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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-6

CRITICAL NOTES.] This verse completes the thought of Zechariah 11:10. God not only pours out the Spirit, but provides means of purification. “The verse exhibits the two grand doctrines of the gospel—justification and sanctification” [Henderson]. Unclean.] Alluding to water of separation or purification for sin (Numbers 19:9).

Zechariah 13:2. Idols] (ch. Zechariah 10:2, marg.) Prevalent form of ungodliness, cut off, i.e. utterly destroyed. Prophets] False prophets, perhaps under demoniacal influence. Spirit] of uncleanness, opposed to the Spirit of holiness (cf. Acts 16:16; 1 John 4:6; Revelation 16:13).

Zechariah 13:3.] The evil denounced will be abolished; the very parents of false prophets would be the first to inflict merited punishment (cf. Deuteronomy 13:6; Deuteronomy 13:10; Deuteronomy 18:20).

Zechariah 13:4. Prophets] themselves would be ashamed] of their calling; wear] the badge of a prophet—assumed to deceive] i.e. to lie by imposing upon the people.

Zechariah 13:5. Say] A dramatic representation of means by which he deceives. He is charged with wounding himself in idolatrous worship (1 Kings 18:28). He denies the charge; declares that they are chastisements which he formerly received in the house of his relatives or friends.

Zechariah 13:6.] By many the words are applied to Christ.



These words are connected with the preceding chapter. The outpouring of the Spirit will be followed by universal sorrow, and then by forgiveness and purification. Learn—

I. That sin is moral pollution. The evil is described by two words: sin, which is transgression of the law; uncleanness, which is impurity. Sin defiles the heart and conscience, makes unfit for the presence and service of God. What leprosy was to the body, sin is to the soul; the uncleanness of the one sets forth the impurity of the other (Psalms 51:9). Education, outward profession, and religious privilege do not exempt from this corruption. “The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” required to be washed. All have sinned and need deliverance: first from the guilt, and then from the pollution of sin. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”

II. That God has made provision to take away this moral pollution. “In that day there shall be a fountain opened.” The fountain comprehends forgiveness and sanctification. “The grace of Christ’s Spirit, as well as the virtue of Christ’s blood: whatever is necessary for both ends” (cf. 1 John 5:5-6).

1. A fountain denotes fulness. It is not a well, cistern, nor reservoir; but a fountain of inexhaustible fulness.

2. A fountain denotes sufficiency. It is ever full and ever flowing. Enough mercy in God, enough merit in Christ, to cleanse the vilest of the vile. The laver of old had to be replenished (Exodus 30:18); but God in Christ justifies from the guilt and cleanses from the pollution of sin. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

III. That this provision is always accessible to men. It is a fountain opened, not closed nor sealed up, as in Song of Solomon 4:12. The atonement is not a fountain hid and inaccessible. Men are not excluded on account of nationality and the greatness of their sin—the injustice of God’s demands or inability to comply with them.

1. Opened in eternity by the purpose of God. Before the disease came the remedy was provided. “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

2. Opened in every age for all nations of the earth. It was open from the time when it was first needed—from the time that sin came into the world. Ever since it has been opened to Jew and Gentile in every age. From the beginning to the end of the world it will ever be open, if our eyes are only opened to see it.


“That day” opens up a bright vision to the prophet in the darkness of his time. Looking 500 years into the future, he predicts an event at Jerusalem which displays the love of God and makes provision for the necessities of man. “There shall be a fountain,” &c. This is a figure of the source and method of salvation through Christ.

I. The purpose of Divine provision. “For sin and uncleanness.”

1. To expiate sin a necessity. This is the great problem of humanity—what all pilgrimages and penances have had in view. Christ’s death atoned for sin and accomplished what Jewish sacrifices typified.

2. Then pardon for sin is required. Grace destroys the power of sin and delivers from its dominion. “For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

II. The freeness of Divine provision. “A fountain opened.”

1. Opened freely by Jehovah. It is not dug by man. The Divine mind originates the scheme. Man wanders in the wilderness ready to perish, seeking water where there is none; but God opens a fountain to quench his burning thirst.

