Zechariah Chapter Ten
Continuing and Multiple Aliyahs Will Result in a Large Population
This is another chapter of restoration and ingathering; therefore it will have both short term and long term applications for the growth of the "yishuv" due to further "aliyah" and also reach to the gathering of the nations under the Messiah. The main application will have reference to the building up of the "yishuv" after Zechariah's death and apply only by extension to the church or kingdom of the Messiah. It is not an "end time" prophecy.
The mention of Joseph and Ephraim in a future context would lead us to the conclusion that both a long and short term promise is indicated because the tribes of Israel for which Joseph and Ephraim are representative names, much like "Jacob," had lost their identity as tribes and in Zechariah's time are labeled under the general term "Jew." Many restoration of Israel, or Joseph, or Ephraim, or David contexts are both literal and Messianic.
But this chapter, as most places in Zechariah, must be viewed from the primary purpose of Zechariah, that is, to predict the restoration of the nation, its Temple, and purified worship as an imminent event, and the further growth and blessings of the "yishuv" by way of the addition of "oliym chadashiym" and "chalutsiym" from among the dispersed in all nations, primarily but not limited to Babylon.
The dispersion of Ephraim, meaning the ten tribes of the northern kingdom, had been in Assyrian Media. Jeremiah and the remainder of the people, who had been left in the land after the exile began, emigrated to Egypt where a large community remained. They like most other national communities contributed "oliym" to the waves of "aliyah" but the majority stayed in their "exile." In Egypt they grew to be a very large community and there an alternative Temple was built in the days following the Macabbees.*
* Josephus Antiq. XIII:3.
The history of the alternative Egyptian Temple is a lengthy account but is worthwhile to insert at this point. Our main theme is the places in the world where and when the Jews were dispersed. Let us look at the Egyptian community after which we will return to the development of the general Diaspora.
Josephus records the following history about 160 B.C.E.:
Onias son of Onias, who built an alterative Temple in Egypt over 150 years before the .Christian era, convinced Ptolemy king of Egypt that this was predicted in a prophecy given 400 years previous to his time. The prophecy indeed spoke of the not yet (in Onias' time) built Temple in Egypt. It would have been easy for Onias to convince himself that this prophecy meant him. To that end I insert concurrent historical circumstances in the Scripture text that would help lead Onias to that conclusion.
(Isa. 19:18) In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the LORD of hosts; one shall be called, the city of destruction. [Many Jewish exiles lived in Egypt having fled from Antiochus to join the large community previously started in the days of Jeremiah.] (Isa. 19:19) In that day shall there be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the LORD. [This was to be accomplished by Onias and was actually done.] (Isa. 19:20) And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; [Onias was the rightful successor to the High Priesthood that was given by Antiochus Eupator to Alcimus (who did not come from the family of priests). Onias fled and built his alternative Temple for a witness that the one in Jerusalem was led by a corrupt priesthood.] for they shall cry unto the LORD because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, [Onias felt he fulfilled this promise of a great Jew who would save his people from the oppressors.] and he shall deliver them. (Isa. 19:21) And the LORD shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; [The Mosaic sacrificial system was established and continued until the Egyptian Temple was destroyed.] yea, they shall vow a vow unto the LORD, and perform it. [Lest they anger the LORD, Ptolemy and Cleopatra fulfilled this part of the prophecy for their own protection from the heavenly powers.] (Isa. 19:22) And the LORD shall strike Egypt; he shall strike and heal it; and they shall return even to the LORD, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. (Isa. 19:23) In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. [This promised peace which was to result from building the Temple would be of particular appeal to Ptolemy because just then Assyria and Egypt were in an interminable adversarial relationship, the end of which would be a blessing indeed. Thus these passages were used by Onias to convince Ptolemy that God had called him directly to build the alternative Temple.] (Isa. 19:24) In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land. [Since Israel was the source of most of the friction between Egypt and Assyria, the time fit the prophecy very closely.]
