King on a donkey in Jerusalem
Predicting the fall of Israel’s enemies1This is a message from God.
The LORD has bad news for the land of Hadrach
And for the kingdom of Damascus.
The eyes of people everywhere should focus on God,
Just as the eyes of all tribes of Israel do.
2Same for Hamath, on the border,
And for Tyre and Sidon,
Two cities known for savvy and skill.
3Tyre built defensive walls around the town,
Stocked silver like mountains of sand,
And gold like it’s free as dirt.
Goodbye silver and gold4But the LORD will take it all away.
He’ll throw it into the sea.
The cities will burn to the ground.
5News of this will terrify Ashkelon.
Gaza will tremble in its worry.
Ekron will lose all hope.
In the end, Gaza’s king will die.
Ashkelon will become a ghost town.
6Foreigners will settle in Ashdod
And Philistine pride will die.
7They won’t eat bloody meat anymore.
I’ll scrape forbidden food off their teeth.
In time, they’ll even join the people of God,
Becoming like any other clan of Judah.
Ekron will become assimilated, too,
Like the Jebusites did long ago.
8I’ll stand guard at my house, Jerusalem’s Temple.
And no one will march against it.
No one will overrun its defenders.
For I’ve got my eyes on all who would try.
King rides to Jerusalem on a donkey9Celebrate, Mount Zion.
Sing and shout, Jerusalem.
Look, here comes your king,
The good savior.
Humbly riding a colt,
The young foal of a donkey.
10He’ll ban war chariots from Ephraim,
War horses from Jerusalem,
And assault weapons like battle bows.
He’ll order nations to live in peace,
And he’ll see to it that they do—
From sea to sea
And from the Great Euphrates River
To faraway ends of the earth.
11As for those of you still far from home
I remember our agreement signed in blood.
You’re free to leave those who took you captive.
Step out of your prison, that hole in the ground.
12Go home to safety.
You’re prisoners now to nothing but hope.
I’ll give you double what you lost.
13I’ll bend Judah like a warrior’s bow
I’ll load Ephraim like an arrow.
Then I’ll send young men of Jerusalem
Like battle swords of war
Against young men of Greece.
God joins the army14The LORD himself will join them
Armed with arrows made of lightning.
The LORD himself will blow the horn
And lead the march,
Like winds of a desert storm.
15The LORD of all will defend them.
They’ll decimate the line of slingshot artillery,
And celebrate the victory in a banquet of wine.
They’ll fill up on triumph
Like priests fill bowls of blood
To sprinkle in worship on the altar.
16The LORD their God will save them
Because they’re his people, his flock.
They’re the jewels in his crown,
That shine light on the land.
17What a beautiful sight they will make:
Young men standing like a field of new grain,
Young women sweet as fresh wine.
In the original language of Hebrew, this sentence is just one word: massa. It can mean: message, oracle, or words of a prophet inspired by God or, in other religions, by the gods.
It’s unknown if Hadrach was the name of a kingdom or a person. The name appears only once in the Bible. If it’s land, it’s thought to be in the area of the cities mentioned in verses 1-2. That would place it in Lebanon or western Syria. In Bible times, this part of Syria was known as Aram.
It’s unclear how to interpret “eyes of people.” There are just two words in Hebrew: ʽayin, adam. Each word has many meanings. There are scores of ways to interpret the word for “eyes.” Adam generally refers to humanity. Some interpret the phrase to mean that God has his eyes on the people. Another way: people have their eyes on God. Another: Non-Jews and Jews should all focus on God.
Alexander the Great did this to Tyre in 332 BC. Defenders killed so many of Alexander’s men that he became livid and reportedly massacred 8,000 after the city fell. In a last-ditch fallback attempt to survive the attack, defenders retreated to a small island about a kilometer (about half a mile) off the coast. Alexander’s men used the ruins of Tyre to build a road through the sea and to the island, which they captured.
Philistines had lived in the cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod.
See Leviticus 11 for a list of food that Israelites (and today’s observant Jews) could and couldn’t eat. No lobster, softshell crab, or steaks cooked rare. But they could pig out on baked grasshoppers, fried locusts, and wild honey. No pig, though.
Jebusites were non-Jews who lived in what became Jerusalem. David’s army captured the city and declared it the capital of Israel. See 2 Samuel 5:6-9 and 1 Chronicles 11:4-9.
Zion was an endearing nickname for Jerusalem. And that’s the word in the original Hebrew language used here. Jerusalem sits on top of a ridge called Mount Zion.
A male donkey. The two references to a donkey have confused some students of the Bible. The confusion shows up in the way they seem to understand the New Testament story of Jesus fulfilling this prophecy. This was on what became known as Palm Sunday, before his Friday crucifixion. They say it sounds like Jesus rode two donkeys, or at least that there were two donkeys involved. But this section of Zechariah is written as Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry uses parallelism the way English poetry uses rhyme. In English, the end of the first line might rhyme with the last word in the second line. Hebrew poetry often emphasizes a subject by repeating the general idea of the first line, but saying it in a slightly different way in the second line. Zechariah was probably talking about just one donkey.
Since the time of Abraham, his male descendants were to be circumcised as a way of signing their agreement with God (Genesis 17:9-14, 22-27). For his part, God promised to protect and prosper the Jews. For their part, they were to obey him. New Testament writers describe what they call a new covenant between God and humanity, signed in the blood of crucified Jesus and instigated hours earlier at his Last Supper with his disciples. See it predicted in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament) book of Jeremiah 31:31-34. And see it expressed in the Christian add-on (New Testament) letter of Hebrews 8:6-13.
The hole in the ground was a cistern, used like a well which people filled with rainwater or water hauled from streams or springs. Dry cisterns were common in this dry part of the world. They were sometimes used as prisons (Lamentations 4:20).
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