Forum Class for October 10, 2004


The Future of Israel: Two Burdens Concerning Israel and the Nations

FIRST BURDEN: Zechariah 9-11

The last six chapters of the book of Zechariah deal mainly with the future of Israel. In many ways, the tone takes a change, even though the chapters are not unrelated to the previous eight. This third main block of the book of Zechariah is divided into two equal divisions, chapters 9-11 and chapters 12-14. Each is introduced with "The burden of the word of the LORD" (9:1; 12:1). In general, the first "burden" is counter-balanced with predictions of our Lord's first corning, while the second "burden" is offset by the promise of Messiah's second corning. Further, the first burden describes the rejection of the messianic "shepherd" (11:4-17), while the second teaches that Messiah shall finally be recognized by Israel as a spiritual renewal takes place among the people (12:10-13:1).

DISPOSSESSING THE GENTILE POWERS (Zechariah 9:1-8): The literary structure of this text argues for its unity. P. Lamarche has shown that there is a chiastic pattern in 9:1-8 within the larger chiastic pattern to chapters 9-14Verses 1-4 speak of cities in the northern part of the Promised Land; verses 5-8 speak of cities in the southern part of the Promised Land. But even more extraordinary, verses 1-2 and 7b-8 describe God's salvation while verses 3-7a speak of His judgment, giving the resulting form of a, b, b, a. The repeated use of the phrase the "eye of the LORD" in verses 1 and 8 is further confirmation of the unity of this text.

This text prophesies the most extensive outreach of the borders of Israel, to include the Philistine seaboard, the northern cities of Tyre and Sidon and a corridor through Damascus. It seems to be consistent with a number of other texts, such as Numbers 13:21-24; 34:1-12; Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 1:3-4; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25, 28; and Ezekiel 47:16. The phrase "From Dan to Beersheba" (Judg. 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 17:11) was the conventional way to refer to the territory that Israel actually held during most of her history-a territory far less extensive than what is prophesied in Zechariah 9:1-8; God had always marked out more for Israel than she ever possessed.

Chapter 9 describes Yahweh as a Divine Warrior, and most contemporary scholars who focus on this title do so in order to avoid comparing the prophecies of this chapter with the actual subsequent history of Israel, since few, if any, of the events described have actually taken place already in history. But this chapter could be describing events that are still to come in our future, and thus we would not need to--and could not--find historical analogues at this time. Further, nothing in this chapter suggests that a kind of cosmic war is being waged to provide an opportunity to raise a hymn to God as the warrior who vindicates the interests of the faithful.

In this teaching block, God will win back two areas as part of His originally promised land:

A. Winning Back the Northern Territory 9:1-4
B. Winning Back the Southern Territory 9:5-8

WINNING BACK THE NORTHERN "TERRITORY (9:1-4): The division comprising chapters 9-11, like chapters 12-14 (and Malachi 1:1), has as its heading, "The Burden of the word of the LORD." The Hebrew term masas' is best translated as "burden," rather than "oracle," or "proclamation," since it comes from the verbal root meaning "to lift up," or "to bear," hence, something that is heavy or a "burden." The term masas' occurs more than sixty times in the Old Testament and usually refers to a burden "imposed by a master, a despot or a deity on their subjects, beasts, men or things. In prophecy, however, a "burden" is a declaration of judgment involving a catastrophic event that is to come.

The first place against which God has issued this burden is "the land of Hadrach" (v. 1). Nowhere else in the Old Testament is this site mentioned, but the site is known from the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions as "Hatarikka," a city and country against which Assyria waged war in the eighth century. Apparently, it was located to the north of Hamath on the Orontes River, southwest of Aleppo. "Damascus" (v. 1c), the second place mentioned in this burden, was the capital of Aram, modem Syria. The Arameans, on more than a few occasions, were pitched in battle against Israel.

The remainder of verse 1 explains why God gave this message of a catastrophe against the land of Hadrach and Damascus: "For the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the LORD." It is now time for God to act as He said He would and to fulfill His pledge of long ago.

"Hamath," "Tyre," and "Sidon" are likewise subjects of this prophetic judgment. Hamath, on the Orontes River, is one of the northern-most limits of the Promised Land (e.g., Num. 13:21; Josh. 13:5; Judg. 3:3), while Tyre and Sidon belong to the Phoenician coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Even "though [Tyre and Sidon] are very wise" (v. 2) in their business dealings as great maritime powers, they will not escape the ominous consequences of this judgment.

Tyre built up enormously impressive defenses (v. 3a), including a breakwater that was 2460 feet long and 27 feet thick to defend her island city, yet "the LORD will cast her out" (v. 4a). God will "destroy her power in the sea" (v. 4b), or, more accurately, "hurl her wealth into the sea." The Assyrians besieged Tyre for five years and finally took it in 722 B.C. Later, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege on Tyre for thirteen years (572 B.C.), only to have the mainland city move out one-half mile in the Mediterranean Sea to the island city without too much satisfaction for his efforts (Ezk. 29:18). But when Alexander the Great met with the same resistance that had frustrated the Babylonians, more than two centuries after the Babylonians, he scraped up the timbers, stones, and dust of the mainland and "hurled them into the sea," as he built a causeway one-half mile out into the Mediterranean Sea to capture the island city (Ezk. 26:12). The seemingly invincible city fell in 332 B.C. Will history repeat itself in the end day, or is this the event that Zechariah predicted?

WINNING BACK THE SOUTHERN TERRITORY (9:5-8): The news of the fall of Tyre brought fear into the hearts of the Philistine cities. Only four of the five cities in the Philistine pentapolis are mentioned here: Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod. Apparently Gath, the fifth city, had already lapsed into decline (2 Chron. 26:6). It is interesting to compare the eighth century judgment pronounced on these same cities by the prophet Amos with Zechariah's burden. In Amos's judgment the king of Ashkelon would be killed and Ashdod's citizens would be decimated, while in Zechariah's burden Gaza's king would be killed, Ashkelon's citizens would be decimated (v. 5), and Ashdod would experience a mixed population from the time of the exile onwards. In fact, as evidence of the great assimilation into Ashdod of this mixed population, the Persians borrowed the name Ashdod for a division of the fifth satrapy (v. 6a).

