The only true prophecy about Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in Zechariah 13:1–6—a passage dealing with false prophets. It even makes explicit reference to his crucifixion!
Actually, the passage of which you speak has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus. To be sure, you are right in saying it is a prophecy about false prophets, but it makes no reference to crucifixion—the Hebrew actually speaks of wounds on the false prophet’s back, not on his hands. The only references to the Messiah in this passage of Scripture are in the powerful, God-centered, repentance-based passages that come before and after Zechariah 13:1–6. So, you have failed to recognize the true references to the Messiah in Zechariah 12–14 and have focused on the one passage that does not apply to him.
Now, I must admit that some Messianic Jews and Christians have been their own worst enemies here, getting excited about some English renderings of Zechariah 13:6 (“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.” [KJV]) and immediately saying to themselves, “That’s Jesus! That’s a prophecy about Jesus!” Consequently, they have used this verse as a Messianic proof text, giving the anti-missionaries something embarrassing and erroneous to expose. This passage has nothing to do with Yeshua, and it is not Messianic in any sense of the word.
The context is quite clear, referring to a time of national cleansing in Israel’s future when false prophets will be exposed (see Zech. 13:1–2, “ ‘On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity. On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘I will remove both the prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land.’ ”). That time has not yet come; so it cannot apply to Yeshua’s crucifixion two thousand years ago. As we continue reading, we see that Zechariah 13:3 provides further evidence that the text cannot refer to Jesus. It states: “And if anyone still prophesies, his father and mother, to whom he was born, will say to him, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ When he prophesies, his own parents will stab him.” This doesn’t work either, since Jesus’ parents didn’t stab him! And how in the world could Zechariah 13:5 be applied to Jesus (“He will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ ”), when Jesus earned his livelihood as a carpenter?
Of course, you might still ask, “What about verse 6, where the King James Version speaks of ‘wounds in thine hands,’ and anyone who can read Hebrew can see that this translation is accurate. That certainly seems to apply to Jesus—especially when the one speaking says he received the wounds in the house of his friends!”
Actually, that is not what the Hebrew says. In fact, no less a Hebrew authority than H. L. Ginsberg concluded that the Hebrew actually meant “on your back” (literally, “between your shoulders”).350 He demonstrated this in an article published in 1978, basing his conclusions on examples from the Ugaritic language (discovered in 1929 in Syria) and from the Tanakh itself. This helps to explain why the NJPSV, of which Ginsberg was the editor primarily responsible for the translation of the Prophets, rendered Zechariah 13:6, “And if he is asked, ‘What are those sores on your back?’ he will reply, ‘From being beaten in the homes of my friends.’ ”351 (Note again that the Hebrew says “between your hands/arms” and not “on your hands/arms.”)
What makes this wrong interpretation all the more tragic is the fact that there are several very important Messianic passages surrounding Zechariah 13:1–6, which apply clearly and powerfully to Jesus, but these passages have been totally missed by the anti-missionaries. I speak of Zechariah 12:10–14, referring to Israel’s repentance when they look at the pierced Messiah (see above, 4.31, and also 4.4); 13:7–9, speaking of the betrayal and smiting of the shepherd-Messiah, causing the flock to be scattered (for discussion of the Messiah’s closeness to God, spoken of in v. 7, see 4.4); chapter 14 in its entirety, with specific reference to the Messiah’s return (Zech. 14:4 says that his feet will touch the Mount of Olives when he comes to fight for his people; see again 4.4) and all nations coming to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.
I encourage you not to be misinformed about the meaning of Zechariah 13:1–6—a passage that promises the exposure and eradication of false prophets in the land and that cannot possibly be applied to Yeshua in any way—and not to overlook the other glorious prophecies in Zechariah 12–14 pointing to the suffering, death, and return of the Messiah, so clearly referring to Jesus.
350 Ginsberg was one of the three primary translators of the New Jewish Publication Society Version of the Bible and a longtime professor at Jewish Theological Seminary. He was hailed by W. F. Albright, the brilliant biblical archaeologist, as the top scholar in Northwest Semitic languages of his day.
351 The explanatory footnotes to this verse give further background based on Ginsberg’s article, “The Oldest Record of Hysteria with Physical Stigmata—Zechariah 13:2–6e,” in Yitschak Avishur and Joshua Blau, eds., Studies in Bible and the Ancient Near East: Presented to Samuel E. Loewenstamm, on His Seventieth Birthday (Jerusalem: E. Rubinstein’s, 1978), 23–27. Note that the Stone edition reads, “scars between your arms.”
Brown, M. L. (2003). Answering Jewish objections to Jesus, Volume 3: Messianic prophecy objections (179). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.