The Defeat of Israel's Enemies, the Coming of the Messiah, and the Vindication of Israel
With chapter 9 we come to a new stage in the book of Zechariah. In a way there is such a dramatic difference between the first 8 chapters and the last 6 chapters that most OT scholars claim that whereas Zechariah wrote the first 8 chapters, somebody else wrote the last 6 chapters and just stuck them onto the first 8.
OT scholars point especially to 2 facts which they claim show there are 2 different authors writing Zechariah:
What we are seeing in chapter 9 is a shift in focus. In the first 8 chapters Zechariah has addressed the immediate situation at hand. Starting in chapter 9 Zechariah looks to the distant future, a future in which God will reign permanently upon the earth, in which God's promises to Israel will be fulfilled once and for all time.
DEFEAT OF ISRAEL'S ENEMIES (9:1-8)
From a human perspective the name "Jerusalem" is one of the most ironic names ever given to a city. Whatever else the name means, it means that it is a city of peace. Whatever else that city has experienced, it has NOT experienced peace except on a few rare occasions, most notably the reigns of David and Solomon (1000-920 B.C.). It was plagued by the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians (especially the Persians during the time of Zechariah). Other hostiles nations which will plague Jerusalem will include the Greeks, the Romans, the Mohammedans, the British, and now the United Nations. According to Zechariah the day of war for Israel, particularly Jerusalem, will one day be over forever.
The Destruction of Hadrach
First, death and destruction will come to Hadrach. Much discussion centers on exactly where Hadrach was located. It may be just a symbolical name for the Persian Empire (so Keil and Delitzsch); on the other hand, others claim it refers to a literal place to the north of Israel. Whatever its location and whatever it symbolizes, it was hostile towards Israel and the people of God. Its days were numbered.
Destruction of Sidon and Tyre
Next, Zechariah turns his attention to Tyre and Sidon. Sidon had plagued the ten northern tribes, not with military might but with its religious decadence. Jezebel, the daughter of the priest of Baal in Sidon and the sister of Dido who became queen of Carthage, had introduced Baal worship and its sexual perversions in worship to Israel. Sidon's downfall was imminent.
Tyre, on the other hand, was noted as being the seat of great pride. It considered itself indestructible and impregnable because it was located on an island just off the coast north of Israel. For centuries it had grown in pride because of its wealth and sea-faring power. It had amassed great wealth. In fact when Solomon had to gather supplies to build the Temple in Jerusalem, he turned to Hiram king of Tyre who supplied Solomon with loads of cedar wood, a luxury item in those days. Well, all Tyre's wealth and false sense of security had puffed her up to the point that she thought she was invincible. Her destruction though was just around the corner. When Alexander the Great lay siege to the city, Tyre thought she would weather the siege like she had done so many times before. This time though Alexander didn't just lay siege to the city, he also built a causeway which linked the mainland to the island (1/2/ mile long and 60' wide) and used siege equipment to destroy the walls and attack the city. After a 7-month long siege, the city capitulated. Although Alexander freed the king and some relatives, he enslaved 30,000 of its citizens. To punish the city even further, Alexander had the new city of Alexandria, Egypt built so that it would replace Tyre as being the main commercial sea-faring center in the eastern Mediterranean. Tyre never fully recovered from this catastrophe.
Destruction of Philistia
Next Zechariah turns his attention to the ancient foes of Israel, the Philistines. Sometime between the time of Jacob in Canaan and of Moses returning to Canaan, the Philistines (a Greek? sea-faring people) settled along the Gaza strip, the southwestern part of the Promised Land. For centuries the Philistines plagued Israel until finally David beat them into submission. After Solomon's reign though the ancient Israelite foe began to stir again and trouble Israel. Zechariah said that this day of trouble was over. God was going to destroy Philistia just as He had destroyed the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Just like Sidon before her, Gaza was a place of great idolatry. In fact Zechariah declares that God will smash the Philistines because their mouths are filled with bloody meat, the meat sacrificed to pagan gods detestable to God.
Again, God used Alexander the Great to fulfill this command. Even though Alexander had smashed mighty Tyre, Gaza decided to put up resistance against the Macedonian king. Like Tyre before her, Gaza too fell before the wrath of Alexander.
THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH (9:9-10)
Now that Israel's enemies have been defeated, the time is now ready for the appearance of the Messiah. With all the death and destruction going on, you would think that the Messiah would ride into His capital city of Jerusalem on a white charger, heading up vast armies which have wasted Israel's enemies. Not so. Several attributes characterize this Messiah, God's anointed ruler over Israel.
He Comes In Righteousness
In the years leading up to the Babylonian invasion of Judah, God had sent the prophets to the Jews to warn them about the injustices that were prevalent throughout their society. Isaiah had condemned the people because they had declared good to be bad and bad to be good. Even today we are facing a severe crisis in our nation. Traditional morality is being attacked on every side. Abortion, gay rights, partial birth abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and gay marriage are now being declared legal because these are the "right" things to do. What was once called evil is now declared right, in fact, A right.
God had warned the Jews that He would NOT allow for this situation to continue. God is a righteous judge and eventually judges every nation, including our own. If we measure up, then we survive as a nation. If we do not, God brings wrath upon that nation. For example, I think it is to ask if our economic collapse is related to our moral collapse.
Even more, during these times people who understand righteousness grieve over the current state of affairs. They see their loved ones fall into the vortex of immorality and feel helpless in stopping the moral decay. The wonderful thing is that this state of affairs is NOT eternal if the OT is truly God's Word. The Messiah, the One God anointed with His Spirit, will come and establish His kingdom IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
He Comes Endowed with Salvation
For centuries the Jewish people had known nothing but war. Not only had they been in constant conflict with the Philistines, eventually the Assyrian armies overwhelmed the 10 northern tribes (721 B.C.) and the Babylonian hordes had overrun the southern kingdom (586 B.C.). Following the Babylonians were the Persians, who in turn were followed by Alexander and the Macedonian armies. Next came the Romans and finally Islamic forces. God was going to put an end to this. One day the Messiah will come and save Israel once and for all.
In addition to military salvation, the Messiah will also bring spiritual salvation. In the section above we saw that the Messiah was righteous. Righteousness when applied to the Messiah can mean that He is righteous, always right. It can also mean (this is Paul's point in Romans and Galatians) that God makes us right with Himself. As a result, the Messiah not only is righteous but also makes people right with Himself and with each other. The old statement is true: "I have seen the enemy and the enemy is us!" In other words, the Messiah will come to save us from ourselves.
He is so Humble that He enters Jerusalem Riding the Foal of a Donkey
Many times people separate the humility of the Messiah from his riding the donkey; they connect the statement about the donkey with the next statement that He comes speaking peace. They claim that a warrior king would have come on a white charger, while a king of peace would have come on a donkey. That's really not the case. For example, before horses were introduced into the Israelite army, the donkey was the major animal of war. In fact when David fled Absalom, he rode on a donkey, not because it was a beast of peace but because it was the major animal mode of transportation. By Zechariah's day though the horse had been introduced into Israel. Whereas the horse symbolized pride, the donkey symbolized humility.
What does it mean for the Messiah to come in humility? First, He does NOT come in splendor. Recently a young lady in my philosophy class claimed that she had no problem with tele-evangelists wearing Rolex watches. I, on the other hand, have a real problem with ministers driving Mercedes and wearing $5,000 Rolex watches. Their Master, Jesus, rode into Jerusalem, not in a Mercedes wearing a Rolex watch; rather He entered as the humble king of the Jews.
Second, humility actually means that the Messiah came not for Himself but for His God and for His people. Humility is NOT putting yourself down. It is focusing on others, helping others. Humility means it is not about you; it is about others.
Whatever else the coming of Jesus means, it means that He is humble. Leaving the glory of heaven was indeed a humbling enough experience for Jesus; however, if He had been born in the palaces of Rome, people would have thought that pride was indeed a good thing since God the Son was born in luxury here on earth. They fail to realize how pitiful even the most splendid dwelling here on earth is compared to the splendid mansions of heaven. To make sure we got it though, God the Son was born in a humble stable surrounded by barnyard animals to a lowly peasant girl.
He Speaks Peace to All People
This does not mean that the Messiah preaches a message of peace and hopes that the rest of the world will implement that peace. No. It means that since His word is an active, powerful word, whenever He speaks peace, peace comes to those He addresses. Since His kingdom will cover the entire world, peace will come to that world.
