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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Zechariah 13

Zechariah 13:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Idolatry Cut OffJerusalem Shall Lament Its Sin and be Purged of Idolatry(Zechariah 12:1-6)The Future Deliverance of Jerusalem(Zechariah 12:1-6)The Deliverance and Restoration of Jerusalem(Zechariah 12:1-6)
Zechariah 13:1-3 Zechariah 13:1
Zechariah 13:2-6
Zechariah 13:4-6
The Shepherd SaviorGod's Shepherd, Smitten for SheepThe Command to Kill God's ShepherdInvocation to the Sword; the New People
Zechariah 13:7-913:7-19Zechariah 13:7-9Zechariah 13:7-9

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 13:1 1”In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.

Zechariah 13:1 “In that day” This is the repeated eschatological marker of chapters 10-14 (cf. Zechariah 13:2).

“a fountain will be opened” The concept of a fountain of life comes from Isaiah 12:2-3; Jeremiah 2:13 (for the negative see Jeremiah 51:36; Hosea 13:15); and Jeremiah 17:13. God is the source of life (cf. Psalms 36:5-9). In this context it refers to the forgiveness of sin, which is obviously related to the repentance mentioned in Zechariah 12:10. This is a picture of the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:34; Ezekiel 36:25 (cf. Romans 11:26-27; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5).

The VERB (BDB 834 I, KB 986, Niphal PARTICPLE) also connected to it is a Qal IMPERFECT, “to be” (BDB 224, KB 243), which denotes an emphasis of permanently opened! God's life-giving water will now flow forever (cf. Zechariah 14:8; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:1; Psalms 46:4).

“for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem” The royal line and the people who returned from exile are the recipients (cf. Zechariah 12:10). Notice there is no distinction between Jerusalem and Judah, as in Zechariah 12:2, Zechariah 12:5, Zechariah 12:7.

“for sin” This is the common Hebrew term (BDB 308) which means “to miss the goal,” “to miss the mark,” or “to miss the way” (cf. BDB 306).

“for impurity” This Hebrew term (BDB 622) was used mostly of ceremonial defilement by menstrual flow, but was also used for idolatry (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:5-6; Ezra 9:11).

Verses 2-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 13:2-6 2”It will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. 3And if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who gave birth to him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you have spoken falsely in the name of the LORD'; and his father and mother who gave birth to him will pierce him through when he prophesies. 4Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive; 5but he will say, ‘I am not a prophet; I am a tiller of the ground, for a man sold me as a slave in my youth.' 6And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?' Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.'“

Zechariah 13:2 “it will come about in that day, declares the LORD of hosts” This is the continuing use of the eschatological phrase, “that day,” combined with the common post-exilic title for God, which implies military power.

“that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land” The VERB “cut off” (BDB 503, KB 500, Hiphil IMPERFECT) means to remove and destroy the idols and their followers (cf. Micah 5:10-15; Zephaniah 1:4-6).

Again, the time setting of Zechariah 9-14 is very difficult to ascertain. It is obvious that idol worship was a major problem with the Jewish people before the Exile, but after the Exile this was not a problem. This verse seems to imply that idolatry will again become a major sin of the people of God.

This context is similar to Ezekiel 36:22-38 in that YHWH chooses to act Himself because of His people's inadequacy to act. In Ezekiel He acts on their behalf to inaugurate the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). Here He acts to remove evil from their midst (i.e., idols, false prophets, and the unclean spirit).

“and I will also remove the prophets” The VERB (BDB 716, Hiphil #4, KB 778) is used of removing evil people in 1 Kings 15:12 and 2 Chronicles 15:8.

This obviously refers to false prophets (cf. LXX). The discussion in Zechariah 13:3-6 deals with those who claim to know and speak for God, but who are actually a tool for the evil one (cf. Matthew 24:4-5, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:23-24).