2. Opened freely to all. It is not sealed up, nor forbidden, but accessible to all, without money and without price. “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

III. The plenitude of Divine provision. In Christ is unlimited fulness of grace and truth. Millions have been refreshed, and still the waters flow on with undiminished volume. “Enough for all, and enough for evermore.” “The waters that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water,” &c.

IV. The perpetuity of Divine provision. “A fountain opened,” and always open. It never closes. Its store is never wasted nor exhausted. It is an ever-flowing, never-failing fountain to supply every demand. Not the deceitful brook nor summer stream which vanishes away; nor the broken cistern which holds no water. It is a perpetual spring, which makes the valley of Baca a well, the wilderness glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as a rose. This fountain is open now—open for you. Drink, and thirst no more [Adapted].

“There is a fountain filled with blood” [Cowper].


That grace which pardons sin will also sanctify the soul. The promise which says, “From all your filthiness,” declares also, “From all your idols will I cleanse you.” Sanctification and reformation go together.

I. The purification of Israel. Many seek to get rid of the guilt and consequences wthout desiring freedom from the stain of sin. Repentance however bitter, tears however numerous, do not repair the evils of a wicked life. We must be renewed by grace, and washed in this “fountain for sin and uncleanness.” Some of the vilest characters at Corinth were washed in a double sense. “Ye are sanctified, but ye are justified (two aspects of the same work) in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

II. The reformation of Israel. Idolatry and divination shall be utterly abolished. The very names shall be “cut off,” and unmentioned. False prophets and the spirit of uncleanness shall be completely destroyed. This is done—

1. By a spirit of judgment. They will discern between the true and the false, commend the one and avoid the other.

2. By a spirit of zeal. The nearest relations were to denounce those who seduced from God, and cast the first stone. Loyalty to God is needful now as ever. Love to God must be supreme, and nothing must compete with holiness and truth. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

3. By a spirit of shame. Pretenders will be ashamed, and strip off the outward dress of their calling. They will rid themselves of every suspicion by disowning the profession of a prophet, and when pressed by questions evade true answers. All to ensure safety. Self-inflicted torture, fastings, and wounds in the body will not avail to save the soul. Humiliation and hypocrisy in the devotees of religion are hateful to God, who demands “simplicity and godly sincerity.” Never do evil that good may come.


Many apply the words to the Messiah. It seems rather difficult, but very natural, so to apply them.

I. He was rejected by his countrymen. Christ was born a Jew, attended the Jewish synagogue, and lived and laboured among them. Yet “he came unto his own, and his own received him not.” He was rejected by the whole nation, who shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

II. He was forsaken by his disciples. He longed for human sympathy, and required human aid in his work. But the best friends are weak, fall short of duty, and desert their duty. His disciples fell asleep. One denied, and another sold him. All forsook him and fled away. “My friends have forsaken me,” cried a great statesman. “My friends, there are no friends,” uttered Socrates. Christ looked for pity in his chosen few, and there was none.

III. He is wounded now by his people. In the domestic and social circles friendship decays and creates grief. What hurts more than lack of confidence, especially after long acquaintance? Christ is wounded—

1. By the inconsistent conduct of his people. When their life does not accord with their profession they crucify him afresh, and put him to an open shame. They act the deed afresh, and inwardly approve of the treatment which he received (Hebrews 6:6).

2. By coldness and indifference. Treating things for which he died as of no moment. Disregarding his authority, and neglecting the means of grace which he established. Christ is pierced yet, and his sorest wounds are often in the house of his friends.


Zechariah 13:1.

1. The great spring. I will pour out.

2. The great agent. The Spirit of grace and supplication.

3. The effect. They look; they mourn; they see the fountain opened [McCheyne].

Zechariah 13:2-4. False prophets.

