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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Zechariah 12

CHAP. XII.

Jerusalem a cup of trembling to herself, and a burdensome stone to her adversaries. The victorious restoring of Judah. The repentance of Jerusalem.

Before Christ 517.

IT is not difficult to perceive, that the prophesies in this and the two following chapters relate to future times, and most probably to those predicted of 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 prophesy 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 prophesies both of the Old and New Testament), and they shall begin to collect themselves, and attempt a settlement in their ancient possessions, such a measure would 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 Jos. Mede, (p. 674 and 816.) their prince is intended by Gog, prince of Meshech and Tubal, Ezekiel 38:2; Eze 38:23 and by the king of the north, Daniel 11:40; Dan 11:45 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 prophesy 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 God, 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; will be admitted as members of the gospel-dispensation; and through the great atonement of the Messiah, and the grace of his Spirit, shall be cleansed from past guilt, will renounce all their former offensive practices, and carefully abstain from a future repetition of them.

Verse 1

Zechariah 12:1. The burden משׂא massa, usually denotes a prophesy of a calamitous kind. But it does not always so; for sometimes it signifies simply a prophesy, or revelation of some matter of importance, as Proverbs 30:1. Here however it may be fairly taken in the first sense, and rendered a burden; for though the issue be favourable to Israel in the end, yet it is preceded at first by a cup of trembling; and to the enemies of Israel the whole is from beginning to end sufficiently onerous.

Verse 2

Zechariah 12:2. A cup of trembling That is, I will cause it to produce the same effect on the neighbouring nations as a cup of intoxicating liquors, which causes trembling, astonishment, and terror. See Bishop Lowth's note on Isaiah 51:21.

Verse 3

Zechariah 12:3. A burdensome stone, &c.— A stone of burden to all people: all that heave it, shall be crushed in pieces, &c. It was the custom among the inhabitants of Palestine, even in St. Jerom's days, to place round stones of prodigious weight in their towns, villages, and castles, wherewith the youth used to exercise themselves, according to their different strength; some raising them as high as their knees, and others as high as their heads; which efforts frequently occasioned very dangerous accidents. It is to this custom that the prophet alludes here; and many think that it is one of this kind of stones which is mentioned 1Ki 1:9 and alluded to, Eccl'us, Sir 6:21.

All the people of the earth It is obvious, that by all is meant only many; as it is expressed, Ezekiel 38:6; Ezekiel 38:9; Ezekiel 38:15. "Thou and many people with thee."

Verse 4

Zechariah 12:4. I will smite every horse, &c.— The cavalry, the elephants, the numerous armies of the enemy shall be put to flight, and defeated by a small number of foot, and those ill-armed. Instead of people we may read nations.

Verse 5

Zechariah 12:5. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, &c.— There is strength to me, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Lord, &c. Houbigant. This passage 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. And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again, &c.— And Jerusalem shall again be safely inhabited in peace. Houbigant.

Verse 7

Zechariah 12:7. That the glory of the house of David, &c.— This may be rendered, That the glorying of the house of David, and the glorying of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, may not exalt itself against Judah.

Verse 8

Zechariah 12:8. And he that is feeble, &c.— And he who had fallen among them—shall be as David,—when he seemed to have fallen before Saul, and was compelled to hide himself in mountains and caves. The Jews are called the house of David, as the Messiah himself is called David. See Houbigant. Calmet says, it appears that the prophet would point out the birth of Christ by these words, The house of David shall be, &c. and would convince the Israelites that henceforward this ancient and illustrious house must derive its splendour and glory, not from its empire over the nation, but from its own virtue, and from its fidelity to the Lord. Indeed the house of David never did reascend the throne; but was well recompensed, notwithstanding, by the honour that it enjoyed of producing the blessed Jesus. Angel or messenger is, as we have before observed, one of the titles of the Messiah. The terms are varied in Mic 2:13 where it is said, The Breaker, or Redeemer (as it should be rendered), is gone before them: their king is past, even the Lord, &c. to signify by these synonymous expressions, that one and the same person is intended by them all; even the Messiah, as the Jews themselves say, who is the angel of the Lord. See Chandler's Defence, p. 63.

