Zechariah 4:10
For who has despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
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Zechariah 4:1 - Zechariah 4:10

THE preceding vision had reference to Joshua the priest, and showed him restored to his prerogative of entrance into the sanctuary. This one concerns his colleague Zerubbabel, the representative of civil power, as he of ecclesiastical, and promises that he shall succeed in rebuilding the Temple. The supposition is natural that the actual work of reconstruction was mainly in the hands of the secular ruler.

Flesh is weak, and the Prophet had fallen into deep sleep, after the tension of the previous vision. That had been shown him by Jehovah, but in this vision we have the same angel interpreter who had spoken with Zechariah before. He does not bring the vision, but simply wakes the Prophet that he may see it, and directs his attention to it by the question, ‘What seest thou?’ The best way to teach is to make the learner put his conceptions into definite words. We see things more clearly, and they make a deeper impression, when we tell what we see. How many lazy looks we give at things temporal as well as at things eternal, after which we should be unable to answer the Angel’s question! It is not every one who sees what he looks at.

The passage has two parts-the vision and its interpretation, with related promises.

The vision may be briefly disposed of. Its original is the great lamp which stood in the tabernacle, and was replaced in the Solomonic Temple by ten smaller ones. These had been carried away at the Captivity, and we do not read of their restoration. But the main thing to note is the differences between this lamp and the one in the tabernacle. The description here confines itself to these: They are three-the ‘bowl’ or reservoir above the lamp, the pipes from it to the seven lights, and the two olive-trees which stood on either side of the lamp and replenished from their branches the supply in the reservoir. The tabernacle lamp had no reservoir, and consequently no pipes, but was fed with oil by the priests. The meaning of the variations, then, is plain. They were intended to express the fuller and more immediately divine supply of oil. If the Revised Version’s rendering of the somewhat doubtful numerals in Zechariah 4:2 be accepted, each several light had seven pipes, thus expressing the perfection of its supplies.

Now, there can be no doubt about the symbolism of the tabernacle lamp. It represented the true office of Israel, as it rayed out its beams into the darkness of the desert. It meant the same thing as Christ’s words, ‘Ye are the light of the world,’ and as the vision of the seven golden candlesticks, in Revelation 1:12 - Revelation 1:13, Revelation 1:20. The substitution of separate lamps for one with seven lights may teach the difference between the mere formal unity of the people of God in the Old Testament and the true oneness, conjoined with diversity, in the New Testament Church, which is one because Christ walks in the midst. Zechariah’s lamp, then, called to the minds of the little band of restored exiles their high vocation, and the changed arrangements for the supply of that oil, which is the standing emblem for divine communications fitting for service, or, to keep to the metaphor, fitting to shine, signified the abundance of these.

The explanation of the vision is introduced, as at Zechariah 1:9, Zechariah 1:19, by the Prophet’s question of its meaning. His angelic teacher is astonished at his dullness, as indeed heavenly eyes must often be at ours, and asks if he does not know so familiar an object. The Prophet’s ‘No, my Lord,’ brings full explanation. Ingenuously acknowledged ignorance never asks Heaven for enlightenment in vain.

First, the true source of strength and success, as shown by the vision, is declared in plain terms. What fed the lamp? Oil, which symbolises the gift of a divine Spirit, if not in the full personal sense as in the New Testament, yet certainly as a God-breathed influence, preparing prophets, priests, kings, and even artificers, for their several forms of service. Whence came the oil? From the two olive-trees, which though, as Zechariah 4:14 shows, they represented the two leaders, yet set forth the truth that their power for their work was from God; for the Bible knows nothing of ‘nature’ as a substitute for or antithesis to God, and the growth of the olive and its yield of oil is His doing.

This, then, was the message for Zerubbabel and his people, that God would give such gifts as they needed, in order that the light which He Himself had kindled should not be quenched. If the lamp was fed with oil, it would burn, and there would be a Temple for it to stand in. If we try to imagine the feebleness of the handful of discouraged men, and the ring of enemies round them, we may feel the sweetness of the promise which bade them not despond because they had little of what the world calls might.

