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Jerusalem’s Victory


An Oracle.

The word of the L ord concerning Israel: Thus says the L ord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the human spirit within: 2See, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the surrounding peoples; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. 3On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth shall come together against it. 4On that day, says the L ord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But on the house of Judah I will keep a watchful eye, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, “The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the L ord of hosts, their God.”

6 On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot on a pile of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.

7 And the L ord will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. 8On that day the L ord will shield the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the L ord, at their head. 9And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Mourning for the Pierced One

10 And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. 11On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

At the beginning of this verse the Prophet intimates, that though the Jews were then miserable and would be so in future, yet God would be merciful to them: and thus he exhorts them to patience, that they might not faint through a long-continued weariness. For it was not enough to promise to them what we have noticed respecting God’s aid, except Zechariah had added, that God would at length be merciful and gracious to them after they had endured so many evils, that the world would regard them as almost consumed.

As to the effusion of the spirit, the expression at the first view seems hard to be understood; for what is it to pour forth the spirit of grace? He ought rather to have said thus, “I will pour my grace upon you.” But what he means is, that God would be merciful, for his spirit would be moved to deliver the Jews; for he compares the spirit of God here to the mind of man, and we know that Scripture often uses language of this kind. The phrase then, I will pour forth the spirit of grace, may be thus suitably expressed — “I will pour forth my bowels of mercy,” or, “I will open my whole heart to show mercy to this people,” or, “My Spirit shall be like the spirit of man, which is wont to move him to give help to the miserable.”

We now then understand the sense in which God may be fitly said to pour forth the spirit of grace. It may yet be taken in a more refined manner, as meaning that God would not only show mercy to his people, but also make them sensible of his mercy; and this view I am inclined to take, especially on account of what follows, the spirit of commiserations, or, of lamentations, for the word, תחנונים, tachnunim, commonly means lamentations in Hebrew. Some render it “prayers,” but improperly, for they express not the force of the word. It is always put in the plural number, at least with this termination: and there is but one place where we can render it commiserations, that is, in Jeremiah 31:9

“In commiserations will I restore them.”

But even there it may be rendered lamentations consistently with the whole verse; for the Prophet says, “They shall weep,” and afterwards adds, “In lamentations will I restore them.” The greater part indeed of interpreters render it here, prayers; but the Hebrews prefer to translate it commiserations, and for this reason, because they consider that the spirit of grace is nothing else but simply grace itself. The spirit of grace is indeed grace itself united with faith: for God often hears the miserable, extends his hand to them, and brings them a most effectual deliverance, while they still continue blind and remain unconcerned. It is then far better that the spirit of grace should be poured forth on us, than grace itself: for except the spirit of God penetrate into our hearts and instils into us a feeling need of grace, it will not only be useless, but even injurious; for God at length will take vengeance on our ingratitude when he sees his grace perishing through our indifference. What then the Prophet, in my opinion, means is, that God will at length be so propitious to the Jews as to pour forth on them the spirit of grace, and then the spirit of lamentations, in order to obtain grace.

They who render the word prayers, do not, as I have already said, convey the full import of the term. But we may also take commiserations in a passive sense and consistently with its common meaning: I will pour forth the spirit of grace, that they themselves may perceive my grace; and then, the spirit of commiserations, that having deplored their evils, they may understand that they have been delivered by a power from above. Hence Zechariah promises here more than before; for he speaks not here of God’s external aid, by which they were to be defended, but of inward grace, by which God would pour hidden joy into their hearts, that they might know and find by a sure experience that he was propitious to them.

