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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

In that day there shall be a fountain opened - Zechariah often repeats, “in that day” Zechariah 12:3-4, Zechariah 12:6, Zechariah 12:8-9, Zechariah 12:11; Zechariah 13:1-2, Zechariah 13:4; Zechariah 14:6, Zechariah 14:8, Zechariah 14:13, Zechariah 14:20, resuming his subject again and again, as a time not proximate, but fixed and known of God, of which he declared somewhat. It is “that day” which “Abraham desired to see, and saw it” John 8:56, whether by direct revelation, or in the typical sacrifice of Isaac, “and was glad:” it was “that day” which “many prophets and kings and righteous men desired to see” Matthew 13:17; Luke 10:24, and in patience waited for it,: “the” one “day of salvation” of the Gospel. He had spoken of repentance, in contemplation of Christ crucified; he now speaks of forgiveness and cleansing, of sanctification and consequent obedience. The “fountain shall be” not simply “opened,” but shall remain open. Isaiah had already prophesied of the refreshment of the Gospel. “When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I, the Lord, will hear them, I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys” Isaiah 41:17-18; here it is added, “for sin. and for uncleanness.”

There were “divers” Hebrews 9:10 symbolical “washings” under the law; the Levites were “sprinkled with the water of purifying” Numbers 8:7, literally, “the water of taking away of sin: living waters” Numbers 19:17, put to the ashes of an heifer, were appointed as a “water for” (removing) “defilements” (Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:13, Numbers 19:20-21 bis; Numbers 31:23); “a cleansing of sin” Numbers 19:9. Now, there should be one ever-open fountain for all “the house of David.” Theodoret: “Who that fountain is, the Lord Himself teacheth through Jeremiah, ‘they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters’ Jeremiah 2:13; and in the Gospel He says, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink’ John 7:37; and ‘The water which I shall give him, is a fountain of living water, gushing up to everlasting life’ John 4:14. This was ‘open to the house of David;’ for of that kindred He took human nature. It was opened also ‘for the dwellers of Jerusalem,’ for the sprinkling of holy baptism; through which we have received remission of sins.” Cyril: “That, receiving divine and holy baptism, we are sprinkled with the Blood of Christ to the remission of sins, who can doubt?” Dionysius: “Of this fountain much was foretold by Ezekiel, ‘that a fountain should issue forth from the temple of the Lord, and ‘go down into the desert’ Ezekiel 47:1, Ezekiel 47:8-9, and ‘every soul, to whom it shall come, shall live;’ and Joel, ‘A fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and water the valley of Shillim’ Joel 3:18. Of this fountain Peter said to the Jews, when ‘pricked in the heart’ and seeking forgiveness, ‘Let everyone of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins’” Acts 2:37-38.

Verse 2

I will cut off the names of the idols - This had been a fence against idolatry. To name evil is a temptation to evil. Wrong words are the parents of wrong acts. To speak of evil awakens curiosity or passion; curiosity is one of the strongest incentives to act. All public mention of terrible crimes (it has been observed) produces imitation of the specific form of crime. Hence, it was commanded, “make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth” Exodus 23:13. And Joshua names it in his dying charge to Israel, “Be ye therefore very strong to keep and to are all that is written in the book of the law of Moses - either make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them” Joshua 23:6-7. Hence, they “changed” the “names” of cities , which bare idol names. David speaks of it, as part of fealty to God. “I will, not take their names upon my lips” Psalms 16:4.

Hosea prophesies of the times of the new covenant; “I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall be no more remembered by their name” Hosea 2:17. Isaiah, “The idols he shall utterly abolish” Isaiah 2:18. Zechariah foretells their abolition with a turn of words, formed apparently on those of Hosea ; but slightly varied, because the worship of Baal, such a plague-spot in the time of Hosea, one, which continued until the year before the captivity , was gone, He implies nothing as to his own times, whether idolatry still existed. He predicts its entire abolition in the whole compass of the enlarged Judah, that is, of Christendom.

And also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land - False prophecy sets itself to meet a craving of human nature to know something of its future. False prophets there were, even in the time of Nehemiah , and those in some number, hired to prophesy against the word of God. Our Lord warns against them. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” Matthew 7:15. “Many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many” Matthew 24:11. Many false prophets, John says, “are gone out into the world” John 4:1. False prophets attended the decline of Judaism. Such was the author of the Jewish Sibylline book, prophesying the destruction of the Romans , and fixing the mind of his people on temporal aggrandizement : false prophets were suborned by the Jewish “tyrants” and encouraged the Jews in the resistance which ruined the devoted city: , false prophets have arisen in Christianity; but, like the Phrygian women who led Tertullian astray, they “went out,” were cast out “from it, as not being of it.”

