Preparations for the Lord’s Return in Glory (Zechariah)

Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, (1982), 341–49


(33-1) Introduction

When God gives a task, the faithful move with speed and diligence to complete the work assigned. While it is sometimes simple to begin, it is not always easy or convenient to finish. Time moves on, and procrastination is a thief of time.

So it was with ancient Judah. When Cyrus, king of Persia, gave permission for the Jews to return from exile in Babylon, he also granted that the city walls and sacred temple of Jerusalem be rebuilt. The returning Jews went to work almost at once. But a good start is not necessarily a good finish. The work on the temple lagged until the Lord sent Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people. With their encouragement, the people began in earnest to finish the temple. Although never as magnificent as the temple of Solomon, the second temple became a symbol of devotion and obedience to those who sacrificed to build it for the Lord.

Notes and Commentary on Zechariah

(33-2) Zechariah 1:1. Who Was Zechariah?

Zechariah was the son of Berechiah, who was “the son of Iddo the Prophet” (v. 1). Iddo was one of “the priests and the Levites” who accompanied Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, home from exile in Babylon (see Nehemiah 12:1, 4, 7).

Some confuse Zechariah with the Zacharias mentioned in the New Testament (see Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, however, that they are two different individuals (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 261).

(33-3) Zechariah 1:2–6. Is the Word of the Lord Always Fulfilled?

Zechariah told the people who came out of exile from Babylon that they were witnesses to the fulfillment of the word of God that He gave through the prophets to their forefathers (see Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch suggested that Zechariah said: “Your fathers have indeed been long dead, and even the prophets do not, or cannot, live for ever; but notwithstanding this, the words of the earlier prophets were fulfilled in the case of the fathers. The words and decrees of God uttered by the prophets did reach the fathers, so that they were obliged to confess that God had really done to them what He threatened, i.e., had carried out the threatened punishment.” (Commentary on the Old Testament, 10:2:226.)

Zechariah pleaded with the people not to resist the words of the prophets as their forefathers had done.

(33-4) Zechariah 1:8–17. First Vision of Zechariah

This is the first of seven visions given to Zechariah. “The occasion of the visions is the growing impatience of the returned exiles. They could perceive no sign of God’s presence, or of His interest in their labours and difficulties. Haggai had assured them that in ‘a little while’ God would ‘shake the kingdoms’ and fill His house with glory (Haggai 2:6, 7). But time passed and there was no sign of this. The people began to lose faith in God. These visions of Zechariah thus came at a most important crisis. To his countrymen they were a bright panorama of hope, revealing the marvellous providence of God, and His love for His people.

“The first vision assures them that God knows every detail of their circumstances. His messengers are ever on the alert, bringing tidings to their King from all parts of the earth.” (J. R. Dummelow, ed., A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 601.)

(33-5) Zechariah 1:8. What Is the Meaning of the Different-Colored Horses?

“A man riding upon a red horse is probably the angel of the Lord (cf. v. 11; see also Introduction to Exodus, p. 116). In this scene, enacted in the valley bottom, he is the protector of God’s people. Aspects of the divine providence are represented in the colours of the heavenly scouts. Red depicts battle and bloodshed (cf. Rev. 6:4); white represents victory and peace (cf. Rev. 6:2); sorrel [speckled in the King James Version], i.e. reddish brown, is the aftermath of confusion in the unsettled period after the end of hostilities (cf. Rev. 6:5–8).” (D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 789.)

(33-6) Zechariah 1:9–11. Mission of the Riders

“The riders sent out by God now return and report that the earth is by no means shaken and in motion, but the whole world sits quiet and at rest. We must not, indeed, infer from this account that the riders were all sent for the simple and exclusive purpose of obtaining information concerning the state of the earth, and communicating it to the Lord. For it would have been quite superfluous and unmeaning to send out an entire troop, on horses of different colours, for this purpose alone. Their mission was rather to take an active part in the agitation of the nations, if any such existed, and guide it to the divinely appointed end, and that in the manner indicated by the colour of their horses; viz. according to [Revelation 6], those upon the red horses by war and bloodshed; those upon the starling-grey, or speckled horses, by famine, pestilence, and other plagues; and lastly, those upon the white horses, by victory and the conquest of the world.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:234.)

