The Repentance of Judah
1 The revelation of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: The Lord – he who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth, who forms the human spirit within a person – says, 2 “I am about to make Jerusalem a cup that brings dizziness to all the surrounding nations; indeed, Judah will also be included when Jerusalem is besieged. 3 Moreover, on that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy burden for all the nations, and all who try to carry it will be seriously injured; yet all the peoples of the earth will be assembled against it. 4 In that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with confusion and its rider with madness. I will pay close attention to the house of Judah, but will strike all the horses of the nations with blindness. 5 Then the leaders of Judah will say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are a means of strength to us through their God, the Lord who rules over all.’ 6 On that day I will make the leaders of Judah like an igniter among sticks and a burning torch among sheaves, and they will burn up all the surrounding nations right and left. Then the people of Jerusalem will settle once more in their place, the city of Jerusalem. 7 The Lord also will deliver the homes of Judah first, so that the splendour of the kingship of David and of the people of Jerusalem may not exceed that of Judah. 8 On that day the Lord himself will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the weakest among them will be like mighty David, and the dynasty of David will be like God, like the angel of the Lord before them. 9 So on that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
10 “I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. They will lament for him as one laments for an only son, and there will be a bitter cry for him like the bitter cry for a firstborn. 11 On that day the lamentation in Jerusalem will be as great as the lamentation at Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, clan by clan – the clan of the royal household of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the clan of the family of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; 13 the clan of the descendants of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; and the clan of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves – 14 all the clans that remain, each separately with their wives.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
12:1. The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heaven, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
Note how this chapter begins: “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel,” — not against Israel. The gospel is always, to the true preacher of it, the burden of the Lord, but, to those who receive it, it is a burden of blessing, a load of mercy. To those who reject it, it will become a burdensome stone, crushing them to their eternal ruin. God grant, in his infinite mercy, that none of us may belong to the last class!
Zechariah 12:2. 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.
This is a promise of God’s abounding mercy to his chosen people Israel. When he comes to their aid, they shall be a cup of trembling to their enemies. Those enemies will try to swallow them, but they will find that they are drinking a cup of poison, which will cause their own death. Oh that the day might soon come when God would remember his ancient people, the Jews, and bring them back to their own land, as he certainly will do in the fullness of time, and when he has done it, then it shall come to pass that all who fight against them shall find his people to be as a cup of trembling to them. This promise, which is to be literally fulfilled to God’s chosen people, the seed of Abraham, is also spiritually true to all believers. Christian, your enemies cannot really hurt you. If they could drink you up, as men drink a cup of wine, you would be a cup of trembling to them, they would find that they had taken in more than they wanted. All the persecutors of the Church of God, in smiting this stone, have themselves been broken on it. They have found that they have undertaken a task which has ended in their own destruction. Woe unto the man who fights against the Church of the living God! Victory must always come to the Lord’s people, for greater is he who is with them than all that can be against them.
Zechariah 12:3. 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.
This is true literally, but it is also true spiritually. As the Church of God is to be a cup of trembling to its enemies, so is it also to be a burdensome stone. They do not like it, they cannot bear it. They would, if they could, get rid of the spiritual Church of God; but they cannot get rid of it. There it is: — a stone, cut out of the mountain without hands, which will grow until it fills the whole earth, and breaks in pieces everything that opposes it. Those who set themselves against God, and against his Christ shall find themselves crushed to atoms by this mighty stone.
Zechariah 12:4. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness:
The chief strength of Jerusalem’s enemies lay in horses and chariots; but God bids his people not to fear them, for he knows how to overcome all power, whether it be the power of cavalry or the power of infantry. He knows how to smite every horse with astonishment, and every rider with madness, for, “as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth even for ever,” and he can protect them against the most powerful foes that may assail them.
Zechariah 12:4. And I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah,
It looked as if the Lord had been asleep, but now he says, “’I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah,’ — I will look at them, and note their sufferings, pity their griefs, plan for their good, and come forth for their defence.”
Zechariah 12:4. And will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
Their enemies shall not be able to see them, but God will see them, and he will deliver his people and overthrow all their adversaries.
Zechariah 12:5-6. 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. 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.
The literal prophecy is that the seed of Israel shall go back to their own land and shall prevail over their adversaries; but the spiritual meaning is that the Church of God shall have great power among the people of the earth. They shall have fire put into them, — the fire of the Holy Ghost; and they shall be like a lighted firebrand amongst the wood, or as a flaming torch in a sheaf of corn; and you know how soon the sheaf would be burnt up. If God has put within you fire from heaven, you will be sure to burn, and those with whom you live will soon feel the flame. Place one really gracious man in any district and if he is thoroughly on fire with the Holy Spirit, it will be like throwing a blazing firebrand into a field of dry corn. What a conflagration will there be! The Lord send us many such blessed burnings!
Zechariah 12:7. 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.
God will begin by saving the most defenseless. The tents of the people were easily swept away by their powerful foes. “Therefore,” says the prophet, “the Lord shall save the tents of Judah first.” As for the people in the strongly defended city of Jerusalem he would protect them, but he would do it in such a way that they should not take the glory to themselves. God is always very jealous of his own honour. He will save us, but it will be in a way that shall prevent our pride from glorying in it. He will never allow one saved soul to be able to say, “I saved myself,” or “I contributed to the merit which has brought me to heaven.” No; God must have all the glory, — every jot and tittle of it; and all his people are glad that he should have it.
Zechariah 12:8. 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.
