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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Zechariah 9

 

 

Introduction

IX.

On the date and genuineness of Zechariah 9-14, see Introduction. It has been urged as an argument for the earlier date of Zechariah 9:1-8, that this oracle speaks of several cities and kingdoms as independent, which had lost their independence before the period of the return from exile. Thus Damascus lost its independence when Tiglath-pileser overthrew Syria in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz, and Hamath was subdued to the Assyrians in the time of Hezekiah. But since the reference to Tyre and Sidon is admitted by the objectors to afford no clear indication of the early date of the prophecy, we may reply simply that Jeremiah prophesied against Damascus and Hamath even after Nebuchadnezzar had overrun their territories (Jeremiah 49:23-37), and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:20) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:15-17) denounced judgments on the Philistines, so that it is not strange that a post-exilian prophet should speak in general terms of the disasters which would overtake these nations when the Medo-Persian empire should be overthrown by the Greeks. Moreover, in our note on Zechariah 9:2, we point out that the prophecies contained in Zechariah 9, 10 received an accurate fulfilment in the invasion of Palestine by Alexander the Great (B.C. 333). As early as B.C. 499, when Sardis was burnt by the Ionians, an eventual struggle between “the sons of Greece” and “the sons of Zion” must have been foreseen. But these prophecies may have been delivered, even by Zechariah himself, at a still later date than this. (See Introduction.)


Verse 1

(1) In the land.—Better, on the land.

Hadrach.—Until lately this word has been an insuperable difficulty to commentators, but now it is known, from various Assyrian inscriptions, that Hadrach (Ha-ta-ri-ka) was the name of a town or district in the neighbourhood of Damascus and Hamath. (Records of the Past, Vol. V.)

The rest[ing place] thereof.—viz., of the prophecy: i.e., the judgments of God should begin at that city. LXX., θυσία αὐτοῦ, “his sacrifice,” reading different vowels.

When the eyes . . . the Lord.—Various renderings of these words have been proposed, but the best is, for to the Lord [will] the eye of man [be directed], and [that of] all the tribes of Israel: i.e., when God’s judgments are fulfilled against these districts, the eyes of all will be turned towards Him in wonder. LXX., διότι κύριος ἐϕορᾷ ἀνθρώπους, ἀνθρώπους, καὶ πάσας ϕυλὰς τοῦ ἰσραήλ, taking “to” as possessive, and “man” as the objective genitive, “For to the Lord is an eye on man.”

Instead of Adam, “man,” some propose to read Aram, “Syria,” the letters d and r being easily interchanged in the Asshurith (square Hebrew), and many other Oriental characters.


Verse 2

(2) And Hamath . . . thereby.—Better, And even upon Hamath, [which] borders on it: viz., on Damascus.

Thus far concerning Syria; now he speaks of Phœnicia. The terms of the denunciation of Syria are so general, that if they stood alone we should be at a loss to fix the era of their fulfilment. But the case is different with Tyre (Zechariah 9:2-4); for, though Tyre was besieged by Shalmanezer, and perhaps even taken by Nebuchadnezzar, it was certainly never “devoured with fire” until (B.C. 333) Alexander, “having slain all save those who fled to the temples, ordered the houses to be set on fire” (Q. Curtius). At the same time, though he attacked Phœnicia with the main body of his army, he sent a detachment under Parmenio to operate against Syria. To this date, then, we consider this prophecy to refer. (On the mention of these nations in particular, and the argument founded on the supposed similarity of Zechariah 1:1-8, and Amos 1:1 to Amos 2:6, see Introduction, B. 2.)


Verse 5

(5) See it, and fear.—Well might Philistia fear and tremble on hearing of the destruction of Tyre. Ashkelon and Ekron, it is true, are not mentioned in connection with this march of Alexander, but they must necessarily have been occupied by his troops. But Gaza was certainly taken, after a siege of five months; and special mention is made by Hegesias (a contemporary of Alexander) of the “king” of Gaza being brought alive to Alexander after the capture of that city.

Not be inhabited.—Or, not remain.


Verse 6

(6) A bastard.—i.e., a mixed race. It was a special point in Alexander’s policy to break up nationalities, and to fuse different peoples.


