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Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ zechariah-14.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
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The Eschatological Vision -YHWH Will Establish and Defend Jerusalem and Judah, and It Will Produce a Fountain For Sin and Uncleanness - And Then Will Come The End When God Will Triumph (12-14)
ANALYSIS OF THE FOURTH SECTION.
A prominent feature of this final section (Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 14:21) is the use of ‘it will come about’ and ‘in that day’. These occur as follows;
· ‘And it will come about in that day ---’ (Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:9; Zechariah 13:2; Zechariah 13:4; Zechariah 14:6; Zechariah 14:8; Zechariah 14:13).,
· ‘In that day ---’ (Zechariah 12:4; Zechariah 12:6; Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 12:11; Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:20-21).
· ‘It will come about’ (Zechariah 13:3; Zechariah 13:8; Zechariah 14:16).
· ‘Behold a day of YHWH comes’ (Zechariah 14:1).
This emphasises that this section is about a future which is yet some way ahead. It will be noted that it follows the passage in which all God’s plans have been thwarted because the people have listened to false shepherds. Thus His promises previously given have been thrust into the future as far as their complete fulfilment is concerned. And their fulfilment will only take place because of the direct intervention of the Great Creator. His great and final plan can be delayed but it cannot be thwarted.
In this section there are no clear linguistic dividers, and we are therefore left to divide the section on the basis of the contents. This might be seen to be as follows:
a Jerusalem is to be a cup of reeling for the nations (Zechariah 12:1-9).
b God will pour out blessing on His people and they will look on the one whom they had treated as a false prophet (Me Whom they pierced) and repent and He will open up a fountain for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1).
c The punishment that will fall on false prophets (Zechariah 13:2-6).
b God’s Shepherd will be smitten and appropriate punishment will follow but it will result in the refining of His people so that they say ‘YHWH is my God’ (Zechariah 13:7-9).
a Jerusalem is to be the source of salvation for the nations (Zechariah 14:1-21).
Note that in ‘a’ Jerusalem is a problem for the nations but in the parallel Jerusalem becomes the source of salvation for the nations. In ‘b’ God’s prophet has been pierced, resulting in repentance and cleansing, and in the parallel God’s Shepherd is smitten, resulting in refinement. Centrally in ‘c’ the kind of false prophecy that has opposed Zechariah is exposed.
The Ravishing of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1-2 ).
We have already noted that Zechariah would see Jerusalem as symbolising the whole people of God. Indeed in Zechariah 2:7 he describes God’s people in Babylon as ‘Zion’. Thus in the light of Jesus’ words in John 4:20-24, and in the light of the New Testament description of the true Jerusalem as being a heavenly Jerusalem, although incorporating God’s people on earth (Galatians 4:21-31), we are justified in seeing in Zechariah’s reference to Jerusalem an indication that he is speaking of God’s people worldwide, the true worshippers of YHWH (John 4:24).
‘Behold, a day of YHWH comes when your spoil will be divided in your midst, for I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished, and half of the city will go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people will not be cut off from the city.’
‘A day of YHWH comes.’ A ‘day of YHWH’ occurs when God steps in to bring about His purposes. It is a phrase occurring often in the Old Testament and does not always mean that the final days are in mind. God has His day regularly through history. In Isaiah 13:0, for example, where the ‘day of YHWH’ is emphasised (Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 13:13), what is being described is the destruction of Babylon by the Medes (Zechariah 14:17 with Zechariah 14:19) which took place in the days of Daniel the prophet (Daniel 5:30-31). God had His day against Babylon. Here it is the ‘day’ in which the peoples of the world reveal their enmity against God and God acts against them. This was future for Zechariah, but it is not necessarily future to us.
This description of the ravishing of Jerusalem certainly reminds us of the taking of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD with an army made up of many nations. Rome certainly represented a multiplicity of nations. And when Jerusalem was taken the spoils were divided up, houses were rifled and women were ravished. And large numbers were taken into captivity. Others remained to partially restore the wrecked city. But it was equally true of other invasions of Jerusalem, each in itself a reminder of the judgment of a holy God on an unholy people. Thus it is best to see in this a picture of the world’s opposition to the people of God.
‘And half of the city will go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people will not be cut off from the city.’ We are not here talking about exact fractions. The point is that a good proportion will be taken into captivity, with a reasonable proportion left behind. Some would still remain in the city. And that this must have been so in 70 AD comes out in subsequent history. But it is far more likely that this intended to represent the fact that, in the face of the world’s opposition, a proportion of God’s people will suffer excessively, with others finding life more normal.
That such a fall of Jerusalem was in the will of God is declared by Jesus in Mark 13:0; Matthew 24:0; Luke 21:0. It was foreshadowed in Daniel 9:26. And in Daniel 9:26 it is preceded by the cutting off of the Anointed One (Messiah). And it came about in 70 AD.
But the main point of these verses is not that, it is that the people of God will continually face devastating treatment at the hands of the nations. We may see this as partly fulfilled in the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes against the loyal Jews of his day. Then there was wholesale persecution, and large numbers of death and rapes. And the same was true of the history of the early church, commencing in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1 ff.), and going on in the continual persecutions that followed (Acts 14:22; Romans 8:35-36; 1Th 3:3-4 ; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2Ti 3:12 ; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:10), and especially as revealed in Revelation 2:9-10; Revelation 2:13; and on through Revelation. The people of God would experience tremendous buffetings. We may consider the vivid description in Revelation 20:9, ‘and they (the nations) went up over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints, and the beloved city’, where God’s people would be under worldwide attack.
The Triumph of YHWH (Zechariah 14:1-21 ).
In this final chapter Zechariah visualises the final triumph of YHWH. The whole world will be subject to Him, and will worship Him (Zechariah 14:16). He will be King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). The idea is of the introduction of the everlasting kingdom.
