Let’s turn our attention to the ninth chapter of the book of Zechariah.
This book started out with the Lord offering to turn once again to the exile who had returned from Babylon. If they would turn to him, he promised that he would also turn to them. And it turns out that they did turn to him and so the Lord would keep his end of the deal and turn to them.
And to show his turning to these people once more he sent several visions to the prophet Zechariah. Visions declaring that God was going to deal with the nations that oppressed Israel, that God would cleanse and accept once more their civil leadership and religious leadership, and that best of all one day the Lord himself would literally dwell among his people.
Then after that we had the two chapters dealing with whether the Jews ought to have continued to fast and mourn because of their temple being destroyed 70 years ago. And there too the message – while dealing with past sins of the Jews – looked forward to God’s rich blessings on these people in the future.
And that brings us to the last major section in this book – chapters 9-14.
We’ll begin in chapter 9 today which begins with a burden or an oracle in verse 1.
KJV Zechariah 9:1 ¶ The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.
So, this burden or oracle – really, a prophetic message of warning – is “in” or more likely “against” or “concerning” this land called Hadrach. This apparently was an ancient area that covered much of modern-day Syria.
And when the Lord says here that Damascus is the “rest” of something – it means “resting place.”
Well, what is going to be “resting” in Damascus? It’s this oracle – this prophetic message of warning. This message is against Hadrach – modern-day Syria – and the resting place or even the “focus” of this oracle is this city of Damascus – the ancient and modern-day capital of this particular region.
And this prophetic message is either for a time when the eyes of everyone will be on the Lord. That is, perhaps in the future when these things in this prophetic message will come to pass – that everyone’s attention will be turned to the Lord. Not just will Israel’s eyes be turned to the Lord but so will all mankind.
And we certainly recognize that this is not really the case at this point, right? Would you say that if you went out into the streets and started talking with people that it would be obvious from casual conversations that everyone these days is paying attention to the Lord?
No, of course not. So, it could be that most or even all of this in this prophetic message of warning is for the future.
And as with all of the prophetic warning messages that the Lord gives in the Bible, it’s interesting that the people to whom this was written probably never received it. The ancient people who lived in the area we know as Syria probably never heard this. And I suppose it wouldn’t matter if they did or not especially if what is to be revealed in this passage deals with things still to come from our vantage point.
At any rate, the Lord has one more group of geographical regions to add in verse 2 to this prophetic message of warning.
2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.
Ok, so what about Hamath? It borders by what?
This is saying that Hamath was near to Hadrach. So, we’re still talking about people in this same region of modern-day Syria.
But what about them? Either it’s saying that this warning message is for these people. Or it’s saying that the eyes of these people are – or will be – on the Lord. And I think it’s saying both – these people are being warned because one day they will have their eyes on the Lord because they’re going to be in the kind of trouble that this warning message says they’re going to be in.
Now, this region called Hamath apparently has two major cities associated with it. Just like Hadrach was associated with the major city of Damascus, so this territory of Hamath is known for its relationship to two major cities – Tyre and Sidon. Apparently, this area of Hamath sat between Damascus over on the east and Tyre and Sidon over on the west.
Now, these two cities – Tyre and Sidon – apparently felt themselves to be very wise.
Well, why do these cities feel so wise and clever? Verse 3 lets us in on that bit of information.
3 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold,
and heaped up silver as the dust,
and fine gold as the mire of the streets.
So, that would make a city feel pretty wise. Somehow figuring out how to fortify itself and to become immensely wealthy.
But all of this was done without their eyes being like the eyes of everyone will be some day – on the Lord.
And because of that, the Lord would see to it that this wisdom of Tyre’s would be thwarted.
4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out,
and he will smite her power in the sea;
and she shall be devoured with fire.
So, Tyre would be cast out. And that’s a fitting description of what happened to Tyre in the 300s BC when the Greek ruler Alexander the Great came and pushed Tyre into the Mediterranean Sea. But the Lord takes credit for that before it happened.
And as a result, Tyre’s power on the Sea – which was legendary – would be destroyed or smitten. I’ll just note that some translations take that reference to smiting Tyres’s power on the Sea to be another reference to Greece pushing Tyre into the sea.
