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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 8–13
Verses 8–13

These verses relate to Zion and Jerusalem, here called the tower of the flock or the tower of Edor; we read of such a place (Gen. 35:21) near Bethlehem; and some conjecture it is the same place where the shepherds were keeping their flocks when the angels brought them tidings of the birth of Christ, and some think Bethlehem itself is here spoken of, as Mic. 5:2. Some think it is a tower at that gate of Jerusalem which is called the sheep-gate (Neh. 3:32), and conjecture that through that gate Christ rode in triumph into Jerusalem. However, it seems to be put for Jerusalem itself, or for Zion the tower of David. All the sheep of Israel flocked thither three times a year; it was the stronghold (Ophel, which is also a name of a place in Jerusalem, Neh. 3:27), or castle, of the daughter of Zion. Now here,

I. We have a promise of the glories of the spiritual Jerusalem, the gospel-church, which is; the tower of the flock, that one fold in which all the sheep of Christ are protected under one Shepherd: “Unto thee shall it come; that which thou hast long wanted and wished for, even the first dominion, a dignity and power equal to that of David and Solomon, by whom Jerusalem was first raised, that kingdom shall again come to the daughter of Jerusalem, which it was deprived of at the captivity. It shall make as great a figure and shine with as much lustre among the nations, and have as much influence upon them, as ever it had; this is the first or chief dominion.” Now this had by no means its accomplishment in Zerubbabel; his was nothing like the first dominion either in respect of splendour and sovereignty at home or the extent of power abroad; and therefore it must refer to the kingdom of the Messiah (and to that the Chaldee-paraphrase refers it) and had its accomplishment when God gave to our Lord Jesus the throne of his father David (Luke 1:32), set him king upon the holy hill of Zion and gave him the heathen for his inheritance (Ps. 2:6), made him, his first-born, higher than the kings of the earth, Ps. 89:27; Dan. 7:14. David, in spirit, called him Lord, and (as Dr. Pocock observes) he witnessed of himself, and his witness was true, that he was greater than Solomon, none of their dominions being like his for extent and duration. The common people welcomed Christ into Jerusalem with hosannas to the son of David, to show that it was the first dominion that came to the daughter of Zion; and the evangelist applies it to the promise of Zion’s king coming to her, Matt. 21:5; Zech. 9:9. Some give this sense of the words: To Zion, and Jerusalem that tower of the flock, to the nation of the Jews, came the first dominion; that is, there the kingdom of Christ was first set up, the gospel of the kingdom was first preached (Luke 24:47), there Christ was first called king of the Jews.

II. This is illustrated by a prediction of the calamities of the literal Jerusalem, to which some favour and relief should be granted, as a type and figure of what God would do for the gospel-Jerusalem in the last days, notwithstanding its distresses. We have here,

1. Jerusalem put in pain by the providences of God. “She cries out aloud, that all her neighbours may take notice of her griefs, because there is no king in her, none of that honour and power she used to have. Instead of ruling the nations, as she did when she sat a queen, she is ruled by them, and has become a captive. Her counsellors have perished; she is no longer at her own disposal, but is given up to the will of her enemies, and is governed by their counsellors. Pangs have taken her.” (1.) She is carried captive to Babylon, and there is in pangs of grief. “She goes forth out of the city, and is constrained to dwell in the field, exposed to all manner of inconveniences; she goes even to Babylon, and there wears out seventy tedious years in a miserable captivity, all that while in pain, as a woman in travail, waiting to be delivered, and thinking the time very long.” (2.) When she is delivered out of Babylon, and redeemed from the hand of her enemies there, yet still she is in pangs of fear; the end of one trouble is but the beginning of another; for now also, when Jerusalem is in the rebuilding, many nations are gathered against her, Mic. 4:11. They were so in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s time, and did all they could to obstruct the building of the temple and the wall. They were so in the time of the Maccabees; they said, Let her be defiled; let her be looked upon as a place polluted with sin, and be forsaken and abandoned both of God and man; let her holy places be profaned and all her honours laid in the dust; let our eye look upon Zion, and please itself with the sight of its ruins, as it is said of Edom (Obad. 1:12; Thou shouldst not have looked upon the day of thy brother); let our eyes see our desire upon Zion, the day we have long wished for. When they hear the enemies thus combine against them, and insult over them, no wonder that they are in pain, and cry aloud. Without are fightings, within are fears.

