My friend asked me for my take on Zechariah 14. It is an interesting passage because it has been interpreted differently by different groups. The following is my work up of 1) a straight exegesis and 2) how the three different interpretations would understand the passage. You'll find numbers 1, 2, and 3 explaining how each different view would take those particular verses.
Zec 14:1 Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst.
Zec 14:2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
A day is designated as being for the Lord. It is the day that he has appointed for his particular work.
What is that work? There is a line of interpretation that believes that verse 1 is talking about a day when the people of God see the vindication of Jerusalem. They say that verse 1 foretells the day of blessing when all their spoils are returned (or divided in their midst) to their rightful owners.
I would take this in the stream of interpretation that says that verse 1 is the introduction to the pains brought about in verse 2. Verse one indicates that the Lord allows the people of God to be exposed and vexed. The enemy, which is described in wholistic terms (all the nations), has such success in their advance that they may be described as being so secure that they can divide the spoils right there in the midst of them.
Verse 2 expands on how devastating the “day” will be for the people of God. Their possessions are confiscated, the women are ravished, great multitudes will be taken into exile. In sum, things are in a desperate state.
The question arises as to when is this “day”? At least three interpretations exist: 1. A future millennial kingdom, 2. The present age where the gospel goes throughout the world, 3. The second coming of Christ.
1. This speaks of a time when the Jews are reinstated as a nation and Jerusalem is actually sacked.
2./3. Jerusalem represents the church, which is brought so low that only a remnant remains. The prophet sees no distinction between a Jewish nation and Christian church. Jerusalem stands as the capital city and chief representation of God’s people.
The book of Revelation also makes the church out to be a great underdog. The people are pillaged and terrified by the throngs of those unbelieving who are subservient to the Devil. There are many thousands who are martyers who received their robes and cry out “how long?”
Zec 14:3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.
The Lord then reciprocates back upon the heathen their just dues. The nations that were allowed to advance against the people of God, are themselves conquered.
1. The Lord appears to fight and claim his throne in Jerusalem
2. Christ goes on a “conquest” of the Roman world through the spreading of the gospel post Pentecost.
3. Christ comes back at the end of time
Zec 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.
The Mount of Olives is in the vicinity of Bethany, where Jesus often was, and where he was taken up into heaven. It is remembered that it was promised that Christ would come back the same way he was seen leaving from that point (Acts. 1)
The mountain is split, as a great act of calamity strikes the ground with the Lord’s feet.
Zec 14:5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
With the mountain split, two mountains are formed. Commentators express that Azal is an unknown territory. The word itself means “reserved.”
The people of God run to the valley that was created for refuge. They find their rally point there at the feet of Christ who has set his feet upon the territory.
Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
Christ now makes a triumphant entry, rather different than his riding on a colt, the foal of donkey. All his saints and angels accompany him.
1. Jesus appears literally, Jews find refuge with Christ who comes to protect Jerusalem.
2. Jesus appears symbolically. The upheavel shows how a door has been opened to God so that people may have access to him. People run to him for refuge and find salvation.
3. Jesus appears literally. The scene is reminiscent of 1 Thess. 4 where the earth shakes and the dead rise. The souls of the dead are reunited to their bodies and those who are still living are “caught up to meet the Lord in the air.” Angels accompany the great procession back to the earth where Christ can claim his throne and have his worldwide kingdom established once and for all.
Zec 14:6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. Zec 14:7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.
Here are images that may be “Eschatological” in nature. They conjure up the image the New Heavens and New Earth where there is no need of light because the Lord is its light. There in the New Jerusalem is a tree that has its green in all seasons and does not wilt (no cold or frost). The feeling is that of perfect serenity.
Zec 14:8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.
Alexander says that this is figurative speech because it is not possible that water would flow in all different directions. One wonders if this is true or not. What can be said is that this is another image drawn from the Eschaton. Ezekiel’s envisions a raging river flowing out from the temple. The New Jerusalem contains a “river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1-2)
It is important to note that these are not just any waters. It is a flow of “living” waters. The Scripture frequently presents water as a refreshment, a way of revitalizing life. Christ even says that he offers “living water;” newness of life and restoration from sin.
1. These are literal waters running from Jerusalem to their literal ending points.
2. John Gill says that this is a picture of the gospel going forward throughout the nations in the days following Pentecost. The gospel flows in every direction to bring everlasting life and restoration to those who receive it throughout the world.
3. This signifies the New Heavens and new Earth, the New Jerusalem of Rev. 22. It is a place where there is the perfect refreshment and revitalized life of a glorified state.
Zec 14:9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.
Here we see that the Lord has dominion over all the earth. Not like he didn’t before; he most certainly did since he is sovereign over all. Yet his reign was, to some degree, frustrated by sin and rebellion. This verse seems to indicate that the redemptive acts of God are complete and his rule is fully established/realized.
1. Christ rules from Jerusalem over the earth. The Jewish theocracy is finally realized and the millennial kingdom commences.
