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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 9

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Zechariah 9:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Israel Defended Against EnemiesThe Restoration of Israel; the Day of the Lord(Zechariah 9:1-17)Judgment on Neighboring NationsThe New Promised Land
Zechariah 9:1-8Zechariah 9:1-8Zechariah 9:1-4Zechariah 9:1-8
Zechariah 9:5-8
The Coming KingThe Prince of PeaceThe Future KingThe Royal Savior
Zechariah 9:9-10Zechariah 9:9-10Zechariah 9:9-10Zechariah 9:9-10
God Will Save His PeopleThe Ingathering of Dispersed IsraelitesThe Restoration of God's PeopleThe Restoration of Israel
Zechariah 9:11-13Zechariah 9:11-13Zechariah 9:11-13Zechariah 9:11-17
Zechariah 9:14-17Zechariah 9:14-15Zechariah 9:14-15
Zechariah 9:16-17Zechariah 9:16-17

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHT

A. This begins a new section of the book. Zechariah 9:2-3 is in a poetic format (NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB). As chapters 1- 8 are dated specifically and the author is specified (cf. Zechariah 1:1), chapters 9-14 are undated and the author's name is not mentioned. This pattern is common in the prophetic books (cf. Isaiah 1-39 and 40-66; Ezekiel 1-39 and 40-48; Daniel 1-6 and 7-12).

B. Zechariah, chapters 1-8 are quoted often in the book of the Revelation, while Zechairah, chapters 9-14 are quoted often in the Gospels. Zechariah had an important theological message which still has relevance.

C. This chapter, so it seems to me, depicts God as invading Palestine from the north in an eschatological sense. His invasion is for spiritual renewal and reunification, not only of Judah and Israel, but also the surrounding ancient enemies (Hadrach, Syria, Phoenicia, and Philistia).

D. It is possible from this passage to see YHWH coming in judgment in Zechariah 9:1, Zechariah 9:4-8. Many commentators see these verses as referring to Alexander's conquest of Syria, Phoenicia, and Philistia, but his sparing of Jerusalem in the early 330's B.C. If this is so then Zechariah 9:1 involves all men of the area watching the coming of Alexander as God's instrument of judgment.

E. In his commentary on Zechariah H. C. Leupold assumes that Zechariah 9:1-10 reflect the conquest of Alexander the Great of Palestine in the 330's B.C., while Zechariah 9:11-17 reflect the Maccabean period, 168-165 B.C. The historical setting is uncertain; possibly it is a prophetic collage of:

1. the past

2. the post-exilic present

3. the eschatological future.

F. There are dramatic theological-historical paradoxes in this chapter.

1. destruction of the surrounding nations versus their inclusion in the covenant people

2. the reference to peace in Zechariah 9:8-10 versus a great war of Zechariah 9:13-15

3. the first coming of the Messiah in Zechariah 9:9 versus the second coming of the Messiah in Zechariah 9:10.

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 9:1-10 1The burden of the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach, with Damascus as its resting place (for the eyes of men, especially of all the tribes of Israel, are toward the LORD), 2And Hamath also, which borders on it; Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. 3For Tyre built herself a fortress And piled up silver like dust, And gold like the mire of the streets. 4Behold, the LORD will dispossess her And cast her wealth into the sea; And she will be consumed with fire. 5Ashkelon will see it and be afraid. Gaza too will writhe in great pain; Also Ekron, for her expectation has been confounded. Moreover, the king will perish from Gaza, And Ashkelon will not be inhabited. 6And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod, And I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. 7And I will remove their blood from their mouth And their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, And be like a clan in Judah, And Ekron like a Jebusite. 8But I will camp around My house because of an army, Because of him who passes by and returns; And no oppressor will pass over them anymore, For now I have seen with My eyes. 9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

Zechariah 9:1

NASB, NKJV“The burden” NRSV“An Oracle” TEV“message” NJB“a proclamation”

This Hebrew term (BDB 672) is used in several senses.

1. a load or burden carried by a donkey or camel (e.g., Isaiah 46:1-2), metaphorical for people (e.g,. Numbers 11:11, Numbers 11:17; Deuteronomy 1:12)

2. Levites carrying the tabernacle (e.g., Numbers 4:15, Numbers 4:19, Numbers 4:24, Numbers 4:27, Numbers 4:49) and, in worship, possibly Levitical singers lifting their voices

3. a prophetic utterance (e.g., Isaiah 14:28; Jeremiah 23:33, Jeremiah 23:34, Jeremiah 23:38; Ezekiel 12:10; Zechariah 9:2; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1)

Zechariah had a message from God he had to deliver. There was a sense of urgency.

