Zechariah 13 – The Nation Purified
A. The purification of the people.
1. (1) A fountain to cleanse sin.
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”
a. In that day: Zechariah 12 ended with Israel’s return to the LORD through the once rejected but now embraced Messiah. Flowing from their embrace of the Messiah, they will then enjoy a fountain of cleansing for sin and for uncleanness. The cleansing comes after their mourning for the One whom they have pierced.
i. Shall be opened: “The fountain shall be not simply opened, but shall remain open.” (Pusey)
ii. “The idea of God being a fountain to His people is found frequently in the Old Testament, but Zechariah’s treatment is possibly the richest of all.” (Boice)
iii. The idea of the sin-cleansing fountain has also been a part of famous hymns:
There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee.
iv. “According to the verse before us this provision is inexhaustible. There is a fountain opened; not a cistern nor a reservoir, but a fountain. A fountain continues still to bubble up, and is as full after fifty years as at the first; and even so the provision and the mercy of God for the forgiveness and the justification of our souls continually flows and overflows.” (Spurgeon)
v. “The means by which sin and sinfulness can be put away are at this moment accessible to the sons of men. The atonement is not a fountain hid and concealed, and closed and barred and bolted, it is a fountain open.” (Spurgeon)
b. For sin and for uncleanness: The only thing that can cleanse sin and uncleanness is God’s fountain. It is His supply, and nothing else can cleanse. Our own works at reform or restitution can’t cleanse us; our past, present, or promised works can’t cleanse – only His fountain.
i. “Sin and uncleanness must be put away. They cannot be excused, condoned, or compromised with. The foundations of the throne of God are righteousness and justice.” (Morgan)
2. (2-6) Cleansing from idolatry and false prophets.
“It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land. It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies. And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. But he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.’ And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”
a. I will cut off the names of the idols.… I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land: Idolatry and false prophecy were the two main ways Israel was led astray from God. God would not only provide a fountain to cleanse, but He also promised to cut off the source of uncleanness – in this case, idolatry and false prophecy.
i. The gaudy and ornate shrines that supposedly mark holy sites in Israel today are evidence that idolatry is still alive and well in the Holy Land. God promised to cleanse the land from such idolatry completely.
ii. They shall no longer be remembered: God promises ultimately to take away even the memory of our sin.
b. His father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies: Zechariah prophesied a coming day when public opinion would not tolerate false prophets. There would be such a commitment to the LORD and His truth that even the family of a false prophet would condemn the false prophet.
c. Every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies: Those who had been false messengers of God would be ashamed of their message. They will put away the clothing of the prophets (a robe of coarse hair) and earn an honest living.
i. “Those who posed as prophets will so fear exposure that they will deny ever having made such a claim.” (Baldwin)
ii. This does not say that true prophets will be silent but only those who deceive and have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.
d. Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends: The man accused of being a false prophet insists the scars on his body are not the self-inflicted wounds often associated with false prophets, but merely the result of a brawl in his friend’s house.
i. The unlikely, ironic explanation shows just how desperately people will avoid being identified with false prophets in this coming day Zechariah speaks of.
ii. It wasn’t unusual for false prophets to wound or mutilate themselves in the service of idols (1 Kings 18:28, Jeremiah 48:37).
e. I was wounded in the house of my friends: Some take this as another Messianic prophecy in Zechariah, because Jesus was clearly wounded by those who should have been His friends. Nevertheless, the context and the original Hebrew argue against this referring to Jesus and His wounds.
i. The translation from the King James Version makes it seem that this refers to Jesus: What are these wounds in thine hands? But the Hebrew is more literally between your hands, that is on the body, whether the chest or the back.
ii. “Some apply this to Christ, because Zechariah has mentioned wounds on the hands; but this is very puerile; for it is quite evident that he speaks here of false teachers, who had for a time falsely pretended God’s name.” (Calvin)
iii. “I do not think that these words are spoken at all concerning Jesus Christ. I have heard them quoted this way; but I cannot hear such an application of them without horror.” (Clarke)
B. The Shepherd struck; the nation scattered.
1. (7) Striking the Man who is the Companion of the LORD.
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,”
Says the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.”
a. Against My Shepherd: In the context, and especially in light of the quotation of this passage in Matthew 26:31, we understand that the Shepherd is Jesus the Messiah – and it is God the Father Himself who calls for the Shepherd to be struck.
i. Zechariah relates a thought also stated in Isaiah 53:10: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. The prophets Isaiah and Zechariah gloriously and emphatically, state that the LORD ordained the Servant of the LORD’s suffering. This was God’s doing! He gave the command to strike the Shepherd. Jesus was no victim of circumstance or at the mercy of political or military power. It was the planned, ordained work of the LORD God, prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before it happened. This was God’s victory, not Satan’s or man’s triumph.
ii. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The Father and the Son worked together at the cross. Though Jesus was treated as if He were an enemy of God, He was not. Even as Jesus was punished as if He were a sinner, He was performing the most holy service to God the Father ever offered.
b. The Man who is My Companion: The ancient Hebrew word for My Companion is used in Leviticus 6:2 and 18:20 to mean a “near neighbor.” According to Baldwin, this describes someone who is more than a friend of the LORD; this Shepherd “dwells side by side with the LORD, His equal.”
i. “God would not apply this epithet to any godly or ungodly man whom he might have appointed shepherd over a nation. The idea of nearest one (or fellow) involves not only similarity in vocation, but community of physical or spiritual descent, according to which he whom God calls his neighbor cannot be a mere man, but can only be one who participates in the divine nature, or is essentially divine.” (Keil)
c. Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered: Jesus quoted this phrase from Zechariah 13:7 in Matthew 26:31 in reference to the scattering of His disciples during His arrest and suffering. There is also a sense in which the disciples were a type of Israel as a whole being scattered.
2. (8-9) Israel scattered, smitten, refined, and saved.
“And it shall come to pass in all the land,”
Says the LORD,
“That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:
I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will 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, ‘This is My people’;
And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”
a. I will bring the one-third through the fire: After the dispersion of Israel, there will come a time of devastation and purification through fiery trials. Two-thirds will be destroyed and the remaining third will be put through the fire but preserved.
i. This seems to suggest that only one-third of the Jewish people will survive the great tribulation. If this is the case, no wonder these years are called the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), and why Jesus said the great tribulation will be the most horrific time in human history (Matthew 24:21).
b. They will call on My name, and I will answer them: This prophetically refers to the Jewish people who survive the great tribulation, come to salvation in the second half of that final period and welcome Jesus in the name of the LORD. This group – which includes the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14 but is not limited to that number – will make up the core of a restored Israel as Jesus establishes His millennial rule over the earth.