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The Book of Zechariah is rich in messianic content. Steve's analysis
makes a great companion in the reading of the book. - ed.
MINOR PROPHET WITH A MAJOR MESSAGE
by Steven C. Ger, Th.M.
Thus says the LORD: I will return to Zion, and will
dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. - Zechariah 8:3
This is Part 2 of "Zechariah." To read or review Part 1, click here.
Zechariah 9:1 - 14:21
The third and final portion of Zechariah’s message is distinctively different from the two antecedent sections. These exhilarating yet challenging chapters are comprised of predictive prophecy and must be understood from a future perspective. Specifically, Zechariah relates two associated divine oracles concerning the future of Jerusalem and the events surrounding the coming of the Messiah to deliver the city from its national enemies. While the previous sections are specifically dated and, for the most part, are written to encourage the Jewish people within the context of their contemporary situation, this last section is undated and pertains to the events immediately preceding and including the establishment of the impending Messianic Kingdom. Of particular note throughout the division is the repeated eschatological designation, in that day, firmly establishing its future timeframe. One should conclude that these oracles are intended to revitalize the zealous expectancy of each generation of God’s people until the realization of the prophesied events.
Within these chapters there is significant ambiguity concerning the specific affiliation between the return of the Lord to His people and the coming of the Messiah. Throughout this final section, the Lord acts through the chosen representative with whom He closely affiliates, the Messiah. The Lord and His Messiah are so closely associated that, at certain points, their identities appear to merge. This, of course, comes as no surprise to the New Testament believer.
The Lord, who throughout the message of Zechariah has characteristically been presented as the sovereign who commands the cosmic armies, now musters His power and personally enters into battle on behalf of His besieged covenant community. The Lord’s conclusive victory leads to ultimate blessing for His people, the establishment of His kingdom and the final fulfillment of all covenant promises. This would prove to be tremendously heartening for Zechariah’s post-exilic community as well as for every generation of God’s people since the prophecy’s original pronouncement.
The first half of the last section (9:1 - 11:17) chronicles God’s systematic deliverance of Judah from surrounding national enemies and the coming of the Messiah to establish His kingdom. In contrast to other contemptible leaders of Judah, Zechariah explains God’s desire to serve as a shepherd to His people and proves His abilities by rescuing His people from their worldwide dispersion. However, the majority of the covenant community rejects His agent of loving leadership, the Messiah, which results in His judgment on those who have rejected Him. The disastrous results of rejecting the Lord’s leadership would serve as an admonition for the Jewish people to submit themselves to their covenant God.
Zechariah relates the Lord’s personal defense of Jerusalem and conquest of the Jewish people’s traditional enemies (9:1-8), notably Syria, Phoenicia and Philistia, which extends Israel’s northern and western national borders to their ideal limits. After the Lord has eliminated the hostile threat to His people, the survivors from these nations will be assimilated into the covenant community and serve the Lord.
Zechariah then reveals the arrival of the Lord’s representative agent, the Messiah (9:9-10), who is to rule for the Lord as the righteous and victorious King of Israel. The Lord Himself performs the introduction of the Deliverer to His people. He describes the Messiah as humble and conveying a kingdom of peace, as designated by His entering Jerusalem on a donkey, not a war-horse. To augment the previous section’s assurance concerning the expansion of Israel’s national borders (9:1-8), it is clarified that not only will the Kingdom of Israel’s borders fully expand in all directions to their promised extent under their Messiah’s righteous and peaceful reign, but that the King of Israel will actually reign over the whole earth.
As woven throughout Zechariah’s message, the promise, based on God’s covenantal obligations, of final restoration of the Jewish people to their land from wherever they have been dispersed is reiterated (9:11-13). When the Lord establishes His kingdom through the Messiah, Israel will be richly blessed with both fertility and prosperity. The Jewish people themselves will participate in the judgment of the Lord over their national enemies, being led into holy war by their supernaturally enabled Messianic King (9:13-17).
