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: 630
    edited October 20

    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
  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 2,745

    @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: 630
    edited October 21

    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.

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