Zechariah 10. Sheep and Fighters

Key Notes: Sheep become warriors. The modern wars of Israel.

Chapter Ten is as message of hope in the style of Isaiah.

10:1–3   The prophet moves from God who gives the rain, to the idols and fortune-tellers that cannot, but who deceive the people and leave them as sheep without a shepherd.

10:3–5   The shepherds are the leaders of Israel who will be punished for their dereliction of duty. Chapter 11 will pursue this theme. The Lord Himself will be their shepherd.

10:6–7 Then the metaphor changes from being like sheep to being warriors and leaders. The people will generate cornerstones, tent pegs, battle bows and rulers. That is a curious group of people.

When we see the word cornerstone, we think at once of Christ. (Isa. 28:16; Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11). However, there may be other local and temporal fulfillments. A cornerstone sets the dimensions and the orientation of a building; hence cornerstone people are those who are founders of enduring structures—industries, corporations, educational institutions.

Tent pegs seem trivial by comparison. (In urban society the tent peg became a wall peg or hook.)  But Isaiah (22:23) interprets the tent peg for us as a symbol of office, and he attaches great importance to it. Isaiah’s prophecy contains the historical note that Eliakim was to replace Shebna as steward of the king’s house because of Shebna’s failure of duty. On Eliakim's shoulder will be placed the Key to the House of David. (Isa.22:22). Ultimately, it is Christ who has the Key of David. (Rev. 3:7)

The "tent peg", Eliakim, was the steward of the king’s house, the keeper of the keys to the palace and all its treasures, the one on whom the weight of worldly responsibility could be laid. He was one you could “hang stuff on.”  In Western society, Jews were rarely the heads of governments; but they were frequently the next-in-command, advisors to governments, finance ministers and legal experts. The Germans called them “Hoch-Juden.”  Kissinger, Baruch, and Greenspan were such advisors tent pegs in our government. Some of us are smaller tent
pegs, carrying the weight of our ancestral houses, the hopes and dreams of our grandparents.

Battle-bow as a metaphor for a warrior and ruler is also obvious. In summary, out of this flock of sheep there would come founders of industries and programs, responsible government officials, fighters and rulers.

10:6–12   These events are described, however, at a time when Israel is regathered a second time. They will return from the nations, Egypt, and Assyria. They will fill up east Jordan and Lebanon until there is no room left. That puts the events beyond 70 AD, when the Second Diaspora began, and would seem to be attached to modern times. Israel was officially regathered in’48.

There were four times when the Jews fought hard against their oppressors.

  1. The Maccabees fought the Greeks successfully. (160–130 BC)
  2. Bar Kochba made the final defense against the Romans, recapturing Jerusalem. (132 AD)                    
  3. After his resistance collapsed, the Jews did not make history against their enemies until the Warsaw Resistance in WWII.
  4. Jews declared Palestine their national state in’48 AD.

Only the last event fulfills the prophecy because it is the only one in which these fighters emerge after Israel’s return to the Land.

CommentsThe following thumbnail sketches of Israel’s battles in the 20th Century are only an outline and are necessarily incomplete and one-sided.

5/15/48 ~ War of Independence.
Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon invaded Palestine. The Secretary General of the Arab League said,
“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.”
Six thousand Israelis were killed, but the invaders were driven out. Separate armistice agreements were signed with various countries by’49.

10/29/56  ~  Sinai War
Egypt made a military pact with Syria and Jordan, encircling Israel. Israel’s ships were denied passage through the Suez Canal. There were many skirmishes on both sides. The head of the Arab League said, “We and not Israel will fix the time and place of battle.”
France was supplying arms to Israel while the U.S. and Britain were arming the Arabs. On this date Israel occupied the Sinai. British and French bombers hit military targets in Egypt. The upshot was that Israel regained access to the Suez Canal and the port of Elath.
It became increasingly clear the Middle East was going to involve the European, American, and Russian powers.

6/5/67 The Six Day War
Again Egypt, Syria and Jordan were in alliance. Nasser of Egypt said, “The war will be general and our basic aim—the destruction of Israel.”  Iraq, Algeria and Kuwait joined them. The UN was forced to evacuate its defense forces from Gaza, Sinai borders and Sharm-el-Sheikh. In a pre-emptive strike, Israel again occupied the Sinai Peninsula, captured East Jerusalem for the first time, and took the Golan Heights.
The Arabs refused to negotiate: no peace, no negotiations, no recognition of Israel.

1969–1970 The War of Attrition
There were 9000 armed incidents at the border with Egypt. Egypt had to evacuate 750,000 people from Suez Canal towns.

