“- and they will look to Me concerning the one who was pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall be in bitterness over him as one is in bitterness over a firstborn.”
The missionary interpretation of this section of the verse has Jesus as the “one who was pierced” and the mourning described, is the Jewish embarrassment upon discovering that their rejection of him was unjustified.
This interpretation fails for several reasons. Firstly, the mourning is described as the mourning for a lost child, and not as a cry of shame. (For a scriptural description of an admission of shame, see Micah 7:7-17.)
Secondly, the missionary interpretation ignores the context of the verse. The chapter in Zechariah in which this verse is found, speaks of the siege of Jerusalem. The prophet describes how the nations will besiege Jerusalem, but they will not succeed. The prophet describes how a Jewish contingent in the besieging army will do battle against the nations that have come to besiege Jerusalem. The Jewish warriors will succeed, and the nations besieging Jerusalem will be destroyed. It is in the context of this battle that there will be a great mourning for the “one who was pierced.”
The Talmud (Succah 52a) understands that this verse is a reference to the death of a Messiah from the tribe of Joseph. This leader, who successfully led the Jewish people in battle against their enemies, will fall at the hands of the nations. At the time of the ultimate victory (under the leadership of Messiah from the lineage of David) the people will mourn for the loss of their former leader. They fact that their leader had died in battle will generate a spirit of repentance and turning back to God. Thus the prophet declares in the name of God that the people will look to me (God) on account of the one that was pierced.
This is obviously parallel to the first events of David’s monarchy. The first activity that David engaged in as King of his people was to mourn for Saul (2Samuel 1:17). In fact the only two people in scripture who died through piercing, and were mourned, are Saul and the unspecified person in this verse in Zechariah. Although David (and his descendant the Messiah) is the ultimate leader chosen by God to guide the nation, the Davidic Kings recognize the sacrifice of the leaders that preceded them and that laid the groundwork for their kingship. Their first act as leader of their people is to mourn for those who suffered and died before they reached that ultimate victory.
If you found this article helpful please consider making a donation to Judaism Resources by clicking on the link below.
Judaism Resources is a recognized 501(c) 3 public charity and your donation is tax exempt.
Yisroel C. Blumenthal