“against” This is one of the meanings of this Hebrew PREPOSITION (BDB II 89, e.g., Genesis 16:12; 1 Samuel 3:9). The negative connotation to Zechariah 9:1-2 is supported by Zechariah 9:3-7. However, it is not the most common usage and probably if this was the author's intent, another Hebrew PREPOSITION would have been used (cf. USB, Handbook, pp. 229-230). Zechairah Zechariah 9:1-2 seem very positive. YHWH's message was not only to Judah, but also to the surrounding nations. It was a message of hope and forgiveness (cf. Zechariah 9:2, Zechariah 9:10).

“Hadrach” Zechairah Zechariah 9:1-4 deals with the northernmost geographical areas of the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 34:1-12). This chapter depicts a spiritual invasion by YHWH beginning in the north and moving south. This first term, Hadrach, appears only here in the OT. It referred to: (1) a district near Damascus or (2) a city in North Syria mentioned in the Assyrian documents.

“Damascus” This was the capital of Syria, Israel's traditional northern enemy (cf. Jeremiah 49:23-27).

“as its resting place” This Hebrew term (BDB 629) could mean that (1) YHWH's word is focused on His people's enemies or (2) YHWH's word was resting or abiding in Damascus.

The term does not have a negative connotation (e.g., 2 Samuel 14:17; Isaiah 32:18). It is even used of God's resting place in 2 Chronicles 6:41 and Psalms 132:8. It is also used in connection with the nations coming to YHWH in Isaiah 11:10.

NASB, NKJV, NIV“for the eyes of men” NRSV, REB“the capital of Aram” TEV“the capital of Syria” NJB“for the source of Aram” NAB“for the cities of Aram” JPSOA“for all men's eyes”

This phrase is literally “the eye of man” (“Adam,” BDB 9). The focus and attention of (1) all human creation will be on the covenant-making God, as well as His covenant people (cf. Zechariah 8:20-23); (2) YHWH's care and desire for all humans to know Him and serve Him (cf. Zechariah 9:10); or (3) the inhabitants of the Ancient Near East, especially Palestine, are on Alexander the Great's conquest, as he was an instrument in the hand of God (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 657-658).

The NRSV and TEV translations require textual changes to arrive at their wording (Adam to Aram with the addition of “the capital of”).

Zechariah 9:2 The NKJV adds the word “against” from Zechariah 9:1 here (twice) assuming the context refers to punishment, but TEV links this verse with the phrase “belong to the Lord” (cf. NJB, Zechariah 9:1) and thereby turns it into an affirmation of YHWH's love for the nations. The context, especially Zechariah 9:4, favors NKJV's understanding.

“Hamath” This is a city in the northern part of the Promised Land, which is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:28. It is often depicted as the northern-most limit of God's geographical covenant with Abraham (cf. Numbers 13:21; Numbers 34:1-12; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3).

“Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise” This refers to the Phoenician coastal cities mentioned in Ezekiel 28:3-5, Ezekiel 28:7 as being proverbially wise. However, judgment came on them because of their pride (cf. Ezekiel 28:2, Ezekiel 28:5-6) and arrogance (cf. Ezekiel 28:2, Ezekiel 28:6, Ezekiel 28:9).

Now, the contextual question returns, is this context positive (the nations turn to YHWH) or negative (YHWH judges the nations)? The Hebrew CONJUNCTION (BDB 453-455) in Zechariah 9:2b has many possible meanings. The TEV has “with”; REB has “for,” not “though.” Phoenicia was the source of artisans who designed and built Solomon's temple (cf. 1 Kings 7:13-14; 2 Chronicles 2:0). This could be the intent of the phrase “they are very wise.”

When we look at the following context the same paradox of blessing and cursing repeats itself. It is obvious that Zechariah 9:3-6 are negative, but look at Zechariah 9:7-10!