But if the word תחנונום, tachnunim, be rendered commiserations, the meaning would be, as I have already stated, that the Jews, through the dictation and the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, would find God merciful to them; but if we render it lamentations, then the Prophet must be viewed as saying something more — that the Jews, previously so hardened in their evils, as not to flee to God for help, would become at length suppliants, because the Spirit would inwardly so touch their hearts as to lead them to deplore their state before God, and thus to express their complaints to Him: 161161     The two words are thus expressed by the Septuagint, [πνεῦμα χάριτος και οἰκτιρμου] — “the Spirit of grace and of commiseration;” and in similar terms by the Targum. For the last word, Jerome, Drusius, and Piscator have “deprecationum — of entreaties;” and our version, Newcome, and Henderson, “supplications.” Both these authors have “A spirit,” etc., as though an impulse or a disposition is meant by “Spirit,” as Grotius understood the expression: but “Spirit” here signifies the same as Spirit in Joel 2:28, “I will pour out my Spirit,” etc.; and is called “The Spirit of grace and entreaties” or supplications, because he, the divine Spirit, is the author of them. Renewing grace and sincere entreaties come from the Spirit. The latter word, derived from a reduplicate verb, signifies more than supplications; it means earnest supplications or entreaties. — Ed. and this view is more fully confirmed by what follows.

They shall look to me, he says, whom they have pierced. We then see here that not only an external grace or favor was promised to the Jews, but an internal light of faith, the author of which is the Spirit; for he it is who illuminates our minds to see the goodness of God, and it is he also who turns our hearts: and for this reason he adds, They shall look to me 162162     Respicient ad me, [והביטו אלי]. The same phrase is rendered “look upon,” in Exodus 3:6; Numbers 21:8; and “look unto,” in Psalm 34:5; Isaiah 22:11; 51:1,2 Newcome follows our version, while Henderson follows Calvin, “look unto me.” Inasmuch as the phrase admits of these two meanings, and as St. John, not following the Septuagint, interpreted it in the sense of our version, it ought to be so regarded — to look upon as an object before our eyes. — Ed. For God, as I have already reminded you, deals very bountifully with the unbelieving, but they are blind; and hence he pours forth his grace without any benefit, as though he rained on flint or on and rocks. However bountifully then God may bestow his grace on the unbelieving, they yet render his favor useless, for they are like stones.

Now, as Zechariah declares that the Jews would at length look to God, it follows, that the spirit of repentance and the light of faith are promised to them, so that they may know God as the author of their salvation, and feel so assured that they are already saved, as in future to devote themselves entirely to him: they shall then look to me whom they have pierced. Here also the Prophet indirectly reproves the Jews for their great obstinacy, for God had restored them, and they had been as untameable as wild beasts; for this piercing is to be taken metaphorically for continual provocation, as though he had said, that the Jews in their perverseness were prepared as it were for war, that they goaded and pierced God by their wickedness or by the weapons of their rebellion. As then they had been such, he says now, that such a change would be wrought by God that they would become quite different, for they would learn to look to him whom they had previously pierced. We cannot finish today.

The Prophet says nearly the same thing to the end of the chapter; but as the event was worthy of being commemorated, he embellishes it with many figurative terms. He then says, that the lamentation for the death of Christ would be like that after the death of Josiah; for they who would have Hadadrimmon to be a man’s name, have no reason for what they hold, and indulge themselves in mere conjecture. It is indeed agreed almost by all that Hadadrimmon was either a town connected with the plain of Megiddon, or a country near Jezreel. But as to what it was, it is a matter of no great consequence. I indeed believe that Hadadrimmon was a neighboring town, or a part of that country in which was situated the plain of Megiddon. 165165     “Jerome says that this (Hadadrimmon) was a place near Jezreel, called in his time Maximaniopolis. De Lisle places it near Megiddo, where Josiah was slain, over whom great lamentation was made, 2 Chronicles 35:22-25.” — Newcome.

We may now observe, that this comparison which the Prophet institutes is very apposite; for when Josiah was slain by the King of Egypt, it is said in 2 Chronicles 35:25, that an yearly lamentation was appointed. The Jews then were wont every year to lament the death of Josiah; for from that time it was evident that God was so displeased with the people, that they had no longer any hope of deliverance; nay, Jeremiah in his mournful song had special reference to Josiah, as it appears from sacred history. And, among other things, he says, that Christ our Lord, in whose life lived our life, was slain for our sins. Jeremiah then acknowledges that it was a special proof of God’s vengeance, that that pious king was taken away, and that the Jews were thus as it were forsaken, and became afterwards like a dead body, inasmuch as they only breathed in the life of Josiah: and at the same time he reminds us, that the kingdom, which God had intended to be the type and image of the kingdom of Christ, had as it were ceased to exist; for the successor of Josiah was deprived of all royal honor, and at length not only the whole dignity, but also the safety of the people, were trampled under foot. Hence, most fitly does the Prophet apply this lamentation to the death of Christ; as though he had said, — That the Jews lamented yearly the death of Josiah, because it was an evidence of the dreadful vengeance of God that they were deprived of that pious ruler; and that now there would be a similar lamentation, when they perceived that their light of salvation was extinguished, because they had crucified the Son of God, unless they humbly acknowledged their great wickedness, and obtained pardon.

