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  • Writer's pictureEric Cline

Use of Zechariah in the Gospels

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

The messianic interpretation of the New Testament using scriptures from the Old Testament must be supported with responsible research using applicable biblical commentaries. The purpose of this essay is to explain interpretation of the contexts with considerations of the ways it can be interpreted. The exact passages are Zechariah 11:12-13 and the function of its use in Matthew 27:9-10 along with the interpretive blending of Jeremiah where appropriate. Additionally, Zechariah 12:10 and the function of its use in John 19:34-37 follows with the interpretive blending of Psalm 34 and the Passover standards from Exodus. The central point of this essay paper is the constant, responsible references to corroborate the interpretative allusions to the Old Testament and their use in the New Testament.

Zechariah 11:12-13 records what Matthew will use, along with content from Jeremiah, as the prophesy fulfilled when Judas threw thirty pieces of silver onto the temple floor. God commands Zechariah to “feed the flock for slaughter” (Zech. 11:4), and at the end of his role as shepherd, he was paid “thirty pieces of silver” (Zech. 11:12). The price of a slave injured after being gored by an ox, as depicted in Exodus 21:32, was thirty pieces of silver. Whether Zechariah considered himself as a slaving shepherd is not the point; he threw his wages into the temple for the potter and Judas tossed the silver into the temple in Matthew 27:5. Hill writes, “The LXX translates, ‘throw it into the furnace’, suggesting that the silver was melted down by a smelter [potter] or founder and recast into a silver vessel of some type for use in the temple rituals.”[1] It is sufficient that thirty pieces of silver were thrown but not kept.

God commanded Zechariah to toss the “princely price they set for me” (Zech. 11:13) which is perhaps an allusion to the value placed on Jesus’ life. One might assume that a slave is of low value for thirty pieces of silver and that the implication is meager for the life of Jesus.

However, it placed a burden on the people when the governors took forty shekels of silver from them in Nehemiah 5:15. To determine value, Boda writes, “one would have to know the relative value of these items in relation to annual wages, information that is not available.”[2]

The function of the use of Zechariah in Matthew 27:9-10 is one where, as Dunn writes, “Matthew attributes the whole scriptural passage to the more well-known prophet Jeremiah, rather than to Zachariah.”[3] However, there are only elements of Jeremiah 18-19 in the Zechariah passage. For example, Jeremiah 18 mentions Jeremiah being persecuted. The context of Zechariah 11 and Matthew 27 involve Jesus being persecuted. Jeremiah 19:1 mentions a potter’s earthen flask, and Jeremiah 32:6 mentions buying a field. Zechariah and Matthew are each concerned with the potter and the potter’s field. Regarding the use of the money to buy the potter’s field, Hauerwas writes, “Matthew observes that this was done so that the prophetic action of Jeremiah in buying a field during the siege of Jerusalem might be fulfilled.”[4]

The only mention of silver remotely associated with the context of Matthew 27 is the seventeen shekels of silver for the field bought from Hanamel. This is a stretch from the thirty pieces of silver tossed by Judas and later used to purchase the potter’s field. Moore writes, “Matthew 27:9-10 quotes a freestyle mixture of Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 19:1-3 and 32:6-9 to show us this fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.”[5] For thirty pieces of silver Judas betrayed Jesus, and Isaiah prophesies the betrayal of Jesus in Isaiah 28:1 “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim,” where, according to Colyandro, “the drunkard refers to Judas because he was a descendent of Ephraim.”[6] Keener interestingly adds that Judas “returns in darkness to arrest the light of the world.”[7] John 18:3 records Judas coming for Jesus at night.

Interpretation of the context of Zechariah 12:10 with consideration of ways it can be interpreted are best understood considering future, eschatological events. These events in Zechariah 12:1-9 are followed by periods of mourning beginning in verse 10. The passages leading to verse 10 are using the themes of battle and victory to assert the ultimate triumph of God's purposes. Zechariah predicts that Jerusalem will be attacked, God will intervene for Judah, and both will be victorious. One other time God fought for Jerusalem and Judah is recorded in Ezekiel 38-39.

