The Fountain for the remission of sins, The conviction of the false prophets. (1-6) The death of Christ, and the saving of a remnant of the people. (7-9)
Verses 1-6 In the time mentioned at the close of the foregoing chapter, a fountain would be opened to the rulers and people of the Jews, in which to wash away their sins. Even the atoning blood of Christ, united with his sanctifying grace. It has hitherto been closed to the unbelieving nation of Israel; but when the Spirit of grace shall humble and soften their hearts, he will open it to them also. This fountain opened is the pierced side of Christ. We are all as an unclean thing. Behold a fountain opened for us to wash in, and streams flowing to us from that fountain. The blood of Christ, and God's pardoning mercy in that blood, made known in the new covenant, are a fountain always flowing, that never can be emptied. It is opened for all believers, who as the spiritual seed of Christ, are of the house of David, and, as living members of the church, are inhabitants of Jerusalem. Christ, by the power of his grace, takes away the dominion of sin, even of beloved sins. Those who are washed in the fountain opened, as they are justified, so they are sanctified. Souls are brought off from the world and the flesh, those two great idols, that they may cleave to God only. The thorough reformation which will take place on the conversion of Israel to Christ, is here foretold. False prophets shall be convinced of their sin and folly, and return to their proper employments. When convinced that we are gone out of the way of duty, we must show the truth of our repentance by returning to it again. It is well to acknowledge those to be friends, who by severe discipline are instrumental in bringing us to a sight of error; for faithful are the wounds of a friend, ( Proverbs 27:6 ) . And it is always well for us to recollect the wounds of our Saviour. Often has he been wounded by professed friends, nay, even by his real disciples, when they act contrary to his word.
Verses 7-9 Here is a prophecy of the sufferings of Christ. God the Father gave order to the sword of his justice to awake against his Son, when he freely made his soul an offering for sin. As God, he is called "my Fellow." Christ and the Father are one. He is the Shepherd who was to lay down his life for the sheep. If a Sacrifice, he must be slain, for without shedding of the life-blood there was no remission. This sword must awake against him, yet he had no sin of his own to answer for. It may refer to the whole of Christ's sufferings, especially his agonies in the garden and on the cross, when he endured unspeakable anguish till Divine justice was fully satisfied. Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. This passage our Lord Jesus declares was fulfilled, when all his disciples, in the night wherein he was betrayed, forsook him and fled. It has, and shall have its accomplishment, in the destruction of the corrupt and hypocritical part of the professed church. Because of the sin of the Jews in rejecting and crucifying Christ, and in opposing his gospel, the Romans would destroy the greater part. But a remnant would be saved. And if we are his people, we shall be refined as gold; he will be God, and the end of all our trials and sufferings will be praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Zechariah 13:1-9 . CLEANSING OF THE JEWS FROM SIN; ABOLITION OF IDOLATRY; THE SHEPHERD SMITTEN; THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND CUT OFF, EXCEPT A THIRD PART REFINED BY TRIALS.
1. Connected with the close of the twelfth chapter. The mourning penitents are here comforted.
fountain opened--It has been long opened, but then first it shall be so "to the house of David," &c. (representing all Israel) after their long and weary wanderings. Like Hagar in the wilderness they remain ignorant of the refreshment near them, until God "opens their eyes" ( Genesis 21:19 ) [MOORE]. It is not the fountain, but their eyes that need to be opened. It shall be a "fountain" ever flowing; not a laver needing constantly to be replenished with water, such as stood between the tabernacle and altar ( Exodus 30:18 ).
for sin . . . uncleanness--that is, judicial guilt and moral impurity. Thus justification and sanctification are implied in this verse as both flowing from the blood of Christ, not from ceremonial sacrifices ( 1 Corinthians 1:30 , Hebrews 9:13 Hebrews 9:14 , 1 John 1:7 ; compare Ezekiel 36:25 ). Sin in Hebrew is literally a missing the mark or way.
