For the rest of the Book of Zechariah we will see the theme of Jerusalem verses the nations. There are four messages in this second Oracle. The nations are gathered against Jerusalem at the beginning and the end of this Oracle. But throughout, the repetition of the phrase “on that day” points us to the future day of the Lord. The picture that is painted here mixes both judgement and blessing for Jerusalem. The focal point is the cleansing of the people of Israel. This culminates with God’s universal kingdom. These visions of the future encouraged the Judeans of Zechariah’s day to be faithful in spite of their seeming insignificance and helplessness. Once again, Zechariah tells us that this message came from the Lord. It is a weighty message that describes the greatness of God the creator of the heavens, the earth, and the spirit of man. Jerusalem is described as a cup of wine or strong drink that causes drunkenness. The cup is a metaphor for God’s wrath and judgement. Jerusalem would be instrumental in God’s judgement on the nearby nations. Here Jerusalem is described as a heavy stone, immovable; one that will bring injury to anyone who tries to move it. This city was founded by the Lord who loves it more than any other city of Israel. In Zechariah imagery involving a stone is associated with the temple. Over the course of our read through the Old Testament we have seen the curses attached to breaking the covenant. Verse 4 brings us more. Madness, blindness, and panic were among the curses threatened against Israel for covenant disobedience. The day of the Lord will witness a reversal as these curses are turned against Israel’s enemies. God will watch over His people, literally “open my eyes” . The open eyes of the Lord represent divine provision for those in desperate need. The leaders of Judah will affirm God’s power to deliver His people. Calling God the Lord of Heaven’s armies emphasizes God’s irrepressible power. The frequent repetition in this second Oracle assured his audience that divine promises concerning Judah’s victory would be fulfilled.
Zechariah likens Judah to a fire pan here. Bronze or gold fire pans were used to carry hot coals to and from the sacrificial altars of the tabernacle and temple. God would set Israel among the nations like a burning fire pan to either destroy or purify them. All the while, the people of Jerusalem would be safe and secure. Even though God loved Jerusalem more than any other city in Judah He would not play favorites. The victory would come to Judah first and then to Jerusalem because God didn’t want Jerusalem and the line of David to receive more honor than the rest of Judah. But in that day the Lord Himself would defend the people of Jerusalem. Weak or strong, they would all be as mighty as king David. The angel of the Lord is God, represented as a divine warrior, rescuer, and protector. By divine enabling, the weak will be filled with God’s power and all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will be judged and destroyed. The pouring out is a metaphor for the deluge of winter rains that come to the Holy Land, and it speaks of abundant provision. It may well point to the outpouring of God’s Spirit of prophecy upon Israel and all the people on the day of the Lord and God’s judgement of the wicked. A spirit of grace is God’s unmerited and unsought favor. This persuades God’s people to seek Him in contrite and repentant prayer. The phrase “me whom they have pierced” Is often looked on by Jewish commentators as a corporate reference to those who were killed in defense of Jerusalem. But New Testament commentators see the piercing of God as a reference to the piercing of the Messiah on the cross.
The name Hadad-rimmon combines the names of two Syrian deities, the storm god Hadad and the thunder god Rimmon. The great mourning for these gods may be similar to the weeping for Tammuz, one of the rituals practiced in Mesopotamian fertility cults. It may also be a reference to the site of some tragedy whose grief is still vividly remembered. Or, it may be associated with religious rites involving mourning. Joshua captured Megiddo, a major city on the southwest edge of the Jezreel Valley. The city was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh. Megiddo controlled a key pass on the great highway from Egypt to Mesopotamia, and so was of great strategic importance. It was a district capital during Solomon’s reign. King Josiah was mortally wounded in battle against pharaoh Neco and the Egyptians on the plains of Megiddo. The mountain of Megiddo is the site of the great battle depicted in Revelation 16:16. All of Israel will mourn for the Messiah, including members of the royal family and the priests, the house of Levi and the house of David. The wives will mourn by themselves. Each mourner will face their sorrow alone, without the comfort of companionship. Zechariah lists four families here but they may simply be representatives of the four principle leadership classes in Old Testament times: the king (David), the prophet (Nathan), the priest (Levi), and the tribal leader (Shimei). The first interpretation correlates with Zechariah’s emphasis on the Branch that will be both king and priest. Each clan by themselves represents the depth and totality of Israel’s mourning.
