One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out. According to John (19:37) that act fulfilled the Scripture which says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). For anyone who believes the New Testament is the inspired Word of God, what is written in John is sufficient proof that what is written in Zechariah was fulfilled. However, as one answer stated believers in the New Testament may mistranslate and therefore misunderstand the Scripture, which when properly translated is not a passage about Jesus. Instead, the entire passage in Zechariah remains unfulfilled until the future day described in 12:7-9 when the LORD will destroy all nations that have come against Jerusalem.
According to John, the fulfilled nature of Scripture came with the specific act of being “pierced” (not the crucifixion in general) focusing attention on a specific act not the total suffering Jesus experienced. To understand how this singular act fulfilled the Scripture requires understanding the meaning of the word “pierced.” The Hebrew word is Stong's #1856 transliterated daqar. Outside of Zechariah 12:10 and 13:3, the word is used 9 times and each use is relevant to how Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled.
First Use: While Israel was staying at Shittum, the people profaned themselves by whoring with the Moabite women, who invited the people to the sacrifices for their god. The people partook of them and worshipped that god. Thus Israel attached itself to Baal-peor, and the LORD was incensed with Israel. The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the ringleaders and have them publicly impaled before the LORD, so that the LORD’s wrath may turn away from Israel. So Moses said to Israel’s officials, “Each of you slay those of his men who attached themselves to Baal-peor.” Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman over to his companions, in the sight of Moses and the whole Israelite community who were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting. When Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw this, he left the assembly and, taking a spear in his hand, he followed the Israelite into the chamber and stabbed (daqar) both of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly. Then the plague against the Israelites was checked. (Numbers 25:1-8 Tanakh JPS 1985)
The word describes being pierced by a spear and the setting is one of the most Messianic in all Scripture:
- The High Priest replaces Moses in bringing judgment and stopping the plague.
- The High Priest is given an everlasting covenant of peace (by the LORD) for making atonement for the Israelites (Numbers 25:12-13).
- The atoning death was an Israelite man and there was no animal sacrifice or other ritual performed.
- The Israelite man first came before the whole community.
- He was killed in his own tent.
- He and the Midianite woman were pierced at the same time.
- Additional aspects of Numbers which are found in the Zechariah passage: mourning and each person being in the own tent.
Comparisons to Jesus:
Jesus was an Israelite who presented Himself to the whole Israelite community.
Jesus was an Israelite man whose death made atonement for Israel.
The high priest initiated the action.
Jesus was pierced after His death (He was in His own tent).
The wound was through His rib cage, the location from which the first women was taken.
Based on Numbers the word means: pierced to make atonement for those who have worshipped other gods. Also, a belief in the New Testament would extend the meaning from Israel to the whole world. While it is true that the death of Jesus was an event which took place in Israel, it is also true that event can be understood as having significance to the whole world.
Used in the context of a man who assumed the position of king of Israel: But a woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and cracked his skull. He immediately cried out to his attendant his arms-bearer, “Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!’” So his attendant stabbed (daqar) him, and he died. When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, everyone went home. (Judges 9:53-55 Tanakh JPS 1985)
Abimelech means the king is my father or father of a king. The people wanted to make Gideon king (8:22). He refused. After his death, Abimelech, his son by a concubine in Shechem, killed all but one of Gideon’s sons then proclaimed himself king (9:1-6).
Abimelech’s stabbing is the second wound to ensure he is dead.
There is a focus on the woman. Abimelech does not want people to say “A woman killed him.”
Prior to being wounded: “…Taking an ax in his hand, Abimelech lopped off a tree limb and lifted it onto his shoulder…” (9:48)
After Abimelech’s death, everyone went home, paralleling Zechariah.
The passage is messianic pointing to Jesus. Like Abimelech Jesus carried a piece of His cross before his first wound; like Abimelech Jesus was pierced after He had received His fatal wounds and to ensure His death; Abimelech’s name parallels what Pilate posted above His head; Jesus journey to death started in the Garden of Eden with the woman.
Used in the context of the death of the first king of Israel: The battle raged around Saul, and some of the archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Saul said to his arms-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through (daqar), so that the uncircumcised may not run me through (daqar) and make sport of me.” But his arms-bearer, in his great awe, refused; whereupon Saul grasped the sword and fell upon it. When his arms-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him. (1 Samuel 31:3-5 Tanakh JPS 1985)
As with Abimelech, the wound was a second wound.
Saul’s arms-bearer refused to inflict the wound so it was self-inflicted.
Saul’s concern is what will happen to his body.
The passage is messianic pointing to Jesus. Like Saul Jesus’ wound was self-inflicted (He chose to die); like Saul, the piercing was after he had received a previous mortal wound; how the bodies would be handled is the reason for the second wound.
