4. Prophecies of the Messiah (Zechariah 7-14)


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Zechariah prophesies that the Jews will finally, 'look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn' (Zechariah 12:10). This painting of the crucifixion is by Matthias Grünewald, ‘Die Kreuzigung Christi’ (1523-1524), Tauberbischofsheimer Altar, 193 x 151 cm. Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany.
Zechariah prophesies that the Jews will finally, 'look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn' (Zechariah 12:10). This painting of the crucifixion is by Matthias Grünewald, 'Die Kreuzigung Christi' (1523-1524), Tauberbischofsheimer Altar, 193 x 151 cm. Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Though it seems to be somewhat obscure, the second half of Zechariah includes a number of messianic prophecies that you're familiar with in the New Testament. Zechariah turns our focus to justice, Yahweh's future deliverance.

As mentioned in Lesson 3, Zechariah's name means, "Yahweh remembers." He is a prophet who ministers about 520 to 515 BC, and perhaps beyond. He is also a contemporary of the Prophet Haggai, and is probably from a priestly family.

Chapters 1-6 of Zechariah, which we considered in Lesson 3, focus primarily on encouraging the returned exiles to complete the temple, and are dated about 520 AD. The prophecies we'll be looking at in this lesson have a broader focus of ethical justice, authentic worship, and the End Times. Of this group, the first prophecy is dated to 518 BC, but the rest are not.

As I have written about these prophecies, a rather long lesson has emerged. Please forgive me. But I'd rather not pass over these words without careful study.

Prophecy 1. Justice and Mercy, Not Fasting (Zechariah 7)

This prophecy is dated December 7, 518 BC, nearly two years after Zechariah's earlier Night Vision prophecies.

"1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the LORD 3 by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, 'Should I mourn and fast[113] in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?'" (Zechariah 7:1-2)

Most modern translations (NIV, NRSV, ESV) see the subject of verse 2 as "the people of Bethel."[114] Bethel, a town 12 miles north of Jerusalem, was once a center of pagan worship in the Northern Kingdom. Now it is one of the towns in which returned exiles have settled (Ezra 2:28). A delegation has come to seek God's favor[115] in Jerusalem and ask the priests there a technical question regarding ritual and worship.

Ever since Jerusalem had fallen in 587 BC, the Jewish exiles had remembered with fasting that tragic event that had taken place in the fifth month so many years before (2 Kings 25:8). The priests in Jerusalem would be the ones to make any changes in the ritual worship of the people. Their question is: Now that the temple is nearly finished, should we continue to fast and mourn? Or should this custom cease, since it is no longer relevant? Zechariah, a priest who is now recognized as a prophet of God, answers them -- but doesn't really reply directly to their question until Zechariah 8:19 (where he declares that the fast should become joyful festivals).

Worship that Pleases Us -- not God (Zechariah 7:4-7)

Instead of answering their question, he uses the occasion to ask them -- and all the people -- an important question that lays bare their motives in fasting.

"4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 'Ask all the people of the land and the priests, "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?"'" (Zechariah 7:4-6)

By these rhetorical questions, Yahweh indicts the people for self-serving worship, rather than worship that is really directed towards God.

  • Fast days turned to self-pity as they remembered the terrible events of the fall of Jerusalem and subsequent exile. Repentance and humbling, true reasons to fast, had given way to whining.
  • Feast days had become an excuse to party, rather than real celebration of Yahweh.

That's a pretty strong rebuke! Zechariah continues.

"Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?" (Zechariah 7:4-7)

Zechariah is saying that this is not a new message. Previous prophets have said the same thing. Here are just a few of the many, many prophecies calling people to repentance in the way they worship.

"You seek your own pleasure on your fastdays...." (Isaiah 58:3b)

"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men." (Isaiah 29:13)

Much less than our worship being empty and by rote, such self-serving worship actually annoys God.

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations --
I cannot bear your evil assemblies." (Isaiah 1:13)

Rather than outward worship, God desires a repentant and humble heart that worships him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

How do we apply Zechariah's word to our situation? Dear friends, I think that Almighty God might rebuke our worship too. Too often...

  • We neglect gathering to worship God so that we might be involved in recreation and sports -- or sleep in. Yes, sometimes there are special circumstances, but often gathering to worship is an accurate gauge of our love for God.
  • We seldom fast at all, though our hearts are often far from repentance.
  • Worship at church is about our enjoyment -- feeling good, receiving comfort, and being "fed" -- rather than offering honor and fresh heart surrender to God. In many congregations, our singing has become a rock concert (or classical exercise in choral music), rather than authentic heart worship.

Consider our family exercises on the great celebration days of the Christian church. Too often...

  • Christmas has become all about presents and family, not about the Christ Child.
  • Easter has turned to spring dresses and candy and family meals, rather than a celebration of Christ's resurrection.
  • Pentecost (Whitsunday) is neglected by most traditions, and the coming of the Holy Spirit is poorly understood at best.

I don't mean to be some negative prophet of doom. But we need to apply what Yahweh is saying through the prophet Zechariah to ourselves and our own failings. "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 4:17).

Q1. (Zechariah 7:4-6) In what ways have we Christians tended to make worship about us, rather than about God? How should we evaluate our churches and our worship patterns? What can we do to make our personal worship a matter of the heart, and not just rote readings and prayer?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1733-q1-authentic-worship/

Ethical Righteousness (Zechariah 7:8-10)

Now God speaks another word, this time about ethical justice, a common theme of the prophets who had spoken God's word prior to the exile.

"8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'" (Zechariah 7:8-10)

Later in this lesson we'll consider an overlapping list of ethical commands in Zechariah 8:16-17.

Positive Attributes: Justice, Mercy, and Compassion (Zechariah 7:9)

Verse 9 deals with positive commands, while verse 10 deals with prohibitions, things not to do. I think we'll learn a lot be examining these commands one at a time.

