Zechariah 12-13. The Redemption of Israel

In their Bible Knowledge Commentary, Profs. Walvoord and Zuck say: “Two conditions are necessary for the establishment of Israel’s future Messianic kingdom: (a) the overthrow of Gentile world powers that oppose the establishment of this kingdom, and (b) the regeneration of individual Jews who will constitute the nation when God fulfils the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Both these conditions will be accomplished by the Lord, as seen in chapters 12 and 13. He will deliver Israel physically from her enemies (12:1-9) and He will deliver her spiritually (12:10–13:9).”

Chapter 11 is a necessary prelude to the events in the following chapters. The rejection of the good Shepherd and the acceptance of the evil one sets the scene for the restoration and spiritual renewal of Israel, the lost son (Luke 15:11-24), as described in Zechariah 12 and 13. The rise of the evil shepherd in the end-time is a necessary condition for introducing the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), so the remnant in Israel can approach the true Shepherd with broken hearts because of their sins and afflictions.

Israel’s physical deliverance (12:1-9)

Very clear statements are made about an international conspiracy against Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem. The big war against Jerusalem will end in the utter destruction of the enemy forces. The Lord, who has made heaven and earth, as well as all living creatures, has all power in heaven and on earth (12:1). He says:

“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it… In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem… It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (12:2-3,8-9).

The nations have stubborn, unregenerate and evil hearts, and for that reason they despise Israel and hate Jerusalem. Being under the domination of the powers of darkness, they will not recognise nor worship the Holy One of Israel. Now, in the end-time, many of Israel’s enemies in the Middle East are reiterating their ancient conspiracy against Israel by saying: “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (Ps. 83:4). Divine wrath will be poured out upon the nations because of their unjustified hatred of the Jews. God says He will gather all nations against Jerusalem to enter into judgement with them because of oppressing and scattering Israel (Joel 3:2).

Hatred of the Jews (Anti-Semitism) is a completely unbiblical attitude to adopt as it brings a curse of God upon those who are guilty of harbouring and promoting this antichristian spirit. God said to Abraham, the founding father of Israel: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Christ was born from the lineage of Abraham through Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David, “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:14). To reject the people through whom God gave the world a Saviour (cf. Rom. 9:5), and to whom He also entrusted His Word (Rom. 3:1-4), even though that very people may still be unfaithful to God (cf. Rom. 11:11-12), is to reject the God of Israel. He will sternly deal with these enemies.

God will strike the enemies of Israel with blindness (12:4) and strengthen His people to drive off and annihilate the hostile forces. On that day they will be heroes who will achieve the victory under the leadership and with the help of the Messiah (12:6-8).

Israel’s spiritual deliverance (12:10–13:9)

Israel’s salvation at the Second Coming of Christ will necessitate a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit as it will happen seven years after the rapture, which formally ends the church dispensation. The Spirit of God will lead the remnant in Israel to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. God says:

“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadat Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself… In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (12:10-12; 13:1).

Zechariah likens the death of the Messiah to that of an “only son” and a “firstborn.” Mourning for an only son or a firstborn was particularly bitter and violent. With the death of an only son the light of a family was extinguished. With the death of a firstborn the honour of a family, 'the first instalment of God's blessing', and therefore the most loved, was removed. The mourning for the Messiah is also likened to the mourning for King Josiah. Profs. Walvoord & Zuck (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) say: "The future mourning of Israel over her Messiah is likened, in the second place, to the weeping on the day when godly King Josiah, the last hope of the fading Judean nation, was slain by Pharaoh Neco II, at Hadat Rimmon, traditionally identified as a village near Jezreel, in the plain of Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:20-27). Thus the greatness of the mourning at this final outpouring of the Holy Spirit can be compared only to the weeping for a most extreme individual (Zech. 12:10) and to corporate catastrophes of the nation."

Rev. Isaac Jennings (The Imperial Bible Dictionary) says: "The great mourning of the last days described by Zechariah, when the whole land shall mourn, and every family apart unite in the act, refers to the repentance of the Jewish people, and their deep contrition in view of their past unbelief, when, convinced of the sin of rejecting the Messiah, they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn, and find cleansing in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; and so all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:26). Blessed are those who mourn thus (Matt. 5:4), for they shall be comforted, through the pardoning mercy of our God freely remitting all their sins, and imparting peace to their souls.