We now then see the true meaning of the Prophet, when he says, that the lamentation in Jerusalem would be like that in Megiddon.

Were any to object and say, that the death of Christ was not accompanied with tears and mourning; I answer, — that the penitence of believers only is here described; for we know that a few only of the whole people were converted to God: but it is not to be wondered that the Prophet speaks generally of the whole nation, though he referred only to the elect of God and a small remnant; for God regarded those few who repented as the whole race of Abraham. Some mention the women of whom Luke speaks; but this seems too confined and strained: and we find also that that lamentation was forbidden by Christ,

“Weep,” he says, “for yourselves and for your children,
not for me.” (Luke 23:28.)

Since then Christ shows that that weeping was vain and useless, we may surely say that what is here said by Zechariah was not then fulfilled. And we must bear in mind what I have said before, — that by lamentation and sorrow is described that repentance with which the Jews were favored, not indeed all, but such as had been ordained to salvation by the gratuitous adoption of God. It follows —

Zechariah seems to have used more words than necessary to complete his subject; for he appears to be diffuse on a plain matter: but we ought to attend to its vast importance; for it seemed incredible, that any of that nation would repent, since they had almost all been given up to a reprobate mind. For who could have thought that there was any place for the favor of God, inasmuch as all, as far as they could, even from the least to the greatest, attempted to involve Christ in darkness? When therefore the Sun of Righteousness was as it were extinguished by the Jews, it seemed probable that they were a nation repudiated by God. But the Prophet here shows, that God would be mindful of his covenant, so that he would turn to himself some of all the families.

Lament, he says, shall the land. This indeed we know did not take place as to the body of the people, but God, to whom a small flock is precious, denominates here as the whole land the faithful, who had felt how grievously they had sinned, and were so pricked in their hearts as though they had pierced the Son of God. (Acts 2:37.) And though the Jews had destroyed themselves, yet through special and wonderful favor, three thousand were converted at one sermon by Peter; and then many in Greece, Asia Minor, and in the East, repented, and many Churches arose everywhere, as though God had created a new people. If these things be rightly viewed by us, we shall not think it unreasonable that Zechariah promises repentance to the whole land.

What he said before of Jerusalem ought not to be so taken as though he confined what he said to one city, but under this name he includes the whole nation, dispersed through distant parts of the world.

He says now, that this lamentations would be in every family apart. By which word he means, that it would not be a feigned or pretended ceremony, as when one begins to weep and draws tears from the eyes of others. The Prophet then testifies that it would be real sorrow, for one would not imitate another, but every one, impelled by his own feeling, would really grieve and lament. This then is the reason why he says that families would lament apart. Indeed the faithful ought to stimulate others by their example and encourage them to repent, but in a congregation hardly one in ten prays in earnest for pardon and really laments on account of his sins. Since therefore men are thus born to hypocrisy, and are confirmed in it by the whole practice of their the, it is no wonder that the Prophet, in order to set forth real sorrow, represents here every family by itself; as though he had said, “The family of David shall know that it had sinned, and the family of Levi, though it may not observe such an example, shall yet inwardly acknowledge its guilt.” We now see why Zechariah repeats the word apart so often.

By saying, that the women wept apart, he means no doubt the same thing with what we find in the second chapter of Joel (Joel 2:1)

“Go forth let the bridegroom from his chamber,
and the bride from her recess.”

