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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 12

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-14


Verse 1-14:21


Zechariah 12:1-9

§ 1. The prophet proceeds to announce Israel's conflict with heathen powers. Hostile nations gather together against Jerusalem, but shall themselves be overthrown; for the people and their leaders, trusting in the Lord, overcome all opposition.

Zechariah 12:1

The burden of the word of the Lord for (concerning) Israel. This is the title of the second oracle, corresponding to that at the head of Zechariah 9:1-17. Though the literal Israel has been rejected, as we saw in the last "burden," a new people of God. arises (Hosea 1:10), the Messianic theocracy, which is also called Israel, whose fortunes the prophet herein delineates, describing its probation, its contests, triumph, and development. The body is like its Head; as the good Shepherd, Christ, was persecuted and rejected, so his members, the true Israelites, suffer at the hand of the world and Satan, before they are finally glorified. Some critics suppose that "Israel" here is written by mistake for "Jerusalem," as possibly in Jeremiah 23:6 (see note on Zechariah 1:19). It is best to put a full stop after "Israel," and begin a new sentence with "Thus saith the Lord," or "The saying of Jehovah." Which stretcheth forth the heavens, etc. (comp. Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13). The attributes of God. are mentioned here that all may believe that what he has promised, that he is able to perform. He is not only the Creator, but also the Pro-server of all things (Psalms 104:2-4; Hebrews 1:10. Formeth the spirit of man within him. God creates the souls of men, and moulds and guides them. In life and death men work out his purposes (Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9).

Zechariah 12:2

A cup of trembling; a bowl of reeling—a bowl whose contents cause staggering and reeling, ὡς πρόθυρα σαλευόμενα, "as tottering porticoes"; superliminare crapulae (Vulgate). This Jerome explains to mean that any one who crosses the threshold of Jerusalem in hostile guise shall totter and fall. Jerusalem is the capital and type of the Messianic theocracy; the hostile powers of the world crowd round her, like thirsting men round a bowl of wine; but they find the drought is fatal to them; they stagger back discomfited and destroyed. The figure of the cup and drunkenness is often employed to denote the judgment of God upon transgressors, which makes them incapable of defence or escape (comp. Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15, etc.; Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57; Habakkuk 2:16). The people; the peoples (so Zechariah 12:3, Zechariah 12:4, Zechariah 12:6). The heathen nations who war against God's people. When they shall be in the siege, etc. This gives a good sense, but the Hebrew will not allow it. Septuagint, Ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ ἔσται περιοχὴ ἐπὶ Ἱερουσαλήμ, "In Judaea there shall be a blockade against Jerusalem;" Vulgate, Sed et Juda erit in obsidione contra Jerusalem, which may mean that Judah shall be among those that besiege Jerusalem, or when Jerusalem is beset Judah shall suffer the same calamity. Pusey and Revised Version render, "And upon Judah also shall it [i.e. 'the burden'] be in the siege against Jerusalem." Cheyne, "And also on [or, 'over '] Judah it [i.e. the protection and deliverance implied in the first clause of the verse] shall be, in the siege," etc. Any interpretation of the passage which makes Judah join with the enemy in attacking Jerusalem is precluded by the very intimate union between Judah and Jerusalem denoted in Zechariah 12:4-7, and by the hostility of the nations against Judah. Cheyne's explanation is hardly a natural one, however suitable. Lowe ('Hebr. Stud. Comm.') renders, "And also on Judah [shall fall this reeling] during the siege [which is to take place] against Jerusalem." It seems best to render, with Alexander, "Also against Judah shall it be in the siege against Jerusalem," i.e. not only the mother city, but all the country, shall be exposed to hostile invasion. This suits Zechariah 12:5, where the chieftains of Judah are represented as trusting in the valour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem when they are incurring the same danger.

Zechariah 12:3

A burdensome stone. Jerusalem shall prove to all the nations that attack it a weight not only too heavy to lift, but one which, itself remaining unhurt, shall wound and injure those who attempt to carry it. Jerome supposes here an allusion to a custom in the towns of Palestine, which prevailed to his day (and, indeed, in Syria even now), of placing round stones of great weight at certain distances, by lifting which the youths tested their bodily strength. But we do not know that this custom existed in Zechariah's time, and the nations are not gathered together for amusement or display of strength, but for hostile attack. Septuagint, λίθον καταπατούμενον, "a stone trodden down," which reminds one of Luke 21:24, Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἔσται πατουμένη ὑπὸ ἐθνῶν. Shall be cut in pieces; i.e. by the sharp edges of the stone, or, as the Revised Version, shall be sore wounded. Though; rather, and; Septuagint, καὶ ἐπισυναχθήσονται: Vulgate, et colligentur. All the people (peoples) of the earth. This indicates that the struggle spoken of is no mere local conflict, waged in Maccabean or other times, but the great battle of the world against the Church, which shall rage in the Messianic era.

Zechariah 12:4

I will smite every horse with astonishment (consternation). Cavalry represents the forces of the enemy. Astonishment, madness, and blindness are threatened against Israel in Deuteronomy 28:28; here they arc inflicted on the enemy. Madness. The riders should be so panic stricken that they knew not what they did, and shall turn their arms against each other (Haggai 2:22). Open mine eyes upon the house of Judah; i.e. will regard with favour and protect (Deuteronomy 11:12; 1 Kings 8:29; Isaiah 32:8). With blindness. They shall be blinded with terror. The previous threat is repeated with this emphatic addition.

