Zechariah 13
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
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: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

CHAPTER 13:2–6.

A. The Extinction of Idols and False Prophets (Zech 13:2). B. The Latter to be slain by their own Parents (Zech 13:3). C. Other such Prophets shall be ashamed of their Calling (Zech 13:4). D. And even deny it when charged upon them (Zech 13:5, 6.)

2 And it shall be in that day, saith Jehovah of Hosts,

I will cut off the names of the idols from the land,23

And they shall be remembered no more;

And also the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness,

Will I cause to pass out of the land.

3 And it shall be, if a man still prophesy,

His father and his mother, who begat him, shall say to him,

Thou shalt not live,

For thou hast spoken a lie in the name of Jehovah;

And his father and his mother, who begat him,

Shall pierce24 him through in his prophesying.

4 And it shall be in that day the prophets shall be ashamed25

Each of his vision in his prophesying;

And shall no more put on a hairy mantle to lie;

5 And [one] shall say,26 I am not a prophet, I am a husbandman,

For a man has sold27 me from my youth.

6 And [the other] shall say28 to him,

What then are these wounds between thy hands?

And he shall say, Those with which I was wounded

In the house of my lovers.29


This portion announces the complete extirpation of idolatry and false prophecy, which are here taken to represent all forms of ungodliness and immorality, which they could very properly do, since they had been the chief and most dangerous sins of the covenant people in all their previous history. We have then a vivid presentation of the fruits of the penitence mentioned in the previous chapter, and of the conversion and renovation announced in the opening verse of this chapter. The passage is not to be restricted to any particular period, but describes under local and temporary forms the removal of whatever is offensive to a God of holiness and truth. It will therefore apply to every instance in which the Gospel in its leading elements, repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, is truly received.

Zech 13:2. I will cut off the names of the idols. The expressions, “to cut off the names,” and “that they be remembered no more,” denote the total extinction of idolatry (cf. Hos. 2:17). Of the latter Calvin says, “his meaning is that the hatred of superstition will be so great that the people will shudder at the very name.” Inasmuch as the Jews notoriously after the Captivity shrank from any approach to idol-worship, it has been claimed that this passage shows that the portion of the book to which it belongs was composed prior to the Exile. But the conclusion is not legitimate. Zechariah simply uses the forms of the past in which to depict the future. Idolatry was the common expression of ungodliness in the earlier days of the nation; how could even a post-exilium prophet better set forth the overthrow of false religion in the future than by predicting the oblivion of idols and their names? Köhler indeed deems it possible, on the basis of Rev. 9:20, 13:4, 15, that gross actual idol-worship may again return, but this would be to interpret an obscure book by one yet obscurer. Possibly the reference may be to that refined idolatry which consists in regarding and serving the creature more than the Creator, and which the New Testament has in view when it declares covetousness to be idolatry (Col. 3:5). The prophets must of course be false prophets who spoke without authority, as appears from their association not only with idols but also with the spirit of uncleanness. This latter phrase denotes not merely a pervading principle, but an active, conscious agency, standing in direct contrast with the Spirit of grace (12:10), which works in its human instruments and leads them to their lying utterances. The false prophets as well as the true were subject to an influence from without (cf. 1 Kings 22:21–23, Rev. 16:14 with 2 Thess. 2:9, 10 and 1 Tim. 4:2). The completeness of the removal of this form of ungodliness is expressed very energetically in the following verses.

Zech 13:3. If a man still prophesy.… pierce him through. Some infer from the opening words that the mere fact of prophesying will be proof that the man attempting it is a deceiver, since there will be no more prophets (Keil, Köhler), and they refer to Jer. 31:33, 34, Is. 54:13; but this is an extravagant and needless assumption, for the connection shows plainly enough that Zechariah has in view simply false pretenders to divine inspiration, and the passages quoted by no means imply the final cessation of the spirit of prophecy either in its broad or its narrow sense, as the New Testament plainly shows. The statement in the text rests on Deut. 18:20, compared with 13:6–9. The offender shall die, and the first to inflict the sentence shall be his father and his mother, here made more emphatic by the addition, who begat him. Cf. 2 Sam. 16:11. Several expositors modify the meaning of דָקַר so as to make it=to bind or scourge (LXX., Peshito, Calmet), but there is no ground whatever for this in the origin or usage of the word, nor does it suit the context.

Zech 13:4. Prophets shall be ashamed.… to lie. The revolution will be so great that these pretenders shall become ashamed of their claims, and strip off the outward token of their occupation. The hairy mantle worn by the prophets (2 Kings 1:8) was not a form of ascetic discipline, but a sermo propheticus realis, a symbol of the prophet’s grief for the sins which he was commissioned to reprove. It was an acted parable of repentance. The same remark is true of John the Baptist’s “raiment of camel’s hair and leathern girdle” (Matt. 3:4). To lie, i. e., to give themselves the appearance of prophets, and thus impose upon the people. Thus far Zechariah has spoken of those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord, and Hengstenberg supposes that he now turns to another class of pretenders who spoke in the name of strange gods,—a view which seems required by his interpretation of the last word of Zech 13:6. But no break or transition is apparent in the passage, and there is no necessity for violently introducing a new subject.

