Zechariah 14

 

הִנֵּה יוֹם־בָּא לַיהוָה וְחֻלַּק שְׁלָלֵךְ בְּקִרְבֵּךְ׃   14:1

Zech. 14:1   Behold, a day is coming for the Lord

                               when your spoil shall be divided in your midst.

The meaning of this verse is vague.  Two interpretations have been suggested for it.  One is that the enemy will be secure enough in Jerusalem that he will divide the spoils there in the city  The opposing interpretation is that Jerusalem will divide the spoils of the great victory described later in this chapter.  The two pronouns your in this verse are feminine singular, thus only Jerusalem can be the antecedent, signifying to me that the second interpretation is more likely the correct one.  However, the next verse makes it sound like the first interpretation is more accurate.  So it’s anyone’s guess.

וְאָסַפְתִּי אֶת־כָּל־הַגֹּויִם אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלִַם לַמִּלְחָמָה וְנִלְכְּדָה הָעִיר וְנָשַׁסּוּ הַבָּתִּים וְהַנָּשִׁים   14:2                         תִּשָּׁגַלְנָה) [תִּשָּׁכַבְנָה] וְיָצָא חֲצִי הָעִיר בַּגֹּולָה וְיֶתֶר הָעָם לֹא יִכָּרֵת מִן־הָעִיר׃

Zech. 14:2   “And I shall gather all the nations to Jerusalem for war,

                               and the city shall be taken

                       and the houses plundered and the wives ravished,

                               and half the city shall go forth into exile,

                       but a remnant of the people will not be cut off from the city.”

The Hebrew word before the left parenthesis has been assumed to be in error.  As it is spelled, it can be translated as to be ravished or to be violated.  The assumed correction can be translated as to be lain down (sexually, but with no implication of violence).  I therefore see no appropriate reason to make the substitution.  Instead I see a very good reason to assume that the original is correct.

וְיָצָא יְהוָה וְנִלְחַם בַּגּוֹיִם הָהֵם כְּיוֹם הִלָּחֲמוֹ בְּיוֹם קְרָב׃   14:3

Zech. 14:3   And the Lord shall come forth and wage war with those nations

                               as the time of His making war in the time of battle.

There’s uncertainty here as well.  What does the last line mean?  Are these words referring to a previous battle in which the Lord came forth?  Some Jewish commentators relate this to the time that the Lord intervened at the Sea of Reeds (Exodus Chapters 24 and 25).  I have to ask, why couldn’t it also or else refer to the battle against Amalek at Rephidim (Exodus Chapter 17)?

וְעָמְדוּ רַגְלָיו בַּיֹּום־הַהוּא עַל־הַר הַזֵּתִים אֲשֶׁר עַל־פְּנֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם מִקֶּדֶם וְנִבְקַע הַר הַזֵּיתִים מֵחֶצְיֹו   14:4   מִזְרָחָה וָיָמָּה גֵּיא גְּדֹולָה מְאֹד וּמָשׁ חֲצִי הָהָר צָפֹונָה וְחֶצְיֹו־נֶגְבָּה׃

Zech. 14:4   And on that day His “feet” shall stand on the mount of Olives

                               that is on the face of Jerusalem from the east,

                       and the mount of Olives shall be split through its middle eastward and westward,

                               a very great valley,

                       that half the mountain will depart northward and half of it southward.

As we first read this verse, it seems to be describing a violent earthquake, but later we may decide it is something else.

וְנַסְתֶּם גֵּיא־הָרַי כִּי־יַגִּיעַ גֵּי־הָרִים אֶל־אָצַל וְנַסְתֶּם כַּאֲשֶׁר נַסְתֶּם מִפְּנֵי הָרַעַשׁ בִּימֵי עֻזִּיָּה   14:5                   מֶלֶךְ־יְהוּדָה וּבָא יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי כָּל־קְדֹשִׁים עִמָּךְ׃

Zech. 14:5   “And you shall flee the valley of My mountain,”

                               for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azel;

                       and you shall flee as you fled from before the earthquake

                               in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah.

