Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

What are these wounds in thine hands? (Zech 13:6)

Posted by Robert C. on December 26, 2007

[The following post was submitted by Gregorio Billikopf, author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ, a website with excellent resources and downloadable commentary on Isaiah. We are hoping that Gregorio will be sending us several posts over the next few months, esp. to help us get through the Isaiah chapters of 2nd Nephi when we cover them in Sunday school! I know Gregorio’s daughter, Cristina, from sitting in on Jim F.’s Levinas class, so she gets credit for bringing Gregorio’s work to my attention.]

“And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zech 13:6, KJV)

There has been an increasing attack upon the integrity of the Holy Scriptures: an attempt to weaken the faith of those who hold to its marvelous promises. Because the Lord knew that many scriptures would be corrupted, some of the most sublime Messianic scriptures are hidden amongst passages that were unlikely to be caught by those who tried to change them.

Perhaps the most prominent reason given for these proposals is the common belief that the Holy Prophets were simply brilliant men, rather than inspired men of God. Thus, they could see and discern the signs of the times, but not the times that were more distant from the age they prophesied. Some of these false premises were at first set out rather tentatively, but over time have often been given as a matter of fact, or what I have begun to call “the just like that” principle.

In the Book of Zechariah we find a number of sublime Messianic end-of-days scriptures. Zechariah 13:6 has been translated in some modern versions of the Scriptures in such a way as to completely pervert its meaning.

For instance, instead of thine hands we may read, “back” (RSV,AAT, JPS Tanakh), “chest” (HCSB), “body” (NIV), “between the hands,” “between the shoulders,” or “between your arms” (RV 1885, HNV, World English Bible). And instead of “friends” we may read “lovers” (AAT), or “harlot’s house” (Moffatt) such as to yield an increasingly corrupt text that reads something like: “What are these sores on your chest? Those received at my lover’s home.”

Some have suggested on a translation approach that insists that the same term be translated in the same fashion every time it is used. On the surface such an approach seems to have merit. But after a brief consideration, we realize that this is not possible. Why? Because every language has words with multiple shades of meaning depending on the context. A translator must understand the context of the source language as well as the target translation language.

In Hebrew, the word בֵּין beyin most frequently does mean between. So that in Hebrew, one may refer to the nose as that which is between the eyes, and so on. However, even Gesenius (Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, 1870, p. CXIV) admits that בֵּין beyin has other meanings, including intra, within, as in Job 24:11, Proverbs 26:13 and Zechariah 13:6 (!). Gesenius also uses the word amongst, such that, בֵּין הָרְחֹבוֹת beyin harchovot means “within the streets,” or rather “in the streets.” So, returning to our verse in Zechariah 13:6, we translate יָדֶיךָ בֵּין beyin yadeyiach as “in your hands.”

Fortunately for LDS, we have these very verses preserved in the context of modern day revelation: “And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.” (D&C 45:51-52).


4 Responses to “What are these wounds in thine hands? (Zech 13:6)”

  1. Robert C. said

    Gregorio, thanks for this post, very interesting.

    Zech 13 is a difficult chapter for me to understand. So I looked this up in Ralph Smith’s Word Biblical Commentary volume, the only one I have immediate access to, and he interprets 13:6 as being the words of a prophet who is afraid to acknowledge that he is really a prophet—afraid because anyone who prophecies falsely was to be put to death (per Deut 13:6-11; 18:20-22), and the people were apostate enough that even true prophets would be put to death (e.g., Zech 13:3). So Smith translates the end of veres 6 as:

    And one shall say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your hands’ And he shall say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my lovers.’”

    So, the prophet is denying that these marks were marks of a prophet from ecstatic orgy (cf. 1 Kgs 18:28).

    I’m not sure how this reading could be squared with the D&C 45 citation, but it’s the only explanation of the passage that I’ve read, and I haven’t been able to make sense of it any other way—can you (or anyone else) offer any help in making sense of this chapter (or at least vv. 1-6) differently?

  2. By Gregorio Billikopf
    Author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ

    So who is the Sheppard spoken off in the next verse, Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.” The Savior would apply these very words about Himself: “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:31-32). Note the context of Christ’s comments here; they are given in the Mount of Olives before suffering in Gethsemane and also speak of His resurrection. Sidlow Baxter suggests that Zechariah 13:5 is an allusion of Christ being accused of being a false prophet. “And it shall be in that day (v. 4) that the (false) prophets shall be ashamed &c. (Now beginning with v.5) Even so [super-tragedy that the true Prophet-Priest-King himself should be treated actually in the same way as these false prophets!] it shall be said to HIM… what are these wounds &c.” Another scripture given in the context of the suffering Messiah is “they pierced my hands and my feet” Psalms 22:16b. Revelations reads: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Revelations 1:7). And of course, as already mentioned in my original post, D&C: “And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.” (D&C 45:51-52).

