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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. The restoration of Judah ch. 13

"The connection between chapters 12 and 13 is so close that a chapter division is really uncalled for. The same people, the same subject, and the same time are in view in both chapters. The relationship between Zechariah 12:10-14 and Zechariah 13:1-6 is not only logical but chronological as well. Once Israel is brought to a penitent condition and is brought face to face with her crucified Messiah, then the provision of God for cleansing will be appropriate." [Note: Ibid., p. 236.]

Verse 1

In that day God would open a fountain for the complete spiritual cleansing of the Israelites, both for their moral sins and for their ritual uncleanness (cf. Ezekiel 47). The figure of a fountain pictures abundant cleansing that would continue indefinitely. This will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to forgive the sins of His people Israel in the New Covenant (Zechariah 3:4; Zechariah 3:9; Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25; cf. Romans 11:26-27). "The blood of Jesus . . . cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). The cleansing is available now, but God will cleanse multitudes of Israelites in the future, after they turn to their Messiah in faith (Zechariah 12:10-14).

"The problem of sin is the central problem in the OT. It began in the garden of Eden and will not be eradicated until the final day of Yahweh." [Note: Smith, p. 280.]

Verses 1-6

Israel’s cleansing 13:1-6

Verse 2

At that time the Lord also promised to remove idolatry, false prophets, and unclean spirits from the land. There would be external cleansing as well as internal. The Jews would "no longer ascribe supernatural powers to mere things, nor worship them as divine" (cf. Zechariah 10:2-3; Jeremiah 23:30-32; Jeremiah 27:9-10; Ezekiel 13:1 to Ezekiel 14:11). [Note: Baldwin, pp. 195-96.] False prophets, as is clear from the context, would not mislead the people (cf. Matthew 24:4-5; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:15; Matthew 24:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:2-4; Revelation 9:20; Revelation 13:4-15). The unclean spirits are the diviners, mediums, and demons who confused and afflicted the people in the past.

"The reference to the banishment of the unclean spirits out of the land . . . is the only passage in Scripture which explicitly refers to the imprisonment of demons during the kingdom age. But since Satan is remanded to the abyss (the prison house of evil spirits) during this era, as is clearly declared in Revelation 20:1-3, it is a necessary corollary that his demon aids shall also share the same fate." [Note: Unger, p. 225.]

Verse 3

If anyone would try to play the part of a false prophet, his own parents, those closest to him, would put him to death. This was what God had commanded the Israelites to do to false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:6-9). They would pierce the false prophets fatally as they had formerly pierced the Messiah fatally (Zechariah 12:10).

Verses 4-5

This dangerous situation for the false prophets would lead them to hide their identity as prophets. They would not identify themselves in traditional ways (cf. 2 Kings 1:8) but would deny that they were prophets. They would go so far as claiming to have been sold into slavery as field hands when they were only boys, so they could not possibly be prophets.

Verse 6

Sometimes false prophets cut themselves to arouse prophetic ecstasy, to increase ritual potency, or to identify themselves with a particular god (cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1; 1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 48:37). If someone saw such marks on a false prophet’s body in that future day, the false prophet might claim that he had received his injuries by accident in a friend’s house. The modern practice of claiming, "I walked into a door," to avoid telling the real reason for an injury is similar.

Though some expositors believed this verse describes Messiah and His wounds, the preceding context and lack of any New Testament citation of the verse in relation to Messiah argue against this view. [Note: Ibid., pp. 228-30; and R. Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and D. Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 865; were proponents of the messianic interpretation.]

"This verse is best understood as an evasive reply of a false prophet in the last days. It carries on and concludes the subject begun in Zechariah 13:2. By no valid interpretation may it be referred to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no clear change of subject between Zechariah 13:5-6 such as exists between Zechariah 13:6-7. Christ would not claim that He was not a prophet (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-18); He was not a farmer; He was not bought or sold from His youth. Zechariah 13:7 does speak of Christ, as Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27 attest." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 975. Cf. Feinberg, "Zechariah," p. 910.]

"As is always the case with genuine conversion, there are both negative and positive aspects. The positive consists of the restoration to fellowship that takes place when sin has been forgiven (Zechariah 13:1). The negative involves the removal of those habits and attitudes that occasioned the interruption of fellowship between God and His people in the first place (Zechariah 13:2-6)." [Note: Merrill, p. 328.]

Verse 7

Zechariah now returned in a poem to the subject of the Shepherd that he had mentioned in chapter 11. He also returned to the time when Israel would be scattered among the nations because of her rejection of the Good Shepherd.

Almighty Yahweh personified a sword, the instrument of violent death, which he commanded to execute His Shepherd, the royal Good Shepherd of Zechariah 11:4-14. This is a figure of speech called apostrophe: a direct address to an impersonal object as if it were a person. Yahweh further described this Shepherd as the man who was very close to Him, even His Associate.

"The expression ’who stands next to me’ is used elsewhere only in Leviticus (e.g. Leviticus 6:2; Leviticus 18:12) to mean ’near neighbour’; similarly the shepherd is one who dwells side by side with the Lord, His equal." [Note: Baldwin, pp. 197-98. Cf. John 1:1-2; 14:9.]

"There is no stronger statement in the OT regarding the unimpeachable deity of Israel’s Messiah, the Son of God." [Note: Feinberg, "Zechariah," p. 910.]

In Zechariah 11:17 it was the worthless shepherd whom the Lord would strike, but here it is the Good Shepherd. The one doing the striking is evidently God Himself since "strike" is masculine in the Hebrew text and agrees with "the LORD of hosts." If so, Zechariah presented Messiah’s death as God’s activity (cf. Isaiah 53:10; Acts 2:23) as well as Israel’s (Zechariah 12:10-14).

The striking (death) of the Shepherd would result in the scattering of the Shepherd’s sheep (i.e., Israel, Zechariah 11:4-14). The Lord Jesus quoted this part of the verse, claiming the role of the Shepherd, when he anticipated the scattering of His disciples following His death (cf. Matthew 26:31; Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:27; Mark 14:50).

The last line of the verse is capable of two different interpretations both of which came to pass. Perhaps a double entendre was intended. God Himself would scatter even the young sheep and would extend mercy to them (cf. Mark 13:19; Mark 13:24; Luke 2:35; Revelation 11:3-10). New Testament scholar R. T. France believed that this passage influenced the thinking of Jesus, regarding His shepherd role, more than any other shepherd passage in the Old Testament. [Note: R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission, pp. 103-4, 107-9.]

"The divine witness to the death and deity of the prophesied Messiah makes this verse one of the most significant in the entire Old Testament." [Note: Unger, p. 232.]

Verses 7-9

The smiting of the Shepherd and the scattering of the sheep 13:7-9

Verses 8-9

The scattering of the sheep would result in two-thirds of the flock dying and one-third remaining alive. The Lord would refine the surviving one-third in the fires of affliction (cf. Zechariah 3:2; Ezekiel 5:1-12). This remnant must be the same group of Israelites, described in Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1, who would turn to God in repentance. Evidently two-thirds of the Jews, the unbelieving, will perish during the Tribulation and one-third will live through it and enter the Millennium. This surviving remnant then must include the 144,000 Israelite witnesses of Revelation 7:1-8; Revelation 14:1-5. The one-third will call on the Lord’s name in supplication for forgiveness (Zechariah 12:10). The Lord will respond to their cry by reaffirming His new covenant relationship with them, and they will agree to it (cf. Ezekiel 20:37).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/zechariah-13.html. 2012.
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