Zechariah 9:3 “Tyre. . .fortress” There is a play on the Hebrew word for “Tyre,” which is sor (BDB 862), and the Hebrew word for fortress, masor (“rampart” or “siege work” BDB 848). There was an old city of Tyre and a new Tyre. New Tyre was an island fortress about a half-mile off the coast, with walls over 150 feet high. It was besieged by several Assyrian kings and finally fell to Shelmanezzar V after a five-year siege. It was besieged by Nebuchadnezzar II, but after thirteen years without it falling, Ezekiel 29:18, implies that he gave up. It fell to Alexander the Great in 322 B.C. in a seven-month siege. Many commentators speculate that this chapter reflects Alexander the Great's conquest of Palestine in the 330's B.C. as he moved toward Egypt because:

1. he destroyed the old Tyre and used the rubble to build a causeway to the island fortress (cf. Zechariah 9:4b)

2. he destroyed the island fortress with fire (cf. Zechariah 9:4c).

“And piled up silver like dust and gold like the mire of the streets” These are metaphors reflecting the commercial power of the city of Tyre from their extensive maritime activities (cf. Isaiah 23:0; Ezekiel 27:0).

Zechariah 9:4

NASB“the LORD will dispossess her” NKJV“the LORD will cast her out” NRSV“the LORD will strip it of its possessions” TEV“the Lord will take away everything she has” NJB“the Lord is going to dispossess her”

There is irony here. The Hebrew term (BDB 439, KB 441) means to inherit, but in certain contexts in the Hiphil form can mean dispossess or disinherit (e.g., Numbers 14:12). YHWH wants to include the nations into His family and give them an inheritance, but they must turn from idolatry and materialism and trust in Him.

Also notice that NASB, NKJV and NRSV have “LORD” in all capitals which denotes YHWH, but the term here is Adon, as in TEV and NJB.

NASB“cast her wealth into the sea” NKJV“will destroy her power in the sea” NRSV“hurl its wealth into the sea” TEV“will throw her wealth into the sea” NJB“at sea he will break her power” NET“shove her fortifications into the sea”

The question is over the OBJECT of the VERB.

1. wealth (BDB 298 #3, cf. Zechariah 14:14)

2. power (BDB 298 #1)

3. fortifications

The NET Bible (p. 1672) asserts that the form can reflect the word “fortress” and that the chiastic structure supports this root. Alexander the Great used the rubble of the old city of Tyre to reach the island fortress and then threw (BDB 645, KB 697, Hiplil PERFECT, “hurl”) its walls into the ocean (332 B.C.).

However, as the UBS Handbook notes (p. 234) the Hebrew term can refer to sea power (cf. NKJV, NAB, REB, NIV). Sea power was the source of Phoenicia's wealth and power.

“she will be consumed with fire” This VERB (BDB 37, Niphal IMPERFECT) means “devoured.” This was predicted in Amos 1:9-10 (cf. Isaiah 23:0; Ezekiel 26:0) and fulfilled by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.

Zechariah 9:5 “Askelon. . .Gaza. . .Ekron. . .Ashdod” These are four of the five city states of the Philistines in the Promised Land (Gath was earlier destroyed by the Assyrians). The Philistines invaded Egypt around the 1200's, but were defeated and then settled in the southern coastal areas of Palestine. They were apparently of the same racial stock as the Phoenicians, possibly from Cypress or the Aegean Islands. They are the only uncircumcized people in Canaan and were traditional enemies of the people of God (cf. Judges, 1 Samuel). Because of Zechariah 9:5-7b, although they are going to be judged, they are also going to be included in the covenant people (cf. Zechariah 9:7c-d). What a surprising message of grace!

NASB, NRSV“will see it and be afraid” NKJV“shall see it and fear” TEV“will see this and be afraid” NJB“seeing this. . .will be terrified”

The NASB has “it” italicized, which means that the word does not appear in the Hebrew text. From the immediate context, “it” must refer to the siege and utter destruction of the powerful city of Tyre.

Zechariah 9:5 may be an allusion to the prophecy of destruction in Amos 1:6-8 (esp. Zechariah 9:8).

“will writhe in great pain” This Hebrew term (BDB 296, KB 297, Qal IMPERFECT) is used of childbirth (e.g., Isaiah 26:12; Isaiah 45:10) and became an idiom for judgment (cf. Isaiah 13:8; Jeremiah 30:7; Micah 4:9-10; Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8; Acts 2:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). This fear and pain was brought on by the destruction of Tyre, Philistia's northern ally. With Phoenicia conquered by Greece, Philistia was next!

“Ekron” We learn from Joshua 15:45-47, that Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza were considered to be in the tribal allocation of Judah and were its traditional enemy!

