Punishment of the enemies of Judah. (1-8) Repentance and sorrow of the Jews. (9-14)
Verses 1-8 Here is a Divine prediction, which will be a heavy burden to all the enemies of the church. But it is for Israel; for their comfort and benefit. It is promised that God will make foolish the counsels, and weaken the courage of the enemies of the church. The exact meaning is not clear; but God often begins by calling the poor and despised; and in that day even the feeblest will resemble David, and be as eminent in courage and every thing good. Desirable indeed is it that the examples and labours of Christians should render them as fire among wood, as a torch in a sheaf, to kindle the flame of Divine love, to spread religion on the right hand and on the left.
Verses 9-14 The day here spoken of, is the day of Jerusalem's defence and deliverance, that glorious day when God will appear for the salvation of his people. In Christ's first coming he bruised the serpent's head, and broke all the powers of darkness that fought against God's kingdom among men. In his second coming he will complete their destruction, when he shall put down all opposing rule, principality, and power; and death itself shall be swallowed up in that victory. The Holy Spirit is gracious and merciful, and is the Author of all grace or holiness. He, also, is the Spirit of supplications, and shows men their ignorance, want, guilt, misery, and danger. At the time here foretold, the Jews will know who the crucified Jesus was; then they shall look by faith to him, and mourn with the deepest sorrow, not only in public, but in private, even each one separately. There is a holy mourning, the effect of the pouring out of the Spirit; a mourning for sin, which quickens faith in Christ, and qualifies for joy in God. This mourning is a fruit of the Spirit of grace, a proof of a work of grace in the soul, and of the Spirit of supplications. It is fulfilled in all who sorrow for sin after a godly sort; they look to Christ crucified, and mourn for him. Looking by faith upon the cross of Christ will cause us to mourn for sin after a godly sort.
Zechariah 12:1-14 . JERUSALEM THE INSTRUMENT OF JUDGMENT ON HER FOES HEREAFTER; HER REPENTANCE AND RESTORATION.
1. burden--"weighty prophecy"; fraught with destruction to Israel's foes; the expression may also refer to the distresses of Israel implied as about to precede the deliverance.
for Israel--concerning Israel [MAURER].
stretcheth forth--present; now, not merely "hath stretched forth," as if God only created and then left the universe to itself ( John 5:17 ). To remove all doubts of unbelief as to the possibility of Israel's deliverance, God prefaces the prediction by reminding us of His creative and sustaining power. Compare a similar preface in Isaiah 42:5 , 43:1 , Isaiah 65:17 Isaiah 65:18 .
formeth . . . spirit of man--( Numbers 16:22 , Hebrews 12:9 ).
2. cup of trembling--a cup causing those who drink it to reel (from a Hebrew root "to reel"). Jerusalem, who drank the "cup of trembling" herself, shall be so to her foes ( Isaiah 51:17 Isaiah 51:22 , Jeremiah 13:13 ). CALVIN with the Septuagint translates, "threshold of destruction," on which they shall stumble and be crushed when they attempt to cross it. English Version is better.
both against Judah--The Hebrew order of words is literally, "And also against Judah shall he (the foe) be in the siege against Jerusalem"; implying virtually that Judah, as it shares the invasion along with Jerusalem, so it shall, like the metropolis, prove a cup of trembling to the invaders. MAURER with JEROME translates, "Also upon Judah shall be (the cup of trembling); that is, some Jews forced by the foe shall join in the assault on Jerusalem, and shall share the overthrow with the besiegers. But Zechariah 12:6 Zechariah 12:7 show that Judah escapes and proves the scourge of the foe.
3. (Compare Zechariah 14:4 Zechariah 14:6-9 Zechariah 14:13 ). JEROME states it was a custom in Palestine to test the strength of youths by their lifting up a massive stone; the phrase, "burden themselves with it," refers to this custom. Compare Matthew 21:44 : The Jews "fell" on the rock of offense, Messiah, and were "broken"; but the rock shall fall on Antichrist, who "burdens himself with it" by his assault on the restored Jews, and "grind him to powder."
all . . . people of . . . earth--The Antichristian confederacy against the Jews shall be almost universal.
4. I will smite . . . horse--The arm of attack especially formidable to Judah, who was unprovided with cavalry. So in the overthrow of Pharaoh ( Exodus 15:19 Exodus 15:21 ).
open mine eyes upon . . . Judah--to watch over Judah's safety. Heretofore Jehovah seemed to have shut His eyes, as having no regard for her.
blindness--so as to rush headlong on to their own ruin (compare Zechariah 14:12 Zechariah 14:13 ).
5. shall say--when they see the foe divinely smitten with "madness."
Judah . . . Jerusalem--here distinguished as the country and the metropolis. Judah recognizes her "strength" to be "Jerusalem and its inhabitants" as the instrument, and "Jehovah of hosts their God" (dwelling especially there) as the author of all power ( Joel 3:16 ). My strength is the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who have the Lord their God as their help. The repulse of the foe by the metropolis shall assure the Jews of the country that the same divine aid shall save them.
