The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Zechariah 9

Zec 9:1

Zec 9 -- 14: Oracles about the Messiah and Israel's future: This part of Zechariah contains two undated oracles that are almost entirely Last Days-oriented. The phrase "on that day" occurs 18 times and points to the distant future, as is clear from their contexts. The centerpiece of this section is the messianic King who will appear and bring both judgment and blessing.

"Just as the eight night visions (Zec 1 -- 6) and prophecies springing out of the question of the national fasts (Zec 7; 8) all have their fulfillment in events leading up to and into the kingdom (without an exception), so Zec 9 -- 14 likewise comprehend the same great Messianic future of Israel" (Unger).

"One must admit that once he begins a careful study of Zec 9 -- 14 he is immediately made aware of the change of mood, outlook, style, and composition of this part of the book compared to the first eight chapters... the prophet in this section has entered another realm of thought and perspective, much as did Isaiah in the latter part (Isa 40 -- 66) of his work... The perspective... is primarily eschatological, it lacks any indisputable connection to contemporary persons or events, and it is dominated by cryptic allusions to cosmic, redemptive, and messianic themes that have no accompanying interpretation, contrary to the case in Zec 1 -- 8. In short, the prophet has broken free of the mold in which he cast the material of the first part and has created a new form in which to express the grand and glorious ideas that permeate his thinking in the second part" (Merrill).

"The last six chapters are very different. Gone are the bold outlines, and instead there are enigmatic references to enemies of former days, grim battles, betrayal, bitter weeping, interspersed with assurances of peace, prosperity and ultimate victory. It is probably with these chapters in mind that Jerome wrote, '...that most obscure book of the prophet Zechariah...' Obscure though it is in places, Zec 9 -- 14 is the most quoted section of the prophets in the passion narratives of the Gospels and, next to Ezekiel, Zechariah has influenced the author of Rev more than any other OT writer" (Baldwin).

Zec 9 -- 11: "In the first [burden] (Zec 9 -- 11), the judgment through which Gentile world-power over Israel is finally destroyed, and Israel is endowed with strength to overcome all their enemies, forms the fundamental thought and centre of gravity of the prophetic description. In the second [burden] (Zec 12 -- 14), the judgment through which Israel itself is sifted and purged in the final great conflict with the nations, and transformed into the holy nation of Jehovah, forms the leading topic" (Baron).

Zec 9: The coming of the true king.

THE WORD OF THE LORD: More literal, as KJV, "the BURDEN of the word of the LORD." "Burden" is Heb "massa" -- a heavy weight of pronouncement.

HADRACH: Hatarikka, near Hamath.

DAMASCUS: The capital of Aramea, still farther south.

FOR THE EYES OF MEN AND ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL ARE ON THE LORD: This revelation concerned a time when all the people of the world, especially the Israelites, would be looking toward Yahweh. [Some translators (cp the NIV mg) believed the text means that the LORD has His eye on all people as He does on the tribes of Israel.] As history would show, this was when Alexander the Great was rapidly moving south toward Egypt after defeating the Persians at Issus in 333 BC. The whole world was worried about what he would do next, especially the residents of the cities of Palestine that lay in his path. All these people would have their eyes on Alexander, but he was only the LORD's instrument, so Zechariah could say that they were really looking to Yahweh. The nations would have done so unwittingly, but Israel would have looked to Him for protection.

Zec 9:2

HAMATH: A city and a state (Isa 11:11; Jer 39:5; Zec 9:2) in Syria, located just north of the ideal boundary of Israel (Num 13:21; 34:8; Jos 13:5). The present site of the city, Hama on the Nahr el-Asi (the ancient Orontes), was excavated in 1932-38.

TYRE AND SIDON: Phoenician cities between Aramea and Israel (cp Eze 26:3-14; 28:20-24).

The order of these cities in the text is from north to south. Earlier prophets had seen enemies invading Israel from the north (Isa 41:25; Jer 1:14,15; Eze 26:7), but now Yahweh would take the same route destroying Israel's enemies as He came.

"Originally the Mediterranean coast had been designated Israel's territory (Num 34:5,6) and yet it had never been possessed by Israel. Now at last the LORD will claim it" (Baldwin).

Zec 9:3

TYRE HAS BUILT HERSELF A STRONGHOLD; SHE HAS HEAPED UP SILVER LIKE DUST, AND GOLD LIKE THE DIRT OF THE STREETS: Tyre had trusted in physical fortifications for her defense and in stockpiles of silver and gold for her security. She had built a 150-foot high wall around the city, which stood on an island just offshore following Nebuchadnezzar's earlier unsuccessful 13-year siege (cp Isa 23:4; Eze 29:18), and she had gained great wealth through commerce.

Zec 9:4

BUT THE LORD WILL TAKE AWAY HER POSSESSIONS AND DESTROY HER POWER ON THE SEA, AND SHE WILL BE CONSUMED BY FIRE: Nevertheless the LORD would dispossess Tyre and displace her wealth -- casting it into the Mediterranean Sea. The parts of the city that would not go down into the water would go up in flames. Alexander destroyed Tyre by building a causeway from the mainland to the island city and leveling it.

