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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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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.

The Catch 22 of Psalms 22 – a Crucifixion Prophecy?

Is Psalms 22 a prophecy depicting a crucifixion, even that of the Messiah? 

Typically not straightforward nor easy to understand, a prophecy is often not fully or clearly understood until full realization after a future event has transpired or is clarified by other prophecies.[1]

Christians retrospectively see Psalms 22 as a foreshadowing prophecy consistent with Isaiah’s and Zechariah’s prophecies of a Messiah who is pierced. Judaism does not consider the Psalms to be a book of prophecy like Isaiah or Zechariah. Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi; however, did twice see prophetic characteristics tied to David and the Messiah.

“Why have you forsaken me?” Rashi commented, “David recited this prayer for the future.” Later in verse 27 commenting on the phrase “The humble shall eat,” the Rabbi said this meant “at the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah.”[2]

Psalm 22 was written at a time when the Roman Empire did not yet exist meaning any specific prophecy about a “Roman-style crucifixion” would need to rely on prophetic details precise enough to avoid conjecture. Challenging, given Rome’s well-honed crucifixion process designed to extend death as long as possible while inflicting maximum pain and humiliation. 

Josephus described an occasion where he was traveling with the Roman military and came upon three Jewish acquaintances among many being crucified along the road to Thecoa, not far from Bethlehem.[3] Struck with compassion, he pleaded personally to Titus Caesar to have mercy on them. Titus commanded them to be take down from their crosses and treated by Roman physicians, but still only one survived.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.  Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.” (NIV)

Quoted not by Josephus nor was it quoted by any other Roman historians who documented Roman crucifixions. It was written by King David in Psalms 22:14-17 centuries before the Romans perfected this tortuous form of execution, yet the depiction matches in precise detail that of a Roman-style crucifixion.[4]  Coincidence?

If the portrayal of suffering were to include the specific actions taken by those at the scene inflicting the suffering, would this additional detail decrease the likelihood of a coincidence if both sets of circumstances were to come true? Ramp it to a factor of five – three actions already described where the men are gathered around the victim, laid him on the ground and pierced his hands and feet, then two more very unusual actions:

Ps 22:18 “They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments.” (NIV)

Now, if the Psalms 22 scenario added the actual words spoken by those at the scene, would the bar be raised to the highest degree of complexity thereby all but eliminating the possibility of coincidence?

PS 22:7-8 “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads:  “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”” (NIV)

Inflicted extreme suffering, specific and unusual actions, and spoken words in Psalms 22 are amazingly similar to the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth. A montage of Gospel verses reflects the close similarities:

MT 27:36 “And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.”

MK15:24 “And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”

LK 23:35-36 “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One. The soldiers also came up and mocked him.”

JN19:28 “…Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”” (NIV)

One more quote, word-for-word, from the opening of Psalms 22 might tip the scales. Shortly before he died on the cross, Jesus cried out these words:

Ps 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (NIV)

MT 27:45-46, MK 15:33-34 “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.  And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” (NIV)

By the time Jesus wailed out these words he had already endured severe flogging, exposed raw flesh, severe blood loss, acute dehydration, exposure to the weather, hanging by nails from the cross, labored and painful breathing and in a state of shock. In his excruciating misery and naked humiliation, he would have seen and heard the gawking and sneering crowd with their taunts and insults.    

Near death, if Jesus was a fraud who still had the presence of mind in the face of his enemies to seize the moment by quoting from Psalms 22 to advance a false Messiah legacy, to do so would have been fully dependent on the prophetic nature of Psalms 22. 

Catch 22.

If Psalms 22 is not a Messiah prophecy, then these words quoted by Jesus in his dying moments on the cross were no more than happenstance. But there is more to consider than just these words…

Could a mortal man plan ahead to perpetrate such a fraud without any foreknowledge of the lethal circumstances about to happen to him by forces outside of his control – Jews in the most unlikely collusion with their hated Roman enemies – covering 18 hours from his arrest, trial, flogging, and crucifixion up to the point of breathing his last on the cross?

Was it merely the probability of chance that the three sets of circumstances in Psalms 22 – multiple points of suffering, five separate actions taken by those present and the words spoken by the mockers as well as by Jesus – all matched the documented details in the four Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?

