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Zechariah’s Donkey Prophecy

Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy focused on a donkey is one of those prophetic rarities that is so unambiguous, there can be no other explanation other than exactly what it foretells. It is 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)

Jewish sage Rabbi Rashi commented, as it appears in the Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary: “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah.”[2]

Not just any lowly donkey, it was prophesied to be a colt, a foal which is a male under a year old. At that age, the colt would be unridden, unbroken. Donkeys are known, even when broken, for their unruly and difficult behavior especially in unfamiliar and frightening scenarios.[3] Yet the future King of Israel was prophesied to bring salvation to Jerusalem riding one such 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.[4] The last Jewish 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 successors of the Babylonian empire, Persian rulers Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great each instructed the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem; the backdrop when Zachariah issued the prophecy.[6] Based on the historical timing, the prophecy could only be about 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.

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 represented primarily by the Pharisees.

Saturday night before entering Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus was at a dinner event at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany. In attendance were siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and the 12 Disciples.[8]

Sunday began the week that held a special Passover celebration. This particular year, Passover fell on the day before the Sabbath causing a doubling of efforts on Preparation Day to accommodate the back-to-back work-restricted observances. John referred to this day as a “high,” or “special” Sabbath, depending on the translation.[9]

One of the Disciples asked Jesus where they would be eating the Passover meal in Jerusalem? He did not answer the question directly; no specific information was given, only a clue.

Matthew and John Gospel accounts say that Jesus had instructed Peter and John to go into Jerusalem to find a mother donkey with its colt and bring them both back. If Jesus wanted just a donkey to ride, he would have been expected to instruct them to simply find a donkey.

Aimlessly entering the big city looking for the clue Jesus had given to them, they found a tethered mother donkey with its colt.[10] If anyone were to ask why they were taking the donkeys, they were instructed to say, “The Lord has need of it.”[11]

As they untied the donkeys, indeed, Peter and John were asked what they were doing with his donkeys? Answering as instructed, they were led by the man with the donkeys to a house with an upper room prepared for the Passover. The owner allowed the two Disciples to take the donkeys back to Jesus.

Entering Jerusalem for the last time, all four Gospel authors wrote about that Sunday when Jesus rode a donkey colt as he entered the city.[12] The Sunday before Easter, it is known as “Palm Sunday” in Christianity.[13]

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 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. Mark and Luke are most specific in referring to the unbroken colt ridden by Jesus.

Jesus making his final entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey colt matches the Zechariah 9:9 Messiah prophecy.[14] If Jesus as the Messiah was not riding on the donkey colt, then the Zechariah prophecy could not be fulfilled.

Was the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem sitting on an donkey colt merely a coincidence – or was the Palm Sunday event a fulfillment of Zechariah’s Messiah prophecy?

 

Updated October 15, 2021.

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REFERENCES:

[1] CR Micah 5:1(2).
[2] Zechariah 9:9. Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary. Chabad.org. 2021. <https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16213/showrashi/true
[3] Luke 19:35. “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] “Captivity, or Exile, Babylonian.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 2011. < 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. 2021. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Darius-I>
[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>

 

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