Zechariah 12:5

The governors (chieftains) of Judah shall say in their heart. The leaders of Judah have a profound, settled conviction that Jehovah is on his people's side. The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be (are) my strength. When they see the enemy discomfited (Zechariah 12:2-4) each of them shall have confidence in the Divine election of Jerusalem, foregoing their former jealousy, and see in her success a token of God's protection and their own final victory.

Zechariah 12:6

A hearth; literally, a pan. The victory should be easy and complete. The chieftains of Judah shall be like a chafing dish full of fire set among dry faggots (comp. Obadiah 1:18; Nahum 1:10). In a sheaf; among sheaves. Jerusalem shall be inhabited again; rather, Jerusalem shall yet again dwell. Jerusalem is personified as a female. In spite of all the attacks of the enemy, who tried to destroy and remove her, she shall remain firm and unshaken in her own place. In Jerusalem, the centre of the theocracy where God has set her. So against the Church the gates of hell shall not prevail, and the persecutions which she suffers increase her stability and add to her numbers.

Zechariah 12:7

Shall save the tents of Judah first. Instead of "first," a preferable reading, supported by the Greek, Latin, and Syriac Versions, is "as in the beginning," or "as in former days." The prophet declares that the open towns and villages of Judah, which can offer no effectual resistance to an enemy like the fortified city Jerusalem, shall be saved by the aid of God, as so often has happened in old time. If "first" be the genuine reading, the meaning is that the country people shall first be saved in order to prevent Jerusalem glorifying herself at their expense. That the glory … do not magnify themselves against (be not magnified above) Judah. God will save the chosen nation in such a manner that each part shall have its share in the glory and honour. The leaders, represented by "the house of David" and "the inhabitants of Jerusalem," as the sanctuary of Cod and a strongly fortified city, shall not be able to exalt themselves as more favoured than the rest of the people. By God's help alone is the victory won, and all alike share in this. The expressions in this verse could not have been written, as some assert, while the dynasty of David reigned.

Zechariah 12:8

He that is feeble (literally, that stumbleth) among them .. shall be as David. God shall endue the inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength and courage, so that the weakest among them shall be a hero such as David, who killed the lion and bear and overcame the giant (comp. Psalms 18:32). The house of David shall be as God (Elohim). The chiefs of the theocracy shall be endowed with supernatural might, the expression, "as God," being explained in the next clause. Septuagint, ὡς οἶκος Θεοῦ, "as the house of God," as if it were of the heavenly family. The translators seem to have thought the genuine expression too unqualified. As the angel of the Lord before them. Even as the angel of the Lord, who led the Israelites in all their wanderings (comp. Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34; Joshua 5:13). We see in this description an intimation of the graces and endowments bestowed upon every faithful member of the Church of Christ.

Zechariah 12:9

I will seek to destroy. It shall be always my aim and my care to destroy the enemies of the Church, that they shall never prevail against it. The words cannot apply to the literal Jerusalem, against which no such confederacy of nations was ever formed.

Zechariah 12:10-14

§ 2. There shall ensue an outpouring of God's Spirit upon Israel, which shall produce a great national repentance.

Zechariah 12:10

I will pour. The word implies abundance (comp. Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28). The house of David, etc. The leaders and the people alike, all orders and degrees in the theocracy. Jerusalem is named as the capital and representative of the nation. The spirit of grace and of supplications. The spirit which bestows grace and leads to prayer. "Grace" here means the effects produced in man by God's favour, that which makes the recipient pleasing to God and delighting in his commandments (Hebrews 10:29). They shall look upon me whom they have pierced. The Speaker is Jehovah. To "look upon or unto" implies trust, longing, and reverence (comp. Numbers 21:9; 2 Kings 3:14; Psalms 34:5; Isaiah 22:11). We may say generally that the clause intimates that the people, who had grieved and offended God by their sins and ingratitude, should repent and turn to him in faith. But there was a literal fulfilment of this piercing, i.e. slaying (Zechariah 13:3; Lamentations 4:9), when the Jews crucified the Messiah, him who was God and Man, and of whom, as a result of the hypostatic union, the properties of one nature are often predicated of the other. Thus St. Paul says that the Jews crucified "the Lord of glory" (1 Corinthians 2:8), and bids the Ephesian elders "feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28; for the reading Θεοῦ, see the critics). St. John (John 19:37) refers to these words of Zechariah as a prophecy of the Crucifixion (camp. Revelation 1:7). The LXX. renders, Ἐπιβλέψονται πρὸς μὲ ἀνθ ὧν κατωχρήσαντο, "They shall look to me because they insulted," either reading the last verb differently, or understanding it figuratively in the sense of assailing with cutting words; but there is no doubt about the true reading and interpretation. Vulgate, Aspicient ad me quem confixerunt. "Me" has been altered in some manuscripts into "him:" but this is an evident gloss received into the text for controversial purposes, or to obviate the supposed impropriety of representing Jehovah as slain by the impious. That St. John seems to sanction this reading is of no critical importance, as he is merely referring to the prophecy historically, and does not profess to give the very wording of the prophet. A suffering Messiah was not an unknown idea in Zechariah's time. He has already spoken of the Shepherd as despised and ill-treated, and a little further on (Zechariah 13:7) he intimates that he is stricken with the sword. The prophecies of Isaiah had familiarized him with the same notion (Isaiah 53:1-12; etc.). And when he represents Jehovah as saying, "Me whom they pierced," it is not merely that in killing his messenger and representative they may be said to have killed him, but the prophet, by inspiration, acknowledges the two natures in the one Person of Messiah, even as Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6) called him the "Mighty God," and the psalmists often speak to the same effect (Psalms 2:7; Psalms 45:6, Psalms 45:7; Psalms 110:1, etc.; comp. Micah 5:2). The "looking to" the stricken Messiah began when they who saw that woeful sight smote their breasts (Luke 23:48); it was carried on by the preaching of the apostles; it shall continue till all Israel is converted; it is re-enacted whenever penitent sinners turn to him whom they have crucified by their sins. Critics have supposed that the person whose murder is deplored is Isaiah, or Urijah, or Jeremiah; but none of these fulfill the prediction in the text. They shall mourn for him. There is a change of persons here. Jehovah speaks of the Messiah as distinct in Person from himself. As one mourneth for his only son … for his firstborn. The depth and poignancy of this mourning are expressed by a double comparison, the grief felt at the loss of an only son, and of the firstborn. Among the Hebrews the preservation of the family was deemed of vast importance, and its extinction regarded as a punishment and a curse, so that the death of an only son would be the heaviest blow that could happen (see Isaiah 47:9; Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10). Peculiar privileges belonged to the firstborn, and his loss would be estimated accordingly (see Genesis 49:3; Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 21:17; Micah 6:7). The mention of "piercing," just above, seems to connect the passage with the Passover solemnities and the destruction of the firstborn of the Egyptians.

