Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
In thus chapter God promises the continuance of his favor to those who are returned from the captivity; so that upon the removal of his judgments, the fasts they had observed during the captivity may now be converted to so many occasions of rejoicing. He likewise promises in due time a general restoration of his people, and the enlargement of the Church by the accession of the Gentiles, vv. 1-20. The conclusion of the chapter intimates farther that the Jews, after their restoration, will be instrumental in converting many other nations, Zac 8:21-23. Compare Rom 11:15, Rom 11:16.
I was jealous - Some refer this to the Jews themselves. They were as the spouse of Jehovah: but they were unfaithful, and God punished them as an injured husband might be expected to punish an unfaithful wife. Others apply it to the enemies of the Jews. Though I gave them a commission to afflict you, yet they exceeded their commission: I will therefore deal with them in fury - in vindictive justice.
I am returned unto Zion - I have restored her from her captivity. I will dwell among them. The temple shall be rebuilt, and so shall Jerusalem; and instead of being false, unholy, and profligate, it shall be the city of truth. and my holy mountain. Truth shall dwell in it.
There shall yet old men and old women - In those happy times the followers of God shall live out all their days, and the hoary head be always found in the way of righteousness.
The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls - The progeny shall be numerous, healthy, and happy. Their innocent gambols and useful exercises shall be a means of health, and a proof of happiness. To be healthy, children must have exercise. But they cannot take exercise, except in the way of play and diversion: ergo, such playfulness cannot be sinful. Let them be kept from evil words, lying, swearing, and scurrility; and all the rest may be innocent.
If it be marvellous - You may think that this is impossible, considering your present low condition: but suppose it be impossible in your eyes, should it be so in mine! saith the Lord of hosts.
I will save my people from the east country, and from the west - From every land in which any of them may be found. But these promises principally regard the Christian Church, or the bringing in the Jews with the fullness of the Gentiles.
By the mouth of the prophets - The day or time of the foundation was about two years before, as this discourse of the prophet was in the fourth year of Darius. After this God raised up prophets among them.
For before these days there was no hire for man - Previously to this, ye had no prosperity; ye had nothing but civil divisions and domestic broils. I abandoned you to your own spirits, and to your own ways.
For the seed shall be prosperous - Ye shall be a holy and peaceable people; and God will pour down his blessing on yourselves, your fields, and your vineyards.
As ye were a curse - Instead of being execrated among the people, ye shall be blessed; instead of being reproached, ye shall be commended. Ye shall be a blessing to all the nations round about. All these promises we may expect to be completely fulfilled when the Jews acknowledge their Messiah.
O house of Judah, and house of Israel - The restoration shall be complete, when both Israel and Judah are brought back.
Speak ye every man the truth - See Zac 7:9, Zac 7:10.
The fast of the fourth month - To commemorate the taking of Jerusalem; Kg2 25:3; Jer 39:2; Jer 52:6, Jer 52:7.
The fast of the fifth - In memory of the ruin of the temple, Kg2 25:8; Jer 52:12, Jer 52:13.
The fast of the seventh - For the murder of Gedaliah, Jeremiah 41:1-17.
The fast of the tenth - In commemoration of the siege of Jerusalem, which began on the tenth day of the tenth month; Kg2 25:1; Jer 52:4; Eze 24:1, Eze 24:2; and see on Zac 7:3 (note), Zac 7:5 (note).
Cheerful feasts - Ye shall find all your evils so completely redressed, that these mournful fasts shall be turned into joyful feasts.
There shall come people - Similar promises to those in Isa 2:3 and in Mic 4:1, Mic 4:2. Many Gentiles, as well as Jews, will then be found devoting themselves to the Lord.
I will go also - This is the answer of the person invited. It is a good work. We must have God for our friend. We cannot expect this unless we seek him: and as we know not what an hour may bring forth, let us go speedily.
And strong nations - This may refer to the conversion of the Mohammedan tribes; especially to those in the vicinity of Palestine. Perhaps even the Egyptians, inhabitants of Arabia Petraea, of Syria, etc.
Ten men - shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew - The converts from among the Gentiles shall be to the Jews as ten to one. But ten may here signify a great number, without comparison. And from this scripture it appears as if the Jews, converted to God, should be the instruments of converting many Gentiles. See on Isa 3:6 (note). Catching hold of the skirt is a gesture naturally used to entreat assistance and protection. This and the three foregoing verses, says Abp. Newcome, refer to the great accession of converts which the Jewish Church received between the captivity and the coming of Christ; to the number of Christian disciples which the Jewish preachers made, and to the future conversions of which the restoration of the Jews will be an eminent cause.