In the middle of verse 6, the pronoun referring to the Lord changes from third person to first person singular. The Lord is the speaker as He describes what He will do to and for the Philistines. God will deal first with the Philistines' "pride" (v. 6b). For years the Philistine military machine had been the bane of David and Saul's existence. That would cease. Then the Lord would "take away the blood from [Philistine's] mouth, and the abominations from between his teeth" (v. 7ab). "Blood" and "abominations" are references to practices with idolatrous connections which God had forbidden (Lev. 17:14; Isa. 65:4; 66:3,17). If the Philistines were going to be assimilated into the Jewish people, they needed to abstain from eating meat that was not well-bled and abandon all practices that carried any connotation of magic or idolatry.

By now it is evident that this part of Zechariah's message has a broader purpose than to reveal God's geographic or military objectives. Through these objectives, people whom most would not have regarded as candidates for incorporating into the body of the believing community were included in the family of God! Philistines would have God as their God, just as the Jebusites of old Jerusalem were incorporated into the people of Israel when David captured Jerusalem (v. 7e).

The victorious march of Yahweh will end up at His house, the temple in Jerusalem (v. 8a). There the Lord will camp, not only to protect His house, but to symbolize that He will now protect the whole land, of which His house is the center. God's all-seeing eye will not let anything escape His notice (v. 8bd). In fact, 9:8 contains two clauses that link the first eight chapters with the last six (and thereby argues against the favorite modem position that there is no unity to the book): the clause "No more shall an oppressor pass through them" is found in 9:8c and 7:14, and the expression "For now I have seen with My eyes" is found in 9:8c and 4:10b. God has been an eyewitness to Israel's distress, but He will now be personally present to make sure no one ever again oppresses her.

CONCLUSION: Many view the word "Philistine" as so removed from anything sacred that it is often used in modem speech as a synonym for an uncultured barbarian. But this text challenges all our misrepresentations and includes the Philistines as part of the people of God in that day when the Lord personally will camp at His house in Jerusalem!

Surely the Lord's victory over the nations in the northern and southern parts of the Promised Land is as certain as can be. Moreover, many of those who had been alien to both the Lord and His people will now be incorporated into His body as an integrated part of the people of faith.

These truths will prepare us for the corning universal worship of Messiah as the ruling and reigning King in Jerusalem (14:16-19). Men and women shall literally come from all tribes, languages, and nationalities (including the Philistines) to worship the Living God in that day when He personally resides as Sovereign over all the earth.

Processing in with the Messianic King in Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9-10): At the heart of chapter 9 stands one of the most famous predictions about the coming messianic king. Whether it should be treated separately, as we do here, or linked with 9:1-8 or with 9:11-17, is a difficult question. On the one hand, it does continue in the poetic form of verses 1-8, and it does describe both the Messiah and the way He will govern the kingdom of God announced in both verses 1-8 and verses 11-17. On the other hand, it is distinctive in nature and functions as a pivotal point for both 1-8 and 11-17, and these factors persuade us that it is best to treat verses 9-10 as a distinctive oracle that enlarges on the messianic teaching of 3:8 and 6:9-15.

PROCESSING IN WITH THE MESSIANIC KING (Zechariah 9:9-10): Zechariah 9:9-10 contains four announcements that are worth shouting about:

A. The Arrival of Our King 9:9a-c
B. The Character of Our King 9:9d-f
C. The Disarmament of Our World 9:10a-c
D. The Kingdom of Our Lord 9:10d-f

THE ARRIVAL OF OUR KING (9:9a-c): In 9:9ab the prophet urges the people of Jerusalem, here personified as "daughter of Zion" and "daughter of Jerusalem," to "Rejoice greatly" and "Shout" (v. 9ab). These spontaneous outbursts of exuberant joy are expressions of enormous jubilation and celebration over the fact that the earth will finally receive her King. Isaac Watts paraphrased Psalm 98, which celebrates the same event, with the words: "Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King." Few events in the history of our planet are more worthy of shouting over. The prophet Zephaniah had already issued the same call for jubilation when he urged in Zephaniah 3:14-15: "Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! . . . The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst." And Zechariah had earlier quoted the Lord's similar call for rejoicing: "'Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst: says the LORD" (Zech. 2:10). In that coming day, the Lord will dwell in Jerusalem.

THE CHARACTER OF OUR KING (9:9d-f): Our coming King is described here as being "just," i.e., "in-the-right." Since His nature and character set the norms for what "righteousness" is, He can uphold what is right in His exercise of the office of ruler. The Messiah is also described as "having salvation." To be "endowed with salvation" can mean either to experience deliverance and victory or to be a Savior of others. In Zephaniah 3:17 the verb "to save" is found in the active form: "The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save," or "who gives victory." But in the Hebrew text of our passage, the verb "to save" is in the passive form, meaning the Messiah has experienced the Father's deliverance and victory.

Finally, the Messiah is described as lowly. The Hebrew word 'an may be translated as one who has experienced "humility," "affliction" or the trial of being" stricken." The Messiah had just such an experience or trial when He was brought low through the affliction He bore on our behalf on the cross (Isa. 53:7).

The Messiah will come to us "riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9ef). In the ancient Near East the donkey was not thought of as a lowly beast of burden, as we might think today. Rather, the donkey was the preferred mount of princes (Judg. 5:10; 10:4; 12:14), kings (2 Sam. 16:1-2), and leaders who mingled with the people in a peaceful manner (Gen. 49:11; 2 Sam. 19:26; 1 Kings 1:33). Horses, especially when linked to chariots, were instruments of war (Deut. 17:16; Ps. 33:16-17; Isa. 33:1). The fact that the Messiah is not said to come on a horse signifies that He would not come, this time, as a conqueror. These verses also seem to allude to Jacob's blessing on the line of Judah in Genesis 49:11, where "the One whose right it is" (cf. Ezk. 21:27) is described as "binding his donkey to the vine, and his donkey's colt to the choice vine." Thus, the Davidic Ruler promised in Genesis 49:11 would come mounted on a donkey. Note, too, that He would come riding on the colt of the ass, a purebred, born of an ass and not of a mule.'" Both Matthew (21:2-7) and John (12:12-15) refer to these verses in their depiction of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Matthew notes that both the donkey and the colt were brought, while John says specifically that Jesus rode on the "young" animal.

