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17. Zechariah

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Notes on the Book of Zechariah

I. The Prophet Zechariah.

Zechariah is mentioned in Ezra (5:1; 6:14) along with Haggai as the prophet who aroused the returned Jews to rebuild the temple. Nehemiah 12:16 lists him in the genealogy. There he is the son of Iddo; here he is the son of Berechiah son of Iddo. These are surely the same persons, even though the name Zechariah (זְכַרְיָה “Yah remembers”) is quite common. The Iddo in Nehemiah was the head of a “house” and hence possibly not the immediate ancestor.1

II. The Historical Context.

See the same point under Haggai.

III. The Composition of the Book.

Zechariah falls clearly into two disparate parts. Chapters 1-8 are dated and refer to circumstances and events in the second and fourth years of Darius and chapters 9-14 are undated and from a literary point of view are quite different from the first half of the book. This leads many to conclude that there are two different books combined into one. Joyce Baldwin2 has built upon the work of P. Lamarche,3 and has clearly demonstrated literary unity for the book. We will assume that the sixth century prophet, Zechariah, produced the entire work.4

IV. The Structure and Synthesis of the Book.

The first eight chapters contain an introduction and seven night visions (I am combining the two visions in chapter 5). It should be the first order of business to search for a relevance of the visions for the sixth century groups of Jews who have returned from the exiles. They have returned to meet the Jews left in the land in 586 B.C. who have changed very little spiritually. The returning Jews, under the leadership of such men as Zerubbabel and later Ezra and Nehemiah, had given up idolatry and were seeking to please the Lord. The circumstance of the returnees including strong political opposition led them to begin to slip into the old ways of life. The city and temple were lying in ruins, with the temple foundation a mute witness to the spiritual failure of the returnees. It was Zechariah’s and Haggai’s task to shore up the diminished enthusiasm of these people to trust the Lord for the present and the future. Baldwin captures the essence of the prophecy when she says “The rebuilding of the Temple was the condition on which the dawning of the Messianic age depended. Haggai implied as much (Hg. 2:6-09) and Malachi proclaimed that the Lord would suddenly come to His Temple (Mal 3:1). The rebuilding of the Temple was at once an act of dedication and of faith. It was a symbol of the continuity of the present with the past, and expressed the longing of the community that, despite the exile, the old covenant promises still stood.”5 The messianic age is then presented apocalyptically in the last six chapters.

V. The Outline of the Book.

A. Messages of hope and challenge in connection with the rebuilding of the temple (1:1—6:8).6

1. Zechariah challenged the people to repent (1:1-6).

The date for this message is given as the eighth month of Darius’ second year or 520 B.C. The Jews have been back in the land since 536 B.C. or some 16 years. Yahweh challenges them to return to him. This is the language of repentance. They are challenged to remember the sins of their ancestors who, because of their sins, were driven into exile. They, said Yahweh, listened and learned. They recognized that their punishment was just.7 Now, the returnees should recognize the same situation. The response of the people is not given in this context.

2. Visions of God’s concern for his people (1:7—2:13).

a. The first vision—God’s watchful care (1:7-17).

Three months later the visions began. Since no other dates are given for the visions, the assumption can be made that they were all given in a relatively short time. The visions begin with horses and end with horses and chariots.

The horsemen in the vision represent God’s vigil over the whole earth. They have been going back and forth checking up on it and discover that the entire world is at peace (by the second year of Darius, he had established his rule in the land and put down resistance). However, the Jewish people cannot be at rest for God’s indignation continues as it has been for some seventy years. This seventy year period probably refers to the time from the destruction of the temple until its completion. From the spiritual point of view, the fact that the temple as the symbol of Yahweh’s presence in Jerusalem, is still in ruins indicates a failure of the returning community to achieve what God intended for them.

Yahweh’s response is strong and encouraging: “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.” On the other hand, the nations which he used to punish his people, now at peace, will receive the butt of his anger. But as for Jerusalem, he will again have compassion on her, his house will be built within her, and he will stretch out a line over the city of Jerusalem. The measuring line probably indicates ownership and protection. The pitiable state of Jerusalem would be remedied and would again be prosperous, and the temple would be rebuilt.

b. The second vision—the horns/craftsmen (1:18-21).

