Zechariah 9 Commentary Verses 9-17: Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 9. I’d like us to read the ninth chapter of Zechariah in its entirety.
[Read Zec 9…]
So, this chapter began with an acknowledgement that at some time in the future, the eyes of everyone would be toward the Lord.
And then in verse 8 the Lord ends that verse with this enigmatic statement, “For now have I seen with my eyes…”
Well, what has he seen? What has the Lord looked down the hallway of time to see as he’s giving Zechariah this prophecy?
It’s the very one whose eyes all will be turned toward in some future day. The Lord looks forward to the coming of… the Lord. Verse 9.
KJV Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee:
he is [just/legitimate], and [having salvation/victorious];
[lowly/humble/gentle/meek], and [riding upon an/mounted on a] [ass/donkey],
and upon a [colt/young donkey] the foal of [an ass/a female donkey].
So, the inhabitants of Zion / Jerusalem are commanded to rejoice greatly and to shout for joy. Why?
Because their king is coming! And he’s coming to them.
We saw in the first 8 verses of this chapter that there was going to be a king of another nation – Greece – that was going to swoop down and destroy a number of other cities north of Israel and along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
But what about poor Israel? What would they do as Alexander the Great was destroying all around them?
Well, the Lord promised in this chapter to protect his house – to encamp about it. And that eventually no oppressor would pass through their land anymore.
And that will happen someday. But it didn’t happen in Zechariah’s time. And it won’t happen until the Millennium. But something else had to happen first. Their king had to come to them the first time.
And we saw in this passage how he would come that first time. In some ways, the King of the Jews was prophesied to come as you would expect a king to come – “just” or “legitimate” even. And he has “salvation” or he’s “victorious” – he’s ready to deliver his oppressed people. And of course as this refers to Jesus Christ, he literally had salvation – not just military salvation or deliverance for his people – but spiritual salvation – his ability to save people from sin. There’s no other king like that!
And yet the coming of this king is also unique for its lowliness and unassuming nature. The King of the Jews is prophesied here to come lowly or humble or meek or gentle. Now, I think that you would recognize that this is not the typical posture of a king. No – earthly kings have something to prove. And so, they amass strength of every sort to themselves as they present themselves to their people.
Think of military marches where the entire strength of a ruler’s military is on display. Think of the gusto of our president as he speaks such large swelling words about America’s power. Think of the threats of one nation against another and the strength that those missives are aiming to portray. It’s all about strength. They all have something to prove.
But Jesus Christ has nothing to prove. He doesn’t need to impress people with appearance. He doesn’t need to make a show of his strength. He is strength. He is power. He’s almighty!
And remember that this verse is given in the context God protecting his house from invading armies – this army from Greece in particular that we’re going to hear about in a few verses.
But it’s interesting that Greece’s army under Alexander the Great and Jesus’ coming were several hundred years apart. And yet, this is how biblical prophecy sometimes works. You have a section of texts with no apparent break – but in that section you could have events hundreds or even thousands of years apart.
But the idea is that these people the Jews are going to be in danger until their king comes – and here’s the key – until they receive that king.
We see Jesus doing this very thing in the Gospels. He comes into Jerusalem on a donkey. The message to those people couldn’t have been clearer. This is your king! And in fact, the Jews understood this to be what Jesus was indicating. They cried “Hosanna to the Son of David!” They knew what Jesus was claiming and some of them rejoiced.
But overall, they rejected their king. Their leaders – just like Adam so long ago who was the head and leader of the human race – these folks sinned against the Lord. They rejected their humble, lowly savior. And that’s why to this day they are in danger.
But a time is coming – as we’re told later in this very book – where these folks who have pierced their saving king will look on him and mourn their actions.
And at that point, the activities of verse 10 will commence.
10 And I will [cut off/remove/take away/destroy] the chariot from Ephraim,
and the [horse/warhorse] from Jerusalem,
and the [battle bow/bow of war] shall be [cut off/removed/broken]:
[and/Then] he shall [speak/announce/proclaim] peace unto the [heathen/nations]:
and his [dominion/rule][shall be/will extend] from sea even to sea,
and from the [river/Euphrates River] even to the ends of the earth.
So, peace is what Jesus Christ will bring – not just to the Jews – but to everyone.
But do notice the peace he will bring to the Jews. Ephraim and Jerusalem are mentioned – Ephraim is north and Jerusalem is south. And how many war implements will be left in either of these places? None – he says he will get rid of chariots and war horses and bows from these places.
