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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 12

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


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)


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.

Verse 1

The Burden Of The Word Of YHWH (Zechariah 12:1 a).

Zechariah 12:1

‘The burden of the word of YHWH concerning Israel.’

Compare for this idea Zechariah 9:1; Malachi 1:1. It is interesting that the proclamation of what YHWH will do is described as ‘concerning Israel ’. Yet the detail following is concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Here ‘Israel’ is thus used to indicate the whole nation. The divisions (Zechariah 11:14) have been removed. Clearly God is ‘about to act’. (To Zechariah the words ‘Israel’, Ephraim’, ‘Joseph’, ‘Judah’ are to some extent interchangeable, all referring to the people of God).

But what was Israel? We must recognise that it was not just a nation comprising direct descendants of the twelve Patriarchs. Indeed it never was. They were probably always in the minority. It was a conglomerate nation. Probably the larger part of ‘Israel’ in Egypt consisted of the descendants of the ‘households’ of the patriarchs (Exodus 1:1) which would have included many servants and slaves from different races and backgrounds.

Then at the Exodus especially and specifically (Exodus 12:38; Exodus 12:48), and all through her history, peoples of many nations were adopted into Israel and became ‘true Israelites’ on the basis of the covenant with YHWH, tracing their ‘descent’ back to the patriarchs. Thus Uriah the Hittite was almost certainly ‘a true Israelite’ (2 Samuel 11:3 onwards). Indeed anyone who was willing to enter into that covenant could do so by renouncing their gods and submitting to the God of Israel. Israel was a composite nation but its people in fact soon found themselves looking back by adoption to their ‘descent’ from the patriarchs.

This pattern continued after the Exile, although not without tight restriction. It continued later, when the witness of ‘Israel’, scattered among the nations, impressed many Gentiles who were convinced by their teaching about the One God and were appreciative of their high moral code. Many of these became ‘proselytes’, entering into the covenant by being circumcised and where possible offering sacrifice, (and at some stage a ceremonial washing was introduced) and theoretically at least were then regarded as full Israelites, although with certain restrictions. Intermarriage and time would soon see them incorporated more directly. Some of them became respected Rabbis. Others, not willing to be circumcised, but desirous of worshipping the God of Israel and being part of the community of God, were called God-fearers. But in their case the Jews did not see them as becoming full members of Israel.

Furthermore under John Hyrcanus the remnant of Edom were forced to be circumcised and become Jews, and the same happened to the Gentile inhabitants of Galilee. It is quite clear then that to speak of Israel as the descendants of Abraham is in the main wishful thinking. Those who actually considered that they could prove that they were true descendants of Abraham actually saw themselves as superior.

And according to the New Testament from the moment that the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost the ‘true Jews’, who believed in the Messiah, formed the new Israel, and many were gathered in to that true Israel from around the world, for the new church was indeed declared to be ‘the Israel of God’ (Galatians 6:16), the converted Gentiles being grafted into the true people of God (Romans 11:17-28; compare Ephesians 2:11-22; 1 Peter 2:5-9). But the difference was that this was now on the basis that the Messiah had come, had been crucified as an offering for sin, and had risen again. Here were the new Jerusalem, the new people of God.

Indeed this was what the argument about circumcision in the church was all about. Could Christians become members of the true Israel without being circumcised? (Acts 15:5). Paul strongly argued that circumcision was no longer necessary, and that what mattered was circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3; Colossians 2:11; Ephesisans Zechariah 2:11-13), for they were circumcised with the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11), and were thus true Israelites. And this in the end became the established norm, confirmed officially by the Apostles (Acts 15:6-21) through the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28-29).

Thus the firm teaching of the early church and of the New Testament is that Christians on receiving the Spirit and being baptised become full members of the true Israel, inheriting all the promises of God made to Israel (Ephesians 2:11-19; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:28-29 with Galatians 6:16). They were ‘grafted in’.