The second vision relates to Yahweh’s vindication of his people: having scattered them in judgment, he will punish the nations which scattered them. Who are these nations? Efforts to identify them are fruitless (since there is no logical sequence of four nations fitting this description). Therefore, we should think of the four horns as nations from the four quarters of the earth: all nations who have hurt Israel will be hurt by God.

c. The third vision—the measuring line (2:1-13).

We have encountered the measuring line before (1:16). There it pertains to Yahweh’s compassion on Jerusalem. It probably denotes God’s protection of the city and so should be understood in ch. 2. (God measures in Ezekiel 40-48 and Revelation 11. The latter seems to clearly indicate protection since the court was omitted in the measuring and turned over to the Gentiles.)

Some phrases in this vision need special attention. “Flee from the land of the north . . . Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon” sounds like Jer 50:8. In that context, it seems to refer to God’s judgment of Babylon (Chaldea) by the Persians. At that time the Jews were urged to flee Babylon. This warning may have relevance to the sixth century in urging Jews to come to Jerusalem, but the overall tone of this unit appears to be eschatological. God’s great work in behalf of his own people, Israel, is yet to come. He will be “aroused from His holy habitation” in Israel’s behalf, and woe to the nation that touches Israel, the apple of God’s eye. At that time (2:11) Yahweh will dwell in the midst of his people and many nations will join themselves to him.

3. Visions of cleansing and service (3:1—5:11).

a. The fourth vision—the cleansing of Joshua (3:1-10).

One of the main issues facing the Jews when they returned from the exile was the restoration of the temple and the priesthood. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles spell out this concern in considerable detail. Chapter 3 is not concerned primarily with Joshua’s personal cleansing, but with the purification of the priesthood to function in the new temple. The role of the Accuser is to thwart the people of God in their attempt to gain access to him. This effort is interdicted by the Angel of Yahweh who wants all to know that Yahweh has chosen Jerusalem. Here Jerusalem (=Zion) represents the place of the temple. God cleanses Joshua and informs him that an obedient life will allow him to perform his service (as priest in the temple) and govern his house (the temple). Since Joshua and “his friends who are sitting there” were symbols (mopheth, מוֹפֵת), this must in some sense apply to the whole priesthood.

Now for the first time the astounding prophecy of the “Branch” (zemakh, hoter, netzer, נֵצֶר) from the dry ground (speaking of the servant, Isa 53:2). Ultimate cleansing for Israel must come from this Branch. The idea of “removing the iniquity of the land in one day” (3:9) indicates an eschatological cleansing of Israel.

The stone with seven eyes is the most difficult concept to interpret in the chapter. The word eyes is the Hebrew word ‘ayin (עַיִן) which is ambiguous. It can mean “the eye” or a “fountain” (water flowing from a socket) or “aspect” or “facet.” Consequently, Baldwin, following Lipinski, takes the secondary meaning of “fountain” and identifies it with the rock Moses struck from which water flowed and would thus be a metaphor of the cleansing of Israel.8 This interpretation is attractive, but the seven eyes of 4:10 are eyes which “see” the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel and are representative of God’s omniscience. Consequently, we probably should see them in a similar sense in 2:9. God sees all things: the nations who judged Israel; Israel’s need of restoration and cleansing. In that (eschatological) day, all will sit under vine and fig trees. This is a symbol of eschatological restoration of Israel to her land (Micah 4:4,5).

b. The fifth vision—the Lamp stand (4:1-14).

Since one of the primary concerns of this book is with the rebuilding of the temple, it should not surprise us to see a chapter devoted to the subject. The obstacles encountered by the returnees are recounted in Ezra 4-5. This chapter is to encourage the governor, Zerubbabel and the high priest, Joshua, to complete the task. The lamp stand (ever a symbol of the light in the temple) is here a symbol for God’s provision for protection and strength to finish the temple. The “two sons of oil” or NASB “anointed ones” represent Zerubbabel (4:6) and Joshua, who though unmentioned, should be assumed.

c. The sixth vision—the Scroll and the Ephah (5:1-11).

