Zechariah — Encouraging the Remnant to Return to YHWH
One of the last of God’s messengers before the advent of Christ, Zechariah the prophet was introduced to Israel during the rebuilding of the temple described in the first part of the book of Ezra.
Identified as “Zechariah son of Berekiah and grandson of Iddo,” according to Zechariah 1:1 in the New Living Translation, the author came from a long line of priestly Levites. He may very well have been related to another Iddo, who was a prophet and historian mentioned during the reigns of Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijah (See 2 Chronicles 9:29, 12:15 & 13:22). Ezra 5:1 & 6:14 reinforce this designation, distinguishing Zechariah from a host of other men by that name, and emphasizing his credentials as a descendant of Iddo. According to these same verses, he prophesied alongside Haggai to encourage the Hebrews to resume the reconstruction of the temple, in spite of opposition.
Interestingly, Zechariah means “Remembered of YHWH.” The very mention of his name must have been an encouragement to the Jews—who no doubt felt forgotten by the Lord at times, when facing so many obstacles in their effort to reestablish a settlement and a worship center in Jerusalem.
With his opening statement, “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius,” Zechariah allows us to accurately cross-check other historical records (including ancient Persian documents), that tell us his prophetic ministry began in the fall of 520 B.C. Later references to Greece in the book of Zechariah seem to indicate his ministry may have continued into the reign of Xerxes (Queen Esther’s Ahasuerus), as late as 464 B.C. [Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, p. 278].
Zechariah describes a series of eight visions, four messages and two “burdens” to communicate God’s heart to His people. Early chapters of the book are tied to events chronicled in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, while later chapters are more concerned with looking ahead to the coming of Israel’s Messiah and their preparation as a people for His holy presence among them.
Zechariah Chapter 1
After identifying himself and the time in which the Lord commissioned him to speak, Zechariah’s first words from YHWH were a message of encouragement and exhortation. Although God had been extremely angry with their forefathers—enough to destroy the previous temple and exile them in a foreign land for 70 years—He now desired to be reconciled to the new generation inhabiting Jerusalem (Zech. 1:1-2). “Return to Me,” said YHWH Sabaoth [translated ‘the LORD of Hosts’ in most English Bibles], “and I will return to you” (v. 3).
God reminded the people of how He had previously sent prophets to warn Israel, yet they stubbornly resisted (4). Everything that had been prophesied against them came to pass, and the people suffered the penalties their deeds deserved (5-6). God didn’t want that to happen with this new generation, so He warned them not to do likewise.
In verses 7-11, Zechariah described his first vision, dated about two months after the last word recorded from Haggai the prophet (c.f.—Hag. 2:10). First, he met a man sitting on a red horse among a grove of myrtle trees in a hollow one night (Zech. 1:8). Behind him were other horses—some of which were also red, others sorrel (light brown), and white. Angels present in the vision explained that these were God’s sentries, sent to patrol the earth (vv. 9-10). When they spoke to the Angel of YHWH standing near the aromatic trees [widely believed by Bible scholars to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus], the patrols reported, “all the earth is resting quietly” (11).
In verse 12, the Angel of the Lord asked YHWH Sabaoth, Commander of heaven’s armies, how long it would be before He had “mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” The Lord responded with “good and comforting words,” which were relayed by His angel (13). Zechariah was ordered to cry out in God’s behalf that the Lord was zealous for Jerusalem, with great jealousy—like a husband wanting no competitors for his bride’s devotion or respect (14). He was outraged at the nations that carried out His judgment against unfaithful Israel “with evil intent” (15). He promised to return to Jerusalem with mercy, to see that the temple and the cities of Judah were rebuilt, and to comfort and prosper its inhabitants, once again choosing them for Himself (16-17).
To represent these tyrants, the Lord showed Zechariah a vision of four horns, which the angel explained had scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem (18-19). Verse 20 says the prophet next saw four craftsmen. The Hebrew word charash can refer to any skilled worker—including carpenters, engravers, blacksmiths and even warriors. God sent these agents to terrify and drive out the nations that had oppressed His people (21).
