Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Midst. The obstinate Jews shall be destroyed. They became their own enemies. (Calmet) — The Zealots committed the greatest excesses during the siege. (Josephus, Jewish Wars v. 1.) — Tacitus also refers to these transactions, having written thirty volumes on the Cæsars, from Augustus to Domitian’s death.” (St. Jerome)
Ver. 2. I will gather, &c. This seems to be a prophecy of what was done by Antiochus, (Challoner) or of the last siege, (Worthington) by the Romans. (St. Jerome; Theodoret; Eusebius, Dem. vi. 18.) (Calmet) — Vespasian collected numerous forces. (Josephus, Jewish Wars iii. 1.) — Titus had six legions and many auxiliaries, Arabs, &c. (Tacitus, Hist. v.) — Various nations composed their army. (Worthington) — Rifled, or demolished. None was left standing. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 6.; Heges. v. 49.) — St. Jerome and others think that the city on Sion was spared, (Calmet) and 40,000 were permitted to dwell where they had a mind. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 15.) — But it is not said that they continued at Jerusalem. Half the Jews therefore perished, and those who maintained the siege found a grave in the city. (Theodoret) — Half only denotes a considerable part, as [in] ver. 8. Those who followed our Saviour’s admonition, retired before, and were safe (Calmet) at Pella, chap. x. 11. Septuagint, “the rest of my people shall not be destroyed out of the city.”
Ver. 3. Shall. Septuagint, “will stand in battle array among,” &c. (parataxetai en) though he will one day punish the victorious Romans. (Haydock) — Now he fought with them as [the] Hebrew may signify. (Calmet) — Various prodigies made this clear: (Josephus, Jewish Wars vii. 12, 16.) so that Titus would not receive the crown which was presented to him, as he looked upon himself only as the instrument employed by divine justice. (Philost. vi. 14.) — This sense is given by St. Cyril, &c. (Calmet) — In the days of Epiphanes, God defeated his projects. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Olives. Here the tenth legion was stationed, (Josephus, Jewish Wars vi. 3.) on the spot where Christ had denounced this judgment, and ascended into heaven, Luke xix. 41., and Acts i. 12. — South. We cannot shew the literal accomplishment. If it regard the latter times, this must be hidden. But it suffices that some great earthquake should take place, according to most interpreters; or rather, (Calmet) the Romans removed vast quantities of earth and stone. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vi. 12.) (Grotius) — Olivet has three tops; the southern one is the lowest. But whether this was caused by an earthquake we know not. The rocks are said to split, &c., when God displays his power and affords some miraculous assistance, Psalm xvii. 8., and Isaias xxiv. 8., and Habacuc iii. 10.
Ver. 5. Flee. While the siege was forming many escaped, according to Josephus. Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., “The vale of my mountains shall be filled up, for,” &c. (Calmet) — Yet Protestants agree with us. (Haydock) — Those should be “my.” (Ribera) (Menochius) — The next. Protestants and Septuagint, “reach unto Azal.” (Haydock) — You shall. Septuagint, &c., “and it shall be filled, as it was filled at the earthquake,” &c. (Calmet) — The Romans had to raise many works in the vale of Cedron, so that the trees all round were cut down, and the garden walls removed thither. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vi. 4, 14.) — Ozias, when he attempted to offer incense. (Josephus, Antiquities ix. 11.) (Amos i. 1., and 4 Kings xv. 15.) — Yet the earthquake is not specified in the sacred historical books. (Worthington) — On that occasion, the people retired into the vale formed by the separation of Olivet; or, if we follow the Septuagint, part of that mountain fell into the valley of Cedron, which we find nowhere else specified. (Calmet) — With him. Protestants, “thee.” (Haydock) — God is attended by his angels; though the Romans may be called his saints, or people destined to execute his decrees in this war, Isaias xiii. 3., and Sophonias i. 7., and Deuteronomy xxxiii. 3., and Joel iii. 1. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. No light; viz., in that dismal time of the persecution of Antiochus, when it was neither day nor night, (ver. 7.) because they neither had the comfortable light of the day, nor the repose of the night. (Challoner) — Darkness denotes distress. The citizens shall be in despair, Matthew xxiv. 29., and Ezechiel xxii. 8., and Joel ii. 2., and Apocalypse ix. 2. Hebrew seems to be corrupt: “no precious light, but thick,” or a cloud. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. In the time of the evening there shall be light. An unexpected light shall arise by the means of the Machabees, when things shall seem to be at the worst. (Challoner) — At one period of the last siege, it was dubious what would be the event, particularly (Calmet) when Titus was separated from almost all his attendants, and when the besieged burned the works of the enemy. (Josephus, Jewish Wars vi. 2., and 12.)