(33-7) Zechariah 1:12–17. Restoration of Jerusalem

For seventy years Jerusalem lay in ruins after the terrible destruction by the Babylonians at the time of King Zedekiah, king of Judah. Zechariah now prophesied of a time when the land of Judah would again prosper. Cities would cover the land, and Jerusalem would be rebuilt and be adorned with a temple. The Lord will yet accept His people and own Jerusalem. Here again was a dualistic prophecy. Jerusalem was rebuilt under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah and again became the capital of the Jewish nation. But in A.D.  70 Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews as a nation. Not until 1948, when Israel once again became an independent nation, did Jerusalem again become the seat of government for a Jewish nation. On 13 December 1949, the Israeli government announced that “Jerusalem was and would remain Israel’s eternal capital” (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 9:1486).

(33-8) Zechariah 1:16. “A Line Shall Be Stretched Forth upon Jerusalem”

This was a way of saying that the city would be measured and built accordingly (see Jeremiah 31:38–40).

(33-9) Zechariah 1:18–19. What Are the Horns?

“The horn is a symbol of power [compare Amos 6:13]. The horns therefore symbolize the powers of the world, which rise up in hostility against Judah and hurt it. … The four horns which are seen simultaneously [may] represent nations which succeeded one another. This is shown still more clearly by the visions in [Daniel 2and 7], in which not only the colossal image seen in a dream by Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 2], but also the four beasts which are seen by Daniel to ascend simultaneously from the sea, symbolize the four empires, which rose up in succession one after the other. It is to these four empires that the four horns of our vision refer. … Zechariah sees these in all the full development of their power, in which they have oppressed and crushed the people of God, … and for which they are to be destroyed themselves.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:238–39.)

It is not clear which four empires are meant in this prophecy. If the prophecy referred to the empires of the past that engaged in the scattering, they would be Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Media. But if Zechariah was also looking to the future, as Daniel did, the four empires would be Assyria, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome. Persia and Media would be omitted, since they were responsible for the return of the exiles.

(33-10) Zechariah 1:20–21. What Is the Purpose of the Carpenters?

The Lord told Zechariah that the builders would “fray” and “cast out” the four horns. As Keil and Delitzsch noted: “The vision does not show what powers God will use for this purpose. It is simply designed to show to the people of God, that every hostile power of the world which has risen up against it, or shall rise up, is to be judged and destroyed by the Lord.” (Commentary, 10:2:241.)

(33-11) Zechariah 2:1–5. Why Wasn’t Jerusalem to Be Measured?

“Jerusalem is in future to resemble an open country covered with unwalled cities and villages; it will no longer be a city closely encircled with walls; hence it will be extraordinarily enlarged, on account of the multitude of men and cattle with which it will be blessed [compare Isaiah 49:19–20; Ezekiel 38:11]. Moreover, … Jerusalem will then have no protecting wall surrounding it, because it will enjoy a superior protection. Jehovah will be to it a wall of fire round about, that is to say, a defence of fire which will consume every one who ventures to attack it [compare Isaiah 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:24]. Jehovah will also be the glory in the midst of Jerusalem, that is to say, will fill the city with His glory [compare Isaiah 60:19].” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:245.)

Not until modern times has the city of Jerusalem grown beyond its walls.

(33-12) Zechariah 2:8. What Is the Meaning of the Expression “Apple of His Eye”?

“The apple of the eye (lit. the gate, the opening in which the eye is placed, or more probably the pupil of the eye, pupilla, as being the object most carefully preserved), is a figure used to denote the dearest possession or good, and in this sense is applied to the nation of Israel as early as [Deuteronomy 32:10].” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:248.)

(33-13) Zechariah 3. Who Was Joshua the High Priest?

Most scholars agree that the Joshua referred to here was the high priest of the time. But in typical prophetic fashion, there is dualism in this chapter. Joshua (Hebrew Yeshua, Greek Hee-ay-sous, English Jesus) was a type of Jesus Christ, the great High Priest (see Hebrews 4:14). The chapter is messianic.

“From the promises of a glorious future for the city and people of God, Zechariah turns to the means by which they are to be achieved. God will raise up a perfect priestly Mediator, of whom Joshua and his fellow-priests are a foreshadowing.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 790.)

(33-14) Zechariah 3:2. How Is Israel “a Brand Plucked out of the Fire”?

This is “perhaps a proverbial expression. Israel as a nation had been rescued from the furnace of Babylon … to become a torch to enlighten the nations.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 791.)

(33-15) Zechariah 3:3–5. What Is the Symbolism of “Filthy Garments”?

“Joshua is opposed by Satan [see Zechariah 3:1], … not on account of any personal offences either in his private or his domestic life, but in his official capacity as high priest, and for sins which were connected with his office, or for offences which would involve the nation [Leviticus 4:3]; though not as the bearer of the sins of the people before the Lord, but as laden with his own and his people’s sins. The dirty clothes, which he had on, point to this [Zechariah 3:3].” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:251.)