Most people see two visions here, but I have chosen to combine them (as the horns and craftsmen were combined). The first part (scroll) speaks of judgment on God’s people who break the commandments (the middle commandment in each half of the two tables is given as typical of all), and the second part speaks of dealing with the sin of the people. This much of the interpretation is fairly clear; the difficulty comes with the last verse. “Wickedness” is being removed from Judah and transported to the “Land of Shinar.” This is an ancient name for the Babylonian region (Gen 10:10). It was used in later times only in Isaiah 11:11 and Daniel 1:2. The use of this word should alert the reader to a special meaning. It is the symbol of the beginning of rebellion against God. God is taking “wickedness” back to its origin where he will build it a temple (house) where it will be worshipped. “Revelation 17-18 speaks of ‘Mystery Babylon,’ that embodiment of all evil that God will judge. This concentration of evil in the place of its origin will take place in the last days before the Battle of Armageddon and the establishment of the millennial kingdom. Thus, God will remove evil from the people of Israel as he prepares them to be his people. He will also judge those nations who will become even more wicked in the last days.”9

4. Vision of Judgment (6:1-8).

The night visions end as they began, with horses (chariots) who are involved with all the earth. In the first vision the problem is that all the nations are at peace while Jerusalem is troubled. God at that time promised that the nations would be judged (1:11,15, 18-21). The visions close with the symbolic prediction that the nations will be judged. The four chariots represent the four winds (or spirits, the Hebrew ruah רוּחַ means both) of heaven. These winds/spirits have stood before God (reporting to him) and are now coming forth (as was the Ephah). Thus they have a task to perform.10 They are to patrol the earth and to appease God’s wrath in the land of the north. The word “appeased” can also mean to give rest to. It must mean that God’s anger against the nations (alluded to in ch. 1) will be given rest or appeased when it has run its course against the nations. Thus the vision means that God will eventually vindicate his people Israel when the Day of the Lord brings judgment on them, but also on the nations who have persecuted them.

B. Special messages to the returnees (6:9—8:23).

1. Message to the Babylonian Jews: the crowning of Joshua (6:9-15).

Messengers have come from Babylon probably with a gift for the newly rebuilt temple. This visit prompts another message. Zechariah makes a crown of silver and gold. (The word for crown is plural, indicating some kind of complexity.) The dual crown is to be placed on Joshua’s head. Because this act was associated with the building of the temple, critics want to substitute the name of Zerubbabel for that of Joshua, but there is no warrant for such action. Joshua, the center of the vision in ch. 3 and one of the sons of oil in ch. 4, is more important than Zerubbabel in the restoration of the temple and its ritual than Zerubbabel. Once again we encounter the name “branch.” Here it is applied to Joshua, but strangely it says that Joshua will sit on a throne and that the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. This symbol now creeps into the Eschaton where one will rule as both priest and king. Joshua will be involved in building the sixth century temple (6:12), but so will be the latter day successor who will rule as priest and king (6:13).11

2. Instruction on true religion: the fast question (7:1-14).

Another situation developed on 9/4/4 when certain pilgrims came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord. They asked the teaching priests whether they should continue fasting on the fifth month as they had been doing for a long time. Apparently because the temple was well under way, they decided they should probably stop remembering the fall of the temple (fifth month) by fasting. Zechariah seizes the opportunity to warn them about the futility of ritual with reality. Their ancestors had plenty of the former, but God judged them for failing to carry out the requirements of the covenant by treating properly the vulnerable people in the land. The result was the exile. Now the word is, “learn from the past.”

3. Instruction on future Zion: the fast question continued (8:1-23).

The message of ch. 8, in contrast to ch. 7, is encouraging. This chapter is replete with promises, some of which are among the most marvelous in the Old Testament. As if to assure the reader of the integrity of the promises, Zechariah speaks in the name of Yahweh of hosts. This title for God appears fifty-four times in Zechariah, and eighteen of those are in ch. 8. This name is a favorite title for God in the prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. The stress is on God’s omnipotence as the head of the armies of heaven fighting on behalf of God’s people.12 The chapter may be divided into two major sections. The first is 8:1-18 (“and the word of the Lord of hosts came”); the second, 8:19-23 (“and the word of the Lord of hosts came to me”). There are ten “oracles” or “sayings” introduced by the phrase “thus says the Lord of hosts” (vs. 3 is included even though it has only “Thus says the Lord” because it seems to be the same introductory clause).

