“Thus says Yahweh of hosts.
‘I will save my people
From the east country,
As well as from the west country.
I will bring them
They shall be my people.
I will be their God,
Yahweh of hosts, via Zechariah, said that he would save his people not only from Babylon in the east, but also those scattered in the western countries. He wanted to bring them all together to live in Jerusalem, the holy city. They would be his people. He would be their God, faithfully and righteously.
For your people,
For your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To put an end
To bring in
To seal both vision,
As well as prophet,
A most holy place.’”
Thus, we have the prophetic statement of Gabriel. The terminology here is weeks and not years. Jeremiah had used 70 years. 7 was generally a complete or perfect number. Therefore, the popular terminology developed about lucky 7. During these 70 weeks or 70 years, they would make up for all the transgressions of the people and the holy city. Does 70 weeks imply 70 years times a week of 7, or 490 years? This time would atone for their sins and their iniquities. This would then bring about an everlasting righteousness, sealing both the vision and the prophet. Thus, they could anoint this holy place at the end of this period.
“When you allot the land
As an inheritance,
You shall set apart
A portion of the land
As a holy district,
Twenty-five thousand cubits long,
Twenty thousand cubits wide.
It shall be holy
Throughout its entire extent.”
Here is the grand design for the new Jerusalem. Yahweh wanted Ezekiel to set aside a large portion of the land to be holy, a true holy land. This was the expectation of a new configuration for Jerusalem, the holy city, not just the Temple itself. This rectangular area was about 25,000 by 20,000 cubits, a large section of land about 9 miles by 8 miles wide. How he was going to get this really big area was not clear.
“I will avert
Thus they may profane
My treasured place.
The violent ones
Shall enter it.
They shall profane it.
Make a chain!
The land is
Full of bloody crimes.
The city is
Full of violence.
I will bring
Of the nations
To take possession
Of their houses.
I will put an end
To the arrogance
Of the strong.
Their holy places
Shall be profaned.”
Outsiders will occupy Jerusalem. Yahweh was going to turn his face away from the inhabitants of the holy city. Thus these outsiders would profane the treasured places of Jerusalem. Violent wicked people would enter the holy city and desecrate it. The people of Jerusalem would be captured. They would be forced to make a chain, and to be put in chains. The land would be full of bloody crimes. The city would be full of violence. Yahweh was going to bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses. Yahweh was going to put an end to the arrogant and strong ones of the city, while their holy places would be profaned.
“Your holy cities
Have become a wilderness.
Zion has become a wilderness.
Jerusalem has become desolation.
Our holy beautiful house,
Where our ancestors praised you,
Has been burned by fire.
All our pleasant places
Have become ruins.
After all this,
Will you restrain yourself?
Will you keep silent?
Will you punish us so severely?”
This prophet wanted an end to the desolation in Jerusalem. The holy city had become a wilderness. Zion or Jerusalem was desolate. The beautiful house that his ancestors had worshipped in had been burned by fire, so that it lay in ruins with many other pleasant places. He wanted Yahweh to act and not be silent. Why had he punished them so severely?
“There is a river whose streams
Make glad the city of God.
This is the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city.
It shall not be moved.
God will help it
When the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar.
The kingdoms totter.
He utters his voice.
The earth melts.
Yahweh of hosts is with us.
The God of Jacob is our refuge.”
The symbolic river around the holy city of Jerusalem called streams only leads to the enchantment of this city of God. Those who live there are holy because God is in the midst of them. The city will not be moved since God is with them from early morning on. Even when the nations are in an uproar, or kingdoms are falling, God’s voice would be there to melt the earth. This section ends with the refrain of Yahweh, the God of Jacob, as his refuge. Perhaps this should have been in the first section also, before the Selah, musical interlude pause, as it is here.
“Then the abominable fellow made a vow to the Lord, who would no longer have mercy on him. He stated that the holy city, which he was hastening to level to the ground in order to make it a cemetery, was now declared to be free. He had not considered the Jews worth burying. He had planned to throw them out with their children for the wild animals and for the birds to pick on. However, now he would make all of them equal to citizens of Athens. The holy sanctuary, which he had formerly plundered, he would adorn with the finest offerings. All the holy vessels he would give back many times over. The expenses, incurred for the sacrifices, he would provide from his own revenues. In addition to all this he also would become a Jew. He would visit every inhabited place to proclaim the power of God. However, when his sufferings did not in any way abate, for the judgment of God had justly come upon him, he gave up all hope for himself.”
This deathbed reversal of King Antiochus IV goes into greater detail here than in 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. For Jerusalem, the city that he was going to make into a cemetery, now he was declaring it a free city. For the Jews themselves, instead of letting their bodies lay in the open for the wild animals and birds, he was making them citizens like the people in Athens. He was going to give fine offerings for the sanctuary he had plundered. He was going to return all the holy vessels that he took and more. He would pay for the expenses of the sacrifices out of his own revenue. He also was willing to become a Jew. He was going to go every place to proclaim God. However, his own just sufferings did not stop. He gave up all hope for himself. Thus this born again conversion of the king included the idea of becoming a Jew, which was extraordinary.
Why was I born to see this?
The ruin of my people,
The ruin of the holy city,
I had to live there when it was given over to the enemy.
The sanctuary was given over to aliens.
Her temple has become like a person without honor.
Her glorious vessels have been carried into exile.
Her infants have been killed in her streets.
Her youth have been killed by the sword of the foe.
What nation has not inherited her palaces?
What nation has not seized her spoils?
All her adornment has been taken away.
She is no longer free.
She has become a slave.
Our holy place,
Our glory have been laid waste.
The gentiles have profaned it.
Why should we live any longer?’
Mattathias and his sons tore their clothes. They put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly.”
Once again we have poetic fragment. This one is ascribed to Mattathias as he laments the state of Jerusalem. He wanted to know why he was born and why should he live. The situation in Jerusalem was so bad with the ruin of his people and the holy city as it was given over to the alien enemy. Her sanctuary and vessels were defamed and all gone. There was no honor, as infants were killed in the streets. Young people were killed. Every nation has seized some part of her palaces. Jerusalem was not free, but a slave. The holy, beautiful places of glory lay wasted. He and his sons tore their clothes and put on sackcloth. They mourned greatly over Jerusalem with the traditional signs of mourning, ashes and sackcloth. They left their wonderful Jerusalem in shambles.
The holy city,
He afflicted you with the deeds of your hands.
But he will again have mercy on the children of the righteous.
Acknowledge the Lord.
He is good.
Bless the King of the ages.
May his tent be rebuilt in you again with joy.
May he cheer all those within you who are captives.
May he love all those within you who are distressed,
To all generations forever.”
Tobit turned to Jerusalem, the holy city. God Had afflicted them. However, he would have mercy on the children of the righteous, as long as they acknowledged the Lord. God is good and the king of ages. He would rebuild his tent in Jerusalem. He would cheer the captives. He loved those who were distressed. Tobit prayed for the renewal of Jerusalem.
“Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem. Nine tenths remained in the other towns. The people blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. These are the leaders of the province who lived in Jerusalem. But in the towns of Judah every one lived on his property in their towns. This included the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.”
Obviously not all the people could live in Jerusalem. The most important officials lived in Jerusalem. They cast lots so that 1 out of 10 people in Judah could live in Jerusalem. This would make Jerusalem the power town in Judah. However, 90% lived in the rest of Judah. Some people were happy that a number of people were willing to live in Jerusalem instead of their own land. The leaders of the provinces lived in Jerusalem along with the priests, the Levites, the Temple servants and the descendents of Solomon’s servants. Otherwise, everyone lived on their own property in Judah.