Michael S. Heiser
Jerusalem is under siege. The city is caught in a raging battle against “all the nations of the earth” (Zech 12:3). This battle, part of an oracle in the book of Zechariah, is reminiscent of the book of Revelation (Zech 12; compare Rev 16:14; 20:9). Yet, instead of being a dismal scene, the story is one of hope for the people of God, as Yahweh Himself declares that He will “seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zech 12:9).
Amid this Armageddon-like destruction is an allusion to a future, pierced messiah (Zech 12:10; compare John 19:37). This is no ordinary savior.
And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zech 12:7–9).
Zechariah 12:8 declares that the “house of David”—referring to a future king from the royal dynastic line of David—will be “like God, like the angel of the Lord.” To grasp the significance of this verse, we need to recognize the parallelism between God and the angel of the Lord. Jewish readers would have known that God and the angel of the Lord are identified with each other in passages throughout the Torah. In the last issue of Bible Study Magazine, I wrote about how Hosea identified the angel of the Lord with God Himself (אלהים, elohim) on the basis of the Torah. 1 Zechariah 12:8 also casts David’s heir as like God (אלהים, elohim) and as like the angel of the Lord.
Wanting to identify David’s heir with God and the angel who is God in human form, Zechariah describes this future heir as “going before” God’s people into battle and “destroying all the nations” that threaten Jerusalem (Zech 12:9–10). This is precisely the role of the angel of the Lord—the angel in whom the essence of Yahweh Himself dwells (see Exod 23:20–23). 2 In Judges 2:1–2, after the death of Joshua, it is the angel of the Lord who, using first person language, appears and claims to have driven out the enemy inhabitants of the promised land (Judg 2:1–2). Elsewhere God’s own presence receives this credit (Deut 4:37). God and the angel of the Lord are one—divinely fighting for God’s people.
This angel is God in human form—and the heir of David in Zechariah is identified the same way. The Old Testament prophet not only foresaw a crucified Davidic king, but an heir of David who was God in human form. Remarkably, this identification also shows up in the New Testament, in precisely the same context. Jude 5 tells us that it was “Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, [and] afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” Jesus, the pierced messiah, is associated with the angel of the Lord. And He is no ordinary savior. 3
Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
1. See Michael S. Heiser, “Filtering God.”↩
2. See “The Name Theology of the Old Testament” in Faithlife Study Bible. ↩
3. See John D. Barry’s The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, pgs. X to Y. Also, see “The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah” in Faithlife Study Bible.↩