Ver. 8. Living waters; viz., the gospel of Christ. (Challoner) — Last: Mediterranean. (Haydock) — The prophet now turns to the figurative Jerusalem. The earthly city was not well supplied with water. (Calmet) — It was in the most dry and barren part of the country. (St. Jerome in Isaias xlix.) — As much as the Mediterranean excels the Dead Sea, so much do the Gentiles surpass the Jewish converts in numbers. See chap. xiii 1. (Calmet) — The true faith is Catholic in all places, and at all times. (Worthington)
Ver. 9. One Lord. The apostles justly gave this title to Christ, John xiii. 14. He is possessed of all power, Matthew xxviii. 18., and Philippians ii. 10. Pastors are all subject to him. (Calmet) — The Pope styles himself, “servant of the servants of God,” since St. Gregory’s time. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Return. This in some measure was verified by means of the Machabees; but is rather to be taken in a spiritual sense, as relating to the propagation of the Church and kingdom of Christ, the true Jerusalem, which alone shall never fall under the anathema of destruction, or God’s curse. (Challoner) — The limits of Jerusalem were never so extensive. — Hill, or Gabaa to Remmon,” or the pomegranate. The situation is not ascertained.
Ver. 11. Anathema. It shall not be sentenced to utter ruin. The Church may suffer losses, but cannot perish. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Consume. Such judgments as these have often fallen upon the persecutors of God’s Church, as appears by many instances in history. (Challoner) — This has partly been verified in persecuting emperors, (St. Jerome) and in others, and will befall the wicked when the day of judgment shall draw near. (Worthington) — Herod, who made war on Christ, and Agrippa, who attacked his Church, (Calmet) were both devoured by worms. (Josephus, Antiquities xvii. 9., and xix. 7.) (Acts xii. 13.) — Nero slew himself; Maximian was eaten to death by an inward ulcer; and his colleague’s (Maximinus) eyes fell from his head. (Eusebius in Constantine i. 57., and 59.) — It would seem as if Zacharias beheld them. He may also speak of the attempts of God, and of Epiphanes, chap. ii. 8., and xii. 9.
Ver. 13. Them. The Church shall be alarmed at these wars, seeing enemies on all sides. But those days shall be shortened, Matthew xxiv. 21. — Hand. Christians shall assist each other; or rather the nearest relations will persecute them, Matthew x. 21, 36. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Even Juda, &c. The carnal Jews, and other false brothers, shall join in persecuting the Church. (Challoner) — The Jews shewed themselves the most virulent, 2 Corinthians xi. 24., and Acts viii., &c. They insisted on the death of St. Polycarp. — Riches. Converts shewed their generosity so much, (Calmet) that Julian and Felix, apostates, complained of this profusion in sacred vessels. (Theod.[Theodoret,?] Hist. ii. 11, 12.)