First segment: Encouragement to the returnees (8:1-17). There are several parallels between this chapter and chapters 1-2: 8:2=1:14; 8:3=2:10; 8:4-5=1:17; 8:7=2:6. This lends weight to the argument for chiastic structure in the first half of the book. It is important to understand that while some of Zechariah’s prophecies had application in the sixth century, many of them find their ultimate fulfillment in the future. Any Jew of that day would have known that the scenes depicted by Zechariah (8:3-4) were not yet in effect (cf. Ezra-Nehemiah for the actual conditions). But they could take heart in the fact that the work begun by God in their day would come to glorious fruition in “the latter days.”

The first segment speaks of ideal conditions to prevail in the future. Blessings are promised in Zechariah’s day as a reward for resuming the temple, but the description given in this unit takes us into the Eschaton. God has purposed to do good to Jerusalem; this good began in the sixth century, but it will culminate in the golden age of the future.

Second segment: Kingdom promises (8:19-23). In that beautiful age, all fasting will turn to joy.13 The beautiful picture of the restored Jews entreating the favor of Yahweh, a favorite with the prophets, concludes the oracles. Ten men from the Gentiles will grasp the garment of a Jew saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

C. The First Burden of the Lord (9:1—11:17).

We now enter the second part of the book commonly known as the apocalyptic section. Here the cryptic predictions of the culmination of the age, the deliverance and triumph of Israel, the establishment of God’s rule on earth and the ensuing golden age are presented. The great emphasis on God’s intervention in the affairs of men no doubt affected the extensive reference to these two units in the New Testament.

Smith points out a number of connections between chapters 9-14 and 1-8. “(1) The significant role of Jerusalem and Zion (1:12-16; 2:1-13; 9:8-10; 12:1-13; 14:1-21). (2) The cleansing of the community as part of God’s final act (3:1-9; 5:1-11; 10:9; 12:10; 13:1-2; 14:20-21). (3) The place of all the nations in the kingdom of God (2:11; 8:20-23; 9:7, 10; 14:16-19). (4) The use of the work of the former prophets (Amos 1:9-10, 5:27-62 in 9:1-8; Jer 25:34-38 in 11:1-3; Ezek 38-48 in 14:1-4). Practically all of Zech 9-14 is an interpretation or an application of earlier prophecies.”14

1. The coming king and the kingdom (9:1-17).

The first eight verses speak of the reclamation of the coastal plain for Israel. A conversion of the Philistine states is indicated in the removal of idolatry (9:7) and the description of Ekron as a Jebusite (one incorporated into Judah). Hanson is probably right that the emphasis of the passage is not on the historical past, but upon the eschatological future.15 Several events could be pointed to as possible fulfillments of this prophecy, but ultimately, the reference is to the restoration period yet in the future (9:1-8).

One of the most dramatic prophecies in the Old Testament, the picture of the warrior king coming to deliver Zion stands out as a representative of the hope of God’s salvation in behalf of his people. This reference should be related to Gen 49:10; 2 Sam 5:2; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6; 11:1-5 and Matt 2:5-6. The indication of verse 10 is that the fulfillment is in connection with the establishment of the glorious kingdom of Old Testament hope. However, its use in the Gospels shows that its initial thrust has to do with Jesus’ first coming (9:9-10).

The final unit continues the theme of holy war and deliverance of Israel, the people of God. Smith argues that the reference to the war between the Greeks and Zion in 9:13 should not be pressed as to date. It represents the holy war concept which is eschatological.16 Baldwin believes that the references to Greeks in Gen 10:2,4 and Isa 66:19 indicate that they represent a distant people.17 In any event, the tendency of some scholars to link the battle with the Maccabean wars should be rejected.

2. The first shepherd pericope—protection of Israel (10:1-12).

A transition is presented in 10:1 as the account moves from the glorious future to problems of the fifth century. The rain and all it represented (vegetation, etc.) comes from Yahweh. Some people of Zechariah’s day had failed to learn the lesson of Baalism (here teraphim). “In spite of the fact that most Jews gave up polytheism in the Exile, some still clung to the native beliefs. One has to wonder whether these are Jews who did not go to Babylon but stayed in Palestine, never fully renounced their pagan practices”18 (10:2).