We all need the lesson; for the blustering world is apt to make us forget the true source of all real strength for holy service or for noble living. The world’s power at its mightiest is weak, and the Church’s true power, at her feeblest, is omnipotent, if only she grasps the strength which is hers, and takes the Spirit which is given. The eternal antithesis of man’s weakness at his haughtiest, and God’s strength even in its feeblest possessors, is taught by that lamp flaming, whatever envious hands or howling storms might seek to quench it, because fed by oil from on high. Let us keep to God’s strength, and not corrupt His oil with mixtures of foul-smelling stuff of our own compounding.

Next, in the strength of that revelation of the source of might a defiant challenge is blown to the foe. The ‘great mountain’ is primarily the frowning difficulties which lifted themselves against Zerubbabel’s enterprise, and more widely the whole mass of worldly opposition encountered by God’s servants in every age. It seems to bar all advance; but an unseen Hand crushes it down, and flattens it out into a level, on which progress is easy. The Hebrew gives the suddenness and completeness of the transformation with great force; for the whole clause, ‘Thou shalt become a plain,’ is one word in the original.

Such triumphant rising above difficulties is not presumption when it has been preceded by believing gaze on the source of strength. If we have taken to heart the former words of the Prophet, we shall not be in danger of rash overconfidence when we calmly front obstacles in the path of duty, assured that every mountain shall be made low. A brave scorn of the world, both in its sweetnesses and its terrors, befits God’s men, and is apt to fulfil its own confidences; for most of these terrors are like ghosts, who will not wait to be spoken to, but melt away if fairly faced. Nor should we forget the other side of this thought; namely, that it is the constant drift of Providence to abase the lofty in mind, and to raise the lowly. What is high is sure to get many knocks which pass over lower heads. To men of faith every mountain shall either become a plain or be cast into the sea.

Then follows, on the double revelation of the source of strength and the futility of opposition, the assurance of the successful completion of the work. The stone which is to crown the structure shall be brought forth and set in its place amid jubilant prayers not offered in vain, that ‘grace’-that is, the protecting favour of God-may rest on it.

The same thought is reiterated and enlarged in the next ‘word,’ which is somewhat separated from the former, as if the flow of prophetic communication had paused for a moment, and then been resumed. In Zechariah 4:9 we have the assurance, so seldom granted to God’s workers, that Zerubbabel shall be permitted to complete the task which he had begun. It is the fate of most of us to inherit unfinished work from our predecessors, and to bequeath the like to our successors. And in one aspect, all human work is unfinished, as being but a fragment of the fulfilment of the mighty purpose which runs through all the ages. Yet some are more happy than others, in that they see an approximate completion of their work. But whether it be so or not, our task is to ‘do the little we can do, and leave the rest with God,’ sure that He will work all the fragments into a perfect whole, and content to do the smallest bit of service for Him. Few of us are strong enough to do separate building. We are like coral insects, whose reef is one, though its makers are millions.

Zerubbabel finished his task, but its end was but a new beginning of an order of things of which he did not see the end. There are no beginnings or endings, properly speaking, in human affairs, but all is one unbroken flow. One man only has made a real new beginning, and that is Jesus Christ; and He only will really carry His work to its very last issues. He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending. He is the Foundation of the true Temple, and He is also the Headstone of the corner, the foundation on which all rests, the apex to which all runs up. ‘When He begins, He will also make an end.’

The completion of the work is to be the token that the ‘angel who spake with me’ was God’s messenger. We can know that before the fulfilment, but we cannot but know it after. Better to be sure that the message is from God while yet the certainty is the result of faith, than to be sure of it afterwards, when the issue has shattered and shamed our doubts.

If we realise that God’s Spirit is the guarantee for the success of work done for God, we shall escape the vulgar error of measuring the importance of things by their size, as, no doubt, many of these builders were doing. No one will help on the day of great things who despises that of small ones. They say that the seeds of the ‘big trees’ in California are the smallest of all the conifers. I do not vouch for the truth of the statement, but God’s work always begins with little seeds, as the history of the Church and of every good cause shows. ‘What do these feeble Jews?’ sneered the spectators of their poor little walls, painfully piled up, over which a fox could jump. They did very little, but they were building the city of God, which has outlasted all the mockers.

