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Zechariah 12:10 – Circumstances of the Death of the Messiah? 

Zechariah 12:10 is a short prophecy recognized by both Jewish and Christian authorities alike – but with a couple of twists. Bible translation versions of the Hebrew text are not the issue:

Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; 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 first-born.”
Jewish Publication Society

Zech. 12:10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.”
New King James Version

Translations of the Hebrew text word daqar as either “pierced” or “thrust him through” is the small difference of little consequence. The literal definition of daqar is:  “a prim. root; to pierce, pierce through.”[1]

To set the historical context, Zechariah authored his prophetic book by the same name soon after Zerubbabel, grandson of Jeconiah the last sitting king in the House of David, had led the Jews from Persia back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The developing scene in Jerusalem became the backdrop for the future centuries later when the Temple would be greatly enhanced by King Herod followed by the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth.

Messiah prophecy interpretations by Christian and Jewish authorities are typically where controversies originate. This time, however, disagreement about Zechariah’s prophecy started among the ranks of the Rabbis producing the Babylonia Talmud Gemara Sukkah 52a.

Initial rabbinic discussion was centered on the topic of whether men and women should be separated during worship and mourning services. A Rabbi cited Zechariah 12:10 to support his position that men and women should be separated during services of mourning because of the “Evil Inclination,” the temptation that leads to misconduct, in this case lust.

One inquisitive Rabbi looked at the entirety of Zechariah 12:10 and asked why the people were weeping and mourning – didn’t it made more sense that if the prophesy was about the death of the Evil Inclination, they should be rejoicing? The Rabbi argued that the death of the Messiah by those who “thrust him through” was the true reason for the mourning, as deeply as a parent for the death of an only son:[2]

Sukkah (52a)

“What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]?  R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point.  One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination.

“It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son; 

“but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this [it may be objected] an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep?”

With that question, the rabbinic dialog switched direction generating a new discussion around the prophetic context of the verse itself. Split on the meaning of the prophecy, several Rabbis took the side favoring the “Evil Inclination” view.[3] Another Rabbi characterized the alternative Messiah interpretation saying the Holy One would send the Messiah, the Son of David, begotten by God who would be slain but given eternal life and the inheritance of the nations.

Centuries later, the renowned sage Rabbi Rashi, whose commentary appears in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, agreed with the rabbinic faction in Sukkah 52a who believed Zechariah 12:10 refers to the Messiah.[4]

“…as one mourns over an only son: As a man mourns over his only son. And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring to the Messiah, son of Joseph, who was slain.”[5] – Rabbi Rashi

Three characteristic facets appear in Rashi’s commentary – “the Messiah” who is “slain” followed by deep mourning likened to the death an “only son.” Added to the unambiguous first part of the prophecy saying those in the “house of David” and “Jerusalem” will be blessed by his appearance results in the 5 defining details packed into a single verse.

Rashi’s preceding commentary, however, differs on the specific reference to “thrust him through” as the manner of the Messiah’s death. The Rabbi stated that “thrust him through” was a metaphor about Israel saying:  “And they shall look to Me to complain about those of them whom the nations thrust through and slew during their exile.”

Literal interpretation views of the prophecy where the death of the Messiah who is pierced or thrust through does not, however, clearly indicate how daqar is inflicted – was it by means of nails or a weapon? The answer can be found through language analysis.[6]

Nine other times the Hebrew word daqar appears in the texts of the Old Testament or Tanakh including another in Zechariah.[7] In all instances, daqar is used in the context of wounds inflicted by a type of weapon such as a sword or spear. To be fully consistent with the word usage of daqar in all other instances, then Zechariah 12:10 specifically refers to being “thrust through” or “pierced” by a weapon.

John’s Gospel account of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth some 500 years after Zechariah’s prophecy describes how Jesus was both pierced by nails and had a spear thrust into his side as the witnesses looked upon him hanging on the cross.[8] Later, John described the resurrected Jesus suddenly appearing in a locked room where the Disciple Thomas touched the wounds in his hands and side exclaiming in confirmation, “My Lord and my God!”[9]

Were the Gospel accounts of the Jerusalem crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, born in the lineage of David, a fulfillment of the Zachariah 12:10 prophecy as the slain Messiah subjected to being daqar, the only begotten Son of God?[10]

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] “daqar.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/1856.html>
[2] Sukkah 52a.  Halakhah.com. Trans. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[3] “Jewish Messianic Interpretations of Zechariah 12:10.” Jews For Jesus. 2005. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/jewish-messianic-interpretations-of-zechariah-12-issues-prophecy>  “The Hillel Sandwich.”  The MT | Messianic Times.com. 2016.  <https://www.messianictimes.com/lifestyle/ask-the-rabbi/j/item/4272-the-hillel-sandwich>
[4] “Rashi (Solomon Bar Isaac).” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13862-solomon-b-isaac-rashi>
[5] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216#showrashi=true>
[6] Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation, Inc. n.d. <http://www.lsiscan.com/index.htm>  “SCAN – Scientific Content Analysis (Statement Analysis).” Advanced Polygraph. 2011. <http://www.advancedpolygraph.com.au/scan.htm> “Introduction to Text Analysis: About Text Analysis.”  Duke University | Libraries. 2017. <https://guides.library.duke.edu/text_analysis>  “What Is the Definition of Textual Analysis?” Reference.com. 2018. <https://www.reference.com/education/definition-textual-analysis-a95087916fcb24cb> Pfarrer, Mike “What is content analysis?” University of Georgia | Terry College of Business. 2012. <http://www.terry.uga.edu/management/contentanalysis>
[7] Net.bible.org. “daqar.” <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856>
[8] John 19.  Net.bible.org. Greek text.  Strong. “nusso <3572>”  CR Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23.
[9] John 20.
[10] John 3:16.

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