At this point we need to stop and consider what was in the mind of the prophet. He was not, of course, aware of the first coming of Jesus, apart from in the general terms of a coming Servant of YHWH, and a coming of David, and there was no way in which he could have anticipated the New Testament revolution which lifted Jerusalem up into Heaven (Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 14:1-6; Revelation 21:1 ff.) and at the same time made his words meaningful to his own generation. To them activities in the heavens meant the activities of the gods, something anathema to the prophets. Thus when he prophesies activities in the heavens he does so in earthly terms, and in terms of the ideas that the people would understand. But we are not intended to take them literally. To him ‘Jerusalem’ (Zion) represented the people of God wherever they may be (Zechariah 2:7), whilst the sacrifice of Christ on the cross banished for ever the notion of animal sacrifices. The feasts of the Jews represented the realities to which they pointed. Thus the Feast of Tabernacles is really portraying the pouring out of the Holy Spirit seen in terms of life-giving rain (John 7:37-39). It is surely significant that when the glory of YHWH stood on the mountain east of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 11:23, it was after His promise that He would gather His people and pour out His Holy Spirit on them (Ezekiel 11:17-20).
We may analyse chapter 14 as follows:
· God will gather all the nations against His people (represented as Jerusalem) and only half its inhabitants will survive (Zechariah 14:1-2).
· God will then act and take His stance on the Mount of Olives which will divide in two (Zechariah 14:3-5 a).
· God will come with His holy ones and begin to establish His Kingly Rule and all His people will dwell in safety (Zechariah 14:5-11).
· The punishment is described that will fall on those who have fought against His people/Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:12-15).
· All the nations will celebrate yearly the Feast of Tabernacles, the time of outpouring, and those who do not come will be deprived of life-giving rain (Zechariah 14:16-19).
· The numbers at the feast will be so large that the whole of Judah will be sanctified to YHWH for the purpose (Zechariah 14:20-21 a).
· There will be no more a Canaanite in the house of YHWH of hosts (Zechariah 14:21 b).
Thus here in Zechariah 14:0 we have a great final apocalyptic scene in which the triumph of God is revealed and the fulfilling of His final purposes is depicted. It can be paralleled with Revelation 12-22 where similar ideas are depicted.
What then are we to make of Jerusalem as mentioned in this chapter? To Zechariah and the people of his day Jerusalem was representative of the people of God (see especially Zechariah 2:7 where ‘Zion’ were in Babylon). They could not even have visualised a worldwide gathering of God’s people. To them the words of Jesus ‘nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father’ (John 4:21) would have seemed like blasphemy. To them Jerusalem was the centre of the worship of the people of God, so much so that those who were true to YHWH in Babylon were spoken of as ‘Zion’ (Zechariah 2:7). But Jesus dismissed that idea of the centrality of Jerusalem, and pointed out that in future those who truly worshipped God would do so in Spirit and in truth wherever they may be (John 4:24). This is hugely important for it demonstrates the New Testament interpretation of Jerusalem. As Paul makes clear in Galatians 4:21-31 Jerusalem is now above, and its inhabitants are the true people of God, His church.
That Zechariah himself saw his words as somehow going beyond his own age comes out in that his concentration is on ‘Jerusalem’ and not on the Temple, whilst the ‘YHWH’s house’ that he does mention in Zechariah 14:20-21 would appear to refer to the whole of Judah, for the pots are holy throughout Judah. This would indicate that the whole of God’s people are holy.
It is further confirmed by the indication in Zechariah 14:6-7 of the cessation of day and night. There will be permanent day. The light of YHWH will have come (compare Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 60:1 ff.). Living waters will have gone out in all directions (Zechariah 14:8), and YHWH will be King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9).
But here we are faced with a dilemma. Are we to see the descent of YHWH Himself on the Mount of Olives as occurring at the beginning of the last days, that is, at the time when the Messiah Himself, standing on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39 and parallels, faced up to the battle that lay ahead, thus referring to the great spiritual battle that took place in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Or are we to see it as His final coming in judgment to bring in the everlasting kingdom as depicted in the end chapters of Revelation? Certainly the latter part of this chapter may have the latter in mind, although we may also see it as indicating current worship, but ‘the last days’ began with the first coming of the Messiah. Thus this chapter may well be seen as a foreshortened view of two thousand years and more. And as we have seen Ezekiel 11:23 connects His standing on the mountain to the east of the city with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 11:19).
We need, however, to recognise that Zechariah is not here speaking of events literally. This is clear from the fact that night will cease, and there will be perpetual day (Zechariah 14:6-7). Such a depiction is clearly symbolic. A world with perpetual day would be an impossible place for humans to live in. They would lack proper sleep. Indeed, Revelation 21:23-24; Revelation 22:5 see it as a depiction of the eternal state. It rather here indicates that the permanent light of God has come. Nor are we to see God as literally going forth to fight, except in the fact that He goes forth in His people. As in the depiction in Revelation 19:11-16 the fire of His eyes, and the sword of His words would be all that was required to accomplish victory. ‘His feet will stand in that day on the Mount of Olives’ (Zechariah 14:4) need only be an indication of His divine activity in bringing about what occurs. Strictly speaking YHWH has no feet, unless He takes on human form. His feet here are like ‘the arm of YHWH’, a depiction of YHWH’s power and sovereignty, and they especially depict His taking possession of what He stands on (compare Joshua 1:3). We may certainly see in it an interesting ‘coincidence’ in that when the king came at Jesus’ first coming He did literally and regularly stand on the Mount of Olives, but it certainly did not bring about major geographical disturbance. What it did portend in was spiritual disturbance throughout the world.
In contrast Jesus at His second coming is never depicted as standing on earth. His activity is seen as heavenly (Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27; Revelation 14:14-16; Revelation 19:11-16). Nor could all nations gather at Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:17). There simply would not be enough room for billions of people in the whole of Palestine. And as the idea lying behind it is the past gathering of the people of Israel to the Sanctuary for the feasts, we cannot speak of it as simply occurring through representatives, for the whole idea of the feasts was that all the men of Israel would gather. Anything less would not be a literal fulfilment.
