Zechariah Chapter Twelve
The Pierced Messiah
The first words in this chapter in the New English Bible are, "An Oracle." This chapter marks a clean break with the purpose of the prophet up to this point. The only other "oracle" is in chapter nine and deals mostly with future secular events which directly affect the "yishuv," which is predicted to go through worldly troubles and grow until the advent of the Messiah. There, the Messianic promise is in the same "yishuv" context developing from conditions predicted by the restoration of the nation. Up to now he has only spoken about the future kingdom of the Messiah by extending the prophecy of the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of Israel forward to the spiritual elements in the coming kingdom. Now he speaks directly of the Messianic age and looks back on the "yishuv." In the last chapter there appeared very clear Messianic promises of trouble developing in the latter day "yishuv" resulting in the break between Judah and Israel. (See notes on 11:13&14.) That shocking prediction is to be enlarged on in this chapter. Judah will eventually join the enemy against Israel! However, here the primary purpose of Zechariah changes and the Messianic kingdom is now the primary object and the "yishuv" is altogether secondary and is not in the mind of the prophet except as a past entity.
Understanding this chapter is governed by verses ten and eleven which is the event called "that day" and is described in all verses in the chapter. They are clear references to the suffering savior, the rejected king, the pierced Messiah! All the passages including verse one refer to that "burden." In the chapter there are eight repetitions of the phrase "in that day." Obviously, since the chapter is a unit of the same "burden," the "that day" spoken of on each occasion must be a description of one and the same period. Verse one has an introduction which disconnects this message with the preceding chapter. Chapter nine, which also changed the course of the prophecy, begins with the same words.
The symbols in this chapter must be understood to have their Messianic meaning, because the context depicts the Messianic age in contrast to a restoration of physical Israel, that is, a renewed Judah containing all the tribes. As in 11:14 Judah will be the continuing Jewish nation. Jerusalem, Israel, and House of David will all be key words referring to the kingdom of the Messiah. Just as in the period of the kingdom, from Saul to Zedekiah, all the words, Israel, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim, would have referred to only one thing at a time, first to the whole nation, and later to the kingdom of the ten tribes, so in Messianic times Jerusalem, Israel, House of David, Zion, and the Temple, all refer to the one spiritual kingdom of the Messiah and not to their earthly counterparts. Paul makes such a contrast when he said in Gal. 4:26 "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Jerusalem in previous chapters may have referred to the literal city in Palestine, but in this chapter Jerusalem must be understood to be the mother, Sarah, not Hagar.
Zec. 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, says the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
"Israel" is a picture of Messiah's kingdom because it can represent the whole nation and the context is Messianic. In Zechariah, Israel and Judah, when paired, refer to the primary prediction of their restoration in a combined nation. (See 1:19 and 8:13) If Israel is spoken of in a context where Judah is not named, it means either the completely restored nation as in 9:1 or it means the extension of the restored nation to the kingdom of the Messiah as in this verse. Where he mentions the break between Israel and Judah, Israel means Messiah's kingdom as in 11:14 and Judah is the continuing Jerusalem which is below, the natural Jewish nation. This burden is for the kingdom of the Messiah, not for Judah, whose brotherhood was to be broken off when the Gentiles come to drink the "cup of trembling."
Zec. 12:2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling to all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
"A cup of trembling" describes what happens to you when you drink.
"They shall be in the siege against." Hebrew "yihyeh" , can be "it shall be" or "he shall be," but not "they." Thus "people" Hebrew "'ammiym," , as a plural is not the subject. There is no "they" in the Hebrew text. It is difficult to translate this unclear passage because the literal words must be interpreted. Both the Septuagint and the Vulgate give interpretive translations of this verse which we will note below, but first let us consider the literal word-for-word translation. (But be careful because you can translate words but not idiom.) Hebrew: "and also upon Judah it is (to be) in the siege upon Jerusalem." The translation in my revised KJV above is not possible.
It was often the habit of the Septuagint translators to interpret the passage and not follow the literal words. Some religionists in the past have accepted the Septuagint as inspired translation. This commentator does not. But it is of interest to see what the Septuagint translators thought. They translated this passage: "in Judea there shall be a siege upon Jerusalem." But the Vulgate says: "Judah is set against Jerusalem." The Amplified Bible has: "and upon Judah also it will be in the siege against Jerusalem," which is close to the literal meaning above. The New English Bible renders the passage, "and Judah will be caught up in the siege of Jerusalem."