NASB“her expectation has been confounded” NKJV“He dried up her expectation” NRSV“its hopes are withered” TEV“her hopes will be shattered” NJB“at the ruin of her prospects” JPSOA“at the collapse of her hopes”

There is confusion of whether this Hiphil VERB is “be ashamed” (BDB 101, KB 116, cf. Zechariah 10:5) or “be dried up” (BDB 386). The second one is found in Zechariah 10:11 (Hiphil) and Zechariah 11:17 (Qal). However, Joel, which I think is early post-exilic, also has four places where these same two roots are confused (Joel 1:10, Joel 1:12[twice] and 17).

If “be ashamed” is adopted then the idiom reflects defeat in battle (cf. Zechariah 10:5; 2 Kings 19:26; Isaiah 37:27; Isaiah 41:11; Jeremiah 46:24; Jeremiah 48:20; Jeremiah 50:11-16; Jeremiah 51:45-58; Ezekiel 32:30; Micah 7:16), which fits this context.

Zechariah 9:6 “a mongrel race” This seems to refer to the Assyrian exile of the Jewish people from Israel (722 B.C.) and the import of pagan people from Media; therefore, this area was populated by people of mixed national origins. The rabbis later use this term (BDB 561, an Aramaic word for incest) to describe a child of the union between a Jew and a pagan (cf. Deuteronomy 23:2-3) or to a child born of rape or incest.

“I will cut off the pride of the Philistines” In this VERB (BDB 503, KB 500, Hiphil PERFECT) there is a change from the THIRD PERSON to the FIRST PERSON. This is common in prophecy as God begins to speak for Himself through the prophet.

As YHWH overthrew Phoenicia (Tyre and Sidon) because of their pride (cf. Zechariah 9:2-4; Isaiah 23:0; Ezekiel 27-28), so too, Philistia and also Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 32:12) and Assyria (cf. Zechariah 10:11).

Zechariah 9:7 “I will remove their blood from their mouth” This may mean that the Philistines will keep the Jewish food laws (cf. Leviticus 11:0; Leviticus 17:10-16; Deuteronomy 14:0) and, thereby be God's people. Even God's people were accused of eating forbidden, bloody meat (cf. Ezekiel 33:25), which violated the Levitical laws. They were destroyed (cf. Ezekiel 33:27-28), but these uncircumcized pagans will be saved.

“then they also will be a remnant for our God” The concept of “remnant” (BDB 983) is a very important historical and theological concept. The multiple uses can be seen in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 4, p. 15.

1. those who survived a divine catastrophe (e.g., Philistines, cf. Amos 1:8; Jeremiah 47:4 and Jews, cf. Isaiah 37:4, Isaiah 37:31-32; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 42:2; Jeremiah 25:20)

2. those who remain faithful and obedient to YHWH (e.g., Isaiah 10:20-22; Amos 5:15; Micah 5:3, Micah 5:7, Micah 5:8)

3. those who form the eschatological people of God (e.g., Amos 9:12; Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 31:7; Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:16)

This is a very strong statement for the inclusion of these hated Philistine enemies. Some see this prophecy fulfilled in the ministry of Philip in Acts 8:26-40.

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB“And be like a clan in Judah” NKJV“shall be like a leader of Judah”

The Hebrew term (BDB 48-49) is literally “thousands.” It is used in several senses.

1. literally (e.g., Genesis 20:16; Exodus 32:28)

2. family units or leaders (e.g., Joshua 22:14; Judges 6:15; 1 Samuel 23:0; Zechariah 9:7)

3. military units or leaders (e.g., Exodus 18:21, Exodus 18:25; Deuteronomy 1:15)

4. symbolically (e.g., Genesis 24:60; Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7; Deuteronomy 7:9; Jeremiah 32:18)

The difference between NKJV and the others is over vocalization. The ancient versions (Septuagint and Vulgate) translated it as “leader,” but most modern English translations have “clan” (cf. Zechariah 12:5-6). The contextual issue is not leadership, but covenant inclusion. This inclusion is all the more shocking when the traditional area enemy of Judah becomes part of Judah!

