†he Burros of Berea


Recently someone asked me about Zechariah 14 and how I could possibly believe it’s been fulfilled already. A number of years ago, I had addressed this. I decided to repost the whole thing here. Hopefully, this will be of some value to readers who’ve been asked this question. 


Chapter Context

To begin with, Zechariah 14 follows two chapters that were ultimately fulfilled in the 1st century.  Compare Zech. 12:10 with John 19:37 and Zech. 13:7 with Mark 14:27. In keeping with that context, it would seem reasonable that Zech. 14 follows historically within that same time frame; rather than breaking over a period that is already almost 2,000 years elapsed.  Simply Put: Since Chapters 12 and 13 find a 1st century fulfillment, it would stand to reason that Chapter 14 would find a 1st century fulfillment as well.


The Day of the Lord

The expression, “the day of the Lord” (Zech. 14:1), does not necessitate an end of the world event.  The “day of the Lord” is a common expression in Scripture.  The Scriptural references to the “day of the Lord” cannot all be taken to mean the same event. Its precise meaning in any particular passage is entirely dependent upon the context of that passage.  For example, the Prophet Isaiah uses the phrase, “the day of the Lord,” in conjunction with the destruction of ancient Babylon (Isa. 13:6, 9).  God’s judgment on Idumea is called, “the day of the Lord’s vengeance” (Isa. 34:8).  Jeremiah calls the judgment of ancient Egypt, “the day of the Lord God of Hosts” (Jer. 46:10).  Amos refers to the Assyrian captivity of Israel as, “the day of the Lord” (Amos 5:18-19, 27).  According to the Apostle Peter, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon God’s People on the Day of Pentecost fulfilled Joel’s prophecy concerning, “the great and terrible day of the Lord” (cf. Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32).  Therefore, it would not be at all unusual for this expression to apply to a national judgment, such as the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.


Spoils Divided

Zechariah tells the Jews: “thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee” (Zech. 14:1).  It is significant that Josephus credits the primary cause of the Jewish revolt, which eventually led to the Jewish War, to a public plundering of Jewish property by Gessius Florus in the 12th year of Nero’s reign.  Gessius Florus, appointed by Nero, was the Roman procurator of Judea from AD 64-66.  Whereas the former procurator did his cheating and fraud “in private,” “Gessius did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a most pompus manner.”  Rather than getting “money out of single persons,” Gessius “spoiled whole cities” and did “publicly proclaim it all the country over.”  He had given great liberty to the Roman soldiers that they might “turn robbers” in order that he might “share with them in the spoils they got.”  Josephus speaks of Gessius’s “greediness of gain” in which he “became a partner with the robbers themselves.”   Gessius was bent on the purpose “to show his crimes to everybody” and make a “pompous ostentation of them to our nation,” writes Josephus.  “It was Florus who necessitated us,” continues Josephus, “to take up arms against the Romans.”  Whereas robbers normally sneak into homes in the dead of night and divvy up their sordid gain in private, the spoil of Gessius’s unjust acts were “divided” in the Jews’ very “midst!”[1]


All Nations

The Lord says He will “gather all nations against Jerusalem to do battle” (Zech. 14:2).  1st century Rome was an empire consisting of all the nations of the known world at the time (see: Luke 2:1).   The Roman Empire “extended roughly two thousand miles from Scotland south to the headwaters of the Nile and about three thousand miles from the Pillars of Hercules eastward to the sands of Persia. Its citizens and subject peoples numbered perhaps eighty million.”[2]  The siege of Jerusalem actually included a League of Nations, under Roman dominion, consisting of Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany.[3]  This more than satisfies the textual requirement of “all nations”– especially when this term (and similar terms) is oftentimes much more limited in scope in its Scriptural usage (e.g., 1 Chr. 14:17; 2 Chr. 32:23; 36:23, Ezra 1:2; Ps. 118:18; Jer. 27:7; 28:11; Hab. 2:5).


Atrocities Committed

The atrocities mentioned, e.g., “houses rifled,” “women ravished” (Zech. 14:2), certainly fit the scenario of the Roman siege of Jerusalem and I seriously doubt anyone would argue with this observation.  Zechariah tells us that “half of the city shall go forth into captivity” (Zech. 14:2).  Accordingly, Josephus speaks of a surplus of Jewish slaves.  The “number of them that were slain” was so “great” that “the very soldiers grew weary of killing them” and “sold the rest of the multitude, with their wives and children, and every one of them at a very low price… And indeed the number of those that were sold was immense; but of the populace above forty thousand were saved…”[4]


The Residue of the People

The passage goes on to state: “and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (14:2).  The progressive revelation of the NT sheds much light on Zechariah’s words.  From the NT, we learn that there are, in reality, two Jerusalems: the Jerusalem below that was “in bondage” and the Jerusalem above “which is free” (Gal. 4:24-26).  Christians, being “born after the Spirit,” are members of the Jerusalem which is above (Gal. 4:29).  Long ago, Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).  According to the Writer to the Hebrews, NT Christians have come to that city: “But ye are come unto Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb. 12:22).  Those who accepted Christ as the Messiah became citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, escaped the final siege of AD 70, and were “not cut off from the city” of the living God.


