Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Israel's Conflict and Victory, Conversion and Sanctification - Zechariah 12:1-13:6
This section forms the first half of the second prophecy of Zechariah concerning the future of Israel and of the nations of the world, viz., the prophecy contained in ch. 12-14, which, as a side-piece to ch. 9-11, treats of the judgment by which Israel, the nation of God, will be refined, sifted, and led on to perfection through conflict with the nations of the world. This first section announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will issue in destruction to the nations of the world (Zechariah 12:1-4). Jehovah will endow the princes of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength to overcome all their foes (Zechariah 12:5-9), and will pour out His Spirit of grace upon them, so that they will bitterly repent the death of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-14), and purify themselves from all ungodliness (Zechariah 13:1-6).
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."Burden of the word of Jehovah over Israel. Saying of Jehovah, who stretches out the heaven, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him." This heading, which belongs to the whole prophecy in ch. 12-14, corresponds in form and contents to that in Zechariah 9:1. The burden of Jehovah over Israel stands by the side of the burden of Jehovah over the land of Hadrach, the seat of the heathen power of the world (Zechariah 9:1). And as the reason assigned for the latter was that the eye of Jehovah looks at mankind and all the tribes of Israel, so the former is explained here by an allusion to the creative omnipotence of Jehovah. Only there is nothing in our heading to answer to the words "and Damascus is his rest," which are added to the explanation of the symbolical name Hadrach in Zechariah 9:1, because Israel, as the name of the covenant nation, needed no explanation. The other formal differences are very inconsiderable. על answers substantially to the ב (in בּארץ, Zechariah 9:1), and signifies, notwithstanding the fact that massa' announces a threatening word, not "again" but "over," as we may see by comparing it with משּׂא אל ישׂ in Malachi 1:1. The reason for the massa' announced is given here in the form of an apposition, נאם יהוה standing first like a heading, as in Psalm 11:1; 2 Samuel 23:1; Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:15. The predicates of God are formed after Isaiah 42:5 (see also Amos 4:13), and describe God as the creator of the universe, and the former of the spirits of all men, to remove all doubt as to the realization of the wonderful things predicted in what follows. יצר רוּח וגו, the forming of the spirit within man, does not refer to the creation of the spirits of souls of men once for all, but denotes the continuous creative formation and guidance of the human spirit by the Spirit of God. Consequently we cannot restrict the stretching out of the heaven and the laying of the foundation of the earth to the creation of the universe as an act accomplished once for all tat the beginning of all things (Genesis 2:1), but must take these words also as referring to the upholding of the world as a work of the continuously creative providence of God. According to the biblical view (cf. Psalm 104:2-4), "God stretches out the heavens every day afresh, and every day He lays the foundation of the earth, which, if His power did not uphold it, would move from its orbit, and fall into ruin" (Hengst.).
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."Behold, I make Jerusalem a reeling-basin for all the nations round about, and upon Judah also will it be at the siege against Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:3. And it will come to pass on that day, I will make Jerusalem a burden-stone to all nations: all who lift it up will tear rents for themselves; and all the nations of the earth will gather together against it. Zechariah 12:4. In that day, is the saying of Jehovah, will I smite every horse with shyness, and its rider with madness, and over the house of Judah will I open my eyes, and every horse of the nations will I smite with blindness." These verses allude to an attack on the part of the nations upon Jerusalem and Judah, which will result in injury and destruction to those who attack it. The Lord will make Jerusalem a reeling-basin to all nations round about. Saph does not mean threshold here, but basin, or a large bowl, as in Exodus 12:22. רעל is equivalent to תּרעלה in Isaiah 51:17 and Psalm 60:5, viz., reeling. Instead of the goblet, the prophet speaks of a basin, because many persons can put their mouths to this at the same time, and drink out of it (Schmieder). The "cup of reeling," i.e., a goblet filled with intoxicating drink, is a figure very frequently employed to denote the divine judgment, which intoxicates the nations, so that they are unable to stand any longer, and therefore fall to the ground and perish (see at Isaiah 51:17).
