Zechariah 12:1
The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
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Zechariah 12:1. The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel — Or, toward Israel; that is, as some interpret it, the prophecy which containeth the words of the Lord to Israel. Saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens — Who hath spread out the heavens to such a vast extent. And layeth the foundation of the earth — Hath assigned to the earth a fixed place in the creation, or regulates all its motions by fixed laws, which cannot be altered by the power of any creature. And formeth the spirit of man within him — Who gave life to the first man, and created the soul, and united it to the body. All these things are mentioned as undeniable instances of God’s almighty power, and are made use of as arguments to encourage men to rely on his word for the fulfilment of such promises as might seem to the understanding of man most unlikely to be brought to pass.12:1-8 Here is a Divine prediction, which will be a heavy burden to all the enemies of the church. But it is for Israel; for their comfort and benefit. It is promised that God will make foolish the counsels, and weaken the courage of the enemies of the church. The exact meaning is not clear; but God often begins by calling the poor and despised; and in that day even the feeblest will resemble David, and be as eminent in courage and every thing good. Desirable indeed is it that the examples and labours of Christians should render them as fire among wood, as a torch in a sheaf, to kindle the flame of Divine love, to spread religion on the right hand and on the left.The burden of the word of the Lord for - Rather, "upon (see at Nahum 1:1, p. 129) Israel." If this prophecy is a continuation of the last, notwithstanding its fresh title, then "Israel" must be the Christian Church, formed of the true Israel which believed, and the Gentiles who were grafted into them. So Cyril; "Having spoken sufficiently of the Good Shepherd Christ, and of the foolish, most cruel shepherd who butchered the sheep, that is, antichrist, he seasonably makes mention of the persecutions which would from time to time arise against Israel; not the Israel according to the flesh, but the spiritual, that Jerusalem which is indeed holy, "the Church of the Living God" 1 Timothy 3:15. For as we say, that "he" is spiritually a Jew, who hath the "circumcision in the heart," Romans 2:29, that through the Spirit, "and not" in the flesh "through the letter;" so also may "Israel" be conceived, not that of the blood of Israel, but rather that, which has a mind beholding God. But such are all who are called to sanctification through the faith in Christ, and who in Him and by Him, know of God the Father. For this is the one true elected way of beholding God."

Since the Good Shepherd was rejected by all, except the "poor of the flock," the "little flock" which believed in Him, and thereupon the "band" of "brotherhood" was dissolved between Israel and Judah, "Israel" in those times could not be Israel after the flesh, which then too was the deadly antagonist of the true israel, and thus early also chose antichrist, such as was Bar-Cochba, with whom so many hundreds of thousands perished. There was no war then against Jerusalem, since it had ceased to be (see the notes on Micah 3:12).

But Zechariah does not say that this prophecy, to which he has annexed a separate title, follows, in time, upon the last; rather, since he has so separated it by its title, he has marked it as a distinct prophecy from the preceding. It may be, that he began again from the time of the Maccabees and took God's deliverances of the people Israel then, as the foreground of the deliverances to the end ).

Yet in the times of Antiochus, it was one people only which was against the Jews, and Zechariah himself speaks only of the Greeks; Zechariah 9:13; here he repeatedly emphasizes that they were "all nations" (Zechariah 12:2-3, Zechariah 12:6, Zechariah 12:9). It may then rather be, that the future, the successive efforts of the world to crush the people of God, and its victory amid suffering, and its conversions of the world through the penitent looking to Jesus, are exhibited in one great perspective, according to the manner of prophecy, which mostly exhibits the prominent events, not their order or sequence. : "The penitential act of contrite sinners, especially of Jews, looking at Him "whom they pierced," dates from the Day of Pentecost, and continues to the latter days, when it will be greatly intensified and will produce blessed results, and is here concentrated into one focus. The rising up of God's enemies against Christ's Church, which commenced at the same time, and has been continued in successive persecutions from Jews, Gentiles, and other unbelievers in every age, and which will reach its climax in the great antichristian outbreak of the last times, and be confounded by the Coming of Christ to judgment, is here summed up in one panoramic picture, exhibited at once to the eye."

