Zechariah – Explicit Messiah Prophecies

 

Zechariah’s book of writings and prophecies are classified as a “Minor Prophet” in the Old Testament and Tenakh Bibles, yet the book bearing his name holds some of the most specific details of any prophetic book in the Scriptures.[1] Zechariah’s book also adds validity to the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth appearing in the Gospels.

Genealogies of Matthew and Luke list the lineage of Jesus as a descendant of King David, both including Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of King Jeconiah, who was the last sitting king of Israel. Zechariah further predicted that Zerubbabel would lay the foundation for the rebuilding of the Temple.[2]

On the timeline of history, the Book of Zechariah was written during the Persian Empire under the reign of King Darius reckoned to 522–486 BC.[3] It was during a time when the Jews were receiving back their freedoms taken away during their captivity under the rule of Babylon.[4] The Biblical Books of Ezra and Haggai provide extensive details of Zerubbabel’s efforts to rebuild the Temple.[5]

Progress on the decree previously issued by Persian King Cyrus to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had been hindered for years by troublesome political enemies of the Jews.[6] King Darius was compelled to issue another decree to complete the rebuilding of the Temple:[7]

EZ 6:7, 12 “Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site…”May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!” (NASB)

Messiah prophecies built upon each other over time revealing more specifics. From Abraham to Moses to David and the many prophets thereafter, the prophecies over the course of the previous 1500 years came in the form of a blessing, visions, trances, parables, dreams and even to Moses at Mt. Sinai.[8]

Prophecies of Zechariah came in the form of visions and oracles, some very straightforward and specific, others more challenging to interpret. In one of the most specific, straightforward of any Messiah prophecy, Zechariah foretold how the Messiah would come to Jerusalem riding on a colt foal donkey , an unridden male under a year old:[9]

Zech 9:9 “”Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”” (NKJV) [10]

Branch prophecies were issued by three prophets during the span of some 200 years. Before Jerusalem was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar, Isaiah issued a Branch prophecy. During the Babylonian Captivity, Jeremiah delivered two more Branch prophecies. After the Babylonian captivity during rule of the Persian Empire, twice Zechariah issued Branch prophecies and confirmed the identity of “My Servant” in Isaiah’s parashah prophecy:

Zech 3:8 “…For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.”(NKJV)

Zech 6:12-13 “…Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: ‘Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’” (NKJV)

Christianity views these Branch prophecies to be foretelling the Messiah; however, in Judaism there is a split on their meaning. Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides viewed the Branch prophecies to be about the Messiah.[11] Rabbi Rashi, on the other hand, viewed them to be prophecies about Zerubbabel while acknowledging others view them to be about the Messiah.[12]

Nearly unanimous consensus among Jewish and Christian authorities alike who recognize Zechariah 12:10 as a Messiah prophecy believe it to say the Messiah would be killed. Debate in the Babylonian Talmud Gemara took place in Sukkah 52a over the meaning of the Zechariah 12:10 prophecy. One rabbinic faction viewed the prophecy as referring to the death of the “Evil Inclination” while the other side believed the prophecy to be referring to the death of the Messiah.

Differing views on how the Messiah would be killed centers squarely on the meaning of one Hebrew word, daqar, translated in essentially two ways:  “pierced” or “thrust through.”

Zech 12:10 “…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)

Jewish Bibles translate daqar as “thrust him through” while traditional Christian Bibles translate daqar as “pierced” although it is not unanimous. Contemporary, simplified Bible translations are more closely aligned with the Jewish Bibles’ interpretation of daqar as stabbed or thrust through with a spear.[13]

“… then they will look on Me whom they pierced.”(New King James Version)

“They will look at me, whom they have stabbed.” (God’s Word Translation)

“They’ll then be able to recognize me as the One they so grievously wounded–that piercing spear-thrust!” (Message)

Zechariah’s prophecies may be fewer in number, but some are very specific and have major implications to the prophetic life and death of the Messiah. Were his prophecies fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Updated October 17, 2022.

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bibleNET Bible (NET) translation.  <https://net.bible.org>
[2] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Zechariah 4:6-10; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38.  CR Ezra 3:2, 8, 4:2-3, 5:2; Haggai 1:1, 14, 2:20-23. Dolphin, Lambert.  “The Genealogy from Adam to Jesus Christ” Idolphin.org. 2011. <http://ldolphin.org/2adams.html>
[3] Zechariah 1:1. NetBible.org. Footnote #2. <http://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Zec&chapter=1#n2> “Darius I.” EncyclopediaBrittanica. 2022. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[4] Zechariah 1:1.
[5] Ezra 3-5; Haggai 1-2
[6] Ezra 1:2-3.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4. 1883. Philogos.org. <https://philologos.org/__eb-lat>
[7] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XI, Chapter III.8 and IV.1-2, 7. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>
[8] Genesis 41:1-14; Numbers 24:15-17; 2 Samuel 12:1-13; 1 Kings 20:35-42; Psalms 78:1-3; Daniel 2:27-28, 4:4-10, chapters 8 & 10; Isaiah chapter 5; Hosea 12:10.
[9] Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi commentary. Zechariah 9:9. Rash commentary. https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true>  “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
[10] Matthew 21:1-8; Luke 19:29-36; John 12:12-16. “Zechariah Texts Quoted in the New Testament Regarding Jesus’ Ministry.” ESV.org. 2020. <https://www.esv.org/resources/esv-global-study-bible/chart-38-01>
[11] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>   
[12] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 6:12 Rashi commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  Plaut, Gunther. “Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: Back in the Land.” MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/The_12_Minor_Prophets/Haggai_Zechariah_Malachi.shtml>
[13] 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>
[14] “daqar.” Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856> 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>

Zechariah 12:10 – Death Wounds

 

Recognized as a prophecy by both Jewish and Christian authorities alike is Zechariah 12:10 – with a few twists. Within each of their own ranks, there are differing views about the meaning of the verse 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 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 appearance of Jesus of Nazareth when the Temple played a major role.

An interesting story in itself is a debate among the Rabbis found in the Babylonian Talmud Gemara, Sukkah 52a. Initially the rabbinic discussion was centered on lust – the topic of whether men and women should be separated during worship and mourning services. Rabbi R. Judah expressed that the verse meant the Holy One would slay the Evil Inclination in the presence of both the righteous and the wicked during the Messianic age.

Another faction argued the prophecy was about the death of the Messiah because it led to mourning described to be as deep as a parent for the death of an only son. An inquisitive Rabbi asked why the people were weeping and mourning if the prophecy was really about the death of the Evil Inclination – shouldn’t the people be rejoicing instead? With that question, the 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]

Centuries later, the renowned Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi, whose commentary appears in The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary, expressed a differing split opinion. Regarding the specific phrase to “thrust him through,” the Rabbi opined it 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.”

On the other side of the issue, the Jewish sage agreed with the rabbinic faction in Sukkah 52a that 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.” – Rabbi Rashi[4]

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 translations. 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 a 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 when he was crucified.[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. Accepting the offer, the doubtful Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”[10]

Were the Gospel accounts of the Jerusalem crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth a fulfillment of the Zachariah 12:10 prophecy when the slain Messiah was deeply wounded by means of daqar?

 

Updated December 7, 2022.

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

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> Benner, Jeff A. Ancient Hebrew Research Center. “Zechariah 12:10 | “Pierced him” or “Pierced me?”” 2022. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/studies-verses/zechariah-12-10-pierced-him-or-pierced-me.htm> Benner, Jeff A. Ancient Hebrew Research Center. Zechariah 12:10. image. 2022. <https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/studies-verses/files/landing_zechariah.png
[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.