A Third Scenario for the War of Gog of Magog
The Bible prophecy alludes to two scenarios for the war of Gog of Magog, the final war in this world. Two main Biblical prophets – Zechariah and Ezekiel – foretold messages about the war of Gog of Magog. It is believed that the war of Gog of Magog will be the final war that will end all wars before the return of Yeshua the Messiah of YHVH.
In chapter “Two Scenarios for the War of Gog of Magog” from the book The Reckoning of Time, the present author suggested that both prophecies in Ezekiel 38-39 and Zechariah 12-14 speak of one war known as the war of Gog of Magog.
We also studied that according to the prophecy in Ezekiel, the mysterious ruler Gog of the land of Magog and his destruction is in the focus of the prophecy, as the heading speaks clearly of that: “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the main ruler of Meshech and Tuval, and prophesy against him”. While the prophecy in Zechariah 12-14 speaks of Israel being the major concern, as the battle will be waged in Jerusalem: “The burden of the word of YHVH concerning Israel”.
The present author also suggested that these two prophecies are actually two scenarios of the war of Gog of Magog, as the scenario in Zec 12-14 is the darkest of the two.
In this article, however, the present author will suggest another scenario, a third scenario of the war of Gog of Magog, as depicted in Zechariah 9-11. This scenarios differs from the scenarios in the prophecies in Ezekiel 38-39 and Zechariah 12-14, and, as we will study below, appears to be a variant of the War of Gog of Magog in Zec 12-14, although not in such a dark portrayal.
Zechariah, is probably one of the most esoteric books of the Bible, probably second to Isaiah. This scroll was written during the period of return of the Babylonian exile to the land.
The book of Zechariah has three clear parts. The first six chapters describe a series of visions that Zechariah had regarding the building of the Temple and its significance. In the next two chapters, Zechariah answers questions from the Jews who remained in Babylonia, about how to adapt religiously to the new reality of a rebuilt Israel.
The final six chapters deal with the visions of the end-time: Chapters 9-11 describe the restoration of Judah and Ephrayim and the upcoming destruction of those nations that stand against Israel, and chapters 12-13 describe the tribulations that Jerusalem will face in the period preceding the end of days.
According to the Bible commentators, the two prophecies in Zechariah 9-11 and Zechariah 12-14 are two portions of the same prophecy concerning the final war. All the six chapters speak of the war between the nations of the world and Israel, the war of Gog of Magog, in different ways, as the two prophecy resemble one another with the difference that the second contains a more minute description of the manner in which the events announced in the first section are to be realized.
However, in the present author’s view, there is another interpretation of the prophecy in the last six chapters of Zechariah. According to him, the two prophecies in Zechariah 9-11 and Zechariah 12-14 are not just two portions, but two scenarios of the same prophecy, two postulated sequences of the possible events of the final war.
If Zechariah 12-14 and Ezekiel 38-39 are two extremes of the same prophecy of the war of Gog of Magog, where Zechariah 12-14 is the darker of the two, then we may say that Zechariah 9-11 is a variant of the prophecy in Zechariah 12-14. In what way Zechariah 9-11 is a variant of Zechariah 12-14, we will study in this article, as we will seek to draw conclusions on the burden of the word of YHVH.
The burden of the prophecy in the Middle East
The burden of the word of Yehovah in the land of Hadrach and Damascus, His rest, when the eye of man and all the tribes of Israel are on Yehovah, and Hamath also borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. For Tyre built herself a tower, heaped up silver like the dust, and gold like the mud of the streets. Behold, Yehovah shall dispossess her, and He shall strike her power in the sea, and she shall be consumed by fire. Ashkelon sees it and fears, Gaza too, writhing in anguish, and Ekron, for her expectation has dried up. And the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. (Zec 9:1-5)
It is evident from the heading of the prophecy that the burden is concerning a land called Hadrach. As the name Hadrach only appears here, it can be a symbolic name of a land after the analogy of Dumah for Edom in Isa_21:11, Sheshach for Babylon in Jer_25:26 and Jer_51:41, Ariel for Jerusalem in Isa_29:1-2 and Isa_29:7.
That Hadrach denotes a land or country, comes from the fact that the Hebrew word erets (land) is placed before it, thus the land of Hadrach. But where is the land of Hadrach and what country is hidden behind it, because we do not know any land with such name?
The symbolic name Hadrach points to the fact that this land denotes a territory, of which Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia are parts, as supported by the heading of the prophecy, “Burden of the word of Yehovah against the land of Hadrach”.
The true interpretation of the first verse, and, in fact, of the whole prophecy, depends on the explanation to the heading contained in this single verse.
The first verse, which is also the heading of the prophecy, is commonly translated, and therefore, interpreted to read thus:
(1) “The burden of the word of the LORD. In the land of Hadrach, and in Damascus shall be His resting-place” (JPS); or,
(2) “The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus will be its resting-place” (KJV).
According to the JPS translation, the heading The burden of the word of the LORD is separated by a comma from the rest of the message concerning the burden. Whereas, the land of Hadrach, and in Damascus seems to say that His (the Lord’s) resting-place will be in Damascus (the main city) of the land of Hadrach.
However, according to the KJV translation, the text seems to say that the burden of the word of the LORD is in or upon the land of Hadrach, and Damascus is its resting-place.
Both translations, we must agree, do not give a clear understanding of what is meant in the prophecy. If the burden, that is the curse of YHVH, is against Hadrach, why Damascus, which is a part of the land of Hadrach, and therefore should be a part of the curse, will be a resting-place of YHVH, according to JPS? And if the curse is upon Hadrach, why Damascus will be its (of the burden) resting-place, according to KJV?
To find a satisfying answer to this challenge, we need to know that there are no punctuation marks in Hebrew grammar. By placing the punctuation marks, the JPS and KJV translators have given different and confusing interpretations of the prophecy.
According to the present author, a more literal and therefore more proper translation of this verse will read thus, “The burden of the word of YHVH against the land of Hadrach and Damascus, His rest, when the eye of man and all the tribes of Israel are on YHVH”.