The sheep and shepherd motif, so common to the prophets, is taken up in terms of a suffering flock due to the lack of concern by the shepherds. Consequently, God will punish the leaders,19 but he will cause his sheep to be triumphant (this is the basic idea of the various metaphors: majestic horse, cornerstone, tent peg, bow, ruler) (10:2b-5).

When this happens, the result will be great victory and God will bring all his people (both from the old north and the south). There will be a great prosperity when the regathering takes place (cf. Zechariah 2). The old persecuting nations (Egypt, Assyria) will yield up God’s people. A second exodus will take place when God strengthens his people and dries up the waters of the Nile (10:6-12).

Chapter 10 is, like chapter 9, an eschatological picture. When God brings his work in the world to a consummation, it will include punishment of Israel’s bad leaders (either national or foreign), the strengthening of both the Jews from the north and south, the providing of good leaders, the restoration to the land of Israel, and a triumphant, miraculous work of God in returning them. From a New Testament perspective, we would see this taking place during the Tribulation in preparation for God’s rule on the earth, which we call the Millennium.

3. The second shepherd pericope—the rejected shepherd (11:1-17).

The unit contained in 11:1-3 is to be linked with chapter 10, not the rest of chapter 11. With Baldwin I would say that it represents a song of exultation after the victory granted by Yahweh in chapter 10.20 Smith believes it could either close chapter 10 or introduce chapter 11. He calls it a taunt song.21 The trees represent powers, and the powers have fallen. God has delivered and restored his people (11:1-3).

The rest of the chapter is so graphic and personified, that interpreters have struggled to find a historical fulfillment of some sort. An individual is hired to tend a flock (though it is God who commanded him to do so), he shepherds the flock with two staffs symbolic of God’s work, and he is rejected and paid off (11:4-14).

Who is this person? In actuality it is impossible to find any historical referent. It means at least that God himself is concerned about his flock and though he wants to shepherd it, is rejected from the task. Small wonder that this is shown by the New Testament to be an adumbration of the ministry of the great shepherd of the sheep who gave his life for the flock.

The doomed flock. God’s people are being abused by those whose assigned task was to care for them. Both foreign rulers (11:5a) and their own national leaders (11:5b) have used the flock to their own advantage. Furthermore, God himself says that he will punish these people. This could be associated with the Maccabean era, e.g., or A. D. 70, but it would be mistaken to try to pin point any particular time. Since the book is apocalyptic in tone, one should expect the setting to be in the last days (11:4-6).

The pastor of the flock. The phrase “even the afflicted of the flock” (‘aniye hats’on, kena‘ani, כְּנַעֲנִי). This makes much better sense in both contexts.22 The shepherd took two staffs with which to pastor the flock. One was called “favor” (noam, נֹאַם), and the other was called “union” (hobelim, חבְלִים bands, ropes). These he will explain later. Rather cryptically, the text says that the shepherd then will annihilate three other shepherds. Much ink has been spilled trying to identify these three people historically. The effort is futile. I assume that the genre of material here is live drama. In some way, Zechariah is acting out this scenario. Rather than try to identify the three shepherds, we must simply assume that they represent bad leadership which will come under the judgment of God. The flock itself apparently was not happy with the shepherd, and consequently, he decided to break his staff “favor” which represented his contract with the sheep. He then demanded his wages which were disdainfully measured at thirty shekels of silver. The Lord recognized the wages as an insult and told Zedekiah to throw them to the potter in the temple. Finally, he cut the second staff which symbolized the unity between Israel and Judah. Is it possible that this in some way summarizes God’s dealings with Israel over the centuries? It surely ultimately refers to the rejection of the Good Shepherd who was also valued at thirty pieces of silver (11:4-14).

The wicked shepherd. Zedekiah is then told by the Lord to dress himself with the equipment of a foolish shepherd. What kind of equipment would that be?! Perhaps he changes certain items and then acts out the part of a shepherd who only abuses the flock. God will ultimately bring judgment on this wicked person. He is usually linked with the wicked one of the last days spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2 (11:15-17).

