Zechariah 14:19
This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
14:16-21 As it is impossible for all nations literally to come to Jerusalem once a year, to keep a feast, it is evident that a figurative meaning must here be applied. Gospel worship is represented by the keeping of the feast of tabernacles. Every day of a Christian's life is a day of the feast of tabernacles; every Lord's day especially is the great day of the feast; therefore every day let us worship the Lord of hosts, and keep every Lord's day with peculiar solemnity. It is just for God to withhold the blessings of grace from those who do not attend the means of grace. It is a sin that is its own punishment; those who forsake the duty, forfeit the privilege of communion with God. A time of complete peace and purity of the church will arrive. Men will carry on their common affairs, and their sacred services, upon the same holy principles of faith, love and obedience. Real holiness shall be more diffused, because there shall be a more plentiful pouring forth of the Spirit of holiness than ever before. There shall be holiness even in common things. Every action and every enjoyment of the believer, should be so regulated according to the will of God, that it may be directed to his glory. Our whole lives should be as one constant sacrifice, or act of devotion; no selfish motive should prevail in any of our actions. But how far is the Christian church from this state of purity! Other times, however, are at hand, and the Lord will reform and enlarge his church, as he has promised. Yet in heaven alone will perfect holiness and happiness be found.This shall be the sin of Egypt and the sin of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles - For before the coming of the Saviour, good perhaps had been in part the excuse of the pagan, that they had been called by none. For no one had preached unto them. Wherefore the Saviour also, pointing out this in the Gospel parables, said, 'the laborers' Matthew 20:7, called 'at the eleventh hour, said, No man hath hired us.' But when Christ cast His light upon us, 'bound the strong man' Matthew 12:29, removed from his perverseness those subject to him, justified by faith those who came to Him, laid down His life for the life of all, they will find no sufficient excuse who admit not so reverend a grace. It will be true of the pagan too, if Christ said of them, 'If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin' John 15:22."

The prophet says "sin," not punishment , for sin includes "the punishment," which is its due, and which it entails: it does not express the punishment, apart from the sin. It was "the sin" which comprised and involved all other sin, the refusal to worship God as He had revealed Himself, and to turn to Him. It was to say, "We will not have" Him "to reign over us" Luke 19:14.

19. punishment—literally, "sin"; that is, "punishment for sin." And what he saith of Egypt, he saith of all contemners of his law and worship; their sin is the same, their punishment shall be the same, for with God is no respect of persons. This shall be the punishment of Egypt,.... Or "sin" (d), as in the original text: rightly is the word rendered "punishment", as it is by the Targum:

and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles; which will be one and the same; they shall have no rain, or what answers to it; they shall all have a famine; or it will be different, Egypt shall be punished with a consumption of their flesh, and the other nations with want of rain: the former sense seems best.

(d) "peccatum", V. L.

