The Book of the Prophet Zechariah
THE BOOK OF THE ORACLES OF GOD— Chapters 7-14
The Purpose of Prophecy
In beginning an exposition of Zechariah’s prophecy, I believe I ought to make a remark directed at those Christians who occupy themselves much with prophecy. Although I express the wish that they will study prophecy more and more, I want to warn them to be on their guard for the danger of doing this to satisfy their curiosity. They who give in to this inclination of the natural heart only are interested in prophecies with a view to coming events, and make that the subject of their studies. This way they will likely gather knowledge, but this will leave their hearts indifferent and cold. They will be kept from suffering shipwreck on that reef once they have understood and properly valued the purpose of prophecy.
Prophecy is in the very first place the revelation of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet.1:16). The disciples were shown these two things in the vision on the holy mountain. There, as a shining picture before their very eyes, unfolded the future glory of Christ in His kingdom, namely His coming to take the governmental reins in hand, and the power with which He will establish His government on earth. This same picture showed them the heavenly sphere of that kingdom in which the Lord appeared in glory, speaking with Moses (whom God had resurrected) and with the prophet Elijah, who without dying had been taken up into heaven.
Yet, on the other hand, in revealing the future glory of Christ, the prophets could not remain silent about His sufferings, which are the very foundation of His glory.
For that reason the apostle Paul wrote that the Spirit, by means of the prophets, testified “before of the sufferings which belonged to Christ, and the glories after these” (1 Pet.1:11). The apostle added to it that they “not to themselves but to you they ministered those things.” Future believers, Christians as well as Jews, would share in His sufferings and in His glory.
Therefore we so often find in Peter’s first epistle, these two words expressing what the believers from among the Jews would experience. The Christian position is not the subject of the Old-Testament prophecies. Apart from the sufferings and glory of Christ, one would find more those of Israel’s remnant, whose experience is so closely linked to that of its Redeemer.
Finally, prophecy has still another, most important, purpose, namely to keep us separated from the -world.
The revelation of who Christ is draws out hearts out to Him who has suffered for us, and it causes us to be occupied with His glory. The exposure of the true characteristics of this world speaks to our consciences and brings about a separation between us and that which surrounds us, though we are in the world. Seen in this way, prophecy is “as...a lamp shining in an obscure place until the day dawn and the morning star arise in [our] hearts” (2 Pet.1:19). If we didn’t have this prophetic lamp, we would lose our way and get entangled in the snares that Satan sets before our feet to corrupt us.
These then are the various purposes of prophecy. In addition to this, it keeps the hope regarding the glorious future blessings alive within us.
The Difference between Haggai and Zechariah.
When the Jews had returned to their land after the Babylonian exile, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi served as prophets among them. Although their prophecies had different purposes, Haggai and Zechariah both prophesied during the events described in the early part of the book of Ezra (Ezra 5:1; 6:14).
After them served Malachi, whose prophecy dealt with the moral condition of the people reported in the last chapter of the Nehemiah.
Through a decree of Cyrus (whom the prophet Isaiah had announced by name long before—Isa.44:28), the Jews had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the Lord there. First they had erected the altar, the centre of their worship service; afterwards they had with great enthusiasm laid the foundation of the house, at which occasion some had been filled with joy, others, however, with sadness. But soon Ahasuerus had commanded the work to be stopped, and so seventeen years had passed since Cyrus’ decree without the temple rising on its foundations.
In the second year of Darius, king of Persia, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah. Their influence gave new courage to the people who immediately resumed the reconstruction. Industriously, Zerubbabel—of royal descent (1 Chr.3:19)—and Joshua, the high priest, as their heads shared in the work. Four years later the house was complete and the people celebrated joyfully the feast of dedication.
Thereby prophecy had reached its first goal; it had addressed the conscience of the people and inspired them to labour in service of the Lord. But in Scripture prophecy never is limited to its immediate result; it focuses on a future day at the end time. When the prophet Haggai presented the building of the temple to the nation, he did so in view of the day when “the desire of all nations” would enter His house and fill it with His glory (Hag. 2:7). But when Zechariah spoke to the people about Jerusalem, he thought of the day on which Christ’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, the day when He as Redeemer will appear to His people, while entering the city as King of righteousness.
Despite their common service, these two prophets did not have the same goal in view. Haggai spoke more exclusively about the house.
Zechariah’s eye reaches farther. He had as subject the city Jerusalem, the remnant of Judah, and the last day, insofar this related to the Messiah. Moreover he gave a general overview of the kingdoms of the nations and their moral condition in the last days. But he especially drew attention to the sufferings of Christ and the various ways in which His glory will be revealed.
During the course of this exposition we will repeatedly return to this subject.
Divisions of the Book
The book Zechariah has several easily recognized divisions. After a short introduction (Ch. 1:1-6) it can be divided into two totally distinctive parts.
The first contains the eight visions (Ch. 1:7 to Ch. 6).
The second, the book of the oracles, has three subdivisions:
1. “The word of the Lord” to Zechariah about fasting and the restoration of Jerusalem (Ch. 7 & 8),
2. “The burden of the word of Jehovah” about the shepherds and about the restoration, first of Judah and afterward of Israel (Ch.9-11),
3. “The burden of the word of Jehovah” regarding the last day and the restoration of the land (Ch. 12-14).
We must, however, observe that in the midst of all these pictures unfolding before our eyes, the main theme is ever: Jerusalem and the Messiah.
Reminders of the Past (Chapter 1.1-6)
Name and genealogy of the prophet
“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of Jehovah unto Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo“ (v.1).
The eighth month gives the time at which Zechariah’s introductory words were spoken. Just as Jeremiah, he wore the double character of prophet and priest. Here he is called “Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son f Iddo.” What we are told in Matthew 23:35 of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah who, at the command of Joash, was slain between the temple and the altar, clearly refers to Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. This verse has given the expositors of Scripture quite some difficulty. Some think of an error in this portion of Matthew, because there the “son of Berechiah” is confused with the “son of Jehoiada.” According to my modest opinion there is no such error. The names Zechariah and Berechiah were well-known names in the priestly family. In Isaiah 8:2 we find as faithful witnesses of Isaiah: Uriah and Zechariah, the son of Jeberechiah, which is Berechiah. Berechiah seems to have been the name of the head of the family. Matthew could therefore refer to Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, also as son of Berechiah, going back to his descend.
The same holds true for our prophet. Zechariah was the son of Iddo (Ezra 5:1; 6:14), one of the priests who had come with Joshua the high priest and with Zerubbabel from Babel (Neh.12:1,4). Under the highpriestly office of Jehoiakim, the son of Joshua, “Zechariah, the son of Iddo” held the priestly office (Neh.12:16), but only in his own prophecy is Zechariah called the son of Berechiah. This is easily explained if Berechiah was the head of the family.
Similar examples we encounter regularly in the genealogies in the Chronicles. These books run till the time of the return out of captivity and were written in Zechariah’s days. (See e.g. Hur, who after five generations is called the son of Judah in 1 Chr.4:1).
The fact that Zechariah was a priest gives a special character to his prophecy, for the priesthood plays a most important role in it.
Call to Repentance and Conversion
The word of the Lord then came to Zechariah, saying: “Jehovah hath been very wroth with your fathers. And thou shall say unto them, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Return unto Me, saith Jehovah of hosts, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts.” (v.2-3).
Thus reads the beginning of the book. The Lord makes known to those escaped of Judah that He has been very wroth with their fathers because they had not listened to His prophets. Would these few who remain also fall into the errors of their fathers, or would they now listen to the word of the Lord? Here there is actually no mention of the law, for we ought not to confuse the prophets with the law. Doubtless, the prophets set the law and the testimony before the people so as to make a serious appeal to Israel’s conscience during a time of ruin. But simultaneously they brought God’s grace and mercy to the attention of the people. Israel had failed, but the Lord could not fail.
Although His judgments had become necessary, He wanted to realize His counsels of grace toward the people. The prophecy does not merely consist of a series of words of the Lord to the guilty people to awaken the conscience and to announce the judgments that would come over them, but it has also as purpose to encourage the heart of the faithful ones by making known to them what God will do for them. “Return unto Me,” we read in these verses, “and I will return unto you.” That goes much farther than the principle of the law. During the dispensation of grace these words are just as true as they were then, and we too ought to pay them serious attention.
“Return unto Me, and I will return unto you.” What have we done with the testimony the Lord has entrusted to us? Is there much difference between our decline and that of Judah’s fathers? Did we keep what God has given in our hands? There is no doubt about the answer. Did we labour on the house of the Lord, or have we built our own houses, the thing of which Haggai accused the nation? Alas, just like those who had returned from Babel, so we have sought to make ourselves comfortable in the world. What are we to do now? Return unto Him! The way is open. Is it then entirely impossible to judge ourselves and to take up again that of which we should never have let go? If we heed this call we will receive a reward: “I will return unto you, says Jehovah of hosts.” If the search for our own interests has caused us to lose fellowship with the Lord, it is essential that we seek it again. If, due to our failure to look after the Lord’s interests our hearts have become dry through the world’s influence; if we have given entrance to “idols,” then let us judge are ways and return unto Him. Then He will return unto us and we will once again enjoy the riches we did despise.
They certainly have not been lost. Only through repentance will we once again experience the enjoyment of these blessings. For many years Israel had left the house incomplete; it had concerned itself about entirely different things than the Lord’s presence in His house. He pointed them to the example of their fathers: “They turned and said, Like as Jehovah of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us” (v.6) They had repented, but only after God’s judgments had come over them. Would the remnant now follow the same path as long as He delayed His judgment? This question holds true for us as well. When we don’t listen to God’s warnings, He must chastise us. May we realize how important the beginning of this chapter is for our souls.
The Difference with Malachi
The Book of Malachi begins entirely different than that of Zechariah. Instead of “return unto Me,” God says to His people through Malachi: “I have loved you.” That is a stirring word; it should have caused the deepest strings of their soul to vibrate. It drew, however, only complains from their cold hearts.
“Wherein hast Thou loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). Every question they directed to Him showed anew how hardened they were. Nine questions are recorded in Malachi, twelve in the first part of Zechariah, but the latter were asked by the prophet himself. They gave expression to his faith and his dependence upon the Lord. Although priest and prophet, Zechariah felt how ignorant and unfit he himself was to fathom God’s thoughts. He had only one desire: to receive a direct explanation of the divine mysteries. Let us copy Zechariah in this and ask as he did. If we do, we will receive just as he did. Such dependence we need especially when we begin our look into the visions of the prophet. One who wants to understand them with his intellect will find himself facing insurmountable difficulties. But one who in humble dependence asks God: “What does this mean?” will receive an answer that will build up and strengthen his faith, especially if he first has taken to heart that other word: “Return unto Me, then I will return unto you.”
I. The Book of Visions —Chapter l:7-Chapter 6
The First Vision
Time and Characteristics of the Visions
Except for the introductory verses (1:1-6), the prophecy of Zechariah is divided into two parts. Better put: two books. The first one starts with chapter 1:7 and ends with chapter 6. The second book is found in chapters 7 to 14. Each of these two books is specially dated.
The first book starts with: “Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of Jehovah unto Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, saying, I saw by night [or: this night].” Important to note is that Zechariah apparently had all eight visions described in Chapters 1:7 to Chapter 6 in a single night. Each heart that thoughtfully considers the prophecies will find itself in the same circumstances as the prophet. To understand the future events, we must be well aware that the world in which we live is covered with deepest darkness. Yet God does not leave us in it without help: the lamp of “the prophetic word” is leading us. True, this lamp does not give us the brightest light God’s Word offers us, for that same Word brings us into the full light of His presence. If, however, we want to learn about the future of the world, we cannot do without prophecy.
Before we begin to consider the first vision, we want to make a remark, significant for the right understanding the prophecy of Zechariah. We have seen how only relatively few captives from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin had left Babel for Jerusalem to rebuild the temple there. After a forced interruption of the work, they had, at the command of the prophet, resumed the work. However, the condition of those who remained of Judah—we will use the word “remnant” as little as possible to identify them—was such that God could not acknowledge them as His people. The last prophets of the Old Testament never referred to those returned from Babel as “God’s people.” God had not yet recalled the “Lo-Ammi” (not My people), that He had caused Hosea to pronounce as judgment. He will only do so when, in a future day, a new nation will arise out of the true remnant of Israel.
Zechariah, therefore, viewed the history of the people from a very restricted perspective. He spoke only of Jerusalem in its relationship with Judah. It is as if the Lord’s perspective became narrower and narrower, to finally rest only upon Jerusalem. In those days, Jerusalem was but a miserable ruin. Yet, faithful to His promises, the Lord wanted to cause the shining of His future glory to emanate from this city. In Zechariah’s days the temple was built again, but it was not yet the temple of the Messiah; the city was rebuilt, but it was not yet the city of “the great King”; the people lived in the land without yet being “the willing people” that God will recognize during the glorious Millennium.
Between the Myrtle Trees
In the first vision, the prophet saw “a man riding upon a red horse.“ The eleventh verse tells us that this man was “the Angel of the Lord.” Throughout the Old Testament, that name stands for the figurative representation of Christ before His manifestation as Man in this world. The red horse He rode upon and the horses which followed Him were the spirits who governed the realms according to God’s precepts. The spirit of the Angel of the Lord led all other spiritual powers which God used to that end.1
The Angel stood “among the myrtle-trees. “ The four places in Scripture where myrtle trees are mentioned all relate to the restoration that follows upon the judgment: In Nehemiah 8:15 the part of the people who have returned is called upon to bring branches of olive trees, myrtle trees, and palms to celebrate the feast of tabernacles.
In Isaiah 41:19 we read that the Lord will make an end to the sad condition of Israel, restoring it, and causing to grow the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and oleaster in the wilderness.
The red horses which followed later would sooner have the character of the cleansing through grace which follows the judgment. Then the red horses mentioned in Chapter 6:2 (picturing the Babylonian empire) would portray the judgment.
In Isaiah 55:13 we read that when all judgments are passed: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress, and instead of the nettle shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to Jehovah for a name, for an everlasting sign [that] shall not be cut off.” In Zechariah 1:11, which is thus the fourth place, the myrtles had to remind the prophet that restoration would come when the horses had fulfilled their task.
First, however, the Angel stood between the myrtles.
He had His eye uninterruptedly focused on the blessings of the last days, the true feast of tabernacles with which Israel’s history will end (Ch. 14:16). The myrtles stood “in the low valley.” This suggested that restoration was still far off, and that a lot had to take place first.
Isn’t it very important for us as well to consider the Angel of the Lord who stood between the myrtles? Today we know Him in the Person of the Lord Jesus who does not continue to look at our ruin, but who rejoices at the coming moment in which He will present His bride to Himself “having no spot, or wrinkle, or any of such things.” That thought contains a precious encouragement for our souls.
The Symbolism of the Horses
“Behind Him were red, bay, and white horses. “ We already observed that the horses are symbolic presentations of persons who have received a charge from God, whatever position they may have otherwise: kings, princes, governments, angels, etc. Under Christ’s leadership they execute God’s counsels in governing the kingdoms which they, so to speak, represent. The horses are sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth. They take notice of the condition of the nations and report their findings at the proper place. They govern the realms according to God’s secret ways which no one knows than He who leads them. They do not represent the realms on behalf of men, who do not know these intermediaries, but before God. This is why we see them here as representatives of the various world powers that have succeeded each other in history. In a night vision the prophet had open eyes enabling him to see them, them and the Angel of the Lord who went before them. During the days of Zechariah the Babylonian empire had already fallen, and made place for that of the Medes and Persians.
The Angel of the Lord rode upon a red horse, symbol of the grace Cyrus had shown the captives of Judah.
Thence too, the red colour of the first horse behind the Angel.
The image and the four beasts in Daniel (Dan. 2 and 7) portray four world empires, beginning with the Babylonian, under which Daniel had prophesied.
Zechariah, who proclaimed his prophecies during the second empire, spoke of three empires beginning with the Persian. He was the prophet of the few, humbled, remaining ones from Judah, who, through Cyrus’ intervention, had returned. Yet, his view, like Daniel’s, reached much farther than the time in which he lived.
He saw, as if they already existed, the Greek and Roman empires that would follow the Persian. The white horse, a conquering power (Rev. 6:2), was very fitting for the Roman empire. But there is a much more important point in this presentation. In the eyes of the prophet the servitude of Judah would not end with Persian empire, although this was the instrument in God’s hand of Israel’s restoration. Two other empires, the Greek and the Roman, would afterwards tread down God’s people of old.
