Zechariah 9:9-10 -- A King of Peace
Israel certainly had her share of disappointing kings. The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles attest to this history. But in Zechariah 9:9-10, the prophet points to a coming king who is unique.
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
And He will speak peace to the nations;
And His dominion will be from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth."
This isn't just any king. The prophet tells the people of Israel to be joyful, to get excited, because the promised one, the one sent from God, the long awaited king, is coming. And so this passage has been interpreted as messianic; that is, it is often supposed that the king in this passage is none other than the Messiah, the savior of Israel.
Traditional Judaism teaches that, "The messiah is a G-d fearing, pious Jew, who is both a Torah scholar and a great leader. He is to be a direct descendent of King David, anointed as the new Jewish King. (In fact, the Hebrew word for messiah 'Moshiach' means 'anointed one.')"1
Many Jewish people do not give much thought to the coming of a Messiah anymore, and those who do often picture him as a mighty conqueror, even a superhero-type figure. But here in Zechariah 9 the picture is very different the king is not coming to fight a war; he comes in gentleness and meekness. He is the king over all the earth and he has all authority, but he comes in this humble fashion, riding on a baby donkey, as opposed to a chariot or even a great horse.
This passage of Scripture provides a picture of a Messiah-king, a deliverer of salvation, gently offering his kingship to Israel and to the world he is a man of peace for all peoples. He will proclaim peace to all the nations, not just to Israel.
In our world today peaceful people may win prizes, but they don't necessarily command authority. We've come to expect a certain amount of confidence, even arrogance, from our leaders. We expect them to do what they have to do to maintain order. Especially in Israel and the Middle East, it is difficult to fathom that someone could come to such power on peaceful terms. A king who does not fight? Yet in this passage, that is exactly what is promised. Zechariah 14:2-4 -- A King of War
Later, however, Zechariah gives another description of the coming king, a picture quite different from that of chapter 9. Let's take a brief look at the context for his statement:
"For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south."
This picture is very much like an epic battle scene from a movie full of bloodshed and tragedy and triumph. Then in verses 8-9 we read:
"And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one."
Chapters 9 and 14 are the central passages in Zechariah telling of this king who will reign over all the earth. In chapter 9 the king is humble, but in chapter 14 he is a force to be reckoned with. In the latter picture, the king is a conqueror; he comes in wrath, meting out judgment to the enemies of Israel. This is perhaps a more traditional picture of Messiah, a mighty hero who fights on our behalf. Mysteriously, this passage seems to suggest that this Messiah-king is none other than the Lord God himself, God coming to fight on behalf of his people
(see page 8). In any case, we are presented with a dramatically different picture of the king here than the one we see in Zechariah 9. Two Descriptions, Two Kings?
So the question is, does this king who reigns over all the earth come gently, riding on a donkey in peace? Or in great wrath, ready to do battle? Is Zechariah contradicting himself? This is a big puzzle for Jewish scholars as well. But this is not the only place in the Scriptures where we find seemingly divergent pictures of Messiah (see chart on page 5). For example, Micah 5 tells us he is born in Bethlehem, the city of David. But in Daniel 7 the prophet tells us he will arrive, riding on the clouds of heaven. Is the Messiah going to be cut off (killed) as predicted in Daniel 9, or will he come in regal splendor and reign forever, as Isaiah 9 tells us? Is he the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 or a royal king portrayed in Psalm 2?
In response to these two seemingly opposite pictures of Messiah, some rabbis decided that there must be two messiahs, the Messiah ben Yosef who would come and suffer and Messiah ben David, who would come as a conquering king.
Another Jewish tradition explains the two contrasting portraits of Messiah like this: "If the people of Israel will be righteous, the Messiah will come in the clouds of Heaven. If they will not be righteous, he will come as a poor man riding upon an ass" (Sanhedrin 98a).
Are such explanations necessary or is it possible that one individual might "fit the bill" of both pictures; someone who would be both a king of peace and a king of power, a humble servant and a conqueror? If so, what would this extraordinary person look like? The Once and Future King
There is still another Jewish view concerning the two pictures of the Messiah-king that accurately fulfills the portrait we see in Zechariah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. This view actually predates the other two mentioned. It's the position presented in the New Testament.
The writers of the New Testament were Jewish people, living in the first century, who believed that the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures described one Messiah, a great king who was to come twice, first as a servant, then as conqueror. They believed that Y'shua (Jesus) was the fulfillment of both expectations.
Y'shua was not a typical king. His was a life marked by humility. He was a man of gentleness and peace. But the peace he offered was different from what most people think about it was a peace that comes from the depth of personal spiritual solutions that Y'shua offered to people who would follow him.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" (John 14:27).
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10).
Near the close of Y'shua's life on earth, he called to his disciples to get a donkey with its colt. Just before Passover, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt of a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy Zechariah gave more than five hundred years earlier. And the people shouted and rejoiced:
"Hosha-na to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosha-na in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9).
The people were shouting, "Save us!" They understood that their king had come and that he was offering powerful, life-changing salvation to those who would welcome him. In fact, the name "Y'shua" means "God saves."
Though Y'shua did not usher in an age of "peace on earth" as many hoped then and many wish for today, he did offer peace with God to everyone willing to trust in him and the atonement for sin he offered through his death and resurrection.
Y'shua was a man of peace, but he was also a man of strength. He boldly proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, even though he knew that he would be crucified for these claims.
That's because Y'shua also knew that he possessed the power of an indestructible life. Though he was to die, he knew that he would rise again. Consider his words to a Jewish audience:
"I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again " (John 10:17b-18d).
It was a hard claim to believe and yet many witnessed Jesus' resurrection and were willing to die proclaiming the truth of his life. Today, millions of people around the world wait for his return.
What will that return look like? According to Zechariah it will be a day of judgment, but also a day of deliverance for those who honor the king:
"Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty " (Zechariah 14:6).
So the king came first to offer his kingship, to give people the chance to enthrone him. One day he'll come again to take by force what is rightfully his. Like a parent dealing with children: the father or mother hopes the children will obey on their own, so they begin dealing with them gently, but when the children refuse to submit, the parents insist and enforce their will with resolve. This is the picture Zechariah paints of the king who has come, the one who will come again. http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/15_5/returningking