Tag: Rabbi Baruch

Zechariah and the Messiah by Rabbi Baruch

The previous article discussed Israel’s mourning of the Messiah when He returned to deliver Israel from all the nations which attacked Jerusalem. There is something very important about this mourning which reveals a vital clue concerning the identity of Messiah. Zechariah 12:11 says,

On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be great as the mourning of Hadad-Rimmon in the valley of Megidon (Megiddo).”

What is the significance of this verse? The Talmud says in Messeket Moed Kattan 28b that two events are alluded to by this verse. The first is the death of Ahab at the hand of whom the Gamara calls Hadad-Rimmon (see I Kings 22) and the second is the death of Josiah, who was slain in the valley of Megiddo (see II Chronicles 35). What is important about this citation from the Talmud is that both references refer to two men, Ahab and Josiah who both made a tragic mistake which cost them their lives. Why does the Talmud place this verse with this interpretation within the context of Messiah coming? In order to show that Israel not recognizing Messiah, when He came the first time, was also a tragic error. Now when Messiah returns and Israel sees His wounds they will recognize His identity and will mourn His death which was not done by the nation when He laid down His life to make redemption on Passover nearly 2,000 years ago.

It is also most significant that in the book of Revelation that Megiddo (Armageddon) is mentioned as the place where Messiah will fight those who wish to attack Jerusalem in the last days. It is this battle for Jerusalem which is the subject of the first few verses of Zechariah 14. This chapter makes it very clear that every nation in the world will turn against the Jewish people and move to attack Jerusalem.

I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for war and half of the city will be taken and the houses will be plundered and the women raped and half the city will go into exile, but the remainder of the people will not be cut off from the city.” Zech. 14:2

Even though Rambam says it is the work/role of Messiah ben David to fight this war Zechariah says it will be the L-rd Himself that will defend Israel.

And the L-rd will go out and will fight those nations as He wages war in the day of battle.” Zech. 14:3

The next verse speaks of His feet standing on the Mount of Olives. It is from this verse that one learns that when Messiah returns to Jerusalem He will come in the clouds of heaven and land on the Mount of Olives. Why does the text seem to go back
and forth one time speaking of the L-rd and the next time speaking of the Messiah? In order to show that G-d did indeed visit His people and redeem them in the person of Messiah Yeshua. When Messiah’s feet shall touch the Mount of Olives it will cause a cataclysmic event.

And His feet will stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is east of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives will split half to the east and half to the west; a very great valley (will appear) and the mountain will be removed towards the north and towards the south.” Zech. 14:4

The purpose of this great valley is twofold. One is, verse 2 tells us, that half the residents of Jerusalem will go into exile and therefore this valley will provide an exit for them. In the book of Revelations we are told that during a time of persecution of the Jewish people in the last days that Jews will flee to the wilderness for safety to a place that the L-rd had prepared for them (see Rev. 12:6). Second reason is that Ezekiel the Prophet tells us that water will flow from under the Temple in the last
days towards the east and make its way to the Dead Sea at a place called En Gedi (see Ezk. 47). Scholars see the Mountain of Olives being split and the valley which will be created as providing the way for the water to flow to the Dead Sea. It is most interesting that if the water flows straight it would enter the Dead Sea at En Gedi and fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy perfectly.

The next two verses speak about the uniqueness of this time.

And it shall come about on that day the light will not be clear or thick. It shall be a unique day, it shall be known (only) to the L-rd; not day and not night, and it shall come about in the evening- there will be light.” Zech. 14:6-7

What is the prophet trying to reveal with these verses? Simply that the presence of G-d will be returning to earth in a manner that will reflect the holiness that was present during creation. In verse 6 there is an emphasis on the concept of light. It is clear that the light that will be present is not ordinary light. In verse 7 the phrase “a unique day” is found. In the Hebrew it reads “one day”. This is the same expression that appears in Genesis 1:5 (the first day of creation) and in this section the main issue was light. The fact that the text says that this day is only known to the L-rd may be a reference to the time before man was created. Finally the reader is told that in the evening, the time when the sun sets that there will be light. This piece of information informs the reader that the sun is not the source of light to which this passage is referring. What then is the source of this light? G-d Himself.

Zechariah is showing that with the coming of Messiah the world will be returning to the former status when the presence of G-d was in this world in a unique way, the way G-d was in the world prior to the fall of man. In other words, Messiah’s coming will bring a restoration not just to the house of Israel, but to the entire world.