The prophet listened in when God’s servants reported their findings about the moral condition that characterized these empires then, and will do so later.
“We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest” (v.11).
One might think that this report would surely have been very agreeable to the Angel. To the contrary, for the rest those rich ones enjoyed was based on the humiliation and bondage of Israel. While this nation was oppressed and trodden down, the earth felt at ease, and was satisfied with its own condition, while lacking pity for the scattered people of God.
Doubtless, the missteps of this people had been the cause of God’s judgments, but nevertheless Israel remained the object of God’s irrevocable promises. In the end God will show mercy to Israel because His heart is moved with great inner compassion toward this people.
Then “the angel of Jehovah answered and said, Jehovah of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these seventy years?” (v.12). This “how long” was a cry of faith and certainty that one day a time of restoration would dawn for Judah and the beloved city. In the Psalms we read that the faithful ones who have to go through the Great Tribulation will utter the same cry. In Zechariah this cry concerns Jerusalem and Judah, the main subject of this prophecy.
What was the Lord’s answer to this cry of the man “standing between the myrtle trees? “And Jehovah answered the angel that talked with me good words, comforting words” (v.13). When the people of God who live in fear of death hardly dares to lift its voice to make its pain known to Him, then the heart of God is not indifferent for its misery. Judgment had been needed, but the Lord has good words for Israel: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people” (Isa.40). After that Jerusalem has “received double for all her sins” out of the Lord’s hand, God will comfort His people.
Are we not allowed to apply these words to ourselves also? The house of God is under judgment. In the midst of its ruins we call: “How long?” Will we receive an answer lacking in pity? Exactly the opposite! The Spirit brings us good words, words of comfort and hope. God added: “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy, and I am wroth exceedingly with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little wroth, and they helped forward the affliction “(v.14-15). “A little wroth”! The wrath of God hid a love that was grieved because of the thanklessness of the people.
Yet, His wrath was not without mixture, and His love sought for an opportunity to reveal itself without having to short-change His holiness and righteousness.
For Israel as well as for us, the cross of Christ has satisfied God’s righteousness and enabled Him to reveal His grace. The proud nations, enemies of God and His people, did not understand anything of God’s ways though they were His instruments in His dealings with Israel. They had helped along “for evil” and given vent to their hatred. The great wrath of the Lord of hosts would come unmingled upon them. “Therefore thus saith Jehovah: I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: My house shall be built in it, saith Jehovah of hosts, and the line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem“ (v.16).
Then the myrtle trees will blossom! When the prophet spoke, they still stood in “the low valleys,” in the background. We do see a partial fulfilment in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, but the full reality will only take place when the realms of the nations have run their course. Through prophecy we even know that the Roman empire is only “deadly wounded.” In the future it will arise again in the form of a world empire.
Only then it will experience its final judgment. Only then the house of the Lord and the city Jerusalem can be built upon an indestructible foundation. Then the cities of Judah will “overflow with prosperity, and Jehovah shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (v.17).
Second Vision— Chapter 1:18-21
And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns. And I said unto the angel that talked with me.
What are these? And he said to me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem“ (v.18-19). A horn is always a symbol of power. Again we find here, as we did in the first vision, the various powers that were at enmity with God’s people. Now, however, Assyria, is among them.
This power had scattered Israel and was later was absorbed in the Babylonian empire, the one responsible for Judah’s exile.
But we said already that Israel takes a secondary place with Zechariah, for it is not again mentioned before Chapter 10:7-12. Here the specific object is Jerusalem and Judah. Therefore we read in verse 21: “Those are the horns which scattered Judah,” rather than, as inverse 19, “Israel,” for Babel had replaced the Assyrian. Zechariah, well aware of his youth (cf. Ch. 2:4) and his inexperience, asked some questions of the Lord. And such questions never remain unanswered.
The same holds true for us when we prayerfully search God’s Word. God gave Zechariah visions; to us He has given His Word, and He did not do this so that it would remain a sealed book. He made it so that even a little child can understand it. But three things are needed for understanding it: Faith, dependence, and God’s Spirit. These three things the young prophet possessed.
“And Jehovah showed me four craftsmen. And I said, What come these to do? And He spoke, saying, Those are the horns which scattered Judah, so that no man lifted up his head; but these are come to affright them, to cast out the horns of the nations, which lifted up the horn against the land of Judah to scatter it” (v.20-21).
These four craftsmen signify the powers destined by God to fill the realms of the nations with fear and to destroy their power. What they have been in the past, and what they will be in the future is not spoken of in any detail in this portion. A craftsman can use several tools to do his work and cause the strongest edifice to crumble. The appearance of one man, moral conditions, trade barriers, national or natural disasters, wars especially, all are just as many tools by means of which God has destroyed the most powerful empires that ever existed. It baffles our mind to see how easily those enormous and beautiful edifices have collapsed.
It was because God worked in the background. While these world empires still enjoyed rest and peace, the carpenter sawed unobserved the beams and pillars, the mason relocated the cornerstone, while the architect, unnoticed, undermined the hidden foundations. Here and there the singing of the saw, the vibrating of the roof, and tremors of the ground spread fear and anxiety. Afterward, blind trust and quietness returned, until the day when all this undermining work had been completed and everything at once fell to ruins. “Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! for in one hour thy judgment is come....Woe, woe, the great city, which [was] clothed with fine linen and purple and scarlet, and had ornaments of gold and precious stones arid pearls! for in one hour so great riches has been made desolate....Woe, woe, the great city, in which all that had ships in the sea were enriched through her costliness! for in one hour she has been made desolate” (Rev. 18:10,16,19).
We, too, do well to consider what has happened to the kingdoms throughout the course of history. Just as Zechariah, we ought to lift up our eyes and observe what takes place in the world today. Everywhere the craftsmen are doing their secret work. The world powers get startled. They vain would seek to avoid the threatening demise,...when the secretive craftsman has already taken hold of them, casting them far from him!
Third Vision— Chapter 2:
The Man with the Measuring Line
In a general sense, the first and second vision presented what awaited the kingdoms that had oppressed the Jewish people. Doubtless, these things have now been partially fulfilled. But God’s Spirit does not rest at this, for prophecy has always the future glory of Christ in view. And this is now shown to us in the third vision.
“And I lifted up mine eyes and saw “ (v.1).
How good would it be to apply these words to ourselves! Lifting up the eyes is the means whereby we come into communion with God, to receive His answer. It is the attitude that befits all who expect something from God. When we cast our eyes down, we can understand neither Him nor His thoughts, for then we are fixing our eyes on earthly things which have no value for our souls.
“Seek the things which are above, where the Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).
Because he lifted up his eyes, the young prophet Zechariah saw, all God’s thoughts concerning Jerusalem.
“And behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.”
“The measuring line served to stake out an assigned plot of land” (Mic.2:5; Ps.16:5-6).
“And I said, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me: To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof” (v.2).
At the time of this vision, the city Jerusalem lay in ruins, its walls torn down; only the foundations of the temple had been laid. Yet the angel said: “I’m going to measure Jerusalem”! “And behold, the angel that talked with me went forth; and another angel went forth to meet him, and said unto him. Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein” (v.3-4). The future Jerusalem will reach far beyond anything it has ever been, and therefore it will be much larger than the city the returned exiles rebuilt. It will overflow with people and cattle dwelling in it (Jet 33:7-13). The measuring line of an angel will be needed to establish its dimensions. A lot must happen before things are that far. This future city is not the city of Nehemiah, nor the Jerusalem that rejected its Messiah and King, nor even the Jerusalem in which the Jews will dwell after their return to Palestine when they will become the people of the antichrist. The walls of Jerusalem during the reign of the antichrist will not protect the city when the nations will come to besiege and plunder it in the last days.
But a day will come in which the Lord will appear in Israel as the true King. Then Jerusalem will call its walls Salvation, and its gates Praise (Isa.60:18), or, as it is put here, “I, saith Jehovah, I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her” (v.5).
Two blessings are announced in this verse: 1. The Lord Himself will be as a wall of fire round about her and defend her against every foe who will rise up against her. He will be her protector; 2. He will be her glory in her midst (v.5, 10-11).
This blessing, like the previous one, lies still in the future when the glorified Messiah will make Jerusalem His habitation. “For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His dwelling: This is My rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it” (Ps. 132:13-14). We believers ought not to forget ‘that we enjoy this blessing already now, despite the ruin of the Assembly.
In Spirit the Lord dwells in the midst of His own. This blessing excels over all others. Doubtless, it will only become full reality for us in the perfected condition, but in the midst of the ruin it remains the portion of the faithful ones, even if they are only two or three.
The Lord did not dwell in the city that still lay in ruins when Zechariah prophesied. His glory had left the temple, as Ezekiel tells us. But at the end of his book, that same prophet shows us that the glory will return in the Millennium. And this fact Zechariah pronounces with the words: “I will be the glory in the midst of her.”
Call to Flee From Babylon
The second portion of this chapter begins at verse 6:
“Ho, ho! flee from the land of the North, saith Jehovah; for I have scattered you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, saith Jehovah.”
The land of the North is Chaldea, where the Jews lived “scattered” and separated among the nations in all regions of the realm (Est. 3:8), spread towards the four winds. The exiles of Judah had since a short while left this land, but by far not all had gone up (Ezra 8). This call was therefore aimed directly at those who had remained behind. But as always, it also relates to the last days. In Isaiah 52:11 we read: “Depart, depart, go out from thence, touch not what is unclean; go out of the midst of her, be ye clean, that bear the vessels of Jehovah.” Even more urgent is the call in Jeremiah 51:6: “Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and save every man his life; be ye not cut off in her iniquity: for this is the time of Jehovah’s vengeance: He shall render unto her a recompense.” The same Jeremiah who in the past had advised the people to subject themselves to Babel’s yoke, later urged them to flee from the midst of her.
One could argue that these prophecies were fulfilled when Babylon went down for good under the successors of Alexander. Yet, many years after that calamity, we hear the same cry in the New Testament: “Wherefore come out from the midst of them, and be separated, saith [the] Lord, and touch not [what is] unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor.6:17). And in Revelation 18:4, “Come out of her, My people, that ye have not fellowship in her sins, and that ye do not receive of her plagues.” What do these words mean? In the last days, the city of Babel will exist as little as it does today; but the godless principles that characterized her will in the last days take on a form of enmity against Christ. Thus, a system will arise in the political, commercial, and religious arenas that will be called “Great Babylon” (Rev. 17-18). The faithful believers must flee out of that “Babylon.” At the present time believers are admonished (2 Cor.6) to separate from these principles, to walk according to God’s thoughts, enjoying His communion. God gives three reasons that cause it to be imperative to leave “Babel”:
1. The judgments will come over this city;
2. The faithful ones should not fall under this judgment (Rev. 18);
3. They who carry the vessels of the Lord, to whom He has entrusted His testimony, cannot walk together with the unclean idols (Isa.52).
These truths hold true for the remnant of the last days, but they are just as important and of serious actuality to us.
Christ in the Midst of His People
“Ho! escape, Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith Jehovah of hosts: After the glory, hath He sent Me unto the nations that made you a spoil; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye” (v.7-8). Messengers from among the remnant will announce to the nations that the Lord has revealed Himself in glory at Jerusalem to establish His kingdom there. For that reason it says here: “after the glory.” We find the same thought in Matthew 24:30-31: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the land lament, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from [the one] extremity of [the] heavens to [the other] extremity of them.” “The sign of the Son of man” signifies His appearance in glory. After this glory He will gather together the scattered elect, for these verses of Matthew, just as those in Zechariah, refer to the gathering in of Israel. Psalm 73:24 expresses the same thought: “Thou wilt guide me by thy counsel, and after the glory, thou wilt receive me.” Then the nations who have oppressed Israel will have to endure the judgment. “They shall become a spoil to those that served them“ (v.9). Judah will be a sword in the Lord’s hand to fight against these nations and to destroy them.
“Sing aloud and rejoice, daughter of Zion; for behold, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith Jehovah. And many nations shall join themselves to Jehovah in that day, and shall be unto Me for a people; and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent Me unto thee” (v.10-11). Jerusalem is told to rejoice for Christ will then be in her midst. Many redeemed ones out of the nations will enjoy the privileged position of the holy city. “And Jehovah shall inherit Judah [as] His portion in the holy land, and shall yet choose Jerusalem“ (v.12). The holy land will be cleansed from unrighteousness.
The moment will come in which the Lord will have completed His wondrous work in the midst of His people and cleansed His city. He will once again consider it as His chosen dwelling.
Let us, like the prophet, compare the future days with the present; then we will be filled with joy. Sadness and downcastness would be our portion if we were to compare the present condition of God’s house with that of earlier days. Yes, let us rejoice in the coming day. The Lord Jesus will simultaneously be the glory of the new and of the old Jerusalem, dwelling in the midst of both, while being the centre of the praise of all His redeemed ones.
Fourth Vision—Chapter 3
Joshua as Type
Joshua and Zerubbabel stood at the head of those remaining of Judah and Benjamin, whose condition at the time of their return to Jerusalem was one of deep humiliation. They were weak representatives of the priesthood and royalty, by simultaneously forerunners, types, of the Messiah in His future glory.
The high priest Joshua is the subject of the prophet’s fourth vision. His name, “the Lord is Saviour” points already to Him whom he foreshadowed. Yet, in this respect it is important to observe that Joshua can only be seen as type of Christ at the end of the chapter; at the beginning of it this is not the case. The high priest of Israel had a double function. In the first place he was a mediator “established for men in things relating to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1).
In the second place he was the representative of the people, and, according to Zechariah, more in particular of Jerusalem. Didn’t we already observe that this prophecy does not consider the nation as a whole? God could only accept Jerusalem in the person of its representative, and therefore everything depended upon the condition of the high priest. In connection with the gospel, the early part of this chapter is a portrait of the condition of a sinner before God. It is, however, not our purpose to present this so important side of Joshua’s person. We will restrict ourselves to highlight the high priest’s role as representative of the people.
Joshua then stood before the Angel of the Lord, who, as we have seen in the first chapter, is in the Old Testament the symbolic presentation of Christ before His appearance in flesh.
In the New Testament, the Angel of the Lord is no longer mentioned, except in a few portions of Revelation. Joshua then stood before Christ, who is here presented in this hidden manner; in the Old Testament Christ is very often spoken of as Lord.
The Accusation Failed
Satan stood on the high priest’s right side to accuse him. As accuser of the saints the enemy still has access to God. But the Lord has taken on the defence of His people. Today’s believers, God’s present people, too have at their right hand an accuser who as a result of sin has obtained a right on man.
He appealed to God’s righteousness regarding sin, and to God’s holiness, in an effort to oppose what God in His grace would do for the benefit of Jerusalem. Alas! The high priest wore filthy clothing. Under such circumstances, who would prevail? Satan, who justifiably accused Joshua, or the holy God, who is too pure of eyes to behold evil? “Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan! Yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee!” (v.1). Before God, Joshua took the place of Jerusalem, and the Angel of the Lord was the personification of the Lord to answer the accuser. God added to His words: “/* not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” The Lord began by determining that Satan was powerless in face of His choice and His election.
Satan pled God’s righteousness and His wrath against sin, so as to ruin Joshua and Jerusalem. But since he was not acquainted with the divine love he stood ashamed. The grace that desires to save sinners is totally unknown to him. Satan came to proclaim that God’s holiness would never be able to tolerate a man in filthy, garments in His presence. And he was right.
But God answered, “I have chosen Jerusalem, is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” That does not mean, as some maintain, that he was taken out of the fire after the flames had half consumed him. No, when the fire came near to him he was spared and set apart so as to never be cast into it again. Since the Lord had determined to save Joshua, Satan was made powerless, and he himself, the enemy of our souls, will be punished for his evil designs. Yet, God’s righteousness must be satisfied, and this was the basis of Satan’s dangerous purposes.
How could the Lord reconcile His righteousness with His gracious election? “And Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the Angel. And he spoke and said unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from off him.
And unto him he said, See, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I clothe thee with festivalrobes” (v.3-4). God alone could do this. Joshua could not take off his clothes without standing naked before God. That would have meant his condemnation. He had to be clothed in new clothes, made worthy of Him before whose face He stood. The Lord said, “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I clothe thee with festival-robes.” God delivered Joshua, dealing with him according to the right that He possessed to cleanse him; He put him in the joy and in the glorious privileges of His presence. That will also happen in a future day when Jerusalem will enjoy the blessings of the Messianic realm. The beloved city will be aware of the work of salvation accomplished on her behalf; he will appear before God with the name: Joshua, the Lord is Saviour, written on his brow. She will be adorned with “gold-brocade,” suited to the presence of the God of righteousness, and fitting for the feast of the king! “And 1 said, Let them set a pure turban upon his head.