"Administer true justice" (Zechariah 7:9a) is the first command. The verb shāpaṭ involves providing good, just government. The noun mishpāṭ, "justice," usually refers to litigation before a magistrate or judge who hears testimony and then renders a verdict or decision according to law.[116] But justice can be corrupted by the rich and powerful -- both in Zechariah's day and ours. Justice can be corrupted when the judge is influenced either by obvious self-interest or by bribery. It is appropriate for a judge to recuse himself when his own self-interest might be construed to guide his decision. Bribery, of course, is a clear opponent to justice. The Pentateuch clearly forbids offers of money or advantage to influence a decision.

"Do not accept a bribe,
for a bribe blinds those who see
and twists the words of the righteous." (Exodus 23:8)

Disclosure of one's business interests is therefore basic to those who desire the privilege of governing and dispensing justice in a just society. Our verse adds the word ʾemet, "truth, faithfulness, verity," to distinguish real justice from what passes for justice in many parts of our fallen world.

"Show mercy and compassion to one another" (Zechariah 7:9b) is the second command. Though it is difficult to achieve, we must combine justice with mercy. A society that relies on legal precision, but refuses to practice mercy and show compassion, is harsh and, by definition, unforgiving. James affirms: "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). Let's look at the words used here.

"Mercy" (NIV, KJV), "kindness" (NRSV, ESV) is ḥesed, often translated "steadfast love." Hesed is difficult to define precisely, since no one English word encompasses its full meaning. Essentially, hesed is unremitting love within a covenant relationship, even when one party fails or is unfaithful to the covenant. In his landmark study, Gordon Clark concludes:

"Hesed is not merely an attitude or an emotion; it is an emotion that leads to an activity beneficial to the recipient. The relative status of the participants is never a feature of the hesed act, which may be described as a beneficent action performed, in the context of a deep and enduring commitment between two persons or parties, by one who is able to render assistance to the needy party who in the circumstances is unable to help him or herself."[117]

When you consider hesed, you think of a word developed by Paul in the New Testament, grace, Greek charis -- favor that is extended to a person unilaterally, not on the basis of how well one performs or behaves or reciprocates love.

Now we'll consider the word that Zechariah uses alongside hesed:

"Compassion" (NIV), "mercy" (NRSV, ESV), "compassions" (KJV) is raḥamîm, "tender mercy, compassion." It comes from the verb rāḥam, "deep love (usually of a 'superior' for an 'inferior') rooted in some 'natural' bond."[118]

These two words are often used together in the Old Testament. The story of Hosea and his unfaithful wife Gomer illustrates this kind of love and commitment to a fallen covenant partner that goes way beyond one's duty (Hosea 2:19).

"Love" and "compassion" are central to David's great Psalm of Confession (Psalm 51). They also appear in the great hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," based on Lamentations 21:23:

"The steadfast love (hesed) of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies (raḥamîm) never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)

Justness, steadfast love, and compassion are attributes of God's character. That is why the prophet Zechariah calls on us humans to emulate them.

Negative Commands: Don't Oppress the Powerless (Zechariah 7:10a)

The positive attributes to emulate are followed by negative actions for us to avoid.

"Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless,
the sojourner, or the poor,
and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart." (Zechariah 7:10, ESV)

Oppression in Biblical terms involves abuse of power and authority to take advantage of the powerless.[119] On a national scale, for example, Israel is oppressed in Egypt when their overlords make slaves of them (1 Samuel 12:8; etc.). The Babylonians oppress the Israelites in exile (Isaiah 14:4; Jeremiah 50:16). By definition, enslaving someone who has not wronged you is oppression. It's one thing for a person to work off his debt; it is entirely another to keep an individual, his family, and descendants in slavery in perpetuity.

But oppression can be more individual. It is common in Zechariah's time -- and common in our own time -- for the rich and powerful to oppress the weak and disadvantaged. Our passage lists four such groups.

Widows often have no male to protect them in a patriarchal society. Since few women are educated, widows are often tricked in court and deprived of whatever land or goods their family might possess. They are seen as easy prey for the unscrupulous (Job 22:8-9; 24:2-3, 21; Isaiah 10:1-2; Mark 12:40). Jesus tells a parable about a crooked judge who is hounded by a persistent widow until he gives her justice (Luke 18:1-5).

Fatherless children and orphans have no one to protect their interests. If they've inherited anything from their parents, it is at risk of being taken by fraud or theft, with little ability to find relief in the courts.

The poor also have no voice. They can't afford to go to court; they don't have a good enough education to defend themselves. Against the powerful, they are easy pickings.

The sojourner is the fourth group, one which we need to consider carefully. "Alien" (NIV, NRSV), "sojourner" (ESV), "stranger" (KJV) is gêyr, "alien, sojourner, stranger," from the verb gûr, "abide, be a stranger, sojourn." The root means to live among people who are not blood relatives.[120] In our day, with aliens flooding Europe from wars in Africa and the Mideast, residents feel overwhelmed and that their social services and traditional ways of life are threatened. This is also true in parts of America, especially in states adjoining Mexico. America is a country made up almost exclusively of sojourners, who moved to the New World, and then began oppressing Native Americans and slaves brought from Africa. There's plenty of blame to go around.

In our modern society we make a distinction between legal and illegal aliens. But in Bible days there were no such distinctions. No one had papers that were checked at the border. People moved around due to drought, famine, persecution, war, and forced exile to quell rebellion. Examples of aliens or sojourners in the Bible include most of the famous characters, including: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Joseph; the Israelites in Egypt and the Wilderness; Ruth and Naomi; David; Ezra and Nehemiah; Jesus and his parents; Paul; Aquila and Priscilla; and many more.

The Old Testament law gives legal rights to aliens who live with Israel.

"The alien had a legal right (along with the fatherless and the widow) to glean what was left after the harvesters had completed a field, vineyard, or orchard."
(Deuteronomy 24:20-21)

Moreover, the Israelites are commanded not to mistreat[121] aliens, because they (as former aliens) remember how it feels to be aliens (Exodus 23:9; Deuteronomy 24:14; Ezekiel 22:29).

God himself defends aliens.

