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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Zechariah 12

Verse 1

XII.

(1-9) The opening of this chapter is similar to that of Zechariah 9:0, and marks the beginning of the second half of these latter prophecies. This prophecy, as far as Zechariah 12:9, seems to recur to the same events as were foretold in Zechariah 9:10 : viz., the successful contests of the Maccabean period.

(1) Israel.—Comp. Malachi 1:5, &c., and “all the tribes of Israel” (Zechariah 9:1). Elsewhere, in Zechariah 9-11 (except in Zechariah 11:14), the terms used are Ephraim (Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:7) and Joseph (Zechariah 10:6), as well as Judah (Zechariah 9:8; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:3; Zechariah 10:6; comp. Ezekiel 37:15-28). These and similar terms were interchangeable after the captivity, and refer, with a few exceptions, to the nation of the Jews in general. With this verse comp. Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13.

Verse 2

(2) The first part of this verse seems to imply that all who should attack Jerusalem would do so to their injury. The second part should perhaps be translated, And also over Judah shall be (the trembling, or reeling) in the siege against Jerusalem: i.e., Judah should suffer as well as Jerusalem, though, as is promised before and after, they should both come out victorious. This rendering seems, on the whole, the best. The rendering of the E.V. cannot be supported; while that of the margin requires too much to be supplied. Some would refer back to the opening words of the chapter, and render: “and also concerning Judah (is this burden of the word of the Lord).” The explanation of Ewald, “And also upon Judah shall it be [incumbent to be occupied] in the siege against Jerusalem,” is grammatically correct, as he shows from the expression (1 Chronicles 9:33) “upon them [it was incumbent to be occupied] in the work.” And, if we could understand by it that Judah was to be co-operating with (not against) Jerusalem in the siege (see Zechariah 12:5), this translation would have much to recommend it.

Verse 3

(3) A burdensome stone.—In lifting which the builders might lacerate themselves: meaning that those who should endeavour to build Jerusalem into the fabric of their own dominion should injure themselves in the attempt. But some (as Jerome) suppose the figure to be borrowed from some such athletic sport as “lifting the weight;” while others take the expression in a more general sense, as referring merely to a weight which is too heavy to be borne.

Verse 4

(4) Horse—viz., of the enemy. (Comp. Deuteronomy 28:28 with Deuteronomy 30:7.)

Open mine eyes.—Comp. 1 Kings 8:29.

Verse 5

(5) For shall be, read are. The strength of the fortress of Jerusalem should be the saving of Judah, but that strength would depend on the protection of “the Lord of Hosts, their God.”

Verse 6

(6) Comp. Obadiah 1:18.

People.—Better, nations. (Comp. Zechariah 11:10.)

Verse 7

(7) First.—There is another reading, supported by the LXX. and a few MSS., as in former times. This variant does not materially alter the sense, for in any case the deliverance of Judah is made to take precedence (in importance, if not in time) of that of Jerusalem. “Judah” seems here to denote the rest of the people, in contradistinction to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the princes of the house of David. The Maccabees were deliverers raised up from the people—viz., Levi (see Macc. 2:1)—not from the royal house.

Verse 8

(8) In that day an almost supernatural power will be given to Jerusalem through God’s favour, so that the weakest (comp. Psalms 105:37) inhabitant will be a hero like David (see 1 Samuel 8:18), and the house of David will be “as God,” or rather, as supernatural beings, even “as the angel of the Lord before them.” (Comp. Exodus 23:20, et seq.; Joshua 5:13, et seq.) The first part of this promise was signally fulfilled in the fact that the aged Mattathias was the initiator of that glorious struggle for liberty, which was afterwards carried on by his sons (the Maccabees).

Verse 9

(9) Seek.—This word is only twice used of God, here and in Exodus 4:24, where “He sought to slay Moses”: i.e., He expressed His determination to do so, but for certain reasons did not carry it out. So in this case He would have utterly destroyed the nations: that is, have given the Jews complete victory over them, but for Israel’s sin. (Comp. the case of the Canaanites, Joshua 23:5; Joshua 23:12-13.)

Verses 10-14

(10-14) These are verses of almost unprecedented difficulty. If the words “and they shall look on me whom they pierced” stood alone, they might possibly be taken in a figurative sense, as denoting that they shall look to the Lord whom they had so grievously contemned (see Notes on John 19:37). Such is the view of the passage taken by Calvin, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, &c., and apparently by the LXX.; but this figurative sense of the word cannot be supported by usage; it always means “to thrust through” (see my Hebrew Students Commentary on Zechariah, pp. 111, 112). Moreover, the words which follow, “and they shall mourn for him,” can only mean, according to the said interpretation, that they shall mourn over the slain Jehovah—a notion grotesque, if not blasphemous. We might, indeed, get somewhat over this difficulty by rendering the words and they shall mourn over it—viz., the matter; but such an explanation would be forced, and greatly destroy the effect of the following words, “as for his only son and for his firstborn.” Neither can we, reading on Him for “on me,” understand the words “and they shall look on him whom they pierced” as referring to some unknown martyr, or to the Messiah directly, since such a reference would be so abrupt as to have presented no meaning to the prophet’s original hearers. We are compelled, therefore, to propound a theory, which we believe to be new, and which will obviate most of the difficulties of the passage. We consider these verses to be misplaced, and propose to place them after Zechariah 13:3, and will comment further on them there.

Verse 11

(11) Hadadrimmon, says Jerome, “is a city near Jezreel, now called Maximianopolis, in the field of Mageddon, where the good king Josiah was (mortally) wounded in battle with Pharaoh-necho.” (Comp. 2 Chronicles 35:22-25). Assyriologists seem to be of opinion that the name should be pronounced Hadar-Ramman.

It has been urged as an objection to the post-exilic origin of this prophecy that the expression “as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon is a note of time, which should fix the date of this prophecy to a time shortly after the death of Josiah. We reply that this mourning over Josiah was a typical instance, and became “an ordinance for Israel” (2 Chronicles 35:25’), and so was naturally cited with reference to a similar occasion. Moreover, the fact that a place in the tribe of Issachar was, in the prophet’s time, known by an Assyrian name seems to us a proof, in itself almost conclusive, that the date of this prophecy is post-exilian.

Verse 12

(12) Nathan.—Not the prophet, but the son of David (2 Samuel 5:14).

Verse 13

(13) Shimei.—Not the Benjamite tribe (2 Samuel 16:5), but of the family of Gershon, son of Levi (Numbers 3:17). Thus, of the two tribes, he mentions one leading family and one subordinate branch, and then (Zechariah 12:1) embraces all together, and mentions even “their wives apart,” to show how general, and yet particular, the mourning should be.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/zechariah-12.html. 1905.