And they set the pure turban upon his head, and clothed him with garments; and the Angel of Jehovah stood by” (v.5). The turban was the token of the priestly office. By means of the prophecy, which portrayed Christ’s mediatorial work—for as we mentioned, the high priest could not attend to that work—Joshua once more received the right to undertake this God-pleasing service. Thus, in the last days, will the nation itself be “a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” From the moment that the Angel of the Lord spoke to Satan: “The Lord rebuke thee,” the accuser of Joshua disappeared. So it is always: the enemy may set out to destroy us, but for Him who takes care of our affairs he is unable to hold his ground.
“And the Angel of Jehovah protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shall also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts; and I will give thee a place to walk among these that stand by” (v.6-7). These verses have to do with Joshua’s responsibility and with the priesthood he represented. Under the coming reign of Christ there will be an acknowledged priesthood; those who kept My charge” will be part of it (Ezek. 48:11). The unfaithful ones will not have the right to be among the priests, who execute the service before the Lord in His sanctuary. Yet by His grace even their needs will be attended to in that He will charge them with the care of the house (Ezek. 44:10-16). This thought, speaking of responsibility, is for us of even greater importance than for the believers under the old covenant. From the moment that we are, cleansed from our sins, brought before God, clothed with His righteousness, we are fit to serve Him, executing the holy priesthood in His presence. But with it we also are responsible to show ourselves worthy of the calling, otherwise God will not be able to give us new blessings, nor can He then entrust the service in His sanctuary. The sad sluggishness of God’s children regarding the worship service frequently has no other reason than this. They lack of faithfulness hinders them to join the priests who stand before God. How many Christians are quite satisfied that they know to be reconciled to God, without realizing that nobility brings obligations. The judgment over the house and the keeping of the courts will never be entrusted to them. Year upon year they will, without spiritual insight, remain unable to judge and discern, remain useless to the Lord. It is because from the start they have failed to execute their ministry. May we all take these things to heart!
Branch and High Priest
In the second part of this chapter (v.8-10) Joshua is presented to us under an entirely different character: “Hear now, Joshua the high priest, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee—for they are men of portent” [men to be observed as signs or types— margin] (\.S). Joshua was no longer addressed as representative of the people, nor as the responsible priest who had to take care of his service so as to be able to move among those who stand before God. Here he is seen as the one before whom the priests were sitting whom he had taken into his confidence as his companions. In the preceding verses Joshua was mentioned only to bring to our attention of whom he was a type, for they who surrounded him were set as “wondrous signs.” In the future there will therefore be a high priest, and from the Epistle to the Hebrews and Psalm 110 we know that He will be high priest after the order of Melchisedec, an entirely different priestly order than the Aaronic one of Joshua. The priesthood after the order of Melchisedec belongs to Christ alone, and the following chapters will unfold for us the importance of His service. Here we have only a preliminary mention of it. First the Lord is presented to us under other types: “For behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch“ (v.8).
The title “Branch” (Isa.4:2; Jer.23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12), and that of “Shoot” or “Tender Sapling” (Isa.11:1; 53:2) always refer to the Messiah, who will spring forth from trunk of David. It is very remarkable that in this verse God addressed Joshua as the representative of Christ in His priestly service. The Lord announced to him that He would Himself raise up His Servant, David’s Son, the King. In Chapter 6:12-1 3, where we find a more complete revelation of Christ, the “Branch” and the “High Priest” are one and the same person, and both offices are combined under one head. In the first chapter and in the beginning of the third, Christ was already introduced to us under the mysterious name of the Angel of the Lord. In this portion we see Him in the two characters in which He will one time reveal Himself, to enable us to consider and value His two distinct offices, so that we would not prefer the one above the other.
The prophet had begun with describing the fall of the Gentile world empires (Ch. 1), so that the restoration of Jerusalem could take place (Ch. 2). After that he had shown (Ch. 3:1-7) that in view of this Jerusalem, represented a person, Joshua, had to be cleansed. Here Zechariah went even a step further, showing that the faithful ones, if they were to share in the blessings of the last days, needed a spotless High priest, whose companions they will be. He will, however, also be a King out of David’s seed.
The Stone with Seven Eyes
This blessed person, however, is further presented to us in a third picture: “For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua—upon one stone are seven eyes; behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith Jehovah of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day” (v.9).
When Joshua, one of the heads of the returned exiles, had began building the house of God, they had put one stone before him that was to be the [key stone for the—The translator] foundation of the temple. It was the cornerstone [from which all measurements were to be taken while establishing the foundation— The translator] on which the entire building was to rest.
This stone was but a weak picture of the true Stone, Christ, the foundation of the future temple, of Him who would first be the rejected corner stone before He would be laid forever. The great and glorious Millennial reign, will have the temple, the place of worship to the Lord, as centre, and it will be founded on Christ. During the entire dispensation of God’s government over the earth, He will be the “spindle” around which everything and everyone will move: Christ the foundation; the temple God’s dwelling place in the midst of His people; Jerusalem the city of the Great King, inseparable linked to the temple; the people of God in perfect harmony assembled around the house of the Lord and the royal city; all nations to the extremities of the earth gathered around the beloved nation! Finally, this beautiful display enfolds itself under the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. Thus will be the future glory on earth, while the lustre of the Lamb’s throne and of His bride, the new Jerusalem, will fill heaven\ “Upon one stone are seven eyes.” In the book of Revelation, the seven spirits, the seven lamps, and the seven eyes are one and the same, but with different significance. “The seven Spirits which are before His throne” (Rev. 1:4) signify the fullness of God’s Spirit, who leads the government of the world. In Revelation 4:5: “And seven lamps of fire, burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God,” we see the fullness of the Spirit in casting light upon, and bringing into judgment that which rebels against God’s government on earth. In Chapter 5:6, the Lamb with the “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God which are sent into all the earth” signifies Christ with the fullness of His knowledge (combined with the fullness of His power—the seven horns) to execute God’s counsels regarding the earth.
In Zechariah 3:9 the stone with the seven eyes portrays Christ in the fullness of His knowledge of God’s thoughts. He was the full expression of these, for God Himself did engrave the graving upon it. Christ as Man here below, the once-rejected stone, was God revealed in flesh, the Truth. In Him, God made Himself known; and in Him, God will make Himself known on the new earth during the glorious reign of the Son of man.
“And I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day” (v.9). Then will not just the people that was represented by Joshua be cleansed, but the whole land.
The land of Israel must be cleansed from all unrighteousness and filthiness to be fit for Christ’s reign as Priest, as King, and as Centre of all God’s thoughts.
“In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, shall ye invite every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig-tree” (v.10).
That will be a day of rest of everyone, the collective enjoying of that rest, the true reign of peace for Israel.
Fifth Vision—Chapter 4
Prerequisites for Insight in God’s Plans
In Zechariah 3 God addressed Joshua, the high priest. The fourth chapter deals with the king, in the person of Zerubbabel, for priesthood and kingship will characterize Christ in His glory during the Millennium.
The prophet saw a vision as if he had been “wakened out of sleep.” Though he could describe it, he did not understand it at all. “He said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I see, and behold, a lamp-stand all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon, seven lamps and seven pipes to the lamps, which are upon the top thereof; and two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bow I, and the other on the left of it. And I answered and spoke to the Angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my Lord? And the Angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my Lord” (v.2-5).
We already drew attention to it that the book contains many questions. The prophet could not understand anything without the Angel explaining it to him. This kept him humble when he had to acknowledge: “No, my Lord” in response to the: “Knowest thou not...?” of his companion. We, too, need to feel ourselves ignorant before God if we want to understand the truths contained in God’s Word. The Scriptures give many obvious details which can be understood, even by unbelievers, but the deeper sense will always escape the natural man. To grasp the hidden significance we need the Spirit of God (1 Ki.2:10-14), but even more, we must know Christ, who Himself is the key to the Word.
Zechariah saw a golden candlestick with a bowl of oil above it. Exodus 25 tells us about the candlestick, which was meant to give light in the holy place. Like every object of the tabernacle or the temple, it portrayed one of Christ’s glories. Just as the candlestick in this chapter portrayed Christ, its light was the testimony of Christ.
But the symbol of the candlestick is not just applicable to Christ. In Revelation the seven golden lamps are the seven assemblies. If, on the other hand, light is mentioned, the Lord Jesus did not only say: “I am the light of the world,” but He also said to His own, “Ye are the light of the world” (Jn.9:5; Mt. 5:14); thus they were Christ’s testimony toward the world. But light needs oil. To be able to be a testimony one needs the Holy Spirit, and throughout Scripture the oil is a picture of this.
Summarizing therefore, the golden candlestick in the temple is a picture of Christ who, on the one hand, is alone able to give full light, and who, on the other hand, shines His light through the witnesses which He has chosen for this purpose. Zechariah did not see the candlestick in the temple, for its foundations had hardly been laid. The candlestick did not shed its light in a restricted space but toward the outside. It had a bowl of oil at its top feeding the lamps. And to avoid this reservoir from ever becoming empty, two olive trees caused the golden yellow oil to flow through ducts into it.
Although the testimony of the Holy Spirit also can also be applied to our days, in Zechariah it is seen prophetically. In the future there will be a time of blessing and glory in which the Divine light will shine in the person of Him who will be the eternal bearer of it and in His witnesses, the core of the future nation Israel. To us this seems to be the intent of this portion.
As far as we Christians are concerned, we ought not to forget that the Assembly is called to testify before the days come in which God will once more take up His dealings with His old nation. When the Lord Jesus, the true light of the world, was rejected, He left us behind in His place to let this light shine and to testify of it.
In Revelation 2 we see that the assembly at Ephesus, as representative of the entire Assembly, had left its first love; thereby it had simultaneously lost the privilege to be a testimony of Christ. It is therefore said to her: “I will remove thy lamp out of its place.” The lamp of the assembly, as a responsible body, will be removed from its place and in a future day be entrusted to others. Zechariah speaks of this future testimony. However, before it will shine in all its glory, it will, as we see in Revelation 11, be given into the hands of two Jewish witnesses. Of these it says: “These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev. 11:4).
It will be a testimony that during Israel’s Great Tribulation will be given at Jerusalem, but not worldwide. God will acknowledge it, for “at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter shall be established” (Dt.19:15). It will not be a full testimony, as was Zechariah’s, for instead of seven, there will only be two lamps. These two witnesses will also be the two olive trees (Rev. 11:4) as we are told at the end of the chapter: These are the two sons of oil, that stand before the Lord of the whole earth” (Zech. 4:14). They will be the two olive trees from which the testimony of the Holy Spirit will flow. Their light will support the weak remnant that will still be dwelling in the midst of Jerusalem before Christ’s reign.
Endowed with the Spirit of prophecy, they will act in the power of Elijah and of Moses, who represent the priesthood and the kingship during a time of ruin before both are united in the glorious person of Christ.2 As mentioned, in Zechariah the testimony is complete; the person of the Lord Jesus is the centre of it; His people will be united with Him in it. The oil, feeding the candlestick, is provided by the two anointed ones, the priesthood and the kingship, for both priests and kings are anointed with oil (Lev. 8:12; 1 Sam. 16:13).
These two functions, in chapter 3 entirely separated, are here linked together, but not yet united in one person.
The Work of God’s Spirit
In verse 6 of this chapter the person of the king comes to the fore in a very special way: “This is the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying. Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts.” As we saw in the previous chapter, cleansed from his defilement, Joshua typified Christ’s priesthood.
Chapter 4 shows us Zerubbabel, in his utter weakness, as typifying Christ, the King. Zerubbabel, the weak sprout of the royal family, humbled to the extreme, could not even carry the title of king. But the Lord addresses him with the words: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit”! What an encouragement it must be for a humbled man to hear that God does not desire mighty deeds from him, and nothing shall be the honour of Christ’s people, but that His Spirit was with him! We may apply this word to ourselves in days like ours, which in more ways than one resemble those of Zechariah. “Thou hast little power,” the Lord Jesus said to the assembly at Philadelphia. He encouraged His own in their condition of outward weakness, over against the pretensions to might and power of the religious world. He assures them that He is with them.
They know that they can count on that promise, and that His power will be accomplished in their weakness.
“Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel [thou dost become] a plain“ (4:7). Surely, the Lord Jesus intimated this verse when He said to His disciples, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Be transported hence there, and it shall transport itself impossible to you” (Mt. 17:20).
In the days in which we live, the weakest faith causes all obstructions which Satan and the world put on our path to disappear. In the days of Zechariah all the power of the Gentiles could not oppose the working of God’s Spirit toward the restoration of His people. The ways of the Lord must issue in and the blessing of His people.
“He shall bring forth the headstone with shoutings: Grace, grace unto it!” (v.7). In the previous chapter Christ was the cornerstone of the foundation. Here He is portrayed as the top, the keystone of the entire building. God had engraved seven eyes on the cornerstone; on the headstone one reads only one word: Grace! His praise, as being the bearer of God’s favour, will be sung by all. All future blessings will depend on this grace of God displayed in the person of the King. When He came into this world, grace appeared in His person; out of this, faith received the fullness: “Grace upon grace” (Jn.1:16). But His people did not receive Him and the world rejected Him. Then He finished the work of grace on the cross. One day He will appear in His kingdom as the bearer of God’s favour and the dispenser of grace for Israel and for all the, for He does not despise the day of small things.
“And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; and his hands shall finish it: and thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent Me unto you “ (vv. 8-9). With this Zechariah returns to the circumstances under which he prophesied. He announced that Zerubbabel would complete the house of which he had laid the foundation. History tells us that this has also come about. “For who hath despised the day of small things? “ (4:10). It was a relatively modest task to rebuild the temple of those days. The people wept when they thought of the past glory of the temple. Yet, in the eye of God, this small beginning had nevertheless significance. He was well pleased with those who took the building of His house to heart.
So it is today. We, too, are called upon to gather the precious building materials for God’s house: souls, who, as living stones, are built upon the foundation, which is Christ. It is sufficient when we do this with a heart that is entirely devoted to Him “They shall rejoice [even] those seven—and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel: these are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro in the whole earth” (v.10). The seven eyes of the Lord, that had been graven on the cornerstone of the temple, are now shown to us as running to and fro in the whole earth (cf. Rev. 5:6). The fullness of God’s Spirit will rejoice when it sees the work at the Lord’s temple completed, and the plummet in Zerubbabel's hand assuring the solidity of the entire building while the headstone is being placed. Little did it matter that the start seemed to be so weak: the work had been done for the Lord.
This Spirit, who runs to and fro in the whole earth, will rejoice when He sees that all things are completed and set in order under the reign of the true King. Then will the temple of the Lord be the gathering place of all nations, the visible centre of Christ’s glorious reign.
Sixth Vision—Chapter 5:1-4
A Short review
For the proper understanding of chapter 5 we like to give here a short review of the history of the nations as described in the first four chapters.
In chapter 1 we see Judah and Jerusalem trodden down by the nations, yet comforted and encouraged by the announcement of their future blessings and the destruction of their oppressors. In chapter 2 it is more than “comforting words”: God remembers Jerusalem to lead it forever into the blessings of the Millennium.
In chapter 3 we read what has to take place first: Jerusalem needs to be cleansed, the unrighteousness of Judah removed, and the nation be clothed with the garment of righteousness and holiness. In chapter 4 the prophet sees the nation as returned out of captivity. It is the day of small things, but the Lord does not despise these. At that time God’s testimony will be represented by Joshua and Zerubbabel. God values this testimony. But in the last days it will reappear and be counted as sufficient, although it will only be represented by two witnesses in the midst of the nation that has sunk into unbelief. About a hundred years after the return out of captivity the prophet Malachi, observing the moral condition of the nation, saw only a complete ruin among them that called for the final judgment of God. Four centuries later, Judah filled up its unrighteousness by killing the Messiah. Then God once more scattered the people among all nations; and this is how things still stand today. But once this unbelieving nation will have returned to its land, would God be able to acknowledge and approve of anything in the midst of this apostate nation except a small remnant? In chapter 5 the two visions of the prophet answer this question. These visions seem hard to understand, but in reality they are simple as long as we allow ourselves to be taught by God’s Spirit.
