Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.II. THE TWO PROPHETIC BURDENS--THE GREAT PROPHECIES OF THE FUTURE
I. The First Burden (9-11)
1. The burden of the land of Hadrach (Zechariah 9:1-8)
2. Zion’s King of Peace (Zechariah 9:9-12)
Zechariah 9:1-8. The final section of Zechariah is of still greater interest. The Deliverer, King Messiah, is revealed in this section as suffering, rejected, pierced, slain. The great finale leads us up to the great conflict and final siege of Jerusalem. We do not enter into the inventions of criticism, which claim that these great prophecies are less authentic than the first part of Zechariah.
The land of Hadrach against which the first burden in chapter 9 commences cannot be correctly located. Its closer connection with Damascus and Hamath shows that the land of Hadrach must have been a province of the Syrian kingdom then in existence. The Phoenician Cities Tyre and Sidon are next, and then mention is made of four Philistine cities. Against these, Syria, Phoenicia and the cities of the Philistines a great calamity and overthrow is prophesied by Zechariah. They are conquered by the hosts of an enemy, and the rich treasures of Tyre are heaped together in the streets--silver as the dust and gold as the mire--the bulwarks are smitten, and she herself consumed by fire. From there the conquest goes on rapidly to the Philistinian cities, and the King of Gaza perishes. The question arises, What conquest and calamity is this? Is it accomplished or is it still future? History records one great conqueror who rapidly overthrew the countries and cities mentioned in this burden. Alexander the Great and his expedition so successfully carried on is undoubtedly meant here. All students of the prophetic Scriptures know how prominently he likewise stands out in the book of Daniel. The young monarch, after the battle of Issus, besieged and quickly captured Damascus. Sidon was easily taken, but Tyre resisted him some seven months and was burned to the ground. Gaza and the other cities came next. Thus the burden of the word of Jehovah as uttered here by Zechariah was literally fulfilled in the Syrian conquest of Alexander the Great. However, history tells us that the armies of the youthful monarch passed by Jerusalem a number of times without doing harm to the city. This is remarkable, and in accord with the prophecy of Zechariah, for we read in the eighth verse, “And I will encamp against mine house, against the army, against him that passes through and returns, and no oppressor shall come over them any more, for now I have seen it with mine eyes.”
But this prophetic burden leads us up also to the final days, for we read here the promise that “no oppressor shall come over them any more.” This brings it in connection with the final coming deliverance of Israel, and the final destructive visitation upon their enemies.
Zechariah 9:9-12. A great prophecy follows. The true King of Israel comes here before us in His humiliation, and coming exaltation.
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion, Shout aloud, daughter of Jerusalem; Behold thy king cometh to thee, Just and having salvation; Meek and riding upon an ass, Even upon a colt, the she-ass’s foal; And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem, And the battle bow shall be cut off, And He shall speak peace unto the nations, And His dominion shall be from sea to sea, And from the river to the ends of the earth. As for thee also, for the sake of thy covenant blood, I send forth thy prisoners from the waterless pit, Return to the stronghold--Prisoners of hope Even today I declare I will render double unto thee.
This stands in contrast to the Grecian conqueror, and it needs no proofs that the coming King whom Zechariah beholds is the King Messiah. The Jews acknowledge it as such. One of the greatest Jewish commentators (Rashi) says: It is impossible to interpret it of any other than King Messiah. An interesting fable is based upon this prophecy, and well known among orthodox Jews. Rabbi Eliezer says, commenting on the words lowly and riding upon an ass, “This is the ass, the foal of that she-ass which was created in the twilight. This is the ass which Abraham our father saddled for the binding Of Isaac his son. This is the ass upon which Moses our teacher rode when He came to Egypt, as it is said, And he made them ride upon the ass Exodus 4:20. This is the ass upon which the Son of David shall ride.” Other interesting quotations could be given from Jewish writings, but this is sufficient to show that the Jews believe it to be a Messianic prophecy. And what blindness that they do not see Him who is the Messiah; but is not the so-called “higher criticism” existing today in Christendom being taught in churches and schools, and that there are no Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, much greater blindness? Alas! so it is, and the outcome can be nothing else in the end than the denial of the divinity of our Lord, or Unitarianism.
