Zechariah 12:4
In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
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Zechariah 12:4-5. In that day — This expression, in the prophetical writings, is of large extent, and not only signifies that particular point of time last spoken of, but some time afterward. I will smite every horse with astonishment — Many commentators explain this of the victories which Judas Maccabæus gained over Antiochus’s captains, whose chief force consisted in cavalry. But, as Archbishop Newcome observes, the language is much too strong, as it is also Zechariah 12:6-9, to denote the successes of the Maccabees against the Seleucidæ. This prophecy therefore, he thinks, remains to be accomplished. And many commentators, who are of the same opinion, consider it as a prediction of victories that will be obtained over Gog and Magog by the Jews, upon their restoration to their own land. One circumstance in favour of this interpretation is, that Gog and Magog are represented, Ezekiel 38:15, as riders on horses. And if by that people the Turks be intended, we know that they have been, and still are, famous for their cavalry, wherein chiefly the strength of their armies consists. But it is here foretold, that in order to their discomfiture God will send such distraction among their horses and their riders, and throw them into such a state of confusion, that they shall fall foul one upon another,

(see Zechariah 14:13,) and not be able to distinguish between their friends and their foes. And I will turn mine eyes upon the house of Judah — I will have an especial concern for their preservation. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart — Shall say within themselves, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord — “The text here,” says Blayney,” has been supposed corrupt, and many attempts have been made to amend it. But, without any alteration, it well expresses the sentiments of the men of Judah, concerning the interest they had in the safety of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, on which their own strength and security depended in a great degree; so that they would, of course, be influenced to bring that assistance, the efficacy of which is set forth in the verse that follows.”

12:1-8 Here is a Divine prediction, which will be a heavy burden to all the enemies of the church. But it is for Israel; for their comfort and benefit. It is promised that God will make foolish the counsels, and weaken the courage of the enemies of the church. The exact meaning is not clear; but God often begins by calling the poor and despised; and in that day even the feeblest will resemble David, and be as eminent in courage and every thing good. Desirable indeed is it that the examples and labours of Christians should render them as fire among wood, as a torch in a sheaf, to kindle the flame of Divine love, to spread religion on the right hand and on the left.Koster further refers to Zechariah 1:4, Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 3:5, Zechariah 3:9 and, on the other hand, to Zechariah 9:9-10, Zechariah 9:13, Zechariah 9:15; Zechariah 10:11; Zechariah 11:2, Zechariah 11:7, Zechariah 11:9, Zechariah 11:17; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 14:4, Zechariah 14:8.

With one considerable exception , those who would sever the six last chapters from Zechariah, are now at one in placing them before the captivity. Yet, Zechariah here too speaks of the captivity as past. Adopting the imagery of Isaiah, who foretells the delivery from the captivity as an opening of a prison, he says, in the name of God, "By the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water" Zechariah 9:11. Again, "The Lord of hosts hath visited His flock, the house of Judah. I will have mercy upon them (Judah and Joseph) and they shall be as though I had not cast them off" Zechariah 10:3-5. The mention of the mourning of all the "families that remain" Zechariah 12:14 implies a previous carrying away. Yet more; Zechariah took his imagery of the future restoration of Jerusalem, from its condition in his own time. "It shall be lifted up and inhabited in its place from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner-gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses" Zechariah 14:10. "The gate of Benjamin" is doubtless "the gate of Ephraim," since the road to Ephraim lay through Benjamin; but the gate of Ephraim existed in Nehemiah's time Nehemiah 8:16; Nehemiah 12:39, yet was not then repaired, as neither was the tower of Hananeel Nehemiah 3:1, having been left, doubtless, at the destruction of Jerusalem, being useless for defense, when the wall was broken down. So at the second invasion the Romans left the three impregnable towers, of Hippicus, Phasaelus, and Mariamne, as monuments of the greatness of the city which they had destroyed. Benjamin's gate, the corner gate, the tower of Hananeel, were still standing; "the king's winepresses" were naturally uninjured, since there was no use in injuring them; but "the first gate" was destroyed, since not itself but "the place" of it is mentioned.

