When seeking signs of current events in the Bible, it’s important to do so with care and humility. History is littered with exciting yet false interpretations of scripture. Nevertheless, the Bible is not a book of history, but rather an eternal book that speaks to every generation. And so we must, despite the dangers, seek to understand the tumultuous times we are living in through the lens of the Bible.
With this in mind, I believe that the 9th chapter of the Book of Zechariah was written for our generation, and specifically for this painful time.
On October 7, Hamas terrorists brutalized, raped and murdered over 1,400 Jews, the worst and most sickening massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas also abducted 242 hostages, including babies, children, and elderly Holocaust survivors. Hezbollah, another radical terrorist group sponsored by Iran and based in Lebanon on Israel’s northern border, soon joined Hamas in attacking Israel. In response, Israel has launched a full scale war against Hamas in Gaza, while simultaneously engaging with Hezbollah in the north. Last week, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen joined the attack on Israel, launching missile and drone attacks at Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city.
A close study of the 9th chapter of Zechariah makes clear that this war was prophesied by Zechariah. Most significantly, studying Zechariah’s words can give us great strength during this deeply painful time.
A Prophecy for our TIme
One of the challenges in interpreting prophecy is determining which era of history the prophet is prophesying about. The words of the prophets are often opaque and difficult to interpret clearly. Some prophecies were meant for the near term – such as when Jeremiah prophesied the destruction of the Temple – while other prophecies concern the distant future.
Chapter 9 of Zechariah begins with a reference to the land of “Hadrach.” “The prophecy of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach” (Zechariah 9:1). But where is this mysterious land of “Hadrach”?
According to one of the Talmudic sages, “Hadrach” is not a country, but rather a hint to the time period addressed in this chapter. In Hebrew, the word “Hadrach” can be broken into two separate words: “Had,” meaning “sharp,” and “Rach,” meaning “soft.” “Rabbi Judah the son of Ilai expounded: This refers to the Messiah, who is sharp against the nations and soft to Israel” (cited by Rashi, Zechariah 9:1). When the Messiah arrives, he will inaugurate an era that will be very “sharp” and painful for Israel’s enemies, but “soft” and joyous for Israel.
According to Rabbi Judah, this chapter speaks about the era of redemption and difficult events that will occur in the generations before the Messiah finally appears.
The ninth verse of the chapter also makes clear that this chapter is speaking of the Messianic age: “Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold! Your king shall come to you. He is just and victorious; humble, and riding a donkey and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys.”
Rashi, the great Jewish commentator, explains: “It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah, as it is stated: ‘and his rule shall be from sea to sea.’ We do not find that Israel had such a ruler during the days of the Second Temple [and so this chapter must be referring to the Messianic age].”
We are currently living in the “Messianic age,” the generations leading up to the arrival of the Messiah. The “Messianic age” refers to the time when the people of Israel have returned to their land, and the prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled.
A War in the North
Zechariah first speaks of an enemy in the north: “And Tyre built a fortification for herself, and she gathered silver like dust and gold, like the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord shall impoverish her, and He shall smite her wealth in the sea, and she shall be consumed by fire” (Zechariah 9:3-4).
Ancient Tyre was located on the southern coast of Lebanon, 83 kilometers south of Beirut – where the Iranian backed terror group Hezbollah is currently fortified. Receiving billions of dollars in funding from Iran, Hezbollah has “gathered silver like dust and gold like the mire of the streets,” funding it has used to stockpile 150,000 deadly rockets that it has aimed and begun to fire at Israel. As I write this, Israeli towns near the northern border have been evacuated and there are daily clashes with Hezbollah.
Fortunately, God has promised that “He shall smite her wealth in the sea, and she shall be consumed by fire.” Hezbollah is destined to be destroyed.
A War in the South
“Ashkelon shall see and fear, and Gaza – and she shall quake violently – and Ekron, for the one to whom she looked was ashamed. And a king was lost from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. And the strangers shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines” (Zechariah 9:5-6)
The modern day cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, on Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast, are under Israeli control. In ancient times, however, the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath were the strongholds of the Philistines in Gaza.
To be clear – the “Palestinians” of today do not descend from, and bear no relation to, the ancient Philistines who dwelled along Israel’s coast in Biblical times. It was only on May 28, 1964, the date on which the PLO was established, that the Arabs in Israel began using the name “Palestinian.”
Nevertheless, I believe it is no accident that today’s Arabs of Gaza have taken on the name “Palestinian,” for they share something in common with the Philistines of old. The Philistines of the Biblical era were the Jewish people’s most persistent and terrible adversary. Beginning with the era of Samson and continuing through the generations of Samuel, Saul and David, the Philistines were consistently the most dangerous foe of the twelve tribes of Israel.
When Zechariah tells us that God will “cut off the pride of the Philistines,” he must be referring to the “Palestinians” of our time, the evil spiritual descendants of the ancient Philistines, for the ancient Philistines no longer exist. The arrogance of Hamas and the Palestinian people will be cut off.
“And I will remove his blood from his mouth, and his detestable things from between his teeth. And it, too, shall remain to our God: and it shall be like a study hall in Judah; and Ekron, like Jebusi” (Zechariah 9:7).