The fountain beginning chapter 13 is an image of abundant, overflowing provision. The cleansing of sin was made available by Jesus on the cross. The first message here focuses on the cleansing from sin. Fountains are a spring of pure, flowing water for cleansing and purification. God’s cleansing of Israel will include leaders, represents by the dynasty of David, and all the people of Judah and Israel, signified by the people of Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the nation. This cleansing symbolized in the ritual washings of Old Testament worship, was provided in the new covenant as promised in Jeremiah 31:34 and Ezekiel 36:25. The Jews would experience a complete moral and spiritual cleansing because of their sorrow over their sin. By cleansing Israel God would remove their former penchant for idol worship, giving them a new heart, and allowing them to worship God and God alone. In the Biblical world, one name embodied their existence. When the names of the idols are forgotten, they cease to exist. The false prophets misrepresented gods by fabricating divine revelations or by speaking in the name of other gods. They led Israel astray by encouraging idol worship, and they would continue to do so until that day..the day of the Lord. According to the laws of Moses, a false prophet must be put to death (Deuteronomy 13:5, 18:20). The striking thing here is that the prophet’s parents must confront the offender to carry out the penalty. The Israelites had tolerated false prophets and killed the Lord’s true prophets. In the future, the situation would be reversed.
God’s total cleansing of His people from their impurities will strike such fear among the people that false prophets will deny or conceal their identities, even lying about the nature and purpose of their activities that might be associated with the prophets of idolatrous cults. Old Testament prophets were sometimes identified as visionaries or seers because divine revelation often came to them in dreams or night visions. Prophets clothes usually set them apart. They wore a coarse cloak of camel or goat hair which serve to set them apart. Saying “I am a farmer” may have been a parody of Amos. (See Amos 7:14). It is likely the chest wounds were those of an ecstatic prophet who often slashed himself on the back or chest. This was prevalent in Canaanite religious circles, and in Baal worship. Self inflicted wounds were thought to gain the attention and blessings of gods. There was such fear that the people would even lie about where they were going or had been.
Verses 7-9 describes a coming day when God’s appointed shepherd of Israel would be struck down, and the sheep, the people of Israel, would be scattered. A portion of the nation would be given over to divine judgement while part of the nation would experience spiritual renewal. This would fulfill Zechariah’s vision of God once again among His people. The gospel writers connect portions of this passage to the scattering of Jesus’ disciples as the result of His arrest, trial, and execution by the Romans. The sword, which is an instrument of death is likened to a warrior being roused for action, heightening its image as God’s servant. The Lord commands the sword to strike the Messiah, “My Shepherd”. This clearly indicates that the death of Jesus was no accident but divinely determined. The use of “my partner or companion” conveys the equality of the shepherd with God. The little ones may very well refer to the first century disciples, unbelieving Jews of all ages, or a faithful remnant of the future. The judgement would be catastrophic but God would once again preserve a remnant and forgive their sins. Only one third of the people would survive God’s judgement. The remnant that survives will be purged, purified, and reestablished in a covenant relationship with God. Fire is a metaphor for God’s judgement and it either destroys the wicked or purifies the righteous. God is the divine metallurgist, using fire to remove the dross (impurities) from the metal. This is known as the refiners fire. Once refined, precious metal must be tested to determine its value. There is restoration here, and renewal of the covenant. Once again God will claim these people as His and they will call Him their God.
Zechariah closes with visions of judgement, salvation, and God’s universal kingdom. In the future, Israel would be besieged, teetering on the verge of total destruction, when the Lord Himself would intervene and rescue his people and punish their enemies with a terrible plague. Israel would be restored as God’s people, and Jerusalem would be exalted as the center of civilization. God’s rule would be established over all the earth and the created order would be transformed. God’s holiness would be the pervasive characterization of His rule over all the earth. Zechariah’s message stimulates the people of God to hope in the Sovereign King of Israel who will bring justice and restoration. The day of the Lord will bring judgement and deliverance and reverse the fortunes of many. The spoils here may refer to what was taken from Israel’s enemies. Jerusalem will be attacked by many nations and horrible things will happen. There will be looting, raping of women, and half of the people will be carried into exile. The rest spoken of them will become the remnant that survived the sack of Jerusalem. But the Lord will turn Jerusalem’s defeat into victory. God the warrior will intervene on behalf of Israel against the attacking nations. Zechariah provides further details about his Jerusalem’s deliverance will come about. The Mount of Olives is located east of Jerusalem and across the Kidron Valley. It is a hill that runs north and south at an elevation of about 2,700 feet in elevation. The Messiah will return to the Mount of Olives , the very mountain He ascended from after His death and resurrection. On the day of his return, the Mount will be split by a deep east west valley. Zechariah envisions an earthquake that will split the Mount and create a valley. This valley will become an escape route for Jews fleeing Jerusalem during the attack by the nations. This event is most likely connected to the return of Jesus at the end of the age.
