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Post #7 “Zechariah 14:16–19: The Lord Summons the Nations to His Feast”
Verses 16–19 of Zechariah 14 continue the thought of the section addressed in the last post. What becomes of the Gentile nations?
16 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 17 And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them.18 If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.
The last post dealt with the horrible fate of the nations who attacked Jerusalem. There are those Gentiles, however, who survive the Day of the Lord. Though once strangers and enemies to Israel and her God, this remnant of Gentiles are now fellow worshipers with the Israelites. This picture of a remnant from the Gentile nations which engages in perpetual observance of the Feast of Booths (or “Tabernacles”) beautifully reveals the deep meaning and eventual fulfillment of this Old Testament feast.
The conversion of the nations is not pictured in terms of their being circumcised, or obeying the Law of Moses, but of worshipping the Lord. It must be noted that ‘go up’ still thinks in terms of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The language of the Old Covenant is being used to express the reality of the New (Isa. 66:23), and especially in its culmination when John sees ‘a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb’ (Rev. 7:9). John’s great multitude also ‘were holding palm branches in their hands’ (Rev. 7:9), and while this may reflect on Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:13), it also fits in with what is said here to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. On the first of the seven days of this feast the Israelites were instructed to ‘take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days’ (Lev. 23:40). But why is this festival singled out for mention? It came at the end of the religious calendar and so in measure summed up all the worship of Israel (note its position in Lev. 23 and Deut. 16.) It was also a festival in which the resident alien was permitted a role (Deut. 16:14). During this time the people lived in booths constructed out of branches to remind them of how they lived during the period in the Wilderness and how the Lord had guided them at that time (Lev. 23:42–43). It was also a time when they remembered the Lord’s on-going bounty to them in the harvest (Lev. 23:39; Deut. 16:13–15). The nations in coming to this feast were therefore making a double acknowledgment: that it was the Lord who had guided them to where they were, and that it was his bounty that they enjoyed in the harvest. In the light of the Lord’s providential and saving goodness, the feast was one characterised by joy. ‘Be joyful at your Feast. … your joy will be complete’ (Deut. 16:14, 15). This is why the redeemed of the nations celebrate it with joy.
What harvest is celebrated by this eschatological Feast of Booths? Barry Webb answers well. “It is people – formerly enemies, but now worshippers – gathered in from all the nations, to worship, at last, their rightful Lord and King.”
How fitting that the text now contrasts a harvest celebration with the withholding of rain. “‘Rain’ here stands for all the blessings that the Lord bestows, particularly in the harvest (10:1). These will be withheld from those who persist in their rebellion.” Andrew Hill adds, “The lack of rainfall was one of the curses God pronounced against Israel for covenant disobedience (cf. Deut. 28:22–24). Here that curse is extended to the nations by virtue of God’s rule over all peoples.” T. V. Moore remarks, “In this future condition, the present mingled state of reward and punishment shall end. Now God sends rain on the just and the unjust, then he will separate the good and the evil, and render unto every man according to his works.”
Why does Egypt receive special mention? Again, Andrew Hill
is helpful. “Egypt is singled out for mention, perhaps because it was the
origin of the Hebrew exodus (of which the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a
reminder, Lev. 23:43), and in the past it was a nation that ‘had suffered the
most from the plagues at God’s hands. If it did not participate in the future,
it would suffer again.’” Elsewhere
Egypt is envisioned as sharing in future worship with God’s people, signifying
the conversion of former pagans (see Is. 19:19–25). Here,
Egypt stands for those who refuse to so worship. It is also noteworthy that the
Book of the Revelation uses Egypt as a type of the Satanic world system which
persecutes God’s church. The trumpet judgments and the bowls of God’s final
wrath all point back to the plagues which God sent against Egypt when their
king refused to let Israel go. The city where the two prophetic witnesses are
slain is symbolically named Egypt (Rev. 11:8). Why does Egypt slay the
witnesses? It does so because of the divine plagues with which these prophets
strike Egypt, including the plague of drought (Rev. 11:6, 10). Even now, the
prophetic witness of the church painfully reminds the unrepentant world that already
“the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”
(Rom. 1:18). In the future day of which Zechariah speaks, Egypt as well as all
the unrepentant nations will forever suffer the unmitigated plagues of God’s
wrath (cf. Rev. 14:10–11; 15:1; 18:8; 21:8; 22:14–15, 18–19).
 MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 316.
 Webb, Zechariah, 181.
 MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 317.
 Hill, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 270.
 Thomas V. Moore, A Commentary on Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, Geneva Series of Commentaries (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1993), 313.
 Hill, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 270.
 Carl Friedrich Keil, The Twelve Minor Prophets, Keil and Delitzsch’s Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 457.