Post #6 “Zechariah 14:12–15: The Lord Does Battle Against the Nations”
Next in this last chapter of Zechariah comes a description of the Lord’s final dominion over the nations. The nations will either willingly submit to the Lord or else be subject to punishment. We will break down this larger section (verses 12–19) and address it in two separate posts. For now, let’s look at verses 12–15.
12 Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. 13 It will come about in that day that a great panic from the Lord will fall on them; and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another. 14 Judah also will fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance. 15 So also like this plague will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey and all the cattle that will be in those camps.
These verses return to the earlier scene when the Lord comes down to fight Jerusalem’s foes. He will destroy their bodies and the bodies of their beasts so rapidly that they are consumed while still standing. Although swift, the destruction is also gruesome. The plague consumes portions of the armies while the remaining combatants are so terrified that they turn their weapons on each other in the confusion; this hearkens back to various Old Testament battles in which God fought for his people by turning their attackers against each other. The rotting disease and the victory of little Judah over her mighty enemies may also allude to the covenant curses which God promised disobedient Israel (Lev. 26:16–17, 25, 39; Deut. 28:21–22, 25, 27–28, 59–61); in this context, however, those same curses turn to consume Israel’s enemies.
Given the military imagery of this and other apocalyptic texts, many people expect a very literal gathering of the world’s militaries in the Middle East just before the Second Advent. Such an interpretation would tend to overlook the deeper significance of the relevant prophecies.
As has been stated earlier in this blog series, Jerusalem here stands for the church at the end of this age of tribulation. It is the church on earth, surrounded by her enemies. Therefore the armies sent against her need not be the sorts of forces deployed in earthly warfare, though physical force will doubtless be involved. Far less need they be gathered in one geographical location. Everywhere the church is, there the nations will assault her. John saw these nations as they “came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” (Rev. 20:9) The camp of the saints, God’s people preserved in the wilderness of this world (Rev. 12:6, 14), are identified as the beloved city. In order to oppose her, the Satanically-deceived nations will tread “the breadth of the earth” (nkjv, csb). Furthermore, this warfare should be compared to that of the beast against the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7, that of the beast against the saints in Revelation 13:7, and that of the beast and his ten kings against the Lamb and his people in Revelation 17:14.
The picture here in Zechariah 14 is that of total
disintegration and terror among the attacking nations. They and their wartime
resources are struck by the sword of Christ’s mouth (Rev. 19:15, 21), and the
confusion is such that they begin to destroy one another. Verse 14 adds, “Judah
also will fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the surrounding
nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance.” In
that last hour, we know that the church militant will face her last battle (see
the near context in Zech. 12–13); but whereas they were momentarily overrun in
verse 2, now the glorified church—the church triumphant—joins her Lord in this
battle as his victorious heavenly army (Rev. 19:8, 14). And as was promised
them, they will share in the spoils. They will plunder the Egyptians. They will
inherit the earth.
 Boda, Zechariah, 772.
 The description of rotting flesh also seems similar to that of leprosy (cf. Num. 12:12). It is interesting that King Uzziah is referenced earlier in the text, since God struck him with leprosy when he attempted sacrilege.