L. M. Grant.
The prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah were written almost at the same time, when a remnant of Israel had returned from captivity to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. Haggai, in common with Ezra, emphasizes the temple, while Zechariah is more occupied with the city of Jerusalem, as was also Nehemiah, though both Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem later than did Haggai and Zechariah. Both of these prophets speak solemnly of the failure of the returned remnant, just as their fathers had failed, and seek to stir up Israel to return in heart to the Lord.
Zechariah emphasizes that God had returned to Jerusalem with mercies (Zech. 1:6) and paints a beautiful picture of blessing yet to come for Judah in particular, but in which all Israel will share. However, he also clearly shows that this cannot be fulfilled until many sorrows engulf the nation, culminating in the great distress of the future tribulation and the coming of the Messiah in power and glory.
The remnant that returned to Jerusalem by permission of Cyrus, King of Persia (Ezra 1:1-4), had at first begun to build, but this was hindered until the reign of Darius. In the sixth month of the second year of his reign Haggai prophesied (Haggai 1:1). Zechariah wrote in the eighth month of the same year.
The New King James Version is used throughout this commentary, except in a few instances where the difference is noted by the use of the letters JND to indicate the very accurate “New Translation” by J.N.Darby, or by NASB (New American Standard Bible).
God's Call to Return to Him
Zechariah's name means “Jehovah remembers.” He was the son of Berechiah (“Jehovah blesses”) who was the son of Iddo (“the appointed time”). Israel had long been in a depressed state. It seemed as though God had forgotten them, but He remembers, and in His own appointed time He returns to them in blessing. But the measure of revival and blessing in Zechariah's day was very limited, and Israel lapsed again into a depressed condition that was still seen when the Lord Jesus came, in whom we see another striking evidence of “Jehovah remembering.” By rejecting Christ, Israel has lapsed into a worse state than ever, now for many centuries, and by the time of the great tribulation they will be brought to feel deeply that God has forgotten them. Only then will the prophecy of Zechariah be fully accomplished. It will be God's appointed time of remembering and blessing Israel with blessings that will never end.
Zechariah's message to Israel begins abruptly: the Lord has been greatly displeased with their fathers. How could Israel boast in their lineage when this was true? They had become accustomed to the sins their fathers had allowed, and lacked the exercise that Josiah had (2 Kings 22:10-13) when he heard Scripture read to him and realized how far his fathers had departed from its precepts. Well might the Lord tell Israel to return to Him, with the promise that, if so, He would return to them.
Despite the Lord's sending prophets to urge the people to return to Him from their evil ways and doings, they simply would not listen. Where are their fathers now? Do the prophets live forever? Men cannot long continue living in rebellion. Death overtakes them and then they realize their rebellion to be folly, but too late! The prophets too were only sent by God at specific times to give an urgent message: they did not continue indefinitely as merely servants to be treated as the people pleased. Israel could not depend either on their fathers or on the prophets: they must have their confidence in the living God.
Therefore verse 6 insists on “My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets.” Though men die, “the Word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25). This is the only remedy in any day of decline and failure, whether for Israel or for the Church. But God's words had overtaken (NASB) their fathers in spite of their unbelief, and only then did they return and acknowledge that the Lord had done to them just as He warned, because of their disobedience. Would Israel not learn by the history of their fathers?
A NIGHT VISION: THE FIRST OF EIGHT
Three months later the Word of the Lord came again to Zechariah. This is a prophecy, though in the form of a vision which Zechariah sees at night. The man riding on a red horse is spoken of in verse 11 as “the angel of the Lord,” — the Lord Jesus Himself — who often appeared in the Old Testament as the angel or messenger of the Lord. Horses are spoken of in Zechariah 6:5 as “the spirits of the heavens”-the energizing power that sustains their riders. Here the horse is red, reminding us of judgment and bloodshed (Isa. 63:2-4). He stood among “the myrtle trees in the hollow.” The myrtle, growing in low-lying areas, is symbolic of Israel reduced to a state of lowly humiliation. He is standing, not fighting. This reminds us of Habakkuk 3:6, “He stood and measured the earth.” The Lord does not judge precipitately, but calmly takes account of every matter before judgment.
Behind the red horse and its rider were other red horses, also speaking of judgment and bloodshed. There also were “sorrel” horses, a mixed color between red and orange. This speaks of judgment tempered with mercy. White horses — the symbol of victory — also were present. These other horses were waiting for the time when their proper ends would be accomplished. In some cases severe judgment would fall, in other cases judgment mingled with mercy, then the ultimate victory of God over evil.
Zechariah asks who these are. Then we are told of “the angel who talked with me,” who answers that he would show him. “The angel who talked with me” (spoken of in this way 11 times) is distinguished from “the angel of the Lord.” The answer is actually given by the Man who stood among the myrtle trees, and verse 11 shows this to be “the angel of the Lord” who answers that these horses had been sent by the Lord to walk back and forth through the earth. Then “they”- the red, sorrel and white horses — responded to the angel of the Lord that they had walked back and forth, and all the earth was resting quietly. This seems to be again the patience of God before judging, just as there is often a time of calm before a violent storm. Their walking through the earth indicates their work is not yet finished.
THE LORD'S PROMISE TO COMFORT ZION (vv. 12-17)
Then the angel of the Lord (Christ), the true Intercessor for His people, addresses God, the Lord of hosts, asking, “How long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” (v. 12). He is speaking of the 70 years captivity, for though some of Judah had returned to Jerusalem, many of the people were still not really liberated from the oppression of their enemies, as Ezra and Nehemiah bear witness. How much more may the same expression be used today, “O Lord, How long?” — since now it is almost 2000 years since Israel rejected their Messiah, and has continued under the judgment of God.
The Lord's answer to the angel who talked with Zechariah was with good and comfortable words, for God is the God of all comfort and does not desire His people to be discouraged by their circumstances, but to be encouraged in the Lord. Therefore the angel who talked with him gave instructions to Zechariah to cry, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal.” Jerusalem was God's center, and He would not give her up in spite of the many failures of His people. The King James Version uses the word, “jealous,” for this is used in the sense of its dictionary meaning of “protective and solicitous.” This is jealousy of an admirable kind. He also calls Jerusalem “Zion” which is the special name given her in view of the great blessing she will receive in the Millennium — the thousand year reign of the Lord Jesus following the tribulation. Zion means “sunny,” for it anticipates “the Sun of Righteousness” who will arise to Israel with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2), speaking of the coming of the Lord Jesus in majestic glory.
Also, God announces His extreme displeasure with the nations who were at ease and taking advantage of their prosperous circumstances to oppress the Jews because they were downtrodden and afflicted. It was true that God had been displeased with His own people and had allowed them to suffer for their disobedience, even using the Gentile nations to punish them in many ways. So the nations had helped God punish Israel, “but with evil intent” (v. 15), being willing even to cut off Israel from being a nation. Many of the nations since that time have had the same cruel intention, and at the time of the end, with bitter enmity mounting against Israel, the King of the North and his armies will seek to accomplish Israel's destruction. This is not God's purpose when He chastens His people: He has in view their eventual restoration and blessing.
Therefore it was to be proclaimed to all the people that He had returned to Jerusalem with mercies. If they were in a humble state to receive mercy, they would be greatly blessed. God's house would be built in the city, and a line would be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Zechariah 2:1 refers to this measuring line, which indicates God's vital interest in discerning the precise condition of Jerusalem and blessing it according to His own wise estimate in due time.
Again Zechariah is told to “proclaim,” raising his voice to draw the attention of all the people, “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” This name of God is emphasized in Zechariah, Haggai and Malachi at a time when Judah was far from a “host” (many people), but had been reduced to a very small number. What a mercy that God was not reduced: He was still “the Lord of hosts,” and He promises “My cities shall again spread out through prosperity: the Lord will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem” (v. 17). The complete fulfillment of this will only be when Zion becomes in truth the “sunny” metropolis of the world. This will be when Jerusalem is chosen a second time as the true “foundation of peace,” with which name she will then prove consistent during the age to come, the Millennium.
THE FOUR HORNS AND FOUR CARPENTERS (vv. 18-21)
A vision of four horns now draws the attention of Zechariah. He asks the angel who talked with him the significance of these horns, and is told they are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. Verse 21 shows they are Gentiles. Daniel 7:4-7 identifies these four kingdoms. The first, a lion with eagles' wings (v. 4), is Babylon. The second, a bear (v. 5), is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. the third, like a leopard with four wings and four heads (v. 6), is the Grecian empire. The fourth, a strong, terrible beast with iron teeth (v. 7), is the Roman empire. Daniel 2:37-40 confirms this from a different viewpoint.
These four enemies have distinct characters, each being responsible for harming and scattering Judah, Israel and Jerusalem. Babylon speaks of dignified, despotic rule as emphasized in Nebuchadnezzar who executed people as he pleased and kept alive whomever he desired (Dan. 5:19). The Medes and Persians prided themselves on making laws that could not be changed (Dan. 6:8). This is stern, proud legality. Greece stands for self-righteous indignation, as seen in Daniel 8:5-8. Alexander, the he-goat, was moved with bitter anger against the ram (Medes and Persians). The Roman empire illustrates the brute strength by which that empire ruled, taking control by the force of superior strength.
These very evils have repeated themselves in the history of the Church on earth, and she too has suffered greatly for this. First, people have exalted themselves, assuming a dignity of being spiritually above the common level of the saints of God, and others have willingly given them this place. When this system of things breaks down, as it will, then the people resort to the principle of imposing binding laws, as did the Medes and Persians. They may begin with relatively good rules and regulations, then degenerate to bad rules. But whether good or bad, they set aside the pure grace of God, which is the only principle on which the Church can receive blessing from God. This legality must break down too. The laws become so intolerable that people revolt against them with self-righteous indignation, reacting in bitter anger that throws off the restraints of law. Still, when not turning in faith to the pure grace of God, their new liberty is only freedom to pursue their own willful ways. This brings confusion, for every individual's will is contrary to those of others, and unity is hopeless. Out of such a situation the natural result is that the strongest will becomes predominant: might becomes right, just as the Roman empire (the strong one) became the oppressor of God's people.
What is the answer? The Lord also showed Zechariah four carpenters, and Zechariah asked for what purpose these came. The answer is that, while the four horns have scattered Judah, the carpenters had come to terrify and cast out the horns of the nations. Their work is constructive, effective and decisive, but the actual fulfillment of this could not be in Zechariah's time, for the Grecian and Roman empires had not even arisen.
Ezra 5:1-2 furnishes us with the names of four men who strikingly resemble these four carpenters, all of whom were present at that time: Haggai, Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua. The first two were prophets, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest. All of these are pictures of the Lord Jesus, the one predominant Carpenter, but as seen in the four distinct characters in which the four Gospels present Him.
Zerubbabel, the governor, is typical of Christ as seen in Matthew, God's anointed King. As such He is in contrast to Babylon whose dignified pride and authority He reduces to nothing, while He takes the place of absolute authority.
Haggai, the servant-prophet, is a type of Christ as seen in Mark, the lowly Servant of God, a contrast to the haughty legality of the Medes and Persians. In this willing, humble, lowly service of the Lord Jesus is the destruction of the spirit of legality, for as such He attracts the willing-hearted devotion of those who are born of God.
Joshua, the high priest, typifies Christ as seen in Luke, the sinless Son of Man, who, because He has in grace become partaker of flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14-17), is “the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Thus He is contrasted to Grecian self-righteous anger as the Intercessor on behalf of those who fall. He triumphs wonderfully over the wrath of the people.
Zechariah is a prophet who emphasizes the deity of the Lord Jesus (Zech. 9:14-16; Zech. 12:10; Zech. 13:7; Zech. 14:5-17.) This corresponds to John's Gospel, and indicates the eternal majesty and power by which the Lord Jesus will overcome the brute strength of Rome and the strong wills of those who have sought to dominate the Church of God in this present age. How marvelous is every character in which we see this blessed Christ of God in His casting out of evil and building that which glorifies God for eternity! In all four of these wondrous aspects of His glory, He is indeed “the Carpenter.”
The Third Vision — A Man With a Measuring Line (vv. 1-5)
Another vision draws the eyes of Zechariah-a man with a measuring line. Zechariah 1:16 told of a line being stretched upon Jerusalem. Now, in answer to Zechariah's question, the Man tells him that he has come to measure the length and breadth of Jerusalem. This Man is the Lord Jesus who alone is capable of discerning the precision of God's counsels in regard to the future blessing of the earthly Jerusalem. Notice that only the length and breadth are measured. In contrast, Revelation 21:15-16 shows the measuring of the heavenly Jerusalem. “Its length, breadth, and height are equal.” The height of the earthly city is not considered at all.
Two angels are mentioned in verse 3, the angel who talked with Zechariah and another angel who instructs the first to run to tell “this young man” (Zechariah) that “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it.” This can only be future, for Jerusalem has never yet been so free from danger as to require no “walls,” no protection from marauding enemies. It looks forward beyond the day of “Jacob's trouble,” the great tribulation, to the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. The size of Jerusalem will be greatly increased, as “towns” include not only many people, but domestic animals.
Walls will be unnecessary, for the Lord Himself will be a wall of fire encircling the city as well as being “the glory in her midst.” This will be true when Israel is finally broken down in repentance and faith to receive the Messiah whom they had before despised and rejected. In simple, unquestioning faith they then will depend on the proven faithfulness of their blessed Redeemer who cannot fail them. Their walls, gates and bars will go (Ezek. 38:10-11): the Lord alone will defend them. This should be a clear, ringing testimony to the Church of God today, for we have too often resorted to the help of creatures and of organizations for our protection and help in bearing a witness for Christ before the world. Can we not as fully depend on the Lord alone as Israel will do when once they have received Him?
ISRAEL'S FUTURE JOY SHARED BY MANY NATIONS (vv. 6-13)
Verse 6 is a call to the Jews to flee from the land of the north, and verse 7 indicates this refers to Babylon, where so large a number from Judah settled down in captivity. At this time the Medes and Persians had subdued Babylon, and there was now liberty for the Jews to return to their own land, but many had become wealthy and did not want to be transplanted again. Babylon is east of Israel, but is called the land of the north because in attacking Israel, Nebuchadnezzar had come by way of the north. Since then Israel also has been scattered further north, and therefore the north is specially mentioned in many prophecies concerning Israel's regathering. Yet in verse 6 the Lord also speaks of His spreading Israel abroad as the four winds of heaven-in every direction away from their land. But the larger number have gone northward, great numbers remaining to this day.
Zion is told to deliver herself, for she was dwelling with the daughter of Babylon. This had become a willing, wrong association. When God sent them into captivity, they had no choice but to go (Jer. 39:9), but when the way was open for them to return, they should certainly have done so, but only 42,360 responded (Ezra 2:64). Thus, the city (Zion) was considered as still dwelling (settled down) with the daughter of Babylon. The Church too, because of disobedience to God, has been carried into a state of confusion (the meaning of the name Babylon), and we have to bow to the shame of this under God's governmental hand. But should we willingly remain in such confusion when the Lord gives opportunity to be delivered from it and to return to God's center and an honest witness to the truth of the one body of Christ? Many acknowledge the truth of the one body, but few seek grace to put that truth into practice, just as most Jews appreciated Jerusalem (God's center), but remained in Babylon.
