Forum Class for October 17, 2004

The Future of Israel: Two Burdens Concerning Israel and the Nations
SECOND BURDEN: Zechariah 12-14

SECOND BURDEN (Zechariah 12-14): In the first of the two burdens that make up the last six chapters of the book of Zechariah, Zechariah prophesies that the Gentile powers will be destroyed as the kingdom of God comes into its full manifestation (chapters 9-11). Only after these world powers are overthrown can Messiah's kingdom be finally and fully established.

In the second burden (chapters 12-14) Zechariah describes how Israel will be sifted and purged in the final conflict of earth's history as she is forced to face the nations of the earth alone. This burden cannot be applied to any calamities we have seen so far in the history of the earth-including the calamities that befell Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian empire or Antiochus Epiphanes of the Greco-Macedonian empire--simply because in no known calamities of the past did Messiah appear on the Mount of Olives with His saints, as He does in the second burden.

One of the key phrases of chapters 12-14, occurring seventeen times, is "In that day." It refers to the time of the second coming of Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. The other two terms that have the highest frequency of repetition are "Jerusalem" (occurring twenty-two times) and "nations" (occurring thirteen times).

CLEANSING JUDAH AND JERUSALEM (Zechariah 12:1-9): The main theme of these verses is that Israel will be delivered from a future siege by the nations by a sudden intervention of God. The world powers will come up against Jerusalem in that final day, bent on eradicating Israel from the face of the earth, but God will confound those powers, and the inhabitants of the Holy City will triumph decisively.

The venerable Dean Alford was quoted as saying that in that day Israel will learn the truth of the saying: "Our only true triumphs are God's triumphs over us, and that His defeats of us are our only true victories. "

Verses 1-9 exhibit four major works of God:

A. His Authenticating Word 12:1
B. His Intoxicated Enemies 12:2 C.
His Immovable City 12:3
D. His Astonishing Deliverance 12:4-9

HIS AUTHENTICATING WORD (12:1): We have already commented on the phrase "burden of the word of the LORD" (see our discussion of 9:1). The second burden, or the message of judgment, is "against Israel" (12:1).

There must be no doubt about the certitude of what is about to be announced, for it comes from the mouth of the Lord-the same Lord who demonstrated His creative power in creation and who formed everything that now exists. (Zechariah's use of the three participial verbs "stretches out" [the heavens], "lays the foundation" [of the earth], and 'forms" [the spirit of man within him] are very reminiscent of Isaiah's style, e.g., Isa. 42:5.) The God who worked in creation in the past is the same Lord who continues to work in revelation, providence, and deliverance in the present and future. He who formed us and shaped us right down to our spiritual being is the One who will continue to shape and guide us by His word and His Spirit up to the end of the age. He is sovereign over the cosmos, over the earth, and over man himself.

HIS INTOXICATED ENEMIES (12:2): God is also sovereign over Israel and her enemies. The Hebrew text emphatically begins "Behold I, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the surrounding peoples."

Verses 2 and 3 contain two metaphors for Jerusalem: an intoxicating cup and a heavy stone that will hurt all who try to lift it. The "cup of drunkenness" (v. 2a) is often used in Scripture as a symbol of the divine judgment God brings on mortals. God's judgment reduces them to a state of helplessness and misery similar to that of a drunken, staggering, intoxicated man. For example, Psalm 75:8 advises, "For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down." Even though the Hebrew word for "cup" in Psalm 75:8 is not saph, but kos, the concept is the same. Further, Isaiah warned: "Thus says the Lord, The LORD and your God, who pleads the cause of His people: 'See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it. But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, who have said to you, 'Lie down, that we may walk over you.' And you have laid down your body like the ground and as the street, for those who walk over'" (Isa. 51:22-23). Zechariah actually uses the Hebrew word for "bowl," not "cup"; the larger vessel is needed to allow all the nations to get drunk.

The tables will now be turned: No longer will Israel suffer at the hand of her enemies. But first the battle of the ages must take place; Judah and Jerusalem must be paired off to face the whole world! The nations will come against Judah and Jerusalem to lay siege against them (v. 2b). Literally, the last part of verse 2 says: "And also on Judah shall be [or 'fall', this 'cup of drunkenness'] in [or 'during'] the siege [which is] against Jerusalem."

HIS IMMOVABLE CITY (12:3): "All nations of the earth" (v. 3c) will be "gathered against" Jerusalem as history swings into its final phase. The magnitude of this final battle cannot be overemphasized. In the words of Revelation 16:14, the "spirits of demons. . . go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." The prophet Joel similarly said: "In those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. . ." (Joel 3:1-2).

But the city will not budge. Jerusalem will prove to be such a heavy stone that all nations that attempt to lift it will hurt themselves or, more literally, herniate themselves.