What a blessed thing it is when the Lord strengthens all his people, so that the weakest amongst them are as strong as that ruddy-faced youth who smote Goliath, and the strongest of them are like the swift-winged angels of God, ready to do his bidding! Oh, that this church might be in that blessed state! You remember how it is written that, when Israel came up out of Egypt, “there was not one feeble person among their tribes.” When will the whole Church of Christ get to be in that condition? O ye feeble ones, lay hold upon the promise now before us, and do not rest till it is fulfilled in you! “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.”
Zechariah 12:9-11. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 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. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
No doubt these verses refer, primarily, to the great mourning when King Josiah fell in battle, when all the people wept and mourned for many days because their king had been slain by the arrows shot by the archers But this is also typical of the lamentation of a heart when it is broken on account of the death of Christ. Sorrow for sin is to be after the fashion of that great national mourning of which Jeremiah sang so plaintively in the book of Lamentations.
Zechariah 12:12. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart;
For this was to be a personal sorrow, in which both husbands and wives must weep on their own account.
Zechariah 12:12. The family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
Perhaps these names are mentioned to indicate different classes and orders of persons; — the family of the house of David the king shall mourn and the family of the house of Nathan the prophet shall mourn. Both David and Nathan had long since gone, but their descendants were still called by their names.
Zechariah 12:13. The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart;
The priests, as well as the kings and the prophets, were to be represented in this universal mourning.
Zechariah 12:13. The family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
Shimei, or Simeon, as the Septuagint gives it, — which may either represent the scribes, or else may refer to the people in general. These shall all mourn, personally and separately, for him whom they have pierced.
Zechariah 12:14. All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
Why these chapters were divided here, I cannot imagine, for it is clear that the passage should run right on.
Zechariah 13:1. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanliness.
Zechariah 12:1-4. 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 forms the spirit of man within him. 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. 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. 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.
When God comes to defend his own, then, however despised the people may be, however despised Israel may be, God will make it to be a cup of trembling to them. He will make it to be a burdensome stone which they cannot endure, and they will be glad to be rid of it. I remember a story in one of the legends of the old saints concerning a holy woman who was taken away from her place of retreat by the ungodly, with a view of forcing her into sin. The legend runs that as they carried her, she was quite unable to resist their power, but she became heavier and heavier, so that they could not carry her and were obliged to set her down and then she went back to where she was; and I believe that the legend pictorially sets forth what happens when a true child of God is carried captive by temptation and sin. Bye-and-bye, God comes and makes them to be a burdensome stone, and they are obliged to lay them down.
Zechariah 12:10-14. 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. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 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; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
Zechariah 13:1. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day,
How much God can crowd into a single day!
Zechariah 12:2. Saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
God will not only destroy the idols, but he will cut off the very names of them out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered.
Zechariah 12:3. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesy.
It was a part of the law of God in the Book of Deuteronomy that any man who professed to be a prophet, and who sought to turn the people aside to the worship of idols, should be put to death; and it is here declared that, when God had cleansed the land, there would be no false prophets; and, if any man pretended to be a prophet of the Lord when he was not sent of God, his own father and mother would be the first to execute judgment upon him.
Zechariah 12:4. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
Imitating Elijah’s garb. the false prophets hoped to win the attention of the people by the roughness of their dress; but all this would be dropped for the people would be so well instructed that they would refuse to hear the false prophet.
Zechariah 12:5. But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husband-man; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
They shall be so ashamed of it that, to have kept cattle shall seem to be a far more noble employment than to have falsely set up to be a prophet of the Lord.
Zechariah 12:6. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands?
“You wear the marks usually seen in God’s servants; you have scarred yourself as his prophets were accustomed to do, you have, as it were, tattooed yourself with the name of your God, what does it all mean?” But he shall be so ashamed of it that-
Zechariah 12:6. Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
He shall say anything rather than confess that he is a false prophet, he shall be so ashamed of himself. What a mercy it is when God makes men ashamed of sin, and when he makes them so ashamed of false doctrine that they cannot bear it, and will not any longer proclaim it! Oh, that that day were already come!
Zechariah 12:10. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications:
This is a promise concerning Israel. Long have the Jews rejected the Christ, but the day is coming when they shall acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth to be the promised Messiah. In that day, this promise will be fulfilled. God must always give “the spirit of grace” ere men will pray aright; and wherever grace is given, there is always true prayer.
Zechariah 12:10. 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.
Discovering that they have rejected the true Messiah, they will be overcome with the most acute grief that was ever endured, grief altogether inconceivable.
Zechariah 12:11. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
One of the greatest mournings that was ever known was that when Josiah was lain in battle, and the people lamented that their best of kings was so early taken away from them. Such shall be the sorrow that shall fall upon repenting Israel.
Zechariah 12:12. And the land shalt mourn, every family apart;
There shall be universal mourning throughout the whole land; yet it shall be special and particular to each household: “every family apart.”
Zechariah 12:12-14. The family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; all the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
True repentance is the distinct act of each individual. It cannot as a rule be performed in the mass. There is a general repentance which, like that of the Ninevites, has a special excellence about it, because it affects a whole city or nation; but that is not the kind of repentance which is described here. In this case, the sharpness of personal conviction of sin cuts and wounds the conscience of each individual, and there is a bitter cry uttered by each one as if he were the only sinner in the world. Oh, how sincerely you and I would repent if we felt as if we were the only ones who had ever broken God’s law; yet such a repentance as that we must feel if we would be personally forgiven.