Zechariah 9 Commentary


Israel always looked forward to a messianic day of glory and power. The people longed for the day when all enemies would be destroyed, and righteousness would be established in the land under the rule of the Messiah. The nation’s re-establishment under Zerubbabel and Joshua was a foretaste of that great day. Israel could expect to see its former enemies conquered and full independence restored in its land.

This in fact happened. The years 334-326 BC saw the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great spread his rule over all those countries that had previously controlled Israel. Although Alexander’s conquests included Israel, the time came when Israel finally won full independence under the Maccabees (143 BC). In due course the Messiah came in the person of Jesus Christ, but by this time the Jews, through their own sin, had lost their independence. Worse still, they rejected their Messiah.

The prophecies of Zechariah have to some extent been fulfilled, but they still await a greater fulfilment. This will take place when Jesus Christ returns to conquer all enemies and establish his universal rule of peace and joy. In Zechariah the time factor therefore has little meaning. Events that cover many years, or perhaps are separated by centuries, may be condensed into one verse. Much shorter periods may be dealt with at length.

Zechariah’s prophecies are not descriptions of historical events that he happens to have written in advance. They are a revelation of God’s purposes given to instruct, warn, encourage, guide and inform his people. Their fulfilment may take different forms in different eras. In some cases the fulfilment may be closely related to events belonging to the time from Alexander to the Maccabees; in others it may be more concerned with the greater events of Christ’s life and work; and in yet others it may relate more fully to the future events of the return of Christ and the age to come.

Enemies punished; freedom restored (9:1-17)

The prophet outlines how Israel will move from its present position (in its own land but still under Persian rule) to full independence, and then into the era of the Messiah’s rule. He sees an invading army moving down from the north. First it conquers the Syrian cities of Hadrach, Damascus and Hamath, then


the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon (9:1-4). From there it moves down the coastal plain to conquer the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod. The Philistine practice of eating unclean food will cease, and the Philistines will become part of Israel, as the Jebusites had in the time of David (5-7; cf. 2 Sam 5:6-10). Jerusalem, however, will be preserved. Although it will come into the enemy’s sphere of control, it will not be destroyed (8).

(History records that an invasion such as the above took place when Alexander’s armies swept through the region, conquering many of Israel’s former enemies, including its current master, Persia. Although Alexander took control of Jerusalem, he did not destroy it.)

Greek rule may spread over Palestine, but eventually it will be overthrown. God’s king will then reign in Jerusalem, though not as a warlike conqueror. He will enter the city in quiet yet royal dignity, and establish a worldwide reign of peace (9-10).

Now that he has pointed to the climax of Israel’s glory through the reign of the Messiah, the prophet returns to the time of Alexander. He shows that God will set his people free according to the covenant he made with them at Sinai (11-12). Israel will become a weapon in God’s hand to slaughter its enemies and thereby carry out God’s judgment upon the nations (13-15). On gaining its freedom, the nation will settle down to a life of security, joy and prosperity (16-17).

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