Men might look with contempt on the humble beginning, but other eyes than theirs looked at it with other emotions. The eyes which in the last vision were spoken of as directed on the foundation stone, gaze on the work with joy. These are the seven eyes of ‘the Lord,’ which are ‘the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth’ {Revelation 5:6}. The Spirit is here contemplated in the manifoldness of His operations rather than in the unity of His person. Thus the closing assurance, which involves the success of the work, since God’s eyes rest on it with delight, comes round to the first declaration, ‘Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit.’ Note the strong contrast between ‘despise’ and ‘rejoice.’ What matter the scoffs of mockers, if God approves? What are they but fools who look at that which moves His joy, and find in it only food for scorn? What will become of their laughter at last? If we try to get so near God as to see things with His eyes, we shall be saved from many a false estimate of what is great and what is small, and may have our own poor little doings invested with strange dignity, because He deigns to behold and bless them.Zechariah 4:10. For who hath despised — The sense would be plainer if the particle for were omitted, as it is in most other versions; namely, thus: Who hath despised the day of small things? they shall rejoice, &c. — That is, who, or where are they, who despised the small beginnings of my temple, when the foundations of it were laid again in order to rebuild it? They shall be made glad, or they shall now have occasion to break out into joyful acclamations; instead of sorrowing, as many of them did, Ezra 3:12, on account of what seemed contemptible in their eyes. In the work of God, the day of small things is not to be despised. God often chooses weak instruments to bring about mighty things: and though the beginnings be small, he can make the latter end greatly to increase. Though many of the Jews undervalued the mean and unpromising appearance of the second temple when it began to be built, yet, it is here foretold, that when finished they should rejoice in it. “By the day of small things,” says Blayney, “I suppose to be meant the time when the resources of the Jewish nation appeared in the eyes of many, even well wishers, so small and inadequate to the building of the temple, against a powerful opposition, that they despaired of seeing it carried into effect. Such persons would, of course, rejoice, when the event turned out so contrary to their expectations.” Shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel — The perpendicular line with which he should try the finished work; with these seven — In subordination to the divine providence, expressed by the seven eyes which were on that stone. And those that have the plummet in their hand must look up to these eyes of the Lord, must have a constant regard to the divine providence, and act in dependance upon its conduct, and in submission to its disposals. But both the LXX. and the Vulgate render this clause more agreeably to the Hebrew, dividing it into two distinct sentences, thus: They shall rejoice, and see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. Those seven [namely, eyes] are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth; that is, his wise and watchful providence is always attentive to the concerns of his church, and is continually superintending and ordering all events for its benefit. It must be observed, however, that here again, as in chap. Zechariah 3:9, (where see the note,) Blayney reads fountains instead of eyes, observing, “The lamps, considered as part of the furniture belonging to the candlestick, that is, the church, can represent no other than the ministers and dispensers of evangelical light and knowledge: in which sense our Saviour says of them, Ye are the light of the world, Matthew 5:14. These, taken in conjunction with their pipes, may not improperly be represented as fountains, or conduits, for conveying and communicating to others the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, with which they are replenished themselves. And as fountains they are said to run to and fro through the whole earth, which was, in an eminent degree, seen in the apostles and first preachers of the gospel; whose sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world, Romans 10:18.”4:8-10 The exact fulfilment of Scripture prophecies is a convincing proof of their Divine original. Though the instruments be weak and unlikely, yet God often chooses such, to bring about great things by them. Let not the dawning light be despised; it will shine more and more to the perfect day. Those who despaired of finishing the work, shall rejoice when they see Zerubbabel giving directions what to do, and taking care that the work be done. It is a comfort to us that the same all-wise, almighty Providence, which governs the earth, is in particular conversant about the church. All that have the plummet in their hands, must look up to the eyes of the Lord, have constant regard to Divine Providence, act in dependence on its guidance and submission to its disposals. Let us fix our faith on Christ, and view Him carrying on his work according to his own glorious plan, and daily bringing his spiritual building nearer to completion.The simplest rendering is marked by the accents. "For who hath despised the day of small things? and (that is, seeing that there have rejoiced and seen the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, these seven, the Eyes of the Lord, they are running to and fro in all the earth," 1:e., since God hath with joy and good-pleasure beheld the progress of the work of Zerubbabel, who can despise the day of small things? The day of small things was not only that of the foundation of the temple, but of its continued building also. The old men indeed, "that had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes" Ezra 4:12. But while in progress too, Haggai asks, "Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory? And how do ye see it now? is not in your eyes such as it, as nothing?" Haggai 2:3. But that temple was to see the day of great things, when "the later glory of this house shall be greater than the former, and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts" Haggai 2:9.