Zechariah Chapter 2
Next, Zechariah saw a man with a measuring line, who reported that he was going to use it to measure the dimensions of Jerusalem (Zech. 1:1-2). Unlike Ezekiel 40-48, the Lord was less concerned about reporting the actual length and width of the city than He was of conveying that His people would live securely without defensive walls, spreading out in all directions, due to the abundance of men and livestock inhabiting Jerusalem (vv. 3-4). Walls of stone would not be needed, because ‘I will be a wall of fire around it,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will be the glory within it’ (Zech. 2:5, NCV).
God urged His people to leave Babylon and the other lands in the north, because He intended to judge those who had plundered Jerusalem (vv. 6-9). By attacking YHWH’s people, it was as if these nations had tried to poke God in the eye. Just as they had taken spoil from Israel, so the Lord was going to allow their servants to despoil them.
The daughter of Zion would soon have reason to rejoice, since YHWH was coming again to inhabit His holy city (10). Moreover there was coming a day, which we have seen fulfilled, when Gentile people would join themselves to the Lord and live with the Jews (11). Every living thing was commanded to be silent, as YHWH roused Himself to take possession of the Holy Land of Judah and Jerusalem (12-13).
Zechariah Chapter 3
The prophet’s next vision concerned a contemporary of Zechariah—Joshua the high priest, who had returned to Jerusalem with the first group of returnees. He was standing in filthy garments before the Angel of YHWH (Zech. 3:1 & 3). The Hebrew word, tso, indicates that his clothes were covered in human excrement. Satan [which literally means ‘the Adversary’] stood accusing Joshua, but the Lord took up his cause: “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” (v. 2).
It is significant that verse 2 tells us YHWH said, “YHWH rebuke you…” to Satan. Clearly, this shows that the Angel of YHWH is indeed Christ, who rebuked the enemy in the name of God the Father.
The Lord ordered the bystanders to remove the sin-stained garments from the priest. To Joshua He said, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you” (Zech. 3:4, NIV). Zechariah added that they should put a clean turban on the priest’s head (v. 5).
According to verses 6-7, when all of this was carried out in Zechariah’s vision, he heard the Angel of YHWH instruct the priest in God’s behalf:
“If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.”
Imagine being promised a place in God’s presence, serving as His representative before the people! Yet every one of us who comes to Jesus is equally privileged. His blood removes the filth of our sin and clothes us with white robes of His righteousness (c.f.—Rev. 7:9 & 13-14). He calls us a “royal priesthood,” consecrated to offer spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ (1 Pet. 2:5 & 9).
In the last several verses of Zechariah 3, God directed Joshua’s attention to a marvelous sign—even greater than what He would do with the high priest and his associates: Through His Servant, called ‘the Branch’—also described as a seven-eyed stone laid before the priest—the Lord promised to “remove the sin of this land in a single day” (Zech. 3:8-9, NIV). Then all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah would “invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree” (v. 10).
These, of course, were Messianic prophesies. According to Jeremiah 23:5-6 and several passages in Isaiah, ‘the Branch’ refers to a descendant of David the son of Jesse, who would reign over the earth and save the Jews. Jesus removed the sin of all people in a single day of suffering on the cross. He restores a sense of security and brotherhood to all who trust in Him. And one day, He will return to take His rightful throne over all of God’s creation.
Zechariah Chapter 4
This chapter addressed Israel’s civic leader, Zerubbabel. At some point, Zechariah must’ve fallen asleep—quite possibly like an infant on sensory overload—for the angel who had been interpreting these visions had to come and wake the prophet up (Zech. 4:1). This time, the young man saw a gold menorah between two olive trees (vv. 2-3).
When the prophet asked what these were all about, the angel explained:
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the LORD of hosts.
‘Who are you, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
And he shall bring forth the capstone
With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ” (4-7).
As further explanation, YHWH said to Zechariah:
“The hands of Zerubbabel
Have laid the foundation of this temple;
His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know
That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.” (8-9).
In other words, in spite of the seeming mountain of opposition the builders faced, God was going to make sure the temple was rebuilt in Zerubbabel’s lifetime. Just as the Jewish leader had helped to lay the foundation, the Lord was going to enable him to put the final capstone at the top, to shouts of blessings from all the Hebrews who witnessed the momentous occasion. Then, everyone would know that YHWH had accomplished a miracle and that He had indeed sent Zechariah to foretell it.