Verse 7

(7) Blood . . . abominations.—viz., their idolatrous sacrifices.

Jebusite.—Some take this word to mean Jerusalem (comp. Joshua 15:8, and especially Joshua 18:28). Others suppose it to be a designation of the remnant of the Canaanitish tribes, who were, like the Gibeonites, retained for servile duties about the Temple. But since the “Jebusite” seems to be parallel with the word alluph, “governor” or “prince,” rather than contrasted with it, it seems more probable that it refers to the Jebusite people, who “dwelt with the children of Judah in Jerusalem,” as equals, and not as a conquered race (Joshua 15:63). But for the fact that the place Eleph is distinctly mentioned (ibid.) as being in Benjamin, not Judah, one would be inclined to read the word alluph (which occurs in the singular in this passage only without the u distinctly written) as Eleph, and to understand Jebusi as meaning Jerusalem. Perhaps Eleph was on the borders of Benjamin and Judah, and so may have sometimes been spoken of as belonging to Judah. Nothing is known of any great conversion of Philistines to Judaism at this time; nay, indeed, in later times we still hear of them as hostile to the Jews (1 Maccabees 3:41; 1 Maccabees 10:83); but after this last reference they disappear from history as a separate nation, probably because they were no longer distinguishable from the Jews or the Greek settlers of those regions.


Verse 8

(8) Amid all these dangers, Israel is promised, under Divine protection, a certain immunity.

Because of the army.—This is the meaning of the word as pointed in the Hebrew text, but some, altering the vocalisation, would render it “as a garrison;” and others, as LXX., “a column.”

Him that passeth . . . returneth.—Pusey refers these words directly to “Alexander, who passed by with his army on the way to Egypt, and returned, having founded Alexandria,” but this appears to us to be too special an application of an expression which occurs in a general sense in Zechariah 7:14; Exodus 32:27; Ezekiel 35:7. The promise, however, was undoubtedly fulfilled when Alexander entered Jerusalem, prostrated himself before the high priest, and treated the Jews with peculiar favour.

Oppressor.—The same word that is used in Zechariah 10:4. (Comp. Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 60:17.)

Have I seen.—Compare Exodus 3:7. In the estimation of the man of little faith, God only sees when He actively interferes.


Verse 9

(9) Having salvation.—Better, saved. (Comp. the whole tenor of Psalms 2 and Ephesians 1:19-23; also Acts 2:23-24; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 5:9.)

Lowly.—Better, afflicted. (Comp. Isaiah 53:4.)

Of an ass.—Literally, of she asses. (For this use of plural comp. Genesis 37:31; Judges 14:5.) Riding on an ass did not in later, as in earlier times (Judges 5:9, &c.), denote high rank, neither can it be proved that it is here intended to symbolise either peace or humility. But it does indicate an absence of pomp and worldly display. This prophecy was literally fulfilled by our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 12:15-20). We have no hesitation in saying that He deliberately, in view of this prophecy, performed that act, not merely in order to fulfil the prophecy, but rather as a symbolical act, by which He intended to correct the false notions concerning the mission of the Messiah entertained by His friends, as well as by His enemies. But our Lord’s consciousness that He was fulfilling prophecy, or even His deliberate intention of doing so, does not detract from the value of the act as a fulfilment of the prophecy. For, though it is true that any Jew might have fulfilled that part of the prophecy which consists in riding into the city on an ass, who would have done so amid the acclamations of the multitude, and so have been acknowledged as the expected king, except One, who, by the whole of His previous life, had already won the hearts of the multitude—though that “many-headed monster thing” did change its cry on the following Friday? Any one could have ridden in on an ass, but could any one have founded an almost universal religion?

The wording of this verse is borrowed from Micah 5:9-13 rather than from Micah 4:3; Isaiah 2:4, and seems to indicate that when their King should come, the nation would be enjoying a certain political independence, but that their military power would have come to an end.


Verses 9-17

(9-17) The advent of the king. It has been urged as an objection against the post-exilic authorship of this passage that “Ephraim” and “Jerusalem” are mentioned, as though Israel were still separated from Judah. But, on the contrary, Ephraim and Jerusalem are here strictly parallel terms, as are also “Judah” and “Ephraim” (Zechariah 9:13), where both are represented as equally opposed to the sons of Javan. The nation was now one (Ezekiel 37:22) and known by the names of “Israel” (Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1; Malachi 1:5), “all the tribes of Israel” (Zechariah 9:1), also the “house of Judah” (Zechariah 10:3; Zechariah 10:6), “house of Joseph” and “Ephraim” (Zechariah 10:6-7). For now that the “dead bones of the whole house of Israel” were revived (Ezekiel 37:11), and “my servant David” was about to be “King over them” (Ezekiel 37:24), the prophecy of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:16-17) was fulfilled, and the staves (tribes, shibhete) of Joseph and of Judah had become one in God’s hand. Hence the interchangeable terms. This passage is now generally admitted to be Messianic. But the prophecy was not to be immediately fulfilled. The nation had yet severe sufferings to endure and triumphs to achieve, viz. in those struggles with the “sons of Greece” which render the Maccabean period (B.C. 167-130) one of the most noble pages in Jewish history. Those who still remained in the land of their exile are exhorted to come forth (comp. Zechariah 2:7-13), confident in the help of the Lord of Hosts, who would wield the reunited Judah and Ephraim (comp. Isaiah 11:13) as His weapons of war (comp. Jeremiah 51:20); He Himself will appear as their champion, with the rolling of the thunder as His war-trumpet, the forked lightning as His arrows, “the wild storm blowing from the southern desert, the resistless fury of His might.” And then, when they had fought the good fight, and not before, God promises “the flock His people” the blessings of peace (Zechariah 9:16-17).


Verse 10

(10) Speak peace.—Not only to His own people (Isaiah 52:7), but also to the heathen by setting up His spiritual kingdom among them. (Comp. Zechariah 6:13.) With the latter part of this verse comp. Psalms 72:8.

The river.—Namely, the Euphrates (Micah 7:12; Isaiah 7:20).


Verse 11

(11) Thee—i.e., Zion.

By the blood of thy covenant.—Comp. Exodus 24:3-8.

By means in consideration of.

The pit.—i.e., Babylon.


Verse 12

(12) Strong hold.—Better, steepness of their own land. Those who still remained in Babylon are exhorted to come forth. Somewhat similarly, in Zechariah 8:8 (which is on all sides admitted to be written after the return from the captivity) we read: “And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.” They are “prisoners of hope,” being prisoners still in Babylon, and “of hope,” because, if they chose to accept them, they are the subjects of glorious hopes and promises.

Double.—Recompense for all these sufferings (Isaiah 61:7).


Verse 13

(13) When.—Better, for; and read the verbs in the future, the tense used being the “prophetic perfect.” These verses are prophetic of the military prowess of Israel, through the aid of the Lord God, and were signally fulfilled in the triumphs of the Maccabees over the Grecian rulers of Syria (B.C. 167-130), even though the prophet may not have had any distinct notion of such distant events.

With Ephraim.—As though with an arrow. (Ephraim, see Note on Zechariah 9:10, and on Zechariah 12:1.)


Verse 14

(14) Shall be seen over them.—Perhaps better, on their behalf shall He manifest Himself.

Of the south.—Whence the most violent storms frequently came from over the desert. (Comp. Psalms 21:1.)


Verse 15

(15) Subdue with sling stones.—Better, trample on sling stones in their valorous onslaught on the enemy. For the figures “devour” and “drink,” comp. Numbers 23:24; Micah 5:8; Ezekiel 14:20; Ezekiel 39:16-17.

Be filled.—With the blood of their enemies, like the bowls in which the priests caught the blood of the victims, and then sprinkled it on the corners of the altar.


Verse 16

(16) Flock.—Observe here the first introduction of the word and idea of “flock,” which plays such a prominent part in the next three (four?) chapters.


Verse 17

(17) Goodness.—Better, goodliness (Hosea 10:11).

His means Israel’s. (Comp. Numbers 24:5.)

Make . . . cheerful.—Better, make to grow numerously. For the idea, comp. Psalms 72:16, and see also Zechariah 8:5; and for the fulfilment, the reference there to Maccabees.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 9:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/zechariah-9.html. 1905.

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