Some believe Psalm 118:5-6; and 10-12 apply to the type of situation Judah will face in that day:

I called on the LORD in distress [same word as "siege" in 12:2];
The LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.

The LORD is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?

All nations surrounded me,
But in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.

They surrounded me,
Yes, they surrounded me;
But in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.

They surrounded me like bees;
They were quenched like a fire of thorns;
For in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.

HIS ASTONISHING DELIVERANCE (12:4-9) According to verse 4a the decisive battle will occur "In that day." This is the time of God's judgment on the wicked and His deliverance of the righteous.

In that battle God will intervene to cause afflictions: "confusion," "madness," and "blindness" (v. 4). These afflictions had been promised as long ago as Moses' time in Deuteronomy 28:28: "the LORD will strike you with madness and blindness and confusion of heart" if you walk contrary to His way and will. Now, in the eschatological battle of the ages, every horse and rider will be afflicted either with confusion, blindness or madness. It is unlikely that "horses" will be used in that final battle as the main means of carrying the battle forward; the writer describes the implements of future war using battle imagery he knew in his own day, just as the writers of the Old Testament described worship in the future day when our Lord will be present using familiar terms for worship in their day.

God "will open [His] eyes on the house of Judah," and then the battle will turn against the nations. This is the fourth time Zechariah mentions Yahweh's eyes (3:9; 4:10; 9:8). (As we have discussed in our section entitled Unity of the Book, the repeated references to Yahweh's eyes argue for the unity of the book and for Zechariah being the author of the whole book.)

It is this look of pity and compassion on His people that will not only change the battle, but will melt the hearts of the people in repentance and contrition for their past sin (12:10). Then the cup of reeling and drunkenness (12:2) will be taken from the hands of Judah and placed into the hands of the nations. The resulting astonishment, panic, bewilderment, madness, and blindness will be obvious to all.

With the sudden realization that Yahweh is their God, Judah will turn on her enemy like a fire igniting dry tinder or ripe sheaves (v. 6). Judah will be "like a firepan in the woodpile" (v. 6a). "They shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place--Jerusalem" (v. 6cd).

The inhabitants of Judah dwelling in the countryside will be delivered first so that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not exalt themselves above Judah. This will discourage rivalry and division. The invasion of the land of Israel described here is discussed in more detail in 13:8--9 and 14:1-6. Two-thirds of the people of the land will die, and one-half of Jerusalem will be carried away into captivity before the Lord steps into the battle. But His intervention will be so decisive that there will be no question about the outcome of the battle. The Lord will reverse the fortunes of the battle!

The once broken and feeble Jewish remnant will finally recognize their Savior. It will almost be as if they had been given superhuman strength (v. 8). Even the feeblest of them will act valiantly and valorously.

Then it will happen that God will destroy those nations that came up against Jerusalem. The word to "seek" to destroy does not imply that the mission might not be successful, but means the Lord will make that object the focus and first priority of all His actions at that time.

CONCLUSION: "The battle is the Lord's." If this was true in David's day (1 Sam. 17:47), it will be especially true when the Lord moves for one last time against all the nations of the earth that wish to commit genocide against His people and sacrilege against His name. Count on this event, for it is as authentic as the word that built the universe and that preserves both it and man in the meantime. The Lord remains when all else has been removed. And the place of His ancient dwelling--Jerusalem--remains as well. What a Savior!

Mourning for the Pierced One (Zechariah 12:10-13:1): Essential to the nation's physical deliverance is the people's spiritual renewal and repentance. The jubilation of the promised victory in the early verses of chapter 12 gives way in these verses to mourning over the sins of the nation.

The Lord will give a whole new spirit (12:10) and a new cleansing (13:1) to those who are genuinely moved over the sight of the One who was pierced on their behalf and the One who bore their own sin.

Zechariah 12:1-9 had just described a day like no other day in the annals of time, when the Lord directly intervened with His personal presence to grant a most decisive victory. The only thing similar to it was the triumph over Pharaoh at the Red Sea. God's triumph over the hearts of the Judahites would be even greater and more significant.

This text records two mercies that God will dispense in that day:

A. A New Spirit of Grace and Supplication 12:10-4
B. A New Cleansing for Sin and Uncleanness 13:1

A NEW SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATION (12:10-14): Very few promises in Scripture are more compassionate than the one found in verse 10, and very few are more hotly debated.

God has promised to "pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication" (v. 10a). The source of these gifts is clearly none other than the Lord. And the dominant gift is the "grace" or "compassion" of our Lord. This is a grace that forgives sin; in fact, it is a grace that forgives even the piercing of the Son of God. ''Then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him. . . and grieve for Him "(v. 10b).