This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19. punishment] Lit. sin, as in margin of A. V. and R. V., but sin here as manifested in its consequences. Comp. Lamentations 3:39, where it is literally, a man for his sins.Verse 19. - The punishment; literally, sin; ἁμαρτία: peccatum; here obviously the punishment of sin - sin with all its fatal consequences (comp. Numbers 18:22; Lamentations 3:39; Lamentations 4:6). The interpretation of this vision must therefore be founded upon the meaning of the golden candlestick in the symbolism of the tabernacle, and be in harmony with it. The prophet receives, first of all, the following explanation, in reply to his question on this point: Zechariah 4:4. "And I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? Zechariah 4:5. And the angel that talked with me answered and said to me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Zechariah 4:6. Then he answered and spake to me thus: This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, and not by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts. Zechariah 4:7. Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Into a plain! And He will bring out the top-stone amidst shoutings, Grace, grace unto it!" The question addressed by the prophet to the mediating angel, "What are these?" (mâh 'ēlleh, as in Zechariah 2:2) does not refer to the two olive trees only (Umbreit, Kliefoth), but to everything described in Zechariah 4:2 and Zechariah 4:3. We are not warranted in assuming that the prophet, like every other Israelite, knew what the candlestick with its seven lamps signified; and even if Zechariah had been perfectly acquainted with the meaning of the golden candlestick in the holy place, the candlestick seen by him had other things beside the two olive trees which were not to be found in the candlestick of the temple, viz., the gullâh and the pipes for the lamps, which might easily make the meaning of the visionary candlestick a doubtful thing. And the counter-question of the angel, in which astonishment is expressed, is not at variance with this. For that simply presupposes that the object of these additions is so clear, that their meaning might be discovered from the meaning of the candlestick itself. The angel then gives him the answer in Zechariah 4:6 : "This (the vision as a symbolical prophecy) is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might," etc. That is to say, through this vision Zerubbabel is informed that it - namely, the work which Zerubbabel has taken in hand or has to carry out - will not be effected by human strength, but by the Spirit of God. The work itself is not mentioned by the angel, but is referred to for the first time in Zechariah 4:7 in the words, "He will bring out the top-stone," and then still more clearly described in the word of Jehovah in Zechariah 4:9 : "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house (the temple), and his hands will finish it." It by no means follows from this that the candlestick, with its seven lamps, represented Zerubbabel's temple (Grotius, Hofmann); for whilst it is impossible that the candlestick, as one article of furniture in the temple, should be a figurative representation of the whole temple, what could the two olive trees, which supplied the candlestick with oil, signify with such an interpretation? Still less can the seven lamps represent the seven eyes of God (Zechariah 4:10), according to which the candlestick would be a symbol of God or of the Spirit (Hitzig, Maurer, Schegg). The significance of the candlestick in the holy place centred, as I have shown in my biblische Archologie (i. p. 107), in its seven lamps, which were lighted every evening, and burned through the night. The burning lamps were a symbol of the church or of the nation of God, which causes the light of its spirit, or of its knowledge of God, to shine before the Lord, and lets it stream out into the night of a world estranged from God. As the disciples of Christ were called, as lights of the world (Matthew 5:14), to let their lamps burn and shine, or, as candlesticks in the world (Luke 12:35; Philippians 2:15), to shine with their light before men (Matthew 5:16), so as the church of the Old Testament also. The correctness of this explanation of the meaning of the candlestick is placed beyond all doubt by Revelation 1:20, where the seven λυχνίαι, which John saw before the throne of God, are explained as being the seven ἐκκλησίαι, which represent the new people of God, viz., the Christian church. The candlestick itself merely comes into consideration here as the stand which carried the lamps, in order that they might shine, and as such was the divinely appointed form for the realization of the purpose of the shining lamps. In this respect it might be taken as a symbol of the kingdom of God on its formal side, i.e., of the divinely appointed organism for the perpetuation and life of the church. But the lamps received their power to burn from the oil, with which they had to be filled before they could possibly burn.

Oil, regarded according to its capacity to invigorate the body and increase the energy of the vital spirits, is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the Spirit of God, not in its transcendent essence, but so far as it works in the world, and is indwelling in the church; and not merely the anointing oil, as Kliefoth supposes, but also the lamp oil, since the Israelites had no other oil than olive oil even for burning, and this was used for anointing also.

(Note: The distinction between lamp oil and anointing oil, upon which Kliefoth founds his interpretation of the visionary candlestick, and which he tries to uphold from the language itself, by the assertion that the anointing oil is always called shemen, whereas the lamp oil is called yitshâr, is shown to be untenable by the simple fact that, in the minute description of the preparation of the lamp oil for the sacred candlestick, and the repeated allusion to this oil in the Pentateuch, the term yitshâr is never used, but always shemen, although the word yitshâr is by no means foreign to the Pentateuch, but occurs in Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 12:17, and other passages. According to Exodus 27:20, the lamp oil for the candlestick was to be prepared from shemen zayith zâkh kâthı̄th, pure, beaten olive oil (so also according to Leviticus 24:2); and according to Exodus 30:24, shemen zayith, olive oil, was to be used for anointing oil. Accordingly the lamp oil for the candlestick is called shemen lammâ'ōr in Exodus 25:6; Exodus 35:8, Exodus 35:28, and shemen hammâ'ōr in Exodus 35:14; Exodus 39:37, and Numbers 4:16; and the anointing oil is called shemen hammishchâh in Exodus 29:7; Exodus 31:11; Exodus 35:15; Exodus 39:38; Exodus 40:9; Leviticus 8:20, Leviticus 8:10, and other passages; and shemen miwshchath-qōdesh in Exodus 30:25. Apart from Zechariah 4:14 of the chapter before us, yitshâr is never used for the lamp oil as such, but simply in the enumeration of the productions of the land, or of the tithes and first-fruits, when it occurs in connection with tı̄rōsh, must or new wine (Numbers 18:12; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 18:4; Deuteronomy 28:51; 2 Chronicles 31:5; 2 Chronicles 32:28; Nehemiah 5:11; Nehemiah 10:39; Nehemiah 13:12; Hosea 2:9, Hosea 2:22; Joel 1:10; Joel 2:19, Joel 2:24; Jeremiah 31:12; Haggai 1:11), but never in connection with yayin (wine), with which shemen is connected (1 Chronicles 12:40; 2 Chronicles 2:14; 2 Chronicles 11:11; Proverbs 21:17; Jeremiah 40:10). It is evident from this that yitshâr, the shining, bears the same relation to shemen, fatness, as tı̄rōsh, must, to yayin, wine, - namely, that yitshâr is applied to oil as the juice of the olive, i.e., as the produce of the land, from its shining colour, whilst shemen is the name given to it when its strength and use are considered. Hengstenberg's opinion, that yitshâr is the rhetorical or poetical name for oil, has no real foundation in the circumstance that yitshâr only occurs once in the first four books of the Pentateuch (Numbers 18:12) and shemen occurs very frequently; whereas in Deuteronomy yitshâr is used more frequently than shemen, viz., the former six times, and the latter four.)