                       The Lord, God of all the holy ones, shall come with you.

Several points about this verse:  First, Azel is thought to be a place to the east of Jerusalem.  Second, The Hebrew words that the last English line represents are translated differently in most if not all bibles.  They offer a variation that is something like “The Lord, my God, shall come, and all the holy ones, with you.”  There is a serious problem with those other translations:  There is no and in the Hebrew of the phrase.  I believe only a translation like mine carries any validity.  Finally, the commentators have assumed that the earthquake in question is the one mentioned in Amos 1:1.  But I’m not sure this chapter is describing an earthquake.  However, it is mentioned in this verse.

וְהָיָה בַּיֹּום הַהוּא לֹא־יִהְיֶה אֹור יְקָרֹות (יְקִפָּאֹון) [וְקִפָּאֹון]׃   14:6

Zech. 14:6   And it shall be in that day there shall be no light;

                               heavy fog shall be thick.

This would certainly be true after a devastating earthquake.  Great clouds of dust would be everywhere.  Notice that the word in parentheses is shown to be in error, being spelled with a yad where it is assumed it should be spelled with a vav.  I believe there is no error; the word is spelled correctly.  As translated by me, the word is correct and needs no change.  Others mistranslate the phrase as something like “heavy clouds and thick.” which would make the correction appropriate, but the word translated as and thick (which is an adjective and requires the vav) by others is translated by me as a verb, shall be thick.

וְהָיָה יוֹם־אֶחָד הוּא יִוָּדַע לַיהוָה לֹא־יוֹם וְלֹא־לָיְלָה וְהָיָה לְעֵת־עֶרֶב יִהְיֶה־אוֹר׃   14:7

Zech. 14:7   And it shall be one day;

                               it shall be known to the Lord;

                       not day and not night,

                              but it shall be at evening time there shall be light.

Now what can this verse mean?  What is a day that is not day or night?  And what might cause the light in the evening?  Is it possible that this verse is describing a huge dust cloud that obscures the sun but makes the darkness less than complete?  Then the dust cloud would dissipate by evening and let some of the setting sun’s light through?  Possibly.

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יֵצְאוּ מַיִם־חַיִּים מִירוּשָׁלִַם חֶצְיָם אֶל־הַיָּם הַקַּדְמוֹנִי וְחֶצְיָם אֶל־הַיָּם    14:8                    הָאַחֲרוֹן בַּקַּיִץ וּבָחֹרֶף יִהְיֶה׃

Zech. 14:8   And it shall be on that day

                               living waters shall come forth from Jerusalem,

                       half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea;

                               it shall be in summer and in winter.

The living waters described here would be those mentioned in Zech. 13:1.  It would seem to me that the great east/west valley created by the cataclysm would carry the waters to both the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea.

וְהָיָה יְהוָה לְמֶלֶךְ עַל־כָּל־הָאָרֶץ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה יְהוָה אֶחָד וּשְׁמוֹ אֶחָד׃   14:9

Zech. 14:9   And the Lord shall be for a King over all the earth;

                               in that day the Lord shall be one and His name one.

The last line in this verse, the famous triumphant phrase that ends the Aleinu prayer at the conclusion of every synagogue service, readily identifies this as an end time prophecy.  It appears nowhere else in the bible.

יִסּוֹב כָּל־הָאָרֶץ כָּעֲרָבָה מִגֶּבַע לְרִמּוֹן נֶגֶב יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְרָאֲמָה וְיָשְׁבָה תַחְתֶּיהָ לְמִשַּׁעַר בִּנְיָמִן   14:10             עַד־מְקוֹם שַׁעַר הָרִאשׁוֹן עַד־שַׁעַר הַפִּנִּים וּמִגְדַּל חֲנַנְאֵל עַד יִקְבֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ׃

Zech. 14:10   All the land shall be transformed to be like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and it shall rise up yet remain in its place, to from the gate of Benjamin as far as the place of the first gate, up to the gate of corners, and the tower of Hananel as far as the wine presses of the king.