THE DISARMAMENT OF OUR WORLD (9:10a-c): When the Messiah comes--these verses apparently refer to the Messiah's second coming--three weapons of war will be abolished: "the chariot," "the horse," and the "battle bow." These and, I would assume, their modem equivalents, will be banished from Messiah's realm.

Specifying "Ephraim" and "Jerusalem" as cities from which the implements of war will be banished is one more reminder that God's plan involves both the restoration and reunification (8:13; Ezk. 37:15-'; 28) of the northern and southern kingdoms that have been split apart since 931 B.C. But the work of God would not stop there; peace would come to the whole world.

THE KINGDOM OF OUR LORD (9:10d-f): Messiah "shall speak peace to the nations." With a Ruler who is just and victorious, it will not be necessary to settle disputes among nations and territories by warfare. As citizens of God's future kingdom, we will delight in Messiah's righteous decrees and Law, not in using arms. By such peaceful means, the dominion of our Lord will extend out over the whole earth. The scope of Messiah's realm is traced in language reminiscent of Psalm 72:8. We refer again to Isaac Watts' paraphrase of that Psalm: "Jesus shall reign wher'er the sun, does its successive journeys run. His kingdom spread from shore to shore. 'Til moons shall wax and wane no more." In Zechariah's words, "His dominion shall be 'from sea to sea, and from the River [probably the Euphrates, not the Nile] to the ends of the earth"'(v. 10). Finally our whole earth will realize what everyone has always longed for--a just and lasting peace.

CONCLUSION: Like His celebrated entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Jesus will come once again as King of kings and Lord of lords in order to rule and reign forever and forever. What a triumphant return that will be! If ever there was a reason to shout, this is it. The Messiah King is Lord of the whole earth!

RELEASING THE CAPTIVES: THE JEWELS IN THE CROWN (Zechariah 9:11-10:1): Now that the King has been announced, the captives of Northern and Southern Israel can be released. Their release, and what follows, are depicted in words charged with emotion and color and in rich metaphors, especially battle metaphors. God's kingdom will be populated by released captives. Involved in that release will be three unforgettable factors. They are:

A. The Blood of the Covenant 9:11-13
B. The Theophany of the Divine Warrior 9:14-15a
C. The Eschatological Banquet of the Released 9:15b-10:1

THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT (9:11-13): The phrase "As for you also" that begins verses 11-13 link these verses to verses 9-10; the particle "also" alerts us to the fact that in verses 11-13 the Lord will develop His description of the future day begun in verses 9-10. Thus the chapter has a real unity of both form and content. Everything that will happen in that future day--the arrival of the King and the rule and reign of Messiah as absolute Lord over the whole earth, with His personal headquarters in Jerusalem-will have been made possible by "the blood of your covenant" (v. 11a). The phrase "the blood of your covenant" is mentioned only one other time in the Old Testament (Exod. 24:8), even though the Old Testament does mention the idea of a blood sacrifice on occasions when the covenant was being ratified (Gen. 15:9-11, the covenant with Abraham; Exod. 24:8, the covenant with Moses; and Exod. 29:38-46, ratification of the covenant through daily offerings in the temple).

What makes these words seem so familiar to us is the fact that Jesus used them at the institution of the last supper in Mark 14:24: "This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many." They are also frequently heard in the benediction that comes from Hebrews 13:20: "May the God of peace through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you complete."

"Blood," in all these sacrifices, does not refer to a transfusion that would impart life; instead, it signifies that the life that was in the blood (Lev. 17:11) was spilt on the ground in death, as a substitute for the one presenting the sacrificial offering, so that the benefits of the covenant might be continued. Thus, in the sacrificial ceremony, when the people and the altar were sprinkled with blood, they were united together with the Lord.

Because of the substituted life that had been yielded up on our behalf (at first, and only temporarily, in the form of an animal's life, but later in the form of the perfect God-Man's life, i.e., the Messiah's life), "I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit" (v. 11c). Some have balked at this reference to the "waterless pit" (omitted in the NEB and bracketed in the JB), but one need only remember that there were no jails in that day. Cisterns that normally served as holes in the earth to collect rain-water during the rainy season often had to double as retention centers or jails. Joseph was cast into "a pit[with] no water in it" (Gen. 37:24) as was Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6-13). But when our Lord returns, He will empty these pits, or jails.

Zechariah dubs those released from jail "prisoners of hope" (v. 12b). The liberated could now return to Zion, here called "the stronghold" (v. 12a). In verse 12d God says He would "restore double" to the former prisoners. This means, first, that as God's "firstborn" they would receive a double share of the inheritance (Deut. 21:17). It probably also implies that theirs would be a full measure--full and running over.

God would involve Judah and Ephraim in His act of liberating the captives. (Once again He showed no favoritism to the southern nation of Judah, but featured both parts of the divided kingdom in the restoration.) God would use both of them as His "bow." Some difficulty has been expressed over the translation "For I have bent Judah, My bow, fitted the bow with Ephraim" (13a). However, a recently found Akkadian equivalent to the Hebrew hapax legomenon ("A word appearing only once") can now clarify the unusual idiom "to fill" with the subject of the "bow." It means "to fill [i.e., to fit an arrow on the string of or, technically, to nock] the bow." Thus, according to Shalom M. Paul, 13a should be rendered "For I have bent Judah, my bow; I have nocked Ephraim." Whether this verse points to the actual use of the two parts of the divided kingdom in God's final stand against evil, or merely describes how the Lord can handle both of these nations just as efficiently as a battle-tested soldier handles his weapons, we cannot say for certain, although the verses that follow give some support to the latter view.

In verse 13c-e God declares that He has "raised up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and made you like the sword of a mighty man." Proponents of the Deutero-Zechariah theory use this verse to support their theory because, they say, the meter is overloaded and the lines must be a later intrusion, since Greece only became a threat to Judah in Maccabean times (166-135 B.C.). But the name Javan (an older name for Greece) was around long before then. It appears in the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10:2,4 and, in the eighth century B.C., Isaiah 66:19. While in some contexts Javan, or Greece, may stand for any distant or unknown peoples, it may also stand for any confederation of western powers, as best known during the days of Alexander the Great, as the nation coming from the Greek Pelopennesis.