2. The spread of the gospel is so vast, reaching through the whole earth, that God is virtually acknowledged as King everywhere. For instance, virtually all the world uses the dating A.D. 2012. In a sense, every tongue confesses Christ’s dominion as they write the date (i.e. “the year of our Lord.”)
3. The final consummation of Christ’s redemptive work is depicted. Christ, having vanquished all his enemies has perfect dominion over all. Not one enemy remains.
Zec 14:10 The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king's winepresses.
Geba and Rimmon compose the northern and southern borders of Judah. Jerusalem is aloft, a sign of its victorious status in the world. The people of God are now triumphantly ruling over all regions of the earth. Every obstacle to the rule and reign of Christ has been removed.
Zec 14:11 And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.
Perfect peace and security which lasts forever. Christ has brought perfect liberation from every disaster that sin effects and every enemy has been removed so as never to pose any threat again.
1. Jerusalem is literally aloft on a mountain, thousands of feet above the earth because the land is literally leveled. [Not sure what they say about “never decree of destruction” since there is still a final battle to be fought. Perhaps…the last battle will ensue, but Jerusalem will not be affected.]
2. Jerusalem represents the church, that “heavenly city.” Christ is victorious in his church and through faith in Christ we do not fear “utter” destruction. We dwell safe and secure from calamity, even persecution, because our “life is hidden with Christ in the heavenlies.” Col 3:3
3. Jerusalem, representing the church, is victorious and takes a position that symbolizes its triumphant state in the world.
Zec 14:12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Zechariah now moves back to cover more ground in his narrative. Those who persecuted the people of God now find their dismal estate described as opposed to the serenity of the believing. It is a picture of hell that only Christ, in his earthly ministry, could rival.
Zec 14:13 And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. Zec 14:14 Even Judah will fight at Jerusalem.
He returns to the “day” of Christ’s return to elaborate on the last battle and how the enemies of God experience great panic. It would seem that the enemies of Christ are thrown into confusion. The world in an attempt to defeat the Divine power that appears lashes out like a trapped animal.
1. Describing a literal battle that ensues against Jewish state.
2. Describing the life of a Christian: The serenity of one’s salvation does not necessarily mean that life is without struggle. Their peace has been made with God and no matter what may befall us in this world, we have no real reason for fear. Yet, despite this peace, we must do all that we can to wage war against the enemies of God. The NT says that we are girded with the belt of peace. Yet, at the same time, we must also stand in the day of battle, and after having done all, stand.
3. Describes the panic the unbelieving experience on the day when Christ returns.
And the wealth of all the surrounding nations shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance.
The last battle will end in victory and the plunder of the nations shall be enjoyed by the saints.
14:15 And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the donkeys, and whatever beasts may be in those camps.
The end of the wicked will be such that even their beasts of burden will be wiped out.
(1. Since we are translating things literally, we must ask: “Will there be such means of transportation in this future realm? Or are these symbolic for more modern vehicles?”)
Zec 14:16 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.
Zechariah expresses that a remnant is preserved out of the enemies that fought against the people of God. Those who have been saved by grace will give homage to the Lord.
The people are said to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This feast was originally celebrated to commemorate the wilderness journey and the redemptive work of God. It was held during the harvest and was also a “feast of ingathering” (ISBE). The NIV note on Feasts says that it was to give thanks for the productivity of the productivity of the Promised Land. Of all the feasts, it was the most celebratory. This particular feast was typological of the eternal kingdom (i.e. ingathering and joy).
1. The subdued nations give homage to Christ. All Jewish festivities are literally reinstated.
2. John Gill explains that the feast of tabernacles was celebrated not literally, but spiritually; for, as all the Jewish feasts have been long since abolished, having had their accomplishment in Christ, not one of them will ever be revived in the latter day. Matthew Henry says that the saints of today experience the joy and delight of the feast of booths each day and particularly on the day appointed by God for joy and feasting (i.e. Sunday).
3. The feast of booths is typological of the eternal kingdom, and Zech uses the image to show the festivity of the full realization of our final saved state. Those who survived were those who were converted prior to the coming of Christ.
Zec 14:17 And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. Zec 14:18 And if the family of Egypt does not go up and present themselves, then on them there shall be no rain; there shall be the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths. Zec 14:19 This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.
A hypothetical is posed: If there would be any who do not participate in this worship, they will invoke curses. Egypt is used as an example because they represent that nation that posed the most significant opposition to the church in the OT.
1. Christ exercises his sovereign right as king to curse those who still protest and keep them in check.
2. Those who still refuse to submit to Christ during the going forth of the gospel will experience the opposition of God.
3. It is a hypothetical. The kingship of Christ will be full. Even if there were opposition (and that’s a big if), it wouldn’t succeed.
Zec 14:20 And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, "Holy to the LORD." And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar.
Zec 14:21 And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
All things are sanctified, that is, set apart for the service of God, like those special items designated for the temple service. The words “Holy to the Lord” were also to be worn by the high priest on his turban. Now even the smallest and most menial things (i.e. bells on the horses) shall be designated as God’s.
1. A description of literal holy Jerusalem.
2. Christians are holy and seeking holiness in every aspect of life.
3. The perfect holiness of the final state.
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