The garment of filthiness represents sin. Changing the garment symbolizes doing away with the old and putting on the new—which would be robes of righteousness.

(33-16) Zechariah 3:8–10. Who Is the Branch?

See Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:1. This is a messianic reference.

(33-17) Zechariah 4:2. What Does the Candlestick Represent?

The candlestick represents Judah, who had returned from exile in Babylon (see Dummelow, Commentary, p. 603).

(33-18) Zechariah 4:3, 11–14. Who Are the Two Olive Trees?

The two olive trees represent Joshua and Zerubbabel (see Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:510).

Joshua and Zerubbabel can be seen as messianic types, “who as Spirit-filled men convey blessing from God to church and state, and are a type of the Messiah as Priest and King” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 791). The same imagery was used by John in Revelation 11:4.

(33-19) Zechariah 4:7. What Is the Meaning of the Mountain before Zerubbabel?

The mountain represents the obstacles that stood before Zerubbabel as he tried to complete the temple. The mountain became a plain; that is, the obstacles were removed, and Zerubbabel was able to complete his work on the temple (see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:270–72).

(33-20) Zechariah 4:10. “The Eyes of the Lord”

The Prophet Joseph Smith changed this phrase to “servants of the Lord” (see JST, Zechariah 4:10; compare Revelation 4:8; D&C 77:4).

(33-21) Zechariah 5:1–4. What Is the Meaning of the “Flying Roll”?

The roll was a scroll or book, which Zechariah saw flying through the air. “The flying scroll appears to represent the main provisions of the law, both moral and religious, and symbolizes the divine standard of holiness. Its flight in the heavens shows from which quarter judgment comes and also the speed of its execution. Two particular sins are condemned, one on each side of the scroll, according to the force of the Hebrew. The curse lights upon every thief and perjuror, theft and lying being typical sins of a poor community (cf. 7:9, 10; 8:17). So penetrating and permanent is the penalty that it enters and consumes the very structure of the house of the wrongdoer as though the building were defiled by leprosy (cf. Lv. 14:45).” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 792.)

(33-22) Zechariah 5:6–11. The Seventh Vision

To understand this vision it is necessary to understand several symbols:

Ephah. A round vessel that was one of the largest measures of capacity among the Jews.

Talent of lead. The talent was the largest measure of weight. A talent of lead suggests a very weighty matter.

Woman. A symbol of Israel and her sins.

Shinar. A symbol of Babylon or the world (see Genesis 10:10).

Zechariah saw in the vision the woman being put in an ephah, covered with a lid made of lead, and carried away into Babylon. Babylon was “regarded as the counterpart of Zion and the proper home of all that is evil, especially of sins such as fraud and false swearing. The vision is remarkable. God not only forgives the sins of His people, but carries them altogether away from their land, that they may deceive them no more.” (Dummelow, Commentary, p. 604.)

(33-23) Zechariah 6:1–8. What Was the Mission of the Four Servants?

The Prophet Joseph Smith changed the phrase “four spirits” (v. 5) to read “four servants” (JST, Zechariah 6:5). This major change is vital to an understanding of these verses. Servants of the Lord are priesthood holders who labor to bring about the purposes of God.

The servants came from between two mountains (two places where the Lord will judge the nations) which were made of brass (a symbol of firmness; see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:286–87). The four servants went throughout the earth in chariots drawn by horses of different colors (see Notes and Commentary on Zechariah 1:8). The black horses, the only ones not previously mentioned, seem to represent death or mourning.

John the Revelator also spoke of the four servants, or angels, who stood at the four corners of the earth (see Revelation 7:1–3). On 6 December 1832, the Savior told the Prophet Joseph Smith that these angels were crying unto Him day and night for permission to reap down the earth and burn the tares (see D&C 86:4–7). Zechariah 6:7states that the angels could not go forth upon the earth until given permission by the Lord.

Sixty-one years after the revelation in section 86 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given, President Wilford Woodruff declared that the Lord had released those destroying angels and they were then upon the earth separating the tares from the wheat in preparation for the burning that would soon take place: “God has held the angels of destruction for many years, lest they should reap down the wheat with the tares. But I want to tell you now, that those angels have left the portals of heaven, and they stand over this people and this nation now, and are hovering over the earth waiting to pour out the judgments. And from this very day they shall be poured out. Calamities and troubles are increasing in the earth, and there is a meaning to these things. Remember this, and reflect upon these matters. If you do your duty, and I do my duty, we’ll have protection, and shall pass through the afflictions in peace and in safety.” (“The Temple Workers’ Excursion,” Young Woman’s Journal, Aug. 1894, pp. 512–13; emphasis added.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“Now I want to make some comments in regard to the statement by President Woodruff and this parable [the parable of the wheat and tares in D&C 86].