THE THEOPHANY OF THE DIVINE WARRIOR (9:14-15a): The Old Testament contains many theophanies, or appearances of God. So awesome were these dramatic appearances that they were frequently accompanied by thunder, lightning, smoke and earthquakes (cf. Exod. 19:16--19; Judg. 5:4-5; 2 Sam. 22:8-18; Ps. 29; 68:7-8; Hab. 3:3-15).

In this theophany, "His arrow will go forth like lightning. The LORD GOD will blow the trumpet, and go with whirlwinds from the south" (v. 14b-d). The thunder is the Lord's trumpet, which sounds not only the call to battle, but also the beginning of the festivals. The southern windstorms our Lord uses as His tanks, for on them He comes into town to conquer and to reign. It is the Lord who shall defend His people (v. 15a).

THE ESCHATOLOGICAL BANQUET OF THE RELEASED (9:15a-10:1): The language used to describe the banquet of the released prisoners "they shall devour and subdue with sling stones. They shall drink and roar as if with wine" (v. 15b-c)--has appeared odd to many. This language does not connote eating the flesh or (as mistranslated by the RSV) drinking the blood of enemies. Eating and drinking are simply metaphors for celebrating Yahweh's victory over the nations. The sling stones shall "be tread down" as worthless reminders from previous battles; they will be of no more use than the gravel under our feet.

The food at this victory celebration will be so abundant that the released prisoners "shall be filled with [drink] like [a sacrificial] basin, like the corners of the altar" (v. 15d). This verse does not contain any word that could be translated "blood," as suggested in the NIV rendering "They shall be filled with blood like basins, like the corners of the altar." It simply makes the point that the provisions for the victory celebration would be so extensive that the released prisoners would remind a person of the way an altar looks when the meat on it overflows even into its comers. "In that day," continues Zechariah in verse 16a, Yahweh "will save" His people, and His "flock" will be safe, for "they shall be like the jewels of a crown." Using "jewels" to stand for God's flock simply continues the metaphor begun in Exodus, where God announces to Moses that His believing remnant are His "treasured possession" (Exod. 19:5; this term means movable valuables or treasures, as opposed to real estate [cf. Mal. 3:17]). These "jewels" are God's pride and joy, for they will be unfurled over the land just like a banner or flag (v. 16d). In the prosperity of the future days, there will be an abundance of grain and wine. How wonderful it will be to live and thrive in a land in which the Lord is in charge and from which evil has been vanquished forever (Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18). The prosperity that is expected in those days will depend on rain; therefore 10:1 urges us to "Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain." And the promise is that the Lord will send "showers of rain" in the latter part of the springtime and "grass in the field for everyone." Everything will function as it ought to in that day. What a different day it will be!

CONCLUSION: So long to the nightmare of earth's darkest moments. In that day when the King comes back into town, we shall be liberated. The blood of God's covenant has made possible the release of the captives. Consequently, we will watch as the wicked and evil are forever vanquished. Then it will be time to celebrate as we have never celebrated before.

PUNISHING THE SHEPHERDS AND REGATHERING (Zechariah 10:2-12): A new metaphor is introduced in chapters 10-11, the metaphor of the shepherd as leader. The metaphor is used to contrast good and bad leaders. The contrast can be traced to the key verse in chapter 10: "I will bring them back, because I [will] have mercy on them" (v. 6b). The good leader, or true shepherd, has compassion for the people; the bad leader, or false shepherd, could not care less. This text exhibits two strong contrasts:

A. The Contrast Between Corrupted Shepherds and Compassionate Shepherds 10:2-5
B. The Contrast Between the Nation's Former State and Its Future Regathering in the Land 10:6-12

THE CONTRAST BETWEEN CORRUPTED SHEPHERDS AND COMPASSIONATE SHEPHERDS (10:2-5): The word "shepherd" in the ancient Near East was used to designate any number of leadership positions: teachers, prophets, priests, judges, rulers, kings, and governors. In Zechariah's time, tragically, the leaders had turned their positions of privilege into occasions for abuse. And the people, being sheep, were powerless to do anything for themselves. They needed to be rescued. Like sheep, humans require guidance but often lack the sense to choose a leader. Instead, they choose another sheep, which often needs guidance itself. Consequently, everyone wanders off on their own and everything suffers.

One of the mistakes the leaders made was to look in the wrong direction for guidance. They commonly looked to the idols for guidance, but "the idols [teraphim] speak delusion" (v. 2a). The teraphim used as household idols used to divine the future (Gen. 31:19; Judg. 17:5; 18:5; 1 Sam. 15:23). No less disturbing, the leaders taught their people to put their trust in diviners, even though "The diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain" (v. 2b-d). The problem with the diviners was not that they used dreams, for surely God often used dreams to communicate with His prophets; the problem was that they used false dreams spun out of the leaders' own imaginations! Prophets who used false dreams were castigated by the prophet Jeremiah in no uncertain terms Ger. 23:32; 27:9-10). Some diviners would even inspect the entrails of birds and animals to determine what direction or course of action should be taken (Josh. 13:22; 1 Sam. 6:2). All of it was a sham and an outright denial of the revealed will of God.

The results of this misguided leadership were devastating. "Therefore the people wend their way like sheep" (v. 2e). "Wandering" sheep is the only way one could describe the people. Moreover, "They are in trouble because there is no shepherd" (v. 2f). With only unreliable and false sources of leadership, the people were, in effect, leaderless. They had no real shepherd who cared for them or knew what to do.

Such subterfuges by these unreliable tricksters excite the anger of God. "My anger is kindled against the shepherds, and I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock" (v. 3ab). Our Lord will not abandon His flock; neither will He let these "he-goats" or "goatherds"--a most uncomplimentary term (cf. Ezk. 34:17)--get away with what they have inflicted on His flock. Judah's faithless leaders will be brought into judgment. Whether they had preyed upon the weak, pushed the poor around, or bullied the masses, they would not go unpunished. What a warning to all leaders in the household of God and in the state!

But that was not the end of things. Contrasted with these alien leaders were a group of faithful and compassionate leaders whom God was raising up from the "house of Judah" (v. 3d). God would take His bullied sheep and turn them into "His royal horse in the battle" (v. 3e). God would strengthen His people by turning them into warhorses that would rebel and overthrow their oppressive leaders.

