8 December Zechariah 14: 6–9
There is quite a lot of ‘theological geography’ in the Bible. Here we also have some ‘theological meteorology’! Verse 6 is difficult. The Hebrew actually says ‘there shall not be light’, but this contradicts verse 7. The next word usually means ‘precious things’, but a slight alteration yields a word for ‘cold’ and by the following word the mediaeval Jewish scribes have put a note which suggests we should read a similar word meaning ‘frost’. Several ancient versions, notably the Greek, read ‘cold and frost’, which has been accepted by some English translations.
Verse 7 is clearer (particularly if we accept that the cryptic phrase ‘it is known to the LORD’ is an insertion), envisaging constant light. And verse 8 is remarkable, picturing life-giving waters flowing to the east (i.e. to the slightly salty Mediterranean) and to the west (to the highly salty Dead Sea). In Israel most rivers were wadis, flowing to east and west from the central hill-country but only during the rainy season. These verses speak of constant life-giving water, as well as constant warmth and constant light as a metaphor for what it will be like when God rules over the earth.
Not all may find this an idyllic picture – we may prefer the changeable weather and variation in day-length. But this is an attempt to put into words what a future with God might be like – warmth, light and life rather than cold, darkness and death. The language is to be understood symbolically rather than literally. It certainly offers a contrast, perhaps a welcome one, with the earlier part of the chapter and its warlike imagery. The people of Israel and Judah had, largely, had bad experiences of kings, but there were some who held on to the hope for a godly rule. Some thought of an earthly king; some (as here) thought of a heavenly king.
Gracious God, giver of life and light, make this Advent season for us a time of hope and expectation as we prepare to welcome anew the Prince of Peace.