Zec 9:5

Vv 5,6: The Philistine cities farther south along the Mediterranean coast would observe Tyre's fate and fear, especially Ekron, the northernmost of the four cities mentioned. God would also destroy these cities and populate them with a mixed group of citizens. Thus He would humble the pride of the Philistines. This too happened when Alexander swept south.

There were 5 major Philistine cities (1Sa 6:17; Josh 13:3), but in later days the prophets carefully leave Gath out of the picture (Amo 1:6-8; Zeph 2:4; Jer 25:20; Zech 9:5,6). Why? Uzziah, in his war against the Philistines, smashed up Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod (2Ch 26:6). The last of these was evidently strategic enough to warrant rebuilding (Isa 20:1), but the other two disappeared from history -- and from prophecy also.

Zec 9:6

PHILISTINES: See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy.

Zec 9:7

I WILL TAKE THE BLOOD FROM THEIR MOUTHS, THE FORBIDDEN FOOD FROM BETWEEN THEIR TEETH: The blood these pagans ate was forbidden in Israel -- along with the unclean, detestable food. This was all part of Philistine pagan worship (cp Isa 65:4; 66:3,17), so the judgment in view included punishment for idolatry.

THOSE WHO ARE LEFT WILL BELONG TO OUR GOD AND BECOME LEADERS IN JUDAH: Some remaining Philistines would turn to the LORD and become like the Israelites in their faith in Yahweh.

AND EKRON WILL BE LIKE THE JEBUSITES: As the Jebusites became incorporated into Israel in David's day (cp 2Sa 24:16; 1Ch 21:18), so would the Philistines in the future from Zechariah's viewpoint.

Zec 9:8

BUT I WILL DEFEND MY HOUSE AGAINST MARAUDING FORCES. NEVER AGAIN WILL AN OPPRESSOR OVERRUN MY PEOPLE, FOR NOW I AM KEEPING WATCH: The LORD promised to protect His people and land as with a band of soldiers since enemies would oppose them. No enemy would oppress them ever again because the LORD had seen the plight of His people and would defend them (cp Zec 4:10; Exo 3:7; Psa 32:8). This promise of no more oppression anticipates the second advent of Messiah.

"For their preservation at the time of Alexander and for their future deliverance from every oppressor, Israel is indebted to the providence of God which watched over them for good" (Unger). This section is a prophetic description of Yahweh's march from the north, using Alexander the Great as His instrument, destroying Gentiles nations but preserving the Jews.

"As history shows, the agent of the LORD's judgment was Alexander the Great. After defeating the Persians (333 BC), Alexander moved swiftly toward Egypt. On his march he toppled the cities in the Aramean (Syrian) interior, as well as those on the Mediterranean coast. Yet, on coming to Jerusalem, he refused to destroy it" (EBC).

"The first section of this... part of the book establishes from the start two important facts: the LORD's victory is certain, and he intends to bring back to Himself peoples long alienated from Him. These truths underlie all that follows and culminate in the universal worship of the King, the LORD of hosts, in Zec 14:16-19" (Baldwin).

Zec 9:9

Vv 9,10: This is one of the most significant passages of all the Bible, as regards Messianic prophecy -- in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. Judaism sees in it a basis for a royal messianic expectation, whereas the NT and Christianity see a prophecy of the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before his crucifixion (Mat 21:4,5; Mark 11:1-10; John 12:15). Thus, though the fulfillment may be in dispute, there is unanimous conviction that a descendant of David is depicted here, one who, though humble, rides as a victor into his capital city Jerusalem. The way will have been prepared by the imposition of universal peace, following which the king will exercise dominion over the whole world.

"We have pictured for us : (1) the Agent of peace, (2) the method of peace, and (3) the kingdom of peace" (Feinberg).

An amplification of the earlier prophecy in Zep 3:14-17: "Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. On that day they will say to Jerusalem, 'Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.' "

DAUGHTER OF JERUSALEM: A phrase used almost exclusively in the context of deliverance from the enemy (2Ki 19:21; Isa 37:22; Lam 2:13,15; Mic 4:8; Zeph 3:14; Zech 9:9).

RIGHTEOUS AND HAVING SALVATION: A sinless saviour of men, at the same time being a partaker himself of the salvation which he brings to others.

GENTILE AND RIDING ON A DONKEY, ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A DONKEY: He would, therefore, be humble. Zechariah pictured this humble king riding on a gentle donkey colt (cp Gen 49:11; Mat 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-15). In the ANE rulers commonly rode donkeys if they came in peace (Jdg 5:10; 10:4; 12:14; 2Sa 16:2; 1Ki 1:33), but they rode horses into war.

Zec 9:10

CHARIOTS... WAR-HORSES... BATTLE BOW: Essentially the whole arsenal of war: cp Isa 2:4; Mic 4:3.

HE WILL PROCLAIM PEACE TO THE NATIONS: The LORD would end war in Israel and would establish peace in the world with His sovereign proclamation (cp Isa 2:4; 9:5-7; 11:1-10; Mic 5:10-15). Note the worldwide extent of Messiah's kingdom predicted here. This part of the prophecy has, of course, not happened yet -- it pertains to the Second Coming.