6. On "governors of Judah,"
torch . . . in a sheaf--Though small, it shall consume the many foes around. One prophet supplements the other. Thus Isaiah 29:1-24'Joel 3:1-21'Zechariah 12:1-14:21', describe more Antichrist's army than himself. Daniel represents him as a horn growing out of the fourth beast or fourth kingdom; St. John, as a separate beast having an individual existence. Daniel dwells on his worldly conquests as a king; St. John, more on his spiritual tyranny, whence he adds a second beast, the false prophet coming in a semblance of spirituality. What is briefly described by one is more fully prophesied by the other [ROOS].
7. Judah is to be "first saved," because of her meek acknowledgment of dependence on Jerusalem, subordinate to Jehovah's aid.
tents--shifting and insecure, as contrasted with the solid fortifications of Judah. But God chooses the weak to confound the mighty, that all human glorying may be set aside.
8. Jerusalem, however, also shall be specially strengthened against the foe.
feeble . . . shall be as David--to the Jew, the highest type of strength and glory on earth ( 2 Samuel 17:8 , 18:3 , Joel 3:10 ).
angel of the Lord before them--the divine angel that went "before them" through the desert, the highest type of strength and glory in heaven ( Exodus 23:20 , 32:34 ). "The house of David" is the "prince," and his family sprung from David ( Ezekiel 45:7 Ezekiel 45:9 ). David's house was then in a comparatively weak state.
9. I will seek to destroy--I will set Myself with determined earnestness to destroy ( Haggai 2:22 ).
10. Future conversion of the Jews is to flow from an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit ( Jeremiah 31:9 Jeremiah 31:31-34 , Ezekiel 39:29 ).
spirit of grace . . . supplications--"spirit" is here not the spirit produced, but THE HOLY SPIRIT producing a "gracious" disposition, and inclination for "supplications." CALVIN explains "spirit of grace" as the grace of God itself (whereby He "pours" out His bowels of mercy), "conjoined with the sense of it in man's heart." The "spirit of supplications" is the mercury whose rise or fall is an unerring test of the state of the Church [MOORE]. In Hebrew, "grace" and "supplications" are kindred terms; translate, therefore, "gracious supplications." The plural implies suppliant prayers "without ceasing." Herein not merely external help against the foe, as before, but internal grace is promised subsequently.
look upon me--with profoundly earnest regard, as the Messiah whom they so long denied.
pierced--implying Messiah's humanity: as "I will pour . . . spirit" implies His divinity.
look . . . mourn--True repentance arises from the sight by faith of the crucified Saviour. It is the tear that drops from the eye of faith looking on Him. Terror only produces remorse. The true penitent weeps over his sins in love to Him who in love has suffered for them.
me . . . him--The change of person is due to Jehovah-Messiah speaking in His own person first, then the prophet speaking of Him. The Jews, to avoid the conclusion that He whom they have "pierced" is Jehovah-Messiah, who says, "I will pour out . . . spirit," altered "me" into "him," and represent the "pierced" one to be Messiah Ben (son of) Joseph, who was to suffer in the battle with Cog, before Messiah Ben David should come to reign. But Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic oppose this; and the ancient Jews interpreted it of Messiah. Psalms 22:16 also refers to His being "pierced." So John 19:37 , Revelation 1:7 . The actual piercing of His side was the culminating point of all their insulting treatment of Him. The act of the Roman soldier who pierced Him was their act ( Matthew 27:25 ), and is so accounted here in Zechariah. The Hebrew word is always used of a literal piercing (so Zechariah 13:3 ); not of a metaphorical piercing, "insulted," as MAURER and other Rationalists (from the Septuagint) represent.
as one mourneth for . . . son--( Jeremiah 6:26 , Amos 8:10 ). A proverbial phrase peculiarly forcible among the Jews, who felt childlessness as a curse and dishonor. Applied with peculiar propriety to mourning for Messiah, "the first-born among many brethren" ( Romans 8:29 ).
11. As in Zechariah 12:10 the bitterness of their mourning is illustrated by a private case of mourning, so in this verse by a public one, the greatest recorded in Jewish history, that for the violent death in battle with Pharaoh-necho of the good King Josiah, whose reign had been the only gleam of brightness for the period from Hezekiah to the downfall of the state; lamentations were written by Jeremiah for the occasion ( 2 Kings 23:29 2 Kings 23:30 , 2 Chronicles 35:22-27 ).
Hadad-rimmon--a place or city in the great plain of Esdraelon, the battlefield of many a conflict, near Megiddo; called so from the Syrian idol Rimmon. the Syrians [MACROB, Saturnalia, 1.23]. Hadad also was the name of the sun, a chief god of universal and an individual mourning at once.
12-14. David . . . Nathan--representing the highest and lowest of the royal order. Nathan, not the prophet, but a younger son of David ( 2 Samuel 5:14 , Luke 3:31 ).
apart--Retirement and seclusion are needful for deep personal religion.
wives apart--Jewish females worship separately from the males ( Exodus 15:1 Exodus 15:20 ).
13. Levi . . . Shimei--the highest and lowest of the priestly order ( Numbers 3:18 Numbers 3:21 ). Their example and that of the royal order would of course influence the rest.
14. All . . . that remain--after the fiery ordeal, in which two-thirds fall ( Zechariah 13:8 Zechariah 13:9 ).