Zechariah’s Messiah Prophecies – Explicit Details

Zechariah is listed as a “Minor Prophet” in Old Testament or Tenakh Bibles, yet the prophetic Book bearing his name holds some of the most explicit information of all the books of any prophet.[1] The Book corroborated the lineage of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke; foretold Messiah prophecies; and issued two more Branch prophecies.

On the timeline of history, Zechariah was written during the Persian Empire under the reign of King Darius, reckoned to 520 BC.[2] It was a time when the Jews were receiving back their freedoms taken away during their Captivity under the rule of Babylon.[3]

Progress on the decree issued by Persian King Cyrus to rebuild the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army had been hindered for years by troublesome political enemies of the Jews.[4] King Darius was compelled to issue another decree to complete the rebuilding of the Temple:[5]

EZ 6:7, 12 “Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site…”May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!” (NASB)

Genealogies in Matthew and Luke list the decent of Jesus of Nazareth in the lineage of King David that included Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Jeconiah. Substantiating the Gospels’ lineage, some 500 years earlier Zechariah wrote that Zerubbabel would lay the foundation for the rebuilding of the Temple.[6] The Books of Ezra and Haggai provide extensive details about Zerubbabel’s efforts in rebuilding the Temple.[7]

Messiah prophecies built upon each other over time revealing more specifics. From Abraham to Moses to David and the many prophets thereafter, the prophecies over the course of the previous 1500 years came in the form of visions, trances, parables and dreams.[8]

Prophecies of Zechariah came in the form of visions and oracles, some very straightforward and specific, others more challenging to interpret. One of the most specific, uncomplicated of any Messiah prophesy is where Zechariah foretold how the Messiah would come riding on a colt foal donkey – an unridden male under a year old:[9]

Zech 9:9 “”Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”” (NKJV) [10]

Branch prophecies were issued by three prophets during the span of over 200 years. Before the Jewish Captivity of King Nebuchadnezzar, Isaiah issued a Branch prophecy. During the Babylonian Captivity, Jeremiah delivered two more Branch prophecies. After the Captivity during rule of the Persian Empire, twice Zechariah issued Branch prophecies:

Zech 3:8 “‘…For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.’”

Zech 6:12-13 “…‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’’” (NKJV)

Christianity views these Branch prophecies to be foretelling the Messiah; however, in Judaism there is a split on their meaning. Jewish sage Rabbi Maimonides viewed the Branch prophecies to be about the Messiah.[11] Rabbi Rashi viewed them to be prophecies about Zerubbabel while acknowledging others view it to be about the Messiah.[12]

Jewish and Christian authorities alike recognize Zechariah 12:10 as a Messiah prophecy with nearly unanimous consensus that the Messiah would be killed. Differing views on how he would be killed centers squarely on the meaning of one Hebrew word, daqar, translated in essentially two ways as “pierced” or “thrust through.”

Debate in a Gemara took place in the Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52a over the meaning of the prophecy. One faction viewed it as referring to the death of the “Evil Inclination” and the other side believed the prophecy referred to the death of the Messiah. Jewish Bibles translate daqar as “thrust him through.”

Zech 12:10 “…and they shall look unto Me because they have thrust him through; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.” (Jewish Publication Society)

Traditional Christian Bibles translate daqar as “pierced,” but it is not unanimous. Contemporary, simplified Bible translations are more closely aligned with the Jewish Bibles’ interpretation of daqar as stabbed or thrust through with a spear.[13]

Zech 12:10 “… then they will look on Me whom they pierced.”(New King James Version)

“They will look at me, whom they have stabbed.” (God’s Word Translation)

“They’ll then be able to recognize me as the One they so grievously wounded–that piercing spear-thrust!” (Message)

Language analysis reveals the Hebrew word, daqar, appears in the Tenakh or Old Testament nine other times – eight different Books plus another in Zechariah.[14] It is always used in the context of wounds inflicted by a type of weapon such as a sword or spear.

Zechariah’s Messiah prophecies may be few in number, but they have major implications. Were his prophecies fulfilled by the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth?

 

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REFERENCES:

