Tag Archives: Zechariah 12:10

Zechariah 13:1-9 Who is the shepherd who is struck?

Continuing on from our study of Zechariah 12:1-14 Is it Yahweh who is pierced. Here’s a study of chapter 13.

“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 NASB 1995)

In that day. The phrase ‘that day’ connects this verse with Zechariah 12:3, which we identified as the days of Messiah. Specifically, “that day” refers to the time when the Messiah came as a servant to be pierced or crucified.   

A fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The piercing of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) appears to have served as the reason for this spiritual “fountain” to be opened up for washing people’s sin and impurity. Hence, the scene at the end of Zechariah 12 of the whole community’s mourning (in repentance) for the “pierced” one shifts in Zechariah 13:1 to one of hope. A ‘fountain’ or ‘spring’ suggests an abundant supply of water (Ps. 36:9; Jer. 2:13), and the language indicates that this fountain will remain continuously open.

For sin and for impurity. “Sin” (ḥaṭṭā’t) is a more general term for human behavior that breaks God’s will (Deut. 9:18). “Impurity” (niddah) is a state that often results from amoral causes (e.g. childbirth or bodily emissions). Both unintentional sin and major impurity required ‘atonement’ through sacrifice, in the Old Covenant. Though there is no direct reference to sacrifice in this verse, the piercing of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10) serves as the sacrifice for washing sin and impurity of people. Washing occurs as a literary figure of repentance and purification elsewhere in the prophets (Isa. 1:16; Jer. 2:22; Ezek. 16:9). This fits with the images of repentance in Zechariah 12:10–14, and the cleansing water of the new covenant in Ezekiel 36:25.Zechariah 13:1 affirms God’s desire to cleanse repentant people. The New Testament clarifies that through Jesus, ‘rivers of living water’ flow to believers (John 7:38).

“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. (Zechariah 13:2)

That I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered. Idolatry is associated with “impurity” (niddah) (Ezek. 36:17), which resulted in the dispersion of the Jews into exile (Ezekiel 36:16-21). As the previous verse shows, the “fountain” has been opened to cleanse people from such “impurity” (Zechariah 13:1)How would God cleanse people from such impurity? God will “cut off the names of the idols” from among people. The “name” is representative of the idol itself, which will be destroyed. The verb karat, to cut off or banish, is usually the punishment of the idolater, but the implication here appears to be people will banish the idols they serve with the transformation that comes to the community from looking up to the “pierced” one in repentance (Zechariah 12:10). The promise that these idols will “be remembered no more”, describes affection of the true worshiper. To remember is to serve a god, while to forget is to abandon it (Deut. 8:18–20). While it is true that modern Jewish and Gentile believers of Messiah are not often tempted to worship divine images, at the heart of idolatry is the pursuit of one’s agenda apart from reliance on and submission to God (Eph. 5:3–5). God promises to purify people from such idolatry following Messiah’s sacrifice.

And I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land. Not only idols, but also their religious attendants, and promoters, the prophets, will be removed from the land. These false prophets are the focus of the final verses in Zechariah 13:3–6. Whereas God’s Spirit is associated explicitly with true prophecy (Zechariah 7:12), false prophecy is associated with ‘the unclean spirit’.

And 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. (Zechariah 13:3)

The people will be so transformed by God that parents will enact the judgment against their own child. In Deuteronomy 13, there was to be no toleration of false prophecy connected with idolatry, as the people are commanded to put the person to death (Deuteronomy 13:5). In Numbers 25:8, an Israelite man and Midianite women, participating in idolatrous behavior through sexual intercourse, were “pierced” by Phinehas, grandson of Aaron the high priest. People “pierced” God, abandoning him through their idolatry, so now they will cleanse the land of idolatry by piercing their prophets. Zechariah speaks the above words using Old Covenant imagery and law in practice. Under the New Covenant, the idea is that God’s people will not tolerate false prophets, even the family of a false prophet would condemn the false prophet.