It has already been said that water will stream out from under the Temple and flow eastward to the Dead Sea (Ezk.47). In verse 8 Zechariah seems to also refer to this,

And it shall come about on that day that living water shall go out from Jerusalem; half to the eastern sea (Dead Sea) and half to the western sea- it shall be in summer and in winter.” Zech. 14:8

Ezekiel informs the reader that these waters will bring about three outcomes to all that it comes into contact with, healing, prosperity, and life. The end of Zechariah 14:8 says that this occurrence will be both in the summer and winter. Because rain only falls in the Middle East in the winter, the prophet is saying that there will no longer be seasons like we once knew. In other words there will be a total change in what we know to be normal in nature. The end of Ezekiel chapter 47 supports this by saying that each month trees will bear fruit, hence no more seasons. Once again the message to the reader is that with Messiah’s coming everything will change. Not only does Messiah come, but He will rule as the King over all the earth and bring about a unity and holiness that is reflected in the Name of the L-rd.

And the L-rd shall be King over all the earth on that day the L-rd shall be One and His Name One.” Zechariah 14:9

With the return of the Shekinah Glory to earth through the rule King Messiah, Israel will dwell in safety (see verse 11). Although Israel will turn to G-d and recognize her Redeemer, still many other nations will reject G-d’s plan of salvation and will continue to make war with the Jewish people. In these last days those nations will learn a harsh lesson. This lesson is that those who fight the Jewish people are actually fighting against G-d. HaShem will respond in a devastating manner to such nations.

This shall be the plague which the L-rd will strike upon all the nations which wage war against Jerusalem- and he who is standing on his feet his flesh shall melt and his eyes shall dissolve in their sockets and his tongue shall melt in his mouth.” Zech. 14:12

It is clear from this verse that no army will be able to defend itself from this plague. This is clearly a divine punishment upon those peoples and nations that refuse to acknowledge and accept Israel’s role in the last days. Even though a great number of individuals will die from every nation, there will be a remnant from these nations that come to faith in the Messiah and accept HaShem’s plan of salvation. Notice the change that will occur in these people. Instead of wanting to go up to Jerusalem to wage war, such individuals will want to go up to Jerusalem to worship King Messiah.

And it shall come about that all that is left from those nations that came to Jerusalem (to wage war) shall go up to Jerusalem each year to bow down before the King, the L-rd of Host and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” Zech 14:16

As we all know, there are many festivals in Judaism. Why is it then that the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned in this verse rather than some other holiday? The answer is found in the central theme of this holiday: dependence and trust upon the L-rd. Israel’s call as G-d’s chosen people is based in Israel’s call to demonstrate in action dependence and trust in G-d. Finally in the last days and especially in the Millennium Kingdom Israel will take her role of leadership among all the nations in the world and will lead others to follow her example and worship the King of Kings and the L-rd of L-rds.

The following verses make it very clear that no matter what one’s ethnicity or nationality may be, all people must respond to Messiah in the same manner, to trust and depend upon Him solely for one’s redemption and salvation. In one refuses to do so during Messiah’s rule, then G-d will punish him in two ways. First no rain will fall upon him. Rain is seen as a blessing in the Bible, so what verse 17 is saying is that G-d will not bless him. The next verse (18) says that G-d will also place upon such a rebel the very plague that he struck those nations that came up to Jerusalem for war. The chapter ends with examples of how the holiness of G-d will spread from the Temple area to all of Jerusalem and Judea. The last verse says,

“…and there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the L-rd of Hosts on that day.” Zech. 14:21b

This sentence teaches that although Gentiles do not become Jews, faithful Gentiles do become part of Israel. What does this mean? 3,500 years ago there were a group of nations that were opposed to G-d’s plan of bringing the Children of Israel into the land of Canaan. G-d destroyed these people. However during the last days many of the nations will respond to Israel’s leadership and will submit joyfully G-d’s plan in the last days. These nations/peoples will become part of G-d’s family and enjoy the same rights and privileges of the Jewish people who respond to G-d’s plan. In this verse the term “Canaanite” is used in a manner to refer to one who opposes and rebels against the will of G-d. Under Messiah’s rule, no such people will exist, but all (Jew and Gentile alike) will submit to Messiah’s righteous rule and be part of His family.

 

Author: Dr Baruch Korman

Zechariah and the King by Rabbi Baruch

The prophet Zechariah reveals a great deal about the person and the work of the Messiah. All too often Judaism takes a “wait and see” attitude concerning Messiah. That is, that Judaism would prefer to remain diligent in the belief that the Messiah is coming, but tends to refrain from offering too much information about Him. The result is most people who adhere to Judaism know very little about the identity of Messiah and what exactly He will accomplish and how He will bring these things about. Zechariah on the other hand offers much information about these issues and one should learn from his prophecy so as to be prepared for Messiah’s coming and not simply respond after the fact. It has already been discussed in a previous article that there is a debate whether the Messiah Who will bring about the establishment of the kingdom of G-d upon earth is from the dead; that is, lived before or whether He is from those who are alive and will reveal Himself as the Messiah by accomplishing the work of Messiah.