“and the unclean spirit from the land” The presence of the DEFINITE ARTICLE could mean that we are identifying a particular figure (i.e., Satan, cf. 1 Kings 22:21) or this is a hendiadys, which means “the prophets” and “the unclean spirit” form one group (i.e., false prophets). This same phrase is also used quite often in the NT to refer to the demonic (see Special Topic: The Demonic in the OT). It (i.e., Leupold, p. 246, “spirit of uncleanness”) is obvious that this is the exact opposite of “the spirit of grace” mentioned in Zechariah 12:10.

Zechariah 13:3 “And it will come about that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother” A tremendous change of attitude has occurred where even parents are ready to discipline their children for idol worship.

There are several similarities between this paragraph and Zechariah 12:10-14. It almost seems that a true prophet suffered the fate of the false prophets.

“You shall not live, for you have spoken falsely in the name of the LORD” This refers to the punishment for false prophets from Deuteronomy 13:1-10; Deuteronomy 18:20, Deuteronomy 18:22. The only difference is that in Zechariah 13:3 the offender is pierced, while in Deuteronomy they are stoned.

“pierce him through” This is the same term used in Zechariah 12:10 and the implication is that he is pierced by his parents because he is a false prophet and a blasphemer. This may be so that the whole family may not be judged (cf. Jeremiah 23:34). This is exactly the reason that the Jews crucified Jesus because they saw Him as a false prophet and a blasphemer.

Zechariah 13:4 “in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies” Zechariah 13:4-6 describe the excuses that these false prophets will make when they are confronted with their false prophecies. A good descriptive parallel to “ashamed” (BDB 101) prophets is Micah 3:5-7.

“a hairy robe” This was (CONSTRUCT BDB 12 and 972) the distinctive dress of some prophets.

1. Samuel, 1 Samuel 28:14 (different word)

2. Elijah, 1 Kings 19:13; 2 Kings 2:8

3. Elisha, 1 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 2:13, 2 Kings 2:14

4. John the Baptist, Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6

Zechariah 13:5 “I am not a prophet; I am a tiller of the ground” This man will claim to be a farmer, not a prophet.

NASB“for a man sold me as a slave in my youth” NKJV“man taught me to keep cattle from my youth” NRSV“for the land has been my possession since my youth” TEV“I have farmed the land all my life” NJB“for the land has been my living since I was a boy”

This phrase is very ambiguous, but it is related to the phrase, “a tiller of the ground.” The differences are because of the possible origins of hqnni.

1. NKJV, connects it to mqnh (BDB 889), a flock or herd

2. NASB, connects it to qnh (BDB 888, KB 1114), acquire or purchase

3. NRSV, slightly changes the MT by adding one consonant

F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, makes a good point,

“The clause is an amplification of the preceding one ('I am a tiller of the ground') and means that the speaker is a simple agricultural laborer and no prophet” (p. 38).

Zechariah 13:6 “And one will say to him, 'What are these wounds between your arms'“ The false prophet will be easily recognized by special cultic marks on his body. “Between his arms” is a Hebrew idiom (BDB 388) for somewhere on his back, chest, arms, or hands. There seem to be two OT allusions to this practice: (1) the prophets of Ba'al (cf. 1 Kings 18:28) and (2) special pagan practices for mourning (cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 48:37).

“Then he will say, 'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends'“ He tries to explain his wounds by saying he received them while meeting with his friends (Hebrew is MASCULINE). However, the term “friends” or “lovers” (BDB 12, Piel) is used in the OT for associates in idolatry (cf. Jeremiah 22:20, Jeremiah 22:22; Jeremiah 30:14; Ezekiel 16:33, Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 16:37; Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:9, Ezekiel 23:22; Hosea 2:7, Hosea 2:9, Hosea 2:12, Hosea 2:14, Hosea 2:15; also LXX of Hosea 7:14).

