Zechariah 2 Commentary: (verses 8-10) This world is full of problems. And our lives are the same way.
We deal with disappointment and fear and discouragement. We experience troubles at work and at school and at home. If our eyes are fixed on this world as if this world can deliver us any real comfort in these troubling arenas, then we’re going to experience a real let down.
But this world is not what we’re looking at. We’re looking to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to deliver his people. And when he comes, it won’t just be for the Church. Scripture teaches us that he’s coming to also rescue his people Israel. And that will be such a wonderful day when all of our problems are no more.
And so, let’s meditate together on the second chapter of the book of Zechariah where we see this blessed hope that we have described in some detail. We’ll study verses 8-10.
Now, let’s read the entirety of this vision that takes up all of Zechariah 2.
[Read Zec 2]
So, toward the end of what we studied last time in verse 7, we saw the Lord tell the Jews to flee from Babylon. Well, why do they need to flee?
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 8
Because something bad is coming on Babylon. And that’s just what we’re going to hear about in verses 8 and 9.
There is punishment coming for the nations – including Babylon – for Israel’s sake. And this punishment – which makes fleeing from these nations necessary for the Jews – will also vindicate the messenger who is giving this message.
8 For thus [saith/says] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];
[After the glory/After glory/For his own glory/After he has honored me and] hath he sent me [unto/against/to] the nations which [spoiled/plunder/plundered] you:
for [he that/he who/anyone who/whoever] toucheth you toucheth the [apple/pupil] of his eye.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: hath he sent me
Now, I think it’s helpful to consider all of these pronouns in this verse in order to try to understand what’s being said.
So, the Lord of Hosts is giving a message. That’s clear from the first few words of this verse.
And the Lord of Hosts says that “he” has sent “him.” Well – who is “he” and who is “him”?
It sounds like someone is sending the Lord of Hosts – doesn’t it? So, someone is sending the Lord of Hosts to the nations that plundered the Jews. Because who has the authority to send God to do anything?
Now, some people – because the concept of someone sending the Lord of Hosts is a bit unexpected – they think that this is speaking of Zechariah. As if Zechariah is saying that the Lord of Hosts has sent him to these nations.
But honestly – what encouragement would that be? That God is sending one prophet to the nations? That wouldn’t help them. Plus, Zechariah’s ministry seems to be confined to the Jews anyway.
So, I think that we’re left with the inescapable conclusion that someone is sending the Lord of Hosts himself to the nations that had abused Israel.
Now, who is able to send the Lord of Hosts to do anything? Who has any authority to send God to do anything? Does mankind have that ability? Can a human just send God to do some task?
And the answer of course is that no human has this authority to send the Lord of Hosts to do anything. Not even angelic beings have that authority.
So, who is sending the Lord of Hosts to or against the nations? It has to be God himself who’s doing the sending.
But think about what we’re saying then. God is sending…God. It sounds redundant. Of course, in the human realm to say that I am sending myself somewhere would be a little strange. And especially if I were to do that using the third person and said “he sent me to go do something” and I was referring to myself with both pronouns – “he” and “me” then it wouldn’t make much sense.
But this is where we remember that God is unlike us in some important ways. Within the being we know as God there are three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And I believe that in this passage, God the Son is referred to by the pronoun “me.” And God the Father is referred to with the pronoun “he.”
But what’s also interesting is that the one identifying himself as “me” – God the Son – is also referred to as the Lord of Hosts. Right? Because this quote is coming right after the phrase “thus saith the Lord of Hosts.”
OK – “What does the Lord of Hosts have to say?” we ask… Well, he wants to tell us that God the Father or “he” has sent God the Son or “me” or “the Lord of Hosts.”
Zechariah 2 Commentary: after glory
And God the Father is going to send God the Son “after glory.” This seems to be speaking of the purpose of the Father sending the Son. He will send the Son “after glory” or for the purpose of glory – for the purpose of glorifying himself.
God the Father sending God the Son will glorify himself.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: unto the nations
And what is the Father sending the Son to do? The Son is being sent “unto the nations.” Or more likely, “against” the nations.
This is looking forward ultimately to the battle of Armageddon, where Jesus Christ will return with his armies – his hosts. The Lord of Hosts will return with his hosts – and he will return for the purpose of going “unto” or “against” the nations.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: which spoiled you
And of course it’s not as though these nations are blameless, and that God just feels the need to attack for no reason. No – these nations have “spoiled” or “plundered” his people the Jews. That word “spoiled” has reference to someone capturing someone else and taking their stuff.
And that has happened historically with the Jews. The nations to which they have been scattered have oftentimes taken their possessions.
I can think of pictures from the Nazi Holocaust where at these death camps that the Jews were sent to there are these piles of clothing and jewelry and other items. It’s a sad reminder of this reality that the Lord is expressing here – that nations – Gentiles – have been plundering Israel – capturing them and taking their possessions.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye
And we can look at events in this life and we can wonder – “what does God think about that?” What did God think about the Holocaust or the various pogroms that have been executed against the Jews throughout history?
