When does Zechariah 14:4 take place?                                             By Jack Kettler


“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” (Zechariah 14:4)




Zechariah was both a prophet and a priest. His prophetic ministry started in 520 B.C. He was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai.


Approximately 20 years after returning from the Babylonian exile during the time of the Persian King Cyrus in 538 B.C., the foundation of the temple had been laid soon after the return in 536 B.C. After the foundation of the temple was laid, the work ceased. Over time, discouragement set in among the people seeing the temple unfinished.




·         Introduction (1:1–6)

·         Prophecies and Visions (1:1–8:23)

·         Night visions and a sign-act (1:7–6:15)

·         Fastings and feasts (7:1–8:23)

·         The King returns (9:1–14:21)

·         First vision: leaders and their people (9:1–11:17)

·         Second vision: the people and their leaders (12:1–14:21)


Relevant cross-reference passages:


“And the glory of the LORD rose up from within the city and stood over the mountain east of the city.” (Ezekiel 11:23)


“The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that crawls upon the ground, and all mankind on the face of the earth will tremble at My presence. The mountains will be thrown down, the cliffs will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground.” (Ezekiel 38:20)


“Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was coming down from under the south side of the temple, south of the altar.” (Ezekiel 47:1)


The astute reader will notice the apocalyptic language used in the above passages, particularly in Ezekiel 38:20. Apocalyptic language is a special genre in literature, and missing this can lead to serious misinterpretations.  


What about Zechariah 14:4? Is it apocalyptic?


“The presence of visions, symbolism, and eschatological imagery classify Zechariah [particularly ch. 14] as a prophetic-apocalyptic writing.” (1)


Zechariah Chapter 14 is not a descriptive narrative like the book of Acts or didactic like the book of Romans. Apocalyptic literature, like poetical literature, is not to be taken literally.


For example:


“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4)


Characteristics of Apocalyptic Literature:


“An apocalypse is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world.” A.


A.    John J. Collins “Apocalyptic Literature” from The Dictionary of New Testament Backgrounds


“There are a number of traits that are often (though not in every case) found in apocalyptic texts that are less occasionally found in prophetic texts. These traits include the following: narrow eschatology…mediated revelation…unusual imagery…setting of oppression…deterministic view of history and attendant optimism…and pseudonymity and prophecy after the fact.” B.


B.     Tremper Longman III & Raymond B. Dillard An Introduction to the Old Testament (pg. 387-88)


“Apocalyptic entails the revelatory communication of heavenly secrets by an otherworldly being to a seer who presents the visions in a narrative framework; the visions guide readers into a transcendent reality that takes precedence over the current situation and encourages readers to persevere in the midst of their trails. The visions reverse normal experience by making the heavenly mysteries the real world and depicting the present crisis as a temporary, illusory situation. This is achieved via God’s transformation this world for the faithful.” C.


C.     Paul D. Hanson Visionaries and Their Apocalypses


The German Protestants, Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament offer one of the best commentaries on this portion of Scripture:


“This time the Lord will come to the help of His people. Zechariah 14:3. “And Jehovah will go forth and fight against those nations, as in His day of battle, on the day of slaughter. Zechariah 14:4. And His feet will stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which lies to the east before Jerusalem; and the Mount of Olives will split in the centre from east to west into a very great valley, and half of the mountain will remove to the north, and its (other) half to the south. Zechariah 14:5. And ye will flee into the valley of my mountains, and the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel, and ye will flee as ye fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. And Jehovah my God will come, all the saints with Thee.” Against those nations which have conquered Jerusalem the Lord will fight כּיום וגו, as the day, i.e., as on the day, of His fighting, to which there is added, for the purpose of strengthening the expression, “on the day of the slaughter.” The meaning is not “according to the day when He fought in the day of the war,” as Jerome and many others suppose, who refer the words to the conflict between Jehovah and the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:14); for there is nothing to support this special allusion. According to the historical accounts in the Old Testament, Jehovah went out more than once to fight for His people (cf. Joshua 10:14, Joshua 10:42; Joshua 23:3; Judges 4:15; 1 Samuel 7:10; 2 Chronicles 20:15). The simile is therefore to be taken in a more general sense, as signifying “as He is accustomed to fight in the day of battle and slaughter,” and to be understood as referring to all the wars of the Lord on behalf of His people. In Zechariah 14:4 and Zechariah 14:5 we have first of all a description of what the Lord will do to save the remnant of His people. He appears upon the Mount of Olives, and as His feet touch the mountain it splits in half, so that a large valley is formed. The splitting of the mountain is the effect of the earthquake under the footsteps of Jehovah, before whom the earth trembles when He touches it (cf. Exodus 19:18; Judges 5:5; Psalm 68:8; Nahum 1:5, etc.). The more precise definition of the situation of the Mount of Olives, viz., “before Jerusalem eastwards,” is not introduced with a geographical purpose - namely, to distinguish it from other mountains upon which olives trees grow - but is connected with the means employed by the Lord for the salvation of His people, for whom He opens a way of escape by splitting the mountain in two. The mountain is split מחציו מזרחה וימּה, from the half (i.e., the midst) of it to the east and to the west, i.e., so that a chasm ensues, which runs from the centre of the mountain both eastwards and westwards; so that the mountain is split latitudinally, one half (as is added to make it still more clear) removing to the south, the other to the north, and a great valley opening between them.”


