Him. The center and source of her strength was the worship of God; and so Lebanon has of old been understood to be the temple, which was built with cedars of Lebanon, towering aloft upon a strong. summit; the spiritual glory and the eminence of Jerusalem, as Lebanon was of the whole country, and , "to strangers who came to it, it appeared from afar like a mountain full of snow; for, where it was not gilded, it was exceeding white, being built of marble." But at the time of destruction it was "a den of thieves" Matthew 21:13, as Lebanon, amidst its beauty, was of wild beasts.

Rup.: "I suppose Lebanon itself, that is, "the temple," felt the command of the prophet's words, since, as its destruction approached, its doors opened without the hand of man. Josephus relates how , "at the passover, the eastern gate of the inner temple, being of brass and very firm, and with difficulty shut at eventide by twenty men; moreover with bars strengthened with iron, and having very deep bolts, which went down into the threshold, itself of one stone, was seen at six o'clock at night to open of its own accord. The guards of the temple running told it to the officer, and he, going up, with difficulty closed it. This the uninstructed thought a very favorable sign, that God opened to them the gate of all goods. But those taught in the divine words, understood that the safety of the temple was removed of itself, and that the gate opened."

A saying of this sort is still exstant. : "Our fathers have handed down, forty years before the destruction of the house, the lot of the Lord did not come up on the right hand, and the tongue of splendor did not become white, nor did the light from the evening burn, and the doors of the temple opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Johanan ben Zaccai rebuked them, and said, 'O temple, why dost thou affright thyself? I know of thee that thy end is to be destroyed, and of this Zechariah prophesied, "Open thy doors, O Lebanon, and let the fire devour thy cedars.'" The "forty years" mentioned in this tradition carry back the event exactly to the Death of Christ, the temple having been burned 73 a.d. . Josephus adds that they opened at the passover, the season of His Crucifixion. On the other hand, the shutting of the gates of the temple, when they had "seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple" Acts 21:30, seems miraculous and significant, that, having thus violently refused the preaching of the Gospel, and cast Paul out, they themselves were also shut out, denoting that an entrance was afterward to be refused them.

And let afire devour thy cedars - Jerusalem, or the temple, were, after those times, burned by the Romans only. The destruction of pride, opposed to Christ, was prophesied by Isaiah in connection with His Coming Isaiah 10:34; Isaiah 11:1.


Zec 11:1-17. Destruction of the Second Temple and Jewish Polity for the Rejection of Messiah.

1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon—that is, the temple so called, as being constructed of cedars of Lebanon, or as being lofty and conspicuous like that mountain (compare Eze 17:3; Hab 2:17). Forty years before the destruction of the temple, the tract called "Massecheth Joma" states, its doors of their own accord opened, and Rabbi Johanan in alarm said, I know that thy desolation is impending according to Zechariah's prophecy. Calvin supposes Lebanon to refer to Judea, described by its north boundary: "Lebanon," the route by which the Romans, according to Josephus, gradually advanced towards Jerusalem. Moore, from Hengstenberg, refers the passage to the civil war which caused the calling in of the Romans, who, like a storm sweeping through the land from Lebanon, deprived Judea of its independence. Thus the passage forms a fit introduction to the prediction as to Messiah born when Judea became a Roman province. But the weight of authority is for the former view.The destruction of Jerusalem, Zechariah 11:1-3. Under the type of Zechariah is showed Christ’ s care for the flock, the Jews; and their rejection for ingratitude and light estimation of him, Zechariah 11:4-14. The type and curse of a foolish shepherd, Zechariah 11:15-17.

This chapter is minatory, and foretells the ruin of Jerusalem and the temple, this second temple, by the Romans, and the captivity of the Jews under them, for their rejecting of Christ; so the times of this chapter must be laid about the death of Christ and downwards.

Open thy doors, O Lebanon; either the temple, because built with cedars of Lebanon, so the temple is called, Ezekiel 17:3 Habakkuk 2:17; or Jerusalem, or Judea, whose boundary northward this mountain was: if all these do not fully suit with the text and context, perhaps this added may. Lebanon, a high and great mountain, boundary between Judea and its neighbours on the north, is here spoken to open its gates, its fortifications, raised to secure the passages, which through the hollownesses of the mountain, the deep and dismal straits, lead into Judea, and would be first attempted by the enemy that first invades the northern parts of Judea. These garrisons or fortresses are foretold like to be easily taken, as if they opened of themselves, and the Romans would have easy entrance by this means into Judea.