We do not mean by saying this to add fuel to the awful fire that has stigmatized our Jewish neighbors as "Christ killers" --a stigma that is as untrue as it is unfair. The fact is that all of us are involved in the murder of the Messiah, for it was for the sins of the whole world that He died. Furthermore, it is unfair to charge Jewish people of subsequent generations with an act committed by a group of first-Christian century Jews. And even the first-century Jews did not act alone, for the New Testament clearly says that both the Jews and Romans at Golgotha put Jesus to death. So caution and care must be exercised in discussing the Jews' role in piercing the Son of God.

But why is there so much controversy over this text? One of the greatest problems centers around a translation problem. The New Jewish Publication Society translation of the Tanakh (Old Testament) in 1988 rendered it: "But I will fill the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a spirit of pity and compassion; and they shall lament to Me about those who are slain, wailing over them as over a favorite son and showing bitter grief as over a first-born." The 1896 Jewish translation in an Appendix to the Revised Version read, "And they [i.e., the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem] shall look up to Me because of Him whom they [i.e., the nations which came up against Jerusalem] have pierced." A more ancient Jewish interpretation understands this prophecy to refer to Messiah ben ("son of") Joseph, a separate individual from Messiah ben ("son of") David. But the creation of these two Messiahs, one who would suffer (ben Joseph) and the other who would be glorified (ben David) finds no support from the Tenakh itself.

Probably no text in the Old Testament speaks more directly to the question of whether there are going to be two comings of the one Messiah than does verse 10. But, even aside from the question of whether this text points to one or two Messiahs, the hardest fact for most Jewish interpreters and readers to face is that "Me" and "Him" both refer to the same person. Most Jewish interpreters would prefer to have the Gentile nations look to God, whom these nations have attacked indirectly by inflicting suffering on His people Israel.

But each of these novel translations is problematic. Each ignores the fact that the subject of both the verb "to look" and the verb "to pierce" is the same in Hebrew. Therefore, those who pierced the One who will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication in that day, belong to the same national group that will "look" and "mourn" over the pierced One like one mourns over the loss of a firstborn.

In the debate over verse 10, interpreters argue that it is impossible to pierce God, since He is spirit and not flesh and blood (Isa. 31:3; John 4:24). But that is the point; it was Christ's flesh that was pierced, and the One who was pierced is at the same time One in essence and being with the God who speaks in this text. Note also that whenever the first person pronoun appears elsewhere in this chapter (vv. 2, 3, 4, 6,9,10) it refers to the Messiah. Zechariah had just referred in chapter 11 to the Good Shepherd who had been rejected by Israel, and whose rejection was followed by a terrible punishment. Only the Messiah fits all the details here. His piercing must have come in an earlier advent, for certainly when He comes again it will be with the victory promised in this section.

Israel is described as God's ''firstborn'' (v. 10e) in Exodus 4:22 and Jeremiah 31:9. Used first to describe the whole nation, the term is then used to describe the representative of the whole group, the coming Messiah (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5; cf. Heb. 12:23).

The mourning here is so intense that the only mourning that even begins to compare with it is the "mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo" (v. 11b). Presumably Hadad-Rimmon is the name of a place. But the reference to the plain of Megiddo surely indicates an intention to compare this mourning to that which followed the tragic death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:25). Few kings had compiled a better record for godliness and righteousness than Josiah, but he perished at the Megiddo pass on his thirty-ninth birthday trying to stop Pharaoh Necho. His death stunned the nation and sent it into deep grief. The nation's mourning over King Josiah's death was a small foretaste of the nation's mourning of Messiah when it suddenly realizes that it has pierced the One who died for their sins, and for the sins of the whole world (Isa. 53:5).

Verses 12-14 identify those who would mourn Him. He will be universally mourned, by "the land," "every family," "the house of David," "the house of Nathan," "the house of Levi," "the family of Shimei," the "wives by themselves," and "all the families that remain." Thus, He will be mourned by the royal family, the priestly ministers and their household, and perhaps the prophetic line represented by Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 7:2). His mourners may even include the Shimei who cursed David (2 Sam. 16:5), although Zechariah may be referring in verse 13 to the Shimei who was one of Levi's sons (Num. 3:18; Shimei the son of Gershom and grandson of Levi). If "family of Shimei" refers to the Shemei who was one of Levi's sons and if "house of Nathan" refers to David's son Nathan (who replaced Solomon in the genealogy of our Lord) rather than Nathan the prophet, Zechariah would have identified two families in the royal line and two families in the priestly line as representatives of the whole nation of Israel. In this way Zechariah describes national as well as individual grief and sorrow that will occur in that day. In that day, as each person fully realizes in his heart the awfulness of the death and long rejection of the Messiah, the mourning will be so intense that each person will mourn apart from the rest with almost inconsolable grief.