Psalm 60:2 has been explained in very different ways. It is an old and widespread view, that the words "also upon Judah will it be," etc., express the participation of Judah in the siege of Jerusalem. The Chaldee and Jerome both adopt this explanation, that in the siege of Jerusalem Judah will be constrained by the nations to besiege the capital of its own land. The grammatical reason assigned for this view is, that we must either take היה with על in the sense of obligation (it will also be the duty of Judah: Mich., Ros., Ewald), or supply סף־רעל as the subject to יהיה: the reeling-basin will also come upon Judah. But there is great harshness in both explanations. With the former, להלּחם, or some other infinitive, would hardly have been omitted; and with the latter, the preposition ל would stand before יהוּדה, instead of על. Moreover, in what follows there is no indication whatever of Judah's having made common cause with the enemy against Jerusalem; on the contrary, Judah and Jerusalem stand together in opposition to the nations, and the princes of Judah have strength in the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Psalm 60:5), and destroy the enemy to save Jerusalem (Psalm 60:6). Moreover, it is only by a false interpretation that any one can find a conflict between Judah and Jerusalem indicated in Zechariah 14:14. And throughout it is incorrect to designate the attitude of Judah towards Jerusalem in these verses as "opposition," - a notion upon which Ebrard (Offenb. Joh.) and Kliefoth have founded the marvellous view, that by Jerusalem with its inhabitants and the house of David we are to understand the unbelieving portion of Israel; and by Judah with its princes, Christendom, or the true people of God, formed of believing Israelites, and increased by believing Gentiles. Judah is not opposed to Jerusalem, but simply distinguished from it, just as the Jewish kingdom or people is frequently designated by the prophets as Jerusalem and Judah. The גם, which does not separate, but adds, is of itself inapplicable to the idea of opposition. Consequently we should expect the words וגם על יה to express the thought, that Judah will be visited with the same fate as Jerusalem, as Luther, Calvin, and many others follow the Peshito in supposing that they do. היה על has then the meaning to happen, to come over a person; and the only question is, What are we to supply in thought as the subject? The best course is probably to take it from the previous clause, "that which passes over Jerusalem;" for the proposal of Koehler to supply mâtsōr as the subject is precluded by the circumstance that mâtsōr, a siege, can only affect a city or fortress (cf. Deuteronomy 20:20), and not a land. The thought is strengthened in Zechariah 12:3. Jerusalem is to become a burden-stone for all nations, which inflicts contusions and wounds upon those who try to lift it up or carry it away ("experiencing no hurt itself, it causes great damage to them:" Marck). The figure is founded upon the idea of the labour connected with building, and not upon the custom, which Jerome speaks of as a very common one in his time among the youth of Palestine, of testing and exercising their strength by lifting heavy stones. There is a gradation in the thought, both in the figure of the burdensome stone, which wounds whoever tries to lift it, whilst intoxicating wine only makes one powerless and incapable of any undertaking, and also in the description given of the object, viz., in Zechariah 12:2 all nations round about Jerusalem, and in Zechariah 12:3 all peoples and all nations of the earth. It is only in the last clause of Zechariah 12:3 that the oppression of Jerusalem indicated in the two figures is more minutely described, and in Zechariah 12:4 that its overthrow by the help of God is depicted. The Lord 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 (cf. Zechariah 14:3; Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20). 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, timmâhōn, shiggâ‛ōn, and ‛ivvârōn, 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.
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.
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.