Zechariah 12:11

As if the above comparisons were not strong enough, the prophet presents a new one, referring to an historical event, which occasioned a universal mourning in Jerusalem. As the mourning of (at) Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. This is generally supposed to refer to the death of King Josiah of a wound received at Megiddo, in the battle with Pharaoh-Necho (B.C. 60) ),and to the national lamentation made for him and long observed on the anniversary of the calamity (see 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25). This universal and perennial mourning is a figure of the continual remembrance of the death of Christ in the Church. There is a difficulty about the identification of Hadadrimmon. St. Jerome says it was a place in the Plain of Megiddo, near Jezreel, and known in his day by the name of Maximianopolis. This is supposed to be Rummaneh, seven miles northwest of Jezreel, on the southern edge of the Plain of Esdraelon. But the identification is far from certain. The Assyrian name given to the place may, as Lowe suggests, be a confirmation of the post-exilian origin of the prophecy. The site of Megiddo also is undetermined, though Condor suggests Mujedda, a ruined city about three miles south of Bethshean. The opinion that the name Hadadrimmon is that of a Syrian or Phoenician god, whose rites were celebrated as those of Adonis ("the weeping for Tammuz" of Ezekiel 8:14), is preposterous; and the idea that the prophet would thus refer to the worship of an abominable idol is one that could have occurred only to disbelievers in revelation. The LXX; mistaking the text, gives, ὡς κοπετὸς ῥοῶνος ἐν πεδίῳ ἐκκοπτομένου, "as mourning for a pomegranate cut off in the plain."

Zechariah 12:12

The land. Not Jerusalem only, but the whole country. Every family apart. The mourning should extend to every individual of every family (comp. Ezekiel 24:23). David … Nathan. First the royal family is mentioned generally, to show that no one, however, high in station, is exempted from this mourning; and then a particular branch is named to individualize the lamentation. Nathan is that son of David from whom descended Zerubbabel (1 Chronicles 3:5; Luke 3:27, Luke 3:31). Their wives apart. In private life the females of a household dwelt in apartments separate from the males, and in public functions the sexes were equally kept distinct (see Exodus 15:20; Jdg 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:5).

Zechariah 12:13

Levi … Shimei. As before, the priestly family is first mentioned generally, and then individualized by naming Shimei, the son of Gershon, and grandson of Levi, of whom was the family of the Shimeites (Numbers 3:17, Numbers 3:18, Numbers 3:21). The LXX. gives, "the tribe of Simeon," instead of "the family of Shimei." But there is no reason for singling out this tribe. In one sense, this prophecy began to be fulfilled when a great company of priests were converted by the preaching of the apostles (Acts 6:7).

Zechariah 12:14

The families that remain. All the families that have not been mentioned already.


Zechariah 12:1-4

A wonderful siege.

"The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord," etc. These three concluding chapters seem to refer to one principal topic ("the burden of the Lord for Israel," Zechariah 12:1) and to one principal time (see the thirteen times repeated expression, "in that day"). The general preface or introduction to the special succession of wonders which they announce to us is contained in Zechariah 12:1, setting forth, as it does, the wonder working nature of the God who foretells them, in regard

(1) to all above (the "heaven");

(2) all beneath (the "earth"); and

(3) all within (the "spirit of man").

See somewhat similar preface to a somewhat similar announcement of wonderful doings in Revelation 21:5. After this introduction, in Revelation 21:2-4, we have described to us, as the opening wonder of all, a certain future wonderful "siege." In which description we may notice three principal things, viz.

(1) the many enemies of the city besieged;

(2) its one Defender; and

(3) its complete defence.

I. ITS MANY ENEMIES. Herein, evidently, is to be one leading peculiarity of this "siege" of Jerusalem. It is not only to be a complete investment, "all the people" being "round about" (Revelation 21:2; see also Luke 19:43), but it is also to be an investment by an exceedingly large assemblage of "peoples … gathered together" from all parts of the world. Considering, indeed, the frequent use in these verses (some six times in all) of the expressions "all" and "every," and the apparent definiteness of comprehension of the language in the end of Revelation 21:3, we seem justified in believing that every separate Gentile nation or people will be employed in this siege. All the rest of the world against Jerusalem. Such is what we seem to see here. Such is what we seem to see also in such passages as Ezekiel 38:1-16 (where note special mention, as in Ezekiel 38:4 here, of "horses" and "horsemen"); Joel 3:9-17; Revelation 16:14 Revelation 16:16; Revelation 20:8, Revelation 20:9. Whether or not we consider all these passages to refer to exactly the same times and events, at any rate they illustrate, if they do not apply to, the universal league described here.

