Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-9


Zechariah 12-14.

The fresh title here prefixed sufficiently indicates that a new pericope begins with Zechariah 12:0. Its leading themes are the victory of God’s kingdom over the heathen world (Zechariah 12:1-9), the repentance and conversion of the children of the kingdom (Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 13:1), their purification from all ungodliness (Zechariah 13:2-6), a severe sitting of the flock consequent upon the smiting of the shepherd (Zechariah 13:7-9), and the final tremendous conflict of the Church and the world, ending in the assured victory of the former (Zechariah 14:0).

If our view of the First Burden be correct, it would seem to follow that the second begins where the first leaves off, and treats of events to follow the coming and rejection of Christ. There are indeed many particulars which suggest the struggle of the Maccabees as the subject of the former part of the twelfth chapter; but that has already been treated of in the ninth chapter with specific mention of Javan or Greece as the antagonist, and why should we have it renewed here? Why should the Prophet halt in his progress and go back over trodden ground? Moreover, the twelfth chapter expressly speaks in several places of the conflict as carried on not against one nation, but against all the peoples of the earth (see Zechariah 12:3). There is an aspect of universality of which no sign at all appears in the portion Zechariah 9:11 to Zechariah 10:7. It is the heathen world against the covenant people. Where now are we to look for the outward reality corresponding to this inward vision of the Prophet? Manifestly there is nothing in the history of the literal, national Israel which approaches conformity to this vivid outline. Never did they not only resist their foes, but inflict such damage upon them as could be compared to the ravages of fire among wheat sheaves. The covenant people maintained their internal constitution and religious usages until the days of Titus, but in no case did they devour all nations roundabout on the right hand and the left. It only remains then to hold that the Prophet here passes from the old to the new form of the Church, that he refers to the kingdom of God on earth after the appearance of the Messiah, and describes its trials and triumphs, its inward and outward development.

But does he refer to events yet future, or may we trace a fulfillment of his words in the past? The latter seems the more probable. As there was a chronological advance in the previous oracle, it is natural to look for one here, and to consider that the Prophet refers to different stages in the progress of the Christian Israel. In this view the struggle and victory in Zechariah 12:1-9 can hardly have any other reference than to the persecutions of the heathen world. Judah invaded, Jerusalem besieged by the nations, and yet the attempt at overthrow not only foiled but recoiling in the ruin of those who made it,—what else can this be than the fierce and bloody onslaught of pagan power on the infant Church? Or if Zechariah intended to set it forth, in what other way could he in his historical relations conceive the issue and its result than the way in which it is given here? Nor is it of use to object that this is spiritualizing arbitrarily. The Christian Church is the legitimate continuation of the Old Testament Israel. There is but one Israel, one people of God from the beginning to the end. According to the Apostle’s figure, old branches were broken off and new ones grafted on, but there was only the one olive tree throughout. Gentiles when they come to Christ, are incorporated into the commonwealth of Israel, so as to become fellow citizens with the saints, i. e., those who are already such (Ephesians 2:12-19). It is one and the same body, differing in outward and unessential characteristics, but maintaining an unbroken identity in all that belongs to substance and life.


Zechariah 12:1-9.

A. Jehovah’s continuous Agency in Nature (Zechariah 12:1). B. Jerusalem ruinous to her Besiegers (Zechariah 12:2-4). C. Energy of the Chiefs of Judah (Zechariah 12:5-7). D. Promise of growing Strength to the Feeble (Zechariah 12:8). E. Final Result (Zechariah 12:9).

1 The burden of the word of Jehovah upon Israel,

Saith Jehovah who stretches1 forth the heavens,

And lays the foundation of the earth,
And forms the spirit of man within him.

2 Behold I make Jerusalem a bowl2 of reeling

To all the peoples3 round about,

And upon Judah also shall it be4

In the siege against Jerusalem.

3 And it shall be in that day, I will make Jerusalem

A burdensome stone for all peoples,
All who lift it shall tear themselves;
And5 all nations of the earth shall gather against it.

4 In that day, saith Jehovah,

I will smite every horse with terror,6

And his rider with madness,
And upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes,
And every horse of the peoples will I smite with blindness.

5 And the chiefs7 of Judah shall say in their heart,

The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength8

In Jehovah of Hosts, their God.

6 In that day I will make the chiefs of Judah

As a pan9 of fire among sticks of wood,10

And as a torch of lire in a sheaf,
And they shall devour on the right hand and on the left
All the peoples around,
And Jerusalem shall yet sit in her own place in Jerusalem.

7 And Jehovah shall save the tents of Judah first,11

That the glory of the house of David,
And the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem
May not exalt itself over Judah.

8 In that day will Jehovah defend12 the inhabitant of Jerusalem,

And the stumbling13 among them in that day shall be as David, And the house of David as God,14

As the angel of Jehovah before them.

9 And it shall be in that day,

I will seek to destroy all the nations
That come against Jerusalem.


This chapter begins the second half of the last division of Zechariah’s prophecies. It commences with the same word as does the portion chaps, 9–11 but in a different application. Both utterances are burdens, i. e., threatening predictions. The former sets forth calamity as the portion of God’s enemies, whether within or without the ranks of his covenant people. The latter represents the same as involving temporarily and partially his own chosen followers, but in the end these attain complete deliverance.

Zechariah 12:1. Burden. See on Zechariah 9:1. עַל=upon or concerning, not against. The calamity involves Israel, but its full scope takes in the general body of the ungodly. Israel=the covenant nation, either in itself or as found in its true successor, the Christian Church. The Jewish interpreters, say the former, and with them many Christian critics agree (Theodoret, Calvin, a Lapide, Grotius, Vitringa, Bleek, etc.), while an equal number adopt the latter (Jerome, Cyril, Luther, Albertus Magnus, Cocceius, Marckius, Calmet, Hengstenberg). Who stretches forth the heavens, ff. For the purpose of allaying any possible doubt as to the fulfillment of the prophecy, there are added to Jehovah’s name several striking expressions of his Almighty power (cf. Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13; Psalms 54:2-4). The Scriptures know nothing of the mechanical view of the universe as something from which God, after having created it, stands altogether aloof. “Every day He spreads out the heavens, every day He lays the foundation of the earth, which if it were not upheld by his power would wander from its orbit and fall into ruin” (Hengstenberg). The reference to God’s formation of the human spirit is intended to suggest that unrestrained and continuous agency by which He controls the thoughts and purposes of men, and is able therefore to accomplish his own purposes through them, or in spite of them (cf. Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Psalms 33:15; Proverbs 21:1.

