"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

A Piercing Look at A False Claim

by Messiah Truth

I. Introduction

Zechariah 12:10 is a verse used by Christian apologists and missionaries as a so-called “proof text” to support their claim that the crucifixion of Jesus was foretold in the Hebrew Bible.  Although the passage is problematic even in its mistranslated forms that appear in most Christian Bibles (as will be shown below), just a slight modification in the way it is applied in one of the Gospels supposedly “fixes” the problem.  However, a closer examination of this passage reveals that the imputed Christological relevance is absurd.

II.The Hebrew Text and Several Christian and Jewish Translations

Table II-1 displays the Hebrew text of Zechariah 12:10, along with five Jewish translations and seven Christian translations.  The New American Standard Bible (NASB) shows Zechariah 12:10 pointing to two passages in the New Testament and these, in turn, cross-reference Zechariah 12:10.  These passages, as quoted from the KJV, are shown below Table II-1.  some words and phrases are emboldened, highlighted, or underlined in the Hebrew text, with the corresponding words and phrases marked likewise in the various translations, and these will all be addressed in the analysis that follows.

 

III. Overview of Christian and Jewish Interpretations

 

  1. A. A. Overview of the Christian Perspective

This verse is perceived by Christians as foretelling the crucifixion of Jesus and the grief that followed, a notion that is reinforced in New Testament narratives.  The author of the Gospel of John quotes almost verbatim the specific phrase of the verse that allegedly foretells the crucifixion and ensuing mourning, albeit with the help of some revision of the text that appears in the Hebrew:

John 19:37(KJV) – And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Then, with some help from the Book of Revelation (believed to have the same author as the Gospel of John), the connection with Zechariah 12:10 is reinforced:

Revelation 1:7(KJV) – Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

The passage in the Gospel of John which precedes the verse that allegedly refers to Zechariah 12:10 sheds some light on the Christian scenario:

John 19:31-36(KJV) – (31) The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  (32) Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.  (33) But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:  (34) But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.  (35) And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.  (36) For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

Crucifixion was a horrible way to die.  On the cross, without having the feet supported in some manner, suspension from the hands or wrists nailed to the crossbeam would cause the body’s weight to collapse the chest cavity and result in death by asphyxiation – a faster process.  However, when the feet were supported, either with a small wooden pedestal underneath or by being nailed to the central-beam of the cross, a person could stay alive for as much as several days.

Jewish Law, however, required a prompt burial following a person’s death:

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 – (22) And if a man were to commit a sin deserving death, and he were to be put to death, and you hanged him on a tree.  (23) His body shall not remain upon the tree overnight, rather you shall surely bury him on that [same] day, for a hanged one is a cursed of G-d; and you shall not defile your land, which the L-rd your G-d gives you as an inheritance.

Thus, during the era of the Roman occupation, it was customary for the Jews to plead with the Romans to break the leg bones of Jewish people who were crucified, in order to quicken their death and, thereby, enable their burial within the required amount of time.

According to the account in the Gospel of John, there was no need to break the legs of Jesus.  The Roman soldiers who approached Jesus perceived that he was already dead, and then they stabbed his side with a sword to confirm that he had expired.  This act was depicted as yet another prophecy fulfilled some 2000 years ago, and which also identified Jesus with the Passover Lamb in the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor 5:7), since the requirements spelled out in the Torah included the prohibition against breaking any of it’s bones:

Exodus 12:46 – In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not bring from the house any of the meat outdoors; neither shall you break any bone of it.

More detailed verse-by-verse Christian interpretations of Zechariah 12:10, which are beyond the scope of this essay, may be found in the standard Christian sources, such as commentaries by Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown.

 

  1. B. B. The Jewish Perspective

From the Jewish perspective, two general Jewish interpretations of the passage that contains Zechariah 12:10 are plausible.  One view has it as an historic Biblical event from the prophet’s own era, while the other considers it a prophecy of an event that will take place at some time near the commencement of the messianic era.