This prophecy, that there would be an altar on which sacrifices would be offered to the God of Israel in the land of Egypt was literally fulfilled by Onias and the Ptolemies, even if it were for the wrong and unscriptural reasons. Perhaps?
In the days of Antiochus Epiphanies (about 165 B.C.E.) Onias (father of the aforesaid Onias, and also called Jason) the High Priest was supplanted by Menelaus the defector during whose priesthood the sacrifice ceased because he cooperated with the Hellenizing of the Jewish traditions. Menelaus was later put to death after the death of Antiochus Epiphanies. Alcimus, not of the family of the priests, was then placed in the office by the Greeks who still ruled the area from Antioch. It was at that time that Onias, son of the previous Onias who had been deposed, fled to Egypt and received permission to build a Temple near Alexandria. The new Temple was loosely patterned after the Temple in Jerusalem, and was served also by priests and Levites who offered sacrifices according to the Law of Moses. Alcimus, also called Jacimus, the High Priest appointed by the Greeks at Jerusalem, survived only three years and there followed seven years during which there was no High Priest in Jerusalem. How much more that would convince Onias that he was correctly viewing the Isaiah passage! Ptolemy and Cleopatra, his wife-sister, were induced by the above prophecy in Isaiah to grant the permission to build the Temple. The Temple was duly built and Josephus says it survived for 343 years, when it was destroyed at the command of Vespasian after the suicidal end of Masada. Josephus must be mistaken on the length of time the Temple served, however, since Onias could not have fled to Egypt sooner than 160 B.C.E. and the Temple in Egypt closed no later than 79 C.E.--Vespasian, still being the Caesar, gave the order to close the Egyptian Temple. He died June 23, 79. That period would contain about 240 years, rather than 340, which is still a considerable time for an alternative Temple to survive along side the one in Jerusalem. For this history see Josephus Antiq. XIII:3 and for a discussion on the chronology see Josephus Diss. V:3.
We return now to a general discussion of the Diaspora.
Beside this there had been a natural widespread and continuing dispersion of faithful Jews beginning with and extending from the time of David and Solomon. These always looked to Jerusalem as their spiritual center. Psalms 120:5, which was written during the united kingdom, to be chanted by pilgrims making the assent to Jerusalem, gives testimony that the dispersion included those who lived among the Slavic Moschoi in Cappadocia, which is central Anatolia or Turkey.* Thus the "galut" or captive exiles would have found fellow Israelites already securely settled in the areas of their forced sojourn. Later, Alexander the Great settled Jews as far as the Crimea in trading centers.
* Miller, Fred P.; Revelation: A Panorama of the Gospel Age; Moellerhaus Pub., Clermont, Florida, 1991; see chapter 19: The Origin of the Russian People.
The widespread nature of the Diaspora is seen in the Book of Esther where it is vividly described. According to the verses following, there were Jews to be found in every nation of the world. Remember this is after the Temple was rebuilt and before Ezra arrived in Jerusalem or about 475 B.C.E.
(Est. 3:8) And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom...(Est 8:9)... which are from India to Ethiopia, one hundred twenty seven provinces, [a letter] to every province according to the script there, and to every people in their language, and to the Jews in their script, and their language.
Zechariah accurately predicted the further and progressive growth of the "yishuv" from the dispersed in these nations. As the nation of Judah grew, and peaceful settlement was enjoyed, multitudes would respond to the excitement of a growing and prosperous nation and join the multiple "aliyahs" as the next few centuries rolled by!
The primary purpose in Zechariah is to predict the growth and development of the "yishuv," and the secondary is to trace that growth until it would bring in the kingdom of the Messiah. These two purposes are often mixed together in Zechariah because the first begets the second and is actually one and the same except for time.* But basically it is as we have proposed: The primary purpose of Zechariah in this chapter is to predict the reestablishment of the nation and the ongoing growth of the "yishuv," from the dispersed in all the nations where they are scattered, to undreamed of proportions with implications that reach to Messiah's kingdom.