Zechariah 12:2. Behold, I make…round about. A lively exhibition of the failure of the nations in their attack upon Jerusalem. Zechariah employs the figure common in the older Prophets, of representing Jehovah’s wrath as a wine-cup which maddens and infatuates nations doomed to ruin. God will administer such a potion as will make them reel and fall in hopeless weakness and misery (cf. Psalms 75:9, and Isaiah 51:17-22; Jeremiah 25:15-17). What elsewhere is כוֹס= cup, here is סַק=basin or bowl, the latter being used, perhaps, because many were to drink of it at the same time. And upon Judah also…Jerusalem. What is to be “upon Judah?” And old and wide-spread opinion says that it is a forced participation in the siege of the capital (Targum, Vulgate, Grotius, Marckius, and many later critics); but this is not required by the text, nor consistent with the context, which indicates union rather than opposition between the country and the capital. Others say, the bowl of reeling (Kimchi, Hitzig, Maurer, et al, but this would require the preposition לְ instead of .עַל Köhler proposes to supply מצוֹר as the subject, but this is forbidden by the awkward sentence it would make, and by the fact that only a city and not a land can be besieged. It is better to assume as the subject the substance of the previous clause,—what takes place at Jerusalem; and the meaning is that the country and the capital shall be involved in the same trial.

Zechariah 12:3. And it shall be…a burdensome stone. The prophet employs another figure borrowed, according to the young men in Palestine de scribed by Jerome as still subsisting in his day. They who, overrating their strength, try to lift a stone too heavy for them, not only fail, but suffer sprains and dislocations. Such a fate will befall the foes of Jerusalem, i. e., all peoples, all the nations of the earth, for so extensive is the combination against the holy city.

Zechariah 12:4. In that day…blindness. Horses and riders represent the warlike forces of the enemy. The terrifying and blinding of these makes them injurious only to themselves. Upon Judah on the contrary, which stands here for the whole nation, Jehovah says, I will open my eyes, i. e., for protection (Psalms 32:8 (Heb.), 1 Kings 8:29; Nehemiah 1:6). Cowles justly calls attention to the beautiful antithesis. “God smites with blindness the warring powers of his foes, but opens his own eyes wide on his people, to see and provide for their wants.” The three plagues mentioned are precisely those with which Moses threatened rebellious Israel in Deuteronomy 28:28 : “The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart.” A fine historical illustration of the effect of sudden blindness is seen in the history of Elisha (2 Kings 6:18).

Zechariah 12:5. And the chiefs of Judah…my strength. That the leaders find their strength in the inhabitants of Jerusalem can mean only that the holy city, made such by the election of the Most High who dwells there, insures his protection for all who seek Him in the appointed way, and that even the most dignified and powerful have no other resource. A parallel sentiment is found in Psalms 87:2 : “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.”

Zechariah 12:6. In that day…in a sheaf. In consequence of this trust in the divine election, the leaders consume their foes on every hand as a basin of fire devours faggots, or a torch bums up a ripe sheaf. The resulting preservation of the city is stated in the last clause, in which the first Jerusalem=the population personified as a woman, and the second=the material city as such. For the reverse condition, see Isaiah 47:1.

Zechariah 12:7. And Jehovah shall save…Judah. The word tents stands in contrast with fortified cities. These spread over the open country Jehovah will save first, in order that the well-defended capital may not lift itself above the defenseless land; but that both may acknowledge that “in either case the victory is the Lord’s” (Jerome).

Zechariah 12:8. Will Jehovah defend…angel of Jehovah. The Lord will exalt his people to a degree of strength and glory far transcending anything in their past experience. This is expressed by saying that even the stumbler, one who can scarce hold himself up, much less attack a foe, shall become a hero like David; and even David’s house shall exceed its highest fame of old, shall become like God, nay, like the angel of Jehovah, that peculiar manifestation of Deity which once marched at the head of the armies of Israel. This very striking and beautiful climax is of itself an answer to those who depreciate the literary merit of Zechariah. But the rhetorical excellence of the passage falls far below its consolatory and stimulating power as a promise. Before them (cf. Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:20).

Zechariah 12:9. I will seek to destroy…Jerusalem. This does not mean to seek out in order to destroy, but is spoken, more humano, to express the energetic purpose of the speaker

This prophecy is supposed by Vitringa, C. B. Michaelis, Dathe, and others, to refer to the dealings of God with the national Israel in the end of the world, in the last great struggle of ungodliness. It is manifestly easier to interpret the passage in its details upon this literal view of its application And yet there is great improbability in such a view Why should the prophet, after depicting so vividly the rejection of the Good Shepherd, and the consequent overthrow of the flock, pass at once to the final scene; overlooking all the splendid triumphs of the truth during the intervening period? Would we not naturally, from the case itself and from the usage of the other prophets, expect some allusion to the great changes in the development of the kingdom of God, and to its progressive increase among the nations of the earth? Moreover, if the national Israel are hereafter to be restored to then own land and to resume the old relations of capital and country, on what ground can we look for a consentaneous attack of all nations upon this one small people and territory? Can any imagination conceive the recurrence of a general movement, like that of the Crusades, precipitating the men and means of a continent, not to say a world, upon the sacred soil of Palestine? Of course, such a thing is possible, but in view of the vast changes in the current of human thought, in the economy of states and empires, in the ways in which races and dynasties seek to increase or perpetuate their influence, and in the distribution of political and social power, it is the most unlikely of all conceivable events. Were the Jews to day in the possession of the Holy Land, and that whether converted or unconverted, what motive could there be for any existing nation or combination of nations to assail the seed of Abraham with fire and sword? If it be claimed that there will be a revival of the bloody propagandism of infidelity or atheism, as at one period of the French Revolution, why should such an outburst be directed against Jerusalem or Jewish believers rather than against the strongholds of the Gospel found among Gentile believers? Such an attack, if successful, would hardly affect more than an outpost of the Christian Church. The great body of the means and resources of evangelical Christendom would remain unimpaired. It is, therefore, more natural to consider this pericope as a general statement not only of the Christian Israel’s victory over the first ten persecutions, but of the result of all its conflicts with the world’s power as they are renewed from age to age.


