The Passage In Context
The Passage as an Insight into the New Covenant
In this chapter so far, we have seen the logical progression of thought starting with the witnessing of the advance of the Lord through Damascus, Tyre and Philistia before turning eastwards to march on the land of Canaan and enter in to Jerusalem as the conquering, but humble, King who comes in peace to both the city and the nation (see on those passages).
Verse 10 has spoken of a universal peace that will be brought in after the defeat of all Israel’s immediate enemies which bordered their land, over which this King will preside and, presumably, enforce.
What we have in verse 11 onwards, however, is difficult, initially, to see as following after this conquest and proclamation of peace because it appears to use war imagery to speak of the Israelites as being on the offensive to take possession and to subjugate peoples against which they are campaigning and the natural inclination is to draw a concluding line under verse 10, beginning a different prophetic word immediately following.
But the opening clause of verse 11 just won’t let us do that, even though it seems preferable!
When it says
‘As for you also...’
it is directly referring back to the ‘daughter of Zion’ and ‘of Jerusalem’ which occurs in 9:9 and shows that, instead of marking out the beginning of a new word, it is simply continuing the thought of the previous one.
As Baldwin notes
‘The particle “also” connects closely the new theme with what has gone before’
and Smith, when translating the opening phrase as
‘As for you (daughter of Zion)’
notes of the bracket that
‘”Daughter of Zion” is not in the text but the feminine pronoun shows that she is still being addressed’
What I intend doing here, then, is, firstly, attempting to view the passage in the context in which it was first presented to the returned exiles in Zechariah’s day and explain what the text appears to have been telling them was God’s purpose and intention for them after the acceptance of their conquering King into Jerusalem and, secondly, to try and draw out some Truth which is prophetically foreshadowed in this passage concerning the New Covenant and of the victory won for mankind through the cross and now presented to the world through Christ’s Body on earth, the Church.
I certainly haven’t found these verses easy and, having reviewed my notes, feel that they’re a little disjointed. But this, to me, is how the passage reads and it is not possible (for me at least) to make it anymore flowing.
The Passage In Context
Verse 11 - ‘the blood of my covenant’ is an unusual expression in the OT and a similar phrase (where ‘my’ becomes ‘the’) only occurs once (in Ex 24:8) where Moses is speaking to the Israelites about the covenant that God has just made with them. Here, in Zechariah, what follows is being attributed to the Lord’s remembrance of that agreement sealed at Sinai and it is because of it that the Lord will now perform the things that He is about to make plain to the nation. What the Lord is detailing here, though, comes out of their acceptance of the King who comes to them (9:9) who, significantly, was rejected in the New Testament.
When the prophet speaks of the waterless pit and having the captives set free, he has in mind some form of spiritual restoration and isn’t thinking, necessarily, of a deliverance from arid desert places in which the exiles found themselves. Naturally speaking (Baldwin)
‘To be delivered from a pit in which there was no drinking water was life from death’
and other OT Scriptures bear witness to the spiritual application (Ps 30:3, 40:2, Is 42:7, 49:9, 51:14, 61:1), the best being Ezekiel 37:1-14 where the passage considers the House of Israel to be a valley full of dry bones which needs life breathing into them to bring them to life.
Ps 107, however, which speaks of the gathering in of the scattered exiles (107:3), uses similar language but in a literal context. The passages 107:4-9 and 107:10-16 both speak in the context of the words Zechariah, relating how, even when His people found themselves ‘in desert places’ and ‘in darkness and in gloom, prisoners in affliction’ He delivered them when all hope had been lost.
What Zechariah is proclaiming here, though, is that the nation will be restored from spiritual dryness and deadness into a life-giving relationship with the Lord based upon the covenant sealed with them back in Sinai.
Verse 12 - ‘Return to your stronghold’ could have one of two applications but, to be preferred because of the context of the message, is the interpretation that the exiles who still lived many miles away from the land are being urged to return to it (as in Zech 2:7) because, in the previous passage, the Lord is promising them restoration into the covenant.
The alternative is that the stronghold being referred to is none other than the Lord Himself (Ps 9:9, 18:2, 27:1 etc.,) and that the Israelites are being urged to return to Him in order that they might be delivered from their spiritual bankruptcy and poverty. This latter interpretation fits in well with the Lord’s words through Zechariah at the start of his prophetic ministry to the people (Zech 1:3).
‘I will restore to you double’ is a great promise of prosperity on the nation (see also Is 61:7) but it’s tied up with the return of the exiles both to the land and to the Lord Himself in the previous clause. Baldwin suggests that it may refer to a doubling of the population but it would be wrong to limit it to just the one application. What the Lord is talking about here is a better situation for the returned exiles than their fathers had before the exile under any of the kings in any and every area of their individual and national lives.
