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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Zechariah 13

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

Zechariah 13:1-6

§ 3. This repentance will lead to purification from past defilement, and a reaction against idolatry and false prophet.

Zechariah 13:1

In that day. At the time when the great mourning (Zechariah 12:1-14.) takes place, or, more generally, in the Messianic period, when all these things shall be fulfilled. Shall be a fountain opened, etc. Shah be opened and continue open. The allusion is to the lustral rites practised in the consecration of the Levites, who were to have "water of sin" sprinkled on them, and to "the water of separation," or "water of uncleanness" (the word found in our passage), used for purposes of legal purification (see Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9). Instead of this merely ceremonial cleansing, there should be in the Christian Church the cleansing of the soul by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7). Septuagint, ἔσται πᾶς τόπος διανοιγόμενος, "Every place shall he opened." The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem represent the whole nation, as in Zechariah 12:10; the cleansing is as universal as the sin (see the announcement in Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 3:18). For sin and for uncleanness. The latter word is used for the separation on account of uncleanness (Le 15:20, etc.); and the two terms together comprise all guilt and pollution.

Zechariah 13:2

I will cut off the names of the idols. Idols should be so utterly abolished that their very names should perish (Hosea 2:17; Micah 5:12, Micah 5:13; Zephaniah 1:4). The prophet names the two chief sins which had brought ruin on the old theocracy—idolatry and false prophetism, and declares that these shall not be found in the new theocracy. As these two sins were not specially prevalent after the Captivity, some see in their mention here an argument for the pre-exilian authorship of this part of Zechariah. But the prophet, grounding his message on past history, does well to give assurance that such lapses shall not happen again. Nor is it altogether certain that the warning against these errors was not needed after the return. There were false prophets in Nehemiah's time (Nehemiah 6:14); and we read in the Book of Maccabees that many Jews adopted heathen rites and customs, among which the worship of idols must have been included (1 Macc. 1:11, etc.; 2 Macc. 4:13, etc.), and the people and even priests contracted marriages with heathen wives (Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23); so that there was real danger of relapse. The prophets. The false prophets are meant, as is evident from their being associated with idols and the unclean spirit, and from verses 3-6. The Septuagint has, "the false prophets;" so the Vulgate. The unclean spirit. This is the lying spirit which works in the false prophets (see 1 Kings 22:19-23), and which we find later denounced by apostles (Acts 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20, 1 Corinthians 10:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Timothy 4:1). Septuagint, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον (comp, Matthew 12:43; Revelation 18:2).

Zechariah 13:3

When any shall yet prophesy; i.e. if any man shall pretend to have predictive powers conferred on him by God. There is here no intimation that true prophecy should cease, as Keil and Kohler suppose; the man is punished, not because he prophesies, but because "he speaketh lies." His father and his mother. The passage is grounded on the enactments in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and Deuteronomy 18:20, which commanded the death of a false prophet or of one who enticed others to Idolatry. Here the holy zeal of the parents should put the law in force. This was quite a different state of things from that which obtained in former times. The earlier prophets continually complain of the favour shown to these deceivers (comp. Isaiah 9:15; Jeremiah 5:31; Micah 2:11); and we never read of the legal punishment being inflicted after due investigation, the test being the nonfulfilment of the prediction (Deuteronomy 18:22). In the new theocracy, so great is the recoil from such pretenders, that their nearest relations shall at once punish them with death without any previous legal process. Shall thrust him through. Stab, pierce him, put him to death, as in Deuteronomy 12:10. The gospel deals more tenderly with heretics (Luke 9:55). "Defendenda religio non est occidendo," says Laetant. ('Div. Inst.,' 5.20), "sed moriendo; religio cogi non potest" (Wordsworth, in loc.).

Zechariah 13:4

Shall be ashamed. The falsity of their pretensions being now recognized, these prophets shall be ashamed to utter their oracles in public. When he hath prophesied; rather, when he prophesieth. A rough garment; a mantle of hair; Septuagint. δέῤῥιν τριχίνην: Vulgate, pallio saccino. Such was the mantle of Elijah (1 Kings 19:13, 1 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 1:8; 2 Kings 2:13, 2 Kings 2:14) and of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4), and it seems to have become the distinctive badge of the prophet, and was assumed by these pretenders in order to inspire confidence.