The events of Saul’s death have an added detail not found in Abimelech’s. Seeing Saul’s actions, his armor bearer chose to die in the same manner. Therefore the NT teaching: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV) is foreshadowed by the actions of Saul’s armor bearer.
Used in the context of the death of the first king of Israel: The battle raged around Saul, and the archers hit him, and he was wounded by the archers. Saul said to his arms-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through (daqar), so that these uncircumcised may not come and make sport of me.” But his arms-bearer, out of great awe, refused; whereupon Saul grasped the sword and fell upon it. When his arms-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died. (1 Chronicles 10:4 Tanakh JPS 1985)
- Repeating the use in 1 Samuel 31:4.
Used in the context of judgment before the destruction of Jerusalem: Even if you defeated the whole army of the Chaldeans that are fighting against you, and only wounded (daqar) men were left lying in their tents, they would get up and burn this city down. (Jeremiah 37:10 Tanakh JPS 1985)
The ones who were wounded (pierced) and left lying in their tents will get up and execute judgment on the city.
The passage is messianic pointing to Jesus: even though Jesus was pierced and left lying in the earth, He rose.
The passage can also be seen as foreshadowing the resurrection of the dead.
Used in the context of judgment after the destruction of Jerusalem: “The ‘Babylon’ pronouncement, a prophecy of Isaiah son of Amoz. Raise up a standard on a bare hill, cry aloud to them; wave a hand, let them enter the gates of nobles! I have summoned My purified guests to execute My wrath.” (Isaiah 13:1-3) …Then like gazelles that are chased, and like sheep that no man gathers, each man shall turn back to his people, all who remain shall be pierced through (daqar), all who are caught shall fall by the sword. (Isaiah 13:14-15 Tanakh JPS 1985)
Isaiah begins his prophecy describing the day of the LORD (13:9) where the world will be requited of its evil (13:11) before getting to the judgment of Babylon brought by the Medes (13:17-22)
The opening follows the description of the crucifixion: “raise up a standard on a bare hill.” Jesus was raised up with Pilate’s banner over His head.
The passage is Messianic pointing to events after being pierced (crucifixion and resurrection): those who remained will either be pierced (they will become like Jesus) or they will perish.
Used in the context of judgment after the destruction of Jerusalem: Let them fall slain in the land of Chaldea; pierced through (daqar) in her streets. For Israel and Judah were not bereft of the God the LORD of Hosts, but their land was filled with guilt before the Holy One of Israel. (Jeremiah 51:4-5 Tanakh JPS 1985)
The ones sent to Chaldea were pierced; Jesus was sent from heaven to earth where He was pierced.
The judgment occurred in Israel where the land was filled with guilt before the Holy One of Israel, Christ Jesus.
God, the LORD of Hosts was with them both in Israel and Chaldea. Jesus never left nor forsook His people.
Used in the context of judgment after the destruction of Jerusalem: Better off the slain of the sword than those slain by famine, who pined away [as though] wounded (daqar), for lack of the fruits of the field. (Lamentations 4:9 Tanakh JPS 1985)
The uses with Abimelech and Saul each describe a second wound which brought a quick death. Here pierced is from lack of fruits of the field resulting in a slow death of famine.
When Jesus was pierced His blood and water poured out on the ground. The first fruit from the earth following of this event was His resurrection. It is possible to starve to death from lack of this fruit.
Every use points to what the New Testament says the crucifixion means and by specifically pointing to Zechariah 12:10, John is inviting a study of Scripture that shows what was written about the manner of the death of Jesus.
The word pierced is placed throughout the Bible beginning with Moses and continuing with the prophets and the writings. The word is not used in the Psalms:
Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NKJV)
On the road to Emmaus Jesus explained what the Scriptures said concerning Himself. Later that day He would appear to those two and other disciples:
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45 NKJV)
The first lesson did not include the Psalms; the second one did. After that lesson:
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23 NKJV)
This event fulfills more of what Zechariah wrote:
And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication… (Zechariah 12:10 NKJV)
Understanding the fulfilled portion of Zechariah 12
In Hebrew, a fulfilled prophecy requires fulfillment through a pattern. To the Greek mind, which looks simply at prophecy and fulfillment, any fulfillment is acceptable. In Hebrew, failure to follow the pattern is essentially an unfulfilled prophecy. Since Jesus did fulfill the prophecy, the pattern described in Zechariah is an important aspect to fulfillment of the Scripture.
The crucifixion took place during the time of Passover. The Passover is an annual reminder of what occurred in Egypt:
And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. (Exodus 12:7 NKJV)
Individual families mourning separately are the main element of Zechariah 12:12-14. This is following the pattern of The Passover where each family entered their house and ate the Passover. Zechariah states men and women are separated. This is not how the first Passover was observed. While it is possible in the times Jesus died, some men and women ate separately, the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal before the crucifixion. It also states the men and the women were staying in separate houses after the crucifixion:
Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. (John 20:8-10 NKJV)
Zechariah’s prophecy ends describing events which followed Jesus being pierced.