A NEW CLEANSING FOR SIN AND UNCLEANNESS (13:1): The Lord declares, "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (13:1). This fountain for cleansing sin is an extension of the cleansing of the High Priest Joshua in 3:3-5. There, only the High Priest was cleansed as representative of all the people, but, as 13:1 indicates, in that day all of Israel will be cleansed. As in verses 12:11-12, the reference in 13:1 to "the house of David" and "the inhabitants of Jerusalem" refers to the entire nation of Israel.

So generous will be the flow of the cleansing waters that it will be compared to the initial flow of an unplugged fountain. This is the cleansing that Ezekiel had promised in Ezekiel 36:25-28, and that our Lord must have assumed that Nicodemus knew about as a teacher of the Jews (John 3). This cleansing would remove all "sin"--i.e., everything contrary to the will and Law of God-and all "uncleanness"--i.e., all impurities, including ritualistic and sexual impurities.

Here would come a repentant Israel, the very thing the apostle Paul had prayed for and desired above everything else in Romans 9-11. The times of the Gentiles would have ended, and a repentant Israel would be grafted back on to the very tree from which the branches of the olive tree had been temporarily lopped off (Rom. 11:26-27). The people of Israel would now be washed with the washing of the Word and renewed by the inner work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

CONCLUSION: There is a fountain filled with the cleansing water of the Word of God and the forgiving mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. And one day Israel will realize how mistaken she has been in not plunging into that fountain. Israel will look on the pierced Son of God and mourn like she has never mourned before. And through Israel's mourning she will experience spiritual renewal and restoration. What a Savior!

Cleansing the Land of False Prophets (Zechariah 13:2-6): Much of this second burden is a mirror image of the first burden. For example, in this brief pericope of 13:2-6 Zechariah scolds the false prophets (d. 1O:2-3a, wherein Zechariah rebuked the sham leaders). There never seemed to be a shortage of counterfeit prophets; someone was always available to say what people wanted to hear.

Thus it was necessary throughout their careers for the true prophets of God to chastise the fraudulent prophets. Jeremiah devoted most of his twenty-third chapter to this theme, Ezekiel devoted the first half of his thirteenth chapter, and Micah devoted his third chapter.

According to this pericope, God will take two actions against false prophets:

A. The Removal of the False Prophets 13:2
B. The Exposure of the False Prophets 13:3-6

THE REMOVAL OF THE FALSE PROPHETS (13:2): God will act against the false prophets "in that day." As God concludes history He will deal so decisively with all idols that their names will no longer be remembered. In the ancient Near East, to "cut off the names of the idols" was the equivalent of destroying the idols and everything that suggested they had ever existed. A person's name encompassed the person, his reputation, and his character.

Additionally, God would "cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land." This is the only time in the Bible, except in the New Testament Gospels, where the phrase "unclean spirit" occurs. All power and authority over men's hearts and minds that these alleged deities, prophets, and spirits had would now be removed from the land altogether.

THE EXPOSURE OF THE FALSE PROPHETS (13:3-6): Should any false prophecy break out in that future day, public opinion will be so strong against it that even the false prophet's own parents will not tolerate it (v. 3). To speak "lies in the name of the LORD" will be a most reprehensible distortion of revelation and of God's character. Instinctively, the false prophet's parents "shall thrust him through when he prophesies" (v. 3d). This is the same penalty Deuteronomy 13:5 and 18:20 prescribed for such a serious offense. The only unusual aspect of the penalty described here is that the parents carry it out, not the judges or the community under the judges' instruction. The verb "to pierce" is the same verb that appeared in 12:10 and that describes Phineas' act in Numbers 25:7--8.

Actually, there will be great hesitancy on the part of a false prophet to announce "his vision." This is a significant change from the false prophets' former brazenness. Now evil--not goodness or the sons of light--will be on the defensive.

Even the "course hair" garment, the symbol of the prophetic profession, will be shunned by the false prophets (2 Kings 1:8) in that day out of fear of being immediately challenged and dealt with by the populace (v. 4c). Gone are the days when deceiving the public was a favorite sport of false prophets!

So loathe will these false prophets be to claim the office that they will go to great lengths to deny that they are prophets, claiming instead that they have been farmers and herdsmen since their youth (v. 5).

When challenged to explain what the "wounds in [their] hands" (v. 6) are, the false prophets will try their best to make sure no one thinks the obvious--that they are Canaanite ecstatic prophets who indulged in masochistic beatings in order to attract the favor and oracular response of Baal and the other gods of Canaan (cf. 1 Kings 18:28). The false prophets will protest that the wounds are "'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. '" This explanation sounds most unreal and unlikely. Some "friends" these "farmers" have!

CONCLUSION: It is an awesome responsibility to deliver the Word of God. Toying with it, distorting it, or twisting it to fit some subjective idea or loyalty other than to the Lord is extremely serious, since it involves the lives of other people for all eternity! Churchmen should be jarred out of their lethargy and their relational types of teaching. God's word is true, and He will never allow any human substitutes to adulterate His Word.