The Arabah is the flat Jordan valley, the lowest depression on the earth.  It would seem that the only mountain left in the vicinity would be that of Jerusalem.

וְיָשְׁבוּ בָהּ וְחֵרֶם לֹא יִהְיֶה־עוֹד וְיָשְׁבָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם לָבֶטַח׃   14:11

Zech. 14:11   And they shall dwell in it

                                 and there shall be no utter destruction any more,

                         and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety.

וְזֹאת תִּהְיֶה הַמַּגֵּפָה אֲשֶׁר יִגֹּף יְהוָה אֶת־כָּל־הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר צָבְאוּ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָם הָמֵק בְּשָׂרוֹ וְהוּא   14:12

 עֹמֵד עַל־רַגְלָיו וְעֵינָיו תִּמַּקְנָה בְחֹרֵיהֶן וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ תִּמַּק בְּפִיהֶם׃

Zech. 14:12   Now this shall be the plague with which the Lord shall strike

                                 all the peoples who had made war on Jerusalem:

                         Decaying of one's flesh as he is standing on his feet,

                                 and one's eyes will rot away in their sockets,

                         and one's tongue will rot away in their mouth.

Well!  This doesn’t sound like the result of an earthquake; it sounds more like one of an atomic explosion.  Is this what might cause the mountains to split?

וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא תִּהְיֶה מְהוּמַת־יְהוָה רַבָּה בָּהֶם וְהֶחֱזִיקוּ אִישׁ יַד רֵעֵהוּ וְעָלְתָה יָדוֹ עַל־יַד   14:13

רֵעֵהוּ׃

Zech. 14:13   And it shall be on that day,

                                 a great destruction of the Lord shall occur among them,

                         and they shall grab, each the hand of his neighbor,

                                 and his hand shall come up against the hand of his neighbor.

Now, what can the last part (two lines) of this verse mean?  The commentators seem to conclude that this verse refers to the great battle described in the early verses of this chapter.  I’m not so sure.  As I see it, it could just as well describe the shocked response (too late of course) of the victims of a nuclear event.

וְגַם־יְהוּדָה תִּלָּחֵם בִּירוּשָׁלִָם וְאֻסַּף חֵיל כָּל־הַגּוֹיִם סָבִיב זָהָב וָכֶסֶף וּבְגָדִים לָרֹב מְאֹד׃   14:14

Zech. 14:14   And Judah will even make war at Jerusalem

                                 as the wealth of all the nations is gathered on every side,

                         gold and silver and garments in exceeding abundance.

וְכֵן תִּהְיֶה מַגֵּפַת הַסּוּס הַפֶּרֶד הַגָּמָל וְהַחֲמוֹר וְכָל־הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּמַּחֲנוֹת הָהֵמָּה כַּמַּגֵּפָה   14:15 הַזֹּאת׃

Zech. 14:15   And the plague of the horse, the mule, the camel, and the ass,

                                 and every beast in those camps, shall be so, as this plague.

This doesn’t sound like it is a result of a normal battle or that of an earthquake.

וְהָיָה כָּל־הַנּוֹתָר מִכָּל־הַגּוֹיִם הַבָּאִים עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְעָלוּ מִדֵּי שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֺת לְמֶלֶךְ יְהוָה   14:16 צְבָאוֹת וְלָחֹג אֶת־חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת׃

Zech. 14:16   And it shall be, that anyone remaining from all the nations coming against Jerusalem, they shall go up according to abundance year by year to bow down to the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

This is the source of the rabbis’ belief that the feast of Tabernacles will be the last remaining feast.

וְהָיָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יַעֲלֶה מֵאֵת מִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאָרֶץ אֶל־יְרוּשָׁלִַם לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֺת לְמֶלֶךְ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת וְלֹא   14:17  עֲלֵיהֶם יִהְיֶה הַגָּשֶׁם׃

Zech. 14:17   And it shall be whoever will not come up from the families of the earth to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, the Lord of hosts, then upon them there shall be no rain.

