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Thursday, June 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

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


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

In this chapter we have,

(1,) A general promise of pardon proclaimed to the Jews upon their conversion, and of their being cleansed from idolatry, and false pretences to prophecy, upon their believing in Christ, Zechariah 13:1-6 .

(2,) A clear prediction of the sufferings of Christ, the destruction of the bulk of the Jewish nation, and the purifying of a remnant, Zechariah 13:7-9 .

Verse 1

Zechariah 13:1. In that day When the Lamb of God shall be offered up a sacrifice for mankind, and the gospel shall be preached, in which the glad tidings of our redemption are published. This seems to be a continuation of the prophecy begun at the ninth verse of the preceding chapter; and the meaning to be that, through the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, the repentance and humiliation there described should be accepted of God, and followed with a full pardon and gracious communication of sanctifying grace to the penitent. There shall be a fountain opened “The blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin, (1 John 1:7,) is manifestly here intended, the Jews being, upon their repentance and conversion, to be admitted to all the privileges of the Christian covenant.” Probably there may be an allusion in the words “to the one great spring at Jerusalem, (mentioned Isaiah 7:3,) which served the uses of king and people.” See Vitringa. The spouse of Christ, his church, is a spring shut up, a fountain sealed, Song of Solomon 4:12; but Christ is to sinners a fountain opened: under the law, he was as the waters of the temple for the Jews; but now his merits are opened to us Gentiles, free for all, and of easy access, and of sovereign virtue to heal. For sin and for uncleanness The original words here used, חשׂאת and נדה , are “legal terms; the former denotes sin generally, or any transgression of the law which required atonement, and is sometimes put for the means of purification from it, Numbers 19:9-17; the latter is used for that uncleanness, or legal defilement, which secluded a man from all intercourse with God, and holy things. Now whatever efficacy the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkled on the unclean, had to purify from legal sin and defilement, the same is ascribed to the blood of Christ in the Christian dispensation, for purging the conscience of a sinner from the guilt of dead works, or moral pollution.” Blayney. The legal washings were but shadows and types of this matchless, healing, purifying fountain, which never fails to heal all those that apply to it. It must be observed, likewise, that spiritual graces and influences, communicated by the Holy Spirit, are also compared to a fountain, Joel 3:17; and by these sinners are represented as being washed and cleansed, Ezekiel 36:25; Titus 3:5.

Verse 2

Zechariah 13:2. I will cut off the names of the idols I will utterly destroy idols and idolatry. The Jews were forbidden to mention the names of the heathen idols, Exodus 23:13; Joshua 23:7; and when idolatry should be utterly extirpated, the names of the idols should be buried in oblivion. “It has been urged, in proof that this prophecy was uttered before the Babylonish captivity, that idolatry and groundless pretensions to prophecy were common among the Jews at that time, which has not been the case since. But, admitting the Jews not to have been addicted to idolatry, or false prophesying, at any particular period, [since the Babylonish captivity,] who can say they will not fall into both those transgressions at some future time? It is probable they will do so; for Ezekiel, confessedly prophesying of the latter times, when Israel and Judah, incorporated again into one nation, shall return into their own land, says, to the same effect as Zechariah, Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions, Ezekiel 37:23. But besides, supposing the Jews themselves to remain untainted with those corruptions, it surely will not be denied that they do and may still prevail among other nations, who may be included in the term הארצ , taken in its most general sense, the earth; and so I conceive it should be: for we are taught to expect that the conversion of the Jews will be followed by a further reformation in the world, Romans 11:15; and that the time will come, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, Revelation 11:15; and the beast, the emblem of idolatry, and with him the false prophet, shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, Revelation 19:2.” Blayney. I will cause the prophets The false prophets; and unclean spirit This seems to mean those that prophesy by means of an unclean spirit: see Acts 16:16; Revelation 16:13; and what is said in the next verse of any one that shall prophesy, must be understood of those that undertake to prophesy by means of an impure spirit, or other false pretences.

Verse 3

Zechariah 13:3 . And when any shall yet prophesy Namely, falsely; then his father and his mother shall say unto him His dearest friends shall discourse with him, and inform him what the law of Moses directs in this case; Thou shalt not live This probably is not to be considered as the condemnatory sentence; for, being private persons, they had no right to pronounce such a sentence; but it is a repetition of the law, which saith, that a false prophet ought not to be suffered to live, Deuteronomy 13:6-8. For thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord Thou fallest under the sentence of the law. And his father and his mother shall thrust him through Even the parents of such a person shall be forward to put in execution against him the penalties inflicted by the law upon false prophets and seducers. “They shall treat such a one in the same manner as their fathers did the true prophet, the Messiah; they shall pierce or thrust him through.” Lowth. The purport of this passage seems to be, that very vigorous and decisive measures shall then be taken against every kind and degree of idolatry.

Verses 4-5

Zechariah 13:4-5. The prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision That is, of the extraordinary communication which he pretended to have received, when he uttered a prophecy which he knew to be false. Neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive The true prophets were wont to wear rough or hairy garments, and therefore the false ones did the same, in order to pass off their impostures; but the words here imply that they should do this no longer. But he shall say, I am no prophet The name they so much affected before, they shall quite disown. I am a husbandman; man taught me to keep cattle from my youth Disclaiming all pretensions to the character of a prophet, he shall profess himself to be no other than a plain, ordinary labouring man, employed in husbandry from his youth. Mr. Harmer’s observations on this passage, which he justly parallels with the declaration of Amos 1:14, go to show the incompatibility of such active and laborious employments with the retired and sedentary life of those who were trained up in the schools of the prophets, in order to qualify themselves for that profession.

