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>

A Prophecy, a Donkey, a Psalm

Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy about a donkey is one of those prophetic rarities that is so specific, there is no way to explain it away – it either happens or it doesn’t.[1] It is tantamount to Micah’s prophecy that the future Ruler of Israel would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah.[2]

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) 

Riding on a lowly donkey, not just any donkey – a colt which is a male; a foal which is under a year old – that was unridden, unbroken. Donkeys are known for their unruly and difficult behavior especially in unfamiliar and frightening scenarios, yet the King bringing salvation to Jerusalem was prophesied to ride one such unbroken donkey colt.[3]

Written between 520 – 518 BC, the prophecy was issued about 80 years after the last king of Israel, Jeconiah, sat on the Throne of David that ended when he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 597 BC.[4] The king was deported to Babylon along with “the most distinguished men of the land, and the most valuable treasures of the Temple and the palace.”[5]

Decrees  issued by Persian rulers Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem is the Hebrew history backdrop when the prophecy was issued by Zachariah.[6] His prophecy, based on the timing, could only be referencing a future King who would bring salvation to Israel.

Scrolling forward 550 years sets the stage when Jesus of Nazareth was reaching the end of his 3-year ministry. Outside of Jerusalem, oddly some Pharisees warned Jesus that Tetrarch Herod wanted to kill him. Jesus brushed off the warning saying that surely no prophet is killed outside of Jerusalem referring to its historical reputation for killing or trying to kill prophets of God.[7]

Telling the Pharisees to send a message back to Herod implying he wasn’t worried, Jesus said he would be busy for the next three days healing and casting out demons, but then…  Jesus predicted the next time they would see him, it would be under special circumstances:[8]

LK 13:35 “… I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”(NKJV)

If Jesus was to fulfill Zechariah’s specific Messiah prophecy saying the King would arrive on a male donkey foal, he just made the prophetic event even more specific and challenging to fulfill. Quoting from Psalms 118:26, Jesus prophesied the next time he came to Jerusalem the people would be rejoicing:

PS .118:26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.”(NKJV)

Psalms 118 is one of several referencing salvation.[9] Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi’s commentary of Micah’s Bethlehem prophecy refers to the Psalm saying it is written about: “the Messiah, son of David, and so Scripture says (Ps. 118:22): ‘The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone.’”[10] Ironically, the Rabbi omits the Messiah reference in his direct commentary of Psalms 118.[11]

A few days later before entering Jerusalem while approaching the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples into the village ahead telling them they would find a tethered donkey colt with its mother that had never been ridden and to bring it back to him.[12] If anyone were to ask why they were taking the donkeys, they were to say “the Lord has need of it.”[13] Not knowing where to look nor the owner’s identify, they found the colt with its mother and its owner who asked the question just as predicted.

Sunday beginning Passover week, Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time. Matthew and Luke wrote about Jesus riding on the donkey colt. All four Gospel authors write about that day, known as Palm Sunday, of which the eyewitness, John, wrote:[14]

JN 12:12-13  “The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!””(NKJV)

Shouting “Hosanna!” people of the crowd quoted Psalms 118:26 praising Jesus, laying down their outer garments and placed palm branches in his path.[15] In its reference article entitled “Hosanna,” the JewishEncyclopedia.com cites the Gospel of John and references Matthew 21:42 which quotes Psalms 118:22-23: 

“According to John xii. 13…which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm— and then called him “the King of Israel.” … The Psalm verses recited have been interpreted by the Rabbis also as referring to the advent of the Messiah (see Midr. Teh. to Ps. cxviii. 17, 21, 22; comp. Matt. xxi. 42).”[16]

“Hosanna” is a shortened version of the Hebrew saying “Anna Adonai hoshi-‘ah-nna.” The word is a customary cry of joyful celebration tracing to ancient times when a marching procession would wave branches of palm, myrtle and willow each day of the Sukkot festival.[17]

Last of the three annual Hebrew pilgrimage feasts, Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths – is a dual celebration of the harvest festival and the Hebrews emerging from 40 years in the wilderness after Sinai when God temporarily dwelled in the Tabernacle tent.[18] Seventh day of the festival called “Hoshaana Rabbah” meaning “Great Salvation” closes the period of judgment which began during the festival on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.[19]

Coming full circle back to the prophecies of Zechariah and by Jesus days earlier, riding into Jerusalem on the back of an unbroken male donkey foal, people hailed Jesus as their King of salvation quoting from Psalms 118. Was this no more than a multi-faceted coincidence – or was Palm Sunday the multiple fulfillment of Messiah prophecies?

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

References:

[1]  Bugg, Michael. “Types of Prophecy and Prophetic Types.”  Hebrew Root. n.d.  <http://www.hebrewroot.com/Articles/prophetic_types.htm
Brooks, Carol. “Prophecy.” InPlainSite.org. <http://www.inplainsite.org/html/old_testament_prophecy.html
> Micah 5:2 (Jewish Bible Michah v.1).
[3] “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
[4] Ryrie Study Bible.  Ed. Ryrie Charles C.  Trans. New American Standard. 1978. “Introduction to the Book of Zechariah.”
 
[5] Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011.  “Captivity, or Exile, Babylonian.” <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4012-captivity
[6] Ezra 1:1-3, 4:4-6, 6:14-15; Nehemiah 6:15; 12:45. Josephus, Flavius.  Antiquities of the Jews. 1850. Book XI, Chapter II. The Complete Works of Josephus. Trans. & commentary by William Whitson.  <http://books.google.com/books?id=e0dAAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false>  “Cyrus the Great.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018.  <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Cyrus-the-Great> “Darius I.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2018.  <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[7] Matthew 23:19-39. Luke 13:31-35.  I Kings 18:13-15; 19:14. 2 Chronicles 24:19-22; Jeremiah 26:7-16, 18-19, 20-23; 38:1-13.
[8] Matthew 23:37-39. Luke 13:31-35.
[9] “Salvation.” Jewish Encyclopedia.  2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13051-salvation>
[10] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. “Michah – Micah – Chapter 5.” v1. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16191#showrashi=true>
[11] The Complete Jewish Bible – with Rashi Commentary. “Tehillim – Psalms – Chapter 118.” v122. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16339#showrashi=true>
[12] Luke 19:28-37. CR Matthew 21:1-7.
[13] NASB, NKJV.
[14] Matthew 21:2-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-16.
[15] Matthew 21:8; Luke 19.36.
[16] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. <http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7893-hosanna>
[17] “Hosanna.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. 
[18] Rich, Tracey R. “Sukkot.”  JewFAQ.org. n.d.  <http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm>
[19] “What is Sukkot.”  Chabad.org. 2014. <http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4784/jewish/What-is-Sukkot.htm>