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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


The Eschatological Vision -YHWH Will Establish and Defend Jerusalem and Judah, and It Will Produce a Fountain For Sin and Uncleanness - And Then Will Come The End When God Will Triumph (12-14)


A prominent feature of this final section (Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 14:21) is the use of ‘it will come about’ and ‘in that day’. These occur as follows;

· ‘And it will come about in that day ---’ (Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 12:9; Zechariah 13:2; Zechariah 13:4; Zechariah 14:6; Zechariah 14:8; Zechariah 14:13).,

· ‘In that day ---’ (Zechariah 12:4; Zechariah 12:6; Zechariah 12:8; Zechariah 12:11; Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 14:9; Zechariah 14:20-21).

· ‘It will come about’ (Zechariah 13:3; Zechariah 13:8; Zechariah 14:16).

· ‘Behold a day of YHWH comes’ (Zechariah 14:1).

This emphasises that this section is about a future which is yet some way ahead. It will be noted that it follows the passage in which all God’s plans have been thwarted because the people have listened to false shepherds. Thus His promises previously given have been thrust into the future as far as their complete fulfilment is concerned. And their fulfilment will only take place because of the direct intervention of the Great Creator. His great and final plan can be delayed but it cannot be thwarted.

In this section there are no clear linguistic dividers, and we are therefore left to divide the section on the basis of the contents. This might be seen to be as follows:

a Jerusalem is to be a cup of reeling for the nations (Zechariah 12:1-9).

b God will pour out blessing on His people and they will look on the one whom they had treated as a false prophet (Me Whom they pierced) and repent and He will open up a fountain for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1).

c The punishment that will fall on false prophets (Zechariah 13:2-6).

b God’s Shepherd will be smitten and appropriate punishment will follow but it will result in the refining of His people so that they say ‘YHWH is my God’ (Zechariah 13:7-9).

a Jerusalem is to be the source of salvation for the nations (Zechariah 14:1-21).

Note that in ‘a’ Jerusalem is a problem for the nations but in the parallel Jerusalem becomes the source of salvation for the nations. In ‘b’ God’s prophet has been pierced, resulting in repentance and cleansing, and in the parallel God’s Shepherd is smitten, resulting in refinement. Centrally in ‘c’ the kind of false prophecy that has opposed Zechariah is exposed.

Verse 1

The Pouring out of the Spirit And The Repentance Brought About By Considering The Pierced One (Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1 ).

Zechariah 12:10

‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the dwellers in Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplication, and they will look to me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and will be in bitterness for him as one who is in bitterness for his firstborn.’

From now on in this section all the promises are to the ‘house of David’ and the ‘dwellers in Jerusalem’, and yet in this terminology the whole land is in mind (Zechariah 12:12; Zechariah 13:2; Zechariah 13:8). Once again we recognise that they are a symbolic, representative group representing the people of God as a whole.

This remarkable prophecy of the death of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit, both on members of His own family, ‘the house of David’ (Acts 1:14), and on those appointed to take His message to the world, ‘the dwellers in Jerusalem’, can only fill us with awe and gratitude.

Jesus’ own brothers of the house of David did become true followers of Him. James the Lord’s brother became a prominent leader of the Jerusalem church and His other brothers also proved true to Him. They shared in the outpouring of the Spirit. And the Apostles became dwellers in Jerusalem, going out from there to the world. And they were indeed ‘like David’ both in boldness and in faithfulness.

Firstly the prophecy looks to the ‘piercing’ of One Who was in so close a relationship with God that He can describe it as the piercing of Himself. It is His true Prophet Who is to be pierced. It is His true Shepherd Who is to be smitten (Zechariah 13:7).

‘They will look on me whom they have pierced.’ In one sense they will be piercing God Himself. Yet that the piercing is of a human being comes out in the following phrases where the verse reverts to ‘him’ and describes One Who is mourned like an only son. This can only look back to the suffering Servant described by Isaiah 53:0 (we have noted earlier in the chapter his knowledge of Isaiah’s work). Here the prophet is thinking of One Who will suffer on behalf of God’s people, will offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin, and will be received by God as the victor. And while the reference to the only son is indirect, it is nevertheless significant. There will be mourning as for an only son. But there is also reference to the house of David which gives the verse Messianic significance. It is the time of the Messiah.

Secondly it looks to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, commencing in the life of Christ (Mark 1:10), continuing in the Upper Room (John 20:0), and wonderfully revealed to the world in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:0). These events truly changed history and affected the whole world.