Cyril: “After that the Only Begotten Word of God appeared to us, the dull and childish toys of idolatry perished and were utterly destroyed, and with it were taken away the strange and impious devices of the false prophets, who were full of the evil, unclean spirit, and could be readily detected as laboring under a kindred disease to the idolaters. For both had one president of impiety, Satan.” Not 50 years after the Crucifixion, a pagan wrote his work, “on the failure of oracles.” The outpouring of the Holy “Spirit of grace and supplication” Zechariah 12:10, should sweep away “the unclean spirit” , (Zechariah alone anticipates the language of the New Testament) which became “a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets” 1 Kings 22:21-23 sought to them.

Verse 3

His father and mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live - The prophet describes the zeal against false prophecy, with reference to the law against those who seduced to apostasy from God. Deuteronomy 13:6-10 : “the nearest relations were themselves to denounce any who had secretly tried to seduce them, and themselves, as the accusers, to cast the first stone at them. Cyril: “Such shall in those times be the reverence to Godward, so careful shall they be of perfect probity and laudable life, that parents themselves shall be stimulated against their children, if they should speak falsely anything from their own heart, as though God spoke by them - How true that word is, and how accredited the prophecy! This indicates clearly a great advance toward godliness, God transforming things or the better. What aforetime was held in great esteem, is now hated and accursed and held intolerable.”

Verse 4

The prophets shall be ashamed, every one of them - They who before their conversion, gave themselves to such deceits, shall be ashamed of their deeds; as, after the defeat of the seven sons of the chief priest Sceva, “fear fall on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified, and many that believed came and confessed and showed their deeds: many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all, and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily,” Luke subjoins, “grew the word of God and prevailed” Acts 19:13-20.

Neither shall wear a rough garment to deceive Feigning themselves ascetics and mourners for their people, as the true prophets were in truth. The sackcloth, which the prophets wore Isaiah 20:2, was a rough garment of hair Isaiah 22:12; Jeremiah 4:8; Jeremiah 6:26, worn next to the skin 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; Job 16:15, whence Elijah was known to Ahaziah, when described as “a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins” 2 Kings 1:8. It was a wide garment, enveloping the whole frame, and so, afflictive to the whole body. Jerome: “This was the habit of the prophets, that when they called the people to penitence, they were clothed with sackcloth.”

Verse 5

And he shall say - Repudiating his former claims, “I am a husbandman:” for a man hath taught me from my youth.” There was no room then for his having been a false prophet, since he had had from his youth one simple unlettered occupation, as Amos said truly of himself; “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son: but I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit” Amos 7:14. The prophet does not approve the lie, any more than our Lord did the injustice of the “unjust steward.” Our Lord contrasted the wisdom “in their generation” of a bad man for his ends, with the unwisdom of “the children of light,” who took no pains to secure their God. Zechariah pictures vividly, how people would anyhow rid themselves of all suspicion of false prophesying.

Verse 6

And one shall say unto him, What are those wounds in thy hands? - The words are simple; the meaning different , according as they are united with what immediately precedes, or the main subject, Him whom they pierced, for whom they were to mourn, and, on their mourning, to be cleansed, and of whom it is said in the next verse, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd.” Jerome and others explain it of the punishment inflicted by parents. “These wounds and bruises I received, condemned by the judgment of my parents, and of those who did not hate but loved me. And so will truth prevail dissipating falsehood, that he too, who was punished for his own fault, will own that he suffered rightly.”

But wounds of chastisement are not inflicted on the hands, and the punishment of false prophecy was not such wounds, but death. Wounds in the hands were no punishment, which parents would inflict. They were the special punishment of the cross , after sustaining which, One only lived. The most literal interpretation, then, of the wounds in the hands harmonizes with the piercing before, and the smiting of the Good Shepherd which follows, of whom David too prophesied, “They pierced My Hands and My Feet” Psalms 22:16. “What are those wounds on Thy hands? How long, think you, and how and by whom will this be said to Him? For ever and ever, unceasingly, and with unspeakable admiration it will be said, both by God the Father, “to whom He was obedient unto death, the death of the Cross” Philippians 2:8 : it will be said also both by the holy “angels” who “desire to look into” Him 1 Peter 1:12, and by people whom He has redeemed. O great miracle, wonderful spectacle, especially in the Lord of all, to bear wounds in the midst of His Hands! And He shall say; “With these I was wounded in the house of those who loved Me.” O great sacrilege, sacrilegious homicide, that such wounds were inflicted in the house of those who loved. He will not say, ‘with these I was wounded by those who loved Me,’ but ‘in the house of those who loved Me.’ For they who inflicted them, loved Him not.

