Zechariah 13
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Salvation through Christ. The glorious gospel.

I. THE EVIL. "Sin and uncleanness." All are sinners. Law, facts of life, testimony of conscience, prove our guilt. Sin defiles all that it touches. Uncleanness, alas how prevalent, and in manifold forms! 'Twas sin that brought it all into the world. If there were no sin there would be no uncleanness. Need for grief and prayer.

II. THE REMEDY. Fountain, etc.

1. Freedom of access. Open, not shut. None debarred. In the promise of God - by the atoning death of Christ - through the ministry of grace, the fountain has been opened for all (John 19:34; 1 John 1:7; Hebrews 9:13).

2. Plenitude of supply, Not a pool or a cistern, but a fountain, with rich and ample supplies for all. Thousands and tens of thousands have already been blessed, and whosoever will may come, and will find that Christ is mighty to save.

3. Perennial virtue. Not like Bethesda, at certain times; but all the year round, and from, generation to generation. After many years' absence, I visited the home of my youth. There were sad changes. Friends were gone. None to know me. But under the shade of firs, in the old place, I found the spring where I had often slaked my thirst. It was still the same - the water sweet and refreshing as ever. So Christ is "the Same yesterday, today, and forever." - F.

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered, etc. Concerning the preceding chapter and these six verses, Dr. Keil says, "This section forms the first half of the second prophecy of Zechariah concerning the future of Israel and of the world, viz. the prophecy contained in ch. 12-14, which, as a side piece to ch. 9-11, treats of the judgment by which Israel, the nation of God, will be refined, sifted, and led on to perfection through conflict with the nations of the world. This first section announces how the conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will issue in destruction to the nations of the world (Zechariah 12:1-4). Jehovah will endow the princes of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem with marvellous strength to overcome all their foes (vers. 5-9), and will pour out his spirit of grace upon them, so that they will bitterly repent the death of the Messiah (vers. 10-14), and purify themselves from all ungodliness (Zechariah 13:1-6)." "The day" here is generally supposed by expositors to point to the gospel age; and three remarks are here suggested in relation to this day.

I. IT IS A "DAY" FOR THE ABOUNDING OF SIN-CLEANSING INFLUENCES. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem." This phrase comprehended the whole Jewish nation. To the Jews, washing from sin and ceremonial impurity was an idea with which they were well acquainted. It was enjoined by the Law (Numbers 8:7; see also Ezekiel 36:25).

1. That sin and uncleanness are in the world. This is a fact written in all history, patent to every man's observation and consciousness.

2. The removal of sin is the world's great necessity. Its existence is the cause of all the miseries of the world, physical, social, political, religious.

3. Provisions for its removal abound. "A fountain opened." Sin and uncleanness are not an essential part of human nature. Men have lived without sin, and men in the other world do now. It is a mere stain on human nature, separable from it, and the means of separation are provided - provided in the gospel. In the mediatory life, teaching, works, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God. In all this he has opened to the world a fountain of influence by which sin is to be cleansed. It is a fountain. This implies:

(1) Abundance. It is not a rill, a brook, a lake, but a fountain. What is the fountain? Infinite love.

(2) Freeness. Flowing, ever open to all.

(3) Perpetuity. The hottest sun does not dry up the fountain. It has an under connection with the boundless deep.

II. IT IS A "DAY" IN WHICH IDOLATRY SHALL BE UTTERLY ABOLISHED. The spirit of idolatry is giving to any object that love which belongs only to the Supreme; and this sin is perhaps as rife in regions where monotheism is professed as in those lands where polytheism holds its empire. The cutting off the "names of the idols" means their utter destruction (see Hosea 2:17). But you may destroy all the million idols, involving those which are the workmanship of men and these which are the creation of God, before which men have bowed, and yet leave idolatry as rampant as ever. Nothing but the destruction of the spirit will be the destruction of idolatry. Hence we have here suggested a time when men shall give their affection to the Supreme Being, and to him alone, when they shall worship the one true and living God. This is the idolatry the gospel comes to destroy; it is to turn men from idols to. the living God. What a blessed age will that be, when all men on the face of the earth shall have their souls centred in love and devotion on the one great and common Father of us all! "In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats" (Isaiah 2:20).

III. IT IS A "DAY" IN WHICH ALL FALSE RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS SHALL CEDE. "And I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land," etc. The words here in relation to false prophets suggest the following thoughts.

1. False religious teachers are great curses to a community. This is implied in the promise here of their destruction. False teachers in any branch of knowledge, be it historic, scientific, philosophic, literary, or artistic, are for many reasons great evils; but in religion the evils they inflict are inconceivably great. They deceive souls on the most vital of all points. False religious teachers are not merely teachers of pantheism, idolatry, or Mohammedanism, but even those who are nominally teachers of the gospel. The man who gives a wrong interpretation of the gospel is a false teacher, and such men are found even in the pulpits of our England. What blasphemous ideas of God and degrading notions of his blessed Son have we in some of the popular sermons of the age! Whosoever teaches the conventional Christ is false to the Christ of the gospel.