Slaughtering the Shepherd and Scattering the Sheep (Zechariah 13:7-9): In these verses we return to the shepherd motif that we found in chapter 11, with its attendant teaching about leadership in chapters 12 and 13. Tragically, here the shepherd is slain and the sheep are scattered.

Two major events are described:

A. The Shepherd is Slain 13:7
B. The Sheep are Decimated 13:8-9

THE SHEPHERD IS SLAIN (13:7): In a most vivid personification, the "sword" is addressed as an instrument of death and instructed to move against the shepherd.

Yahweh calls the shepherd "My Shepherd," indicating that this Shepherd is no ordinary leader. Indeed, Yahweh also calls him "the Man who is My Companion." Surely that is more than high praise. This Shepherd is One who is side by side with, or the equal of, the Lord! The term "associate" (or "Companion," v. 7) is used to refer to those who are close neighbors or close companions (d. Lev. 6:2; 18:20; 19:15). The equality that such a relationship brings to mind is the equality with God claimed by Jesus in John 10:30 and 14:9. The Shepherd's close association with the Lord strengthens the case for identifying him as the Shepherd of 11:4-14 and the One who was pierced in 12:10.

The sword is told, "Strike the Shepherd" (v. 7c). This accords with what Isaiah taught: "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him" (Isa. 53:10). Thus Jesus was delivered up in accordance with the definite plan of God, although it is the men who did the deed who are culpable for what they did (Acts 2:23). As a result of Messiah's death, the sheep were scattered. This act of dying was too much to accept for any contemporary Jewish view of the Messiah. The cross would continue to be an offense as long as the Gentile period lasted. Even "the little ones" (v. 7d) suffered as the tradition of resisting the significance of Jesus' hideous death was passed on from parents to children.

THE SHEEP ARE DECIMATED (13:8-9): One of earth's most devastating disasters will take place in the end times. "Two thirds in [the land of Israel] shall be cut off and die" (v. 8a). Israel's present population is somewhere around five million. What it will swell to by the time this text is fulfilled we do not know, but God has promised to lead in a restoration of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. When that takes place there may be some eight to twelve million people in Israel. Think of it: "two-thirds" of whatever the population is in that day will be killed!

The remaining "one third" will be brought through this affliction (v. 9a). They will be like brands plucked from the fire (Ezk. 5:4; Mal. 3:3). All impurities will have been refined away by this experience and by the cry of repentance already traced in this chapter. Finally, the remaining one-third shall "call on [the LORD'S] name" (v. 9d). And the Lord has promised to answer them when they call. "Each one will say, 'The LORD is my God'" (v. 9f). Only then will the first part of the tripartite formula of the ancient promise-plan of God be reinstituted: "I will be your God, You shall be My people, and I will dwell in the midst of you" (e.g., see Hos. 2:23; Ezk. 36:23,27,28). In that day, as Paul exclaimed, "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26-7).

CONCLUSION: The Shepherd in 13:7-9 must be our Lord Jesus Christ. Who else has such a close relationship with the Father? So what will it take for Israel-and all the world-to recognize who this Shepherd really is? We can be assured that at least Israel will finally come to her senses, but oh, by what a national bloodbath from the nations! Would that more Jews and Gentiles would come to the Messiah even now before these terrible days must be endured.

WAITING FOR THE SECOND COMING OF MESSIAH (Zechariah 14:1-15): In no other chapter of the Bible is the interpretation of the name "Israel" more important than in Zechariah 14. To say that "Israel" means the "Church," as many have done, would lead to a most confusing picture in this chapter and in the end of chapter 13. For example, 13:8-9 affirms that two-thirds of the land (Israel) will die, but few would be willing to say that two-thirds of the Church will be slaughtered in the final day. Clearly "Israel" refers to that geo-political unit known today as the nation of Israel.

The probable course of events leading up to the greatest crisis Israel will ever face in this world include: First, the people of Israel will be restored to the land of Canaan in large numbers. The exact timing of their restoration cannot be determined, but it would appear to occur prior to our Lord's second coming. Second, after a brief period of prosperity, one of Israel's darkest nights will set in. The nations of the world will gather against her in the siege predicted in Zechariah 12 and 14. Third, Israel will enter into a covenant with one who is otherwise known as the Antichrist. Unfortunately, Israel will readily accept any other person who comes in his own name, all the while rejecting the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Fourth, Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel after a period of three and a half years. Whether this covenant will have been public or not is impossible to say, but when it is broken it will lead to actions against the people of Israel that verge on genocide. Fifth, the nations of the earth will join Antichrist in their march in triumph over Israel, saying, "Come, let us cut off the existence of this nation so that the name of Israel may no longer be remembered." Sixth, the Lord shall intervene on that day. It shall be a day like none before or after it (Josh. 10:14). The Lord, as a "Mighty Man of War," will go forth to fight for Israel--and He will be victorious. All these events will constitute the greatest crisis Israel has ever endured.