The site of Azal is not known but is probably somewhere in the desert east of Jerusalem. It may be a place where the descendants of Azal (1 chronicles 8:37-39) once lived. The flight of the surviving remnant is likened to what occurred following the great earthquake in the days of Uzziah. The exact date of this event is not known. The holy ones are most likely the multitude of angels that worship God and serve His army. It may also refer to the angels who will accompany Jesus at His return. Cosmic upheaval is associated with the Second Coming. The glory of the Messiah will be preceded by dark days of judgement. There will be no light. The imagery of darkness is always a portent of judgement among the prophets. When Jesus returns there will be light, glorious light…all the time. This brings fundamental changes to the created order. The light of Christ will be the only light necessary. The sun, moon, and stars are created by God and they are not eternal deities. Light does not originate with them. If you look back at creation there was light in the beginning but the sun, moon, and stars were not created until day number four. On that day, there will be the light of Christ forever. On that day there will be life giving waters that flow out of Jerusalem, half to the Dead Sea and half towards the Mediterranean Sea. This water symbolized God’s life giving presence among His people. This water is in contrast to the seasonal streams that run only during the rainy season. This life giving water will run year around. This life giving water is a divine blessing that will never cease to flow, bringing blessings and healing.
On that day the Lord will be King. Zechariah envisions the ultimate fulfillment of many Psalms, like 47, 48, 93, 97-99. On that day there will be one Lord. Zechariah anticipates the glorious day when the Lord will reestablish His reign on this earth. This promise reaffirms Israel’s creed (Deuteronomy 6:4) and signals the end of all idolatry. For believers it will be a grand and glorious day. Geba and Rimmon represent the north and south extent of the Jerusalem district, including the city of Jerusalem. The city will be brought back to its former glory and it will be filled with people, unlike the sparse few that returned after the Babylonian exile. As divine judge, God will strike those who rebel against Him with a sudden and deadly plague. The same word is used here that was used in the telling of the account of the plagues in Egypt. Horrible things will happen to those who oppose the Lord. This day of the Lord will bring terror to God’s enemies.
As the attackers are destroyed, the people of Judah will join forces with the citizens of Jerusalem to recover the spoil taken by the enemy, and capturing additional booty. And the Lord’s temple will receive great quantities of both silver and gold, the treasures of all the nations. Remember Haggai 2:7-8. Zechariah warned that the plague that struck the nations will also strike the animals. Repentant and believing people among those nations that have attacked Jerusalem will worship the King, Jesus Christ the Lord. They will celebrate the feast of tabernacles, a fall harvest festival that commemorated the wilderness experience of Israel. See Leviticus 23:33-43. This feast of thanksgiving is only one of the many feasts that will still be appropriate in the new kingdom. The others will have been fulfilled but thanksgiving will be a continual theme in the Messiah’s kingdom. This festival gave the people a chance to thank God for His provision. It also encouraged social concern for the disadvantaged and reliance on God as pilgrims in this world.
Jerusalem, with God’s temple is pictured as the center of God’s universal kingdom. Zechariah warned that nations that are unwilling to worship the King Messiah and celebrate the feast will be subject to divine judgement. Egypt is used here because it was a traditional enemy of Israel. Having no rain was another of the covenant curses, pronounced for disobedience. This curse extended to all the nations, as God’s rule extended to all the nations and over all people. The words Holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the gold headband worn by the high priest. Holiness will so permeate Messiah’s kingdom that even the lowly cooking pots will be holy. These words would even be inscribed in the horses harness bells. God’s holiness will transfer to even the mundane things, transforming them into sacred vessels like those used in the sacrificial rituals in the temple. This would then dissolve all of the Old Testament distinctions between the sacred and the profane, the clean and unclean. The traders here is a reference to merchants who frequented Jerusalem and the temple courts with their wares. No one will profit in the worship of God in the coming age. God’s search for true worshipers will be realized in a company of devoted and holy people. This passage may also anticipate the cleansing of the temple by Jesus as He drove out the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals. This would be a cleansing of the heart by those who believe in Him by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W