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.Zechariah 12:5. "And the princes of Judah will say in their hearts, The inhabitants of Jerusalem are strength to me, in Jehovah of hosts their God. Zechariah 12:6. On that day will I make the princes of Judah as a basin of fire under logs of wood, and like a torch of fire under sheaves; and they will devour all nations round about, on the right and on the left; and Jerusalem will dwell still further in its place, at Jerusalem. Zechariah 12:7. And Jehovah will save the tents of Judah first, that the splendour of the house of David and the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not lift itself up over Judah." The princes of Judah are mentioned as the leaders of the people in war. What they say is the conviction of the whole nation ('allūph, as in Zechariah 9:7). אמצה (in this form ἁπ. λεγ.) is a substantive equals אמץ, strength (Job 17:9). The singular lı̄ (to me) expresses the fact that every individual says or thinks this, as with the expression "should I weep" in Zechariah 7:3. The princes of Judah recognise in the inhabitants of Jerusalem their strength or might, not in this sense, that Judah, being crowded together before Jerusalem, expects help against the foe from the strength of the city and the assistance of its inhabitants, as Hofmann and Koehler maintain, for "their whole account of the inhabitants of the land being shut up in the city (or crowded together before the walls of Jerusalem, and covered by them) is a pure invention" (Koehler), and has no foundation in the text; but in this sense, that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are strong through Jehovah their God, i.e., through the fact that Jehovah has chosen Jerusalem, and by virtue of this election will save the city of His sanctuary (compare Zechariah 10:12 with Zechariah 3:2; Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12). Because the princes of Judah put their trust in the divine election of Jerusalem, the Lord makes them into a basin of fire under logs of wood, and a burning torch under sheaves, so that they destroy all nations round about like flames of fire, and Jerusalem therefore remains unconquered and undestroyed in its place at Jerusalem. In this last sentence Jerusalem is first of all the population personified as a woman, and in the second instance the city as such. From the fact that Jerusalem is still preserved, in consequence of the destruction of the enemy proceeding from the princes of Judah it is very evident that the princes of Judah are the representatives of the whole nation, and that the whole of the covenant nation (Judah with Jerusalem) is included in the house of Judah in Zechariah 12:4. And Zechariah 12:7 may easily be reconciled with this. The statement that the Lord will "save the tents of Judah first, that the splendour of the house of David may not lift itself up above Judah," contains the simple thought that the salvation will take place in such a manner that no part of the nation 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. "The tents of Judah, i.e., its huts, form an antithesis to the splendid buildings of the capital, and probably (?) also point to the defenceless condition of Judah, through which it was absolutely cast upon the help of God"
(Note: Calvin observes: "In my opinion, the prophet applies the term 'tents' to huts which cannot protect their guests or inhabitants. We have thus a tacit contrast between huts and fortified cities.")
(Hengstenberg). תּפארת, the splendour or glory, not the boasting. The house of David is the royal line, which was continued in Zerubbabel and his family, and culminated in Christ. Its splendour consists in the glorification promised in Zechariah 4:6-10 and Zechariah 4:14, and Haggai 2:23; and the splendour of the inhabitants of Jerusalem is the promises which this city received through its election to be the city of God, in which Jehovah would be enthroned in His sanctuary, and also through the future glorification predicted for it in consequence (Zechariah 1:16-17; Zechariah 2:8, Zechariah 2:12, ff.). The antithesis between Jerusalem and the house of David on the one hand, and the tents of Judah on the other, does not serve to express the thought that "the strong ones will be saved by the weak, in order that the true equilibrium may arise between the two" (Hengst.), for Judah cannot represent the weak ones if its princes consume the enemy like flames of fire; but the thought is simply this: At the deliverance from the attack of the foe, Jerusalem will have no pre-eminence over Judah; but the promises which Jerusalem and the house of David have received will benefit Judah, i.e., the whole of the covenant nation, in like manner. This thought is expressed in the following way: The defenceless land will be delivered sooner than the well-defended capital, that the latter may not lift itself up above the former, but that both may humbly acknowledge "that the victory in both cases is the Lord's" (Jerome); for, according to Zechariah 12:8, Jerusalem will enjoy in the fullest measure the salvation of 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.
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.
