For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

12:1.  “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”

These final three chapters very clearly take us beyond AD 70 right to the impending Tribulation era, the description of the message as a burden reminding us that this is the revelation of the terrible judgments of which Jerusalem will be the vortex, but that will embrace the whole earth, those judgments bringing a remnant of Israel and of the nations to repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and climaxing with the destruction of all the rest of earth’s inhabitants as a result of Christ’s judgment of the nations at His second advent.

The ability of the Divine Speaker to execute these foretold judgments is declared in His being the One Who has brought all creation into existence by His Word, and Who has breathed into man the spirit of life.

12:2.  “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.”

The “people” here is more correctly “peoples,” for the reference is to Israel’s enemies;“... a cup of trembling” is variously rendered as an intoxicating bowl; a cup of reeling or staggering; a cup of poison, the NEB translation being, “I am making the steep approaches to Jerusalem slippery for all the nations pressing round her; and Judah will be caught up in the siege of Jerusalem.”  The thought being expressed is that those besieging Jerusalem in the Great Tribulation will be engaging in an act of madness impelled by the equivalent of a brain befuddled by liquor, for it will result ultimately in their own destruction.

The cup is a biblical symbol of God’s judgmental wrath.

12:3.  “And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”

The NEB translates this verse, “On that day, when all the nations ... will be gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem a rock too heavy for any people to remove, and all who try to lift it shall injure themselves.”

“... that day” is the day at the end of the Great Tribulation when the Lord will return in power and glory, as promised, to deliver the believing remnant both of Israel and of the Gentiles, judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

The attackers are likened to people trying to get rid of a rock that will prove too heavy for them to lift, i.e., they will not only fail in their attempt to destroy the city, but will instead destroy themselves.  Nor is the reason for their failure hard to find: they will be fighting against the omnipotent Jehovah, and a lesson He would teach us in this is that all who oppose Him must similarly perish. 

There is good reason to believe that God’s destruction of Sennacherib’s army during the siege of Jerusalem recorded in 2 Ki 18-19:35 is a foreshadowing of the one we are now considering, see Ezek 38-39.

12:4.  “In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.”

“... astonishment” is also translated, bewilderment, blindness, panic, the horse being used here as a metaphor for the military might that will be assembled for Jerusalem’s destruction.  It will be as useless as would have been a blind or panic-stricken war-horse in the day when the prophet wrote, the war-horse of that day being the epitome of military might.

“... and his rider with madness” is another way of saying that the men directing the attack will be madmen in the sense that their conduct will be the equivalent of that of literal madmen, for they will be unwittingly accomplishing their own destruction.

God’s opening His eyes upon the house of Judah is a poetic way of saying that He will be watching out for Judah’s welfare, or, that everything will be under His control, the enemy being unable to do more than God permits.  Satan, the mastermind behind all the world’s evil, operates under the same constraints, all he does being by God’s permission and for His ultimate glory, and the eternal blessing of those who obey Him.

The smiting of every horse with blindness is a figurative way of saying that God will render ineffective all the power which her enemies will bring to bear on Jerusalem for her destruction, the use of the word “blindness” indicating perhaps that the enemies arrayed against the city will be blind to the utter futility of all their efforts.  None can destroy what God wishes to preserve.

12:5.  “And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God.”

Other translations of this verse are, “The princes of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have their strength in the Lord of hosts, their God” - NAB, “The families of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘There is strength for the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Lord of hosts, their God” - AAT.  These will be the words of the Judahites dwelling outside Jerusalem, Jamieson, Faucett and Brown putting it, “The repulse of the foe by the metropolis shall assure the Jews of the country that the same Divine arm shall save them.”

12:6.  “In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.”

Under the figure of a small fire setting a whole forest ablaze, and of a torch setting fire to the sheaves of grain in a harvest field, God points to the destruction that Judah will inflict on the armies assembled to destroy Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation.  The forest indicates the magnitude of the slaughter; and the harvest field marks it as a Divine judgment upon the aggressor, for harvest time is a biblical symbol of a time of judgment.

12:7.  “The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.”