The Lord Will Fight

Next, Zechariah tells us that “the Lord will go forth and fight” against those very nations that He raised up against Jerusalem.  The idea of the Lord fighting for His People is a familiar concept in Scripture (e.g., Joshua 10: 14, 42; 23:3) and indicates His providential favor.  The concept of God judging the very nations that He uses to purge His People is also a familiar concept in Scripture—the example of Assyria being the most well-known (See: Isa. 10:5-6, 12-13).  Similar to Assyria, after using Rome as His rod to smite Jerusalem, God then turns on Rome itself in judgment.  “It is significant that the decline of the Roman Empire dates from the fall of Jerusalem.”[5] “It is also observable, that the Romans after having been thus made the executioners of divine vengeance on the Jewish nation, never prospered as they had done before; but the Lord evidently fought against them, and all the nations which composed their overgrown empire; till at last it was subverted, and their fairest cities and provinces were ravaged by barbarous invaders.”[6]



Splitting the Mount of Olives

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zech. 14:4).


Scripture is Its own best interpreter. In order to understand these words, it is helpful to look at some other passages that employ similar language.  For example:


Habakkuk 3:3-7

“God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble” (Hab. 3:3-7).


Notice, this passage is a reference to a coming of God—a judgment coming.  “Judgment-Coming” passages often mention God’s feet as a symbol of deliverance for His People and the thwarting of their enemies (e.g., Ps. 18:9; Nah. 1:3).[7]  The passage speaks of the mountains being scattered and the perpetual hills bowing.  The point is this: Habakkuk is recounting the power of God’s saving acts in the past.  Specifically, the passage refers to God’s delivering His People from the hands of the Middianites (vs. 7).


The actual historical account is given in Judges 7:13-25.  There is absolutely no mention in this account of God coming, of God’s feet, of mountains being scattered, or of hills bowing.  In Judges 7:13-25, Gideon simply takes 3 companies of 100 men, gives each man a trumpet, a pitcher and a lamp, and they pursue the Midianites and defeat them.   Nevertheless, Samuel (whom I believe wrote the Book of Judges) and Habakkuk are describing the same events.  Samuel describes the events in the form of a straightforward, matter of fact, historical narrative; whereas, Habakkuk is employing poetic, apocalyptic language.  Everyone familiar with the various types of Biblical genre understands this.


2 Samuel 22:8-14

“In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. Through the brightness before him were coals of fire kindled. The LORD thundered from heaven, and the most High uttered his voice” (2 Sam. 22:8-14).


Notice, in this passage God comes down—this is another judgment-coming passage.  The earth shakes and trembles.  There is another reference to God’s feet in conjunction with His judgment-coming.  The point: this is a Psalm that David wrote “in the day that God delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul” (2 Sam. 22:1).  I dare say that one can read all of the previous material, in both 1st and 2nd Samuel, concerning Saul and the rest of David’s enemies, and find no mention of God coming down, the earth trembling, darkness under God’s feet, etc.  Why?  Because the previous material contained in 1st and 2nd Samuel is written as historical narrative while David’s Psalm is poetic or figurative in nature.  Again, it’s two different types of genre describing the same event.  And, once again, all Bible commentators recognize this and no one takes the language of 2 Samuel 22 literally.  This would include the most adherent futurists and/or dispensationalists.


Micah 1:3-4 

“For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place” (Micah 1:3-4).


Again, notice the language: God comes down, He treads upon the high places of the earth, the mountains melt underneath Him, the valleys are cleft.  In this passage, Micah is prophesying about the doom of Samaria (Micah 1:1), which took place in 722 BC when the Assyrians besieged and captured it.  Once again, I know of no one who would dispute this, and I know of no one who takes this figurative description literally.


As Ralph Woodrow writes, “It was not uncommon for prophets to use figurative expressions about the Lord ‘coming’ down, mountains trembling, being scattered, and hills bowing (Hab. 3:6, 10); mountains flowing down at his presence (Isaiah 64:1, 3); or mountains and hills singing and the trees clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12).”[8]


Therefore, the question now becomes: How is this language any different form the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives and splitting it in half in Zechariah 14:4?  Why do the same interpreters, who look at so many similar passages as figurative, insist upon taking this passage as literal?  Where is the Biblical precedent for understanding such language literally?  If the analogy of Scripture means anything, the passage should not be taken literally.


[1] Antiquities of the Jews, XX: 11: 1; The Wars of the Jews, ii: xiv: 2 (all emphasis added).




[2] Otto Friedrich, The End of the World: A History (New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1982), 28.


[3] F.W. Farrar, The Early Days of Christianity (Chicago: Clark & Co., 1882), 532.


[4] The Wars of the Jews, VI: viii: 2 (all emphasis added).



[5] G. N. M. Collins, “Zechariah,” The New Bible Commentary, F. Davidson, ed., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954), 761.



[6] Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorised Version; with Explanatory notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References, 3 vols. (New York: Collins and Hannay, 1832), 2:956


[7] See: Ken Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p. 472

[8] Ralph Woodrow, His Truth is Marching On: Advanced Studies on Prophecy in the Light of History (Riverside, CA: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1977), 110.