The fact that the text contains the possibility of Judah becoming the antagonist of Jerusalem has caused a great deal of disagreement among commentators. This is evidenced in the variety of translations. W.J. Deane makes the mistake of seeing the participants as all physical when he says: "Any interpretation which makes Judah join with the enemy in attacking Jerusalem is precluded by the very intimate union between Judah and Jerusalem..." * Chapter 11:14 has already predicted the break in the "intimate union" which Deane thinks is continued in the following verses. On the contrary, what is seen is:
An attack on God's people and events that will produce the fear of nations with Judah joining the enemy. The rest of the chapter describes the event or series of events which are a time of crisis, like a siege, in the life of Jerusalem which culminates with looking on and mourning for a pierced Messiah.
* Exell & Spence; op. cit. pg. 135.Zec. 12:3 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.
"In that day" describes the day of crisis introduced in verse two as a siege. The events of 30 C.E. in Jerusalem which produced the new Jerusalem have motivated and occupied the attention of the western world ever since. That was a day of crisis in which the Messiah was pierced. Jerusalem here is a figure of the church. Not only all nations but even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Zec. 12:4 In that day, says the LORD, I will strike every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness; and I will open my eyes upon the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the people with blindness. 12:5 And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
The horse and rider represents strong opposition from the strongest authorities, not a literal horse. The leaders of Judah will be as strong horses against the trend of God's spiritual Israel while lesser leaders, governors, (Hebrew "aluphiym," , same as Greek "chiliarch" or captain of 1,000) will trust in the strength of the members of the body who are indwelled by the Almighty because they accept the Messiah.
In the case of Jesus and the early church it was the chief priests and rulers of the nation who resisted most fiercely. The High Priests and the other "horses and riders" of the Sadducees were his greatest opponents. Astonishment, madness and blindness well describe the conduct of the ruling class. Jesus actually called them "blind leaders of the blind." While the predicted conduct of the lesser governors is probably fulfilled in men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, who represent a class, who trusted in the faith of the common people, who received Jesus gladly, and they with them were among the first to accept the gospel. Acts 6:7 says, There were many others of the same class, "a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
Zec. 12:6 In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left; and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
If this is not a picture of the day of Pentecost and what soon followed, then it is one of the whole of the initial Gospel period and the zeal of the apostles and evangelists who are reported to have turned the world upside down. It depicts the time when the true Jerusalem and the remnant are cleansed of the false shepherds and called by new fire-filled leaders to inhabit the heavenly Jerusalem.
Zec. 12:7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
Spiritual Jerusalem did not appear at first but the church was born among a literal Jewish nation and for a long time spiritual Israel appeared to be a Jewish sect. This was the point of view of many early Christians. Thus Christianity grew in a Jewish womb and was suckled by a Jewish mother and spent infancy in a Jewish house. Many in the house of Judah would be saved first. The gospel was to the Jew first. This is still the case. The Jews have not ceased being a special people to the LORD but they have been cut off from the tree. Spiritual Israel only began to appear plainly after the conversion of Cornelius recorded in Acts 10. Apostles and evangelists began bringing the Gentiles into spiritual Jerusalem which was not understood by Jerusalem that is beneath, nor even by some of the saved. Consequently the first conference, in which the united church with its leaders were called on to decide the direction of the church, wrestled with this very question. Zechariah predicted that the Jews would be saved first and only then the house of David in the Messianic Jerusalem would take the leading place. As late as 55 to 60 C.E. the Jerusalem church which numbered tens of thousands was still Jewish. In Acts 21:20 James the Lord's brother said to Paul, "You see, brother, how many thousands (Gr. myriads or ten thousands) of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law."
Zec. 12:8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
Remember, it is Messianic Jerusalem that is being spoken of. The weakest person in this haven has God to defend him which will make him strong indeed. The "house of David" relates all these passages to the sure mercies of David and other like prophecies which the apostle Paul preached as being fulfilled when the message of the resurrection resulted in calling the Gentiles into the Messianic kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth.