Also 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 (Zechariah 13:4)

Those who had been false messengers of God would be ashamed of their message. They will put away the clothing of the prophets (a hairy robe) and earn an honest living, instead of deceiving people.

But 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.’ (Zechariah 13:5)

Those who posed as prophets will so fear exposure that they will deny ever having made such a claim. So eager would the false prophet be to hide his false pretense, that he would be willing to say, that he has been employed in farm work, and was sold as a slave from his youth.

And 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 13:5-6)

Without the hairy robe to cover his body, the false prophet will expose his “wounds”, though they try to conceal the truth, and pretend that they were wounds he had privately in his father’s family. Many conclude that this refers to wounds connected with illicit religious rites. The cutting of the body is linked to idolatrous practices connected with Baal religion (1 Kings 18:28) and the cult of the dead (Lev. 19:28). Some have argued that the ‘wounds between your hands’ are a reference to the suffering Messiah, however, the wounds their body bore appear to be because of false prophetic activity.  

The removal of idolatry and false prophecy portrayed in Zechariah 13:2–6 is a key concern for the people of God in view of Jesus’ death. Worshipping idols is one of the characteristics of ‘pagan’ living (1 Peter 4:3) and is associated with the acts of the ‘flesh’ (Gal. 5:20; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:5). While the judgment by the Old Covenant law on false prophets in the community is no longer directly applicable (i.e. their being put to death), Christians are to be intolerant of false teaching (2 Tim. 3:5; Rev. 2:20). In Revelation, the ‘false prophet’ does the work of the antichrist (16:13; 19:20; cf. 1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The ‘false prophet’ is ultimately destroyed at Messiah’s second coming.

“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 (Zechariah 13:7)

“Awake, O sword. ‘Awake, O sword’ appears to begin a new oracle (given the vocative noun and imperfect verb with which it begins) but is still thematically connected to what preceded.The sword is a regular metaphor in prophetic literature, an image of death and judgment (Isa. 34:5–6; Ezek. 5:1).

Against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate,” Declares the Lord of hosts. This verse contains the final ‘shepherd’ reference in Zechariah and brings together the various strands concerning leadership (shepherds) that have been woven through the book of Zechariah to this point. Zechariah 10:3 expresses God’s anger against shepherds. Zechariah 10:17 envisions serious injury against the shepherd, and here (Zechariah 13:7), it advocates striking a fatal blow against the shepherd.

The sword is instructed to “strike” the Shepherd, who is called “my shepherd” and “My Associate”. Both phrases use the possessive pronoun “my,” emphasizing the close association between the Lord and this shepherd who is struck by the sword. The ancient Hebrew word for My Associate is used in Leviticus 6:2 and 18:20 to mean a “near neighbor.” My Associate describes someone who is more than a friend of the LORD; someone who “dwells side by side with the LORD, His equal.”3 While “my shepherd” could be used of God’s shepherds in general, “My associate” seems to render the reference definite, meaning a specific shepherd may be meant.  As for the image of the sword, because it is connected with God’s judgment, this Shepherd is apparently someone who is struck as a result of some offense. However, if there is such a close relationship between the shepherd and Yahweh, and Yahweh commands his death – then could it be that the shepherd suffers not for his own sins, but for the sins of others? Could it be that this shepherd is not a wayward shepherd?

If this verse is approached in isolation, it is not clear who the shepherd might be. It may appear that this is talking about Israel’s wayward leadership (given previous references to God’s anger against Shepherds, and reference to false prophets in Zechariah 13:2-6). Some have identified this Shepherd with the Zadokite priesthood because of the connection to idolatry in Zechariah 10:1–3. However, if this verse is read as an integral part of the book of Zechariah, then the referent should be found in what has gone before. Given the expectation of a future Davidic king to this point in Zechariah, including “My Servant the Branch” in Zechariah 3:8;6:12, the coming “king” of Zechariah 9:9, the “Cornerstone” of Zechariah 10:4 and the one who is “pierced” in Zechariah 12:10, it is entirely fitting to identify the “My Associate” as this future king and Messiah.