1. The fundamental thought in the conception of God is that of Power. Alike in the Scriptures and in human experience we begin our view of the Most High with the fact of creation. In looking at the world around us we have an intuitive and irresistible conviction that this visible effect must have had an invisible cause, a cause adequate to its production. The universality of this conviction in all ages and lands,—rendered only the more striking by the occasional exceptions which history discloses,—entitles us to rest in it with absolute certitude. But the power which created the world t must be unlimited. He who without an effort and by a simple volition called the universe into beings can do all things. To Him great and small, high and low, difficult and easy, are practically the same. All things are possible with God. But if He be infinite in this direction, He must be equally so in. all others. What is there, what can there be, to limit any other aspect of his nature? Boundless power implies necessarily boundless wisdom and boundless goodness. A truncated Deity, perfect on one side, but imperfect on others, is inconceivable by us, or if the vain attempt be made to hold such an inconsequent view, the result is either Dualism or Polytheism.
Hence the perpetual recurrence in the Scriptures to this attribute of Jehovah. It is as necessary to our practice as to our theories. In all the course of the individual believer and of the Church at large, there occur seasons when there is no other support for faith and hope than the divine omnipotence. We must look up to Him who stretcheth abroad the heavens and layeth the foundation of the earth and formeth the spirit of man within him. To feel that all things material and immaterial lie at his control as clay in the hands of the potter is a buttress of the believing soul. It sustains in the darkest hours of trial; it encourages in the endeavor after the most difficult enterprises.
“It is a thought which ever makes
Life’s sweetest smiles from tears;
It is a daybreak to our hopes,
A sunset to our fears.”

2. It is said that on one occasion when at a conference of Andrew Rivet with the king of France, the latter threatened some severe measures against the cause of truth, the sturdy reformer answered, “May it please your Majesty, the Church of God is an anvil which hath broken a great many hammers.” It is even so. Zion is a burdensome stone, and always has been, to her assailants. They have harmed not her, but themselves. Pharaoh pursued the children of Israel and caught them “entangled in the land, shut in by the wilderness,” but when he sought to spring the trap, they escaped in safety, while he and his host sank like lead in the mighty waters. The, Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, but no defeat was ever so damaging to Dagon or his worshippers as this seeming triumph. Babylon rioted in the plunder of Jerusalem, and the impious king turned the sacred vessels of the sanctuary into the drinking cups of an idolatrous revel, but the fingers of doom wrote upon the wall a sentence which numbered and finished his days the same night. Herod sought to slay the infant Redeemer, but while the child was safe in Egypt, the cruel king perished by a painful and loathsome disease. So in the bloody persecutions which attended the introduction of Christianity, one and another took up the Church as a stone to toss hither and thither, but in vain. The stone was unharmed, but the lifters were torn and lacerated. All were made to feel what the dying Julian uttered in his despair, “O Galilean, thou hast conquered!” Here, more than anywhere else, is fulfilled the saying of the devout Psalmist, “The Lord is known by the judgment which He executeth; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands” (Zechariah 9:16). Every assault upon Zion recoils upon the heads of its authors, and that not simply by virtue of “the elastic nature of right according to which every infliction calls forth a counter infliction;” but in consequence of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God who taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Times without number has his providence justified the earnest counsel which Pilate’s wife gave to the Roman governor in the great crisis of his life, —Have thou nothing to do with that just man.

3. Yet when Zion prevails, over her foes, this result is not owing to any human or inherent strength, but to the presence and power of Jehovah. I make Jerusalem a bowl of reeling; I make her a burdensome stone; I smite every horse with blindness; I make the chiefs of Judah a pan of fire; Jehovah saves, Jehovah defends. Thus, throughout, the stress is laid upon the divine arm. This is the essential factor in the case. On human principles, or according to the ordinary operation of cause and effect, the world would prevail. Often every advantage is on its side; arms, wealth, influence, statecraft, learning, prestige, and numbers. Yet the few, the weak, the unlettered, the lowly, the things that are not, bring to nought the things that are. The reason is that the excellency of the power may be, and may be seen to be, not of man but of God. In all efforts of evangelization this truth is to be distinctly recognized and made prominent. For the Lord will not give his glory to another. The seer said to Asa (2 Chronicles 14:8), “Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet because thou didst rely upon the Lord, He delivered them into thy hand.”

4. There is something stimulating in the rich promise of growth contained, in Jehovah’s assurance to the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:8). The stumbler, the man who can scarce hold himself up, much less make an assault upon the foe, shall be made a mighty man of valor like David. His feebleness and incapacity shall merge into the strength and skill of a hero, for the Lord shall teach the hands to war and the fingers to fight. Nor is this the end. Even a great captain like David shall surpass himself, shall reach a superhuman courage and decision. He shall resemble the manifested Jehovah as he marched at the head of his conquering host in the days of old. In the sphere of spiritual things this illustrious promise verifies itself. The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger. Faith gains by experience. Grace increases by exercise. The sapling which once bent with every blast and had but a precarious chance of life, ripens into a gnarled oak which spreads its branches far and wide and defies the storm. It is literally true that no degree of grace is impossible to him that believeth, for the Apostle’s declaration, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” did not apply only to himself. The same provisions and promises are open to all Christians. He who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, perfects his strength in human weakness, and the trembling believer, following on to know the Lord, is lifted to a pitch of devotion or endurance or activity which once seemed as far away as the fixed Stars.