The prophecy of the victory over the Greeks fits in with times when Assyria or Chaldaea were no longer the instruments of God in the chastisement of His people. The notion that the prophet incited the few Hebrew slaves, sold into Greece, to rebel against their masters, is so absurd, that one wonders that any one could have ventured to forge it and put it upon a Hebrew prophet .

Since, moreover, all now, who sever the six last chapters from the preceding, also divide these six into two halves, the evidence that the six chapters are from one author is a separate ground against their theory. Yet, not only are they connected by the imagery of the people as the flock of God Zechariah 9:16; Zechariah 10:3, whom God committed to the hand of the Good Shepherd Zechariah 11:4-14, and on their rejecting Him, gave them over to an evil shepherd Zechariah 11:15-17; but the Good Shepherd is One with God Zechariah 11:7-12; Zechariah 13:7. The poor of the flock, who would hold to the Shepherd, are designated by a corresponding word.

A writer has been at pains to show that two different conditions of things are foretold in the two prophecies. Granted. The first, we believe, has its foreground in the deliverance during the conquests of Alexander, and under the Maccabees, and leads on to the rejection of the true Shepherd and God's visitation on the false. The later relates to a later repentance and later visitation of God, in part yet future. By what law is a prophet bound down to speak of one future only?

For those who criticize the prophets, resolve all prophecy into mere "anticipation" of what might, or might not be, denying to them all certain knowledge of any future, it is but speaking plainly, when they imagine the author of the three last chapters to have "anticipated" that God would interpose miraculously to deliver Jerusalem, then, when it was destroyed. It would have been in direct contradiction to Jeremiah, who for 39 years in one unbroken dirge predicted the evil which should come upon Jerusalem. The prophecy, had it preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, could not have been earlier than the reign of the wretched Jehoiakim, since the mourning for the death of Josiah is spoken of as a proverbial sorrow of the past. This invented prophet then would have been one of the false prophets, who contradicted Jeremiah, prophesying good, while Jeremiah prophesied evil; who encouraged Zedekiah in his perjury, the punishment whereof Ezekiel solemnly denounced Ezekiel 13:10-19, prophesying his captivity in Babylon as its penalty; he would have been one of those, of whom Jeremiah said that they spake lies Jeremiah 14:14; Jeremiah 23:22; Jeremiah 27:15; Jeremiah 28:15; Jeremiah 29:8-9 in the name of the Lord. It was not "anticipation" on either side.

It was the statement of those who spoke more certainly than we could say, "the sun will rise tomorrow." They were the direct contradictories of one another. The false prophets said, "the Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace" Jeremiah 8:11; Jeremiah 23:17; the true, "they have said, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace" Ezekiel 13:2-10; the false said, "sword and famine shall not be in the land" Jeremiah 14:15; the true "By sword and famine shall their prophets be consumed;" the false said, "ye shall not serve the king of Babylon; thus saith the Lord, even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years" Jeremiah 27:9-14; Jeremiah 28:11; the true, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and all nations shall serve him, and his son and his son's son" Jeremiah 27:4, Jeremiah 27:6-7. The false said, "I will bring again to this place Jeconiah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon" Jeremiah 28:4; the true, "I will cast thee out and the mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born, and there ye shall die. But to the land, whereunto they desire to return, thither they shall not return" Jeremiah 22:26-27. The false said; "The vessels of the Lord's house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon" Jeremiah 27:16; the true "the residue of the vessels that remain in this city, - they shall be carried to Babylon" Jeremiah 27:19-22.

If the writer of the three last chapters had lived just before the destruction of Jerusalem in those last reigns, he would have been a political fanatic, one of those who, by encouraging rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, brought on the destruction of the city, and, in the name of God, told lies against God. "That which is most peculiar in this prophet," says one , "is the uncommon high and pious hope of the deliverance of Jerusalem and Judah, notwithstanding all visible greatest dangers and threatenings. At a time when Jeremiah, in the walls of the capital, already despairs of any possibility of a successful resistance to the Chaldees and exhorts to tranquility, this prophet still looks all these dangers straight in the face with swelling spirit and divine confidence, holds, with unbowed spirit, firm to the like promises of older prophets, as Isaiah 29, and anticipates that, from that very moment when the blind fury of the destroyers would discharge itself on the sanctuary, a wondrous might would crush them in pieces, and that this must be the beginning of the Messianic weal within and without."