"[Yahweh] defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow,
and loves the alien,
giving him food and clothing." (Deuteronomy 10:18)

God's backing of the poor and downtrodden has two consequences. First, he who oppresses them, opposes God himself (Proverbs 14:31). Second, since God loves the alien, we are commanded to follow his example:

"When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.
The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.
Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.
I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)

I say all this because Scripture clearly teaches it. This doesn't mean that countries should not control their borders. But clearly, we must not oppress, or take advantage of aliens in our midst -- whether legal or illegal. Rather we must love them and assist them.

God commands us not to oppress the weak. He also commands us to watch our hearts, lest we try to devise ways to take advantage of anyone -- whether helpless or not.

"Let none of you devise[122] evil against another in your heart." (Zechariah 7:10, ESV)

The Fruit of Rebellious Hearts (Zechariah 7:11-14)

God is saying through the prophet Zechariah to turn from evil. Their parents were sent into exile because of their rebellious hearts. Their descendants are only in "the pleasant land"[123] because of God's grace.

11 'But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

13 'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 14 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'" (Zechariah 7:8-14)

Prophecy 2. The Lord Promises to Bless Jerusalem (Zechariah 8-11)

Chapters 8-11 primarily consist of memorable sayings, declarations of blessing over Jerusalem.

  1. Yahweh is jealous for Zion (verse 2, see 1:14). Yahweh isn't passive about Jerusalem. Rather he has strong emotions toward it -- his residence on earth.[124] Zion is used as a synonym for Jerusalem.
  2. Yahweh will dwell in Jerusalem. It will have two titles: (1) "City of Truth" (NIV, KJV) or "faithful city" (NRSV, ESV), and (2) "the Holy Mountain (verse 3; cf. Isaiah 1:26).
  3.  Jerusalem will have both old men and women and boys and girls (verses 4-5). This is a big contrast to the narrow age range of most of the returnees who undertook the arduous journey from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Children have a future in Jerusalem.
  4. Jerusalem will seem marvelous[125] to the returned exiles, yet to God it is a small thing compared to his unlimited power. Nothing is impossible with God (verse 6).
  5. God will save his people from the countries where they are scattered and bring them back to Jerusalem. They will again be God's people, and God will be to them "faithful and righteous" (verses 7-8).

Now we move from short sayings to a longer passage.

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the LORD Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.'" (Zechariah 8:9)

Zechariah is probably referring to the prophecy of Haggai in 520 AD, who had contrasted the hardships they were experiencing before commencing work on the temple (Haggai 1:6-11), to Yahweh's promise of material blessings that would date from the time they restart building the temple (Haggai 2:15-19).

Zechariah reminds them of their former plight:

  • No wages (verse 10a).
  • No security (verse 10b).
  • The Jews as an object of cursing (verse 13)
  • God brought disaster without pity (verse 14)

But now they will experience blessing as their inheritance:

  • Productive seeds (verse 12a).
  • Productive vines (verse 12b).
  • Productive ground (verse 12c).
  • Plentiful dew and rain (verse 12d)
  • Salvation and blessing (verse 13a)
  • God determines to do good to Jerusalem (verse 15)

Twice he tells them not to be afraid (verses 13a, 15) and to let their hands be strong (verses 9, 13b), that is, to be willing to work to complete the temple.

Ethical Commands (Zechariah 8:16-17)

As we saw a call to righteousness in Zechariah 7:9-10, so it is repeated here.

"16 'These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,' declares the LORD." (Zechariah 8:16-17)

Some of these we saw in the first ethical passage. Others are new.

Zechariah 7:9-10Zechariah 8:16-17
  Speak the truth to each other (8:16a).
Administer true justice (7:9a). Render true and sound judgment in your courts (8:16b).
Show mercy and compassion to one another (7:9b).  
Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor (7:10a).  
Let none of you devise evil against another in your heart (7:10b, ESV). Do not plot evil against your neighbor (8:17a).

 

Do not love to swear falsely (8:17b).

The commands not included in the list of Zechariah 7:9-10 relate to being truthful.

"Speak truth to each other" (verse 16a).

"Do not love to swear falsely" (verse 17b).

"Love truth and peace" (verse 19b).

Swearing falsely (Zechariah 8:17b) relates to court testimony. Zechariah spoke strongly against it in the prophecy of the flying scroll in Zechariah 5:4. It is prohibited by the Third and Ninth Commandments (Exodus 20:7, 16). Yahweh, through his prophet Zechariah, is determined that the courts be a place of justice.

However, the command to "speak the truth to each other" (Zechariah 8:16a) refers to everyday communication between the people of Israel. Though it's not part of the Ten Commandments, truthful speech is commanded in both the Old and New Testaments (Psalm 15:1-2; Proverbs 12:22; and often).

"Do not lie. Do not deceive one another." (Leviticus 19:11)

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No';
anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37)

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood
and speak truthfully to his neighbor,
for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25)

"Do not lie to each other,
since you have taken off your old self with its practices." (Colossians 3:9)

Why are we to tell the truth? Because our God is a God of truth. Notice the command is to speak truthfully to "one another" or to our "neighbor." There is no requirement to speak the truth to an enemy.

Q2. (Zechariah 7:9-10; 8:16-17) What does it look like to operate from a policy of mercy and compassion? God commands justice for the poor and oppressed in our culture. How can we be sure that the poor are treated justly in our courts? How do you treat aliens in your country, sojourners from another land? Why is speaking truthfully with others so important to God?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1734-q2-mercy-and-compassion/

Happy Feasts (Zechariah 8:18-19)

Now the prophet picks up the question that began chapter 7:

"Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" (Zechariah 7:3)

The people have been in mourning since the fall of Jerusalem. The prophet declares the answer to this question:

"The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months[126] will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace." (Zechariah 8:19)

The Gentiles Come to Jerusalem (Zechariah 8:20-23)

This prophecy concludes with a future vision of the Gentiles flowing to Jerusalem to seek the Lord in the day of the Messiah.