Zion has never delivered itself, but God's Word here will have special force to them in a coming day, when they will indeed be delivered. However, God's work with them in this regard will not be completed until “after glory” (v. 8), that is, after the glorious manifestation of the Lord Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. He will appear in Jerusalem to Judah first (Zech. 12:9-14), and the Jews will be broken down in deep repentance before Him. Afterward, He will go forth from Zion (Joel 3:16) to fight against the King of the North and his armies, together with other armies also, and then Judah shall indeed be delivered. He will be jealous regarding His people, for those who touch them are touching “the apple of His eye,” the pupil, the most sensitive area. He feels deeply everything that affects His beloved people Israel, and certainly no less that which affects His body, the Church.
The Lord would shake His hand upon the nations and they would become a spoil to Israel, who had so long served these nations (v. 9). This great reversal would assure them that the Lord of hosts had sent the Lord Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, who is Himself called “the Lord of hosts” in verse 8. How clear is the truth of the deity of Christ in this declaration from the Lord of hosts that “the Lord of hosts has sent Me.”
No wonder the daughter of Zion is told to sing and rejoice. This same Lord of hosts would come and dwell in the midst of her. He would take the place of central importance, which would cause the greatest rejoicing to the long depressed and troubled people.
The nations would not only be defeated in the deliverance of Israel, but in matchless grace many nations would be blessed in being joined to the Lord, and they too would be called God's people (v. 11). This work would be so clearly a divine one that it is again insisted, “You will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.” He is both the Sender and the Sent One! Israel's recognition that Christ is God will be a marvelous joy to their hearts.
The Lord will inherit Judah as His portion in the holy land. Judah is the royal tribe from which Christ came. Appropriately, its name means “praise,” the portion that rightly belongs to Him from all His people. He will again choose Jerusalem as His center. It means “the foundation of peace.” The city has not been true to its name in the past, and therefore has never ceased to be troubled by wars. Peace must be founded on righteousness, as Isaiah 32:17 tells us, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Only when Jerusalem recognizes Jesus as the Son of God will righteousness become the character of the city, and the city finally be consistent with its name, “the foundation of peace.”
“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation” (v. 13). After centuries of turmoil, confusion, trouble, anger and sorrow, how wonderful will be the intervention of the Lord of glory when His long silence is broken by His rising up out of His holy habitation to measure the earth. How becoming then is the call to all flesh to be silent before Him, just as Amos expresses God's command at that time in one word, “Silence!” (Amos 8:3-JND). It is He alone who can calm the turbulent sea of the world's conflicts, troubles and sorrows. Well might the Lord Jesus tell Israel, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
The Fourth Vision — Grace to the Representative High Priest Overcoming Satan's Opposition (vv. 1-5)
In verse 1 the angel who talked with Zechariah showed him Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. We have seen that the Angel of the Lord is Christ. Joshua, being high priest, is a type of Christ, but seen here as representing Israel. Therefore he is clothed with filthy garments as taking the responsibility for Israel's sins. Satan, the accuser (as his name means, is no doubt resisting by means of the accusations he can bring because of Israel' s sins. How overwhelming this guilt would naturally be!
But the words of the Lord to Satan are wonderful: “The Lord rebuke you. Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” No matter how great the guilt and shame of the nation of Israel, nothing is too hard for the Lord. He is able to righteously and fully remove the guilt and stigma of sin. The basis of this has already been laid at the cross of Calvary, and today all who trust in the blessed Christ of God are cleansed from their sins by virtue of His great sacrifice. Israel has refused Him for centuries, but when the remnant of Israel eventually receive Him, they will indeed be “a brand plucked out of the fire,” and the iniquity of her land will be removed in one day (v. 9). This chapter then looks forward prophetically to that day.
The Lord then speaks to those who stood by, ordering them to remove the filthy garments from Joshua. This speaks of the purging away of sins, which is one wonderful result of the value of the sacrifice of Christ. All that is filthy is removed, but this is not enough for God. He speaks to Joshua, telling him He has caused his iniquity to pass from him and He will clothe him with festival robes. This is typical of God imputing righteousness to the believer: it is the truth of justification, which has the thought of God judicially declaring the person righteous in total contrast to guilt. Not only has God wiped out our tremendous debt, but has freely given us a credit of righteousness such as delights His own heart. The robe of righteousness is Christ Himself-Christ our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Israel too, in a coming day, will be beautifully clothed “in Christ.” This will be marvelous pure grace, a wonderful answer to Israel's prayer of Psalm 90:17, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.”
A turban for Joshua's head is specifically mentioned. When Christ is received, the attitude of our minds is totally changed. So will it be for the nation Israel: their thinking will be wonderfully corrected when once they receive their true Messiah (Isa. 53:4-5). God will have given them their beautiful turban. “And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” Typically it is the Lord Jesus Himself taking a vital interest in the change of His people Israel.
GOVERNMENT FOLLOWING GRACE (vv. 6-7)
Following this work of pure grace, the Angel of the Lord admonishes Joshua. There was no “if” regarding the work of God in grace toward him, but now an “if” is introduced regarding Joshua's judging (or administering) the affairs of God's house and keeping His courts, as well as having a place of dignity among those who stood by. All this depended on Joshua keeping God's charge. Similarly today, though one is saved entirely by the grace of God, yet that one must prove trustworthy in keeping the Word of God if he or she is to be entrusted with any place of honor in connection with maintaining the proper testimony of the house of God, the Assembly. Those who stand by may be all those who have any interest in connection with God's house.
THE BRANCH AND THE STONE (vv. 8-10)
Verses 8 to 10 give a prophetic application to what has gone before. Joshua and his fellows who sit before him (the family of the priests) are told to listen, because they are “a wondrous sign,” that is, they are symbolic as foretelling the future blessing of Israel when the Messiah is revealed in power and glory. God declares, “I am bringing forth My Servant, the Branch.” This is literally, “the Sprout,” referring to the Lord Jesus as a miraculous sprout from the dead stalk of the nation Israel. He is in fact the one source of all their future blessing. Jeremiah 23:5 shows that “the Branch” is King (as in Matthew). He is Servant as in Mark 3:8, He is the Man as in Luke 6:12 and He is Jehovah as in John (Isa. 4:2).
Verse 9 introduces another type of Christ as the foundation of their blessing, the Stone laid before Joshua. Isaiah 28:16 refers to this: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.” On this stone are seven eyes. This reminds us of Revelation 5:6 where we see “seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” It speaks of the sevenfold (or complete) discerning power of the Spirit of God seen in the blessed person of the Lord Jesus (as the Lamb in Revelation and the Stone in Zechariah). On the other hand, God's engraving “the graving thereof” speaks of Christ being the very expression (or imprint) of the substance of God (Heb. 1:3). God has borne witness to this in no uncertain terms when His voice came from the excellent glory, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17). Engraved in His very person is the precious truth that “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). This verse therefore is a lovely witness to the truth of the Trinity being manifested in the blessed person of Christ.
This is the solid foundation on which “the Lord of hosts” can affirm that He will “remove the iniquity of that land in one day (v. 9). Who else can do this but the eternal God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus? The basis of the removal of guilt has long ago been laid when He laid down His life at Calvary. Though Israel has refused to accept Him as Savior, when God turns that nation's heart back to Himself through great tribulation, the iniquity of the land will be removed in one day, the day Christ will appear in majesty on the Mount of Olives, when the hearts of the people will be melted before Him in genuine repentance (Zech. 12:10-14).
“In that day,” which involves the ensuing day of the “age to come,” the Millennium, “everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree (v. 10). The vine is symbolic of Judah planted in the vineyard of Israel (Isa. 5:7) but desolated because of disobedience (v. 5). The fig tree is a type of Judah restored after the captivity, a fig tree planted in the vineyard (Luke 13:6), but which the Lord found (when He came) was not bearing fruit. Judah's failure and ruin have been complete, but the grace of the Lord Jesus will restore her wonderfully in that day to come. Her peace and prosperity is pictured beautifully in the quiet, refreshing scenes of social grace and fellowship, every individual being blessed under the vine and under the fig tree. Then all will have learned the wonder of the grace of God in overruling the sad failure of the nation both in her earliest state before the captivity and in her later state after being brought back from captivity. Because they realize deeply that theirs has been a history of failure over and over again, they will so value the grace of God that they will be glad to share their blessing with others.
The Fifth Vision — The Lampstand (vv. 1-14)
The next vision requires Zechariah's being awakened by the angel who spoke with him. Our natural inclination would not discern the truth of a vision like this: we are naturally insensible regarding these things and require an awakening by divine power. The essence of the vision is expressed in verse 6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts,” and 1 Corinthians 2:14 reminds us, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” We too need an awakening by a power outside of ourselves if we are to understand the things freely given us by God. It must be by divine revelation.
The angel asks what Zechariah sees, for he wants his fullest attention. Zechariah says, “I have looked.” The vision was of a gold lampstand, reminding us of the lampstand in the tabernacle (Ex. 25:31), with a bowl on the top and seven oil lamps which were fed by seven pipes evidently from the bowl. Also, two olive trees were beside it, one on the right and one on the left side. The oil came from those trees.
The lampstand speaks of Christ in whom all the golden glory of God is manifested. It is He who is the Sustainer of all true testimony for God, of which the light speaks. In the tabernacle the lamps were to be lit so “that they give light in front of it” (the lampstand). The light was not simply to light up the room, but for the display of the lampstand itself, just as the light of God is focused upon the Lord Jesus, the Sustainer of God's testimony.
The interpretation of the two olive trees is found at the end of the chapter, so we will wait until then to consider this.
Zechariah's interest is stirred by this vision (v. 4), though he has to admit to the angel his ignorance of what it means (v. 5). This brings forth the angel's message from God, that is of the most vital consequence, not only for Israel, but for mankind in every sphere and in every age. It is the Word of the Lord addressed to Zerubbabel, for he represents the might and power of government. He is told, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” We have recently seen the startling collapse of authoritarian rule in various Communist countries. The irritation of the people against such rule must eventually break out in rebellion. How good to know that the great authority and power of the Lord Jesus is perfectly balanced by the grace of His Priesthood! The world's kings know nothing of this.
Zerubbabel means “melted by Babylon” which pictures the lowly grace of the Lord Jesus in identifying Himself with Israel in feeling the deep sorrow of her humiliation in captivity to Babylon's tyranny. He who rightly feels the humiliation of Israel's shame is the One who can deliver her from the bondage of Gentile oppression. Therefore, the question, “Who are you, O great mountain?” (v. 7), draws our attention to the Gentile powers, beginning with Babylon, that have been so great an obstacle to Israel's blessing. But before Zerubbabel, this mountain would be reduced to a plain — no obstacle whatever. Certainly Zerubbabel is a picture of the Lord Jesus in this case.
More than this, “He shall bring forth the capstone, with shouts of Grace, grace, to it.” The capstone or topstone of the building (the temple) signifies its completion. Just as Christ is the foundation of the building, so also is He the full completion of it. Grace too will be predominantly seen, in contrast to “might” and “power.” Grace will draw forth shouts of rejoicing on the part of the people. This will be especially true in the day of Israel's restoration, but today believers are privileged to know in advance the reality of the grace of God. This grace is seen in the Lord Jesus as the foundation of the spiritual building, the Church of God, and as “Completer of faith,” the One who brings to a perfect culmination all the counsels of God concerning the Church.
The word of the Lord has further instruction for Zechariah concerning this fifth vision. “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands also shall finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you” (v. 9). Though considerable time had elapsed between the laying of the foundation of the temple and the time of this prophecy, the temple was far from finished. Yet God decreed plainly that Zerubbabel would finish it. When the finishing took place, it would be the clearest demonstration that it was “Jehovah of hosts” who had “sent Me to you.” Who is this who was sent? The language is intended to emphasize the typical character of this prophecy as looking forward to the future temple in Jerusalem, which Israel knows will be built by the Messiah in His own time. The One therefore whom Jehovah of hosts has sent is the Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus. It will be He who gives instructions for both the laying of the foundation of the temple and the completed edifice. In this present day, this is a picture of the spiritual house, the Church, of whom the Lord Jesus is Himself the foundation, the corner-stone and the topstone. He is the Builder and is personally involved in the erection of the entire building.
At the arrival of the glorious age to come, it will be fully manifest to Israel that it is indeed the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who has sent the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. No doubts will remain in the minds of the people, though when He came first in lowly grace, they rejected Him as the Son of God sent by the Father.
Meanwhile, while the marvelous glory of the Millennium is held in abeyance, and we see only great weakness instead of power, much failure instead of victory, the Lord asks a question of deepest importance, “Who has despised the day of small things?” While waiting for the coming day of glory, we ought to rejoice in every small occasion of true spiritual blessing which God graciously gives to encourage genuine faith. In the present day God is seeking to impress on us the truth of the words of the Lord Jesus, “He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). If He does not give us great blessing in our testimony as to the truth of the gospel or to the truth of the Assembly, it may be because we have lacked faithfulness in maintaining the blessing He has given! At any rate, faith does not despise small things, and can patiently wait for the great things that are promised.
“These seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” Zerubbabel pictures Christ as the Builder whose building is perfectly square vertically as well as horizontally. The seven eyes refer back to Zechariah 3:9, the eyes in one stone (Christ), which are the eyes of the Lord that range throughout the whole earth. This compares with Revelation 5:6, “the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth,” that is, the seven-fold power of the Spirit of God who takes great delight in drawing attention to Christ as the great Builder of His house. These eyes of perfect discernment are cognizant also of all that transpires throughout the whole earth. In doing so, they find nothing that can remotely compare with the dignity of the person of Christ.
Zechariah's interest is specially awakened by the two olive trees, one on either side of the lampstand (v. 11), and he questions the angel as to this. But before receiving an answer, he questions further as to the two olive branches beside the two golden pipes which empty the golden oil from themselves. These had not been mentioned in verses 2 and 3, but evidently the branches from the trees connected with two golden pipes brought the oil to the seven lamps. As well as the lampstand and the pipes being of gold, the oil is said to be golden oil. This emphasizes the deity of the Spirit of God, just as the glory of Christ's deity is emphasized in the golden lampstand.
The angel answers that the trees with their branches are “the two anointed ones who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (v. 14). The significance of this is easily understood when we remember that both priests and kings were commonly anointed with oil in Israel, and if we consider Zechariah 6:13, that Christ will be priest on His throne. In the Old Testament history this could never take place, for priests could come only from the line of Aaron, and kings could not come from that line. But Christ will be both High Priest and King.
The olive trees therefore symbolize the priesthood and royalty of the Lord Jesus. These two precious facts provide oil for the golden lamp of testimony, that is, the power of the Spirit of God is seen in its wonderful characteristics in connection with the Lord Jesus as being God's chosen King and in His being God's High Priest. Also, as we have seen, the golden lampstand emphasizes the deity of this same blessed Person as the Sustainer of all testimony for God.
