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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Zechariah 12

B. The burden concerning Israel: the advent and acceptance of Messiah chs. 12-14

This last section of the book contrasts initial judgments on Israel with ultimate deliverance, restoration, and blessing.

"As a portion of the prophetic Scriptures it is second to none in importance in this book or in any other Old Testament book. It is indispensable to an understanding of the events of the last days for Israel-the time of the Great Tribulation and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 218.]

The repetition of "in that day" and its equivalent 19 times in these three chapters sets these events quite clearly in the eschaton (end times).

"This prophetic time indicator is equivalent to ’the day of the Lord’ and denotes precisely that future period when the Lord will openly and publicly manifest His power in delivering Israel from her enemies and establishing her in millennial peace and prosperity." [Note: Unger, p. 210.]

Two main events are in view in this oracle: the final siege of Jerusalem and the return of Messiah to the earth to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom. The nations of the earth play a major role in what these chapters predict. These events follow in time Israel’s acceptance of the evil shepherd predicted in Zechariah 11:15-17.

"The major difference between the two oracles (chap. 11 excepted) is that 12-14 expands greatly on the themes of 9-10 and introduces a cosmic, universalistic motif that is not as clearly perceived in the latter. Moreover, 12-14 focuses on the messianic aspect of the eschatological redemption, going so far as to identify YHWH Himself as the messianic figure (Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 13:7-9)." [Note: Merrill, p. 310.]

1. The repentance of Judah ch. 12

This chapter consists of two parts: Israel’s deliverance (Zechariah 12:1-9) and Israel’s national conversion (Zechariah 12:10-14). These events will happen sequentially and very close together.

Verse 1

"The burden . . . concerning Israel" introduces chapters 12-14 as "The burden . . . against the land of Hadrach" (Zechariah 9:1) did chapters 9-11. By describing Yahweh as the creator of the heavens, earth, and man, Zechariah reminded his audience of God’s authority and ability to accomplish what He predicted in this three-chapter oracle. He is the master over all things celestial, terrestrial, and human.

"Here at the brink of a new age it is important to know that the same God who brought everything into existence in the first place is well able to usher in the new creation of a restored people in a renewed and universal kingdom." [Note: Ibid., p. 312.]

Verses 1-9

Israel’s deliverance 12:1-9

Verse 2

The Lord would make Jerusalem like a cup of strong wine to the nations; when they tried to consume Jerusalem (a metonymy for all Israel), it would cause them to reel. Jerusalem had previously drunk the cup of the Lord’s wrath (Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15-17; Jeremiah 25:28), but now it was the nations’ turn to drink it. Their siege of Jerusalem would extend to all the surrounding territory of Judah. The time in view is after the Lord regathered the Israelites to their land (ch. 10).

Verse 3

Jerusalem would also be like a heavy stone "in that day" when the nations tried to carry it away; they would injure themselves when they tried to do so. In that day all the nations of the earth would gather together against Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 14:2; Joel 3:9-16; Revelation 16:16-21).

". . . even if all the peoples of the earth should attempt to conquer Jerusalem, they will turn away, bloodied by their futile efforts." [Note: McComiskey, p. 1210.]

Verse 4

The Lord would cause the weapons that Israel’s enemies used to destroy the city to be ineffective, and He would make the hostile soldiers crazy (cf. Deuteronomy 28:28; Judges 5:22). In this way He would watch over the house of Judah (the Israelites; cf. Psalms 32:8; Psalms 33:18).

Verse 5

The leaders of Israel’s groups outside Jerusalem would realize that Yahweh Almighty, their God, was making the people of Jerusalem strong supporters of them.

Verse 6

In that day the Lord would not only preserve His people from the attacks of their enemies, but He would also make them effective as they aggressively attacked them (cf. Judges 15:3-5; Esther 9:1-28).

Verse 7

Yahweh would defend the outlying areas of Judah first so the people from David’s line and the residents of Jerusalem would not conclude that they were more important in God’s sight (cf. Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:29; 1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 12:22-26; 2 Corinthians 10:17). All the Jews would see that it was the Lord who was responsible for their deliverance. This would evidently end their fighting among themselves (cf. Zechariah 11:6).

Verse 8

As part of His defense of them, the Lord would strengthen the feeble among the people so they would be as strong as David, the mighty warrior. The Davidic rulers would also receive supernatural strength and would be like God, as the angel of the Lord who would go before them (cf. Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2; Exodus 33:14-15; Exodus 33:22; 1 Samuel 29:9; 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 14:20; 2 Samuel 19:27).

Verse 9

In that day the Lord would set about destroying all Israel’s enemies, and He will be successful.

". . . we place the entire passage in the time of the Great Tribulation and more specifically in the Battle of Armageddon, when the nations of the earth will make their last frantic effort to blot Israel out of existence, only to be met by the most crushing defeat at the hands of the Lord of hosts Himself." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 228.]

An amillennial explanation of the passage follows.

". . . it covers all time from that in which the prophet spoke to the end of days. What is said concerning Judah applies to the people of God of all times. The claims made for Jerusalem’s future find their ultimate fulfillment in the true Zion of God-His church; in fact, they can be applied to Jerusalem only insofar as she for a time harbored the church of God. The whole passage speaks of God’s sovereign care and protection of the church of the Old and the New Testaments through the ages and more particularly of the church’s victory rather than the victory of Judah after the flesh." [Note: Leupold, p. 234.]