Zechariah 14 is to this writer a modification of those anticipations. In other words there was a greater human probability, that Jeremiah's prophecies, not his, would be fulfilled: yet, he cannot give up his sanguineness, though his hopes had now become fanatic. This writer says on Zechariah 14 , "This piece cannot have been written until somewhat later, when facts made it more and more improbable, that Jerusalem would not any how be conquered, and treated as a conquered city by coarse foes. Yet, then too, this prophet could not yet part with the anticipations of older prophets and those which he had himself at an earlier time expressed: so boldly, amid the most visible danger, he holds firm to the old anticipation, after that the great deliverance of Jerusalem in Sennacherib's time Isaiah 37 appeared to justify the most fanatic hopes for the future, (compare Psalm 59). And so now the prospect moulds itself to him thus, as if Jerusalem must indeed actually endure the horrors of the conquest, but that then, when the work of the conquerors was half-completed, the great deliverance, already suggested in that former piece, would come, and so the Sanctuary would, notwithstanding, be wonderfully preserved, the better Messianic time would notwithstanding still so come."

It must be a marvelous fascination, which the old prophets exercise over the human mind, that one who can so write should trouble himself about them. It is such an intense paradox, that the writing of one convicted by the event of uttering falsehood in the name of God, incorrigible even by the thickening tokens of God's displeasure, should have been inserted among the Hebrew prophets, in times not far removed from those whose events convicted him, that one wonders that anyone should have invented it, still more that any should have believed in it. Great indeed is "the credulity of the incredulous."

And yet, this paradox is essential to the theories of the modern school which would place these chapters before the captivity. English writers, who thought themselves compelled to ascribe these chapters to Jeremiah, had an escape, because they did not bind down prophecy to immediate events. Newcome's criticism was the conjectural criticism of his day; i. e. bad, cutting knots instead of loosing them. But his faith, that God's word is true, was entire. Since the prophecy, placed at the time where he placed it, had no immediate fulfillment, he supposed it, in common with those who believe it to have been written by Zechariah, to relate to a later period. That German school, with whom it is an axiom, "that all definite prophecy relates to an immediate future," had no choice but to place it just before the destruction of the temple by the Chaldees, or its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes; and those who placed it before the Captivity, had no choice, except to believe, that it related to events, by which it was falsified.

Nearly half a century has passed, since a leading writer of this school said , "One must own, that the division of opinions as to the real author of this section and his time, as also the attempts to appropriate single oracles of this portion to different periods, leave the result of criticism simply "negative;" whereas on the other hand, the view itself, since it is not yet carried through exegetically, lacks the completion of its proof. It is not till criticism becomes "positive," and evidences its truth in the explanation of details, that it attains its completion; which is not, in truth, always possible." Hitzig did what he could, "to help to promote the attainment of this end according to his ability." But although the more popular theory has of late been that these chapters are to be placed before the captivity, the one portion somewhere in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, or Hezekiah; the other, as marked in the chapters themselves, after the death of Josiah; there have not been wanting critics of equal repute, who place them in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Yet, criticism which reels to and fro in a period of near 500 years, from the earliest of the prophets to a period a century after Malachi, and this on historical and philological grounds, certainly has come to no definite basis, either as to history or philology.

Rather, it has enslaved both to preconceived opinions; and at last, as late a result as any has been, after this weary round, to go back to where it started from, and to suppose these chapters to have been written by the prophet whose name they bear .

It is obvious that there must be some mistake either in the tests applied, or in their application, which admits of a variation of at least 450 years from somewhere in the reign of Uzziah (say 770 b.c.) to "later than 330 b.c."


4. I will smite … horse—The arm of attack especially formidable to Judah, who was unprovided with cavalry. So in the overthrow of Pharaoh (Ex 15:19, 21).

open mine eyes upon … Judah—to watch over Judah's safety. Heretofore Jehovah seemed to have shut His eyes, as having no regard for her.

blindness—so as to rush headlong on to their own ruin (compare Zec 14:12, 13).

In that day: see Zechariah 4:3.

I will smite every horse: horses are of very great use in wars; they were the main strength of Antiochus Epiphanes, his best preparations. With astonishment; a dull, sottish fear and perplexity.