It is the promise of verse 9, though, which is the compelling factor in the Lord’s insistence that they return to both Himself and the land. If God is about to bring them their King who will begin to rule from Jerusalem outwards to the ends of the earth, then He wants them to be in the centre of His will by being at the centre of where it’s all going to happen. The Lord goes on further in the next verse, though, outlining more of His purpose for the nation when His King will come and ‘command peace to the nations’ (9:10).
Verse 13 - Both Judah and Ephraim are contrasted here, the former being the southern Kingdom after the split in king Rehoboam’s day (I Kings 12:1-20) and the latter being a label used of the northern kingdom (usually known as ‘Israel’). ‘Contrasted’ is probably too strong a word here as what God is showing is that He has reunited the two nations to be reliant and dependent upon each other.
Judah is spoken of as the bow, while Ephraim the arrow which the bow fires. Each of the nations cannot think of themselves as being self-reliant just as the bow is useless without the arrow to fire and vice-versa - only together does each part function according to its created purpose and God has made it so here to destroy the division that had existed in their past.
Under the King, therefore, God’s people will not be divided in the land but will work together to achieve the Lord’s required will and purpose not only within the land but to the uttermost parts of the earth. The following phrase may point us to interpret these words as being indicative of warfare but 9:10 must be considered where universal peace, not an all-conquering military campaign, is being declared as being brought in (I may be wrong, here, but this does appear to be the best way to interpret it - in our day this would be more like a UN peace-keeping force than a full-scale military attack on a neighbouring nation. But the parallels with the present day is very restrictive).
The first half of verse 13 need mean no more than the reunification of the two kingdoms and, as we will go on to see, the ‘warrior’s sword’ in the last line of the verse need not be taken as applying to any military action.
The next three lines which conclude the verse
‘I will brandish your sons, O Zion, over your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword’
need a bit of explanation, especially because of the RSV’s translation of ‘Greece’ which represents a word transliterated as Javan (Strongs Hebrew number 3120) in a few other places in the OT. This is probably what prompted JFB to equate the passage with the Maccabean uprising that threw off the sovereignty of the Greek kingdom.
Baldwin sees the word as applying to far distant lands in Gen 10:2-4 but the context doesn’t appear to warrant such an interpretation, it being employed to speak just of peoples who dwell by the sea. However, Is 66:19 does use the word for a people that are at the ends of the earth, a people who had not heard of the fame of YHWH because of the distance that they lived from the centre of His work in Jerusalem.
Therefore there is no reason to doubt that the word represented a people who lived at a distance much further away than the RSV’s ‘Greece’ suggests even though Smith notes that Javan was the name by which the Greeks were known to the Hebrews (his verses seem to indicate this but partly because the English translations use the word Greece as their translation. The best that can be said is that Javan came to be used both of the coastlands of Greece and of the dwellers by the sea who lived furthest distant from Israel).
The context favours the interpretation that the ends of the earth are being referred to here as Zech 9:10 has just been talking about the dominion of the Lord’s King who shall ‘command peace to the nations’ and have authority ‘to the ends of the earth’. In verse 13, it is the Lord’s people who are being shown to be the instrument that God uses to rule over the earth - that is, God’s rule through His King is being enforced by and through His people as they go to the nations. It is they who will subjugate the people to a greater extent than Solomon ever did because they have returned to God (Zech 9:12).
The ‘warrior’s sword’ at the end of the verse could be taken to refer to warfare and the aggressive overthrow of people that are made war against - but 9:10 has already shown the Israelites that the instruments of war shall be removed from the land and that peace will be declared throughout the nations. It hardly seems appropriate, therefore, to see the mention of the warrior’s sword (rather, the sword of a champion of war) as referring to military campaigns.
By mentioning the sword, the idea could be that the Lord’s people are God’s instrument throughout the earth who enforce the universal peace that He is bringing to them. The same word is used elsewhere in the Bible as a symbol of enforcement (though, it must be pointed out, rarely with this meaning) and it therefore fits its usage (Gen 3:24 and, in the NT, Rom 13:4 though it isn’t, of course, the Hebrew word that’s being used there!).
These three verses have expanded the intention of the Lord, declared as bringing in universal peace in 9:9-10. The Israelites are encouraged to return to the Lord both physically by leaving the countries of their exile and spiritually by forsaking all other gods to draw close to Him. God promises them spiritual restoration and prosperity and, in warring language, proclaims to them that they will be the enforcers of the peace that the King will bring throughout the earth - not just in their allotted territory.
Verse 14 follows on connected to these verses seeing as it begins
‘Then the Lord will...’
which indicates the work of God when these things became a reality that are mentioned in verses 11-13, but we shall leave the commentary of these verses to the next web page so as to try and keep these as uncluttered and as brief as possible!