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.Zechariah 12:8. "On that day Jehovah will shelter the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that stumbleth among them will be as David on that day; and the house of David as God, as the angel of Jehovah before them. Zechariah 12:9. And it will come to pass on that day, I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem." In the conflict with the heathen nations, the Lord will endow the inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength with which to overcome all their foes. The population of Jerusalem is divided into two classes, the weak and the strong. The weak are designated as hannikhshâl, the stumbling one, who cannot stand firmly upon his feet (1 Samuel 2:4). These are to become like David, the bravest hero of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 17:34., 2 Samuel 17:8). The strong ones, designated as the house, i.e., the household or family of David, are to be like Elohim, i.e., not angels, but God, the Deity, i.e., a superhuman being (cf. Psalm 8:6), yea, like the angel of Jehovah, who goes before Israel (לפניהם), or the revealer of the invisible God, who is essentially the equal of Jehovah (see at Zechariah 1:8). The point of comparison lies in the power and strength, not in moral resemblance to God, as Kliefoth supposes, who takes Elohim as equivalent to Jehovah, and identifies it with the angel of Jehovah, as some of the earlier commentators have done, and places the graduation of Elohim into the angel of Jehovah in the appearance of God in human form, in which case, however, לפניהם has no meaning. This shows rather that the "angel of Jehovah" is simply referred to here in connection with his appearance in the history of Israel, when he went at the head of Israel and smote the Egyptians and all the enemies of Israel (Exodus 23:20.; Joshua 5:13.). This is evident from the antithesis in Zechariah 12:9. Whilst Jehovah endows the inhabitants of Jerusalem with supernatural strength, He will seek to destroy all the nations which attack Jerusalem. Biqqēsh, followed by an infinitive with Lamed, to strive after anything, as in Zechariah 6:7. בּוא על applied to the advance of the enemy against a city ( equals עלה על, Isaiah 7:1).
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
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.But the Lord will do still more than this for His people. He will renew it by pouring out His spirit of grace upon it, so that it will come to the knowledge of the guilt it has incurred by the rejection of the Saviour, and will bitterly repent of its sin. Zechariah 12:10. "And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look upon me, whom they have pierced, and will mourn over him like the mourning over an only one, and will grieve bitterly over him, as one grieves bitterly over the first-born." This new promise is simply attached to the previous verse by ו consec. (ושׁפכתּי). Through this mode of attachment such connections as that suggested by Kliefoth, "But such glory can only be enjoyed by rebellious Israel when it is converted, and acknowledges and bewails Him whom it has rejected," are precluded, as at variance with the text. There is not a word in the text about conversion as the condition on which the glory set before them in Zechariah 12:3-9 was to be obtained; on the contrary, conversion is represented as one fruit of the outpouring of the spirit of prayer upon the nation; and this outpouring of the Spirit is introduced by ושׁפכתּי, which corresponds to אבקּשׁ in Zechariah 12:9, as a new feature in the salvation, to be added to the promise of the destruction of the nations which fight against Jerusalem. The fact that only the inhabitants of Jerusalem are named, and not those of Judah also, is explained correctly by the commentators from the custom of regarding the capital as the representative of the whole nation. And it follows eo ipso from this, that in Zechariah 12:8 also the expression "inhabitants of Jerusalem" is simply an individualizing epithet for the whole of the covenant nation. But just as in Zechariah 12:8 the house of David is mentioned emphatically along with these was the princely family and representative of the ruling class, so is it also in Zechariah 12:10, for the purpose of expressing the thought that the same salvation is to be enjoyed by the whole nation, in all its ranks, from the first to the last. The outpouring of the Spirit points back to Joel 3:1., except that there the Spirit of Jehovah generally is spoken of, whereas here it is simply the spirit of grace and of supplication. Chēn does not mean "prayer," nor emotion, or goodness, or love (Hitzig, Ewald), but simply grace or favour; and here, as in Zechariah 4:7, the grace of God; not indeed in its objectivity, but as a principle at work in the human mind. The spirit of grace is the spirit which produces in the mind of man the experience of the grace of God. But this experience begets in the soul of sinful man the knowledge of sin and guilt, and prayer for the forgiveness of sin, i.e., supplication; and this awakens sorrow and repentance. הבּיטוּ אלי, they look upon me. Hibbı̄t, used of bodily sight as well as spiritual (cf. Numbers 21:9). The suffix in אלי (to me) refers to the speaker. This is