    References: Commentaries by Baxter and by Barnes.

  3. brianj said

    I had the same difficulty as Robert. But I can see that it really rests on the “him” in verse 6: does it refer to the false prophet of verse 5, or to a different prophet (Him with a capital ‘H’)? If it’s the former, then 13:6 has nothing to do with Christ. I’m not sure what to make of it.

    Incidentally, I thought it was interesting that the false prophets would deny being prophets, instead claiming to be farmers, when our Prophet Joseph was in fact a farmer.

  4. Brian and Robert, thanks for keeping this conversation alive. I am grateful for the opportunity to write about something I am very passionate about.

    The punishment for idolatry was death, not lashes: “Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9). Similarly, it would be quite inconsistent for a false prophet to claim he was beaten rather than put to death. Zechariah 13:3 shows us this very thing. Thus we can eliminate the punishment for both idolatry and false prophecy. This leaves one thing left, idolatrous self mutilation.

    Self mutilation, however, is inconsistent here with the topic of false prophets. Pusey points out that the word for self mutilation is based on the root gadad: “A prevalent modern explanation has been of the self-inflicted wounds of the prophets of Baal. But 1) the idolatrous incisions have a technical name yitgorad. [In Deuteronomy 14:1, titgodedu –GB].” By the way, the rest of Pusey’s footnote is well worth reading (The Minor Prophets, Volume II, 1885, p. 443).

    Hinckley G. Mitchell, in the International Critical Commentary, suggests (as we have already mentioned in our first post), with so many other interpreters and exegetes, that the wounds were not in the hands: “In other words, when his accusers ask, What are these wounds between thy sides? that is, on thy back, they mean that the wounds proclaim him at the same time a prophet and a liar.” Yet some have well asked, if the wounds were in the back or chest, why would these be visible? Such a man, especially during the period spoken of here, would be so ashamed of such that he would cover them up. Interestingly, even Rabbi Kimchi (while giving a completely different signification to these verses) allows that indeed the meaning is that of wounds in the hands. Pusey well says, “[Wounds in the hands] were the special punishment of the cross.”

    Regarding the next verse, Zechariah 13:7, Henry Cowles (The Minor Prophets, 1867) says “This verse refers to the death of Christ by violent hands.” Since Christ quoted Zechariah 13:7 as referring to Himself, why is it so difficult to believe that Zechariah 13:6 also refers to the Christ. Both verses deal with the very same topic, the expiatory sacrifice of Messiah.

    I found another exegete, who makes an interesting comment, except I cannot find the exact one at this time. He speaks about the fact that sacred writers do deviate into parenthetical comments, only to return to the main subject after. I find it an intriguing reference here in Zechariah 13. This is interesting because Zechariah 13:6 is a continuation of Zechariah 12:10b, “and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10). Unger, for instance, has “The wounds in the hands are thus in harmony with the piercing of Zechariah 12:10 which precedes, and the smiting of the Good Shepherd, which follows, and concerning which David prophesied when he said , ‘They pierced my hands and my feet’ (Psalms 22:16[17]).”

    Now, take note of Doctrine and Covenants 45:51-53, for that is exactly what we see there (we move from Zechariah 10:12 to Zechariah 13:6), and Christ applies these words to Himself: “And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God.”

    Elder McConkie had this to say: “The nail marks in his hands and in his feet, the gaping spear wound in his side-these are the signs of the cross; the signs of his crucifixion; the signs that he is the One who was lifted up that he might draw all men unto him on conditions of repentance. He manifests them in his resurrected flesh as and when occasion requires. ‘And one shall say unto him,’ Zechariah prophesied, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands? Then shall he answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’ (Zech. 13:6.) Hearing the answer, the Jews will lament and mourn for their own iniquities–and on behalf of their fathers–because they persecuted and slew their King. Then shall the great conversion of the Jews take place; then shall be fulfilled that which the Lord spake by the mouth of Zechariah: ‘I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced.’ (Zech. 12:10.)” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols., 3:, p.452).

    Take a look at the very last clause in Zechariah 13. It is very interesting to me: “they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God” (13:9b). This is an allusion to Hosea’s prophecy about Israel in the last day, one that gives me great comfort.

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