Quite likely referring to the people’s reaction to the smaller size of the temple in Ezra 3:12-13, the Lord echoed his question in Haggai 2:3, “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10a). What they had accomplished so far seemed so insignificant to the returnees who were familiar with Solomon’s magnificent temple. But God told them essentially, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”
Quite possibly referencing the seven-eyed stone in Zechariah 3:9 or the seven-armed menorah in this more recent vision, the Lord added, “For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” This idea that the Lord’s eyes are everywhere, watching over the affairs of men, is found elsewhere in Scripture (c.f.—2 Chron. 16:9 & Prov. 15:3). The odd motif of God having extra eyes was repeated in Revelation 5:6, where the Lamb of God (Jesus) appeared to John with seven horns and seven eyes, which represent “the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.”
Zechariah was curious about the two olive trees stationed to the right and left of the menorah, with golden pipes feeding into the oil reservoirs on the lamp (Zech. 4:11-12). For a second time in this chapter, the angel registered surprise that it was not obvious to the prophet (v. 13; see also v. 5). Then he explained, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.” (14). Had I been in Zechariah’s place, my next question would’ve been: “Okay, and who would those two be?”
Most commentaries say the two anointed ones [literally, “sons of oil”] represent Zerubbabel and Joshua. This works, if the menorah represents the nation, or congregation, of Israel: As they were empowered by God to minister, they could pour out God’s blessings on the other Hebrews. We see this same sort of image in Revelation 1:12-20, where Jesus appeared to John in the midst of seven golden lampstands, which represented the seven churches of Asia.
This is what makes interpreting prophecy so tricky. Since the angel didn’t elaborate, this part of the vision is open to other interpretations: What if Zerubbabel is the lampstand, and the other two are agents of God dispensing His grace on him? After all, olive trees don’t receive oil—they generate it. Are the “sons of oil” the pipes, or the trees themselves? Sometimes God’s word raises more questions than it provides answers to.
Zechariah Chapter 5
In the next vision, the prophet looked up and saw a flying scroll, 30 feet long and 15 feet wide (Zech. 5:1-2). The angel told him one side of the double-sided document bore a curse declaring, “Every thief shall be expelled,” while the other proclaimed the same penalty against “Every perjurer” (v. 3).
YHWH Sabaoth further explained that this curse would enter the homes of every thief and anyone who didn’t keep his word when swearing by God’s name (4). By the time this judgment had run its course, the house would be utterly consumed. Whether this meant the building itself would be torn down, or the family residing there would be torn apart, is not made clear. In either case, the Lord removed all doubt that He would punish those who disregard His Law and misuse His name.
Next, the angel called Zechariah’s attention to a basket with a woman sitting inside (5-7). He told the prophet the woman represented “Wickedness” [Strong’s Greek & Hebrew Dictionary indicates the word rishah can also be translated “guilt”] (8). After the angel shoved the woman down into the basket and covered her with a heavy lead lid, two other women—with wings like that of a stork—came and transported the basket “between earth and heaven” (8-9). When the prophet asked where the winged women were taking the vessel and its contents, the angel informed him that they were carrying it to “the land of Shinar,” or Babylon, to build a house in which to place the basket (10-11).
It’s important to note that the Semitic word, bayith can also be translated temple, shrine, palace or dungeon. Most English Bibles select one of the first two meanings—indicating that Wickedness would somehow be worshiped in Babylon. That would certainly fit the history of the place—not to mention the prophetic imagery of the Harlot in Revelation 17-19. But, if the angel intended to connote a sort of prison for the woman, then perhaps the vision symbolized the carrying away of Israel’s guilt to a cursed place far away.
I also want to point out that this is the only place in Scripture that depicts winged creatures as women. Although we are used to seeing female angels in popular art—from the master’s paintings of the Renaissance to modern prints—nowhere in the Bible will you ever find an angel referred to as a “she.” They are always portrayed as male, using a masculine pronoun and a masculine form of a word meaning “messenger.” It is highly significant that these female beings have wings like a stork, which is an unclean bird (c.f.—Lev. 11:19 & Deut. 14:8). This—along with their willingness to erect a special building for Wickedness in a place as unholy as Babylon—would seem to indicate these winged women are agents of darkness, not of Light. Therefore, they must be demons or ‘fallen angels,’ if ever they were angels at all!