Zechariah 13:5

I am an husbandman. The imposter shall confess the truth about himself, and own that he is only "a tiller of the ground ( ἄνθρωπος ἐργαζόμενος τὴν γῆν)," as Genesis 4:2. The abnegation in Amos 7:14 is quite different in character. Man taught me to keep cattle; literally, man bought (or, possessed) me; Revised Version, I have been made a bondman. So eager is he now to hide his false pretensions, that he is willing, to be considered a slave, employed from his youth in farm work, and therefore incapable of executing the prophetical office. Vulgate, Quoniam Adam exemplum meum ab adoloscentia mea; i.e. "I have followed the example of Adam in tilling the ground and in earning my bread by the sweat of my brow." St. Cyril and some modern commentators hold that the false prophet says this in sorrow and repentant, not with any idea of deceiving; and that herein is exhibited a signal instance of the grace of God in the Messanic period, when even such sinners are converted from the error of their ways.

Zechariah 13:6

What are these wounds in thine hands? or rather, between thy hands, i.e. on thy breast; Revised Version, between thine arms. Cheyne compares, "between his arms," i.e; in his back (2 Kings 9:24) and "between your eyes" i.e. on your foreheads (Deuteronomy 11:18). Not satisfied with the assertion in Zechariah 13:5, the questioner asks the meaning of these wounds which he sees on his body. Jerome considers these scars to be marks of correction and punishment at the hands of his parents. More probably they are thought to be self-inflicted in the service of some idol, according to the practice mentioned in 1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 48:37. Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. This may be a confession of guilt, the impostor owning that his friends, had thus punished him for his pretensions; or, as the word rendered "friends" is generally used in the case of illicit or impure love or spiritual fornication, it may be here applied to the idols whom he served. But it seems most probable that the answer is intentionally false and misleading; as if he had said, "The wounds were not made as you suppose, but are the result of something that happened to me in my friends' house." The LXX. renders, ἂς ἐπλήγην ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ μου, "with which I was struck in my beloved house." To see in this passage a reference to our blessed Lord and his crucifixion, though such an opinion has the support of the Roman Liturgy and of many interpreters, is to do violence to the context, and to read into the words a meaning wholly alien from the subject of false prophets, which is the matter in hand.

Zechariah 13:7-9

§ 4. For the smiting of the good Shepherd Israel is punished, passes through much tribulation, by which it is refined, and in the end (though reduced to a mere remnant) is saved.