The Passage as an Insight into the New Covenant
It will come as no surprise to most readers that the passage under consideration never came to pass in subsequent Jewish history. This doesn’t provide the believer with too many problems whether they regard prophecy as pre-written history or, as myself, as conditional promises based upon a correct response in the people to which it was given.
If the former, as JFB, the Maccabean uprising against Greek domination will almost certainly be applied to the prophetic word, but the problem is that such an interpretation seriously distorts the true meaning of the words and makes it apply to the situation, seeing as some interpretation must be found for the entry of the triumphant King who comes to Jerusalem after conquering all the enemies that lay round about the land (9:9).
My own understanding of passages such as these is not to see them as pre-written outworkings of history but, as I’ve said, promises given to the people dependent upon a correct freewill response to them (see my notes on Prophecy here for a further explanation with Scriptural examples).
But these words have specific relevance for the Church today seeing as they speak of a time after which God’s King is welcomed as the all-conquering one and after which He sets up His Kingdom to bring in universal peace both from Himself and through His people. What the Jews rejected for themselves, has fallen to ‘all who believe’ (actually, it had always been God’s intention to bring the Gentiles into His Kingdom and into the centre of His purpose - 9:7), that is, both Jews and Gentiles who have placed their trust in the King and who are actively being used to bring about that peace that He has established for His people and to all who want it throughout the earth.
Verse 11 speaks to us, then, of the New Covenant which Jesus spoke of in such terminology (Mtw 26:28) as
‘my blood of the covenant’
paralleling the use of the phrase at the inauguration of the Old Covenant (Ex 24:8) and fulfilling a couple of other Scriptures which spoke, in the OT, of the necessity of a New Covenant (Jer 31:31) and of an everlasting one (Is 61:8).
Through this blood of the covenant, says Zech 9:11, God will
‘set your captives free from the waterless pit’
As noted previously, this referred not just to a literal deliverance from hardship but, more especially, to a spiritual restoration of God’s people into a relationship with Him (in such passages as Ezek 37:1-14). In the context of the New Covenant, it is seen that such a deliverance is because of the blood of the covenant that God has made with His people that such a restoration can take place.
That is, although Israel were already God’s people (Ex 3:7 - God refers to them as ‘My people’) and were set free from their slavery to the Egyptians before the ratification of the covenant through Moses, it is only in the blood of the covenant mentioned here that goes on to secure the release of the believer and their restoration (Acts 13:39, Heb10:19-22 - this statement I’ve made is the bottom line in all my teaching on the cross, the web pages being linked at the top of the Home Page).
It was the declaration that Jesus made when He first began His ministry (Luke 4:18 from Is 61:1) that He had been sent to
‘...proclaim release to the captives...’
Verse 12 can also be seen in the context of the New Covenant.
God is referred to in Scripture both as His people’s Stronghold (Jer 16:19, Joel 3:16) and as their hope (Jer 14:8, 17:13). The declaration, therefore, can be seen to be a call that goes out to all men to ‘repent’ and ‘return to God’ because of the work of Jesus on the cross (for example, Acts 2:38, Luke 24:27).
We saw that the first clause had relevance to the people of the day insomuch as it would have called them to return from the lands where they had been dispersed and to establish themselves once more around the presence of the Lord which resided in Jerusalem. But, under the New Covenant, God has moved out from the habitation of one rigid man-made structure into His own creation, mankind who believe, that He might go out into all the earth and live through His people at the furthest corners of the earth (I Cor 3:16).
After repentance comes restoration (Zech 9:12b Cp Is 61:7) into all that sin has robbed men of. Sin draws men and women away from the Source of all that the will of the Father has chosen for them.
We saw that Verse 13 showed us that God’s intention in bringing to Israel their King and of restoring their fortunes was to cause them to be the people who were commissioned to go out into the earth and to establish His peace amongst all the nations of the world (Zech 9:10).
That message of peace (both peace with God and peace with one’s fellow man) is now the word of the Gospel that the New Covenant believers have been commissioned with (Mtw 28:19-20, Rom 5:1, Eph 2:14-22). Though it had originally been the Jews who had been formed as a nation to bear witness to God in all the earth and to demonstrate Him throughout the nations, their rejection of their King caused God to pour out His promise to the Gentiles who have now (with Jews alongside them - indeed, the promise is to both Jews and Gentiles) taken that commission to go out into all the world and to bear witness to the Truth.
This ‘going out’ is often misunderstood by believers who are resident in just one area of the world for most of their lives and who think that it is only these ‘special’ people who go ‘to the ends of the earth’ who are truly fulfilling the call of God upon their lives. But everyone who believes is called to be a representative for Jesus who stands up for the Truth and who establishes the rule of peace wherever they find themselves.
Concluding, then, what the Jews saw in type and as a promise of a physical restoration into the land that had been promised to their fathers, is now fulfilled in Christ to all who believe.
GO TO ZECHARIAH PAGE