Zechariah 8:23

Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’" (ESV)

Who or what is being referred to or represented by the ten men?

There are more than ten tongues, or languages, among the nations. So is it just treating the "nations of every tongue" as a whole from which ten will come?

The use and meaning of the number ten is actually quite fascinating. As I understand it is often used as a default specific number for a nonspecific group of many (instead of saying "a lot" or "many" as we would do they just say ten or, when you need a specific number of many you would commonly specify 10 rather than 8 or 7, etc) 1 Samuel 1:8, 2 Kings 20:9-11, Nehemiah 4:12, Job 19:3, Ecc. 7:19, Daniel 1:12, Amos 6:9

At the same time the number is often quite purposely specific such as for Temple measurements and quantities.

So in answering the main question one will also want to cover the question: Is ten being used literally or symbolically?

Perhaps there are subtleties in the language that are not apparent in English?

  • Is there any reason why "ten men" should not mean "ten men"?
    – fdb
    Feb 17, 2016 at 18:21
  • @fdb "There are more than ten tongues, or languages, among the nations. So is it just treating the "nations of every tongue" as a whole from which ten will come?” Also, there's the a Jew part which almost makes it sound like this could be happening in many places to many Jews with different groups of ten men. Also, I thought it interesting way to look into the matter of "ten" in how the ancient world counted and used them symbolically many times. I don't mean that in some fancy symbolic way necessarily, just in the way it means "many".
    – Joshua
    Feb 17, 2016 at 18:57
  • @fdb Also, and I say this for the benefit of anyone reading this, it could be simply 10 man as you say. But that still does not clarify who. And I would expect some support to go along with that conclusion as I would with any. Sorry if that wasn't there earlier, I realized as I read it later. I'm not demanding it be anything more than what it is at its simplest. But even then it's a Prophecy with an intended fulfillment of some kind
    – Joshua
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:56

6 Answers 6


Backround of Zech. 8:23

Zechariah 8:23 is a prophetic passage; Zechariah prophesied to the post-exile Jews during the reign of Darius the Great(522-486BC). The call to come back and inhabit Jerusalem had already been given by Cyrus the Persian in 538BC; Ezra the Scribe had led the 1st group of captives back which included Jeshua, son of Jozedak and Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel; who both figure prominently in Zechariah as the High Priest and Governor, respectively.(Zech. 3,4/Ezra 3:2)

What was apparent was that all the Jews did not return from exile; it is estimated that perhaps 25% returned. The prophecy can in no way be said to be fulfilled in that passage, because " It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people"(יָבֹ֣אוּ- shall come)(KJV/HB). Therefore, as we continue to read Zechariah, we must be mindful of "Future Fulfillment".

Numerous Commentaries have weighed in concerning the fulfillment of this passage: whether you ascribe to the Preterist, Idealist, Futurist, or Historicist view, is how you will interpret this passage. Preterist are either silent, or take the view of fulfillment during Zechariah's time. The Idealist are perhaps the most prominent, stating that this prophecy is "fulfilled in Christ" and pointing to those who "would grab the skirt of Christ", who is a Jew-the 10 being "symbolic" of the Gentile nations.(See Gill's Commentary)

Zech. 8:23 for Dispensationalists refers to the Millenial Reign of Christ on the earth. The "Church" has been raptured, yet there is the Nation of Israel, and those 'Gentile' nations who've survived the Tribulation, and now have the expressed command to "Go Up" to Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles,

And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts.(Zech. 14:16-17)

J. Dwight Pentecost says,

So all Jews will be highly respected by Gentile peoples of all nations as God's mortal human representatives of God on earth during our LORD's millennial rule.(From Things to Come-pg. 507)

A Futurist view susbscribes to the Millenial Reign, yet doesn't exclude the church.

Historicist view basically establishes that Revelation is being fulfilled throughout history, and not isolated to "Pre-70AD" or "Post-Rapture".

Understanding of "10" in Prophecy

There are numerous examples of "10" being used in scripture:

10 months had elapsed before the trees were seen again, during the Great Flood(Gen. 8:5)

10 Righteous Men would have spared Sodom and Gomorrah(Gen. 18:22)-this is important because 10 men(women today) form a "minyan", the minimum requirement that a service can be held. It also relates to "10" sons of Jacob who traveled to Egypt(minus Joseph and Benjamin).