Moore: I will open mine eye, etc. The promise of God is the best protection of his Church in the time of peril. He may seem to forget his people in their trouble, but it will be only a seeming oblivion, for at the proper time He will open his eyes upon them, and show them that He slumbers not nor sleeps. That the glory…do not magnify, etc. The whole plan of God’s dealings with man is to humble that pride, the root of which is selfishness, and the fruit of which is every form of sin.

Pressel: The affliction of the Church serves first for a chastisement of God’s people, but then falls back in terror and shame upon the heads of their foes.

Calvin: Though the Church may be grievously tried and exposed even to death, let us learn from this passage that they are miserable indeed who through fear or cowardice separate themselves I from her, and that they who cast on God the care of their safety, shall be made blessed, though the whole world were mad against them, though the weapons of all nations were prepared for their ruin, and horses and riders assembled to overthrow them, for the defense of God is a sufficient protection.


Zechariah 12:1; Zechariah 12:1.—Who stretches, lays, forms. The substitution of the preterite for the participle by some translators not only is gratuitous and inaccurate, but hides the allusion to the creative power of God as constantly exhibited in the continued existence of his works.

Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:3.—סף. This word Hengstenberg, in the first edition of his Christology (followed by Moore), rendered thresh hold, but in the second, he returns to the old and better version cup or bowl.

Zechariah 12:2; Zechariah 12:2.—עַמִּים. Here and in Zechariah 12:3-4; Zechariah 12:6, peoples. See on Zechariah 8:20.

Zechariah 12:2; Zechariah 12:2. —The rendering of the second clause in the E. V. is impossible grammatically, and is sustained by no authority that I have seen.

Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:3. —וְנֶא׳ It is possible but not necessary to render, as E. V., “though all,” etc.

Zechariah 12:4; Zechariah 12:4. —תִמַּהוֹן Astonishment hardly expresses the force of this word, which denotes a sort of wondering consternation.

Zechariah 12:5; Zechariah 12:5. —אַלּוּף head of a family or tribe, is not well rendered as in E. V., by prince, which necessarily implies something of kingly rank or power. As a title of authority it is elsewhere in Scripture used only of the heads of the Idumean tribes (Genesis 36:15; Exodus 15:15; 1 Chronicles 1:51 ff.), whence Hengstenberg deduces an ingenious argument in favor of the genuineness of the second part of Zechariah (christology, 4:67), cf. on Zechariah 9:7.

Zechariah 12:5; Zechariah 12:5. —אַצמָה, ἄπ. λεγ = לִי .אֹצֶם is the dative of advantage, and the singular is used collectively as in Zechariah 7:3.

Zechariah 12:6; Zechariah 12:6. —כִיּוֹר usually a basin for washing (the laver of the tabernacle, Exodus 30:18), here is a pot or pan for coals.

Zechariah 12:6; Zechariah 12:6. —עַצִים is not “woods ”=forest, but sticks of wood or faggots.

Zechariah 12:7; Zechariah 12:7—The reading כִבָרִאשֹׁנָה adopted by LXX, Vulgate, and Peshito, and found in five MSS., is manifestly due to an attempt at correction.

Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 12:8. —יָגֶן used with another preposition in the same sense, in Zechariah 9:15.

Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 12:8. —נִכְשָׁל feeble (E. V.), is not so expressive as the literal, stumbler; cf. Ps. cv. 37, “And not a stumbler in his tribes”. (Isaiah 5:27.)

Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 12:8. —אֶלהִׄים may here be used as an abstract plural, denoting what is divine and heavenly, or in general superhuman (cf. 1 Samuel 28:13; Ze. Zechariah 8:6), —a view which seems to render more obvious the contrast between the wo latter clauses of the verse. LXX. renders “house of God,” which Luther follows, and which accounts for the Vulgate, (“et domus David quasi Dei.”

Verses 10-14


s Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1.

A. A plentiful Effusion of the Spirit causes Men to look upon the Jehovah they have pierced, and Mourn bitterly (Zechariah 12:10). B. Greatness of the Mourning (Zechariah 12:11). C. Each Family mourns separately (Zechariah 12:12-14). D. A Provision far the Penitents (Zechariah 13:1).

10 And I will pour out upon the house of David,

And upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
The Spirit15 of grace and supplication,16

And they shall look upon me17 whom they pierced,

And they shall mourn for him18 as the mourning over an only one,

And be in bitterness19 for him as one is in bitterness for the first-born.

11 In that day the mourning shall be great in Jerusalem,

Like the mourning of Hadadrimmon20 in the valley of Megiddo.

12 And the land shall mourn, family by 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.

13 The family of the house of Levi apart and their wives apart,

The family of the Shimeite21 apart and their wives apart.

14 All the remaining families,

Family by family apart and their wives apart.

Zechariah 13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened

To the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
For sin and for uncleanness.


This passage presents a complete contrast to the one immediately preceding. The change is every way startling. There is not a word of war, or conflict, or victory, no reeling-cup for the nations, no torch among sheaves, no march of a hero at the head of conquering hosts. On the contrary, all is subjective, subdued, spiritual. It is a picture of penitence as vivid and accurate as any found any where in the Scriptures. The people are seen standing alone in their relation to Him whom they have rejected, and meditating upon the character of their great crime. One thought occupies all minds, one feeling pervades all hearts. The experience of their great ancestor recorded in the 51st Psalms renewed on a broad scale, and a great sorrow spreads over the community, the intensity of which is likened on one hand to that occasioned by the sorest domestic affliction, and on the other to that of a great public calamity felt to be at once universal and irreparable. Each tribe and family goes apart to weep in silence and solitude over the grievous infliction. What now is the nexus between this passage and that which precedes? It seems to be this. As the former portion of the chapter set forth the outward protection of Providence shown toward the New Testament Israel, by means to which it emerged victor from all trials and conflicts, and saw its enemies utterly discomfitted, this portion turns to the other side of Israel’s experience and deals with its inward character, showing how the covenant people become such, how the Church in its new form commences the Christian life, and obtains a title to the divine protection. It is by the bitter herbs of repentance, leading to pardon and renovation through a believing sight of the pierced Saviour,—the whole preceded and induced by a copious shower of spiritual influences of the same kind as those predicted by Joel (Joel 2:28), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 32:15). In this view the two parts of the chapter correspond to each other and make one complete whole. The result of the failure of the shepherd in Zechariah 11:0. is shown to be not final and absolute, but a link in the chain of events which works out the fulfillment of the old covenant promises, and the ingathering of all the Israel of God.