In chapter 5:2 it says that the prophet saw “a flying roll: the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits. “ This roll, a written book, came from the Lord; it flew, and that proves that it was alive. It went at its goal, and had special, very remarkable dimensions: a length of twenty and a width of ten cubits. The most holy place of Solomon was twenty cubits long, wide, and high. In the place where the ark stood, the cherubim, who expressed God’s judicial power in creation, spread out their wings so that the wing of the one cherub touched that of the other, and their others wings stretched to the walls of the sanctuary. Each cherub was ten cubits high and their wings together also ten cubits. The most holy place of the temple was thereby characterized by the numbers twenty and ten. From this we must conclude that the roll, the written word that proceeded from God was in accordance with the holiness of the place where God dwelled between the cherubim, and that it bore the character of that place. Judgments were written on both sides of the roll: “This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole land: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off according to it on this side; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off according to it on that side” (v.2). This living, holy book pronounced curses. We ought not to forget that judgment is one of the characteristics of God’s Word.
When the world does not listen to the call of grace contained in this holy Book, it will have to come to know the Word in another character, that of the curse.
In God’s Word the “roll” is shown us in three aspects.
First in Psalm 40:6-8 and Hebrews 10:6-7: “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of Me) to do, O God, Thy will.” The main subject of this “Book,” which is written over it as an epitaph, is the perfect obedience of Christ in completing God’s counsels in the work of redemption. In short: “the grace which is in Jesus Christ.”
Secondly, we find in Revelation 5: “On the right hand of Him that sat upon the throne a book, written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” This is the book of God’s counsels and plans regarding the earth.
In it we are told along which ways He will execute them when He will establish the reign of His beloved Son. Only Christ can cause them to be fulfilled by opening the seals of the book.
The Curse of God
Finally, the “roll of the book” reveals to us the spiritual condition of man, his responsibility toward God, and the judgments that flow from this. The rolls in Jeremiah 36, in Ezekiel 2:9-10, and in the portion we are now considering have this character. The two visions of Zechariah 5 show us the curse pronounced by God, first over the moral condition of the nation (v.1 -4), and next over its religious condition (v.5-11).
Concerning the moral condition of the nation, for which it was responsible to God, the curse was on the one hand pronounced over the thief, and on the other hand over him who swore falsely by the name of the Lord. Such a restriction of the motives for the judgment many at first sight seem very strange. But when we give it some thought, we discover in these two words the characteristics of the sin of man. A thief is an evil one who deals unrighteously towards his neighbour; one who swears falsely makes God to a liar by taking Him as a witness affirming his oath.
Unrighteousness and despising God were the characteristics of this nation. Not even one century afterward Malachi would charge them with the same things (Mal. 3:5).
“I will cause it to go forth, saith Jehovah of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by My name; and it shall lodge in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof (v.4). Does this verse not remind us of the words of the Lord Jesus: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of robbers” (Mt. 21:13), and: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Mt. 23:38), and also of: “Not a stone shall be left here upon a stone which shall not be thrown down” (Mt. 24:2)?
Seventh Vision—Chapter 5:5-11
TheWoman in the Ephah
To understand this vision we must, in all simplicity, surrender ourselves to the direct instruction of God’s Word. It is possible that our lack of spiritual insight may hinder us to understand all details of it. If so, let us remember that, when something remains dark to us, the problem lies with us. God has given these things for our learning and not to make things difficult for us through enigmas.
“And the Angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And 1 said, What is it? And He said, This is the ephah that goeth forth. And He said, This is their resemblance in all the land. And behold, there was lifted up a round plate of lead; and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And He said, This is Wickedness: and He cast her into the midst of the ephah; and He cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof (v.5-8).
The ephah generally represents the largest measure of contents, for the cor or homer, with a larger content is nothing else but a tenfold ephah. In the midst of that ephah sat a women, that is to say, she had established herself there. Subsequently the Angel cast her into the ephah, as a picture of judgment. He closed the ephah with a lead lid to indicate that the judgment had been irrevocably been sealed. This woman was called Wickedness, in the sense of unrighteousness. She possessed a nature that did not subject itself to a higher will, but acted according to its own will. She felt herself totally independent from God, and did acknowledge no other law that her own (1 Jn.3:4).
Therefore the woman in the ephah portrays the independency of man toward God. She had filled up the measure and was therefore judged in this irrevocable manner.
In God’s Word the woman often is found to be the personification of a moral or religious principle. So we find, for instance in Proverbs a woman as symbol of wisdom, and a woman representing corruption. These principles are often portrayed by a nation or a city.
Thus, in Revelation 12, the woman portrays a nation, the true Israel according to God’s counsels, and in Revelation 17:3 the woman is an apostate, religious system, a city, Babylon the Great (cf. v. 9). Jerusalem too is repeatedly seen as a moral and religious system portrayed by the image of a woman.
We already saw that the woman in our chapter personified the ungodliness, the apostasy from God. In Judah and Jerusalem this reached its pinnacle, as the Lord said in Matthew 23:32: “And ye, fill ye up the measure of your fathers”! During the time of the Lord’s walk on earth idolatry had not been seen since the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The house had been swept clean and been adorned. To all appearances the people that had in earlier days committed such terrible idolatry, had been cleansed. But, though outwardly cleansed, it then rejected and crucified its King, and God once more scattered it among the nations, a condition that lasts till today. When, in the time of the end, Israel will have returned to its land, seven spirits more wicked than the first will again occupy the house and dwell in it (Mt. 12:43-45). This will be under the reign of the antichrist: idolatry will again overpower the nation, it will kneel for an idol and acknowledge Satan as its king.
If the final stage of Judah and Jerusalem is shown us here in a somewhat hidden manner, it is because this vision stretches itself beyond the boundaries of the Jewish nation and also relates to the nations that in the last days will be represented by the apostate Christendom: “This is their resemblance in all the land” (v.6). Since this subject does not belong to the Old Testament, it could here only be presented in a dark form. But the New Testament gives us a clear and complete picture of it. We know that Christendom, having become apostate after the rapture of all true believers, will commit idolatry just as the Jewish nation. The latter will deny the Lord, the God of their fathers under the instigation of the antichrist. Under the influence of the same person, Christendom will deny the Father and the Son (1 Jn.2:22). From that moment onward Judah will have made the measure of its unrighteousness full. So it will also be with Christendom; both will meet one another in a common idolatrous service. “The abomination” will stand in the temple at Jerusalem, and Christendom will drink with Jewry out of the same cup of poison.
The ninth verse describes what will come over the woman that we have just viewed from both angles.
“And I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork; and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens."
And I said to the Angel that talked with me, Whither do these carry the ephah? And He said unto me, To build it a house in the land of Shinar; and it shall be established, and set there upon its own base” (v.9-11).
Is it perhaps due to this double-sided character that the ephah was carried away by two women? I couldn’t say. We do see, however, that the circumstances are favourable for the development of the principles portrayed by them. “The wind was in their wings,” and besides, “they had wings of a stork.” Storks always return to their nests. The two women brought all this unrighteousness back to the place of origin, to the land of Shinar, that is to say, to Babylon, to the place where the old Babel lay destroyed forever Babel is as it were the cradle of idolatry. The unrighteousness of the Jews will in the last days return openly to its place of origin.
There the house will be established and placed on its foundation. The same will take place with apostate Christendom. In Revelation 17:5 Great Babylon is called, the mother of the harlots, and of the abominations of the earth. According to verse 11 she will remain in Shinar. But in that condition the judgment will come over apostasy, both over its Jewish and over its Christian form.
The words “to go forth” that are so often repeated in this chapter, always refer to the judgment. The roll, the curse, went forth; the angel went forth, the ephah went forth, as did the women. They took the ephah away, little realizing that that what they put in its place would soon be destroyed. Will there in the midst of all this unrighteousness remain any testimony for Christ? Certainly, for in the previous chapter we saw a faithful remnant. Similarly a remnant is found in today’s Christendom: Philadelphia. That of Judah will become the kernel of future Israel, more numerous than the stars of the heavens and the sand on the shore of the seas. It will enjoy all the blessings of the Millennium after the apostate Jews and apostate Christendom have been remembered before God, and Babylon, the great city, will have been cast into the sea to be found no more at all!
Eighth Vision—Chapter 6:1-8
The Four World Empires
In this portion we find the eighth and last vision of Zechariah. The four wagons are very clearly a picture of the four world empires so often spoken of under various pictures in the prophecies of the Old and New Testament. In the early pages of the Book Daniel, we see them as a great image, the figure of a man, a rational and responsible creature that has a moral relationship with God, to whom He has entrusted the world hegemony. These realms fall short in their responsibility. God will crush them all together by a stone cut out without hands to establish the world encompassing kingdom of Christ, a large mountain, filling the entire earth. Further on, in Daniel 8, we see these four realms in the form of four beasts, that is to say, four beings that have no moral relationship with God. Revelation 13 describes the last of these beasts, namely the Roman Empire that will again be in existence at that time, encompassing the three preceding realms, and summarizing shortly their characteristics.
Zechariah refers three times to these realms. In chapter 1 they occur under the image of their three symbolical representatives, for Babylon, the first realm had already ceased to exist through the attacks of the Medes and the Persians. These realms enjoyed full rest after they had scattered the people of God. But no sooner has the last realm finished its course, or the moment has come for God to once again take up the cause of His people and to restore His dealings with them. In the end of Zechariah 1 the four horns portrayed four realms, four powers that are destroyed by God’s servants, to bring the blessings of the last days to Jerusalem, as we read in chapter 3.
“And I lifted up mine eyes again, and saw, and behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass” (v.1). Here we find no horses, but four chariots drawn by horses, which in Scripture are a presentation of a royal army. The first-mentioned chariot typifies the mighty Chaldean realm. In the first chapter we already gave an explanation regarding the red horses.
In chapter 6 they represent the judgment that Babel executed over Israel. Here the realms are not portrayed in the way they were in chapter 1, where God’s Spirit took note of their condition. Now it speaks of the manner in which God directs them for the execution of His plans. Therefore the chariots are presented as “the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth” (v.5; cf. Dan. 7:2). God is showing us that His providence had directed the course of these war-faring powers from the very beginning. For all appearances, each power had done whatever it wanted, following its own ways without taking account of God. In reality He stood behind the scenes, and the four spirits of the heavens stood before His face to lead the paths of the realms in the direction He desired them to take. God’s purpose will only be fully achieved at the end of prophetic times, for the fourth or Roman empire must once more arise, as we read in Revelation. The four chariots went forth (came out), just as the roll and the ephah, because also here the issue is judgment. They came from between two mountains that formed as it were a pass they had to go over. In figurative language, a mountain always portrays a well-established power on earth. The mountains are brass. Here brass speaks of God’s righteousness in its dealing with sin, whether it be for our redemption—the brazen altar, a figure of the cross—or for our cleansing—the brazen laver—or for the establishing of Christ’s kingdom—the brazen pillars. His kingdom can only be established through judgment. And so we see here God’s power, despite all, established as firm mountains to keep the realms from following another course than that indicated by God. This power directs them with the judgment of His people in view. But after they have destroyed each other, redemption will follow upon the judgment over Israel. In this way God’s plans of grace toward this nation will be fulfilled.
The Three other Realms
“That in which are the black horses goeth forth into the North Country; and the white go forth after them “ (v.6). When the end of the captivity of the nation under Babel’s yoke had drawn near, God intervened and sent the Medes and Persians—the chariot with the black horses—to the Northern Country, a name used for the region lying to the North of Jerusalem, namely Chaldea. The Medes and Persians were followed by the conquering power of Alexander—the chariot with the white horses—which destroyed the second realm, Persia, in the Northern Country. That explains the expression: “the white go forth after them.” “And the grizzled go forth towards the South Country; and the strong go forth, and seek to go that they may walk to and fro through the earth” (v.6-7). Here we see the fourth chariot, the Roman power, the chariot with the grizzled, strong horses. Rather than going against the Northern Country, they divided themselves, so to speak, into two groups. The grizzled went forth into the South Country, Egypt. Indeed, from the outset the Roman Empire did seek to establish its sovereignty over this country (cf. Dan. 11:30). Afterward, when the power of this Empire spread further and further, Rome—the strong horses—tried to traverse the whole world, that is to say: it sought to extend its sovereignty over the entire world.
“And He said, Go, walk to and fro through the earth. And they walked to and fro through the earth“ (v.7).
It is God who under all circumstances, in all the stirrings of this world, is in complete control, He commands and directs all. And with how many ends in view! By one and the same event He judges, admonishes and warns, calls and delivers! “And He cried unto me, and spoke unto me, saying, See, these that go forth towards the North Country have quieted My Spirit in the North Country“ (v.8).
Even in Zechariah’s days, God’s wrath had been kindled against Babel, the instrument of His judgment over Israel. But, like the Assyrian, it had exalted itself over against the hand who was using it, and it had quenched its thirst for revenge in its treatment of the people of God.
The Book of Visions Concluded—Chapter 6:9-15
The Link Between the two Parts of “Zechariah”
God’s providential dealings had assigned a certain role to the world’s realms: to chastise His people. This role and the final judgment over those realms were described in the eighth vision. The portion now demanding our attention presents to us the glorious result of all God’s ways, and the fulfilment of His counsels. In the place of all the realms of the earth, He will establish the kingdom of Christ, a realm of peace that will never be shaken.
In this portion, a vision is not mentioned, but rather a fact that gave God’s Spirit the opportunity to express itself about the reign of Christ.
“The word of Jehovah came unto me“ (v.9) It is important to pay attention to these words. We have just seen that the conclusion of the book of visions is linked to all that precedes it, and that it, so to speak, is the crowning of it. But the words we have just quoted from verse 9 also link the book of visions with the two following chapters which belong to the book of the oracles of God. Indeed, the expression “the word of the Lord came to me” points as often as four times to new revelations (Ch. 7:4,8; 8:1,18). This obvious link between the two books of Zechariah destroys the claims of the so-called “higher critique,” which suggest that in this prophetic book we encounter two books from the hand of different authors who have not a single connection to each other.
The Remnant’s two Groups
“Take gifts of them of the captivity, of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, and come thou the same day, and enter into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, whither they are come from Babylon; yea, take silver and gold, and make crowns “ (v.10-11).
Here three men are referred to from among those who had not gone with the nation from Babel to restore the temple and to rebuild the city. We don’t know the reason why they remained in Babel, we see here that they came to Jerusalem to bring their gifts of silver and gold to the house of the Lord at a time when the temple had hardly risen above its foundations. Their deed was a silent judgment of the slackness of the people in rebuilding the temple. The significance of the names of these men is remarkable: Heldai— forbearing; Tobijah—the Lord is good; Jedaiah—the Lord knows. They came to lodge in the house of Josiah—the Lord supports—who was the son of Zephaniah—the Lord hides. Nearly all of them bore the name of the Lord and were thereby His witnesses.
From this I conclude that they were a figure of the true remnant of Judah, be it outside of Judah or in Jerusalem. The Jews who had returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus could not be regarded as being the true remnant. That is sufficiently demonstrated at the end of this book and in the prophecy of Malachi. The true faithful ones were at that time still in Babel, but they were received and hidden in the house of another faithful one at Jerusalem. This description therefore seems to me a picture of the two groups of Judah’s remnant in the last days. Through faith they saw the temple finished before it was finished; they saw the King on His throne, when in reality He was not yet manifested, and they brought Him their gifts. The prophet is told to make crowns from the silver and gold that these men had brought: “Make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, saying, Behold a Man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up from His own place, and He shall build the temple of Jehovah: even He shall build the temple of Jehovah; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne” (v.11-13). The word “crowns “ has the significance of a double crown, a kind of tiara, similar to those worn by some Persian princes.
Zechariah had to take these crowns and put them on the head of Joshua, the high priest.
Types of Christ
To clarify this act, let us summarize in a few words the account of Christ as it is presented in the previous chapters, just as we already did with the history of Judah and Jerusalem.
In chapter 3 Joshua, who was first a figure of the cleansed nation that stood before the Lord, is seen as a figure of Christ as the future High Priest. Afterward, God announced that He would cause, His Servant, the Branch, Christ, the Son of David, to come as King.
The foundation of the temple, laid by Joshua, is a type of Christ as the cornerstone on which the Lord will build His temple in a future day. In chapter 4 Zerubbabel is the picture of Christ, the true King. The top stone, the head or key stone of the entire building, which was laid before Zerubbabel, is once more a portrayal of Christ, this time as the bearer of God’s favour.
In chapter 4 the kingship and priesthood—the two olive trees—are still separate, although they work together in feeding the light of testimony. Finally then, we find in this sixth chapter the priesthood and the kingship united in one person.