They also believed that those members of Israel who would not respond to Christ as their Messiah ceased to be members of the true Israel and were cut off (Romans 11:15-24). They were no longer part of the true Israel (Romans 9:6). Eschatalogically the true church of Christ thus become in reality the new Israel, the new Judah, the new Zion, the new Jerusalem as conceived of in the teachings of the prophets.

With these things in mind let us consider the words before us. What is the burden concerning the true Israel?

Verses 1-9

The Initial Future Of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-9 )

Zechariah 12:1

‘Thus says YHWH, who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.’

These words stress the greatness and wonder of what is to happen. It is the great Creator Who is about to act. They remind us of Isaiah 42:5. There YHWH God ‘has created the heavens and stretched them forth, has spread abroad the earth’ and ‘gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it’, so that in Isaiah 51:13 (compare Isaiah 48:13) it is ‘YHWH your Maker’ Who has ‘stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.’ Thus the thought is of YHWH as creator of the heavens and the earth, and of the spirit of man, the life within him. It is describing the activity of the Onw Who is the source of all that is.

This stresses the greatness of YHWH and explains why He is able to do what follows. None other could do it but this Great Creator. (It is difficult to avoid the suggestion that Zechariah has read or heard these words of Isaiah).

Zechariah 12:2

‘Behold I will make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about, and on Judah also shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem.’

The future Jerusalem is first to be a ‘cup of reeling’. Before it can be a blessing it must first be a source of judgment to all who are outside it and come into conflict with it. As they come to try to ‘drink’ of it they must reel before it. And this applies not only to its enemies and those who besiege it but to Judah also, to those who think of themselves as part of ‘God’s people’. In reality this was necessarily so. Whenever Jerusalem was besieged Judah had to take the brunt of it (compare Sennacherib’s words, ‘forty six cities of Judah I besieged and took, and I shut up Hezekiah like a caged bird in Jerusalem’). So Jerusalem’s investiture meant suffering for those of Judah who had not taken refuge in Jerusalem, as well as for all those involved.

Now as we have suggested above this impact of Jerusalem demands first the fact of its future establishment by Nehemiah. The Jerusalem of Zechariah’s day, could not have had this impact, nor would it have been besieged in any large scale way. It had to become important first. So even in this picture God is promising a future for Jerusalem, when under Nehemiah it would become again a ruling city, a future which would have an impact on world history, and an impact that would include judgment on nations and the besieging of Jerusalem. This was the initial significance of the vision of Zechariah, a Jerusalem large enough and established enough to make an impact. It was Israel’s hope, but as a hope it could never finally be realised on earth because on earth it was peopled with sinners.

Note that this is depicted as relatively local, ‘the peoples round about’. It is not universal. So while the future Jerusalem is to become a blessing, and a stepping stone in the purposes of God, as indicated later, it will not be so at first. At first it will be a stumblingstone to all because men’s hearts are not right with God. Men will thus at first reel before Jerusalem. And they certainly did in the days of Nehemiah.

Furthermore it may be that we have to remind ourselves here that Scripture conceives of a coming siege and destruction of Jerusalem. In Daniel 9:26 such a destruction is connected with the death of the Messiah. So we learn that it is not only the future of Jerusalem that is somewhat bleak, but also that of the Messiah.

‘In the siege of Jerusalem.’ That is, in the time of, and as a consequence of, the siege of Jerusalem

But as well as being a picture of the Jerusalem that then was, it is also a picture of God’s people at all times. The enemy world will come against them, including even the so-called Christians who have ‘remained outside the walls’ (have not truly experienced the Spirit), and they will reel back because God will protect His people.

Zechariah 12:3

‘And it will happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples. All that burden themselves with it will be lacerated, and all the nations of the earth will be gathered together against it.’

‘In that day.’ That is, in the day when Jerusalem is made a cup of reeling. The effects are thus emphasised. His city, His people, which were intended to be a blessing will become a burdensome stone, something hard to bear. The world is ever in conflict against God and that is epitomised by their attitude towards Jerusalem then, and God’s people now. Because of the rejection of the ideal that it stood for, it could only result in ‘reeling’ for the nations, and for the people of Judah themselves. Instead of being a blessing it would be a burden to them. They will be lacerated by it.

