A. The anointed King rejected (chaps. 9-11)
1. The Intervening Judgments on Nations Surrounding Israel (9:1-8)
The NIV regards the term “An oracle” (“burden,” KJV) as a heading separated from verse 1, which begins with, “the word of the Lord” (cf. 12:1). This is probably more accurate than the redundant translation of the KJV, “The burden of the word of the Lord.” The Hebrew word massa (“oracle”) is derived from the verb nasa which has two meanings — “to bear” and “to lift up.” Though some translations (KJV, ASV) and scholars (e.g., Baldwin, Zechariah, pp. 162-3) have understood the word massa to mean “burden,” an ominous message of judgment which was borne by the prophetic messenger, the word is more likely based on the other nuance of the verb — “to lift up (the voice)“ (cf. Judges 9:7, “shouted”; Isa. 3:7; 42:2, “cry out”). The noun is used this way (“oracle,” not “burden”) in Numbers 23:7; 24:3, 15-16. So the noun in Zechariah 9:1 and 12:1 should be translated “oracle” — what is lifted up (by the voice), whether a threat or a promise. In this context in Zechariah the two oracles are primarily promises of salvation.
Most conservative commentators regard 9:1-8 as a prophecy of the conquests of Alexander the Great throughout the area of Palestine after the battle of Issus in 333 B.C. Zechariah, living in the days of the Medo-Persian Empire, predicted the coming Grecian Empire (9:1-8, 13), the Roman Empire (11:4-14), and Israel’s future in the last days (chaps. 12-14).
Alexander the Great was probably the human cause of the destruction set forth in these and the following verses (the order of the cities seems to correspond generally with Alexander’s line of march). But his involvement is bypassed in this prophecy to stress the ultimate divine cause of the judgment on certain cities and countries beginning north of Israel. The northernmost location, Hadrach, was probably Hatarikka, a city and country lying north of Hamath and mentioned in Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. Damascus was the capital of Aram (Syria). The words, the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the Lord indicate the awe of all peoples at the divine judgment brought on their cities. Hamath was an Aramean (Syrian) city north of Damascus on the Orontes River. Westward on the coast were the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon.
Tyre was a stronghold, a citadel of defense which had withstood a 5-year siege by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V and, years later, a 13-year siege by the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar. Her commercial and economic self-sufficiency is reflected in figures of speech which speak of silver being as common as dust and gold as common as the dirt (cf. Ezek. 28:4-5; 27:33). Her impoverishment and destruction by Alexander’s relatively brief five-month siege are ascribed to God’s ultimate action in destroying her power on the sea (nasb, “cast her wealth into the sea”; cf. Ezek. 26:17-21; 27:27, 34).
Four of the five principal Philistine cities (Gath is omitted) are next on the judgment march (cf. Amos 1:6-8; Zeph. 2:4; Jer. 25:20). The blood and the forbidden food (from idolatrous sacrifices) removed from the very mouths and clenched teeth of some Philistines indicate their removal from idolatry to belong to the God of Israel and even become leaders in Judah. Like the Jebusites, they will be absorbed into the population of God’s people. Since there is no evidence that this was fulfilled in the invasion of Alexander, it apparently awaits future fulfillment as part of the blessing that will result from the messianic rule (Zech. 9:10).
The Macedonian armies of Alexander passed and repassed the city of Jerusalem without laying siege to it. The ultimate cause of this was the divine protection of the city (I will defend My house). This defense foreshadows God’s final protection of the city in the Millennium, when never again will enemies invade Jerusalem (cf. Joel 3:17).
