2 “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. 3 And if anyone still prophesies, their father and mother, to whom they were born, will say to them, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ Then their own parents will stab the one who prophesies.
4 “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of their prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of hair in order to deceive.5 Each will say, ‘I am not a prophet. I am a farmer; the land has been my livelihood since my youth.’ 6 If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’
(Zechariah 13:2-6 NIV)
To set the context for today’s passage, let’s look back at the previous sections. In Zechariah 12:10-14, we see Israel mourning their sin when they see that their forefathers killed Messiah (Jesus). We also see God giving grace and mercy to His children during this time (12:10). In Zechariah 13:1, we see God cleansing His children in the fountain of forgiveness made possible by Messiah’s death, burial, and resurrection. Remember, all this is set in the future, in the end times.
Today’s passage begins with the identification of false prophets and leaders that are still present in Israel. Remember back in Zechariah 10:2-3 that the major idols like Baal were gone, but household “good luck charms”, “prophets”, and fortune tellers were still around.
God said that He will “banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more” (v. 2). This is on two levels. One, any power associated with mere objects will be forgotten. A wooden “good luck charm” will now be a block of wood. Two, any person that was known for being a “prophet” or fortune teller will be forgotten as well.
With God’s cleansing of Israel’s sins, the difference between the righteous and unrighteous is abundantly clear. For those who persist in their unrepentant state, speaking false prophecies, using God’s name to give themselves credibility, they are to be treated as blasphemers of God and put to death (Deuteronomy 13:6-10).
Notice in verse 2 – the link between the false prophets and the spirit of impurity. All false prophets have an underlying evil spirit that is driving them forward. God says that he will remove both.
Notice also the contrast between these evil false prophets and their underlying evil spirits versus God’s love and Spirit (12:10). The evil spirits serve themselves and take from others, while God’s Spirit comes to comfort and offer grace and mercy to the repentant.
In verses 4-6, when the false prophets see God’s justice being administered, they deny their past or present involvement with such wickedness. They claim to be humble farmers, simple people who herd cattle. They also no longer wear the typical clothes of a prophet such as a hairy outer garment like Elijah wore (2 Kings 1:8).
But the evidence as to their involvement in false prophecy is overwhelming. The cut marks on their bodies betray their past. Remember what the false prophets of Baal did to themselves on the top of Mount Carmel? They cut themselves so Baal would hopefully hear them and answer their prayers (1 Kings 18:25-29).
These wounds are instant giveaways, as God had expressly forbidden His children to participate in these practices (Deuteronomy 14:1). Faced with these undeniable facts, the false prophets finally confess and admit their involvement with their “friends”, the false idols and evil spirits.
The word “friends” at the end of verse 6 is better translated “lovers”, showing the depth of relationship these false prophets had with their cultic practices and the evil spirits that controlled them.
May we renounce anything that we put on to pretend to be good “Christians”, and instead seek to live authentic lives for and with Jesus.
May we let Christ take us to His cleansing fountain that removes our sins as far as the east is from the west and be clothed in His righteousness, not the filthy rags of our own self-righteous living and deeds.