In our studies we have now reached the last six chapters of the prophecies of Zechariah. Within these last six chapters we will see prophecies that are more of an apocalyptic nature, like those found in Daniel and Revelation. Because we have recently studied the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, I believe it was also important for us to study the prophecies of Zechariah while we still had those apocalyptic images still fresh in our minds. We begin with the prophecies of the arrival of the shepherd king.
Zechariah 9 – The Coming Judgments
The conquering path of Alexander the Great (9:1-8)
In the first eight verses Zechariah prophesies of the coming judgments upon the nations and cities that surround the land of Israel. In verse 1 we see the burden of the word of the Lord is against Damascus. In verse 2 judgments are pronounced against Hamath, Tyre, and Sidon. In verses 5-6 further judgments are declared against the land of Philistia, including the cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod. However, while all of these nations are being judged, verse 8 tells us that God will camp at His house, being a reference to the temple or the whole city of Jerusalem. Historically we can find out that these events were fulfilled in the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander was the first to be able to penetrate and destroy Tyre. Tyre had been able to withstand a five year siege from the Assyrians and a 13 year siege by the Babylonians. Because of these military successes, Tyre and Sidon thought themselves to be very wise and unconquerable (vs. 2). However, Alexander the Great was able to conquer the city in seven months, fulfilling the prophecies found here and in Ezekiel 26:12-14. Alexander the Great was able to conquer the known world rather swiftly, as prophesied by Daniel in Daniel 8.
How could Jerusalem be spared in all of this? Josephus records for us an interesting story: When Alexander was besieging Tyre he sent a letter to the high priest, who lived in Jerusalem, requesting him to send him assistance and provisions. The priest declined to do this because he had sworn an oath to King Darius of Persia. This infuriated Alexander and he was determined to attack and destroy Jerusalem once he finished with the coastal cities. Once these cities were conquered, Alexander and his armies made their way to Jerusalem. The high priest was terrified and ordered the Jews to make sacrifices to God asking for deliverance. After the sacrifice, God spoke to the high priest while in his sleep to adorn the city with wreaths and open the gates of the city to meet the coming invaders. The people were to be dressed in white garments and the priests in their robes. When Alexander saw the multitudes in whites garments and the priests in their full attire, he approached alone and prostrated himself before God and the high priest. Alexander’s men were astonished at this and demanded to know why he bowed down to the high priest. Alexander responded, “It was not before him that I prostrated myself but the God of whom he has the honor to be high priest, for it was he whom I saw in my sleep dressed as he is now, when I was at Dior in Macedonia. As I was considering with myself how I might become master of Asia, he urged me not to hesitate but to cross over confidently, for he himself would lead my army and give over to me the empire of the Persians. Since, therefore, I have beheld no one else in such robes, and on seeing him now I am reminded of the vision and the exhortation, I believe that I have made this expedition under divine guidance and that I shall defeat Darius and destroy the power of the Persians.”
Of course, most scholars are skeptical of this account. But we must remember that God talked directly to Nebuchadnezzar concerning his invasions of Judah and the conquering of the land, which is seen in Daniel 4. God also spoke to king Cyrus of the Persians and moved him to free the Jews from captivity and allow them to return to the Jerusalem to rebuild. It is extremely possible, if not probable, that God also moved Alexander, according to prophecy, to conquer the world but to leave Jerusalem alone. All the other surrounding Gentile cities were destroyed, but not the Jewish cities in Judah.
The arrival of the conquering King (9:9-11)
Now Zechariah declares a time for rejoicing for “your king is coming to you” (vs. 9). There are four descriptions giving to the coming king: righteous, bringing salvation, humble, and riding on a donkey. The people would be able to realize two things about these descriptions. First, that this is a clear reference to the Messiah, because he is called the king and he is bring salvation. Second, these are not the typical descriptions of a king. Zechariah is describing the perfect king. This king would rule in righteousness and would be humble and gentle. This king will offer salvation and deliverance to his subjects. But there is another interesting description given concerning the king. He will ride of a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. One would imagine that there would be some pondering of the meaning of this description. Matthew 21:1-8 enlightens us as Matthew gives his commentary of this prophecy. We often note that this would not be the usual glory and majesty that would be expected for a king entering the city of Jerusalem. However, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey so that the people would see this event and would hopefully be mindful of the prophecy He was fulfilling. This event was to a sign of Jesus’ fulfillment and becoming their king. According to verse 11, these things would be done as a remembrance of the covenant God had made with His people.