[1] Jewish Publication Society (JPS) translation. 1917. Benyamin Pilant. 1997. <http://www.breslov.com/bibleNET Bible (NET) translation.  <https://net.bible.org>
[2] Zechariah 1:1. NetBible.org. Footnote #2. <http://classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=Zec&chapter=1#n2>
[3] Zechariah 1:1.
[4] Ezra 1:2-3.  Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Book II, Chapter 4. 1883. Philogos.org. <https://philologos.org/__eb-lat>
[5] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Trans. and commentary.  William Whitson.  The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. Book XI, Chapter III.8 and IV.1-2, 7. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
[6] I Chronicles 3:17-19; Zechariah 4:6-10; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38.  CR Ezra 3:2, 8, 4:2-3, 5:2; Haggai 1:1, 14, 2:20-23. Dolphin, Lambert.  “The Genealogy from Adam to Jesus Christ” Idolphin.org. 2011. <http://ldolphin.org/2adams.html>
[7] Ezra 3-5; Haggai 1-2.
[8] Genesis 41:1-14; Numbers 24:15-17; 2 Samuel 12:1-13; 1 Kings 20:35-42; Psalms 78:1-3; Daniel 2:27-28, 4:4-10, chapters 8 & 10; Isaiah chapter 5; Hosea 12:10.
[9] Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi commentary. Zechariah 9:9. Rash commentary. https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true>  “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
[10] Matthew 21:1-8; Luke 19:29-36; John 12:12-16. “Zechariah Texts Quoted in the New Testament Regarding Jesus’ Ministry.” ESV.org. 2020. <https://www.esv.org/resources/esv-global-study-bible/chart-38-01>
[11] Maimonides, “Letter to the South (Yemen)”. p 374.  The Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters.  <https://books.google.com/books?id=YxdbAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1&hl=en#v=onepage&q=advent&f=false>   
[12] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. Zechariah 6:12 Rashi commentary. <http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm>  Plaut, Gunther. “Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: Back in the Land.” MyJewishLearning.com. n.d. <http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/The_12_Minor_Prophets/Haggai_Zechariah_Malachi.shtml>
[13] Contemporary English Verson; Good News Translation; God’s Word translation; Zechariah 12:10. BibleHub.com. 2020. <https://biblehub.com/zechariah/12-10.htm>  The Message; Bible in Basic English. Zechariah 12:10. NetBible.org. 2020. <http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Zec&chapter=12&verse=10>
[14] “daqar.” Net.bible.org. Hebrew text. <http://classic.net.bible.org/search.php?search=hebrew_strict_index:01856> Sapir, Avinoam. LSI Laboratory for Scientific Interrogation, Inc. n.d. <http://www.lsiscan.com/index.htm>  “SCAN – Scientific Content Analysis (Statement Analysis).” Advanced Polygraph. 2011. <http://www.advancedpolygraph.com.au/scan.htm> “Introduction to Text Analysis: About Text Analysis.”  Duke University | Libraries. 2017. <https://guides.library.duke.edu/text_analysis>  “What Is the Definition of Textual Analysis?” Reference.com. 2018. <https://www.reference.com/education/definition-textual-analysis-a95087916fcb24cb> Pfarrer, Mike “What is content analysis?” University of Georgia | Terry College of Business. 2012. <http://www.terry.uga.edu/management/contentanalysis>

Jeconiah’s Curse, an Incredible Promise, an Impossible Challenge

Jeconiah’s curse is cited as evidence by agnostics and atheists against the legitimacy of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Ironically, the evidence is based on Bible prophesies saying the Messiah must be born in the royal lineage of David which was then nullified by the Bible’s account of Jeconiah’s curse.[1]

Adversaries can sometimes make for strange bedfellows.  Judaism has no choice but to side with Christianity on this issue because, if the allegation is true, the Messiah from the House of David – Jesus nor anyone whom the Jews believe is yet to appear – can never be.

Setting the scene for the curse, Jehoiakim, king of Judah, drew the wrath of God for his evil ways, and his son, Jeconiah (aka Coniah or Jehoiachin), for following in his footsteps.[2] God sent the prophet Jeremiah with a message of judgment to the kingdom – death for Jehoaikim, but for Jeconiah…

Jer. 22:30 This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule any more in Judah.”(NIV)

Jeconiah was condemned to be a man as if he had no sons, nor would his descendants ever prosper or sit on the Throne of David. How did things work out for Jeconiah? He became king for all of 3 months before being taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar spending the remainder of his days in Babylonian captivity.[3] He was the last of the sitting kings in the royal succession of David.

Eventually Jeconiah fathered sons during his Babylonian captivity, one being Salathiel.[4] His name bears witness to Jeconiah’s fate where, according to the Talmud, he was called by a name meaning to be conceived in prison while standing up.[5] Jeconiah was imprisoned 37 years – his sons grew up without him…as if he had no sons.[6]

Jewish Rabbis and the Talmud teach that God pardoned Jeconiah.[7] They point to the fact that Jeconiah was released from prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, Evil-Merodach, who gave Jeconiah a seat of honor and dined with him daily.[8]

Meanwhile, Nebuchadnezzar had appointed Zedekiah as his puppet king of Israel. As brother of Jeconiah, he had learned nothing from the judgments of his father and brother spending the next decade ignoring and offending both Nebuchadnezzar and God.[9] Zedekiah even confined Jeremiah in an outdoor prison courtyard for prophesying his doom at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.[10]

In a complete reversal of family fate, Zerubbabel, “The son of Salathiel, of the posterity of David,” is called out by Josephus as a Hebrew leader of great prominence who served as a body guard for Persian King Cyrus.[11] Taking advantage of his position, Zerubbabel solicited Cyrus to allow the rebuilding of the Temple and to return the Temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged and astonishingly survived the Babylonian captivity and the Persian invasion.