“Ekron like a Jebusite” The Jebusites were the original Canaanite inhabitants of the city of Jebus, also called Salem (cf. Genesis 14:0), and later called Jerusalem. When David finally defeated their stronghold (cf. 2 Samuel 5:6-10; Zechariah 9:1 Chr. 11:45-49) he did not relegate them to the sword, but allowed them to live (cf. Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:21; 1 Kings 9:20-21). This Philistine city is now included into the very heart of Judah Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9:8 “But I will camp around My house” The VERB (BDB 333, KB 332) is a Qal PERFECT. This may be an allusion to Zechariah 2:5 (cf. Psalms 34:7-8), which speaks of God's protecting His people (cf. Isaiah 60:15-22) in a military sense. The Promised Land had been invaded again and again because of its strategic location, but there will come a day when God will personally indwell and protect the Promised Land.

NASB“because of an army” NKJV“because of the army” NRSV“as a guard” TEV“I will guard my land and keep armies from passing through it” NJB“to defend it against all comers”

The BDB Lexicon (663) speculates that this form, which is found only here, is from one of two roots, “to stand guard” or “to garrison” (BDB 662, cf. NRSV and TEV). However, it also mentions that the MT notes suggest that it may come from another term, “because of a host” or “because of an army” (NASB, NKJV).

“For now I have seen with My eyes” There will be no more invasions of the Promised Land because of God's personal presence and power (cf. Deuteronomy 11:12). This idiom of God's all-knowing presence possibly refers to Zechariah 4:10.

Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly” This (BDB 162, KB 189, plus ADVERB 547) is a Qal IMPERATIVE (cf. Zechariah 2:10; Zephaniah 3:14, Zephaniah 3:15). This is a shout of joy over the military conquest by YHWH's Messiah. This rejoicing includes both Jews and Gentiles (cf. Zechariah 2:10-13). This inclusion is so surprising and unexpected (cf. Zephaniah 3:14-20).

“O daughter of Zion” This idiomatic phrase (see notes at Amos 5:2 and Jeremiah 46:11) is often used in judgment passages, but here is an allusion to the love that God has for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

“Shout in triumph This (BDB 929, KB 1206) is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE. This phrase is parallel to “rejoice greatly.”

“Behold, your king is coming to you” The VERB (BDB 97, KB 112) is a Qal IMPERFECT. This is one of many quotes from this section of Zechariah. It is used in the Gospels for Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). For the concept of God and the Messiah as King see 1 Samuel 8:7; 1 Samuel 12:12. See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God.

NASB“He is just and endowed with salvation” NKJV“He is just and having salvation” NRSV“triumphant and victorious is he” TEV“He comes triumphant and victorious” NJB“he is vindicated and victorious”

This first term “just” or “righteous” (BDB 841-843) seems to be used in several passages in the prophets to describe the ethical reign of the Messiah (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 32:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6). The Messiah is called “the Righteous One” in the Suffering Servant song of Isaiah 53:11. He is qualified to reign by lineage and actions.

The term “salvation” (BDB 446, KB 448) is a Niphal PARTICIPLE used in the sense of someone who is made victorious or someone who is delivered. Both of these terms are used together in Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:4, Isaiah 51:5. See Special Topic: Salvation (OT Term).

“Humble” This word (BDB 776) is used in several ways in Zechariah: (1) in the sense of “afflicted” (cf. Zechariah 11:7, Zechariah 11:11; Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 51:21; Isaiah 54:11) or “poor” (cf. Zechariah 7:10; Isaiah 3:14-15; Isaiah 10:30; Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 32:7; Isaiah 41:17; Isaiah 58:7; Isaiah 61:1). “Afflicted” describes the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:0, although Zechariah 9:2 and 3 use a different term. Isaiah 53:7 uses the same root (BDB 776 III) or (2) here it is the sense of “lowly” or “meek” (e.g., Proverbs 16:19).

“and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt the foal of a donkey” Donkeys were the royal mount of Israeli kings (cf. 2 Samuel 13:29; 2 Samuel 16:2; 2 Samuel 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33-34, 1 Kings 1:38, 1 Kings 1:44). They were a symbol of royalty, however, the colt of a donkey was used because only the king could ride on this donkey. Therefore, this would be the first time the colt had been ridden. This entire verse reflects Genesis 49:8-12, which is a prophecy about the tribe of Judah, but is also a description of the coming Messiah. He will be (1) of the royal line of Judah (cf. 2 Samuel 7:0); (2) humble; and (3) a suffering servant (cf. Isaiah 53:0).