A vast spiritual blessing is promised. It begins in the outpouring of a gracious Spirit, which produces an intense and wide-spread penitential sorrow, and this again is followed by purification and forgiveness.

Zechariah 12:10. And I pour out. … supplication. The house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem, here and in Zechariah 13:1, stand for the whole covenant people, according to a usage by which the capital represents the nation (Zechariah 2:2; Zechariah 8:8). The mention of the royal house indicates that all ranks from the highest to the lowest need and shall receive the promised gift. The “pouring out” rests upon the earlier passage (Joel 2:28), and differs from it in defining more minutely the character of the effusion. It is a spirit of grace and supplication, which is abundantly bestowed. חֵן is not=prayer (Gesenius, Noyes), nor love (Ewald), but grace or favor. The Spirit of grace then is the Spirit which brings grace (cf. Hebrews 10:29). It. produces in the mind of man the experience of the grace of God, and this experience rousing the sense of sin and guilt, naturally leads to “supplication;” and this in turn suggests the looking spoken of. הִבִּיט is applied both to bodily and mental vision, and not unfrequently with the idea of confidence in the object beheld (Numbers 21:9; Isaiah 23:11; Isaiah 51:1). The phrase, upon me, must refer to Jehovah, for according to ver.1 He is the speaker throughout. The אֵת before אַשֶׁר, as usual defines more clearly the accusative, and thus renders impossible the rendering of Kimchi, because. Ewald and Bunsen prefer the reading of a number of MSS , upon him instead of upon me; but the authority for the received text is overwhelming, and on ever critical ground it is to be adopted (see Text, and Gram.). The other reading seems to have arisen from an attempt to correct the Hebrew on the ground that it was impossible that God could actually be pierced,—an objection which of course falls away at once when the doctrine of the Incarnation is received. Whom they pierced. דָקָרוּ was rendered by the LXX. κατωρχήσαντο reviled, or insulted, probably because they thought the literal meaning of the word unsuitable, since they similarly avoided it in rendering Zechariah 13:3, where the E. V. has, “His father and his mother shall thrust him through.” Several Christian critics have adopted this as the figurative meaning of the verb, and translated or expounded accordingly (Theodore of Mopsuestia, Calvin, Grotius, Rosenmüller, Gesenius, Maurer); but entirely without reason, for in every other case the word is confessedly used in its literal sense (Judges 9:45; 1 Samuel 31:4; Zechariah 13:3); and the prodigious mourning subsequently mentioned, with the comparisons by which it is set forth, the loss of an only son or a first-born, and the wail over the good king Josiah, presupposes the occurrence of a literal death. But the point is put beyond question by the Apostle John, who after recounting the act of the soldier who pierced the Saviour’s side, adds (John 19:37), “Another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced; “of course not meaning that this one act of the soldier exhausted the meaning of the prophecy, but that it was a fulfillment of it. The change of person in the quotation—him whom Hot me whom,—is due simply to the fact that in the Prophet it is Messiah Himself who is speaking, while in the Gospel John speaks of Him. Matthew makes a similar change of person in his quotation (Matthew 27:9). The remainder of the verse describes the result which is to follow from this looking to the pierced One. And they shall mourn. The object of this verb is put not in the first person, as we should expect, but in the third, for him; but such an enallage of person is not uncommon in Hebrew. See any of the grammars for examples. That the pronoun is to be in the masculine and not in the neuter (Gousset, Schultens, etc.), see in Text, and Gramm. Mourning over art only son, is of course a sign of the deepest sorrow (cf. Amos 8:10). Similar is the death-wail over a first-born, of which the great instance is found in the last of Egypt’s ten plagues (Exodus 11:6). There was an incipient fulfillment of this prophecy in the fact mentioned by Luke (Luke 23:48), that at Christ’s crucifixion, “all the people. … smote their breasts.” (The primary meaning of סָפַד is to strike, especially on the breast). But the true fulfillment began when the multitudes at Pentecost were pricked to the heart (Acts 2:37).

Ver.11. The mourning shall be great, ff. The Prophet furnishes an historical illustration of the greatness of the mourning. The reference is generally supposed to be to the lamentation over Josiah, who was mortally wounded “in the valley of Megiddo” (2 Chronicles 35:22). Hadadrimmon appears to have been a city in this valley, and Jerome speaks of such a city as still existing in his day, although he says that its name had been altered to Maximinopolis. Josiah was a king of Judah, a pious king, and one whose death was lamented in an extraordinary manner (2 Chronicles 35:25). There is no need to seek for other applications of the text, such as the absurd reference of the Targum to the death of Ahab, who could not have been mourned at all, much less, generally or bitterly; or the impious suggestion of the heathen weeping for Thammnz or Adonis (Movers, Hitzig); or the frivolous notion of Pressel, that the allusion is to Sisera’s mother (Judges 5:28), as mentioned in the Song of Deborah! Equally frivolous are Pressel’s objections to the common view, namely, (1) That Josiah did not die in Megiddo but on the way to Jerusalem, where he was buried and lamented; (2) that he, being now a man of nearly forty years of age, could not properly be spoken of as a first-born or only son! Hengstenberg. on the contrary, states well the reasons why just he should be introduced here as a type of the Messiah. “He was slain on account of the sins of the people; his reign was the closing manifestation of mercy on the part of the Lord; unspeakable misery followed immediately afterwards; the lamentation for his death rested upon the mingled feelings of love, and of sorrow for their own sins as the cause of his death.”

