Syria, Tyre and Philistia to Fall Under Judgment
Beginning with this chapter the book of Zechariah has a distinctly different character. No dates are mentioned as in the first section of the book (chapters 1 to 8), and no more visions are found. Zechariah 9:1 gives the emphasis of all the remaining chapters, "the burden of the Word of the Lord." The word burden has the thought of a weight heavy to bear, for God is bringing His displeasure to bear on mankind, and He intends people to feel it.
The land of Hadrach is mentioned first, though it is the only occurrence of this name in Scripture. Hadrach was a city near Damascus, the capital of Syria. The land of Hadrach was to come under God's displeasure, but Damascus was the place on which it was to rest. The best translation of the last part of verse 1 is found in JND's version: "For Jehovah hath an eye upon men, and upon all the tribes of Israel." "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). When judgment must fall, those eyes will be "like a flame of fire" (Revelation 1:14). They scrutinize and discern everything as it is. This judgment against Damascus and the land adjoining it was carried out in measure not too long after the prophecy, when Alexander the Great invaded and conquered the land, but there is a longer range, yet future fulfillment. Syria, at the time of the end, will have an active part in the invasion by the King of the North into Israel, and will suffer God's judgment for this. The King of the North is also called "the King of Assyria" (Daniel 11:40; Isaiah 8:7-8). The Assyrian empire included Syria, Iraq and other surrounding nations. Hamath also (v. 2), a district bordering on Damascus, will suffer a like judgment. It was "at Riblah in the land of Hamath" that a large number of officials of Judah were executed by Nebuzaradan, captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard, when he took them captive from Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18-21). This cold blooded murder would be still in the memory of the people, and surely also in God's memory. "Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise," will not escape the judgment of God. These cities were in Phoenicia (present day Lebanon) south of Hamath. Tyre was famous for having built a stronghold that the nations were unable to conquer, not even Nebuchadnezzar who had besieged it for many years. This verse refers to what is called the new Tyre, built on an island and highly fortified, having a surrounding wall 150 feet or 46 meters high.
God observed Tyre, not only as building a secure stronghold, but making herself wealthy. In Joshua 19:29 she is called "the fortified city of Tyre," and in Isaiah 23:1-18 both Tyre and Sidon are seen as centers of trade and commerce (specially verse 8).
"Behold, the Lord will cast her out; He will destroy her power in the sea, and she will be devoured by fire" (v. 4). This devastating judgment was later carried out on Tyre by Alexander the Great. His armies besieged the city for seven months before finally taking it and massacring ten thousand inhabitants. However secure or wealthy people make themselves, God will break it down to nothing. There is no true security and no true wealth except in a genuine, dependent faith in the living God. Though these cities have in measure been built up again today, the future judgments of the tribulation will completely fulfill the prophecy of their destruction.
Somewhat further south, the land of the Philistines is next considered. Four of its chief cities are mentioned (Gath being omitted). "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" (v. 5). "A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines" (v. 6). There have been partial fulfillments of these judgments too, but the complete fulfillment will be at the time of the end. The evils that descend on these cities will serve to cut off Philistine pride. When God does this, He also says He will take away the blood from his mouth (v. 7). The word his intimates that the Philistines are looked at as one person. It is the blood of his idolatrous sacrifices that is taken from his mouth. No longer will his mouth speak falsely. "Abominations" is another word for idols, and the Philistines will be no longer ingesting the evil teachings of idolatry. So there is good accomplished by God's judgments. There will be a remnant of the Philistines who will be "for our God" and will be leaders in Judah, "and Ekron as a Jebusite." At least some of the Jebusites (previous inhabitants of Jerusalem) were incorporated into Israel (2 Samuel 24:18-25). "Araunah the Jebusite" was one who wanted to give his property to David so that David could use it in sacrifice to God.
God would also camp about His house because of the army (v. 8). His house is the literal temple in Jerusalem, which He would protect by His sovereign power when the oppressing army invades the land. This was partially fulfilled when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, intending to destroy it. But, instead of fortifying the city to fight against him, the Jews (according to Josephus) prayed earnestly to God, then the high priest led a procession of robed priests out of the city to meet Alexander. He was so impressed by this action that he not only spared the city, but showed the Jews many favours. This most interesting history is found in "The Antiquities of the Jews," Book XI, the latter part of Zechariah 8:1-23.
