Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst.
The final chapter of the book of Zechariah is perhaps the most difficult to interpret. We must first put aside the obviously erroneous view of dispensationalists who take figurative apocalyptic language to be literal to falsely bolster their end-times false teaching about Armageddon and Christ reigning from Jerusalem for 1,000 years. Space does not allow for a full explanation of all the scriptural contradictions found in such dogma. Yet even when one places dispensationalism aside in favor of interpretations founded in the entirety of Scripture and history, no one clear interpretation stands out from the rest in my opinion. Thus, I encourage the reader to use these final articles in this series on Zechariah as a catalyst for deeper study which will lead you to your own conclusions.
The chapter begins with the prophet exclaiming “Behold” – literally, “Look!” – for “a day is coming for the Lord” (14:1a – ESV, NASB), or “the day of the Lord is coming” (NKJV). Zechariah then uses menacing language to describe this coming day. On this day “the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst” (14:1b). He then specifies: “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city” (14:2).
Some such as Bob Winton in his commentary on the Minor Prophets view this as a prophecy about Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: “Zechariah’s description of events in this verse accurately depicts what happened when the Roman Army besieged and conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The army of Rome was comprised of soldiers from all nations of their vast empire. Great atrocities were wrought by the Roman soldiers against the citizens of Jerusalem. Josephus, the uninspired Jewish historian who was present at the siege and fall of the city, gave a close description of the tragic end of the city and nation. A large portion of the population was taken captive, some being enslaved to work in Egyptian mines, and many others were taken to Rome as slaves.” Winton goes on to cite details of the carnage as given by Josephus, such as “1,100,000 Jews died at Jerusalem during the siege and fighting, and another 97,000 were captured and placed in slavery,” “men broke into houses and stole food from children’s mouths, and neighbor robbed neighbor for the food they had,” and other atrocities such as cannibalism and violent murder in order to rob gold from the rich. He attributes Zechariah’s prophecy that “the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city” (14:2b) as referring to either the sparing of Christians who escaped the carnage by heeding the Lord’s warning (Matt. 24:1-34), or that a remnant of the Jews surviving in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 30:11).
Others such as Homer Hailey compare Zechariah’s promise that “the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city” to Josephus’ testimony that the Roman army “had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury,” and thus dismiss the notion that this is talking about the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem. He cites as a “more probable explanation” that God through Zechariah is “pointing to the spiritual Jerusalem as the capital of His spiritual kingdom (cf. Heb. 12:22; Gal. 4:26)” – i.e., the church – “and of the assault upon it by the world.” Hailey posits that this persecution would occur “time after time,” i.e., throughout the Christian age, a notion which the New Testament also promises in clear language (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22; John 15:20; 16:33). He also views “the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city” as a promise that any “remnant” of God’s people that would survive this persecution throughout the Christian age “would never be cut off from spiritual Jerusalem” in that they would always be a part of God’s kingdom (cf. 2 Pet. 1:10-11).