2. Consequences of pardon; not indolence, but the extirpation of sin.
names of . . . idols--Their very names were not to be mentioned; thus the Jews, instead of Mephibaal, said Mephibosheth (Bosheth meaning a contemptible thing) ( Exodus 23:13 , Deuteronomy 12:3 , Psalms 16:4 ).
out of the land--Judea's two great sins, idolatry and false prophecy, have long since ceased. But these are types of all sin (for example, covetousness, Ephesians 5:5 , a besetting sin of the Jews now). Idolatry, combined with the "spirit" of "Satan," is again to be incarnated in "the man of sin," who is to arise in Judea ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 ), and is to be "consumed with the Spirit of the Lord's mouth." Compare as to Antichrist's papal precursor, "seducing spirits . . . doctrines of devils," &c., 1 Timothy 4:1-3 2 Peter 2:1 .
the unclean spirit--Hebrew, spirit of uncleanness (compare Revelation 16:13 ); opposed to "the Spirit of holiness" ( Romans 1:4 ), "spirit of error" ( 1 John 4:6 ). One assuming to be divinely inspired, but in league with Satan.
3. The form of phraseology here is drawn from Deuteronomy 13:6-10 , 18:20 . The substantial truth expressed is that false prophecy shall be utterly abolished. If it were possible for it again to start up, the very parents of the false prophet would not let parental affection interfere, but would be the first to thrust him through. Love to Christ must be paramount to the tenderest of natural ties ( Matthew 10:37 ). Much as the godly love their children, they love God and His honor more.
4. prophets . . . ashamed--of the false prophecies which they have uttered in times past, and which the event has confuted.
rough garment--sackcloth. The badge of a prophet ( 2 Kings 1:8 , Isaiah 20:2 ), to mark their frugality alike in food and attire ( Matthew 3:4 ); also, to be consonant to the mournful warnings which they delivered. It is not the dress that is here condemned, but the purpose for which it was worn, namely, to conceal wolves under sheep's clothing [CALVIN]. The monkish hair-shirt of Popery, worn to inspire the multitude with the impression of superior sanctity, shall be then cast aside.
5, 6. The detection of one of the false prophets dramatically represented. He is seized by some zealous vindicator of the law, and in fear cries out, "I am no prophet."
man--that is, one.
taught me to keep cattle--As "keeping cattle" is not the same as to be "an husbandman," translate rather, "Has used (or 'appropriated') me as a servant," namely, in husbandry [MAURER]. However, husbandry and keeping cattle might be regarded as jointly the occupation of the person questioned: then Amos 7:14 , "herdman," will accord with English Version. A Hebrew kindred word means "cattle." Both occupations, the respondent replies, are inconsistent with my being a "prophet."
6. wounds in thine hand--The interrogator still suspects him: "If so, if you have never pretended to be a prophet, whence come those wounds?" The Hebrew is literally, "between thine hands." The hands were naturally held up to ward off the blows, and so were "thrust through" ( Zechariah 13:3 ) "between" the bones of the hand. Stoning was the usual punishment; "thrusting through" was also a fit retribution on one who tried to "thrust Israel away" from the Lord ( Deuteronomy 13:10 ); and perfects the type of Messiah, condemned as a false prophet, and pierced with "wounds between His hands." Thus the transition to the direct prophecy of Him ( Zechariah 13:7 ) is natural, which it would not be if He were not indirectly and in type alluded to.
wounded in . . . house of my friends--an implied admission that he had pretended to prophecy, and that his friends had wounded him for it in zeal for God ( Zechariah 13:3 ). The Holy Spirit in Zechariah alludes indirectly to Messiah, the Antitype, wounded by those whom He came to befriend, who ought to have been His "friends," who were His kinsmen (compare Zechariah 13:3 , as to the false prophet's friends, with Mark 3:21 , "His friends," Margin, "kinsmen"; John 7:5 ; "His own," John 1:11 ; the Jews, "of whom as concerning the flesh He came," Romans 9:5 ), but who wounded Him by the agency of the Romans ( Zechariah 12:10 ).