Why? Well, it’s because the Jews will not need to fight anymore.
But to this day these people are fighting. Most recently, there have been hundreds of rockets fired into southern Israel from Hamas which is funded by Iran. The Jews currently need to defend themselves. They need the modern-day equivalent of chariots and bows and horses to protect themselves.
But in the Millennium they won’t need that. Because they’ll have their king living in their midst.
And what that king will do is to speak peace to the heathen. He’s going to declare peace to the nations. The nations will be greatly desiring that peace. Because they know that they stand no chance against the Lord God Omnipotent who is also the king of their former enemy – Israel.
And as these nations accept the terms of King Jesus’ peace deal, they will come under his rule. And really, there will be no nation outside of this peace agreement. Every nation will be under the dominion of Jesus Christ. Sea to sea. From the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth. Everywhere. Everyone. Everything. It will all be ruled by Jesus Christ the King of the Jews.
And so, when Jesus comes and rules over the world from Jerusalem, those Jews who had been oppressed and even taken captive – they’ll be returned, according to verses 11 and 12.
11 As for thee [also/moreover], [by/because of] [the blood of thy covenant/the blood of My covenant with you/our covenant relationship secured with blood] I [have/will] [sent forth/set free/release] thy prisoners [out of/from] the [pit wherein is no water/waterless pit].
So, when God made a covenant – a promise or an agreement – with Israel at Mount Sinai, there was some blood involved. So, you might think that this is the covenant that God is speaking of – the covenant made at Sinai – the Mosaic Covenant.
However, if we’re talking about the Millennium, we’re not talking about Sinai and the Mosaic Covenant anymore. We’re talking about the New Covenant. That’s the covenant that God promises in books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Under that New Covenant, God will write his commands on the hearts of those who have entered into that covenant – rather than writing them on stone tablets like he did at Sinai with Moses. God will forgive the sins of everyone who is in that covenant.
And so, when the Lord here in verse 11 promises to send forth or set free or release these prisoners because of the blood that inaugurated the New Covenant, I tend to see him referring to spiritual bondage and spiritual freedom.
The pit out of which these folks will be freed then is perhaps the depths of sin.
Otherwise, perhaps what the Lord has in mind here is people who had been taken captive during the Tribulation before the Millennium begins and that the Lord is going to physically free these people. And he’s going to do it based on the New Covenant.
I think either interpretation is not outside of the realm of possibility.
And so, in light of this freedom promised and declared to these prisoners, God turns to directly address these folks far into the future – in verse 12.
12 [Turn you/Return] to [the strong hold/your fortress], [ye/O/you] prisoners [of/who have the/with] hope:
What hope? The hope of being released, like he was just talking about in verse 11!
[even to day/This very day/today/even now] [do I declare/I announce] that I will [render/restore/return] [double/twice as much] [unto thee/what was taken from you];
And so, this last statement here seems to indicate that God is being literal. These prisoners will have had things taken from them by their enemies. But at this point, their enemies will be subdued and their king will be ruling the whole world and they’re going to be – not just released – but they’ll have all that was stolen from them returned.
Alright, now, the Lord had said earlier in this text that there won’t be anymore weapons in his new world – the world of the Millennium. Right? Bows, war horses, and chariots will all be a thing of the past.
But that doesn’t stop the Lord from speaking of using humans as his weapons. Look at verse 13.
13 [When I/For I/I] [have/will] [bent/bend] Judah [for me/as my bow/as I bend my bow],
[filled/I will fill/I will load] the bow with Ephraim [i.e., my arrow!...],
[and raised up/And I will stir up/I will rouse] thy sons, O Zion,
against thy sons, O Greece,
and [made/I will make] [thee/you, Zion] [as/like] [the sword of a mighty man/a warrior’s sword].
So, this is – by the way – where we have some guidance as to whom the Lord is speaking of back in the first part of this chapter. I’ve mentioned that he’s talking about Greece coming down and attacking Hamath and Hadrach and then a few Philistine cities along the coast. But up until this point, we have no idea who that king there is who’s supposed to lead his army to do these things. But now we hear what nation this is that the Lord is speaking of – Greece.
And some of the references to Greece are historical – especially what we saw earlier in this chapter. Those things were going to happen after Zechariah’s time but yet from our vantage point had already happened – they’re history at this point.