And the proper interpretation will be: the curse of YHVH against the land of Hadrach and Damascus, which curse is His rest, when the eyes of all mankind (adam, mankind) and of Israel are on Him.
If this interpretation is correct, then we understand that when the curse takes place against Hadrach and Damascus, YHVH will find peace, rest in its fulfillment, as all mankind and Israel will be witnessing it. In this interpretation, His rest refers to the burden, i.e. its fulfillment, not to Damascus which is under the curse, and therefore cannot be His rest.
In support of this reasoning comes another prophecy in Isaiah concerning Damascus being no more.
The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall become a ruinous heap. (Isa 17:1)
This condemnation on Damascus goes straight forward to threaten the city at the very beginning of the prophecy declaring that Damascus will cease to exist. The present author is also in opinion to consider that the prophecies concerning Damascus in Zec 9:1-5 and Isa 17:1-3 are related to one event, since their contexts suggests so.
Why is this explanation of just the first verse of Zechariah 9 so important for our study? It is important, because the true interpretation of the whole prophecy depends on the proper explanation of the first verse.
Hamath (Gen_10:18), which borders on Damascus, will be the other city on which the curse of YHVH will rest; as Damascus will find its fate, according to the curse in Isaiah, so will Hamath, as both cities represent Assyria (see Zec 9:2), which today’s Syria and Iraq.
Tyre and Sidon are the next objects of the curse. These cities are the two capitals of Phoenicia, as Sidon was originally a colony of Sidon, but rose to be the capital of all Phoenicia (see Isa_23:4, Isa_23:12; Eze_28:21). The wisdom of Tyre and Sidon Zechariah speaks of is shown in the fact that they have built themselves as a fortress, and heaped up silver and gold like dust and dirt of the streets (Zec 9:3).
We should recall that this Tyre is the same city that supplied King Solomon with building materials for the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem (1Ki_5:1, 1Ki_7:13, 1Ki_9:11-12), nevertheless it will be smitten in the sea, as once Tyre itself stood on the Mediterranean coast, and will be destroyed by fire (Zec 9:4). In the prophecy, Tyre and Sidon represent modern Lebanon, located north of Israel.
From the Phoenicians the curse turns against the Philistines. The fall of the mighty Tyre and Sidon will fill the Philistines with fear and trembling, because all hope of deliverance will be taken away. And where it is said that the king will perish from Gaza, it can only mean that Gaza will be utterly destroyed and Ashkelon, too. In the prophecy, the Philistines are today’s Palestinians that occupy the Gaza strip.
And a mamzer shall settle in Ashdod. So, I shall cut off the pride of the Philistines, and shall take away his blood from his mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth. And he shall remain, even he, to our Elohim, and he shall be like a leader in Judah, and Ekron like a Yebusite. (Zec 9:6-7)
The word mamzer in the verse above, according to the Talmud, means one begotten in incest or adultery, a bastard. The only other place in which this word occurs is in Deu 23:2, and in all probability it may derive from a root mazar, synonymous with the Arabic word “to be corrupt”.
However, we should know that the etymology of this word is obscure and it can hardly be translated as bastards in our prophecy, since it makes no sense that “an army of bastards” have fought against the Philistines to dispossess them and settle in Ashdod.
Therefore, “mamzer” appears to be a collective word for a group of people, that probably means “corrupt” people in the sense of a mixed breed or “mongrel people”. These mixed breed people, according to the prophecy, have replaced the ancient Philistines, and therefore, we may say that the people who live today in Gaza, and have assumed the name of the ancient habitants of Philistia are descendants of the mamzer in Zec_9:5-6. (Read more about the origin of “the Palestinians” here)
And since the current dwellers in the land of the ancient Philistines have assumed their name and their hostile attitude towards Israel (see Zec 9:7), we may expect that they are also the ones who will assume the curse of this prophecy.
So, we see that the settling of mixed breed people in Ashdod expresses the deep degradation of Philistia. The pride of the Philistines has been rooted out, as everything on which they have based their pride has been taken from them. Or in other words, the prophecy simply states that the city has lost its native citizens and character and has been resettled by the people called by the prophecy: mamzer.
However, we should also note here that a new and important feature is added to their description in Zec_9:7.
Where it says, and I shall take away his blood from his mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth, it refers to “mamzer”, and means that the violent attitude of the mamzer towards a blood shed and violence will also be taken from them. Speaking of violence, which is the main characteristics of the mamzer, we should know that the name of the terrorist group Hamas (the Islamic Palestinian fundamentalist political organization that seeks to create an Islamic state in place of Israel) means “violence” or aggression in Hebrew. “Hamas” is not the name the Israelis have given to this terrorist organization, but the name the Palestinians have given to their terrorist organization.
So, the phrase and I shall take away his blood from his mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth does not refer to the Phoenicians and Syrians mentioned before, of whose nothing will be left, they will be completely destroyed, as said in Zec_9:1-4, but to the people (called mamzer) who will remain, notice this: to our God.
This means that such a new people might very well assume a position of a part of Israel. This supposition is supported by the addition “and Ekron” i.e., the Ekronite “will be like the Yebusite” where the Ekron is mentioned for the purpose of individualizing the new people: “the mamzer”.
“Yebusite” stands for the former inhabitants of the citadel of Zion, who adopted the religion of Israel after the conquest of David, and were incorporated into the nation of Israel. This is evident from 2Sa_24:16 and 1Ch_21:15. In other words, the prophecy concerning the mixed breed people “mamzer” simply says this: The Ekronites, hence the remnant of the mamzer, will be melted up with Israel, like the Yebusites were. What seems impossible now, may become possible, if this scenario of the war of Gog of Magog will be fulfilled.
And indeed, historically Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, Sidon, and Philistia had stood as hostile neighbors to Israel, and therefore the land of Hadrach which encompasses them denotes a land hostile to Israel. So, where is the land of Hadrach?
A quick reference to the location of the land of Hadrach indicates that it was known in the history as Levant, as that land was once a historical province in the Arab Caliphat spreading from today’s Southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, and Israel.
