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Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Zechariah

Zechariah 12 Commentary

Zechariah 12 Commentary: Let’s turn our attention to the Old Testament minor prophet Zechariah… and the 12th chapter of his prophecies. Zechariah 12.

We’re entering the last main section of this book today as chapters 12-14 comprise one main section of this book.

So, let’s read Zechariah 12 and then attempt to explain what it all means.

{Read Zec. 12}

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 1 Burden for Israel

First of all, I’d like to point your attention to Zechariah 9:1 for a moment. Look at what that said.

KJV Zechariah 9:1 ¶ The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach…

And then we saw that the Lord went on to speak of a future invasion by Greece into the area surrounding Israel. And that prophecy went on to end of Zechariah 11.

So, Zechariah 9-11 is one unit and it was all subsumed under the label, “The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach.”

And now, we see something similar in Zechariah 12:1. We see that the Lord has another “burden” or “revelation” for a piece of land and the people that live in it. And that piece of land is Israel.

KJV Zechariah 12:1 ¶ {The/This is the} {burden/revelation} of the word of the LORD {for/concerning} Israel,

And the “burden” or the “revelation of things to come” concerning the land of Israel is what we expect to hear now. And we will to the end of this book. But first the Lord wants to remind us of who he really is and what he’s really like in the rest of verse 1.

{saith the LORD/Thus declares the Lord/the Lord declares}, {which/who}

{stretcheth forth/stretches out} the {heavens/sky},

and {layeth/lays} the {foundation/foundations} of the earth,

and {formeth/forms} the {spirit of man/human spirit} within {him/a person} {this is what he says…}.

And we’re going to see what this one says in a moment. But first, we notice that the Lord wants people to remember who he is and what he does – especially when it comes to his human creatures. He puts a sky above us. And he puts the earth below us. And he puts that animating force known as our spirit within us.

Above us. Below us. Within us. There is nothing in the life of mankind that the Lord isn’t involved with.

And the Lord is going to reveal some pretty amazing things in this prophecy that covers chapters 12-14 to end this book. So, he starts this last section reminding us – and his original Hebrew audience of Zechariah’s time – that there is nothing in the life of mankind that the Lord isn’t involved in and familiar with and able to accomplish.

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 2 J’lem to Become a Source of Destruction for the Godless

And so, in verses 2 and 3 what this all-powerful God wants to tell us is that in the last days – days that are yet to come even for us– God will make Jerusalem a source of destruction for the godless.

2 {Behold, I will/I am about to} make Jerusalem a cup {of trembling/that causes reeling/that brings dizziness} {unto/to} all the {people round about/peoples around/surrounding nations},

So, the effect that Jerusalem will have on the world – on all the people and nations that will surround Israel in the last days – is to make them tremble and reel and dizzy.

And that’s going to involve those nations coming and attacking Jerusalem according to the end of verse 2.

{when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem./and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah./indeed, Judah will also be included when Jerusalem is besieged./Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem.}

So, it’s not just Jerusalem that these surrounding nations will target. They will also attack Judah – the broader territory surrounding and encompassing Jerusalem.

So, Jerusalem will be like a cup, the contents of which cause people to reel and to be dizzy.

But in addition to that, the Lord says that Jerusalem will be like a really heavy stone in verse 3.

3 {And/It will come about/Moreover} {in/on} that day {will I/that I will} make Jerusalem {a burdensome stone/a heavy stone/a heavy burden/an unmovable rock} for all {people/the peoples/the nations}:

{all/and all} {that burden themselves with/who lift/who try to carry/who try to move} it {shall be cut in pieces/will be severely injured/will be seriously injured/will injure themselves},

So, God pictures these nations coming to attack Jerusalem as if they were attempting to pick up an incredibly heavy stone. And when they come to attack Jerusalem – or to lift that stone – they will be injured severely.

And yet, according to the end of verse 3 these nations will not be able to resist the temptation to attack Jerusalem. It’s bad for them. They shouldn’t do it. But they’re going to do it anyway.

{though/And/yet/when} all the {people/nations/peoples} of the earth {be/will be/are} {gathered together/gathered/assembled} against {it/her}.

