Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.1. The burden] See ch. Zechariah 9:1, note.
for Israel] Rather, concerning Israel.
saith] Rather, the saying, oracular utterance, of Jehovah: as in Psalm 110:1. The clause is in apposition with the first clause of the verse.
which stretcheth forth, &c.] In view of the wonderful and almost incredible promises that, follow, an appeal is made to the creative power of Jehovah, that so the people may not “stagger at the promise of God through unbelief,” but be “fully persuaded that what He has promised, He is able also to perform.”
Chap. Zechariah 12:1-9. Jehovah’s protection of His people
As in the former Burden, the first section opens with a general Title (printed as such in R. V.), very similar to that of the First Burden (Zechariah 9:1), and belonging like that to the whole group of prophecies which follow. The coming oracle proceeds from Jehovah, the Creator of the universe and of man; able therefore to accomplish what He predicts, Zechariah 12:1. All nations shall gather against Jerusalem, which shall prove to them like a cup of which they drink but to totter and fall, Zechariah 12:2, or a heavy stone which only wounds and crushes those who essay to lift it, Zechariah 12:3. Horse and rider alike in the armies that gather against her shall be panic-stricken and blinded, Zechariah 12:4, while the rulers of the country shall acknowledge her, thus rendered by God impregnable, as the bulwark of their land, Zechariah 12:5, and shall take courage to attack and consume the discomfited foe around her walls, so that she stands forth again a free and populous city, Zechariah 12:6. Thus the country at large shall have its share from God in the glory of the victory, and so all rivalry between it and the capital shall be excluded, Zechariah 12:7. The capital, however, shall under the protection of the Almighty be worthy of its position as the abode of heroes, while the royal family shall lead the nation no less worthily than the Angel of Jehovah did of old time, Zechariah 12:8. And all this, because God Himself will make it His aim to destroy all the enemies of His people, Zechariah 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.2. cup of trembling] Rather, bowl of reeling. The word is used of the bowl or bason in which the blood of the Paschal lamb was caught, Exodus 12:22, of the bowls used in the Temple service, 1 Kings 7:50, and more generally, 2 Samuel 17:28. Jerusalem stands forth like some vast bowl or bason, round which all nations gather, eager to swallow down its inviting contents. But the draft proves to be far other than they anticipated, and they reel and stagger back from it, confused and discomfited. A similar figure, though of a “cup” (a different Hebrew word), occurs frequently elsewhere, e.g. Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 51:7.
people] peoples, R. V., and so in Zechariah 12:3-4; Zechariah 12:6.
when they shall be in the siege, &c.] This is a clause of considerable difficulty. The rendering in the text of A. V. cannot be maintained. That in the margin is, as Pusey remarks, “too elliptical.” The same may, with him, be said of the rendering which has found supporters both in ancient and modern times, and also upon Judah shall it be (to be, or to fight) in the siege against Jerusalem; i.e. either “it shall happen to Judah” voluntarily, through civil war, or (since that idea is absolutely contradicted by the full alliance and agreement between Judah and Jerusalem described in Zechariah 12:5-6), “it shall be incumbent upon Judah,” because he shall be compelled against his will by the invading nations to join them, to take part in the siege. Pusey’s own rendering, which is that adopted in R. V., is, “And also upon Judah will it be in the siege against Jerusalem, i.e. the burden of the word of the Lord, which was upon Israel, should be upon Judah.” The objection to this is that the reference to the beginning of Zechariah 12:1 for a subject to the verb “it shall be” is remote and confusing. On the whole it is perhaps best to render, “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,” &c. Signal as was the deliverance of Jerusalem in the time of Hezekiah, it did not extend beyond the city itself (2 Kings 18:13; Isaiah 36:1). Now the country at large should share in the deliverance of the capital.
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.3. a burdensome stone] because, as it immediately follows, it proves too heavy for every one who attempts to lift it, and slipping from his grasp wounds and lacerates him. There may possibly be a reference to the custom, if indeed it existed so early as the time of Zechariah, which Jerome describes as prevailing in Palestine in his days. “It is the custom,” he says, “in the cities of Palestine, and to the present day throughout all Judæa the ancient practice is observed, that in villages, towns and forts round stones of very great weight are placed, at which the youth are wont to exercise themselves, and according to their differing strength to lift them, some to the knees, others to the navel, others to the shoulders and head; some exhibiting the greatness of their strength, raise the weight above their head with both their hands straight up.”
cut in pieces] sore wounded, R. V.