Every reader of the New Testament knows that this prophecy is quoted in the Gospels. In the Gospel of Matthew we read (Matthew 21:5) : “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell the daughter of Sion, Behold thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, upon a colt the foal of an ass.” The context shows a great multitude crying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. But soon the cry is changed unto, This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee. Notice the Holy Spirit quoting from Zechariah leaves out the sentence, “He is just, having salvation.” This is not an error, but it is the divine right of the Spirit who gave the prophecies in olden times to apply them correctly in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Mark in the eleventh chapter there is likewise the description of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, but Zechariah is not quoted. The same is true of the account given by Luke, chapter 19, and here He is mentioned as the King that cometh in the name of Jehovah, peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. In the fourth Gospel, John 12:15, the account of His coming to Jerusalem is much shorter than in the other Gospels. It says there, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting upon an ass’s colt.” We see from this that the four Gospels give each an account of the entry of the Lord into Jerusalem; two of them quote from Zechariah and the other two do not. The quotations themselves are different from the prophecy in Zechariah 9:1-17 in two respects. The first words, Rejoice greatly, are not at all used. In Matthew it is, Tell the daughter of Zion, and in John, Fear not, daughter of Zion. The sentence, “He is just and having salvation”, is left out in both.
A superficial exposition of the Word claims that Zechariah’s prophecy was fulfilled in the event recorded by the Gospels. As far as His entry into Jerusalem is concerned, riding upon the colt the foal of an ass (and note in Matthew it is shown that both the colt and the ass are brought to Him. He could ride, of course, only upon one, but the she-ass had to go along in fulfillment of prophecy), and the way He came, meekly, in this respect the prophecy was fulfilled. This entry of the Son of Man into Jerusalem was His formal presentation to Jerusalem as its King, but, as stated above, the Messianic cry of welcome, Blessed is He, soon changed into, Jesus the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, and that again in the final cry of rejection, Crucify Him, crucify Him! There was no salvation for Israel then, and no kingdom for Him, hence no rejoicing is mentioned in the quotations.
It is His second coming to Jerusalem as the Son of Man in His glory which will bring the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9-11. True, the colt, the she ass’s foal, will not be the animal He rides, but He will come upon a white horse followed by the armies of heaven. He comes then truly for Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy, “Just is He having salvation” (marginal reading, victory). There will be again the welcome cry of the one hundred eighteenth Psalm, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of Jehovah,” preceded by the plea, “Hosanna, save now.”
The tenth and eleventh verses (Zechariah 9:10-11) show clearly that the prophecy is yet to be fulfilled and can be only fulfilled in the coming of the Son of Man in His glory. One of the reasons why modern Judaism rejects Jesus of Nazareth, and does not believe Him to be the promised Redeemer, is in this prophecy. Rabbi F. De Sola Mendes, of New York, brings in a little book, “A Hebrew’s Reply to the Missionaries,” the following argument: “We reject Jesus of Nazareth as our Messiah on account of His deeds. He says of Himself, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on the earth; I came not to send peace but a sword,’ etc. But we find that our prophets ascribed to the true Messiah quite different actions. Zechariah says (Zechariah 9:10), He shall speak peace to the nations. Jesus says He came to send the sword on the earth; whereas, Isaiah says of the true Messianic time, ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.’“
Of course the Jew is right in expecting the literal fulfillment of this prophecy, and it will be fulfilled when He comes again and the restoration of all things will follow, as spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets.
When He appears again, in like manner as He went into heaven, that is not for His saints but with His saints, there will be peace for Ephraim and for Jerusalem, and the kingdom is then restored to Israel, that is, to the house of Judah and the house of Israel. The chariot, the horse, and the battle-bow will be cut off. Not alone will He bring peace to the covenant people but to the nations. He will speak peace. “And He shall stand, and shall feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah His God, and they shall abide; for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth. And this man shall be our peace” Micah 5:4-15. There will be abundance of peace Psalm 72:7. His dominion will be from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth.