"This subject vividly reminds us of sin, as the original cause of all mourning, and of the source of all the sufferings and all the ills that flesh is heir to. It reminds us too of the blessed object of the coming of the Son of God into the world to save from sin (Matt. 1:21), and therefore, finally, to save from all mourning and all sorrow. From the day that our first parents went forth in sadness from the garden of Eden until now, earth has been a vale of tears; and such it shall ever continue to be, till the Second Coming of our Lord to create all things new, when sorrow and sighing shall flee away, and earth again, in more than primeval beauty, in greater than Edenic bliss, shall become the abode of everlasting joy!"

The land of Israel will also be cleansed from all traces of idolatry: “It shall be in that day, says the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land” (13:2). Idolatry near the time of the Second Coming of Christ will include worship of the image of the Antichrist in the temple in Jerusalem (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15), though other forms of idolatry will also be present (Rev. 9:20). Associated with the eradication of idolatry will be the banishing of false prophecies which is prompted by unclean spirits (13:2-5).

The true Prophet and Shepherd of Israel is the One who was wounded for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5): “And someone will say to Him, What are these wounds in Your hands? The He will answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends. Awake, o sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion, says the LORD of hosts. Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (13:6-7).

On the day when Jesus returns and sets foot on the Mount of Olives, the remnant in Israel will see the marks in His hands and ask Him: “What are these wounds in you hands?” He will reply that He was wounded in the house of His friends. The Jews will know who His friends, or own people, are, namely the house of Israel, because they all know that their Messiah will be a descendant of King David. Why then the wounds in His hands? Isn’t He a mighty King who could have averted being wounded by anybody? In a moment of great shock and disillusionment they will realise who He is – Jesus of Nazareth who was betrayed and rejected by their fathers. They will look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn for Him, because they will realise that by also rejecting Him they were party to His crucifixion.

This situation will be reminiscent of the day, long ago, when Joseph was unexpectedly revealed as king of Egypt to his brothers. Joseph was a type of the Messiah: ”Then Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph… but his brothers could not answer him for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, Please come near me. And they came near. And he said: I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:3-5). Like Joseph, Jesus was also betrayed and sold for the price of a slave, but God anointed Him as King of the world and will make His brothers to bow down before Him for salvation. “Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, Behold, we are your servants. Joseph said to them, Do not be afraid…” (Gen. 50:18-19). When Jesus comes, His brothers will react in the same way, be forgiven and spiritually revived.

When the Shepherd was struck, the sheep were scattered (13:7). Even the Messianic Jews were scattered when Jesus was crucified (Matt. 26:31), also after His ascension (Acts 8:1). The unbelieving Jews were scattered after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Before the remnant in Israel will be reconciled with the Messiah at His Second Coming, they will be severely persecuted and also scattered by the false messiah. The Lord Jesus warned of this time when He said that there will be a great tribulation which will bring human life on the planet on the brink of extinction. He said that if those days are not shortened, no human beings will survive it (Matt. 24:21-22).

As far as the Jews are concerned, an extremely high death-toll is mentioned in Zechariah: “And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the LORD, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it” (13:8). That means that a death-toll higher than the Holocaust in World War II is awaiting the 13 million Jews in the world during the dark days of the great tribulation. What a horrible prospect for the unbelievers! The same applies to the Gentiles.

People shouldn’t blame God for the terrible judgements that people bring upon themselves because of their unrepentant hearts. All unsaved people are heading for a worse ordeal than the great tribulation when they will be cast into the eternal lake of fire. The Messiah, as Judge of all people, will say to them: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). John says: “And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

The Jews who survive the great tribulation will be refined and saved: “I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my Name, and I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; and each one will say, the LORD is my God” (13:9). They are the blessed ones that will inherit the promised kingdom of the Messiah. He will rule the world from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem (Acts 15:16-17), and His people will have times of refreshing in His presence (Acts 3:19).