Zechariah 9:10 “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim” Zechariah 9:9 speaks of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while Zechariah 9:10 describes the Second Coming. Also notice YHWH speaks (cf. Zechariah 9:6, Zechariah 9:8) in Zechariah 9:10a-c, but the Messiah is spoken of in Zechariah 9:10d-f.

“And he will speak peace to the nations” This latter part of Zechariah 9:10 seems to reflect Psalms 72:8-11, where the peace of Palestine is used in a universal sense of the reign of the Messiah (see Special Topic: Messiah). However, it is significant that the Messiah will speak peace to all the nations as well as the Jews (e.g., Zechariah 8:20-23; Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3; Micah 5:4). This surprising, yet prophesied inclusion (cf. Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:16; Exodus 19:5), is the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, which relates to all humanity, not only the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

The last two poetic lines of Zechariah 9:10 are parallel in the ideal limits of the Promised Land (cf. Exodus 23:31; Numbers 34:1-12; 1 Kings 4:21). “The River” refers to the head waters of the Euphrates.

Verses 11-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 9:11-17 11As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you. 13For I will bend Judah as My bow, I will fill the bow with Ephraim. And I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece; And I will make you like a warrior's sword. 14Then the LORD will appear over them, And His arrow will go forth like lightning; And the Lord GOD will blow the trumpet, And will march in the storm winds of the south. 15The LORD of hosts will defend them. And they will devour and trample on the sling stones; And they will drink and be boisterous as with wine; And they will be filled like a sacrificial basin, Drenched like the corners of the altar. 16And the LORD their God will save them in that day As the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land. 17For what comeliness and beauty will be theirs! Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine the virgins.

Zechariah 9:11 “the blood of My covenant” This is a CONSTRUCT of BDB 196 and 136. This can either refer to the original covenant of God with Abraham mentioned in Genesis 15:9-11 or to the Mosaic covenant in Exodus 24:8. This phrase is also used by Jesus in the Upper Room in Mark 14:24. See Special Topic: COVENANT.

“I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit” The VERB (BDB 1018, KB 1511) is a Piel PERFECT. Apparently this is a metaphor describing the returning Jewish exiles (cf. Isaiah 24:22; Isaiah 51:14).

Zechariah 9:12 “Return” This is a Qal IMPERATIVE. Zechariah 9:11 and 12 both are encouragement to the returning remnant (cf. Ezra and Nehemiah). Very few of the Jews in exile ever returned to Palestine.

This term (BDB 996, KB 1427), however, is often used for repentance (cf. Zechariah 1:3, Zechariah 1:4). God's people must return to Him, not just to a geographical location or even to an ancient promise. Biblical faith is personal. See Special Topic: Repentance in the Old Testament.

NASB, NKJV“the stronghold” NRSV“your stronghold” TEV“your place of safety” NJB“the fortress” JPSOA“Bizzaron”

This term (BDB 131) is found only here in the OT. Its basic root means

1. “is cut off” (used of grapes)

2. “inaccessible” (used most often for fortifications, e.g., Zephaniah 1:16)

3. “fortress by enclosure” (cf. Isaiah 22:10)

The TEV takes it as a metaphor for God's care and protection in the Promised Land (cf. Jeremiah 16:19; Joel 3:16). The JPSOA, in its footnote, thinks it is a nickname (“fortress”) for Samaria, the northern capital of Israel destroyed in 722 by Assyria.

NASB“prisoners who have the hope” NKJV“you prisoners of hope” NRSV“O prisoners of hope” TEV“you exiles who now have hope” NJB“you prisoners waiting in hope”

The hope is in the covenant-making (cf. Zechariah 9:11), promise-keeping, deliverance-giving God. This phrase is given either to encourage those who have returned or to motivate others to return (NJB).

“I will restore double to you” The VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427) is a Hiphil IMPERFECT. This is an idiom for something that is complete and full. It can relate to YHWH's judgment (cf. Isaiah 40:2; Jeremiah 16:18) or YHWH's promise of restoration (cf. Isaiah 61:7). YHWH is just and acts according to His word.

Zechariah 9:13 “I will bend Judah as My bow” This chapter is filled with paradoxes! The coming Messianic peace is mentioned in Zechariah 9:8-11 and yet Zechariah 9:13 speaks again of war (BDB 201, KB 231 Qal PERFECT). Possibly this verse shows the promise of Zechariah 9:8!