The Sixth Vision — A Flying Scroll (vv. 1-4)
The five previous visions have beautifully emphasized the grace of God in His restoring great blessing to Israel after years of sorrow and desolation. The two visions (the sixth and seventh) in this chapter are of a different character. Not all “who are of Israel” will have part in Israel's future blessing (Rom. 9:6). Some will persist in their sin, as Isaiah 26:10 shows, “Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he will deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.” Therefore God will deal with this stubborn perversity in righteous judgment, not in forgiving grace. Sin must be purged from the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Zechariah looks up to see a large flying scroll, twenty by ten cubits. It was unrolled for him to discern the measurements, which are the same as the porch of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3) and of the outer sanctuary of the tabernacle. Writing is seen on both sides, just as was true of the law on the tables of stone (Ex. 32:15) and later in connection with the scroll of God's judgments in Revelation 5:1. The scroll shows that God keeps accurate accounts, and just as the law condemns every infraction against it and pronounces a curse against all who disobey it (Deut. 22:15-26), so this scroll is designated as the curse that goes forth over the face of the whole land. The whole land of Israel had been contaminated by the disobedience of the people, and those who remained in their sinful state of rebellion would suffer the solemn judgment of this curse. The flying of the scroll indicates that when judgment comes it will come swiftly.
Only two classes of guilty people are mentioned here, those who steal and those who swear (v. 3). Verse 4 further designates the swearers as those who swear falsely by God's name. Both would be judged by the curse, the one according to the one side of the scroll, the other according to the other side. This signifies that the one side of the scroll involves sin against mankind (stealing) and the other side sin against God (false swearing). In this case it answers to the summing up of the ten commandments in Luke 10:17, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Whatever sin we commit against others has the element of stealing in it, and any sin we commit against God will always have some element of falsehood in it. Those who have not judged these roots of evil in their own hearts (those who are not saved) will not escape the curse of the judgment of God, but will be cut off.
It is the Lord of hosts who will bring forth the curse (v. 4). The thief may now enter other people's houses, but the curse will enter his own house, not coming just for a brief visit, but remaining to destroy it to its very foundation. The destruction of its timber and stones is symbolical of the destruction of all the personal interests and possessions of the deluded unbeliever in Israel. This does not speak of the judgment of the lake of fire, but of the Lord, during the tribulation, purging out of His kingdom all things that offend. Therefore this judgment is carried out on earth. Long after that, these same unbelievers will have to stand before the Great White Throne and be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:11-13).
THE SEVENTH VISION: THE EPHAH AND THE WOMAN (vv. 5-11)
The angel now draws Zechariah's attention to another vision, asking what he sees that “goes forth” (v. 5). The ephah was a standard of measurement, and the vessel of that size took the same name. It stands for the principle of trade and commerce, which should be honest (Ezek. 45:10), but in Israel was commonly perverted by greed (Amos 8:5) as we know it is everywhere today. Are things to remain this way? No! God had decreed that the ephah will go forth because “this is their resemblance throughout the earth.” All the land of Israel has been affected adversely by this perversion of the ephah, for the perversion was seen inside the ephah (v. 7). He saw a woman sitting. Women who maintain their scriptural role often are more godly and devoted than are the men, but a woman out of her role can corrupt herself more than the men do, as Jezebel the wife of Ahab illustrates (2 Kings 21:25). Jezebel is used in the New Testament as the symbol of the wickedness of the false church (Rev. 2:20), and similarly the false church, Babylon the Great, is pictured as a woman in Revelation 17:4-5.
The woman here speaks of Israel given up to lust for gain through trade and commerce. She is personified as “Wickedness” and thrust down in the midst of the ephah, with a lead lid weighing a talent (well over 100 pounds or 45 kg.) put over the opening of the ephah. This illustrates what riches commonly accomplish. They become a terrible weight by which the victim is trapped without hope of extrication. Sin must be punished! This vision shows that the root principle of sin will be banished, but those who choose it will also suffer banishment from God.
Having seen in this vision a woman called Wickedness thrown into an ephah and a weighted lid put on its mouth, Zechariah then sees two women coming (v. 9), having wings like a stork, with the wind in their wings. These indicate civil authority and spiritual authority reduced to an evil state, in contrast to Zerubbabel (the civil authority) and Joshua (the spiritual authority) ordained by God for Israel's blessing. By these corrupted authorities apostate Israel (the woman in the ephah) is carried rapidly away from Jerusalem (“the foundation of peace”). The wings of a stork (an unclean fowl of the air) signify satanic power that energizes these authorities.
Where do they carry the ephah? When Zechariah asks this question the angel who spoke with him answered, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar” (v. 11). This calls to mind the plain in the land of Shinar where the tower of Babel was built (Gen. 11:2-4). Hence, the carrying of the ephah is the very essence of apostasy (a deliberate turning from the truth of God), indicating that the ungodly in Israel will revert to the same evil designs and intentions that gave birth to the building of the tower of Babel. The ephah will be established there on its own base, a contrast to God's foundation which is in the holy mountains (Ps. 87:1). How closely related is the lust for base gain (the ephah holding the corrupt woman) to the abhorrent principle of apostasy!
Apostasy can build a house to honor the lust of its greed, and give it high religious dignity, just as is seen in the false church Babylon the Great, in the New Testament (Rev. 18:10-16). But its foundation is not God's foundation, and total destruction is in store for it, just as “great Babylon” will suffer destruction from the hand of God in a coming day (Rev. 18).
This chapter therefore shows that those in Israel who prefer their own sin will be judged; and the root principle of sin, seen in the rebellion of apostasy, will be relegated to the place where judgment will completely destroy it.
The Eighth Vision — Four Chariots (vv. 1-8)
The last of Zechariah's visions is of four chariots coming forth between the two mountains (JND). Note that the definite article “the” is used here, and inasmuch as the city of Jerusalem has been the main subject of Zechariah's prophecy, it is evident that the two mountains are Mount Zion and Mount Olivet, between which lay the valley of Jehoshaphat. They are said to be bronze (or copper) mountains, emphasizing the holiness of God in government. It is manifestly God who is sending them forth with some definite purpose in view.
Red horses were drawing the first chariot, black horses the second, white horses the third, and dappled and strong horses the fourth. These four horses represent some answer from God to the four kingdoms that wasted Israel. Yet in this case it it not direct judgment, but rather the sovereign government of God. The angel answered Zechariah's question by telling him that these horses “are four spirits of heaven who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth” (v. 5). They are therefore energizing principles working behind the scenes with effective power.
The order of presentation of the colors of the horses is different than in Revelation 6, for the significance is different. Red stands for the power of attraction, just as Babylon, the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, drew the attention of all the earth because of its magnificence (Dan. 4:10-22). So the red horses indicate that the power of God is superior to that of Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse 6 passes by the red when considering the sphere of operation and begins with the black, because the Babylonian kingdom had already given place to the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, so Babylon was no longer a threat to Israel. The Medes and Persians were gradually on the way out too, and the black horses seem to indicate the darkness of that kingdom's eventual extinction. The black horses were going to the north country since the Medes and Persians had extended their kingdom greatly in that direction, so as to awaken the anger of Alexander and the Greeks (Dan. 8:4-7).
“The white are going after them.” White speaks of victory. Alexander the Great, in defeating the Medes and Persians and in many other engagements, was spectacular in his decisive victories. But true victory is in the hands of the Lord Jesus, and the Grecian empire too would be easily overcome by the sublime victory of the Lord of glory. Alexander's kingdom embraced the same northern areas as did that of the Medes and Persians, but the Lord's white horses would overcome him.
The horses of the fourth chariot are seen as divided in verses 6 and 7, the dappled horses going toward the south country and the strong going to walk back and forth through the earth. This indicates God's action toward the Roman empire, first in its original condition, and secondly in its future condition when revived during the tribulation period. Rome's conquests first took them southward, but when that empire is revived, it will seek to extend its power as widely as possible through the earth. God knows how to meet these things. The dappled horses speak of judgment tempered with mercy, possibly indicating that God's judgment of the original Roman Empire was not so devastating as it will be against the revived Roman Empire, when “the strong horses” will overcome the boasted strength of the beast and his armies. Indeed, the overruling power of God will control and direct the power of Rome even while it is opposed to Him
THE CROWNING OF THE HIGH PRIEST (vv. 9-11).
The eight visions being ended, the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah with a message of great importance. Now that all opposing authority has been put down, as the four chariots indicate, we are to see authority approved by God in its proper place. This is plainly symbolic of the future crowning of the Lord Jesus as priest upon His throne.
Zechariah is told to take an offering from three exiles who had arrived from Babylon and were received into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah (v. 10). This is a picture of the remnant of Israel in the time of the end being recovered after long years of exile which began with the captivity of Babylon. Josiah's name means “he will be sustained by Jehovah,” and Zephaniah means “treasured by Jehovah.” The exiles are welcomed into such circumstances, indicating that God valued them and would sustain them. They willingly come with an offering, which speaks of their voluntary appreciation of the Messiah of Israel.
In such a house Zechariah is to make (with the offering) crowns of both gold and silver, an elaborate crown. He was to put this crown on the head of Joshua, the high priest, not on Zerubbabel, the governor. This was most unusual! Joshua was of the line of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi. Priests came from this line, but never kings. Israel's king came from the tribe of Judah. But this occasion symbolizes the fact that Christ will be both Priest and King. He is King, being of the tribe of Judah, and Priest, not of the Aaronic line, but of the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:20).
THE MESSAGE TO JOSHUA (vv. 12-15)
Zechariah is now instructed (v. 12) to tell Joshua the meaning of this symbolic act, so Joshua will not think he was actually to be king. The message came directly from the Lord of hosts, “Behold the Man whose name is the Branch.” It is interesting that over 500 years later, Pilate the governor used these first three words, “Behold the Man” in presenting the Lord Jesus before the Jews (John 19:5). He probably did not know anything about Zechariah's prophecy, but God put these words into his mouth, to face the Jews with a prophecy they knew referred to the Messiah. Sad to say, it only incensed them instead of convicting them.
We saw in Zechariah 3:8 that the Branch is literally “the Sprout,” the One who came from the stalk of Jesse, as David did, who specially typifies Christ as King of Israel. He would grow up from His own place. Having a place of lowly rejection to begin with, He would by the power of God grow up or emerge into a place of highest honor and dignity. In this verse the emphasis is on the fact that He is truly “The Man.” Elsewhere the emphasis is on His royalty (Jer. 23:5), on His being Servant (Zech. 3:8), and on His being “Jehovah” (Isa. 4:2). All of these are essential in God's Messiah, but in our chapter both His royalty and His priesthood are considered, and both of these require that He should be a true Man.
The fact is emphasized the second time (v. 13) that He shall build the temple, for man's natural pride would like to think himself capable of doing this. David's thoughts along this line had to be corrected (2 Sam. 7:11), and Peter's similar thoughts were strongly reproved by God's voice from heaven (Luke 9:33-35). Orthodox Jews today know this scripture and are looking for their Messiah to come and build the temple. While many Jews are stirred up to desire the Dome of the Rock removed, wanting to replace it by a Jewish temple, yet they fear to do this. Still, by the middle of the seven year “tribulation” period following the Rapture, there will be a temple, erected by humans, in such a location that it will be called “the temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4).
The Branch, the Lord Jesus, will build yet another temple of the Lord at Jerusalem that will endure through the Millennium. All previous temples will have been done away, including the one which stands during the tribulation period. Today, however, before the time of the Lord's building of Israel's temple, He is engaged in the building of a spiritual house, the Church of God, adding to that building every convert to Himself as a living stone, and the building is growing “into a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). Thus, believers are “being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). God dwelling there is the most important feature of the temple. He loves to dwell with His own, whether in the Church today, or with Israel in the millennial age.
Returning to verse 13, “He shall bear the glory.” The glory and honor of being entrusted with the authority of ruling Israel and the whole world will be perfectly safe when borne on the shoulder of this faithful Son of Man. He alone of all men will be able to bear this glory. Even David was not able to bear it: he failed badly, as did Solomon and the kings that followed. “He shall sit and rule on His throne.” This looks forward to the millennial age. Already He is seated with the Father on the Father's throne (Rev. 3:21), but will take His own throne when coming as the Son of Man in power and glory to subdue all creation under His feet.
More than this, “He shall be a priest on His throne.” No king of Israel could be a priest, for kings were of the tribe of Judah while priests were from Levi. Yet before Israel's existence, there was a man who was both king and priest of the Most High God (Gen. 14:18). This man, Melchizedek, was typical of Christ, who would combine both offices in His own person (Heb. 7:1-3). While His kingship establishes His authority, His priesthood adds the wonderful feature of tender grace and sympathy (Heb. 4:14-16). “The counsel of peace shall be between them both.” While kings and priests of Israel often could not agree, yet in the royalty and priesthood of Christ there is beautiful concord: authority and grace are perfectly balanced in Him, both being fully maintained according to the counsel of God.
The crown would then remain as a memorial in the temple of the Lord to the three men mentioned in verse 10, and as a memorial to the grace or kindness of the son of Zephaniah in having welcomed the three exiles from Babylon. The returning exiles, as we have seen, are typical of the remnant of Israel returning in the last days, and the crowns indicate their giving to the Lord Jesus the place of supreme authority as both King and High Priest of His people. The memorial of their faith will remain, just as will the memorial of the great grace by which they are received back to the land.
Other Israelites would come from “far off” to help build the temple, recognizing the true Messiah in His directing that building process. Peter refers to those “far off” (Acts 2:39) as the dispersed Israelites, to whom later he writes his first epistle as guided by God (1 Peter 1:1). On the other hand, Paul writes to Gentiles as having been “far off,” yet brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13), who are made members of the body of Christ along with Jewish believers of this present dispensation of grace.
Whether Zechariah 6:15 includes Gentiles is a question perhaps not easily settled, but Isaiah 60:10 prophesies that “the sons of foreigners shall build up your walls,” the walls of the city, not the temple, and that Gentiles will be most cooperative with Israel in that coming day of glory.
The coming of those from far off to help build the temple was an additional confirmation that “the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.” We may take this as the words of the angel speaking with Zechariah, but it seems to apply in its fullness to the sending of the Messiah in that future day.
This would come to pass if Israel would diligently obey the voice of the Lord their God. But sending of the Messiah will not take place till Israel is brought back from their rebellious wanderings and into subjection to the Word of God. For centuries the nation of Israel has been disobedient, rebellious and scattered as though not a nation at all, stubbornly persisting in their rejection of Christ. When finally they receive Him, then we are told, “Your people shall be volunteers in the day of your power” (Ps. 110:3).
A Question Answered Negatively (vv. 1-7)
The visions and prophecies of the first six chapters are connected with the eighth month of the second year of the reign of Darius (Zech. 1:1). It is two years later when the question of Zechariah 7:3 arises. In this chapter the Lord answers the question negatively, and gives the positive answer in Zechariah 8.
The question is asked by men sent to the house of the Lord from Bethel (JND). They had been sent to pray and to ask the priests and prophets in Jerusalem, “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?” The fast of the fifth month was in memory of the destruction of the first temple. Now the temple was being rebuilt (it was finished within two years after this: Ezra 6:15), was it necessary to continue this fast?
Bethel was one of the two centers where Jeroboam set up his idolatrous worship (1 Kings 12:28-29) when he separated the ten tribes from Judah and Benjamin. The Assyrian took the ten tribes into captivity before the temple was destroyed (2 Kings 17:6), yet here we find men of Bethel who were mourning the destruction of Jerusalem's temple. It is good to see this evidence of their being drawn back to Judah and the center of worship that God had established in Israel. God's temple now meant enough to them that they were mourning over its destruction, and were glad to see it being rebuilt.