Comparing the territory of the historical Levant to the land YHVH promised to Israel, we see that Levant is almost the same territory as the land described in its boundaries in the Deeds of the Promised Land given in Gen 15:18: from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.
And if this analogy is correct, then the land of Hadrach may be a code name for Levant, and by extension – for the Arab Caliphate.
The coming of King Messiah
And I shall encamp around My house, against an army, against him who passes by and him who returns, so that no oppressor passes through them again, for now I have seen with My eyes. Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you, He is righteous and endowed with deliverance, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zec 9:8-9)
While the surrounding nations falls under the judgment of destruction of the curse upon the land of Hadrach, and the remnant of the mamzer is converted to Elohim, YHVH will protect His people, as He will encamp around them against the invading armies of their enemies, and cause the King Messiah to appear in Jerusalem, as it is said, “Behold, your King is coming to you, He is righteous and endowed with deliverance, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
That the Messiah is intended here, whose coming is predicted since the creation of the world (see Gen 3:16), is admitted by all the Jewish and Christian commentators.
We find the first fulfillment of the coming of King Messiah in Mat_21:5 and Joh_12:15, when the Messiah entered Jerusalem riding on a humble donkey, and the second one in Rev_19:11-14, when He will return on a victorious white horse. We should note that while the account in Matthew is an exact fulfillment of Zec 9:9, Rev 19:11-14 seemingly contradicts the prophecy in Zec 9:9.
In actuality, there is no contradiction. We have the strong reason to believe that King Messiah will enter Jerusalem on a humble donkey again, as He did at His first coming, in order to fulfill the prophesied in Zechariah.
To solve this apparent contradiction, we need to know that whenever the word “horse” is mentioned in the Bible, it means only one thing: a war; as horses (especially with chariots) were battle machines, while donkeys had always been known as humble animals and never been used in battle.
So, where it is said that He will ride on a white horse at His descending from heaven with His hosts, it means that He will come to defeat His enemies in battle. And where it is said that He will enter Jerusalem on a donkey, it is said in order to fulfill the very name of the city: Jerusalem, a city of peace.
And I shall cut off the chariot from Ephrayim and the horse from Jerusalem. And the battle bow shall be cut off. And He shall speak peace to the nations, and His rule is from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Also you, because of the blood of your covenant, I shall send your prisoners out of the pit. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of the hope. Even today I declare that I return double to you. (Zec 9:10-12)
With that being said, we may see that the war-chariots and horses of Ephrayim and Jerusalem are here used as a metaphor for the military power of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). However, according to the prophecy, this military power of IDF will be exterminated (or at least limited) by Elohim out of their hands, so that no one in Israel will be able to boast that IDF has defeated the invading enemies, but to give all the due credit to YHVH alone.
Here, Ephraim and Judah denote the united kingdom of Israel under the Messiah, and through the elimination of their military power they will be submitted to Him, so that no one among the gentiles will ever doubt who the Savior of Israel is. It is only as thus interpreted, that the prophecy concerning the last war of Gog of Magog in Eze 38 and 39 will be fulfilled, where we see the same theme of disabling the war capabilities of Israel, as we studied it in the chapter “Two Scenarios of the War of Gog of Magog“.
The leading thought is therefore the following: When the defeat of the foreign armies will take place, Israel will experience the marvelous protection of Elohim through the disabling of the means of war. Only then will Israel be brought to the point to turn to YHVH for protection and says, “Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of Yehovah“, in order to fulfill the prophecy, “Behold, your King is coming to you, He is righteous and endowed with deliverance, humble and riding on a donkey”.
However, if Israel continues to boast in the mighty IDF, as the nation did after the Six-day war, then the darker prophecy in Zechariah 12-14 may take place, as a mirror image of the Yom Kippur War. Because, if we do not learn from the history, we are destined to repeat it; there is nothing new under the sun, said the Ecclesiastes.
However, the opposite is also true. If Israel as a nation will turn wholeheartedly to her Savior for protection, then the scenario either in Zechariah 9-11 or Ezekiel 38-39 may be fulfilled. All depends on Israel. And what choice the chosen nation will make will determine the course of the prophecy that will affect not only Israel but the whole world, in order to fulfill what is said in the Scripture that Israel is to be light to the nations.
The redemption of Israel will not merely consist in the fact that YHVH will send the promised King Messiah to deliver His people from the enemies, but He will also deliver His people that are still in captivity out of their affliction. “Because of the blood of your covenant, I shall send your prisoners (the exile) out of the pit. Return to the stronghold (the land of Israel), you prisoners of the hope”, says YHVH. This call for deliverance out of a pit is a figure denoting the end of the Roman exile.
Out of such a pit the captives could not escape, and would inevitably perish, if they were not drawn out of it. The exile is called to return to the Promised Land, when they will be secured against their enemies. This is not a choice that the captives in exile may want or may not want to make, but a command from YHVH with a promise: “Return to Israel, you prisoners of the hope. Even today I declare that I return double to you”.
It is the present author’s view that the time of return of the exile is right now. Now is the time to do it. The time-window for aliah is open, but few see it.
If the Roman exile does not seize the given opportunity to emigrate to Israel, many will perish, as many Israelites perished in Egypt, because they did not want to leave together with Moses. Many were under threat of holocaust of Haman, because they did not leave Babylon with Zerubavel. Many had the opportunity to leave the Nazi Germany and return to the Land, but they did not seize the moment. And many have the opportunity to leave now, when it is safe to leave Europe and America, but how many will want to return?
