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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 13

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-3

1. In that day When the mourning described in Zechariah 12:10-14, will be held.

Shall be a fountain opened Zechariah 12:10, ascribes the penitential mourning to the influence of a divinely sent spirit, which creates repentance for sin and leads the people to make penitential supplication; but Jehovah will provide also the means of purification. The figure is adopted in part from the “water of expiation” (Numbers 8:7), and in part from the “water of impurity” (Numbers 19:9; compare Ezekiel 36:25; Psalms 51:9). The water is only the symbol, the power that will remove the sin is divine.

To the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem See on Zechariah 12:10. High and low will be benefited by the provision.

Sin… uncleanness It is doubtful that the prophet means to distinguish here between inward sin and outward uncleanness which results from the former. The two terms are practically identical in meaning. Every kind of sin and uncleanness will be washed away. 2.

The names of the idols See on Hosea 2:17. Idolatry will be blotted out so completely that even the names of the idols will be forgotten.

The prophets Since they are to be removed, the author evidently thinks that in the new era they will prove a hindrance. Since the prophet played a very prominent part throughout the entire religious history of Israel, many hesitate to believe that this passage means to announce a complete cessation of all prophetic activity, and they see here only a condemnation of the so-called false prophets (see on Micah 3:7); for this view they find support in the fact that the prophets are mentioned here in close connection with idols and with the unclean spirit. But this fact by no means proves the point; at the most it proves that all prophecy deserves to be abolished like idols. The entire context makes it exceedingly probable that the prophet means to announce the removal of the entire prophetic order. This announcement might be made for one or the other of two reasons, either the entire prophetic order was expected to become so corrupt that it would need to be cut off, or the people as a whole were expected to reach such a perfect knowledge of Jehovah that the prophetic order would be no longer needed. That the author has in mind the prophetic order, and not individuals who might possess a prophetic experience, is clear from Zechariah 13:4-5. There is no reason to suppose that as long as prophecy existed the entire prophetic order became corrupt or was expected to become corrupt; at any rate, the utterances of the author of this section prove that in his days there were still men with sublime spiritual visions. On the other hand, Joel 2:28-30 (compare Jeremiah 31:34), expresses the expectation that in the Messianic age all flesh would have prophetic experiences, so that there would be no need of a distinct prophetic order. This hope of Joel, far from contradicting the teaching of this passage, interprets it. When all the people are blessed with prophetic visions there will be no need of a prophetic order, hence it will be removed.

Unclean spirit Literally, the spirit of uncleanness; that is, the spirit, or invisible inner power, which leads to unclean actions (see on Joel 2:28; compare 1 Kings 22:22).

With Zechariah 13:3 may be compared Deuteronomy 18:20, where the death sentence is pronounced upon the prophet who claims to speak in the name of Jehovah when in reality he utters his own words.

Father… mother In that age the obligations to Jehovah will be more sacred than those arising from the most intimate blood relationship.

Speakest lies… prophesieth If in that age anyone claims special prophetic gifts, that claim itself proves him to be a liar and impostor, and so worthy of death.

Thrust him through Bring to a violent death (compare Zechariah 12:10).

Verses 1-6


The penitential mourning and supplication will not be in vain. Jehovah will be merciful, remove all sin, and bring about a complete moral transformation in the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Intimate fellowship with Jehovah will be restored, and everything that in any way might hinder direct communion will be swept away.

Verses 1-9


The heading (Zechariah 12:1) names the subject of these utterances, Israel, a term used here not in a national but in a religious sense of the people of Jehovah. The prophecies center around Jerusalem and Judah, the home of the postexilic Jewish community. The section falls naturally into two parts, Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6, and Zechariah 14:1-21; Zechariah 13:7-9, has no close connection either with Zechariah 13:1-6, or with chapter 14 (see on Zechariah 13:7-9). The first part, Zechariah 12:1 to Zechariah 13:6, consists of three divisions; the first (Zechariah 12:1-9) deals with some marvelous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem, the second (Zechariah 12:10-14) with a prolonged penitential mourning over some great crime, the third (Zechariah 13:1-6) with the purification of the community and its restoration to intimate fellowship with Jehovah.

Verse 4

4. In that day When all are prophets.

The prophets Those who until then were members of the prophetic order.

Shall be ashamed every one of his vision A twofold interpretation is possible; either, they will be put to shame because their visions remain unfulfilled (compare Isaiah 1:29), or they will be so ashamed of their office that they will withdraw from it. The latter is to be preferred.

When he hath prophesied Better, when he would prophesy; when the suggestion comes to continue his former activity.

Neither shall they wear a rough garment R.V., “hairy mantle.” Such mantle was worn by Elijah (2 Kings 1:8)

and by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4); it may be that this was the conventional garb of the professional prophet; this they will discard.

To deceive Any teaching given under the guise of prophecy will be deception, since the era of the prophet as a special teacher has passed.

