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Is Zechariah 8:23 a prophecy about Gentiles embracing the Jewish teachings on spiritual matters?

Zechariah 8:23 ASV Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all the languages of the nations, they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

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    Obviously yes. What could the plain meaning of verse be otherwise? Especially in the context of verses 21 to 23? The Hebrew of these verses is simple. The common English translations such as the ASV are reasonable. Aug 26, 2022 at 12:09
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahimalYahud.Thank you for your comment. Can you please elaborate by answering the question. Aug 26, 2022 at 12:13
  • The nations or gentiles means "Gentiles". It has been past tense now after the first century. Very low quality, opinion based question.
    – Michael16
    Aug 26, 2022 at 14:57
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    No. It is an interesting question to which there can be more than one answer based on hermeneutics and does not deserve a down vote. Aug 26, 2022 at 15:11
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    The problem with this question is that no attempt at doing any research or checking is made, no presentation of any difficulty is provided, and the title is a bit trollish. That's not to say that there can't be interesting hermeneutic questions here, but the OP has made no effort to highlight what they are, nor have they demonstrated struggling with any part of this verse on their own. In the future, please spend some time tackling the verses and explain to us your difficulty in understanding them.
    – Robert
    Aug 26, 2022 at 19:54

4 Answers 4

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The Masoretic text of Zachariah 8:23 is:

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת בַּיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה אֲשֶׁר יַחֲזִיקוּ עֲשָׂרָה אֲנָשִׁים מִכֹּל לְשֹׁנוֹת הַגּוֹיִם וְהֶחֱזִיקוּ בִּכְנַף אִישׁ יְהוּדִי לֵאמֹר נֵלְכָה עִמָּכֶם כִּי שָׁמַעְנוּ אֱלֹהִים עִמָּכֶם

The salient points are:

  1. This is late OT Hebrew, very close to modern Hebrew
  2. The style is simple prose, not poetry
  3. There are no questions about the vocabulary or composition
  4. There are no words whose meaning has changed significantly over time
  5. There is no controversy about this verse among the ancient commentators

My own translation into American English of 1977 is:

Thus says YHVH of hosts: In those days (referring to the previous two verses) ten people from all over the world will grasp the coattails of a Jew and say "We will go with you (pl.) because we have heard that God is with you".

The simple meaning is that an order of magnitude more gentiles than there are Jews will seek out Jews wherever they happen to be, in order to follow in their ways (to worship God in Jerusalem). The prophet assumes that in those days the Jews will indeed be following the ways of the Lord.

Nowhere is the word כל meaning "all" used in this verse or the previous two verses of this prophesy, so this isn't specifically saying "all of the gentiles", although this might be the prophets actual intent.

By repeatedly using the word נלכה, "we will walk", in this and verse 21, it is clear that these gentiles are leaving whatever their prior ways were to join the faith of the Jews.

So this is about a mass conversion event, although not necessarily of all of humanity.

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The verse states that Gentiles will cling to Jews because of God's reported presence with them, not necessarily because of their teachings on "godly matters." However we can infer that at least one Jewish spiritual teaching was involved. The core of Judaism was monotheism, so even the saying "because we have heard that God is with you" implies an acceptance of that.

However, we can infer even more from the previous verse: "Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the Lord."

From this we know that the prophet believed non-Jews would do more than simply accept God's presence among the Jews. They would also make costly pilgrimages to Jerusalem to seek God's blessings.

Zechariah seems to have had hope that such things would happen quite soon. He prophesied that Zerubbabel, the Persian-appointed governor of Judea who was also a descendant of King David, would finish the rebuilding of the Temple

This is the word of the Lord to Zerub′babel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerub′babel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerub′babel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it.

Zechariah's prophecy of Gentiles coming to Jerusalem to ask the Lord's favor was apparently founded on his hope in Zerubbabel's mission to complete the Temple. Unfortunately, this did not actually happen. Zerubbabel disappears from the biblical record, and the Temple is completed under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah.