HIS RULE WILL EXTEND FROM SEA TO SEA AND FROM THE RIVER TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: His dominion would be universal, in Middle Eastern terms at least, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf, and from the Euphrates River in the north to the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula ("the ends of the earth"): cp Psa 72:8-11; Isa 66:18). In both of these verses, Messiah contrasts with Alexander the Great, the king who initially fulfilled vv 1-8.

There is a clear difference in tone or emphasis between v 9 and v 10. In v 9 the coming one, designated king to be sure, nevertheless is described as "humble" or "lowly" -- a most inappropriate way to speak of one whose triumph is complete in every respect. Only in v 10 is that triumph translated into universal dominion. The lowly one of v 9, though victorious in some sense, does not achieve the fruits of that victory until v 10. (This ambiguity evidently led the Qumran sect, for example, to postulate two separate Messiahs: one a pious and righteous teacher, and the other a great and powerful conquering general.)

Zec 9:11

Vv 11-17: The deliverance and blessing of Zion's people: Before Messiah can reign in peace, He must destroy all enemies and deliver and restore His people (cp Psa 110).

BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF MY COVENANT WITH YOU: Blood sacrifices ratified the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 15:9-11) and reaffirmed the Mosaic Covenant (Exo 24:3-8; 29:38-46; cp Mark 14:24).

I WILL FREE YOUR PRISONERS FROM THE WATERLESS PIT: The LORD promised to set free those of them whom their enemies would hold prisoner. He pictured this as taking them out of a dry cistern where they were captives, like Joseph and Jeremiah (Gen 37:24; Jer 38:6-9).

"God's people had been in the 'pit' of Babylonian exile, but they would find themselves in a worse predicament in the end of the age. From that pit God would again retrieve them according to His faithfulness to His covenant promises" (Merrill).

(NT) In like manner will true sons of Zion be liberated from the final bondage of death (Hos 13:14; 1Co 15:55,56).

Zec 9:12

RETURN TO YOUR FORTRESS, O PRISONERS OF HOPE: The LORD called these former Israelite prisoners of the nations who were now free to return to their Stronghold, namely Himself (cp Psa 18:2; 31:3; 71:3; 91:2; 144:2; Pro 18:10; Jer 16:19; Nah 1:7).

I WILL RESTORE TWICE AS MUCH TO YOU: He Himself promised to restore to them double of what He had allowed their enemy to take from them (cp Job 42:10). A double restoration of joy pictures a complete restoration (cp Isa 40:2; 51:19; 61:7).

It was also the firstborn who received a double portion (Deu 21:17), and Israel is -- and will be -- the firstborn nation of God (Exo 4:22).

Furthermore, Jesus -- and those who embrace his hope -- become a spiritual "firstborn" of God: see Heb 12:23; Jam 1:18; Rom 9:6,7; Rev 14:4.

Zec 9:13

Vv 13,14: Yahweh, as the divine Warrior, would use Israel as a weapon to subdue the Gentiles. Judah would be His bow, and Ephraim would be His arrow. He was in complete command of Israel's affairs. He would come against the nations like an army called to advance with a trumpet and like a strong southern storm (cp Exo 24:9,10, 15, 18). This verse saw initial, partial fulfillment when the Jews overthrew the Greeks during the Maccabean revolts in the second century BC. But final, complete fulfillment awaits Messiah's second coming.

Zec 9:14

HIS ARROW WILL FLASH LIKE LIGHTNING: "An arrow is an instrument of death, and requires a bow for its projection, strong and well strung, to give the arrow the velocity and deadliness of lightning. Now the prophets tell us that Judah, Ephraim, and the resurrected Sons of Zion, are Yahweh's bow and arrow, battle axe and sword. But before they are developed in this character, they are 'prisoners of hope in the pit where no water is' [Zec 9:11: no water...] of life, physical or national. They must, therefore, become the subject of a personal and political resurrection; those who are dead in the grave, of a personal; and Judah and Ephraim dispersed among the nations, politically dead and buried there, of a national resurrection, 'standing upon their feet an exceeding great army' ready for action, as the result" (Phan 124,125).

Of course, it may be that the "Judah" and "Ephraim" here are also resurrected and glorified saints, of Israel!

Zec 9:15

THEY WILL BE LIKE A BOWL USED FOR SPRINKLING THE CORNERS OF THE ALTAR: In other words, the death of these enemies of Israel would be like a sacrifice to Yahweh (cp idea, Eze 39:17).

Zec 9:16

THE LORD THEIR GOD WILL SAVE THEM ON THAT DAY AS THE FLOCK OF HIS PEOPLE: The Israelites would experience deliverance and victory, like a flock of sheep protected by their Shepherd.

THEY WILL SPARKLE IN HIS LAND LIKE JEWELS IN A CROWN: They would be precious and beautiful in the LORD's land, as jewels in a crown as they circled Jerusalem's hills (cp Mal 3:16,17).

Zec 9:17

GRAIN... NEW WINE: Sym prosperity and truth: Deu 33:28; Psa 4:7; Isa 55:1.
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