Verses 5-6

Zechariah 13:5-6 indicate with what vehemence everyone will deny that he is a prophet

He shall say The subject is not everyone of Zechariah 13:4, but the indefinite one, “one shall say”=it shall be said (G.-K., 144d), not necessarily by one who has been a prophet, for in such a case the statement would be an untruth, but by anyone who is suspected of claiming (compare Zechariah 13:6) to be a prophet.

I am no prophet Compare Amos 7:14, but here the denial is made for another reason; the speaker disclaims any and all connection with the prophetic office.

Man taught me to keep cattle from my youth Better, R.V., “I have been made a bondman from my youth.” This answer need not be considered an untruth; and yet it receives additional force if we suppose that the prophet means to teach that in that day a person would rather assume the most despicable position, that of a slave, than be suspected of being a prophet. The reply proves unsatisfactory, and in Zechariah 13:6 the inquirer is represented as continuing the questioning.

What are these wounds in thine hands? R.V., “between thine arms.” The suspicion seems to have been aroused in this case by the presence of wounds on the body of the suspect. The last three words have been variously interpreted, as referring to wounds on the palms of the hands, or on the arms, or between the arms, that is, on the breast. The last seems the most probable (compare 2 Kings 9:24); but the place of the wound is not essential. The nature of the wounds is not certain; they cannot be connected with Zechariah 13:3; the questioner, connecting them, apparently, with the custom described in 1 Kings 18:28 (compare Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 16:6), seems to consider them marks of devotion, self-inflicted in the pursuit of the prophetic office, perhaps in order to create prophetic ecstasy; but this does not imply that he considered the person addressed a heathen or a false prophet, as distinguished from a true prophet. In reply the suspect insists that the wounds have nothing whatever to do with the prophetic office.

I was wounded in the house of my friends The last word, literally, lovers, or paramours, is often used of idols (compare Hosea 2:7; Hosea 2:10), and some give to it that meaning in this passage. If this is correct the reply contains an admission that at one time the speaker had taken part in idolatrous practices; but even then the form of the verb excludes the idea of self-mutilation. The context favors another interpretation, namely, to take lovers or friends literally, but not of the speaker’s parents, for in Zechariah 13:5 he states that he has been a bondman from his youth, and the word here is used only of fresh wounds, so that the reference cannot be to punishment received in childhood. He means rather that he received the wounds in a “common brawl” in the house of his friends. The willingness with which he makes the admission indicates how anxious he is to remove all suspicion that he is in any way connected with the prophetic office.

Verse 7

7. Jehovah is the speaker, who summons the sword (Zechariah 11:17) to awake and smite the foolish shepherd (Zechariah 11:15).

My shepherd The foolish shepherd may be called the shepherd of Jehovah, because he was appointed by him. Those who retain the verses in their present position connect the phrase with him of Zechariah 12:10 (see there), but the other interpretation is preferable.

The man that is my fellow The expression of intimacy is not strange, if the foolish shepherd was a high priest (see on Zechariah 11:15), for as such he would stand in a peculiarly close relation to Jehovah (compare Zechariah 3:7); and this would also be true if he was not an ecclesiastical but a civil ruler. The foolish shepherd will be punished because he ill-treated the flock, and the flock will suffer because it rejected the good shepherd (Zechariah 11:4-14).

Shall be scattered Because they will be without a shepherd (compare Nahum 3:18).

I will turn mine hand upon the little ones Better, against; for this is not a promise of help but the continuation of the threat. Little ones refers not to the shepherd boys, but to the lambs; the provocation has been so great that he cannot spare even the young of the flock (compare Isaiah 9:17).

Zechariah 13:8-9 expand the announcement of Zechariah 13:7. In the judgment to come two parts of the flock shall be cut off; only one part shall escape; but even this third part is not ready to enjoy the presence and favor of Jehovah; it needs purification (compare Jeremiah 9:7; Isaiah 6:13).

Fire Since fire is used for the purification of metals, it becomes a symbol of every means of purification, in this case of affliction and judgment (Isaiah 4:4; compare Isaiah 1:25 ff.). The purification accomplished, the purified remnant (see on Amos 5:15) will enjoy closest fellowship with Jehovah.

I will hear them When they pray (compare Psalms 50:15; Psalms 34:15-17). For the rest of the verse see on Hosea 2:23.

Verses 7-9


These verses appear to stand by themselves; it is exceedingly difficult to establish a connection with Zechariah 13:1-6, or with chapter 14. Therefore most recent commentators believe that the verses have been accidentally transposed from their original context; they place them after Zechariah 11:17, and interpret them as an announcement of judgment upon the foolish shepherd (Zechariah 11:15) and his flock upon the latter because it rejected the good shepherd. The transposition is not supported by any external evidence, but even the English reader can see that Zechariah 13:7-9, is a more suitable continuation of Zechariah 11:17, than of Zechariah 13:6, and this conviction grows as one studies the attempts to justify the present position. A comparison of Zechariah 11:16 + Zechariah 13:7, with Ezekiel 34:4-5, leads to the same conclusion, which may be accepted as correct.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Zechariah 13". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/zechariah-13.html. 1874-1909.
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