10/6/73 The Yom Kippur War
On this day, there was no one in the streets of Israel. The airports, shops, ports,were deserted; even radios were off. The people were inside, fasting and in prayer. There had been maneuvers on the borders with Egypt and Syria routinely in September and October, so Israel was not on special alert. Israel had‘0 tanks on the Golan Heights and 500 men along the Suez Canal line.
Egypt crossed the Suez Canal on pontoon boats and attacked with 600,000 men, 3000 tanks, 2000 heavy guns, and 1000 aircraft. They met little resistance. The Syrians moved 1000 tanks along a 200-mile perimeter with northern Israel. There were more tanks in this war than Germany had at the Russian Front in WWII.
This time Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Jordan, as well as North Vietnam and Cuba (!) joined in. Qaddhafi gave Egypt a billion dollars in aid. The U.S.S.R. conducted a massive air and sea lift to the Arabs and had a war ship in the area.

President Nixon was in a weak position. He had to deal with the end of the Vietnam War and the scandal of Watergate. Spiro Agnew had resigned. His Attorney General had been fired. Nixon called a worldwide nuclear alert. The Soviet warship retreated to the Black Sea. The U.S. conducted an emergency air and sea rearmament of Israel, but none of the Europeans would participate with the U.S. Germany and Britain refused to cooperate. The Arabs were furious and imposed an oil embargo on the West.

After the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and had advanced for 20 miles, they unaccountably stopped. They did not intend to occupy and destroy Israel but to inflict severe losses. The Syrians also stopped, apparently waiting for the Egyptians. Jordan did not attack: Hussein hesitated.

No one except the Moderator of the Sottish Presbyterians protested the violation of the holiest day of the Jewish Religion. The Pope, Anglicans, Lutherans, the World Council of Churches said nothing. The UN called for a cease-fire only when it was clear that the Arabs were losing.
Eighteen days later, Israel had crossed the Suez Canal and cut the main road to Cairo. Israeli tanks were 20 miles from Damascus.
In the aftermath of this great victory, Israel was not cheered, but depressed. There was no human reason why they had won. It was a miracle that the Egyptians and the Syrians had not carried through what they had begun. Israel was all alone in the world, with the U.S. its only friend. Any thoughtful observer could see that we had come close to a World War III.

Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, presumably with intelligence that it was making or planning to make nuclear weapons, perhaps from N. Korea. There was little international reaction.

Israel occupied Lebanon’s southern border with the intent to destroy Arafat’s army. Syria then moved military equipment into Lebanon and dominated its politics. After Israel retreated, Lebanon threw out the Syrians and re-established its independence.

During the first Iraq War, Iraq fired scud missiles into Israel.

Saudis destroyed the World Trade Towers in NYC, bombed the Pentagon and tried to destroy the White House in Washington, D.C. using American civilian airliners. Three thousand American lives were lost.
The US retaliated by bombing Taliban targets in Afghanistan to get rid of the mastermind of the attacks and went on to occupy the country.

The U.S. attacked Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his resistance to inspection (which implied possession) of nuclear and chemical weapons.

2006 NATO forces under US command took over peace-keeping in Afghanistan.

It is an awesome time to be alive. The United States, as well as all other countries of the world, is threatened by Islamic extremists. Madrid and London rail lines have been bombed. We all deserve to be afraid of the threats of terrorists, biological warfare, economic collapse, energy shortage, and atomic bombs.

But Zechariah reminds us that it is God’s Plan that is being carried out. He prophesied that they would fight “because the Lord is with them,” and they would “confound the riders on horses” and “trample the foe.” God's planGod’s Plan, however, does not exclude suffering and death in the process.

We do not know what God’s plan is for our country. But Jesus said, “…when all these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk. 21:29)

Some theologians will dismiss this entire lesson and its application. Reformed theology holds that Israel was folded into the Church after Pentecost and has no separate existence. However, it is hard to ignore millions of Jews who are now in Israel and show little evidence of disappearing. It takes a creative reading of Isaiah to deny that Jerusalem is Jerusalem, that the Jews will return to it a second time (Isa. 11:11), and that it will become a worldwide focus of spiritual and intellectual life. Scholars like George E. Ladd argue that the Church is the Church, Israel is Israel, and the Kingdom of God is neither, although both Jews and Gentiles are in it.

God’s Plan being carried out does not imply that Israel is somehow righteous.
Israel is a secular state. Orthodox Jews do not recognize its legitimacy, because God is not honored as its head.
Israel does not welcome Christians, and Messianic Jews are denied citizenship.
We know that atrocities have been committed. The Israelis may be more honorable than their neighbors, but they are still capable of overkill, as we know David was.

So while evangelicals have been up-front in supporting the State of Israel, we must not be blind to its sinfulness and anti-Christian stance. There is a dilemma on both sides: they want our help but not our Savior.
We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but must not countenance injustice and persecution done there.