|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 35||Part 1|
Zechariah 9:9, "Rejoice very much, old daughter of Zion. Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold thy king cometh unto thee; he is just and has been saved; he is poor and riding on an ass." On the authority of St. Matthew 21:5, the Christians maintain that the prophet, on pronouncing this prediction, had in view the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of an ass.
Refutation.—the whole prophecy from which the above portion is taken, bears internal evidence to the fallacy of this interpretation for the prophet speaks solely of the ingathering of Israel and of the advent of the Messiah in the latter days. To arrive at this truth, the verse must be read in its relation with the antecedent and subsequent verses. Refer to the commencement of Zechariah 9:1, where we read, "The burden of the word of the Lord upon the land of Hadrach and Damascus, his resting place." The letter ב occurring in this verse in the word בְּאֶרֶץ means upon, concerning, or relating to. It occurs in the same sense in Isaiah 21:13, "the burden upon Arabia," and the same meaning as the ב in many other passages of Scripture.
The lands of Hadrach and Damascus shall, in the time of the Messiah, be united with the land of Israel, and be termed the resting place of the Divine glory, just as the ancient and more limited country of Israel was designated the resting place of the Divine Glory.
In this mode, the Psalmist says in Psalm 95:11, "Unto whom I sware in my wrath, they should not enter into my rest;" or, as we find this expression more largely expanded in Deuteronomy 11:12, it is the land "which the Lord the God inquireth after; the eyes of the Lord thy God are continually upon it." Now, in the times of the Messiah, the eyes of the Lord will rest favorably on the lands of Hadrach and Damascus, because all worship displeasing to the Divine Being will give way to the acknowledgment of pure truth. In the same way, many will also, in the other countries adjacent to our ancient fatherland, be incorporated in the possession of the house of Jacob, and according to the expression of Zechariah 9:1, "the eye of man shall be directed unto the Lord, as the eyes of all the tribes of Israel shall be towards the Lord;" and Zechariah 8:23, "for all nations will say unto the men of Judea, ‘We will go with you, for we have heard that God is among you.’" The words of Jeremiah 23:17 fully bear upon this subject, "Now they say into my scorners, the Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace," etc.
Zechariah 9:2, "Also Hamath borders thereon, and also Tyre and Zidon, yet they were wise." Those towns, though considered as foreign countries (see Amos 6:2), will, in future, form only one empire with that of Israel. As to the wisdom of Tyre and Zidon, it is often alluded to by the prophets as may be seen in Ezekiel 28. Such wisdom, available in worldly matters, will not prove of advantage against the supremacy of Israel. For, although "Tyre did build herself a stronghold and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets, the Lord will cause her to grow poor." Zechariah 9:3. In rendering the words יוֹרִשֶׁנָּה, "He will cause her to grow poor," we are guided by the terms occurring in 1 Samuel 2:7, "the Lord maketh poor and maketh rich." Zechariah 9:4, further says, "and he will smite her power in the sea, and she shall be devoured with fire." This shows that temporal means will be utterly disregarded, and that confidence in perishable substance will be lost with the disappearance of the substance itself. Grand structures shall become insignificant, the towers of refuge and the walls of protection shall be demolished, and devouring fire shall demonstrate that man can never raise a bulwark against the will the Lord, and that he can only fortify himself with the firmness of faith.
Again, we read in Zechariah 9:5, "Ashkelon shall see it and fear, and also Gaza be much afraid; and Ekron too, for he hath put to shame her trust." Terror shall emanate from the consciousness of their former unworthiness, and terror shall be followed by humiliation and desolation, as the natural consequences of depraved conduct. Therefore Zechariah says in the same chapter, verse 6, "The outcasts shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the glory of the Philistines, and I will take away the guilt of blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth." All this part, which is introductory to the verse at the heading of this chapter, shows that a total conversion from ungodly feelings and practices will take place in the countries adjacent to Palestine, and that they will be spared only to become faithful followers of our God, and like the Jebusite of former days, to be subjected to Israel. The various nationalities will then be joined into one faithful body; all will serve with equal ardour the God of Israel, saying in the words of Zechariah 8:23, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." The multitude of worshippers will abundantly increase so that the land of Israel will not be able to contain them, and therefore the boundary will, according to Divine promise, be enlarged, and Palestine extend in proportion as the faith of the followers of Judaism shall spread; for to speak with Isaiah 54:1, "The children of the desolate wife are greater than the children of the married wife," that is to say, the children returning from captivity will far exceed those who once left their native land. Hence Isaiah says, ibid. verse 2, "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt spread to the right and the left," etc. Jeremiah, too, affords a picture of the future enlargement of Jerusalem. See chapter 31:38, "Behold days shall come, saith the Lord, and the city shall be built unto the Lord, from the tower of Hananeel to the gate of the corner," etc., and he concludes this prediction with the assurance [verse 40], "it shall not be destroyed, nor shall it ever be broken down." As at that time the temple of the Lord will consequently be larger than it had been in former days, as is testified by Ezekiel 40 and in subsequent parts. The peace which will at that time rule in Palestine will be fairly established, so that no man shall have to apprehend any danger from abroad. Zechariah therefore predicts, chapter 9:8, "I will set up an army for my house, of those who proceed towards it, of those who return from it; and no oppressor shall move against them any more, for now I have seen it with mine eyes." With this prophecy we may compare Zechariah 2:9 [2:5], "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a protecting wall of fire round about." The expression, "for now I have seen it with mine eyes," relates to the time of the fulfillment, when the Jews will find relief from all tribulation; and then the Lord, who had turned his countenance from us, will again look upon us in mercy. In the same sense, we find in Exodus 2:25, "And God saw the children of Israel," by which is meant, "He looked upon them graciously." This forms a suitable introduction to the words, "Rejoice very much, O daughter of Zion, shout, O daughter of Jerusalem." The occasion for such joy is afforded by the concurrence of blissful events promised to happen in the days of the Messiah. Zion or Jerusalem is here addressed, individually, as the most important part of the Holy Land. Then He says, "Behold thy King cometh unto thee; He is righteous, and is saved;" for the King Messiah will be a righteous man; and, through his righteousness He will be saved from the destructive attacks of his assailants.