And if we think that God approves of something simply because he allows it to happen – or even if he wills it to happen – we’d be wrong – at least in this case with the Jews.
Because God expresses very clearly that he is quite displeased with these nations and their treatment of Israel. In fact, to touch Israel is to touch God himself.
No – it’s even worse than that. To touch Israel is to poke God in the eye. And not on the white part. On the black part – the incredibly sensitive part – the part that to touch is very painful.
I don’t know how you feel about touching your own eyeball. I have contact lenses and so every day I am touching my eyeballs at least twice. I’ve grown accustomed to this, but there are some who would never wear contacts for this reason.
But when I put my contacts in, I at least have a shield between my pupil and my finger. And God isn’t envisioning this helpful addition. He’s not picturing it as though there’s something between his eye – as it were – and the finger that is being poked into it.
When the nations of this world touch the Jews for harm – God feels that. And he’s communicating that it hurts him a great deal. It is agitating to him. And he will do something to stop that agitation!
Now, remember that when this verse speaks of “him” it’s speaking of God the Father. He’s the one sending the Lord of Hosts. And he’s the one whose sensitive vulnerable pupil is being poked as these nations harm his people.
And this abuse of the Jews by the Gentile nations will eventually make action against those nations inevitable. Because remember that the Lord is going to send the Lord of Hosts against those nations.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 9
And the Lord of Hosts goes on in verse 9 to describe what the consequences will be to those nations when this happens.
9 [For, behold,/Surely]
I [will shake mine hand upon/will wave my hand over/am about to punish/will raise my hand against] them,
[and/so that/in such a way that] they [shall/will] be [a spoil to/plunder for/looted by/plundered by] their [servants/slaves]:
[and/Then] [ye/you] [shall/will] know that the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [hath/has] sent me.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: I will shake mine hand upon them
Now, we’re confronted with an unusual picture to begin verse 9 – that of God shaking his hand upon the nations. What does that mean?
Well, the Lord prophesied through the prophet Isaiah a few hundred years before Zechariah’s prophecies. And he spoke about how he was going to judge Egypt and he said this:
“In that day shall Egypt be like unto women: and it shall be afraid and fear because of the shaking of the hand of the LORD of hosts, which he shaketh over it.” (Isaiah 19:16)
So, this shaking of the hand of the Lord of Hosts causes fear.
But also, this word translated as “shake” is elsewhere translated in the context of what a stonemason would do with a tool upon stones. Or what a harvester would do with a sickle in the midst of standing grain. Or what someone would do with a war club as he swings it around and hits people.
So, too, here in Zechariah, what God is picturing his hand doing surely includes some of these ideas. Don’t picture him waving his hand limply in the air over these nations. No. Picture God swinging his hand in a threatening and destructive manner – using his hand as a tool to put an end to these nations’ abuse of his people.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: and they shall be a spoil to their servants
And the Lord of Hosts isn’t swinging and missing. He will connect against these nations.
And the result of this swinging or waving of his hand will be that these nations become spoil to their servants.
Notice the poetic justice – which is “the fitting or deserved retribution for one's actions” – that the nations are going to receive. They plundered or spoiled Israel. So, God will see to it that they themselves are plundered or spoiled.
But God doesn’t have in view that Israel will plunder the nations. So, it’s not a one-for-one exactly. It’s not that the nations plundered Israel and so Israel will plunder them right back. Rather, the nations plundered Israel and so God will make it so that the servants in these nations plunder them.
The ones who are conquered and oppressed – or at least the lowest on the social ladder and with the least means in those nations – they will rise up and plunder their masters when God is done dealing with those nations. God will overthrow their social order and reverse situations for these nations. They plundered those less powerful than them. So, they will be plundered by those less powerful than them.
And once more, we’re lead to believe that this is all God’s doing. God won’t even use his people Israel apparently to accomplish this plundering. The Lord of Hosts will simply do it himself. And his people will benefit from it – though they haven’t lifted a finger.
And this is what we see throughout history with the Jews.
The Babylonians – who captured Jerusalem and sent the Jews into exile in 586 BC – they were overturned by the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians were overthrown by the Greeks. The Greeks were ousted by the Romans. And one nation after another that abuses the Jews is replaced in terms of their position as world powers.
And in all of these situations the Jews are fairly inactive. Even if they wanted to act, they’re usually not in the position to do anything. And that’s according to how God has portrayed that he will act on behalf of the Jewish nation.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.
Well, when the Lord of Hosts – sent by the Lord – goes against the nations who plundered Israel and when he wields his hand against them and plunders them – then Israel will come to know something. They will come to know that the Lord of hosts sent “me.” Who is that?
Well, it’s been the Lord of Hosts speaking. And he says that he’s being sent. Sent by whom? We talked about that. The Lord – God the Father – is sending the Lord of Hosts – God the Son – to do these things – ultimately at the battle of Armageddon. And when he does this, then Israel will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent the Lord of Hosts.
