Jerusalem in Zechariah 14:10
Zechariah’s prophecy about changes in the topography of the area surrounding Jerusalem, in Zechariah 14:10, parallels Isaiah’s prophecy, which said the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established in the tops of the mountains. [Isaiah 2:1-3]
These prophecies focus on the spiritual significance of Jerusalem, as the holy city which represents the kingdom of Christ, which the New Testament identifies with the Christian Church.
While Isaiah spoke of Jerusalem being raised, in Zechariah’s prophecy all the surrounding land becomes a plain, dramatically depicting the demotion of the status of the literal territory of Judea, while emphasizing the spiritual and symbolic significance of Jerusalem.
In the New Testament these prophecies are fulfilled. Jerusalem has become “the Jerusalem which is above,” [Galatians 4:26] and “the heavenly Jerusalem.” [Hebrews 12:22] In Revelation 21:22, John says of the New Jerusalem, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” This implies that Jerusalem and the temple were raised up, when Jesus ascended to heaven.
The following comments on Zechariah 14:10 are from Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg’s Christology of the Old Testament. Hengstenberg says, “It is evident from the general character of the prophecy, that we are not to abide by the letter.” Both this prophecy, and Isaiah 2:1-3 show the earthly Jerusalem is no longer the city to which prophecy applies. Ezekiel’s description of the temple, which extends over the whole city, identifies Jerusalem with the temple, as the New Testament also does. Both terms are applied to Christ and the Church.
[Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg. Christology of the Old Testament, and a commentary on the Messianic predictions, Volume 4. T. & T. Clark, 1858. pp. 135-141.]
Ver. 10. “All the land will change as the plain, from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem, and she is high and sits in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses.”
The subject of this verse is twofold, first, the exaltation of Jerusalem, which is effected by the change of all the rest of the land into a plain, and secondly, the restoration of the city to its former grandeur, after its destruction in consequence of being taken by the enemy (ver. 2), but still more, perhaps, in consequence of the earthquake (ver. 5), and the other judgments inflicted upon the enemy within her walls. We will first of all examine certain points connected with the former of these. “To change as,” is the same as “to change so as to become like.”
***, not the entire district round Jerusalem, but the whole land. This is evident from the only expression, which could afford any support to the more limited interpretation, namely, the words “from Geba to Rimmon.” For these are the two extreme points in the land of Judea, the one towards the north, the other towards the south, and the prophet employs them to denote its entire extent, just as in ver. 8 he makes use of the eastern and western boundary. Rimmon, which is described as situated to the south of Jerusalem, to distinguish it from the rock of Rimmon, was at the extreme south of the tribe of Judah, and, like Beersheba, was a city of the Simeonites on the borders of Edom. (Josh. xv. 32, xix. 7). That Geba was situated at the northern extremity is evident from the fact, that in 2 Kings xxiii. 8 the expression “from Geba to Beersheba” is employed to denote the whole extent of the kingdom of Judah. *** is regarded by many commentators as an appellative noun, aud rendered “a plain.” But they have failed to observe, that this does not make good sense, since the land which is to be changed into a plain cannot be compared to a plain, and also that the article stands in the way of such a rendering. It is true that, so far as the article itself is concerned, it might be used generally, but in Hebrew Arabah with the article always denotes the largest and most celebrated of all the plains of Judea, the plain of the Jordan, called by Josephus ***. Compare Ritter xv. p. 481. “Ghor, like Aulon, i.e., the plain, is the name given to the large valley, including its plains, extending from the Lebanon, or the Lake of Gennesaret, to the farther side of the Dead Sea.”—The meaning therefore is this: all the mountains of Judea, with the exception of the mountain of Jerusalem itself, are to be changed into plains, so that the whole land will resemble the extensive plain, which has hitherto formed but one portion of it. The reason of this change is indicated in the words “and Jerusalem will be exalted.” *** for *** is only met with in this passage; but two derivatives of the former occur, viz., *** and ***. The whole land is depressed, that Jerusalem alone may appear elevated.—Let us pass on now to an examination of the meaning of this symbolical representation. As in ver. 8, so in this passage also, Jerusalem represents the central point of the kingdom of God under the New Testament; Judea, the same kingdom in its widest extent, regarded as embracing the whole earth. What other meaning then can the passage well have than this, “the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day;” “his rest shall be glorious” (Isaiah xi. 10); his dominion, as king over all the earth, shall be the only one; all the outward glory of the earth, which exalts itself above him, shall be annihilated. The same thought is expressed in Is. ii. 2; Micah iv. 1 (see vol. i. p. 441), and Ezek. xl. 2 (see vol. iii. p. 60)—though under a somewhat different figure, which proves that the literal interpretation given by Jewish and judaising commentators is untenable. In this case everything else is levelled; in Micah and Ezekiel, on the other hand, the temple mountain is represented as rising. The temple mountain is placed upon the top of all the mountains of the earth. There is a third figure employed in Dan. ii. 35. The stone, which is the symbol of the Messianic kingdom, breaks in pieces the colossal image, the representative of the kingdoms of the world as contrasted with the kingdom of God, and becomes a great mountain, which fills the whole earth. The natural situation of Jerusalem forms the starting point here. On this Robinson says, “upon the broad and elevated promontory, within the fork of these two valleys (Jehoshaphat and Hinnom), lies the holy city. All around are higher hills.” This external position of Jerusalem was also regarded by the writer of the 125th Psalm (ver. 2) with the eye of a theologian. But whilst, in his view, the mountains round about Jerusalem were symbols of the protection of God, to Zechariah the comparative height of Jerusalem is a symbol of the depressed condition of the kingdom of God under the Old Testament.
