Zechariah 12:10 – Death Wounds

Recognized as a prophecy by both Jewish and Christian authorities alike is Zechariah 12:10 – with a few unusual twists. Within each of their own ranks, debates occur about the meaning of the prophecy as well as the translation of one Hebrew word, daqar.

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

Setting the historical context, Zechariah authored his prophetic book about the same name time as the life of Zerubbabel, grandson of Jeconiah, the last sitting king in the House of David. Zerubbabel had led the Jews from Persia back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Centuries later, this “Second Temple” would be greatly enhanced by King Herod followed by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

An interesting story in itself is the Rabbi debate found in the Babylonian Talmud Gemara Sukkah 52a. Initially the rabbinic discussion was centered on the topic of whether men and women should be separated during worship and mourning services. Referring to Zechariah 12:10, a Rabbi said that men and women should be separated during services because of the “Evil Inclination,” the temptation that leads to misconduct, in this case lust.

An inquisitive Rabbi asked why the people in Zechariah 12:10 were weeping and mourning if the prophecy was about the death of the Evil Inclination – should the people be rejoicing instead?[3] With that question, the rabbinic dialog switched direction generating a debate around the prophetic nature of Zechariah 12:10 itself: [1]

Sukkah (52a)“What is the cause of the mourning?” 

“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?””[2]

One faction viewed the death of the Messiah by those who had “thrust him through” was the true reason for the mourning described to be as deep as a parent for the death of an only son. Rabbi R. Judah expounded a different scenario where the Holy One would slay the Evil Inclination in the presence of both the righteous and the wicked during the Messianic age.

Centuries later, the renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi, whose commentary appears in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, partially agreed with the rabbinic faction in Sukkah 52a. The Jewish sage believed Zechariah 12:10 refers to the Messiah.[3]

“…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.”[4] – Rabbi Rashi

Preceding it, Rashi’s commentary differed on the specific reference to “thrust him through.” The Rabbi stated that “thrust him through” is 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.”

Translations of the Hebrew text word daqar as either “pierced” or “thrust him through” is the difference between the two Jewish and most Christian Bible tranlations. The literal definition of daqar is:  “a prim. root; to pierce, pierce through.”[5]

Jewish Publication Society and Complete Jewish Bible translations each say “thrust him through.” Christian Bible translations translate daqar as “pierced” excepting for few contemporary, sometimes paraphrased Bible translations.

Good News Translation and God’s Word Translation interpret daqar as “stabbed.” The Message and Contemporary English Version each translate the prophecy as piercing with a spear. Another takes the middle road, Bible in Basic English says “wounded by their hands.” [6]

Regardless if daqar is translated as “pierced” or “thrust through,” interpretations of the prophecy do not clearly indicate the manner of how the wound was inflicted, by nails or a weapon? The answer can be found through language analysis.[7]

Nine other times the Hebrew word daqar appears in the texts of the Old Testament or Tanakh including another in Zechariah.[8] In all instances, daqar is used in the context of wounds inflicted by a type of weapon such as a sword or spear. Applying this word usage definition to Zechariah 12:10, the wound was inflicted by means of a type of weapon.

John’s Gospel account of the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth describes how he was both pierced by nails and had a spear thrust into his side as the witnesses looked upon him hanging on the cross.[9] Later, John described the resurrected Jesus who suddenly appeared in a locked room where he invited the doubting Disciple Thomas to touch the healed wounds in his hands and in his side. Thomas accepted the opportunity, then exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”[10]

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 by means of daqar?[11]

 

Updated November 9, 2021.