Note on Jerusalem.

The history of Jerusalem would ever be a history of trouble, and Jerusalem was certainly regularly a thorn of the flesh to those who sought to conquer and control it from this time onwards, whether Greek or Roman, Saracen or formal Christian, just as it had been for Israel. And this arose partly from the strong feelings it evoked, and partly from man’s misinterpretation of what it was meant to be. It still continues so today. Longed for by Judaism, coveted by Muslims, it is a centre of conflict and a destroyer of peace, because both see Jerusalem in the wrong light. They see a city central to an earthly faith, a faith which makes them fight, and kill, and hate. They fail to see that the real Jerusalem is now a heavenly city, represented on earth by its citizens who are at peace and save life, and love, and no longer connected with the stones and mortar on Mount Zion (Philippians 3:20). The faith of Jews and Muslims is still worldly, while the true Jerusalem is above.

And this situation was extended as a result of the death of the Messiah, for then it gained an expanded significance. As we know, its history from 70 AD onwards was fraught with troubles, and many nations suffered by contact with it, including Romans, Persians, Crusaders and Arabs. Instead of being the blessing to the world it should have been, it had become a burden hard to carry, a curse. The earthly Jerusalem was in slavery with her children (Galatians 4:25). For once Jesus Christ had been crucified and His message and salvation had gone out to the world the earthly Jerusalem had ceased to matter. It was an empty shell in which gathered all the ideas that were worst in world religions. It became a centre for all whose religion lacked true spirituality, for men to fight over, contradicting all it stood for.

For the truth is that while Jerusalem had originally represented the established centre of the worship of the true God, the place where God had met, and would meet, with man if he repented, in the end it became the place where His Son was crucified and yet from which went out the message of the spiritual reign of God (Isaiah 2:3). But the idea of Jerusalem arose to heaven with Him, for He embodied all that it represented. It became the ‘Jerusalem which is above’ (Galatians 4:26) This was Jerusalem’s success. But in all else it failed because of man’s blindness and hardness of heart. It is now but a memorial to Him for some, and a continuing religious burden for others.

So to the Jews it became a superstition. To their enemies it was the centre of the religion of the Jews. All who therefore sought to despoil it were thus deliberately putting themselves at enmity with the God of Israel. And whatever the outward profession, the conquest of Jerusalem was in the end, at all times, for men’s own gain and glory, for the fulfilment of superstition or the attaining of revenge. They therefore found it a burdensome stone and suffered for it, and they were finally crushed on it.

But, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had previously made clear, none of the promises had meant that the physical city of Jerusalem with its Temple was inviolable. It was only when the people were in a state of covenant obedience that that applied (2 Kings 19:34). Thus there was the first destruction of it under Nebuchadnezzar followed by the exile; thus there were the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes when the Temple was desecrated one hundred and fifty or so years before the time of Christ; and thus, centuries after Zechariah, there came the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus thirty or so years after Jesus’ death. This would be followed by its further devastation when Bar Kochba rebelled against the Romans and its rebuilding as a pagan city, with all Jews excluded from it in 132 AD, a position reversed only in the time of Constantine (early 4th century AD). And it has suffered many times since. And Revelation 11:0 depicts it in the last days as another Sodom and another Egypt, an enemy of God’s people (without naming it).

But this is not the glorious Jerusalem of the prophets. That is composed of God’s true people.

End of note.

‘All the nations of the earth will be gathered together against it.’ Compare Revelation 20:9 where such an idea is connected with ‘the camp of the saints (God’s people)’. It is the Jerusalem that represents the people of God which is a magnet to the peoples of the world, and which bears the brunt of its hatred. The people of God have been regularly subjected to such hatred throughout history.