"20b Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.... 23b In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'" (Zechariah 8:21-23)

In the future, the Jew who has been a byword among the nations is now sought out, as Yahweh's name begins to draw people from all nations. The gathering of the Gentiles to Jerusalem is a theme of Zechariah's (Zechariah 2:11; 14:16-17). It is also a theme found throughout the Old and New Testaments, which both promise that the gospel will go to the Gentiles.[127] Here is a sampling:

"It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established
as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
and many nations shall come, and say:
'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Micah 4:1-2)

God loves his chosen people, the Jews. Paul foresees that at the end -- after "the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (the event of which Zechariah is speaking), that all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25).

Judgment on Israel's Enemies (Zechariah 9:1-8)

Judah has been tormented by the hostile provinces surrounding it. Now Yahweh assures them that God will deal with those who have been discouraging them from building the temple.

Now a textual note. Verse 1b is difficult, it could be translated as "for the LORD has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel" (ESV), which would accord with Yahweh "keeping watch" in verse 8. Or it could be "for the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD" (NIV, cf. KJV).[128]

In some cases, the prophecies against these enemies are quite specific, though we don't know enough of the history from this period to track the fulfillments.[129] Some of the punishments may refer to conquests under Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire, or later by the Romans.

The final part of this prophecy is intriguing.

"I will take the blood from their mouths, the forbidden food from between their teeth. Those who are left will belong to our God and become leaders in Judah, and Ekron will be like the Jebusites." (Zechariah 9:7)

Zechariah prophesies that some who are enemies will be converted to Judaism, even become leaders. The "blood" and "forbidden food" refer to non-Kosher food eaten by pagans. The Jebusites under David's rule co-existed with the Israelites and were absorbed into Judah; so it will be with the residents of Ekron.

Zechariah looks forward to the universal reign of the Messiah, as we'll see in the following passage. In that day, Judah will be free from enemies, for Yahweh is watching over his "house," the temple.

"But I will defend my house against marauding forces.[130]
Never again will an oppressor overrun my people,
for now I am keeping watch." (Zechariah 9:8)

The Coming of Zion's King (Zechariah 9:9-10)

James J. Tissot, ‘Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem’ (1898-1902), gouache on board, Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, 'Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem' (1898-1902), gouache on board, Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Now we come to a familiar passage, quoted in Matthew 21:5 and John 12:15 as fulfilled in Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday at the beginning of Holy Week.

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9)

The donkey was domesticated in Mesopotamia by the Third Millennium BC and was used as a beast of burden from the patriarchal period. It was renowned for its strength and was the animal normally ridden by nonmilitary personnel (Numbers 22:21; Judges 10:4; 1 Samuel 25:20).[131]

Scripture indicates that riding a donkey is not at all beneath the dignity of Israel's noblemen and kings (2 Samuel 18:9; 19:26). Indeed, David indicates his choice of Solomon to be king by decreeing that the young man should ride on the king's own mule (1 Kings 1:32-40).

Jesus' instructions are clear that the donkey must be one that has never been ridden.[132] It is set apart, consecrated for a specific use -- for the Master's use. There is a rabbinical tradition that no one should use the animal on which a king rides.[133]

It is fascinating to me that in Zechariah's prophecy the gentle king that comes into Jerusalem riding a young donkey is the same one who will defeat chariots and war-horses and bring peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:10). One of the final scenes of Revelation is a picture of the conquering Christ riding a white war-horse (Revelation 19:11-16), but in this instance he rides a donkey in hope of peace.

When Jesus indicates to his disciples that he should ride on a donkey that no one had ever ridden before, he is initiating a public, kingly act. He is revealing openly that he is the Messiah spoken of by the prophets.

This Messianic King will bring peace.

"I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
and the war-horses from Jerusalem,
and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
His rule will extend from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth." (Zechariah 9:10)

The mention of Ephraim (the largest of the tribes of the Northern Kingdom) indicates that the Messiah will reunite the divided kingdoms and restore the ten tribes from exile. All kinds of military weapons will be banished by this King who brings peace, not only to Israel, but to the whole earth!

Jubilation and Prosperity for God's Flock (Zechariah 9:11-17)

These words are given to encourage the returned exiles, who have come back to build their temple within Jerusalem with broken-down walls.

"11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you." (Zechariah 9:11-12)

God reminds the people of the blood covenant he has made with them (Genesis 15:9-11; Exodus 24:5-8), which guarantees that he will fight on their behalf when they are attacked, as a Suzerain for his vassal. They are to return to their fortress[134] city, Jerusalem. God promises to restore to them double for what they have suffered, as Isaiah promised (Isaiah 40:2; 61:7).

The next passage describes the final war. "Greece" in verse 13 is yāwān, "Ionia, Greece,"[135]] but also could refer to distant unknown peoples on the edge of civilization.[136] We're not sure if this prophecy refers to the Greek kings that followed Alexander the Great, or a future eschatological reference. The passage concludes with indications of the prosperity God will bring to his people. Notice that God is the Shepherd, who saves and takes delight in his sheep, who circle the hills like jewels on a crown.[137]

"16 The LORD their God will save them on that day
as the flock of his people.
They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.
17 How attractive and beautiful they will be!
Grain will make the young men thrive,
and new wine the young women." (Zechariah 9:16-17)

The Lord Will Care for Judah (Zechariah 10-11)

The prophecy in chapter 10 derides the people's lack of godly leadership. Yahweh declares that he will be a shepherd to Judah.

"2b Therefore the people wander like sheep
oppressed for lack of a shepherd.
3 My anger burns against the shepherds,
and I will punish the leaders;
for the LORD Almighty will care for his flock,
the house of Judah,
and make them like a proud horse in battle." (Zechariah 10:2-3)

Zechariah affirms that the leader will come from the tribe of Judah.

"From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
from him every ruler." (Zechariah 10:4)

This is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah, born in Bethlehem, the city of David, of the tribe of Judah, also prophesied in Micah 5:2.

"See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah,
the Root of David, has triumphed." (Revelation 5:5b)

When the Messiah returns, God will save the exiles from the Northern Kingdom, "the house of Joseph" (verse 6), the Ephraimites (verse 7), will gather them from exile (verses 9-10), and become their leader (verse 12). Zechariah 11:1-3 laments the ruin of Lebanon and Bashan, to the north of Judah.