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.4. astonishment] This and the two following words, madness, blindness, occur together also in Deuteronomy 28:28, in a description of God’s judgments upon Israel, as here upon the armies that gather against Jerusalem.
I will open mine eyes upon] i.e. will regard with favour. Comp. Psalm 32:8.
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.5. the governors] chieftains, R. V., and so in Zechariah 12:6.
shall be] Rather, are. When they see the rout and discomfiture of her enemies around the walls of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-4), the rulers of the land, speaking as the mouthpiece of the people at large, shall joyfully acknowledge her to be the strength of the country by the help of Jehovah, her God.
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.6. a hearth] Rather, pan. The word is used in 1 Samuel 2:14 of a “pan,” or cooking vessel. Elsewhere it is a bason or laver, Exodus 30:18; Exodus 30:28; 1 Kings 7:38; and once a pulpit or platform, 2 Chronicles 6:13. Here the figure would seem to be of a chafing-pan full of fire set among wood or faggots.
in a sheaf] among sheaves, R. V.
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.7. the tents of Judah first] The meaning seems to be that when the besiegers shall reel back like drunken men from the walls of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2), smitten with panic by God (Zechariah 12:4), the first to fall upon them and put them to the sword shall be, not the inhabitants of the besieged city by sallying forth from their walls, though they by their gallant and successful defence had rightly been regarded as the bulwark of the whole land (Zechariah 12:5), but the inhabitants of the open country, who shall have the honour of consuming their adversaries (Zechariah 12:6), and so of saving first themselves and then the capital, which as the result of their prowess shall be completely delivered.
that the glory, &c.] The human agents are to have each their due share of honour. (Comp. Zechariah 12:5.) But to God alone the glory really belongs. “I will make,” Zechariah 12:2-3; Zechariah 12:6; “I will smite,” Zechariah 12:4; “Jehovah shall save,” Zechariah 12:7. Compare “my strength in Jehovah of hosts, their God,” Zechariah 12:5. “Sensus est, gloriam victi hostis non penes Hierosolymitanos futuram, quippe post superatum demum hostem ex urbe exituros, sed penes Judam, qui supra Zechariah 12:6 dicebatur ignis instar hostes circumquaque absumturus; aut penes ipsum potius Jovam, qui hostes amentia et cæcitate percusserit (Zechariah 12:4), Judam vero robore induerit ad hostes jamjam confusos ulterius debellandos.” Rosenm.
do not magnify themselves] be not magnified, R. V.
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.8. he that is feeble … as David] But this foremost action on the part of Judah shall not argue any pusillanimity on the part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. To them too shall the protection of Jehovah extend. Even the weak among them (comp. 1 Samuel 2:4, where the word here rendered “feeble” is put in contrast to a hero or mighty man) shall be valiant as David.
the house of David] While the inhabitants of Jerusalem at large shall be thus strengthened and ennobled, the royal house (comp. Isaiah 7:13) shall maintain its supremacy.
as the angel, &c.] Comp. Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Acts 7:38.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.9. I will seek] i.e. I will make it my aim, upon which I am intent, and which I will carry out. It is true, as Mr Wright points out, that in the only other passage in which this phrase is used of Almighty God, the intention, though “manifested clearly and distinctly,” was abandoned (Exodus 4:24). But it does not follow that “this passage is not an absolute promise of the utter destruction of the nations,” but only a promise conditional upon the future conduct of the Jews. The passage as a whole is quite against such a supposition. The verse would be a strange anti-climax, if after such promises as are contained in Zechariah 12:2-8 it only asserted, “My aim shall be to do all this that I have promised in glowing terms; but all may be frustrated and come to nought through the unfaithfulness of man.”