So ‘the last days’ are also in mind here, for the gathering together of the nations against God’s people in the last days is a regular feature of the prophets, although not all the prophecies must be limited to that as we have seen. But in saying this we must recognise what Scripture means by ‘the last days’. We must remember that the New Testament writers declared that ‘the last days’, the days of the Messiah, had already come in their time (Acts 2:16 in context; 1 Corinthians 10:11 ; Hebrews 1:2 ; Heb 9:26-28 ; 1 Peter 1:10-12 ; 1 Peter 1:20 ; 1 Peter 4:7 ). So the fact is that we are in the middle of ‘the last days’ now, not living before them.

There was no reason why all the nations should gather against Jerusalem unless it symbolised something far greater than just the capital of a small country. Jerusalem had come to symbolise an idea, the idea of the whole people of God, the ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ of Galatians 4:26, the Jerusalem not in bondage.

Note on the Jerusalem in Bondage.

In Galatians 4:25-29 Paul distinguishes the Jerusalem in bondage from the Jerusalem that is free. The one is like Hagar, the other like Sarah. The one the earthly Jerusalem the other the people of God, the heavenly Jerusalem.

To the Jews the earthly Jerusalem is still a witness to the God of the covenant, a covenant that they hope will one day be renewed. It is the place where their hearts are, which was why the people themselves could be called ‘Zion’. They believed that it was only in he earthly Jerusalem that they could finally experience the glory of the coming Reign of God.

To the Christian it came to represent the spiritual witness of God in the world because it was there that Christ died and rose again. And because of this it became to many a sacred place. But then it became a place of superstition. Many forgot that Christ had risen and gone and that all that was there was an empty tomb, that the prophetic ideal Jerusalem was no more on earth. Thus Jerusalem became a bondage.

And to Islam it represents a witness to God as the place where, in their view, Abraham, their forefather, was ready to sacrifice His son. To all it is ‘a holy place’, a vivid reminder of the activity of God in the world. And it is the source of much that is devilish. It is Jerusalem rejected and in bondage.

As always when people are involved the reverence for it is regularly directed in the wrong direction. They reverence the place instead of the idea. Thus they fight and argue and pillage, fighting for a bit of land, failing to recognise that it was to the God of Jerusalem on high and His demands and requirements that they should look.

Today the Jews and the Arabs and even so-called Christians still fight over it. But in the eyes of God it has been displaced by His people Zion, the true people of God who are scattered worldwide.

End of note.

And so eschatalogically the nations being gathered together against Jerusalem means that they are gathered together against God’s people, against His revelation of Himself in the world, here symbolised by Jerusalem, but including His children wherever they may be. They are against the people of God. For, as Revelation brings out, it is His true people who are the new Jerusalem and in the end it is against them that the nations of the world will be gathered. (See our commentary on Revelation 19-21.)

Zechariah 12:4-5

“In that day,” says YHWH, “I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness, and I will open my eyes on the house of Judah and will smite every horse of the peoples with blindness. And the chieftains of Judah will say in their heart, ‘The dwellers in Jerusalem are my strength in YHWH of Hosts their God.’

In the final analysis the enemies of Jerusalem will be rendered helpless. And there were times when this was true with the old Jerusalem. Jerusalem did survive invasion a number of times. But this vivid picture is really telling us that the world is powerless against His people. For none can in the end stand against the people of God old or new. Notice the contrast. YHWH’s eyes will be open on ‘Judah’ while, as a result, the eyes of their enemies’ horses will be blinded. They trusted in their horses (in other words material things) who could only fail them, the people of God are to trust in YHWH Who sees.

‘YHWH’s eyes will open on Judah.’ This indicates God’s protection of His people and can be seen in the light of the establishment of the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34) when the Spirit of grace and of supplication will be poured out (Zechariah 12:10). It occurred especially at the coming of John the Baptiser and Jesus Himself when He offered Himself to His people and many responded through the Spirit, and there is some reason to believe that before Christ’s second coming there is promised a further period of outpouring of the Spirit, with widespread conversions and renewing of the earthly ‘people of God’.

