Following Israel's national repentance and recognition of Jesus as their Messiah, Zechariah describes God's purification and refinement of the people of Israel who survive the Great Tribulation.
This chapter defines the purification and refinement of Israel. In verse 1, "In that day…" follows on directly from the context of Israel's repentance at the end of chapter 12. It may also refer to the 'Day of the Lord' at the end of the age in a less literal sense. God will open up a fountain to cleanse the house of David and the people of Jerusalem from their sin and impurity (v1). Zechariah uses running water as a metaphor to describe the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit (see also Isaiah 55:1 and 58:11). Jesus also spoke of the Holy Spirit as 'living water' in John 7:38.

In verses 2 to 6, Zechariah uses Old Testament language to describe Israel's end-time purification from false religion and false prophets. In Old Testament times, false religion involved bowing down to idols (v2). Prophets could be identified by their rough hairy garments (v4), and by the scars on their chests (v6) from when they whipped themselves into a frenzy, seeking revelation from spirit guides. The Law of Moses commanded that false prophets be killed (Deuteronomy 13:6-10, 18:20-22). The point of these verses is not that false prophets will have re-adopted Old Testament practices, nor that there will be a harsh literal implementation of Mosiac law. Zechariah's point is that Israel will be purified of all false religion and will worship God alone.

In verse 7a, God calls for a sword to awake and strike his shepherd, the man who is God's associate. Jesus quoted this in Matthew 26:31 at the Lord's Supper. Clearly, Jesus understood himself to be the fulfilment of this 'shepherd' and 'associate' of God. In John 10, Jesus claimed to be the 'Good Shepherd' (10:11) and that "The Father and I are one" (10:30). The word 'associate' is also an interesting word to describe Jesus' trinitarian relationship with the Father. In the Quran, Mohammed referred to Christians as 'associators', a word by which he meant 'idolators' or 'infidel' because of the way we 'associate' Jesus with God. Such 'association' is called 'shirk' in Islam, and is considered the most serious of all sins because it contradicts the Islamic doctrine of pure unitarian monotheism. This is Islam's core doctrine, known as 'Tawhid'. Even today, Mohammed's command to "slay the associators wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush" (Quran 9:5) inspires Islamic jihadists to attack and kill Christians and other non-Muslims. It is likely this same charge will inspire Antichrist's followers to persecute Christians during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 12:17, 13:7).

Verse 7b says, "Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered". Jesus interpreted this flock as his group of disciples who were about to be scattered by his arrest and crucifixion.

The placement of verse 7 in a chapter that is otherwise about God's end-time purification of Israel seems chronologically out-of-place. It may simply be that the chronological order of events was a blur to Zechariah. Similarly, parts of chapter 11 relate to Jesus' first coming, even though most of chapters 9 to 14 relate to his second coming. It is also possible that verse 7 will have further end-time fulfilment. Micah 4:9 describes Jerusalem's wise ruler being destroyed, in a context that seems to fit the end-time fall of Jerusalem. This might refer to Israel's prime minister. He would qualify as Israel's 'shepherd', although he wouldn't qualify in the fullest sense as God's 'associate'.

According to verse 8, two-thirds of the people will be killed, and one-third will be left in it.

Verse 9 describes God's refining of this third of the population who survive the Great Tribulation. They are refined and tested like silver and gold. At the end of the process, they call on Jehovah as God, and he in turn affirms them as his people.

The next chapter describes the fall of Jerusalem in more detail, during which half the population escape, and half remain in the city as captives. But the statistic given here in verse 8 seems to describe the overall proportion of Israel's population who survive the Great Tribulation. If it is appropriate to take this statistic as representative of the Jewish persecution worldwide, it points to the Great Tribulation as being twice as bad as the Holocaust. In World War II, approximately one-third of the world's Jews perished, and two-thirds survived. This might explain Jesus' statement in Matthew 24:21, "For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen", and in Luke 21:23, "…For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people". Jeremiah 30:7 also says, "Alas, what a terrible time of trouble it is! There has never been any like it. It is a time of trouble for the descendants of Jacob, but some of them will be rescued out of it".
Places: Jerusalem, Israel
Symbols: Fountain
Tags: Holy Spirit as living water, Idolatry destroyed, Israel repents, Israel refined and purified, Refining fire, No more false prophets, First and second comings, Survivors of the Great Tribulation, Jesus as associate of God, Trinity
The Refinement of Judah
1 “In that day there will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
2 And also on that day,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will remove the names of the idols from the land and they will never again be remembered. Moreover, I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.
3 Then, if anyone prophesies in spite of this, his father and mother to whom he was born will say to him, ‘You cannot live, for you lie in the name of the Lord.’ Then his father and mother to whom he was born will run him through with a sword when he prophesies.
4 “Therefore, on that day each prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies and will no longer wear the hairy garment of a prophet to deceive the people.
5 Instead he will say, ‘I am no prophet – indeed, I am a farmer, for a man has made me his indentured servant since my youth.’
6 Then someone will ask him, ‘What are these wounds on your chest?’ and he will answer, ‘Some that I received in the house of my friends.’
7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the insignificant ones.
8 It will happen in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds of the people in it will be cut off and die, but one-third will be left in it.
9 Then I will bring the remaining third into the fire; I will refine them like silver is refined and will test them like gold is tested. They will call on my name and I will answer; I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”