23 October 2023

Zechariah’s prophecy “about the Israel-Hamas War.”

Zechariah 12.

After the Israel-Hamas War began on 7 October 2023, this highlighted bit of Zechariah started making the rounds on social media, usually captioned, “This is going to happen very soon. Watch.”

Zechariah 12.2-5, Living Bible.
From the 1971 edition of The Living Bible.

Memes like this are very popular with people who worry about the End Times, who want to know when it’s time to start buying the food buckets and guns for their bunkers.

The way Darbyist “prophecy scholars” interpret the End Times, every time they come across a passage of scripture which appears to be about anything in their End Times Timeline, they immediately declare that’s precisely what it is. God said it, and his prophets recorded it, not for the people of their day; not for the ancient Israelis of millennia ago. Oh they might’ve thought it was for them, but they were just illiterate foreigners who lived in mud huts without electricity and science, and didn’t even speak English—it’s for us, for the people of our day, for God’s actual chosen people.

The actual context of the scripture doesn’t matter. It only means what we want it to mean. It shall accomplish that which we please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto we sent it. As for what God meant by it?… well surely he thinks like we do.

Yeah, it’s pretty darned arrogant of these interpreters. But they’re so desperate to find End Times puzzle pieces in the bible which fit into their timelines—however awkwardly—they’re often not even aware what they’re doing. It’s like a child who’s so intent on drawing the perfect picture of a unicorn… she doesn’t realize she’s using permanent markers on the penboard. Or, really, care. Rebuke her for it, and she’ll wonder what all the fuss is about—it’s such a good picture! Why should you want to erase it?

So, Zechariah 12. What’s it historically about? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look at it.

The text, and the context.

The book is named for Zechariah. In Ezra-Nehemiah he’s called the son of Iddo, Ez 5.1, 6.14, Ne 12.16 but really he’s the son of Berekhiah ben Iddo. Zc 1.1 Iddo’s important ’cause he was a prophet too, and apparently wrote his own book, 2Ch 12.15, 13.22 but we don’t have that book anymore; bummer. Being the grandson of a prophet isn’t automatically gonna make you a prophet, ’cause people’s prophetic abilities come from the Holy Spirit, not heredity. But watching Grandpa do it might’ve made Zechariah want to do it too, and seek the Spirit, and be granted the ability to hear him.

Zechariah put dates on a few of his prophecies, and since we know when those Persian kings he referenced reigned, we can nail down the dates to October 520BC, Zc 1.1 15 February 519BC, Zc 1.7 and 7 December 518BC. He stopped dating his prophecies after chapter 9, but it’s reasonable to assume they were written within the next 10 years or so. Most figure his prophecies are about the eventual invasion of Jerusalem by Alexander of Macedon in 333BC, although there’s every chance they were about smaller local invasions by Samaritans, Edomites, and Arabs in the late 500s.

There are some scholars who think chapters 9–14 were written by a second Zechariah—a prophet named Zechariah ben Jeberekhiah, Is 8.2 who lived in Isaiah’s day, who’d have written these chapters about 200 years earlier, during the time of King Josiah ben Amon in the 700s. Therefore they’re about the neo-Babylonian invasion of 597–538BC. The theory is somebody mixed up their Zechariahs, put their books together, and what we have in our bibles is a mashup. I don’t buy it. But many do, so that’s why I bring it up.

Darbyists insist chapter 12 is about the End Times, because “all the peoples of the earth” are coming against Jerusalem. The word אָ֔רֶץ/erétz means “land” and “ground,” and that’s the sort of “earth” it means; not the planet. When the Hebrew scriptures refer to the planet, it uses תֵּבֵל/tevél. Not that tevél can’t also refer to a particular land, like Babylon.

So all the people of the land are coming against Jerusalem; all its middle eastern neighbors. But since Darbyists don’t know nor care about Hebrew grammar, nor know squat about ancient history (especially since it’d only contradict them), but claim to know all about future history, of course this must be some worldwide alliance of antisemites on the attack.

Meh. I’ll quote the whole of the chapter.

Zechariah 12 KWL
1 A burden.
The LORD’s word upon Israel.
An oracle of the LORD,
who stretches out the heavens,
who establishes the earth,
who moulds the spirit of a human within him.
2 “Look, I set down in Jerusalem a bowl of liquor
for all the people-groups round about, and Judah also.
It happens when Jerusalem is besieged.
3 On the day it happens,
I set a heavy stone in Jerusalem for all the peoples.
All who lift it are cut to pieces with cuts.
All peoples of the land gather round it.
4 On that day,” orates the LORD,
“I throw every horse into a panic.
Every rider goes crazy.
I open my eyes over the house of Judah.
I strike blind every horse of the other people-groups.
5 Judah’s head men say in their hearts,
‘Our strength is Jerusalem’s inhabitants
by the LORD, the God of War.’
6 On that day, I put Judah’s head men in a basin of fire.
With wood, like a flaming torch used to burn up grain.
They devour right and left, all the people-groups round about,
Jerusalem’s inhabitants dwell once more in Jerusalem.”
7 The LORD’s salvation comes first to Judah’s tents,
so that the glory of David’s house is great,
and the glory of Jerusalem’s inhabitants are because of Judah.
8 On that day, the LORD protects Jerusalem’s inhabitants.
On that day, the weakest of them is like David,
and David’s house is like God,
like the LORD’s angels before them.
9 “On that day, this happens:
I seek to destroy all the nations who come to Jerusalem.
10 I pour out on David’s house, on Jerusalem’s inhabitants,
the Spirit of grace and prayer.
They look to me, whom they pierced;
they mourn over him like one mourns an only child,
bitter weeping over him like weeping over a firstborn.
11 On that day is great mourning in Jerusalem,
like the mourning for Baal Hadad-Rimmon in the Megiddo valley.
12 The land mourns, clan by clan to themselves:
The clan of David’s house to itself, their wives to themselves.
The clan of Nathan’s house to itself, their wives to themselves.
13 The clan of Levi’s house to itself, their wives to themselves.
The clan of Shimeites to themselves, their wives to themselves.
14 All the remaining clans, clan by clan to themselves,
and their wives to themselves.”