Cyrus not only granted the request by decree, he appointed Zerubbabel as the governor to lead the Hebrews out of captivity back to Jerusalem, rebuild the city, and join the High Priest in rebuilding the Temple.[12] Through the prophet Haggai, God blessed Zerubbabel for his leadership.[13]

Zerubbabel of the royal lineage of David, grandson of King Jeconiah, is mentioned 11 times in four books of the Old Testament, one of the few Hebrew figures to receive such recognition. He is also named in both genealogies of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.[14]

Interestingly, both Jeconiah’s curse and the blessing of his grandson, Zerubbabel, each use a signet ring metaphor.  A ruler wore a unique gold signet ring bearing his name used to seal documents such a decrees – the seal being considered more authentic than a signature:[15]

Jer. 22:24 “”As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off.”(NIV)

Hag. 2:23 “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”(NIV)

Strongest of the evidence that Jeconiah’s curse was forgiven by God can be seen through two prophecies issued by Jeremiah as demonstrated by their timing closely after issuing the curse. Just five verses later, Jeremiah’s next prophecy makes clear David’s royal lineage had not ended. God explicitly promised that another King would arise from the Branch of David:

Jer 23:5 “”Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land.”(NASB)

During his outdoor imprisonment by Zedekiah, God again spoke to Jeremiah saying that Israel and Judah would be restored. The prophet issued his second Branch of David prophecy where God said the throne of David would never end:

Jer. 33:14-15 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.’”

v.17 “For this is what the LORD says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, …”(NIV)

Emphasizing the trustworthiness of His incredible promise to Israel and Judah that He would raise up a Branch from the House of David, God issued an impossible challenge:

Jer. 33:20-21 “”Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne…”(NASB)

The impossible challenge:  if anyone can change God’s fixed laws of nature such as the rising and setting of the Sun, only then should anyone worry about God breaking His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David.[16] Putting it in those terms, how likely is it that “Jeconiah’s curse” disqualified the “Righteous Branch,” the Messiah, from coming forth in the royal line of David?

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

REFERENCES:
[1] Willruth, Bart. “The Gospel of Matthew Debunks the Messiahship of Jesus.” Debunking Christianity. 2009. <http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2009/06/gospel-of-matthew-debunks-messiahship.html>  Lippard, Jim. “The Fabulous Prophecies Of The Messiah.” Atheist Community of Austin. 1993. <https://atheist-community.org/resources/online-articles/145-the-fabulous-prophecies-of-the-messiah>
[2] Jeremiah 22.  Net.bible.org. Jeremiah 22:24 notes. CR Jeremiah 24, 27-29, 52; 1 Chronicles 3; 2 Chronicles 36; Esther 2; 2 Kings 24, 25; Ezekiel 1.
[3] 2 Kings 24.
[4] I Chronicles 3.
[5] Soncino Babylonian Talmud. Ed. Isidore Epstein. 1935-1948. Sanhedrin 37b-38a. <https://israelect.com/Come-and-Hear/talmud/index.html>
[6] Jeremiah 52.
[7] Isaiah 9:, 11.  Jehoiachin.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2017. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8543-jeconiah>  “The Problem of the Curse on Jeconiah in Relation to the Genealogy of Jesus.” Jews for Jesus. 2018. <https://jewsforjesus.org/answers/the-problem-of-the-curse-on-jeconiah-in-relation-to-the-genealogy-of-jesus-issues-prophecy>
[8] Jeremiah 52; 2 Kings 25. Rashi, Shlomo Yitzchaki. The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Yirmiyahu – Jeremiah 22:24 commentary. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16019#showrashi=true>
[9] Jeremiah 52; Chronicles 36.
[10] II Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 27, 29, 37. Bakon, Shimon.  “Zedekiah:  The Last King of Judah”, Jewish Bible Quarterly. Vol. 36, No. 2, 2008.   <http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/362/362_zedekiah.pdf>
[11] Haggai 1-2. Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews. Book XI, Chapters I, III-IV. The Complete Works of Josephus. 1850. <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Virtual Library. 2014. “Zerubbabel.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online. 2018. <http://www.internationalstandardbible.com/Z/zerubbabel.html
[12] Ezra 1, 6.
[13] Haggai 2.
[14] I Chronicles 3; Nehemiah 12; Ezra 3, 5; Haggai. 1, 2; Matthew 1; Luke 3.  “Zerubbabel.”  Jewish Encyclopedia.  “Zerubbabel.” Jewish Virtual Library. Josephus. Antiquities.  Book XI, Chapter III (spelled Zorobabel).
[15] “A brief history of signet rings.” The History Press. 2018. < https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/a-brief-history-of-signet-rings > Davis, Ashley. “The History Behind … Signet Rings.” National Jeweler. 2018. < https://www.nationaljeweler.com/fashion/antique-estate-jewelry/4637-the-history-behind-signet-rings-2 >
[16] Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Book III, Chapters XXI, XXII. Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume I.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 2005. <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.iv.html>