Zechariah 13:1-9

“In that day,” or at a time subsequent to the wailing over the one who was pierced, a “spring” would be opened for the “house of David and those inhabiting Jerusalem.” That spring for “sin and uncleanness” would have as its purpose to cleanse the people from their sin and impurity. When Jesus, the promised Messiah or Christ, died sacrificially and his side was pierced, he made it possible for persons who put their faith in him and his sacrificial death to be forgiven of their sins. Thus it was as if a fountain had been opened up, a fountain that provided water to cleanse members of the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (as representing all the Israelites) from their sins, including the uncleanness or impurity resulting from sharing in communal responsibility for the piercing of Jesus Christ and from any contact with defiled things. (13:1; Acts 2:36-40; 3:13-26; 13:25-39)

The Septuagint makes no reference to a spring for sin and impurity. It reads, “In that day, every place will be opened in the house of David.” The Hebrew word for “place” is maqóhm, and the designation for “spring” is maqóhr. With only the last letter being different (though somewhat similar in appearance in ancient script), this may explain why the word for “place” instead of the noun for “spring” appears in the Septuagint. Nothing in the immediate context, however, clarifies just what the places are that would be opened in the house of David. According to another rendering, “every place will be opened for the house of David,” but there is nothing in the context to indicate why the house of David would be so honored. One possibility is that a king from the house of David would be granted access to every place. (13:1)

“In that day,” or at the time when the opportunity for being cleansed from sin and impurity opened up, YHWH of hosts (the “Lord” [LXX]) purposed to “cut off [destroy (LXX)] the names of the idols from the land.” A cleansed people who had been forgiven of their sins would then be in a realm where idols do not exist. The names of the deities that the images represented would be cut off, never to be mentioned. Because YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service, effects the cleansing of his people, the cutting off of the names of the idols is attributed to him. Viewing the deities that the images represented as being nonexistent, the people whom YHWH approved would no more remember their names. He would also remove the “prophets and the spirit of uncleanness” from the land. The Septuagint identifies these prophets as “pseudo-prophets,” men in the service of nonexistent deities or men who falsely claimed to be prophets of YHWH. These false prophets would have maintained that there utterances came from a spiritual source. This source would not be God’s spirit but a “spirit of uncleanness,” one originating from the powers of darkness. (13:2)

Seemingly to emphasize that idolatrous practices would be completely eradicated from the realm of God’s people, parents are said not to shield their own son from severe judgment if he became a false prophet. His father and mother would say to him, “You shall not live, for you have spoken falsehood in YHWH’s name.” Such speaking of falsehood in God’s name would refer to representing deceptive words as having YHWH as their source. The man’s parents, the very people who were responsible for his birth, would then “pierce him through” (“bind him” [LXX]) for his false prophesying. (13:3)

“In that day” or at that time, it would come to pass that the false prophets would be ashamed, each one of them of “his vision” when prophesying or proclaiming what they claimed to be divine revelations. As an evidence of their shame, they would attempt to conceal their identity, no longer taking pride in their “visions” and in making them known. These men would not put on the “hairy garment” (a garment made from animal skin or leather to which the hair remained attached) that prophets customarily wore. (Compare 2 Kings 1:8.) Their formerly wearing the attire of a prophet was part of the deception. By identifying themselves as prophets, they deluded the people into believing that their utterances were divine revelations. (13:4)

The Septuagint expresses the thought about the hairy garment differently. It indicates that the false prophets would wear the garment “because they lied.” This rendering represents the rough hairy garment as denoting disgrace — an evidence that the false prophets had been exposed as liars. (13:4)

In response to any question regarding his occupation, a false prophet would deny being a prophet and claim to be a cultivator of the soil. To strengthen his false claim, he would say that a “man” made him (literally, “caused me to possess”) a cultivator of the soil since his “youth.” (13:5)

As part of their ritual when crying out to a deity, false prophets, in a state of frenzy, gashed themselves. (1 Kings 18:28) Evidence of wounds from such cuts on the body of a false prophet gave rise to the question, “What are these strokes [the wounds from strokes] between your hands?” Wounds between the hands would be wounds on the area of the body between the hands and the arms, either on the back or on the chest. The false prophet would not admit to the truth but would say that the wounds resulted from having been beaten in the “house of my beloved ones” or close friends (“in my beloved house” [LXX]). This answer could be understood to mean that he had been beaten for rowdiness while drunk. (13:6)

YHWH of hosts (the “Lord Almighty” [LXX]), the God with hosts of angels in his service, is represented as calling upon a “sword” to awake against his “shepherd.” In relation to YHWH, this “shepherd” is also referred to as a “man, my fellow” (“fellow citizen” [LXX]). With the awakened sword, the shepherd is to be struck, scattering the sheep under his care. YHWH is then quoted as saying, “I will turn my hand upon [‘al] the little ones.” (13:7; see the Notes section.)

