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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 9–14
Verses 9–14

The day here spoken of is the day of Jerusalem’s defence and deliverance, that glorious day when God will appear for the salvation of his people, which, if it do refer to the successes which the Jews had against their enemies in the time of the Maccabees, yet certainly looks further, to the gospel-day, to Christ’s victories over the powers of darkness and the great salvation he has wrought for his chosen. Now we have here an account of two remarkable works designed in that day.

I. A glorious work of God to be wrought for his people: “I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem, Zech. 12:9. Nations come against Jerusalem, many and mighty nations; but they shall all be destroyed, their power shall be broken, and their attempts baffled; the mischief they intend shall return upon their own head.” God will seek to destroy them, not as if he were at a loss for ways and means to bring it about (Infinite Wisdom was never nonplussed), but his seeking to do it intimates that he is very earnest and intent upon it (he is jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and has the day of vengeance in his heart) and that he overrules means and instruments, and all the motions and operations of second causes, in order to it. He is framing evil against them; when he seems to be setting them up he is seeking to destroy them. In Christ’s first coming, he sought to destroy him that had the power of death, and did destroy him, bruised the serpent’s head, and broke all the powers of darkness that fought against God’s kingdom among men and against the faithful friends and subjects of that kingdom; he spoiled them, and made a show of them openly. In his second coming, he will complete their destruction, when he shall put down all opposing rule, principality, and power, and death itself shall be swallowed up in that victory. The last enemy shall be destroyed of all that fought against Jerusalem.

II. A gracious work of God to be wrought in his people, in order to the work that is to be wrought for them. When he seeks to destroy their enemies he will pour upon them the Spirit of grace and supplication. Note, When God intends great mercy for his people the first thing he does is to set them a praying; thus he seeks to destroy their enemies by stirring them up to seek to him that he would do it for them; because, though he has proposed it and promised it, and it is for his own glory to do it, yet he will for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, Ezek. 36:37. Ask, and it shall be given. This honour will he have to himself, and this honour will he put upon prayer and upon praying people. And it is a happy presage to the distressed church of deliverance approaching, and is, as it were, the dawning of its day, when his people are stirred up to cry mightily to him for it. But this promise has reference to, and is performed in, the graces of the Spirit given to all believers, as that Isa. 44:3; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, which was fulfilled when Jesus was glorified, John 7:39. It is a promise of the Spirit, and with him of all spiritual blessings in heavenly things by Christ. Now observe here,

1. On whom these blessings are poured out. (1.) On the house of David, on the great men; for they are no more, and no better, than the grace of God makes them. It was promised (Zech. 12:8) that the house of David should be as the angel of the Lord. Now, in order to that, the Spirit of grace is poured upon them; for the more the saints have of the Spirit of grace the more like they are to the holy angels. When God was about to appear for the land, he poured his Spirit of grace upon the house of David, the leading men of the land. It bodes well to a people when princes and great men go before the rest in that which is good, as 2 Chron. 20:5. The house of David is all summed up in Jesus Christ, the Son of David; and upon him, as the head, the Spirit of grace is poured out, from him to be diffused to all his members; from his fulness we receive, and grace for grace. (2.) On the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the common people; for the operations of the Spirit are the same upon the mean and weak Christians that they are upon the strong and more grown. The inhabitants of Jerusalem cannot influence public affairs by their powers and policies, as the great men of the house of David may, yet they may do good service by their prayers, and therefore upon them the Spirit shall be poured out. The church is Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem; all true believers, that have their conversation in the heaven, are inhabitants of this Jerusalem, and to them this promise belongs. God will pour his Spirit upon them. This is the earnest which all that believe in Christ shall receive; thus they are sanctified; thus they are sealed.

2. What these blessings are: I will pour upon them the Spirit. That includes all good things, as it qualifies us for the favour of God, and all his other gifts. He will pour out the Spirit, (1.) As a Spirit of grace, to sanctify us and to make us gracious. (2.) As a Spirit of supplications, inclining us to, instructing and assisting us in, the duty of prayer. Note, Wherever the Spirit is given as a Spirit of grace, he is given as a Spirit of sanctification. Wherever he is a Spirit of adoption, he teaches to cry, Abba, Father. As soon as ever Paul was converted, Behold, he prays, Acts 9:11. You may as soon find a living man without breath as a living saint without prayer. There is a more plentiful effusion of the Spirit of prayer now under the gospel than was under the law; and the further the work of sanctification is carried in us the better is the work of supplication carried on by us.

3. What the effect of them will be: I will pour upon them the Spirit of grace. One would think that it should follow, “And they shall look on him whom they have believed, and shall rejoice” (and it is true that that is one of the fruits of the pouring out of the Spirit, whence we read of the joy of the Holy ghost), but it follows, They shall mourn; for there is a holy mourning, that is the effect of the pouring out of the Spirit, a mourning for sin, which is of use to quicken faith in Christ and qualify for joy in God. It is here made the matter of a promise that they shall mourn, for there is a mourning that will end in rejoicing and has a blessing entailed upon it. This mourning is a fruit of the Spirit of grace, an evidence of a work of grace in the soul, and a companion of the Spirit of supplication, as it expresses lively affections working in prayer; hence prayers and tears are often put together, 2 Kgs. 20:5. Jacob, that wrestler with God, wept and made supplication. But here it is a mourning for sin that is the effect of the pouring out of the Spirit.

