Zechariah 12
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. MIGHT OF HER KING. The worlds of matter and of mind are under his control. If so, there is no such thing as chance. Then whatsoever God has promised he will certainly perform. Then to trust and to obey God must be the great end of our being. God's friends are blessed (vers. 2, 4). His enemies, intoxicated by pride, muster for the fight. They are discomfited and driven back in headlong rout. Blindness seizes them, terror overpowers them; they perish, as at the Red Sea and in Midian's evil day (cf. Psalm 132:18).

II. ENERGY OF HER LEADERS. (Vers. 5-7.) Men of faith and capacity, commanding the confidence of the people. Bound together by their common faith in God and devotion to the highest interests of humanity.

III. HEROISM OF HER PEOPLE. (Vers. 8, 9.) Strength, Divine in its source, various in degree, adequate forevery emergency, making the weak strong, and the strong stronger. A united people, with settled government, equal laws, courageous and faithful for the right. Zion united can stand against every assault, but divided becomes the prey of her enemies. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." - F.

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. This chapter, and on to ver. 6 of the following, most expositors regard as referring to Israel's conflict and victory, conversion and ultimate holiness. The first verse announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will result in the conquest of all enemies. The passage before us suggests a few thoughts concerning the universe.

I. THAT THE UNIVERSE INCLUDES THE EXISTENCE OF MATTER AND OF MIND. The phrase "heavens" and "earth" is used here and elsewhere to represent the whole creation.

1. It includes matter. Of the essence of matter we know nothing; but by the word we mean all that comes within the cognizance of our senses, all that can be felt, heard, seen, tasted. How extensive is this material domain! Science shows that it baffles all efforts and methods of mensuration.

2. It includes mind. Indeed, mind is here specified. "And formeth the spirit of man within him." Man has a spirit. Of this he has stronger evidence than he has of the existence of matter. He is conscious of the phenomena of mind, but not conscious of the phenomena of matter. Man's mind is only an insignificant part and a humble representative of the immeasurable universe of spirit.

II. THAT THE UNIVERSE ORIGINATED WITH ONE PERSONAL BEING. "The Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens," etc. It had an origin; it is not eternal. The idea of its eternity involves contradictions. It had an origin; its origin is not fortuitous; it is not the production of chance. The idea of its springing from chance may live in the region of speculation, but never in the realm of intelligent conviction. It had an origin; its origin is not that of a plurality of creators; it has one, and only one - "the Lord." This is the only philosophic account of its origin, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands."

III. THAT THIS ONE PERSONAL CREATOR HAS PURPOSES CONCERNING THE HUMAN RACE. "The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord." This may mean, "the sentence of the word of the Lord concerning Israel." Now, this chapter, this book - nay, a large portion of the Bible - purports to be a revelation of his purpose to mankind. He has not created us without an object, nor placed us on this earth without an object; both in our creation and preservation he has a purpose. This being so:

1. No events in human history are accidental.

2. The grand purpose of our life should be the fulfilment of his will. "Not my will, but thine be done."

IV. THAT HIS PURPOSE TOWARDS MANKIND HE IS FULLY ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH. His creative achievements are here mentioned as a pledge of the purposes hereafter announced. Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed. Has he purposed that all mankind shall be converted to his Son? It shall be done. "There is nothing too hard for the Lord." - D.T.

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. 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. There is in this passage a principle by which the Governor of the world punishes malicious men. That principle is this - the reaction of their efforts to injure others causing injury of themselves. It is here said that Jerusalem would become confusion and destruction to the men who sought it, ruin. It is here said that:

1. Jerusalem would become to them "a cup of trembling," or, as some render it, "a cup of intoxication." It does not say that Jerusalem will put forth any active efforts to wreak vengeance on its enemies, but that its effect upon the enemies would be as an intoxicating cup; it will make them reel and stagger in confusion. The thought of their own malicious conduct towards it would produce an effect upon their own minds that would make them tremble and become confused.