1. Putting on garments to deceive, to impose upon the people, and impress them with an idea of superior sanctity.
2. Uttering words which are false. The false was always prevalent among the Jews; is with us; and seeks to meet a craving of our nature. The Word of God is complete. Nothing more can be given by pretenders to Divine inspiration. “Beware of false prophets,” &c.
3. Zeal against false prophets may be great, but should always be in a legitimate method, and with prudence.
4. When false prophets are converted they are ashamed of their former deeds, and repudiate their calling.

Zechariah 13:3. Zeal for God against error and profanity. Zeal requiring parental sacrifice and punishment of those whom we love. Dearest friendships should not prevent the exposure of false teaching.

Zechariah 13:6. Wounded. There are four kinds of such wounds.

1. Those arising from their just reprehensions.
2. Those that result from their sufferings.
3. Those produced by our being bereaved of them.
4. Those inflicted by their improper conduct. Again; if the Lord Jesus be the sufferer, he is wounded in the house of his friends by their negligent conduct, by their selfishness, by their gloomy conduct, by their unholiness. His question is—Is this thy kindness to thy friend? [Jay].


Zechariah 13:1. Unclean. If we did not first take great pains to corrupt our nature, our nature would never corrupt us [Clarendon]. That must needs be deadly which could be healed by no other way but the death of Christ. Who, therefore, seriously considering that his sins could in no other way be expiated than by the death of the Son of God himself, would not tremble to tread as it were this most precious blood underfoot by daily sinning? [Bishop Davenport].

Zechariah 13:2-4. Idols. Idolatry has its origin in the human heart. Men love sin, and do not want to be reproved for it; therefore they form for themselves a god that will not reprove them [J. H. Evans].

“With what unutterable humility
We should bow down, thou blessed God, to thee,
Seeing our vanity and foolishness,
When to our own devices left, we frame
A shameful creed of craft and cruelty” [Landon].

Zechariah 13:4-5. Lies. All deception in the course of life is indeed nothing else but a lie reduced to practice, and falsehood passing from words into things [South]. It is too much proved that with devotion’s visage and pious action we do sugar over the devil himself [Shakspeare].

Verses 7-9


Zechariah 13:7.] A new turn, rather abruptly, to the Messiah, who is designated shepherd] and fellow] lit. the man of my union, i.e. not a neighbour, but conjoined, closely related. Man] Heb. mighty man, “by way of eminence” (Virum cohærentem mihi.—Vulg.) Sword] Figure of any means for taking human life (cf. Exodus 5:21; 2 Samuel 12:9; 2 Samuel 11:24). Wicked Jews intended (cf. Psalms 17:13), and regarded as asleep, therefore summoned to perform the deed. Turn] Interpose in favour of the little ones (Isaiah 1:25).

Zechariah 13:8.] Bringing back the hand explained. “The dispersion of the flock will deliver two-thirds of the nation in the whole land to death, so that only one-third will remain alive” [Keil].

Zechariah 13:9. Fire] Severe affliction, to refine and purify (cf. Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 9:6; Malachi 3:3). The result, mutual intercourse and confidence between God and his people. Everything is included under these phrases (cf. ch. Zechariah 8:8; Hosea 2:2-5; Jeremiah 24:7).



These words are a direct prophecy concerning the sufferings of the Saviour, and are appropriated by him to himself (cf. Matthew 26:31). We condense and arrange Wardlaw’s thoughts on the subject.

