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.
Messiah as Judge
He will cut off the chariot from EphraimZechariah 9:10 (NRSV)
and the war-horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
This oracle is still future to us, so by it we surmise Jesus will return one day for the final judgement of this world and to bring His people ultimately into the New Heavens and the New Earth. He will come back riding on a white horse, to conquer the world, and then to do what no superpower has yet succeeded in doing—bring about total world disarmament, world rule, and world peace.
Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!”I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
. . . Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse!
—Its rider is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.
—His eyes are like a flame of fire, and
—on his head are many diadems; and
—he has a name inscribed that no one knows but himself.
—He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and
—his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies of heaven, wearing fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.
—From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and
—he will rule them with a rod of iron;
—he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
—On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, “King of kings and Lord of lords.”Revelation 6:1-2, 19:11-16 (NRSV)
As you and I read through these descriptions of Jesus, images of His work as the suffering Messiah come to mind.
- His eyes flash with the very glory of God, the Shekinah of His Transfiguration
- His robed is dipped in His own blood, shed for the sins of the world. Remember, Jesus is both high priest and the sacrificed lamb.
- He is named the Word of God, and the sharp sword from His mouth is the vivid imagery of the words of God, words of truth and righteousness, justice and mercy.
- Jesus tread the winepress of God’s fury and we know He also drank that cup of fury Himself, to the dregs. Jesus’ own person became sin, drank the cup of God’s wrath over sin, and yet also became the antidote to that sin, for after His death came His resurrection.
Only through peace with God can people be at peace with each other.
The next division of Zechariah’s oracles begins with the prophecy of the Maccabean rebellion to take place in about 167 B.C. The clue is here in this next passage.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,Zechariah 9:11-13 (NRSV)
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
For I have bent Judah as my bow;
I have made Ephraim its arrow.
I will arouse your sons, O Zion,
against your sons, O Greece,
and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
After Alexander died so unexpectedly, his empire was broken up into three smaller empires that went to his sons:
- Greece was ruled by a variety of leaders (Cleopatra was the last of her line).
- Egypt was ruled by the mild-mannered Ptolemy dynasty
- The eastern lands which included Judah were ruled by the ruthlessly cruel Seleucid dynasty.
During this time, the world was being Hellenized, deeply influenced by the Greeks—Jerusalem started to become sophisticated, adopted Greek ways, and began to host chariot races. Priests used to race through all their temple services so they could get to the horse races. All athletes participated in their sport naked, so many young Jewish men tried with a variety of artifices to hide the fact of their circumcision. It was during this time the group that became the Sadducees had begun to use the temple for profit.
It seemed they enjoyed the blessings of God while at the same time drifted ever farther from the roots of their faith and unique culture.
Antiochus Epiphanes and Seleucid Tyranny
In an effort to establish Greek religion and Greek culture and eradicate Jewish faith and practices, the current Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes
- Suspended the daily sacrifices at the temple.
- Abolished the sabbath.
- Destroyed copies of the Scriptures.
- Forbade anymore circumcisions.
- Erected pagan altars.
It seems though the people resented all of these actions, the climax to their simmering sense of violation came when Antiochus Epiphanes had all the treasures removed from the temple to help pay for his war campaigns against the rising power of Rome.
In a final act of desecration, Antiochus took a pig and burned it on his own altar, which he had placed on top of God’s burnt sacrifice altar, and insisted the Jewish people worship Zeus in God’s holy temple.
All these stories and more are available in the records taken of that time period, preserved in the Books of the Maccabees. (Available as part of the apocrypha for the Hebrew scriputres)
Then, God raised up a priest, Mattathias, and his five sons to lead all Israel in throwing off this evil ruler. When Mattathias died, his son took up the leadership and became known as Judas Maccabeus (which means “hammer” in Hebrew). Antiochus sent his best general to Jerusalem to fight them, camping in a town called Emmaus. Slave traders from Greece came in anticipation of taking the Jewish captives into slavery.
It was a huge army.
The Jews had no visible hope.
And yet . . .
Nearly three centuries previously, the Prophet Zechariah had seen all this played out before him. He then described how God would give them victory in that day.
Then the Lord will appear over them,
and his arrow go forth like lightning;
the Lord God will sound the trumpet
and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south.
The Lord of hosts will protect them,
and they shall devour and tread down the slingers;
they shall drink their blood like wine,
and be full like a bowl,
drenched like the corners of the altar.
On that day the Lord their God will save themZechariah 9:14-17 (NRSV)
for they are the flock of his people;
for like the jewels of a crown
they shall shine on his land.
For what goodness and beauty are his!
Grain shall make the young men flourish,
and new wine the young women.
God’s arrow was Mattathias
For the next 100 years, The Jewish people had full political and religious independence.
In the same way, this near future prophecy of miraculous victory of the little Jewish army over an impossibly huge and virulently evil army, seems to foreshadow a time when Jesus will lead His people in victory. Several prophecies converge upon the prediction of a cataclysmic clash between the Lord and the hordes of the earth in a massive battle for the control of the cosmos, after which Christ will establish Zion as His holy capitol City.
[The Horseman “Faithful and True,” the Army of Heaven on White Horses and the Horseman in the Winepress, about 1255 – 1260 AD | By Unknown – illuminator – eAEJ1skfHRb9kw at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69606339%5D