After having looked at the first two divisions of the book of Zechariah, we now begin the third and final section of the book.
The phrase, "the burden of the word of the Lord," refers to the weighty load that God places upon His prophets to speak. The prophecies that God gave them were often very heavy.
The term also extended to the burden upon the people or nations that heard those prophecies:
Nahum 1:1 The burden of Nineveh...
Isa. 15:1(KJV) The burden of Moab...
Isa. 17:1(KJV) The burden of Damascus...
Isa. 19:1(KJV) The burden of Egypt...
Now, the NASB usually translates this word as "oracle."
Mal. 1:1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
Hab. 1:1 The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.
It is interesting to me that this was a phrase that became so overused by the false prophets in Jeremiah's day that the Lord forbade them from using it.
Jer. 23:38 "For if you say, The oracle of the LORD!' surely thus says the LORD, Because you said this word, "The oracle of the LORD!" I have also sent to you, saying, "You shall not say, The oracle of the LORD!'"'
There are plenty of things that we say in modern Christianity that have nearly no meaning anymore. Phrases like, "The Lord told me," and "Praise the Lord," are commonly used by Christians today, but 99 times out of hundred the person speaking them puts none of the real value or weight on the statement that really belongs.
I believe that this is what the commandment is when we read,
Exod. 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain."
"Vain" does not mean "as a curse word." It means "emptiness, nothingness, worthlessness." When people use the Lord's name without giving it proper weight, it is in vain. "The burden of the Lord," "Praise the Lord," "The Lord told me," are all abominable when they are used in emptiness.
Of course Zechariah was not using this statement flippantly. There are two burdens, two oracles, he gives which make up the rest of the book. This first one extends through chapter eleven, the second makes up chapters 12 through 14. Zechariah had been given a heavy prophecy to speak against the nations surrounding Israel.
The first seven verses describe with great accuracy the overthrow of nations that fell before the Greek army led by Alexander the Great. In that campaign, he actually conquered these places in the order they are listed here.
The detail is quite stunning in several ways. For example, look at the description of the fall of Tyre in verses 3 and 4:
Zech. 9:3-4 For Tyre built herself a fortress and piled up silver like dust, and gold like the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will dispossess her and cast her wealth into the sea; And she will be consumed with fire.
Ezekiel makes a parallel prediction in his prophecy, saying,
Ezek. 26:12 "Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water."
Tyre was a city that had actually been concerned enough about their safety that they actually relocated the entire city from the shore of a channel to an island one half-mile out. It proved to be a good location. When Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, and later Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon had attempted to overthrow Tyre, they were altogether unsuccessful.
When Alexander and his army approached, they knew that the Assyrians had besieged it for five years, and the Babylonians for 13 years - neither army was able to defeat it.
But God was using Alexander as an instrument of His judgment. As had been prophesied by both Zechariah and Ezekiel, Tyre's wealth would be cast into the sea.
Alexander used the materials from the abandoned original city to build a road right across the channel to the island! In just seven months, the road was constructed and Tyre overrun. The walls surrounding it were destroyed, the city burned, and 10,000 of its men were killed. The rest of the inhabitants were sold into slavery.
Verse eight tells us that something different was in store for Israel. God promises to protect them, using an army.
We turn to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus to find out the details of how God accomplished this. In his book "The Antiquities of the Jews" (book 11, chapter 8), Josephus says that as Alexander was approaching the end of the siege of Tyre, he sent a letter to Jaddua the High Priest in Jerusalem, requesting supplies and support. Jaddua told the messengers who brought the letter that he would not do it. When Alexander got word of this, he was enraged and vowed that as soon as Tyre was conquered, he was heading to Jerusalem to make an example of Jaddua for any who would dare to disobey him.
When Alexander and his army began to march toward Jerusalem, the High Priest was terrified. He and the people offered sacrifices to the Lord and prayed. Josephus writes that God told the high priest in a dream to decorate the city, open the gates, and welcome Alexander. The priests would be dressed in their uniforms, and everyone else in the city should dress in white.
When Alexander saw the procession, he approached the High Priest and saluted him. When asked by his allies why he had done this, he replied that he had seen this man in a dream that had instructed him how he was going to conquer Asia.
He believed that he would conquer the Medo-Persian Empire by God's direction. It was then that the priests showed him the book of Daniel, which prophesied of that very thing.
Now, as with any extra-Biblical reference, we can not be absolutely certain about the story Josephus tells us. However, it is historically confirmed by all sources that as Alexander the Great's armies marched toward Egypt, and later returned by the same route, they passed over Jerusalem without attacking it.
There is a promise made in verse eight that
Zech. 9:8 ...no oppressor will pass over them anymore...
The word translated "pass over" can mean either to pass by or to overtake. Obviously, the promise can have opposite meanings depending on the use of the word.
Either this is with reference to how Israel's enemies would never pass them by again as Alexander's army would, or that the day would come when Israel's enemies would never conquer them again. Based on the context of the prophecy, I lean towards the first interpretation.
At this time, the post-exilic Israel had no king. But they are told to rejoice because their King was coming. He would be a good king, with several attributes of His described.
Before we look at those attributes, we should make note that the New Testament tells us exactly who this king is:
When Jesus was heading toward Jerusalem a week before He would be crucified, they came to the town of Bayth-fag-AY, where the Mount of Olives is. He directed two of His disciples to go into the town and find a donkey tied and a colt with her. They were to untie them, and bring them to Him.
This would be Jesus' vehicle of entry into Jerusalem. Matthew writes,
Matt. 21:4-5 Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'"
Matt. 21:8-9 And most of the multitude spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them in the road. And the multitudes going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!"
The fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 was Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Now, we can look into the descriptions of "just, endowed with salvation, and humble."
The word "just" means righteous and lawful. Jesus is described in the Bible as the fulfillment of the Law (Matt. 5:17), and taught us the true meaning of the Law (Matt. 22:36-40). He was certainly righteous, which was admitted even by Pilate's wife (Matt. 27:19).
"Humble" is from a root word meaning "afflicted and oppressed." The NIV says "gentle" and the King James says, "lowly." But the closest accurate translation of this word would be literal: "afflicted." Of course that doesn't make sense when we're talking about a king to rejoice over, until we recognize that it was because Jesus was afflicted that He became our King! (See Isaiah 53:2-11).
Lastly, He is "endowed with salvation." This is just one word in Hebrew, "Yaw-SHAH." It is a verb that means "to save, or to be a savior."
At the birth of Jesus, and angel proclaimed,
Luke 2:11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
The men of Samaria said,
John 4:42 ..."we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world."
And today, we are...
Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;
Next week, we will finish the chapter and continue on in our study of Zechariah.