(1.) It is a mourning grounded upon a sight of Christ: They shall look on me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for him. Here, [1.] It is foretold that Christ should be pierced, and this scripture is quoted as that which was fulfilled when Christ’s side was pierced upon the cross; see John 19:37. [2.] He is spoken of as one whom we have pierced; it is spoken primarily of the Jews, who persecuted him to death (and we find that those who pierced him are distinguished from the other kindreds of the earth that shall wail because of him, Rev. 1:7); yet it is true of us all as sinners, we have pierced Christ, inasmuch as our sins were the cause of his death, for he was wounded for our transgressions, and they are the grief of his soul; he is broken with the whorish heart of sinners, who therefore are said to crucify him afresh and put him to open shame. [3.] Those that truly repent of sin look upon Christ as one whom they have pierced, who was pierced for their sins and is pierced by them; and this engages them to look unto him, as those that are deeply concerned for him. [4.] This is the effect of their looking to Christ; it makes them mourn. This was particularly fulfilled in those to whom Peter preached Christ crucified; when they heard it those who had had a hand in piercing him were pricked to the heart, and cried out, What shall we do? It is fulfilled in all those who sorrow for sin after a godly sort; they look to Christ, and mourn for him, not so much for his sufferings as for their own sins that procured them. Note, The genuine sorrows of a penitent soul flow from the believing sight of a pierced Saviour. Looking by faith upon the cross of Christ will set us a mourning for sin after a godly sort.

(2.) It is a great mourning. [1.] it is like the mourning of a parent for the death of a beloved child. They shall mourn for sin as one mourns for an only son, in whose grave the hopes of his family are buried, and shall be inwardly in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his first-born, as the Egyptians were when there was a cry throughout all their land for the death of their first-born. The sorrow of children for the death of their parents is sometimes counterfeited, is often small, and soon wears off and is forgotten; but the sorrow of parents for a child, for a son, for an only son, for a first-born, is natural, sincere, unforced, and unaffected, it is secret and lasting; such are the sorrows of a true penitent, flowing purely from love to Christ above any other. [2.] It is like the mourning of a people for the death of a wise and good prince. It shall be like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon, where good king Josiah was slain, for whom there was a general lamentation (Zech. 12:11), and perhaps the greater because they were told that it was their sin that provoked God to deprive them of so great a blessing; therefore they cried out, The crown has fallen from our head. Woe unto us, for we have sinned! Lam. 5:16. Christ is our King; our sins were his death, and, for that reason, ought to be our grief.

(3.) It is a general universal mourning (Zech. 12:12): The land shall mourn. The land itself put on mourning at the death of Christ, for there was then darkness over all the land, and the earth trembled; but this is a promise that, in consideration of the death of Christ, multitudes shall be effectually brought to sorrow for sin and turn to God; it shall be such a universal gracious mourning as was when all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord, 1 Sam. 7:2. Some think this is yet to have its complete accomplishment in the general conversion of the Jewish nation.

(4.) It is also a private particular mourning. There shall be not only a mourning of the land, by its representatives in a general assembly (as Jdg. 2:5; when the place was called Bochim—A place of weepers), but it shall spread itself into all corners of the land: Every family apart shall mourn (Zech. 12:12), all the families that remain, Zech. 12:14. All have contributed to the guilt, and therefore all shall share in the grief. Note, The exercises of devotion should be performed by private families among themselves, besides their joining in public assemblies for religious worship. National fasts must be observed, not only in our synagogues, but in our houses. In the mourning here foretold the wives mourn apart by themselves, in their own apartment, as Esther and her maids. And some think it intimates their denying themselves the use even of lawful delights in a time of general humiliation 1 Cor. 7:5. Four several families are here specified as examples to others in this mourning:—[1.] Two of them are royal families: the house of David, in Solomon, and the house of Nathan, another son of David, brother to Solomon, from whom Zerubbabel descended, as appears by Christ’s genealogy, Luke 3:27-31. The house of David, particularly that of Nathan, which is now the chief branch of that house, shall go before in this good work. The greatest princes must not think themselves exempted from the law of repentance, but rather obliged most solemnly to express it, for the exciting of others, as Hezekiah humbled himself (2 Chron. 32:26), the princes and the king (2 Chron. 12:6), and the king of Nineveh, Jonah 3:6. [2.] Two of them are sacred families (Zech. 12:13), the family of the house of Levi, which was God’s tribe, and in it particularly the family of Shimei, which was a branch of the tribe of Levi (1 Chron. 6:17), and probably some of the descendants of that family were now of note for preachers to the people or ministers to the altar. As the princes must mourn for the sins of the magistracy, so must the priests for the iniquity of the holy things. In times of general tribulation and humiliation the Lord’s ministers are concerned to weep between the porch and the altar (Joel 2:17), and not only there, but in their houses apart; for in what families should godliness, both in the form and in the power of it, be found, if not in ministers’ families?