II. ITS ONE DEFENDER. With all the rest of mankind against the people of Jerusalem, there can be no man, of course, on their side. But they are not to be on that account without a defender. On the contrary, they will have the best of all, even Jehovah himself. Five times over, and in two separate ways he gives them to understand this. He declares:

1. That he will give heed to their case. "I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah" (see Psalms 33:18; Psalms 34:15; Deuteronomy 11:12; 1 Kings 9:3; Daniel 9:18; and Zechariah 9:8 above).

2. That he will give help in their need. He will give help by "making" Jerusalem (Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:3) that which it requires to be "made" in this time of extremity. Be will give help also by "smiting" those many enemies (Revelation 20:4) who are leagued together for their destruction, and who, therefore, require to he "smitten" on their behalf; and what, of its kind, could be more satisfactory than this double assistance? this weakening of their enemies? this concurrent strengthening of themselves?

III. ITS COMPLETE DEFENCE. This twofold assistance was sufficient in degree as well as satisfactory in nature. What it proposed to do, that it did. In particular, God, in this manner:

1. Bewildered the minds of all the enemies of Jerusalem. He made Jerusalem, to these enemies, such a cup of trembling and of stupor and slumber that they were not able, and did not dare, in many respects, to attack them. Completely as they seemed, by being "round about" the city, to have it in their power, they were like men appalled and stupefied, and left it alone (comp. Genesis 35:5).

2. Also, when these enemies did find themselves able to devise measures against Jerusalem, God crushed their efforts. They were as men trying their strength by endeavouring to lift a heavy stone from the ground, the only result being to crush themselves by its weight. So would Jerusalem be made to do thus to its foes—to all its foes, however numerous. It would not only bruise, but destroy them, as though the sword had "cut" them "in pieces."

3. Besides which, so we may perhaps understand Revelation 20:4, God would himself overwhelm their spirits. Having failed so fatally in their efforts, those who survived, and their agents also, in utter panic, folly, and ignorance, would be so far from being able to do further injury that they would themselves be in need of defence. So surpassingly well can that one Defender do for those that are his.

We learn something here, in conclusion:

1. As to the possibilities of the future. Who can say that such a gigantic conspiracy of evil against a literally restored and renovated Jerusalem, and such a triumphant delivery from it, may not mark the end of this age? Certainly far greater things, both in the way of manifested evil and good, than have ever been witnessed hitherto, may yet be seen on this earth.

2. As to the true character of the present. This last conflict will be but the fully developed result of a long previous conflict of a similar kind. Compare the conspiracy and deliverance in long ago days described in Psalms 83:1-18. (compare also, on the one side, Acts 28:22; and on the other, Matthew 28:20).

Zechariah 12:5-8

A wonderful people.

"And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength," etc. In the preceding verses the dominant idea is that of Jerusalem as a city besieged. In these we have a vision of it as a city inhabited (note end of Zechariah 12:6, and the thrice-recurring expression, "the inhabitants of Jerusalem"). And there are three aspects in which, when so regarded, we seem called upon to admire it, viz.

(1) as perfectly safe;

(2) as properly humble; and

(3) as amazingly strong.


1. In the end of Zechariah 12:6, how this condition of safety is described. Jerusalem is spoken of as "inhabited again;" not deserted, i.e. as previously, because of the attacks of its foes. Also as "inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem;" as now, therefore, not even claimed as belonging to any but those who had been identified with it for so many generations.

2. How this description of safety is justified.

(1) It is so if we take Zechariah 12:5 as it stands, by the thorough confidence of the "governors" in the people of Jerusalem. They acknowledge this people to be their "strength" not with their lips only, but in their "heart."

(2) Such confidence is a great element of safety, especially when combined, as in this instance, with an equal amount of confidence, on the part of both rulers and ruled, in Jehovah himself (see end of Zechariah 12:5).

(3) For such a combination renders those rulers, like that famous general who spoke of his well tried army as "able to go anywhere and do anything," an amazing power to their city in the way of protection and defence. At any rate, so it was God made them to be in this instance. Like flame when applied to things most inflammable, so would he make them amidst the foes of his people, viz. equally sure and equally swift to consume. How safe a city when all those who threaten it can thus effectually be destroyed!


1. Why this humility was secured; viz. because of its vital importance. If either the leaders ("the house of David") or the people should begin to "magnify themselves" on account of those effectual means of defence just described, they would at once be in danger again (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:5, Jeremiah 17:6, etc.).

2. How this humility was secured. The beginning of deliverance was to be in something apart from Jerusalem, as it were. In something, also, that at first sight she might be inclined to despise. Such deliverance will, therefore, be like a "soldiers' victory" in its way. Rather, like that deliverance we read of in 2 Kings 7:1-20, which began with certain despised outsiders, and was clearly not their work, but God's. "The Lord shall save the tents of Judah first." Observe the triple emphasis in these words.


1. Because of the gracious continuance of God's care, Whatever he had already done for his people, so long as they are enabled to remain truly humble and trustful, that he will go on to do still (see Hosea 13:1; Proverbs 18:12; Isaiah 66:2).