D. The Second Burden of the Lord (12:1—14:21).

We now come to the second unit of the last half of the book of Zechariah. “The burden of the lord” separates the unit from 9—11. God’s dealings with his people Israel and the Gentile world are taken up and amplified in this unit.

1. God’s great work “in that day”—the pierced one (12:1-14).

The phrase “in that day,” designed to show that God is referring to his work in the Eschaton, occurs 17 times in this unit (12:3, 4, 6, 8, 8, 9, 11; 13:1, 2, 4; 14:4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, 21).

Chapter 12 parallels chapter 9 in teaching that God will miraculously deliver the people of Israel in the last days. A coalition of peoples will gathered against Jerusalem, but divine intervention will cause Israel to become “a heavy stone” that will cause injury to those who try to lift it (i.e., attack Jerusalem). Judah and Jerusalem will be strengthened and like Samson’s foxes among Philistine wheat, so they will devastate the nations gathered against them. The royal house will triumph over the enemies. “The concluding verse sums up in unambiguous words the main point of the passage: the Lord will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem23 This takes up the first six “in that day” phrases (12:1-9).

The seventh “in that day” makes an astounding statement, provoking extended discussion and debate (12:10). The idea that God will pour out his spirit (whether technically—the Holy Spirit—or generally—the spirit of grace) is rather common in the prophets (particularly Jeremiah and Ezekiel). However, the phrase, “so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born” is strange indeed. Who is the “Me”? Who is the “Him”? Are they the same people?24 A number of Hebrew manuscripts have “they shall look on him” which is what appears in the New Testament. From the text of Zechariah, we can at least conclude that some individual was going to be killed and that the people of Israel would mourn (in repentance) after Yahweh pours out on them a spirit of grace and supplication. The New Testament is certainly applying this verse to Jesus Christ as the one who was crucified for the redemption of his people. The time will come when they will turn to him (Rev 1:7) in repentance.25 

2. The third shepherd pericope—the smitten shepherd (13:1-9).

The eighth “in that day” concludes the mourning section of ch. 14 with the promise of a cleansing for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem (13:1). This fountain will cleanse from sin and impurity (niddah, נִדָּה). The piercing of 12:10 resulted in the mourning of 12:11-14. This will be followed by cleansing in the fountain. Israel’s sin (emphasis on the house of David/Jerusalem) will take place when God resumes his dealings with the people of Israel in the last days.

The ninth “in that day” turns to false prophets (13:2-6). This was a major issue in the pre and exilic period. However, in the post-exilic era it was not as significant a problem (at least as far as can be discerned from the Scripture accounts).26 In the eschatological period, however, false prophecy will rear its ugly head once more. When that happens, concomitant with the cleansing from sin, God will remove the false prophets and the unclean spirits from the land. Even parents will assume their responsibility of denouncing their children who are caught up in this Satanic movement. Furthermore (the tenth “in that day”) the false prophets will be so frightened of the penalty for their perfidy that they will deny that they are prophets.27

Once more the motif of the shepherd and the flock appears (13:7-9). This passage should be related to the enigmatic ch. 11. Here God calls upon the sword to slay the shepherd. This shepherd is, amazingly, God’s companion. This word (gever ‘mithi, גֶּבֶר עֲמִיתִי) is otherwise used only in Leviticus (6:2; 19:15, 17; 25:14, 15) where it means “companion,” “neighbor,” “friend.” This shepherd bears a special relationship to Jehovah.28 It is God who smites the shepherd (cf. Isa. 53:4-5).

The result of the shepherd’s death is that the flock will be scattered. Jesus cited this verse in connection with his own death (Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27). However, the ultimate fulfillment goes beyond the crucifixion to a time when great tribulation will come upon the people of Israel. This terrible time of suffering will result in refinement of the Jews resulting in their calling upon the name of the Lord. Then the recurring prophetic theme will come to pass: “He will be their God and they will be His people.”