Zec. 12:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
This is the valley of Jehoshaphat again. See the introduction of chapter 14 and comments on Isaiah 66 in chapter 6 of this book where we show that this kind of a battle speaks of the call of the Gentiles to enter spiritual Israel. In God's destruction, his enemies are slain but are then saved and raised from the dead. Let us all be so destroyed. Then in the next verse follows what is the main event "in that day:"
Zec. 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
"House of David." See the section of the David prophecies. It is clear that every "David" prophecy is Messianic. They all, just as this does, speak of the final stage of the restored nation when its purpose will have been completed. The call of the faithful will have been accomplished and the Gentiles will have been called into the nation of Israel. Jerusalem is a key word for the kingdom of the Messiah just as Israel, Zion, and Temple can be. These terms all refer to earthly and heavenly aspects of the same thing. Is the context Messianic? If so, then Jerusalem here is Messianic Jerusalem.
"The spirit of grace and supplication" is so much a part of the emotional beauty of the Messianic age that those who experience it wonder why those outside can't see the church of Christ as the fulfillment of the Israel prophecies. If we were Jews and had to harmonize the actions of "Christians" of the past toward them we would not then have the same difficulty. Anti-semitic horrors perpetrated in the name of Jesus of Nazareth by those claiming to be his followers have made the recipients of those horrors view his name in the light of their experiences. No matter how "stubborn" they may seem to be, the Messiah has given us the spirit of grace and supplication. I experience the beauty of the spiritual blessings of the Kingdom of the Messiah. I loathe the anti-semitic spirit among my co-religionists (I don't say brothers) which contributes to the blind condition that still possesses the physical nation of Israel in the light of these verses.
"They shall look on me." The text is plain. Jewish scholars who can not bring themselves past the point of considering Jesus of Nazareth as the "end of the law" as well as the completion of the Messianic promise, do try to make this and like Scripture read differently. It is no use. The text is not corrupt and the change in person from me to him is like the other mystically confused contexts when the LORD and the Messiah are spoken of as doing the same thing. It is eternity slipping in and out of the time-space warp. He is one and the same and separate at the same time, not only in the prophecies but in eternity and in the text here.
"On me whom they have pierced." So the Hebrew text reads. (The Septuagint incorrectly tries to harmonize the last clause with the next (mourn for him) by seeing two people, due to the confusion when YHWH and Messiah are in the same context. There is no other reason, except avoidance of the application of the actual words, to suggest that the text means "they look to me for consolation for the guilt of having offended (pierced) other people." Besides the text not allowing this interpretation, it is banal in view of the context of mourning as though you have lost your firstborn to death! The word "daqar," , pierce, means to stab. While there is some controversy over the meaning of the word "pierce" in Ps. 22:16 "they pierced my hands and my feet," there is none here. It is verses like these that make the suffering Messianic King-Priest described in these prophecies plainly applicable to Jesus.
Zec. 12:11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
The mourning was for Josiah who was killed by Pharaoh Necho in the plain of Megiddo when the nation lost their last king who followed the LORD with all his heart. God himself allowed Josiah to die in the battle so he would not have to see the evil to come,--that evil being the unholy lives of his sons, the beginning of the captivity about three years later, and the final destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple about twenty one years after that.
Zec. 12:12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 12:13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 12:14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
If the mourning is for the Messiah who is pierced then this description continues the elaboration of a spiritual event in the context of the symbol of the physical nation of Israel. The passage is not to be fulfilled therefore by the participants actually named since those named are universal, i.e., "all the families." Those named are named for a reason. That reason is to show the individuality of the mourners and the mourning. That which characterizes the continual experience of mourning for the crucified Lord, which has never ceased from the day of his crucifixion, is that there are new mourners who continue coming on the scene. The same level of grief may have been approached by the Jewish nation when they buried Josiah and were caught up in the mass grief of the moment. That moment ended. But not so the grieving for the pierced YHWH of the house of David. His mourning will always be existential. That means "only I can experience it for myself." It will encompass, according to this prophecy, all classes, young and old, male and female, but they will not mourn in mass. They will express their grief in a purely existential way, each one apart. It will be totally individual and belong only to the self in his own experiential moment. In this sense does the Christian experience and continue the mourning for the pierced Messiah. I am sorry, dear Jesus, for my sins that made it necessary for me to willfully pierce your hands and your feet. No one else can share this inner experience with me! He must mourn by himself, apart.
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