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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 12

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3494. B.C. 510.

“The former part of this chapter,” says Lowth, “relates to an invasion made upon the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem, in the latter times of the world, probably after their return to, and settlement in, their own land, which is often spoken of by the prophets. It is probably the same attempt that is more largely described in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of Ezekiel.” Be this as it may, it seems at least probable, that the condition of the Jewish nation, after the present dispersion, and of the gospel church, either in the apostolic or millennial periods, is here spoken of. It is promised,

(1,) That all the attempts of their enemies to destroy them would issue in their own danger and ruin, Zechariah 12:1-4 , Zechariah 12:6 , Zechariah 12:9 .

(2,) That, trusting in the Lord, they should subdue their opposers, and even the weakest of them be marvellously saved and strengthened by God, Zechariah 12:5 , Zechariah 12:7 , Zechariah 12:8 .

(3,) That to prepare them for, and help them to improve, these mercies, they should be blessed in a remarkable degree with a spirit of prayer, faith, and repentance for sin, Zechariah 12:10-14 .

Verse 1

Zechariah 12:1. The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel Or, toward Israel; that is, as some interpret it, the prophecy which containeth the words of the Lord to Israel. Saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens Who hath spread out the heavens to such a vast extent. And layeth the foundation of the earth Hath assigned to the earth a fixed place in the creation, or regulates all its motions by fixed laws, which cannot be altered by the power of any creature. And formeth the spirit of man within him Who gave life to the first man, and created the soul, and united it to the body. All these things are mentioned as undeniable instances of God’s almighty power, and are made use of as arguments to encourage men to rely on his word for the fulfilment of such promises as might seem to the understanding of man most unlikely to be brought to pass.

Verse 2

Zechariah 12:2. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling “An inebriating and stupifying potion of the strongest liquor and drugs. Jerusalem shall strike the nations with dread and astonishment.” When they shall be in the siege “A future siege, after the final restoration of the Jews.” Newcome. See on Zechariah 14:3; Revelation 20:9. “It is not difficult to perceive,” says Blayney, “that the prophecies in this and the two following chapters relate to future times, and most probably to those predicted by Ezekiel in the 38th and 39th chapters; where it is said that Israel, after their restoration and return to their own country, would be assailed by a combination of many nations. Such an invasion is also here foretold; but it is not to be expected that all the particulars of a distant prophecy should be clearly understood, before the time of its accomplishment. It is at least likely that when the time shall come for the re-establishment of the Jews, (of which sufficient intimation is given in the prophecies both of the Old and New Testaments,) and they shall begin to collect themselves, and attempt a settlement in their ancient possessions, such a measure will create jealousy and uneasiness, in those powers more especially who are interested in the dominion over those countries. The Turks, we know, are at present, and long have been, in possession of the country of Palestine; and in the opinion of many, who have brought specious arguments to justify it, particularly of the learned Joseph Mede, (p. 674 and 816,) their prince is intended by Gog, prince of Meshech and Tubal, Ezekiel 38:2, &c.; and by the king of the north, Daniel 11:40, &c.; concerning whom the like things are prophesied in those chapters respectively. Now should that power subsist at the time, it may fairly be presumed, that he, and any other power in the like circumstances, would oppose with all their might an attempt to set up an independent sovereignty in those parts. But, without pretending to determine precisely concerning the invaders, the substance of the prophecy in this, and on to the seventh verse of the next chapter, will be found to amount to this; that Jerusalem will be besieged by a multitude of hostile nations, to the great terror of the people in its vicinity, as well as of Judah itself; but that the attempts of those nations will be frustrated through the special interposition of the Deity, and will terminate in their total discomfiture and ruin, and in the permanent peace and prosperity of the victorious Jews. After which, the Jews will be brought at length to see and lament the sin of their forefathers in putting their Messiah to death, and thereupon will have the means of purification and atonement afforded them; and, being thus cleansed from past guilt, will renounce all their former offensive practices, and carefully abstain from a future repetition of them.” To these views of Dr. Blayney, on the important subject of the restoration of the Jews to their own land, however probable upon the whole, there seems to be one great objection. Inasmuch as God cast the Jews out of their land for rejecting and crucifying the Messiah, it seems highly improbable that he should restore them to it while they remain in impenitence and unbelief, and in a state of enmity to that Messiah. It appears much more likely that, previous to their restoration, they must be made sensible of the great guilt which their nation contracted by the commission of that sin, and of the various other sins which accompanied it; and that they must be truly humbled and brought to a thorough repentance as a people, before God will open the way in any degree for their restoration. It is certain that, as they were carried captive into Babylon chiefly to punish them for the sin of idolatry, so no way was made for their restoration from that captivity, till they were generally humbled and made truly penitent for that sin.