But they were the house of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David, and the rest like them, who loved Me, and expected Me, who was promised to them. Yet so to speak is not to answer the question, ‘what are these wounds?’ For it is one thing to ask, what are these wounds, another to say, where they were inflicted. Having said, that they were inflicted in the house of those who loved Me. He says, what they are, ‘the Cup which My Father hath given Me to drink.’ For what He subjoins, is the Voice of the Father giving the Cup. ‘Sword, awake, etc.’ is as though he said, Ask ye, What are these wounds? I say, ‘the tokens of obedience, the signs of the Father’s will and command. The Lord of hosts, God the Father ‘hath not spared’ Me, ‘His own Son, but hath given’ Me ‘for’ you ‘all.’ And He said, ‘Awake, o sword, against Jify Shepherd, and against the Man cohering to Me,’ which is as much as, ‘O Death, have thou power over My Son, My good Shepherd, the Man who cohereth to Me, that is, who is joined in unity of Person with the Word who is consubstantial with Me!’ And then, as though the sword asked, how or how far shall I arise against this Thy Shepherd, he subjoins, ‘Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ Hence, the Shepherd Himself, when about to be smitten, spake, ‘All ye shall be offended because of Me this night. For it is written, I will smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered’ Matthew 26:31. So then to those who say, ‘what are those wounds in the midst of Thy hands?’ is appositely subjoined the Voice of the Father, saying, ‘Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd etc.’ in the meaning, ‘They are monuments of the Father’s love, the tokens of My Obedience, because He ‘spared not His own Son,’ and I ‘became obedient’ to Him for you all, ‘even unto death, and that, the death of the Cross. ‘“

Verse 7

Awake, O sword - So Jeremiah apostrophises the sword, “O thou sword of the Lord, when wilt thou be quiet?” Jeremiah 47:6. The prophets express what “will be,” by a command that it should be; “Make the heart of this people heavy” Isaiah 6:10. But by this command he signifies that human malice, acting freely, could do no more than His “Hand and” His “counsel determined before to be done” Acts 4:28. The envy and hatred of Satan, the blind fury of the chief priests, the contempt of Herod, the guilty cowardice of Pilate, freely accomplished that Death, which God had before decreed for the salvation of the world. The meaning then is, (Ribera), “the sword shall be aroused against My Shepherd, that is, I will allow Him to be smitten by the Jews. But by ‘the sword’ he designates death, persecution, wounding etc. as above, the ‘sword upon his right arm’ Zechariah 11:17, and, where the passion of Christ is spoken of, ‘Deliver my soul from the sword’ Psalms 22:20. So also, ‘All the sinners of the people shall die by the sword’ Amos 9:10,” (Jerome), “which cannot be taken literally; for many sinners perish by shipwreck, poison, drowning, fire.” Amos then “so spake, because many died by war, yet not all by the sword, but others by pestilence and famine, all which he includes under ‘the sword’ Amos 9:10. This smiting began, when the Lord was taken, and His sheep began to be scattered; but the prophecy which, before, was being gradually fulfilled, was fully fulfilled in His death, and the apostles were dispersed till the day of the Resurrection at eventide.”

Against the Man, My Fellow - that is, One united by community of nature. A little before, God had spoken of Himself as priced at “the thirty pieces of silver,” yet as breaking the covenant which He had made with all nations for His people; as “pierced through, yet as pouring the spirit of grace and supplication” on those who pierced Him, that they should mourn their deed, and as, thereon, ever cleansing them from sin. As Man, God was sold, was pierced. : “God, in flesh, not working with aught intervening as in the prophets, but having taken to Him a Manhood connatural with Himself and made one, and through His flesh akin to us, drawing up to Him all humanity. What was the manner of the Godhead in flesh? As fire in iron, not transitively but by communication. For the fire does not dart into the iron, but remains there and communicates to it of its own virtue, not impaired by the communication, yet filling wholly its recipient.”

The bold language of the Fathers only expressed the actuality of the Incarnation. Since the Manhood was taken into God, and in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and God and Man were one Christ. then was it all true language. His Body was “the Body of God” ; His flesh “the flesh of the Word” ; and it was lawful to speak of “the flesh of the Deity” , of “the Passion of the Word” , “the Passion of Christ, my God” , “the Passion of God” , “God dead and buried” , “God suffered” , “murderers of God” , “the Godhead dwelt in the flesh bodily, which is all one with saying that, being God, He had a proper body, and using this as an instrument, He became Man for our sakes, and, because of this, things proper to the flesh are said to be His, since He was in it, as hunger, thirst, suffering, fatigue and the like, of which the flesh is capable, while the works proper to the Word Himself as raising the dead and restoring the blind, He did through His own Body,” is but a continuance of the language of Zechariah, since He who was sold, was priced, was Almighty God. Jesus being God and Man, the sufferings of His Humanity were the sufferings of God, although, as God, He could not suffer.

