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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
Zechariah 9

 

 

Verse 1-2

The Lord sent a burden (Heb. massa", heavy pronouncement; cf. 2 Kings 9:25-26; Jeremiah 23:33) to Zechariah that announced judgment and blessing. [Note: For an excursus on the meaning of this rarely used Hebrew word, see Baldwin, pp162-63. For a more thorough study, see P. A. H. de Boer, An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Term Massa".] It concerned the lands of Hadrach (Hatarikka, near Hamath), [Note: See J. B. Pritchard, ed, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp282-83.] Hamath on the Orontes River (a city farther south in Aramea, cf. Amos 6:2), Damascus (the capital of Aramea, still farther south), and Tyre and Sidon (Phoenician cities between Aramea and Israel, cf. Ezekiel 26:3-14; Ezekiel 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 ( Isaiah 41:25; Jeremiah 1:14-15; Ezekiel 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 ( Numbers 34:5-6) and yet it had never been possessed by Israel. Now at last the Lord will claim it." [Note: Baldwin, p157.]

This revelation concerned a time when all the people of the world, especially the Israelites, would be looking toward Yahweh. Some translators believed the text means that the Lord has His eye on all people as He does on the tribes of Israel. [Note: E.g, ibid, p159.] As history would show, this was when Alexander the Great was rapidly moving south toward Egypt after defeating the Persians at Issus in333 B.C. 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.


Verses 1-8

The destruction of nations and the preservation of Zion9:1-8

The first four verses of this poem deal with the north and the last four with the south. The first two verses and the last two speak of salvation, and the middle four speak of judgment. The passage begins and ends with a reference to eyes, the eyes of men ( Zechariah 9:1) and the eye of God ( Zechariah 9:8).


Verse 3-4

Tyre had trusted in physical fortifications for her defense and in stockpiles of silver and gold for her security. She had built a150-foot high wall around the city, which stood on an island just offshore following Nebuchadnezzar"s earlier unsuccessful13-year siege (cf. Isaiah 23:4; Ezekiel 29:18), and she had gained great wealth through commerce. There is wordplay (paronomasia) in the Hebrew text. Tyre (Heb. sor, rock) was a fortress (Heb. masor, stronghold, rampart). 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. [Note: For accounts of Alexander"s destruction of Tyre, see G. W. Botsford and C. A. Robinson Jeremiah , Hellenic History, pp314-20; and A. A. Trever, History of Ancient Civilization, 1:456-59.]


Verse 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. The fifth city of the Philistine pentapolis, Gath, had lost all significance by Zechariah"s time, which probably explains its omission here (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:6). 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. [Note: McComiskey, p1162.]


Verse 7

The Lord would also remove the blood that these pagans ate, which was forbidden in Israel, from their mouths. He would take the unclean, detestable food that they ate from their mouths. Drinking blood and eating unclean food was part of Philistine pagan worship (cf. Isaiah 65:4; Isaiah 66:3; Isaiah 66:17), so the judgment in view included punishment for idolatry. Some remaining Philistines would turn to the Lord and become like the Israelites in their faith in Yahweh. As the Jebusites became incorporated into Israel in David"s day (cf. 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:18), so would the Philistines in the future from Zechariah"s viewpoint.


Verse 8

The Lord promised to protect His people and land as with a band of soldiers since enemies would oppose them. "House" is probably a metonym for the whole land including its people. No enemy would oppress them ever again because the Lord had seen the plight of His people and would defend them (cf. Zechariah 4:10; Exodus 3:7; Psalm 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." [Note: Unger, p160.]

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. Zechariah later predicted the coming Roman Empire ( Zechariah 11:4-14) and the kingdom of Messiah (chs12-14).

"As history shows, the agent of the Lord"s judgment was Alexander the Great. After defeating the Persians (333 B.C.), 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." [Note: Barker, p657.]

Josephus reported that Alexander had a dream and because of it decided to spare Jerusalem. [Note: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 11:8:3-5.]

"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 Zechariah 14:16-19." [Note: Baldwin, p162.]

"One should not ... anticipate a future scenario in which God will literally march from Hadrach to Jerusalem, establishing his dominion over all opposition. What is at hand is a formulaic way of asserting an unquestionably literal establishment of YHWH"s kingship in the end times, a suzerainty to be achieved in the pattern well known to Zechariah and his fellow countrymen on the human level." [Note: Merrill, pp247-48. Cf. Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p468.]


Verse 9

The Israelites should rejoice greatly because their King was coming to them (cf. Zephaniah 3:15). The first part of this verse contains three figures of speech. Zechariah personified Zion and Jerusalem as rejoicing and shouting, he named the city in place of its inhabitants (metonymy), and he used the city to represent the whole nation (synecdoche). Israel"s King would be a just ruler who would bring salvation with Him.

"He is victorious, not in himself or anything that he personally commands, but by the grace, and in the might, of the God of Israel.... His triumph, therefore, is the triumph of the faith of the Servant of Yahweh." [Note: H. G. Mitchell, "Haggai and Zechariah ," in A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Haggai ,, Zechariah , Malachi and Jonah , p273.]

"The world"s peace depends upon a Savior and His salvation." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p165.]