Verse 3

Zechariah 12:3. I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone Jerusalem is here compared to a stone of great weight, which, being too heavy for those who attempted to lift it up, or remove it, falls back upon them and crushes them to pieces. St. Jerome, in a note on the place, speaks of an exercise, which, he says, was common in Palestine, and throughout all Judea, in his days, in which the young men, who were ambitious to show their strength, used to lift up stones of enormous weight, as high as they could, some to their knees, others to their navel, their shoulders, and even their heads; and some placed them on the top of their heads, with their hands erect and joined together. In this exercise, it is evident, they must have been in great danger of the stone’s falling upon them and bruising them, or even crushing them to pieces. Mr. Lowth, who quotes this passage from Jerome, remarks that, to the same sense, Christ saith, Matthew 21:44, On whomsoever this stone shall fall, it will grind him to powder. All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces All that undertake to contend with Jerusalem shall be either destroyed or greatly injured, as men will have their flesh torn or bruised that let a heavy stone fall upon them. Though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it It is obvious, that by all, here is meant only many people, as it is expressed Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:9; Ezekiel 38:15, Thou, and many people with thee.

Verses 4-5

Zechariah 12:4-5. In that day This expression, in the prophetical writings, is of large extent, and not only signifies that particular point of time last spoken of, but some time afterward. I will smite every horse with astonishment Many commentators explain this of the victories which Judas Maccabæus gained over Antiochus’s captains, whose chief force consisted in cavalry. But, as Archbishop Newcome observes, the language is much too strong, as it is also Zechariah 12:6-9, to denote the successes of the Maccabees against the Seleucidæ. This prophecy therefore, he thinks, remains to be accomplished. And many commentators, who are of the same opinion, consider it as a prediction of victories that will be obtained over Gog and Magog by the Jews, upon their restoration to their own land. One circumstance in favour of this interpretation is, that Gog and Magog are represented, Ezekiel 38:15, as riders on horses. And if by that people the Turks be intended, we know that they have been, and still are, famous for their cavalry, wherein chiefly the strength of their armies consists. But it is here foretold, that in order to their discomfiture God will send such distraction among their horses and their riders, and throw them into such a state of confusion, that they shall fall foul one upon another,

(see Zechariah 14:13,) and not be able to distinguish between their friends and their foes. And I will turn mine eyes upon the house of Judah I will have an especial concern for their preservation. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart Shall say within themselves, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord “The text here,” says Blayney,” has been supposed corrupt, and many attempts have been made to amend it. But, without any alteration, it well expresses the sentiments of the men of Judah, concerning the interest they had in the safety of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, on which their own strength and security depended in a great degree; so that they would, of course, be influenced to bring that assistance, the efficacy of which is set forth in the verse that follows.”

Verse 6

Zechariah 12:6. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like a hearth of fire, &c. The word may be rendered, a pot. The Arabs, according to Harmer, (vol. 1. p. 233,) make a fire in a great stone pitcher, and when it is heated, spread paste upon it, which is baked almost in an instant. By a hearth of fire, however, here may be meant, a firebrand taken from the hearth, which, though small, will set other things on fire, and even whole cities. This is thought by some to be a very apt resemblance of the mischief done by the small forces of the Jews, under Judas Maccabæus, to the armies of Antiochus. It may, however, be a resemblance equally, and even more apt, of the destruction made of Gog and Magog, in the latter days, by the Jews restored to their own land. And they shall devour all the people round about They shall destroy all the enemies that annoy them; on the right hand and on the left That is, on the south and on the north: see note on Ezekiel 16:46. The Targum explains the right hand, and the left, of the south and the north. And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place Shall be situated and inhabited on the very spot where she formerly stood: see note on Zechariah 14:10.