Verses 10-14

Zechariah 12:10-14. And I will pour, &c.— The Jews had stumbled, and fell at the stone of stumbling and rock of offence, the Messiah in his humble appearance, as Isaiah foretold. But that no one might be surprised at this sudden change of their affairs, 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, which his grace and the methods of his dealing with this people had begun in them, into a thorough conviction of his being the Messiah whom they had rejected; for this they would weep bitterly, Zec 12:11 and make earnest supplications, till received again into his grace and favour. This done, it follows, chap. Zechariah 13:1. In that day there shall be a fountain 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 bewailed with all the solemnities of true mourners? It was then the act and the 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 not to be restored to them till their sin was remitted upon their true repentance. Thus much is evident from the context.

And who was he whom they pierced?—One of dignity, undoubtedly, whose murder was attended with grievous aggravations, since it affected the princes, the priests, the people, even all the tribes; one very dear to God, since his cause is God's, and God owns himself to have been pierced through his wounds, chap. Zechariah 13:6-7. One might challenge the unbelieving Jews or Gentiles to name any other besides the Christians' Messiah. The Jews looked for the fulfilment of this prophesy at their restoration from the present captivity. The later Jews own that it is a prophesy of the murder of the Messiah, the son of Joseph, by the Gentile army, at their return from this captivity. It is therefore, according to them, a prophesy of the Messiah; for as there is no ground nor ancient tradition for a two-fold Messiah, it is plain that their old traditionary sense, which they have thus corrupted, did apply it to that one Messiah. But that it cannot be interpreted of the Gentiles killing him, hence appears, that they were the same people that killed him who mourned for him, and to whom a fountain was opened for him. They sinned in killing him, for which God removed them out of their land, and would not resettle them therein, till they had repented of it. This puzzles the Jews exceedingly; they have been in their present dispersion sixteen or seventeen hundred years; their sins have not been greater in this dispersion than before and under the Babylonian captivity; nay they are less, by the sin of idolatry; yet then on a repentance superficial enough, after seventy years, God restored them to their land. Now, though they fast and mourn, and shew all the external tokens of an universal repentance, God will not be propitious. Does not God's inexorableness shew clearly that some sin is still unrepented of?—What can it be, which is so big with evils, so extensive in its consequence?—They cannot say but Zechariah had informed them. It is the piercing unto death him whom God favoured, and this sin and punishment will not be removed, without an antecedent, general, and deep repentance.

Zechariah said nothing new to them in all this. David before described such sufferings of the Messiah under the figure of his own person, Psalms 22:16. Isaiah is more direct, and foretels of another, Isaiah 53:5-8. And at last Daniel declares without ambiguity, Dan 9:26 that Messiah the prince should be cut off. Can an unprejudiced mind deny after this, that Zechariah had the same intention which we see carried through all these prophets; or, that he spake not of their piercing the same person who is foretold in Daniel to be Messiah the prince. The light hereof shone so strongly upon a Jew of note in his nation, R. Moses Hadrasan, that he applies this passage in Zechariah to Messiah, the son of David; and he had the authority of the ancients for it, by the confession of Kimchi. We may just observe farther, that the Hebrew word דקרו dakaru, rendered pierced in this verse signifies, "Piercing through, even to death." See the next chapter, Zechariah 12:3.Isaiah 13:15; Isaiah 13:15. And the subsequent verses of our prophet manifestly imply a real death. In consequence whereof they shall mourn bitterly, as for an only son, and that a first-born, as at the mourning which began for Josiah in Hadad-rimmon; most probably the place of the battle where Josiah was slain. There the lamentations for that good prince began, andwere thence continued for many days as far as 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 thenceforward the mourning for Josiah became a proverb for an extraordinary lamentation; and as in other funeral mournings, so in this, the men and women in every house were to separate for many days, Zechariah 12:12, &c. in proportion to the dignity, rank, and worth of the deceased.

While these things are all joined together as they lie in the passage before us, the murder of an illustrious person of the Jewish nation, a general sin and punishment of the offenders, and as general a pardon and restoration upon a true sorrow for and sincere repentance of that sin,—it is impossible to find out any thing in history which answers to this prophesy besides the crucifixion of the Messiah. See Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 88. Joseph. Antiq. book 10: chap. 6 and John 19:37.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The promises contained in this chapter refer either to the church of God in general, or the Jewish people in particular, when in the last days God shall bring them into his fold. The prophesy is called a burden, because it is filled with terror to Israel's enemies; and it is prefaced with an awful description of him who undertakes to accomplish his own word. He stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth; the Creator, Governor, and Upholder of all things, who formeth the spirit of man within him; the God of the spirits of all flesh, who has the sovereign dominion over them, and executes all his counsels for the good of his church, encouraging the hearts of his believing people, and injecting terrors into his enemies. God promises,