I. The viotim smitten. First, the official character. “My shepherd.” The designation presupposes a flock, and Jehovah’s flock. A shepherd and a flock are essential to each other. The shepherd here is one who fulfils a shepherd’s functions by the appointment of another. He had himself a proprietary right in the flock as well as he for whom he acted; but here he appears, as elsewhere, in the capacity of a servant. Jehovah many times represents his people—both the typical and the spiritual Israel—under the image of a flock. Here they are his flock, cared for by a deputed guardian and guide. Under the character of a shepherd Messiah is repeatedy predicted (Ezekiel 34:23; Isaiah 40:10-11). Then we have the personal aspect. “The man who is my fellow.” Various renderings have been given to the words: the man, my companion; my friend; my associate; my confidant; my equal; the man whom I have associated with myself; the man who is united to me. They convey the idea of communion, fellowship on equal terms, union, equality (cf. John 10:27-30; John 14:9). Since Jehovah himself declares this “man” to be his fellow, we shall not rob him of his own appropriate and exclusive glory by rendering homage to Christ according to his own representation.

II. The deadly stroke. The “sword” here invoked, under a bold figure, is the sword of Divine justice—of punitive, retributive righteousness (cf. Deuteronomy 32:40-41; Jeremiah 47:6-7; Ezekiel 21:1-5). It is addressed as slumbering, and summoned to “awake.” The language is prophetic, and looks forward “to the fulness of time” when the “man”—Jehovah’s fellow—was to appear. Manifestations of God’s justice had been seen, but from the entrance of sin into the world this sword might be said to have slept in its scabbard. Now the law must be vindicated, a nobler victim smitten; not sinners themselves, but their willing and Divine substitute. The smiting, then, includes all the sufferings—the substitutionary and atoning death of Jesus. Jehovah himself summoned the sword. “He bruised him.” “He put him to grief,” &c. Yet were all in the strictest sense voluntary. Jesus undertook the task with the full view of all it would cost. “Lo, I come,” &c.

III. The twofold result. First, “the sheep shall be scattered.” We are naturally led to see by the language of our Lord that the “scattering” from him of his adherents and friends—which formed a part, and to a spirit of sensibility like his not a trifling one, of his sufferings—was included in this prediction (cf. Matthew 26:31-56). The verse which follows relates to the dispersion of the mass of unbelieving Jews—an act of judicial vengeance for their unbelief and rebellion. The second result is, “I will turn (or turn back) my hand upon the little ones.” “The little ones” here describes tender affection (cf. Matthew 18:6; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 18:14). Jesus appeared to his disciples, and accosted them as “children” and “little children.” The language is that of love and kindness, not, as some think, that of threatening and judicial severity. The hand is that of God; the “little ones,” children of God in Jesus Christ; and it is “turned,” or turned back, “upon them” for gracious care and protection. The hand of avenging justice had smitten the victim and was fully satisfied, but these “little ones” were set free. They may be scattered for a time, but not lost. He will “turn his hand” to gather, bless, shield, and save them. The fulness of blessing rests in Jehovah’s favour.


These words predict the destruction of two-thirds of the inhabitants of Judea, by famine, pestilence, and wars; but the remaining third part, after severe testing and affliction, will come out of the furnace a spiritual and purified people, enter into a new relationship with God, and enjoy all the blessings of his covenant. The former part has been fulfilled; the latter part is carried on now, and will terminate in the conversion of the Jews to God.

I. Some are destroyed. There will be a frightful sweep of judgments, and “two parts therein shall be cut off, and die.” In the visible Church there is a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound. When God tests the Church by affliction, many are proved unworthy; receive not the correction, but harden themselves, and perish in their sin.

II. Others are preserved. “The third part shall be left therein.” They will pass through the fire, and be refined as silver and gold by the process. The process is slow, but the issue certain, even with the Jews. How is it in our afflictions? All will have to pass through the fire. The reprobate metal will be cast away, the genuine gold will be refined and ennobled. “Afflictions sent by Providence melt the constancy of the noble-minded, but confirm the obduracy of the vile. The same furnace that hardens the clay liquefies gold; and in the strong manifestations of Divine power Pharaoh found his punishment, but David his pardon” [Colton].

“’Tis a physic that is bitter to sweet end” [Shakspeare].


