Zechariah describes the end-time siege of Jerusalem which results in Jerusalem's liberation by Jesus at the battle of Armageddon. Israel recognises Jesus as the Messiah whom they rejected and pierced. Israel mourns and repents.
The Siege of Jerusalem and Judah
This chapter describes the end-time siege of Jerusalem and Judah. Zechariah's lack of regard for chronology in chapters 9 to 14 makes the order of events somewhat confusing. However, my understanding is that in 14:1-5a, Zechariah describes Antichrist's invasion of Israel and the fall of Jerusalem at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. At that point, half the population escapes into exile, to spend the rest of the Great Tribulation in a desert location where they are kept safe (Revelation 12:6), and the rest remain in Jerusalem as prisoners of war under Antichrist's occupation. In Isaiah 29:2, Isaiah portrays Antichrist's siege of Jerusalem as God besieging it. This is in the sense that God uses Antichrist as his agent of judgment to discipline Israel. But here in chapter 12, it appears that Jerusalem and Judah are besieged by Jesus and his armies who come to liberate them from the Antichrist at the end of the Great Tribulation. The fact that Jerusalem is besieged suggests that the build-up to the battle of Armageddon will occur over a significant period of time. During this time, the armies of the world will gather together at Tel Megiddo in the north of Israel. The outcome of this siege is stated at the end of verse 6, "Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem".

Verse 2 tells us that Jerusalem will be a cup that brings dizziness to all the surrounding nations. This metaphor of a cup of intoxicating wine goes back to Jeremiah 25:15-38, which is an end-time prophecy of God's judgment against the nations of the world and their leaders. According to Jeremiah, their lands will be laid waste first by the Antichrist, and then by the fierce anger of the Lord who comes down from heaven like a roaring lion. Jerusalem and Judah are the first to drink the cup of judgment, but after that the surrounding nations have to drink it, extending to all nations of the world. Here in this verse, Zechariah also speaks initially of the 'surrounding nations', but in verse 3 (and in 14:2) he speaks of 'all the peoples of the earth' assembling against Jerusalem. The nations surrounding Israel will become part of Antichrist's empire. But he will attract fighters from all nations of the world, not just from those in his empire. I imagine this being like ISIS but on a much larger scale. ISIS established an Islamic State within Iraq and Syria, and attracted jihadist fighters from all over the world. These were a radicalised minority of Muslims, but the majority of Muslims rejected the claims of the Islamic State as the new Caliphate, and of its leader as the new Caliph. I believe that the Antichrist and his empire will be officially recognised as such by the main Islamic authorities. Consequently, he will receive pledges of allegiance from large numbers of Muslims from all over the world, and many will join him as jihadist fighters. According to Islamic eschatology, Muslims expect their Mahdi to come and to establish Jerusalem as the capital of a global Islamic State. ISIS should be a warning to the world of what will one day come on a much larger scale under the leadership of the Antichrist.

In verse 3, Zechariah likens Jerusalem to a heavy stone, and all who try to carry it will be seriously injured.

In verse 4, we see the point at which Jesus launches his offensive, striking the horses of the nations' armies with sudden blindness and panic amongst their riders. At the same time, God 'will pay close attention to the house of Judah'. In other words, he will protect the Jews, just as in ancient times he protected the Israelites in the midst of the plagues of Egypt. God struck Israel's enemies with panic in several Old Testament battles (e.g. Judges 7:22 and 1 Samuel 14:15)

In verse 5, the Jewish leaders recognise the inhabitants of Jerusalem as a source of strength through their God. Presumably this refers to the Jewish captives in Jerusalem who are empowered by God to rise up against their occupiers in support of the Jews who are besieging the city from outside.

In verse 6, God makes the Jewish leaders like an igniter (literally 'firepot') among sticks of kindling. A firepot was used to ignite a fire in the way we might use matches. As Jesus besieges occupied Jerusalem, he is likely accompanied by an army of Jews whom he has rescued from Arabia in the 'Bozrah breakout' (Micah 2:12-13, Isaiah 63:1-6 and Revelation 12:6). It is possible he is also accompanied by the army of 'Ephraimite' warriors of whom Zechariah prophesied in 10:7. Or it may be that these northern tribes rise up in rebellion from within the ranks of Antichrist's armies and change sides to support Jesus. Zechariah tells us the Jews will be like a burning torch among sheaves, burning up the surrounding nations right and left. "Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem" (v6b) confirms that Jerusalem is besieged by Jesus and the Jews whose purpose is to liberate it from occupation.

According to verse 7, Jesus will deliver Judah first and then Jerusalem. Antichrist's forces gather at Megiddo in the north of Israel, and Jesus approaches from the south (Zechariah 9:14). Judah is the southern part of Israel. It seems that Jesus wants to demonstrate that Judah is as much his priority as Jerusalem.