Zechariah Chapter 6
In the first part of chapter 6, we see horses again, this time hitched up to chariots. There are four to be exact—one with red horses, the second with black, the third with white and the fourth dappled (Zech. 6:1-3).
When the prophet asked for an explanation, his angelic guide answered, “These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth,” and explained that each was assigned to a specific region (vv. 5-6). The black and white horses were destined for the land in the north; while the dappled ones were headed south. The angel added that the first two groups “have given rest to My Spirit in the north country” (8). No mention was made of the destination or purpose of the red steeds.
The angel’s command that the charioteers “…walk to and fro throughout the earth” (7), reminds me of what the devil said he had been doing before reporting to God in Job 1:7 & 2:2. Whether this means they were demonic in nature or not isn’t clear. We aren’t told whether these are the same horses described in Zechariah 1:7-11. One also wonders whether they correlate with the horses and riders described in Revelation 6:1-8.
In Zechariah 6:9-15, the prophet received more instruction from YHWH concerning the high priest, Joshua. This time God told him to receive an offering of silver and gold from some men returning from Babylon (vv. 9-10). Zechariah was to fashion an elaborate crown from the precious metals and place it on the high priest’s head (11).
When he did so, he was to foretell the coming of a man called the Branch, who would rebuild the temple and bear God’s glory (12-13). This Branch, whom ancient rabbis understood to be the Messiah, was destined take the throne and rule as both King and Priest—something no Israelite before Him was allowed to do. Hebrews 7:14-28 tells us this King and Priest was Jesus, whom God declared “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
The crown was intended to serve as a reminder of this promise of peace that was to come through this future leader (Zech. 6:14). Moreover, Zechariah was told that people from far away would come to build God’s temple, provided Joshua and company were careful to “diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God” (v. 15).
Zechariah Chapter 7
Two years after the temple construction was resumed—on the fourth day of the ninth month of the fourth year after Darius the Persian assumed the throne—two representatives of the Jewish community of Bethel came to the temple to pray (Zech. 7:1-2). They also asked the prophets and priests whether they should continue their practice of weeping and fasting in the fifth month, as they had done during the years of the captivity (v. 3).
God gave Zechariah an answer that struck at the heart of the matter: He asked, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me?” (4-5). In verse 6, He indicated that these people weren’t really fasting or feasting with God in mind, but for their own benefit. He also indicated it would have been better for them to have obeyed His word through the prophets before the exile and avoided captivity, rather than to engage in pretentious rituals of false humility during the seventy years of punishment (7).
In a manner akin to Isaiah 58 (only shorter), YHWH told the people He would rather they treat each other right—execute justice; be compassionate and merciful; take care of widows, orphans, aliens and other poor people; and not plot against each other—than offer fasting (Zech. 7:8-10). Like stubborn little children, the Jews had shrugged their shoulders, stuck their fingers in their ears and refused to accept correction from the Lord through His prophets (vv. 11-12). So when they were in trouble, YHWH ignored them as they had ignored Him, and He scattered them among foreign nations, leaving the land of Israel desolate (13-14).
Zechariah Chapter 8
In this chapter YHWH told His people He was zealous, or jealous, for Jerusalem and that He intended to inhabit the holy city once again (Zech. 8:1-3a). He vowed, “Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts…” (v. 3b). Both old and young would then safely inhabit the city, when God rescued His people from the lands of the east and west to bring them home and “be their God, in truth and righteousness” (4-8).
The workers who had responded to the Lord’s encouragement through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah He urged to be strong, so that the temple could be completed (9). Circumstances would no longer be like they used to, with the Hebrews performing slave labor and fearing for their lives (10-11). Instead, YHWH would make the land productive, and the people of Israel would be a blessing among the nations once again (12-13). Just as He had previously purposed to punish their parents, so that no one could stop Him; so now the Lord was “determined to do good To Jerusalem and to the house of Judah” (14-15).
All He required was that they would do right by their God and each other as follows:
Tell each other the truth.
In the courts judge with truth and complete fairness.
Do not make plans to hurt your neighbors, and don’t love false promises. (Zech. 8:16-17, NCV)
If they avoided these things that God hated, then the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months would become feasts of gladness for the Jews who loved truth and peace (vv. 18-19). People from man cities and nations would gather to seek YHWH in Jerusalem, knowing the Lord was with them (20-23).
