Zechariah: The Burden of the Word of the Lord Against Wicked Cities

The burden of the word of the Lord…

Zechariah 9:1

“Burden” literally refers to something heavy one must carry, but as used figuratively by the prophets – some translations use the term “oracle” instead of “burden” – it carries with it the concept of a divine verdict or punishment given against a people or nation (Zech. 9:1a; cf. Nahum 1:1; Is. 13:1).  In this instance, the punishment given by the word of the Lord was given against several peoples, starting with  “the land of Hadrach” and “Damascus” (9:1a).  Some correlate Hadrach with a place north of Lebanon known to the Assyrians, some with the Medo-Persian Empire, and others to Syria since its capital was Damascus.

Zechariah’s next statement (9:1b) is worded differently by various translations.  Some have the prophet stating parenthetically that “the eyes of men, especially of all the tribes of Israel, are toward the Lord”; others say, “For the Lord has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel.”  Personally, I think the concept of God having an eye on mankind and all of Israel’s tribes is the more likely original intent of the inspired author.  God sees all, He had seen these peoples’ wickedness, and would exact punishment from them.

The prophet went on to say that God also had His eye “on Hamath also, which borders on” Israel to her north, as well as “Tyre and Sidon,” Phoenician cities also north of Judah on the coast of the Mediterranean (9:2).  These cities were filled with corrupt people at the time of this writing.  Though the prophet acknowledges Tyre and Sidon’s wisdom, God still was watching them (9:1b-2).  Tyre was described as fortified and wealthy (9:3), yet Zechariah promises that “the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire” (9:4).  Earlier, Ezekiel had prophesied that many nations would destroy Tyre, focusing on Babylon’s destruction of the city (Ezek. 26-27), which did occur.  However, Isaiah had also prophesied that Tyre would survive and rebuild (Is. 23:15-17).  Yet, both Ezekiel and now Zechariah foretell of Tyre’s further, more complete destruction, which history tells us was done with great ferocity by the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great.

Other cities would receive God’s divine verdict too.  The Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Ashkelon, and Ashdod, after seeing the fate of the aforementioned cities, would “be afraid,” “writhe in anguish,” and have “its hopes…confounded” (9:5a) before being conquered, their rulers perishing, becoming uninhabited, and “mixed people” (likely inter-bred foreigners) dwelling within them (9:5-6).  Again, history shows that all of this happened when Alexander the Great swept through the land with his armies around 330 or so years before Christ was born.  Referring to the Philistines’ idolatrous practices figuratively as “blood (in their) mouth(s)” and “abominations…between (their) teeth” (which could also be a literal reference to some of the atrocities committed as part of their pagan worship such as the consumption of blood and organs – cf. Gen. 9:4), the prophet promised that Jehovah would “take away” such outrages from them (9:7a) and make them “a remnant for our God” and “like a clan in Judah” (9:7b).  In other words, only a small percentage of their overall population would remain and become a part of Judah, eventually choosing to follow God.  By promising that the Philistine city of Ekron “shall be like the Jebusites” (9:7c), Zechariah was referring to the original inhabitants of Jerusalem who were conquered by David when he captured the city (2 Sam. 5).  David did not annihilate them completely.  Rather, they were assimilated into Israel.  One of them, Araunah the Jebusite, was later described as a faithful citizen (2 Sam. 24:18ff).

While all of this happened, God promised to protect His people:  “Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes” (9:8).  History shows this also occurred.  According to Josephus, Alexander spared Jerusalem after being shown Daniel’s prophecies that Greece would conquer Persia (Dan. 7:6; 8:3-8, 20-22; 11:3).  When I see history showing the fulfillment of these and other biblical prophecies, it strengthens my faith immensely!

— Jon

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