1. To make the efforts of all the enemies of his church issue in their confusion. They who in these latter days persecute God's people, and lay siege against them, shall have a cup of trembling put into their hands. Be their foes never so many, never so mighty, spiritual or temporal, instead of prevailing against the church of God, they shall pull down ruin upon their own heads, as a burdensome stone, which crushes the man who attempts to lift it up. God's eyes of love and favour are upon his believing people; therefore their foes shall be smitten with blindness, astonishment, and madness, and baffled in all their enterprises; while the governors of the church, the ministers of Christ, by the gospel-word that they preach, like a devouring fire and a torch in a sheaf, shall bear down all before them; and none shall be able to resist the wisdom and spirit by which they speak.
They who apply this to the Jewish people, refer the prophesy either to the times of the Maccabees, or rather suppose it has respect to their future greatness; and that when they are returned to settle in their own land, the Mahometan powers will go up to besiege them, whose armies chiefly consist of cavalry, and shall fall on the mountains of Israel, defeated and destroyed by the Jewish forces.
2. God will establish his church and build it up great and glorious, defending every faithful member thereof with his arms of love and power. On him in those last and blessed days the governors of Judah shall place their confidence, he being the strength of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the bulwark of the country, and not any human supports, with which, as fortifications, they may be surrounded. The meanest, who dwell in tents, he will save; and none of the more distinguished and honourable members must arrogate to themselves any part in the salvation, and magnify themselves over their brethren, as if they owed to them their protection and support, when the whole is from God, and all alike debtors to unmerited grace, by which the weakest believer shall be as David, able to cope with their mightiest foes; and the house of David, the spiritual descendants of Jesus, David's son, a royal generation, they shall be as God, strong as the arm of omnipotence; as the angel of the Lord before them, all Christ's power being engaged for them, and they interested in it; he is their strength and their Redeemer.

Some understand this as literally to have its accomplishment, when Jerusalem shall be built on the very spot where it stood of old, and be again inhabited; even in Jerusalem: on which occasion the eastern antichristian powers shall assemble against it, and God will save them, both in the country and city, in some most distinguished manner; so that his arm shall be visible, and the glory be ascribed to him alone. 2nd, To apply these great things to the days of the Maccabees, seems to enervate the prophesy; a greater than they is surely here intended.

1. All the enemies of Christ's church and people shall be destroyed, as before was promised.
2. A spirit of grace, and supplications, and mourning, shall be poured forth upon all the people of God.
[1.] A spirit of grace; the Spirit of God shall be given to them, as a quickening, illuminating, converting sanctifying, comforting Spirit, the author of every divine and gracious temper in them, and witnessing to his own blessed work in the hearts of believers.

[2.] A spirit of supplications; for every gracious soul is immediately brought to his knees, and lives in an habitual course of waiting upon God; his soul can no more live without prayer than his body without breath: he is stirred up to the exercise of prayer, and assisted in the act by that Spirit of adoption which enables him to cry, Abba, Father, and helps his infirmities; and, in answer to his supplication, grace for grace is bestowed, by which means he increaseth with the increase of God.

[3.] A spirit of mourning. They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn; see John 19:37. Their eye shall be directed in prayer to Christ, through whom alone the sinner has access to God; and the view of a crucified Jesus will melt their heart and make their eyes overflow. When we consider that he was wounded for our transgressions, that our sins were the nails, the spear which pierced the body of the Saviour, this will produce that godly sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation not to be repented of; which nothing but faith, as placed before the cross, beholding the evil of sin, can ever beget in us: and this mourning will be heart-felt and bitter, like that of a parent for his first-born son, or like the several mournings of Israel for Benjamin at the rock Rimmon, Jdg 20:47 and for Josiah in the valley of Megiddon, where that pious king was slain, 2 Kings 23:29. And this will be the case with every individual believer, with every family, with every society of real Christians; the highest in rank, and the holiest by office, shall herein set the example; and all shall concur in lamenting their sin and wickedness, and looking to Jesus for pardon and peace.

They who refer this to the people of the Jews particularly, suppose that at their conversion, which will be general and sudden, this shall be fulfilled; when, the veil being taken from their hearts, they shall behold that Messiah whom they crucified, and, returning to him with weeping and supplication, shall testify their unfeigned remorse and sorrow for that black deed.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/zechariah-12.html. 1801-1803.