Recognizing the significance of the Passover in Zechariah’s prophecy helps draw together other elements of the prophecy:
…Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10 NKJV)
Then there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as was not like it before, nor shall be like it again. (Exodus 11:6 NKJV)
And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. (Exodus 12:29-30 NKJV)
The mourning in Zechariah recalls the first Passover where all Egypt cried for their first born and Pharaoh mourned for his son. Moreover, in remembering the Passover, the remembrance is that no Israelites died that night; their houses were passed over and there was no mourning. The death which brought freedom was the death of Pharaoh’s son. Thus both elements are present at the crucifixion. The great mourning was from the disciples in particular; the death of Jesus is the death of God’s son which brings about release from slavery to sin and from the god of this world.
Zechariah describes specific groups who mourn:
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; The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zechariah 12:12-14 KJV)
Each of these families can be understood in the context of the crucifixion of Jesus:
The house of David: refers to Joseph’s other children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
The house of Nathan: refers to Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved: “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. (John 19:26-27)” In other words, in the same way David’s biological family connection to Jesus was through Nathan (Luke 3:31), Jesus continued a family connection passed on through this disciple.
The house of Levi: refers to the relatives of John the Baptist (both parents were Levites - Luke 1:5). It is possible this also applies to Mary as one of her parents was a brother or sister of Elizabeth’s parents. (Mary could have family ties to both the house of David and Levi.)
The house of Shimei: refers to Peter who cursed and swore that he did not know Jesus, just as Shimei cursed David.
Some scholars believe that the current Masoretic translation of Hebrew Scriptures is so structured that events can be put in a correct sequence simply by following the temporal sequence of the language. As one answer shows, when this is done, the Messianic nature of Zechariah’s prophecy as it pertains to Jesus vanishes. This is a consequence of the Masoretic translation (developed in a world influenced by Greek thinking) and not necessarily a meaning of the original text. For example, Zechariah writes about mourning. The Hebrew tradition for mourning consisted of three periods of time. The first seven days; followed by a 30-day period and in some cases (usually for parents) there is a final period which ends before a year. Because the central idea is about mourning, it is impossible to apply the Greek model to what is written in this Scripture.
Moreover, Zechariah specifically writes about mourning of a son even a first born. The Scripture records events which mourning may not be due to death. For example, Cain the first born killed Abel. No doubt his parents mourned over both sons and the mourning over the action of the first born and his banishment would last longer than a single day.
The instruction on a Passover remembrance has this same element:
And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you.” Thus all the children of Israel did; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies. (Exodus 20:48-51 NKJV)
Obviously this statement cannot be put into a rigid timeline within the text (either the Masoretic translation or the Greek model) as the Israelites were in their homes in Egypt on the Passover and did not get out of Egypt for several days. In terms of the Passover in Egypt, Pharaoh’s mourning turned to anger and he went after the Israelites; he was destroyed at the Red Sea. Then Israelites finally came out of bondage to Pharaoh's successor when they entered into a covenant at Mount Sinai. The full release from Pharaoh included becoming God's people.
The tradition of Shavuot is that it corresponds to the time the Law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Seeing the pattern taken from the Passover helps understand how additional aspects of Zechariah’s prophecy were fulfilled. After the crucifixion, on the day of Shavuot, the Holy Spirit was poured on the first disciples and Peter preached:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart… (Acts 2:36-37 NKJV)
The first preaching of the Gospel included reminding those in Jerusalem they had recently participated in the crucifixion of Jesus. Then they were cut to the heart. We can see that just as a remembrance of the Passover would involve elements serving as a reminder of the original event, a remembrance of the one who was pierced would likewise remind people of the original event. So just as those present at Shavuot when the Holy Spirit was poured could “look upon Me whom you have pierced” even though He was not physically present, all people today could do likewise.
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. (Zechariah 12:11 NKJV)
Meggiddon is used in the New Testament as har-megiddon, or Armageddon. This verse could be part of Zechariah which is yet to be fulfilled.
The New Testament states that there is a coming day in which all the people of the earth will mourn:
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7 NKJV)
In Egypt, before the Passover the LORD demonstrated to Pharaoh and all of Egypt that He is the one bringing judgment by bringing different plagues. As the events went on most people recognized divine intervention:
Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?” (Exodus 10:7 NKV)
There will be a time in the future when the events described in Revelation begin and just as in Egypt, there will be some people who recognize what is happening. Many will be saved before He comes by remembering He was pierced for all creation.