The Lord answered this question through Zechariah. The answer was addressed not only to those who asked the question, but to all the people of the land, and to the priests particularly, who were commonly the representatives of the people. Yet the question is only partially answered in this chapter: the positive side of the answer awaits Zechariah 8. The answer begins (v. 5) in the form of another question, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me — for Me?” The Lord adds a fast in the seventh month, which was another fast in memory of the murder of Gedaliah by Ishmael (Jer. 41:1-2). The Lord makes it a serious question as to whether these fasts were out of concern for His glory or whether Israel had selfish motives. On the other hand also, when instead of fasting they ate and drank, were they not doing this entirely for themselves and not eating and drinking to the glory of God? Whether or not the fasts had begun with proper motives, they did not continue that way. They had degenerated into mere formal and selfish observations, just as later on we read of “the Jews' Passover” (John 2:13) and “the Jews' feast of Tabernacles” (John 7:2), though these had been called “the feasts of the Lord” when instituted in Leviticus 23:4.
In verse 7 the Lord reminds Israel that He had spoken by the prophets in this same way to the nation before the captivity took place “when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous.” Isaiah's prophecy is most pointed in this matter (Isa. 58:3-7). He wrote in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, previous to Judah's captivity. They had before ignored God's messages and suffered for it. Let them take a warning that they may rightly respond now!
A FURTHER MESSAGE FROM GOD (vv. 8-14)
The message from verses 4-7 has been one of serious reproof. The Lord gives another message beginning with verse 8, this time adding exhortation as to the proper attitude to accompany fasting, while showing that this attitude had been lacking in Israel. As a result the people were scattered among the nations.
If their fast was honestly for God, then they would show it in their attitude toward others. They would execute true judgment, being fairminded in their dealings, which would require showing mercy and compassion. They are told not to oppress the widow. Unscrupulous people will take cruel advantage of a widow's lack of knowledge as to business matters. The fatherless, the strangers and the poor also are in a position that leaves them vulnerable to such people. Yet this is negative: the New Testament goes much further than this, as for example Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all.” We surely ought not merely to refrain from doing evil, but should positively do good.
Israel had refused to listen to God's prophets, but closed their ears against the truth of God's Word (v. 11). They had deliberately made their hearts as hard as a rock, so the law of God would make no impression, nor His Word sent by His Spirit through the prophets. For this reason the great wrath of God burned against them (v. 12).
Just as God cried loudly to Israel but they would not listen, so when at last they cry out in distress when suffering the results of their rebellion, so God said He would not listen (v. 13). Rather, in His righteous government, He scattered them from their land among many nations where they were strangers (v. 14). Since they did not want God, He put them in the company of those who did not know God, that they might learn by experience the bitterness of being away from the kindness and care of their faithful Creator. Their land was left desolate as an awesome governmental judgment from God, with not even travelers passing through it. This was true during the 70 years of captivity and has since been repeated when Israel rejected the Lord Jesus when He came in grace. Now, after many centuries, God is showing mercy in many returning to the land with the nation of Israel firmly established.
The negative side of the answer of God thus emphasizes that Israel had not learned to take to heart the significance of their fasting. Therefore they are not told to cease their fasting, for despite the little apparent revival God had given them, they had not learned the self-judgment God was seeking to teach them.
The Positive Answer (vv. 1-17)
In this chapter the Lord gives a wonderfully positive answer to the question of Zechariah 7:2. The positive answer is found only in His own great and effective work to which the eyes of Israel are to be directed. Yet the answer looks forward, far beyond any small measure of revival in Israel, to the time when God restores the nation permanently in the age of millennial glory.
Another direct word from the Lord of hosts comes to Zechariah, not regarding Israel's guilt, but to affirm His own great jealousy for Zion's welfare. Zion (meaning sunny) is Jerusalem's name given in view of Christ's coming to her as “the Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2) in a future day. The Lord adds, “I am zealous for Zion with great zeal” (v. 2). How rightly He hates the evil that has caused His people to fall and to be estranged from Him! When He judges His anger will burn and He will accomplish His ends.
His promise is irrevocable in spite of Israel's failure. “I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” (v. 3). The fulfillment of this has been delayed for many centuries, and Israel's failure has been the cause of the delay. In fact, God did return in person when Christ came into the world, but Israel coldly rejected Him, causing further delay to His dwelling in their midst. Only when their attitude toward the Lord Jesus is sovereignly changed to one of faith and submission will they be blessed with the joy of His presence in their midst. Then “Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain.” What a contrast indeed to what Revelation 11:8 has to say of Jerusalem: “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.” The change will be absolutely the Lord's doing. He will change their corruption (their Sodom character) into truth, and their independence of God (their Egyptian character) into holiness. Wonderful work of divine grace and power!
The permanence of the blessing of the Millennium is seen in verse 4, which tells us, “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age.” At the time of writing, only the young and virile had been able to survive the rigors of captivity and wars, and only the comparatively young had returned from the captivity. But during the Millennium many people will live through the entire thousand years, so their age will be great, yet they will not die.
The streets will be filled with children playing, not filled with civil rights marches and protests and crime. Today the streets are the most dangerous areas for children to play, but whatever modes of transportation will then be used, they will pose no threat even to children. The pleasant circumstances of prosperity and contentment will be such a contrast to the world's present day confusion.
When the time comes for this to take place, it will seem too difficult in the eyes of the godly remnant of Israel (v. 6). Will it also be too difficult in God's eyes? It will involve tremendous changes that even we today may find it hard to imagine. What will happen to the results of the industrial revolution? What of all the amazing inventions that have flooded the world's markets? There is no question that all the world's weapons of war will be done away, but what of its advanced methods of rapid transportation, cars, trucks, planes, space ships, etc.? Distribution of food will be necessary, and garbage disposal. Homes will be built, crops planted, clothing manufactured, and many other things will require the work of people's hands. But where will the line be drawn? At least there will not be the complications of present day society. The simplicity of living is emphasized wherever the Millennium is spoken of in Scripture. Accidental death will apparently never take place, nor the death of an infant (Isa. 65:18-25). Whatever changes God sees fit to introduce, He will accomplish His promise perfectly in spite of any objections unbelief may advance.
For the fourth time in this chapter the words are repeated, “Thus says the Lord of hosts” (v. 7). He is emphasizing the absolute truth of what He says. Though the returned remnant of Israel was very small, God was still “the Lord of hosts,” the Commander of multitudes. Though Israel was scattered far from their land, and are still scattered, He will save them just as simply as He saved the remnant from the captivity of the Medes and Persians. He will bring them back eventually to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, where He will own them as His own people (v. 8). In Hosea 1:9 God speaks of disowning Israel, calling them “not My people” because of their rebellion against Him. But in the future, they will have pleasure in obeying Him.
Again, for the fifth time in this chapter (v. 9) Israel is told, “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” In this case He asks for a fitting response from the nation, though He later affirms again the certainty of His own work, interspersing this with appeals to them to act consistently in view of God's faithfulness. “Let your hands be strong.” They were not to wait for the coming day of glory to act for God, but “You who have been hearing in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets” were called upon to be strong now. The prophets had prophesied when the foundation of the restored temple was laid. God had spoken by the prophets. The people were therefore responsible to listen and apply themselves to obey. This was more important than being occupied with questions as to whether or not they should fast at certain times. The temple signified God's dwelling among them. This wonderful fact should have had deep effect on the heart of every Israelite.
“For before these days, while the land was lying desolate for seventy years, there were no wages for man nor hire for beast; there was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; for I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor” (v. 10). This was the hand of God in discipline, not merely unfortunate circumstances. He had changed Israel's circumstances before from favorable to miserable. His power is just as effective to change them back again. This power not only changed circumstances, but also influenced the attitude of people, setting them against one another. By the same power God could change people's attitudes as well as their outward circumstances. In other words, they sorely need God!
“But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts” (v. 11). The little reviving God had given in restoring the small fraction of the people after the captivity partially fulfilled this promise, but the revival did not last. So it was only a small pledge of the later complete fulfillment, which will take place in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
God will then make the seed they sow to prosper and cause their vines to produce fruit (v. 12). The ground will bring forth abundance. The heavens will give dew, not wild rainstorms, but gentle moisture necessary for growth, given at night with no inconvenience for mankind. God will cause the remnant of Israel to possess all these blessings in His own time.
As to the people themselves, whether Judah or Israel, they then will no longer be a curse among the Gentiles, as they have been for centuries (v. 13). Gentiles have generally despised the Jewish people, yet their identity as Jews has been maintained throughout the years in spite of their being scattered away from their land. In every country where they have been dispersed they have been considered a curse. But God will save them and they will become a blessing, recognized as such by the nations. This will be another miraculous result of God's work of grace in their hearts. He tells them, “Do not fear, let your hands be strong.” Their situation at the time caused them to fear the opposition of the nations, but since God Himself will eventually change this opposition into approval, why not now be strong to do the will of God?
Again with the expression, “Thus says the Lord of hosts” (v. 14), the faithfulness of God in carrying out His Word is pressed on Israel. When His righteous punishment had been executed in the past because their fathers had provoked Him to anger, He had not repented of His expressed warnings, but carried out His Word. He meant what He said. Similarly, His thoughts of doing well to Israel have been expressed in this very chapter and in the great field of prophecy (v. 15). In this case His Word will not fail either. Will they not trust Him as fully for the second as for the first? Well might they be told then not to fear, but to let their hands be strong. They may depend utterly on the faithfulness of God to uphold them.
With the basis of God's faithfulness, how becoming and right it is that He should expect a true response, as is seen in verses 16 and 17. Notice, however, that no selfish motive on God's part is involved in what He requires. Rather, His concern is for the welfare of others. He insists that they speak the truth to neighbors: one should not deceive another. Also, those who held the office of judges in the gates are expected to execute the judgment of truth that has the element of peace instead of resentment, as was often the reaction to court judgments in those days, just as in our days. God is deeply concerned as to how we consider one another.
Verse 17 goes deeper than verse 16. Verse 16 refers to actions and verse 17 to thoughts. Imagining evil even in one's heart toward one's neighbor is forbidden, as is loving a false oath. God knows our motives, and we must judge them as in the sight of God, for He hates all evil, whether evil actions or evil thoughts.
THE FASTS TURNED INTO FEASTS (vv. 18-23)
Verses 18 and 19 connect with the question of Zechariah 7:3 and with the negative answer in Zechariah 7:5-6. Here we have the positive answer in a way far higher than the questioners had ever imagined. For the seventh time in the chapter the message is prefaced with the words, “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” The men from Bethel had asked only about observing the fast of the fifth month. In the negative answer God had added the fast of the seventh month (Zech. 7:5). Now two more fasts are added to these, those of the fourth and tenth months. The fast of the fourth month was in memory of Nebuchadnezzar's taking the city Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3-4). That of the tenth month commemorated the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah (1 Kings 25:1).
Rather than telling the men of Bethel to no longer observe these fasts, the Lord tells them that all of these fasts will be turned into cheerful feasts of joy and gladness for the house of Judah. This refers to the future because Judah has not taken to heart the serious significance of the fasts in humbling themselves in self-judgment and faith in the Son of God. Yet God's answer in grace far transcends all that anyone could imagine, and He will wonderfully carry out His Word. Because of the certainty of this, they are told to love truth and peace. God has spoken the truth; therefore love it. If one's thoughts conflict with this, he does not really love peace: if he loves peace, he will not entertain thoughts of conflict with God.
In verse 9 for the eighth time we are told, “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” In this case the Lord promises that the blessing will not be confined to the house of Judah. The inhabitants of many cities will come to share in the joy that Judah is given. These are the cities of Israel. Their refreshing desire for fellowship then will lead those of one city to go to another, so that together they might go up to supplicate the Lord at Jerusalem. The unity of Israel will be far more than formal, but will issue from willing hearts.
In verse 22 the blessing is seen to be wider still. Many peoples and strong nations will also come to seek the Lord and present their supplication before Him at Jerusalem. Gentiles will recognize His glory as being identified with the people of Israel whom they had long despised. How marvelous this work of grace will be! What a change from present day intrigue, distrust, hatred and violence even within Israel and in all the nations toward her!
Again, for the ninth time in the chapter it is emphasized, “Thus says the Lord of hosts.” When those days arrive, as many as ten Gentiles will be attracted to one Jew, not to terrorize him, but to seek his favor, for, they will say, “we have heard that God is with you” (v. 23). In fact, the name of the city will be “The Lord is there” (Ezek. 38:35).
Syria, Tyre and Philistia to Fall Under Judgment (vv. 1-8)
Beginning with this chapter the book of Zechariah has a distinctly different character. No dates are mentioned as in the first section of the book (chapters 1 to 8), and no more visions are found. Zechariah 9:1 gives the emphasis of all the remaining chapters, “the burden of the Word of the Lord.” The word burden has the thought of a weight heavy to bear, for God is bringing His displeasure to bear on mankind, and He intends people to feel it.
The land of Hadrach is mentioned first, though it is the only occurrence of this name in Scripture. Hadrach was a city near Damascus, the capital of Syria. The land of Hadrach was to come under God's displeasure, but Damascus was the place on which it was to rest. The best translation of the last part of verse 1 is found in JND's version: “For Jehovah hath an eye upon men, and upon all the tribes of Israel.” “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Prov. 15:3). When judgment must fall, those eyes will be “like a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14). They scrutinize and discern everything as it is. This judgment against Damascus and the land adjoining it was carried out in measure not too long after the prophecy, when Alexander the Great invaded and conquered the land, but there is a longer range, yet future fulfillment. Syria, at the time of the end, will have an active part in the invasion by the King of the North into Israel, and will suffer God's judgment for this. The King of the North is also called “the King of Assyria” (Dan. 11:40; Isa. 8:7-8). The Assyrian empire included Syria, Iraq and other surrounding nations. Hamath also (v. 2), a district bordering on Damascus, will suffer a like judgment. It was “at Riblah in the land of Hamath” that a large number of officials of Judah were executed by Nebuzaradan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard, when he took them captive from Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18-21). This cold blooded murder would be still in the memory of the people, and surely also in God's memory. “Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise,” will not escape the judgment of God. These cities were in Phoenicia (present day Lebanon) south of Hamath. Tyre was famous for having built a stronghold that the nations were unable to conquer, not even Nebuchadnezzar who had besieged it for many years. This verse refers to what is called the new Tyre, built on an island and highly fortified, having a surrounding wall 150 feet or 46 meters high.
God observed Tyre, not only as building a secure stronghold, but making herself wealthy. In Joshua 19:29 she is called “the fortified city of Tyre,” and in Isaiah 23 both Tyre and Sidon are seen as centers of trade and commerce (specially verse 8).
“Behold, the Lord will cast her out; He will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire” (v. 4). This devastating judgment was later carried out on Tyre by Alexander the Great. His armies besieged the city for seven months before finally taking it and massacring ten thousand inhabitants. However secure or wealthy people make themselves, God will break it down to nothing. There is no true security and no true wealth except in a genuine, dependent faith in the living God. Though these cities have in measure been built up again today, the future judgments of the tribulation will completely fulfill the prophecy of their destruction.