“The Lord said that the sending forth of these angels was to be at the end of the harvest, and the harvest is the end of the world. Now, that ought to cause us some very serious reflections. And the angels have been pleading, as I have read it to you, before the Lord to be sent on their mission. Until 1893 the Lord said to them no, and then He set them loose. According to the revelation of President Woodruff, the Lord sent them out on that mission.

“What do we gather out of that? That we are at the time of the end. This is the time of the harvest. This is the time spoken of which is called the end of the world.” (The Signs of the Times, pp. 11–21.)

(33-24) Zechariah 6:9–15. A Messianic Type

“A party of Jews had just come from Babylon. Zechariah is instructed to take part of the silver and gold which they have brought for the Temple, and to make a set of circlets for Joshua, the high priest. Thus he will more fully be a type of One to come, who is both Priest and King to His people.” (Dummelow, Commentary, p. 605.)

(33-25) Zechariah 7:1–14. Righteousness More Important Than Ritual

This chapter contains the explanation of why the Lord refused to hear the prayers of Judah and permitted Nebuchadnezzar to scatter the Jews from their homeland for a time. It begins with the question of whether the Jews who had returned from Babylon should continue to observe the feasts and fasts that they had observed while in exile as memorials of the burning of Jerusalem and the temple at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. “Zechariah’s answer, which is intended to reach the ears of all the people (v. 5), is of special significance when we remember his profound interest in the Temple; it shows that he, like the former, i.e., the pre-exiles, prophets  … , cared infinitely more for righteousness than for ritual. Their fasting, he reminds them, like their eating and drinking, did not in any way affect God, but only themselves. His demand, voiced by those prophets, was for something very different—for true justice (cf. Amos 5:24), kindness (cf. Hos. 6:6) and pity in their social relationships, and for the temper which would scorn to exploit the defenseless members of society or to harbor malicious designs against them (vv. 9b–11). This prophetic law (v. 12), i.e., instruction, though it had been mediated by the divine Spirit, they had willfully rejected, turning a stubborn shoulder (v. 11) like an animal that refuses to bear the yoke, with the result that Jehovah was indignant (v. 12), scattered them among strange nations (v. 14a), and abandoned their lovely land to desolation (v. 14b).” (Frederick Carl Eiselen, ed., The Abingdon Bible Commentary, p. 824.)

(33-26) Zechariah 7:5, 8:19. What Was the Purpose of the Feasts?

While the Jews were in captivity in Babylon, they celebrated four different feasts in remembrance of events that took place when Babylon attacked and destroyed Jerusalem.

One feast was celebrated in the tenth month, the month in which the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 39:1).

A second feast, celebrated in the fourth month, commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 39:2; 52:67).

A third feast, held in the fifth month, marked the destruction of the temple (see Jeremiah 52:12–14).

A fourth feast was celebrated in the seventh month to commemorate the assassination of Gedaliah, the puppet king placed over Judah by the Babylonians after they destroyed Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 25:25).

Zechariah reminded the people that they had set up the feast days to remind them of tragedies, but not once did they remember the Lord through feasts while in captivity.

(33-27) Zechariah 8:1–8. What Did Zechariah Envision Here?

Looking at Jerusalem as he saw it during the period when God’s people were scattered on the earth, Zechariah spoke of a broken city, denuded of both the very old and very young. The vision given to him by the Lord permitted him to see a future day in which Jerusalem shall be “a city of truth and the mountain of the Lord” (the temple) and shall stand once again. “Old men and old women” shall “dwell in the streets of Jerusalem” and “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (vv. 4–5).

“Like Joel, and the other prophets, Zechariah vigorously condemned Israel’s sins, yet he foresaw a restoration of God’s favors as a reward for repentance and adherence to His laws. … He was an optimist who loved to linger on the bright and beautiful things of life, though not afraid to recognize and make known the ills that needed to be corrected. He liked to think of Jerusalem restored to her one-time glory, filled with many families of happy children and with prosperity and peace abounding all around; with hate and selfishness banished and God’s tender care and love guiding His children. …

“Too often are people prone to consider the gloomy side of the messages of the prophets. A little care will lead to the realization that the bright side overshadows the darker one and reveals a hope for the future in which God and right will triumph and the world emerge in righteousness as He wills. Zechariah was one whose visions of light excelled many others.” (Roy A. Welker, Spiritual Values of the Old Testament, pp. 308–9.)

