The word of the Lord is against the land of HadrachZechariah 9:1 (NRSV)
and will rest upon Damascus.
For to the Lord belongs the capital of Aram,
as do all the tribes of Israel;
God had burdened Zechariah to talk about three subjects in this prophetic oracle: The Arrival of Messiah, the Reign of Messiah, and the Rejected Messiah. Zechariah began each subject with a “near” future prophecy that foreshadowed a “far” future event.
The near future prophecies are given chronological order – we will look at each one, the march of King Alexander in 335 B.C., the success of the Maccabean revolt around 167 B.C., and the utter destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
But the far future events that were foreshadowed are not in chronological order, that is what makes this passage in Zechariah a little bit confusing. After announcing both the first and second comings of Israel’s ultimate king, Zechariah first gave his message of hope to strengthen the people for the burden of judgment God had placed on him to preach.
Alexander the Great
In 336 B.C. King Phillip, who had just finished unifying Greece, was assassinated, so his son Alexander, then only 20 years old, was made king. A great military leader, he set out to conquer world, which he almost accomplished before he died at the age of 30. Alexander’s first conquest was the Persian empire. Then in 333 B.C. he marched on Damascus and followed exactly the course that Zechariah had predicted 50 years before it happened.
The Sacking of Tyre
Tyre has built itself a rampart,Zechariah 9:3-4 (NRSV)
and heaped up silver like dust,
and gold like the dirt of the streets.
But now, the Lord will strip it of its possessions
and hurl its wealth into the sea,
and it shall be devoured by fire.
Tyre originally had been located on the mainland, but wanting to be even safer, it had been rebuilt on an island about half a mile out to sea. It was surrounded by a double wall one hundred and fifty feet high and filled with twenty-five feet of earth—that was the rampart.
Ancient history records that Tyre was a center for trade and commerce, wealthy ships went everywhere and Tyre’s opulence had become legendary. Silver and gold were said to be as plentiful as mud in the streets.
Even the mightiest armies on earth could not take Tyre down!
Then came Alexander.
In fact, Ezekiel had already delivered a prophetic oracle concerning Tyre.
They will plunder your richesEzekiel 26:12-14 (NRSV)
and loot your merchandise;
they shall break down your walls
and destroy your fine houses.
Your stones and timber and soil
they shall cast into the water.
I will silence the music of your songs;
the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more.
I will make you a bare rock;
you shall be a place for spreading nets.
You shall never again be rebuilt,
for I the Lord have spoken,
says the Lord God.
And that is exactly what happened.
Alexander threw all the building materials from the old abandoned city along the coast, all the timber and stone, into the sea, creating an enormous causeway across which his army marched right into Tyre, burning it totally to the ground.
To this day, precisely as Ezekiel had predicted it, Tyre has never been rebuilt.
While Alexander was laying siege to Tyre, he wrote to Jerusalem’s high priest Jaddus to send him money and supplies, but Jaddus declined, keeping his vow of loyalty to king Darius, which angered Alexander.
The Sacking of the Philistines
Meanwhile, Alexander methodically proceeded at the north of Palestine to hammer all these major Philistine cities till he got to Gaza.
Ashkelon shall see it and be afraid;Zechariah 9:5-6 (NRSV)
Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish;
Ekron also, because its hopes are withered.
The king shall perish from Gaza;
Ashkelon shall be uninhabited;
a mongrel people shall settle in Ashdod,
and I will make an end of the pride of Philistia.
I will take away its blood from its mouth,Zechariah 9:7 (NRSV)
and its abominations from between its teeth;
it too shall be a remnant for our God;
it shall be like a clan in Judah,
and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.
In some cultures of antiquity, when sacrificing animals, the ancients would drink the blood of the animals in order to gain the life and strength of that animal. God had expressly forbidden the Israelites from ever indulging in this practice,
If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood;
and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.
Therefore I have said to the people of Israel: No person among you shall eat blood, nor shall any alien who resides among you eat blood. And anyone of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside among them, who hunts down an animal or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.Leviticus 17:10-13 (NRSV)
Because life is in the blood, they were to pour the blood out as a sacrifice to God, for God alone had the rights to life.
Through Zechariah, God had now pronounced a final judgment on Philistine idolatry.
The Jebusites, who were the original inhabitants of Jerusalem, had been incorporated into Israel. Now the Philistines, who had so established themselves that Canaan had become Palestine, were also going to be absorbed into the Jews and no longer be a separate people.
Then I will encamp at my house as a guard,Zechariah 9:8 (NRSV)
so that no one shall march to and fro;
no oppressor shall again overrun them,
for now I have seen with my own eyes.
God would encamp around the temple because of Alexander’s army, so that Jerusalem would not be overrun. As Alexander swept down the coast of Palestine, all these cities fell to him, and those in Jerusalem feared what would happen next, to them. They feared Alexander intended to burn Jerusalem to the ground.
So the high priest, Jaddus, called all the people into fasting and prayer.
God told the high priest not to fight. Instead, Jaddus was to give the people palm branches, have them dress in white robes, and the high priest himself was to put on his full priestly regalia, with his turban on his head, bearing the gold bar on it that proclaimed “holy unto the Lord.”
The people were frightened, but they trusted Jaddus had gotten a word from God. Out they went that morning to meet the huge Greek army, waving palm branches in procession behind the high priest. When Alexander saw this, he got off his horse, went before the priest . . . and got down on his knees to worship.
According to Josephus, When Alexander got back to his horse, his second-in-command asked him why he had bowed down to the priest, and here was Alexander’s reply:
“When my father Philip died, I had a vision of a man dressed just like this priest who came to me and said Jehovah would lead my army and guarantee me victory over Persia, and that I would conquer Tyre by way of the sea, But I had to spare His temple and the people who worshiped Him here in Jerusalem. I had forgotten all about it until now. This is the God I must worship.”
Alexander then went with the high priest to the temple and made all the proper sacrifices to worship God. For the rest of Alexander’s lifetime Jerusalem was given all the rights to worship, with more privileges than any other conquered nation.
This near-future prophecy was foreshadowing the coming of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Alexander was mightier than any king before or after him to this very day, even modern‑day super powers have not conquered as much of the known world ‑ proportionally ‑ as Alexander conquered of his known world. Yet he was just a foreshadowing of a much greater king who would conquer the entire spiritual realm and thereby win the entire physical realm of humanity as well.
Both Alexander and this much greater king died in their thirties, but the King of Kings and Lord of Lords rose from the dead and sits on His throne forever!
[Alexander Mosaic (detail), House of the Faun, Pompeii | By Unknown creator – This file has been extracted from another file: Battle of Issus mosaic – Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Naples 2013-05-16 16-25-06 BW.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32224319%5D