Zechariah 14:1-5 The Sack of Jerusalem

jerusalem1   Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you.  2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.  4On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward.  5 And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 

Chapter 14 is the final piece of the last oracle of Zechariah.  It’s importance cannot be overstated as we have a glimpse of the first and second coming of our Lord and Savior.  In Zechariah 12, we have the second coming and it includes ten mentions of Jerusalem.  In Chapter 13, we have the Lord’s first coming and one mention of Jerusalem.  In this final chapter of Zechariah, we have the second coming and beyond with again, ten mentions of the great city, Jerusalem. The order of the oracle follows the second advent, first advent, and again, second advent, which forms a basis for the background with which we must view this oracle. Chapter 14 needs to be viewed through Chapter 12.

1  Behold, a day of the LORD is coming 

There are many references in the Bible to the day that our LORD returns to be King over all the earth.  It is somewhat exhaustive to sort out the numerous prophetic verses and place them into a coherent, big picture. But, to understand what the whole of scripture says of the Lords second coming, it is necessary. However, we will be taking a “snapshot” look at Zechariah 14.

We (Issachar5) are constantly worried when we get to these unfulfilled passages that require speculative interpretation we will miss and match the wrong passages.  We look at the first century rabbis and their grand interpretations of the messiah king, missing completely the suffering servant.  Are we doing the same?  Is our desire for this mythically perfect millennium skewed in some way that we can not perceive?  See Also: The Day of the Lord  

A word about hermeneutics here:  this oracle has been literal. There are none of the usual symbolic imagery that is in the rest of Zechariah and other prophecies, no celestial body behaving oddly, no clouds, no olive trees or lampstands, etc. But in this last chapter, something is different.  One would expect that the next historical sack of Jerusalem would fulfill the passage.  But it doesn’t.  One would not expect to see battles with mules, donkeys and camels. So which rule of hermeneutics applies?

We also need to deal with our preconceived ideas. We can not pretend as so many other interpreters of the Bible do, stating that they just go where the text leads them.  Or, that they interpret the Bible literally.  They don’t! Or we would all be calling themleftyand leading them around [Matt 5:29-30].  Preconceived notions are not wrong, but it is important to acknowledge we have them.  Pretending that we don’t have them clouds our judgment as to how they are affecting our interpretations.  (See Also: Hermeneutics)

The major views of Zechariah Chapter 14

  • There are those that teach that Chapter 14 is the destruction of Jerusalem and temple in 70 AD.   Their interpretation becomes symbolic.  Messiah’s feet standing on the Mount of Olives and the splitting of the mountain explains the gospel is no longer being hindered by the temple.
  • There are those that teach that this is the Battle of Armageddon.  That Antichrist will present himself to the Jews as their Messiah, and King of Judah.  The battle will be with the King of the North (Assyria) and the king of the South (Egypt), who will attack the city and take it.  The power behind these two kings will be Gog and Magog as well as the Japanese (or Chinese) from the land of the rising sun. Depending on what century the person writing lived, Gog is either the Russian Empire, or the USSR or the new Russia.  The reborn Roman Empire will come from Europe to the aid of the Antichrist.
  • There are those who agree with the Rabbis that this is about the battle of Gog and Magog [Ezek. 38].  That the LORD will put in the hearts of these nations to come up against Jerusalem.

and I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel; Ezek. 39:2

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth, that is, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. Rev. 20:7-8

  • There are those who believe that in our present geopolitical configuration, after the regathering of the tribes to Israel, Jerusalem will again be sieged as the nations gather to destroy her.  The Lord returns as King to deliver Judah and Jerusalem from their hands, then rules and reigns for “thousand” years with a rod of iron.  He judges the nations as sheep and goats on his return. After the thousand years when Satan has been bound, Satan is loosed and the rebellious nations come to stage an attack in the valley near Armageddon.

Zech. 14:1   Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you.  2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 

Many think or teach that day of the Lordis a reference to the physical, second return of the Lord to this earth.  However, the phrase appears throughout the scriptures and it always is put before judgment or discipline; it is never a pleasant thing.  However, here it is; the second coming of the Lord which brings about rescue, mourning and judgment.

The siege against Jerusalem

If the interpretation is to stay literal, then we must look for yet another attack (future to Zechariah) on the city.  Jerusalem is one of the most sacked cities in the world, if not THE most.