Verses 7-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 13:7-9 7”Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. 8It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “ That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,' And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'“

Zechariah 13:7 There is an obvious radical break between Zechariah 13:6 and 7. As Zechariah 13:6 refers to false prophets, Zechariah 13:7 refers to the coming Messiah. Notice in your translation that Zechariah 13:1-6 is in prose, while Zechariah 13:7-9 is poetry. This poetry is definitely related to Zechariah 11:4-14, which describes the godly shepherd.

“Awake” This is a Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 734, KB 802).

“O sword” This is obviously a personification of death (cf. the VOCATIVE is also used in Jeremiah 47:6-7 in a military sense). Notice that God is the spokesman. God is the One who strikes the Shepherd. The terms “awake” and “sword,” in Zechariah 13:7a, are both FEMININE, while the word “strike” in Zechariah 13:0:7d is Hiphil IMPERATIVE MASCULINE SINGULAR (BDB 645, KB 697) and refers to God striking the shepherd (i.e., vicarious substitutionary atonement, cf. Isaiah 53:10; Acts 2:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

“My Shepherd” This is an obvious reference to the Davidic king (cf. Zechariah 12:10). “Shepherd” originally referred to God (cf. Psalms 23:0), but it is later used of the leaders of Israel (cf. Ezekiel 34:0). It is used in the NT to describe the Messiah (cf. John 10:0).

“And against the man, My Associate” The NIV translates this “and against the man who is close to me.” This is obviously a reference to a close associate (BDB 765). This is why identifying this shepherd with the one in Zechariah 11:17 is misleading. This term (BDB 765) is used only here and in the book of Leviticus (cf. Lev. 5:21; Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 19:17; Leviticus 24:19; Leviticus 25:14, Leviticus 25:15). It obviously means a close friend or covenant neighbor.

“strike the shepherd” This VERB (BDB 645, KB 697) is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE.

“that the sheep may be scattered” The VERB (BDB 806 I, KB 918) is a Qal IMPERFECT used as a JUSSIVE. This is used as a fulfillment of the cursing section of Deuteronomy 28:64. Jesus makes an allusion to this when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27).

“I will turn My hand against the little ones” The VERB (BDB 996 [top of, p. 999], KB 1427, Hiphil PERFECT) is used especially of God's judgment (cf. Isaiah 1:25; Zechariah 13:7; Psalms 81:15). The phrase “the little ones” is parallel to “the sheep,” which are scattered in the previous verse. This must be a time of testing initiated by God Himself.

Zechariah 13:8 “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it” This seems to refer to some type of punishment by God where two-thirds of the people perish. This is either a reference to a military invasion or to the spiritual rejection of the Messiah by two-thirds of God's people. Again, the time setting is ambiguous.

Zechariah 13:9 “And I will bring the third part through the fire,

Refine them as silver is refined,

And test them as gold is tested”

This refers to the purpose of refining (BDB 864, cf. Malachi 3:2) for strengthening (cf. Isaiah 48:10; Daniel 11:35). YHWH wants a purified people who reflect His character! This use of the metallurgical term is quite common in the Bible to describe God testing His people (i.e., the faithful remnant) for approval (cf. Proverbs 17:3; Isaiah 1:25; Isaiah 48:10).

“They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, 'They are My people,' And they will say, 'The LORD is my God'“ This is a series of covenant phrases (e.g., Hosea 2:19-23) to describe that in the midst of God's judgment on the shepherd and the sheep, His purpose is a stronger covenant relationship (cf. Zechariah 8:8).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the historical setting of Zechariah 13:0?

2. How is the unclean spirit related to the idols and prophets?

3. Why is the false prophet in Zechariah 13:3 pierced instead of being stoned?

4. Was a hairy robe a sign of YHWH's prophets in the OT?

5. List the major theological truths about the purpose of God in Zechariah 13:7.

6. How is Zechariah 13:0 related to Zechariah 11:0?

7. Will only a remnant of Israel be saved? How does this apply or not apply to the church?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/zechariah-13.html. 2021.