A new, stable, leadership would now be given directly "From him" (v. 4a), i.e., from the Lord himself. This new brand of leaders would find its model in the One who Himself was "the cornerstone," "the tent peg," and "the battle bow" (v. 4). The word "cornerstone" is used in Psalm 118:22 to refer to the stone--Messiah--that men rejected, but that became the chief cornerstone. Surely it symbolizes steadfastness and reliability. In other passages in the Old Testament it is used figuratively to refer to a "ruler" (cf. Isa. 19:13).

A "tent peg" depicts either the hook in the center of a tent where frequently-used items are kept or the peg in the ground that secures a tent and keeps it taut and secure. The reference in verse 4 is probably to the hook since the same imagery was used in Isaiah 22:23 to refer to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who had a leadership position. God declared that He would "fasten him as a peg in a secure place." There, too, the imagery referred at once both to Eliakim and to the coming Messiah, who would be a leader in the house of Judah, and to whom "the key of the house of David" would be given.

A "battle bow" is the symbol of strength for military conquest (2 Kings 13:17). The new brand of leaders would be ready to take up the cause of the Lord, just as the Messiah who sits on the white horse in Revelation 6:2 had a "bow" as He "went out conquering and to conquer." Here, then, are three graphic pictures of the model leader, our Lord Jesus Christ. "From him every ruler together" (v. 4d) would go forth, for in the future Messiah would be the source of compassionate leaders.

Linked to this concept, by way of the figure of synecdoche, may also be the idea that God would empower all His people to overthrow all false leaders and oppressors. This figure of speech (wherein the part is put for the whole) may explain verse 5, in which Zechariah describes the people as "mighty men, who tread down their enemies. . . . They shall fight because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be put to shame." So expert will this revived people be that even the exalted cavalry will be handily defeated and embarrassed.

THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE NATION'S FORMER STATE AND ITS FUTURE REGATHERING IN THE LAND (10:6-12): When God "will strengthen the house of Judah, and. . . save the house of Joseph " (v. 6ab), it will be known that something new and different is happening in accordance with His ancient promises. The "house of Judah" represents, of course, the southern kingdom, and the "house of Joseph" stands for the northern ten tribes which broke away in 931 B.C. after Solomon's death.

Both houses God would "bring. . . back" (v. 6c) into the land, because He would have mercy on them. This is an amazing prediction for the simple reason that it was made some time after December 7, 518 B.C. (Zech. 7:1), if Zechariah's prophecies are in chronological order, almost twenty years after the return from exile had begun. The promise was still being repeated. Moreover, it is a promise that the Jewish people would return not just from the Babylonian exile (as many twentieth-century scholars have taught), but from all over the world, (cf. 10:9-10). Furthermore, God would rectify not just the Judean captivity in Babylon, but also the Assyrian captivity that began in 722 B.C. with the fall of Samaria, the capital of the ten Joseph tribes. The ten lost tribes would never be lost as long as God maintained the ancient promise He had given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David concerning the everlasting inheritance of the land.

The Lord God would "hear them" (v. 6f); they would be delivered in that day of the Lord. The northern tribes, here also referred to as "Ephraim" since the largest Joseph tribe was the clan of Ephraim, would be transformed into mighty warriors (v. 7a), just as Judah would be (v. 5). There would be plenty of reason for rejoicing and celebrating over this new work of God.

PUNISHING THE SHEPHERDS AND REGATHERING (Zechariah 10:2-12): As the shepherd signals for his sheep (cf. Judg. 5:16), so the Lord would "whistle for [his people] and gather them" (v. 8). Once again He would "redeem them" (v. 8b). This redemption involved both a redemption from sin and a deliverance from the Diaspora whereby God's people had been scattered all over the world. Then "they shall increase as they once increased" (v. 8d). There was a striking contrast between the way God had blessed the work of their hands from the time of Abraham-with abundant fruit of the land and cattle and an increase in their families-and the people's experiences since the exile, when God had withheld such blessings. But the "increase" God will give when He restores His people will be another indication that those former days had passed.

Though the Lord is the One who will make all this possible, the people must first fulfill the prerequisite that they "remember Me in far countries" (v. 9b). That is what the Lord had taught them to do in Leviticus 26:40-42: "But if they confess their iniquity. . . in which they were unfaithful to Me, . . . then I will remember My covenant with Jacob. . . ." Not only would the people "return," but they would "live, together with their children" (v. 9cd). Here was real life, the kind of living that is by faith (Hab. 2:4). This, then, is what it means to "sow them among the peoples" (v. 9a). To counter judgment of scattering His people, Hosea had offered God's promise that He would again "sow" them: "I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her" (Hos. 2:23). The Hebrew word for "to sow" also means "to scatter," since the seed in the hand of the sower is scattered as he walks across the field.

In verse 10 God names the nations from which He will bring back His people to Israel: "Egypt" and "Assyria." "Egypt" had long been a byword for bondage (Isa. 11:11; Hos. 11:1, 11; Mic. 7:15). "Assyria" no doubt refers here to all the lands to the north and east of Israel where the captives had been taken, including Assyria (northern Mesopotamia), Babylon (southern Mesopotamia), and Persia.

"I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, until no more room is found for them" (v. 10cd). Gilead and Lebanon are part of the greatly-expanded boundaries of Israel described in the promise covenant. "Gilead" was primarily the area that is referred to today as the "Golan Heights," the extension of the promised Holy Land that reaches in a northeasterly direction to the Euphrates River through the Damascus corridor. Lebanon, of course, is north of present-day Israel and encompasses the coastal cities of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos. The number of returned exiles will be so great that, even with its expanded boundaries, all of Israel's space will be exhausted. That is the problem present-day Israel is confronting, as witnessed by its difficulty in absorbing the recent immigrants airlifted from Ethiopia and the massive number of Russian Jewish immigrants.

The Lord himself will "pass through the sea of affliction, and strike the waves of the sea: all the depths of the River [Nile] shall dry up" (v. 11). The Lord will go ahead of His people to remove all barriers to their return from exile, just as He had opened up the Red Sea (Exod. 14:2132) and the Jordan River Gosh. 3:14-17) when He led Israel out of captivity the first time. The Hebrew word translated here as "River" is literally the "Nile," but, figuratively, it refers to the "Euphrates River," which God will dry up in the new, latter-day, exodus (Isa. 11:15).