‘The dwellers in Jerusalem are my strength in YHWH of Hosts their God.’ Judah will now look not to their horses but to the ‘dwellers in Jerusalem’ as themselves strengthened by YHWH of Hosts, their God. It is important to see here that reference to Jerusalem is defined as meaning the dwellers in Jerusalem as empowered by YHWH. Here clearly, even in Zechariah’s eyes, we have an idealised Jerusalem, a spiritual Jerusalem, a Jerusalem which is ‘other-worldly’, a Jerusalem which is transcendent. (It is difficult to think of the people of Judah describing the inhabitants of Jerusalem as their strength in YHWH otherwise).

‘Judah’, being taken by God under His eye and responding to the truth symbolised by Jerusalem, represents here the reviving of certain of the people of God. And the New Testament makes clear what this Judah was. Initially in the coming of Christ God’s word went out to Galilee, away from Jerusalem. And it became the new Israel which was found in the true church, founded by the Jewish Messiah Himself, built on the Jewish Apostles, established first by His ministry throughout Palestine, becoming centred in Jerusalem, reaching out to the world with Jerusalem for its centre, and finally becoming a worldwide ‘Israel of God’, the living Temple of God and centre of His worship. Its members are incorporated into Israel and form the new Temple (John 4:21-24; Galatians 6:16; Romans 11:17; Ephesians 2:20-21). It is they then who will enjoy God’s protection.

And the people of God did indeed look to those who were dwellers in Jerusalem, who went out to the world with the Gospel and enjoyed protection from their enemies and experienced the blessing of God, representing all that ‘Jerusalem’ stood for. Thus the prophet rightly sees Jerusalem as the source of truth from God and foresees its great impact for good on the world.

Zechariah 12:6

‘In that day will I make the chieftains of Judah like a pan of fire among wood, and like a torch of fire among sheaves, and they will devour all the peoples round about, on the right hand and on the left, and Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in her own place, even in Jerusalem.’

The picture of the triumph of the people of God continues. The pan of fire, placed among wood like a firelighter, brings the wood into flame; the flaming torch, set to the sheaves, sets them afire. Thus His people are impregnable. All who seek to attack them will be discomforted and dealt with severely. They will find more than their fingers burned.

‘Jerusalem shall yet again dwell in her own place, in Jerusalem.’ Here we have a play on the name Jerusalem. The ‘Jerusalem’ that is to ‘dwell in Jerusalem’ must signify people, as Zion signified people in Zechariah 2:7. Thus we have confirmation that ‘Jerusalem’, like ‘Zion’, can mean the people it represents. And although they were far away from Jerusalem they would come home in security and safety. And those who were true among them became the foundation of the work of the Messiah.

Thus the prophet is declaring that Jerusalem will become ‘true’ again (Zechariah 8:3), it will become the city of truth. And this was so when Jesus and His disciples and many with Him took up their place in Jerusalem making it the centre from which the Gospel would flow out to the world. That is why it could not be that He perished outside Jerusalem (Luke 13:33 compare Matthew 16:21; Luke 9:51).

And, as we see in our own day the gathering of the Jews to Jerusalem, and among them as ever the remnant, the true people of God, genuine Hebrew Christians, it may yet be that there will be a prominent place for the physical Jerusalem in the purposes of God. For God has His own way of surprising us. But if so it will only be as it responds to Jesus Christ.

Zechariah 12:7

‘In that day YHWH will also save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the dwellers in Jerusalem be not magnified above Judah.’

‘Will also save the tents of Judah first.’ The impact of Jesus the Messiah was first outside Jerusalem. His ministry, while touching Jerusalem, was mainly in Judea and Galilee. It was there that He had His most fruitful ministry. It was only then that He advanced, as it were, on Jerusalem and through His Apostles made it the centre of His ministry. God did not want Jerusalem to become a city above itself. Its purpose was for the work of God through it, not for its own glory.

There is a remarkable fulfilment of this in that those outside Jerusalem responded to Jesus Christ in multitudes, while His brothers and relatives (the house of David) and the members of Jerusalem were a little behind.