The purifying effect of trial will be earnest calling upon God, and reciprocal intercourse with him. “The door of the furnace leads to the closet,” says one. Christians pray best when they have endured trials. We adapt this Outline—

I. The exercise. “They shall call.”

1. How simple is true prayer! A “call,” not in pompous tones nor lengthy words. “The simplest form of speech that infant lips can try.”

2. How earnest is true prayer! A call, an intense feeling for God, a crying out for his help.

3. How constant is true prayer! “They shall call.” A constant practice with them.

4. How sure the ground of true prayer! “On my name.” Not a venture, not an uncertain cry for pity, but a personal, believing application to God who answers.

II. The mutual joy. First, God says, “It is my people,”—chosen to stand in special and loving relation to him. He spares them in trial, and fits them for their high destiny. He turns to them in covenant grace, and with renewed and complacent delight “lifts upon them anew the light of his countenance.” Second, they renounce their unbelief, and cling to him. Weaned from idolatry by affliction, they declare in gratitude and humility, “Jehovah is my God.” They not only worship him above other gods, but own him as their portion. His favour to them is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. His gifts are precious, but he himself exceeds them all. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”


Zechariah 13:7. The little ones. How amazing is this promise of God, when we contemplate this hand in its omnipotence, and think at the same time on our own utter insignificance, our deep unworthiness, our woeful weakness! We count it much to stoop one day in the year to be little with little ones. God stoops anew from time to time to bless the most humble with special favour. Christ preached the gospel to the poor; chose his first subjects from fishermen and publicans. Animating truth! Almost before we are aware of our lost and low condition the outstretched hand presents itself, a token and pledge of communion, strength, and guidance. What evidence more clear that he has no thoughts of anger towards us? In the aid which our fellow-men render there is alternately much hardness and much weakness, so much unwillingness and distrust, that it is often better to be forsaken than surrounded by men. But God’s tender hand brings balm to the most painful wound wrought by men’s hands, and our littleness or weakness, if possible, brings us yet more within his beneficent reach. May this, so rich a fountain of consolation, ever be to us a sanctifying thought! We must stoop low ere we can taste the consoling truth. Humility is the foundation of all spiritual blessings; nay, God himself can build upon no other. Direct yourselves constantly to this promise. Though he may turn his hand upon the little ones, it is not, as some think, that they may always remain weak and little, but grow in the knowledge and grace of Christ. Show, then, that his hand is not stretched out to you in vain, and in turn be followers of God by your care over the little ones that surround you [J. Van Oosterzee].

Zechariah 13:8-9. Learn—

1. In the times of severest judgments upon the visible Church, God may have a few preserved. “The third part shall be left.”
2. Although these few may be preserved, they will not be entirely free from trial. They must be tested and exercised in the fire. “I will bring the third part through the fire.”
3. The design of this trial is to purify them from dross, and make them shine the brighter in God’s service. “I will refine them as silver,” &c. “Fiery trials make golden Christians.”

To them a God. I will be that wherein they shall be satisfied; I will be all things that men righteously desire: life and health, and food and abundance, glory and honour and peace and all things [Augustine]. The promise is oftentimes renewed through the prophets, oftentimes fulfilled in Christ, whenever the Church is recalled from listlessness by fiery trials, and through them her children are restored to deeper devotedness and closer union with God [Pusey].


Zechariah 13:7. Little ones. Louis IX., king of France, was found instructing a poor kitchen-boy; and being asked why he did so, replied, “The meanest person hath a soul as precious as my own, and bought with the same blood of Christ” [Arvine].

Zechariah 13:8-9. Fire. I remember some years ago I went into a glass-house; and, standing very attentive, I saw several masses of burning glass, of various forms. The workman took a piece of glass, and put it into one furnace, then he put it into a second, and then into a third. I said to him, “Why do you put this through so many fires?” He answered, “0, sir, the first was not hot enough, nor the second, and therefore we put it into a third, and that will make it transparent.” Thus we must be tried and exercised with many fires, until our dross be purged away, and we are made fit for the Master’s use [Whitfield].

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/zechariah-13.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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