And in the case of the candlestick, the oil comes into consideration as a symbol of the Spirit of God. There is no force in Kliefoth's objection - namely, that inasmuch as the oil of the candlestick was to be presented by the people, it could not represent the Holy Spirit with its power and grace, as coming from God to man, but must rather represent something human, which being given up to God, is cleansed by God through the fire of His word and Spirit; and being quickened thereby, is made into a shining light. For, apart from the fact that the assumption upon which this argument is founded - namely, that in the oil of the candlestick the Spirit of God was symbolized by the altar fire with which it was lighted - is destitute of all scriptural support, since it is not mentioned anywhere that the lamps of the candlestick were lighted with fire taken from the altar of burnt-offering, but it is left quite indefinite where the light or fire for kindling the lamps was to be taken from; apart, I say, from this, such an argument proves too much (nimium, ergo nihil), because the anointing oil did not come directly from God, but was also presented by the people. Supposing, therefore, that this circumstance was opposed to the symbolical meaning of the lamp oil, it would also be impossible that the anointing oil should be a symbol of the Holy Ghost, since not only the oil, but the spices also, which were used in preparing the anointing oil, were given by the people (Exodus 25:6). We might indeed say, with Kliefoth, that "the oil, as the fatness of the fruit of the olive tree, is the last pure result of the whole of the vital process of the olive tree, and therefore the quintessence of its nature; and that man also grows, and flourishes, and bears fruit like an olive tree; and therefore the fruit of his life's fruit, the produce of his personality and of the unfolding of his life, may be compared to oil." But it must also be added (and this Kliefoth has overlooked), that the olive tree could not grow, flourish, and bear fruit, unless God first of all implanted or communicated the power to grow and bear fruit, and then gave it rain and sunshine and the suitable soil for a prosperous growth. And so man also requires, for the production of spiritual fruits of life, not only the kindling of this fruit by the fire of the word and Spirit of God, but also the continued nourishment and invigoration of this fruit through God's word and Spirit, just as the lighting and burning of the lamps are not effected simply by the kindling of the flame, but it is also requisite that the oil should possess the power to burn and shine. In this double respect the candlestick, with its burning and shining lamps, was a symbol of the church of God, which lets the fruit of its life, which is not only kindled but also nourished by the Holy Spirit, shine before God. And the additions made to the visionary candlestick indicate generally, that the church of the Lord will be supplied with the conditions and requirements necessary to enable it to burn and shine perpetually, i.e., that the daughter of Zion will never fail to have the Spirit of God, to make its candlestick bright. (See at Zechariah 4:14.)

There is no difficulty whatever in reconciling the answer of the angel in Zechariah 4:6 with the meaning of the candlestick, as thus unfolded according to its leading features, without having to resort to what looks like a subterfuge, viz., the idea that Zechariah 4:6 does not contain an exposition, but passes on to something new, or without there being any necessity to account, as Koehler does, for the introduction of the candlestick, which he has quite correctly explained (though he weakens the explanation by saying that it applies primarily to Zerubbabel), namely, by assuming that "it was intended, on the one hand, to remind him what the calling of Israel was; and, on the other hand, to admonish him that Israel could never reach this calling by the increase of its might and the exaltation of its strength, but solely by suffering itself to be filled with the Spirit of Jehovah." For the candlestick does not set forth the object after which Israel is to strive, but symbolizes the church of God, as it will shine in the splendour of the light received through the Spirit of God. It therefore symbolizes the future glory of the people of God. Israel will not acquire this through human power and might, but through the Spirit of the Lord, in whose power Zerubbabel will accomplish the work he has begun. Zechariah 4:7 does not contain a new promise for Zerubbabel, that if he lays to heart the calling of Israel, and acts accordingly, i.e., if he resists the temptation to bring Israel into a free and independent position by strengthening its external power, the difficulties which have lain in the way of the completion of the building of the temple will clear away of themselves by the command of Jehovah (Koehler). For there is not the slightest intimation of any such temptation as that supposed to have presented itself to Zerubbabel, either in the vision itself or in the historical and prophetical writings of that time. Moreover, Zechariah 4:7 has not at all the form of a promise, founded upon the laying to heart of what has been previously mentioned. The contents of the verse are not set forth as anything new either by נאם יהוה (saith Jehovah), or by any other introductory formula. It can only be a further explanation of the word of Jehovah, which is still covered by the words "saith Jehovah of hosts" at the close of Zechariah 4:6. The contents of the verse, when properly understood, clearly lead to this. The great mountain before Zerubbabel is to become a plain, not by human power, but by the Spirit of Jehovah. The meaning is given in the second hemistich: He (Zerubbabel) will bring out the top-stone. והוציא (is not a simple preterite, "he has brought out the foundation-stone" (viz., at the laying of the foundation of the temple), as Hengstenberg supposes, but a future, "he will bring out," as is evident from the Vav consec., through which הוציא is attached to the preceding command as a consequence to which it leads. Moreover, אבן הראשׁה does not mean the foundation-stone, which is called אבן פּנּה, lit., corner-stone (Job 38:6; Isaiah 28:16; Jeremiah 51:26), or ראשׁ פּנּה, the head-stone of the corner (Psalm 118:22), but the stone of the top, i.e., the finishing or gable stone (הראשׁה with raphe as a feminine form of ראשׁ, and in apposition to האבן). הוציא, to bring out, namely out of the workshop in which it had been cut, to set it in its proper place in the wall. That these words refer to the finishing of the building of the temple which Zerubbabel had begun, is placed beyond all doubt by Zechariah 4:9.