Zech 13:5, 6. I am not a prophet.… lovers. A dramatic representation of the means by which one of these deceivers endeavors to escape detection. Charged with his crime, he denies it, and claims to have been nothing more than a common tiller of the soil. In support of this claim he asserts that this is no recent circumstance, but that he has been sold from his youth. קָנִה=to acquire, h. buy (Is. 24:2), in Hiphil would naturally=to cause to buy, i. e., to sell. Fürst and others make Hiphil the same as Kal. The sense is the same according to either rendering. There seems to be no reason for considering the verb a denominative from מִקְנֶה, servum facere (Maurer, Köhler). To this denial is opposed the question as to the origin of the scars the accused person bears,—wounds between thy hands, i. e., upon the breast. Cf. 2 Kings 9:24, where “between the arms” evidently has this meaning. (In Arabic the cognate phrase, ذَـيْنَ يَلَ يْه, occurs frequently, in the sense coram eo.) The questioner considers these gashes upon the person as palpable evidences that the man has wounded himself in connection with idolatrous worship (1 Kings 18:28; Tibullus, 1:1:43, respecting the worship of Cybele), and asks an explanation. The reply is that lie received them in the house of his lovers, which some explain as=impure, sinful lovers, i. e., idols (Hengstenberg), in which sense they say that the Piel of אָהַב is always used (which, however, cannot be affirmed of Jer. 22:20, 22, Lam. 1:19); but as the form necessarily signifies only intense affection without regard to quality, I prefer the opinion of those who explain it as=loving friends, and understand the accused person as maintaining that the scars are simply the result of chastisements which he had formerly received when in the house of his relatives. It seems more likely that such a man would resort to an evasion of this kind than that he would make the frank confession involved in the former view.

This verse is commonly applied to the sufferings of Christ, but without any further ground than its mere proximity to that which follows, in which He and his sufferings are clearly predicted” (Henderson). It is quite impossible on any critical ground to vindicate such an application, although Henderson is far astray when he assigns as a reason that “in no tolerable sense could the Jews be called Christ’s lovers or friends,” for it is written (John 1:11), “He came unto his own, and his own (οἱ ί̈διοι) received Him not,” and the Apostle (Rom. 9:5) speaks of his kinsmen as those "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.”


1. Idolatry and divination are mentioned by Zechariah, as has been said, only as typical forms of error and sin. But it is singular how well they express the prevailing evils with which the Church is called to contend in modern times. The gross idolatry of the heathen has disappeared from Christendom never to return; but its place is taken by a more refined and more dangerous error of the same sort. There is a devotion rendered to wealth, to pleasure, to position, to genius, which is wholly inconsistent with the just claims of our Maker. There is a materialism which, although glozed over with high sounding names, is as repulsive to the true honor of God as the worship of Baal or Astarte. It dwells on great physical achievements, discoveries in nature or inventions in art, scientific triumphs, or even the multiplication of social conveniences, as if these were the all in all of life and of man. The next world is ignored. God is turned into a mere name. He is not enough thought of to be actively opposed; and men say in Gibbon’s famous formula, all religions are equally true in the eyes of the people, equally false in the eyes of the philosopher, and equally useful in the eyes of the statesman. Now this cool indifference, this pervading earthliness of character and pursuit, is not simply the rejection of God, but the enthronement of something else in his place, i. e., idolatry. And it needs all the energy of a true spiritual faith to overcome it. If the Church is ever to fulfill her function, she must insist that the life is more than meat and the body than raiment; that means are not ends; that man is not merely an animal of the better class, more highly organized and of larger intelligence; but that he is a spiritual being, allied to the infinite Spirit and able to reach the true goal of his existence only in willing obedience to that supreme Spirit. Anything else than this, whether it he the worship of wealth, or the worship of science, is treason to God. It puts the creature in the place of the Creator, and so prepares the way for all ungodliness and unrighteousness. A religious basis is essential to a permanent morality, and although the late Mr. John Stuart Mill held that there could be a religion without a personal God, all experience is against his crude notion. Men who begin by denying the rights of their Maker will sooner or later end by denying the rights of their fellow men.