  • 925   BC Pharaoh Sheshonk I
  • 721   BC Sennacherib – failed to take city
  • 597   BC Nebuchadnezzar
  • 587   BC Nebuchadnezzar
  • 167   BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes
  • 70     AD  Roman army under General Titus
  • 614   AD  Byzantine-Sassanid Wars
  • 637   AD  Caliph Omar
  • 1099 AD First Crusade.
  • 1187 AD Saladin
  • 1244 AD Sixth Crusade
  • 1917 AD  WW1
  • 1948 AD  Israeli war of independence.
  • 1967 AD  The 6 day war

None of these sacks remotely sound like the prophecy. The Messiah did not rescue them in 70 AD nor after. No large deportation happened after 70 AD.   Half of the city was never exiled and half remained. And, He is not ruling and reigning from Jerusalem. The “nations” are not celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles every year in Jerusalem. Nothing from this prophecy has been fulfilled in the least, let alone in its entirety to date.

As first told us in Chapter 12, a day, future yet, must remain, when the Lord will gather, or cause, all the nations to battle against Jerusalem. The city will fall to these nations; property will be stolen, the women will be raped, and half the population will be taken captive.

Passages with similar language to Zechariah:

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. Zech. 12:3

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Zech. 14:2 

for they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. Rev. 16:14

And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon. Rev. 16:16 

And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse and against his army. Rev. 19:19

The spoils of the siege against Jerusalem will be returned to Jerusalem and divided in the city.

3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.  4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. 5 And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 

The Messiah with His holy ones, intervenes and fights to end the battle against Jerusalem. On that day, the Lord will stand on the Mount of Olives, causing the mount to split into two causing a wide valley.  Acts 1:11 tells us the LORD will return in the same manner as how he left.  He will “be revealed with “fire” as he comes “down” from heaven with his saints [Luke 3:17,12:49;  2 Th 1:7;Rev 10:1; 19:12; 20:9]. Earth’s last conflict will end.  See Also: Lord of Hosts

The movement of land northward and southward causes a very wide valley to appear.  Considering that Jerusalem is right next to the Jordan rift, this “splitting” must be enormous. His coming will be a major earthquake.  (Other Earthquakes: Rev 16:18, Olivet Discourse 3 earthquakes, Eze 38:19, Haggai 2:6, Isa 14:16,17)

Elsewhere in scripture, similar language of splitting mountains is found.

The mountains quaked before the LORD, yon Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel. Judg. 5:5

 And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 1 Kings 19:11

Then the earth reeled and rocked; 

the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, 

because he was angry.  

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; 

glowing coals flamed forth from him. 

He bowed the heavens, and came down; 

thick darkness was under his feet. Psa. 18:7-9

For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, On that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; Ezek. 38:19 

And the mountains will melt under him and the valleys will be cleft, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place. Mic. 1:4 

The mountains quake before him, the hills melt; the earth is laid waste before him, the world and all that dwell therein. Nah. 1:5

He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered, the everlasting hills sank low. His ways were as of old. Hab. 3:6

The valley created by the splitting of the Mount of Olives becomes the way of fleeing from this destruction caused by the earthquake and /or the armies.  There is a reference to the earthquakes as in when they fled in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. It must have been a big one, to have been this long in the Jewish memory. This also seems odd that the people flee toward and through the earthquake splitting the Mount of Olives.  Most people try to run away from earthquakes.  There has to be something about this splitting that is reassuring to make the people run to it, and away from the city and the armies.

We use the RSV, but here the translation for verse 5 is odd.  For one thing they have added a period were there is none in the Hebrew.  They have also left out a phrase that the people shall flee “towards Azel”, which is a proper noun.  It is the name of a son of Jonathan [1 Chron 8:37, 38 & 9:43, 44].  There is no place in antiquity that has this name.  It roots from a verb, to lay aside, reserve, withdraw or withhold; as a preposition it means beside.  One other thing to note, those that teach that Messiah is coming to save ALL the Jews, cannot use this verse, as only half are left in the city, and only those that flee to this Azel, are saved.

Aside from the odd use of the word Jehovah, the American Standard Version seems to have done a much better job on this verse:

 And ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel; yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee. Zech. 14:5 ASV

The book of Acts tells us the LORD will return in the same manner as how he left.  He will be revealed with “fire” as he comes “down” from heaven with his saints. Earth’s last conflict will end. Judgment begins.

“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts1: 10, 11

And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire  2 Thess 1:7

Each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 1 Co 3:13

4 thoughts on “Zechariah 14:1-5 The Sack of Jerusalem

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