They are the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro - He uses almost the words of the prophet Hanani to Asa, "the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9 yet this assurance that God's watchful providence is over the whole earth, betokens more than the restoration of the material temple, whose only hindrance could be the will of one man, Darius.

The day of small things - is especially God's day, whose "strength is made perfect in weakness; who raised Joseph from the prison, David from the sheepfold, Daniel from slavery, and converted the world by the fishermen and the tentmaker, having Himself first become the Carpenter. "Wouldest thou be great? Become little." "Whenever," said Theresa, (Ribera, vita Ther. ap. Lap.), "I am to receive some singular grace, I first annihilate myself, sink into my own nothingness, so as to seem to myself to be nothing, be capable of nothing."

10. who … despised … small things—He reproves their ungrateful unbelief, which they felt because of the humble beginning, compared with the greatness of the undertaking; and encourages them with the assurance that their progress in the work, though small, was an earnest of great and final success, because Jehovah's eye is upon Zerubbabel and the work, to support Him with His favor. Contrast, "great is the day of Jezreel" (Ho 1:11) with "the day of small things" here.

they shall rejoice … with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord—rather, "they, even those seven eyes of the Lord (compare Zec 3:9), which … shall rejoice and see (that is, rejoicingly see) the plummet (literally, the 'stone of tin') in the hand of Zerubbabel" [Moore]; the plummet in his hand indicating that the work is going forward to its completion. The Hebrew punctuation, however, favors English Version, of which the sense is, They who incredulously "despised" such "small" beginnings of the work as are made now, shall rejoicingly see its going on to completion under Zerubbabel, "with (the aid of) those seven," namely, the "seven eyes upon one stone" (Zec 3:9): which are explained, "They are the eyes of the Lord which," &c. [Pembellus]. So differently do men and Jehovah regard the "small" beginnings of God's work (Ezr 3:12; Hag 2:3). Men "despised" the work in its early stage: God rejoicingly regards it, and shall continue to do so.

run to and fro, &c.—Nothing in the whole earth escapes the eye of Jehovah, so that He can ward off all danger from His people, come from what quarter it may, in prosecuting His work (Pr 15:3; 1Co 16:9).

And now for those that despised small beginnings; who they are is well known, and to them I say, and promise what they expected not.

Despised the day of small things; of which Haggai 2:3.

For, or

but, notwithstanding they so much undervalued the meanness of the second temple, yet when finished they shall, with many others, rejoice in it.

The plummet; the perpendicular with which Zerubbabel shall try the finished work, or the work near finishing.

With those seven; in subordination to and co-working with the Divine Providence, expressed emblematically by the seven eyes, which were on that stone, of which Zechariah 3:9. Though Zerubbabel were prudent in managing all the affairs of the Jews, Jerusalem, and the temple, yet not his prudence, but the infinite wisdom of God, gave success; and when the success appears in the finishing of the temple, then shall it be acknowledged an admirable work of the Divine wisdom, and the Jews shall confess that

the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth, have been upon them in this work for good, and that God hath showed himself on their behalf. For who hath despised the day of small things?.... This literally refers to the building of the second temple, which was contemptible to the enemies of Judah, Sanballat, and others; and little in the eyes of many of the Jews themselves, who had seen the former temple; yet not in the eyes of the Lord of hosts, Ezra 3:12 and so the Targum paraphrases the words,

"for who is he that despiseth this day, because the building is small?''