 

  1. 1. 1. Historic Event

The predominant perspective on Zechariah 12:10 among the Jewish commentators is that it describes the mourning over those Jews who were slain while defending the Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem.  Those who fell in the battle were the ones described as having been thrust through with the swords and spears of soldiers from the attacking nations.  In other words, this verse describes a historical event from the Biblical times around which this was written.  Even S. R. Driver, the noted Christian commentator,  is at variance with many of his colleagues since he views Zechariah 12:10 as follows:

“The context points plainly to some historical event in the prophet’s own time, for which the people would eventually feel that sorrow here described.”

Driver apparently recognized that the passage describes an historical event from Zechariah’s era.

 

  1. 2. 2. Messianic Prophecy

The other perspective on this passage, which originates in the Talmud, actually shares with the Christian view the fact that it is a messianic prophecy, except that, according to the traditional Jewish concept of the Messiah, this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.

 

Since there is an ambiguity in the Hebrew text in terms of whether the subject (i.e., the “victim”) here is an individual or a group – the particular pronouns used here are applied in both ways in the Hebrew Bible – there are two ways to interpret this passage within this messianic perspective.  Both interpretations are consistent with the Hebrew text as well as with Jewish tradition.

 

The “singular pronoun scenario” depicts a great hero who will fall in the battle of the nations against Jerusalem that was described earlier in the chapter (Zech 12:3).  Because this person will be one of towering stature among the Jewish people, the mourning for him will be great and widespread; the entire nation and all of Jerusalem are described as being in a state of great mourning (Zech 12:12).  But, this crying and mourning will lead people to repent and return to observance of Torah, as had happened in previous times:

 

Numbers 14:39-40 – (39) And Moses spoke these words to all the Children of Israel; and the people mourned greatly.  (40) And they arose early in the morning, and they ascended to the top of the mountain, saying; “Behold, we are here, and we will go up to the place of which the L-rd has spoken, for we have sinned.”

 

This particular scenario fits well with the Rabbinic “two Messiahs” paradigm.  According to this Talmudic tradition, the first “Messiah”,  (mashi’ah ben Yosef), Messiah son of Joseph, will be a hero out of either the Tribe of Ephraim or the Tribe of Menasheh (recall that Joseph’s sons were Ephraim and Menasheh).  He will fight, and be killed in the Great War, an event that will be the catalyst for all of Israel to turn to G-d and repent.  After that,  (mashi’ah ben David), Messiah son of David, the Davidic Messiah, will appear and usher in the messianic era with its promised redemption of Israel.  The intensity of the sadness is quantified in Zechariah 12:11 by comparing the mourning in Jerusalem with the mourning in the valley of Megiddo.  This reference points to the death of King Josiah, the last of the great and righteous kings of Judah (2 Kgs 23:25), who was killed in a battle with Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt:

 

2 Kings 23:29-30 – (29) In his [Josiah’s] days, Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt, went up against the King of Assyria by the Euphrates River; and King Josiah went against him, and he [Pharaoh Necho] killed him [Josiah] at Megiddo, when he saw him.  (30) And his servants transported him dead from Megiddo, and [they] brought him to Jerusalem, and [they] buried him in his grave; and the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.

2 Chronicles 35:22-24 – (22) Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn his face from him [Pharao Necho], but disguised himself in order to fight with him, and he did not pay heed to the words of Necho [which came] from the mouth of G-d; and he came to fight in the valley of Megiddo.  (23) And the archers shot at King Josiah; and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.”  (24) And his servants took him from that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and he was buried among the graves of his forefathers; and all of Judah and Jerusalem were mourning for Josiah.

Following Josiah’s death, the mourning throughout the Kingdom of Judah and in Jerusalem was immense.  In the Hebrew Bible, this is alluded to by Jeremiah, and recorded in the historical books:

Lamentations 4:20 – The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the L-rd, was captured in their pits, of whom we said, “In his shadow we shall live among the nations.”

2 Chronicles 35:24-25 – (24) And his servants took him from that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had, and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and he was buried among the graves of his forefathers; and all of Judah and Jerusalem were mourning for Josiah.  (25) And Jeremiah lamented Josiah; and all the singing men and the singing women had spoken of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them a statute upon Israel; and behold, they are written in the lamentations.

