Zechariah 9 Commentary
Zechariah 9 through 14, the chapters that will complete the book, are a collection of two different oracles. Scholars are unsure of when this section of the book was written, but most seem to think it was when he was an old man. Most people think these oracles are fulfilled by Alexander the Great conquering the region 200 years from Zechariah’s writing.
Zechariah 9:1 – The oracle of the word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach and Damascus is its resting place. For the Lord has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel,
The ESV uses the word “oracle” here. While it makes sense, as this is an oracle, the actual word that most versions use is “burden.” An oracle is a message that includes a burden, so either can be used, but I find it more fitting to use the word “burden.”
This is predicting an event that will happen. Using the word “burden” or “oracle” means that it is a judgment event, or something that would cause turmoil.
Hadrach is an area that is not well understood. The name comes from Jewish backgrounds with “Had” meaning “sharp” and “Rach” meaning “soft.” It could also be an allusion to the city of Hatarika, which is written about in Assyrian writings about an area near Hamath.
Damascus is one of the main capitals of Syria, and one of the main areas of God’s judgment.
While there are no other mentions of Hadrach in the Bible, there are Assyrian inscriptions for both Hadrach and Damascus and that they were close to each other. During the judgment that will fall on these cities, those who believe will have their eyes on God.
Zechariah 9:2 – and on Hamath also, which borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.
Hamath was close to Damascus (Isaiah 10:9). In Amos 6:2 it is called Hamath the Great. According to one of the early church fathers, he says that Antioch was also called Hamath by some people. It is this area that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).
Tyre and Sidon are two major cities in Lebanon, north of Israel. The Assyrians tried to conquer Tyre at one point and failed. Nebuchadnezzar tried to take Tyre for 13 years. It took Alexander the Great 7 months to conquer it.
Both cities were known for their wisdom (Ezekiel 28:3). But in 1 Corinthians we find that the message of the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. Regardless of wisdom, the message is foolishness if you are dead in sin.
Zechariah 9:3 – Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets.
What made Tyre so strong was that it was an island city. The island was about a half mile offshore and had walls as high as 150 feet in some places. Alexander built a causeway between the mainland and the island city by using the rubble from the city on the mainland.
While Alexander conquered the city physically, the Gospel conquered the city spiritually.
Tyre was a rich city of commerce who had built a wall that was seen as impregnable. That was not enough to hold off an army that God willed to be used to bring its destruction.
Zechariah 9:4 – But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire.
It is interesting to note a difference between the Septuagint and many of the versions we read today. Instead of “the Lord will strip her of her possessions….” we see that “the Lord will inherit her….” It is interesting to think that in the ESV we see Tyre being stripped of her possessions while in the Septuagint they are becoming the Lord’s possession.
Tyre was burned to the ground by Alexander the Great.
Zechariah 9:5 – Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
During the conquest of Alexander the Great, the surrounding cities were scared. Many of the cities listed in this verse are the cities in Philistia. After the destruction of Tyre, Alexander the Great marched to the south and destroyed the cities of Philistia.
Gaza and Ashkelon, according to Judges 1:8, are in close proximity to each other.
Something that is of interest is that Philip the Evangelist most likely first preached the Gospel here. Also, the idea of a “king” in the area of Gaza is a little confusing. Gaza was ruled by a governor, not a king. But, the idol that was worshipped in Gaza was known as the “lord of man.” When Christianity came to the region, this idol, or king, was destroyed.
Alexander the Great was to be feared. One of the governors of the cities listed in this verse was killed when the armies took leather straps and tied one end to a chariot and tied the other end through the soles of his feet and dragged him throughout the city. It is no wonder these cities feared Alexander the Great and his armies.
Zechariah 9:6 – a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.
The ESV sanitizes this verse a little. The original language actually specifies what would closer be considered a “bastard child.” This would be someone who is born unlawfully either outside of marriage or in a forbidden marriage. This can also sometimes come to mean a race of people without a moral compass. So this would be someone who is not equal by birth based on the culture at the time.
Alexander was known to destroy any culture of a region when he took it over. This would destroy the national pride a country has and replace it with pride for Alexander’s reign.
