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.
Verses 1-6. - § 3. This repentance will lead to purification from past defilement, and a reaction against idolatry and false prophet. Verse 1. - In that day. At the time when the great mourning (ch. 12.) takes place, or, more generally, in the Messianic period, when all these things shall be fulfilled. Shall be a fountain opened, etc. Shall be opened and continue open. The allusion is to the lustral rites practised in the consecration of the Levites, who were to have "water of sin" sprinkled on them, and to "the water of separation," or "water of uncleanness" (the word found in our passage), used for purposes of legal purification (see Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9). Instead of this merely ceremonial cleansing, there should be in the Christian Church the cleansing of the soul by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 1:7). Septuagint, Ασται πᾶς τόπος διανοιγόμενος, "Every place shall he opened." The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem represent the whole nation, as in Zechariah 12:10; the cleansing is as universal as the sin (see the announcement in Ezekiel 36:25; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Joel 3:18). For sin and for uncleanness. The latter word is used for the separation on account of uncleanness (Leviticus 15:20, etc.); and the two terms together comprise all guilt and pollution.
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.
Verse 2. - I will cut off the names of the idols. Idols should be so utterly abolished that their very names should perish (Hosea 2:17; Micah 5:12, 13; Zephaniah 1:4). The prophet names the two chief sins which had brought ruin on the old theocracy - idolatry and false prophetism, and declares that these shall not be found in the new theocracy. As these two sins were not specially prevalent after the Captivity, some see in their mention here an argument for the pre-exilian authorship of this part of Zechariah. But the prophet, grounding his message on past history, does well to give assurance that such lapses shall not happen again. Nor is it altogether certain that the warning against these errors was not needed after the return. There were false prophets in Nehemiah's time (Nehemiah 6:14); and we read in the Book of Maccabees that many Jews adopted heathen rites and customs, among which the worship of idols must have been included (1 Macc. 1:11, etc.; 2 Macc. 4:13, etc.), and the people and even priests contracted marriages with heathen wives (Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 13:23); so that there was real danger of relapse. The prophets. The false prophets are meant, as is evident from their being associated with idols and the unclean spirit, and from vers. 3-6. The Septuagint has, "the false prophets;" so the Vulgate. The unclean spirit. This is the lying spirit which works in the false prophets (see 1 Kings 22:19-23), and which we find later denounced by apostles (Acts 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10; 1 Timothy 4:1). Septuagint, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἀκάθαρτον (comp, Matthew 12:43; Revelation 18:2).
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.
Verse 3. - When any shall yet prophesy; i.e. if any man shall pretend to have predictive powers conferred on him by God. There is here no intimation that true prophecy should cease, as Keil and Kohler suppose; the man is punished, not because he prophesies, but because "he speaketh lies." His father and his mother. The passage is grounded on the enactments in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 and Deuteronomy 18:20, which commanded the death of a false prophet or of one who enticed others to Idolatry. Here the holy zeal of the parents should put the law in force. This was quite a different state of things from that which obtained in former times. The earlier prophets continually complain of the favour shown to these deceivers (comp. Isaiah 9:15; Jeremiah 5:31; Micah 2:11); and we never read of the legal punishment being inflicted after due investigation, the test being the nonfulfilment of the prediction (Deuteronomy 18:22). In the new theocracy, so great is the recoil from such pretenders, that their nearest relations shall at once punish them with death without any previous legal process. Shall thrust him through. Stab, pierce him, put him to death, as in ch. 12:10. The gospel deals more tenderly with heretics (Luke 9:55). "Defendenda religio non est occidendo," says Laetant. ('Div. Inst.,' 5:20), "sed moriendo; religio cogi non potest " (Wordsworth, in loc.).
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
Verse 4. - Shall be ashamed. The falsity of their pretensions being now recognized, these prophets shall be ashamed to utter their oracles in public. When he hath prophesied; rather, when he prophesieth. A rough garment; a mantle of hair; Septuagint. δέῥῤιν τριχίνην: Vulgate, pallio saccino. Such was the mantle of Elijah (1 Kings 19:13, 19; 2 Kings 1:8; 2 Kings 2:13, 14) and of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:4), and it seems to have become the distinctive badge of the prophet, and was assumed by these pretenders in order to inspire confidence.
But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
Verse 5. - I am an husbandman. The imposter shall confess the truth about himself, and own that he is only "a tiller of the ground (ἄνθρωπος ἐργαζόμενος τὴν γῆν)," as Genesis 4:2. The abnegation in Amos 7:14 is quite different in character. Man taught me to keep cattle; literally, man bought (or, possessed) me; Revised Version, I have been made a bondman. So eager is he now to hide his false pretensions, that he is willing, to be considered a slave, employed from his youth in farm work, and therefore incapable of executing the prophetical office. Vulgate, Quoniam Adam exemplum meum ab adoloscentia mea; i.e. "I have followed the example of Adam in tilling the ground and in earning my bread by the sweat of my brow." St. Cyril and some modern commentators hold that the false prophet says this in sorrow and repentant, not with any idea of deceiving; and that herein is exhibited a signal instance of the grace of God in the Messanic period, when even such sinners are converted from the error of their ways.
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.
