Zechariah 13: 1 – 9
In this chapter, we have promises relating to the Church age, the remission of sins (verse 1), reformation of manners (verse 2) and particularly of the convicting and silencing of false prophets (verses 2-6), a prediction of the sufferings of Christ and the dispersion of His disciples (verse 7), the destruction of the greater part of the Jewish nation not long after (verse 8), and the purifying of a remnant of them, a peculiar people to God (verse 9).
John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” For this reason the Son of God was manifested (1 John 3:5). He takes away the guilt of sin by the blood of His cross.
Verse one – “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and impurity.”
The fountain represents a provision made for the cleansing from the pollution of sin for those who truly repent and are sorry for them. “In that day” the Spirit of grace is poured out to cause them to mourn for their sins, they shall not mourn as those who have no hope, but they shall have their sins pardoned, and the comfort of their pardon in their hearts. Their consciences purified and pacified “by the blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin” (1st John 1:7).
Christ is exalted to give both repentance and remission of sins; and when He gives the one, He gives the other. This “fountain opened” is the pierced side of Jesus Christ, spoken of in chapter 12:10, from which came out “blood and water” and both for cleansing. Those who “look upon Christ pierced” and mourn for their sins that pierced Him rejoice in Him, because it pleased the Lord to smite this rock, that it might be to us a “fountain of living waters.”
We need this “living waters” because we have sinned, and sin is uncleanness, it defiles the mind and conscience, and renders us odious to God and uneasy in ourselves, unfit in the service of God and communion with Him, as those who were ceremonially unclean and shut out of the sanctuary.
The house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are under sin, which is uncleanness. The truth is, we are all as an unclean thing and deserve to have our place with the unclean. However, there is a fountain opened for us to wash in, and there are streams flowing to us from that fountain, so that, if we are not made clean, it is our own fault. The blood of Christ and God’s pardoning mercy in that blood, revealed in the new covenant is a fountain. There is mercy enough in God and merit enough in Christ, for the forgiving of the greatest sins and sinners.
There is a fountain opened for whoever will, may come and take the benefit of it. It is opened not only to the house of David, but also to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to the poor as well as to the rich and great. It is opened for all believers, who, as the spiritual seed of Christ, are of the house of David and as living members of the church, are inhabitants of Jerusalem. Through Christ all that believe are justified, are cleansed of their sins in His blood that they may be “made kings and priests” (Revelation 1:5-6). It is promised in that day, idolatry shall be abolished and the people shall be effectual cured of their inclination to it.
Verse two – “It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.”
In that day the worship of the idols of their fathers shall be so perfectly rooted out that in one generation or two it shall be forgotten that there ever were such idols among them. They shall either not be named at all or not with any respect; as was promised (Hosea 2:17). This was fulfilled in the rooted aversion that the Jews had, after the captivity, to idols and idolatry, and retain to this day. It was also fulfilled in the conversion of many to the faith of Christ, by which they no longer made an idol of the ceremonial law, as the unbelieving Jews did; it is still being fulfilled when souls are brought out from the world and the flesh that they may cleave to God only.
In that day, false prophecy will end. The prophets that are under the influence of the unclean spirit removed from the land. The devil is an unclean spirit, sin and uncleanness is from him; he has his prophets that serve his interests and receive their instructions from him. When the unclean spirits are taken away the prophets will not deceive as they do; take away the false prophets that produce sham commissions, and the unclean spirit could not do the mischief he does.
When God silences the false prophets, He banishes the unclean spirit out of the land that dwells in the false prophets and is a rival with Him for the throne in the heart of man. When the Israelites worshipped idols, they were following the advice of false prophets, who flattered them in their sins with promises of impunity and peace. However, here it is promised, as a blessed effect of the promised reformation that they will turn against the false prophets and zealous enthusiastic clear the land of them. They did this after the Babylonian captivity, but through the blindness and enthusiasm they had, Jesus put to death claiming among other charges He was a false prophet. After that many false prophets and false Christs arose and deceived many as Jesus predicted (Matthew 24:11). It is foretold in this chapter that false prophets, instead of being tolerated indulged and favored will be put to death by their parents.
Verse three – “And it will come about that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who gave birth to him will say to him, ’You shall not live, for you have spoken falsely in the name of the Lord’; and his father and mother who gave birth to him will pierce him through when he prophesies.”
In that day if anyone preaches or teaches a doctrine that tends to draw people from God and to confirm them in sin, his own parents shall be the first to prosecute him for it, according to the law (Deuteronomy 13:6-11). His own parents shall prevent any further temptation from him.
We ought to retain, a very great detestation and dread of every thing that would draw us away from the truth. A holy zeal for God and godliness should make us hate sin, and dread temptation, most in those we love and are nearest to us. We should show our love for God as Levi, who, in the cause of God, did not acknowledge his brothers nor know his own children (Deuteronomy 33:9). We must forsake our nearest relatives when they come in competition with our duty to God (Luke 14:26).
Verses four – six – “Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive; but he will say, ’I am not a prophet; I am a tiller of the ground, for a man sold me as a slave in my youth. And one will say to him, ’What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will say, ’Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”
The pretenders had appeared in the habit of true prophets; but their folly being now made known they shall lay it aside and no longer deceive the people. Modest dress is a very good thing, if it is the genuine indication of a humble heart, but it is a bad thing if it is the hypocritical disguise of a proud ambitious heart, and used to deceive. Let men be really as good as they seem to be, but not seem to be better than really they are.
This pretender, as a true penitent, shall no longer pretend to be a prophet. He will tell those who ask him if he is a prophet “I am no prophet.” as I have pretended to be, was never called or commissioned to the office, never educated nor brought up for it. He will say, “I am a tiller of the ground.” Amos was originally a tiller of the ground but was called to be a prophet (Amos 7:14-15). However, this deceiver never had such a call.
