Zechariah 10:1-12

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During the time of their neglecting the temple rebuilding work, the people who had returned to the land of Judah from Babylonian exile experienced periods of serious droughts and poor harvests. The prophet Haggai made it clear to them that this was because YHWH had withheld his blessing from them. (Haggai 1:9-11; 2:15-19) With a rebuilt temple and the services functioning there according to the requirements of the law, the people were admonished to ask YHWH for the rain in the “time of spring rain.” For a bountiful harvest, the “spring rain” or “late rain” in March and April was especially vital for the maturing crops. The Septuagint also includes the early season, which would be the time for the autumn rain. (10:1)

The making of “storm clouds” (plural of chazíz) and the giving of “showers of rain to them” are attributed to YHWH. Since the people are the ones called upon to petition YHWH for the rain, the Hebrew pronoun for “them” apparently applies to the people. Also to each one of them, YHWH gives “the greenery in the field,” which would include barley and wheat. (10:1; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Teraphim were images of deities (commonly households gods), and idolaters consulted them for omens. (Compare Judges 17:5; 18:14, 17, 20; 2 Kings 23:24; Ezekiel 21:21.) The manner in which the omens were revealed is not related in the passages where the teraphim are mentioned. In this verse, what the teraphim say, or what was perceived as revealed by those consulting them, is called ’áven, which (in this context) could mean “nothingness,” “deception,” or “nonsense.” The basic sense of the word ’áven is “trouble,” which is the significance of the corresponding noun in the Septuagint (kópos). According to the Septuagint, the “soothsayers have spoken troubles” or troublesome things. (10:2)

The “diviners see falsehood,” and so what, on the basis of their occult practices, they made known to those who inquired of them could not be trusted. They related “dreams of emptiness” or dreams that imparted nothing of value. These dreams proved to be untrustworthy to those who accepted them as providing guidance. The comfort or consolation these diviners gave with apparent reference to impending calamities was “vanity” or worthlessness. (10:2)

“Therefore,” those who believed the worthless utterances of diviners and other charlatans went off “like a flock” of sheep, wandering about aimlessly. Without a shepherd who looked after them and guided them aright, they ended up being “afflicted.” While the Hebrew text is not specific in identifying the people as the ones to whom the words apply about going off and not the diviners, this does appear to be the preferable meaning and is made specific in a number of translations. “For the household gods utter empty promises; diviners see false signs, they produce lies as dreams, and the comfort they offer is illusory. So the people are left to wander about like sheep in distress for lack of a shepherd.” (REB) “Household gods give false advice, fortune-tellers predict only lies, and interpreters of dreams pronounce comfortless falsehoods. So my people are wandering like lost sheep, without a shepherd to protect and guide them.” (NLT) “Idols tell lies; fortune-tellers see false visions and tell about false dreams. The comfort they give is worth nothing. So the people are like lost sheep. They are abused, because there is no shepherd.” (NCV) The Septuagint rendering could be understood to indicate that the soothsayers and diviners were taken away like sheep and mistreated, “because [there] was no healing.” (10:2)

YHWH’s anger was “hot” or intense (“incited” or “provoked” [LXX]) against the “shepherds,” leaders, or rulers who should have provided sound guidance and protection for the people but who failed to do so. These leaders are called “he-goats,” for they acted oppressively. YHWH decreed that he would “visit” them for the purpose of executing punishment. According to the Septuagint, he would visit the “lambs,” turning his favorable attention to the people who were like sheep in need of a caring shepherd. “YHWH of hosts” (“Lord God Almighty” [LXX]) would “visit” his “flock, the “house of Judah,” concerning himself about them and their welfare. He would make them “like his horse of splendor” or his magnificent horse “in battle.” This suggests that he would make his people of the “house of Judah” triumphant over all enemy powers to carry out his predetermined purpose. (10:3)

“Out of him,” or out of the “flock, the house of Judah,” would come a “cornerstone” (pinnáh). The Hebrew noun pinnáh basically means “corner” and may apply to a “cornerstone.” In this context, pinnáh is used metaphorically to designate a “leader” or a “chieftain.” When regarded as applying prophetically to one who would come from the “house of Judah,” more specifically from the royal line of David, this one would be the Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ. He would occupy a position comparable to the most important stone in an edifice. This is the role that Jesus, the Son of God, fills. (10:4; Luke 20:17, 18; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8)