And his rider with madness; an impotency of mind both in the understanding, which is folly and imprudence, and in the will and resolution, which is either cowardice or unconstancy, like madmen that neither know how to resolve or act. God will turn all their counsel into foolishness, their strength into weakness, their courage into fear, and so overturn them all.

I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah; a while I seemed as one that slept or winked at the proceedings of my church’s enemies, yet now I will open mine eyes, and see all that is going forward against them, and I will watch over my people for good; against their enemies, to confound and destroy them and their enterprises: this eye of God open upon his people is his wise, powerful, gracious providence for them, Psalm 31:22 Jeremiah 24:6.

I will smite every horse of the people with blindness; all their warriors in their projecting and consults shall be as full of improvidence, and have as little foresight, as a stark blind man hath of sight to see by.

In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness,.... The meaning is, the enemies of God's people shall be astonished at the failure of their attempts, and be filled with fury and madness because they cannot accomplish their designs; and shall be at their wits' end, not knowing what course to take: perhaps reference is had to the Turkish armies, that shall be brought against Jerusalem to recover it into their possession, which generally consist of a large cavalry; see Revelation 9:16,

and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah; which phrase is sometimes used, as expressive of the wrath of God against his enemies, Amos 9:4 and, if the house of Judah signifies the same as Judah, joined with the nations of the earth in the siege, Zechariah 12:2, it must be so understood here; but rather it seems to be different, and to intend those who will inhabit other parts of Judea, and who will be truly the people of God, Jews not only literally, but spiritually; and so is to be interpreted in a good sense, of the divine love to them, care of them, and protection over them; see Job 14:13 and so the Targum paraphrases it,

"and upon those of the house of Judah, I will reveal my power to do them good:''

and will smite every horse of the people with blindness: that is, every rider of them, either with blindness of mind or body, or both. It may be, as the former smiting, mentioned in the beginning of the verse, respects the mind, this may regard the body; so that they shall not see their way, and their hands shall not perform their enterprise.

In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
4. astonishment] This and the two following words, madness, blindness, occur together also in Deuteronomy 28:28, in a description of God’s judgments upon Israel, as here upon the armies that gather against Jerusalem.

I will open mine eyes upon] i.e. will regard with favour. Comp. Psalm 32:8.

Verse 4. - I will smite every horse with astonishment (consternation). Cavalry represents the forces of the enemy. Astonishment, madness, and blindness are threatened against Israel in Deuteronomy 28:28; here they arc inflicted on the enemy. Madness. The riders should be so panic stricken that they knew not what they did, and shall turn their arms against each other (Haggai 2:22). Open mine eyes upon the house of Judah; i.e. will regard with favour and protect (Deuteronomy 11:12; 1 Kings 8:29; Isaiah 32:8). With blindness. They shall be blinded with terror. The previous threat is repeated with this emphatic addition. Zechariah 12:4"Behold, I make Jerusalem a reeling-basin for all the nations round about, and upon Judah also will it be at the siege against Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:3. And it will come to pass on that day, I will make Jerusalem a burden-stone to all nations: all who lift it up will tear rents for themselves; and all the nations of the earth will gather together against it. Zechariah 12:4. In that day, is the saying of Jehovah, will I smite every horse with shyness, and its rider with madness, and over the house of Judah will I open my eyes, and every horse of the nations will I smite with blindness." These verses allude to an attack on the part of the nations upon Jerusalem and Judah, which will result in injury and destruction to those who attack it. The Lord will make Jerusalem a reeling-basin to all nations round about. Saph does not mean threshold here, but basin, or a large bowl, as in Exodus 12:22. רעל is equivalent to תּרעלה in Isaiah 51:17 and Psalm 60:5, viz., reeling. Instead of the goblet, the prophet speaks of a basin, because many persons can put their mouths to this at the same time, and drink out of it (Schmieder). The "cup of reeling," i.e., a goblet filled with intoxicating drink, is a figure very frequently employed to denote the divine judgment, which intoxicates the nations, so that they are unable to stand any longer, and therefore fall to the ground and perish (see at Isaiah 51:17).