And so, despite the fact that the whole world is going to gather troops to attack Jerusalem, it will stand like a heavy stone, ultimately. Not that Jerusalem will be totally invincible and experience no loss. But Jerusalem will remain – even in the face of this massive onslaught from the nations.

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 4 The Lord to Destroy the Nations

And here’s why Jerusalem will remain – because the Lord will actively fight for them in the last days, according to verse 4.

4 {In/On} that day,

{saith/declares/says} the LORD,

I will {smite/strike} every horse with {astonishment/bewilderment/confusion/panic}, and {his/its} rider with madness:

{and I/But I/I} will {open mine eyes upon/watch over/pay close attention to/keep a watchful eye over} the house of Judah,

{and will/while I/but will} {smite/strike} {every horse/all the horses} of the {people/nations} with blindness.

By the way, if this battle were to happen today, do you suppose they would use horses? Are modern militaries actually using horses as they go to war?

The answer is no – horses are not the asset in times of war that they used to be during the time that Zechariah wrote this prophecy given to him by the Lord.

So, we have two options in interpreting this part of the prophecy.

One option is to interpret this reference to horses as the Lord speaking in terms that his original readers would understand. They wouldn’t understand tanks and helicopters and drones. And so, the Lord speaks of horses to refer to vehicles used in war. That’s one option for interpreting this passage.

But then the Lord speaks of striking these horses with astonishment and blindness and striking their riders with madness. I’m not sure how you can strike a tank with blindness, for example.

So, that makes me more comfortable with the second option for interpreting this part of this prophecy – which is that in the end times the nations will not have tanks and fighter jets. They will have horses.

But what would make industrialized nations of our day go from stealth bombers to… horses as their chosen vehicle for war? Well, how about 7 years of God pouring his wrath out on them? How about the events we read about in the book of Revelation and all the death and destruction that’s foretold there? I think that would do it.

And so, this is the second option in interpreting this passage. And that is that the horses are literal. The horses are going to be around in the last days whereas the tanks and bombers will be all destroyed by that point from the destruction that God will release on this world before these events that Zechariah is speaking of.

Alright, so there will be literal horses that the nations will use as they surround Jerusalem and Judah to attack them. And God is going to blind those horses and make their riders crazy.

And when the Lord does that, everyone in the surround area of Judah will recognize that they are strong – through God’s power alone – and not their own! Verse 5.

5 {And/Then} the {governors/clans/leaders} of Judah {shall/will} say {in their heart/in their hearts/to themselves},

The {inhabitants/people} of Jerusalem {shall be my strength/are a strong support for us/are a means of strength to us/are strong} {in/through/because} the LORD {of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty} {their/is their} God.

So, there’s some special relationship between the people living in Jerusalem at that time and the Lord. The Lord is going to be their God. They won’t be resisting him anymore.

And what we know from other Scripture is that Jesus Christ will be ruling among them. The Lord will be literally physically dwelling in their midst and providing them strength.

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 6 Strength Given to Judah

So, the timeline so far seems to be that God brings these godless nations to attack Jerusalem. And then God himself strikes these nations so that they’re fairly easy to defeat.

And now, with these nations weakened by the Lord himself, Judah is going to go on the offensive. Verse 6.

6 ¶ {In/On} that day will I make the {governors/clans/leaders} of Judah like {an hearth of fire/a firepot/an igniter} {among the wood/among pieces of wood/among sticks/in a woodpile},

{and like a torch of fire/and a flaming torch/and a burning torch/like a flaming torch} {in a sheaf/among sheaves};

{and they shall/so they will/and they will/they will} {devour/consume/burn up} all the {people round about/surrounding nations/surrounding peoples}, {on the right hand and on the left/right and left}:

So, compare a big pile of wood and a small little flame. The pile of wood is much larger. And yet that flame can consume it all in an instant.

And that’s how Judah will deal with the nations that will come to destroy her. Judah – although they’re small – will just burn through them – though they’re massive.

And then at that point, Jerusalem – the city of peace – will finally be at peace, according to the end of verse 6.

{and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem./while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem./Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem./but Jerusalem will remain intact in her place.}

So, Jerusalem and her people will be unmoved as the surrounding nations will be overthrown.