Abraham gave a 10th of all he possesed to Melchizek (Gen. 14:10) which is a prefigurement of Christ(Heb. 7:3) This same principle was expanded in the Law(Lev. 27:30) and in the New Testament(Heb. 7:8)

Abrahm's servant took 10 camels to Nahor, and gave Rebekah 2 bracelets weighing 10 shekels; he waited 10 days for Rebekah to say goodbye before she left with him.(Gen. 24:55)

Jacob's wages were changed 10 times by Laban(Gen. 31:7)

Joseph sent Jacob 10 asses(male and female)(Gen. 45:23)

10 curtains of linen surrounded the Tabernacle(Ex. 26:1)

The Ten Commandments-written by the finger of God(Ex. 34:28)

Day of Atonement was on the 10th day of the 7th month(Lev. 23:27)

10 shekels was evaluated the price of redemption for a female(Lev. 27:5)

The children of Israel tempted God 10 times in the wilderness(Num. 14:22)

10 spies, who weakened the will of Israel(Num. 13:32)

Moabite, Ammonite, or illegitimate child won't enter the congregation of the Lord for 10 generations(Deut. 23:2-3)

There are too numerous to mention other examples of '10' concerning offerings, portions assigned; Elkanah said to Hannah, "Am I not better than 10 sons?"(1 Sam. 1:8) "Ten" in each of these references is the number of "Man"; a man has 10 fingers, 10 toes. The 10 Commandments are the requirements of all men to abide by, our laws are based on them.

"10" in this instance is symbolic, as there are obviously more than 10 men from every nation. What is interesting is the concept of "minyan" representing 10. Can this passage be interpreted as every "group of 10" will be acknowledged by the Lord and His Apostles who will judge the 12 tribes of Israel(Matt. 19:28), along with those who dwell in Israel? Clearly, this passage references to Rom. 11:26, when the "natural branches" get grafted back in their own olive tree(vs 24).


10 is the number of man; in this instance the context is figurative since it is obvious from the passage that more than 10 men are on the earth(apart from Israel) at that time. I believe the "10" also refers to congregations which will receive Divine Direction and guidance from Jerusalem during the Millenial Reign.

  • Also, just reading today, Boaz brings 10 elders to witness the redeeming. And did you mean to say that the Passover lamb is selected on the 10th? The feast is not until the 15th (slaughtered on 14th, 4 days to check it for imperfection). There's also the Jewish tradition that Abraham was tested 10 times. Anyway, this is probably as good a summary as I can hope for. I was curious if anyone had connected the 10 men to the lost 10 tribes? But didn't want to mention it and bias anything earlier.
    – Joshua
    Feb 26, 2016 at 5:35
  • @JoshuaBigbee Yes, you are correct-the lamb was selected on the 10th day. There's enough information just from what I've gleaned to form an answer. Never mind the Beast w/ 7 Heads and 10 Horns. Man's government is 10; God's Government is 12.
    – Tau
    Feb 26, 2016 at 9:14
  • when I first came upon this verse and then learned more about 10 and how it can represent "complete" or "full" I immediately thought of Paul's "fullness of the nations" as the "10 men from the nations of every tongue" of Romans 11:25, just as you connected it.
    – Joshua
    Feb 26, 2016 at 14:18

Who or what is meant by the “ten men” of Zechariah 8:23?

Zechariah 8:23

Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’" (ESV)

"Jew" does not refer to a single person, but to the "spiritual Jews" Romans 2:28-29

Romans 2:28-29 (NRSV)

28 "For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God."

"Ten men" represent the great multitude from the nations, that Isaiah also prophesied ,in the last days many peoples will come and say ," let us go to the mountain of the LORD".

Isaiah 2:2-3 (NASB)

2 Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. ( Zion is not earthly Jerusalem: Hebrews 12:22-24)

As we have seen ,it is a prophetic verse and the figurative language, refers to the people of the nations that have an earthly hope and have "taken hold of the rope of a Jew." Jesus also made reference to his followers as two groups of people, united,"other sheep" (ten men from the nations) and "this fold" (a Jew)

Jesus has "two flocks" or" two pens of sheep", "this fold" and "other sheep"

John 10:16 (NASB)

16 "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."