‘The Spirit of grace and of supplication.’ This must have in mind Joel 2:28 and Isaiah 44:3-5, and many similar passages, where God’s grace and favour is made known to men in the pouring out of the Spirit, causing them to walk in His ways and to prophesy. It is a picture of fruitfulness and of blessing, using the pouring down of rain as a symbol for the work of the Spirit. But here it goes a step further in recognising the direct connection with the suffering Servant.

‘Grace’. In Psalms 84:11 God’s grace is revealed in the fact that He withholds nothing from those who walk uprightly. All that we receive from God is through His grace, His undeserved favour, and that grace abounds to those who are His.

‘Supplication.’ In Jeremiah 36:7 supplication is directly linked with returning from evil ways. The idea here is of true repentance and submission to God. Thus those who experience this outpouring return to God and receive His favour and His Spirit.

‘Me whom they have pierced.’ The piercing is an indication that we are dealing with a Prophet (Zechariah 13:3). Zechariah 13:3 would suggest that ‘piercing through’ was the recognised punishment for false prophecy. Thus the One Whom God would send was to be treated as a false prophet. The so-called people of God would reject Him and pierce Him, and by doing so they would accuse God Himself of being false. Thus He Himself would be pierced by their action, for the One Whom they rejected would be proclaiming His truth.

But once they had pierced Him there would be many who would be woken to the truth about Him. When the Spirit was poured down on them they would look on what had been done and they would mourn for Him and for their sinfulness.

‘And they shall mourn for him --.’ The theme of mourning is emphatically stressed in these verses in a number of ways and is clearly connected with the pouring out of the Spirit of grace and supplication, demonstrating that their hearts have been changed and that it is a mourning for sin and for the way in which they have offended God. It is the mourning of repentance from that sin and for what they have brought on the suffering Servant, and will result in their benefiting from the fountain for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).

‘As one mourns for his only son’. They will recognise that they have done this to One Who should have been as dear as an only son. This is doubly stressed. He will be as dear to them as their firstborn sons.

Zechariah 12:13-14

‘In that day there will be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon, and the land shall mourn every 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, the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart, the family of the Shimeites apart, and their families apart, all the families that remain, every family apart and their wives apart.’

The depth of the mourning for sin is brought out by the continued emphasis. It has been compared with the mourning for a firstborn son, now further comparisons are made.

‘As the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon.’ This clearly refers to some well known ceremony of mourning. The name Hadad-rimmon suggests connection with fertility rites, for Hadad is the god of storm (compare Baal) and Rimmon is similarly the chief god of Damascus (2 Kings 5:18). Such rites would include mourning as the dead deity was sought in order to bring him back to life for the renewal of the seasons (compare weeping for Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14). Rites like these would often continue through the centuries long after their main meaning was forgotten.

But it is mentioned, not to approve of the rites, but as a prime example of open and deep mourning which all would recognise. There may be some connection with the death of Josiah, the last great and favoured descendant of David to do what was right in the eyes of Yahweh. This took place in the valley of Megiddo, and may well have been remembered by appropriating such rites.

The mourning will be deep and personal for each family will be apart, and wives apart from their men. Prominent in the mourning will be the royal family and the priests. David, the head of the royal house, is mentioned and especially David’s son Nathan (2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5; Luke 3:31), and Levi the head of the priestly tribe, and especially the Shimeites (see Numbers 3:18; Numbers 3:21). Then the remainder of the people. The mourning will go right from the top to the bottom. It is noteworthy that the natural descent of Jesus and His family from David was through Nathan (Luke 3:31).

So the mourning for sin will reach to all parts of Israel, including members of the Messiah’s own family.

Zechariah 13:1

‘In that day there will be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the dwellers in Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.’

The result of the piercing of the Messianic Servant will be the opening of a fountain for sin and uncleanness both for His own family and household and for those who ‘dwell in Jerusalem’, that is those whose hearts are true towards the God of Jerusalem.

The idea of a fountain for the removal of sin is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament. Elsewhere the idea of the fountain is as a fountain of life, or of living waters, which symbolise life through the Holy Spirit (Psalms 36:9; Proverbs 13:14; Isaiah 41:18; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13; Joel 3:18).

