This chapter speaks of the culmination of the world in trying to eliminate once and for all the Jewish problem and in doing so comes against the Living God of Israel. Dean Alford was quoted as saying that in that day Israel will learn the truth of the saying: “Our only true triumphs are God’s triumphs over us, and that His defeats of us are our only true victories.
Zechariah 12:1-2 – In prophecy, a “burden” is a declaration of judgment involving a calamity that is to come. In Zechariah 9 the same expression was used in the declaration of God’s judgment on Syria, now it the burden speaks of God’s judgment on Israel. He who formed us and shaped us including our physical and spiritual selves is the One who shapes and guides us by His Word and His Spirit. He is Sovereign over all things including His first born among the nations, Israel, and her enemies.
God is the one who is going to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the surrounding peoples. Two metaphors are used for Jerusalem: a cup that intoxicates and a heavy stone that will hurt all who try to lift it. The “cup of reeling” or drunkenness is used in Scripture as a picture of the judgment God brings on man. When a man is drunk his true nature and thoughts are revealed in much the way Mel Gibson’s feelings about Jews were revealed when he was drunk.
To understand Zechariah 12:2, we need to consider two parallel passages the first is Isaiah 51:17. Because of Israel’s idolatry God made Israel to drink of the cup of His judgment that sent Israel reeling. For generations, Israel has experienced God’s judgment but in Isaiah 51:22-23 the cup is removed from Israel and given to her enemies. Jeremiah 25 underscores this as does Jeremiah 30:7 the time of Jacob’s trouble but he will be saved from it.
Israel, having suffered God’s hand of discipline for centuries, will one day see that fury removed from her and it will come against those nations that have oppressed her. Israel’s trials, tribulations, and testings will then be over, and God will be ready to bless her revive her and use her as priests to the nations. The fire of God’s judgment it to purify all of His people.
Zechariah 12:3 All the nations of the earth will be gathered against Jerusalem as history enters its final phase. The degree of this final battle is stunning. Revelation 16:14, tell us that the spirits of demons will gather the kings of the earth for the battle of that great day of God Almighty. The prophet Joel echoes the same reality in Joel 3:1-2. But Jerusalem will not be moved.
Jerusalem will be such a heavy stone that all nations that attempt to lift it will find themselves severely hurt. Every Passover as we close with the 118th Psalm we have a reminder of this in Zechariah 12:5-6,10-12. Jerusalem will become like that stone described in Daniel 2. They will be like the Lord, a stone cut without hands that comes crashing down on the feet of the image that represents the Gentile world powers, and smashes it to pieces.
The stone pictured there is Yeshua because that stone “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). That stone will crush all the armies of the world and set the stage for His second coming described at the end of this chapter and book.
Zechariah 12:4-9 This battle will occur “In that day.” This is the time of God’s judgment on those who have rebelled against God and His deliverance of the righteous, those who have put their faith and trust in God. In that battle God will bring panic and madness to all who come against Israel. These afflictions were part of God’s judgment on Israel if they forsook His covenant in Deuteronomy 28:28.
Now, in this battle of the ages, every horse and rider will be struck with confusion, blindness or madness. It is unlikely, but possible that horses will be used in that final battle but whatever vehicles for battle are used they will go haywire. On the other hand God will open His eyes on Israel and Judah. This is the fourth time Zechariah mentions the eyes of the Lord in His vision (Zechariah 3:9;4:10;9:8).
God’s eyes will see and have compassion on His people that will not only change the battle, but will cause Israel’s hearts to turn to Him in repentance and sorrow for their past sins (Zechariah 12:10). This will precipitate the turning point in the battle. With the eyes of their hearts now open they will look to God rather than themselves and God will fill them with courage and strength as they will then will turn on their enemies like a fire igniting dry kindling (Zechariah 12:6).
The people living in Judah outside of Jerusalem will be transformed first so that the house of David and the people of Jerusalem will not lord it over those who live outside Jerusalem this will help God’s people to become unified. This invasion described here is discussed in more detail in Zechariah 13:8-9 and Zechariah 14:1-6.
Two-thirds of the people of the land will die, and one-half of Jerusalem will be taken away into captivity before the Lord steps into the battle and in a twinkling of an eye everything will be turned around. The weakest among them will become strong and fight as a seasoned warrior. God will then go about destroying the nations that have come against God and His people Zechariah 12:9. Just as it was in David’s day so “The battle is the Lord’s.” If this was true in David’s day (1 Samuel 17:47), it will be especially true when the Lord moves for one last time against all the nations of the earth that wish to engage in final solution for the Jews and to stand in opposition the Lord.
These events will happen, for it is as authentic as the word that built the universe and that preserves both it and man in the meantime. The Lord remains when all else has been removed. And the place where He has placed His name, Jerusalem will remain as well (1 Kings 9:3).
Zechariah 12:10-11 When we last gathered we considered the gathering of all the nations to once and for all eliminate the continual problem that Israel has become to world stability and peace. Israel entered into a covenant with the leader of the united nations believing that the covenant would secure its peace and prosperity. But what Israel needed was not physical peace but the peace than only comes from God.