(33-28) Zechariah 8:11–17. Promise to Judah

The Lord promised to gather Judah (see JST, Zechariah 8:13 in footnote 13 b ) and restore the people to the land of Jerusalem. The heavens would no longer be sealed, and the thirsty land would become productive. As the promises of punishments were fulfilled to their forefathers, just as surely will the promises of blessings be fulfilled (see vv. 14–15).

The Lord will require then, as always, that His people keep His commandments and walk in continual righteousness (see vv. 16–17).

(33-29) Zechariah 8:20–23. When Will This Prophecy Be Fulfilled?

A time will come in the history of the earth when the work will spread from city to city. Many people will then come to the tribe of Judah to obtain from them the knowledge of these blessings. This prophecy will be fulfilled when the tribe of Judah turn their hearts to the God of Israel, accept the responsibility of the priesthood, and keep the commandments. Then peace will come to a troubled land and to the people.

It is possible that the word Jew is used here to refer to Israelites in general and not just a descendant of the tribe of Judah (see Romans 2:28–29; 9:6; 2 Nephi 30:2).

(33-30) Zechariah 9:1–8. Enemies of Judah

Many Bible scholars interpreted these verses as having been fulfilled at the time of Alexander the Great. It is true that Alexander the Great in approximately 332  B.C. destroyed these cities with his army. But the meaning of these verses is broader than that. “Of these the prophet simply refers to Damascus and Hamath in general terms; and it is only in the case of the Phoenician and Philistian cities that he proceeds to a special description of their fall from their lofty eminence, because they stood nearest to the kingdom of Israel, and represented the might of the kingdom of the world, and its hostility to the kingdom of God, partly in the worldly development of their own might, and partly in their hostility to the covenant nation. The description is an individualizing one throughout, exemplifying general facts by particular cities. This is also evident from the announcement of salvation for Zion in vers. 8–10, from which we may see that the overthrow of the nations hostile to Israel stands in intimate connection with the establishment of the Messianic kingdom; and it is also confirmed by the second half of our chapter, where the conquest of the imperial power by the people of God is set forth in the victories of Judah and Ephraim over the sons of Javan. That the several peoples and cities mentioned by name are simply introduced as representatives of the imperial power, is evident from the distinction made in this verse between (the rest of) mankind and all the tribes of Israel.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:325–26.)

(33-31) Zechariah 9:9. What Special Relevance Did This Verse Have to the Life of Jesus?

After issuing a threat of judgment on the wicked nations surrounding Judah, Zechariah recorded a passage that both Matthew and John saw as having been fulfilled by Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey’s back (compare Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1–11; and John 12:12–15).

(33-32) Zechariah 9:11–12. Who Are the Prisoners?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “It was of these that Zechariah prophesied when as part of a longer Messianic utterance, he spoke of ‘prisoners of hope’; it was of these that he gave assurance that ‘the Lord their God shall save them.’ He gives the Messianic message in these words: ‘By the blood of the covenant’—that is, because of the gospel covenant, which is efficacious because of the shedding of the blood of Christ—’I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.’ (Zech. 9:11–16.) ‘Wherein is no water’—how aptly and succinctly this crystallizes the thought that the saving water, which is baptism, is an earthly ordinance and cannot be performed by spirit beings while they dwell in the spirit world. Did not Paul say in this same connection, ‘What shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?’ (1 Cor. 15:29.)” (The Promised Messiah, p. 241.)

(33-33) Zechariah 9:13–17. Judah and Ephraim Blessed

There will come a day when Judah and Ephraim will be one—all Israel will be united. The Lord will defend His people Israel against Greece (the world). In that day, Israel will become as a crown of precious stones and an ensign to all people. (See Notes and Commentary on Isaiah 11:13–14.)

(33-34) Zechariah 10:1–12. Follow the True Shepherd

Jesus Christ is the true shepherd of our souls (see John 10:7–15). He has control over the elements of nature and the power to save us eternally. Still there were those who preferred to rely on false shepherds. They turned to soothsayers and idols for rain. But those who do will find themselves without a real shepherd (see vv. 1–2). Those who follow Christ, on the other hand, will find a God who cares for His people (see v. 3), who uses them to carry out His purposes in the earth (see vv. 4–5), and who will restore both Judah and Ephraim to their rightful place before the Lord (see vv. 6–12).

triumphal entry

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem

(33-35) Zechariah 10:4. What Is the Meaning of the Symbols As They Relate to Judah?