Zechariah 12:8

‘In that day YHWH will defend the dwellers in Jerusalem, and he who is feeble among them at that day will be as David, and the house of David will be as God, as the Angel of YHWH before them.’

This magnificent picture again found its truth in the coming of Christ. Those who lived in that day thought at first that they had stamped out this bedraggled group of men led by their infamous teacher. But God defended them, and made them like David, strong and effective and irresistible. And the One Who led them was indeed seen to be ‘as God, as the Angel of YHWH’, for that is what He was.

Zechariah 12:9

‘And it will happen in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.’

God promises that when He has established His people, centred in the ‘city of truth’, He will protect them from all nations. Battered they may be but they come under His protection. In the words of Jesus ‘you will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, and not a hair of your head will perish’ (Luke 21:17-18).

But ‘the last days’ will finally end in judgment. Thus judgment is regularly depicted in Scripture as a last great battle against the people of God. See especially for this Revelation 19:11-20. Here then God is declaring His judgment on all those who oppose what the ideal Jerusalem and the true people of God, headed by the Messianic king, stand for. Such will face the final judgment of God.

In prophetic eyes the nations come against ‘Jerusalem’ because of what it is, the symbol of God’s dwelling place, the centre of the people of God and source of the truth of God. They come as enemies of God and they come under the judgment of God. In the last analysis the fulfilment of this does not require a physical invasion of Jerusalem, although that may also be the case. It requires only enmity against the God of Jerusalem and His people.

As so often in Scripture we must see a literal and a spiritual fulfilment. Jerusalem was established, and the nations of the world did come against it, and it was at times amazingly delivered. But the deeper significance of it lies in Zion as the people of God..

Verses 1-14

The Future of the House of David and the Dwellers in Jerusalem, the Servant Pierced, the Spirit Poured Out, The Superseding of Prophecy, the Fires of Refinement (Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:9 ).

Zechariah’s experiences as previously described have brought home to him that the present time is not going to produce the hoped for golden age of God’s rule. The dream of the eight visions (Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15) which had promised so much of a purified Israel over whom would rule the Branch, appears to have turned sour. Instead of an Israel being established over whom the shepherd of Ezekiel is reigning (Ezekiel 37:15-28), it has ended up in the hands of false shepherds (Zechariah 11:4-17). His thoughts may well then have turned to the words of Isaiah depicting the coming Suffering Servant (Isaiah 50:4-9; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12), for having been himself rejected and valued at thirty pieces of silver he foresees the coming of a Great Prophet and Shepherd Who will be in contrast to the false prophets, yet One Who will face rejection and suffering as he has himself.

So he recognises that the future of Jerusalem, as a picture of the people of God, must first be one of woe before God’s glory is revealed. Tragedy must precede triumph.

His depiction of the future of ‘Jerusalem’ is now outlined. It will be noted that it assumes first the coming establishment of Jerusalem as an independent political centre under Nehemiah by the very nature of what is described. Without that it could never have the prominence suggested by this picture. (In Zechariah’s time it was still an unwalled huddle of buildings).

It then briefly recognises its chequered future. And finally it leads up to its future as the place from which salvation will be made available to the world and to its final experience of the blessing of God (Zechariah 14:3-21). Thus as in much of prophecy it contains a near and a far view. What is prophesied will apply through history but will culminate in the activity of the final days before the final establishment of God’s rule.

The prophecy is necessarily given in symbolic terminology, for the background necessary to present it as it is presented in the New Testament was absent. The prophet spoke, in terms that he knew, of what was in fact beyond his comprehension. How could he visualise a world wide church? Rather he saw in Jerusalem as representing God’s gathered people what we think of as ‘God’s church’ as surrounded by the world. And we should note that at that time it was God’s church, His ‘congregation’. He could only necessarily speak in limited terms, for the full plan of God would have been incomprehensible, both to him and to the people. But he knew the central facts, that there would be suffering before triumph, that in the end the people of God would achieve victory, security and safety and that the King would come who would establish the reign of God.