But in mind here are almost certainly the words of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36:24-29. ‘I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. From all your filthiness and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart also I will give you and a new Spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you --- and I will save you from all your uncleannesses.’ The deep mourning and repentance of sin in Zechariah 12:10-12 opens the way for God’s Spirit to work within them, and indeed shows that He has already begun to work within them. That work produces new life and results in the removal of sin and uncleanness through the waters from God’s fountain.

But sprinkled water as in Ezekiel is water that has been treated with the ashes of a heifer - Numbers 19:17 (see ‘the waters of expiation’ - Numbers 8:7) and thus cleanses through its sacrificial qualities. That is why it is ‘clean’ water. Thus this ‘fountain opened for sin--’ must be seen as connected with the piercing of the true Prophet with His shedding of blood interpreted sacrificially as in Isaiah 53:0, compare possibly Isaiah 52:15.

The idea of sin being washed away by water is rare in the Old Testament. The ritual washings did not cleanse. They were only preparatory. When they were used men would ‘ not be clean until the evening’. Something further was necessary. When David speaks of being washed from sin he parallels it with being purged with hyssop. His emphasis is on being cleansed through sacrifice, and always sprinkling involves sacrificial blood in one way or another.

So the prophet declares that there is coming a day of great repentance for sin resulting from the piercing of the Servant Messiah, a day of great spiritual renewal, and the provision of God’s final answer to the problem of sin and uncleanness.

Verses 1-9

The True and the False Prophets (Zechariah 12:10 - Zechariah 13:9 ).

The way in which all this will take effect is now clearly laid out. A contrast is made between:

· The piercing (rejection) of the True Prophet Who is coming when the Spirit is poured out, which will result in repentance and a fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 12:10 to Zechariah 13:1).

· The piercing of false prophets because they are false (Zechariah 13:2-3).

· The smiting of the false prophets by those who really prove themselves his friend (Zechariah 13:4-6).

· The smiting of the true Shepherd, with the resultant pouring out of the Spirit, repentance of those who respond, opening up of a fountain for sin and uncleanness, and purifying of God’s people (Zechariah 13:7-9).

Verses 2-3

The Cessation of the Guild of Prophets Because They Are No Longer True (Zechariah 13:2-3 ).

Zechariah 13:2

‘And it will happen in that day,’ says YHWH of Hosts, ‘that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they will not be remembered any more, and I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.’

The final result of the purification and cleansing will be that idolatry and false prophecy will be removed from the land forever (compare Zechariah 5:5-11). Even the memory of them will go. Truth will be victorious.

‘The unclean spirit.’ The spirit who speaks through the false prophets.

Thus the inference is that once the true Servant of God has come cultic prophecy will be a thing of the past for He will reveal the full truth and those who follow Him will receive the truth from Him.

Zechariah 13:3

‘And it will happen that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother who begat him will say to him, “You will not live, for you speak lies in the name of YHWH.” And his father and his mother who begat him will pierce him through when he prophesies.’

Once the days of the Messiah are here there will be no room for the old cult of prophets. Any who set themselves up as such will be denounced even by their parents and they will be declared worthy of punishment.

‘And his father and his mother --- will pierce him through --’. This clearly connects with the piercing through of the True Prophet in Zechariah 12:10. There the true prophet was pierced through because He was rejected by men. But God exonerated Him and identified Himself with Him. Here it is the turn of the false prophets, who played their part in His rejection, themselves to suffer the fate of a false prophet. This suggests that at the time of Zechariah false prophecy was dealt with in this way. We do not know of what the piercing through consisted but Zechariah 13:6 suggests that it was connected with the hands.

Verses 4-6

The False Prophets Will Be Ashamed Of Having Been Prophets (Zechariah 13:4-6 ).

Zechariah 13:4-5

‘And it will happen that the prophets will be ashamed every one of his vision when he prophesies, neither will they wear a hairy mantle to deceive. But he will say, “I am a tiller of the ground, for I have been made a bondman from my youth.” ’

It is clear that when some members of the prophetic cult prophesied they would wear a hairy mantle to depict themselves as following in the line of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). In the coming days of the Messiah they ‘will be ashamed of their vision’, that is they will not tell anyone what they have seen. So they will cease wearing a hairy mantle in order to deceive people. Instead they will depict themselves as honest sons of toil, as tillers of the ground and as bondmen, bound to menial service and therefore not free. For they will be ashamed for it to be known that they were once prophets.

