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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Zechariah 12:0


The Coming Great Day of the Lord(Zechariah 12:1-21)
The Coming Deliverance of JudahJerusalem Shall Lament Its Sin and Be Purged of Idolatry(Zechariah 12:1-6)The Future Deliverance of Jerusalem(Zechariah 12:1-6)The Deliverance and Restoration of Jerusalem(Zechariah 12:1-6)
Zechariah 12:1-9Zechariah 12:1-5Zechariah 12:1-5Zechariah 12:1
Zechariah 12:2
Zechariah 12:3-8
Zechariah 12:6Zechariah 12:6
Zechariah 12:7-9Zechariah 12:7-9
Mourning For the Pierced One Zechariah 12:9-14
Zechariah 12:10-14Zechariah 12:10-14Zechariah 12:10-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. There is a parallel relationship between Zechariah, chapters 9-11 and 12-14, which can be seen in the use of “burden,” Zechariah 12:1 and 12:1 (see Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, p. 187 and H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, p. 223). Chapters 12-14 form a literary unit.

B. The emphasis of this chapter is on the restoration of God's people.

1. God fighting for them as symbolized in Jerusalem under siege by the nations.

2. Their repentance and faith in the crucified Messiah (cf. John 19:37 and Revelation 1:7).

3. The phrase “in that day” or “on that day” occurs sixteen times in Zechariah 12-14. This phrase is often linked to an eschatological setting.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 12:1-5 1The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him, 2”Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. 3It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. 4In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.'“

Zechariah 12:1 “The burden of the word” It seems that Zechariah 12:1 and 12:1 introduce a parallel section in this closing section of the book of Zechariah. See note on “burden” at Zechariah 9:1.

“concerning Israel” This is the only use of “Israel” in this chapter and it seems to refer to all of the Jewish people, not just the northern tribes (cf. Zechariah 9:1, Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 11:14). During this period the Jewish people only controlled a small area around Jerusalem.

“the LORD who” There are three major theological statements about YHWH's creative activity: (1) He “stretches out the heavens”; (2) He “lays the foundation of the earth”; and (3) He “forms the spirit of man within him.” All of these verbal forms are Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLES, which emphasize ongoing creation.

“stretches out the heavens” This means to “put up a tent” (BDB 639, KB 692, Qal PARTICIPLE, e.g., Genesis 33:19; Exodus 12:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13). This refers to the atmosphere above the earth. It was idiomatically spoken of as an inverted bowl of stretched skin.

“lays the foundation of the earth” This refers to creation (cf. Job 38:4-6; Psalms 102:25-26 [Hebrews 1:10-12]; Psalms 104:5; Isaiah 48:13; Isaiah 51:13, Isaiah 51:16). It may be an allusion to Isaiah 42:5. In Isa. 12-14 this term (BDB 75-76) is used in several ways.

1. all the earth, Zechariah 12:1, Zechariah 12:3; Zechariah 14:9, Zechariah 14:17

2. inhabitants of a region, Zechariah 12:12; Zechariah 13:8

3. a region, Zechariah 13:2; Zechariah 14:10

“forms the spirit of man within him” The Hebrew term “spirit” (BDB 924-926) can mean “breath,” “wind,” or “spirit” (see Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible). In Genesis 2:7 God's breath turned a clay-formed man into a living being (nephesh). The “wind” of God (cf. Genesis 8:1, re-creation after the flood) and the “Spirit” of God (cf. Genesis 1:2, initial creation) are active forces of YHWH Elohim in Genesis. The unseen God is active initially and continually in creation. The physical material aspect of creation is only part of the wonder and scope of God's creative activities.

God created/creates (first three PARTICIPLES are Qal ACTIVE) for the purpose of fellowship with mankind. We are partially like the animals of this planet (nephesh) and also partially like God (“image or likeness,” cf. Genesis 1:26). The “spirit” of man means the unique person (cf. Psalms 139:0) with the potential of rebellion or fellowship.

