Jehovah Gets Pierced!

The Hebrew Bible contains a remarkable prophecy, which is found in the book of Zechariah. The prophet foresaw the time when Israel would mourn for having committed the sin of piercing Jehovah their God!

The word of Yahweh concerning Israel: Thus says Yahweh, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: ‘Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it. On that day,’ says Yahweh, ‘I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, “The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through Yahweh of hosts, their God.” On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the peoples round about, while Jerusalem shall still be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem. And Yahweh will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. On that day Yahweh will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of Yahweh, at their head. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on Me whom they have pierced (wehibbtu elay et asher-daqaru), they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrim’mon in the plain of Megid’do. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shim’e-ites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves. In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.’” Zechariah 12:1-3, 7-14; 13:1

That this is a clear Messianic prophecy can be easily proven from the fact that even later rabbinic sources interpreted it in respect to Messiah son of Joseph, the Messiah whom they believed would be killed in battle and then subsequently raised back to life. As the renowned Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown explains:

“There is also an extraordinary comment about the atoning power of the death of Messiah ben Joseph made by Moshe Alshekh, the influential sixteenth-century rabbi, in his commentary to Zechariah 12:10:

I will yet do a third thing, and that is, that ‘they shall look unto me,’ for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see him whom they pierced, that is, Messiah son of Joseph, for our Rabbis of blessed memory, have said that he will take upon himself all the guilt of Israel, and shall then be slain in the war to make atonement in such manner that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced him, for on account of their sin he has died; and, therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent and look to the blessed One, saying that there is none beside him to forgive those that mourn on account of him who died for their sins: this is the meaning of ‘They shall look upon me.’

“What extraordinary words–and they are the words of a greatly respected, traditional rabbi.” (Brown, The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the mysteries of the Hidden Messiah, 11. The Secret Of The Atoning Power Of The Death Of The Righteous, pp. 157-158)

Here are a couple of other rabbinic sources, which confirm the Messianic interpretation of Zechariah 12:10:

What was the mourning for? R. Dosa and the rabbis differ: One holds that it was for the Messiah the son of Joseph, who was killed; 1 and one holds that it was for the evil angel, who was killed. 2 It would be right according to one who holds that it was for the Messiah the son of Joseph, because he explains as supporting him the passage [Zech. xii. 10]: “And they will look up toward me (for every one) whom they have thrust through, and they will lament for him, as one lamenteth for an only son, and weep bitterly for him, as one weepeth bitterly for the firstborn”;…

The rabbis taught: The Messiah b. David, who (as we hope) will appear in the near future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to him: Ask something of me and I will give it to thee, as it is written [Ps. ii. 7-8]: “I will announce the decree . . . Ask it of me, and I will give,” etc. But as the Messiah b. David will have seen that the Messiah b. Joseph who preceded him was killed, he will say before the Lord: Lord of the Universe, I will ask nothing of Thee but life. And the Lord will answer: This was prophesied already for thee by thy father David [Ps. xxi. 5]: “Life hath he asked of thee, thou gavest it to him.”…

It is written [Zech. ii. 3]: “And the Lord showed me four carpenters.” Who are the four carpenters? Said R. Hanah bar Bizna in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: Messiah b. David, and Messiah b. Joseph, Elijah, and Cohen Zedek.

It is written [Micah, v. 4]: “And in this (manner) shall there be peace: If Asshur should come into our land; and if he should tread in our palaces, then will we raise up against him seven shepherds, and eight anointed men. Who are the seven shepherds? David in the centre; Adam, Sheth, Methushelach, at his right; Abraham, Jacob, and Moses at his left. And who are the eight anointed men? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedekiah, Messiah, and Elijah. 1…

Footnotes

79:1 There was a tradition among the ancient Hebrews that two Messiahs would appear before the redemption of Israel one of the tribe of Joseph and one of the tribe of Jehudah, a descendant of David and the expression “who was killed” means who will have been killed. The Jewish Christians at that time, who did not believe in the divinity of Christ, but in his Messiahship (i.e., that the traditional Messiah ben Joseph meant the son of a man by the name of Joseph, but not of the tribe of Joseph, as Christ was, and that his fate was to be killed before the appearance of Messiah b. David), explain this passage to have reference to Christ. (Tract Succah (Booths), Chapter V, from the Babylonian Talmud, translated by Michael L. Rodkinson [d. 1918], Section Moed (Festivals)Tracts Betzh, Succah, Moed Katan, Taanith, Megilla and Ebel Rabbathi or Semahoth, Book 4: Volumes VII. and VIII. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t04/suc07.htm; underline emphasis ours)

And:

a spirit of grace and supplications: That it should come into their mind to supplicate Me, and they will be in My good graces.

a spirit: Talant in Old French, a desire.

they shall look to Me because of those who have been thrust through: Jonathan renders: And they shall supplicate Me because of their wanderings.