Three mighty events recorded in Zechariah 14:1-15 will distinguish the second coming of our Lord from all other events this earth has ever seen. At the heart of this pericope stands verse 9: "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-'The LORD is one, and His name one. '" The three events that lead up to that magnificent moment are:

A. Our Nations Will Fight Jerusalem for the Last Time 14:1-3
B. Our Messiah Will Appear a Second Time 14:4-7
C. Our Messiah's Kingdom Will Be Established Over All 14:8-15

OUR NATIONS WILL FIGHT JERUSALEM FOR THE LAST TIME 14:1-3: In many ways, chapter 14 is simply an enlargement of 13:9-<me day there will come a renewed relationship between God and all the nations of the earth.

This chapter begins with the final siege on Jerusalem. This siege was described earlier in 12:1-9. Now it will be described from a different angle, with a different point of view, and with a different purpose. In Zechariah 12, the siege was described in its final stages, although God's promised intervention had not yet taken place. In Zechariah 14 the siege is first described in its earlier stages; then Zechariah quickly moves to the climactic moments when God suddenly intervenes. Zechariah 12 notes God's coming in terms of grace and salvation, while Zechariah 14 depicts His coming with power and victory over all the nations and over all evil.

This siege on Jerusalem is to take place on a "day" that is known to the Lord (v. 1a). This is the time immediately before His second coming. It is a "day" when "[Israel's] spoil will be divided in [their] midst" (v. 1b). The nations will already be actively distributing the plunder, booty, and spoil they have taken from Jerusalem. This is the time known in Jeremiah 30:5-7 as the time of "Jacob's trouble."

God promised repeatedly in Scripture that He would "gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem" (v. 2a). That is what the programmatic statement of Joel 3:1-5 had detailed--"For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel. . . ." Thus it is clear that the time will be on that famous "Day of the LORD," also known variously as "in those days," "at that time," or the "latter days." The participants in the siege will be "all nations." The place will be "the Valley of Jehoshaphat" or, as Revelation 16:13-16 calls it, "Armageddon." There are four reasons God will enter into judgment with the nations, according to Joel 3:1-5: first, the nations scattered Israel (Joel 3:2c); second, the nations partitioned the land of Israel (Joel 3:2d); third, the nations made slaves out of the Jews (Joel 3:3); and fourth, the Babylonians carried off the sacred vessels (Joel 3:5).

For these reasons, God will assemble the nations in the Near East. Moreover, if God uses wicked hands as His secondary means to accomplish His will, His agents will be morally responsible for what they do.

The horrors of this siege are monstrous. "The city shall be taken, the house rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity" (v. 2). While two thirds of the land is perishing, one half of the city of Jerusalem will be taken captive. The remaining third of the country's population will be brought through these events, though refined and thoroughly chastened.

"Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations" (v. 3a). Just when Antichrist and his all-nation forces seem to have gained the upper hand, the Lord himself will enter the battle and the balance of powers will shift. The ominous terminology of war is now used to refer to the Lord: He will "go forth." This He only does when He enters as the "Man of War" (Exod. 15:3). The battle will belong to the Lord (1 Sam. 17:47) "in the day of battle" (v. 3c). Just as the Lord fought for Gideon, so the Lord will fight on that day (Judg. 7:21-22; d. Josh. 10:14; v. 3c).

OUR MESSIAH WILL APPEAR A SECOND TIME (14:4-7): The Lord will personally, physically, and actually reappear on this earth, just as He said He would, on the very spot where He left it at the end of His thirty-year pilgrimage. The early believers were told, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Zechariah's "day of the LORD" is that promised day of return. Here on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had left Jerusalem, He would return again. This accords with what the Old Testament predicts. The "Glory of God," representing the very presence of God, had removed itself from the earth by stages, moving first from the Holy of Holies to the porch of the Temple, then to the eastern gate, and eventually to the mountain east of the temple (the Mount of Olives), only to be taken up into heaven to stay until His return and His name becomes "The LORD is there, Yahweh Shammah" (Ezk. 10:4, 18-19; 11:22-24; 43:1-5; 48:35b).

Ultimately, our Lord will come "with healing in His wings" (Mal. 4:2), but some major catastrophic events must precede this healing. When our Lord touches down on the Mount of Olives, the mountain will "be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south" (v. 4cde). The major fault line in the Jordan valley runs north and south. There is a hair-line fault line that runs east and west through the Mount of Olives. That is where a new valley will be formed in that day. The seventh bowl of judgment in the book of Revelation (16:18-19) comes in the form of an earthquake splitting Jerusalem into three parts. Out of this seismic activity, a great plain will be formed from Geba to Rimmon. The believing remnant, it would appear, will escape by the newly-formed valley created by the division of the Mount of Olives.