Zechariah 12:2 “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup” It must be seen that this phrase is in the Hebrew parallel relationship with “Jerusalem a heavy stone” from Zechariah 12:3. This phrase means that the unbelieving nations who come against God's people are going to be made drunk and foolish (cf. Jeremiah 51:7) because of their attacking Jerusalem. The idiom of “cup” (several different words) in the Bible usually refers to judgment (cf. Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15-16, Jeremiah 25:27-28; Jeremiah 49:12; Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39, Matthew 26:42; Luke 22:42; John 18:11).

“to all the peoples around” This refers to the nations which have attacked God's people (cf. Zechariah 12:3; Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:17, Jeremiah 25:28).

NASB“and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah” NKJV“when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” NRSV“it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem” TEV“And when they besiege Jerusalem, the cities of the rest of Judah will also be besieged” NJB“(That will be at the time of the siege of Jerusalem)”

This is a very ambiguous phrase because of the brevity of the Hebrew. There is no consistency in how the ancient versions translate it.

Because of Zechariah 14:14 some Jewish interpreters see this as Judah being forced to fight against Jerusalem by the invading enemy army (cf. UBS, Handbook, p. 311).

Zechariah 12:3 “all who lift it will be severely injured” This seems to be used of a stone which the nations attempted to lift off of its foundation, but all were herniated by the attempt.

This cognate VERB and NOUN (BDB 976, KB 1355, Niphil IMPERFECT) mean “to scratch” or “cut.” The pagan nations practiced ritual cutting (cf. Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5), but Israel was forbidden to do this. Now the eschatological judgment on these attacking pagan nations will be “cutting” or “scratching” (irony).

“and all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it” It is a continuing emphasis throughout prophetic literature that the kingdoms of this world will attack God and His people in a future, end-time, climactic battle (cf. Zechariah 12:3; Psalms 2:0; Isaiah 8:9-10; Isaiah 17:12-14; Ezekiel 38-39; Daniel 9:24-27; Daniel 11:36-45; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:2; Revelation 16:14-16; Revelation 19:17-19). History is moving toward a climactic moment of confrontation with evil. Evil will lose and be isolated.

Zechariah 12:4 “in that day” This is a common theme in the literary unit of Zechariah 12-14. It is used sixteen times and refers to an eschatological future (cf. Zephaniah 1:14-18; Zephaniah 3:16; Amos 5:18-20; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:11; Joel 3:14; Malachi 4:5). See Special Topic: That Day.

“I will strike every horse with bewilderment, and his rider with madness” This is related to the curse of Deuteronomy 28:28 (both BDB 1067, “bewilderment” and BDB 993, “madness”); also “blindness” (BDB 234) is used in Deuteronomy 28:0 and 29. The history of God's OT people can be viewed through the cursing and blessing section of Deuteronomy 27-29.

NASB“I will watch over the house of Judah” NKJV“I will open My eyes on the house of Judah” NRSV“But on the house of Judah I will keep a watchful eye” TEV“I will watch over the people of Judah” NJB“(But I shall keep watch over Judah)”

The NKJV is the most literal. This is a Hebrew idiom for care and attentiveness (cf. 1 Kings 8:29; 2 Chronicles 7:15; Nehemiah 1:6). The question remains if this phrase intends to show that Judah had been forced to join in the attack against Jerusalem and if so that God spared the Judean soldiers when all the rest of the invading army was struck mad.

In the Ancient Near East, cavalry and chariots were the most powerful and feared military weapon, but YHWH will overpower them (cf. Zechariah 10:5; Zechariah 12:4; Zechariah 14:15; Haggai 2:22), and remove them, even those of Ephraim and Judah, Zechariah 9:10. He is the victor!

This intervention by God on behalf of His people is reminiscent of His action during (1) the Exodus; (2) conquest and settlement of Canaan; and (3) the fall of Mesopotamian capitals.

Zechariah 12:5 “A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through. . .their God” This phrase is understood in several ways.

1. there was a tension between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the rest of Judah (cf. Zechariah 12:7 and New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 1, p. 440)

2. Judah was forced to participate in the besieging of Jerusalem (cf. Zechariah 12:2c; 4b), but took courage to rebel when they saw the faith of Jerusalem's defenders (UBS, Handbook)

3. Judah's leaders recognized YHWH's help by His defense of Jerusalem

“the LORD of hosts” This is a common post-exilic title (YHWH Sabaoth), which emphasizes God as military warrior. It seems to see God as the captain of the military army. Zechariah 12:5 also recognizes the intervention of the supernatural God, which must be linked to Zechariah 12:7 and 8. See Special Topic: Lord of Hosts.