For I shall bend Judah for Me, I shall fill the bow with Ephrayim, and I shall stir up your sons, Zion, against your sons, Yavan, and I shall make you like the sword of a mighty man. And Yehovah shall appear for them, and His arrow go forth like lightning, and the Master Yehovah will blow the shophar. And He shall go with whirlwinds from the south, Yehovah of hosts shall shield them. And they shall devour and trample on sling stones. And they shall drink, roar as if with wine, and they shall be filled like basins, like the corners of the slaughter-place. And Yehovah their Elohim shall save them in that day, as the flock of His people, for the stones of a diadem, sparkling over His Land. For what goodness is His, and what comeliness is His. Grain make the young men thrive, and new wine the maidens! (Zec 9:13-17)
The double recompense which YHVH will make to His people will consist in the fact that He not only will liberate them out of captivity and bondage, and make them into an independent nation, but that He will help them be victorious over the enemies, so that they will tread it down and completely subdue them. The united Israel will be made the bow and the arrow readied in the hand of the Almighty YHVH, when Israel will say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of Yehovah“. Only then she will become like an arrow that will go forth like lightning in the hands of her Savior at the sound of the shofar.
Here, the sons of Yavan (the progenitor of the Greeks) are not to be interpreted as the modern Greece, but as a collective name for the Greco-Roman world, where the exile was dispersed, against which YHVH will make His people into a hero’s sword.
And YHVH will save them in the day of redemption so that they shine as the stones of a diadem, sparkling over His land. This is the double recompense of YHVH for the loss they suffered in the hands of their oppressors, “Even today I declare that I return double to you” : the victory and the sparkling diadem over His Land.
In Chapter 9 we learned that while the judgment will fall upon the land of Hadrach, Damascus, Hamath, Phoenicia and Philistia, so that these peoples are overthrown and their lands laid waste (Zec_9:1-7), YHVH will protect His people and send the Messiah to establish the millennial kingdom over the whole earth (Zec_9:8-10). Those of Israel who will return to the Land are redeemed and given the victory over the Greco-Roman world (Zec_9:11-17) and (Zec_10:1-12), but those who are still in exile and have not returned will perish.
Ask Yehovah for rain in the time of the latter rain, Yehovah who makes storm clouds. And He gives them showers of rain, the plants in the field to everyone. For the household idols spoke emptiness, the diviners saw falsehood, and relate dreams of deceit, they comfort in vain. Therefore they have wandered about like sheep. They are afflicted, for there is no shepherd. My wrath burns against the shepherds, and I lay a charge against the leaders. For Yehovah of hosts shall visit His flock, the house of Judah, and make them like His splendid horse in battle. (Zec 10:1-3) Eze_34:5 and Eze_34:8
We should note here that it seems strange that the people are asked to pray for rain “in the time of latter rain”. Since, it is the rainy season, the command seems redundant. However, if we read it in the context of Jas 5:7-8, we may see the picture the apostle saw when he read Zec 10:1-3.
So, brothers, be patient until the coming of the Master. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You too, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Master has drawn near. (Jas 5:7-8)
Jas 5:7-8 clearly speaks of the coming of the Messiah as likened to the “early and latter rain”(a metaphor for His first and second comings: a former and latter comings) and the prophecy in Zec 10:1.
Ya’akov (James) must have had in mind another prophecy in Hos_6:1-3 where the One who is coming like the rain is clearly YHVH. The apostles reconciled Zec 10:1 and Hos 6:1-3, where the prophets speak of YHVH as the rain that will bring the change, as he likens the invisible YHVH to His image the Master Yeshua the Messiah.
Rabbi Chaim Vital, a disciple of Rabbi Itzchak Luria, says in Midrash Talpiyot 58a on Moshiach’s (Messiah) new Torah:
Moshiach will rise up to Heaven just as Moses ascended to the firmament, and will thereafter return and be completely revealed, for all to see.
What Rabbi Chaim Vital says is this: as Mosheh (Moses) went twice up to the mountain to receive the tablets of the Covenant (at his first ascending) and the tablets of the Renewed Covenant (at his second ascending), so does the Messiah: He came once, and He will come again.
And indeed, He came the first time to restore the Covenant between YHVH and His people and bring reconciliation with the Creator through repentance before the beginning of The Age of the Messiah. And He will return before the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom that through Him the Renewal of the Covenant will be completed as foretold in Jer 30:24,
The burning displeasure of Yehovah shall not turn back until He has done and established the purposes of His heart. In the latter days you shall understand it.
Hoshea also alludes to this understanding,
I shall go, I shall return to My place, until they confess their guilt and seek My face, in their distress diligently search for Me, and say, Come, and let us turn back to Yehovah. For He has torn but He does heal us, He has stricken but He binds us up. After two days He shall revive us, on the third day He shall raise us up, so that we live before Him. So let us know, let us pursue to know Yehovah. His going forth is as certain as the morning. And He comes to us like the rain, like the latter rain watering the earth. (Hos 5:15, Hos 6:1-3)
From Hoshea 5:15-6:3 and that a day represents 1,000 years, we learn that the time of the redemption of Israel will be preceded by two days, i.e. 2,000 years, of abandonment and punishment, or what we know today as the Roman exile.
This is the time when Israel would be given up by the Messiah until the beginning of the birth pains, i.e. the tribulation of Jacob’s trouble.
However, the Messiah shall not give up His people forever: the promised restoration will come after the punishment, as it is promised by His Father in Deu_30:1-10. Yeshua the Messiah could not have foretold this more plainly,
I shall not leave you orphans – I am coming to you. Yet a little while, and the world no longer sees Me, but you shall see Me, because I live, and you shall live. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (Joh 14:18-20)
The words in Zec 10:1-3 apply to all Israel (the House of Judah and the House of Ephraim). Israel is humbled, because she has no shepherd, no leader to lead the people. When Israel lost her own shepherds (a metaphor for the dispersion of Israel), it came under the tyranny of the bad shepherds (a metaphor for the heathen rulers and tyrants of Rome). Against these bad shepherds the wrath of YHVH is kindled, and He will punish them, as they afflicted His people with tyranny.
The House of Judah is mentioned in Zec_10:3, not in distinction from Ephraim, but as the backbone of the covenant nation, with which Ephraim is to be united once and for all.
