Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible 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.
Zec 12:1-14. Jerusalem the Instrument of Judgment on Her Foes Hereafter; Her Repentance and Restoration.
1. burden—"weighty prophecy"; fraught with destruction to Israel's foes; the expression may also refer to the distresses of Israel implied as about to precede the deliverance.
for Israel—concerning Israel [Maurer].
stretcheth forth—present; now, not merely "hath stretched forth," as if God only created and then left the universe to itself (Joh 5:17). To remove all doubts of unbelief as to the possibility of Israel's deliverance, God prefaces the prediction by reminding us of His creative and sustaining power. Compare a similar preface in Isa 42:5; 43:1; 65:17, 18.
formeth … spirit of man—(Nu 16:22; Heb 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—a cup causing those who drink it to reel (from a Hebrew root "to reel"). Jerusalem, who drank the "cup of trembling" herself, shall be so to her foes (Isa 51:17, 22; Jer 13:13). Calvin with the Septuagint translates, "threshold of destruction," on which they shall stumble and be crushed when they attempt to cross it. English Version is better.
both against Judah—The Hebrew order of words is literally, "And also against Judah shall he (the foe) be in the siege against Jerusalem"; implying virtually that Judah, as it shares the invasion along with Jerusalem, so it shall, like the metropolis, prove a cup of trembling to the invaders. Maurer with Jerome translates, "Also upon Judah shall be (the cup of trembling); that is, some Jews forced by the foe shall join in the assault on Jerusalem, and shall share the overthrow with the besiegers. But Zec 12:6, 7 show that Judah escapes and proves the scourge of the foe.
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. (Zec 14:4, 6-9, 13). Jerome states it was a custom in Palestine to test the strength of youths by their lifting up a massive stone; the phrase, "burden themselves with it," refers to this custom. Compare Mt 21:44: The Jews "fell" on the rock of offense, Messiah, and were "broken"; but the rock shall fall on Antichrist, who "burdens himself with it" by his assault on the restored Jews, and "grind him to powder."
all … people of … earth—The Antichristian confederacy against the Jews shall be almost universal.
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. I will smite … horse—The arm of attack especially formidable to Judah, who was unprovided with cavalry. So in the overthrow of Pharaoh (Ex 15:19, 21).
open mine eyes upon … Judah—to watch over Judah's safety. Heretofore Jehovah seemed to have shut His eyes, as having no regard for her.
blindness—so as to rush headlong on to their own ruin (compare Zec 14:12, 13).
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. shall say—when they see the foe divinely smitten with "madness."
Judah … Jerusalem—here distinguished as the country and the metropolis. Judah recognizes her "strength" to be "Jerusalem and its inhabitants" as the instrument, and "Jehovah of hosts their God" (dwelling especially there) as the author of all power (Joe 3:16). My strength is the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who have the Lord their God as their help. The repulse of the foe by the metropolis shall assure the Jews of the country that the same divine aid shall save them.
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. On "governors of Judah," see on Zec 9:7.
torch … in a sheaf—Though small, it shall consume the many foes around. One prophet supplements the other. Thus Isa 29:1-24; Joe 3:1-21; Zec 12:1-14:21, describe more Antichrist's army than himself. Daniel represents him as a horn growing out of the fourth beast or fourth kingdom; St. John, as a separate beast having an individual existence. Daniel dwells on his worldly conquests as a king; St. John, more on his spiritual tyranny, whence he adds a second beast, the false prophet coming in a semblance of spirituality. What is briefly described by one is more fully prophesied by the other [Roos].
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. Judah is to be "first saved," because of her meek acknowledgment of dependence on Jerusalem, subordinate to Jehovah's aid.
tents—shifting and insecure, as contrasted with the solid fortifications of Judah. But God chooses the weak to confound the mighty, that all human glorying may be set aside.