The king would, therefore, be humble, not proud and boastful. Zechariah pictured this humble king riding on a gentle donkey colt (cf. Genesis 49:11; Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-15). A donkey"s colt was a purebred donkey, one born of a female donkey rather than of a mule.

"It thus qualified to be a royal mount." [Note: Baldwin, p166.]

In the ancient Near East rulers commonly rode donkeys if they came in peace ( Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; Judges 12:14; 2 Samuel 16:2; 1 Kings 1:33), but they rode horses into war. This verse gives one reason the Israelites should rejoice: the coming of the King. Alexander the Great"s coming inspired fear, but Messiah"s coming would inspire joy.


Verse 9-10

The advent of Zion"s King9:9-10

"This text is one of the most messianically significant passages of all the Bible, 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 ( Matthew 25:5; 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." [Note: Merrill, pp249-50. For further explanation of the Jewish view, see Joseph Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel, pp203-40.]

"We have pictured for us: (1) the Agent of peace, (2) the method of peace, and (3) the kingdom of peace." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p163.]


Verse 10

"The entire age of the church fits between Zechariah 9:9-10, just as it does between Isaiah 9:6-7 and after the comma in Isaiah 61:2." [Note: Wiersbe, p467.]

This verse gives a second reason for rejoicing: the establishment of the King"s kingdom. The Gospel writers believed Jesus was the coming King, but they said He fulfilled only Zechariah 9:9, not Zechariah 9:10, during His past earthly ministry ( Matthew 21:5; John 12:15; cf. Revelation 19:11-16). The Lord would end war in Israel and would establish peace in the world with His sovereign proclamation (cf. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:5-7; Isaiah 11:1-10; Micah 5:10-15). Note the worldwide extent of Messiah"s kingdom predicted here.

"The chariot, the war-horse, and the battle bow represent the whole arsenal used in ancient warfare; so the passage implies the destruction of this whole arsenal." [Note: Barker, p663.]

Yahweh would rule through this King over Israel, and His dominion would be worldwide, from the Euphrates River in the East to the ends of the earth (a merism; cf. Psalm 72:8-11; Isaiah 66:18). In both of these verses, Messiah contrasts with Alexander the Great, the king who initially fulfilled Zechariah 9:1-8.

"One clue to the anticipation of a twofold event-a Palm Sunday as well as eschatological procession-lies in the clear difference in tone or emphasis between Zechariah 9:9 and Zechariah 9:10. In Zechariah 9:9 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 Zechariah 9:10 is that triumph translated into universal dominion. The lowly one of Zechariah 9:9, though victorious in some sense, does not achieve the fruits of that victory until Zechariah 9:10.

"Admittedly, exegesis of the passage apart from NT considerations would never uncover the distinction just suggested between the verses." [Note: Merrill, p250.]

This ambiguity resulted in some pre-Christian sects of Judaism, including the Qumran community, expecting two Messiahs. [Note: See Klausner, p394.]


Verse 11

As for the Israelites (Zion), 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 ( Genesis 37:24; Jeremiah 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." [Note: Merrill, p258.]

Blood sacrifices ratified the Abrahamic Covenant ( Genesis 15:9-11) and the Mosaic Covenant ( Exodus 24:3-8; Exodus 29:38-46; cf. Mark 14:24).


Verses 11-17

The deliverance and blessing of Zion"s people9:11-17

Before Messiah can reign in peace, He must destroy all enemies and deliver and restore His people (cf. Psalm 110).


Verse 12

The Lord called these former Israelite prisoners of the nations who were now free to return to their Stronghold, namely, Himself (cf. Psalm 18:2; Psalm 31:3; Psalm 71:3; Psalm 91:2; Psalm 144:2; Jeremiah 16:19; Nahum 1:7). He Himself promised to restore to them double of what He had allowed their enemy to take from them (cf. Job 42:10). A double restoration of joy pictures a complete restoration (by metonymy; cf. Job 42:12-13; Isaiah 40:2; Isaiah 51:19; Isaiah 61:7).


Verse 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 (cf. Exodus 24:9-10; Exodus 24:15; Exodus 24:18). This verse saw initial, partial fulfillment when the Jews overthrew the Greeks during the Maccabean revolts in the second century B.C. But final, complete fulfillment awaits Messiah"s second coming. [Note: See H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Minor Prophets, p394.]


Verse 15-16

The Lord would defend Israel and would cause His people to be victorious over their enemies. The death of these enemies would be a sacrifice to Him. However, the Israelites would experience deliverance and victory, like a flock of sheep protected by their Shepherd. They would be precious and beautiful in the Lord"s land, as jewels in a crown as they circled Jerusalem"s hills. They would trample on the sling stones ( Zechariah 9:15) used in warfare and would become precious stones in the King"s crown ( Zechariah 9:16).


Verse 17

The Israelites would be very attractive then. They would all enjoy plenty of the best food and drink; they would prosper having an abundance of all that human beings need.

An amillennial view that illustrates spiritual, as contrasted with literal, interpretation follows.

"The citizens of Christ"s kingdom as well as God"s ancient people are a landed people. Hebrews 3 , 5 make this clear, affirming the believer"s landedness in the gospel-"at-homeness in Christ." Today, the fruit of the land that causes its citizens to flourish is the fruit of salvation." [Note: McComiskey, p1174.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 9:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/zechariah-9.html. 2012.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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