A still more elaborate description of the mourning is given in the next three verses.
Vers.12–14. And the land shall mourn, ff. Not only the capital, but the whole land shall mourn, and this not only in gross but in detail, every family and every subdivision of a family apart. The mention of the wives apart is not to be explained from the habit of the women in all lands “to go into mourning” (Pressel), but simply as a further specification of the intensity and universality of the mourning. The mention of David and Levi is easily understood, as these were heads respectively of the royal and priestly lines. The other two names are not so clear. The old Jewish view supposed Nathan to refer to the prophetic order, and Shimeite to the teachers, who were said to have sprung from the tribe of Simeon; but Shimeite is not the patronymic of Simeon, but Shimeonite; nor is there any evidence that that tribe furnished teachers for the nation, and Nathan the prophet was not the head of any order. It is better to adopt the view (Hengstenberg, Henderson, Keil, Köhler) first stated by Luther: “Four families are enumerated, two from the royal line under the names of David and Nathan (son of David), and two from the priestly line, Levi and his grandson Shimei; after which he embraces all together.” Thus he mentions one leading family and one subordinate branch, to show that the grief pervades all, from the highest to the lowest. All the remaining families. Not those that are left after the judgment (Neumann), nor the less renowned (Köhler), nor as implying that some families shall have become extinct (Henderson); but simply the remainder after those which have just been specified by way of example. This penitential grief will not be in vain.

Zechariah 13:1. There shall be a fountain opened, ff. This verse resumes and completes the process begun in Zechariah 12:10 of the preceding chapter. It treats of the same parties, —the house of David and the inhabitant of Jerusalem, standing here as there for the whole nation. He who poured out the spirit of supplication will also provide the means of purification from sin. A fountain is shut up as long as it remains under ground, or is sealed from access (Song of Solomon 4:12); it is opened when it breaks forth and flows freely. The reference appears to be to a twofold usage in the Mosaic ritual; one, the sprinkling of the Levites at their consecration with “water of purifying,” lit., sin-water, i. e., for purification from sin (Numbers 8:7), and the other the sprinkling of persons contaminated by contact with death, with the water prepared from the ashes of the red heifer, called the water of uncleanness, i. e., which removed uncleanness. In both these cases the impurity denoted the defilement of sin, and the outward purification was a symbol of the inward. So the water which flows from the fountain in the text, is a water of sprinkling by which sin and uncleanness are removed. It does not need to be renewed from time to time, as was the case with the Levitical waters, but issues from a living well-spring. The meaning cannot be a new water supply for the metropolis (Pressel), nor even grace in general (Köhler), nor the grace of baptism, as the older critics said; but is the blood which cleanseth from all sin (1 John 1:7), the blood of that sacrifice which was typified in the sin-offering of the red heifer, the blood which removes alike the guilt and he dominion of sin.

Excursus on Zechariah 12:10. The history of the interpretation is interesting.

I. Among the Jews the early opinion was in favor of the Messianic interpretation. Thus in the Gemara of Jerusalem, it is said, “there are two different opinions as to the meaning of this passage. Some refer it to the lamentation for the Messiah; others to the mourning for sin.” Both concurred in thinking of a dying Messiah, but one thought directly of Him and his suffering, the other of the sin which caused his death, directly or indirectly. The former took עָלָיו as a masculine suffix, the latter as neuter. In contrast to this the Gemara of Babylon maintains the personal application of the passage, but says that it refers to Messiah ben Joseph who is to suffer and die, while Messiah ben Judah is always to live. And this convenient fiction of two Messiahs was “subsequently adopted by Aben Ezra and Abarbanel, the latter of whom confessed that his chief object was to remove the stumbling-block interposed by Christians when they interpreted the prophecy, as relating to the crucified One. Kimchi and Jarchi denied any Messianic reference. They said that there was a change of subject, and either adopted the false reading upon him instead of upon me, or translated the following word because instead of whom, so that they interpreted, “the pierced One”=every one who had been slain in the war with Gog and Magog, and said, “they will all lament for the death of one as if the whole army had been slain.” But this view is its own refutation. The translators of the LXX. had the same text as we have, but gave the sense vex instead of pierce, because they could not see the relevancy of the literal meaning. Some consideration of the same kind operated upon the Chaldee paraphase, which renders “they shall pray before me because they have been carried away (or have wandered about). ‘ The modern Jews, however, generally adhere to the literal sense of the verb דיר, and explain it in the method proposed by Kimchi, rejecting either expressly or tacitly the notion of a double Messiah.

II. Among Christians the reference to Christ was adopted without dissent by the early expositors and most of the Reformers. Strange to say, the first exception is found in Calvin, who understood the passage as referring to God, who is figuratively said to have been pierced, i. e., irritated and provoked by the Jews. He, however, held that as Christ is God, manifest in the flesh, what happened to Him was a visible symbol of the substance of the prophecy, and therefore was justly cited by John as its fulfillment. This view was warmly repudiated by Calvin’s contemporaries, and followed only by Grotius, and some Socinian writers. Later writers applied the words to some distinguished Jewish leader or martyr. Jahn suggested Judas Maccabæus, and rendered, “they will look upon Him (Jehovah) on account of Him whom they have pierced.” Baur thought it was impossible to determine which pf the leaders it was, but it was one of those who had lost their lives in the service of the true God. Bleek adopted the same view, and to get rid of the reference to Jehovah, substituted for אֱליֵ ,אֵלַי the poetic form of אֶל, and rendered “they look to Him whom they pierced.” This is simply desperate, for אֱלֵי occurs only four times in the Old Testament, and these are all in the Book of Job, and immediately before a noun, and as it is here in the construct state, it cannot possibly be joined to the accusative אֵת. Besides, this view fails to account for the universal mourning or the opened fountain.—Ewald for one martyr substitutes a plurality of such as had fallen in the war with the heathen. He renders “they look to Him whom men have pierced,” thus changing the text and assuming another subject for the verb, and explains thus, “the intention is to show that no martyr falls in vain, but will one day be mourned with universal love.” But this is opposed to the religious tone of the first clause, grace and supplication, and to the fact that in both the preceding chapter and the following, only one person is spoken of as an object of persecution. Hofmann, after giving up his first view of a plural object, adopted another according to which he rendered, “My heroes look at Him whom men have pierced.” But אל never means hero (see Fürst, sub voce), and besides, הִבִּיט is usually construed with the preposition אֶל. Nor does the sense he thus obtains at all suit the connection. An altogether different view has been adopted by Vogel and Hitzig, whom Pressel for substance follows, namely, that the Prophet speaks of himself whom he identifies with Jehovah. “The murder of a Prophet is regarded as an attack upon Jehovah himself.” The statement of this view is enough to show its untenableness. For although the sender and the sent are often identified, yet no instance can be found in Scripture, among all its records of martyrdom, of a case in which the death of a prophet is represented or mourned for as if it were the death of Jehovah. Noyes, in his Translation of the Hebrew Prophets (ii. 387), first mentions Calvin’s explanation,22 and then adds, “Or the meaning may be that the people pierced Jehovah, when they recently put to death some one of his messengers or prophets who is not named.” But the violent death of a prophet was not such a rare thing in Jewish history; and why should it in any case lead to such a great and universal mourning as is here described? Or, if there had been some murder of a prophet so exceptional in its atrocity as to convulse the whole nation in an agony of grief, would there not be some trace of the fact in the books of Kings or Chronicles? Yet none such is found.