The great mountain, therefore, is apparently "a figure denoting the colossal difficulties, which rose up mountain high at the continuation and completion of the building of the temple." Koehler adopts this explanation in common with "the majority of commentators." But, notwithstanding this appearance, we must adhere to the view adopted by the Chald., Jerome, Theod. Mops., Theodoret, Kimchi, Luther, and others, that the great mountain is a symbol of the power of the world, or the imperial power, and see no difficulty in the "unwarrantable consequence" spoken of by Koehler, viz., that in that case the plain must be a symbol of the kingdom of God (see, on the contrary, Isaiah 40:4). For it is evident from what follows, that the passage refers to something greater than this, namely to the finishing of the building of the temple that has already begun, or to express it briefly and clearly, that the building of the temple of stone and wood is simply regarded as a type of the building of the kingdom of God, as Zechariah 4:9 clearly shows. There was a great mountain standing in the way of this building of Zerubbabel's - namely the power of the world, or the imperial power - and this God would level to a plain. Just as, in the previous vision, Joshua is introduced as the representative of the high-priesthood, so here Zerubbabel, the prince of Judah, springing from the family of David, comes into consideration not as an individual, but according to his official rank as the representative of the government of Israel, which is now so deeply humbled by the imperial power. But the government of Israel has no reality or existence, except in the government of Jehovah. The family of David will rise up into a new royal power and glory in the Tsemach, whom Jehovah will bring forth as His servant (Zechariah 3:8). This servant of Jehovah will fill the house of God, which Zerubbabel has built, with glory. In order that this may be done, Zerubbabel must build the temple, because the temple is the house in which Jehovah dwells in the midst of His people. On account of this importance of the temple in relation to Israel, the opponents of Judah sought to throw obstacles in the way of its being built; and these obstacles were a sign and prelude of the opposition which the imperial power of the world, standing before Zerubbabel as a great mountain, will offer to the kingdom of God. This mountain is to become a plain. What Zerubbabel the governor of Judah has begun, he will bring to completion; and as he will finish the building of the earthly temple, so will the true Zerubbabel, the Messiah, Tsemach, the servant of Jehovah, build the spiritual temple, and make Israel into a candlestick, which is supplied with oil by two olive trees, so that its lamps may shine brightly in the world. In this sense the angel's reply gives an explanation of the meaning of the visionary candlestick. Just as, according to the economy of the Old Testament, the golden candlestick stood in the holy place of the temple before the face of Jehovah, and could only shine there, so does the congregation, which is symbolized by the candlestick, need a house of God, that it may be able to cause its light to shine. This house is the kingdom of God symbolized by the temple, which was to be built by Zerubbabel, not by human might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. In this building the words "He will bring forth the top-stone" find their complete and final fulfilment. The finishing of this building will take place תּשׁאות חן חן להּ, i.e., amidst loud cries of the people, "Grace, grace unto it." תּשׁאות is an accusative of more precise definition, or of the attendant circumstances (cf. Ewald, 204, a), and signifies noise, tumult, from שׁוא equals שׁאה, a loud cry (Job 39:7; Isaiah 22:2). The suffix לּהּ refers, so far as the form is concerned, to האבן הראשׁה, but actually to habbayith, the temple which is finished with the gable-stone. To this stone (so the words mean) may God direct His favour or grace, that the temple may stand for ever, and never be destroyed again.

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