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Introduction The nation of Israel has been waiting for their Messiah for millennia. Prophesied since the days of Adam, promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, anticipated by Moses, and lauded by David, the Jewish nation expected Messiah to come in power and glory and to usher in a nearutopian kingdom in which Israel would be an autonomous state. Such a one-sided interpretation of prophecy has caused Israel to miss the suffering Savior of Isaiah 53 and to wander in a spiritual haze for thousands of years. The failure of the Jews to recognize and accept their Messiah was not, however, surprising to God.
The last six chapters of the prophecy of Zechariah center on the advent of the Jewish Messiah. Within those chapters, God chronicled many of the events leading up to both the first and second comings of Christ including His rejection by the nation of Israel as a whole. This paper will focus on the details concerning the first coming of Christ and the historical fulfillment of events as foretold by Zechariah. One thing the Israelites did expect to occur with the coming of Messiah was judgment to fall on those nations that persecuted the Jews.
The militant Zealots of the first century AD were always watching and ready to fall in behind a king, sword in hand. Many of the other Jews, while maybe not as openly aggressive toward foreign control, eagerly awaited the freedom that would come with the kingdom of Messiah. Chapter nine of the prophecy of Zechariah begins with a declaration that would have sparked the emotion of any Jew that was still recovering from his or her time in Babylonian captivity. Judgment was coming on the nations. Holland 2 CHAPTER TWO.
The First Coming of Messiah Judgment of the Nations When looking at prophecies concerning the coming of Christ, it is important to understand that both comings may or may not be in view and that the events described in the prophecy may relate to both comings. This writer would like to focus on those prophecies of Zechariah that have fulfilled historically at the first coming of Christ. Zechariah 9:1-7 describes certain strongholds of the nations surrounding Israel. The first to face the judgment of God are Hadrach and Damascus.
There is no clear reference in Scripture or history at to the location of Hadrach, but in his comments on Zechariah 9:1 from his study Bible, MacArthur indicates this might be “a reference to the dual Medo-Persian kingdom. ” Damascus, however, is clearly identified as the capital of Syria, the nation that led the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity. With the judgment on these cities, the Lord included the city of Hamath and the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon. Tyre is mentioned in verses two and three as being “very skillful” and as having “heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets.
” The abundant wealth of the city and a parallel prophecy of judgment are recorded in the following from Ezekiel 28:4-7: [B]y your wisdom and your understanding you have made wealth for yourself, and have gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in your trade you have increased your wealth, and your heart has become proud in your wealth—therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
Because you make your heart like the heart of a god, therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you, the Holland 3 most ruthless of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. Such wealth and wisdom did not spare these cities when the face of God turned toward them in judgment as Tyre was, indeed, stripped of its prosperity just as Zechariah prophesied in 9:4.
Verses five and six show the progression of judgment southward through the land of the Philistines. Four of the five major Philistine cites were included in the path of destruction; only Gath was excluded. These cities were said to look on the destruction of Tyre and Sidon in fear and hopelessness (9:5).
Afterward, their land was occupied with foreigners, and, according to Expositor’s Bible Commentary , they were stripped of their “repulsive” idolatrous practices (9:67). The first seven verses of chapter nine chronicle the destruction of the enemies of Israel during the phenomenal conquest of Alexander the Great. The young leader conquered the Syrians bringing an end to the Medo-Persian Empire. After this Alexander went to the Mediterranean coast and carried his conquest south. In his invasion of Palestine, he executed the judgment of God throughout the land.
The famous siege of Tyre is testimony to the influence of God behind this pagan ruler. The island city of Tyre seemed impregnable, but using debris from the mainland city, which had been sacked by Nebuchadnezzar some years earlier, Alexander built a causeway and marched his army across the channel and right up to the city walls. Using siege weapons, he broke through the defenses and decimated the city selling tens of thousands into slavery (“Siege”). From there Alexander marched south and conquered the cities of the Philistines “killing their national pride” but leaving alive a remnant (MacArthur).
Holland 4 With the swift and effective conquest of Alexander, many would find it odd that Jerusalem and Judea was spared. Bible students, however, have a very clear answer for this: God had already said His people would be spared. This leads the discussion into Zechariah 9:8 and the promised preservation of the Jewish nation. Preservation of Israel Great problems arise in the continuity of prophetic Scripture if Israel ever ceases to be a nation. In the midst of calamitous activity around the Jewish nation, Zechariah provided yet another hope for the sons of Jacob.
According to verse eight of chapter nine, the mighty hand of God was defending His chosen people. Alexander, according to Jewish tradition, visited Jerusalem after receiving a vision in a dream of the high priest of the Jews. When he arrived at the city and saw the priest as he was in the dream, the young general bowed and knew he would completely conquer Persia (“Zechariah”). God had certainly spared His people during the conquest of Alexander, but verse eight also indicates the nation of Israel would never be overrun by an invading army.