Several apocalyptic midrashim dating from the early to late first millennium AD cite Zechariah 13:9 in connection with the death of Messiah ben Joseph. This is not the victorious Messiah ben David, as per Jewish tradition, but the second Messiah figure who dies in a battle against Gog and Magog. When and how this second Messiah figure developed within Judaism is unclear. At the least, this shows that ancient Jewish scholars understood the concept of a future Messiah king who suffers and dies, and hence applying Zechariah 13:9 to Messiah is not a case of Christian eisegesis.

The New Testament uses Zechariah 13:7 to interpret the death of Christ and its effect on the disciples (Matt. 26:31; Mark 14:27; cf. John 16:32). A difficulty can arise if the “shepherd” in Zechariah 13:7 is a reference to wayward leadership, which would be like placing Jesus into the role of inappropriate leadership that led Israel astray. However, this does not cause difficulty for Christian interpreters as the New Testament presents Jesus assuming the role of the covenant leader of the community, leading as a good shepherd (John 10:11) before taking on himself their sins and redeeming the community and its leadership. He is the good shepherd of Zechariah 11:4–16, rejected by his people in favor of a bad shepherd, taking the punishment of the bad shepherd in order to achieve the transformation expected throughout chapters 9–14 of Zechariah – which is the creation of a restored, united, and victorious “true Israel” as the center of God’s rule over the cosmos.

“Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. Because of the loss of the shepherd, the flock will be scattered. This scattering leaves the “little ones” (Jer. 49:20; 50:45) open to discipline. The discipline comes from God, who turns his hand against them, a phrase used elsewhere to refer to his judgment (Ps. 81:14; Isa. 1:25; Ezek. 38:12; Amos 1:8). This indicates that God will discipline the flock (“little ones”) in order to purify them, which is described in Zechariah 13:8–9.

Jesus quoted the above phrase from Zechariah 13:7 in Matthew 26:31 as a reference to the scattering of His disciples during His arrest and suffering. The timing of the quote is also significant as it comes just after the Last Supper, where Jesus explains that his death will be for the forgiveness of sins and the establishment of the new covenant (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). Jesus’ designation of his followers as ‘little ones’ (Matt. 10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; Mark 9:42) also appears to be against the backdrop of Zechariah 13:7.

“It 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. (Zechariah 13:8)

The majority of the flock will be eliminated from the outset as two-thirds “will be struck down and perish.” The third survives but then undergoes further discipline. In context, ‘the land’ (hā’āreṣ) is best conceived as the region in which God’s people dwell (specifically the land of Israel), rather than the whole earth (Zechariah 12:12).

“And 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 13:9)

This verse reveals the result of the refining process in verse 8. The smiting of the Shepherd scattered the sheep, but the good Shepherd would turn his hand graciously to the lowly and insignificant (“the little ones”) to refine and gather them as the remnant. That the Lord calls them “my people” and the people identify the Lord as “my God” is covenant language expressing a reconciled relationship. Jeremiah 31:33 uses this language to speak of the ‘new covenant’ and it is natural to associate Zechariah’s hope with this. Dispensationalists believe these verses refer to a future 7-year tribulation. However, the context of the previous verses and language of a “new covenant” (Hebrews 8:13) suggests that we may be looking at the early days following Jesus’ resurrection, and the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. We cannot be certain unless we review Zechariah 14 to see if the biblical language leads us to such an immediate fulfillment.  

See also:

  • Our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.

Referenced and adapted

1.    Petterson, A (2015). Haggai, Zechariah & Malachi (Apollos Old Testament Commentary)

2.    Boda, M (2004). The Haggai, Zechariah NIV Application Commentary

3.    David Guzik. https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/zechariah-13/

Zechariah 12:1-14 – Is it Yahweh who is pierced?