That the whole of Judah would become a holy sanctuary, with all its pots being holy vessels (Zechariah 14:21) is theoretically feasible, but it does not tie in with other descriptions of end time Jerusalem. Indeed it means that Jerusalem itself would have become relatively undistinctive, with the distinction of being God’s sanctuary applying to the whole of Judah. If taken literally this contradicts other prophecies. Furthermore there cannot be literal sacrifices of a type that would be in Zechariah’s mind, for he would have seen them as including an element of atonement. That was the significance of the shedding of the blood which was of prime importance with sacrifices. But that necessity has been done away in Christ. Indeed, the idea of atonement was central to the feast of Tabernacles, which was preceded by the Day of Atonement, for all the many sacrifices mentioned included an element of atonement. So the atonement achieved by Jesus’ death on the cross, makes any such sacrifices invalid. Note the specific sacrificial requirement in respect of it (Leviticus 23:36-37 with Leviticus 14:27; Numbers 29:12-38). Nor can we legitimately speak of ‘memorial sacrifices’, for such sacrifices would not be what Zechariah was speaking about. They would be a spiritualising of sacrifices, not a literal fulfilment. Once we spiritualise them why have them at all? And that is especially so as in the future ideal kingdom there was to be no death (Isaiah 11:6-9).
So whatever view we take of Zechariah 14:0 it cannot be taken literally. The portrayal is based on the views of that day, in order to be intelligible to his hearers, but it requires things which lie beyond the possibility of literal fulfilment in our present world. If anything it requires the new heavens and the new earth in which dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).
The Going Forth of YHWH (Zechariah 14:3-5 a).
The description of the fall of ‘Jerusalem’ is then followed by a scene which is portrayed in vivid and unforgettable colours. YHWH Himself will go forth to do battle with the nations, as He had in other days of battle, and He will stand astride the Mount of Olives on the East of Jerusalem, and that mountain will as a consequence divide in half, leaving a gulf between which will go from east to west, providing a way for men to flee from Jerusalem at the time of the coming of YHWH with all His holy ones with Him. Such apocalyptic descriptions occurred earlier in the prophets. In prophesying the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC Nahum said, ‘YHWH has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of His feet --- the mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt, and the earth is upheaved at His presence, yes, the world and all who dwell in it --- the rocks are broken asunder by Him’ (Nahum 1:3-6). But it did not happen literally, although it must have felt like it in Nineveh as the invading hordes broke in. It was depicting the tumult of the nations. Or again when prophesying the enveloping of the nations by Babylon Habakkuk could say of YHWH, ‘He stood and measured the earth, He beheld and drove asunder the nations, and the eternal mountains were scattered, the everlasting hills did bow --- you cleft the earth with rivers, the mountains saw you and were afraid --- the sun and moon stood still in their habitation --- you marched through the land in indignation -- you went forth for the salvation of your people’ (Habakkuk 3:6; Habakkuk 3:9-13). It was not intended to be taken literally except in an invisible way.
‘And YHWH will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet will stand in that day on the mountain of olive trees, which is before Jerusalem on the East. And the mountain of olive trees will cleave in the midst of it towards the east and towards the west, and there will be a very great valley. And half of the mountain will remove towards the north, and half of it towards the south.’
This scene does not necessarily follow the previous one time wise, and the Hebrew does not require it. It is simply seen as another event in the day of YHWH. And indeed the suggestion that the resultant valley will be a way to flee along (Zechariah 14:5) may be seen as occurring prior to the destruction of ‘Jerusalem’ to enable men to flee from the disaster that is coming.
We see here a powerful contrast. On the one hand defeat for ‘Jerusalem’, and its rifling and humiliation, and on the other the picture of YHWH going forth triumphantly against the nations. When His people are most hard-pressed YHWH triumphs. It would appear that what happens to ‘Jerusalem’ has not prevented YHWH’s triumph, and indeed may be seen as a part of it. This was to be very true of subsequent history. The church would constantly face persecution and travail, and yet through it all God would march triumphantly forward accomplishing His purposes and providing for His people a way of escape.
In fact the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as a consequence of the cutting off of the Anointed One was not a catastrophe for the church (although certainly the Jewish Christians saw it in that way at the time) it was rather the continuing of the new assault, the assault that had already gone out from Jerusalem to the world with the good news of the Messiah. For YHWH had come and taken His stand on the Mount of Olives in the person of the Son of God (Luke 22:39 and parallels), and from it He had made a way for His people to ‘flee’. And flee they had done with great success, proceeding against the nations with the sword of the word, and conquering them in the name of the Messiah (Acts 8:1-4). Thus when the nations proceeded against Jerusalem proper they found there only a disobedient people. The true people of God, the real Jerusalem, had fled.
It is significant that YHWH ‘appears’ on the Mount of Olives and not on the Temple Mount. The Mount of Olives was also where He had appeared when Jerusalem had previously been rejected (Ezekiel 11:23). As there, it was an indication that Jerusalem itself had been rejected and was doomed. YHWH was no longer ‘in His Temple’ He had forsaken the city. But it was also accompanied by the promise of the coming work of the Spirit.
To a world without understanding the standing of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a man may not have appeared a very significant thing. But from an eternal point of view it signalled both the coming destruction of Jerusalem, and the beginning of the momentous events which were to shake the world. From there He would go to the cross, defeating all the powers of darkness, and then to the throne of Heaven. And from that moment the invasion of the world by His forces driven on by the Holy Spirit would begin, even while the people of God were regularly facing devastation.
We may also see another significance in what happens to the Mount of Olives. It divides in two, one half to the north and the other to the south. Thus the olive trees are propelled some in the one direction (towards the north - Syrian Antioch and beyond) and some in the other (towards the south - towards Egypt). Both Antioch and Egypt would become bastions of the people of God.
If we are to see the olive trees as His anointed ones in terms of chapter 4, then it would indicate that His servants (His anointed ones, the olive trees, compare Zechariah 4:3; Zechariah 4:12; Zechariah 4:14) were despatched with His word both north and south, while those who flee through the valley go eastwards and westward, driven on by the divine earthquake which sent them forth, fleeing from a doomed Jerusalem with the good news of Christ (Zechariah 14:4-6). And the way is made level before them to facilitate their task.
The subsequent verses confirm this interpretation. These servants of God took with them into the darkness of the nations the light of the world, a continuing light that would never cease (Zechariah 14:6-7; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6), and living waters went out from Jerusalem to a thirsty and needy world (Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:0; John 7:37-39). And the result would be that YHWH would become King over all the earth, over His invisible kingdom.
Here then has begun the final great confrontation between man and God. Two sides drawn up for battle (as in Revelation 19:0) and ‘Jerusalem’ in the midst, a confrontation which has taken place throughout history and will intensify in the last days. It began with the Messiah standing on the Mount of Olives, it will end with Him coming with His angels (Revelation 19:0).