But what does the word ‘Jerusalem’ represent in these eschatological prophecies? In the near view it is the city, but it is the city seen as being the centre of the people of God. As we have seen earlier it is the city as representing the people of God (Zechariah 2:7). When men gathered against ‘Jerusalem’ they were gathering against all who then represented God, those who had, as it were, come together to re-establish the Kingly Rule of God. Thus it is not just the city as it was in itself that is in mind, for that constantly comes under the condemnation of the prophets. It is rather the idea behind it, the idea of the ideal Jerusalem as being the gathering place of God’s people. It is Jerusalem as the ideal centre of the true worship of God (compare Isaiah 2:2-3), with ‘those who dwell in it’ being seen as representing all who worship and obey Him truly.

It is the place from which, through its people, God’s truth will go to the world (Micah 4:2; Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 62:1). It is the place from which God will ‘roar’ and utter His voice when He brings judgment on the nations (Joel 3:16; Micah 1:2). It replaces the ark of the covenant as the throne of God (Jeremiah 3:16-17), until that throne is raised to Heaven at the resurrection of Christ. It is the place from which God Himself will establish His reign (Isaiah 24:23). So, linked with Jerusalem are thoughts which far transcend it, so that in the end it is itself transcended.

That this is so in Zechariah comes out in what we saw earlier, that ‘Zion’, which was often synonymous with Jerusalem, which was partly built on Mount Zion, could also be used as a description of the people of God far away from Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:7). It was clear then that the people represented the city even when far away. In other words in a very real sense Jerusalem, Zion, is ‘the people of God’ wherever they are.

That there is this difference is again emphasised in Zechariah 12:6 where he says, ‘Jerusalem will yet dwell in her own place, even Jerusalem.’ Here the first ‘Jerusalem’ initially represents His people as the true worshippers of God, wherever they are, who have been away, but will now return home. And they are necessarily a symbolic people, for none who had actually dwelt in Jerusalem would by then necessarily be alive. Thus he is not thinking here of just anyone who lives in Jerusalem. He is thinking of the true, returned people of God, the Jerusalem who return to Jerusalem.

These distinctions are stressed and amplified in the New Testament where the heavenly aspect of Jerusalem is stressed. For Paul distinguishes the Jerusalem ‘which is in bondage’, the earthly city, from the Jerusalem ‘which is above’ (Galatians 4:25-26), the heavenly Jerusalem, when pointing out that Christians are the ‘children of promise’ (Galatians 4:28). They are the true Jerusalem. And Hebrews speaks of ‘Mount Zion’ as being ‘the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem’ (Hebrews 12:22). This leads on to the vision of the new Jerusalem, whose source is from Heaven, in ‘the new earth’ (Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10) and again represents the whole people of God. So in all this it is the idea that is behind Jerusalem that is prevalent, not the city of Jerusalem itself. (Compare the similar use in many references in Isaiah where there is the Jerusalem/Zion which is the city of God in contrast with ‘the world city’, the future glorious Jerusalem, which has eternal connections and will be part of the everlasting kingdom. See Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:3-5; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:11; Isaiah 65:18-19; Isaiah 66:10; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:20).

And once we come to the New Testament Jerusalem is not so much a city as an idea, an idea closely aligned with the idea of the people of God. The old earthly Jerusalem has to be destroyed, and the real Jerusalem is the heavenly one with which His people are connected (Galatians 4:25-26). And that is what Zechariah has in mind when he thinks of ‘Jerusalem’.

Furthermore Peter also stresses the spiritual nature of ‘Zion’ when he speaks of the church of God as living stones in the new Temple which is His church, built on the chief cornerstone and note that it is laid ‘in Zion’ (1 Peter 2:4-7 based on Isaiah 28:16).