Also “out of him,” or out of the “flock, the house of Judah,” would come a “tent peg.” Like a peg that is essential for holding up a tent with the rope that is attached to it, the promised Messiah would provide the support and leadership that his followers need. As a protector and defender, the Messiah could be spoken of as a “battle bow” coming “out of him,” or out of the “flock, the house of Judah.” Seemingly, to indicate that there would be those who would share authority with the one who would be like a “corner” or “cornerstone,” a “tent peg,” and a “battle bow,” the prophecy refers to “every dominator together” as likewise “coming out of him,” or out of this flock. (10:4; see the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering and other comments.)

With seeming reference to “every dominator” that would come from the “flock, the house of Judah,” the prophecy indicates that these leaders would be “like mighty men,” or triumphant warriors, “trampling the mud of the streets” while engaged “in battle.” They would war successfully, including against riders on horses, for YHWH would be “with them.” Despite the seeming military advantage of having horses, the riders would be “put to shame,” experiencing humiliating defeat. (10:5)

When the prophetic words are understood to apply to those in the service of the Messiah or Christ, Jesus, they provide the assurance that no enemy power would succeed against them. They would be triumphant on account of remaining unconquerable. (10:5; compare Luke 10:19.)

YHWH would turn his attention to those belonging to the “house of Judah,” strengthening them for carrying out his purpose regardless of what opposition they might face. The “house of Joseph” included the dominant tribe Ephraim and here represents all Israelites not of the “house of Judah.” Their being “saved” appears to refer to their being delivered from exile. Those of the “house of Judah” and of the “house of Joseph” whom he recognized as his repentant people, YHWH would “bring back” to their land (“settle them” [LXX]) because of his having compassion on them (“loved them” [LXX]). With their being granted his favor, their circumstances would then be as if he “had not rejected them” in the past. As “YHWH their God,” he would “answer them” (“hear them” [LXX]), responding to their petitions for help and guidance. (10:6)

Ephraim, representing all the Israelites aside from those of the former kingdom of Judah, would then be “like a mighty man.” This appears to indicate that, as a restored people, they would cease to be in a state of humiliation like a defeated nation but would be in circumstances comparable to that of triumphant warriors. The Septuagint refers to them as being “like warriors of Ephraim” when victorious. The “heart” of the people, or they in their inmost selves, would rejoice like persons who experience the cheering effect from drinking wine. Their “sons” or offspring would “see” this development and also “rejoice.” Then their “heart,” or they in their inmost selves, would find joy in YHWH, attributing their happiness to everything that he had done for them. (10:7)

YHWH is represented as gathering his people to bring them back to their land, doing so as if he were to “whistle” (“signal” [LXX]) for them. His redeeming them refers to his liberating them from exile. As a people back in their own land, they would become “great” or “many” as they had been “great” or “many” in the past. (10:8)

YHWH allowed enemy powers to conquer his people and to scatter them on account of their unfaithfulness to him. Therefore, their being scattered (literally, “sown”) “among the nations” is attributed to him. And in the distant lands to which they had been exiled, the people would “remember” YHWH, repentantly returning to him as their God. They would then come to be alive “with their sons” or children. This could mean that, instead of remaining in the downcast state of exiles, they would be revived or infused with new life and would return to their land. Something similar happened to Jacob when he became convinced that his son Joseph was still alive. (Genesis 45:27, 28) The Septuagint says regarding the people that “they will rear their children and return.” (10:9)

Israelite exiles resided in the land of Egypt and in the region that Asshur (Assyria) or the “Assyrians” (LXX) had formerly controlled. From those areas, YHWH would make it possible for his people to return, thus bringing them back to their own land. He would bring them to the “land of Gilead [Galaaditis (LXX)],” the territory east of the Jordan River, and to Lebanon (either meaning the region west of the Jordan River or the northernmost region of the former Israelite territory). Seemingly, because the Israelites would become a numerous people, the prophetic word was, “and for them it will not be found.” This elliptical phrase may indicate that the land would become so populated with Israelites as to make it appear that it was filled to overflowing. According to the Septuagint, not a single one of the people would be left behind, probably meaning left remaining in involuntary exile. (10:10)

It appears that the return of the Israelites from exile is depicted as being like the departure from Egypt when, in the time of Moses, they crossed the Red Sea. The third person singular Hebrew verb for “pass through” may be understood as a collective singular and apply to the people. This has the support of the Septuagint, which does have a third person plural form of the verb for “pass through” (diérchomai). The people would “pass through” a “sea of distress” or, according to the Septuagint, a “hemmed-in sea.” Possibly because of its being an apparent barrier to their departure, this body of water is called a “sea of distress.” (10:11; see the Notes section.)