The meaning of the symbolical representation has been entirely mistaken by many expositors, who imagine that the Arabah is introduced in connexion with the watering. Thus Hitzig writes, “The valley of the Jordan, so luxuriant in its vegetation, was rendered so by the extent to which it was irrigated (Gen. xiii. 10). The author has already promised the same to the poorly watered district (ver. 8), a promise which implied the highest degree of fertility.” But this interpretation, in which the expression “she is high” is entirely overlooked, and the connexion between this passage and Micah iv. 1, and Ezek. xl. 2 severed, is at variance with the natural constitution of the Arabah. The words of Gen. xiii. 10 relate exclusively to that portion of it, which was destroyed by the fearful catastrophe that befel the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha. Josephus says in his wars of the Jews (4. 8. 2), “the large plain, ***, through which the Jordan flows, is very parched in summer.” According to Monro (v. Raumer p. 25), the lower portion especially presents “the aspect of extreme desolation.” The Arabah is any thing but a garden of God. “The heat is concentrated by the rocky mountains, which keep off the cooling breezes of the west wind” (v. Raumer p. 51).—The exaltation of Jerusalem, which is a consequence of Jehovah being king over all the earth (ver. 9), is attended by its complete recovery from its ruins. Whilst the former part of the verse, the exaltation, points back to Micah iv. 1, and Ezek. xl. 2 ; the latter recals Jer. xxxi. 38, “the city is built to the Lord from the tower of Hananeel to the corner gate,” where the restoration of the kingdom of God is set forth under the image of a restoration of Jerusalem.
The point at which the description of the boundaries commences, is Benjamin’s gate. This gate is unquestionably the one which is called elsewhere the Ephraim gate. The Benjamin gate led to the land of Benjamin (Jer. xxxvii. 12, 13). It was on the north side of the city, therefore. But the Ephraim gate is represented in 2 Sam. xiii. 23, as turned towards Ephraim; and the road to Ephraim lay through Benjamin. The first terminus ad quem is “the place of the first gate.” There is no other passage in which the gate is called by this name. It is no doubt the same as we meet with elsewhere under the name of ***. This is evident, first of all, from the name itself. *** means “the gate of the old one” (fem.), not “the old gate.” Now Hitzig and Krafft (Topogr. p. 149), follow Gousset in the opinion that “the gate of the old one” is equivalent to “the gate of the old pool,” which is mentioned in Is. xxii. 11. But such an ellipsis is harsh and unexampled. On the other hand there is hardly any ellipsis at all, if we adopt the explanation given by others, “the gate of the old town.” For as cities are personified as women, there was really no necessity for any addition. We meet with Jeshanah on two other occasions as names of cities (see Reland p. 861). The name “old town” was probably applied to that portion of Jerusalem, which was already in existence in the time of the Jebusites, to distinguish it from the later enlargements made by David and his successors—just as at a subsequent period another portion, which had been recently erected, was called Bezetha, ***, by Josephus, in contrast with the whole of the earlier city. Now the name of the gate in the passage before us is in perfect harmony with this. *** cannot mean anything but the first gate, not, as Hitzig and Ewald suppose, “the former gate,” or “the gate that was;” for such a meaning as this could only exist in cases where a contrast was intended to some new gate. Now, just as the old town was the first town, so was its gate the first gate, when compared with all the rest of the gates in the more recent portion of Jerusalem. Our conclusion is favoured, secondly, by the situation. As the first gate is represented here as the first terminus ad quem, reckoning from the Benjamin’s gate, so do we find the old gate mentioned immediately after the Ephraim gate in Neh. xii. 39, where the gates are named in their geographical order. We must look for the first gate on the east, and not on the west of the Benjamin gate. For the corner gate is mentioned directly afterwards as the terminus ad quem to the west of the Benjamin’s gate, and it is evident from the little distance between the two gates, namely 400 cubits (2 Kings xiv. 3), that “the first gate” cannot have stood between them. The position of the gate in the old town