Zechariah 12 - Outline of Zechariah (MENU page)
III. Prophetic Burdens (ch. 9-14)
  1. The Burden of the Shepherd for His wayward flock
    Israel's Messiah: Redeeming, Rejected (ch. 9-11)
  2. The Burden for Israel when they turn to their Shepherd
    Israel's Messiah: Received, Reigning (ch. 12-14)
    1. Jerusalem's Defence (ch. 12:1-9)
      • The nations trembling (12:1-4)
      • The LORD defending (12:4-9)
      • His people standing in His strength (12:5-6,8)
    2. Israel's Cleansing (12:10 - 13:9)
      • through Holy Spirit enabled recognition of a pierced Son, an opened fountain (12:10 - 13:1)
      • from idolatry & false prophecy (13:2-5)
      • by their Shepherd's wounds (13:6,7)
      • through refining flames (13:8,9)
1. The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel,
saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens,
and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about,
when they shall be in the siege both against Judah [and] against Jerusalem.
3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people:
all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces,
though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
The burden... for Israel...-
This prophetic 'burden' (ch. 12 - 14), like that delivered in ch. 9 -11, is a heavy message of impending judgment from the LORD. The previous message declared that judgment was to fall upon Israel, following the first coming of their Shepherd and King, because the nation rejected Him. This message, which opens with the trouble which breaks upon Israel through their acceptance of a false shepherd (the antichrist, Zech 11:15-17), declares that judgment will be exercised in behalf of Israel upon her enemies, at the second coming of their once rejected King.
...saith the LORD...-
Critics dismiss this message concerning Israel's deliverance through their Messiah's return, as figurative or fantastic language, with little bearing upon reality. In doing so, they call the LORD a liar (Rom 3:3,4). Yet, the things described here are certainly within the capability of One whose credentials are as listed here.
...the LORD {the One who is, was and ever will be}, who...
  • ...stretcheth forth the heavens...- Notice that each of these points are in the present tense. The Creator remains actively at work within His creation. He oversees the expanse of the heavens, including the continuing expansion of the universe. Psa 19:1; Col 1:16
  • ...layeth the foundation of the earth...- He not only has hung the earth in space, as a habitation for mankind, but He also governs the dynamics of wind, sea, and volcanic forces which are beyond man's control. (Job 26:7; Psa 107:33-38)
  • ...formeth the spirit of man within him...- As the giver of life, He holds every man accountable to Him. Eze 18:4; Heb 12:9
These credentials are cited in many other passages (some of which are listed below) in the context of demonstrating that the LORD is the Master of everything (verses in parenthesis give the surrounding context).
  • Isa 40:12 (vs.1-17) - His ability to deliver His people far surpasses the capabilities of their enemies.
  • Isa 40:21,22 (vs. 18-31) - His superiority to the idols in which the nations vainly trust.
  • Isa 42:5 (vs. 1-7) - The certainty of His Servant's {the Messiah's} coming and of the covenant established through Him.
  • Psa 102:25,26 (vs. 1-28, also see the Book Notes on this Psalm) - His assurance to His Son, in anticipation of His death, that His life is eternal, without beginning and without end. cp. Heb 1:8,10-12
  • Isa 45:12 (vs. 1-13) - His rule over the affairs of all nations, and the futility of man's purposes which are contrary to His.
  • Isa 45:18 (vs. 14-25) - He alone can and will save Israel and the people of all nations, who look to Him.
  • Isa 48:12,13 (vs. 1-22) - His longstanding promise, of Israel's restoration, will be fulfilled, even though few believe it.
  • Isa 51:12,13 (vs. 1-23) - His call, for His people to believe His promises and to trust in Him, is well founded. cp. Isa 51:17-23 with Zech 12:2
In summary: While the LORD, as Creator, is above and separate from His creation, He is also actively involved and in control of it. For His own purposes, He created man and manipulates the realm in which He has placed him. He is able to fulfill His promises. He will bring His purposes to completion at His appointed time.
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling {HB=ra'al, reeling} unto all the people round about...-
Whereas Israel has long staggered under the judgment which the LORD poured out upon them for their rebellion against Him, now the nations will stagger under His judgment because their plan to destroy Israel conflicts with God's declared purpose to restore her. Isa 51:17-23; Psa 75:8
...when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem... in that day...-
This "burden" applies to "the day of the LORD" (Zech 14:1), which is yet in the future (from the perspective of the 'Church Age,' 1The 5:2,3). Therefore, all attempts to fit past historic events into these closing chapters of Zechariah are futile. Repeatedly, we are reminded that the events described here will occur "in that day." The Day of the LORD includes the Time of Jacob's Trouble (the Tribulation) and also the Messiah's millenial Kingdom. Jer 30:5-7; Dan 12:1; Mat 24:21,22
    Jerusalem has been besieged on numerous occasions in the past. The city fell to Babylon (in 586 BC) and later to the Romans (in 70 AD). However, this passage is a foreview of her final siege, from which she will be delivered.