According to the Jewish Sages, these descriptions also characterize the magnitude of the grief that will prevail among Jews over the falling of  (mashi’ah ben Yosef), Messiah son of Joseph.

In the “plural pronoun scenario”, the singular pronoun is applied to a group of Jewish people, a usage that is common in the Hebrew Bible (e.g., Hosea 11:1 has the Jewish people described via the same singular pronoun, him).  In Zechariah 12:10, the new spirit that G-d will pour unto the Jewish people will motivate them to look toward Him concerning the Jewish martyrs who fell in the battle over Jerusalem before His divine intervention on their behalf.  Here, as was the case in the previous scenario, the intensity of the mourning over those who will fall in the Great War of the future is still reflected in the historical references that appear in Zechariah 12:11.

In summary, the Jewish perspective on Zechariah 12:10 is that it may be viewed as either an historical event that occurred in the prophet’s time or, alternatively, as a messianic prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.  Neither of these interpretations agrees with, nor can accommodate, the Christian view that it is a messianic prophecy that was historically fulfilled with the death of Jesus.

 

  1. IV. IV. Pronouns and Context: A Closer Look at the Verse

 

As noted above, the Christian interpretation of this passage as foretelling the crucifixion of Jesus is problematic.  An analysis of the KJV rendition, which represents a typical Christian translation of Zechariah 12:10, will help illustrate some of the salient issues.

Zechariah 12:10(KJV) – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, 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 firstborn.

To facilitate the analysis, the KJV rendition is divided into two segments:

Zechariah 12:10A(KJV) – And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon

the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications:

Zechariah 12:10B(KJV) – and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, 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 firstborn.

The segment Zechariah 12:10A(KJV) has two noteworthy aspects:

 

  • Variations among virtually all translations, Jewish and Christian, are insignificant – they all agree on context and content.
  • From all translations, Jewish and Christian, it is clear that the one speaking here is G-d (… I [G-d] will pour …)

 

The segment Zechariah 12:10B(KJV) requires a detailed analysis.

 

  1. A. A. Who is “me” and who is “him”?

 

A paraphrase of Zechariah 12:10B(KJV) will illustrate the way a Christian might read it, which will also bring to light some of its inherent problems:

And they [the Jews {or the Romans}] shall look upon me [Jesus] whom they [the Romans] have pierced; and they [the Jews] shall mourn for him [Jesus] as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him [Jesus] as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Given that G-d is the speaker, and that most Christians regard Jesus as an integral part of the godhead (the Trinity), can the pronouns me and him, as they appear in this passage, refer to the same person, namely, Jesus?  It should be clear that the prophet is speaking here of not one, but of two distinct entities.  These pronouns, me and him, cannot refer to the same entity simultaneously!  Moreover, there is still the issue of the pronoun I as used in Zechariah 12:10A.  How does G-d’s speaking in the 1st-person in Zechariah 12:10A fit in with the rest of the verse, Zechariah 12:10B?

 

  1. B. B. The New Testament to the Rescue?

Evidently, the author of the Gospel of John was familiar with this passage from the Book of Zechariah, and he understood its problematic nature relative to the new religion.  To interpret this passage as saying that, at some future time, the Jewish people shall look unto Jesus whom the Romans had pierced, did not appear to him to be what Zechariah had in mind.  So he decided to “rectify” this problem by revising and abridging the passage, and “quotes” it in this way:

John 19:37(KJV) – And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him  whom they pierced.

The RSV translators utilized this version in the New Testament to revise the context of Zechariah’s own words in their Old Testament version of Zechariah 12:10 (The Living Bible has a similar rendition):

Zechariah 12:10(RSV) – And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.

Although this appears to solve the problem created by the use of two distinct pronouns, it does not resolve the identity issue between the two segments of this verse, Zechariah 12:10A&B.  Moreover, the RSV rendition is a deliberate revision of the Prophet’s original words designed to “harmonizing” this passage with the Christian paradigm.  The evidence for this allegation is presented Table IV.B-1, which shows the Hebrew text, a Jewish translation, and the RSV rendition of Zechariah 12:10B broken into three components, with respective terms highlighted.