Verse 7

Zechariah 12:7. The Lord shall save the tents of Judah first Some MSS. and versions read כראשׁנה , as at the first; “but the meaning here is, that God would save the tents of Judah first, or previously to any other; and for this the reason immediately follows, that the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem might not be tempted to value themselves too highly on the preference given to them (supposing that had been the case) above the rest of Judah.” Blayney. As the house of David were wont to glory in the honour of their being descended from him, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to value themselves above their brethren, because their city was the place of God’s peculiar residence, and the seat of the royal family; therefore, to take away all occasion of any such glorying and emulation, God here promises that he would first appear in behalf of those Jews that should live in the open country, in cottages or tents, in places unfortified. He will first save the weaker and despised, and then the stronger and more honourable. But this promise, which evidently looks forward to gospel times, seems principally to imply, that the conversion of the nation to Christianity will begin among the more poor, low, and obscure Jews, and not among the rich, great, and learned; lest the latter should glory over the others, as if the change among the people had been effected by their power, wisdom, or influence; or should assume any improper ascendency over their inferiors: in other words, that the wise man might not glory in his wisdom, neither the mighty man in his might, nor the rich man in his riches; and that no flesh might glory in God’s presence, but that he that should glory might glory only in the Lord, Jeremiah 9:23.

Verses 8-9

Zechariah 12:8-9. In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem Not only Jerusalem itself from being taken and destroyed, but all the inhabitants of it from being in any way injured: he will not only be a wall of fire about the city to fortify it, but he will compass particular persons with his favour as with a shield. The mystical Jerusalem, the Christian Church, and particularly that of the converted Jews, seems to be chiefly intended. And he that is feeble among them shall be as David The feeblest among them shall be men of war, bold and brave, skilful and strong: shall enterprise and accomplish great things, as David did, and become as serviceable to Jerusalem in guarding it as David himself was in founding and enlarging it, and as formidable as he was to the enemies of it. Observe, reader, God helps and defends his church and people by giving them courage and strength to defend and help themselves. He enables them to do their part, and then he is not wanting to do his. And the house of David shall be as God Or, as angels, as the word אלהים , Elohim, is rendered, Psalms 8:3. As the angel of the Lord before them Or, at the head of them; as that angel (so some interpret it) which went before the people of Israel through the wilderness, Exodus 23:20. God will increase the gifts and abilities, both of the people and princes, in proportion to the respective services for which they are designed. It was said of David, that he was as an angel of God, to discern good and bad, 2 Samuel 14:17; such shall now the house of David be. But this was to have its full accomplishment in Christ: now the house of David looked little and mean, and its glory was eclipsed, but in Christ the house of David was to shine more bright than ever. In him it was to become more blessed, and more a blessing than ever it had been. And l will seek to destroy all the nations, &c. See notes on Zechariah 12:3-6.

Verse 10

Zechariah 12:10. And I will pour, &c. God’s signal interposition in behalf of Judah and Jerusalem, after their future restoration, having been foretold, the prophet proceeds to foretel their conversion to Christianity. But though the prophet speaks of this after he has foretold their restoration, it does not follow that it shall take place after that event. It is certainly much more probable that they will first be brought to repentance for the sin of rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, and to believe in him with their heart unto righteousness, and then that God will bestow upon them that great mercy of re-establishing them in the possession of Canaan: see note on Zechariah 12:2. “The Jews had stumbled and fallen at the stone of stumbling and rock of offence, the Messiah, in his humble appearance, as Isaiah foretold. That no one might be surprised at this sudden change of their affairs, [namely, their restoration to their own land, and their prosperity therein,] Zechariah tells us, they should themselves be first changed, and repent heartily of that sin which had been the cause of their fall, for God should pour out on them the spirit of grace and supplication, that they might look with compunction of heart on him whom they had pierced; and he should, by his Spirit, improve those good dispositions into a thorough conviction of his being the Messiah, whom they had rejected: for this they should weep bitterly, Zechariah 12:11, and make earnest supplications till received again into his grace and favour. This done, it follows, Zechariah 13:1, In that day shall a fountain be opened, &c. Now who were they whose sin and uncleanness were washed away, but the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the same who had sinned, and mourned, and repented, and were therefore pardoned? What did they mourn for, but for him whom they had pierced, and whose death they had bewailed with all the solemnities of true mourners? It was then the act and sin of the house of David, and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that they pierced and slew him whom they now looked upon; for which their land was treated as polluted, and removed out of God’s sight into captivity, not to be restored to them till their sin was remitted upon their true repentance. Thus much is evident from the context:” see Chandler’s Defence, and Dodd.