“Out of them is repeated four times in this verse. Judah will provide the corner-stone for security. In Is. 28:16 this is a figure for the Davidic king. The tent peg, or nail, was the hooked peg built into a wall to hold the implements of war as well as the household utensils. This is the attribute of reliability (cf. Is. 22:23). The battle bow refers to effective power in leadership (cf. Ho. 1:5). Every ruler (lit. ‘oppressor’); usually the word is employed in a bad sense, but here it is used positively. Their prince-leader will not oppress by unjust taxation or impose crushing burdens too great for the poor to bear, but will exact tribute from their vanquished enemies. Oesterly ascribed the above titles to Simon, Judas, and Jonathan Maccabeus, but each one of the four is undoubtedly Messianic. The ultimate reference is to the Lion of the tribe of Judah, by whose aid His people will conquer every foe.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 796.)

(33-36) Zechariah 10:10–11. Gathering of Israel

“Egypt, as we have already shown at [Hosea 9:3; compare 8:13], is rather introduced in all the passages mentioned simply as a type of the land of bondage, on account of its having been the land in which Israel lived in the olden time, under the oppression of the heathen world. And Asshur [Assyria] is introduced in the same way, as the land into which the ten tribes had been afterwards exiled. This typical [symbolical] significance is placed beyond all doubt by ver. 11, since the redemption of Israel out of the countries named is there exhibited under the type of the liberation of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt under the guidance of Moses. … The Ephraimites are to return into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; the former representing the territory of the ten tribes in the olden time to the east of Jordan, the latter that to the west [compare Micah 7:14].” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:351–52.)

(33-37) Zechariah 11. Armageddon

Zechariah 11–13deals with the battle of Armageddon and its attendant horrors (see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 74, 324–25; Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:46–47). Ezekiel also referred to this battle (see Ezekiel 38–39). This battle will take place before the Second Coming of the Savior.

Zechariah 11is a preface to chapters 12–13, in which Zechariah prophesied of the battle of Armageddon (see Enrichment I).

(33-38) Zechariah 11:1–3. Destruction of the Political Kingdom of Judah

“The cedars and cypresses of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan are simply figures denoting what is lofty, glorious, and powerful in the world of nature and humanity, and are only to be referred to persons so far as their lofty position in the state is concerned. Consequently we get the following as the thought of these verses: The land of Israel, with all its powerful and glorious creatures, is to become desolate. Now, inasmuch as the desolation of a land also involves the desolation of the people living in the land, and of its institutions, the destruction of the cedars, cypresses, etc., does include the destruction of everything lofty and exalted in the nation and kingdom; so that in this sense the devastation of Lebanon is a figurative representation of the destruction of the Israelitish kingdom, or of the dissolution of the political existence of the ancient covenant nation. This judgment was executed upon the land and people of Israel by the imperial power of Rome. This historical reference is evident from the description which follows of the facts by which this catastrophe is brought to pass.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:356–57.)

(33-39) Zechariah 11:4–14. What Is the Meaning of the Expression “Feed the Flock of the Slaughter”?

“Flock of slaughtering, is an expression that may be applied either to a flock that is being slaughtered, or to one that is destined to be slaughtered in the future” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:358).

Keil and Delitzsch then explained the significance of the phrase:

“But although a flock is eventually destined for slaughtering, it is not fed for this purpose only, but generally to yield profit to its owner. Moreover, the figure of feeding is never used in the Scriptures in the sense of making ready for destruction, but always denotes fostering and affectionate care for the preservation of anything; and in the case before us, the shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him, by slaying the three bad shepherds; and it is not till the flock has become weary of his tending that he breaks the shepherd’s staves, and lays down his pastoral office, to give them up to destruction. … Israel was given up by Jehovah into the hands of the nations of the world, or the imperial powers, to punish it for its sin. But as these nations abused the power entrusted to them, and sought utterly to destroy the nation of God, which they ought only to have chastised, the Lord takes charge of His people as their shepherd, because He will no longer spare the nations of the world, i.e. will not any longer let them deal with His people at pleasure, without being punished. The termination of the sparing will show itself in the fact that God causes the nations to destroy themselves by civil wars, and to be smitten by tyrannical kings. … These smite them in pieces, i.e. devastate the earth by civil war and tyranny, without any interposition on the part of God to rescue the inhabitants of the earth, or nations beyond the limits of Israel, out of their hand, or to put any restraint upon tyranny and self-destruction.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:360–61.)