The next section (10:1-12) begins a new theme related to the previous chapter’s revelation of the Messianic King, that of the subjects of the Kingdom. Zechariah contrasts the excellent leadership of the Lord over his people with the inferior leadership they have chosen for themselves. Although the Lord is the source of all blessings, the people are being led astray by their leaders to consult household idols and soothsayers. This leadership is so paltry that the Lord wrathfully declares that it is as if the people had no guidance at all. He proclaims judgment against the leading authorities and promises to personally lead and invigorate the entire covenant community (10:1-3). As noted earlier, the perspective of this final division is eschatological. The contemporary leadership of Zechariah’s day, notably Zerubbabel and Joshua, cannot be in view here considering their earlier commendation (3:1 - 4:14; 6:9-15).
Zechariah employs royal imagery to further describe the mission of the coming Messiah; as a Davidic King, He will proceed from Judah and, with strong and secure leadership, will force out Judah’s worthless leaders (10:4-5). In relation to the establishment of the messianic reign must come the repopulation of the Messianic Kingdom. In fulfillment of covenant obligation, the Lord promises to restore His people from worldwide dispersion (10:6-7). Although the Jewish people are pictured as being scattered in every direction of the compass, as symbolized by Assyria (north and east) and Egypt (south and west), the Lord knows just where to find them, for it was He who placed them there. The return of the exiles from this worldwide dispersion is vividly described as a second exodus. So numerous will the returning exiles be that they will swamp the land and Israel’s northern and eastern national borders will need to be expanded, as previously noted (9:1-8; 10), to accommodate the swollen population (10:8-11). The Lord will bless the renewed population of Israel and they will worship Him (10:12).
What follows in chapter 11 contains arguably the most interpretively difficult passages in the entire Old Testament. Questions arise as to the intended time frame, content and means of conveyance of the message. Concerning the content, one verse in particular (11:8), has carried the hefty burden of at least forty different interpretations. Concerning the transmission, there is a well-established dramatic genre within the Hebrew prophets, wherein they “act out” a message as a creative means of communication (Ezekiel 4:1-3; 5:1-12; Jeremiah 27:2-11, etc.). However, this message goes beyond that genre in requiring the participation of a whole “troop” of fellow actors. We must therefore assume that the message Zechariah conveys is one that was only dramatized on the stage of his own mind, either through vision or imagination. As to the timeframe depicted, consistency within this entire final division of Zechariah’s work dictates that the events are future.
Zechariah strikes a somber contrast with the glories related in the previous portion (9:1 - 10:12) as he relates the events preceding, and effectively delaying, the Messianic Kingdom’s inauguration. The devastation of the entire land of Israel and the surrounding geographic area is recorded, as symbolized by the incineration of its most verdant areas (11:1-3). The reason for this vast desolation is given as the rejection of the Lord’s chosen shepherd of His people, their Messiah (11:4-17). Zechariah returns here to the theme of the nation’s leadership, embodied now in the representative shepherding of the prophet himself.
The Lord commands Zechariah to portray the role of a shepherd of a flock of sheep which was condemned to slaughter because of the delinquent care of their previous shepherds (11:4-6). Through this dramatic presentation, Zechariah is standing in for, i.e., impersonating, the Lord’s representative, the Messiah. His doomed flock represent the Jewish people, and their delinquent shepherds are their leaders who have oppressed them by collaborating with Gentile powers. Zechariah is aware that, although he represents the Lord’s Messiah, the people will reject him, which will serve to corroborate their fate with the Lord’s endorsement.
Zechariah, as the Messiah, shepherds with two symbolic staffs: one called “Favor”, symbolizing the external condition of peace between the nations and the Jewish people; and the other designated “Union”, symbolizing the internal condition of peace within the covenant community (11:7). Although Zechariah’s care of the people is exemplary, as expressed by his ability within a short period of ministration to depose, i.e., render powerless, the previously mentioned loathsome and abusive shepherds, the people reject his leadership. He, in turn, rejects them, relinquishes his position as shepherd and abandons his people to their doom. The people are destined to suffer dreadfully on account of their repudiation of God’s chosen leader (11:8-9).