And they shall look to Me to complain about those of them whom the nations thrust through and slew during their exile.

and they shall mourn over it: Over that slaughter.

as one mourns over an only son: As a man mourns over his only son. And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring TO THE MESSIAH, SON OF JOSEPH, WHO WAS SLAIN. (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentaryhttps://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216#v=10&showrashi=true; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Now according to the NT, this was partially fulfilled when God the Father sent forth his very own Firstborn, his one and only Son, to die for the sins of his people on the cross:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16-18 ESV

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, ‘NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.’” John 19:34-37

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God didsending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh… For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:3, 29-32

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:13-15

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’? And again, ‘I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME’? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.’” Hebrews 1:1-6

The NT also states that the rest of the prophecy will be realized when the Lord Jesus returns from heaven, whereby all the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see the one they had pierced:

“BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” Revelation 1:7

Suffice it to say, not everyone is comfortable with a prophecy that says Jehovah will be pierced through. It seems that scribes had major difficulties with this verse since some of them changed the text so as to make it refer to someone other than Jehovah being pierced. Note, for instance, the following translation:

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on HIM whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.” Revised Standard Version (RSV)

However, the majority of Hebrew manuscripts, ancient translations, and early witnesses confirm the reading “on ME“, just as the following scholar acknowledges:

In this disputed section the majority of the Hebrew MSS read… (wehibbtu elay et asher-daqaru), “they will look to Me, the one they have pierced through.” A few, however, read… (eley et asher), “to the one whom,” etc., employing the poetic form of the preposition… Other Hebrew MSS, however, reflect a vorlage that requires a rendering, “they will look on Me in place of him whom they pierced.” The end result is that it is not YHWH who is pierced but someone else. Clearly the notion of YHWH being subjected to such a highly anthropomorphic conception was more than some devout scribes could countenance. The Hebrew evidence overwhelmingly favors the traditional reading of the MT.

There is no textual reason, then, for rejecting the reading, “they will look to Me, the one they have pierced through.” The difficulty lies, therefore, in the hermeneutical and theological aspects of the question. As to the former, the passage clearly teaches that YHWH (the speaker throughout in the absence of clues to the contrary), having poured out the spirit of grace leading to the people’s supplications, will be seen by them as having been pierced by them. This will cause the people to break out in lament for Him, the one over whom they will grieve as they would over the death of a first-born son.

It is immediately apparent that the shift in pronoun from “they will look to Me” to “they will lament for him” is at the crux of the matter. If YHWH has been pierced through, who is the “him” who is being lamented? Or, to put it another way, why should the lament not be for YHWH, the one who has been pierced through? It is questions like these, of course, that gave rise to the textual options adduced above.

The most satisfying resolution, it seems, is to admit of a change in pronoun as a grammatical, stylistic feature without a change of the subject. That is, it is YHWH throughout who is describing the situation, and it is He who is the subject at every point. It is He who has been pierced and He whom His people, having come to their senses as to what they have done, mourn in repentance. From YHWH’s viewpoint it is “Me” that is the focus; from the standpoint of the people it is “Him.” Such a transition from one person to another is not at all uncommon in Hebrew composition, especially in poetic and prophetic language(GKC 144p). (An Exegetical Commentary – Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, by Eugene H. Merrill, M. Phil., Ph.D., Zechariah – Part 4 Oracle Concerning Israel (12:1-14:21); bold emphasis ours)

A leading Reformed scholar concurs:

“Some scholars, however, are not content to take the passage as it stands but make every conceivable effort to evacuate the passage of any and all references to the Messiah and his deity. These efforts begin, not surprisingly, with the expediency of textual emendation. Despite the fact that the original Hebrew of 12:10 clearly reads ‘they will look unto me’ and has the support of the large MAJORITY of reliable Hebrew manuscripts, the LXX, the Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, the Aramaic Targums, and the Greek versions of Aquilla, Symmachus, and Theodotion, some scholars and modern versions such as the Revised Standard Version, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, and Moffat’s version, have chosen to follow a MINORITY of unreliable Hebrew manuscripts and have changed the ‘unto me’ to ‘unto him’… Now the presence of the third-person pronoun in the following phrase is factual enough, but it is not a conclusive argument that the former first-person reference must be emended to harmonize with it.