2. Jerusalem would become to them "a burdensome stone." The idea is that, in their endeavours to injure Jerusalem, they would crush themselves. I make three remarks in relation to this punishment by reaction.


1. It is attested by every man's consciousness. Every man who attempts to injure another feels sooner or later that he has injured himself. There is a recoil and a regret. In truth, the malign passion itself is its own punishment. A man who cherishes anger towards another injures himself more than he can by any effort injure the object of his displeasure. In every malign emotion there is misery.

2. It is attested by universal history. It is a law that runs through all history, that the "mischief" of a man "shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate" (Psalm 7:16). The conduct of Joseph's brethren and of Haman may be cited as illustrations; but the conduct of the Jews towards the Messiah is an example for all times, most mighty and impressive. The blows which the old Jewish nation struck on him rebounded on their own heads and ruined them. "Whoso diggeth the pit," says Solomon, "shall fall therein; and whoso rolleth the stone, it will return on him" (Proverbs 26:27).

II. IT IS MANIFESTLY JUST. What man thus punished can complain of the righteousness of his sufferings? He must feel, and feel deeply, that he has deserved all and even more than he endures. Indeed, it is true that the punishment of the sinner is self-punishment; it is the fruit of his own doings. Witness Cain, Belshazzar, Judas, etc.


1. To guard men from the injuries of others.

2. To restrain the angry passions of men.

CONCLUSION. Let us in all our conduct to our fellow men practically recognize the principle that with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again. "He that rolleth the stone, it shall return upon him." The stone of revenge and malice which you have rolled at another shall come back upon the head of you that rolled it - come back with a terrible momentum, come back to crush you. - D.T.

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, etc. These words, which are confessedly difficult if not impossible to interpret correctly (for some say they are to be taken literally, others spiritually; some historically, others prophetically), may be fairly used to illustrate a good time for good people. In relation to this good time, I observe -

I. IT IS A TIME WHEN THEIR ENEMIES SHALL BE VANQUISHED. "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 wilt smite every horse of the people with blindness." Here the overthrow of the enemies of Jerusalem is threatened. "The Lord," says Keil, "will throw the mind and spirit of the military force of the enemy into such confusion that, instead of injuring Jerusalem and Judah, it will rush forward to its own destruction. Horses and riders individualize the warlike forces of the enemy. The rider, smitten with madness, turns his sword against his own comrades in battle. On the other hand, Jehovah will open his eyes upon Judah for its protection (1 Kings 8:29; Nehemiah 1:6; Psalm 32:8). This promise is strengthened by the repetition of the punishment to be inflicted upon the enemy. Not only with alarm, but with blindness, will the Lord smite their horses. We have an example of this in 2 Kings 6:18, where the Lord smote the enemy with blindness in answer to Elisha's prayer, i.e. with mental blindness, so that, instead of seizing the prophet, they fell into the hands of Israel. The three plagues, timmahon, shigga'on, and 'ivvaron, are those with which rebellious Israelites are threatened in Deuteronomy 28:28. The house of Judah is the covenant nation, the population of Judah, including the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as we may see from what follows." Now, whether this conquest refers to the triumphs of the Maccabees, or to some wonderful victories of the Jews in some future times, one thing is clear to us, that the time will come for all good people when their enemies shall be entirely destroyed. To every good man this victory is promised. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."


1. The power of unity. "The governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God" "Observe here" says Dr. Wardlaw, "the confidence of the leaders in the people. Without the people's concurrent aid, their counsels and plans and directions could, of course, be of little avail This the rulers should feel, and should exult in seeing what ground they had for full reliance on them in time of pressure and danger, which implies unanimity and intrepid valour, combined with persevering effort, on the part of the inhabitants. This union and valour would be the 'strength' of their leaders, without which they must find themselves utterly powerless. A divided, dispirited. heartless, dastardly soldiery or populace, is weakness, disappointment, and discomfiture to the best-conceived plans of the most bold, prudent, and experienced leaders." All good people over all the earth will one day be thoroughly united - united, not in opinion, for this would be, if possible, undesirable; but in devotion to Christ, the common Centre. This union is strength, Divine strength, "strength in the Lord of hosts." "Strong in the Lord and in the power of his might."