That the fire; either figuratively, the rage of the enemy, or the wrath of God; or literally, fire by the enemy kindled in the houses and buildings in Judea, and in Lebanon itself.

May devour thy cedars; palaces built with cedars, or else figuratively nobles, princes, and eminent men.

Open thy doors, O Lebanon,.... By which may be meant, either the temple of Jerusalem, which was built of the cedars of Lebanon;

"the gates of which are said (w) to open of themselves forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, when Jochanan ben Zaccai, who lived at the same time, rebuked them, saying, O temple, temple, wherefore dost thou frighten thyself? I know thine end is to be destroyed; for so prophesied Zechariah, the son of Iddo, concerning thee, "open thy doors, O Lebanon".''

So Lebanon, in Zechariah 10:10, is interpreted of the sanctuary, both by the Targum and by Jarchi; or else it may be understood of Jerusalem, and of the whole land of Judea, because it was situated by it; it was the border of it on the north side.

That the fire may devour thy cedars; of which the temple was built, and the houses of Jerusalem, which were consumed by fire; unless the fortresses of the land are meant. So the Targum paraphrases it,

"and the fire shall consume your fortresses.''

(w) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 39. 2.

Open thy doors, O {a} Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

(a) Because the Jews thought themselves so strong by reason of this mountain, that no enemy could come to hurt them, the Prophet shows that when God sends the enemies, it will show itself ready to receive them.

1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon] The passage is highly poetical and dramatic, but in its first reference literal and physical. In the path of the invading army stands Lebanon, at once the pride and bulwark of the land. As the priestly herald of the approaching host (quasi esset Dei fetialis, Calv.), the prophet summons it to open wide an access, and to surrender to the reckless torch of the fierce foe its goodly pines and noble cedars. Comp. 2 Kings 19:23; Isaiah 37:24; Isaiah 14:8.

Verse 1. - Open thy doors, O Lebanon. The prophet graphically portrays the punishment that is to fall upon the people. The sin that occasions this chastisement, viz. the rejection of their Shepherd and King, is denounced later (§ 9). Lebanon stood in the path of an invader from the north, whence most hostile armies entered Palestine. The "doors" of Lebanon are the mountain passes which gave access to the country. Some commentators, following an old Jewish interpretation, take Lebanon to mean the temple or Jerusalem; but we are constrained to adhere primarily to the literal signification by the difficulty of carrying on the metaphorical allusions in the following clauses. That the fire may devour thy cedars. That the invader may wantonly destroy thy trees which are thy glory and thy boast. Zechariah 11:1The Devastation of the Holy Land. - Zechariah 11:1. "Open thy gates, O Lebanon, and let fire devour thy cedars! Zechariah 11:2. Howl, cypress; for the cedar is fallen, for the glory is laid waste! Howl, ye oaks of Bashan; for the inaccessible forest is laid low! Zechariah 11:3. A loud howling of the shepherds; for their glory is laid waste! A loud roaring of the young lions; for the splendour of Jordan is laid waste!" That these verses do not form the commencement of a new prophecy, having no connection with the previous one, but that they are simply a new turn given to that prophecy, is evident not only from the omission of any heading or of any indication whatever which could point to the commencement of a fresh word of God, but still more so from the fact that the allusion to Lebanon and Bashan and the thickets of Judah points back unmistakeably to the land of Gilead and of Lebanon (Zechariah 10:10), and shows a connection between ch. 11 and Zechariah 10:1-12, although this retrospect is not decided enough to lay a foundation for the view that Zechariah 11:1-3 form a conclusion to the prophecy in Zechariah 10:1-12, to which their contents by no means apply. For let us interpret the figurative description in these verses in what manner we will, so much at any rate is clear, that they are of a threatening character, and as a threat not only form an antithesis to the announcement of salvation in Zechariah 10:1-12, but are substantially connected with the destruction which will overtake the "flock of the slaughter," and therefore serve as a prelude, as it were, to the judgment announced in Zechariah 11:4-7.; The undeniable relation in which Lebanon, Bashan, and the Jordan stand to the districts of Gilead and Lebanon, also gives us a clue to the explanation; since it shows that Lebanon, the northern frontier of the holy land, and Bashan, the northern part of the territory of the Israelites to the east of the Jordan, are synecdochical terms, denoting the holy land itself regarded in its two halves, and therefore that the cedars, cypresses, and oaks in these portions of the land cannot be figurative representations of heathen rulers (Targ., Eph. Syr., Kimchi, etc.); but if powerful men and tyrants are to be understood at all by these terms, the allusion can only be to the rulers and great men of the nation of Israel (Hitzig, Maurer, Hengst., Ewald, etc.). But this allegorical interpretation of the cedars, cypresses, and oaks, however old and widely spread it may be, is not so indisputable as that we could say with Kliefoth: "The words themselves do not allow of our finding an announcement of the devastation of the holy land therein." For even if the words themselves affirm nothing more than "that the very existence of the cedars, oaks, shepherds, lions, is in danger; and that if these should fall, Lebanon will give way to the fire, the forest of Bashan will fall, the thicket of Jordan be laid waste;" yet through the destruction of the cedars, oaks, etc., the soil on which these trees grow is also devastated and laid waste. The picture is a dramatic one. Instead of the devastation of Lebanon being announced, it is summoned to open its gates, that the fire may be able to enter in and devour its cedars. The cypresses, which hold the second place among the celebrated woods of Lebanon, are then called upon to howl over the fall of the cedars, not so much from sympathy as because the same fate is awaiting them.