The Hebrew text has paragraph markers. The first paragraph introduces God, who gave this message.

The second, a siege of Jerusalem—which is not currently happening in the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, although there’s kind of a siege of Gaza City, if anywhere. God’s response is a bowl or basin of רַ֛עַל/raäl, “(intoxicated) staggering,” which is gonna affect both Jerusalem’s foes and Judah; it doesn’t discriminate between combatants. God also drops a heavy stone, which’ll cut anyone who lifts it. God freaks out and blinds all the enemies’ horses. Finally, God uses the heads of Judah as kindling for a fire, which burns up all the enemies.

Neither Zechariah nor the LORD explain exactly what these metaphors represent, but for the people of Jerusalem who watched this prophecy get fulfilled in Zechariah’s time, it was obvious. God’s prophecies aren’t subtle! Fake prophecies are, because they’re trying to be so vague their symbols can mean anything—including what they claim they mean. If you gotta buy a 300-page book from Amazon for $24.99 so you can explain to your doubting fellow Christians how on earth this means what you think it means—because it’s not plain as day to anyone with common sense—this isn’t that. Darbyist interpretations always require books and videos before you can finally understand ’em. Whereas all the Holy Spirit needs is a humble person who stops denying what they clearly see before them.

The last paragraph is the aftermath. God empowers the brave Jerusalemites to defend their city. Then they mourn. Why? Because they injured God—“they look to me, whom they pierced.” The gospel of John quotes verse 10 to refer to Jesus, Jn 19.37 but in context it’s about the idolatry Jerusalem practiced, which ultimately led to this point in the cycle of repentance where God lets their foes smite them, and they turn to God for help, and repent their sins, and God saves them. Again.

Jerusalem mourns, God points out, like they mourn for what the KJV calls “Hadadrimmon.” St. Jerome presumed it’s a city, and translators for centuries treated it as one, but it’s not. Hadad and Rimmon, much like Zeus and Jupiter, are two of the names of a Canaanite storm god; one of the gods whom they called Baal. They held a yearly festival where they mourned his death—he died every year—so they prayed for him to rise again, and bring rain to their crops. God says they’re gonna weep for him like they wept for Baal… who’s not a real god anyway. Each clan is gonna mourn. Then, in chapter 13, they’re gonna finally get rid of their gods and ritually purify themselves—and God forbids ’em from prophesying (likely because all the “prophets” of their day were phonies), and two-thirds of Judah would die, and the rest would be purified by fire. Not literally; I know Darbyists insist on literal interpretations wherever they can, which is yet another way they suck at biblical interpretation.

In chapter 14, Jerusalem eventually does get destroyed, and half the inhabitants get dragged into exile. And right after that, we get to the part which actually is about the End: The LORD himself sets foot on the earth, takes over the world as King, destroys Jerusalem’s enemies, and the nations of the world worship the King. Zechariah doesn’t say by “LORDhe means Jesus, but we Christians get the idea.

Anyway. You notice the internet meme totally skips the part of the chapter with the mourning and repenting? Because when it gets included, we wind up with questions about the actual historical context of the passage—and Darbyists really don’t wanna deal with that. As usual, they only cherry-pick the parts which look like End Times prophecies. The rest, they pretend isn’t there, and hope you never, ever double-check the context and find out how egregiously they’re abusing the scriptures; how, despite their claims they revere the bible, they’re perfectly happy to misquote it, and misrepresent God and his actual plans for the End. Just to sell books and videos.

Darbyists are gonna say, understandably, that parts of chapter 12 look like current events. (And it’s superficial at best.) They’ve certainly been poring over current events looking for signs of the End—partly so they can be prepared for the End to come, and partly so they can pridefully declare, “Lookit me; I have divine wisdom and insight!” But in so doing they reveal they have no such thing. They can’t be bothered to learn the real history behind the scriptures. They don’t recognize that, once again, history repeats itself, and continues to repeat itself, because people refuse to learn from the past, and refuse to repent of their selfishness and evil.

We Christians should be praying for Israel and Palestine to make peace; Jesus says peacemakers “shall be called the children of God.” Mt 5.9 But Darbyists don’t really care about peace. Really, they’d prefer this deteriorate into an orgy of death and mayhem and great tribulation, because in their timelines, that’s gotta happen before Jesus returns. (And they wanna be raptured before the tribulation, so they’re perfectly happy to see others suffer—they expect to be gone.) They don’t want peace. I find most of the time they don’t want peace. It’s not Christian at all of them. One sometimes has to wonder whether they even are children of God.