But I’m not inclined to see verse 13 as having already happened. Why’s that? Well, it seems to me that Judah and Ephraim really never could be said to have been God’s bow and arrow against Greece. During and since the time of Zechariah, Zion has never really been like a sword.
Yes, the Jews did rise up against their Romans occupiers about 70 years after Jesus’ birth. But they were put down by Rome’s military might. And I can’t think of a time when Israel would have attacked and defeated Greece.
So, I see these things as happening at the end of the Tribulation right before the Millennium.
And so, this nation that had caused grief and fear to God’s people back in 300 BC or so – at a time yet future to us will be defeated by the nation of Israel.
And how is that? How is it that Israel – who has been so relatively powerless for so many centuries – that they would be in the position to attack and destroy Greece?
That’s because of what we see in verse 14.
14 [And/Then] the LORD [shall be seen/will appear] [over/above] them,
and his arrow shall [go forth/shoot forth/flash] [as the/like] lightning:
and the [Lord GOD/Sovereign LORD] shall blow the trumpet,
and shall [go/march/sally forth] [with/in/on] [whirlwinds/the storm winds] of the south.
So, the arrow that God had just described as being Ephraim – he’s going to shoot it. God is going to come from the south in Israel up north to Greece.
And it’s the fact that the Lord will be with and over his people that will cause them to be so mighty.
And we see some other exploits that the Jews will carry out when the Lord Jesus Christ is dwelling among them in those days.
15 The LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] shall [defend/guard/shield/protect] them;
and they shall [devour/prevail/destroy], and [subdue/trample/overcome] [with/on the] sling stones;
[and/Then] they shall drink,
and [make a noise/be boisterous/will become noisy] [as/like] [through/with] [wine/drunkards]; [LXX: and they shall swallow them down as wine…]
and they shall be filled like [bowls/a sacrificial basin],
[and/drenched] as the corners of the altar.
So, you see here a fairly bloody scene. The Jews will destroy their enemies under the leadership of their King Messiah.
And I think he pictures it as if they’re drunk with blood. Now, of course, to drink the blood of anything would be an abomination to the Lord. And certainly literally drinking human blood would be even worse. And so, the Lord is being poetic here. The destruction that the Jews will bring about under Jesus’ leadership will be a blood bath. So much blood it’s as if the soldiers will be drunk with it and be making loud noises as if they were drunk.
And then the Lord says that they’ll be filled – again, with blood. As if they were the bowls that were on the sides of the altar in the Temple to catch the blood of the sacrificial animals.
And one more simile having to do with blood – the Jewish soldiers in those days right at the end of the Tribulation will be like the corners of the altar – just drenched with blood.
But enough of the violent bloody picture for now. At this point now, God wants to focus on the good that he’s going to do for his people Israel in those days.
16 [And/On that day] the LORD their God [shall/will] [save/deliver] them [in/on] that day as the flock of his people:
for they shall be as the [stones/precious stones] of a crown, [lifted up as an ensign/sparkling] [upon/in/over] his land.
And so, we see two metaphors here to describe God’s graciousness with his people in those days.
First, God is going to treat his people like a flock of sheep.
And second, the Lord is going to treat them as precious stones in a crown.
So, they will be near to God and cared for by him. And they will be prized and honored and placed on display for all the world to see his graciousness towards them.
And with all of this mercy and grace lavished upon these people, the Lord concludes this chapter this way.
17 [For how great is his goodness,
and how great is his beauty!/For what comeliness and beauty will be theirs!/How precious and fair!/How attractive and beautiful they will be!]
[corn/grain] [shall/will] make the young men [cheerful/flourish/thrive],
and new wine the [maids/virgins/young women].
So, the goodness and beauty or the comeliness and beauty or the preciousness and fairness is probably referring to these whom God will choose to lavish his grace upon.
And in a way, we who are saved by the blood of Jesus and have entered into the New Covenant already – we’re just as enviable in certain ways. And yet, for us, in this world there is oppression and there is indwelling sin and there is treachery that we are subjected to. And on and on.
But not in the world of the Millennium. Everything will be right and fair and just when Jesus rules the world.
And so, these people under Jesus’ rule are people to be envied. They’ll be provided for with grain and new wine. They will have everything they need.
What an encouragement to these Jews of Zechariah’s day who had so little. They lived amongst the ruins of a once great city. And what God wants them to be aware of is that they have a bright future. And it’s all dependent on their relationship to God’s king for them.
Praise the Lord that we have received this king and will reign with him some day and see all of these wonderful realities come to pass.