* The vision of the woman in Revelation 12, who has twelve stars and brings forth Christ to the world who is then caught up to heaven is a picture of the church of all ages--the Israel of God. She at once is a symbol of the Jewish church through whom and by whom Christ was issued forth to the world and also to the continuing church now made up of those who have dipped their garments in the blood of the Lamb. Zechariah sees the "yishuv" in the same way from a different direction than John. He looks ahead. John sees the woman in the Messianic age but she has a Jewish origin.Zec. 10:1 Ask you of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.
These future agricultural blessings have already been pointed out as having started in the second year of Darius and God increased them in the fourth year of Darius. They will continue to increase.
Zec. 10:2 For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain; therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.
The condition before and during the exile is described here when the nation was at first still given to idolatry and the priesthood was corrupt. There were shepherds but they were self-seeking and therefore their function was nonexistent. The next verse continues this theme.
Zec. 10:3 My anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats; for the LORD of hosts has visited his flock the house of Judah, and has made them as his goodly horse in the battle.
"My anger" speaks of the past when it was directed against the corrupt priests and self-serving prophets who ought to have been shepherds of the nation. The punishment took place in the destruction and exile and it is now over. Judah now is going to grow strong politically as is represented by the horse of war.
"The goats." In sheep raising the goats often were used to lead the sheep to slaughter which they themselves avoided.
"His flock, the house of Judah" is a generic term here and includes all those who make up the reborn nation and those also to be added to it. It can be extended to Messiah's kingdom.
Zec. 10:4 Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together. 10:5 And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle; and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.
These are poetic figures of speech describing the importance of Judah; he is the personification of the flock of God. He is at once the cornerstone upon which all rests and the lynch pin upon which all hangs and is held together, and the heroic defender who drives away the oppressor. All the rest of the tribes depend on him for existence.
Zec. 10:6 And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.
This verse again emphasizes the restoration of all the tribes. The ten tribes of Israel are represented by "Joseph," the tribe possessing the birthright. This is fully explained in the chapter titled "The Restoration of Israel" which explains the meaning of joining the stick of Joseph to the stick of Judah. This verse says the same thing, that is, that Judah the lynch pin and cornerstone would be the vanguard and container of all the tribes. See also notes on 11:14.
Zec. 10:7 And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD.
"Their children shall see it." Ephraim, just as Joseph, represents the whole of the northern tribes whose restoration to the nation of Judah has been continually confirmed. So is the concept confirmed of the process of "aliyah," being a continual condition, confirmed by the repetition of the children of the next generation, "their children shall see it," experiencing the same demonstrations of Judah and Israel coming together as God's flock.
The repetition of this theme is God's method of teaching what is important. The admonition of teaching God's commandments is in Deut. 6:7:
"And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up." This verse contains the admonition to teach God's laws to one's children. The word teach in that context is "shenan" which means literally to "two" them. The idiom means to repeat them over and over. Thus has the Spirit commanded Zechariah to do with this concept of the rebirth of Judah being joined by a restored Israel. Since it has been and yet will be repeated so often we should learn it.
Zec. 10:8 I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them; and they shall increase as they have increased.
This speaks of God's continuing call to others who are part of Israel to join the already reestablished nation. His promise here is what actually happened. "They shall increase as they have increased." They, the restored "yishuv," shall continue to increase! There will be numberless waves of "aliyah" during the "Silent Years" until the land is teeming with people.
Zec. 10:9 And I will sow them among the people; and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.
The context calls for past tenses in the verbs of this verse. Hebrew tenses are often dependent on context for the time of the action because Hebrew tenses are not linked to the time concept like English. The same verbal form can mean I sow, I will sow, I sowed, I have sowed, etc., depending on the context. Thus for this verse the context requires, "I have sown them among the people, and they have remembered me in far countries, and they shall live with their children and turn again."