Prophecy 3. The Two Shepherds (Zechariah 11:4-17))

This passage is confusing, to say the least. And it contains a verse that Baldwin calls "probably the most enigmatic in the whole Old Testament."[138] There are many, many interpretations, so I don't expect that we'll be able to decipher the whole prophecy. However, some things can be interpreted with some degree of certainty. Clearly the prophecy is about leadership and the consequences of bad leadership over God's people. Let's see what we can learn.

In the Bible, "shepherd" is used for:

  1. A person who literally cares for animals, specifically sheep or goats.
  2. Then, by extension, for a king, high priest, or leader -- one who rules over a group of people. You see this metaphor used throughout the Ancient Near East for kings and leaders. In this sense, Shepherd is used of God, "The Lord is my shepherd...." (Psalm 23).

In verse 4a, the Lord tells Zechariah to act as shepherd over[139] "the flock marked for slaughter." It's quite possible Zechariah did not literally fulfill this, but rather that this shepherd role of his is some kind of prophetic symbol to make a point about the fate of rebellious Israel.

Now let's look at a few verses and make identifications.

"4b 'Pasture the flock marked for slaughter. 5 Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, "Praise the LORD, I am rich!" Their own shepherds do not spare them. 6 For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,' declares the LORD. 'I will hand everyone over to his neighbor and his king. They will oppress the land, and I will not rescue them from their hands.'" (Zechariah 11:4b-6)

  • "The flock marked for slaughter" seems to be Israel, God's people. Some sheep are raised for their wool, shorn year after year. Others are raised for meat. The prophecy is saying that God's people are destined to be killed.
  • "Their buyers" refer to their oppressors -- the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians (in Zechariah's time), and later, perhaps, the Greeks and the Romans.
  • "Those who sell them" are their own leaders, "who ingratiated themselves with the authorities to their own material advantage,"[140] not caring for the welfare people in their charge. They are also referred to as "their own shepherds" (11:5b) and perhaps in verse 11 as "the sheep merchants" (NRSV), "sheep traders" (ESV).

The Detested Shepherd (Zechariah 11:7-9)

Zechariah takes on the task of leading this flock, with special care for those who are hurting -- "the oppressed of the flock."

"7 So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I pastured the flock. 8 In one month I got rid of the three shepherds. The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them 9 and said, 'I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another's flesh.'" (Zechariah 11:7-9)

Zechariah, in this allegory, does his best. He gets rid of three shepherds or leaders who have been exploiting the sheep.[141] But the people don't appreciate what he is doing for them. "The flock detested me" (verse 8b). Finally, Zechariah tires of caring for people who have no appreciation for his work on their behalf, and leaves them to their fate.

People often don't appreciate their leaders, even the best leaders. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, "came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem through his tears, and says:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)

Jesus tells the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-44), in which an owner builds a vineyard, but the tenants rebel, won't pay the rent, and finally kill the owner's son who comes to collect what is due. Of course, the rebellious tenants are the Jewish leaders who kill God's Son -- and they finally get their due. They had a chance, but they rejected the Shepherd who could save them.

We know that Zechariah himself was detested, "murdered between the temple and the altar" (Matthew 23:35).

Breaking the Staff Called Favor and 30 Pieces of Silver (Zechariah 11:10-14)

Zechariah, the stand-in shepherd, has been given two shepherd's staffs. He breaks these staffs in symbolic acts.

"10 Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the afflicted of the flock[142] who were watching me knew it was the word of the LORD." (Zechariah 11:10-11)

The first staff is named "Favor" (NIV, ESV, NRSV, NASB), "Goodwill" (NJB), "Beauty" (KJV). The Hebrew noun is ʿam, "pleasantness, beauty, kindness, favor," from the verb ʿēm, "be pleasant, sweet, delightful, beautiful."[143]] God's covenant protects Israel, as a suzerain has an obligation to protect vassal states that are attacked. But when God's gracious covenant is revoked because of his people's rebellion, their protection is lifted, and they are subject to the full onslaught of their enemies.

Zechariah is quitting his role as shepherd -- as the Jewish leaders desire -- but he brings up the matter of compensation for his service.

"12 I told them, 'If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.'

13 And the LORD said to me, 'Throw it to the potter' -- the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter." (Zechariah 11:12-13)

The Jewish leaders paid Zechariah 30 pieces of silver, the value of a slave (Exodus 21:32) -- and the amount paid Judas to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). It shows how little they valued one who had been their leader! Zechariah rejects their insulting pay and throws it into the temple to the potter. "Potter" (NIV, ESV, KJV) translates the Hebrew text, while "treasury" (NRSV) translates the Syriac translation. The words have a similar sound in Hebrew -- yāṣar, "potter" vs. ʾôṣār, "treasury." There are various speculations about the relationship of potters and a treasury to the temple,[144] which are obscure to us today.

It is clear, however, that our Zechariah passage is referred to regarding the 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus (Matthew 26:15). Later, realizing what he has done, Judas throws the money into the temple (Matthew 27:5), and the money is used by the priests to purchase a potter's field in which to bury foreigners (Matthew 27:7). Matthew's reference is attributed to Jeremiah, a better known prophet, who he is also referencing (Jeremiah 18:2-3; 19:1-13; 32:6-15).[145] Lenzki notes,

"In Zechariah the payment of thirty pieces of silver was made in order to get rid of Israel's shepherd. That same price was paid to get rid of Jesus who is Israel's Shepherd.""[146]

Breaking the Staff of Union (Zechariah 11:14)

The second staff is named "Union" (NIV, ESV, NASB), "Unity" (NRSV), "Bands" (KJV), "Couplers" (NJB). The word is ḥābal, "to bind."

"Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel." (Zechariah 11:14))

The unity between the 12 tribes was broken. Though the leaders had been exiled under the Assyrians centuries before this, some members of the Ten Tribes remained in Samaria. This too was to be broken.

The Foolish, Worthless Shepherd (Zechariah 11:15-17)

The Lord had called Zechariah to symbolically pastor the flock marked for slaughter. Now he calls him again to be a sign, a portent or warning of a future "foolish shepherd" who won't care for the people, but exploit them.