Zechariah 13:7

Awake, O sword. Zechariah proceeds to show the course of the purification of the people. The mention of the false prophet and the shameful wounds in his flesh leads him to the contrast of the true Prophet and the effects of his "piercing." The abruptness of the commencement of the verse is dramatic, and gives no sufficient cause for supposing that this paragraph ought to be transferred (as Ewald and others desire) to the end of Zechariah 11:1-17. (For a similar apostrophe, comp. Jeremiah 47:6.) It is introduced here to show that all that happened to the Shepherd was done after the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; and as if the sword could never have dared to act thus except it were permitted by the Divine will. The "sword" represents any kind of instrument that inflicts death (comp. Exodus 5:21; 2 Samuel 12:9; Isaiah 27:1). My Shepherd. The Shepherd of Jehovah, who is speaking. He is the good Shepherd, the Representative of Jehovah, mentioned in Zechariah 11:4, etc; the Messiah, who is identified with Jehovah in Zechariah 12:10. The Septuagint has, τοὺς ποιμένας μου, "my shepherds" (Vatican), as if no particular person was indicated, but rather all the leaders of the people of God; but the next clause seems to render the reference definite. The man that is my fellow. The word rendered "man" means rather "mighty man;" that rendered "fellow" occurs often in Leviticus, but nowhere else (Le 5:21; Leviticus 6:2; Leviticus 19:11, Leviticus 19:15, Leviticus 19:17, etc.), and is usually translated "neighbour;" it implies one united to another by the possession of common nature, rights, and privileges. God could speak only of One thus associated with himself, that is, of him who could say, "I and my Father are One" (John 10:30). The term is variously translated by the versions. Septuagint, ἄνδρα = πολίτην μου: Aquila, ἄνδρα σύμφυλον μου: Vulgate, Virum cohaerentem mihi. That the Shepherd is Messiah is proved by Christ's application of the following clause to himself (Matthew 26:31). Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. When Christ was apprehended, all the disciples forsook him and fled (Matthew 26:56); and what they did was done by others. Even the faithful few were scandalized at the cross The command, "Smite the Shepherd," like the apostrophe, "Awake, O sword," shows that it was God's purpose that was being there executed (see John 19:11; Acts 2:23). It is also thus intimated that the dispersion of the Jews, and their denationalizing, were results of this rejection and smiting of the Shepherd. This dispersion is farther explained in verses 8, 9, where it is shown that to some it will be ruin, to others salvation. I will turn mine hand. "To turn," or "bring back the hand over," is used in a good and a bad sense (comp. Isaiah 1:25; Amos 1:8). There is a promise of comfort in the use of the phrase here. God's hand shall cover and protect some, while he punishes the others. Those thus protected are called the little ones, the humble and meek. This recalls Christ's words to his disciples, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

Zechariah 13:8

In all the land; i.e. Palestine, the country in which the good Shepherd tended his flock (Zechariah 11:1-17.), and which is a figure of the kingdom of God (comp. Zechariah 12:12; Zechariah 14:9, Zechariah 14:10). Two parts therein shall be cut off and die; literally, the mouth, i.e. the portion of two, as Deuteronomy 21:17; 2 Kings 2:9, where it denotes the double portion inherited by the firstborn. The inheritance is divided into three portions, of which two parts are given over to death. Compare a similar allotment in the case of the Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2). The doomed portion is supposed to represent the multitudes who perished at the siege of Jerusalem. This may be; but by analogy it stands for those who shall not accept the Messiah or be purified by suffering, even as Christ said, "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16; comp. Matthew 3:12). The third. This third part represents the faithful among the Jews (Romans 11:5), and the Christian Church gathered out of all nations (comp. Isaiah 6:13; and especially Ezekiel 5:2, Ezekiel 5:12).

Zechariah 13:9

Through the fire. This third part, like its Master, passes through much tribulation, and is thereby refined and purified (comp. Psalms 66:10; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 9:7; Daniel 12:10; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 1:7). Call on my Name. In their distress they shall turn in faith to Jehovah, as the covenant God, a very present Help in trouble (Isaiah 65:24). Thus is represented God's dealing with his Church in every age.

HOMILETICS

Zechariah 13:1

The end of sin.

"In that day there shall be a fountain opened," etc. The close of the last chapter described certain persons as pouring forth "a fountain of tears" (Jeremiah 9:1). This opens by describing a "fountain" of a different kind—a fountain opened for the especial benefit of those who thus mourned (comp. Zechariah 12:10). In this last-mentioned verse their grief is attributed to their looking on him "whom they had pierced." Remembering how distinctly this expression is applied, in John 19:37, to the death of Christ Jesus, we seem justified in concluding that there is a similar reference here. According to this, therefore, the "fountain" of John 19:1 is a figurative description of that flow of blessings which comes from Christ's cross; and its "opening in that day" to the people described is a similar description of their being then at last enabled to discover and partake of that flow. So "opened," what will be its results? Two principally, both of chief importance, viz, an end of sin