2. Because of the abundant results of God's blessing. The very feeblest amongst them should be made, in desire and intention, like the very strongest, in that way, previously known (1 Samuel 13:14; 1Ki 9:4; 1 Kings 15:3, etc.). The leaders amongst them should be leaders Judaea—persons deserving to be followed as closely and fully as the Angel-Jehovah, of whom we afterwards read, as in 1Pe 2:21, 1 Peter 2:22; John 13:15; Php 2:5; 1 Corinthians 11:1, etc. This state of things (apparently) the complete fulfilment of Deuteronomy 33:29.

Three things, as illustrated here concerning the prophetical Scriptures generally, may be noticed to conclude.

1. Their obscurity in many points. On the one hand, e.g. the specially distinctive mention both of "Jerusalem" and of "Judah," and the singularly local complexion of the end of Deuteronomy 33:6, point us to a literal view of the whole. On the other, the mention of the house of David, which has so long since vanished from sight, and the apparent connection of it with our Divine Redeemer as the true New Testament "David" (Ezekiel 34:1-31.; Ezekiel 37:0.; Acts 2:29-31), point us almost as strongly to a figurative and spiritual interpretation, Who can decide confidently between them till all is decided by the actual fulfilment of the prophecy?

2. Their plainness in others. That some exceedingly blessed and glorious condition of things, either in the literal or the spiritual Jerusalem—or, it may be, in both together—is here fore-described, who can doubt? What this condition of things is to depend on, and how to be brought about, also seem very plain. This whole prophecy, in short, is at present, as are so many others, like a "proof before letters." We can only guess at present about the name of the landscape which it sets before us, but we can appreciate its loveliness to the full.

3. Their profitableness in all. So far as obscure, they serve to teach us the three great Christian duties of patience before God, humility as to ourselves, and forbearance towards others. So far as plain, they are fitted to animate our hope and sustain our courage and direct both our faith and our walk (2Th 3:5; 2 Peter 3:14; Romans 15:4, etc.).

Zechariah 12:9-14

Wonderful sorrow.

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations," etc. There is much that is striking in the apparent connection of this passage with that before. Just when God shall be seen by his people to be "seeking" and bringing about (see Zechariah 12:9) the overthrow and destruction of their many enemies, they, on the other hand, will be seen to be overwhelmed with sorrow of heart. Their souls, as it were, will be plunged into darkness at the very breaking of day. The very thing they have hoped for seems close at hand; and, lo! they are as men in despair. Equally remarkable, next, with the time of this sorrow, is its character. So we shall find, whether we consider

(1) its peculiar origin; or

(2) its peculiar magnitude.

I. ITS PECULIAR ORIGIN. To what is it due? Not to those causes which bring about the ordinary "sorrow of the world" (2 Corinthians 7:10). On the contrary, being sorrow which is "according to God" (κατὰ Θεὸν, 2 Corinthians 7:10), it has the "things of God" as its cause. In other words, it is occasioned:

1. By the action of God on the hearts of his people. He "pours on" them:

(1) "The spirit of grace." He gives them, i.e; in overflowing abundance, those gracious influences of the Spirit of holiness by which men are enabled to believe in him as "the God of all grace" and so are encouraged to pray (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

(2) "The spirit of supplications." He gives them, i.e; in similar abundance, those other gracious influences of that same Holy Spirit by which he is pleased both to guide men and also to assist men in their prayers (Romans 8:26; Ephesians 6:18; Jud Ephesians 1:20).

2. By the consequent thoughts of God's people about him.

(1) They think of him as having been "pierced" by their sins. This is an especial feature, we know, in "godly sorrow"—its horror at having sinned against God (Psalms 51:4; Gen 39:9; 2 Samuel 12:13; perhaps also Isaiah 43:24, end; Ephesians 4:30).

(2) They think of him as having been alienated by their folly. They "mourn for him" like those mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:2. After their privileges are gone from them, they see, with sorrow, how much they have lost. From none of these sources, we repeat, is man's natural sorrow found to flow forth.

II. ITS PECULIAR MAGNITUDE. Wide waters are generally shallow; deep waters are seldom broad; but here we have both.

1. Peculiar depth. On the one hand,

(1) there is only one known kind of sorrow equally deep. As the shades of life's afternoon thicken around us, it is to our children we look to give us comfort and hope, and to keep up the interest of life in our hearts (Genesis 5:28, Genesis 5:29; John 16:21). How peculiarly great, therefore, the sorrow of losing a firstborn and only son (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 49:3; Proverbs 4:3, Proverbs 4:4; Luke 7:12)! The loss bewailed here is like that—loss of all! On the other hand,

(2) there had never been but one previous example of sorrow equally deep, viz. the sorrow felt on the death of Josiah, almost the very best (2 Kings 23:25; 2 Kings 18:5), and certainly the last real, king among the descendants of David—a sorrow the memory of which, in the prophet's own day, had not at all been forgotten, and the sound of which is to be heard still by the world in the Lamentations of Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 35:25; Lamentations 4:20).

2. Peculiar diffusion. We find this sorrow described as pervading not the city only, but all the "land." We find it affecting every separate "house" amongst the houses of Israel, whether in Church or state (Levi and David [?]), whether well known or only little known (David and Nathan), whether with good antecedents or evil ones (Levi and Shimei; see Deuteronomy 33:8; 2 Samuel 16:5-13); also affecting every "family" of every separate "house;" also every adult member of every family, whether male or female. At once, therefore, in this tempest of sorrow, they were all united, yet all "apart." Even so, with their separate roots, are the "trees of the wood," when all moved by one wind (see Isaiah 7:2).