2. The world has often flattered itself that “the false prophet and the unclean spirit” have completely passed away, that science has effectually disposed of superstition, that the progress of education and intelligence has put an end to soothsaying and necromancy. Yet our own generation has completely exploded this flattering dream. The heart of our own enlightened land where the schoolmaster has been abroad for generations, has witnessed the resurrection and diffusion of errors which are usually considered as belonging only to the twilight of civilization. The miserable first king of Israel resorted to the witch of Endor, only after every other door of knowledge had been hopelessly closed against him; but now under the blaze of a completed revelation, with Christ at the right hand of God, and the Holy Spirit promised to all who seek aright, men revive an antiquated delusion and seek for the living to the dead. Nay, many who reject and scoff at the Scriptures, receive with implicit faith what purport to be communications from the ghosts of the departed. It is a fulfillment of the Apostolic declaration (2 Tim. 4:4), “They who turn away their ears from the truth shall be turned unto fables.” Man stands too close to the unseen world to deny or ignore its existence; his own condition here with its dependence and exposure makes him look wistfully for something higher and better. If that craving is not satisfied legitimately, it will be illegitimately. The alternative to Faith is not unbelief but misbelief. Men must believe something. If they obey the laws of evidence, they will receive the only proven revelation from the invisible world; if not, then all that remains is belief without evidence, that is, superstition. Nor will this be altered if there be a common school, and a printing press, and a scientific association in every hamlet of the land. No culture of the intellect can destroy or smother man’s moral and spiritual nature. The heart, the conscience, the sense of responsibility, will still survive and demand some appropriate nutriment. To offer to these the latest discoveries in physics, is to offer stones instead of bread, or a scorpion instead of a fish. If they do not receive the living oracles of the Spirit of holiness, they fall into the hands of “the spirit of uncleanness,” whose working is with lying wonders and all deceivableuess of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thes. 2:9, 10).

3. The energy of moral rebuke in a healthy state of Zion, is well shown in the pictorial representation of the Prophet. In the fifth Book of Moses provision is made for the prompt and severe punishment of any one who should introduce the worship of a false god (Deut. 13:6–9). The Jewish commonwealth, being an actual theocracy, idolatry was simply and literally high treason, a blow at the life of the state, and as such a capital crime. Hence no degree of kindred or affection was allowed to exempt any one from denouncing such a criminal. Even a man’s nearest relatives were to be the first to put their hands to his execution when he was found judicially obnoxious to the penalty. Even so, declares Zechariah, in days to come will the parents who naturally cling to a prodigal boy, even when he may be hated and despised by all the world, yet overcome their affection, and themselves thrust through the child who is a lying prophet. The representation is strong, but not exaggerated. Literally understood it is of course impossible. Under the Gospel civil punishments for religious errors have and can have no place. But the underlying thought—intense and absolute loyalty to God—is as appropriate now as it ever was. The religious element in man’s nature is to become dominant, nay supreme. Love to God, like Aaron’s rod, is to swallow up all other affections. Nothing is to come into competition with allegiance to truth and holiness. Our Lord presented the duty with all plainness: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). It often happens that the claims of relatives and the claims of Christ come into collision; and when they do, the former must give way. We must choose to displease those whom we most love on earth rather than displease Him who died for us on the cross. This doctrine is quite repulsive to the sentimentalists who exalt the domestic affections to the highest place in human esteem, but it is none the less true, being indeed a simple corollary from the first principle of all religion, that the object of worship is to be loved supremely, and all other beings, however near or dear, subordinately.

4. But this is a very different thing from the self inflicted tortures of the heathen and of all false religionists. The man in the text with “wounds between his hands,” represents a class found in all ages and lands. Clear references to these are found in the Scripture (Deut. 14:1; Jer. 16:6; 41:5), and an actual instance is seen in the priests of Baal in their contest with Elijah (1 Kings 18:28). The custom originated in the uneasy consciousness of guilt and of the necessity for expiation. Men in their blindness conceived that by the merciless punishment of their own bodies they would render a species of satisfaction, and so regain the favor of the offended deities. The folly of this form of worship is well exposed by Seneca (quoted by Augustine, Civ. Dei, vi. 10), and yet it is not so absurd as it would seem. For if a man believes that the gods will exact some suffering for sins, and that by inflicting it upon himself he may forestall their action and get off on cheaper terms, it is not easy to refute him on rationalistic grounds. The difficulty in his case is that conscience is aroused, and yet there is no knowledge of the doctrine of substitution or atonement. Hence even in Christian lands, whenever that doctrine is not understood in its simplicity and fullness, the same thing occurs in a less aggravated form. Fastings and mortifications and penances of various kinds are cheerfully endured as compensations for guilt. It is hard for poor human nature to learn that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” Yet nothing is clearer in the Scripture than that the will worship which consists in pains and privations, inflicted and endured for their own sake, is most offensive to the Most High. He Himself never sends afflictions unless there is a needs be, and He does not ask us to be other than Himself, Self denial is indeed a large part of the Christian life, but it is self-denial for an object beyond itself—not as satisfaction for sin or a price paid for heaven, but out of love for Christ, as a means of cultivating holiness or of winning souls for the kingdom. Privation borne with such views is indeed an honor and a blessing; but if inflicted for its own sake, it puts even such a transcendent genius as Pascal with his hair shirt and iron pointed girdle, on the same level with the self gashed devotees of Baal, or the forsworn diviner whom Zechariah describes.


MOORE: Zech 13:3. Love to God must be paramount to all other affections, even the most tender. It is in our present imperfect sanctification inconceivable how we could acquiesce in the perdition of our children without a pang that would poison all the bliss of heaven, and yet it shall be so. Much as we love them, we shall love God and his law immeasurably more.

Zech 13:4–6: Sinners shall at last be made to confess their sins and the justice of their punishment; and the bitterest drop in the cup of their agony will be that they have wrung it out for themselves, and that it is all just.