Zechariah was one of three prophets, along with Haggai and later Malachi, who ministered (about 520 B.C.) to the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, to rebuild the temple. By Zechariah’s day, Judah was no longer the kingdom that it was before, under David or Solomon. In a sense, the exiles who returned were all that was left of Israel, and they were always under siege from hostile forces, and threatened with extinction. However, Zechariah explains that God’s people will triumph one day. Zechariah is writing at a time when the Old Covenant was active. We must keep in mind that he uses old covenant imagery, shadows, and symbols, that the first readers understood, to communicate coming restoration of God’s people. With that in mind, lets dive into a verse-by-verse study of Zechariah 12:1-14 to see what it teaches us about “restoration” of God’s people and a coming Messiah.

The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him (Zechariah 12:1 NASB 1995)

The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Zechariah characterizes the entire message in chapter 12-14 as “the burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel.” It is a burden because it brings heavy tidings and burdens the prophet with a sense of urgency to deliver it to God’s people who need hope and encouragement after their return from exile.

The oracle is concerning Israel. Since what had once been the nation of Israel, composed of the twelve tribes of Israel, is no more, it looks forward to the time when the exiled and scattered people of God will return to become the people of God once more. The use of ‘Israel’ to refer to God’s people (instead of Jerusalem or Judah mentioned in verse Zechariah 12:2), gives this prophesy an eschatological thrust. Who is Israel? 

This message is delivered to its first readers, who are ethnic Jews. It is given for their comfort and encouragement. However, when Christ entered human history, He established a new covenant with His people (as Old Covenant prophet Jeremiah prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34), rendering the Old Covenant obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). Since there is a New Covenant in effect, Gentiles have been included in the commonwealth of Israel and are as much “true Jews” as are believing ethnic Jews today and in Zechariah’s day. Paul says in Ephesians 2:11 that believing Gentiles are now equal members of the “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12) and are “fellow citizens with the saints and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). This is not replacing ethnic Israel but including and fulfilling what God always predestined through Abraham.  If anyone belongs to “Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). Hence, according to New Testament revelation, “true Israel” must include all Abraham’s descendants, comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:15).

But does Israel as corporate entity also have a future? Paul appears to answer this question in Romans 11 with a “yes.” Paul presents Israel as a corporate entity, comprised of an elect remnant and a hardened majority. Paul goes on to say that while God never promised to save every Jewish citizen (Romans 11:6), he did promise to save the people-group, the corporate entity, the nation. Paul’s answer, of course, isn’t comprehensive. It doesn’t say anything, for example, about Israel’s land or about a temporal future (millennial) kingdom. But what it does say is that (1) Israel will be saved, (2) this salvation is taking place now [from his day] and will conclude at Jesus’ return, (3) it will lead to the resurrection from the dead, (4) it happens as a result of the Gentile mission, and (5) it is a re-grafting of unbelieving Jews into their own tree (in concert with a grafting in of Gentiles to the same tree).2 The restoration of Israel will mean their becoming part of the “true Israel” by faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah. Though Romans 11 may be interpreted differently, such a view is not uncommon among non-dispensationalist adherents.4 Continuing on from the rest of the verse.

Thus declares the Lord who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. The power that guarantees the coming restoration is seen in the threefold description of Yahweh. 1) He stretches out the heavens, 2) He founded the earth, 3) He formed the Spirit within man. The mention of the creation of heavens, and earth implies a new act of creation that is coming with establishment of the Kingdom promised to David. The mention of the creation of the “spirit” of man implies a further work in man, a work of “new creation” that would result from a “pierced” One (Zechariah 12:10).

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah (Zechariah 12:2)

Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the only holy City of God that Zechariah ever knew. So, he uses earthly Jerusalem and Judah as a representation of God’s holy city and His people (just like Micah 5:5 represents the “Assyrians“, as all enemies of the Messiah and His people). It is from Jerusalem that salvation spread to all the nations and families of the earth. Hence, Zechariah’s oracle displays the centrality of Judah and Jerusalem to this restoration of God’s people. 