Men in grief, we know, withdraw from all pleasures and all joy. As then men usually separate themselves from their wives during the appointed time of public grief or mourning, the Prophet makes the women to be by themselves: he intimates at the same time that the women would not wait until the men showed then an example of mourning, but that they would of themselves, and through a feeling of their own, be inclined to lament.

But we must bear in mind what I lately said, — that the grief which the Jews felt for the death of Christ is not what is described, but rather that by which they were touched when God opened their eyes to repent for their own perverseness; for the death of Christ, we allow, is a cause of joy to us rather than of sorrow, but the joy arising from Christ’s death cannot shine in us until our guilt really wounds us through God’s appearing to us as a threatening judge. From this sorrow there arises the desire to repent and the true fear of God. Hence it is, that God himself will give us joy, for he will not have us, as Paul says, to be swallowed up with sorrow; he lays us prostrate, that he may again raise us up.

Now, why he names the house of Levi, and the house of Shimei, or of Simeon, and the house of David, and the house of Nathan, rather than the other tribes, is uncertain: yet it seems to me probable that by the family of David he means the whole tribe of Judah, and the same by the family of Nathan. As to the tribe of Levi it excelled in honor on account of the priesthood, but no honor belonged to Simeon. Why then are Issachar and Reuben the first-born, and the other tribes omitted here? It might indeed have been, that there were then remaining more from the tribes of Simeon and Levi than from the tribe of Zebulon or of Issachar or of Reuben; but this is uncertain, and I am not disposed to make much of mere conjectures. But I am inclined to think that the family of David and the tribe of Levi are here mentioned not for the sake of honor but of reproach, because the royal family and the priests were those who crucified Christ, and pierced God in the person of his only-begotten Son. Jerome conjectures, that the family of Nathan is named, because he was a celebrated Prophet and eminent above others, and that the Prophets are designated by him. He says that many teachers arose from the tribe of Simeon; but I know not where he got his information, for he adduces no proofs. 166166     What he says in substance is, that the family of David represented the royal order — of Nathan, the prophetic — of Levi, the sacerdotal — and of Simeon, the order of teachers, as from that tribe many of them had proceeded. The same view was taken by Theodoret and Cyril. It was thought by Marckius that Nathan the son of David is meant, who represented, not the royal line, but his other descendants, and that Shimei belonged to the tribe of Levi, and represented the Levites, not the priestly line; see Numbers 3:18; and Henderson’s view is the same. But Blayney though that they were all the progenitors of our Savior. Luke 3:29-31.
   Instead of “Shimei,” the Septuagint, the Arabic, and Syriac, have a “Simeon,” which Newcome, adopts as the true reading. Three MS., the Syriac, and the Targum, supply “house” before it.

   Was not this prophecy literally fulfilled in the time of Ezra? His return, and the reformation he effected, were several years posterior to the time when this prophecy was delivered. The brief account, given in the ninth and tenth chapters of Ezra, clearly intimates a state of things similar to what is here described. See especially chapters 9:1-4; 10:1,9,14; and the names of those who had transgressed, 20-44. The priestly line of Levi and those of inferior order are mentioned, and also those “of Israel,” denominated “princes and rulers” in chapter 9:2. We hence see a reason for the lamentation of the “wives,” and these apart. — Ed.

But I am satisfied with the simple view already given, — that the Prophet by mentioning certain families meant to include the whole people, and that he does not omit the royal family nor the priests, because they were especially those who crucified Christ: and we know that Christ descended from Nathan, though Jerome thought the Prophet to be intended here rather than Nathan, one of Christ’s progenitors: but these things are of small moment.

He says in the last place, that this lamentation would be common to all the remaining families. Though few had returned, except those from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and from the tribe of Levi, yet Zechariah, as I think, means here by the remaining families, the elect who had been miraculously delivered from the common ruin; for blindness had so prevailed, that the rejection of the whole people on the part of God was evident. Under this designation then I consider the remnants of grace, as Paul says, to be included; as though the Prophet had said, that he had spoken of sorrow, not with regard to the whole nation indiscriminately, but to that part which was a remnant according to the gratuitous election of God. Now follows —

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