Zechariah 13 – “The End of Prophecy”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
God will purge the false prophets from the land.

II. Photo
Jerusalem is blessed: “In that day a fountain shall be open to the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for purging and cleansing.” (v. 1)

III. Select Verses
1: In that day a fountain shall be open to the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for purging and cleansing.
2a: In that day, too — declares the LORD of Hosts — I will erase the very names of the idols from the land; they shall not be uttered any more.
2b-6: And I will also make the “prophets” and the unclean spirit vanish from the land.  If anyone “prophesies” thereafter, his own father and mother, who brought him into the world, will say to him, “You shall die, for you have lied in the name of the LORD”; and his own father and mother, who brought him into the world, will put him to death when he “prophesies.” In that day, every “prophet” will be ashamed of the “visions” [he had] when he “prophesied.” In order to deceive, he will not wear a hairy mantle, and he will declare, “I am not a ‘prophet’; I am a tiller of the soil; you see, I was plied with the red stuff from my youth on.” And if he is asked, “What are those sores on your back?” he will reply, “From being beaten in the homes of my friends.”
8: Throughout the land — declares the LORD — Two-thirds shall perish, shall die, And one-third of it shall survive.

IV. Outline
1. A fountain of purity for Jerusalem
2a. Removing idolatry
2b-6. The end of false prophecy
7-9. Oracle: God will punish Israel’s leaders and purge the people of sin

V. Comment
Verses 2b-6, which speak about the end of prophecy, highlight the changing nature of prophecy in Ancient Israel. Prophecies became eschatological (concerned with the distant future, not the present) and were attributed to prophets of bygone eras. Barton writes: “[In the postexilic period any prophet] who believed that God had spoken to him was obliged to dress his message up as the utterance of some ancient prophets, speaking in the time before “the spirit departed from Israel,” as the Talmud expresses it. This is undoubtedly part of the reason for the pseudonymity of apocalyptic works; and it no doubt also explains some of the more improbable additions to the prophetic books, such as those which imply that Isaiah addressed the problems of the Babylonian or Persian periods, or that Zechariah was interested in the Greeks. There is, however, little evidence that prophecy did in fact die out… But the forms of expression did change significantly, and postexilic prophets often expressed their oracles as additions to existing collections, or even as whole new works falsely attributed to figures from the past, rather than speaking in their own persons as earlier prophets had done.” (495)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Barton, John. “Prophecy” Anchor Bible Dictionary, 5:495.
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Smith, Ralph L. “Micah – Malachi” World Biblical Commentary v. 32 (Word Books: 1984).
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