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.10. I will pour] The word denotes the abundance of the effusion. Comp. Joel 2:28 [Heb., 3:1]. “Quod verbum doni largitatem et copiam indicat.” Rosenm.
the house of David, &c.] Because they, restored to their proper place and dignity (Zechariah 12:8), are as it were the head of the nation. But from the head the holy unction shall flow to the whole body (“the land,” Zechariah 12:12). Comp. Psalm 133:2.
the spirit of grace and of supplications] i.e. the Spirit which conveys grace and calls forth supplications. The word “grace” is not here used in its primary sense of the favour of God towards man, but in that secondary sense, with which readers of the N. T. are familiar, of the effects of that favour in man, by the gifts and influences of the Holy Spirit. See John 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:10; and for the expression, “the Spirit of grace,” Hebrews 10:29, where, as Dean Alford shews, the second member of the “alternative very neatly put by Anselm; Spiritui sancto gratis dato, vel gratiam dante,” is to be accepted.
upon me whom they have pierced] unto me, R. V. The Speaker is Almighty God. The Jews had pierced Him metaphorically by their rebellion and ingratitude throughout their history. They pierced Him, literally and as the crowning act of their contumacy, in the Person of His Son upon the Cross, John 19:37. Comp. Revelation 1:7. “Confixerant ergo Deum Judæi quum mærore afficerent ejus Spiritum. Sed Christus etiam secundum carnem ab illis transfixus fuit. Et hoc intelligit Joannes, visibili isto symbolo Deum palam fecisse non se tantum olim fuisse indigne provocatum a Judæis; sed in persona unigeniti Filii sui tandem cumulum fuisse additum scelestæ impietati, quod ne Christi quidem lateri pepercerint.” Calv. There is no sufficient ground for adopting with Ewald and others the reading, upon him.
his only son] Comp. Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10.
10–14. The penitent Sorrow of the People for Sin
The conversion (Zechariah 12:10-14) and moral reformation (Zechariah 13:1-6) of the people shall accompany their deliverance from their enemies (Zechariah 12:1-9). On the royal house and the royal city first God will pour out His Spirit, and as the consequence they shall regard Him, whom they have pierced and wounded by their sins, with the deepest sorrow and bitterness of soul, Zechariah 12:10. The mourning in Jerusalem shall be such as to recall that which was occasioned by the great national calamity of the death of Josiah in battle, Zechariah 12:11. But the outpouring of the Spirit and the penitent grief called forth by it shall extend to the whole nation, so that every family throughout the land, the sexes apart, shall form itself into a separate group of mourners, Zechariah 12:12-14.
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.11. Hadadrimmon] This is generally supposed, on the authority of Jerome, to have been a city near Jezreel, called in his day Maximinianopolis, in the valley of Megiddo, and the place where Josiah was fatally wounded by Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt. Both accounts of Josiah’s death state that it was “at,” or “in the valley of” Megiddo, that his wound was received (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22), while the fuller account in the Book of Chronicles not only affirms the national character of the mourning for him at the time, “all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah,” but informs us that the prophet Jeremiah, probably in some dirge composed for the occasion, “lamented for him,” and that the anniversary of his death long continued to be observed as a day of national calamity. “All the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and (they) made them an ordinance in Israel; and behold they are written in the lamentations.” “The grief of the people at the fall of their brave and pious king at the age of thirty-nine years was extraordinarily deep. It seemed as though a gloomy foreboding would take possession of their minds that his fall really involved that of the realm itself, of which he had been the last great prop. Long years after, the elegies composed on him by Jeremiah, and sung among the people, were still preserved, and were repeated with a sad pleasure on the days set apart for the commemoration of the royal hero.” Ewald.
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;12, 13. David … Nathan … Levi … Shimei] Two families are singled out, the kingly and the priestly, as examples of the rest. And in each case, to shew the pervading character of the grief, the family or tribe is first described by its general and inclusive name, and then one branch of it is mentioned, to indicate that to every part and division the widespread mourning shall extend. “This sorrow should be universal but also individual, the whole land, and that family by family; the royal family in the direct line of its kings, and in a branch from Nathan, a son of David and whole brother of Solomon (1 Chronicles 3:5), which was continued on in private life, yet was still to be an ancestral line of Jesus (Luke 3:31); in like way the main priestly family from Levi, and a subordinate line from a grandson of Levi, the family of Shimei (Numbers 3:21); and all the remaining families, each with their separate sorrow, each according to Joel’s call (Joel 2:16), let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber and the bride out of her closet, each denying himself the tenderest solaces of life.” Pusey.
The prophecy began to be fulfilled, so soon as the actual piercing had taken place, when “all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts and returned.” (Luke 23:48.) The fulfilment was continued on the day of Pentecost, when those to whom it was said, “God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ, were pricked in their heart.” (Acts 2:36-37.) It has gone on ever since; but it awaits a larger and more exact realisation, when all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:26.)
The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.