2. The power of conquest. "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;" or, as Dr. Henderson renders it, "In that day will I make the chiefs of Judah like a fire pot among sticks of wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf, and they shall consume all the people around, on the right hand and on the left." As the fire consumes the wood and the sheaf of straw, so would the men of Jerusalem have power to conquer all the people "round about, on the right hand and on the left." God invests all good men with power to conquer their spiritual foes; this is the power of faith - faith that overcometh the world. This power, though weak in most, is triumphant in many (see Hebrews 11.). It shall be all-conquering one day.

III. IT IS A TIME WHEN THEY SHALL BE SETTLED IN THEIR HOME. "And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem." Jerusalem, in the first instance, stands for the Jews, and in the second instance for the city or the country. It means, therefore, that in this good time - whether it is past or to come - some, if not all, the Jews that were scattered abroad will return and settle in their own home. The language expresses reoccupancy and permanent possession. Those who return - whether from Egypt, Babylon, or elsewhere - will return and settle down in their old home. A time comes for all good people when they shall settle down in a permanent dwelling place. Here they are "strangers and pilgrims," and have "no abiding city." But a glorious country awaits them, an "inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away."


1. They were to have equal honour. "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." Dr. Henderson's translation expresses this: "And Jehovah shall deliver the tents of Judah first, in order that the splendour of the house of David and the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be magnified above Judah."

2. They were to have equal protection. "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. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem." Hero Jerusalem is promised protection against the foe, and "he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David." "To the Jew, David was the highest type of strength and glory on earth (2 Samuel 17:8), a man of war (2 Samuel 18:3); such shall the weakest citizen of Jerusalem become (Joel 3:10)." "And the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them." "The Divine Angel that went before them through the desert, the highest type of strength and glory in heaven (Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34). The house of David is the prince and his family sprung from David (Ezekiel 45:7, 9). David's house was then in a comparatively weak state." Now, there is a time coming when all good people shall have distinguished honour and complete protection. They shall settle down in the heavenly Jerusalem; and what a city is that (see Revelation 21)!

CONCLUSION. Though I have not been able to put forth what I feel to be a satisfactory interpretation of these words, or attempted to give to them a spiritual signification, I trust that, in using them as an illustration of the good time coming for the good, I have presented a legitimate and a useful application. A glorious time awaits all good men, in all lands, Churches, nations - a time when they shall be delivered from all evil and be put in permanent possession of all good. Seeing we look for such things, "what manner of persons ought we to Be in all holy conversation and godliness?" etc. - D.T.







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, etc. To whatever particular event this passage refers, the subject is obvious and most important, viz. that of penitential sorrow. And five things in connection with it are noteworthy.

I. THE SUBJECTS OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. They are Jews, and not Gentiles. "The house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" - expressions which designate the whole Israelitish people. The Jewish people had often been reduced to this state of sorrow. When in Babylonian captivity they wept when they "remembered Zion." "The scene," says Dr. Wardlaw, "depicted bears a very close resemblance to those recorded to have taken place on the restoration from Babylon, when Jehovah, having influenced them individually to return to himself, and to set their faces, with longing desire, to the land of their fathers, inclined their hearts, when thus gathered home, to social and collective acts of humiliation and prayer. The prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah on those occasions might be taken as models, in the 'spirit and even the matter' of them, for the supplications of Judah and Israel when brought back from their wider and more lasting dispersions."

II. THE CAUSE OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. "I will pour." The Prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) refers to this outpouring of Divine influence. "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." All genuine repentance for sin originates with God. He sends down into human souls the spirit of grace and of supplications. The spirit of grace is the spirit that produces in the mind of man the experience of the grace of God; and this experience works repentance and inspires prayer.