 

Table II-1 – The Hebrew Text of Zechariah 12:10 with Christian and Jewish Translations

 

Hebrew Text of Zechariah 12:10 –
Jewish Translations of Zechariah 12:10
Jewish Publication Society Bible (1917) 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 himthrough; 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.
Judaica Press NACH Series; translation by 

R’ A. J. Rosenberg

And I will pour out upon the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with a spirit of grace and supplications. And they shall look to me because of those who have been thrust through [with swords], and they shall mourn over it as one mourns over an only son and shall be in bitterness, therefore, as one is embittered over a firstborn son.
The Jerusalem Bible, 

Koren Publishing

But I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Yerushalayim the spirit of grace and of supplication:  and they shall look towards meregarding those whom the nations have thrust through.  And they shall mourn for him (that is slain) as one mourns foran only son, and shall be in bitterness over him, as one that is in bitterness for a firstborn.
Soncino Books of the Bible; edited by R’ Dr. A. Cohen 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 Mebecause they have thrust himthrough; 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.
ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach; 

ArtScroll/Mesorah

I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplications.  They will look toward Me because of those whom they have stabbed, they will mourn over him as one mourns over an only [child], and be embittered over him like the embitterment over a [deceased] firstborn.
Christian Translations of Zechariah 12:10(1)
Darby Translation And I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look on me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for an only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.
King James Version (KJV) And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and theyshall 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 firstborn.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem,  the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mournfor Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
New International Version (NIV) And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on methe one they have pierced, and they will mourn for himas one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
New Living Translation (NLT) Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.
Revised Standard Version (RSV) And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mournfor him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) And I have poured on the house of David, And on the inhabitant of Jerusalem, A spirit of grace and supplications, And they have looked unto Me whom they pierced, And they have mourned over it, Like a mourning over the only one, And they have been in bitterness for it, Like a bitterness over the first-born.

 

1. New Testament passages cross-referenced (in the NASB) with Zechariah 12:10:

John 19:37(KJV) – And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they

pierced.

Revelation 1:7(KJV) – Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and

they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail

because of him. Even so, Amen.

 

It is interesting to note that, in general, the Jewish translations and the Christian translations, separately, are internally consistent.  However, these two groups of translations show significant differences relative to each other in their renditions of the verse, and these details will be examined below.

 

 

 

Table IV.B-1 – Comparing RSV translation with Hebrew text and Jewish translation

 

Revised Standard Version Translation Jewish Translation from the Hebrew Hebrew Text
Zechariah 12:10B
i so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall look toward me because of him who they pierced
ii they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and they shall mourn over him as one mourns over an only son,
iii and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. and be embittered over him as one is embittered over a firstborn son.

 

The significant Hebrew pronouns in the respective phrases that comprise Zechariah 12:10B are as follows:

 

  • §         Zechariah 12:10B(i) has  (elai), to me or toward me.
  • §         Zechariah 12:10B(ii) has  (alav), over him or upon him or for him.
  • §         Zechariah 12:10B(iii) has  (alav), over him or upon him or for him.

 

The combination of the two terms,  (elai) and  (alav), in the same verse is found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, e.g., at Genesis 44:21, which the RSV correctly renders as:

 

Genesis 44:21(RSV)Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me [(elai)], that I may set my eyes upon him [(alav)].”

 

Is there any doubt that the RSV rendition of Zechariah 12:10B(i) is based on John 19:37 in the New Testament rather than on the Hebrew text?

It is also interesting to note that, according to the Gospel of John, the prophecy was fulfilled at the time when the Roman soldiers pierced the side of Jesus.  Yet, neither in the New Testament nor in recorded history is described the prophesied event that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem would mourn for Jesus.  In fact, the New Testament portrays Jews; who were the overwhelming majority of Jerusalem’s population, as anything but compassionate and mournful over the death of Jesus.  This prophecy was not fulfilled when Jesus died!

 

  1. C. C. How Well Did Christian Translators Know the Hebrew Language?

There is yet another serious problem with the Christian renditions of this verse, one that stems from a lack of knowledge and understanding of the Hebrew language.  Specifically, the problem concerns the mistranslation of the Hebrew expression  (et asher-daqaru) found in Zechariah 12:10B(i), which reads: because of him who they pierced [or because of the ones who they pierced], when correctly translated.