The warring during the Maccabees (9:12-17)
Zechariah returns to describing the events that will lead up to the coming of the king. In verse 13 we are told that the sons of Zion would go to war against the sons of Greece. The fulfillment of these words seems to come in the time of the Maccabees around the time of 165 B.C. This is in keeping with the prophecies of Daniel, which speaks of the unrest that would take place during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Judas Maccabees won many stunning victories against Antiochus’ generals and achieve independence for the Jews for about 100 years until Roman rule appeared. Verses 14-17 declare that God will be with His people. Those who are the Lord’s will be blessed and will flourish. But because of the language that is given in this text, the true fulfillment of these things must be found spiritually. As we have noted in many times before, some prophecies have a partial physical fulfillment as a token or guarantee that the complete promise will be fulfilled. God will remain with His people and will bring the Messiah as a deliverer for the people.
Zechariah 10 – The Coming Ruler
False shepherds and the Messiah
In verse 2 we see Zechariah note that the people wander like sheep without a shepherd. Why were the people this way? The reason is that those who were to be the leaders and teachers of the people had not done their jobs. Therefore we see in verse 3, “I will punish the leaders.” Jesus made the same conclusions in the first century in Matthew 9:36. Those who were to be the leaders of the people in Jesus’ day were not doing the job and they would be judged for their lack of aid to the people. From the tribe of Judah “shall come the cornerstone,” “the tent peg,” “the battle bow” and “every ruler.” We see this reference used in the New Testament in such places as Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.” Paul reaffirms that it is Jesus Christ that is being spoken of as the cornerstone. Jesus is the tent peg, or nail, upon which all depends. He is the strength and fastens the tent to the ground, giving a sturdy foundation. This presents the image of the Messiah that will be conquering and will not be defeated. This image is further developed in the description, “from him every ruler.” All earthly authority derives its power from Christ (John 19:11). “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). Verses 10-12 further illustrate this point where we see all the world nations being brought low by the power of God.
In verse 8 we are told that the coming Messiah will gather His people in because He has redeemed them. The picture of the Messiah redeeming His people has been something that Zechariah has noted repeatedly. In Zechariah 3 we saw the people removing their filthy clothes and being given rich garments because of the work of the Branch. In chapter 6 we see the Branch working as both king and priest, implying the ability to atone for the sins of those who come to Him. Now, in chapter 10 we are again presented with the fact that the Messiah would have to purchase His people. We are not told how the Messiah would redeem His people in this chapter, but we are given the information with such surety that it is stated in the past tense “for I have redeemed them.” More about this will be revealed in later chapters.
Zechariah 11 – The Coming Shepherd
Destruction of Jerusalem (11:1-3)
The first three verses of chapter 11 seem to be rather tame and of the nature that we would simply pass over these words and look for something of importance. The Jewish temple was made of cedars from Lebanon, and from this some have seen a reference here to the destruction of the temple. What is very interesting to consider is that the Jews themselves interpreted these three verses as the destruction of the temple. According to Coffman’s Commentary, Rabbi Johannan said, “Now I know that the destruction of the temple is at hand, according to the prophecy of Zechariah, ‘Open thy doors, O Lebanon! That the fire may devour thy cedars.’” These words were said by this rabbi when the massive doors of the temple opened on their own accord during the Passover of the crucifixion of Jesus. This interpretation is in keeping with the theme of this chapter, which we will notice as we go on in our study. Coming out of chapter 10, these words of judgment are tied to the coming of the Messiah who will strike down the heathen nations.
Zechariah, a type of Christ (11:4-14)
In verse 4 it seems that Zechariah is told in act out a scene. Ezekiel was told to perform many actions to show the people the things that were going to happen in his prophecies. So it seems here as well, where Zechariah is to act as a shepherd for the flock doomed to slaughter. What we will see as we read this chapter is that the shepherd that Zechariah is acting as is a picture of the Messiah. Further, the flock that is doomed for slaughter is the people of Israel. With these things in mind, let us notice some points from the chapter. Since the shepherds were afflicting and slaughtering the flock on their own, the Messiah becomes the shepherd of the flock doomed to the slaughter (vs. 5-7). Since these images apply to the days of the Messiah, we need to look for the prophecy’s fulfillment by the things that happened in the days of Christ.