The prisoners of hope to be released, by the blood of the covenant, from the pit wherein there is no water, is the nation whose captivity is now ended. How strange that people should take a passage like this and interpret it as meaning the restitution of the wicked and the ungodly from the pit. There is nothing taught in the Word like that which some people term a larger hope. The restitution (restoration) of all things is not left to the fanciful interpretation of the human mind, but is clearly defined by the Word itself, as spoken by the prophets. In the vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-28, Israel’s complaint is, Our hope is lost. But when He is manifested, who is indeed the Hope of Israel, the prisoners (the captives), will be released and cleansed. “Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears.... there is hope for thy latter end, saith the LORD, and thy children shall come again to their own border” Jeremiah 31:17. The exhortation to return to the stronghold follows. Israel will then sing, “He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” Psalm 40:2. Double will be rendered unto them, as promised, “Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins” Isaiah 40:22. “For your shame ye shall have double, and for confusion they shall rejoice in that portion; therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be unto them” Isaiah 41:7.
Zechariah 9:13-17; Zechariah 10:1. The scene changes once more. One of Alexander’s successors, Antiochus Epiphanes, and the Maccabean victory is the topic of these verses. On this invader see Daniel 8:1-27, where he is predicted as the little horn and his abominable work there is fully described. He entered “the pleasant land,” the land of Israel. A bitter struggle commenced, for Antiochus tried to exterminate the Jews, and their religion as well. Every observance of the Jewish religion was forbidden, the Sabbath had to be profaned, and unclean food had to be eaten. Idols were set up in the temple. Instead of the Jewish feasts, the feasts of idols, with all their shocking abominations and immoralities, were introduced, and the Jews were forced to join in them. Thousands suffered martyrdom. But all at once a few people stood up against the abominations, the Maccabeans, and in a struggle lasting about twenty-five years, they fought successfully against the enemies.
This terrible visitation of the land and the wonderful victory of the Maccabeans are foretold by the prophet in the closing verses of the ninth chapter. We will quote the passage:
I bend for me Judah and fill the bow with Ephraim, And I will stir up thy sons, Zion, against thy sons, Greece, And make thee like the sword of a mighty man. Jehovah shall be seen over them, And His arrow shall go forth like lightning-- And the Lord Jehovah shall blow the trumpet. He shall go with whirlwinds of the South. The LORD of Hosts shall cover them; They shall devour and tread down slingstones, And they drink and make a noise as from wine, And they shall be filled like bowls, as the corners of the altar. And Jehovah their God saves them in that day, as the flock of His people; For jewels of a crown shall they be, glittering over His land, For how great is His goodness and how great His beauty! Corn shall make the young men flourish, and new wine maidens.
But again we have to remark that this prophecy is only partially fulfilled. The terrible tribulation of the land of Judah when Antiochus Epiphanes invaded the land is but a type of the great tribulation, the time of Jacob’s trouble. The remnant of Israel will then be victorious. Thus everything is seen in this chapter in a past fulfillment, but only partial, and in it a future fulfillment, which will be complete.
We cannot leave this chapter without calling attention to the blessed statement:
For jewels of a crown they shall be, glittering over His land.
The slain who suffered martyrdom are meant, and all those who fought for Jehovah’s name and honor. May not the statement in Hebrews 11:1-40 refer to this time? “Others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins: being destitute, afflicted, evil entreated, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts and in mountains and caves and the holes of the earth” Hebrews 11:36-40.
And all will find a repetition during the coming tribulation. But the time for reward has not yet come. The throne of glory is not yet revealed, and the jewels, the saints made up in a crown, glittering over the land, are not yet seen. But the assurance is given, “They shall be Mine, saith the LORD of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels” Malachi 3:17.
The first verse of the next chapter is misplaced; it belongs to the close of chapter 9. When the time of blessing comes, the latter rain will fall upon the land and produce the promised fruitfulness.