...in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people...-
Jerusalem will become "burdensome" {ie., a heavy load, difficult to lift or move} to those who seek to displace her. Even though the entire world joins the antichrist in this effort, they will find their purpose beyond their power. Their plan to destroy Israel will turn to their own destruction.
4 In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness:
and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
5 And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart,
The inhabitants of Jerusalem [shall be] my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
6 In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood,
and like a torch of fire in a sheaf;
and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left:
and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, [even] in Jerusalem.
7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David
and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify [themselves] against Judah.
8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David;
and the house of David [shall be] as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
9. And it shall come to pass in that day,
[that] I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
In that day... I will smite every horse... and his rider...-
The LORD will terrify {astonishment}, confuse {madness} and render ineffective {blindness} the armies which advance against Jerusalem in that final conflict.
...I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah...-
The LORD has always watched over His people through all of their trials. He has always seen and been painfully aware of their troubles. However, in that day, He will personally intervene in their behalf (as when He delivered them from bondage to Egypt in the days of Moses, Ex 3:7,8; cp. Zech 9:8).
...I will make the governors of Judah, like an hearth... like a torch...-
The word for 'governors' {HB=alluwph, from the root word HB='alph, to teach} is variously translated as duke, chief, guide, captain. It is not commonly used elsewhere of Israel's rulers. The word is used in Zech 9:7 of heroic men who survive the onslaught of an enemy, and who stand "for our God." Such men will lead Israel, in that day. In the strength of the LORD, they will stand the heat of battle (as the hearth is not consumed with the wood that burns upon it) and they will destroy their enemies (as a torch of fire consumes a sheaf of dry grass).
    In that day, these leaders will be encouraged (strengthened in their courageous stance) by the faith of their people (the inhabitants of Jerusalem) "in the LORD of hosts their God." cp. Josh 1:5-7
...and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again... in her own place... even in Jerusalem.-
Could it be made any more clear, that the things described here apply to the historic city of Jerusalem and to the Jewish people, who are its rightful inhabitants? Commentators who attempt to apply these passages to the Church, or to some other geographic location, are as blind as the enemy horses mentioned above (v.4). It is best to take God's Word at face value, for His "eyes are open," and His Word is truth.
...the LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first...-
"Tents" provide housing that is not permanent, and which may be relocated quickly. The "tents of Judah" may refer to the tentative standing of many Jewish cities and settlements, which the 'Palestinians' claim for themselves.
    Since the time of Israel's re-establishment as a nation in 1948 AD, her right to the land has been contested by the surrounding Arab nations. The region which is commonly called "the occupied West Bank" is the biblical area of "Judea and Samaria," where the Jewish people have a long history, dating from the time of Abraham, 3700 years ago. Yet, beyond the constant danger of Arab terrorism, the Israeli government has forcefully displaced thousands of Jewish residents from their homes and destroyed or abandoned their buildings, farms and businesses, in order to placate insatiable Palestinian demands.
    Jews are not even welcome in Hebron, the oldest Jewish city, and Israel's second holiest city (after Jerusalem). It was here that Abraham bought the Cave of Machpela, as a burial place for Sarah, and where he and his sons, Isaac and Jacob, and some of their wives are buried. Although the Israeli government currently allows limited access by Jews to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Arabs claim the site as a Moslem mosque, forbidden to Jews and Christians. Other holy sites within Palestinian controlled territories are inaccessible to Jews. Some, such as the tombs of Joseph and Rachel, have also been defaced.
    The tenacity of today's Jewish citizens, willing to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of their biblical right to the land, will be multiplied many times "in that day" when the enemy comes in like a flood, when Israel's "governors and people" will be of one mind, in looking to their Deliverer. See also Zech 9:13-15; 10:5-7; 14:14
...the LORD... shall save {ie., deliver}... Judah...
...the LORD... shall defend {cover, surround} the inhabitants of Jerusalem...-
Covered in the strength of the LORD, even the weakest of the Jewish people will be 'mighty men' like David. The house of David "shall be as God" because the Messiah, who came from the line of David, is God (Rom 1:3,4). It was He who appeared in His pre-incarnate form "as the angel of the LORD" (Psa 34:7; Zech 1:11-17). It is He who will fight for His people and who will go out "before them" (Zech 14:3).
...I will seek to destroy the nations...-
There is no question as to the outcome, for whatever the LORD intends is certain. The effect of this statement is: "I will certainly destroy..." [GWms]
His purpose, in that day, will be to send fire upon His enemies (v.6) and the Holy Spirit upon His people (v.10; cp. 2The 1:6-10).
10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
the spirit of grace and of supplications:
and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced,
and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son],
and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.
11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem,
as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart;
the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart;
the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart;
the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
...I will pour... the spirit of grace and of supplications...
