Zec 12:10 .... to whom will they look? whom did they pierce?

Recently, someone wrote to me and asked about Zech 12:10 .... and his concern was simply, that the widespread translations of this verse give the impression as if God had been pierced, which is obviously an impossibility, since God was not hanging at the cross, as Jesus' own words "My, God, My God ..." (cp Mt 27:46) plainly tell.

Compare the following two translations of Zech 12:10 (bold face emphasis of relevant parts of the text by me):

10 But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me. They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child. (The New Jerusalem Bible. (1985). (Zec 12:10). New York: Doubleday.)

“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 mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Zec 12:10). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.)

There are quite a number of German translations which translate yet another way, based on different Hebew MSS texts .... they read (my translation from German to English):

“... that they will look on him whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, ...."

We can see how (a) different punctuation in the translation can produce greatly different meaning and understanding of the statement, and we can see (b) how different Hebrew MSS reading produces similarly different meaning and understanding of the statement.

One more point to consider: One should not forget that at the time when the passage in Zech was inspired and written down, there was no "holy trinity dogma" in existence, thus any such trinity colored interpretations have absolutely no place in a study of the passage in order to determine (1) which MSS reading most likely reflects the originally inspired text, and (2) which of our translations provides a correct rendering of the inspired text.


  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 667
    edited October 2020

    Good question Wolfgang.

    John 19:37 quotes an early greek version of Zech 12:10 that sounds a lot more like the JPS Tanakh's translation than the New American Standard's version. And, at least during the NT times I believe Christian would have understood the verse in question the former way rather than the later way.

    Here are a few opinions on the matter:

    10.a. אלי “unto me” is often emended to אליו “unto him.” S. R. Driver said that about fifty MSS support אליו “unto him” (Driver 266). The context supports אליו. The fifth word in MT beyond this one is עליו “upon him.” John 19:37 and Rev 1:7 read “upon him whom they pierced.” However, Yahweh may be the speaker and may be saying that the people had pierced him metaphorically by their rebellion and ingratitude, or they pierced him when they attacked his representative (perhaps some unidentified martyr). The NEB keeps both pronouns and reads “… on me, on him whom they have pierced.” D. R. Jones understands the passage to mean that the people of Jerusalem will look upon Yahweh (in prayer) touching those whom they (the nations) have slain (Jones 161). J. D. W. Watts follows Jones and translates v 10, “when they look to me (in prayer) regarding (those) whom they (the nations) have pierced (i.e. soldiers of Judah), they shall mourn for him (a collective)” (Watts 357).

    Smith, Ralph L. Micah–Malachi. Vol. 32. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1984. Print. Word Biblical Commentary.

    Because of the difficulty of the concept of the mortal piercing of God, the subject of this clause, and the shift of pronoun from “me” to “him” in the next, many MSS read אַלֵי אֵת אֲשֶׁר (’ale ’et ’asher, “to the one whom,” a reading followed by NAB, NRSV) rather than the MT’s אֵלַי אֵת אֲשֶׁר (’ela ’et ’asher, “to me whom”). The reasons for such alternatives, however, are clear—they are motivated by scribes who found such statements theologically objectionable—and they should be rejected in favor of the more difficult reading (lectio difficilior) of the MT.

    Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes. Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

    In the Hebrew text the relative clause “the one whom they pierced” is preceded by the accusative sign, which specifies that the speaker (note “me”) and “the one whom they pierced” are one and the same. The use of the third-person singular pronoun later in the verse (note “him”) makes it appear that the one who is pierced and lamented is distinct from the speaker, but it is more likely that the switch to the third person is purely grammatical. The third-person pronoun refers back to “the one whom they pierced,” which in turn is equated with the speaker (“me”).331 In this context, in which the speaker is most naturally understood as God himself (see vv. 2–4, 6, 9–10), the piercing is purely metaphorical, referring to the people’s rejection of their divine shepherd (see 11:8).

    Chisholm, Robert B., Jr. Handbook on the Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.

    The Heb is ambiguous, because it may refer to a person or a group whom they have pierced. Although the identity of the pierced one/ones is unclear, if the text is read as the continuation of v. 9—as the structure of the section set by the in that day openings suggests—it is more likely that it points to an individual or group from within the nations. For an understanding of the verse as pointing to the Messiah from the House of Joseph, see b. Sukkah 52a. Radak reads the text differently; for him it describes such a salvation that if even one person of Israel were killed in the battle, they will be astonished.

    Berlin, Adele, Marc Zvi Brettler, and Michael Fishbane, eds. The Jewish Study Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    Post edited by Mitchell on
  • @Mitchell, thank you for the further information. I think that in this case the John 19:37 quotation of the passage from Zech 12:10 points to the wording that makes most sense and gives the correct wording of the statement.

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 667
    edited October 2020

    In my opinion I think if particular types of Christians (not talking about you here) were more consistent with their claim that the OT/Hebrew Bible should be interpreted through the lens of the NT writings they would appeal to John 19:37 when attempting to make sense of Zech 12:10.

