“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. 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. 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” (Zechariah 12:1-3).
Jerusalem will be a stone that is too heavy to lift and too strong to break. This is exactly what we see in the last 2,000 years of history, and it will be true in the future. It is as if Jerusalem were a massive stone in a field that someone wants to remove, but no matter how much they labor, they cannot remove it, and they become drunk with a fervor to solve this unsolvable problem.
Both the city (Jerusalem) and the field (the land of Israel) are God’s, and those who are wise will leave it alone. Jerusalem is mentioned 814 times in the Bible. In addition, it is called Zion 153 times. Jerusalem was chosen by God that His name might be there (2 Ch. 8:6). This is not said of any other city on earth. God calls Jerusalem “my city” (Isa. 45:13). God loves Jerusalem (Ps. 78:68; 87:2) and has stated that He will dwell in Jerusalem forever (Ps. 132:13-14). God delivered Jerusalem to Israel by the hands of David (1 Ch. 11:4-9) and it was Israel’s capital city until the Babylonian Captivity. Since then Israel has been under “the times of the Gentiles” and has largely been under Gentile control, but Jerusalem still belongs to God and will be the capital of the Messianic kingdom. (See Ps. 2:6; 48:1-2; 68:35; 87:5-7; 102:16, 21; 110:2; 132:11-18; Isa. 2:1-4; 4:3-5; 12:4-6; 24:23; 27:13; 30:19; 33:5, 20; 35:10; 40:2, 9; 41:27; 44:26; 46:13; 51:3, 11, 17; 52:1-2, 9; 59:20; 60:14; 61:3; 65:18-19; 66:10, 13, 20; Jer. 3:17; 17:25-26; 30:17; 31:12; 32:44; 33:10, 13, 16; 50:28; Joe. 3:1, 16-17, 20; Ob. 1:17; Mic. 4:2, 7, 8; Zep. 3:14-17; Zec. 2:4, 10, 12; 8:3-4, 8; 8:22; 9:10; 12:6-11; 14:8-11, 14, 16-17, 21; Mal. 3:4.)
Throughout the times of the Gentiles, Jerusalem has been a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone for many people. The city has been captured and recaptured more than 40 times.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the Babylonians. Israel refused to submit to Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, and he besieged the city three times and finally destroyed it. The Neo-Babylonian kingdom lasted only 47 more years, and was conquered by Persia.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the Greek Seleucid Empire. It was captured by Antiochus the Great in 200 BC and by Antiochus Epiphanes in 175. It was retaken by the Jewish Maccabees in 164 but then recaptured by Antiochus VII Sidetes in 134.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the Romans. The Roman legions under Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 63 BC after a three-month siege, and the Romans found Jerusalem to be a burdensome stone for the next five centuries. It was a burdensome stone in the First Jewish War, culminating in the destruction of the city in AD 70, and it was a burdensome stone in the Second Jewish War. Legions of Rome’s elite soldiers were thrown into these wars. Rome tried to erase the very memory of Jerusalem’s association with Israel by changing its name to Aelia Capitolina and building a Roman city over its ruins.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the Crusaders. They captured the city from the Muslims in 1099 but lost it to Saladin in 1187 and were not able to regain it.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the Muslims. Various Muslim groups long fought over the city. It was captured by Saladin in 1187, by the Tartars in 1244, by the Ayyubids in 1247, and by the Turks in 1517.
Jerusalem was a cup of trembling to the British. The city surrendered to the British in 1917 and was under the British Mandate until 1948. Throughout that time, the British found Jerusalem and the land of Israel to be a very burdensome stone. They seemed to be drunken with the desire to solve the Jerusalem problem, but the great world empire builders had zero success and finally gave up in disgust and left.
Jerusalem is a cup of trembling today. Both Muslims and Jews claim the city as their heritage, but whereas the Jewish claim is ancient and irrefutable, the Muslim claim is of recent origin and bogus. Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran. The idea that the Temple Mount is the place from whence Mohammed allegedly ascended to heaven was invented by Haj Armin el-Husseini, the late Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who promoted this idea in the 1920s and 1930s to stir up Muslim passion against the growing Jewish presence (David Guzik). Today, Muslim violence breaks out when Jews even attempt to pray on the Temple Mount. Over the past 50 years, the world’s most clever diplomats have tried to solve the “Jerusalem problem.” Every U.S. president since Harry Truman has worried himself with this problem, but there is absolutely no solution, because the land belongs to God and He gave it to Jacob and Jacob’s seed, and no one else has any right to it.
Jerusalem will be a cup of trembling at Armageddon.
The armies of the nations will besiege Jerusalem and Judah (Zec. 12:2-3).
Judah is part of what is called “the West Bank” today.
The exact order of events is a little difficult to ascertain.
From Luke 21:20-28, it appears that Jerusalem will first be overcome and the Jews scattered and enslaved by the Antichrist at the beginning of the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week. This is when the Antichrist desecrates the temple by setting himself up as God. Compare Mt. 24:15-21 and Zec. 14:1-2. During this time of persecution, two-thirds of the Jews in the land will perish and one-third will be converted (Zec. 13:8-9). Then at the end of the 70th Week, three and a half years later, the armies of the nations will gather as described in Zechariah 12. At that time Christ will return and empower Israel to overcome her enemies (Zec. 14:3-4). (For more on the Battle of Armageddon see the study in The Future According to the Bible, available from Way of Life Literature.)
God uses strong language to describe the overthrow of the Gentile armies. The armies “shall be cut in pieces.” Both horses and riders will be smitten with madness (Zec. 12:4). The mention of horses in connection with the Battle of Armageddon either means that literal horse warfare will be reinstated or that the horses signify the engines of modern warfare. The blood on the horse bridles (Re. 14:20) would seem to refer to literal horses. Interestingly, the last major cavalry engagement of history occurred at the Battle of Megiddo when General Allenby’s British forces defeated the Turkish forces at the end of World War I. Since then, horses and mules have played only a small role in warfare, but there could be any number of reasons why horses are reintroduced at the end of the Tribulation. It could be, for example, that the supply and distribution of fuel oil will have become impossible by that time.
God will open His eyes upon the house of Judah (Zec. 12:4). In that day God will again turn His attention, so to speak, back to Israel. For 2,000 years she has been “put on a shelf,” spiritually blind and wandering about under God’s hand of judgment while the Church has been built by material gathered from all nations (Ro. 11:25-27). When the Church is completed and raptured or caught away, God’s prophetic plan for Israel will start again. =
The “governors of Judah” (Zec. 12:5-6) refer to the leaders of Israel in that day. After they are converted, they will be “like an hearth of fire among the wood ... and they shall devour all the people round about.”
Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem (Zec. 12:6). This could mean that Israel’s capital will be moved to some other location during the reign of the Antichrist, though it could simply be a way of emphasizing that the capital of Israel will not change.
The Lord will save Judah first (Zec. 12:7). Apparently there will be some sort of division between Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and God will act in a way that will create peace and unity.
In that day, the converted Jews will become mighty warriors like David, who slew the giant Goliath (1 Sa. 17), and like the angel of the LORD, who slew the entire Assyrian army (2 Ki. 19:35).
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