As a public expression of his termination of leadership, Zechariah, as the Messiah, breaks the first staff, “Favor” (11:10-11), which removes the Lord’s restraint of the nations against Israel, creating an opportunity by which nations may freely act on their hostility toward Israel. He then breaks his second staff, “Union” (11:14), which removes the harmony within the Jewish community, creating an opportunity for gross division and discord within the nation at their moment of greatest peril. When Zechariah asks to be compensated for his efforts, the people disgrace him by paying their Messiah the value of a slave’s lifetime wage (Exodus 21:32), thirty pieces of silver. This demonstrates their utter contempt for the Lord’s Anointed, although there is a small remnant who recognize His worth (11:11). As indicated by the sarcasm of the Lord’s interjection at this point on being valued at that “exorbitant” price, He clearly takes the insult personally. God then commands Zechariah to return the people’s disdain by tossing away the insulting wages to the potter, i.e., the recycling bin in the Temple courts (11:12-13).
The section concludes with the Lord then summoning Zechariah to portray a different role, that of a corrupt shepherd whom the Lord would first appoint over the Jewish people and then destroy because he had sought to prey on the people in his charge (11:15-17). The identity of this corrupt leader is ambiguous, as is so much in this chapter, but should be classified as the eschatological antichrist (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4;1 John 2:18, et al).
The second half of the final third of Zechariah’s prophecy (12-14) reveals the harrowing yet exhilarating circumstances immediately preceding the ultimate victory of the Messianic King and the establishment of His Kingdom. Although the description of these triumphal events is placed in seeming contrast with the previous chapter’s pessimistic revelation, this section actually provides the narrative sequel to the events of chapter 11. With a creative device reminiscent of a cleverly composed present-day film or a complex symphonic composition, the prophet juxtaposes situations and motifs previously described in chapters 9-10, such as the arrival of the Messianic King, the Jewish people’s second exodus, and the Lord’s final judgment on the nations, and elaborates on their details, building to a grand climax of universal scope. As noted above, the prophet’s repeated choice of the eschatological phrase par excellence, in that day, firmly anchors this final third within the temporal future.
Zechariah begins this message of cosmic import by reminding his audience that the reliability of His message is ensured by its source, the Creator of the Universe (12:1). This section develops the holy war motif of 9:13-17. The Lord declares that He will imminently employ His city, Jerusalem, as a mechanism to wage judgment on the nations. The time is at hand when every nation will make war against the Jewish people, and their capital, Jerusalem, will be besieged on every side. However, the Lord will intervene on behalf of His people and incapacitate their enemies, whom Zechariah portrays as staggering and retching as with intoxication, and as herniating themselves by trying to lift too heavy an object for their capacity (12:2-3). Although Jerusalem’s enemies will be blinded by the Lord, His vision will be crystalline (12:4).
In order to reach Jerusalem, the nations will also have to assault the surrounding territory, Judah. The Lord will supernaturally energize the defenders of Judah, beginning with the outlying Judean settlements, and Jerusalem, enabling them to defeat their enemies. The people’s natural capabilities will be supernaturally heightened as they are energized by the Lord to do battle (12:5-9). For one final time, the devastating fruit of the Abrahamic promise of divine retribution toward the enemies of the Jewish people (Genesis12:3) will be harvested.