I. THE END OF ITS GUILT. Sin, as being the transgression of Law (1 John 3:4; 1 John 5:17; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:13), involves the displeasure, and that inevitably, of the Lawgiver. If the Law is worth enacting, it is worth enforcing. If not meant, indeed, to be enforced, why was it ever proclaimed? The wiser, also the better, the holier, the higher the Lawgiver, the more this reasoning holds. The greater also, such being the case, and that both in itself and also before him, is the offence of rebelling against him. And it is this "offence," this deadly "offence," that the mystical fountain here described in the first place—providing, as it does, "a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world"—so entirely brings to an end. See how emphatically this is taught generally in Romans 8:1; Romans 3:25. And see how the same appears to be taught specially concerning Jerusalem and its inhabitants in the future in such passages as Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah h 20 (see also Daniel 9:24). Now their "iniquities have separated," as described in Isaiah 59:2, "between them and their God, and their sins have made him [margin] hide his face from them, that he will not hear." Then, through that "opened fountain," this will all be reversed. No longer separated or concealed from them, he will accept their prayers with "delight" (see John 4:23, end; Proverbs 15:8).

II. THE END OF ITS POLLUTION. Besides being an offence to God, sin is an injury to ourselves. Being altogether unworthy of us in every respect, it brings about, and that immediately, our own degradation and shame. It involves pollution, that is to say, as well as guilt. And it further involves, such being the case, in addition to the before-mentioned separation or alienation of God's favour from us, the separation or alienation of our nature from him. This second evil would seem to be described in our text as "separation" for or by means of "uncleanness." How such alienation on man's part through the pollution of sin is evidenced, we may see in Genesis 3:8; Luke 5:8; Isaiah 30:11; Romans 1:28, beginning; and also in that which is assumed respecting us in the gracious appeal of 2 Corinthians 5:20. On the other hand, how entirely this second alienation can be overcome by the remedy of our text is seen in 1 John 1:7, end; John 12:32. And how completely both this and the previously mentioned alienation are to be removed in the case of Judah and Israel at the last, as here described, we may perhaps see in Jeremiah 31:31-34, especially as quoted and summarized in Hebrews 10:16, Hebrews 10:17 and elsewhere.

If this interpretation is accepted, we may learn hence for ourselves, in concluding:

1. The necessity of Christ's death. In all cases we see it is thus that God has appointed as to doing away with our sins. It is only by the "fountain" in this way provided, and not by any fountain of tears on man's part, however copious, however unexampled, however certainly due even to an influence from above (Zechariah 12:10), that the "double cure" of sin can be wrought.

"Could my tears forever flow," etc.

2. The necessity of man's faith. The necessity, we mean, of course, where there is the capacity for faith in existence. Till that capacity for faith is exercised, no matter what the object of faith, what can it do? Till the "fountain" in this way be "opened" win other words, be discovered and used—whom can it cleanse? (See Romans 5:1 and Acts 15:9 respectively for the two sides of this truth.)

3. The abundance of God's grace—whether to pardon or heal. It is not a cistern, not even a well, but a fountain, to which we find it compared (comp. Jeremiah 2:13; John 4:12, John 4:13). No limitation as to supply. No limitation as to use (see Deuteronomy 11:10, Deuteronomy 11:11).

Zechariah 13:2-6

The end of error.

"And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols," etc. After the end of sin, the end of that which leads to sin, viz. of error. This gift completes the previous blessings by making them lasting and sure (comp. Psalms 85:8). This gift also, as we find it described here, is most complete in itself. It is so, whether we consider what is told us

I. THE ACTION OF GOD. It is promised here that he will put an end to error:

1. By abolishing its very symbols. The "names" of idols are the symbols or words by means of which their supposed attributes or connection with different localities are set forth and commemorated; and under which also they are worshipped. Besides numerous classical examples, see in Acts 19:34 how evidently the people of Ephesus considered it as equivalent to a declaration of their faith to repeat the mere name of Diana. What is promised here, therefore, is that it should be eventually with all systems of error as it is now with many of the singular and subtle heresies which vexed the primitive Church. They are so far forgotten by this time that it is a matter of difficult antiquarian research even to ascertain their true meaning.

2. By banishing its teachers. Not only then shall the "tares" of falsehood be "rooted up," but the "enemy" also that sowed them shall be taken away, This, moreover, shall be done so completely that not only the false "prophet," but the "unclean spirit" also, his inspirer and confederate, shall "cease" to exist in the land. Error, therefore, at that happy season, shall be twice dead, as it were; gone altogether beyond recollection; gone also beyond recovery.

II. THE ACTION OF MAN. Even should any persons qualified to act as false prophets be still left in existence (see again 1 Samuel 28:7), there will be two further things effectually to prevent them from making use of their gifts. There will be the extent to which, at that time, the false prophet:

1. Shall be hated by others. He will be hated

2. Despised by himself. For example, he will be ashamed

Whatever the special application of the passage which sets before us such a complete cessation of error, there are two general principles of much importance which seem illustrated thereby.

1. The increasing light of the future. Compared with the past, whether Jewish or pagan, how full of light the dispensation that now is (see Matthew 13:16, Matthew 13:17; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:11; Acts 17:3; Acts 26:18)! Compared with the future, how full of darkness (1 Corinthians 13:9-12; 1 John 3:2; Colossians 1:12; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:4, Revelation 22:5)! Much, indeed, yet remains to be revealed to those described in Psalms 25:14.

2. The great consequent blessedness of the future. What a scene of distraction, with its "many masters" (see Revised Version, James 3:1) and discordant outcries (Matthew 24:23-26), not unlike the scene described in Daniel 7:2, is the present! How profound the tranquillity, how sweet the calm, caused by the cessation of all! Happy, indeed, to have the hope of travelling at last "to where beyond these voices there is peace"!

Zechariah 13:7-9

A wonderful sentence.

"Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow," etc. The prophet here seems again to "hark back," as at the openings of Zechariah 9:1-17. and 11. (where see remarks and references), from the "glory" that was to "follow" to the "sufferings" that were to precede. At any rate, we have the highest authority (Matthew 26:31, Matthew 26:56) for understanding this passage of the "sufferings" and death of our Lord himself. This being so, how does its language present that great "Passion" to us? As something surpassingly wonderful

I. WONDERFUL IN ITSELF. Here is a man spoken of—here is a command given respecting him—by the Lord of hosts.

1. How wonderful the man spoken of!

2. How wonderful the command, things being thus!

II. WONDERFUL IN ITS RESULTS. For these, as described to us here, are:

1. Most unexpected. The immediate result, indeed, that of scattering the sheep, is not at all unexpected. What more likely, what more certain to follow, humanly speaking, from smiting the Shepherd? But the ultimate result, that of saving these "little ones" (so many understand end of Isaiah 53:7), that of preserving the sheep by thus slaying their Preserver (comp. John 18:8, John 18:9; Matthew 27:42, beginning; Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:5, end), is unexpected indeed. Has not the very idea, indeed, seemed the height of "foolishness" to many (1 Corinthians 1:23) who thought themselves "wise"?

2. Most widely diverse. This extraordinary method of preserving the flock was not expected to preserve all within reach of its influence. On the contrary, far too many amongst them—something like two to one of them, in fact, all taken together ("in all the land")—would decline to avail themselves of it.

Three brief thoughts to conclude.

1. How lofty the superstructure of the gospel salvation! Salvation itself, understood rigorously (as we have noted), is only not being lost. Actually, as here described to us, it is all that heart can desire—the heirship of all things through Christ (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7; 1 Corinthians 3:22, 1 Corinthians 3:23).

2. How deep its foundations! Penetrating to the very greatest depths, as it were, of the Divine nature and plans (Revelation 13:8).

3. How certain its truth! Like that house which the Saviour himself describes (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 25:1-46) as being founded on a rock—founded, in fact, on that "Rock of Ages," which not all the "ages" can shake (comp. Hebrews 12:27, Hebrews 12:28).

HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH

Zechariah 13:1

The fountain of grace.

Salvation through Christ. The glorious gospel.

I. THE EVIL. "Sin and uncleanness." All are sinners. Law, facts of life, testimony of conscience, prove our guilt. Sin defiles all that it touches. Uncleanness, alas how prevalent, and in manifold forms! 'Twas sin that brought it all into the world. If there were no sin there would be no uncleanness. Need for grief and prayer.

II. THE REMEDY. Fountain, etc.

1. Freedom of access. Open, not shut. None debarred. In the promise of God—by the atoning death of Christ—through the ministry of grace, the fountain has been opened for all (John 19:34; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:13).

2. Plenitude of supply, Not a pool or a cistern, but a fountain, with rich and ample supplies for all. Thousands and tens of thousands have already been blessed, and whosoever will may come, and will find that Christ is mighty to save.

3. Perennial virtue. Not like Bethesda, at certain times; but all the year round, and from, generation to generation. After many years' absence, I visited the home of my youth. There were sad changes. Friends were gone. None to know me. But under the shade of firs, in the old place, I found the spring where I had often slaked my thirst. It was still the same—the water sweet and refreshing as ever. So Christ is "the Same yesterday, today, and forever."—F.

Zechariah 13:7

The sword.

There is here something of heaven and earth. Jehovah speaks. He lays his command on the sword of justice, to awake and "smite." This implies death, and death not of a common sort, but as a judicial act, under the sanction of law. We take the scene to illustrate the tragedy of Calvary (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32). Three questions may be asked.

I. WHO? The rebellious Babylon, Rome, Jerusalem? No. "The man that is my fellow." Who is this? Search, and where can you find such a one? Abraham was God's friend, but not his "fellow." Prophets and kings, martyrs and confessors, all stand aside. None but Christ answers the description. He is the First and the Last and the only One, in human likeness, who could say, "I and my Father are One"

II. WHY? Justice has its reasons. All that God does must be in accordance with eternal right. But here is mystery. The Man who alone was "without sin," holy and perfect—the solitary man, in human form, who was nearest of kin to God himself—to be dealt with as if he were a transgressor, and as if he had done things worthy of death,—this is exceeding strange. The key is in the term "Shepherd." Implies covenant relationship. Substitution of person and of sufferings. The One for the many; the Shepherd for the sheep.

III.. WHAT THEN? We reasonably expect results worthy of such a tragedy. Twofold.

1. Judgment. Not only as to the disciples, but the Jewish people.

2. Mercy. Tender compassion. Gracious interposition. Glorious resolve. "I will turn my hand upon the little ones." Let us note that there is but one alternative—hand or sword. If we pass by God's hand stretched out to save, we must perish by the sword. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."—F.

HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS

Zechariah 13:1-6

The gospel age.

"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered," etc. Concerning the preceding chapter and these six verses, Dr. Keil says, "This section forms the first half of the second prophecy of Zechariah concerning the future of Israel and of the world, viz. the prophecy contained in ch. 12-14, which, as a side piece to ch. 9-11, treats of the judgment by which Israel, the nation of God, will be refined, sifted, and led on to perfection through conflict with the nations of the world. This first section announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will issue in destruction to the nations of the world (Zechariah 12:1-4). Jehovah will endow the princes of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength to overcome all their foes (Zechariah 11:5-9), and will pour out his spirit of grace upon them, so that they will bitterly repent the death of the Messiah (Zechariah 11:10-14), and purify themselves from all ungodliness (Zechariah 13:1-6)." "The day" here is generally supposed by expositors to point to the gospel age; and three remarks are here suggested in relation to this day.

I. IT IS A "DAY" FOR THE ABOUNDING OF SIN-CLEANSING INFLUENCES. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." This phrase comprehended the whole Jewish nation. To the Jews, washing from sin and ceremonial impurity was an idea with which they were well acquainted. It was enjoined by the Law (Numbers 8:7; see also Ezekiel 36:25).

1. That sin and uncleanness are in the world. This is a fact written in all history, patent to every man's observation and consciousness.

2. The removal of sin is the world's great necessity. Its existence is the cause of all the miseries of the world, physical, social, political, religious.

3. Provisions for its removal abound. "A fountain opened." Sin and uncleanness are not an essential part of human nature. Men have lived without sin, and men in the other world do now. It is a mere stain on human nature, separable from it, and the means of separation are provided—provided in the gospel. In the mediatory life, teaching, works, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. In all this he has opened to the world a fountain of influence by which sin is to be cleansed. It is a fountain. This implies:

II. IT IS A "DAY" IN WHICH IDOLATRY SHALL BE UTTERLY ABOLISHED. The spirit of idolatry is giving to any object that love which belongs only to the Supreme; and this sin is perhaps as rife in regions where monotheism is professed as in those lands where polytheism holds its empire. The cutting off the "names of the idols" means their utter destruction (see Hosea 2:17). But you may destroy all the million idols, involving those which are the workmanship of men and these which are the creation of God, before which men have bowed, and yet leave idolatry as rampant as ever. Nothing but the destruction of the spirit will be the destruction of idolatry. Hence we have here suggested a time when men shall give their affection to the Supreme Being, and to him alone, when they shall worship the one true and living God. This is the idolatry the gospel comes to destroy; it is to turn men from idols to. the living God. What a blessed age will that be, when all men on the face of the earth shall have their souls centred in love and devotion on the one great and common Father of us all! "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats" (Isaiah 2:20).

III. IT IS A "DAY" IN WHICH ALL FALSE RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS SHALL CEDE. "And I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land," etc. The words here in relation to false prophets suggest the following thoughts.

1. False religious teachers are great curses to a community. This is implied in the promise here of their destruction. False teachers in any branch of knowledge, be it historic, scientific, philosophic, literary, or artistic, are for many reasons great evils; but in religion the evils they inflict are inconceivably great. They deceive souls on the most vital of all points. False religious teachers are not merely teachers of pantheism, idolatry, or Mohammedanism, but even those who are nominally teachers of the gospel. The man who gives a wrong interpretation of the gospel is a false teacher, and such men are found even in the pulpits of our England. What blasphemous ideas of God and degrading notions of his blessed Son have we in some of the popular sermons of the age! Whosoever teaches the conventional Christ is false to the Christ of the gospel.

2. False religious teachers may become objects of indignation even to their nearest relations. "And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth." It will be, indeed, a blessed time when the people of a country will have a greater love for truth than for their dearest relations, even their very children; when the appearance of a false teacher will awaken such a public indignation as will expose his very life to danger; when men's moral ears will be so attuned to truth, that the very sound of falsehood will become intolerable. Thank God, there is an age of moral reality coming, an age when men will recoil from shams as from "demons vile."

3. False religious teachers will on this "day" be ashamed to exercise their mission. "The prophets shall be ashamed." If any false prophets should continue to exercise their function, they will have to do it:

CONCLUSION. Thank God, we live in this gospel age. The sin-cleansing fountain is here, sending forth its streams in all directions. They flow through all the good books we have, through all the good lives we meet with. Let the streams multiply. The fountain will supply streams equal to the exigencies of all. Let us remove obstructions, cut new channels, and strive to let them into every heart. These will multiply in power, and increase in volume, till all idolatry, false, teaching, and every other form of iniquity that pollutes the heart of the world, be washed clean away, and the whole world be holy in character, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.—D.T.

Zechariah 13:7-9

God's government of the world.

"Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts' smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." Here we have God's government of the world in two aspects, bringing penal ruin on many in a community, and remedial discipline upon a few; appearing as the sword of justice in the one case, and as a refiner's pot in the other. Here we have it—

I. AS BRINGING PENAL RUIN UPON MANY.

1. The destruction of their leader. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd."! In the Bible language political religious leaders are represented as shepherds. For example, it was applied to Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28). The person defined is represented as "the man that is my fellow." Dr. Keil's rendering is, "the man who is my neighbour;" and Dr. Henderson's, "the man who is united to me." Who is this man? On this question there are different opinions. "Calion thought it was Zechariah himself as representative of all the prophets, and that the prophecy referred only indirectly to Christ. Grotius, Eichhorn, Bauer, and Jahne apply it to Judas Maccabaeus; Ewald, to Pekah; Hitzig, to the pretended prophets spoken of in the preceding verses." The expression, "my fellow," does not necessarily. mean one who is equal in nature and character, but rather one who has fellowship of interests and aims. The poorest labourer in the cause of gospel truth is a "fellow" with the Archbishop of Canterbury, even a fellow labourer of Christ, and fellow labourer with God himself. Evangelical writers, however, apply the language to Christ, without much critical examination and without hesitation. They do this mainly on the ground that Christ himself quotes the passage, on the night in which he was betrayed, as an illustration of what was immediately awaiting him. "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (Matthew 26:31). He does not say that the prophecy referred to him, but merely that the passage was about to be illustrated in his history. The Shepherd was to be smitten, and the sheep scattered. This, indeed, is a common fact in the history of the world; when the leader is gone the fold is scattered. Christ was, indeed, about to be smitten—smitten to death, not by the "sword" of Divine vengeance, as is impiously held by some, but by the wrath of his human enemies. "Awake, O sword." "These are words," says an old orthodox expositor, "of God the Father giving orders and commission to the sword of his justice to awaken to his Son." It is the sword of justice that he may die as a criminal on an ignominious tree; awaking to smite him, not with a drowsy blow, but with a mighty one." Dr. Watts has the same idea—

"The Father plunged his flaming sword

In his atoning blood."

From all such representations of the benign God of the universe, and the Infinite Father of love, my reason and heart revolt as from a monstrous creed or cursed blasphemy. However, I am not going to debate either the question whether the words were intended for Christ or not, or, if they were, the accuracy or otherwise of the interpretations thus given. Our point is that God often brings sufferings on a people by striking down their leader. There are few greater calamities that can befall a people than when nations lose their shepherds and leaders, or when Churches lose their pastors. Even when families lose their heads the loss is incalculable.

2. The dispersion of the flock. This comes to most communities when the true leader is taken away. The removal of a leader in a family—a parent—often leads to a scattering of the children. So with the leader in a Church—the pastor; and so with the leader of a nation. When the shepherd has gone, the flock is scattered, and the scattering is a great evil. Unity is strength and harmony; division is weakness and disorder. When communities are broken up and dispersed, the various members often place themselves in antagonism with each other, and rivalries, jealousies, and envyings run riot.

3. The ruin of multitudes. "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein." Probably this refers primarily to the destruction of two-thirds of the inhabitants of Judea by the Roman arms, and the famine or the pestilence and other destructive influences which are the usual concomitants of all wars. Thus the afflictions of the great majority of the human race, here represented as the two-thirds of a community, come upon them as the retribution of justice—the Divine sword here invoked. They are not disciplinary, but penal. The victims do not morally improve under them, they grew worse. They are "cut off and die."

II. BRINGING REMEDIAL DISCIPLINE TO A FEW. "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." The very calamities which were penal and utterly ruinous to two-thirds of that population were morally disciplinary and improving to the remaining third. In the one case they were the strokes of the "sword" of justice. In the other the calamities were but fire in the "pot of the refiner." Just as the refiner purifies his silver and his gold by fire, God in mercy spiritually improves his people by the trial and the sufferings which he inflicts. These, taught by the purifying influence of trials:

1. Pray and are heard. "Shall call on my Name, and I will hear them."

2. Are accepted of God as his people, They acknowledge their relationship. "I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, the Lord is my God."

CONCLUSION. Amidst all the difficulties connected with this passage, this doctrine stands out in sublime prominence that afflictions which are penal and destructive to the many are remedial and merciful to the few. All experience shows this to be true. Two men stand before me. Both are equally afflicted with similar sufferings. The one writhes, murmurs, and rebels under his afflictions; he becomes intensified in his enmity to God. Like Pharaoh, his heart is hardened; he dies a rebel, and is lost. The "sword" of justice has struck him. The other becomes spiritually thoughtful, repentant, resigned, humbled, and devout. The "fire" has purified him, and like David he says, "It is good for me that I was afflicted," and like Paul, "I glory in tribulation."—D.T.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 13:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/zechariah-13.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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