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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1

(1) The meaning of this verse seems to be that the people would keep the law with more heartfelt earnestness, and consequently acceptably. There seems to be a reference to Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9, et seq.

Verses 1-3


(1-3) Some critics consider that Zechariah 12:0, Zechariah 13:1-6, and Zechariah 14:0 were composed in the time of Jehoiakim (cir. 600), or that Zechariah 14:0 was written a little later, when the confidence of victory expressed in the earlier chapters was considerably lessened on account of the more threatening position of political affairs. To this we can only reply that, if so, the prophet was a false prophet, and proclaimed “Peace, peace, when there was no peace;” and we, at least, are not inclined to undertake the responsibility of making such a statement concerning the author of these chapters. We suggest that these verses should be placed between Zechariah 12:9-10.

Verse 2

(2) Unclean spirit.—This is the only passage in the Old Testament in which we find the expression “unclean spirit,” which is of such frequent occurrence in the New. (See on Zechariah 10:2.)

Verse 3

(3) The reaction from superstition would be scepticism. The people would no longer believe in prophecy at all, and the very parents of a prophet would slay him as an impostor, even though not legally convicted of falsehood (Deuteronomy 18:19-22).

But God would have pity of their “zeal not according to knowledge,” and “pour out . . . the Spirit . . . so that they should look on Him whom they pierced,” &c. The word “pierced” is the same as is better rendered in Zechariah 13:3 by “thrust through” The Hebrew has “shall look upon me,” but by the addition of the small letter, it would mean “upon him,” which suits better the succeeding clauses, and has the support of Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus, and is defended by Kennicott, Ewald. Geiger, Bunsen, &c. (and is so quoted in John 19:37). We, accordingly, adopt this rendering. If our conjecture concerning the original position of Zechariah 12:10 in the text be correct, the whole passage will run as follows (Zechariah 13:1): “In that day shall be a fountain opened, for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for [removal of] sin and of uncleanness.—(2) And it shall be in that day (‘tis the utterance of Jehovah of Hosts) I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall not be remembered any more; and the [false] prophets and the unclean spirit will I cause to pass away from the land. (3) And it shall be, when a man shall prophesy, then they shall say to him, his father and his mother, they that bare him, “Thou shalt not live, because thou hast Spoken lies in the name of Jehovah;” and they shall thrust him through, his father and his mother, they that bare him, on account of his prophesying. (Zechariah 12:10) Then will I pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplication, and they shall look on him, even him whom they thrust through, and they shall mourn over him, as the mourning for an only son, and they shall make bitter mourning over him, as one mourneth bitterly for a firstborn. In that day . . . (14) . . . and their wives apart.”

When scepticism should have reached such a pitch that parents would without hesitation slay their son if he should pretend to prophetic powers, then God would smite the people with prickings of the heart, and they would look on such a case with the utmost remorse, and make great lamentation for the victim. As with Zechariah 11:12 (see Notes), so this prophecy must not be regarded as being fulfilled in one single event only. But, certainly, in the case of Christ it received its most signal fulfilment. There was One, professing more than prophetic powers, rejected by His people, and especially by His own relatives—slain, thrust through, and then deeply lamented (Luke 23:48; Acts 2:37-41).

Verse 4

(4) Now he reverts to those who are really false prophets.

Verse 5

(5) Taught . . . cattle.—Better, acquired, or bought me. He pretends to be a purchased slave, kept hard at work, and therefore as having no time for professing inspiration. His meaning is very different from that of Amos 7:14.

Verse 6

(6) In.—Better, betweeni.e., on the hands and up the arms. His interrogator accuses him of having cut himself in idolatrous worship (1 Kings 18:28). The meaning of the latter part of the verse depends on the interpretation put on “my friends,” or “my lovers.” Some suppose these to be his false gods, and that he confesses with shame that he had so cut himself in idolatrous worship; but the passive verb is against this explanation. Others, better, suppose him to reply that they are the stripes he has received in loving chastisement in the house of his parents or relatives. In any case, he is anxious to disavow any pretence to prophecy.—Throughout these passages “that day” extends over a considerable period, the limits of which are hidden even from the prophet himself.

Verse 7

(7) My shepherd.—Unless we are to consider that these verses ought to be transferred to the end of Zechariah 11:0 (see Notes there), we must take this expression as a title of honour.

Fellow.—This word, except here, occurs only in Leviticus. It means either neighbour, fellow, or, according to others, neighbourly relationship, fellowship. Perhaps the “foolish shepherd” (Zechariah 11:15) could hardly be called by the Lord “the man of my fellowship.” If so, this argument is conclusive for the retention of this passage in its present position. Other arguments in the same direction are that the mention of the “third part” (Zechariah 13:8) is very similar to the mention of “half of the city” (Zechariah 14:2), and that the use of hââretz in the sense of “the land” (Zechariah 13:8) is parallel with Zechariah 14:9, rather than with Zechariah 11:6; but it must not be forgotten that, as far as the word itself is concerned, it may in all these passages mean “the land,” or in all “the earth.” It is only possible to decide on its meaning according to one’s own view of the context.

Wicked men are the Lord’s sword (Psalms 17:13); through them was to be executed His determinate counsel (Acts 2:23). The smiting of the shepherd was on account of the sin of the flock. The shepherd, then, must be understood to be He whom they are before represented as having insulted and rejected (Zechariah 11:12). Part of this verse is quoted by our Lord (Matthew 26:31).

I will turn mine hand—viz., in merciful chastisement. (Comp. Isaiah 1:25.)

The little ones.—The word occurs only here in this form. It means perhaps the humble and patient, and so denotes those who are called afterwards “the third part” (Zechariah 13:9).

Verses 7-9

(7-9) It has been objected that “The mention of the house of David’ (Zechariah 12:7; Zechariah 13:1) is inconsistent with the supposition of the authorship of Zechariah.” The answer is obvious, viz., that the house of David had not ceased with the captivity; on the contrary, Zerubbabel was its representative on the return. There is, too (not to mention cases more generally known), a family living to this day at Aleppo, the members of which, on account of its claim to be descended from the “house of David,” are, in accordance with Genesis 49:10, always allowed to take precedence of all others in exercising the functions of dayyânîm, “judges”; the famous Abarbanel also laid claim to be a descendant of David. Moreover, the thought expressed by the prophet in Zechariah 12:7, that the glory of the house of David, and that of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, should not magnify itself over Judah, is one which could never have entered into the conceptions of a prophet writing before the exile.

Verse 8

(8) The land.—viz., of Israel. (Comp. Zechariah 14:9.)

Verse 9

(9) The third part.—Amidst all the calamities which should overtake the land, a remnant should be saved and purified. In the light of the Gospel we may (if we retain them in their present context) understand these words as fulfilled in those who embraced Christianity; but the prophet, from the Old Testament stand-point, speaks vaguely, and after the analogy of the past captivity (Isaiah 6:13).

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/zechariah-13.html. 1905.
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