But though this passage may chiefly relate to the future and general conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, Which St. Paul calls life from the dead, and therefore will not receive its full accomplishment till that event takes place; yet it may also be understood of some other prior conversions of the Jewish people, and particularly of those of the many thousands brought to repentance by the preaching of John the Baptist, of Christ, and his apostles. For it appears from the accounts we have in the New Testament, that though the rulers and leading men among the Jews were not converted in that age of the Christian Church, yet a vast number of the people were. So that this prophecy has, in some degree at least, been already fulfilled, and the spirit of grace and supplication hath been poured out in a measure, if not upon the house of David, yet upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the expression, They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, (the words being spoken by God,) is implied, that in the piercing of Christ, God himself, figuratively speaking, was pierced through the wounds of his beloved Son, he being infinitely dear to his heavenly Father, and his cause the cause of God. This passage is undoubtedly cited in St. John’s gospel, John 19:37. Οψονται εις ον εξεκεντησαν , They shall look on him whom they have pierced. For although the present Hebrew text is, הבישׂו אלי , They shall look unto me, between forty and fifty MSS. are produced which read אלוו , unto him, with the concurrence of other authorities. They shall mourn for him They shall heartily lament the crucifying of the Lord Jesus, not only as the sinful, cruel act of their fathers, but as that in which their sins had a great share. As one mourneth for his only son With an unfeigned and real, a great and long-continued, a deep and lasting sorrow, such as is the sorrow of a father on the death of an only son: they shall retain it inwardly, and express it outwardly, as in the funeral mournings on such occasions. And shall be in bitterness for him True repentance will bitterly lament the sins that brought sorrows and pain upon the Son of God.

Verses 11-14

Zechariah 12:11-14. In that day When the Jews shall mourn for their sins, and for that great sin, the crucifying the Lord of glory; there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem A mourning expressed by the greatest the Jews ever experienced, the mourning for Josiah slain in Hadadrimmon, a town in the valley of Megiddon. There the lamentations for that good prince began, and were continued for many days from thence to Jerusalem, whither his body was carried to be interred in the sepulchre of his fathers; and there all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for him, and appointed the day to be annually observed with lamentations: so that from thenceforward the mourning for Josiah became a proverb for an extraordinary lamentation. And the land shall mourn, every family apart The whole land shall mourn in a most solemn manner: and every family shall sequester themselves from business and conversation for that purpose. The house of David apart, and their wives apart Those of the royal family, who have rejected Christ, shall lead the way. Even husbands and wives shall abstain from each others company, as was usual in times of solemn humiliation. Or, as some learned men suggest, in solemn processions, it was usual for the several orders of men to go distinctly, and likewise for the women to go in ranks by themselves, each tribe, or order of men and women, using a distinct form of lamentation, and expressing their sorrow in different words. This was probably done in the mourning for Josiah, and observed in the times after the return from captivity: see 2 Chronicles 35:25, to which ceremonies the expressions of text may allude. The family of Nathan apart David had a son named Nathan, 2 Samuel 5:14. This branch of the royal family seems to be here meant, as that by Solomon is implied in the preceding clause. “It is possible,” says Newcome, “that at the final restoration of the Jews, the genealogies of some tribes may be found to have been preserved; and that the family of David may be traced up to more than one of its collateral branches; each of which, on account of its distinguished eminence, is to mourn apart.” The house of Levi apart If the tribe of Levi be intended, it may be observed, the sacerdotal tribe were the most bitter persecutors of Christ; they hired the traitor, they sought witnesses; the high-priest, the head of that family, condemned him to die: for all which sins they shall one day be called upon to reckon with God, and therefore, above other tribes, are particularly named as chief mourners, for their injustice and cruelty to their Messiah. But probably a Levi, mentioned Luke 3:29, is meant. The family of Shimei apart For Shimei, the LXX., Arabic, and Syriac have Simeon. “As Nathan, Simeon, and Levi, are all reckoned among the progenitors of Christ, Luke 3:29-31, may not their families be mentioned by name as more particularly concerned in the guilt to be lamented? For neither did his brethren believe in him, John 7:5.” Blayney. All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart Thus, after the mention of four particulars, he completes the induction by a general clause. As if he had said, It would be tedious to mention every family and their wives, though but once, therefore a general comprehensive account may suffice: some of every family, of the whole remnant of Israel, shall mourn, look to, believe in, and obey Christ. Thus the mourning of the Jews for their Messiah shall bear some proportion to their violence and cruelty against him; and they, through faith, shall live by the death of him whom they slew, and rise to glory by him whom they loaded with reproaches! What will not grace do, when it converts, accepts, comforts, and glorifies such offenders!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zechariah-12.html. 1857.
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