Which stretcheth forth the heavens - God's creative power is an ever-present working, as our Lord says, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work" John 5:17. His preservation of the things which He has created is a continual re-creation. All "forces" are supported by Him, who alone hath life in Himself. He doth not the less "uphold all things by the word of His power," because, until the successive generations, with or without their will, with or against His Will for them, shall have completed His Sovereign Will, He upholds them uniformly in being by His Unchanging Will. Man is ever forgetting this, and because, "since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as from the beginning of the creation" 2 Peter 3:4, they relegate the Creator and His creating as far as they can to some time, as far back as they can imagine, enough to fill their imaginations, and forget Him who made them, in whose bands is their eternity, who will be their Judge. So the prophets remind them and us of His continual working, which people forget in the sight of His works; "Thus saith the Lord; He that createth the heavens, and stetcheth them out; He that spreadeth forth the earth and its produce, who giveth breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein" Isaiah 42:5; and, "I am the Lord who maketh all things, who stretcheth out the heavens alone, who spreadeth abroad the earth by Myself" Isaiah 44:24; speaking at once of that, past in its beginning yet present to us in its continuance, but to Him ever-present present; and of things actually present to us, "that frustrateth the tokens of the liars" Isaiah 44:25; and of things to those of that day still future, "that confirmeth the word of His servant, and performeth the counsel of His messengers" Isaiah 44:26 : the beginning of which was not to be till the taking of Babylon. And the Psalmist unites past and present in one, "Donning light as a garment, stretching out the heavens as a curtain; who layeth the beams of His chambers on the waters, who maketh the clouds His chariot; who walketh on the wings of the wind; who maketh His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire; He founded the earth upon its base." Psalm 104:2-5. And Amos, "He that formeth the mountains and createth the winds, and declareth unto man his thoughts" (Amos 4:13, add Amos 5:8); adding whatever lieth nearest to each of us.

And formeth the spirit of man, within him - Both by the unceasing creation of souls, at every moment in some spot in our globe, or by the re-creation, for which David prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" Psalm 51:10. He who formed the hearts of people can overrule them as He wills. Cyril: "But the spirit of man is formed by God in him, not by being called to the beginnings of being, although it was made by Him, but, as it were, transformed from weakness to strength, from unmanliness to endurance, altogether being transelemented from things shameful to better things."

Cyril: "It is the custom of the holy prophets, when about to declare beforehand things of no slight moment, to endeavor to show beforehand the Almightiness of God, that their word may obtain credence, though they should declare what was beyond all hope, and (to speak of our conceptions) above all reason and credibility."


Zec 12:1-14. Jerusalem the Instrument of Judgment on Her Foes Hereafter; Her Repentance and Restoration.

1. burden—"weighty prophecy"; fraught with destruction to Israel's foes; the expression may also refer to the distresses of Israel implied as about to precede the deliverance.

for Israel—concerning Israel [Maurer].

stretcheth forth—present; now, not merely "hath stretched forth," as if God only created and then left the universe to itself (Joh 5:17). To remove all doubts of unbelief as to the possibility of Israel's deliverance, God prefaces the prediction by reminding us of His creative and sustaining power. Compare a similar preface in Isa 42:5; 43:1; 65:17, 18.

formeth … spirit of man—(Nu 16:22; Heb 12:9).Jerusalem a cup of trembling, and a burdensome stone, to the confusion of her adversaries, Zechariah 12:1-5. The victorious restoring of Judah, Zechariah 12:6-9. The repentance of Jerusalem, Zechariah 12:10-14.

The burden of the word of the Lord: see this whole passage Zechariah 9:1.

For Israel; or touching, concerning, as the Gallic version; upon, against, the Hebrew bears it; and some take it in one, some in the other sense, though I think the main of the chapter persuades it is to be rendered, for, in the behalf of Israel, i.e. the church of Christ among the Jews until their rejection, and among the Gentiles ever since their vocation; both have their concern in the things here foretold.

Saith the Lord; who giveth out promises of great things to a people in a very low state, and therefore to raise their hope tells them by his prophet what he hath done.

Which stretcheth forth the heavens, as a curtain, saith Isaiah, Isaiah 40:22; who did more easily spread abroad the heavens, than any creature can spread forth a curtain about your bed, or a canopy over your head; by an almighty power going along with the act of his will, saying, Let it be, all that immense body of the material, visible heavens immediately spread forth itself.

And layeth the foundation of the earth, upon his own almighty word; on that the chief corner-stones thereof do lie, Job 38:4-6 Isaiah 51:13.

Formeth; in admirable wisdom, and with more especial artifice, framed, so the Hebrew imports, as Isaiah 43:7 46:11.

The spirit; the immortal soul, that spiritual being which animateth us. Who hath done all this he can do all that is here promised for Israel, and threatened against Israel’s enemies.

