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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Zechariah 12

 

 

Verses 1-14

Chapter 12

The True Day Of Atonement For Judah

The last three chapters relate almost entirely to the period denominated the great tribulation, or the time of Jacob’s trouble, with the establishment of the kingdom following. To that short but solemn season our attention has already been directed in what we have been noticing as to the Antichrist. It is the moral result of the rejection of the Lord Jesus, and will be the final governmental display of Jehovah’s wrath because of that colossal error on Judah’s part.

He speaks of Himself in the first verse as the One which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

This latter clause deserves our careful attention. God forms man’s spirit within him. The spirit then is an entity existing distinct from the body. It is not to be confounded with the breath, nor is it merely the same as the mind. Mind is one of the functions of the spirit, for it is the seat of the intelligence. “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). It is impossible logically to deny the personality of man’s spirit and not likewise deny the personality of the Spirit of God. The spirit is the real man, who inhabits the body during life, and at death puts off the tabernacle of flesh and goes out unclothed into the unseen world, called by the Jews Sheol, by the Greeks Hades. This is not the grave, but the condition of departed spirits, whether saved or lost. The spirit of the believer is “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” That of the unsaved is “in torment,” but awaiting the final judgment, when “death and Hades will be emptied into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

Sadducees of every stripe deny the true personality of the spirit, as an unseen something formed within the man our eyes behold. God links this special creation with that of the heavens and the earth. “Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein” (Isaiah 42:5). Here breath and spirit are clearly distinguished. The one is fleeting, the other exists forever. True, it is but incidentally, as we would say, this statement as to the spirit of man is here introduced; but it is all-important nevertheless, and a distinct guard against Sadduceeism, if carefully considered.

In verse 2 Jerusalem, the centre of all God’s ways as to the earth, is introduced, and a siege spoken of, which is evidently that of the last days. Jerusalem is then to be a cup of trembling, or reeling-that is, an intoxicating draught-unto all nations. Possessed with an almost insane desire to control the ancient city which is recognized by all as the key of the East, they will make desperate attempts to obtain suzerainty over it. But it shall prove to be then, as it has been down through the centuries, a burdensome stone. Every nation burdening itself with it shall be destroyed, even though a coalition were effected for this purpose between all the people of the prophetic earth (ver. 3).

There will be a number of powers, however, each acting for itself, in the time of the tribulation. The Roman empire will be revived in the form of ten kingdoms voluntarily associated together, and giving their support to that impious character denominated the Beast in the first part of Rev. 13, whose seat will be in Rome, proudly called the Eternal City. In Jerusalem itself the Antichrist will reign, having made a league, offensive and defensive, with the Beast. He is the second Beast of Rev. 13, who simulates the Lamb of God, but whose dragonic speech betrays his real character.

Against him, as prophesied in Dan. 11, two rival powers will set themselves, endeavoring to obtain Jerusalem and destroy him and each other, namely, the kings of the north and of the south. That is, an Egyptian power will attain some prominence and aspire to Palestine in that time of trouble, but will be opposed by a northern power inhabiting the territory now called Turkey in Asia. This is identical with the Assyrian so frequently mentioned.

Farther north will be the great empire of Gog, the last enemy to come against Jerusalem, which is undoubtedly Russia, ever the inveterate enemy of the Jews, and grasping eagerly after their land. The end of this power is foretold in Ezek. 38 and 39.

Another confederacy is mentioned in Revelation as “the kings of the east,” or, “the sun-rising;” but it would seem as though the hordes of these nations barely reach the land ere the judgment falls. It is significant that Japan is called the kingdom of the rising sun. Who can say that the German emperor’s fear of “the yellow peril” is not based on something more substantial than a political nightmare?

In the time of the end, mighty armies will be gathered from all quarters against Jerusalem just before the appearing of Messiah in glory. They will clash together in the great battle of Armageddon, long since predicted by the prophets, and briefly depicted in verses 4 and 5, but more fully described in chapter 14 and in Rev. 19.

Following upon the utter discomfiture of all Israel’s foes, government will be established firmly in Judah, and Jerusalem shall be rebuilt in unequaled splendor, and inhabited by a redeemed and happy people (ver. 6).

The ten tribes will be regathered after the kingdom is set up. The tents of Judah are to be saved first, then the house of David distinguished from them, and one taken therefrom, who shall act as prince-regent on earth for the true Son of David who will reign from heaven. Afterwards, as we learn from various scriptures, the ten tribes will ask the way to Zion, and will return from all the countries whither they have been driven.

Thus will that ideal state have been reached, so long anticipated by inspired seers, when the Lord Himself shall be the defence of His people, and the weakest among them shall be as David, the heroic defender of the liberties of Israel, whose house shall be in direct communication with heaven, thus establishing a pure theocracy on earth, when every enemy shall be destroyed and peace and good will everywhere prevail (vers. 7, 8).

