Book of Zechariah Chapter 9 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Burden of the Word of the Lord
Zechariah Chapters 1-6 largely consisted of eight "visions" shown to Zechariah. Chapters 7-8 contained four "messages" and Chapters 9-14 involve "burdens." The Hebrew word translated "burden," is "massa," which means "to lift up or bear something heavy." The verses that follow are prophesies of His judgment on people and places that threaten God's people. You may have seen 2 Peter 3:9—"The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." He loves even those He judges, and judging is a heavy "burden." Verse 1 flows out of Chapter 8: "The 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)."
"Hadrach" and "Damascus" in Verse 1, and "Hamath" in Verse 2, were all north and somewhat east of Israel, not far from each other, in the area of present-day Syria. The judgement that would come upon them was to occur after a major battle in 333 BC, inflicted upon them by the Macedonian King, Alexander the Great. The city-state of Damascus was betrayed into his hands and he conquered it, taking an enormous treasure. This was an incredible, unexpected event, viewed by "the eyes of men" in the region, "especially of all the tribes of Israel," looking "toward the Lord" who made it happen. Verse 2 informs us that "Tyre and Sidon" would also be swept up in the destruction.
Verse 2-3 continue, "and Hamath also, which borders on it;
Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. For Tyre built herself a fortress and piled up silver like dust, and gold like the mire of the streets." Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician city-states on the coast of the Mediteranean Sea. Humanity typically values intellectual or physical strength, especially when it results in the advancement of knowledge, the arts, and wealth of all kinds. The two cities had all that and more, especially Tyre, whose wisdom is revealed in Ezekiel 28:1-5. They excelled in the ability to profit through trade, and their riches made them proud. About half of Tyre was on the mainland and the other half was on an island nearly half a mile from shore. Tyre was taken by Alexander the Great after a siege of seven months. The portion on the shore was destroyed first, and he ordered the stones from its buildings and 150-foot high walls to be thrown by his men into the sea, creating a causeway that stretched out to the island of Tyre. The city was captured, burned, thousands were killed and many were taken into slavery. Tyre never rose to greatness again. As it was prophesied in Verse 4, "Behold, the Lord will dispossess her and cast her wealth into the sea; and she will be consumed with fire." The city-state of "Sidon" heard about the destruction of Tyre and surrendered without a fight.
The word of the Lord about impending judgment now turned to the Philistine city-states, as seen in Verses 5-6: "Ashkelon 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. And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines." These possibly European people had been a thorn in the side of Israel for many centuries. It seemed to the Jews that those fierce groups would never go away, but here was the Lord, stating they would soon be gone. The Philistines had been marked by God for destruction through the prophets before, as seen in places like Ezekiel 25:15-17, and now it would come to pass.
Verse 7 continues, "And 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." In this verse, the Philistines are compared to vicious animals, carnivores who tear into their prey with sharp teeth. No more. They were to be tamed by Almighty God, who would keep a remnant of them for His purposes. Some would merge into and become part of the Hebrew people, and some, no doubt, would come to the Lord. The Jebusites were early people of Canaan, who had become slaves in Israel (1 Kings 9:20-21). "Ekron" would become like the Jebusites.
God said in Verse 8, "But 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." God loves His people and protects those who have faith in Him. He has fortifications around us, and if the enemy is allowed through those defenses, it is only for a time, that we might grow in the hope, faith and love of our Lord.
Verse 9 is one of the most famous verses of the Old Testament, in which we find the words: "Rejoice 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." Yes, Alexander the Great would come and throw off the yoke of the Medeo-Persian Empire, but the fulfillment of this verse is infinitely more than Alexander. This is about the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem, "humble and mounted on a donkey..." (Matthew 21:1-11). He is our King, our Savior, and we can "rejoice" in Him.
There was a time in the near future for the Jews, when God would enable them to become free and strong under the leadership of the Maccabean brothers, especially Judas Maccabeus. In 165 BC, he would remove Hellenistic (Greek) statues from the Temple and rededicated worship resumed. The feast of Chanukah (Dedication) commemorates that event. But all too soon the Jews became subject to the oppressive Roman Empire. And so, the words of Verse 10 look further into the future, and are toward a Person, the Messiah mentioned in Verse 9. Verse 10 states, "I 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." The peace seen in those words is from God. Jesus said, in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Zechariah continues in Verse 11—"As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit." Has life felt like a "waterless pit" to you? It's an apt description of many troubles that come to humanity. The deliverance from problems in this world only lasts for a time, and so the Jews would be free once more, but not for long. What the Lord offers through the "blood" of His "covenant," however, lasts forever. On the short term, we can be glad with the Jews that their captivity was over and they would be free again. But we all need long term, that is, everlasting solutions to a much greater need.
They heard the words of Verse 12-13, and so do we: "Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you." Jesus said, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). The "Stronghold" we need is Jesus Christ.
The promises in Verse 13, would have especially interested the Jews of that time: "For 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." Greek philosophy and culture literally filled the world surrounding them. The Old Testament would soon be translated into Greek because Hebrew was a dying language. Notice that God calls the Jews by the names, "Judah" and "Ephraim." The former name referred to the kingdom of the Jews returned from Babylon, but earlier, Israel to the north was called by the nickname, "Ephraim," a group taken into captivity by the Assyrians. There never were any "lost tribes" because God knows exactly who they are. All of the returnees simply merged with one another and are among the Jews today.
Verses 14-15 were partially fulfilled in the centuries that followed: "Then 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. The 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." The sorrow of this world will end in the joy of the Lord. We are informed by the Lord through John the Apostle: "Behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me..." (Revelation 22:12). He is our Defender and our Hope.
This chapter concludes with the words of Verses 16-17, in language intended to be understood and desired by Hebrews of the time: "And 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. For what comeliness and beauty will be theirs! Grain will make the young men flourish, and new wine the virgins." Those who trust in the Lord are like jewels in the crown of our God...we are meant to be beautiful to Him and one another. All of our needs will be met. We will "flourish" and be innocent in His sight, like "virgins" who are pure and holy in His service, tending the grapes of our Lord. As Jesus taught us, "I am the vine, you are the branches..." Let's TRUST in the Lord.
We do, Lord. We place our trust in You. We confess our sins and surrender to Your Will. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and give us the peace of God, now and forever. In Jesus Name. Amen.