Getting ready for Sukkot earlier this week, I was reading Zechariah 14 with some of my study partners and was struck by the opening phrase, “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord . . .” Some translations say, “a day of the Lord,” but the Hebrew, Hineh yom ba l’Adonai, is better translated as “a day is coming for the Lord.”
The same phrase—yom l’Adonai—appears in Isaiah 2:12 and Ezekiel 30:3, but yom Adonai, “day of the Lord,” is much more common in the writings of the Prophets. “Day of the Lord” might emphasize what the day looks like to us humans; “day for the Lord” in Zechariah emphasizes Hashem’s perspective on the day as the one for him to accomplish what he wants to do.
In line with this, the phrase “in that day” or ba-yom ha-hu is repeated in Zechariah 14 exactly—you guessed it—seven times, marking this day as somehow perfect or complete despite the catastrophe it bears for those who oppose God. (Or perhaps because of the catastrophe for those who oppose God.) And if you’re still inclined to miss the import of this day, you should note that the final phrase of the chapter, and hence of the whole book of Zechariah, is ba-yom ha-hu. “And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day” (ESV, which captures the literal Hebrew here).
What really caught my attention this week, though, was verse 7.
The prophet says, literally (my translation here), “And it will be one day that is known to Hashem, not day and not night.” Or in the Complete Jewish Bible, “. . . and one day, known to Adonai, will be neither day nor night.”
One day—yom echad—takes us back to Genesis and the unusual use of “one day” in 1:5, “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. So there was evening, and there was morning, one day.” The rest of the days in Genesis 1 are listed as “second day,” “third day,” and so on. Here, however, it’s not “first day,” but “one day.” As the Midrash notes, “If it is a matter of time reckoning, it should say either one, two, three, or first, second, third, but surely not, one, second, third!” But the first day of Creation is unique—Day One—and Zechariah’s point is that this day will somehow return in the future. On Day One of Creation, God distinguished between day and night; the Day One that is coming will be neither day nor night. In that day, the day for the LordHashem will revisit Creation, or start over again. That day isn’t just a tune-up or even major remodeling; it’s a whole New Creation, ultimately known only to God.
The mystery is that this New Creation is in view even from the beginning. This is the underlying theme of my book Creation to Completion. In the introduction I say that the grand narrative of the entire Bible can be summarized in three words—Creation, Revelation, Consummation.
Creation-Revelation-Consummation provides the grid for understanding the theme of the Five Books of Moses and, hence, of the entire Bible—and of the plan for humanity revealed in it. God creates all things in six days and sees that his Creation is “very good” (Gen. 1:31). But the Creation does not yet reach its completion. Rather, on the sixth day, God tells Adam to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). There is still work to be done. Humankind has a task to fulfill in cooperation with God, a task that will bring Creation to fulfillment. Between Creation and completion is a continuing process of Revelation, unfolding through the lives of the patriarchs, the calling of Israel, the Exodus and giving of Torah on Mount Sinai, the words of the prophets, and most fully in the coming of Yeshua the Messiah.
All of this reminds us why we read Zechariah 14 during Sukkot. The three pilgrim festivals reflect the theme of Creation-Revelation-Consummation. Passover, coming in the springtime, celebrates the creation and renewal of life; Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of Torah, celebrates revelation; and Sukkot, the festival of harvest, re-enacts Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness in anticipation of the ingathering to come at the consummation of all things. This ingathering won’t just be for Israel, but for the nations that survive the final battle for Jerusalem and “go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the festival of Sukkot” (Zech. 14:16).
Zechariah 14 makes it clear that this whole picture is the big picture that Hashem had in mind since Day One—which should be reassuring to us in a day of mounting global violence and cruelty, resurgent anti-Semitism, and the unraveling of so much of the social fabric all around us. As Matisyahu sang a few years back:
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
There will be no more wars
And our children will play
One day, one day, one day, one day, one day, one day.