Somewhat further south, the land of the Philistines is next considered. Four of its chief cities are mentioned (Gath being omitted). “Ashkelon shall see it and fear; Gaza also shall be very sorrowful: and Ekron, for He dried up her expectation. The king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited” (v. 5). “A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines” (v. 6). There have been partial fulfillments of these judgments too, but the complete fulfillment will be at the time of the end. The evils that descend on these cities will serve to cut off Philistine pride. When God does this, He also says He will take away the blood from his mouth (v. 7). The word his intimates that the Philistines are looked at as one person. It is the blood of his idolatrous sacrifices that is taken from his mouth. No longer will his mouth speak falsely. “Abominations” is another word for idols, and the Philistines will be no longer ingesting the evil teachings of idolatry. So there is good accomplished by God's judgments. There will be a remnant of the Philistines who will be “for our God” and will be leaders in Judah, “and Ekron as a Jebusite.” At least some of the Jebusites (previous inhabitants of Jerusalem) were incorporated into Israel (2 Sam. 24:18-25). “Araunah the Jebusite” was one who wanted to give his property to David so that David could use it in sacrifice to God.
God would also camp about His house because of the army (v. 8). His house is the literal temple in Jerusalem, which He would protect by His sovereign power when the oppressing army invades the land. This was partially fulfilled when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, intending to destroy it. But, instead of fortifying the city to fight against him, the Jews (according to Josephus) prayed earnestly to God, then the high priest led a procession of robed priests out of the city to meet Alexander. He was so impressed by this action that he not only spared the city, but showed the Jews many favours. This most interesting history is found in “The Antiquities of the Jews,” Book XI, the latter part of Zechariah 8.
However, this verse has never been completely fulfilled, for it is added, “no oppressor shall pass through them any more.” The army of the King of the North at the time of the end shall “overwhelm them and pass through” (Dan. 11:40). Only when this last oppressor has been judged will the prophecy receive its final fulfillment. Meanwhile, the Lord knows how to encamp around the site of the temple and to preserve His own interests among His people. “For,” He says, “now I have seen with my eyes” (v. 8). The same eyes of which verse 1 speaks have taken full cognizance of all that concerns Israel, including the opposition of its oppressors, and Israel may rest in the knowledge that the Lord sees all. This is a precious rest too for every believer today.
ISRAEL'S MESSIAH ANNOUNCED (vv. 9-17)
Verse 9 is unique in its beauty, standing alone in contrast to all that has gone before and that which follows. It announces the first coming of the Lord Jesus, being presented to Israel in lowly humility and grace. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” The daughter speaks of the godly remnant of Israel who have purified themselves from the general corruption of the land, being purified by faith in the Messiah of Israel. Zion being mentioned reminds us that the true blessing of this remnant awaits the sunshine of the glory of the Millennium, for Zion means sunny. Zion is also called the daughter of Jerusalem, for the two names are necessary to give adequate testimony to the character of the city. Jerusalem means the foundation of peace, for peace must have a righteous foundation.
“Behold your King is coming.” Though this was announced by Zechariah many years before the actual coming of the Lord Jesus into the world, yet Israel was not ready to receive Him when He came. He fulfilled the prophecy to the letter: “He is just.” His character on earth was beyond the slightest question. Even His enemies bore witness, “Teacher, we know that You are true (Matt. 22:16). Far more than this, thank God, He gave himself in sacrifice for our sins to accomplish eternal salvation for mankind, though this was not understood at the time of His death.
Though justice is to be expected of a king, it is added that He is “lowly,” which is not a what people would expect in a king — a character indeed that was not appreciated by Israel when the blessed Lord Jesus was manifested on earth. Therefore they despised Him in spite of their own scriptures foretelling that this would be true of their Messiah. He would come to Jerusalem riding a colt of a donkey. There is no record of any king of Israel riding a donkey, for the donkey is the symbol of lowliness. Normally a king would ride a horse, the symbol of strength and conquest, as will be true of the Lord Jesus when He comes forth in majestic power as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:11-16) in a future day. But when He was presented to Israel riding a donkey (Luke 19:25-40), He was not recognized by His own people in spite of this striking prophecy, and was openly resisted by the Pharisees (v. 39).
Another significant fact here is that it was the colt of a donkey. He rode a young animal, unbroken, as Luke 19:30 proves. In spite of never having been ridden before, it was fully submissive to the Lord Jesus. Israel ought to have learned from this, that they too should submit to the authority of the lowly Son of Man.
Verse 9 goes far beyond verse 8. There has now been an intervening length of time approaching 2000 years, for the dominion of the King of kings has not yet been established “from sea to sea.” God will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. Ephraim headed the ten tribes as separated from Judah and Benjamin, and of course Jerusalem was the center of Judah's worship. Jehu, king over the ten tribes, was a fit man to display the power of the chariot in ruthless warfare (2 Kings 9:20). In Jerusalem Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses and 12,000 horsemen. He also had chariots, but his horses, specially those brought from Egypt, are emphasized (2 Chr. 1:16). The battle bow shall be cut off. How wonderful will be the day when armaments are no more!
“He shall speak peace to the nations.” This is the King of verse 9. When His voice speaks, it will be as He spoke to the raging sea, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39), and immediately there was a great calm. His dominion will be “from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Though He speaks peace to the Gentile nations, yet His dominion in the following words is seen to be specially over Israel. “From sea to sea” speaks of the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, and the river is the Euphrates, bordering the northeast. To the ends of the earth would intimate what God said to Abraham, as far as the Nile, the river of Egypt (Gen. 15:18). This defines the extent of Israel's borders in the age to come, the Millennium.
It may be that verse 11 is addressed to the daughter of Zion (v. 9), unless God is addressing the King. “Because of the blood of your covenant” refers to the new covenant confirmed to Israel by the blood of Christ shed on Calvary. Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a prophecy of that covenant, and in Matthew 26:27-28 the Lord Jesus affirms the truth of “the blood of the new covenant” as connected with His own imminent death. That covenant made with Israel will become effective for them only when they recognize Christ as their Messiah, so this prophecy of Zechariah refers to that day when “you prisoners of hope” (the many Jews who have been in Gentile bondage) will be sent forth out of the pit wherein is no water. After years of such bondage, deprived of the refreshing water of the Word of God, what a relief this will be to the distressed remnant of Israel!
The prisoners of hope are therefore urged to return again to the stronghold (v. 12). They are not to think of themselves as prisoners hopeless in their captivity, but having reason for hope because of the promise of God. But that promise is vitally connected with “the stronghold,” the promised Messiah of Israel. They need Him! In fact a further promise is given them: “Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” This reminds us of Job, who, after he had passed through his dreadful affliction, was given double the wealth he had previously (Job 42:10). God's thoughts toward us are always of grace, though He may allow trials that sometimes seem unbearable. For believers the end will be marvelously wonderful. Verse 13 speaks of Judah and Ephraim both being weapons in God's hand, so this looks on to the time of the end when the tribes are united again, and Greece, though it had not yet risen, will be fully defeated after all of its oppression of Israel, as will all other Gentile oppressors.
“Then the Lord will be seen over them” (v. 14). He will visibly take His place as Commander of His armies, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. Judgment will be swift and decisive. The Lord God blowing the trumpet speaks of His declared testimony against evil that will be heard by all the world. His marching with whirlwinds from the south is interesting, for the south generally speaks of favorable circumstances, but out of such circumstances there can be sudden, unexpected trouble for men. When the south wind blew softly, the sailors in Acts 27:13 supposed they had gained their purpose, but they soon encountered a violent storm. Thus, when people say, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction will come upon them (1 Thess. 5:3), just as “whirlwinds from the south.”
Verse 14 said, “the Lord will be seen over them.” Now verse 15 adds, “The Lord of hosts will defend them,” that is, His people Israel. This is a figurative devouring of enemies on the part of Israel, and a trampling down of any opposition of the enemy. The drinking too is a picture of their shedding the blood of their enemies and making a noise of exultation, similar to the noise of one who has been drinking. Being filled like bowls speaks of their being fully satisfied with the results of the solemn judgment of God against their enemies. “Like the corners of the altar” reminds us of the blood of the sin offering on the four horns of the altar of burnt offering (Lev. 4:25). This speaks of a relationship with God being established on the basis of the sacrifice and bloodshedding of Christ. The destruction of enemies is not only for Israel's relief, but to make Israel realize more fully the value of Christ's sacrifice on their account. We too should realize something of this. Since God must severely punish the ungodly for their persistent rebellion against His authority, and we ourselves are to witness the dreadful judgment of God carried out in perfect righteousness at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15), we shall be all the more impressed by, and thankful for, the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus by which we too are delivered from such judgment.
“The Lord their God will save them” (v. 16). He is seen over them (v. 14), He defends them (v. 15) and He saves them (v. 16). This will be a complete and permanent salvation, not like one of the many deliverances of Israel in their past history when they soon reverted back to a state of disobedience and self-will. They will then be a nation born of God, true to their character “as the flock of His people.” The flock speaks of their character of complete dependence upon their Shepherd, as well as the unity of their being gathered, rather than as individual sheep. How little Israel has known of that unity in all their past history! And sad to say, we, the Church of God, have lacked proper apprehension of the more vital, beautiful unity established in the Church, so that we have failed in practicing it as we ought. This is not just a unity of twelve tribes, but a unity of countless numbers of individuals from every nation under heaven redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
Another symbol is added. Israel is said to be “like the jewels of a crown, lifted like a banner over His land.” The crown will belong to the Lord Jesus, but the born-again children of Israel will be like jewels in that crown, glittering with the reflection of the pure light of God in His land, prepared by Him for their blessing and for His glory.
Verse 17 lifts our eyes above this great blessing for Israel, to contemplate the Blesser Himself! “For how great is His goodness and how great is His beauty!” His character of goodness is wonderful, but it draws fuller attention to the great beauty of His own person. The beauty is in Him, not in Israel, though Israel will reflect that beauty as jewels reflect the light. This is confirmed by Psalm 90:17, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” It is His beauty that David desired to behold in the house of the Lord (Ps. 27:4). But in having our eyes directed to the Lord's goodness and beauty, we will in some measure reflect this in our own character.
When Israel recognizes the goodness and beauty of the Messiah, giving Him His place of rightful prominence, the prosperity of the nation will follow. The young men will flourish through abundance of grain, the maidens through new wine. Young men, previously conscripted for military service, not able to have their own homes, will prosper as never before. The young women too, often left without hope of eventual marriage because of mortality among men who were called to war, will be supplied with the new wine, which speaks of a new-found joy in a change of their entire situation. Everywhere today the strongest dissatisfaction with circumstances is seen among young men and women who rise up in protest against the government, many also suing their employers because of this discontent. When these find genuine satisfaction, then children and old people too will have no cause for complaint. Only in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus will this satisfaction be found.
Blessing Assured in God's Time (vv. 1-12)
Following the prophecy of the certainty of God's future blessing for Israel, based on the perfect goodness and beauty of the Messiah, how good it is to see Israel encouraged to pray. They are to do so, however, as recognizing God's own time. Faith does this, for it depends on the certainty of the Word of God. This blessing for Israel is to be “at the time of the latter rain.” The early rain was in October and November, and the latter rain in March and April. Spiritually, there has been an early rain for Israel when the Lord Jesus came in lowly grace to suffer and die on Calvary. But Israel was not even grateful for this and took no advantage of it. Since then she has been passing through the winter of cold unbelief toward her Messiah, and the intensity of that winter will culminate in the great tribulation. But the springtime, “the time of the singing of birds,” will follow this long distress, and the godly in Israel will be awakened to pray earnestly for the latter rain. It will come whether they all pray for it or not, but God desires His people to be in tune with His thoughts of grace.
The thunderstorms of heavy rain will make the earth bring forth richly for Israel. This will no doubt be literal for the sake of the land, but its spiritual significance is more precious still, in the nation being refreshed and blessed in true spiritual prosperity.
Verse 2 shows that Israel had special reason to appeal to God in prayer, for they had been deluded by idols (or teraphim) by which idolaters sought supernatural help, and by diviners- those in contact with evil spirits, claiming supernatural powers. They had comforted in vain, making people feel comfortable when they were headed for greater trouble. The result was the people were wandering like sheep without a shepherd, and found themselves in trouble. There was really no shepherd at all, though there were those who took that outward place. Against these, the anger of the Lord was kindled (v. 3), for they were false shepherds, responsible to care for the people, but oppressing them instead. Also, he speaks of punishing the “he-goats.” Because goats are more able to lead than are sheep, sheep often will follow a goat. Goats are typical of unbelievers (Matt. 25:31-46), and it has often happened that believers will follow an unbeliever who has an impressive title and ability to speak, but leads them in the wrong direction.
The Lord of hosts will visit His flock, to take His rightful place as Shepherd over the house of Judah and will make His flock “as His royal horse in the battle.” A royal horse is far different than a sheep. But when the time of judgment comes, the sheep will be given by God the dignity and courage of a warhorse to go boldly into the battle against the evils that had formerly oppressed them.
“From Him comes the cornerstone.” From the true Shepherd of Israel the cornerstone will be manifested. This is a prophecy concerning the Lord Himself. He is the cornerstone of God's edifice. Isaiah 28:16 speaks of Him as “a precious cornerstone,” and 1 Peter 2:6 confirms this One as being the Lord Jesus. He is also spoken of as the foundation, that upon which the entire building stands. The cornerstone is the reference point for the whole building: all receives its character from Him. It speaks of that which is stable, providing lasting blessing for Israel in contrast to the instability of their condition described in verse 2.
From Him “the nail” or peg also will come. This is another designation of the Messiah. He is as “a peg in a secure place” (Isa. 22:23). “The nail” (KJV) is a hanger for clothes or other articles. He will bear up all the glory that no one else can bear, a weight of glory far beyond mere human strength. Also, “the battle bow” comes from God, this being another symbol of the Lord Jesus. He will accomplish victories just as the bow releases the arrows to effectively defeat the power of the enemy. His arrows will always find their mark. These features of His character are vitally connected to the establishing of blessing for Israel in the Millennium.
The last thing added here includes others beside the Messiah: “From Him every ruler together.” He will appoint those whom He chooses to exercise administrative authority over revived Israel. The word together involves the unity of such rulers in subjection to the Lord. He will make them “as mighty men” (v. 5), giving them power to “tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets,” in contrast to their often having been trodden down themselves in the past. This looks on to the end of the tribulation, following the time when the Lord Jesus suddenly appears on the Mount of Olives and Israel is broken down in true repentance and faith to receive their once-rejected Messiah. Then “Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:14) under the leadership of the Lord Jesus, “because the Lord is with them.” The joy of the Lord's presence with them will give them unusual courage and strength, so their enemies, though riding on imposing war horses, will be put to shame.
“I will strengthen the house of Judah” (v. 6). Though Judah will be weakened to the point of despairing of recovery, the strength of the Lord will change this completely. The house of Joseph also is mentioned here. The Lord will save them. In verses 6-12 we have the one direct reference to the ten tribes in Zechariah. They are first spoken of as Joseph, then as Ephraim who was the son of Joseph and took the place of representing the ten tribes who are sometimes called Ephraim, sometimes Joseph and often Israel.
Though Zechariah deals most extensively with Jerusalem and Judah, yet he uses this one occasion to tell us that the ten tribes also will yet share in the great blessing of the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus. He will save them and bring them again from their state of obscurity back to the land. Judah is reminded that, though they have despised the other tribes because of their defection during the reign of Rehoboam, God will have mercy on these tribes and they shall be as though God had not cast them off. Wonderful is the grace of God that can reverse the painful inflictions of His governmental judgments when those judgments have accomplished their purpose. He can do this because He is “the Lord their God,” and will hear them. They have been “lost” or “hidden” for centuries. But He knows where they are, and will bring them figuratively from their graves.