7. Expounded by Christ as referring to Himself ( Matthew 26:31 Matthew 26:32 ). Thus it is a resumption of the prophecy of His betrayal ( Zechariah 11:4 Zechariah 11:10 Zechariah 11:13 Zechariah 11:14 ), and the subsequent punishment of the Jews. It explains the mystery why He, who came to be a blessing, was cut off while bestowing the blessing. God regards sin in such a fearful light that He spared not His own co-equal Son in the one Godhead, when that Son bore the sinner's guilt.
Awake--Compare a similar address to the sword of justice personified ( Jeremiah 46:6 Jeremiah 46:7 ). For "smite" (imperative), Matthew 26:31 has "I will smite." The act of the sword, it is thus implied, is GOD'S act. So the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9 , "Hear ye," is imperative; the fulfilment as declared by Jesus is future ( Matthew 13:14 ), "ye shall hear."
sword--the symbol of judicial power, the highest exercise of which is to take away the life of the condemned ( Psalms 17:13 , Romans 13:4 ). Not merely a show, or expression, of justice (as Socinians think) is distinctly implied here, but an actual execution of it on Messiah the shepherd, the substitute for the sheep, by God as judge. Yet God in this shows His love as gloriously as His justice. For God calls Messiah "My shepherd," that is, provided ( Revelation 13:8 ) for sinners by My love to them, and ever the object of My love, though judicially smitten ( Isaiah 53:4 ) for their sins ( Isaiah 42:1 , 59:16 ).
man that is my fellow--literally, "the man of my union." The Hebrew for "man" is "a mighty man," one peculiarly man in his noblest ideal. "My fellow," that is, "my associate." "My equal" ([DE WETTE]; a remarkable admission from a Rationalist). "My nearest kinsman" [HENGSTENBERG], ( John 10:30 , John 14:10 John 14:11 , Philippians 2:6 ).
sheep shall be scattered--The scattering of Christ's disciples on His apprehension was the partial fulfilment ( Matthew 26:31 ), a pledge of the dispersion of the Jewish nation (once the Lord's sheep, Psalms 100:3 ) consequent on their crucifixion of Him. The Jews, though "scattered," are still the Lord's "sheep," awaiting their being "gathered" by Him ( Isaiah 40:9 Isaiah 40:11 ).
I will turn . . . hand upon . . . little ones--that is, I will interpose in favor of (compare the phrase in a good sense, Isaiah 1:25 ) "the little ones," namely, the humble followers of Christ from the Jewish Church, despised by the world: "the poor of the flock" ( Zechariah 11:7 Zechariah 11:11 ); comforted after His crucifixion at the resurrection ( John 20:17-20 ); saved again by a special interposition from the destruction of Jerusalem, having retired to Pella when Cestius Gallus so unaccountably withdrew from Jerusalem. Ever since there has been a Jewish "remnant" of "the little ones . . . according to the election of grace." The hand of Jehovah was laid in wrath on the Shepherd that His hand might be turned in grace upon the little ones.
8, 9. Two-thirds of the Jewish nation were to perish in the Roman wars, and a third to survive. Probably from the context ( Zechariah 14:2-9 ), which has never yet been fulfilled, the destruction of the two-thirds (literally, "the proportion of two," or "portion of two") and the saving of the remnant, the one-third, are still future, and to be fulfilled under Antichrist.
9. through . . . fire--of trial ( Psalms 66:10 , Amos 4:11 , 1 Corinthians 3:15 , 1 Peter 1:6 1 Peter 1:7 ). It hence appears that the Jews' conversion is not to precede, but to follow, their external deliverance by the special interposition of Jehovah; which latter shall be the main cause of their conversion, combined with a preparatory inward shedding abroad in their hearts of the Holy Spirit ( Zechariah 12:10-14 ); and here, "they shall call on My name," in their trouble, which brings Jehovah to their help ( Psalms 50:15 ).
my people--( Jeremiah 30:18-22 , Ezekiel 11:19 Ezekiel 11:20 , Hosea 2:23 ).