Even a cursory look at history reveals such an event did happen again in 70 AD. That year the Roman general, Titus, sacked Jerusalem, dispersed the Jewish nation, and razed the temple to the ground. The prophecy in verse eight must, therefore, refer to the second coming of Messiah (MacArthur). During the time of the Tribulation, Revelation 7:4 recounts 144,000 Jews will be sealed to live in spite of the intense persecution by Antichrist. Following that period, the Jewish nation will never again be overrun by oppressors. Coming of Messiah Zechariah 9:9-17 seem to be a reference to both comings of Messiah.
In verse nine He is referred to as a king “humbled and riding on a donkey. ” This entire verse was directly stated to Holland 5 have been fulfilled in Matthew 21:1-5 and John 12:12-15 when the God of creation rode into Jerusalem on a young donkey to shouts of praise. A glorious picture of Messiah is presented in Zechariah 9:9. He was “righteous, having salvation, gentle” and rode and animal of peace, not a warhorse. If any of the Jews present at the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was familiar with this verse, it is no wonder they lauded Him as king.
The puzzling thing is: of those who envisioned Zechariah 9:9 when they saw Jesus enter Jerusalem, how many remembered the later prophecies of Zechariah 11. Since this paper focuses on the words of Zechariah concerning the first coming of Messiah and since 9:10 through 10:12 speak primarily of the second advent and the future establishment of the millennial theocracy, the reader will be directed to the beginning of Zechariah chapter eleven to conclude this look at the fulfilled prophecies of Messiah contained in this book.
Rejection of Messiah Chapter eleven opens “in stark contrast to” the previous chapters (MacArthur). The prophecies of chapters nine and ten that speak of the second coming of Messiah present Him as a glorious king who showers peace and blessing on the people of Israel. Chapter eleven, however, begins with a lament over the destruction of the land of Palestine (1-3). The interpretation of these first three verses is debatable, but they most likely speak of “the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D.
70 and the subsequent devastation of the whole land, which resulted in the dissolution of the Jewish state” (MacArthur). Such destruction caused those whose lives and livelihoods were firmly planted in the land to wail (Zech. 11:1-3). Isaiah 53:3 recounts the mournful cry of the rejected Servant, Messiah. Likewise, Zechariah 11 states the reason behind the lamentable destruction of verses 1-3: the Shepherd had been rejected by His flock. God gave Zechariah a message he was to role-play in verses 4-6, Holland 6 which the prophet enacted in verses 7-14.
The symbolism of these latter verses is important in relating to the actual events of the rejection of Jesus. Zechariah recorded that he went through the process of caring for a flock of sheep. MacArthur relates this literal event to both the feeding of the Word of God by Zechariah and the then-future work of the Shepherd-Messiah. The prophet had two staves, Favor and Union, which were used to tend the flock. The name of each had significance relating to the covenantal relationship between God and the nation of Israel. The first half of Zechariah 11:8 is greatly debated.
The rejection of the three shepherds in this verse, according to MacArthur, seems to relate to the removal of the offices of “priests, elders, and scribes of Israel. . . . God ended the traditional offices of the mediators and in [their] place brought a new priesthood of believers. ” The under-shepherds of Israel failed in their duties and actually led the flock to reject the true Shepherd. Because of their rejection, the Shepherd turned His back on the flock and let them devour themselves, which they quite literally did during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD (MacArthur).
The breaking of the staves in verses ten and fourteen indicate the broken covenant of that generation [although the eternal covenant of God with the Jewish nation is still in tact]. Upon breaking the covenant between Shepherd and sheep, a call was made of payment for services rendered, to which the sheep [literally, the owners of the flock] respond by giving Zechariah the insignificant amount [in value] of 30 pieces of silver, which was hardly worth the time invested with the flock. Zechariah was then instructed to “throw it to the potter” (Zech. 11:13).
This, again, was directly and literally fulfilled in Matthew 27:3-10 when Judas betrayed Jesus for the price of a slave and later threw the money at the priests who, in turn, used it to buy the worthless field in which Judas was eventually buried. Holland 7 CHAPTER THREE Conclusion The prophecies of Zechariah concerning the first coming of Messiah are not without great amounts of irony. The people eagerly awaited the entrance of Messiah, according to the prophecies, but failed to see they would reject Him. [The irony of the 30 pieces of silver being used to purchase the burial field of Judas is another.]
The foolish decisions of the Jewish nation have caused them to become largely apathetic toward God and to wonder if Messiah will ever come. They expected a military deliverer and were sent a suffering Servant, whom they wholly rejected. One has to wonder the magnitude of the mourning of Israel when Messiah does come on a white charger to receive His rightful throne (Zech. 12:10). Judgment once came on the nations that had oppressed Israel, and judgment will come again. Israel was once preserved from destruction by the mighty hand of God; Israel will be preserved again.
Messiah once entered Jerusalem hailed as a king, and He will enter again prepared to take what is His. The Jews once rejected their Savior. When He comes again, this will not be repeated. Holland 8 Works Cited MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. Electronic Ed. Nashville: Word Pub. , 1997. “Siege of Tyre. ” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia . 10 Apr 2007, 23:21 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 Apr 2007 . The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001. “Zechariah. ” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament . CD-ROM. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.