He, whose name is the Branch, will be Priest upon His throne. It is this King-Priest, who in the person of Joshua—the Lord is Saviour—will be crowned. Christ, the true Melchisedec, will be declared as Priest as well as King of righteousness and King of peace. All God’s ways of which the previous chapters have spoken, lead to Him and His kingdom. And in a remarkable way, as shown in Daniel 2:34-35, God’s ways end with the destruction of the kingdoms that have been referred to in the beginning of chapter 6. When the Spirit of God has come at rest regarding them, God establishes in their stead the world-kingdom of David’s Son, which will be a kingdom not to be moved.
Of Him it is said inverse 12: “He shall grow up from His own place. “ “His own place” refers to Jerusalem, the city of His royal origin, for: “Jehovah will count, when He inscribeth the peoples, This man was born there” (Ps. 87:6).
Then verse 12 and 13 continue: “He shall build the temple of Jehovah: even He shall build the temple of Jehovah.”
Who will Assist in Building the Temple?
Let us imagine the circumstances under which this event is announced. The people at Jerusalem had resumed the work, but the temple was far from finished when Heldai and his companions came to Jerusalem. Joshua was occupied with building, Zerubbabel helped along. But a moment would come that the King, the Son of David, who was one and the same as the crowned priest, would build the Lord’s temple. This could, therefore, not be the then-existing temple, nor that of Herod, neither the one of the antichrist. Only one temple is indicated here, namely the one that the King-Priest will build. Verse 15 tells us who will assist in this work: “And they that are far off shall come and build at the temple of Jehovah.” That will be the exact opposite of what had taken place in the days of Ezra and Zechariah. Those who were from afar, the enemies of Judah, had said to Zerubbabel: “We would build with you.” Zerubbabel and Joshua had answered: “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house to our God, but we alone will build to Jehovah the God of Israel” (Ezra 4:2-3). But for the building of the future temple, which is spoken of here, the nations will add their share to it, just like in earlier days Hiram, the King of Tyre, had made labourers and materials available for the temple of Solomon.
“And He shall bear the glory “ [or He shall be clothed with majesty] (v.13). This glory is an immensely grandiose thing; it is the revelation of the whole Divine perfection: Majesty, righteousness, holiness, purity, power, wisdom, truth, goodness, and finally, grace and love. All these perfect virtues will be brought into full light in the person of the Messiah, the King of Israel. A Joshua in his filthy clothes, a Zerubbabel, weak and powerless, were far from able to display these characteristics. Even during the glorious reign of Solomon, when, in the king, one could see a certain reflection of God’s wisdom, these traits were soon again lost, for Solomon never bore the glory in all its perfection. Only one Person will display it to the full and in its entirety, when the knowledge of the glory of God will shine in “the face of Jesus Christ.” He will bear the glory; the Assembly, the New Jerusalem, will have her, possess her, for of her is it said: “having the glory of God” and “the glory of God has enlightened it” (Rev. 21:11,23).
He “shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a Priest upon His throne“ (v.13). This shows that there will be a throne upon which neither Joshua nor Zerubbabel will have claim. On that throne will sit a Priest; no longer will He stand, like Joshua, to act as mediator and to offer up sacrifices. With Him the priesthood of Aaron will have come to an end. A King will sit, the true Melchisedec, the King of righteousness and King of peace, who will bless the people in the name of God, and God in the name of the people—the Mediator between heaven and earth. He will bear the full load of the world’s reign, and in His hand the sceptre will not fail for a moment. As the rising sun He will shine upon men and there will be healing in His wings. The double crown will adorn His head; to this end served the gifts which had been brought to the temple by a few faithful ones.
“The counsel of peace shall be between them both“ (v.13). The plans of the Lord and His Messiah, the Son of David, will then be entirely fulfilled for the earth: “On earth peace, good pleasure in men.” These words will become reality when the King of peace will enter Jerusalem, His elected city, announcing peace to His people and the nations.
Wondrously beautiful as this may be, our future, the future of today’s believers, is far more glorious. We don’t have to wait for this future glory. We may even now taste the full enjoyment of the peace that is purposed in the eternal counsels of the Father and the Son, for we may already possess it through faith.
God Remembers and Rewards
“And the crowns shall be for Helem, and for Tobijah, and for Jedaiah, and for Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of Jehovah “ (v.14). How comforting is this thought in a time of general apostasy! The people who were then together at Jerusalem did in God’s eye not have the character of the true remnant.
A few men that came from Babylon were accepted by God just as those whom He had received in Jerusalem because they acknowledged the house of the Lord when it didn’t as yet exist in the eyes of men. They saw it with the eye of faith and brought there their precious gifts which would serve to crown and glorify the true king. God kept these crowns in His temple as a memorial of their deed. They will also belong to them when Christ will enter into His glory. From then on the Lord acknowledged these faithful ones and gave new names to him who accompanied them and to him who received them. From now on Heldai was called Helem—power—and Josiah would be called Hen— grace! Thus, with these characteristics, God sees those who bore the Lord’s name and who had a heart for the honour of His earthly house. True, those three men who had come from Babylon had little strength, but they had not denied the Lord’s name. The Lord therefore establishes them as pillars in His temple (see Rev. 3:8,12). In their weak condition they had trusted in the Lord. God sees them in Christ as the pillar Boaz in Solomon’s temple whose name means: “In him is strength.” Josiah, the son of Zephaniah, who had received them, recognizing them as the Lord’s servants, and valuing their gifts, and who kept them under his roof as a precious treasure in those days of decline, God called Hen. God saw grace, that other characteristic of Christ, in his person.
What is our position regarding these things? Are we satisfied to have a profession that does not affect our heart, a profession of which Zechariah will give us a picture in the following chapters, and about which the prophet Malachi will pronounce his disapproval? Or is the name “Christian” not a hollow sound for us, but do we display, like these men, something of the characteristics of Him whose name is pronounced over us? De we acknowledge the Assembly of Christ, the temple and house of God, there where thus far only the foundation of it has been laid in the midst of general indifference and unfaithfulness? Have our gifts the building of God’s house in view, or are they used for houses of our own invention, to which we better not refer by name? Let us not forget that all that we add to the house of God contributes to the glory of Christ, placing pearls on His crown. Our sacrifices must have the worship of Him in view and be brought to the place where He causes His name to dwell. God will only remember that which is done for His beloved Son. It matters little with what names the world scoffs at us, as long as we have the Lord’s approbation.
“Helem” and “Hen”—power and grace—are written on the white stone He will give to His faithful ones (Rev. 2:17)! But there is more. The remembrance of what we have done for Him during a time in which faith alone could distinguish His Assembly and see the glory of His Person, will remain forever in His temple. Those who have not denied His name will have part in the crown with which their faithful hearts have adorned Christ’s head. That crown is for them; He gives it to them, He will cause them to share in His glory. There will be a book of remembrance for them who fear the Lord and continue to await His coming. Just so, there will be a remembrance in His temple of those who in a time of humiliation and decline have acknowledged His sovereignty and bowed themselves before Him who by God is saluted as Priest in perpetuity, according to the order of Melchisedec.
THE BOOK OF THE ORACLES OF GOD— Chapters 7-14
The Book of Visions dated from the second year of Darius; the second book, which now calls for our attention, dates from the fourth year of the same king.
We give it the title: The Book of the Oracles of God. It is divided into three parts. The first part contains chapters 7 and 8, the second chapters 9-11, and the third chapters 12-14.
TheWord of the Lord of Hosts—Chapters 7-8
Days of Fasting
The contents of chapter 7 stands in remarkable contrast to that of chapter 6. There we saw how the three witnesses of the Lord had come to Jerusalem. Here two chiefs, Sherezer and Regem-melech with his men, are sent by Bethel “to supplicate Jehovah, and to speak unto the priests that were in the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets” The names of these chiefs seem to indicate that they occupied an office at the king’s court. At any rate, their names differ totally from those of Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah. Bethel had sent them to ask whether they ought to continue to observe the fast of the fifth month: “Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done now so many years? “ The people had instituted four days of fasting after the destruction of Jerusalem. The fast of the tenth month, when Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city (Jer. 52:4- 5), the fast of the fourth month, when it was invaded (Jer. 52:6), that of the fifth month, in which the temple had gone up in flames (2 Ki. 25:8-9), and finally the fast of the seventh month prompted by the murder of Gedaliah by Ishmael, which caused the people to flee to Egypt (2 Ki. 25:25-26). It seems that the most important one had been the day commemorating the burning of the temple. When they saw that the new temple would soon be rebuilt, the question could arise whether it was still necessary to fast; yet there was some doubt about it, for in the fourth year of king Darius the temple was not yet completed (Ezra 6:15).
The consecration had not yet been celebrated, although the temple already served as a place of worship. It seems as if the Lord would have approved of these days of fasting, for why should one not mourn over Jerusalem’s calamities? But should one, now that better days dawned, cease to fast? The Lord answered by means of the prophet: “And the word of Jehovah of hosts came unto me. “ God calls Himself here: “Jehovah of hosts,” for He could no longer be the God of Israel. This expression we read seventeen times in chapters 7 and 8. It is as if the Lord withdrew Himself into heaven, to remain there the God of the myriads of angels after His people had despised Him and deserved His wrath. God had said: “It is not My people; they will not receive mercy,” therefore He called Himself the God of the heavenly host. But can the unfaithfulness of the people change God’s nature in a single aspect? Absolutely not! God will execute His counsels of grace while maintaining His Son’s rights to the possession of the earth.
What was the Motive for Fasting?
“Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye really fast unto Me, even unto Me? And when ye ate, and when ye drank, was it not you that were eating and drinking? Are not these the words that Jehovah cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and at peace, and her cities round about her, when the South and the lowland were inhabited?“ (v.5-7).
Rather than answering Bethel’s question, the Lord addressed the consciences of all, both people and priests, and inquired after their reason for fasting and mourning. Had they fasted unto the Lord or unto themselves? Had they mourned because the evil had come over themselves, because the evil resulted from the dishonour and shame they had rendered to God? The earlier prophets had announced judgment at a time when they still enjoyed rest and peace. Had they fasted then? Then it had surely been the time to sit in sackcloth and ashes so the Lord might remove His wrath. Nineveh, a Gentile city, had acted better than Israel, and God had not executed the predicted judgment (Jon. 3:5,10). No, they had fasted unto themselves and cried over their own calamity, but had failed to repent. They had lamented about their own fate rather than asking what caused God’s judgments and mourning over their condition. To be sad about ruin is not the same as humbling before the Lord.
Fasting must be for Him; it must express our feelings of humiliation, because we have been unfaithful to Him from the very beginning. True humiliation will always bring us back to the point where our path deviated from God’s path.
The Reasonable Demands of the Law
The word of the Lord came for the second time to Zechariah (v.8-14) to remind the people of what He had asked them by means of the earlier prophets. That was doubtless based on the law, but the Lord had softened the demands of the law to such an extent that the hearts of the people, if they still could obey, would find these demands neither too high, nor too severe.
Was it too much to demand, as He wished them to: “Execute true judgment, and show loving-kindness and mercies one to another, and oppress not the widow and the fatherless, the stranger and the afflicted; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (v.9-10)? In short, the prophets had preached uprightness and love for the neighbour.
In this time of decline, God, who loved them, had not even asked them to return love to Him. He only impressed upon them to leave their self-love, their self-will, and to think of others and do the will of God.
In chapter 8:17 the Lord still added to this a second reasonable demand of the law: “Love no false oath,” meaning: do not use the Lord’s name to affirm a lie. In chapter 5:3 we saw that a curse came over the people precisely because they had transgressed the very first principles of practical righteousness. This is how it always goes when man is placed under the demands of the law, no matter how lenient they are. Law can only bring one under a curse. But another day will come, the day of the new covenant, in which the law will be written in the hearts of the people, because the Lord has erased all their unrighteousness and given them a new heart. Then they will be placed under “the law of liberty,” under which the new man will delight in doing God’s will.
Chapter 8: Grace Working Restoration
In chapter 8 the word of the Lord of hosts came for the third time to the prophet. Although they had “laid the pleasant land desolate“ (ch. 7:14)—for they themselves had been the cause of its ruin—yet God’s counsel of grace had not changed: “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great fury.
Thus saith Jehovah: I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called, The city of truth; and the mountain of Jehovah of hosts, The holy mountain “ (v.2-3). The day would come in which God would again take up the cause of Jerusalem, for Zechariah does not speak about the entire nation, but about Jerusalem and Judah. Their disobedience would not in the least thwart God’s counsels of grace.
Jerusalem would be called: the city of truth and the holy mountain. There would again be men and women of high age in the streets of Jerusalem, boys and girls would play on the streets and squares of the city (v.4- 5). Then the Lord added: “If it be wonderful in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be wonderful in Mine eyes? “ (v.6). A thing like this can only be brought about through grace, grace accompanied by power. And when we, Christians, like the remnant of Israel, look at the ruin that we have caused, we too must say: Such blessings are impossible. But when we look upon God, we know that for Him nothing is impossible.
Call to Faithfulness
In verses 9-17 the Lord came back on the theme of the then-existing time, on “the day of small things.” He encouraged the people when “the foundation of the house of Jehovah of hosts, [the temple] was laid” (v.9). He told them—for they still were under the law—the same things He had commanded them through the earlier prophets (v.16-17; cf. Ch. 7:9-10).
This way they would once again receive strength.
They would become the true remnant if they returned to the mentioned moral precepts of the law. And just as they had been a curse among the nations, so they would become a “a blessing” according to the promise once given to Abraham (v.13; Gen. 12:2).
Let us apply these promises to ourselves. For us they were much easier to obtain, for we are not under law like Israel, that had thereby become unable to satisfy the divine demands. We possess new life and have the Holy Spirit as the power of this life. To us in particular the Lord can say: “Let your hands be strong.” We know the love of Him who gave His life for us, and we are to give our life for our brethren (1 Jn. 3:16). That is far more than not imagining evil in our heart against our brother. Alas, we too have been unfaithful in our calling, just as the old people of Israel. But what the remnant from the captivity could not do—because, being confronted by the same demands of God, they [like us] always had their same human nature [to contend with]—we [through the indwelling Spirit] can do, even if we are only with a few in the midst of the ruin, by walking in newness of life, pleasing God with our actions.
The word of the Lord of Hosts came for the fourth time to the prophet (v.18-23). A day will come in which all the results of earlier unfaithfulness will be removed; then there will be no more sorrow or sadness; neither fasting of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth month about the unsalvageable ruins. All these trials and experiences will have no more reason of existence but will be changed in “joy and gladness, and cheerful gatherings” (v.19). “Grief, nor cry, nor distress shall exist anymore,” and “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:40). The prophet adds to this a promise regarding the nations and their relation to the Jewish people: “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Yet again shall there come peoples, and the inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to supplicate Jehovah, and to seek Jehovah of hosts....In those days shall ten men take hold, out of all languages of the nations, shall even take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you “ (w 20-23).
The nations will go up to Jerusalem to worship, and acknowledge that once-humiliated nation that lay under God’s judgment as the people of Immanuel, “God with us.” We, Christians, may even now experience such a blessing when we are faithful in our testimony. Paul wrote to the assembly at Corinth, that when they would be gathered together in the power of the Holy Spirit, then an unbeliever coming in would be “convicted...judged of all; the secrets of his heart are manifested; and thus, falling upon his face, he will do homage to God, reporting that God is indeed amongst you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25).
Christ, King and Shepherd—Chapter 9-11
The Purpose of Prophecy. The King—Chapter 9
Relationship between Fulfilled and Unfulfilled Prophecy
We have seen that the first part of the book of divine oracles (ch. 7-8) were characterized by the words: The word of the Lord of hosts came to me.” The second part, with which we will now occupy ourselves (ch. 9- 11), like the third part, begins with the words: “The burden of the word of Jehovah. “ This more external division has no doubt nothing to do with the deep significance of the presented subjects, but it is therefore not less important and worthy of attention.
We find in the ninth chapter a very remarkable example of the relationship between fulfilled and notfulfilled prophecy, and it is important to say a few words about this.
Verses 1-8 refer to events that were still future when Zechariah pronounced them, for they occurred only 174 years after the fourth year of Darius (cf. Ch. 6:1).
These predictions were literally fulfilled when the third empire under Alexander the Great destroyed the Persian empire. The battle at Issos (333 BC) opened the land of Hadrach, it probably refers to Syria.. The city of Damascus was mentioned as the first “dwelling place” on which the burden of the Lord “rested.” It “rested” because the word pronounced against Damascus received its final fulfilment. Tyre resisted with might and main, but it was finally conquered, destroyed and burned. Afterward, before trying to conquer Egypt, Alexander conquered one Philistine city after the other, especially Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod. Philistia was spared, particularly Jerusalem. Therefore it says: “I will encamp about My house because of the army, because of those that pass by and that return“ (v.8). Though most of these things were then literally fulfilled, yet one particular thing that the prophet added to it did not take place at all. “The exactor shall not pass through them any more” (v.8). Since Alexander oppressors have continuously ruled over Jerusalem, beginning with the Roman Empire till the present-day rulers.