For the passages after verse 10, there are battle casualties for the “winners” and the “losers.” One interpretation is that Jesus is on the winning side yet, “they will look on Me whom they pierced” (Zech. 12:10). Another interpretation is that God’s heart is metaphorically pierced by His people’s unfaithfulness. In this future, victorious Jerusalem, no king—Davidic, Judean, or foreign, is mentioned following “And I will pour on the house of David” (Zech. 12:10). Therefore, it is plausible that the one who is stabbed or pierced is King Jesus. However, Redditt implies that we do not know who was stabbed. He writes, “Scholars have nominated a wide range of possibilities.”[8] Redditt supplies a list of over five possibilities ranging from Zechariah son of Jehoida to child sacrifice and alludes to the piercings being of the hands and feet.

In John 19:34-37, Jesus’ side was pierced, blood and water came out, and His legs were not broken. Dunn writes, “The spear thrust is clearly a means of certifying Jesus’ death, rather than a death blow.”[9] The piercing was a fulfillment of the prophesy from Zechariah 12:10 and can be carried forward from Psalm 22:16 where “they pierced my hands and feet.” To the witnesses of His crucifixion, the blood and water coming out was visual verification of Jesus’ humanity. Kenagaraj writes, “Medically, the scourging could have caused a hemorrhage between Jesus’ ribs and lungs.”[10] The fluids were separate and exits as the fulfillment of divine prophecy. Bones that are not broken are a fulfillment of prophesy from Psalm 34:20. The bone references may include Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 with the latter specifically relating to the Passover where the Israelites were directed to “leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones.”

The sacrifice of the Paschal lamb is a sacred offering as instituted in Exodus 12 and 34. Jesus was and is viewed as the Passover Lamb. But as Turner states, “the NT does not mention the roasted lamb, the four cups of wine, or the traditional Jewish interpretation of these things.”[11] The three predictions Jesus made of his death are recorded in Matthew 26:2; cf. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19, and his prediction was fulfilled during the Passover festival which, according to Saldarini, “links his death symbolically with the sacrificial system, thus making it more than a simple execution of a potential troublemaker.”[12]

God revealed His will and His redemption progressively. The implications of responsible interpretation of the New Testament use of the Old Testament help prepare congregants to understand the gospel. Serious problems surround people and people need substantive answers, not the simplistic, worn-out answers of yesteryear. Communicating how the scriptures come together, hermeneutically, and theologically, brings the Gospel of Christ for everyone to receive new life.



End Notes

[1] Andrew E. Hill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 235. [2] Mark J. Boda, The Book of Zechariah (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), 512. [3] James D.G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 1059. [4] Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 416. [5] Phil Moore, Straight to the Heart of Matthew: 60 bite-sized Insights (Oxford, UK: Lion Hudson, 2010), page 689. [6] Thomas Colyandro, The Judas Syndrome: Seven Ancient Heresies Return to Betray Christ Anew (Charlotte, NC: St. Benedict Press, 2010), 13. [7] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: 2 Volumes (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 1067. [8] Paul L. Redditt, Zechariah 9-14: English First Edition (Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer Verlag, 2012), 110. [9] James D.G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 1207. [10] Jey Kenagaraj, John: A New Covenant Commentary (Cambridge, England: Lutterworth Press, 2013), 189. [11] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 627. [12] Anthony Saldarini, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2021), 125.


Bibliography


Boda, Mark. The Book of Zechariah. William B. Eerdans Publishing Company, 2016.


Colyandro, Thomas. The Judas Syndrome: Seven Ancient Heresies Return to Betray Christ Anew. Charlotte: St. Benedict Press, 2010.


Dunn, James D.G., and John W. Rogerson. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.


Eberhart, Christian. Ritual and Metaphor: Sacrifice In The Bible. Atlanta, Georgia: SBL Press, 2011.


Hauerwas, Stanley. Matthew. Ada, MI: Brazos Press, 2007.


Hill, Andrew E. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012.


Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: 2 Volumes. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.


Kenagaraj, Jey. John: A New Covenant Commentary. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2013.


Moore, Phil. Straight to the Heart of Matthew: 60 Bite-Sized Insights. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2010.


Redditt, Paul L. Zechariah 9-14. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer Verlag, 2012.


Rogerson, James D.G.Dunn and John W. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.


Turner, David L. Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the Bible. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.


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