1. When our Lord was about to ascend to heaven He commanded the Apostles (Acts 1:4) not to allow themselves to be drawn or driven from Jerusalem, but to “wait for the promise of the Father.” There can scarcely be a doubt that the passage before us contains one form or instance of the promise to which the Saviour referred. The first great gift of heaven, for which men were taught to look in the latter days, was a divine person incarnate to make reconciliation for iniquity and bring in everlasting righteousness; the next one was that of another divine person whose influences should apply the redemption effected, and thus complete the work of the Father’s sovereign love. The latter—the Holy Spirit—had of course been present and active in the previous stages of the Church’s history; otherwise there could have been no Church, for the Spirit is the indispensable bond of union between God and his people. But during the old economy, owing to its very nature as an introductory, preparatory, and restricted dispensation, the gifts of the Spirit were far less rich and powerful and general and constant, than they were ultimately designed and required to be in order to effect the purposes of grace. Hence the promise of an effusion which should not be intermittent or partial, either in its nature or its subjects, but every way adequate to the necessities of the case. This promise was given by the older Prophets, Joel (Joel 2:28-29), Isaiah (Isaiah 59:21), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33-34), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 36:27), and is now resumed after the exile by Zechariah, who uses the very term (שָׁפַד=pour out) employed by Joel three centuries before. (Isaiah uses a different word, יצק, but of the same signification.) The effusion is not to be fitful or scanty, but generous and abundant, a pouring rain from the skies, overcoming all obstacles, reaching all classes and effecting the most blessed and durable results. Its precise influence as conceived by Zechariah, is in the way of overcoming depraved natural characteristics by imparting grace and developing this grace in the exercise of supplication. All true and successful prayer is “in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18, Judges 20:0). Paul had often gone through the forms of supplication in his unconverted career, but it was only when spiritually enlightened that it could be truly said of him, as it was, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11). In the view of a thoughtful mind, prayer itself is hardly so great a blessing as the promise of a divine Spirit to help our infirmity and make intercession within us. (Romans 8:26.)

2. This passage is singularly happy in pointing out what all experience has shown to be the chief means of kindling evangelical repentance,—this apprehension of a crucified Saviour. Men are indeed convinced of sin in various ways. Natural conscience sometimes inflames remorse to a fearful pitch. Sudden judgments, or what are thought to be such, stimulate fear until reason is eclipsed. A. keen sense of shame proves to be a sorrow of the world which worketh death. But the true, healthy conviction of sin, the repentance which needeth not to be repented of, is born at the cross. There the sinful soul sees its sin as it sees it nowhere else in the world, sees all the vileness, malignity, and inexcusableness of its past life, and is thoroughly humbled and prostrated in contrition. It becomes conscious of its own share in the dark and bloody crime of Calvary. As one of those for whom Christ died, it had part in driving the nails and pushing the spear, and is justly liable to the aggravated doom of those who with wicked hands crucified the Lord of glory. Hence all pleas in extenuation are given up, all excuses are felt to be frivolous. Nothing is left but a fearful looking for of judgment, so far as the soul’s own merits and claims are considered. But this very conviction of total unworthiness is accompanied with a conviction of Christ’s wondrous love in bearing the cross, and an inspiration of hope in the efficacy of his atoning death. Thus the arrow that kills bears with it the balm that makes alive. The true penitent says, “I am lost, for my sins have slain my Lord; nay, I am saved, for my Lord died that those very sins should be blotted out.” So the repentance is real, deep, and hearty, but it is not sullen, angry, or despairing. It grows keener and more comprehensive by experience, but faith and hope are growing in like measure, and thus the equipoise in which the spiritual life began is maintained even to the end. Even at the height of his usefulness Paul felt that he was not worthy to be called an Apostle, and at the close of life called himself chief of sinners; yet he knew whom he had believed, and expected a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, would give him “in that day.”
3. There are two striking peculiarities of penitential sorrow,—its depth and its solitariness. The Prophet uses the strongest metaphors known to human experience. No pang which death can inflict is so severe as that which wrings the heart of parents following to the tomb the remains of a first-born or an only son. It seems as if all hope and joy were interred in the same grave. So again a great national calamity is intensified by the reciprocal influence upon one another of all who are affected by it. When President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, a shuddering horror seized every heart throughout the land, and multitudes who had never seen the kindly leader were as deeply moved as if the blow had fallen on their own kindred. A gloomy pall settled down over all hearts and all households. But penitential grief which is awakened by the sight of a pierced Saviour is as real and pervading as that which proceeds from any outward affliction, personal, domestic, or national, its theatre is within. There are no outward manifestations, but the feeling for that reason is the more concentrated and intense. The soul renews the experience of the royal penitent,—my sin is ever before me. But the stricken soul mourns apart. As there is a joy, so there is a sorrow, with which a stranger intermeddleth not. The relations of the soul to God are so delicate that all shrink instinctively from exposing them to the view of others. Deep grief is necessarily solitary. In its acme, neither sympathy nor fellowship is sought or allowed. Much more must this be the case when the grief is spiritual, for the hand of God which causes the pain alone can cure it, and the soul nauseates all other comforters. David Brainerd mentions that on one occasion when ho was preaching to his Indians, the power of God came down among them like a mighty rushing wind. “Their concern was so great, each for himself, that none seemed to take any notice of those about him. They were, to their own apprehension, as much retired as if they had been alone in the thickest desert. Every one was praying apart, and yet all together.” Cowper is not the only penitent who could say in truth, —

“I was a stricken deer that left the herd.”