In verse 8 we see that the Shepherd destroyed three false shepherds in one month. One commentator points out that there are over 40 different interpretations as to who the three shepherds represent. I believe that there are two likely answers. One reasonable possibility is that these three shepherds refer to the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes or Herodians. These three groups of people were the religious leaders in the days of Jesus from whom the people of Israel received instruction. However, Jesus called these people “the blind leading the blind” and pronounced repeated woes upon them (Matthew 23 and 25) for how they had not good leaders but had led the people astray. The second reasonable alternative as to who the three shepherds represent are the classes of religious people: prophets, priests, and kings. All of these had let the people down. There were many false prophets who led the people astray and were hired to prophesy. They were not called by the word of the Lord. The priests had also been failures in tolerating the religious errors and distorting of the worship. They allowed the temple to become a marketplace (John 2:13-25). Also, we do not have to say much about the kings, for it was because of the kings of Israel that the people fell away from the Lord and introduced all types of false worship. Jesus, of course, became the fulfillment of these three duties, become the righteous prophet, priest and king for the people. His coming put an end to any kings in Israel, any need for priests, and an end to the prophecies by the end of the first century. With the destruction of Jerusalem, no one could claim to be king or priest any longer because the genealogical records were destroyed.
But the people did not accept His shepherding, so He said He would no longer be their Shepherd (vs. 9). “What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another” seem to be further references to the events that took place in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The siege against Jerusalem was so severe and intense that people did begin to eat their children because of the lack of food. In verse 10 we see the Shepherd breaking His staff, which is called Favor, thus annulling the covenant that was made with all the people. No longer would God show loving kindness and favor to His people because they had rejected Him. Therefore they were not His people any longer. The Shepherd then requests that He get paid according to His wages. Notice what the payment was: thirty pieces of silver. The foreshadowing of this prophecy is chilling, as this was the payment amount that Judas received to betray Jesus (Matthew 26:15). Further, Zechariah is told to throw the money to the potter. This is prophetic of Matthew 27:3-8 where Judas gives the money back and the money is used to purchase a potter’s field. In verse 14 the Shepherd then breaks the other staff called Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. The bonds between God and the nations of Israel and Judah had been severed. God has completely cast them off. The physical nation was no longer tied to the Lord and a spiritual remnant would now be God’s people.
Warning against false shepherds to come (9:15-17)
The woes are now pronounced against the worthless and foolish shepherds of God’s people. To be a shepherd of God’s people is a high calling with great responsibilities. I believe this has practical lessons for us today. We need to see the serious charge to those who are leaders of the flock. I believe this is applied not only to those who are fill the office of the eldership, but all who are teachers and leaders of the people. We must lead one another in the proper direction. If we do not, there are grave consequences that await us by the hand of the Lord. I can think of many shepherds and leaders who will be held accountable for their poor decisions and poor leadership of the flock. We must see the responsibility we hold before God as those who lead and are perceived as leaders in this congregation. Let us work to live up to the goals that God has set for us.
All before the foundation of the world. We must be amazed to read these things being prophesied over 530 years before they would take place. The rejection of the Messiah, the price of the betrayal, and use of the betrayal money are all detailed in the prophecy. These things clearly show us that God had made a plan to redeem His people before the foundation of the world. Before the Messiah would come, God knew He would be rejected. Yet God used our rejection to save His people. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
We can be rejected. We also must learn the lesson of the people of God who lived before us. When the people of God rejected the Lord, the Lord annulled the covenant with His people, removed His favor toward them, and broke the bonds of unity that tied His people to Him. This is not something that is only an isolated incident in history. God can and will do the same to us if we reject Him. When live in sin and reject the love He has shown toward us, God does not have to abide by the covenant because we have violated it and broken it. Because of sins, He removes His favor from us and no longer counts us as His until we return. We must see the anger of the Lord toward our sins and the consequences of us remaining in our sins. Let us turn to the Lord and receive His mercy so that we are not receiving His wrath for what we have done. Obey the Lord today!