This city has always been trodden down by the nations and it still has to wait for the day that she will be fully delivered from the oppressor’s yoke. “For now have I seen it with Mine eyes” (v.8). This word is confirmed by Isaiah 18, where we read that the unbelieving nation will be brought back to its land to come under the yoke of the antichrist. During that time, the Lord will remain “at rest,” looking forward to the coming harvest time. At that time He will see it with His own eyes and deliver Jerusalem. This moment of the ultimate deliverance is described at the end of this prophecy and at many other places.
Lo, Thy King Cometh
Verses 1-8 are immediately followed by another, more remarkable word about the relationship between fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh to thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass” (v.9).The salvation verse 8 speaks of would take place at the Messiah’s coming. But this latter fact has already been told; the King has entered Jerusalem, lowly and riding on an ass, a colt of an ass. That entrance into Jerusalem is told us in the four Gospels. Two of these quote this verse from Zechariah, taking what took place then as a fulfilment of it. Matthew 21:4 reads: “All this came to pass, that that might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying, Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold thy King cometh to thee, meek, and mounted upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” This verse does not mention the utterances of joy of Jerusalem. They are replaced by the simple statement: “Say to the daughter of Zion.” Nor do we find the words: “He is just, and having salvation” (a Saviour).
Only His lowly, meek character is mentioned, for, being rejected by the Jews, He did not show Himself then as the King of Righteousness. It would have meant their destruction. Nor did He show Himself as Saviour, for the salvation could only be found on the basis of His work accomplished on the cross. In the Gospels His entry into Jerusalem was a last offer of the Messiah to the nation for receiving Him of whom the prophets had spoken, but they did not want Him.
In John 12:15 this verse from Zechariah is quoted even shorter: “Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold your King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.” The joy of Jerusalem has been omitted, just as the character of Christ as Saviour. Even His lowliness is not mentioned here, for in this Gospel He is portrayed as the Son of God, of whose kingship the Father testified at the moment He laid down His life.
The prophecy of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem has therefore been fulfilled in part, but in its true character and fullness it will only take place in a future day.
Only then Jerusalem will be delivered from the yoke of the oppressor and rejoice with glad songs of praise when its King, the King of righteousness and King of peace will have His victorious entrance there.
The two characteristics of His kingship will indeed be: righteousness and peace, for He will “cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem” (v.10; cf. Mic. 5:10-11), and “He shall speak peace unto the nations.” He will be the true Melchizedek.
Even more: “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth, “something that has never happened under the glorious reign of Solomon. And thus, the fulfilled prophecy is but a pointer to the future glory of Christ.
Speaking of Jerusalem, the prophet adds: “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant, I will send forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn again to the stronghold, prisoners of hope!” (v.11-12) Here we find a few additional details about what will happen to the remnant at the moment that the King of glory will come to take His reign. The prophet alludes to what has happened to Jeremiah when he had encouraged the people to surrender to the Chaldeans: “Then they took Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon...which was in the court of the guard...in the dungeon there was no water” (Jer. 38:6). When Christ appears, He will deliver these prisoners, this small remnant that will then dwell in Jerusalem and of which a portion will have suffered martyrdom. The other faithful ones of the remnant of Judah, who will have fled when the idol will be placed in God’s temple, will then be invited “to return to the stronghold,” Jerusalem. All this is therefore still to take place.
In verses 13-17 we again find the principles we have previously set forth. “For I have bent Judah for Me, I have filled the bow with Ephraim; and I will raise tip thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and make thee like the sword of a mighty man. And Jehovah shall be seen over them, and His arrow shall go forth as the lightning; and the Lord Jehovah will blow the trumpet, and will march with whirlwinds of the south. Jehovah of hosts will defend them; and they shall devour, and shall tread down the sling-stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as from wine; and they shall be filled like a bowl, like the corners of the altar” (v.13-15).
In this portion we recognize the history of the Maccabees in their warfare against Greece, under the successors of Alexander. Here we see their battles, their victories, their resistance in Jerusalem, their faithfulness—at least that of the early Maccabees—the obvious help and protection with which God favoured them. On the other hand we find in Daniel 11:29-35 how they have suffered for their testimony, and were purified through their trials. Here we have therefore to do with a prophecy that has been fulfilled some three hundred years after it had been pronounced. But it was only a forerunner of what we will find in chapter 10 about the time of the end and about the struggle of the princes of Judah against the future Assyrian.
After the mention of the Maccabees, the end of chapter 9 takes us to the time in which “the King of Zion, who is a Saviour,” will appear to His people and, from then on, recognize it as His flock: “And Jehovah their God shall save them in that day as the flock of His people; for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up upon His land” (v.16).
This glory of Israel, which will form the crown of the Messiah, will only be seen in the future, for in the entire period between the Babylonian captivity and the future appearance of Christ in glory the Lo-Ammi (not-My-people) over Israel will remain.
The three great events of this chapter: the victories of Alexander, the entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem, and the victories of the Maccabees confirm in an excellent way that which is told us in the second Epistle of Peter: “Knowing this first, that the scope of no prophecy of Scripture is had from its own particular interpretation.”
The Shepherds and the Flocks—Chapters 10-11
For Clarity’s Sake
Before we will discuss these two chapters, we would once more like to draw the attention to a certain characteristic of Zechariah’s prophecies, which, if well understood, will remove more than one obscurity encountered in the study of this prophecy. Indeed in this portion of Scripture things are found that “are hard to interpret.” But for the greater part they become transparent and clear once one realizes that Zechariah in his prophecy generally links without any transition whatever Christ’s first coming on earth with His future appearance for Israel. The entire interim period of the Assembly, which besides falls never within the framework of old-testament prophecy, is silently passed by. There is no indication at all to be found of one or the other period of time between the first and the second coming of the Messiah. Chapter 9, which we already dealt with, is in this respect a remarkable example. In it the King who would enter Zion is mentioned just as it has already occurred according to the Gospels. Immediately upon this, however, the Lord is rejected, but of this no trace is to be found in Zechariah. It is not difficult to discern in reading that this portion speaks of two events that are separated from each other by centuries. For immediately after the entrance we find the blessings for Israel that will flow from it, for the appearance as King in Zion is the sign of His reign.
Wrath and Compassion
In chapters 10 and 11 the Lord’s past service on earth and His future presence in the midst of Israel is are once again flowing together. At the beginning of chapter 10 it is mentioned that the blessing is near.
“Ask of Jehovah rain in the time of the latter rain; Jehovah will make lightnings, and he will give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field” (v.1).There is no mention at all of the early rain, a picture of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But before the second rain predicted by Joel in chapter 2:23-30 will come, the condition of Judah is described. “For the teraphim have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams: they comfort in vain. Therefore they have gone away as a flock, they are in distress, because there is no shepherd. Mine anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats; for Jehovah of hosts visiteth His flock, the house of Judah, and maketh them as His majestic horse in the battle” (v.2- 3). These verses are clear evidence of what we have maintained. The prophet returned to Israel’s idolatry, showing its results. They had roamed as “a flock in need,” the nations oppressed them and they had no shepherd to lead them. That was exactly the condition of the people at the Lord’s first coining. He came to present Himself as Israel’s Shepherd: “Jesus saw a great crowd, and He was moved with compassion for them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd’ (Mk. 6:34). After this the prophet said: “Mine anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the he-goats.” When the Lord Jesus visited His flock, the house of Judah, He said: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” while looking at them in anger. In chapter 11 we will see that these circumstances will repeat themselves in the last days.
This portion, which doubtless has the first coming of Christ in view, is without transition connected to a future event, when the Lord’s wrath will be kindled against the shepherds. Only then will He make the house of Judah to be “His majestic horse in the battle” (v.3) From this we must conclude that the relationship which Christ once had on earth to His flock will be followed in the last days by a resumption of that same relationship with Judah, a relationship that had suddenly been broken by the rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. Only then the events will take place of which the end of this chapter speaks. These verses are therefore an example of the difficulty of which we spoke earlier. This is instructive as well, for from it we see that nothing can prevent the fulfilment of God’s counsels. The ways leading to their fulfilment follow an unchangeable course. It is as with the sun that hides behind a cloud. A few hours later we see her appearing again; uninterrupted she continued her course, she is the same as before, although she now stands at a different point in the sky. There has been no delay in her course, nor has she changed direction. The void only exists in the eyes of men, who see the cloud while the sun is hidden from their view.
The Pre-eminence of Judah
“From him [Judah] shall come forth the cornerstone, from him the nail, from him the battle bow, from him every exactor together. And they shall be as mighty men, treading down the mire of the streets in the battle; and they shall fight, for Jehovah is with them, and the riders on horses shall be put to shame” (v.4-5).
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the remnant of Judah will flee during the Great Tribulation, but afterward it will return to the land. The Lord will own it as the flock of which He will be the Shepherd. In that kingdom, Judah will take the first place, for from Judah the Christ has come forth. He is the cornerstone, the nail fastened in a firm place on whom all the glory of David’s house will hang (v.4; Isa.22:23-24). The battle bow, every ruler in Israel, will come from Judah, according to Jacob’s prophecy: “The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and to Him will be the obedience of peoples” (Gen. 49:10).
In those days the Lord will call upon Judah to resist the Assyrians. They will, after he has entered Palestine and conquered Egypt, be stopped by the remnant.
Under the leadership of the seemingly powerless princes of Judah the remnant will gain one victory after another (Mic. 5:5-6).
In the last portion of this chapter (v.7-12) we no longer find Judah, but Ephraim, “the house of Israel” gathered out from the nations (predominantly from Assyria and Egypt), to be brought back into the land of Israel.
From then on, it will, together with Judah, form one nation, the Lord’s people (cf. Isa.11:12-16; 27:12-13).
Who are the Flock of Slaughter?
Chapter 11:1-3 describes the judgment over Israel, the destruction by fire of all who will rule over the people, the high and mighty. It will fall primarily upon the shepherds, the leaders of the nation, against whom Christ’s wrath will be kindled (ch. 10:3). The kingship had already been taken from these leaders, for rather than feeding the flock, they fed themselves (Ezek. 34:1-10). In the days of the Lord they all had displayed the same character. In the last days, when the nations will invade Judah, the shepherds of the nation will experience the same fate under the antichrist.
In verses 4-6 we see a new shepherd appearing in the person of the prophet Zechariah himself. This portion illustrates again the fact that the prophecy of Zechariah links without any transition Christ’s first coming as Man on earth with His coming for the redemption of Judah and judgment over His enemies. This shows itself even clearer when one compares this portion with Ezekiel 34 which speaks only about the destruction of the wicked shepherds and the appearance of the Lord, the Son of David, as Shepherd of the sheep. In Ezekiel this appearance refers only to the future when the Lord will be acknowledged as the Leader of His people. Here we find something entirely different: “Thus saith Jehovah my God: Feed the flock of slaughter, whose possessors slay them without being held guilty; and they that sell them say, Blessed be Jehovah! for I am become rich; and their own shepherds pity them not. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah, and behold, I will deliver men, every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king; and they shall smite the land, and I will not deliver out of their hand” (v.4-6).
Here Zechariah portrayed Christ as Shepherd, just as earlier Joshua and Zerubbabel had portrayed Him as Priest and King. This Shepherd who would appear so suddenly, after all shepherds of Israel have met their fate, has a special calling. He must feed the flock of slaughter. This flock will have three features: 1. Its possessors, the nations that oppress these sheep, will slay them to take advantage of their flesh, without feeling any guilt about this; 2. Those who sell them, the leaders of the people, will then have taken on the work of the nations; 3. Its shepherds, the secular or religious leaders, will not spare her. These three features characterized also the nation of Israel as the Lord found it at His first coming.
Personally I believe not at all that this flock of slaughter has reference to Judah’s future remnant, as some have maintained. I see in them the Jewish people at the time the Lord Jesus was on earth. He was sent to Israel as Shepherd when the people were under the threefold yoke of the Romans, of Herod and their own leaders. Christ entered through the door into the sheepfold. He answered to all the characteristics required of a good shepherd; He appeared in grace in the midst of the people, moved with deep compassion.
What He found there—indifference, enmity, hatred, open resistance which brought death to Him—will bring the last judgment over the nation: “I will not deliver [the inhabitants of the land] out of their hand” (v.6). They will devour each other and finally fall into the hand of their king, the antichrist, who in prophecy is often called “the king.” And the Shepherd whom they have rejected will no longer look at them.
“So I fed the flock of slaughter, truly the poor of the flock“ (v.7). In the midst of this flock of slaughter, to whom He came in vain to feed them, there were a few, the poor of the flock, who gathered around Him, hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. These are the ones of whom He said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens...blessed the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt. 5:3,5). That were the characteristics of the disciples who surrounded the Lord during His walk on earth.
The Two Staves
“And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other 1 called Bands; and I fed the flock” (v.7). These two staves, signs of authority, but also shepherd’s tools, have a significance as we will see in the following verses.
If the nation had at that time accepted its Messiah, the kingdom would have been established and the nations would have assembled around the King; as before, Judah and Israel, would again have become one nation under His sceptre. But the enmity of the leaders, of those who pretended to be the shepherds of the flock, but who in reality were thieves and robbers, did not cease persecuting the Lord. Therefore it says: “/ destroyed three shepherds in one month; and my soul was vexed with them, and their soul also loathed me” (v.8). To what does this destroying of three shepherds refer? Some have seen in it the defeat of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians during the last weeks of the Lord’s life on earth (Mt. 22:15-16).
Whatever it be, we must take it as a fact, even without having an explanation, on the authority of God’s Word. “And I said, I will not feed you: that which dieth, let it die; and that which perisheth let it perish; and let them which are left eat every one the flesh of another“ (v.9). As a result of the enmity among the people, the Lord laid off His shepherd character and gave them over to ruin and destruction. For the time being He took leave of His privilege: “And to Him will be the obedience of peoples” (Gen. 49:10). He broke His stave Beauty, the covenant with all the nations; He also broke His stave Bands, the brotherhood between Judah and Israel (v.10,14). The general gathering together was delayed till a future time, as we read in Ezekiel 37:15-28. But “the poor of the flock that gave heed to me knew that it was the word of Jehovah “ (v.11). These poor, however were called “the wise ones,” for they valued the person of the Lord. They understood that their Jewish expectations could not be realized while the King was rejected; they received the instruction as from Him in whom they had put their trust, when He answered their question: “Lord, is it at this time that Thou restorest the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Their Master had been rejected; a new order of things was about to begin, a thousand times more lofty than what these poor creatures had dared to hope for as long as their Master had been among them.
Until that time they had hoped “that He was the One who would deliver Israel” (Lk.24:21), but by the death and resurrection of the Saviour they were incorporated into the heavenly part of the kingdom, and they acknowledged that “it was the word of Jehovah.”
The Value of a Slave
“And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my hire; and if not, forbear. And they weighed for my hire thirty silver-pieces. And Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at by them. And I took the thirty silver-pieces, and cast them to the potter in the house of Jehovah“ (v.12-13). This is how much they figured the shepherd of Israel to be worth! Thirty silver pieces was the value of a slave.
The priests, who knew the Law and Prophets so well, fulfilled what the Scriptures had said of them. So did Judas (Mt. 26:15-16). God’s Word will judge them in the last day.
The Foolish Shepherd
After this, Zechariah was called to portray another shepherd. “And Jehovah said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, who shall not visit those that are about to perish, neither shall seek that which is strayed away, nor heal that which is wounded, nor feed that which is sound; but he will eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their hoofs in pieces. Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock/ The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye utterly darkened” (v.15-17).
This will be the result of the rejection of the Messiah. The nation will be delivered into the hand of the foolish shepherd, the unworthy shepherd. All the compassion of the Lord toward those who are in danger of perishing, toward the scattered and the wounded ones, will find its mirror-image in the terrible tribulation with which the antichrist will oppress the flock of slaughter, the nation, that itself will have chosen this satanic man to be king. But he himself, the unworthy shepherd, will fall under God’s judgment.
His power will be destroyed and simultaneously he will be made totally blind, lest he sees what fate will suddenly come over him.
At the end of this chapter let us linger once more at the fact that the Lord is here portrayed as the Shepherd in Judah. There He only finds the poor who heed Him.