And yet, the Lord makes it a point to ensure that Jerusalem won’t think of herself more highly than she ought. There will apparently be some temptation for Jerusalem to gloat over Judah in those last days as Jesus Christ dwells in her midst. And according to verse 7 the Lord is going to prevent that gloating.

7 ¶ The LORD {also shall/also will/will} {save/deliver} the {tents/homes/dwellings} of Judah first,

That’s Judah – not Jerusalem. Why? Continue in verse 7…

that the {glory/splendor/honor} of the {house/kingship} of David and {the glory of/of} the {inhabitants/people} of Jerusalem {do not magnify themselves against/will not be magnified above/may not exceed that of/may not be greater than that of} Judah.

So, God says that in those last days when the nations surround Jerusalem and Judah to do away with the Jewish people – that God is going to deliver his people – but he’s going to start with Judah, not Jerusalem.

And it’s an interesting give-and-take or back-and-forth that the Lord communicates here.

The Lord will deliver Jerusalem and the result of that is that Judah will marvel at God’s protection of that city. We saw that in verse 5.

And yet, on the other hand, God makes this point of saving Judah first in some way that I don’t quite understand. And he’s going to do so in order that Jerusalem won’t boast over Judah.

God is showing this desire of his that his people in those days not be in competition, but be unified. They’re happy for the victory of each other. They’re not seeking their own glory. And God will see to it that that’s the case.

And yet, in verse 8, God gets right back to exalting Jerusalem. The strength of the people living in that city in those last days when Jesus Christ is among them will be tremendous.

8 {In/On} that day {shall the LORD defend/the LORD (himself) will defend/the LORD will shield} {the inhabitants of/those who live in} Jerusalem;

And here’s the result of that defense and shielding of these people…

{and he that is feeble/and the one who is feeble/so that the weakest/so that the feeblest} among them {at that day shall be as David/will be like mighty David};

and the {house/dynasty} of David {shall be as/will be like} God, {as/like} the angel of the LORD {before/going before} them.

So, that’s the result of God’s shielding and defending the people who will live in Jerusalem at that time. They will all be very powerful. The weakest and feeblest among them will be like the mighty warrior-king David of old. And the house or dynasty of David will – and you would think that this is surely hyperbolic – but they’ll be like God. As strong as the Angel of the Lord, who in the Old Testament is frequently an appearance of Jesus before his incarnation in Bethlehem.

And this indicates something very interesting. In the last days, there will be a house of David or a dynasty of David. In other words, there will be a Davidic king.

Now, there will surely be descendants of David. And at this very moment some Jews are able to trace their lineage back to King David (https://www.loebtree.com). So, there will be normal Jewish people who are recognized as being of “the house of David.”

And yet, who is going to be heading up this dynasty of David?

Again, we need to think about the timing in terms of Bible chronology here. It’s the end of the Tribulation. Now, who is going to return at the end of the Tribulation to deliver his people, the Jews? Jesus Christ. From whom did Jesus descend? From David.

So, when verse 8 speaks of the house or dynasty of David being like God – well, yes, the head of that dynasty will be there – Jesus Christ – and he is God! I don’t know that the people who originally received this prophecy understood all of that. I don’t know that we even understand all of how this is completely going to work. And yet, this is what God has been getting these people the Jews ready for for thousands of years at this point.

They will have a descendent of David on the throne in Jerusalem and he is “as God.” He – Jesus Christ – is “as the Angel of the Lord.” And its his strength that will turn the feeblest of the Jews into the mightiest of warriors – even as mighty as Jesus’ ancestor according to the flesh – King David.

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 9 Nations Destroyed

Now, in the next few verses of chapter 12 to end this chapter, the Lord is going to contrast his treatment of two groups.

The first group is in verse 9 and gets very brief treatment.

9 {And it shall come to pass in/And in/So on/On} that day, {that I/I} will {seek/set about/set out} to destroy all the nations that {come against/attack} Jerusalem.

So, the first group that God deals with at the end of the Tribulation is these nations that we’ve been discussing. And they’re going to come to Jerusalem to attack it. What is God going to do to them? He will destroy them.