If we did not have the New Testament, and there was no new covenant in effect, we would have concluded that the earthly Jerusalem was still God’s holy city. In the past God spoke to His people through “the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1) but in these last days, He “has spoken” (Hebrews 1:2) to us through the Messiah and His apostles the essential meaning of the Old Testament [Law and Prophets]. God’s Jerusalem is no longer an earthly city, but it has become the eternal “heavenly Jerusalem”, the “city of the living God” (Hebrews 12:22), where both Jew and Gentile believers’ “citizenship” have been established and included (Philippians 3:20). Abraham who was promised an earthly “land” (Genesis 17:8) understood that what God ultimately had in mind for him, and his descendants was something much “better” (Hebrew 11:16), a heavenly “city” whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). Therefore, Jerusalem here must refer to “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26), hence, God is worshiped “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . but . . . in spirit and truth” (John 4:21–23).

A cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around. The figure of Jerusalem as a cup that causes people to ‘reel’ or stagger (as though drunk), draws on traditional prophetic language about ‘the cup of judgment’ that God will cause his enemies to drink when they come against His people (Jew or Gentile), who belong to “heavenly Jerusalem”. “All the peoples around” implies enemy forces of global proportions who will come against God’s people.

When the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. Here, the prophet tells his readers that God will not only be the guardian of His city, but also of the whole land. When Jerusalem shall be besieged, the Lord will put impediments (causes reeling) everywhere, which will hinder and prevent the assault of enemies. The promise of protection is thus extended to all people when the enemy comes.

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. (Zechariah 12:3)

It will come about in that day. It will come about in “that day”, a time in the future. When is “that day”? It was on “that day” Zechariah 12:11 says that there was great mourning in Jerusalem, because of the “pierced” one (Zechariah 12:10). John says Zechariah 12:10 was fulfilled in the days of the Messiah, when Jesus was crucified (John 19:37). Hence, “that day” refers to the days of the Messiah. In the New Testament, “that day” refers to the “last days” – the whole period beginning with the first coming of Christ to make atonement for sin, and his second coming in glory to judge the world. Peter in Acts 2:17, and the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 1:1-2, declare the last days to be the days of the Messiah.

Many, particularly those of a dispensational tradition, have understood Zechariah chapter 12–14 to be all about the events at the end of this age, during a 1000 year millennial reign. But the problem is the New Testament understands “that day” foremostly with the crucifixion of the Messiah, and secondarily with His return.

That I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. Here imagery shifts from cup to a heavy stone, and from reeling to injury caused by those who try to move an immovable foundation. God will place His people as a stone of offense before all peoples, when enemy nations will come against His people. “All nations” like “all the peoples around” implies enemy forces of global proportions. However, what is implied is, when enemies come against God’s people, unlike the Babylonian siege in 586 B.C, God will act to repel the nations and give victory to His people.

Moreover, the reference to “All nations” is prophetic hyperbole which do not necessarily mean that all the 190 plus nations on this planet in the 21st century would be coming against God’s people, but the attack will come from a global scale. Since “that day” encompasses the days of Messiah, then we could expect these words to have fulfillment during the days of Messiah. The New Testament is explicit that all the Old Testament promises about the coming kingdom of God find their fulfilment (ultimate meaning) in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). This means (among other things) that the fulfilment would come in His first coming, and consummated with His second coming.