corresponds exactly to this. It was the next gate to the Ephraim gate towards the east, probably at the north-eastern extremity (compare Faber Archaologie p. 332). *** before *** does not denote the terminus ad quem from the first gate, but, as we have already observed, a new terminus ad quem towards the west of the Benjamin’s gate. That the corner gate was not situated on the eastern, but on the western side, is very evident from Jer. xxxi. 38, where the tower of Hananeel, which stood on the eastern side, is mentioned along with the corner gate to designate the whole extent of the city. The tower of Hananeel was on the eastern side of the city, near the sheep-gate (Neh. iii. 1, xii. 37, 39). From this tower the prophet draws a new line—for *** must be supplied before *** from the previous clause,—which he continues as far as the king’s wine-presses, most likely on the southern side of the city, where the royal gardens are said to have been (Neh. iii. 15; compare Faber p. 835). According to this the limits of the city are given towards the four points of the compass. The prophet mentions just those buildings which were left standing when the city was destroyed by the Chaldeans, and not a single one which was not in existence in the time of Zechariah,—i.e. subsequent to the destruction and previous to the restoration of the wall s by Nehemiah,—a fact which can only be explained on the supposition that the second portion of the book was actually written by Zechariah himself. Two gates are first given as termini, the Benjamin’s gate and the corner gate; for the third, “the first gate,” is expressly shown to have been no longer in existence, by the words “unto the place” that is, the spot on which it formerly stood. Now both of these are omitted in the account of the re-building in Neh. iii.; and, if we compare chap. xii. 39, the only explanation that can be given of this omission is that they did not require to be re-built, but probably needed only some trifling repairs. On the other hand the old gate, which is represented in this passage as destroyed, is mentioned in the list of those that were re-built. The tower of Hananeel is referred to in Neh. iii. 1, as still in existence. In the case of the royal wine cellars, we can hardly imagine any demolition to have taken place. In fact this was scarcely possible; for even to the present day, in eastern countries, cellars are hewn out of the rocks, wherever the nature of the soil admits of it (see Chardin in Harmar, part iii., p. 117; compare also Is. v. 2, and Matt. xxi. 33). This being the manner in which the royal cellars were constructed, it is not improbable that they are still in a state of preservation among the excavations in the rock, which exist in great abundance, especially in the neighbourhood of the fountain of Siloah. We can even bring forward a direct testimony to the fact that the royal cellars are still in existence. As we have already observed, there can be no doubt that they were in the royal gardens, and in Neh. iii. 15 these are expressly stated to have been preserved when the destruction of the city by the Chaldeans took place.
We will now enquire into the prophet’s meaning. What are we to understand by the restoration of Jerusalem, which is the figure he here employs? It is evident from the general character of the prophecy, that we are not to abide by the letter. This is especially obvious from vers. 8 and 9, where Judah is employed to represent the whole earth, as well as from the first part of the verse before us, where the relation in which Jerusalem stands to the rest of Judea is used as a figurative representation of the relation, in which the central point of the future kingdom of God stands to its circumference, which embraces the whole earth. The restoration of Jerusalem predicted here is closely connected with the conquest described in vers. 1 and 2, and with the destruction referred to in ver. 5, as the result of the divine judgments inflicted upon the enemy within its walls. The meaning is, that the kingdom of God will rise again in its ancient splendour, after the Lord has exterminated every trace of the misery which it has had to endure. The prophet adheres to the same mode of representation which he adopted before, when he described the calamities endured, under the figure of a conquest of the city. He depicts the future glory, under the image of a restoration of the city to its ancient limits, and, to make the figure more complete, introduces special notices of particular points in the city boundaries.