“Into this valley the half of the nation that is still in Jerusalem will flee. גּיא הרי is the accusative of direction (Luther and others render it incorrectly, “before the valley of my mountains”). This valley is not the valley of the Tyropaeon, or the valley between Moriah and Zion (Jerome, Drus., Hofm.), but the valley which has been formed by the splitting of the Mount of Olives; and Jehovah calls the two mountains which have been formed through His power out of the Mount of Olives hârai, “my mountains.” Nor is it connected with the valley of Jehoshaphat; for the opinion that the newly-formed valley is merely an extension of the valley of Jehoshaphat has no foundation in the text, and is not in harmony with the direction taken by the new valley - namely, from east to west. The explanatory clause which follows, “for the (newly-formed) valley of the mountains will reach אל אצל,” shows that the flight of the people into the valley is not to be understood as signifying that the valley will merely furnish the fugitives with a level road for escape, but that they will find a secure place of shelter in the valley. 'El 'Atsal has been taken by different commentators, after Symm. and Jerome, in an appellative sense, “to very near,” which Koehler interprets as signifying that the valley will reach to the place where the fugitives are. This would be to Jerusalem, for that was where the fugitives were then. But if Zechariah had meant to say this, he could not have spoken more obscurely. 'Atsal, the form in pause for 'âtsēl, as we may see by comparing 1 Chronicles 8:38 and 1 Chronicles 9:44 with 1 Chronicles 8:39 and 1 Chronicles 9:43 (cf. Olsh. Gramm. 91, d), is only met with elsewhere in the form אצל, not merely as a preposition, but also in the name בּית־האצל, and is here a proper name, as most of the ancient translators perceived, - namely, a contracted form of בּית־האצל, since בּית is frequently omitted from names of places constructed with it (see Ges. Thes. p. 193). This place is to be sought for, according to Micah 1:11, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and according to the passage before us to the east of the Mount of Olives, as Cyril states, though from mere hearsay, κώμη δὲ αὕτη πρὸς ἐσχατιαῖς, ὡς λόγος τοῦ ὄρους κειμένη. The fact that Jerome does not mention the place is no proof that it did not exist. A small place not far from Jerusalem, on the other side of the Mount of Olives, might have vanished from the earth long before this father lived. The comparison of the flight to the flight from the earthquake in the time of king Uzziah, to which reference is made in Amos 1:1, is intended to express not merely the swiftness and universality of the flight, but also the cause of the flight, - namely, that they do not merely fly from the enemy, but also for fear of the earthquake which will attend the coming of the Lord. In the last clause of Zechariah 14:5 the object of the coming of the Lord is indicated. He has not only gone forth to fight against the enemy in Jerusalem, and deliver His people; but He comes with His holy angels, to perfect His kingdom by means of the judgment, and to glorify Jerusalem. This coming is not materially different from His going out to war (Zechariah 14:3); it is not another or a second coming, but simply a visible manifestation. For this coming believers wait, because it brings them redemption (Luke 21:28). This joyful waiting is expressed in the address “my God.” The holy ones are the angels (cf. Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Daniel 7:9-10; Matthew 25:31), not believers, or believers as well as the angels. In what follows, Zechariah depicts first of all the completion secured by the coming of the Lord (Zechariah 14:6-11), and then the judgment upon the enemy (Zechariah 14:12-15), with its fruits and consequences (Zechariah 14:16-21).” (2) (Underlining emphasis mine)


Keil and Delitzsch, as seen from the underlined section of the commentary distinguish Zechariah 14:4 from the Second Coming.  


The next entry will be a contemporary preterist commentary on Zechariah 14:4:




“In the premillennial view of Bible prophecy, the events depicted in Zechariah 14 are most often interpreted as depicting the second coming of Christ when Jesus will descend from heaven and stand on the Mount of Olives and from there set up His millennial kingdom. The chronology outlined in Zechariah, however, does not fit this scenario. Events actually begin in chapter thirteen where it is prophesied that the Shepherd, Jesus, will be struck and the sheep will be scattered (Zech. 13:7). This was fulfilled when Jesus says, “You will all fall away, because it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP SHALL BE SCATTERED'” (Mark 14:27). What follows describes events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. God will act as Judge of Jerusalem and its inhabitants. As the king, He will send “his armies” and destroy “those murderers, and set their city on fire” (Matt. 22:7).”   