It is true that the prophets themselves saw their prophecies as necessarily relating to a ‘physical Jerusalem’. To them the people of God and Jerusalem were very much identified. But especially in the case of Isaiah it was very much an eschatological Jerusalem. His descriptions of it far exceed any possible conception of an earthly city. To him Jerusalem/Zion is synonymous with God’s people (‘we, the daughter of Zion’ - Isaiah 1:9); it will be purged by the removal of the filth of the daughter of Zion - Isaiah 4:4; it represents ‘the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ - Isaiah 5:3; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 22:21; Isaiah 28:14; Isaiah 30:19; it is to arise and clothe itself in beauty - Isaiah 52:2; it is a place of rejoicing where weeping is heard no more - Isaiah 65:18-19); and it is from Jerusalem/Zion with its exalted, unearthly Temple, that God’s message will go out to the world (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 62:6-7). It is the Jerusalem/Zion which is the city of God in contrast with the world city. It is the future glorious Jerusalem, which has eternal connections and will be part of the everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 4:3-5; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 24:23; Isaiah 26:1-4; Isaiah 28:16; Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 33:5; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 51:16; Isaiah 52:1; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 62:1; Isaiah 62:11; Isaiah 65:18-19; Isaiah 66:10; Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 66:20) .

It was, however, to be expected that the prophets would stop short of making it fully heavenly or seeing in it simply a picture of the people of God as such. They had no concept of Heaven. And they could not even conceive of a people of God not connected with Jerusalem. (It took the early church great searching of heart before they also did so). So as they peered with God’s help into the future, Jerusalem was their conception of the people of God. Surrounded on all sides by a wicked world they were God’s people, ‘Jerusalem’. The prophets had no full or detailed conception of an afterlife, or of a spiritual kingdom, or of living in a heavenly sphere, and did not think in those terms. Even when, rarely, resurrection is mentioned it is closely connected with this earth (Isaiah 26:19). So a Jerusalem purified and made spiritual, a perfected Jerusalem that fulfilled all the hopes of the prophets and the true people of God, was God’s ideal. It represented His true ‘congregation (church)’.

The idea of ‘Jerusalem’ both in the near view and in the far view therefore represented hope, deliverance, the congregation of Israel gathered together, the presence of God with His people, a centre of God’s rule, and the final fulfilment of what God intended His people to be. It was to be the fulfilment of all their expectations. And that was why inevitably it had in the end to become a heavenly city. For no earthly city, populated by earthly people, could achieve those expectations. We can therefore justly take the idea of Jerusalem as Paul did and see it as representing all God’s people wherever they were.

But the prophets could not wholly think like that, for, as mentioned above, there was then little specific detailed conception of an afterlife, or of a world-wide, ‘invisible’ kingdom. So to them it was in Jerusalem that they saw the fulfilment of all their hopes for the future, it represented the people of God surrounded by an antagonistic world, and it resulted in the triumph of God depicted in earthly terms which were never full worked out.

But in the end, the important question is not so much how the prophets saw it as how God intended it to be seen. And there the New Testament position is directly relevant. In the New Testament the idea of Jerusalem is related to what we call ‘Heaven’. Yet even ‘Heaven’, like ‘Jerusalem’ to the prophets, is but a name for the ideal future, the place where God dwells, the future home of His people. It simply recognises that the Jerusalem of the prophetic hopes could not be realised on earth. Thus Revelation finally amplifies it in terms of a ‘new Earth’.

So as we read Zechariah and the prophets we must see Jerusalem sometimes as it was and sometimes in terms of its heavenly ideal, as representing God’s whole people.

Verses 10-14

The True and the False Prophets (Zechariah 12:10 - Zechariah 13:9 ).

The way in which all this will take effect is now clearly laid out. A contrast is made between:

· The piercing (rejection) of the True Prophet Who is coming when the Spirit is poured out, which will result in repentance and a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1).

· The piercing of false prophets because they are false (Zechariah 13:2-3).

· The smiting of the false prophets by those who really prove themselves his friend (Zechariah 13:4-6).

· The smiting of the true Shepherd, with the resultant pouring out of the Spirit, repentance of those who respond, opening up of a fountain for sin and uncleanness, and purifying of God’s people (Zechariah 13:7-9).

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/zechariah-12.html. 2013.
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