On the final night with his disciples before his being seized, sentenced to die, and executed, Jesus Christ applied the words about the shepherd and the sheep to himself and his disciples, telling them that they would all be stumbled that very night, “for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27) After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven, one of the disciples, the apostle Peter, explained to fellow Jews that it was by God’s predetermined “counsel,” purpose or will that Jesus was “delivered up” (either referring to the seizure by the armed mob in the garden of Gethsemane or the action of the leaders of the nation when handing him over to the Roman governor Pilate as a lawbreaker deserving of death). (Acts 2:23) Since the suffering and death of Jesus served his purpose to provide the basis for forgiveness of sins, YHWH is the one to whom the awaking of the sword against his shepherd is prophetically attributed. (13:7)

On earth, Jesus was a man, but he was more than a man. He continued to be God’s unique Son, and this fits the fact that YHWH is represented as calling him “my fellow.” (13:7)

Jesus’ “sheep,” his disciples, did scatter at the time he was seized, abandoning him and fleeing out of fear. (Matthew 26:56) They also appear to be the ones prophetically spoken of as “little ones” or “insignificant ones,” for the leaders of the nation would have looked down upon them as uneducated and ordinary. (Compare John 7:48; 49; Acts 4:13.) The meaning of the preposition ‘al determines the sense in which YHWH turned his “hand upon the little ones.” Many translators have chosen to render this preposition as “against.” This could signify that the striking of the shepherd also meant that God’s hand was directed against the “little ones,” for they became fearful and scattered. Jesus, however, assured Peter that he had prayed for him so that his faith would not give out and that he would be able to strengthen his “brothers” or fellow disciples after he had recovered from personally having stumbled. (Luke 22:31, 32) Therefore, it appears likely that the turning of God’s hand “upon the little ones” may be regarded in a favorable sense. (13:7)

Subsequent to the striking of the shepherd, something of a very serious nature was to occur. According to the utterance of YHWH, two parts would be “cut off, perish” (“destroyed and perish” [LXX]) “in all the land,” and a “third” would “remain over in it.” While on earth, the focus of Jesus’ activity was on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:6) The majority of the house of Israel, which could be represented by “two parts,” rejected him, and they were abandoned to experience the consequences of their rejection, which included the destruction of Jerusalem and the tremendous loss of life during and after the end of the Roman siege. As to the “third” that remained, this could represent the thousands who became Jesus’ disciples (Acts 21:20), for they were not abandoned and they escaped the terrible calamity that befell those in Jerusalem during the Roman military campaign. (13:8; compare Matthew 24:15, 16; Luke 21:20-22.)

The remaining “third” part would, however, not be exempt from suffering. Jesus’ loyal disciples would be subjected to verbal and physical abuse and even death as objects of hatred by people of all the nations. (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:12, 13; Luke 6:22; 21:12-17; John 16:2) Since YHWH would permit this to take place, he is prophetically spoken of as putting the “third into the fire,” refining those of this third as one would refine silver and testing them as one would test gold. All who pass through the fire of suffering while remaining faithful to him would come to have a refined and tested faith and would be revealed as genuinely devoted to him. (13:9; compare 1 Peter 1:6, 7.)

The faithful ones (literally, “he” [a collective singular]) would call on God’s name, appealing to him (the person represented by the name) for his aid and guidance. He would then answer them (literally, “him”), providing what they needed to be sustained in their times of trial. Acknowledging that the approved people belonged to him, he would say, “It [is] my people.” Individually, they (literally, “he”) would say, “YHWH [is] my God.” (13:9; see the Notes section.)


In verse 7, the extant text of the Septuagint reads “my shepherds,” not “my shepherd.” These “shepherds” are not equated with the “man, my fellow citizen,” against whom the sword was also to awaken. After referring to the striking of the shepherds, the verse continues, “and remove the sheep, and I will bring my hand upon the shepherds.” According to this reading, the “shepherds” would be leaders among the people against whom God’s displeasure is directed. At the time these shepherds would be struck, the “sheep” or the people would be removed, possibly meaning that they would be seized like vulnerable prey.

In the Hebrew text of verse 9, the pronoun translated “it” (“It [is] my people”) is masculine gender. Like the other third person masculine pronouns in this verse, this pronoun is also a collective singular referring to people.