2. Jerusalem made easy by the promises of God: “Why dost thou cry out aloud? Let thy griefs and fears be silenced; indulge not thyself in them, for, though things are bad with thee, they shall end well; thy pangs are great, but they are like those of a woman in travail (Mic. 4:9), that labours to bring forth (Mic. 4:10), the issue of which will be good at last.” Jerusalem’s pangs are not as dying agonies, but as travailing throes, which after a while will be forgotten, for joy that a child is born into the world. Let the literal Jerusalem comfort herself with this, that, whatever straits she may be reduced to, she shall continue until the coming of the Messiah, for there his kingdom must be first set up, and she shall not be destroyed while that blessing is in her; and when at length she is ploughed as a field, and become heaps (as is threatened, Mic. 3:12), yet her privileges shall be resigned to the spiritual Jerusalem, and in that the promises made 1ea3 to her shall be fulfilled. Let Jerusalem be easy then, for, (1.) Her captivity in Babylon shall have an end, a happy end (Mic. 4:10): There shalt thou be delivered, and the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thy enemies there. This was done by Cyrus, who acted therein as God’s servant; and that deliverance was typical of our redemption by Jesus Christ, and the release from our spiritual bondage which is proclaimed in the everlasting gospel, that acceptable year of the Lord, in which Christ himself preached liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that were bound, Luke 4:18, 19. (2.) The designs of her enemies against her afterwards shall be baffled, nay, they shall turn upon themselves, Mic. 4:12, 13. They promise themselves a day of it, but it shall prove God’s day. They are gathered against Zion, to destroy it, but it shall prove to their own destruction, which Israel and Israel’s God shall have the glory of. [1.] Their coming together against Zion shall be the occasion of their ruin. They associate themselves, and gird themselves, that they may break Jerusalem in pieces, but it will prove that they shall be broken in pieces, Isa. 8:9. They know not the thoughts of the Lord. When they are gathering together, and Providence favours them in it, they little think what God is designing by it, nor do they understand his counsel; they know what they aim at in coming together, but they know not what God aims at in bringing them together; they aim at Zion’s ruin, but God aims at theirs. Note, When men are made use of as instruments of Providence in accomplishing its purposes it is very common for them to intend one thing and for God to intend quite the contrary. The king of Assyria is to be a rod in God’s hand for the correction of his people, in order to their reformation; howbeit he means not so, nor does his heart think so, Isa. 10:7. And thus it is here; the nations are gathered against Zion, as soldiers into the field, but God gathers them as sheaves into the floor, to be beaten to pieces; and they could not have been so easily, so effectually, destroyed, if they had not gathered together against Zion. Note, The designs of enemies for the ruin of the church often prove ruining to themselves; and thereby they prepare themselves for destruction and put themselves in the way of it; they are snared in the work of their own hands. [2.] Zion shall have the honour of being victorious over them, Mic. 4:13. When they are gathered as sheaves into the floor, to be trodden down, as the corn then was by the oxen, then, “Arise, and thresh, O daughter of Zion! instead of fearing them, and fleeing from them, boldly set upon them, and take the opportunity Providence favours thee with of trampling upon them. Plead not thy own weakness, and that thou art not a match for so many confederated enemies; God will make thy horn iron, to push them down, and thy hoofs brass, to tread upon them when they are down; and thus thou shalt beat in pieces many people, that have long been beating thee in pieces.” Thus, when God pleases, the daughter of Babylon is made a threshing floor (it is time to thresh her, Jer. 51:33), and the worm Jacob is made a threshing instrument, with which God will thresh the mountains, and make them as chaff, Isa. 41:14, 15. How strangely, how happily, are the tables turned, since Jacob was the threshing-floor and Babylon the threshing instrument! Isa. 21:10. Note, When God has conquering work for his people to do he will furnish them with strength and ability for it, will make the horn iron and the hoofs brass; and, when he does so, they must exert the power he gives them, and execute the commission; even the daughter of Zion must arise, and thresh. [3.] The glory of the victory shall redound to God. Zion shall thresh these sheaves in the floor, but the corn threshed out shall be a meat-offering at God’s altar: I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord (that is, I will have it consecrated) and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth. The spoils gained by Zion’s victory shall be brought into the sanctuary, and devoted to God, either in part, as those of Midian (Num. 31:28), or in whole, as those of Jericho, Josh. 6:17. God is Jehovah, the fountain of being; he is the Lord of the whole earth, the fountain of power; and therefore he needs not any of our gain or substance, but may challenge and demand it all if he please; and with ourselves we must devote all we have to his honour, to be employed as he directs. Thus far all we have must have holiness to the Lord written upon it, all our gain and substance must be consecrated to the Lord of the whole earth, Isa. 23:18. And extraordinary successes call for extraordinary acknowledgments, whether they be of spoils in war or gains in trade. It is God that gives us power to get wealth, which way soever it is honestly got, and therefore he must be honoured with what we get. Some make all this to point at the defeat of Sennacherib when he besieged Jerusalem, others to the destruction of Babylon, others to the successes of the Maccabees; but the learned Dr. Pocock and others think it had its full accomplishment in the spiritual victories obtained by the gospel of Christ over the powers of darkness that fought against it. The nations thought to ruin Christianity in its infancy, but it was victorious over them; those that persisted in their enmity were broken to pieces (Matt. 21:44), particularly the Jewish nation; but multitudes by divine grace were gained to the church, and they and their substance were consecrated to the Lord Jesus, the Lord of the whole earth.