When the threat posed by Israel’s national enemies, upon their comprehensive defeat, is finally defused, the Lord will infuse the Jewish people with spiritual conviction and contrition. He will enable the Jewish people to perceive their need for divine forgiveness and the entire nation will repent. The reason for their repentance will be their prior rejection of the Messiah, the representative agent of the Lord’s loving leadership. It is unmistakable in this passage that Zechariah is depicting the Lord’s identity as being integrated with the Messiah’s. He declares that when the Jewish people see the Lord they will suddenly comprehend that in mortally wounding the Messiah it was as if they had physically pierced the Lord Himself. Upon this realization, their grief will be so enormous that it must be compared to a parent’s bitter grief at the death of an only child and the consequent termination of family lineage (12:10). It is also compared (12:11) to the national mourning which attended the untimely death of a beloved Jewish king, Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:22-27). The mourning for this messianic Jewish King will not only yield public national anguish, but private, intense, individual grief, led by the Jewish political and spiritual leadership (12:12-14).
Following this period of grief and repentance, the Lord will forgive His people for their rejection of His leadership and will superintend their spiritual purification (13:1). He will direct the eradication of false worship throughout Israel, specifically eliminating idols, false prophets and their evil motivating spirit (13:2). The remaining remnant of false prophets in the land will bring such disgrace on their families that their own parents will execute them in obedience to the covenant. These false prophets will be ashamed of their activities and for fear of judgment will seek to cover them up on the pretense of being merely farmers, but the self-inflicted chest lacerations characteristic of their office betray them (13:3-6). This explicates the concise false prophet motif of 10:2.
Zechariah follows this with a prophetic tapestry which weaves together the theme of the rejected leader (10 - 11), the pierced Messiah motif (12:10), and the final siege of Jerusalem (12:1-9). Zechariah portrays the Lord ordaining the murder of His representative, the Messiah (13:7). Again, there is an emphasis on the close affiliation between the Lord and His Messiah, so much so that their identities appear to be fused together. As a consequence of the Messiah’s death, the Jewish people will suffer worldwide dispersion. Yet, at some eschatological point they will reenter their land, and it is there that two-thirds of the Jewish people will be slain. The survivors of this genocidal decimation, although undergoing the persecution and previously discussed international siege of 12:1-9, will be purified through their suffering and will worship the Lord within the parameters of covenant lifestyle, as revealed in 12:10-13:1.
In Zechariah’s final chapter (14:1-21) attention is returned to Israel’s final hour, the international siege of Jerusalem. Elaborating on that which had previously been summarized (9:1-8; 12:1-9), including the massacre of the Jewish people (13:8), the prophet supplies fresh and vivid details of Jerusalem’s final defense prior to the Lord’s intervention (12:4; 14:3), including the fact that the international assembly at Jerusalem was orchestrated by the Lord Himself (14:2). Zechariah’s narrative of this onslaught picks up at Jerusalem’s most desperate moment, when it appears that the nations which have united against the city will completely overrun it. By this point, half the population of the city have already been taken captive and deported, and the remainder have seen their possessions despoiled and their women brutally raped (14:1-2). When it seems that the nations will complete their victory with a “final solution,” the Lord enters the battle and engages the nations on behalf of His people (14:3).
The Lord arrives just east of the city on the Mount of Olives in the person of the Messiah, His chosen representative, accompanied by angelic armies at His command. In the closing periscopes of his message, Zechariah’s preferred choice of divine designation, “YHWH Sabbaoth”, is visibly corroborated (14:4-5). Taken together with previous intimations of the nature of the Messiah’s close affiliation with the Lord (9:9-10; 12:10), the weight of revealed evidence now demands that the Messiah is in fact the manifest Lord Himself. Upon His appearance the Mount of Olives divides in two, reminiscent of the parting of the Exodus waters, creating a valley which serves as a shielded escape route from Jerusalem to safety (14:5).
The prophet changes perspectives momentarily and takes leave of the action of the final conflict. He describes additional topographical as well as meteorological changes accompanying the Messiah’s appearance, including the eruption of a river within Jerusalem, an event signifying divine blessings of fertility on a city in which water was traditionally the scarcest of commodities. As the Messiah’s capital, Jerusalem will be topographically elevated and the surrounding geographic area lowered in contrast (14:6-11).