The care of YHVH for Israel will not be limited to her liberation from the foreign rulers, but He will also make her into a victorious people. This is the meaning of the figure “like a horse in battle”. This figure is not more striking than the description of Judah and Ephraim as a bow and arrow in Zec_9:13: “For I shall bend Judah for Me, I shall fill the bow with Ephrayim, and I shall stir up your sons, Zion, against your sons, Yavan, and I shall make you like the sword of a mighty man”. This equipment of IDF as a warlike power overcoming its foes is described metaphorically in Zec 10:4.
And they shall be like mighty men, who trample down the mud of the streets in the battle. And they shall fight because Yehovah is with them, and the horsemen shall be put to shame. And I shall make the house of Judah mighty, and save the house of Joseph. And I shall bring them back, because I have compassion on them. And they shall be as though I had not pushed them aside. For I am Yehovah their Elohim, and I answer them. And Ephrayim shall be as a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as if with wine. And their children shall see and rejoice, their heart exulting in Yehovah. (Zec 10:5-7)
Thus equipped for battle, Judah will annihilate her foes (Zec_10:5). For such heroic conflict they will be fitted by the help of YHVH. This strength for a victorious conflict will not be confined to Judah, but Ephraim will also have a part of it, and they will rejoice as if they had never been in exile. And they will increase as they once increased, though they were among the gentiles (Zec 10:8-9).
And I shall bring them back from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and bring them into the land of Gilad and Lebanon, until no more room is found for them. And He shall pass through the sea of distress, and strike the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the River shall dry up. And the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt be taken away. (Zec 10:10-11)
It may seem that these verses speak of a second dispersion of the lost tribes, but this is not so, when correctly interpreted. It is evident from Zec 10:9, because they remember YHVH in distant lands, they will leave, and return with their children, “Though I sow them among peoples, they shall remember Me in places far away. And they shall live, together with their children, and they shall return”.
In Zec_10:10 the ingathering and the return of Israel out of the land of Assyria and out of Egypt are more minutely described here.
Egypt is introduced here simply as a type of the land of slavery, due to having been the land of slavery. And Assyria is introduced in the same way, as the land into which the ten tribes had been afterwards exiled. These two lands will be smitten, as the pride of Assyria and the scepter of Egypt will depart away (Zec 10:11-12).
The Good Shepherd and the foolish one
In the second half of the “burden” upon the world, represented here by Lebanon, Bashan, and Jordan (about the whole land of Hadrach), the wrath of YHVH is kindled. Hence, this chapter divides itself into three sections: the threat of judgment on the closest neighbors of Israel (Zec_11:1-3); the good shepherd who tend the flock (Zec_11:4-13); and the foolish shepherd (Zec_11:14-17).
Open your doors, Lebanon, and let fire devour your cedars. Howl, cypress, for the cedar has fallen, because the mighty are ravaged. Howl, oaks of Bashan, for the dense forest has come down. Listen! The howling of shepherds, for their splendor is ravaged. Listen! The roaring of lions, for the pride of the Yarden is ravaged. (Zec 11:1-3)
Zec 11:1-3 announces in distinct terms the devastation of the land of the neighboring hostile Arabs. The cedars and cypresses of Lebanon (the land north of Israel), the oaks of Bashan, and the lions, the pride of the Jordan (the whole land east of the Jordan River) are simply figures denoting what is proud, glorious, and powerful in the world.
Note: Mosheh (Moses) captured area of the Gilead and the Bashan and gave it as an inheritance to the tribes of Gad, Reuven and half of Menasheh (see Num_32:33). The Bashan is now known as the Golan Heights, which Israel conquered in a defensive war from Syria in 1967, to become again and forever a part of Israel.
Consequently, in the second section of the chapter (Zec 11:4-13), the desolation of the lands surrounding the land of Israel also involves the desolation of the peoples living in the lands and of their institutions, represented here by the destruction of the lofty cedars, cypresses, oaks, and roaring lions, in other words, everything lofty and exalted in these nations.
For more insight on the pride of Jordan, read the articles “The Time When the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will Exalt against Israel’s Borders” and “Within Three Years The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is to be Despised“.
Thus said Yehovah my Elohim, Tend the flock for slaughter, whose buyers kill them and feel no guilt, and their sellers say, ‘Blessed be Yehovah, for I have become rich’, and whose shepherds do not pity them. For I shall no longer pity the inhabitants of the land, declares Yehovah. But, I will put mankind, each one into his neighbour’s hand and into the hand of his king. And they shall crush the earth, but I do not deliver from their hand. (Zec 11:4-6)
With these verses we are coming to the culmination of the prophecy, as they describe how these enemies of Israel will be smitten in pieces. This will be done through a devastation of the earth by civil wars and acts of terrorism, without any intervention on the part of the Highest to rescue the inhabitants of the earth out of the hands of their neighbors (wars), or their own rulers (civil wars), or to put any restraint on terrorism and self-destruction. These events are best described by the words, “each one into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. And they shall crush the earth, but I do not deliver from their hand”.
Consequently, the prophecies generalize that this will be the fate of not only the hostile Arab countries, but also of the whole world that will summon and come up against Jerusalem (see Zec 12:2-3). Hence, we may say that Lebanon, Bashan, and Jordan are used here as a figure of the whole world that will come to fight against Jerusalem in the war of Gog of Magog.
However, in this scenario of the war of Gog of Magog, we should note a new element in the prophecy. The new element is that the buyers of the flock, to whom the flock had been given to tend, oppressed and killed them like sheep for slaughter, and felt no guilt at all by saying, ‘Blessed be Yehovah, for I have become rich’.
What the verses are saying is this: after the destruction of The Temple and Jerusalem, the Jews were given to new shepherds of foreign lands they were dispersed to. The new rulers over them persecuted them without scruples, for which reason the Messiah did not pity the inhabitants of those lands any longer, because the oppressors did not pity His people, either, “For I shall no longer pity the inhabitants of the land”.
However, what is intriguing here is the apparent contradiction in the words, “whose buyers kill them and feel no guilt, and their sellers say, ‘Blessed be Yehovah, for I have become rich’, and whose shepherds do not pity them”. Who are those who have persecuted the Jews and at the same time praise the Lord for getting plentiful?