Zechariah Chapter 9
You have probably seen the bumper stickers that say, “Don’t mess with Texas.” This chapter shows us it’s not a good idea to mess with God’s chosen nation of Israel, either. In verses 1-7, Zechariah recorded a revelation concerning the destruction of Syria, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon and Philistia—some of Israel’s nearest and most treacherous enemies (Zech. 9:1-2).
YHWH’s first target was Tyre, the gateway to the sea for the ancient Middle East. What Zechariah’s predecessors had prophesied against the original settlement of Tyre on the mainland had been fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon had demolished its walls, sacked the surrounding villages and carried off heaps of plunder, just as Isaiah 23-25 and Ezekiel 26-28 had predicted. Now the city had been rebuilt on an island just off the coast. Although fortified and enriched with wealth beyond imagination, Tyre was warned that the Lord would “cast her out…destroy her power in the sea,” and devour the city with fire (Zech. 9:3-4). Alexander the Great carried out YHWH’s decree by creating a bridge of rubble scraped from old Tyre, by which he and his army crossed to new Tyre to kill and enslave its proud inhabitants and then burn the city to the ground.
The spectacle of this destruction of the northernmost neighbor along Israel’s Mediterranean coast would be enough to terrify the Philistine strongholds to the south. Ashkelon, Gaza and Ekron, three of the five original Philistine capitals, are mentioned in verses 5-6. Fear, sorrow and dashed expectations were the responses of these cities to Tyre’s demise. The king of Gaza would be killed, Ashkelon would be abandoned and Ashdod would be inhabited by foreigners. Verse 7 indicates that the surviving Philistines would turn from their idolatry and be incorporated into the nation of Israel, just as the Jebusites had been. In fact, a large portion of the population of modern-day Israel is Palestinian—a corruption of the word, Philistine.
Verse 8 assured the Lord’s protection of Judah against the Greek invaders. YHWH promised to camp around His house, with the result that, “No more shall an oppressor pass through.”
The very next verse is a Messianic prophecy. The daughters of the Holy City are urged to rejoice, for “your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9, NIV). This was fulfilled hundreds of years later, when Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday (Matt. 21:1-9 & Mark 11:1-9).
Another feat the coming King promised to perform was to remove the weapons of war from the land and “speak peace to the nations” (Zech. 9:10). By the blood of His covenant, prisoners would be set free with their debts paid in full (vv. 11-12). Although Christ will not fulfill verse 10 until his second coming, the other two verses were accomplished by the shedding of His blood, whereby Jesus paid our sin-debt and set us free from the power of death.
Verse 13 compares Judah to a bow and Ephraim to its arrow, both in the hands of the Lord and aimed at the advancing Greeks. Once He fought against and defeated Greece, the people of YHWH would again be honored by the nations and enriched by abundant crops (14-17).
Zechariah Chapter 10
The vision introduced in the previous chapter continues into Chapter 10. God told the people to ask Him for the seasonal rains, not their household idols (Zech. 10:1-2). These images and their spokespeople uttered lies that led the Hebrews astray like sheep without a shepherd. YHWH promised to punish the shepherds of Israel [i.e.—their leaders who weren’t doing their jobs] when He visited His people Judah (v. 3). Everything needed to win the battle was from Him (4-5).
The tribes of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel would be brought back, restored and multiplied again (6-8). Though they were scattered by God among the nations, yet He promised to bring Israel back from Egypt, Assyria, Gilead and Lebanon, until there was no more room to put everyone (9-10). After He afflicted the sea and dried up the Euphrates, God promised to humble Assyria and remove the scepter from Egypt (11). But His people would be strengthened in YHWH to “walk up and down in His name” (12).
Zechariah Chapter 11
Continuing the vision from chapters 9-10, Zechariah 11:1-3 warned that fire was going to devour the cedars, cypress and oaks of Lebanon, destroying everything Israel’s northern neighbors took pride in.
In the rest of the chapter, the prophet presented a morality play in which he represented YHWH, the Shepherd of Israel. He blasted the leaders who slaughtered God’s flock without remorse, selling them and blessing the Lord for enriching them at others’ expense (vv. 4-5). Ordering the prophet to “Feed the flock for slaughter,” YHWH said He would no longer protect them, but would allow anarchy to prevail (4 & 6).
“Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union,” the prophet said. He added that he was particularly fattening the poor of the flock for slaughter (Zech. 11:7, NIV).
Three shepherds were eliminated in one month (v. 8). According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary, there are more than forty interpretations of this scripture—the most common of which is that YHWH was going to disown three classes of leaders over Israel. Because its prophets, priests and kings loathed Him to the point of nausea (the meaning of the Hebrew word, bachel), He was going to abandon them and let them all starve or devour one another (9). The staff of God’s grace was then broken in two, thus severing God’s covenant with the nations (10).
Verses 12-13—referring to wages of thirty pieces of silver which are eventually thrown into the house of YHWH for the potter—are referenced in Matthew 26:14-16 and 27:3-10. Judas was paid thirty silver coins for betraying Jesus to the Jewish leaders, and then returned the money when he realized the Lord had been condemned to death. Not allowed to accept ‘blood money’ into the treasury, they used the silver to purchase the potter’s field where strangers were buried outside of Jerusalem.
The staff of Union, or Brotherhood, was broken next, signifying the shattered relationship between Israel and Judah (Zech. 11:14). The final verses of the chapter describe a foolish shepherd who wouldn’t care for the sheep, but would consume them (vv. 15-16). YHWH meant to send a sword against that wicked leader, disabling his arm and blinding his eye (17).
Having rejected the “Good Shepherd,” Jesus, Israel followed many worthless shepherds—civic, military and spiritual leaders—until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Some have suggested the broken staff of unity between Israel and Judah was the source of upheaval that hastened the destruction of the restored nation under Rome. Another train of thought is that the ultimate abusive shepherd will be the Antichrist, who will be destroyed by the sword of Christ Himself at His triumphant return.
Zechariah Chapter 12
The next prophecy begins by identifying YHWH as the One “…who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). As the Creator of humanity and all we can see, the Lord had the authority to determine the fate of Judah and the surrounding nations.
Echoing the imagery of his predecessor, Jeremiah the prophet, God said He would “make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples” (Zech. 12:2; c.f.—Jer. 25:17). Although other nations would attack Judah and Jerusalem, they would find their prize a heavier burden than they were prepared to bear (v. 3). The horses and soldiers of the invading armies would be struck blind and insane (4).
The leaders of Judah would come to the realization that the source of the people’s strength was YHWH their God (5). He would empower them to defeat the nations around them, as effortlessly as a torch ignites a pile of wood or standing grain (6). He vowed to save the commoners of Judah and then defend the city of Jerusalem—making the wimpiest warrior among the army of Judah as valiant as David himself (7-8). The Lord would destroy every country that opposed His chosen people (9).
The next several verses refer to a time in the future when the Lord will bring revival to the nation that rejected His Anointed One at first. You may recognize part of the first verse of this passage, which is quoted in John 19:34-37: “…I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced…” (Zech. 12:10a). When Christ was crucified, those present gazed on Him, as blood and water emerged from His broken heart, not realizing the significance of what they witnessed. They “beat their breasts” (Luke 23:48), recognizing something significant and tragic had occurred with the death of an innocent man, but only the centurion had any idea that they had executed the Son of God Himself.
The second part of that verse, however, has not yet been fulfilled—at least not on the grand scale reflected in Zechariah 12:10b-14. When the Holy Spirit reveals to the nation of Israel who Jesus really was and how they were largely responsible for His death, every man and woman throughout the land will be grief-stricken, privately mourning for Him “as one mourns for his only son” or a firstborn child.
Zechariah Chapter 13
On the heels of this Messianic prophecy, the Lord added, “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). This is the verse that inspired William Cowper to pen the first line of the famous hymn, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood” [See lyrics at http://www.allthelyrics.com].
As they recognize and acknowledge their loss and confess their sin, the Lord will not only deal with Judah’s sin, but will also put an end to their idolatry. This brings to mind the earlier words of Ezekiel 36:25, where God said, “…I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.” Getting rid of our false gods is not something we can do ourselves; it’s something God has to enable us to do. In this case, He is going to so purge the land of false prophets and evil spirits that the people will not even remember the names of their idols any more (Zech. 13:2)!