The Hebrew words (et) and  (asher) are ubiquitous in the Hebrew Bible.  (et) is a preposition that serves as the marker of a definite direct object of a verb.  In its root form, it is similar to the definite article the in English.  However, unlike the case of the English language, (et) can be conjugated, and thereby it becomes the objective case of the respective pronoun, such as  (oti), me (1st-person, singular, masculine or feminine pronoun; as in “He taught me.”),  (ot’cha), you (2nd-person, singular, masculine pronoun; as in “He taught you.”), etc.  The word (et) may also serve as the preposition with, and it can be conjugated in that context as well, albeit differently, such as,  (itti), with me,  (it’cha), with you, etc.  The Hebrew word  (asher) is a conjunction, a part of speech that connects other words or phrases.   (asher) can mean because or for, that or which, who or whom, and it may take on various other meanings when combined with prepositions.

When (et) and  (asher) occur together as a phrase, and in the particular grammatical structure, such as is found in Zechariah 12:10B(i), the phrase  (et asher) must be read as, because of or concerning or regarding [something] or simply because or that which, but not simply as whom or the one, which are common in Christian translations.  The particular translation depends on the context of the specific passage.  The following example demonstrates this in another passage which has a grammatical structure similar to Zechariah 12:10B(i):

1 Samuel 30:23 – And David said, “You will not do so, my brothers, concerning that which [(et asher)] the L-rd has given us, and He watched over us, and delivered the troop that came against us into our hand.

The KJV has a correct translation of that passage:

1 Samuel 30:23(KJV) – Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.

The special application of this combination,  (et asher) appears to have been better understood by the writers of the Christian Septuagint (LXX), in which appears the following rendition of Zechariah 12:10B(i):

Zechariah 12:10B(i)(LXX) – and they shall look upon me, because they have mocked me,

Although still badly mistranslated and inaccurate, the LXX rendition does not at all resemble the common Christian translations, and it has the  (et asher) at least partially right.

 

  1. D. D. Zechariah 12:10 in Context

Once the pronouns in this verse are properly understood, it becomes evident that the Christian renditions of Zechariah 12:10 are incompatible with the grammatical structure of the verse as well as with context of the rest of the chapter.

The passage Zechariah 12:8-14, when read in the original Hebrew text or in a correct translation thereof, clearly shows that the Prophet could not possibly have spoken of Jesus.  The 12th Chapter in the Book of Zechariah speaks of a war and does not describe the event of the crucifixion.  In Zechariah 12:7-8 the following promise is made

Zechariah 12:7-8 – (7) And the L-rd will save the tents of Judah first, so that the splendor of the House of David and the splendor of the inhabitants of Jerusalem should not overwhelm Judah. (8) On that day, the L-rd shall protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and it shall come to pass on that day that even the weakest among them shall be like David; and the House of David shall be as angels, like an angel of the L-rd before them.

Jerusalem and its people will be protected.  Yet, we know from the historical record that, less than 40 years after Jesus died, Jerusalem was torched and destroyed by the Romans, and the inhabitants were expelled and exiled.  Another prophecy not fulfilled by Jesus.  Zechariah 12:9 foretells of nations being destroyed:

Zechariah 12:9 – And it shall come to pass on that day, [that] I will seek to destroy all the nations that have come upon Jerusalem.

Yet, according to the historical record, no nations were destroyed during the lifetime of Jesus, so that this, too, remains a prophecy not yet fulfilled.

Finally, the only son and firstborn in Zechariah 12:10 are mentioned in the context of a deceased only son and a deceased firstborn, i.e., any only son and any firstborn who has died.  How could this possibly refer to Jesus?  Was he an only son or a firstborn?  Was there such intense mourning for him throughout Jerusalem and Judah when he died?  Though Zechariah uses the definite article  (ha), the, in both cases,  (ha’yahid), the only son, and  [also ] (ha’bechor), the firstborn, there is no name identified anywhere in the surrounding text regarding any specific individual(s) to whom this might apply, which is a common practice in the Hebrew Bible, as can be seen from the following example:

Deuteronomy 21:15-16 – (15) If a man has two wives, one beloved and another despised, and they have born him sons, the beloved and the despised one; and if the firstborn son [(ha’ben ha’bechor)] is hers who was hated; (16) and it will be on the day he [the husband] bequeaths his property to his sons, that he will not be able to give the son of the beloved one the birthright over the son of the despised one, the [real] firstborn[(ha’bechor)].