CALVIN: Falsehood hast thou spoken in the name of Jehovah. If we rightly consider what this is, it will certainly appear to us more detestable than to kill an innocent man, or to destroy a guest with poison, or to lay violent hands upon one’s own father. The greatest of all crimes does not come up to this horrible and monstrous wickedness.

JAY: Wounded in the house of my friends. There are four kinds of such wounds. (1.) Those arising from their just reprehensions. (2.) Those that result from their sufferings. (3.) Those produced by our being bereaved of them. (4.) Those inflicted by their improper conduct. Again. If the Lord Jesus be the sufferer, He is wounded in the house of his friends, by their negligent conduct—by their selfishness—by their distrust—by their timidity—by their gloomy conduct—by their unholiness. His question is, Is this thy kindness to thy friend?


[23]Zech 13:2.—הָאָרֶץ. Henderson in both cases renders earth, but needlessly. The statement is a general one, but with a local coloring.

[24]Zech 13:3.—דקר is rendered pierce, in order to show that it is the same word which is used in the famous passage 12:10.

[25]Zech 13:4.—Heng. renders בוֹשׁ מִן, to desist with shame, but the established meaning of the phrase is simply, to be ashamed of. The fem. suffix in הִנָבְאֹתוֹ is a peculiarity of this class of verbs (Green, Heb. Gr., 166, 2).

[26]Zech 13:5.—The singular verb here, following the previous plurals, indicates that one case is selected as an example Noyes renders, “each shall say,” but the prophet can scarcely mean that every one of the false prophets is to make the same form of denial.

[27]Zech 13:5.—הִקְנַנִי has been strangely misconceived. LXX. make it ἐγέννησεν; Vulg., Adam meum exemplum; Pesch. renders as if it came from קָנָא. The E. V. followed Kimchi in deriving the verbal form from מִקְנֶה=small cattle.

[28]Zech 13:6.—The implied subject of “shall say” is, of course, the other interlocutor in the dialogue.

[29]Zech 13:6.—מְאַהֲבַי should be rendered lovers, just as it is in all the other places where it occurs: Lam. 1:19, Hosea 2:7, 9,12, etc.; friends is too weak.

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.

CHAPTER 13:7–9

A. The Shepherd is smitten at Jehovah’s Command, and the Sheep scattered, yet not hopelessly (Zech 13:7). B. The Excision of Two Thirds of the Flock (Zech 13:8). C. A further Refinement by Sorrow with a joyful Issue (Zech 13:9).

7 Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,

And against a man, my fellow,301 saith Jehovah of Hosts

Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered,

And I will bring back my hand31 upon the little ones.

8 And it shall be in all the land, saith Jehovah,

Two parts therein shall be cut off,32 shall die,

And the third shall be left therein.

9 And I will bring the third part into the fire,33

And will refine them as silver is refined,

And will try them as gold is tried;

He34 shall call upon my name and I will answer;35

I will say36It is my people,

And he shall say, Jehovah is my God.


Here again there is evidently a very sudden change of subject. The prophet passes at once from recounting the evasions of a pretender to prophecy to a dramatic representation of the good shepherd suffering under a divine infliction. No transition could well be more abrupt. Moreover, he seems to turn back on his course, quite forsaking the chronological order he has heretofore pursued in developing the Messianic revelation. In the ninth chapter he set forth the lowly king, individualizing his peculiar entrance into the holy city; in the eleventh he gave a symbolical representation of his rejection by the covenant people, with a distinct allusion to the wages of his betrayer; in the twelfth he stated the wonderful efficacy of the sight of his pierced form in awakening the deepest penitence and securing pardon and renewal. Yet here instead of advancing farther, a return is made to the fact of the Messiah’s death. How are we to account for this startling transition and seemingly retrograde movement? Of the former, Professor Cowles (M. P., p. 367) suggests an ingenious explanation founded upon the law of association of ideas. “The close analogy between the false prophet, whose hands had been gashed and pierced ‘in the house of his friends,’ and the Messiah, whose hands were pierced in a death by crucifixion among those who ought to have been his friends, suggested the latter case and led the prophet to speak of it here.” The learned Professor has certainly given the clew to the connection, but I should prefer to state it in a different way. The relation is one of contrast rather than of likeness. Zechariah had been speaking of a miserable pretender to prophecy, a man marked with the scars of his reasonless wounds received in idol-worship, and vainly attempting to falsify their origin. Now he turns to the true prophet arid teacher, the faithful shepherd whose scars are real and significant, who was not only wounded but slain, and whose death was the salvation of his flock. But in stating this fact, the prophet introduces a new and peculiar element in the tragedy,—one which he at least had not before emphasized or even adverted to. This is the immediate agency of Jehovah in bringing about the bloody result. It is God who arouses the sword sleeping in its scabbard, He points it at his own fellow, He gives the command to thrust it home.