but in the spiritual sense, to the building up of the church by conversion: the first work of conversion may be called day "of small things" to men; it may be called a "day", because a time of light into themselves, their sin and danger, and the way from it; the day of Christ's power upon the soul, in making it willing to quit all, and be saved by him; a season in which there is a display of the love, grace, and mercy of God unto it; and is the day of its espousals to Christ; and the day of salvation, of the knowledge and application of it; and of good tidings, of peace, pardons, and life, by Christ; and yet a day of "small things": not that what is done or made known are small things in themselves; but the light and knowledge which young converts have of themselves, of Christ, and of the doctrines of the Gospel, is but small; and so is their faith in Christ, but a mere venture on him, or a peradventure there may be salvation in him for them also; and their spiritual strength to exercise grace, do their duty, comfort from Christ, and in the promises and experience of the everlasting love of God, are but small at first; yet this day of small things is not to be "despised": it is not by Jehovah the Father, who regards their prayers, and does not despise them, though like the chatterings of a crane or swallow; he takes them by the hand, leads them, and teaches them to walk by faith, and proportions their duty to their strength, and their strength to their day: nor by Jesus Christ, who delights in their applications to him, and never rejects them; regards his buds in his vineyards, the beginnings of grace; the lambs in his flock, the weak and feeble; and the bruised reed, and smoking flax, who have but little light and grace: nor by the Holy Spirit, who helps their infirmities, makes intercession for them with groans unutterable; carries on the good work in them, and performs it till the day of Christ: nor should it be despised by men of greater light, faith, and experience; though it is no wonder they should be despised by carnal men; but even for them to despise one of the little ones that believe in him is resented by him. The interest of Christ in general is sometimes "a day of small things": it was so among the Jews at the time of Christ's ascension; and among the Gentiles, at the first preaching of the Gospel to them; and so it was at the time of the Reformation, and is so now: Jacob is small, but there is a day coming, called the great day of Jezreel, Hosea 1:11.

For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven: which may literally respect the building of the second temple; and that was expressed not only at the laying of the foundation, Ezra 3:11 but at the carrying of it on, and especially at the finishing of it, Ezra 6:14 when they saw the building rise under, the direction and encouragement of Zerubbabel, who is represented here as a master builder, with a "plummet" in his hand; which is an instrument used by masons and carpenters, to draw perpendicular lines with, in order to judge whether the building is upright; and is so called from a piece of lead fastened at the end of a cord or thread. In the Hebrew text it is called a "stone of tin" (r); it may be, in those times, they used a stone for this purpose, cased with tin or lead. And, "those seven" with him may mean seven principal persons that joined with him, and assisted him in this work: though some interpret them of the seven lamps, and the seven pipes to them, in the candlestick; and the Targum explains them of "seven rows of stone", measured by the plummet: but rather they are to be understood of the eyes of the Lord, after mentioned, which were upon the Jews, in favour of the building, that it might not be caused to cease by their enemies, Ezra 5:5 though Cocceius chooses to render the words thus, "and those seven shall rejoice, and see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel"; and applies them to the seven churches of Asia, representatives of the whole church of Christ, in successive periods, rejoicing at the growing interest of Christ; and doubtless the mystical and spiritual sense of the words is, that it is matter of rejoicing to gracious souls when the spiritual building goes forward, under the direction and encouragement of Christ. The carrying on of the work of grace in particular believers affords joy and pleasure. This work is in the hands and under the care of Christ; it is curiously wrought and framed by line and rule, and goes on to perfection; which being observed by others, though it is the nature of grace to desire more, yet it does not envy the gifts and graces of others, but rejoices at them. The carrying on of the work of God in the church in general is an occasion of great joy to the saints; they rejoice that it is in such hands; not in the hands of ministers or magistrates, or even angels, but in the hands of Christ; who is so great, and has condescended to engage in it; has so much wisdom to manage and conduct it; is so faithful in everything he is concerned, and is so able to go through with it: they rejoice that it is carried on with so much exactness; that the whole building is so fitly framed and compacted together; everything in the church being done according to the plummet of God's everlasting love and eternal purposes, which plummet is with Christ, Romans 8:39 according to which persons are called by grace; the blessings of grace are bestowed on them; and they are put in such an office or place in the church: and as this building goes on by an increase of persons, or an addition of such as shall be saved; and by an increase of grace, gifts, and spiritual knowledge in them; it is matter of joy to angels and men, and especially to the ministers of the Gospel.