Or is it easier to believe that the circumstances of Psalms 22 matching the four Gospel accounts were a Messiah prophecy fulfilled by the crucifixion of Jesus?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] Bugg, Michael. “Types of Prophecy and Prophetic Types.” Hebrew Root. n.d. <http://www.hebrewroot.com/Articles/prophetic_types.htm> Brooks, Carol. “Prophecy.” InPlainSite.org. <http://www.inplainsite.org/html/old_testament_prophecy.html>
[2] The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. K’tuvim – Scriptures | Tehillim – Psalms, Chapter 22.  <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>
[3] Josephus, Flavius. The Life of Flavius Josephus. #75. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850.  http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Thecoa.” Bible History Online. 2017. <http://www.bible-history.com/geography/ancient-israel/thecoa.html>
[4] Hotznagel, Fritz and Hehn, Paul. “King David Biography.” Who2.com. 2014.  <http://www.who2.com/kingdavid.html>

Rabbi Rashi and the Messiah Prophecies

Rashi, one of Judaism’s greatest interpreters of the Talmud, emerged at a time when the Dark Ages were transitioning from rule by barbarian tribes like the Huns, Goths and Franks into the feudal era when kings, queens, knights & lords ruled Europe.[1] In the year 1040, Shelomoh Yitzha was born in Troyes, France.[2]

As a Rabbi, Rashi was renowned for his wisdom and interpretation of the Talmud in simple terms. Jewish academies widely accepted and valued Rashi’s commentaries mostly captured and documented by his students.[3]

Commentaries of Rashi include some Messiah prophecies which are also recognized by Christian authorities. One of the earliest is Jacob’s blessing of his son, Judah:

Gen 49:8-10 “Judah, [as for] you, your brothers will acknowledge you. Your hand will be at the nape of your enemies, [and] your father’s sons will prostrate themselves to you.  A cub [and] a grown lion is Judah.  From the prey, my son, you withdrew. He crouched, rested like a lion, and like a lion, who will rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the student of the law from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him will be a gathering of peoples.” The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Rashi’s interpretation included three prophetic aspects. Judah like a lion foreshadowed David who would become like a lion when the people made him their king. The scepter represents the royal lineage of “David and thereafter.” Shiloh refers specifically to the “King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs.” [4] The Rabbi also commented on other well-known Messiah prophecies.

Moabite King Balak repeatedly pressed the Gentile prophet Balaam to place a curse on the approaching Hebrew nation as an alternative means to military confrontation. Balaam’s response was a prophecy doing just the opposite:

Num 24:17  “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.” NASB

Hebrew text translations vary between Christian and Jewish Bibles.  “I see him, but not now” is translated as in the Jewish version as “I see it, but not now.”  Hebrew text does not contain the pronoun for “him” which is inferred by the remainder of the prophecy of a king, a male.[5] Rashi’s commentary says the opening phrase refers to the “greatness of Jacob” at a future time.

Hebrew word shebet is translated in the Jewish version as “staff” whereas the same word is translated as “scepter” in Jacob’s prophecy.[6] Consistently, the Rabbi’s commentary likewise says shebet represents “a king who rules dominantly.” While Balaam’s prophecy has strong Messiah implications, Rashi does not explicitly say it such as he did in his commentary on Jacob’s prophecy.

Micah 5:2 appears as verse 1 in the Jewish Bible, a prophecy making specific reference to Bethlehem Ephrathah, home town of King David, and a future ruler of Israel:

Mich 5:1 (or v.2) “And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah – you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah-from you [he] shall emerge for Me, to be a ruler over Israel; and his origin is from of old, from days of yore.” The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary

Micah’s prophecy is understood by Rashi to mean the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah in the royal lineage of King David which stands opposed to some critics, including Jewish, who challenge the interpretation.[7] His remarkable phrase-by-phrase breakdown:

“And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah”:  [Rashi]: “whence David emanated, as it is stated (I Sam. 17:58): “The son of your bondsman, Jesse the Bethlehemite.” And Bethlehem is called Ephrath, as it is said (Gen. 48:7): “On the road to Ephrath, that is Bethlehem.”

“you should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah”: [Rashi]: You should have been the lowest of the clans of Judah because of the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess in you.

“from you shall emerge for Me”: [Rashi]: the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.”  

“and his origin is from of old”: [Rashi]: “Before the sun his name is Yinnon” (Ps. 72:17).