The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel,.... And against their enemies; for the good of the church of God, for its joy, comfort, and salvation; or, "concerning Israel" (x); what shall befall them in the latter day, as the destruction of antichrist, prophesied of in the preceding chapter Zechariah 11:1; and what is hereafter said may be believed that it shall be accomplished. The Lord is described in the greatness of his power, speaking as follows:

saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens: as a curtain, Psalm 104:2 the expanse or firmament of heaven, which is stretched out as a canopy over all the earth around:

and layeth the foundation of the earth; firm and sure, though upon the seas and floods, yea, upon nothing, Psalm 24:2,

and formeth the spirit of man within him; the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, gifts and endowments; which is of his immediate creation, and which he continues daily to form, and infuse into the bodies of men, and holds in life there; hence he is called the Father of spirits, Hebrews 12:9.

(x) "de", Piscator, Drusius; "super Israele", Cocceius, Burkius.

The burden of the word of the LORD for {a} Israel, saith the LORD, who stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

(a) That is, the ten tribes, which neglected God's benefit in delivering their brethren, and had rather remain in captivity, than to return home when God called them.

1. The burden] See ch. Zechariah 9:1, note.

for Israel] Rather, concerning Israel.

saith] Rather, the saying, oracular utterance, of Jehovah: as in Psalm 110:1. The clause is in apposition with the first clause of the verse.

which stretcheth forth, &c.] In view of the wonderful and almost incredible promises that, follow, an appeal is made to the creative power of Jehovah, that so the people may not “stagger at the promise of God through unbelief,” but be “fully persuaded that what He has promised, He is able also to perform.”

Chap. Zechariah 12:1-9. Jehovah’s protection of His people

As in the former Burden, the first section opens with a general Title (printed as such in R. V.), very similar to that of the First Burden (Zechariah 9:1), and belonging like that to the whole group of prophecies which follow. The coming oracle proceeds from Jehovah, the Creator of the universe and of man; able therefore to accomplish what He predicts, Zechariah 12:1. All nations shall gather against Jerusalem, which shall prove to them like a cup of which they drink but to totter and fall, Zechariah 12:2, or a heavy stone which only wounds and crushes those who essay to lift it, Zechariah 12:3. Horse and rider alike in the armies that gather against her shall be panic-stricken and blinded, Zechariah 12:4, while the rulers of the country shall acknowledge her, thus rendered by God impregnable, as the bulwark of their land, Zechariah 12:5, and shall take courage to attack and consume the discomfited foe around her walls, so that she stands forth again a free and populous city, Zechariah 12:6. Thus the country at large shall have its share from God in the glory of the victory, and so all rivalry between it and the capital shall be excluded, Zechariah 12:7. The capital, however, shall under the protection of the Almighty be worthy of its position as the abode of heroes, while the royal family shall lead the nation no less worthily than the Angel of Jehovah did of old time, Zechariah 12:8. And all this, because God Himself will make it His aim to destroy all the enemies of His people, Zechariah 12:9.Verse 1-ch. 14:21. - B. THE SECOND BURDEN. Verses 1-9. - § 1. The prophet proceeds to announce Israel's conflict with heathen powers. Hostile nations gather together against Jerusalem, but shall themselves be overthrown; for the people and their leaders, trusting in the Lord, overcome all opposition. Verse 1. - The burden of the word of the Lord for (concerning) Israel. This is the title of the second oracle, corresponding to that at the head of ch. 9. Though the literal Israel has been rejected, as we saw in the last "burden," a new people of God. arises (Hosea 1:10), the Messianic theocracy, which is also called Israel, whose fortunes the prophet herein delineates, describing its probation, its contests, triumph, and development. The body is like its Head; as the good Shepherd, Christ, was persecuted and rejected, so his members, the true Israelites, suffer at the hand of the world and Satan, before they are finally glorified. Some critics suppose that "Israel" here is written by mistake for "Jerusalem," as possibly in Jeremiah 23:6 (see note on Zechariah 1:19). It is best to put a full stop after "Israel," and begin a new sentence with "Thus saith the Lord," or "The saying of Jehovah." Which stretcheth forth the heavens, etc. (comp. Isaiah 42:5; Amos 4:13). The attributes of God. are mentioned here that all may believe that what he has promised, that he is able to perform. He is not only the Creator, but also the Pro-server of all things (Psalm 104:2-4; Hebrews 1:10. Formeth the spirit of man within him. God creates the souls of men, and moulds and guides them. In life and death men work out his purposes (Numbers 16:22; Hebrews 12:9).
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