‘Jerusalem’. We are faced here again with the meaning and significance of ‘Jerusalem’. As we have already observed, to the prophets the future apocalyptic Jerusalem was an idea. To interpret it as simply meaning Jerusalem as inhabited at some period in history is to miss the grand idea here, and to ignore the definitely apocalyptic nature of this passage. Consider for example the cessation of day and night (Zechariah 14:7) and the cessation of the curse (Zechariah 14:11). In Revelation no night and no curse indicates the eternal kingdom (Revelation 22:3; Revelation 22:5). Here it has in mind God’s permanent light shining on His people and their deliverance from the curse put on Adam. So half of ‘Jerusalem’ is to suffer the indignities of captivity. The other half is to continue unharmed. It pictures both the Jerusalem judged by God as in 70 AD, and the Jerusalem that would take God’s message out to the world as in Acts 1-12, suffering yet triumphant (just as it portrayed the exiles in Babylon - Zechariah 2:7).
The prophet thus here has in mind ‘the end battle’, commencing in the time of the Messiah, as it goes on for two thousand years. YHWH against the great enemy, the world (and the one who lies behind the world - 1 John 5:19). The fact that it is ‘all nations’ that are gathered together as one against Jerusalem is further evidence of that (‘you shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake’ - Mark 13:13). This end battle commenced with the first coming of Christ and will continue to the end.
There was no way Zechariah could represent this in his day except as centring on Jerusalem, for to him it was Jerusalem that was the centre of God’s revelation to man and of man’s approach to God. To him if man was to attack God and His people it could only be by attacking Jerusalem. But what this really meant to him was that it was what represented God in the world that was subject to this attack.
As we have pointed out already, the prophets, who had nothing to say of an afterlife (with rare exceptions - and even then it was minimal - Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2), and could have no conception of a worldwide people of God established around the world in large numbers, looked ahead to a world divided into two, Jerusalem, representing the people of God, both false and true, and the truth of God, and the worship of God, and the nations of the world representing those who were against God. Here then Jerusalem depicts the true people of God, and all that stands for God against the world. It could indeed be seen as ‘God’s kingdom’ at odds with the world. We can compare how God’s people are depicted as a city in Revelation 21:2 (as the bride of Christ).
Had they known Jesus’ teaching of ‘the Rule (or kingship) of God’ over His people, in the world, but invisible to the world, the prophets might have spoken differently. We, who can see the deeper significance of the Kingly Rule of God in the world, an invisible kingdom made up of all those who are truly His, battling with the world around, can the better understand what the picture is depicting. But the prophets had to portray it in semi-apocalyptic terms.
So the picture is of the great battle for the world’s soul. God and His people and His kingdom on one side and the world on the other. And we have in this verse the clear warning that suffering and conflict will endure right to the end.
There may also be in it the idea that even to the end His people will not have an easy time, for even to the end the people of God will see their ‘spoil’ taken from them and divided up, and many of the people of God will be subject to attack and will face vile treatment. Their property will be subject to seizure and destruction, their womenfolk will be treated as the prey of the world, and they will be subject to bondage and servitude.
But the fact that ‘the residue will not be cut off from the city’ reveals the symbolic nature of the description. All will suffer, but not all will suffer equally. Some will live in countries where they are in bondage and struggle to maintain their faith. Others will live where God is at least externally honoured and will enjoy the blessed atmosphere of ‘Jerusalem’.
History has revealed the truth of these words. Many have suffered and endured dreadful things for the name of Christ and of God. The world has ever been their enemy, and they have as it were been taken into the enemies’ camp. Others have had a much more pleasant and undemanding time, although enduring their own battles. And we have reason to believe, as Paul had, that things may well get worse before the end (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
But in the face of it all the people of God can hold up their heads for in the invisible world God has already triumphed, and this triumph will now be depicted. And in the end God will triumph in the visible world too when He comes to judge the world.
‘Then will YHWH go forth and fight against those nations as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet will stand in that day on the mountain of olive trees, which is before Jerusalem on the East. And the mountain of olive trees will cleave in the midst of it towards the east and towards the west, and there will be a very great valley. And half of the mountain will remove towards the north, and half of it towards the south.’
‘And YHWH will go forth--’. Note the comparison. Just as His people have ‘gone forth’ into captivity so YHWH ‘goes forth’ to fight on their behalf. He sees their need and their slavery and their weakness and He marches forward to deliver them.
This vivid picture sees YHWH Himself as coming on behalf of His people to fight against their enemies (compare Zechariah 9:14-15). It is reasonable to assume that this activity connects with the coming of the Messiah and the pouring out of the Spirit in Zechariah 12:6 to Zechariah 13:1. That is how He goes forth. We have no real grounds for transferring this picture to the second coming of Jesus Christ. The prophet intends us to see here YHWH in all the fullness of His being.
‘YHWH will go forth and fight.’ The crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection is regularly set forth as a fight and a battle. By it He led a host of captives (Ephesians 4:8), He made a show of principalities and powers, triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15). (‘Principalities and powers’ means ‘the authorities’, both in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Titus 3:1). And YHWH was with Him. And that fight would continue through His church. We are to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). We are to stand firm clothed in the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).
‘As in the day of battle.’ This looks back to all the times when God has delivered His people. It includes the victory at the Red Sea and subsequent ‘battles’ in possessing the land, the victory of Joshua when the sun ‘stood still’, the victories of David including the vanquishing of Goliath, the slaying of the Assyrians at the siege of Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah, and many others.
‘His feet will stand in that day on the mountain of olive trees.’ This is a powerful anthropomorphism to denote His personal presence in a new way. He no longer rides His chariot throne in the heavens as in Ezekiel but has come to earth in order to act powerfully and effectively. YHWH Himself is here, not enthroned but standing ready for action. It is interesting to recognise that He is not seen as on the Temple Mount. The Temple has been abandoned. In Zechariah’s mind may have been the time when the angel of YHWH appeared at the threshing floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:16). But there the anger was against Jerusalem, here it is against the nations of the world.
‘The mountain of olive trees.’ Reference to the mountain of olive trees may well have in mind the two olive trees in Zechariah 4:3 which represented the two anointed by God. But now instead of just two olive trees (‘anointed persons’) there are a multitude, a whole mountainful of olive trees, surrounding YHWH, ready to go forth in the service of YHWH, bearing the living water to the world (Zechariah 14:8).
