Was Zechariah 14 Fulfilled in AD 70?

Some preterists argue that Zechariah 14 was fulfilled in the siege on Jerusalem that ended in 70 AD. This question is a serious question for people who love the Bible. If Zechariah 14 was fulfilled in AD 70, then it means we should not expect a future day of crisis around Jerusalem. If it was fulfilled in AD 70, it would also mean that Israel’s salvation has already come and therefore we should not consider Israel’s salvation to be a future event, but a past event.

If this is true then we should not consider Israel, Israel’s salvation, the Jewish people, or the controversy presently around both Jerusalem and the modern state of Israel to have any real biblical significance. It would also mean that our missions strategies should not place any importance on the future role of the Jewish people of the future importance of the city of Jerusalem.

However, if Zechariah 14 was not fulfilled in AD 70, then it means a future day of crisis is coming for Jerusalem. It also means that the salvation of Israel is a future event that has not yet happened. If this is the case and Zechariah 14 will be fulfilled in the future, then it is an incredibly important chapter for the church to understand because God is giving us key details that will relate to a dramatic, global crisis that will occur in the future.

Whether the prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 or not, it is important to be familiar with this prophecy. If this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, then we should know it well because it is a glorious example of God’s ability to predict the future through His prophets. If that is the case, the passage is a valuable witness both the Jewish people and the nations of the truth of the Bible and God’s ability to bring to pass the words He has spoken. However, if the passage is unfulfilled we must know it well because it contains very dramatic language of a day that we must be prepared for.

The passage is relatively straightforward, so by examining the key phrases in the chapter we can see quite simply whether or not the passage has been fulfilled. In order to do that we must first examine whether or not it is a single, unified prophecy and then if any of the key details have been fulfilled in ancient history.

Is Zechariah 14 a Unified Prophecy?

The first step in examining Zechariah 14 is to see whether the prophecy is a single, unified prophecy or consists of multiple prophet predicts that can be fulfilled separately and independently of each other. The first phase in the chapter is key to the question of whether it is a single, unified prophecy or a collection of prophetic predictions that can be fulfilled independently of each other.

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. (Zechariah 14:1)

Zechariah introduces his prophecy by predicting that a day is coming. This day will be the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy. Zechariah gives focus to the prophecy by introducing it with a specific element of timing. Some prophecies simply list a sequence of events or repeat a prophetic promise. Zechariah is more specific. He focuses his prophecy on a time period.

This phrase is very important because the prophet will repeat it throughout the chapter. In the rest of the chapter, as Zechariah introduces key parts of the prophecy he includes the prediction that these details will happen “on that day.” Biblically “on that day” or “in that day” is usually an eschatological phrase so this is a hint that the passage may be referring to the end of the age. However, in Zechariah it also serves as a reference to Zechariah 14:1. Notice how many times Zechariah uses this phrase in the chapter:

On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. (Zechariah 14:4)
On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. (Zechariah 14:6)

And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. (Zechariah 14:7)

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. (Zechariah 14:8)
And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)

And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. (Zechariah 14:13)

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar. (Zechariah 14:20)

And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day. (Zechariah 14:21)

Zechariah’s repeated reference to the “day” of Zechariah 14:1 is intended to communicate that this is a single prophecy. It will only be fulfilled as a sequence of events. It is not a collection of events where some can be fulfilled at one time, and others at a different time. Each of the key details of the prophecy must be fulfilled “on that day.” In other words Zechariah 14 is a single unit, a single prophecy. Whether “that day” refers to a 24 hours of day or is simply a phrase used to refer to a narrow window of time, the point is that all these events must happen together in a relatively short period of time. There is no reference to “another day” or “another time” for any of the key events in the chapter.

Examining the Key Details of Zechariah 14

By looking at Zechariah’s use of language, we can see that the key predictions of the prophecy must be fulfilled at the same time. With that in mind, we must examine the details of the prophecy to see if this is a remarkable example of fulfilled biblical prophecy or a prediction that remains to be fulfilled in the future. Zechariah introduced most of the key predictions in the chapter by reminding us that these prophecies must happen on the “day” of Zechariah 14:1. By looking at each prophecy that Zechariah says must happen at that time, we can get a sense of the key details of the prophecy so we can examine them and see whether or not they were fulfilled in the first century.