Every other peace is only temporary and unsustainable in the world we live in as it exists today. At the heart of Israel’s physical deliverance is the need for spiritual renewal and repentance. This can only truly come through the work of God’s Spirit on the heart of the Jewish people that they might recognize their sin and God’s solution for it, Yeshua. To accomplish this God must give Israel a whole new spirit (Zechariah 12:10) and a new cleansing (Zechariah 13:1) to those who are genuinely moved over the sight of the One who was pierced on their behalf and the One who bore their own sin. Very few promises in Scripture are more compassionate than the one found in verse 10, and very few are more hotly debated.
God through His prophet here speaks of that day when He will pour out on the house of David and to those living in Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and prayer. This is the same Spirit that came upon all who have come to faith in God through His Messiah. The source of this is the Lord and the overriding gift is “grace” or “compassion” from God. This is a grace that forgives sin; a grace that forgives even the piercing of the Son of God.
The Jewish people are just as guilty as Gentiles for the death of Messiah since it was for all our sin that He was crucified. However Israel has borne greater discipline since they are God’s first born and as a nation God has given them more in the way gifts and calling and to whom much is given much is required.
There is great controversy over this text. The New Jewish Publication Society translation of the Tanakh published in 1988 translates this verse: “But I will fill the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a spirit of pity and compassion; and they shall lament to Me about those who are slain, wailing over them as over a favorite son and showing bitter grief as over a first-born.” The 1896 Jewish translation in an Appendix to the Revised Version read, “And they [the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem] shall look up to Me because of Him whom they [i.e., the nations which came up against Jerusalem] have pierced.”
The targums which are a paraphrase translation much like the Living Bible is in our day interpret this as referring to Messiah ben (“son of”) Joseph, a separate individual from Messiah ben (“son of”) David. One of the earliest known mentions of him is in the talmud tractate Sukkah 52a&b, where three statements occur in regard to him, where a Rabbi Dosa (c. 250) is quoted giving him as an authority.
Rabbi Dosa reads Zechariah 12.10-12.12 as lamenting the death of Messiah ben Joseph. In the last of these three statements only his name is mentioned, but the first two speak of the fate which he is to meet, namely, to fall in battle (as if alluding to a well-known tradition).
This verse speaks of two comings of the one Messiah. The most difficult issue is the fact that “Me” and “Him” both refer to the same person. Most Jewish interpreters would prefer to have the Gentile nations look to God, whom these nations have attacked indirectly by attacking His people Israel. But the subject of both the verb “to look” and the verb “to pierce” is the same in Hebrew.
Therefore, those who pierced the One who will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication in that day, belong to the same national group that will “look” and “mourn” over the pierced One like one mourns over the loss of a firstborn. In the debate over Zechariah 12:10, interpreters argue that it is impossible to pierce God, since He is spirit and not flesh and blood (Isaiah 31:3; John 4:24).
But that is the point; it was the Messiah’s flesh that was pierced, and the One who was pierced is at the same time One in essence and being with the God who speaks in this text. Whenever the first person pronoun appears in this chapter (Zechariah 12:2-4,6,9,10) it refers to the Messiah. Zechariah had just referred in chapter 11 to the Good Shepherd who had been rejected by Israel, and whose rejection was followed by a terrible punishment. Only the Messiah fits all the details here. His piercing must have come in an earlier advent, for certainly when He comes again it will be with the victory promised in this section.
The mourning here is compared to the mourning that occurred at “at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo” (Zechariah 12:11). This is referring to mourning that followed the untimely death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:29;2 Chronicles 35:25).
Josiah was one of the few Kings of Judah who were commended for his godliness and righteousness, but he dies at Megiddo at the age of 39 while trying to stop Pharaoh Necho. His death at the height of his reign stunned the nation and sent it into deep grief. The nation’s mourning over King Josiah’s death foreshadows the nation’s mourning over the Messiah when they realize by the Holy Spirit that they had pierced the One who died for their sins, and for the sins of the whole world (Isaiah 53:5).
Zechariah 12:12-14 describe those who would mourn over Him. This will include the people of the “land” “every family,” “the house of David,” “the house of Nathan,” “the house of Levi,” “the family of Shimei,” the “wives by themselves,” and “all the families that remain.” He will be mourned by the royal family, the priests and their household, and perhaps the prophets as represented by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 7:2). Shimei may refer to the one who cursed David (2 Samuel 16:5), although Zechariah may be referring in Zechariah 12:13 to the Shimei who was one of Levi’s grandsons (Numbers 3:18).
If it is the Shemei who was one of Levi’s grandsons and if “house of Nathan” refers to David’s son Nathan (who replaced Solomon in the genealogy of Yeshua) rather than Nathan the prophet, Zechariah would have identified two families in the royal line and two families in the priestly line as representatives of the whole nation of Israel.
In this way Zechariah is describing both national as well as individual sorrow that will occur in that day. In that day, each person will understand in their heart the awfulness of the death and rejection of the Messiah, the mourning will be so intense that each person will mourn apart from the rest, this is one of the true marks of genuine repentance.
** For more details on this text, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), pp. 109–111. The use of the first person pronoun to refer to the Messiah is noted in Merrill J. Unger, Zechariah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1963), p. 217.