We should note that the prophecy does not say “blessed be God” using a generic title for god, as if it may refer to any foreign god of the gentiles the Jews have been dispersed among, but it uses the explicit Name, thus specifically referring to the Elohim of Israel whom the gentiles worship. Otherwise, it would be unnatural for them to say, ‘Blessed be YHVH’.
Hence, we are left with the only possible conclusion we can make that those gentiles, while having killed the Jews, are also praising their God whom they obviously worship, since this is the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the text.
And if this is so, then we may say that those gentiles are the Christian nations the Jews have been exiled among, since they are the only ones among the gentiles who call on the Name. And indeed, the Christian persecution, killing, forced conversions, despite the great contribution the Jews have done for the nations, are historical facts that cannot be set aside.
It is a fact that in Europe, the Jews suffered the worst persecution; while the Jews were locked in the burning synagogues and were crying to YHVH to save them, the Christians outside were singing ‘Glory be to Jesus’.
It is a fact that while the Jews were led to the gas chambers, the Nazis soldiers (most of them Lutherans) condemned them with, ‘You are dying, because you killed our Lord’. These were not only horrible things to do, but horrible things to say.
What the buyers of the flock (the oppressors) were saying in actuality was, ‘Blessed be YHVH, for I have become rich’ while killing the Jews, thus fulfilling the prophecy. Therefore, to repay double the mankind will be delivered each one in his neighbor’s hands and in the hands of despotic rulers, who will crush them, but the One whose Name they profaned will not saved them: “For I shall no longer pity the inhabitants of the land”.
So, I shepherded the flock meant for slaughter, the truly poor of the flock. And I took for myself two staffs, the one I called Favor, and the other I called Unity, and I shepherded the flock. Then I cut off the three shepherds in one month, for my soul despised them, and their soul also loathed me. So I said, I am not shepherding you. Let the dying die, and the straying stray, and let those who are left eat each other’s flesh. (Zec 11:7-9)
Who is speaking here in the prophecy? Who is the I who shepherds the flock of Israel?
The shepherd depicted by the prophet can only be YHVH Himself through His Prince of the Presence, Yeshua the Messiah. We should note that Yeshua called Himself ‘I am the good Shepherd’ in Joh_10:11 and in Joh_10:14.
He visits His flock, as it is stated in Zec_10:3 and Eze_34:11-12, and assumes the care of them. The flock meant for slaughter, the truly poor of the flock is so called, because its present masters are strangling it, without pity and guilt.
The time has come, however, for YHVH to put an end to this horrible treatment of His flock by the bad shepherds, by commanding His Messiah to feed it, which can only be interpreted to mean that He takes His people back. And the reason and the means for ceasing this treatment we found in Zec_11:6, I will put mankind, each one into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. And they shall crush the earth, but I do not deliver from their hand.
However, who are “the flock meant for slaughter” in Zec 11:7-9, which the Messiah undertakes to tend? Does “the flock for slaughter” denote the nations, or the nation of Israel, as most commentators assume? Because, we have the reason to believe that the flock in Zec 11:7-9 is a different one from the flock in Zec 10:3, which says, “His flock, the house of Judah”.
The flock in Zec 11:7-9 cannot be the inhabitants of the land of Israel, since this flock has its own kings (in the plural), as the expression “every one into the hand of his king” clearly shows that these are the inhabitants of the earth, the nations, since it would be impossible to say that Israel could have had concurrently reigning kings.
Therefore, it also follows that “the flock of slaughtering” is not Israel, but the people of the nations. In other words, the Messiah took His sheep from the nations to adopt them, because their cruel rulers had abused them. Those commentators who have erroneously linked the flock in Zec 11:7-9 with Israel, have done this in error, because they erroneously have interpreted the verses in Zec_11:10-13 (which we will comment below) to refer to Israel.
In order to tend the flock, the Shepherd must carry “two staffs”. One staff is named ‘Favor’ and the second staff is named ‘Unity’. These staffs represent the traits of a good leader who tends the sheep favorably and in unity.
Represented by the two staffs, He resumed the authority over His sheep, and being displeased with the cruel shepherds, He cut off three of them swiftly. In return, the cruel shepherds were disgusted with what the Good Shepherd did to the three. Then, the Good Shepherd left the inhabitants of the foreign lands to a self-destruction: “Then I cut off the three shepherds in one month, for my soul despised them, and their soul also loathed me. So I said, I am not shepherding you. Let the dying die, and the straying stray, and let those who are left eat each other’s flesh”.
This Good Shepherd, however, is not only a shepherd of Israel, but also a shepherd of the Christian gentiles, as we read thus from the Gospel,
I am the good shepherd. And I know Mine, and Mine know Me, even as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold. I have to bring them as well, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd. (Joh 10:14-16) (See also Joh_11:52, Eph_2:13-19, Isa_56:8, Eze_34:23, Eze_37:24)
Yeshua the Messiah came to bring favor and unity between His brothers, from the flock of Israel, and from the flock of the nations. He laid His life for all of them, not just for Israel.
However, “the wild branches” (as Apostle Shaul calls them in Romans 11) exalted themselves as being the only ones of the Messiah and forgot what the apostle called them: “former gentiles”. They also forgot that he called them “wild branches” that have been grafted in among the natural ones, Israel (not the other way around). They also forgot the warning he gave them in Romans 11:
And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, have been grafted in among them, and came to share the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. And if you boast, remember: you do not bear the root, but the root bears you! (Rom 11:17-18)
And because the Christian gentiles boasted against the natural branches, they became blind for the warning:
For if Elohim did not spare the natural branches, He might not spare you either. (Rom 11:21)
The chilly warning, “He might not spare you either” seems to be awaiting its fulfillment in Zec 11:7-11.
Now, there is another phrase which is no less peculiar: the destruction of the three shepherds (three rulers) of world-powers in one month (Zec_11:8).