Parents will one day execute their own children, if they falsely speak in God’s name (v. 3). False prophets will be so intimidated that they will try to disguise themselves and will lie about their occupations (4-6).
Another Messianic prophecy appears in verse 7: “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered…” This passage was quoted by Jesus to warn His disciples that they would abandon Him when He was arrested (See Matt. 26:31 & Mark 14:27).
Again, echoing the visions described by the prophet Ezekiel, Zechariah talks of the destruction of two-thirds of the Jewish population, while one third is purified and refined by suffering (Zech. 13:8-9; c.f.—Ezek. 5). Just as the Lord decimated the Hebrew population before the exile, and then brought a few back to rebuild Jerusalem in Zechariah’s day, so the invasion of Jerusalem by Rome after Christ’s crucifixion destroyed countless Jews and scattered the rest all over the Empire.
Since 70 A.D. until now, the Jews have been through some of the most trying times. Some have perished without ever realizing that Y’shua, Jesus, was their promised Messiah. While others responded to the Gospel, and have therefore seen the fulfillment of verse 9, which says:
“They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, ‘This is My people’;
And each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
Zechariah Chapter 14
Looking to the invasion of Jerusalem by Rome, as well as a time still more distant in the future, Zechariah described what’s called, “the day of the Lord” in Scripture. The nations which gathered to battle against Jerusalem would devastate the city and decimate its population—raping, pillaging and taking half of the survivors into captivity (Zech. 14:1-2). But then YHWH would take up the fight against the offending nations Himself (v. 3).
In an apocalyptic vision in verse 4, we see the Lord planting His feet firmly on the Mount of Olives—the very place just east of Jerusalem where Christ was tempted to abandon His rescue mission on the cross. “And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley…” The two halves will shift—one to the north and the other to the south—along the fault line, and then the believing population of the Holy City will flee through the gap between them (4b-5a). Zechariah made reference to an earlier earthquake, during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah, which is also mentioned in Amos 1:1 (Zech. 14:5b).
On the day of the Lord’s dramatic return with all His saints, the heavenly lights will be diminished (vv. 5-6). This phenomenon is mentioned throughout the prophetic record, including Isaiah 13:9-10, Joel 3:14-15, Matthew 24:29-31 and Mark 13:24-27. As Jesus later mentioned to His disciples, the exact date and time of these events is known only to YHWH (c.f.—Matt. 24:36, Mark 13:32 & Zech. 14:7a).
As indicated in Isaiah 60:19-20 and Revelation 21:23-24, the light of YHWH will illuminate the Holy City even at night, once Christ returns (Zech. 14:7b). As Ezekiel, Joel and John foretold, “living waters shall flow from Jerusalem” to the surrounding seas year-round (Ezek. 47, Joel 3:18, Rev. 22:1-2 & Zech. 14:8).
When YHWH is finally established as “King over all the earth,” the geography of Israel will be restructured, so that Jerusalem is the highest point rising from a flat plain (Zech. 14:9-10). It will be inhabited again, with no fear of future invasion or destruction (v. 11). However, God will send a disease that rots the flesh of both men and beasts among those that dared to attack His holy city, and all of them shall be terrified because of this horrendous judgment (12-13 & 15). The Jews will gather “Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance” as plunder from the nations that meant to plunder them (14).
The people that survive all of this will come annually to Jerusalem “to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (16). Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the dwelling of YHWH among men will find himself suffering terrible drought and plagues (17-19). Most likely, this part of Zechariah’s vision coincides with the 1000-year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20:1-6.
At that time, every horse shall have YHWH’s name engraved on its harness; every pot and pan in Jerusalem will be holy to the Lord and fit for cooking the sacrifices to God in them (20-21a). And no longer will the unclean people of the nations Israel was meant to displace be found in proximity of the place of worship (21b).
When God gives you a task to do, He intends for that to be your priority until it is finished. He gives us the ability to accomplish whatever He asks. God desires a people who are wholly devoted to Him, and He will do what it takes to remove whatever competes for our affection or respect. Whoever opposes Him and His people is only asking for trouble. While He may employ human agents to discipline His people, you can be sure they, too, will face judgment. God ultimately intends to protect, restore and glorify the nation of Israel and bless all who trust in Him.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.