Ver. 15. Shall be like this destruction. That is, the beasts shall be destroyed as well as the men; the common soldiers as well as their leaders. (Challoner) — History does not specify the death of cattle, (Calmet) though in plagues this would inevitably follow; and the pagans complained that they were become more common since the propagation of the gospel. (Haydock) — The reverses which the troops of Dioclesian, &c., sustained, were to punish their enmity to religion. (Calmet)
Ver. 16. Left. That is, many of them that persecuted the Church shall be converted to its faith and communion, (Challoner) particularly after Constantine. (Calmet) — Tabernacles. This feast was kept by the Jews, in memory of their sojourning forty years in the desert, in their way to the land of promise. And in the spiritual sense, is duly kept by all such Christians as in their earthly pilgrimage are continually advancing towards their true home, the heavenly Jerusalem, by the help of the sacraments and sacrifice of the Church. And they that neglect this, must not look for the kind showers of divine grace to give fruitfulness to their souls. (Challoner) — Out of the Church there is no salvation. (Calmet) — Other things may be obtained. (St. Cyprian) (Haydock) — The converts shall celebrate the Christian festivals, and merit great rewards, while infidels shall remain barren and devoid of eternal happiness. (Worthington) — We have no solemnity of tabernacles; but Gentiles keep the Epiphany in thanksgiving for their vocation to God’s admirable light, 1 Peter ii. 9. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. There. Septuagint, “these shall also be added to them” who perish. (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Sin, or punishment. Formerly various nations were excluded from the religion or assemblies of Israel, Leviticus xxii. 25., and Deuteronomy xxiii. 1. Now all are invited and compelled to enter the Church, so that they can have no excuse, Luke xiv. 24. (Calmet) — Those rejected by the Jews might still have true faith. (Haydock)
Ver. 20. Bridle. The golden ornaments of the bridles, &c., shall be turned into offerings in the house of God. And there shall be an abundance of cauldrons and phials for the sacrifices of the temple; by which is meant, under a figure, the great resort there shall be to the temple, that is, to the Church of Christ, and her sacrifice. (Challoner) — It is of a different nature, being the body and blood of Christ. But it shall not be confined to one place, nor the priesthood to one family, ver. 21. Hebrew, “they shall inscribe on the stables, Holy,” &c. The most filthy places shall be purified and changed into temples; or, “what is upon the little bells for horses shall be sanctified;” or, on these “bells shall be inscribed, sacred to the Lord.” (Calmet) — Metsilloth may signify a bell or bridle, &c. (Haydock) — The bits were often of gold. (Virgil, Æneid vii., and viii.) (Calmet) — St. Jerome’s master said the word should be motsiluth, “trappings” and armour. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Merchant; or, as some render it, the Chanaanite shall be no more, &c., that is, the profane and unbelievers shall have no title to be in the house of the Lord; or, there shall be no occasion for buyers or sellers of oxen, or sheep, or doves, in the house of God, such as Jesus Christ cast out of the temple. (Challoner) (John ii. 16.) — All former distinction of Jew and Gentile shall cease in the Church. Past faults shall be forgotten. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
After the persecutions of the Church, shall follow great prosperity. Persecutors shall be punished: so shall all that will not serve God in his Church.
1 Behold the days of the Lord shall come, and thy spoils shall be divided in the midst of thee.
2 And I will gather all nations to Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken, and the houses shall be rifled, and the women shall be defiled: and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the rest of the people shall not be taken away out of the city.
3 Then the Lord shall go forth, and shall fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is over-against Jerusalem toward the east: and the mount of Olives shall be divided in the midst thereof to the east, and to the west with a very great opening, and half of the mountain shall be separated to the north, and half thereof to the south.
5 And you shall flee to the valley of those mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall be joined even to the next, and you shall flee *as you fled from the face of the earthquake in the days of Ozias, king of Juda: and the Lord, my God, shall come, and all the saints with him.
6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall be no light, but cold and frost.
7 And there shall be one day, which is known to the Lord, not day nor night: and in the time of the evening there shall be light:
8 And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem: half of them to the east sea, and half of them to the last sea: they shall be in summer and in winter.
9 And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be one.
10 And all the land shall return even to the desert, from the hill to Remmon, to the south of Jerusalem: and she shall be exalted, and shall dwell in her own place, from the gate of Benjamin even to the place of the former gate, and even to the gate of the corners; and from the tower of Hananeel even to the king’s wine-presses.
11 And people shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more an anathema: but Jerusalem shall sit secure.
12 And this shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord shall strike all nations that fought against Jerusalem: the flesh of every one shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
13 In that day there shall be a great tumult from the Lord among them: and a man shall take the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall be clasped upon his neighbour’s hand.
14 And even Juda shall fight against Jerusalem: and the riches of all nations round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and garments in great abundance.
15 And the destruction of the horse, and of the mule, and of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts, that shall be in those tents, shall be like this destruction.
16 And all they that shall be left of all nations that came against Jerusalem, shall go up from year to year, to adore the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
17 And it shall come to pass, that he that shall not go up of the families of the land to Jerusalem, to adore the King, the Lord of hosts, there shall be no rain upon them.
18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, nor come: neither shall it be upon them, but there shall be destruction, wherewith the Lord will strike all nations that will not go up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
19 This shall be the sin of Egypt, and this the sin of all nations, that will not go up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
20 In that day that which is upon the bridle of the horse shall be holy to the Lord: and the cauldrons in the house of the Lord shall be as the phials before the altar.
21 And every cauldron in Jerusalem and Juda shall be sanctified to the Lord of hosts: and all that sacrifice, shall come, and take of them, and shall seeth in them: and the merchant shall be no more in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day.
5: Amos i. 1.