These chapters are like ‘part 2’ of the book, and an example of apocalyptic literature. That means it’ll get weird(er).
It starts off vicious – so much for the sweet merciful god of the last chapter. Yahweh’s going to trash and plunder a whole bunch of cities and states in the vicinity of Israel, to guard the Temple and protect it from invading armies. He will be watching closely to ensure that no more foreign oppressors overrun his beloved people’s land. (v 1-8)
And then it gets really interesting. Does v 9 suggest a certain somebody? Now read to the end of the chapter and put this verse in context. Yahweh will destroy Israel’s enemies in a bloody battle, and then Israel will live in peace and no longer need weapons or armies. There’s no indication that the king who will reign in peace from sea to sea, as predicted in this prophesy, is Jesus. And Jesus was never involved with an army, nor did he rule any earthly kingdom, so it’s a bit of a stretch to say this refers to him. Nevertheless, the gospels (see Matt 21:4-5 and John 12:14-15) claim that Jesus fulfils this prophecy. But wait! Maybe he did. It’s easy to fulfill prophesy – just act out its details. In other words, the gospel writers who were familiar with this story and wanted to prove that Jesus was the Messiah simply had to have him ride a donkey. Voila! Prophesy fulfilled.
I just can’t resist adding this link to yet another of the arias from Handel’s Messiah. Love it or hate it; I think that this one musical work has done more to inextricably link OT prophesy to Jesus than any other factor. Lyrics are, of course, from v 9 and 10.
This is mostly just blah blah blah, but there are a few points to note. The sheep/shepherd analogy is back (v 2-3), and the ‘bad guys’ are referred to as ‘goats’ in the KJV. What did Yahweh – or the bible authors – have against goats? (Remember, the bible also gave us ‘scapegoat’ and ‘separate the sheep from the goats’).
Next, Yahweh talks about strengthening Israel and restoring its citizens because of his compassion. (v 6) Compassion? Is he kidding? Then he will collecting all his scattered people home again (v 8 -10) – another bit of ammunition for the land claims crowd. And in v 11, there’s a prediction that the Nile will dry up – which has never happened.
Now we get to the really weird stuff. I cannot possibly comment on the individual verses because they make little or no objective sense; they are obviously figurative. So I turned to Christian websites to try to understand how they interpret this chapter. Feel free to do the same if you want more detail… The following is taken from what I read.
V 1-3 describe the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish church and nation. V 4-14: The prophet proceeds to show the cause of the destruction just foretold, namely, the rejection of Messiah. Zechariah then jumps forward to the end of days, as he foretells the coming of the Worthless Shepherd, the Antichrist, which the nation will accept. He will devastate the nation, at the end-of-days, because he does not care for the flock. V 15-17 show the people’s misery in being abused by foolish shepherds. The description suits the character Christ gives of the scribes and Pharisees. They never do anything to support the weak, or comfort the feeble-minded; but seek their own ease, while they are barbarous to the flock. The idol shepherd has the garb and appearance of a shepherd and is supported at much expense; but he leaves the flock to perish through neglect, or leads them to ruin by his example. Now – compare these interpretations to the actual chapter – can you correlate the two? I sure can’t. Seems like you could make these verses mean almost anything you want. And where people think Jesus enters into it…. Go figure!
Yahweh’s gonna perform some magic tricks that will make Israel and Judah impermeable to attacks from neighboring nations. Then he says “I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.” (v 10) That would be an obvious reference to the crucifixion – except that this book was written first, so it’s the other way around. I’m starting to understand this whole prophesy setup – all the gospel writers had to do was tie Jesus into some old testament stories, and then claim that those stories predicted Jesus.
The end times are here, so it’s time to wash away all sin in a special fountain. Then Yahweh’s gonna clean house of all the false prophets. He’ll do that by having their own parents kill them. V 7-9 are supposed to be prophesy about the suffering of Christ. And something about the sin of the Jews in rejecting and crucifying Jesus. Again, I’m not sure how they get that out of this short passage. But at the end, the few who are left will be pure. That actually sounds kind of scary.
It’s Judgement Day on the Mount of Olives. The lord will go to fight, and the mountain will split in two (v 4-5) – which I’m pretty sure has never happened. Or maybe that’s the idea – people still think it will. Along with other weird predictions, like darkness (v 6) and changes in water patterns (v 8). And the clincher – “the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.” (v 9) And that name will be what? (Allah? Zeus? Well, why not?)
Now we’re at the grand finale – Israel will be at peace, while all the nations that threatened it will be… well, some kind of creatures from a horror movie (v 12-14). Anyone who doesn’t worship Yahweh, or Jesus, or whoever this prophesy applies to, will be punished; even all the cooking pots and harness bells will be part of the celebration. Can it get any more bizarre than that?