They are the eyes of the Lord, or "the eyes of the Lord are they" (s),

which run to and fro through the whole earth; these design not the angels, who walk to and fro through the earth, Zechariah 6:7 nor the various gifts and graces of the Spirit, Revelation 5:6 but rather the infinite providence of God, signified by an "eye"; it being intuitive, omniscient, approbative of that which is good, and vindictive of that which is evil; loving to, and careful of, the saints, making them prosperous and successful: and by "seven eyes", to denote the perfection and fulness of it; and these being said to run to and fro throughout the earth, expresses the large compass of persons and things it reaches to: and it may he observed, that the carrying on of the work of God, both in particular persons, and in the church of God in general, is attended with and owing to his special providence, as well as grace.

(r) "lapidem stanni", Montanus, Drusius, Cocceius; "lapidem stanneum", V. L. Vatablus, Calvin; "lapidem stannum", i. e. "cum stanno", so Burkius. (s) "oculi Jehovae sunt illi".

For who hath despised the day of {h} small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the {i} plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; {k} they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

(h) Signifying that all were discouraged at the small and poor beginnings of the temple.

(i) By which he signifies the plummet and line, that is, that Zerubbabel who represented Christ, would go forward with his building to the joy and comfort of the godly, though the world was against him, and though his own for a while were discouraged, because they do not see things pleasant to the eye.

(k) That is, God has seven eyes: meaning, a continual providence, so that neither Satan nor any power in the world, can go about to bring anything to pass to hinder his work; Zec 5:9.

10. with those seven] Rather, even these seven, as in R. V.