"15 Then the LORD said to me, 'Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd.
16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hoofs." (Zechariah 11:15-16)

This shepherd is called "foolish" in verse 15. The word, often used in Proverbs, denotes a person who is sinful rather than mentally stupid.[147] In verse 17 he is referred to as "worthless," that is, "weak, deficient."[148] The prophecy concludes with God's curse on the "worthless shepherd" in verses 15-17.

Q3. (Zechariah 11:4-17) Why is God so condemnatory towards shepherds or leaders who take advantage of their office and exploit the people? What is Jesus' standard for leaders (Mark 10:42-45). What would it look like in government if we followed Jesus' standard? What would it look like in your workplace? In your church? In your home?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1735-q3-servant-leaders/

Prophecy 4. The Great Battle and New Jerusalem (Zechariah 12-14)

Zechariah 12-14 look forward to a future battle that has the nations of the earth gathering against Judah and Jerusalem. It sounds a lot like the final eschatological battle prophesied in Joel 3:8-16, Revelation 19-20, and elsewhere. The people will be attacked and conquered, but God will fight for them and will ultimately vanquish the enemy.

You'll probably find some Bible teachers who can tell you exactly how each of the elements of chapters 12-14 fit on some End Time chronological chart. I can't, though I recognize that this prophecy clearly belongs to the End Times.

Instead of a detailed exposition of future events that are vague at best, I'll conclude Zechariah by looking at some of the key prophecies here clearly fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

Mourning for the One they Have Pierced (Zechariah 12:10)

William Adolphe Bouguereau, ‘Compassion’ (1897), oil on canvas, 130x280 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris
William Adolphe Bouguereau, 'Compassion' (1897), oil on canvas, 130x280 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Here's a remarkable passage!

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." (Zechariah 12:10)

It prophesies that the Jews will look upon "the one they have pierced" and mourn for him. In the light of the New Testament, we see this as Messiah Jesus, who was crucified for our sins. This prophecy indicates that Jews will ultimately repent of crucifying Jesus! It is quoted in John's Gospel (John 19:36-37).

Paul indicates that in the End Times this repentance and cleansing will come:

"A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved"[149] (Romans 11:25b-26a)

A Fountain to Cleanse from Sin (Zechariah 13:1)

Along the same line is the wonderful promise of the End Time when washing and cleansing will come to the Jews.

"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zechariah 13:1)

We see the phrase "fountain of life" a number of times in Scripture,[150] and the theme of washing from sins,[151] though the image of a fountain[152] is striking. The word "fountain" comes from the idea of to dig a well.[153] At Jacob's well in Samaria, Jesus says,

"Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:14)

Humans can't dig such a well or produce such a fountain by their own efforts. This is a well only Jesus can draw from, offering cleansing from sin to those who will wash in its waters.

Strike the Shepherd (Zechariah 13:7)

Now we consider a passage recalled by Jesus, when he looks forward to the disciples fleeing at his capture and crucifixion (Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27; cf. John 16:32). Zechariah is speaking of striking another shepherd, the Great Shepherd, "the man who is close to me."

"'Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is close to me!'
declares the LORD Almighty.
'Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,
and I will turn my hand against the little ones.'" (Zechariah 13:7)

This brings to mind another Messianic prophecy of this Shepherd, the Suffering Servant who bears the sins of the sheep.

"We considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4b-5)

I'm skipping over the details of the final Battle, but note that the extreme testing of this time brings a refining effect to the third of the people who are not killed.

"This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.
They will call on my name and I will answer them;
 I will say, 'They are my people,'
and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" (Zechariah 13:9)

Q4. (Zechariah 12-13) Paul was broken-hearted for his countrymen the Jews, who had rejected the Messiah. We should be too. When do you think the prophecy will be fulfilled that says, "They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn...?" (Zechariah 12:10). Concerning the fountain that cleanses from sin and impurity (Zechariah 13:1), has that been fulfilled, or will it be future? Why will it please God so much when all the Jews finally believe in Jesus?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1736-q4-messiah/

The Lord Comes and Reigns (Zechariah 14)

Zechariah 14 recounts the coming terrible battle against Jerusalem. In spite of the heavy toll on the residents, we read that:

"Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations,
as he fights in the day of battle." (Zechariah 14:3)

And at the victorious conclusion of the battle we read:

"Then the LORD my God will come,
and all the holy ones with him." (Zechariah 14:5b)

This coming of the "holy ones" sounds a lot like New Testament references to the event some call "The Rapture." Christ's coming will certainly include angels.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels." (Matthew 16:27a; cf. 25:31; Jude 14)

But the "holy ones" will also include "the saints, the people of the Most High" (Daniel 7:27).

"And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,
and they will gather his elect from the four winds,
from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:31)

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

The concluding verses of Zechariah speak of the Day of the Lord in symbolic terms of the perfection when Christ returns to set the world aright -- much like the imagery of Revelation 21 and 22 of the new heavens and new earth. We see symbolic language of:

  • Light in the evening (verse 7).
  • Living water flowing from Jerusalem (verse 8).
  • Yahweh as king over the whole earth (verse 9).
  • Jerusalem will be raised up and inhabited forever (verses 10-11).
  • God's enemies will cease to be (verses 12-13, 15).
  • The wealth of the nations will be collected (verse 14).
  • The Gentiles will worship Yahweh in Jerusalem (verses 16-19).
  • The inscription of the High Priest's plate, "Holy to the Lord" will be inscribed on the cooking pots of the common people -- in effect, the common and unclean are made holy (verses 20-21a).
  • No enemy of God (Canaanite) will pollute the temple, as they did in the days of Nehemiah (verse 21b, see Nehemiah 14:4-9).

Again, I apologize for the length of this chapter. I just hope it has helped you to understand these passages better.

Lessons for Disciples

A number of lessons for modern-day disciples emerge from Zechariah 7-14.

