Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
ZECHARIAH CHAPTER 13
Chapter 13 v 1 is a direct continuation of the prophecy that began in Zech. 12:1 speaking about the End of Days and the War of Gog and Magog: the parshah continues until v 6 of the present chapter. The previous chapter prophesied the spiritual arousal that will take place among the faithful inhabitants of Jerusalem in the face of the nations' onslaught against the city, leading them to turn to God in prayer. The prophet now continues:
"On that day a spring will be opened up for the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse from sin and uncleanness." The commentators associate this "spring" with the spring that will come forth from under the Temple threshold as prophesied in Ezekiel ch 47 and Joel 4:18 as well as in Zechariah 14:8 (Metzudas David). Targum Yonasan says this will be a fountain of Torah teachings that will purify people from their sins just as the waters of the ashes of the red heifer purify from defilement from contact with the dead.
V 2: "On that day, says HaShem of hosts, I shall cut off the names of the idols from the earth." According to this prophecy, in the End of Days false religions will be exposed for what they are. ".and I will remove the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land." Targum, Rashi and Metzudas agree that the prophets referred to here are false prophets. From the Torah perspective the prophets of those religions that deny the finality and binding quality of the prophecy of Moses are necessarily false. In accordance with this line of reasoning, we might interpret vv 3-6 which foretell how at the end of days the false prophets will be ashamed of their previous visions as being a prophecy of how the proponents of Christianity and Islam will eventually transcend their earlier levels of understanding and come to see the ultimate truth of the Torah.
V 5: "And he will say, I am not a prophet, I am a man that works the land, for a man (ADAM) taught me to keep cattle (HI-KNANI) from my youth." Metzudas David (ad loc.) explains that out of shame, the false prophets will excuse themselves for their earlier claims of having prophesied by saying that in fact God never spoke to them and that it was a mere MAN who persuaded them and made an acquisition of them (from the root KINYAN) so as to turn them into false prophets.
Verse 7 begins a new section (PARSHAH PESUHAH) which runs until the end of the present chapter. From prophesying about the spiritual revival in Judah at the end of days and the purification of the world from idolatry, Zechariah now turns to God's vengeance against the nations.
V 7: "Awake, O sword, against My shepherd and against the man that is My fellow." Rashi interprets the "shepherd' as Esau, who is described as God's "fellow" in the sense that God entrusted His flock [= Israel ] to him during their period of exile. However, Targum Yonasan on this verse specifically identifies the "shepherd" that will be struck by God's sword at the end of days as the king of Babylon . It is interesting to note that a "king" of Babylon (=Saddam Hussein, who is said to have thought of himself as the reincarnation of Nebuchadnezzar) was recently executed.
".and the sheep shall be scattered and I will turn My hand against the little ones" - these are the leaders of the other nations, who will be scattered (Targum). This is taken as a prophecy of the wars that will take place all over the world in the time of Mashiah ben Yosef (RaDaK).
V 8: "And it shall come to pass that in all the land, says HaShem, two parts shall be cut off and die but the third shall be left therein." According to Metzudas David, the "land" refers to the whole world, and the "two parts" refer to all the other nations, who are included under Edom and Ishmael, while the "third" that will be left refers to Israel . However Rashi interprets the "third" that will be left as those members of the other nations who will convert.
V 9: And I will bring the third part through the fire." - " I will smelt them as one smelts silver in order to remove the impurities, i.e. I shall bring upon them troubles in order to destroy the sinners and rebels, and to see if those who remain will stand firm in their faith" (Metzudas David). Rashi states that some of the converts will suffer troubles during the birth-pangs of Mashiah and the War of Gog and Magog in order to test if they are true converts, because many of those who initially converted to Judaism will then return to their earlier errors and join with Gog and Magog.
"And he shall say, HaShem is my God." - "When he prays, he will pray to HaShem and not to his first god" (Rashi).
Verse 1: ".and your spoil shall be divided in your midst" - "All the booty plundered by the nations from the days of old will return to you and be divided in your midst to give each one his share" (Metzudas David).
V 2: ".and half of the city shall go forth into captivity." - "Why will He allow the nations to take half of them into exile and to plunder their homes? In order that they will not be able to claim that they did not really come to make war but to worship in Jerusalem " (Rashi).