“Those of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man” (v. 7), just as is said of Judah in verse 5. This is a wonderful change that will bring such rejoicing as through wine. The difference is that wine will cheer a person only for a short time, but the joy of Ephraim will be lasting and full. Their children also will be interested observers, and will be glad, for this will be a dramatic change from a life that held no prospect of prosperity and blessing. They will rejoice, not only in their circumstances, but “in the Lord.” The knowledge of the Lord Jesus Himself will make all the difference.
”I will whistle for them and gather them” (v. 8). The word for whistle refers to a shrill-noted pipe used by shepherds to gather the sheep. Israel will thus respond to the authoritative call of the Lord Jesus in that day and will return to Him. He adds, “for I will redeem them.” This is prophetic language. Though the nation has been terribly decimated and depleted in numbers, they will again be as numerous as in their brightest days.
“When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back” (v. 9). God was in perfect control of Israel's scattering and prophesied of it long before. The length of their scattering has been far greater than might have been imagined, and some have argued that it has been too long for Israel even to be recognized if they are regathered. But God's sovereign work is seen wonderfully in this. Jews have retained their national identity, though for centuries scattered among other nations. As to the ten tribes, God is just as able to bring them back as He is to bring those of Judah back to the land, as He has been doing in recent years. Wonderful is the grace of God, and His power is no less wonderful.
Verse 10 indicates that some have been dispersed in the land of Egypt, others throughout the Assyrian empire which embraced a large part of the Middle East. Egypt is to the south and Assyria to the north, contrary directions, so the ten tribes have been scattered in different areas, just as Judah was. God will bring them “into the land of Gilead and Lebanon.” Judah did not inhabit those areas as did the other tribes. Gilead is east of Jerusalem and Lebanon north. Israel will take possession of what was theirs centuries ago. But even this will not provide room for them, a statement that brings to mind Isaiah 49:20, “The children you will have after you have lost the others, will say again in your ears, 'The place is too small for me; give me a place where I may dwell.'”
The answer to this protest as to the size of Israel's land in the past is found in one of God's earliest prophecies. He told Abram, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Gen. 15:16). These borders embrace a size much larger than Israel has ever yet possessed, but God has promised it to the nation.
“He shall pass through the sea with affliction, and strike the waves of the sea” (v. 11). The sea is a symbol of the Gentile nations (Rev. 17:15). The Lord Jesus will pass through all of these in His devastating judgment. The deeps of the river too, the sources of refreshment for those nations, will be dried up, leaving them desolated. Assyria and Egypt are specially mentioned as being brought low. The ten tribes will be strengthened in the Lord to “walk up and down in His name” (v. 12), no longer restrained by enemies, but in the freedom of having their own land, in willing submission to the Lord's authority.
Judgment Because the True Shepherd of Israel is Rejected and a False Shepherd Accepted (vv. 1-6)
This chapter is all prophetic, dealing chiefly with the suffering of Israel because of their rejection of Christ, which eventually results in their tragic acceptance of the antichrist, who will be judged in God's time.
“Open your doors, O Lebanon, that fire may devour your cedars” (v. 1). Lebanon has been a constant victim of invasion from the north and has for years suffered through various foreign nations maintaining a standing army within its borders. But Lebanon has not yet seen the worst. Unwilling though it may be, it will have to open its doors to allow the northern army, the King of the North and his satellites, to pass through to attack Israel at the time when Israel has set up “the abomination of desolation” in the holy place. This will be at the middle of Daniel's 70th week (Dan. 9:27), the beginning of the 3 1/2 years of “great tribulation.” While Israel is the object of attack, yet Lebanon will have great trouble too. The fire devouring her cedars may be literal, but its figurative significance is more serious, for the cedars speak of men of high dignity. The fir tree (v. 2) implies the prosperous, the oaks of Bashan, the strong. All of this will be brought low, including “the forest of the vintage.” The mass of common people (the forest) will no longer provide a “vintage” or valuable proceeds for the strong and mighty.
The attack of the King of the North proceeds rapidly southward. Not only are the high and mighty in Lebanon brought low, but the King of the North, “like a whirlwind” (Dan. 11:40) comes against Israel and her “worthless shepherd,” the antichrist. The shepherds (of verse 3) who howl are primarily Israel's leaders, because “their glory” is spoiled. This appears to refer to the temple, which God would protect if Israel had been faithful to Him, but at that time the nation will be dreadfully defiled by idolatry. Therefore, He allows the temple to fall into the hands of the enemy. The King of the North and his armies (being evidently Moslem) will take pleasure in desecrating it, as is prophesied in Psalm 79:1.
The roaring of the young lions is in contrast to the howling of the shepherds, while both are occasioned by the same attack. The lions are the fighters, and it appears that “the pride of Jordan” is Israel's boast in military strength. This will quickly be reduced to nothing.
Verse 4 goes back to consider the Word of the Lord previously spoken to the shepherds: “Feed the flock of slaughter.” The Lord was concerned for His people who were virtually destined for slaughter, as it is said also concerning Christians today, “For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:36). This is quoted from Psalm 44:22, which applies directly to Israel. God's thoughts toward them were not those of slaughter, but of concern that they should be fed. But their possessors (or captors) considered it proper to kill them, thinking that Israel deserved such ill treatment. Therefore, they considered themselves not guilty in making Israel suffer. They were increasing their wealth by exploiting Israel and thanking the Lord that He had guided them to do this! Such is the perversity of men's hearts. Further, “their shepherds do not pity them” (v. 5). These are the authorities in Israel, responsible to care for the sheep, but they were scornful men, greedy of gain, just as will be the case at the time of the end (Isaiah 28:14-18). Sadly, the people will willingly accept such rulers, and must suffer the consequences.
The Lord says He will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land. Judgment would solemnly fall, with men being delivered up to their neighboring enemies and into the hand of the King of the North, as we have already seen in this chapter. They would desolate the land without any intervention by God: He would not deliver Israel. Later the Lord Himself will come to deliver them from the King of the North, but this will be only when He has accomplished His full work with His own people by means of the sufferings of the tribulation.
THE TRUE SHEPHERD (vv. 7-14)
“So I fed the flock of slaughter” (v. 7). Zechariah is looked at as picturing the Lord Jesus. Though judgment was impending for Israel, this true Shepherd would spare no effort in seeking their restoration, and would feed them as long as they would receive His ministrations. His history on earth during His first coming shows this beautifully. He continued to diligently seek Israel's blessing until they rejected and crucified Him. The leaders determined His crucifixion, and the crowd followed them. Those who were true (“the poor of the flock”) were glad to receive the spiritual food He gave them, but this was a very small minority.
The two shepherd's staves that Zechariah takes are called Beauty and Bands. The first speaks of Israel's relationship to God, which is beautiful when there is willing submission to Him. It will be fully true when Israel is restored to the Lord for millennial blessing, as Psalm 90:17 indicates, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” God had proposed such beauty for Israel on the basis of their obedience under law (Deut. 7:12-15). “Bands” symbolizes the unity of Israel in relationship to one another. If their relationship to God had been right, then their relationship to one another also would have remained stable.
Verse 8 shows that the true Shepherd cares so perfectly for His sheep that He says, “Three shepherds also I cut off in one month.” These are evil men, taking the place of shepherds, but spoiling the flock. He says, “my soul was vexed (or grieved) with them, and their soul also loathed me” (JND). There have been many speculations as to who these three are, for there is no record in Israel's history of such a thing. Therefore it must be prophetic. I know of no other case of three prominent enemies of the Lord Jesus being cut off in so short a time, other than the beast, the false prophet and the King of the North. The Roman beast and the false prophet (the antichrist) will be taken together at Armageddon by the Lord Jesus appearing on the white horse (Rev. 19:11-20), and they are cast alive into the Lake of Fire.
Immediately after this, the Lord appears in Jerusalem when the city is surrounded by the armies of the King of the North. The Jews will break down in deep repentance when they look on Him whom they had pierced (Zech. 12:9-14). He will then go forth at the head of Israel's armies to fight against the besieging army (Zech. 14:3, 14). The King of the North will haughtily “rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means” (Dan. 8:25). This man will evidently share the same fate as the beast and the false prophet in being cast into the Lake of Fire (Isa. 30:31-33). The King of the North and the Assyrian are the same person. All three of these will consider themselves to be shepherds of the people, concerned for the prosperity of their own respective nations, but all will be cut off in the space of a literal month. I do not speak dogmatically as to this verse applying to them, but I do not know of another three who fit the description. These three will cause Israel her greatest trouble at the time of the end.
Verse 9 shows that, in spite of the Lord's true care for Israel, they had rebelled against Him, for it is because of their rebellion that He said, “I will not feed you.” He leaves them for the time being to suffer the results of their folly: He will not intervene to prevent the death and cutting off of those who were suffering these results. “Let it die.” “Let it be cut off.” More than this, He says, “Let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.” This literally has taken place in some of Israel's ordeals when besieged (2 Kings 6:26-29) and no doubt will take place in the tribulation. Spiritually speaking, the bitter animosity between neighbors results in people biting and devouring one another. Such things result from ignoring God.
Zechariah then took the first staff, Beauty, and cut it in pieces (v. 10). This symbolizes that the relationship between Israel and God had been broken. The covenant of law was conditional upon Israel's obedience. When Israel rebelled, God was perfectly right in breaking that covenant, for Israel had first broken it. That beautiful relationship was therefore totally broken off. “All the peoples” (or tribes) of the nation of Israel were included in this cleavage between themselves and the Lord.
However, there were some in the nation, “the poor of the flock” (v. 11) — the godly remnant — who waited upon God, having attentive hearts to recognize His dealings. They discerned that the word of the Lord was operative in God giving up Israel to the painful consequences of their guilt. But most were callous and undiscerning, giving God no credit for being in control of things by the authority of His Word.
The language of verses 10 and 11 is veiled, for we know from Matthew 27:3-10 that this prophecy was fulfilled in the sad history of Judas betraying the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, then in remorse returning to the chief priests with the money and throwing it down in the temple. With this money they bought the potter's field for a place to bury strangers.
Why is the Lord represented in Zechariah as asking, “If ye think good, give me my price?” Is it not because He was presented to Israel, giving them the choice as to what to do to Him? He did not fight against being delivered up. They decided it was worth thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave being gored to death by an ox (Ex. 21:32), to have Him murdered. Then in verse 13 God's sovereign word speaks, “Throw it to the potter.” While the chief priests are seen in Matthew as making the decision, it was really God who sovereignly worked in them to bring them to this decision. How good to know that God is in perfect control!
As to the thirty pieces of silver, Zechariah says, “I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.” While it was Judas who actually threw the money down in the house of the Lord, the matter is spoken of in this way to show the humble acceptance of the Lord Jesus in His being rejected, and also to emphasize the enormity of Israel's guilt in the blood money being displayed in the temple, the place so holy to Israel! The potter is one who has power over the clay to make one vessel to honor, another to dishonor (Rom. 9:21), a reminder of God's sovereign working with “the poor of the flock” or with people like Judas, the chief priests or Pilate, who, in spite of their stubborn determination to do their own will, were only tools in the hand of a sovereign God
The Messiah being rejected, it follows that the second staff, Bands must be cut in pieces (v. 14), signifying the breaking of the unity of Judah and Israel. Since their relationship to God has been severed by the cutting of Beauty, their relationship to one another will quickly suffer similarly. They will be left in a state of discord and misery. This ends the subject of the true Messiah and His rejection by His people, with the ensuing consequences.
THE WORTHLESS SHEPHERD (vv. 15-17)
We have seen Zechariah impersonating the true Shepherd; now in verse 15 the Lord instructs him to impersonate the foolish shepherd, the antichrist, taking the equipment of this man in order to feel the seriousness of a state of rebellion against the Lord.
In Acts 3:26 Peter's words to Israel are reported, “To you first, God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you.” But Israel refused Him and rejected the blessing He had to bring. Now God says, “I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that stand still.” This is the negative side: this shepherd will bring no blessing whatever. God will raise him up because Israel has refused the faithful Shepherd, so that Israel may learn by experience the folly of such a choice. The Lord Jesus has come in His Father's name and was not received: the antichrist will come in his own name and will be received by Israel (John 5:43). This will take place only after the rapture of the Church to heaven. While his coming will be according to the working of Satan (2 Thess. 2:9), yet God is sovereignly above this, and tells Israel that He will raise up that deceiver.
The antichrist not only has a negative side to his evil character in bringing no blessing to Israel, but has a positively wicked side seen in his eating the flesh of the fat sheep and tearing off their hoofs. The fat sheep are those who prosper, and the antichrist will devour their prosperity and will render them unfit for any proper walk before God. He will be a master of hypocrisy, pretending to be a devoted Jew concerned for the welfare of his people (Ps. 55:12-14), yet all the time defrauding them. Then we are told in the same chapter, Psalm 55:21, ”The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” He will use the godly remnant of Israel to help him gain a place of authority, as is seen in Psalm 55:12-14, keeping company with them as one of them, taking sweet counsel together with them and going to the house of God together. Like Judas, he will deceive the godly into thinking he is one of them. Then when he has risen to a place of prominence among them, he will cruelly turn against them and persecute those who had befriended him (Ps. 55:20). Though pretending to be a shepherd, he will be a mere hireling (John 10:12).
“Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock” (v. 17). This man is called by many names. Being worthless, he is only fit for being cast out. His boastful prominence will be short-lived; then the solemn woe of God will fall in devastating judgment and he will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20).
We are told this worthless shepherd leaves the flock. When he has become great in Israel, uniting his forces with the Roman beast (Rev. 13), he will set up an image to the beast in the temple area of Jerusalem. This image is called “the abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). He will call upon Israel to give allegiance to the beast. The whole western world will fall under the beast's deception, being persuaded that no one will be able to wage war against the beast successfully. But this will not intimidate the King of the North, whom, because of Israel's protection of idolatry (Dan. 9:27), God will send to invade the land. He will come against the antichrist “as a whirlwind,” and this worthless shepherd will “leave the flock.” At the time when the people of Israel face the greatest trouble of their history, this proud leader, held in such honor, will desert the sheep and leave them to the tender mercies of the wolf! What a contrast to the true Shepherd who will return to Israel shortly after, when they are in danger of being totally annihilated. He will comfort His sheep and lead them forth to pour out His judgment on the King of the North and his armies (Zech. 12:10; Zech. 14:3, 14).
The sword will be upon antichrist's arm, to dry it up (not cut it off). The arm speaks of the power to accomplish results. The sword, typically the Word of God, has power to render all the power of the creature useless. The antichrist will still have two arms to be cast into hell fire (Mark 9:43). His right eye will be blinded. The left eye speaks of reasoning power by which we receive light, but the right eye is more important, speaking of the principle of faith in the living God. Because this man puts God out of his thoughts, he blinds himself to the truth of God by his perverted mind. When one willfully blinds himself, God will judicially blind him. But he will still have two eyes to be cast into hell fire (Mark 9:47).
The Deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 1-9)
In this chapter Judah is mentioned five times, Jerusalem ten times. All in this chapter (as well as chapters 13 and 14) is prophetic of the future, except for the reference in Zechariah 13:7 to the smiting of God's Shepherd, the death of Christ, which is plainly connected with the entire prophecy.