Those nations that had opposed God will suffer a loss of prestige, pride, and status. In the last part of verse 11 "Egypt" and "Assyria" are again used figuratively to refer to the opponents of God.

Lest one think that all of this talk of "remembering" the Lord and turning back to Him is solely the work of individuals and the result of chutzpah (Yiddish for "nerve," "audacity," and the like), verse 12 affirms that such a return of the Jews back to Israel just before our Lord returns the second time will be accomplished by the power of God. "'So I will strengthen them in the LORD, and they shall walk up and down in His name,' says the LORD." God will supply the strength they need; they can not supply it themselves.

The figure of "walking up and down in the name of the LORD" appeared earlier in Micah 4:5 to refer to those who are in Messiah's kingdom. This confirms that Zechariah is also speaking of that time when the benefits of the new covenant will be fully realized.

CONCLUSION: The contrasts in this passage are striking. There is no comparison between the ruthless shepherds Israel has had in the past and the ones God will give her in the future. In particularly sharp contrast is the Good Shepherd himself, who is our "Cornerstone," our "Tent peg," and our "Battle bow."

Even after the return from the Babylonian exile had begun, God was pledging that He would restore His people from all over the world to the land of Israel. This is one of the most important of the two to three dozen major texts in the Old Testament prophesying the return of the Diaspora simply because the date of the prophecy places it after the return from the Babylonian exile. The return of the Diaspora will happen, this text reminds us, through the strength that will come from the Lord God himself.

DETAILING THE DESTINY OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD (Zechariah 11:1-17): Three metaphors for human rulers dominate the beginning of chapter 11: trees, lions, and shepherds. Our conclusion that these are metaphors for human rulers is based both on the fact that they are used as metaphors for human rulers throughout Scripture and on the fact that this chapter of Zechariah concerns the role of human leaders in the violence and warfare against the nations that will precede the coming of God's kingdom to earth.

The fact that Zechariah does not place this chapter in a precise historical context has made the identification of its participants extremely difficult; in fact, the "three shepherds" of verse 8 have never been convincingly identified. Over forty possibilities have been suggested, covering a range of persons from the earliest days of Israel's history to Roman times.

Despite this admitted obscurity, we can discern the main themes of this chapter. Students of prophetic interpretation must remember that our Lord warned that history (i.e., the fulfillment of the predictions in the real world) would be the final interpreter of prophecy--"Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He" (John 13:19). This chapter distinguishes between three types of shepherds--national shepherds, good shepherds, and worthless shepherds--and the respective outcome of their roles:

A. The Collapse of National Shepherds 11:1-3
B. The Rejection of the Good Shepherd 11:4-14
C. The Appointment of a Worthless Shepherd 11:15-17

THE COLLAPSE OF NATIONAL SHEPHERDS (11:1-3): The short poem of verses 1-3 centers primarily on the collapse of Lebanon and Bashan, the areas to the north and east of Israel. Lebanon, renowned for its majestic cedars, and Bashan, equally famous for its mighty oaks, will both experience the humiliation of being leveled, just as all national and human pride must eventually give way before the sweeping hand of God's judgment on the nations and their kings.

How the mighty cedars and oaks have fallen, sighs the prophet! The cedar, cypress, and oak trees are metaphors for kings and their kingdoms. Trees are metaphors for rulers in many passages throughout the Old Testament. For example: David's royal house would come out of the stump of Jesse (Isa. 11:1); Pharaoh is depicted as a cypress or a cedar tree in Eden (Ezk. 31:1-9); and Nebuchadnezzar was likened to a tree (Dan. 4; see also Ezk. 17:22-24).

It does not appear that the cedar is a metaphor for the royal house of Judah in this passage, as it is in Ezekiel 17:3-4, 12-14. Rather, it more likely symbolizes pride, as it does in Isaiah 2:13, particularly the pride of Lebanon and its ruler. But the cedar could be chopped down just as quickly as the Assyrian king was reduced in Isaiah 10:33-34.

The nations represented by the cedars and oaks were the alien powers that revolted against God and His kingdom. Lesser trees--lesser kings and their nations--might well grieve over the destruction of the mighty, for their felling would come in due season as well. Others would be lost by fire. Their destruction was certain.

Perhaps verse 3 is an allusion to Jeremiah 25:34-37, wherein Jeremiah refers to those kings who grieved over the loss of their glory, because the Lord plundered their pasture. "The sound of roaring lions" (v. 3c) refers metaphorically to the kings who have been stirred up out of their lairs and are roaming around threateningly in search of prey.

In the last verse of this poem we learn that another area has been laid waste: "the pride of the Jordan" (v. 3d). This may also be translated "the jungle of the Jordan River," i.e., the clustered growth of trees and bushes that grow along the banks of the Jordan River and provide shelter for wild beasts. If verses 1-3 were meant to describe events that would take place in the regular course of history, they must be referring to a time still in the future, since there are no known historical events like the events they describe. Verses 1-3 may, however, be a poetic description of the collapse of all surrounding nations before God's triumph in the final day. We must await history's unraveling of this mystery.

THE REJECTION OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD (11:4-14): This is a most difficult section to interpret. A shepherd is requested to look after a flock that has been slated for slaughter. It would appear that the prophet is to act out a parable that has prophetic truth. He dresses in the garb of a shepherd and acts out a ministry to the people, assuming both a religious and a civic function as he discharges his commission.

The prose narrative begins with this instruction to the prophet: "Feed the flock for slaughter" (v. 4a). A better translation that makes the meaning clearer is: "Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter." This the prophet did, according to verse 7a: "So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed for slaughter."

The flock entrusted to the shepherd-prophet is Israel. The nation had been abused by other owners who slaughtered the people, like sheep, without any feeling of guilt (v. 5a). So ruthless were these heartless leaders that they said, "Blessed be the LORD for I am rich" (v. 5b). They had no more concern for the flock than did the hireling in John 10:13. In fact, the foreign rulers, who must be the "owners" and the shepherds who felt no guilt (v. 5), trafficked in human slave trade, a practice the prophets sternly decried (e.g., Amos 1:6). Meanwhile, "their [own] shepherds" (v. 5d; a reference to the Jewish leaders) did "not pity them" (v. 5d). The Jewish leaders' abandonment of God's flock was surely as reprehensible as the profiteering motives of the foreign shepherds.

