The Deliverance of New Jerusalem
For years, this chapter has presented problems for Bible scholars. The language is not the difficulty; the intended time period presents the problem. I work off the assumption that this chapter is aimed at the New Jerusalem, the True Israel of Yahweh, thus the time yet to come.
The Attack (1-2)
Zechariah first tells the reader to pause and look (behold) more closely at what he is prophesying. The "Day of the Lord" was a concept developed by the prophets to describe any season of judgment. These seasons of judgment were previews of the ultimate "Day" of Final Judgment yet to come. Here Zechariah prophetically describes the City of God’s, the Church’s, being ravished, and the Church’s enemies’ being so pompous and feeling so secure that they divide the spoil they have taken right in front of those they have routed. They have no shame and no embarrassment, just cold-hearted greed (1).
Zechariah now picks up on the picture that both Daniel (7:21-22) and John described in Revelation (20:7-9). The nations are seen gathered, the city taken, homes plundered, women sexually assaulted, and half the citizens exiled. Some are taken captive, and others are kept close to Yahweh. This is describing the all-out, end-time assault of the enemy against the True Israel (2). None of what Zechariah describes fits what happened when Jerusalem fell to Rome. Zechariah's prophecy must be reaching to the end-time offensive of evil predicted against Yahweh's people.
Yahweh does not stand by idle. He goes on the offensive Himself and takes on the nations who set their sights on His people. During the most precarious days for the church, Yahweh intervenes (3). Zechariah makes note of Yahweh’s touching down on Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem—the mountain where, just across the Red Heifer Bridge, Jesus was crucified, no doubt. Zechariah claims Yahweh will stand right before Jerusalem, on the east side. Once Yahweh, in the Person of Jesus, touches His feet on the Mount of Olives, we see the mountain’s splitting in two from east to west, creating a wide valley. Half the mountain is moved to the north and half to the south (4). The split mountain creates a valley reaching to Azal. Azal is an unknown place. What is known is the citizens of Jerusalem will flee through the valley created by Yahweh to safety. Zechariah likens the earthquake at the Mount of Olives to the earthquake that occurred during Uzziah's reign.
Archeologists assume the Uzziah earthquake would have registered as an eight magnitude with the epicenter located in Lebanon. The devastation of that earthquake can still be seen today, as different excavations have unearthed its evidence. This earthquake was a major history-defining moment for Israel.
To finish off the discussion concerning Yahweh's coming, Zechariah mentions that He will come with His holy ones, His angels (2 Thessalonians 1:7), and “saints" (5). No doubt, this is all language pointing to Jesus' reappearing.
Time Frame (6-7)
Zechariah then seeks to paint the season of Yahweh's return in Jesus Christ.
It will be one gloomy, cold day. The normal sources of light will not be shining, yet Yahweh will create continuous day. It’s hard to grasp how a time of spiritual darkness could still be a time of light. It will be a time miraculously illumined. With gross spiritual darkness, deadness of heart, and pervading gloom and oppressive persecution, Yahweh will light up vision and revelation (6).
2. One Unique Day
The day will come on "one" day, one "unique" day known only to Yahweh. Jesus Himself affirmed such (Matthew 24:36).
3. Evening Time
His coming will not happen in the bright of day nor in the dark of night. It will neither be when things are visible and easy to understand, nor will it be in the all-dark moment of desperation and hopelessness. Yahweh, in Jesus, will come when things are tough, but His care and provision for His people create massive hope (7).
The Glorious New Jerusalem (8-21)
A Flourishing City (8-11)
First, Zechariah describes Jerusalem as a flourishing city. The city will have waters moving from within it out to east and west, watering the world. The waters of refreshing will not slow in summer, nor flood in winter, but will be constant and predictable. No doubt this is the river Jesus (John 7:38-39) referred to and Joel predicted (3:18). This is the river of Holy Spirit blessing (8).
Second, Yahweh will be the King over the whole world. Yahweh, His Son, and Spirit will be one, and in the hearts and mouths of his people, His name will be uttered as one magnificent God (9).