We see, in all this, something:

1. To give us comfort and hope. Without attempting to dogmatize on such a subject, we cannot but see, from this analysis of the passage, what it seems to foretell, viz. the future conversion of the whole people of Israel to belief in the gospel of Christ.

2. To give us instruction and warning. Equally great, for example, ought to be our sorrow for sin (Romans 3:9, Romans 3:29). Equally, also, ought it to be founded on our thoughts about Christ (John 16:9; Acts 9:4, Acts 9:5; Matthew 25:40, etc.). And equally, finally, can we only hope to receive it as a gift from above (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25).


Zechariah 12:1-9

The security of Zion.

I. MIGHT OF HER KING. The worlds of matter and of mind are under his control. If so, there is no such thing as chance. Then whatsoever God has promised he will certainly perform. Then to trust and to obey God must be the great end of our being. God's friends are blessed (Zechariah 12:2, Zechariah 12:4). His enemies, intoxicated by pride, muster for the fight. They are discomfited and driven back in headlong rout. Blindness seizes them, terror overpowers them; they perish, as at the Red Sea and in Midian's evil day (cf. Psalms 132:18).

II. ENERGY OF HER LEADERS. (Zechariah 12:5-7.) Men of faith and capacity, commanding the confidence of the people. Bound together by their common faith in God and devotion to the highest interests of humanity.

III. HEROISM OF HER PEOPLE. (Zechariah 12:8, Zechariah 12:9.) Strength, Divine in its source, various in degree, adequate forevery emergency, making the weak strong, and the strong stronger. A united people, with settled government, equal laws, courageous and faithful for the right. Zion united can stand against every assault, but divided becomes the prey of her enemies. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem."—F.

Zechariah 12:8

True greatness.







Zechariah 12:11-14

The great mourning.

The scene depicted has reference first of all to the Jews. Already partially fulfilled. But the principles involved are of universal application. Take it to illustrate true repentance.

I. GOD FOR ITS CAUSE. Not man, but God. The Father of our spirits acting on our spirit. "The spirit of grace."

II. SINNERS OF MANKIND FOR ITS SUBJECTS. Not angels. We read of their fail, but never of their rising again. For them there seems no place for repentance. Not the righteous. If man were innocent, there would be no need for penitence. But sinners. As all have sinned, repentance is required of all.

III. THE CROSS OF CHRIST FOR ITS INSTRUMENT. On the one hand, how can the sense of sin be brought home to man's conscience? On the other, how can God, consistently with his righteousness, show mercy to the sinner? The answer is found in the cross. Here we see, and here alone:

1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin.

2. The exceeding greatness of God's love to sinners. "God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."


1. Intensity. Thought and feeling. Sorrow deep and bitter.

2. Thoroughness. Goes to the very root of the matter; real and abiding.

V. REGENERATION OF SOCIETY AS ITS BLESSED RESULT. Society made up of individuals. Change them, and you change all. The whole lump will be leavened. When there is peace with God, purity of life, brotherly kindness and charity, the old glory of the land will be restored.—F.


Zechariah 12:1

The universe.

"The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him." This chapter, and on to Zechariah 12:6 of the following, most expositors regard as referring to Israel's conflict and victory, conversion and ultimate holiness. The first verse announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will result in the conquest of all enemies. The passage before us suggests a few thoughts concerning the universe.

I. THAT THE UNIVERSE INCLUDES THE EXISTENCE OF MATTER AND OF MIND. The phrase "heavens" and "earth" is used here and elsewhere to represent the whole creation.

1. It includes matter. Of the essence of matter we know nothing; but by the word we mean all that comes within the cognizance of our senses, all that can be felt, heard, seen, tasted. How extensive is this material domain! Science shows that it baffles all efforts and methods of mensuration.

2. It includes mind. Indeed, mind is here specified. "And formeth the spirit of man within him." Man has a spirit. Of this he has stronger evidence than he has of the existence of matter. He is conscious of the phenomena of mind, but not conscious of the phenomena of matter. Man's mind is only an insignificant part and a humble representative of the immeasurable universe of spirit.

II. THAT THE UNIVERSE ORIGINATED WITH ONE PERSONAL BEING. "The Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens," etc. It had an origin; it is not eternal. The idea of its eternity involves contradictions. It had an origin; its origin is not fortuitous; it is not the production of chance. The idea of its springing from chance may live in the region of speculation, but never in the realm of intelligent conviction. It had an origin; its origin is not that of a plurality of creators; it has one, and only one—"the Lord." This is the only philosophic account of its origin, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands."

III. THAT THIS ONE PERSONAL CREATOR HAS PURPOSES CONCERNING THE HUMAN RACE. "The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord." This may mean, "the sentence of the word of the Lord concerning Israel." Now, this chapter, this book—nay, a large portion of the Bible—purports to be a revelation of his purpose to mankind. He has not created us without an object, nor placed us on this earth without an object; both in our creation and preservation he has a purpose. This being so:

1. No events in human history are accidental.

2. The grand purpose of our life should be the fulfilment of his will. "Not my will, but thine be done."

IV. THAT HIS PURPOSE TOWARDS MANKIND HE IS FULLY ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH. His creative achievements are here mentioned as a pledge of the purposes hereafter announced. Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed. Has he purposed that all mankind shall be converted to his Son? It shall be done. "There is nothing too hard for the Lord."—D.T.

Zechariah 12:2, Zechariah 12:3

Sin self-punishment.

