This past Sabbath I was having a conversation with a few brethren and one of the party asked about a particular obscure passage found in Zechariah 12:10-14: ““And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.”
This is a very striking passage and definitely a unusual one. The immediate context of the particular passage comes after God promises to deliver Jerusalem from its enemies. When most premillennial contemporary believers think about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, our thoughts are more positive in that we expect to have entered into eternal life to be a part of that conquering army that will establish God’s rule over the earth. Yet this verse is not really written from that sort of triumphalist perspective. Immediately after the deliverance of Jerusalem is mentioned in Zechariah 12:1-9, the prophet turns his attention to the surviving people left behind in and around Jerusalem who will see Jesus Christ and will be moved to mourn rather than to celebrate. What would account for this attitude? After all, the people listed in Zechariah 12 weren’t the ones who had pierced Jesus Christ themselves two thousand years or more before. To be sure, if one reads the Talmud, there is a great deal of hostility between Judaism and Jesus Christ, and the sight of their deliverer being Jesus Christ will likely induce in the surviving Jewish population of Jerusalem a desire to appeal to the grace of their Lord and Savior.
Yet this verse is an often-neglected messianic prophecy that has not, at least to my knowledge, received much attention from anyone writing either about the first or the second coming of Jesus Christ. Given the general disinterest of many contemporary writers in matters of genealogy, that makes a great deal of sense. Yet genealogy is an important subject in the Bible and it is a vital aspect of discussing this particular passage, because the houses of David, Nathan, Levi, and Shimei are certainly very important ones in discovering the meaning of this particular passage as well as its implications for both the first and the second coming of Jesus Christ. So let us therefore, at least briefly, look at what can be understood about this passage when it comes to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ when one has a proper understanding of genealogy, so that we may better appreciate the implications this verse had in understanding the actions of Jesus Christ during his time on earth as a human being, as well as some of the implications of His return as a deliverer and king.
For Jesus’ first coming, it is the first three of these houses that have the most immediate and obvious relevance, because Jesus Christ was related closely to all three of these houses. In Matthew 1:1-17, we see Matthew detail the legal genealogy of Jesus Christ through the House of David: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon betot Josiah. Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.” Of interest as well is the fact that Jesus’ origin through the House of Nathan the son of David is recorded by Luke in Luke 3:23-38: “Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Janna, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Semei, the son of Joseph, the son of Judah, the son of Joannas, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er, the son of Jose, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonan, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menan, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” It is widely thought that this passage is discussing the physical ancestry of Jesus Christ through Mary. Finally, let us note here that Jesus Christ was also related through his mother to the house of Levi, for it is written of John The Baptist’s parents in Luke 1:5-7 that they are priests of the house of Aaron, part of the tribe of Levi: “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.” And it is also mentioned in Luke 1:36 that Mary was a relative of Elizabeth’s, meaning that Mary too was descended in part from the tribe of Levi.
This close family connection between Jesus Christ, our High Priest, and the houses of David, Nathan, and Levi makes it clear why these three houses would mourn Jesus Christ when He returns by themselves, because He serves as a priest and a king, and because he was related by blood to the descendants of David’s son Nathan (presumably named after the prophet) through His mother Mary. We are left with a strange description of a fourth house, though, the house of Shimei. We do not know of any family connection between Jesus’ ancestry and that of Shimei, who was of the sons of Benjamin. (There is, of course, a son of Gershom named Shimei of the sons of Levi, but this family connection to Jesus would be unknown as well since the priests were of the sons of Kohath rather than Gershom). The most notable story where a Shimei appears is one where he shows a great deal of hostility to David at one of the lowest moment’s of David’s reign, in 2 Samuel 16:5-14: “Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’ ” And David said to Abishai and all his servants, “See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may thisBenjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.” And as David and his men went along the road, Shimei went along the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, threw stones at him and kicked up dust. Now the king and all the people who were with him became weary; so they refreshed themselves there.” Given the hostility of many Jews to Jesus Christ (and sometimes even His followers) and the hostility of Shimei to David, and the fact that Jerusalem sat at the border between Judah and Benjamin, the reference to the house of Shimei is a reference to several layers of bad blood that have gone on for a long time, and that will cease when Jesus Christ returns.
What does this all mean to us? For one, Zechariah 12:10-14 serves as an obscure messianic prophecy in that it points to a set of houses who will all have reason to mourn about their hostility to the Messiah or their sharing aspects of identity with Jesus Christ. This prophecy is multi-layered, giving hints about the first coming of Jesus Christ (since the House of Nathan was an exceedingly obscure house when compared with their royal cousins of the House of David through Nathan’s full brother Solomon). In addition to this, the prophecy also points to the roles that Jesus Christ serves as both priest (Levi) and King (David), as well as those who have shown a great deal of hostility to Jesus’ rulership (symbolized cleverly by the House of Shimei) who libeled David just as many fables libel Christ in an attempt to avoid having to worship and obey Him. To be sure, there may be even more layers of this story, but even these layers is sufficient for us to realize that Zechariah’s prophecy is undeservedly obscure and deserves more attention from contemporary readers of Bible history and prophecy.