Zechariah 12:1-14

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2014-04-18 10:14.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

The prophetic message is introduced in the same way as an earlier one (9:1). In the Hebrew text, the first word is massá’. The Septuagint rendering for massá’ is lémma, which word basically denotes “something that is received” and so may be understood to mean a “received message.” In the Vulgate, the corresponding noun is onus (“load” or “burden”). Renderings of massá’ found in modern translations include “burden,” “oracle,” “word,” “message,” “prophecy,” and “pronouncement.” (12:1)

The message is designated as the “word of YHWH concerning Israel” or about the people whom he recognizes as his own. He is represented as identifying himself as the Creator, the “one stretching out the heavens and founding the earth and forming the spirit of man [’adhám, ‘earthling’] within him.” “Heaven” or the celestial vault appears like a dome over the land. Therefore, the “heavens” are spoken of as being stretched out as a tent would be. The founding of the earth may be understood to refer to the establishing of the land area above the sea. As earthlings, humans owe their life to YHWH. He is the former of the “spirit,” imparting the life principle or life breath to the first man from whom all humans have descended. (12:1)

YHWH gave the assurance to his people that those attacking them would not succeed. He would make Jerusalem a “cup of reeling to all the peoples round about.” This would be when, besides besieging Jerusalem, they would come against Judah. The unsuccessful outcome from launching their attack would be comparable to their having to drink a cup of wine to the point of intoxication, causing them to reel or stagger. According to the Septuagint, the effect on the attackers would be like the shaking of thresholds or vestibules. This would be a violent shaking that is commonly associated with seismic activity. (12:2)

If understood to relate to those who are “children” or citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (Galatians 4:26), the prophetic words indicate that all people who set themselves in violent opposition to these citizens would ultimately have divine anger expressed against them, causing them to stagger like a drunkard. (12:2)

“In that day,” or at the time that YHWH comes to the defense of his people, he “will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples” (a “stone being trampled upon by all the nations” [LXX]). All who would try to lift this stone would experience “scratching to be scratched.” The repetition of verb forms of the word meaning “scratch” indicates that the lacerations would be severe. According to the Septuagint rendering, those trampling upon Jerusalem (the “stone”) with “ridiculing will ridicule.” This rendering suggests that Jerusalem would be trampled upon and subjected to intense mockery. While the Septuagint refers to what the enemies would do, the Hebrew text highlights the harm that would come to those dealing with Jerusalem as attackers. Both the Hebrew text and Septuagint, however, indicate that “all the nations of the earth [or land] will be gathered against” Jerusalem. (12:3)

Anciently, horses figured prominently in warfare. Therefore, “in that day” when his people would be attacked, YHWH (the “Lord Almighty” [LXX]) is represented as declaring that he would strike “every horse” of the attackers “with confusion and its rider with madness.” Confused, the horses would be unmanageable and become useless in battle. In a state of “madness,” helpless and bewildered, the riders would be unable to function like alert and courageous warriors. When striking “every horse” (“all the horses” [LXX]) of the peoples with blindness,” making it impossible for the horses to be part of an effective military force, YHWH would open his eyes “on the house of Judah.” He would have his people in full view, coming to their aid when they needed it. (12:4)

These prophetic words may have an application to the citizens of heavenly Jerusalem. While on earth, they can depend on God to look out for them, responding to their needs and their appeals to him when facing enemy assaults. No enemy power will be allowed to succeed against them and to deprive them of their permanent place in the heavenly Jerusalem. (12:4; Luke 10:19; Galatians 4:26)

At the time God’s people would be facing enemy attack, the “chieftains of Judah” would “say in their heart” or to themselves, “By YHWH of hosts their God, those inhabiting Jerusalem [are] a strength to me.” This acknowledgment suggests that the chieftains or leaders would draw encouragement from all those dwelling in Jerusalem because of their trust in YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service. According to the Septuagint, the “chiliarchs” (commanders of a thousand men) would say, “We will find for ourselves those inhabiting Jerusalem [to be] in the Lord Almighty, their God.” As persons “in” or at one with the Almighty, they would be confident that he would help and safeguard them. (12:5)

The prophetic words can be applied to the “children” or citizens of heavenly Jerusalem. (Galatians 4:26) Because they rely fully on their God, they have proved to be a source of encouragement or strengthening aid to the “chieftains” or elders in their midst or, as expressed in the Septuagint, they have been found to be persons at one with God. (12:5; compare Romans 1:11, 12; Colossians 4:10, 11; 1 John 4:11-15; verse 4 of 2 John, and verses 3 and 4 of 3 John.)

