For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
For, behold, in those days, etc. "In this chapter the prophet returns from the parenthetic view which he had exhibited of the commencement of the Christian dispensation and the overthrow of the Jewish polity, to deliver predictions respecting events that were to transpire subsequent to the Babylonish captivity, and fill up the space which should intervene between the restoration of the Jews and the first advent of Christ. He announces the judgment to be holden on their enemies after their return to Judaea" (Henderson). And in these two verses he specifies the reason why they were to be punished. Our subject is the persecution of good men on earth.
I. THERE HAVE EVER BEEN GOOD MEN ON EARTH. Corrupt as the world has been for sixty centuries, there have always been in every generation some men whose characters in the main have been good, and in whom the great Governor of the world has manifested a special interest. These are in the holy book called by a large variety of names. They are called here:
1. "My people. They are his.
(1) They have surrendered themselves to his will All others are controlled by a variety of laws, they evermore by his will. Whatever they do, in word or deed, they are inspired by a loving loyalty to his will. They are his faithful servants, his loyal subjects, his loving children begotten again by his will.
(2) He has pledged them his loving guardianship. He is their Shepherd. He leads them by still waters." He is their Father. "As a father pitieth his children." He makes for them all necessary provision, both for this life and for the life that is to come.
2. "My heritage. In Exodus 19:5 you have these words, Now therefore if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine." He who owns the universe, esteems holy souls as the most valuable of his possessions. The vast universe of matter is in his estimation worth nothing in comparison with one truly virtuous spirit.
II. THESE GOOD MEN ON EARTH HAVE GENERALLY BEEN SUBJECT TO PERSECUTION. "Whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land." The faithful and the true amongst the Jews had, subsequent to their restoration from Babylonish captivity, been driven by violence amongst the nations. The indignities and cruelties which they. were subject are specified in the subsequent verses. "Persecution.". says an old writer, "is the reigning sin of the world." The enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent has shown itself from the beginning. "Marvel not," said Christ, "that the world hate you." There is a persecution that, whilst it does not involve bonds, imprisonments, and physical violences, involves the malice of hell, and inflicts grievous injury. There is social calumny, scorn, degradation, and various disabilities. The good must ever suffer in a world like this for conscience' sake.
III. THEIR PERSECUTION WILL BE AVENGED BY HEAVEN. "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel." It is not necessary to suppose that the valley of Jehoshaphat here means the vale through which the Kedron flows, lying between the city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives; or the valley of blessings mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20., or any other particular place. Its literal meaning is, "the valley where God judgeth." It means here the scene where God would deal out retribution upon the nations that persecuted his people. It was in the valley of Jehoshaphat that in all probability the army of Sennacherib was slain by Heaven's avenging angel. Ah! the time hastens when persecutors of all types and ages will have full retribution dealt out to them in some great valley of Jehoshaphat. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,