Israel was given up by YHVH into the hands of the nations of the world, or the imperial powers, to punish her for her sins. However, as these nations abused the power entrusted to them, and sought utterly to destroy Israel, as we talked above, YHVH takes charge of His people as their shepherd, through the office of His Messiah, because He will no longer let the gentiles go unpunished.
The termination of the nations will show itself in the fact that YHVH causes the nations to destroy themselves by civil wars, be smitten by tyrannical leaders and/or terrorism, and be assimilated by the invasion of foreign people thanks to the foolish immigration policy of the foolish shepherds (in Zec 11:15), without any interference on His part to rescue them, or at least to put any restraint upon tyranny and self-destruction.
The first thing which the Messiah will do is, according to Zec_11:8, to destroy three shepherds. The shepherds, of whom three will be destroyed, are those who strangled the flock according to Zec_11:5. They are, therefore, those who will be destroyed in order to liberate the flock from their tyranny. However, the question is: who are these three shepherds?
It is natural to think of the three imperial rulers into whose power the world will fall, that is to say, not of three rulers of one empire, but of the rulers of the three empires. The statement as to “in one month” means that the three shepherds will be destroyed within one month, but, what does “in one month” mean?
There can be no doubt that “a month” signifies a comparatively brief space of time. It could mean a calendar month or any thirty consecutive days. Regrettably, we are not given to know the identity, or anything that can lead us to the identity of these three world rulers. And in such a situation, we are left with nothing less but to draw a speculation. However, it will not be a pure speculation, if we refer to books that were once a part of the Biblical Canon before the gentile Church decided to remove them from it.
The present author has already made his arguments concerning the identity of the last rulers of this world. And for a further insight on the identity of “the three shepherds” in Zec 11:8, as the present author sees it, the reader is encouraged to refer to his book “The Reckoning of Time”, and more particularly the chapters concerning the last kingdom of this world, so that when Zechariah is read in the entirety of the prophecy, as interpreted in the chapters below, the obscured passages in it will transpire in the proper context. These chapters are:
And also, the related articles:
With this we are coming to what the present author considers the most misunderstood verses of Zechariah 9-11, but whose proper interpretation will lead to the proper interpretation of the prophecy as a whole.
The epilogue of the prophecy, whose heading is Zec 11:7-9, holds the oracles of the two staffs: the staff called Favor (Zec 11:10-13) and the staff called Unity (Zec 11:14-17). These two oracles are two parts of the epilogue, because each one of them has its own heading to indicate what the oracle is all about.
The oracle of the staff Favor
And I took my staff, Favor, and cut it in two, to break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. And it was broken on that day. And the poor of the flock, who guarded me, knew that it was the word of Yehovah. And I said to them, If it is good in your eyes, give me my wages. And if not, refrain. So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And Yehovah said to me, Throw it to the potter, the splendid price at which I was valued by them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the House of Yehovah for the potter. (Zec 11:10-13)
Now, to properly interpret the first oracle, we need to properly define two things: the one who is speaking and those who weighed thirty pieces of silver. Without correctly identifying the speaking one and those who weighed thirty shekels, we cannot interpret the epilogue of Zechariah 9-11.
The one who is speaking here is the same one who spoke in Zec 11:7-9, the shepherd, the Messiah of YHVH. From the heading we see that the staff Favor represents the covenant the Messiah made “with all peoples” (notice “peoples” are in the plural form), where the word “peoples” is used in the sense of nations. And on a particular day (the day) the Messiah broke the staff that represented the covenant He made with them.
The flock He tended knew on that day that the breaking of the covenant was the word of YHVH. That day is obscured in the prophecy, as we are not given any hint as to the timing, but in general we know that it is the end of the days, as the prophecy of Zechariah alludes to it. So, when that day came the nations knew that it was the oracle of YHVH.
In verse 12, we read that the Messiah said to them to weigh Him His wages. (ho are the them? The peoples, the nations. By the wages the commentators have very properly understood repentance and faith, since these are the only ways with which a debtor can payback his debt to YHVH.
In return, they weighed out thirty shekels of silver. Who are the they? The peoples, the nations.
In verse 13, we read that YHVH said to the Messiah to throw the money to the potter, the price He was valued by them. Who are the them? The peoples, the nations. And the Messiah threw the shekels in the House of YHVH.
The nations paid Him thirty shekels, with an allusion to the fact that this sum is the compensation for their transgressions. By paying thirty shekels, they therefore gave Him to understand that they did not estimate His service higher than thirty shekels. To offer such wages was in fact more offensive than a direct refusal. YHVH therefore describes the wages ironically as “the splendid price at which I was valued by them”. Who are the them?The nations.
As the Messiah fed the flock (see again Joh 10:14-16) in the name of YHVH, YHVH regarded the wages paid to His shepherd, as paid to Himself, as the value set upon His personal work on behalf of “the they”, and commands the Messiah to throw this miserable sum to the potter. The phrase “throw to the potter” is apparently a proverbial expression for contemptuous treatment.
If this interpretation of the oracle of the staff Favor is correct, then we may say that His staff, Favor, was cut in two, to break the covenant which He had made with all the nations. By breaking of the covenant with the nations of the world, He is not shepherding them any longer and let the dying die, and the straying stray.
What covenant the Messiah had had with the gentiles, since we know none? We know only one covenant and this is only the Covenant YHVH made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, renewed at Mt. Nebo, and sealed with blood at Mt. of Olives, and there is no other covenant. If the gentiles want to enter the Covenantal relationship with YHVH, they must accept the clauses of the Covenant at Mt. of Olives, which is none other than the Sinaitic Covenant.
This covenant the Messiah broke with the Christian gentiles, but for more insight on this controversial subject, as to why the Messiah will break the covenant with them, read the articles concerning the Seven Letters to the Seven Churches from the series The Revelation from YHVH.
Again, the phrase “all the peoples” clearly refers to the nations of the world, not the nation of Israel, as all commentators have erroneously interpreted it. Why did they erroneously interpret the oracle, besides the anti-Jewish bias?