Zechariah 14:1-3

Zechariah introduced most of the key predictions in the chapter by reminding us that these prophecies must happen on the “day” of Zechariah 14:1. By looking at each prophecy that Zechariah says must happen at that time, we can get a sense of the key details of the prophecy so we can examine them and see whether or not they were fulfilled in the first century. The first part of Zechariah’s prediction is found in Zechariah 14:1-2.

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. (Zechariah 14:1–2)

Zechariah begins with “a day is coming for the Lord.” (some translations say “a day of the Lord.”) Zechariah’s point is simple – the primary focus of the passage is the Lord. Though Jerusalem is certainly prominent in the passage, it is the secondary theme of the passage. The first point of the passages is the Lord Himself. As the passage develops that becomes more and more clear. Zechariah then predicts that spoil will be taken from Jerusalem and divided in the midst of the city. This language is eerily similar to what happened to the Lord Himself when soldiers gambled for His robe during His crucifixion. The nations will come to battle against Jerusalem, take spoil, and then greedily divide it among themselves.

The Lord says He will gather all the nations against Jerusalem. This is a key prediction because, for example, when the prophets predicted the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians or the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon the Lord predicted a key nation and key leader who would lay siege to the city and take it. In this case, the Lord predicts that “all the nations” not just one, will come to battle against Jerusalem. Even if this phrase contains some hyperbole, it is clearly designed to community a large number of different armies coming together in a united effort, not one invading army that contains a few different ethnicities.

The prophetic predicts a horrific situation. The nations will plunder houses, rape women, and take half of the city out into exile. However, in the middle of this prediction, the prophet gives another very interesting detail.

Even as half the city is taken the other half of the people will not be cut off from the city. The prophet is predicting some sort of supernatural event in the city where, even as it is plundered, half of it is preserved. This must be an incredibly significant event because it is completely out of sync with the rest of the prediction.

The rest of the prediction describes a hopeless scene and there is no reason to expect that half the city would be preserved. The nations are dividing plunder and taking captives. However, half the city is somehow enabled to remain in place. They is a key detail that Zechariah gives and therefore must be a distinguishing part of the time that Zechariah predicts. This is not a subtle prediction – it is bold. It is something that would distinguish this siege from any other siege.

In Zechariah 14:3, we are told that the Lord is going to respond to the events of Zechariah 14:1-2 in a very unique way.

Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14:3)

Zechariah begins verse 3 with “then” indicated this is the next event in the sequence. The Lord is going to release very specific activity in response to the siege described in verse 2. Verse 3 is an emphasis on the theme of verse 1. In verse 1, Zechariah predicted that this would be the Lord’s Day. In verse 2 it seems like is the day of the nations as they ravage Jerusalem. In verse 3, Zechariah reaffirms the prediction of verse 1. Though the siege is dreadful for a moment, it is the Lord’s Day, not the day of the invading army. He is in control and will take action.

Zechariah tells us that the Lord will go out and fight those nations as when He fights on a day of battle. This prophecy is in line with other Old Testament prophecies of the Lord making war on the nations. Again, it is emphasized that many nations are gathered, not just one. The Lord will fight against them as He fights on a day of battle. This means the Lord Himself will personally take on these invading armies. The rest of the chapter will describe the results of the Lord’s activity and it is the crushing of the invading armies.

Zechariah’s prediction in verse 3 is a parallel prophecy to Isaiah 42:13-15.

The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant. I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. (Isaiah 42:13–15)

The phrase “go out” in Zechariah and “goes out” in Isaiah are both forms of the same word. Both Zechariah and Isaiah predict a day when the Lord will “go out” to battle against nations and make war. Both prophets predict a dramatic day when the nations experience the wrath of the Lord in battle. Both prophets set the Lord’s activity in contrast to what is expected. Zechariah describes a siege that appears to be hopeless. Isaiah tells us that the Lord has “held His peace” and “kept still and restrained” Himself in comparison to the day when He goes out to battle.