III. THE OCCASION OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW, "And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced." "The expression, 'upon me,'" says Hengstenberg, "is very remarkable. According to ver. 1, the Speaker is the Lord, the Creator of heaven stud earth. But it is evident from what follows that we are not to confine our thoughts exclusively to an invisible God who is beyond the reach of suffering, for the same Jehovah presently represents himself as pierced by the Israelites, and afterwards lamented by them with bitter remorse. The enigma is solved by the Old Testament doctrine of the Angel and Revealer of the Most High God, to whom the prophet attributes even the most exalted names of God, on account of his participation in the Divine nature, who is described in ch. 11. as undertaking the office of Shepherd over his people, and who had been recompensed by them with base ingratitude." "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him." The "me" and the "him" are the same Person, and that Person he who says, in ver. 10, "I will pour upon the house of David." In the first clause he is speaking of himself; in the second clause the prophet is speaking of him. The Messiah was pierced, and pierced by the Jews: "They pierced my hands and my feet." A believing sight of Christ produces this penitential sorrow.

"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And my Redeemer die?
Did he devote his sacred head
For such a worm as I?"

IV. THE POIGNANCY OF THIS PENITENTIAL SORROW. "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." "There are few states of deeper and acuter sorrow than this - that which is felt by affectionate parents when bereft of those objects of their fondest affections; the one solitary object of their concentrated parental love; or the firstborn and rising support and hope of their household." As to the poignancy of this grief, it is further said, "In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon," etc. Perhaps the greatest sorrow ever known amongst the Jews was the sorrow in the valley of Megiddon, occasioned by the death of King Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:24). Jeremiah composed a funeral dirge on the occasion, and other odes and lamentations were composed, and were sung by males and females. But true penitential sorrow is far more poignant than that occasioned by the death of an only son or a noble king. It is tinctured with moral remorse.

V. THE UNIVERSALITY OF THIS POIGNANT SORROW. "And the land shall mourn, every family apart," etc. All the families of the land shall mourn, and all shall mourn "apart." Deep sorrow craves loneliness.

CONCLUSION. There is one event in history - whether such an event is referred to here or not - that answers better to the description here of penitential sorrow than any other in the chronicles of the world; it is the Day of Pentecost. Thousands of Jews assembled together on that day from all parts of the known world. Peter preached to the vast assembly and charged them with having crucified the Son of God. The Holy Spirit came down upon the vast congregation, and the result was that, "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). Far on in the future, it may be, a period will dawn in Jewish history when such penitential sorrow as is here described will be experienced by all the descendants of Abraham. - D.T.

The scene depicted has reference first of all to the Jews. Already partially fulfilled. But the principles involved are of universal application. Take it to illustrate true repentance.

I. GOD FOR ITS CAUSE. Not man, but God. The Father of our spirits acting on our spirit. "The spirit of grace."

II. SINNERS OF MANKIND FOR ITS SUBJECTS. Not angels. We read of their fail, but never of their rising again. For them there seems no place for repentance. Not the righteous. If man were innocent, there would be no need for penitence. But sinners. As all have sinned, repentance is required of all.

III. THE CROSS OF CHRIST FOR ITS INSTRUMENT. On the one hand, how can the sense of sin be brought home to man's conscience? On the other, how can God, consistently with his righteousness, show mercy to the sinner? The answer is found in the cross. Here we see, and here alone:

1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin.

2. The exceeding greatness of God's love to sinners. "God commendeth his own love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."


1. Intensity. Thought and feeling. Sorrow deep and bitter.

2. Thoroughness. Goes to the very root of the matter; real and abiding.

V. REGENERATION OF SOCIETY AS ITS BLESSED RESULT. Society made up of individuals. Change them, and you change all. The whole lump will be leavened. When there is peace with God, purity of life, brotherly kindness and charity, the old glory of the land will be restored. - F.

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