Prophecy


In one of Zechariah's prophecies we find the remarkable assertion that the dying Savior would be God.

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.

Zechariah 12:10

The context establishes who is speaking at the beginning of this verse.

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.

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.

Zechariah 12:1-9

The whole prophecy is the "word of the Lord" (v. 1). The Lord is the only One who can defeat all the nations (v. 9) and pour out grace (v. 10). Thus, the speaker at the beginning of verse 10 must be the Lord Himself.

So interpreted, however, the same verse reads as the Lord's complaint that His people have grievously wounded Him by means of a murderous stroke. They have "pierced" Him. This translation is undoubtedly correct (1). Although the Hebrew word is not the one rendered "wounded" in Isaiah 53:5, it unquestionably means "to pierce" or "to run through" (2). In every other Old Testament occurrence, the word bears a plain, literal sense (3). So, it must bear the same sense here. Yet how can mortal men do harm to God, much less bodily harm?

The further revelations of this prophecy must have plunged readers in Old Testament times deeper into puzzlement and consternation. The speaker becomes the prophet Zechariah, who says that Israel would someday mourn bitterly for the One they pierced. Yet why should they mourn unless He has died, and how can mere men cause the Lord to suffer death? As if to anticipate the question, the prophet answers cryptically that "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." The italicized words in the KJV are not part of the original. The original reads, "As one mourneth for an only, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for a firstborn." The prophet's intent is to tell us more precisely who the victim of piercing would be. He would be an only son, a firstborn.

The thought in this verse continues a few verses later.

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thy hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.

Zechariah 13:6

The Hebrew for "in thy hands" is actually "between your hands" (4). In modern translations the usual rendering is "between your arms" (5).


Fulfillment


The scene of Zechariah's prophecy is that future occasion when Jesus will reveal Himself to the nation of Israel. They will mourn because they long ago wounded and pierced their Messiah, the promised hope of Israel. In Zechariah's prophecy Jesus appears as the Lord Himself because Jesus was and is and ever will be God incarnate. The nation will grieve for Him as an only son, a firstborn, because they will understand that He is the only begotten Son of God.

The wounds described as "between your hands" must be the imprint of the nails that held Jesus' arms to the cross. The nails were driven not into His hands, as many people have imagined, but into His wrists (6). Thus, in the future, when He stands with His arms outstretched, onlookers who ask Him about these wounds may well refer to them as "between your hands."

Footnotes

  1. Jay P. Green, Sr., The Interlinear Bible: Hebrew/English, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1983), 3:2175; E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions, trans. Theod. Meyer and James Martin, 4 vols. (n.p., 1872-1878; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1956), 4:64; David Baron, Commentary on Zechariah: His Visions and Prophecies, originally, The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah (n.p., 1918; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1988), 437-444; Merrill F. Unger, Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah's Glory (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.), 216-217.
  2. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic (n.p., 1906; repr., Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979), 201.
  3. Unger, 216.
  4. Green, 3:2176.
  5. NASB; NKJV.
  6. Erich H. Kiehl, The Passion of Our Lord (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1990), 128-129.