Over three centuries ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal for evidence of the existence of God. Pascal replied, “The Jews, your majesty, the Jews.” The preservation of the Jewish people is remarkable. Yet despite all manner of persecution from ancient times until present, with God’s help they have survived.
I spoke to a chap who didn’t believe God existed. Why? He explained that he was Jewish and that his family suffered and died in the Holocaust. He asked rhetorically, “We are chosen for what?” I expressed how sorry I was for his great loss and that I would remember to pray for him. Nonetheless he agreed with me that the preservation of his people was a miracle.
Zechariah 12 is an astonishing prophecy. Before considering what will happen in the future we are reminded of the past. The opening statement declares emphatically that this burden, otherwise known as an oracle or prophecy is from the Lord. Messiah is speaking in 12:1-4, 6, 9,10a and the Holy Spirit is also speaking in 12:5, 10b-14. The significance of this will be explained later. Zechariah’s ministry commenced in 520BC whilst the second temple was still being built; hence he spoke to them of the future temple.
God reminds Judah that He is the Creator and recalls past provision before detailing His plans. The expression ‘’who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth’ is reminiscent of Isaiah 44:24-28 when God used Cyrus to subdue nations and enable the Jewish people to return to their homeland. The scope of the promises would include Jerusalem being inhabited plus Judah and the temple being rebuilt.
The opening verse states that God ‘forms the spirit of man within him (Zech. 12:1b).’ God is sovereign and outside of time, yet He entered our space and time and brings about the rise and fall of nations and as in times of old will continue to preserve Judah. He also draws the hearts of His people in a personal and moving way in 12:10-14.
God will deliver Judah
Jerusalem will be like a cup of drunkenness to all who lay siege around her. In the past, Sennacherib discovered that when he threatened Hezekiah and attempted to capture Jerusalem. He metaphorically drank a cup of God’s judgement. In the British Museum you can see Sennacherib’s hexagonal shaped prism and the accompanying words explaining how in his perspective he had trapped Hezekiah like a bird in a cage. The outcome was that the Angel of the Lord promptly slew 185, 000 Assyrians and Sennacherib was killed by two of his sons and the verdict was that it was God’s doing. Drunken trembling or reeling speaks of losing control of one’s faculties and being rendered incapable from the effect of intoxicating poison. Wiersbe summarises; “History shows that every nation that has tried to destroy the Jews has itself been destroyed.”
Jerusalem will be like a very heavy stone. Many commentaries cite Jerome mentioning youths attempting to lift great stones over their heads and in doing so causing themselves severe injuries. Similarly, those who seek to harm Jerusalem today will inevitably only cause themselves damage through their vain scheming.
Judah’s opponents will be struck with confusion, madness and blindness though how can the inclusion of horses and their riders be accounted for in a military conflict yet to come in today’s world? Firstly, MacArthur notes that horses are symbols of ancient strength. We also read in scripture frequently in the Psalms about a “horn” with reference to strength. There are numerous metaphors employed in this chapter; namely a cup of drunkenness, heavy stone, firepan and fiery torch, so it is not implausible if this were another one. It may have been as some suggest the language contemporary with the writer in his day. Of course, horses and their riders may be involved and when these events occur we will know their precise fulfilment, though the general interpretation is clear.
The governors will recognise in their heart that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are their strength in the Lord of hosts. Therefore, it would be wise for us to pray for them in earnest that the Lord may give them spiritual insight and a willing heart to serve Him. These governors will be strengthened by the Lord so that they will be like a firepan in a woodpile and a fiery torch amongst the sheaves. Though the numbers surrounding Jerusalem will be vast, they will be ‘burnt’ when they try to uproot her.
Verse 6b seems to repeat the obvious, though clarifies an important reality that has been a matter of confusion to many over hundreds of years and will be until the Lord returns. The fact that Jerusalem will be inhabited in her own place-Jerusalem; negates the suggestion that Jerusalem seen from a supersessionist perspective means ‘church’. This prophecy clearly relates to Jerusalem under siege and is not meant to be allegorised.