(33-40) Zechariah 11:11–13. Thirty Pieces of Silver

The true Shepherd, the only one who could save Israel from the impending judgments, would be sold for thirty pieces of silver by His own people.

thirty pieces of silver

Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver

(33-41) Zechariah 11:15–17. Worthless Shepherd

“The chapter foreshadows the terrible afflictions of the Jews, subsequent to their rejection of the Messiah, and the ultimate downfall of their overlords. That this ruler is spoken of as my shepherd offers significant light on the sovereignty of the divine rule over history. He is where he is by divine appointment (v. 16) and the scandalous acts which his wicked heart teaches him to perform are the Lord’s dread judgment on a people which rejected the true shepherd.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, p. 798.)

(33-42) Zechariah 12:3. “Jerusalem a Burdensome Stone”

“Those nations that take in hand to capture and rule Jerusalem will find it difficult. Probably the idea is that of raising and carrying a boulder that is too heavy for a man’s strength.” (Dummelow, Commentary, p. 610.)

(33-43) Zechariah 12:11. “Mourning of Hadadrimmon in the Valley of Megiddon”

“In vers. 11, the depth and bitterness of the pain on account of the slain Messiah are depicted by comparing it to the mourning of Hadad-rimmon. Jerome says with regard to this: ‘Adadremmon is a city near Jerusalem, which was formerly called by this name, but is now called Maximianopolis, in the field of Mageddon, where the good king Josiah was wounded by Pharaoh Necho.’ … The mourning of Hadad-rimmon is therefore the mourning for the calamity which befell Israel at Hadad-rimmon in the death of the good king Josiah, who was mortally wounded in the valley Megiddo, according to [2 Chronicles 35:22–24], so that he very soon gave up the ghost. The death of this most pious of all the kings of Judah was bewailed by the people, especially the righteous members of the nation, so bitterly, that not only did the prophet Jeremiah compose an elegy on his death, but other singers, both male and female, bewailed him in dirges, which were placed in a collection of elegiac songs, and preserved in Israel till long after the captivity [2 Chronicles 35:25]. Zechariah compares the lamentation for the putting of the Messiah to death to this great national mourning.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:390.)

(33-44) Zechariah 12:11–14. “In That Day Shall There Be a Great Mourning in Jerusalem”

There will be great mourning in that day for at least three reasons: (1) many Jews will have been killed by the besieging armies; (2) families will be scattered and unable to contact one another; (3) the saved Jews will realize that He whom they have long rejected and whom their forefathers persecuted and killed is truly the Messiah for whom they waited for so long.

President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Then they will accept Him as their Redeemer, which they have never been willing to do. Then is the time as spoken of in this passage from Zechariah when every family will go and mourn apart; the house of David, the house of Nathan, the Jews. They will fall down. They will rend their garments, and they will mourn and they will weep because they were not willing to accept the Son of God but accepted the teachings of their fathers and rejected their Redeemer and Messiah. Then they will fall down at His feet and worship Him. After these days will come their redemption and the building of Jerusalem. They will be given their own land again, and every man ‘will live under his own vine and his own fig tree and they will learn to love the Lord and keep his commandments and walk in the light, and He will be their God and they will be His people, and that is right at our doors.’” (Signs of the Times, pp. 171–72.)

(33-45) Zechariah 13. More Views of Armageddon

Zechariah still was viewing the last great battle. The explanation for these verses is found in Enrichment I.

(33-46) Zechariah 13:7. Who Is the Shepherd Who Would Be Smitten?

The Shepherd of Israel is Jesus Christ. The sheep are those who know His voice, that is, members of the Church (see James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 609).

“The offending of the disciples took place when Jesus was taken prisoner, and they all fled. This flight was a prelude to the dispersion of the flock at the death of the shepherd. But the Lord soon brought back His hand over the disciples. The promise, ‘But after my resurrection I will go before you into Galilee,’ is a practical exposition of the bringing back of the hand over the small ones, which shows that the expression is to be understood here in a good sense, and that it began to be fulfilled in the gathering together of the disciples by the risen Saviour. This special fulfilment did not indeed exhaust the meaning of the verses before us; but they had a much more general fulfilment in the whole of the nation of Israel.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 10:2:399.)

(33-47) Zechariah 14:12–15. Destruction of the Army

See the commentary on Armageddon in Enrichment I.

(33-48) Zechariah 14:16–19. Will There Be “Heathen,” or Non-Israelites, Who Survive Armageddon?

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “While in conversation at Judge Adams’ during the evening, I said, Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand years. They will not probably dwell upon the earth, but will visit it when they please, or when it is necessary to govern it. There will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years. The heathen nations who will not come up to worship will be visited with the judgments of God, and must eventually be destroyed from the earth. (Dec. 30, 1842.)” (Teachings, pp. 268–69.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie commented: “During the millennium, however, the Lord will use the forces of nature to turn people’s attention to the truth. ‘Whoso will not come up,’ said Zechariah, ‘of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.’ (Zech. 14:16–19.)” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 499.)

