An Amillennial Interpretation of Zechariah 14 (3 of 8)

by | Mar 4, 2019 | Eschatology

Post #3 “Zechariah 14:1–5: The Lord’s Coming to Jerusalem,” Part 2

Post #1 Post #2

The last post addressed verses 1–5 of the text but did not deal with some questions about the prophetic details. If the prophecy uses the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem as veiled references to the New Testament church, why are certain geographical markers emphasized?

For instance, why does Zechariah stress that the valley of escape created by the divided Mount of Olives will reach all the way to Azel? Davis sees in these details a great deal of symbolism involving the escape of God’s people to a city of refuge.[1] More likely, much of the description of the earthquake, including the mention of Azel, simply refers to details of the historical earthquake during the reign of Uzziah.[2] It is as if the prophet rehearses the details of that past event to say, “It will be like that again when the Lord comes to defend his city. His people will have a way of escape.” That is certainly the comparison in verse 5: “Yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.” There is also conflicting manuscript evidence here which should be factored into the interpretation.

Either this valley will become an escape route for the Hebrews fleeing Jerusalem in the face of the assault against the city by the nations (so NIV, NLT, NRSV; following the mt), or the valley will be filled and blocked like it was during the earthquake at the time of King Uzziah (so NAB, NEB, NJB; following the LXX; Targ.). A different vowel pointing of the same Hebrew root word renders the two separate meanings, and ‘either is equally possible’. Baldwin’s (1972: 218) mediation of the difficulty is helpful, noting: ‘It is impossible to be sure how the text read originally, but the general meaning is clear. The earth movements which open a valley eastwards will also block up the Kidron valley, so providing a level escape route from Jerusalem.’[3]

The earthquake of Uzziah’s time is barely mentioned in scripture. Amos prophesied two years before what was apparently the same earthquake (Amos 1:1). Such an earthquake must have been severe if it was still remembered over two centuries later in post-exilic Judah. It was an unforgettable national disaster which doubtless gripped the imaginations of Zechariah’s original audience.[4] That historical event is likened to the Lord’s coming, which will shake the entire earth (cf. Hag. 2:6–7; Heb. 12:26–27) and bring terror to those caught desecrating his holy dwelling.[5]

While appreciating the complex imagery of the text, we should perhaps not forget that the literal Mount of Olives may have a prominent role at the Second Advent of Christ. Matthew and Mark pointedly state that Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives as he taught his disciples about his Second Advent (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:3). Luke also says that Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12). At the time of Christ’s ascension, two men in white announced to his disciples that he would come back in just the same way which they had seen him leave (Acts 1:10–11). Jesus ascended to heaven bodily, and he will return bodily; he may also return to the same place, the Mount of Olives.[6] This would be in keeping with how the prophecies of his First Advent were fulfilled. The Christ came out of Bethlehem in Judah symbolically, since he was David’s seed and Bethlehem was David’s ancestral town; but Jesus was also born in the literal city of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4–7, 11).

[1] Davis, High King of Heaven, 397–98.

[2] For a discussion of the word Azel, see Mark J. Boda, The Book of Zechariah, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016), 758.

[3] Hill, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 262. See also Hill’s discussion of the name Azel on the same page.

[4] These online articles give summaries of fascinating archeological evidence for this major earthquake: .

[5] Josephus makes an intriguing connection between Uzziah’s attempted desecration of the Holy Place (2 Chron. 26:16–20) and the earthquake. Azariah the king (called this in 2 Kings 15 but Uzziah in 2 Chron. 26) attempted to usurp the role of Azariah the high priest; but the Lord struck the king with leprosy and drove him out of the temple. Josephus says that the earthquake also happened at the same time. He even records certain effects of the earthquake which seem to mirror Zechariah’s words: “And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads, as well as the king’s gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction.” See Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 9, chapter 10, paragraph 4, verse 225, William Whiston. In any case, the parallels between King Uzziah and the “man of sin” who will attempt to usurp Christ’s prerogatives are worthy of note (see 2 Thess. 2:3–8).

[6] Hill, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, 261.

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