The Word Made Fresh
1This is what the LORD declared concerning Israel:
The LORD who stretched out the heavens and established the earth and shaped the human spirit within each one says this: 2“Look! I am going to make Jerusalem a sickening cup for all the people around it. It will also be against Judah in the siege of Jerusalem. 3I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all nations on that same day. Everyone who tries to lift it will injure themselves, though all the nations on the earth will join forces against it. 4And on that day I will fill all their horses with panic and all their riders with madness. But I will watch over every house of Judah when I strike their horses blind. 5Then the families of Judah will say that those who live in Jerusalem are strengthened by their God, the LORD Almighty.
6“Also on that day I will cause the families of Judah to be like kettles on a woodpile, and like a torch blazing among the sheaves. They will eat up all the people around them, right to left, and Jerusalem will once again be settled.
7“The LORD will grant victory first to the tents of Judah, so that neither the glory of David’s line nor those who live in Jerusalem will be greater than that of Judah. 8That is the day on which the people in Jerusalem will be shielded, and the weakest among them will be like David and like the angel of the LORD leading them. 9On that day I will plan to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.
10“I will fill the house of David and the people of Jerusalem with a compassionate attitude so that they will mourn for the one they killed as a parent would weep bitterly over an only child, a firstborn. 11The mourning in Jerusalem on that day will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon in the Megiddo plain. 12The land itself will grieve, and each family by itself. The wives of the family of David will weep, and the family of Nathan also. 13The families of Levi, Shimei, 14and all the families remaining will weep alone, and their wives by themselves.”
1-5: Six political entities figure in this oracle — Israel, Jerusalem, the surrounding peoples, all the nations, Judah, and the house of David. It begins with a word concerning Israel, a term which, as used here, is inclusive of Israel and Judah. In the immediate post-exilic era, there was a strong sentiment that the tribes from both Judah and Israel would be reunited as one. Quickly, though, the oracle moves specifically to Jerusalem. “A sickening cup” of reeling in verse 2 gives a picture of invaders being tripped up as they try to enter the city. “All the surrounding peoples,” who have at times been enemies of Jerusalem, are pictured stumbling as they attempt to enter the city by siege. In verse three the enemy is expanded to include “all the nations” that come to plunder the city, but they will hurt themselves trying to “lift” it. Enemy forces attacking Jerusalem will be panicked and confused. In Judah, the countryside around Jerusalem, the people will watch and see that the inhabitants of the city have God on their side.
6: Thus inspired, the families in the Judean countryside will strike out against the enemies of the city, and be victorious. Jerusalem will remain intact.
7-9: The “tents of Judah,” that is, the encampment of the army, will be victorious first so that the capital city, Jerusalem, and the monarchy centered there may not claim any superiority over the rest of the nation. In that way Jerusalem will be saved and its inhabitants will successfully defeat the siege and its leaders will seem to them like protecting angels.
12:10-13:1: The oracle takes a sudden sad turn that is difficult to connect with anything described up to this point. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, acting together with the royal administration (the “house of David”) will “pierce” someone. It is clearly an act of murder, but afterward the people mourn as though the one they killed is their own child. In addition, the mourning will be private, not public, indicating a deep sense of guilt over what has happened, so deep the people cannot bear to be with each other. The mention of Hadad-Rimmon in verse 11 is unique in the Bible and the event to which it refers cannot be identified, but seems to have been inserted to provide a contrast between the kind of mourning that engages the public and the very private grief that Jerusalem will experience. Finally, in 13:1 the event being mourned will turn out to be spiritually purifying for both the leadership and the common people of Jerusalem.
Is there any wonder that early Christian commentators saw in these verses a description of Jesus? Indeed, verse 10 is quoted in the fourth gospel (John 19:37). The “one they killed” is an only child, a first-born son, whose death results in widespread mourning behind closed doors, and through whose death the people are cleansed “from sin and impurity.”