Verse 6

Zechariah 13:6. What are these wounds in thy hands “Two ancient usages,” Blayney thinks, “are alluded to; the one, that of the idolatrous priests and prophets, who sought to engage the attention and favour of their deity by cutting and slashing themselves, as the priests of Baal did, 1 Kings 18:28; the other, that of those who cut themselves, as a token of their grief and mourning for their deceased relations and friends:” see note on Jeremiah 16:6. It appears, also, from Jeremiah 48:37, that these cuttings were performed on the hands in particular. “When therefore the man, now ashamed of his pretensions to prophesy, came to be challenged for those scars that were visible on his hands, he would deny them to have proceeded from any idolatrous cause; but would have them thought to be marks left by those wounds which he gave himself in the house of his relations and friends, in the paroxysms of his grief for the loss of them.” The word מכות , however, here rendered wounds, may be translated strokes, or marks, and is thought by many learned interpreters to signify some particular marks or characters, imprinted on the body of the person here spoken of, in honour of the particular God he worshipped. Thus the worshippers of Bacchus had an ivy leaf imprinted on their bodies. These impressions were most frequently made on the hands, to which the expression, Revelation 13:16, receiving the mark of the beast on the right hand, alludes; so that, according to this interpretation, the meaning of what is said here must be that, in the times here spoken of, inquiry would be made of those in whose hands any marks or characters were perceived, by what means they came there, and what they signified. These marks, Bishop Lowth observes, on Isaiah 44:5, “were made by punctures rendered indelible by fire, or by staining; thus the slave was marked with the name of his master; the soldier of his commander; the idolater with the name or ensign of his god. And the Christians seem to have imitated this practice, by what Procopius says, ‘Because many marked their wrists, or their arms, with the sign of the cross, or with the name of Christ.’“ Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends This is given as the answer which the person who had been addicted to idolatry, and had received the marks of some false god in his hands, would make to the above-mentioned inquiry; he would conceal the truth, and pretend that they were not marks belonging to any god, but marks which he wore in his flesh by way of honour to, or in token of, his dependance on the family which had taken him under their patronage. Several interpreters understand this verse of the wounds of Christ, and the rather because a remarkable prophecy of his being wounded for our transgressions, by the sword of divine justice, follows in the next verse. And certainly the passage is very capable of such an interpretation; for, as the Jews professed to be the friends of the promised Messiah, and he had conducted himself in the most friendly manner toward them; when he was scourged, nailed to the cross, and pierced, he might, with great propriety, be said to have been wounded in the house of his friends.

Verses 7-9

Zechariah 13:7-9 . Awake, O sword, against my shepherd Here “the prophet goes back to the great subject of prophecy, the Messiah, after having foretold some events posterior to his appearance; and he then proceeds to other events subsequent to that grand epocha in the history of the Jews, and of mankind; some near it, and some remote.” Newcome. That the sufferings and death of Christ are here predicted, is certain from Christ’s having applied this prophecy to himself, a few hours before he was apprehended in order to be put to death, as St. Matthew ( Mat 26:31 ) and St. Mark ( Mar 14:27 ) inform us, where, foretelling to his disciples that they should all be offended because of him that night, he added, For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered; and his applying it so directly to himself and his disciples, is as much as if he had said, in direct terms, that this was a prediction of what should happen to himself and them; so that it seems an entire perversion of the passage to apply it to any other subject. He alone, strictly speaking, was and is God’s shepherd and the man, his fellow, or friend, or very near to him, as Houbigant renders עמית , and as it certainly properly signifies, no thing or person being so near and dear to God as his beloved Son; the consequence of whose crucifixion was the scattering for a time of his disciples. And I will turn my hand upon the little ones Houbigant reads, instead of smite, I will smite the shepherd; but I will turn, or bring back, my hand upon the little ones: that is, upon that third part of the people, which was to be tried as gold in the furnace. This is that part which, it is said, Zechariah 13:9, shall call on the name of the Lord: whence it is justly inferred that the two other parts of the Jewish nation, which were to perish, were those Jews who received not the gospel, and who were slain by the Romans: for it is said of the third part, They shall call on my name, in opposition to the two parts who should be cut off and die, Zechariah 13:8. But, even of that third, many Jews, who had believed the gospel, fell away, as when gold or silver is tried, much dross is found among it. So that the number of Jews who should continue in the faith of the gospel is left very small; which the event sufficiently proves, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles: see Houbigant. Upon the whole we learn from these verses, as Dr. Sharpe observes, the following particulars: “That the shepherd, called the fellow of God, was to be smitten; the sheep were to be scattered; two parts of all that inhabited the land were to be cut off, and die; a third only left, which was to be brought through the fire, refined as silver, and tried as gold. Then it follows, Zechariah 13:9, They shall call, &c. The like events happened under the gospel: the shepherd was smitten, the sheep were scattered, they were to endure severe trials, and their faith was to be more precious than gold tried with fire. To the Jews, our Saviour said, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; and verily I say unto you, ye shall not see me until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Our Saviour here foretels the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem; and, instead of comforting the Jews with the prospect of a third temple, and the restoration of bloody sacrifices, in some future age, or advent of the Messiah, he expressly declares they shall see him no more, till they shall acknowledge him by saying, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Dr. Sharpe’s 2d Argument, p. 356.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/zechariah-13.html. 1857.
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