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REFERENCES:

[1] Sukkah 52a. Halakhah.com. Trans. Soncino Babylonian Talmud. n.d. pp 74-77, footnote #1-3. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[2] Sukkah 52a, p 75. <http://www.halakhah.com/rst/moed/16b%20-%20Succah%20-%2029b-56b.pdf>
[3] “Rashi (Solomon Bar Isaac).” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13862-solomon-b-isaac-rashi>
[4] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 12:10. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216#showrashi=true>
[5] “daqar.” Lexicon-Concordance Online Bible. n.d. <http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/1856.html>
[6] Contemporary English Verson; Good News Translation; God’s Word translation; Zechariah 12:10. BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/zechariah/12-10.htm>  The Message; Bible in Basic English. Zechariah 12:10. NetBible.org. 2020. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Zec&chapter=12&verse=10>
[7] 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>
[8] “daqar.” NetBible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856>
[9] John 19. NetBible.org. Greek text. Strong. “nusso <3572>”  CR Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23.
[10] John 20.
[11] CR John 3:16.

Psalms 22 – Catch 22 of a Crucifixion Prophecy

Psalms 22 is retrospectively viewed by Christians as a foreshadowing or a prophecy consistent with Isaiah’s and Zechariah’s prophecies of a Messiah who is pierced. Is Psalms 22 a prophecy depicting a crucifixion, even that of the Messiah?

Prophecies are challenging due to many factors. Typically not straightforward nor easy to understand, a prophecy is often not fully or clearly understood until a full realization that it did, in fact, occur or perhaps is clarified by other prophecies.[1]

Rabbi sages do not considered the Psalms as a book of prophecy; however, renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi twice identified Psalms 22 verses as having futuristic implications involving David and the Messiah.

“Why have you forsaken me?” in the first verse is commented by Rashi saying, “David recited this prayer for the future.” Later regarding verse 27, the Rabbi commented “The humble shall eat”  had a meaning of “at the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah.”[2] In Rashi’s words, Psalms 22 referred, at least in part, to the Messiah.

Written at a time when the Roman Empire did not yet exist, to be prophetic Psalm 22 would need to predict details about a crucifixion that are precise enough to avoid conjecture. Challenging because a future Roman-style crucifixion would be a well-honed execution 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 when they came upon three of his Jewish acquaintances among many others 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.”[4]

Quoted not by Josephus nor by any other Roman historians who documented Roman crucifixions. It was written by King David in Psalms 22 centuries before the Romans perfected the tortuous form of execution, yet the depiction is wholly consistent with that of a Roman-style crucifixion.[5]

Raising the bar for prophetic difficulty are two more very distinct predicted actions. Add in a quote and an unusual, explicit activity, all by persons other than the victim:

PS 22:8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”(NIV)

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

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

JN19:17-18 “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).” Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

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

MK15:24 “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.” (NIV)

A second predicted quote, this time by the victim, might tip the scales in favor of a prophecy fulfilled. Word-for-word from the opening verse of Psalms 22, shortly before he died on the cross Jesus cried out:

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 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 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.

Under these most severe conditions and near death, if Jesus was a fraud who still had the presence of mind to seize the moment in the face of his enemies by quoting from Psalms 22 to advance a false Messiah legacy, it would have been fully dependent on the prophetic nature of Psalms 22.

Catch 22.

In order to perpetrate a fraud of fulfilling a Psalms 22 Messiah prophecy, it was dependent on the Psalm being a Messiah prophecy. It was also dependent on the Jewish spectators recognizing Psalms 22 as a Messiah prophecy.

Factor in one other piece of the scenario. Under extreme circumstances where his mind at that moment would be muddled at best, Jesus would have to know the opportunity was about to present itself in order to perpetrate a fraud. He would have to have foreknowledge of actions by forces outside of his control – his arrest, trial, and execution by Jews in the most unlikely collusion with their hated Roman enemies.

Psalms 22 contains at least five precise details that had to be met if it were to become a 100% fulfilled prophecy. If true, according to the  Doctrine of Chances, the likelihood that the crucifixion of Jesus was not just a prophetic coincidence. The alternative is that Psalms 22 is not a Messiah prophecy and that the crucifixion of Jesus was no more than a multi-fold coincidence.

What are the odds it was just a coincidence?

 

Updated October 13, 2021.

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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] Psalms 22:14-17. NIV.
[5] Hotznagel, Fritz and Hehn, Paul. “King David Biography.” Who2.com. 2014.  <http://www.who2.com/kingdavid.html>