The words 'grace' {HB=chen} and 'supplications' {HB=tachanuwn} are from the same root word. Thus their 'supplications' will entail pleading for grace. They will need God's "grace to help" in their time of need, when confronted by the antichrist's overwhelming forces (cp. Heb 4:16). Such grace was made available through the Messiah whom they had rejected. "In that day," the Spirit of Grace will enable them to recognize and receive Him. The staff of 'Beauty' which had been broken at Christ's first coming (Zech 11:7-11), will be the source of grace when He appears to them the second time. [Note that the words for 'beauty' (in ch. 11) and 'grace' (in ch. 12) are from unrelated HB words, which convey similar concepts.]
See Isa 32:14,15; 59:16-19-21; Joel 2:28,29 (Peter quoted Joel to show that the Spirit's outpouring identifies Israel's Messiah, Acts 2:16f)
...they shall look upon {HB=nabat, show regard to, consider} me whom they have pierced...-
The One who had not been considered of any worth (Zech 11:12) will suddenly be seen for who He is, and the significance of His piercing will be understood (Isa 52:13-15 - 53:1-12, note the 2 highlighted verses). They shall look upon Him, because the veil will be lifted (2Cor 3:13-16).
-- Also compare this word for 'look' as used in Num 21:9 (where it is rendered 'beheld'), and the significance of looking to Jesus, which is to "believe in Him," according to Joh 3:14,15. It is not enough to know who He is, each individual must look to Him in faith, trusting Him to provide the needed salvation, according to God's promise.
-- The pronouns "me" and "him" in v.10) apply to the same Person. The One, who was pierced for our sins, is both God and man. cp. Joh 1:29; 19:34-37; Rev 1:7
they shall mourn for him... and shall be in bitterness for him...-
The expression 'mourning as for an only son' is used in other passages to show great intensity of sorrow (Jer 6:26; Amos 8:10). But here the intensity is deepened by the realization of the uniqueness of that son (cp. Joh 3:16; Mat 24:30), who is the true 'first born' (ie., the One with pre-eminence over all; Col 1:15-20). The 'bitterness' of godly sorrow leads to repentance (2Cor 7:9-11).
...a great mourning... as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon...-
A "great {important, powerful} mourning" would be related to the death of a very important person, or to the recognition of a national calamity (eg., Gen 50:10; Esth 4:3).
  • This great mourning for Israel's unique Son, is compared to the nation's sorrow at the death of king Josiah, in the valley of Megiddo. Josiah was mourned powerfully because "his reign was the one gleam of light in the gloom that covered the nation from [king] Manasseh to the captivity." [in quotes, GWms] 2Chr 35:22-25
  • Hadadrimmon is thought to be the place of Josiah's death. However, no place with this name is known in the valley of Megiddon. The name is a composite of two names, Hadad and Rimmon, which were associated with heathen gods. Some speculate that the site of Josiah's death may have been near an altar to Hadad which may have existed near a village called Rummaneh. Although the Scriptures do not support these theories, they do mention two men, with these names, as enemies of Israel's kings. Perhaps Israel's grief will be intensified as they see themselves in the character of those men.
    • Hadad was an adversary to king Solomon (1Kin 11:14f).
    • The sons of Rimmon, thinking to ingratiate themselves to king David, slew a son of the recently deposed king Saul. In so doing, they "slew a righteous person" (2Sam 4:1-11).
Thus, Israel will mourn the death of the King whom they had opposed, and whom they slew for no fault of His own. They will grieve at the hardness of heart that moved them against Him. They will grieve for the calamities which befell the nation, through their rejection of the King who had come to bring joy and deliverance to the nation (Zech 9:9; 1Cor 2:8).
...the land {HB=erets} shall mourn, every family apart {alone, in separation, by itself}...- cp. Mat 24:30; Rev 1:7
This sorrow will be felt thoughout the land of Israel. The intense and personal nature of this mourning is highlighted by the separation between families, and within families between men and women. The 'only son' whom they mourn is their own son. Who can truly share their sorrow?
     Yet, this sorrow grips "all the families that remain {that are left over, that survive}" at the end of the Tribulation period. Four specific families are mentioned by name. Strangely, with the exception of Levi, these are not names of Israel's twelve tribes.
  • the family of the house of David - representing the Kings.
  • the family of Nathan - representing the Prophets. (Nathan was the prophet who conveyed God's promise to David that his Son would occupy his throne forever. 2Sam 7:4-17)
  • the family of Levi - representing the Priests.
  • the family of Shimei - representing those who opposed and rejected the King. (Shimei had mocked king David when he was deposed briefly by the rebellion of Absalom. 2Sam 16:5-13)
What is the significance of mentioning these particular families? The Lord Jesus Christ was of the house and lineage of David. He came in fulfilment of God's Word through His prophets. He, as a prophet, spoke the Truth and foretold the future. He came to fulfill the Law and to offer Himself as the one sufficient sacrifice for sin. Thus, the triple roles of Prophet, Priest and King are fulfilled in Him. Yet, Israel had opposed and rejected Him. All of Israel, together, had betrayed their King. Yet, in turning to Him, in the sorrow of repentance, they will find their King merciful (as illustrated by David's mercy toward Shimei, 2Sam 19:15-23), as shown in the next chapter (Zech 13:1)

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