But the answer to the question is "Yes." Zechariah hoped that gentiles would soon come to Jerusalem to seek God's favor in the rebuilt Temple. This is a clear indication that non-Jews would accept at least some Jewish teachings on godly matters.

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Consider what is prophesied 6 chapters later:

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain.

— Zechariah 14:16–17

Everyone will eventually be observing the annual Feast of Tabernacles, or suffering the consequences of not doing so.

It's not much of a stretch to think that this implies God's other holy days too, and all of his commandments, especially in light of 1 John 5:2–3:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome.

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  • I think that you might be missing the point: Chapter 14 refers only to those nations who fought against Jerusalem in the time of the prophet and before, (and that wasn't everyone) and of them who fought against Jerusalem, only those who are still surviving as nations, which today is no one. So we are left with a situation of a prophecy whose conditions can no longer be fulfilled today. It was apparently fulfilled obliquely when these nations ceased to exist, either by drought (they never came to worship YHVY in jerusalem) or conquest or other historical circumstance. Aug 28, 2022 at 8:46
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahimalYahud, read the first verse as "all of those that attacked us", and the second verse as "all of the other nations in the world, except for a few". And this attack happens in the future.: verse 1 begins with "Behold, the day of the LORD is coming", which is the end-time at the end of this age, not at the time of the prophet. Aug 28, 2022 at 12:09
  • Yes, you are correct. Aug 28, 2022 at 15:08
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The passage says that Jewish practices will change so much that proselytes from gentiles will come.

It does not just say that the proselytizes will come.

Dropping that first part out about mass change within judaism as a pre-requisite makes it seem that we are talking about jewish teachings as they exist today.

So what are the prophesied changes:

Zechariah 8:19 (KJV 1900)

19 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace

  • The fasts of Tammuz and Ab (in the fourth and fifth month) will become celebrations and days of joy.

These fasts mourn the destruction of the temple, the death of David's child, Moses breaking of the tablets of the law, and the loss of the land. So celebrating these events would require that the new judaism is no longer attached to the land, or the service of the physical temple, or the giving of the law, or to bloodlines, but views these historical catastrophes as blessings and occasions to celebrate because it freed them to worship God only in a different way. In other words, it points towards the spiritualizing of jewish practice.

E.g. Paul interpreted this to mean that jews would recognize Jesus as messiah, abandon the desire for temple worship and observance of the law, and then join with the gentile believers in obtaining many converts from all over the world.

As it is very hard for a religion that views itself as tied to things like bloodlines and physical geographies to win many international converts, and judaism isn't going to be able to drop those attachments until it stops reading things literally. But it is those physical attachments that explain rejection of Jesus as messiah, as they were looking for an earthy king and an earthly reign that can be seen with the eyes. Dropping those attachments to things of the flesh and the tablets of the law is what celebrating Tammuz and Ab suggests.

Now you don't need to believe Paul's interpretation as you can have your own, but you do need to understand why the fasts mourning these events would become celebrations of joy. This requires the reader to produce some theory as to what the changes in judaism would be that would lead them to win converts from all over the world similar to how other more international religions do now.

But there are more promised changes, namely God himself returning to Jerusalem

  • Zechariah 8:3 (KJV 1900)
Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion,
And will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem:
And Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth;
And the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.

Now ostensibly there was a fleshly fulfillment of this prophecy, because the temple was rebuilt and the pharisees had converts in the Roman Empire. So in some sense, we can say that this was partly fulfilled in the flesh during the Second Temple era.

But of course it was not fully fulfilled because the fasts were never celebrated as moments of joy and the temple was destroyed. So what does God returning to Zion mean? Again, John saw the New Jerusalem descending as a bride adorned for her husband, and associated the new Jerusalem with the christian church, and thus a joining of judaism to the church. You can have a different interpretation if you want, but some interpretation is needed for what these pre-requisite changes in judaism would be.

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