  • C McC Mc Posts: 4,410


    We need to be mindful that there are at least two OT prophesies make explicit statements about the Messiah being YHWH. 

    The concept of a super-human, super-angelic Messiah was NOT FOREIGN to non-Christian Jewish understanding of the messianic passages. One should consider two OT passages that appear to distinctly call the Messiah YHWH.

    The two messianic passages: Zech 12 and Mal 3.  

    Zech 12.10: "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 ME (emphasis mine), the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for HIM (emphasis mine) as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son". 


    • YHWH is speaking (He pours out the Spirit). 
    • YHWH is 'looked upon' by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 
    • YHWH is 'pierced' by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 
    • It switches to a 3rd person, in the middle of the sentence(!) "mourn for HIM" 
    • Remember, God the Father has NEVER been seen, nor can be 'pierced'! 
    • The verse is understood of Messiah Son of Joseph (the suffering messiah) in the Talmud (Sukk. 52a). 
    • This passage has both unity AND distinction.  

    Mal 3.1 (coupled with Is 40.3-5):  

    "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before ME (emphasis mine). Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. (Mal) 

    A voice of one calling:

    "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.

    4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

    5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it". (Is) 

    These passages were considered by the Rabbinical writers as part of a messianic-passage-complex that included Is 35:1-10; Hosea 2:14; and Ex 23:20

    These two passages illustrate that the admittedly super-human/super-angelic nature of the Messiah was that of YHWH (even though the Messiah was SENT BY YHWH).

    Also, please note that in biblical cosmology, the ONLY 'being' higher than the angels is GOD HIMSELF. To ascribe status to the Messiah 'greater than that of angels' pushes one either to:

    • (1) a plurality within God; or
    • (2) Some completely unknown, unrevealed, undiscussed, undisclosed higher status of creature!

    Let's not lose sight of Rabbinic data on the super-human, super-angelic character of the Messiah. To mention a few:  

    • (1) The Messiah was eternal, created before the world, appearing in the world during the times of Jacob, Pharaoh, Imperial Rome, etc. (Targum on Is 9.6 and Micah 5.2; Midrash on Prov 8:9; Talmud--Jer. Ber. 2.4, p.5a; Sanh 98a; Ber. R. 85; Yalkut on Is 60)  
    • (2) The Messiah would be greater than the patriarchs, higher than Moses, and loftier than the ministering angels (Tanch, Par. Toledoth 14; Midr. on Ps 18:36) and indeed even be given God's OWN 'crown and glory' (Midrash on Ps 21:3!).  
    • (3) The messiah is even given credit for the work of God in creation! (the passage "the Spirit of God moved upon the deep"--Gen 1--is paraphrased in three places as "This is the Spirit of King Messiah": Ber r.2, and 8; Vayyikra R. 14) 
    • (4) The messiah is actually called YHWH in two passages (!)--Midrash on Lam 1.16 and on Ps 21) 

    The rabbinic data leads clearly to the understanding that one MAIN belief of Israel was that "the Messiah expected was far above the conditions of the most exalted of God's servants, even His angels; in short, so closely bordering on the Divine, that it was almost impossible to distinguish Him there from".

    I hope this would add to the conversation for new thoughts. CM

    -- SOURCE: (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim, Hendrickson:1993, 1.179)]. 

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 667

    Mitch, We need to be mindful ...


    One: it is good to see you again!

    Two: the question that was asked concerned translation issues regarding Zechariah 12:10. The excerpts I quoted from various resources were meant to provide an overview of different ways the verse in question can be understood in translation.

    I did not answer question concerning my theology or verses where the title Messiah/Moshiach can be found because well that wasn't the question, the question was about how Zechariah 12:10 can be translated. Actually, since we can't read peoples minds I think it is better to answer questions people actually asked.

    Amway good to see you again!

  • C McC Mc Posts: 4,410


    I did not answer question concerning my theology or verses where the title Messiah/Moshiach can be found because well that wasn't the question, the question was about how Zechariah 12:10 can be translated. Actually, since we can't read peoples minds I think it is better to answer questions people actually asked.

    Tis true. I guess I had the Messiah stuck in my mind from the last time it was discussed, but didn't find the correct thread. However, a correct understanding of the Messiah background will not go to waste.

    Perhaps, I should have started a new thread and titled it: "Update on the Messiah". Blessings! CM

  • MitchellMitchell Posts: 667

    Greetings CM

    @C Mc said: However, a correct understanding of the Messiah background will not go to waste.

    Agreed! Years ago I found, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years by Raphael Patai , and The Messianic Hope: is the Hebrew Bible really Messianic by Michael Rydelink, and The Messiah in the Old Testament by Walter Kaiser Jr to be very helpful in helping me think through this concept of the Messiah.

  • C McC Mc Posts: 4,410


    Thanks, very much, for the resources. CM

Sign In or Register to comment.