What exactly is the Messiah suppose to do? According to Rambam in Mishneh Torah Halachot M’lahchim Messiah is to do the following:

1. Return the kingdom to Israel and to the lineage of David.
2. Build the Temple in Jerusalem.
3. Gather the exiles and return them to the land of Israel.
4. Rule over the world and enforce Torah obedience.
5. Fight the wars of G-d, delivering the Jewish people from their enemies.

Zechariah speaks to all of these issues and reveals some vital information about the One who will accomplish these things.

The basic message of Zechariah is simple to discern—G-d will remember His covenant with Israel and redeem His people. It is significant that the name “Zechariah” means G-d remembers. In this article the twelfth chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy will serve as the primary text; however, other verses from this prophecy will be utilized in order to further one’s understanding of the person and work of the Messiah. The chapter opens up with the word “burden”. This word describes the judgment that HaShem will place upon the world. One must understand that there are two aspects to judgment. One is condemnation and the second is vindication. Hence G-d’s judgment will serve to condemn and destroy those who do not have a covenant relationship with Him, but will bring a great victory, and serve to redeem those who are in a covenant relationship with Him.

One cannot over emphasize the importance of a covenant relationship with G-d. Scripture declares that it was because of Israel’s covenant relationship with G-d that HaShem acted to redeem the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.

And G-d heard their groaning and G-d remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov.” Exodus 2:24

In the second half of verse one it says,

“…He stretches out the heavens and establishes the earth and forms the spirit of man in his midst.”

This sentence clearly speaks about creation of the world; however, what is important here is that it is not the first creation that is being referred to, but a new creation of the world, i.e. redemption. Verse two informs the reader that Jerusalem is foundational in G-d’s plan of bringing redemption to the world. Scripture reveals that G-d’s righteous rule through His king, Messiah will be established in the city of Jerusalem. Unfortunately man often opposes G-d’s plans and in the end of this age nothing will be different. Whereas verse two hints at man’s rebellion against G-d establishing His kingdom in Jerusalem, Zechariah clearly states that all the nations of the world will oppose Messiah and His redemption in the last days,

Behold the day of the L-rd is coming…and I (the L-rd) will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for war…” Zechariah 14: 1-2 (selected)

Verse two calls Jerusalem a “cup of poison”,

Behold I am setting Jerusalem a cup of poison to all the peoples around, and also concerning Judah will be in the siege for Jerusalem.”

There is actually another possible meaning for the Hebrew word translated “cup”. It can also mean a “threshold”. The point is that not only will those who attack Jerusalem be as those who drink poison, but attacking Jerusalem is like crossing a line which reveals one’s allegiance; that is, whether one is part of the family of G-d or an enemy to G-d and His people. The next verse describes Jerusalem as a heavy stone that will crush those who try to move it.

And it shall come about on that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all the people, to all who burden her (Jerusalem); they will cut (themselves) and all the nations of the earth shall be gathered unto her (Jerusalem).” Zechariah 12:3

Not only will those nations who attack Jerusalem be crushed, but there is an awkward phrase that the nations will also be cut or possibly the intent of the phrase is to cut themselves. Although a different Hebrew word is used, there are instances where those who engage in idolatry actually cut themselves as part of their pagan practices in worshipping their false gods. There are also examples of one cutting his flesh as a sign of remorse or deep regret. This is similar to the practice in Judaism of Kriah- cutting or tearing one’s garment as sign of remorse or mourning as in the case of the death of certain relatives. Hence, Zechariah may be saying that those nations that attack Jerusalem in the last days are doing so fulfilling the will of false religions and eventually they will learn of the great mistake and have deep sorrow and remorse.

In describing the war that will take place for Jerusalem Zechariah reveals that G-d will intervene in a miraculous manner striking the horses with blindness and its riders with madness. Perhaps this alludes to causing the enemy’s military armament to malfunction and those who operate it to act irrationally. The verse also contains a most interesting statement,

On that day says the L-rd, I will strike every horse with madness and its rider with craziness and concerning the House of Judah I will open my eyes and every horse of the people (gentile nations) I will strike with blindness.” Zechariah 12:4

What is the significance of the phrase, “and concerning the House of Judah I (HaShem) will open my eyes”? Israel has been in exile since the destruction of the Temple and even though one can see G-d’s hand moving in the life of the Jewish people in establishing the modern state of Israel and providing victory in the War of Independence, The Six Days War, and Yom Kippur War; G-d’s will move in the last days to deliver the Jewish people, bringing redemption, and establishing His kingdom in a much greater way that it will be as though for the last 2000 plus years that G-d’s eyes were shut to the plight of His people.