Zechariah’s perspective now returns to the Messiah’s encounter with the enemy armies. With His brutalized people now removed from the conflict and out of harm’s way, the Messiah confronts His enemies in this second stage of battle. Those vast armies which would have butchered the Jewish people are now themselves decimated by a plague which rots their flesh. Panicking in their desperation to escape this devastation, they slaughter one another. Additional aid in their defeat comes from the residents of the surrounding Judean countryside who, together with the now-secure survivors of Jerusalem, plunder those who had plundered them (14:12-15).
Following the Messiah’s final triumph, the whole earth will recognize the Lord, and His covenant community will expand accordingly (14:9). Although their armies have been devastated, the nations' survivors will all worship the Lord with the Jewish people in Jerusalem at the Temple, the location of His manifest presence. Those who formally opposed God will now surface to appease God. Ambassadors from all nations will make annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, the great holy day related to the appeal for blessings of fertility, specifically, for rain, the public reading of the Torah and covenant renewal. Those nations who neglect to send an ambassador will suffer a lack of fertility, specifically, no rain, as divine punishment for their lack of covenant allegiance (14:16-19). In the culmination of the Messianic Kingdom all distinctions between the sacred and profane will be eradicated, for everything will be sacred; the most mundane materials and the most unlikely Gentile subjects will all be dedicated to the Lord (14:20-21).
 Heb. aWhh'µwYœœB' Zechariah 9:16: 11:11; 12:3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11; 13:1, 2, 4; 14:3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 13, 20, 21. Note the particular concentration within the 45 verses of chapters 12-14.
 ref. note 6, above.
 Chisholm 261.
 See Baldwin’s discussion (165-66).
 Merrill (260-261) cautions against using the reference to Greece (Javan) in Zech. 9:13 to move the historical composition of the work at a later date, contemporaneous with Alexander’s conquests. Greece is simply here as representative of the great nations. Evidently, Greece was perceived in Zechariah’s day as the up-and-coming world power on the horizon.
 For an fascinating alternative translation of 10:12, see Merrill (282).
 Baldwin 181.
 Feinberg 325-26.
 ibid 327- but see Merrill (295) for an alternative.
 To the extremely difficult text of 11:8, Baldwin (183) offers a compelling alternative to the fruitless attempt to identify the three deposed shepherds. If Zechariah is employing apocalyptic literature’s devise of the symbolic use of numbers, then in this context the number three might simply stand for the number of completion and signifies the removal by the shepherd of all opposing leadership.
 Merrill (298) includes an interesting discussion.
 Ref. Note 25, above.
 C.F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament: Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986) notes that the Heb. Wrq;D; indicates “pierced or thrust through to death” (388).
 We see here that Satan, the ultimate source of idolatry, will be dealt with at this point by God Himself. See Kenneth L. Barker, “Zechariah,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1985) 685.
 The same word is used as in 12:10, Wrq;D, “to pierce through”. See note 37, above.
 Although often interpreted and quoted as a prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, see Merrill (332) and Barker (686) on why 13:6 cannot be a messianic prophecy.
 To the researcher, the conclusion is unmistakable that Zechariah means us to grasp some manner of divine personification within the Messiah’s identity. See Barker (686). Also, see note 9, above.
 See notes 6, 26 above.
 Merrill 348.
 Zech. 14:9 seems to contain an explicit reference to the “Shema” ( Deuteronomy 6:4) – “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One,”; -; the great traditional rallying creed of the Jewish people, thus signifying the ultimate establishment of universal worship of the one true God.
- © 1998 Sojourner Ministries, Inc. -
Steven C. Ger, Th.M., is the director of Sojourner Ministries.
This article is republished by permission from Sojourner Ministries' website,
and may be viewed in its original form at http://sojournerministries.org/cmz/content/view/54/161.
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