Now, conversely, God speaks of the Shepherd who was slain, as “My Fellow,” united in Nature with Himself, although not the Manhood of Jesus which suffered, but the Godhead, united with It in one Person, was Consubstantial with Himself. The name might perhaps be most nearly represented by “connatural.” : “When then the title is employed of the relation of an individual to God, it is clear that that individual can be no mere man, Jut must be one, united with God by unity of Being. The Akin of the Lord is no, other than He who said in the Gospel “I and My Father are One” John 10:30, and who is designated as “the Only-Begotten Son, who is in the Bosom of the Father” John 1:18. The word, it seems, was especially chosen, as being used in the Pentateuch, only in the laws against injuring a fellow-man. The prophet thereby gives prominence to the seeming contradiction between the command of the Lord, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,” and those Of His own law, whereby no one is to injure his fellow.

He thus points out the greatness of that end, for the sake of which the Lord regards not that relation, whose image among men He commanded to be kept holy. He speaks after the manner of people. He calls attention to the greatness of that sacrifice, whereby He “spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all” Romans 8:32. The word ‘Man’ forms a sort of contrast with “My Fellow.” He whom the sword is to reach must unite the Human Nature with the divine.” Jews too have seen that the words, “My Fellow,” imply an equality with God; only since they own not Him, who was God and Man, they must interpret it of a false claim on the part of man , overlooking that it is given Him by God.

And I will turn My hand o upon the little ones - Doing to them as He had done to the Shepherd. So our Lord forewarned them: “If they have persecuted Me they will also persecute you” John 15:20 : “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me, before it hated you” John 15:18 : “Ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake” Matthew 10:22; Luke 21:17 : “they will deliver you up to the councils and scourge you in the synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:17-18; add Luke 21:12): “they shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake” Matthew 24:9; and to the Scribes and Pharisees, “I send unto you prophets and wise men and scribes, and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth” Matthew 23:34-35.

The little ones - As Jeremiah speaks of “the least of the flock” Jeremiah 49:20, and the Lord said, “fear not, little flock” Luke 12:32, little and weak in itself but mighty in Him and in His grace. Three centuries of persecution, alike in the Roman empire and beyond it in Persia, fulfilled the prophet’s words and deepened the foundation of the Church and cemented its fabric.

Verse 8

In all the land, two parts therein shall be cut off and die - “In all the land of Israel,” says a Jewish interpreter; (Kimchi); “ - the land, in which the Good Shepherd had been slain and the sheep scattered, “that upon you.” our Lord had said, “may come all the righteous blood.” As David punished Moab, “with two lines measured he to put to death, and with one full line to keep alive” 2 Samuel 8:2; and Ezekiel prophesied, “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee” Ezekiel 5:12; so now, the greater part should be destroyed, but a remnant should be saved. “But the third part shall be left therein. Even so then at this present time also,” Paul says, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace” Romans 11:5. Osorius: “The third part only shall be saved from the common destruction; yet not so, that they should suppose that glory was to be obtained amid ease.”

Verse 9

I will bring the third part through the fire - Such is always God’s ways. “Thou hast proved us, O God; Thou hast tried us, like as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the snare, Thou laidest trouble upon our loins: we went through fire and water, and Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” Psalms 66:9-11. “I have refined thee, but not with silver, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” Isaiah 48:10; and, “Through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God” Acts 14:22.

Dionysius: “In adversity virtue is most tried, and it is shown what advance a person has made; for ‘patience’ hath ‘a perfect work’ James 1:4; and it is called the touchstone of all other virtues, as is written; ‘God tried His elect as gold in the furnace and received them as a burnt offering’ ; and, ‘All the faithful who have pleased the Lord have passed through many tribulations’ . And the angel Raphael saith to Tobias, ‘Because thou wert accepted of God, need was that temptation should prove thee’ .” “Adversities are granted to the elect of God, and therefore to be rejoiced in with the whole heart.” “Fire, crosses, racks were prepared; swords executioners torturers were put in action; new forms of suffering were invented, and yet Christian virtue remained moveless, unconquered: the fiercer the onslaught, the more glorious was the triumph.” : “The more suffered, the more believed in Christ.” Osorius: “Whose virtue they adimired, these they imitated, and shared the suffering, that they might be partakers of the glory. This was that fire, whereby God willed that His own should be tried and purified, that, with Christ whom they gave themselves to imitate, they might enjoy everlasting glory.”

I will bless him and will say, It is My people - Dionysius: “not only by creation as the rest, but by devotion and worship, by predestination and infusion of grace, by singular Providence, by mutual love; ‘and it shall say, The Lord is my God,’ whom alone above all things, I long for, love, worship.”

This promise is oftentimes renewed through the prophets, oftentimes fulfilled in Christ, whenever the Church is recalled from listlessness by fiery trials, and through them her children are restored to deeper devotedness and closer union with God.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/zechariah-13.html. 1870.
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