Refuting the Missionaries: Jewish Interpretation of Zechariah

* Zechariah 9.10-15

"I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the (Euphrates) River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior's sword. Then the Lord will appear over them; His arrow will flash like lightning. The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet; he will march in the storms of the south, and the Lord Almighty will shield them. They will destroy and overcome with slingstones. They will drink and roar as with wine; they will be full like a bowl used for sprinkling the corners of the altar."

Christian Claim: This refers to the return (second coming) of the messiah Jesus.

Jewish Refutation: First and foremost, where in the above passage is there an indication of the messiah? The Christian "messianic" words and phrases are never mentioned in Zechariah 9: Son of G-d, Son of man, Immanuel, or Jesus. Further, the Jewish messianic words and phrases are never mentioned in Zechariah 9: messiah, king of Israel, son of David, or shoot of Jesse.

Another problem which is apparent in a simple perusing of Zechariah 9.10-15 is that, in Zechariah 9.10, there is a phrase which cannot speak of Jesus:

"He will proclaim peace to the nations."

Was Jesus' idea of peace causing a fracas, with whip in hand, against the merchants in the Temple area, as in Matthew 21.12 (See also Mark 11.15-16; Luke 19.45; John 2.15)? Or was his idea of peace cursing an innocent fig tree to death, as in Matthew 21.18-21 and Mark 11.13-14? Then again, perchance the Christian idea of "peace" is causing the drowning death of swine, allowing demons to enter their bodies, as in Matthew 8.32, Mark 5.13, and Luke 8.33. Indeed, if Jesus was truly the submissive servant of the Lord, he could not have uttered such violent words as: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in law" (Matthew 10:34-35). Unfortunately, it does not end there. Luke persists in the documentation of Jesus' call to violence: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on, five members in one household will be divided, father against son, and son against father; mother against daughter, and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law" (Luke 12:49-53). Jesus, who supposedly committed no act of violence, proudly avowed that his mission involves causing discord and disturb universal peace. Is the man of peace, compassion, and nonviolence the one who spoke these words: "But these enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27)?

Likewise, in Zechariah 9.11, there is a verse which simply cannot be spoken of Jesus:

"His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the (Euphrates) River to the ends of the earth."

Jesus never ruled a government. He never sat on a throne. He never ruled nations; not even the Jewish nation that he was born to. He never ruled even one of the 12 Jewish tribes; not even one city. This total lack of rulership contradicts the missionary interpretation of Zechariah 9:10.

The above verses of Zechariah 9.10-15 refer to Judah and Ephraim. G-d was promising to use them as His weapons against the oppressors and enemies of the Jewish people. He will draw Judah, like a bow, pulling Ephraim to fire His arrows against the Greeks, who will conquer Persia, thus gaining control of the land of Israel.

* Zechariah 12.10

"And they shall look to me whom they have pierced; then they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son."

Christian Claim: This refers to Jesus, who as G-d's only son was pierced on the cross, and suffered for all.

Jewish Refutation: This is a clear case of Christian mistranslation. The Hebrew words "es asher" were mistranslated by the Christians as "to me whom," while the correct translation is more like "with the one whom."

The student of biblical Hebrew, and especially its grammatical aspect, will know that to obtain a translation of "and they will gaze upon me whom they have pierced," we would need to have the Hebrew as "Ve'hibitu olai asher dakaru," or "Ve'hibbitu elai, el asher dakaru." The word "es" in "Ve'hibitu elai es asher dakaru" renders the entire Christian translation unacceptable. That Hebrew word does not mean "at," or "upon," or "to," but, rather, "with" or "the" (as in "Ve'ahavta es Hashem Elokecha" -- "And you shall love the Lord your G-d").

The correct translation, using proper Hebrew grammatical structure would therefore be as follows:

Ve'hibitu ---> And they will gaze
elai ---> to Me (referring to G-d)
es ---> with
asher ---> about whom it can be said
dakaru ---> they have pierced

Reworded in straightforward English, this would be: "And they will gaze to Me on account of the one whom they have pierced."

And finally, Zechariah 12.10 is to be read as follows:

"And I will pour over David's house and over Jerusalem's inhabitants a breath of grace and of supplications, and they (referring to David's house and Jerusalem's inhabitants) will look to Me (referring to G-d) on account of the one that they (referring to the nations of verse 9) have pierced, and they shall mourn for him ..."

