The Word Made Fresh
1Look! A day of the LORD is approaching when the things stolen from you will be divided among you. 2“For I will gather all the nations to attack Jerusalem, and the city will be conquered, the homes looted, and the women violated. Half of the residents will be sent into exile, but the rest will remain.” 3Then the LORD will go out and go to war against those nations. 4On that very day the LORD’s feet will stand on the Mt. of Olives on the east of Jerusalem and split the Mountain in two, separating the east side from the west side with a wide valley. Half of the Mount will move to the north and the other half to the south. 5You will flee through the valley beside the LORD’s Mountain, for that valley will reach to Azal and you will run as you ran when the earthquake struck during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will arrive with all the saints.
6On that day the sun will not rise, 7but there will be daytime – the LORD knows this – not just day and night, but even at evening there will be light. 7The LORD knows that day will be continuous – not day and night, but daylight even after sundown.
8Then a lively stream will flow out of Jerusalem. Half will flow to the eastern sea, and half to the western sea, continuing through summer and winter. 9On that day the LORD will become ruler over all the earth; the LORD and the name of the LORD will be one.
10The whole land will become a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, though, will remain on its elevated site from the Benjamin Gate to the place where the former gate stood, then to the Corner Gate and then from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses. 11And there will be people living in the city, which will never again be destroyed. Jerusalem will remain secure.
12The LORD will strike everyone who comes to battle against Jerusalem. Their skin and flesh will rot away while they are on their feet. The eyes in their faces will rot and their tongues will rot in their mouths. 13On that very day the LORD will send a panic so that each of them will hold onto a neighbor’s hand, but their hands will be raised against one another. 14And Judah will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the nations around will be gathered – gold, silver, rich clothing in abundance. 15This plague will fall even on the horses and mules and camels and donkeys, and whatever other animals are in the enemy camps.
16Then everyone remaining in those nations that attacked Jerusalem will come each year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, to participate in the feast of tabernacles. 17Any family that refuses to go to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, will receive no rain. 18And if Egypt does not present themselves there they will suffer the plague that the LORD will send upon every nation that does not keep the feast of tabernacles. 19The plague will punish Egypt and every nation that does not go up to keep the feast.
20When that day comes the bells worn by the horses will be inscribed “Holy to the LORD.” The pots used for cooking in the LORD’s house will be holy like those in front of the altar. 21Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be sacred to the LORD Almighty, and everyone who comes to bring a sacrifice may use them to boil the meat.
And there will no longer be merchants in the LORD’s house on that day.
1-2: The final chapter begins with a slight variant from the usual way of announcing the day of the LORD: “See, a day is coming for the LORD,” rather than the usual “On that day” (as in 12:6; 13:1, 2). It is thus difficult to know whether the prophet intends this as a brand-new vision or a continuation of what was being described in the previous two chapters. All the nations were gathered against Jerusalem in 12:3. Here, though, more detail is given: the houses are looted, the women violated, and half the population taken into exile. These are the unfortunate circumstances of war, but specific mention of the violation of the women in the city is rare — only here and at Lamentations 5:11 (a passage in which the descriptions of atrocities goes way beyond anything in Zechariah).
3-5: We’re back to “on that day,” and the record now takes on true apocalyptic dimensions with God directing the defense from the Mount of Olives (where Jesus was standing when he ascended — Acts 1:9-12). The mountain is split in two, providing a path for people to flee from the city, although it is not said who is to flee — is it the 50% remaining after the other 50% have been exiled? Such is the hazy nature of apocalyptic visions. Azal (or Azel) is an unknown destination, and the earthquake referred to here is mentioned only at Amos 1:1 with no description of people fleeing. As the people flee, Zechariah says, “then the LORD my God will arrive with all the saints.” But who are the saints — the righteous among the people, or angels?
6-7: The city will be bathed with continuous light, but I doubt Zechariah foresaw electricity and streetlamps. Rather, he is describing the complete victory of the forces of light over the forces of darkness. Compare Revelation 21:23.
8: A river is seen flowing out of Jerusalem, flowing both east and west. This is reminiscent of Ezekiel’s vision of the river emanating from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12), and compare John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22:1-2. Plenty of light and a dependable source of water are two necessary natural ingredients for developing a viable society.
9: God’s kingship has always been over all the earth; Zechariah means that God’s sovereignty will be recognized over all the other gods and idols worshiped around the world.
10-11: Zechariah pictures a transformation of all of Judah from Geba in the north to Rimmon in the south. It will become a fertile plain watered by the river flowing from Mt. Zion, and Jerusalem and Mt. Zion will be elevated above the surrounding lands.
12-15: He describes in putrid detail the fate of Jerusalem’s enemies (“all the nations” of verse 2). The mention of Judah in verse 14 implies that there has been some enmity between the former nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. There probably was enmity when the exiles returned to Jerusalem with leaders appointed by the Persian emperor, and the folks in the countryside who were slow to acknowledge the authority of Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, the high priest Joshua, and so forth. Now, however, Zechariah sees the city and the whole region of Judah united in war against the LORD’s enemies, and envisions their taking huge amounts of wealth from the invading armies.
16-19: Finally, the foreign survivors of the great battle become themselves worshipers of the LORD. Those who refuse are punished, but the punishment is not specifically sent from God; rather it seems to naturally result from their godlessness. Obedience to the covenant with God was always seen as a way to assure adequate rain and abundant harvests.
20: To this point in the Bible the only place where the inscription “Holy to the LORD” was allowed was on the headdress of the high priest, beginning with Aaron’s turban (Exodus 39:28-30). Now, with Jerusalem redeemed, even horses’ bells will bear that inscription, and everything will be deemed holy.
21: Zechariah’s prophecy ends with the temple swept clean of buyers and sellers. This prophecy could well be why Jesus decided to chase the moneychangers et al from the temple, as recorded in the gospels (see for example Luke 19:45-46).
Regardless of how dire our situation becomes we should have faith that God is with us. If we are suffering through circumstances beyond our control, let prayer and patience be our response. God always redeems as only God can!