[b-hebrew] Zechariah 12:1-2

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Wed Jun 15 05:43:49 EDT 2005

On 15/06/2005 04:28, Steve Miller wrote:

> ...
>If the meaning were "Judah will also suffer in the siege against Jerusalem":
>1) Why should the Bible, which doesn't waste a word, bother to say it at
>all? Isn't it obvious that if Jerusalem is besieged, the surrounding area
>will also suffer?

I'm not sure that I accept the premise. Well, I can accept that in God's 
sovereignty every word in the Bible has a purpose, if that is what you 
mean. But it is simply not true that the Bible always says what it says 
in the most compact way, without any apparent redundancy. There is a lot 
of repetition in the Bible. The poetic books are full of poetic 
parallelism which is essentially repetitious. Chronicles largely repeats 
Samuel and Kings, and there are other examples of repetition. This 
repetition has its reasons, of course, but they cannot easily be 
understood in terms of there being no redundancy as judged by our own 

Maybe it is obvious that Judah will suffer if Jerusalem is besieged, 
maybe not. But many obvious things are stated in the Bible. Why not this 

>2) Why should Zechariah say something so simple in such a
>difficult-to-understand way?

I don't think it was difficult to understand for mother tongue Hebrew 
speakers. It is perhaps a rather compressed way of writing, whose 
meaning is not as clear to us now as it was to the prophet and his 
original audience.

>The Stone Tanach translation gives the most straight-forward understanding,
>if you just read Zech 12:2 by itself. That impresses me, although I don't
>think that is the right understanding because I don't see it supported in
>the rest of the passage nor anywhere else in the Bible.

The Stone Tanach is easy to understand, but it is wrong. "also Judah 
will take part in the siege of Jerusalem" implies that Judah will be 
among those attacking Jerusalem. Well, the possibility of such treachery 
gives the answer "No" to your question "Isn't it obvious that if 
Jerusalem is besieged, the surrounding area will also suffer?" But this 
is certainly not what the author had in mind, for the same preposition 
`AL is used for both Judah and Jerusalem, surely implying that they both 
play the same role as those besieged.

>The KJV translation may be correct "when they [the peoples] shall be in the
>siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem." You objected to "they" as
>the subject for יִֽהְיֶה (shall be) because יִֽהְיֶה is singular. But the
>3rd masculine singular is used in Hebrew as the indefinite pronoun, which is
>best translated in English as "they". ...

Well, I accept that the subject of YIHYEH may be indefinite in this 
sense, and in principle may be translated into English by "they". But 
this cannot be done immediately following another plural noun which can 
fit the context. The KJV rendering "...unto all the people round about, 
when they shall be in the siege..." implies that "they" refers to "the 
people" - and this would be even clearer if instead of "the people" the 
translation was the more accurate (at least in modern English) "the 
peoples". But in Hebrew the subject of YIHYEH cannot be the peoples, 
even though this seem to make sense.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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