The first thing that misled them was the reference to our oracle in Mat 27:9-10, as we read thus in King James’ version of the Bible,
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me. (Mat 27:9-10 KJV)
First issue first. A mistake, even blunder, in “the Greek New Testament” is found in Matthew 27:9 which quotes Zec_11:12-13 but erroneously credits the quote to Jeremiah. The original Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, as translated by George Howard, Mercer University Press, 1995, pg. 142, correctly attributes the quote to Zechariah.
Second issue. The Greek text erroneously says, “whom they of the children of Israel did value”, something Zechariah had never said. While the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew is faithful to the prophecy and such a gloss is not found in it.
This is how the corrupted Greek text has been used by the Christian commentators to change the oracle of YHVH and turn it into a condemnation of the Jewish people.
Apostle Matthew lawfully quoted Zec 11:12-13, because this oracle was fulfilled before his eyes. However, he had never alluded Zec 11:12-13 to the children of Israel, because he knew the oracle was concerning the nations of the world, as we correctly interpreted it.
So, what Matthew said in his writing was this: as the gentiles contemptuous treated the favor of the Messiah (in Zechariah), so did the Pharisees, who threw the thirty shekels into the Temple of YHVH for the potter. Hence, we may say that the condemnation of the Pharisees was fulfilled, too, as it says, “I am not shepherding them any longer and let the dying die, and the straying stray”. Yet, His Son Yeshua interceded for them, “Father, forgive them, for they fo not know what they do” (Luk 23:34).
As for “on that day” concerning the time when the oracle was fulfilled, we need to clarify something that has been extremely misunderstood.
There are two tenses in Hebrew grammar: perfect tense, in which the action of the verb is complete and usually, but not equally, translated in past tense; and imperfect tense: the action is incomplete and translated in present or future tenses. In Hebrew there is no future tense, as it is in the other languages.
In Hebrew the prophetic past tense or past tense in the future expresses a complete fulfillment of the action. What it means is that, speaking of prophecy, the fulfillment of the action of the verb is so certain that as if it has been already fulfilled at the time of speaking. If imperfect tense has been used in a prophecy, then it may or may not be fulfilled; all depends on whether repentance will be found. If the people repent, YHVH will let the curse unfulfilled; if not, the curse will be fulfilled. The context will show how to interpret the perfect tense.
Having said that, the past tense used in Zec 11:11, “it was broken on that day”, and consequently all other verbs in perfect tense in the oracle, can be considered prophetic past tense. We come to this conclusion, because (1) the prophecy in Zechariah clearly indicates future fulfillment, (2) it is unknown, at least to the present author, of any breaking of a covenant with the gentiles, so far. Therefore, this oracle is till awaiting its fulfillment.
The oracle of the staff Unity
And I cut in two my other staff, Unity, to break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. And Yehovah said to me, Take again the instruments of a foolish shepherd. For look, I am raising up a shepherd in the land who does not visit those straying, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he does eat the flesh of the fat and tear off their hooves. Woe to the worthless shepherd forsaking the flock! Let a sword be upon his arm and upon his right eye! His arm shall wither and his right eye shall be dimmed. (Zec 11:15-17)
In consequence, the Shepherd of YHVH breaks his second staff, Unity, the unity between the House of Judah and the House of Israel, as they will be given into the hand of a foolish shepherd.
A shepherd’s instrument is the shepherd’s staff, and taking it in his hand is a figurative representation of the shepherding the flock, this time, however, through the instrument of a foolish shepherd. The oracle says that a shepherd will be raised over the land, who will not tend, protect, and care for the flock.
That we are not to understand by this foolish shepherd a native ruler of Israel, is evident from the context which does not allude to such a supposition. And when the oracle says that this shepherd is foolish, it means that he is so foolish that he does not know YHVH, nor does he understand to do the good, but only the evil, as we find the characteristics of a foolish shepherd in Jer 4:22.
The oracle also calls the foolish shepherd “a worthless shepherd” as a worthless shepherd is one who is the opposite of what the shepherd should be: one who does not feed the flock, but leaves it to perish.
If the good shepherd is no other than the Messiah of YHVH, the foolish and worthless shepherd can only be a possessor of the imperial power, to which power Israel was given to. The rule of the foolish shepherd is depicted as a consuming of the flock, as we find him in Eze_34:3-4 and Jer_23:1-2. But, this tyrant will also receive his punishment for doing so.
The judgment which is to fall on him is set forth in accordance with the figure of the shepherd, as punishment through the loss of his arm and of the right eye. Probably, these two members are mentioned, because with the arm he ought to have protected and provided for the flock, and with the eye to have watched over them.
A sword is called to come on the arm and the right eye of the worthless shepherd. The further threat that the arm is to wither, the eye to become dimmed, does not appear to harmonize with this. Therefore, we may say that the sword is simply mentioned as the instrument of punishment, and the connecting together of different kinds of punishment simply serves to exhibit the greatness and terrible nature of the punishment.
However, when the oracle says that his arm will wither, we may consider another possibility in this scenario of the war of Gog of Magog. We may recall that the symptoms of stroke include sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg especially on one side of the body; sudden dimness of vision, especially in one eye.
Note: Breaking Israel News quoting the Lebanese media reported that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been hospitalized in serious condition in Beirut after apparently suffering a heart attack and a stroke. Nasrallah, 58, took over the terrorist organization in 1992 after his predecessor was assassinated in an Israeli airstrike.
Can we expect that this foolish shepherd will suffer a literal stroke or this is a figure of the greatness of the punishment on a hostile nation, i.e. Hadrach and Damascus? We do not know. What we know is that there is no prophecy that cannot be revoked. Because a prophecy does not predict future, but warns to avert it. Even the darkest prophecy like in Zechariah 12-14 can be revoked, if repentance is found. However, will YHVH find repentance in the world?
With this threat, the burden concerning the land of Hadrach and Damascus, and the imperial power of the world in Zechariah 9-11 is very appropriately brought to a close.
In a following article, we will continue to study the three scenarios of the war of Gog Magog in Ezekiel 39-39, Zechariah 9-11, and Zechariah 12-14. Continue here.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.