The connection of Isaiah 42 with Zechariah 14 is important because it means that whatever fulfills Zechariah 14 must also fulfill Isaiah 42. Any historical event that is not sufficient to fulfill both is not sufficient to fulfill either one individually. Needless to say, this is very different from previous sieges in which the Lord used the invading army for His purposes, but never predicted that He would go to war with the invading army during the siege itself. Zechariah’s prophesy stands out for all other historical crises Israel has faced. Zechariah tells us that when they lay siege to the city and begin ravaging it that “then” the Lord will make war on them. The fact that the Lord fights as He does on the day of battle means that He will destroy the invading army.

Each of the details in Zechariah 14:1-3 are specific and so we must use each of them to ask specific questions of AD 70:

Was the Lord Himself central in AD 70? In other words would Israel and the nations refer to it as the Lord’s Day? – Rome and Jerusalem are the two main themes of AD 70. The Lord Himself is not the prominent theme of AD 70. Israel and the nations would not solemnly say, “That was His day.” In fact, it is quite the opposite. Israel is quite tempted to ask, “Where was the Lord?” when they think of the tragedy. There wasn’t a Jewish prophetic ministry before the crisis as there was before the Babylonian siege and there wasn’t deliverance. Rome and its army dominated the scene of AD 70 far more than the Lord. Zechariah predicts a season when the Lord Himself will dominate the scene.

Did “all the nations” come together in siege on Jerusalem, take spoil from Jerusalem and divide it during the battle? – This is an interesting prophecy because when the prophets predicted the fall of Samaria and the fall of Judah they identified a single nation, in those cases Assyria and Babylon, as the ones who would be responsible. Zechariah’s prophecy is very different because he predicts that “all the nations” are involved each trying to get their own spoil. This is out of sync with history as well. Rome was the only nation who brought a siege against Jerusalem. They did not divide the spoil with any other nation. They singlehandedly laid siege against Jerusalem and sacked it. Some point out that Rome’s army was multi-ethnic, but that would have applied to many ancient armies as well because ancient empires often assimilated different people groups. Regardless of whether there is an hyperbole in the prophecy, to fulfill the prophecy, so many different nations have to gather that one would say “all the nations” have gathered against Jerusalem. This is simply not the case in AD 70.

Was half of the population of the city miraculously preserved in the middle of a gruesome situation? – AD 70 was the first in a sequence of events that ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the banishment of most of the Jewish population from the region around Jerusalem. Zechariah’s prophecy of the preservation of part of the population is a shocking prediction that would make this siege stand out from any other historical siege because this is not the kind of thing that happens when a weak nation is under siege by a much mightier power.

However, when we consider the siege of AD 70, it is not known for the preservation of any part of the city or the population. Instead, it is known for the absolute destruction of the city and the beginning of the of the vast majority of the Jewish population from the region. Some preterists point to Josephus’ prediction that some Jews were allowed to remain in the area after Jerusalem was destroyed as a proof that this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, but the plain fact is that the vast majority of the Jewish population in the area was executed and the city was razed. The execution of a million people around Jerusalem – an enormous number of people by ancient standards – does not match the language of half the population of the city being kept.

This does not match the kind of miraculous event that Zechariah describes. Zechariah’s prediction that the people will note be “cut off” indicates that the invader is unable to remove a portion of the population. Regardless of the fact that Rome left some Jews, temporarily, in the ruins of Jerusalem the few surviving Jews were clearly not preserved from the power of Rome’s sword.

Did the Lord go to battle against the invading nations in AD 70? Did He destroy them as the siege was in process? – Zechariah predicts that the Lord will go to war against the nations who gather around Jerusalem. This is part of what it means that it is His day. Zechariah predicts the Lord making war on multiple nations and this war initiates a restoration of Jerusalem and the rule of the Lord from that city over the nations of the earth. It is true that Rome endured internal turmoil during the siege, but that does not resemble Zechariah’s prophecy in the least. To fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy, the Lord has to preserve half the people in the city, make war on multiple nations, and break their power and the siege on Jerusalem. Rome has internal turmoil but continued the siege and destroyed Jerusalem. This is exactly the opposite of what Zechariah predicts will result from the Lord’s action against the invading nations.