Third, Yahweh will change the geography around Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be raised up as a prominent mountain while all around will be like the fertile plain from Geba to Rimmon. The plain used as an example here is the lowest place on the earth. The mountain of God's house is the highest spot on earth, and the plains all around in comparison are the lowest. God's house will be exalted.
Fourth, the city will be filled with residents to the north, south, east, and west. All the sites mentioned here are all sites from every corner of the city of Jerusalem. The new city to be built will be complete and built to be completely inhabited (10).
Lastly, the city will not only be filled, but it will also be safe. Never again will a prophecy be uttered concerning a coming destruction due to sin (11).
Remember, all of this is symbolic. Zechariah is doing his best to make sense of a vision of a world and a city and a house which do not yet exist.
A Protected City (12-15)
1. Contagious Disease
The nations that had sought the destruction of God's people will be sent a contagious plague, which will cause them to become a host of living corpses of putrefied flesh, eyes rotting, and tongues decomposing (12).
2. Civil Riot
Yahweh will create such mass confusion, widespread panic, and social paranoia that irrational hatred culminating in a civil riot will occur(13).
3. Israel's Enrichment
Zechariah sees Judah joining in the fight. How the figurative fighting looks is not resolved except to announce that Judah, the New People of Yahweh, will capture the wealth of the nations. Zechariah sees the demise of the nations hellbent on destroying God's people as being an enriching event for His people (14).
4. Destruction of Powers
Finally, Zechariah declares that all the power, both military and commercial, will be destroyed by the contagious plague sent by Yahweh into the enemy's camp (15).
Take care here, in all of this, not to seek to identify the symbols too specifically. Just like when Jesus arrived the first time and many missed Him because they fixated on what prophetic fulfillment should look like, so we too can make a similar mistake.
These prophetic words will make the most sense as they are being fulfilled and those witnessing them can say, “This is that word which was spoken."
Call to Worship (16-19)
Those who fought against Yahweh's people to destroy them will not all perish. Some will survive. They will be invited to the Feast of Booths.
The Feast of Booths will be the last of the three yearly feasts of Israel. It will be a celebration held in the fall, in October, at the end of the agricultural year, during the olive and grape harvest. It will be a time to thank Yahweh for provision and ask for the rains of winter to come. During this feast, Israel will give up the comforts of their home and live in booths or tents all around the city, remembering Yahweh’s saving of them through the exodus from Egypt. Above all, it will be a time to remember and rejoice in the deliverance and redemption of Yahweh (16).
Those who refuse the invitation of worship will discover and experience drought and related plagues. Egypt is especially named and singled out as a nation to be a sign nation. It was Egypt who had been the first nation to seek the destruction of God's people (17-18).
Zechariah forecasts a curse and judgment on all who do not go up to worship at this symbolic Feast of Booths. This Feast of Booths is to be a Feast of Thanksgiving, a Feast of Prayer of Dependence on Yahweh for provision, and a Feast of Remembering God's Awesome Deliverance. This is also the Feast where Israel will bring their tithes. This is a bit of what is behind the symbol of the Feast of Booths (19).
A City Holy (20-21)
The old city has fallen; this new city will be adorned with unfettered holiness. It will be a city totally given to Yahweh, totally belonging to Him. The ornamental bells hanging from horses will be inscribed, "Holy to Yahweh." What was once an animal glorifying fleshly strength will come under Yahweh's rule and will no longer be used as an instrument of war and hate but used for Yahweh's glory. The very ornaments of human strength and glory are becoming wholly consecrated to Yahweh for His use, for His love.
What was once holy, the pots and utensils and the vessels involved in sacrifices, will be made even holier, having the very inscription written on Yahweh's priests, "Holy to Yahweh."
Also no distinction will be made between the sacred and the secular. The bowls used for common tasks and the bowls used for altar work will all belong to and be used for the glory of Yahweh.
No longer will an idolater (Canaanite) remain in the house of the Lord; all will be holy, totally belonging to Yahweh for His glory. Such will be the temple Jesus builds (20-21).