Jehovah, according to Zechariah 12:1, the creator of the heaven and the earth. את־אשׁר דּקרוּ, not "Him whom they pierced," but simply "whom they pierced." את, that is to say, is not governed by hibbı̄tū as a second object, but simply refers to אלי, to me, "whom they pierced," את־אשׁר is chosen here, as in Jeremiah 38:9, in the place of the simple אשׁר, to mark אשׁר more clearly as an accusative, since the simple אשׁר might also be rendered "who pierced (me):" cf. Ges. 123, 2, Not. 1. Dâqar does not mean to ridicule, or scoff at, but only to pierce, thrust through, and to slay by any kind of death whatever (cf. Lamentations 4:9). And the context shows that here it signifies to put to death. With reference to the explanation proposed by Calvin, "whom they have harassed with insults," Hitzig has very properly observed: "If it were nothing more than this, wherefore such lamentation over him, which, according to the use of ספד, with על governing the person, and from the similes employed, is to be regarded as a lamentation for the dead?" It is true that we have not to think of a slaying of Jehovah, the creator of the heaven and the earth, but simply of the slaying of the Maleach Jehovah, who, being of the same essence with Jehovah, became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As Zechariah repeatedly represents the coming of the Messiah as a coming of Jehovah in His Maleach to His people, he could, according to this view, also describe the slaying of the Maleach as the slaying of Jehovah. And Israel having come to the knowledge of its sin, will bitterly bewail this deed. עליו does not mean thereat, i.e., at the crime, but is used personally, over him whom they have pierced. Thus the transition from the first person (אלי) to the third (עליו) points to the fact that the person slain, although essentially one with Jehovah, is personally distinct from the Supreme God. The lamentation for the only son (yâshı̄d: cf. Amos 8:10) and for the first-born is the deepest and bitterest death-wail. The inf. abs. hâmēr, which is used in the place of the finite verb, signifies making bitter, to which mispēd is to be supplied from the previous sentence (cf. מספּד תּמרוּרים, Jeremiah 6:26).
The historical fulfilment of this prophecy commenced with the crucifixion of the Son of God, who had come in the flesh. The words הבּיטוּ אלי את־אשׁר דּקרוּ are quoted in the Gospel of John (John 19:37), according to the Greek rendering ὄψονται εἰς ὅν ἐξεκέντησαν, which probably emanated not from the lxx, but from Aquila, or Theodotion, or Symmachus, as having been fulfilled in Christ, by the fact that a soldier pierced His side with a lance as He was hanging upon the cross (vid., John 19:34). If we compare this quotation with the fact mentioned in John 19:36, that they did not break any of His bones, there can be no doubt that John quotes this passage with distinct allusion to this special circumstance; only we must not infer from this, that the evangelist regarded the meaning of the prophecy as exhausted by this allusion. The piercing with the spear is simply looked upon by him as the climax of all the mortal sufferings of Christ; and even with Zechariah the piercing is simply an individualizing expression for putting to death, the instrument used and the kind of death being of very subordinate importance. This is evident from a comparison of our verse with Zechariah 13:7, where the sword is mentioned as the instrument employed, whereas dâqar points rather to a spear. What we have observed respecting the fulfilment of Zechariah 9:9 by the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, also applies to this special fulfilment, viz., that the so to speak literal fulfilment in the outward circumstances only served to make the internal concatenation of the prophecy with its historical realization so clear, that even unbelievers could not successfully deny it. Luke (Luke 23:48) indicates the commencement of the fulfilment of the looking at the slain one by these words: "And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts." (For the smiting of the breasts, comp. Isaiah 32:12, ספד על שׁדים.) "The crowds, who had just before been crying out, Crucify him, here smite upon their breasts, being overpowered with the proofs of the superhuman exaltation of Jesus, and lament over the crucified one, and over their own guilt" (Hengst.). The true and full commencement of the fulfilment, however, shows itself in the success which attended the preaching of Peter on the first day of Pentecost, - namely, in the fact that three thousand were pricked in their heart with penitential sorrow on account of the crucifixion of their Saviour, and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-41), and in the further results which followed the preaching of the apostles for the conversion of Israel (Acts 3-4). The fulfilment has continued with less striking results through the whole period of the Christian church, in conversions from among the Jews; and it will not terminate till the remnant of Israel shall turn as a people to Jesus the Messiah, whom its fathers crucified. On the other hand, those who continue obstinately in unbelief will see Him at last when He returns in the clouds of heaven, and shriek with despair (Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:30).