Zechariah 14:4

Zechariah predicts that the Lord will stand on the Mount of Olives and alter the geography of the mountain as He creates a way of escape for His people.

On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. (Zechariah 14:4–5)

This is a pretty dramatic prophecy. Zechariah first predicts that the Lord will stand on the Mount of Olives. This is the first stage of His battle against the invading armies. As He stands on the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Olives is split into two and the two parts move apart. Zechariah obviously expects us to connect this event to the Exodus and this is why the prophecy is written in the way that it is.

  • In the Exodus, Moses stood and stretched out his hands over the sea to initiate the divine act of deliverance. In Zechariah, the Lord stands on the mountain overlooking the city to deliver His people.
  • In the Exodus, a sea was split. In Zechariah a mountain is split.
  • In the Exodus, the water was pushed back to create a road. In Zechariah the two pieces of the mountain are pushed back to create a road.
  • In the Exodus, the opening in the sea created a way of escape. In Zechariah the opening between the two mountains enables the escape and preservation of the people. They are delivered. Just as the Hebrew slaves were preserved in Goshen and then liberated, so the half of the city that is preserved while under siege is now suddenly liberated.
  • In the Exodus, the people of Israel were pursued by a large host who wanted to destroy them. In Zechariah, the large host is coming with God not to destroy Israel but to liberate her.

Finally, Zechariah predicts the Lord God Himself will come with “all the holy ones” meaning a great host. This is not a quiet event – it is the coming of God with a great number with Him. Zechariah predicts something big and disruptive. As if the coming of God to Jerusalem was not disruptive enough, He is also bringing His host with Him.

It is important to see that Zechariah 14:4 is another installment in the Old Testament prediction of a second Exodus. The second Exodus is prophesied a number of times. Isaiah 11 is an excellent example of this prophecy. Note this prophecy also uses the “in that day” language that is typically used in an apocalyptic passage.

In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11–12)

And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt, and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching breath, and strike it into seven channels, and he will lead people across in sandals. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant that remains of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:15–16)

Jeremiah predicts this second Exodus will be so dramatic that people will hardly remember the Israel’s exodus out of Egypt in comparison with what the Lord will do at the end of the age.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ (Jeremiah 16:14)

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ (Jeremiah 23:7)

When we consider whether or not AD 70 fulfilled Zechariah 14 we have to ask the following questions:

  • Did the Lord stand on the Mount of Olives?
  • Was the Mount of Olives split into two with the northern and southern parts of the mountain pushed apart from each other?
  • Were the second Exodus passages, of which Zechariah 14:4 is one, fulfilled?
  • Did the Lord come with a large host?

When we summarize all these questions it becomes very difficult to argue that AD 70 resembles this prophesy in any way. Some have tried to make an argument that somehow these prophecies were “spiritually” fulfilled. However, that goes against the details of the prophecy. Zechariah gives us specific physical details so that we expect a physical fulfillment of the prophecy. Some commentators have suggested that this could be the “spiritual” presence of Jesus presiding over the trouble in Jerusalem, but this is completely against the flow of the passage.

There is no reason to think that Jesus will not stand physically on the Mount of Olives, especially when the angels told the disciples to expect Him to come back down just as He ascended (Acts 1:11). He ascended physically from the Mount of Olives and there is not reason to think that He will not stand there again as a man. The departure was literal and physical and Jesus’ return will be literal and physical. Again, the prophecy is one of the “second exodus” passages. The first Exodus was a dramatic event that shook the most powerful nation on earth and gave birth to a new nation. When the prophets draw a comparison to that event, they intend us to understand that this event will be equally dramatic and recognizable. The prophets tell us that Israel particularly will never remember the first Exodus in comparisons to this event. That is certainly not the case with the siege of AD 70, which resulted, not in their deliverance, but in their extended suffering.

Zechariah 14 uses physical language and make comparisons to physical events; therefore the more reasonable interpretation is that what Zechariah predicts must actually happen. While these events seem dramatic, they are no more dramatic or miraculous than other events in the Bible such as the Exodus out of Egypt and Jesus’ incarnation. If the Red Sea split then there is no reason to assume that the Mount of Olives will not as well.

