Zechariah’s Messiah Prophecies – Precise 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>

The Donkey Prophecy

Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy about a donkey is one of those prophetic rarities that is so unambiguous, there can be no other explanation other than exactly what it foretells. More precise even than the Micah prophecy foretelling the future Ruler of Israel would come from Bethlehem Ephrathah.[1]

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)

Not just any lowly donkey, it was prophesied to be a colt, a male; a foal, under a year old. At that age, the colt would be unridden, unbroken. Donkeys are known for their unruly and difficult behavior especially in unfamiliar and frightening scenarios.[2] Yet the future King of Israel was prophesied to bring salvation to Jerusalem riding one such unbroken donkey colt.

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. The Davidic royal dynasty ended when Jeconiah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 597 BC.[3]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.”[4]

Decrees  issued by Persian rulers Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem is the Hebrew history backdrop when Zachariah issued the prophecy.[5] Based on the historical timing, the prophecy could only be  about a future King who would bring salvation to Israel.

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi agreed that the Zechariah donkey prophecy refers directly to the prophesied Messiah. In the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commenary the Rabbi’s commented, “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah.”[6]

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.

Brushing off the warning, Jesus replied that no prophet is killed outside of Jerusalem. The comment referred to the historical reputation of Jerusalem being known for killing the prophets sent by God.[7] It was an indicting condemnation of the Jewish religious leaders now primarily represented by the Pharisees.

One final comment by Jesus to the Pharisees included a prediction. The next time they would see him a well-known Jewish praise of salvation would be shouted, quoting from Psalms 118:16.[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)

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi in his commentary of the Micah 5:1(2) interpreted the Bethlehem prophecy to be about the Messiah. Quoting from Psalms 118:22, “The stone the builders had rejected became a cornerstone,” the Rabbi expounded that the verse refers to “the Messiah, son of David.”

Saturday night before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus was at a dinner event in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper. In attendance were siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the 12 Disciples.[9]

Sunday, the next day, began the week that held a special Passover celebration. This particular year, Passover fell the day before the Sabbath causing a doubling of efforts on Preparation Day, now a day earlier, to accommodate the back-to-back work-restricted observances. John referred to this as a “high,” or “special” Sabbath, depending on the translation.[10]

One of the Disciples asked where they would be eating the Passover meal in Jerusalem? Jesus did not answer the question directly. Instead, he sent Peter and John ahead into Jerusalem to find both a donkey with its colt and a room where they could eat the Passover meal. No specific information was given, only clues.

Aimlessly entering the city looking for the clues Jesus had given to them, they found a tethered mother donkey with its colt.[11] If anyone were to ask why they were taking the donkeys, they were to say, “The Lord has need of it.”[12]

Peter and John found the mother donkey with its colt and were led by the man with the donkeys to a house with a an upper room prepared for the Passover. The owner allowed the Disciples to take the donkeys back to Jesus.

Entering Jerusalem for the last time, all four Gospel authors write about that Sunday when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem.[13] The Sunday before Easter, it is known as “Palm Sunday” in Christianity.[14]

MT 21:6-9 “The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”(NIV)

Most Christian translations of Matthew 21:7 say that Jesus sat on “them” although it is highly unlikely he sat on two donkeys of different heights at the same time. The original King James Version translates the Greek text more succinctly:

MT 21:7 “And brought the ass and the colt, and put on them their clothes and they set [him] thereon.” (KJV)

Matthew and John Gospel accounts both say that Jesus had asked them to find a mother donkey with its colt – if Jesus only wanted a donkey to ride, then he would have been expected to instruct the two Disciples to simply find a donkey. Instead, he told the two Disciples to find only a mother donkey with a colt and bring back both.

While neither of the Gospel accounts expressly state that Jesus sat on the colt rather than the mother donkey, logic further dictates that if the colt was not intended to be ridden, then no coats would be thrown of its back.

Both Gospels make reference to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling the Zechariah 9:9 Messiah prophecy that explicitly states it would be a foal colt donkey.[15] If Jesus was not sitting on the colt, then the Zechariah prophecy was not fulfilled.

Riding on the back of a foal colt donkey into Jerusalem matched the Zechariah 9:9 Messiah prophecy. The prediction Jesus made a few days earlier also came to pass when Jesus entered Jerusalem and people shouted “”Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!”[16]

Was this triumphal entry to Jerusalem no more than a two-fold coincidence – or was the Palm Sunday event the dual fulfillment of Messiah prophecies?

 

Creative Commons License

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

REFERENCES:

[1] CR Micah 5:1(2).
[2] “Understanding Donkey Behavior.” The Donkey Sanctuary. 2018. <https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/sites/sanctuary/files/document/142-1404405754-donkey_health_and_welfare_19.pdf>
 [3] Ryrie Study Bible. Ed. Ryrie Charles C. Trans. New American Standard. 1978. “Introduction to the Book of Zechariah.”
[4] “Captivity, or Exile, Babylonian.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. < http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4012-captivity>
[5] 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. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[6] Zechariah 9:9. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad.org. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true
[7] CR 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] John 12:1-2, 4. CR Matthew 26:6; Mark 11:1, 14:3; Luke 10:38-39, 19:29.
[10] John 19:31. BibleHub.com. 2021. <https://biblehub.com/john/19-31.htm>  CR Mark 15:42.
[11] Luke 19:28-37. CR Matthew 21:1-7.
[12] NASB, NKJV.
[13] Matthew 21:7; Mark 11:7; Luke 19:28; John 12:1.
[14] “Palm Sunday.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2021.  <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Palm-Sunday>
[15] Matthew 21:5; John 12:15.
[16] Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:13.