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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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.

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. Some say it is not either but rather a falsehood.[1] 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 it may be clarified by other prophecies.[2]

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.

To be prophetic, Psalm 22 would need to predict details about a crucifixion that are precise enough to avoid conjecture. Written at a time when the Roman Empire did not yet exist, it is more challenging because a Roman-style crucifixion was not yet invented. Crucifixion was 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]

Not quoted by a crucifixion victim known by Josephus, nor was it quoted by any other Roman historians who documented Roman crucifixions. The description was written by King David in Psalms 22 centuries earlier, yet the depiction is wholly consistent with that of a Roman-style crucifixion.

Raising the bar for prophetic difficulty are two more very distinct actions in Psalms 22 – a quote and an unusual, explicit activity. Since both were by persons other than the victim, they could not be replicated by the victim:

PS 22:7-8 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)

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 quote, “Why have you forsaken me?” opens the first verse of Psalms 22. These words were also uttered by Jesus when he was dying on the cross:

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)

Rashi commented, “David recited this prayer for the future.” Later in the chapter, verse 26, the Rabbi commented “The humble shall eat” meaning “at the time of our redemption in the days of our Messiah.”[5] In Rashi’s words, Psalms 22 referred, at least in part, to the Messiah.

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 in 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, Psalm 22 had to be a Messiah prophecy. Even more remarkable, Jewish participants said and performed actions in precise detail that matches Psalms 22.

Factor in one other piece of the scenario. Jesus would have to know in advance before he was arrested that the opportunity would present itself in order to perpetrate a fraud – his arrest, trial, and execution by crucifixion at the hands of 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, when applying the Doctrine of Chances, the likelihood that the crucifixion of Jesus was not just a prophetic coincidence. The alternative is that the Psalm is no more than a multi-fold coincidence to the crucifixion of Jesus. What are the odds the Psalms 22 was just a coincidence to the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Updated October 21, 2022.

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

REFERENCES:

[1] Green, James. Psalm 22: Is it a Prophecy about Christ?” CultoftheLivingGod. n.d.<http://www.cultofthelivinggod.net/islam/Psalm%2022%20-Prophecy%20about%20Christ.htm> Berkovitz, Abraham J. The Torah. ““My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” — Jesus or Esther?” 2022. <https://www.thetorah.com/article/my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me-jesus-or-esther>
[2] 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>  “Plaster Miodu. Psalm 22: Na krańce ciemności.” (translated:  “Honeycomb. Psalm 22: To the ends of darkness.”) YouTube. image. 2015. <https://i.ytimg.com/vi/rUjYzzjEHfw/maxresdefault.jpg>
[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] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Online English translation of the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) with Rashi’s commentary. n.d. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16243/showrashi/true