§ 3. This repentance will lead to purification from past defilement, and a reaction against idolatry and false prophet.
I will cut off the names of the idols. Idols should be so utterly abolished that their very names should perish ( Hosea 2:17 ; Micah 5:12 , Micah 5:13 ; Zephaniah 1:4 ). The prophet names the two chief sins which had brought ruin on the old theocracy—idolatry and false prophetism, and declares that these shall not be found in the new theocracy. As these two sins were not specially prevalent after the Captivity, some see in their mention here an argument for the pre-exilian authorship of this part of Zechariah. But the prophet, grounding his message on past history, does well to give assurance that such lapses shall not happen again. Nor is it altogether certain that the warning against these errors was not needed after the return. There were false prophets in Nehemiah's time ( Nehemiah 6:14 ); and we read in the Book of Maccabees that many Jews adopted heathen rites and customs, among which the worship of idols must have been included (1 Macc. 1:11, etc.; 2 Macc. 4:13, etc.), and the people and even priests contracted marriages with heathen wives ( Ezra 9:2 ; Nehemiah 13:23 ); so that there was real danger of relapse. The prophets. The false prophets are meant, as is evident from their being associated with idols and the unclean spirit, and from verses 3-6. The Septuagint has, "the false prophets;" so the Vulgate. The unclean spirit. This is the lying spirit which works in the false prophets (see 1 Kings 22:19-23 ), and which we find later denounced by apostles ( Acts 16:18 ; 1 Corinthians 10:20 , 1 Corinthians 10:21 ; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 , 2 Thessalonians 2:10 ; 1 Timothy 4:1 ). Septuagint, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον (comp, Matthew 12:43 ; Revelation 18:2 ).
The end of error.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols," etc. After the end of sin, the end of that which leads to sin, viz. of error. This gift completes the previous blessings by making them lasting and sure (comp. Psalms 85:8 ). This gift also, as we find it described here, is most complete in itself. It is so, whether we consider what is told us
I. THE ACTION OF GOD . It is promised here that he will put an end to error:
1 . By abolishing its very symbols . The "names" of idols are the symbols or words by means of which their supposed attributes or connection with different localities are set forth and commemorated; and under which also they are worshipped. Besides numerous classical examples, see in Acts 19:34 how evidently the people of Ephesus considered it as equivalent to a declaration of their faith to repeat the mere name of Diana. What is promised here, therefore, is that it should be eventually with all systems of error as it is now with many of the singular and subtle heresies which vexed the primitive Church. They are so far forgotten by this time that it is a matter of difficult antiquarian research even to ascertain their true meaning.
2 . By banishing its teachers. Not only then shall the "tares" of falsehood be "rooted up," but the "enemy" also that sowed them shall be taken away, This, moreover, shall be done so completely that not only the false "prophet," but the "unclean spirit" also, his inspirer and confederate, shall "cease" to exist in the land. Error, therefore, at that happy season, shall be twice dead, as it were; gone altogether beyond recollection; gone also beyond recovery.
II. THE ACTION OF MAN . Even should any persons qualified to act as false prophets be still left in existence (see again 1 Samuel 28:7 ), there will be two further things effectually to prevent them from making use of their gifts. There will be the extent to which, at that time, the false prophet:
1 . Shall be hated by others. He will be hated
2 . Despised by himself. For example, he will be ashamed
Whatever the special application of the passage which sets before us such a complete cessation of error, there are two general principles of much importance which seem illustrated thereby.
1 . The increasing light of the future. Compared with the past, whether Jewish or pagan, how full of light the dispensation that now is (see Matthew 13:16 , Matthew 13:17 ; Hebrews 11:13 ; 1 Peter 1:10 , 1 Peter 1:11 ; Acts 17:3 ; Acts 26:18 )! Compared with the future, how full of darkness ( 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 ; 1 John 3:2 ; Colossians 1:12 ; Revelation 21:23 ; Revelation 22:4 , Revelation 22:5 )! Much, indeed, yet remains to be revealed to those described in Psalms 25:14 .
2 . The great consequent blessedness of the future. What a scene of distraction, with its "many masters" (see Revised Version, James 3:1 ) and discordant outcries ( Matthew 24:23-26 ), not unlike the scene described in Daniel 7:2 , is the present! How profound the tranquillity, how sweet the calm, caused by the cessation of all! Happy, indeed, to have the hope of travelling at last "to where beyond these voices there is peace"!
The gospel age.
