Zechariah 9 – A Humble King Conquers
A. The burden against Hadrach.
1. (1-4) Judgment against the cities of Lebanon.
The burden of the word of the LORD—
Against the land of Hadrach,
And Damascus its resting place
(For the eyes of men
And all the tribes of Israel
Are on the LORD);
Also against Hamath, which borders on it,
And against Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
For Tyre built herself a tower,
Heaped up silver like the dust,
And gold like the mire of the streets.
Behold, the LORD will cast her out;
He will destroy her power in the sea,
And she will be devoured by fire.
a. The burden of the word of the LORD: The two oracles that make up the remainder of Zechariah (Zechariah 9-14) are undated, but many scholars believe they came from Zechariah’s old age. Most see this burden…against the land of Hadrach as fulfilled by the armies of Alexander the Great when he conquered this region. The cities mentioned in Zechariah 9:1-7 trace Alexander’s march through the Promised Land in 332-331 B.C.
i. The eyes of men…are on the LORD in the sense that they were on God’s instrument of judgment, Alexander.
b. Against Tyre and Sidon: These were the two major cities north of Israel, in the land of Lebanon. Tyre was an important commercial city that was thought to be impossible to conquer. The Assyrians laid siege against Tyre for five years but never conquered the city. Nebuchadnezzar tried for 13 years to conquer Tyre, but Alexander did it in seven months.
i. Alexander the Great conquered Tyre by laying siege for seven months, then using the rubble from the old city to make a causeway out to the island city. It was a spectacular achievement of both military and engineering strategy.
2. (5-8) Judgment against the cities of the Philistines.
Ashkelon shall see it and fear;
Gaza also shall be very sorrowful;
And Ekron, for He dried up her expectation.
The king shall perish from Gaza,
And Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.
“A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod,
And I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
I will take away the blood from his mouth,
And the abominations from between his teeth.
But he who remains, even he shall be for our God,
And shall be like a leader in Judah,
And Ekron like a Jebusite.
I will camp around My house
Because of the army,
Because of him who passes by and him who returns.
No more shall an oppressor pass through them,
For now I have seen with My eyes.”
a. Ashkelon shall see it and fear; Gaza also shall be very sorrowful: The Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod are south of Tyre and Sidon, and were also conquered by Alexander the Great in 332-331 B.C.
i. This passage “accurately foretells the conquest of the eastern Mediterranean coastlands by Greek armies under the command of Alexander the Great.” (Boice)
b. He who remains…and Ekron like a Jebusite: The Jebusites inhabited Jerusalem when David conquered the city (Joshua 15:8; 2 Samuel 5:6-9; 2 Samuel 24:16-18). David did not wipe out the Jebusites but merely incorporated them into Israel. The same would happen to the people of Ekron.
c. I will camp around My house because of the army, because of him who passes by: When Alexander the Great marched through Lebanon and the Promised Land towards Egypt he did not conquer or attack Jerusalem. God promised to protect and spare His house during this time, and He did through a remarkable chain of events connected to Alexander the Great and the high priest.
i. Josephus’ account of Alexander’s meeting with the high priest is fascinating (Antiquities 11.8.4-5):
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high-priest, when he heard that, was in agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifices to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced; and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to the dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.
And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha; which name, translated in Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple; and when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him, thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high-priest to death, which the king’s displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high-priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head having the golden plate on which the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high-priest. The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about: whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him to be disordered in his mind. However, Parmenio [Alexander’s second-in-command] alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass, that when all others adored him, he should adore the high-priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but that God who has honored him with that high-priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios, in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me dominion over the Persians; whence it is, that having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering my vision and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.” And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high-priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city; and when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high-priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high-priest and the priests. And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favors they pleased of him: whereupon the high-priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired: and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired: and when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars.
B. The coming King and His deliverance.
1. (9) A lowly King comes into Jerusalem.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.
a. Behold your King is coming to you…lowly and riding on a donkey: This Messiah-King is lowly, but this wasn’t indicated by the animal he rode. He doesn’t ride the triumphant stallion of a conquering general, but the customary mount for royalty, coming in peace. This was quite a contrast to the conqueror Alexander the Great.