"This fold " is also referred to as " little flock"(Luke 12:32) and Jesus said they will inherit the kingdom of heaven .

Luke 12:32 (NASB)

32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."

For those that will inherit the kingdom of heaven ,Jesus said. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mat.5:3 NASB ) Compare Heb. 12:28.

The number of those to be redeemed/purchased from the earth is limited to 144.000 as first fruits to God and Jesus.

Revelation 14:3-4 (NASB)

3 "And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. 4 These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men(mankind) as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. (First-fruits compare 1 Cor.15:23)


For the "other sheep" Jesus said: Matthew 5:5 (NASB)

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."

Revelation 7:9 (NRSV)

The Multitude from Every Nation.

9 "After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands."

"Standing before the throne" means having divine favor ,Luke 1:19, 21:36

God declares (Isaiah 45:18) that he did not create the earth for nothing, but made it to be inhabited,naturally by his chosen people. Matthew 25:32

Isaiah 45:18 (NASB)

18 "For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), I am the Lord, and there is none else."

Isaiah 11:1-9 (NRSV)

The Peaceful Kingdom

1 "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.He shall not judge by what his eyes see,or decide by what his ears hear."

4 "But with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,and faithfulness the belt around his loins.6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,the leopard shall lie down with the kid the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them."

7 "The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."


It's a Minyan, plain and simple

I propose a simple solution to this question. Ten men, in Judaism, is a minyan. This is defined as:

The smallest congregation which is permitted to hold public worship... made up of ten men, boys over thirteen years being for this, as for other religious purposes, counted as men.

The prophecy thus means that one day, a minyan of proselytes from each linguistic group will join with Jewish pilgrims from their lands to worship God in Jerusalem.

‘Peoples shall yet come,
Inhabitants of many cities;
The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,
“Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord,
And seek the Lord of hosts.
I myself will go also.”
Yes, many peoples and strong nations
Shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem,
And to pray before the Lord.’ (20-22)

The "ten men" is an indication that God will not be worshiped by isolated individuals in other lands, but by a quorum capable of establishing a lasting synagogue. Moreover these will be men of serious commitment, willing to make a costly pilgrimage with their Jewish brethren to seek God in the Holy City.


O wow.... that answer is a stretch. The commands were given to all of Israel (12tribes) Judah is just 1 out of 12. When Israel split into the Nothern Kingdom (consisting of 10 out of the 12 tribes) aka known as the house of Israel and the Southern Kingdom (consisting of 2 out of the 12 tribes Benjamin and Judah) aka the Jews and both Kingdoms sent into exile, the Northern Kingdom (the 10 tribes) never came back from the exile. So in these latter days since "the law aka the Torah will not depart from under the feet of Judah", the 10 tribes that were scattered will grab on to the hem of those who have the Torah aka Judah, to learn and follow Yah's commands. This is the good news. Those with eyes let them see and those with hears let them hear. May Yah bless you and may He allow brother Judah to see that we are coming home.

  • If you are suggesting that the ten men represent the ten northern tribes, then please state this explicitly. Other than the coincidence of the number ten, can you bring any other reasoning to support your idea?
    – user17080
    Feb 14, 2018 at 8:38
  • The order of the answers has changed. If you are still here please specify which answer you refer to. Oct 16, 2022 at 1:01

Short answer: The ten men represent the elect remnant of the lost sheep of the northern kingdom grabbing hold of a single Judean, the messiah/anointed one who would be used by God to draw them to himself.

In 30–33ad (or thereabouts) Jesus was on a mission to locate and gather to Jerusalem the 144,000 lost sheep of the northern kingdom of Israel and also from Judah. This mission was described in the prophets as a “fishing expedition” and a “hunting party”:

[Jer 16:14-17 ASV] (14) Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall no more be said, As Jehovah liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; (15) but, As Jehovah liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the countries whither he had driven them. And I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. (16) Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith Jehovah, and they shall fish them up; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks. (17) For mine eyes are upon all their ways; they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity concealed from mine eyes.