The reference to “tents” indicates that Judah in himself had no power against the foe.  All his power would be given by God, and

it seems, he will be the first tribe that God will endow with power against the armies gathered against Jerusalem, the other tribes being endowed with that same power only after Judah will have routed the enemy forces arrayed against him.  It is unclear whether his victory will be in the section of the city that will have been assigned to his command, or will have been achieved by Judahites living outside the city. God’s purpose in granting this initial victory to Judah will be to ensure that neither the other tribes, nor the Judahites of the family of David, will consider themselves superior to the other Judahites after the city will have been delivered.

12:8.  “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”

The truth is that in that coming day Israel would be powerless against the enemy apart from God’s protection and enablement; but in that day He will fulfill His promise recorded in Le 26:7-8, “And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”  That promise, however, was conditional: they must be obedient, so clearly those described here in verse 8 are the believing remnant who will go on to inherit millennial blessing.

12:9.  “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”

The power behind Israel that day will be the omnipotent Jehovah using them as His instrument of chastisement against those who will have rebelled against Him.  The eventual judgment of those rebels, however, will be by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when He will assemble the survivors before Him, banishing every unbeliever into hell, and extending to the believers His gracious invitation, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” Mt 25:34.

12:10.  “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”

This section begins the record of Israel’s spiritual restoration, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit recorded in Joel 2, and of which the experience on the day of Pentecost was a partial fulfillment, see Ac 2.

“... the spirit of grace and of supplications” is also translated, spirit of compassion and supplication; a spirit of pity and compassion - a very different spirit from that which imbues men today. 

The mention of “the house of David” as distinct from “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” is to assure us that the same compassionate spirit will mark both rulers and people.

“... and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced” makes it clear that the Speaker is Christ, the switch from “me” to “him” in the remainder of the verse proving a puzzle to many; but the explanation seems to be that God is here reminding us that “He” Who speaks as God is the same One Who condescended to become man in order to make atonement for sin, and redeem men’s souls by His vicarious death.  On that day the believing remnant of Israel, and of the nations, will realize fully the enormity of the sin committed that day when their fathers, Jew and Gentile alike, united in crucifying the Son of God.  The changed spirit within them will enable them to measure more fully than ever before the love that led the Lord to die so that men might be pardoned and receive God’s priceless gift of eternal life.

12:11.  “In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.”

The “mourning of Hadadrimmon” mentioned here is generally taken to be that which accompanied the death of the good king Josiah, who was slain in the valley of Megiddo.  But Hadadrimmon is a composite word of two parts Hadad and Rimmon, both of which mean the thunderer, each  being regarded as the god of the elements, and each being also a substitute name for Baal.  The worship of this god or gods was centered at Megiddo, and was accompanied by great mourning, and some take the reference here to be to that mourning.  In the present context, however, the association with Josiah seems the more likely.  Mourning is what is being stressed, and clearly it will be the genuine sorrow of the believing remnant as they stand in the presence of the One Whom their fathers rejected and crucified, but whom they will have trusted as Savior, their mourning being impelled by the knowledge that He submitted Himself to death to make atonement for their sins.

12:12.  “And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;”

What seems to be stressed here is that the mourning will not be simply the contagious extravagant outburst such as is invariably associated with mass hysteria.  It will be rather that personal sorrowful unaffected worship which the Holy Spirit alone can produce in the soul of the truly convicted penitent.

The house of David may represent the rulers; and the house of Nathan, those who will be the millennial counterparts of the prophets, perhaps teachers; while the separation of husbands and wives stresses the need of personal introspection.  Man’s relationship with God is personal.  No one else can act for him. 

12:13.  “The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;”

Levi represents the priests, and it is to be remembered that the Levitical order of worship will be universal in the Millennium.

There are nineteen Shimei’s mentioned in the Bible, but in the present context the reference seems to be to the one who was the son of Gershon of the tribe of Levi, the ministry of the Gershonites being in connection with the maintenance of the Tabernacle, so that here the family of Shimei seems to represent those who will have a similar ministry in the Millennium.

12:14.  “All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.”

None are excluded.  From the king to the lowliest subject, each will bow in contrite worship as they stand in the presence of the One their fathers had rejected and mocked as the Roman soldiers crowned Him with thorns.  But how different it will be in that now imminent day!  He will stand before them, not as the Lamb coming to die, but as the mighty Lion of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, crowned with glory and honor, come to rule in righteousness and in power.

[Zechariah 13]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough