Zechariah 12
Pulpit Commentary
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.
Verse 1-ch. 14:21. - B. THE SECOND BURDEN. Verses 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. Verse 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 ch. 9. 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 (Psalm 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).
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.
Verse 2. - A cup of trembling; a bowl of reeling - a bowl whose contents cause staggering and reeling, ὡς πρόθυρα σαλευόμενα, "as tottering porticoes" (Septuagint); 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, 57; Habakkuk 2:16). The people; the peoples (so vers. 3, 4, 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 vers. 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 ver. 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.
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.
Verse 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 Zcehariah'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.
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.
Verse 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.
And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
Verse 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 (vers. 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.
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: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
Verse 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.
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.
Verse 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.
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.
Verse 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. Psalm 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 οϊκος 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.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Verse 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.
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.
Verses 10-14. - § 2. There shall ensue an outpouring of God's Spirit upon Israel, which shall produce a great national repentance. Verse 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; Psalm 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 ῶν 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, 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 (Psalm 2:7; Psalm 45:6, 7; Psalm 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 (see Expositor, vol. 6. p. 131, etc.).
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
Verse 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 ῤοῶνος ἐν πεδίῳ ἐκκοπτομένου, "as mourning for a pomegranate cut off in the plain."
And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
Verse 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, 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; Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:5).
The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
Verse 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, 18, 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).
All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
Verse 14. - The families that remain. All the families that have not been mentioned already.

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