Those who are truly sorry for deceiving will confess their sin, and will be so just as to rectify the mistakes that they have caused. He shall return to his own proper employment. He will apply himself to his calling and no longer meddle in those things that do not belong to him.
When a person is convinced, he was not called to leave his employment and enter the ministry he must give evidence of the truth by returning to the employment he left. He shall acknowledge to those who are his friends who were instrumental in revealing the error he has committed he has repented.
When a person who with the greatest assurance had asserted himself to be a prophet suddenly drops his claims, and says, I am no prophet, every body will be surprised at it, and some will ask, “What are these wounds between your arms?” How did you come by them, have you been beaten into acknowledging you are not a prophet, was it the rod and reproof that gave you this wisdom? Then he will say my friends bound me and beat me into acknowledging I am not a prophet.
Some interpreters claim this is a reference to Christ. They claim that these are the words of that great prophet Jesus and not the word of the false prophet referred in the previous verses. Christ was wounded in His hands, when the Roman soldier nailed to the cross and after His resurrection, He had the marks of these wounds and here He tells how he came by them. He received them as a false prophet, for the chief priests called him a deceiver, and upon that, account would have Him crucified. This line of thinking ignores the facts stated in verse six; friends inflicted these wounds. The Jews should have been Jesus’ friends, for He came to His own and though they were His bitter enemies, yet He called them His friends as He did Judas.
Verses seven -nine – “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My associate,” Declares the Lord of hosts. Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones. “It will come about in all the land,” Declares the Lord, That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ’They are My people, And they will say, the Lord is my God.”
These are the words of God the Father, giving order and commission to the sword of His justice to awake against His Son, when He had voluntarily made His soul an offering for sin; for “it pleased the Lord to bruise Him and put Him to grief; and He was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4, 10).
The Shepherd that is to be stricken, smitten of God was from eternity with God, One brought up with Him, and, in the work of man’s redemption, He was His elect, in whom His soul delighted, and the counsel of peace was between them both. As Mediator, He is God’s Shepherd, the great and good Shepherd that undertook to feed the flock (Zechariah 11:7). He is the Shepherd that was to lay down his life for the sheep.
Note how God uses the great and good Shepherd, “Awake, O sword against Him.” If the great and good Shepherd is to be a sacrifice, He must be slain, for without the shedding of blood, the life-blood, there is no remission of sin.
It is not said in the passage a rod was given to correct the great and good Shepherd, for He needed no correction. A sword was given to slain Him, for “Messiah the prince must be cut off, but not for self” (Daniel 9:26), but for the flock. It is not the sword of war that is given that He may die in the bed of honor, but the sword of justice, that He may die as a criminal, upon an ignominious tree. He had no sin of his own to answer for; the sword of justice had nothing to say to Him until, by particular order from the Judge of all. The sword of justice had long slumbered, until now at length it is called upon to awake and smite Him, for God “spared not His own Son.”
“Smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” This was fulfilled “when the disciples were offended because of Him” the night when He was betrayed (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27). They all “forsook Him and fled.” The smiting of the Shepherd is the scattering of the sheep. They were “scattered every one to his own, and left Him alone” (John 16:32). They were like timorous sheep, yet the Shepherd provided for their safety, for He said, “If you seek Me, let these go their way.”
Some make another application of this; Christ was the “Shepherd” of the Jewish people, they smote Him, and therefore they were justly scattered abroad, and dispersed among the nations. These words, “I will turn My hand upon the little ones” may be understood either as a threatening, as Christ suffered, so shall his disciples. They shall “drink of the cup that He drunk of” and “be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized” with or as a promise that God would gather Christ’s scattered disciples together again, and He should give them the meeting in Galilee. Though the little ones among Christ’s soldiers
may be dispersed, they shall rally again; the lambs of his flock, though frightened by the beasts of prey, shall recover themselves, shall be gathered in His arms and laid in His bosom.
Sometimes, when the sheep are scattered and lost in the wilderness, yet the little ones, which, it was feared, would be a prey (Numbers 14:31), are brought in, are brought home, and God turns His hand upon them.
Of the rejection and ruin of the unbelieving Jews (v. 8); and this word has, and shall have, its accomplishment, in the destruction of the corrupt and hypocritical part of Israel. The Roman army laid the country waste, and slew at least two-thirds of the Jews. Some understand by the “cutting off” and “dying” or “two parts” in all “the earth” is the abolishing of heathenism and Judaism that Christianity, the third part, might be left to reign alone. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple took the Jewish worship away.
When Jerusalem and Judea were destroyed, all the Christians in that country, having among them the warning Christ gave them to “flee to the mountains” for their own safety, and were sheltered in a city called Pella, on the other side Jordan. We have first the trials and then the triumphs of the Christian church, and of all the faithful members of it. The bringing of the third part through the fire of affliction, and the refining and trying them as silver and gold are refined and tried was fulfilled in the persecutions of the primitive church (1 Peter 4:12).
Those whom God sets apart for Himself must pass through a probation and purification in this world; they must be tried that their faith may be found to praise and honor (1 Peter 1:6-7) as Abraham’s faith was when it was tried by the command given him to offer up Isaac. They must be tried, that both those that are perfect and those that are not may be “made manifest.” They must be refined from their dross, their corruption must be purged out; they must be brightened and bettered. Their communion with God is their triumph. They call to the Lord by prayer, and receive from Him answers of peace. Their covenant with God is their triumph. They are His people, whom He has chosen and loved, and will own They shall say “the Lord God my God” and in God they shall boast every day and all the day long, this is our God for ever and ever.