All this the chosen people might long since have been in the enjoyment of, had they but obeyed the Spirit’s call to repentance as given in the 2d of Acts. It was a summons to self-judgment and humiliation in Jehovah’s presence because of their national crime, the crucifixion of the Messiah. All their blessings wait for this, which will mark their entering into the truth of the atoning value of the work of the Lord Jesus. Only then will they in spirit have reached the great feast of the seventh month, the true day of atonement.

There is important instruction as to this in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. There we have the yearly calendar of the seven great feasts. The sabbath is introduced as the symbol of the rest which is to follow all the dispensations when the course of time has come to a close, as declared in Hebrews 3:10-19; Heb_4:1-11.

The passover prefigures the Cross, even as we are told that “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us.” This is immediately followed by the feast of unleavened bread; so the passage referred to goes on to say, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7, 8). This sets forth the call to repentance, now extended to Jew and Gentile alike, who, resting beneath the sheltering blood of the slain Lamb, are to be found in holy separation from all evil, waiting the hour of their full redemption.

But this does not necessarily imply the heavenly calling; so we next get the day of Pentecost, or the feast of weeks, when a new meal-offering was presented before Jehovah, setting forth the present truth of the mystery never made known till the final rejection of the testimony of the Lord and His apostles by Israel as a nation. Observe that this was in the third month.

Then there is a long break, until the seventh month. Now, as it is clear that Pentecost includes the calling out of a people for the name of the Lord from among the nations, it is evident that all the feasts of the seventh month have reference particularly to Israel when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, and the trumpet of recall will once more summon God’s earthly people to gather around Himself in the land of their fathers. That trumpet will blow when the Church has been caught up to heaven. This the feast of trumpets beautifully pictures. It is the awakening of Israel when the veil shall begin to be taken away. (See Rom. 11, et al.). Then will come the call to self-abasement and contrition of heart for their fearful sin, which was manifested in the cross, and consummated in the rejection of the Holy Ghost. This is, for them, the great day of atonement. Long centuries have elapsed since the Victim bled, but they have never yet kept the day of fasting and affliction of soul that God joined with the offering up of the sacrifice to make atonement for their souls.

To this they will come in the hour of their deep distress, just prior to the appearing of the Crucified in the glory of His Father, and all His holy ones with Him. This, therefore, is the mourning referred to in Revelation 1:7, and here, in verses 10 to 14. In the Apocalyptic passage we read, “ Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him…and all tribes of the land shall mourn over Him.” It is not wailing in terror that is contemplated, but the anguished mourning of the awakened remnant when they realize the dreadful impiety of which their fathers were guilty in crucifying the Lord of glory.

God Himself will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications, and “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born” (ver. 10). The word “look” might be rendered “contemplate.” It implies an earnest attention, beholding with thoughtfulness, that every lineament of His face may be imprinted upon their souls. His once-marred visage, His pierced hands and side-all will be indelibly impressed upon them. When they thus learn that He who was spurned as a malefactor and a blasphemer was really the Lord of glory, their grief and repentance will know no bounds.

We have two New Testament pictures of this scene: Thomas the apostle, called Didymus (the twin), believed when he saw. In the remnant of Judah, the other twin-may I say?-will come to the front, equally unbelieving till the marks of spear and nails shall prove convincing.

Then in Saul of Tarsus we have a preeminent picture of the same remnant. Hating the name of Jesus, he goes on his way, zealously persecuting all who love that name, till arrested by a light from heaven: his eyes, blinded to earth’s glory, peer into the holiest; and there, upon the throne of God, he beholds the Nazarene! Thus he was one born before the time; that is, before the time when, by a similar sight, the remnant will be brought to cry, as he did, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

His days and nights of darkness answer to the period of mourning here set forth. “In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon” (ver. 11). The reference is generally supposed to be to the great grief that fell on Judah when Josiah was slain, in the same valley where the Lord is yet to appear for the judgment of the armies of the haters of His earthly people. Megiddon is, of course, Armageddon, the valley of slaughter, of Revelation 16:16.

In vers. 12 to 14 the people are distinguished into various classes. The family of the house of David, the royalty of Judah, mourn apart. The house of Nathan, the very prophet who once reproved David for his sin, mourn also apart. Then there are the families of Levi and of Shimei, or Simeon, once joined in iniquity, now each joining, though apart, in common confession because of sin.

So shall every family participate in the affliction of soul that extends to the glorious appearing of Him who long since entered into the heavenly sanctuary by His own blood.

Another feast closes the series in Lev. 23. Of that, chapter 14 of our prophet treats; so I leave it till we reach that portion.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 12:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/zechariah-12.html. 1914.

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