In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness (Zechariah 12:4)

So God will cause those who come against His people to stagger (verse 2) and injure themselves (verse 3), and now, he will confuse their cavalry (verse 4). Horses were pivotal in battle, and ancient battle strategies often included plans to try to panic the enemies’ horses. Using Old Testament horse riding warlike imagery, God promises to watch over His people so that the enemies of God’s people shall be astonished at the failure of their attempts. That is the kind of thing that happened when the Lord overthrew the army of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, when Joshua led the Israelites into battle against the Canaanites, when Rome turned its attention away from hunting Christians (AD66).3

The expression the house of Judah, may be a general term for the people as a whole or for their leaders. Again, Zechariah’s words will be fulfilled “in that day”, the last days which began with Christ’s first coming and end with His second coming. God has fought for his people before. But this appears to be last battle – the battle of that day which will usher in the kingdom of God, after His second coming.

Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the Lord of hosts, their God.’ (Zechariah 12:5)

Clans of Judah, meaning leaders (under God) are shown as playing a key role in the victory. And the people who support them will be strong because the Lord Almighty is their God.

“In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 12:6)

In these images the enemy is the wood and sheaves, which are entirely consumed (“right and left”). These verses appear to describe thoroughness of God’s victory over the enemy through His people. When the battle is over and the victory complete, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (now expanded to include heavenly Jerusalem) will dwell securely in their own eternal homes (John 14:1-4).

The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. (Zechariah 12:7)

The statement that the Lord will “save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David may not be magnified above Judah,” contains the simple thought that the salvation will take place in such a manner that no part of God’s people will have any occasion to lift itself up above another, and that because the salvation is effected not by human power, but by the omnipotence of God alone.

In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. (Zechariah 12:8)

On that day, not only the Lord will protect his people. Even the one who is weak will be like David who on many occasions saved Israel by defeating its enemies through God’s power. It was the ‘angel of the Lord’ who was responsible for leading Yahweh’s people on many occasions and providing protection, particularly in the exodus. Therefore, the house of David will be victorious because the Messiah himself is the “a descendant of David” (Romans 1:3) who will go before His people like He did as the “Angel of the Lord” (1 Cor. 10:4).

And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  (Zechariah 12:9)

On that day, when all the nations of the earth gather against Jerusalem, appears to refer to the day when God will establish his kingdom on earth in glory (Revelation 19:11). While God defending His people is applicable through out the last days (like He preserved His people during Neronic persecution (AD64-66), its position at the end of this prophetic snapshot suggest here the Spirit is mainly looking ahead to the Day of the LORD, His Second Coming.

How is it that eschatological Jerusalem will become a cup of reeling to the nations (12:2); how is it that God will so zealously come to her aid (12:4, 9); how is it that his people will find such great strength for the battle (12:5-7)? Zechariah’s next prophetic snapshot supplies the answer: They will enjoy these blessings because “in that day” God will grant them deep, Spirit-wrought repentance and faith in the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-14).

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication. Yahweh speaks and says He will be poured out, conveying grace to the leadership (house of David) and people (inhabitants of Jerusalem), thereby enabling them to offer repentant prayer. This is similar to what Joel prophesied in Joel 2:28, which is quoted by Peter in Acts 2:17 as fulfilled in the days of Messiah, And it shall come to pass in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind.” 

So that they will look on Me. “They” in context refer to the house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem – the offspring of Abraham. “Look on” is the idea of looking in faith just as Israel looked upon the bronze serpent in faith to receive healing (Numbers 21:9). “Me” is the object of their look of faith. Yahweh is the speaker (the “Me”), so He identifies himself as the one who is pierced. The oldest and best Hebrew manuscripts read “me”. Since it appears inappropriate to speak Yahweh as pierced, many scholars have doubted the integrity of the oldest Hebrew text.

Whom they have pierced. The verb “pierce” (daqar) means to pierce or thrust through. In the case of the one pierced here, it is certain that death happened, given the subsequent reference to mourning and cleansing. Yet if it refers only to the piercing of God, this seems inappropriate – how can God be pierced?