This mountain may also have been chosen specifically to avoid suggestion that there is reference to the Temple mount. The Temple is no longer significant. Where God acts is thus described as ‘before Jerusalem on the East’ (compare Ezekiel 11:23). It is surely significant that the prophet who so emphasised the rebuilding of the Temple in his own day (chapter 6) does not mention the Temple in his eschatological references, except by possible inference and even then with a widened meaning (Zechariah 14:20-21). Here he has a wider view of God’s activities. He does not want us to see YHWH as descending into His Temple or restricted to the Temple but as descending to act in the world through His olive trees, His anointed people.
Nor must we be unmindful that it was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus sat and taught His disciples of the times to come leading up to the end of time (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:3). It was a favourite place of His to which He went often to commune with His Father (John 8:1; Luke 22:39), including on that last fateful night when He prayed in His agony and won His battle against evil. Was this because He saw it as symbolising, as here, the triumph of God’s truth, and the place of God’s victory? Can we not say that when Jesus agonised on the Mount of Olives it was the prelude to YHWH Himself coming in His mighty power to act to change the world?
‘And the mountain of olive trees shall cleave in the middle of it.’ The valley that results goes from east to west, and the mountain moves towards north and south. Is this not an example of the mountains being made low and the valleys exalted (Isaiah 40:4) preparing the way for YHWH? Or is the aim to demonstrate that the olive trees, the anointed ones of YHWH, will go both north and south, in the directions of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the most prominent nations in their world.
But the rending of mountains can be seen as a sign depicting His great anger, see, for example, Nahum 1:5-6; Ezekiel 38:19-21 and His great power (Habakkuk 3:6). So here God demonstrates His anger and power to the nations who are ‘gathered against Jerusalem’, depicted in the rending of the mountain and in the sending out of His messengers thereby. He is angry because of their sin and rebellion.
There is no suggestion that this valley reaches as far as the sea. Only the mountain of olive trees is described as being affected. It is a symbol not a description of geological effects.
So we are probably to see the splitting of the mountain of olive trees as a parable and sign, and therefore as picturing the spiritual earthquake that took place at the first coming of Christ, when He defeated the powers of darkness. It was a time of earthquakes. A great physical earthquake did tear the Temple curtain in two, connected with the resurrection of many ‘saints who slept’ (Matthew 27:51-52). And the shape of the world was certainly transformed.
Zechariah 14:5 which follows has difficulties in translation for two possible translations are feasible depending on the meaning of the word ‘nstm’ which is repeated three times.
(1) ‘And the valley of my mountains will be stopped up. For the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel (or ‘reach the side of it’). Yes, it shall be stopped up as it was stopped up from the face of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah.’
The verb nstm can be translated ‘flee’ or ‘stopped up’ depending on the pronunciation in the original (and thus on the pointing, i.e. the providing of vowels which took place in written form long after the time of Christ). The meaning ‘stopped up’ may be read here. This was the reading that lay behind the rendering in the Septuagint, the major Greek Old Testament. The point would then be that the rending of the mountain is under YHWH’s control and the subsequent valley is stopped up at His behest before it tears apart the whole world. We should note that in Isaiah 40:4 the way was to be prepared for the Gospel by valleys being filled in and mountains being brought low.
The limit is set at Azel, an unknown but clearly limited destination. Alternately ‘will reach Azel’ may be translated ‘will reach the side of it’. The assurance is then given that the split will not be much greater than occurred in the earthquake in the days of Uzziah. Thus YHWH’s anger is revealed as being under tight control. There are of course now two mountains, which explains the plural for mountains.
Josephus refers to the earthquake in the time of Uzziah and its effects as follows: ‘And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads, as well as the king's gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction’ (Antiquities 9:10:4). Thus there was clearly a Jewish tradition of such an event which Zechariah probably calls on.
Alternately we may read:
(2) ‘And you will flee by the valley of my mountains. For the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel. Yes, you will flee, just as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.’
This alternative could indicate a flight which brings out the awe and majesty of YHWH. All flee before Him. Or it may mean that a way of passage had been made for the dwellers in Jerusalem so that they may flee, taking the Gospel with them. For this compare Acts 8:1. The fleeing from Jerusalem may then indicate the going out into the world with the truth of God caused by God’s action. Compare previous references to such flight (Zechariah 2:6; Isaiah 48:20) although those were from Babylon.
YHWH Will Come With His Holy Ones And Become King Over All The Earth (Zechariah 14:5-9 ).
The progress of God’s purposes is now described. God will bring about a new work on behalf of His people, and will establish His Kingly Rule, and with Him will come a host of angels who are to be ‘ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).
‘And YHWH my God will come (go), and all the holy ones with you.’
It is YHWH of Hosts Who is here, and His hosts are with Him. Just as He came with His hosts for Elijah and Elisha, so He has come in even greater power for His people (2 Kings 2:11-12; 2 Kings 6:17 - note that the chariots were a symbol of God’s presence with His prophets, not transport for Elijah). It is possible that these words are what Jesus had in mind when He declares that had He so wished He could have called on twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53). He knew that they were there ready to act at YHWH’s command.
Or the idea may be that God would go forth with His saints (holy ones) spreading the good news of His Kingly Rule around the world.
‘With you’. This sudden change from the third person to the second is typical of Zechariah. Here he changes abruptly from viewing the scene to addressing God (compare on chapter Zechariah 2:8-9; Zechariah 7:13 and on Zechariah 12:6).
‘And it will happen in that day that the light will not be with brightness and with gloom, but it will be one day which is known to YHWH. Not day and not night, but it will be that at evening time it will be light.’
If anything can warn us against taking these events too literally it is this. The ordinary sequence of night and day will cease. There will be continual light. There will no longer be periods of brightness followed by periods of gloom, but a period of continual day. We are reminded of Isaiah’s words, ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of YHWH has risen upon you -- and nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising’ (Isaiah 60:1). Compare ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light --’ (words of Isaiah 9:2 applied to Jesus in Matthew 4:14-17).