The words אשׁר אדּירם שׁדּדוּ contain a second explanatory clause. אשׁר is a conjunction (for, because), as in Genesis 30:18; Genesis 31:49. 'Addı̄rı̄m are not the glorious or lofty ones among the people (Hengst., Kliefoth), but the glorious ones among the things spoken of in the context, - namely, the noble trees, the cedars and cypresses. The oaks of Bashan are also called upon to howl, because they too will fall like "the inaccessible forest," i.e., the cedar forest of Lebanon. The keri habbâtsı̄r is a needless correction, because the article does not compel us to take the word as a substantive. If the adjective is really a participle, the article is generally attached to it alone, and omitted from the noun (cf. Ges. 111, 2, a). קול יללת, voice of howling, equivalent to a loud howling. The shepherds howl, because 'addartâm, their glory, is laid waste. We are not to understand by this their flock, but their pasture, as the parallel member גּאון היּרדּן and the parallel passage Jeremiah 25:26 show, where the shepherds howl, because their pasture is destroyed. What the pasture, i.e., the good pasture ground of the land of Bashan, is to the shepherds, that is the pride of Jordan to the young lions, - namely, the thicket and reeds which grew so luxuriantly on the banks of the Jordan, and afforded so safe and convenient a lair for lions (cf. Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:9; Jeremiah 50:44). Zechariah 11:3 announces in distinct terms a devastation of the soil or land. It follows from this that the cedars, cypresses, and oaks are not figures representing earthly rulers. No conclusive arguments can be adduced in support of such an allegory. It is true that in Isaiah 10:34 the powerful army of Assyria is compared to Lebanon; and in Jeremiah 22:6 the head of the cedar forest is a symbol of the royal house of Judah; and that in Jeremiah 22:23 it is used as a figurative term for Jerusalem (see at Habakkuk 2:17); but neither men generally, nor individual earthly rulers in particular, are represented as cedars or oaks. The cedars and cypresses of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan are simply figures denoting what is lofty, glorious, and powerful in the world of nature and humanity, and are only to be referred to persons so far as their lofty position in the state is concerned. Consequently we get the following as the thought of these verses: The land of Israel, with all its powerful and glorious creatures, is to become desolate. Now, inasmuch as the desolation of a land also involves the desolation of the people living in the land, and of its institutions, the destruction of the cedars, cypresses, etc., does include the destruction of everything lofty and exalted in the nation and kingdom; so that in this sense the devastation of Lebanon is a figurative representation of the destruction of the Israelitish kingdom, or of the dissolution of the political existence of the ancient covenant nation. This judgment was executed upon the land and people of Israel by the imperial power of Rome. This historical reference is evident from the description which follows of the facts by which this catastrophe is brought to pass.

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