Zec. 10:10 I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.
"Out of Assyria" speaks specifically of the ten tribes who were not a part of the first "aliyah" but are here predicted to be a part of the continuing rebirth of the combined nation. "Out of Egypt" refers to the large body of Jews going into Egypt whom Jeremiah joined when they left Palestine for fear of punishment from Nebuchadnezzar because of the murder of the governor he had left for them.* Jeremiah warned them not to go into Egypt and spoke of the punishment that God would visit on them in Egypt. Actually Nebuchadnezzar would later conquer Egypt and lead many captive from there. Jeremiah said that the Jews fleeing Judah would be among those, though a remnant would escape and later return to Judah. He also addressed a large settlement of Jews already in Egypt in a number of cities. He said all the Jews in Egypt, at Migdol, Tahpanhes, Noph, and the country of Pathros are slated for punishment.** God in his mercy did not fulfill his promise of the punishment of extermination of the Jewish population in Egypt. In response to their repentance and turning again to the Law of Moses they actually increased to a very sizable population, out of which many returned to Galilee and Judah during the "Silent Years." Long afterward, in the days of the corruption that preceded and followed the Macabbees, Onias son of Jason, who was the rightful High Priest, fled to the Jewish community in Egypt and revived their allegiance to the Law of Moses. (See digression on the Egyptian Temple above.)
* See Jeremiah chapters 41 to 44.
** Jer 44:1
Thus this verse speaks of the future continuous "aliyahs" which did take place and which strengthened the "yishuv," increasing the population in Galilee and the regions east of the Jordan. Those regions had not been altogether depopulated in the threefold series of assaults that accomplished the captivity of Judah (606 to 585 B.C.E.) but had been previously depopulated when Israel was led captive by Assyria and scattered in the mountains of Media about 720 B.C.E. After the nation of Judah was restored, those still dispersed of Israel had not joined the first "aliyahs" but when more prosperous times arrived, particularly after Ezra and the Great Synagogue, there would be centuries when the waves of "oliym" from distant places would bring the population to the hyperbolical description in this verse: "place shall not be found for them." "Out of Egypt and Assyria," that is, the two largest concentrations of exiles; according to this verse they would come in their thousands.
By the first century C.E. the population of the area would be described as teeming multitudes. Josephus says the area was very productive, and well watered fertile hills and valleys supported a multitude of villages, none of which was less than 15,000.* Even Mount Tabor was peppered with villages.
* Josephus; Wars III:3,2. see also Wars II:3,1 and Wars IV:7,5.
Zec. 10:11 And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall strike the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart away.
This is an incredible glimpse to the future in seeing that Assyria would actually be humbled. The Assyrians exist today in the Kurds in Iraq. Has their pride been brought down? Yes, their culture was lost and had to be excavated out of the sands of time so it could be reviewed again by the archaeologists of the late nineteenth century. Is it not significant that Zechariah says that the "scepter," or the right of rule, would be stripped from Egypt, not that Egypt would disappear? This condition had already begun before this prophecy was uttered. But Zechariah could not have known that it was permanent. The Chaldeans conquered Egypt about 580 B.C.E. and home rule was lost. They would only regain home rule again in 1955. They would successively be governed first by the Babylonians until 536 B.C.E., then by the Persians to 333 B.C.E., then by the Greeks until 31 B.C.E., followed by the Romans, who would give way to the Arabs about 632 C.E.; after them the Turks would rule Egypt from the eleventh century until 1917, when the British would receive the mandate to govern Egypt. Zechariah said, "the Scepter would depart away!"
Zec. 10:12 And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, says the LORD.
Refer back to verse 10 and thus this verse says the returned and restored nation, the "yishuv," will continue and have freedom of movement while Assyria and Egypt will suffer the continuing condition described in verse 11, that is, being humbled and losing self rule.
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