However, this verse has never been completely fulfilled, for it is added, "no oppressor shall pass through them any more." The army of the King of the North at the time of the end shall "overwhelm them and pass through" (Daniel 11:40). Only when this last oppressor has been judged will the prophecy receive its final fulfillment. Meanwhile, the Lord knows how to encamp around the site of the temple and to preserve His own interests among His people. "For," He says, "now I have seen with my eyes" (v. 8). The same eyes of which verse 1 speaks have taken full cognizance of all that concerns Israel, including the opposition of its oppressors, and Israel may rest in the knowledge that the Lord sees all. This is a precious rest too for every believer today.
ISRAEL'S MESSIAH ANNOUNCED
Verse 9 is unique in its beauty, standing alone in contrast to all that has gone before and that which follows. It announces the first coming of the Lord Jesus, being presented to Israel in lowly humility and grace. "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." The daughter speaks of the godly remnant of Israel who have purified themselves from the general corruption of the land, being purified by faith in the Messiah of Israel. Zion being mentioned reminds us that the true blessing of this remnant awaits the sunshine of the glory of the Millennium, for Zion means sunny. Zion is also called the daughter of Jerusalem, for the two names are necessary to give adequate testimony to the character of the city. Jerusalem means the foundation of peace, for peace must have a righteous foundation.
"Behold your King is coming." Though this was announced by Zechariah many years before the actual coming of the Lord Jesus into the world, yet Israel was not ready to receive Him when He came. He fulfilled the prophecy to the letter: "He is just." His character on earth was beyond the slightest question. Even His enemies bore witness, "Teacher, we know that You are true (Matthew 22:16). Far more than this, thank God, He gave himself in sacrifice for our sins to accomplish eternal salvation for mankind, though this was not understood at the time of His death.
Though justice is to be expected of a king, it is added that He is "lowly," which is not a what people would expect in a king - a character indeed that was not appreciated by Israel when the blessed Lord Jesus was manifested on earth. Therefore they despised Him in spite of their own scriptures foretelling that this would be true of their Messiah. He would come to Jerusalem riding a colt of a donkey. There is no record of any king of Israel riding a donkey, for the donkey is the symbol of lowliness. Normally a king would ride a horse, the symbol of strength and conquest, as will be true of the Lord Jesus when He comes forth in majestic power as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:11-16) in a future day. But when He was presented to Israel riding a donkey (Luke 19:25-40), He was not recognized by His own people in spite of this striking prophecy, and was openly resisted by the Pharisees (v. 39).
Another significant fact here is that it was the colt of a donkey. He rode a young animal, unbroken, as Luke 19:30 proves. In spite of never having been ridden before, it was fully submissive to the Lord Jesus. Israel ought to have learned from this, that they too should submit to the authority of the lowly Son of Man.
Verse 9 goes far beyond verse 8. There has now been an intervening length of time approaching 2000 years, for the dominion of the King of kings has not yet been established "from sea to sea." God will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem. Ephraim headed the ten tribes as separated from Judah and Benjamin, and of course Jerusalem was the center of Judah's worship. Jehu, king over the ten tribes, was a fit man to display the power of the chariot in ruthless warfare (2 Kings 9:20). In Jerusalem Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses and 12,000 horsemen. He also had chariots, but his horses, specially those brought from Egypt, are emphasized (2 Chronicles 1:16). The battle bow shall be cut off. How wonderful will be the day when armaments are no more!
"He shall speak peace to the nations." This is the King of verse 9. When His voice speaks, it will be as He spoke to the raging sea, "Peace, be still" (Mark 4:39), and immediately there was a great calm. His dominion will be "from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." Though He speaks peace to the Gentile nations, yet His dominion in the following words is seen to be specially over Israel. "From sea to sea" speaks of the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, and the river is the Euphrates, bordering the northeast. To the ends of the earth would intimate what God said to Abraham, as far as the Nile, the river of Egypt (Genesis 15:18). This defines the extent of Israel's borders in the age to come, the Millennium.
It may be that verse 11 is addressed to the daughter of Zion (v. 9), unless God is addressing the King. "Because of the blood of your covenant" refers to the new covenant confirmed to Israel by the blood of Christ shed on Calvary. Jeremiah 31:31-34 is a prophecy of that covenant, and in Matthew 26:27-28 the Lord Jesus affirms the truth of "the blood of the new covenant" as connected with His own imminent death. That covenant made with Israel will become effective for them only when they recognize Christ as their Messiah, so this prophecy of Zechariah refers to that day when "you prisoners of hope" (the many Jews who have been in Gentile bondage) will be sent forth out of the pit wherein is no water. After years of such bondage, deprived of the refreshing water of the Word of God, what a relief this will be to the distressed remnant of Israel!