‘One day which is known to YHWH.’ No longer days of men but a day of God, continual and unceasing, where there is no day or night. As Isaiah puts it, ‘the sun will no longer be your light by day, nor will the moon give light to you for brightness, but YHWH will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun will no more go down, nor will your moon withdraw itself, for YHWH will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning will be ended’ (Isaiah 60:19-20). Compare also, ‘the sun and moon stood still in their habitation’ (Habakkuk 3:11).
We may see the fulfilment of this in the presence of the One Who is the light of the world (John 8:12) and who makes us children of light (Luke 16:8; John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). We have been transported from under the power of darkness into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7) for He is light (1 John 1:5). Compare also John 3:18-21.
That the presence of YHWH means that, for His people from then on, there will be continual light in the spiritual sense is wonderful and heart warming. And this depiction of continual light is taken up in the description of the eternal kingdom in Revelation 21:23-25, ‘and the city has no need of the sun, nor of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God did lighten it and its lamp is the Lamb -- there will be no night there’. John applies it to the present time when he says, ‘the darkness is past and the true light is already shining’ (1 John 2:8). As he said in his Gospel, ‘there was the true light, which lights every man, coming into the world.’ And as Jesus Himself said, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life’ (John 8:12). Here is the continual light untouched by darkness in reference to earth.
Thus the period of continual light in one way represents the light at present shining continually in the darkness through Him Who is the light, and in another refers to living in the eternal presence of the light of God.
‘And it will happen in that day that living waters will go out from Jerusalem, half of them towards the eastern sea and half of them towards the western sea. In summer and in winter it will be.’
This picture of a great river issuing from Jerusalem in two directions providing water in both summer and winter, giving Jerusalem all the advantages of the Euphrates and the Nile rather than being dependent on rain, is again idealistic. It is a picture of God’s provision, of abundant supply and spiritual blessing.
We might not make too much of the fact that the waters are said to issue forth from Jerusalem in both directions were it not that this is made quite clear in Ezekiel 47:0, the passage which Zechariah must surely have in mind. This is no natural river but a river that flows from the house of God (Ezekiel 47:1) and from ‘Jerusalem’ itself (high above sea level). As it goes it deepens and expands. Wherever it goes life springs up and the Dead Sea, where nothing lives, is turned into a fisherman’s delight (Ezekiel 47:9-10). And because the water issues from the sanctuary fruit trees will have permanent life, producing fruit every month (Ezekiel 47:12).
This glorious river, like the apocalyptic Jerusalem itself, is symbolic of the truth of God going out to the nations bringing life wherever it goes. In John Jesus proclaims it as speaking of the Holy Spirit flowing through believers (John 7:37-39).
So the rivers are rivers of life, denoting the power of the Spirit at work, going out from Jerusalem through His people, in spite of the enmity of the nations. It is the outpouring of the spirit of grace and of supplication (Zechariah 12:10).
Should This All Be Taken Slavishly Literally?
The question may be asked as to whether it could all be fulfilled literally? There must, of course, be the theoretical possibility that an earthquake could split the Mount of Olives and continue splitting mountains from coast to coast causing a valley reaching both seas east and west, resulting in an equivalent to the Suez Canal. But that exaggerates the text and would flow by Jerusalem and not from it (and Ezekiel especially is very specific on this point), and it is not in accordance with the effects of the split in the Mount of Olives as described here. Nor does Zechariah link the two. Furthermore that would be a salt water canal not a refreshing, life-giving river as depicted here.
So in a book where vivid imagery has been present from the beginning speaking of divine horsemen, of supernatural smiths, of an angel measuring Jerusalem, of the crowning of Joshua in the heavenly courts, of a golden lampstand, of olive trees, of a flying ephod and of heavenly chariots, and here of a time of permanent day, the possibility of the language being intended to be wholly parabolic must be considered a probability.
End of Note.
‘And YHWH will be king over all the earth. In that day will YHWH be one, and His name one.’
The purpose of YHWH’s activity is now confirmed It is that He might establish His rule over all the earth. This is the beginning of the Kingly Rule of God. And as Jesus made clear that Reign began with Him.
John the Baptiser declared ‘the Kingly Rule of God is at hand’ (Matthew 3:2), and Jesus stressed that the Kingly Rule of God was available to those who sought it (Matthew 6:33). In His parables of that Reign He demonstrated how it would grow and grow as men responded to His word (Matthew 13:0; Mark 4:26-30), and His casting out of evil spirits demonstrated that the Kingly Rule of God had come to those who heard Him (Matthew 12:28). The coming of that Kingly Rule with power was revealed at the transfiguration, for it was present in the presence of Jesus (Mark 9:1). Thus when the Pharisees asked when the Kingly Rule of God would come Jesus replied, ‘the Kingly Rule of God is among you’ (Luke 17:21). Entry under the Kingly Rule of God was by being born of the Spirit (John 3:5), so that Paul proclaimed the Kingly Rule of God, teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:31).
Of course this growth of the Kingly Rule of God will finally reach its culmination at the last judgment when God will be all in all. But that final day has not come here in Zechariah for there are still many things to be accomplished.
‘In that day will YHWH be one, and His name one.’ But in that day there will be no rival to God. Nothing and no one will be able to stand against Him. He will be supreme in His oneness (compare Deuteronomy 6:4). His name will not be shared with any other or applied to any other for all concentration will be on Him. And it is this glorious name, the name above every name, that Paul applies to Jesus Christ in Philippians 2:5-11 because it is His name.
In view of Zechariah 14:10 many have suggested the possible translation, ‘YHWH will be king over the whole land’. But Zechariah 14:12 makes clear that His sovereignty goes wider than that to reach the nations of the world, and in 16 onwards it is the whole world that acknowledges His rule.
The Consequences of YHWH’s Reign (Zechariah 14:10-21 ).
In Zechariah’s day when a king came to the throne he did not become king over a kingdom with neat boundaries and receive total control. Various rivals would be seeking to take the kingship and the boundaries would be disputed. A king ruled as far as his power went. This explains why in Israel, for example, after a long reign a following king would regularly have a short reign. His bid for power proved unsuccessful.
So when a new king declared his rule his first task was to establish himself against all other rivals. For a mild example of this see 1 Kings 1-2. Sometimes the fighting would be very bitter and last for a considerable period. He then had to exert his authority over the areas he sought to rule, and boundaries regularly changed when a new king came to power, depending on how powerful the forces he could control.