  1. Rather than mere outward worship, God desires a repentant and humble heart that worships him in spirit and in truth. Too often, our worship is evaluated by what it does for us (makes us feel good, feeds us, etc.). Rather, worship needs to be towards God, and evaluated by how we come before him with humility and sincerity of heart. Our goal is to please God, not ourselves (Zechariah 7:4-7).
  2. God calls us to ethical righteousness -- true justice for the weakest in our society and an attitude of mercy and compassion rather than exploitation (Zechariah 7:8-10; 8:16-17).
  3. Even when we are not under oath, we are also called to truthful speech with one another (Zechariah 8:16-17), rather than deceit.
  4. We are to carry God's word to the Gentiles, those who don't know Jesus. As a result, they will begin to flow towards Jerusalem -- an End Time prophecy and a theme of both Old and New Testaments (Zechariah 8:20-23).
  5. As the King enters Jerusalem gently and humbly, riding on a donkey, so we are to exhibit a character of gentleness and humility (Zechariah 9:9-10).
  6. God is concerned about leaders protecting his people from oppression, rather than oppressing them (Zechariah 10-11). We are not to be leaders who domineer over people, but who serve them.

  7. Available in paperback, PDF,  Kindle formats
    Zechariah contains a number of prophecies of the Messiah, which are fulfilled in Jesus, encouraging us that God keeps his word, even if it doesn't find fulfillment in our lifetimes (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1, 7).
  8. Zechariah reminds us of the New Testament prophecies of the Last Day -- of battles, of judgments, and of the final place of peace in the New Heavens and the New Earth, themes that are echoed in the final chapters of Revelation.

"On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name." (Zechariah 14:8-9)

Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Prayer

Father, Zechariah speaks of many things I don't understand, but what I do understand frightens me. Keep me and other believers safe during the final Battle that will take place before you come. Help me to have courage to reach out to "the nations," so that they will hear the Good News and be drawn to you. Help me to represent your love and your justice to the weakest in my region, and love them as you love them. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Key Verses

Though much of Zechariah has some obscure images and prophecies, there are a number of verses that stand out -- some of which are quoted in the New Testament.

"When you fasted and mourned ... was it really for me that you fasted? And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?" (Zechariah 7:5b-6, NIV)

"Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other." (Zechariah 7:9-10, NIV)

"'Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,' declares the LORD." (Zechariah 8:16-17, NIV)

"In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.'" (Zechariah 8:23, NIV)

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9, NIV)

"The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!" (Zechariah 9:16-17a, NIV)

"So I pastured the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I pastured the flock." (Zechariah 11:7, NIV)

"They paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, 'Throw it to the potter' -- the handsome price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter. (Zechariah 11:12a-13)

"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son." (Zechariah 12:10)

"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity." (Zechariah 13:1)

"Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones." (Zechariah 13:7b)

"On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name." (Zechariah 14:8-9)

Endnotes

[113] "Fast" (NIV), "practice abstinence" (NRSV), "abstain" (ESV), "separating myself" (KJV) is nāzar, "separate, consecrate (oneself)." The basic meaning of the verb is "to separate," hence the term Nazirite, "a consecrated person" (Thomas E. McComiskey, TWOT #1340). There is no object given in verse 3. It could have been separation from food or sexual relations. But from the context in verse 4 (the verb ṣûm, "to fast"), it seems to refer to fasting.

[114] The KJV translates the Hebrew word Bethel as a "house of God" rather than the place name of a town 12 miles north of Jerusalem, though this translation is unlikely. It is possible to see the subject as a person with the compound name "Bethel-Sharezer." Baldwin (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp. 142-143) thinks it likely that this is a delegation from the Jewish community in Babylon to inquire at Jerusalem. Whether or not this is the case, the general meaning and context of the passage remain the same.

[115] Entreat" (NIV), "entreat the favor of" (NIV), "to pray before" (KJV) is the Piel stem of ḥālâ with penê ("the face of") means to "entreat, seek the favor of" (Carl Philip Weber, TWOT #656).

[116] "Administer true justice" (NIV), "render true judgments" (NRSV, ESV), "execute true judgment" (KJV) is three words: the verb shāpaṭ, "judge, govern." The verb means basically to exercise the processes of government, not just judicial functions (Robert D. Culver, #TWOT 2443). So the NIV's "administer" is probably a pretty good translation of the idea. The noun is mishpāṭ, from the same stem. It means "justice." Though it can refer to any kind of religious or civil government, mishpāṭ most often refers to litigation before a civil magistrate who hears evidence and testimony and then renders a decision according to law (TWOT #2443c). The qualifying word is ʾemet, "truth, faithfulness, verity" (TWOT #116k).

[117] Gordon R. Clark, The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 267. See also Robin Routledge, "Hesed as Obligation: A Re-Examination," Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 1 (1995), pp. 179-196. See also R. Laird Harris, hesed, TWOT #698).

[118] Coppes notes that this word shows the link between rāḥam, 'to have compassion' (Piel) and reḥem/raḥam, 'womb,' for "raḥămîm can refer to the seat of one's emotions or the expression of one's deep emotion" (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #2146b).

[119] "Oppress" is ʿāshaq, "oppress, get deceitfully, defraud, do violence." (Ronald B. Allen, TWOT #1713). The verbal root ʿāshaq is concerned with acts of abuse of power or authority, the burdening, trampling, and crushing of those lower in station.

[120] Harold G. Stigers, gêyr, TWOT #330a.

[121] "Mistreat" (NIV), "oppress" (NRSV), "do wrong" (ESV), "vex" (KJV) is the Hiphil stem of yānâ, "oppress" (Holladay, Hebrew Lexicon, p. 136), "maltreat" (BDB, p. 413).

[122] "Think evil of" (NIV), "devise evil against" (NRSV, ESV), "imagine evil against" (KJV) is two words: raʿ, "evil, distress," and the Qal stem of ḥāshab, "think, plan, make a judgment, imagine, count." The basic idea of the word is the employment of the mind in thinking activity. The most frequent idea is one of "planning, devising" (Leonard J. Wood, TWOT #767). The NIV's translation, "think evil of" is based on taking ḥāshab to mean "make a judgment." While this is possible, I think it is unlikely, since the context of Zephaniah 7:10 seems to be condemning unjust actions, not heart attitudes, which are covered in verse 9. Also the NIV translates ḥāshab in a parallel passage as "plot evil" (Zechariah 8:17).