Zechariah 13:6

‘And one shall say to him, “What are these wound in your hands?” Then he will answer, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”

When people see the wounds made in the hands of the false prophets by their parents, and hear them say they are tillers of the soil, their suspicions will be aroused, for they will recognise the punishment of a false prophet. So they will ask what the wounds are, and the false prophet will make an excuse. The excuse is double edged. On the one hand he tries to persuade them that he received them while partying with his friends. But on the other hand the statement is also true, for those who really so dealt with him were truly his friends for they caused him to cease his false profession.

The One True Prophet Who was falsely pierced (Zechariah 12:10) would also use these words. But in His case the words would be more ironic. He was wounded by those who had professed to be His friends (see Zechariah 13:7).

Verses 7-9

The Righteous Shepherd Who Is God’s Fellow (Zechariah 13:7-9 ).

Zechariah 13:7

“Awake, Oh sword, against my shepherd, and against the man who is my fellow,” says YHWH of Hosts, “smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered and I will turn my hand on the little ones.”

This verse connects with the previous verse and with Zechariah 12:10. From Zechariah 12:10 - Zechariah 13:7 we have the deliberate contrast between God’s true Prophet and the cultic false prophets centred in the old Jerusalem. The false prophets were pierced because of their false prophecies. The true Prophet was pierced because He was falsely rejected. The false prophets claim to have been smitten by their friends, the true Shepherd will be smitten by those who should have been His friends. Thus the true Shepherd was also to be pierced and smitten because of the perversity of men.

Here ‘smite’ is used, the same verb as is used of false prophets in Zechariah 13:6, to contrast the smiting of the true Shepherd with that of the false. ‘Pierce’ was used in the contrast in Zechariah 12:10 and Zechariah 13:3.

The sword of judgment which had smitten the false shepherds (Zechariah 11:17) will also smite the true. This amazing verse then depicts the smiting of God’s true shepherd (compare Isaiah 53:0 which amplifies these words). The old Jerusalem’s last act before it is superseded will be to destroy the Shepherd of God.

In the background is God’s judgment on sin placed on the Shepherd (Isaiah 53:4-6) but the actual sword is wielded by His enemies, ironically the old dwellers in Jerusalem. The Shepherd is smitten by His supposed ‘friends’. But underlying it is that the One Who is the substitute for sin (Isaiah 53:5) must bear the judgment that is imposed on the enemies of God because He is made sin for us.

‘Awake, Oh sword.” In the end it is God Who controls and sends forth the sword of judgment. All is done under His sovereign hand. But it is wielded by His enemies, those who profess to be His friends, thus unconsciously bringing about the purposes of God..

‘My shepherd.’ The shepherd was familiar for his care and concern for his sheep, as feeder, guide and protector. It is a regular picture for God in the Old Testament (Psalms 23:0; Psalms 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10) and for those who serve in God’s place (Zechariah 11:4; Zechariah 11:7; Numbers 27:16-17; Isaiah 63:11; Jeremiah 23:4) and especially for the Messiah (Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24). But as Zechariah has shown, many of the latter proved to be false shepherds (Zechariah 10:2-3; Zechariah 11:5; Zechariah 11:16-17 compare Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 25:33-37; Jeremiah 50:6; Ezekiel 34:2-10).

In the light of Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24 with Zechariah 12:10 and the use of ‘My’ we are justified in seeing in this smitten shepherd God’s servant, the ‘one shepherd’, the ‘David’ who was to come, in other words the Messiah.

‘And against the man who is my fellow.’ Literally, ‘the man who stands next to Me.’ This clearly suggests a God-appointed king and confirms that we have here the coming Promised One. It was always a problem for the Jews to reconcile this coming Promised One who would suffer under God’s hand with their expected triumphant Messiah. It is only in the coming of Jesus that we see the two reconciled. Yet the prophets had an awareness, although doubtless mystified, that this must be so.

‘Smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered and I will turn my hand on the little ones (on the lambs).’ This verse is quoted by Jesus to describe the result on His disciples of His being seized (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27). The smiting of the shepherd always results in the scattering of the sheep and the destruction of lambs. And in the sovereignty of God it has often been so with His people, whether it be the Great Shepherd or His under-shepherds. But as the next verses make clear this is because it will have a refining effect which is for the good of His flock. God’s purposes are accomplished through suffering, and among the scattered sheep He raises up further under-shepherds.

Zechariah 13:8-9

“And it will happen that in all the land,” says Yahweh, “two parts in it will be cut off and die, but the third part will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They will call on my name and I will hear them. I will say, ‘It is my people’. And they will say, ‘YHWH is my God’.”