This was why it was the custom for kings in Judah at a certain point to take their selected heirs into joint kingship, a fact which explains many of the ‘dating problems’ in Kings and Chronicles. The hope was that it would enable a fairly smooth changeover.
And this is part of the picture we have here in Zechariah. Having become king over the earth YHWH now goes about to establish His rule. He wins men’s hearts by establishing prosperity (Zechariah 14:10-11), He deals with those who have resisted against Him (v. 12), He squashes civil war (Zechariah 14:13-15) and He establishes peace (Zechariah 14:16-21). Zechariah pictures this in terms of what he knows and understands. YHWH is still going about to establish His kingly rule as His people proclaim His word and take it to the nations.
‘All the land will be turned as the Arabah, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem. And she will be lifted up and will dwell in her place, from Benjamin’s gate to the corner of the first gate, to the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And men will dwell in it, and there will be no more curse, but Jerusalem will dwell safely.’
The Arabah is basically the Jordan trench, the rift valley from the Sea of Galilee (Tiberias) (Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 11:2; Joshua 12:3) to the Gulf of Aqabah (Deuteronomy 1:1; Deuteronomy 2:8), which is well below sea level. The Dead Sea is called the Sea of Arabah (Joshua 3:16; Joshua 12:3; Deuteronomy 4:49; 2 Kings 14:25).
‘From Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem.’ This was the way in which Zechariah indicates that he is speaking of the land around Jerusalem (there was no specific name for it). Basically he is declaring that ‘Jerusalem’, the people of God, will be surrounded by fruitfulness.
‘All the land will be turned as the Arabah.’ The idea is that all the land will be lowered to the level of the rift valley, thus becoming, by virtue of the new river running through it, farmable, fruitful and prosperous. Instead of a mountainous region there will be flat plain. This is the equivalent of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 35:1-2, ‘the wilderness and the solitary place will be glad, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose’. Indeed this levelling of the land was to be preparatory to the coming of God’s chosen One (Isaiah 40:3-5, cited concerning the first coming of Jesus in Luke 3:4-6).
The only exception is Jerusalem, whose boundaries are carefully outlined in order to indicate with what exactness God watches over His people, and which will be lifted up and exalted, taking her rightful place over all (compare Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). Men will dwell in it, the curse will be removed and Jerusalem will dwell safely.
This is, of course, an idealistic picture. Judah was a mountainous country. This had contributed to her comparative security over the centuries, but she must often have looked with envy at the fruitful plains. Now that YHWH is king she will be levelled out with only Jerusalem exalted. We can ignore the geographical problems (the Dead Sea and the Arabah are well below sea level) because it is not to be taken literally. Like the river previously this has a spiritual significance. The river spoke of life, this speaks of prosperity and blessing. The people of YHWH will prosper in their spirits and enjoy fullness of blessing.
The exaltation of Jerusalem (compare Isaiah 2:2) pictures the triumph of God’s truth and the final evidence that He, the One God, rules over all. The curse is overturned (compare Genesis 3:14-19) and man can begin again. ‘Jerusalem’, His people, can now dwell in safety for she needs no protecting mountains because YHWH is her defence. It represents the blessing and security of the people of God.
The removal of the curse may have reference to Genesis 3:0. The curse will have been dealt with through the cross. On the other hand ‘no more curse’ may indicate that there will now be no need for the flying scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4). God’s people are now fully obedient to His will. Compare also Zechariah 8:13.
Jesus defined all this in terms of the Reign of God, invisible yet effective (Luke 17:21), the security of His people (‘the very hairs of your head are all numbered’ - Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7), the prosperity they would enjoy (Matthew 6:25-34) and the final triumph of God at His second coming.
‘And this will be the plague with which YHWH will smite all the peoples that have warred against Jerusalem. Their flesh will consume away while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will consume away in their sockets, and their tongue will consume away in their mouths.’
This vivid picture, based on Zechariah’s experiences of dreadful diseases to which there was no cure, describes the awfulness of the judgments of God. The strength of those who oppose Him and His people will be dissipated. Their eyes will be darkened. Blindness was regularly the way by which men were prevented from doing evil (Genesis 19:11; 2 Kings 6:18). Their tongues would become ineffective. Again it is not the literal idea but the spiritual significance that matters. Those who stand against God’s truth and against His people will wither away spiritually, be blind to truth, and have nothing worth saying. And finally they will be judged and condemned and face the wrath of God. To take up a stance against the people of God is no light thing.
‘And it will happen in that day that a great tumult from YHWH will be among them, and everyone of them will lay hold of the hand of his neighbour, and his hand will rise up against the hand of his neighbour, and Judah also will fight in (or ‘against’) Jerusalem, and the wealth of all nations round about will be gathered together, gold and silver and clothing in great abundance. And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of all the beasts that shall be in those camps, as this plague.’
Zechariah wants us to be aware that the nations are not to be seen as united through all this. There will be great disagreement and squabbling among them, they will fight each other and the means of their prosperity, their very beasts of burden, will be plagued. Man has ever been thus.
‘And Judah will also fight in Jerusalem.’ The phrase is ambiguous. It could indicate Judah also fighting against Jerusalem, or it could indicate that they had gathered in Jerusalem in order to fight off the enemy. In view of the previous reference to neighbour fighting against neighbour the likelihood is that the former is in mind. This would serve to confirm that Jerusalem represents the people of God, with Judah representing the Jews, the idea being that even the Jews will be against God’s true people, something which, of course, happened in 1st century AD. On the other hand it may indicate that the people of God (‘Judah’) will prosper as they take their stand in ‘Jerusalem’ and gather up the treasures of the nations, plentiful in the greatest luxuries. Then it would be in deliberate contrast with Zechariah 14:2. The positions have been reversed. The enemy are defeated and the people of God triumph. The luxuries are of course spiritual luxuries. The idea is that finally the world will lose everything, and the people of God will gain everything.
It is probably best if we translate as ‘Judah will fight against Jerusalem’. If so this is a remarkable indication that even Judah will fight against the people of God. And in the first century AD it was the Jews who were the implacable enemies of Christians (Revelation 2:9). It was often they who denounced the Christians in times of persecution.