The prisoners of hope are therefore urged to return again to the stronghold (v. 12). They are not to think of themselves as prisoners hopeless in their captivity, but having reason for hope because of the promise of God. But that promise is vitally connected with "the stronghold," the promised Messiah of Israel. They need Him! In fact a further promise is given them: "Even today I declare that I will restore double to you." This reminds us of Job, who, after he had passed through his dreadful affliction, was given double the wealth he had previously (Job 42:10). God's thoughts toward us are always of grace, though He may allow trials that sometimes seem unbearable. For believers the end will be marvelously wonderful. Verse 13 speaks of Judah and Ephraim both being weapons in God's hand, so this looks on to the time of the end when the tribes are united again, and Greece, though it had not yet risen, will be fully defeated after all of its oppression of Israel, as will all other Gentile oppressors.
"Then the Lord will be seen over them" (v. 14). He will visibly take His place as Commander of His armies, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. Judgment will be swift and decisive. The Lord God blowing the trumpet speaks of His declared testimony against evil that will be heard by all the world. His marching with whirlwinds from the south is interesting, for the south generally speaks of favorable circumstances, but out of such circumstances there can be sudden, unexpected trouble for men. When the south wind blew softly, the sailors in Acts 27:13 supposed they had gained their purpose, but they soon encountered a violent storm. Thus, when people say, "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come upon them (1 Thessalonians 5:3), just as "whirlwinds from the south."
Verse 14 said, "the Lord will be seen over them." Now verse 15 adds, "The Lord of hosts will defend them," that is, His people Israel. This is a figurative devouring of enemies on the part of Israel, and a trampling down of any opposition of the enemy. The drinking too is a picture of their shedding the blood of their enemies and making a noise of exultation, similar to the noise of one who has been drinking. Being filled like bowls speaks of their being fully satisfied with the results of the solemn judgment of God against their enemies. "Like the corners of the altar" reminds us of the blood of the sin offering on the four horns of the altar of burnt offering (Leviticus 4:25). This speaks of a relationship with God being established on the basis of the sacrifice and bloodshedding of Christ. The destruction of enemies is not only for Israel's relief, but to make Israel realize more fully the value of Christ's sacrifice on their account. We too should realize something of this. Since God must severely punish the ungodly for their persistent rebellion against His authority, and we ourselves are to witness the dreadful judgment of God carried out in perfect righteousness at the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15), we shall be all the more impressed by, and thankful for, the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus by which we too are delivered from such judgment.
"The Lord their God will save them" (v. 16). He is seen over them (v. 14), He defends them (v. 15) and He saves them (v. 16). This will be a complete and permanent salvation, not like one of the many deliverances of Israel in their past history when they soon reverted back to a state of disobedience and self-will. They will then be a nation born of God, true to their character "as the flock of His people." The flock speaks of their character of complete dependence upon their Shepherd, as well as the unity of their being gathered, rather than as individual sheep. How little Israel has known of that unity in all their past history! And sad to say, we, the Church of God, have lacked proper apprehension of the more vital, beautiful unity established in the Church, so that we have failed in practicing it as we ought. This is not just a unity of twelve tribes, but a unity of countless numbers of individuals from every nation under heaven redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
Another symbol is added. Israel is said to be "like the jewels of a crown, lifted like a banner over His land." The crown will belong to the Lord Jesus, but the born-again children of Israel will be like jewels in that crown, glittering with the reflection of the pure light of God in His land, prepared by Him for their blessing and for His glory.
Verse 17 lifts our eyes above this great blessing for Israel, to contemplate the Blesser Himself! "For how great is His goodness and how great is His beauty!" His character of goodness is wonderful, but it draws fuller attention to the great beauty of His own person. The beauty is in Him, not in Israel, though Israel will reflect that beauty as jewels reflect the light. This is confirmed by Psalms 90:17, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." It is His beauty that David desired to behold in the house of the Lord (Psalms 27:4). But in having our eyes directed to the Lord's goodness and beauty, we will in some measure reflect this in our own character.
When Israel recognizes the goodness and beauty of the Messiah, giving Him His place of rightful prominence, the prosperity of the nation will follow. The young men will flourish through abundance of grain, the maidens through new wine. Young men, previously conscripted for military service, not able to have their own homes, will prosper as never before. The young women too, often left without hope of eventual marriage because of mortality among men who were called to war, will be supplied with the new wine, which speaks of a new-found joy in a change of their entire situation. Everywhere today the strongest dissatisfaction with circumstances is seen among young men and women who rise up in protest against the government, many also suing their employers because of this discontent. When these find genuine satisfaction, then children and old people too will have no cause for complaint. Only in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus will this satisfaction be found.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Zechariah 9". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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