Verse 10

The Lord also promised to pour out on the Davidic rulers and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, representing all the Israelites, a spirit of remorse. Grace would be the motive for this outpouring, and supplication to God (for what the Jews had done to their Messiah) would be the result. This God-given conviction would cause them to mourn when they looked (in faith) to Him (better than on Him) whom they had formerly pierced (i.e., slain; cf. Numbers 21:9; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 53:5; John 3:14-15; John 19:34).

"It is not so much a mourning for the act committed, but for the Person involved. Compare John 19:37; Revelation 1:7." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 231.]

"The idea is that they will humble themselves and recognize that they were saved by another whom they pierced." [Note: Smith, p. 277.]

They would mourn as one mourns over the death of one’s only (beloved, cf. Genesis 22:2; Jeremiah 6:26; Amos 8:10) son or his or her firstborn son.

"It is a picture of penitence as vivid and accurate as any found anywhere in the Scriptures." [Note: Chambers, p. 94, in Lange’s commentary.]

The Jews will do this either just before the Messiah returns to the earth or when He returns to the earth (cf. Isaiah 27:9; Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31-37; Amos 9:11-15; Romans 11:25-27; Revelation 1:7). The spirit in view will be a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit who conveys grace (compassion; cf. Hebrews 10:29) and calls forth supplication (prayer; cf. Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 59:20-21; Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29). The coming of the messianic kingdom is contingent on Israel’s repentance, God’s sovereign control, and the Spirit’s enabling grace. [Note: See Stanley D. Toussaint and Jay A. Quine, "No, Not Yet: The Contingency of God’s Promised Kingdom," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):131-47.]

The unusual combination "they will look to Me whom they have pierced" and "they will mourn for Him" suggests two different individuals, but the deity of the Messiah solves this problem. Yahweh Himself would suffer for the people in the person of Messiah. The suffering could be figurative (they wounded His holiness) or substitutionary (He died in place of others). Other references to this text point to a substitute suffering (e.g., John 19:37; Revelation 1:7; cf. Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:8).

". . . like Thomas their excruciating and inexpressibly penetrating cry of deepest contrition will be, ’My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28)." [Note: Unger, p. 217.]

Verses 10-14

Israel’s national conversion 12:10-14

The focus now changes from physical to spiritual deliverance (cf. Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

Verse 11

In that day there would be great mourning in Jerusalem and undoubtedly elsewhere throughout Israel. Zechariah compared this mourning to the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo, an event that scholars have had trouble identifying. Hadadrimmon is a compound of two Amorite or Canaanite divine names, Hadad being the storm god and Rimmon the thunder god. [Note: Merrill, p. 323.] Hadadrimmon may have been an important though presently unknown individual, a place near Megiddo (cf. Zechariah 14:10; Joshua 15:32; Joshua 19:7), [Note: Barker, p. 684; Merrill, p. 324; Unger, p. 219; Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 232; Leupold, p. 240; McComiskey, p. 1215.] or a pagan deity (cf. 2 Kings 5:18). [Note: K. N. Schoville, Biblical Archaeology in Focus, p. 444.] The devotees of the Canaanite god Baal mourned his "dying" each winter and then celebrated his "resurrection" each spring. Probably the place where King Josiah died and or where the people mourned his premature death near there, as late as the writing of Chronicles, is in view (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:20-27). [Note: Feinberg, "Zechariah," p. 909.]

Verses 12-14

All the Israelites would mourn; this would be a national repentance. The repeated phrases "every family by itself" and "their wives by themselves" solemnize the mourning and underline its genuineness.

"The wives are spoken of as mourning apart because in public lamentations the custom prevailed of separating into groups, also according to sex." [Note: Leupold, p. 241.]

"The closest relationship is as nothing in [the] presence of sin and God as its judge. Each must be alone." [Note: Kelly, p. 486.]

This would not be a national media event staged by the leaders of Israel to make a show, but individuals everywhere throughout the nation would sincerely voice their remorse.

"Individually and corporately, this is the experience of Leviticus 16 (the Day of Atonement) and Psalms 51 (a penitential psalm) on a national scale. . . . Isaiah 53:1-9 could well be their confession on the great occasion." [Note: Barker, p. 685.]

The houses of David and his son Nathan represent the political branches of the nation, though not just the kings, as reference to Solomon might have suggested (cf. 2 Samuel 5:14). Feinberg believed that this Nathan was the prophet of David’s day, so he represents the prophets in Israel who will repent. [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 233. See pp. 233-35 for a history of the interpretation of this passage.] This is a minority view. The houses of Levi and his grandson Shimei represent the religious branches of Israel, though not just the main ones that reference to Gershon, Shimei’s father, might have suggested (cf. Numbers 3:17-18; Numbers 3:21). Perhaps the political and priestly families received mention because they were those chiefly responsible for Messiah’s death. When these leading families mourned, all the other citizens would follow their example. The families of Nathan and Shimei may have been the most prominent families of their kind in Zechariah’s day. Zerubbabel came from Nathan’s line (Luke 3:23-31), and the Shimeites presumably dominated the Levitical classes in the postexilic era. [Note: Merrill, p. 325.]

"Nothing can excite to repentance like a view of the crucified Saviour." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p. 233.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/zechariah-12.html. 2012.