2. The Blessings of the Messiah (9:9-10:12)
a. The coming of the Prince of Peace (9:9)
The inhabitants of Jerusalem were personified as the Daughter of Zion (cf. 2:10; Isa. 1:8) and the Daughter of Jerusalem who, representing the whole nation of Israel, were exhorted to welcome the coming King not with fear but with glad rejoicing. The announcement that your King comes to you refers to the long-awaited King and Messiah (cf. Isa. 9:5-7; Micah 5:2-4; Luke 1:32-33). Righteous describes both His character and His reign (cf. Ps. 45:6-7; Isa. 11:1-5; 32:17; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16). The phrase having salvation denotes that He will come as a Deliverer, as One to give salvation to others (cf. Isa. 62:11). His peaceful entrance — riding on a donkey — was fulfilled when He presented Himself to Israel in the Triumphal Entry (Matt. 21:1-5). In the ancient Near East, if a king came in peace, he would ride on a donkey instead of on a war stallion. Christ rode on a colt, the foal (lit., “son”) of a donkey. (On the question of whether Christ rode one or two donkeys see comments on Matt. 21:2.) Like some other Old Testament prophecies this one (Zech. 9:9-10) blends two events into one perspective — events that the New Testament divides into two distinct advents of Christ separated by the present Church Age (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21). In His First Advent He rode on a donkey and presented Himself to the nation Israel but they rejected Him as their King. So His universal rule (Zech. 9:10) will be established when He comes again.
b. The kingdom of the Prince of Peace (9:10-10:12)
(1) Messiah will establish peace.
God’s destruction of war instruments — removing the chariots, the war horses, and the battle bow — signifies the end of war in the Millennium (cf. Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3). This peaceful rule of the coming messianic King will extend from sea to sea and from the River (the Euphrates; cf. Micah 7:12; Isa. 7:20) to the ends of the earth. These expressions clearly indicate the worldwide extent of the messianic kingdom.
(2) Messiah Will Deliver Israel (9:11-17).
God’s faithfulness to His covenants with Israel is His basis for delivering her from worldwide dispersion. The immediate addressees in these verses may have been Jewish exiles still in Babylon, but the covenant-fulfillment theme suggests an ultimate reference to Israel’s end-time regathering. At least the nation’s future hope (messianic deliverance) was the basis for contemporary encouragement in Zechariah’s day. The blood of My covenant with you may refer to the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Ex. 24:8), but could as well relate back to the foundational Abrahamic Covenant which was confirmed with a blood sacrifice (Gen. 15:8-21). The waterless pit (an empty cistern used for a dungeon) is probably a figure for the place of exile. The fortress refers to Jerusalem. The exiles in Babylon were called prisoners of hope because they had God’s promise of being regathered. God will restore twice as much, that is, His blessings in the Millennium will far exceed anything Israel has ever known.
At least this verse, and perhaps the rest of the chapter, refer to the conflict of the Maccabees (169-135 b.c.) with Antiochus IV Epiphanes (cf. Dan. 11:32; see comments on Dan. 8:9-14), Antiochus V Eupator, Antiochus VI, and Antiochus VII Sidetes, Greek rulers of Syria. This Jewish victory foreshadowed Israel’s final conflict and victory when God will bring them into millennial blessing. As the bow and arrow (that which “fills” the bow) are each essential to the other, so Judah and Ephraim (Ephraim represents the 10 Northern tribes of Israel) will be reunited. The reference to these weapons of warfare (including the warrior’s sword) indicates that God will empower His people to defeat the enemy, the sons of Greece.
The description of a thunderstorm controlled by God (v. 14) pictures poetically Israel’s empowerment for victory over her enemies (v. 15). The divine appearance was through providential means in the Maccabean period but will be literal and visible when Christ appears victoriously at His Second Advent. The last part of verse 15 pictures Israel’s unrestrained joy and fullness of rejoicing because of God’s mighty deliverance.
The divine deliverance predicted here will come on that day, a reference to the end time. God will care for them as a shepherd cares for his flock (cf. 10:3). Then Israel will sparkle in His land like jewels in a crown. This is a beautiful cameo of the fulfilled promises concerning the people in the land (cf. Amos 9:11-15). They will be attractive and beautiful symbols of all God has done for them. Divine blessing on nature will produce conditions of plenty (cf. Joel 2:21-27) so that physical health will also be assured (Zech. 9:17).
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