The Christians have perverted the sense of נוֹשָׁע he is saved, and have rendered it as if it were מוֹשִׁיעַ a Saviour. The authors of the English version have, with consistent faithfulness, taken an opportunity for perverting the sense by translating it ambiguously, and with more ingenuity than honesty, "and having salvation," instead of "having been saved." Such subterfuges do not strengthen, however, the cause of religion. We must notice, at the same time, that the word מוֹשִׁיעַ would not aid their interpretation, for we find this word also in the passive sense, for instance, וְעָלוּ מוֹשִׁעִים and "the saved ones shall go up to judge the mount of Esau." The word עָנִי, occurring in the verse at the beginning of this chapter, means meek and modest. A similar description of the character of the Messiah is given in Isaiah 42:2, "He shall not cry aloud and not raise himself up, and not make his voice to be heard abroad; a feeble reed He shall not break," etc. the appearance of the Messiah on the back of an ass is to indicate his disdain of all vain display, and also that, at the time of his advent, the use of horses for battle will no longer be required. This is amplified in the announcement, "And I will cut off the chariots from Ephraim and the horses from Jerusalem, and the bow of warfare shall be cut off." Thus is also the message given by Hosea 2:20 [2:18], "And the bow and the sword I will break from the land; and I shall cause them to lie down in security."
Still more forcibly this is predicted in Isaiah 2:4, "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall no more lift up the sword against nation, and they shall no more learn the art of war." For this reason Zechariah says, "And He shall speak peace unto the nations." This shows again that the Messiah will conciliate hostile nations, according to Daniel 7:27, "All rulers serve Him and obey Him." Thus Zechariah 9:10, says, "And His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth." Then the prophet continues (chapter 9:11), "Thou also who art in the blood of thy covenant, I have sent thy prisoners from the waterless pit."
In these words he addresses Israel, who will be saved through the blood of Abraham’s covenant, to which we have adhered in spite of all temptation during the captivity, which is denominated a pit without water. We come now to verse 12, of the same chapter, "Turn ye to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope, even today do I declare, that I will render double unto thee." This may be interpreted in the following manner: -- Israel, ye prisoners, ever hopeful of your ultimate salvation, ye shall return to God, who is the stronghold and the tower of strength to those who trust in Him, for today I tell you again, you shall receive a double portion of all joys lost during the toils of your captivity; and thus I repeat the promise conveyed to you through the prophet Isaiah (chapter 60:17), "Instead of the silver I shall bring gold," etc.; and again (chapter 61:7), "For your shame, ye shall have double, and in return for confusion, they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore, in their land they shall possess the double," etc.
The object of the word, "double," is merely to express that God will abundantly bestow his gracious favors: hence the word מִשְׁנֶי is not confined to the literal sense of twice or twofold. Thus we have in Jeremiah 17:18, "And I will destroy them with double destruction." Thus the word "double" signifies merely a frequent recurrence of the same thing. In chapter 9:13, Zechariah continues, "For I have bent thy way, O Judah, towards me. I have filled the bow, O Ephraim, and raised thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Javan (i.e., Greece), and made thee as the sword of a mighty man."
Here he alludes to the days of the Messiah when all Judah and Ephraim, that is to say, all Israel, will return to their land. For we have already shown, in a former part, that, at the return from Babylon, only a small portion of the Jews again settled in their own country. Now, in the time of the Messiah, all will take their abode in the land of their inheritance, and they will be no more divided into two kingdoms. This may be fully seen on referring to Ezekiel 37. The prophet there tells us, that the children of Zion will prevail over the children of Javan.
Sometimes we find in Scripture Gog and Magog as expressive of the opponents of the Jews, for both Javan and Magog appear in the genealogical enumeration of nations in Genesis 10:1, 2, as brethren and as sons of Japheth.
Having now shown that this chapter affords no foundation for the claims of Jesus to be the Messiah, since in his days those significant predictions remained altogether unfulfilled, we proceed to sum up the points we have discussed.
1. In the days of the Messiah, will take place the gathering of Judah and Ephraim, that is, of all Israel.
2. Many nations will join Israel as the people of the Lord.
3. Gog and Magog, that is, the powers opposing Israel, will be overthrown.
4. Undisturbed peace will then reign throughout the world.
5. The King Messiah will have dominion over all the world.
On the other hand, we have shown that, in the days of Jesus, not one of those favorable events occurred, but indeed the reverse took place. The King Messiah is to declare cessation of warfare and permanent peace, while Jesus the Nazarene says, in Matthew 10:34, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I come not to send peace, but the sword."
The true Messiah is to have his dominion from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth; but Jesus, the Nazarene, had no worldly power over the smallest territory; for he says in Matthew 20:28, "The Son of Man (i.e., Jesus) came not to be served, but to serve," etc. from all this it is obvious that the Christians have no foundation on which to establish their dogma of a Messiah.
Note: chapter and verse numbers in brackets  are the numbers used in the English bible.