Whenever the same expression,  (ha’bechor), is used in reference to a specific individual, the name of that person is found nearby:

Genesis 41:51 – And Joseph called the name of the firstborn [(ha’bechor)] Manasseh; because “G-d has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.”

Zechariah’s intent in using these generic phrases here, albeit inclusive of the definite article, was to describe the intensity of the mourning in Jerusalem and throughout the land, that it would be like the grief over a deceased only son or firstborn.

It should now be clear that the Christian renditions of Zechariah 12:10 are problematic relative to the Hebrew text.  Although the Jewish translations of this passage also show some differences, they are consistent on the overall context, the proper application of the respective pronouns, and the correct understanding of the Hebrew expressions.

  1. V. V. Summary

Christian apologists and missionaries make the claim that a single verse lifted out of the 12th Chapter in the Book of Zechariah, Zechariah 12:10, prophesies the crucifixion of Jesus.

The piercing look that was taken at this verse, in the form of a detailed analysis of this verse using the Hebrew grammar and contextual consistency, demonstrated that its common Christian interpretation is incompatible with both grammatical structure and correct context, and cannot be supported from within the Hebrew Bible.  It was shown that the primary reason for this is that Christian interpretations are based on mistranslated and altered texts from both parts of the Christian Bible, and which has created irreconcilable problems vis-à-vis both the Hebrew text and the historical record.

Source: http://www.messiahtruth.com/zec1210.html

Zechariah 12:10

“And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Zechariah 12:9 (RSV)

by

Messiah Truth

One of the most dramatic scenes in the New Testament is Jesus’ crucifixion. It seems so tragic, yet the story tells us it was all a fulfillment of prophecy:

John 19:33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. [35] And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. [36] For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. [37] And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. (KJV)

This passage would indicate that the piercing of Jesus was prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures. Such a bold claim must surely be verified.

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, 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 firstborn. (KJV)

The Christian claim is that John 19:33 is the fulfillment of this prophecy in Zechariah. The problems with this claim are with context and translation.

Context

Zechariah 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. [2] Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. (KJV)

These two verses set up the background. At some future date, the nations of the world will be gathered against the Jewish people, and will besiege the Jerusalem.

Zechariah 12:3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. [4] In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness. [5] And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God. [6] In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem. (KJV)

This siege is part of a tremendous war, the war of Gog and Magog. The Jews shall fight back against the enemy nations, and they shall be victorious.

Zechariah 12:7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. [8] In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. [9] And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

Of course, the real source of the victory will be from Heaven.

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, 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 firstborn. [11] In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. [12] And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; [13] The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; [14] All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.

The concluding verses speak of someone who is pierced and dies. His death will so shock the nation that the people will be moved to repentance and mourning, an intense mourning of this person who is killed that it would be as if they were mourning for a firstborn son. Verse 11 paints a rather dramatic picture of how widespread the mourning will be by comparing this mourning to the mourning the people did over the death of King Josiah, who was killed in battle against the Egyptians, as told in 2 Kings 23:29-30. 2 Chronicles 35:22-25 tells that all of Judah mourning for him.

Does Jesus fit this picture? Three points prevent this:

1) This scenario of war against the nations of the world didn’t take place in Jesus’ time.

2) The Jews (meaning the whole people) didn’t mourn over Jesus’ death according to the New Testament account.

3) This proof, like nearly all of Christianity’s proofs, requires one to assume the conclusion, that Jesus is the Messiah and that he’s special enough that the prophets would have written about him. If you approach the verse without believing in Jesus, there’s really no reason to think that the verse refers to him.

Translation

The translation of this verse is rather awkward. Let’s give it a closer look.

Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, 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 firstborn. (KJV)

The speaker in this verse is the Lord, yet in this translation, it appear that the Lord Himself is pierced. (Hence, the Christian connection, because they believe that Jesus is G-d in the flesh.) However, the rest of the verse would indicate that the Lord was speaking of someone else. “For him” they shall mourn. “For him” there shall be bitterness.

The author of the Gospel of John apparently didn’t see our verse from Zechariah the same way that the King James Bible translated it.

John 19:37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Note that in our verse from Zechariah, it reads “upon Me whom they have pierced.” In this verse from John, it’s now “on him whom they pierced.” If G-d is the speaker, and He is the one being pierced (as if such a thing were possible), then it is reasonable to think that the rest of the verse would be consistent with this. John’s quote is consistent, although taken out of context. John never saw the verse as the Lord being pierced, because John clearly believed that Jesus and G-d were two separate entities, as seen by the following:

John 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come [again] unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (KJV)

The context of the King James translation leads one to think that this is a mistranslation. Examining the Hebrew text of the verse will confirm this.

Source: http://www.messiahtruth.com/zech12.html

Zechariah 12:10

By

Biblical Unitarian

First of all, there are problems with the transmission of the Hebrew text such that the original meaning is not clear. Thus there are versions such as the NIV above that make the sentence refer back to God and these versions usually supply the word “me” or some equivalent. On the other hand, there are other translators that see the “one whom they have pierced” as referring to someone other than God, and those versions usually supply the word “him.” An example of this is the Revised Standard Version.

Zechariah 12:10 (RSV)
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.

Translators and commentators who believe that the word “pierced” should refer back to the pronoun “him” cite textual variants that more clearly read “him,” as well as the flow of the sentence which continues with the word “him” in the phrase “they shall mourn for him” and “grieve bitterly for him.” The Jewish understanding of this verse has always been that the one pierced was one in an intimate relationship with God, but there is no record of any early Jewish commentator understanding Zechariah 12:10 to be saying that somehow Yahweh Himself would come into the flesh and be pierced in the literal sense of the word. It is apparent to us that the Revised Standard Version has a good translation of the verse and that Zechariah 12:10 is a prophecy of the piercing of the promised Messiah.

Another important point to make is that Zechariah 12:10 is quoted in John 19:37 after the Roman soldier thrust his spear into Christ’s side. John 19:37 reads: “and, as another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they have pierced.” The King James Version translates John 19:37 as follows: “And again another scripture saith, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced.’”

The different versions may disagree on the Hebrew text of Zechariah 12:10, but none of them disagree on the translation of the way it is quoted in the New Testament. None of the versions have the word “me,” and most of them supply the word “him” as does the KJV, NASB and RSV. If the original reading of Zechariah 12:10 was “me, whom they have pierced,” we can think of no reason that it would not be quoted that way in the New Testament. On the other hand, if the reading of Zechariah 12:10 in the RSV and other versions is correct, then it makes perfect sense that the verse would be quoted in the New Testament the way it is. We contend that the New Testament quotation of Zechariah 12:10 gives us the proper interpretation of the verse.

Not only is Zechariah 12:10 quoted in John, but also it is alluded to in Revelation. Revelation 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” Commentators freely admit that this verse alludes back to Zechariah, and it uses the word “him,” not “me.” Thus we conclude that the internal evidence of Scripture is conclusive that the one pierced in Zechariah is not God but one in an intimate relation with God, the Messiah.

The third point I would make is that although we do not believe that “me” is properly supplied in many versions of Zechariah 12:10, it certainly is the case that God was “pierced” when the Messiah was tortured and put to death. When Simeon met Joseph and Mary in the Temple when they came to consecrate Jesus, he said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Commentators freely admit that this statement is not referring to the physical piercing of Mary in any way, but rather is referring to the grief that Mary will endure as she watched her son be tortured and killed. Thus Scripture gives us evidence that, if Zechariah said, “they will look on [or “unto”] me who they have pierced,” then he was saying that God’s heart would be pierced. If “me” is the true reading in Zechariah 12:10, then the Bible tells us that both the hearts of God the Father of the Messiah and Mary the mother of the Messiah were pierced when Jesus their Son was tortured and killed.

 

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