"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered," etc. Concerning the preceding chapter and these six verses, Dr. Keil says, "This section forms the first half of the second prophecy of Zechariah concerning the future of Israel and of the world, viz. the prophecy contained in ch. 12-14, which, as a side piece to ch. 9-11, treats of the judgment by which Israel, the nation of God, will be refined, sifted, and led on to perfection through conflict with the nations of the world. This first section announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will issue in destruction to the nations of the world ( Zechariah 12:1-4 ). Jehovah will endow the princes of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength to overcome all their foes ( Zechariah 11:5-9 ), and will pour out his spirit of grace upon them, so that they will bitterly repent the death of the Messiah ( Zechariah 11:10-14 ), and purify themselves from all ungodliness ( Zechariah 13:1-6 )." "The day" here is generally supposed by expositors to point to the gospel age; and three remarks are here suggested in relation to this day.
I. IT IS A " DAY " FOR THE ABOUNDING OF SIN - CLEANSING INFLUENCES . "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." This phrase comprehended the whole Jewish nation. To the Jews, washing from sin and ceremonial impurity was an idea with which they were well acquainted. It was enjoined by the Law ( Numbers 8:7 ; see also Ezekiel 36:25 ).
1 . That sin and uncleanness are in the world. This is a fact written in all history, patent to every man's observation and consciousness.
2 . The removal of sin is the world ' s great necessity. Its existence is the cause of all the miseries of the world, physical, social, political, religious.
3 . Provisions for its removal abound. "A fountain opened." Sin and uncleanness are not an essential part of human nature. Men have lived without sin, and men in the other world do now. It is a mere stain on human nature, separable from it, and the means of separation are provided—provided in the gospel. In the mediatory life, teaching, works, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. In all this he has opened to the world a fountain of influence by which sin is to be cleansed. It is a fountain. This implies:
II. IT IS A " DAY " IN WHICH IDOLATRY SHALL BE UTTERLY ABOLISHED . The spirit of idolatry is giving to any object that love which belongs only to the Supreme; and this sin is perhaps as rife in regions where monotheism is professed as in those lands where polytheism holds its empire. The cutting off the "names of the idols" means their utter destruction (see Hosea 2:17 ). But you may destroy all the million idols, involving those which are the workmanship of men and these which are the creation of God, before which men have bowed, and yet leave idolatry as rampant as ever. Nothing but the destruction of the spirit will be the destruction of idolatry. Hence we have here suggested a time when men shall give their affection to the Supreme Being, and to him alone, when they shall worship the one true and living God. This is the idolatry the gospel comes to destroy; it is to turn men from idols to. the living God. What a blessed age will that be, when all men on the face of the earth shall have their souls centred in love and devotion on the one great and common Father of us all! "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats" ( Isaiah 2:20 ).
III. IT IS A " DAY " IN WHICH ALL FALSE RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS SHALL CEDE . "And I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land," etc. The words here in relation to false prophets suggest the following thoughts.
1 . False religious teachers are great curses to a community. This is implied in the promise here of their destruction. False teachers in any branch of knowledge, be it historic, scientific, philosophic, literary, or artistic, are for many reasons great evils; but in religion the evils they inflict are inconceivably great. They deceive souls on the most vital of all points. False religious teachers are not merely teachers of pantheism, idolatry, or Mohammedanism, but even those who are nominally teachers of the gospel. The man who gives a wrong interpretation of the gospel is a false teacher, and such men are found even in the pulpits of our England. What blasphemous ideas of God and degrading notions of his blessed Son have we in some of the popular sermons of the age! Whosoever teaches the conventional Christ is false to the Christ of the gospel.
2 . False religious teachers may become objects of indignation even to their nearest relations. "And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth." It will be, indeed, a blessed time when the people of a country will have a greater love for truth than for their dearest relations, even their very children; when the appearance of a false teacher will awaken such a public indignation as will expose his very life to danger; when men's moral ears will be so attuned to truth, that the very sound of falsehood will become intolerable. Thank God, there is an age of moral reality coming, an age when men will recoil from shams as from "demons vile."
3 . False religious teachers will on this " day " be ashamed to exercise their mission. "The prophets shall be ashamed." If any false prophets should continue to exercise their function, they will have to do it:
CONCLUSION . Thank God, we live in this gospel age. The sin-cleansing fountain is here, sending forth its streams in all directions. They flow through all the good books we have, through all the good lives we meet with. Let the streams multiply. The fountain will supply streams equal to the exigencies of all. Let us remove obstructions, cut new channels, and strive to let them into every heart. These will multiply in power, and increase in volume, till all idolatry, false, teaching, and every other form of iniquity that pollutes the heart of the world, be washed clean away, and the whole world be holy in character, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.—D.T.