What would happen to God's people Israel? Verse 6 reveals what they could expect in the future: "'For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,' says the LORD." The whole land would be handed over to Israel's neighbors and foreign kings. Now the wicked shepherds and wicked citizens would find themselves powerless to defend themselves. The foreign kings would "attack the land, [but God would] not deliver them from their hand" (v. 6c). The end had come for rebellious Israel!

What was Zechariah to do? He became Israel's shepherd, in spite of the certain doom that awaited her (v. 7a). The correct translation of the clause rendered here "in particular the poor of the flock" (v. 7b) has been hotly debated, even though it is the reading of the Hebrew text and the Targums. But a number of commentators argue--on the well-known principle "choose the more difficult reading"--that the Greek Septuagint has the more difficult reading and should therefore be adopted. The Septuagint reads "for the Canaanites," where Canaanite means "merchant," as it often does in Scripture (e.g., Ezk. 16:29; 17:4). Most translators adopt the Greek text, for it makes sense in the context of this discussion of a class of merchants trading in human lives.

Zechariah shepherded his flock with two staffs, one named "Beauty" (i.e, "Grace," or "Favor") and the other named "Bonds" (i.e., "Union"; v. 7d). The staffs indicate that Zechariah was to serve as shepherd of his people; they symbolize further what the prophet wanted to achieve through his ministry. Through his ministry, he wanted his people to enjoy God's "favor," and he wanted to realize national "unity" of the northern and southern kingdoms.

Verse 8 is the most problematic verse in the chapter. As the good shepherd was carrying out his duties, he had to dismiss "three shepherds in one month" (v. 8a). If this verse refers to three shepherds who appeared in pre-exilic times, it means that the Lord removed Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah all within a very short period (cf. Hos. 5:7; "one month" means a brief span of time). But that interpretation is far from solid. It is best not to attempt to identify the three shepherds at this time, since no convincing arguments can be sustained, based on history to the present time.

Zechariah's patience was beginning to run out with the flock he was attempting to pasture, and "their soul[s] also abhorred [him]" (v. 8c). How could a shepherd perform his duties under those conditions?

At this point the prophet appeared to give up; he declared that he would no longer feed his people. "Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish" (v. 9b), he sighed. The flock could now just as well become cannibals: "Let those that are left eat each other's flesh" (v. 9c). That is literally what the people did during the famines that resulted from the siege on Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and 70 A.D. (Deut. 28:54-57; Lam. 4:10; Josephus, Wars, VI, 201-13). Moreover, figuratively they acted like cannibals in the way they verbally and emotionally went after one another. People can't attack God's messenger without developing the bad habit of attacking each other.

Unfortunately, few recognized that Zechariah, as a model of the good shepherd, was acting on their behalf. Not only did they fail to appreciate Zechariah's dismissal of the detestable shepherds, but, showing their true character, they turned on Zechariah, the good shepherd! That is when the prophet broke the staff of "Beauty," or "Favor" (v. 10a). The period of God's graciousness had ended!

Verse 10b reads, "I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. " Could this mean that the inviolable covenant made with the patriarchs (Gen. 12:1-3) and David (2 Sam. 7:12-16) had now come to an end? In 8:11-15 and 10:6-12 Zechariah had promised that God would never break that covenant. The phrase "with all the peoples" is key to understanding verse 10b. It refers to all the Gentile nations (cf. Joel 2:6). One need only remember that God's people had been protected from decimation by a covenant that had restrained the Gentile nations (Job 5:23; Ezk. 34:25; Hos. 2:18); that was the covenant that had been broken. God would now remove Judah from the shadow of His protecting hand, so that the nations could be the rod of punishment in His hands (cf. lsa. 10:15--16).

The reaction of "the poor of the flock, who were watching [Zechariah]" (v. 11b) was one of sudden realization that this was coming from the hand of God (v. 11c), "that it was the word of the LORD." The implications of Zechariah breaking the staff of "Beauty" could not be missed. Then Zechariah, still acting out the parable of the good shepherd, requested that he be paid his wages for shepherding the people (v. 12). Now that his contract had been terminated (11:9), he reluctantly asked to be released with his final paycheck: "if it is agreeable to you, give me my wages" (v. 12a).

The authorities determined that "thirty pieces of silver" (v. 12c) was all the shepherd was worth! That is the sum owed an owner of a slain slave under the Mosaic law (Exod. 21:32). That was also, of course, the same sum Judas received for betraying Jesus (Matt. 26:15; 27:9). (There are two plausible explanations for the fact that Matthew ascribed the quote to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah. First, Matthew may have referred to Jeremiah because his book may have appeared at the head of the whole collection of the prophets. Second, Matthew combined Zechariah 11:12-13 with Jeremiah 18:1-4 and 32:6-9, thus he may have meant to refer to both prophets by using the name of the first-mentioned prophet whose book stood at the head of the collection or was the name of the more prominent prophet.) The thirty pieces of silver had to be "weighed out" (v. 12c), since in Zechariah's time coins were not yet stamped.

The Lord's instructions to Zechariah, after he had received such a "princely price!" (v. 13c; note the irony), were that Zechariah "'Throw it to the potter'" (v. 13a). Since the Hebrew words for "potter" (yoser) and "treasury" ('osar) sound alike, and since both ideas were found in Matthew 27:6-9 (the money in the treasury was used to buy a potter's field), many have adopted the Syriac emendation for verse 13 and have read "throw it into the treasury." But that is not necessary, since to "throw it to the potter" was simply a proverbial expression with a note of contempt--"throw it away."

It is clear, though, that the money was to be cast into "the house of the LORD" (v. 13d). One must remember that the potters were connected with the temple, for they made the sacrificial vessels (Lev. 6:28); there may even have been a guild of potters serving on a regular basis in the temple (Jer. 18:6; 19:1).

After he cast away his thirty shekels, Zechariah broke the other staff, "Bonds," or "Unity" (v. 14). The people had rejected their good shepherd; the national unity they had hoped for would not be realized at this time, for as Ezekiel had prophesied, the people would be reunited under the rule of the One Good Shepherd who would glue the stick of Joseph to the stick of Judah in the final day (Ezk. 37:16-28).

