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Zechariah 12:10 – the Messiah’s Manner of Death

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

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 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. Centuries later, the “Second Temple” would be greatly enhanced by King Herod followed by the appearance 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 of mourning 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 prophesy was about the death of the Evil Inclination – should they not be rejoicing?[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 “thrust him through” was the true reason for the mourning, as deeply as a parent for the death of an only son. Rabbi R. Judah expounded a different view 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 who 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” as the manner of the Messiah’s death. The Rabbi’s stated “thrust him through” to be 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 Bibles. 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 four contemporary, simplified, 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. One takes the middle road, Bible in Basic English says “wounded by their hands.” [6]

Interpretations of the prophecy, regardless if daqar is translated as “pierced” or “thrust through” does not clearly indicate how daqar is inflicted – was it by means of 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 manner of death is by means of a 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 suddenly appearing in a locked room where the he invited the doubting Disciple Thomas to touched 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 subjected to being daqar, the Son of God?[11]

 

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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.

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