Here then is a sufficient reason for the seeming reversion of an orderly progress. It was desirable to suggest the divine agency in the atoning death of the Good Shepherd, and that not simply for its own sake as indicating the completeness and perpetuity of the satisfaction rendered (Is. 53:10), but also in order to set forth the assimilation of character and course between the Shepherd and his flock. Both are to suffer, although in different relations and for different purposes. The smiting of the leader involves in the first instance at least the scattering of the sheep. And although Jehovah will turn his hand for good upon the little ones [the little flock, Luke 12:32], yet afterwards there will be severe and most destructive visitations, cutting off two parts out of three, and even the third part that remains is not to escape unscathed. It shall be cast into a furnace, and there be subjected to intense and protracted heat, until as in the case of the precious metals the dross and alloy are consumed and the pure gold and silver is left. The head and the members of the spiritual body then are to pass through a like experience. He suffered, and they also shall suffer. And this statement forms a necessary limitation of the glowing passages in earlier predictions which seem to promise unbroken prosperity and an endless train of outward blessings (9:17, 10:7, 12, 12:6, 9). On the contrary, while the flock will have “peace” in its shepherd, peace in its largest and best sense, yet in the world it shall have “tribulation.” In the general it is true, and always has been true, that “through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The sphere of the prediction is not to be arbitrarily restricted. It speaks of “the land,” of course the land of Israel, but only in so far as it represents the theatre upon which the adherents, nominal or real, of the Messiah are found, and whether they belong to Israel after the flesh or not. It is the Church of the future in its composite nature to which Zechariah refers, and of which he affirms a characteristic feature, which is not fortuitous or unmeaning, but an express appointment of Jehovah of Hosts; intended to bring the followers of the Saviour into a fellowship of suffering with Himself.

The three verses of this passage are closely connected. First, there is a clear statement of the smiting of the shepherd by Jehovah Himself, and then a representation of the effect of this procedure upon the flock. Such effects are not transient but abiding, or rather, the immediate result typifies what is to be the general condition of the flock while it is passing through the wilderness of this world.

Zech 13:1. Awake, O sword.…my fellow. The object of address in this startling dramatic outburst is not some unknown person (Hitzig), but the sword itself, as in Jer. 47:6. O sword of Jehovah, how long wilt thou not, etc. The sword here is used representatively for any means of taking life. Ex. 5:21; Rom. 13:4. The Romans called the right of the magistrates to inflict capital punishment, jus gladii. Uriah was pierced by the arrows of the Ammonites, yet the Lord said to David (2 Sam. 12:9), “Thou hast slain him by the sword of the children of Ammon.” The person against whom the sword is to execute its deadly mission is described as Jehovah’s shepherd, the natural reference of which is to one or the other of the shepherds mentioned in Zech 11. Some suppose that the foolish shepherd (11:15, 17) is intended (Grotius, Ewald, Maurer, Hitzig), but this does not follow necessarily from his being pierced by the sword, since in Is. 53. Jehovah is represented as bruising his righteous servant in whom He finds no fault. It is, moreover, put out of the question by the succeeding clause, the man my fellow, which could not, on any reasonable view, be applied to an unworthy person. גֶּבֶר עַמִיתי is very variously rendered in the versions,—LXX., fellow-citizen, Aqu., kinsman, Sym., of my people, Syr., friend, Targ., associate who is like him, Vulg., who cleaves to me, Theod., neighbor. The word עמית is found only here and in Leviticus, where it occurs eleven times (19:11, 15, 17, etc.), and always with a pronominal suffix, and as a concrete noun. Its general force is shown in 25:15, where it is used interchangeably with brother. It is certainly an abstract noun by its formation, and is so rendered by many (Gesenius, Fürst), but the uniform usage in Leviticus is decisive against this. Moses employs the term evidently to denote a close and intimate connection. Perhaps there is no nearer English equivalent than that of the E. V.,—fellow. גֶבֶֹר is not the ordinary word for man, but one derived from a root signifying to be strong, yet it is doubtful if any stress is to be laid upon this circumstance (Neumann), but it is scarcely doubtful that the term calls attention to the fact that he who is Jehovah’s fellow is also a man (Job 16:21). Who now is this peculiar being? Not Judas Maccabajus (Grotius), nor Pekah (Bunsen), nor Jehoiakim (Maurer), nor Josiah as representing the Davidic line (Pressel), nor the whole body of rulers including Christ (Calvin), but the Messiah (Fathers, Reformers, and most moderns). The unity indicated by the term fellow is one not merely of will or association, much less of function, but of nature or essence. It is common to object to this view that it is foreign to the sphere of the Old Testament, which knows nothing of the trinity of persons in the Godhead, so clearly revealed in the New. But this begs the question,. And if it be admitted that a plurality of persons is distinctly taught in the later Scriptures, it is the most natural thing possible to find indications in the earlier revelation pointing in this direction,—not proof-texts, nor direct assertions, but statements like those in Pss. 2:110; etc., which, although they may have been mysterious to those who first read or “heard them, are to us illuminated by rays reflected back from the Light of the world. Were there any doubt it would be removed by the express allusion of our Lord in Matt. 26:31, 32, Mark 14:27, where He applies the latter half of the verse to Himself and his disciples. Yet. this part cannot be separated from what precedes. Both must have a common subject. Smite the shepherd. The poetical apostrophe to the sword is here continued. Michaelis and others suppose the address to be indefinite, because the noun is feminine while the verb is masculine, but such an enallage of gender is not uncommon in Hebrew. See an early example in Gen. 4:7. For the metaphor in the scattering of the sheep, see 1 Kings 22:17. In our Lord’s quotation, he uses the LXX.,37 with the exception of the initial word, which he resolves into a future, I will smite. This only brings out more clearly what is the obvious thought of the whole passage,—the direct agency of Jehovah in the smiting. As the Apostle Peter said on the day of Pentecost, that while the Jews had by wicked hands crucified the Saviour, yet this was done by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Our Lord Himself said to the man who ordered the crucifixion, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above (John 19:11). The sheep who are scattered, are most naturally understood as the flock which the shepherd had to feed (Zech 11:4), i. e., not the entire race of men on one hand, nor merely the Christian Church on the other, but the covenant nation, embracing both believing and unbelieving members. This is no hindrance to the specific application of the words made by our Lord in his quotation. The dispersion of the disciples upon the occasion of Christ’s arrest, was but one fulfillment of this extensive statement, I will bring back my hand. This phrase=to make a person once more the object of one’s active care, is in itself indefinite, and may be used in a good sense or a bad one. Here the former seems preferable (as in Is. 1:25), as it indicates an exception to the general rule, and this exception is made in favor of the little ones, who are apparently “the wretched of the flock,” in 11:7, 11, the poor and pious portion of the nation. Hengstenberg in loc. denies this, but does not seem to be consistent with himself. Indeed, the difference stated here between the whole flock scattered and the little ones mercifully revisited, is simply what the two following verses state in a more expanded form as a contrast between a general devastation of the whole body and the fate of a small portion which is preserved through the trial, and by means of it is refined, purified, and blessed.

