Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
ZECHARIAH CHAPTER 9
Verse 1: "Prophecy of the word of HaShem in the land of Hadrach ." The Midrash recounts a discussion between the sages about the meaning of Hadrach: "Rabbi Yehudah said Hadrach refers to Mashiah, who is sharp (HADD) to the heathen nations and soft (RACH) to Israel . Rabbi Yose ben Dourmaskis retorted: Yehuda, until when will you distort the meaning of the verses? I bring heaven and earth to witness that I am from Damascus and there is a place there called Hadrach. So what does it mean when it says '.in Damascus is His place of rest'? This teaches that in time to come Jerusalem is destined to reach Damascus , as it says, 'in Damascus is His place of rest (MENUHATO)' and MENUHAH refers only to Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 132:14)" (Sifri D'varim).
This discussion implies that not only does the present prophecy relate to Messianic times but also that Mashiah's influence will be reflected in political realities on the ground. Current political realities in the Middle East may make the spread of Jerusalem to Damascus seem a long way off in the future, yet it is surely not beyond the bounds of possibility that just as the cities of the north eastern seaboard of U.S.A. have spread to the point where they are practically merged with one another, so the future Jerusalem will be an urban spread of an entirely new kind that will absorb even the present capital of Syria.
Vv 2-4: It may be naïve to try to relate the topographical references in this chapter directly to contemporary Middle East realities as if in search for signs of Messiah, yet many of the places mentioned are certainly "hot spots" today. The exact identity of Hamath (v 2) is open to question, but it is a fact that the ancient town of Hamath in the Golan Heights did come under Israeli control in the Six Day War. For several decades now the Lebanese towns of Tyre and Sidon (v 2) have also figured prominently in Israel 's struggles against those seeking her destruction. These towns were sources of many of the missile attacks directed against her in the 2006 Lebanese War. Rashi on verse 5 states that Tyre is head of the children of Edom , and that Ekron (v 5) was also an Edomite town captured from the Philistines.
V 5: "Ashkelon will see [the fall of Tyre ] and be afraid and Gaza will shudder very much". The Philistine-Palestinians of Gaza are obviously very prominent players in the strategic struggle in which Israel finds herself locked today.
V 6: "And a stranger (MAMZER) shall dwell in Ashdod ." Rashi (on v 5) interprets this to mean that "a foreign people will dwell in Ashdod - this refers to Israel , who are like foreigners there." This comment may well resonate with many Jews in Israel today who are finding that they are being made to feel like foreigners in their own land as a result of the global propaganda assault against the Zionist enterprise of restoring Eretz Yisrael.
V 7: "And I shall remove his blood from his mouth." The simple reading of these verses seems to indicate that in Messianic times Israel 's traditional enemies will cease their bloodthirsty attacks. Rashi (ad loc.) states that this refers to Edom . The sages darshened from the phrase, "and he too will be left for our God and be like one raised (ALUPH=educated) in Judah " that "in time to come the assembly halls of Edom will become centers where the leaders of Judah will teach Torah" (Megillah 6a).
V 8: "And I will dwell in My house so as to protect it from any army passing through." This is a prophecy of the return of God's protective presence in the Temple , "for now I have seen with My eyes" - "I have seen their trouble with My eyes, unlike previously, when I hid My face from them" (Rashi).
V 9: "Behold your king will come to you." Rashi on this verse states: "It is impossible to interpret this in any other way except as a reference to King Mashiah because it says of him below 'and his dominion will be from sea to sea' (v 10), and we do not find any such ruler of Israel in the days of the Second Temple ". This verse is the source of the well known conception that Mashiach comes as a poor man riding a donkey. Rashi renders 'ANI ("poor") as ANVETHAN, one of great humility. "He rides on a donkey not because of any lack on his part, for the whole world will be at his disposal. Rather he will ride on a donkey out of humility, and also to show that Israel will have no more need for horses and chariots, as the next verse goes on to say" (Metzudas David). Significantly, in verse 9 Mashiah is not called a SAVIOR but rather, ONE WHO HAS BEEN SAVED (VE-NOSHA'), indicating that the true future Redeemer be not a man of flesh and blood but God alone.
V 10: "And I will cut off chariots from Ephraim and horses from Jerusalem ." Besides prophesying that the Ten Tribes (=Ephraim) will return, this verse also teaches that God "will put an end to chariots and horses and the bow of war, for there will be no war then and no need for bows and arrows or chariots and horses" (Metzudas David) [or tanks, missiles, cluster bombs etc. etc.] ".And he will speak PEACE to the nations" - "King Mashiah will subdue the nations not through war but through the words of peace he will speak to them, through which they will submit themselves to his influence" (Metzudas).
"And his dominion will be from sea to sea." Metzudas David, Ibn Ezra and RaDaK state that these seas are "the southern sea" and the "northern sea, which is the ocean". This suggests a far more encompassing definition of Mashiah's sphere of influence than the area that falls within the boundaries of the Promised Land, "from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines (=Mediterranean)" (Exodus 23:31). Mashiah will not merely be a local Jewish phenomenon: he will hold sway to the very ends of the earth!
V 11: "Just as Mashiah will be saved through his own righteousness, so Israel will be saved through the blood of circumcision, to which Israel adhered throughout the exile more than they did to the other commandments" (RaDaK).
V 12: "Return to the stronghold, you who are bound up to hope." - "Return to Jerusalem, your stronghold, you who have always kept yourselves so tightly bound to hope that you cannot be separated from it" (Metzudas David). "Today also I will reply to you with a double announcement - "Just as in the redemption from Egypt I promised you both redemption and vengeance on your enemies, so too I will answer you with the same double announcement in the future redemption" (Metzudas David).
Vv 13-16: "I will arouse your children, O Zion, against your children, O Greece (YAVAN)." While Rashi and other commentators relate this prophecy to the Jewish uprising against the Greeks in the time of the Hanukah miracle, Targum Yonasan and Metzudas David (on v 13) and RaDaK (on Zechariah 10:12) relate it to the war of Gog and Magog, since YAVAN and MAGOG and other nations that will take part in that war are all brothers, sons of Noah's son Yapheth (Gen. 10:2). Verses 13-16 are thus a prophecy of how God will save Israel from Gog and Magog. From the reference to Ephraim as well as Judah in verse 13 it is clear that the Ten Tribes will be restored in the final redemption.
Verses 1-2: Despite the fact that the conventional chapter division inserts a break at this point, there is no break in the handwritten Hebrew scroll of Zechariah. Thus verses 1-2 of Chapter 10 are in fact the continuation of the prophetic section about Mashiah that began in Chapter 9 v 9. "Ask rain from God at the time of the latter rain. and He will give them a downfall of rain to each man for the herbs in the field". This verse characterizes the Messianic age as one in which God's providence over creation will be so detailed that He will send the exact rainfall required not only for each individual field but even for each variety of plants growing in a single field - all in response to prayer and faith! This will convince everyone that the false diviners and dreamers were all wrong.
Vv 3ff: As in the previous chapter, the commentators relate Zechariah's prophecies in these verses to the Hasmonean victory over the Greeks but also to the future downfall of Gog and Magog. RaDaK (on Zech. 10:12) writes that the latter interpretation is more plausible since these verses speak about Ephraim and the House of Joseph as well as Judah (vv 6, 7), whereas the Ten Tribes did not return from exile in the time of the Second Temple but they will be restored in the final redemption.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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