He is rejected and delivered for thirty silver pieces.
Then, as a result of this rejection, suddenly a foolish shepherd appears on the stage, without there having been any mention, not even with one word, of the entire period between these two events.
The Last Day—Chapter 12-13
The Person of Christ
With chapter 12 begins the third part of the second book of Zechariah. The previous part, chapters 9-11, began with the words: “The burden of the word of Jehovah, in the land of Hadrach,” and in it the judgment was announced over the nations around Israel. This third part begins with the same words:” “The burden of the word of Jehovah,” but now “concerning Israel” and it is not for judgment, but for deliverance.
Chapters 12-14 contain the future events that will take place in Jerusalem and in Judah. As we have frequently mentioned before, the prophet Zechariah concerns himself nearly exclusively with Jerusalem and Judah. The future of the ten tribes he only touches upon as a coincidental matter when mentioning the restoration of Israel’s unity, for the glory of Christ’s kingdom. (See ch.10-11).
The things revealed to us in this part are closely related to Christ’s sufferings and His appearance for His people. The previous chapters described the shepherds of Judah; in chapter 12 another subject comes to the fore. The characteristic words: “In that day” are repeated fifteen times in the last three chapters and each time with other details. Indeed, these chapters speak to us, not of the last days, but of the last day and of the events that characterize this last day. They neither present to us the “beast,” i.e. the Roman Empire, (except in chapter 12:3 in a very general sense), nor the false prophet, i.e. the antichrist. Their fate is already sealed, and their history completed when the events described in chapter 12 begin: the sword has come upon the arm and the right eye of “the unworthy shepherd.” His history is closed, and after that the last day begins. Before we discuss the details of these chapters we want once more to draw attention to the fact that Zechariah introduces the person of Christ in a very unexpected manner. In chapter after chapter, the Lord suddenly takes the place of other persons who, because they were only weak types of Him, disappear totally before Him. This happens with Joshua (in ch. 3 & 6), and with Zerubbabel (in ch. 4).
At other places He appears, without introduction, as King in Zion (ch. 9), as Shepherd (ch. 11), or as the One who is “no prophet” (ch. 13). His person occupies the central place in the midst of the events, while being also their origin, else the prophecies would entirely lose their value. Let us therefore always search in them for the person of Christ; let us give Him the place that is due to Him. If we do so, a different light will shine for us on all prophecy. Precisely because this principle is disregarded, many Christians find in the Prophets only unintelligent words, and they remain closed books to them.
Summary of the Events on the Last Day
Now let us begin with rendering the events that characterize the last day in broad lines.
At the still-future return of the unbelieving Jewish people in Palestine, Jerusalem will have become the city of the antichrist. A small part of the faithful remnant of Judah will still be there, and their leaders will be destined for martyrdom.
The greater part of this same remnant, however, will have fled and found shelter among the surrounding nations. Jerusalem will then be the centre and goal upon which all God’s ways and judgments will converge. The city will be threatened by the Assyrian of the end times who will plan to conquer Judah and will succeed in obtaining supporters in Palestine. Both the antichrist, the worldly and the spiritual head of the apostate nations, and Jerusalem, the stronghold of his power, will seek assistance from the “beast,” the Roman Empire, who will head up an alliance often kings with Rome as its capital. This alliance has the avowed purpose of resisting the king of the North, the general of the Assyrian armies. But the hidden purpose is to make war against Christ by resisting the establishment of His kingdom. Then the Lord will appear with His hosts from heaven and destroy the antichrist with the “beast,” casting them alive “in the lake of fire that burns with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20).
The events described in the last three chapters of Zechariah will actually only take place after the judgment we just mentioned. For all does not end with the destruction of the false prophet and the beast.
Jerusalem will then still be in the hands of its rulers appointed by the antichrist. They will oppress the poor remnant in this city, causing it to suffer. After the disappearance of the western power, in alliance with the antichrist, the King of the North will enter the land like a flood, and under its lead, the surrounding nations will lay siege to Jerusalem. The city will be taken, a part of the population will go into captivity, but the poor ones of the flock will remain behind. Then the King of the North will with full force turn to Egypt.
During that time the remnant of Judah that had fled among the nations will return into its land and through the power God gives it, it will be able to resist the Assyrian, even pushing him back in battle to his own territory. Hearing this, the King of the North will pull back out of Egypt and surround Jerusalem with his armies. Then the moment has come in which the Lord will deliver His people and the beloved city, finally establishing His rule over Israel and the nations. This short summation was needed to show in what a restricted circle of events the last chapters of Zechariah enfold.
Deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem
Now we will shortly go over the contents of chapter 12. “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of bewilderment unto all the peoples round about” (v.2).
This verse contains the only general intimation of what will take place before the destruction of the antichrist AH nations, not just the Assyrian and the nations around Palestine, but also the mighty armies of the west, will find in Jerusalem a cup that will cause them to lose their mind: “All that burden themselves with it shall certainly be wounded” (v.3), the Roman Empire as well as all other nations. The “beast” and the false prophet will think that by occupying Jerusalem they will have found the means to keep the true King from establishing His government there. But “In that day, saith Jehovah, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness; but I will open Mine eyes upon the house of Judah “ (v.4). At the return of the unbelieving people to Palestine the Lord will remain at rest and execute the judgment over that nation before the harvest; so it says in Isaiah 18.
But here we see that He keeps His eyes open over the house of Judah. How great is His grace! The house of Judah had rejected Him, and...nevertheless He will first of all take note of that same house! After that He will begin to work through the leaders of Judah: “And the leaders of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength through Jehovah of hosts their God” (v.5). The remnant of Jerusalem that has remained faithful to God will be their moral support. “In that day will I make the leaders of Judah like a hearth of fire among wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the peoples round about, on the right hand and on the left; and Jerusalem shall dwell again in her own place, in Jerusalem “ (v.6).
This battle by the leaders will, according to Micah 5:4 take place against the Assyrian, but also benefit Jerusalem as is evident from Zechariah 12:16, for Jerusalem is after all Zechariah’s main subject. But “Jehovah shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of... the inhabitants of Jerusalem be not magnified over Judah” (v.7). “and Jerusalem shall dwell again in her own place, in Jerusalem.” Then even those who stumble among them will be clothed with royal apparel, and “the house of David [will be] as God, as the Angel of Jehovah before them “ (v.8), this means that the kingship itself will bear a divine character. This is doubtless an allusion to Him whom Ezekiel calls “the Prince,” who will be the earthly representative of the King of Glory (Ezek. 45:1-8, 22- 24).
Repentance is a Prerequisite
But the restoration of Jerusalem can only be brought about after repentance (v.10-14). This will be brought about by the presence of all nations who come up against Jerusalem (v.9). We find here not only a sketch of what will take place in Jerusalem, but also the spiritual history of us all. We cannot return to God, from whom we have completely separated ourselves, but by showing repentance. This repentance will not b ring about a condition of despair for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Nor can it do so for the Christian. The sorrow of those who will find a Saviour in “Him whom they have pierced,” will not be despair. It is similar to what Joseph’s brothers felt when they recognized that their deliverer was their brother whom they had sold to the Gentiles. All will wail and weep; each one individually will have to face God regarding his sin: the rejection of Christ, the Redeemer. The generations will not face God collectively as one nation, but house by house, with the men apart and the women apart. They will “mourn for Him, as one mourneth for an only son “ (v.10). These words show us the character of their bitter sorrow. The Object that they had rejected, whose death they had caused, was worthy of all the love of the nation. Their sorrow and their love will melt together in one general act of repentful humbling. There will be a wailing in Jerusalem such as has only once before occurred in Israel (v.11). King Josiah had been the instrument in God’s hand to bring about the most exceptional revival in the latter days of Judah’s kingdom. In a war with Egypt, that same Josiah had been cut off in the prime of his life. In a lamentation Jeremiah, and many others with him, gave expression to the mourning with which this event had filled the hearts of people and prophet.
How much greater will be the sorrow when the faithful in Jerusalem will look on Him whom they have pierced. Each of them will have to say: I have been the cause of the death of the Messiah! The house of David, the royal family; that of Nathan, the prophetic family; the house of Levi, the priestly family, and last of all the family of Shimei, a portion of the house of Gershom (Num. 3:21) who, together with Kohath and Merari, formed the actual family of the Levites; “and all other families,” the prophet tells us, will mourn separately. This whole scene will be the final fulfilment of the great Day of Atonement. Only then will God’s people understand the bearing of this type.
“In the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, ye shall afflict your souls,” they had been told (Lev. 16:29). But on that day, Israel knew that atonement had been made for just one year. For the remnant this affliction of soul will occur once for all when it will know true atonement. During the thousand year reign of Christ, there will no longer by room for the Day of Atonement, but only for the Passover, as a memorial of the sacrifice of the Lamb, and for the Feast of Booths, of which the prophet spoke at the end of his book (ch. 14; cf. Ezek. 45;21-25).
The beginning of chapter 13 mentions another blessing: “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (v.1). This verse, in my opinion, does not refer to cleansing by blood, for in the previous chapter we saw the scene that agrees with the Day of Atonement. Those of whom it speaks here have already humbled their souls, finding redemption through the blood of the Lamb and all that is connected with this. They have been cleansed by the washing of regeneration, looking upon Him whom they pierced, upon a Christ who has died upon the cross out of whose side flowed the water of cleansing and the blood of redemption. But there will always be an opened fountain against sin and uncleanness, a continual practical cleansing during Christ’s Millennium. Then, as now, the Word will be the means used to this end. Under Christ’s reign nothing can exist that is not in agreement with this cleansing.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land” (v.2). The cleansing will stretch itself out over the entire land and not be restricted to Jerusalem. A spirit of holiness will be poured out in all hearts. The most intimate bonds will not influence this. The father and the mother will pierce their own children; when they prophesy, they will say to them: “Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of Jehovah “ (v.3). They will not tolerate that the name of the Lord be used to make room for the work of Satan, the father of lies. But the prophets themselves will be ashamed about the role they have played in presenting themselves as true prophets—a hairy mantle—to do the work of Satan (v.4). Alas, such false prophets, their outward appearance and their habits, are not only found in Israel, but also in our days among all people to whom God has entrusted His name and testimony.
Would that He gave all His children the zeal of a Phinehas, a zeal that will not tolerate evil when it is found among them who bear the name of the Lord. For His service only one thing is needed: God Himself and the glory of His name ought to be the highest object of our love.
Christ, the Servant of Man
After the prophet has shown the future cleansing of the nation, he suddenly saw without the least introduction the Shepherd appear whom he had to present in chapter 11. He stood there in His own person before Zechariah. He spoke and said: “/ am no prophet.” He did not say like Amos, “I was no prophet,” but I became one (Amos 7:14-15), but He said, “I am no prophet.” This means that He acted here in an entirely different character. Beyond doubt, Christ has been a prophet, just as He has been a teacher and evangelist, for He combined in His person all spiritual gifts. In the Gospels His character as prophet comes to the fore.
But for this He had not come into the world. “/ am,” He said, “a tiller of the ground; for man acquired Me as Bondman from My youth” (\. 5). That was His character as Man. In Genesis 3, after the fall, God said to man: “Cursed be the ground on thy account; with toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life....Therefore Jehovah Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken” (v.17,21). He, who presented Himself here, and whom Jehovah called “My Shepherd,” wanted to subject Himself to the results of sin. He took the place that had been given to man because of his disobedience. With sorrow He did His work, suffered hunger in the wilderness, felt tired and thirsty at Sychar’s well. Even more, in grace He did not only subject Himself to the results of the fall, which sinful man had to bear, but He subjected Himself to this man: “for man acquired Me as Bondman from My youth.” Humbling Himself, and taking on the form of a slave (Phil. 2:7), He became the Bondman of man, whom He had created and who was in rebellion against God! He allowed Himself to be bought by man (Ex. 21:2-6; Dt.15:12-18), to allot to man rights over Him even from His youth, so as to serve man (Lam. 3:27; Ps. 129:1). Never was such self-denial seen! The Creator made Himself humbly available to man to set him free from the consequences of sin, the fruit of his disobedience. He came to subject Himself to those consequences, to experience them, and to pass through them in grace, so as to be able to reach out a helping hand to man!
A Friend of Sinners
“And one shall say unto Him, What are those wounds in Thy hands? And He will say, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends” (v.6). Here we see that He will personally present Himself to His own. Earlier they had seen Him through faith, Him whom they had pierced (ch. 12:10). Just as once Thomas after His resurrection (Jn. 21:21), they will be able to touch Him, for He will be seen by them in His resurrection body. They will establish that what has been said of Him by the prophet: “They have pierced My hands and My feet” (Ps. 22:17). And what will be His response? “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” He had called them His friends\ Isn’t the place the Lord Jesus has taken most admirable? Servant of God-opposing men, and come as Friend in the midst of sinners! How little did the Pharisees and the teachers of the law realize what a deep truth lay in the mocking remark: “He is the Friend of publicans and sinners.” All despised Him.
He spoke of “My friends.” Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. “Friend,” the Lord addressed him, “for what purpose art thou come?” A friend is someone for whom one gives up one’s life (Jn. 15:13). Could He not call them friends when He came to die for them? That is divine love. But what did He find with them? “He came to His own,” for the house of His friends is His own house, “and His own received Him not” (Jn. 1:11). Much worse! They pierced His hands and His feet! We cannot imagine what such a love must have felt when faced with the satanic hatred of man.
The Smitten Shepherd
Yet, how much less can we fathom what He has experienced under the judgment of God! “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, even against the Man that is My fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts: (v.7). Scene full of horror! God’s Shepherd, the only One, who having a right to this title, answered to all the requirements for doing this blessed work, lad to endure God’s judgment! But had He not entered by the door of the sheep? Had He not fulfilled all that the prophets had spoken of Him, from Bethlehem till John the Baptist? Had not the Lord said of Him: “I set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them, even My Servant David: He shall feed them, and He shall be their Shepherd” (Ezek. 34:23; Ps. 78:70-72)? Had He, only even once during His whole course, denied His character of Good Shepherd who feeds His flock, gathering the lambs with His arm and carrying them in His bosom, while softly leading those who give suck (Isa.40:11)? And now this Shepherd had to be smitten unto death! (Mt. 26:31; Mk. 14:27). But He who fell under the judgment will suddenly appear in the midst of His own as the “Great Shepherd of the sheep, brought again from among the dead” (Heb. 13:20). See how He will return to feed them, to lead them to the fountains of living water never to leave them again (Isa.40). How will they then, in a bursting forth of infinite gratitude, feel the depth of such a love. He, who had been smitten by the Lord so that He could bless them, is the Lord’s Companion whom He had chosen for Himself, who had walked every moment in perfect communion with Him. When we consider Him as Shepherd, we see the revelation of the heart of Christ, who gave Himself, giving His life for the sheep. But we also see the heart of God, how He has sacrificed for us His own Companion.
“Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (v.7). The sword that will smite the right eye and the arm of the foolish shepherd had to smite the true Shepherd, and did not spare Him when God, to redeem us, did judge “sin in the flesh” in Him. He who had come to gather the flock of Israel had to see that His work was as it were brought to naught, and that the flock of slaughter was scattered to the four winds of the heavens.
A Rich Fruit
But let us now listen to this comforting word: “I will turn My hand upon for: toward the little ones“ (v.7).
On the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, these poor ones of the flock, whom He had already set apart and fed during His life (ch. 11:7,11), become the objects of His special attention and care. His weak disciples of those days were, as far as their testimony was concerned, linked to the future nation that will fill the earth and enjoy the blessing of the Messiah’s reign. For here we do not speak of the Assembly, the heavenly people, of whom the twelve apostles became the nucleus. Most beautiful scene! From Israel’s side all hope is gone; the flock of slaughter will meet their fate; the entire work of the smitten Shepherd seems destroyed and can be summarized in the salvation of the few poor ones of the flock. But could God restrict the reward of the Man who is His Companion to this? Impossible! “Ask of Me, and I will give Thee nations for an inheritance, and for Thy possession the ends of the earth” (Ps. 2:8).
And as far as Israel is concerned: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in holy splendour: from the womb of the morning shall come to Thee the dew of Thy youth” (Ps. 110:3). Yes, this weak remnant will multiply itself infinitely through the power of God to become the true Israel under the blessings of the Millennium.
To this end the remnant must be purified, as silver is purified. Two parts will be destroyed; a third part, representing the true people of God, will remain (v.8).
This third part will go through the fire of the Great Tribulation, of which the Psalms and the prophets so often speak. Then they will call upon Him out of the depth; He will say: “It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (v.9).