Psalm 60:2 has been explained in very different ways. It is an old and widespread view, that the words "also upon Judah will it be," etc., express the participation of Judah in the siege of Jerusalem. The Chaldee and Jerome both adopt this explanation, that in the siege of Jerusalem Judah will be constrained by the nations to besiege the capital of its own land. The grammatical reason assigned for this view is, that we must either take היה with על in the sense of obligation (it will also be the duty of Judah: Mich., Ros., Ewald), or supply סף־רעל as the subject to יהיה: the reeling-basin will also come upon Judah. But there is great harshness in both explanations. With the former, להלּחם, or some other infinitive, would hardly have been omitted; and with the latter, the preposition ל would stand before יהוּדה, instead of על. Moreover, in what follows there is no indication whatever of Judah's having made common cause with the enemy against Jerusalem; on the contrary, Judah and Jerusalem stand together in opposition to the nations, and the princes of Judah have strength in the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Psalm 60:5), and destroy the enemy to save Jerusalem (Psalm 60:6). Moreover, it is only by a false interpretation that any one can find a conflict between Judah and Jerusalem indicated in Zechariah 14:14. And throughout it is incorrect to designate the attitude of Judah towards Jerusalem in these verses as "opposition," - a notion upon which Ebrard (Offenb. Joh.) and Kliefoth have founded the marvellous view, that by Jerusalem with its inhabitants and the house of David we are to understand the unbelieving portion of Israel; and by Judah with its princes, Christendom, or the true people of God, formed of believing Israelites, and increased by believing Gentiles. Judah is not opposed to Jerusalem, but simply distinguished from it, just as the Jewish kingdom or people is frequently designated by the prophets as Jerusalem and Judah. The גם, which does not separate, but adds, is of itself inapplicable to the idea of opposition. Consequently we should expect the words וגם על יה to express the thought, that Judah will be visited with the same fate as Jerusalem, as Luther, Calvin, and many others follow the Peshito in supposing that they do. היה על has then the meaning to happen, to come over a person; and the only question is, What are we to supply in thought as the subject? The best course is probably to take it from the previous clause, "that which passes over Jerusalem;" for the proposal of Koehler to supply mâtsōr as the subject is precluded by the circumstance that mâtsōr, a siege, can only affect a city or fortress (cf. Deuteronomy 20:20), and not a land. The thought is strengthened in Zechariah 12:3. Jerusalem is to become a burden-stone for all nations, which inflicts contusions and wounds upon those who try to lift it up or carry it away ("experiencing no hurt itself, it causes great damage to them:" Marck). The figure is founded upon the idea of the labour connected with building, and not upon the custom, which Jerome speaks of as a very common one in his time among the youth of Palestine, of testing and exercising their strength by lifting heavy stones. There is a gradation in the thought, both in the figure of the burdensome stone, which wounds whoever tries to lift it, whilst intoxicating wine only makes one powerless and incapable of any undertaking, and also in the description given of the object, viz., in Zechariah 12:2 all nations round about Jerusalem, and in Zechariah 12:3 all peoples and all nations of the earth. It is only in the last clause of Zechariah 12:3 that the oppression of Jerusalem indicated in the two figures is more minutely described, and in Zechariah 12:4 that its overthrow by the help of God is depicted. The Lord will throw the mind and spirit of the military force of the enemy into such confusion, that instead of injuring Jerusalem and Judah, it will rush forward to its own destruction. Horses and riders individualize the warlike forces of the enemy. The rider, smitten with madness, turns his sword against his own comrades in battle (cf. Zechariah 14:3; Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20). On the other hand, Jehovah will open His eyes upon Judah for its protection (1 Kings 8:29; Nehemiah 1:6; Psalm 32:8). This promise is strengthened by the repetition of the punishment to be inflicted upon the enemy. Not only with alarm, but with blindness, will the Lord smite their horses. We have an example of this in 2 Kings 6:18, where the Lord smote the enemy with blindness in answer to Elisha's prayer, i.e., with mental blindness, so that, instead of seizing the prophet, they fell into the hands of Israel. The three plagues, timmâhōn, shiggâ‛ōn, and ‛ivvârōn, are those with which rebellious Israelites are threatened in Deuteronomy 28:28. The "house of Judah" is the covenant nation, the population of Judah including the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as we may see from what follows.

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