This is “the burden of the word of the Lord for Israel,” for the whole nation will be involved, though Judah is seen to be the center of the nation: her eventual blessing will mean the blessing of all Israel. The Lord introduces Himself as the One who “stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.” These verbs, “stretches out,” “lays” and “forms” have a continuing force. We are dealing with a God who has not only brought everything into being, but who continues His work of maintaining creation according to His own sovereign will. There are some who think that after God's initial work of creation, He retired from the scene and allowed everything to evolve by itself, but this is totally false! His power is engaged continually in upholding the heavens and the earth, and also in forming man's spirit within him. We know that our thoughts, feelings and attitudes change as we grow older. This is because God continues to deal with us all our lives through. Israel, in their state of indifference to God's claims, needed to be reminded of God's continuing dealings with them.
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of bewilderment unto all the peoples round about, and also against Judah shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem” (v. 2-JND) This word bewilderment has in it the thought of causing people to reel or stagger like a drunken person. When either enemies or friends meddle with Jerusalem, God will make them act as if they drank a potion that reduces them to a state of inability to act sensibly. The siege against Jerusalem and Judah is the attack of the King of the North and his various satellite armies during the time of the Great Tribulation.
“And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all the nations of the earth are gathered against it” (v. 3). The expression “in that day” corresponds to the many references to “the day of the Lord” in Scripture. This day begins when the Lord Himself intervenes in active judgment because of man's evil having risen to the height of publicly challenging God's authority by the erection of the image to the beast in the temple area of Jerusalem (Rev. 13:14-17). All those nations who think they can handle Jerusalem, whether from a viewpoint of hostility or of apparent desire to help them, will suffer far worse consequences than they had imagined. This will be true, not only for the King of the North and his allies, who come with the object of annihilating Israel, but also for the beast and his Western European armies, who come to defend Israel against the King of the North. This reminds us of God's words to Laban, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad” (Gen. 31:24). God was dealing with Jacob: Laban must not excuse Jacob or defend him in wrong doing, nor must he accuse or condemn him. Nations too must learn that others must be left to God to deal with, rather than take it on themselves to interfere one way or the other.
In verse 4 the Lord's smiting the horse and rider with astonishment and madness refers to the King of the North and his allies gathered against Judah. God opens His eyes upon Judah, that is, He takes an active role in watching over them for good. Therefore He confuses their enemies and the horses on which they depend. The horses may stand for the policies and principles of warfare on which their enemies depend to carry them to victory, but these will be rendered useless and confused by the intervening power of God, and those who trust in them will become as ineffective as an insane man. Also every horse of the peoples will be blinded, left with no discernment of things as they actually are.
At that time the governors or leaders of the surrounding area of Judah will recognize the value of Jerusalem being the center of their nation, and will appreciate the faith of the inhabitants of the city in weathering such storms. Their faith becomes a strength for the leaders of Judah “in the Lord of hosts, their God.” Nehemiah 11:2 provides a comment worth considering here: “And the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” The strength of Jerusalem will be a strength to all of Judah, “in the Lord of hosts, their God.”
Verse 7 also is most interesting: 'The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first in order that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be magnified above Judah.” The expression, 'the tents of Judah' emphasizes their weak position, exposed outside the city walls to the fury of the enemy, for the whole length of the land will have been flooded with blood, figuratively “unto the horse bridles” (Rev. 14:20), and two thirds of the inhabitants will “be cut off and die” during the tribulation (Zech. 13:8). The tender mercy of the Lord will be shown to the weak first, in His rescuing Judah from the enemy who will then concentrate on besieging Jerusalem (Ps. 59:4-8). The Lord waits before delivering Jerusalem, however, for it is necessary to accomplish a complete work in those in the city, so they will be humbled rather than magnify themselves over Judah.
JUDAH LOOKS ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED (vv. 10-14)
After reading of the tents of Judah being saved first, now we are told of the defense of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. This last part of Zechariah 12 beautifully displays the grace and power of the Lord Jesus in dealing with His own people who have for centuries rejected Him, a reminder of the way Joseph dealt with his brethren when their circumstances virtually forced them into his presence (Gen. 42 to 45). But what is seen in verse 8 actually follows what is declared in verses 10-14, for verse 8 indicates the new-found strength and courage which will animate the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The following verses show the reason for this. He who is feeble among the people will be as David, having found strength such as David displayed in defeating Goliath.
“And the house of David will be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.” The change will be so tremendous that the decisions and capability of the house of David will be like the sovereign, active power of God. This will be because “the Prince of the house of David,” the Lord Jesus, will take His place of supreme authority, and the people will learn in experience, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Also it is said they will be “as the angel of the Lord before them.” In the Old Testament the angel of the Lord often intervened in awesome power on behalf of Israel. This angel is the Lord Jesus Himself, though at that time He had not been manifested in flesh as He is now and as He will present Himself to Israel at the end of their Great Tribulation. In many victories of the Old Testament He went before them, though invisibly, but He will do so visibly in that day of which verse 8 speaks. The power of the house of David, therefore, will be as that of the angel of the Lord. Wonderful experience indeed! But such power is given to believers today in a true spiritual way to enable a living, moral triumph over every spiritual enemy. May we have grace to use it rightly!
That day is God's appointed time to destroy all those nations that come against Jerusalem (v. 9). These attacking armies will be headed by the King of the North, the Assyrian. They will first conquer Jerusalem and then continue southward to bring Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia into subjection (Dan. 11:42-43), but will return in great fury when hearing news out of the east and the north. Eastern nations will be aroused to come also to Jerusalem, while the beast and his western armies will arrive at Armageddon which is north of Jerusalem, where the King of the North has returned to besiege the city with the intention of utterly destroying the Jews (Dan. 11:44-45).
Before the Lord goes against those armies, however, He has serious work to do with His own people, the Jews. He will stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4) from where He had ascended after His resurrection (Acts 1:9-12). What a sight for Israel at a time when they find themselves in the deepest despair they have ever known! The Lord will work marvelously in their hearts, pouring upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications at this marvelous time when “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.” It is Jehovah who is speaking, for the Lord Jesus is Jehovah, God over all, blessed forever (Rom. 9:5). The sight of this blessed Messiah of Israel whom they had crucified will produce the most profound, repentant mourning in the hearts of these once rebellious people. From the depths of their hearts will come those expressions of Isaiah 53, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (vv. 4-5).
Their sorrow will be that of one mourning for his only son, for they will realize that God has in matchless grace given His only Son to the awful sorrow of suffering for their sins. As the only (or unique) Son He is equal with God, for He is the eternal Son, therefore God Himself! He is indeed the firstborn also as to the truth of His Manhood — not firstborn in point of time, but having the rights of the firstborn because of who He is (Col. 1:15-16). The firstborn was always given the place of dignity in Israel, though sometimes God intervened by giving the rights of the firstborn to one who was born later, as in the case of Jacob over Esau and of Ephraim over Manasseh (Gen. 25:23; Gen. 48:14-19). Thus Adam must give up his place of firstborn to the Lord Jesus.
The great mourning in Jerusalem is likened to the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon (v. 11). Hadadrimmon means “sound of the pomegranate.” The pomegranate (full of seeds) is often connected with the fruitful blessing of the Millennium, and the mourning of the Jews will be as the sound of promised blessing in store for them, for true repentance is the sure sign of blessing to come. The mourning in the plain of Megiddo may refer to Israel's mourning for Josiah at his death in the valley of Megiddo (2 Chr. 35:22- 25). So Judah will be similarly affected in thinking of the death of the Lord of glory for their sakes.
This description of the repentance of Judah and Jerusalem is the prophetic fulfillment of the truth of the great day of atonement of which Leviticus 23:26-32 speaks. On that day every year, the children of Israel were commanded, “You shall afflict their souls and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.” If one did not afflict his soul or if he did any work on that day, he was cut off in death. This looked forward, therefore, to the day of Christ's manifestation to Israel, when the sight of the One whom they had pierced will draw forth their profound repentance. They will “cease from their own works” in appreciation of His own great work of atonement at Calvary. If one refused this, he would have a hard heart indeed and would righteously be cut off in judgment.
The mourning for Christ will be so intensely deep and personal that every family will mourn alone, and even husbands and wives will mourn apart from each other before God. When an orthodox Jew is converted to Christ, he is often utterly broken down at the thought that it was his own nation Israel that had despised and rejected the Messiah. This same sorrow will burden all the Jewish people at this future day of national repentance.
The family of the house of David is first specifically mentioned. David was the king who sinned grievously against God. The family of the house of Nathan is added. He was the prophet who exposed and reproved David (2 Sam. 12:7). His family too will mourn in repentance. Then the family of the house of Levi indicates that the priests also will be included in this repentance. It was their work to restore one who had sinned, but they are reduced to the same need of restoration. Finally, the family of the house of Shimei. Shimei was the subject who cursed David (2 Sam. 16:5-8). Thus, the whole range of the population of Judah and Benjamin is represented, as is seen too in the expression, “all the families that remain” after the land has been terribly diminished during the Great Tribulation. How marvelous will be the sight of this formerly rebellious nation bowed in genuine repentance at the feet of the Lord Jesus! We, the Church, will observe this from the height of the glory of God. If there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents, how great will be the joy at the sight of the tremendous multitude turning to the blessed Lord of glory in repentance and faith! This will be a truly national repentance, but wonderfully individual at the same time.
Results in Great Blessing (vv. 1-4)
Zechariah 13 is directly connected with what went before in Zechariah 12. Judah's repentance will find a wonderful restoring answer on the part of God. The fountain opened for the house of David in that day (v.1) will be the same fountain that was opened at Calvary, but never before acknowledged by the Jews. Only when they realize their sinfulness and uncleanness will they truly appreciate God's means of cleansing it away.
As to judicial cleansing from sins in the eyes of God, it is “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son” that “cleanses from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Judah then will realize the value of that blood shed at Calvary and find peace by virtue of this. But the fountain is not a fountain of blood, but of water. This implies, not judicial cleansing, but moral cleansing. The water of the Word of God (cf. Eph. 5:25-26) will have wonderful effect in cleansing away the very attitude of disobedience on the part of the Jews. They will be cleansed before God from their guilt, and will be cleansed in character by their reception of the Word of God which has wonderful power to purge away their unclean habits. The Hebrew word opened has a continuing force, that is, the Word of God will continue to have precious effect in their lives from that time onward.
There also will be a cleansing of the promised land (v. 2). The Lord of hosts will sovereignly work to completely purge even the names of idols out of the land: their very memory will perish. The false prophets, energized by unclean spirits, will no longer have any place. In fact, prophecy will not be required at all, and anyone who attempts to pass as a prophet will be manifestly false. When one does this, the person's closest relatives are instructed to declare him false and be the first to pierce him through in solemn judgment. This illustrates the fact that not every individual who enters the millennium of blessing on earth will be born again, but the judgment of rebellious acts will be swift and decisive. Compare Isaiah 65:20 which teaches that if one dies at 100 years of age, he will be still virtually a child in age, and will die only under a curse because of his own sin.
Isaiah 65:20 reminds us of Deuteronomy 13:6-10 which speaks of anyone (either brother, son, daughter, wife or friend) enticing others to serve other gods. That person was to be killed. Thus, in the Millennium, if anyone prophesies, it will not be God who has sent him; therefore, the underlying motive will be to turn people to false gods.
When the millennial kingdom is introduced, false prophets will be ashamed of their visions, knowing full well they are guilty of deception, and they will no longer wear a hairy mantle to deceive people into believing them (v. 4). Elijah and John the Baptist wore such garments, but this was in accord with the stern self-judgment that characterized them, and of their genuine mourning over the condition of the people to whom they prophesied. Prophecy was generally given because of a poor state among the people, but prophecy and mourning will be out of place when the Lord Jesus introduces the thousand years of peace.
NOT A PROPHET, BUT THE TRUE SERVANT (vv. 5-9)
“And He shall say” (v. 5). This refers to a specific Man in contrast to the prophets of verse 4. The Lord Jesus will not be a prophet in that day: “He shall say, I am no prophet.” Then He adds, “I am a tiller of the ground; for man acquired me [as a bondman] from my youth” (JND). The Hebrew word for tiller of the ground or farmer comes from a root meaning “to serve” (Strong's Concordance). From His youth the Lord Jesus was devoted to the service of mankind. While He was on earth He was a prophet (Luke 7:16), but even then His servant character was more prominent than His prophecy. However, there will be no need for prophecy after He comes to reign, yet He will remain a Servant forever (Ex. 21:5-6 and Luke 12:37). How good to see that service is much nearer to the heart of God than is prophecy! May we too be found always in a spirit of willing service. We are not to neglect prophecy in such an evil day as ours, but prophecy may still be given in a spirit of lowly service.
“And one shall say unto Him, What are those wounds in thy hands?” (v. 6-JND). If He is simply a servant, why such wounds? The questioner is evidently one who has no knowledge of the crucifixion of this blessed Servant of God who had so graciously served man in his deepest need. The question could not come from Judah, for Judah was guilty of Christ's crucifixion, and Zechariah 12:10-14 shows Judah in deep repentance before this question is asked. So it seems likely that the question comes from among the ten tribes who will return to the land about this time.
There are those who deny that this passage has reference to the Lord Jesus, but the internal evidence is transparently clear that it can refer to no one else. The answer, “those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends,” reminds us that it was His closest friends, the tribe of Judah, that had so grievously wounded the Lord Jesus.
Verses 7 to 9 embrace the entire time from the rejection and crucifixion of Christ until the introduction of His millennial kingdom. This type of prophecy is often found in Scripture, that is, the emphasis on important facts and their connection, though they are separated by a long period of time. The intervening history is left out in order to focus upon the significance of the prominent facts. “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man who is My companion, says the Lord of hosts. Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” It is God who speaks, but He used the sword of ungodly men in the carrying out of His words. Israel was virtually His sword, awakened in bitter animosity toward the Man who is God's companion, His equal. In fact, because of His claim to be the Son of God, Israel was determined to kill Him. Only Christ has such a relationship as this, for He is God. But not only did Israel strike Him: God's sword of judgment pierced His soul when alone He bore the agony of God's forsaking on account of the guilt of our sins.
The sheep would be scattered. At the very time of the Lord's crucifixion the disciples were scattered (Matt. 26:31-32; John 16:32), none being able to stand with Him in that terrible hour. More than this, following that most awesome death of all deaths, the people of the land of Israel were scattered in every direction among other nations, and this has continued all through the dispensation of grace toward the Gentiles.
“Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” The expression the little ones infers those who appear to be little-“the poor of the flock” (Zech. 11:11), the despised remnant of godly Israelites. Even these will suffer for a long time, though we know that God will preserve them by His grace through all the suffering and eventually manifest His goodness toward them in the coming day of millennial glory.
Verse 8 goes on to the end of the age, passing over our current dispensation of grace, for this prophecy considers God's dealings with Israel. The end of the age for them will involve the Great Tribulation and the introduction of the blessing of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. In the land of Israel two thirds of the population will be cut off in death, while one third will be left to enter the thousand years of peace (v. 8). The estimated population of Israel in 1992 was 4,770,000. This means that well over three million will be cut off in death in that land in 3.5 years! How staggering will such a decimation be! A great sifting of Israel has continued in Gentile countries for centuries, such as the holocaust of six million of them under Hitler at the time of World War II. But this slaughter of Zechariah 13:8 will take place in the land. We read in Ezekiel 20:34-38 of the Lord's dealings with Israel (evidently the ten tribes) also at the time of the end, bringing them out from among the nations and pleading with them in the wilderness, causing them to pass under the rod and purging out the rebels from among them. Though they will be brought out from the countries in which they were living, these rebels will not enter the land of Israel, for the ungodly will be sifted out before they reach the land.