What about those who reject Jesus though? They too will be at peace with Jesus, even though it may be an involuntary peace. There are 2 kinds of peace, voluntary and involuntary. Right now England is at peace with the U.S. because she is our friend. On the other hand, Saddam Hussein was at peace with the U.S. right before he died, not because he wanted to be at peace but because the U.S. had forced him to be at peace with us. On that last day, EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father, whether that tongue wants to confess and whether that knee wants to bow. Peace will cover the earth as the waters will cover the sea--only after Jesus returns.
His Dominion is Eternally Over All Mankind (From Sea to Sea)
At the very beginning of human history God informed Adam that He had created him to rule over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the animals on the land. God will place all things in subjection under his feet. When Adam fell, he relinquished his rights over the world, handing them over to Satan. THE Man Christ though, through His victory over Satan, has regained dominion over the earth. Because He humbled Himself to the nth degree for the sake of His Father, His Father has exalted Him to the nth degree over ALL creation. Even though we reign WITH Christ because He has identified Himself with us, Jesus will always take precedence over all His brothers because of His sacrifice on the cross. That reign is eternal.
THE VINDICATION OF ISRAEL (9:11-17)
All that has been said above does affect Israel; however, the focus has not really been on the positive things which will affect Israel. The claims above have actually been negative benefits: her enemies will be destroyed, her Messiah will come. But what about her? What specifically good things will come Israel's way?
Before we address that question, we first need to answer another question: in light of all the sin Israel fell into, why should God do anything good for Israel in the first place? For centuries Israel had rejected God and His messengers. Why should God even care to bless Israel?
Zechariah claims that God is going to bless Israel because of the "blood of the covenant." This "blood of the covenant" could refer to the shedding of blood when Moses enacted the covenant at Mt. Sinai. Most likely though it refers to the blood covenant God made with Abraham (Gen. 15). Before God promised to bless Abraham and his seed, He had Abraham take several animals, cut them in half, and then use the halves to make an aisle through which God might pass down. As God passed down that aisle, He promised to make of Abraham a great blessing and to bless Abraham's descendants. By passing down the aisle of broken and cut carcasses, God is claiming that the same fate which befell these animals will befall Him if He breaks His promise to Abraham. God is going to exalt the nation of Israel because of this promise (see Rom. 11:25-36, especially v. 29).
How is God going to vindicate Israel? First of all God is going to use Israel to defeat His enemies. In a beautiful poetic image God says that Judah (the southern kingdom of Judah) will be His bow and Ephraim (representing the northern kingdom of Israel) will be the arrow for His bow in order to smite the nations and defeat them. So decisive will be the victory that the Jews will be so joyful that they will reel from joy like drunken sailors (9:15).
Does all this mean that the Israeli Defense Force is going to conquer the hostile nations which try to destroy her? Not necessarily. Whatever it does mean, it means that Israel is going to be the cause of the destruction of her enemies. God may use Israel to cause these nations to war against Israel; however, on that day of battle the Lord Himself will achieve the victory.
On that day, that day of victory, all the promises Israel has been longing for will be fulfilled. Israel will become the jewel in God's glorious crown. Jerusalem will once again be the seat of God's Messiah, but this time, the Messiah in an ultimate sense.
These seem like mighty big words to be applied to a petty kingdom. In fact these seem to be mighty big words to be applied to any human being. In Screwtape Letters Screwtape marvels at the attention God gives to us mere mortals, especially when He could be lavishing that attention on more glorious creatures like angels, like himself. It just doesn't make sense to him at all that God would be born in a stable in lowly Bethlehem, even more so, born in a pool of blood.
What is interesting is that not only does the demonic realm marvel at God's attention to the human race, the heavenly angelic realm itself marvels at what God is doing in us and through us. "It was revealed to them [the prophets] that they were not serving themselves but you in these things which now have been announced to you . . . things into which even ANGELS long to look!" (1 Pet. 1:12). The picture is that of angels standing on the parapets of heaven, looking, gazing over the walls of heaven to look down on what God is doing on earth with men, and especially with His Son becoming a man. They are amazed. They can barely believe their eyes. All of this may seem fantastic; however, since the resurrection of Christ did occur, these things though fantastic are also real!