Appearing of the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom— chapter 14
A Time Difference
Before we begin the discussion of this chapter, it is good to point once more the fact that the events in chapters 12-14 will take place on the last day, and not in the last half of the 70th year-week mentioned in Daniel 9:24-27, which is the time of the antichrist and the beast. At best one or two of the facts mentioned here will take place in the last days of this period. This remark serves to give clarity regarding one of the more difficult questions of the prophecy, namely that of the two sieges of Jerusalem according to the beginning of Zechariah 14. When will they take place? What period falls between these two? Zechariah, who was in the habit of presenting two events that are far apart as one continuous event, does not inform us about it. In other prophecies we can, however, see a clear difference. By confusing the last day with the last half week of Daniel I was led to presume that the fist siege would fall near the beginning of the mentioned half year-week. I had to give up that idea. The eighth chapter of Daniel contains, it seems to me, an indication that between the end of the last half year-week of Daniel and the destruction of the King of the North (of the Assyrian) there remains sufficient time for the events of the last day. That will be the time falling between the first and the second siege of Jerusalem.
I commend this subject to the sincere study of those who occupy themselves with the details of prophecy.
Attack of the King of the North on Jerusalem
“Behold, the day cometh for Jehovah, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. And I will assemble all the nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity; and the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (v.1-2).
These verses speak about the first siege of Jerusalem.
In “the last day,” after the judgment of the antichrist and the beast, Jerusalem will be attacked by the surrounding nations. That attack will take place, although not under the personal command of the Assyrian, yet under his supervision. Jerusalem will be taken, and plundered; half of the inhabitants will go into captivity, but the remainder of the people will not be destroyed. Among those who will be spared will be the weak remnant of which a part, “the two witnesses” (Rev. 11:1-10), will already have been martyred. This is the last trial that will come over the hapless and guilty city.
Later the King of the North, of Assyria, will return with his enormous army out of Egypt and lay siege to the beloved city.
On the Mount of Olives
After this the events mentioned in our chapter will take place: “And Jehovah will go forth and fight with those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle“ (v.3).
The words “in the day of battle” refer to what will happen when the Lord with all His hosts will come from heaven to destroy the beast and the false prophet with their armies. After that something else will also take place: “And His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem toward the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west,—a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south “ (v.4). Then it will become reality what the angels said to the disciples who were witness of the Lord’s ascension on the mount of Olives: “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, shall thus come in the manner in which ye have beheld Him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11). At the same moment that the humiliated Jerusalem will “speak out of the ground, and [its] speech shall come low out of the dust” (Isa. 29:4), the hour of its redemption will strike.
The Lord will appear and the mount of Olives shall cleave. “Ye shall flee by the valley of My mountains; for the valley shall reach unto Azal: ye shall even flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah” (v.5). The appearing of the Lord of hosts will be accompanied by a great earthquake (Isa.29:6). As in the days of Uzziah, (Amos 1:1) the population will flee through the valley that will result through this exceptional natural phenomena I do not belief that this refers to the remnant of Jerusalem; rather, I see in it the flight of the remaining apostate people. It seems to me that the word “ye” indicates this, just as we see this in Malachi 3:5-7. This portion of the people will flee, only to rush into a greater judgment of the Lord. The poor of the flock will remain in sorrowing and humiliated Jerusalem.
They are the remnant that will see in the Redeemer the Man who once rose from among the dead to set Himself at the right-hand of the Majesty on high.
The Crown on Christ’s Work
After the prophet has described tins event, he added to it: “And Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee“ (v.5). All that is revealed in this chapter is as a prelude to this great fact: the Lord, the God of the prophets, will come. The Word of God presents the coming of the Lord to us from various points of view. After His first coming to earth as Man, He will come from heaven as the Morning Star to take His own to Himself. After that He will come from heaven with His hosts to destroy the beast and the false prophet. Next, His coming on the Mount of Olives, where He will be seen by all His own, to deliver them from the Assyrian Finally Zechariah 14 mentions His coming in glory with all the saints to establish His kingdom and to lay the foundation of His reign. This will be the moment at which He will set Himself on the throne of His glory and all the nations will be gathered before Him to be rewarded or judged according to His righteous retribution (Mt. 25:31-46).
Zechariah 14 shows that the kingdom will be established after the deliverance of Jerusalem, not at the same moment, but when the glory of the Lord will appear on the Mount of Olives. Then all hindrances that prevented His assuming His reign will have vanished. We already drew attention to the fact that Zechariah linked all future blessings with the fate of Jerusalem, which, with Judah, formed the centre from which the prophet viewed the coming events. His prophetic vision agrees with what we read in Psalm 132:13-18: “For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for his dwelling. This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy ones with bread; and I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I cause the horn of David to bud forth; I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame; but upon himself shall his crown flourish.”.
Once More, a Review
Having arrived at this point, it is important to look back once more and give a summary of what has been taught us in the prophecy of Zechariah about the person of the Lord, seen from various points of view.
In the first chapter He is presented as the Angel of the Lord, who under a still veiled form directs all the events on earth, so as to cause them to facilitate the establishing of His realm, with Jerusalem as centre, to the glory of His people. In the third chapter we see Him as the true High Priest, surrounded by those whom He has made His companions. At the same time, He is the basis of all God’s counsels, the One upon whom God will build the future temple.
In chapter 4 we find Him as the true King, the Lord of the whole earth, and the head- or keystone, who will appear with shouts of joy and upon whom God’s favour will be engraved forever. In the sixth chapter we see that the kingship and priesthood will be united in His person and that He is crowned and seated on His throne.
In chapter 9 it says that He will bring salvation to Jerusalem as King of righteousness and King of peace.
In the eleventh chapter He is presented to Israel as its Shepherd, rejected and sold for thirty pieces of silver, but acknowledged by the poor of the flock.
In chapter 12 He is presented as the Messiah who will be seen by them who have pierced Him.
In the thirteenth chapter His entire course here on earth, from cradle to cross, is described. On the basis of His sacrifice He will be able to say to “Lo-Ammi” (not My people): This is My people, and His people will be able to say: The Lord is my God.
Finally we see in the fourteenth chapter that He will appear in person to deliver Jerusalem and to rule as the Lord, the God of Israel, surrounded by all His holy ones.
Isn’t this a most beautiful scene, worthy of our admiration? It is the eternal centre of all blessings! And yet this are not yet all the qualities of Christ. Read the first chapter of the Gospel of John and in it you will find how His glory multiplies itself infinitely. But also this chapter with its incomparable rich contents docs not contain all. Read the Epistle to the Ephesians in which you will find Him as the centre of God’s counsels, the glorified Head in heaven, whose body, the Assembly, is still on earth, but united with her Head through the Holy Spirit. In the same Epistle you will also find Christ as the Bridegroom who loved His bride and who will sol her before Himself holy and without spot in glory.
Let us bow ourselves before Him and sing the new song: “Thou art worthy.” Yes, “the Lamb that was slain, is worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing!”
Living Waters out of Jerusalem
On the day in which the Lord will reveal Himself to deliver His beloved city, when He will cause the Mount of Olives to split in two, even other wonderful signs will take place.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light; the shining shall be obscured. And it shall be one day which is known to Jehovah, not day, and not night; and it shall come to pass, at eventide it shall be light” (v.6-7).
This day causes us to think of the day on which the Lord hung on the cross and darkness came over the whole land. But here it says that light will shine at eventide, at an hour when normally deep darkness envelopes the earth. “At eventide” will be the moment at which terror and alarm will grip the many nations, because the Lord will punish them, and ere the morning dawns they will no longer be found (see Isa.17:12-14). At that moment the day will dawn for the beloved city.
“And it shall come to pass in that day that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the Eastern Sea, and half of them toward the Hinder Sea: in summer and in winter shall it be“ (v.8).
See here another extraordinary phenomenon, both of a symbolic as well as of a natural character. It seems that in our chapter the geographic changes, which refer mainly to the natural phenomena that will take place after the appearance of the Lord, will accompany the establishment of His reign to increase its beauty.
Here we read that living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, the special subject of Zechariah’s prophecy.
Ezekiel 47 presents that waters will flow from under the threshold of the house, the sanctuary, and stream toward the East, into the Dead Sea, which they will heal (giving life). Ezekiel did not mention the place to which the second arm of the double river will empty itself. In Zechariah we read in which direction it will flow. The river will flow right through Jerusalem (for from Ezekiel we know that the temple will be separate from the city itself), half of it will go to the easterly see, the Dead Sea, the other half to the westerly sea, the Mediterranean. In Jerusalem itself “the streams [will] make glad the city of God, the sanctuary of the habitations of the Most High” (Ps. 46:4).
Symbolically these streams speak of the Spirit of God as a life-giving power, making all along its course fertile (Jn. 7:38-39; 4:14). With the same significance Revelation shows us the river of water of life which will flow from the throne of God and the Lamb in the New Jerusalem, which will bring the life-giving and divine blessings to all. In Zechariah, where the symbolical significance is not lacking either, we see that life follows upon the light that has appeared at eventide.
“And Jehovah shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Jehovah, and His name One” (v.9). “In the day”—for the prophet did not so much speak about the order of events, as about the various aspects of the last day—the Lord, the God of Israel, the Christ, will be King. But this King will be He who inverse 5 is called “My God.” He will be King, not just over His people, but over the whole earth. The nations will acknowledge Israel’s God as “the only God.” God is One according to the Jewish revelation (Dt.6:4; Mk. 12:29,32), One also according to the Christian revelation (1 Tim. 2:5). But the general religion of the future will be linked to the oneness of the God of Israel, revealed as such in the person of Christ.
“All the land from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem shall be turned as the Arabah; and Jerusalem shall be lifted up, and shall dwell in her own place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner-gate, and from the tower of Hummed unto the king’s winepresses” (v.10). We find here a fourth phenomenon concluding the series of wondrous events that will occur in the land of Israel.
Everyone knows that a deep, low plain through which the Jordan flows stretches from the sea of Genesaret to the Dead Sea It is the most remarkable low-lying plain known in the whole world. The sea of Genesaret, through which the Jordan flows first, lies 208 meters, and the Salt Sea (or Dead Sea) 394 meters below the level of the Mediterranean. In earlier days this valley was often called Araba, which means “Plain,” as witnessed in the following Scriptures: Deuteronomy 1:7; 3;17; 4:49; Joshua 3:16; 8:14; 11:2; 12:1,3,8; and many others besides. In our time the portion of this valley stretching from the Dead Sea to the easterly arm of the Red Sea (called Acaba) has retained the name Araba, but it has no link to the passage in Zechariah.
Geba was a city of Benjamin to the north of Jerusalem, about at the height of Jericho at the Jordan; Rimmon was a city of the tribe of Simeon, lying more southerly to the west of the Dead Sea. It seems therefore that the entire land between Geba and Rimmon will be changed and come to lie on the same elevation as the Araba, which is to say: the Jordan valley. The result of this extraordinary phenomenon will be that Jerusalem, which “shall dwell in her own place,” will be raised before the eyes of all in the midst of the land of Israel.
It will rise above the entire country and will be able to be seen from far, this city of the great King! All tribes, all nations, will go up to the mountain of the Lord’s house to worship: “But it shall come to pass in the end of days that the mountain of Jehovah’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and the peoples shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and Jehovah’s word from Jerusalem” (Mic. 4:1-2).
“And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; and Jerusalem shall dwell safely” (v.11). After so many curses and threatenings from God’s side, after so much adversity, sieges, and pillage, the holy city will be at rest, a peaceful and secure refuge for its inhabitants. At that moment they will be forever delivered from the Assyrian, their eyes will see the King in all His beauty. Then it will be said: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tent that shall not be removed, the stakes whereof shall never be pulled up, neither shall any of its cords be broken” (Isa.33:16-20).
The Plague of al! Nations
Verses 12-20 speak about the plagues that will befall the nations, be it prior to or after the establishing of Christ’s thousand year realm. It is good to remind ourselves that in the last three chapters of Zechariah “the last day” is treated as one whole, and that for this reason one should not seek for a chronological order in it. Inverses 12-15 we find a description of the plague that will come over the nations gathered against Jerusalem, when Judah will take part in the battle, as we have seen earlier. Apart from the judgment that will befall them in the battle of which the remnant of Judah will at least in part be the instrument in God’s hand, the Lord will smite all the nations who have fought against Jerusalem with a plague. Their flesh will consume, their eyes will sink in their sockets, their tongues will dry up in their mouths. Besides, they will rise up against each other to destroy one another. This we find also in Ezekiel in connection with the destruction of Gog, the King of the North (Ezek. 38:21 -22). Even the animals will be slain and their plague will be the same as that of man, who had forgotten God and had no longer a spiritual connection with Him. In the judgment he will be put on the level of the brute beast, to whose level he had lowered himself.
Worship of the King by all Nations
But there will be a remnant out of all the nations who have come up against Jerusalem, just as there will be remnants of Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel. From year to year, they who have been spared will go up to Jerusalem and the temple to bow themselves before the Lord and to celebrate the feast of booths, the feast that follows upon the grain and wine harvest. To Israel it spoke of the joy of a peaceful rest under the booths, in memory of their living in tents in the wilderness (Lev.23:43). This memory was not combined with any sense of repentance or bitterness for the people, for it said: “Jehovah thy God will bless thee in all thy produce, and in all the work of thy hands, and thou shall be wholly joyful” (Dt.16:15). The times of judgment and humiliation will then have passed. For the faithful ones, the Day of Atonement, on which Israel humbled itself (Lev. 16:20,31), will take place during the great mourning of Jerusalem (ch. 12:11).
Then they will look upon Him whom they have pierced, and who had once made atonement especially for their sins,. After this, that day can never be repeated for God’s people, neither can that of Pentecost, for Israel will have received the Holy Spirit once for all. Only the feast of booths will continue to exist together with the Passover, the memorial of the atonement and the finished redemption (Ezek. 45:21,25).
As mentioned before, the nations will share in the feast of booths. But, although a large crowd from among them will be saved (Rev. 7:9-12), they will not be saved as entire nations. They will have to subject themselves to the iron sceptre of the Messiah or be dashed in pieces as a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:9). Here we see that they who will not go up to Jerusalem to the feast of booths to bow themselves before the King will be smitten with a plague. The blessing that should have made their land fertile will be kept from them.
This will literally take place, just as all the facts mentioned in this chapter. But it is also a picture of the spiritual blessings of which those will be robbed who will not obey the Lord. That will be the punishment for their sin; it is a plague that will differ much from that which will befall the nations who will openly rebel against God and His Anointed.
The prophet adds to this that in that day everything in Jerusalem (for he still had Jerusalem in view) will be holy and consecrated to the Lord, so that all pots in Jerusalem and in Judah will be just as fit for boiling the sacrifices as the pots of the house of the Lord (v.20-21). “And in that Jay there shall be no more a Canaanite in the house of Jehovah of hosts“ (v.21), as had earlier been the case: “Let it suffice you of all your abominations, O house of Israel, in that ye have brought strangers, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary, to profane it, even My house, when ye offered My bread, the fat and the blood; and they have broken My covenant besides all your abominations. And ye have not kept the charge of My holy things, but have set keepers of My charge in My sanctuary for yourselves” (Ezek. 44:6-8).
Let us apply these words to ourselves. Is this not the crime of confessing Christendom in relation to the worship of our God? Do not the uncircumcised (those who do not believe) share in serving in the holy things? How humiliating for the people of God is such a mixing of the holy with the unholy, to allow the uncircumcised and the Canaanite to be in the house of God! What a dishonour to Him of whom it is said: “Holiness be-cometh Thy house, O Jehovah,” for: “Holy is Jehovah our God” (Ps. 93:5; 99:3,5,9).
Let us always keep the holiness of our God in mind! “As He who has called you is holy, be ye also holy in all your conversation” (1 Pet.1:15). And if we, through the humbling circumstances of the present time, both as far as the Assembly and ourselves is concerned, have to conclude how much we have dishonoured the Lord, let us then raise our eyes onward to this glorious future scene in which all will be holy and consecrated to the Lord, and where He Himself will find His rest in all that is in agreement with His holiness and love!
 The colour red covers both the idea of judgment, as well as that of cleansing through grace (Isa.63:2; Num. 19:2). The same principle we encounter in the rams’ skins of the tabernacle. The ram portrays Christ in His consecration to God (Ex. 29:22); the rams’ skins dyed red (Ex. 26:14; 36:19) speak either of cleansing or of judgment. If this is correct, the colour of the Angel of the Lord’s horse would portray judgment linked with cleansing by grace, which is the purpose of judgment.