And then of course when all of that happened, Tyre was burned with fire by Greece.
And the Lord says that this destruction of Tyre is going to have an impact on other cities along the coast.
5 Ashkelon shall see it, and fear;
Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful,
and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed;
and the king shall perish from Gaza,
and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.
Now, these three cities were all cities on the coast of the Mediterranean Seas farther south of Tyre and Sidon.
So, the progression in this warning message has been from north to south. Hadrach is far north, Hamath is father south, Tyre and Sidon and still farther south, and now this verse is yet still farther south.
It reminds me of the progression that God predicted in the book of Jeremiah where he was envisioning Babylon coming and swooping down and destroying numerous cities.
Only now in the book of Zechariah, Babylon had already done that. So, who is this new menace that’s coming form the north? We’ve mentioned the nation before – it’s Greece. They’re coming from the north and would come down south and finally make it to these three cities.
These are Philistine cities along the coast. And what’s interesting is the way that God states these cities and what’s going to happen to them. There’s a pattern to it. It starts with Ashkelon and ends with Ashkelon. Then the second city mentioned is Gaza and that’s also the city mentioned second-to-last. And finally in the middle of those two cities is Ekron.
And you get the idea that these southern cities will be so alarmed and disappointed because the northern cities weren’t successful in stopping the onslaught of Greece. And then eventually when Greece did come then these things happened like cities not being inhabited and kings perishing.
Well, there’s one more Philistine city that the Lord wants to warn in verse 6.
6 And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod,
and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
Now, when the KJV speaks of a “bastard” it’s speaking of an illegitimate group of people. In other words, the Lord is saying that the city of Ashdod – which is a little farther north of Ashkelon and just about due west from Ekron – will no longer have Philistines living in it anymore. Rather, a group of non-Philistines will live there after Greece had invaded that city.
And all of this would happen because God had set in his heart to humiliate the Philistines – to cut off their pride.
But actually, the Lord would use this to show mercy to some of these idolaters.
7 And I will take away his blood out of his mouth,
and his abominations from between his teeth:
but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.
So, God would use this terrible event as a way to stop idolatry and bring some of these Philistines into Israel.
When God speaks of taking the blood out of their mouths, he’s referring to some idolatrous practice wherein they used to probably eat meat with the blood in it – which was abhorrent to the Lord. That kind of activity was an abomination.
But after the Lord dealt with the Philistines through Greece’s invasion, they would “be for” God. They would come to belong to the Lord.
It’s just like the Jebusites. They lived around Jerusalem before David captured that city. And they ended up being assimilated into Israel. That’s what God is saying here would happened to the Philistines.
Also – one last thing about this verse – the word “governor” in the KJV can also be translated as “clan.” So, the Philistines would be a clan in Judah just like Simeon or Ascher or Zebulun were.
So, that’s a nice part of this message finally – but it’s in the context of lots of destruction for these people.
Now, even though the Lord has thus far threatened destruction on numerous cities and geographical areas, now he’s going to contrast that with how he’s going to treat his people Israel.
8 And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.
So, this house – this temple – that the Lord insisted that these Jews rebuild – it’s this temple that he’s going to protect. He’s going to protect it from Greece whereas he didn’t protect Damascus and Tyre and Sidon and the Philistine cities.
Now, I think we have here a double-fulfillment. There’s a sense in which a number of the things said so far have their fulfillment already in the person of Alexander of Greece. But if you read the book of Daniel and the eleventh chapter you will hear a lot of back-and-forth about the king of the north and the king of the south and how this one goes here and does this and that one goes there and does that and such. And some of that record in Daniel 11 is historical – but some of it is yet future to us.
My point is that some of what we read here in Zechariah 9 is historical and some of it is future.
So, this verse ends in what I think is kind of a mysterious way. The Lord makes the statement, “Now have I seen with mine eyes…” It in my mind should have an ellipses at the end of this verse. What have you seen? What are you looking at down the corridors of time into the future from Zechariah’s timeframe?
We’re going to see that what the Lord sees is none other than the coming king of Israel who would come lowly riding on a donkey. We’ll study that next time.