Zechariah 9:7 – I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth;
it too shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
This verse is showing an end to the idol worship and a turning toward God. Part of the idol worship at the time was to drink blood and eat food that was sacrificed to idols.
This verse has a dual meaning. The conquest of Alexander the Great is, of course, the primary focus of this oracle. But one cannot help but to see the future implications of this verse.
The Jebusites were conquered by David in 2 Samuel 5 and combined with Israel. This verse is saying that Philistia will have the same outcome.
And when the apostles went into that region, many converted to Christianity.
Zechariah 9:8 – Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes.
When Alexander the Great was on his march of conquest, he left Jerusalem alone. God promised the protection of His house. God has said that “no oppressor shall march over them again.” When Alexander was marching south, he went back through Palestine rather than through Israel.
This is pretty remarkable in thinking that God is using Alexander here to judge the pagan nations while protecting Israel. How much more so will God protect His people when the Messiah returns?
When we think of what happened in Israel during Alexander’s march, it really is divine intervention. Jaddua, the High Priest at the time of Alexander, was praying to God. God told Jaddua to open the gates, which he did.
You see, here is the amazing part of this story: When Alexander saw the gates open and Jaddua standing in the gate dressed in purple with “God” engraved on his mitre, Alexander changed his mind about conquering the city. God gave Alexander a vision of Jaddua while he was sleeping.
Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
This is a calling out to the two different comings of Christ. This King that is being spoken of in this verse counters the glorious strength of Alexander by having the Christ ride in on a donkey. This King is also very different from any other human kings in that Christ comes with righteousness, salvation and humility.
A donkey is an animal of peace. This means that Israel’s King comes to bring peace. This was fulfilled upon triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Christ.
Zechariah 9:10 – I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
The next five verses are going to speak about Christ’s second coming. A couple of words to discuss are:
- Ephraim – this is an Old Testament word for Israel.
- The river that is mentioned is the Euphrates.
- And being “cut off” in regards to the war horse and the battle bow means that there will be peace.
This is talking about the rule of Christ around the entire world.
Zechariah 9:11 – As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
This is another verse which has a lot of things that need explained. The “blood of my covenant” is the original covenant that was made with Abraham in Genesis 15.
Then there is that “waterless pit.” In that time, prisoners would have been kept in a dry well. Think of what happened to Joseph when his brothers threw him into the pit. It is the same idea here.
God is saying that he has returned the prisoners from the pit (exile) because of the covenant that has been in force since the days of Abraham.
Zechariah 9:12 – Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.
These prisoners of hope, as God calls them, are to receive a double blessing. Just as in Isaiah 61:7, instead of shame, they will receive a double portion.
Just like what happened to Job, after his horrible experiences, God returned to him a double portion of blessings.
Zechariah 9:13 – For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
This could be an allusion to the Maccabean revolt. The Maccabees revolted against the successor of Alexander. The death of Antiochus Epiphanes is the main point of this verse.
But I think this has a farther meaning. I think this is saying that the apostles, all Jews, will be sent to the Gentiles to proclaim the Word of Christ.
Zechariah 9:14 – Then the Lord will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord God will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.
God will appear over them! They will be witness to Him. God will be leading the battle. God is bringing forth the holy war.
I think of verses like Matthew 24:27: For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Or 1 Thessalonians 4:16: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Zechariah 9:15 – The Lord of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.
God’s people will be protected by God. And their enemies will be as if they ae drunk and weak. Almost as if they are given for slaughter on the altar. The sacrificial bowls that were used to catch the blood of the victims is shown here as full.
Zechariah 9:16 – On that day the Lord their God will save them, as the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land.
The first thing to note is that God is going to win this battle. The flock of God’s people goes back to Ezekiel 36 in which God says that He will increase with them like a flock and that they are a holy flock.
Instead of the stones being used in the slings showing the weakness of the enemies, God’s people will be like the stones in a crown, jewels.
Zechariah 9:17 – For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.
This final verse shows the times of prosperity in Jerusalem. It reminds us of chapter 8 verse 5 in which Zechariah says the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.