The meaning of the verse is: For who hath despised the day of small things? (comp: Haggai 2:3) For (seeing that) these seven eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro throughout all the earth, shall rejoice to see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. Since, then, God beholds the progress of the work with joy and favour, who will venture to despise it?Verse 10. - For who hath despised the day of small things? The "small things" are the weak and poor beginning of the temple (Haggai 2:3); as the Targum glosses, "on account of the edifice, because it was small." Small as the present work was, it was a pledge of the full completion, and was therefore not to be despised. So the question is equivalent to, "Can any one, after these promises and prophecies, presume to be doubtful about the future?" For they shall rejoice, etc. The subject of the verbs is that which comes last in position, the seven eyes of Jehovah; and the verse is best translated thus: "For (i.e. seeing that) these seven eyes of Jehovah, which run through all the earth, behold with joy the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel." The work is not contemptible, since the Lord regards it with favour, watches, and directs it. The LXX. and Vulgate (followed nearly by the Authorized Version) make the despisers the subject of the verbs, and lamely dissociate the final clause entirely from the preceding. The version given above is in accordance with the Masoretic accentuation. The plummet; literally, the stone, the tin; τὸν λίθον τὸν κασσιτέρινον (Septuagint); lapidem stanneum, "the stone of tin" (Vulgate). Tin is not found in Palestine; it was imported by the Phoenicians in great abundance, and from them the Jews obtained it. The supply must have come from Spain or Britain. With those seven. The preposition is an interpolation of the Authorized Version. It should be, "even these seven," explaining who are "they" at the head of the clause. The eyes of the Lord. The "seven eyes" have been already mentioned (Zechariah 3:9, where see note). They are expressive of God's watchful providence and care. Which run to and fro. This clause further enforces the previous image (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3). In Habakkuk 3:12 there follows a description of the judgment upon the nations for the rescue of the people of God. Habakkuk 3:12. "In fury Thou walkest through the earth, in wrath Thou stampest down nations. Habakkuk 3:13. Thou goest out to the rescue of Thy people, to the rescue of Thine anointed one; Thou dashest in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one, laying bare the foundation even to the neck. Selah. Habakkuk 3:14. Thou piercest with his spears the head of his hordes, which storm hither to beat me to powder, whose rejoicing is, as it were, to swallow the poor in secret. Habakkuk 3:15. Thou treadest upon the sea: Thy horses, upon the heap of great waters." The Lord, at whose coming in the terrible glory of the majesty of the Judge of the world all nature trembles and appears to fall into its primary chaotic state, marches over the earth, and stamps or tramples down the nations with His feet (compare the kindred figure of the treader of the winepress in Isaiah 63:1-6). Not all nations, however, but only those that are hostile to Him; for He has come forth to save His people and His anointed one. The perfects in Habakkuk 3:13-15 are prophetic, describing the future in spirit as having already occurred. יצא, referring to the going out of God to fight for His people, as in Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 5:24; Isaiah 42:13, etc. ישׁע, rescue, salvation, is construed the second time with an accusative like an inf. constr. (see Ewald, 239, a). The anointed of God is not the chosen, consecrated nation (Schnur., Ros., Hitzig, Ewald, etc.); for the nation of Israel is never called the anointed one (hammâshı̄ăch) by virtue of its calling to be "a kingdom of priests" (mamlekheth kohănı̄m, Exodus 19:6), neither in Psalm 28:8 nor in Psalm 84:10; Psalm 89:39. Even in Psalm 105:15 it is not the Israelites who are called by God "my anointed" (meshı̄chai), but the patriarchs, as princes consecrated by God (Genesis 23:6). And so here also משׁיחך is the divinely-appointed king of Israel; not, however, this or that historical king - say Josiah, Jehoiakim, or even Jehoiachin - but the Davidic king absolutely, including the Messiah, in whom the sovereignty of David is raised to an eternal duration, "just as by the Chaldaean king here and in Psalm 2:1-12 we must understand the Chaldaean kings generally" (Delitzsch), wince the prophecy spreads from the judgment upon the Chaldaeans to the universal judgment upon the nations, and the Chaldaean is merely introduced as the possessor of the imperial power. The Messiah as the Son of David is distinguished from Jehovah, and as such is the object of divine help, just as in Zechariah 9:9, where He is called נושׁע in this respect, and in the royal Messianic psalms. This help God bestows upon His people and His anointed, by dashing in pieces the head from the house of the wicked one. The râshâ‛ (wicked one) is the Chaldaean, not the nation, however, which is spoken of for the first time in Habakkuk 3:14, but the Chaldaean king, as chief of the imperial power which is hostile to the kingdom of God. But, as the following clause clearly shows, the house is the house in the literal sense, so that the "head," as part of the house, is the gable. A distinction is drawn between this and yeshōd, the foundation, and צוּאר, the neck, i.e., the central part looking from the gable downwards. The destruction takes place both from above and below at once, so that the gable and the foundation are dashed in pieces with one blow, and that even to the neck, i.e., up to the point at which the roof or gable rests upon the walls. עד, inclusive, embracing the part mentioned as the boundary; not exclusive, so as to leave the walls still rising up as ruins. The description is allegorical, the house representing the Chaldaean dynasty, the royal family including the king, but not "including the exalted Chaldaean kingdom in all its prosperity" (Hitzig). ערות, a rare form of the inf. abs., like שׁתות in Isaiah 22:13 (cf. Ewald, 240, b), from ערה, to make bare, to destroy from the very foundation, the infinitive in the sense of the gerund describing the mode of the action.