Here we have described the result of the smiting of the Shepherd. God’s future promises are not effective for all. The majority will not respond to God’s offer of mercy and will come under His judgment. This is depicted here in terms of a large proportion who die and a smaller proportion who go through refining fires and are purified.

Refining fires are also destructive fires. In Ezekiel 22:17-22 God declares that because of His wrath against His people Israel they will undergo the fire of His wrath. There is no suggestion there of its purifying effect although that may possibly be assumed from the process described, the purpose of which is to remove dross from metals. Ezekiel, however, describes Israel as mainly the dross, more in line with Jeremiah 6:29-30. Their concentration is on the judgment of a sinful people. Zechariah here recognises the destruction of a large proportion as dross but adds the thought of the fire as purifying the remnant who undergo it. So the idea is expanded and is not fully the same. For him there is room for mercy.

Malachi 3:1-3 and Isaiah 1:25-28 are more parallel with Zechariah. In Malachi 3:1-3 the concentration is on refining. After the sending of His messenger to prepare the way, YHWH comes to His Temple to purify the priesthood through refining fire, so that they are purified like gold and silver and become a true priesthood. This true priesthood was represented in the early church who became a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6).

Isaiah in Isaiah 1:25-28 cites YHWH as declaring, ‘I will turn my hand on you and will purge away all your dross as with lye, and will take away all your tin.’ The result is then that the judges and counsellors are ‘restored’ and Jerusalem is called ‘the city of righteousness, the faithful city’, while transgressors and sinners are destroyed. This clearly reflects the meaning of Zechariah in respect of the ‘third part’.

Thus the smiting of the Shepherd results in judgment on the majority and the choosing out and refining of a minority. We may see this fulfilled in the consequences that came on the Jews after their rejection of the Messiah. In the war that began in 66 AD huge numbers of Jews were slaughtered, many by the sword, and others by crucifixion or death in the arena, But the true remnant who made up the church of Jesus Christ, although enduring much persecution prior to this, escaped the slaughter by fleeing from Jerusalem as Jesus had said.

‘A third part.’ Three was the number of completeness thus this means a proportion of the whole which is complete in itself. It is intended to mean a smallish minority and not to be applied literally. The exactness indicates the precision with which God chooses rather than being a mathematical declaration. This third part is to be purified through ‘fire’. The general idea behind this is suffering of one form or another. The bringing of man into a state acceptable to God is not something to be easily accomplished. In the words of Paul ‘tribulation produces patient endurance’ (Romans 5:3).

‘They will call on my name and I will hear them.’ The result of the refining will be genuine repentance so that they call on God from a true heart. Then He will hear them and respond.

‘I will say, “It is my people”. And they will say, “YHWH is my God”.’ They will be accepted once again by God as His true people and they will respond to Him as truly their God. We can compare Hosea 2:23, and Jeremiah 31:33, the latter specifically demonstrating the effect of the refining as ‘having the law written in their hearts’ as a result of the new covenant God makes with His people. This latter is cited in Hebrews 8:8-12 as relating to the better covenant brought by Jesus Christ (compare 2 Corinthians 6:17-18).

Note. There are some who would relate this whole passage in Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:9 only to the final days of the current age. They would cite ‘in that day’ as always meaning such a time. They then see it as relating only to the Jews with a resulting ‘end time’ revival among them and late response to the Messiah. And indeed we would not deny that all such might happen, for there are grounds elsewhere for thinking of this as a possibility, but we must not restrict it to that. Nor is that even necessary.

The New Testament makes clear that ‘that day’, the ‘last days’, began in New Testament times. The Apostles saw themselves as being in the last days, the time of the end, the times of the Messiah (Acts 2:16 in context; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 9:26-28; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7). It is true that that time has extended so that we too are in the last days, but their insistence on this means that prophecies related to ‘the end days’ apply from their time onwards.

Thus Peter applies the prophecy of Joel 2:28 to Pentecost, and this is in line with the idea in Zechariah 12:10; Jesus Christ cites Himself as the smitten Shepherd (Matthew 26:31), and the fountain for sin and uncleanness was opened as a result of His death and resurrection. To restrict it to the ‘end times’ as meant by these interpreters is to limit its significance and to lose the glory of what has come about. And it is to ignore the insistence of the New Testament that the hopes of Israel find themselves fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and in His church, the elect remnant, the Israel of God.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/zechariah-13.html. 2013.
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