Who should appear but the Lord himself! "Thus the LORD my God will come" (v. 5e). The great hope of Israel and of the Church will finally be realized: the epiphany of the Lord! Accompanying Him will be "all the saints" (v. 5f). The term "saints," or "holy ones," is used in the Old Testament to refer to angels (Deut. 33:3; Ps. 89:5-7; Job 15:15) or holy individuals (Lev. 11:44-45; Ps. 16:3; 34:9; 2 Chron. 35:3; Dan. 8:24). Using the same terms, the New Testament says that Christ will be accompanied both by His angels and His holy people: "and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:30b-31); also, when He comes, in that Day, He will be glorified in His saints and will be admired among all those who believe (2 Thess. 1:10). Again, it is promised "at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Thess. 3:13b) and, in Jude 14, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints." We conclude that Our Lord will return with His angels and all who have believed in Him through all the ages.

And what a day that will be! The celestial luminaries will cease to function in the pattern they have known all these aeons. "In that day . . . there will be no light" (v. 6). Isaiah had prophesied, "For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine" (Isa. 13:10; d. Isa. 24:23; Joel 3:14-16; Matt. 24:29-30; Mark 13:24-25; Rev. 6:13; 8:12). Instead of the usual light of the sun and moon, a thick murkiness will cover the earth. This will be a day like none the earth has ever known.

But there will no longer be a need for the light from the celestial bodies, for the resplendent light of the glory of God's presence will be reflected over all the earth. A whole new order of creation will have dawned. And that glory will far exceed the glory of the previous creation.

OUR MESSIAH'S KINGDOM WILL BE ESTABLISHED OVER ALL (14:8-15): In paradise restored (Rev. 22: 1), there will issue forth from the entrance of the sanctuary a life-giving stream of water (v. 8a). Half of it will flow to the Dead Sea ("the eastern sea") and half of it will flow to the Mediterranean Sea ("the western sea"; v. 8bc). It will never stop flowing, whether it be summer or winter (v. 8d). It will flow out to the entire region of the desert area of the Jordan (Ezk. 47:1-12). Joel had also predicted a day when all the brooks of Judah would flow full of water and a fountain would come from the house of the Lord (Joel 3:18).

More importantly, 'The LORD shall be King over all the earth" (v. 9). Then "The kingdoms of this world [will] have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Rev. 11:15b). Christ will be regarded by all as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16): "'The LORD is one,' and His name one" (v. 9b). He will be acknowledged as the only Lord, with no rivals-our incomparably great Lord.

The peace of Jerusalem will never again be disturbed (v. 11). Even the landscape will be changed as a result of the seismic activity. The land from Geba, six miles northeast of Jerusalem, to Rimmon, thirty-three miles southwest of Jerusalem, will be uplifted into a great plain. Even the city of Jerusalem will be transformed; it too will be uplifted by the same earthquake. In order to accommodate her new status as the religious and governmental capital of the world in the millennial era, Jerusalem would be uplifted and inhabited from Benjamin's Gate on the north wall (the "Gate of Ephraim" in 2 Kings 14:3) to the "First Gate" on the northeast comer, from the "Corner Gate" on the northwest corner to "the Tower of Hananel," perhaps in the southeast corner, and to the "king's winepresses" in the king's gardens south of the city near the Valley of Hinnom.

No longer would there be a "curse," or "utter destruction," on the people or the city. The Hebrew word used here for "curse" is herem, which means placing something under an involuntary dedication for destruction, the opposite of the kind of voluntary dedication described in Romans 12:1-2.

Three formidable enemies will be unleashed against Israel's enemies: a deadly plague (v. 12), a panic among the enemies' troops (v. 13), and a superhuman valor to fight on the part of the remnant of Judah (v. 14). The plague will be so sudden and so deadly that the flesh of Israel's enemies will rot while they are standing on their feet. It almost sounds like some kind of nuclear blast will leave the flesh, eyes, and tongues of Israel's enemies festering with wounds and rotting on the battlefield. In addition to this plague, the Lord will cause the enemy to hear a roar similar to what Gideon's adversaries heard on the day of Gideon's victory. Upon hearing this roar, the enemy will turn on one another in their confusion, just as they did in the day of Gideon. Finally, Judah will fight "at Jerusalem" (v. 14). So valiant will the fighting of the Jews be that into their hands will fall "gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance" (v. 14d). The hoard of goods and wealth will be enormous.

The entire enemy retinue will be put under the "plague" (v. 15). The victory will be most decisive.

CONCLUSION: In that day, Christ will be King over all the earth, with none left to challenge His person, work, law, or rule. Righteousness and justice, truth and grace, mercy and beauty, will be the order of the day. Gone will be all filth, evil, injustice, and unrighteousness and the rule of tyrants, dictators, and despots of wickedness. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.