THE APPOINTMENT OF A WORTHLESS SHEPHERD (11:15-17): Amazingly, the Lord asks Zechariah to continue the parable by impersonating a worthless shepherd (v. 15). Presumably "the implements of a foolish shepherd" (v. 15b) were the same as those of a good shepherd; the difference would only be in the different attitudes and usages that each shepherd attached to these instruments and to the position the shepherds held in the community.

Verse 16 supplies the explanation. God would raise up leaders who would not only neglect their flock, but would destroy them (remember that what God permits may be charged directly to Him, since he is Lord of all the universe anyway). So brutally would these leaders treat the sheep that their treatment would be likened to "eat[ing] the flesh of the fat and tear[ing] their hooves in pieces" (v. 16e). What savage treatment!

A poem concludes this parable involving a symbolic action that the Prophet was told to enact for the benefit of his audience. The worthless and foolish shepherds have much to fear, for all who have abandoned their flock will be judged. The sword would take their arms and their right eyes out of action (v. 17c). The arm that should have protected the sheep would "completely wither" (v. 17e), and the eye that should have looked in pity on those whom they were to shepherd would be "totally blinded" (v. 17f). While certain aspects of this decree of judgment can be seen in the judgment that befell King Herod (who was stricken by a type of instant withering disease in 64-3 B.C.) and Alcimus (a High Priest in 163-59 B.C. who betrayed the Maccabees, 1 Macc. 7:1-25), the character and work may well point to the antichrist of Daniel 7:25--7; 11:36-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; and Revelation 13:1-10.

CONCLUSION: There is a world of difference between the Good Shepherd and all the worthless and foolish shepherds this world has seen so far. The differences are extremely and painfully visible.

What a tragedy that although the Good Shepherd called to His flock, and continued to extend His grace, unity, and security from other nations, Israel did not respond. The resulting fracture of graciousness and unity will not be restored until the nation returns to our Lord with belief and trust.

The prediction that the Good Shepherd would be sold for the trifling price of a slave underscores how costly our salvation really is in comparison to how most non-believers value it. Judas is more than a fall-character; he is another forerunner of all the worthless shepherds yet to come, who are themselves harbingers of the last in this long line of leaders who will come to challenge Messiah--the Antichrist.

From Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Communicator's Commentary: Micah-Malachi, Word Books, Dallas, 1992.

On line Commentary on Zechariah by Eugene H. Merrill


Alexander, the young commander of the Macedonian forces, crossed the Hellespont into Turkey shortly after the death of his father Philip in 336 B.C. He defeated the armies of the frontier governors of King Darius III at Granicus and later overwhelmed the armies of Darius himself at the decisive battle of Issus in 333 B.C. After that he marched south against Damascus, Tyre, and Sidon, and the cities of Philistia, precisely as Zechariah foretells in 9:1-8.

Alexander's siege of Tyre is worth elaboration. At one time the city stood on the mainland, but in order to ensure Tyre's greater safety a new city had been constructed on an island located about a half mile offshore. This island was surrounded by a double wall 150 feet high that was filled in with 25 feet of earth. This wall, plus the surrounding sea, seemed to make the city impregnable. Tyre prospered from this secure position. Thus, when the armies of Alexander appeared on the shore she felt she could easily defy the invasion. After all, Tyre had withstood a five-year siege by the Assyrians [Shalmanesar V] and a thirteen-year siege by the Babylonians [Nebuchadnezzar]. Surely she could defy Alexander. Alexander took the city in just seven months! At incredible effort he had his armies fill in the half-mile channel to the island, using stones, timber, and other material from the remains of the old city on the shore. This Tyre was literally scraped flat, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Ezekiel, who had said: "They will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea. I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt" (Ezek. 26:12, 14). Tyre has not been rebuilt to this day, and the causeway of Alexander remains, a monument to the truth of prophecy and the folly of human pride.

Verse 8 of Zechariah 9 says that during this invasion of Alexander, Jerusalem and its people would be spared, ("But I will defend my house against marauding forces.") Josephus tells how this happened. When Alexander was besieging Tyre he sent a letter to the high priest, who lived in Jerusalem, requesting him to send him assistance and to supply his army with provisions. The priest declined to do this because, as he said, he had sworn an oath of loyalty to King Darius, which he would I not break so long as Darius was alive. This infuriated Alexander, and he determined to besiege and sack Jerusalem as soon as the coastal conquests were behind him.

When the seven-month siege of Tyre and the two-month siege of Gaza were over, Alexander started for the Jewish capital. Jaddus, the high priest, was terrified, not imagining how he could meet the victorious forces of Alexander and fearing the worst for his people. He therefore ordered the Jews to make sacrifices to God and ask for deliverance from the advancing danger. That night, after the sacrifice, God spoke to Jaddus in his sleep, telling him to take courage. He was to adorn the city with wreaths and then open the gates and go out to meet the invaders, The people were to be dressed in white garments and the priests in the robes prescribed by law. Josephus writes: "When Alexander while still far off saw the multitude in white garments, the priests at their head clothed in linen, and the high priest in a robe of hyacinth-blue and gold, wearing on his head the miter with the golden plate on it on which was inscribed the name of God, he approached alone and prostrated himself before the Name and first greeted the high priest."

Alexander's men were astonished at this, and Parmenion, his second-in-command, asked why he had bowed down to the Jewish high priest. Alexander replied, "It was not before him that I prostrated myself but the God of whom he has the honor to be high priest, for it was he whom I saw in my sleep dressed as he is now, when I was at Dior in Macedonia. As I was considering with myself how I might become master of Asia, he urged me not to hesitate but to cross over confidently, for he himself would lead my army and give over to me the empire of the Persians, Since, therefore, I have beheld no one else in such robes, and on seeing him now I am reminded of the vision and the exhortation, I believe that I have made this expedition under divine guidance and that I shall defeat Darius and destroy the power of the Persians." Most scholars are skeptical of this but it is a fact that Jerusalem and the surrounding cities of the Jews were not destroyed by Alexander and most of the gentile cities were. (The Minor Prophets, J.M. Boice)