This would be an almost immediate consequence of not coming to the Temple during the feast of Tabernacles.  This feast initiates the period of the latter rains, when the most important crops are planted.  They would not survive a dry fall/winter season.

וְאִם־מִשְׁפַּחַת מִצְרַיִם לֹא־תַעֲלֶה וְלֹא בָאָה וְלֹא עֲלֵיהֶם תִּהְיֶה הַמַּגֵּפָה אֲשֶׁר יִגֹּף יְהוָה אֶת־הַגּוֹיִם   14:18 אֲשֶׁר לֹא יַעֲלוּ לָחֹג אֶת־חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת׃

Zech. 14:18   And if any family of Egypt will not go up and not be coming, then against them there shall not be the plague with which the Lord shall strike the nations that will not go up to keep the feast of Tabernacles.

The implication here seems to be that a dry season in Egypt would not serve any purpose, as it is normally dry there, and the crops are watered by the overflow of the Nile.

זֹאת תִּהְיֶה חַטַּאת מִצְרָיִם וְחַטַּאת כָּל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יַעֲלוּ לָחֹג אֶת־חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת׃   14:19

Zech. 14:19   This shall be a sin of Egypt and a sin of all the nations, if they will not go up to keep the feast of Tabernacles.

בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יִהְיֶה עַל־מְצִלּוֹת הַסּוּס קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה וְהָיָה הַסִּירוֹת בְּבֵית יְהוָה כַּמִּזְרָקִים לִפְנֵי   14:20           הַמִּזְבֵּחַ׃

Zech. 14:20   In that time there shall be on the bells of a horse, “Holy to the Lord.”  And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be like the basins before the altar.

Okay, now this verse and the next are real puzzlers.  As far as this one is concerned, the message it offers is not easily decoded.  For one thing, why would horses carry bells with “Holy to the Lord” on them (an inscription that is identical to the one reserved for the high priest’s holy crown!  See Exod. 28:36)?  Two suggestions seem to have been offered:  First it is thought that the horse was an animal that the prophets looked upon with disfavor, and it would then be holy.  Another possibility is that the horse would then bring pilgrims to the house of the Lord.  As far as I am concerned, neither of these proposals seems to hit the mark.  But I have no alternative to offer.  I’m befuddled.  As for the latter part of the verse, differences of opinion exist among the rabbis and commentators.  One group assumes that the pots in the house, having been defiled by unclean sacrifices, would in the new age become as clean as the golden basins before the altar.  Another group supposes that the sacrifices will be so numerous that the pots will be used like the basins, to collect the blood or to cook the animal parts.  Again, I am not sure of either of these possible explanations.  And again I have no better alternative to offer.

וְהָיָה כָּל־סִיר בִּירוּשָׁלִַם וּבִיהוּדָה קֹדֶשׁ לַיהוָה צְבָאוֹת וּבָאוּ כָּל־הַזֹּבְחִים וְלָקְחוּ מֵהֶם וּבִשְּׁלוּ   14:21

 בָהֶם וְלֹא־יִהְיֶה כְנַעֲנִי עוֹד בְּבֵית־יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא׃

Zech. 14:21   Even every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, and whoever are sacrificing shall come and take from them and cook with them, and there shall not be a merchant any more in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.

This verse is even more puzzling than the last.  All the pots in the land will be holy to the Lord!  This means to me that at least some of the Torah instructions pertaining to clean and unclean would be nullified at that time.  Apparently they would no longer be necessary.  The Lord will have made all the utensils holy.  And, what’s more, they would remain holy regardless of where they were or what they had been used for.  Moreover, it sounds like the people bringing the sacrifices would cook them themselves and not require the services of the Levites and priests.   Finally, the merchants who had sold sacrificial animals and clean utensils to those who came from afar would no longer be required.  Why is that?  What possible explanation can be offered for that outcome?  Once more I’m at a loss.  I can think of no reasonable suggestion.  But I’m quite certain in that day we will have all the answers.  So we have to be patient and not try to second-guess the Lord.

 

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