The Rabbi expressed his distaste of Ruth, a Gentile, being in the prophetic lineage of the Messiah, facts unsavory to a Hebrew lineage.[8] He cites “the stigma of Ruth the Moabitess” as the reason Bethlehem is called “the lowest of the clans of Judah.”

Another Gentile appears in the lineage of David and the Messiah. Rahab, the prostitute, was spared from death after she helped the two Hebrew spies escape the Jericho King’s posse.[9] Rahab then married a Hebrew, their grandson being Boaz who married Ruth, the Moabite daughter-in-law of Naomi whose inheritance was redeemed by Ruth’s marriage. Boaz and Ruth were the grandparents of Jesse, great grandparents of King David.

Leaving no doubt his interpretation is that of a messianic prophecy, Rashi explicitly said the future ruler of Israel would be “the Messiah, Son of David” citing Psalms 118:22 as another messianic prophecy. The Messiah’s divine characteristic, “and his origin is from of old,” is called Yinnon by Rashi, a Hebrew epithet meaning “be continued.”[10]

Christianity’s relatively close agreement with Rashi on the Messiah prophecies of Jacob, Balaam and Micah, parts company on another prophecy, Isaiah 7:14.[11] Rashi taught Isaiah’s prophecy was not about a virgin birth, rather it referred to Manoah’s wife, mother of Sampson, the Biblical strongman.[12]

As a Rabbi, Rashi obviously did not believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah due in part to a particular disqualification – the fact that Jesus was killed. Specifically, according to JewishEncyclopedia.com citing Rashi, it is the circumstances of his death:

“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death; for “He that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).”[13]

Crucifixion of Jesus as a historical fact is undisputed by Judaism. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in the royal lineage of the House of David are also undisputed facts by Judaism. The ultimate question between Christianity and Judaism remains…what are the odds Jesus was a fulfillment of the Messiah prophecies?


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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:

[1] “Dark Ages.” New World Encyclopedia. 2013. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Dark_Ages>  “Middle Ages,” “Feudalism,” & “Renaissance.”  Encyclopædia Britannica.  2017. <https://www.britannica.com/event/Middle-Ages> <https://www.britannica.com/topic/feudalism> <https://www.britannica.com/event/Renaissance>  “feudal system.” Vocabulary.com. n.d. <https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/feudal%20system>
[2] “Rashi (Solomon Bar Isaac).” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12585-rashi-solomon-bar-isaac>  “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org. 2017. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/rabbi-shlomo-yitzchaki-rashi> Segal, Eliezer.  “Rashi’s Commentary on the Talmud.”  University of Calgary.  n.d.  <http://people.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/TalmudMap/Rashi.html>
[3] “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org.
[4] Rashi. The Compete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Gensis 49. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/9952#showrashi=true>  “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2017.  Mindel, Nissan. “Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi).”  Chabad.org
[5] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php>
[6] Net.bible.org. Hebrew text shebet <07626>  Rashi. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary  Commentary.
[7]  “Jesus of Bethlehem.” MessianicJewishTruth.com. n.d. Archive.org. 2013.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20131103080951/http://www.messianicjewishtruth.com/Jesusbethlehem.html>      “Who will emerge from Bethlehem.”  Teshuvas HaMinim.  2011.  Archive.org. 2012.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20120902023316/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/michah51.html>    
[8] Mendel. “Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki).” 
[9] Joshua 2.
[10] Yinon (Yinnon).” eTeacherHebrew.com.  2016. <http://eteacherhebrew.com/Hebrew-Names/yinon-yinnonInterlinear Bible.  Psalms 72:17. BibleHub.com.  2014. <http://biblehub.com/interlinear>
[11] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary.  Isaiah , Chapter 7.  “Who is the Almah’s son?” Teshuvas HaMinim. 2011.  Archive.org.  2012.  <http://web.archive.org/web/20120425022737/http://www.teshuvashaminim.com/isaiah714.html>  Robinson, B.A. “Isaiah 7:14 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive…””  Religious Tolerance. 2007. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_proi.htm>  Gill, John.  John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible.  Isaiah 7:14.  2017. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb.html>  
[12] The Compete Jewish Bible- with Rashi Commentary.  Isaiah 7:14. CR Judges Chapter 13.
[13] “Jesus of Nazareth.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.