“In the day,” or at the time YHWH delivers his people from their enemies, his promise is, “I will make the chieftains of Judah like a vessel of fire [a flaming firebrand ([LXX]) in woodlands and like a torch of fire among harvested grain.” The “chieftains” are thus portrayed as being unconquerable, triumphing as if they were transformed into a consuming fire in a forest or among sheaves of harvested barley or wheat. Like a fire, they are depicted as consuming “to the right and to the left all the peoples round about.” Whereas the enemies would fail in their attempts to destroy God’s people, “Jerusalem will yet be inhabited in her place.” This place may refer to the entire area of Jerusalem as being fully inhabited. In the case of the heavenly Jerusalem, all her “children” or citizens would come to have their permanent residence there, and no enemy power would be able to prevent this from taking place. (12:6)

The “tents of Judah” would be like an encampment outside the walls of Jerusalem. As those in the “tents of Judah” would be the first ones to face enemy attacks, they are also the first ones whom YHWH would deliver. In the Septuagint, the Lord’s saving of the “tents of Judah” is referred to as being like that “from the beginning” or from the earliest times when he delivered his people from their enemies. The reason given for being the first to be saved is that the “beauty” or “glory” (“boast” or “pride” [LXX]) of the “house of David” and the “beauty” or “glory” (“elation [LXX]) of “those inhabiting Jerusalem” would not be exalted over the beauty or glory of Judah. YHWH would not consider those in the “tents” as less precious than those within the protective walls of Jerusalem or those belonging to the royal “house of David.” As his approved people, they would be the first ones to benefit from his protective care. (12:7)

After the return from Babylonian exile, no member of the “house of David” ever ruled as king and, therefore, did not possess the “beauty” or “glory” that was formerly associated with the royal line that had its start with King David. When, however, the focus is on the heavenly Jerusalem, the prophetic words appear to fit. While on earth, the “children” or citizens of heavenly Jerusalem are without any protective walls but appear to be in vulnerable tents. From the standpoint of being beloved children of God and under his protective care, they have been the first to receive his saving aid so as to remain unconquerable despite all attacks launched against them. They also possess the same beauty or glory as do the heavenly members of God’s family. Angels regard them as fellow servants of God. (Revelation 22:9) Jesus, the promised Messiah or Christ of the royal house of David and the unique Son of God, is not ashamed to acknowledge them as his “brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11) Yet his “beauty” or “glory” as King of kings and Lord of lords is far greater than that of any former member of the royal house of David. (12:7)

“In that day,” or at that time when YHWH saves the “tents of Judah,” he will also defend those inhabiting Jerusalem as if putting a protective shield around them. As a result, the one stumbling among them, the “weak one” or “feeble one” (LXX), would prove to be like David, strong like a courageous warrior. The “house of David” would be mighty “like God [or like mighty ones (like a house of God [LXX])], like the “angel of YHWH before them” or at their head, leading them to victory. (12:8)

If related to heavenly Jerusalem, an application can be made to the citizens of the heavenly city who are still vulnerable because of being on the earth. They are assured of YHWH’s protection so that even the weakest ones among them would remain unconquerable like victorious King David. The “house of David” may be identified with its most prominent representative, the Messiah or Christ who would be leading the citizens of heavenly Jerusalem as a triumphant people. He would display power like that of God or like that of the angel of YHWH. (12:8)

In that day when YHWH effects the deliverance for his people, he “will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” Whereas the nations cannot attack the heavenly Jerusalem directly, they can do so by undertaking hostile action against the citizens of the heavenly city while they are still on earth and as if outside any protective walls. (12:9)

The time would come for the fulfillment of the word of YHWH. “I will pour out upon the house of David and those inhabiting Jerusalem a spirit of favor and supplication.” This development is associated with their looking on the one whom “they have pierced.” According to the Hebrew text and the Septuagint, the one on whom members of the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem would look is YHWH (“on me”), the one who declared that he would pour out a “spirit of favor and supplication [compassion (LXX)].” (12:10)

The people could not directly “pierce” their God, but they could do so when “piercing” one whom he sent to them as his representative. This apparent sense is suggested by the reference to the wailing in expression of bitter lamentation as being for the one who was actually pierced (literally, “for him,” not “for me”). In the Septuagint, the rendering of the Hebrew verb for pierced appears to be a euphemism. It reads, “And they will look to me because they have danced.” (12:10)

According to John 19:34-37, a Roman soldier pierced the side of the dead Jesus, the Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ. This act served to make it possible for persons of the house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem to look upon the one whom they had pierced. Accordingly, there is a basis for linking their receiving a “spirit of favor and supplication” subsequent to such looking. (12:10)