‘And it will happen that everyone who is left of all the nations who came up against Jerusalem will go from year to year to worship the king, YHWH of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it will be that whoever of all the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the king, YHWH of Hosts, on them there will be no rain. And if the family of Egypt does not go up, and does not come, nor will it be on them. There will be the plague with which YHWH will smite the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.’
‘Everyone who is left of all the nations who come up against Jerusalem’ following God’s judgment on the nations. This would suggest reference to the believing remnant. Some of those who originally set off opposing God’s people have eventually come to believe. That is why they now come to worship YHWH.
‘Keeping the Feast of Tabernacles’ is mentioned three times, once positively and twice negatively. It is clearly central to Zechariah’s message. This is because the feast of Tabernacles was seen as the Feast which, coming before the rainy season, was the cry to God for plentiful rain over the coming months which would guarantee fruitful fields following. It was at the Feast of Tabernacles that Jesus stood and declared that for those who drank of Him, out of their innermost being would flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-39). So as Zechariah looks forward to times of great spiritual refreshing he thinks in terms of the Feast of Tabernacles. But in the light of New Testament revelation it could not be a literal fulfilment. The Feast of Tabernacles was a Feast in which constant offerings were made for atonement. However, once our Lord Jesus Christ had offered Himself up as a sacrifice once for all the Old Testament such feasts were redundant.. What did survive in the case of the Feast of Tabernacles was the looking to God for abundant rain, the rain of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
Indeed we notice that those who do not observe the Feast will have no rain. Even though they were believers they would be barren because they were failing to worship God. And the Egyptians who could rely on the Nile instead of rain are punished differently for that reason, with a repetition of the plague that had destroyed the nations (Zechariah 14:12).
It was not by coincidence that Jesus chose the Feast of Tabernacles to make His great declaration about the coming of the Holy Spirit like life-giving water (John 7:37-39). He had specifically in mind this passage, combined with Ezekiel 47:0.
Thus once again the picture is symbolic and we do not need to consider the logistics of how all the people in the world can gather in Jerusalem and Judah at one time. The point is that under the Kingly Rule of God constant submission to Him and true worship of Him will result in the outpouring of spiritual blessing, the ‘rain’ of the Holy Spirit (which the baptisms of John and Jesus signified) as promised regularly in the prophets (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3-5; Isaiah 55:10-11; compare Joel 2:28), and those who refuse look to the Holy Spirit will become spiritually dried up, parched and withered.
It should perhaps be noted that the keeping of the Feasts was an essential part of God’s covenant with His people. It constituted continual submission to and renewal of that covenant. When the people failed to observe the Feasts they failed to observe the covenant. Thus covenant renewal is at the centre of the significance of this passage in Zechariah. Men will continually renew their covenant with YHWH. When we keep our harvest festivals, and renew our covenant with God at the Lord’s Table (Holy Communion) and at covenant meetings, we are fulfilling God’s requirement here. But we must beware lest it become just a formality for then it ceases to have meaning.
‘In that day there will be on the bells of the horses HOLY TO YHWH and the pots in YHWH’s house will be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to YHWH of Hosts, and all those who sacrifice will come and take of them, and seethe in them. And in that day there will be no more a Cananean in the house of YHWH of Hosts.’
This final description brings out the symbolism of the whole passage. It is not only the inner sanctuary of YHWH and its contents that will be holy to Him, set apart and unapproachable because of His ‘otherness’, but every pot in His house, yes and every pot both in Jerusalem and in Judah, and every bell on the harness of their horses. The whole of God’s people will be equally ‘holy’ and will be the house of YHWH.
‘The pots in the house of YHWH will be like the bowls before the altar.’ The latter were especially sanctified and set apart for their purpose. Now the meanest pot will be equally holy.
‘Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah.’ This demonstrates that by ‘the house of YHWH’ Zechariah means not the Temple but the whole people of God (see Zechariah 9:8; Hosea 8:1). This is confirmed by the fact that the pots in the house of YHWH would be ‘like the bowls before the altar’. This would not have been said of pots within the Holy Place. They would have been seen as more holy than the pots before the altar.
‘And all those who sacrifice will come and take of them, and seethe in them.’ In Exodus 29:31 it is the ram of consecration that is seethed in a holy place when Aaron and his family were consecrated to their positions as priests of YHWH. This is the only place where seething (cooking) is specifically commanded with regard to sacrifices. Thus in the light of the context here we have here the idea of an overall priesthood, with all the people of Jerusalem and Judah seen as priests. Seething is also indirectly connected with the offering of the firstfruits where it simply means cooking (Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26).
Zechariah could only think of worship in these terms. To him and to the people the offering of sacrifices was central to worship. There could be no worship without them. And his emphasis is therefore on the widespread nature of the sacrifices. But now that our Lord Jesus Christ has offered Himself up once and for all, causing to cease for ever the offering of atoning sacrifices, the idea is rather of the nations coming and responding to the sacrifice of Christ. They will come to His people in order to experience the benefit of His sacrifice, and in order to partake of Him. (As we have said before this cannot signify so-called ‘memorial sacrifices’. Such sacrifices would not be a literal fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy, for he was undoubtedly speaking of atoning sacrifices.
‘In that day there will be no more a Cananean (or Canaanite) in the house of YHWH.’ The word Cananean can also be translated as ‘trafficker, merchant’. This looks back to the traffickers in the sheep of Zechariah 11:5; Zechariah 11:11 (see on that section), the leaders who misused God’s people. Never again will God’s people be subject to such careless treatment.
But as the house of YHWH represents the people of YHWH it is possible that this does indicate the exclusion of Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:1-2). But not literally, as the universalism of the passage demonstrates. It is what the Canaanites represented that is in mind. They represented idolatry, and idolatry in its crudest form. There can be no place for such in God’s kingdom. The idea would then be that only Canaanites who have ceased to be Canaanites will be welcome.
So we have here a picture of purified worship, of an extended overall priesthood which knows nothing of the Levites, and of worldwide submission to God, in contrast with those who have faced judgment and are miserably destroyed, the result of the activity of the people of God through the Holy Spirit, and pointing forward to when all will be complete and God will be all in all. This glorious feast of Tabernacles depicts the worldwide successes of the people of God and God’s final triumph as described in the physical terms of Zechariah’s day.