"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it." There is in this passage a principle by which the Governor of the world punishes malicious men. That principle is this—the reaction of their efforts to injure others causing injury of themselves. It is here said that Jerusalem would become confusion and destruction to the men who sought it, ruin. It is here said that:

1. Jerusalem would become to them "a cup of trembling," or, as some render it, "a cup of intoxication." It does not say that Jerusalem will put forth any active efforts to wreak vengeance on its enemies, but that its effect upon the enemies would be as an intoxicating cup; it will make them reel and stagger in confusion. The thought of their own malicious conduct towards it would produce an effect upon their own minds that would make them tremble and become confused.

2. Jerusalem would become to them "a burdensome stone." The idea is that, in their endeavours to injure Jerusalem, they would crush themselves. I make three remarks in relation to this punishment by reaction.


1. It is attested by every man's consciousness. Every man who attempts to injure another feels sooner or later that he has injured himself. There is a recoil and a regret. In truth, the malign passion itself is its own punishment. A man who cherishes anger towards another injures himself more than he can by any effort injure the object of his displeasure. In every malign emotion there is misery.

2. It is attested by universal history. It is a law that runs through all history, that the "mischief" of a man "shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate" (Psalms 7:16). The conduct of Joseph's brethren and of Haman may be cited as illustrations; but the conduct of the Jews towards the Messiah is an example for all times, most mighty and impressive. The blows which the old Jewish nation struck on him rebounded on their own heads and ruined them. "Whoso diggeth the pit," says Solomon, "shall fall therein; and whoso rolleth the stone, it will return on him" (Proverbs 26:27).

II. IT IS MANIFESTLY JUST. What man thus punished can complain of the righteousness of his sufferings? He must feel, and feel deeply, that he has deserved all and even more than he endures. Indeed, it is true that the punishment of the sinner is self-punishment; it is the fruit of his own doings. Witness Cain, Belshazzar, Judas, etc.


1. To guard men from the injuries of others.

2. To restrain the angry passions of men.

CONCLUSION. Let us in all our conduct to our fellow men practically recognize the principle that with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again. "He that rolleth the stone, it shall return upon him." The stone of revenge and malice which you have rolled at another shall come back upon the head of you that rolled it—come back with a terrible momentum, come back to crush you.—D.T.

Zechariah 12:4-9

A good time for good people.

"In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness," etc. These words, which are confessedly difficult if not impossible to interpret correctly (for some say they are to be taken literally, others spiritually; some historically, others prophetically), may be fairly used to illustrate a good time for good people. In relation to this good time, I observe—

I. IT IS A TIME WHEN THEIR ENEMIES SHALL BE VANQUISHED. "In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and wilt smite every horse of the people with blindness." Here the overthrow of the enemies of Jerusalem is threatened. "The Lord," says Keil, "will throw the mind and spirit of the military force of the enemy into such confusion that, instead of injuring Jerusalem and Judah, it will rush forward to its own destruction. Horses and riders individualize the warlike forces of the enemy. The rider, smitten with madness, turns his sword against his own comrades in battle. On the other hand, Jehovah will open his eyes upon Judah for its protection (1 Kings 8:29; Nehemiah 1:6; Psalms 32:8). This promise is strengthened by the repetition of the punishment to be inflicted upon the enemy. Not only with alarm, but with blindness, will the Lord smite their horses. We have an example of this in 2 Kings 6:18, where the Lord smote the enemy with blindness in answer to Elisha's prayer, i.e. with mental blindness, so that, instead of seizing the prophet, they fell into the hands of Israel. The three plagues, timmahon, shigga‛on, and ‛ivvaron, are those with which rebellious Israelites are threatened in Deuteronomy 28:28. The house of Judah is the covenant nation, the population of Judah, including the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as we may see from what follows." Now, whether this conquest refers to the triumphs of the Maccabees, or to some wonderful victories of the Jews in some future times, one thing is clear to us, that the time will come for all good people when their enemies shall be entirely destroyed. To every good man this victory is promised. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."


1. The power of unity. "The governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God" "Observe here" says Dr. Wardlaw, "the confidence of the leaders in the people. Without the people's concurrent aid, their counsels and plans and directions could, of course, be of little avail This the rulers should feel, and should exult in seeing what ground they had for full reliance on them in time of pressure and danger, which implies unanimity and intrepid valour, combined with persevering effort, on the part of the inhabitants. This union and valour would be the 'strength' of their leaders, without which they must find themselves utterly powerless. A divided, dispirited. heartless, dastardly soldiery or populace, is weakness, disappointment, and discomfiture to the best-conceived plans of the most bold, prudent, and experienced leaders." All good people over all the earth will one day be thoroughly united—united, not in opinion, for this would be, if possible, undesirable; but in devotion to Christ, the common Centre. This union is strength, Divine strength, "strength in the Lord of hosts." "Strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."

2. The power of conquest. "In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left;" or, as Dr. Henderson renders it, "In that day will I make the chiefs of Judah like a fire pot among sticks of wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf, and they shall consume all the people around, on the right hand and on the left." As the fire consumes the wood and the sheaf of straw, so would the men of Jerusalem have power to conquer all the people "round about, on the right hand and on the left." God invests all good men with power to conquer their spiritual foes; this is the power of faith—faith that overcometh the world. This power, though weak in most, is triumphant in many (see Hebrews 11:1-40.). It shall be all-conquering one day.

