Zecharaiah 12:1-9 An Oracle

The word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him:  

The first verse is its own paragraph.  A rather formulaic statement that  the LORD can be trusted to tell the future.  It is interesting to note that it is addressed to Israel and not to Judah or Jerusalem.  This is the only time Israel is mentioned.  The entire oracle concerns only Judah or Jerusalem.

2  “Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem.  3 On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it.  4 On that day, says the LORD, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.  5 Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves,  ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.’ 

…”Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling”

shineySome translators have it as a cup of trembling, but this gives it the idea of fear or ill health.  It is better explained as a cup of reeling, or drunkenness.  It has more the idea of being irrational, these peoples are really insane. The word here translated as “make” is actually “put”.  jnoSeems like a small distinction, ‘til one thinks about it.  I make the chair.  I put the chair.  This is the same word as God “put” Job before Satan [Job 1:8]. The implication is the LORD is placing before these peoples, Jerusalem. Somewhat like dangling a toy before a cat.  The cat insanely goes after the toy even though it is not real food.

Jerusalem is literally the center or meeting point of three continents. In the ancient world it was in one of the most strategic locales for trade and armies on the move.  And as such, i?t is one of the most sacked cities of the ancient world.  If a merchant were moving goods overland they had to go through ancient Israel.  If an empire were moving men at arms they too would have to march through this ancient land.  It is not until Magellan sailed around the world that its importance began to wane. With modern ships and planes, it no longer sits at the center of all trade routes.  Yet, it still remains for many peoples the center of their attention. They can not just walk away, live and let live.  Christians, Jews and Muslims are fixated on this most ancient of cities.

The cup is repeatedly used in Scripture for God’s blessing or cursing.  The golden cup of Babylon represents all the false religion and all the judgment that is to come on the peoples who drink from her cup [Jer 51:7; Rev 17].  However, David calls us to leave this pagan cup and return to the Lord’s portion.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; thou holdest my lot. Psa. 16:5 

… to all the peoples round about, not nations, or a people. The Hebrew for “all the people” is ha ammim, or the (specific) group of the peoples. It is not ha goyim, which is the nations.  If the next event that happens fulfills the prophecy, then THE peoples must be the Seleucids Greeks. This is the only group of peoples that were present.

…  they shall grievously “hurt” themselves.  This is not the normal word for hurt or injure, but rather “cut”. They are to cut themselves on the heavy or burdensome stone that is Jerusalem. This word only appears two other times in Scripture and both in Leviticus.  Both times it is a prohibition for mutilating one’s self for the dead [Lev 19:28; 21:5].  This is an indication that the cut here, is religious in nature.

The cutting may be in reference to the Greeks trying to Hellenize the Jews by forbidding circumcision in order to stop the worship of the One True God and to teach the worship of the Greek ancestors. As Plato describes them in Euthydemus, a.k.a. The Dialogue, he calls the gods his “lords and ancestors”.

But then as now, anyone who goes after the children of God will find themselves having to deal with a very heavy stone.

“The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he. Deut. 32:4 

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6 c.f.  Mark 9:42 ; Luke 17:2

 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,  “So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more; Rev. 18:21 

After this the Seleucids Greeks went into a slow but steady decline.  One hundred years later when the Roman general Pompey marched in, Judah offered token resistance.

 … on that day, says the LORD, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness.  But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the people with blindness.  Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.’  Zech. 12:4, 5

It is hard enough to calm a panicked horse having your wits about you, but if the riders can’t reason there is no direction and there will be no hope of keeping the animals from bolting. The Maccabees never had a large force. That they were triumphant was a miracle.  They fought mostly by stealth and cunning, unnerving the Greeks who never knew when or where the assault would come from. All of Judah will realize that their strength is through the LORD who made the victories through a disoriented Greek army.  As the clans of Judah recognize the LORD’s help for them, Jerusalem is assured to also receive strength to overcome the Greeks through the LORD.

Zech. 12:6    “On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the peoples round about, while Jerusalem shall still be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem. 

Judah, the people in the country, will “burn up” or destroy as a fast fire would, the invading peoples. Here, the fiery, blazing pot is put for the destruction inflicted by Judah; wood and sheaves are put for the invading people in trouble.

but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the citizens of Shechem, and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the citizens of Shechem, and from Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.” Judg. 9:20 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

The Maccabees, who were country dwellers of Judah, saw that Jerusalem was not taking action against Antiochus. Hence, the clans of Judah delivered a seven year guerrilla war waged by the Maccabees.  They were outraged by the disrespect of their culture and religious custom.   All Temple services, i.e. Sabbaths and feast days as well as all sacrifices had been prohibited.  The Temple at Jerusalem was dedicated to Zeus, and the Scrolls or what is now called the Old Testament were searched for and destroyed.   The Jews were forced to take part in heathen rites and rituals.  A small heathen altar was erected on the altar of burnt offerings. Every insult was made on the religion and culture of the Jews, in a vain attempt to remove all traces of the faith. They completed their Hellenization, i.e. paganization, of the Temple on the 25th Chislev (corresponding to our December).  The same date of which, after the Temple’s purification when Judas Maccabees restored the services, was exactly three years after its desecration on 25th Chislev, 165 B.C.  This same date, is forever now the commemoration of Chanukah.