Verses five through eight speak about G-d strengthening the Jewish people and Jerusalem returning to its former status. Although G-d does indeed make Israel as fire and her enemies as straw, G-d Himself will defend His people in a personal way.

And the generals of Judah will say in their hearts, the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the L-rd of Hosts their G-d encourage me. On that day I will make the generals of Judah as a basis of fire against the trees and as a torch of fire against sheaves; and they will devour to the right and to the left- all the peoples round and Jerusalem will sit once more in her place in Jerusalem. The L-rd will save the tents of Judah as in the former times so that the splendor of house of David and the inhabitant of Jerusalem shall not exceed Judah. On that day the L-rd will defend the inhabitant of Jerusalem and it shall be that the failure among them on that day (shall be) like David and the house of David (shall be) as G-d- as the Angel of L-rd before them.” Zechariah 12:5-8

It is most clear from the following verse that there is a multinational agreement that Jerusalem as the capital city of the Jewish people is unacceptable to the nations of the world. If one reads the second verse of chapter fourteen it speaks about the city being divided as does Revelation chapter eleven verse two. There are also similar statements about Jerusalem going through a period of intense persecution and suffering. But in the end G-d Himself will destroy all the nations who come against the Jewish people and attack Jerusalem.

And it shall come about on that day I (HaShem) will seek to destroy all the nations coming against Jerusalem.” Zechariah 12:9

The word which is translated “destroy” is a powerful word and denotes an utter annihilation. This supports what G-d told Avraham in Genesis chapter twelve,

I will bless those who bless you, but curse those who curse you…” Gen. 12:3

Obviously those nations who are coming to make war with Jerusalem are not doing so to bless the Jewish people nor are they following the will of G-d and therefore they will find themselves fighting against the Living G-d and ultimately being destroyed. While the nations are perishing, G-d is bringing about a significant spiritual change in the Jewish people. Verse ten tells the reader that HaShem will pour out His Spirit on a certain group of the Jewish people and reveal who the Gemara calls Messiah Ben Yoseph.

I will pour out upon the House of David and the inhabitant of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication and they will look upon Me whom they have pierced and lament concerning him as one laments concerning an only son and be bitter as the bitterness is for (the death) of a firstborn son.” Zechariah 12:10

Two groups of people are mentioned in this verse, the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Just who is being referred by these descriptions? The “house of David” refers to those who have faith in the promise of HaShem to send a redeemer in the last days. It is clear that the first part of this verse is describing the same event as Isaiah,

And a Redeemer shall come to Zion and to those who repent (from) sin of Jacob says the L-rd. And this is My covenant with them said the L-rd, My spirit (will be) upon you….” Isaiah 59:20-21

In the last days G-d will move in a unique and powerful manner pouring out His Spirit upon those who repent of sin. Zechariah say the “the Spirit of grace and supplication”, to what is he referring? The word translated grace is similar in meaning to the words “mercy” or “forgiveness”. There is however one important difference. The Hebrew word translated “grace” has a specific purpose attached to it. This purpose is to establish a bond or a relationship. Notice that Isaiah places the word “covenant” with in the context. This informs the reader that it is because of G-d’s desire to enter into a covenant relationship with the Jewish people that He is pouring His grace upon them. The Hebrew word translated “supplication” is derived from the same word as grace. Hence the text is saying that not only does G-d provide what is necessary to forgive the people of their sin (mercy) but He does so because of this great desire to have a covenant relationship them and even creates the desire within them (the spirit of supplication) to have such a relationship with Him.

Whereas the phrase “house of David” refers to those who have faith in a coming Messiah the term “the inhabitant of Jerusalem” speaks about those who will inherit the promises of G-d. The term “Jerusalem” being derived from two Hebrew words, the first meaning “to inherit” and the second “shalom” which speaks about the fulfillment of G-d’s will, which is to place upon His covenant people His blessings. The second half of this verse deals with the means by which these things are accomplished. The text says, “They will look upon Me…” to whom is the text referring? It is clear from the context that HaShem is speaking (the One who is pouring out His Spirit). It is most interesting that the consensus opinion among both Jewish and Christian commentators is that the text is referring to the Messiah.