Verse 6. - What are these wounds in thine hands? or rather, between thy hands, i.e. on thy breast; Revised Version, between thine arms. Cheyne compares, "between his arms," i.e., in his back (2 Kings 9:24) and "between your eyes" i.e. on your foreheads (Deuteronomy 11:18). Not satisfied with the assertion in ver. 5, the questioner asks the meaning of these wounds which he sees on his body. Jerome considers these scars to be marks of correction and punishment at the hands of his parents. More probably they are thought to be self-infilcted in the service of some idol, according to the practice mentioned in 1 Kings 18:28; Jeremiah 48:37. Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. This may be a confession of guilt, the impostor owning that his friends, had thus punished him for his pretensions; or, as the word rendered "friends" is generally used in the case of illicit or impure love or spiritual fornication, it may be here applied to the idols whom he served. But it seems most probable that the answer is intentionally false and misleading; as if he had said, "The wounds were not made as you suppose, but are the result of something that happened to me in my friends' house." The LXX. renders, α}ς ἐπλήγην ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ τῷ ἀγαπητῷ μου, "with which I was struck in my beloved house." To see in this passage a reference to our blessed Lord and his crucifixion, though such an opinion has the support of the Roman Liturgy and of many interpreters, is to do violence to the context, and to read into the words a meaning wholly alien from the subject of false prophets, which is the matter in hand.
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.
Verses 7-9. - § 4. For the smiting of the good Shepherd Israel is punished, passes through much tribulation, by which it is refined, and in the end (though reduced to a mere remnant) is saved. Verse 7. - Awake, O sword. Zechariah proceeds to show the course of the purification of the people. The mention of the false prophet and the shameful wounds in his flesh leads him to the contrast of the true Prophet and the effects of his "piercing." The abruptness of the commencement of the verse is dramatic, and gives no sufficient cause for supposing that this paragraph ought to be transferred (as Ewald and others desire) to the end of ch. 11. (For a similar apostrophe, comp. Jeremiah 47:6.) It is introduced here to show that all that happened to the Shepherd was done after the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; and as if the sword could never have dared to act thus except it were permitted by the Divine will. The "sword" represents any kind of instrument that inflicts death (comp. Exodus 5:21; 2 Samuel 12:9; Isaiah 27:1). My Shepherd. The Shepherd of Jehovah, who is speaking. He is the good Shepherd, the Representative of Jehovah, mentioned in Zechariah 11:4, etc., the Messiah, who is identified with Jehovah in Zechariah 12:10. The Septuagint has, τοὺς ποιμένας μου, "my shepherds" (Vatican), as if no particular person was indicated, but rather all the leaders of the people of God; but the next clause seems to render the reference definite. The man that is my fellow. The word rendered "man" means rather "mighty man;" that rendered "fellow" occurs often in Leviticus, but nowhere else (Leviticus 5:21; 6:2; 19:11, 15, 17, etc.), and is usually translated "neighbour;" it implies one united to another by the possession of common nature, rights, and privileges. God could speak only of One thus associated with himself, that is, of him who could say, "I and my Father are One" (John 10:30). The term is variously translated by the versions. Septuagint, Ανδρα = πολίτην μου: Aquila, Ανδρα σύμφυλον μου: Vulgate, Virum cohaerentem mihi. That the Shepherd is Messiah is proved by Christ's application of the following clause to himself (Matthew 26:31). Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. When Christ was apprehended, all the disciples forsook him and fled (Matthew 26:56); and what they did was done by others. Even the faithful few were scandalized at the cross The command, "Smite the Shepherd," like the apostrophe, "Awake, O sword," shows that it was God's purpose that was being there executed (see John 19:11; Acts 2:23). It is also thus intimated that the dispersion of the Jews, and their denationalizing, were results of this rejection and smiting of the Shepherd. This dispersion is farther explained in vers. 8, 9, where it is shown that to some it will be ruin, to others salvation. I will turn mine hand. "To turn," or "bring back the hand over," is used in a good and a bad sense (comp. Isaiah 1:25; Amos 1:8). There is a promise of comfort in the use of the phrase here. God's hand shall cover and protect some, while he punishes the others. Those thus protected are called the little ones, the humble and meek. This recalls Christ's words to his disciples, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
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.
Verse 8. - In all the land; i.e. Palestine, the country in which the good Shepherd tended his flock (ch. 11.), and which is a figure of the kingdom of God (comp. Zechariah 12:12; Zechariah 14:9, 10). Two parts therein shall be cut off and die; literally, the mouth, i.e. the portion of two, as Deuteronomy 21:17; 2 Kings 2:9, where it denotes the double portion inherited by the firstborn. The inheritance is divided into three portions, of which two parts are given over to death. Compare a similar allotment in the case of the Moabites (2 Samuel 8:2). The doomed portion is supposed to represent the multitudes who perished at the siege of Jerusalem. This may be; but by analogy it stands for those who shall not accept the Messiah or be purified by suffering, even as Christ said, "Many are called, but few chosen" (Matthew 20:16; comp. Matthew 3:12). The third. This third part represents the faithful among the Jews (Romans 11:5), and the Christian Church gathered out of all nations (comp. Isaiah 6:13; and especially Ezekiel 5:2, 12).
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.
Verse 9. - Through the fire. This third part, like its Master, passes through much tribulation, and is thereby refined and purified (comp. Psalm 66:10; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 9:7; Daniel 12:10; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:6, 7). Call on my Name. In their distress they shall turn in faith to Jehovah, as the covenant God, a very present Help in trouble (Isaiah 65:24). Thus is represented God's dealing with his Church in every age.