The book of Acts confirms this development. At the time of the first observance of the festival of Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection, his disciples received the holy spirit. This became evident when they began to speak in the native tongues of Jews and proselytes who had come from various lands to Jerusalem for the festival. On that occasion, the apostle Peter presented the evidence to the thousands who listened to him that God made the Jesus whom they had crucified “both Lord and Christ.” Responsive ones were “cut to the heart,” coming to have within themselves a distressing awareness of their grave sin. They appear to have recognized their communal responsibility in having shared in the guilt of the representative leaders of the nation of Israel when they handed Jesus (the promised Messiah or Christ) over to Pilate for the purpose of having him crucified. Having been made fully aware of their guilt, they wanted to know what they could do. (Acts 2:22-37) Through his testimony, Peter made it possible for his listeners to look upon the one whom they had pierced in a way that would benefit them. (12:10)

The apostle urged them to repent and to be baptized in the name of Jesus for forgiveness of sins. Repentance called for them to regret their sins, including having shared in the communal responsibility for Jesus’ death, and to accept him as the promised Messiah or Christ and their Lord. Baptism in his name signified baptism in recognition of him as the Christ, the unique Son of God, and Lord. Immersion in water constituted the outward symbol of the repentance for sins and the accompanying faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, by reason of their repentance and baptism, they were forgiven of their sins and received “the gift of the holy spirit,” just as Peter and the other disciples had. (Acts 2:38) In this way, responsive ones received a “spirit of favor,” being restored to an approved relationship with God and having his spirit imparted to them. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, it was also a spirit of compassion, one that marvelously demonstrated God’s mercy when he forgave their sins. The Hebrew text refers to it as a spirit of supplication. This could be understood to mean that, by what God had done for them through Jesus his Son, they came to have a new spirit or impelling force within them that motivated them to repentance and to petition him for forgiveness. (12:10)

In the prophecy, the repentance over having shared in the communal responsibility for the “piercing” appears to be represented as intense mourning over the pierced one — a wailing or lamenting like that for an only son (a “beloved one” [LXX]) who had died. It would be like the bitter weeping over the loss of a firstborn. At the time of Jesus’ death, there was much weeping and lamentation, and this aspect may also be involved in the fulfillment of the prophetic words. (12:10; compare Luke 23:28, 29)

“On that day,” or at the time the prophecy regarding the pierced one would begin to be fulfilled, there would be great “wailing” in Jerusalem. This wailing would be like the “wailing of Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.” While there have been those who consider this wailing to denote a ritualistic mourning for the god Hadad-rimmon, this does not seem likely. It does not appear appropriate for a divinely disapproved practice to be used to illustrate the lamentation associated with the one who would be pierced. A preferable possibility is to regard Hadad-rimmon as a site in the plain of Megiddo, where godly King Josiah was killed in battle with Pharaoh Necoh. The premature death of the young king occasioned great lamentation. (12:11; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:24, 25)

According to the Septuagint, the lamentation over the pierced one would be like the mourning over a “pomegranate grove having been cut down in the plain.” In Hebrew, the word rimmóhn, which is part of the compound name Hadad-rimmon, means “pomegranate.” “Hadad” is thought to have been the principal deity of Syria. If this was known to the Septuagint translator, he may have chosen not to include the designation “Hadad” and then rendered rimmóhn according to its Hebrew meaning (“pomegranate”). (12:11)

When the wailing over the pierced one is linked to repentance and a recognition of the reason for his death, the lamentation must of necessity be an individual matter. Even persons who were members of the royal family or the priestly family in Israel would not be exempt from such mourning if they were to be forgiven of their sins. This appears to be evident from the reference to the wailing or mourning of each family by itself and the respective women of these families by themselves. Although the “land” (or the people residing on the land) is mentioned as wailing, “each family” would do so “apart” from the others or by itself (“tribes by tribes” [LXX]). The “family [tribe (LXX)] of the house of David” (descendants of King David) would mourn by itself, and the women belonging to that family would do so by themselves. If the “family [tribe (LXX)] of the house of Nathan” means the descendants of David’s son Nathan, this could indicate that the smaller family group within the larger family of David would lament by itself, and the women of the smaller family group would wail by themselves. (12:12)

The “family [tribe (LXX)] of the house of Levi” (the descendants of Levi, including the Aaronic priests) would wail by itself, and the women of that family would do so by themselves. The Shimeites were a family of Levites. (Numbers 3:21; 1 Chronicles 23:7, 10, 11) Yet they would lament by themselves, and the women of the “family of the Shimeites” would wail by themselves. The Septuagint translator appears to have understood the Shimeites to be members of the “tribe of Symeon” (Simeon), not of the tribe of Levi. (12:13)

As for “all” the remaining families (tribes [LXX]), each one would wail by itself. The women from each of those families would do so apart from their own family and apart from the women of the other families. (12:14)