V 3: "And God will go forth and fight with those nations as on the day when He made war ON THE DAY OF BATTLE." All the major commentators (Targum, Rashi, Metzudas David and RaDaK) agree that this "day of battle" refers to the splitting of the Red Sea, in which the Egyptians were destroyed, putting the final seal on Israel 's Exodus and their complete freedom from their enemies. The comparison of the future miracle of the splitting of the Mount of Olives with the splitting with the Red Sea is most important, as it indicates that the future miracle will be equally if not even more spectacular and decisive.
V 4: "And HIS FEET SHALL STAND on that day on the Mount of Olives." - Metzudas David and RaDaK both state that this is to be taken metaphorically, indicating that God will CAUSE the mountain to be physically split from east to west, with the northern part retreating northwards and the southern part retreating southwards. Thus RaDaK relates the use of the word FEET in this verse to the use of the same word in Genesis 30:30, where Jacob's saying to Laban that "God has blessed you AT MY FEET" means "on my account, through me as the CAUSE". Those familiar with the appearance of the western slopes of the Mount of Olives as seen from the Temple Mount may find it interesting to note that there is already a wall dividing the southern sector (which is entirely covered with Jewish graves) from the northern sector (currently occupied by churches and their attached estates).
".and the Mount of Olives shall be split." - "this is so that those exiled from the city will be able to flee from their captors via the fissure" (Metzudas David).
V 5: "And you shall flee (VE-NASTEM) to the valley between the mountains." RaDaK points out that Targum evidently read VE-NISTAM, which would mean "and the valley between the mountains SHALL BE CLOSED UP". RaDaK states that this reading would indicate that after having been split, the north and south sections of the mountain will then join up again after a short time whether of some hours or one day or more, making the miracle even greater. This would be another parallel with the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea , the waters of which afterwards joined back together again.
Vv 6-7: This will not be a time of great light, nor will it be a time of great darkness, and Israel will be greatly perplexed and confused (Metzudas David). Rashi states that the light will not yet be the promised light of the world to come, yet it will not be night-like in the sense of being a time of troubles as intense of those of the exile and servitude to the nations. The mixture of light and darkness is very much a characteristic of our times!
V 8: The living waters of true spirituality will spread forth from Jerusalem eastwards and westwards to the entire world: these waters will flow continuously without drying up in summer or freezing in winter.
V 9: "And HaShem will be king over the whole earth." - "All the nations that do not have the true Torah will abandon their vanities and acknowledge that He is one and there is no strange god with Him" (Rashi). "And His Name shall be one." - "They will not invoke the name of any other god in the world but only His Name. This is the essential Name (YKVK)" (RaDaK).
Vv 10-11: All the areas around Jerusalem will become flat so that the city of Jerusalem will be seen to be elevated and exalted above all the earth for her glory and beauty (Metzudas David).
V 12: The plague of physical disintegration that will be visited on the forces of Gog and Magog is also alluded to in Isaiah 66:19 and Ezekiel 39:4.
Vv 16-19: "And it shall be that all who are left from all the nations that came up against Jerusalem shall come up from year to year to prostrate before the King HaShem of Hosts and to celebrate the festival of Succoth." The Talmud states that in time to come, the nations of the world will be tested with one "light" mitzvah that God has, called Succah (Avodah Zarah 3b). This is because the mitzvoth associated with Succoth (the four species and the Temple water libation) are all bound up with the water cycle since the world is judged over water on the festival of Succoth (cf. Rashi on v 17). As we see from the prophecies of Zechariah and Ezekiel, in time to come the waters of true spirituality will spread from Jerusalem to the entire world, but the nations of the world will only be able to receive these waters to the extent that they are willing to enter into the mystery of faith, symbolized by the Succah.
This chapter of Zechariah is read in the synagogue as the Haftara on the first day of Succoth.
V 20: The bells that were on the war-horses of the nations will be dedicated to the Temple as a memorial of God's great miracle. We look forward to the day when war will be a thing of the past.
V 21: Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be dedicated to God. This indicates that in time to come people will eat not purely to gratify themselves but in order to serve God.
"And the Canaanite will no longer be in the House of HaShem of hosts." If this is taken literally, it indicates that the Temple Mount will no longer be in the hands of aliens. Targum followed by Rashi and RaDaK interprets KENAANI as a merchant. If this indicates that in future religion will no longer be commercialized, this is surely a cause for great joy. Rashi also interprets LO YIHYEH KENA'ANI as " EYN KAN 'ANI" - "there will not be any poor man here" - poverty (physical? spiritual?) will be eradicated!!! May it come speedily in our days!!! Amen!
* * * Zechariah 14:1-21 is read as the Haftara on the First Day of Succos * * *
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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