Zech 13:8, 9. These verses dilate the thought of the previous verse in regard to the scattering of the flock and the return of God’s hand in mercy to the little ones.

Zech 13:9. In all the land=not the earth (Mark., Kliefoth) but the land in which the Lord had undertaken the office of a shepherd, and with which the Prophet throughout is chiefly concerned (12:12), the holy land (Hengstenberg, Ewald, Kohler); yet not this in its literal sense, but as representing the domain covered by the kingdom of God. The prediction cannot be consistently interpreted as referring only to the. national Israel.

The peculiar expression פִי־שְׁנַיִם=a mouth of two, is taken from the Pentateuch (Deut. 21:17), where it indicates the double portion inherited by the first-born. In the same sense it is used by Elisha (2 Kings 2:9), where the younger prophet by no means asked to have twice as much of the Spirit as Elijah had, but to receive a first-born’s share in what he possessed, so that he might thus become his acknowledged heir and successor. Here, the phrase evidently means two-thirds, since what remains is called the third. Shall be out off, shall die. The latter verb removes any ambiguity lurking in the former, and shows that not only exile but a literal death is intended. This frightful sweep of judgment is paralleled by the words of Ezek. 5:2–12, where the Lord predicts that a third part shall perish by pestilence and famine, another third by the sword, and the remaining third be scattered to the winds, which of course, although it is not so stated, might be recovered again. (Cf. also the preservation of a tenth amid a general overthrow in Is. 6:13).

Zech 13:9. Bring the third part into the fire. The third part, although it will escape destruction, does not do so on the ground of inherent righteousness, but rather of grace. Its constituent parts need a sore discipline, and it is not withheld. They are refined and purified by processes as severe as those to which the precious metals are subjected. The metaphor is common in Scripture (Ps. 60:10; Is. 48:10; Jer. 9:7; Mal. 3:3. The Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 1:6, 7) wrote, “wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations, that the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, may be found unto praise and honor and glory.” But who constitute this third part 1 Some say, the entire race of the Jews during the whole period of the present dispersion (C. B. Michaelis, Kohler, et al.), but, as Hengstenberg justly urges, in that case unbelieving Judaism would be regarded as the sole and legitimate continuation of Israel, which is simply impossible. The true application is to the entire kingdom of God on earth, whether composed of Jews or of Gentiles. True believers are precious in the Lord’s eyes as silver and gold, and He, subjects them to an intense and lengthened trial, but the design and result is not to destroy but to refine. The attainment of this result is well expressed by the concluding words, showing the mutual intercourse and confidence of the people and their Lord. They call and He answers. He claims them for his people, and they claim Him for their God. Everything is included under these comprehensive phrases (cf. 8:8; Hosea 2:25; Jer. 24:7; 30:22).

Professor Cowles thus states the connection of the verses: “The manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh served to reveal the utter rottenness of the visible Jewish Church. When the Shepherd was smitten, the mass of that Church went to ruin; only a few of the little ones were saved. So in the advanced ages of the Christian Church, corruption became again fearfully prevalent, and another great sifting process became indispensable before the era of the final conquest and triumph of Christ’s kingdom could open” (M. P., 368).