God will remove the blood from the mouths of the Palestinians, a people that glorifies death and celebrates the murder of Jewish children with mass celebrations and fireworks.
But Israel’s victory over Gaza will not merely prevent the Palestinians from committing any further murders. Ekron, the great Palestinian city, will become like “Jebusi.” What does this mean?
The Jebusites were a Canaanite tribe that dwelled in the Jerusalem area. Even after Joshua conquered much of the land of Israel, the Jebusites continued to control Jerusalem. It was David, 400 years later, who conquered the Jebusites and transformed Jerusalem from a pagan Jebusite city to the capital of Israel and the seat of God’s glory.
In this verse, Zechariah says that the Philistine cities of Gaza will be transformed into Jewish cities, just as Jerusalem was. The day will come when the streets of Gaza City will not be used to train terrorists, but rather as “a study hall in Judah.”
“And I will encamp beside My house against a garrison of those passing by and of those returning. And no oppressor shall overrun them, for now I have seen with My eyes” (Zechariah 9:8).
On October 7th, Hamas terrorists overran Israel’s southern border. In this verse, God promises that Israel will not be overrun again. As Rashi explains: “I will encamp beside My house to protect it from those who set up a garrison and raiders, that they should not set these up against it.”
What has changed? God says “for now I have seen with My eyes.” On that terrible day, God hid His countenance from His people. But now God’s eyes are opened, and Hamas will not again succeed in overrunning the people of Israel.
“You, too – with the blood of your covenant I have freed your prisoners from a pit in which there was no water.”
This verse, more than any other, made my heart stop. As I write these words, Hamas terrorists are holding 242 innocent men, women and children as hostages. They have imprisoned these hostages deep underground, among the 500 miles of terror tunnels that Hamas built underground in Gaza. For the last 17 years, Hamas has used billions of dollars of international aid to build these tunnels and buy weapons, instead of using the money to build the Gazan economy.
“I have freed your prisoners from a pit in which there was no water.” Please, God, may these words come true today! Please free our hostages, who are hidden in a pit, deep beneath the earth. Bring them home to us now!
An Attack from Yemen
“And the Lord shall appear over them, and his arrows shall go forth like lightning. And the Lord God shall sound the shofar, and He shall go with the whirlwinds of Yemen” (Zechariah 9:14)
Last week, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen launched missile and drone attacks against Israel from the south. In this verse God promises that “his arrows shall go forth like lightning,” that He will bring retribution upon Yemen from the air. May we soon see Israeli missiles rain down upon the Houthi terrorists of Yemen!
Israel’s Great Awakening
Israel will defeat its enemies, both in the north and the south. But at the same time, Israel itself will be transformed: “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Also today, I will restore to you a double promise” (Zechariah 9:12).
The people of Israel are described poignantly as “prisoners of hope.” Through thousands of years of exile and persecution, the people of Israel refused to give up hope. They never gave up on the dream of returning to their homeland, which God had promised them throughout the Bible. If there was ever a nation that could recover from the horrors committed by Hamas on October 7, it is Israel, the “prisoners of hope.”
God tells the people of Israel, “Return to the stronghold!” “Return to your strength and to your glory” (Rashi). You have suffered terribly, but you can and will rise again! “I will restore to you a double promise” – though you have suffered terribly, you will recover and double in strength!
“For I bend Judah for Me like a bow; I filled [the hand of] Ephraim, and I will arouse your children, O Zion, upon your children, O Javan; and I will make you as the sword of a mighty man” (Zechariah 9:13).
God promises that the children of Zion will awaken – a prophecy that has come true before our eyes. Jews in Israel and throughout the world are awakening from their spiritual slumber. They are standing up with pride and strength, and they are returning to the God of Israel. In recent weeks, tens of thousands of “secular” Israeli soldiers have requested tzitzit, the tassels Jews are commanded to wear on the corners of their garments. Thousands of videos are circulating of Israeli soldiers of all religious backgrounds praying intensely before heading into battle.
“For how [great] is their goodness and how [great] is their beauty! Corn [will give strength to] young men, and new wine will cause maids to speak” (Zechariah 9:17). The young men and women of Israel will rise up and reveal to the world their goodness and beauty, which had heretofore been hidden from sight.
One of the great tragedies of our generation is the loss of so many young Jews to secularism and woke progressivism. Most young Jews in America and across the world were raised with little Jewish education and almost no connection to their glorious heritage. But since October 7th, many of these young Jews have begun to rediscover their heritage and to take pride in being Jews. Shocked by the rabid pro-Hamas antisemites that have taken over American universities and scream for the destruction of Israel, they now realize that they have been betrayed by their fellow woke activists. Though many young Jews continue to cling to secularism, a great Jewish awakening has begun.
Great Days are Coming
“Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold! Your king shall come to you. He is just and victorious; humble, and riding a donkey and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys. And I will cut off the chariots from Ephraim, and the horses from Jerusalem; and the bow of war shall be cut off. And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9-10).
The Messiah, Israel’s king, is on his way. He will not be like the kings of our enemies; he will not be an arrogant dictator like Vladimir Putin or Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei of Iran. The king of Israel will be just and humble, and inaugurate an era of peace. And yes – he is on his way.
May the prophecy of Zechariah soon be fulfilled, and may peace return to Israel and the entire world.