Zechariah tells us that Lord is bringing His hosts to indicate how dramatic the deliverance will be. This is not an indicator of a “spiritual” deliverance it is the prediction of a large one.

Zechariah 14:6-7

Zechariah continues to describe cosmic disturbances that accompany this day of deliverance.

On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. (Zechariah 14:6–7)

Zechariah describes a complete disruption in the natural events. This is a “unique day” meaning a day that is unparalleled. Reading the prophecy immediately provokes a comparison to the day that Joshua called the sun and moon to stand still.

At that time Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel. (Joshua 10:12–14)

Knowing that his readers will immediately compare the prophecy to what happened to Joshua, Zechariah carefully records for us that this will be a “unique day.” In other words, just as there will be a second Exodus, there also will be a second miracle of the sun and moon that goes beyond the miracle in Joshua’s generation.

The beginning of verse 6 predicts a day where there is no light, cold or frost. The obvious implication is that this will occur in a time when cold and frost is to be expected. This prediction goes beyond what Joshua experienced because it is a disruption of the weather patterns not just a disruption in the sun.

When we consider whether this was fulfilled in AD 70, we have to ask:

  • Was there a day with no light, cold or frost?
  • Was there a unique day – more unique than Joshua’s day – when there was neither day nor night and light when it should be dark?

The miracle that Joshua experienced was that day was extended. Zechariah is prophesying something more disruptive than this. Some quote Josephus’ statement that there was unusual light around the altar in Jerusalem for about a half an hour during the siege, but what Josephus describes does not fulfill either the details of this prediction or the context in which it occurs.

We have to recognize the context of Zechariah 14. The prophetic details in the chapter are part of the Lord’s deliverance of Jerusalem, not prophetic details relating to Jerusalem’s destruction.

Zechariah’s prophecy is connected to the event in Joshua because in both cases the Lord altered the normal course of the day in order to deliver Israel from an enemy. The alteration of the regular rhythm of day in Zechariah 14 is connected to Jerusalem’s deliverance not her destruction. Understanding the context along with the details of the prophecy are important to interpreting it correctly.

Zechariah 14:8

Zechariah also predicts that living waters will flow out of Jerusalem flowing down from the place of Jerusalem towards the east and towards the west. Given the geography of Jerusalem, this is a prediction of water flowing down from the high elevation of the city towards the lower elevation to the east and towards the Mediterranean in the west.

On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. (Zechariah 14:8)

Again, Zechariah’s prophecy is connected to other similar prophecies of this event.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. (Ezekiel 47:1)

“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim. (Joel 3:18)

These other prophecies, like the one in Zechariah 14, all occur in a context in which Israel is saved and delivered. This context is very important because it is the opposite of the context of the first century when Israel experienced suffering without salvation.

When we consider whether this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 we have to ask:

Did the siege open up a spring of living water flowing out of Jerusalem? – While Josephus did record an unusual provision of water from the springs in Jerusalem during the siege this does not match the description of the supernatural spring that Zechariah prophesies. Zechariah prophesies something far larger than a supply of drinking water for the inhabitants under siege.

Was this spring part of God’s glorious deliverance of Israel? – Again, the context of the spring of Zechariah 14 is very different from the situation of AD 70. Parallel passages describing a spring are also very consistent on this point.

Zechariah 14:9

Zechariah also predicts that on this day the Lord will be king over the entire earth.

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)

Zechariah’s statement that the Lord is One is a reference to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:4–5)

Zechariah is reminding the people that the Lord is the covenant God of Israel. By quoting the Shema Zechariah is emphasizing that the Lord is the God of Israel. He is the One who has made permanent covenant with Israel. Contextually, Zechariah is emphasizing God’s covenantal faithfulness to Israel as demonstrated in His deliverance of Israel. The Shema identifies the Lord as the God of Israel, but Zechariah adds that the Lord will also be the King over all the earth. Zechariah expands the Lord’s dominion. He will not only rule over Israel and deliver Israel, He will rule over the entire earth.

The Lord is not simply the “God” of the earth, in that day He will also be the king over all the earth. Zechariah is referring to something more than God’s inherent sovereignty over His creation. God has always been the God over the earth. In this day, the Lord will become the king over all the earth. He will be the primary political leader of Israel and the nations of the earth.