Verses 6-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 12:6-9 6”In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem. 7The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah. 8In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”

Zechariah 12:6 “In that day” See note at Zechariah 12:4.

As Zechariah 12:5 affirms God's help to Jerusalem, Zechariah 12:6 affirms God's help to the “clans of Judah” (BDB 49 II, lit. “thousands,” but used of leaders, cf. Zechariah 9:7).

God will make the clans rebel and become a destroying flame against the invading army of the nations. They became God's destroyers amidst the enemy's army.

There is a constant tension between “the nations” as enemies (cf. Zechariah 12:9) and welcomed converts (cf. Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 8:20-23) throughout the book of Zechariah.


Zechariah 12:7 “The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first” The VERB (BDB 446) is a Hiphil PERFECT. There are two ways to understand this phrase.

1. God allows the Judean forces to defeat the invaders so that Jerusalem will not be overly exalted.

2. God saves the tents of Judah first because they are more vulnerable to attack. In this way He shows that He has no favoritism between those who live in Jerusalem and those who live in the countryside.

The word “tents” (BDB 13) is being interpreted in two senses: (1) a military camp or (2) a metaphor for homes.

Zechariah 12:8 “the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem” This means “cover as with a shield” (BDB 170, KB 199, Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Zech. 4:14-15; Zechariah 9:15).

“and the one who is feeble among them” The literal meaning is “stumble” (BDB 505, KB 502, Niphal PARTICIPLE). This refers to the oldest and weakest of the community who will be made as strong as King David, who was noted as a formidable warrior.

“the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them” This is a striking metaphor used in the sense of God's empowering of His people. The term for God is the term Elohim, which is used in the sense of supernatural beings (cf. Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1; 1 Samuel 28:13; Psalms 8:5; Psalms 82:1, Psalms 82:6).

The angel of the LORD is often seen as God's representative among the people (cf. Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19; Exodus 23:20-21; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2, Exodus 33:14-15, Exodus 33:22). See Special Topic: The Angel of the Lord. In two passages David is likened to the angel of the Lord (cf. 1 Samuel 29:9; 2 Samuel 14:17, 2 Samuel 14:20; 2 Samuel 19:27). Remember there are three phrases (no VERBS) here which build on each other for literary, not theological, effect.

Zechariah 12:9 This shows the continuing metaphor of God's sovereign protection of His people. These invading nations were defeated by Judean forces, but through YHWH's empowerment!

Verses 10-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 12:10-14 10”I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; 14all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.

Zechariah 12:10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication” The phrase “I will pour out” (BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal PERFECT) is used quite often in the OT to denote God giving the Spirit (cf. Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28, Joel 2:29, a different word but same concept in Isa. 12:15; Isaiah 44:3). The terms “grace” (BDB 336, cf. Zechariah 4:7) and “supplication” (BDB 337, cf. Jeremiah 31:9) are from the same root. This is a strong verse which emphasizes the national conversion of Israel to faith in God's crucified (“pierced”) Messiah (cf. Romans 11:25-27; John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). The physical deliverance of Zechariah 12:2-9 are not complete without the spiritual deliverance of Zechariah 12:10!

The phrase “a spirit of” (NRSV, NJB) or “the Spirit” (NASB, NKJV) has no ARTICLE in the Hebrew text. This is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, but the human spirit:

1. positive attributes

a. Deuteronomy 34:9, “filled with the spirit of wisdom”

b. Isaiah 28:6, “a spirit of justice”

2. negative attributes

a. Numbers 5:14, Numbers 5:30, “a spirit of jealousy”

b. Isaiah 19:4, “a spirit of distortion”

c. Isaiah 29:10, “a spirit of deep sleep”

d. Hosea 4:12, “a spirit of harlotry”

These physically delivered Jewish people will be empowered by God to see and understand their spiritual need and God's redemptive plan.

Other prophetic texts where “the Spirit” is poured out are Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29 and also the classic text of Joel 2:28. It is God who energizes and motivates the fallen human spirit to appropriate and righteous attitudes and actions.