Zechariah 12 Commentary Verse 10 Jesus Received & Mourned

But here’s the thrilling part. The second group. And this group is identified as David’s house and the people who are living in Jerusalem in the last days. And the wonderful truth we’re going to hear revealed about them is that they are finally going to receive their Messiah.

10 ¶ And I will {pour/pour out} {upon/on} the {house/kingship} of David, and {upon the/on the/the} {inhabitants/population} of Jerusalem, {the/a} spirit {NASB capitalizes…} of grace and {of supplications/supplication}:

These people are going to have this spirit about them. They will be given grace from God. And they will finally plead for mercy – make supplications to the Lord. And here’s the result of those activities…

{and/so that} they {shall/will} look {upon/on/to} me

Stop right there! Who do you think is speaking of here in Zechariah 12:10?

Is it Zechariah the prophet? Not ultimately!

It’s the Lord, right? One result of God pouring out a spirit of grace and supplication upon these Jews of the last days is that they will look upon “me” – the Lord says. They will look upon Jehovah / YAHWEH / the Lord of Hosts who is giving this prophecy and has been since the first verse of chapter 12.

But, what secular Jew today is ready to accept how the Lord describes himself in the very next four words of this verse? Look at how the Lord describes how the Jews have treated him.

The Jews of David’s house and of Jerusalem will in a very special way look upon the Lord, continue in verse 10…

{whom/the one} they have pierced,

There’s no getting around this for the Jew who rejects his Messiah Jesus Christ. What other figure in history could this be referring to? This is the Lord – the God of heaven. And he’s been pierced. Who ever in the world could claim this about himself?

None other than Jesus Christ. The Lord, who was pierced for his people.

And the Jews will look upon him, just like they did the serpent in the wilderness. They will look and they will live. Just like every one of us who has looked to Jesus Christ with a saving faith. The Jews – who by and large reject this pierced Messiah – they will look on or to him and they will live.

And this is literal. Jesus Christ will be standing in their midst! After delivering them from numerous enemies. Here he is! Behold the man!

And they will have no choice but to look and live.

But between the looking and the living, there is going to be a great deal of mourning, according to the rest of verse 10.

{and they shall/and they will/They will} {mourn/lament} for him, as one {mourneth/laments} for {his/an}only {son/child},

and {shall be in bitterness for/they will weep bitterly over/there will be a bitter cry for/grieve bitterly for} him, {as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn./like the bitter weeping over a firstborn./like the bitter cry for a firstborn./as one grieves for a firstborn son.}

Can you imagine this? After thousands of years of these people rejecting their Messiah who was pierced for them and after they will have accepted a false Messiah – an Anti-Christ – at that very moment, Jesus comes – the one they reject and pierced – and he will save them.

They have rejected him. He will receive them. What grace!

Let me ask you, when you first trusted Jesus to save you from your sin, what was your reaction? There was surely some emotion to it, I have to assume. Wasn’t there quite a bit of grief?

Oh, there was joy! But you had been so wicked to him… and he’s going to turn around and save you? Forgive you all your sins that put him on the cross? He who would be justified in just ending your miserable life and consigning you to hell for all your sins – that one is going to die for those sins and justify you and receive you as a child of his?

That’s amazing! How incredible this transaction is! He dies and you live. You spit on him and he heals you. You put him on the cross and you mocked him and he willingly stayed there and died for you.

Didn’t that cause in you a little of what the song-writer labels “joyful grief?”

Well, that’s what a new convert experiences. And it’s certainly what these Jews in the last days will experience as the Lord saves all of Israel in a day – as they look on him whom they’ve pierced.

And the Lord can’t be more emphatic about the grief-saturated response of these people. Because in verses 11-14 – 4 entire verses – the Lord goes on to describe at length the grieving of these Jews in the last days as they look on Jesus.

11 {In/On} that day {shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem/the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great/the weeping in Jerusalem will be great}, {as/like} the {mourning/lamentation/weeping} of Hadadrimmon in the {valley/plain} of Megiddon.

Now, this location Hadadrimmon is a combination of the names of two Canaanite deities. It’s likely the location where King Josiah was mourned and lamented by the Israelites when he was killed in battle by the Egyptians. In fact, King Josiah was killed in the valley of Megiddo (2Ch 35:22). And so, apparently this is what this refers to – the death of Josiah – the last good and righteous king of Israel.