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. Jerusalem, however, also shall be specially strengthened against the foe.
feeble … shall be as David—to the Jew, the highest type of strength and glory on earth (2Sa 17:8; 18:3; Joe 3:10).
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 (Ex 23:20; 32:34). "The house of David" is the "prince," and his family sprung from David (Eze 45:7, 9). David's house was then in a comparatively weak state.
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 to destroy—I will set Myself with determined earnestness to destroy, etc. (Hag 2:22).
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. Future conversion of the Jews is to flow from an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Jer 31:9, 31-34; Eze 39:29).
spirit of grace … supplications—"spirit" is here not the spirit produced, but THE Holy Spirit producing a "gracious" disposition, and inclination for "supplications." Calvin explains "spirit of grace" as the grace of God itself (whereby He "pours" out His bowels of mercy), "conjoined with the sense of it in man's heart." The "spirit of supplications" is the mercury whose rise or fall is an unerring test of the state of the Church [Moore]. In Hebrew, "grace" and "supplications" are kindred terms; translate, therefore, "gracious supplications." The plural implies suppliant prayers "without ceasing." Herein not merely external help against the foe, as before, but internal grace is promised subsequently.
look upon me—with profoundly earnest regard, as the Messiah whom they so long denied.
pierced—implying Messiah's humanity: as "I will pour … spirit" implies His divinity.
look … mourn—True repentance arises from the sight by faith of the crucified Saviour. It is the tear that drops from the eye of faith looking on Him. Terror only produces remorse. The true penitent weeps over his sins in love to Him who in love has suffered for them.
me … him—The change of person is due to Jehovah-Messiah speaking in His own person first, then the prophet speaking of Him. The Jews, to avoid the conclusion that He whom they have "pierced" is Jehovah-Messiah, who says, "I will pour out … spirit," altered "me" into "him," and represent the "pierced" one to be Messiah Ben (son of) Joseph, who was to suffer in the battle with Cog, before Messiah Ben David should come to reign. But Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic oppose this; and the ancient Jews interpreted it of Messiah. Ps 22:16 also refers to His being "pierced." So Joh 19:37; Re 1:7. The actual piercing of His side was the culminating point of all their insulting treatment of Him. The act of the Roman soldier who pierced Him was their act (Mt 27:25), and is so accounted here in Zechariah. The Hebrew word is always used of a literal piercing (so Zec 13:3); not of a metaphorical piercing, "insulted," as Maurer and other Rationalists (from the Septuagint) represent.
as one mourneth for … son—(Jer 6:26; Am 8:10). A proverbial phrase peculiarly forcible among the Jews, who felt childlessness as a curse and dishonor. Applied with peculiar propriety to mourning for Messiah, "the first-born among many brethren" (Ro 8:29).
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
11. As in Zec 12:10 the bitterness of their mourning is illustrated by a private case of mourning, so in this verse by a public one, the greatest recorded in Jewish history, that for the violent death in battle with Pharaoh-necho of the good King Josiah, whose reign had been the only gleam of brightness for the period from Hezekiah to the downfall of the state; lamentations were written by Jeremiah for the occasion (2Ki 23:29, 30; 2Ch 35:22-27).
Hadad-rimmon—a place or city in the great plain of Esdraelon, the battlefield of many a conflict, near Megiddo; called so from the Syrian idol Rimmon. Hadad also was the name of the sun, a chief god of the Syrians [Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1.23].
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;
12-14. A universal and an individual mourning at once.
David … Nathan—representing the highest and lowest of the royal order. Nathan, not the prophet, but a younger son of David (2Sa 5:14; Lu 3:31).
apart—Retirement and seclusion are needful for deep personal religion.
wives apart—Jewish females worship separately from the males (Ex 15:1, 20).
The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
13. Levi … Shimei—the highest and lowest of the priestly order (Nu 3:18, 21). Their example and that of the royal order would of course influence the rest.
All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
14. All … that remain—after the fiery ordeal, in which two-thirds fall (Zec 13:8, 9).