When we consider whether this was fulfilled in AD 70, we have to ask two specific questions:

In AD 70, did God demonstrate His covenant faithfulness to Israel in deliverance? – In AD 70 Israel did not experience the deliverance of God. It was a time of weeping and mourning, not a time of celebrating God’s covenant faithfulness. It was not a day for Israel to declare the name of the Lord triumphantly.

Did the Lord stand as king over all the earth? – Certainly God stood as sovereign in AD 70 both over Israel and over Rome, however, He did not stand as King over the earth in the first century. There is a different between being the sovereign God over the nations and being the King over the nations. Note that Zechariah does not say that the Lord is the King; he says the Lord will be the king over all the earth. This is a future prediction, not an affirmation of God’s sovereignty over the nations. As Jerusalem fell in AD 70, it was Rome, not the Lord, who appeared to be “king over all the earth.”, Rome continued to appear to be the one who was “king over all the earth.”

Zechariah 14:13

In verse 13, Zechariah describes some of the effects of the Lord’s deliverance.

And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other. (Zechariah 14:13)

Zechariah describes a situation in which the nations who have put Jerusalem under siege end up in distress and confusion. Verse 12 identifies who it is that comes under this great panic:

And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (Zechariah 14:12)

Zechariah predicts that the Lord will strike the people who are laying siege to Jerusalem with terrible plagues as He intervenes on Israel’s behalf. This is nothing less than a complete destruction of Israel’s enemies. Not only does the Lord defeat them in battle, they are also struck with supernatural plagues. The language of this verse is intended to remind us, like verse 4, of a second Exodus. The Lord is striking the nations just as He struck Egypt. Egypt was not defeated merely by military might. God glorified Himself by defeating Egypt through supernatural plagues. Zechariah predicts the exact same thing will happen in the day that the Lord defends Jerusalem.

When we consider whether or not this prophecy has been fulfilled, we have to ask the following questions:

Did AD 70 see the Lord release divine plagues on the armies who laid siege to Jerusalem? – In AD 70, we see exactly the opposite. The Lord is seemingly silent as He allows Rome to destroy Jerusalem.

Did the armies that surround Jerusalem descend into confusion and civil war thereby breaking the siege on Jerusalem? – Some try to argue that the conflict among the Jews themselves during the siege fulfilled this prophecy, however to whatever extent there was conflict among the Jews during the siege, this is describing something very different. Zechariah predicts that the people who are waging war against Jerusalem, not the ones defending it, will end up fighting each other. The prophecy is that the invaders will destroy each other, not that the Jewish community under siege will fight among themselves.

Zechariah 14:20-21

Finally, we will look at the results of the Lord’s intervention on that day.

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the Lord.” And the pots in the house of the Lord shall be as the bowls before the altar. And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day. (Zechariah 14:20-21)

Zechariah describes an idyllic scene in Jerusalem where the city is filled with God’s holiness so much so that even pots are holy to the Lord. Zechariah describes a cleansed priesthood ministering to the Lord in holiness and not compromise. Zechariah also says there will no longer be a “trader” in the house of the Lord. This is a term that was used to describe the surrounding Canaanite merchants. The primary point of the phrase is that everyone who enters the house of the Lord will be a part of His covenant people. Pagans from the surrounding nations will not be in the house of the Lord.

Again, we have to ask if these details can be fulfilled in AD 70:

Was Jerusalem filled with the holiness of God? – Sadly the city was filled with a gruesome scene that did not reflect the holiness of God.

Were the priests restored to their proper place ministering to the Lord? – The ministry of worship in Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. AD 70 was the end Israel’s corporate and national worship ministry in Jerusalem.

Was the house of the Lord so revered that only the covenant people of God came to God’s house? – Again the exact opposite happened. The pagan Romans trampled the house of God with little regard for the holiness of the God of Israel.

Was Zechariah 14 fulfilled in AD 70?

When we look at the details of Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 14 it becomes immediately apparent that AD 70 simply does not fulfill the prophecy. In addition to the prophetic details, there are two important features of the prophecy we must recognize both of which preclude any fulfilled in AD 70. The first is the unity of the prophecy and the second is the primary purpose of the prophecy.