As Zechariah 9:10 mentioned “Ephraim” and “Jerusalem,” which denotes Israel and Judah, so too, Zechariah 9:13a,b. The divided kingdom will be reunited! As a bow and arrow are used as one instrument, so too, God's reunited people (cf. Zechariah 10:0:4d).

“'I will stir'“ The term (BDB 734 I, KB 802, Polel PERFECT) is used several times in Zechariah.

1. YHWH is aroused from His holy habitation, Zechariah 2:13

2. the interpreting angel wakes the prophet, Zechariah 4:1 (twice)

3. YHWH arouses the inhabitants of Zion against the Greeks, Zechariah 9:13

4. YHWH arouses His sword against His own Shepherd, Zechariah 13:7

Two other prophets use this same term in connection with Greece, Daniel 11:2 and Joel 3:6. Isaiah uses this term often in connection with God directing the history of His people (e.g., “the Medes,” Isaiah 13:17; “one from the east,” Isaiah 41:2; “one from the north,” Isaiah 41:25; “Cyrus,” Isaiah 45:13; “Jerusalem and Zion,” Isaiah 51:0; Isaiah 52:0). Isaiah's use of this term in chapters 51 and 52 may parallel Zechariah 9:13d, “I will make you like a warrior's sword.” It is God's strength and purpose, but He chooses to use human instrumentality.

“'O Zion, against your sons, O Greece'“ The term here for Greece is Jawan or Javan, which was used originally in the OT for a descendant of Japheth (cf. Genesis 10:2, Genesis 10:4; Isaiah 66:19), while in Isaiah 66:19 it is used for a nation. In the books of Daniel and Joel, it is used to designate Greece (cf. Daniel 8:21; Daniel 10:20; Joel 3:6). I agree with Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, that it is used in its Genesis 10:0 sense of a distant people on the fringe of civilization, which is how it is used in this eschatological context (cf. p. 169).

Zechariah 9:14 “Then the LORD will appear over them” The VERB (BDB 906, KB 1157) is a Niphal IMPERFECT. This may be an allusion to the promise of protection in Zechariah 2:5 (cf. Zechariah 9:8a). It also may be an allusion to Isaiah 31:5, where God is a protecting bird of prey (cf. Exodus 19:4b) or a mother bird hovering overhead (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 91:4). The third possibility is borrowing the imagery of Assyria where their god fluttered over his troops in battle.

Zechariah 9:14-17 are the hyperbolic language of theophany. The phrases are reminiscent of other prophetic texts. They are patterned, standard idioms (see Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, D. Brent Sandy).

“His arrows will go forth like lightning” Lightning and arrows are often used metaphorically of YHWH's fighting on behalf of His people (cf. Psalms 18:14; Psalms 144:6; Habakkuk 3:11). The concept of YHWH's arrows being like lightning is found in Psalms 7:12-13, where it may refer to arrows set on fire to incinerate wooden defenses.

“the Lord GOD” This is the combination of the Hebrew term YHWH (BDB 217) and adon (BDB 10). Because it would be repetitive in English to say “Lord, LORD,” when these two terms appear together (so too, YHWH and Elohim, e.g., Zechariah 9:16 and Genesis 2:4). They are translated, “Lord GOD.”

“blow the trumpet” “Trumpet” (shofar) has an uncertain etymology. It came to be used in Hebrew for a ram's horn (BDB 1051). The rabbis designated it to be made (softened and lengthened by soaking it in water) from the left horn of a male goat. It is used for

1. military purposes, Joshua 6:4; Joshua 6:4, Joshua 6:5, Joshua 6:20; Judges 7:8, Judges 7:16

2. religious purposes, Exodus 19:13; Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19; Leviticus 25:9; 2 Samuel 6:15; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalms 81:3; Psalms 98:6; Psalms 150:3

3. information gathering (usually about military matters), Judges 3:27; Judges 6:34; 1 Samuel 13:3

4. coronation of a king, 1 Kings 1:34, 1 Kings 1:39; Psalms 47:5

5. invasion of the land, Jeremiah 4:5; Jeremiah 6:1; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 8:1; Joel 2:1; Amos 2:2; Amos 3:6; Zephaniah 1:16

Notice in this context it is YHWH who blows (i.e., “sounds,” BDB 1075, Qal IMPERFECT) the trumpet (cf. Isaiah 27:13; Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 11:15).