To be grammatically consistent, the third person singular Hebrew verb for “strike” and the corresponding third person plural Greek verb would also apply to the people. It could be that they are being portrayed as striking down the “waves in the sea” because the waves would come to be nonexistent for them when passing through the body of water. This significance has a measure of support from the reference to the drying up of “all the depths of the Nile” or the deepest water of the river. (10:11)

For the “pride of Asshur” or Assyria to be laid low and for the “scepter of Egypt” to depart would signify that the powers in both regions would no longer exercise authority over God's people. The kind of pride that Assyria once had when gaining repeated military victories and proving to be seemingly unstoppable would cease to exist. Pride would then be transformed into a state of humiliation. As a great power, Egypt had once wielded a royal scepter. The departing of that scepter indicated that its former power would pass away. (10:11)

YHWH would make his people strong. Their being made “strong in YHWH” signifies they would be enjoying his protective care. They would walk in “his name,” conducting themselves in a manner that he (the One represented by the name) approved. According to the Septuagint, the people would “boast” in God’s name, taking pride in having a relationship with him as their God. (10:12)


For verse 1 in the Septuagint, the rendering of the plural form of the Hebrew noun chazíz (“storm cloud”) is the plural form of phantasía, which may designate “manifestations” or “visible signs.” God’s making such could refer to his doing things by which he reveals himself. It appears that the Septuagint translator linked chazíz to chazáh, meaning “see.” For the Hebrew expression rendered “showers of rain” in this verse, the Septuagint translator described the rain with the adjective cheimerinós, thus identifying the rain as “winter” rain.

The Hebrew word that may be rendered “dominator” (in verse 4) is a participial form of the verb nagás, meaning “oppress,” “drive,” “tyrannize,” or “wield power over.”

In verse 4, the Septuagint reads quite differently from the extant Hebrew text. “And from him he has looked upon, and from him he has arranged, and from him [was] a bow in wrath; from him will go forth every one who is expelling at the same time.” As in the case of the Hebrew text, “from him” or “out of him” could refer to the “flock, the house of Judah.” The antecedent could also be “horse.” Since the “flock” is made like a horse in battle, the meaning would not really change. Based on verse 3, the “Lord God Almighty” would be the one who is acting, looking upon from a position with reference to the flock, arranging or setting in order, readying the battle bow for shooting in order to express his wrath, and sending forth all who would do the expelling or driving away.

The consonants for the Hebrew word pinnáh (translated “cornerstone” in verse 4) are the same as a third person singular form of the Hebrew verb for “turn” (in order to look), and this may explain the reason for the Septuagint rendering that may be translated “he has looked upon.” When the lamed (L, the second letter) of the Hebrew noun rendered “battle” is deleted, the remaining three letters after the deleted lamed are the consonants for the word meaning “wrath” (chemáh), which is the rendering in the Septuagint. Nevertheless, the reading of the Septuagint is difficult to explain.

In verse 4, the Hebrew words rendered “cornerstone,” “tent peg,” and “battle bow” are singular. A number of translators have interpreted the singular to be a collective singular. Therefore, they have rendered the singular nouns as plural, applying the entire verse to God’s people. “From this flock will come leaders who will be strong like cornerstones and tent pegs and weapons of war.” (CEV) “From them shall come cornerstones, from them tent pegs, from them bows of combat, and every captain shall also arise from them.” (Tanakh)

Translators have variously interpreted the third person singular verbs in verse 11, applying them specifically to the people, to God, and to both the people and God. “They will pass through the sea of Egypt and strike its waves; all the depths of the Nile will become dry.” (REB) “I [God] will cross over to Egypt and smite the waves of the sea and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up.” (NAB) “My people will go through an ocean of troubles, but I will overcome the waves and dry up the deepest part of the Nile.” (CEV)