The Hebrews wealth was in children: the misery of being childless.
The first verse of this chapter, whilst it has little or no relation to what follows, is vitally linked with what has preceded, for further misery awaits the daughters of Zion in that day.
1: Seven women shall urgently plead with one man:Instead of that striking provision of God's goodness, "male and female created He them"—a numerical equality of sexes being maintained—desolating war has so done its work that there is but one man left to seven women; who, all feminine modesty extinguished, beg to be taken into his household, engaging to be of no expense to him.
To die childless was to the Hebrew the acme of misery, for when God was directly governing the land, as in Israel, His promises and threats, while pregnant with suggestions of a scene beyond this life, were, in their direct expression, confined to it; so that to pass out of it leaving no children, was a most suggestive figure of that eternal reprobation fully revealed only in the New Testament. A Hebrew woman's desolation could go no further.
All this is but a black cloud to serve as a foil to the beauty and glory of our Lord, for now again we hear the same refrain, only no longer in the minor key of a solemn dirge; a joyous song begins with the seventh repetition of "In that day." God never rests short of the perfection of the number seven.
2: The Sprout of the Lord shall be beauty and glory,A most refreshing change! However uninteresting we may have found the third chapter, woe to us if we are indifferent to this. For who is this "Branch," or rather "Sprout,"* of Jehovah? The Jewish Targum saw their Messiah in this beautiful figure, and shall we be more blind to Him? Nay, here we see "Jesus only," alone in His glorious divinity, the "Only begotten Son" of God.
[*There are eighteen words in Hebrew rendered "branch" in A. V. Here it is "tzemach," the prime root meaning "to sprout forth," and gives the idea of the energy of life. This would be better conveyed by "sprout" than by "branch."]
But He has another title, "Fruit of the land," and in this we see Him in His spotless humanity, sprouting forth amid all the death and desolation of Adam's race, "a root out of a dry ground," as we may see Him later, the "First-begotten" Son.
Amid all the ruin, here is one single Star of promise, hope and blessing, filled with the irresistible energy of a new life, and thrusting that life forth in lovely contrasts of beauty, and all is for His redeemed, His Israel. For there shall be a remnant of Israel left after the burning judgments of Jehovah have passed over her, and every one of this remnant shall be written in the book of life; not only be born again, but glorified, although on earth. Over every family dwelling, over the totality of the nation, shall be the same visible evidence of His love and care as in the day of the deliverance from Egypt. Thus overshadowed, no heat shall strike, no storm nor tempest invade that happy spot: it is truly—we may say literally—heaven on earth.
But where is our dwelling, the heavenly Jerusalem, in all this? May we not see a suggestion of it in that very "glory" that hovers over the earthly city? This is in strict accord with the book so justly termed "Revelation." There, the heavenly city holds the centre of the stage, and the earthly city takes the inferior place of the "wall great and high" (Rev. 21:12).
This then is the beginning of what is termed the Millennium, when Israel's Messiah, our Lord Jesus, shall reign over the earth. It is the dispensation of the fulness of times, when indeed all things shall "be headed up in Him, both which are in heaven and on earth" (Eph. 1:10). In one spot there is "New Creation," both heavenly and earthly, these being closely identified: the "new heavens" being the "City, the Heavenly Jerusalem," the "new earth" being the Jerusalem on earth, and, as coming between the "City" and the saved nations, it is termed the "wall."
It is the "regeneration" of the earth, and corresponds to the regeneration of the individual Christian today, for in his case, too, it is not a perfect condition, the body still having that evil principle "sin" within, and so being under the sentence of death (Rom. 8:10); but the spirit, as Israel in that day, is even now fully renewed by the Holy Spirit. Israel shall then be Jezreel, the Seed of God, and her condition is one of unending perfection. To her the Heavens are New—to her the Earth is New; but mankind as a whole still awaits one final test, when the great enemy shall be released from that abyss that has been his prison for the thousand years; then, but not till then, will He (our Lord) proclaim Himself as the One who makes "all things new," and there is "neither adversary nor evil occurrent" (1 Kings 5:4) in the whole universe of bliss, for so hath God greatly purposed.Thus are there three epochs of new creation: Individual (2 Cor. 5:17): Israel (Isa. 65:17): All mankind (Rev. 21:5).