1. The salient point of the entire passage is the immediate agency of Jehovah of Hosts in the suffering and death of the Good Shepherd. We lose sight of an ungrateful people, of their scornful rejection of the unspeakable gift, and of the spear by which human hands pierce a royal benefactor, and are set face to face with a tragedy in which one divine person gives over another to a violent death. A man, a real, veritable man is the subject of the infliction, but that man is the fellow of Jehovah. The wondrous constitution of his personality, a divine nature wrapping around itself our humanity in an indissoluble union, rendered this possible. Its actual occurrence is the most significant truth in Christian theology. The atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ was in no sense an act of will-worship, a device from without to appease the wrath of a Moloch sitting upon the throne of the universe. On the contrary, it was the expression of God’s infinite wisdom and love, the result of his own self-moved grace and compassion. As the record runs in the fore-front of the Gospel, God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son. And that Son said in prophecy, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Ps. 40:7, 8; Heb. 10:9, 10), and in his own person, “I lay down my life; this commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17). It was then God the supreme, God the judge, God whose law was broken, who originated and carried through the great sacrifice. And behind all the voluntary and wicked actors in the scenes of the prsetorium and the Mount of Calvary stood Jehovah of Hosts, saying, Awake, O sword. The LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He put his soul to grief. The Apostle speaks of the love of Christ as that which passeth knowledge; but the same is equally true of the sternal Father. “God only knows the love of God.” No human plummet is long enough to sound the depths of that grace which led Jehovah of Hosts to say of his only-begotten, Smite the shepherd. The Lord Jesus was his own Son, the brightness of his glory and the very image of his being, and therefore the object of infinite complacency, dear to Him beyond all human expression or conception, and yet He spared Him not, but freely delivered Him up for us all.

2. The references of our Lord to this passage bear mainly upon its statement concerning his followers. In John (16:32) we read, “Behold the hour cometh, yea is now come that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone.” Matthew (26:31) gives a later and fuller expression, “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.” The prophecy was fulfilled, but very far from being exhausted, in the dispersion of the disciples when our Lord was arrested. The cause of the flight of the twelve was that their faith was staggered and their confidence impaired by such an untoward event. So it has always been. “The offense of the cross” shows itself in every generation. The ignominious death of the Shepherd is a stumbling-block to the flock. But this does not continue in “the little ones,” the faithful few. They are recovered by the Lord’s own hand, and made to rejoice in that which once was most offensive. This is intimated by the Saviour in the words which follow the quotation in Matthew given above, “But after I am risen again I will go before you into Galilee.” This going before (προάξω), is a pastoral act in which the shepherd leads the way, and is followed by the flock. Just as the Saviour gathered again those who fled in fear on the night of the betrayal, so does He still gather those who at first start back from a near view of the cross.

They find that cross not only the conspicuous badge of their profession but its characteristic feature. In a remarkable passage in the Gospel of Matthew (16:21–25), our Lord first foretells his own sufferings at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and then immediately proceeds to set forth similar trials as the necessary result of attachment to Him. His adherents must needs take up their cross and follow Him even to Golgotha. The motto of the Reformed in Holland—the Church under the Cross—is true of all believers. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” “The friendship of the world is enmity with God.” “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own, but because ye are not of the world but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Believers then are not to count it strange when a fiery trial befalls them, as if it were a strange thing (1 Pet. 4:12). So far from being strange, it is a normal procedure. God’s people are to be “partakers of Christ’s sufferings.” In their case, as in his, the cross precedes the crown.

When great providential calamities, such as war, pestilence, famine, occur, they are not exempt. But the stroke which overwhelms and destroys others, is to them overruled for good. Bad trees are mercilessly rooted out, but the good are only “purged” or pruned. The spurious, reprobate metal is cast away, but the genuine article comes out of the furnace purified and ennobled. It was needful for them to go through the process. The holiest of mere men is improved by passing through the fire. A high encomium was pronounced upon Job before his afflictions, yet the issue of his unparalleled probation taught him that he was vile, and laid him in dust and ashes (40:4; 42:6). Sorrows are one of the tokens of sonship; to forget this is to faint in the day of adversity. “The fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10), the community of shepherd and flock in trials, is one of the blessed mysteries of the Christian life. Believers drink of Christ’s cup and are baptized with his baptism. Companionship in sorrow links them by closer ties and brings them into tenderer communion than is possible in any other way. And so the assimilation proceeds rapidly from glory to glory. The suffering people are changed into the image of their once suffering Lord, and they justly glory in infirmities.