Worshiping the Lord as King Over All (Zechariah 14:16-21): This text describes the worship of "The King, the LORD of hosts" (v. 16c). It parallels 8:20-23 in the first burden, which describe the nations going up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.

Now that the nations are defeated and all evil vanquished, the thought dominating all hearts and minds is the worship of the living God. Three features will form the focus of worship in that day. They will be:

A. Jerusalem Will Serve as the Religious Center of the World 14:16
B. All Nations Must Come Annually to Jerusalem 14:17-19
C. Holiness to the Lord Will Dominate All Worship 14:20-21

JERUSALEM WILL SERVE AS THE RELIGIOUS CENTER OF THE WORLD (14:16): Those survivors of the battle that was just described will go to Jerusalem each year to worship the Lord. It hardly seems that there would be anyone left after the brutality of that battle, but there would be.

Now Messiah will be able to take His place on the throne of David. It will be the joy of the nations to worship only Him.

The nations will observe "the Feast of Tabernacles" along with Israel. This feast had been described in Leviticus 23:39, 42-43, and Deuteronomy 16:13-16. It commemorated Israel's years in the wilderness and her fall harvests. Some think that this fall harvest and Feast of Tabernacles anticipated the gathering of the nations into God's kingdom. Traditionally, this feast had been open equally to the stranger and to the people of Israel. It is mentioned in the post exilic period as having continuing significance (Ezra 3:4; Neh. 8:14-18).

Just as the Passover Feast pictured the death of Messiah as our Redeemer; the Feast of Unleavened Bread depicted the walk of believers in fellowship with the Savior; the Feast of First fruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ; and the Feast of Pentecost predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit; so the Feast of Tabernacles would remain unfulfilled until the time of kingdom rest came in the world and Israel had been gathered in to her land. On the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the people of Israel returned to their homes-an event that looked forward to the eternal state and the rest God had promised so frequently in Scripture (Heb. 3-4).

The central feature, however, continued to be the fact that the King, the Messiah, was worshiped by every nation and by all of Israel.

ALL NATIONS MUST COME ANNUALLY TO JERUSALEM (14:17-19): It will be a necessity for all nations to appear before the Lord each year (v. 17). Should any nation decide that they will not come, "on them there will be no rain" (v. 17c). In the past, God had reminded nations that they were apostate by shutting off the rain (Lev. 26:19-20; Deut. 28:24; 1 Kings 17:1; Hag. 1:11).

Egypt is singled out as an example of one that might not wish to come up to worship the Lord one of those years (v. 18). Perhaps she might feel she was exempt from God's threats of a drought, since she had depended for so many centuries on the Nile River. But the Nile will not save her. The waters that flow down the Nile from equatorial Africa might also be stopped, causing Egypt to experience drought. It is interesting, nonetheless, to note that Egypt, the enemy of Israel for so many centuries, will be among the many nations that will worship the Lord in the final day. This is in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. 19). Worship is regarded in this context as a very necessary act, even when the King, our Lord, is himself present. It is tragic to think how loose we have become in our whole concept of worship. Many have begun to feel that it is not all that important. But in verse 19, a "punishment" is attached to a negligent disregard of worship.

HOLINESS TO THE LORD WILL DOMINATE ALL WORSHIP (14:20-21): Just as the turban of the High Priest was inscribed on the gold headband "HOLINESS TO THE LORD" (v. 20a), so holiness now will be engraved on everything, including the bells of the horses (v. 20). The pots in the Lord's house will be as dedicated and as sacred as the bowls used at the altar in the temple (v. 20c). The old distinction between secular and sacred will no longer be necessary. In God's kingdom every lowly pot will be holy to the Lord (v. 21).

Moreover, in the kingdom age there will no longer be the need for merchants to sell their wares in the temple ("Canaanite" in v. 21 probably means "merchant"). All that was unclean and godless will have been removed in all of God's kingdom during the millennial rule and reign. The money-takers will no longer mar the temple courts of the house of God. The need for separating the secular and common from the sacred will have passed for all worship will center totally and exclusively on the Lord Almighty, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

CONCLUSION: Thus Zechariah brings his prophecy to a most elevated conclusion. The prophet whose name means "Yahweh remembers" proves that God had not forgotten His people. He would conclude history as He had promised in His covenant. While many others may have forgotten Israel, her Lord had not; the Lord could not forget Israel any more than a nursing mother could abandon her child (Isa. 49:14-15). He had remembered, and now He was Israel's sale King, Lord, God, and Sovereign. He was--and remains--Lord of all!

From Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Communicator's Commentary: Micah-Malachi, Word Books, Dallas, 1992.


On line Commentary on Zechariah by Eugene H. Merrill