III. IT IS A TIME WHEN THEY SHALL BE SETTLED IN THEIR HOME. "And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem." Jerusalem, in the first instance, stands for the Jews, and in the second instance for the city or the country. It means, therefore, that in this good time—whether it is past or to come—some, if not all, the Jews that were scattered abroad will return and settle in their own home. The language expresses reoccupancy and permanent possession. Those who return—whether from Egypt, Babylon, or elsewhere—will return and settle down in their old home. A time comes for all good people when they shall settle down in a permanent dwelling place. Here they are "strangers and pilgrims," and have "no abiding city." But a glorious country awaits them, an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away."


1. They were to have equal honour. "The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah." Dr. Henderson's translation expresses this: "And Jehovah shall deliver the tents of Judah first, in order that the splendour of the house of David and the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be magnified above Judah."

2. They were to have equal protection. "In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord Before them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem." Hero Jerusalem is promised protection against the foe, and "he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David." "To the Jew, David was the highest type of strength and glory on earth (2 Samuel 17:8), a man of war (2 Samuel 18:3); such shall the weakest citizen of Jerusalem become (Joel 3:10)." "And the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them." "The Divine Angel that went before them through the desert, the highest type of strength and glory in heaven (Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34). The house of David is the prince and his family sprung from David (Ezekiel 45:7, Ezekiel 45:9). David's house was then in a comparatively weak state." Now, there is a time coming when all good people shall have distinguished honour and complete protection. They shall settle down in the heavenly Jerusalem; and what a city is that (see Revelation 21:1-27)!

CONCLUSION. Though I have not been able to put forth what I feel to be a satisfactory interpretation of these words, or attempted to give to them a spiritual signification, I trust that, in using them as an illustration of the good time coming for the good, I have presented a legitimate and a useful application. A glorious time awaits all good men, in all lands, Churches, nations—a time when they shall be delivered from all evil and be put in permanent possession of all good. Seeing we look for such things, "what manner of persons ought we to Be in all holy conversation and godliness?" etc.—D.T.

Zechariah 12:10-14

Penitential sorrow.

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn," etc. To whatever particular event this passage refers, the subject is obvious and most important, viz. that of penitential sorrow. And five things in connection with it are noteworthy.

I. THE SUBJECTS OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. They are Jews, and not Gentiles. "The house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem"—expressions which designate the whole Israelitish people. The Jewish people had often been reduced to this state of sorrow. When in Babylonian captivity they wept when they "remembered Zion." "The scene," says Dr. Wardlaw, "depicted bears a very close resemblance to those recorded to have taken place on the restoration from Babylon, when Jehovah, having influenced them individually to return to himself, and to set their faces, with longing desire, to the land of their fathers, inclined their hearts, when thus gathered home, to social and collective acts of humiliation and prayer. The prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah on those occasions might be taken as models, in the 'spirit and even the matter' of them, for the supplications of Judah and Israel when brought back from their wider and more lasting dispersions."

II. THE CAUSE OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. "I will pour." The Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) refers to this outpouring of Divine influence. "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." All genuine repentance for sin originates with God. He sends down into human souls the spirit of grace and of supplications. The spirit of grace is the spirit that produces in the mind of man the experience of the grace of God; and this experience works repentance and inspires prayer.

III. THE OCCASION OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW, "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." "The expression, 'upon me,'" says Hengstenberg, "is very remarkable. According to verse 1, the Speaker is the Lord, the Creator of heaven stud earth. But it is evident from what follows that we are not to confine our thoughts exclusively to an invisible God who is beyond the reach of suffering, for the same Jehovah presently represents himself as pierced by the Israelites, and afterwards lamented by them with bitter remorse. The enigma is solved by the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel and Revealer of the Most High God, to whom the prophet attributes even the most exalted names of God, on account of his participation in the Divine nature, who is described in ch. 11. as undertaking the office of Shepherd over his people, and who had been recompensed by them with base ingratitude." "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him." The "me" and the "him" are the same Person, and that Person he who says, in verse 10, "I will pour upon the house of David." In the first clause he is speaking of himself; in the second clause the prophet is speaking of him. The Messiah was pierced, and pierced by the Jews: "They pierced my hands and my feet." A believing sight of Christ produces this penitential sorrow.

"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,

And my Redeemer die?

Did he devote his sacred head

For such a worm as I?"

IV. THE POIGNANCY OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. "And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." "There are few states of deeper and acuter sorrow than this—that which is felt by affectionate parents when bereft of those objects of their fondest affections; the one solitary object of their concentrated parental love; or the firstborn and rising support and hope of their household." As to the poignancy of this grief, it is further said, "In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon," etc. Perhaps the greatest sorrow ever known amongst the Jews was the sorrow in the valley of Megiddon, occasioned by the death of King Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:24). Jeremiah composed a funeral dirge on the occasion, and other odes and lamentations were composed, and were sung by males and females. But true penitential sorrow is far more poignant than that occasioned by the death of an only son or a noble king. It is tinctured with moral remorse.

V. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS POIGNANT SORROW. "And the land shall mourn, every family apart," etc. All the families of the land shall mourn, and all shall mourn "apart." Deep sorrow craves loneliness.

CONCLUSION. There is one event in history—whether such an event is referred to here or not—that answers better to the description here of penitential sorrow than any other in the chronicles of the world; it is the Day of Pentecost. Thousands of Jews assembled together on that day from all parts of the known world. Peter preached to the vast assembly and charged them with having crucified the Son of God. The Holy Spirit came down upon the vast congregation, and the result was that, "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). Far on in the future, it may be, a period will dawn in Jewish history when such penitential sorrow as is here described will be experienced by all the descendants of Abraham.—D.T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/zechariah-12.html. 1897.
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