3. The summit of human felicity is described in the mutual proprietorship which the Prophet, following his predecessors, ascribes to God and his people. On the one hand, Jehovah says, It is my people. The foundation passage on this point is given in Ex. 14:5; “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all peoples; for all the earth is mine.” The whole earth is the Lord’s, and all nations belong to Him as Creator and Preserver, but He has been pleased to choose one to stand to Him in a particular and moat endearing relation. Israel is his סִוֻלּה, set apart and distinguished from all others as a possession of peculiar value. Cf. Deut. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Ps. 135:4; Mal. 3:17. Language of the same tenor is applied in the New Testament to the Christian Israel; “a purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14), “a peculiar people” (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9). Prom the mass of fallen men, Jehovah chooses an innumerable multitude whom He condescends to call his portion or inheritance. Oh them He lavishes the riches of his grace, and in them He reveals his glory to the admiration of all holy intelligences., And they are fitted to this high destiny, being conformed to the image of their Lord, and obedient to his will. As such He spares them in times of trial as a man spareth his own son that serveth him (Mal. 3:17), has “his delights” with them (Prov. 8:31), and rejoices over them with the joy of a bridegroom over his bride (Is. 62:5).

On the other hand, the people say, Jehovah is my God. Not only do they acknowledge Him as divine and profess his worship in distinction from heathen or infidels, but they recognize Him as their infinite portion. The knowledge of Him is the best of all knowledges, and his service is the highest form of enjoyment. His favor is life, his loving-kindness better than life. His perfections are a sure pledge of their safety, blessedness, and glory. His gifts are many and precious, but He himself is better than them all, and the intimate and sacred communion his people are permitted td hold with Him fills the measure of their happiness. Even under the shadows of the Old Testament they found their supreme delight here. O God, thou art my God, my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee (Ps. 61:1). Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee (Ps. 73:25).

This thought is applied by Augustine (Civ. Dei, 22:20) to the future home of the spirits of the just. “The reward of righteousness will be He who Himself imparted righteousness, and who promises Himself than whom there can be no gift better or greater. For what else has He said by his Prophet, ‘I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people;’ what else but this: ‘I will be that wherein they shall be satisfied; I will be all things that men righteously desire; life and health, and food and abundance, glory and honor, and peace and all things?’ For so do we rightly understand also what the Apostle says, That God may be all in all. He will be the end of all our desires, who will Himself be seen without end, will be loved without satiety, will be praised without weariness. This affection, this business, this function of our being will be common to us all, like life everlasting itself.”


MOORE: Zech 13:7. Awake, O sword, etc. How fearful an evil is sin when it could call forth the sword against God’s own coequal and well-beloved Son! The death of Christ was the judicial sentence of God against sin, the endurance of the penalty of the law, and therefore, strictly vicarious and propitiatory. No human merit can mingle with the infinite merit of the work of Christ, for He trod the wine-press alone.

RALPH ERSKINE: Awake, O sword, etc. This text, sirs, is a very wonderful one, as ever a poor, mortal man preached upon. For in it there is a cloud, a black clould of Christ’s bloody passion which we are to celebrate the memorials of this day; but like the colud that led Israel in the wilderness, though it had a black side toward Christ, yet it has a bright and light side toward all the Israel of God; for this cloud of blood distills in a sweet shower of blessings unto poor sinners; there is a light in this cloud wherein we may see God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

CALVIN: Will refine them, etc. The stubble and the chaff are cast into the fire, but without any benefit, for they are wholly consumed. But when gold and silver are put in the fire, it is that greater purity may be produced, and what is precious be made more apparent. Do any ask whether God can by his Spirit alone draw the elect to religion, and if so, why this fire of affliction is necessary? The answer is, that the Prophet speaks not of what God can do but of what He will do, and we ought not to dispute on the subject but be satisfied with what He has appointed. Though chastisement is hard while we are undergoing it, yet we should estimate it by its result, the peaceable fruits of righteousness (Heb. 12:11).


[30]Zech 13:7.—.גֶּבֶר עַמיתי These two nouns are in apposition, just as in the analogous phrase אִישׁ חֲסִידֶדָ in Deut. 33:8.

[31]Zech 13:7.—הַשׁבתי ידי=return my hand, stretch it out again. Cf. 2 Sam. 8:3.

[32]Zech 13:8.—יִכָּרהְוּ=shall be cut off. In 14:2 this verb denotes cutting off by transportation, but here its sense is determined by the following verb.

[33]Zech 13:9.—בָאֵשׁ Into the fire, is more literal and expressive than the E. V. through.

[34]Zech 13:9.—הוּא He shall call. It is better to preserve the singular in the rendering, as more idiomatic and more vivid.

[35]Zech 13:9.—אְענה=not simply will hear, as in E. V. (although that necessarily includes a reply), but distinctly, answer. Cf. Is. 65:24, 41:17. So Dr. Biggs (Emendations).

[36]Zech 13:9.—אמןתי Before this preterite, the English translator of Calvin says that a vav conversive is dropped, which he undertakes to supply from the LXX., Syriac, and Arabic versions. But the addition is as unauthorized as it is tasteless.

[37]Stier (Reden Jesu, in loc.) declares that Matthew did not use the LXX., which is true in respect to the common text of the Seventy, but not in regard to the Codex Alexandrinus, from which be differs only in the unimportant point mentioned in the text. The Vat. and Sinait. codd. read, πατάζατε τοὺ̀ς ποιμένας καὶ ἐκσπάσατε τα πρόβατα

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Zechariah 12
Top of Page
Top of Page