Jesus, the Messiah, in his earthly service to God was sent on this mission and called others to participate in this mission:

[Mat 4:19 ASV] (19) And he saith unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.

[Luk 10:1-2 NIV] (1) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. (2) He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

[Mat 9:37-38 ASV] (37) Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest indeed is plenteous, but the laborers are few. (38) Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send forth laborers into his harvest.

This task involved leaving their homes, businesses, families, etc.:

[Luk 14:33 KJV] (33) So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

This was such an urgent mission that there would be no time even for grieving the dead:

[Mat 8:19-22 NIV] (19) Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." (20) Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (21) Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." (22) But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

These were to follow him where ever he went:

[Rev 14:1-5 NIV] (1) Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. (2) And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. (3) And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (4) These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (5) No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.

Jesus knew he had a limited time to work:

[Jhn 9:4 ASV] (4) We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

[Mat 10:5-23 CSB] (5) Jesus sent out these twelve after giving them instructions: "Don't take the road that leads to the Gentiles, and don't enter any Samaritan town. (6) "Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (7) "As you go, proclaim: 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' (8) "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (9) "Don't acquire gold, silver, or copper for your money-belts. (10) "Don't take a traveling bag for the road, or an extra shirt, sandals, or a staff, for the worker is worthy of his food. (11) "When you enter any town or village, find out who is worthy, and stay there until you leave. (12) "Greet a household when you enter it, (13) "and if the household is worthy, let your peace be on it; but if it is unworthy, let your peace return to you. (14) "If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) "Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (16) "Look, I'm sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. (17) "Beware of them, because they will hand you over to local courts and flog you in their synagogues. (18) "You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles. (19) "But when they hand you over, don't worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, (20) "because it isn't you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you. (21) "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. (22) "You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (23) "When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. For truly I tell you, you will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

So Jesus' earthly mission was to gather the remnant 144,000 dispersed Israelites of the northern kingdom, to lay hold of Jesus, the messiah.

It is interesting that the #1 objection that Jews have of Jesus being the messiah is his alleged failure to regather the exiles of Israel.

What happened to them? They were spiritually resurrected in Acts 2 and following and then gathered home when Christ appeared around 70ad.


Have you read some of the verses in the same chapter?

  • Verse 6 has it wonderful in the eyes of both the remnant and the L-rd.
  • Verses 7 & 8 he is saving his people, bringing them back, dwelling in their midst, calling them his people in truth and righteousness.
  • Verse 9 hands be strong as they will build the 3rd temple using Ezekiel's unused floor plan.

Keep reading the rest of the verses up to ours. The simplest reading of the text will be fine for this.

You have all been giving tortuous ambiguous answers as you are scared to give the real meaning, you do not like the verses meaning, or can't imagine it to be true. Kind of like Isaiah 52 with the report that the world leaders are shocked over. 10 men it says and specifically says in the verse of all the nations. So it is 10 meaning a lot and all the nations always have a number of 70.

This is non-Jews in general everywhere who have now the knowledge of G-d which is expressed all over Tanach as covering the whole world. The Jew, as above, you have noticed is in the plural and means Jews. It doesn't say new Jews or spiritual Jews or any other type of Jews just Jews. At this time the whole world will finally realise G-d, there will now be a world of peace and everyone will be going to the Jews saying that beautiful line. You have in Zechariah 12 the end time war with G-d helping Jerusalem win. You have to give in or purposefully be fighting the prophets because you don't like what they say. They have eternal covenants. Their sins are always forgiven eventually, the focus of these prophets is them, victorious in the end and this here is just too obvious. The world knows Jews were always right here and the rest of this chapter tells you that just read the verses. but this is good news the entire world is getting redeemed. They are the priestly nation but everyone else in the congregation. They are the light to the nations you are the purpose of the light being shone.

  • Welcome to the BHse. Please take the tour to understand the group and its rules. Your answer needs to concentrate on dealing with the question as asked. Please try to stay away from telling other writers what to or implying their attitudes are inappropriate. Oct 16, 2022 at 4:15

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