Verse 8 states that on that day the Lord himself will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, making the weakest among them like mighty David, Israel's most celebrated warrior. Then Zechariah says, "the dynasty of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them". This implies that Jesus the Messiah is the Angel of the Lord, who is God.

In verse 9, God promises to destroy all nations that come against Jerusalem. I believe this is a qualifying statement, along with Zechariah's reference to 'surrounding nations' in verses 2 and 6. Although Antichrist will draw fighters from 'all the peoples of the earth' (v3), it is not necessarily the case that every nation's government will support Antichrist. Micah 5:5 tells us that when the Antichrist invades Israel, God will raise up seven shepherds, that is rulers of nations, to resist him. So from a global perspective, there will be at least some nations supporting Israel in the end-time war.

Israel repents
In Jeremiah 25, Jerusalem and Judah are the first to drink the cup of God's judgment, before the surrounding nations are made to drink it. In the end times, the invasion of Israel by Antichrist, and the fall of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2), will result in a 'time of trouble for Jacob', intended by God as 'discipline…but only in due measure' (Jeremiah 30:7, 11). In effect, Israel drinks the cup of judgment at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, and the nations drink it at the end. Here in verses 10 to 13, Zechariah describes the moment when Jesus reveals himself to Israel as the Messiah whom they rejected and pierced. Combined with their painful discipline, and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit whom God pours out on them, they recognise that their Messiah is Jesus whom they rejected. This causes the Jews to lament and cry as for an only son, a proverbial phrase describing the most bitter and intense mourning. The Jews suddenly come to an understanding of why they have suffered exile and persecution for the last 2,000 years.

In verse 11, Zechariah likens Israel's mourning to their mourning for King Josiah when he died of wounds received at the battle of Megiddo in 609 BC. Josiah was a good king of Judah who did much to reform Judah and bring them back to God, but who died at a relatively young age. In the end times, this same Megiddo (Greek: Armageddon) becomes the staging post for the great battle over Jerusalem, where Israel once again finds itself in bitter mourning.

In verses 12 to 14, Zechariah describes the mourning by clans. The royal household of David and the clan of Nathan (a son of David) represent Israel's rulers. The descendants of Levi and the Shimeites represent Israel's priesthood. It was Israel's rulers and religious leaders who were responsible for Jesus being rejected and crucified. The rest of the clans represent the whole nation, which shared in Israel's sin.

In verses 10 to 14, Zechariah doesn't tell us exactly at what point in the Great Tribulation this national repentance occurs. It appears to be a the end, when Jerusalem is liberated, but that may be because Zechariah is primarily focussed on the inhabitants of Jerusalem in this passage. In reality, different groups of Jews may recognise Jesus as their Messiah and repent at different times. At the beginning of the Great Tribulation when Jerusalem falls and Jesus first arrives on the Mount of Olives to facilitate the escape of Jerusalem's refugees (Zechariah 14:2-4), it is possible the refugee group will recognise him then. It is also possible that at that point in time they still don't recognise who he is, and are left wondering until much later in the Great Tribulation. Perhaps this group recognise him when he breaks them out of their 'Bozrah sheepfold' in Arabia (Micah 2:12-13) to lead them back to Jerusalem.
Places: Jerusalem, Judah, Megiddo, Surrounding nations
Symbols: Cup of intoxicating wine of judgment
Tags: Siege of Jerusalem, Armageddon, Judgment of surrounding nations, Jesus musters an army, Angel of the Lord, Cup of intoxicating wine of judgment, Second coming appearance, Jesus delivers Israel, Israel repents, Israel mourns, Jesus fights all nations, Israel fights alongside Jesus, Restoration of Israel and Judah
The Repentance of Judah
1 This is an oracle, the Lord’s message concerning Israel: The Lord – he who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth, who forms the human spirit within a person – says,
2 “I am about to make Jerusalem a cup that brings dizziness to all the surrounding nations; indeed, Judah will also be included when Jerusalem is besieged.
3 Moreover, on that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy burden for all the nations, and all who try to carry it will be seriously injured; yet all the peoples of the earth will be assembled against it.
4 On that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with confusion and its rider with madness. I will pay close attention to the house of Judah, but will strike all the horses of the nations with blindness.
5 Then the leaders of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are a means of strength to us through their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’
6 On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like an igniter among sticks and a burning torch among sheaves, and they will burn up all the surrounding nations right and left. Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem.
7 The Lord also will deliver the homes of Judah first, so that the splendor of the kingship of David and of the people of Jerusalem may not exceed that of Judah.
8 On that day the Lord himself will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the weakest among them will be like mighty David, and the dynasty of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them.
9 So on that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
10 “I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn.
11 On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself – the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves;
13 the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves –
14 all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives.”