Yes, we heard that right. Israel will know when Jesus returns and defeats their enemies – that God has truly sent none other than God. They will know finally that Jesus is God the Son and that he has truly been sent by God the Father.
Again, some people think that this is Zechariah speaking here. But I think that’s hard to justify. Zechariah isn’t even the one speaking this entire message. An angel is speaking it to another angel to give to Zechariah. And it originates from the Lord himself of course. So, Zechariah is simply relating these words to us – but he apparently was not the one speaking them.
It’s the Lord of Hosts who was speaking these words. And it’s the Lord of Hosts – Jesus Christ – whom Israel needs to know has been sent by the Lord of Hosts. Because they’re not at all convinced of that fact right now. And they haven’t been for the past two millennia.
But the Jews will be convinced of Jesus’ identity as the Lord of Hosts some day when he returns to deliver the Jews and plunder the nations that have plundered them.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 10
And when Jesus Christ – the Lord – comes to deliver Israel, he’s not going back into heaven again. He’ll be remaining amongst his people.
And so, in verse 10, the Lord reveals that this blessed reality will happen – and then calls upon Israel to rejoice in this reality.
10 [Sing/Sing for joy/Sing out/Shout] and [rejoice/be glad/be happy], [O daughter of Zion/Zion my daughter]:
for, [lo, I come/behold I am coming/look, I have come/I am coming], and I will [dwell/settle/live] [in the midst of thee/in your midst/among you], [saith/declares] the LORD.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Sing
Now, it’s nothing new for God to command Israel to “sing” as we have the first word in this verse. And in fact, there are several times where singing is commanded in the context that we’re describing here – of the Lord coming and dwelling in the midst of his people.
KJV Isaiah 12:6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: [why?...] for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.
KJV Zephaniah 3:14 Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. [why?...]
15 The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more.
This command to sing also comes right after Isaiah 53 in which the sufferings of Jesus Christ are foretold. And of course, after those sufferings – and any time soon now – he will be coming to do this thing were hearing about in Zechariah – to come and dwell in the midst of his people.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: and rejoice
And Israel here in Zechariah is also commanded to rejoice. This command is given in the book of Joel as well – again in the context of God dwelling in Israel’s midst.
KJV Joel 2:21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things.
And then the Lord goes on to describe those “great things” and then comes to this conclusion.
27 And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: daughter of Zion
Well, who is commanded to do this rejoicing in Zechariah? The identification we’re given is the “daughter of Zion.”
Zion is basically equivalent to Jerusalem. We’ve seen that before in Zechariah.
And when the Lord addresses the daughter of Zion, he doesn’t have just one person in mind – one female Jew living in Israel. No.
When the Lord refers to the daughter of Zion, he is oftentimes picturing Jerusalem as a vulnerable and sometimes distressed – yet royal – young lady. She needs protection. Sometimes she needs chastening. But her Father is the Lord of Hosts – and ultimately, if she trusts and obeys him, things will be well with her.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: I will dwell in the midst of thee
And so, what is the reason that should cause the daughter of Zion to sing and rejoice? It’s that the Lord is coming and will dwell in the midst of Israel.
This dwelling in the midst of Israel was the stated purpose of the Tabernacle – and then the Temple after that. God wanted to dwell in the midst of his people.
This is also the reason why the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt. He wanted to dwell in their midst.
God’s desire to dwell in the midst of his people is also the reason for most of the laws that we might describe as “ceremonial” in the Old Testament. A holy and pure and undefiled God can’t live in the midst of a profane and sullied and defiled people. If the Lord was going to live in their midst, they needed cleansing.
God’s dwelling in Israel’s midst was also the reason behind what we would consider to be God’s “moral” laws in the Old Testament. Murder needed to be discovered and punished because God refuses to live in the midst of a land full of murder and adultery and other immorality.
And we as New Testament Christians can learn something from this concept. God wants to dwell in the midst of his people.
He dwells in our midst as a church. Jesus is pictured as walking among the churches and inspecting us and knowing us.
But Jesus also indwells us individually. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
And any place that God indwells needs to be holy. A holy God will not dwell in unholy places. And as such, we his people need to live holy lives – lives that are set apart and separated from immorality, for example. That’s where the Apostle Paul takes this discussion when he relates in 1 Corinthians that the body of the believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s in the context of moral purity.
Paul also in 1 Corinthians states that the church is a temple of God. And he states that anyone who destroys the church, God will repay with destruction. And the context of that warning is divisions in the church – where some were claiming allegiance to one minister over another. That’s not the holiness that God is looking for in his church.
So, God dwells in New Testament believers and in his Church just like he wanted to dwell in the midst of Israel and like he promised to do in the Old Testament.
And while that’s a sobering reality, remember the context of verse 10. This reality of God dwelling in the midst of his people is really intended to be a joyful reality that his Old Testament people were to look forward to – and it’s one that we as New Testament believers get to rejoice in right now.