It is interesting that those who are outside Jerusalem will be saved before the ones inside to ensure that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem doesn’t become greater than that of Judah. Otherwise, imagine the spiritual pride and possibly superstitious awe of being an inhabitant of Jerusalem, compared with those located just outside the city walls.
Undoubtedly, and as in former times, the numbers and human logistics will be stacked against Judah though their confidence will be in Him as ours should be. The seemingly unlikely ancient victories will be played out on a modern- day stage with the whole world looking on.
Then they will look on Him whom they have pierced
Multitudes of Jewish people will recognise their long- awaited Messiah at the culmination of these traumatic events and their deliverance so they shall look on Him. The word ‘look’ has the same idea as in Numbers 21:9 when the children of Israel were required to look at the bronze serpent. Yeshua (Jesus) explained in John 3:14 that as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness so the Son of Man must be lifted up, speaking of Himself being crucified. Yeshua was saying those things to Nicodemus the Teacher of Israel and gave him further spiritual insight. I have no doubt that Nicodemus came to faith in Him as Messiah because of his statement in John 7:51 and more especially the 100lbs of myrrh that he presented at Messiah’s burial.
Romans 11:25-26 explains that ‘blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel shall be saved.’ It is interesting that Thomas, a disciple of three years who had seen and heard the Lord do many incredible things wanted to see and touch the wounds where Jesus was pierced following His resurrection.
John 19:31-37 assures us that Zechariah 12:10 was speaking of the crucifixion of Messiah and of those who would mourn afterwards. Revelation 1:7 confirms that recognition of the same by some is still future. This is consistent with Psalm 22:16 “They pierced My hands and My feet.” Also, Isaiah 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions.” When all these scriptures are brought together there is a consensus and consistency that is evident in the details.
Nonetheless, objections have arisen on various sides. Some say that Zechariah 12 foretells the Maccabean revolt, though this prophecy concerned all surrounding nations, not just the Greeks. Others state that the ‘Me’ and ‘Him’ of Zechariah 12:10 refer to two people or two subjects though as mentioned in the introduction, verse 10a is described in first person by Messiah until part way through that verse and by the Holy Spirit afterwards and until the end of the chapter. At least half a dozen Jewish commentaries state that this is in fact speaking of Messiah Ben Yosef who would suffer before Messiah Ben David reigns.
It is often through understanding the fulfilment of prophecy that individuals come to believe, know and trust in Yeshua the Messiah for themselves and see that the suffering Servant is also the King of Kings. When Scripture is compared with Scripture carefully, we can see how prophecy helps us to recognise that Scripture speaks of Messiah who has come and who shall also return.
They will mourn for Him
Weeping for Messiah will be widespread, intensely deep and personal. The mourning will be like that of King Josiah. He was wounded before he died. Judah mourned, Jerusalem mourned, Jeremiah mourned, and all the singing men and the singing women mourned (c.f. 2 Chr. 35:25-29).
Similarly, the extent and description of the mourning in Zechariah 12:12-14 shows that the land will mourn, every family by itself, affecting many on an individual basis. This won’t be akin to a national mourning for a dictator in a dictatorship where you need to be seen to be mourning and appearing to be sorrowful, because if you don’t you’ll be questioned and reprimanded and in a serious amount of trouble with the authorities. No, this mourning will authentic and intensely personal.
The family of David and Levi will mourn representing the kingly and priestly lines. They will mourn for One Messiah who was pierced and suffered and who will reign. He is also High Priest and King. Nathan and Shemei were considered the least of Judah and Levi though this demonstrates that the mourning for Messiah will affect everyone individually. Families will mourn by themselves and wives will mourn by themselves. Five times in these closing verses it is mentioned that wives will mourn by themselves. The implication is that even family members will be incapable of consoling their nearest and dearest such will be the magnitude of sorrow upon recognition of Messiah who they pierced.
Messiah reigning in Jerusalem
But it doesn’t end there. What looks like tragedy results in national revival. What we sow in tears we will reap in joy. The thirteen chapter explains that idolatry and false prophets will be removed. Jerusalem shall be cleansed and sanctified. From there Messiah shall reign. Furthermore, the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea and the nations shall worship the King in his Kingdom and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16).
“And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins (Romans 11:26-27),”