The immediate prompting of all who become convinced of sin is to fly to some solitary place and be alone with God, unless indeed, as in the case of Brainerd’s Indians, the absorption of mind is so complete that they are insensible to the presence of others. “The heart knoweth its own bitterness,” and a godly sorrow shuns companions until it has wrought “a repentance unto salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

4. Repentance of itself, however deep and thorough, is of no avail toward justification. It does not repair the evils of wrong-doing even in common life, any more than in the sphere of religion. The spendthrift may bitterly mourn the extravagance which ate up his estate, or the debauchee the excesses which ruined his constitution, but in neither case does the penitence bring back what has been lost. It is the same with the sinner. Tears and penances are no compensation for sin. Sin is. a debt (Matthew 6:12), and a debt is satisfied only by payment. The payment may be made by one person or by another, but it must be made, or sin remains with its legal and endless consequences. Hence the fullness of this passage of the Prophet, which to a most elaborate painting of the distress for sin caused by a believing apprehension of the cross, appends the true and only-source of relief for that distress,—the fountain set flowing on Calvary. There must be aid from without. A continuous baptism of tears is of itself impotent. Nothing avails but a provision by the Being whom sin has offended, and just this is furnished in that blood of sprinkling which was symbolized in so many ways in the Old Covenant. Apart from this, nothing is left for a conscious sinner but despair.

5. A striking expression of this is given in two passages in the New Testament, evidently founded upon the words of Zechariah. In Matthew 24:30, our Lord says, “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” In Revelation 1:7 the beloved disciple resumes these words with an additional particular, “Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.” All men are to see Christ, not merely in his glory but as bearing the scars by which that glory was won. Some see Him so as to be subdued into a salutary contrition; they are drawn to Him by irresistible attraction, and while they mourn over sin rejoice in the ample and gracious pardon He bestows. Others, alas, are to see Him, not voluntarily but by a necessity which they would fain escape! They see Him a lamb as it had been slain, but no more within their reach and for their advantage. He is to them a lost Saviour, one whose pierced side and mangled limbs express only the fearful wages and terrible iniquity of sin, but offer no hope of forgiveness and acceptance.


Moore: All true repentance arises from a sight of a dying Saviour, one who has died for us. True repentance is only love weeping at the foot of the cross, the soul sorrowing for sins that have been so freely forgiven. True religion is a personal thing, and when it takes strong hold of the heart, will lead the soul apart to solitary wrestling with God and acts of personal humbling before Him.

Bradley: Holy mourning for sin is a bitter thing; there comes along with it many a tear and pang; but yet there is mingled with it a comfort and a blessedness which must be felt to be known. The very look which makes the heart bleed, is a look at One who can do more than heal it.…Pray for this sorrow. When would you mourn and weep for your sins, if not now? Somewhere you must weep for them; would you keep back this weeping till you come to that world where; tears are never dried up; where you must weep; if you weep at all, forever? And somewhere you must look upon this pierced Jesus 1 Will you look on Him for the first time when He opens the heavens and calls you out of your graves to his judgment-seat?It is a blessed though a mournful thing to see Him now, but it is a dreadful thing to see Him for the first time in the very moment when his work of mercy is forever ended, when fountain He has opened for sin and uncleanness is forever closed.

McCheyne: 1. The Great Spring. I will pour. 2. The Great Agent. The spirit of grace and supplication. 3.The Effect. They look; they mourn; they see the fountain opened.

Jay: There were provisions for ceremonial pollution under the Mosaic economy, the brazen sea for the priests and the ten lavers for the things offered in sacrifice. There were also fountains for bodily diseases: the pool of Siloam to which our Saviour sent the man born blind; and the pool of Bethesda, where lay a number of sufferers waiting for the troubling of the waters. Christ differed from all these, as a fountain for moral and spiritual defilement, “for sin and uncleanness.”


Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:10.—רוּה. Noyes and Henderson render “a spirit,” but the absence of the article is compensated by the construct case (Green, H. G., 246, 3).

Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:10—הַחַ וּנִים is rendered in E. V. “supplications,” but as the word occurs only in the plural, it is doubtless to be regarded as singular in sense. The Genevan renders compassion, but usage is altogether in favor of the other meaning.

Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:10.—אֵלַי is to be preferred to אֵלָיו. because grammatically it is the more difficult reading; it is opposed to the favorite opinions of the Jews; it is found in all the ancient MSS., and found not only in the best of the later ones but in by far the largest number of them; and it is sustained by LXX., Aq., Symm., Theod., Syr., Targ., Vulg. and Arab.

Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:10.—עָלָיו cannot be rendered “on account of it,” על because after סָפד always denotes the person for whom mourning is made, and in all the following instances in this verse in which it occurs, the reference is undoubtedly to a person.

Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 12:10.—הָמֵרִ is best understood intransitively with its cognate finite verb. The E. V. is at once more literal and more emphatic than attempted emendations.

Zechariah 12:11; Zechariah 12:11.—הֲדַדרִמּוֹן. A ἄπ. λεγ. on which etymology throws no light.

Zechariah 12:13; Zechariah 12:13.—הַשִּׁמְעִי=The Shimeite—a patronymic here just as in the corresponding case (Numbers 3:21).

[22]So far as I have observed, every writer of whatever school is glad to get the sanction of this great name for his opinion.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/zechariah-12.html. 1857-84.
Ads FreeProfile