Study Notes

Zechariah 9:10-17


As we saw last week, chapter nine of the book of Zechariah begins the third and final section of this prophet's writings.

So far in this chapter we have seen the Lord's judgments promised against certain peoples, which were fulfilled through the victories of Alexander the Great.

In direct contrast to that king, Israel was promised that her King was coming. This King, Who we saw to be Jesus, according to Matthew (21:44-5) and John (12:14-16), would be just, but also gentle - or afflicted - and riding on a donkey.

Now, as we come to verse ten, the burden continues to speak of Israel's coming King, Jesus Christ.

9:10 Cutting Off Chariot, Horse, And Bow

Interpretation of the prophetic writings is difficult at times. An essential thing to remember is to look at the tenses of verbs. We must make note of when the Lord says, "I have" done this, or "I will" do this.

Most recently, we saw the promise of the King, Who would come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

Now, we see a promise about His reign as King:

The instruments of war - chariots, horses, and bows - will be cut off from Israel. Peace will be spoken to the nations, and His dominion will be world-wide.

His Dominion

Two of the three prophecies can easily be attributed to Jesus' first coming. After all, His dominion is over all the earth. He told the disciples,

Matt. 28:18 ..."All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

Peace To The Nations

And regarding the speaking of peace to the nations, remember that Paul wrote to the Ephesians,

Eph. 2:11-18 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," {which is} performed in the flesh by human hands - {remember} that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both {groups into} one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, {which is} the Law of commandments {contained} in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, {thus} establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

Jesus preached peace - not only to the Jews, but also the Gentiles. His gospel has gone into all the world, and reached every people group. In Revelation 5, the elders and the cherubim worshiped Jesus, saying,

Rev. 5:9 ..."Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood {men} from every tribe and tongue and people and nation."

Instruments Of War Cut Off

So these two prophecies could be applied to the first coming of Jesus Christ. Now, most commentators believe that the prophecy then jumps to the future, to the second coming of Christ, and His reign in the Millennial Kingdom. It would seem that the Millennial promises of swords being beaten into plowshares (Isa 2:4; Micah 4:3) could be applied here.

But the weapons of war are not here reformed - they are cut off from Israel.

So, while it's not a popular opinion, contextually I still see the first coming of Christ being shown here. You see, I don't see a promise of peace just yet, only a promise that the weapons and instruments of war will be cut off from Ephraim and Jerusalem.

And in fact, isn't that the state in which Jesus found Israel? Militarily occupied by the Romans, they'd had their weaponry and authority taken from them. So much so, that when they cried out to the Romans for the death of Jesus,

John 18:31 Pilate therefore said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to death"

Now, always one to take the Scriptures literally whenever I can, I find it fascinating that during the earthly ministry of Jesus, bows, chariots, and horses are never mentioned!

9:11-12 Prisoners Return

Now the Lord speaks to Israel directly: notice the present tense He uses when He says, "I have set your prisoners free."

Who were the prisoners, and what was the waterless pit that they'd been captive in?

Certainly, the Jews were well-aquainted with their ancestor Joseph, who was envied and hated by his brothers. Genesis 37 tells us that...

Gen. 37:24 ...they took him and threw him into the pit. Now the pit was empty, without any water in it.

This was the beginning of Joseph's exile of captivity. He was sold to slave traders, who brought him to Egypt. There, he was imprisoned for years.

The waterless pit was a very picturesque way for the Lord to describe the Babylonian Captivity. The Jews had been forcibly taken to a foreign land and imprisoned for many years.

But now God had opened the door. As we'd seen in the book of Ezra, God had stirred up the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to proclaim,

Ezra 1:2-3 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem."

More than 42,000 Jews left the Babylonian Captivity after that proclamation.

Later, Ezra was told by King Artaxerxes of Persia,

Ezra 7:13 I have issued a decree that any of the people of Israel and their priests and the Levites in my kingdom who are willing to go to Jerusalem, may go with you.

This time, the response was not as good from the Jews. Only about 2,000 men, plus women and children, left Babylon to return to Jerusalem.

God is here telling the Jews to return to the stronghold. (An ancient name of Jerusalem was "the stronghold of Zion" - see 2Sam 5:7-9.) If they would return to Jerusalem, God would bless them abundantly, doubly restoring all that was lost when judgment had befallen them so many years before.

Because Of The Blood

The reason God gives for setting the Jews free was "because of the blood of covenant with you."

Most Bible teachers believe that this was the covenant God made with the Israelites back in Exodus 24.

Exod. 24:7-8 Then he took the book of the covenant and read {it} in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!" So Moses took the blood and sprinkled {it} on the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."

This was the first time that blood had been sprinkled on anyone or anything in covenant, so it stands to reason that this is the covenant of which the Lord speaks.

