The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
Israel and Zech. 12-3
All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless noted otherwise.
Q. Please explain Zech. 12:3: ʻIn that day I will 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.ʼ
A. The root of the Christian faith was laid down in Jewish soil. Indeed, the Gospel message of salvation through Christ was prefigured in the ceremonies and laws of ancient Israel. The prophets of Israel are Christianity's prophets, too.
But herein lies a theological conundrum, one which has implications for the earnest Christian man and woman: since God has declared Israel to be His covenant people, through whom – as a conduit – He will route the blessings of His coming kingdom on earth, Christians as ʻpeople of the bookʼ are obliged to honour this principle. For we should love those whom God loves. This is not a new idea, of course. Christians are enjoined by Christ to love the neighbour as oneself, and even to love our enemy. Israel falls into one of these categories, depending on oneʼs point of view.
God does not love the Jewish people or Israel on their own account, or because they are gentle and virtuous and as meek as sheep. As St. Paul explains in Rom. 11:28, they are loved solely ʻfor the fathersʼ sakesʼ – for the faith, humility and obedience of the patriarchs – Abraham, Jacob, Moses and other worthy ancients. At the same time, the Jews are lambasted by God for being obstinate and rebellious (Deut. 9:6; Ezek. 2:3, 4). Such are the contrary manifestations of truth.
As the world's only Hebrew state, surrounded by many who hate it, Israel is committed to defending itself to the death, and will always respond vigorously to any threat. Israel does not owe its existence to favours dished out by the United Nations or through the sufferance of any Western country, but to the will of God, declared in prophecy. Israel's existence is a down-payment on a bright future for the world. It will, therefore, remain.
The stone of Zech. 12: 3 – the text under review – is not for the purpose of building. Nor does it fit the usual English definition of a stone – that of a fist-sized chunk. ʻBurdensome stoneʼ – used only in this text – suggests it is large, heavy and jagged. That it is sharp-edged is implied by the warning that those who try to shift it (ʻburden themselves with itʼ), shall be ʻcutʼ or ʻlaceratedʼ in the effort. (Compare with Lev. 21:5, in which the Tabernacle priests are forbidden to ʻshave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings [sarat; ʻlacerationsʼ] in their fleshʼ, obviously referring to the use of a cutting, razor-like implement.)
This heavy, jagged, and hard rock is too big to go round, under, or over, impossible to move, and will injure any who try to dislodge it. The rock is Israel, which seems to be constantly in the way. The world has, in one way or another, been obsessed with it for years – writing about it, worrying and complaining about it. Over the centuries, many civilisations and nations have attempted to humiliate, scatter and annihilate the chosen people of God, as if to say God was wrong in His choice, and that He ought to have picked a more congenial tribe of nomads to anoint. Its despisers seem to believe that if Israel could be removed, peace and prosperity would break out across the deserts and cities of the Middle East, and all nations would live in harmony. But Israel and Israelis will continue to be an annoying obsession for years to come.
The careful student of the Bible will understand that God's favour towards Israel is a net benefit for the human family, a fact that will become evident in due course. For in the depths of trouble and near-extermination, Israel will come to regard Christ as the Messiah. Only then will she be fit to become the channel of blessing in God's earthly kingdom, the ʻmountainʼ described in Isa. 2:2-4:
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.