[123] The "pleasant land" uses the adjective ḥemdâ, "pleasant, precious," from ḥāmad, "desire, delight in." (TWOT #673). This has a similar idea to Beulah Land (Isaiah 62:4), from beulah, "married."

[124] "Jealous" is the Piel stem of qānāʾ, "be jealous, envious, zealous." This verb expresses a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject. Coppes notes, "It may prove helpful to think of 'zeal' as the original sense from which derived the notions zeal for another's 'property'='envy' and zeal for one's own 'property'='jealousy'" (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT 2038).

[125] "Marvelous" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "impossible" (NRSV) is the Niphal stem of pālāʾ, "be marvelous, wonderful" (TWOT #1768).

[126] Baldwin (Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 143) notes that the fourth month commemorated the breach of the city wall (Jeremiah 39:2); The fifth, the destruction of the temple (2 Kings 25:8). The seventh month commemorated the death of Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:25); the tenth, the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1-2).

[127] Psalm 22:27; 72:17; 117:1-2; 138:4-5; Isaiah 2:2-3; 11:10; 49:6, 22-23; 66:18-20; Isaiah 60; Malachi 1:11; Matthew 8:41; Revelation 11:15.

[128] Literally, verse 1a reads "the oracle of the word of the LORD" (NIV), or "the burden of the word of the LORD" (KJV). The word is maśśāʾ, "burden, oracle," from nāśāʾ, "to lift, carry, take." The phrase occurs often in prophecies. P.A.H. de Boer (An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Term Maśśāʾ, Brill: Leiden, 1948) found that maśśāʾ is a burden, "imposed by a master, a despot, or a deity on subjects, beasts, men, or things." So maśśāʾ is a technical term, "a burden imposed on...." introducing the theme of a prophecy. If translated "oracle," it still contains the ideas of compulsion, urgency, dread (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp. 162-163).

[129] Hadrach, was a city-state in northern Syria, probably Hatarikka, present day Tell Afis, about 28 miles southwest of Aleppo (William Sanford LaSor, "Hadrach," ISBE 2:592). Damascus, was a leading city-state that often dominated cities around it. It remains as the capital of modern Syria. Hamath, was a royal city-state of the Hittites, present-day Hama, on the main road from Damascus to Aleppo. Tyre and Sidon are ancient Phoenician cities on the coast north of Israel in present-day Lebanon. Tyre (modern Ṣur) was heavily fortified and rich from extensive trade. Ashkelon, Gaza, and Ekron are three of the five ancient Philistine city-states that were Israel's ancient enemy.. Ashkelon and Gaza are port cities the coastal plain of the eastern Mediterranean, and are important today -- Ashkelon within the State of Israel, Gaza controlled by the Palestinians. Incidentally, "Palestine" comes from the root of the word "Philistine." Only the ruins of Ekron are visible today as Tel Miqne (Hebrew) or Khirbet el-Muqanna (Arabic), on the eastern side of the coastal plain within the State of Israel.

[130] The phrase is literally, "I will encamp at my house as a guard" (NRSV, ESV), better than "I will encamp about mine house because of the army" (KJV).

[131] R.K. Harrison, "Ass," ISBE 1:330.

[132] See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7; 2 Samuel 6:3.

[133] Joel B. Green (The Gospel of Luke (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 1997), p. 685, fn. 9) mentions Catchpole, "Triumphal Entry," in Jesus and the Politics of His Day, edited by Ernst Bammel and C.F.D. Moule (Cambridge University, 1984), p. 324, who cites Sanh 2.5.

[134] "Fortress" (NIV), "stronghold" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is biṣṣārôn, "stronghold, fortified (or fenced) city" (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #270c).

[135] Yāwān, TWOT #855.

[136] Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 169.

[137] Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 170.

[138] Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 181.

[139] ʿâ, "pasture, tend, graze" (TWOT #2185).

[140] Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 180.

[141] Verse 8a is difficult to understand: "In one month I got rid of the three shepherds." There have been many attempts to identify the three shepherds historically, as kings, or high priests, or heads of successive empires. But there is absolutely no unanimity at all about an interpretation. It's best to understand it generally. For various views consult the commentaries.

[142] The translation "afflicted of the flock" (NIV), "poor of the flock" (KJV) follows the Hebrew text. The translation "sheep traders" (ESV, cf. NRSV) follows the Greek Septuagint translation (Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, p. 184).

[143] ʿam, TWOT #1384a.

[144] See Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, pp. 185-186.

[145] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Pillar Commentary; Eerdmans, 1992), pp. 696-698; R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 1041-1045.

[146] R.C.H. Lenzki, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel (Minneapolis, 1964), p. 1083.

[147] "Foolish shepherd" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "worthless shepherd" (NASB) is ʾewilî, "foolish." This word, used often in Proverbs, denotes a person who is morally deficient (Louis Goldberg, TWOT #44b).

[148] "Worthless shepherd" (NIV, NASB, ESV) "idol shepherd" (KJV) -- ʾelîl, "something worthless (particularly as an object of worship), from a root meaning "to be weak, deficient" (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #99a).

[149] Paul is referring to Isaiah 59:20-21, where Israel will repent and turn to the Lord, and God will restore his covenant with them.

[150] Proverbs 13:14; 16:22; 10:11; 14:27; Psalm 36:9; Jeremiah 2:13.

[151] Psalm 51:2, 7; Isaiah 1:16; Ezekiel 36:25; 1 Corinthians 16:11; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 3:5; Revelation 7:13-14.

[152] In Revelation 7:13-14 there is a vision of a great multitude wearing white robes. "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14). In 1772, William Cowper wrote a vivid hymn based on this image and Zechariah 13:1. "There is a fountain filled with blood / drawn from Emmanuel's veins; / And sinners plunged beneath that flood / lose all their guilty stains."

[153] "Fountain" is māqôr, a from the root qûr, "to dig for water (TWOT #204a).


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