After Antiochus death, Lysias was reinforced with an army, said to have amounted to 100,000 footmen, 20,000 horsemen, and 32 war-elephants [1 Macc. 6:30].  They continued the fight for four more years before a sort of uneasy peace was established.

Zech. 12:7    “And the LORD will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah.  8 On that day the LORD will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, at their head.  9 And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 

This conflict is also prophesied in Dan 8:9 where he also typologically represents the deception that is Islam, andDan 11:21-28; where it is typologically represented as the deception of anti-christ, as well as Zech 9:13-17.  The reason this one event gets so much attention is that it is the historical turning point for the faithful.  The people of God had been willing all though their history to compromise the faith.  It was ok to make a calf [Ex. 32:8] and ok to pitch a tent for Molech and worship the star god Rephan [Acts 7:43].  They built high places to Baals and erected Asherah poles[Judg. 6:25].  They brought the green tree in [Jer. 10].  They wept for Tammuz [Ezek. 8:14].  They had something evil in the Temple that Ezekiel wouldn’t even name [Ezek. 8:5].   But, after 70 years in Babylon all this disappeared.

Then, Antiochus brought an image of Zeus into the Temple.  The people of the city gave little resistance.  But the people of the countryside were so incensed they spent 7 years fighting to make their Temple and their people right with their God.  No compromise.  No mixing.  They understood we can’t have God and other gods.

For those who teach that this is symbolic of the Church,  they will have to explain the total lack of symbolic language.  No colored horses, no scrolls, no sun, moon, or stars.

As for those who believe that this is a yet future battle between the modern state of Israel and the ten nations of Daniel’s ten toes under the anti-christ, they have some explaining to do.  The text says “the peoples” not “the nations” or “the kingdoms”.  Anti-christ is not presented, he is completely alien to this text.  Why are there horses and tents on a modern battle field?  If they are going to claim that the horses are meant for tanks or other modern equipment, how can those be spooked?  If they are real horses, where are they to come from?  No one trains battle horses any more, except for Hollywood.  They can hardly be expected to train such expensive animals to face rockets.  As for the tents, why would modern Israelis need them?  They live there.  The nation is only 70,641 square kilometers.  There is no need to set up for a long siege.  Plains and tanks can over run the city in a matter of minutes.  The whole scenario makes no sense in light of modern weaponry.

This was not a battle for territory or trade, but rather one of faith.  As the Maccabees rallied the people to be true to their God.  They did not gain their independence from the Seleucid Greeks, but rather stood up for their rights to worship according to the customs of their ancestors, and the dictates of their conscience and to maintain themselves as as separate people.

Zech 12:9 And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 

The Hebrew is such that the LORD of hosts will forever seek to destroy all the goyim, or nations that ever have orever will come against His people.

Some of those nations are represented as four beasts . The Lion of Babylon, the Bear of Medio-Persia, the Leopard of Greece, and the fourth dreadful beast with great iron teeth we recognize as Rome [Daniel 7].  We see the Greek he-goat, identified as Alexander the Great, destroyed in his prime and replaced with four horns.  One of these horns is Antiochus, of whom we have been discussing [Daniel 8:8]. We know that the nations are warned in Zech. 14:8 to keep the feast of booths or face drought. Egypt is also warned to keep the feast or an unspecified plague will befall that nation.

When the Messiah comes with His angels to rule as King in Jerusalem, He will judge between the nations [Matt 25:31, 32]. Many people mistake this judgment as a judgment on individuals, but it is a judgment of the NATIONS. The sheep will be separated from the goats.

”When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left Matt 25:31, 32 . . . .And the King will answer them,  ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Matt. 25:40 

They will be judged on how they treated the Jews or the Christians, depending on who one thinks “my bretheren” are.

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Matt. 12:50

We read in Genesis, those who bless Abraham, will be blessed  and those who curse Abraham, will be cursed. All believers of the Messiah are children of Abraham, the chosen nation.

 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves. Gen 12:2, 3  

So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  Gal 3:7

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  Gal 4:4, 5 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s  people;once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.  1 Pet 2:9, 10 


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