Letter To The Jews / Chapter 34

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34: The King On A Donkey

Now, let us look in detail at the prophecy of Zechariah, where the king comes on a donkey.

“Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem. Look! Your king will come to you, righteous and being saved. He is humble, and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the son of a donkey.” 1

Why he rides on two animals is not explained, but it confirms that this is indeed the one spoken about by Jacob. His description sounds somewhat like the despised servant in Isaiah, YHWH’s “righteous servant” who is humbled, and saved from death.

The prophecy continues: “And I will cut off chariot from Ephraim, and horse from Jerusalem, and battle bow will be cut off. He will speak peace to the Gentiles, and his rulership will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” 2

This is almost quoting from David’s psalm about his son. Of his son, King David says: “All the kings will bow to him, and all the nations will serve him.” 3 And this is also said of the “son of man” once he receives the kingdoms of the world.

Of this one, David says: “In his days the righteous will flourish, and abundance of peace until there is no more moon.” 4 And again: “He will rescue the needy one crying out, and the humble one, and the one who has no helper. He will be a refuge for the poor and needy one, and he will save the souls of the needy ones. He will redeem their soul from deceit and from violence, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.” 5

If this one is also YHWH’s despised servant, we can see how he is able to help the poor and needy. It is because he also suffered and was humbled, and so can help the humble who are suffering, a concept with which David would have been familiar.

Now, here is a riddle. Just a few verses later in Zechariah’s prophecy, Judah and Ephraim are used by YHWH to fight, with Judah being bent like the bow. So why are the weapons of war being cut off in these earlier verses? The riddle is solved if the king first of all rules in the hearts of men and women. In that way, he could “speak peace to the Gentiles,” and such a rulership could indeed reach “to the ends of the earth” without the need for war.

Thus, his rule would first of all be spiritual, like a shepherd who cares for his sheep; and then afterwards it would be physical, with the physical blessings to come upon the land.

Zechariah goes on to say: “As for you, by the blood of your covenant, I will release your prisoners from the pit with no waters in it. Return to the fortress, you prisoners of the hope. For this day I am telling you, I will restore double to you.” 6

Who is YHWH speaking to here? These words are ambiguous. It could be Jerusalem, for it sounds like it is talking about restoring Zion from captivity, and the “everlasting covenant” YHWH makes with her, especially as “double” is restored to her after she paid “double” for her sins. In that case, the implication is that her king came before her captivity.

At the same time, YHWH also seems to be speaking directly to the king himself. The “blood of your covenant” could be a reference to YHWH’s despised servant who is given for a “covenant of the people,” and “the pit with no waters in it” could be a metaphor for death itself. This covenant is for Jews and Gentiles, just as YHWH said through Isaiah:

“I will preserve you and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind, to bring out the prisoner from confinement, those dwelling in darkness from the prison.” 7

Zechariah continues: “For I will bend Judah as my bow. I will fill Ephraim, and I will brandish your sons, Zion, over your sons, Greece, and I will make you like the sword of a warrior.” 8

And so Israel once again fulfills its role as the “spiked threshing sledge” servant, suggesting that the “king,” in speaking peace to the Gentiles, was first of all creating a people that are different from the ones being described now, who are being used by YHWH as physical weapons.

“And YHWH will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like the lightning, and my Lord YHWH will blow the shofar, and go out with the windstorms of the south.” 9

Earlier we saw how Isaiah described YHWH’s despised servant as an arrow. “In the shadow of his hand he has hidden me, and he has made me a polished arrow. In his quiver he concealed me.” 10

Although he is called “Israel,” he is tasked with bringing back Israel, and so he is the representative of Israel - its king. Thus, YHWH’s arrow that goes forth “like the lightning” is the king himself. But since YHWH “will appear over them” and that their king, YHWH’s arrow, goes forth “like the lightning,” this would suggest that perhaps the king is not in the form people would expect. After all, lightning is associated with the clouds of heaven!

“YHWH of hosts will defend them, and they will devour and subdue the stones of a slinger, and they will drink and make a noise as if from wine, and will be filled like the spattering bowl, like corners of an altar. And YHWH their God will save them in that day, as the flock of his people, for stones of a crown lifted up as a banner over his ground.” 11

This is similar to the vision of the one coming from Edom. There is a mention of wine, and the “spattering bowl” is the bowl that held the blood used for anointing the altar of the Temple.

But the Edom prophecy in Isaiah is the culmination of a series of prophecies that show how YHWH produces a “man” or “son of man” to save. Zechariah’s prophecy focuses on Israel and its king.

When their king comes on a donkey, he produces a peaceful people who, in heart and mind, have cut off their weapons of warfare. But as for the nation of Israel, after an exile and return, they become like a weapon in YHWH’s hand. YHWH defends them, and their king is an arrow that goes forth like the lightning.

1 Zechariah 9:9. 2 Zechariah 9:10. 3 Psalm 72:11. 4 Psalm 72:7. 5 Psalm 72:12-14. 6 Zechariah 9:11,12. 7 Isaiah 42:6,7. 8 Zechariah 9:13. 9 Zechariah 9:14. 10 Isaiah 49:2. 11 Zechariah 9:15,16.

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