2. False religious teachers may become objects of indignation even to their nearest relations. "And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth." It will be, indeed, a blessed time when the people of a country will have a greater love for truth than for their dearest relations, even their very children; when the appearance of a false teacher will awaken such a public indignation as will expose his very life to danger; when men's moral ears will be so attuned to truth, that the very sound of falsehood will become intolerable. Thank God, there is an age of moral reality coming, an age when men will recoil from shams as from "demons vile."

3. False religious teachers will on this "day be ashamed to exercise their mission. The prophets shall be ashamed." If any false prophets should continue to exercise their function, they will have to do it:

(1) With secrecy. "Neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive." It is said, when Domitian banished philosophers from Rome, many persons shaved off their beards and flung away their cloaks, that they might not be included in the ban. So now the false prophet will be ashamed of his badge, his rough garment, made perhaps of untanned sheepskin, or a Bedouin blanket made of camel's hair, like that of John the Baptist.

(2) Disclaiming their profession. "He shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman." If they carry on their work, they will do it under a false character, such as farmers or herdmen. "I belong to that class in society which lies under the least suspicion of aspiring to a function in which knowledge of affairs, dexterity in making use of men's weaknesses, and some literary faculty are needed. Besides, 'men own me from my youth' (for this is the meaning of the words rendered, 'men taught me to keep cattle from my youth'); and so if I had had the will I could never have had the chance of setting up as a prophet I have not been my own master. Not quite satisfied with this disclaimer, the supposed examiners ask to be allowed to look at his hands, as you can judge roughly of a man's calling by the state of his hands - at least, you can thus judge whether a man is earning his bread with his hands or his head. They at once detect suspicious marks on this man's hands, wounds which they evidently suspect to have been self-inflicted in accordance with some idolatrous rite. Self-mutilation and self-laceration have always been common accessories of pagan worship, and common accompaniments of manifestations of pagan fanatical ecstasy. They are far from uncommon still in heathen and in Mohammedan countries. Permanent marks of a distinctive kind were also frequently made upon different parts of the person, and especially upon the arms, in acknowledgment of allegiance to some particular god (Jeremiah 48:37), where mourning is thus described. 'Every head shall be bald, and every beard clipped: upon all the hands shall be cuttings.' But the man denies that his wounds have any such significance; they are not, he says, religious marks at all: 'they are wounds which I received in the house of friends,' in some rustic frolic with his boon companions, or as the slave's brand in the house of his master" (Dr. Dods). Should their disclaiming be questioned, they will take shelter in falsehood. "And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends." "The doubting examiner asks him to show him his hands, that he may ascertain if he has the rough hands of a farmer; those hands he shows, but they have nevertheless marks of a prophet on them, and of these very marks he gives a false account." "I was wounded in the house of my friends."

CONCLUSION. Thank God, we live in this gospel age. The sin-cleansing fountain is here, sending forth its streams in all directions. They flow through all the good books we have, through all the good lives we meet with. Let the streams multiply. The fountain will supply streams equal to the exigencies of all. Let us remove obstructions, cut new channels, and strive to let them into every heart. These will multiply in power, and increase in volume, till all idolatry, false, teaching, and every other form of iniquity that pollutes the heart of the world, be washed clean away, and the whole world be holy in character, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. - D.T.

There is here something of heaven and earth. Jehovah speaks. He lays his command on the sword of justice, to awake and "smite." This implies death, and death not of a common sort, but as a judicial act, under the sanction of law. We take the scene to illustrate the tragedy of Calvary (Matthew 26:31; John 16:32). Three questions may be asked.

I. WHO? The rebellious Babylon, Rome, Jerusalem? No. "The man that is my fellow." Who is this? Search, and where can you find such a one? Abraham was God's friend, but not his "fellow." Prophets and kings, martyrs and confessors, all stand aside. None but Christ answers the description. He is the First and the Last and the only One, in human likeness, who could say, "I and my Father are One"

II. WHY? Justice has its reasons. All that God does must be in accordance with eternal right. But here is mystery. The Man who alone was "without sin," holy and perfect - the solitary man, in human form, who was nearest of kin to God himself - to be dealt with as if he were a transgressor, and as if he had done things worthy of death, - this is exceeding strange. The key is in the term "Shepherd." Implies covenant relationship. Substitution of person and of sufferings. The One for the many; the Shepherd for the sheep.

III.. WHAT THEN? We reasonably expect results worthy of such a tragedy. Twofold.

1. Judgment. Not only as to the disciples, but the Jewish people.

2. Mercy. Tender compassion. Gracious interposition. Glorious resolve. "I will turn my hand upon the little ones." Let us note that there is but one alternative - hand or sword. If we pass by God's hand stretched out to save, we must perish by the sword. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." - F.

Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts' smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. Here we have God's government of the world in two aspects, bringing penal ruin on many in a community, and remedial discipline upon a few; appearing as the sword of justice in the one case, and as a refiner's pot in the other. Here we have it -


1. The destruction of their leader. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd."! In the Bible language political religious leaders are represented as shepherds. For example, it was applied to Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28). The person defined is represented as "the man that is my fellow." Dr. Keil's rendering is, "the man who is my neighbour;" and Dr. Henderson's, "the man who is united to me." Who is this man? On this question there are different opinions. "Calion thought it was Zechariah himself as representative of all the prophets, and that the prophecy referred only indirectly to Christ. Grotius, Eichhorn, Bauer, and Jahne apply it to Judas Maccabaeus; Ewald, to Pekah; Hitzig, to the pretended prophets spoken of in the preceding verses." The expression, "my fellow," does not necessarily. mean one who is equal in nature and character, but rather one who has fellowship of interests and aims. The poorest labourer in the cause of gospel truth is a "fellow" with the Archbishop of Canterbury, even a fellow labourer of Christ, and fellow labourer with God himself. Evangelical writers, however, apply the language to Christ, without much critical examination and without hesitation. They do this mainly on the ground that Christ himself quotes the passage, on the night in which he was betrayed, as an illustration of what was immediately awaiting him. "Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad" (Matthew 26:31). He does not say that the prophecy referred to him, but merely that the passage was about to be illustrated in his history. The Shepherd was to be smitten, and the sheep scattered. This, indeed, is a common fact in the history of the world; when the leader is gone the fold is scattered. Christ was, indeed, about to be smitten - smitten to death, not by the "sword" of Divine vengeance, as is impiously held by some, but by the wrath of his human enemies. "Awake, O sword." "These are words," says an old orthodox expositor, "of God the Father giving orders and commission to the sword of his justice to awaken to his Son." It is the sword of justice that he may die as a criminal on an ignominious tree; awaking to smite him, not with a drowsy blow, but with a mighty one." Dr. Watts has the same idea -

"The Father plunged his flaming sword
In his atoning blood." From all such representations of the benign God of the universe, and the Infinite Father of love, my reason and heart revolt as from a monstrous creed or cursed blasphemy. However, I am not going to debate either the question whether the words were intended for Christ or not, or, if they were, the accuracy or otherwise of the interpretations thus given. Our point is that God often brings sufferings on a people by striking down their leader. There are few greater calamities that can befall a people than when nations lose their shepherds and leaders, or when Churches lose their pastors. Even when families lose their heads the loss is incalculable.

2. The dispersion of the flock. This comes to most communities when the true leader is taken away. The removal of a leader in a family - a parent - often leads to a scattering of the children. So with the leader in a Church - the pastor; and so with the leader of a nation. When the shepherd has gone, the flock is scattered, and the scattering is a great evil. Unity is strength and harmony; division is weakness and disorder. When communities are broken up and dispersed, the various members often place themselves in antagonism with each other, and rivalries, jealousies, and envyings run riot.

3. The ruin of multitudes. "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein." Probably this refers primarily to the destruction of two-thirds of the inhabitants of Judea by the Roman arms, and the famine or the pestilence and other destructive influences which are the usual concomitants of all wars. Thus the afflictions of the great majority of the human race, here represented as the two-thirds of a community, come upon them as the retribution of justice - the Divine sword here invoked. They are not disciplinary, but penal. The victims do not morally improve under them, they grew worse. They are "cut off and die."

II. BRINGING REMEDIAL DISCIPLINE TO A FEW. "And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my Name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God." The very calamities which were penal and utterly ruinous to two-thirds of that population were morally disciplinary and improving to the remaining third. In the one case they were the strokes of the "sword" of justice. In the other the calamities were but fire in the "pot of the refiner." Just as the refiner purifies his silver and his gold by fire, God in mercy spiritually improves his people by the trial and the sufferings which he inflicts. These, taught by the purifying influence of trials:

1. Pray and are heard. "Shall call on my Name, and I will hear them."

2. Are accepted of God as his people, They acknowledge their relationship. "I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, the Lord is my God."

CONCLUSION. Amidst all the difficulties connected with this passage, this doctrine stands out in sublime prominence that afflictions which are penal and destructive to the many are remedial and merciful to the few. All experience shows this to be true. Two men stand before me. Both are equally afflicted with similar sufferings. The one writhes, murmurs, and rebels under his afflictions; he becomes intensified in his enmity to God. Like Pharaoh, his heart is hardened; he dies a rebel, and is lost. The "sword" of justice has struck him. The other becomes spiritually thoughtful, repentant, resigned, humbled, and devout. The "fire" has purified him, and like David he says, "It is good for me that I was afflicted," and like Paul, "I glory in tribulation." - D.T.

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