3. Jerusalem delivered—Holy to the Lord (14:1-21).

This chapter contains seven more “in that day” phrases and is the most apocalyptic of all the chapters. Baldwin points out the chiasm of reversal in the chapter:

a I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem (14:2)

b Jerusalem despoiled (14:2)

c The people will suffer (14:3)

c’ All the peoples will suffer (14:12)

b’ Jerusalem despoils the nations (14:14)

a’ Any who are left of all the nations . . . will go up to [Jerusalem] (14:16)29

This chapter contains the classical description of the Day of the Lord when He shall bring judgment upon the nations who reject him and fight against His people Israel. A unified attack by the nations who have formed a confederacy will be made against the small city of Jerusalem. Were this not a spiritual battle, such an attack would be unnecessary. The strategic position of God’s people in this strategic “City of Zion” is what elicits this Satanic response to the Jews. God intervenes on Mt. Olivet, a place so significant in Israel’s history. From this mountain Jesus ascended back into heaven, and the angels promised that he would return as they had seen him go. This cosmic battle will result in geological changes in the land as well as astronomical changes and there will be a time of unprecedented blessing (14:6-8). Furthermore, the Lord will be acknowledged as the only God; idolatry will be gone and the people will give their undivided allegiance and devotion to the one true God of Israel.

The nations who have chosen to rebel against God and His people will now be judged (14:12-15), and Judah will despoil them as they had planned to despoil Jerusalem. Furthermore, the nations that are left will be required to come to Jerusalem annually to worship King Yahweh of hosts and to celebrate the feast of Succoth. Those who refuse to come will be punished.

The final two “in that day” phrases speak of the Holiness of the situation. There will be ceremonial cleanness, but more important, there will be actual redemptive cleanness because Israel will be redeemed. The key phrase is “HOLY TO YAHWEH!” The setting for this scenario is what we call from the New Testament the Millennium—the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises to Abraham and David in connection with the people of Israel.

1LaSor, et al., Old Testament Survey, 489.

2Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi in The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972).

3P. Lamarche, Zacharie IX-XIV, Structure Littérarie et Messianisme (Paris: Gabalda, 1961).

4See the standard introductions for the many and complex issues.

5Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 21.

6See R. E. Brown, “The Gospel According to John I-XII” in the Anchor Bible, 29:326 for a discussion of the Book of Zechariah on the New Testament.

7The book of Lamentations is instructive in this connection.

8Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 117.

9Heater, Zechariah, in Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987, 43).

10See ibid for a discussion of the details of the vision.

11Baldwin, Zechariah, 135-37.

12Heater, Zechariah, 63.

13The siege of Jerusalem began in the tenth month; the city fell in the fourth month; the temple was destroyed in the fifth month; and Gedaliah was assassinated in the seventh month (1 Kings 25:1, 8, 25).

14Ralph L. Smith, Micah to Malachi in Word Biblical Commentaries, 242.

15P. Hanson, “Jewish Apocalyptic against Its Near Eastern Environment,” RB 78 (1971): 31-58. Baldwin (Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 157-58) generally agrees. She argues that past events typify the future.

16Smith, Micah to Malachi, 260.

17Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 168-69.

18Heater, Zechariah, 84.

19Shepherds can refer to either Israel’s leaders or foreign leaders (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 172).

20Baldwin (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) 177 says “The climax is the arrival of the king to set up his universal kingdom, but first there is opposition to be overcome, hence the darker side of the picture.”

21Smith, Micah to Malachi, 267.

22Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 180.

23Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 190.

24In the New Testament (John 19:37; Rev 1:7) the pronoun “me” in Zechariah is “him.”

25Romans 11:26 is another marvelous verse that indicates a universal turning to the Lord in repentance by the people of Israel.

26An exception to this statement should be found in the prophetess Noadiah and the “rest of the prophets” who opposed Nehemiah’s work of restoration (Neh. 6:14).

27Some have argued that 13:6 is a reference to Christ crucified, but the context clearly is one of false prophets. The “wounds between your arms” (Heb.: “hands”) refers to chest wounds probably caused by self-flagellation common in Baal worship (cf. 1 Kings 18).

28F. C. Keil (The Twelve Minor Prophets, vol. 2 in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, 397) says,  “The shepherd of Jehovah, whom the sword is to smite, is therefore no other than the Messiah, who is also identified with Jehovah in ch. xii. 10; or the good shepherd, who says of Himself, ‘I and my Father are one’ (John x. 30).”

29Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, 199.

Related Topics: History, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Prophets

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