It has already been discussed that Judaism speaks about two Messiahs, Messiah Ben David and Messiah Ben Yoseph. The Gemara in Meseket Sukah says that this one is Messiah Ben Yoseph (there is also an alternate view that the text is referring to man’s evil inclination). Rabbi Dosa says the lamenting is for the Messiah which descended from Yoseph who was killed previously (see meseket suka 52a).Such an interpretation poses a serious conflict for Judaism. It is clear from verse nine that HaShem is defeating those that are attacking Jerusalem and the Jewish people at the end of the age. Rambam’s view which is embraced by Judaism as a whole says it is the role of Messiah Ben David to fight the war at the end of this age and bring about the final redemption. Therefore it is problematic that it is Messiah Ben Yoseph that is being mentioned here according to the Gemara. The fact that the “house of David” is mentioned in this verse also serves to hint to Messiah Ben David. The reason that there is a desire among the rabbis to interpret the subject of the verse as Messiah Ben Yoseph is because he was stabbed / pierced. Once again both Jewish and Christian commentators see this as relating to Messiah’s (Jewish scholars say Messiah Ben Yoseph) death. The problem is that this one is bringing the victory to Israel in the last days (role of Messiah Ben David) is the one who had previously been and died and now is returning and bringing the final redemption. Rabbinical Judaism cannot reconcile this conflict. However there is a simple solution. As has been discussed in a previous article, there are not two Messiahs, but one. This one Messiah has two distinct roles which He will accomplish at two distinct times. The first role is to do the work of redemption and the second is to bring the actual results of the work of redemption to Israel and the world, i.e. the kingdom of G-d. Zechariah chapter three offers an interesting illustration in helping the reader to understand the nature of Messiah’s work of redemption.

In chapter three the prophet Zechariah has a vision of Yehoshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the L-rd and Satan standing on his right side to accuse him. Satan makes this accusation against Yehoshua because as high priest Yehoshua represents the entire people of Israel. It is most significant that Yehoshua is clothed with soiled garments. These soiled garments represent the sins of the Jewish people. HaShem responds by ordering that the soiled garments be removed from upon Yehoshua. This removal of the soiled garments represents the removal of the sins from the Jewish people. This is the work of redemption. Messiah has the responsibility as had already been discussed in the previous article to pay the price of redemption for the Jewish people and in fact all people, Jew and Gentile alike. Please note the end of the fourth verse of chapter three,

And He (HaShem) answered and said to the ones standing before him saying, ‘remove the soiled garments from upon him and clothe him with the festival garments”. Zechariah 3:4

The word which is translated as “festival garments” is derived from the Hebrew word which speaks of being released. In Modern Hebrew this word is related to the word for a corkscrew. Hence the idea is freedom from sin and the consequences thereof. It is most significant that verse eight mentions “My Servant (the) Branch“. All commentators see this phrase relating to the Messiah. In the next verse it is recorded,

“…I will remove the sin of that land in one day.” Zechariah 3:9b

The verse reveals that in one day HaShem will do the work necessary to redeem Israel. Furthermore the fact that the vision speaks of Yehoshua being clothed with soiled garments and then clean ones teaches a vicarious sacrifice. This is exactly the type of sacrifice the High Priest makes for Israel on the Day of Atonement. With this information clearly being revealed in this chapter it is now obvious to conclude the following about Messiah’s work of redemption. Messiah will make a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of Israel and in one day the work of redemption is achieved. Such a view is quite different from a common teaching of Judaism today that it is by doing good deeds that Israel will merit her own redemption. This was the teaching of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe who said that a certain number of good deeds would be done prior to Messiah being revealed and therefore encouraged people to do good deeds saying that “perhaps the good deed that you do will be the one that brings the final redemption.”

This third chapter of Zechariah teaches that it is not by merit that Israel will be redeemed, but by the sovereign plan of G-d, Who will one day simply give the command that Messiah should do the work of redemption. Now returning to chapter twelve and verse ten the reader notices another key piece of information. When Messiah appears, Who has been pierced / stabbed, it says that the people will lament for Him. In fact the verse tells the reader about the uniqueness of this lamentation,

“… and they will look upon Me whom they have pierced and lament concerning him as one laments concerning an only son and be bitter as the bitterness is for (the death) of a firstborn son.” Zechariah 12:10

Such mourning is significant. It is a clear reference to a thirty day mourning period. Daniel offers some key information to help one understand the significance of this period. In the next article we will investigate the relationship between Zechariah chapter fourteen and what Daniel says about the last days and learn how Messiah figures into these days.

 

Author: Dr Baruch Korman

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