“I say this on three grounds: first is the fact that the reading ‘unto me,’ as we have already noted, is supported by the VAST MAJORITY of ancient witnesses; second the ‘unto me’ is by far the harder reading. That is to say, it is readily conceivable why a scribe would alter ‘unto me’ to read simply ‘unto,’ but it is not readily apparent why a scribe would change the simple ‘unto’ to ‘unto me.’ Even though he himself prefers the easier reading and accordingly emends the text, H.G. Marshall acknowledges the arbitrary character of his choice when he writes:

The point may… be made, and, in fact, has been made… that [‘unto]’ is the easier reading; hence it is more probable that it is an error for [‘unto me’] than vice versa. There is great force in this objection. Indeed, it so weakens the case for [‘unto’] that those who feel the incongruity of the Massoretic text will have to resort to emendation.

“And third, the shift from the first to the third person may be an instance of either the common enallage (a grammatical change) of verbal number frequently met with in the speeches of Yahweh (see the many instances where Yahweh, as the first person speaker, refers to himself in a given speech in the third person as Yahweh) or the differentiation-identity pattern we have already had occasion to note for the reader (see Zech 2:10-11; MT, 2:14-15) in which the Messiah is both personally identified with God and yet, at the same time and in the same context, distinguished from him.” (Robert L. Reymond, Jesus: Divine Messiah – The New and Old Testament Witness [Christian Focus Publications, Scotland 2003], Part One: The Old Testament Witness, 2. The Old Testament Witness to the Messiah, pp. 145-146; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In responding to the Jehovah’s Witnesses distortion of this passage noted Evangelical scholar and apologist Ron Rhodes writes:

“Here is the critical point: In the New American Standard Bible, it is Yahweh (or Jehovah) who is speaking in this verse, and it is therefore Jehovah who says, ‘They will look on Me whom they have pierced.’

Obviously this means that Jesus is Jehovah… Granted there is some debate over how this verse should be translated. Following are what I consider to be the most important considerations:

“First, foundationally, it is very clear that Yahweh or Jehovah is the speaker in this verse. In fact, verses 2 through 12 are a single discourse tied to the ‘Thus declares the LORD [Yahweh]’ (NASB) in verse 1…

“Third, assuming the correct translation has Jehovah saying ‘they will look on Me whom they have pierced,’ the New Testament portrays this verse as being fulfilled in the person of Jesus (see Revelation 1:7, where Jesus is the ‘pierced’ One), thereby lending support for the idea that Jesus is Jehovah (or Yahweh). However, a problem emerges with a cross reference, John 19:37, which reads, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced,’ seemingly lending support to the ‘on him’ rendering of Zechariah 12:10, which would remove the Jehovah-Jesus connection. It seems a complicated problem to solve.

“My studied opinion is that the English Standard Version clarifies things rather nicely. More specifically, the ESV renders the relevant portion of the verse, ‘When they look on meon him whom they have pierced’ (emphasis added). This is not too unlike the NET Bible rendering: ‘They will look to methe one they have pierced’ (emphasis added). Similarly, the New International Version renders it, ‘They will look on methe one they have pierced’ (emphasis added). Since Jehovah is the one doing the speaking, it is clear in these translations that Jehovah Himself is the One who is pierced, thereby drawing the connection between Jehovah and Jesus.

“I can make one further observation. New Testament scholars have long emphasized that New Testament quotations of the Old Testament (as in John 19:37) are often loose quotations, with little or no attempt at being exact. A change of pronoun (from ‘me’ to ‘him’) is no big deal in the Hebrew mindset. To illustrate, consider Psalm 68:18, where we read, ‘When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train…’ (emphasis added). In Ephesians 4:8 the apostle Paul quotes this verse, but renders it with different pronouns: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train…’ (emphasis added). Paul felt free to change pronouns without fear of doing injustice to the Word of God. I suggest the same is true of John 19:37.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses [Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR 2009], 3. The Christ of the New World Translation, pp. 81-83; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the fact that according to Zechariah 12:10, it is Jehovah who shall be pierced, thereby further confirming that Jesus is indeed Jehovah God since he is the One who was pierced on the cross and therefore perfectly fulfills this prophecy.

This means that Jesus is the one Lord spoken of in Zechariah 14, since he is the One who comes to reign as King in Jerusalem:

Behold, a day is coming for the LORD, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day HIS FEET shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him… And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.” Zechariah 14:1-5, 9, 16-17

We thus have a clear cut prophecy that the Messiah, who is Jesus, is Jehovah God in the flesh who allowed himself to be pierced through by his own people the Jews, for the obvious purpose of providing atonement for their sins!

With the said, it’s time to proceed to the second part of my discussion (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/jehovah-gets-pierced-pt-2/).

 

5 thoughts on “Jehovah Gets Pierced!

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