“For I will gather all the nations [the Roman armies] against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered [Matt. 24:17], the women ravished [Luke 17:35], and half the city exiled [Matt. 24:16], but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city [Matt 24:16] (Zech. 14:2).”


“This happened when the Roman armies, made up of soldiers from the nations it conquered, went to war against Jerusalem. Rome was an empire consisting of all the known nations of the world (see Luke 2:1). The Roman Empire “extended roughly two thousand miles from Scotland south to the headwaters of the Nile and about three thousand miles from the Pillars of Hercules eastward to the sands of Persia. Its citizens and subject peoples numbered perhaps eighty million.” (1) Rome was raised up, like Assyria, to be the “rod of [God's] anger” (Isa. 10:5). “So completely shall the city be taken that the enemy shall sit down in the midst of her to divide the spoil. All nations (2), generally speaking were represented in the invading army, for Rome was the mistress of many lands.” (2) Thomas Scott, using supporting references from older commentators and cross references to other biblical books, writes that Zechariah is describing the events surrounding Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70.”


“The time when the Romans marched their armies, composed of many nations, to besiege Jerusalem, was “the day of the Lord” Jesus, on which he came to "destroy those that would not that he should reign over them" [Matt. 22:1-10; 24:3, 23-35; Luke 19:11-27, 41-44]. When the Romans had taken the city, all the outrages were committed, and the miseries endured, which are here predicted [Luke 21:20-24]. A very large proportion of the inhabitants were destroyed, or taken captives, and sold for slaves; and multitudes were driven away to be pursued by various perils and miseries: numbers also, having been converted to Christianity, became citizens of “the heavenly Jerusalem” and thus were “not cut off from the city” of God [Gal 4:21-31; Heb. 12:22-25]. (3)”


“Forcing these series of descriptive judgments to leap over the historical realities of Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70 so as to fit a future judgment scenario is contrived and unnecessary. A proximate fulfillment is more logical and consistent with basic hermeneutical principles.”


“Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle (14:3).”


“After using Rome as His rod to smite Jerusalem, God turns on Rome in judgment. Once again, Assyria is the model: “I send it against a godless nation and commission it against the people of My fury to capture booty and to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets .... So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness'” (Isa. 10:5-6, 12-13). “It is significant that the decline of the Roman Empire dates from the fall of Jerusalem.”(4) Thomas Scott concurs: “It is also observable, that the Romans after having been thus made the executioners of divine vengeance on the Jewish nation, never prospered as they had done before; but the Lord evidently fought against them, and all the nations which composed their overgrown empire; till at last it was subverted, and their fairest cities and provinces were ravaged by barbarous invaders.” (5)


“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south Zech. 14:4).”


“It is this passage that dispensationalists use to support the view that Jesus will touch down on planet earth and set up His millennial kingdom. Of course, one of the problems in making Zechariah 14:4 refer to Christ's second coming is the absence of any reference to Him coming down. But let's assume that Jesus' coming is implied. How else would Jehovah be able to “stand on the Mount of Olives”? Numerous times in the Bible we read of Jehovah “coming down” to meet with His people. In most instances His coming is one of judgment. In no case was He physically present. Mountains, like sun, moon, and stars, are often used to represent tribes, nations, and kingdoms. For example, Israel is depicted as a mountain (Amos 4:1; Zech. 4:7; John 4:21; Rev. 8:8; 21:10).”


“The symbolic nature of mountains comes from the Apostle John's Jewish heritage. John was a Jew, and the book of Revelation must be interpreted with one eye on the Old Testament: “The Book of Revelation is the most thoroughly Jewish in its language and imagery of any New Testament book. This book speaks not the language of Paul, but of the Old Testament Prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.” (6)


“In the Old Testament, a mountain was often a symbolic reference to a kingdom or national power. The prophet Isaiah wrote of a time when “the mountain of the LORD'S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2). In Jeremiah 51:25, God issued a stern warning to the nation of Babylon: “'I am against you, 0 destroying mountain, you who destroy the whole earth,' declares the LORD, 'I will stretch out my hand against you, roll you off the cliffs, and make you a burned-out mountain.'”


“The prophet Daniel saw a vision in which “the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). What did the mountain symbolize? “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (2:44). The Old Testament uses the figure of a mountain to refer to a kingdom. Jesus describes Israel's judgment in terms of a mountain being “taken up and cast into the sea” (Matt. 21:21; Mark 11:23). Jesus delivered His judgment discourse concerning the destruction of the temple from the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24-25).”


“Notice how many times God's coming is associated with mountains.

• “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey. . . (Ex. 3:8).

• “Then Thou didst come down on Mount Sinai, and didst speak with them from heaven. . . (Neh. 9:13a).