9:13-17 Zion Against Greece

Now God promises that Israel will be in a conflict with Greece, but also that He would miraculously defend them. They will be victorious - saved by God like a shepherd saves his sheep.

When did this happen? This requires a history lesson regarding the time between the Testaments - the history of Israel that is sadly unknown to the church today.

Last week, we talked about Alexander the Great and the kingdoms he conquered. When he died, the Greek Empire was divided between four of his generals. One of these generals was Selucius.

The Selucid dynasty gave rise to some of the most wicked men ever to rule kingdoms on this planet. (For a more complete background on this history, you'll want to read the notes or pick up the tapes on Daniel 8 and 11).

The Jews suffered terribly under the Seleucid leaders, the most infamous of these was Antiochus Epiphanes, the man who was a predecessor to the antichrist, and who, I believe, was demon-possessed (Dan. 8:24).

Antiochus Ephiphanes came against the city of Jerusalem, killing those Jews that were not loyal to his pagan commands and plundering Jerusalem's wealth.

Two years later, he returned. This time, pretending to be on a peaceful mission. But as soon as he entered the city, he pillaged it, killing the Jews - even those who were loyal to him. He plundered the temple treasures, stealing everything that was of value, and kidnapping about 10,000 as slaves.

Then he laid down the law: no one was allowed to offer sacrifices to God anymore. He sacrificed a pig on the altar, and commanded that every city erect altars to his gods and offer pigs on them daily.

Those Jews who refused suffered terribly, being tortured and killed in unmentionable ways.

One of those who refused to submit to these abominable decrees was a man named Mat-tath-EE-as. He told his five sons that it was better to die for God's Law than to live against it.

When Antiochus' men came to his city, they insisted that Mat-tath-EE-as make the first sacrifice, knowing that his popularity would make everyone else follow his example. But he said, "Even if every other nation obeys this command, I and my sons will not!"

Another Jew stepped forward to offer the sacrifice, infuriating Mat-tath-EE-as. He and his sons pulled out their swords, killing the Jew, the King's General, and several of the soldiers.

Mat-tath-EE-as' followers became a great army, but after a year, he died. His son Judas Maccabeus then became the leader of this army of faithful Jews.

The neighboring Samaritans went to battle against Judas' army, and were miraculously defeated. The Syrians came against them, and were miraculously defeated.

Antiochus Epiphanes heard of this revolt, and gathered an army together to destroy them. But when he saw that the nations' taxes had not been paid, he decided to first go to Persia to collect the money.

In the meantime, he told his governor Lysias to conquer Judea, destroy Jerusalem, and wipe out the Jews.

An army of 40,000 soldiers, 7,000 horsemen, was joined by Syrians, apostate Jews, and slave traders. Again, God performed miracles that have no earthly explanation, giving Judas' army the victory.

Lysias gathered 60,000 soldiers and 5,000 horsemen, against Judas' army of just 10,000 men. The Jews were again miraculousy victorious.

It was at this point, when Judas told his people that they should return to Jerusalem, to purify the temple, and give sacrifice to God for how He had so incredibly gone before them in battle, defended them, and devoured their enemies.

Back in Jerusalem, they re-furnished the temple, re-built the altar, and re-dedicated it to God.

Today, the Jews celebrate this event on the holiday known as Hanukah. It is surprising to me that most Christians do not observe this holiday, or even know its origin, because not only is it prophecied plainly in Daniel, and again here in Zechariah, but also because it was a holiday that Jesus Himself chose to commemorate.

In John 10, we read that Jesus was at the temple for the Hanukah holiday, which was called, "The Feast of the Dedication."

John 10:22-23 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.

Notice John's comment that it was winter. The Feast of the Dedication was held on the 25th of Kis-LAVE, which, in A.D. 29, would correspond with the 19th of December.

Six days before what we call "Christmas," Jesus was oberserving the supernatural victory He'd given to the faithful Jews. Those Jews that were remembered by God because they chose His Word and His Way over their own lives and comfort.

When the Bible tells us "God remembered," certain people, it was those who, in their affliction chose dedication: Noah (Gen 8:1), Abraham (Gen 19:29), Rachel (Gen 30:22), the Israelites slaves in Egypt (Exodus 2:24), and Hannah (1Sam 1:19).

Tonight, if you are in the weak with affliction, be strong in the Lord. If you are troubled by adversity, be anxious for nothing and pray. If you are outnumbered, remember that God remembers you and will provide the deliverance as you trust in Him.

Next week, we will dive into chapter ten, immediately coming to the Christian catch-phrase "the latter rain." We'll find out about that and more as we continue our study of the writings of the prophet Zechariah.

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