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“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplication, and they will look to me because of him whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and will grieve bitterly for him, as one grieves for his firstborn. Bible

“they will look on the one whom they have pierced.” Some English versions of Zechariah 12:10 read: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced…” (NIV). However, there are textual issues involved in the transmission of the Hebrew text that we must examine so that we have the right translation and meaning of the verse. Some translators supply a first person pronoun (“me”) because they see this verse as referring back to God and hence they translate “they will look on me.” But other translators supply a third person pronoun (“him,” or “the one”) because they see the phrase referring to someone other than God. Both the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New American Bible (NAB) translate the phrase as “so that when they look on him….”

Translators and commentators who believe that the word “pierced” should refer back to the pronoun “him” cite textual variants that more clearly read “him.” This agrees with the flow of the sentence that continues with the word “him” in the phrases “they shall mourn for him” and “grieve bitterly for him.” The Jewish understanding of this verse has always been that the one pierced was one in an intimate relationship with God, but there is no record of any early Jewish commentator understanding Zechariah 12:10 to be saying that somehow Yahweh Himself would come into the flesh and be “pierced.” Instead, this verse relates to the piercing of the promised Messiah, whom many in Jerusalem would mourn and weep for, and thus it is apparent that the RSV and NAB offer a better translation of the verse in order to convey this meaning.

Another important reason to believe that “him” is the correct reading of the original text of Zechariah 12:10 is the way it is quoted in John 19:37, after the Roman soldier thrust his spear into Christ’s side. The Greek text of John 19:37 reads: “and again, another scripture says, ‘They will look on the one they pierced.’” Different English versions may disagree on whether the Hebrew text of Zechariah 12:10 says “me” or “him,” but none of them disagree on the translation of the Greek text in the New Testament. None of the versions include a first person pronoun (“me”), and most of them supply the word “him” as does the KJV, NAB and RSV. If the original reading of Zechariah 12:10 read “me” instead of “him,” then “me” would almost certainly be the reading of John 19:37. On the other hand, the New Testament quotation in John 19:37 agrees with the reading of Zechariah 12:10 in the RSV and other versions. Therefore, we believe that the proper reading of Zechariah 12:10 is “him,” and that is reflected in John 19.

Not only is Zechariah 12:10 quoted in John, but also it is alluded to in Revelation. Revelation 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” Commentators freely admit that this verse alludes back to Zechariah, and it uses the pronoun “him” and not “me.” This is more evidence that the Hebrew text of Zechariah should read “him,” or “the one,” and thus we conclude that the internal evidence of Scripture suggests that the one who is pierced in Zechariah is not God Himself but one who is in an intimate relation with God, i.e., the Messiah.


Commentary for: Zechariah 12:10