The Unity of the Prophecy – The unity of Zechariah’s prophecy is one of the main keys to interpreting the prophecy. There are a handful of prophetic passages where a prophecy seems to be split into two. One example of this would be the final verses of Daniel 9 where, regardless of how you interpret the prophecy, there must be a prophetic pause in the sequence of events. Perhaps the most famous one is Isaiah 61:1-2 where Jesus pauses in verse 2 dividing the beginning of the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2a in His first coming from the fulfillment of the rest of the passage in His second coming. In Daniel 9 the gap is unexpected, but not prohibited by the language of the prophecy. In Isaiah 61 the same thing holds true. While the prophetic pause in verse 2 is unexpected, Isaiah 61 consists of a list of descriptions of the activities of Messiah under the anointing. The language does not preclude the gap though it would have been unexpected by Isaiah.

Zechariah 14 is different from these two passages in one primary aspect. Zechariah includes a timing indicator in his prophecy from the beginning. He introduces his oracle not as a sequence of divine activities, but instead as a prophecy of a “day.” Right there Zechariah tells us that this prophecy cannot be separated into different periods of time. It belongs to one day. He enforces that point by repeating the phrase “one that day” periodically throughout the prophecy. Regardless of whether the prophet intends to communicate a 24 hour period of a relatively short period of time, he tells us the prophecy is of a specific day and then refers to that day repeatedly all the way to the end of the prophecy to leave us with no question that this is a sequence of events that will happen at a specific point in time and will happen relatively quickly as a unified sequence of events. There are no 2,000-year gaps here.

The Primary Purpose of the Prophecy – Understanding the primary point of Zechariah’s prophecy is also critical to interpreting it correctly. The primary purpose of the prophecy is to give hope by predicting a day of deliverance. The prophecy is sober about the trouble it describes, but it emphasizes God’s deliverance far more than it emphasizes trouble. The primary point of Zechariah’s prophecy is the Lord Himself and the day of His glorious deliverance of Israel. He is front and center, not enemy armies or even destruction. We have to note that this is very different from other prophetic passages about Jerusalem’s trouble. For example, when the Babylonian invasion was predicted God was front and center in sovereignty, but Babylon was front and center in terms of being the means of executing God’s judgment. The prediction was Jerusalem’s destruction and God always took credit for this act of discipline through the invading army. Other prophecies predict the eventual end of the nations who invade Jerusalem, but this one is different. It predicts the destruction of the invading armies while they are in the midst of the siege.

In this passage God is front and center as the deliverer. The emphasis is not on the invading nation accomplishing God’s divine discipline (though that certainly plays a role in Zechariah 14:2), the emphasis of the passage is on the Lord as the man of war against Israel’s enemies. Deliverance, not destruction, is the main theme here. The parallel passages for Zechariah 14 like Isaiah 42, Joel 3 and Revelation 11 all carry the same essential theme. Both describe a difficult day, but both also emphasize the supernatural deliverance of the Lord both in preserving a part of Jerusalem and in defeating the invading armies. We have to recognize the emphasis of this day to see how it is unique and different from other predictions concerning a siege on Jerusalem. This siege is setting the stage for God’s deliverance of Israel, not initiating a period of long exile and discipline for Israel. The parallel passages are all in agreement – deliverance not judgment is the primary point.

This prophecy is designed to predict an hour of deliverance and give the people of Israel great hope. It is not designed to predict the beginning of a season of long discipline with a distant deliverance at the end. Jeremiah gave that kind of prophecy just before the Babylonian invasion – Zechariah did not give that kind of prophecy in chapter 14. When the siege of Zechariah 14 happens, the promise given is that the Lord will intervene and stop it before the city is destroyed. Again, in other times, the prophets warned Israel to prepare for exile and discipline. Zechariah 14 encourages Israel that, in the day of the final siege, the Lord’s deliverance will suddenly come.

The fact that the second Exodus theme is prominent in Zechariah also helps us to interpret the prophecy correctly. Understanding that Zechariah is predicting the second Exodus is yet another indicator of the purpose of the prophecy. The promise of the second Exodus is the promise of a day of supernatural deliverance for Israel. The Second Exodus theme also helps us in how we interpret the statements made in the prophecy. Some try to interpret various phrases in as a spiritual metaphor, but the Exodus comparison is key to the proper interpretation.