• “Bow Thy heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, that they may smoke” (Psalm 144:5).

• “For thus says the LORD to me, 'As the lion or the young lion growls over his prey, against which a band of shepherds is called out, will not be terrified at their voice, nor disturbed at their noise, so will the LORD of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill'” (Isa. 31:4).

• “Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Thy presence — (Isa. 64:1).

• “When Thou didst awesome things which we did not expect, Thou didst come down, the mountains quaked at Thy presence” (Isa. 64:3).”


“In Micah 1:3 we are told that God “is coming forth from His place” to “come down and tread on the high places of the earth.” How is this descriptive language different from the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives with the result that it will split? Micah says “the mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place” (1:4). “It was not uncommon for prophets to use figurative expressions about the Lord 'coming' down, mountains trembling, being scattered, and hills bowing (Hab. 3:6, 10); mountains flowing down at his presence (Isaiah 64:1, 3); or mountains and hills singing and the trees clapping their hands (Isaiah 55:12).” (8)


“Isaiah 40:4 is descriptive of earth-moving events that did not literally take place.”


“Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley.”


“The New Testament specifies how we should interpret these verses by applying them to the coming of Christ. Christ's coming is preceded by “every mountain and hill” being brought “low” (Luke 3:5). Was there a major realignment of the topography of Judea when Jesus came on the scene after the announcement of John the Baptist? Was any mountain or hill “made low”? And yet, the prophecy was fulfilled in the first century.”


“What is the Bible trying to teach us with this descriptive language of the Mount of Olives “split in its middle”? The earliest Christian writers applied Zechariah 14:4 to the work of Christ in His day. Tertullian (A.D. 145-220) wrote: “But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives.' For thus had Zechariah pointed out: And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives' [Zech. xiv. 4].” (9) Tertullian was alluding to the fact that the Olivet prophecy set the stage for the judgment coming of Christ that would once for all break down the Jewish/Gentile division. Matthew Henry explains the theology behind the prophecy in this way:”


“The partition-wall between Jew and Gentiles shall be taken away. The mountains about Jerusalem, and particularly this, signified it to be an enclosure, and that it stood in the way of those who would approach to it. Between the Gentiles and Jerusalem this mountain of Bether, of division, stood, Cant. ii. 17. But by the destruction of Jerusalem this mountain shall be made to cleave in the midst, and so the Jewish pale shall be taken down, and the church laid in common with the Gentiles, who were made one with the Jews by the breaking down of this middle wall of partition, Eph. ii. 14.(10)”


“You will notice that there is no mention of a thousand year reign following the presence of Jehovah on the Mount of Olives. While we are told that “the LORD will be king over all the earth” (14:9), this does not mandate an earthly millennial reign of Christ. This language is neither new or forward looking. “For the LORD Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us, and nations under our feet” (Psalm 47:2, 3). This is exactly what happened with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”




1. Otto Friedrich, The End of the World: A History (New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1982), 28.

2. G. N. M. Collins, “Zechariah,” The New Bible Commentary, F. Davidson, ed., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI:

Eerdmans, 1954), 761.

3. Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorised

Version; with Explanatory notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References, 3 vols. (New York:

Collins and Hannay, 1832), 2:955

4. Collins, “Zechariah,” 761.

5. Scott, The Holy Bible, etc., 956.

6. Ferrel Jenkins, The Old Testament in the Book of Revelation, 22.

7. Charles H. Dyer, World News and Bible Prophecy (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1993), 150-51.

8. Ralph Woodrow, His Truth is Marching On: Advanced Studies on Prophecy in the Light of History (Riverside,

CA: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1977), 110.

9. “Tertullian Against Marcion,” Book 4, chapter XL, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:417.

10. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6 vols. (New York: Fleming H. Revel, n.d.), 4:1468. (3)


In closing:


Promoters of dispensational premillennialism contend that Zechariah 14:1-3 is describing events leading up to the “Battle of Armageddon.” The final climax is Christ descending upon the mount of Olives” in verse 4, where Christ overthrows His enemies to start the millennium. However, Zechariah 14 has no reference to a millennium; it has to be read into the text. Why are early Church leaders like Tertullian, who was closer to the prophetic event and closer to the apostles that are discounted and prophetic interpreters over 2000 years away into the future, not?


The Mount of Olives was split in the middle by the Messiah when He broke down the wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles. Zechariah has been fulfilled by Christ at His first advent. Fulfilled prophecy is much more edifying than future speculations. Furthermore, fulfilled prophecy proves the divine inspiration of Scripture.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Willem VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), p. 194.

2.      Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Zechariah, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 403-404.

3.      Gary DeMar, ‘Last Days Madness,’ Appendix Five, (Powder Springs, GA, American Vision, 1999), p. 437-443.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jack-Kettler/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJack+Kettler