So, the Jews of the last days will lament and mourn over their treatment of their King Jesus Christ just like they mourned for the righteous King Josiah.

And though this mourning will start in Jerusalem, it won’t end there. In fact, the whole land will mourn – all of the Jews will lament according to verse 12.

12 {And the/The} land {shall/will} mourn, {every family apart/every family by itself/clan by clan/each clan by itself};

So, every family of Israel – every Jewish family in those last days will mourn over their treatment of Jesus. Each family will do this.

And so, in the rest of verse 12 and all of verse 13 the Lord foretells of a few different families who with “joyful grief” will mourn their pierced Messiah.

David’s family goes first…

the {family/clan} of the {house/royal household} of David {apart/by itself}, and their wives {apart/by themselves};

Now, it’s not explained to us in this chapter why the wives are going to mourn by themselves. It seems that the men and women will be mourning separately within the family of David and within the other families listed in this prophecy.

My best understanding of the reason behind this is that this mourning is going to be so solemn, that this kind of separation – that really approaches the nature of a fast – will be the only approach worthy of this momentous occasion.

In the Old Testament there were a few times where something so important was going to happen that God commanded the men and women to stay separate. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells husbands and wives to not withhold themselves from each other from intimate relations – except it’s by agreement for the solemn purpose of fasting and praying – of diligently seeking the Lord’s mercy and grace.

And that’s what these people will be experiencing – an occasion so significant and crucial that they are going to separate themselves from their own spouses for a time to deal with the Lord appropriately. So, that’s what’s happening here and why I think these folks are separating themselves from their spouses for a time.

So, David’s family will do this. In addition, the family of David’s son Nathan will be involved in this mourning, according to the end of verse 12…

the {family/clan} of the {house/family} of Nathan {apart/by itself}, and their wives {apart/by themselves};

So, Solomon’s family isn’t mentioned here. Instead, David’s other son Nathan is mentioned. Both sons are mentioned in the New Testament genealogies of Jesus Christ. One is Mary’s line and the other is Joseph’s. But Zechariah focuses on Nathan.

Alright, so we’ve seen the lamenting of the rulers of the Jews – David’s house and lineage.

But now in verse 13, we’re going to see the mourning of the religious leaders of Israel. The Lord begins with Levi in verse 13.

13 The {family/clan} of the {house/descendants} of Levi {apart/by itself}, and their wives {apart/by themselves};

And last to be mentioned is one of Levi’s grandson’s, Shimei.

{the/and the} {family/clan} of {Shimei/the Shimeites} {apart/by itself}, and their wives {apart/by themselves};

So, the genealogy there goes Levi to Gershon to Shimei.

These are the religious leaders of Israel and they too are going to mourn their pierced Messiah and how they’ve rejected him for so long and yet how much he loves and cares for them.

And then verse 14 ends this chapter reiterating the fact that not only these four named families will mourn – but that every Jewish family will mourn and lament their Messiah.

14 All the {families that remain/clans that remain/rest of the clans}, {every family apart,/every family by itself/each separately} {and their wives apart/and their wives by themselves/with their wives}.

So, there is coming a day when all Israel will be saved. It will necessitate an unparalleled period of suffering and God’s wrath being poured out on this world. It will take Jesus Christ himself coming to earth and destroying all of his enemies and saving his weak little people – the Jews.

But this is the testimony of Scripture. Jesus is coming again. And he’s coming in wrath for those who reject him. But for those who receive him, it’s all mercy and salvation.

If there’s anyone listening to this who is apart from Christ, receive him today. Trust him. He will save you from that coming wrath.

And for those of us who know Jesus Christ, are you struggling? Is life hard? Are you dissatisfied with the way your life is going? Take courage! You are working for this kingdom that’s surely coming – no matter how menial and monotonous your life’s work feels. Your seemingly ho-hum life and mine are all working toward this final end – the coming of Jesus and us reigning with him.

So, don’t give up! Don’t quit! Refuse to allow Satan to trick you into thinking that your life doesn’t matter or that it’s too hard or that you need some wonderful fulfillment that’s outside of God’s will. Jesus is coming again. And it will all be worth it when we see him.

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