Therefore, Zechariah 13:8 must refer to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin who will be sifted in the land. Revelation 14:20 refers to this time of tremendous bloodshed, speaking of “the space of 1600 furlongs,” which is the length of the current land of Israel, approximately 200 miles or 320 kilometers.
The remaining “third part” are evidently “the little ones” of verse 7. Their faith will be tried by the fire of great tribulation. The hand of God will be on them in severe chastening as a father chastens his child. This is to refine the silver, for the fire does this: it separates the dross from the true silver or from the gold, that the pure metal may shine in all its radiance and give delight to the great Refiner. Malachi 3:2-4 connects this occasion with the coming of the Lord, as He Himself sits as a refiner and purifier of silver. Well may it be asked, “Who may abide the day of His coming?” This reminds us of the words of 1 Peter 4:17 concerning God's dealings at present: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end be of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The same fire that will refine and purify believers will burn up unbelievers, for there is nothing of pure silver in them.
Those who are refined, however, will honestly call upon the name of the Lord. He will hear them and respond with the cheering word, “This is My people.” This is in contrast to God having before disowned Israel for centuries because of their rebellion, calling them “not My people” (Hosea 1:9). Then Israel will wholeheartedly say, “The Lord is my God.” Though they have before rejected the Lord Jesus, they will then say just as did Thomas when he saw the wounded hands and side of the Lord Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:26-28).
Nations Punished, Then Restored (vv. 1-15)
This chapter goes back to consider the The Great Tribulation from another viewpoint. “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming (v.1). The day of the Lord stands in contrast to “man's day” (1 Cor. 4:3 — JND). “Man's day” is the present time when God is allowing man to express his own opinions and to some extent have his own way. This day will culminate in man's bold challenge to God's authority by placing “the abomination of desolation” in the temple area of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15)-an image in honor of the Roman Beast — the leader of the revived Roman Empire (Rev. 13:14-15). Thus man's proud defiance of God will rise to its most lawless height. Then the day of the Lord will burst upon the world in all its awe-inspiring solemnity. God will openly intervene in the affairs of mankind, first for judgment, then for blessing. In that day the spoil taken by the enemies will be divided in the midst of the city. The spoil will not be taken out first, but the enemies will be so complacent in having totally subdued the city that they will take all the time they want in dividing the spoils among themselves in the city.
God will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem (v. 2). Following the setting up of the ”the abomination of desolation” at the middle of the seven years, the Lord will send the King of the North, also named “the Assyrian” (together with a large alliance of nations) against Jerusalem, as “the rod of His anger” (Isa. 10:5-6). Daniel 11:40-41 speaks of this, saying that the King of the North “shall come against him (the antichrist) like a whirlwind,” and will “overwhelm them and pass through.”
The Lord Jesus, in speaking of this time, urges the Jews to flee out of Jerusalem when they see the idol set up there (Matt. 24:15-18). Some will no doubt do so, but others will be left. The city will be taken, the houses plundered and the women ravished. The Jews will suffer dreadfully, for it will be “the time of Jacob's trouble” (Jer. 30:7). We have seen (Zech. 13:8) there will be great bloodshed. Also half of the city will be taken into captivity, the other half allowed to remain. Some years ago a news report told of a French agency discovering in Syria complete plans for a sudden thrust into Israel, which involved removing half of the population of Israel into Arab lands and replacing these with Arab residents. As yet Syria has been restrained by God from doing any such thing. They have found Israel too strong and militant. It may be that in the six day war they hoped to do this, but God gave Israel a decisive victory. But when God sends the King of the North against His people Israel, He will take away all the strength of Israel, so they will be totally defeated. Jerusalem will be left in a greatly weakened condition as the King of the North continues his advance southward, taking control of the land of Egypt and its treasures, and of the Libyans and Ethiopians (Dan. 11:40-43).
After the King of the North subdues Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, he will hear troubling news out of the east and the north that will cause him to rush back to Jerusalem (Dan. 11:44-45). Therefore the time in between verses 2 and 3 of Zechariah 14 covers most of the 3 1/2 years of the Great Tribulation. At the end of the tribulation the Lord Himself will go forth to fight against those nations that have desolated Israel (v. 3). Though God has sent the King of the North, the Assyrian, to punish Israel, yet the Assyrian did not in his heart mean to do the will of God, but wanted “to destroy, and cut off not a few nations” (Isa. 10:7). Therefore the Lord Himself will fight against the Assyrian and his confederate nations.
This great battle will take place, not at Armageddon, but at Jerusalem, for the Lord's feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem (v. 4). This will fulfill what an angel told the disciples after they had seen the Lord Jesus taken up to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Just as He ascended from the Mount of Olives at Bethany (Luke 24:50-51), so He will come to Israel at the same place.
At this time His coming will be with powerful signs, for the Mount of Olives will be split in two, leaving a great valley between the two sections. A great earthquake could cause this, whether the one spoken of in Revelation 16:10, is difficult to decide. At any rate, three occasions of great significance to Israel are attended by great earthquakes, the death of the Lord Jesus (Matt. 27:50-51), His resurrection (Matt. 28:1-6), and the future great occasion of His returning to Israel. All of these events are intended, not only to shake the earth, but to shake people to their depths.
The citizens will be terrified and will flee as they fled from an earthquake in the days of King Uzziah. That particular earthquake does not appear to be mentioned anywhere else except in Amos 1:1. In panic people will do anything without considering what is wise. Where do they think they can go to avoid an earthquake? They think only of getting away from the place where it first shook them. Why not appeal to the One who created the earth and holds it under His control? How much better it is to calmly face our troubles in communion with God than to try to run away from them. God's intention in shaking us is to drive us into His own sheltering presence. Jerusalem's inhabitants evidently will take advantage of the newly-made valley to escape.
“And Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with Thee” (JND). This connects with verses 3 and 4: it is not in chronological order, but rather indicates the events spoken of are connected with the Lord's coming. How clearly this verse teaches that Jesus is Jehovah! He comes “with His holy ones.” This does not necessarily refer to human believers, as does Revelation 19:14 where the armies in heaven follow the Lord Jesus in His great conquest at Armageddon. More likely, these “holy ones” are angels as seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.”
“It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish” (v. 6). Joel 3:15 speaks of this literal phenomenon, “The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.” See also Mark 13:24-25. This reminds us of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. When he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus he was immediately a changed man, but was blinded, not seeing the light for three days. Israel's conversion will be similar. To begin with, the light will be obscured because of their years of being away from God: they will feel the darkness of their natural, unbelieving state before everything is cleared before their wondering eyes. It will be “a day known to the Lord” (v. 7), for He knows how to translate a sinful people from the darkness to the light through exercise of soul regarding both the darkness and the light. “At evening time it shall happen that it will be light.” When the light normally fades, the power of God intervenes to bring Israel the light that has eluded them for centuries. How often it also happens that in the eventide of one's life, the light of God breaks into the soul! This is marvelous mercy.
After the light comes there will be no lack of refreshment for the nation. Jerusalem being the center of God's dealings on earth, God will cause water to spring up in that city, forming two rivers, one going east to the Dead Sea, the other west to the Mediterranean. Ezekiel 47:1-8 speaks of the waters issuing from under the threshold of the temple and going eastward, causing the Dead Sea to be transformed from salt water to fresh. Ezekiel mentions only the river flowing east, though Zechariah speaks of a westward river also. This phenomenon signifies the fact that Jerusalem will be God's earthly center from which blessing flows to the whole earth. Far higher than this is the truth taught in Revelation 22:1, that a river of the water of life will flow out from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the midst of the heavenly city, with unceasing spiritual refreshment.
“And the Lord shall be King over all the earth,” not over Israel only, but over all nations. Again, God's king is the Lord Jesus (cf. Ps. 2:6-8), and Scripture calls Him “Jehovah.” Significantly it is added, “In that day it shall be, The Lord is one and His name one.” Israel then will realize as never before, the truth the Lord Jesus declared to them, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Having rejected Christ, they blindly accuse Christians of having two gods (or three, if they have heard of the Trinity), but they will consider it wonderful when their eyes are opened to recognize that in Christ “dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). They will recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. His name also will be one. The unity of His name has been declared before, as in Isaiah 9:6, “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These are not considered names, but one name. Thus there is unity in the persons of the Godhead and there is unity in His name.
At this time all the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon (v. 10). Geba was in northern Benjamin (Joshua 21:17) and Rimmon in southern Judah (Joshua 15:32). Evidently the earthquake will greatly change the contour of Judah and Benjamin, leaving much more fertile land. “Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place.” Jerusalem will be the one high spot in the land of Judah, just as it will be given the place of prominent dignity among the nations. Then we are told the boundaries of the restored city. Benjamin's gate, the first (or former) gate, the corner gate, the tower of Hananeel and the king's winepress apparently encompass the whole inhabited city from east to west and from north to south. Such a description proves that Zechariah is speaking of the literal earthly Jerusalem, not the “new Jerusalem” of Revelation 21:10-27.
What a relief for that city when its inhabitants are not periodically driven out, when there is no longer any fear of destruction and carnage, but all will have the assurance of safety and stability (v. 11). Thank God, permanent blessing depends on the permanency of the value of the work of Christ on Calvary, which Israel had so long refused, but will recognize and appreciate then.
Verses 12-15 go back (as prophecy often does) to consider other matters that precede the blessing of Jerusalem. The Lord will inflict a fearful plague upon those nations that have fought against Jerusalem, that is, the King of the North and his allies. “Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths” (v. 12). When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was reported that people suffered results similar to these, their flesh withering and their eyeballs draining out of their sockets while they stood on their feet.
But in this case we should not hastily conclude that nuclear warfare will be the means of the affliction, for the Jews in Jerusalem would not likely drop a nuclear bomb in the vicinity of their city. Also, Joel 3:16 tells us, “The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem.” He will go forth at the head of Israel's armies. Then verse 14 says, ”Judah also will fight at Jerusalem.” Would they be able to fight at all if nuclear bombs had been dropped nearby?
Another element also appears in this victory over Israel's enemies. The Lord will cause panic to overtake the attackers, so they will fight among themselves, not realizing what they are doing. This being true, together with the Lord going forth and Judah fighting and the plague inflicted on the enemy, it is plain that nuclear warfare is not involved. Still, it will be an awesome culmination of the time of trouble such as the world has never seen before (vv. 12-14)
The inhabitants of Judah, having been broken down in true repentance before the Lord, and born again, will fight with an energy divinely given. Christians today have no such commission to fight physically. They are to bear the oppression of evil men rather than to fight against them (1 Peter 3:19-13). We have a heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4). But Judah will be fighting for their own earthly inheritance, and at that time this will be perfectly right. The warfare of Christians is not carnal (of the flesh), but spiritual (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
The huge armies invading Israel will bring with them so many supplies that Israel will be made wealthy by the abundance of gold, silver and clothing they take as spoil. God not only enables His people to gain the victory, but enriches them also. It is a lesson for us. When we give the Lord Jesus His true place, as Israel will then, He gives us strength to defeat the power of the enemy and will use the occasion to enrich us as well, not materially, but spiritually. The exercise of terrible distress throughout the experience of the Great Tribulation will issue not only in victory over the enemy, but in abundance of lasting blessing.
Israel's victory at the end reminds us of the grace and power of God on behalf of King Jehoshaphat when a great multitude came against him from Moab, Ammon, Syria and Mount Seir. “Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chr. 20:2-3). With confidence in God they went to battle. Instead of stirring up bitter enmity in the soldiers' hearts, Jehoshaphat appointed singers to praise the beauty of holiness, saying, “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (vv. 21-22). Then God spread confusion in the ranks of the enemy and they fought against one another until they were all killed, with Israel not having to fight at all. The spoil was so great that it took Israel three days to gather it (vv. 23-25).
Verse 15 tells us that the same plague of verse 12 will affect the horses, mules, camels, donkeys and any other animals of the enemy. This reminds us of God's instructions to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3, that not only was Amalek to be destroyed, but all their animals also. Since man's sin has badly affected all animate creation, that creation suffers with him (Rom. 8:20). On this smaller scale, the animals that people have identified with their own rebellion against God will suffer the same judgment as the rebels.
THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION (vv. 16-21)
How Israel will marvel at the amazing change, in so short a time, that has transformed the struggling, suffering city of Jerusalem into the metropolis of the whole world! More than that, those remaining of the nations, formerly her enemies, will voluntarily come up to Jerusalem each year to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 16) and to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (the Lord Jesus). How welcome will be the contrast of calm, settled peace to the former constant turmoil and unrest of the Jewish people! Of course it will be representatives of those nations who come.
The Feast of Tabernacles is singled out because it is the last of “the feasts of Jehovah” listed in Leviticus 23 and signifies the full accomplishment of God's counsels concerning Israel. It looks forward to the day of millennial blessing which Israel will then have entered upon (Lev. 23:33-43). That feast of seven days was a time of great rejoicing after the harvest had been gathered in. Israelites were to make booths of branches of trees and live in them during that week. This teaches us that Israel will have wonderful safety as well as pleasant weather during the Millennium. There will be no thieves to break in nor cold and storms to assail them, nor danger from animals, nor apparently any infestation of insects.
This will not however be the perfect state, as eternity will be. People will still have sinful natures, but the Lord Jesus will be in authority, ruling in righteousness. If any nation decides not to recognize Jerusalem as God's center, not sending representatives to the city to give honor to the King, the Lord of hosts, then God will withhold rain from that country. Since Egypt does not depend on rain but is watered by irrigation from the Nile River, then if she sends no representatives to Jerusalem, she will be afflicted by a plague. What plague is not mentioned, but Egypt has in the past learned that God knows how to inflict the kind of plagues that greatly distress the nation (Ex. 7:19 to Ex. 12:30). During the one thousand years of peace while the Lord Jesus is reigning, the generally favorable circumstances in the world will be interrupted only by some individuals refusing to give honor to Him. The many who have not been born again will still retain an attitude of resentment against authority, even though that authority is kind and considerate. They will be ready to rise up in rebellion as soon as Satan is loosed from his prison and goes out to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:7-9).
The last two verses dwell on the marvel of the change in Jerusalem. Even the bells on the horses will be engraved with the inscription, “Holiness to the Lord.” Israel will be “a holy nation.” Holiness will mark, not only their persons, but what they possess. There will be no separation between secular and spiritual life: all will be for God, just as Christian lives should be today. Even pots would be “like the bowls before the altar,” that is, daily eating utensils would be used as dedicated to the Lord.
The last sentence in Zechariah is an arresting one, “In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” There is more instruction in this than merely the banishing of a literal Canaanite. The name means “a merchant,” and the house of the Lord in Israel has been plagued by a spirit of merchandising throughout its history, so that the Lord Jesus spoke with good reason, “Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise” (John 2:16). At last that house will be fully purified from the defilement of those who take advantage of Jewish religion to further their interests of greed. If the Lord's honor will be first in all the relationships of the people, including business, their business will not then infringe on the Lord's rights in His house. May we also in our day, hold God's house, the Church of the living God, in due respect, giving the Lord Jesus the supreme honor of which He is worthy.