i. “Brethren, let us be lowly. Did I hear one say, ‘Well, I will try to be lowly’? You cannot do it in that way. We must not try to act the lowly part; we must be lowly, and then we shall naturally act in a humble manner. It is astonishing how much of pride there is in the most modest.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “How we condemn pride! We feel that it would be well if all were as humble as we are. We boast that we detest boasting. We flatter ourselves that we hate flattery. When we are told that we are singularly free from pride, we feel as proud as Lucifer himself at the consciousness that the compliment is right well deserved. We are so experienced, so solid, so discerning, so free from self-confidence, that we are the first to be caught in the net of self-satisfaction. Brethren, we must pray God to make us humble.” (Spurgeon)
b. A donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey: This seems to be a Hebrew expression of speech emphasizing that the animal is purebred – a truly magnificent, royal mount.
i. “God had commanded the kings of Israel not to multiply horses. The kings who broke this command were miserable themselves, and scourgers to their people. Jesus came to fulfill the law. Had he in his title of king rode upon a horse, it would have been a breach of a positive command of God; therefore he rode upon an ass.” (Clarke)
c. Rejoice greatly.… Shout…. Behold, your King is coming: This clearly prophesies what is known as the triumphal entry of Jesus (Matthew 21:5), when He presented Himself as the Messiah to Jerusalem and the people of Israel.
i. Though the triumphal entry was a joyful celebration, a Roman spectator would wonder what was so triumphal about this entry. It didn’t compare at all to the kind of parade Julius Caesar had when he came back to Rome from Gaul. Then there was a parade that lasted three days as he displayed all the captives and booty he brought back. In contrast to this, the procession of Jesus must have seemed pretty humble, and this showed that Jesus was a different kind of king.
2. (10) The strength and the authority of the Messiah’s reign.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’
a. The battle bow shall be cut off: Zechariah 9:9 belongs to the first coming of Jesus, but Zechariah 9:10 is associated with the second coming of Jesus, when He comes in power and glory to reign over this earth for 1,000 years. In that day there will be enforced righteousness, and He will no longer allow war (Isaiah 2:4).
i. “Even though the Evangelists saw fulfillment of verse 9, they did not go on to quote verse 10, which may indicate that they were conscious of having only a partial fulfillment.” (Baldwin)
b. His dominion shall be “from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth”: When Jesus rules over this earth, His reign will be universal. The entire earth will be under His authority.
i. This speaks of the time many refer to as the millennium, the thousand-year reign of Jesus on this earth (Psalm 72, Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 11:4-9, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Luke 1:32-33 and 19:12-27, Matthew 5:18).
3. (11-17) Judah’s liberation and blessing.
“As for you also,
Because of the blood of your covenant,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to the stronghold,
You prisoners of hope.
Even today I declare
That I will restore double to you.
For I have bent Judah, My bow,
Fitted the bow with Ephraim,
And raised up your sons, O Zion,
Against your sons, O Greece,
And made you like the sword of a mighty man.”
Then the LORD will be seen over them,
And His arrow will go forth like lightning.
The Lord GOD will blow the trumpet,
And go with whirlwinds from the south.
The LORD of hosts will defend them;
They shall devour and subdue with slingstones.
They shall drink and roar as if with wine;
They shall be filled with blood like basins,
Like the corners of the altar.
The LORD their God will save them in that day,
As the flock of His people.
For they shall be like the jewels of a crown,
Lifted like a banner over His land—
For how great is its goodness
And how great its beauty!
Grain shall make the young men thrive,
And new wine the young women.
a. Because of the blood of your covenant: This probably describes God acting towards Israel in light of the blood of the covenant of Moses (Exodus 24:1-8). As Israel turns to God, He will turn to them and rescue them as if they were trapped in a dry cistern (I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit).
b. Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope: Because of His faithful promise, even the prisoners are prisoners of hope. They should receive encouragement from His promise and return to the stronghold – both in the sense of a military fortress and a spiritual fortress in the LORD Himself.
c. For I have bent Judah, My bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim, and raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece: This was partially fulfilled in the days of the Maccabees, when God raised up Jews to fight against the successors of Alexander’s Empire. Nevertheless, it seems that the ultimate fulfillment of this promise is yet to come.
d. The Lord GOD will blow the trumpet: The idea is that the LORD Himself leads the battle. Both the Bible and the Koran have the idea of the holy war – which Islam calls Jihad – but there is a huge difference between the idea of the holy war in the Bible and in Islam. Jesus alone carries out the biblical holy war, and never His people. In Islam, the Jihad is the responsibility of every good Muslim.
i. Here, God makes it clear who does the fighting: The LORD their God will save them in that day. This is God’s battle, not the battle of men.
e. Grain shall make the young men thrive, and new wine the young women: As in other passages that speak of the millennium (Hosea 2:21-22, Joel 2:19) here grain and new wine are pictures of prosperity and blessing.