The warlike nation meets with the same fate as the royal house (Habakkuk 3:14). The meaning of the first clause of the verse depends upon the explanation to be given to the word perâzâv. There is no foundation for the meaning leaders or judges, which has been claimed for the word perâzı̄m ever since the time of Schroeder and Schnur. In Hebrew usage perâzı̄ signifies the inhabitant of the plain (Deuteronomy 3:5; 1 Samuel 6:18), and perâzōth the plains, the open flat land, as distinguished from walled cities (Ezekiel 38:11). Perâzōn has the same meaning in Judges 5:7 and Judges 5:11. Consequently Delitzsch derives perâzâv from a segholate noun perez or pērez, in the sense of the population settled upon the open country, the villagers and peasantry, whence the more general signification of a crowd or multitude of people, and here, since the context points to warriors, the meaning hordes, or hostile companies, which agrees with the Targum, Rashi, and Kimchi, who explain the word as signifying warriors or warlike troops. ראשׁ, the head of his hordes, cannot be the leader, partly because of what follows, "who come storming on," which presupposes that not the leader only, but the hordes or warriors, will be destroyed, and partly also because of the preceding verse, in which the destruction of the king is pronounced, and also because the distinction between the king and the leader of the army is at variance with the complex character of the prophetic description. We must take ראשׁ in the literal sense, but collectively, "heads." The prophet was led to the unusual figure of the piercing of the head by the reminiscence of the piercing of Sisera's head by Jael (Judges 5:26). The suffixes in בּמטּיו and פּרזו refer back to רשׁע. מטּיו, sticks, for lance or spears, after 2 Samuel 18:14. The meaning of the words is this: with the spear of the king God pierces the heads of his warlike troops; and the thought expressed is, that the hostile troops will slay one another in consequence of the confusion, as was the case in the wars described in 1 Samuel 14:20 and 2 Chronicles 20:23-24, and as, according to prophecy, the last hostile power of the world is to meet with its ruin when it shall attack the kingdom of God (Ezekiel 38:21; Zechariah 14:13). יסערוּ להף is to be taken relatively: "which storm hither (sâ‛ar, approach with the swiftness and violence of a storm) to destroy me." The prophet includes himself along with the nation, and uses hēphı̄ts with reference to the figure of the dispersion or powdering of the chaff by a stormy wind (Isaiah 41:16; Jeremiah 13:24; Jeremiah 18:17). עליצתם forms a substantive clause by itself: "their rejoicing is," for they who rejoice, as if to swallow, i.e., whose rejoicing is directed to this, to swallow the poor in secret. The enemies are compared to highway murderers, who lurk in dark corners for the defenceless traveller, and look forward with rejoicing for the moment when they may be able to murder him. עני forms the antithesis to רשׁע. Inasmuch as "the wicked" denotes the Chaldaean; "the poor" is the nation of Israel, i.e., the congregation of the righteous, who are really the people of God. To devour the poor, i.e., to take violent possession of his life and all that he has (cf. Proverbs 30:14, and for the fact itself, Psalm 10:8-10), is, when applied to a nation, to destroy it (vid., Deuteronomy 7:16 and Jeremiah 10:25).

In order that these enemies may be utterly destroyed, God passes through the sea. This thought in Habakkuk 3:15 connects the conclusion of the description of the judicial coming of God with what precedes. The drapery of the thought rests upon the fact of the destruction of Pharaoh and his horsemen in the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The sea, the heap of many waters, is not a figurative expression for the army of the enemy, but is to be taken literally. This is required by דּרכתּ ביּם, since דּרך with ב, to tread upon a place, or enter into it (cf. Micah 5:4; Isaiah 59:8; Deuteronomy 11:24-25), does not suit the figurative interpretation; and it is required still more by the parallel passages, viz., Psalm 77:20 (בּיּם דּרכּך), which floated before the prophet's mind, and Zechariah 10:11. Just as God went through the Red Sea in the olden time to lead Israel through, and to destroy the Egyptian army, so will He in the future go through the sea and do the same, when He goes forth to rescue His people out of the power of the Chaldaean. The prophet does not express the latter indeed, but it is implied in what he says. סוּסיך is an accusative, not instrumenti, however, but of more precise definition: thou, namely, according to thy horses; for "with thy horses," as in Psalm 83:19; Psalm 44:3 (אתּה ידך); cf. Ewald, 281, c, and 293, c. The horses are to be taken, as in Habakkuk 3:8, as harnessed to the chariots; and they are mentioned here with reference to the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, which were destroyed by Jehovah in the sea. Chōmer, in the sense of heap, as in Exodus 8:10, is not an accusative, but is still dependent upon the ב of the parallel clause. The expression "heap of many waters" serves simply to fill up the picture, as in Psalm 77:20.

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