“so that they will look on Me” The VERB (BDB 613, KB 661) is a Hiphil PERFECT. The Hebrew PREPOSITION translated “on” (BDB 39) in this verse should really be translated as “to” or “unto” (see New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 3, p. 9 and The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 683). It speaks of looking to this one for help or grace (cf. Numbers 21:9; Isaiah 45:22 for this usage of the PREPOSITION).

“whom they have pierced” This VERB (BDB 201, KB 230, Qal PERFECT) means “to pierce through” (“kill,” cf. Numbers 25:8; Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 31:4; 1 Chronicles 10:4). This is a different word from the one in Isaiah 53:0, but the theological concept is exactly the same (cf. John 19:37; Revelation 1:7).

“they will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son” The VERB (BDB 704, KB 763) is another Qal PERFECT. This seems to imply their repentance and faith (“look to”) in the one whom they had pierced (cf. Isaiah 53:5). The mourning (lit. “wailing” or “lamenting” BDB 704, cf. Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 12:11, Zechariah 12:12) will be intense like that over an only son (cf. Jeremiah 6:26), who in a Jewish home was an especially important person.

Zechariah 12:10 has been extremely difficult for the rabbis to interpret.

1. Therefore, they developed from this verse the concept of two Messiahs; one of the son of David and one of the son of Joseph, who was going to die (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah, 52a). This same theory also appears among the Essenes of the Dead Sea community.

2. The modern translators of the Jewish Publication Society of America turn this verse into a lament by Israel to God to spare the remnant of the invading nations, but admits in the footnote that the Hebrew is uncertain.

“they will weep bitterly” The term (BDB 600, KB 638, Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE), which is used twice, means a bitter outcry (cf. Isaiah 22:4).

Zechariah 12:11 “In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo” There have been many theories to try to describe what is referred to here:

1. the RSV and NRSV translate this as referring to a person

2. the KJV and NKJV, following Jerome, interpret this to refer to a city located four miles from Megiddo (the site of the end-time battle, cf. Zechariah 12:2-9)

3. recent scholars believe that this refers to a Canaanite deity, Ba'al, mentioned in 2 Kings 5:18. This word, “Hadadrimmon” is made up of two proper names (one Syrian and one Assyrian) which are used in the OT for ancient deities

4. the term is ambiguous

It is possible that it refers to the mourning over Josiah's death at this geographical location (609 B.C., cf. 2 Kings 23:29ff; 2 Chronicles 35:20ff). The exact allusion is uncertain, but great mourning occurred over something and this is simply the illustration used to back up the emphasis of Zechariah 12:10.

Zechariah 12:12 “And the land will mourn” This could mean several things.

1. the term land stands for the inhabitants of the land, as in Zechariah 12:2 and 13:8

2. the land is affected by human actions (e.g., Genesis 3:17-19; Deut. 27-29; Romans 8:19-25)

“every family by itself” This is a continuing emphasis on the gravity and extent of the mourning. The royal family is mentioned, David and his son Nathan (cf. 2 Samuel 5:14; 1 Chronicles 3:5; 1 Chronicles 14:4; Luke 3:31; this is the line of David [i.e., Judah]). Levi and his son (Shimeites) are mentioned in Numbers 3:18; 1 Chronicles 6:17. The royal family and the priestly family (Shimeites were Levites, cf. Exodus 6:16-17; Numbers 3:12-18, Numbers 3:21) are uniquely involved in this mourning as representatives of the entire people. It is also possible to note that Zechariah combined the royal and priestly roles (cf. Zechariah 3:0 & 4, as well as Zechariah 6:9-15).

The Mishnah teaches that these verses prove that men and women should mourn and worship separately (cf. Sukkoth 51b, 52a).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is the continuing allusion in the prophets to the people of God's battle with the surrounding nations a continuing event, a contemporary event of the prophet, or a future event? Why?

2. Why and how did the rabbis develop the theory of two Messiahs?

3. List the prophecies in this chapter which were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.

4. Will national Israel repent and turn to the Messiah one day? (Give references)

5. What is your interpretation of Zechariah 12:11 and why?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/zechariah-12.html. 2021.
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