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.In Zechariah 12:11-14 the magnitude and universality of the mourning are still further depicted. Zechariah 12:11. "In that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be great, like the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo. Zechariah 12:12. And the land will 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. Zechariah 12:13. The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of the Shimeite apart, and their wives apart. Zechariah 12:14. All the rest of the families, every family apart, and their wives apart." In Zechariah 12:11, the depth and bitterness of the pain on account of the slain Messiah are depicted by comparing it to the mourning of Hadad-rimmon. Jerome says with regard to this: "Adad-remmon is a city near Jerusalem, which was formerly called by this name, but is now called Maximianopolis, in the field of Mageddon, where the good king Josiah was wounded by Pharaoh Necho." This statement of Jerome is confirmed by the fact that the ancient Canaanitish or Hebrew name of the city has been preserved in Rmuni, a small village three-quarters of an hour to the south of Lejun (Legio equals Megiddo: see at Joshua 12:21; and V. de Velde, Reise, i. p. 267). The mourning of Hadad-rimmon is therefore the mourning for the calamity which befel Israel at Hadad-rimmon in the death of the good king Josiah, who was mortally wounded in the valley Megiddo, according to 2 Chronicles 35:22., so that he very soon gave up the ghost. The death of this most pious of all the kings of Judah was bewailed by the people, especially the righteous members of the nation, so bitterly, that not only did the prophet Jeremiah compose an elegy on his death, but other singers, both male and female, bewailed him in dirges, which were placed in a collection of elegiac songs, and preserved in Israel till long after the captivity (2 Chronicles 35:25). Zechariah compares the lamentation for the putting of the Messiah to death to this great national mourning. All the other explanations that have been given of these words are so arbitrary, as hardly to be worthy of notice. This applies, for example, to the idea mentioned by the Chald., that the reference is to the death of the wicked Ahab, and also to Hitzig's hypothesis, that Hadad-rimmon was the one name of the god Adonis. For, apart from the fact that it is only from this passage that Movers has inferred that there ever was an idol of that name, a prophet of Jehovah could not possibly have compared the great lamentation of the Israelites over the death of the Messiah to the lamentation over the death of Ahab the ungodly king of Israel, or to the mourning for a Syrian idol. But the mourning will not be confined to Jerusalem; the land (hâ'ârets), i.e., the whole nation, will also mourn. This universality of the lamentation is individualized in Zechariah 12:12-14, and so depicted as to show that all the families and households of the nation mourn, and not the men only, but also the women. To this end the prophet mentions four distinct leading and secondary families, and then adds in conclusion, "all the rest of the families, with their wives." Of the several families named, two can be determined with certainty, - namely, the family of the house of David, i.e., the posterity of king David, and the family of the house of Levi, i.e., the posterity of the patriarch Levi. But about the other two families there is a difference of opinion. The rabbinical writers suppose that Nathan is the well known prophet of that name, and the family of Shimei the tribe of Simeon, which is said, according to the rabbinical fiction, to have furnished teachers to the nation.
(Note: Jerome gives the Jewish view thus: "In David the regal tribe is included, i.e., Judah. In Nathan the prophetic order is described. Levi refers to the priests, from whom the priesthood sprang. In Simeon the teachers are included, as the companies of masters sprang from that tribe. He says nothing about the other tribes, as they had no special privilege of dignity.")
But the latter opinion is overthrown, apart from any other reason, by the fact that the patronymic of Simeon is not written שׁמעי, but שׁמעני, in Joshua 21:4; 1 Chronicles 27:16. Still less can the Benjamite Shimei, who cursed David (2 Samuel 16:5.), be intended. משׁפּחת השּׁמעי is the name given in Numbers 3:21 to the family of the son of Gershon and the grandson of Levi (Numbers 3:17.). This is the family intended here, and in harmony with this Nathan is not the prophet of that name, but the son of David, from whom Zerubbabel was descended (Luke 3:27, Luke 3:31). Luther adopted this explanation: "Four families," he says, "are enumerated, two from the royal line, under the names of David and Nathan, and two from the priestly line, as Levi and Shimei; after which he embraces all together." Of two tribes he mentions one leading family and one subordinate branch, to show that not only are all the families of Israel in general seized with the same grief, but all the separate branches of those families. Thus the word mishpâchâh is used here, as in many other cases, in the wider and more restricted meaning of the leading and the subordinate families.
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;
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.