“the storm winds of the south” This could be a reference to (1) the Siniatic covenant (cf. Exodus 24:0); (2) God's presence as a desert storm (cf. Isaiah 29:6; Ezekiel 1:4; Ezekiel 13:11, Ezekiel 13:13); or (3) “the south” being the antonym to “the north,” which was a metaphor for invasion. The south is a metaphor for salvation and deliverance (cf. Judges 5:4-5; Habakkuk 3:3).

Zechariah 9:15 “The LORD of hosts will defend them” God Himself will act on His people's behalf. His victory is their victory. The term “hosts” in this context would refer to the angelic army at YHWH's command. See Special Topic: Lord of Hosts.

The VERB “defend” (BDB 170, KB 199, Hiphil IMPERFECT) can be translated “cover,” “surround,” or “defend” (cf. Zechariah 12:8). In Isaiah 31:5 it is used of a mother bird protecting her young (cf. Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 91:4). Here it is used as a shield protecting the soldiers from projectiles.

“the sling stones” These were stones used in sling weapons (BDB 887 I), which were used to defend cities and forts (cf. Judges 20:16; 1 Samuel 17:40, 1 Samuel 17:50; 2 Chronicles 26:14; Job 41:28). This is a metaphor for the complete destruction of a military foe.

“they will drink and be boisterous as with wine” Both VERBS (BDB 1059, KB 1667 and BDB 242, KB 250) are Qal PERFECTS. This refers to the victory celebration of God's soldiers (cf. Psalms 78:65). See Special Topic: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse.

“filled like a sacrificial basin” English translations differ on how to understand these last two poetic lines. They seem to refer to the previous line about God's people rejoicing with wine over His victory (i.e., another Qal PERFECT VERB, BDB 569, KB 583). The wine reminded our author about (1) the blood of the slain enemies, captured in a bowl or (2) blood as an aspect of sacrifice to YHWH. The corners of the altar are where the blood in the bowl was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice.

YHWH made a blood covenant with the descendants of Abraham (cf. Zechariah 9:11). Now He defends them by spilling the blood of their enemies.

Zechariah 9:16 “the LORD their God will save them in that day” This is parallel to the opening lines of Zechariah 9:14 and 1Zechariah 9:5. As 9:14 had Adon YHWH, this verse has YHWH Elohim.

The term “save” (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil PERFECT) includes several connotations from the context: (1) military victory; (2) spiritual renewal and inclusion; and (3) God's personal care, protection, and provision.

“As the flock of His people” This whole section of Zechariah reflects Jeremiah 31:10-14. God is the shepherd (e.g. Psalms 23:0) who acts on behalf of His flock. Later in this section of Zechariah the Messiah will be described as the wounded shepherd (cf. chapters 12-13) and His people as the afflicted flock (cf. chapter 11).

as the stones of a crown” This may be (1) a contrast to the sling stones mentioned in Zechariah 9:15; (2) an allusion to Isaiah 62:3, the precious stones used to describe God's people; or (3) an allusion to the coronation of the new king (the Messiah as YHWH's representative)

NASB“Sparkling in His land” NKJV“Lifted like a banner over His land” NRSV“they shall shine on his land” NJB“sparkle over his country”

The VERB in the Hithpoel form is rare and ambiguous.

1. BDB - “to be high,” “conspicuous,” “prominent” (BDB 651 II)

2. Lexicon, William Holladay, “rally around the banner” (p. 240). This comes from Psalms 60:4, which may refer to Exodus 17:15 or possibly Isaiah 62:10

3. KB - “to assemble under the banner” (KB 704)

4. “sparkle,” “glitter,” “shine” are the most common English translations (cf. Isaiah 62:3)

Zechariah 9:17 As the previous verses may be an allusion to Jeremiah 31:10-11, so too, this may refer to the return from exile, but extends it to the eschatological future and the time of the “new covenant” (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The promised days of abundance and stability for an obedient covenant people (cf. Deuteronomy 27-29) have now been realized by the gracious actions of YHWH, not human performance (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is this chapter so difficult to place in its historical setting?

2. Does this chapter refer to the judgment of pagan nations or to their inclusion in the covenant people?

3. Is there a definite historical separation between Zechariah 9:1-10 and Zechariah 9:11-17? Why?

4. Explain the Messianic elements in Zechariah 9:9 and show their NT counterpoints.

5. To whom does Javan refer? Why is the nation mentioned?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Zechariah 9". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/zechariah-9.html. 2021.
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