The events of the Exodus were not spiritual allegory; they were completely real and supernatural. The fact that Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was supernatural did not change the fact that it literally happened. Because Zechariah 14 describes a second Exodus, we should expect the prophecy to be fulfilled literally just as the first Exodus was. The events described in Zechariah 14 are definitely supernatural, but this does not mean they are not literal because they are no more supernatural than many other key events in the Bible including the original Exodus and the life and ministry of Jesus.

In short, the Exodus comparisons in the text simply confirm that this is a literal prophecy of a day of Israel’s deliverance, not an allegorical prophecy of a day when Israel faces destruction. We should reject the temptation to not take things literally that the Bible describes using literal language. Jesus will put His feet down. Plagues will be released. A spring will open up.

We also need to note the parallels with Zechariah 12. Zechariah 12, particularly Zechariah 12:10-14, is a key end time passage as it relates to Israel. It is the first passage Jesus quotes in Matthew 24:30 when He describes what happens at His return and it is also the passage that John uses to summarize the book of Revelation in his introduction to the book (Revelation 1:7). Zechariah 12 describes the same situation of Zechariah 14 using very similar language. Zechariah 12 begins with the prophecy of man nations laying siege to Jerusalem. Zechariah’s prophecy warns that the nations of the earth will participate in this siege and that it is going to end up causing them distress.

“Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it. (Zechariah 12:2–3)

Zechariah 12 also tells us that the Lord is going to supernaturally answer this siege and deliver Israel.

“And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:7–9)

Zechariah 12 ends with the prediction of the nation suddenly becoming holy as their eyes are opened and they receive the “one whom they have pierced.” The parallelism between Zechariah 12 and Zechariah 14 mean that each passage must influence the interpretation of the other passage. Again, as in Zechariah 14 we find a prediction of a military invasion that leads to a supernatural deliverance and the establishing of Jerusalem as the city of the King inhabited by a holy people. Jesus and John quote Zechariah 12 because it gives Israel hope about a day of deliverance. The hope of Zechariah 12 is the same hope of Zechariah 14.

The negative events of Zechariah 14 serve the set the context for the deliverance described in the chapter, which is the primary theme. To say that the negative has been fulfilled without the deliverance makes the passage make no sense. There are other passages where God predicts a crisis without predicting immediate deliverance and gives hope of a future time of deliverance, but Zechariah 14 is not this type of passage. From the very beginning, the point of the passage is deliverance and the time is clearly identified. To say that the passage is either fulfilled symbolically in AD 70 or was partially fulfilled in the trouble of AD 70 is to ignore the whole point of the passage.

The trouble sets the context for the deliverance and without that deliverance the passage is not fulfilled. This means the crisis predicted in Zechariah 14 is a future crisis because the prophesied deliverance can only came when there is an accompanying crisis to set the stage for the Lord’s deliverance. This means that a crisis will again take shape around Jerusalem at some time in the future to set the stage for deliverance.

Zechariah 14 is a powerful prediction because it predicts that God will do what He has never done – intervene in the midst of an ongoing siege in Jerusalem and suddenly deliver Israel. This is a completely unique event that does not match anything in history.

AD 70 was overwhelmingly a day of destruction. Zechariah 14 is overwhelmingly a prophecy of deliverance. This means a future day is coming when Jerusalem will come under siege and the stage will be set for the Lord’s return. The implications of this are enormous. It means that Jerusalem remains significant to the Lord’s purposes – so significant that it will become the center of global conflict. It means that Israel remains important to the Lord, so important that He is going to use Israel’s future trouble to set the stage for His Son’s coming. The fact that it is Israel’s’ trouble that will trigger the Lord’s return and His judgment of the nations is so significant that the global church needs to understand it because there are incredible implications to how we understand the Lord’s work in the nations as that day draws closer.

As students who love the Bible, we must make sure we do not overlook prophecies like Zechariah 14. We need to understand what the Bible says about this future day so that we can prepare for the intensity of the crisis that sets the stage for the Lord’s return.

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