Book of Zechariah
| Light iron-age reading|
|Gabbin' with God|
Zechariah is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament. Yet the Book of Zechariah shouldn't be considered minor at all, since it is fervently apocalyptic and it makes some spectacular prophecies. Zechariah is considered to be one of the first expressions of Jewish eschatology, since it describes an extremely specific universal transfiguration. It contains many beatific visions of a paradisal future. Zechariah opens with a series of visions, yet the eschatological prophecies only begin later on.
The first notable prediction that is in Zechariah 8:20-23:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.
The spectacular visions continue in Zechariah 9, which begins by predicting the absolute destruction of Israel's enemies. Zechariah 9:3-8 explains the doom of a few major territories:
Tyre has built herself a rampart, and heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the mud of the streets. But lo, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and hurl her wealth into the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire. Ash′kelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ash′kelon shall be uninhabited; a mongrel people shall dwell in Ashdod; and I will make an end of the pride of Philistia. I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth; it too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites. Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro no oppressor shall again overrun them, for now I see with my own eyes.
Zechariah 9 proceeds to describe Israel's messianic king in Zechariah 9:9-10:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
You'd think that Zechariah couldn't get any stranger, yet this book climaxes with the following obviously acid-inspired chapter:
Behold, a day of the Lord is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. 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. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 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. 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 Uzzi′ah king of Judah. Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the Lord), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.
And the Lord will become king over all the earth; on that day the Lord will be one and his name one. The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Han′anel to the king’s wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security. And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will lay hold on the hand of his fellow, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other; even Judah will fight against Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the nations round about shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the asses, and whatever beasts may be in those camps. Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.
This chapter, Zechariah 14:1-21, outlines an obviously eschatological event. It explains a kind of universal transfiguration that will alter the nature of the world forever.
The eschaton depicted in Zechariah appears to go as follows:
- There will be a day in which all the nations of the Earth declare war on Jerusalem.
- God will personally fight for Jerusalem and rot the flesh of their enemies.
- This day will be characterized by continuous, unending light. (Cosmic aberrations are a common mythological motif in apocalyptic literature.)
- God will become King over all the Earth, and his name will become one. (This appears to imply that God will unite the world under one language, an idea that also appears in Zephaniah 3:9.)
- The nations that survive this will come and worship God at Jerusalem. (God will apparently withhold rain from anyone who fails to do this.)
Needless to say, Zechariah is a pretty wacky piece of writing.