(33-49) Zechariah 14:20–21. Why Will the Bells of the Horses Have “Holiness unto the Lord” on Them?

In beautiful imagery, Zechariah taught that in the Millennium peace and righteousness will prevail to a point where everything (symbolized by such trifles as the trappings on horses and earthen jars) shall be holy and pure and where “there shall be no more the Canaanite [the wicked] in the house of the Lord of hosts” (v. 21).

Points to Ponder

(33-50) “Finishers Wanted”

When the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile, they received permission to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. The people began earnestly, but their zeal soon waned, the work lagged, and soon it stopped altogether.

Suppose our Savior were such a poor finisher. Where would that leave us? But the Lord is a great finisher, even of distasteful tasks. He told us that while He shrank from drinking the bitter cup of the price for our sins, He nonetheless “partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:18). Speaking of His relation to the Father, Jesus said, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).

We must learn to finish our assignments as the Lord did His. He is our great exemplar. Only as we finish the preparations for His return do we manifest for Him the kind of love He manifest for us in making an atonement for our sins.

Elder Thomas S. Monson made this interesting analogy about those who complete their tasks:

“On sunlit days during the noon hour, the streets of Salt Lake City abound with men and women who for a moment leave the confines of the tall office buildings and engage in that universal delight called window shopping. On occasion I, too, am a participant.

“One Wednesday I paused before the elegant show window of a prestigious furniture store. That which caught and held my attention was not the beautifully designed sofa nor the comfortable-appearing chair that stood at its side. Neither was it the beautiful chandelier positioned overhead. Rather, my eyes rested upon a small sign that had been placed at the bottom right-hand corner of the window. Its message was brief: ‘Finishers Wanted.’

“The store had need of those persons who possessed the talent and the skill to make ready for final sale the expensive furniture that the firm manufactured and sold. ‘Finishers Wanted.’ The words remained with me as I returned to the pressing activities of the day.

“In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers. Their ranks are few, their opportunities many, their contributions great.

“From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, pp. 69–70; or Ensign, July 1972, p. 68.)

Elder Thomas S. Monson gave the following six marks of a true finisher:

“Times change, circumstances vary, but the true marks of a finisher remain. Note them well, for they are vital to our success.

  1. “1.

    The Mark of Vision. It has been said that the doorways of history turn on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. We are constantly making small decisions. The outcome determines the success or failure of our lives. That is why it is worthwhile to look ahead, set a course, and at least be partly ready when the moment of decision comes. True finishers have the capacity to visualize their objective.

  2. “2.

    The Mark of Effort. Vision without effort is daydreaming, effort without vision is drudgery; but vision, coupled with effort, will obtain the prize.

    “Needed is the capacity to make the second effort when life’s challenges lay us low. …

  3. “3.

    The Mark of Faith. Long years ago the psalmist wrote: ‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.’ (Ps. 118:8–9.) Recognize that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other.

  4. “4.

    The Mark of Virtue. ‘… let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. …’ (D&C 121:45.) This counsel from the Lord will provide staying power in the race we run.

  5. “5.

    The Mark of Courage. Courage becomes a living and attractive virtue when it is regarded not as a willingness to die manfully, but the determination to live decently. Have the courage—

    “‘To dream the impossible dream;

    To fight the unbeatable foe;

    To bear with unbearable sorrow;

    To run where the brave dare not go.

    “‘To right the unrightable wrong

    To love, pure and chaste, from afar;

    To try when your arms are too weary

    To reach the unreachable star.’”

    [Joe Darion, “The Impossible Dream.”]

    —and you will thus become a finisher.

  6. “6.

    The Mark of Prayer. When the burdens of life become heavy, when trials test one’s faith, when pain, sorrow, and despair cause the light of hope to flicker and burn low, communication with our Heavenly Father provides peace.

    “These, the marks of a true finisher, will be as a lamp to our feet in the journey through life. Ever beckoning us onward and lifting us upward is he who pleaded, ‘… come, follow me.’ (Luke 18:22)” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, pp. 71–72; or Ensign, July 1972, pp. 69–70.)

    Consider how these six marks of a true finisher could apply to your own life. You might list them in your journal and then set goals for each one.

    Someday, we know not when, Christ will come again. It behooves us all to live faithfully and thus prepare ourselves for that grand event. May we be able to say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me … and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7).

    The Second Coming of the Lord will be a dramatic finish to His work before the Millennium. Those who labor with and wait for His appearance will not be disappointed. But only finishers, those who endure to the end, will be there.