Since in immediate context, “house of David” or “David” is mentioned several times, it is natural to identify the pierced one was the Davidic King, the Messiah (instead of persons like Zerubbabel, the prophet Jeremiah, Onias III or ‘the true prophets of Yahweh, as some have suggested). The New Testament confirms this to be Messiah Jesus (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). It is significant that a number of Jewish rabbis also interpreted this verse in terms of a pierced Messiah, though, as per Jewish tradition, it is their second Messiah, ben Joseph/Ephraim, who is killed, rather than the triumphant Messiah ben David, who will rule as King6,7.

The great irony is that the death of the king comes at the hands of his own people (‘whom they pierced’). This is not surprising given the history of the people of God in rejecting Yahweh as their shepherd.

Why is the king pierced? This becomes clearer in Zechariah 13:1, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity. The piercing of Yahweh and the Messiah served as a type of sacrifice for sin. This is supported by Isaiah’s suffering servant, where the servant is made an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). Forgiveness of sin and cleansing from impurity are two key fruits of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

Quick summary: Zechariah 11 portrayed God’s rejection of his people for their rejection of him, but chapter 12 reveals that God’s ultimate purpose for his people is salvation. Yet the path to this outcome is not without cost to God’s people, and Messiah himself. In Zechariah 12:10–14, the prophet reveals that accompanying this salvation from external forces will be an internal renewal of the people as God transforms their affections to seek him in repentance.

And they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 

They will mourn for Him. The association of the pierced one with the future Messiah (Davidic King) provides a reasonable explanation for the abrupt shift here from the first person “look on Me” to third person “mourn for Him” in reference to the pierced one. How was Yahweh pierced? To pierce the Messiah is also to pierce Yahweh, the Father.

As one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. They will “mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve as one grieves the death of a firstborn”, are expressions that convey the depth of anguish and sorrow. The implication appears to be that those who have pierced the Messiah have offended Yahweh, and that they understand that they are deserving of His judgment. Yet Yahweh in his grace has restored relationship and moved them to grieve because of their sin and pray for mercy. Firstborn was synonymous with the most beloved. The title “firstborn” was used of David (Psalm 89:27), as well Messiah Jesus (Colossians 1:8). At his return, Jesus Christ will again be seen by ‘those who pierced him’, and they will ‘mourn because of him’. But this time it is not just Israel (when Messiah was crucified), but ‘all peoples of the earth’ who are in view (Revelation 1:7).

In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.  (Zechariah 12:11)

This sorrow will be widespread. Mourning of Hadadrimmon may refer to the mourning over King Josiah’s death (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25). He was such a godly king that the whole nation wept bitterly at his death.

 The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14 all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves. (Zechariah 12:12-14)

This mourning is clearly universal in the land and certain families are singled out. It may be representing the entire leadership caste of the community (royal, David; prophetic, Nathan; priestly, Levi; sapiential, Shimei), or the list represents two specific lines within the royal (David/Nathan) and priestly (Levi/Shimei) houses. Notably women and men are separated for this activity, an action probably related to ancient mourning customs. The ‘mourning’ and ‘wailing’ for him by ‘a large number of people’ was fulfilled in the days of Messiah as Luke 23:27, 48 shows. Zechariah 12:10-14 is fully fulfilled, neither in Jewish converts alone, nor in Gentile converts alone, but in all converts; in the One New Man and the One New Nation that is the Spirit-filled Body of Christ, comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:15; 1 Peter 2:9).

See also:

  • Our chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse, commentaries on the book of DanielRevelation.


1. Anthony R. Petterson, Apollos Old Testament Commentary

2. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-future-of-ethnic-israel/

3. https://adammaarschalk.com/2014/12/24/zechariah-12-fulfilled/

4. https://www.monergism.com/noted-theologians-history-who-believed-future-conversion-nationalethnic-israel

5. OTTC ZECHARIAH 12:10 “look upon him whom they have pierced,” OR “look upon me whom they have pierced”? – Christian Publishing House Blog

6. https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/jewish-messianic-interpretations-of-zechariah-12-10

7. https://www.oneforisrael.org/holidays/pierced-messiah-zechariah-1210/

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