Understanding Zechariah 14 – Part 3

Zechariah 14:6-11:

“On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but 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 be 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 on its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.

In this part of the passage the Lord has arrived to rescue Jerusalem and He remains there forever. There is a mention of a phenomenon found in Revelation 21:25, namely that there is no night there.

The major items I need to deal with in this passage include the light without heavenly bodies, the living water, the worldwide worship of Yahweh, the lifting of Jerusalem above the surrounding landscape, the security of Jerusalem’s population and the absence of the curse.

The NASB helps us with verses 6 and 7, it reads, “the luminaries will dwindle.” At the end of v. 6. The cessation of heavenly bodies has both a literal and figurative significance throughout apocalyptic and prophetic writing. It is particualry connected with events called “the day of the Lord” (see Joel 2:31; cf. also Isa. 13:9–13; Joel 3:15; Matt. 24:29; Mark 13:24–25; Luke 21:25; Rev. 6:12–13).

If we remember God’s promise to Noah that the normal cycles of day and night would not stop so long as the earth endured (Genesis 8:22), here Zachariah is showing that although the earth, as his readers understand it, has passed away, the holy city and old city of Jerusalem will be part of the New Creation[i].

John MacKay speaks about the “living waters” saying:

Jerusalem was always poorly provided with water, but the renewed city is the source of a divinely provided supply. Zechariah here resumes the picture presented by Joel and Ezekiel of the Temple as a source of water (Joel 3:18; Ezek. 47:1–12). This is not just typical of physical change, but of the spiritual blessings that water represents. It is ‘living’ water flowing freshly from a spring or fountain, and symbolic of true spiritual life given in salvation (Jer. 2:13; John 4:10; 7:38). This looks back to the river of Paradise, when ‘a river watering the garden flowed from Eden’ (Gen. 2:10), and it looks forward to Paradise restored…Truly ‘there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells’ (Ps. 46:4).

Unlike Ezekiel’s river which flowed only to the east (Ezek. 47:1, an embarrassment for those who take both prophecies to refer to the same literal future event), the water splits half to the eastern sea, that is the Dead Sea, and half to the western sea, that is, the Mediterranean. In this way it is available for all the land. And it is available all the time, in summer and in winter. Many streams in Palestine were only winter torrents which dried up in the heat of summer, when the need for water was at its greatest. Not so this source of supply. It is available all the year round. There is no disruption of the bliss of the new creation ‘for the old order of things has passed away’ (Rev. 21:4).[ii]

This destruction of the heavenly bodies also ties in with 2 Peter 3:11–13, very clearly marking the coming of a New creation, not the half-baked continuing of the Old.  Verse 8 speaks of living waters going forth from Jerusalem in summer and in winter. Since summer and winter will occur only as long as the earth remains (Gen. 8:22), and as the earth will not remain beyond the coming of Christ in the same way as now (2 Peter 3:4, 10), it is obvious that the events of this verse cannot happen in a literal way after the return of Jesus.

We read in v. 9 of this worldwide, universal worship and submission to the only true God, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.” Night is gone. There is a river of living water. All the earth is worshipping the Lord. It is clearly connected with John’s vision of the eternal state in Rev. 21-22. If that doesn’t convince you that its not during the millennium but during the eternal state, nothing is going to.

We turn our attention now to the prophecy about the holy city being raised above the levelled surrounding terrain.  It has a clear parallel in Isaiah 2:2-3:

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem

The words of that prophecy are also found in Micah 4:1-2 where they follow and contrast the Babylonian desolation of rebellious Jerusalem (Micah 3:11-12). God has removed his presence from Jerusalem because of her sin, but one day He will dwell forever in a purified Jerusalem, and that city will never be put to shame and will tower over the nations. The kingdom of that heavenly Zion will become a great mountain that fills the whole earth (see Daniel 2:35).

The geographical markers are significant, listen to Bryan Gregory explain:

Before the exile, Geba and Rimmon denoted the northern and southern boundaries of Judah during the days of Josiah’s reform. In other words, the land will be restored to her preexilic, pre-disaster state, and being ‘leveled out,’ will provide a geological setting for the crown jewel of the new creation, the city of Jerusalem…The city itself will then be defined by distinct boundaries, stretching from the Gate of Benjamin (on the city’s northern side) to the place of the First Gate (the location of which is now lost but possibly denotes an old gate on the east side of the city), down to the Corner Gate (on the western side), and from the Tower of Hananel (probably near the northwest corner) down to the king’s winepresses in the south. The boundaries are not only a way of tracing the city’s limits but are more importantly an allusion to Jeremiah 31 where the Lord had promised that the city would be rebuilt from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate (Jer. 31:38). Part of the promise to Jeremiah was that the whole city would once again become holy, never again to be uprooted or demolished (Jer. 31:39–40; cf. Zech. 14:20–21). In other words, the boundaries paint a picture of Jerusalem as a city entirely safe from the threat of violence.[iii]

Zechariah was echoing Jeremiah’s promise in language those living in Jerusalem could understand. The promise that the holy city would remain in place from one wall to the other, and exalted above the whole land.

Verse 11 states that people will live in the city. MacKay explains,

In the period after the return from the Exile, there seems to have been an ongoing problem with population in Jerusalem. Many of those who returned preferred to live in the countryside and had to be forced to come to the capital (Neh. 7:4; 11:1–2). But there will be no problem about getting people to live in the capital when the king has returned to it.[iv]

Regarding the curse, MacKay explains, it

refers to the ‘ban’ which the Lord imposed on the cities of Canaan because of their great wickedness (Josh. 6:17–18; see also Mal. 4:6). The fate of God’s people for their rebellion had been understood in similar terms (Isa. 43:28). But when the Lord returns to the city, ‘no longer will there be any curse’ (Rev. 22:3). His people will have been purified and will be ready to enter into his presence.[v]

Given these understandings it should be clear that Zechariah’s prophecy fits far better within the context of the New Jerusalem that “dwells in Security” in the new creation, rather than a millennial Jerusalem which will continue to experience day and night and the effects of the Adamic curse and will eventually be surrounded by some kind of Satanic coalition of nations planning her demise (Rev. 20:9).

 

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[i] Boda also suggests an allusion in the Hebrew text to Genesis 1:3–5, implying a recreation. “This suggests that 14:7 refers to a day of recreation, with 14:6 returning the earth to a state prior to the creative activity in Genesis 1, and 14:7 initiating the process of creation in Genesis 1. This recreation day, just as the original creation day, is known only to Yahweh, in whose hands are the times and seasons (see Ecclesiastes 3). However, the fact that the light appears now in the evening suggests a clear shift in the cosmos, so that there is perpetual light and no night. This is a feature of texts envisioning a future idyllic age (cf. Isa. 60:19, 20; Rev. 21:25; 22:5).” See Boda, Zechariah, 762–63.
[ii] MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 308–309
[iii] Gregory, Longing for God, 208–209.
[iv] MacKay, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 311
[v] Ibid

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