Another aspect of the Christian mistranslation of this verse is that they have failed to differentiate between the "Me" and the "him." Christians have assumed that they are both the same being. These nouns, however, cannot be referring to the same individual, as will be explained in the following paragraphs.

The context of Zechariah 12 is one of a troublesome time to come in which "all the nations that come against Jerusalem" (verse 9) will try to prevent G-d's final redemption of the Jewish people. It is important to note that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, mentioned in that chapter, and those of the land of Judah, are two different entities. It is also important to note that according to that chapter, a great leader (the shepherd in verse 7) will be struck down and carried off so that the people will be scattered and confused (also in verse 7).

Since it is not possible for G-d to literally be pierced, the idea of "piercing" G-d is only used to express Israel's close relationship with Him. This relationship is such that to attack ("pierce") Israel is the same as attacking G-d Himself. Therefore, when the Almighty says He is equating the piercing of Israel with the piercing of Himself.

This explanation is supported by many verses in the Tanach, which show how G-d identified Himself with the Jewish people. The following are some examples:

Exodus 23.2: "But if you shall indeed hearken to his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries."

Isaiah 49.25: "But, thus says the Lord: 'Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the oppressor shall be delivered; and I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children'."

Isaiah 63.9: "In all their affliction, He was afflicted."

Jeremiah 12.14: "Thus says the Lord: 'Concerning all My evil neighbors that touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit, behold, I will pluck them up from off their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them'."

Zechariah 2.12-13: "For thus says the Lord of hosts who sent me after glory to the nations which plundered you: 'Surely, he that touches you touches the apple of My eye. For, behold, I will shake My hand over them, and they shall plunder for those who served them. Then you shall know that the Lord of host has sent me'."

Psalms 83.2-6: "O God, do not keep silent; do not hold your peace, and be not still, O G-d. For, lo, Your enemies are in an uproar; and they that hate You have lifted up the head. They hold crafty converse against Your people, and take counsel against Your hidden ones. They have said: 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be remembered no more'. For they have consulted together with one accord; against You they make a covenant."

These verses demonstrate how the Tanach viewed G-d's relationship with His chosen people throughout. Thus, in Zechariah 12.10, it is the gentile nations who shall look to G-d, whom they have attacked by persecuting and inflicting great suffering on "him," Israel, whose deceased will be mourned by the survivors of that nation.

The Talmud concurs with this view and stated that the "suffering" would peak when the messiah son of Joseph, who was to precede the messiah of King David's lineage, would be slain just before the final redemption would occur (Talmud, Sukkah 52a). Although all of the nation's deceased will be mourned, the mourning over the death of the messiah son of Joseph will symbolize the collective grief of the people for all the fallen of Israel. Only after this messiah is killed in battle will all the Jews turn to the Almighty, and seek salvation from Him alone. Only then will they realize that it is because of their transgressions and sins that the messiah son of Joseph was killed, signifying that they were not worthy of being redeemed at that time.

Another point of context that negates the Christian interpretation of Zechariah 12.10 is the continuation of the prophecy. Verses 12.10-14 read as follows:

"I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son ... In that day shall there be great mourning in Jerusalem and the land shall mourn, every family apart ... all the families that remain ..."

At the time of Jesus' alleged death, there was no recognizable national expression of grief or mourning throughout the land, or even in Jerusalem. In fact, since according to the Christian Bible the Jews encouraged his crucifixion, there must have been a great rejoicing when it was carried out.

* Zechariah 13.6

"And one shall say unto him: What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer: Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends."

Christian Claim: This prophecy foretold Jesus' crucifixion.

Jewish Refutation: We may agree that this verse did indeed refer to Jesus. When examined properly, it is clear that this verse refers to a false prophet!

As with most Christian Tanachic distortions, this one also involves out-of-context textual usage. For the context of this verse, we will look at Zechariah 13.1-6:

"In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered; and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him 'Thou shalt not live, for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord'. And his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision when he has prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive. But he shall say 'I am no prophet, I am a husbandman, for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth'. And one shall say unto him 'What are these wounds in thine hands'? Then he shall answer 'Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends'."

It is obvious from the context of these verses that the prophecy is of the days of the final redemption, when all of the false prophets will be exposed. If Christians want to use part of this prophecy for their own purposes, then honesty dictates that they take the entire chapter as well. Considering that verse 6 relates to something that is to occur at the same time as the events related in the previous five verses, the only conclusion one can arrive at, is that the one spoken of in verse 6, is also spoken of in the previous verses. Christians thereby place Jesus in the category of a false prophet.

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